Federal authorities have launched an investigation into a fire set at the site of a future Islamic center and mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, thirty-five miles outside of Nashville. The apparent arson destroyed an earth mover and damaged three other vehicles. The equipment was reportedly doused with gasoline and set on fire on Friday night or early Saturday morning. On Sunday afternoon, nine gunshots were fired near the construction site. Camie Ayash, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, told Channel News 5 in Tennessee that many area Muslims are now afraid to leave their homes.
Camie Ayash: “Members of the community are very scared. As I mentioned before, it’s Ramadan. We try to come together as a community in the evenings to break our fast together. Our attendance level has been very low because people are scared to leave their homes.”
The Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been the target of protests for months. Vocal opponents have included the Christian evangelist Pat Roberton and Tennessee’s Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who recently suggested Islam is not a religion but a cult. Other opponents have claimed the site could be turned into a terrorist training center.
In Mexico, suspected drug traffickers have assassinated the mayor of a city in the border state of Tamaulipas. Marco Antonio Leal was shot Sunday while driving through the rural municipality of Hidalgo. The mayor’s young daughter was injured in the attack. Leal is the second mayor in Mexico to be assassinated in the past month. The state of Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, is where the bodies of seventy-two murdered migrant workers were found last week. Meanwhile, on Friday two car bombs exploded in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas. One of the bombs exploded outside the studio of Televisa, Mexico’s leading television network. More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006.
The Food and Drug Administration is set to announce plans to start inspecting factory egg farms following the massive recall of eggs tied to an outbreak of salmonella in the Midwest. Most of the nation’s largest egg farms have gone uninspected for decades. The new inspection plan covers all egg farms that have 50,000 or more hens.
In news from Africa, a forthcoming UN report on the Democratic Republic of Congo says crimes committed by Rwanda’s army and Congolese rebels during the 1990s in the Congo could be classified as genocide. The New York Times reports the UN report bluntly challenges the conventional history of events in the region after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The UN report charges that after the genocide ended in Rwanda, Tutsi-led Rwanda troops and their rebel allies killed tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group inside the Congo. A draft of the report states, “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces.” The US-supported Rwandan government has dismissed the findings of the UN report, and the government is threatening to reconsider its contributions to UN peacekeeping missions if the draft report is published.
In Pakistan, it has been a month since torrential monsoon rains triggered the country’s worst natural disaster on record. As many as 20 million people have been left homeless due to the massive flooding. UN officials say an estimated 72,000 children in flood-affected areas are at high risk of death because of severe malnutrition. Pakistani resident Amanullah Khan said children have been especially hit hard by the flooding.
Amanullah Khan: “Diseases are spreading because of the floods. The skin on children’s feet is getting infected. They also have upset stomachs and gastric problems. All sorts of ailments are affecting them. They are also getting eye infections. We have received no help from the government. There is no medical camp here.”
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials are battling to save the delta town of Thatta in the southern province of Sindh. Water has already broken the banks of the Indus River near Thatta and also topped a feeder canal running off the river. Ninety-five percent of the town’s 300,000 residents have already fled their homes.
An influential Israeli rabbi is coming under criticism after he gave a sermon Saturday in which he prayed for all Palestinians to perish in plague. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is the founder of the Shas party, part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: “May our enemies and haters end. Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this earth. God should strike them and these Palestinians — evil haters of Israel — with a plague.”
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s comments come just days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to begin direct talks in Washington. Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ghassan Khatib condemned the Rabbi’s remarks.
Ghassan Khatib: “The statement that we heard from Ovadia Yosef is a racist incitement statement that is responsible for increasing the hatred and deepening the racist attitude among the Israeli society.”
In Washington, competing rallies were held Saturday on the forty-seventh anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. The right-wing Fox News broadcaster Glenn Beck organized a large rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the same site as the 1963 march. Many of the speakers, including Sarah Palin, repeatedly invoked Martin Luther King’s name.
Sarah Palin: “You have the same still spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is in you. It will sustain you as it sustained them. So with pride in the red, white and blue, with gratitude to our men and women in uniform, let’s stand together. Let’s stand with honor. Let’s restore America. God bless you, and God bless America.”
Meanwhile, civil rights leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, organized a counter-rally called “Reclaim the Dream.” He accused Glenn Beck of disgracing Martin Luther King’s name.
Rev. Al Sharpton: “We wouldn’t disgrace today by allowing you to provoke us. No matter what you say, no matter what you do, we’re going to celebrate those that laid down their lives to give us a chance. This ain’t about them. This is about Dr. King.”
In economic news, the unemployment rate for youths reached a record 19.1 percent last month. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was the highest midsummer jobless rate for 16-to-24-year-olds since record keeping began in 1948. The youth unemployment rate has nearly doubled over the past two years. Meanwhile, a prominent economist from the University of Maryland is warning the US economy could experience painfully slow growth and high unemployment for another decade or longer as a result of the economic crisis and the collapse of the housing market. Economist Carmen Reinhart made the comment at a recent symposium in Wyoming organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
An Army veteran who recently returned from Afghanistan was shot dead in Salt Lake City on Friday after he opened fire on a police officer at one of the city’s busiest intersections. At the time of his death, twenty-eight-year-old Brandon Barrett was in full military fatigues, black combat boots and a mask, carrying an assault rifle with dozens of rounds of ammunition. Barrett joined the armed forces almost four years ago but went AWOL last month. He returned in June from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.