Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Captain of Air France Flight 447 was son of pilot

Marc Dubois grew up to be a pilot, just like his dad.

The younger Dubois was last heard from Sunday night, when the Air France Flight 447 he was captaining encountered fierce thunderstorms over the mid-Atlantic and plunged into the ocean with 228 people on board.

Marc Dubois, 58, had been flying jets for Air France for more than 20 years after joining the airline from rival French domestic carrier Air Inter in 1988, according to colleagues.

His father, Jean-Paul Dubois, had also been an Air France pilot, and died last March at age 89, according to the La Nouvelle Republique newspaper.

Marc Dubois had 11,000 hours of flying time for Air France, and in February 2007 he became qualified to fly the Airbus A330, the same kind of aircraft as the one that crashed on the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Since then, he'd accumulated 1,700 hours flying the wide-body, twin engine aircraft, according to Air France.

Air France has declined to name the pilots or crew members lost in the catastrophe, but the pilots' identities were confirmed by a member of Air France's main pilots' union, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Dubois' co-pilots on Flight 447 were David Robert and Pierre-Cedric Bonin.

Robert, 37, joined Air France in 1999 and had 6,600 flight hours with the airline, becoming qualified to fly A330s seven years ago, in April 2002.

Bonin, 32, joined Air France in 2004. He had 3,300 flight hours and had qualified to fly A330s last June.

Bonin's wife Isabelle, 38, had joined him on the voyage to Brazil and was on the flight that crashed, according to the Bordeaux high school where she taught.

In addition to the pilots, Air France said Flight 447 had a cabin crew of nine people, including eight French citizens and one Brazilian.

The head of the cabin crew was Anne Grimout of Ermenonville, France, a 49-year-old who had worked for Air France for nearly 25 years, the pilot union official said.

There was no immediate information on the other cabin crew members.

Family and friends of the captain and crew and passengers of Flight 447 attended an ecumenical ceremony Wednesday at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral. Reporters were not allowed.

Jobless Rate Surges for Men, Blacks

By Sean Yoes

AFRO Staff Writer

The construction industry has been particularly hard hit by the foundering economy. (Courtesy Photo/

(May 9, 2009) - Unemployment among blacks and men continued to climb in April, according to Labor Department data released Friday.

Male unemployment rose to 10 percent while black unemployment climbed to 15 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall U.S. unemployment rate jumped from 8.5 percent in March to 8.9 percent in April.

Since the start of the recession 16 months ago male unemployment has risen 5 percent and black unemployment has jumped 6.1 percent.

However, all major demographic groups have experienced large increases in unemployment according to the Department of Labor.

Female unemployment is at 7.6 percent, up 2.8 percent since the beginning of the recession. Unemployment among the Hispanic community is 11.3 percent and the unemployment rate among white workers is at 8.0 percent.

The biggest job losses continue to be in the areas of manufacturing and construction. There were 149,000 jobs lost in manufacturing and the construction industry saw a decline of 110,000 jobs in April.

According to the Labor Department, men have seen unemployment rates rise disproportionately because they dominate those industries.

Unemployment showed signs of slowing last month, with 539,000 jobs lost in April, compared to an average 707,000 per month in the first quarter of 2009.

Despite slowing in job loss and some moderate improvements in some areas of the economy, many economists believe the U.S. will see double-digit unemployment by the end of the year.

Skepticism About Dubious Plot in New York

By Saeed Shabazz

“I am very concerned that the hard work of building bridges here in Newburgh over the last quarter of a century will now be dismissed, because of the actions of a convicted felon,” said Imam Salahuddin Muhammad, who heads Masjid al-Ikhlas, in this city of 28,000 some 60 miles from Manhattan.

The “felon” referred to is an FBI informant connected to the May 20 arrest of four Black men from Newburgh. The men are accused of plotting to use explosives to blow up synagogues and use a rocket launcher to shoot down a military aircraft. Federal officials and New York's police chief said the men are former prison inmates who met at Imam Muhammad's mosque, wanted to do violence against Jews, and strike a blow on behalf of suffering Muslims. But in interviews, residents and community leaders expressed doubt about the charges and said the men, including a Haitian immigrant with a mental illness, were set-up and likely sucked in by offers of a chance to make money.

Although members of various religious communities, politicians and activists gathered at the mosque for a press conference two days after the arrests—which garnered major news coverage—to show support for the Muslim community, Imam Muhammad believes irreparable harm has come to the reputation of the mosque and its members.

“They are making me out to be a teacher of hate, and I am hurt by that, and it has hurt my family,” he told The Final Call in a May 24 telephone interview.

Others fear the high profile case and the role played by the informant, who was apparently involved in other sting operations, is another sign of the targeting of Islamic communities and Muslims that is troubling and needs to end.

Conspirators or fall guys?

The FBI complaint filed in the Southern District of New York charged the four men with conspiracy to use “weapons of mass destruction.” The FBI said the men allegedly plotted to bomb synagogues in the Bronx using cars packed with C-4 explosives and blow up a plane at the Stewart Air National Guard Base using a stinger missile, planning the events at the al-Ikhlas mosque. Mosque officials say no planning happened at their house of worship.

The imam believes a Middle Eastern man, who was made to feel uncomfortable enough that he stopped coming to the mosque, is the FBI informant identified in varied news reports as Shahed Hussain, a Pakistani.

Imam Muhammad believes the visitor to his mosque “drove” the four men to “do this thing.” The men were also not regular attendees, while some regular worshipers were wary of the visitor and suspected he was a government agent. Some elders at the mosque expressed concern about this man who spoke of jihad and flashed cash, Imam Muhammad continued.

In hindsight, “maybe I should have reported this man to the government. But, he was made to feel unwelcome at the mosque,” the imam said. Unwelcome inside, the man would wait in his black Mercedes in the parking lot and approach younger Black visitors. James Cromitie, 44, Laguerre Payen, 27, David Williams, 28, and Onta Williams, 32, came into contact with the visitor, met with him outside of the mosque and, law enforcement officials said, the informant provided the fake explosives and the inoperable missile launcher reportedly found in their possession when police officers and federal agents rammed their vehicle and arrested them.

NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley has continued to tell the media the men were acquainted with each other through prison contacts and the terrorism allegations have prompted speculation about homegrown terrorists inside correctional institutions.

Imam Muhammad rejects talk of prison facilities as hotbeds of radical Islamic activity as false. “I am a product of the great work being carried out in the prisons by Muslim chaplains,” he stressed. “I earned a Master's degree during my stay in prison; and in 1985 I became a chaplain. I turned my life around, and I have never looked back,” the imam said. “We teach young men to lead productive lives—not to continue their criminal ways; nor to harbor hatred towards anyone.”

Family members and acquaintances of the accused men also denied hearing expressions of hatred or radical thought.

“Our family is in shock,” said Moleik Murphy, the stepbrother of David Williams. “I saw him, maybe in March; and he seemed like he was getting himself together, lifting weights and all. We only talked for a hot minute.”

Mr. Murphy said his stepbrother never talked about politics and was never known to espouse any militant philosophy.

Bishop J.C. Woody, pastor of the House of Refuge church, told The Final Call Mr. Williams was a member of his Star Academy program for students at risk some 10 years ago. “He was like so many of our young men who have trouble staying focused,” Bishop Woody noted. “No doubt in my mind that these four young men were entrapped.”

Haitian immigrant Laguerre Payen was homeless when an assistant imam helped him find shelter. Mr. Payen also suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was unkempt and kept bottles of urine in his room, according to press reports.

Irma Amos, a lifelong resident of Newburgh said she knew Mr. Cromitie, and that he was “a very nice guy.”

“Folks want to know where he got the money to carry out the alleged bomb plot,” Ms. Amos told The Final Call.

The FBI supplied the suspected informant with the money for the men to buy the phony explosives and the missile system. Imam Muhammad told reporters the man, according to the elders in the mosque, may have had $25,000 at his disposal. The man had offered some worshippers money to join him, he said.

Black suffering, not terror, is the problem, residents say

Larry Williams, 57, who has lived in Newburgh for the past 40 years, said the problem is the lack of jobs for Black men—not terrorism. “We also need funds for a community center for the youth, because we have too many killings and a lot of drugs on the street,” he added.

“Black people in Newburgh have been victimized by the terrorism perpetrated on them by the system,” declared Natasha Cotton, 40, who became an activist 10 years ago. “I saw Onta Williams about a week ago, he was working out; and talking positive,” she recalled.

“We need financial support for programs for brothers like Onta from the city and the corporations. This terrorist story is going to stop a lot of movement that had already begun to turn our community around,” Ms. Cotton said.

“We are the majority in this city and we continue to elect a mayor and a city council that won't send funds to the Black community so that we can help get our people such as the four brothers they arrested back on their feet. They are behind the eight-ball because they all have records, and have served time,” said barber Brother Stone.

“People keep complaining that they have been let down by the politicians, but have not come together to do something about it,” he told The Final Call.

According to Census figures, Newburgh's total population is 28,201—with Latinos 36 percent of the population, Blacks 33 percent of residents and Whites represent 28 percent of the city. The median household income is $38,324, with 25.8 percent of the population below the poverty line. Unemployment as of December 2008 was officially 5.8 percent.

Across the street from the barbershop, Mayor Nicholas Valentine, 58, operates the Broadway Tailors, a tuxedo rental and tailoring business. The mayor, who is White, told The Final Call he wasn't concerned about negative publicity generated by the arrests. “I am concerned how people could be hiding below the radar, choosing not to be seen for what they really are,” he said.

A group of men, all in their 50s, talked about “old times” at the corner of South and Chambers in Newburgh. They were skeptical about the alleged terror plot, but talked about the decline of the Black community started in the 1960s and has continued. Drugs, crime and prison are not uncommon, they added.

“Those four guys they arrested never had a chance to get on the right track. There are no decent jobs here for them; and once you go to prison that's that,” said one man.

Plotting a crime or ‘television drama?'

Shahed Hussain, the man the government allegedly used to snare the Newburgh 4, was recruited by the feds after pleading guilty in April 2003 for scheming to get driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. He is believed to have become an FBI informant in 2002 to avoid deportation to Pakistan after being arrested on fraud charges. Many are skeptical of his role and have ridiculed the idea that the so-called plot was serious, but express concern that the government set-up a scenario and sought “dimwits” to fit its scheme.

“The real question, which certainly will not be addressed in this case, is but for the snitch, would these guys ever have done anything besides talk about stuff?” activist attorney Ron Kuby recently noted on his Air America radio show. He also explained why the FBI allowed the so-called Newburgh terrorist plot to go on for a year: “There are two reasons—the closer it is to completion, the harder it is for defense lawyers like me to claim that these guys were just shooting the breeze. And the longer you let it go, the better the visuals—the actual (bogus) bombs being driven to the real synagogue that could have really been blown up if any of this was real. But, it isn't. It's a made for television drama.”

“Without the assistance of the agent who entrapped them, they would never have dreamed of committing political violence, nor would they have had the slightest idea about where to acquire plastic explosives or a Stinger missile. That didn't stop prosecutors from acting as if they'd captured Osama bin Laden himself,” wrote Richard Dreyfuss, for The Nation magazine.

“Despite the pompous statements from Mayor Bloomberg of New York and other politicians, including Representative Peter King, the whole story is bogus. The four losers may have been inclined to violence, and they may have harbored a virulent strain of anti-Semitism. But it seems that the informant whipped up their violent tendencies and their hatred of Jews, cooked up the plot, incited them, arranged their purchase of weapons, and then had them busted. … It is disgusting and outrageous that the FBI is sending provocateurs into mosques,” he added.

In 1984, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights stated in a report that, “Because (federal) agents create crime, rather than merely detect it, they hold the power to create the appearance of guilt; and many of the values reflected in our Constitution are directly threatened by these operations.”

Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, of the Harlem-based Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood Inc., and the Muslim Alliance of America, spoke strongly in remarks at a May 21 press conference at the Riverdale Jewish Center, one of the alleged bombing targets. The press conference was held to condemn violence and promote religious understanding. While the imam supported the sentiment of faith communities coming together and condemnation of attacks, he added: “We want to make sure there are no recriminations against the Muslim community because of the alleged terrorist plot. We are against being probed, against having our houses of worship surveilled. And we are against the use of our weak-minded for these set-up operations.”

Home-grown terrorism

GEORGE TILLER was murdered outside of his church in Wichita, Kansas yesterday, targeted by a gunman because he provided late-term abortions. Matthew Yglesias argues that this was "a kind of terrorism that works".

Every time you murder a doctor, you create a disincentive for other medical professionals to provide these services. What’s more, you create a need for additional security at facilities around the country. In addition, the anti-abortion protestors who frequently gather near clinics are made to seem much more intimidating...

Pro-life activists have criticised the media for hyping abortion-clinic terrorism, but the threat of bombing and murder was one of the factors that cut down on the number of abortion doctors and clinics, especially those providing late-term abortions, in the 1980s and 1990s. Only four abortion providers have been killed since 1993. But these murders make less threatening acts, like when the suspect in yesterday's shooting stared down an abortion doctor at his office in 1996, much more potent.

Before Sunday, Mr Tiller was perhaps the most notorious abortionist in America, attacked on Fox News for years and used as a cudgel (unsuccessfully) against Kathleen Sebelius when, as governor of Kansas, she sought appointment as secretary of health and human services. He had been compared to Nazis, nicknamed "Tiller the Killer" and accused of running a "death mill". There is little the government can do to prevent a zealot from terrorising doctors if he wants to. But it might help if the debate over abortion was carried forth in less zealous tones.

Gov't posts sensitive list of US nuclear sites

The government accidentally posted on the Internet a list of government and civilian nuclear facilities and their activities in the United States, but U.S. officials said Wednesday the posting included no information that compromised national security.

However, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, questioned about the disclosure at a House hearing, expressed concern with respect to a uranium storage facility at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Y-12 facility in Tennessee. The facility holds large quantities of highly enriched uranium, which if obtained can be used to fashion a nuclear weapon.

"That's of great concern," said Chu, referring to the Y-12 site. "We will be looking hard and making sure physical security of those sites (at Y12) is sufficient to prevent eco-terrorists and others getting hold of that material."

The 266-page document was published on May 6 as a transmission from President Barack Obama to Congress. According to the document, the list was required by law and will be provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Some of the pages are marked "highly confidential safeguards sensitive."

Chu said he had no details as to how the document was released, beyond that it involved the government printing office. "Someone made a mistake," said Chu, appearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee .

Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the document had been reviewed by a number of U.S. agencies and that disclosure of the information did not jeopardize national security. He said the document is part of an agreement on nuclear material inspection under the IAEA's nuclear nonproliferation effort.

"While we would have preferred it not be released, the Departments of Energy, Defense, and Commerce and the NRC all thoroughly reviewed it to ensure that no information of direct national security significance would be compromised," LaVera said in a statement.

An Energy Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly, said none of the sites on the list are directly part of the government's nuclear weapons infrastructure.

Included in the report, however, are details on a storage facility for highly enriched uranium at the Y-12 complex at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and some sites at the Energy Department's Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, this official acknowledged.

Beth Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the agency reviewed the document as it relates to civilian facilities with NRC licenses and "we are confident that information of direct national security significance was not compromised."

The NRC has jurisdiction over commercial nuclear power plants and civilian uranium processing and storage facilities.

The publication of the list was first reported in an online secrecy newsletter Monday. The document had been posted on the Government Printing Office Web site, but has since been removed from that site.

In a statement, the Government Printing Office said Wednesday: "Upon being informed about potential sensitive nature of the attachment in this document, the Public Printer of the United States removed it from GPO's Web site pending further review. After consulting with the White House and Congress, it was determined that the document, including sensitive attachment, should be permanently removed from the Web site."

The GPO said it processes and produces approximately 160 House documents during the two-year congressional cycle, and the list was received by the agency in the normal process and produced under routine operating procedures.

The document includes both government and civilian nuclear facilities, all of which have various levels of security, including details and location of nation's 103 commercial nuclear power reactors, information readily available from various sources.

The document details the location of the nuclear sites and what is being done there.

For instance, there are nuclear reactors at the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, Pa. This facility is currently working on research into what happens when there are accidents with the nuclear reactors. The project started in 2006 and is expected to end in 2012, according to the document.

There are "zero" national security implications to the publication of this document, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. Aftergood found the document on the GPO Web site and highlighted it in his online bulletin.

"I regret that some people are painting it as a roadmap for terrorists because that's not what it is," Aftergood said.

"This is not a disclosure of sensitive nuclear technologies or of facility security procedures. It is simply a listing of the numerous nuclear research sites and the programs that are under way," Aftergood said. "And so it poses no security threat whatsoever."

New Jersey: Corzine vs Christie In Gubernatorial Elections

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie won the Republican nomination for New Jersey governor on Tuesday night and will face incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine in November.

Christie defeated former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and Assemblyman Richard Merkt in Tuesday’s primary. The Associated Press called the race based on an analysis of partial election results.

Christie is trying to become the first Republican elected in a New Jersey statewide race since 1997.

The 46-year-old Mendham resident built a reputation as a corruption fighter during the seven years he spent as the state’s top federal law enforcement official under President George W. Bush.

Corzine faced token opposition in the Democratic primary. Vice President Joe Biden appeared with the 62-year-old former U.S. senator to formally launch his re-election bid after polls closed Tuesday night.

2009 NBA Finals Preview & Predictions

Andrew Thell, Writer
I’m a little tired of being the guy that doubts this Orlando Magic squad only to see them topple opponent after opponent and exceed expectations. I’m a believer in this team. They’re good. Very good. They’ve earned their trip to the NBA Finals with stellar play throughout the regular season and postseaon. So instead of simply describing how I see them losing this time around, I’ll lay out two scenarios followed by my actual prediction.

The Orlando Magic Topple the Los Angeles Lakers: Mickael Pietrus plays like a true difference maker on both ends, bodying up on Kobe Bryant and frustrating him into ill-advised shots and passes. He also gets hot from outside, forcing Kobe and Ariza to stay honest on him at the perimeter. Meanwhile, Dwight dominates the meek Los Angeles big men, consistently getting Andrew Bynum in foul trouble and forcing the weaker Pau Gasol to expend a bulk of his energy playing man defense. Los Angeles is forced to turn to Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga to play more minutes than they ever wanted to.

This all plays into the Magic’s hands, as so much attention is drawn inside on both offense and defense that LA cannot execute their intricate sets or fluent team play. It leaves Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu free to roam in the perimeter, to either knock down key shot after key shot or slice to the lane for easy buckets or free throws. Rafer Alston steps up to the big stage, making the defensively challenged and offensively limited Los Angeles points a liability. As the Lakers dare him to shoot night after night he consistently makes them pay. Orlando manages to steal one of the first two games in LA as the Lake Show simply doesn’t show up (again), then holds serve in their three home games, winning in five.

The Los Angeles Lakers Win Their 15th NBA Title: The Lakers come out and play the way we all know they’re capable of. They play like the only team in the NBA to finish in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency rating. They execute on offense with deadly efficiency, coming out of the gate poised and aggressive. Their clean execution and multitude of scorers on offense are simply too much for Orlando to handle, as their crisp passing and disciplined approach consistently finds open jumpers on the weak side and the interior offense attacks Dwight Howard’s backside.

Pau Gasol continues to hold his own on the glass, finishing with double-digit rebounds in each Lakers win. Andrew Bynum steps up to the challenge and bodies up on Dwight Howard, making him look like simply an All Star rather than the generational talent he is. On the outside Trevor Ariza is able to stick with Turkogou and Lewis while leading the series in steals and continuing to hit over half of his field-goal attempts, including key open makes from downtown. The Lake Show’s trio of points each bring something to the table, with Derek Fisher hitting timely, open threes, Jordan Farmar simply running the offense when called upon and Shannon Brown attacking the rim in dramatic fashion.

Meanwhile, Kobe stands back like the field general he is, watching it all and stepping up each night with what his team needs — be it 40 points, 10 assists or simply solid perimeter defense.

It’s obviously going to be a little from Column A, a little from Column B. But in the end, superior talent, depth and experience win out.

Prediction: Lakers in 5.

China Boosts Security in Tiananmen on Crackdown Anniversary Eve

By VOA News
03 June 2009

Chinese security forces have boosted their presence in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the eve of the 20th anniversary of a crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Chinese plainclothes police and paramilitary forces swarmed around the square Wednesday, examining visitors at checkpoints and barring access to journalists.

China's Communist government sent tanks and troops into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 to crush weeks of student and worker protests. Hundreds and possibly thousands of demonstrators were killed.

Several leading Chinese dissidents told Western news media by telephone that authorities were confining them to their homes or had forced them to leave Beijing.

Authorities in Macau detained one of the main student leaders of the 1989 protests, Wu'er Kaixi, when he arrived Wednesday in the southern Chinese territory on a flight from Taipei.

Wu'er said he wanted to enter mainland China so that he could see his parents. But, he said Macau immigration officials refused to let him enter the territory and asked him to return to Taiwan, where he lives in exile.

China's government also has blocked Internet forums, social networking Web sites and foreign media reports to try to prevent discussion of the Tiananmen anniversary.

The Race for Governor: A Few Suggestions for the Candidates

By Richard A. Lee

Now that the New Jersey’s primary election is complete and the candidates for governor are official, here is my advice for Chris Christie and Jon Corzine as they plot strategy for the upcoming campaign.

Campaign Recommendations for Chris Christie:

1. Pack your schedule with events that show how state government frustrates and angers New Jersey citizens. The problems may not be Jon Corzine’s fault and some may even be beyond his control. But as the man in charge, he is the face of state government. The more you can remind people they are unhappy, the more likely they are to vote for change.

2. Build on your strongest asset – your record as U.S. Attorney – to reach a broader audience. No one is going to argue with cracking down on corrupt politicians, but how many New Jerseyans really feel they were directly impacted by Sharpe James, Wayne Bryant or any of the other public officials who were convicted or pled guilty during your tenure? If there is something that people can relate to better, then capitalize on it. Look at all the attention other officials are getting for their efforts to tackle schemes that make it nearly impossible for average citizens to buy tickets for Bruce Springsteen.

3. Show some humility once in a while. So far, your responses to various charges that have come your way have been characterized by denial and anger. The primary was just a warm-up for the general election, so get used to the criticism. Even if you are in the right, at least acknowledge that your actions may have created an incorrect perception. The public respects leaders who are confident enough to admit when they have made a mistake. President Obama took the blame for some early missteps in his administration, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt his favorability numbers.

4. Run your campaign against Jon Corzine, not Jim McGreevey. Invoking McGreevey’s name may fire up ardent supporters, but the former governor is not on the ballot. Be fair to voters and focus on the person who is on the ballot, especially at a time when families are more concerned with putting food on the table than they are with someone who left office nearly five years ago.

5. Start a physical fitness routine and tell the world about it. A candidate’s physique has nothing to do with his or her ability to govern, but we do live in a visual age and people do make comments on individuals’ appearances – especially those individuals are in the public spotlight. Why not have some fun with it and get some added attention from the public and the press as you work to shed a few pounds before Election Day? It will help to humanize you at a time when many voters feel disconnected from their elected officials.

Campaign Recommendations for Jon Corzine:

1. Pack your schedule with events designed to show that your opponent has not presented a viable alternative to addressing the state’s fiscal problems. It’s easy to make promises to lower taxes and reduce the size of government; it’s much harder to deliver and present specifics. Take every opportunity you can to explain the severity of the fiscal problems you confronted and the difficult decisions you had to make.

2. Play to your base. Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Jersey, and the state’s independent voters tend to lean left, so keep the traditional Democratic constituencies – labor, seniors, minorities, etc. – happy. Now is not the time to think outside the box and do something radical that angers your base. There will be plenty of opportunities to be more creative in a second term when you don’t need to worry about running for re-election.

3. Attack Chris Christie’s strengths. He is a candidate who has built his campaign on his record as a U.S. Attorney who successfully cracked down on corruption in New Jersey. But he is largely a one-issue candidate. If you can throw him off this solitary message, he will be in a much weaker position. Questions raised during the primary about some of Christie’s activities put him on the defensive and made it difficult for him to capitalize on his record. The same strategy could produce similar results in the general election.

4. Attack Chris Christie’s weaknesses. Remind voters that Christie has limited experience as an elected official and that the job of governor involves dealing with a long list of public policy issues. Do something gubernatorial every day to contrast what you do with what he has not done.

5. Run your campaign against Chris Christie, not George W. Bush. Invoking Bush’s name may fire up ardent supporters, but the former president is not on the ballot. Be fair to voters and focus on the person who is on the ballot, especially at a time when families are more concerned with putting food on the table than they are with someone who has left public office and has been doing his best to remain out of the public spotlight.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Bin Laden accuses Obama of sowing 'revenge and hatred' in Muslim world

Al-Qaida leader's recording released as US president arrives in Saudi Arabia for start of Middle East tour

Osama bin Laden today denounced Barack Obama as the US president arrived in Saudi Arabia at the start of a short Middle East tour in his continuing effort to reach out to the Muslim world.

In an audio recording timed for Obama's latest overture, the al-Qaida leader said the US leader had planted seeds of "revenge and hatred" towards the US in the Muslim world, al-Jazeera television reported.

It reported Bin Laden as saying that Obama was continuing in the steps of his predecessor, George Bush, and warning Americans to be prepared for the consequences of the White House's policies.

News of the recording came after Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia at a start of a trip that will also take him to Egypt, where he will deliver an eagerly awaited speech at Cairo University.

Obama was greeted at Riyadh's main airport by King Abdullah after an overnight flight from Washington. A band played The Star-Spangled Banner and each leader shook hands with members of his counterpart's entourage.

Perched on ornate chairs behind a flower arrangement, Obama and Abdullah chatted briefly in public and shook hands before holding private talks on a range of issues expected to include the Arab-Israeli conflict, diplomatic overtures toward Iran and oil prices.

After talks in Riyadh, Obama will deliver a keynote speech in Cairo. While giving away few clues on what he would say, Obama has made it clear that he will not be making a serious attack on Egypt's, and the region's, human rights record. He described the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, as a "stalwart ally" and said that the job of the US is "not to lecture".

Obama this week said he thought that democratic rights reflected universal – not just western – values, but added: "The danger I think is that when the US or any country thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture … I think the thing we can do most importantly is serve as a role model."

Saudi Arabia can be expected to press Obama to exert more pressure on the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who is resisting the idea of Palestinian statehood and has rebuffed US calls to halt the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. King Abdullah put forward a peace plan in 2002 offering Israel recognition in return for its withdrawal from Arab land occupied in the 1967 war and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Saudi Arabia believes faltering peace efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have given Iran opportunities to expand its regional influence through Islamist groups such as Hamas, as well as its Shia Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. Afghanistan and Pakistan are also on the agenda as the US seeks Saudi help to counter the spread of the Taliban in both countries.

The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, has already asked the Saudis for help.

"Saudi Arabia clearly has a lot of influence throughout the entire region, and a long-standing and close relationship with Pakistan," Gates said after a visit to the kingdom last month.

The US wants the Saudis to use what influence they have in curbing extremism in both countries. Saudi Arabia could also help cut off large sums of money that flow to militants from wealthy Saudi donors and Islamic charities. Saudi Arabia has historical ties with the Taliban. The kingdom and Pakistan worked together to facilitate the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s and only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, recognised Taliban rule in Afghanistan.