Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yet again we're not number one
on: October 28, 2010, 09:58:41 AM
China Wrests Supercomputer Title From U.S.By ASHLEE VANCE
Published: October 28, 2010
A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower.
The computer, known as Tianhe-1A, has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, as measured by the standard test used to gauge how well the systems handle mathematical calculations, said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings.
Although the official list of the top 500 fastest machines, which comes out every six months, is not due to be completed by Mr. Dongarra until next week, he said the Chinese computer “blows away the existing No. 1 machine.” He added, “We don’t close the books until Nov. 1, but I would say it is unlikely we will see a system that is faster.”
Officials from the Chinese research center, the National University of Defense Technology, are expected to reveal the computer’s performance on Thursday at a conference in Beijing. The center says it is “under the dual supervision of the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Education.”
The race to build the fastest supercomputer has become a source of national pride as these machines are valued for their ability to solve problems critical to national interests in areas like defense, energy, finance and science. Supercomputing technology also finds its way into mainstream business; oil and gas companies use it to find reservoirs and Wall Street traders use it for superquick automated trades. Procter & Gamble even uses supercomputers to make sure that Pringles go into cans without breaking.
And typically, research centers with large supercomputers are magnets for top scientific talent, adding significance to the presence of the machines well beyond just cranking through calculations.
Over the last decade, the Chinese have steadily inched up in the rankings of supercomputers. Tianhe-1A stands as the culmination of billions of dollars in investment and scientific development, as China has gone from a computing afterthought to a world technology superpower.
“What is scary about this is that the U.S. dominance in high-performance computing is at risk,” said Wu-chun Feng, a supercomputing expert and professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “One could argue that this hits the foundation of our economic future.”
Modern supercomputers are built by combining thousands of small computer servers and using software to turn them into a single entity. In that sense, any organization with enough money and expertise can buy what amount to off-the-shelf components and create a fast machine.
The Chinese system follows that model by linking thousands upon thousands of chips made by the American companies Intel and Nvidia. But the secret sauce behind the system — and the technological achievement — is the interconnect, or networking technology, developed by Chinese researchers that shuttles data back and forth across the smaller computers at breakneck rates, Mr. Dongarra said.
“That technology was built by them,” Mr. Dongarra said. “They are taking supercomputing very seriously and making a deep commitment.”
The Chinese interconnect can handle data at about twice the speed of a common interconnect called InfiniBand used in many supercomputers.
For decades, the United States has developed most of the underlying technology that goes into the massive supercomputers and has built the largest, fastest machines at research laboratories and universities. Some of the top systems simulate the effects of nuclear weapons, while others predict the weather and aid in energy research.
In 2002, the United States lost its crown as supercomputing kingpin for the first time in stunning fashion when Japan unveiled a machine with more horsepower than the top 20 American computers combined. The United States government responded in kind, forming groups to plot a comeback and pouring money into supercomputing projects. The United States regained its leadership status in 2004, and has kept it, until now.
At the computing conference on Thursday in China, the researchers will discuss how they are using the new system for scientific research in fields like astrophysics and bio-molecular modeling. Tianhe-1A, which is housed in a building at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, can perform mathematical operations about 29 million times faster than one of the earliest supercomputers, built in 1976.
For the record, it performs 2.5 times 10 to the 15th power mathematical operations per second.
Mr. Dongarra said a long-running Chinese project to build chips to rival those from Intel and others remained under way and looked promising. “It’s not quite there yet, but it will be in a year or two,” he said.
He also said that in November, when the list comes out, he expected a second Chinese computer to be in the top five, culminating years of investment.
“The Japanese came out of nowhere and really caught people off guard,” Mr. Feng said. “With China, you could see this one coming.”
Steven J. Wallach, a well-known computer designer, played down the importance of taking the top spot on the supercomputer rankings.
“It’s interesting, but it’s like getting to the four-minute mile,” Mr. Wallach said. “The world didn’t stop. This is just a snapshot in time.”
The research labs often spend weeks tuning their systems to perform well on the standard horsepower test. But just because a system can hammer through trillions of calculations per second does not mean it will do well on the specialized jobs that researchers want to use it for, Mr. Wallach added.
The United States has plans in place to make much faster machines out of proprietary components and to advance the software used by these systems so that they are easy for researchers to use. But those computers remain years away, and for now, China is king.
“They want to show they are No. 1 in the world, no matter what it is,” Mr. Wallach said. “I don’t blame them.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even POTH notices something is happening here, thought it isn't exactly clear
on: October 27, 2010, 10:07:29 PM
Yet more inconvenient facts ignored by Team Obama:
Parts of Obama Coalition Drift Toward G.O.P., Poll Finds
Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President
Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control
of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the
Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional
elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News
Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in
recent election cycles among women, Catholics, less affluent
Americans and independents; all of those groups broke for Mr.
Obama in 2008 and for congressional Democrats when they
grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago,
according to exit polls.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck's "Broke" book
on: October 27, 2010, 10:00:43 PM
The U.S. is Broke, is it too Late?
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broke, our spirits are down, and President Obama and the Pelosi-Reid led Congress
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Truth, and Treasure. Beck starts his analysis at the American Revolution and goes
all the way through to the Obama regime. Highlighting key lurches towards
progressivism, Beck sketches out why we have turned away from the Constitutional
principles of the founding fathers.
All is not lost, however. Beck details a plan to bring our country back from the
brink. We must buy into the concept of "shared sacrifice" in order to preserve
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on Stewart show
on: October 27, 2010, 09:48:35 PM
For Obama, election politics no laughing matter
AP – President Barack Obama is pictured during a commercial break as he talks with host Jon Stewart as he … .By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Darlene Superville, Associated Press – 1 hr 14 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama apparently thinks politics is no laughing matter, even when he's staring down a comedian. Obama barely cracked any jokes during an appearance Wednesday on "The Daily Show" despite host Jon Stewart's attempts to draw out the president's humorous side with a few of his own snarky wisecracks.
Less than a week before the critical Nov. 2 congressional elections, Obama said he hopes Democratic lawmakers who made tough votes will be rewarded with another term in office. He promised more accomplishments in the two years left on his own term in the Oval Office and urged people to vote — early if they can.
Stewart asked how the political environment got to the point that Democrats "seem to be running on 'Please, baby, one more chance'" just two years after Obama ran a successful presidential campaign built around "very high rhetoric, hope and change."
"Are you disappointed in how it's gone?" asked the Comedy Central satirist.
Obama seemed to suggest that he wasn't disappointed. He said his advisers had told him during the euphoria of his 2008 election to "enjoy this now because two years from now folks are going to be frustrated. That is, in fact, what's happening."
He listed as reasons a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, sinking housing values and an economy that is growing but not fast enough. But Obama said his administration has also stabilized the economy, noting it has grown for nine months in a row. He also signed major health care and financial legislation. Obama suggested that his administration did so much that "we have done things that some folks don't even know about."
The comment seemed to catch Stewart by surprise.
"What have you done that we don't know about?" he asked. "Are you planning a surprise party for us, filled with jobs and health care?"
Obama cited legislation extending health care to more children and broadening a national service program as examples.
"Over and over again, we have moved forward an agenda that is making a difference in people's lives each and every day," Obama replied. "Is it enough? No. And so I expect, and I think most Democrats out there expect, that people want to see more progress."
The interview, which allowed Obama to take his campaign message to the type of audience that gets political news from programs like Stewart's, seemed more wonkish than slapstick.
Ask America: Learn. Listen. Be heard.
The Fast Fix
Stewart pressed Obama on the changed political climate in the country and questioned him about the new health care law. The president defended his record as well as Democrats, who are expected to suffer a drubbing at the polls Tuesday. Obama was the guest for the entire show. Stewart is taping the show in Washington this week ahead of a rally he's holding Saturday on the National Mall.
At one point, though, when Obama asked to say something about members of Congress, Stewart prompted laughter by asking, "Are you going to curse?"
Stewart poked at Obama for saying during the presidential campaign that "we are the ones we've been waiting for."
"So here you are, you're two years into your administration and the question that arises in my mind: Are we the people we were waiting for or does it turn out those people are still out there and we don't have their number?" the comedian intoned, suggesting that someone in the White House needs to call them up.
There was even more laughter when Obama used a now-notorious Washington phrase to defend Lawrence Summers, a top economic adviser who is leaving the administration at the end of the year. Stewart reminded Obama that he'd once said that different results won't come from the same people. Then Obama hired Summers, who had served in the Clinton administration.
Obama said Summers "did a heck of a job," to which Stewart said, "You don't want to use that phrase, dude."
That's because in 2005, then-President George W. Bush used the phrase to describe the job his emergency management director, Michael Brown, was doing after Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters had devastated New Orleans.
On the "Daily Show," Obama said he hopes voters will reward some Democrats from largely conservative districts who took votes they knew would be bad politically but did so anyway because they thought it was the right thing to do. He named freshman Rep. Tom Perriello of Virginia, who voted for Obama's health care overhaul and is in a tight race re-election race. Obama plans to campaign with Perriello on Friday.
"My hope is that those people are rewarded for taking those tough votes," Obama said. "If they are, then I think Democrats will do fine on Election Day."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Emasculation of Men In Contempory Society
on: October 27, 2010, 01:33:38 PM
I forget which thread the posts are to be found, but there is a body of scientific literature concerning the presence of certain man-made chemicals in the environment which tend to enter animals, including humans, with feminizing effects , , ,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYT: Cortisone
on: October 27, 2010, 01:05:03 PM
Do Cortisone Shots Actually Make Things Worse?
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
In the late 1940s, the steroid cortisone, an anti-inflammatory drug, was first synthesized and hailed as a landmark. It soon became a safe, reliable means to treat the pain and inflammation associated with sports injuries (as well as other conditions). Cortisone shots became one of the preferred treatments for overuse injuries of tendons, like tennis elbow or an aching Achilles, which had been notoriously resistant to treatment. The shots were quite effective, providing rapid relief of pain.
Then came the earliest clinical trials, including one, published in 1954, that raised incipient doubts about cortisone’s powers. In that early experiment, more than half the patients who received a cortisone shot for tennis elbow or other tendon pain suffered a relapse of the injury within six months.
But that cautionary experiment and others didn’t slow the ascent of cortisone (also known as corticosteroids). It had such a magical, immediate effect against pain. Today cortisone shots remain a standard, much-requested treatment for tennis elbow and other tendon problems.
But a major new review article, published last Friday in The Lancet, should revive and intensify the doubts about cortisone’s efficacy. The review examined the results of nearly four dozen randomized trials, which enrolled thousands of people with tendon injuries, particularly tennis elbow, but also shoulder and Achilles-tendon pain. The reviewers determined that, for most of those who suffered from tennis elbow, cortisone injections did, as promised, bring fast and significant pain relief, compared with doing nothing or following a regimen of physical therapy. The pain relief could last for weeks.
But when the patients were re-examined at 6 and 12 months, the results were substantially different. Overall, people who received cortisone shots had a much lower rate of full recovery than those who did nothing or who underwent physical therapy. They also had a 63 percent higher risk of relapse than people who adopted the time-honored wait-and-see approach. The evidence for cortisone as a treatment for other aching tendons, like sore shoulders and Achilles-tendon pain, was slight and conflicting, the review found. But in terms of tennis elbow, the shots seemed to actually be counterproductive. As Bill Vicenzino, Ph.D., the chairman of sports physiotherapy at the University of Queensland in Australia and senior author of the review, said in an e-mail response to questions, “There is a tendency” among tennis-elbow sufferers “for the majority (70-90 percent) of those following a wait-and-see policy to get better” after six months to a year. But “this is not the case” for those getting cortisone shots, he wrote. They “tend to lag behind significantly at those time frames.” In other words, in some way, the cortisone shots impede full recovery, and compared with those ‘‘adopting a wait-and-see policy,” those getting the shots “are worse off.” Those people receiving multiple injections may be at particularly high risk for continuing damage. In one study that the researchers reviewed, “an average of four injections resulted in a 57 percent worse outcome when compared to one injection,” Dr. Vicenzino said.
Why cortisone shots should slow the healing of tennis elbow is a good question. An even better one, though, is why they help in the first place. For many years it was widely believed that tendon-overuse injuries were caused by inflammation, said Karim Khan, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at the School of Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia and the co-author of a commentary in The Lancet accompanying the new review article. The injuries were, as a group, given the name tendinitis, since the suffix “-itis” means inflammation. Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory medication. Using it against an inflammation injury was logical.
But in the decades since, numerous studies have shown, persuasively, that these overuse injuries do not involve inflammation. When animal or human tissues from these types of injuries are examined, they do not contain the usual biochemical markers of inflammation. Instead, the injury seems to be degenerative. The fibers within the tendons fray. Today the injuries usually are referred to as tendinopathies, or diseased tendons.
Why then does a cortisone shot, an anti-inflammatory, work in the short term in noninflammatory injuries, providing undeniable if ephemeral pain relief? The injections seem to have “an effect on the neural receptors” involved in creating the pain in the sore tendon, Dr. Khan said. “They change the pain biology in the short term.” But, he said, cortisone shots do “not heal the structural damage” underlying the pain. Instead, they actually “impede the structural healing.”
Still, relief of pain might be a sufficient reason to champion the injections, if the pain “were severe,” Dr. Khan said. “But it’s not.” The pain associated with tendinopathies tends to fall somewhere around a 7 or so on a 10-point scale of pain. “It’s not insignificant, but it’s not kidney stones.”
So the question of whether cortisone shots still make sense as a treatment for tendinopathies, especially tennis elbow, depends, Dr. Khan said, on how you choose “to balance short-term pain relief versus the likelihood” of longer-term negative outcomes. In other words, is reducing soreness now worth an increased risk of delayed healing and possible relapse within the year?
Some people, including physicians, may decide that the answer remains yes. There will always be a longing for a magical pill, the quick fix, especially when the other widely accepted and studied alternatives for treating sore tendons are to do nothing or, more onerous to some people, to rigorously exercise the sore joint during physical therapy. But if he were to dispense advice based on his findings and that of his colleagues’ systematic review, Dr. Vincenzino said, he would suggest that athletes with tennis elbow (and possibly other tendinopathies) think not just once or twice about the wisdom of cortisone shots but “three or four times.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on vote fraud
on: October 27, 2010, 01:00:57 PM
Fraudulent Voting Re-emerges as a Partisan IssueBy IAN URBINA
Published: October 26, 2010
WASHINGTON — In 2006, conservative activists repeatedly claimed that the problem of people casting fraudulent votes was so widespread that it was corrupting the political process and possibly costing their candidates victories.
This Milwaukee sign was criticized as intended intimidation.
The accusations turned out to be largely false, but they led to a heated debate, with voting rights groups claiming that the accusations were crippling voter registration drives and reducing turnout.
That debate is flaring anew.
Tea Party members have started challenging voter registration applications and have announced plans to question individual voters at the polls whom they suspect of being ineligible.
In response, liberal groups and voting rights advocates are sounding an alarm, claiming that such strategies are scare tactics intended to suppress minority and poor voters.
In St. Paul, organizers from the Tea Party and related groups announced this week that they were offering a $500 reward for anyone who turned in someone who was successfully prosecuted for voter fraud.
The group is also organizing volunteer “surveillance squads” to photograph and videotape what it suspects are irregularities, and in some cases to follow buses that take voters to the polls.
In Milwaukee last week, several community groups protested the posting of large billboards throughout the city that show pictures of people behind jail bars under the words “We Voted Illegally.” The protesters said the posters — it was not clear who paid for them — were intended to intimidate people from voting.
In Houston, a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots recently accused a voter registration group, Houston Votes, of turning in voter registration applications with incorrect information.
Voting rights advocates say they are worried.
“Private efforts to police the polls create a real risk of vote suppression, regardless of their intent,” said Wendy R. Weiser, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “People need to know that any form of discrimination, intimidation or challenge to voters without adequate basis is illegal or improper.”
Voter fraud and voter-registration fraud are, of course, different.
While many states have voter registration records riddled with names of dead people, out-of-date addresses and other erroneous information, there is little evidence that such errors lead to fraudulent votes, many experts note.
A report by the public-integrity section of the Justice Department found that from October 2002 to September 2005, the department charged 95 people with “election fraud”; 55 were convicted.
Among those, fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots, and only 5 were convicted of registration fraud. Most of the rest were charged with other voting violations, including a scheme meant to help Republicans by blocking the phone lines used by two voting groups that were arranging rides to get voters to the polls.
Even so, the fear of stolen votes remains, as does the fear of missing votes — particularly in light of a decrease, compared with 2006, in voter-registration applications in swing states.
About 43 percent fewer new voters have registered in Wisconsin this year than in 2006, while in Indiana, the decrease has been about 35 percent. Significant drops have also been seen in Ohio (25 percent), North Carolina (28 percent), Florida (27 percent) and Maryland (21 percent), according to state election data collected by the Brennan Center.
Voting experts say several factors explain the trend.
Voter enthusiasm is low now, and fewer groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, are engaged in drives to sign people up. Acorn collected about 550,000 voter-registration applications across the country in 2006, mostly from low-income and minority Americans, and 1.3 million in 2008.
But in March, the organization closed down after accusations by two conservative activists that low-level Acorn employees had advised them on how to hide prostitution activities and avoid taxes. The group was also battered by conservatives for having submitted some voter registration cards with incorrect, duplicate or false information.
Page 2 of 2)
The housing crisis may also have dampened voter registration. More than three million properties were foreclosed this year, a 30 percent increase from 2008, and people who have been forced out of their homes may be not be able establish residency to vote.
Many states have also enacted laws in recent years that make registration drives more difficult, with stricter reporting and filing deadlines for voter registration groups.
“It has been an uphill fight in a lot of states to register people this year,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters.
Ms. MacNamara said the group’s Georgia chapter faced an additional burden because of a new state law requiring voters to prove citizenship. The chapter does not have a copier machine, so the expense of duplicating documents like birth certificates or driver’s licenses falls to unpaid volunteers.
Most of the new barriers to registration are likely to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. Historically, these registration drives have focused on voters in poorer areas and minority communities, which tend to vote Democratic.
The Obama administration has tried to take steps to lessen the dependence on independent voter registration groups, while also broadening voter participation among poorer and minority voters.
In June, the Justice Department released new guidelines for the “motor voter” law, emphasizing that all public-assistance applicants must be given the opportunity to register to vote, and that state employees must offer to help them.
Still, independent voter registration groups say that they still play an important role, and that scare tactics are making their work harder.
“There is an intentional effort here to suppress participation,” said Jim George, a lawyer for the Texans Together Education Fund, the parent organization of Houston Votes.
Houston Votes, whose registration drive has mostly focused on Latino neighborhoods, did find at least one paid canvasser submitting fraudulent applications, Mr. George said, and that person was immediately fired. He added that the groups’ financing for voter registration work had dried up because of insinuations by the King Street Patriots that Houston Votes was tied to the New Black Panther Party.
“Houston Votes has nothing whatsoever to do with the Black Panthers,” Mr. George said. “But you make a claim like that, and funding dries up, even if the claim isn’t true.”
Mr. George explained that during a meeting, the King Street Patriots had shown a picture of the Houston Votes office and stated its address before adding that this was the new location of the Black Panthers.
Hiram Sasser, a lawyer for the Liberty Institute who represents the King Street Patriots, denied the claim but when presented a video of the incident, he said that his client had actually made a mistake and did not realize the office was tied to Houston Votes.
Leo Vasquez, the Republican tax assessor-collector and voter registrar in Harris County, Tex., which includes Houston, said that of about 25,640 registration applications submitted by Houston Votes, about 5,500 had problems.
The Texas Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Vasquez, accusing him and the voter registration office of illegally rejecting voter applications.
The fight occurs against the backdrop of a contest for governor in which a large turnout in Harris County would be vital to the effort by the Democratic candidate, Bill White, to defeat Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH surprised by direction of events in Lebanon
on: October 27, 2010, 12:51:31 PM
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, already struggling to stave off a collapse of Middle East peace talks, is increasingly alarmed by unrest in Lebanon, whose own fragile peace is being threatened by militant opponents of a politically charged investigation into the killing in 2005 of a former Lebanese leader.
With an international tribunal expected to hand down indictments in the assassination of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in the coming months, the Hezbollah militia is maneuvering furiously to halt the investigation, or failing that, to unseat Lebanon’s government, which backs it.
The White House sent a senior diplomat to Beirut last week to reassure Lebanon’s president, Michel Suleiman, of President Obama’s support for the investigation and his country’s stability. The visit by the diplomat, Jeffrey D. Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, came on top of a telephone call to Mr. Suleiman by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“The president felt very strongly that we need to reconfirm our commitment to Lebanon’s independence, Lebanon’s sovereignty and Lebanon’s stability,” Mr. Feltman said in an interview. “There are people inside Lebanon who are arguing that it faces a choice of justice versus stability. That’s an artificial choice.”
The administration’s worries go beyond Lebanon itself, and help explain why it, and not the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, has been the major preoccupation of American foreign policy officials for the last few weeks.
The diplomatic activity follows a splashy tour of Lebanon by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who got an ecstatic reception from members of Hezbollah, the Shiite movement financed and equipped by Iran. American officials were particularly struck by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s trip to a small town a few miles north of the Israeli border, where he called for the “Zionists to be wiped out.”
Lebanon has long been a proxy state for battles between adversaries in the Middle East, and Iran’s attempts to build influence there are not new. But at a time when the United States is trying to revive peace talks, administration officials concluded that Iran’s latest muscle-flexing could not go unanswered.
“You don’t want the perception of a vacuum,” Mr. Feltman said. “You don’t want the perception that Ahmadinejad is the only game in town.”
Analysts said that the United States was right to reassert its commitment to Lebanon, but that it may be acting too late. Rising prices for weapons suggest that militias other than Hezbollah are rearming, increasing the threat of a civil war.
There are limits to what the administration can do to stabilize a country as divided as Lebanon. The United States has given the Lebanese armed forces $670 million in military aid since 2006. But last August, several members of Congress put a hold on further funds after a skirmish between Lebanese and Israeli soldiers raised suspicions that parts of the Lebanese Army were in league with Hezbollah.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s jubilant reception in Lebanon has only added to the resistance on Capitol Hill. Representative Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat from New York who sponsored a bill imposing sanctions on Syria, said he would consider voting to block aid because of fears that it could end up helping Hezbollah.
“We need to be careful about what we do there, so we’re not strengthening the hand of a terrorist group like Hezbollah and its allies,” Mr. Engel said in an interview. “We just don’t want to use our monies to enhance policies that are bad for Americans and bad for the people of Lebanon.”
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council in 2007 to investigate the car bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others in February 2005. Lebanon’s coalition government, now led by Mr. Hariri’s son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has pledged to contribute 49 percent of the tribunal’s expenses and enforce its judgments.
The Netherlands-based tribunal has been at work since March 2009, but has said little about when it plans to hand down indictments.
A raft of reports in Lebanon’s news media said an announcement could come as early as December, though some reports now suggest that the tribunal may not act until the first quarter of next year.
In either case, a sense that the investigation is entering its final stages has contributed to a feverish political environment.
The trouble is, those indicted may include members of Hezbollah, and the group, which holds seats in the Lebanese cabinet, is demanding that Prime Minister Hariri disavow the investigation. Syria, also under suspicion for having a role in Rafik Hariri’s assassination, has taken up calls to discredit the tribunal.
Syrian officials, who had once backed Saad Hariri’s government, are now sharply critical of him and his March 14 alliance, a coalition that grew out of the “Cedar Revolution,” which pushed Syrian troops out of the country. Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper that is closely allied with Hezbollah and Syria, declared recently that “taking authority away from Hariri would teach him how to keep it.”
Saudi Arabia has tried to mediate, without much success. American officials say they believe that the tribunal will be able to complete its investigation. But their concern is that indictments will draw protesters onto the streets, inflaming tensions between Shiite and Sunni factions. Unrest could also lead to fresh skirmishes between Lebanese and Israeli forces along the border between the countries.
That would imperil a peace effort that is already on life support. Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu’s chief negotiator, Yitzhak Molcho, has been in Washington for the last few days, officials said, floating various ideas on ways to revive the talks. But there is no indication of an imminent breakthrough.
Syria’s increasingly disruptive role is also raising questions about the Obama administration’s 18-month effort to engage that country. Some analysts said it was time for the administration to rethink that effort.
“This is the moment when we need a straight answer out of Syria,” said Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria and Lebanon at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “They just seem unwilling or unable to deliver it.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wright
on: October 27, 2010, 12:42:58 PM
Robert Wright has written two outstanding books on evolutionary psychology:
The Moral Animal, and
Non-Zero Sum, the logic of human destiny
Here is his piece from today's POTH. Is he right? If not, where is he wrong?
As if we needed more evidence of America’s political polarization, last week Juan Williams gave the nation a Rorschach test. Williams said he gets scared when people in “Muslim garb” board a plane he’s on, and he promptly got (a) fired by NPR and (b) rewarded by Fox News with a big contract.
Suppose Williams had said something hurtful to gay people instead of to Muslims. Suppose he had said gay men give him the creeps because he fears they’ll make sexual advances. NPR might well have fired him, but would Fox News have chosen that moment to give him a $2-million pat on the back?
I don’t think so. Playing the homophobia card is costlier than playing the Islamophobia card. Or at least, the costs are more evenly spread across the political spectrum. In 2007, when Ann Coulter used a gay slur, she was denounced on the right as well as the left, and her stock dropped. Notably, her current self-promotion campaign stresses her newfound passion for gay rights.
Coulter’s comeuppance reflected sustained progress on the gay rights front. Only a few decades ago, you could tell an anti-gay joke on the Johnny Carson show — with Carson’s active participation — and no one would complain. (See postscript below for details.) The current “it gets better” campaign, designed to reassure gay teenagers that adulthood will be less oppressive than adolescence, amounts to a kind of double entrendre: things get better not just over an individual’s life but over the nation’s life.
When we move from homophobia to Islamophobia, the trendline seems to be pointing in the opposite direction. This isn’t shocking, given 9/11 and the human tendency to magnify certain kinds of risk. (Note to Juan Williams: Over the past nine years about 90 million flights have taken off from American airports, and not one has been brought down by a Muslim terrorist. Even in 2001, no flights were brought down by people in “Muslim garb.”)
A few decades ago, people all over America knew and liked gay people — they just didn’t realize they were gay.
.Still, however “natural” this irrational fear, it’s dangerous. As Islamophobia grows, it alienates Muslims, raising the risk of homegrown terrorism — and homegrown terrorism heightens the Islamophobia, which alienates more Muslims, and so on: a vicious circle that could carry America into the abyss. So it’s worth taking a look at why homophobia is fading; maybe the underlying dynamic is transplantable to the realm of inter-ethnic prejudice.
Theories differ as to what it takes for people to build bonds across social divides, and some theories offer more hope than others.
One of the less encouraging theories grows out of the fact that both homophobia and Islamophobia draw particular strength from fundamentalist Christians. Maybe, this argument goes, part of the problem is a kind of “scriptural determinism.” If religious texts say that homosexuality is bad, or that people of other faiths are bad, then true believers will toe that line.
If scripture is indeed this powerful, we’re in trouble, because scripture is invoked by intolerant people of all Abrahamic faiths — including the Muslim terrorists who plant the seeds of Islamophobia. And, judging by the past millennium or two, God won’t be issuing a revised version of the Bible or the Koran anytime soon.
Happily, there’s a new book that casts doubt on the power of intolerant scripture: “American Grace,” by the social scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell.
Three decades ago, according to one of the many graphs in this data-rich book, slightly less than half of America’s frequent churchgoers were fine with gay people freely expressing their views on gayness. Today that number is over 70 percent — and no biblical verse bearing on homosexuality has magically changed in the meanwhile. And these numbers actually understate the progress; over those three decades, church attendance was dropping for mainline Protestant churches and liberal Catholics, so the “frequent churchgoers” category consisted increasingly of evangelicals and conservative Catholics.
So why have conservative Christians gotten less homophobic? Putnam and Campbell favor the “bridging” model. The idea is that tolerance is largely a question of getting to know people. If, say, your work brings you in touch with gay people or Muslims — and especially if your relationship with them is collaborative — this can brighten your attitude toward the whole tribe they’re part of. And if this broader tolerance requires ignoring or reinterpreting certain scriptures, so be it; the meaning of scripture is shaped by social relations.
The bridging model explains how attitudes toward gays could have made such rapid progress. A few decades ago, people all over America knew and liked gay people — they just didn’t realize these people were gay. So by the time gays started coming out of the closet, the bridge had already been built.
And once straight Americans followed the bridge’s logic — once they, having already accepted people who turned out to be gay, accepted gayness itself — more gay people felt comfortable coming out. And the more openly gay people there were, the more straight people there were who realized they had gay friends, and so on: a virtuous circle.
So could bridging work with Islamophobia? Could getting to know Muslims have the healing effect that knowing gay people has had?
The good news is that bridging does seem to work across religious divides. Putnam and Campbell did surveys with the same pool of people over consecutive years and found, for example, that gaining evangelical friends leads to a warmer assessment of evangelicals (by seven degrees on a “feeling thermometer” per friend gained, if you must know).
And what about Muslims? Did Christians warm to Islam as they got to know Muslims — and did Muslims return the favor?
That’s the bad news. The population of Muslims is so small, and so concentrated in distinct regions, that there weren’t enough such encounters to yield statistically significant data. And, as Putnam and Campbell note, this is a recipe for prejudice. Being a small and geographically concentrated group makes it hard for many people to know you, so not much bridging naturally happens. That would explain why Buddhists and Mormons, along with Muslims, get low feeling-thermometer ratings in America.
In retrospect, the situation of gays a few decades ago was almost uniquely conducive to rapid progress. The gay population, though not huge, was finely interspersed across the country, with representatives in virtually every high school, college and sizeable workplace. And straights had gotten to know them without even seeing the border they were crossing in the process.
So the engineering challenge in building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims will be big. Still, at least we grasp the nuts and bolts of the situation. It’s a matter of bringing people into contact with the “other” in a benign context. And it’s a matter of doing it fast, before the vicious circle takes hold, spawning appreciable homegrown terrorism and making fear of Muslims less irrational.
After 9/11, philanthropic foundations spent a lot of money arranging confabs whose participants spanned the divide between “Islam” and “the West.” Meaningful friendships did form across this border, and that’s good. It’s great that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a cosmopolitan, progressive Muslim, got to know lots of equally cosmopolitan Christians and Jews.
But as we saw when he decided to build an Islamic Community Center near ground zero, this sort of high-level networking — bridging among elites whose attitudes aren’t really the problem in the first place — isn’t enough. Philanthropists need to figure out how you build lots of little bridges at the grass roots level. And they need to do it fast.
Postscript: As for the Johnny Carson episode: I don’t like to rely on my memory alone for decades-old anecdotes, but in this case I’m 99.8 percent sure that I remember the basics accurately. Carson’s guest was the drummer Buddy Rich. In a supposedly spontaneous but obviously pre-arranged exchange, Rich said something like, “People often ask me, What is Johnny Carson really like?” Carson looked at Rich warily and said, “And how do you respond to this query?” But he paused between “this” and “query,” theatrically ratcheting up the wariness by an increment or two, and then pronounced the word “query” as “queery.” Rich immediately replied, “Like that.” Obviously, there are worse anti-gay jokes than this. Still, the premise was that being gay was something to be ashamed of. That Googling doesn’t turn up any record of this episode suggests that it didn’t enter the national conversation or the national memory. I don’t think that would be the case today. And of course, anecdotes aside, there is lots of polling data showing the extraordinary progress made since the Johnny Carson era on such issues as gay marriage and on gay rights in general.
On another note: Here’s my review of “American Grace”. (I should note that the authors’ exposition of the “bridging” dynamic comes in the context of interfaith tolerance, not gay-straight tolerance. But I have little doubt that they think the dynamic applies to both contexts.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Alaska Senate race
on: October 26, 2010, 12:01:54 PM
BANKS, Alaska — The candidate treated like the front-runner in the Alaska Senate race is one not actually on the ballot.
Among the ways Senator Lisa Murkowski’s campaign is trying to encourage people to write in her name on the ballot — and spell it correctly:
• Rubber wristbands that read, “Lisa Murkowski. Fill it in. Write it in.”
• A jingle that spells out her name and features the words, “Fill in the oval, write it on the line.”
• Campaign posters made to look like ballots with her name written in and the oval beside “Write-in” filled in.
• Small handheld signs depicting a hand with her name on it.
• T-shirts depicting a ballot with her name written in.
JNeither Joe Miller nor Scott McAdams, for instance, was invited on stage here at the annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives last week. The only candidate allowed to address the 4,000 in attendance — and the candidate the federation eventually endorsed — was the incumbent, Lisa Murkowski, the Republican now running as a write-in candidate.
“You humble me, you honor me,” Ms. Murkowski told the crowd. “I will fight for you as long as I am able.”
Just weeks ago, Ms. Murkowski’s bid looked like a long shot. And it still may be — reliable polls in Alaska are few and far between.
But since being embarrassed in an upset by Mr. Miller, a protégé of Sarah Palin’s, in the Republican primary, Ms. Murkowski has defied conventional wisdom and her colleagues in the Republican establishment by waging a credible race as a write-in candidate. Analysts and Alaskans now say she could overcome the odds and logistical hurdles to win, something no senator has done since Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954. Or she could be a spoiler.
Democrats insist that their nominee, Mr. McAdams, can pull out a victory in this heavily Republican state if he can paint Ms. Murkowski as too conservative, and her write-in campaign as too risky, for Democrats who might defect to her out of fear of a victory by Mr. Miller.
The night after the federation conference, it was Mr. Miller and Mr. McAdams who appeared together for a debate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Ms. Murkowski was nowhere to be found, but that did not stop the other two from attacking her: She is too liberal. No, she is too conservative.
“Maybe we ought to debate Lisa for the rest of the night,” Mr. McAdams quipped at one point. “‘What do you think, Joe?’”
A few moments later, when the candidates were supposed to ask each other questions, Mr. Miller said, “Scott, I’m tempted just to ask questions about Lisa.”
Later, the moderator inadvertently addressed one of them as “Scott Miller.”
Ms. Murkowski has attended most debates, but in a year filled with unconventional races across the country, hers is among the most unlikely. She has shed her sometimes mechanical public presence and struck populist notes — she even sang during a stump speech in Fairbanks last week.
“Fill in the oval, write it on the line,” the senator sang in a shaky contralto, striving to create an Election Day anthem out of a supporter’s original tune, called “Cinderella.”
Mr. Miller remains the presumptive favorite, but his lead has narrowed after a string of setbacks since his surprising primary victory.
News reports in Alaska have raised questions about everything from farm subsidies, unemployment and government health care benefits and even a low-income fishing license that Mr. Miller or his family members have received. Critics say the reports have undermined his credibility when he argues against the federal health care bill and unemployment benefits or vows to eliminate the Department of Education and eventually privatize Social Security.
Over the weekend, after Mr. Miller refused for weeks to answer questions about disciplinary action taken against him when he worked as a lawyer for Fairbanks North Star Borough, a judge ordered records of the incident released as soon as Tuesday. (The ruling also came after Mr. Miller’s security guards handcuffed Tony Hopfinger, the editor of Alaska Dispatch, an online news site, when he tried to ask Mr. Miller about the matter at a campaign event.)
Mr. Miller may still fight the judge’s order, though in a debate in Anchorage on Sunday, he admitted to being suspended from work for an ethics violation in 2008 for using government computers for political purposes. He left the job in the summer of 2009.
Questions about transparency have followed the candidate. In addition to his reluctance to discuss the ethics violation, he has also brushed off the handcuffing of the journalist, saying he played no role in the incident. Mr. Miller lives down a series of long gravel roads at the edge of Fairbanks. Security cameras are positioned to monitor the entrance to his house, which sits out of sight.
Asked about the security cameras in a brief interview, Mr. Miller initially asked a reporter to identify who revealed their existence. When the reporter declined to do so, Mr. Miller noted that he had once been a federal magistrate judge.
“There were security issues on occasion while I was U.S. magistrate judge,” he said.
While Mr. Miller worries that Ms. Murkowski will win Republican votes, Democrats hope to cast her as too conservative.
Alaska’s other senator, Mark Begich, a Democrat, who has had several staff members join or volunteer for the McAdams campaign, noted that Mr. McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, might need only a third of all votes to win. Presuming a 60 percent turnout, that is about 100,000 votes.
Underscoring both sides’ concerns over the Murkowski campaign, lawyers for state Democrats and Republicans have joined in a lawsuit accusing the State Division of Elections of improperly providing lists of write-in candidates to all voting locations and, in at least one polling place, in Homer, posting the lists inside voting booths.
A letter from the state elections director, Gail Fenumiai, written last week before the lawsuit was filed, said the lists were intended to be provided only to voters who requested them, not posted inside booths.
On Monday, after weeks of silence in the race, Ms. Palin used her Facebook page to attack Ms. Murkowski for comments the senator made in a televised debate the night before in Anchorage. Ms. Murkowski had raised the subject of Mr. Miller’s military service and questioned whether his conduct in the campaign was honorable.
“I find it astonishing that a sitting U.S. senator from Alaska would challenge the honor of a decorated combat veteran,” Ms. Palin wrote.
Ms. Murkowski is having to position herself carefully.
Asked whether she would do more to win Democratic votes, the senator said in an interview that she would not change her party. But, she said, “I’ve made it very clear that when I go back to Washington it will be because Alaskans have sent me back, not Republicans.”
She went on to name a range of constituencies she was courting, from libertarians and environmentalists to Democrats and Republicans. A moment later, just to be safe, an aide leaned in to clarify that she was indeed still a Republican.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Reality hits BO over head with baseball bat
on: October 26, 2010, 11:53:27 AM
Taking Harder Stance Toward China, Obama Lines Up Allies
By MARK LANDLER and SEWELL CHAN
Published: October 25, 2010WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, facing a confrontational relationship with China on exchange rates, trade and security issues, is stiffening its approach toward Beijing, seeking allies to confront a newly assertive power that officials now say has little intention of working with the United States.
In a shift from its assiduous one-on-one courtship of Beijing, the administration is trying to line up coalitions — among China’s next-door neighbors and far-flung trading partners — to present Chinese leaders with a unified front on thorny issues like the currency and their country’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The advantages and limitations of this new approach were on display over the weekend at a meeting of the world’s largest economies in South Korea. The United States won support for a concrete pledge to reduce trade imbalances, which will put more pressure on China to allow its currency to rise in value.
But Germany, Italy and Russia balked at an American proposal to place numerical limits on these imbalances, a step that would have further isolated Beijing. That left the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, to make an unscheduled stop in China on his way home from South Korea to discuss the deepening tensions over exchange rates with a top Chinese finance official.
Administration officials speak of an alarming loss of trust and confidence between China and the United States over the past two years, forcing them to scale back hopes of working with the Chinese on major challenges like climate change, nuclear nonproliferation and a new global economic order.
The latest source of tension is over reports that China is withholding shipments of rare-earth minerals, which the United States uses to make advanced equipment like guided missiles. Administration officials, clearly worried, said they did not know whether Beijing’s motivation was strategic or economic.
“This administration came in with one dominant idea: make China a global partner in facing global challenges,” said David Shambaugh, director of the China policy program at George Washington University. “China failed to step up and play that role. Now, they realize they’re dealing with an increasingly narrow-minded, self-interested, truculent, hyper-nationalist and powerful country.”
To counter what some officials view as a surge of Chinese triumphalism, the United States is reinvigorating cold war alliances with Japan and South Korea, and shoring up its presence elsewhere in Asia. This week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Vietnam for the second time in four months, to attend an East Asian summit meeting likely to be dominated by the China questions.
Next month, President Obama plans to tour four major Asian democracies — Japan, Indonesia, India and South Korea — while bypassing China. The itinerary is not meant as a snub: Mr. Obama has already been to Beijing once, and his visit to Indonesia has long been delayed. But the symbolism is not lost on administration officials.
Jeffrey A. Bader, a major China policy adviser in the White House, said China’s muscle-flexing became especially noticeable after the 2008 economic crisis, in part because Beijing’s faster rebound led to a “widespread judgment that the U.S. was a declining power and that China was a rising power.”
But the administration, he said, is determined “to effectively counteract that impression by renewing American leadership.”
Political factors at home have contributed to the administration’s tougher posture. With the economy sputtering and unemployment high, Beijing has become an all-purpose target. In this Congressional election season, candidates in at least 30 races are demonizing China as a threat to American jobs.
At a time of partisan paralysis in Congress, anger over China’s currency has been one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement, culminating in the House’s overwhelming vote in September to threaten China with tariffs on its exports if Beijing did not let its currency, the renminbi, appreciate.
The trouble is that China’s own domestic forces may cause it to dig in its heels. With the Communist Party embarking on a transfer of leadership from President Hu Jintao to his anointed successor, Xi Jinping, the leadership is wary of changes that could hobble China’s growth.
There are also increasingly sharp divisions between China’s civilian leaders and elements of the People’s Liberation Army. Many Chinese military officers are openly hostile toward the United States, convinced that its recent naval exercises in the Yellow Sea amount to a policy of encircling China.
Even the administration’s efforts to collaborate with China on climate change and nonproliferation are viewed with suspicion by some in Beijing.
Mr. Obama’s aides, many of them veterans of the Clinton years, understand that especially on economic issues, there are elements of brinkmanship in the relationship, which can imply more acrimony than actually exists.
But the White House was concerned enough that last month it sent a high-level delegation to Beijing that included Mr. Bader; Lawrence H. Summers, the departing director of the National Economic Council; and Thomas E. Donilon, who has since been named national security adviser.
“We were struck by the seriousness with which they shared our commitment to managing differences and recognizing that our two countries were going to have a very large effect on the global economy,” Mr. Summers said.
Just before the meeting, China began allowing the renminbi to rise at a somewhat faster rate, though its total appreciation, since Beijing announced in June that it would loosen exchange-rate controls, still amounts to less than 3 percent. Economists estimate that the currency is undervalued by at least 20 percent.
Meanwhile, trade tensions between the two sides are flaring anew. The administration recently agreed to investigate charges by the United Steelworkers that China was violating trade laws with its state support of clean-energy technologies. That prompted China’s top energy official, Zhang Guobao, to accuse the administration of trying to win votes — a barb that angered White House officials.
Of the halt in shipments of rare-earth minerals, Mr. Summers said, “There are serious questions, both in the economic and in the strategy realm, that are going to require close study within our government.”
Beijing had earlier withheld these shipments to Japan, after a spat over a Chinese fishing vessel that collided with Japanese patrol boats near disputed islands. It was one of several recent provocative moves by Beijing toward its neighbors — including one that prompted the administration to enter the fray.
In Hanoi in July, Mrs. Clinton said the United States would help facilitate talks between Beijing and its neighbors over disputed islands in the South China Sea. Chinese officials were livid when it became clear that the United States had lined up 12 countries behind the American position.
With President Hu set to visit Washington early next year, administration officials said Mrs. Clinton would strike a more harmonious note in Asia this week. For now, they said, the United States feels it has made its point.
“The signal to Beijing ought to be clear,” Mr. Shambaugh said. “The U.S. has other closer, deeper friends in the region.”
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Russian S-300 missile system
on: October 26, 2010, 11:43:45 AM
Venezuela - Chávez announces purchase of Russian missile system
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced the purchase of the Russian S-300 missile
system on 17 October 2010. Experts speculate Chávez may buy two Antónov 74 planes as
well. Iran previously attempted to buy the same missile system but was rejected in
accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1929.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Network Intel
on: October 26, 2010, 11:41:20 AM
Venezuela - Chávez announces purchase of Russian missile system
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced the purchase of the Russian S-300 missile
system on 17 October 2010. Experts speculate Chávez may buy two Antónov 74 planes as
well. Iran previously attempted to buy the same missile system but was rejected in
accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1929.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fox: Dingy Harry rides again
on: October 25, 2010, 08:14:11 PM
An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly lied to federal immigration and FBI agents and submitted false federal documents to the Department of Homeland Security to cover up her illegal seven-year marriage to a Lebanese national who was the subject of an Oklahoma City Joint Terror Task Force investigation, FoxNews.com has learned.
Diana Tejada, Reid’s Hispanic Press Secretary, admitted to receiving payment for “some of her expenses” in exchange for fraudulently marrying Bassam Mahmoud Tarhini in 2003, strictly so he could obtain permanent U.S. residency, according to court documents.
Tarhini, now 37, was held in jail and at an immigration detention center in connection with his 2009 indictment on felony charges, documents show. He pleaded guilty to entering a fraudulent marriage to evade immigration laws — a Class D felony — in November 2009, and he was deported in March 2010.
Tejada, now 28, was never charged for her role in the crime.
“We did not charge the woman, and of course we don’t discuss the reasons we don’t charge people,” said Bob Troester, spokesman for the Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, which began as an FBI investigation out of the Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“There’s multiple factors that go into charging decisions. She wasn’t charged and we can’t go beyond that.”
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement would not comment on why it took five years to investigate the couple's marriage.
As recently as five weeks ago, on Sept. 21, 2010, Tejada appeared as a guest on a Spanish-language radio program in her official capacity as a spokeswoman for Harry Reid.
Monday evening, Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley said Tejada was no longer employed by Reid’s office. When asked when Tejada left Reid’s services, the spokesman had no comment.
Manley provided this statement to FoxNews.com:
“Our office was not previously aware of these allegations and, following an internal investigation, the staffer at issue is no longer with our office. The conduct alleged, which took place several years before the staffer worked for Senator Reid, was clearly wrong. But the bottom line remains that this story was a desperation measure by partisan Republicans, who have stooped to slinging mud about junior staffers to score points in the waning days of her campaign.”
In court documents, Tejada, who was also the Press Secretary of Hispanic Media for the Senate Majority Conference Committee, is referred to as “an uncharged coconspirator in the crime of perjury, filing false immigration documents, the crime of sham marriage.”
According to interviews and court records obtained by FoxNews.com, Tejada knowingly filed false documents with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services; lied in in-person interviews with ICE and FBI agents; and submitted fraudulent visa application affidavits and marriage license documents — all in attempt to use her status as an American citizen to get Tarhini permanent residency.
As a result of her actions, according to court documents, Tarhini was able to obtain a work permit.
“I don’t honestly know the reason why they chose to prosecute Bassam and not her,” said Jeffrey Byers, Tarhini’s criminal attorney.
“I don’t think they could’ve prosecuted the case without one of the two of them saying something, but I suspect they chose to work with the American citizen other than Bassam.”
A Justice Department source familiar with the investigation said:
"As exhibited in the court documents, the case prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Oklahoma City was a straightforward case involving two individuals who entered into a fraudulent marriage during college in order for one to evade immigration laws and obtain lawful residence."
Tarhini entered the U.S. in 2000 on a student visa to attend Oklahoma City University, where Tejada was also a student. They became friends and married in September 2003 so he could avoid compulsory service in the Lebanese National Army, Tejada later told officials. She was 21 years old at the time; he was 30.
Click here to see a copy of Tejada and Tarhini's marriage certificate.
Two months after their marriage, Tejada submitted an affidavit sponsoring Tarhini’s request for adjustment of status, affirming on his I-485 application for a green card — under penalty of perjury — that she was his wife.
Court records show that Tejada signed numerous affidavits fraudulently representing her marriage, including forms documenting her financial and employment information along with a signed obligation to support Tarhini.
As part of the process, documents show, she and Tarhini attended an August 31, 2004, meeting at Citizenship and Immigration Services in Oklahoma City, where they misrepresented their marriage to immigration officials.
The next year, Tarhini stayed in Oklahoma while Tejada moved to Washington D.C., where she began working as a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza, court and public records show.
In 2008, five years after he filed his visa application, Tarhini filed a suit against ICE officials to force a decision regarding the application — a strategy commonly employed when visa decisions appear to be taking an inordinate amount of time.
In 2008, sources with knowledge of the case told FoxNews.com, the FBI — working with the Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force — sent what’s called a collateral request to ICE, asking them to track down Tejada to interview her about Tarhini.
At this point, Tarhini was a subject of interest in an Oklahoma JTTF investigation, sources said.
In May or June 2008, a source told FoxNews.com, Tejada was interviewed by ICE and FBI agents in Washington, and she maintained that her marriage was legitimate.
In October 2008, Tejada began working for Reid.
On Nov 3, 2008, ICE and FBI agents re-interviewed Tejada in Washington, according to documents and interviews. This time, sources said, agents presented a slew of evidence against her and Tarhini, and Tejada broke down and confessed that her marriage was a lie, carried out to get Tarhini U.S. residency.
According to court records, she also told authorities that she and Tarhini had never dated nor consummated their marriage.
She told officials that she and Tarhini had discussed divorce, but they agreed to wait a while longer — until December 2008 — to see if his visa would be approved, records state.
In the presence of the federal agents, Tejada withdrew her visa petition for Tarhini, stopping his application to become a permanent resident, and signed a sworn affidavit saying that the marriage was a sham.
Tejada, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting, expressed concern about her job and said she was worried about Reid's reaction to her sham marriage. The federal agents told her she had an obligation to tell Reid, and sources said they believed she would inform her boss.
The highest level of management inside the Department of Homeland Security was aware that she worked for Reid, multiple sources confirmed, and following protocol, the majority leader should have been informed of the investigation through those channels, as well.
But in July 2009, when an ICE agent testifying at Tarhini’s preliminary deportation hearing was asked specifically about Tejada’s employer, the agent did not say it was the U.S. Senate.
ICE Special Agent Rebecca Perkins: “Currently she is employed with the — a Hispanic center organization.”
Tarhini's Defense Counsel, Jeffrey Byers: “Is that La Raza? Does that sound familiar?"
Perkins: “I don’t know.”
Byers: “It’s a — it’s a — it's something that is a public service group for the Hispanic community. Is that a fair statement, or something to that degree?”
According to sources with knowledge of the November 2008 meeting, Tejada also told ICE and FBI agents that she was concerned about some of Tarhini’s associates, including the best man at her wedding, a Pakistani national named Amer Awli, whom she described as “very secretive.” Awli's current whereabouts are unknown.
Following Tarhini’s arrest in 2009, he was interviewed by FBI agents who sources say asked about his ties to extremists groups. Some sources said they determined he did not have ties to any terror group, but other sources close to the case said that could not be ruled out.
“Not all of my cases involve the FBI,” said Tarhini’s immigration attorney, Timothy Lee Cook. “Certainly, there was something out there that caught their attention.”
When asked what that might be, Cook said: “FBI’s not going to tell anybody that. And believe me, I asked.”
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson told FoxNews.com via email, “We have no comment.”
ICE provided details of Tarhini’s deportation but referred additional questions to the Western District of Oklahoma's U.S. Attorney's Office.
On March 20, 2009, Tarhini’s visa application for status as a lawful permanent resident was denied due to fraud and misrepresentation of his marriage to Tejada, court records state.
That same day, Tarhini was administratively arrested by ICE "due to failure to maintain his non-immigrant student status and fraudulent marriage," court records state. "He was no longer attending the Oklahoma City University, thus violating his immigration status."
In August 2009 Tarhini was indicted on two felony charges: Entering into a marriage to evade immigration laws, and subscribing to false statements. As part of a plea deal last November, he pleaded guilty to the first charge, and the second was dropped.
Tarhini was sentenced to time served and three years' supervised release. ICE spokeswoman Gillian Brigham confirmed to FoxNews.com that Tarhini was “removed” from the U.S. on March 3, 2010.
Tejada made $52,451.60 last year working for Reid.
Last month Tejada spoke in her official capacity as Spokesperson, Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as a guest on a Spanish-language radio program’s immigration-themed special on the DREAM Act, which included a section in which the host answered listeners’ questions “about the do’s and don’ts of applying for residency and naturalization.”
Tejada filed for divorce, “alleging incompatibility,” on March 16, 2010. The divorce was finalized on July 6.
Tejada did not return requests for comment on this article.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hot Air in CA
on: October 25, 2010, 10:06:14 AM
The Left Angeles Times, a.k.a. Pravda on the Beach (POTB) says this morning that Prop 23, which would suspend the state's global warming law until unemployment is 5.5% is trailing 48 to 32.
The clusterfcuk continues , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science
on: October 25, 2010, 08:24:01 AM
And, if I am not mistaken, also entering the calculus should be the enviro consequences of making the battery, generating the electiricity that charges it, etc. Yes?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Emasculation of Men In Contempory Society
on: October 25, 2010, 08:20:39 AM
You touch upon a theme near and dear to my heart. It has been addressed a bit in threads concerning Gender, Jungian Psychology, and a few others, but I like the idea of it having a thread of its very own.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Short sales resisted
on: October 25, 2010, 07:16:06 AM
PHOENIX — Bank of America and GMAC are firing up their formidable foreclosure machines again today, after a brief pause.
But hard-pressed homeowners like Lydia Sweetland are asking why lenders often balk at a less disruptive solution: short sales, which allow owners to sell deeply devalued homes for less than what remains on their mortgage.
Ms. Sweetland, 47, tried such a sale this summer out of desperation. She had lost her high-paying job and drained her once-flush retirement savings, and her bank, GMAC, wouldn’t modify her mortgage. After seven months of being unable to pay her mortgage, she decided that a short sale would give her more time to move out of her Phoenix home and damage her credit rating less than a foreclosure.
She owes $206,000 and found a buyer who would pay $200,000. Last Friday, GMAC rejected that offer and said it would foreclose in seven days, even though, according to Ms. Sweetland’s broker, the bank estimates it will make $19,000 less on a foreclosure than on a short sale.
“I guess I could salute and say, ‘O.K., I’m walking, here’s the keys,’ ” says Ms. Sweetland, as she sits in a plastic Adirondack chair on her patio. “But I need a little time, and I don’t want to just leave the house vacant. I loved this neighborhood.”
GMAC declined to be interviewed about Ms. Sweetland’s case.
The halt in most foreclosures the last few weeks gave a hint of hope to homeowners like Ms. Sweetland, who found breathing room to pursue alternatives. Consumer advocates took the view that this might pressure banks to offer mortgage modifications on better terms and perhaps drive interest in short sales, which are rising sharply in many corners of the nation.
But some major lenders took a quick inventory of their foreclosure practices and insisted their processes were sound. They now seem intent on resuming foreclosures. And that could have a profound effect on many homeowners.
In Arizona, thousands of homeowners have turned to short sales to avoid foreclosures, and many end up running a daunting procedural gantlet. Several of the largest lenders have set up complicated and balky application systems.
Concerns about fraud are one of the reasons lenders are so careful about short sales. Sometimes well-off homeowners want to portray their finances as dire and cut their losses on a property. In other instances, distressed homeowners try to make a short sale to a relative, who would then sell it back to them (a practice that is illegal). A recent industry report estimates that short sale fraud occurs in at least 2 percent of sales and costs banks about $300 million annually.
Short sales are also hindered when homeowners fail to forward the proper papers, have tax liens or cannot find a buyer.
Because of such concerns, homeowners often are instructed that they must be delinquent and they must apply for a modification first, even if chances of approval are slim. The aversion to short sales also leads banks to take many months to process applications, and some lenders set unrealistically high sales prices — known as broker price opinions — and hire workers who say they are poorly trained.
As a result, quite a few homeowners seeking short sales — banks will not provide precise numbers — topple into foreclosure, sometimes, critics say, for reasons that are hard to understand. Ms. Sweetland and her broker say they are confounded by her foreclosure, because in Arizona’s depressed real estate market, foreclosed homes often sit vacant for many months before banks are able to resell them.
“Banks are historically reluctant to do short sales, fearing that somehow the homeowner is getting an advantage on them,” said Diane E. Thompson, of counsel to the National Consumer Law Center. “There’s this irrational belief that if you foreclose and hold on to the property for six months, somehow prices will rebound.”
Homeowners, advocates and realty agents offer particularly pointed criticism of Bank of America, the nation’s largest servicer of mortgages, and a recipient of billions of dollars in federal bailout aid. Its holdings account for 31 percent of the pending foreclosures in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale, according to an analysis for The Arizona Republic.
The bank instructs real estate agents to use its computer program to evaluate short sales. But in three cases observed by The New York Times in collaboration with two real estate agents, the bank’s system repeatedly asked for and lost the same information and generated inaccurate responses.
In half a dozen more cases examined by The New York Times, Bank of America rejected short sale offers, foreclosed and auctioned off houses at lower prices.
“When I hear that a client’s mortgage is held by Bank of America, I just sigh. Our chances of getting an approval for them just went from 90 percent to 50-50,” said Benjamin Toma, who has a family-run real estate agency in Phoenix.
Bank of America officials also declined interview requests. A Bank of America spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the bank had processed 61,000 short sales nationwide this year; she declined to provide numbers for Arizona or to discuss criticisms of the company’s processing.
Fannie Mae, the mortgage finance company with federal backing, gives cash incentives to encourage servicers, who are affiliated with banks and who oversee great bundles of delinquent mortgages, to approve short sales.
But less obvious financial incentives can push toward a foreclosure rather than a short sale. Servicers can reap high fees from foreclosures. And lenders can try to collect on private mortgage insurance.
Some advocates and real estate agents also point to an April 2009 regulatory change in an obscure federal accounting law. The change, in effect, allowed banks to foreclose on a home without having to write down a loss until that home was sold. By contrast, if a bank agrees to a short sale, it must mark the loss immediately.
Short sales, to be sure, are no free ride for homeowners. They take a hit to their credit ratings, although for three to five years rather than seven after a foreclosure. An owner seeking a short sale must satisfy a laundry list of conditions, including making a detailed disclosure of income, tax and credit liens. And owners must prove that they have no connection to the buyer.
Still, bank decision-making, at least from a homeowner’s perspective, often appears arbitrary. That is certainly the view of Nicholas Yannuzzi, who after 30 years in Arizona still talks with a Philadelphia rasp. Mr. Yannuzzi has owned five houses over time, without any financial problems. When his wife was diagnosed with bone cancer, he put 20 percent down and bought a ranch house in North Scottsdale so that she would not have to climb stairs.
In the last few years, his wife died, he lost his job and he used his retirement fund to pay his mortgage for five months. His bank, Wells Fargo, denied his mortgage modification request and then his request for a short sale.
The bank officer told him that Fannie Mae, which held the mortgage, would not take a discount. At the end of last week, he was waiting to be locked out of his home.
“I’m a proud man. I’ve worked since I was 20 years old,” he said. “But I’ve run out of my 79 weeks of unemployment, so that’s it.”
He shrugged. “I try to keep in the frame of mind that a lot of people have it worse than me.”
Back in Phoenix, Ms. Sweetland’s real estate agent, Sherry Rampy, appeared to receive good news last week. GMAC re-examined her client’s application and suggested it might be approved.
But the bank attached a condition: Ms. Sweetland must come up with $2,000 in closing costs or pay $100 a month for 50 months to the bank. Ms. Sweetland, however, is flat broke.
A late afternoon desert sun angles across her Pasadena neighborhood.
“After this, I’ll never buy again,” Ms. Sweetland says. “This is not the American dream. This is not my American dream.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Wikileaks
on: October 24, 2010, 11:41:44 AM
LONDON — Julian Assange moves like a hunted man. In a noisy Ethiopian restaurant in London’s rundown Paddington district, he pitches his voice barely above a whisper to foil the Western intelligence agencies he fears.
He demands that his dwindling number of loyalists use expensive encrypted cellphones and swaps his own as other men change shirts. He checks into hotels under false names, dyes his hair, sleeps on sofas and floors, and uses cash instead of credit cards, often borrowed from friends.
“By being determined to be on this path, and not to compromise, I’ve wound up in an extraordinary situation,” Mr. Assange said over lunch last Sunday, when he arrived sporting a woolen beanie and a wispy stubble and trailing a youthful entourage that included a filmmaker assigned to document any unpleasant surprises.
In his remarkable journey to notoriety, Mr. Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowers’ Web site, sees the next few weeks as his most hazardous. Now he is making his most brazen disclosure yet: 391,832 secret documents on the Iraqi war. He held a news conference in London on Saturday, saying that the release “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.”
Twelve weeks ago, he posted on his organization’s Web site some 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict.
Much has changed since 2006, when Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, used years of computer hacking and what friends call a near genius I.Q. to establish WikiLeaks, redefining whistle-blowing by gathering secrets in bulk, storing them beyond the reach of governments and others determined to retrieve them, then releasing them instantly, and globally.
Now it is not just governments that denounce him: some of his own comrades are abandoning him for what they see as erratic and imperious behavior, and a nearly delusional grandeur unmatched by an awareness that the digital secrets he reveals can have a price in flesh and blood.
Several WikiLeaks colleagues say he alone decided to release the Afghan documents without removing the names of Afghan intelligence sources for NATO troops. “We were very, very upset with that, and with the way he spoke about it afterwards,” said Birgitta Jonsdottir, a core WikiLeaks volunteer and a member of Iceland’s Parliament. “If he could just focus on the important things he does, it would be better.”
He is also being investigated in connection with accusations of rape and molestation involving two Swedish women. Mr. Assange has denied the allegations, saying the relations were consensual. But prosecutors in Sweden have yet to formally approve charges or dismiss the case eight weeks after the complaints against Mr. Assange were filed, damaging his quest for a secure base for himself and WikiLeaks. Though he characterizes the claims as “a smear campaign,” the scandal has compounded the pressures of his cloaked life.
“When it comes to the point where you occasionally look forward to being in prison on the basis that you might be able to spend a day reading a book, the realization dawns that perhaps the situation has become a little more stressful than you would like,” he said over the London lunch.
Mr. Assange has come a long way from an unsettled childhood in Australia as a self-acknowledged social misfit who narrowly avoided prison after being convicted on 25 charges of computer hacking in 1995. History is punctuated by spies, defectors and others who revealed the most inflammatory secrets of their age. Mr. Assange has become that figure for the Internet era, with as yet unreckoned consequences for himself and for the keepers of the world’s secrets.
“I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed a 1,000-page secret study of the Vietnam War in 1971 that became known as the Pentagon Papers.
Mr. Ellsberg said he saw kindred spirits in Mr. Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old former Army intelligence operative under detention in Quantico, Va., suspected of leaking the Iraq and Afghan documents.
“They were willing to go to prison for life, or be executed, to put out this information,” Mr. Ellsberg said.
Underlying Mr. Assange’s anxieties is deep uncertainty about what the United States and its allies may do next. Pentagon and Justice department officials have said they are weighing his actions under the 1917 Espionage Act. They have demanded that Mr. Assange “return” all government documents in his possession, undertake not to publish any new ones and not “solicit” further American materials.
Mr. Assange has responded by going on the run, but has found no refuge. Amid the Afghan documents controversy, he flew to Sweden, seeking a residence permit and protection under that country’s broad press freedoms. His initial welcome was euphoric.
“They called me the James Bond of journalism,” he recalled wryly. “It got me a lot of fans, and some of them ended up causing me a bit of trouble.”
Within days, his liaisons with two Swedish women led to an arrest warrant on charges of rape and molestation. Karin Rosander, a spokesperson for the prosecutor, said last week that the police were continuing to investigate.
In late September, he left Stockholm for Berlin. A bag he checked on the almost empty flight disappeared, with three encrypted laptops. It has not resurfaced; Mr. Assange suspects it was intercepted. From Germany, he traveled to London, wary at being detained on arrival. Under British law, his Australian passport entitles him to remain for six months. Iceland, another country with generous press freedoms and a strong WikiLeaks following, has also lost its appeal, with Mr. Assange concluding that its government, like Britain’s, is too easily influenced by Washington. In his native Australia, ministers have signaled their willingness to cooperate with the United States if it opens a prosecution. Mr. Assange said a senior Australian official told him, “You play outside the rules, and you will be dealt with outside the rules.”
He faces attack from within, too.
After the Sweden scandal, strains within WikiLeaks reached a breaking point, with some of Mr. Assange’s closest collaborators publicly defecting. The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.
Effectively, as Mr. Assange pursues his fugitive’s life, his leadership is enforced over the Internet. Even remotely, his style is imperious. In an online exchange with one volunteer, a transcript of which was obtained by The Times, he warned that WikiLeaks would disintegrate without him. “We’ve been in a Unity or Death situation for a few months now,” he said.
When Herbert Snorrason, a 25-year-old political activist in Iceland, questioned Mr. Assange’s judgment over a number of issues in an online exchange last month, Mr. Assange was uncompromising. “I don’t like your tone,” he said, according to a transcript. “If it continues, you’re out.”
Mr. Assange cast himself as indispensable. “I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier, and all the rest,” he said. “If you have a problem with me,” he told Mr. Snorrason, using an expletive, he should quit.
In an interview about the exchange, Mr. Snorrason’s conclusion was stark. “He is not in his right mind,” he said. In London, Mr. Assange was dismissive of all those who have criticized him. “These are not consequential people,” he said.
“About a dozen” disillusioned volunteers have left recently, said Smari McCarthy, an Icelandic volunteer who has distanced himself in the recent turmoil. In late summer, Mr. Assange suspended Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German who had been the WikiLeaks spokesman under the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt, accusing him of unspecified “bad behavior.” Many more activists, Mr. McCarthy said, are likely to follow.
Mr. Assange denied that any important volunteers had quit, apart from Mr. Domscheit-Berg. But further defections could paralyze an organization that Mr. Assange says has 40 core volunteers and about 800 mostly unpaid followers to maintain a diffuse web of computer servers and to secure the system against attack — to guard against the kind of infiltration that WikiLeaks itself has used to generate its revelations.
Mr. Assange’s detractors also accuse him of pursuing a vendetta against the United States. In London, Mr. Assange said America was an increasingly militarized society and a threat to democracy. Moreover, he said, “we have been attacked by the United States, so we are forced into a position where we must defend ourselves.”
Even among those challenging Mr. Assange’s leadership style, there is recognition that the intricate computer and financial architecture WikiLeaks uses to shield it against its enemies has depended on its founder. “He’s very unique and extremely capable,” said Ms. Jonsdottir, the Icelandic lawmaker.
A Rash of Scoops
Before posting the documents on Afghanistan and Iraq, WikiLeaks enjoyed a string of coups.
Supporters were thrilled when the organization posted documents on the Guantánamo Bay detention operation, the contents of Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo email account, reports of extrajudicial killings in Kenya and East Timor, the membership rolls of the neo-Nazi British National Party and a combat video showing American Apache helicopters in Baghdad in 2007 gunning down at least 12 people, including two Reuters journalists.
But now, WikiLeaks has been met with new doubts. Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have joined the Pentagon in criticizing the organization for risking people’s lives by publishing war logs identifying Afghans working for the Americans or acting as informers.
A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan using the pseudonym Zabiullah Mujahid said in a telephone interview that the Taliban had formed a nine-member “commission” after the Afghan documents were posted “to find about people who are spying.” He said the Taliban had a “wanted” list of 1,800 Afghans and was comparing that with names WikiLeaks provided.
“After the process is completed, our Taliban court will decide about such people,” he said.
Mr. Assange defended posting unredacted documents, saying he balanced his decision “with the knowledge of the tremendous good and prevention of harm that is caused” by putting the information into the public domain. “There are no easy choices on the table for this organization,” he said.
But if Mr. Assange is sustained by his sense of mission, faith is fading among his fellow conspirators. His mood was caught vividly in an exchange on Sept. 20 with another senior WikiLeaks figure. In an encrypted online chat, a transcript of which was passed to The Times, Mr. Assange was dismissive of his colleagues. He described them as “a confederacy of fools,” and asked his interlocutor, “Am I dealing with a complete retard?”
In London, Mr. Assange was angered when asked about the rifts. He responded testily to questions about WikiLeaks’s opaque finances, Private Manning’s fate and WikiLeaks’s apparent lack of accountability to anybody but himself, calling the questions “cretinous,” “facile” and reminiscent of “kindergarten.”
Mr. Assange has been equivocal about Private Manning, talking in late summer as though the soldier was unavoidable collateral damage, much like the Afghans named as informers in the secret Pentagon documents.
But in London, he took a more sympathetic view, describing Private Manning as a “political prisoner” facing a jail term of up to 52 years, without confirming that he was the source of the disclosed war logs. “We have a duty to assist Mr. Manning and other people who are facing legal and other consequences,” he said.
Mr. Assange’s own fate seems as imperiled as Private Manning’s. Last Monday, the Swedish Migration Board said Mr. Assange’s bid for a residence permit had been rejected. His British visa will expire early next year. When he left the London restaurant at twilight, heading into the shadows, he declined to say where he was going. The man who has put some of the world’s most powerful institutions on his watch list was, once more, on the move.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Dexter Filkins from Kabul, Afghanistan.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: October 24, 2010, 12:53:46 AM
I had fourth row in the VIP section. Dana and Randy Couture were about 8 seats diagonally from me.
In his last fight Lesnar flinched on one good hit and covered up until Shane Carwell got gassed. Here CV was not intimidated, and had no problems with gas in the tank or staying calm in BL's initial bull surges. BL still does not like getting hit.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential
on: October 23, 2010, 08:31:33 AM
1: I'm thinking like Ellison is worthy of continued observation, perhaps on the Islam in America and/or the Homeland Security threads.
2: I continue to really not like the way that some races are tightening. Spreads in the polls that used to be in the double digits are now often in mid single digits or in the margin of error. After all the cockiness about the coming tsunami, anything that underdelivers is not going to be good for the cause of freedom.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: October 23, 2010, 07:45:34 AM
THE U.S. APPROACH TO MANAGING THE PERSIAN GULF
The day after the U.S. government formally notified Congress of a massive, $60
billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, Saudi King Abdullah called Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday to “discuss bilateral relations.” Ahmadinejad had
earlier phoned the Saudi king, making this the second time in only nine days that
Iran has reached out to its Persian Gulf rival.
While the Saudis and Iranians have been nervously feeling each other out, the junior
players in the Persian Gulf are also keeping busy. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
announced Thursday that it has opened a naval base on its eastern coast in the
emirate of Fujairah. The base, jutting out into the Arabian Sea, would also house a
giant oil-storage terminal that would connect to the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi
through a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline now under construction. In following
these plans, the UAE appears to be creating an option to circumvent the Strait of
Hormuz so that they may continue exporting oil and importing goods should Iran
attempt to follow through on threats to blockade the strategic chokepoint.
Just off the Arabian Peninsula, the tiny island nation of Bahrain -- home to the
U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet -- is gearing up for parliamentary elections Saturday. To
prepare for the polls, the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family is doing everything it can
to ensure the country’s Shiite majority doesn’t increase its political clout -- and
thus provide its Persian neighbor with another stick with which to probe the
"With the Persian Gulf in flux, the United States is trying to get back into a
position where the natural Arab-Persian divide in the region balances itself out."
Iran is clearly weighing heavily on the minds of the Persian Gulf states. These
states don’t exactly long for a repeat of Saddam Hussein and his extraterritorial
oil ambitions, but they did watch with trepidation as the Sunni pillar in Iraq
crumbled under the watch of the United States throughout the course of the Iraq war.
Though the United States made the first big attempt to correct this imbalance with
the surge and the co-optation of Sunni former Baathists, it is obvious to everyone
that Iran is the emerging power in the Persian Gulf, while the United States is more
than ready to make its exit from the region.
But the United States also doesn’t have the option of clearing out and leaving its
Sunni Arab allies in a lurch. Whether or not American Tea Partiers, isolationist
pundits or regular taxpayers like it, the U.S. military is spread far beyond its
borders, with American boots on the ground in more than 150 countries and the U.S.
Navy in the unique position of dominating the high seas. The United States also
holds a quarter of the world’s wealth in gross domestic product and is responsible
for roughly the same fraction of the world’s fossil fuel consumption, a large
percentage of which comes from the Persian Gulf. Along with this ubiquitous global
presence comes a heavy burden. That burden does not necessarily mean playing the
global policeman and putting out fires wherever there is a real or imagined nuclear
threat, claims of genocide or otherwise. Instead, it means selectively choosing its
military engagement and maintaining various balances of power that allow the United
States to sustain its hegemony without getting bogged down in conflicts around the
world for dangerous lengths of time.
With the Persian Gulf in flux, the United States is trying to get back into a
position where the natural Arab-Persian divide in the region balances itself out.
From the U.S. point of view, Iran and Iraq could go on fighting each other for years
-- as they did throughout the 1980s -- as long as neither one is capable of wiping
the other out. Right now, Iraq is in far too weak a position and is too wedded to
the Iranians to rebuild itself as a useful counter to Iran. So that responsibility
is increasingly falling to Iraq’s neighbors.
Though there is great power in petrodollars alone, the Persian Gulf states are far
from warriors. In spite of all the state-of-the-art equipment the United States
floods into countries like Saudi Arabia, the Saudi military severely lacks the
leadership, ethos, training and doctrine to proficiently and coherently employ these
systems. The Persian Gulf states’ dependence on Washington is what allows the United
States to militarily entrench itself in the region. The $60 billion arms sale to
Saudi Arabia, for example, loudly signals to Iran that a U.S. exit from Iraq is not
tantamount to the United States abandoning its interests in the region. But as the
United States continues to grow and spread itself across the globe, it will
increasingly need to rely on local forces to manage things on their own, with the
United States standing close behind. For the Persian Gulf, that means the United
States investing the years into shaping the Saudi military into an effective force
and encouraging the UAE to reduce its vulnerabilities to Iran, as it appears to be
doing with this new export route into the Arabian Sea. These are initiatives that
take a great deal of time, money and effort, but they also have the best chance of
materializing when a state is confronted by an external threat. For the Persian Gulf
states, the threat of Iran dominating the gulf is as good a threat as ever to drive
them into action.
Copyright 2010 STRATFOR.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Where oh where has my little biscuit gone?
on: October 23, 2010, 12:32:47 AM
After Ronald Reagan said his good-byes to Bonnie Nofziger and hung up the phone, he leaned back and chatted with his aides who had gathered around him. He talked about his favorite room in the White House residence, the Yellow Room, and mentioned the note he had left in the desk drawer for George Bush on a notepad with the printed heading, DON'T LET THE TURKEYS GET YOU DOWN. Someone suggested that the president carve his initials in the Oval Office desk. A chuckle went around the group, and they all felt the bittersweetness of the moment.
Ken Duberstein stepped forward and briefed the president on the schedule for his last day in office--where he was to stand during the inauguration ceremony, when he would board the helicopter that would take him to Andrews Air Force Base for his final flight on Air Force One, when he would give his speech to the well-wishers at Los Angeles International Airport. As Duberstein finished his briefing, the president reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a plain white, plastic-coated card, like an unmarked credit card.
"Well, I guess I won't be needing this anymore," he said, holding the card out in General Powell's direction. "Whom do I give it to?"
It was the nuclear authentication code card that Ronald Reagan had carried throughout his presidency. That thin plastic wafer, when inserted into a black leather briefcase carried by a military aide, had the power to unleash Armageddon upon the world.
"Just hold on to it, sir," said Jim Kuhn. "You're still the commander in chief. You can turn it in after Mr. Bush is sworn in as president."
Ronald Reagan nodded and placed the card back in his pocket. Then Colin Powell stepped forward and gave the president the most succinct national security breefing of Ronald Reagan's entire presidency. "The world is quiet today, Mr. President," said Powell.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: October 22, 2010, 05:03:34 PM
To quote myself:
"That said, we must consider the possibility that China is starting one with us whether we like it or not. In case such is the case, then we need a clear-headed assessment of who "wins" (i.e. loses less)."
In other words, I am not advocating Smoot Hawley, I am asking what to do if China starts it up.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sowell: Gold
on: October 22, 2010, 05:00:33 PM
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 02:53 AM
By Thomas Sowell
Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace
One of the many slick tricks of the Obama administration was to insert a
provision in the massive Obamacare legislation regulating people who sell
gold. This had nothing to do with medical care but everything to do with
sneaking in an extension of the government's power over gold, in a bill too big
for most people to read.
Gold long has been a source of frustration for politicians who want to
extend their power over the economy. First of all, the gold standard cramped
their style because there is only so much money you can print when every
dollar bill can be turned in to the government, to be exchanged for the
equivalent amount of gold.
When the amount of money the government can print is limited by how much
gold the government has, politicians cannot pay off a massive national debt
by just printing more money and repaying the owners of government bonds with
dollars that are cheaper than the dollars with which the bonds were
bought. In other words, politicians cannot cheat people as easily.
That was just one of the ways that the gold standard cramped politicians'
style - and just one of the reasons they got rid of it. One of Franklin D.
Roosevelt's first acts as president was to take the United States off the
gold standard in 1933. But, even with the gold standard gone, the ability of
private individuals to buy gold reduces the ability of the government to
steal the value of their money by printing more money.
Inflation is a quiet but effective way for the government to transfer
resources from the people to itself, without raising taxes. A hundred-dollar
bill bought less in 1998 than a $20 bill bought in the 1960s. This means that
anyone who kept his money in a safe over those years would have lost 80
percent of its value, because no safe can keep your money safe from
politicians who control the printing presses.
That is why some people buy gold when they lose confidence in the
government's managing of its money. Usually that is when inflation is either under
way or looming on the horizon. When many people start transferring their
wealth from dollars into gold, that restricts the ability of politicians to
steal from them through inflation.
Even though there is currently very little inflation, purchases of gold
have nevertheless skyrocketed. Ordinarily, most gold is bought for producing
jewelry or for various industrial purposes, more so than as an investment.
But, at times within the past two years, most gold has been bought by
What that suggests is that increasing numbers of people don't trust this
administration's economic policies, especially the huge and growing deficits,
which add up to a record-breaking national debt.
When a national debt reaches an unsustainable amount, there is always a
temptation to pay it off with inflated dollars. There is the same temptation
when the Social Security system starts paying out more money to baby boom
retirees than it is taking in from current workers.
Whether gold is a good investment for individuals, and whether the gold
standard is the right system for a country, are much more complicated
questions than can be answered here. But what is clear is that the Obama
administration sees people's freedom to buy and sell gold as something that can limit
what the government can do.
Sneaking a provision on gold purchases and sales into massive legislation
that is supposedly about medical care is just one of the many cynical tricks
used to circumvent the public's right to know how they are being governed.
The Constitution begins, "We the people" but, to the left, both the people
and the Constitution are just things to circumvent in order to carry out
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War,
Revolution and Peace in Stanford, Calif.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: October 22, 2010, 02:51:24 PM
"we need them to ignore how they are throwing money away continuing to fund our irresponsible spending habits"
GM, I am going to nit pick a bit on this one. NO we do NOT need to fund our irresponsible spending habits. Rather we need to spend responsibly. We can get along quite nicely without the plastic knicknacks and poison laced products (including children's toys!
) and we can get along quite nicely without further increasing their leverage over us.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's foreign money can of worms
on: October 22, 2010, 02:20:55 PM
Return to the Article
October 19, 2010
Obama's foreign money can of worms
The Democrats, including President Obama, have embarked on a disastrous
campaign impugning the US Chamber of Commerce as a source of nefarious
foreign money corrupting our campaigns. Not only has the accusation
failed to resonate, it has opened a door that Democrats would prefer
remain closed. And because Washington Post writer Marc A. Thiessen has
taken up the question, it will be impossible to contain the very valid
...one of the largest labor unions in America, the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), ... is spending lavishly to elect Democrats.
The SEIU claims 100,000 members in Canada
. According to SEIU's 2008 constitution
<http://www.seiu.org/images/pdfs/Con.BylawsFinal3.4.9.pdf> , dues
include $7.65 per month per member that must be sent to the SEIU
International in the United States. This means that the SEIU takes in
nearly $9.2 million per year from foreign nationals -- almost 10 times
the amount the Chamber receives from its affiliates abroad.
Is any foreign money being used to fund the SEIU's anti-Republican
campaign efforts? According to the Wall Street Journal, "The Service
Employees International Union, one of the nation's fastest-growing labor
unions, acknowledges that it can't be certain that foreign nationals
88.html> to its $44 million political budget to support pro-labor
Democrats." The SEIU is not the only union that takes in money from
foreign members. According to the Canadian Department of Human Resources
and Skills Development
membership/index2009.shtml> , the United Steel, Paper and Forestry,
Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers has
280,000 Canadian members; the United Food and Commercial Workers has
more than 245,000; the Teamsters has more than 108,000; the Laborers'
International Union of North America has more than 68,000; and the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has more than 57,000.
How much do these foreign union members send to the United States? If
the constitutions of their unions are anything like SEIU's, it could be
tens of millions of dollars. Is any of that money being used to help
elect Democrats this November?
Unions have another source of foreign cash: dues from illegal
immigrants. In an April 2007 speech, uncovered by the conservative Web
site RedState, SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina boasts how
his union's rolls are loaded with illegal immigrants
Medina declares proudly: "SEIU is the largest union of immigrant workers
in the country, and a number of them are undocumented."
Hat tip: Ed Lasky
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Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations
By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 29, 2008; A02
Sen. Barack Obama
presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable
prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on
how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a
contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.
Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign
has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent
potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its
accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its
books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.
The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the
campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal
Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of
(READ MORE: Murkowski embraces outsider status with write-in campaign)
In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for
Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance
filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake
names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted
conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving
money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore
and cannot be traced to a donor.