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August 2010

Aug 2  Cuba is struggling to revive its economy. President Raul Castro announces a future cut in the "overloaded" state payroll and a reduction of state involvement in some areas of the economy. Also more "workers" will be allowed to set up small businesses. In Cuba, the state controls about 90 percent of the economy.

Aug 3  New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, defends mosque construction in the city two blocks from "Ground Zero." He says that a government "shouldn't be in the business of picking one religion over another," that Muslims have "a right to do it" and that prohibiting it would play into the hands of those hostile to the United States. Conservative pundit Monica Crowley instead opposes the construction. Citing the name Cordoba, she sees the mosque construction near Ground Zero as Muslim triumphalism hostile to the United States. And Newt Gingrich, another conservative with a PhD, finds fault with Saudi Arabia in association with the building although Saudi Arabia has been hostile toward al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post describes Gingrich as offering us "an illogical and ahistorical" context to the controversy. The journalist Peter Beinart describes project opponents as bigots. The mosque project's sponsor, the Cordoba Initiative, describes itself as a pluralistic organization seeking better relations between Muslims and people of other faiths.

Aug 5  On Fox News, Newt Gingrich declares the Mosque controversy as having nothing to do with religious liberty. He calls the founder of the Cordoba Initiative, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a radical Islamist and asks for an explanation of the funding of the Rauf's project. Other opponents of the Mosque take statements by Rauf's that were critical of US foreign policy as examples of Islamic radicalism. Some others see this as a giant stretch. Rauf, meanwhile, has spoken of wanting to build a more peaceful world – unlike the radical jihadists, who want war.

Aug 6  Along with the unusual weather around the world are record temperatures in Russia. Reports describe nearly 600 wildfires that are still spreading and have claimed 50 lives. Bloggers in Russia are outraged and blame government for inadequate responses and lapsed fire-fighting readiness. Some speak of the past when government was better prepared.

Aug 8  An honor killing by a Muslim father in the United States that happened more than two years ago has been a topic chosen this past week by Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. The fierce critic of Islam, Hirsi Ali, former Dutch politician now living in the United States, speaks against stigmatizing the majority of Muslims in America. The New York Times lead story reads: "Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition." A photo shows a woman with a manufactured sign that reads "mosques are a monument to terrorism." On his program today on CNN, Fareed Zakaria weighs in. He speaks of the benefits from tolerating moderate Muslims. He describes Imam Rauf, creator of the Cordoba Project, as holding to an Islam that is a nightmare for Osama bin Laden and mentions Rauf's book: What's Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West. Zakaria speaks of Newt Gingrich and shame. Zakaria says that he has returned an award he received in 2005 from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) because of its stand on the issue of the Mosque being built a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center. The ADL says it is "stunned and saddened."

Aug 11  In China's state-run newspaper a set of articles describe the country's successful economic development as turning into "national arrogance." As a part of Marxist internationalism, Communist Party intellectuals around the world have traditionally been opposed in theory to all forms of chauvinism, especially national chauvinism.

Aug 11  Starting this month in Malaysia, two women Islamic court (Sharia) judges start to hear court cases.

Aug 16  Russia has been on fire and much of Paikistan is under water. Famine looms because of unusual weather conditions that people are blaming on global warming. But in the US the debate that has been raging on daily is about the mosque that is planned for construction two blocks away from "ground zero" in lower Manhattan.

Aug 17  Yesterday, MSNBC weighed in on the debate. Keith Olbermann described as exaggeration the claimed nearness of the Muslim community center (not a mosque) to Ground Zero. The Rachel Maddow show described the extremist anti-Muslim origins of the debate and what it characterized as the weakness of those who joined it, including that of the Democrat Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, cowering as he runs for re-election in Nevada.

Aug 19  The last of US combat forces depart from Iraq – a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. The 50,000 US soldiers remaining in Iraq (down from a high of 150,000) are for training and will use their weapons only in self-defense or at the request of the Iraqi government. Meanwhile, following controversial parliamentary elections five months ago, an Iraqi government in Baghdad has not yet been formed. And yesterday at least 59 people were killed and more than 100 injured in another suicide bombing in Baghdad.

Aug 28  An estimated 300,000 people attend Glenn Beck's rally at the Washington Monument. The theme is "Restore Honor to America." Another purpose of the rally is to raise funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides scholarships to the children of elite troops killed in combat. One of the speakers, Sarah Palen, suggests that we return in spirit to the days of George Washington – when some colonists chose to fight against King George and some chose to remain loyal. Politics in those times of bitter conflict and slavery she suggests were guided by God. Palin utters what the journalist Peter Beinart, in his book The Icarus Syndrome calls hubris: "We will always come through" she says, forgetting about Vietnam. Instead of looking back at Vietnam, Palin exudes "faith and hope." And staying with the spiritual, other speakers call for unity with Jesus Christ. Spirituality appears to be their formula for restoring honor to America while troublesome mundane alternatives are ignored in keeping with Beck describing his rally as not at all about politics.

Aug 30  A Taliban operative in Afghanistan tells a writer for Newsweek magazine that the mosque issue in the US is a propaganda windfall and "now heads the list of talking points in Taliban meetings with fighters, villagers, and potential recruits."

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