- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

Beware Kosovo independence

In the well-written Commentary column regarding the global metastasis of al Qaeda (“Reconnecting al Qaeda dots,” Wednesday), Arnaud de Borchgrave omits one important regional milestone: the Balkans. Today, while America’s and the world’s attention is focused on Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, the establishment of a rogue Islamic terrorist state in the belly of Europe is nearing enactment by misguided moves to create an independent Kosovo controlled by terrorist and organized-crime elements.

A Wall Street Journal (European edition) article of Nov. 1, 2001, headlined “Al Qaeda’s Balkan Links,” states: “For the past 10 years, the most senior leaders of al Qaeda have visited the Balkans, including [Osama] bin Laden himself on three occasions between 1994 and 1996. The Egyptian surgeon turned terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has operated terrorist training camps, weapons of mass destruction factories and money-laundering and drug-training networks throughout Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, Turkey and Bosnia. This has gone on for a decade.”

The Washington Times’ own Jerry Seper wrote as far back as 1999: “Some members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which has financed its war effort through the sale of heroin, were trained in terrorist camps run by international fugitive Osama bin Laden.” Since then, Kosovo has become Europe’s center for drug trafficking, sex slavery and terrorism.

According to Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily (Oct. 25, 2005): “Deeply placed sources within the Islamist community in Kosovo have identified the source and type of the explosives used in the jihadist terrorist bombings in London on July 7, 2005, and the Madrid commuter railway bombings of March 11, 2004.

“The man at the center of the provision of the explosives in both instances was an Albanian, operating mostly out of Kosovo (with links into Bosnia) who is a second-ranking leader in the Kosovo Liberation Army.”

Only firm action by the United States can stop another U.N. fiasco: Kosovo independence.


Air Force (retired)

Camp Hill, Pa.

Political cowards

The legislative leaders in the special session in Annapolis passed a cap on this summer’s energy rate increase at 15 percent while leaving post-election rate increases and repayments unresolved (“Senate OKs energy plan to delay BGE rate rise,” Metropolitan, yesterday). This legislation also decapitates the Public Service Commission, thereby destabilizing Maryland’s regulatory environment.

The General Assembly’s action is a classic incumbent-protection maneuver as it sweeps the tough questions under the rug until after the election.

This forces customers to pay the consequences, with interest, until the year 2017 and could very well saddle them with drastic rate increases of 57 percent or more in June 2007.

Legislative leaders are forcing 1 million Marylanders into paying interest on a plan that leaves no choice and leaves the toughest questions unanswered. Ninety-eight percent of Pepco and Delmarva Power customers chose not to participate in rate deferral plans, demonstrating that customers want and expect choices.

This legislation chases away competition when we need to attract electricity suppliers from other states.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s plan would provide customers with credible choices and concrete repayment plans and also stabilize Maryland’s regulatory environment.

The legislation passed by the General Assembly does none of the above. The same monopoly that postponed reality in 1999 wants to postpone it once again until after the election in November. Every time they avoid responsibility, they just compound the cost to customers in Maryland.



A Mideast road map

Alon Ben-Meir’s insightful column “Israel’s destiny” (Forum, Sunday) objectively updates the Arab-Israeli conflict. He cites the desperate, urgent need for a “courageous and visionary leadership” to free Israelis “from the shackles of occupation and lead Israel to its intended destiny.”

His brief historical review chronicles the events that spawned this protracted conflict in Palestine. In the diaspora and after millenniums of trials, expulsions and pogroms culminating in the Holocaust, Jews longed for refuge and a homeland.

Mr. Ben-Meir defines Israel as “the political expression of the ancient right of all Jews to return to their homeland.” He also recognizes that Palestinians historically have occupied much of the same land. To his immense credit, he eloquently and powerfully acknowledges: “The Palestinian claim to the same land, is, like the claim of Israelis, embedded in a religion, culture and history that resides in the bones and sinews of every man, woman and child.” Truly, then, the only realistic and acceptable resolution of that tragic conflict must be justice for all.

The Jewish dream is to inhabit all of biblical Israel. The Palestinian dream is to inhabit all of historical Palestine. A “courageous and visionary leadership” could create a political entity that would make both dreams come true.

Necessary steps: 1) The occupation must end. 2) An absolute truce must be in place. 3) Two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, must exist side by side. 4) The states must be roughly comparable in geographic endowment. 5) the capital of Israel and Palestine will be an undivided Jerusalem. The secular capital of Israel will be Tel Aviv; the secular capital of Palestine will be Ramallah. 6) The spiritual capital Jerusalem is the de facto spiritual capital of the world. 7) A “courageous and visionary leadership” must create a political system that guarantees absolute and inalienable rights, especially freedom of religion, and equality under the law. 8) A federation of Israel and Palestine could and must guarantee these rights to everyone living anywhere in Israel or Palestine, Jew and Arab alike.

When freedom and security are assured to everyone in the Holy Land, Palestinians will be free to follow their destiny, and Israel will truly be a light to other nations.

“There is a balm in Gilead” — let there be peace — first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, Samaria, all of Palestine and the world.



Evaluating schools

The manipulation of school evaluation, outlined in “Student pool manipulated for tests, report finds” (Nation, Wednesday) can be reduced substantially by using automated assisted learning (AAL). The article tells how schools use tactics to prevent students who perform poorly from taking tests used to measure school performance.

It’s time to implement AAL across the board because it focuses on learners rather than on schools. Evaluation of schools can be an objective byproduct.

Video-game platforms such as the PlayStation Portable, Nintendo and other video devices are ideal for providing more flexibility and accountability in learning. Results can’t be manipulated easily because progress (testing) is built into AAL software. AAL can measure how much students have progressed in a subject and help teachers identify much more quickly those who need help. It’s student-centered learning.

Because scoring is inherent in the software, automated assisted learning scores could be used for graduation purposes. There would be no need for the “high stakes” mass testing and test-taking preparation being used now. Learners could progress at their own pace, wherever they are, at times convenient to them. Moreover, AAL could be used by people of all ages to help raise the education level of the entire population. AAL would be a consistent and known standard.

It’s time to transform our education system into a modern system of learning using inexpensive technologies readily available.


Silver Spring

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