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23451  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Current Events: Philippines on: July 28, 2008, 11:16:09 AM

(Updates with outcome of talks, fresh quotes)

By Jalil Hamid and Manny Mogato

KUALA LUMPUR/MANILA, July 27 (Reuters) - The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group and the government agreed on Sunday to ballot areas within 12 months on whether they wanted to join an existing autonomous Muslim homeland in the volatile south.

The compromise came after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government resumed stalled talks in Malaysia.

While the deal was no guarantee that a final settlement to one of Southeast Asia's most intractable conflicts was in the offing, it was seen as an important step towards ending violence that has killed 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

"A breakthrough has been achieved in the issue of ancestral domain (homeland) in Kuala Lumpur tonight with the signing of a joint communique," said Hermogenes Esperon, the Philippine president's peace adviser, who attended the talks.

"With this positive development and the negotiations, the signing of the framework agreement on ancestral domain is tentatively set for early August," he said.

Under the deal, a referendum will be held in around 700 villages on whether they want to join the existing autonomous Muslim region.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks last week in the Malaysian capital ahead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's annual state of the nation address on Monday.

But the talks ended in deadlock on Friday after Manila tried to delay a referendum on enlarging the existing Muslim homeland until after a separate political agreement was reached.

OPPOSITION COMPLAINTS

The existing Muslim homeland has its own government, legislature and Muslim courts, but remains dependent on the central government for its budget, foreign, defence and monetary policy.

In the final political agreement still under negotiation, the rebels are pushing for the homeland to retain 75 percent of the taxes raised in that region.

A Malaysian government source close to the talks said the signing of the agreement on expanding the ancestral homeland would be held either on August 5 or 6.

Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF, and Arroyo's reliance on their support, mean Manila's negotiating strategy could easily be thrown off course.

Real progress in the talks appeared to have been made when Arroyo last week supported postponing Aug. 11 elections in the Muslim south, because progress in talks with the 11,000-member MILF made a new political setup a possibility.

Some Manila lawmakers opposed postponement and complained that they did not know what had been agreed with the MILF. They complained Congress was not consulted on the issue.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila and Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Jon Boyle)
23452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: July 28, 2008, 11:09:59 AM
British soldier and his faithful friend die side-by-side in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Ken Rowe and his sniffer dog Sasha have been named as those killed in a Taliban ambush in Helmand. Sean Rayment met them days before they died.

By Sean Rayment
Last Updated: 12:04PM BST 27 Jul 2008


Lance Corporal Ken Rowe was waiting for the patrol to assemble close to the rear gate of Forward Operating Base Inkerman, high in the Upper Sangin Valley.

With him was Sasha, a yellow Labrador, with a friendly face and a tail that never stopped wagging.

The pair were accompanying a routine early morning patrol, with 4 platoon, B Company of the 2nd Bn Parachute Regiment (2Para) into the Green Zone, a notorious Taliban stronghold, which begins only a few hundred yards from the walls of the isolated base.

As part of a three-week embed with the British Army in Helmand, I joined the patrol last Monday morning just as dawn was breaking over the Helmand desert.

Like many of the 30 soldiers who formed up for the patrol, I was immediately drawn to Sasha. I let her smell my hand before patting her head and tickling her ear. Sasha looked up, her face almost smiling, enjoying the attention.

"Lovely dog", I said to L/Cpl Rowe, "She's the best", he said. We then chatted about the merits of "explosives search dogs" in Helmand.

"They're a major asset," said L/Cpl Rowe. "The soldiers love having them on patrol They can find explosives and weapons, even the presence of weapons, so out here they are a really useful tool and the soldiers like having them around as well - and the Taliban don't."

As we chatted, other soldiers went through the same ritual. Lots of pats and "hello girl" from the troops as they moved forward to load their weapons. It was as though the presence of a dog was a reminder of home, something familiar and unthreatening, in a hostile and violent world. It was imperceptible, but I could almost sense the soldiers' morale lifting as it became clear that L/Cpl Rowe and Sasha were joining the patrol.

Then, for a split second, all of those hours of obedience training gave way to instinct when Sasha caught sight of one of the many leopard-like feral cats that roam the base.
Sasha disappeared, without a sound in a cloud of dust, chasing the cat around the camp. We all laughed quietly. "Who'd be a dog handler?", L/Cpl Rowe said to himself, slightly embarrassed by his dog's momentary lapse of self-control.

Sasha came back, head bowed, knowing that she had erred. L/Cpl Rowe attached the lead and said "sit!". The dog obeyed, and then, in an act of affection, let her body rest against the side of her master's leg. "She's saying sorry", said L/Cpl Rowe.
The patrol took us through a local hamlet called Saregar, which the soldiers had dubbed the "Star Wars Village", and then into the Green Zone, where they began searching a series of compounds for Taliban weapons and explosives.

It is difficult and dangerous work, and the dog handlers, who are attached to units from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, share exactly the same risks.

The threat from Improvised Explosive Devices and so-called legacy mines from the Soviet occupation, is ever present, and rather than stand and fight, the Taliban now "shoot and scoot", according to the soldiers.

The dangers in this part of Helmand are now so great that the soldiers paraphrase the mantra used by the IRA during the 30 years of The Troubles.

"The Taliban only have to be lucky once but we have to be lucky all the time", Sergeant Wayne Sykes, told me as we patrolled through the Green Zone, waiting for the Taliban to attack.

Luck ran out for L/Cpl Rowe, 24, and Sasha last Thursday, when during another identical routine patrol through the Green Zone, both he and Sasha were killed instantly by automatic fire in a Taliban ambush. Six other soldiers were also injured.
L/Cpl Rowe and Sasha had died together as they had served together, side by side.

I was shocked when told of L/Cpl Rowe's death. Like many who knew him, my first instinct was that it must have been a mistake. Then the realisation dawned and it seemed almost impossible that someone you had been chatting to a few days earlier had now gone for ever.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...ghanistan.html
23453  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 27, 2008, 11:57:55 AM
A) Sure.  Remember, only you are responsible for you.   grin 

b) $10
23454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reform efforts in Malaysia on: July 26, 2008, 10:01:10 AM
It's Déjà Vu for Malaysia's Opposition Leader
By MARY KISSEL
July 26, 2008; Page A7

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

"I was dumped into this high-security police lockup for, you see, these high-level criminals. . . . On the cement floor, without any mattresses. That explains why I have to be back on this." Anwar Ibrahim gingerly peels up his shirt to reveal a corset-like back brace. And then he bursts into laughter.

 
Ismael Roldan 
For a man released from a night in jail only a few days earlier, Mr. Anwar is an awfully jolly man. Malaysia's opposition leader has been accused of sodomy by a former aide -- a criminal offense in this Muslim-majority country that could send him to jail for up to two decades. It's a bizarre déjà vu for the bespectacled politician, who spent 1998-2004 behind bars on a trumped-up sodomy charge the last time he challenged for political power.

But he's pushing ahead: On Wednesday, Mr. Anwar vowed to run for parliament "imminently" in a by-election, with the aim of toppling the government by September. If he's successful, he could be the next prime minister of Malaysia.

None of this would matter much outside Southeast Asia were it not for the fact that Mr. Anwar's political coalition espouses something unusual in the Muslim world: the virtues of a secular, free-market democracy. More Muslims live in Asia -- Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh -- than in the Middle East.

Mr. Anwar is unusually suited to bridge East-West divides. A Muslim, "though never typically very religious," he chuckles, he is a good friend of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. alike -- a man who memorized "hundreds of Elvis Presley, Paul Anka and Ricky Nelson tunes" in his youth, but also attended weekend religious classes and, in his 20s, founded the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia. He has never been afraid to argue that democracy and Islam are compatible forces -- or to make that case to undemocratic Arab regimes.

In many ways, Malaysia -- though it sports big urban centers and modern wonders like the Petronas Towers -- seems stuck in a time warp. The media is largely state-controlled, and the executive branch still locks up political dissidents without trial under the British colonial-era Internal Security Act.

Mahathir Mohamad's 22-year rule, which ended in 2003, did bring economic development to Malaysia. But Mr. Anwar says only a "fringe few" would ignore the widespread corruption that also occurred. Mr. Anwar, who was Dr. Mahathir's deputy at the time, found himself accused of sodomy in 1998 when he started pushing for reform. His arrest and imprisonment brought thousands of people onto Kuala Lumpur's streets.

And the recent accusation against him? It is "unfortunate," Mr. Anwar said as we settled into conference room chairs at his People's Justice Party's new headquarters in a strip mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb last week. But it's a sign that "the system is crumbling."

"Malaysia was resilient -- at least in the late '80s and '90s -- primarily because it was able to attract foreign investment," Mr. Anwar says. "It has lost that. So we have to see why? Well," he answers his own question, "economic policies considered obsolete -- particularly the New Economic Policy." He's referring to the pervasive pro-Malay affirmative-action program that reaches deeply into almost every corner of the economy and the university system. "There's no rule of law, endemic corruption and general incompetence" in Malaysia, he adds.

Malaysia's current government is trying harder than any other Asian regime -- save the little kingdom of Brunei -- to push closer to the Middle East, luring investment and Arab tourists to its shores. Women shrouded from head to toe are common sights in Kuala Lumpur's upscale shopping district. The country is an emerging center for Islamic finance, and Saudi-backed mosques are popping up everywhere.

Mr. Anwar thinks there's another way forward: by incorporating conservative Muslims into the democratic fold, and enforcing a secular rule of law without exception. He also made this point in a chat we had at his home in Kuala Lumpur last month. "You need a free media and free and fair elections. Moderate democracies and parties don't accept radicalism. You must give them space. Muslims can't be made to feel that democracy can only be applied to certain groups. That's not healthy."

Mr. Anwar's party is largely Malay, and secular. But his three-party coalition also includes a Chinese party and a conservative Muslim party that advocates Islamic law. The latter, the Parti Islam se-Malaysia, has supported measures such as segregated grocery store lines for men and women, bans on lipstick and antifornication laws. Why does Mr. Anwar's multiethnic coalition include a party that embraces such a platform?

"We took some years to cement this relationship because I don't want it to be seen purely as a politically expedient exercise," he says. "We base it on a clear reform agenda. So what we did instead of using labels -- Islam, secularism, liberal -- we spell out what we want. So in the agenda, for example, we believe in 'democracy and freedom.' By this we mean freedom of religion, or worship, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience. Which means all laws to the contrary will have to be rejected."

Mr. Anwar returned to Malaysia in 2006 -- after teaching stints at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies -- to launch a political comeback. He utilized every tool at his disposal outside the state-run media -- "SMSes, blogs, Web sites" -- to get out his message of anticorruption, freedom and religious tolerance. His coalition romped home in March with more than one-third of the seats in the national Parliament, and the leadership of five of Malaysia's 13 states. The result stunned the ruling United Malays National Organization, which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1957.

Mr. Anwar gets almost giddy when I query him about the result: "People on the ground, they couldn't care two hoots about this scurrilous attack on my character," he exclaims, referring to the latest sodomy accusation. "They want to hear me talk about change . . . I think the old system -- the center cannot hold. Remember that brilliant piece by Yeats?" Mr. Anwar is referring, aptly, to the poem, "The Second Coming."

He thinks political change in Malaysia could reverberate outside the country's borders, setting a "crucial" example for the rest of the Muslim world. But is the rest of the Muslim world ready to hear his message? What about Iran?

"I respect Iran as a nation, with such a great civilization, with great potential," Mr. Anwar says, evading the question with a grin. But "they know my views on democracy. They know my engagement with the West and with the Americans."

Being pro-American isn't popular in Malaysia, and Mr. Anwar is careful to stress his distance from Washington. "For example, the occupation of American forces in Iraq. I disagree, I totally disagree. But I don't treat America as my enemy. And I believe that we would gain immensely by maintaining very good diplomatic and economic relations, trade relations, with America. But it doesn't mean we must agree with them on many issues, or most issues."

It also doesn't mean that Mr. Anwar agrees with other Islamic powers, either. On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, he met government officials and heard them talk of their modern education system. "I said I was impressed," but "quality education" needs "a liberal democratic space" and "creativity."

Could Malaysia serve as an example for the rest of the Islamic world, as a tolerant, Muslim-majority and multiethnic democracy? "Right now, it's certainly a very poor example," he says, laughing out loud. "But it has this enormous potential in terms of gender equality. Although you know, my wife wouldn't agree with that term. She says it's not that equal for now. . . . You should say, moving toward gender equality." Mr. Anwar's wife and one of his daughters are members of Parliament.

The sodomy accusation is meant not just to discredit Mr. Anwar, but to rip apart his nascent coalition. It was levied a few days before Mr. Anwar was scheduled to announce his candidacy for parliament. Fearing the worst, he fled to the Turkish embassy -- another moderate Muslim democracy -- for refuge. Since then, photos purportedly showing his accuser meeting with high-level government officials began to circulate. The government denies any involvement.

"To allow for some segment or sector, groups, within the system to resort to these dirty machinations is pathetic," he says, then pauses. "To them, it may be necessary to pre-empt our next move, my contesting the by-election."

Malaysia's most prominent mufti, or religious scholar, Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, has backed Mr. Anwar's cause. Around 2,000 supporters flocked to the police station last week when word got out that Mr. Anwar was spending the night there. "I've advised my supporters to remain calm," he says. "Don't overreact, don't be provoked. Because that's exactly what they want. In any authoritarian system, what they want to present is a near chaos so they can declare a state of emergency."

Why not pack it all in and retire with his wife and six children? "You come in with a clear conviction, that you believe in freedom, you believe in democracy," Mr. Anwar replies. "And you have so much affection for the people. You love your country. You want the country to succeed. And this is one, unique, multiracial, multireligious country with a Muslim majority that should prove to the world that we can co-exist and succeed with a vibrant economy. Now, there's a lot of intimidation, a lot of efforts to derail this. If I choose to surrender, keep quiet, then it would adversely affect the process."

He asks a rhetorical question: "If I, in my position, with my experience, have no courage, just because I was beaten up before, humiliated, then what do you expect from the people? What sort of leadership do you provide?"

Mr. Anwar's aides are gesticulating to him at the window outside his office -- he's late for his next appointment. "It's going to be tough," he says. "But this time, I am certain -- as we say, inshallah, God willing, we are going to make it." He laughs, and walks away, still smiling.

Ms. Kissel is the editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia's editorial page.
23455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 26, 2008, 09:53:21 AM
Plausible I suppose, but in that it has not been done here in the US or Europe, do you think the Chinese Muslim Fascists have the ability to go nuke?  My sense of things is that they are at a lower level.

My sense of things is that playing up the Isalmo-fascist issue becomes  a way for China to neutralize the usual US complaints and bleatings when they are their usual oppressive totalitarian selves.
23456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Initiatives on: July 26, 2008, 09:43:18 AM
 

 
The Far Left's War on Direct Democracy
By JOHN FUND
July 26, 2008; Page A9

A total of 24 states allow voters to change laws on their own by collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. It's healthy that the entrenched political class should face some real legislative competition from initiative-toting citizens. Unfortunately, some special interests have declared war on the initiative process, using tactics ranging from restrictive laws to outright thuggery.

 
David G. Klein 
The initiative is a reform born out of the Progressive Era, when there was general agreement that powerful interests had too much influence over legislators. It was adopted by most states in the Midwest and West, including Ohio and California. It was largely rejected by Eastern states, which were dominated by political machines, and in the South, where Jim Crow legislators feared giving more power to ordinary people.

But more power to ordinary people remains unpopular in some quarters, and nothing illustrates the war on the initiative more than the reaction to Ward Connerly's measures to ban racial quotas and preferences. The former University of California regent has convinced three liberal states -- California, Washington and Michigan -- to approve race-neutral government policies in public hiring, contracting and university admissions. He also prodded Florida lawmakers into passing such a law. This year his American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) aimed to make the ballot in five more states. But thanks to strong-arm tactics, the initiative has only made the ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

"The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place," says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "That's the only way we're going to win." Her group's name certainly describes the tactics that are being used to thwart Mr. Connerly.

Aggressive legal challenges have bordered on the absurd, going so far as to claim that a blank line on one petition was a "duplicate" of another blank line on another petition and thus evidence of fraud. In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan completely rewrote the initiative's ballot summary to portray it in a negative light. By the time courts ruled she had overstepped her authority, there wasn't enough time to collect sufficient signatures.

Those who did circulate petitions faced bizarre obstacles. In Kansas City, a petitioner was arrested for collecting signatures outside of a public library. Officials finally allowed petitioners a table inside the library but forbade them to talk. In Nebraska, a group in favor of racial preferences ran a radio ad that warned that those who signed the "deceptive" petition "could be at risk for identity theft, robbery, and much worse."

Mr. Connerly says that it's ironic that those who claim to believe in "people power" want to keep people from voting on his proposal: "Their tactics challenge the legitimacy of our system."

He's not alone. Liberal columnist Anne Denogean of the Tucson Citizen opposes the Connerly initiative, but last month she wrote that BAMN "is showing a disgusting lack of respect for the democratic process and the right of all Arizonans to participate in it." She detailed how members of this organization harass petitioners and film people who sign the petition, while telling them they are backing a racist measure.

The police had to be called when BAMN blocked the entrance of a Phoenix office where circulators had to deliver their petitions. "BAMN's tactics," she concluded, "resemble those used by anti-abortion activists to prevent women from entering abortion clinics."

But BAMN proudly posts videos on its success in scaring away voters, or convincing circulators to hand over their petitions to its shock troops. "If you give me your signatures, we'll leave you alone," says a BAMN volunteer on one tape to someone who's earning money by circulating several different petitions.

What about voters' rights to sign ACRI's petitions? BAMN organizer Monica Smith equates race-neutral laws with Jim-Crow segregation laws and slavery. She told Tuscon columnist Denogean that voters are simply being educated that ACRI is "trying to end affirmative action . . . We let them know it's up on the KKK's Web site." Mr. Connerly has repudiated any support from racists.

Other opponents of Mr. Connerly deplore the blocking and name-calling. Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told me that initiatives have been used to pass ideas such as campaign finance and redistricting reform often opposed by entrenched legislators. "People have a right to sign a petition, hear the arguments and then vote," she says. Ms. Sinema thinks Arizonans can be persuaded to vote down ACRI's measure, much as they voted down a ban on gay marriage in 2006.

The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after he pushed through a 22% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr. Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners. Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using threatening language.

Mr. Dillon denied organizing such activity. Then it was revealed two of the harassers were state employees working directly for him. Another "voter educator" hired by the state's Democratic Party had been convicted of armed robbery. After 2,000 signatures were thrown out on technical grounds, the recall effort fell 700 signatures short.

Ever since voters in virtually every state with direct democracy passed term limits in the 1990s, state legislators have been hostile to the process. Now Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado have all passed legislation to prohibit people from out-of-state from circulating a petition, and also to ban payment to circulators on a per-signature basis.

To his credit, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed such curbs. In March, a Sixth Circuit federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled that an Ohio law barring per-signature payment violated the First Amendment. Similarly, a Ninth Circuit panel just voted unanimously to strike down Arizona's residency law for circulators.

Some judges think the "blocking" of signature gatherers has gone too far. In 2006, Nevada Judge Sally Loehrers decreed a "civility zone" that barred opposing sides from coming within arms' length of each other at petition signing sites. "The blockers were off the streets within two days," says Paul Jacob, the head of Citizens in Charge, which promotes the initiative process.

Last year, Mr. Jacob was charged with conspiracy to defraud the state of Oklahoma in a bizarre prosecution that claimed he brought in out-of-state signature gatherers in violation of the state's residency requirement. Yet local public sector unions opposed to Mr. Jacob hired out-of-state outfits such as the Voter Education Project, an AFL-CIO offshoot that specializes in harassing signature drives.

Representative government will remain the enduring feature of American democracy, but the initiative process is a valuable safety valve. So long as elected officials gerrymander their districts and otherwise make it nearly impossible for voters to oust them, direct lawmaking will be popular. That's why attempts to arbitrarily curb the initiative, or to intimidate people from exercising their right to participate, must be resisted. It's a civil liberties issue that should unite people of good will on both the right and left.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for WSJ.com.
 
23457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 26, 2008, 09:28:22 AM
Summary
The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) — another name for China’s Islamic Party of East Turkistan militant group — has claimed responsibility for the July 21 bus bombings in Yunnan and several other incidents around the country. The group has also said militants are trained and deployed to attack critical targets in major Chinese cities during the Olympics. The claims of responsibility appear exaggerated, but the threat TIP poses cannot be ignored.

Analysis
The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) — another name for the Islamic Party of East Turkistan (ETIM) — has issued a video claiming responsibility for the July 21 bus bombings in Yunnan as well as several other incidents across China in recent months. The spokesman for the TIP, who refers to himself as Commander Seyfullah, also warned that TIP militants were trained and deployed to hit at critical targets in central cities during the Olympics. While the claims of responsibility appear exaggerated, the potential threat to transportation infrastructure, particularly in cities other than Beijing, cannot be brushed aside.

Over the past year, TIP has expanded its presence on the Internet, issuing videos calling for a jihad by Uighurs from China’s western Xinjiang province and highlighting training exercises. One video showed the execution of at least three ethnic Chinese. In addition, TIP has profiled extensively both the history of the movement (which at times has been called ETIM — a name the Chinese use when talking about most militant actions in Xinjiang and a group the United States added to its list of foreign terrorist organizations) and the former leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, who was killed in Pakistan in 2003.

Following Mahsum’s death, ETIM fractured, its members moving into hiding, primarily in Afghanistan. Since that time, a successor movement has been pulling together, linked to Uzbek and other foreign militants operating in the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. More recently, the TIP has begun issuing videos — some dedicated to Mahsum, others showing training operations — and, in an April video, the group began issuing warnings to China that they would attack the Olympics. This most recent video follows up on that, saying that China has effectively run out of time, and that the group’s leader, Abdul Haq, has ordered militants to begin striking in central China. Haq was one of the key members of the early ETIM group, working with Mahsum in Afghanistan in training Uighur militants in 2001.

China has long warned that ETIM posed a critical threat to the Olympics. The recent uptick in incidents in China — from the March airline incident to the recent bus fire in Shanghai and the double bus bombing in Yunnan — has raised concerns if not about a coordinated effort to target the Chinese state, at least about China’s transportation infrastructure.

ETIM has a history of transportation infrastructure attacks (as does the broader al Qaeda movement), and there have been quiet rumors from China — particularly in Shanghai — in recent months that suspicious Central and South Asians (including Kazakhs) were seen monitoring infrastructure in Chinese cities, the implication being that they were carrying out pre-operational surveillance for potential attacks. Chinese authorities have also reported that they found plans for attacks against Olympic athletes, tourists and various military and civilian infrastructure during raids of alleged ETIM camps in western China earlier this year.

The claims in the latest TIP video seem a bit exaggerated — a common tactic for militants seeking to increase attention and embellish their own image. There is some suspicion that the videos are part of a psychological operation, by either the Chinese government to further justify security sweeps or by foreign agents to raise additional fears in Beijing. Chinese authorities also recently said they had wrapped up a threat in Shanghai to the Olympics. However, the government has yet to offer an explanation for the bus attack in Shanghai (and a hoax bomb-call for a major market at around the same time), and the local government in Yunnan has already tripled the initial reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprits behind the bus bombings in Kunming. Yunnan borders Southeast Asia, and the mountain paths offer a relatively easy route for discreet entry into and out of China should the militants have come from outside.

While Seyfullah’s claims appear greater than reality, they cannot be entirely dismissed, nor can the potential for further transportation infrastructure attacks against China. As Stratfor has cautioned previously, attacks against buses, trains and even airlines are not unlikely, particularly outside of Beijing. Shanghai in particular has seen a lot of unusual activity in recent months that may be a signal that operations are being planned or scoped out in the city. While TIP/ETIM does not pose a strategic threat to the Chinese state, such transportation attacks are well within its scope of capabilities.

23458  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Emergency Rooms on: July 26, 2008, 09:13:04 AM
You may think of a hospital as a place of refuge and healing, but so do wounded gang members. And wounded predators can be dangerous.
July 23, 2008  http://www.policemag.com/Channels/Gangs/2008/07/23/Gang-Members-in-the-Emergency-Room.aspx

Have you ever thought about this one?


One night you are one of the police units in your city responding to a gang fight call. The first units arriving broadcast that a gang shooting has just occurred with several wounded gunshot victims. But you are diverted to respond to the local hospital because an anonymous source called claiming that gang members are rushing their critically wounded to the emergency room.


On your way to the hospital, you see several vehicles ahead of you speeding through the streets, running stop signs, and finally pulling into the hospital emergency room parking lot. Your one-man-unit approaches the vehicle closest to the emergency room doors as several very emotional gang members are dragging an obviously dead homeboy out of the car.


Suddenly you hear shouting from another car behind you. These gangsters are also getting out of their cars, and they also have a wounded homeboy. The air is charged with tension and taunts, threats, and challenges are exchanged.


You are now in the middle of a kill zone between two rival and highly agitated gangs. You watch in slow motion as they drop their wounded and draw their guns. It is as though they cannot even see you or recognize your uniform or police vehicle. You are not the intended target, but you could easily be collateral damage.


This scenario is taken from an incident that actually occurred at the Los Angeles County General Hospital and resulted in an officer-involved shooting in the emergency parking lot. The officer was a member of the Los Angeles County Police Department, the agency that works the county hospitals.


As a gang detective, I once responded to another local hospital trauma center to get a statement from a gunshot victim. He had just barely survived a gunshot wound and an emergency room procedure and was in the Intensive Care Unit.


The hospital security guard led me to ICU, and we both were startled to see my “victim” rolling around on his hospital bed dragging his I.V. bottle and electronic monitoring wires, jousting with another patient in a similar bed with similar lines trying to pull the tubes and wires from each other.


When we separated them, we learned that they were suspect/victim and members of rival gangs. This problem continued to grow for the hospital over the next few days because both patients’ homeboys and homegirls began coming to the hospital to visit their own wounded, and would run into members of the other gang. Eventually hospital security had to be assigned and stationed in front of each of their rooms.


On another occasion, a gang member was brought to the Martin Luther King emergency room under the influence of phencyclidine (PCP) by his homeboys. Officers of the Los Angeles County Police searched the gang member and then strapped him to a gurney in the very busy emergency room. There were, in fact, several PCP overdoses and wounded gang members in the emergency room and hall ways on this night.


This particular gang member was not my charge; I was there with a different gang member who was being cleared for booking by hospital staff. Another Deputy from the Special Enforcement Unit, Steve Nelson, was having another arrested gang member checked out when we both heard screams coming from the emergency room.


The gang member who was under the influence of PCP and strapped to the gurney by the County Police had a pocket knife and had somehow cut himself free from his leather restraints. He had already stabbed the attending emergency room physician and jumped off the gurney to slash a second staff member.


Dep. Nelson and I gave chase in the crowded emergency room. The suspect swung the knife at anyone he passed near enough to reach. We drew our pistols but had no chance of a clear shot in the emergency room and hallway. We ran through the corridors and hallways out to the very crowded lobby.


As the suspect ran outside to the parking lot, we split up, chasing him around several large metal CONEX-style boxes. The suspect charged Nelson with the knife, and Nelson put a very quick but controlled three rounds into his center mass just below the ribs and right of center line.


To Nelson’s and my amazement, the very same emergency room staff that this violent gang member had attacked came out to the parking lot to his life.


Despite the friendly staff with good attitudes, hospitals are not usually happy places. Domestic violence, child abuse, rape, attempted suicides, gang assaults, and drug overdoses are just a few of the problems encountered in the average day in a busy hospital. If you expect to frequent such a place, do not let your guard down.


Find out if the hospital has a police force or private security officers. Introduce yourself to them and learn their hospital procedures before an emergency occurs. Don’t disrespect them, even if you think that they are only private security guards. Remember you are in their house. If you get into trouble, it will most likely be them coming to your aid as first responders.


Many modern hospitals are equipped with metal detectors and X-ray systems to scan bags and purses. In addition some hospitals require everyone to be stopped, searched, and wanded with a handheld metal detector before entering the building. This is accomplished under implied consent laws and hospital regulations.


However, some hospitals exclude doctors and staff from this requirement. Make yourself aware of the procedures at this checkpoint because it will be one of the possible points where trouble will occur.


When you get to the emergency room, study how it is laid out. Where is the trouble likely to come from? Where are the phones? What code system is the staff using? For example, Code Blue = cardiac arrest.


Talk to the regular emergency room staff on all shifts, especially the Doctors and the floor nurse. Ask them to clue you in when they sense possible trouble. Offer to let them ride along with you one day if they will run you through their emergency room procedures.


Talk to the hospital security personnel about the local gangs. If you have any in your town, I will bet you can find gang graffiti on the hospital grounds. Photograph and identify the gang graffiti for the security people. Point out gang tattoos. Make it a kind of game with the security staff to identify possible gang affiliations and separate them on intake.


Suggest they establish an isolation room for possible problem patients. Talk to them about the use of handcuffs and restraints. Note: some inexperienced doctors and staff members will object to any use of restraints on a person being examined and treated in the emergency room, even a potentially dangerous gang member. Try to convince them that such a precaution is best for everyone. 


When you are in the field and responding to a gang fight or shooting, try to roll the wounded to separate hospitals if possible. Talk to the paramedics about this because sometimes the victim’s wounds will determine the trauma center he should be sent to.


Have the desk notify the hospital security that victims associated with this gang are on their way or roll the assisting unit with the victims to prevent clashes with the rival victims or suspects. Have the assisting unit drive through the hospital parking lot looking for the rival gang members who might be spying to find out if they made a kill or just wounded the victim.


The California Penal Code covers the crime of “Resisting public peace officers or medical technicians in the discharge of their duties,” under 148 P.C. The law was designed to protect policemen and paramedics in the field, but it could be applied to emergency room situations too. Look up your state’s codes on interfering, resisting, or obstructing police and medical technicians in emergency situations and see if you can use them against gangs in the emergency room.

author: Richard Valdemar | posted @ Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:57 AM

23459  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Minimum Skills for h2h on: July 26, 2008, 01:01:30 AM
Here's a slap in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_-07NxaqlM&feature=related
23460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Holy Child on: July 26, 2008, 12:52:07 AM
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/gerard_baker/article4392846.ece
July 25, 2008

He ventured forth to bring light to the world
The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers
Gerard Baker
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

Background
Obama fears the Blair effect as tour continues
The Europhiles are not the future, Mr Obama
The Bugle - Barack Obama is coming to Europe!
Our leaders go after some Obama magic
And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”
23461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia into Cuba again? on: July 26, 2008, 12:33:05 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Cuba and a Return to the Russian-U.S. Tug-of-War
July 25, 2008
For the past week, a series of stories and denials have been published in the Russian media surrounding a possible plan for Russia to relocate a refueling base in Cuba and resume flights of Russia’s Tu-160 “Blackjack” and Tu-95 “Bear” nuclear-capable strategic bombers back into the Western Hemisphere. All the noise reached a crescendo when another piece of information — true or not — was leaked to the Russian press that a crew of the Russian bombers had gone to Cuba on Thursday to conduct preliminary surveys.

Thus far, there is no confirmation that Russia is indeed returning militarily to Cuba. It is, however, a signal of what could happen if the United Stated does not heed Russian demands for Washington to back off from Moscow’s turf. This would be, in Moscow’s eyes, an equal response to the United States’ signing ballistic missile defense system treaties with the Czech Republic and Poland — right on Russia’s doorstep — as well as discussing NATO membership with the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia did, in fact, respond to the West’s encroachment: cutting energy supplies to Europe and sending more military into Georgia’s secessionist regions. But the problem was that Moscow simply hadn’t gotten Washington’s attention.

Washington has been too wrapped up in other issues — such as the upcoming presidential election, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, negotiations with Iran and simply not believing Russia had any real tools with which to threaten it –- that it airily dismissed all of Moscow’s provocations. This has made Russia’s reprisals Europe’s problem at a time when Moscow wants to prove it once again is a global power and can stand up against its traditional foe: the United States. So Russia sent a signal of something that the United States simply cannot ignore — the moving of the Russian-U.S. tug-of-war from Russia’s doorstep to the U.S. doorstep. This is a serious threat and one with which Washington is quite familiar.

The Cuba option would be a powerful move against the United States — just as it was during the 1950s and 1960s — because it directly penetrates the United States’ immediate periphery. Combine the Cuba rumors with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s trip to Moscow this past week — which held its own flurry of rumored deals over Russian bases and defense deals — and Moscow is reminding the Americans of a prior miscalculation. In the 1950s, Washington assumed that it could threaten the Soviet Union along its borders in Europe, South Asia and East Asia. And the United States believed it could not be threatened in its homeland, in the Western Hemisphere — America assumed no foreign power would dare violate the Monroe Doctrine. Washington bet that Moscow did not have an equivalent threat, and it was wrong.

The Soviet Union’s move into Cuba back then changed the entire dynamic of the Cold War. The Soviet presence threatened the sea lanes out of the Gulf of Mexico, major facilities in Florida, all of the Caribbean airspace and some of the Eastern Seaboard. It forced the U.S. Navy and Air Force to shift resources and account for Soviet units there. It diverted the CIA into Latin America, forcing the conflicts in Central American and Grenada. Despite its inherent military vulnerability, Cuba was one of the most strategic Soviet assets. Nothing was the same after Cuba.

The Russians are reminding the Americans of their prior miscalculations on how Russians respond to perceived threats. The United States has shifted its focus from its periphery and once again moved to responding to threats that could never truly physically hit the homeland — such as an Iranian missile threat. In the nearly 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has returned to and enjoyed a world where any potential military threat is an ocean and half a world away.

For now, this is just a signal and no real movement on the ground has been made. Russia is serious, however, about its ability to follow through if the United States does not release the pressure elsewhere. The moves over Cuba are not an indicator of the Russians’ global intentions, but are meant to signal an increase in Moscow’s assertiveness. It is a gutsy and interesting move by the Russians. We have yet to see whether the Americans have really noticed (or want to admit that they noticed) and can divert attention from the Middle East and domestic politics to address the Russian threat — either by backing down or by escalating the situation, which would bring back a Cold War standoff.

Of course, if Washington and Moscow do get serious about things such as Cuba, then the U.S. escalation would go far beyond what Russia currently feels threatened over.
23462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mish Shedlock: Banking System Unsound on: July 25, 2008, 11:19:24 PM
http://www.321gold.com/editorials/shedlock/shedlock072408.html

You Know The Banking System Is Unsound When...
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
Jul 24, 2008

1. Paulson appears on Face The Nation and says "Our banking system is a safe and a sound one." If the banking system was safe and sound, everyone would know it (or at least think it). There would be no need to say it.

2. Paulson says the list of troubled banks "is a very manageable situation". The reality is there are 90 banks on the list of problem banks. Indymac was not one of them until a month before it collapsed. How many other banks will magically appear on the list a month before they collapse?

3. In a Northern Rock moment, depositors at Indymac pull out their cash. Police had to be called in to ensure order.

4. Washington Mutual (WM), another troubled bank, refused to honor Indymac cashier's checks. The irony is it makes no sense for customers to pull insured deposits out of Indymac after it went into receivership. The second irony is the last place one would want to put those funds would be Washington Mutual. Eventually Washington Mutual decided it would take those checks but with an 8 week hold. Will Washington Mutual even be around 8 weeks from now?

5. Paulson asked for "Congressional authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE)" just days after he said "Financial Institutions Must Be Allowed To Fail". Obviously Paulson is reporting from the 5th dimension. In some alternate universe, his statements just might make sense.

6. Former Fed Governor William Poole says "Fannie Mae, Freddie Losses Makes Them Insolvent".

7. Paulson says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are "essential" because they represent the only "functioning" part of the home loan market. The firms own or guarantee about half of the $12 trillion in U.S. mortgages. Is it possible to have a sound banking system when the only "functioning" part of the mortgage market is insolvent?

8. Bernanke testified before Congress on monetary policy but did not comment on either money supply or interest rates. The word "money" did not appear at all in his testimony. The only time "interest rate" appeared in his testimony was in relation to consumer credit card rates. How can you have any reasonable economic policy when the Fed chairman is scared half to death to discuss interest rates and money supply?

9. The SEC issued a protective order to protect those most responsible for naked short selling. As long as the investment banks and brokers were making money engaging in naked shorting of stocks, there was no problem. However, when the bears began using the tactic against the big financials, it became time to selectively enforce the existing regulation.

10. The Fed takes emergency actions twice during options expirations week in regards to the discount window and rate cuts.

11. The SEC takes emergency action during options expirations week regarding short sales.

12. The Fed has implemented an alphabet soup of pawn shop lending facilities whereby the Fed accepts garbage as collateral in exchange for treasuries. Those new Fed lending facilities are called the Term Auction Facility (TAF), the Term Security Lending Facility (TSLF), and the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF).

13. Citigroup (C), Lehman (LEH), Morgan Stanley(MS), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Merrill Lynch (MER) all have a huge percentage of level 3 assets. Level 3 assets are commonly known as "marked to fantasy" assets. In other words, the value of those assets is significantly if not ridiculously overvalued in comparison to what those assets would fetch on the open market. It is debatable if any of the above firms survive in their present form. Some may not survive in any form.

14. Bernanke openly solicits private equity firms to invest in banks. Is this even close to a remotely normal action for Fed chairman to take?

15. Bear Stearns was taken over by JPMorgan (JPM) days after insuring investors it had plenty of capital. Fears are high that Lehman will suffer the same fate. Worse yet, the Fed had to guarantee the shotgun marriage between Bear Stearns and JP Morgan by providing as much as $30 billion in capital. JPMorgan is responsible for only the first 1/2 billion. Taxpayers are on the hook for all the rest. Was this a legal action for the Fed to take? Does the Fed care?

16. Citigroup needed a cash injection from Abu Dhabi and a second one elsewhere. Then after announcing it would not need more capital is raising still more. The latest news is Citigroup will sell $500 billion in assets. To who? At what price?

17. Merrill Lynch raised $6.6 billion in capital from Kuwait Mizuho, announced it did not need to raise more capital, then raised more capital a few week later.

18. Morgan Stanley sold a 9.9% equity stake to China International Corp. CEO John Mack compensated by not taking his bonus. How generous. Morgan Stanley fell from $72 to $37. Did CEO John Mack deserve a paycheck at all?

19. Bank of America (BAC) agreed to take over Countywide Financial (CFC) and twice announced Countrywide will add profits to B of A. Inquiring minds were asking "How the hell can Countrywide add to Bank of America earnings?" Here's how. Bank of America just announced it will not guarantee $38.1 billion in Countrywide debt. Questions over "Fraudulent Conveyance" are now surfacing.

20. Washington Mutual agreed to a death spiral cash infusion of $7 billion accepting an offer at $8.75 when the stock was over $13 at the time. Washington Mutual has since fallen in waterfall fashion from $40 and is now trading near $5.00 after a huge rally.

21. Shares of Ambac (ABK) fell from $90 to $2.50. Shares of MBIA (MBI) fell from $70 to $5. Sadly, the top three rating agencies kept their rating on the pair at AAA nearly all the way down. No one can believe anything the government sponsored rating agencies say.

22. In a panic set of moves, the Fed slashed interest rates from 5.25% to 2%. This was the fastest, steepest drop on record. Ironically, the Fed chairman spoke of inflation concerns the entire drop down. Bernanke clearly cannot tell the truth. He does not have to. Actions speak louder than words.

23. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the FDIC is looking for ways to shore up its depleted deposit fund, including charging higher premiums on riskier brokered deposits.

24. There is roughly $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. $2.60 Trillion of that is uninsured. There is only $53 billion in FDIC insurance to cover $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. Indymac will eat up roughly $8 billion of that.

25. Of the $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits, the total cash on hand at banks is a mere $273.7 Billion. Where is the rest of the loot? The answer is in off balance sheet SIVs, imploding commercial real estate deals, Alt-A liar loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, toggle bonds where debt is amazingly paid back with more debt, and all sorts of other silly (and arguably fraudulent) financial wizardry schemes that have bank and brokerage firms leveraged at 30-1 or more. Those loans cannot be paid back.

What cannot be paid back will be defaulted on. If you did not know it before, you do now. The entire US banking system is insolvent.

Mike Shedlock / Mish
blog: http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/
email: Mish

321gold Ltd
23463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 11:15:54 PM
Very gracious.  Forward!  GM?

GM:

You make very good points, but as best as I can tell still do not reach my central doubt about your hypothesis-- can Islamic Fascism really become a big enough threat to internal Chinese control to the piont wherein it will suit Chinese govt purposes to cease and desist the activities you so well describe in order to ally with the US against Islamic Fascism?  Just what is it that we can offer them?

I'm thinking the solution will include (in no particular order)

a)  strengthening the dollar; higher interest rates, lower corporate tax rate
b)  price stability, reducing govt meddling in the economy
c) allow the market to do its work in responding to higher energy prices
d) eliminating/reducing taxes on alternative forms of energy
f)  drilling for oil
g) I know some like nuclear, but ever since the "experts" here in CA tried building a reactor on an earth quake fault I have a hard time trusting them
h) cultural sedition  grin


23464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mystery Explosion on: July 25, 2008, 11:00:45 PM
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/m.../25/do2503.xml
Mystery explosions point to Iran's secret arms shipments to terrorists


For an organisation that prides itself on being a well-run administrative machine, the leadership of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is having a rather testing time. It’s not just last Saturday’s mysterious explosion in a suburb of Tehran that killed 15 people that is causing the leadership sleepless nights, although the nationwide news black-out imposed immediately afterwards does suggest the Revolutionary Guards, the storm troops of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, are rattled.

Details are only now starting to reach the outside world, and it looks increasingly like sabotage was responsible for devastating a military convoy as it travelled through Khavarshahar. The company responsible for moving the equipment, LTK, is owned by the Revolutionary Guards and is suspected of being involved in shipping arms to Lebanon’s Hizbollah Shia Muslim militia, which is trained and funded by Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guards’ arms shipments to Lebanon and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are usually shrouded in such secrecy that only a few senior members of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government are briefed in advance. As the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme deepens, the Revolutionary Guards have intensified their efforts to supply regional allies with military hardware so that, in the event of Tehran becoming involved in an armed confrontation with the West, Iran can respond by opening a number of fronts in the Middle East and beyond.

The need to keep the arms build-up secret would explain the Revolutionary Guards’ decision to ban the Iranian media from reporting the explosion, even though it was heard throughout the capital. But what really concerns Iran’s leadership is that the incident is the latest in a long line of unexplained explosions.

In May, officials blamed British and American agents for an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz that had just finished staging an exhibition of Iran’s latest military hardware. Last year more than a dozen Iranian engineers were killed while trying to fit a chemical warhead to a missile in Syria.

A few months earlier, a train reported to be carrying military supplies to Syria was derailed by another mysterious explosion in northern Turkey. It is highly unlikely that these incidents are unrelated, which has only served to deepen the mood of fear and suspicion gripping the Revolutionary Guards’ leadership.

Tensions have been running high in Tehran since Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, revealed in the New Yorker magazine last month that President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million to fund a major escalation in covert operations to destabilise the regime.

Having contended with Iran’s attempts to undermine the Iraqi government over the past five years, British and American military commanders are more than happy to undertake covert operations in Iran, and there have been unconfirmed reports that special forces are operating undercover in the country.


Western diplomats and nuclear inspectors who frequently travel to Tehran as part of the international effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium enrichment activities report that a sense of paranoia appears to have gripped the regime in recent months.
“There has certainly been a change of mood since the start of the year,” a Vienna-based official told me this week. “In the past they always appeared very self-confident and sure-footed in their dealings with foreign officials. Now they come across as very suspicious, and watch our every move.”

Tehran’s changed political atmosphere might be explained by the fact that President Ahmadinejad and his senior officials realise they are running out of time in their negotiations with the West. After more than four years of painstaking talks with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran is continuing to enrich uranium at its underground facility at Natanz, a clear breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Even senior officials at the agency, who have gone out of their way to accommodate the Iranians’ concerns, have little confidence that the Iranians have any intention of reaching a compromise. “All they seem interested in is extending the talks as long as possible while all the time they continue with their uranium enrichment programme,” said an official close to the talks. “Their entire strategy appears to be based on playing for time.”

Iran has just another week to respond to the latest proposal put forward by the West at last weekend’s meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva, in which Iran was offered economic reconstruction in return for halting the enrichment programme.

Iran is intensifying efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon in preparation for a possible attack on Israel. Revolutionary Guards are keen to strengthen its leadership following the assassination of Imad Mugniyeh, Hizbollah’s head of security, in the Syrian capital by Israeli agents last February.

Mugniyeh, the terrorist behind suicide truck bomb attacks on American and French troops in the 1980s, played a key role in building up Hizbollah’s military strength, which proved to be highly effective during its 2006 attack against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. Tehran wants to appoint one of its commanders as a replacement, but has received unexpected resistance from Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general. Nasrallah insists Mugniyeh’s replacement must come from within Hizbollah’s ranks. Suddenly nothing seems to be going the Revolutionary Guards’ way.
23465  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: July 25, 2008, 07:05:11 PM
GM:

That's an excellent idea-- is this something you can track down for us?

TAC,
CD
23466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: July 25, 2008, 06:26:08 PM


Am I correct in reading
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9621
to be a part of/connected to the ACLU?

If so, ugh.  Speaking as a former member, the ACLU has negative credibiity for me.
23467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 06:21:08 PM
1.  I supect our military plans for victory too.
2/3.  Agreed.  Note that we too sold to the pre-Taliban to bleed the Russians.  The Chinese govt can be more ruthless in these things because it is a totalitarian state.
4/5.  Again, because it is a totalitarian state, it can be more ruthless.  Does it really need to fear the Chinese Muslims to the point of giving up the joy and "benefit" of helping world-wide Islamic Fascism bleed us? 

FWIW I see the Chinese as having some very weak links in their chain:
1) its' banking system is a tremendous house of cards,
2) due to the one child policy, its demographics are quite unusual.  The few will be supporting the many.
3) it has turned itself into a toxic dump with utterly unsustainable environmental policies
4) apparently there are tremendous social pressures

23468  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: July 25, 2008, 03:23:33 PM
Suggestions?
23469  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Cooties in Training on: July 25, 2008, 01:44:39 PM
Woof All:

This thread is for matters concerning the risks of catching cooties while training.

Yip!
CD
==================

Downey High wrestler with staph infection dies
The 17-year-old was hospitalized for 20 days. Illness can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, dirty towels.
By Mary Engel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 25, 2008
A Downey High School wrestler has died after being hospitalized for 20 days with pneumonia and other complications of a staph infection.

Noah Armendariz, 17, died Sunday at Children's Hospital of Orange County, said his mother, Cynthia Magaña.
The infection was caused by methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, or MSSA, Magaña said.

Another form of S. aureus, known as MRSA for "methicillin-resistant," tends to get more publicity because it has grown resistant to methicillin and some other antibiotics. But infectious disease specialists say that both forms can be deadly if they move from the skin, where they normally reside, into the bloodstream and organs.

"The key is invasive," said Dr. Adam Hersh, a pediatric infectious disease fellow at UC San Francisco. "Only a small number of staph infections among children and adolescents become invasive, but both MRSA and MSSA can be very serious infections when they do."

Both can be passed by skin-to-skin contact or by sharing dirty towels, making them common among wrestlers, football players and others who play contact sports. Armendariz developed a rash shortly after returning from a wrestling camp at a Lake Arrowhead high school in June, Magaña said. A few days after that, he ran a fever and felt pains in his legs.

But he also had dislocated a shoulder, and the doctors she took him to initially focused on that, she said.

On July 1, he felt chest pains, and Magaña took him to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Bellflower.

He was admitted to the intensive care unit and stayed there until he was stable enough to be transferred to Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach, Magaña said. He was later transferred to the hospital in Orange County.

Public health experts recommend hand-washing, showering, laundering towels and uniforms in hot water and disinfecting gym equipment to prevent transmission.  They also recommend keeping an eye on rashes and other bumps, especially if they are accompanied by fevers and chills.

23470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: July 25, 2008, 01:29:44 PM
Not sure why this is in this thread, but OTOH not sure what other thread it should go in  cheesy

A lot of these numbers are quite at variance with what I understand to be the case.   Do you have a URL for this?
23471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 25, 2008, 01:22:48 PM
The Real Revelation: Not All Pressies Are Skinflints

John McCain used to be famous for his fawning coverage by Big Media and his friendships with Bigfoot reporters. No longer. Media types have fallen hard for Barack Obama and their donation records show just how much. Writing at the blog American Thinker, former journalist William Tate has documented that employees of big media companies are donating to Democrats over Republicans by more than 10 to 1.

Federal Election Commission records show, for instance, that Democrats collected 15 times as much money from those who described themselves as journalists as Republicans did. A total of 235 "journalists" donated some $225,563 to Democrats, while 20 gave $16,298 Republicans. A database search of other newsroom categories (reporter, correspondent, news editor, anchor, newspaper editor and publisher) found a total of 311 donors to Democrats and only 30 to Republicans.

When one adds up all contributions listed by the FEC as coming from employees of major media organizations, the totals are $315,533 to Democrats and a mere $22,656 for Republicans. And most of the money donated to Republicans went to Rep. Ron Paul, a maverick libertarian who supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and decriminalization of drugs, not exactly traditional conservative positions.

Most large media organizations have policies against news employees donating to political campaigns, so the numbers unearthed from the FEC certainly aren't definitive. But the overwhelming tilt of non-newsroom employees combined with those reporters who violated such bans or described themselves as "self-employed" certainly provide a clear signpost as to where the media's political leanings are. Is it at all surprising that Barack Obama is receiving such laudatory coverage?

-- John Fund

Great Lakes of Indecision

"Just as we thought, it's going to be a close race in Michigan."

That was the verdict of Dave Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University in the Detroit suburbs, after the Detroit News produced a new poll showing Barack Obama with the narrowest of leads in the battleground state. Mr. Obama is ahead of John McCain by 43% to 41%, with 12% of voters undecided and 5% supporting either Libertarian Bob Barr or consumer activist Ralph Nader.

In a memo to Michigan Republicans, Mr. McCain's regional campaign manager Jennifer Hallowell said seven regional campaign offices are now open in the state and several more will be up and running in coming weeks. They will be staffed by "paid staff and several thousand volunteer leaders," said Ms. Hallowell. Commenting on the new poll, she added: "For Senator Obama to be polling in the low 40's in this Democrat-leaning state despite his 100% name identification is almost unprecedented."

In 2005, John Kerry beat out George W. Bush for Michigan's 13 Electoral College votes after a close race, propelled by strong support from women voters and independents. Michigan has gone blue in the last four presidential elections, but usually by narrow margins. This year, however, the double whammy of high gas prices and the subprime meltdown has hit Michigan and its autoworkers hard -- and when voters are hurting, they are more susceptible to rethinking their allegiances. Team McCain is airing a new television ad blaming Mr. Obama for high gas prices and Mitt Romney, whose father was once governor of Michigan, has risen again to the top of Mr. McCain's murmured Veep list. Would Mr. Romney really be much help in Michigan? We may soon find out. Today's Washington Post revives the idea that Mr. McCain may speed up announcement of his vice presidential choice in hopes of reclaiming media attention from Mr. Obama and the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

-- Robert Costa

A Stonewall Crumbles

Eliot Spitzer got a pass yesterday when New York's Public Integrity Commission charged four of his aides with ethics violations in the infamous Troopergate scandal. Three members of the governor's former staff plus his former state police commissioner will be taking the rap -- at least for now.

A year ago Troopergate seemed that rarest of beasts -- a successful coverup. At its heart was a plot allegedly hatched in Mr. Spitzer's office to use the State Police to smear a political rival, GOP Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, suggesting he used state aircraft to attend political fundraisers. Unearthed by investigators was a complete set of talking points from Mr. Spitzer's office that closely mirrored the original story attacking Mr. Bruno in the Albany Times-Union. Once the plot unraveled, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued an "investigation" clearing Mr. Spitzer. Indeed, it's depressing to consider that Mr. Spitzer's stonewalling likely would have worked if he hadn't gotten caught with his, um, pants down in a different context.

He may not have been charged yesterday, but the investigation isn't over and the commission leaves open the possibility of additional developments. Mr. Spitzer, meanwhile, has rendered himself invisible since his resignation from office over his dalliance with a prostitute. A period of invisibility is the standard prescription before launching a rehabilitation campaign. Of course, such a campaign would be much harder if, in addition to a personal failing, he now had to answer in court for abuse of power and ethics violations during his short stint as governor.

-- Brian M. Carney

Quote of the Day

"Barack Obama always was a larger-than-life candidate with a healthy ego. Now he's turning into the A-Rod of politics. It's all about him. He's giving his opponent something other than issues to attack him on: narcissism. A convention hall isn't good enough for the presumptive Democratic nominee. He plans to deliver his acceptance speech in the 75,000-seat stadium where the Denver Broncos play. Before a vote is cast, he's embarking on a foreign-policy tour that will use cheering Europeans -- and America's top news anchors -- as extras in his campaign. . . . There's no such thing as a humble politician. But when Obama looks into the mirror, he doesn't just see a president; he sees JFK" -- Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi.

A Perk Too Far

Barack Obama may have ridiculed John McCain's call for a gasoline tax holiday this summer, but the committee hosting the Democratic National Convention -- until this week -- was enjoying its own vacation from state and federal fuel taxes. The Rocky Mountain News blew the scheme sky-high by reporting that the host committee, responsible for raising money to put on the convention, was using the City of Denver's municipal gas pumps to fill up vehicles driven by its members, avoiding some 40 cents per gallon in state and federal fuel taxes.

Chris Lopez, a spokesman for the committee, claimed the practice was adopted "for safety and security reasons." He explained that by using city pumps "we know the gas is not tainted."

After first defending the practice by incorrectly claiming that Minneapolis, host city for the Republican convention, was doing the same thing, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper slammed on the brakes this week after suggestions from the state attorney general that the practice might be illegal. He ordered that convention committee members pay full retail for gas.

-- John Fund



23472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: July 25, 2008, 09:26:43 AM
Not sure why this is in the Libertarian thread-- I'd have placed it in the Politically (In)correct thread  cheesy

In my lifetime I have seen the PC word for blacks go from "negro" to "black" to "African-american".  I have been the only white member of a 9 man band and heard them use the N-word amongst themselves.  What of it?

For me the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. 


PS:  I met Chuck once through the Machado Brothers.  He seemed very humble and genuine-- which is his reputation.
23473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 09:19:21 AM
GM:

How much credence do you put in the statements of the Chinese govt?
23474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bailout is a scandal on: July 25, 2008, 07:52:29 AM
The Fan/Fred Bailout Is a Scandal
By DICK ARMEY
July 25, 2008; Page A15

Americans who work hard, pay taxes and play by the rules can't seem to get fair representation in Washington, D.C., these days. In the current debate over a government bailout of speculators, irresponsible banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the responsible majority has once again been pushed aside in a legislative rush to "do something."

This should have been a perfect opportunity for Republicans, struggling to regain some standing with the American people, to rise united and demand real accountability and reform.

Remember how Democrats put the collapse of Enron and the subsequent losses to shareholders at the feet of the Bush White House? Freddie and Fannie are like Enron on steroids. There's a well-documented history of accounting corruption to benefit senior management; hundreds of millions of dollars spent lobbying against oversight and reform; and myriad connections to both Democratic committee chairmen and subprime lender Countrywide Financial.

Actions by Fannie and Freddie management and their regulators this year precipitated the current crisis. Under pressure from the Democrat-controlled Congress, the Bush administration lifted Fannie and Freddie's portfolio caps in February and reduced their capital reserve requirements in March. In this year's stimulus bill, Congress went further and nearly doubled the size of the loans that Fannie and Freddie can purchase or guarantee.

As a result of this reckless expansion, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) now touch nearly 70% of all new mortgages. At the same time, they are insolvent by most measures. The ostensible purpose of Fannie and Freddie is to provide liquidity to America's housing markets. In practice, they are the source of systemic risk and instability in a time of need.

What is needed now is an orderly restructuring that protects taxpayers from such financial exposure in the future, such as the plan proposed by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas). Mr. Hensarling's legislation would phase out the charter of either GSE over a five-year period if they access credit lines from the Federal Reserve or Treasury. It also provides a receivership option if the GSEs continue to stumble. Instead, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson offered the beleaguered GSEs and their patrons in Congress a blank check signed by the taxpayers, promising potentially unlimited funds to backstop the lenders. Not surprisingly, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd accepted.

Just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted last week, President Bush withdrew his previous veto threats against the overall legislative package on Wednesday, having gotten virtually nothing in return. The emboldened Democrats have simply attached the Paulson proposal to their housing bailout legislation. Having repeatedly called for Fannie and Freddie restructuring in the past, Mr. Paulson now fights to defend them in their current form.

An explicit government guarantee for Fannie and Freddie could ultimately end up costing taxpayers more than $1 trillion, according to an analysis by Standard & Poor's in April.

The entire spectacle reinforces a persistent public prejudice that the GOP routinely defends the interests of their big business and Wall Street cronies at the expense of the little guy. Messrs. Dodd and Frank won't likely wear this political albatross. Republicans who go along with this GSE bailout certainly will.

So what will congressional Republicans do? Ironically, a veto-sustaining majority of House Republicans -- led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, Financial Services ranking minority member Spencer Bachus, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Hensarling -- voted against the bill on the very same day that the Bush administration caved. "I'm deeply disappointed the White House will sign this bill in its current form," said Mr. Boehner in a statement. "We must take responsible steps to ensure our financial and housing markets are sound, but the Democrats' bill represents a multibillion dollar bailout for scam artists and speculative lenders at the expense of American taxpayers."

The final Senate floor battle on the proposed housing bailout could prove to be a definitive one for Republicans. Will they be the party defending taxpayers that play by the rules, or will they continue to indulge the Beltway crony capitalism advanced by this bill? Will they be a compliant minority browbeaten into "doing something," or will they stand for accountability and fiscal responsibility?

When Mr. Paulson appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, only Jim Bunning (R., Ky.) directly challenged his proposed blank check. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) is still fighting to offer an amendment that would prohibit Fan and Fred from lobbying while on the federal dole. That's a great first step. Expect these two brave senators to force a full and rigorous debate.

The American public is way ahead of the Beltway intelligentsia on this issue. Multiple polls show that majorities oppose a federal mortgage bailout by a two-to-one margin. For Republican senators, a "nay" vote on the mortgage bailout is both good policy and good politics.

Mr. Armey, House majority leader from 1995 to 2002, is chairman of FreedomWorks.
23475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cellphones; Fructose on: July 25, 2008, 07:36:55 AM
WELL; Experts Revive Debate Over Cellphones and Cancer


By TARA PARKER-POPE
Published: June 3, 2008
What do brain surgeons know about cellphone safety that the rest of us don't?

Last week, three prominent neurosurgeons told the CNN interviewer Larry King that they did not hold cellphones next to their ears. ''I think the safe practice,'' said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, ''is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.''


Dr. Vini Khurana, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University who is an outspoken critic of cellphones, said: ''I use it on the speaker-phone mode. I do not hold it to my ear.'' And CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital, said that like Dr. Black he used an earpiece.

Along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy's recent diagnosis of a glioma, a type of tumor that critics have long associated with cellphone use, the doctors' remarks have helped reignite a long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer.

That supposed link has been largely dismissed by many experts, including the American Cancer Society. The theory that cellphones cause brain tumors ''defies credulity,'' said Dr. Eugene Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, three large epidemiology studies since 2000 have shown no harmful effects. CTIA -- the Wireless Association, the leading industry trade group, said in a statement, ''The overwhelming majority of studies that have been published in scientific journals around the globe show that wireless phones do not pose a health risk.''

The F.D.A. notes, however, that the average period of phone use in the studies it cites was about three years, so the research doesn't answer questions about long-term exposures. Critics say many studies are flawed for that reason, and also because they do not distinguish between casual and heavy use.

Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer. There is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer.

But researchers who have raised concerns say that just because science can't explain the mechanism doesn't mean one doesn't exist. Concerns have focused on the heat generated by cellphones and the fact that the radio frequencies are absorbed mostly by the head and neck. In recent studies that suggest a risk, the tumors tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.

Like most research on the subject, the studies are observational, showing only an association between cellphone use and cancer, not a causal relationship. The most important of these studies is called Interphone, a vast research effort in 13 countries, including Canada, Israel and several in Europe.

Some of the research suggests a link between cellphone use and three types of tumors: glioma; cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland near the ear; and acoustic neuroma, a tumor that essentially occurs where the ear meets the brain. All these cancers are rare, so even if cellphone use does increase risk, the risk is still very low.

Last year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published data from Israel finding a 58 percent higher risk of parotid gland tumors among heavy cellphone users. Also last year, a Swedish analysis of 16 studies in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed a doubling of risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma after 10 years of heavy cellphone use.

''What we're seeing is suggestions in epidemiological studies that have looked at people using phones for 10 or more years,'' says Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, an industry publication that tracks the research. ''There are some very disconcerting findings that suggest a problem, although it's much too early to reach a conclusive view.''

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



 TARA PARKER-POPE

Published: June 3, 2008
Some doctors say the real concern is not older cellphone users, who began using phones as adults, but children who are beginning to use phones today and face a lifetime of exposure.

''More and more kids are using cellphones,'' said Dr. Paul J. Rosch, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College. ''They may be much more affected. Their brains are growing rapidly, and their skulls are thinner.''

For people who are concerned about any possible risk, a simple solution is to use a headset. Of course, that option isn't always convenient, and some critics have raised worries about wireless devices like the Bluetooth that essentially place a transmitter in the ear.

The fear is that even if the individual risk of using a cellphone is low, with three billion users worldwide, even a minuscule risk would translate into a major public health concern.

''We cannot say with any certainty that cellphones are either safe or not safe,'' Dr. Black said on CNN. ''My concern is that with the widespread use of cellphones, the worst scenario would be that we get the definitive study 10 years from now, and we find out there is a correlation.''
=============================

Does Fructose Make You Fatter?
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener used in many processed foods ranging from sodas to baked goods. While the ingredient is cheaper and sweeter than regular sugar, new research suggests that it can also make you fatter.
In a small study, Texas researchers showed that the body converts fructose to body fat with “surprising speed,'’ said Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The study, which appears in The Journal of Nutrition, shows how glucose and fructose, which are forms of sugar, are metabolized differently.
In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like “a traffic cop” who coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides.
But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly converted to body fat.
“It’s basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence,” Dr. Parks said. “It’s a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride synthesis. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body.”
For the study, six people were given three different drinks. In one test, the breakfast drink was 100 percent glucose. In the second test, they drank half glucose and half fructose; and in the third, they drank 25 percent glucose and 75 percent fructose. The drinks were given at random, and neither the study subjects nor the evaluators were aware who was drinking what. The subjects ate a regular lunch about four hours later.
The researchers found that lipogenesis, the process by which sugars are turned into body fat, increased significantly when the study subjects drank the drinks with fructose. When fructose was given at breakfast, the body was more likely to store the fats eaten at lunch.
Dr. Parks noted that the study likely underestimates the fat-building effect of fructose because the study subjects were lean and healthy. In overweight people, the effect may be amplified.
Although fruit contains fructose, it also contains many beneficial nutrients, so dieters shouldn’t eliminate fruit from their diets. But limiting processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup as well as curbing calories is a good idea, Dr. Parks said.
“There are lots of people out there who want to demonize fructose as the cause of the obesity epidemic,” she said. “I think it may be a contributor, but it’s not the only problem. Americans are eating too many calories for their activity level. We’re overeating fat, we’re overeating protein and we’re overeating all sugars.”

23476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Time on: July 25, 2008, 07:12:48 AM
"Remember, that Time is Money."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Advice to a Young Tradesman, 1748)

Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, Library of America (1198)
23477  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 25, 2008, 01:05:06 AM
Today I am grateful for all the back emails I got around to (there's plenty to go) and for a great alignment session at the gym.
23478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 25, 2008, 12:53:49 AM
My prediction:  He's going to lose. 

He realizes what won him the primaries will lose him the election and as he jettisons previously held positions while denying having done so, he loses credibility.  His speech yesterday sounded in part like "Bush Lite".  When he gets specific (e.g. Germans, you should send more troops to Afg.) it falls flat.

Here's an example from this morning's chattering class at the NY Times:

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

Playing Innocent Abroad
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By DAVID BROOKS
Published: July 25, 2008
Radical optimism is America’s contribution to the world. The early settlers thought America’s founding would bring God’s kingdom to earth. John Adams thought America would emancipate “the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush preached their own gospels of world democracy.

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David Brooks

Go to Columnist Page »

The Conversation
Times columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss the 2008 presidential race.

All Conversations » Barack Obama is certainly a true American. In the first major foreign policy speech of his campaign, delivered in Chicago last year, he vowed a comprehensive initiative to “ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy.” America, he said, must promote dignity across the world, not just democracy. It must “lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.”

In Berlin on Thursday, it was more of the same. Speaking before a vast throng (and a surprising number of Yankees hats), he vowed to help “remake the world.” He offered hope that a history-drenched European continent could “choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday.” He envisioned “a new dawn in the Middle East.”

Obama’s tone was serious. But he pulled out his “this is our moment” rhetoric and offered visions of a world transformed. Obama speeches almost always have the same narrative arc. Some problem threatens. The odds are against the forces of righteousness. But then people of good faith unite and walls come tumbling down. Obama used the word “walls” 16 times in the Berlin speech, and in 11 of those cases, he was talking about walls coming down.

The Berlin blockade was thwarted because people came together. Apartheid ended because people came together and walls tumbled. Winning the cold war was the same: “People of the world,” Obama declared, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together and history proved there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”

When I first heard this sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa, I have to confess my American soul was stirred. It seemed like the overture for a new yet quintessentially American campaign.

But now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony. The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.

When John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan went to Berlin, their rhetoric soared, but their optimism was grounded in the reality of politics, conflict and hard choices. Kennedy didn’t dream of the universal brotherhood of man. He drew lines that reflected hard realities: “There are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.” Reagan didn’t call for a kumbaya moment. He cited tough policies that sparked harsh political disagreements — the deployment of U.S. missiles in response to the Soviet SS-20s — but still worked.

In Berlin, Obama made exactly one point with which it was possible to disagree. In the best paragraph of the speech, Obama called on Germans to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The argument will probably fall on deaf ears. The vast majority of Germans oppose that policy. But at least Obama made an argument.

Much of the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together. We should help Israelis and Palestinians unite. We should unite to prevent genocide in Darfur. We should unite so the Iranians won’t develop nukes. Or as Obama put it: “The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.”

The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an era of global convergence in which politics and power didn’t matter. What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This was the end of history on acid.

Since then, autocracies have arisen, the competition for resources has grown fiercer, Russia has clamped down, Iran is on the march. It will take politics and power to address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their name in Obama’s lofty peroration.

The odd thing is that Obama doesn’t really think this way. When he gets down to specific cases, he can be hard-headed. Last year, he spoke about his affinity for Reinhold Niebuhr, and their shared awareness that history is tragic and ironic and every political choice is tainted in some way.

But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach.

Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.

Paul Krugman is off today.
23479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 12:50:39 AM
James:

Not sure why you question the sincerity of my search for Truth.  What facts or logic have proven me wrong?

If you want to discuss Guantanamo, may I suggest FIRST READING and then posting in the "Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism" thread?

Abu Graib:  Where on earth do you get that I approve?!?  huh What is the basis for questioning my decency?!?  huh  I simply pointed out that it was the Army's internal procedures that picked up on it and brought it to the light of day-- which seems relevant to me.  Did you even know this?  Do you ask yourself why you did not?  What does the fact that you did not know tell you about the sources of info that you use?

Iraq and collateral damage:  My point is that in a very difficult battle space we commit quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears to there being as little collateral damage as possible-- yet you seem to be unaware of this and make "the perfect the enemy of the good".  May I ask how often you get to have extended conversation with those who have served there about these things?

On the Japanese HS girl article:  I see the point you are making and will have to reread the article in question.  What thread is it in?

As for America going to war without an ulterior motive-- that would be the Clinton administration. cheesy

Concerning you and GM:  Name calling such as "average child" and "eight year old" really are out of place here-- particularly when I took the time to explain to you how in the culture of this forum that the pasted article ofen IS the response.  I'm thought I was clear and you seem like a bright fellow-- may I ask you to reread what I posted?

As for the go-round on whether GM would be happy at the death of thousands of innocents:  IMHO perhaps GM could have been more lawyerly in how he expressed his point originally, but FWIW what communicates to me is that you are in something of a "gotcha" mode looking for something that to my eye is not really there-- perhaps this explains the testiness of GM's response?  I'd like to suggest that the two of you take three deep breaths each and start fresh.

As for this:

"I guess if you want this "forum to serve as a tremendous resouce for people who want to read about a subject/theme" it should offer different perspectives on the question/subject, don't you think?  And I think commentary
is important; yes it takes more time and thought, but anyone, even an eight year old can cut and paste ad nauseam."

Once again, the articles posted here can either BE the conversation and/or simply be a sharing of analysis and intel.  IMHO the standards around here are-- no brag, just fact-- well above average.  I have no problem realizing that there are people writing about these things who know more than me and think deeper about them than me, or who express what I want to say better than I do.  I have no problem with using such articles as a form of communication. 

In short sometimes we do comment directly-- for example in my unsuccessful comments to you-- and sometimes we paste.  This is how we do it around here.   I regret you don't care for it.

The Adventure continues,
Marc
23480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survialist issues: Hunkering down at home on: July 24, 2008, 11:53:29 PM
That's what the 12 gage and related tools are for. evil
23481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 24, 2008, 06:44:06 PM
A Brit from the chattering class gets it right:

http://www.melaniephillips.com/articles-new/?p=602
23482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 24, 2008, 06:42:31 PM
"please don't forget the military is not above the law. Guantanamo, Abu Graib, and killing innocent Iraq civilians and raping Japanese High School girls and Philippine girls (the U.S. troops in Japan seem to run amok) is wrong and the individual soldier(s) should be severely punished, not slapped on the wrist."

Guantanamo?  As reported in the Media Matters thread, the MSM often reports accusations as fact.  Careful now.

Abu Graib?  No one was killed and INTERNAL ARMY PROCEDURES ARE WHAT BROUGHT THE CASE TO LIGHT.  IT WAS THE PENTAGON THAT INFORMED THE MEDIA.

Iraq?  Given the kind of war that it has been, I for one am quite proud of the tremendous job our troops have done in minimizing the casualties of the innocent.  There was an article the other day in the NY Times I think it was on the same subject in the context of Afg front of the war.  Perhaps you can find it and have a better sense of this subject , , ,

Raping Japanese HS girls?  I almost posted on this forum the other day an article that pointed out that our troops in Japan overall have an outstanding record of being law-abiding, but did not because I thought the point was so obvious as to not need being made , , ,  Why do you smear so many with the actions of one?

As for the Philippines, educated man that you obviously are I am sure you know that when we had bases there that they were surrounded with whore houses and that whore houses and soldiers are a surefire combination for trouble and that discerning the facts can often be highly problematic.  I lack the experience  wink to discuss the whole subject of prostitution and military bases meaningfully, and would hope that you do too  cheesy

Jason, of course we civilians are in charge.  That does not mean that when it comes to fighting or knowing WTF is going on in the field that we should not listen carefully to those who so selflessly (yes this is a dig at your comment the other day about what America is willing to give  wink ) put their butts on the line.  I'd rather hear Gen. Petraeus's take on Iraq than BO's.

If I may offer in closing-- be careful of MSM and assuming what it says is true and be careful of projecting one case on the many.
23483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: July 24, 2008, 06:25:06 PM

Report warns vehicles could be stuffed with explosives for suicide attacks
 

 Publishing Date: 22.07.08 11:08
 
By Gordon Thomas

LONDON -- Members of Britain's MI5 intelligence service have warned the nation's cash-strapped National Health Services that dozens of ambulances -- along with old police cars and fire engines -- are being snapped up by al-Qaida operatives in the United Kingdom to mount suicide bomb attacks.

So serious is the problem that counter-terrorism officials at the Home Office have written to eBay, the Internet auctioneer, asking them to stop selling emergency service vehicles, equipment and uniforms.  But eBay has insisted it can only halt the sales if a new law is passed by Parliament. That could take many months.  The use of ambulances is of particular concern to Britain's anti-terror chiefs. They say the tactic has already been used in Iraq with devastating effects.

A report by Lord Carlisle -- the government terrorist czar who last month warned about the possibility of private planes being used for an attack on London -- has been issued to all of Britain's 48 police forces warning of the danger of selling off emergency service vehicles.  Lord Carlisle, who works closely with the Terrorism Analysis Centre in London set up since the 9/11 attacks, said ambulances were the ideal weapon of choice for terrorists.

"It is almost rare that police will stop such vehicles on suspicious grounds. An ambulance rigged with high explosives could drive into any ultra-sensitive target like a nuclear power station or even Whitehall," said a senior MI5 source.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has warned that the risk could be "highly significant" if the law is not tightened.  Every year dozens of police cars, ambulances and even fire engines are sold on eBay for as little as $3,000. Many are still in working order. Those that need repair can be fixed to pass as genuine emergency service vehicles.

"An ambulance could carry half a ton of explosives. A rigged police car could carry half that amount. So could a fire engine," states the MI5 report.

MI5 counter-terrorism officers say such attacks have been successfully carried out in Iraq and Israel. The report reveals that an al-Qaida attack in Baghdad last February involved a stolen ambulance driven by a suicide bomber into an Iraqi police station.

The report states: "Terrorists have been using ambulances to transport bombs in Israel since at least 2002. The Israelis have told us that Hamas are using ambulances to ferry men and rocket launchers around Gaza."

A national security committee has been set up in London with MI5 and police chiefs drawing up plans to deal with the threat. Chairman of the committee, Steve Watts, said: "There is a need of urgent legislation becoming available to the police which adequately addresses the threat of pseudo-emergency service vehicles being used by terrorists."

Lord Carlisle has suggested all service vehicles to be sold must be clearly decommissioned so they cannot be used to imitate emergency services. Manufacturers of all such vehicles are being asked to urgently inspect vehicles taken out of service to see how this can be done.

Gordon Thomas is the author of a new edition of Gideon’s Spies: The Inside Story of Israel’s Legendary Secret Service The Mossad, by JR Books of London and available on Amazon Books.
 
23484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survialist issues: Hunkering down at home on: July 24, 2008, 06:10:31 PM


Thursday, July 24, 2008



WorldNetDaily

A Wall Street Journal columnist has advised people to "start stockpiling food" and an ABC News Report says "there are worrying signs appearing in the United States where some … locals are beginning to hoard supplies." Now there's concern that the U.S. government may be competing with consumers for stocks of storable food.

"We're told that the feds bought the entire container of canned butter when it hit the California docks. (Something's up!)," said officials at Best Prices Storable Foods in an advisory to customers.

Spokesman Bruce Hopkins told WND he also has had trouble obtaining No. 10 cans of various products from one of the world's larger suppliers of food stores, Oregon Freeze Dry.

He said a company official told him on the telephone when he discussed the status of his order that it was because the government had purchased massive quantities of products, leaving none for other customers.

That, however, was denied by Oregon Freeze Dry. In a website statement, the company confirmed it cannot assure supplying some items to customers.

"We regret to inform you Oregon Freeze Dry cannot satisfy all Mountain House #10 can orders and we have removed #10 cans from our website temporarily," the company tells frustrated customers. "The reason for this is sales of #10 cans have continued to increase. OFD is allocating as much production capacity as possible to this market segment, but we must maintain capacity for our other market segments as well."

The company statement continues, "We want to clarify inaccurate information we’ve seen on the Internet. This situation is not due to sales to the government domestically or in Iraq. We do sell products to this market, but we also sell other market segments … The reason for this decision is solely due to an unprecedented sales spike in #10 cans sales.

"We expect this situation to be necessary for several months although this isn’t a guarantee. We will update this information as soon as we know more. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience. We sincerely hope you will continue to be Mountain House customers in the future," the company statement said.

But Hopkins wasn't backing away from his concerns.

"The government just came in and said they're buying it. They did pay for it," he told WND about the summertime shipment of long-term storage butter. "They took it and no one else could have it.

"We don't know why. The feds then went to freeze dried companies, and bought most of their canned stock," he said.

A spokeswoman for Oregon Freeze Dry, sales manager Melanie Cornutt, told WND that the increasing demand for food that can be stored has been on the rise since Hurricane Katrina devastated large sections of the Gulf Coast, cutting off ordinary supply routes.

"We are currently out of stock on our cans. We are not selling any of our cans," she confirmed.

She then raised the issue of government purchases herself.

"We do sell to the government [but] it is not the reason [for company sales limits]," she said.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency told WND whatever government agency is buying in a surge it isn't them. They reported a stockpile of about six million meals which has not changed significantly in an extended period.

But Hopkins said it was his opinion the government is purchasing huge quantities of food for stockpiles, and Americans will have to surmise why.

"We don't have shelters that [are being] stocked with food. We're not doing this for the public. My only conclusion is that they're stocking up for themselves," he said of government officials.

Blogger Holly Deyo issued an alert this week announcing, "Unprecedented demand cleans out major storable food supplier through 2009."

"It came to our attention today, that the world's largest producer of storable foods, Mountain House, is currently out of stock of ALL #10 cans of freeze dried foods, not just the Turkey Tetrazzini. They will NOT have product now through 2009," she said.

"This information was learned by a Mountain House dealer who shared it with me this morning. In personally talking with the company immediately after, Mountain House verified the information is true. Customer service stated, 'I'm surprised they don't have this posted on the website yet.' She said they have such a backlog of orders, Mountain House will not be taking any #10 can food requests through the remainder of this year and all of the next.

"Mountain House claims this situation is due to a backlog of orders, which may very well be true, but who is purchasing all of their food? This is a massive global corporation.

"One idea: the military. Tensions are ramping up with Iran and news segments debate whether or not we will implement a preemptive strike in conjunction with Israel," she wrote.

Hopkins raised some of the same concerns, suggesting a military conflict could cause oil supplies to plummet, triggering a huge increase in the cost of food – when it would be available – because of the transportation issues.

The ABC report from just a few weeks ago quoted Jim Rawles, a former U.S. intelligence officer who runs a survival blog, saying food shortages soon could become a matter of survival in the U.S.

"I think that families should be prepared for times of crisis, whether it's a man-made disaster or a natural disaster, and I think it's wise and prudent to stock up on food," he told ABC.

"If you get into a situation where fuel supplies are disrupted or even if the power grid were to go down for short periods of time, people can work around that," he said. "But you can't work around a lack of food – people starve, people panic and you end up with chaos in the streets."

At his California ranch, the location of which is kept secret, he said, "We have more than a three-year supply of food here."

In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Brett Arends warned, "Maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

"No, this is not a drill," he wrote.

His concern was about various food shortages around the globe, and the fact that in a global market, prices in the U.S. reflect difficulties in other parts of the world quickly.

Professor Lawrence F. Roberge, a biologist who has worked with a number of universities and has taught online courses, told WND he's been following the growing concern over food supplies.

He also confirmed to WND reports of the government purchasing vast quantities of long-term storable foods.

He said that naturally would be kept secret to avoid panicking the public, such as when word leaks out to customers that a bank may be insolvent, and depositors frantically try to retrieve their cash.

"[These] circumstances certainly raise red flags," he said.

23485  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Minimum Skills for h2h on: July 24, 2008, 05:25:59 PM
Experience operating in the adrenal state.
23486  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Inmate kills woman guard on: July 24, 2008, 05:18:42 PM
Guard Stabbed, Killed Inside Federal Penitentiary

ATWATER (AP) ― Authorities say a federal prison guard has been stabbed
to death by inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater.

Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin says 22-year-old Jose Rivera was taken
to Mercy Medical Center with stab wounds at about 3:30 Friday afternoon
and was declared dead at 4:15 p.m.

A brief statement released by the prison says the officer was stabbed
by two inmates with homemade weapons.

Pazin, who is also the County Coroner, says his department will conduct
an autopsy while the FBI investigates the incident.

The prison is in the San Joaquin Valley about 64 miles northwest of
Fresno.


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

Inmate Charged With Slaying Of Tomoka Guard
From: http://www.wesh.com/news/16713238/detail.html

Fitzgerald, 50, Worked At Correctional Facility For 15 Years

POSTED: 11:53 pm EDT June 25, 2008
UPDATED: 8:10 am EDT June 27, 2008


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- An inmate at the Tomoka Correctional Institution
was quickly transferred to the Florida State Prison on Thursday after
officials said he killed a prison guard. Authorities identified the
inmate as Enoch Hall, 39, who was sentenced to life in prison for sexual
battery with a weapon and kidnapping charges in 1993. He had been at the
facility since 1994.

The officer, Donna Fitzgerald, 50, was a veteran guard, who had worked
at Tomoka Correctional Institution for 15 years.

Hall hid in a welding shed adjacent to the Pride workshop area with a
knife made out of a piece of sheet metal, police said. Pride is a
vocational training facility located at the prison.

Officials at the prison said Fitzgerald entered the shed around 7:30
p.m. Wednesday looking for Hall. 

When she discovered him hiding, Fitzgerald confronted Hall and was
stabbed multiple times, police said. Fitzgerald was armed only with an
alarm and mace; there are no guns at the facility.

Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil said that there is
usually more than one officer involved in moving an inmate, but he
insisted that protocol was followed.

"Words cannot express the sorrow I feel over the loss of our
correctional officer," McNeil said. "The entire department grieves the
murder of one of our finest officers, and we pray for the victim's
family during this difficult time."

Authorities said they found the knife Hall had made stashed in a
concrete wall.

McNeil said death or injury within a violent population is always a
possibility.

"Yet, when it happens, like we all are across our department today, it
is still very shocking and heart wrenching," McNeil said.

Hall has been charged with first-degree murder. He went before a judge
Thursday afternoon.

It is unclear if the protocol of more than one guard being involved in
moving an inmate was followed.  Sources said that Fitzgerald was
alone, at least at one point, while locking up the work area and
moving inmates back into the dormitory.  The affidavit states that
Fitzgerald was apparently alone while looking for Hall when she was
murdered. The facility was not under lockdown while the search
was under way.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating
the incident.

The prison is located off U.S. Highway 92 on the outskirts of Daytona
Beach. It was established in 1981 and houses adult male inmates. There
is also a work camp and work release center at the facility. The prison
can hold a maximum of 1,263 inmates.

Fitzgerald is the second woman in Florida to die while working as a
guard. In 2003 during an escape attempt, inmates killed Darla
Lathrem at the Charlotte Correctional Institution – a
maximum-security facility.

A total of 13 guards, including Fitzgerald, have died in the line of
duty in Florida prisons since 1928, when records first began being
kept.

To comment on this story, send an e-mail to Craig Lucie.

Hall Has History Of Criminal Behavior

Enoch Hall was serving a life sentence for a rape in the '90s. Hall, 39, is a career criminal.
He first showed up in the system in June 1988. That year it was burglary plus a stolen car.
In 1990, the charge was battery on a law enforcement officer two days before Christmas.
In 1992, he moved on to sexual battery. Then in April 1993, in Pensacola, Hall raped a
woman again. This time the charge was sexual battery with a deadly weapon and
kidnapping.  For those two offenses, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Hall has spent nearly all of his 14 years in prison at Tomoka.

Jim Baiardi with the Florida Police Benevelont Association represents
the officers who work in the prison. He's spoken with a number of
guards working on Donna Fitzgerald's shift at the time of this incident.

"They're very upset. You know when you lose somebody you work with, in
this line of work we're brothers and sisters because at any moment our
lives could be taken," Baiardi said.

Hall is currently at the Florida State Prison in Stark.


Copyright 2008 by WESH.COM. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
23487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 24, 2008, 12:43:24 PM
Hosted by Dieter and His Monkey

Barack Obama's rally in Berlin today will be different in many ways from the ones he's held in America.

Unlike his U.S. rallies, which normally require attendees to get tickets, Obama in Berlin will be open to everyone who wishes to come -- providing exactly the kind of chaotic cheering crowd scenes suitable for TV commercials. The campaign acknowledges it may hire a film crew to shoot footage, providing potential raw material for a commercial highlighting a campaign theme that America's standing in the world would improve under a President Obama.

Nonetheless, Team Obama insists the speech will not be a campaign rally. "It is not going to be a political speech," a senior Obama foreign policy adviser told reporters in Jordan this week. "When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally."

"But [Mr. Obama] is not president of the United States," a reporter gently reminded the adviser. After all, this is the campaign that sometimes has to be told the inconvenient truth that the election remains to be held.

-- John Fund

Republicans in Love

The Obamacans -- past or present Republicans who are backing Barack Obama for president -- are about to go public.

The Hill newspaper reports that Team Obama has held a conference call with a small group of GOP apostates to plot strategy and see how they can be utilized in the fall.

The most prominent Obamacan is former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who served with Mr. Obama from 2005 to 2007 until the Rhode Islander was defeated by a Democrat. Since then, Mr. Chafee has become an independent. He said he "hadn't thought about" whether he would address the Democratic convention, providing a counterpoint to Senator Joe Lieberman from next-door Connecticut, who is expected to address the GOP convention. Mr. Lieberman has broken ranks with Democrats by endorsing John McCain.

Douglas Kmiec, a professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law, says the Obamacan effort is just getting started, but he expects there will eventually be a Web site, print ads and a surrogate speakers program.

Another prominent Obama supporter is Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Eisenhower and a lifelong Republican. She told me at a recent Aspen Institute meeting that she hasn't decided what role she might play in campaigning for Mr. Obama. I asked her what she would do if Mr. Obama were to lose. "I'd probably become an independent," she told me. "I'm certainly not a Democrat, but the Republican Party has lost me the last few years."

-- John Fund

The GOP Needs Governors

In 2006, Colorado Democrat Bill Ritter captured his state's governorship with a hard-fought, pricey campaign. Two years earlier, New Hampshire Democrat John Lynch unseated incumbent Republican Craig Benson in a very tight race. Now, according to Congressional Quarterly, both states feature Senate races that "lean Democratic." That's a change from just a few weeks ago, when both Senate races seemed to be toss-ups.

As Democrats seek to build on their congressional gains from two years ago, one overlooked ingredient has been their success in gradually shaking off the "liberal" label thanks to strong governors or gubernatorial candidates who've helped redefine their state parties as more conservative than the party's national Democratic leadership. This is true in Colorado, where Rep. Mark Udall, is running strong in his bid for the Senate despite his opposition to increased drilling for oil and natural gas. And it's true in New Hampshire where former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is putting the screws to incumbent Sen. John Sununu.

But it's also paying off in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell probably did more than any state official across the country to nail down congressional majorities for his party. Democrats picked up House seats in the suburbs of Philadelphia and a Senate seat in 2006 by picking off Republican Sen. Rick Santorum. That seat now represents the balance of power in the Senate. A similar dynamic is also paying off in Montana. Democrat Gov. Brian Schweitzer has helped redefine his party's image in the state, setting the stage for Jon Tester to knock off incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns two years ago. It's also working in Ohio. Democrats didn't control much there in 2006. But they were able to win both the governor's mansion and a Senate seat thanks to Republican scandals and strong campaigns by Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown.

In presidential politics, governors can't always deliver their states for their party's candidate. Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina are three states where Democrats have held governorships in recent years while Republicans won solid presidential victories. Another state that comes to mind is West Virginia, where George W. Bush prevailed in 2004 even as Democrats held onto the governor's mansion in electing Joe Manchin. But if Republicans want to find their way out of the congressional wilderness and start picking up seats in the House and Senate, they might want try winning a few governor's races in competitive states.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"[Barack] Obama will visit Germany, France and England this week. It just happens that those Western European nations have turned to right-of-center coalitions to remedy corrosive welfare systems, never-ending entitlements, unchecked union power and overregulation of industry. In England mere months ago, the left-of-center Labor Party lost more than 400 seats in local elections, including finishing off the reign of London Mayor Ken 'The Red' Livingstone. In France, Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy swept into power in 2007, promising to cut back welfare rolls and revitalize the floundering French economy. In Germany, Angela Merkel vowed free-market reforms to undo theoretical social 'safety nets' that have led to 'terrifyingly high unemployment.' Then, Silvio Berlusconi unexpectedly won Italy's election this year, in part on the pledge to unknot the tangle of economic regulations hampering that nation. Those are the top four economic powers in Europe. That's officially a trend" -- Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi.

The Buck Stops . . . Where?

In the better-late-than-never department, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson finally came out on Tuesday with a statement in favor of a strong U.S. dollar. If he decides to spend the last five months of his tenure working on bailing out the currency rather than bailing out more financial institutions, his legacy may not turn out a complete disaster for GOP election prospects after all.

Without a doubt, John McCain's campaign has been harmed by the public's shrinking purchasing power, an impoverishment blamed on George W. Bush because it happened on his watch. Gasoline prices are through the roof. Food prices are up. Costco, where millions of Americans shop, warned yesterday that inflationary forces are getting the upper hand. History shows over and over that a rising cost of living equals a voting public that believes the country is "on the wrong track" and needs "change" at the top.

Speaking at the New York Public Library Mr. Paulson said that a strong dollar is "really very important." Coming from an administration that has otherwise been largely agnostic about the value of the U.S. currency, this seemingly pro-forma statement was greeted by the market as an unqualified endorsement. Stocks rallied, oil sank further and the dollar moved up against the yen and euro.

Admittedly, Mr. Paulson had some help when Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser raised his already hawkish profile on Tuesday by saying the Fed will need to begin raising rates soon rather than later. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has been the chief proponent of the easy money policy that has fueled the dollar's decline. With Congress passing a housing bill and bank stocks rallying, he may now have more political room to begin raising rates. If so, the move is overdue and may help take the wind out of energy and grain prices.
23488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nuke Bombers to Cuba?!? on: July 24, 2008, 11:28:24 AM
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has said there is no need for explanations or apologies over reports that Russia might send nuclear bombers to Cuba, Bloomberg reported July 24, citing a statement from Castro posted to the Internet on July 23. Cuba has the “nerves of steel” needed in current “times of genocide,” and the United States knows it, the statement says.

stratfor
23489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Escalating Internal Crisis on: July 24, 2008, 10:47:51 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Escalating Internal Crisis of a Changing China
July 23, 2008
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, noted a recent rise in “incidents” in China as the “dissatisfaction of people in China” turned against authorities. Machimura added that he hoped such incidents would not “become obstacles to a smooth holding of the Beijing Olympics,” and expressed some understanding as Japan faced similar “social turmoil” during its period of rapid economic expansion.

While Machimura may have been using his comments to make a subtle jab at his neighbor’s insecurities regarding image and the Olympics, his comments hit directly at the major crisis facing the government in Beijing: managing the social and security consequences of a changing China.

Beijing is well aware of the “contradictions,” as the Chinese Communist Party would call them, littering China’s economic, social and political landscape. Highlighting this point, the Politburo is holding a special session this week to discuss the state of the Chinese economy, particularly in the coastal growth engines, and security and stability during the upcoming Olympics. For Beijing, the Olympics have been both a blessing and a curse, bringing about impetus for economic and social developments, media openings and a sense of national pride spreading far beyond the mainland, yet also stirring up new and old security issues, providing opportunity for critics of the government at home and abroad, and ultimately exacerbating policy differences among the top leadership.

This year alone, Beijing has been faced with numerous crises. Some of these were natural disasters (though perhaps compounded by human factors), such as heavy snow and floods early in the year hitting the southern croplands followed by the Sichuan earthquake in May; others were security related, such as the attempted downing of a Chinese airliner by suspected Xinjiang Islamist militants, the Tibetan uprising, and bus bombings in Shanghai and Kunming; some were diplomatic, including criticism of support for Sudan, a deferred arms shipment to Zimbabwe, and territorial spats with Vietnam and Japan; and still others, such as numerous public demonstrations, riots, and attacks on government buildings and security forces over economic issues, reflected rising social tensions. Perhaps all of these have been exacerbated by the more open media environment inside China in recent years related both to the pre-Olympic “opening” and to changes in Beijing’s image and information management.

There have been similar occurrences in China in any given year over the past several decades. Natural disasters of one form or another aren’t exactly infrequent and security concerns with Tibet, Xinjiang, or other ethnic, religious, political or social movements spring up fairly often. Balancing its international image is a constant challenge and China admits each year to thousands of security incidents and social instabilities. But in recent years, such things have appeared more intense, more concentrated and more frequent. Whether this is a reflection of an actual intensification, as Machimura noted, or of increased media openness in China is unclear, but that these issues are troubling to Beijing is obvious.

But while these sorts of troubles rise and fall in China, Beijing faces added pressure this year, first from the Olympics (pressure it has brought on itself) and second — and perhaps more significant in the long run — from the rapid rise in global commodity prices and the simultaneous slowing of global economies. With the former, China tried to use the Olympics to highlight its self-proclaimed role as one of the “big” powers, opening up various restrictions at home to divert criticism from abroad while at the same time tightening the screws in other areas to prevent “embarrassing” situations from arising in full sight of the increased international scrutiny.

This is a very difficult balance in the best of times, but when the second factor — the commodity crisis — struck, it became nearly unmanageable as economic strains destabilized some of the carefully balanced contradictions Beijing had set in place. (China’s yuan policy and its simultaneous attempts to drive businesses to the interior and keep the money flowing in from the coast are just two obvious examples.) When social stresses exceeded the expected Olympic patriotism, the newfound openness let information about the troubles inside China spread rapidly, with or without Beijing’s consent, limiting the management options for the leadership. The system has been stressed by this short-term event, but it comes at a critical time in the longer-term view of Chinese national control and management.

Throughout history, China has run through cycles of strong centralized leadership, a devolution of power to a large bureaucracy designed to maintain control over the sheer size of the Chinese nation and population, and the eventual loss of central control over the regional and local leaders and economic elite — which in turn triggers an attempt at re-centralization of power frequently accompanied by social and political upheaval before the re-establishment of a strong center. When Deng Xiaoping talked about black cats and white cats both catching mice and opened up the coasts and ultimately the rest of China to economic growth and its attendant social changes, he was in a sense devolving power out to the local bureaucracies. While this led to the meteoric rise of China economically (though not without its social consequences throughout, including Tiananmen Square, a resurgent Uighur uprising in the mid 1990s, the Falun Gong stand-off and the recent Tibetan rising), it also weakened the central leadership’s ability to change course if necessary.

Like the rest of Asia, China’s economic miracle was not so much a reflection of some profound but long overlooked new way of doing business; rather it was the tried and true Asian method of economic growth — one with much less concern for profits, sustainability or efficiency than for… well… growth. In 1992, when the rest of the world was scrambling to learn Japanese and seeing the United States as a waning economic power in the face of Japan’s rising, Tokyo suddenly realized the consequences of the Asian growth model. It was followed half a decade later by the other Asian tigers, as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea all stumbled in the Asian economic crisis. China avoided both, but like its neighbors, China’s time is coming, and while they may not want to admit it publicly, it seems China’s leaders have recognized this as well.

The government has been working for several years, slowly at first but now with more vigor, to reclaim centralized control over the economy, to stave off a major economic crisis, or at least reclaim central control to manage the consequences. President Hu Jintao has repeatedly called for a shift from a raw economic growth focus to the creation of a “harmonious society;” a pleasant way of saying the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Add to that the raft of new security regulations and policies put in place in the lead up to the Olympics, which may well serve to secure the venues for a few weeks in August and to batten down the hatches as a social storm swells. We may well be entering the crunch time in China’s historical cycle, and the confluence of the openness of the Olympics and the crisis of commodities at this critical moment of re-centralization may well be more than Beijing can manage.

If August passes, and September and October, and the new security, social and economic regulations put in place in the past few months don’t revert to their pre-Olympic status, it will be clear that Beijing sees a crisis coming. But seeing the hurricane bearing down on you doesn’t necessarily mean you can avoid it or weather it. China is reaching a critical moment, and as Machimura noted in classic understatement, “I suppose that overcoming such incidents will be a major theme for Chinese society in the future.”
23490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Samuel Williams: Marriage on: July 24, 2008, 10:43:09 AM

"It is not necessary to enumerate the many advantages, that arise
from this custom of early marriages.  They comprehend all the
society can receive from this source; from the preservation, and
increase of the human race.  Every thing useful and beneficial
to man, seems to be connected with obedience to the laws of
his nature, the inclinations, the duties, and the happiness
of individuals, resolve themselves into customs and habits,
favourable, in the highest degree, to society.  In no case is this
more apparent, than in the customs of nations respecting marriage."

-- Samuel Williams (The Natural and Civil History of Vermont, 1794)

Reference: American Political Writing during the Founding Era:
1760-1805, Hyneman and Lutz, ed., vol. 2 (952)
23491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 24, 2008, 10:00:26 AM
The mind boggles , , ,

One small ray of hope on the horizon:  Apparently the spread in the daily polls between McC and BO remains rather unchanged at about 3-4 points to BO's favor-- despite all the media favoratism.
23492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove: A Tale of Two Flip-Floppers on: July 24, 2008, 09:45:57 AM
A Tale of Two Flip-Floppers
By KARL ROVE
July 24, 2008

John McCain and Barack Obama have both changed positions in this campaign. That's OK. Voters understand that politicians can and, sometimes, should change their views. After all, voters do. Witness the wide swings in their answers to opinion polls.

But before accepting the changes, voters typically ask themselves three questions: Does the candidate admit he's shifting? What's the new information that altered his thinking? Does the change seem reasonable and not calculating?

Sen. McCain has changed his position on drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf. But because he explained this change by saying that $4-a-gallon gasoline caused him to re-evaluate his position, voters are likely to accept it. Of course, Mr. McCain doesn't explain why prices at the pump haven't also forced him to re-evaluate his opposition to drilling on 2000 acres in the 19.2-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But, then, what politician is always consistent?

Mr. McCain flip-flopped on the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. He'd voted against them at the time, saying in 2001 that he'd "like to see more of this tax cut shared by working Americans." Now he supports their continuation because, he says, letting them expire would increase taxes and he opposes tax hikes. Besides, he recognizes that the tax cuts have helped the economy.

At least Mr. McCain fesses up to and explains his changes. Sen. Obama has shifted recently on public financing, free trade, Nafta, welfare reform, the D.C. gun ban, whether the Iranian Quds Force is a terrorist group, immunity for telecom companies participating in the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the status of Jerusalem, flag lapel pins, and disavowing Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And not only does he refuse to explain these flip-flops, he acts as if they never occurred.

Then there is Iraq. Throughout 2006 and early 2007, Mr. Obama pledged to remove all U.S. troops, even voting to immediately cut off funds for the troops while they were in combat. Then, in July 2007, he started talking about leaving a residual U.S. force, in Kuwait and elsewhere in the region, able to go back into Iraq if needed.

By October, he shifted again, pledging to station the residual U.S. troops inside Iraq with two "limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda."

Last week, writing in the New York Times, Mr. Obama changed again. He increased the missions his residual force would perform to three: "going after any remnants of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces." That's not all that different from what U.S. troops are doing now.

And just how many U.S. troops would Mr. Obama leave in Iraq? Colin Kahl, an Obama adviser on Iraq, has said the senator wants to have "perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces" in Iraq by December 2010. So much for withdrawing all combat troops.

It's dizzying. Yet, Mr. Obama acts as if he is a paradigm of consistency. He told a Georgia rally this month that "the people who say [I've been changing] apparently haven't been listening to me." In a PBS interview last week he said, "this notion that somehow we've had wild shifts in my positions is simply inaccurate."

Compounding all this is Mr. Obama's stubborn refusal to admit the surge was right and that he was wrong to oppose it. On MSNBC in January 2007, he said more U.S. troops would not "solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse." Later that month he said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the new strategy would "not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly." In fact, the surge has done far more than its advocates hoped in a much shorter period.

Yet Mr. Obama told ABC's Terry Moran this week that even in retrospect, he would oppose the surge. He also told CBS's Katie Couric that he had "no idea what would have happened" without the new strategy. And he still declares, in the New York Times last week, "The same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true." Given all that has happened, it's hard to understand how Mr. Obama can say, as he did Tuesday in a story on NBC Nightly News, that "I don't have doubts about my ability to apply sound judgment to the major national security problems that we face."

Americans have seen both candidates flip-flop. Mr. McCain at least has a record of being a gutsy leader willing to take unpopular stands who admits his shifts and explains the new information that caused them.

Mr. Obama has detached himself from past positions at record speed. And in doing so he runs the risk of being seen as a cynical politician, not an inspiring leader. If this happens, voters in large numbers may ask -- despite his rhetorical acrobatics -- if he is the change they've been waiting for.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
23493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / PB kills 3 year old on: July 23, 2008, 12:36:18 PM
http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pb...374/1001/RSS01

Pit bull attacks, kills 3-year-old in Jackson

Mark F. Bonner • mark.bonner@jackson.gannett.com • July 23, 2008


A chained pit bull attacked and killed a 3-year-old boy Tuesday night in south Jackson.

Jackson police would not identify the toddler.
The mauling happened about 9 p.m. while the child played outside with friends at 112 Maple Ridge Drive across the street from his home.
"Right now, our big question is: Where were the parents?" said police spokesman Sgt. Jeffery Scott. "This child was mauled to death. What was that 3-year-old doing by himself?"
Scott said investigators were still interviewing witnesses late Tuesday. He said it was too early to say whether homeowners Shannon and Shaunda Reason, who own the dog named Blue Eyes, or anyone else would be charged.
The attack occurred when the boy wandered from the front yard into the carport where the dog was, Scott said. As the child made the corner toward the back of the house, he met the dog face-to-face.
The 2 1/2-year-old pit bull bit into the boy's neck and upper torso. Police said the dog then dragged the boy inside the Reasons' house, where he died.
When police and animal control officers arrived, Scott said the dog charged them, forcing officers to open fire. The dog was wounded but not killed.
Now in animal control custody, the dog will be quarantined and observed for 10 days before officials decide whether it should be euthanized.
The Reasons were being questioned late Tuesday.
Down the street, Isaac Stuckley said he heard the attack and mistakenly thought someone had been shot or stabbed.
"It happened so quick," the 12-year neighborhood resident said. "A lot of screaming, yelling and cursing - I thought a big fight had broken out."
Stuckley said the Reasons keep three pit bulls.
Stuckley said there had been a large gathering in front of the home before the attack.
"I have a pit bull myself," Stuckley said. "But it's for safety. It's not for children. That child didn't even have a chance. The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach."
__________________
23494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Fannie Mae Gang on: July 23, 2008, 09:31:01 AM
The Fannie Mae Gang
By PAUL A. GIGOT
July 23, 2008; Page A17

Angelo Mozilo was in one of his Napoleonic moods. It was October 2003, and the CEO of Countrywide Financial was berating me for The Wall Street Journal's editorials raising doubts about the accounting of Fannie Mae. I had just been introduced to him by Franklin Raines, then the CEO of Fannie, whom I had run into by chance at a reception hosted by the Business Council, the CEO group that had invited me to moderate a couple of panels.

Mr. Mozilo loudly declared that I didn't know what I was talking about, that I didn't understand accounting or the mortgage markets, and that I was in the pocket of Fannie's competitors, among other insults. Mr. Raines, always smoother than Mr. Mozilo, politely intervened to avoid an extended argument, and Countrywide's bantam rooster strutted off.

 
AP 
Clockwise from top left: Barney Frank, Franklin Raines, Mike Oxley, Angelo Mozilo and Paul Krugman.
I've thought about that episode more than once recently amid the meltdown and government rescue of Fannie and its sibling, Freddie Mac. Trying to defend the mortgage giants, Paul Krugman of the New York Times recently wrote, "What you need to know here is that the right -- the WSJ editorial page, Heritage, etc. -- hates, hates, hates Fannie and Freddie. Why? Because they don't want quasi-public entities competing with Angelo Mozilo."

That's a howler even by Mr. Krugman's standards. Fannie Mae and Mr. Mozilo weren't competitors; they were partners. Fannie helped to make Countrywide as profitable as it once was by buying its mortgages in bulk. Mr. Raines -- following predecessor Jim Johnson -- and Mr. Mozilo made each other rich. Which explains why Mr. Johnson could feel so comfortable asking Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) to discuss a sweetheart mortgage with Mr. Mozilo, and also explains the Mozilo-Raines tag team in 2003.


FANNIE MAYHEM: A HISTORY

 
Click here for a compendium of The Wall Street Journal's recent editorial coverage of Fannie and Freddie.I recount all this now because it illustrates the perverse nature of Fannie and Freddie that has made them such a relentless and untouchable political force. Their unique clout derives from a combination of liberal ideology and private profit. Fannie has been able to purchase political immunity for decades by disguising its vast profit-making machine in the cloak of "affordable housing." To be more precise, Fan and Fred have been protected by an alliance of Capitol Hill and Wall Street, of Barney Frank and Angelo Mozilo.

I know this because for more than six years I've been one of their antagonists. Any editor worth his expense account makes enemies, and complaints from CEOs, politicians and World Bank presidents are common. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are unique in their thuggery, and their response to critics may help readers appreciate why taxpayers are now explicitly on the hook to rescue companies that some of us have spent years warning about.


THE GANG RESPONDS

 
• Sen. Kent Conrad (D. N.D.) – 06/23/08
• Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R. Ohio) – 05/11/06
• Franklin Raines – 02/25/02My battles with Fan and Fred began with no great expectations. In late 2001, I got a tip that Fannie's derivatives accounting might be suspect. I asked Susan Lee to investigate, and the editorial she wrote in February 2002, "Fannie Mae Enron?", sent Fannie's shares down nearly 4% in a day. In retrospect, my only regret is the question mark.

Mr. Raines reacted with immediate fury, denouncing us in a letter to the editor as "glib, disingenuous, contorted, even irresponsible," and that was the subtle part. He turned up on CNBC to say, in essence, that we had made it all up because we didn't want poor people to own houses, while Freddie issued its own denunciation.

The companies also mobilized their Wall Street allies, who benefited both from promoting their shares and from selling their mortgage-backed securities, or MBSs. The latter is a beautiful racket, thanks to the previously implicit and now explicit government guarantee that the companies are too big to fail. The Street can hawk Fan and Fred MBSs as nearly as safe as Treasurys but with a higher yield. They make a bundle in fees.

At the time, Wall Street's Fannie apologists outdid themselves with their counterattack. One of the most slavish was Jonathan Gray, of Sanford C. Bernstein, who wrote to clients that the editorial was "unfounded and unsubstantiated" and "discredits the paper." My favorite point in his Feb. 20, 2002, Bernstein Research Call was this rebuttal to our point that "Taxpayers Are on The Hook: This is incorrect. The agencies' debt is not guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury or any agency of the Federal Government." Oops.

Mr. Gray's memo made its way to Wall Street Journal management via Michael Ellmann, a research analyst who had covered Dow Jones and was then at Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. "I think Gray is far more accurate than your editorial writer. Your subscribers deserve better," he wrote to one senior executive.

I also received several interventions from friends and even Dow Jones colleagues on behalf of the companies. But I was especially startled one day to find in my mail a personal letter from George Gould, an acquaintance about whom I'd written a favorable column when he was Treasury undersecretary for finance in 1988.

Mr. Gould's letter assailed our editorials and me in nasty personal terms, and I quickly discovered the root of his vitriol: Though his letter didn't say so, he had become a director of Freddie Mac. He was still on the board when Freddie's accounting lapses finally exploded into a scandal some months later.

The companies eased their assaults when they concluded we weren't about to stop, and in any case they soon had bigger problems. Freddie's accounting fiasco became public in 2003, while Fannie's accounting blew up in 2004. Mr. Raines was forced to resign, and a report by regulator James Lockhart discovered that Fannie had rigged its earnings in a way that allowed it to pay huge bonuses to Mr. Raines and other executives.

Such a debacle after so much denial would have sunk any normal financial company, but once again Fan and Fred could fall back on their political protection. In the wake of Freddie's implosion, Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida held one hearing on its accounting practices and scheduled more in early 2004.

He was soon told that not only could he hold no more hearings, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert was stripping his subcommittee of jurisdiction over Fan and Fred's accounting and giving it to Mike Oxley's Financial Services Committee. "It was because of all their lobbying work," explains Mr. Stearns today, in epic understatement. Mr. Oxley proceeded to let Barney Frank (D., Mass.), then in the minority, roll all over him and protect the companies from stronger regulatory oversight. Mr. Oxley, who has since retired, was the featured guest at no fewer than 19 Fannie-sponsored fund-raisers.

Or consider the experience of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the GOP's bright young lights who decided in the 1990s that Fan and Fred needed more supervision. As he held town hall meetings in his district, he soon noticed a man in a well-tailored suit hanging out amid the John Deere caps and street clothes. Mr. Ryan was being stalked by a Fannie lobbyist monitoring his every word.

On another occasion, he was invited to a meeting with the Democratic mayor of Racine, which is in his district, though he wasn't sure why. When he arrived, Mr. Ryan discovered that both he and the mayor had been invited separately -- not by each other, but by a Fannie lobbyist who proceeded to tell them about the great things Fannie did for home ownership in Racine.

When none of that deterred Mr. Ryan, Fannie played rougher. It called every mortgage holder in his district, claiming (falsely) that Mr. Ryan wanted to raise the cost of their mortgage and asking if Fannie could tell the congressman to stop on their behalf. He received some 6,000 telegrams. When Mr. Ryan finally left Financial Services for a seat on Ways and Means, which doesn't oversee Fannie, he received a personal note from Mr. Raines congratulating him. "He meant good riddance," says Mr. Ryan.

Fan and Fred also couldn't prosper for as long as they have without the support of the political left, both in Congress and the intellectual class. This includes Mr. Frank and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Capitol Hill, as well as Mr. Krugman and the Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein in the press. Their claim is that the companies are essential for homeownership.

Yet as studies have shown, about half of the implicit taxpayer subsidy for Fan and Fred is pocketed by shareholders and management. According to the Federal Reserve, the half that goes to homeowners adds up to a mere seven basis points on mortgages. In return for this, Fannie was able to pay no fewer than 21 of its executives more than $1 million in 2002, and in 2003 Mr. Raines pocketed more than $20 million. Fannie's left-wing defenders are underwriters of crony capitalism, not affordable housing.

So here we are this week, with the House and Senate preparing to commit taxpayer money to save Fannie and Freddie. The implicit taxpayer guarantee that Messrs. Gray and Raines and so many others said didn't exist has become explicit. Taxpayers may end up having to inject capital into the companies, in addition to guaranteeing their debt.

The abiding lesson here is what happens when you combine private profit with government power. You create political monsters that are protected both by journalists on the left and pseudo-capitalists on Wall Street, by liberal Democrats and country-club Republicans. Even now, after all of their dishonesty and failure, Fannie and Freddie could emerge from this taxpayer rescue more powerful than ever. Campaigning to spare taxpayers from that result would represent genuine "change," not that either presidential candidate seems interested.

Mr. Gigot is the Journal's editorial page editor.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
23495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on: July 23, 2008, 08:49:25 AM
"Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the
freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the
most industrious and impartial researchers, the longest liver
of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of
education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity
than those you have received from your ancestors."

-- John Adams (letter to the young men of the Philadelphia,
7 May 1798)

Reference: The Works of John Adams, C.F. Adams, ed., vol. 9 (188)
23496  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hawaii Knife Law on: July 23, 2008, 12:10:02 AM
Knife carry law summary

Date updated: Aug 27, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

§134-51 Deadly weapons; prohibitions; penalty.

(a) Any person, not authorized by law, who carries concealed upon the person's self or within any vehicle used or occupied by the person or who is found armed with any dirk, dagger, blackjack, slug shot, billy, metal knuckles, pistol, or other deadly or dangerous weapon shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be immediately arrested without warrant by any sheriff, police officer, or other officer or person. Any weapon, above enumerated, upon conviction of the one carrying or possessing it under this section, shall be summarily destroyed by the chief of police or sheriff.

§134-52 Switchblade knives; prohibitions; penalty.

(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any switchblade knife, being any knife having a blade which opens automatically
(1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or
(2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a switchblade knife while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony.

[§134-53] Butterfly knives; prohibitions; penalty.

(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any butterfly knife, being a knife having a blade encased in a split handle that manually unfolds with hand or wrist action with the assistance of inertia, gravity or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Admin note
There is no mention of Blade Length in Hawaii Law. More Information can be at http://pweb.netcom.com/~brlevine/sta-law.htm

This is from http://www.knife-expert.com

Hawaii Case Law:
- "'Other deadly or dangerous weapon' is limited to
instruments whose sole design and purpose is to inflict
bodily injury or death... A 'diver's knife' is neither a
'dangerous weapon' nor a 'dagger'. 'Deadly and dangerous
weapon' is one designed primarily as a weapon or diverted
from normal use and prepared for combat... Cane,
butterfly, and kitchen knives are not deadly or dangerous
weapons... Sheathed sword cane and wooden knuckles with
shark's teeth were 'deadly or dangerous weapons..."
23497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 23, 2008, 12:04:02 AM
Woof James:

Gold stars for having read the rules of the road!  grin

GM can speak for himself most ably, but allow me to interject that if you take the time to surf back through the various threads, you will see that many of them are mostly articles-- IMO on the whole articles of well above average quality I might add.  This forum's custom of organizing threads by subject matter/themes IMO enables this forum to serve as a tremendous resource for people who want to read about a subject/theme seriously and gain the perspective that can come from seeing what is thought and said over time.

Although it may not readily be apparent at first, these articles often ARE the conversation.  GM and I go back and forth sometimes on libertarian questions concerning governmental surveillance, so when he posts about some successful use of data collection, I know he is twitting me a bit and when I post about overzealous or inappropriate use of surveillance cameras, he too knows it is part of the continuing conversation.  Thus in the threads, you will often see a comment asking a pithy question or comment--which is then followed by various articles/pieces offering differing perspectives on that question/comment.  Again, properly understood, these articles ARE part of the continuing conversation.

Case in point-- you had no problem in understanding GM's point about America's big heart which he made by use of some articles.

The advantage to articles is that they often say what we want to say far better (and quicker than composing a piece of our own).   As time goes on I think you will find GM to be an unusually informed and thoughtful man-- one who has been through many times many of the points which are commonly made by many people.  As such, he already has a source which is precisely on point and rather than compose a whole new post, he posts it.  Case in point-- his use of an article from last year about Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Bird saying "We've lost! Run away! Run away!"   To me this clearly makes the point I was seeking to make about the reckless indifference of some of the opposition to the consequences of what it says.  Yes of course he has the right to say it!  And those of us who wish us success, and those in the field putting their asses on the line (a fine example methinks of Americans giving  more than money!!!) also have the right to be pretty steamed that it encouraged the enemy to fight harder in the hope that we were in the process of giving up and about to run away-- as well as discouraging those who think to ally with us.

I have the right to find despicable that a former VP and Prez candidate (Al Gore) speaks recklessly in Saudi Arabia of Abu Graib (which was revealed by the PENTAGON after all!!!) and placing it in moral equivalence to AQ cutting off the heads of captured civilian aid workers.

I have the right to loathe the LA Times for publishing about a secret program to get our point of view into the Iraqi press, or the NY Times revealing a program that tracked AQ's money flows.  These things seem treasonous to me.

But I digress , , ,  smiley

In short, GM and I ARE having an after dinner conversation  smiley  That said, perhaps GM and I can do better in putting in a paragraph fleshing out WHY it is that we are posting a particular piece.  I can't speak for GM, but I know I will work at it and I suspect he will as well.

The Adventure continues,
Marc
23498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China & Russia on: July 22, 2008, 08:09:23 PM
China and Russia’s Geographic Divide
July 22, 2008
By Peter Zeihan

Related Theme Page
Central Asian Energy: Circumventing Russia
Since the Soviet fall, Russian generals, intelligence chiefs and foreign policy personnel have often waxed philosophic about the inevitability of a global alliance to hem in U.S. power — often using the rhetoric of a “multipolar world.” Central in all of these plans has been not only the implied leadership of Russia, but the implied presence of China. At first glance, the two seem natural partners. China has a booming manufacturing economy, while Russia boasts growing exports of raw materials. But a closer look at the geography of the two paints a very different picture, while the history of the two tells an extraordinarily different story. If anything, it is no small miracle that the two have never found themselves facing each other in a brutal war.

A Hostile Geography
Russia east of the Urals and the Chinese interior are empty, forbidding places. Nearly all of Russia’s population is hard up on its western border, while China’s is in snug against its eastern and southern coasts. There is an ocean’s worth of nothing between them. But while ships can ply the actual ocean cheaply, potentially boosting economic activity, trade between Russia and China does not come easy. Moscow and Beijing are farther apart than Washington and London, and the cost of building meaningful infrastructure between the two would run in the hundreds of billions. With the exception of some resource development and sales in the border region, integration between the two simply does not make economic sense.

Yet, distance aside, there are no real barriers between the two. Southwestern Siberia is a long stretch of flatness that flows seamlessly into the steppes of Central Asia and the highlands of western China. This open expanse is the eastern end of the old Silk Road — proof that luxury trade is often feasible where more conventional trade simply cannot pay the transport bill. But where caravans bearing spice and silk can pass, so can armies bearing less desirable “goods and services.”

Ominously for Russia, there is little to separate the Russian Far East — where most of the Russian population east of the Urals resides — from Manchuria. And not only is there a 15:1 population imbalance here in favor of the Chinese (and not only has Beijing quietly encouraged Chinese immigration across its border with Russia since the Soviet breakup), but the Russian Far East is blocked from easy access to the rest of Russia by the towering mountains surrounding Lake Baikal. So while the two parts of Russia have minimal barriers separating them from China, they do have barriers separating them from each other. Russia can thus only hold its Far East so long as China lacks the desire to take it.

Geography also drives the two in different directions for economic reasons. For the same reason that trade between the two is unlikely, developing Russia would be an intimidating task. Unlike China or the United States, Russia’s rivers for the most part do not interconnect, and none of the major rivers go anywhere useful. Russia has loads of coastline, but nowhere does coast meld with population centers and ice-free ocean access. The best the country has is remote Murmansk.

So Russia’s development — doubly so east of the Urals — largely mirrors Africa’s: limited infrastructure primarily concerned with exploiting mineral deposits. Anything more holistic is simply too expensive to justify.

In contrast, China boasts substantial populations along its warm coasts. This access to transport allows China to industrialize more readily than Russia, but China shares easily crossed land borders with no natural trading partner. Its only serious option for international trade lies in maritime shipping. Yet, because land transport is “merely” difficult and not impossible, China must dedicate resources to a land-based military. This makes China militarily both vulnerable to — yet economically dependent upon — sea powers, both for access to raw materials and to ship its goods to market. The dominant naval power of today is not land-centric Russia, but the United States. To be economically successful China must at least have a civil and neutral relationship with the $14-trillion-economy-wielding and 11-aircraft-carrier-strike-group-toting United States. Russia barely even enters into China’s economic equation.

And the way Russia does figure into that equation — Central Asia — is not a positive, because there is an additional complication.

Natural gas produced in the Central Asian states until recently was part and parcel of overall Soviet production. Since those states’ infrastructure ran exclusively north into Russia, Moscow could count on this captive output to sign European supply contracts at a pittance. The Kremlin then uses those contracts as an anvil over Europe to extract political concessions.

“China” has been around a long time, but the borders of today represent the largest that the Chinese state has ever been. To prevent its outer provinces from breaking away (as they have many times in China’s past), one of Beijing’s geopolitical imperatives is to lash those provinces to the center as firmly as possible. Beijing has done this in two ways. First, it has stocked these outlying regions with Han Chinese to dilute the identity of the indigenous populations and culturally lash the regions to the center. Second, it has physically and economically lashed them to the center via building loads of infrastructure. So, in the past 15 years, China has engaged in a flurry of road, pipeline and rail construction to places such as Tibet and Xinjiang.

Merge these two seemingly minor details and it suddenly becomes clear that much of the mineral and energy riches of formerly Soviet Central Asia — resources that Russia must have to maintain its energy leverage over Europe — are now just as close to China’s infrastructure network as they are to Russia’s. And obtaining those resources is one of the few possible means China has of mitigating its vulnerability to U.S. naval power.

All that is needed are some pieces of connecting infrastructure to allow those resources to flow east to China instead of north to Russia. Those connections — road, pipe and rail — are already under construction. The Russians suddenly have some very active competition in a region they have thought of as their exclusive playground, not to mention a potential highway to Russia proper, for the past quarter millennia. Control of Central Asia is now a strategic imperative for both.

A Cold History
The history of the two powers — rarely warm, oftentimes bitter — meshes well with the characteristics of the region’s geography.

From the Chinese point of view, Russia is a relative newcomer to Asia, having started claiming territory east of the Urals only in the late 1500s, and having spent most of its blood, sweat and tears in the region in Central Asia rather than the Far East. Russian efforts in the Far East amounted to little more than a string of small outposts even when Moscow began claiming Pacific territory in the late 1700s. Still, by 1700, Russian strength was climbing while Chinese power was waning under the onslaught of European colonialism, enabling a still-militarily weak Russian force to begin occupying chunks of northeastern China. With a bit of bluff and guile, Russia formally annexed what is now Amur province from Qing China in the 1858 Treaty of Aigun, and shortly thereafter the Chinese-Russian border of today was established.

China attempted to resist even after Aigun — lumping the document with the other “unequal treaties” that weakened Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity — and indeed the Russians had more or less swindled China out of a million square miles of territory. But Beijing simply had too many other issues going on to mount a serious resistance (the Opium Wars come to mind). Once the Trans-Siberian Railway was completed early in the 20th century, Russia was able to back up its claims with troops, and the issue definitively moved to the back burner — especially as the rising colonial aspirations of Japan occupied more attention than China had to spare.

The bilateral relationship warmed somewhat after the end of World War II, with Russian energy and weapons critical to Mao’s consolidation of power (although notably, Stalin originally backed Mao’s rival, Chiang Kai-shek). But this camaraderie was not to last. Stalin did everything he could first to egg on the North Korean government to invade South Korea, and then to nudge the Chinese into backing the North Koreans against the U.S.-led U.N. counterattack. But while the USSR provided weapons to China in the Korean War, Moscow never sent troops — and when the war ended, Stalin had the temerity to submit a bill to Bejing for services rendered.

Sino-Soviet relations never really improved after that. As part of Cold War maneuvers, Russia allied with India and North Vietnam, both longtime Chinese rivals. Therein lay the groundwork of a U.S.-Chinese rapprochement, and rapid-fire events quickly drove the Chinese and Soviets apart. The United States and China both backed Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani wars. Some 60,000 Uighurs — a Muslim minority that the Chinese still fear hold separatist aspirations — fled across the Soviet border in 1962. In 1965, the Chinese energy industry matured to the point that Soviet oil was no longer required to keep the Chinese economy afloat. Later, Washington turned a blind eye to the horrors of the Chinese-bankrolled Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to destabilize Soviet-backed Vietnam. When all was said and done, the Soviet Union faced a foe to its south every bit as implacable as those on its western and eastern flanks.

But the seminal event that made the Sino-Soviet split inevitable was a series of military clashes in the summer of 1969 over some riverine islands in the Amur.

Today
China and Russia are anything but natural partners. While their economic interests may seem complementary, geography dictates that their actual connections will be sharply limited. Moreover, in their roles of resource provider versus producer, they actually have a commercial relationship analogous to that of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries versus the United States — with all the angst and distrust that suggests.

Strategically, the two tend to swim in different pools, but they still share a borderland. Borderlands — where one great state flows into another — are dangerous places, as their precise locations ebb and flow with the geopolitical tides. And the only thing more likely to generate borderland friction than when one side is strong and the other weak is when both sides are strong. Currently, both China and Russia are becoming more powerful simultaneously, creating ample likelihood that the two will slide toward confrontation in regions of overlapping interest.

So why Stratfor’s interest in the topic? The primary reason the United States is the most powerful state in the international system is that it faces no challengers on its continent. (Canada is de facto integrated into the United States, and Mexico — even were it stable and rich — would still be separated from the United States by a sizable desert.) This allows the United States to develop in peace and focus its efforts on projecting its power outward rather than defending itself. For the United States to be threatened, a continental-sized power or coalition of similar or greater size would need to arise. So long as China and Russia remain at odds, the United States does not have to work very hard to maintain its position.

Which brings us back to the island battles that cemented the Sino-Soviet split: Russia is giving them back.

On July 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put Russia’s final signature — in a deal already signed and ratified by both sides — to a deal that commits Russia to the imminent removal of its forces from 67 square miles of territory on a series of Amur riverine islands. The Russians call them Tarabarov and Bolshoi Ussuriysky, the Chinese call them Yinlong Dao and Heixiazi Dao. These are two of the islands over which the Chinese and Soviets battled in 1969, formalizing the Sino-Soviet split. The final pullout of Russian forces is expected within a month.

When two states enter into alliance, the first thing they must do is stop treating each other as foes. There is a bit of wiggle room if the two states do not border each other as the United States and Soviet Union did not during World War II. But in cases of a shared land border, it is devilishly difficult to believe that those on the other side of the line have your back if they are still gunning for a piece of your backyard. If China and Russia are going to stand together against the United States — or really, anyone — in any way, shape or form, the first thing they have to do is stop standing against each other. And that is just about to happen.

There are still plenty of reasons to doubt the durability of this development. In terms of modern warfare, the islands are strategic irrelevancies, so their surrender is not exactly a huge gesture of trust. Achieving any semblance of economic integration between the two powers still would be more trouble and expensive than it would be worth, making any deepening of the bilateral relationship difficult. Russia’s demographic slide instills a perfectly logical paranoia in the Kremlin; Russians are outnumbered 7 to 1 by their “partner” in terms of population and 3 to 1 in terms of economic size — something that Russian pride will find far harder to accept than merely handing over some islands. There is no substitute to the American market for China. Period. Sharing Central Asia is simply impossible because both sides need the same resources to achieve and maintain their strategic aims. And neither power has a particularly sterling reputation when it comes to confidence building.

Yet while Moscow is known for many, many things, sacrificing territory — especially territory over which blood has been shed — is not on that list. Swallowing some pride to raise the prospect of a Chinese-Russian alliance is something that should not pass unnoticed. Burying the hatchet in the islands of the Amur is the first step on the improbable road to a warmer bilateral relationship, and raises the possibility of a coalition of forces with the geographic foundation necessary to challenge the United States at its very core.

Such a Chinese-Russian alliance remains neither natural nor likely. But, with the territory handover, it has just become something that it was not a week ago: possible.
23499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 22, 2008, 05:07:29 PM
Yes we can debate in this democratic republic of ours, but those in opposition should think of the consequences of what they say and how they say it-- AND they can and should be held accountable for those consequences.    In my considered opinion, substantial elements of the Democratic opposition and the media have acted with despicable disregard for the consequences of their lies, distortions, hatred of Bush, and lust for power.

Here's one perspective on the ongoing negotiations with Iraq-- IMHO this is the sort of person BO should be talking to BEFORE forming an opinion.

July 20, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Surge Protector
By WILLIAM J. FALLON

Washington

THE prospect of a long-term security arrangement between the United States and Iraq has become a lightning rod for criticism. Yet such an agreement — which the White House believes could be completed this month now that the two countries have agreed to set a “general time horizon” for reducing the number of American troops in Iraq — would be in the best interests of the governments of both countries, and of the people who live in a region of the world that urgently needs stability.

The United Nations Security Council resolution that authorizes coalition operations in Iraq expires at the end of this year. But the calendar is not the most important reason for the United States to enter into a long-term pact with Iraq. The opportunity presented by the improved situation on the ground begs to be exploited lest it disappear in the ever-shifting sands of Middle East strife.

Are the desires of the American people and the Iraqi people different? I don’t think so. During my year in command of all American forces in the Middle East, I met often with Iraqis of all walks of life. Discussions with people — from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to clerics, governors and generals to men in the streets of Baghdad and towns and cities throughout the country — left me with several strong impressions. The top objective of both countries is security and stability in the region. Letting Iraq’s security forces assume responsibility for their country is another mutual goal. Withdrawing the vast majority of American and coalition troops from Iraq as soon as possible is a clear priority.

Why is achieving these aims so difficult? The most significant obstacle is war weariness. The war has dragged on so long that people are fixated on yesterday’s many negative aspects and are not aware of the profoundly different and improved situation in Iraq today — which is very different from only a few months ago.

Another major challenge is the continuing tendency to view anything to do with Iraq in the polarizing terms of yes or no, in or out. The prudent and rational approach is more nuanced, and more likely to achieve both countries’ mutual goals.

There are two key aspects of the bilateral security accord that has been proposed. The first is a status of forces agreement, which is a detailed compilation of the procedures and legal protections that govern the presence of foreign troops in another country. The second element is a higher-level strategic framework agreement, in which the two parties agree on the principles that will guide their mutual actions to create long-term security in Iraq. This more important part of the accord focuses on major policy issues like the roles and missions for each country’s military, the control of forces in various security situations, procedures for detainees, and the transition of responsibility.

Objections and objectors to the agreement are numerous. From the American side, we hear that it would tie us to an open-ended commitment to defend Iraq from external threats; that it would continue to drain resources from a faltering domestic economy; and that it violates Congressional prerogatives enshrined in the Constitution.

Some Iraqis, meanwhile, complain that any continued American presence in their country perpetuates what they see as an occupation and an infringement of their national sovereignty. They and other skeptics in the region object to the potential for long-term military bases, and they denounce America’s alleged hegemonic intentions.

And Iran objects to every aspect of continued American-Iraqi cooperation while promoting instability and supporting attacks on coalition forces in Iraq by providing arms and training to Shiite extremists and criminals.

These objections are obscuring what may be a one-time opportunity to achieve the goals so keenly desired by the majority of Americans and Iraqis, who care about peace and stability in the world. Most of the concerns involve worst-case possibilities that play to the fears of the poorly informed. For example, the security accord would define future commitments rather than perpetuate the perception of an “open-ended” engagement. The United States needs access to bases in Iraq to support the current level of operations. As responsibility for security passes to Iraqi forces, the need for bases will diminish.

Negotiators can sort through the issues. Given their recent history in Iraq, contractors and their rights and protections are a controversial topic. But civilian contractors perform a wide range of essential tasks, and the terms of their future service needs to be included in the agreement. Control of Iraqi airspace is another important component that will require clearheaded negotiations to preserve our military’s ability to ensure the safety of the many airplanes flying over Iraq and the timeliness of combat air support for troops on the ground.

The benefits that could be achieved are considerable. The agreement could reap dividends similar to those gained over the past year through the sacrifice and efforts of so many who have carried out an enlightened counterinsurgency strategy.

The number of incidents of violence nationwide in Iraq is less than a tenth of what we were experiencing in the spring of 2007. The casualty rate among American troops is the lowest in more than four years and continues to improve. Ethnic and sectarian violence among the Iraqi population has declined to levels not seen since the early days of the war.

Iraq’s security forces, with only modest coalition support, have demonstrated unprecedented initiative by taking control and assuming security of previously insurgent-dominated areas like Amara, Basra, Diwaniya and Sadr City. These actions signal a more confident and capable Iraqi leadership and military.

The government of Prime Minister Maliki has assumed an increasingly large share of the cost of Iraqi security, paying $3 for each American dollar contributed, and is on track to assume near total responsibility next year as revenues from oil exports continue to rise. Economic activity in Iraq is accelerating. Major oil companies are signing development contracts to improve the infrastructure.

The government of Iraq is eager to exert its sovereignty, but its leaders also recognize that it will be some time before Iraq can take full control of security. They are acutely aware of Iran’s behavior and of the need for continued cooperation with the United States.

This is a pivotal time. The aspirations of the hopeful could come to fruition: a stable Iraq, with a modern oil industry and substantially increased export capacity, that is part of the growing regional economic and political cooperation in the Middle East. This is not wishful dreaming but a very real possibility.

But it will happen only if security in Iraq is maintained. And a long-term arrangement with the United States is key to Iraq’s future security.

Reasonable objectors to the security pact, in both countries, must jettison the rhetorical and emotional baggage of the recent past. Forget the errors and bad decisions and deal with the present. Real progress has been made, and this positive momentum must be maintained.

Compromise, of course, will be essential. But confidence will be, too. The Americans need to trust Iraq’s security forces, and the Iraqis need to trust America’s intentions. The United States must give the Iraqi government an opportunity to demonstrate sovereignty over its territory while the government of Iraq must recognize its continued, if diminishing, reliance on the American military.

But the political posturing in pursuit of short-term gains must cease. All interested parties should cooperate for the general good.

We have come a long way in Iraq. It is in the mutual interest of the United States and Iraq to continue the transition to Iraqi forces and the drawdown of American troops in circumstances most likely to provide for stability. Certainly there is some risk involved. But the opportunity is unprecedented and the potential vast.

William J. Fallon, a retired admiral and a fellow at the M.I.T. Center for International Studies, was commander of the United States Central Command from 2007 to 2008.
23500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 22, 2008, 05:02:32 PM
I have long objected to our War on Drugs based on libertarian type thinking-- and am surprised to read what you say here  cheesy

What would you suggest we do?
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