Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Republicans call to arrest Michael Moore

As mentioned in an earlier post, Michael Moore is touring cities on his "Slacker Uprising Tour" to get young people to vote. When they register, the guys get free underwear & the girls Ramen noodles. Well, in Michigan - Moore's home state - the Republican Party has demanded that he be sent to jail for trying to "bribe" students to vote. As far as I know the items he was offering are not considered a bribe because they are not things of great value. For instance, when my friends & I organized a drive at our mosque, we gave out candy. Moore is still on tour avoiding Michigan in case he gets arrested. Check out the story on his website.

The US Congress passed a bill recently calling for $136 billion in new tax breaks for businesses, sparking an interesting debate on who will benefit. Backers say struggling U.S. manufacturers will benefit. Critics say the changes make a bewildering tax code more complex and greatly increase the budget deficit. Hear NPR's Kathy Schalch. But as reports are suggesting, almost any business can claim to be a "manufacturer." For example, because Starbucks sells coffee beans at its retail store & other places, it can be counted as a manufacturer. Furthermore, according to the new corporate tax bill Congress has sent to President Bush, the definition of "manufacturer" has expanded to the likes of plumbers, baristas and architects! From
NY Times: The bill "offers new tax giveaways to everyone from corporate titans like Boeing and Hewlett-Packard to...oil and gas producers, shopping mall developers, wine distributors, even restaurants. Many companies, like General Electric and Dell, are likely to end up with far more tax relief under the new bill than they had ever received from the old tax break. Some, like Exxon Mobil, never qualified for the old tax break at all but will enjoy tax savings now...Movie executives held on to $336 million in tax breaks for movies made in areas with high unemployment...the final bill would also raise more than $60 billion by cracking down on major tax shelters and punishing companies that try to avoid American taxes by moving their headquarters outside the country. But in a gesture of mercy to a handful of oil service companies from Texas, House Republicans gave a green light to companies that moved offshore before March 4, 2003. The beneficiaries of that decision include the Noble Corporation, Weatherford International, Cooper Industries and Nabors Industries - all in or near the district of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader." It is unfathomable that at a time of deep budget deficits and a slow economy, how the Congress passes a bill like that. It will be interesting to see if this issue comes up during the final debate tonight.

In Gaza, Israeli forces have thrust deeper into the town of into the town of Beit Lahiya according to this
BBC report: "Meanwhile, an 11-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl, Ghadir Mokheimer, who was hit by Israeli army gunfire at her school in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp on Tuesday has died of her injuries." This is the second such incident in a month.

The disarming of the Sadr movement has made news in the last few days, but in this
story by the Financial Times, Sadr rebels unsure amnesty worth losing weapons: "Hazem Laftah, a fighter in the Mahdi Army...showed up turn in heavy weapons in exchange for cash compensation so that the Mahdi Army could transform itself into a peaceful political movement. "We want to become a political movement, so we can win upcoming elections and be a peaceful resistance," Mr Laftah said. Like other militiamen who showed up at three police stations on the first day of a five-day weapons amnesty, Mr Laftah went away undecided on whether to disarm...Sadrist representatives also said on Sunday that they expected the Iraqi interim government to reciprocate the arms hand over by releasing detainees. Despite such unresolved points the disarmament programme has eased tensions and residents said the last few nights had been free of gunfire."

When I was in Jordan last year, I was a big fan of Radio Sawa - an Arab-language pop music and news station funded by the U.S. government, However, The Washington Post reports that it "has failed to meet its mandate of promoting democracy and pro-American attitudes, according to a draft report prepared by the State Department's inspector general. The report credited Radio Sawa has been so preoccupied with building an audience through its music that it has failed to adequately measure whether it is influencing minds...Two independent panels of Arab-language experts hired by the inspector general's office gave the programming a mixed review,saying it did not match al-Jazeera in terms of quality and that parents would prefer that their teenagers not listen to Radio Sawa because its broadcasts contained such poor Arabic grammar. The draft report said news and information programs represent only 25 percent of Radio Sawa's broadcast, and there appears to be a reluctance among officials to use it as a tool for public diplomacy . The report said Radio Sawa has not fully met the requirements of the VOA (Voice of America) charter to present the policies of the United States "clearly and effectively" and to present"responsible discussions and opinion on these policies."