Archive for March 4th, 2009

Geithner Touts Tackling Tax Evaders After Failing to Pay Own Taxes

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Typical liberal Democrat; “do as I say, not as I do”.

The pot has issued the kettle an ultimatum: tax dodgers beware.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was forced to fork up $34,000 in unpaid back taxes, told the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday that the Obama administration will be going after people who avoid and evade taxes.

In prepared remarks before Congress, he said the president is intent on “tackling tax shelters and other efforts to abuse our tax laws, including international tax evasion efforts.”

Geithner himself never used a tax haven to avoid payment, but did neglect to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes while he was a self-employed staffer for the International Monetary Fund. He even hired an accountant for two of the years he forgot to file.

“Over the next several months,” he said Tuesday, “the President will propose a series of legislative and enforcement measures to reduce such U.S. tax evasion and avoidance.”

But the Treasury secretary might want to heed something of a caveat legislator: such a dragnet could quickly catch a handful of Obama’s top appointees.

Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, had to bow out when it was disclosed that he had failed to pay $128,000 in back taxes. Nancy Killefer, who was appointed by Obama to scrutinize government spending for the OMB, also had to withdraw her nomination because of tax issues.

And just a day before Geithner’s appearance in the House, Obama’s designated Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, told the Senate Finance Committee that he owed some $10,000 in back taxes that he had agreed to pay.

Some of the administrations enforcement measures, put forth in good faith inside the president’s proposed budget, might be hitting just a little too close to home.

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Elementary Blots Out ‘In God We Trust’

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

An elementary school in Tennessee, after successfully rebuffing an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over religious expression on campus, has nonetheless ordered the words “God Bless the USA” and “In God We Trust” covered up on student-made posters in the hallway.

Administrators at Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., told parents that the posters, promoting the See You at the Pole student prayer event, mentioned “God” and are therefore precluded by school board policy and prohibited in the hallways as inappropriate.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance defending religious liberty, filed a lawsuit today on behalf of 10 parents and their children, seeking an injunction against banning private religious expression on student-made posters.

“Christian students shouldn’t be censored for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum in a statement. “It’s ridiculous as well as unconstitutional to cover up these references to God and prayer – one of which is the national motto itself – on posters announcing a student-led activity.”

Further, Kellum surmised, “School officials appear to be having an allergic reaction to the ACLU’s long-term record of fear, intimidation, and disinformation, despite a previous court ruling at this very school that said students can observe these types of events on school property.”

In 2006, lawyers from the ACLU sued the school to stop it from recognizing religious events, including See You at the Pole and the National Day of Prayer.

In May 2008, a U.S. District Court judge refused to grant the ACLU’s request.

This year, each poster, made on personal time without the use of any school funds or supplies, included the disclaimer: “See You at the Pole is a student-initiated and student-led event and is not endorsed by Lakeview Elementary or Wilson County schools.”

Nevertheless, the lawsuit states, the school’s assistant principal told parents – upon advisement from the principal and director of schools for the county – that Scripture verses and phrases mentioning “God” would not be permitted on the posters. Even “come pray” was deemed in violation of school policy for using the word “pray.”

With the date of the “See You at the Pole” event only a few days away, rather than asking the students to make new posters, the school provided green slips of paper to obscure the offending words.

WND contacted Lakeview Elementary’s vice principal, but she declined to comment until she could familiarize herself with the details of the lawsuit.

Attorneys from ADF contend the disclaimer statement on the posters was more than enough to release the school from any perceived endorsement of the “God” messages, and that burying the words behind green paper constitutes a clear violation of First Amendment rights.

“The Constitution prohibits government officials from singling out religious speech for censorship,” Kellum said, “but this is exactly what Lakeview school officials did when they ordered these words to be covered.”

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Pakistan Attack on Sri Lankan Cricket Team

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Things in Pakistan continue to destabilize as terrorist have now targeted the Sri Lankan cricket team. In standard form, the cowardly Muslim terrorist avoid attacking military targets and focus instead on innocent non-combatants. Typical.

In a commando-style operation, a dozen gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in the heart of Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural and political hub, at 8:45 Tuesday morning. The attackers fired rockets, grenades and multiple rounds of ammunition at the team’s bus and the police escorting it, killing eight people and injuring six. To some eyewitnesses, it was last November’s Mumbai attacks replayed on Pakistani soil. (See pictures of this terrorist attack.)

Amid thick morning traffic in Lahore’s Liberty Square, the gunmen ambushed the bus as it approached the Gaddaffi cricket stadium. “I heard the attack and spun around,” recalls Abdul Ghani Butt, 30, a foreign-currency dealer who was on his way to work at the time. “It was just like the Mumbai attacks. They were young, about 25-to-30 years of age, coming from different directions. Some were clean-shaven, others bearded. They were wearing tracksuits and carried backpacks. One of the men then put down his rocket launcher and pulled out a rifle. He changed the magazine so quickly that it could only have been done by a professional. The others were walking around so calmly, across the grass in the roundabout.” (See pictures of the Mumbai attacks.)

The gunmen killed five policemen, two bystanders and the bus driver. Six members of the Sri Lankan cricket team were injured. Two of the cricketers were shot, while others sustained minor injuries from flying debris. The reserve umpire for the ongoing test match, Ahsan Raza, a Pakistani, is in critical condition. “It was horrifying,” Nadeem Ghouri, the Pakistani umpire, told Reuters. “There were bullets flying around us and we didn’t know what was happening. When the firing started, we all went down on the floor of the coach. Our driver was killed instantly from a shot from the front.”

On the edge of the roundabout lies one of the half a dozen police vehicles that were escorting the bus from the team’s hotel to the stadium. The windscreen of the blue Punjab Elite Police pickup bears six large bullet holes. The roof is badly damaged. On the driver’s seat, amid shards of glass, is a blood-stained cap belonging to one of the dead police officers. Blood is smeared across the steering wheel, and forms small pools in the backseat. Bullet casings lie nearby. According to eyewitnesses and police accounts, the police officers and the attackers were locked in a gun battle for 15 minutes. “One of the police commandos came out into the open and began firing at them,” says Mohammed Waqas, 25, a travel agent who was also on his way to work. “I don’t think he survived. The other commandos used their cars for protection. But the gunmen escaped.”

By the way, the terms “gunman” and “attackers” equals “terrorist”, but as usual, the media refuses to label anyone a terrorist, even if they are one by every definition imaginable.

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“Puzzled in Gaza” By Yvonne Green

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I’m a poet, an English Jew and a frequent visitor to Israel. Deeply disturbed by the reports of wanton slaughter and destruction during Operation Cast Lead, I felt I had to see for myself. I flew to Tel Aviv and on Wednesday, January 28, using my press card to cross the Erez checkpoint, I walked across the border into Gaza where I was met by my guide, a Palestinian journalist. He asked if I wanted to meet with Hamas officials. I explained that I’d come to bear witness to the damage and civilian suffering, not to talk politics.

What I saw was that there had been precision attacks made on all of Hamas’ infrastructure. Does UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticize the surgical destruction of the explosives cache in the Imad Akhel Mosque, of the National Forces compound, of the Shi Jaya police station, of the Ministry of Prisoners? The Gazans I met weren’t mourning the police state. Neither were they radicalized. As Hamas blackshirts menaced the street corners, I witnessed how passersby ignored them.

THERE WERE empty beds at Shifa Hospital and a threatening atmosphere. Hamas is reduced to wielding its unchallengeable authority from extensive air raid shelters which, together with the hospital, were built by Israel 30 years ago. Terrorized Gazans used doublespeak when they told me most of the alleged 5,500 wounded were being treated in Egypt and Jordan. They want it known that the figure is a lie, and showed me that the wounded weren’t in Gaza. No evidence exists of their presence in foreign hospitals, or of how they might have gotten there.

From the mansions of the Abu Ayida family at Jebala Rayes to Tallel Howa (Gaza City’s densest residential area), Gazans contradicted allegations that Israel had murderously attacked civilians. They told me again and again that both civilians and Hamas fighters had evacuated safely from areas of Hamas activity in response to Israeli telephone calls, leaflets and megaphone warnings.

Seeing Al-Fakhora made it impossible to understand how UN and press reports could ever have alleged that the UNWRA school had been hit by Israeli shells. The school, like most of Gaza, was visibly intact. I was shown where Hamas had been firing from nearby, and the Israeli missile’s marks on the road outside the school were unmistakeable. When I met Mona al-Ashkor, one of the 40 people injured running toward Al-Fakhora – rather than inside it as widely and persistently reported – I was told that Israel had warned people not to take shelter in the school because Hamas was operating in the area, and that some people had ignored the warning because UNWRA previously told them that the school would be safe. Press reports that fatalities numbered 40 were denied.

I WAS TOLD stories at Samouni Street which contradicted each other, what I saw and later media accounts. Examples of these inconsistencies are that 24, 31, 34 or more members of the Fatah Samouni family had died. That all the deaths occurred when Israel bombed the safe building it had told 160 family members to shelter in; the safe building was pointed out to me but looked externally intact and washing was still hanging on a line on one of its balconies. That some left the safe building and were shot in another house. That one was shot when outside collecting firewood. That there was no resistance – but the top right hand window of the safe building (which appears in a BBC Panorama film Out of the Ruins” aired February 8 ) has a black mark above it – a sign I was shown all day of weaponry having been fired from inside. That victims were left bleeding for two or three days.

I saw large scoured craters and a buckled container which appeared to have been damaged by an internal impact (its external surfaces were undamaged). Media accounts of Samouni Street don’t mention these possible indications of explosive caches (although the container is visible on media footage). The Samouni family’s elder told me during a taped interview that he had a CD film of the killings. As far as I’m aware, no such film has been made public. He also told me that there are members of his family who have still not been found.

The media have manufactured and examined allegations that Israel committed a war crime against the Samounis without mentioning that the family are Fatah and that some of its members are still missing. They have not considered what might flow from those facts: that Hamas might have been active not only in the Samouni killings but in the exertion of force on the Samounis to accuse Israel.

THE GAZA I saw was societally intact. There were no homeless, walking wounded, hungry or underdressed people. The streets were busy, shops were hung with embroidered dresses and gigantic cooking pots, the markets were full of fresh meat and beautiful produce – the red radishes were bigger than grapefruits. Mothers accompanied by a 13-year-old boy told me they were bored of leaving home to sit on rubble all day to tell the press how they’d survived. Women graduates I met in Shijaya spoke of education as power as old men watched over them.

No one praised their government as they showed me the sites of tunnels where fighters had melted away. No one declared Hamas victorious for creating a forced civilian front line as they showed me the remains of booby trapped homes and schools.

From what I saw and was told in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead pinpointed a totalitarian regime’s power bases and largely neutralized Hamas’s plans to make Israel its tool for the sacrifice of civilian life.

Corroboration of my account may be found in tardy and piecemeal retractions of claims concerning the UNWRA school at Al-Fakhora; an isolated acknowledgment that Gaza is substantially intact by The New York Times; Internet media watch corrections; and the unresolved discrepancy between the alleged wounded and their unreported whereabouts.

The writer is a poet and freelance writer who lives in London. Her collection Boukhara was a 2008 Smith/Doorstop prize winner. She also translates the poetry of Semyon Lipkin, the Russian World War II poet.

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