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March 8, 2011 2:00 pm

The Globe at a Glance: March 1-7

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March 1

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claims a “Jewish conspiracy” is “out to get him.” Interviewed by Private Eye, Assange allegedly said that that magazine, too, is “part of the conspiracy led by Jewish writers.” Assange claimed Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is also part of the “conspiracy.” Neither Rusbridger nor the other writers accused are Jewish. According to Private Eye, “Assange continued to insist that Rusbridger is “sort of Jewish” because he is related to Guardian journalist David Leigh”.
  • Iranian security forces fired teargas as they clashed with anti-government protesters demonstrating against the government’s cruel treatment of opposition leaders. Thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, chanting slogans against the government. During a rally two weeks ago, two demonstrators were killed and dozens arrested.  The February protest was the first major show of opposition since the Revolutionary Guards crushed street protests in December 2009.

March 2

  • Two American Air Force men were murdered at Frankfurt International Airport. The gunman, believed to be from Kosovo, an Islamic country that recently declared its independence from Serbia, opened fire on a bus carrying the airmen in front of Terminal 2. The bus driver and one serviceman were killed; two others were seriously injured. Police said it appeared that an argument occurred on board the bus before the suspect opened fire. The gunman fled the scene; a suspect was arrested inside the terminal shortly afterwards. The worst previous attack on US soldiers in Germany was in 1986, when a bomb planted in a Berlin disco killed two soldiers and a Turkish woman, and injured 230, including 44 Americans.  The US blamed Lybian dictator Muammar Gaddafi for those attacks and bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation.
  • The US Supreme Court ruled in an 8-to-1 decision that the First Amendment protects hateful speech protests at military funerals. The lawsuit was filed against the Kansas based Westboro Baptist Church, which has picketed military funerals, synagogues, and other venues.  Its members believe participants will go to purgatory. “Speech is powerful,” Chief Justice JohnRoberts wrote for the majority. “It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. But under the First Amendment we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” The national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”
  • Shahbaz Bhatti, a Minister of the Pakistani government, and a Christian, was assassinated outside his home. The Minister was a voice of moderation. His portfolio was minority affairs.  Bhatti opposed Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law, which many fear is being used to silence dissent. He is the second moderate leader to be killed: Punjabi Governor Salman Taseer, was murdered two months ago.  The assassin became a hero for many in Pakistan.  Bhatti was one of the few public figures willing to openly condemn the murder.
  • Pope Benedict XVI says that Jews are not to blame for crucifying and killing Jesus.  In his book, “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week,” Benedict takes issue with key passages in the New Testament that have historically been interpreted to say that Jews were culpable for the killing of Jesus.  These passages have been used to justify the persecution of Jews worldwide: his statements could nullify centuries of anti-Semitism. Since Vatican II (1965) the Catholic Church has said that Jews were not collectively at fault for the death of Christ.  Jewish activists say the German-born pope’s unambiguous new statements are a powerful exoneration of the Jewish people and may help stem anti-Semitism in the world.

March 3

  • Israeli Settlers blocked a main highway and burned tires near the entrance to Jerusalem. Settlers say police used excessive force to remove demonstrators including stun grenades and paintball guns. Settlers were holding a “Day of Rage” following clashes at the Havat Gilad outpost near Shchem.  Police demolished a caravan, a tent and another half-built structure at the site.
  • Charlie Sheen’s estranged wife accused the actor of being an anti-Semite, and claimed he has threatened to behead her. “I will cut your head off, put it in a box and send it to your mom,” she claimed he told her when she attempted to leave his home with their twins. On her application for judicial intervention, she also wrote that Sheen – who is fighting accusations that comments he made about “Two and Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre were anti-Semitic – once referred to his own manager in a text message as a “stooped Jew pig.” Sheen denied all the allegations, noting that as the child of a Jewish mother, he is, in fact, Jewish.

March 4

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  • Protests in Libya have erupted into full blown civil war as the army maintained a prolonged artillery barrage against rebel strongholds. 30 were killed by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi’s in the town of Zawiyah; 19 more died in an explosion in at a weapons depot near Benghazi. Rebels in eastern Libya said they would not negotiate unless Muammar Gaddafi left office and went into exile. The National Libyan Council in the City of Benghazi, which is controlled by the opposition, called for foreign intervention to stop government air raids.

March 5

  • Jewish and Muslim groups are mobilizing over an attempt to outlaw circumcision in San Francisco and demanding that the issue be put to a popular vote. Liberal activist Lloyd Schofield has been collecting signatures for a voter initiative that would criminalize infant circumcision in the Californian city. 7,168 signatures are needed before late April to put the matter on a ballot in November. Mr. Schofield and a growing number of anti-circumcision activists say infants should not be forced to participate in what is essentially genital mutilation. ‘This is a human rights issue,” he said. ”What you’re doing is you’re taking an infant and cutting the most sensitive part of their body.” Jewish organizations have pledged to fight the measure should it be placed on the ballot. If the ban is approved, those caught performing a circumcision on infants or other minors would face up to a year in prison and a fine of $1,000.

March 6

  • Chinese police swamped a downtown Beijing shopping street in an effort to prevent one of several “stroll by” afternoon protests against China’s communist government. Chinese authorities tightened restrictions on foreign journalists to prevent coverage of the protests: reporters must now apply for government permission to gather news within central Beijing. In Shanghai, police detained at least 17 foreign reporters at People’s Square, a protest site, because they had not secured permission to be there. Several lawyers who handle human rights cases have “disappeared” since the protest calls began. Several activists have been detained and charged with subversion, a charge which can result in long jail terms. Calls to protest have been sent to over 40 cities throughout China by anonymous postings on the U.S.-based website, urging Chinese to gather in “Jasmine Rallies.”

March 7

  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for a “new world order” in a meeting with India’s National Security Advisor in Tehran.”The formation of a new world order is of prime importance and it is upon the independent countries to prevent the same old oppressive order from insinuating itself into a new form,” said the Iranian President. Heunderlined the role of Iran’s and India’s shared cultural background, and said the issue of culture will significantly contribute to the new world order.
  • Kuwaiti Youth groups challenged authorities with plans to hold unauthorized protests demanding the removal of the Prime Minister and greater political freedom in the Gulf state. Kuwait, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, does not allow political parties; its parliament is composed of individuals who form loose political blocs. Demonstrations are banned in Kuwait without prior approval.  Inspired by unrest elsewhere in the region, the organizers want Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah to be replaced. Some are demanding the appointment of a politician from outside the al-Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait for about 250 years.

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