Bully pulpit: Who is Mitt Romney afraid of?

An evangelist talk-show host’s campaign to control the Republican Party…


© Vectorportal


Tupelo, Mississippi, is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley, and his childhood home remains the town’s top attraction. Another local performer, however, has recently garnered national attention. For two hours every weekday, a broadcaster named Bryan Fischer hosts “Focal Point,” a popular Christian radio talk show. He is one of the country’s most vocal opponents of what he calls:

the homosexual-rights movement.

As he puts it, “A rational culture that cares about its people will, in fact, discriminate against adultery, pedophilia, rape, bestiality, and, yes, homosexual behavior.” His goal is to make this view the official stance of the Republican Party.


Read more at The New Yorker


Think Again: India’s Rise

Is the world’s largest democracy ready for prime time, or forever a B-list player on the global stage?


© Dinesh Cyanam


Not so fast. The dramatic opening of India’s hidebound economy, substantial improvements in India-U.S. relations, and rapid, sustained economic growth for well over a decade have led most analysts and policymakers to conclude that India will easily emerge as one of the world’s great powers in the 21st century. In 2010 while visiting India, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “India is not just a rising power; India has already risen.” And just a few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called India a “linchpin” in the U.S. “pivot” to Asia, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the U.S.-India tie as a “critical bilateral relationship.”

Certainly, there has been reason for such optimism. Until the recent global economic downturn, the Indian economy was the second-fastest-growing in the world, reaching a rate of 9.8 percent in October 2009.


Read more at Foreign Policy


Born evil

The painful story of racism and sexism in the Mormon Church…


© Bastique


I was probably in the second grade. The Sunday school teacher in my southern Utah town was giving a lesson from the Book of Mormon to a small class of a few girls. It had to have been in very simple terms since we were so young. I can see now that the lesson was meant to be a self esteem-builder. But it backfired on me. The teacher was trying to show us little girls how much God loved us and how important we are on this earth to do his work. I was barely paying attention since I really wanted to be home watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. I resented missing all my cartoons and being forced to go to church, which I considered boring. But I had no choice in the matter.

That day, however, as the teacher recited the lesson and looked from girl to girl, my attention perked up when she said, “and YOU are all white and delightsome to our lord and he has special plans for you in this world …” Just then, she came to me and her roving eyes stalled out. She stammered a couple of times because she had forgotten that her rote lesson was being delivered in a class that now included a little brown girl. An Indian that the Book of Mormon (I later found out) describes as bloodthirsty, fierce and loathsome. An Indian whose skin was dark because of a curse from God.


Read more at AlterNet


Was Yasser Arafat poisoned with polonium?

The Palestinians believe the Israelis did it; the Israelis say they didn’t. Even if more evidence of Polonium is found, the mystery is likely to last a very long time…


Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, 1994 © World Economic Forum


Among the few authorized uses of polonium 210 is an industrial application: Removing static.  A tiny amount of the radioactive compound is seated in a device attached to steel machinery spinning exceedingly fast. The potent isotope keeps a dangerous charge from accumulating and erupting.  In the wake of Al Jazeera’s report that unusually high levels of the substance were found in the personal effects of Yasser Arafat, one assumption making the rounds is that Israeli agents used it remove the dangerous nuisance – the static — that the Palestinian leader had become, four years into the Second Intifada, 10 years after the crushed promise of the Oslo Accords.

“Not the whole world has access to nuclear elements,” said Arafat’s widow, Suha, who submitted her late husband’s toothbrush, stained underwear and other belongings to a respected Swiss lab for examination.  She stopped short of flatly accusing Israel but Mrs. Arafat took the next step to ascertaining the cause of death — authorizing the exhumation of his remains for further testing.


Read more at Time


How Morocco dodged the Arab Spring

Why have the young people of Morocco failed to spark a revolution?


Protesters in Rabat © Hasna Lahmini


Since the Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself and the Arab world aflame in December 2010, young men all over the Middle East have tried to imitate him. In no country have they done so more often than in Morocco, where some twenty men, with many of the same economic grievances, are reported to have self-immolated. Five succeeded in killing themselves, but none in sparking a revolution.

It is not for want of causes. Morocco’s vital statistics are worse than Tunisia’s. Its population earns half as much on average as its smaller North African counterpart. One of every two youth are unemployed, and the number is rising: failed rains have cut the country’s wheat harvest in half and have compounded a mounting budget deficit hiked by rising fuel prices and a downturn in tourism and exports to Europe, Morocco’s beleaguered main trading partner. In late May, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Casablanca to protest the government’s failure to tackle the country’s social ills.


Read more at the NYRB


After America

Will civil war hit Afghanistan when the US leaves?


Chinook CH-47 on night ops, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan © The U.S. Army


In the eleven years since the American invasion of Afghanistan, Abdul Nasir has become a modern and prosperous professional. A worldly man in his late thirties, he smokes Marlboros, drives a Toyota, and follows Spanish soccer, rooting for Barcelona. He works in Kabul as a producer for Khurshid TV, one of the many private channels that have sprung up since 2004.

He makes news and entertainment shows and sometimes recruiting commercials for the Afghan National Army, one of the country’s biggest advertisers. On weekends, he leaves the dust of the city and tends an apple orchard that he bought in his family’s village.


Read more at The New Yorker


Is Obama set to end the war on drugs?

Insiders suggest that in his second term, Obama will pivot to the drug war…


© V. H. Hammer


According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War.

Don’t expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn’t expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.


Read more at GQ


Rendered, tortured and discarded

How the United States treated one innocent man…


Bagram Valley, Afghanistan © Afghanistan Matters


In fall 2009, I found myself in a Tanzanian hotel lobby, sitting across from Suleiman Abdallah, a lanky man with a goofy smile and a broken tooth. Over the next few days, he would describe in excruciating detail how he had been captured in Mogadishu in 2003 by a Somali warlord and handed over to American officials, who had him rendered via Kenya and Djibouti to Afghanistan for five years of detention and torture.

Imprisoned in three different US facilities, Suleiman had been unceremoniously released from Bagram Air Force Base the year before, with a piece of paper confirming his detention as well as his innocence. By the time I met him, he was a free man, living with his mother and attempting to rebuild his life.


Read more at The Nation


Are young Americans losing the faith?

New poll shows 31 percent of adults under 30 doubt God exists…


© Vinoth Chandar


A recent poll showed that almost one in three young Americans doubt God exists.

The poll, conducted in April by the Pew Research Center, showed that 31 percent of respondents under the age of 30 have doubts about the existence of God, compared to 9 percent of those polled who were 65 or older.

When asked to evaluate the statement, “I never doubted the existence of god,” 18 percent of all respondents said that they mostly or completely disagreed.


Read more at The Huffington Post


Guns out of control

UN member states meet in New York to debate global Arms Trade Treaty amid calls for greater restrictions to stem abuses…


© Dvidshub


In October 2008, Congolese rebels launched a killing spree in the town of Kiwanja that left 150 people dead. The guerrillas went house-to-house grabbing young men, dragging them outside, and shooting them in the face and chest.

Helping them in the massacre were arms that the rebels had looted from a military depot in the town of Rumangabo a few days earlier. The depot was loaded with small arms imported to the Democratic Republic of Congo from China.

But it wasn’t the first time that the depot had been looted.

“I’ve taken Rumangabo two times,” guerrilla leader Laurent Nkunda told Amnesty International shortly after the 2008 attack. “We can’t even count the number of weapons we captured at Rumangabo, there were so many.


Read more at al Jazeera