The spark of freedom, once struck, is not easily extinguished.

Isn't that the lesson of the American Revolution, the French Revolution and about a hundred other revolutions since?

Well, that spark has clearly been struck in Tahrir Square as Facebook social networkers and English-speaking college students quickly toppled Egypt's autocratic Mubarak regime.

So Bahrain is next? Then Iran? Then a whole wave of freedom and openness and democracy and tweeting all across the Middle East? Not so fast. The sad lesson of history, especially outside the West, is that repression and dictatorship and large tanks in the streets still often carry the day. Students in Tehran keep learning that lesson the hard way. Tiananmen Square in Beijing is a monument to that.

As the week came to a close, the democratic stirrings felt strongest and most urgent in Manama, the Bahraini capital - and so did the counteroffensive. Government forces opened fire on hundreds of mourners walking toward Pearl Square, scattering the crowd in panic to the soundtrack of concussion grenades. At least one helicopter sprayed fire into the crowd.

If the quest for freedom is the irresistible force in today's Middle East, it may just have met the immovable object.


1 The Palins are blooming.

2. Lindsay Lohan defense team is dusting off "Five-Finger Discount" brief.

3. Long Island Bus is test-driving new tough-times slogan: "Yes, we used to have that route."

4. Charlie Sheen is feeling much better again.

5. Snooki and JWoww are stocking up on SPF 0 for their long-rumored "Jersey Shore" LI spin-off.

ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Who was that woman at the LIA? Is she really running for president? . . . When P.A. Parenteau, the one-more-year Islanders winger, declared "I'm really excited to stay on Long Island" and "I look forward to being a part of the success that is building in our dressing room," did he really mean it? Did his $1.25-million contract extension tip the balance in one or both cases? . . . Too hard? Too soft? When Long Island Association president Kevin Law agreed to quiz Sarah Palin on Thursday night, didn't he realize: No matter what tone he took, he'd be second-guessed by her fans - or her detractors! . . . When the bankrupt Borders chain pulls out of Commack and Westbury, which independent bookseller will rush into the LI literary void? Will any? . . . Is Peter King having second thoughts about his "Muslim radicalization" hearings now that "please cancel" pleas are pouring in from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim groups? Not so you'd notice.


Having been a foster child himself, Joe Toles knows the special challenges faced by kids without their own families. He knows how many children on Long Island- far more than you'd think - are bounced from home to home to home. Toles, who grew up mostly in Uniondale, is a glowing foster success story now. He lives in Huntington and works with young people as head guidance counselor at Candlewood Middle School in Half Hollow Hills. Five years ago he vowed to turn his personal experience into action, setting up the Joseph Toles Foundation and sending 600 foster kids each summer to Camp Resilience. To help pay for that and other programs, he is planning a Fostering Youth Towards Their Future Golf Classic for May at the Stonebridge Golf Links and Country Club in Smithtown. Said Toles, who's now adopted two teenagers of his own: "At some point, some time, in some place, someone did something to help me. If they hadn't, statistics show I could be in jail or dead." Instead, he's fostering the future.

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Selden teen gets kidney from father, story to be told on Netflix ... School bus converted into taco hot spot Credit: Newsday

Trump to be arraigned Tuesday ... Selden teen gets kidney from father ... School bus converted into taco hot spot

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