Muslim Lynch Mob: "Kill Teacher"

Shoot UK teacher, say protesters
Thousands of people have marched in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to call for UK teacher Gillian Gibbons to be shot.

Mrs Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was jailed by a court on Thursday after children in her class named a teddy bear Muhammad.

She was sentenced to 15 days for insulting religion, and she will then be deported.

The Foreign Office was in contact with Sudan's government overnight and is due to repeat demands for her release.

'Kill her'

The marchers took to the streets after Friday prayers to denounce the sentence as too lenient.

The protesters gathered in Martyrs Square, outside the presidential palace in the capital, many of them carrying knives and sticks.

Marchers chanted "Shame, shame on the UK", "No tolerance - execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad".

Hundreds of riot police were deployed but they did not break up the demonstration.

The Foreign Office said it was seeking more details about the protest.

'Strongest terms'

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been in touch with Mrs Gibbons' family for a second time, speaking to a close relative of the teacher.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has expressed "in the strongest terms" the UK's concern at her detention.

The Sudanese ambassador, Omer Siddig, was called back to the Foreign Office to explain the decision.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said he could not "see any justification" for the sentence, calling it an "absurdly disproportionate response" to a "minor cultural faux pas".

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis), which represents more than 90,000 Muslim students in the UK and Ireland, said it was "deeply concerned" at what was a "gravely disproportionate" verdict.

The federation's president, Ali Alhadithi, said: "What we have here is a case of cultural misunderstandings, and the delicacies of the matter demonstrate that it was not the intention of Gillian Gibbons to imply any offence against Islam or Muslims.

"We hope that the Sudanese authorities will take immediate action to secure a safe release for Gillian Gibbons."

In September, Mrs Gibbons allowed her class of primary school pupils to name the teddy bear Muhammad as part of a study of animals and their habitats.

The court heard that she was arrested on Sunday after another member of staff at Unity High School complained to the Ministry of Education.


The Closet Zionists of Agudath Israel of America

Hallelujah. Agudath Israel has recognized the validity of the State of Israel. Hallelujah. It has only been 60 years. OK, Well they sort of recognized its validity in an antagonistic and backhanded way. (Photo above is not Agudah rabbis - but who could resist those little flags?)

From the Forward:
Ultra-Orthodox Break From Tradition
Anthony Weiss

An ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization spoke out at its annual conference against the division of Jerusalem, marking the first time that the traditionally non-Zionist body has taken a public stance on the peace process.

Agudath Israel of America has traditionally steered clear of matters involving Israeli sovereignty, on the grounds that a true Jewish homeland can be established only by the coming of the messiah. At its national convention last week, however, Agudath Israel passed a resolution stating that Israel should not surrender any part of Jerusalem to Palestinian sovereignty and that America’s government should not pressure it into doing so.

The conference came a few days before the Annapolis, Md., peace talks. The Monday before the talks, an Agudath Israel official met with high-ranking members of the Bush administration to press the case.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president of government and public affairs, acknowledged that it is unusual for Agudath Israel to speak out on matters relating to the peace process. But he explained, “The issue of Jerusalem is one that is sui generis: It stands on its own. It is the heart of Eretz Yisrael.”

Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, told the Forward that the resolution passed by acclaim with no objections. The unanimity suggests that the issue of Jerusalem may pull groups into the debate over the peace process that have traditionally steered clear of these matters.

The stance also could be an important signal of the political tides in Israel. Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the head of Agudath Israel of America, told the convention that he had consulted with the leading Agudath Israel rabbis in Israel and they had urged him to speak out on the matter. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox political parties — United Torah Judaism and Shas — have traditionally been flexible on territorial matters in exchange for domestic funding, but that may not hold true for Jerusalem.

Get your own Muhammad Bear $15.99

Muhammad Teddy Bear

We have no affiliation with these folks but they sure do prove the value of freedom.

The Mohammad Teddy Bear - Do you think this cuddly little fellow is worth forty lashes? A 54 year old teacher in the Sudan has been arrested and threatened with 40 lashes for him! $15.99

or Search by Design
Muhammad Bear
We will not be Silent
I will not Submit

And they suggest you send one to the Embassy of Sudan...

"The Embassy of Sudan is, I'm sure, going through some rough times right now. Perhaps sending them a Teddy Bear - the symbol of Peace and Love - might help you can send a Teddy Bear to:"

Embassy of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
Tel:(202) 338-8565
Fax:(202) 667-2406



Zuroff: the Nazi Hunt Never Ends

Zuroff launches last round-up of senior Nazis

Israel's leading Nazi hunter is touring Europe and Latin America in an "Operation Last Chance" to put surviving wartime criminals behind bars.

Dr Aribert Heim, the former camp doctor of the Mauthausen death camp in Austriaand Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem,
Dr Aribert Heim [pictured left], now 93, is highest on leading Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff's list and is close to being pinpointed

Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, is demanding that justice be done - even if it is better late than never.

Dr Zuroff is offering rewards of £7,500 to anyone with information on the whereabouts of wanted individuals even though most of the world's worst Nazi war criminals live openly, shielded by complacent governments or statutes of limitations.

The new campaign was launched in Buenos Aires, Argentina, yesterday and next week Dr Zuroff will be in Europe to name and shame governments, some of them members of the European Union such as Germany, where wanted Nazis have succeeded in evading justice.

"Operation Last Chance really is the last round-up," said Mr Zuroff.

"We have assurances from several South American countries they are willing to deal with the killers who live among them and I am confident that we will see results.

"Also in Europe, we have hope that governments will act, will realise there can be no statute of limitations applicable to these men for what they did."

Highest on the list is Dr Aribert Heim, now 93, the former camp doctor of the Mauthausen death camp in Austria, where Simon Wiesenthal himself was close to death as a prisoner in 1945.

Heim injected patients with lethal drugs and carried out operations on prisoners without anaesthetic because he was "bored".

Dr Zuroff has received information in the past few weeks pinpointing him in Chile and the net may be closing.

In Europe, Operation Last Chance is targeting a number of Nazi war criminals sheltered in countries including Austria and Germany.

One of the men is Milivoji Asner, 94, the former Nazi police chief of Croatia, who was responsible for the slaughter of Jews, gipsies and resistance fighters.

Asner is living comfortably in Austria but is terrified of deportation back to Croatia, where he faces war crimes charges.

"Of course there are dozens, hundreds more, hiding all over the world. But we want the biggest fish caught first. And we want to let them know we will never stop hunting them," said Dr Zuroff.

Teacher in Hot Water for Naming Teddy Bear Muhammed

The other side of the looking glass: Will this teacher be beheaded for blasphemy?
Student defends Briton jailed over teddy bear
Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:44pm EST

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A 7-year-old Sudanese student on Tuesday defended the British teacher accused of insulting Islam saying he had chosen to call a teddy bear Mohammad because it was his own name.

Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old teacher at the Unity High School in Khartoum, was arrested on Sunday after complaints from parents that she had insulted Islam's Prophet by allowing the bear to be named Mohammad. She is facing a third night in jail without being formally charged.

"The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy," the boy said shyly, his voice barely rising above a whisper. "I said Mohammad. I named it after my name," he added.

Sitting in his garden wearing shorts, his family, who did not want their full names used, urged him to describe what had happened.

He said he was not thinking of Islam's Prophet when asked to suggest a name, adding most of the class agreed with his choice.

In a writing exercise students were asked to keep a diary of what they did with the teddy bear. "Some people took the teddy home and took it places with them ... like the swimming pool," the child said.

Mohammad said Gibbons was "very nice" and he would be upset if she never came back to teach. He added Gibbons had not discussed religion nor did she mention the Prophet.

"We studied maths and English and spelling," he said, rubbing his mop of short, curly hair.


Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi told Reuters formal charges would be leveled once investigations had been completed.

"(The charges) are under the Sudanese penal code ... insulting religion and provoking the feelings of Muslims," he said.

"These are preliminary -- after investigation the final charges will be ascertained," he added.

If charged and convicted of insulting Islam, Gibbons could be sentenced to 40 lashes, six months in prison or a fine, lawyers said.

Teaching colleagues and officials from the British embassy brought food for Gibbons but were not allowed to visit her.

Mohammad's family said they got most of their information from the papers after the school was closed early on Monday.

"I'm annoyed ... that this has escalated in this way," his mother said. "If it happened as Mohammad said there is no problem here - it was not intended."

His uncle said little Mohammad was a good Muslim and was already praying five times a day. "We want to also hear her side of the story," he added.

Unity director Robert Boulos had said the school would be closed until January because he was afraid of reprisals in mainly Muslim Khartoum.

In 2005 a Sudanese paper was closed for three months and its editor arrested for reprinting articles questioning the roots of the Prophet Mohammad, a move which prompted angry protests.

Al-Wifaq editor Mohamed Taha was later abducted from his home by armed men and beheaded.


The Times Discovers the Minyan

Hat tip to Barak.... It appears that the Times Discovers the Minyan...

November 28, 2007
Challenging Tradition, Young Jews Worship on Their Terms

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — There are no pews at Tikkun Leil Shabbat, no rabbis, no one with children or gray hair.

Instead, one rainy Friday night, the young worshipers sat in concentric circles in the basement of an office building, damp stragglers four deep against the walls. In the middle, Megan Brudney and Rob Levy played guitar, drums and sang, leading about 120 people through the full Shabbat liturgy in Hebrew.

Without a building and budget, Tikkun Leil Shabbat is one of the independent prayer groups, or minyanim, that Jews in their 20s and 30s have organized in the last five years in at least 27 cities around the country. They are challenging traditional Jewish notions of prayer, community and identity.

In places like Atlanta; Brookline, Mass.; Chico, Calif.; and Manhattan the minyanim have shrugged off what many participants see as the passive, rabbi-led worship of their parents’ generation to join services led by their peers, with music sung by all, and where the full Hebrew liturgy and full inclusion of men and women, gay or straight, seem to be equal priorities.

Members of the minyanim are looking for “redemptive, transformative experiences that give rhythm to their days and weeks and give meaning to their lives,” said Joelle Novey, 28, a founder of Tikkun Leil Shabbat, whose name alludes to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. It is an experience they are not finding in traditional Jewish institutions, she said.

Many synagogues feel threatened by the minyanim, and in some cases have tried to adopt their approach, but with only limited success....more

Westchester County is selling tchotchkes on EBay

Off beat EBay story. AP Reports:
NY County Sells Jewish Novelties on EBay
Tuesday November 27, 6:18 pm ET
New York's Westchester County Selling Abandoned Jewish-Themed Novelties on EBay

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) -- Westchester County is selling tchotchkes. By the trailer load.

Just in time for next week's start of Hanukkah, the county is using the eBay auction site to dispose of thousands of items, mostly Jewish-themed novelties, that were abandoned in two storage trailers on county property.

On Monday, someone bought 100 rolls of Hanukkah wrapping paper for $46.

"We have used our eBay site to auction off lots of unusual surplus items over the past couple of years," county Executive Andy Spano said, "but these have to be our most unusual sales."

Up for bidding on Tuesday was a large supply of Passover games and toys, including 108 jigsaw puzzles, 28 collections of rubber stamps and 28 "All About Passover" books. There also was a large supply of mugs, including 140 that measure 8 ounces and have "Shalom" written on them.

Offerings will appear on the site for several weeks, the county said.

A nearby company once owned the trailers and paid rent to park them on county property, police said. The business was sold several years ago, but the trailers apparently were not included in the sale. The current and former owners have waived any rights to the merchandise, and by law the county cannot give it away or throw it out if it can be sold.

Westchester eBay page: http://westchestergov.com/finance/ebay.htm


JTA: A new low for reporting

Leslie Susser reaches a new low for journalists today. He reduces the authorized representation of the State of Israel to the Annapolis peace talks to a group of three self-aggrandizing opportunists ("Israel's top 3 hoping summit can boost careers"). Now they may or may not be that. But it is the job of a journalist to report not to judge. Shame. Susser should lose his credentials for this story. Shame
Israel's top 3 jockey at Annapolis
Leslie Susser

For Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, the trip to the Annapolis summit not only signals Israel's seriousness about peacemaking but also provides the bitter political rivals an opportunity to jockey for Israel's top job.

Published: 11/23/2007

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- By sending its top three leaders to the Annapolis peace summit, Israel is hoping to make a statement about the seriousness of its approach to peacemaking with the Palestinians.

But a more complex reality lies under the surface of this diplomatic show.

The big three -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni -- have much different notions about what can be achieved with the Palestinians and how best to go about it.

Furthermore, they are bitter political rivals: All three want to be prime minister and hope to use Annapolis as a steppingstone toward keeping, regaining or winning the top job.

Olmert's peacemaking ideology is based on a view of a Middle East that is growing more dangerous by the day. He argues that although Israel faces serious risks if the peace process in which it is engaging fails, doing nothing would be far worse.

In Olmert’s view, simply maintaining the status quo would result in a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, the elimination of moderate Palestinians as a political factor and increased calls for a one-state solution. Based on the principle of one man, one vote in a single state comprising Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, eventually this would bring a Palestinian majority to power.

Olmert argues further that by going to Annapolis and showing good will, Israel will not be blamed for failure. Instead, Israel will be in a better position to press for stronger international action on Iran.

The prime minister has domestic considerations, too. In a best-case scenario, progress on the Palestinian front would enable him to call an election some time next year from a position of strength. However, if the two sides make little headway, Olmert is counting on keeping the process going for as long as he feasibly can to buy more time as prime minister.

Either way, Olmert hopes an ongoing Palestinian process will help him through his domestic troubles: the upcoming Winograd Commission report on his performance in the 2006 Lebanon War and a string of corruption allegations currently under investigation.

Ironically, of the three leaders, Barak takes the hardest line, even though he heads the traditionally peace-minded Labor Party. He sees virtually no chance of a peace deal with the Palestinians, and believes the likely outcome of the current process will be more violence and terrorism.

That was the outcome the last time Israel engaged in a major peace push with the Palestinians, when Barak was prime minister and U.S. President Bill Clinton’s proposals at Camp David in 2000 were followed by the launching of the second Palestinian intifada.

Now, Barak says, as far as he is concerned, the "Clinton parameters" of December 2000 -- Clinton's peace proposal after the failure of the 2000 Camp David negotiations -- are no longer on the table.

At one point in recent months Barak warned against going to Annapolis, but he later came around to the view that Israel should do all it can to avoid being blamed for failure.

Barak also takes a tough line on dismantling unauthorized Israeli outposts in the West Bank, a move Israel is supposed to make early on in the process.

"I also admire the settlers in the illegal outposts," he declared recently. "There, too, we will have to provide for their everyday needs."

Left-wing leader Yossi Sarid charges that Barak is out to prove no one can succeed where he failed at Camp David in 2000.

"He is going to Annapolis not to save the conference but to bury it," Sarid said.

Barak anticipates a future contest for prime minister against the Likud Party's Benjamin Netanyahu, and pundits say his hawkish posturing is calculated partly to attract votes from the center and center-right away from Netanyahu, also a former prime minister.

Ideologically, Livni takes the middle ground. She strongly advocates "two states for two peoples" on the condition that the Palestinians have responsible leadership.

"We can't just throw the keys over the fence and hope for the best," she says.

In Livni's view, establishing a Palestinian state must be seen as the fulfillment of the national aspirations of all Palestinians; in other words, Palestinian refugees return to Palestine, not Israel. She sees Jerusalem as a major negotiating card, possibly to be used in a trade-off on the refugee issue, but recently was critical of Olmert confidant Haim Ramon for playing it too early.

Livni clearly hopes to emerge from Annapolis with her prime ministerial credentials enhanced, having shown signs of negotiating smarts and a coherent worldview.

The foreign minister made a major political mistake in April when she called on Olmert to resign after a preliminary Winograd Commission report in the spring. Since then, Livni has been carefully repositioning herself to take over as leader should Olmert slip up again.

For now the polls are on her side.

One in Yediot Achronot’s Friday edition put her ahead of Olmert and Barak. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they had confidence in Olmert, 29 percent in Barak and 52 percent in Livni.

No doubt the way Annapolis plays out will affect the pecking order.

Wow Who Would Believe I'd Praise a Palm Centro Phone from Sprint?

This phone is superb.

I was tired of my Sprint Samsung a900 blade phone. I called Sprint retention and told them I want to cancel. They offered me this smart phone - the Palm Centro - to stay with Sprint. Same plan - and Internet free for a year and 200 more minutes free for 2 years. Who could say no?

How long ago was it that I had a Palm Pilot? I lost track. And back then I said - all would be wonderful if they could attach a phone!

They attached a great phone. It has the tiniest chicklet keys - but it is a full qwerty keypad. And it has this wonderful gmail client. And it has Sprint TV - live! And a nice camera/camcorder and Google maps and a browser...

The tiny screen is high resolution, they say 320x320, but I say more like a miniature 1280×1024.

It is a marvel. Go get one.


High Praise for Amazon's Kindle Handheld Book Service

As the article in Fortune says, "Amazon 'Kindles' readers' imagination." It's point is that, "Amazon's newest offering is more than an e-book reader: it's a bold step into our increasingly mobile future, argues Fortune's David Kirkpatrick."

We are selling our Sony Reader and buying a Kindle!

And one side of the story is the Amazon-Sprint alliance. We just got a Palm Centro from Sprint. Awesome little phone. Now if Sprint could just put a cell tower in Tenafly.


Will These Peace Talks be Followed by Another Intifada?

CNN reports: JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will travel to Annapolis, Maryland, next week where they hope to jump-start the long-dormant Mideast peace process.

As a historian I'd have to say, sadly, these talks will fail and will be followed by another round of hostility.

Reposting from 5/8/05. A lot has transpired since then:

Wanted: Pragmatic Religious Zionists...

I took my family through the Gaza strip on the way into Egypt by bus in 1983. We crossed the border at Rafah. Back then in Gaza I could not imagine why any Jew would want to live there among more that a million Arabs. After all there were thousands of other amazing options in the modern State of Israel.

After more than 30 years the Jewish Gaza settlers have done little or nothing to make their choice of address more appealing to me. They have not created a better world or a better Israel by living as they put it, "Wherever we want in our land."

Now the nationalist right-wing government of Sharon wants to move them out of Gaza. In response these "pioneers" threaten to bring 100,000 protesters to oppose that move.

I appeal to the overwhelmingly Orthodox Gaza settlers in both religious and historical terms. Be pragmatic.

Religiously: You say God wants you in Gaza. I say he doesn't want you in Gaza. Go prove me wrong. Moses warned the tribes in Deuteronomy 9 not to be arrogant. He told them not to think that God owed them a thing. He said about the conquest of the land from its native inhabitants, "Speak not in your heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before you, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land."

Historically: Consider the context of our people's history. God saved us from the ovens of Auschwitz and he brought us to the Promised Land. Look all around at the miraculous State of Israel. Skyscrapers, theaters, factories, museums, universities, yeshivas, blooming deserts, paved superhighways. There are thousands of challenges and options that stand open before you.

Yet as you seem to ignore all this it recalls to me some of our stiff-necked ancestors who ignored the miracles of the exodus from bondage and splitting of the sea.

It's high time for even the most religiously motivated Zionists to become more politically pragmatic.

CNN: Mormon Polygamist Sentenced to 5 to Life for Rape

It is a sordid story that shows the dark side of religion - not in some primitive third world country - but right here in the USA. It's another chapter in the sacred book of immorality.

The CNN story reports that the main contention that the judge and jury accepted was this:
"Warren Jeffs told them to go forward and multiply and replenish the Earth, and that is why that man is an accomplice to rape," prosecutor Brock Belnap said during the trial.
Using the Good Book to do bad. Of course they'd throw the book at him. There was never a prayer that he would get away with this in court.

Chief Rabbi Vying for Ambassadorship to Venezuela?

The only explanation...he wants to be ambassador to Venezuela! (Hat tip to Mimi.)
Rabbi Eliyahu: 'Reform synagogues reek of hell'

Reform and Conservative synagogues reek of hell [Gehinom] and a Jew should not even come near their entrance, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu said last week.

"Once I was invited to be the sandak (godfather) at a brit in a three-story building," recounted Eliyahu in his weekly flyer called Kol Tzofayich, which discusses various halachic issues.

"On the first story was a Reform temple, on the second floor was a Conservative synagogue and on the third floor was an Orthodox synagogue where I was invited.

"I wondered how I would manage to pass by those two synagogues that reek of hell. I asked if there was a way of detouring those two entrances and I was told that there was a kitchen through which it was possible to reach the third floor. I announced that I would not go up any other way besides through the kitchen so as to avoid passing by those prohibited synagogues."

In Kol Tzofayich, which also appears on the former chief rabbi's Internet site harav.org, Eliyahu uses anecdotes to teach practical Jewish law. The lesson that Eliyahu's faithful learn from this story is the rabbi's proscription against entering a non-Orthodox house of prayer.

The Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel said in response that it would sue Eliyahu for slander.

Yizhar Hess, director-general of the Masorti Movement, said in response that Eliyahu's comments were disappointing.

"It is sad that a public figure of Eliyahu's stature makes such an irresponsible and callous comment that belittles millions of Jews across the world," he said.

Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, head of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel and rabbi of the Moreshet Avraham community in East Talpiot, Jerusalem, said Eliyahu's remarks will "stoke hatred and encourage defamation of Jewish communities both in Israel and abroad where millions of Jews learn Torah and perform acts of kindness."


Oh Crab Cakes. Stop Praying for Peace. Pray Instead for a Managed Conflict.

In the Times today we find Op-Ed Columnist ROGER COHEN's confused and confusing ramblings titled, "Israel, Palestine, Crab Cakes." He starts out:
I would like to invest hope in the Annapolis Middle East peace conference, or meeting, or parley, or whatever the term is. Really, I would. The 59-year battle for the same land of Zionist and Palestinian national movements has not been good for anyone.
And near the end of his free associations on the subject of the middle east he says:
All the “final-status issues” — Jerusalem, borders, refugees, settlements, water and security — will have to be left for later. Even protracted attempts to frame the principles for discussion of these matters have failed.

“The best we can hope for is an agenda of conflict management and not have illusions of conflict resolution,” said Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli political scientist.
Okay before I agree with Avineri I have to ask. Anybody out there know what "crab cakes" has to do with this article?

Update: I emailed the author....he answered.
Annapolis-Maryland-Crabcakes. The speciality.
To which I replied:

OK... Shellfish, not kosher, never had them; thought you were using a wry metaphor of some sort;>)

So, that is resolved. Now truth to tell I have to agree with anyone who has despaired of peace, even Avineri.

Perhaps it is time that we revise our prayers in accord with the realities of our lives. Perhaps we ought engage in prayerbook reform and we should pray accordingly:
He who manages conflict in high places, may he manage our conflicts and all the conflicts of Israel and let us say, Amen.


Cleverest Headlines of the Week

Media came not to praise Bonds, but to bury Barry
Los Angeles Times
You know what this is about.

Fallower than thou
And you know what this is about too.

Bergen Record: Frisch School Bonds are Kosher

Much ado on the front page about the tax exempt government bonds backing $28 million in loans for the Frisch Yeshiva High School in Paramus. And the bottom line is... it is all kosher. Then what is the fuss? One slant of the story is, "Look at how the separation of church and state is eroding." Placing the story on page one makes me uneasy and gives it another slant. It says to me, "It is front page news that those those Jews are clever with their financing." I dunno...
N.J. agency OKs tax-free financing for religious schools
Sunday, November 18, 2007


An Orthodox Jewish high school in Paramus received some unusual help in financing its new, $42 million campus: $28 million in loans backed by tax-exempt government bonds.

The loans were the result of a deal approved by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority that allowed the Frisch School to save hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of dollars because such financing typically carries a lower interest rate than bank loans.

The arrangement, while not directly using taxpayer dollars, highlights an increasingly common partnership between religion and state -- one that's allowing religious institutions, which are already tax-exempt, to reap the benefits of public economic development programs.

And though New Jersey expressly prohibits funding religious instruction through government bonds, Frisch, a self-described "yeshiva high school," was able to receive approval and continue its Bible-centered religious curriculum.

"The raison d'etre of the Frisch School ... is to promote the values and study of the Judaic heritage," the school's mission statement says.

The authority also approved $6.15 million in bond financing last year for an Orthodox Jewish elementary school in Passaic and $1.5 million for a gym and classrooms at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff.

The trend alarms some First Amendment activists, who fear the government is bestowing inappropriate benefits on religious groups in the name of economic development.

"If this spreads, then the state is going to be baby-sitting an awful lot of religious institutions," said Edd Doerr, president of the Maryland-based Americans for Religious Liberty, a group that supports strong separation of religion and government.

The authority, a state agency charged with improving the state's economy, routinely approves bond financing for a range of projects. Typically, private investors buy the bonds and pass the tax savings on in the form of low-interest loans for specific authority-approved projects.

The authority's CEO, Caren Franzini, said the three North Jersey projects boosted the economy without cost or risk to taxpayers. A review by the authority and the Attorney General's Office concluded that the projects posed no threat to the separation of religion and government, she said.

"There are construction jobs; there are new permanent jobs, and that's a benefit to the economy of the state of New Jersey," Franzini said.

She also said religious groups must agree to a number of conditions if they seek bond financing. The schools, for example, can't discriminate on the basis of race, religion or gender in their hiring or admissions policies. And they have to exempt any student who doesn't wish to take the religion classes.

Franzini added that it's the investor, not the state, who assumes the financial risk.

"The purchaser is clearly told that the bonds will be paid back by the applicant," she said. "They must review the credit of the applicant to get comfortable with them paying back the bonds."

A spokesman for Frisch declined an interview and request for a campus tour.

"It's not something we're interested in talking about right now," Aaron Keigher said.

Frisch used its loan to convert a former Hewlett-Packard site on West Century Road to a state-of-the-art campus that reportedly includes a two-story library, six science laboratories, an 800-seat auditorium and a 20,000-square-foot gym.

"The wonder of modern technology will mesh with the values and foundation of modern Orthodoxy," the school's Web site says of the new campus.

Frisch told the state that the new campus would generate 25 full-time jobs at the school in its second year.

The school, which charges an annual tuition of $18,000 per student, essentially provides Orthodox Jews with an alternative to public schools by offering both a high school education and a thorough grounding in Orthodox Judaism, which includes study of the Bible and other sacred texts.

By viewing the school's program as two distinct missions -- religious and general studies -- state officials said they were able to approve the financing despite their policy prohibiting the use of tax-exempt bonds to fund religious instruction.

"The overall idea is you determine what percentage is secular and what percentage is sectarian, and you do a bond allocation based on the secular use of the facility," said John Cavaliere, who served as the authority's bond counsel on the two Jewish school projects. "We do this all the time."

David Wald, communications director for the Attorney General's Office, said the method helps separate the secular from the sacred so that the bonds aren't financing religious instruction.

"We're very careful not to become entangled," Wald said.

But a lawyer with the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the process sounds highly suspect.

"The state's really eviscerating their own policies to allow [religious groups] to get around the policies like that," said Alex Luchenitser, a senior litigation counsel. "It also raises another constitutional problem in that the state shouldn't be in the business of analyzing school's curriculum to find out how much is religious and how much isn't."

Meanwhile, the Web sites of the two schools suggest that each institution is suffused with religion.

"The classes and corridors reverberate with ruach," the principal of Frisch wrote, using a Hebrew word associated with spirit.

The Passaic school -- YBH of Passaic-Hillel -- said its commitment to biblical values is "integrated throughout all educational programs, including general studies."

That school used its loan to help build a 75,000-square-foot building on Passaic Avenue.

Jonathan Gold, chairman of the school's building committee, said in an interview that the school complied with all state policies, and he stressed that the project's economic impact was considerable. He didn't know how many new permanent jobs were created.

"You can't understand the impact of a huge building project in the middle of Passaic," he said. "It's tremendous."

A board member at St. Nicholas, meanwhile, said its new gym and classrooms essentially serve secular purposes, such as Greek language and culture classes, and athletics.

He also said the church is now required to allow outside groups to use the facilities.

"The construction didn't have anything to do with the church," said George Mellides. "It didn't touch the chapel."

But the project's economic impact, other than short-term construction jobs, appears negligible. When the state asked in writing what the economic benefit would be, the church answered "n/a" for "not applicable."

The practice of financing overtly religious institutions with tax-exempt bonds survived a key court challenge in 2002.

A federal appeals court upheld a Tennessee board's approval of bond financing for David Lipscomb University, a Christian college. The court ruled the state's program was available to any organization, not just religious institutions.

"The funding ... is available on a neutral basis," the decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said. "The benefit to be obtained ... is the same provided to private companies."


Asus eee-pc Points to www.MediaU.net for free worldwide radio including 22 from Israel

It is nice that it works so well on the Asus eee-pc

Actually on any computer you can go to
MediaU where you can tune to 22 live Israeli radio stations.

101 FM

Adult Contemporary

103 FM


90 FM


All For Peace Radio


Al-Mahabbah 106.6 FM


Arutz-7 105.2 FM


Darom 96 FM


Adult Contemporary

Globes Radio

Business News



ISN Israel News - The Media Line


Israel National Radio


Israel Radio International


Kol Ha Campus 106 FM


Kol Israel REQA Network for Immigrants 954 AM


Kol Israel Reshet Aleph 531 AM


Kol Israel Reshet Bet 95.5 FM


Kol Israel Reshet Dalet - Arabic 88.8 FM


Radio Haifa 107.5 FM

New Age

Radio Tel Aviv 102 FM

Reshet Gimmel 97.8 FM

Adult Contemporary

WRN Israel Radio


Mormon Polygamist Asks Judge to Throw Out His Rape Conviction

Comparing a religious leader to a football cheerleader is a creative legal argument, to say the least.
Jeffs' lawyers want his conviction tossed
By Brooke Adams The Salt Lake Tribune

Polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs' attorneys want a judge to throw out his conviction, arguing the case against him was speculative and ''purely circumstantial.''

No evidence showed Jeffs was aware of or encouraged nonconsensual sex between Elissa Wall and her former husband, Allen Steed, the attorneys argue in a motion filed Tuesday.

They asked 5th District Judge James L. Shumate to dismiss the jury's Sept. 25 decision to convict Jeffs of two counts of being an accomplice to rape. Shumate is set to sentence Jeffs on Tuesday.
Jeffs, 51, conducted Wall's 2001 marriage to Steed and later counseled her to stay in the union. In 2001, Jeffs was first counselor in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect is based in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. ...

The eight-word Old Testament phrase Jeffs recited during the ceremony - "Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the Earth" - has been used for centuries and cannot be interpreted as a command to submit to unwanted sex, they argue. "Imagine the mischief if such symbolic or ceremonial terms could give rise to criminal liability," the document states....

"In a different context, woe be the cheerleaders who just yelled, 'Hit 'em again, Hit 'em again, harder, harder,' if one football player then violently assaults an opposing player between plays." ...


Business Week: Israeli Schools Declare Bankruptcy

Metaphorically speaking, Business Week reports that Israeli schools have declared bankruptcy... and this is indeed a potential crisis for the Jewish State.

The Crisis in Israel's Classrooms
A breakdown in the financially strapped school system is jeopardizing the country's high-tech edge

It sounds like a teenager's dream: Sleep late, hang out at the mall, and go to the beach. Yet 15-year-old Barak Rivkind is sick of that easy life. At noon on a school day, instead of sitting in class, Rivkind and his buddies are sipping milk shakes at the Aroma café in Jerusalem's Malha Mall. That's because Israel's high school teachers have been on strike since Oct. 9 seeking higher wages and improved working conditions. "I've had enough of loafing," says the 10th grader. "We're missing a lot of material, and it will be very difficult to make it up."

Israeli education is in crisis—and many fear the country's tech industry will suffer unless something is done to fix it. The technology sector represents 12% of Israel's gross domestic product and more than a third of all exports, and has been growing at a double-digit clip for most of the past two decades. Fueling that boom have been Israel's top-notch schools. "Unless the government wakes up, Israel will quickly lose its edge in high tech," says Giora Yaron, a serial entrepreneur who has sold two companies to Cisco Systems (CSCO ) and is now involved in four other tech ventures.

The teachers' strike and a parallel action by university professors are just symptoms of the malaise gripping the country's school system. In the 1960s, Israeli students topped international rankings of math and science skills. The last time Israel participated in such a survey, in 2002, it had slipped to 33rd out of 41 countries, behind the likes of Thailand and Romania. And just 30% of 18-year-old native-born conscripts to the Israel Defense Forces in 2005 passed a standard Hebrew reading comprehension test, down from 60% two decades ago. "Our most important resource is brain power, and if we don't foster this then our society is at risk," warns Aaron Ciechanover, the 2004 Nobel laureate in chemistry and a professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel's equivalent of MIT.

The government, though, has been slow to act. National spending on education dropped from 9.3% of GDP in 2002 to 8.3% last year. The 2008 budget includes a $400 million increase for education, to $10 billion—though that's barely enough to keep up with the economy's growth rate. The extra money will be used to increase teachers' salaries, and the government has committed to an additional $2 billion over the next five years to boost wages, renovate and repair schools, and keep them open longer each day.

Many Israelis say the education system needs a complete overhaul. Class sizes average 38 to 40 students, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development says teachers' wages in Israel are the lowest in the industrialized world, with starting educators earning just $600 per month—less than the rent on a modest one-bedroom apartment in Tel Aviv. That makes it tough to attract quality professionals. "The level of teaching at our school is lousy, and the principal has no authority to do anything about it," says Asaf Makover, a 10th grader at Jerusalem's Beit-Chinuch High School. Teachers grouse that it's nearly impossible to get anything done. "With 40 kids in a class, you spend most of your time just keeping order and very little time on actual teaching," says Meirav Cohen, a geography instructor at a suburban Jerusalem junior high.

The crisis has parents scrambling to fill the gaps, hiring private tutors to help children after school. Bulletin boards in schools are crammed with ads from teachers and university students offering after-hours tutoring. "It's the only way to make ends meet on such a meager salary," says a teacher at a Jerusalem high school. Many parents in the mid-'90s banded together to create nonprofit programs to tutor kids. Now such classes have spread to 50 towns.

The biggest problems are in math, science, and English. In each of these subjects, potential teaching candidates can usually find high-paying alternatives in the tech sector. "After six years of teaching, the crowded classrooms and the discipline problems got to me," says Laly Bar-Ilan, an algorithm engineer at WhiteSmoke, a Tel Aviv startup that developed a software program for improving English grammar and writing style. She now makes four times what she did teaching computer science and English. "The only way to bring back teachers is to pay competitive salaries and improve work conditions," she says.

With such a shortage of qualified candidates, Israel has dropped its standards. In the past, high school teachers needed a university degree in math or science to teach in those fields, but nowadays a degree from a less rigorous teachers' college will suffice. And budget cuts have led to shorter school days. In 1997 students were in school for 36 hours weekly, but today it's just 30. "With fewer hours and most kids finished by 1 p.m., some subjects have been dropped or are hardly taught at all," complains Dan Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University economist with three children in the school system. Even core subjects such as math and science have been cut back.

At Israel's seven universities, funding has dropped 20% in four years. So even as the student population has climbed 50% since 1997, the number of teachers has remained steady at about 5,000. And as many as 3,000 university lecturers have decamped for jobs overseas. "We're seeing a serious brain drain," says Zehev Tadmor, chairman of the Samuel Neaman Institute, a Haifa-based think tank, and former president of Technion. "Hundreds of professors [are] teaching at leading institutions abroad because we can't offer them jobs."
--By Neal Sandler


Norman Mailer Of Blessed Memory at Yeshiva College in 1969

Anecdote: In 1969 I was president of the Young Democrats Club at Yeshiva College. We had chutzpah in our club and invited all the candidates running form mayor of New York City to address our student body. We had acceptances and speeches from Mario Proccacino, Bill Vanden Heuval, and of course Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin.

I remember the Mailer speech for one question that he answered after his address to a large student audience in Furst Hall. In predictable self-centered YU fashion, a student asked Norman if he had studied any Talmud. In absolutely the straightest face I can visualize, Mailer answered that indeed he had studied and continued to study the Talmud. In fact, he told his pious and naive audience, he kept the Talmud on his nightstand and read from it before retiring at night. After that answer, I adjourned the event.

Needless to say, Reb Norman Mailer's razor sharp ironic wit and honesty will be missed by us all.

NY1: Lubavitchers Gather for Rabbi Powwow

The Chabad corporation managers meet in NY to plot out the strategy for the coming year.
Thousands Of Rabbis Gather To Pay Tribute To Former Leader

Thousands of rabbis came into town Friday to strategize on how to draw more members to their group and to pay tribute to one of their former leaders. NY1’s Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

Rabbis have come from all over the world to exchange ideas on how to expand the Jewish faith and connect with non-observant Jews.

The rabbis from the Chabad Lubavitch Movement and their families say they look forward to this event every year. The city, especially Brooklyn, is a major center for the group, one of the largest branches of Hasidic Judaism in the world.

“It acts as an ongoing source of inspiration for us when we leave here and go back to our own communities,” said Yisrael Deren, regional director of the Chabad Lubavitch of Connecticut.

While in New York, the group made a stop in Cambria Heights Friday to visit the grave of Rabbi Manachem Schneerson – one of the group's former leader – and a man some followers believe is the messiah. Organizers were quick to say that's the belief of only a small group of people and the rabbis came here only to pay their respects and pray that Schneerson will appeal to God on their behalf.

“Our rebbe means much to us,” said Rabbi Tuvia Teldon of Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island. “His message and everything he represents is really the motivating force behind what we do.”

The group runs thousands of Jewish community centers, synagogues, and schools all around the world as a way to reach out to the Jewish community as a whole. They are located in 72 countries.

“We are focusing on the individual,” said Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov of Indiana. “How every single person is important, every Jew is important, and going back home, especially in small communities like mine, it's important to remember that the one person that we meet, the extra person that we find, that we have an influence on, is why we are there.”

The conference is scheduled to run through the weekend and it will end with a banquet on Sunday at Pier 94 in Manhattan.

- Ruschell Boone

Every Fall, The Biggest Problem in America is, What Should We Do About College Football?

Michael Lewis wrote a decent op-ed in the Times today called, "Serfs of the Turf." He bemoans the exploitation of college football players in the big money programs. Bottom line - he thinks they should be paid.

Every year we hear some opinions like this from the sportswriter side. From the professors of course we hear cries of a different sort. It sometimes sound like the teachers are saying, Let's do away with the anti-intellectual waste of time altogether.

I'm not so happy about the state of affairs in the college sport. But I cannot go along with the criticisms that I read because they are wrong. College football is not professional football. They are different enterprises entirely.

The major cognitive error of confusion of the two stems from the wonders of TV. TV has made college football look a very much like professional football. After a few beers, and because they look alike on the screen, pundits start to blur together the two enterprises. Gridiron. Oblate spheroidal ball. Eleven players. Coach. Ticket scalpers. Beer commercials. These must be the same sports events. College is Pro is college.

But of course not. It should not be and it never will be. For better or worse college football is entwined with the educational system of our country. Take that away and the colleges and universities will lose a big dimension. And the football played by the minor league non-university teams divorced from universities would fall from our consciousness into the shadows, much like minor league baseball. Let's not even think about it.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I disagree with Lewis because I see two distinct enterprises with different histories, purposes and values. Coaches may move from pro-football to college football. But players don't, and never will.

These sports will continue to look more and more alike to the distant viewers.

They are not the same sport. One is for amateurs and it is embedded in our educational non-profit structures. The other is for professionals and it is flourishing in our competitive profit making economy.

That Lewis does not recognize and respect this black and white distinction shows the overpowering influence of TV production. Or perhaps it indicates that Lewis is more than an avid viewer of the beer industry advertisements.

Anyhow. He is wrong. We ought not pay our amateur athletes.


Times Review: Do you believe in God?

Peter Steinfels is at it again. He's reviewing a book that surveys celebrities about their beliefs.
Q. Do You Believe in God? A. Yes, No and Well . . .
Published: November 10, 2007

Do you believe in God? What will happen to you at death? Do you pray? Do you think religious believers are deluded?

Many people would hesitate to raise these questions at dinner. Antonio Monda, on the other hand, has been posing them for several years to cultural eminences like Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Daniel Libeskind, Derek Walcott, Spike Lee, Jonathan Franzen, David Lynch and Martin Scorsese. more...

One celebrity feller who professed a lot of belief was Billy Graham. His legacy has now been condensed into a Museum Review.
At Billy Graham Library, Man and Message Are One and the Same

Published: November 10, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When the Billy Graham Library opened here last spring, its 88-year-old namesake, who had preached the Gospel to more than 210 million people on six continents, who had prayed in the Oval Office with 11 consecutive presidents and who had brought evangelical Christianity into the heart of American political life, had one main complaint: “It was too much Billy Graham.”

He had envisioned the $27 million library, with its 40,000-square-foot exhibition space, as an extension of his ministry, whose purpose was “to please the Lord and to honor Jesus, not to see me or to think of me.”

But one of the unusual things about both this place and Mr. Graham’s ministry is that it is impossible to think of either without thinking of the man behind them. That may even be their greatest strength, though it also raises other questions. more...


New Yorker Bestows Sainthood on Jewish Billionaire Sam Zell

If you're really rich, you can buy yourself a big ad in the New Yorker.
Rough Rider
Where will Sam Zell take the struggling Tribune Company?
by Connie Bruck [November 12, 2007]

In April, 2005, Sam Zell travelled to Abu Dhabi to meet Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Zell is best known as a real-estate magnate, whose reputation has been enhanced by the sale, last February, for thirty-nine billion dollars, of Equity Office Properties Trust, the largest collection of office buildings in the country. Zell, who is sixty-six, delights in claiming that at the time the sale—to Blackstone, the private-equity firm—was “the largest single transaction that has ever been done.” But for decades his appetite for economic opportunity has lured him beyond real estate into investments in oil and gas, barges, insurance, wineries, cruise ships, department stores, waste-to-energy power projects, and radio stations. In April, he signed an $8.2-billion deal that would effectively give him control of Tribune Company, the giant media conglomerate, whose assets include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. For about a dozen years, he has also invested aggressively abroad, most recently in the Middle East. He spends about twelve hundred hours a year on his plane—the equivalent of flying from New York to London every few days. “I want to see everybody in their habitat,” he told me, in a low, rasping voice. “When these people see me come halfway around the world to meet them and spend time with them, it creates a level of confidence that translates into other things”—by which he means, he says, “successful business.”

[Warning: The article is fascinating but when you are finished it's sorta like you just ate a whole box of candy and you feel real sick....here>>]

Donate Half of Your Car to Help Kids Learn Torah?

50% rake off to the $ raisers in Lakewood. Shady and misleading ads. Sketchy web site.

This is not the high standard we expect from a Torah organization.
Car donations must be vetted

It seems so simple. As the radio jingle says, call 1-877-Kars4kids, and “donate your car today.”

Not only will you get a tax deduction and a voucher for a two-night hotel stay, you also get the satisfaction of knowing that all the proceeds of your donation will help provide food, clothing, education and guidance to children between 6 and 18 years old, as the Kars4Kids Web site says.

Cars donated through Kars4Kids actually go to the Lakewood, N.J.-based nonprofit JOY for Our Youth, which uses the catchier Kars4Kids name in its fundraising efforts.

And the vast majority of JOY’s program services dollars go to another organization that shares its same New Jersey address and devotes its efforts to orthodox Jewish education.

The confusing chain of charities behind the simple radio ad highlights a problem for many donors who want to better understand where their contribution is going, particularly when it comes to car donations.

“Sadly, the onus is really on the donor,” said Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing for Charity Navigator, which evaluates and rates the country’s largest nonprofits.

Car donations lately have drawn the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. A tax law instituted in 2005 requires that taxpayers receive a charity’s written confirmation of their donation before they claim a tax deduction, and it limits the deduction to the gross proceeds from the sale of the vehicle by the charity.

Many donors approach car donations in the wrong way, Miniutti said.

Rather than simply handing over a car for the benefit of the deduction – or the two-night hotel stay – donors should look at what the charity does with the proceeds of the car’s sale, she said.

Plenty of Illinois charities accept car donations through intermediary organizations, many of which are for-profit, but Miniutti recommends finding a charity that accepts them directly.

The nonprofit Marklund at Mill Creek in Geneva accepts cars directly, as well as riding lawn mowers, golf carts, airplanes, boats and RVs.

Mutual Ground, a nonprofit shelter for domestic abuse victims in Aurora, also accepts car donations, according to its Web site.

In 2005, $2.8 million of JOY’s $3.1 million total program services expenses went to an organization called Oorah, according to JOY’s 501 (c)3 tax form for 2005.

Phone calls to JOY for Our Youth and Oorah were not immediately returned.

Oorah’s goal, according to its Web site, is to awaken Jewish children and their families to their heritage, by sending them to Jewish day schools, or yeshivos, or even helping pay for their airfare to, or education in, Israel.

“While the children learn and grow, we bring adult education opportunities to the parents, as well as all the ritual objects and support they need to live a full Jewish life,” the organization reports.

Although Oorah’s goal might be admirable, its evasive marketing efforts are not, said Rabbi Maralee Gordon of the McHenry County Jewish Congregation.

“Jewish education of children is of utmost importance in Judaism,” Gordon said. But any deception in the organization’s marketing would be strongly against Jewish ethics, she said.

The Better Business Bureau has said the charity did not meet four of its 20 standards for charity accountability. JOY just missed the BBB’s standard that 65 percent of its total expenses go to program service activities, as it spent 64 percent on programs.

Oorah spent 52 percent of its expenses on program services and 32 percent on fundraising. Miniutti said the typical organization evaluated by Charity Navigator spends 75 percent on program services and 10 percent on advertising.

JOY also does not meet the BBB’s standard for including a detailed functional breakdown of expenses, for making detailed information available on its Web site, and also for providing information on how it protects the personal information of donors.

Tips on donating your car

– Donate to a charity that accepts cars directly

– Drive a usable car to the charity yourself, to lower its costs

– Make sure the organization is a non-profit to ensure the donation is tax deductible

– Be sure to formally sign the car over and reassign its ownership

– Value the car correctly for the deduction. Visit www.irs.gov for guidelines.

Source: www.CharityNavigator.org
Yes, this was vetted on the blog Canonist in 2005, but they are still at it.


Yes West Virginia. Colleges are Promoting Paganism

What many neocons have been claiming for years - colleges promote paganism - is now official policy in West Virginia.

November 4, 2007
At a University in West Virginia, New Protections for Pagans
CHARLESTON, W.Va., Nov. 3 (AP) — At Marshall University, pagan students are now allowed to miss classes to observe religious holidays or festivals.

A new policy makes the university in Huntington, W.Va., with an enrollment of about 14,000, possibly the only college in the country to protect pagans formally from being penalized for missing classes, although many institutions have policies intended to protect students of every faith.

One Marshall student, George Fain, took advantage of the policy on Thursday, missing class in observance of Samhain, a pagan and Wiccan holiday honoring the dead.

“I think we may have opened a door,” Ms. Fain said of the policy. “Now that we know we can be protected, that the government will stand behind us and we feel safe, it’s going to be more prevalent.”

The decision to allow pagan students to make up missed work is an extension of existing policy toward members of other religious groups, said Steve Hensley, the dean of student affairs at Marshall.

“I don’t think there are a lot of students here who have those beliefs,” Mr. Hensley said, “but we want to respect them. It was really just a matter of looking into it, and deciding what was the right thing.”

Students are responsible for establishing that they are religious believers and that the holiday in question is important to their faith by filing a written request with Mr. Hensley.

Paganism experts say they are not aware of any other university with such a policy.

Some universities have blanket policies that allow students to be excused for any religious holiday. Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has had such a policy for about eight years, said Lloyd Steffen, a religion professor and the university’s chaplain.

Such an accommodation for pagan students is rare even in Britain, the birthplace of modern paganism.

“Nobody yet gets any holiday for pagan festivals in the United Kingdom,” said Ronald Hutton, a history professor at the University of Bristol. “It seems to be an American original.”

Marty Laubach, a sociology professor at Marshall and an adviser to a group of pagan students, said he had seen fliers advertising pagan meetings ripped down by others.

But actions like the university’s decision on absences encourage pagans to be more vocal, he said.

“You’ll have more people now who are willing to say, ‘These are my beliefs,’” Professor Laubach said. “The American neopagan movement is a lot stronger than you think.”

Nothing New: The Internet is an Easy to Use Subversive Medium

We have known this from day one of the Internet. We can't stop radical subversives from using the Web, or the mail or the telephone for that matter.

Experts say West can't stop Web radicalization By Michael Holden

From behind a computer keyboard at his London home, student Younes Tsouli used the Internet to spread al Qaeda propaganda, recruit suicide bombers and promote Web sites that encouraged the killing of non-Muslims.

The Moroccan-born student and two accomplices, one of whom he had never met in person, went on to become the first to be jailed in Britain for inciting terrorism over the Internet.

In September, a Scottish student described as a "wannabe suicide bomber" was imprisoned for eight years for owning terrorism material and distributing it via Web sites.

The two cases are examples of what Western authorities believe is the dangerous and growing role the Internet plays in spreading extremist propaganda and recruiting sympathizers to Islamist militant causes.

But can the West censor radical Web sites and, indeed, is it morally right to do so?

The perceived threat has prompted much talk from governments of the need for action. On Tuesday, the European Commission urged the EU's 27 states to crack down on militant sites.

"The Internet serves ... as one of the principal boosters of the processes of radicalization and recruitment and also serves as a source of information on terrorist means and methods, thus functioning as a virtual training camp," the Commission's proposal said.

New York's police chief described the Internet as "the new Afghanistan" in August. That echoed the views of U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who said last year potential recruits no longer needed to travel to al Qaeda camps.

"They can train themselves over the Internet," he said.

However, many governments disagree about what should actually be done and experts express serious doubts about what would be effective, saying little research has been carried out.

Johnny Ryan, Senior Researcher at Dublin's Institute of International and European Affairs, said users could easily circumvent any restrictions imposed by the authorities.

"A workable Internet censorship system, even if one were desirable, is not possible within the EU, or anywhere else in the world with a comparable infrastructure or legal norms," he told Reuters.

Web sites could relocate from one country to another unless there was international agreement, while the controversial content was often distributed through services that are hard to block, such as legitimate chat rooms.

"In China, where censorship is a more serious business, users have developed a series of tools to break through government Internet blocks," said Ryan, author of the book "Countering Militant Islamist radicalization on the Internet."

Dr Akil Awan, of the Royal Holloway, University of London, another of the few academics to have studied the issue, agrees.

"The virtual jihadists are very net-savvy and generally are always two steps ahead of the authorities," he told Reuters, adding it would be morally questionable to censor jihadist Web sites that presented an alternative world view.

"These accounts may be skewed, tendentious and indoctrinating, but then so is a lot of other material on the Internet," he said.

Radical preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed, banned from Britain after the government ruled that he was not "conducive to the public good" in the aftermath of the July 2005 London bombings, said banning radical sites would be counter-productive.

Syrian-born Bakri, who has been named at several British terrorism trials as a leading influence on young militants, said it would be seen as part of a campaign against Islam.

"I don't think what they are doing is going to stop the Islamists or the Muslims from conveying the Islamic message," Bakri told Reuters by phone from his home in Lebanon.

"They should open debate, discussions, dialogue with the Islamists. There is no need to censor. If you think it is bad, why do you not debate it and destroy it in national media?"

Despite his exile, Bakri, who gained notoriety by calling the September 11 hijackers the "Magnificent 19," has continued to communicate with followers in Britain via Internet chat rooms.

"I don't preach much on the Internet like before. But I know very well Muslims worldwide are succeeding in using ... the Internet and I think they are doing very well," he said.

A simple search of the Internet shows how easy it is to find material that could concern the authorities, from speeches by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda leaders to inflammatory videos.

Reuters found a blog supposedly used by prisoners in London's Belmarsh top security jail, including those convicted of soliciting murder at protests in February 2006 outside the Danish Embassy in the British capital.

"This blog is dedicated to those Muslim activists who have been held captive for various reasons -- many of them for demonstrating against the Danish cartoons depicting the Messenger Mohammad," said the blog.

However, it is also not clear whether messages, videos or sermons on the Internet alone can radicalize individuals.

"It is only the means through which individuals can become aligned with jihadist ideologies and causes. Other factors are equally important," the Royal Holloway's Awan said, adding it is estimated there are more than 5,000 extremist Web sites.

Meetings with committed jihadists in the flesh remains an important factor and Awan said even cases of apparent "self-radicalization" via the Internet quickly became conventional when plots were actually planned.

"It is also clear that militant Islamists dedicate significant resources to getting their message out online," Ryan said. "It is, of course, virtually impossible to determine the extent to which one is more important than the other."