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Burlington Coat Factory imam to tell Middle Easterners how great it is to be an American Muslim

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Kuwait-born imam at the center of the Burlington Coat Factory Community Center controversy, landed in Bahrain Thursday to begin a short tour of Persian Gulf countries.

He's on a trip funded by the State Department,  whose ostensible purpose is to educate Muslims abroad about how great it is to be a Muslim in the United States of America. He's even written a book about the subject, titled What's Right With Islam, which the State Department has distributed in the past (one edition is called What's Right With Islam Is What's Right With America).

In other words ... the cleric's mission is to tell Middle Easterners how the United States is a bastion of tolerance, even as he's subject to an increasingly vicious campaign back home -- when he's not being compared to Nazis, he's being called a terrorist sympathizer, or worse. This is a guy who stood before a synagogue audience in 2003 and declared, "I am a Jew." Gotta love the irony.

UPDATE: I got a call earlier this afternoon from a representative of the Burlington Coat Factory, who politely asked me to change the title of this post and the reference to the company, since it no longer owned the site where the Cordoba Initiative is planning to build its community center. I declined, explaining that I was making a joke (one that has been widely shared on the Internets). She then told me that the Associated Press had issued guidelines to its reporters telling them to refer to it as an "NYC mosque." I told her I don't work for the AP.

Anyway, Jon Stewart, as usual, says it best:

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

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Sex and taxes in Chongqing

For a glimpse into China's future, one could do worse than follow news from the booming western megacity of Chongqing. Since the 1980s, the city has been a laboratory for economic and cultural experimentation, as leaders test out policies to see what works -- and what's worth copying elsewhere. Along those lines, this just in: 

Like most big cities in China, Chongqing's property market has been red hot. One reason is that China's wealthy are buying up apartments as investments, like gold, and leaving them empty. The drives up prices, but also, many critics fear, is creating a dangerous bubble. One reason this happens is that there is no property tax in China, so there's no financial penalty for buying apartments and leaving them vacant. But now Chongqing has just gotten the greenlight to become the first city in China to implement, on a trial basis, property taxes. It's hard to make taxes sound sexy, but this is something to watch.

Meanwhile, this news is all sex -- too much, according to Chongqing officals. Two local universities, Chongqing Normal University and Southwest Normal University, are now at the cutting edge of combatting another source of mounting anxiety in China: hot college girls working as escorts and becoming mistresses for China's newly minted tycoons. The two univerisities are pioneering a policy of expelling students for alleged one-night stands, homewrecking, and damaging the schools' reputation. ChinaHush translates local coverage of the new rules: 

The phenomena of university students being mistresses of wealth men has become a growing social issue in China. Chongqing Normal University and Southwest Normal University are the first two Universities which started to include “being an escort, a mistress, and having one-night stands” into the school rules. Student with such bad behaviors are subject to expulsion. And South China Normal University also listed “messing around with opposite sex and having special relations with a married person (homewrecking)” into the new school rules as punishable behaviors.

Recently the “Chongqing Normal University Student Disciplinary Process Management Regulations” is to be implemented in the school. One of the rules was “student who is found to be working as an escort; or is a mistress, male mistress, or having ‘one-night stands’ will to be expelled” which caused uproar among the students.

Teacher Zhang of the Chongqing Normal University Students Affairs said that the “Regulations” was revised strictly based on the spirit of the City Board of Education’s “Developing and Modifying Colleges and Universities student Management System” article number forty second: “Damaging the image of the university students, undermining social morality.”

Let's see if other Chinese cities follow suit.

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