(to appear in the weekly Blitz)
US Congress on Tuesday (early hours of Wednesday in Bangladesh) has passed a resolution demanding immediate dropping of the false sedition case, which was brought against BNP-Jamaat Coalitions government. The resolution was introduced by Republican Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and Democrat Nita Lowey.
The resolution states, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Bangladesh should immediately drop all pending charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.
Whereas Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a Bangladeshi journalist who, because of his beliefs in an interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims and criticism of Islamic extremism, is on trial for sedition, an offense punishable by death;
Whereas on November 29, 2003, Mr. Choudhury was arrested at Zia International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on his way to board a flight bound for Tel Aviv;
Mr. Choudhury's passport was seized, along with considerable sums of money and several personal items; on that same day police raided Mr. Choudhury's home and newspaper offices, seizing files, computers, and other valuables;
Whereas Mr. Choudhury was detained in Dhaka Central Jail for a passport violation, then subsequently charged with sedition; Mr. Choudhury suffered harsh interrogation techniques and received no treatment for a debilitating case of glaucoma; Mr. Choudhury's incarceration lasted 17 months without legal recourse;
Whereas on April 30, 2005, after intervention by the United States Department of State and congressional offices, Mr. Choudhury was released on bail;
Whereas in the subsequent months, senior members of the Bangladeshi Government made continuous public promises that there was no substance to Mr. Choudhury's pending charges and that all charges would be dropped;
Whereas on September 29, 2005, Mr. Choudhury was awarded the ''Freedom to Write Award'' by PEN USA;
Whereas on May 5, 2006, Mr. Choudhury was awarded the American Jewish Committee's Moral Courage Award in absentia in Washington, D.C.; two days prior to Mr. Choudhury receiving the award, after returning Mr. Choudhury's passport and appearing to allow him to attend, senior Bangladeshi Government officials issued threats to prevent him from leaving the country;
Whereas on July 6, 2006, Mr. Choudhury's newspaper offices were bombed by an Islamic extremist organization after Mr. Choudhury and his staff published articles in support of the Ahmadiyya Muslim minority; Mr. Choudhury received a tip about the bombing days before and reported it to police, who refused to take action;
Whereas on September 18, 2006, a judge with alleged ties to an Islamic extremist party ruled that Mr. Choudhury will stand trial for sedition; the judge made this ruling despite the Public Prosecutor's testimony in court days before that the government did not have evidence and
would not object to the charges being dropped;
Whereas on October 5, 2006, Mr. Choudhury was attacked at his newspaper offices by a large group of individuals, including prominent members of the ruling Bangladesh National Party; police protection for Mr. Choudhury was withdrawn just days before the attack; Mr. Choudhury
was called an ''agent of the Jews'' and beaten badly;
when Mr. Choudhury reported the attack to the police, no action was taken;
Whereas members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom visited with Mr. Choudhury on their trip to Bangladesh in February and March 2006;
Whereas on October 6, 2006, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote a letter to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard A. Boucher calling on the United States Government to strengthen the ''voices of moderation'' in countries like Bangladesh where the rule of law, democratic institutions, and respect for human rights are under assault by violent extremists; the Commission identified Mr. Choudhury as one of those voices that should not be silenced;
Whereas, according to the Department of State's 2005 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Bangladesh, ''Attacks on journalists and newspapers, and government efforts to intimidate them, political party activists, and others, occurred frequently.''; and
Whereas moderate voices in the Muslim world must be supported and protected to advance the security of the United States and its allies: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that,
(1) the Government of Bangladesh should immediately drop all pending charges against
Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury;
(2) the Government of Bangladesh should immediately return all of Mr. Choudhury's confiscated possessions; and
(3) the Government of Bangladesh should cease harassment and intimidation of Mr. Choudhury, take steps to protect Mr. Choudhury, and hold accountable those responsible for attacks against Mr. Choudhury.
In Tuesday's session, 409 members of the US Congress voted in favor of the resolution, while only one Congressman voted against. Now, with this historic number of votes in favor (the US Congress has total 330 members), the resolution turns into an approved bill not only in defense of Weekly Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, but in favor of freedom of press and expression in the world. The bill also courageously stands against religious extremism and supports those who confront religious hatred and confrontation.
Republican Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and Democrat Nita Lowey introduced the resolution several weeks back.
Mark Kirk represents the 10th Congressional District of Illinois located in the suburbs north of Chicago.
Now in his fourth term, Congressman Kirk is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and serves on two of its subcommittees: State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, and Financial Services.
Congressman Kirk is co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, the caucus of mainstream Republican Members of Congress. In that capacity, Mr. Kirk works to advance a suburban agenda that is pro-defense, pro-personal responsibility, pro-environment, and pro-science.
Congressman Kirk wrote a number of provisions which became law, including funding for commuter rail, improving veteran's health care, ensuring military voting, and boosting aviation security. Congressional Quarterly named Congressman Kirk as one of the "28 Emerging Leaders in Congress."
Kirk began his career on the staff of his predecessor, Congressman John Porter. He later served in the World Bank, the State Department, the law firm of Baker & McKenzie, and the U.S. House International Relations Committee.
Congressman Kirk is a Naval Reserve intelligence officer who served during conflicts with Iraq, Haiti, and Bosnia. He served four tours at sea and three in Panama. The U.S. Navy named Kirk 'Intelligence Officer of the Year' in 1999 for his combat service in Kosovo. Kirk flew on missions over Iraq and continues to serve one weekend a month in the Pentagon. Kirk is the only member of Congress to serve stateside during Operation Iraqi Freedom and was an air crewman over Iraq during Operation Northern Watch.
Representative Kirk graduated from New Trier High School and attended the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico before earning a B.A. from Cornell. He holds a Masters Degree from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Georgetown.
Congressman Kirk and his wife, Kimberly, live in Highland Park, Illinois.
Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey is currently serving her ninth term in Congress, representing parts of Westchester and Rockland counties. She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988 and has served in the Democratic Leadership in 2001 and 2002 as the first woman and the first New Yorker to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Lowey has been described as "courageous" by The New York Times, "terrific" by Newsday, and one of "New York's key Members of Congress" by the New York Daily News. The Journal News called Lowey "one of the most influential Members of Congress."
A member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Subcommittee, Lowey is as an extremely effective, committed legislator with a substantial record. Congressional Quarterly called her one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress, saying she "maneuvers skillfully through the appropriations process," and Newsday said she "delivers for New York."
Few members of Congress have taken key leadership roles on so many vital public policy issues. Lowey is a leading Congressional proponent of educational opportunity, health care quality and biomedical research, improved homeland security preparedness, stricter gun control and public safety laws, environmental protection, women's issues, a leading international role for the United States, and national security.
In 2003, she was chosen by her colleagues to serve on the Committee on Homeland Security. An outspoken supporter of federalizing air and nuclear security and increasing port and rail security, Lowey was recognized by the New York Post as "a key general in the battle to rebuild New York" for her leadership in securing over $20 billion for recovery efforts after September 11, 2001. Her efforts to distribute homeland security grants based on risk have been endorsed by The New York Times. Lowey has also helped obtained over $30 million in federal funds to develop local bioterrorism response plans and to provide local first responders with interoperable communication devices, rescue equipment, and personal protective gear.
On the Appropriations Committee, Lowey has also worked to ensure that national security and the war on terrorism are priorities in our foreign aid policy. She has championed efforts to identify and shut down terrorists' financial networks and is a co-chair of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Financing Task Force.
Lowey is a strong advocate for women, children, and families. She has been a champion of education since her election to the House, fighting for
school modernization, teacher development, and literacy programs. Under Lowey's leadership, federal funding for after-school programs has increased from $1 million in 1996 to $1 billion today.
When GOP leaders threatened to eliminate the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the mid 1990s, Lowey "invited" puppets Bert and Ernie to a Congressional hearing. The resulting worldwide publicity is largely credited with saving the agency. In 2005, Republican leaders again targeted PBS for severe budget cuts. Bert and Ernie joined Lowey in the House of Representatives once more as she successfully restored funding to the program. Lowey has been equally stalwart in her defense of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and has served on the prestigious National Council for the Arts in recognition of her leadership.
Lowey is one of the Appropriations Committee's leading advocates of increased federal investments in biomedical research on diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's at the National Institutes of Health. Called a "champion of increased funding for breast cancer research" by the Washington Post, Lowey has helped increase NIH's budget for cancer research by more than ten times and received multiple honors from the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
After hearing from constituents about the difficulty food-allergic consumers have reading product labels, Lowey authored the first-ever bill mandating clear, concise food allergen labeling. Her legislation was passed in 2004, and food manufacturers must now list in plain language on food labels the eight most common food allergens. The New York Times called this bill "an all too rare example of bipartisan cooperation to serve the public good."
As public health experts warn that our nation is woefully unprepared for a possible avian flu pandemic, Congresswoman Lowey is pressing for action. Recognized as "an early advocate for pandemic preparedness" by the New York Daily News, she is the author of numerous bills to create a comprehensive pandemic plan.
Lowey has also fought to improve health care by authoring a bill to ensure that women in managed care plans have direct access to their ob-gyns and is a strong supporter of legislation to guarantee that doctors and patients -- not insurance companies -- make decisions about appropriate care.
A strong public safety advocate, Lowey supported the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban, and is now working to ban the sale of handguns like the "Saturday Night Special." Lowey was named Mothers Against Drunk Driving's (MADD) "Legislator of the Year" for her leadership in authoring the nation's "Zero Tolerance" law, which made it illegal for minors to drive after consuming any alcohol, and the national DWI standard of .08 BAC. She is the author of legislation to prevent repeat drunk driving offenses.
As a candidate for Congress in 1988, Lowey pledged to clean up the Long Island Sound. In 1990 she passed legislation establishing a special Environmental Protection Agency office for Long Island Sound. She has obtained millions of dollars in federal funding for local clean-up efforts and has written legislation to improve the area's wastewater treatment infrastructure. A co-founder of the Hudson River Caucus, Lowey has taken a key role in protecting the Hudson River, Long Island Sound and New York City watershed and in preserving strong environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
Lowey, former Chair of the Congressional Women's Caucus and the House Pro-Choice Caucus, has been called "the most prominent abortion rights advocate in Congress" by The Washington Post. She won widespread praise for passage of her legislation to ensure that insurance companies cover prescription contraceptives for federal employees. Lowey established the Congressional Advisory Panel to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy to encourage abstinence and responsibility among teens. She has also been a leader in the fight against domestic violence, securing record increases in federal funding for battered women's shelters.
Called "one of the engines of pro-Israel activity on Capitol Hill" by the Forward, Lowey has been a leading Congressional proponent of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and the Appropriations Committee's chief advocate of the annual U.S. aid package to Israel.
A longtime champion of human rights and enhancing the role of women in development, Lowey has taken a key role in fighting for democracy and justice in Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Indonesia, and around the world. She has been praised by the Boston Globe as someone who, "speaks of the world's victimized women and children as if they were voters in her district."
Lowey was born in the Bronx; graduated from the Bronx High School of Science; and received a Bachelor's Degree from Mount Holyoke College. She served as Assistant Secretary of State for the State of New York before being elected to Congress. Nita and Stephen Lowey have been married for over 45 years and have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
About 'Mr. No':
Our Contributor Rabbi Sue Levy informs that the esteemed Congressman Ron Paul, who represents the 14th District of Texas, voted 'no' to the Resolution. In his website, the slogan is: 'Project Freedom'.
In the website, it is written: "Congressman Ron Paul of Texas enjoys a national reputation as the premier advocate for liberty in politics today. Dr. Paul is the leading spokesman in Washington for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies based on commodity-backed currency. He is known among both his colleagues in Congress and his constituents for his consistent voting record in the House of Representatives: Dr. Paul never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution. In the words of former Treasury Secretary William Simon, Dr. Paul is the "one exception to the Gang of 535" on Capitol Hill
Ron Paul was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Gettysburg College and the Duke University School of Medicine, before proudly serving as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force during the 1960s. He and his wife Carol moved to Texas in 1968, where he began his medical practice in Brazoria County. As a specialist in obstetrics/gynecology, Dr. Paul has delivered more than 4,000 babies! He and Carol, who reside in Lake Jackson, Texas, are the proud parents of five children and have seventeen grandchildren.
While serving in Congress during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Paul's limited-government ideals were not popular in Washington. He served on the House Banking committee, where he was a strong advocate for sound monetary policy and an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve's inflationary measures. He also was a key member of the Gold Commission, advocating a return to a gold standard for our currency. He was an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values. Dr. Paul consistently voted to lower or abolish federal taxes, spending, and regulation, and used his House seat to actively promote the return of government to its proper constitutional levels. In 1984, he voluntarily relinquished his House seat and returned to his medical practice.
Dr. Paul returned to Congress in 1997 to represent the 14th Congressional district of Texas. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, the International Relations committee, and the Joint Economic Committee. On the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Paul serves as the vice-chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. He continues to advocate a dramatic reduction in the size of the federal government and a return to constitutional principles.
Dr. Paul is the author of several books, including Challenge to Liberty; The Case for Gold; and A Republic, If You Can Keep It. He has been a distinguished counselor to the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and is widely quoted by scholars and writers in the fields of monetary policy, banking, and political economy. He has received many awards and honors during his career in Congress, from organizations such as the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Council for a Competitive Economy, Young Americans for Freedom, and countless others.
Dr. Paul's consistent voting record prompted one Congressman to comment that "Ron Paul personifies the Founding Fathers' ideal of the citizen-statesman. He makes it clear that his principles will never be compromised, and they never are." Another Congresswoman added that "There are few people in public life who, through thick and thin, rain or shine, stick to their principles. Ron Paul is one of those few.""
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