NEWS STAND: Debating America's Safety, The Newest Indian Tribe, China Executes Briton for Drug Smuggling
Our take on today's headlines
The Underwear Bomber sparks a new security debate, The Shinnecocks win tribal recognition, China executes Briton
THE NEW SECURITY DEBATE
Can America ever be safe? The Underwear Bomber has set off a new round of recrimination about the state of security in the U.S. The fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmullatab’s own father went to the U.S. Embassy to express concern about his son’s militant leanings suggest another missed opportunity to stop a potential terrorist.
The country is "clearly ... safer, but it's equally clear, given the several incidents that have occurred in the last couple of months in this country, that we still have very serious gaps in information-sharing," Tom Ridge, who was Secretary of Homeland Security in the Bush Administration , told CNN’s Larry King. “The need to know has been receding in some of these organizations.”
Also returned to the spotlight is the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Reports have emerged in recent days that two former Guantanamo detainees have become leaders of al-Quaeda in Yemen, where Abdulmullatab claims to have acquired the explosives he attempted to use on the plane to Detroit. Some Republican members of Congress are suggesting this is proof that Guantanamo detainees should not be freed as the Obama administration has decided. The snag in the criticism: the two were freed under President George W. Bush. The tendency to alarmist conclusions only helps the enemy, argues contributor Adam Serwer in his essay here. And The Root’s Dayo Olopade points out that the U.S. is ill-prepared for a new threat from Africa.
THE NEWEST INDIANS
The Shinnecocks of Long Island are the latest Native American tribe to win official recognition from the federal government. The tribe, whose surviving members are often married to or descendents of African-Americans, is hoping that the Obama administration’s official stamp of approval will bring them new prosperity, according to the New York Times. Located near Southampton, one of the wealthiest resort communities in the U.S, the Shinnecocks are hoping that the stamp of federal recognition will enable them to build a casino and lay claim to the land under some of the most expensive properties in the U.S. Median income on the Shinnecock reservation at the eastern end of Long Island is $14,055.
The tribe has filed a lawsuit to recover several thousand acres of land it says were seized illegally at the end of the 19th century when the size of the reservation was shrunk by the New York State legislature. The land is currently occupied by the Shinnecock Hills Country Club, Stony Brook Southampton College and scores of expensive homes. Some 600 tribal members live on the reservation and their children attend local public schools.
DEATH IN CHINA
Relations between China and the U.K. could take a turn for the worse after China, the world’s No.1 executioner, defied international appeals and carried out a death sentence against a British citizen caught smuggling heroin. Akmal Shaikh was put to death despite appeals by his family and the British government that the 53-year-oldsuffered from bipolar disorder or manic depression. China rejected all criticism as interference in its internal affairs, according to the Washington Post.
The Chinese Supreme Court had turned down an appeal on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence of mental illness. Shaikh’s defenders say he was tricked into carrying the heroin by a drug gang that promised to make him a pop star. Prime Minister Gordon Brown strongly condemned the execution, saying in a statement that he was “appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted.” Chinese officials have taken a hard line, saying no one had the right to “speak ill of China’s judicial sovereignty.” Shaikh was the first citizen of a European country executed in China since 1951.
Human rights groups say China’s 1,718 executions in 2008 make it the world leader, well ahead of Iran, with 346 and the U.S. with 111. The U.S. has been remarkably reticent in all this, but then, it was only recently that the U.S Supreme Court ruled that executing the mentally retarded and children might be cruel and unusual punishment.