Dalai Lama’s nephew killed in Florida

Jigme Norbu, second from right, with his party of supporters and fellow Tibetan walkers during April 2009 stop at Front Royal's Lucky Star Lounge. Co-owner of the Lucky Star and Norbu interviewer Shawn Patterson is at far right.

Norbu struck by vehicle during most recent ‘Tibetan Freedom’ walk

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

We were distressed to hear of the death of Jigme K. Norbu, the nephew of the Dalai Lama, on Feb. 14. Norbu, who passed through Front Royal during an earlier Tibetan rights walk, was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while walking along the southbound side of State A1A near Palm Coast in northeastern Florida.

According to a local source close to the regional Buddhist community, Norbu, 45, was in the first day of a planned 300-mile walk from St. Augustine to West Palm Beach. She said Norbu had decided to push on later into the night in an attempt to keep on his planned schedule for his latest walk to raise public awareness of the plight of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule.

“Yes, it is true unfortunately,” Tempa Tshering, a representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, India, where a Tibetan government in exile is based, told CNN.

An online report by Lisa Flam at AOL News states Norbu was struck by an SUV driven by 31-year-old Keith O’Dell. O’Dell was questioned but not charged, according to Flam’s post.

Norbu’s home base was Bloomington, Indiana. He was the son of the Dalai Lama’s late older brother, Taktser Rinpoche. Rinpoche died in 2008, and was a high-ranking Buddhist religious official in his own right when the Chinese invaded Tibet.

Rinpoche fled his homeland with his brother, the Dalai Lama, and other Tibetans in the face of the Communist Chinese military assault of 1959. Between 1959 and 1960 a reported 80,000 Tibetans followed The Dalai Lama out of their homeland. Today an estimated 128,000 to 150,000 Tibetans live in exile.

The Dalai Lama and his associates’ experience of the historical epoch of Chinese intervention in Tibet has been recounted in numerous documentary and creative Hollywood films, most notably Martin Scorcese’s “Kundun” and “Seven Years in Tibet”, the latter which starred Brad Pitt as a German engineer “tutoring” the young Dalai Lama while living isolated in the Tibetan holy city of Lhasa in the years prior to the Chinese invasion.

Local stop

To accommodate conflicts in our work schedule, Lucky Star Lounge co-owner Shawn Patterson interviewed Jigme Norbu for Warren County Report during his dinner stop at her East Main Street, Front Royal restaurant during Norbu’s 900-mile “Walk for Tibetan Independence” in April 2009. Norbu was then in the midst of a nine-week walk from Indianapolis, Indiana to U.N. Headquarter in New York City. During his April 2009 interview Norbu commented on how well he had been treated by average Americans he had met during that walk.

“Especially out in the rural country where they come out and give me water, food, even money, and the truck drivers along the way as well. So, it has really showed me how kind American people are … They’d say it was great what we’re doing. You know this is not just for the Tibetan issue. We are doing it for the universal issue of world peace and human rights.”

Norbu expressed a belief in the basic humanity of all peoples but worried over the influence of governments and personal apathy in how nations interact with each other.

“We have nothing against the Chinese people. They’re human beings just like us. It’s the Communist policies we are totally against. And I think the world should know clearly that this has been going on for so long and that Americans should wake up and realize, even though I know America deals with China, that we are feeding that sleeping giant,” Norbu said of America’s growing economic relationship with China while the Tibetan people remain oppressed.

“So it’s something that we have an obligation not only to protect our Tibetan people, but the world. I think no country should experience what we went through. So we have this opportunity to meet great people and good people. To come in here and make new friends who give us support and give us the strength to continue on with what we need to do to accomplish our goal. And that goal is to hopefully one day to see our country become independent. That’s our determination and that’s our goal.”

Talk without results

Norbu’s fellow traveler during that 2009 walk, 66-year-old Tibetan Wangchuk Dorjee, expressed mixed emotions about potential results from the Dalai Lama’s ongoing negotiations with the Chinese for a return of some political, cultural and religious autonomy for his people.

“There are positive signs. You know the last few years his Holiness’s envoys have had a dialogue with the Chinese government a few times. That is kind of a positive, I feel that way. But at the same time while the dialogue is there – not very much has become of it. The Tibetans have tried to speak up about their rights and point of view. But when they do that they are put in jail or are killed and all sorts of unbelievable things are done. It is very, very bad.”

A future without hope?

By coincidence as I helped Patterson prepare our story on Norbu and his 2009 walk, I had just finished a re-read of George Orwell’s dark vision of a totalitarian future, “1984”. Norbu and Dorjee’s observations about Tibet’s current plight mixed with Orwell’s dark vision of mankind’s future, a future it seems the Tibetan people and others on our planet already experience on a daily basis. I suggested we end her story with a reference to the lasting warning to humanity Orwell gave us in 1948, perhaps not coincidentally the transposed final two digits of his book’s title. Patterson agreed and to close that story we quoted from perhaps “1984’s” most frightening passage, as the Party spokesman O’Brien explains the Party’s view of the flow of history to Winston as he is tortured into total submission to the state and its symbolic figurehead, Big Brother.

“Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Jigme Norbu walked to remove that boot from the face of the Tibetan people – and perhaps also to make us all ponder how far our own faces are from the sole of that boot as it is allowed to crush the spirit of others we share this planet with.

On Feb. 14th Norbu’s walk ended on the side of a dark, Florida highway – or did it?

A national/world version of this story appears in The Huffington Post.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm  Comments (1)  

AUDIO: A discussion of coyotes, eagles, bats and owl banding on The Valley Today.

Publisher Dan McDermott was guest hosting a talk show today. Dan and WZRV afternoon DJ Lonnie Hill discussed the Friends of Shenandoah River State Park and some critters that populate our favorite river destination.

Here is the Audio. (Left-click to play or right-click to Save-As and play from your computer.)

More about Friends of Shenandoah River State Park.

Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hudson River crash and glider skills

Andre Gerner, former Commandant of the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, spoke at the Skyline Soaring Club annual safety meeting on Feb. 7 Gerner also lauded the role of glider flying in developing general aviation skills. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

Andre Gerner, former Commandant of the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, spoke at the Skyline Soaring Club annual safety meeting on Feb. 7 Gerner also lauded the role of glider flying in developing general aviation skills. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

‘Stick & rudder’ experience with powerless flight crucial for all pilots

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Did powerless flight skills honed at small general aviation airports such as the one here in Warren County, Virginia, help US Airways Pilot Chesley Sullenberger bring his commercial passenger jet down safely in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, saving the lives of all 155 people aboard in the process?

A trio of members and participants in the Skyline Soaring Club’s annual safety meeting held Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Front Royal-Warren County Airport (FRR), as well as their host, Airport Manager Reggie Cassagnol, believe Sullenberger’s experience with glider flight was a contributing factor in his ability to safely guide his US Airways Flight 1549 “Airbus” to a safe “off-field” landing within two minutes of losing all engine power just after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport.

While a career-long focus on the wide parameter of airline safety procedures was noted, Sullenberger’s experience as a glider pilot was singled out as a crucial part of the skill sets utilized that day to save an untold number of lives in the midst of heavily populated midtown Manhattan. The primary reason is a glider pilot’s constant focus on what to do if the thermal lift upon which gliders are dependent is lost. For while it was a powerful commercial jetliner bound for Charlotte, North Carolina, Sullenberger piloted on Jan. 15, his sudden loss of power after a collision with a flock of birds put him in essentially the same position glider pilots regularly find themselves in – improvising a landing site.

Cassagnol points out that when gliders are forced to land short of a return to their airport point of departure, it is not termed an accident or even incident, but rather simply an “off-field landing.” And land off field is essentially what pilot Chesley Sullenberger accomplished with his commercial passenger jet on the Hudson River in the middle of New York City on Jan. 15.

Cassagnol, who is a Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) certified safety instructor, said he recommends his CassAviation flight students take at least a couple of glider instructions “to illustrate the point that when the engine stops it’s not over; and to improve their general flying skills.”

‘The Right (Glider) Stuff’

“When you’re flying a powered aircraft, one of the things you’re always asked, especially when you’re a student, is ‘Okay, if the engine fails now, where would you go?’ And it is something [Sullenberger] had rehearsed many times, because in a glider every landing is an emergency landing – they’re all engine out. So you’ve got to make it count. You can’t go around and do it again,” Andre Gerner told us after his own safety presentation to the Skyline Soaring Club. “In terms of developing pure stick and rudder skills, and getting out into the air and finding lift, and there are different forms of lift – glider flying, really I think, makes you keenly aware of what’s going on around you.”

Gerner called himself “an avid proponent” of glider flight as an instructional tool for powered flight in a previous position he held. That position was as Commandant of the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base from 2005-2007. It is a position he noted, that has been held by, among others, Chuck Yeager and “Buzz” Aldrin. Yeager’s legendary reputation in the test pilot world was immortalized in the book and movie “The Right Stuff;” and Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon, behind fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong.

“As I was saying earlier, the four tier-one military schools would be the Air Force Test Pilot School (Edwards), the Naval Test Pilot School at “Pax” River, the Empire Test Pilot School in England, and Epner, which is the French Test Pilot School,” Gerner said. “Then there’s also the National Test Pilot School, which is civilian, that’s in Mohave, California, and then Brazil and India both have test pilot schools. Those are the major schools in the West – but the point I wanted to make is all four of those [military] schools use gliders in their curriculum because it’s considered important to expose students to that unique portion of the envelope.

“I would require every student to come in and get a commercial glider [license]. I’m just a big fan of that. I think its very effective training. It’s pure flying, flying in its purest sense – stick and rudder, you’ve got to move everything and you’re more in tune with what’s going on,” Gerner says of glider pilot’s relationship to his flight environment.

A first in the jet age

Another glider pilot and safety expert we spoke with at FRR on Feb. 7, pointed to the entire set of flight skills Sullenberger brought to the table to accomplish what he called a first in the age of jet flight.

“I think glider training is valuable. It helps a pilot with certain skills. But nobody’s ever ditched an airliner full of passengers in the jet era without loss of life,” Steve Wallace observed of emergency landings at sea. “In my view the more incredible aspect of this story than setting the airplane down in tact in the river, was getting everybody off it alive in the cold water. The plane didn’t break up; the captain and the whole crew, I think, did a brilliant job. I personally am not surprised that he was able to set that airplane down in the river in tact. I am surprised everybody got off it alive.”

Wallace’s credentials in the aviation community include being a part of the team that officially reviewed the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. In fact, Wallace pointed out he had presented a talk on the Columbia disaster at FRR, where one of the astronauts killed on that flight, David Brown, used to fly in on his way to visit his parents in Washington, Va. (but that’s another story for another day)

“I would say [glider flight] is a part of Sullenberger’s background which was tremendous. He was a military pilot as well. And he was also well known in the aviation community for participating in various safety issues, the pilot’s union, national investigations and different things like that. So this was a guy who was well beyond this is the job I’ve got from 9 to 5,” Wallace says.

“He would be the type of person, who in his head, would be – as we talked about on safety issues today – inclined to constantly think in terms of what would I do if this happens and turn over those what-if scenarios. That scenario was beyond anything in a training simulator. That was Sullenberger – what’s my best option? I’m going to put the plane down there,” Wallace said of the man who became a national hero overnight with his quick response to a set of potentially fatal variables.

General Aviation’s value

“Because of increasing automation that you find on airliners, there’s fewer and fewer opportunities for manually flying the airplane – stick and rudder time – because a lot of our philosophies and procedures and practices now are based on using automation,” Skyline Soaring Club member and Sullenberger’s fellow US Airways commercial pilot Curtis Wheeler told us. “There’s a lot of benefit to that, but also it causes a loss of skill in just hand flying the airplane. So what you can realize in an operation like we have here in Front Royal, is we have the opportunity to fly airplanes that don’t have any automation at all. And that gives us a better understanding of just the process of doing that.

“In the landing in the Hudson, you had an airliner being landed in the river right down the middle of a big city. That’s a place where an airliner never goes. I don’t know how current Captain Sullenberger was in flying gliders, but he had, had enough exposure to that circumstance and environment where he had some familiarity with what to expect.”

As for commercial pilot training for flight emergencies, Wheeler added, “We have a lot of training events that we have to cover in our simulators, which are mandatory. But we can’t cover every possible contingency in a simulator because we have a finite amount of time in there. And US Airways has already acknowledged that there isn’t a simulator event for ditching that’s done. We study it. We read about it. We mentally prepare for it. But it’s considered a remote possibility and receives a lower priority in the training hierarchy than a lot of the more likely things that could happen, like engine failures – not that they’re likely but they are more likely than ditching,” Wheeler explained of industry-wide training priorities.

“I think that the best pilots look at all the available resources in aviation to try to prepare themselves – and I think most pilots do this – just to take advantage of all the different resources that general aviation provides in order to give some awareness to these hand flying scenarios, different scenarios that are not routine in airline flying. We’re flying around small airports, closer to the terrain than we would be in any circumstance in an airline operation.

“There’s not a good understanding in America today about what general aviation is doing for people, and we’d like to try and promote that,” Wheeler said of his glider club and its host facility. “We need a lot of help keeping an airport like Front Royal Airport open and operational because it brings economic value to the community. In the case of our soaring club here, we come out to Front Royal, we patronize local businesses for lunches and things like that … It gives access for medivac flights. We’ve had law enforcement that’s operated out of this airport, all kinds of utility that comes from having a General Aviation airport – not to mention the stick and rudder skills that can be honed in a relaxed and recreational environment for both amateur and professional pilots – and that was a big payoff that day in New York City.”

Brief commercial message

For information on scenic glider or powered flights over the Northern Shenandoah Valley, as well as flight instructions offered out of the Front Royal-Warren County Airport, call the airport at 540 635-3570.

Economic postscript

Perhaps of particular interest in the current economic climate, other than improving basic flying skills, former Edwards AFB Test Pilot School Commandant Gerner pointed to a side benefit of glider flight to jet pilot training – cost. That cost effectiveness calculates to $60 to $70, including tow plane expenses, per glider flight, to what Gerner estimated is now between $5,000 to somewhere under $10,000 per hour of powered jet flight, even for the low-cost T-38 trainer.  – “And when you get into an F-15 or F-16, the number gets even bigger,” Gerner points out of the huge cost of jet flight. “But the glider, that’s $26 an hour plus the tow.”

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 12:56 am  Comments (1)  

Virginia legislator: ‘My War with the Eastern Box Turtle’

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department photo)

Dear Friend

“What do you have against turtles?”

Today I did something I never imagined I would have to do when I was elected to serve in the Senate of Virginia. I spoke and voted against legislation to make the box turtle as our state reptile (passed 24-15). That has led to some asking me, “What do you have against turtles?” It’s not a question I anticipated being asked this session, but it’s one I’ve heard more than a few times in the last few days.

For the record, I don’t have anything against the Eastern Box Turtle or terrapins in general, so there’s no need to speculate.

No, I don’t object to turtles; I object to wasting time on trivialities while seriously contemplating pushing back the budget for some later date. I have nothing against the Eastern Box, but I do have a problem with the amount of time we’ve spent this session on bills that have nothing to do with making our Commonwealth a better place, to say nothing of getting our economy back on track. This bill is just one isolated, albeit absurd (okay, even slightly amusing), example of a larger trend.

Is designating a state reptile really worth our time? We already have a state beverage, state insect, and a state gold mining interpretive center – presumably to distinguish it from the pretenders. We even have a state fossil, an extinct scallop.

I concede that Virginia trails other states in designations. We don’t have a state shrub, a state grass, or even a state donut. But if we’re to pick a state reptile, how to choose? Sure, the Eastern Box Turtle is a fine choice, but there’s something to be said for the endangered stinkpot turtle, too. And who doesn’t have a soft spot for other reptilian species, like the yellow-bellied slider, the common five-lined skink (and, of course, some would undoubtedly suggest politicians and lawyers)?

You know, we have a state shell as well. Increasingly, though, I think our state shell should be the one some in government are hiding under they we wait for the economic ill winds to pass us by. One of the counties I represent has an 11.7% unemployment rate, and they’re not alone. People are struggling to make ends meet across the Commonwealth, and they need the General Assembly to redouble its efforts to promote economic recovery, not ignore the problem in the hopes that it will just go away.

So nothing against the turtle – but if I had my way, he’d have to get in line.

Mark Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

Published in: on February 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm  Comments (10)  

Free complete print edition: Mid January, 2009

Click here to open

Inside this issue:

  • Front Royal, VA woman loses finger in domestic dispute
  • Browntown Road shooting
  • Additional charges filed in Warren County, VA house ramming incident
  • Two arrested in Papa John’s Pizza robbery
  • Be on the lookout for Daniel Eli of Bethlehem, PA
  • Driveway scams
  • Openings for Citizens Police Academy
  • R-MA teacher honored
  • State River Park attendance down
  • New Linden, VA trash site opens
  • Town of Front Royal, VA approaches liaison: Let’s talk – just not about ‘that’
  • Warren County, VA approves 5-pronged January liaison agenda
  • Capt. Richard H. Furr makes it official – applying for Front Royal, VA police chief’s job
  • Del. Clay Athey’s Report from Richmond, VA
  • Neighbors point fingers (not guns) during shooting debate
  • ‘Pawsitive Pup’ makes dog grooming more convenient
  • NFL playoffs – Still Cheering Purple Pride
  • Activities & events in Front Royal and Warren County, VA
  • Opinion: The Gaza Holocaust
  • Letter: History’s Revenge
  • Front Royal/Warren County, VA Chamber of Commerce news
  • Entire issue is free here.

Also, 2008: The Year in Review

  • 2008 – It wasn’t that great: From bad weather to a lousy economy – good riddance
  • Inventor John Kovak: Childhood machine could be key to clean energy production in Front Royal, VA
  • CPV, Dominion Power make it official – the ‘buy’ is on
  • Paying for our own noose? Front Royal, VA debates the true price of power – 50 years of coal
  • Loss of father, two young children mourned at Candlelight Vigil
  • Town of Front Royal, VA approves corridor, EDA resolutions  – Threat of litigation by Riverton Commons restaurants hovers over passage
  • First Crooked Run Center tax revenue estimates in
  • Town, FDR Services settle water-sewer rate war – Two years of litigation ends with compromise, 15-year service contract
  • Should the Dow be at 3,000? Up a grand, down a grand – Great Depression 2.0?
  • Show me the money – Brooks calls out EDA financing – EDA’s reduced municipal funding request opens a fiscal can of worms
  • Town move on EDA assets likely futile – Virginia state law protects autonomy of economic development authorities
  • Town to EDA – ‘Pretty please with sugar on top’ – Town rephrases effort to gain control of millions in EDA assets
  • Abusive driver fees’ hit the dustbin of legislative history – Refunds included in ‘civil remedial fee’ repeal signed into law by Virginia governor
  • Virginia Governor Tim Kaine cites importance of dialogue in state government
  • Va. Supreme Court rules against NVTA road taxing – Local plaintiff, delegate weigh in on decision, state funding responsibilities
  • Questions remain about Virginia state trooper collision – Public’s right to know at issue as accident investigation continues
  • Humane Society board recalled under contentious circumstances – Accusations fly over membership voting eligibility, animal care priorities
  • Wagner Shelter two weeks later – ‘a remarkable change’; In the wake of contentious board recall, humans & animals move on
  • Monk murder mystery – A personal remembrance of a soul in wonder
  • Entire issue is free here.

The Gaza Holocaust (Op-ed)

Photo by Bilal Mirza

Photo by Bilal Mirza

Israeli dissent: ‘Israel is like the abused child who grows up to be the abuser.’

By Elizabeth Molchany

The 1967 war between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria was born of a lie that Israel had to wage a pre-emptive attack to defend itself, much as George Bush said the US had to wage a pre-emptive attack against Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction.

Declassified documents in recent years of statements by Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan reveal the contrary. Since then, in violation of more than 100 UN resolutions and the Geneva Conventions, not to mention the international standard of unlawful aggression the US held Iraq to as justification for the first Gulf War in 1991, Israel has retained control of the Occupied Territories it captured in 1967 and committed numerous atrocities reported in its own media, to which the US is complicit in its American-made, Americanpaid DC9 Caterpillars, F16s, and Apache helicopters, among other weapons.

Home made placard from Melbourne protest December 30, 2008 about Israel’s attack on Gaza. Photo by Takver taken on Swanston Street towards the back of the march.

Home made placard from Melbourne protest December 30, 2008 about Israel’s attack on Gaza. Photo by Takver taken on Swanston Street towards the back of the march.

The Occupied Territories includes the Gaza Strip, a small 25 x 6 mile area bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, inhabited by 1.5 million Palestinians, 20 percent of whom and their forefathers have lived there for centuries. Eighty percent are refugees created when 750,000 Palestinians were forced or fled in fear from their homes in what is now Israel in April 1948, before the first Arab-Israeli war. They and their forefathers had lived there for 1600 years since the 7th century.

For 42 years, Israel has had tight control over Gaza, making it the world’s largest prison. No one may leave or enter without an Israeli permit. When its troops left in 2005, Israel left 44 acres of massive rubble when it demolished Jewish-only housing rather than leave it for the Gazans to use as an act of good faith since it had illegally occupied the land so long.

But Israel retained control of Gaza’s air, land, and sea, and the money they earn on produce and other products, and imposed a blockade on food, fuel, water, electricity, medicine, even ink and paper and parts and supplies necessary for a viable economy.

Because of this, thousands of Palestinians are starving, hopeless, and helpless. It is the middle of winter, they are freezing and without fuel, food or money. In an open and democratic election in 2005, Hamas was elected.

Hamas has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist based on Israel’s refusal to accept the existence of a Palestinian state and their rights to human dignity, freedom and security. Despite this, Hamas immediately offered Israel a 10-year ceasefire and acceptance of a 2-state solution if Israel would agree to return to the 1967 borders. Israel refused. Hamas abided by its own 18-month unilateral truce.

In June 2008, Hamas and Israel agreed to a 6-month truce during which Israel was to relax its blockade.

Israel immediately breached that part, and would not even allow Gazans to fish within 3 miles of their own coast without a permit, stringently enforced.

Palestinian men bury the body of 4-year-old Lama Hamdan at Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Lama and her sister were reportedly riding a donkey cart Tuesday near a rocket-launching site that was targeted by Israel. Photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

Palestinian men bury the body of 4-year-old Lama Hamdan at Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Lama and her sister were reportedly riding a donkey cart Tuesday near a rocket-launching site that was targeted by Israel. Photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

On November 4, Israel again breached the truce by entering Gaza, killing 6 Palestinians, and sealing the borders, denying food and all necessities, foreign journalists and dignitaries, including President Carter. On Dec 27, Israel launched its massive assault despite the fact that not one Israeli had died during the past year from a Qassam Rocket. Hamas responded with its only weapons, Qassam Rockets, killing 4 Israelis. Since Israel’s attack with American weapons, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, 3,000 wounded, and their entire infrastructure destroyed or seriously damaged, including homes, the American school, the university, dormitories, stores, markets, fishing boats, the Gaza mental heath center. This massacre, planned six months in advance, is not about Hamas or rockets but about Israel’s upcoming elections and denying the right of a Palestinian state. On January 14, nine Israeli human rights organizations issued a letter stating that “This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes.” http://www.btselem.org/English/ See its accompanying report on “The Humanitarian Collapse in the Gaza Strip.”

Had Israel wanted peace, it would have returned the occupied territories to the Palestinians, the rightful owners under international law; it would have accepted the Saudi peace initiatives offered in 2002 and 2007, which all 21 Arab states signed, recognizing Israel and offering it permanent peace in return for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in 1967, establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Each time, Israel said no, contradicting the notion Israel alone seeks a just and peaceful solution to regional issues. http://tinyurl.com/SA2007PlanHaaretz and http://tinyurl.com/JPAcceptInitiative

Please do not rely on the mainstream US media – you will not find the truth there. Research the alternative media on the Internet and other sources, such as Link and Free Speech TV’s “Democracy Now” daily news show, online sources such as Jewish Voices for Peace, the Electronic Intifada, or England’s print media The Independence and The Observer, which are also available online, as are the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, and Israeli organizations such “Gush Shalom,” “B’tselem” and “Breaking the Silence: Israeli Soldiers Talk About the Occupied” – the latter at www.shovrimshtika.org/index_e.asp

As one Israeli conscientious objector recently stated in a “Democracy Now” interview after being released from prison, “At least in Israel there is debate over the actions of the right-wing government, in the US you don’t even get that.”

Elizabeth Molchany is an attorney in private practice in Front Royal, VA. Ms. Molchany is a long-time student of the crisis in the Middle East. She can be reached at: emmolchanylaw@embarqmail.com

Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 9:03 pm  Comments (57)  

Op-Ed: Should Google buy The New York Times?

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Veteran PC Magazine columnist and “Cranky Geek” John C. Dvorak recently started a discussion on his blog about rumors reported by Dealscape that Google should or might purchase the New York Times. John said that this might be a good idea. I think he is right.

A newspaper is simply one means of delivering news content.

But there is more.

Ten or twenty years ago I would have said:

The difference between print and broadcast is often the depth and length of stories–and usually the quality. When the TV news covers something at 6 or 11 it is often a 30 second version of the basic facts. Then its on to the “Wednesday’s Child” segment featuring the cute kid of the week. The longer version of the same story that appears in the next day’s paper usually has a much stronger and more lasting impact.

Today there is the Internet–which is bringing far more readers around the world to newspapers’ content but in an unprofitable way–and many cable news outlets which sometimes offer long-form in-depth coverage and analysis which traditional broadcast media outlets–CBS’ 60 minutes aside–would never have the resources or viewers’ attention span to cover. The problem is that these same cable news outfits often give undue attention to a story because it is “breaking” than it really deserves. A helicopter following a car chase that will never be mentioned again after its conclusion is an obvious example.

Print media is very, very expensive to produce and distribute. This newspaper has a circulation of over 9,000 and about 20,000 readers. It costs about $2,000 per issue just to print and distribute. This website has every issue we have ever produced available–so it has all the same content. It costs about $100 per year.

Here is the problem.

All of the past competition newspapers have historically faced and weather offered arguably lower quality content. Radio, TV & early cable news outlets by their nature offered less time per story and thus lower quality for the end user who wanted all the facts. You can print as many pages in a paper as budget and content allow. You can’t add more minutes into an hour. So the newspapers stayed strong and profitable.

The Internet is completely different. It has all the advantages of print publications (and now even their content) and is portable, usually free and allows for random access to any article rather than having to leaf through a paper or wait through a radio or TV program. It’s an increasingly ADHD consumer’s dream.

So the risk for us all is that if all of the papers go down, who will have the money to pay for the Woodwards and Bernsteins of the future? Who will have the resources to pay a reporter or team of reporters to study and investigate the Walter Reed scandal? That story was around since 2004 but never hit traction until a series of front page stories were printed in the Washington Post after an expensive years-long investigation by their permanent investigations unit–ironically started by Bob Woodward who has the luxury of being able to stay on at the Post for $1 per year.

I’m not arguing that we bail out the industry or that dinosaurs should be kept on life support in perpetutity. I do think that someone will figure this whole mess out and find away to allow the high quality content that some of the big papers have produced to survive in this new age–and help protect democracy in the process.

If there is any outfit that has shown the creativity, intelligence and innovative skills to reform the New York Times–and show the rest of us in the industry the way, it might well be Google.

It certainly won’t be “Wednesday’s Child.”

As for the arguments of the editorial slants of various media outlets, it is nothing new. People on the right see Fox News as “mainstream” and hate the New York Times and MSNBC. People on the left see the inverse. Good. Our diversity makes us stronger. That’s what the first amendment is all about. It’s all about equal access to the system. If Matt Drudge can start the most influential news website in the world single-handedly while sitting in his pajamas in his living room with no advertising then so can you.

Dan McDermott is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Warren County Report Newspaper in Front Royal, VA: editor [at] warrencountyreport [dot] com

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Journey into the dark past of America

Toni Morrison’s first novel in five years. A Mercy, is a beautifully timed book that takes place in America’s earliest days as a land carved up by slave-owners.

Her point here, as ever, is that at the heart of this new land of liberty lies enslavement and brutal racism – a legacy perhaps broken only by Tuesday’s election. It’s the 1680s and Jacob Vaark arrives in America from Holland, stumbling his way through primitive settlements and wild lands to a smallholding in Virginia. Slavery is in its infancy and Vaark finds it distasteful.

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 4:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Historian: The Strong Wind at His Back

Barack Obama’s victory reflects not only the evolution of American society but, says historian Robert Brent Toplin, the momentum of a revolution begun 45 years ago.

By Robert Brent Toplin
History News Service

Well, the pundits were wrong. White voters didn’t change their minds in the voting booth. Barack Obama’s victory proves that some analysts gave too much weight to race, not only in gauging today’s opinions but also in judging how the American people’s attitudes have been taking shape for decades.

Polls released in October suggest that Obama’s recent political progress may have changed some ideas about race in America. A New York Times/CBS poll showed that nearly two-thirds of the people asked said that whites and blacks have an equal chance of getting ahead in today’s society (a dramatic increase over about half who said so just three months before).

Of course, there were holdouts. The October poll found 14 percent of Americans surveyed said that most people they knew would not vote for a black candidate. Yet that figure had dropped considerably over several months. As Americans got to see and hear Obama and learn more about him, they became more comfortable with the notion of his leadership in the White House.

Evidently, many voters were willing to make the “dream” that Martin Luther King Jr. described in a memorable speech 45 years ago a current reality. In his 1963 address, King looked hopefully to a day when blacks like his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” A lot of Americans seem to have done just that when they judged Barack Obama’s character on November 4.

The polls reveal, too, that America’s younger generation was more open to the idea of a black man running for president than the nation’s older generation. If the only people allowed to vote this year had been Americans under 30, Obama’s candidacy would have been locked up quickly. A USA Today/MTV/Gallup Poll released in October showed that the under-30 group favored Obama over John McCain by a whopping 61 percent to 32 percent.

As a group, older Americans tend to be more resistant to voting for a black candidate, partly because they had experiences in their early years different from today’s younger generation.

Whites who are now over age 60 did not see many blacks in prominent positions of leadership in their younger years. During the 1950s and early 1960s African Americans lived segregated lives in the South and faced limited opportunities in the North. When whites encountered blacks directly in those times, they often saw them principally as janitors, elevator operators, or cleaning ladies. It was difficult to imagine an African American as president.

White Americans who are now between the ages of 18 and 29 tend to have had much more personal contact with African Americans, and they have had much greater exposure to blacks in positions of influence and authority. Lots of them have developed friendships with blacks in school and college. They have watched movies featuring Will Smith and Denzel Washington as super-heroes. A few decades ago black movie star Morgan Freeman was playing a slave, a convict, and a driver for a rich lady. In more recent films he has played the president of the United States (in Deep Impact) and even God (in Bruce Almighty).

Today’s younger white Americans look up to Tiger Woods, and they cheer African-American sports figures in football, basketball and baseball. In recent years they have seen two blacks serving as U.S. secretary of state, and they have watched many blacks delivering the news on CNN or commenting on television about the recent elections.

The transformation towards black integration in American life has been an evolutionary process. Yet in view of all that has changed since Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “Dream” speech forty-five years ago, the shift appears revolutionary. Barack Obama, a talented candidate, got momentum in his race to the White House from the winds of that revolution.

Robert Brent Toplin, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, has published a dozen books and is a writer for the History News Service.

Published in: on November 5, 2008 at 6:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Kaine: Va. ready for vote

Governor confident, but state faces hearing today on voting-rights lawsuit

Ahead of today’s federal court hearing on the NAACP’s voting-rights suit, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine appeared on four network television broadcasts and said Virginia is ready for a record turnout on Election Day.

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 4:29 am  Comments (1)  
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