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23251  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / OTC supplements said to contain steroids on: July 24, 2009, 10:00:35 AM
y MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and NATASHA SINGER
Published: July 23, 2009
Two over-the-counter dietary supplements that anti-doping officials say are popular among high school football players contain steroids, according to court papers filed by federal authorities on Thursday.

The supplements, Tren Xtreme and Mass Xtreme, are manufactured by American Cellular Labs and marketed as a “potent legal alternative to” steroids. But authorities alleged in search warrants executed on Thursday that the supplements contain illegal man-made steroids, also known as designer steroids. One of the substances is Madol, which was first identified six years ago during the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative.

The authorities said that Max Muscle, a walk-in supplement store with about 100 locations nation-wide, paid American Cellular Labs to be the exclusive retailer of these products, which could also be purchased on the Internet.

Maurice Sandoval, identified in the court documents as American Cellular’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview that he never personally sold steroids but declined to comment on whether the company had sold steroids. He said he sold the company last year but that a paperwork error kept his name on the company.

Someone who answered the phone Thursday at Max Muscle’s corporate office in Anaheim, Calif., said no one was available to comment on how many Max Muscle stores carried the American Cellular products. “This is not our product,” said the man, who would not give his name and hung up.

On Thursday, the Web site of a Max Muscle outlet in Des Moines was offering a promotion of Tren Xtreme for free, but a salesman who answered the phone there said the store no longer sold the brand.

Travis Tygart, the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said the substance helped athletes quickly gain muscle mass and strength.

“This is the supplement of choice for high school football players, and we have heard that from more than one source,” Tygart said. “It’s one of the more popular dietary supplements for these athletes because it works.”

Tygart declined to estimate how many high school athletes had used the product.

The investigation into American Cellular Labs is led by Jeff Novitzky, an agent for the Food and Drug Administration, and prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office for the Northern District of California. Since 2002, Novitzky has become the face of the government’s investigations into the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs.

The F.D.A. did not return calls seeking comment on the investigation.

The search warrants were executed at a Muscle Max store in the Castro section of San Francisco and at Sandoval’s residence in Pacifica, Calif. Another search warrant was executed on the office of WVM Global Incorporated, in Lake Forest, Calif., which authorities believe is an associated business to American Cellular.

The F.D.A. has jurisdiction over dietary supplements, defined as products that can offer general health benefits but cannot claim to treat specific diseases or symptoms.

Manufacturers of dietary supplements are responsible for ensuring and documenting the safety and efficacy claims of their products. According to the law governing dietary supplements, the F.D.A. is empowered to act only in cases when it identifies a harmful or adulterated product that is already on sale.

But if federal authorities find a supplement to contain an undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredient like a steroid, the agency considers the product to be an illegal, unapproved drug.

Illegal steroids are of particular concern in preteen and teenage boys, doctors said, because artificially high levels of testosterone can stop their bones from growing.

Steroids are organic compounds, like hormones, naturally produced by the body. They are also used as legal drugs to treat conditions like testosterone deficiency. Athletes have also used illegal forms of steroids for performance enhancement.

Investigators grew concerned over sports products made by American Cellular Labs after the F.D.A. received reports of severe liver and kidney problems in people who had used the two products, according to court documents.

In one case, a liver transplant doctor reported that a 38-year-old male patient who had used these products was later hospitalized with severe liver dysfunction and acute kidney failure which needed to be treated with dialysis, the documents said.

Legal steroid drugs come with health risks. But unknowingly taking supplements that contain illegal compounded steroids is even riskier because such drugs entail unknown risks, said Dr. Pieter Cohen, an instructor at the Harvard Medical School who is studying the dangers of adulterated dietary supplements.

For example, when doctors prescribe testosterone for men who have a testosterone deficiency, physicians monitor the patients closely because such steroids can lead to higher-than-normal hormone levels, potentially putting patients at risk for prostate cancer.

But taking designer steroids in a sports supplement is even more dangerous for people, he said, because these compounds have not been studied for safety.

“It’s placing the consumer at very serious risk of harm because there is absolutely no research showing that this new compound is safe in humans,” said Cohen, a general internist at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a network of public hospitals in Massachusetts. “We do have evidence that, in the past, analogs of pharmaceutical compounds have led to unexpected life-threatening disease such as liver failure that required transplantation.”
23252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Elections in Afg. on: July 24, 2009, 09:53:34 AM
HERAT, Afghanistan — When Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the main election challenger to President Hamid Karzai, arrived here to campaign last weekend, thousands of supporters choked the six-mile drive from the airport. Cars were plastered with his posters. Motorbikes flew blue banners. Young men wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his face leapt aboard his car to embrace him to ecstatic cheers.


Top, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the main challenger to President Hamid Karzai, arriving in Herat last Friday to campaign. Thousands turned out to greet him, in a sign of his growing support.

 
A presidential rival has support in Herat and in the north.

With only a month to go, Dr. Abdullah has started his campaign late, but in its first two weeks he has canvassed six provinces and drawn growing support and larger crowds than expected. Rapturous welcomes like this one have suddenly elevated him to the status of potential future president.

“I have no doubt that people want change,” Dr. Abdullah said in an interview after a tumultuous day campaigning in Herat, in western Afghanistan, adding that his momentum was just building. “Today they are hopeful that change can come.”

Mr. Karzai is still widely considered the front-runner in the campaign for the Aug. 20 presidential election. But Dr. Abdullah, who has the backing of the largest opposition group, the National Front, is the one candidate among the field of 41 who has a chance of forcing Mr. Karzai into a runoff, a contest between the top two vote-getters if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes in the first balloting.

Already well known among most Afghans, Dr. Abdullah, 48, an ophthalmologist, has a background that includes years of resistance to Soviet and Taliban rule as well as a crucial role in the formation of the new democratic government after the American intervention.

A dapper dresser, wearing traditional Afghan clothes under a variety of Western tailored jackets, he combines solidarity with the former resistance fighters with the moderation of the Afghan intellectual, giving him potentially broad appeal.

After serving as foreign minister in Mr. Karzai’s government for five years, he left in 2006 and has since become a strong critic of the president’s leadership. He refused an offer to become Mr. Karzai’s running mate, and he contends that the president practices a policy of divide and rule that has polarized the country.

Today, Dr. Abdullah, with a diplomat and a surgeon as his running mates, is seen as part of a younger generation of Afghans keen to move away from the nation’s reliance on warlords and older mujahedeen leaders and to clean up and recast the practice of governing.

To do that, he advocates the devolution of power from the strong presidency built up under Mr. Karzai to a parliamentary system that he says will be more representative. He is also calling for a system of electing officials for Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and nearly 400 districts as a way to build support for the government.

Those provincial governors are now appointed from Kabul, and many have been criticized for cronyism and corruption. Influential Shiite clerics here in Herat, who supported Mr. Karzai in the last election in 2004, are now so fed up with corrupt appointees that they have said they will back Dr. Abdullah this time.

Re-engaging the people is essential to reverse the lawlessness and insecurity that have reached a critical point in much of the country, Dr. Abdullah said. “They have managed to lose the people,” he said of the current government. “In fighting an insurgency, you lose the people and you lose the war.”

Before several thousand people in Herat’s sports stadium, he raised the biggest cheer with his promise to build up Afghan institutions so that foreign troops could go home soon.

He also promised to curb the rampant corruption and review foreign assistance programs to ensure that they focused on grass-roots development and addressed poverty and unemployment. In his public meetings, he emphasized support for the rights of women, the unemployed, the disabled and the victims of war.

He said he would work seriously toward reconciliation with the Taliban, calling the current process a “joke.” Yet in an interview he retained his longtime opposition to the Taliban leadership and said he doubted that the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, was ready to negotiate for peace.

This is only the second national presidential election in Afghanistan’s history, and political analysts warn that it is virtually impossible to predict how the election will go or to read voters’ intentions. Diplomats calculating the numbers of the various factions that have come out in support of Mr. Karzai say that he will just scrape back in, thanks largely to the support from the largest ethnic group, his fellow Pashtuns.

Yet two opinion polls conducted this year suggested that Mr. Karzai had lost considerable support since his 2004 victory with 55 percent of the vote. One of those polls, conducted in May by the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit pro-democracy group, showed that Mr. Karzai’s support was down to 31 percent. While only 7 percent said they would vote for Dr. Abdullah, the poll indicated that the election would have to go to a second round.

People interviewed in Herat also spoke of a shift in the public mood. “Karzai has governed for eight years and all the problems have increased, not decreased,” said Hosseini, 47, a farmer who uses one name and who traveled to the city to hear Dr. Abdullah speak.

Although Dr. Abdullah has significant support in the north and the large population centers, he will have difficulty campaigning in the south, where the insurgency makes movement virtually impossible.

And although he may tap into the desire for change after nearly eight years of Mr. Karzai’s rule, supporters and analysts say Mr. Karzai will still dominate in his Pashtun homeland in Kandahar, in the south.

Dr. Abdullah also claims heritage from Kandahar through his father, Ghulam Muhayuddine Khan, a Pashtun who was a senator in the 1970s. Yet he is far better known for his connection to the northern Panjshir Valley, through his mother and his close relationship with the famous resistance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, who fought both the Russian occupation and the Taliban.

Dr. Abdullah dismissed suggestions that he could not raise support in the Pashtun south and said that support for Mr. Karzai in the area had dropped drastically as security had worsened and more people had joined the insurgency. “Southern Afghanistan has nearly announced jihad against Karzai,” he said.
23253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: July 24, 2009, 08:34:07 AM
Greetings,

Am back in the thick of it.  The area of Sangin, in Helmand Province, is very dangerous.  British officers say there are more IEDs here than anywhere else in Afghanistan.  Many casualties from this immediate vicinity.  One soldier that I talked with today got knocked down two days ago by an IED.  I have to shout while talking with him.  He can hardly hear a thing.  He's been blasted four times: twice in Iraq, and that was his second time here.  Will be walking back into combat with him.

Am with an excellent British unit that I was with in Basra, Iraq.  Anticipate immediate combat.  Resupply helicopter was shot down here in last week or so, just near the perimeter.  Soldiers here saw the helicopter crash and burn, killing all aboard.  My helicopter flight made it in with no problems, but this remains a potentially hot LZ.

Meanwhile, please see the final photo-dispatch from Ghor Province.

Your support is crucial.

--
Very Respectfully,

Michael Yon
23254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 24, 2009, 02:27:18 AM
Interesting.

Is there any "health status insurance" currently available?
23255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: July 24, 2009, 02:25:22 AM
BBG: 

I particularly liked the Over-criminalization post(s).
23256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Inquiring minds want to know , , , on: July 24, 2009, 02:23:31 AM
Open Letter to President Obama on Healthcare and the Economy


Dear Mr. President,

Wednesday evening we heard you address the nation on health care and the economy. I was hoping to hear some tough answers to tough questions. Instead we were treated to one hour of tap dancing on eggshells where it seemed your primary intent was not to break any eggs.

You spoke of the need for sacrifices but failed to mention any. You said Medicare benefits would not be reduced and everyone would be covered.

Mr. President where are the sacrifices? By who? (sic)

The press seemed concerned with a fear of rationed health care. Some republicans have raised the issue as well.

Mr. President I am concerned there will be no rationing of health care. It is axiomatic that there is unlimited demand for free services.

Here are some tougher questions I am sure everyone would like to know.



Will the plan cover a transplant procedure with a $50,000 cost for someone who is 80 years old with a life expectancy of two years? One year? Who decides? Or is everything free for everyone regardless of the odds of success?

Will the plan cover fertility treatments? Abortion?
Will the plan address issues that arose in the Terri Schiavo case?
To what extent must doctors provide generics instead of prescription drugs?


Mr. President, is health care free or subsidized for illegal aliens? Aren't free services one of the primary reasons we have such a problem in the first place?

Mr. President, unless something is done to rein in costs taxpayers will be footing the bill for a lot of things they shouldn't. In every country that has a single payer system, there is some degree of rationing.

Somehow you have us believe benefits will not be reduced, everything will be covered for everyone, there will be no rationing and somehow health care will cost less because of reduced paperwork. Mr. President, no one believes that, not even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Mr. President, to prevent costs from spiraling out of control rationing is mandatory. Unfortunately, you do not have the courage to admit it. Yet until you do, it can't happen.

Mr. President, a heart operation in the US might cost $100,000 whereas the same operation in India, in a world class hospital might cost $20,000. Will we fly people to India for non-emergency medical operations if they save taxpayer money? If not, why not? Shouldn't the primary concern be getting the most benefits for the least cost?

Mr. President, you noted that the AARP and doctor's groups were in favor of your plan. You failed to mention the $245 billion "sweetener" it took to get them to do so. Moreover, you did not even count that $245 billion while calling your plan "budget neutral".

Mr. President, with numerous states blowing up over the issue, it should be clear the US cannot afford the defined benefit programs promised government workers. Starting with Congress, what is your proposal pension reform?

Similarly, when does Congress share the pain of this recession?

Mr. President, you called the cancellation of additional F-22 planes a victory. This strikes me as odd given the Pentagon does not even want more of them. Why is canceling a military program that the military does not want such a big victory?

Mr. President, the savings on the F-22 program is $2 billion. The 2010 Pentagon budget is $534 billion, a $21 billion, four percent increase over 2009. Total defense spending is $780 billion. Mr. President, is this sustainable?

Mr. President, history is replete with examples of great nations spending themselves into oblivion attempting to maintain their empires. It should be crystal clear the US can no longer afford to be the world's policeman. So, Mr. President, when will you start bringing the troops home from Europe, Japan, and the Mid-East?

Mr. President, I did not vote for you nor did I vote for Senator McCain. I voted for Ron Paul. However, I did expect and frequently said that I expected you to get some things correct.

Instead, I see you carrying out the same failed stimulus and bailout plans of President Bush. You promised transparency on spending and did not deliver.

The proposal to Audit The Fed is languishing in Congress even though it has overwhelming support of both Congress and the public. You broke a promise to release details of military torture. Where are significant charges against anyone? I was positive you would handle the torture issue correctly, but I was wrong.

Mr. President, you placed your faith in the same set of folks at the Fed and Treasury as President Bush, in spite of the fact they all failed to see this coming.

Mr. President it frequently appears as if Goldman Sachs is running your administration just as it ran the last.

Mr. President, other than a sketchy health care plane with no details and no cost constraints, exactly what change have you delivered?

Thank you Mr. President, now can we have some answers please?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
23257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 23, 2009, 05:34:17 PM
Isn't there a separation of powers issue here too?
23258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tw questions on: July 23, 2009, 05:12:35 PM
Question 1: What is done and what should be done about people with pre-existing conditions looking for health care?

Question 2:  Is/should an insurance company be allowed to discontinue someone who develops a problem?
23259  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: July 23, 2009, 12:58:38 PM
Ryoga Vee of Baltic Dog's Bay Area Clan of the DBs is now registered.
23260  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Not sure what to make of this , , , on: July 23, 2009, 12:52:23 PM
Hello,

My name is Kristen and I am a Casting Producer for the ABC hit reality show 'Wife Swap.' We are currently casting for our fifth season and we are looking for Ultimate Fighters and their families. We want to feature a family with at least one member is on or dreams of being on UFC Circuit. We think this is a great opportunity to feature the sport and have fun for the whole family.

The premise of Wife Swap is simple: for seven days, two wives from two different families with very different values exchange husbands, children and lives (but not bedrooms) to discover what it's like to live a different family's life. It's an interesting social experiment and a great way to see your family in a whole new light. It is shot as a documentary series, so NO scripts and no set. It's just one camera that is documenting your life.

Families that appear on the show will receive a financial honorarium for lost wages, time and commitment. And if you refer a family that appears on the show you would receive $1000.Here at 'Wife Swap' we look for a two-parent home with at least one child between the ages of 6 and 17 living at home full time.

If you are interested, please email me your contact information and tell me a little about your family. Or if you would like to refer a family, please email me their contact information and I will be in touch.

Thank you!

Kristen Phelan

Casting Associate Producer
RDF Media USA
100 6th Ave, 3rd Floor,Suite 3-29
NY, NY 10013
P: 646.747.7936
E: Casting.Kristen@gmail.com

 
23261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison; Federalist 51 on: July 23, 2009, 10:00:26 AM
Good one there from Madison Freki.


"How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?" --James Madison

---------------------

"Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit."

--Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788
23262  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Study: 3 vs. 1 in BC on: July 21, 2009, 11:54:36 AM
Here's the second link I meant to post:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB3JUGqc5k4

For the moment I offer this to the mix:
===========


How long has fight been going on? What we see here is 2:10, but fight is already in progress. (interview sheds a bit of light) Once again we see importance of conditioning. Several minutes of adrenal pump against three guys out of the clear blue is not something any Joe Blow can do. Black Guy, a lefty (right lead) seems to have some experience with boxing lateral footwork. How many untrained people would produce this? Pretty good job of positioning so that only one White Guy can get to him at a time. Lack of will to close by WGs certainly helps. Is there anything he can do better?


0:51 Three abreast by WGs with stage right shut off presents B. with trouble for a moment. He must exert himself here. Good conditioning. Breaks left and is in empty parking space between two cars.

1:00 Shirt forces the range. Could B. have angled better here with Left Lead?

1:10 et seq. Would B. have been better continuing away from camera? Or is he trying to work his way home?

1:15 B. gets caught by left lead jab. Shirt loses shoe on kick.

1:17 How should B. have gotten up in this moment? As Wolf Pack closes, B. seems to think about a take down. Training? Instinctive?.

1:22 The dog (some sort of terrier?) which has been barking and randomly seen on camera throughout, gets within biting range. With his head on the other side of WG on ground, how aware is B. of dog? Good thing he doesn't actually bite!

1:30 Two cars enter scene. By accident or on purpose? Either way, this seems to tip WGs into leaving. Should B. have followed them at this point? As he approaches he catches a right hook at the car door AND he leaves his back to shirt (who has been putting his shoe back on.

1:36 Dog engages to little effect. Good thing he is too short to bite B's genitals.

1:40 B. declares that this is his turf? Shirt, shoe now on, starts to approach but his buds are ready to leave and call their dog into truck at 1:49

1:57 Fat woman approaches? Known? Unknown? If unknown, how should B handle her at this point?
 
 
 

23263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 21, 2009, 10:37:04 AM
By the way, speaking of Cheney CCP, remember how the Dems and the Pravdas went after him for "secret meetings with Big Oil"?

Where are they now that Big Pharma and His Glibness are meeting in private to discuss the health care plan?
23264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: July 21, 2009, 10:34:15 AM
I see that Hillary made a phone call to the Honduran president telling him he better negotiate with the wannabe strongman that they threw out or we will cut off all sorts of aid. 

I'm so glad we elected His Glibness and no longer interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
23265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: July 21, 2009, 08:13:58 AM
"The best and only safe road to honor, glory, and true dignity is justice."

--George Washington letter to Marquis de Lafayette, September 30, 1779
23266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sun spots on: July 21, 2009, 07:53:22 AM

ANOTHER VIEW These photographs show an ultraviolet view of the Sun on the same days: July 19, 2000, left, and March 18, 2009, right. Most solar physicists do not think anything odd is going on with the Sun.

Ever since Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, a German astronomer, first noted in 1843 that sunspots burgeon and wane over a roughly 11-year cycle, scientists have carefully watched the Sun’s activity. In the latest lull, the Sun should have reached its calmest, least pockmarked state last fall.

Indeed, last year marked the blankest year of the Sun in the last half-century — 266 days with not a single sunspot visible from Earth. Then, in the first four months of 2009, the Sun became even more blank, the pace of sunspots slowing more.

“It’s been as dead as a doornail,” David Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said a couple of months ago.

The Sun perked up in June and July, with a sizeable clump of 20 sunspots earlier this month.

Now it is blank again, consistent with expectations that this solar cycle will be smaller and calmer, and the maximum of activity, expected to arrive in May 2013 will not be all that maximum.

For operators of satellites and power grids, that is good news. The same roiling magnetic fields that generate sunspot blotches also accelerate a devastating rain of particles that can overload and wreck electronic equipment in orbit or on Earth.

A panel of 12 scientists assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now predicts that the May 2013 peak will average 90 sunspots during that month. That would make it the weakest solar maximum since 1928, which peaked at 78 sunspots. During an average solar maximum, the Sun is covered with an average of 120 sunspots.

But the panel’s consensus “was not a unanimous decision,” said Douglas A. Biesecker, chairman of the panel. One member still believed the cycle would roar to life while others thought the maximum would peter out at only 70.

Among some global warming skeptics, there is speculation that the Sun may be on the verge of falling into an extended slumber similar to the so-called Maunder Minimum, several sunspot-scarce decades during the 17th and 18th centuries that coincided with an extended chilly period.

Most solar physicists do not think anything that odd is going on with the Sun. With the recent burst of sunspots, “I don’t see we’re going into that,” Dr. Hathaway said last week.

Still, something like the Dalton Minimum — two solar cycles in the early 1800s that peaked at about an average of 50 sunspots — lies in the realm of the possible, Dr. Hathaway said. (The minimums are named after scientists who helped identify them: Edward W. Maunder and John Dalton.)

With better telescopes on the ground and a fleet of Sun-watching spacecraft, solar scientists know a lot more about the Sun than ever before. But they do not understand everything. Solar dynamo models, which seek to capture the dynamics of the magnetic field, cannot yet explain many basic questions, not even why the solar cycles average 11 years in length.

Predicting the solar cycle is, in many ways, much like predicting the stock market. A full understanding of the forces driving solar dynamics is far out of reach, so scientists look to key indicators that correlate with future events and create models based on those.

For example, in 2006, Dr. Hathaway looked at the magnetic fields in the polar regions of the Sun, and they were strong. During past cycles, strong polar fields at minimum grew into strong fields all over the Sun at maximum and a bounty of sunspots. Because the previous cycle had been longer than average, Dr. Hathaway thought the next one would be shorter and thus solar minimum was imminent. He predicted the new solar cycle would be a ferocious one.

Instead, the new cycle did not arrive as quickly as Dr. Hathaway anticipated, and the polar field weakened. His revised prediction is for a smaller-than-average maximum. Last November, it looked like the new cycle was finally getting started, with the new cycle sunspots in the middle latitudes outnumbering the old sunspots of the dying cycle that are closer to the equator.

After a minimum, solar activity usually takes off quickly, but instead the Sun returned to slumber. “There was a long lull of several months of virtually no activity, which had me worried,” Dr. Hathaway said.


======================
Page 2 of 2)


The idea that solar cycles are related to climate is hard to fit with the actual change in energy output from the sun. From solar maximum to solar minimum, the Sun’s energy output drops a minuscule 0.1 percent.

But the overlap of the Maunder Minimum with the Little Ice Age, when Europe experienced unusually cold weather, suggests that the solar cycle could have more subtle influences on climate.

One possibility proposed a decade ago by Henrik Svensmark and other scientists at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen looks to high-energy interstellar particles known as cosmic rays. When cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere, they break apart air molecules into ions and electrons, which causes water and sulfuric acid in the air to stick together in tiny droplets. These droplets are seeds that can grow into clouds, and clouds reflect sunlight, potentially lowering temperatures.

The Sun, the Danish scientists say, influences how many cosmic rays impinge on the atmosphere and thus the number of clouds. When the Sun is frenetic, the solar wind of charged particles it spews out increases. That expands the cocoon of magnetic fields around the solar system, deflecting some of the cosmic rays.

But, according to the hypothesis, when the sunspots and solar winds die down, the magnetic cocoon contracts, more cosmic rays reach Earth, more clouds form, less sunlight reaches the ground, and temperatures cool.

“I think it’s an important effect,” Dr. Svensmark said, although he agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has certainly contributed to recent warming.

Dr. Svensmark and his colleagues found a correlation between the rate of incoming cosmic rays and the coverage of low-level clouds between 1984 and 2002. They have also found that cosmic ray levels, reflected in concentrations of various isotopes, correlate well with climate extending back thousands of years.

But other scientists found no such pattern with higher clouds, and some other observations seem inconsistent with the hypothesis.

Terry Sloan, a cosmic ray expert at the University of Lancaster in England, said if the idea were true, one would expect the cloud-generation effect to be greatest in the polar regions where the Earth’s magnetic field tends to funnel cosmic rays.

“You’d expect clouds to be modulated in the same way,” Dr. Sloan said. “We can’t find any such behavior.”

Still, “I would think there could well be some effect,” he said, but he thought the effect was probably small. Dr. Sloan’s findings indicate that the cosmic rays could at most account for 20 percent of the warming of recent years.

Even without cosmic rays, however, a 0.1 percent change in the Sun’s energy output is enough to set off El Niño- and La Niña-like events that can influence weather around the world, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Climate modeling showed that over the largely cloud-free areas of the Pacific Ocean, the extra heating over several years warms the water, increasing evaporation. That intensifies the tropical storms and trade winds in the eastern Pacific, and the result is cooler-than-normal waters, as in a La Niña event, the scientists reported this month in the Journal of Climate.

In a year or two, the cool water pattern evolves into a pool of El Niño-like warm water, the scientists said.

New instruments should provide more information for scientists to work with. A 1.7-meter telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in Southern California is up and running, and one of its first photographs shows “a string of pearls,” each about 50 miles across.

“At that scale, they can only be the fundamental fibril structure of the Sun’s magnetic field,” said Philip R. Goode, director of the solar observatory. Other telescopes may have caught hints of these tiny structures, he said, but “never so many in a row and not so clearly resolved.”

Sun-watching spacecraft cannot match the acuity of ground-based telescopes, but they can see wavelengths that are blocked by the atmosphere — and there are never any clouds in the way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s newest sun-watching spacecraft, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is scheduled for launching this fall, will carry an instrument that will essentially be able to take sonograms that deduce the convection flows generating the magnetic fields.

That could help explain why strong magnetic fields sometimes coalesce into sunspots and why sometimes the strong fields remain disorganized without forming spots. The mechanics of how solar storms erupt out of a sunspot are also not fully understood.

A quiet cycle is no guarantee no cataclysmic solar storms will occur. The largest storm ever observed occurred in 1859, during a solar cycle similar to what is predicted.

Back then, it scrambled telegraph wires. Today, it could knock out an expanse of the power grid from Maine south to Georgia and west to Illinois. Ten percent of the orbiting satellites would be disabled. A study by the National Academy of Sciences calculated the damage would exceed a trillion dollars.

But no one can quite explain the current behavior or reliably predict the future.

“We still don’t quite understand this beast,” Dr. Hathaway said. “The theories we had for how the sunspot cycle works have major problems.”
23267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Iqbal case makes for important changes on: July 21, 2009, 07:23:27 AM
The most consequential decision of the Supreme Court’s last term got only a little attention when it landed in May. And what attention it got was for the wrong reason.

But the lower courts have certainly understood the significance of the decision, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which makes it much easier for judges to dismiss civil lawsuits right after they are filed. They have cited it more than 500 times in just the last two months.

“Iqbal is the most significant Supreme Court decision in a decade for day-to-day litigation in the federal courts,” said Thomas C. Goldstein, an appellate lawyer with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington.

On its face, the Iqbal decision concerned the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The court ruled that a Muslim man swept up on immigration charges could not sue two Bush administration officials for what he said was the terrible abuse he suffered in detention.

But something much deeper and broader was going on in the decision, something that may unsettle how civil litigation is conducted in the United States. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented from the decision, told a group of federal judges last month that the ruling was both important and dangerous. “In my view,” Justice Ginsburg said, “the court’s majority messed up the federal rules” governing civil litigation.

For more than half a century, it has been clear that all a plaintiff had to do to start a lawsuit was to file what the rules call “a short and plain statement of the claim” in a document called a complaint. Having filed such a bare-bones complaint, plaintiffs were entitled to force defendants to open their files and submit to questioning under oath.

This approach, particularly when coupled with the American requirement that each side pay its own lawyers no matter who wins, gave plaintiffs settlement leverage. Just by filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff could subject a defendant to great cost and inconvenience in the pre-trial fact-finding process called discovery.

Mark Herrmann, a corporate defense lawyer with Jones Day in Chicago, said the Iqbal decision will allow for the dismissal of cases that would otherwise have subjected defendants to millions of dollars in discovery costs. On the other hand, information about wrongdoing is often secret. Plaintiffs claiming they were the victims of employment discrimination, a defective product, an antitrust conspiracy or a policy of harsh treatment in detention may not know exactly who harmed them and how before filing suit. But plaintiffs can learn valuable information during discovery.

The Iqbal decision now requires plaintiffs to come forward with concrete facts at the outset, and it instructs lower court judges to dismiss lawsuits that strike them as implausible.

“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority, “requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”

Note those words: Plausible. Common sense.

The old world was mechanical. A lawsuit that mouthed the required words was off and running. As the Supreme Court said in 1957 in Conley v. Gibson, a lawsuit should be allowed to go forward “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Things started to change two years ago, when the Supreme Court found a complaint in an antitrust suit implausible.

In the new world, after Iqbal, a lawsuit has to satisfy a skeptical judicial gatekeeper.

“It obviously licenses highly subjective judgments,” said Stephen B. Burbank, an authority on civil procedure at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “This is a blank check for federal judges to get rid of cases they disfavor.”

Courts applying Iqbal have been busy. A federal judge in Connecticut dismissed a disability discrimination suit this month, saying that Iqbal required her to treat the plaintiff’s assertions as implausible. A few days later, the federal appeals court in New York dismissed a breach of contract and securities fraud suit after concluding that its account of the defendants’ asserted wrongdoing was too speculative.

The judge hearing the claims of the falsely accused Duke lacrosse players has asked for briefing on whether their lawsuit against Durham, N.C., can pass muster under Iqbal. But the judge considering a case against John C. Yoo, the former Bush administration lawyer, said it could move forward despite Iqbal because the suit contained specific allegations about Mr. Yoo’s conduct in justifying the use of harsh interrogation methods.

In the Iqbal case itself, Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani Muslim who was working as a cable television installer on Long Island, said he was subjected to intrusive searches and vicious beatings after being arrested on identity fraud charges two months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Justice Kennedy said Mr. Iqbal’s suit against two officials had not cleared the plausibility bar. All Mr. Iqbal’s complaint plausibly suggested, Justice Kennedy wrote, “is that the nation’s top law enforcement officers, in the aftermath of a devastating terrorist attack, sought to keep suspected terrorists in the most secure conditions available.”

Justice David H. Souter, said the majority had adopted a crabbed view of plausibility and had in the process upended the civil litigation system.

In his dissent in Iqbal, Justice Souter wrote that judges should accept the accusations in a complaint as true “no matter how skeptical the court may be.”

“The sole exception to this rule,” Justice Souter continued, “lies with allegations that are sufficiently fantastic to defy reality as we know it: claims about little green men, or the plaintiff’s recent trip to Pluto, or experiences in time travel.”

But that is no longer the law. Under the Iqbal decision, federal judges will now decide at the very start of a litigation whether the plaintiff’s accusations ring true, and they will close the courthouse door if they do not.
23268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Home Burial on: July 21, 2009, 07:19:22 AM
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — When Nathaniel Roe, 92, died at his 18th-century farmhouse here the morning of June 6, his family did not call a funeral home to handle the arrangements.


The home funeral for Nathaniel Roe, 92, who died in Peterborough, N.H., on June 6. His family handled the arrangements.

Instead, Mr. Roe’s children, like a growing number of people nationwide, decided to care for their father in death as they had in the last months of his life. They washed Mr. Roe’s body, dressed him in his favorite Harrods tweed jacket and red Brooks Brothers tie and laid him on a bed so family members could privately say their last goodbyes.

The next day, Mr. Roe was placed in a pine coffin made by his son, along with a tuft of wool from the sheep he once kept. He was buried on his farm in a grove off a walking path he traversed each day.

“It just seemed like the natural, loving way to do things,” said Jennifer Roe-Ward, Mr. Roe’s granddaughter. “It let him have his dignity.”

Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.

The cost savings can be substantial, all the more important in an economic downturn. The average American funeral costs about $6,000 for the services of a funeral home, in addition to the costs of cremation or burial. A home funeral can be as inexpensive as the cost of pine for a coffin (for a backyard burial) or a few hundred dollars for cremation or several hundred dollars for cemetery costs.

The Roes spent $250.

More people are inquiring about the lower-cost options, said Joshua Slocum, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit watchdog group. “Home funerals aren’t for everybody, but if there’s not enough money to pay the mortgage, there certainly isn’t enough money to pay for a funeral,” Mr. Slocum said.

Baby boomers who are handling arrangements for the first time are particularly looking for a more intimate experience.

“It’s organic and informal, and it’s on our terms,” said Nancy Manahan of Minneapolis, who helped care for her sister-in-law, Diane Manahan, after she died of cancer in 2001, and was a co-author of a book, “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully,” about the experience. “It’s not having strangers intruding into the privacy of the family. It’s not outsourcing the dying process to professionals.”

While only a tiny portion of the nation’s dead are cared for at home, the number is growing. There are at least 45 organizations or individuals nationwide that help families with the process, compared with only two in 2002, Mr. Slocum said.

The cost of a death midwife, as some of the coaches call themselves, varies from about $200 for an initial consultation to $3,000 if the midwife needs to travel.

In Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York, laws require that a funeral director handle human remains at some point in the process. In the 44 other states and the District of Columbia, loved ones can be responsible for the body themselves.

Families are typically required to obtain the death certificate and a burial transit permit so the body can be moved from a hospital to a cemetery, or, more typically, a crematory.

But even in states where a funeral director is required, home funerals are far less expensive.

“I think with our economy being the way that it currently is, and it’s getting worse, that many people who may not have chosen to do these types of things may be forced to because of the finances,” said Verlene McLemore, of Detroit, who held a home funeral for her son, Dean, in 2007. She spent about $1,300 for a funeral director’s services.

Some families, like the Roes, choose burial on private land, with a town permit. In most states, those rules are an issue of local control. “Can Grandma be buried in the backyard? Yes, for the most part if the backyard is rural or semirural,” said Mr. Slocum.

(Some members of Michael Jackson’s family have spoken of making Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara the singer’s final resting place, but officials say no one has submitted an application to the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, which would have to approve the home burial.)

Recently, some states, with the backing of the funeral industry, have considered restricting the practice of home funerals. Oregon legislators last month passed a bill that would require death midwives to be licensed, something no state currently does.

Many death midwives are like Jerrigrace Lyons, who was asked to participate in the home funeral of a close friend, a 54-year-old woman who died unexpectedly in 1994. Ms. Lyons was initially frightened at the prospect of handling the body, but she participated anyway.

The experience was life changing, she said, and inspired her to help others plan home funerals. She opened Final Passages in Sebastopol, Calif., in 1995 and said she had helped more than 300 families with funerals. Weekend workshops for those interested in home funerals have a waiting list.

Ms. Lyons educates the bereaved about the realities of after-death care: placing dry ice underneath the body to keep it cool, tying the jaw shut so it does not open.

Mr. Lakin, a woodworker, makes coffins specifically for home funerals. Ranging in price from $480 to $1,200, they double as bookcases, entertainment centers and coffee tables until they need to be used.

He became interested in home funerals after his father died 30 years ago and he felt there was a “disconnect” during the funeral process. Mr. Lakin is now a resource for funeral directors in central Maine and a local hospice.

His coffins are sold to people like Ginny Landry, 77, who wants a home funeral one day but is content to use her coffin to showcase the quilts she makes. It once stood in her bedroom, but her husband, Rudolph, made her move it to a guest room because he pictured her in the coffin every time he laid eyes on it.

“It’s very comforting to me, knowing I have it there so my children won’t have to make a decision as to where I’m going to go,” Ms. Landry said.

During her battle with cancer, Diane Manahan also requested a home funeral, and the family did not know then how much it would help them with their grief.

“There’s something about touching, watching, sitting with a body that lets you know the person is no longer there,” Nancy Manahan said. “We didn’t even realize how emotionally meaningful those rituals are, doing it ourselves, until we did it.”
23269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / G. Friedman: Iran-Russia? on: July 20, 2009, 04:25:31 PM
At Friday prayers July 17 at Tehran University, the influential cleric and former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gave his first sermon since Iran’s disputed presidential election and the subsequent demonstrations. The crowd listening to Rafsanjani inside the mosque was filled with Ahmadinejad supporters who chanted, among other things, “Death to America” and “Death to China.” Outside the university common grounds, anti-Ahmadinejad elements — many of whom were blocked by Basij militiamen and police from entering the mosque — persistently chanted “Death to Russia.”

Death to America is an old staple in Iran. Death to China had to do with the demonstrations in Xinjiang and the death of Uighurs at the hands of the Chinese. Death to Russia, however, stood out. Clearly, its use was planned before the protesters took to the streets. The meaning of this must be uncovered. To begin to do that, we must consider the political configuration in Iran at the moment.

The Iranian Political Configuration
There are two factions claiming to speak for the people. Rafsanjani represents the first faction. During his sermon, he spoke for the tradition of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who took power during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Rafjsanjani argued that Khomeini wanted an Islamic republic faithful to the will of the people, albeit within the confines of Islamic law. Rafsanjani argued that he was the true heir to the Islamic revolution. He added that Khomeini’s successor — the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — had violated the principles of the revolution when he accepted that Rafsanjani’s archenemy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had won Iran’s recent presidential election. (There is enormous irony in foreigners describing Rafsanjani as a moderate reformer who supports greater liberalization. Though he has long cultivated this image in the West, in 30 years of public political life it is hard to see a time when has supported Western-style liberal democracy.)

The other faction is led by Ahmadinejad, who takes the position that Rafsanjani in particular — along with the generation of leaders who ascended to power during the first phase of the Islamic republic — has betrayed the Iranian people. Rather than serving the people, Ahmadinejad claims they have used their positions to become so wealthy that they dominate the Iranian economy and have made the reforms needed to revitalize the Iranian economy impossible. According to Ahmadinejad’s charges, these elements now blame Ahmadinejad for Iran’s economic failings when the root of these failings is their own corruption. Ahmadinejad claims that the recent presidential election represents a national rejection of the status quo. He adds that claims of fraud represent attempts by Rafsanjani — who he portrays as defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi’s sponsor — and his ilk to protect their positions from Ahmadinejad.

Iran is therefore experiencing a generational dispute, with each side claiming to speak both for the people and for the Khomeini tradition. There is the older generation — symbolized by Rafsanjani — that has prospered during the last 30 years. Having worked with Khomeini, this generation sees itself as his true heir. Then, there is the younger generation. Known as “students” during the revolution, this group did the demonstrating and bore the brunt of the shah’s security force counterattacks. It argues that Khomeini would be appalled at what Rafsanjani and his generation have done to Iran.

This debate is, of course, more complex than this. Khamenei, a key associate of Khomeini, appears to support Ahmadinejad’s position. And Ahmadinejad hardly speaks for all of the poor as he would like to claim. The lines of political disputes are never drawn as neatly as we would like. Ultimately, Rafsanjani’s opposition to the recent election did not have as much to do with concerns (valid or not) over voter fraud. It had everything to do with the fact that the outcome threatened his personal position. Which brings us back to the question of why Rafsanjani’s followers were chanting “Death to Russia”?

Examining the Anomalous Chant
For months prior to the election, Ahmadinejad’s allies warned that the United States was planning a “color” revolution. Color revolutions, like the one in Ukraine, occurred widely in the former Soviet Union after its collapse, and these revolutions followed certain steps. An opposition political party was organized to mount an electoral challenge the establishment. Then, an election occurred that was either fraudulent or claimed by the opposition as having been fraudulent. Next, widespread peaceful protests against the regime (all using a national color as the symbol of the revolution) took place, followed by the collapse of the government through a variety of paths. Ultimately, the opposition — which was invariably pro-Western and particularly pro-American — took power.

Moscow openly claimed that Western intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, organized and funded the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine. These agencies allegedly used nongovernmental organizations (human rights groups, pro-democracy groups, etc.) to delegitimize the existing regime, repudiate the outcome of the election regardless of its validity and impose what the Russians regarded as a pro-American puppet regime. The Russians saw Ukraine’s Orange Revolution as the break point in their relationship with the West, with the creation of a pro-American, pro-NATO regime in Ukraine representing a direct attack on Russian national security. The Americans argued that to the contrary, they had done nothing but facilitate a democratic movement that opposed the existing regime for its own reasons, demanding that rigged elections be repudiated.

In warning that the United States was planning a color revolution in Iran, Ahmadinejad took the Russian position. Namely, he was arguing that behind the cover of national self-determination, human rights and commitment to democratic institutions, the United States was funding an Iranian opposition movement on the order of those active in the former Soviet Union. Regardless of whether the opposition actually had more votes, this opposition movement would immediately regard an Ahmadinejad win as the result of fraud. Large demonstrations would ensue, and if they were left unopposed the Islamic republic would come under threat.

In doing this, Ahmadinejad’s faction positioned itself against the actuality that such a rising would occur. If it did, Ahmadinejad could claim that the demonstrators were — wittingly or not — operating on behalf of the United States, thus delegitimizing the demonstrators. In so doing, he could discredit supporters of the demonstrators as not tough enough on the United States, a useful charge against Rafsanjani, whom the West long has held up as an Iranian moderate.

Interestingly, while demonstrations were at their height, Ahmadinejad chose to attend — albeit a day late — a multinational Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference in Moscow on the Tuesday after the election. It was very odd that he would leave Iran during the greatest postelection unrest; we assumed he had decided to demonstrate to Iranians that he didn’t take the demonstrations seriously.

The charge that seems to be emerging on the Rafsanjani side is that Ahmadinejad’s fears of a color revolution were not simply political, but were encouraged by the Russians. It was the Russians who had been talking to Ahmadinejad and his lieutenants on a host of issues, who warned him about the possibility of a color revolution. More important, the Russians helped prepare Ahmadinejad for the unrest that would come — and given the Russian experience, how to manage it. Though we speculate here, if this theory is correct, it could explain some of the efficiency with which Ahmadinejad shut down cell phone and other communications during the postelection unrest, as he may have had Russian advisers.

Rafsanjani’s followers were not shouting “Death to Russia” without a reason, at least in their own minds. They are certainly charging that Ahmadinejad took advice from the Russians, and went to Russia in the midst of political unrest for consultations. Rafsanjani’s charge may or may not be true. Either way, there is no question that Ahmadinejad did claim that the United States was planning a color revolution in Iran. If he believed that charge, it would have been irrational not to reach out to the Russians. But whether or not the CIA was involved, the Russians might well have provided Ahmadinejad with intelligence of such a plot and helped shape his response, and thereby may have created a closer relationship with him.

How Iran’s internal struggle will work itself out remains unclear. But one dimension is shaping up: Ahmadinejad is trying to position Rafsanjani as leading a pro-American faction intent on a color revolution, while Rafsanjani is trying to position Ahmadinejad as part of a pro-Russian faction. In this argument, the claim that Ahmadinejad had some degree of advice or collaboration with the Russians is credible, just as the claim that Rafsanjani maintained some channels with the Americans is credible. And this makes an internal dispute geopolitically significant.

The Iranian Struggle in a Geopolitical Context
At the moment, Ahmadinejad appears to have the upper hand. Khamenei has certified his re-election. The crowds have dissipated; nothing even close to the numbers of the first few days has since materialized. For Ahmadinejad to lose, Rafsanjani would have to mobilize much of the clergy — many of whom are seemingly content to let Rafsanjani be the brunt of Ahmadinejad’s attacks — in return for leaving their own interests and fortunes intact. There are things that could bring Ahmadinejad down and put Rafsanjani in control, but all of them would require Khamenei to endorse social and political instability, which he will not do.

If the Russians have in fact intervened in Iran to the extent of providing intelligence to Ahmadinejad and advice to him during his visit on how to handle the postelection unrest (as the chants suggest), then Russian influence in Iran is not surging — it has surged. In some measure, Ahmadinejad would owe his position to Russian warnings and advice. There is little gratitude in the world of international affairs, but Ahmadinejad has enemies, and the Russians would have proved their utility in helping contain those enemies.

From the Russian point of view, Ahmadinejad would be a superb asset — even if not truly under their control. His very existence focuses American attention on Iran, not on Russia. It follows, then, that Russia would have made a strategic decision to involve itself in the postelection unrest, and that for the purposes of its own negotiations with Washington, Moscow will follow through to protect the Iranian state to the extent possible. The Russians have already denied U.S. requests for assistance on Iran. But if Moscow has intervened in Iran to help safeguard Ahmadinejad’s position, then the potential increases for Russia to provide Iran with the S-300 strategic air defense systems that it has been dangling in front of Tehran for more than a decade.

If the United States perceives an entente between Moscow and Tehran emerging, then the entire dynamic of the region shifts and the United States must change its game. The threat to Washington’s interests becomes more intense as the potential of a Russian S-300 sale to Iran increases, and the need to disrupt the Russian-Iranian entente would become all the more important. U.S. influence in Iran already has declined substantially, and Ahmadinejad is more distrustful and hostile than ever of the United States after having to deal with the postelection unrest. If a Russian-Iranian entente emerges out of all this — which at the moment is merely a possibility, not an imminent reality — then the United States would have some serious strategic problems on its hands.

Revisiting Assumptions on Iran
For the past few years, STRATFOR has assumed that a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran was unlikely. Iran was not as advanced in its nuclear program as some claimed, and the complexities of any attack were greater than assumed. The threat of an attack was thus a U.S. bargaining chip, much as Iran’s nuclear program itself was an Iranian bargaining chip for use in achieving Tehran’s objectives in Iraq and the wider region. To this point, our net assessment has been accurate.

At this point, however, we need to stop and reconsider. If Iran and Russia begin serious cooperation, Washington’s existing dilemma with Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its ongoing standoff with the Russians would fuse to become a single, integrated problem. This is something the United States would find difficult to manage. Washington’s primary goal would become preventing this from happening.

Ahmadinejad has long argued that the United States was never about to attack Iran, and that charges by Rafsanjani and others that he has pursued a reckless foreign policy were groundless. But with the “Death to Russia” chants and signaling of increased Russian support for Iran, the United States may begin to reconsider its approach to the region.

Iran’s clerical elite does not want to go to war. They therefore can only view with alarm the recent ostentatious transiting of the Suez Canal into the Red Sea by Israeli submarines and corvettes. This transiting did not happen without U.S. approval. Moreover, in spite of U.S. opposition to expanded Israeli settlements and Israeli refusals to comply with this opposition, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be visiting Israel in two weeks. The Israelis have said that there must be a deadline on negotiations with Iran over the nuclear program when the next G-8 meeting takes place in September; a deadline that the G-8 has already approved. The consequences if Iran ignores the deadline were left open-ended.

All of this can fit into our old model of psychological warfare, as representing a bid to manipulate Iranian politics by making Ahmadinejad’s leadership look too risky. It could also be the United States signaling the Russians that stakes in the region are rising. It is not clear that the United States has reconsidered its strategy on Iran in the wake of the postelection demonstrations. But if Rafsanjani’s claim of Russian support for Ahmadinejad is true, a massive re-evaluation of U.S. policy could ensue, assuming one hasn’t already started — prompting a reconsideration of the military option.

All of this assumes that there is substance behind a mob chanting “Death to Russia.” There appears to be, but of course, Ahmadinejad’s enemies would want to magnify that substance to its limits and beyond. This is why we are not ready to simply abandon our previous net assessment of Iran, even though it is definitely time to rethink it.

23270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CATO appeal on: July 20, 2009, 11:49:39 AM
second post of day

CATO Institute is a strong, high quality libertarian institute with a strong track record and a goodly amount of credibility.

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This Thursday we will begin airing six radio ads (one linked here) and a space ad in major newspapers (albeit in black and white) across the nation challenging the idea that government-run healthcare is a good thing.  As with our ads on the “stimulus” plan and climate change, we believe this campaign can have a major impact on the direction of the debate over healthcare.  Increasingly, the public is growing aware of the fact that Obama’s cost savings will come through rationing of healthcare options – from doctors to procedures.  As you can see, our budget for this campaign is $510,000.  Thus far we’ve raised just short of $200,000.  I’m asking for your support and that of other Cato Sponsors to make sure the entire program is funded.  Actually, I like to raise an additional $124,000 to run the ad in the Wall Street Journal.  As it is, the ad will run in the Washington Post and the New York Times this week.  The timing is perfect and the venues are appropriate.  I hope you’re in a position to help us.  Please click here to send your support online or send a (tax-deductible) check to Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Please note on the check that it is for the healthcare ad campaign. We can win this battle.
 
Cordially, Ed
23271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 20, 2009, 09:06:44 AM
It is only natural that the high numbers decline somewhat.  While I certainly hope that the trend continues and accelerates, IMHO it remains to be seen. 

Also worth noting is that the cowardice and incoherence of the Republican response is there for all to see.
23272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CCW Full Faith & Credit on: July 20, 2009, 09:04:29 AM
Please click on the link below to send a pre-formatted e-mail to your two Senators supporting this amendment now pending in the Senate. It may be voted on as early as TODAY.  The bill would allow concealed-carry in any state if a citizen has a permit to carry in their home state.  This takes only 30 seconds:

http://capwiz.com/gunowners/issues/alert/?alertid=13750856

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Obama's new Attorney General has already said this is one of his major issues.

 

This takes literally 2 clicks to complete. Please vote on this gun issue question with USA Today. It will only take a few seconds of your time.. Then pass the link on to all the pro gun folks you know. Hopefully these results will be published later this month. This upcoming year will become critical for gun owners with the Supreme Court accepting the District of Columbia case against the right for individuals to bear arms.
 

First - vote on this one.
 

Second - launch it to other folks and ask THEM vote.
 

Vote in the USA Today poll - click on the link below.
 

The Question is: "Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?"

Vote at link below and vote Yes!:  Please

USATODAY.com - Quick Question

Thanks,
Greg
23273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Prison Overhaul on: July 20, 2009, 08:17:15 AM
The NYT is often a suspect source, particularly on issues such as this one.  Caveat Lector
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BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — A sweeping United States military review calls for overhauling the troubled American-run prison here as well as the entire Afghan jail and judicial systems, a reaction to worries that abuses and militant recruiting within the prisons are helping to strengthen the Taliban.

In a further sign of high-level concern over detention practices, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a confidential message last week to all of the military service chiefs and senior field commanders asking them to redouble their efforts to alert troops to the importance of treating detainees properly.

The prison at this air base north of Kabul has become an ominous symbol for Afghans — a place where harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used routinely in its early years, and where two Afghan detainees died in 2002 after being beaten by American soldiers and hung by their arms from the ceiling of isolation cells.

Bagram also became a holding site for terrorism suspects captured outside Afghanistan and Iraq.

But even as treatment at Bagram improved in recent years, conditions worsened in the larger Afghan-run prison network, which houses more than 15,000 detainees at three dozen overcrowded and often violent sites. The country’s deeply flawed judicial system affords prisoners virtually no legal protections, human rights advocates say.

“Throughout Afghanistan, Afghans are arbitrarily detained by police, prosecutors, judges and detention center officials with alarming regularity,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report in January.

To help address these problems, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone of the Marines, credited with successfully revamping American detention practices in Iraq, was assigned to review all detention issues in Afghanistan. General Stone’s report, which has not been made public but is circulating among senior American officials, recommends separating extremist militants from more moderate detainees instead of having them mixed together as they are now, according to two American officials who have read or been briefed on his report. Under the new approach, the United States would help build and finance a new Afghan-run prison for the hard-core extremists who are now using the poorly run Afghan corrections system as a camp to train petty thieves and other common criminals to be deadly militants, the American officials said. The remaining inmates would be taught vocational skills and offered other classes, and they would be taught about moderate Islam with the aim of reintegrating them into society, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the review’s findings had not been publicly disclosed. The review also presses for training new Afghan prison guards, prosecutors and judges.

The recommendations come as American officials express fears that the notoriously overcrowded Afghan-run prisons will be overwhelmed by waves of new prisoners captured in the American-led offensive in southern Afghanistan, where thousands of Marines are battling Taliban fighters.

President Obama signed an executive order in January to review policy options for detention, interrogation and rendition.

The Defense and Justice Departments are leading two government task forces studying those issues and are scheduled to deliver reports to the president on Tuesday. But administration officials said Sunday that the task forces — which are grappling with questions like whether terrorism suspects should be turned over to other countries and how to deal with detainees who are thought to be dangerous but who cannot be brought to trial — were likely to seek extensions on some contentious issues.

Last month The Wall Street Journal reported elements of General Stone’s review, but in recent days American military officials provided a more detailed description of the report’s scope, findings and recommendations. A spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in Washington, Martin Austermuhle, said he was unaware of the review, and did not know if the government in Kabul had been apprised of it.

Admiral Mullen felt compelled to issue his message last week after viewing photographs documenting abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by American military personnel in the early years of the wars there, a senior military official said.  Mr. Obama decided in May not to make the photographs public, warning that the images could ignite a deadly backlash against American troops. The admiral urged top American field commanders to step up their efforts to ensure that prisoners were treated properly both at the point of capture and in military prisons. He told the service chiefs to emphasize detainee treatment when preparing and training troops who deploy to the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

“It is essential to who we are as a fighting force that we get this right,” Admiral Mullen said in the message. “We are better than what I saw in those pictures.”

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American officials say many of the changes that General Stone’s review recommends for Bagram are already in the works as part of the scheduled opening this fall of a 40-acre replacement complex that officials say will accommodate about 600 detainees in a more modern and humane setting.

The problems at the existing American-run prison, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, have been well documented. The prison is a converted aircraft hangar that still holds some of the decrepit aircraft-repair machinery left by the Soviet troops who occupied the country in the 1980s. Military personnel who know Bagram and the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers or the judicial process. Many are still held communally in big cages.
In the past two weeks, prisoners have refused to leave their cells to protest their indefinite imprisonment.

In 2005, the Bush administration began trying to scale back American involvement in detention operations in Afghanistan, mainly by transferring Bagram prisoners to an American-financed high-security prison outside of Kabul guarded by American-trained Afghan soldiers. But United States officials conceded that the new Afghan block, at Pul-i-Charkhi prison, could not absorb all the Bagram prisoners. It now holds about 4,300 detainees, including some 360 from Bagram or Guantánamo Bay, Afghan prison officials said.

Officials from the general directorate for prisons complained about the lack of detention space based on international standards in provinces of Afghanistan. They said most of those prisons were rented houses and not suitable for detention.

Gen. Safiullah Safi, commander of the Afghan National Army brigade responsible for the section of Pul-i-Charkhi that holds the transferred inmates from Bagram and Guantánamo Bay, said his part of the prison had maintained good order and followed Islamic cultural customs. But last December, detainees in the other blocks of the prison staged a revolt in an attempt to resist a security sweep for hidden weapons and cellphones. Eight inmates died.

“There’s a general concern that the Afghan national prisons need to be rehabilitated,” said Sahr MuhammedAlly, a senior associate for law and security at Human Rights First, an advocacy group that is to issue its own report on Bagram on Wednesday.
23274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 20, 2009, 08:09:08 AM
"Let justice be done though the heavens should fall."

--John Adams, letter to Elbridge Gerry, December 5, 1777
23275  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Drills on: July 19, 2009, 07:04:17 PM
Can I explain our "Prison Riot Drill"?

, , ,  drum roll , , ,

Yes I can.

 cheesy

, , , A little more seriously, it is both a warm up and a 360 multi-player training.
23276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rest in Peace on: July 19, 2009, 01:27:19 PM
Ex-Mossad chief Meir Amit dies at 88
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

General (res.) Meir Amit, the former head of the Mossad who is credited with modernizing Israel's feared intelligence agency, died on Friday. He was 88 years old.

Amit, who headed the organization from 1963 to 1968, also served as the head of the Israel Defense Forces intelligence branch.

Amit, who was born Meir Slutzki in the town of Tiberias, grew up in a family that identified with the pre-state Labor movement. At a young age, he joined Kibbutz Alonim in the lower Galilee and enlisted in the Haganah. During the War of Independence, he served as an officer and commanded a company of soldiers. Following the war, he decided to leave the kibbutz to pursue a military career. He said he had convinced himself that the army, not just the kibbutz, is vital for the young state.

He commanded infantry and armored corps units before rising through the ranks and becoming a trusted aide to then-chief of staff Moshe Dayan. The relationship between the two men grew closer over the years, and Amit came to be regarded as a protege of one of the country's most charismatic military heroes.

By the end of the 1950s, he was sent to Columbia University in New York, where he completed a degree in economics. Upon his return, he was appointed head of Military Intelligence.

In 1963, after then-prime minister David Ben Gurion forced Isser Harel to resign the top post at the Mossad, he named Amit to head the organization. Amit was the only figure in Israel's history to hold the position of Mossad chief and head of military intelligence at the same time. He remained in the IDF for nine months after being tapped to run the Mossad before leaving the military and focusing solely on heading the agency.

During his tenure, he introduced new modes of operation and oversaw the transfer of a special unit which coordinated espionage activity in Arab states from military intelligence to the Mossad. Amit also contributed to the Mossad's standing as a key intelligence organ whose precise information aided in Israel's victory in the Six-Day War.

On the eve of the war, he was sent on a secret mission to brief top U.S. administration officials. Upon his return, he reported to the government that, in contrast with the assessments given by then-foreign minister Abba Eban, the administration would not oppose a pre-emptive military strike against the Egyptian army.

Other notable achievements of his term included the theft of a Mig-21 which was flown into Israel by a deserting Iraqi pilot, his efforts to reach a peace agreement with Egypt, the contacts and aid provided to the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq, and the expansion of Mossad's cooperation with foreign spy agencies.

"Generations of Israelis, entire generations of children owe Meir Amit a debt of gratitude for his immense contribution - a large part which remains secret - in building the strength and deterrence of Israel," President Shimon Peres said in a statement. "He was a natural leader, whom people trusted, and at the same time he was a visionary for the state."
23277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Thomas Friedman: May we leave now? on: July 19, 2009, 01:23:42 PM
Marc: The Greg Mortenson book IMHO required reading for any serious student of the situation in Afg.

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

Thomas Friedman
Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No.

AfghanistanI confess, I find it hard to come to Afghanistan and not ask: Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban? Al Qaeda is gone. And if its leaders come back, well, that’s why God created cruise missiles.

But every time I start writing that column, something stills my hand. This week it was something very powerful. I watched Greg Mortenson, the famed author of “Three Cups of Tea,” open one of his schools for girls in this remote Afghan village in the Hindu Kush mountains. I must say, after witnessing the delight in the faces of those little Afghan girls crowded three to a desk waiting to learn, I found it very hard to write, “Let’s just get out of here.”

Indeed, Mortenson’s efforts remind us what the essence of the “war on terrorism” is about. It’s about the war of ideas within Islam — a war between religious zealots who glorify martyrdom and want to keep Islam untouched by modernity and isolated from other faiths, with its women disempowered, and those who want to embrace modernity, open Islam to new ideas and empower Muslim women as much as men. America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were, in part, an effort to create the space for the Muslim progressives to fight and win so that the real engine of change, something that takes nine months and 21 years to produce — a new generation — can be educated and raised differently.

Which is why it was no accident that Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — spent half a day in order to reach Mortenson’s newest school and cut the ribbon. Getting there was fun. Our Chinook helicopter threaded its way between mountain peaks, from Kabul up through the Panjshir Valley, before landing in a cloud of dust at the village of Pushghar. Imagine if someone put a new, one-story school on the moon, and you’ll appreciate the rocky desolateness of this landscape.

But there, out front, was Mortenson, dressed in traditional Afghan garb. He was surrounded by bearded village elders and scores of young Afghan boys and girls, who were agog at the helicopter, and not quite believing that America’s “warrior chief” — as Admiral Mullen’s title was loosely translated into Urdu — was coming to open the new school.

While the admiral passed out notebooks, Mortenson told me why he has devoted his life to building 131 secular schools for girls in Pakistan and another 48 in Afghanistan: “The money is money well spent. These are secular schools that will bring a new generation of kids that will have a broader view of the world. We focus on areas where there is no education. Religious extremism flourishes in areas of isolation and conflict.

“When a girl gets educated here and then becomes a mother, she will be much less likely to let her son become a militant or insurgent,” he added. “And she will have fewer children. When a girl learns how to read and write, one of the first things she does is teach her own mother. The girls will bring home meat and veggies, wrapped in newspapers, and the mother will ask the girl to read the newspaper to her and the mothers will learn about politics and about women who are exploited.”

It is no accident, Mortenson noted, that since 2007, the Taliban and its allies have bombed, burned or shut down more than 640 schools in Afghanistan and 350 schools in Pakistan, of which about 80 percent are schools for girls. This valley, controlled by Tajik fighters, is secure, but down south in Helmand Province, where the worst fighting is today, the deputy minister of education said that Taliban extremists have shut 75 of the 228 schools in the last year. This is the real war of ideas. The Taliban want public mosques, not public schools. The Muslim militants recruit among the illiterate and impoverished in society, so the more of them the better, said Mortenson.

This new school teaches grades one through six. I asked some girls through an interpreter what they wanted to be when they grow up: “Teacher,” shouted one. “Doctor,” shouted another. Living here, those are the only two educated role models these girls encounter. Where were they going to school before Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute and the U.S. State Department joined with the village elders to get this secular public school built? “The mosque,” the girls said.

Mortenson said he was originally critical of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he’s changed his views: “The U.S. military has gone through a huge learning curve. They really get it. It’s all about building relationships from the ground up, listening more and serving the people of Afghanistan.”

So there you have it. In grand strategic terms, I still don’t know if this Afghan war makes sense anymore. I was dubious before I arrived, and I still am. But when you see two little Afghan girls crouched on the front steps of their new school, clutching tightly with both arms the notebooks handed to them by a U.S. admiral — as if they were their first dolls — it’s hard to say: “Let’s just walk away.” Not yet.
23278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GM's post moved here on: July 19, 2009, 12:43:07 PM
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j4PYGKun8FwQE1yOv3xp0SYIgM9AD99GNCF00

Obama losing some support among nervous Dems
By BETH FOUHY (AP) – 1 day ago

NEW YORK — Could it be that President Barack Obama's Midas touch is starting to dull a bit, even among members of his own party?
Conservative House Democrats are balking at the cost and direction of Obama's top priority, an overhaul of the nation's health care system. A key Senate Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, complains that Obama's opposition to paying for it with a tax on health benefits "is not helping us."

Another Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, tells his local newspaper that Obama is too liberal and is "very unpopular" in his district.

From his first days in office, Obama's popularity helped him pass the landmark $787 billion stimulus package and fueled his ambitious plans to overhaul the nation's health care system and tackle global warming.

Obama continues to be comparatively popular. But now recent national surveys have shown a measurable drop in his job approval rating, even among Democrats. A CBS news survey out this week had his national approval rating at 57 percent, and his standing among Democrats down 10 percentage points since last month, from 92 percent to 82 percent.

With the economy continuing to sputter and joblessness on the rise, many of Obama's staunchest Democratic supporters are anxious for his agenda to start bearing fruit.

"We are eager and impatient, so you're seeing a little bit of that," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "Elections have results, and those in the base are the most anxious to achieve what's promised in the election. That's why Democrats are showing some impatience in reaching our goal."

Obama won Ohio, a key swing state, by 4 percentage points in 2008 over Republican John McCain. But the one-time industrial powerhouse has been hit hard by the weak economy, and a Quinnipiac University poll released this month showed Obama with a lackluster approval rating of 49 percent.

Redfern argued that the stimulus program has begun to show tangible results in his state and people shouldn't expect the economy to turn around instantly.  A similar argument came from Nevada, another swing state Obama carried. Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross counseled patience, saying that voters in his state want Obama to succeed and that their support would be solidified once they saw stimulus-driven building projects under way.

"Generally, folks in Nevada are waiting to see the effects of the stimulus package," Ross said. "I think the president is probably just as impatient to get this money out in the country to employ people as anyone."

In Missouri, which Obama narrowly lost to McCain, Democratic strategist Steve Glorioso said hardcore base voters were as enthusiastic as ever for Obama but that there was a sense of disappointment about him among less committed Democrats and independents.

"People are scared," Glorioso said. "This is the worst economic time anyone under the age of 80 has ever experienced, and you can't discount people being afraid. Now that we are in July, the fear is turning to disappointment that the president hasn't fixed everything yet. I don't know why they thought he could change everything by now, but some did."

Glorioso said an open Senate race next year in Missouri, where Democrat Robin Carnahan is likely to face former Republican Rep. Roy Blunt, will be a crucial test of Obama's appeal.

"If the economy gets better and they pass a reasonable health care bill, his popularity will be way back up and Carnahan will win," Glorioso said. "If none of that happens, it's a moot point."

In Michigan, where the near-collapse of the auto industry has driven the unemployment rate to 14.1 percent, the nation's worst, the state's Democratic chairman, Mark Brewer, said support for Obama among Democrats has remained strong.

"People are very worried and concerned, I don't want to dispute that," Brewer said. "But they voted for the president in overwhelming numbers and want to support the things he's trying to do."

Obama traveled to Michigan this week to unveil a $12 billion program to help community colleges prepare people for jobs. There, he made an audacious declaration.

"I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, 'Well, this is Obama's economy,'" the president said. "That's fine. Give it to me!"

Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said he welcomed that statement but cautioned it came with a price.

"When it's the president's economy, it's the president's trouble," Redfern said. "Americans are eager for the change that they voted into office. They support him, they just want to see results sooner rather than later."
23279  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Study: 3 vs. 1 in BC on: July 19, 2009, 02:33:21 AM

Please discuss:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIjG4OJEHnI

I'd like to suggest commenting after watching only one time (e.g. like you might have to do as a witness) then comment after watching as much as you like. AFTER you make your initial comments, you may wish to view this.

background info:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIjG4OJEHnI
23280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 18, 2009, 07:39:22 PM
Abridged version: (for full version see: http://www.stumblingontruth.com/main.aspx# )

What We Know That Ain't So

Will Rogers famously said, "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." So it is with the health care debate in this country. Quite a few "facts" offered to the public as truth are simply wrong and often intentionally misleading.

There are large groups of people in this country who want socialized medicine and they sense that the stars are aligning, and now is their time to succeed. They rarely call it socialized medicine, but instead "single payer health care" or "universal coverage" or something that their public relations people have told them sounds better. Whatever they call it, they believe (or pretend to believe) a lot of wrong-headed things, and they must be stopped. Step one is understanding how and why they are wrong. Step two is kicking their asses back to Cuba where they can get in line with Michael Moore and Al Gore for their free gastric bypasses.

Myth #1 Health Care Costs are Soaring

No, they are not. The amount we spend on health care has indeed risen, in absolute terms, after inflation, and as a percentage of our incomes and GDP. That does not mean costs are soaring.

You cannot judge the "cost" of something by simply what you spend. You must also judge what you get. I'm reasonably certain the cost of 1950's level health care has dropped in real terms over the last 60 years (and you can probably have a barber from the year 1500 bleed you for almost nothing nowadays). Of course, with 1950's health care, lots of things will kill you that 2009 health care could prevent.

In the case of health care, the fact that we spend so much more on it now is largely a positive. We spend so much more on health care, even relative to other advances, mostly because it is worth so much more to us.

In summary, if one more person cites soaring health care costs as an indictment of the free market, when it is in fact a staggering achievement of the free market, I'm going to rupture their appendix and send them to a queue in the UK to get it fixed.

Myth #2 The Canadian Drug Story

The general story is how you can buy many drugs in Canada cheaper than you can buy them in the US. This story is often, without specifically tying the logic together, taken as an obvious indictment of the US's (relatively) free market system. This is grossly misguided.

Here's what happens. We have a (relatively) free market in the US where drug companies spend a ton to develop new wonder drugs, a non-trivial amount of which is spent to satisfy regulatory requirements. The cost of this development is called a "fixed cost." Once it's developed it does not cost that much to make each pill. That's called a "variable cost." If people only paid the variable cost (or a bit more) for each pill the whole thing would not work. You see, the company would never get back the massive fixed cost of creating the drug in the first place, and so no company would try to develop one.

Drug companies that spent the enormous fixed costs to create new miracles are charging a relatively high cost in the free and still largely competitive world (the US) to recoup their fixed cost and to make a profit. But socialist societies like Canada limit the price they are allowed to charge. The US-based company is then faced with a dilemma. What Canada will pay is not enough to ever have justified creating the miracle pill. But, once created, perhaps Canada is paying more than the variable cost of each pill. Thus, the company can make some money by also selling to Canada at a lower price as it's still more than it costs them to make that last pill.

If we all tried to be Canada it's a non-working perpetual motion machine and no miracle pills ever get made because there will be nobody to pay the fixed costs.

Myth #3 Socialized Medicine Works In Some Places

This is a corollary to the "Canada as parasite" parable above. The funny part is socialized medicine has never been truly tested. Those touting socialism's success have never seen a world without a relatively (for now) free US to make their new drugs, surgical techniques, and other medical advancements for them.

To put it simply, right now the US's free system massively intellectually subsidizes the world's unfree (socialized) ones. That sucks. The only thing that would suck worse is joining them without anyone to subsidize us all.

Myth #4 A Public Option Can Co-Exist with a Private Option

Part of the current junta's plan is to add a "public option" for health insurance. That is health insurance provided by the government (actually provided by you and your neighbors). They claim this "public option" can co-exist fairly alongside private health insurance, increasing competition and keeping the private system "honest," and not deteriorate to a single payer (socialized medicine) system. They are wrong, or very dishonest, as in unguarded moments they admit that the single payer socialized system is what they really want.

By their logic the government must be a major player in every industry. Ah, just when you think you have them, you remember, they are socialists … dismantling liberty piece by piece.

The government does not co-exist or compete fairly with private enterprise. It does not play well with others. The regulator cannot be a competitor at the same time. Finally, it cannot be a fair competitor if when the "public option" screws up (can't pay its bills), the government implicitly or explicitly guarantees its debts.

Perhaps the best example of the destructive "public option" is our nation's schools. Here we clearly have a government provided "public option" competing with (and in fact dominating in size) private schooling. But, is it fair? Does it work well? Not by a long-shot.

With a "public option" things inevitably would go the horrific way of our public schools. It will be like looking in a funhouse mirror and seeing a doctor where you used to see a teacher.

Finally, let's worry a bit about the end game. We are not here yet, but in a world where the "public option" replaced all private options, would we still be allowed, if we had the resources, to pursue private medical alternatives? Some socialized countries say yes, some say no. Imagine the answer is no in this country, where freedom is valued more than anywhere else in the world. Imagine a person is to be prevented from spending their hard earned money on their or their children's health care, or a doctor was prevented from earning what he could in a parallel free system after all his training and work.

It takes literally seconds to realize that this "public option" cannot co-exist with liberty and thus will indeed lead to full-on socialization. Since the simplest answer is usually best, and the President has already declared his preference for a "single-payer" system, and since this "public option" leads there with near certainty, might I be forgiven for assuming he knows this and is lying, and has a socialized medicine end-game in mind?

Myth #5 We Can Have Health Care Without Rationing

Rationing has to occur. This sounds cold and cruel, but it is reality. If you have a material good or service, like health care, that is ever increasing in quality, and therefore cost, there is no way everyone on Earth can have the best at all times (actually the quality increases are not necessary for rationing to be needed, it just makes the example clearer). It's going to be rationed by some means. The alternatives come down to the marketplace or the government. To choose between those alternatives you judge on morality and efficacy.

It is an uncomfortable truth that tough choices will have to be made. There is no system that provides for unlimited wants with limited resources. Our choice is whether it should be rationed by free people making their own economic calculations or by a bureaucracy run by Congressional committee (whose members, like the Russian commissars, will, I guarantee you, still get the best health care the gulag hospitaligo can provide). Free people making their own choices only consume what they value above price, using funds they have earned or been given voluntarily. With socialized medicine health care is rationed by committees of politicians trying to get re-elected and increase their own power, and people consume as much of it as the commissars deem permissible. I do not find these tough alternatives to choose between.

Myth #6 Health Care is A Right

Nope, it's not.

This is more philosophy than economics, and I'm not a philosopher. But, luckily it doesn't take a superb philosopher to understand that health care simply is not a "right" in the sense we normally use that word. Listing rights generally involves enumerating things you may do without interference (the right to free speech) or may not be done to you without your permission (illegal search and seizure, loud boy-band music in public spaces). They are protections, not gifts of material goods. Material goods and services must be taken from others, or provided by their labor, so if you believe you have an absolute right to them, and others don't choose to provide it to you, you then have a "right" to steal from them. But what about their far more fundamental right not to be robbed?
So why do people scream health care is a "right" if it so obviously is not? If not a right it can still be willingly provided as charity by society.

So, Why Are These Crazy Things Believed (Or, Pretended to Be Believed)?

Lots of politicians understand that the simple free system leaves them out in the cold. No power for them. No committees to sit on to decide people's lives. No lies to tell their constituents how they (the government) brought them the health care they so desperately need. No fat checks from lobbyists as the crony capitalists pay dearly to make the only profits possible under this system, those bestowed by the government.

Finally, if the above is not enough, the rush to pass a huge expansion of government now, and limit debate and discussion, is indicative of a group that knows it is wrong, and if people have time to think they will refuse to go along, but is attempting an exercise of naked power, to impose dictatorship before the people wake up. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth puts on its shoes. They are counting on this, and they don't want to give the truth time to be shod.

And In Conclusion

We do not need a single payer (socialized medicine) system to cut confusion and inefficiency. On the contrary we need unfettered competition and clear legal standards. Another major concern is provision of basic healthcare to the needy. This is an important issue, but not an expensive one in the scheme of things, and not one that should drive the trillion-dollar healthcare debate. You do not reorganize the entire housing industry and tax policy around the need for homeless shelters, you just build enough shelters and let the market take care of, and discipline, the people who can pay for their own housing.
Finally there is the concern that healthcare costs make US workers too expensive to compete in global markets. As long as workers get full value for their healthcare dollars, it shouldn't matter whether companies pay in cash or in health benefits.
23281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't mess with Texas on: July 18, 2009, 12:16:05 PM
Texas Appellate Court Deals Another Blow to Islamist Lawfare—Upholds Free Speech Rights of Internet Journalist; Islamic Groups Lose Appeal



ANN ARBOR, MI – On July 16, 2009, seven Texas-area Islamic organizations lost an appeal of the unanimous ruling of the Texas Second Court of Appeals at Forth Worth, which protected the free speech rights of internet journalists and at the same time dealt a blow to the legal jihad being waged by radical Muslim groups throughout the United States. The Islamic groups asked for a reconsideration of the appellate court’s recent decision through what is known as an en banc opinion (appeal to the whole court, not just a panel of the court). The Court ruling, in a per curiam (in the name of the whole court) two page opinion, upheld the dismissal of the libel lawsuit filed against internet reporter Joe Kaufman by the seven Islamic organizations.
The lawsuit against Kaufman was funded by the Muslim Legal Fund for America. The head of that organization, Khalil Meek, admitted on a Muslim talk radio show that lawsuits were being filed against Kaufman and others to set an example. Indeed, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic of filing meritless lawsuits to silence any public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats. This tactic, referred to by some as Islamist Lawfare uses our laws and legal system to silence critics and promote Islamic rule in America.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan provided the lead attorney to represent Kaufman, at no charge. The Law Center attorney, Brandon Bolling, was assisted by Texas attorney Thomas S. Brandon, Jr. who acted as local counsel, and Los Angeles, CA attorneys William Becker, Jr. and Manuel S. Klausner.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “It is gratifying to see our client’s First Amendment rights being upheld by this entire Texas Appeals Court. We do not yet know if these Islamic groups will try another appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, but this ruling is an indication of how strong this First Amendment case is.”
Kaufman, a full-time investigative reporter, has written extensively on Radical Islamic terrorism in America. He was sued because of his September 28, 2007 article titled “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” published by Front Page Magazine, a major online news website. Kaufman’s article exposed the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Association of Northern Texas (IANT) ties to the radical terrorist group Hamas.
Kaufman’s article called ICNA a radical Muslim organization that has ties to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Kaufman, ICNA is an umbrella organization for South Asian-oriented mosques and Islamic centers in the United States created as an American arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Pakistan.
Significantly, neither ICNA nor IANT, which were mentioned in Kaufman’s article, sued Kaufman. It is speculated that ICNA and IANT were afraid of being subjected to pretrial discovery. On the other hand, none of the seven plaintiffs that sued Kaufman were even mentioned in his article. The seven Islamic organizations that sued Kaufman are the Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas, Islamic Center of Irving, DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc., Dar Elsalam Islamic Center, Al Hedayah Islamic Center, Islamic Association of Tarrant County, and Muslim American Society of Dallas. All are affiliated with CAIR, one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the successful federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation.
In what should be welcome news to internet journalists, the Appellate Court specifically rejected the Plaintiffs’ contention that Kaufman is not a “media defendant.” The Court held that the Texas statute that gives procedural protections to traditional electronic and print media, including the right to a pretrial appeal, also covers internet journalists. Thus, the Texas Statue entitled Kaufman the right to appeal the lower court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the frivolous libel claim before a time-consuming and expensive trial. Most parties have to wait until after a trial before they can appeal an unfavorable lower court ruling.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.
23282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Central Europe's fears on: July 18, 2009, 10:03:51 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Central Europe's Longstanding Fears
July 17, 2009
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Munich on Thursday. The meeting produced talk of a Russian-German manufacturing alliance, a 500 million-euro ($704.7 million) joint investment agreement, several business deals that included infrastructure and transportation development, and a lot of chatter on Europe’s energy issues, such as the proposed Nord Stream and Nabucco natural gas pipelines. The business deals are further evidence of a burgeoning relationship between Moscow and Berlin that is evolving into more than just a partnership of convenience based on German imports of Russian natural gas.

More important than the nitty-gritty details of the talks (none of which were wholly unexpected) was the fact that the German and Russian leaders were meeting shortly after both met with U.S. President Barack Obama. If one was ignorant of Germany’s status as an unwavering U.S. ally, with troops in Afghanistan and nearly 70 years of pro-American foreign policy, it might be tempting to conclude that Merkel and Medvedev were comparing notes on their visits with Obama — which could constitute a level of geopolitical coordination far more important than deals to build new rail cars. In other words, Berlin and Moscow could be seen as getting quite close to each other, to a degree that cannot be accounted for solely by Germany’s energy dependence on Russia.

But this is exactly how ex-communist states in Central Europe perceive the relationship between Berlin and Moscow, precisely because they do not consider Germany to be a staunch and unwavering U.S. ally. In fact, Central European states — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania — see much in German foreign policy that might be drifting away from the United States. For this group of countries, the NATO alliance has not proved to be the warranty against geopolitical instability they had hoped it to be. In fact, since Central European states have been taking part in NATO, Russia has freely manipulated domestic politics in Ukraine and the Baltics, intervened militarily in Georgia and played energy politics with the entire region, through natural gas cutoffs to Ukraine.

Through each episode of Russian brinkmanship, NATO has remained on the sidelines, unwilling to intervene. During the Russian intervention in Georgia in August 2008, Germany even tried to minimize NATO’s reaction and, since then, has vociferously opposed expanding the alliance to include Ukraine and Georgia.

In light of concerns about Germany’s commitment to their defense and NATO’s ability to stand up to Russia, a group of 22 former leaders from Central and Eastern European states wrote a letter to Obama on Thursday, imploring him not to abandon them in the face of continued Russian meddling in the region. The letter specifically referred to the U.S. plans to build ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, stating that canceling the program “can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.”

For now, the United States is remaining silent on the BMD issue in order to see whether it can win any short-term concessions from Russia, particularly where Afghanistan and Moscow’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions are concerned. Central European states fear that their concerns about Russian power and their own security could be overruled by American interests in the Middle East. Leaders therefore want a firm commitment from the United States to the region, exemplified through the positioning of the BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian and German domination are familiar themes for Central Europe. Since both Germany and Russia historically have had interests in the region, states often looked to outside protectors with no immediate designs for the territory — examples include the inter-war U.K.-Polish and Little Entente (between France and Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia) alliances. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a similar arrangement was made with the United States through NATO, or so the states of Central Europe had hoped.

However, the reality is that neither the Little Entente concept of the 1920-1930s nor the U.K.-Polish alliance prevented the region from being overrun by combined Russian and German invasions. Now, the Central Europeans are feeling abandoned by the one power that could provide security against the traditional German-Russian threat: the United States. The question, however, is whether Central European leaders will perceive the U.S. stall as a temporary realpolitik move or permanent abandonment. And if they perceive permanent abandonment, will the region’s leaders continue to write concerned letters to the U.S. president, or will they begin forming a security alliance amongst themselves — with the implicit purpose is countering Russia’s presence in the region?

23283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism: on: July 18, 2009, 09:29:00 AM
In my own thinking more and more I find myself turning to the word fascism to describe what is going on today.  Typically, to distinguish it from certain associations, I will specify "economic fascism".

The destruction of the American Creed which I fear we now undergo is, as I see it, fascism.  There is liberal fascism (the Dems and Liberals) and corporate fascism (the Reps and the Dems-- see e.g. Goldman Sachs).  The Reps used to have a strong strand of the American Creed, but it appears to be a dead man walking at this point.

 cry
23284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 18, 2009, 05:55:49 AM
Me too.
23285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Now by sea on: July 18, 2009, 05:54:48 AM
SAN DIEGO — They move north in rickety fishing boats, often overloaded and barely seaworthy, slipping through the darkness and hidden from the watchful radar of American patrols.

Federal agents said a man spotted last month paddling a surfboard north from Mexico was found to be carrying almost 25 pounds of marijuana.
 
Along beaches north of here, the migrants from Mexico and beyond scramble ashore, in groups of a dozen or two, and dash past stunned beachgoers, sometimes even leaving behind their boats, known as pangas. Drug smugglers, too, take this sea route, including one last month found paddling a surfboard north with a duffel bag full of marijuana on it.

As the land border with Mexico tightens with new fencing and technology, the authorities are seeing a sharp spike in the number of people and drugs being moved into the United States by sea off the San Diego coast.

Law enforcement authorities in the United States said the shift demonstrated the resolve of smugglers to exploit the vastness of the sea, the difficulty in monitoring it, and the desperation of migrants willing to risk crossing it.

“It’s like spillover from a dam,” said Cmdr. Guy Pearce, who oversees the antismuggling effort for the Coast Guard in San Diego.

For generations, people have tried to swim, surf and ride boats, sometimes carrying contraband, into the United States from south of the border.

But Commander Pearce and other officials in the Department of Homeland Security say those sporadic efforts have accelerated to unprecedented levels recently — a doubling in the number of illegal immigrants — more than 300 in the last two years — caught on boats or beaches and a sevenfold increase in maritime drug seizures, principally several thousand pounds of marijuana.

The authorities have taken note that the increase coincides with the near completion of new, more fortified border fencing along a 14-mile stretch from the ocean inland.

New smuggling rings have also emerged, operating out of beach towns south of the border and islands off the Mexican coast, convincing migrants that the passage is safe and the ocean too wide open for maritime law enforcement to catch them.

A recent patrol with the Coast Guard showed they may have a point.

All night and into the morning, the Coast Guard cutter Petrel dashed across the seas looking for suspect boats. A tip that a suspect boat was due to pass miles off the coast around 1 a.m. sent the cutter, nearly all of its lights off to avoid detection, searching by the faint glow of a half moon. The boat was not found.

Later, just after 4 a.m., a radar sweep picked up two boats moving quickly south, prompting the crew to cut off the classical music wafting from overhead speakers on a bridge lighted only by navigation monitors.

As the roaring engines sent the cutter crashing over swells for more than 20 minutes after the boats were first noticed, the crew could see the boats speeding without their lights on.

A boarding team mobilized with body armor and rifles and raced in a small craft from the cutter to check out the boats. Just early-morning fishing, said the people on the boats, who insisted they did not realize their lights were off. With no evidence of contraband, they were let go.

But Chief Petty Officer Gary Auslam, in charge on this watch, had his doubts as he watched the boats quickly motor on. Gunrunners bringing weapons from the United States move swiftly.

“Boy, they got out of here pretty quick, didn’t they?” Chief Auslam said, gazing out the bridge.

It falls mainly to the Coast Guard and the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the seas with a mix of cutters, aircraft and a few small high-speed boats.

The authorities arrested 136 illegal immigrants sneaking in by sea in the fiscal year that ended Oct. 30, double the 66 marine arrests in 2007. Since October, more than 100 illegal immigrants have been arrested, bringing the marine arrests of illegal immigrants in the past couple of years to unprecedented levels, said Michael Carney, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in San Diego who oversees a task force on marine smuggling.

The seizure of drugs, principally marijuana, has similarly skyrocketed. In the fiscal year that ended in October, the authorities seized 6,300 pounds of marijuana in the coastal waters north of the border, a sevenfold increase from the 906 pounds confiscated in 2007. This fiscal year, 6,100 pounds have been found.

“This is somewhat of an alarming trend,” Mr. Carney said. “It has opened our eyes. There is still a lot we need to learn about how these organizations operate.”

The Department of Homeland Security is responding to this surge with orders for more boats and equipment.

Generally, the flow of migrants north has slowed as the economy here has withered and the United States has bolstered patrols and fencing. But people still make the journey and the desire for drugs keeps smugglers busy.

Victor Clark Alfaro, director of the Binational Center for Human Rights in Tijuana, Mexico, who has studied smuggling, said he doubted the fence was causing the spike. Instead, Mr. Clark Alfaro said, “a new generation” of smugglers have simply had success ferrying people over the seas and are encouraging migrants to go their way. The charge is more than $4,000, roughly double what a smuggling guide would charge to lead somebody over land, he said. Marijuana smugglers, likewise, have gotten wise to the sea route.

“It’s always,” Mr. Clark Alfaro said, “a fight between technology and the ingenuity of smugglers.”

Coast Guard officials said they knew of no boats that had sunk but they worry about that prospect. In March they seized a 25-foot boat with 22 people aboard.

The biggest adversary at times, though, is the darkness.

Petty Officer First Class Pablo Mendoza picked up night-vision binoculars and scanned the horizon. When it was suggested that the equipment might offer an advantage, Petty Officer Mendoza replied, “Yeah, the problem is they have these, too.”

Crew members said they did not believe the guard or Customs and Border Protection had enough fast boats to get to suspected smuggling boats in time, though the agencies, as well as the Navy and civilian law enforcement, are making an effort to coordinate their patrols.

In the end, said Petty Officer First Class Jason Tessier, another supervisor on the Petrel, “it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

23286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GS to buy Treasury on: July 17, 2009, 10:50:40 PM


Goldman Sachs in Talks to Acquire Treasury Department
Sister Entities to Share Employees, Money

>


In what some on Wall Street are calling the biggest blockbuster deal in the history of the financial sector, Goldman Sachs confirmed today that it was in talks to acquire the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

According to Goldman spokesperson Jonathan Hestron, the merger between Goldman and the Treasury Department is “a good fit” because “they’re in the business of printing money and so are we.”

The Goldman spokesman said that the merger would create efficiencies for both entities: “We already have so many employees and so much money flowing back and forth, this would just streamline things.”

Mr. Hestron said the only challenge facing Goldman in completing the merger “is trying to figure out which parts of the Treasury Dept. we don’t already own.”

Goldman recently celebrated record earnings by roasting a suckling pig over a bonfire of hundred-dollar bills.

Elsewhere, conspiracy theorists celebrated the 40th anniversary of NASA faking the moon landing.

And in South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford gave his wife a new diamond ring, while his wife gave him an electronic ankle bracelet.


23287  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA series VHS/DVD's on: July 17, 2009, 08:28:01 AM
Looks like it is the one we did (Pappy was the director) badly misdescribed (the DVD has more content IIRC).  I've emailed him and will get back to you here when I hear back from him.
23288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, 1792 on: July 17, 2009, 08:08:36 AM
"As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions."

--James Madison, National Gazette Essay, March 27, 1792
23289  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA series VHS/DVD's on: July 16, 2009, 10:47:29 PM
URL?
23290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LATimes: Congressman helping La Familia on: July 16, 2009, 04:44:24 PM
Congressman-elect Julio Cesar Godoy is suspected of helping protect La Familia, accused of killing 16 officers recently. That has brought pressure on his half-brother, Michoacan Gov. Leonel Godoy.
By Ken Ellingwood
July 16, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City -- Last week, Julio Cesar Godoy was a congressman-elect. This week, he is a fugitive.

Mexican authorities say Godoy, a half-brother of Michoacan state Gov. Leonel Godoy, helped provide protection for La Familia, the drug-trafficking gang that has waged war on federal police across the state in recent days, killing at least 16 officers.
 
Officials have an arrest warrant but apparently can't find the younger Godoy, an attorney who was elected to Congress on July 5 as a candidate of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.

Feeling political heat, Gov. Godoy on Wednesday called on his sibling to turn himself in and confront the accusations. Godoy said his half-brother lived in a modest house, drove a used Volkswagen and showed no signs of links to organized crime. The two last spoke weeks ago, the governor said.

"He has to present his evidence if he is innocent," Godoy said in a radio interview. "If he is guilty, let them punish him with the full weight of the law."

The younger Godoy has not been seen in public since the campaign closed July 1. He didn't show up to vote on election day nor, after his victory, to collect the official notification that he had been elected to Congress.

Authorities, who did not specify when the arrest order was granted, announced the allegations Tuesday as part of the investigation into a string of attacks in Michoacan against federal police officers since Saturday. The attacks, including the slayings of 12 federal officers whose bodies were dumped near a highway, appeared to be in retaliation for the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, described as one of the gang's top three figures.

Officials say Saul Solis, a failed Green Party candidate for Congress, is also being sought for his alleged role as liaison between the crime group and officials and businessmen in Michoacan.

The allegations add new force to concerns over how thoroughly drug traffickers have infiltrated Mexico's political system, especially in smuggling crossroads such as Michoacan.

"Cartels like La Familia are born, grow and reproduce thanks to narco-politics, thanks to the complicity of those in power and the cloak of impunity that protects them," columnist Ricardo Aleman wrote Wednesday in El Universal newspaper.

The charges against Julio Cesar Godoy brought fresh pressure on his half-brother. Gov. Godoy, a member of the same political party, already faced questions after the state's attorney general and other aides were among 30 local and state functionaries arrested in May over suspected ties to La Familia.

The governor has dismissed the arrests as an election-season stunt by the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party. And he rejected fresh calls to resign.

"I won't give them the pleasure," Godoy said Wednesday.

Monte Alejandro Rubido, a national security spokesman, said that a senior gunman arrested in the recent attacks revealed details about La Familia's structure. He said Julio Cesar Godoy and Solis worked for the group's alleged operations chief, Servando Gomez Martinez, who lives in Michoacan.

A man who said he was Gomez Martinez phoned a public affairs television show in Michoacan on Wednesday and called on Calderon to reach an accord with La Familia.

Hours later, Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont rejected the purported overture, saying Mexico would not negotiate with any criminal group.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com
23291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fallujah on: July 16, 2009, 01:03:09 PM
http://shock.military.com/Shock/videos.do;jsessionid=26F40AC4E0566E724DD335F4655D5BAB?displayContent=140289&page=1
23292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor on: July 16, 2009, 01:01:41 PM
I found S's refusal to agree that there is a right to Constitutional right to self-defense mind-boggling.
23293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 16, 2009, 12:41:41 PM
http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnal...aspx?id=482329
23294  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: July 16, 2009, 11:12:59 AM
My son Conrad, his friend Greg and Greg's two brothers have made a youtube clip that addresses the following matters:

1) What is worth fighting over?
2) Gun disarms, and
3) Gun safety

 wink

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGGUccucuic
23295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Optional"?!? Those lying SOBs on: July 16, 2009, 10:01:23 AM
A friend writes:
=======================

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
 
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
 
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
 
Obamism is alive and well

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
 
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
 
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
 
Obamism is alive and well
-----------------------------

SEC. 102. PROTECTING THE CHOICE TO KEEP CURRENT COVERAGE.

(a) Grandfathered Health Insurance Coverage Defined- Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term `grandfathered health insurance coverage' means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 if the following conditions are met:

(1) LIMITATION ON NEW ENROLLMENT-

(A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1.

(B) DEPENDENT COVERAGE PERMITTED- Subparagraph (A) shall not affect the subsequent enrollment of a dependent of an individual who is covered as of such first day.

(2) LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS- Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Y1.

(3) RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES- The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.

(b) Grace Period for Current Employment-based Health Plans-

(1) GRACE PERIOD-

(A) IN GENERAL- The Commissioner shall establish a grace period whereby, for plan years beginning after the end of the 5-year period beginning with Y1, an employment-based health plan in operation as of the day before the first day of Y1 must meet the same requirements as apply to a qualified health benefits plan under section 101, including the essential benefit package requirement under section 121.

(B) EXCEPTION FOR LIMITED BENEFITS PLANS- Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the following:

(i) Any coverage described in section 3001(a)(1)(B)(ii)(IV) of division B of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

(ii) Excepted benefits (as defined in section 733(c) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), including coverage under a specified disease or illness policy described in paragraph (3)(A) of such section.

(iii) Such other limited benefits as the Commissioner may specify.

In no case shall an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the coverage or benefits described in clauses (i) through (iii) be treated as acceptable coverage under this division

(2) TRANSITIONAL TREATMENT AS ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE- During the grace period specified in paragraph (1)(A), an employment-based health plan that is described in such paragraph shall be treated as acceptable coverage under this division.

(c) Limitation on Individual Health Insurance Coverage-

(1) IN GENERAL- Individual health insurance coverage that is not grandfathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Y1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan.

(2) SEPARATE, EXCEPTED COVERAGE PERMITTED- Excepted benefits (as defined in section 2791(c) of the Public Health Service Act ) are not included within the definition of health insurance coverage. Nothing in paragraph (1) shall prevent the offering, other than through the Health Insurance Exchange, of excepted benefits so long as it is offered and priced separately from health insurance coverage.
23296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1826 on: July 16, 2009, 08:16:03 AM
"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride legitimately, by the grace of God."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826
23297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: July 16, 2009, 08:09:02 AM
Greetings,

After 18 days with Lithuanians in Ghor Province, have made it back to Kabul.  We are very short on aircraft in Afghanistan; I was delayed by about a week just waiting for airplanes that never came.  Some U.S. soldiers in Ghor told me that a child who was badly wounded in one of our air strikes had to wait three days for a medevac aircraft.  Apparently the child's leg was badly mangled.

The Afghan war has become more deadly -- on a per capita basis -- than Iraq ever was.  This was predictable a long time ago and is presented in my dispatches starting in 2006.  We are losing the war.  At this rate we will lose the war.

A friend at Soldiers' Angels started a Twitter page and I have started with real time uploads.  Don't be surprised if I start Twittering during a boring Shura or an unfortunate firefight where I am pinned down and have nothing to do.  The Twitter page is Michael_Yon (not Michael Yon).  Please follow that for immediate news.

The latest photo dispatch is up.  Lots of pretty pictures.

--
Very Respectfully,

Michael Yon
23298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: July 15, 2009, 06:32:39 PM
A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he's been given a part in the school play.
"Wonderful. What part is it?"
The boy says,"I play the part of the Jewish husband."
The mother scowls and says, "Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part."
23299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brits in Helmland on: July 15, 2009, 06:25:53 PM
'It was like Saving Private Ryan': British soldier recalls Helmand rocket grenade

Trooper Anthony Matthews describes being hit and having to apply tourniquet during Afghanistan offensive

Richard Norton-Taylor
guardian.co.uk
Wednesday 15 July 2009 18.06 BST


A British soldier injured in fierce fighting in the biggest offensive against the Taliban since the start of the conflict in 2001 has given a first-hand account of his ordeal.

Trooper Anthony Matthews, 20, of the Light Dragoons, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during Operation Panther's Claw in Helmand province last week. He described how he managed to apply a tourniquet to his leg wound and to that of an injured comrade as he returned gunfire.

On that day, 7 July, Matthews's close friend Christopher Whiteside, 22, was killed by an improvised bomb in a separate operation in Gereshk.

The number of British soldiers seriously wounded rose significantly last month, according to figures released todayby the Ministry of Defence. A total of 13 were "very seriously" or "seriously" wounded in action, with their lives being "imminently in danger" or their injuries a cause for "immediate concern".

A further 46 soldiers were admitted to field hospitals last month. However, the figures do not reveal the total number of soldiers with injuries conventionally regarded as serious, including the loss of limbs. The figures for July are likely to be worse, defence officials acknowledge.

Matthews, nicknamed "Bulletproof Tony", has returned home to Dunston, Gateshead, with a cricket ball-sized wound after a month of fighting that has claimed the lives of 17 British soldiers.

Recovering from surgery to the blast wound on his left leg, Matthews said he had feared for his own life.

He said: "There aren't many people can tell the tale of getting hit by a grenade. I've just been very lucky. We came out of the compound we had taken over, and there was a tree line that we used as cover. My mates were beside me at either side, and then all I remember is hearing a massive bang.

"There was dirt all over their faces and they were screaming. It was like a scene out of Saving Private Ryan. My ears had gone and I looked at my friend and I could see he had been hit badly. I turned and looked down at my leg and my pants were all broken. I put a tourniquet on while I was still shooting."

The Light Dragoons were based near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. During the early hours of 7 July, his platoon stepped into an ambush. A rocket-propelled grenade seriously wounded Matthews and his friend, Trooper Aaron Bradley.

"When the bullets are whizzing past it's terrifying," said Matthews. "They sound like bees flying past your ears, and then you hear them land and it sounds like someone clapping their hands."

After being hit, he said, "it was just adrenaline. I didn't feel anything. I stabbed myself with morphine and held on until the helicopters came. They got us back to Camp Bastion in four minutes."

After treatment there he was flown to Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital, where an operation sealed a deep wound across the back of his left leg. A few days before he was hit by the grenade, Matthews had been on a foot patrol behind a Scimitar tank which was blown up by a roadside bomb. His arms were hit by shrapnel.

He said: "No one was killed or even injured badly that time, amazingly. A team came out to clear the area and make sure it wasn't a 'daisy chain', where a number of bombs are linked to a single command and control wire.

"It's proper war out there. One time it took us from first light until last light just to move 800 metres. We were in constant contact with the enemy."

His house was decked out in Union flags to welcome him home, and he is now recuperating alongside his mother, Karine, brother Kallum, 13, and girlfriend Sam, 20.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/ju...anistan-ordeal
23300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: July 15, 2009, 03:00:13 PM
Too bad they quote DEBKA, even as disparagingly as they do-- DEBKA IMHO is lunatic fringe.
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