Thursday, July 31, 2008

Double The Stupidity, Double The Fun

Apparently, Al-Jazeera has a new racket, planning to kidnap politicians.

Ex-G.I. candidate finds election battle all too real

Updated Monday, July 28th 2008, 2:44 PM

Retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West thought he'd left behind the specters of Iraq when he decided to run for Congress in Florida. But a recent interview request lead him to suspect he was a target for kidnapping.

West's combat instincts flared a few days ago when his campaign office got a call from a young woman who identified herself as a booker for the Al Jazeera network's English-language channel.

"She told my staff that she wanted to talk about the perceived uptick in violence in Afghanistan," West tells us. "I found that strange, since I haven't been in Afghanistan in eight months. There are a lot of other people better qualified to speak to that subject.

"But my b.s. flag really went up when they said they wanted my address, to pick me up at night. They said they would send a car but wouldn't tell me where it was going.

"I don't know if it was a kidnapping attempt," says West, who is challenging first-term Democratic Rep. Ron Klein in the Sunshine State. "But I am not going to entrust Al Jazeera with my life. I said, ‘Cancel the interview!'"

West believes he has every reason to be wary. In 2003, while he was serving in the Sunni Triangle, his unit was targeted for an ambush. West's controversial questioning of a suspect (he fired his pistol next to the suspect's head) helped foil the assassination plot. After facing a possible court-martial for the mock execution, West was allowed to retire with a full pension.

"We were concerned about a link to the Iraq incident," says West's press secretary, Donna Brosemer. "I spoke with the FBI, and they said we were right to have alerted them."

Molly Conroy, a spokeswoman for Al Jazeera English, called the kidnapping scenario "outlandish" and said the call was legit, though she says the network never ordered a car.

West is happy he bailed. "I was not about to be a puppet for Al Jazeera," says the candidate, whose district includes fellow conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter. "You know they are going to pull some tricks. I will not validate their network, which has helped torment our men and women in uniform."

"AJE makes every effort to report all sides of the story," contends Conroy, noting that past guests have included Republicans John McCain, Karen Hughes and Michael Chertoff. "It is unfortunate that the individuals making allegations against the channel have clearly never taken the opportunity to watch it."

Mayor Langford refuses to do interview with Al-Jazeera reporters

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

News staff writer

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford Tuesday refused to be interviewed by reporters from Middle Eastern news network Al-Jazeera English because he opposes the group's coverage of terrorist activities and its graphic display of hostages.

Reporters were in town to do a story about Langford's plan for a four-day work week for city employees. The new schedule, set to begin next week, involves most of the city's 4,000 employees. That plan already received national and international attention soon after it was announced last month.

Al-Jazeera English is the 24-hour English-language news channel, headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Al-Jazeera has been criticized for its news programming including coverage of American military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan and its broadcasting of taped messages from terrorist leaders including Osama bin Laden.

"I refuse to give an interview because I don't know how that interview will be interpreted 10,000 miles away," Langford said. "This country comes before personal ego. This is bigger than all that. We have enough people damaging America without me joining them."

Langford, who served five years in the Air Force, said he could not participate in an organization that showed little regard for American lives in its coverage.

Langford's staff said the network contacted City Hall Monday telling them of plans to attend today's council meeting.

"They were told in advance that the mayor would not do an interview, and they came anyway, which they have the right to do," said Deborah Vance, Langford's chief of staff. "The Council Chamber is a public chamber."

The mayor today did interviews with reporters from CNN and ABC News for stories on how the nation is handling $4-a-gallon gas prices. Langford had already been featured on the Fox News cable channel and "ABC World News Tonight" after announcing the new work schedule.

While Langford did not talk to Al-Jazeera, Councilman William Bell did. Bell said he was asked by Council President Carole Smitherman to talk to the crew. The interview lasted a few minutes and included basic questions about energy conservation and what people are doing to save on rising fuel costs.

"I didn't detect any hidden political agenda," Bell said. "I just answered the questions that were given. It is what it is. We are going to a four-day work week, and the reason we did that was the cost of transportation."

While the mayor disagrees with the organization's ethics, he has a responsibility to represent the city and his policy by talking to them, said George Daniels, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Alabama.

In addition, Daniels said, if the mayor is serious about landing the Olympics for 2020, then he must be open to the international press.

"If you're talking about making the city an international city, a city that's going to attract the attention of the world, it would seem to me that you would be willing to talk to the media from around the world," he said.




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