- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2011

TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD

Israeli Ambassador Michael Orensays his country hopes the unrest sweeping the Arab world will produce democratic governments that pose no threat to the Jewish state.

“We would like to be guardedly optimistic, but we have to be guarded,” he told students at the Colorado Christian University near Denver this week.

“We live in a tough neighborhood.”

Mr. Oren praised the “courageous opposition” that toppled tyrants in Egypt and Tunisia and now threatens Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, but he warned that Islamic extremists could hijack those revolutions.

“In most of these countries, there is only one group that has organized with clear leadership and funding. Those are the Islamic extremists,” he said, according to news reports of his speech.

“We’ve seen how minority extremist groups hijacked democratic revolutions in Iran, in Gaza and in Lebanon.”

Hamas terrorists took over Gaza in an election, while Hezbollah militants control Lebanon. Both groups are backed by Iran.

“We’ve been very proud to have been the only functioning democracy in the Middle East since 1948,” he said, referring to the founding of the Jewish state.

“We would be prouder still to say we were one of many democracies in the Middle East.”

GYPSY BIAS

The U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria denounced discrimination against Gypsies, who are widely despised throughout Europe, where they face bias in housing and employment and are frequently victims of physical attacks.

Ambassador James Warlick referred to Gypsies as “Roma,” a more politically correct word, when he addressed a conference in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, this week.

“The Roma are also Bulgarian citizens who are entitled to their rights,” he told the audience at the forum, titled “Roma Leaders for Regional Development.”

He called the Roma a “marginalized ethnic group.” Gypsies account for between 12 million and 16 million people, making them Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

About 371,000 live in Bulgaria, accounting for less than 5 percent of the population of 7.5 million.

Amnesty International has accused the European Union of “turning a blind eye” to discrimination against Gypsies.

PERFECT STUDENT

Jamaican Ambassador Audrey P. Marks is proudly promoting the success of a Jamaican engineering student in Virginia for achieving a perfect score on his college entrance exams.

Mrs. Marks said Damien Chang, 16, is the first Jamaican student to achieve 2,400 on his SAT. Damien topped the record set 15 years ago by Romero Heyman, a Jamaican who scored 1,570 when the highest possible score was 1,600.

In a letter to Damien, the ambassador expressed her “enormous sense of pride.”

“You are continuing a great tradition of excellence in your unique way, holding aloft our flag as you advance with the torch so ably borne by many great Jamaican scholars and other trailblazers in numerous fields of endeavor,” she said.

Damien, a student at the Woodberry Forest School near Charlottesville, is one of only 400 students to earn a perfect score out of 1.5 million who took the examination last year, Mrs. Marks said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.