February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday and TIB Live Thread (going live at about 7)

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:00 pm

It’s on, starting at roughly 7PM.

HERE is the direct link to TIB (“Winamp” is required to listen; don’t ask me what that is). The link is also at the top of the home page at Weapons of Mass Discussion.

A live supplement to this thread is anticipated, though blogging, yakking, and compiling with so many state results coming in seems out of control.

UPDATE, 4PM: The Super Tuesday Scoreboard is operational, and will be updated throughout the evening. It also contains cumulative results to date, which will also be updated:

STues0208

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Feb. 6, 10:00 a.m. – The Scoreboard is up-to-date, reflecting known results and delegates, tying into the RealClear Politics counts as of about 9:00 a.m. Added a few items, including (on the GOP side) who finished second and third in each state (ignoring all other candidates).

12:45 a.m. (lost and restored) – Fox called Cali for McCain and Clinton, and we’re calling it a night. Delegate counts will get updated later.

12:15 a.m. – McCain wins Missouri, per Fox News. St. Louis-area voters turned it around completely for McCain. Fox says Hillary took Missouri, hanging on by the barest of margins. 12:40 a.m. — OMG; Fox had to reverse its Clinton call. Obama came from behind to beat Hillary by over 6,000 almost 8,000 votes.

11:30 p.m. – Missouri is a dead heat with 85% counted between Huck and McCain. Huck’s lead is less than 1,200 votes out of 340,000 between the two.

11:00 p.m. – Huck wins TN and GA and may hold on in MO. Apparently he said in his speech tonight that it’s now a two-man race — and he’s one of the two.

9:50 p.m. – Huck’s possible win in GA seems to indicate that he might have a chance in MO. Whoa.

9:15 p.m. – There may be an upset in the making — Huck is up on McCain and Romney in GA 35-32-29 with 38% of the vote counted.

8:30 p.m. – Arkansas closes. Clinton and Huck projected to win.

7:50 p.m. – Covering the absurdity of Romney wanting Huck to drop out, the hypocrisy of the same people who ripped the Media for saying Thompson, Romney and others should drop out now doing the same to Huck (radio talkers, you know who they are).

7:15 p.m. – We’re on. Just before break, GA goes to Obama. Discussion has centered around merits (OK, mostly demerits) of Romney and McCain.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index (NMI) Went into the Tank in January

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:27 pm

From the Institute for Supply Management:

Business activity in the non-manufacturing sector contracted in January for the first time in 58 months, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Anthony Nieves, C.P.M., CFPM, chair of the Institute for Supply Managementâ„¢ Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee; and senior vice president — supply management for Hilton Hotels Corporation. “The new NMI (Non-Manufacturing Index) at 44.6 percent indicates contraction within the non-manufacturing sector for January 2008. Non-manufacturing business activity contracted for the first time since March 2003,” Nieves said. He added, “The New Orders Index contracted to 43.5 percent, the lowest since October 2001. The Employment Index contracted to 43.9 percent, the lowest since February 2002. The Prices Index decreased to 70.7 percent in January, indicating a slight slowing in price increases for January. According to the new NMI, only three non-manufacturing industries reported growth in January. Members’ comments in January indicate that weakness in the economy coupled with increased costs have negatively affected their business. Members have also indicated that they are experiencing inflationary pressures. The overall indication in January is that non-manufacturing has come to the end of a long-term period of growth and has contracted for the month of January.”

Ouch — This is your basic bucket of cold water smack dab in the face.

The NMI is apparently a new or newly-revised index. Last month’s supposedly comparable number was 53.9, but I was unable to find any reference directly comparing last month’s figure to this month’s — which would be helpful, given the extent of the drop. AP says that last month’s revised comparable reading was 54.4 (this is wrong — see UPDATE below).

So let’s take it as a given from today’s report that the Non-Manufacturing portion (i.e., “most”) of the economy went into contraction mode for the first time in nearly 5 years (although that’s tough to reconcile with ISM’s statement on Friday that introduced the Manufacturing Report — namely, that the economy expanded in January for the 75th straight month, with the Manufacturing portion of it expanding only slightly with a reading was 50.7. Those two statements appear not to be able to co-exist).

The big question, of course, is whether NMI will remain in contraction or bounce back. I would guess that the answer is that it will bounce back, but only to a neutral level. I would hope that this will scare Congress straight into getting the stimulus package passed, even if stubborn Senators can’t get all the goodies they’d like. Oh, and the Fed will probably drop rates yet again.

What a missed opportunity — If President Bush had pushed to prevent the huge tax increases scheduled to kick in starting in 2010 from happening instead of only working on the stimulus package, we might be having a discussion about how that keeping marginal tax rates the same incentivizes the economy more than any short-term stimulus package ever will. Given the current political climate, I think it might have had a decent shot as passing.

My (admittedly of limited value) ear-to-the-ground sense is that we’re going to do a 49-51 or so in the NMI for the next couple of months, and not much better.

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UPDATE, 2PM: Just got off the phone with the ISM’s spokesperson, who said that she was asked earlier in the day whether or not the reported drop is the largest ever. Answer: It is.

Another point: The NMI is indeed a brand-new figure that has been added to the Non-Manufacturing Report, so there is no truly comparable prior-month figure (contrary to what AP is reporting). Until December, the overall number that was reported was the Business Activity Index, which is still computed. That number dropped from 54.4. to 41.9, or 12.5 points. Ouch.

Ahmed Alzaree Follow-up: Mosque Is ‘Back to Drawing Board’

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Wide Open — Tom @ 7:17 am

The Cleveland Plain Dealer apparently decided to do something with a story it was dragged into kicking and screaming last fall — one that it seemed at the time to be wishing would go away.

Saturday, David Briggs, the paper’s religion reporter, did something with a near non-story relating to previous events that he and his paper failed to do twice when it counted: He followed up, reporting on the difficulties a Cleveland mosque is experiencing in finding a new imam.

That contrasts starkly with how Briggs and the PD handled the story of the guy who was on the verge of becoming that mosque’s imam last fall.

In September, Briggs wrote a PD puff piece a about the imminent arrival of Ahmed Alzaree as new imam for the Islamic Center of Cleveland. In that report, Briggs did nothing with a red-flag statement by Alzaree that he “would not confirm his hiring, at one point saying he would not come to Cleveland because a reporter was inquiring about his background.” Keep in mind that the Center’s previous imam, Fawaz Damra, as Briggs again noted Saturday, “was convicted of falsifying his citizenship application by failing to disclose ties to extremist groups. He was deported to the Middle East in January 2007 after more than a year in jail.” Prior to that, Briggs noted in his September story, Fawaz had been exposed for “railing against Jews and raising money for Palestinian militant groups such as Islamic Jihad.” Plain Dealer reporters filed over 45 stories on Damra during all of this.

After Briggs’s September story on Alzaree, yours truly did extensive follow-up work, poring through years of records of Alzaree’s activities.

Well, not exactly. Actually, I took a few seconds and Googled “imam ahmed alzaree” (not in quotes), and quickly found a link to a sermon Alzaree gave in 2003 at the Omaha mosque where he had previously served. That sermon, since taken down from the Omaha mosque’s web site but saved here for posterity, included this near its conclusion:

Dear brothers and sisters, the talk about the Day of Judgment is long and full of things that will confuse the human mind and put fear in the hearts of the faithful. Every day that comes is much more Worse than the day before it as we get closer to the hour. Among the signs of the approach of Day of Judgment is what the messenger of Allah PBUH said: “The hour of judgment shall not happen until the Muslims fight the Jews. The Muslims shall kill the Jews to the point that the Jew shall hide behind a big rock or a tree and the rock or tree shall call on the Muslim saying: hey, O Muslim there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him, except the Gharqad tree which will not say, for it is the tree of Jews.”

Patrick Poole at Central Ohioans Against Terrorism (COAT) also weighed in on Alzaree, pointing out that his also contained a lament that the Quran-based “jizya” tax that is supposed to be imposed on non-Muslims in Muslim-dominated countries wasn’t an active practice. More important, Poole noted that Alzaree had an association with an Orange County, California Muslim cleric with apparent terror ties who had recently agreed to leave the US for 10 years rather than face a US trial on terror-supporting charges.

Having been scooped by two bloggers, the PD’s Robert Smith sprung into action, following up with a comprehensive expose of Alzaree’s activities and background.

Well, not exactly. In a sympathetic piece, he noted that Alzaree was under “public scrutiny,” and that the mosque was “standing by their imam.”

It seemed reasonable at the time to believe that there would be more digging by Plain Dealer. Especially given what had happened with the previous imam, the paper, now awakened, would surely delve into Alzaree’s past at the Omaha mosque and elsewhere.

Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all.

One month later, after no follow-up on the PD’s part, COAT’s Poole posted the results of work he had done investigating Alzaree’s Omaha mosque using the Internet Wayback Machine (the mosque apparently scrubbed most of its content shortly after the Cleveland controversy began). He found posts sympathetic to Palestinian terror groups and characterizing Israelis as “the new Nazis,” as well as links to Jihad-supporting, terror-financing, and “revolutionary worker” sites. As Poole noted, “virtually all of this material began to appear around the time that Alzaree took his position with the Islamic Center of Omaha (in 2002 — Ed.), and these sources continued up until recently.” Yours truly also noted that the Islamic Center of Cleveland itself still had officials who had been outspokenly sympathetic to deposed leader Damra and to the Palestinian terror group Hamas in high positions at the mosque.

Having been scooped yet again, religious reporter Briggs then jumped at the chance to use his paper’s extensive resources to get to the bottom of all of this.

Well, not exactly. He instead wrote an extensive “This Is Your Life” piece on Alzaree, reporting that the imam had “put aside his worries and will begin work Thursday at the center in Parma.”

Three days later, Alzaree resigned from his new job even before he started it.

Briggs reported Alzaree’s claim that “allegations by bloggers that he was anti-Semitic and was associated with individuals suspected of having terrorist ties so poisoned the atmosphere in Northeast Ohio that he and his wife, Marwa, decided to look elsewhere.” The Associated Press dutifully piled on with the headline “Blog critics force imam to resign at Ohio mosque.” Yeah, that’s the ticket: Blame it on the bloggers.

The Feb. 2 piece by Briggs attempts to add to the Parma pity party, and takes a sideswipe at those who exposed Alzaree (bold is mine):

The Islamic Center of Cleveland is struggling to find a spiritual leader three months after a Nebraska imam bowed out under pressure from critics who accused him of anti-Semitism.

Leaders at the Parma mosque said there is a shortage of American-born imams who are Islamic scholars and fluent in Arabic.

“It’s very, very hard to find somebody like that,” said Ahmed Fellaque of the Council of Elders. “The ones who are good are not gettable.”

….. Last September, the mosque hired Imam Ahmed Alzaree, an Egyptian-born cleric who led a mosque in Omaha. But the man mosque leaders thought would help rebuild interfaith relations in Northeast Ohio came under fire after bloggers posted a portion of a 4-year-old end-times sermon in which the imam quoted the Prophet Muhammad saying one sign of the approach of the Day of Judgment is that “the Muslims will kill the Jews.”

Alzaree never substantively refuted the charges. The fact that decided not to stay on the flimsy excuse that bloggers who live hours away from Cleveland had ruined it for him would seem to indicate that he couldn’t.

Continuing:

….. the mosque, having “been burnt so many times,” wants an Islamic scholar who is fluent in the English language and culture, preferably born in the United States, can relate to younger generations and the larger community and can pass a strong background check.

Excuse me for thinking that the “background check” — i.e., finding a cleric who will survive “public scrutiny” — remains the biggest stumbling block.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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Previous Posts:

  • Sept. 25 — Meet the New Imam, Same as the Old Imam?
  • Sept. 29 — Ahmed Alzaree Follow-up: Who WAS That Cleveland.com Blogger? (at the Plain Dealer’s Wide Open blog)
  • Oct. 2 — COAT’s Imam Ahmed Alzaree Follow-up
  • Oct. 25 — Imam Ahmed Alzaree and the Islamic Center of Cleveland Follow-up: Part 1
  • Oct. 25 — Imam Ahmed Alzaree and the Islamic Center of Cleveland Follow-up: Part 2
  • Oct. 29 — Imam Ahmed Alzaree Resigns from Islamic Center of Cleveland (Update: AP Headline Hits Rock Bottom)

Positivity: Twins Save Mom’s Life, Kick Loose Deadly Tumor From Mom’s Cervix While Still in Womb

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:47 am

From the UK:

ow my twins saved my life by kicking loose a tumour while still in my womb
By LUCY LAING
Feb. 2, 2008

Like any thrilled mother to be, Michelle Stepney cherished the first kicks she could feel from her unborn babies.

But her lively twin girls were doing more than simply making their presence felt.

Each little kick was saving their mother’s life.

Unknown to her, Mrs Stepney, 35, had developed cervical cancer. Her unborn twins’ constant kicking in the womb actually managed to dislodge the tumour.

It was only when Mrs Stepney was taken to hospital with a suspected miscarriage that doctors realised she had cancer.

They told her the babies had saved her life. Without them, the cancer may not have been discovered until it was too late.

Then came another bombshell. In order to treat the cancer, she needed immediate chemotherapy and a hysterectomy, which would mean terminating the pregnancy.

Mrs Stepney refused. “I couldn’t believe it when the doctors told me that the babies had dislodged the tumour,” she said.

“I’d felt them kicking, but I didn’t realise just how important their kicking would turn out to be.

“I owe my life to my girls, and that’s why I could have never agreed with a termination.”

Instead, she waited for her lifesaving treatment until they had been born.

Now the proud mother of year-old girls Alice and Harriet, Mrs Stepney has been given the all-clear.

She and her husband Scott, 36, a civil servant, were told they were expecting twins at a 14-week scan.

The couple, who also have a five-year-old son, Jack, were thrilled. But three weeks later, Mrs Stepney was back at the hospital with a suspected miscarriage.

“I was just in shock when the doctors told me what it was. When they said that the babies had literally kicked my tumour out, I just couldn’t believe it.

Go here for the rest of the story.