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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VP Cheney's son discharged from military for cocaine! Media in frenzy! on: October 17, 2014, 12:55:30 PM
Navy Discharges Biden's Son for Drug Use
This has got to be awkward for Joe Biden. For years, he has championed a tough "inherent resolve" in the war on drugs. When he was a young whippersnapper senator during the Reagan years, Biden advocated for a "drug czar" to lead the charge against Colombian snow, Mexican brown and Mary Jane. And when Biden made it to the White House, even when other Democrats fell away and admitted the war on drugs was too draconian, the number two Democrat still pushed the Obama administration towards tougher drug policy. But now, the U.S. Navy has discharged Joe Biden's son, Hunter, because he tested positive for cocaine use. Biden's office is refusing to comment, saying Hunter is a private citizen. We wonder what Joe thinks of his policies now -- of the tough incarceration rates, of the SWAT teams -- since his own son has fallen into the net Biden helped weave. And then imagine for a moment Biden was a Republican.
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism: on: October 17, 2014, 12:52:14 PM
And here is a follow up to the preceding:

Texas AG to Houston: Stop Assaulting Religious Liberty
The city of Houston recently subpoenaed five pastors for all sermons and correspondence dealing with gender disorientation pathology, or mentioning Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian. The city was effectively targeting any religious objection to its recent Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The city poked the bear, however, provoking a groundswell of opposition to this constitutional abuse. That now includes a harshly worded letter from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor. “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Abbott wrote to Houston City Attorney David Feldman. “You should immediately instruct your lawyers to withdraw the city’s subpoenas." Mayor Parker implied the city would back off, but it has yet to do so
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 17, 2014, 12:43:03 PM
Off to Mex City in 90 minutes.  Back Monday night.  Don't know how much internet I will have while there.
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 17, 2014, 12:42:08 PM
URL for the Wiki entry please?
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ayatollah said "No Nukes!" on: October 17, 2014, 12:03:38 PM
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FSA? Who? Never heard of them , , , on: October 17, 2014, 11:36:10 AM

Arm the moderate Syrian rebels, they said. Then we'll be able to counter ISIL effectively, they said. Well, say goodbye to the Free Syrian Army as an American ally. "John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition's response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months: that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists," reports Stars and Stripes. The reasons are simple and entirely predictable. The FSA suffered from "a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al-Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front." The Obama administration is going to have a tough time explaining how, without American boots on the ground, we're going to select, form and train an army to oppose ISIL in Syria
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Six Reasons to Panic on: October 17, 2014, 10:01:59 AM
Third post

Six Reasons to Panic
Jonathan V. Last - The Weekly Standard
October 27, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 07

As a rule, one should not panic at whatever crisis has momentarily fixed the attention of cable news producers. But the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has migrated to both Europe and America, may be the exception that proves the rule. There are at least six reasons that a controlled, informed panic might be in order.

(1) Start with what we know, and don’t know, about the virus. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other government agencies claim that contracting Ebola is relatively difficult because the virus is only transmittable by direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person who has become symptomatic. Which means that, in theory, you can’t get Ebola by riding in the elevator with someone who is carrying the virus, because Ebola is not airborne.

This sounds reassuring. Except that it might not be true. There are four strains of the Ebola virus that have caused outbreaks in human populations. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the current outbreak (known as Guinean EBOV, because it originated in Meliandou, Guinea, in late November 2013) is a separate clade “in a sister relationship with other known EBOV strains.” Meaning that this Ebola is related to, but genetically distinct from, previous known strains, and thus may have distinct mechanisms of transmission.

Not everyone is convinced that this Ebola isn’t airborne. Last month, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy published an article arguing that the current Ebola has “unclear modes of transmission” and that “there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks.”

And even if this Ebola isn’t airborne right now, it might become so in the future. Viruses mutate and evolve in the wild, and the population of infected Ebola carriers is now bigger than it has been at any point in history—meaning that the pool for potential mutations is larger than it has ever been. As Dr. Philip K. Russell, a virologist who oversaw Ebola research while heading the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Development Command, explained to the Los Angeles Times last week,

I see the reasons to dampen down public fears. But scientifically, we’re in the middle of the first experiment of multiple, serial passages of Ebola virus in man. .  .  . God knows what this virus is going to look like. I don’t.

In August, Science magazine published a survey conducted by 58 medical professionals working in African epidemiology. They traced the origin and spread of the virus with remarkable precision—for instance, they discovered that it crossed the border from Guinea into Sierra Leone at the funeral of a “traditional healer” who had treated Ebola victims. In just the first six months of tracking the virus, the team identified more than 100 mutated forms of it.

Yet what’s really scary is how robust the already-established transmission mechanisms are. Have you ever wondered why Ebola protocols call for washing down infected surfaces with chlorine? Because the virus can survive for up to three weeks on a dry surface.

How robust is transmission? Look at the health care workers who have contracted it. When Nina Pham, the Dallas nurse who was part of the team caring for Liberian national Thomas Duncan, contracted Ebola, the CDC quickly blamed her for “breaching protocol.” But to the extent that we have effective protocols for shielding people from Ebola, they’re so complex that even trained professionals, who are keenly aware that their lives are on the line, can make mistakes.

By the by, that Science article written by 58 medical professionals tracing the emergence of Ebola—5 of them died from Ebola before it was published.

(2) General infection rates are terrifying, too. In epidemiology, you measure the “R0,” or “reproduction number” of a virus; that is, how many new infections each infected person causes. When R0 is greater than 1, the virus is spreading through a population. When it’s below 1, the contamination is receding. In September the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team estimated the R0 to be at 1.71 in Guinea and 2.02 in Sierra Leone. Since then, it seems to have risen so that the average in West Africa is about 2.0. In September the WHO estimated that by October 20, there would be 3,000 total cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of October 7, the count was 8,376.

In other words, rather than catching up with Ebola, we’re falling further behind. And we’re likely to continue falling behind, because physical and human resources do not scale virally. In order to stop the spread of Ebola, the reproduction number needs to be more than halved from its current rate. Yet reducing the reproduction number only gets harder as the total number of cases increases, because each case requires resources—facilities, beds, doctors, nurses, decontamination, and secure burials—which are already lagging well behind need. The latest WHO projections suggest that by December 1 we are likely to see 10,000 new cases in West Africa per week, at which point the virus could begin spreading geographically within the continent as it nears the border with Ivory Coast.

Thus far, officials have insisted that it will be different in America. On September 30, CDC director Thomas Frieden confirmed the first case of Ebola in the United States, the aforementioned Thomas Duncan. Frieden then declared, “We will stop Ebola in its tracks in the U.S. .  .  . The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this importation, or this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country.”

The word “widely” is key. Because despite the fact that Duncan was a lone man under scrupulous, first-world care, with the eyes of the entire nation on him, his R0 was 2, just like that of your average Liberian Ebola victim. One carrier; two infections. He passed the virus to nurse Pham and to another hospital worker, Amber Joy Vinson, who flew from Cleveland to Dallas with a low-grade fever before being diagnosed.

(3) Do you really want to be scared? What’s to stop a jihadist from going to Liberia, getting himself infected, and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over? This is just the biological warfare version of a suicide bomb. Can you imagine the consequences if someone with Ebola vomited in a New York City subway car? A flight from Roberts International in Monrovia to JFK in New York is less than $2,000, meaning that the planning and infrastructure needed for such an attack is relatively trivial. This scenario may be highly unlikely. But so were the September 11 attacks and the Richard Reid attempted shoe bombing, both of which resulted in the creation of a permanent security apparatus around airports. We take drastic precautions all the time, if the potential losses are serious enough, so long as officials are paying attention to the threat.

(4) Let’s put aside the Ebola-as-weapon scenario—some things are too depressing to contemplate at length—and look at the range of scenarios for what we have in front of us, from best-case to worst-case. The epidemiological protocols for containing Ebola rest on four pillars: contact tracing, case isolation, safe burial, and effective public information. On October 14, the New York Times reported that in Liberia, with “only” 4,000 cases, “Schools have shut down, elections have been postponed, mining and logging companies have withdrawn, farmers have abandoned their fields.” Which means that the baseline for “best-case” is already awful.

In September, the CDC ran a series of models on the spread of the virus and came up with a best-case scenario in which, by January 2015, Liberia alone would have a cumulative 11,000 to 27,000 cases. That’s in a world where all of the aid and personnel gets where it needs to be, the resident population behaves rationally, and everything breaks their way. The worst-case scenario envisioned by the model is anywhere from 537,000 to 1,367,000 cases by January. Just in Liberia. With the fever still raging out of control.

By which point, all might well be lost. Anthony Banbury is coordinating the response from the United Nations, which, whatever its many shortcomings, is probably the ideal organization to take the lead on Ebola. Banbury’s view is chilling: “The WHO advises within 60 days we must ensure 70 percent of infected people are in a care facility and 70 percent of burials are done without causing further infection. .  .  . We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan [emphasis added]”.

What’s terrifying about the worst-case scenario isn’t just the scale of human devastation and misery. It’s that the various state actors and the official health establishment have already been overwhelmed with infections in only the four-digit range. And if the four pillars—contact tracing, case isolation, safe burial, and effective public information—fail, no one seems to have even a theoretical plan for what to do.
(5) And by the way, things could get worse. All of those worst-case projections assume that the virus stays contained in a relatively small area of West Africa, which, with a million people infected, would be highly unlikely. What happens if and when the virus starts leaking out to other parts of the world?

Marine Corps General John F. Kelly talked about Ebola at the National Defense University two weeks ago and mused about what would happen if Ebola reached Haiti or Central America, which have relatively easy access to America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”

It isn’t crazy to see how a health crisis could beget all sorts of other crises, from humanitarian, to economic, to political, to existential. If you think about Ebola and mutation and aerosolization and R0 for too long, you start to get visions of Mad Max cruising the postapocalyptic landscape with Katniss Everdeen at his side.

(6) While we’re on the subject of political crisis, it’s worth noting that the politics of Ebola are uncertain and dangerous to everyone involved. Thus far, there’s been only one serious political clash over Ebola, and that’s concerning the banning of flights to and from the infected countries in West Africa. The Obama administration refuses to countenance such a move, with the CDC’s Frieden flatly calling it “wrong”:

A travel ban is not the right answer. It’s simply not feasible to build a wall—virtual or real—around a community, city, or country. A travel ban would essentially quarantine the more than 22 million people that make up the combined populations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

When a wildfire breaks out we don’t fence it off. We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else.

We don’t want to isolate parts of the world, or people who aren’t sick, because that’s going to drive patients with Ebola underground, making it infinitely more difficult to address the outbreak. .  .  .

Importantly, isolating countries won’t keep Ebola contained and away from American shores. Paradoxically, it will increase the risk that Ebola will spread in those countries and to other countries, and that we will have more patients who develop Ebola in the U.S.

Not terribly convincing, is it? Wildfires, in fact, are often fought by using controlled burns and trench digging to establish perimeters. And it’s a straw-man argument to say that a flight ban wouldn’t keep Ebola fully contained. No one says it would. But by definition, it would help slow the spread of the virus. If there had been a travel ban in place, Thomas Duncan would have likely reached the same sad fate—but without infecting two Americans and setting the virus loose in North America. And it’s difficult to follow the logic by which banning travel from infected countries would create more infections in the United States, as Frieden insists. This is not a paradox; it’s magical thinking.
Frieden’s entire argument is so strange—and so at odds with what other epidemiologists prescribe—that it can only be explained by one of two causes: catastrophic incompetence or a prior ideological commitment. The latter, in this case, might well be the larger issue of immigration.

Ebola has the potential to reshuffle American attitudes to immigration. If you agree to seal the borders to mitigate the risks from Ebola, you’re implicitly rejecting the “open borders” mindset and admitting that there are cases in which government has a duty to protect citizens from outsiders. Some people on the left admit to seeing this as the thin end of the wedge. Writing in the New Yorker, Michael Specter lamented, “Several politicians, like Governor Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, have turned the epidemic into fodder for their campaign to halt immigration.” And that sort of thing just can’t be allowed.

What would happen in the event of an Ebola outbreak in Latin America? Then America would have to worry about masses of uninfected immigrants surging across the border—not to mention carriers of the virus. And if we had decided it was okay to cut off flights from West Africa, would we decide it was okay to try to seal the Southern border too? You can see how the entire immigration project might start to come apart.

So for now, the Obama administration will insist on keeping travel open between infected countries and the West and hope that they, and we, get lucky.

At a deeper level, the Ebola outbreak is a crisis not for Obama and his administration, but for elite institutions. Because once more they have been exposed as either corrupt, incompetent, or both. On September 16, as he was trying to downplay the threat posed by Ebola, President Obama insisted that “the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.” Less then two weeks later, there was an Ebola outbreak in the United States.

The CDC’s Frieden—who is an Obama appointee—has been almost comically oafish. On September 30, -Frieden declared, “We’re stopping it in its tracks in this country.” On October 13, he said, “We’re concerned, and unfortunately would not be surprised if we did see additional cases.” The next day he admitted that the CDC hadn’t taken the first infection seriously enough: “I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient, the first patient, was diagnosed,” he said. “That might have prevented this infection. But we will do that from today onward with any case, anywhere in the U.S. .  .  . We could have sent a more robust hospital infection-control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from Day One.”

The day after that Frieden was asked during a press conference if you could contract Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus—a question prompted by a statement from President Obama the week before, when he declared that you can’t get Ebola “through casual contact, like sitting next to someone on a bus.”

Frieden answered: “I think there are two different parts of that equation. The first is, if you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no. Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.”

Go ahead and read that again.

We have arrived at a moment with our elite institutions where it is impossible to distinguish incompetence from willful misdirection. This can only compound an already dangerous situation.
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CBP testimony on: October 17, 2014, 08:02:47 AM
second post

9  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Groups splinter as bosses fall on: October 17, 2014, 07:48:17 AM
ditor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the third quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the fourth quarter. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

The Mexican government continued its string of arrests of high-level crime bosses during the third quarter of 2014. Since Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in 2012, leaders of crime syndicates from across Mexico have been falling to federal troops with unusual frequency, including top-tier bosses from Sinaloa, Michoacan and Tamaulipas states, beginning with the arrest of Los Zetas top leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales in July 2013. It has become clear that the Pena Nieto administration is leaving no organized crime group free from government pressure. This trend will dominate the evolution of Mexico's organized crime landscape in the fourth quarter.
Significant Arrests

With the exception of Trevino, troops focused primarily on northwestern crime bosses operating under the Sinaloa Federation's umbrella in the last half of 2013 and well into the first half of this year, most notably with the February arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera. Over the past three months, federal forces turned their sights to an alliance consisting of the Juarez cartel, Los Zetas and remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization, a grouping poised to supplant the declining Sinaloa Federation.

On Aug. 9, federal troops captured Enrique Hernandez Garcia, a Beltran Leyva Organization operator and the reported point of contact for the three allied cartels. Hernandez's brother, Francisco (aka "El 2000") is a high-level Beltran Leyva member who played an integral role in providing support to Beltran Leyva Organization remnant groups in Sonora state using gunmen from Los Zetas and the Juarez cartel. Federal troops in northern Sinaloa state also aggressively pursued the Beltran Leyva Organization successor group Los Mazatlecos in the third quarter.

But the alliance's most noteworthy leaders, such as top boss Fausto "El Chapo Isidro" Meza Flores, managed to evade capture until Hector "El H" Beltran Leyva was arrested Oct. 1 in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato state. Hector, the brother of Beltran Leyva Organization founders Alfredo and Arturo Beltran Leyva, was the most senior Beltran Leyva Organization operator to be captured or killed since the December 2009 death of Arturo during a firefight with Mexican marines. Federal forces built on this success by capturing Juarez cartel chief Vicente Carrillo Fuentes on Oct. 9 in Torreon, Coahuila state.

Federal forces also proceeded with operations in Tamaulipas state during the past quarter, where they continued to find substantial success in targeting leaders of the various Gulf cartel-aligned gangs. Farther south, federal troops are actively pursuing the Knights Templar in Michoacan state, though that group is a shadow of what it once was, with Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez its sole remaining top leader.

Each time a high-level leader is captured or killed, the question of succession naturally arises. The consequences of each succession vary widely from group to group. For example, the arrest of Trevino had a low organizational impact on Los Zetas, while massive, violent organizational splits occurred within the Beltran Leyva Organization and the Sinaloa Federation after the January 2008 arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva. Since the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva happened less than a month ago, the extent of the fallout from each remains to be seen. Regardless of how things play out, the typically cohesive structures of Mexican cartels will continue to dissolve, creating a balkanized organized criminal landscape.
The Gulf Cartel Splinters

The Gulf cartel is perhaps the most obvious example of this devolution. Before 2010, the cartel was one of the two most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, along with the Sinaloa Federation. Either directly or through alliances, it controlled nearly half of Mexico.

In 2010, however, Los Zetas split from the Gulf cartel, leaving the latter with just a portion of its former territory. By 2011, the Gulf cartel had split into two competing factions: Los Rojos and Los Metros. The following year, after several leadership losses at the hands of federal troops, the cartel broke down further into at least three factions in Tamaulipas, while a Los Zetas splinter group known as the Velazquez network emerged, rebranding itself as the "Gulf cartel."

The original Gulf cartel has continued to fragment to the extent that numerous, oft-competing groups -- all of them largely referred to as factions of the Gulf cartel -- sometimes can be found operating in the same neighborhood of a given city. Despite this decentralization, under the management of these various factions, organized criminal activity in Tamaulipas state has continued apace.

In the second and third quarters of 2014, two of the factions collapsed into subfactions. The Gulf cartel faction in Tampico fell apart between April and May, sparking a sharp increase in violence in southern Tamaulipas state prior to the start of sweeping security operations in May. Later, after several leadership losses, the Rio Bravo faction -- one of two factions competing for control of Reynosa -- effectively collapsed. Its rival, which operated in towns just west of Reynosa with ties to the Velazquez network, also suffered several leadership losses at the hands of rival groups and the authorities. Now, organized crime-related violence in Tampico and Reynosa resemble conflicts between powerful street gangs more than past conflicts between Mexican transnational criminal organizations.

If government pressure persists, Mexico's other criminal organizations -- even cartels such as Los Zetas that have retained considerable power and a cohesive structure -- will meet the same splintered fate as the Gulf cartel. For these groups, fragmentation is a natural result of prolonged and consistent government pressure. Not all splits will spark new conflicts, however, since newly independent subgroups may decide to cooperate, as has been the case with some Beltran Leyva Organization subgroups and Gulf cartel factions like those in Matamoros and Tampico. Moreover, even though Tamaulipas state now contains numerous distinct criminal groups, the opportunities for illicit profit that gave rise to the Gulf cartel in the first place will remain. The successor groups will continue the criminal operations.
Setbacks for Sinaloa, Opportunities for Rivals

Though the Sinaloa Federation's current woes began to emerge in 2012, the decentralization of the cartel did not become obvious until 2014. The cartel has not devolved into competing crime groups in the same fashion as the Gulf cartel, but Sinaloa's regional crime bosses have increasingly demonstrated their autonomy from top-tier leaders in areas such as Sonora and Baja California states, particularly Tijuana.

As Stratfor predicted in an Aug. 12 Mexico Security Weekly, the breakdown of the Sinaloa Federation has created opportunities for crime bosses under the Juarez-Los Zetas-Beltran Leyva Organization alliance to absorb territories or criminal operations, through either violent takeovers or business deals with individual Sinaloa lieutenants. Such was the case in southern Sonora state in 2012, when Sinaloa lieutenant Sajid Emilio "El Cadete" Quintero Navidad waged war on another Sinaloa lieutenant, Gonzalo "El Macho Prieto" Inzunza Inzunza, before then allying with Trinidad "El Chapo Trini" Olivas Valenzuela, the leader of a Beltran Leyva Organization remnant group.
Fourth-Quarter Forecast

The Juarez-Beltran Leyva Organization-Los Zetas alliance will begin adjusting to the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva in the fourth quarter. Possible reactions include withdrawal from the alliance or further splits within its constituent parts. Rather than substantial adjustments like these during the fourth quarter, however, the members of the alliance are more likely to work to hold together. This could see subgroups such as La Linea of the Juarez cartel and Los Mazatlecos of the Beltran Leyva Organization become the alliance's points of contact for their respective groups. Should the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva diminish the overall capabilities of their respective criminal organizations, Los Zetas may take charge of the general direction of the alliance given that the cartel has, by far, the widest reach of any of the three members.

The likelihood of increased violence resulting from the third-quarter arrests alone is slim. While there is a small chance that these captures will weaken the alliance -- or create that perception among its rivals -- no rival organizations are currently capable of mounting an interregional offensive. The Sinaloa Federation, for example, is too fragmented. Northwest Mexico, Chihuahua state and the Bajio region are the areas most likely to see a deterioration of security related to the shift in alliance dynamics this quarter. But any resulting violence probably will be isolated to areas where regional crime bosses operating under an umbrella group like the Sinaloa Federation will face off with alliance-affiliated bosses for control of relatively small territories. Any such fighting in the fourth quarter is unlikely to draw in Mexico's larger entities.

The Mexican government will continue pursuing criminal leaders throughout the country in the fourth quarter. It has become increasingly apparent that the Pena Nieto administration is intent upon continuing to flatten the structure of organized crime as a whole in Mexico. This means that more, albeit much less powerful, criminal bosses will emerge nationwide. New security concerns can arise with such a trend, since there will be more leaders fighting one another and participating in criminal activities targeting business interests and bystanders. But the crime bosses behind such violence will be far more vulnerable to government pressure than their predecessors, given the relative weakness of the new crop -- though to keep them in check the government will need to help Mexican states strengthen their public safety institutions.

Editor's Note: The full version of our quarterly cartel update is available to clients of our Mexico Security Monitor service.

Read more: Mexico's Drug War: Criminal Groups Splinter as Bosses Fall | Stratfor
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Coulter on Ebola on: October 17, 2014, 07:29:58 AM
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 17, 2014, 07:25:19 AM
I confess myself being surprised that everyone, including POTH is surprised.  I'm not sure how, but I certainly knew of these finds of stuff from the 80s.

Tangentially, I note it is a  bit discouraging to see some on "our side" think this proves "Bush was right" for it does not.  The claim was of an active WMD program and stuff sitting around degrading since the 80s does not do that at all.
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares on: October 17, 2014, 07:21:02 AM
 Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
October 16, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
Lithuania Prepares
Members of the U.S. Army 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, unload Stryker Armored Vehicles at the railway station near the Rukla military base in Lithuania, on Oct. 4, 2014. (PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)


Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Oct. 15 that she would push to limit Russian television broadcasts inside the country. The statement came only two days after Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Jonas Vytautas Zukas announced plans to form a new rapid reaction force in Lithuania. These moves highlight Lithuania's mounting concerns over the threat Russia poses to the small but strategic country, particularly in light of Moscow's recent actions in Ukraine.

The Lithuanian president's plan to limit Russian media follows similar trends emerging in other Baltic states. The creation of the rapid reaction force, however, represents a new strategy. Zukas said that Lithuania must be ready for "unconventional attacks by unmarked combatants" -- a thinly veiled reference to Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Vilnius' plan will not be sufficient to counter potential Russian moves against Lithuania. It is instead an initial response to an evolving security environment in which the conventional Russian military threat to the Baltic states is overshadowed by that of hybrid warfare, which includes the use of proxies, special forces and information campaigns.


In his statement, Zukas said Lithuania's rapid reaction forces would consist of 2,500 troops from Lithuania's 7,000-person military. These troops would be placed on high alert beginning in November and would have the capacity to mobilize within two to 24 hours. Their mission would be to counter unconventional security threats such as attacks by unofficial armed groups, illegal border crossings and the foreign manipulation of national minorities.

Lithuania formulated this rapid reaction plan within the context of the ongoing standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine -- a conflict that has spread throughout the former Soviet periphery. The Baltic states are on the front lines of this broader conflict and are particularly concerned about Russian encroachment into their territory because of their small size and close proximity to the Russian heartland. This is especially concerning because the Baltic states, particularly Lithuania, have been strong supporters of Ukraine's efforts to integrate with the West, putting them squarely in Moscow's sights.

There has already been a great deal of Russian activity inside the Baltic states and the area surrounding them. Russia has built up its forces near St. Petersburg and in the exclave of Kaliningrad, both of which border Baltic states. Moscow has also increased the scale of its military exercises in both areas, while the Russian minorities in several Baltic states have held pro-Russia demonstrations. The rallies are of particular concern because of the size of the Russian minority populations: 24.8 percent of the population in Estonia, 26.9 percent in Latvia, and 5.8 percent in Lithuania. Cross-border incidents between the Baltic states and Russia have also been on the rise in recent months. The Russian coast guard detained a Lithuanian fishing boat, and Russian officials held an Estonian official in custody for allegedly crossing the border on a spying mission, a charge Estonia denied.

The Baltic states see these recent actions in the context of the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where Moscow's support for demonstrations eventually led to the deployment of Russian military and unofficial militant forces. This has given way to concerns that the Baltics could be the next target for hybrid warfare. As NATO members protected by the Article 5 collective defense clause, the Baltics are somewhat insulated from a Russian conventional military threat. The classification of a threat as subject to Article 5, however, requires a unanimous NATO council vote. This leaves effective defense of the Baltics subject to Western Europe's political will to intervene. A rapid NATO response would be even more doubtful in the case of hybrid or asymmetrical warfare. The Baltic states have called for a permanent NATO military presence within their territory. Instead, NATO and the United States have only stepped up troop rotations for joint exercises and military training to a semi-permanent basis.

Lithuania's decision to organize its own rapid reaction force is an effort to build the capacity to preemptively counter or contain Russian actions and reassure the public that the government is taking concrete action. Given Russia's larger security forces and broader financial resources, however, Lithuania's new force is unlikely to fully neutralize the threat. Maintaining more than a third of Lithuania's forces at that level of readiness will require substantial resources, raising questions about the initiative's long-term sustainability. At best, the plan supplements NATO's efforts, which include launching the bloc's own rapid reaction forces that can be deployed to the Baltics, Poland or Romania. Lithuania will continue to call for a greater U.S. and NATO commitment to regional security.

For its part, Russia will likely continue to use the same methods of hybrid warfare it implemented in Ukraine to project power regionally. Lithuania's creation of a rapid reaction force is simply an acknowledgement of this reality and the need to confront it in a more flexible and creative manner.

Read more: Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares | Stratfor

13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Tiny Minority within Islam on: October 16, 2014, 05:19:07 PM
Some of the numbers seem a bit glib, but overall the gist of this seems on target:
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al-Houthi Rebles seize strategic port on: October 16, 2014, 03:55:30 PM
 Yemen's al-Houthi Rebels Seize a Strategic Port


October 16, 2014 | 0430
Armed supporters of the al-Houthi movement gather against al Qaeda militants on Aug. 17. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)


Yemen's Zaidi al-Houthi rebels have gained control of the strategic Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah, further strengthening their negotiating position in back-channel talks with the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi. Seizing Yemen's second-largest port is a dramatic move intended to pressure Sanaa into making concessions on key points of disagreement between the government and the rebels. The move also signals that the al-Houthis still retain key levers with which to threaten Hadi's economic interests -- and legitimacy -- if the government continues to stall in reaching a political settlement.

It is likely that the fall of al-Hudaydah and the threat of further rebel aggression will force Hadi to accommodate al-Houthi demands. If he fails to do so, the rebels could respond with attempts to expand their territory or disrupt the country's vital oil industry.


A number of local Yemeni news outlets reported Oct. 14 that several thousand al-Houthi militants had rapidly -- and facing seemingly little resistance -- established control over a majority of al-Hudaydah, Yemen's fourth-largest city. The al-Houthis and their allies now control (or are in the process of gaining control of) al-Hudaydah's port complex and international airport, as well as several administrative buildings, a local armory and a military base. The rebels have also established checkpoints and have begun conducting armed patrols throughout most of the city. Reports conflict as to whether al-Hudaydah Gov. Sakhr al-Wajeeh -- a former finance minister with reported links to Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood branch, the al-Islah party -- has submitted his resignation or is mediating between locals and al-Houthi commanders. Initial indications show that local security forces were ordered to stand down as the al-Houthis entered the city. Rumors that elements of Yemen's 10th Brigade, made up of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's elite Republican Guard units, may have facilitated the takeover once again raise questions about Saleh's potential involvement in the conflict.
The Importance of al-Hudaydah

The port city of al-Hudaydah, once labeled by the World Bank as the "agro-industrial capital of Yemen," is a central node for Yemen's non-oil economy and handles the bulk of the country's total cargo imports. The city is an important transportation hub both domestically, with major highways running north and south along the coast and east to Sanaa, and internationally, with Red Sea shipping lanes. Al-Hudaydah is also surrounded by Yemen's most important agricultural region, the Tihama plain. Notably, reports indicate that the port city has long served as a critical smuggling hub for al-Islah leaders, particularly former Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. The al-Houthis have long perceived al-Islah, a party with Sunni tribal, Islamist and Salafist links, as their principal rival in northern Yemen.

Al-Hudaydah, Yemen
Click to Enlarge

Perhaps more important is the city's location a mere 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Ras Isa floating terminal, which exports oil produced in the vast Marib fields via the 435-kilometer Marib-Ras Isa pipeline. The pipeline transports between 70,000 and 110,000 barrels per day of the nation's average production of 125,000 barrels per day. Ras Isa and the nearby Saleef port complex have not yet fallen under al-Houthi control, but the threat of additional disruptions to an already troubled oil sector is certainly disconcerting for Yemeni leaders. With the country's oil revenues fluctuating wildly and the central bank severely strapped for cash, the al-Houthi occupation of such a critical economic hub would pose a serious threat to the government. It would also present an opportunity for the al-Houthis, who have long sought to control a major Red Sea port through which they could generate revenues and gain access to global transportation lanes.
Rebels' Motives and Next Steps

The al-Houthis are well aware of the panic their occupation of al-Hudaydah will cause in Sanaa, and they are likely expecting the move to spur progress in their negotiations with Hadi, as the al-Houthi occupation of Sanaa did. But since the Sept. 21 announcement of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in the capital, Hadi has been slow to meet the demands of al-Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi. These demands include greater political representation, a larger share of the national wealth, restructuring proposed federalization boundaries and potentially incorporating Zaidi militants into state security forces. While the al-Houthis have managed to successfully install a neutral prime minister (over Hadi's objections), the decision took weeks of behind-the-scenes political jockeying.

As al-Houthi leaders look toward the next step in the movement's political re-emergence -- the formation of a new Cabinet in Sanaa -- the militants will seek to gain control of several ministries and access powerful deputy positions within key security, financial and energy posts. Doing so will enable the al-Houthis to manage the government from behind the scenes without being seen as the face of the new administration -- a role not unlike that of Lebanon's Hezbollah or Iraq's influential Shiite militias.

Yemen's Looming Water Crisis
Click to Enlarge

To achieve this goal, al-Houthi understands that he will need to strike at or threaten the regime's vulnerable points: the ports along the western coast and the oil fields in the country's center. By imposing a new military reality on the ground, the al-Houthi militants are hoping to avoid the deadlock they encountered with the prime ministerial selection process. In fact, there are rumors the group is preparing for a new offensive across the northwestern border of Marib province, home to a large share of Yemen's oil reserves. Meanwhile, militias aligned with the al-Houthis have begun to expand their security presence south of Sanaa in the mountainous Dhamar province, which lies at the southernmost tip of traditional Zaidi territory, occupying the provincial capital -- again reportedly with the help of Saleh-linked elements -- and forcing the governor to resign. Early reports also indicate that dozens of al-Houthi fighters seized the nearby city of Ibb on Oct. 15 and have begun advancing tentatively on Bayda and Taiz provinces.
Challenges Ahead

These strategies to gain leverage will increasingly draw the militants out of their traditional mountainous strongholds and into Sunni-majority territories. For example, the western coastline, though sparsely populated, is home to a Sunni Arab majority. The city of al-Hudaydah itself is overwhelmingly Sunni, and there are already reports of local resistance forming under the Tahami Movement, a Sunni organization based along Yemen's northwestern coast. Looking elsewhere, the al-Houthis risk encroaching on the heartland of the country's southern separatist movement by extending too far south of Dhamar province, into predominantly Sunni territory with a history of activity by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Likewise, if the al-Houthi militants attempt to seize the oil fields in eastern Marib province in Yemen's central interior, they would have to cross arid land that is home to some of Yemen's most notoriously territorial and fiercely autonomous Sunni tribes and an AQAP stronghold. In fact, Oct. 14 reports claim that tribesmen in Marib province have begun welcoming AQAP fighters from the nearby Hadramawt, Shabwa and Abyan provinces, perhaps seeking to bolster their defenses against a potential al-Houthi incursion. The risks of attacking these alternative targets likely contributed to al-Houthi's ultimate decision to target the coastline.

The Sectarian Divide in Northern Yemen
Click to Enlarge

Al-Houthi militants also face the danger of overextending their manpower and resources by expanding too far, too fast. The rebels are currently engaged in heavy fighting against al-Islah supporters and tribesmen in the northern al-Jawf province while simultaneously occupying Sanaa, a city of nearly 2 million people. Expanding too far beyond their current territory could also open up a new front against heavier concentrations of state military forces. Marib province alone is home to some three battalions -- an organized force larger than the force the militants encountered on the road to Sanaa. Meanwhile, AQAP has announced that it will begin targeting the Zaidi rebels more regularly; an Oct. 9 suicide bombing targeted an al-Houthi checkpoint in the capital and left more than 50 dead.

These challenges will likely constrain al-Houthi territorial ambitions for the time being, as their leaders focus on political negotiations and capitalize on the newfound leverage gained by the occupation of al-Hudaydah. Hadi cannot afford to let the Ras Isa export terminal, one of his country's most important economic lifelines, fall to the rebels. The president is also aware that the longer his government appears to be held hostage by the northern Zaidis, the further his credibility and legitimacy will decline and the more emboldened regional entities will become. The Southern Secessionist Movement already held demonstrations in Aden on Oct. 14, the 51st anniversary of southern Yemen's insurgency against British occupation. The demonstrations took place amid rumors that exiled southern leaders are beginning to return to the country to launch a new bid for independence, as well as reports of the secessionists demanding that all oil and natural gas firms halt exports immediately until they agree to operate under southern jurisdiction.

Hadi is likely to cave in the face of such overwhelming pressure, but the al-Houthis will be ready to respond should he choose to stand firm in negotiations. If the need arises, al-Houthi will likely choose to pursue the less risky option of asserting control south of the capital near Dhamar province and possibly in the crucial coastal port cities of Ras Isa and Saleef. The al-Houthis' ability to solidify their territorial control highlights their re-emergence in northern Yemen as a regional power broker and underscores Sanaa's rapidly declining ability to maintain its authority in the country's hinterlands.

15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muffie the Mayor goes after Houston Church's Free Speech on: October 16, 2014, 02:23:15 PM
Houston Gay Mafia Goes After Pastors

In a move eerily similar to that of fascist regimes, the city of Houston demanded that pastors hand over their sermons to the city for a review of teachings that might speak out against homosexuality or transgenderism. After an outcry, the city is partially backing off, but make no mistake: This is a shot across the bow for any who oppose the homosexual agenda.

Last year, Houston voters elected the city’s first openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker. It wasn’t long before the city passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which granted "equal rights" (read: preferred status as those with whom no one may disagree) to individuals with gender disorientation pathology. Under the ordinance, men can use ladies’ restrooms, ladies can use men’s restrooms, and, in short, anything goes -- except orthodox Christianity. Texans don’t take too well to folks messing with their manhood, and it wasn’t long before a petition drive opposing the ordinance drew more than 50,000 signatures -- more than double the number needed to get the issue on the ballot.

Imagine the shock when the mayor and city attorney announced the petition was invalid due to "irregularities." Specifically, City Attorney David Feldman announced, “With respect to the referendum petition filed to repeal the ‘HERO’ ordinance, there are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid. There is no other conclusion.” Actually, there is another conclusion -- at least 50,000 Houston residents oppose HERO. Imagine that. But in a suspension of disbelief, the city expects folks to believe that, of 50,000 signatures, more than 32,000 were invalid. Sure, and we have oceanfront property in Dallas to sell them.

In response, opponents of the ordinance filed a lawsuit against the city. Houston now has a coalition of about 400 area churches that oppose the new ordinance, as they actually believe that X and Y chromosomes were designed for a reason. (It's called science, which the Left supposedly champions.) The churches were not party to the lawsuit, but it just so happens that some of the 50,000 signatures were reportedly gathered at churches (which, incidentally, is fully legal).

In retribution, the city claimed the churches' sermons were fair game as a political target because petition signatures were gathered inside a church. Several pastors were delivered a subpoena demanding they yield “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession” as well as “all communications with members of your congregations” about HERO and the petition drive.

Seems that the tolerant crowd Mayor Parker runs with isn’t so tolerant after all. Unable to abide the idea that Christian pastors may actually be preaching what the Bible says, she tried to intimidate them. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the pastors, noted, “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

Now, the city appears to be backing off -- somewhat. "Mayor Parker agrees with those who are concerned about the city legal department’s subpoenas for pastor’s sermons,” according to Janice Evans, chief policy officer for the City of Houston. “The city will move to narrow the scope [of the subpoenas] during an upcoming court hearing." As if that will smooth things over.

Mayor Parker said, "There’s no question the wording was overly broad. But I also think there was some misinterpretation on the other side.” In other words, they're still going after HERO opponents -- after they adjust the wording a bit.

And then she had the temerity to complain about being "vilified coast to coast."

Pastor Dave Welch, one of the subpoenaed pastors, said, "What they did by issuing these subpoenas was to punish any pastor in the city of Houston who participated in gathering signatures against the HERO ordinance." He added that even the revised subpoenas are clearly “an effort to both punish and intimidate those who dared to step-up and oppose this city council.”

It’s no secret that across the nation, efforts are multiplying to silence Christians, censor pastors and eliminate discourse in opposition to the homosexual agenda. The Houston Council’s actions are not the first attempt but are among the most brazen. The Council, however, has no idea what -- or whom -- it’s up against. Religious Liberty is the bedrock of our Republic, and government review of sermons has no place in the Land of the Free. Parker and her cohorts may think they messed only with a few Texas pastors, but when it comes to defending our God-given and constitutionally protected rights, she messed with all of us.
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FP: Gen. Heftar and Egypt working together against AQ in Benghazi on: October 16, 2014, 08:22:51 AM

Libyan army troops aligned with former General Khalifa Heftar have intensified a ground assault and airstrikes against a coalition of Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi. The offensive has come a day after Heftar vowed to "liberate" Benghazi in a televised address following an attack by militants from Ansar al-Sharia on one of the last army bases controlled by government forces in the city. The Associated Press reported two Egyptian officials said Egyptian warplanes were attacking Islamist militias in Libya, though Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denied the report. Egypt has pledged to train Libyan soldiers, and in Heftar's address Tuesday, he thanked countries that had helped in his fight against what he referred to as "terrorism."

Egotistically I note that this was something I discussed in my proffered strategy.
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FP: on: October 16, 2014, 08:20:56 AM


U.S.-led airstrikes and Kurdish forces are continuing to push back Islamic State militants from the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the border with Turkey. As of Wednesday, coalition forces had conducted over 100 strikes around Kobani, which the Pentagon reported had killed several hundred Islamic State fighters. A Kurdish official reported militants are retreating from parts of the town, though U.S. military officials cautioned Kobani could still fall to the Islamic State group. Additionally, the retired general leading the coalition, General John Allen, noted Islamic State militants have made "substantial gains" in Iraq's western Anbar province, despite U.S.-led airstrikes. He mentioned, however, that coalition forces had pushed militants back in other areas of Iraq.

•   Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to nominate a candidate from the Iranian-backed Shiite militia the Badr Corps as interior minister.  (Well, that will sure help persuade Sunnis to work with the Govt. of Baghdad)
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 16, 2014, 08:16:58 AM
I remember hearing of this many years ago.  This is no surprise to me.

My understanding is this:

The chem weapons were all pre-Gulf War, and were all seriously degraded.  A danger to those handling them certainly, but not likely to function as weapons.  As pre-Gulf War, their degraded presence, in effect, underlined that the active program we asserted was devoid of proof after our invasion.

The embarrassment of the West's role, including a US role, in their manufacture, would have been VERY bad in the context of our used of WMD as a justification in front of the UN.

19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Did any of us see this coming? on: October 15, 2014, 09:05:20 PM

Risk of Deflation Feeds Global Fears
Falling Commodities Prices Pressures Central Banks
By Jon Hilsenrath and Brian Blackstone
Oct. 15, 2014 8:26 p.m. ET

Behind the spate of market turmoil lurks a worry that top policy makers thought they had beaten back a few years ago: the specter of deflation.

A general fall in consumer prices emerged as a big concern after the 2008 financial crisis because it summoned memories of deep and lingering downturns like the Great Depression and two decades of lost growth in Japan. The world’s central banks in recent years have used a variety of easy-money policies to fight its debilitating effects.

Now, fresh signs of slow global economic growth, falling commodities prices, sagging stock markets and declining bond yields suggest the deflation risk hasn’t gone away, particularly in the often-frenetic eyes of investors. These emerging threats come as the Federal Reserve is on track this month to end a bond-buying program that has been one of the main tools in its fight against falling prices.

The deflation concern is particularly pronounced in Europe and Japan, two economies where policy makers are struggling to come up with solutions to counter especially slow economic growth.

However, recent declines in commodities prices suggest that downward pressure on inflation—if not all-out deflation—could become a wider-ranging phenomenon, and one with some mixed implications for economies like the U.S. and emerging markets.

Investor worries about the global economy appeared to gather force Wednesday. European stock markets sagged; the Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 3.2% to its lowest level since last December. U.S. stocks pared steep losses, but still finished down for the fifth straight day; after falling more than 450 points at one point, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 173.45, or 1.1%, to 16141.74.

Meantime, yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes fell to 2.091%, their lowest level since June 2013, and are down nearly a percentage point from the beginning of the year. Bond yields fell to new lows in Germany, too. Crude-oil prices dropped further; crude futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell to $81.78 a barrel, the lowest level since June 2012.

The deflation concerns are particularly acute in Europe, where annual inflation in the 18 nations that use the euro was 0.3% last month, a five-year low that is far below the European Central Bank’s target of just under 2%.

With inflation so low, it wouldn’t take much of a shock—such as weakness in Germany’s economy or geopolitical tensions in nearby Ukraine—to tip the whole region into a deflationary downturn. Some eurozone countries, such as Italy, have already tipped into deflation. Even countries outside the currency bloc are feeling the pain. Sweden’s statistics agency said Tuesday that consumer prices fell 0.4% in annual terms last month after a 0.2% fall in August, well below its central bank’s 2% target.

The risk of deflation in Europe is “a real worry,” Harvard University professor and former Federal Reserve governor Jeremy Stein said in an interview. “The right prescription [for policy makers] is to be aggressive.”

ECB President Mario Draghi acted against deflation risks in June and September, pushing the central bank to slash interest rates to record lows each time—including a negative rate on bank deposits at the ECB—and unveiling new bank-lending and asset-purchase plans for asset-backed securities and covered bonds.

But there is little consensus for more-dramatic measures—the kind of monetary stimulus the Fed, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan have deployed—namely large-scale purchases of government bonds to raise the money supply.

The head of Germany’s central bank, Jens Weidmann, has signaled his opposition to such bond buying, and other members of the ECB’s governing council appear sympathetic to his argument that with government and corporate borrowing costs already superlow, the policy wouldn’t even do much good.

“I am very much for a steady-hand approach, and I think this is what we are doing,” Austria’s central bank governor, Ewald Nowotny, said in an interview last week.

Hard fiscal problems are part of Europe’s problem. Last week, Standard & Poor’s stripped Finland of its triple-A credit rating and downgraded France’s outlook. On Tuesday, Fitch put France on review for a possible downgrade.

Struggling economies such as France and Italy face a tough choice: Take additional austerity measures to shrink budget deficits, inflicting more pain on their economies, or attempt to flaunt the EU’s budget rules calling for low deficits, which could damage their credibility in Europe.

ECB chief Mario Draghi, shown in Washington this past weekend, faces opposition to further measures to combat deflation in the eurozone.R Reuters

The resistance Mr. Draghi faces has shaken the faith of some investors that policy makers in Europe will address the threat.

“Market valuations, especially for rich countries, have been well above what was warranted by fundamentals. What kept them up there was a belief that central banks were markets’ best friends,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz Group. “Most people now recognize that the ability of central banks to address what ails the global economy is weaker than they believed.”

Meanwhile, Japan had recently begun to stir sustained growth, which helped to push its inflation rate above 1%, after years of on-again, off-again deflation. But inflation decelerated again in recent months as the economy softened after an April sales-tax increase meant to restrain mounting government debt. Many private economists forecast a slip back below 1% this year.

Japanese officials must now decide whether to follow through on another planned sales-tax increase that could dent growth even more. And the Bank of Japan is weighing whether it needs to provide even more stimulus. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda launched new asset purchase programs last year to reverse two decades of deflation and has pledged to persist until he reaches the 2% target.

Japan’s struggles to exit deflation, even with massive central-bank stimulus, illustrate just how difficult it is for an economy to pull out of the trap, once it has settled in.

A weak global outlook “has to be a worry for every economy,” Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan told The Wall Street Journal in an interview last week.

The U.S. confronts much different circumstances than Europe and Japan. U.S. inflation had been rising toward the Fed’s 2% objective earlier this year but now faces a downward tug amid the weakening global growth and a strengthening U.S. dollar. The Labor Department reported Wednesday that producer prices in the U.S. fell in September. Sharp drops in commodities prices this month could add to downward pressure.

Yet falling commodities prices have silver linings. For one, the decline is being driven in part by a U.S. energy production boom—not just sagging global demand for goods. Moreover, falling gasoline prices are a boon to U.S. consumers: One rule of thumb is that every one-cent drop in the price of gasoline amounts to a $1 billion boost to U.S. household incomes, and gasoline prices have dropped by 13 to 17 cents from a year ago, according to the automobile group AAA.

“All else equal, when energy gets cheaper, we benefit,” Mr. Stein said.

Meanwhile, the Fed is on track this month to end its bond-buying stimulus program launched in September 2012. And Fed officials have largely stuck to their line that they expected to start raising short-term interest rates by the middle of 2015. Still, traders in futures markets have been pushing up the prices of contracts tied to the Fed’s benchmark interest rate—a sign they see diminishing odds that the Fed will follow through on that plan.

Harvard’s Mr. Stein said he didn’t think the U.S. central bank needed to alter its thinking much in light of recent developments. “I wouldn’t dramatically revise my expectations,” he said. “The balance of the job-market news in the U.S. has been very positive.”

A Commerce Department report Wednesday showed U.S. retail sales dropped in September, but many economists are sticking to estimates that the U.S. economy expanded at a rate in excess of 3% in the third quarter, potentially the fourth time in the past five quarters it exceeded 3%. Moreover job growth has been stronger than Fed officials expected.

Write to Jon Hilsenrath at and Brian Blackstone at
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Ebola on: October 15, 2014, 09:02:23 PM
Here ya go: 

(For the record, I'm not sure I agree 100%, but I offer it here for conversation)

How the U.S. Made the Ebola Crisis Worse
The total number of Liberian doctors in America is about two-thirds the total now working in their homeland.
E. Fuller Torrey
Oct. 14, 2014 7:19 p.m. ET

Amid discussions of quarantines, lockdowns and doomsday death scenarios about Ebola, little has been said about the exodus of Africa’s health-care professionals and how it has contributed to the outbreak. For 50 years, the U.S. and other Western nations have admitted health professionals—especially doctors and nurses—from poor countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, three nations at the heart of the Ebola epidemic.

The loss of these men and women is now reflected in reports about severe medical-manpower shortages in these countries, an absence of local medical leadership so critical for responding to the crisis, and a collapse or near-collapse of their health-care systems.

Although Africa bears 24% of the global disease burden, it is home to just 3% of the world’s health workforce. A 2010 World Health Organization assessment of doctors, nurses and midwives per population listed Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in the bottom nine nations in the world in medical manpower.

In Liberia, a nation of four million people, the number of Ebola cases is said to be doubling every 15-20 days. Based on news reports, I’ve estimated that there were about 120 Liberian physicians in the country prior to the outbreak.

According to an American Medical Association database, in 2010 there were 56 Liberian-trained physicians practicing in the U.S. This number does not include other Liberian physicians who emigrated to this country, were unable to pass state licensing exams, and are employed as technicians, administrators, or in other jobs. Older studies suggest that the number failing such exams is about half of those licensed.

Thus the total number of Liberian physicians in the U.S. is probably about two-thirds the number in Liberia. In addition, Liberian-trained physicians live in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

The Liberian situation is not exceptional. Altogether in 2010 the U.S. had 265,851 licensed physicians trained in other countries, constituting 32% of our physician workforce, according to the AMA. Among these, 128,729 came from countries categorized by the World Bank as being from low- or lower-middle income countries. These physicians tend to work disproportionately in rural and inner-city jobs less favored by American medical graduates. West Virginia, for example, has the highest proportion of foreign-trained physicians from poorer countries to U.S.-trained physicians.

The U.S. has always welcomed health professionals from other countries. However in 1965, responding to a perceived shortage of physicians for the growing U.S. population, Congress passed landmark immigration legislation giving preference to health professionals. Subsequent legislation in 1968, 1970 and 1994 further opened the door, especially for physicians from poorer countries. The percentage of foreign-trained physicians has steadily increased from 10% of the workforce in 1965 to its current 32%.

Many objections to this policy have been raised over the years. In 1967 Walter Mondale, then a senator from Minnesota, called it a disgrace. It was “inexcusable,” he wrote in the Saturday Review, that the U.S. should “need doctors from countries where thousands die daily of disease to relieve our shortage of medical manpower.”

A 1974 report on the “Brain Drain” for the House Foreign Affairs Committee noted that the current policy was widening the gap between rich and poor nations, and warned that the policy “has a great potential for mischief in the Nation’s future relations with the LDC [less developed countries].”

Despite such complaints, U.S. policy has continued to encourage the immigration of physicians and other health workers from poorer countries. “There’s nothing wrong with a foreign-trained doctor,” Casper Weinberger, then secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, said on TV in 1973. “Of course we’re using a lot of them, and will use a lot more.”

The consequences of this policy may be more than “mischief.” Ebola may be merely the first of many prices to be paid for our long-standing but shortsighted health manpower policy. Surely the wealthiest country in the world should be able to produce sufficient health workers for its own needs and not take them from the poorest countries.

Dr. Torrey is associate director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute and author of “American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System” (Oxford, 2013).
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Qatar to the Gaza Strip on: October 15, 2014, 08:24:29 PM
second post

Guest Column: The Road from Qatar to the Gaza Strip
by Reuven Berko
Special to IPT News
October 15, 2014

 In a recent speech, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor mentioned the central role of Qatar in supporting international terrorist organizations. Money flowing from Qatar to Hamas, for example, paid for the terrorist attack tunnels dug from the Gaza Strip under the security fence into Israeli territory, and for the thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilian targets in both the distant and recent past. In response, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf rushed to Qatar's defense, claiming it had an important, positive role in finding a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Qatar's funding for Islamist terrorist organizations all over the world is an open secret known to every global intelligence agency, including the CIA. It was exposed by Wikileaks, which clearly showed that funds from Qatar were transferred to al-Qaida. Qatar also funds the terrorist movements opposing the Assad regime in Syria, such as the Al-Nusra Front, encourages anti-Egyptian terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula and within Egypt itself, and is involved in Islamic terrorism in Africa and other locations. It accompanies its involvement in terrorism targeting Israel and Egypt (through the Muslim Brotherhood) with vicious and inflammatory propaganda on its Al-Jazeera TV channel.

Qatar also spends millions of dollars supporting the Islamic Movement in Israel, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood headed by Sheikh Ra'ed Salah. The Islamic Movement is responsible for ongoing acts of provocation on the Temple Mount and in Judea and Samaria, and incites the entire Islamic world against Israel, claiming that the Jews are trying to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and replace it with the Jewish Temple. The incitement continued even as the Islamic Movement's sister movement, Hamas, fired rockets at Jerusalem and endangered both the mosques on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem's sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

As Qatar's representative, the Islamic Movement, which has not yet been outlawed in Israel, contributed to Hamas what it could during Operation Protective Edge by instigating riots, blocking roads and seeking to foment a third intifada which, according to the plan, would be joined by Israeli Arabs to augment the deaths of thousands of Israelis killed by rockets and the mass murders through the attack tunnels planned for the eve of the Jewish New Year.

In his recent UN speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebutted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' accusations of Israeli "genocide" of the Palestinian people. He reminded his audience of Hamas' use of Gazan civilians as human shields and of the rockets fired to attack specifically civilian Israeli targets. Unfortunately, he did not mention the Hamas charter, which calls for the murder of all the Jews. The fact that Abbas now heads a national consensus government in which Hamas is a full partner commits him to the slaughter of the Jewish people – a true genocide – and it is to the disgrace of the international community that such an individual was permitted to address the UN instead of being tried for war crimes.

In fact, the similarities between Hamas and ISIS are clearly stated in the Hamas charter, which defines Hamas as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's global Islamic movement. One of its objectives is to fight "infidel Christian imperialism" and its Zionist emissaries in Israel in order to impose the Sharia, Islamic religious law, on the world. According to the charter's paragraph 7, Hamas' intention is to slaughter every Jew, as ordered by Muhammad and those who accept his legacy. That is the basis for the threat issued by ISIS "Caliph," Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that under his leadership, Islam will "drown America in blood."

Throughout its history, Hamas, like ISIS, has been committed to the concept of the global caliphate, which it plans to help construct by creating its own Islamic emirate on the ruins of the State of Israel. Since its founding, Hamas has attacked Israel and murdered thousands of its citizens exactly as ISIS has attacked and murdered "infidels." They share the same slogans, with "There is no god but Allah" and "Allah, Prophet Muhammad" inscribed on their flags and headbands. Hamas terrorists have blown themselves up in Israel's coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, buses, malls and markets, wherever there are large concentrations of civilians. The way Hamas executed suspected collaborators during the final days of Operation Protective Edge bore the hallmarks of the al-Qaida execution of Daniel Pearl and the ISIS beheading of James Foley and others.

In the decades during which Hamas has carried out a continual series of deadly terrorist attacks against Israel, wearing the same "Allah, Prophet, Muhammad" headbands as ISIS terrorists, the international community rarely voices its support for Israel, or takes into account that by defending itself Israel also defends the West, which has failed to understand that "political Islam" inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood was setting up shop in the free world's backyard and that the ticking bomb was set to go off sooner than expected. The West has not clearly condemned Qatar for openly supporting Hamas and its terrorist activities against Israel or demanded that it stop.
While Israel responded to Hamas' rocket attacks on civilian targets to keep thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Israeli civilians from being killed, the international community demanded "proportionality." That requirement kept Israel from responding as it should have and encouraged Hamas to fire ever more rockets at "military targets" such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. When Israel built its security fence to keep Hamas suicide bombers from infiltrating into Israeli territory to blow themselves up in crowds of civilians, the international community opposed it, rushed to embrace the Palestinians' vocabulary of "racism" and "apartheid," and willingly played into the hands of Hamas and Abbas. This reaction occurred although Israel is the only truly democratic country in the Middle East, where Jews and Arabs can live in peace without "apartheid."

Today President Obama says he "underestimated" the threat posed by ISIS, while Israel has been warning the world of extremist military Islam for at least a decade, as Netanyahu warned the world of a nuclear Iran in his UN speech.

The international community has been curiously silent about the genuine apartheid in the Arab states neighboring Israel. There, descendants of the original 1948 Palestinian refugees, by now in their fourth generation, still live in refugee camps, do not have citizenship, and are excluded from jobs and social benefits. Israel, however, absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees, many of them destitute, who fled Europe and were expelled from the Arab countries when the state was founded, and were given citizenship and enjoy full rights, as do the Arabs who remained in Israel after the War of Independence.

Israel, which has nothing against the Palestinian people, would like to see the Gaza Strip rebuilt for both humanitarian reasons and to give Hamas something to lose. Radical Islamic elements around the globe, however, including Hamas, ISIS, al-Qaida, the Al-Nusra Front and Hizballah, all financed by Qatar, do not want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved. They all have the same global agenda, based on fueling the conflict to unite Islam around it, under their leadership.

Therefore, Qatar continues to support global Islamic terrorism. On Sept. 13, Qatar paid the Al-Nusra Front a ransom of $20 million to free abducted UN soldiers from Fiji. The world praised Qatar for its philanthropy, but in effect, it was a brilliant act of manipulation and fraud, both filling the Al-Nusra Front's coffers and representing itself as the Fijians' savior. Qatar is using the same underhanded trick in the Gaza Strip. After sending Hamas millions of dollars to fund its anti-Israeli terrorist industry, it pledged $1 billion to help rebuild the Gaza Strip during last weekend's conference in Cairo.

While the world hopes Operation Protective Edge was the last round of Palestinian-Israeli violence, senior Hamas figures reiterate their position of gearing up to fight Israel again. Not one Hamas leader is willing to agree to a full merger with the Palestinian Authority to establish a genuine unified Palestinian leadership. Hamas rejects even the idea of disarming or demilitarization as part of an agreement to rebuild the Gaza Strip and promote the peace process. Unfortunately, no one has suggested it as a pre- condition for any U.S. dollars that will be contributed to the reconstruction of Gaza.

All that is left now is to hope that the billions of dollars poured into the Gaza Strip for its rebuilding will be accompanied by the disarmament of Hamas and the establishment of an honest mechanism for overseeing the money and materials Egypt and Israel allow into the Gaza Strip. It is imperative that they not be diverted to rebuild Hamas' terrorist infrastructure and tunnels, or to bribe UNRWA officials to look the other way, as has happened so often in the past. There is every indication that only Hamas and Qatar know whether there is anything to justify that hope.

Dr. Reuven Berko has a Ph.D. in Middle East studies, is a commentator on Israeli Arabic TV programs, writes for the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom and is considered one of Israel's top experts on Arab affairs.
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Ebola on: October 15, 2014, 02:52:18 PM
23  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Evil on: October 15, 2014, 02:48:21 PM
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Qatar and Brookings Institute on: October 15, 2014, 02:22:15 PM
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Convention? on: October 15, 2014, 02:16:37 PM
Constitutional Convention? Caveat Emptor
The Law of Unintended Consequences
By Mark Alexander • October 15, 2014   
"The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all." --George Washington (1796)

The "law of unintended consequences" is an idiomatic admonition regarding the manipulation of complex systems. The notion of unintentional consequence has its origin with 18th-century political economist Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment.

In the present, it is used more in rebuttal to the hubristic notion that humans are so brilliant and possess sufficient discernment about complex systems that we can predict outcomes with great accuracy. It is similar to Murphy's Law -- "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong" -- except it is not asserting the absolute.

20th-century sociologist Robert Merton noted three primary factors contributing to unanticipated consequences: First, incomplete analysis because it is impossible to anticipate all variables; second, errors in analysis of what is known about the problem; third, immediate interests overriding long-term interests.

Our nation is besieged by unintended consequences. Most notably, the 2008 election of a charismatic "community organizer" peddling a "hope and change" mantra. It is now painfully clear, after the re-election of Barack Obama, that his mantra has resulted in a plague of pessimism and an atrocious fundamental transformation of America.
But not all unanticipated consequences are bad.

Shortly after Obama's first election, a grassroots groundswell of concern over our government's abject disregard for the Constitution emerged. That concern galvanized in the Tea Party Movement, a broad coalition of Americans from all walks of life with a common goal of restoring Constitutional Rule of Law and the Essential Liberty enshrined therein.

Fortunately, this movement is more ideological than political. While the media labels some constitutional constructionists as "Tea Party candidates," the underlying movement defies traditional political party labels -- and this constitutional coalition is alive and well.

Beyond efforts to restore the plain language authority of our Constitution by way of the ballot box, several compelling arguments for constitutional amendments have emerged in an effort to circumvent restoration by way of the bullet box.

There are two proscriptions for amending our Constitution. These are specified in Article V as ratified.

"The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate."

In other words, to amend our Constitution, two-thirds of the House and Senate must adopt an amendment or two-thirds of state legislatures (34) must request Congress convene an Article V Convention to consider an amendment. Then, that amendment must be affirmed by either three-fourths (38) of state legislatures or state conventions.

Since our Constitution was ratified and became operational on March 4, 1789, there have been approximately 11,600 amendment proposals, of which 33 were adopted by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Of those, 26 amendments were ratified by state legislatures and one, the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment (prohibition on alcohol), was ratified by state conventions.

The most significant call on Congress to convene an Article V Convention in recent history was Ronald Reagan's proposal for a Balanced Budget Amendment (as currently required by every state constitution but Vermont). On March 26, 2014, Michigan's legislature became the 22nd applying to Congress for an Article V convention seeking a Balanced Budget Amendment.

What makes the Michigan request notable is that there already are 12 applications from other states for conventions to consider a Balanced Budget Amendment. All were rescinded -- most because it was thought that the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act negated the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Of course, Congress created as many bypasses around Gramm-Rudman as they have around the Constitution.

But there is a debate as to whether a state may rescind its Article V application. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has called on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to seek a legal opinion on whether that threshold has been met: "With the decision by Michigan lawmakers, it is important that the House -- and those of us who support a Balanced Budget Amendment -- determine whether the necessary number of states have acted and what the appropriate role of Congress should be in this case."

Indeed, that answer is being sought by quite a few constitutional scholars who are advocates of Article V Conventions, including Lawrence Lessig, Sanford Levinson, Larry Sabato, Jonathan Turley and Mark Levin.

Levin, who distributes our Essential Liberty Guides at conservative conferences, has generated substantial interest and support for 11 amendments he outlined in his book, "The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic." He is calling for a national dialogue on these amendments, with the ultimate objective of stopping unmitigated and unlawful violations of our Constitution by the central government.


Conservative political analyst George Will is an advocate of another measure, The Compact for America, a Goldwater Institute initiative which, according to Will, "would use the Constitution’s Article V to move the nation back toward the limited government the Constitution’s Framers thought their document guaranteed."

The Compact is a renewed federal budget containment measure, and as Will concludes, "In the 85th and final of the Federalist Papers written to persuade Americans wary of centralized power to ratify the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton said: 'We may safely rely on the disposition of the state legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.' States would be the prime movers of, and would be substantially empowered by, the institute’s amendment-by-compact plan."
While we await a legal determination from Boehner on the question of whether the 34-state threshold for an Article V Convention has been met, there are two important considerations about which approach should be taken to enact amendments.

First, it is not clear whether the scope of amendments to be considered by a convention, once convened, can be limited. Could those advocating statist tyranny commandeer a convention?

Recall, if you will, that on February 21, 1787, when the Congress of the Confederation endorsed a measure to revise the Articles of Confederation, it summoned state delegates "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation" in ways that, when approved by Congress and the states, would "render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union." Indeed, Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation set forth that it was "perpetual" until any alteration was "agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State."

But the delegates to the original Constitutional Convention determined that the Articles were not workable and proposed an entirely new Constitution, in effect discarding the Articles of Confederation without objection from the states. Fortunately, our Framers' objective was to codify Liberty as "endowed by our creator," and as specified in our Declaration of Independence.

They believed that all who followed in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and those duly authorized thereunder, would abide by their sacred oaths to Support and Defend" our Constitution.

According to Alexander Hamilton, "[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments."

If that legal and moral obligation had been compliantly observed, this column would not even be necessary.

So what is the risk that such lawlessness would hijack an Article V Convention, especially since, as James Madison questioned in his notes on Article V ambiguities, "How was a Convention to be formed? By what rule decide? What the force of its acts?" None of those questions are answered in the Constitution.

Federalist Society constitutional expert Michael Stokes Paulsen, Distinguished University Chair and Professor at St. Thomas School of Law, argues that such a convention would have the "power to propose anything it sees fit."

My colleague, Heritage Foundation constitutional scholar Matt Spaulding, notes, "The largest question is whether an amendments convention can be limited to specific amendments or even topics. The pro-convention argument assumes that the power to limit the convention is inherent in the power to call the convention in the first place. I’m not so sure that follows: The text says that upon application of the states Congress 'shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments,' not for confirming a particular amendment already written, approved, and proposed by state legislatures (which would effectively turn the convention for proposing amendments into a ratifying convention). Indeed, it is not at all clear as a matter of constitutional construction (and doubtful in principle) that the power of two-thirds of the states to issue applications for a convention restricts, supersedes, or overrides the power of all the states assembled in that convention to propose amendments to the Constitution."
Thus, given the persuasive power of the Leftmedia and Democratic Party conglomerate, their ability to advance populist measures for amendment consideration could spell the end of what remains of our Constitution.

But the second consideration about which of the two approaches should be taken to enact amendments is the overarching question of whether either approach will matter in the end. For as John Adams noted, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

If the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the central government do not abide by existing constitutional constraints, why would anyone believe they would abide by additional constraints in the future?

In either case, caveat emptor.

(Note: In an upcoming column, I will reintroduce a third measure, the establishment of a Constitutional Confederation of the States, to restore constitutional integrity, which affirms the Constitution as ratified, rather than seeks to amend it further.)

Pro Deo et Constitutione -- Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CA aquifers poisoned by fracking? on: October 15, 2014, 01:55:11 PM
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cheap oil pops the green policy bubble on: October 15, 2014, 01:53:38 PM
Cheap Oil Pops the Green Policy Bubble
Since the 1970s, Western politicians keep betting on $10 gasoline that never comes.
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Updated Oct. 14, 2014 7:24 p.m. ET

Tesla, an electric-car company on which the political class has showered subsidies, rolled out its newest model last week, complete with high-tech safety features like lane-departure warning, blindspot monitoring, collision avoidance and self-parking. Tesla’s stock promptly dropped 8%, though probably not because these mundane features long have been available in other luxury models.

At $2.99, the price to which gasoline had fallen at some California stations last week, electric cars becoming a mass-market taste and not just an item for wealthy hobbyists recedes from probability. If Democrats especially start to find it politically no longer saleable to subsidize a toy for the rich, the company may be in real trouble.

Since World War I, the retail price of gasoline has fluctuated in a band between $2 and $4 (using 2006 dollars as a benchmark). Since the 1970s, though, politicians have repeatedly wedded themselves to policies premised on the idea that oil prices can only go up, up, up, in prelude to oil running out altogether.
A Renault Twizy electric car charging at a car-sharing station in Rome. ENLARGE
A Renault Twizy electric car charging at a car-sharing station in Rome. AFP/Getty Images

In fact, Tesla illustrates a theme from a column here back in 2008, when everyone from President George Bush to Nancy Pelosi to freshman Sen. Barack Obama was in a fever to simulate a deeper understanding of our Middle East entanglements by calling for new auto gas-mileage mandates.

These mandates, we pointed out at the time, would only divert tens of billions of auto-industry investment dollars to relatively mingy and uneconomic improvements in fuel mileage that car buyers don’t highly value. The real opportunity, meanwhile, was for revolutionary safety technologies like those Tesla is now belatedly introducing, which would necessarily be delayed by Washington’s misallocation of industry resources.

All through the 2000s this column applauded rising oil prices to ration existing supplies and stimulate new supplies to accommodate the growth of China and India. What goes up, though, must come down when investment produces a glut, when demand can’t keep pace with supply—and when major producers keep goosing production even at a falling price in order to keep producing revenues for domestic governments.

That’s what’s happening now. Saudi Arabia and Iran are slashing prices in pursuit of market share in suddenly slower-growing Asian markets. Vladimir Putin , whose budget goes red at an oil price below $110 (oil hit $84.43 Tuesday in London), is being pressed by his No. 1 crony, Igor Sechin of Rosneft, for $40 billion from the Kremlin’s welfare reserve to boost the Russian oil company’s output at a time when sanctions are cutting it off from Western capital and knowhow.

The price of fossil energy may well be depressed for a while given a strong dollar and the Western world’s governance-cum-growth failures. If so, undermined will be a lot of fantasy policies. Germany and Britain already rue their expensive commitments to renewables, which have caused local manufacturers to pull up stakes for North America and its cheap shale gas.

The Obama administration is not peopled exclusively by naïfs. An official once anonymously acknowledged that its bailout of the U.S. auto industry was certain at some point to run smack into its extreme fuel-mileage mandates (54.5 miles per gallon by 2025) that require the auto industry to invest in fuel-saving technology of little value to consumers.

We can be pretty sure, though, this non-naïf was not President Obama himself, who has acted consistently as if $10 gasoline must appear ahistorically and mystically to redeem his policies. In a major speech in 2011, he declared as a “fact” that oil prices must rise, demand must exceed supply, and America cannot depend on a “resource that will eventually run out.”

He obviously has not taken an inventory of the planet’s vast hydrocarbon stores, including methane hydrates.

What will happen next is easy to predict. Ex-GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz , seeing the world through reality glasses, has long called for a European-style gas tax to make Americans want the cars Washington is forcing GM to build.

Green energy promoter Vinod Khosla in the past lobbied a receptive Nancy Pelosi for a floating oil tax to “correct” periodic low prices, which he attributed to an oil-industry conspiracy.

Tesla’s Elon Musk will be heard again (as he was a few years ago) calling for a gas tax to turn a $2 wholesale commodity into $10 gasoline at the pump.

The ethanol industry, just now opening its first “cellulosic” ethanol plants, which require $3-plus gas to be profitable, will present its list of demands backed by the clout of corn-state senators.

Their rationale will be global warming. But U.S. cars and light trucks account for 3% of global emissions, a share rapidly vanishing to nothingness as India and China develop. The real motive will be bailing out the joint public-private (i.e., crony) investment in policies that don’t work in a world of falling gas prices.
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pandemic the Board Game on: October 15, 2014, 01:30:33 PM
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's spy chief on: October 15, 2014, 01:25:33 PM
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat on: October 15, 2014, 01:23:55 PM
Second post

Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat
Security Weekly
Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size

By Scott Stewart

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to speak at a Risk Management Society meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. During my presentation, I shared some of the points I made in last week's Security Weekly -- namely, that the jihadist movement, which includes groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda, is resilient and can recover from losses if allowed to. There is no military solution to the jihadist movement: It is an ideological problem and must be addressed on the ideological battlefield, and thus jihadists are a persistent threat.

In response to these points, an audience member asked me if I thought the United States was wasting its time and treasure in Iraq and Syria (and elsewhere) by going after jihadist groups. After answering the question in person, I decided it would make a good follow-on topic for this week's Security Weekly. 
Third-Tier Priority

First, it is important to understand that, historically, the success al Qaeda has had in executing large attacks is not due to the professionalism of its operatives and attack planners. Indeed, as I have previously noted, in addition to foiled attacks such as Operation Bojinka and the Millennium Bomb Plot, al Qaeda operatives were also nearly detected because of sloppy tradecraft and operational security mistakes in successful attacks such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole and even the 9/11 attacks.

These mistakes weren't trivial. In the 1993 World Trade Center case, one of the two operational commanders whom al Qaeda sent to New York to assist in the plot, Ahmed Ajaj, was caught entering John F. Kennedy International Airport with a Swedish passport that had its photo replaced in a terribly obvious and amateurish manner. Authorities also found a suitcase full of bombmaking manuals with Ajaj. His partner, Abdel Basit (widely known as Ramzi Yousef), called Ajaj while he was in jail looking to recover the bombmaking instructions. Before the East Africa embassy bombings, authorities had identified the al Qaeda cell responsible and detected their sloppy preoperational surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The leader of the group, Wadih el-Hage, was asked to leave Kenya, and he returned to his home in Dallas, where the group continued with its plans for attack in Africa. The perpetrators of the USS Cole bombing attempted to attack the USS The Sullivans in January 2000, but their boat was overloaded with explosives and foundered. Finally, among other mistakes the 9/11 attackers committed, Mohamed Atta had been cited for driving without a valid license and was the subject of an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court on those charges.

Al Qaeda was able to succeed in these attacks because terrorism had become a third-tier priority for the U.S. government in the 1990s, and very few resources were dedicated to fighting terrorism. Even fewer resources were dedicated specifically to the jihadist threat. Thus, significant leads were not followed in each of these cases.

The success of U.S. counterterrorism programs in the post 9/11 era cannot be attributed to the creation of the bloated and redundant bureaucracies of the Department of Homeland Security or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In fact, any achievements have come despite these organizations and the inefficiencies they have created. The real change is that terrorism is now identified as a significant threat, and countering the terrorist threat has been made the primary mission of every CIA station, FBI field office and NSA listening post on Earth. Indeed, all the tools of national counterterrorism power -- intelligence, law enforcement, foreign policy, economics and the military -- are now heavily focused on the counterterrorism mission.

Though the jihadist threat has persisted since 9/11, the intense pressure applied to jihadists by the combined force of myriad counterterrorism tools has made it difficult for the militants to project their terrorist power into the United States and Europe. These counterterrorism tools will not eradicate jihadism, but the threat jihadists pose regionally and transnationally can be contained and abated with their use. As I mentioned last week, jihadist operatives who possess advanced terrorist tradecraft are hard to replace, and arresting or killing such individuals hampers the ability of jihadist groups to project power regionally and transnationally. Ignoring the jihadist threat and allowing it to again become a third-tier issue will permit the jihadists to operate with relative impunity, as they did in the 1990s.
Ideological Change Is the Key

Another reason to maintain physical pressure on jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State is that pressure works to counter the groups' claims of divine blessing. That al Qaeda leaders claim to trust in God for protection and then hide as far underground as possible has caused many jihadists to criticize the group. Furthermore, though many jihadists treated the killing of Osama bin Laden as a joyous martyrdom, it caused other jihadists to question why the leader of al Qaeda was living in a comfortable home with his family while others were fighting on the front lines in his name.

When the Islamic State made impressive gains in Iraq and Syria in June, it boasted that it was being blessed by God, was therefore invincible and was going to continue until it conquered the world. It is quite common to hear such statements in Islamic State propaganda, including the following comments made in a video after the massacre of a group of Syrian soldiers who were taken captive after the siege of the Syrian 17th Division base near Raqqa on July 26: "We are your brothers, the soldiers of the Islamic State. God has favored us with His grace and victory by conquering the 17th Division -- a victory and favor through God. We seek refuge in God from our might and power. We seek refuge in God from our weapons and our readiness."

Such claims, when backed by dramatic battlefield successes, can have a discernible impact on many radical Muslims, who begin to wonder if the Islamic State is really becoming as inexorable as it claims to be. This illusion of divine support and invincibility has greatly assisted the group in its efforts to recruit local and foreign fighters, to raise funds and to garner support from regional allies.

Conversely, the blunting of the group's offensive on the battlefield has tempered the Islamic State's boasting. Though reports that U.S. and coalition aircraft missed key targets such as the Islamic State headquarters may reflect that the United States was a bit behind the intelligence curve, they also demonstrate that the Islamic State was abandoning the facilities, fearful of airstrikes. The sight of Islamic State fighters reacting fearfully to coalition aircraft will help slow recruitment efforts and should cause already skeptical jihadists to think twice before joining the group or swearing allegiance to it.

Doubts stemming from battlefield losses about whether God is blessing the Islamic State should also bolster efforts against the group on an ideological front. For example, on Sept. 19, a group of 126 Islamic scholars from across the globe published an open letter to the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The scholars used the letter to address what they consider to be 24 points of error in the theology espoused by the Islamic State. These errors encompass a number of issues, including the nature of the caliphate; the authority to declare jihad; the practice of takfir, or proclaiming another Muslim to be a nonbeliever; the killing of innocents; the mutilation of corpses; and the taking of slaves.

The letter ends with a plea for al-Baghdadi and his followers: "Reconsider all your actions; desist from them; repent from them; cease harming others and return to the religion of mercy." It is unlikely that many of the hardcore jihadists will do as requested, but as these theological arguments are circulated and discussed, they will help undercut the ideological base of the jihadists and make it harder for them to convince impressionable people to join their cause. The effects of these theological critiques will not just be confined to the Islamic State; they will apply equally to al Qaeda and other groups that hold similar doctrines and commit similar acts.

Moreover, mainstream Muslim theologians have not been the only ones critical of the group. Jihadist ideologues such as Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada have also been critical of the Islamic State's activities and pronouncements.

Fighting the ideological war will undoubtedly be a long process. In the interim, the United States and its allies will have to continue applying pressure to groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda in an effort to contain them and limit the chronic threat they pose.

Read more: Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat | Stratfor
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31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Super Chaos? on: October 15, 2014, 01:18:09 PM

Super Chaos?
Global Affairs
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 03:02 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan

The words anarchy and chaos are everywhere in the news. Iraq has collapsed. Syria collapsed some time ago, as did Libya and Yemen -- even as Yemen now threatens to enter deeper depths of implosion with al-Houthi insurgents having entered and virtually surrounded the capital of Sanaa. Civil war in Lebanon periodically threatens to reignite. Egypt has required a rebirth of authoritarianism to keep order there. Afghanistan and Pakistan are never far from the abyss. Ukraine is a weak state threatened with further Russian military aggression. A wall of disease has been erected in West Africa in states that collapsed into anarchy in the late 1990s and have been limping along ever since. Nigeria faces an Islamic insurgency that is, in turn, indicative of regional tensions between Muslims in the north of the country and Christians in the south. South Sudan, midwifed into existence by Western elites, has been in a circumstance of tribal war. The Central African Republic, beset by religious violence that has killed thousands, can in no sense be called a functioning state. The same can be said of Somalia, though the worst of the threat posed by Islamic extremists there may be past. New shortages of rationed food items in Venezuela may mean more upheaval there. And there are other places around the globe -- called states in the polite language of diplomats and development experts -- that travelers' accounts away from the capital cities reveal are no such thing.

I worried aloud about such a world in a lengthy 1994 essay in The Atlantic Monthly, "The Coming Anarchy." The core of my argument was that with European empires gone, not every place in the world will necessarily have the capability to maintain functioning institutions in far-flung countrysides, and that absolute rises in population, ethnic and sectarian divides, and especially environmental degradation (i.e., water shortages) will only make such places harder to govern. My argument only seemed hopeless if you believed in the first place that elites could engineer reality from above. Of course elites can affect destiny at pivotal moments, but the actual character of large geographical swathes of the earth will only be determined by the masses living there.

But what if such chaos as we have seen in small- and some medium-sized states over time happens in larger states? What if, for example, the two dominant territorial forces on the Eurasian mainland, Russia and China, prove deeper into the 21st century to be ungovernable by centralized means? I am not predicting this. I personally do not think this will happen. But I believe it is a worthwhile thought experiment to conduct and entertain. For even the partial unraveling of Russia or China would have dramatic geopolitical effects far beyond their borders. Europe, after all, has throughout its history had its fate substantially determined by eruptions from the east -- in Russia. Southeast Asia, the Korean Peninsula and even the island nation of Japan have often had their fates substantially determined by changes in China. If we do not think the unthinkable, therefore, we are being irresponsible.

The fear of chaos has always been central to Russian history. Russia's landmass encompasses half the longitudes of the earth, with the result that central control must be oppressive merely to be effective. Adding to this sense of oppression is the perennial fear of invasion. Indeed, Russia is a land power with few natural borders in any direction. Oppressive, autocratic regimes have a tendency to foster weak institutions, since rule in such circumstances is personal rather than bureaucratic. Of course, the stories of Russia's impenetrable and inefficient bureaucracy are legion, but this reality has only caused its rulers -- czars and commissars both -- to be even more oppressive in their attempts to overcome it. To wit, the way in which President Vladimir Putin rules Russia is merely a culmination of how Russia has been ruled for more than a millennium. Putin rules in Politburo style, with a somewhat opaque circle of advisers who control all the major levers of power, military and civilian. Natural resource revenues, especially those of oil and natural gas, become tools of central authority in this case.

Russia is not a world of stable, impersonal and rules-based institutions but a world of rank intimidation and of whom you know. If this is the case -- if Putin has created a rule by a camarilla, which by its mere existence weakens institutional checks and balances -- what will happen to Russia after he leaves or is forced from office? Voices in the Western media wax hopeful that Putin can be toppled if he miscalculates on his military intervention in Ukraine. But were that to occur, it is more likely that Russia itself could weaken or fall into chaos, or that an even more brutal dictator would emerge to forestall such chaos. And were there to be a crisis in central authority in Moscow, expect far-flung regions such as Siberia and the Russian Far East to gain more autonomy, formally or informally. In other words, the partial breakup of Russia may be more likely than the emergence of Western democracy in Russia. The years of former President Boris Yeltsin's incompetent rule in the 1990s should be a warning of what to expect from Russian democracy.

The fear of chaos has often been prevalent throughout history in China. For thousands of years, one Chinese dynasty has followed another. But not every dynasty has been able to control all or most of Chinese territory, and between the fall of one dynasty and the rise of another there has periodically been chaos. The Chinese Communist Party is just the latest Chinese dynasty, which itself emerged following a long period of war and chaos. Now this latest dynasty faces a tumultuous economic transition from an Industrial Age, smokestack economy driven by low wages and a massive volume of exports to a postindustrial, cleaner and high-tech economy featuring higher wages and a somewhat lower volume of exports. Chinese President Xi Jinping is using an anti-corruption campaign as a sort of great purge to re-centralize the Party for these economic rigors ahead. It is highly unclear whether he can succeed. Meanwhile, democratic tendencies stir, as we have seen in Hong Kong.

If Xi only partially succeeds, let alone fails, there is the possibility of sustained ethnic unrest at increasing levels among the Muslim Turkic Uighurs in western China and the Tibetans in southwestern China. So do not necessarily expect China to be as stable over the next 30 years as it has been for the last 30.

In sum, just because autocracy has failed does not mean that democracy can work. And just because the tumultuous, dramatic weakening of central control in big states has not happened yet does not mean it is implausible.

Read more: Super Chaos? | Stratfor
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32  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / FMA article from 1900 on: October 15, 2014, 12:54:43 PM
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ebola on: October 15, 2014, 12:28:34 PM
Giving Ebola its' own thread.  Prior posts can be found on the Epidemics thread:
34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: October 15, 2014, 12:02:52 PM
As always, "Profit or prophet-ize?"
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Houston's lesbian mayor subpoenas sermons on homosexuality on: October 15, 2014, 11:02:02 AM
36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: October 15, 2014, 12:03:49 AM
Ummm , , , sorry but Wesbury has been decisively kicking the collective ass of this board when it comes to predicting the market, and inflation.
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck, Moses and the Statue of Liberty on: October 14, 2014, 01:41:53 PM
second post of the day  You will need to click on the clip in question which gives one minute.  Then to get to the next minute, you click on the next clip, etc.

38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FBI's dishonest study on: October 14, 2014, 12:14:09 PM
FBI Used Bogus Numbers in Mass Shooting Report

Last month, the FBI released a study on mass shootings since 2000. We looked at the underlying cultural problems, but gun researcher John Lott dug deeper into the actual numbers the FBI used. What he found is astounding. "The FBI counted 160 'mass' or 'active' shootings in public places from 2000 to 2013," Lott wrote. "Worse, it said these attacks rose from just one in 2000 to 17 in 2013. Media outlets worldwide gave the 'news' extensive coverage. Too bad the study is remarkably shoddy -- slicing the evidence to distort the results. In fact, mass public shootings have only risen ever so slightly over the last four decades. While the FBI study discusses 'mass shootings or killings,' its graphs were filled with cases that had nothing to do with mass killings. Of the 160 cases it counted, 32 involved a gun being fired without anyone being killed. Another 35 cases involved a single murder. It’s hard to see how the FBI can count these incidents, which make up 42 percent of its 160 cases, as 'mass killings.'" In other words, it appears the FBI produced a deceptive report that just happens to bolster the gun-grabbing agenda of the Obama administration

more at
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on a rampage: Ruins of the Middle East on: October 14, 2014, 12:07:09 PM
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Reason and Faith, 1822 on: October 14, 2014, 12:03:21 PM
"Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Smith, 1822
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey struggles to define its regional role on: October 14, 2014, 11:10:04 AM
 Turkey Struggles to Define Its Regional Role
Geopolitical Diary
Monday, October 13, 2014 - 17:54 Text Size Print

What role will Turkey play in the international military campaign against the Islamic State? This is perhaps the biggest question regarding the U.S.-led coalition's effort against militants in Iraq and Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's claim that modern "Lawrences of Arabia" are actively trying to destabilize the Middle East offers some insight into the Turkish leadership's thoughts on this question. Nearly a century after the renowned British military intelligence officer played a key role in nurturing the 1916-18 Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, Turkey's leaders find themselves at odds with both Western and Arab states -- the latter far more than the former -- regarding the future of the region.

In an Oct. 13 speech at Istanbul's Marmara University, Erdogan said, "Lawrence was an English spy in an Arab land. But currently, the spies are springing out from our own countries in the shape of a journalist, writer or even a terrorist. You can witness the new 'Lawrences' trying to set the region on fire." Erdogan decried the "artificially made" borders drawn by European powers in the Middle East as "the real cause of long-term pain and crises" in the region. "Turkey is the only country that can provide peace in the region. Turkey is the hope of the Middle Eastern people. Turkey can remove the barriers between Middle Eastern people not by changing physical borders, but by instilling hope and trust," he added.

Embedded within these words is the strategic situation Turkey faces today, amid the ongoing turmoil in the Arab world stemming from the rise of the Islamic State. Ironically, a hundred years after Britain worked with the Arabs to undermine Turkey's power, Washington now needs Ankara to assume regional leadership and manage the security situation on its southern flank. Though Turkey is indeed seeking this elevated role, it is also well aware of the massive challenges that come with such an undertaking. This awareness is why Ankara is still struggling to come up with a coherent strategy to deal with the Islamic State.

Though the West's stance toward Turkey has undergone a 180-degree shift, the United States and Europe remain involved in efforts to manage the region south of the Turkish border. The gap between Western and Turkish interests further complicates matters for Ankara, which will have to manage jihadists, Kurdish separatists and Syria's Iranian-backed leadership for a while before it can reap any benefits from its involvement. While much has changed in the West's attitude toward Turkey's role in the Arab world, the Arabs themselves remain a major problem for Ankara.

Different Visions for the Future

Today's Arabs pose an even bigger problem for Turkey than they did when they revolted against the Ottoman Empire. Led by Saudi Arabia, the Arab states (with the exception of Qatar) no longer act as Western proxies against the Turks. On the contrary, given their financial prowess and Western concerns regarding Iran, Riyadh and its Arab allies are trying to steer the West's efforts against the Islamic State toward toppling Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Turkey, too, is seeking al Assad's ouster, with the goal of replacing him with a new order (in Syria and the wider region) that is under Turkey's influence. For now, the Arab states simply want to undermine the Iranian and Shiite position in Iraq and Syria, and thus theirs is a sectarian struggle.

But this is not the issue with which Turkey must contend. Arabs already struggling against the Iranians also oppose the idea of their region falling, once again, under Turkey's influence, even though they share its Sunni sect. Already reeling from the chaos of the Arab Spring, the Saudis and their Arab partners do not have a blueprint for the region. However, Turkey's master plan entails working with Republican Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, to stabilize the region. This is something the Arab monarchies and republican autocracies see as the biggest threat to their stability. Turkey will therefore find itself in conflict with the Arab powers long after it has managed to sort out its issues with the West. The one power Washington is counting on to play a dominant role in managing an increasingly fragmented Middle East will have a hard time leading the region's ethnic majority for many decades to come.

Read more: Turkey Struggles to Define Its Regional Role | Stratfor
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42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rapid response capabilities on: October 14, 2014, 11:06:57 AM
 The U.S. Military Improves Its Crisis Response Capabilities
October 14, 2014 | 0422 Print Text Size
The U.S. Military Improves Its Crisis Response Capabilities
Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response soldiers load into a MV-22 Osprey during a joint training mission with the French military in 2014. (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States is proceeding with the establishment of another Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF) unit in Kuwait to support operations in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility, which spans the Middle East and Central Asia. SP-MAGTF units were originally created as a response to the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens. An additional unit will cover the U.S. Southern Command in the future.

Normally, U.S. Marine Expeditionary Units embarked on amphibious ships would be charged with responding to attacks like the one on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, but they are not always available or located at the right place at the right time. The 2012 attack exposed this lack of coverage and revealed the need for a pre-positioned and mobile response force that could rapidly deploy during crisis situations.

To address this gap, the U.S. Marines created flexible SP-MAGTF units that are land-based but air-deployable and able to support U.S. interests ranging from embassy reinforcement to disaster relief. The first of these units was set up in Spain and is principally geared towards supporting crisis situations in Africa. The unit, which began its deployment in 2013, has reached a full operational capability of about 1,400 Marines. It can deploy two crisis response teams with MV-22 Osprey aircraft and support them with combat aviation units.

As U.S. Marine Gen. John Paxton highlighted in an Oct. 1 discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the SP-MAGTF units are "sub-optimal" when compared to an entire Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is supported by amphibious vessels. While Marine Expeditionary Units are more capable and robust, they must commit a fixed amount of power to a specific area. These units are also limited by the speed of their ships and the range of their supporting aircraft, which constrains unit mobility and makes it difficult for a commander to prepare for an array of potential threats throughout the world. They must prioritize and commit the limited number of Marine Expeditionary Units deployed to a few specific regions, which hardly covers the full geographic spectrum of threats.

This is where the SP-MAGTF concept steps in and fills the coverage gap. The units are land-based and can be broken up and parceled out as needed. More important, they can be pre-positioned to numerous places within the command theater in response to potential threats. Elements of the U.S. Africa Command units have been temporarily stationed out of Sicily because of ongoing unrest in North Africa, predominantly in Libya. The move only requires 200 Marines to serve as a tailored response force, making the element more versatile. It is combat capable enough to protect and extract threatened U.S. personnel, and it requires much less of an overall force commitment than adjusting a Marine Expeditionary Unit to a new theater.

There are also ancillary advantages to having a ground-based Marine unit as opposed to a ship-borne one. A ground-based unit can tie in with either local forces (in military-to-military exchanges) or the community in its theater of operations, while concurrently standing by to execute its mission. Indeed, the SP-MAGTF unit covering Africa has already been utilized heavily in bilateral training with partner nations, and it evacuated U.S. personnel from South Sudan after a rise in hostilities.

The newest SP-MAGTF unit going to U.S. Central Command is the next evolution of this effort to expand coverage. Consisting of some 2,000 Marines, the unit will be headquartered in Kuwait, with various elements tasked out and positioned throughout the theater. This unit has more personnel than U.S. Africa Command's SP-MAGTF unit because U.S. Central Command covers a greater number of U.S. interests and has personnel scattered throughout a tumultuous theater. Overall, SP-MAGTF units simply repackage existing forces to better meet the needs of the Marine Corps' mission. Adaptability is an important trait for any military, and SP-MAGTF units are being created as a solution to the coverage problem highlighted by the Benghazi attack.

Read more: The U.S. Military Improves Its Crisis Response Capabilities | Stratfor
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43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Electric capacity decrease from regs 7x greater than predicted on: October 14, 2014, 10:55:22 AM
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Diseases from illegal alien minors brought in by Baraq on: October 14, 2014, 10:53:22 AM
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Growing Russia-China ties on: October 14, 2014, 10:34:19 AM

Editor's Note: Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Oct. 14, during three days of significant business negotiations and deal signing between the countries. Russia has been looking for an investment boost as a remedy for its economy, which is in sharp decline because of slowing internal growth, sanctions from the West and a sour investment climate overall. Already, Moscow's focus on expanded economic ties has shifted east, prompted by Russia's tense relations with the West in recent years. Moscow has traditionally been reserved in its relations with Asia -- and China in particular -- but this trend appears to be changing.

Russia reached out with the expansion of the East Siberia Oil Pipeline, completed in 2012, a move that increased eastbound oil exports from 4 percent to approximately 20 percent. Russia hopes to duplicate this success with natural gas exports through the Power of Siberia pipeline, which began construction this summer. The oil and natural gas deals with China are worth some $270 billion and $400 billion, respectively, over the next three decades.
Russia-China Deals Since 2012
Click to Enlarge

Beyond energy, Moscow now views China as a much larger investor in Russia as well as an alternative market for credit. Both areas are reflected in the type and quantity of deals struck between the two countries over the past three days, 38 agreements in all, worth approximately $25 billion. Among the first notable deals is an agreement with China's Exim Bank that could provide $2 billion of long-term loans to Russia's Vnesheconombank, or VEB, which is currently suffering under sanctions imposed by the West. Additionally, Beijing said it would invest $10 billion in a high-speed rail project connecting Moscow and Kazan, Tatarstan, a $25 billion project that was put on hold when Western investors shied away because of sanctions.

Moscow also offered Beijing the chance to purchase a stake in Russia's oil giant, Rosneft. This is alongside a proposed stake in planned liquefied natural gas facilities on Russia's eastern coast and a possible expansion of the Power of Siberia pipeline -- one that would add a large spur supplying China's western regions. Though indicators appear to show a revival of the Sino-Soviet alliance, both countries are carefully calculating their commitments: Beijing and Moscow are naturally wary of being beholden to one another. For the time being, however, there is a shared willingness to come to terms, which offers a distinct advantage for a Russia badly in need of new markets and investors, and a China that fits both those bills.
Russia and China Strengthen Their Energy Relationship

    June 18, 2011: Russia is one of the world's largest energy producers and China is one of the biggest consumers, but these bordering countries have done very little energy trade. Instead, Russia relies mostly on the West as a consumer — it supplies one quarter of Europe's energy — while China largely relies on energy supplies from the Middle East and Africa imported via sea routes. The reason for this disconnect is that Russia's current oil and natural gas production occurs mostly in the west of the country, while most of China's population is in its east, leaving thousands of kilometers between the source and the consumers. The distance — and therefore investment — involved in connecting Russia's energy to China's population is massive.

    Considering the difficulties involved in any oil and natural gas projects linking Russia and China, the endeavors appear to make no economic sense. However, this is not only about economics. Beijing and Moscow have many political, security and other issues in their overlapping and respective regions. It could be that energy cooperation, even at a high price, is considered mutually strategically necessary, or it could be a tradeoff for concessions in other areas. It is not clear what the tradeoff could be, but it is clear that a serious discussion is going on between the two Asian giants on finding common ground and shaping a stronger relationship in the future.

Russia Diversifies Oil Export Routes and Markets

    March 9, 2012: Russia is diversifying its customer base so that if demand in Europe declines -- or if Russia and its European customers find themselves in a politically untenable situation -- Russia will still have a large market to its east. In the past decade, Russia has increased its oil exports to Asia from 3 percent to 15 percent of total exports, with more increases expected. When the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline (ESPO) is expanded, Russia theoretically could supply one-fifth of China's imports, or one-third of Japan's imports. However, Russia is not singling out one customer in East Asia yet; it is supplying many customers. Conversely, no East Asian country wants to become too reliant on Russia after seeing Moscow cut off supplies to its customers in the West.

Russia Looks East for New Energy Consumers

    Jan. 23, 2013: With its oil and natural gas exports to Europe declining, Russia is expanding its energy export networks to Asia. Russia has long relied on Europe as its primary customer, but over the past two years Moscow has worked to build out its energy infrastructure to the east as a way of diversifying its customer base. Today, it has enough capacity to divert about half of its oil exports to eastern markets. Because oil and natural gas are the chief sources of revenue for the Russian government, the Kremlin wants to ensure it has the flexibility to shift routes and destinations as demand in different regions rises or falls, somewhat insulating the country from volatility in energy markets.

Russia Tries to Crack China's Natural Gas Market

    Sept. 11, 2013: The past two weeks have been particularly busy for Russia and China as they discuss energy deals. Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin traveled to China and struck a series of deals on behalf of Russian oil giant Rosneft, of which he is a board member. In June, the two sides agreed to a $270 billion oil deal under which Russia, starting in 2015, will export 300,000 barrels per day to China for 25 years, on top of the 400,000 barrels per day it already delivers noncontractually. In addition to this deal, Sechin and Rosneft agreed with China National Petroleum Corp. to construct a new oil refinery in the Chinese city of Tianjin and launch a joint venture to open gas stations across China that would be fed by Russian oil -- Moscow's first venture into China's gasoline market.

Russia's Competition for Natural Gas Deals with China

    Sept. 12, 2014: As China diversifies its options for natural gas suppliers, it is leveraging its position to get the best deals it can out of new contracts with Russia. Because Russia is counting on the Chinese natural gas market to help it move away from exporting energy to Europe, Moscow is offering concessions to Beijing, particularly in light of the growing competition it faces. Beijing's wariness of a natural gas contract with Russia and its concern about the end price of Russian natural gas has put Gazprom in a difficult position. The company was supposed to begin constructing the Power of Siberia pipeline in September, but without a final deal with China in place, it is postponing construction of the $32 billion pipeline until early 2014 to ensure that there will be a market for the natural gas the line will carry. Gazprom is courting other customers, such as South Korea and Japan, to sign contracts for natural gas exports via the pipeline, but the volume these countries would import is not nearly as great as the amount China has proposed.

Russia, China Agree to Natural Gas Deal

    May 21, 2014: Russia and China struck a long-awaited deal on natural gas May 21, according to Alexei Miller, the CEO of Russian natural gas giant Gazprom. According to the provisions of the deal, which is worth $400 billion, Russia will supply 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to China for the next 30 years, with the option to raise supplies to 60 billion cubic meters per year in the future. The agreement will enable Russia to launch plans for building the $42 billion Power of Siberia pipeline, a 4,000 kilometer-long (approximately 2,500 miles) pipeline that will tap two new source fields and run from Siberia to China. The energy deal does not mean that Beijing and Moscow are aligned politically, as they were periodically during the Cold War. But each country now has a use for the other, and their partnership could help ensure domestic stability and enhance their respective positions in the world.

Read more: A Chronology of Russia's Rekindled Alliance with China | Stratfor
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46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fracking safety gets boost on: October 14, 2014, 10:27:39 AM
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kosher Store mobbed on: October 14, 2014, 10:22:08 AM

Kosher Store Sacked by Dozens of Hooligans in Crown Heights

A mob of teenagers in Crown Heights, New York City, vandalized a Jewish-owned business Saturday night, then damaged several nearby cars and buses before shouting “Heil Hitler” and leaving the area, witnesses said. The incident was captured on security camera. The store, Gourmet Butchers, was likely targeted because it was owned by Jews, the owner, Yanki Klein, told the local ABC News affiliate. The group, which various media sources described as consisting of 30 to 70 youths, primarily African-American, started “to scream and make noise” and then “everything happened in seconds,” Klein said. Another witness told the station that “a whole bunch of guys, they just rush the place. It was like out of nowhere, and everyone was just in like shock-mode, and everyone was shocked to see what was going on, there was no reason for it.” The same witness said that members of the group shouted “a Nazi phrase” before running away.

Watch Here

The video footage, posted to YouTube, shows a group of youths gathering outside the store, then cuts to several of them bursting through the main entrance, knocking over a shelf and throwing products around before leaving. Police were called to the scene and an investigation was launched into the incident. According to an account posted on the neighborhood news site, the store has been targeted in the past by similar acts of vandalism carried out by smaller groups or individuals, and the owner has requested more police presence in the area, but to no avail. “[Very often] these kinds of kids come by my store and yell ‘Heil Hitler,’ or steal things that are on shelves near the door… I’ve asked the police to put an officer on my corner many times, but I feel like I am being ignored and these ‘minor’ problems keep happening.” Klein said. The Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, home to a large population of both Hasidic Jews and African Americans, has in the past been a flash point of tension between the two communities.

Source: Times of Israel
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / R. Edelman: Ruthless Misogyny on: October 14, 2014, 10:14:59 AM
I'm not sure how well this argument succeeds (e.g. if the woman wants to be a "breeder" why should we stop her? Is the real issue here marriage, or gay parenting?) but offered in the spirit of considering various points of view:
Ruthless misogyny
LGBT activists have a range of strategies for discrediting women who question their goals.
Rivka Edelman | 13 October 2014
comment 7 | print |

Janna Darnelle’s recent essay, “Breaking the Silence: Redefining Marriage Hurts Women Like Me—and Our Children,” reveals what is behind the heartwarming pictures of gay families from a mother’s point of view. As someone who was raised by a lesbian mother, I would like to weigh in. I will comment not only as a former child who was once all smiles in those pictures, but also as an academic, a woman, a mother, and a feminist.

Darnelle’s essay struck a nerve and went viral. It is not surprising that, within a few hours, LGBT activists had taken up arms against her. Keyboard warriors manned the ramparts. Soon, the usual thugs took up their clubs and pitchforks.

For those of you who avoid the subterranean landscape of online same-sex parenting debates, it is useful to be introduced to Scott “Rose” Rosenzweig, a virulently misogynistic LGBT activist. As soon as Darnelle’s essay was published, Rose went into action, darting from the blog Good As You to other sites in an effort to destroy her personally. (Rose’s obsessive internet commenting has attracted attention at other news outlets as well.) Darnelle’s ex-husband even weighed in. A helpful fellow, he left her personal information in the comments section of several activists’ blogs, including her full legal name.

Janna Darnelle wrote under a pen name in order to protect her family. Unfortunately, her ex-husband’s comments helped Scott Rose embark on a campaign of harassment and intimidation. As I will discuss below, Rose was not content to confine his character assassination to the internet; he has also contacted Darnelle’s employer in an attempt to get her fired.

Readers will recall that Darnelle’s essay discusses her divorce from her ex-husband and her struggles as a single mother to provide a sense of family. Although her conclusions are controversial, her story is well-written and articulate. Sadly, the hate-driven response from extremist LGBT activists and bloggers confirms what many women are beginning to realize. While these activists laud the ex-husband for “living his truth,” they hold women and children in such contempt that they refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Janna’s account of her difficult experiences as a mother. Although they purport to represent the disadvantaged, certain wings of the LGBT-rights movement function as all-white men’s rights groups. In our contemporary climate, these men are allowed to do great harm to women and children with impunity.

Erasing and Exploiting Women

On the most superficial level, what Darnelle described could have parallels in a heterosexual divorce. In most cases, a woman’s standard of living drops significantly after a divorce, while men’s goes up significantly. So, in that sense, there was nothing surprising in Janna’s story: the judge favored the husband, who had a steady high income.

The bloggers and activists who comment at Jeremy Hooper’s Good as You blog have used this judge’s decision to suggest that Darnelle was an unfit mother. Darnelle’s piece did not give details about the family’s custody arrangement, but I have confirmed that the mother has 60 percent custody of the children. This indicates that she has not been found to be “unfit” in any way.

The “unfit mother” trope is very important, because it helps justify taking women’s children, eggs, or the use of their uteri. Darnelle is right. Many families headed by gay male couples are built upon exploitation of women. Practically speaking, Scott Rose and his compatriots have formed a men’s rights group that seeks to use women as breeders. These egg donors and surrogate mothers supply infants for a bustling market full of same-sex couples, for whom reproduction is naturally and biologically impossible.

In the name of equality, groups such as GLAAD (which employs Jeremy Hooper as a consultant) have pushed through gender identity laws that have legally erased women. The term “woman” now legally can refer to the way that a man chooses to identify himself. Once women have been erased legally as a group and as individuals, it is not hard to erase “mothers.” This lends support to the practice of using one woman’s eggs and another woman’s womb to supply children for gay male couples, obscuring the concept of motherhood and making it seem dispensable.

A Guide to the Playbook of Extreme LGBT Activists

The publication of Janna Darnelle’s story led to a spate of blog posts full of vitriol, calling her “a pitiful creature,” accusing her of mental instability, and questioning her very existence.

With the help of her husband’s comments, Scott Rose set off to dig up and publicize as much personal information as possible about Darnelle, such as high school graduation and real estate records. Rose has harassed Darnelle with threatening messages. He has even contacted Darnelle’s employer, leaving this message on the company’s Facebook page:

    This is a COMPLAINT against […], an executive assistant in […]. Under the nom de plume of “Janna Darnelle,” […] has published a horrifying, defamatory anti-gay screed on the website “Public Discourse.” The first problem would be that she is creating a climate of hostility for eventual gay elders and/or their visiting friends and relatives. The second problem would be that in the screed, she comes off as being unhinged. Her public expressions of gay-bashing bigotry are reflecting very poorly on LLC.

Sadly, all of this conforms to a predictable pattern of attack. If you study the routine that plays out whenever extreme activists like Scott Rose decide to take someone out, you will see seasoned patterns. Four steps comprise their usual character assassination.

First, they call the individual a liar and say the person’s existence cannot be verified without more data about him or her. Second, once they have such data, they write to the person’s employer to get him or her fired or professionally destroyed. Third, if they cannot get the person fired, they go after the family members. Fourth, if they cannot turn the person’s family against him or her, they blast endless broadsides against the person, trying to make him or her feel afraid or unsafe at all times.

They have a bag of rhetorical tricks as well. Learn these.

Soft derails: “What about straight divorces, adoptions, and blended families?” Such asides are meant to distract and create false equivalencies. The fact is, every single family headed by a gay male couple had to take another person’s child. In order to accept this, one must accept that men have the right to use women’s bodies and buy their children.

Shocking derails: “Look at all the bad parents that are heterosexual.” The existence of such parents, while tragic, does not give men the right to harvest eggs from women, to use them as breeders, or to take their babies and children.

Appeal to emotion: “We want children; what should we do?” This tries to make people feel guilty or shame them into handing over poor women to be used by rich men. My response: I have not asked you to solve my problems, have I? You can’t demand society legislate a special subclass of women to beused explicitly as breeders so you can feel happy.

Born this way biology: “Do not live a lie; be true to yourself.” This tactic becomes another erasure of women. In this scheme, we are asked to accept that men’s biology matters. A man who is attracted to other men could not possibly be asked to stay with his wife, because he is biologically fated to be attracted to other men’s bodies. Yet, simultaneously, we are told that women’s biology—especially their biological bonds with their children—are of no importance. Despite the scientific evidence of maternal and fetal bonding during pregnancy, and despite the long histories of women who have suffered lifelong grief because their babies were taken from them, we are expected to think of women as breed animals and to believe that men have the right to raise other people’s children.

You want to marry a man and you are a man? Society does not owe you women’s children, women’s eggs, or women’s bodies.

They Can’t Silence Us Forever

In writing this piece, I know that I risk being labeled a bigot. Like Janna Darnelle, I will probably have to endure a whole host of misogynistic terms. I’ll be called crazy, unhinged, laughable, bitter, fat, old, and ugly. In other words, I am just a woman who dares to say rich privileged white men do not have the right to women’s bodies and body parts.

Male sexual pleasure has been a protected industry for both gay and heterosexual men for ages. By and large, the industry exploits women and children. Now we have a new industry: surrogacy, or the commercial-industrial uterus. How very progressive. And at the same time, how very old and predictable.

Rivka Edelman is a visiting professor of literature and writing. She has published widely under a different name. She is also a feminist, a children’s rights activist, and an active member in the network of adult children raised in LBGT households. This essay was originally published at Public Discourse and has been republished with permission.
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49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey bombs Kurdish rebels on: October 14, 2014, 10:09:16 AM*Mideast%20Brief&utm_campaign=2014_The%20Middle%20East%20Daily_10.14.14
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck & Feiler's on Moses's connection with our Founding Fathers on: October 14, 2014, 12:56:39 AM
See especially the part with Beck and Feiler discussing Moses and our Founding Fathers:
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