Tags: Obama | McCain | Gamble

Obama, McCain Like to Gamble; Obama Obama Pulls Fewer Evangelicals Than Kerry

By    |   Sunday, 27 July 2008 08:48 PM

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Obama Pulls Fewer Evangelicals Than Kerry
2. Aging Icebreakers Hinder U.S. Oil Exploration Ability
3. Israel Sanctioning Al-Jazeera Over Released Murderer
4. Iran Already Has Diplomatic Channel With U.S.
5. Obama, McCain Like to Gamble
6. Arab Cartoons Depict 'Jewish Control' of U.S. Candidates

1. Obama Pulls Fewer Evangelicals Than Kerry

Despite assertions in the press that evangelical Christians are backing Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race, a new survey reveals that he is getting less support than John Kerry did four years ago.

A typical headline, which ran last week in U.S. News & World Report, announced: "Obama Campaign Is Making Progress With Evangelical Voters."

But the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 25 percent of white evangelicals favor Obama over John McCain, while 26 percent favored John Kerry over President Bush in 2004.

In 2000, Al Gore enjoyed even more support — 28 percent.

"Not that this translates into evangelical enthusiasm for McCain, but the survey is worth noting for no other reason than it challenges the prevailing media assumption about how Obama's overt religiosity is helping his campaign," National Review's Mark Hemingway observes.

And the Pew Center notes: "Obama has made no significant gains among this important constituency."

The survey also found that 39 percent of white mainline Protestants support Obama, significantly less than the 46 percent who backed Gore in 2000.

And among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, 40 percent favor Obama, compared to 47 percent who supported Kerry and 45 percent who backed Gore.

Four in 10 respondents who said they attend religious services at least once a week are backing Obama, fewer than the 42 percent who favored Kerry.

According to Hemingway, press accounts of Obama's support among evangelicals are "a classic example of the media trying to force a campaign narrative, regardless of whether it is true."

Editor's Note:

2. Aging Icebreakers Hinder U.S. Oil Exploration Ability

As Arctic sea ice recedes, the U.S. and other nations are increasingly eyeing the region as a promising source of natural resources. But America's ability to exploit those resources could be hampered by its aging and ailing icebreaker fleet.

The U.S. currently has three polar icebreakers. But two of them, the Polar Sea and the Polar Star, have surpassed their intended 30-year service lives, and the Polar Star has been inactive and docked in Seattle for more than two years.

The third icebreaker, the Healy, was commissioned in 2000. But while the Polar Sea and Polar Star can break through ice up to 6 feet thick, the Healy can't handle ice more than 4 1/2 feet thick, according to the CQ Politics Web site.

Russia, on the other hand, has 20 icebreakers in its fleet, seven of them nuclear-powered. One of those ships can break through ice more than 9 feet thick.

"While U.S. strategic interests in the Arctic region expand, both domestically and internationally, our polar icebreaking capability is at risk," Thad W. Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, recently told members of Congress.

"I am concerned that we are watching our nation's domestic and international icebreaking capability decline as reliance on foreign icebreakers grows."

He also stated in remarks reported by CQ: "We are losing ground in the global competition. Like Russia, Germany, China, Sweden and Canada are all investing and maintaining and expanding their national icebreaking capacity."

Back in September 2006, a congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council said the U.S. should build two new polar icebreakers to protect its interests in the Arctic and the Antarctic. The report noted that melting sea ice in the Arctic was opening new shipping routes and sparking economic activity, such as exploration for natural resources.

But a new icebreaker would cost between $800 million and $925 million, and would take as long as 10 years to construct, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The stakes are high, however. The U.S. has "billion-dollar, if not trillion-dollar, national interests" in the Arctic, said Mead Treadwell, chairman of the Arctic Research Commission, which advises Congress.

Despite the receding polar ice cap, large areas of the region are still covered by thick ice.

And Treadwell told CQ that tougher operating conditions, due in part to changing wind and weather patterns, "will only make icebreaking capacity more critical."

Editor's Note:

3. Israel Sanctioning Al-Jazeera Over Released Murderer

Israel's Government Press Office will impose sanctions on Al-Jazeera after the influential Qatar-based TV station threw a party for released Lebanese murderer Samir Kuntar.

The party was organized by Al-Jazeera's Beirut bureau to honor Kuntar, and hailed him as a hero who carried out a military operation against Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Kuntar thanked bureau chief Ghassan bin Jeddo and Al-Jazeera for waging a campaign for the release of Kuntar and other prisoners from Israeli jails.

Daniel Seaman, director of the Government Press Office, on Tuesday phoned Walid Omari, Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Israel, and summoned him to a meeting to inform him of the decision to suspend ties with the station. Omari was abroad, however, but was told to report to the GPO upon his return, according to the Post.

"We will suspend all handling of Al-Jazeera requests," Seaman told the newspaper. "For now, we won't provide them with any of our services, which include issuing press credentials and assistance with bureaucracy and applications for visas."

Kuntar and several others members of the Palestinian Liberation Front entered Israel by boat in April 1979, killed a policeman and kidnapped a man and his 4-year-old daughter. Kuntar, then age 16, shot the man in front of his daughter, then bludgeoned the girl to death.

He was convicted in 1980 and sentenced to several life terms, but was released on July 16 as part of a prisoner exchange.

Seaman called Al-Jazeera's actions honoring Kuntar "not professional."

Editor's Note:

4. Iran Already Has Diplomatic Channel With U.S.

For all the recent publicity surrounding the possibility of the U.S. and Iran opening "interests" sections in each other's country, a diplomatic channel has in fact existed between the two nations for almost 20 years.

That channel is Iran's mission to the United Nations in Manhattan.

While its operations are officially restricted to U.N. business, it often unofficially tackles matters outside the world body.

The mission's last four ambassadors were all educated in the U.S.

Its current representative, Mohammad Khazaee, previously served at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of George Mason University.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, who recently retired from the U.N. post, spent more than 25 years living in the U.S., attending both the University of Denver and University of San Francisco. His children are American citizens.

Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, one of Zarif's predecessors at the U.N., attended colleges in Kansas and the San Francisco area.

It was Mahallati who in 1989 said he thought President George H.W. Bush was "a man I think I can do business with." That opening led to the de facto establishment of the Iranian U.N. mission as a conduit to Washington.

Mahallati's assistant Zarif was given the assignment of opening the unofficial channel.

In the early 1990s, Zarif returned to Iran while a former university professor, Kamal Kharazi, took over as U.N. ambassador.

Kharazi eventually rose to become foreign minister under reformist president Mohammad Khatami. And as Kharazi progressed, so did Zarif, who became deputy foreign minister.

In 2002, not long after 9/11, Zarif was given two new assignments: U.N. ambassador in New York and senior nuclear negotiator.

In New York, the personable Iranian became the toast of local think tanks. He was a frequent and popular guest at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society, and the Manhattan Institute co-founded by the late CIA director Bill Casey.

It was not unusual for him to entertain congressmen and senators at his fashionable 5th Ave. townhouse, which was once owned by the Shah of Iran.

Considered a moderate by the State Department, Zarif often told American reporters unofficially that he was "confused" by the inflammatory statements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and really "did not know the man."

Zarif opted to retire in June 2007 and is now a professor at Tehran University. But his diplomatic life may not be over, according to Newsmax's United Nations correspondent Stewart Stogel.

The Iranian is thought to be a prime candidate to head Tehran's "interests" section in Washington, or perhaps even emerge as foreign minister should President Ahmadinejad lose his re-election bid next year.

Editor's Note:

5. Obama, McCain Like to Gamble

Is the White House in the cards for Barack Obama? Will John McCain roll the dice with an unorthodox choice for his running mate?

The two questions play off the rival presidential candidates' penchant for gambling. Obama's game of choice has been poker. For McCain, it's craps.

McCain's love of gambling can be traced back to his early days. He has written that by his mid-20s he "had begun to aspire to a reputation for more commendable achievements than long nights of drinking and gambling."

McCain gave up drinking bouts over time, but he never got over his liking for dice, Time magazine reports in an article headlined "Candidates Vices: Craps and Poker."

In the past decade McCain has played on Mississippi riverboats, at Native American casinos, and at casinos on the Las Vegas strip.

Aides say McCain usually plays craps for a few thousand dollars at a time and "avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress," according to Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf's article in Time.

His goal is not financial; rather, "he loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table," the authors write. But if McCain plays craps for thrills, Obama sees gambling as a way to exercise his competitive urge.

As an Illinois state senator in the late 1990s, Obama played poker regularly in another state senator's basement in Springfield, competing against legislators and some lobbyists.

"For Obama, weekly poker games with lobbyists and fellow state senators helped cement his position as a rising star in Illinois politics," according to Time.

When Obama announced that he was running for the U.S. Senate, his poker-playing friends were some of his earliest supporters.

The authors conclude, "In practice, the political battle is both a crapshoot and a poker game, a study in managing risk and in manipulating people. And there is no bigger gamble than a presidential run."

Editor's Note:

6. Arab Cartoons Depict 'Jewish Control' of U.S. Candidates

Editorial cartoonists in the Arab world are using direct or borderline anti-Semitism in their portrayal of the U.S. presidential candidates as lackeys of the Jews and Israel.

A release from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued on Wednesday states: "The American elections have provided an excuse for the Arab media to promulgate perverse, bigoted and age-old conspiracy theories that portray Israelis and Jews as controlling the candidates . . .

"The cartoons ignore the issues of the campaign and instead engage in hate-filled characterizations of Jews and overt racist stereotypes."

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said: "From Gaza to Ramallah, from Bahrain to Damascus, from Cairo to Riyadh, the press has unleashed a fusillade of virulent anti-Jewish images accusing Senators Barack Obama and John McCain as handmaidens of the Jews or the Israel lobby.

"Once again, the Arab media does not miss an opportunity to promote classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Jewish control over Washington, the media, and the democratic process."

An ADL report, "The U.S. Presidential Candidates: Cartoons in the Arab Media," contains numerous examples of cartoons appearing across the Middle East.

One from Bahrain shows Obama in the pocket of a "stereotypical vicious, bearded, black-hatted Jew," the report notes.

Another cartoon from Saudi Arabia shows Obama and McCain in the jacket pocket of a man wearing a tie emblazoned with the Star of David.

A Jordanian cartoon depicts Obama emerging from an egg that bears the Star of David.

And a cartoon from Qatar shows McCain as a puppet on the fingers of a hand bearing the Israeli symbol.

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Obama Pulls Fewer Evangelicals Than Kerry2. Aging Icebreakers Hinder U.S. Oil Exploration Ability 3. Israel Sanctioning Al-Jazeera Over Released Murderer4. Iran Already Has Diplomatic Channel With U.S.5. Obama, McCain Like to...
Sunday, 27 July 2008 08:48 PM
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