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23151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Generation Faithful on: December 24, 2008, 09:07:23 AM
AMMAN, Jordan — Muhammad Fawaz is a very serious college junior with a stern gaze and a reluctant smile that barely cloaks suppressed anger. He never wanted to attend Jordan University. He hates spending hours each day commuting.


As a high school student, Mr. Fawaz, 20, had dreamed of earning a scholarship to study abroad. But that was impossible, he said, because he did not have a “wasta,” or connection. In Jordan, connections are seen as essential for advancement and the wasta system is routinely cited by young people as their primary grievance with their country.

So Mr. Fawaz decided to rebel. He adopted the serene, disciplined demeanor of an Islamic activist. In his sophomore year he was accepted into the student group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s largest, most influential religious, social and political movement, one that would ultimately like to see the state governed by Islamic law, or Shariah. Now he works to recruit other students to the cause.

“I find there is justice in the Islamic movement,” Mr. Fawaz said one day as he walked beneath the towering cypress trees at Jordan University. “I can express myself. There is no wasta needed.”

Across the Middle East, young people like Mr. Fawaz, angry, alienated and deprived of opportunity, have accepted Islam as an agent of change and rebellion. It is their rock ’n’ roll, their long hair and love beads. Through Islam, they defy the status quo and challenge governments seen as corrupt and incompetent.

These young people — 60 percent of those in the region are under 25 — are propelling a worldwide Islamic revival, driven by a thirst for political change and social justice. That fervor has popularized a more conservative interpretation of the faith.

“Islamism for us is what pan-Arabism was for our parents,” said Naseem Tarawnah, 25, a business writer and blogger, who is not part of the movement.

The long-term implications of this are likely to complicate American foreign policy calculations, making it more costly to continue supporting governments that do not let secular or moderate religious political movements take root.

Washington will also be likely to find it harder to maintain the policy of shunning leaders of groups like the Brotherhood in Egypt, or Hamas in Gaza, or Hezbollah in Lebanon, which command tremendous public sympathy.

Leaders of Muslim countries have tried to appease public sentiment while doing all they can to discourage the West from engaging religious movements directly. They see the prospect of a thaw in relations with the West, and see these groups as a threat to their monopoly on power.

Authoritarian governments view relative moderation as more of a political challenge than extremism, which is a security problem that can be contained through harsh methods.

“What happens if Islamists accepted the peace process and became more pragmatic?” said Muhammad Abu Rumman, research editor at the newspaper Al Ghad in Amman. “People see them as less corrupt and as the only real opposition. Israel and the U.S. might look at them differently. The regime is afraid of the Brotherhood when it becomes more pragmatic.”

The financial crisis only adds to the anxiety of governments in the Middle East that had hoped economic development could appease their citizens, create jobs for legions of unemployed and underemployed young people and dilute the appeal of Islamic movements. But the crisis and the drop in oil prices have hit hard, throwing the brakes on once-booming economies in the Persian Gulf region, and modest economic growth elsewhere in the region.

In this environment, governments are forced to confront a reality of their own creation. By choking off democracy and free speech, the only space where groups could gather and discuss critical ideas became the mosque, and the only movements that had room to prosper were religion-based.

Today, the search for identity in the Middle East no longer involves tension between the secular and religious. Religion has won.

The struggle, instead, is over how to define an Islamic society and government. Zeinah Hamdan, 24, has traveled a typical journey in Jordan. She says she wants a more religious government guided by Shariah law, and she took the head scarf at a younger age than anyone else in her family.

========================

(Page 2 of 3)



But when she was in college, she was offended when an Islamist student activist chastised her for shaking a young man’s hand. She wants to be a modern religious woman, and she defines that as working and socializing in a coed environment.


“If we implement Shariah law, we will be more comfortable,” she said. “But what happens is, the people who come to power are extremists.”

Like others here, she is torn between her discomfort with what she sees as the extreme attitudes of the Muslim Brotherhood and her alienation from a government she does not consider to be Islamic enough. “The middle is very difficult,” she said.

Focus on Popular Causes

Under a bright midday sun one recent day, Mr. Fawaz and his allies in the Islamic student movement put on green baseball caps that read, in Arabic, “Islamic Current of Jordan University” and prepared to demonstrate. Mr. Fawaz carried a large poster board reading, “We are with you Gaza.”

The university protest reflected the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country as a whole: precisely organized, deliberately nonthreatening and focused on popular causes here such as the Palestinians. The Brotherhood says it supports democracy and moderation, but its commitment to pluralism, tolerance and compromise has never been tested in Jordan.

Mr. Fawaz and about 200 other students stood in a straight line, extending nearly two city blocks, parallel to the traffic on the major roadway in front of the university. More than half of the students were women, many with their faces veiled.

State security men in plain clothes hurried up and down the line. “Brother, for God’s sake, when will you be angry?” one security agent screamed into his phone, recording for headquarters the slogan on a student’s placard.

At 12:30 p.m., the male students stepped into the road, blocking traffic, while the women rushed off to the sidewalk and melted back into the campus. One minute later, they walked out of traffic, took off their caps and folded up their signs, tucked them into computer bags and went back to school.

“I want to be able to express what I want; I want freedom,” Mr. Fawaz said, after returning to the campus. His glasses always rest crooked on his face, making him look younger, and a bit out of sorts. “I don’t want to be afraid to express my opinion.”

Mr. Fawaz grew up in a small village called Anjara, near Ajloun, about 50 miles from Amman. His father grew up in the Jordan Valley and worked as a nurse in Irbid. Mr. Fawaz said he was 8 years old he was first invited to “leadership retreats” with a youth organization of the Brotherhood.

When he was 13, the youth group took him on a minor pilgrimage to Mecca. So, he said, he had been enticed by religion at an early age. But he only decided to become politically active — and to join the Brotherhood — when he was denied a scholarship to study abroad.

While there are no official statistics on student membership in the Brotherhood, only a fraction of Jordan University students are formally affiliated. Yet many others say they share the same vague sense of discontent and yearning, the same embrace of the Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam Is the Solution,” a resonant catchall in the face of many problems.

The university, with about 30,000 students from across the country, has long served as a proxy battlefield for Jordan’s competing interests.

Competing Loyalties

In Jordan, unlike Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is legal, with a political party and a vast network of social services. It also has a political party, called the Islamic Action Front. While some fear it as too extreme, others argue that it has sold out by working within a political system they see as corrupt and un-Islamic. On campus, the Islamists try to build sympathy, handing out study sheets or copying notes for students.

Mr. Fawaz decided this year to run as an Islamist candidate for the student council, an influential organization with its own budget and the right to put up posters, distribute fliers and hold on-campus events.

The Islamic students’ movement had boycotted the elections for years to protest a change of election rules that called for appointing — not electing — half of the council’s 80 members. The rule change, decreed by the former university president, was made in order to block the Islamists, who were the most organized group on campus, from controlling the council.

==============

Page 3 of 3)



That is a direct echo of how the state has long tried to contain the Islamist movement in Jordan. The Brotherhood is allowed to operate, but the government and the security services broadly control the outcome of elections.


Indeed, as Islamist movements have swelled, governments across the Middle East have chosen both to contain and to embrace them. Many governments have aggressively moved to roll back the few democratic practices that had started to take root in their societies, and to prevent Islamists from winning power through the voting booth. That risks driving the leaders and the followers of Islamic organizations toward extremism.

At the same time, many governments have tried to appease popular Islamist fervor. Jordan recently granted a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned newspaper the right to publish daily instead of weekly; held private talks with Hamas leaders; arrested a poet, saying he had insulted Islam by using verses of the Koran in love poems; and shut down restaurants that had served alcohol during Ramadan, though they had been licensed by the state to do so.

This year, the new president of Jordan University permitted all student council seats to be elected, but with rules in place that would, again, make it nearly impossible for the Islamist bloc to have control.

Two days before the voting took place, Mr. Fawaz was campaigning on the steps of the education building, dressed in his best suit and tie. His campaign message to the students was simply, “For your sake.”

Running as an Islamist risks consequences: Mr. Fawaz said that he was approached by a student in his class who he believed was delivering a message from the security services. “He told me that they will write about me; I will never get a job,” Mr. Fawaz said.

But even when the police ordered him to take down his posters on election day, he remained resolute and confident.

“Everybody knows that I am going to win,” Mr. Fawaz said, without sounding boastful. “Because I represent the Islamic movement.”

But he did not win. Instead, a candidate representing a large tribe from the city of Salt won, reflecting the loyalty to bonds of kinship and family heritage even as tribal culture has begun to absorb more conservative Islamic practices and beliefs.

Yet Mr. Fawaz was untroubled. “What is important for me,” he said, “is to serve the movement by spreading the word among the students.”

Amjad al-Absy, 28, remembers the moment when he pledged to join the Muslim Brotherhood. He was 15 and he was identified by Brotherhood recruiters when he was playing soccer in a Palestinian refugee camp. He described how the Brotherhood monitors young men — when they play soccer, go to school, to mosque, to work, as well as in the street and singles out those who appear receptive.

“Once you say yes, they put you in a ring, in a family,” said Mr. Absy. “Outside of the Brotherhood, there is no concern for young men, there is no respect. You are alone.”

Mr. Absy and his friend Tarak Naimat, 24, said that while they were students at the university, they had helped to recruit other young men.

“In the computer lab, in the mosque, you buddy up,” Mr. Naimat said. “Then you participate in events together. Then he becomes a member. If he’s advanced, it can take six months. If less, maybe two years.”

The appeal, Mr. Naimat said, was simple: “It gives you the feeling you can change things, you can act, you can be a leader. You feel like you are part of something important.”

Recruiters to the movement operate in a social atmosphere far more receptive than in the past. Every one of five young men talking near the cafeteria of the university recently insisted that the only way Jordan would have democracy was under an Islamic government, which is what the Brotherhood says it wants to achieve.

Muhammad Safi is a 23-year-old with neatly gelled hair and a television-white smile who described himself as the least religious student at the table. He said he had lived in the United States for five years and was eager to marry an American so he could return. Yet he declared: “An Islamic state would be better. At least it would take care of people.”

A Political Crossroads

The task facing Middle East governments and Islamic leaders is to figure out how to harness the energy of the Islamic revival. The young — the demographic bulge that is defining the future of the Islamic world and the way the West will have to engage it — have embraced Islam with all the fervor of the counterculture.

But the movement is still up for grabs — whether it will lead to greater extremism, even terrorism in some cases, and whether the vague dissatisfaction of young people will translate into political engagement or disaffection.

So the cycle is likely to continue, with religious identification fueled not only by the Islamic movements, but also by governments eager to use religion to enhance legitimacy and to satisfy demands of their citizens. That, in turn, broadens support for groups like the Brotherhood, while undermining support for the government, said many researchers, intellectuals and political scientists in Jordan.

The battle lines are clear on the campus of Jordan University. Bilal Abu Sulaih, 24, is a leader in the Islamic student movement. He returned to school this year to study Islamic law after being suspended for one year for organizing protests, he said. During the year off, he said, he worked as a student organizer for the political party office of the Brotherhood. “We are trying to participate,” he said of the movement’s role on campus. “We do not want to overpower everyone else.”

But his reassurances were brushed aside as another student confronted him. “It’s not true,” shouted Ahmed Qabai, 28, who was seated on a nearby bench. He thrust a finger in Mr. Sulaih’s direction.

“You want to try to control everything,” Mr. Qabai said. “I’ve seen it before, your people talking to women and asking them why they’re not veiled.”

Mr. Sulaih, embarrassed by the challenge, said, “It’s not true.”

Mr. Qabai made it clear that he detested the Muslim Brotherhood, getting more and more worked up, until finally he was screaming. But what he said summed up the challenge ahead for Jordan, and for so many governments in the region: “We all know Islam is the solution. That we agree on.”
23152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: December 24, 2008, 08:39:11 AM
"I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."

--George Washington, letter to the General Committee of the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, May 1789
23153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bill's donor list on: December 24, 2008, 12:59:44 AM
By MARTIN PERETZ
This is not about former President Bill Clinton's shakedown of the sheikhs. They can take care of themselves, Clinton Foundation or no Clinton Foundation.

 
APThis is also not about Hillary Clinton's vulnerability to her husband's donors. She can tell him to "go stuff it," which people say she's been doing for a long time anyway. Rest assured, the next secretary of state will not shirk her diplomatic obligations for the benefit of some scummy foreign mineral magnate's uranium.

What I've been tying to discern about the Clinton Foundation is why -- aside from the annual fancy party in New York -- foreign governments, other foundations and charities have given money to fund what they already do themselves.

I understand why McDonald's of central Arkansas would make a contribution to Mr. Clinton's present career. He has spent so much cash on Big Macs over three decades that they actually owe it to him. But I fail to grasp why the "I Won't Cheat" foundation gave a donation to Bill's charity. He isn't exactly an ideal poster boy.

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None of these gifts were really big money, at least not for Mr. Clinton, for whom a million dollars isn't at all big anymore. But the scrounging operation seems to have dug down very deep to pull in thousand-dollar gifts.

There were four United Way contributions, one from the national outfit, three from local branches. Since when is the Clinton Foundation one of the approved charities of the United Way?

Then there are more serious questions about operating charities. What was the purpose of a contribution by the National Opera of Paris? Or of hospitals themselves in strained circumstances, like Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and Arkansas Children's Hospital?

The University of Cambridge and Liverpool University in the United Kingdom threw into the pot from the other side of the pond. American universities like Tufts, Columbia, Georgetown, Iowa State, Texas, Brown, Rensselaer Polytechnic, UCLA and its school of public health all gave, plus the University of Judaism with a whopping sum between $100,000 and $250,000. (Is Bill Clinton now supporting studies in theology?) Do these educational institutions have such deep pockets to share with Bill Clinton's ego?

On the donor list are also the names of the charities we all give to generically: Human Rights Watch (well, not me), Feed the Children, and the Hunger Project. The foundation also receives funding from the International Bank for Recovery and Development of the World Bank, and the World Health Organization. They have their own, far-reaching projects. Why would they give cash to charitable work for which Mr. Clinton is at most a matchmaker?

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

In Hoc Anno DominiCongress Targets PhilanthropyAn Ethanol Bailout?

TODAY'S COLUMNIST

Business World: Get Ready for a Lost Decade
– Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

COMMENTARY

Defense Spending Would Be a Great Stimulus
– Martin Feldstein

Clinton's Donor List Raises Lots of Questions
– Martin PeretzHow Bush Can Transcend the Shoe Thrower
– Mark BowdenA Christmas Tale – 1919
– Hans von SpakovskyThere's a certain looseness here that spreads downwards: District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union gave old comrade Bill somewhere in the range of half a million bucks. And then spreads upwards, so to speak: Citi gave him from $1 million to $5 million. Perhaps Citi's gift was just a pledge. In that case, is Treasury now paying up?

Many are focused on the contributions of the Arab states. Mr. Clinton started his charity in 1997 with four years to go in his presidency, a period when no American law provided for the most elementary public reporting of the enterprise. Still, the fact that Saudi Arabia is on the donor list comes as no surprise.

What we now know is that Mr. Clinton was indiscriminating when it came to accepting cash from all sorts of countries. He took money from poor countries like Jamaica, and more prosperous countries like Italy. He dipped into the Irish Aid Fund and the Swedish Postal Lottery for big money, and for small money from the Social Economic Council of the Netherlands. And then there was an especially strange source from which he schnorrered: Citgo, Hugo Chávez's oil company. Even if the revolucion didn't gain points for this, it is unseemly for an American president to ask the energy company of the Venezuelan dictatorship for spare cash.

So where did all this fund-raised money go? Wouldn't you want to know to which philanthropic undertaking the King of Saudi Arabia and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques committed himself? This information is not in the report -- and it doesn't look like President-elect Obama has any interest in pushing for further disclosure. Maybe the king just gave to general expenses.

Mr. Peretz is editor in chief of The New Republic.
23154  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: December 24, 2008, 12:48:16 AM
Tangential story:

For a time one of my sisters parlayed working for Howard Cosell rolleyes into some fairly heavy involvement with boxing telecasts and PR (e.g. she represented heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe for a time) , , , Anyway, as part of this she would get me gigs from time to time as "assistant stage manager" for various championship fights.  Mostly this meant that I sat at Al Bernstein's elbow and controlled security in the area.   

When welter champ Marlon Starling came up to middleweight to challenge Michael Nunn, the color commentators were Angelo Dundee and then heavyweight champ Buster Douglas and I got to spend the day with them escorting them around and such.  Both AD and BD were a pleasure to spend the day with.

The night before BD defended his title against Evander Holyfield, there was a dress rehearsal for the pre-fight ceremonies.  I got to meet Sugar Ray AND Thommy Hearns (got to read TH's hand too-- an absolutely amazing hand!)  A few minutes later I saw TH and Sugar Ray sitting down together in deep conversation  IIRC they probably were plotting their second or third fight.    After TH returned to his entourage, someone else sat down with SR and during the course of the conversation SR apparently was showing the other man some details about jabbing.  Naturally this had my attention!

Good times , , ,
23155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: December 24, 2008, 12:29:50 AM
And JDN qualifies  smiley
23156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 23, 2008, 11:51:07 AM
Note to Readers

PD will be busy deactivating its missile defenses in anticipation of Santa's arrival. We wish our readers a joyous and safe holiday. We'll be back on Monday.

-- The Mgmt.

A Christmas Miracle for Ted Stevens?

It's wise always to be careful of prosecutorial overreach, even if -- or perhaps especially if -- it involves a case where the evidence appears to be overwhelming.

An FBI agent assigned to the Alaska corruption investigation of GOP Senator Ted Stevens has filed a complaint of misconduct against fellow agents and at least one prosecutor involved in the pursuit of Mr. Stevens on charges he failed to report $250,000 in gifts from an oil-services company executive. Mr. Stevens was convicted on the charges in October, subsequently lost his re-election bid the next month by a few hundred votes, and is currently awaiting sentencing.

The FBI whistleblower's complaint was heavily redacted by Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presided over the trial, but was nonetheless released publicly last night.

The name of the whistleblower along with the names of the agents he accused of misconduct were withheld by the court. In releasing the redacted complaint, Judge Sullivan said yesterday he would consider a request by Mr. Stevens's lawyers to release more of the document later.

"I have witnessed or learned of serious violations of policy, rules and procedures as well as possible criminal violations," the whistleblower asserted in his complaint to the Justice Department. He alleges that FBI agents became cozy with sources in the corruption probe, took gifts and favors from some of them and revealed confidential grand jury and investigation information to the media.

Even more seriously, the whistleblower says at least one prosecutor withheld "exculpatory" information from the Stevens defense team despite a legal requirement that it be turned over. He also said the government concocted a "scheme" by which it allowed Rocky Williams, a potential witness in the case, to return home just before the trial began. Mr. Williams had been subpoenaed by both sides to testify, but prosecutors decided he would make a weak witness and came up with the excuse that he was too ill to testify and should be sent thousands of miles away from Washington back to Alaska.

The charges by the FBI whistleblower will have to be vetted by Judge Sullivan, but it certainly seems Mr. Stevens has a fair chance of having his conviction overturned or winning a new trial. However, the verdict of the voters must stand. They had to vote on Mr. Stevens's fitness and effectiveness for the office of Senator only ten days after he was convicted in federal court. He wound up losing by less than one percentage point to Democrat Mark Begich. No doubt if the FBI whistleblower's charges had been known before the election, the minds of some voters would have been changed.

-- John Fund

Gift Horse

The good news for Caroline Kennedy in a new Quinnipiac University poll is that nearly half of New York State voters expect Governor David Paterson to appoint her to Hillary Clinton's vacated Senate seat, as opposed to 25% who don't think it will happen.

The bad news is that, by 41% to 40%, New York voters don't think the 51-year-old social activist and fundraiser is qualified to be senator. Nor does she get any special break from women, among whom she had only a slight one-percent edge on the matter of whether she is "qualified." Even Geraldine Ferraro, a former New York congresswoman who was the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential candidate, told me yesterday that, while she supports the idea of a woman taking Hillary Clinton's place in the Senate, she isn't sold on Caroline Kennedy. "With the problems and financial crisis we have, we need a Senator who can jump in from Day One and tackle the problem," she told me. "I think one of New York's six Democratic congresswomen are most likely to have that ability right away."

Nor is Ms. Kennedy exactly running away from the competition in the Quinnipiac Poll. Though she is a big favorite among New York City voters, who like her by 42% to 27% over state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, suburban voters are split evenly between the two candidates, while Mr. Cuomo has a four-point lead among upstate voters.

-- John Fund

Sanford v. Keynes

Not every state and local politician in America is sprinting to the federal trough for free money out of Washington. One of the few stimulus skeptics is South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who is saying "no thanks" to federal bailout money for states. Mr. Sanford is one Republican who hasn't forgotten his fiscal conservative principles as so many other pols in the GOP have. "Out-of-control spending in Washington is the problem with the economy. So why spend more?" he said in an interview, sounding a lot like Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Sanford spoke with Mr. Obama when the governors met in Philadelphia and both reportedly agreed that the increased national debt was a problem. That's where the consensus ended. Mr. Sanford says he's no disciple of the Keynesian economic thinking that says spend now, save later, which has become the economic operating philosophy of Obamanomics. "Everybody is like, 'The budget can go up this year, but next year it's going down.' The conclusion I've come to is the only budget you've got is this year."

Mr. Sanford has a stimulus idea that could not be more diametrically opposed to Mr. Obama's. Last week he called for a complete phase-out of South Carolina's 5% corporate income tax, while chopping the individual income tax in half. These ideas are needed "now more than ever," he says. Though his plan would be partially paid for by increasing the cigarette tax from 7 cents to 37 cents, on balance he would be instituting a giant tax cut at a time when most other governors want handouts to fatten government spending programs and avoid tough budget choices.

Mr. Sanford is widely touted as a conservative rising star among state leaders -- much in the mold of a Fife Symington of Arizona, John Engler of Michigan or William Weld of Massachusetts in the 1990s. "Mark is unquestionably one of our top-tier guys," says Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. The Cato Institute rates Mr. Sanford as the second most fiscally conservative governor in the nation. And the National Taxpayers Union says that during his six years in Congress, he racked up one of the best anti-spending records of any of his House colleagues.

No wonder last week a new Web site was launched: "DraftSanford2012.com."

-- Stephen Moore

Quote of the Day I

"The three most prominent Democrats in national politics during the past two years -- Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton -- are all ascending from the U.S. Senate to the executive branch, creating open Senate seats for Democratic governors to fill. And, oh, what a spectacle it is -- of corruption, insider dealing, treacly dynastic politics and rank nepotism. . . . We might be witnessing the most brazen bout of cronyism since Napoleon made his relatives and minions rulers of conquered Europe. Or at least since the Kennedy family arranged in 1960 to have John Kennedy's pliable Harvard roommate keep his Massachusetts Senate seat warm until Ted turned 30 and could inherit -- er, get elected to -- it" -- National Review editor Rich Lowry.

Quote of the Day II

"The only way [the late Mark Felt, Watergate's 'Deep Throat'] could have the knowledge he did was if the FBI had been systematically spying on the White House, on the Committee to Re-elect the President and on all of the other elements involved in Watergate. Felt was not simply feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein; he was using the intelligence product emanating from a section of the FBI to shape The Washington Post's coverage. . . . Nixon was as guilty as sin of more things than were ever proven. Nevertheless, there is another side to this story. The FBI was carrying out espionage against the president of the United States, not for any later prosecution of Nixon for a specific crime (the spying had to have been going on well before the break-in), but to increase the FBI's control over Nixon. . . . The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn't what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat's identity" -- Stratfor CEO George Friedman, on the passing of Mark Felt, the former FBI No. 2 who served as a secret Watergate source for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Getting Used to Senator Franken

The endless battle over Minnesota's Senate seat reconvenes today when the state's Canvassing Board meets to decide what to do with as many as 1,500 absentee ballots that may have been mistakenly rejected as well as some 130 ballots that Republican Norm Coleman's lawyers claim were double-counted.

The decisions the Canvassing Board makes will be crucial since it has almost completed its review of challenged ballots. At this point, Democrat Al Franken has a 48-vote lead out of well over two million votes cast.

No matter who wins the Canvassing Board's final count, the race is going to court. The Coleman campaign is upset that the Board, which is supposed to supervise a recount of the votes, nonetheless included in its totals 133 ballots that were cast on Election Day but wound up missing when the time came to recount them. "If the recount is supposed to come up with a new number, adding in ballots that are missing from the original count and can't be verified doesn't make sense," Coleman spokesman Erin Rath told me.

All of these issues are likely to wind up in court. Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether the rejected absentee ballots should be counted.

Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Washington State, says the whole process reminds him of the recount in that state's 2004 governor's race, which was ultimately won by Democrat Christine Gregoire by 133 votes. Minnesota's recount has been far more orderly and transparent than Washington's, but in both states the final result was determined by a series of controversial judgment calls that consistently pointed in the direction of counting suspect ballots.

23157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Conservatives wrong on Palin on: December 23, 2008, 11:23:47 AM
By JOHN O'SULLIVAN
Being listed in fourth place for Time magazine's "Person of the Year," as Sarah Palin was for 2008, sounds a little like being awarded the Order of Purity (Fourth Class). But it testifies to something important.

 
Though regularly pronounced sick, dying, dead, cremated and scattered at sea, Mrs. Palin is still amazingly around. She has survived more media assassination attempts than Fidel Castro has survived real ones (Cuban official figure: 638). In her case, one particular method of assassination is especially popular -- namely, the desperate assertion that, in addition to her other handicaps, she is "no Margaret Thatcher."

Very few express this view in a calm or considered manner. Some employ profanity. Most claim to be conservative admirers of Mrs. Thatcher. Others admit they had always disliked the former British prime minister until someone compared her to "Sarracuda" -- at which point they suddenly realized Mrs. Thatcher must have been absolutely brilliant (at least by comparison).

Inevitably, Lloyd Bentsen's famous put-down of Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate is resurrected, such as by Paul Waugh (in the London Evening Standard) and Marie Cocco (in the Washington Post): "Newsflash! Governor, You're No Maggie Thatcher," sneered Mr. Waugh. Added Ms. Coco, "now we know Sarah Palin is no Margaret Thatcher -- and no Dan Quayle either!"

Jolly, rib-tickling stuff. But, as it happens, I know Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher is a friend of mine. And as a matter of fact, Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin have a great deal in common.

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They are far from identical; they rose in different political systems requiring different skills. As a parliamentarian, Mrs. Thatcher needed forensic and debating skills which her training in Oxford politics and as a tax lawyer gave her. Mrs. Palin is a good speaker, but she needs to hone her debating tactics if she is to match those of the Iron Lady.

On the other hand, Mrs. Palin rose in state politics to jobs requiring executive ability. Her successful conduct of the negotiations with Canada, Canadian provinces and American states over the Alaska pipeline was a larger executive task than anything handled by Mrs. Thatcher until she entered the Cabinet and, arguably, until she became prime minister.

Mrs. Thatcher's most senior position until then had been education secretary in the government of Edward Heath where, as she conceded in her memoirs, she lacked real executive power. Her political influence within that government was so small that it took 17 months for her to get an interview with him. Even then, a considerate civil servant assured Heath that others would be present to make the meeting less "boring." Her main political legacy from that job was the vitriolic slogan, "Margaret Thatcher, Milk-Snatcher," thrown at her by the left because of a budgetary decision she had opposed to charge some children for school meals and milk. It was the single most famous thing about her when she defeated Heath for the Tory leadership in 1975.

At this point she became almost as "controversial" as Sarah Palin. Heath, for example, made it plain privately that he would not serve under her. And Sir Ian Gilmour, an intellectual leader of the Tory "wets," privately dismissed her as a "Daily Telegraph woman." There is no precise equivalent in American English, but "narrow, repressed suburbanite" catches the sense.

Mrs. Thatcher attracted such abuse for two reasons. First, she was seen by the chattering classes as representing a blend of provincial conservative values and market economics -- Middle England as it has come to be called -- against their own metropolitan liberalism. They thought this blend was an economic dead-end in a modern complex society and a political retreat into futile nostalgia. Of course, they failed to notice that their modern complex society was splintering under their statist burdens even as they denounced her extremism.

Second, Margaret Thatcher was not yet Margaret Thatcher. She had not won the 1979 election, recovered the Falklands, reformed trade union law, defeated the miners, and helped destroy Soviet communism peacefully.

Things like that change your mind about a girl. But they also take time, during which she had to turn her instinctive beliefs into intellectually coherent policies against opposition inside and outside her own party. Like Mrs. Palin this year, Mrs. Thatcher knew there were serious gaps in her knowledge, especially of foreign affairs. She recruited experts who shared her general outlook (such as Robert Conquest and Hugh Thomas) to tutor her on these things. Even so she often seemed very alone in the Tory high command.

As a parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Telegraph (and a not very repressed suburbanite), I watched Mrs. Thatcher's progress as opposition leader. She had been a good performer in less exalted positions. But initially she faltered. Against the smooth, condescending Prime Minister James Callaghan in particular she had a hard time. In contrast to his chuckling baritone she sounded shrill when she attacked. But she lowered her tone (vocally not morally), took lessons in presentation from (among others) Laurence Olivier, and prepared diligently for every debate and Question Time.

I can still recall her breakthrough performance in a July 1977 debate on the Labour government's collapsing economy. She dominated the House of Commons so wittily that the next day the Daily Mail's acerbic correspondent, Andrew Alexander, began his report: "If Mrs. Thatcher were a racehorse, she would have been tested for drugs yesterday." She was now on the way to becoming the world-historical figure who today is the gold standard of conservative statesmanship.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Bush and Scooter LibbyColombo the Asbestos SleuthThe Domestic Threat

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Main Street: The President Comforts a Marine Mom
– William McGurnGlobal View: A Monument for Obama
– Bret Stephens

COMMENTARY

Conservative Snobs Are Wrong About Palin
– John O'SullivanBernanke Is the Best Stimulus Right Now
– Robert E. Lucas Jr.Let's Confront North Korea on Human Rights
– Jay LefkowitzMrs. Palin has a long way to go to match this. Circumstances may never give her the chance to do so. Even if she gets that chance, she may lack Mrs. Thatcher's depths of courage, firmness and stamina -- we only ever know such things in retrospect.

But she has plenty of time, probably eight years, to analyze America's problems, recruit her own expert advice, and develop conservative solutions to them. She has obvious intelligence, drive, serious moral character, and a Reaganesque likability. Her likely Republican rivals such as Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney, not to mention Barack Obama, have most of these same qualities too. But she shares with Mrs. Thatcher a very rare charisma. As Ronnie Millar, the latter's speechwriter and a successful playwright, used to say in theatrical tones: She may be depressed, ill-dressed and having a bad hair day, but when the curtain rises, out onto the stage she steps looking like a billion dollars. That's the mark of a star, dear boy. They rise to the big occasions.

Mrs. Palin had four big occasions in the late, doomed Republican campaign: her introduction by John McCain in Ohio, her speech at the GOP convention, her vice-presidential debate with Sen. Joe Biden, and her appearance on Saturday Night Live. With minimal preparation, she rose to all four of them. That's the mark of star.

If conservative intellectuals, Republican operatives and McCain "handlers" can't see it, then so much the worse for them.

Mr. O'Sullivan is executive editor of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty in Prague, and a former special adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His book, "The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister" (Regnery), has just been published in paperback.
23158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fort Dix convictions on: December 23, 2008, 11:10:31 AM
5 Men Found Guilty of Plotting to Kill Fort Dix Soldiers

Monday , December 22, 2008

CAMDEN, N.J. —
Five Muslim immigrants accused of scheming to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix were convicted of conspiracy Monday in a case that tested the FBI's post-Sept. 11 strategy of infiltrating and breaking up terrorist plots in their earliest stages.

The men could get life in prison when they are sentenced in April.

The five, who lived in and around Philadelphia for years, were found guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel. But they were acquitted of attempted murder after prosecutors acknowledged the men were probably months away from an attack and did not necessarily have a specific plan. Four defendants were also convicted of weapons charges.

The federal jury deliberated for 38 hours over six days.

The government said after the arrests in 2007 that case underscored the dangers of terrorist plots hatched on U.S. soil. Although investigators said the conspirators were inspired by Osama bin Laden, they were not accused of any ties to foreign terror groups.

Defense lawyers argued that the alleged plot was all talk — that the men weren't seriously planning anything and that they were manipulated and goaded by two paid FBI informants.

Faten Shnewer, the mother of defendant Mohamad Shnewer, said the informants should be the ones in jail. "Not my son and his friends. It's not right, it's not justice," she said after the verdict. The government "sent somebody to push him to say something; that's it."

Convicted were: Shnewer, a Jordanian-born cab driver; Turkish-born convenience store clerk Serdar Tatar; and brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, who had a roofing business. A sixth man arrested and charged only with gun offenses pleaded guilty earlier.

The government said the men were targeting New Jersey's Fort Dix for an attack but had also conducted surveillance at Fort Monmouth, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and other military installations, and had talked about assaulting some of those spots. The jury did not have to find that the men had any specific target in mind to convict them.

"These criminals had the capacity and had done preparations to do serious and grievous harm to members of our military," Ralph Marra, the acting U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said after the verdict.

But some Muslim leaders in New Jersey disputed that.

"I don't think they actually mean to do anything," said Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union. "I think they were acting stupid, like they thought the whole thing was a joke."

Jim Sues, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: "Many people in the Muslim community will see this as a case of entrapment. From what I saw, there was a significant role played by the government informant."

The yearlong investigation began after a clerk at a Circuit City store told police that some customers had asked him to transfer onto DVD some video footage of them firing assault weapons and screaming about jihad.

The FBI asked two informants — both foreign-born men who entered the U.S. illegally and had criminal records — to befriend the suspects. Both informants were paid and were offered help obtaining legal resident status.

During the eight-week trial, the government relied heavily on information gathered by the informants, who secretly recorded hundreds of conversations.

Prosecutors said the men bought several assault rifles supplied by the FBI and that they trekked to Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains to practice their shooting. The government also presented dozens of jihadist speeches and videos that the men supposedly used as inspiration.

According to prosecutors, the group chose Fort Dix because one of the defendants was familiar with it. His father's pizza shop delivered to the New Jersey base, which is 25 miles from Philadelphia and used primarily to train reservists for duty in Iraq.

The group's objective was to kill "as many American soldiers as possible," prosecutors said.

But the men's lawyers attacked the credibility of the informants and accused them of instigating the plot.

After the verdict, Schnewer's attorney, Rocco Cipparone, said there would not have been a conspiracy without the involvement of the informants. "I believe they shaped the evidence," he said.

Prosecutor William Fitzpatrick defended the government's handling of the case, telling the jury: "The FBI investigates crime on the front end. They don't want to have to do it on the back end."

Members of the jury would not speak to reporters after the verdict.
The government said after the men's arrest that an attack was imminent, though prosecutors backed off that assertion at the trial.

The government has had a mixed record on terrorism prosecutions since Sept. 11. It won guilty pleas from Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner with a shoe bomb; and the Lackawanna Six, a terrorist cell outside Buffalo, N.Y. And it convicted Jose Padilla of plotting terrorist attacks.

But a case against four men in Michigan fell apart after a federal prosecutor was accused of withholding evidence. And a case in Miami against seven men accused of plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower has produced one acquittal and two mistrials.
http://www.foxnews.com/printer_frien...470900,00.html
23159  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Happy Holidays, whatever your version on: December 23, 2008, 10:56:56 AM
Woof my friend!

A pleasure to have shared the trail with you from day one so very many years ago!

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
23160  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Suri of Ethiopia on: December 23, 2008, 10:55:07 AM
The Suri were seen in the beginning of our Power: Real Contact Stickfighting:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/tribe/tribes/suri/
23161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Afg Surge on: December 23, 2008, 01:23:55 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Afghanistan Surge
December 22, 2008

U.S. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Kabul on Saturday that the United States will send an additional 20,000 to 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the first half of 2009. The plan is in line with President-elect Barack Obama’s statements during the presidential campaign and therefore is likely to come about. The United States currently has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, while other NATO countries have about 17,000 troops. Thus, the deployment will roughly double U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The first issue is the military purpose of the buildup. Doubling the force will put a total of about 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan — 77,000 troops including the NATO contribution. That should be enough to secure the urban areas, but it is still far short of the force that would be needed to seal the border with Pakistan. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine a force large enough to achieve that mission.

The United States cannot win a defensive war in Afghanistan. In a defensive war, the assumption is that the enemy will run out of either troops or the willingness to lose soldiers before the United States does. That does not strike us as a reasonable scenario. Therefore, if this is a military move, we must assume that the purpose is to create an offensive opportunity. The targets are the remnants of al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden in northwestern Pakistan, and the intention is to keep al Qaeda’s core from rebuilding its capability. Obama said during the campaign that he intended to target al Qaeda and bin Laden, but it is difficult to imagine how a conventional force of this size would be effective in a mission better left to special operations troops. And it is not clear how the capture of al Qaeda leaders would secure Afghanistan against the Taliban.

The other option is to use the forces to strike at Taliban bases inside Pakistan in order to disrupt their lines of supply and communications. That would be effective, but it is hard to imagine a force of 60,000 both securing vulnerable urban areas in Afghanistan and conducting substantive offensive operations into Pakistan. Undoubtedly, Obama will be asking NATO to increase its manpower in Afghanistan. Some NATO members could halt withdrawals already scheduled or even send more troops (though U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock at NATO headquarters has acknowledged that Washington’s NATO allies will not provide any major troop increases). But the size of the force needed to conduct sustained operations against the Taliban in Pakistan would be enormously larger than anything conceived or conceivable, and the willingness and ability of the Pakistanis to carry out the mission themselves simply isn’t there.

What is being proposed is a force that can shore up Afghanistan, but which is not sufficiently larger than the current force to seriously threaten the Taliban. We must always remember that the Soviets — with 130,000 troops, a border with Afghanistan and highly liberal rules of engagement — could not achieve a decisive military victory in almost 10 years. Sixty thousand troops dependent on a line of supply that stretches through Pakistan and back to the United States are unlikely to succeed.

Mullen and Obama certainly know this. So does Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the surge in Iraq. It would seem to us that the plan is to re-create that surge. The key to Iraq was not that the 30,000 troops sent there made a qualitative difference militarily, but that they helped to create a psychological perception — demonstrating that the United States was not about to withdraw. That allowed talks to open between the United States and the Sunni insurgents previously vilified by the Americans, which set in motion the political process under way in Baghdad.

The question is whether what worked in Iraq will work in Afghanistan. The political dynamics of Iraq left the Sunnis in fear of isolation, should the Americans reach an agreement with the Shia. The Taliban are not concerned about being isolated. They emerged as the victors in the civil war of the 1990s, and they are confident they can do so again. Furthermore, the sectarian divide that is inherent to Iraq isn’t present in Afghanistan, where the insurgency is far less fragmented. The Taliban are also aware of the other pressures the United States is facing and are doubtful that Obama is inclined to allow the conflict in Afghanistan to continue interminably. Their view is that time is on their side.

Now if Petraeus can split the Taliban, that would be another story. And that could be the intention behind this deployment. How it would work is unclear, but what is clear is that barring a dramatic change in Pakistani policy (which is not out of the question but is highly unlikely), splitting the Taliban and negotiating with some factions is the key. The success of that strategy is in the hands of the Taliban; Mullah Mohammed Omar reportedly has named seven conditions for ending the insurgency. The surge is intended to increase American control over the process. It is unclear why the United States thinks this will happen — it is not impossible, but it is unclear.
23162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 22, 2008, 04:25:05 PM
Sweet Caroline

It wasn't his idea. He may be irritated at being pressured into it. But it appears New York Governor David Paterson is moving towards appointing Caroline Kennedy to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton.

The dynamics are complicated. Normally, Mr. Paterson would have selected someone like Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general. Not only would that have removed Mr. Cuomo as a possible primary challenger to Mr. Paterson when he seeks a full term in his own right in 2010. Appointing Mr. Cuomo also would have given New York a proven operator with instant clout and credibility in the Senate.

But Mr. Cuomo's supporters were blindsided by the Kennedy boomlet, which was pushed by allies of Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Within days it was made clear to Governor Paterson that if he appointed Ms. Kennedy, he would have no trouble raising money against any possible primary opponent and would be looked on with great favor by an Obama White House.

All of this leaves both Mr. Cuomo and allies of Hillary Clinton sputtering. They are unhappy with the blitzkrieg campaign waged on behalf of Ms. Kennedy but realize there's little they can do to thwart it.

The only thing that could gum up the works now is Ms. Kennedy's possible overexposure in coming weeks -- i.e., if she answers too many questions. The perils of having this political Greta Garbo reveal too much about her opinions showed up even in the tentative answers she gave to Politico.com about some key policy positions.

Her answers had to be carefully calibrated to navigate the turbulent waters of New York special interest politics. She indicated support for same-sex marriage, opposition to school vouchers and sympathy with Governor Paterson's refusal (so far) to seek broad-based tax increases on wealthy New Yorkers. In other words, she showed herself to be a loyal Democrat, except on one question. When asked if she would support the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York next year against her friend Mr. Bloomberg, who may run as an independent, she took a pass. While that might anger some Democrats, it's certainly smart politics for her in the short run.

-- John Fund

'That Fifth CD Thing'

The legal team of President-elect Barack Obama will release a report this week clearing incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel of any involvement in a scheme to sell the U.S. Senate seat held by Mr. Obama. The report will find that Mr. Emanuel had only one phone conversation with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and it was mostly a "pro forma" talk in which a list of candidates acceptable to Mr. Obama was conveyed.

What that doesn't mean is that all the questions about Mr. Emanuel's role will have been answered. The federal criminal complaint against Mr. Blagojevich says that about a week after last month's election, Mr. Blagojevich expressed interest in having a top Obama adviser be told of the governor's interest in creating a non-profit group that would need "10, 15 million" dollars in funding. Mr. Blagojevich says, in reference to the Obama adviser, "When he asks for the Fifth CD thing, I want [the funding] to be in his head."

The adviser in question is likely either Mr. Emanuel or someone intimately concerned with the special election that would pick a replacement for Mr. Emanuel in the House when he resigns his seat to go to the White House. But House seats, unlike Senate seats, aren't filled by gubernatorial appointment. So what exactly might Mr. Emanuel and the governor have to talk about?

Possibly, a great deal. Mr. Blagojevich held Mr. Emanuel's seat in Congress before becoming governor and exercises a great deal of clout in the North Shore of Chicago, where the district is located. Mr. Emanuel is known to be wistful about giving up his seat in the House, where he planned to stay for decades and eventually become Speaker. The speculation among political observers in Chicago is that Mr. Emanuel was keen on Mr. Blagojevich using his influence to back a "placeholder" to run for the seat -- i.e. someone who would serve in Congress but be willing to step aside in exchange for some other job when Mr. Emanuel wanted to reclaim his House seat.

One would hope the internal Obama report discusses the curious references to the Emanuel House seat in the criminal complaint. If not, we may never learn the full story. Mr. Obama has stopped short of pledging to release emails or other information relevant to the inquiry. A gap in government disclosure laws blocks presidential transition offices from having to make their records public under the Freedom of Information Act. That exemption may prove very handy to Mr. Obama, who obviously hopes his internal report will close out discussion of the relationship between his office and Governor Blagojevich.

-- John Fund

Memo to Pelosi

President-elect Barack Obama took off for a 13-day Christmas vacation in Hawaii on the weekend, leaving supporters stewing over his selection of Pastor Rick Warren to perform at next month's inauguration. Yesterday, Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat and the first openly gay Member of Congress, blasted Mr. Obama's choice, saying: "Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair."

The media naturally have hyperventilated over the seeming breach between Mr. Obama and a powerful Congressional Democrat, though Mr. Obama is likely not losing sleep over it. Mr. Frank, who has spent 27 years in Congress and endured revelations of a relationship with a gay hooker, survives politically because he represents one of the most liberal districts in one of the nation's most liberal states. He's hardly somebody most voters in America identify with. Meanwhile, with the Warren pick, Mr. Obama is building bridges to "values voters," some of whom helped him get elected by staying home in November. He also shows he's personally comfortable around conservative Christians, even when he disagrees with them on policy.

Besides, it's not too early to demonstrate who's on top in the Democratic Party. In a piece entitled "Pelosi lays down the law with Rahm," Politico.com reported last week that, in a private communication with incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to "set parameters" on her expectations from the new White House, including "no surprises" and "no backdoor efforts to go around her and other Democratic leaders by cutting deals with moderate New Democrats or conservative Blue Dogs."

Mr. Warren's selection may be Mr. Obama's answer to Ms. Pelosi, whose House Democrats had even lower approval ratings on Election Day than George Bush.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"Dr. Holdren, now a physicist at Harvard, was one of the experts in natural resources whom Paul Ehrlich enlisted in his famous bet against the economist Julian Simon during the 'energy crisis' of the 1980s. Dr. Simon, who disagreed with environmentalists' predictions of a new 'age of scarcity' of natural resources, offered to bet that any natural resource would be cheaper at any date in the future. . . . In 1980 Dr. Holdren helped select five metals -- chrome, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten -- and joined Dr. Ehrlich and Dr. Harte in betting $1,000 that those metals would be more expensive ten years later. They turned out to be wrong on all five metals, and had to pay up when the bet came due in 1990. Now, you could argue that anyone's entitled to a mistake, and that mistakes can be valuable if people learn to become open to ideas that conflict with their preconceptions and ideology. That could be a useful skill in an advisor who's supposed to be presenting the president with a wide range of views. . . . But I haven't seen much evidence of such open-mindedness in Dr. Holdren" -- New York Times columnist John Tierney, on the selection of John Holdren as President-elect Obama's science advisor.

Bailout Nation North

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Saturday announced a complementary auto bailout, following the one announced by President Bush. In fact, the troubled asset Mr. Harper is trying to rescue is his own administration.

"I will not fool you," Mr. Harper told voters in discussing the $3.29 billion lifeline. "There may be, well, more money as we go forward."

Recall that, after winning re-election in October, Mr. Harper faced a vote of "no confidence" in Parliament, with opposition parties banding together ready to form a coalition government. Recall that, rather than negotiating a solution to the impasse, the Conservative premier chose to "prorogue" the legislature -- or suspend Parliament until Jan. 26 so it couldn't pass a no-confidence resolution.

By authorizing the bailout, Mr. Harper now hopes to pressure left-leaning members of the opposition into dropping the effort dissolve his government. Both New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff hail from vote-rich Ontario, center of the Canadian auto industry. The bailout was also strongly applauded by Canadian Auto Workers union chief Ken Lewenza, who nonetheless insists the Big Three's problems are all south of the border. Canadian workers, he says, "could work for nothing and we wouldn't sell another vehicle" thanks to trouble caused in Detroit and Washington.

He's got a point, since the cheap Canadian dollar and Canada's national health system have helped keep Canada's labor costs more competitive than the UAW's. Mr. Harper's move may be a shrewd attempt to save his government, but it puts Canada in line to pour potentially unlimited sums down a mismanaged U.S auto industry.

-- Adrian Ho



23163  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 22, 2008, 03:37:41 PM
From the WT forum on this case:
==========================================

Good Samaritan laws raise the standard for liability, they do not eliminate liability. Generally speaking, under a GS law, if you are a trained care giver, you are only liable for Gross Negligence, not Ordinary Negligence. These terms are defined as:

Ordinary negligence is the failure to exercise such care as the great mass of mankind ordinarily exercises under the same or similar circumstances (Clemens v. State, 176 Wis. 289; 57 Am. Jur. 2d Negligence, § 98).

Gross negligence, on the other hand, generally signifies more than ordinary inadvertence or inattention, but less than conscious indifference to consequences (Alspaugh v. Diggs 195 Va. 1, 77 S. E. 2d 362; Prosser on Torts, Gross Negligence).

Wilful and Wanton Negligence
The usual meaning assigned to wilful and wanton negligence is that the actor has intentionally done an act of unreasonable character, in disregard of a risk known to him or so obvious that he must be taken to have been aware of it, and so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow. Second Restatement of Torts, Section 500; Cope v. Davidson 30 Cal. 2d 193; Prosser on Torts-Degrees of Negligence. It is usually accompanied by a conscious indifference to the consequences amounting almost to a willingness that they shall follow. Wilful or wanton negligence is an action or omission which amounts to an extreme departure from ordinary care, in a situation where a high degree of danger is apparent. Prosser on Torts, Degrees of Negligence. Such wilful or wanton negligence must be more than mere thoughtlessness, inadvertence, or simple inattention.

Federal law has spoken on this matter as well.

The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 (P. L 105-19) became effective in September of 1997. In addition to establishing immunity for acts of negligence, it also establishes a clear and convincing standard of proof for punitive damages to be awarded against volunteers and makes them liable for noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) only to the degree their wrongdoing caused the harm.

The act preempts state laws to the extent they are inconsistent with it. It does not preempt state laws that provide additional protection from liability. But states can opt out of the law by passing an act explicitly doing so.

Scope of Limitation on Liability

Under the act, no volunteer of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity can be liable for harm caused by his act or omission on its behalf if:

1. he was acting within the scope of his responsibilities at the time of the act or omission;

2. he was properly licensed, certified, or authorized by the appropriate authorities in the state where the harm occurred;

3. the harm was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the person harmed by the volunteer; and

4. the harm was not caused by the volunteer operating a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other vehicle for which the state requires the operator or owner to possess a license or maintain insurance.

The act specifies that it does not affect (1) any civil action brought by the nonprofit organization or governmental entity against the volunteer; or (2) such organization’s or entity’s liability with respect to harm a volunteer causes.

The act also specifies that a state law is not inconsistent with the federal act because it:

1. requires the organization or entity to adhere to risk management procedures including mandatory training of volunteers;

2. makes the organization or entity liable for the volunteer’s acts or omissions to the same extent as an employer is liable for its employees’ acts or omissions;

3. subjects the volunteer to liability if the civil action was brought by a state or local government officer under state or local law; or

4. limits liability protection to cases where the organization or entity provides a financially secure source of recovery such as an insurance policy for those harmed by the volunteer.

These laws are not on the books so everyone who wants to help can help without fear of liability. They have been enacted so that a dentist on his way to a golf game who sees a kid get hit by a car can stop, render aid under a stressful, sudden situation, and not be found liable for a mistake made in the course of treatment if the mistake does not rise to the level of gross negligence.

People off the street, even well meaning people, are on their own. Always have been, always will be.

==========

If you are going to do something for someone, you have to use ordinary care.

If you are a drunk chick in a car with another drunk chick who wrapped the car around a tree/poll/object, see the airbags deploy and panic, then drag your badly injured friend out of the car because you think its going to explode...then put her down next to the car...

GUESS WHAT?

You are NOT a medical professional to which the law is addressed, and even if you were, that's probably gross negligence..."Gross negligence, on the other hand, generally signifies more than ordinary inadvertence or inattention, but less than conscious indifference to consequences (Alspaugh v. Diggs 195 Va. 1, 77 S. E. 2d 362; Prosser on Torts, Gross Negligence)."

The sky is NOT falling. People can help people. Stop panicking about this and go back to watching the price of oil fall to 1990's prices.

23164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Woodward & Redford on: December 22, 2008, 03:26:09 PM
The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism
December 22, 2008




By George Friedman

Mark Felt died last week at the age of 95. For those who don’t recognize that name, Felt was the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame. It was Felt who provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post with a flow of leaks about what had happened, how it happened and where to look for further corroboration on the break-in, the cover-up, and the financing of wrongdoing in the Nixon administration. Woodward and Bernstein’s exposé of Watergate has been seen as a high point of journalism, and their unwillingness to reveal Felt’s identity until he revealed it himself three years ago has been seen as symbolic of the moral rectitude demanded of journalists.

In reality, the revelation of who Felt was raised serious questions about the accomplishments of Woodward and Bernstein, the actual price we all pay for journalistic ethics, and how for many years we did not know a critical dimension of the Watergate crisis. At a time when newspapers are in financial crisis and journalism is facing serious existential issues, Watergate always has been held up as a symbol of what journalism means for a democracy, revealing truths that others were unwilling to uncover and grapple with. There is truth to this vision of journalism, but there is also a deep ambiguity, all built around Felt’s role. This is therefore not an excursion into ancient history, but a consideration of two things. The first is how journalists become tools of various factions in political disputes. The second is the relationship between security and intelligence organizations and governments in a Democratic society.

Watergate was about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. The break-in was carried out by a group of former CIA operatives controlled by individuals leading back to the White House. It was never proven that then-U.S. President Richard Nixon knew of the break-in, but we find it difficult to imagine that he didn’t. In any case, the issue went beyond the break-in. It went to the cover-up of the break-in and, more importantly, to the uses of money that financed the break-in and other activities. Numerous aides, including the attorney general of the United States, went to prison. Woodward and Bernstein, and their newspaper, The Washington Post, aggressively pursued the story from the summer of 1972 until Nixon’s resignation. The episode has been seen as one of journalism’s finest moments. It may have been, but that cannot be concluded until we consider Deep Throat more carefully.

Deep Throat Reconsidered
Mark Felt was deputy associate director of the FBI (No. 3 in bureau hierarchy) in May 1972, when longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died. Upon Hoover’s death, Felt was second to Clyde Tolson, the longtime deputy and close friend to Hoover who by then was in failing health himself. Days after Hoover’s death, Tolson left the bureau.

Felt expected to be named Hoover’s successor, but Nixon passed him over, appointing L. Patrick Gray instead. In selecting Gray, Nixon was reaching outside the FBI for the first time in the 48 years since Hoover had taken over. But while Gray was formally acting director, the Senate never confirmed him, and as an outsider, he never really took effective control of the FBI. In a practical sense, Felt was in operational control of the FBI from the break-in at the Watergate in August 1972 until June 1973.

Nixon’s motives in appointing Gray certainly involved increasing his control of the FBI, but several presidents before him had wanted this, too, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Both of these presidents wanted Hoover gone for the same reason they were afraid to remove him: He knew too much. In Washington, as in every capital, knowing the weaknesses of powerful people is itself power — and Hoover made it a point to know the weaknesses of everyone. He also made it a point to be useful to the powerful, increasing his overall value and his knowledge of the vulnerabilities of the powerful.

Hoover’s death achieved what Kennedy and Johnson couldn’t do. Nixon had no intention of allowing the FBI to continue as a self-enclosed organization outside the control of the presidency and everyone else. Thus, the idea that Mark Felt, a man completely loyal to Hoover and his legacy, would be selected to succeed Hoover is in retrospect the most unlikely outcome imaginable.

Felt saw Gray’s selection as an unwelcome politicization of the FBI (by placing it under direct presidential control), an assault on the traditions created by Hoover and an insult to his memory, and a massive personal disappointment. Felt was thus a disgruntled employee at the highest level. He was also a senior official in an organization that traditionally had protected its interests in predictable ways. (By then formally the No. 2 figure in FBI, Felt effectively controlled the agency given Gray’s inexperience and outsider status.) The FBI identified its enemies, then used its vast knowledge of its enemies’ wrongdoings in press leaks designed to be as devastating as possible. While carefully hiding the source of the information, it then watched the victim — who was usually guilty as sin — crumble. Felt, who himself was later convicted and pardoned for illegal wiretaps and break-ins, was not nearly as appalled by Nixon’s crimes as by Nixon’s decision to pass him over as head of the FBI. He merely set Hoover’s playbook in motion.

Woodward and Bernstein were on the city desk of The Washington Post at the time. They were young (29 and 28), inexperienced and hungry. We do not know why Felt decided to use them as his conduit for leaks, but we would guess he sought these three characteristics — as well as a newspaper with sufficient gravitas to gain notice. Felt obviously knew the two had been assigned to a local burglary, and he decided to leak what he knew to lead them where he wanted them to go. He used his knowledge to guide, and therefore control, their investigation.

Systematic Spying on the President
And now we come to the major point. For Felt to have been able to guide and control the young reporters’ investigation, he needed to know a great deal of what the White House had done, going back quite far. He could not possibly have known all this simply through his personal investigations. His knowledge covered too many people, too many operations, and too much money in too many places simply to have been the product of one of his side hobbies. The only way Felt could have the knowledge he did was if the FBI had been systematically spying on the White House, on the Committee to Re-elect the President and on all of the other elements involved in Watergate. Felt was not simply feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein; he was using the intelligence product emanating from a section of the FBI to shape The Washington Post’s coverage.

Instead of passing what he knew to professional prosecutors at the Justice Department — or if he did not trust them, to the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating presidential wrongdoing — Felt chose to leak the information to The Washington Post. He bet, or knew, that Post editor Ben Bradlee would allow Woodward and Bernstein to play the role Felt had selected for them. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee all knew who Deep Throat was. They worked with the operational head of the FBI to destroy Nixon, and then protected Felt and the FBI until Felt came forward.

In our view, Nixon was as guilty as sin of more things than were ever proven. Nevertheless, there is another side to this story. The FBI was carrying out espionage against the president of the United States, not for any later prosecution of Nixon for a specific crime (the spying had to have been going on well before the break-in), but to increase the FBI’s control over Nixon. Woodward, Bernstein and above all, Bradlee, knew what was going on. Woodward and Bernstein might have been young and naive, but Bradlee was an old Washington hand who knew exactly who Felt was, knew the FBI playbook and understood that Felt could not have played the role he did without a focused FBI operation against the president. Bradlee knew perfectly well that Woodward and Bernstein were not breaking the story, but were having it spoon-fed to them by a master. He knew that the president of the United States, guilty or not, was being destroyed by Hoover’s jilted heir.

This was enormously important news. The Washington Post decided not to report it. The story of Deep Throat was well-known, but what lurked behind the identity of Deep Throat was not. This was not a lone whistle-blower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.

Again, Nixon’s guilt is not in question. And the argument can be made that given John Mitchell’s control of the Justice Department, Felt thought that going through channels was impossible (although the FBI was more intimidating to Mitchell than the other way around). But the fact remains that Deep Throat was the heir apparent to Hoover — a man not averse to breaking the law in covert operations — and Deep Throat clearly was drawing on broader resources in the FBI, resources that had to have been in place before Hoover’s death and continued operating afterward.

Burying a Story to Get a Story
Until Felt came forward in 2005, not only were these things unknown, but The Washington Post was protecting them. Admittedly, the Post was in a difficult position. Without Felt’s help, it would not have gotten the story. But the terms Felt set required that a huge piece of the story not be told. The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn’t what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat’s identity.

Journalists have celebrated the Post’s role in bringing down the president for a generation. Even after the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity in 2005, there was no serious soul-searching on the omission from the historical record. Without understanding the role played by Felt and the FBI in bringing Nixon down, Watergate cannot be understood completely. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee were willingly used by Felt to destroy Nixon. The three acknowledged a secret source, but they did not reveal that the secret source was in operational control of the FBI. They did not reveal that the FBI was passing on the fruits of surveillance of the White House. They did not reveal the genesis of the fall of Nixon. They accepted the accolades while withholding an extraordinarily important fact, elevating their own role in the episode while distorting the actual dynamic of Nixon’s fall.

Absent any widespread reconsideration of the Post’s actions during Watergate in the three years since Felt’s identity became known, the press in Washington continues to serve as a conduit for leaks of secret information. They publish this information while protecting the leakers, and therefore the leakers’ motives. Rather than being a venue for the neutral reporting of events, journalism thus becomes the arena in which political power plays are executed. What appears to be enterprising journalism is in fact a symbiotic relationship between journalists and government factions. It may be the best path journalists have for acquiring secrets, but it creates a very partial record of events — especially since the origin of a leak frequently is much more important to the public than the leak itself.

The Felt experience is part of an ongoing story in which journalists’ guarantees of anonymity to sources allow leakers to control the news process. Protecting Deep Throat’s identity kept us from understanding the full dynamic of Watergate. We did not know that Deep Throat was running the FBI, we did not know the FBI was conducting surveillance on the White House, and we did not know that the Watergate scandal emerged not by dint of enterprising journalism, but because Felt had selected Woodward and Bernstein as his vehicle to bring Nixon down. And we did not know that the editor of The Washington Post allowed this to happen. We had a profoundly defective picture of the situation, as defective as the idea that Bob Woodward looks like Robert Redford.

Finding the truth of events containing secrets is always difficult, as we know all too well. There is no simple solution to this quandary. In intelligence, we dream of the well-placed source who will reveal important things to us. But we also are aware that the information provided is only the beginning of the story. The rest of the story involves the source’s motivation, and frequently that motivation is more important than the information provided. Understanding a source’s motivation is essential both to good intelligence and to journalism. In this case, keeping secret the source kept an entire — and critical — dimension of Watergate hidden for a generation. Whatever crimes Nixon committed, the FBI had spied on the president and leaked what it knew to The Washington Post in order to destroy him. The editor of The Washington Post knew that, as did Woodward and Bernstein. We do not begrudge them their prizes and accolades, but it would have been useful to know who handed them the story. In many ways, that story is as interesting as the one about all the president’s men.
23165  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 22, 2008, 12:20:14 AM
"Perhaps I was not clear, or perhaps not precise, or, simply we got off topic."

No.  As I have had to make clear with increasing bluntness, in support of your position you made an overly broad statement.  Getting called on it is not "getting off topic".

"My original point was civil liability and how the recent CA Court ruling may affect "good samaritans"."

Actually that is not a "point"-- it is the subject of the conversation at the moment.

"I acknowledge that the LAPD stopped using chokeholds (only) and has raised the threshold when a carotid
hold is permitted." 

There, that wasn't so hard now was it?

, , ,

"Given the recent Supreme Court ruling, I think a layman (non professional) using a gun or a knife or applying a chokehold or even a carotid hold may and often probably will be subject to civil liability if done so on behalf of another, i.e. being a good samaritan.  It depends upon the circumstances, but given the Court ruling the burden
of proof seems to have shifted."

My reading is not that the burden of proof has shifted but that a qualified immunity has been read narrowly.

"I suggest "Do the right thing" is paramount; but think once, maybe twice before acting, however being a non professional, one's interpretation of the "right thing" may be different than a qualified police officer.  It seems to me unless there is utterly no choice, better to abstain and if appropriate call the police.  Physically interceding, even though you think it's the "right thing to do" in a non life threatening situation may severely cost you."

A question of one's values and how one feels looking in the mirror I suppose.

"And while noble to interfere the CA Supreme Court seems to have said that if you don't do it 100% correctly, the burden of proof is on you and you may/will be liable."

Umm, , , NO.  The CA Supreme Court has NOT imposed a standard of absolute liability, nor even one of strict liability.  As best as I can tell from this non-legal news report, the standard is one of reasonableness under the circumstances.  This is a question for the trier of the facts, be it a judge or a jury.  As I previously noted, but apparently has not been noted here:

QUOTEIf I read the CA case correctly the question presented means that for the purpose of the question presented the court must assume the allegations to be true.  In this case the allegations are that the defendant got hyper and a bit hysterical and by so doing left the plaintiff crippled.  Did the law protect (i.e. did the law confer immunity for) this behavior?  Was the defendant within the class protected by the law? END QUOTE 

The court held it did not.  It has not held the defendant liable, it simply has said that given the facts ALLEGED, the defendant is subject to suit.


"And yet the CA Supreme Court said she is liable since she did intervene."

No, it held she is subject to suit.  Whether she is liable will be determined at trial.

"  , , ,  if a non trained medical (law enforcement) individual takes "good samaritan" action that causes injury or loss of life
that good samaritan is now open to civil suit"

At last your formulation is essentially correct!

"and in CA may now most likely will be found personally liable."

Most likely?  What is the basis for this assertion?

JDN, apart from your initial avoidance of acknowledging a simple point of logic simply and fairly made, my annoyance here comes from your having stepped on a pet peeve of mine- which is people giving legal conclusions based upon , , , what I'm not sure.   Our legal system is hostile enough to the values that most of us here share without our whipping ourselves into a panic based upon something other than what was actually held by the court.

23166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 21, 2008, 05:16:05 PM
9 Headless Bodies Located in Southern Mexico
Sunday, December 21, 2008
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,470710,00.html

ACAPULCO, Mexico —  Authorities found the decapitated bodies of nine men in the southern state of Guerrero on Sunday, and some of the victims have been identified as soldiers.  State Public Safety Secretary Juan Salinas Altes said the bodies were found on a major boulevard in the state capital, Chilpancingo, just a few hundred yards from where the state governor was scheduled to participate in a traditional religious procession later in the day.  Salinas Altes said experts are still trying to identify the bodies, but he said a still-undetermined number of them are soldiers. An army base is located nearby.

Mexico has been hit by a rising wave of drug-fueled violence, and officials estimate that more than 5,300 people have died in organized-crime-related slayings so far in 2008.  Mexican drug cartels have increasingly taken to chopping the heads off their victims, who include rival traffickers or lawmen. On Aug. 28, a dozen decapitated bodies were found outside Merida, the capital of Yucatan state.

Two other severed heads were found on the same boulevard in Chilpancingo on Dec. 7 alongside a sign reading: "Soldiers who are supposedly fighting crime, and they turn out to be kidnappers. This is going to happen to you."

Scores of police and soldiers have been killed since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in late 2006. While Mexican criminal gangs once appeared to steer clear of confrontations with the army, they now often openly attacking soldiers.

In May 2007, gunmen linked to a drug gang killed five soldiers in an ambush in the neighboring state of Michoacan.

Also Sunday, federal police reported they had captured three suspected cartel hit men in the border city of Tijuana. The suspects allegedly had six assault rifles and about 3,500 rounds of ammunition at the home where they were caught.

23167  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vehicles, driving skills, crime, related issues on: December 21, 2008, 05:10:45 PM
A lot of self-defense issues arise in the context of vehicles.  This thread is for discussing such things.  I kick things off with a skills related post pasting something posted by GM on the P&R forum:

============

Insert Quote
http://www.1adsi.com/Pics.htm

Slalom 36-42 Mph

The Slalom drill allows the student to learn and practice many skills however the most important of these lessons would be to experience the lateral forces acting on the car. By forcing the student to keep there speed stable we are isolating the steering wheel. As the speed increases more and more steering input needs to be used. When the student becomes comfortable and proficient with controlling the forces produced by a certain speed the instructor will increase the speed by just two miles an hour. This does not feel like much of an increase, but remember small increases of speed act greatly on forces applied to the vehicle. This rule is especially true when reaching the vehicle's maximum limitations. A proficient driver who understands vehicle dynamics will be able to use a higher percentage of the vehicles capabilities.

This does not imply higher speeds, since potential accidents need to be avoided at all speeds. Notice the top speed in our slalom videos only reaches 40 MPH. 42 MPH. is impossible for even the best driver in the world. Successfully completing our 60-foot slalom with a police package Crown Vic. would be an act that defies the laws of physics.

As you look at the following video pics take notice to the small speed increases and the dramatic differences in the forces acting on the car. (All speeds and reactions based on maximum limit .85G 's Police Package Crown Vic) At 36 MPH you will hear a slide tire squeal and see moderate lateral weight transfer. At 38 MPH that tire squeal will become much more apparent as the added force causes the tires to begin to lose adhesion. At 40 MPH the vehicle will actually be on the edge of control. As the vehicle starts to lose control (sliding sideways) an aggressive and fast reacting driver will be able to regain control. At 42 MPH it is not possible to for the best driver in the world to negotiate the 60' slalom in our .85 G Crown Vics.
23168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: December 21, 2008, 05:07:48 PM
Fascinating stuff.  As I think about it a bit, it seems to me that driving skills and related issues would be a good thread for the Martial Arts forum.
23169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Amazing what some testicular will can accomplish on: December 21, 2008, 11:25:39 AM
ttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/piracy/3849969/Chinese-ship-uses-Molotov-cocktails-to-fight-off-Somali-pirates.html

Chinese ship uses Molotov cocktails to fight off Somali pirates
The crew of a Chinese ship used water cannon, Molotov cocktails and beer bottles to fight off an attack by Somali pirates.
 
By Our Foreign Staff
Last Updated: 1:40PM GMT 20 Dec 2008

Previous1 of 2 Images

The crew of the Zhenhua 4 held off the pirates using molotov cocktails and water cannon Photo: AP

 The Somali pirates were armed with rocket-propelled grenades Photo: AP

The captain of the Zhenhua 4 told how his well-prepared crew held off the pirates - who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades - when the ship was boarded by pirates on Tuesday in the Gulf of Aden.

The ordeal of the multinational crew of 30 men ended with the arrival of military helicopters and a warship despatched by the task force fighting the piracy menace in the region.

“Seven of the nine pirates landed on our ship, all with weapons,” said the captain, Peng Weiyuan, speaking to China Central Television.

“Our crew, who had been well trained and prepared, used water cannon, self-made incendiary bombs [Molotov cocktails or petrol bombs], beer bottles and anything else that could be used to battle with them. Thirty minutes later, the pirates gestured to us for a ceasefire. Then the helicopter from the joint fleet came to help us.”

The ship was one of four vessels seized by pirates on Tuesday, the same day the United Nations Security Council took a strong stand against the attacks and authorised countries to pursue the gunmen on to Somali soil.  Rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia this year has earned gunmen millions of dollars in ransoms, forced up the cost of shipping insurance costs and caused international alarm.

The Global Times newspaper, a tabloid run by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said on Thursday that two destroyers and a large-sized depot ship would set sail for the region after Christmas to defend Chinese shipping. The first tour of duty would be for three months, it said.

According to Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance programme, there have been 124 incidents of piracy off Somali this year and some 60 successful hijacks. Nearly 400 people and 19 ships are being held along the coast, including a Saudi supertanker with two million barrels of oil and a Ukrainian cargo ship carrying 33 tanks.
23170  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Ummm , , , exactly so on: December 21, 2008, 11:20:18 AM
"As I did a search, I found "choke hold" often used interchangeably with control holds, carotid holds, and other holds including "stopping the blood flow".   Further, I think most laymen will use the term interchangeably."


Ummm, , , this IS my point.  You used a term which covered bar-arm windpipe holds AND carotid holds, whereas it was only the bar-arm hold which was abandoned as a technique.

"Between 1975 and 1982, 16 men died after the application of choke holds by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department. According to the LAPD's reports, five of the men had bar-arm holds placed on them, which cuts off air passage.
Nine of the deaths occurred after officers used the carotid artery hold, and in two of the cases, there was some uncertainty about which hold was used."

Not quite the way I remember the data, but I could be wrong.  I do remember that this hit the papers shortly after I arrived in LA.  The police chief, Darryl Gates, had just responded to a reporter's question about why a disproportionate number of the dead in the bar-arm choke cases were black by saying something like "Maybe they (blacks) don't respond to the technique like normal people."  
shocked    New and naive to the ways of LA, I assumed that the black mayor and former police chief Tom Bradley would can hit butt PDQ, bu such was not the case.

"The carotid hold -- it's a terrible idea, physically and medically," said Los Angeles civil rights attorney Michael R. Mitchell, who sought an injunction against the city of Los Angeles to bar the use of the control holds in the 1970s and 1980s."

Well, like most of us here, I have a reasonably good idea of what it is and what it does, and IMHO the man is an ass looking to make a contingency fee.

Mitchell argued the case when it went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983. One count alleged that police officers "regularly and routinely" applied choke holds in situations where they are not threatened by the use of deadly force, and that numerous persons had been injured or killed as a result of the application of the carotid hold and other choke holds."

The allegations of this contingency attorney mean very little  evil

"While the court did not side with Mitchell,"

an occasional moment of sanity strikes!

"the LAPD saw fit to raise the threshold for use, allowing the carotid hold only when there is an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death."

Which agrees with the point that I have been making here-- your original statement that the "LAPD stopped doing chokeholds due to "problems"" was overbroad.
23171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tithing on: December 21, 2008, 10:39:24 AM
Bleeding Heart Tightwads
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: December 20, 2008
NYT

This holiday season is a time to examine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but I’m unhappy with my findings. The problem is this: We liberals are personally stingy.

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

Other research has reached similar conclusions. The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.

The upshot is that Democrats, who speak passionately about the hungry and homeless, personally fork over less money to charity than Republicans — the ones who try to cut health insurance for children.

“When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”

Something similar is true internationally. European countries seem to show more compassion than America in providing safety nets for the poor, and they give far more humanitarian foreign aid per capita than the United States does. But as individuals, Europeans are far less charitable than Americans.

Americans give sums to charity equivalent to 1.67 percent of G.N.P., according to a terrific new book, “Philanthrocapitalism,” by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green. The British are second, with 0.73 percent, while the stingiest people on the list are the French, at 0.14 percent.

(Looking away from politics, there’s evidence that one of the most generous groups in America is gays. Researchers believe that is because they are less likely to have rapacious heirs pushing to keep wealth in the family.)

When liberals see the data on giving, they tend to protest that conservatives look good only because they shower dollars on churches — that a fair amount of that money isn’t helping the poor, but simply constructing lavish spires.

It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives.

According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do. But Mr. Brooks says that if measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.

In any case, if conservative donations often end up building extravagant churches, liberal donations frequently sustain art museums, symphonies, schools and universities that cater to the well-off. (It’s great to support the arts and education, but they’re not the same as charity for the needy. And some research suggests that donations to education actually increase inequality because they go mostly to elite institutions attended by the wealthy.)

Conservatives also appear to be more generous than liberals in nonfinancial ways. People in red states are considerably more likely to volunteer for good causes, and conservatives give blood more often. If liberals and moderates gave blood as often as conservatives, Mr. Brooks said, the American blood supply would increase by 45 percent.

So, you’ve guessed it! This column is a transparent attempt this holiday season to shame liberals into being more charitable. Since I often scold Republicans for being callous in their policies toward the needy, it seems only fair to reproach Democrats for being cheap in their private donations. What I want for Christmas is a healthy competition between left and right to see who actually does more for the neediest.

Of course, given the economic pinch these days, charity isn’t on the top of anyone’s agenda. Yet the financial ability to contribute to charity, and the willingness to do so, are strikingly unrelated. Amazingly, the working poor, who have the least resources, somehow manage to be more generous as a percentage of income than the middle class.

So, even in tough times, there are ways to help. Come on liberals, redeem yourselves, and put your wallets where your hearts are.
23172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: December 21, 2008, 12:47:48 AM
Rachel:

That touched me.  Thank you.

Marc
23173  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 20, 2008, 01:25:19 PM
@ JDN:

My comments were in response to your overly broad/imprecise statement:
 
"Choke holds are tricky.  LAPD stopped doing it due to "problems"; and the City paid out millions."

23174  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pacquiao on: December 20, 2008, 07:58:55 AM
The Filipino whose fists stop wars
"Don't tell God you have a big problem. Tell your problem you have a big God,” champ tells fans.
The boxing world is in shock after the legendary Mexican Oscar de la Hoya was sent into retirement by Filipino Manny Pacquiao on December 6 in Las Vegas.
Manny Pacquiao is undoubtedly the Philippines’ most popular sports icon. He’s a simple guy of extraordinary grit. Glorious in his bouts, he remains humble with his feet firmly planted on the ground. In his most recent match, which kept millions of Filipinos all over the world glued to their radios or TV screens, he emerged as the winner against the much touted “golden boy” Oscar de la Joya in an eight-round TKO decision.

The good-natured Pacquiao shows his mettle even inside the ring. Recah Trinidad, a Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) columnist, wrote: “How Pacquiao lent boxing a warm human touch was no coincidence. In fact, Pacquiao would later bare that he often took pity on the helpless De La Hoya. After cornering and shaking up De La Hoya, Pacquiao would often stall in his offensive. Of course, this was not out of a sudden attack of compassion and humility.”

Pacquiao’s matches are surely a diversion to many people, not just Filipinos. His bouts relieve the stress of a faltering economy and provide national entertainment on a humdrum weekend. They have even led to truces among warring camps and a drop in crime rate, even as rebels and thieves are kept off the streets to catch a glimpse of his exciting matches. Apparently Eid Kabalu, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front civil-military affairs chief, has been known to say, “If Manny fights every day, guns will always be silent.”

The 29-year-old Pacquiao is an interesting character. In the tough world of boxing, you see this man publicly acknowledging that among his weapons are absolute faith in God and prayer. He hangs a rosary around his neck just before a match, and he’s not shy about it. As soon as he steps into the boxing ring, he kneels in deep prayer in one corner. Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers away in General Santos City, he’s supported by a pious mother who spends hours praying before an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Santo Nino (Holy Child Jesus) for the success of her son. After each victorious bout, an assistant immediately hops into the ring to hang once more the same holy rosary around Manny’s neck.

Returning to the Philippines after his victorious dream match, he went to the popular Black Nazarene Church in Manila. In a blog posted by Izah Morales in the PDI, she recalled: “After priest gave his final blessings, Pacquiao was asked to give a message to the people. During his message, Pacquiao thanked the people and attributed his success to God. He talked about the criticisms he got from some sportswriters before his bout with Oscar de la Hoya. But he said he did not lose hope as he kept his faith in God.

“Pacquiao told the crowd, ‘Don't tell God that [you] have a big problem. ut tell your problem [that you] have a big God.’”

It said that a boxer’s motto is “It’s better to give than to receive.” But Pacquaio goes beyond that quip. It was reported that before his “dream match” with de la Joya, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for tickets to be distributed among his friends and supporters. For him, it was a way of giving back. Some labeled it as superstition. But Pacquiao has that penchant for sharing his blessings with others. At the end of his match he was quoted saying, “I’m just happy that I made a lot of people happy.”

Pacquiao was tempted to venture into politics last year when he ran for a seat in Congress. He was soundly defeated, much to the delight of his fans, who wanted him to stay in the ring.

A recent PDI editorial warned Pacquiao against pursuing further political ambitions: “Pacquiao's achievements have been fully his own, as far as boxing is concerned. His becoming a sports hero has led not only to riches, but also has won him the incomparable affections of an entire nation. That success and that affection are his because of how he unites a nation otherwise divided and discouraged by politics.

“No one can doubt that Pacquiao is looking for a career that will not just give meaning to his life after boxing, but which will also allow him to help others as so many have helped him rise from rags to riches through sports. The question is not whether he can or should try to be a force for public good, but whether the public good is served by his entering politics.

“His dogged determination, his dedication to his sport, his discipline and his ability to improve himself, all the while maintaining a sunny disposition and picking no quarrels with people outside the boxing ring, suggest to us that the greatest good for the greatest number lies in Pacquiao staying out of the political arena. He is a political force by sheer force of being who he is-the man who unites-and staying that way.”

The good-tempered, level-headed Pacquiao is no Mike Tyson. He is unlikely to end up like many other boxers: broke, cheated, disgraced or punch-drunk. But he should stay out of politics. The punches thrown in political shadow boxing are more vicious than any he will ever face in the ring.

Zen Udani is Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Macau.
23175  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 20, 2008, 12:49:40 AM
Lets be precise now-- the LAPD stopped doing holds that attack the windpipe.  Stopping the blood flow is a completely distinct matter.

If I read the CA case correctly the question presented means that for the purpose of the question presented the court must assume the allegations to be true.  In this case the allegations are that the defendant got hyper and a bit hysterical and by so doing left the plaintiff crippled.  Did the law protect this behavior?  Was the defendant within the class protected by the law?

23176  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 19, 2008, 03:14:14 PM
Here's the full article:

California Supreme Court allows good Samaritans to be sued for nonmedical care
The ruling stems from a case in which a woman pulled a crash victim from a car 'like a rag doll,' allegedly aggravating a vertebrae injury.

By Carol J. Williams
December 19, 2008

Being a good Samaritan in California just got a little riskier.

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a young woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle isn't immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn't medical.


The divided high court appeared to signal that rescue efforts are the responsibility of trained professionals. It was also thought to be the first ruling by the court that someone who intervened in an accident in good faith could be sued.

Lisa Torti of Northridge allegedly worsened the injuries suffered by Alexandra Van Horn by yanking her "like a rag doll" from the wrecked car on Topanga Canyon Boulevard.  Torti now faces possible liability for injuries suffered by Van Horn, a fellow department store cosmetician who was rendered a paraplegic in the accident that ended a night of Halloween revelry in 2004.


But in a sharp dissent, three of the seven justices said that by making a distinction between medical care and emergency response, the court was placing "an arbitrary and unreasonable limitation" on protections for those trying to help.

In 1980, the Legislature enacted the Health and Safety Code, which provides that "no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission."  Although that passage does not use the word "medical" in describing the protected emergency care, it was included in the section of the code that deals with emergency medical services. By placing it there, lawmakers intended to shield "only those persons who in good faith render emergency medical care at the scene of a medical emergency," Justice Carlos R. Moreno wrote for the majority.

The high court cited no previous cases involving good Samaritan actions deemed unprotected by the state code, suggesting the challenge of Torti's rescue effort was the first to narrow the scope of the law.

The three dissenting justices argued, however, that the aim of the legislation was clearly "to encourage persons not to pass by those in need of emergency help, but to show compassion and render the necessary aid."  Justice Marvin R. Baxter said the ruling was "illogical" because it recognizes legal immunity for nonprofessionals administering medical care while denying it for potentially life-saving actions like saving a person from drowning or carrying an injured hiker to safety.

"One who dives into swirling waters to retrieve a drowning swimmer can be sued for incidental injury he or she causes while bringing the victim to shore, but is immune for harm he or she produces while thereafter trying to revive the victim," Baxter wrote for the dissenters. "Here, the result is that defendant Torti has no immunity for her bravery in pulling her injured friend from a crashed vehicle, even if she reasonably believed it might be about to explode."

Both opinions have merit, "but I think the majority has better arguments," said Michael Shapiro, professor of constitutional and bioethics law at USC.

Shapiro said the majority was correct in interpreting that the Legislature meant to shield doctors and other healthcare professionals from being sued for injuries they cause despite acting with "reasonable care," as the law requires.  Noting that he would be reluctant himself to step in to aid a crash victim with potential spinal injuries, Shapiro said the court's message was that emergency care "should be left to medical professionals."

Torti's liability has yet to be determined in court, and if the Legislature is unhappy with any judgment arising from the immunity denial, it can revise the code, he concluded.

Torti, Van Horn and three other co-workers from a San Fernando Valley department store had gone out to a bar on Halloween for a night of drinking and dancing, departing in two cars at 1:30 a.m., the justices noted as background.

Van Horn was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle driven by Anthony Glen Watson, whom she also sued, and Torti rode in the second car. After Watson's car crashed into a light pole at about 45 mph, the rear car pulled off the road and driver Dion Ofoegbu and Torti rushed to help Watson's two passengers escape the wreckage.

Torti testified in a deposition that she saw smoke and liquid coming from Watson's vehicle and feared the car was about to catch fire. None of the others reported seeing signs of an imminent explosion, and Van Horn said in her deposition that Torti grabbed her arm and yanked her out "like a rag doll."  Van Horn's suit alleges negligence by Torti in aggravating a vertebrae injury suffered in the crash, causing permanent damage to the spinal cord.

Neither Torti nor her attorney, Ronald D. Kent, could be reached immediately. Kent's Los Angeles law office said he was in meetings on the East Coast and may not have seen the decision.

Van Horn's attorney, Robert B. Hutchinson, disputed the notion that the ruling could have a chilling effect on laymen coming to the rescue of the injured. Good Samaritan laws have been on the books for centuries and state that "if a person volunteers to act, he or she must act with reasonable care," Hutchinson said.

"Ms. Torti ran up in a state of panic, literally grabbed Ms. Van Horn by the shoulder and yanked her out, then dropped her next to the car," he said, deeming Torti's assessment of an imminent explosion "irrational" and her action in leaving Van Horn close to the car inconsistent with that judgment.

Hutchinson said it was too early to say what sum Van Horn might seek in damages; her original suit was summarily dismissed in Los Angeles County Superior Court before he could arrange expert assessments of the costs of her life care and loss of potential income. It was her ambition to become a Hollywood makeup artist -- a dream no longer achievable, the lawyer said.

Torti's trial at the Chatsworth courthouse is expected next year.
23177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: December 19, 2008, 09:48:52 AM
"Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

23178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: December 19, 2008, 09:33:42 AM
If it were as clear as it seems in this WSJ editorial, why did all the Reps on the committee vote in support of the report?  Is it because one of them is Sen. McCain and with his personal history that no one was willing to go against him? 

Regardless, a troubling issue , , ,
==========================
The release of Carl Levin's report on the Bush Administration's alleged "torture" policies was a formality: The Senator's conclusions were politically predetermined long ago. Still, the credulity and acclaim that has greeted this agitprop is embarrassing, even by Washington standards.

 
AP
Sen. Carl Levin.
According to the familiar "torture narrative" that Mr. Levin sanctifies, President Bush and senior officials sanctioned detainee abuse, first by refusing to accord al Qaeda members Geneva Convention rights, and second by conspiring to rewrite the legal definition of torture. The new practices were then imposed on military leaders and spread through the chain of command. Therefore, Mr. Bush, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their deputies are morally -- and legally -- responsible for all prisoner abuse since 9/11, not least Abu Ghraib.

Nearly every element of this narrative is dishonest. As officials testified during Mr. Levin's hearings and according to documents in his possession, senior officials were responding to requests from the CIA and other commanders in the field. The flow was bottom up, not top down. Those commanders were seeking guidance on what kind of interrogation was permissible as they tried to elicit information from enemies who want to murder civilians. At the time, no less than Barack Obama's Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, was saying that terrorists didn't qualify for Geneva protections.

This was the context in which the Justice Department wrote the so-called "torture memos" of 2002 and 2003. You'd never know from the Levin jeremiad that these are legal -- not policy -- documents. They are attempts not to dictate interrogation guidelines but to explore the legal limits of what the CIA might be able to do.

It would have been irresponsible for those charged with antiterror policy to do anything less. In a 2007 interview former CIA director George Tenet described the urgency of that post-9/11 period: "I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are going to be blown up, planes that are going to fly into airports all over again . . . Plot lines that I don't know -- I don't know what's going on inside the United States." Actionable intelligence is the most effective weapon in the war on terror, which can potentially save thousands of lives.

We know that the most aggressive tactic ever authorized was waterboarding, which was used in only three cases against hardened, high-ranking al Qaeda operatives, including Abu Zubaydah after he was picked up in Pakistan in 2002. U.S. officials say the information he gave up foiled multiple terror plots and led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11. As Dick Cheney told ABC this week, "There was a time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from one source" -- KSM.

Starting in 2002, key Congressional leaders, including Democrats, were fully briefed by the CIA about its activities, amounting to some 30 sessions before "torture" became a public issue. None of them saw fit to object. In fact, Congress has always defined torture so vaguely as to ban only the most extreme acts and preserve legal loopholes. At least twice it has had opportunity to specifically ban waterboarding and be accountable after some future attack. Members declined.

As for "stress positions" allowed for a time by the Pentagon, such as hooding, sleep deprivation or exposure to heat and cold, they are psychological techniques designed to break a detainee, but light years away from actual torture. Perhaps the reason Mr. Levin released only an executive summary with its unsubstantiated charges of criminal behavior -- instead of the hundreds of pages of a full declassified version -- is that the evidence doesn't fit the story. If it did, Mr. Levin or his staff would surely have leaked the details.

Not one of the 12 nonpartisan investigations in recent years concluded that the Administration condoned or tolerated detainee abuse, while multiple courts martial have punished real offenders. None of the dozen or so Abu Ghraib trials and investigations have implicated higher ups; the most senior officer charged, a lieutenant colonel, was acquitted in 2006. Former Defense Secretary Jim Schlesinger's panel concluded that the abuses were sadistic behavior by the "night shift."

Now that Mr. Obama is on his way to the White House, even some Democrats are acknowledging the complicated security realities. Dianne Feinstein, a Bush critic who will chair the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, recently told the New York Times that extreme cases might call for flexibility. "I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible," she said (our emphasis). Ms. Feinstein later put out a statement that all interrogations should be conducted within the more specific limits of the U.S. Army Field Manual but said she will "consider" other views. But that is already the law for most of the government. What the Bush Administration has insisted on is an exception for the CIA to use other techniques (not waterboarding) in extreme cases.

As for Mr. Levin, his real purpose is to lay the groundwork for war-crimes prosecutions of Bush officials like John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Jim Haynes who acted in good faith to keep the country safe within the confines of the law. Messrs. Obama and Holder would be foolish to spend their political capital on revenge, but Mr. Levin is demanding an "independent" commission to further politicize the issue and smear decent public servants.

As Mr. Levin put it in laying on his innuendo this week, a commission "may or may not lead to indictments or civil action." It will also encourage some grandstanding foreign prosecutor to arrest Mr. Rumsfeld and other Bush officials like Pinochet if they ever dare to leave the U.S. Why John McCain endorsed this Levin gambit is the kind of mystery that has defined, and damaged, his career. We hope other Republicans push back.

Mr. Levin claims that Bush interrogation programs "damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives." The truth is closer to the opposite. The second-guessing of Democrats is likely to lead to a risk-averse mindset at the CIA and elsewhere that compromises the ability of terror fighters to break the next KSM. The political winds always shift, but terrorists are as dangerous as ever.

 

23179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / S-300 to Iran on: December 19, 2008, 12:49:54 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia, Obama and the S-300
December 18, 2008
There has been extensive discussion of the idea that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama might be tested early in his term by foreign powers, much as other presidents have been tested. If reports in the Russian media are correct, Obama’s first test is starting to take shape: According to RIA Novosti news agency, Russia is in the process of “implementing a contract” that would ultimately deliver the S-300 strategic air defense system to Iran.

Rumors concerning the S-300 have been on-again, off-again for years, but RIA Novosti reported that “Moscow has earlier met its obligations on supplying Tor-M1 systems to Iran and is currently implementing a contract to deliver S-300 systems.” The news agency also quoted Alexander Fomin, deputy head of the federal agency in charge of Russia’s military exports, as saying, “Russia’s military and technical cooperation with Iran has a positive impact on stability in this region.” Fomin added, “We have developed, are developing and will continue to develop this cooperation further. The region’s security to a large extent depends on this.” The article follows reports that an Israeli military delegation traveled to Moscow in recent days to try to dissuade Russia from delivering the weapons.

The importance of the S-300 — specifically the more modern PMU series — is that it would increase the difficulty of air attacks against Iran. The first stage of any attack is the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). Except in the case of a sudden attack on a single target, SEAD is a precursor to any sustained air campaign, and given the relatively large number of Iranian nuclear sites, taking out those facilities would involve such an extended campaign. Having to suppress a series of S-300PMU batteries would extend substantially the number of sorties and the time required for this phase of the attack.

This would affect both Israeli and American calculations. Given the size of Israel’s air force and the distances involved, the additional attrition and time involved in the SEAD phase might well extend an Iran campaign beyond Israel’s capabilities. It is not clear whether the S-300 would take a conventional Israeli option off the table, but it certainly would make things more difficult should Israel decide to carry out the attack. The United States would have greater ability to make such a move, but Washington’s recent agreement with Baghdad stipulates that Iraq cannot be used as a base for attacks against neighboring countries. And the Turks do not want the Americans to attack Iran from their soil. Put simply, the introduction of the S-300 would push the difficulty of a non-nuclear attack to the limit for Israel and complicate matters for the United States.

Of course, this is what the Russians mean to do. We do not know what happened during the conversations U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger held in Moscow in recent days, but the Russians clearly have decided to turn up the heat. Russia has shifted its position from not wanting to increase tensions through the sale of the S-300 to seeing the sale as stabilizing the region — which it would do at the expense of potentially reducing U.S. and Israeli options.

Moscow does not want the Iranians to have nuclear weapons, but the Russian view is that the Iranians are rather far away from developing them. The more important issue for Russia is forcing the Americans to recognize Moscow’s sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union - by withdrawing their support for Ukraine, Georgia and other countries in the region. For the United States, the Iranian issue has been a priority. The Russians have just made it clear that if the Americans do not give them what they want, they will complicate U.S. policy on Iran as much as they can.

Obama takes office in about a month. It is not clear what point the Russians have reached in actually transferring S-300s, but in a month’s time, they could be either on the verge of transferring or already in the process. That means Obama will be forced to respond very quickly to Russia’s action. His options include forcing some sort of confrontation with the Russians; doing nothing, and thus accepting Russia’s intrusion into a core American interest; moving rapidly to deal with Iran; or (and we doubt intensely that he would choose this option) moving to strike Iran before the S-300s become operational.

It may be that American defense analysts will conclude that the S-300 does not significantly affect the balance of power in the region. But the S-300 does affect the psychological balance. The Iranians will feel that they are far less isolated than the Americans want them to feel, and that change alone will have a significant effect. Whether viewed militarily or politically, Russia’s action matters.

This is not a situation on the scale of the Cuban missile crisis, but it is a significant challenge to American interests on Russia’s part. If Obama does nothing, he will be seen as weak; if he gives the Russians what they want, he will be seen as an appeaser. And if he moves toward a major crisis or even military action, he will be seen as overly aggressive. With this move, Russia’s aim was to push Obama into a corner and say, in Russian, “Welcome to the big leagues.”
23180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: December 18, 2008, 01:48:59 AM
If I remember correctly, the Dept of Ag was virtually wiped out until Bush resurrected it  angry angry angry
23181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: December 18, 2008, 01:46:29 AM
"It may certainly be soon to tell if the last few decades  are a turning point but the statistics are currently not in favor  of feminism/working mothers causing  rising violence and the breakdown of society."

Delivered with panache and wit cheesy but I stilll insist upon the point that mothers matter and when they disappear from their children's lives the consequences are profound.
23182  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Healing Aspect of DBMA on: December 17, 2008, 11:28:31 PM
Ummm, , , , the second one  cheesy
23183  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio en estupidez on: December 17, 2008, 11:27:11 PM
Esta' en Portugues:

http://www.nothingtoxic.com/media/1228874022/Pistol_Whipping_Cop_Accidentally_Shoots_Guy_in_Head
23184  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Healing Aspect of DBMA on: December 17, 2008, 08:18:44 PM
The one at 3:30 on the second clip was new to me.  Obvious once you see it, but new to me nonetheless.  cool
23185  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 17, 2008, 08:07:54 PM
Agradezco la felizidad y orgullo de jugar adjedrez con mi hijo y ver como el nivel de su juego este' creciendo.
23186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 17, 2008, 08:03:04 PM
I'm thinking the Green Team piece belongs better on the Cognitive Dissonance thread , , ,

Anyway, fair and reasonable man that SBM is, of course he gets the absurdity of the Palin baby nonsense-- what remains IMHO is that there is no good reason that I can see for all of us not to see the original certificate.  Period.
23187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 17, 2008, 07:58:40 PM
Exactly so. 

I am in most hearty agreement with BBG about the primal importance of what is at stake here.
23188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: December 17, 2008, 07:54:32 PM
I had an interesting conversation with a couple trying to sign me up for Greenpeace yesterday in front of the Whole Foods store. cheesy  The male half of the couple apparently was some sort of grad science student.   Armed as I was with the contents of this thread and the Pathological Science thread, he had a very hard time with me.  His frustration as I popped the various bubbles of  specious reasoning and misleading misrepresentations with which he was used to having his way (its not like the folks going into Whole Foods represent a reluctant to belief group on the whole  wink ) was quite enjoyable.  His girlfriend had a harder time of it  cheesy 

Good fun!  Thanks to BBG, GM, Doug et al for al the ammo!
23189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 16, 2008, 11:48:04 AM
Can David Paterson Say 'No' to a Kennedy?

Media reaction to news that Caroline Kennedy is actively seeking appointment to the U.S. Senate seat held by Hillary Clinton was certainly different from how the media responded to Sarah Palin's arrival on the national stage. Mrs. Palin may have been a mayor, chairwoman of a major state regulatory commission and a governor, but her entrance into big-time politics was widely ridiculed.

In contrast, the 51-year-old Ms. Kennedy is a shy and private person who has never held a job in public life beyond her 22 months planning strategic partnerships for New York City's public schools. She has co-authored books such as "The Right to Privacy" and also co-chaired Barack Obama's vice-presidential selection committee.

But her political experience is painfully limited. A family friend, noting that she had never campaigned for anyone outside her immediate family before Mr. Obama, had to reach in explaining to Newsweek magazine that she could handle the rigors of campaigning. "She worked rope lines and spoke at campaign stops for Obama and was not turned off by that," the friend said. "In fact, she enjoyed herself."

There is no doubt Ms. Kennedy could raise tens of millions of dollars for the two Senate races she would have to run in quick succession -- one in 2010 for the remaining two years of Mrs. Clinton's term and another in 2012 for a full six-year term. She no doubt would also receive the same kind of kid-glove treatment from most of the media that Barack Obama has.

But don't count on a Kennedy continuing the dynasty that has kept a member of the family in the U.S. Senate for all but two of the last 56 years. A key factor in who will be appointed to the Senate seat is how the selection would benefit the political interests of New York Governor David Paterson, the man who will make the decision.

Mr. Paterson is himself a governor who happened into his job by accident after the spectacular fall of Eliot Spitzer. With a slowing economy, the prospect of massive tax increases and a volatile group of special interests making demands on the state's budget, his job in winning a full term in his own right won't be easy.

That's why the safest choice for Mr. Paterson might be to appoint state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has been viewed as a possible primary challenger to the governor in 2010. Promoting Mr. Cuomo would remove the largest single obstacle to Mr. Paterson's election to the office he now holds, but it might also irritate women voters who were used to having Mrs. Clinton represent New York in the nation's capital.

"My heart goes out to David Paterson," Democratic political strategist Dan Gerstein says. "He's sadly become the grand champion of the no-win situation. No matter who he picks, he will alienate a lot of different communities."

Now, with Ms. Kennedy's openly public interest in going to the U.S. Senate, the question is whether he is willing to "just say no" to the Democratic Party's most powerful family dynasty.

-- John Fund

Obama's School Choice Is to Punt

In picking Chicago public schools chief Arne Duncan to be his Education Secretary, Barack Obama chose a middle course between appointing a fiery reformer and a favorite of the politically powerful teachers' unions that backed his candidacy.

Mr. Obama had been under pressure from liberals to appoint Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor viewed as an "old guard" defender of the educational status quo. On the other hand, many of his business supporters were backing Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City's public schools and someone who has often confronted teacher unions.

Mr. Obama instead opted for Mr. Duncan, a friend and Hyde Park neighbor who has often played basketball with the President-elect. Nonetheless, education reformers pronounced themselves pleased with the choice. Whitney Tilson, a founder of Democrats for Education Reform, said he had been impressed by Mr. Duncan's support for merit pay for teachers and willingness to shut down some failing public schools. Mr. Tilson said Mr. Duncan had been able to bring "real change" to the nation's third largest public school system and was the "perfect balance of being strong and getting what he wants and doing it in a way that wins."

All that may be true, but after seven years of Mr. Duncan's tenure in Chicago, its schools still remain seriously troubled. Mr. Obama, for his part, certainly never entrusted his own children to the Chicago public school system -- even schools in the affluent Hyde Park neighborhood where he lived. Instead, he sent both of his children to private schools -- as he intends to do when he moves to Washington, D.C.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"For the last decade or so, the Democrats have not been as strong on education reform as the Republicans have. The Republicans have been much, much better, in my opinion, on ensuring strict accountability for schools and for districts, for ensuring that people are held responsible for closing the achievement gap and significantly increasing student achievement levels for every single child. What worries me about the Democrats is that they tend to be softer on these things, and soft is not what we need right now. Allowing schools to continue to fail year in and year out without significant ramifications either to the district or to the school is doing a disservice to the children. . . . I don't think it's too much for the children of this country to ask for to have somebody who's leading the education system who is always going to put their interests first and foremost, who is not going to care about the politics, the political flak, how many adults get mad at them, keeping the adults happy" -- District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, on why despite being an Obama voter she is "somewhat terrified of what the Democrats are going to do on education," in an interview with NationalJournal.com's Amy Harder.

What If Sarah Palin Had Come from Chicago and Barack Obama from Alaska?

What's the difference between a hockey mom and a Chicago pol?

Apparently, it's more than lipstick. During the presidential campaign, Sarah Palin was criticized for having too thin a résumé to be vice president. But one portion of her record stands out now as being particularly relevant in the wake of Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest last week and Barack Obama's long-standing silence of Chicago ethics.

In 2003, Ms. Palin was appointed chairwoman and ethics supervisor of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. Before long she spotted what appeared to be ethical violations by fellow Republicans and also found the governor's response to be so sluggish that it bordered on willful blindness. The two Republicans she pointed fingers at were Randy Ruedrich, the state GOP chairman and a fellow oil and gas commissioner, and Gregg Renkes, the state's attorney general. Her beef with Mr. Ruedrich was that he appeared to be too close to a company he was supposed to be regulating. And Mr. Renkes appeared to have a financial conflict of interest in negotiating a coal-exporting trade agreement.

Mrs. Palin blew the whistle internally on both men. When nothing happened, she quit less than two years into her term. Later, when she was criticized by some Republicans for unfairly pointing an accusatory finger, she penned an op-ed and, using her famous hockey-mom metaphor, underlined the importance of holding government officials -- even members of her own party -- to high ethical standards. The incident cemented her reputation as a reformer when both men were later forced to resign and Mr. Ruedrich paid a $12,000 fine. Mrs. Palin went on to unseat Mr. Murkowski in a hard-fought GOP primary in 2006.

Compare this record to Mr. Obama's. An ethical cloud has been hanging over Mr. Blagojevich for years. We now know federal officials began looking into his affairs within months after he was elected in 2002. Mr. Obama came up in Chicago politics, shared at least one fundraiser with Mr. Blagojevich -- Tony Rezko, who was recently convicted of fraud and bribery -- and several other acquaintances, including top labor officials. But he apparently never saw any reason to publicly question the governor's ethics. In the past week the Obama camp has been compiling a list of contacts with Mr. Blagojevich and his inner circle since Election Day, which it will supposedly release next week. When that list comes out, let's hope it accurately portrays the overlap between the Obama and Blagojevich circles in Chicago. The question that will remain, however, is why didn't Mr. Obama ever assume the type of leadership role Mrs. Palin did in moving against public corruption within his own party and state?

-- Brendan Miniter

23190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bankruptcy is the perfect remedy on: December 16, 2008, 08:25:58 AM
WSJ
Bankruptcy Is the Perfect Remedy for Detroit
Washington hates the idea because it would lose leverage.Article


   
By TODD J. ZYWICKI
While Washington tries to arrange a bailout, the Detroit Three auto makers and their union, the United Auto Workers, keep insisting that bankruptcy would be the kiss of death. Not so: a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will likely result in a stronger domestic industry.

To understand why, consider that the fundamental question to ask of any firm facing bankruptcy is whether it is "economically failed" or simply "financially failed."

If a typewriter manufacturer were to file for bankruptcy today it likely would be considered an economically failed enterprise. The market for typewriters is small and shrinking, and the manufacturer's financial, physical and human capital would probably be better redeployed elsewhere, such as making computers.

A financially failed enterprise, on the other hand, is worth more alive than dead. Chapter 11 exists to allow it to continue in business while reorganizing. Reorganization arose in the late 19th century when creditors of railroads unable to meet their debt obligations threatened to tear up their tracks, melt them down, and sell the steel as scrap. But innovative judges, lawyers and businessmen recognized that creditors would collect more if they all agreed to reduce their claims and keep the railroads running and producing revenues to pay them off. The same logic animates Chapter 11 today.

General Motors looks like a financially failed rather than an economically failed enterprise -- in need of reorganization not liquidation. It needs to shed labor contracts, retirement contracts, and modernize its distribution systems by closing many dealerships. This will give rise to many current and future liabilities that may be worked out in bankruptcy. It may need new management as well. Bankruptcy provides an opportunity to do all that. Consumers have little to fear. Reorganization will pare the weakest dealers while strengthening those who remain.

So why do the Detroit Three managements and the UAW insist that "bankruptcy is not an option"? Perhaps because of the pain that would be inflicted upon both.

The bankruptcy code places severe limitations on the compensation that can be paid to a manager unless there is a "bona fide job offer from another business at the same or greater rate of compensation." Given the dismal performance of the Detroit Three in recent years, it seems unlikely that their senior management will be highly coveted on the open market. Incumbent management is also likely to find its prospects for continued employment less-secure.

Chapter 11 also provides a mechanism for forcing UAW workers to take further pay cuts, reduce their gold-plated health and retirement benefits, and overcome their cumbersome union work rules. The process for adjusting a collective bargaining agreement is somewhat complicated and begins with a sort of compulsory mediation process. But if this fails a company can (with court permission) nullify the agreement. This doomsday scenario is rarely triggered, however, as its threat casts a large shadow over negotiations, providing a stick to force concessions.

Those Washington politicians who repeat the mantra that "bankruptcy is not an option" probably do so because they want to use free taxpayer money to bribe Detroit into manufacturing the green cars favored by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, rather than those cars American consumers want to buy. A Chapter 11 filing would remove these politicians' leverage, thus explaining their desperation to avoid a bankruptcy.

In short, Detroit and the public has little to fear from a bankruptcy filing, but much to fear from the corrupt bargain that is emerging among incumbent management, the UAW and Capitol Hill to spend our money to avoid their reality check.

Mr. Zywicki is a professor of law at George Mason University School of Law.

23191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 16, 2008, 07:59:51 AM
Interesting BBG.  I wonder what Michael Yon is saying about all this?

Anyway, in a totall different vein, here's this from the WSJ:

Every visitor to Pakistan has seen them: 20-foot tall roadside replicas of a remote mountain where, a decade ago, Pakistan conducted its first overt nuclear tests. This is what the country's leaders -- military, secular, Islamist -- consider their greatest achievement.

 
AP
A model of Chaghi mountain, the site of Pakistan's nuclear test.
So here's a modest proposal: Let's buy their arsenal.

A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear program (and midwife to a few others), likes to point out what a feat it was that a country "where we can't even make a bicycle chain" could succeed at such an immense technological task. He exaggerates somewhat: Pakistan got its bomb largely through a combination of industrial theft, systematic violation of Western export controls, and a blueprint of a weapon courtesy of Beijing.

Still, give Mr. Khan this: Thanks partly to his efforts, a country that has impoverished the great mass of its own people, corruptly enriched a tiny handful of elites, served as a base of terrorism against its neighbors, lost control of its intelligence services, radicalized untold numbers of Muslims in its madrassas, handed the presidency to a man known as Mr. 10%, and proliferated nuclear technology to Libya and Iran (among others) has, nevertheless, made itself a power to be reckoned with. Congratulations.

But if Pakistanis thought a bomb would be a net national asset, they miscalculated. Yes, Islamabad gained parity with its adversaries in New Delhi, gained prestige in the Muslim world, and gained a day of national pride, celebrated every May 28.

What Pakistan didn't gain was greater security. "The most significant reality was that the bomb promoted a culture of violence which . . . acquired the form of a monster with innumerable heads of terror," wrote Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy earlier this year. "Because of this bomb, we can definitely destroy India and be destroyed in its response. But its function is limited to this."

In 2007, some 1,500 Pakistani civilians were killed in terrorist attacks. None of those attacks were perpetrated by India or any other country against which Pakistan's warheads could be targeted, unless it aimed at itself. But Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has made it an inviting target for the jihadists who blew up Islamabad's Marriott hotel in September and would gladly blow up the rest of the capital as a prelude to taking it over.

The day that happens may not be so very far off. President Asif Ali Zardari was recently in the U.S. asking for $100 billion to stave off economic collapse. So far, the international community has ponied up about $15 billion. That puts Mr. Zardari $85 billion shy of his fund-raising target. Meantime, the average Taliban foot soldier brings home monthly wages that are 30% higher than uniformed Pakistani security personnel.

Preventing the disintegration of Pakistan, perhaps in the wake of a war with India (how much restraint will New Delhi show after the next Mumbai-style atrocity?), will be the Obama administration's most urgent foreign-policy challenge. Since Mr. Obama has already committed a trillion or so in new domestic spending, what's $100 billion in the cause of saving the world?

Today in Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Barack Obama-sanCondi's Korean FailureThe Sole of Liberation

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Global View: Let's Buy Pakistan's Nukes
– Bret StephensMain Street: Gitmo Lawyers Are the Latest in Radical Chic
– William McGurn

COMMENTARY

The Return of Realpolitik in Arabia
– Fouad AjamiThe Lessons From 30 Years of Chinese Reform
– Hugo RestallHow Blackwater Serves America
– Erik D. PrinceBankruptcy Is the Perfect Remedy for Detroit
– Todd J. ZywickiThis is the deal I have in mind. The government of Pakistan would verifiably eliminate its entire nuclear stockpile and the industrial base that sustains it. In exchange, the U.S. and other Western donors would agree to a $100 billion economic package, administered by an independent authority and disbursed over 10 years, on condition that Pakistan remain a democratic and secular state (no military rulers; no Sharia law). It would supplement that package with military aid similar to what the U.S. provides Israel: F-35 fighters, M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters. The U.S. would also extend its nuclear umbrella to Pakistan, just as Hillary Clinton now proposes to do for Israel.

A pipe dream? Not necessarily. People forget that the world has subtracted more nuclear powers over the past two decades than it has added: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and South Africa all voluntarily relinquished their stockpiles in the 1990s. Libya did away with its program in 2003 when Moammar Gadhafi concluded that a bomb would be a net liability, and that he had more to gain by coming to terms with the West.

There's no compelling reason Mr. Zardari and his military brass shouldn't reach the same conclusion, assuming excellent terms and desperate circumstances. Sure, a large segment of Pakistanis will never agree. Others, who have subsisted on a diet of leaves and grass so Pakistan could have its bomb, might take a more pragmatic view.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that it remains a country that can't do the basics, like make a bicycle chain. If what its leaders want is prestige, prosperity and lasting security, they could start by creating an economy that can make one -- while unlearning how to make the bomb.
23192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CFLs on: December 16, 2008, 07:53:09 AM
Lights Out for Thomas Edison

Brief Analysis

No. 637

December 10, 2008

Read Article as PDF | Get Adobe Reader

by H. Sterling Burnett and Amanda Berg

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will soon ban the most
common light bulbs in the United States.  New efficiency standards will
require manufacturers to produce incandescent bulbs that use less energy per
unit of light produced, starting with 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012,
down to 40-watt bulbs in 2014.

Under the new standards:

100-watt light bulbs are banned entirely.
70-watt light bulbs will have to be 36 percent to 136 percent more
efficient.
50-watt bulbs must be 50 percent to 112 percent more efficient.
40-watt bulbs will have to improve 50 percent to 110 percent.

Incandescent bulbs cannot meet these new standards absent a significant
technological breakthrough.  Thus, the common light bulb will soon be
extinct.

Illuminating Efficiency.  The alternative for most household uses will be
compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) designed to fit standard incandescent bulb
bases.  CFLs currently make up only 5 percent of the light bulb market.
They have been touted for years as the smart choice for consumers interested
in reducing their energy bills, due to their extended lifespan and low
energy use vis-à-vis the equivalent light output from an incandescent.  For
example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb produces 850 lumens - the same light
output as a 13-watt to 18-watt CFL.   Unfortunately, except under a fairly
narrow range of circumstances, CFLs are less efficient than advertised.
Manufacturers claim the average life span of a CFL bulb is 10,000 hours.
However, in many applications the life and energy savings of a CFL are
significantly lower:

CFLs must be left on for at least 15 minutes or used for several hours per
day to achieve their full energy saving benefits, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Applications in which lighting is used only briefly (such as closets,
bathrooms, motion detectors and so forth) will cause CFL bulbs to burn out
as quickly as regular incandescent bulbs.

CFLs often become dimmer over time - a study of U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Star" products found that after 40 percent of their rated service
life, one-fourth of tested CFLs no longer produced the full amount of light.

At about $3 per bulb, CFLs are expensive, whereas incandescent bulbs cost
only 20 cents per bulb, on average.  And there are other drawbacks.  For
instance:

When initially switched on, CFLs may provide as little as 50 percent to 80
percent of their rated light output and can take up to three minutes to
reach full brightness.
CFLs often don't fit existing light fixtures, such as small-base lamps and
candlelabras, so these will have to be replaced.
Standard CFLs will not operate at low temperatures, making them unsuitable
for outdoor lighting.
CFLs can emit an annoying buzz.

CFLs emit infrared light that can interfere with remote-controlled devices,
such as televisions, video games and stereo equipment.
CFLs are simply unsuited for many common uses. The new law therefore
excludes whole classes of light bulbs from the standards, including
appliance light bulbs (ovens and refrigerators), flashing and colored
lights, traffic signals, shatter-resistant bulbs, three-way adjustable bulbs
and so forth.

Hidden Dangers of CFLs.  CFLs contain potentially toxic mercury.  Thus,
there are health and environmental concerns regarding their proper disposal.
Shattered CFLs in municipal landfills have the potential to leach mercury
into the soil.  Over time this mercury could seep into the groundwater or
nearby streams.  For this reason, a number of states and localities have
outlawed disposing CFLs with normal trash - instead, consumers must take
their used CFLs to authorized hazardous waste disposal sites.

The EPA recommends recycling CFLs.  However, curbside recycling is not
available everywhere and often doesn't include CFLs.  Recycling facilities
that accept CFLs are not common within major metropolitan areas, much less
in rural areas where on-site incineration or trenches are often used - both
of which release mercury into the atmosphere.
Perhaps even more important is the danger of broken CFLs in the home. The
EPA has provided detailed guidelines to avoid unsafe indoor mercury levels
[see the sidebar].

Cleaning up mercury from a shattered CFL can be costly.  For example, when a
CFL broke in her daughter's bedroom, Brandy Bridges of Prospect, Maine,
called on the state's  Department of Environmental Protection to make sure
she cleaned up the broken glass and mercury powder safely.  A specialist
found unsafe levels of mercury in the air and recommended an environmental
cleanup firm, who estimated the clean up cost of at $2,000.  Beause her
mother was unable to pay the exorbitant cleaning bill, the girl's room
remained sealed off in plastic for more than a month.

Conclusion.  Consumers consider many factors in addition to energy
efficiency when they purchase light bulbs.  The ban on incandescent bulbs
will be costly and potentially dangerous.  The public has not yet embraced
CFLs, and the government should not impose on consumers its preferences
regarding the types of lights used in the home.  As the deficiencies of CFLs
become more apparent with widespread use, perhaps Congress will let
consumers decide.

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba637/
23193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / New technique against Giardia promising against others too on: December 16, 2008, 07:39:46 AM
A Coat of Many Proteins May Be This Parasite’s Downfall
NYT
By NICHOLAS WADE
Published: December 15, 2008

If you return from a trip abroad to find you have projectile vomiting, roaring flatulence, sulfurous belching and explosive diarrhea, the bad news is that you won’t die; you just have an attack of giardiasis, a form of purgatory devised by the single-celled parasite known as giardia.

SHIFTY When giardia must wear all its 190 coat proteins at once instead of selecting one and changing it often, it cannot hide from the immune system.

Giardia infections can linger for months because the parasite plays a cunning defense against the body’s immune system. In its genomic wardrobe, it has 190 coats to choose from. As soon as the immune system has generated antibodies against one coat, giardia switches to another. Because of the parasite’s persistence and infectivity, some 280 million cases of giardiasis occur in the world each year, the World Health Organization estimates, though most of these are in developing countries where people are more inured to the disease.

Giardia’s offensive game could have a fatal weakness, however. Biologists led by Hugo D. Luján at the Catholic University of Córdoba in Argentina have gained a striking insight into its coat-shuffling stratagem.

With this knowledge, they have accomplished a cunning counterploy: they have forced the parasite to make and wear all its coat proteins at the same time. This altered parasite, they hope, should serve as the perfect vaccine, because it immunizes the body to the full repertoire of giardia’s coat proteins all at once. The idea has worked well in animal tests, Dr. Luján said.

He thinks the same general approach — forcing expression of all coat proteins simultaneously — might help produce vaccines against the other protozoan parasites that rely on coat switching to dodge the immune system. These include malaria and the trypanosomes that cause sleeping sickness and Leishmaniasis.

Dr. Luján and his team have identified the mechanism by which giardia controls its coat proteins, they report in the current issue of Nature. Each of the parasite’s 190 coat genes is the recipe for making a different protein, and the parasite switches its coat every 10 generations or so. To produce the coat, giardia does not switch these genes on one at a time, as might be expected. Instead, it seems to leave them all turned on, allowing each to generate a messenger RNA copy of itself. Usually the messenger RNAs would direct the synthesis of proteins, but giardia then destroys all but one of the messengers, and the survivor makes the coat of the day.

To kill its messenger RNAs, giardia has adapted an ancient cellular system known as RNA interference. The system is designed to destroy foreign RNA, like that of invading viruses, so it was surprising to find it regulating a cell’s own RNAs, Dr. Luján said.

He proved this was the case by disrupting giardia’s production of enzymes, like those known as Dicer and Argonaute, that are components of the RNA interference system. With its RNA selection system out of business, giardia produces many — Dr. Luján believes probably all — of the coat proteins in its repertoire and inserts them into its outer covering.

He said he did not yet know how the organism shifted between coats but suspected that the RNA interference system favored whichever messenger RNA happened to be the most abundant at the time, and destroyed all others.

In an experiment that has not yet been published, Dr. Luján has tested gerbils, the laboratory animal often used in giardia work, with a vaccine consisting just of giardia with its RNA interference system blocked. “We saw complete protection,” he said.

Dr. Theodore E. Nash, a leading expert on giardia at the National Institutes of Health, said the new report was “a major advance in the field.” Since 1979, Dr. Nash has developed many of the methods to study giardia and its coat shuffling, several of which were used by Dr. Luján, who worked for five years in Dr. Nash’s lab.

Another giardia expert, Dr. Rodney Adam of the University of Arizona, said Dr. Luján’s work on giardia’s coat gene control was interesting “but not the whole story.” As for making a vaccine, he said that “this is not an organism to which natural infection will confer immunity.” People in developing countries may get one infection after another, although they do get a much less severe form of the disease.

Malaria also evades the immune system by switching its protein coat. Dr. Kirk Deitsch, an expert on malaria coat genes at the Weill Cornell Medical College, said Dr. Luján’s new finding “may be conceptually applicable to malaria,” although the malaria parasite does not use RNA interference and no one yet knows how to make it display all its 60 coat protein genes at once.

A human vaccine for giardia could be of great benefit if the many mild cases in the developing world do in fact undermine health. Some experts believe persistent giardia infection causes malnutrition, but others are less sure of this.

For the much smaller number of Westerners who are not inured to the disease, a vaccine would be a welcome addition to the few available drugs. It would have been a godsend for the Crusaders, who are known from historical accounts to have suffered terribly from a variety of intestinal diseases that had no respect for rank. In 1249 King Louis IX, who led the Seventh Crusade, had such serious diarrhea that part of the monarch’s breeches were cut away to ease his personal hygiene. Giardia may well have been his tormentor. Using a sensitive immunological test, researchers who excavated a medieval latrine in the city of Acre, once part of the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, detected the presence of giardia, they reported in the July issue of The Journal of Archaeological Science.

Giardia itself is far more ancient than any Crusader kingdom. Though a single-celled organism, it belongs to the eukaryotes, the domain that includes all plants and animals. In the tree of eukaryotic life, giardia belongs to one of the earliest branches. It lacks mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles that are almost a badge of eukaryote identity. Even stranger, each giardia cell possesses two nuclei; no one knows what benefit offsets the cost of maintaining the second. Before this enigmatic microbe plagued people, it was doubtless the scourge of many earlier species. Dr. Luján’s discovery may be a critical step in curbing giardia’s merciless torment of its fellow eukaryotes.
23194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dr. Jessica Fridrich on: December 16, 2008, 07:36:28 AM
Prediction:

Rachel will use this one to tease GM  cheesy

Marc
================================

Specializing in Problems That Only Seem Impossible to Solve
by VENKATARAMAN
NYT
Published: December 15, 2008

“It’s a little plastic toy,” said Jessica Fridrich, tossing a Rubik’s Cube between her long-fingered hands on a stormy afternoon in her office at Binghamton University, her fingernails painted with a pastel pink gloss.


MATH AS METHOD Jessica Fridrich’s strategy for quickly solving the Rubik’s Cube requires using at least 53 algorithms.

But the little toy, an icon of the era of Pac-Man and high-top sneakers, has made a big comeback. For a thriving subculture of people who try to solve the cube as fast as possible, Dr. Fridrich is a pioneer and a patron saint. She forged what remains arguably the world’s most common strategy for speed-solving the puzzle, and appeared in a documentary about the Rubik’s Cube released this fall.
Dr. Fridrich first cracked the colorful walls of the Rubik’s Cube in 1981 as a teenager living in a Czech coal mining city. Few people will spend decades decoding a plastic block, no matter how mathematically intricate. But few people are as tenacious as the architect of “The Fridrich Method,” a roadmap that requires a speedcuber to memorize and unleash at least 53 algorithms, each of which is a series of turns of the cube’s rows and columns in a given sequence.

For Dr. Fridrich, tackling an impossible puzzle is not a hobby, and the Rubik’s Cube is not simply a game. They are obsessions.

Trapped in Czechoslovakia until the Velvet Revolution made migration to the United States for doctoral study possible, Dr. Fridrich, self-taught in differential and integral calculus, sketched out a solution to the Rubik’s Cube in a tattered notebook even before owning one.

Dr. Fridrich, 44, an electrical engineering professor, is frequently confronted at academic conferences and asked to solve the cube on the spot. She fields e-mail messages from 13-year-olds in Japan and has inspired scores of YouTube videos from cube enthusiasts riffing on her method, which was propagated on the Internet in the late 1990s as the puzzle saw a resurgence.

“She chose the basic route, the direction we would take up the mountain,” said Dan Knights, winner of the 2003 World Rubik’s Cube Championship (Dr. Fridrich placed second). “And other people are finding different ways from one ledge to another.”

Mr. Knights, 29, used the Fridrich Method to win the 2003 competition after seeking her out as a mentor four years earlier. At first confounded by her techniques, he took a year off from college to learn them while traveling by train through Europe and Asia.

The Fridrich Method requires first solving the top two layers of the three-tiered Rubik’s Cube, selecting the face with the central white square as the roof. (Each face has a middle square of a distinct color attached to the cube’s central joint that dictates the color the face will be when solved.) Most speedcubers learn to do this by intuition, improvising until the white face remains intact and other squares fall into place on their correctly colored sides. The crux of the Fridrich Method lies in solving the third and last layer of the cube without compromising the color scheme put into place in the initial steps.

To solve the third layer, the speedcuber must assemble all of the yellow squares on the bottom face by applying one of 40 algorithms in a phase called “orientation.” The cuber must instantly recognize which algorithm to apply in order to have any hope of solving it with haste. In the final step, permutation, one of 13 algorithms restores the cube’s chromatic harmony, one color per face.

The world’s fastest speedcubers, including Dr. Fridrich, know more than 100 algorithms to whisk the cube to its solution. They recognize when the puzzle is jumbled or positioned in their palms in a way that one set of moves is quicker than 99 others.

As a teenager, Dr. Fridrich saw a man demonstrating the Rubik’s Cube at a mathematics seminar, and scrambled defiantly through a crowd to touch it. She says it was immediately clear that she was “cube possessed,” her shorthand for people who spend most of their waking hours learning to speed-solve the cube. Even though no cubes were for sale in her country then — the few people who had them bought them in Hungary — she would not be stopped. She picked up Kvant, a Russian math journal that outlined one method of solving the cube, and worked it out on paper.

When she finally got her first cube, left behind by family friends visiting from France, she began to improvise, cubing faster and faster to beat record times from Prague, Hungary and the United States printed in newspapers. By the time the Czech national championship took place in 1982, Dr. Fridrich was one of the fastest speedcubers in the country. She won the championship, solving the cube in less than 23 and a half seconds — a time that would now be laughably long in international competition — going onto place 10th in the first world championship in Budapest.

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Page 2 of 2)



After earning her master’s degree, she was building mathematical models of rock deformation at a mining institute when she was recruited by a professor from Binghamton who heard about her mastery of the cube and her grades at the Czech Technical University in Prague. After a brief meeting in which she described her cube algorithms, he asked her to apply for the doctoral program in systems sciences. She had no résumé, so she dashed one off on a typewriter just before the professor’s train left the station. A year later, she arrived in Binghamton, where she has lived ever since.


In her research in digital forensics, Dr. Fridrich uses computers to tackle another seemingly intractable puzzle: matching a photograph with the individual camera that took it. Law enforcement agencies plan to use the techniques to track down child pornographers and movie pirates.

“She looks at a problem that seems insolvable,” said George J. Klir, the retired professor who recruited her 18 years ago. “And she finds a way to solve it, again and again.”

Dr. Fridrich was drawn to “camera ballistics” because of its inscrutable mysteries, similar to those the Rubik’s Cube held in the early ’80s. “It was very visual,” she said. “Usually when you develop an algorithm or a formula you cannot really see it.”

When Dr. Fridrich forged her Rubik’s Cube algorithms, she did so by trial and error, using only pencil, paper and a cube. Today, the cube is no longer an uncharted territory like digital forensics, but a terrain well-plowed by personal computers and the sweaty palms of speedcubers.

Software programs can compute the quickest solution to any given mix-up of the cube’s faces. Hundreds, possibly thousands of speedcubers have tweaked the Fridrich Method to work with a technique called “finger pushing,” best used on cubes with joints eased loose by repetitive stress so you can flick their walls instead of grabbing rows to rotate them. Now, Dr. Fridrich said, the cube has been “optimized to death,” and holds little allure — even though she still keeps nearly 20 of the plastic puzzles scattered around her office and home.

Dexterity once defined Dr. Fridrich, who now uses just six fingers to hunt and peck on her keyboard. She has been far surpassed by speedcubers with records of 14, 13 and 10 seconds, some of whom can solve the cube blindfolded after studying it for less than a minute. “Today I would probably be in 20th or 30th place,” she said. “I am letting it go because I think it’s time for others to succeed.”

For someone who wins for the sake of winning, who never roots for the underdog, in sports or in life, this retreat from speedcubing seems something like a reluctant acceptance that some things are indeed, impossible.

At the very least, she admitted, “it’s not yet possible to do everything at once.”
23195  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Studies in Criminal Activities on: December 16, 2008, 07:24:13 AM
Kidnapping Negotiator Is Now a Victim in Mexico
NYT   
By MARC LACEY
Published: December 15, 2008

MEXICO CITY — An American security consultant who has helped negotiate the release of scores of kidnapping victims in Latin America was himself kidnapped last week in northern Mexico after delivering a seminar there on how to avoid that fate, officials said Monday.

The F.B.I. and Mexican law enforcement officials are investigating the abduction, which took place Wednesday evening in Saltillo, an industrial city a three-hour drive from the Texas border.

The consultant, Felix Batista, 55, was giving security seminars for business owners in Coahuila State when he was abducted by a group of armed men.

He arrived Dec. 6 and gave two seminars on Monday and Tuesday, the local news media reported. On Wednesday, he met with police officials, and later in the day, he was in a restaurant when he received a call on his cellphone that prompted him to get up and leave, officials told the local news media. That is when the armed men took him away, officials and local newspapers said.

“I do a lot of security consulting, and the last thing I think of is being a victim in the process,” said Jon M. French, a former State Department official who runs his own security company in Mexico City, Problem Solvers. “Talk about turning the tables.”

Mr. Batista works for ASI Global, a security company based in Houston. It operates a 24-hour hot line that aids clients with, among other things, responding to kidnappings.

“We’re still gathering information on what occurred,” said Charlie LeBlanc, the president of ASI Global’s parent company. He confirmed that Mr. Batista had been kidnapped, but declined to say whether a ransom had been demanded.

Mr. LeBlanc said the company and Mr. Batista’s relatives were working with colleagues and law enforcement officials to gain his release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Felix and his family at this time,” Mr. LeBlanc said in a statement.

Coahuila has not been among the most violent places in Mexico, where killings and kidnappings have soared. Many of them are associated with drug traffickers moving narcotics to the United States.

But the state, which abuts Texas, has not been immune either. Two of the state’s anti-kidnapping chiefs have been abducted in recent years, according to local news reports. State lawmakers, clearly frustrated with the rising level of impunity, recently sent a bill to Mexico’s Congress asking for a constitutional amendment allowing the death penalty for kidnappers who kill captives.

Mr. Batista, a former United States Army officer credited with helping to free hostages abducted by Colombian rebels, has frequently been quoted by journalists on Mexico’s drug violence. He offered regular seminars to wealthy Mexicans who feared they were abduction targets.

At a private security conference in Tijuana in February, Mr. Batista said kidnappings in northern Mexico were especially delicate because drug traffickers were frequently involved.

“The narco-kidnappers are not looking for chump change,” he was quoted as saying by McClatchy Newspapers in April. “It’s a pretty darn good side business.”

In August, he appeared on NBC News, saying, “The middle class and the middle upper class are suffering the vast majority of the cases.”

In an article published this month by Security Management, a trade journal, Mr. Batista detailed how he had helped negotiate the ransom of a wealthy Mexican entrepreneur. Before he was called in, the family had given $1 million to a group of people who had falsely claimed to be the kidnappers.

Mr. Batista helped persuade the real kidnappers to reduce their ransom demand to $300,000. A daughter of the kidnapped businessman had nothing but praise for Mr. Batista’s efforts.

“Felix even cooked for us sometimes,” she was quoted as saying. “It’s important not to lose hope or get depressed, because you need to keep strong to help.”

Hundreds of Mexicans are kidnapped every year, although the authorities can only guess at the exact figure because most cases are never reported. There is widespread agreement that the problem has worsened recently as drug cartels, facing pressure from the army and the federal police, seek new revenue streams.

In one case that ended tragically last week, the authorities confirmed that remains discovered recently in southern Mexico City were those of Silvia Vargas, a teenager kidnapped in 2007. Her parents, who went public with her disappearance and offered a reward for information leading to her release, held a memorial service on Sunday, asking everyone to wear white.

“We know that Silvia is with God,” the family said in a statement.
23196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: December 16, 2008, 07:20:04 AM
The NYTimes in typical form

Pirates Outmaneuver Warships Off Somalia
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: December 15, 2008
ON THE ARABIAN SEA — Rear Adm. Giovanni Gumiero is going on a pirate hunt.

Italian sailors on patrol on the Arabian Sea. Pirates based in Somalia are still able to operate in the area.

An Italian naval destroyer, foreground, escorted a merchant vessel that was carrying a cargo of humanitarian aid to Somalia in November.

From the deck of an Italian destroyer cruising the pirate-infested waters off Somalia’s coast, he has all the modern tools at his fingertips — radar, sonar, infrared cameras, helicopters, a cannon that can sink a ship 10 miles away — to take on a centuries-old problem that harks back to the days of schooners and eye patches.

“Our presence will deter them,” the admiral said confidently.

But the wily buccaneers of Somalia’s seas do not seem especially deterred — instead, they seem to be getting only wilier. More than a dozen warships from Italy, Greece, Turkey, India, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, Britain, Malaysia and the United States have joined the hunt.

And yet, in the past two months alone, the pirates have attacked more than 30 vessels, eluding the naval patrols, going farther out to sea and seeking bigger, more lucrative game, including an American cruise ship and a 1,000-foot Saudi oil tanker.

The pirates are recalibrating their tactics, attacking ships in beelike swarms of 20 to 30 skiffs, and threatening to choke off one of the busiest shipping arteries in the world, at the mouth of the Red Sea.

United Nations officials recently estimated that Somali pirates had netted as much as $120 million this year in ransom payments — an astronomical sum for a country whose economy has been gutted by 17 years of chaos and war. Some shipping companies are now rerouting their vessels to avoid Somalia’s waters, detouring thousands of miles around the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa.

The pirates are totally outgunned. They continue to cruise around in fiberglass skiffs with assault rifles and at best a few rocket-propelled grenades. One Italian officer said that going after them in a 485-foot-long destroyer, bristling with surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes, was like “going after someone on a bicycle with a truck.”

But the pirates — true to form — remain unfazed.

“They can’t stop us,” said Jama Ali, one of the pirates aboard a Ukrainian freighter packed with weapons that was hijacked in September and was still being held.

He explained how he and his men hid out on a rock near the narrow mouth of the Red Sea and waited for the big gray ships with the guns to pass before pouncing on slow-moving tankers. Even if foreign navies nab some members of his crew, Mr. Jama said, he is not worried. He said his men would probably get no more punishment than a free ride back to the beach, which has happened several times.

“We know international law,” Mr. Jama said.

Western diplomats have said that maritime law can be as murky as the seas. Several times this year, the Danish Navy captured men they suspected to be pirates, only to dump them on shore after the Danish government decided it did not have jurisdiction.

The American warships surrounding the hijacked Ukrainian freighter have intercepted several small skiffs going to the freighter, but let the men aboard go because American officials said they did not want to put the freighter’s crew in danger.

This seeming impunity is especially infuriating to the new cadre of private security guards, fresh from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, hired to tag along on merchant voyages to add a layer of protection. Burly men with tattooed forearms and shaved heads sipping Heineken and checking their watches are now common sights on the beaches of Oman, Kenya and Djibouti. They have their own ideas for dealing with seafaring outlaws.

“We should make ’em walk the plank,” one British security guard said.

Despite tough talk, the guards are unarmed (because most countries do not allow them to bring weapons into port), so they are often forced to confront machine-gun-toting pirates with fire hoses.

Or worse. There was even a recent case, according to several security contractors, in which Filipino crew members pelted pirates with tomatoes in an attempt to stop them from scaling the hull of their ship. It did not work.

The Italian naval officers say the piracy patrols are helping — already the Italians have rescued several merchant vessels surrounded by pirate skiffs. The Italian destroyer is part of a NATO mission that began in October.

“But the answer is to have a good, strong government on land,” Admiral Gumiero said. “That’s the only way to end this, for sure.”
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That said, strong government is nowhere to be found. The piracy epidemic is not so much a separate problem as a symptom of the failed state of Somalia — a place crawling with guns, gangs and criminals that has not had a functioning central government since 1991.

In Xarardheere, much of the economy is based on piracy.


 Many Somalia analysts think that it is about to get even worse. The Ethiopian military, which has been shoring up a weak and unpopular transitional Somali government, says it will pull out within a month.

The transitional government, split by poisonous infighting, seems on the brink of collapse. Islamic militants with links to Al Qaeda are poised to take over. Famine is steadily creeping toward millions of people, many withering away in plastic huts that are no match for the intense sun or the drenching rains.

United Nations officials are swinging into crisis mode, calling high-level meetings in East Africa and New York to address piracy and the greater Somali mess. Some United Nations officials are pushing to send in peacekeepers, but no countries are rushing to offer troops.

Some American officials have proposed chasing the pirates on the shore and raiding their dens, which are well known but so far untouched. Somalia’s transitional leaders, anxious for any help, said they would welcome that.

“This is a cancer and it’s growing,” said Abdi Awaleh Jama, an ambassador at large for the transitional federal government. “We have to extract it once and for all.”

More than 100 ships have been attacked off Somalia’s coast in 2008, far more than in any previous year on record. The economic costs are piling up, with higher insurance payments for shippers, higher fuel costs because of detours and new private security bills, not to mention the million-dollar ransom payments.

The cash-starved Egyptian government is poised to lose billions of dollars if ships from the Middle East and Asia stop using the Suez Canal, one of Egypt’s biggest foreign-exchange earners, and go around Africa instead.

But the end of piracy could be an economic catastrophe — for many Somalis. Their country exports almost nothing these days, and more legitimate forms of business have largely died off.

Entire clans and coastal villages now survive off piracy, with women baking bread for pirates, men and boys guarding hostages, and others serving as scouts, gunmen, mechanics, accountants and skiff builders. Traders make a nice cut off the water, fuel and cigarettes needed to sustain such oceangoing voyages.

Pirates are known as the best customers of all.

“They pay $20 for a $5 bottle of perfume,” said Leyla Ahmed, a shopkeeper in Xarardheere, a notorious pirate den on the Somali coast.

Maritime experts say that the naval efforts will take time. “Let’s wait and see,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau in London. “You must appreciate it’s a very large stretch of water, a massive area,” he said, referring to the several hundred thousand square miles of sea where the naval ships are patrolling.

Then there is the nettlesome question of what to do with the pirates. Italian officers on pirate patrol seemed uncomfortable at the thought of actually capturing a real live pirate. There is not even a brig or place to hold the pirates on the destroyer.

“Our main goal is providing safe passage,” said Fabrizio Simoncini, the destroyer’s captain.

So far, they have done a decent job at that, escorting at least eight humanitarian ships, with 30,000 tons of badly needed aid for Somalia.

The Indian Navy recently announced that it had arrested 23 pirates, though it is not clear where the suspects would be prosecuted. Last week in Nairobi, Kenya, at an antipiracy conference, British officials outlined a plan for their navy to capture Somali pirates and hand them over to Kenyan courts.

But according to Kenneth Randall, dean of the University of Alabama School of Law and an international law scholar, “Any country can arrest these guys and prosecute them at home, under domestic laws that apply.

“I’m actually surprised people think it’s unclear,” he said. “The law on piracy is 100 percent clear.”

He said that international customary law going back hundreds of years had defined pirates as criminals who robbed and stole on the high seas. Because the crimes were committed in international waters, he said, all countries had not only the authority but also the obligation to apprehend and prosecute them.

The Italians clearly have the resources. Out on the front lines, or front waves, beefy Italian marines prowl the decks with machine guns. Radar screens blip and beep. Sailors make announcements over the destroyer’s radio, telling nearby cargo ships to put out an S O S with their position as soon as they spot any pirates.

The Italians said that, deep down, pirates were creatures of the sea, no matter how many navy ships were hot on their tail. “When the sea is calm, the moon is bright, the weather is good, it’s easy to see how the pirates are encouraged,” said Enrico Vignola, a lieutenant on the ship.

For visitors on board, lunchtime was the highlight. The officers summoned up from the oily bowels of the destroyer a banquet of homemade pasta, marinated eggplant sliced paper thin, prosciutto-wrapped dates and tiramisu, finished off with cool glasses of spumante.

It seems that when Italians hunt for pirates, they hunt in style.

23197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 16, 2008, 07:10:54 AM
Woof All:

I added to the name of the thread this AM to reflect my sense that there is an American Creed.  It was articulated and defined by our Founding Fathers, but others since then have done so as well.  Its why I quote President Reagan here, and have quoted Martin Luther King here.  Note that the standard non-contemporaries of the FF must meet to belong here on this thread is a very high one indeed!

Before continuing, lets bring some light to the dark side of this.  There ARE certain thoughts and values which are part of being a true American-- and YES I am saying that if you don't, you aren't.  For example, a belief in the pursuit of happiness enabled by freedom of choice, informed by freedom of speech, made real by separation of church and state.  If you don't believe in these things, you are not a true American and if you work against them, you are no friend of mine.

The point however is not to exclude, the point is to find what it is that unites us.

I recognize that I take a risk here-- how rare!  cheesy  Know that I will be fairly ruthless in shutting down any tendencies to drift into the cats and dogs squabbles of the moment--  we look here for the deeper and abiding essence of things.  If the experience shows this to be a mistake, well then I will change my mind and revert the thread to its original definition.

Lets kick things off with something I ran across yesterday:
====================================

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=931696981298d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD
 
The oath of allegiance is:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

In some cases, USCIS allows the oath to be taken without the clauses:

". . .that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law. . .
=================

I wonder why it is, and whether it is sound, to allow the oath to be taken in less than its entirety , , ,

Marc
23198  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 16, 2008, 05:12:47 AM
Cecilio:

Que bueno verte por estes partes aqui  smiley  Como habra's notado, ahora tengo software de traduccion, lo cual me permitira' contribuir mas y mejor aqui.

Todos:

Hoy agradezco que mi esposa regresa esta noche de visita a su madre.

La Aventura continua!
Marc
23199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Webster on: December 16, 2008, 05:10:04 AM
"The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head."

--Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788
23200  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Not good for the resume on: December 15, 2008, 11:24:30 PM
US anti-kidnapping expert kidnapped in MexicoDec 15 03:00 PM US/Eastern

MEXICO CITY (AP) - A well-known U.S. anti-kidnapping expert has himself fallen victim to the wave of abductions in Mexico as unidentified assailants snatched him from a street in the northern state of Coahuila.
Local authorities say American Felix Batista was in Mexico to give talks and offer advice against kidnapping. The former U.S. army officer sometimes serves as a negotiator with kidnappers.
Batista is a consultant for the Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global LLC. ASI Global President Charlie LeBlanc says Batista was abducted on Dec. 10 in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila. LeBlanc said Monday that the FBI and Mexican police are working on the case, but would not say whether any ransom demand has been received.


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