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23651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reporting on: May 04, 2009, 02:20:02 AM
Reporting


By Tzvi Freeman
He doesn't need you to report on the dirt in His world. He is quite aware of its existence, He put it there and doesn't really care to hear about it.

He sent you here to search out the jewels hidden in the mud, clean them and polish them until they shine. And when you bring them to Him, the angels make a crown of them for Him, saying, "Look what Your children have made for You out of the mud!"
23652  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: May 04, 2009, 02:10:13 AM
No class on the 9th.  Next class on May 16th.
23653  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Art in its Homeland on: May 03, 2009, 09:47:46 PM
Pacman in action

http://teampilipinas.info/2009/05/pacquiao-vs-hatton-live-stream.html
23654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jack Kemp on: May 02, 2009, 09:53:40 PM

Jack Kemp, Former Quarterback and Congressman, Is Dead

Mr. Kemp played for the Buffalo Bills, represented western
New York for nine terms in Congress and served as Bob Dole's
running mate in 1996. His spokeswoman and a former campaign
adviser said Mr. Kemp died after a lengthy illness, The
Associated Press reported.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/?emc=na
23655  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: May 02, 2009, 07:13:59 PM
Focused mostly on the Dracula as a spike with follow ups, then light sparring.
23656  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pacman on: May 02, 2009, 11:29:00 AM
This could have fit in the boxing thread too, but the larger point is about the Philippines so I put it here.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/boxingandmma/5243745/Boxer-Manny-Pacquiao-looks-beyond-the-ring-to-politics-after-Ricky-Hatton-fight.html
 
 
 
Boxer Manny Pacquiao looks beyond the ring to politics after Ricky Hatton fight
The boxer Manny Pacquiao is so popular in the Philippines that when he steps into the ring, the army and rebel guerrillas call a truce. Now he has his sights on a new challenge – as a poverty-fighting politician.
 
By Gareth A Davies
Last Updated: 3:39PM BST 30 Apr 2009


In a corner of the Wild Card boxing gym, a small, compact man with a tiny waist, powerful arms and muscular calves genuflects in prayer at the edge of the sparring ring, his head resting on the buttress.

A white bandanna is wrapped loosely around his head, his chin is tucked into his chest, and his hands are pressed together tightly in worship. This is Manny Pacquiao, devout Catholic, Filipino idol, street urchin turned benefactor and, at 5ft 6in in his socks, the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet. Finally, he looks up, bright-eyed, and smiles. He utters a few words in his native Tagalog, and his entourage of 30 Filipinos collapses in laughter.

The Wild Card, located between Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards, a few blocks from the centre of Hollywood, is a dream factory for fighters. It is an institution of sweat, spit and sawdust, where some of the world's best boxers pound the bags alongside former lags, aspiring fighters and even Hollywood A-listers such as Mickey Rourke and Mark Wahlberg.
Each afternoon, the gym is cleared for Pacquiao so that he may train in peace. For the past six weeks, the Wild Card has resounded to the beat of a drum, and the rattle of a speedball at the end of Pacquiao's blurred fists.

On Saturday, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Pacquiao (48 wins in 53 professional fights) will learn whether his training has paid off when he steps into the ring with Manchester's Ricky Hatton (45 wins in 46 professional fights) for the latter's IBO and Ring Magazine Light Welterweight world titles.

The contest, pitting the two most popular fighters in the world against each other, is expected to gross an estimated £40 million. Pacquiao is guaranteed at least £10 million for his night's work, which could rise to £15 million with his share of pay-per-view TV takings, making it his largest payday. It could also be his last.

It is a month before the fight, a Saturday, and the trainer Freddie Roach gestures outside the Wild Card. 'Look,' he says. In the quadrangle below, more than 500 Filipinos have gathered in an orderly queue around the gym's perimeter fence and car-park to shake hands, ask for an autograph, or simply touch the arm of the man who has had the official titles 'National Treasure' and 'National Fist' bestowed upon him by the government of the Philippines.

Roach, who runs the Wild Card, is widely considered the world's leading boxing trainer, and has overseen the careers of 23 world champions, including Mike Tyson and Bernard Hopkins.

A former lightweight fighter himself, Roach, 49, has Parkinson's disease, which leaves him with the shakes and a slight limp, though he says the symptoms disappear when he goes to work on the pads with his charges. 'We have been together eight years now and Pacquiao is like no other fighter I've ever known,' he says. 'What sets him apart from all the others is his work ethic. He's just relentless.'

In 14 years as a professional, Pacquiao has won world titles in four weight divisions – from 7st 8lb to 9st 9lb, at flyweight, super bantamweight, super featherweight and lightweight. In his last contest, in December, in what many felt would be a step too far, he dismantled America's most popular boxer, Oscar De La Hoya, at the 10st 7lb limit, in eight one-sided rounds.

Pacquiao is currently rated by The Ring, the sport's most respected trade magazine, as the best boxer in the world. His career earnings stand at an estimated £30 million. (Major paydays have come late in his career, in the past three years.)

Boxing promoters are by nature artists of smokescreen and hype, but it is still surprising to hear Bob Arum, the veteran Las Vegas-based promoter who oversaw Muhammad Ali's career in the 1960s, comparing Pacquaio with such a singular fighter
as Ali. 'Muhammad was larger than life, and loved by people, but I have never had a fighter who has so captivated one people as Manny,' Arum says. 'Everywhere I go, I am approached by Filipinos.'

Such is Pacquiao's standing in his home country that it is written into Philippine law that the army will go to Pacquiao's aid if his family is in danger. He carried the flag for the Philippines at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and is the first Filipino boxer to have his image appear on a stamp. In a Time magazine online poll to find the 100 most influential people of 2009, Pacquiao has so far garnered more than 20 million votes.

Emmanuel 'Manny' Dapidran Pacquiao was born in December 1978 in the small town of Kibawe in Mindanao, the second largest of the Philippines' 7,107 islands. His early life was one of true poverty. The family lived in a shanty town, sleeping on cardboard boxes. His father, Rosalio Pacquiao, was a farmhand; his mother, Dionisia Dapigaran, did an assortment of odd jobs, and raised her children to believe in God. She hoped that Manny might one day become a priest. Manny often missed school to work in a laundry and do menial jobs to help make ends meet.

In 1990, when he was 12, two events changed Pacquiao's life. First, on television, he witnessed James 'Buster' Douglas defeat the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson in Tokyo – Pacquiao's first encounter with boxing, which led him to dream of a career in the ring. He would do odd jobs at the local gym and made his own punchbag out of a cardboard box stuffed with old clothes.

Second, and more significantly, he ran away from his family. He had found a stray dog, and brought it home. His father, who had been drinking, was enraged and, to punish the boy, cooked and ate the animal. Horrified, Pacquiao packed his bags and left for good. He slept rough, eking out a living selling iced water and doughnuts, each for a penny profit, until he stowed away in a boat bound for Manila 500 miles away.

After a time living on the streets, then finding a job as a gardener and construction worker, Pacquiao met Ben Delgado, who ran the L & M Gym in Sampaloc. 'Manny approached me and asked me if I would train him,' Delgado tells me as we sit in Nat's Thai Food restaurant in the quadrangle below the Wild Card. 'It was a rough area of Manila, but it was a good gym.' While several promoters told Pacquiao he was too small to be a boxer, Delgado spotted a raw yet rare talent in the young man, and agreed to work with him.

Pacquiao had no money, so Delgado let him live in the gym for the next two years, sleeping beside the workout areas in a small room. 'Sometimes we used to put plywood boards on the canvas and slept in the ring,' Delgado says. 'In the mornings we went jogging, the rest of the day we just trained. He always had a big heart, in and out of the ring, and always, even then, wanted to be champion of the world.'

Under Delgado's guidance, Pacquiao turned professional at 17, and became a rising star on a televised weekly boxing show in the Philippines called Blow by Blow. At the time, he was earning about $2 per fight, which he sent home to his mother. His progress was rapid, his reputation grew, and before long the world flyweight title was on his radar. He won the World Boxing Council flyweight belt in Thailand, against Chatchai Sasakul, in December 1998, at the age of 19.

His major career break came in 2001 when, still under Delgado's tuition, Pacquiao fought at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, his first fight in America. He had been called up as a late replacement against the International Boxing Federation super bantamweight champion Lehlohonolo 'Hands of Stone' Ledwaba. Pacquiao, still a raw brawler at this point, and an outsider for the title, stopped the South African Ledwaba in the sixth round.

He was quickly spotted by Freddie Roach, who has plotted his fighting strategy ever since. Roach remodelled Pacquiao's style to make use of his blistering hand speed, while developing a mental toughness through a rigorous sparring and fitness regimen. 'Pacquiao, physically, became a fighting machine,' Roach says. Fearless, he stands toe-to-toe with his opponents, is almost impossibly light on his feet, and seems to answer every punch taken with three of his own.

Since 2001 only four of Pacquiao's 18 fights have taken place in his native country, with half of them in Vegas, the world's fight capital. To his compatriots, he has become the Philippines' most famous and successful export, and a symbol of triumph over adversity. Fourteen years after Pacquiao turned professional, Delgado, now 72, still attends every fight, and is a permanent fixture within Pacquiao's Los Angeles entourage. The boxer calls him his 'lucky charm'.

Pacquiao joins us in the restaurant. He has just completed 16 rounds of sparring against four different fighters, 12 rounds on the pads with Roach, and an hour's run in the Hollywood Hills, with only his Jack Russell – with whom he shares the nickname 'Pacman' – able to keep the cardio-sapping pace. After training, he had spent two hours signing autographs for all the people gathered at the gym.

'I have to give people time to take a picture, and sign autographs. I have to be generous to people. It is in my heart. Without that, I would not be Manny Pacquiao,' he says, ordering boiled eggs and salad. 'I believe that being famous means one of your responsibilities is to give.'

For a man so revered, he is deeply humble. He has charisma, yet engages only in spurts, before withdrawing deep inside himself. 'I'm just a regular person who believes life is simple, and I like a simple life,' he says. 'I have a lot of friends around me. I'm happy with that. Of course, in the ring, you have to be a warrior, but outside the ring, people know I'm friendly. Ricky Hatton and I will be friends after the fight, whatever happens.'

When not training in California, Pacquiao lives in a presidential-style mansion in General Santos City, Mindanao, with his wife, Jinkee, and their four children. The compound is manned 24/7 by armed security guards (there have been threats made against his children in the past). He is building homes for his siblings, his mother and his father, with whom he was reconciled publicly in 2006.

'If people don't have money, or have problems, they come to him,' Delgado says. 'And he helps them. Everyone loves him in the Philippines, from low profile to the high people.'

'Whenever he is in the Philippines,' Lee Samuels, the publicist for Bob Arum's Top Rank Inc promotion company, explains, 'people line up at his house for charitable gifts every day. They are mostly children, but also people who fall behind on their mortgage payments, people who have fallen on hard times.'

Pacquiao finds it difficult to refuse them. He is currently funding 250 children through school in his neighbourhood, through a foundation set up several years ago. Some are orphans, others have parents who have requested his help. Since his last fight in December, he has organised the export from the United States of 350 American-built hospital beds destined for wards around the General Santos region, a fire engine and an ambulance, and is overseeing the rebuilding of the L & M Gym in Manila into an apartment complex, incorporating a boxing gym in the basement.

At his American apartment, in a gated compound in Los Angeles, I asked him how he felt about the widespread poverty in the Philippines. He fixed me with a steely look. 'Poverty does not make me angry,' he said. 'But it makes me feel bad inside, and I want to help. I want the people of the Philippines to be happy, even if they have nothing. Even if they can just have enough to eat food three times a day. I feel so bad because God gave us everything to live in this world, so why don't we share with other people?'

Some of Pacquiao's most ardent supporters claim him as a latter-day saint, a new-age leader of the Maharlikan people who were conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century.

'Pacquiao is not just an inspiration for people, but has been a saving grace for the Philippines government on more than one occasion,' says Granville Ampong, a highly respected Filipino journalist based in Los Angeles, who writes for several newspaper titles in the Philippines. 'The Philippines is in a state of political chaos, of economic meltdown. There are many controversies around the current administration, and he has saved them from attack from revolutionaries.'

On the island of Pacquiao's birth, Mindanao, rebels have been fighting for a separate Islamic state within the mainly Catholic country for decades; the conflict is said to have claimed more than 120,000 lives. In spite of a ceasefire in 2003 and regular peace talks, violence continues.

'The masses could have overthrown the government but each time Manny fights, he calms the situation,' Ampong says. 'When he enters the ring, a truce is declared between guerrillas and the national army, and the crime rate all over the Philippines drops to zero. It's an amazing phenomenon.'

It is widely accepted that, despite his lack of a formal education, Pacquiao's destiny lies in Philippine politics. There is strong speculation that he will retire from the ring later this year, in time to prepare for the general elections in 2010. Last September he was sworn in as a member of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Free Filipino party. 'I'm convinced,' Arum says, 'that one day he will be president of the Philippines.'

When Pacquiao defeated De La Hoya in December, he dedicated his victory 'to President Arroyo, to the whole Philippines, and to the Filipino people all over the world.' In the press conference, Pacquiao was flanked by two leading politicians, governor Luis 'Chavit' Singson and the energy secretary Lito Atienza. At the post-fight party, more politicians were spotted among his fans. Mayors of seven Manila suburbs have enjoyed ringside seats at his recent fights, along with the husband of President Arroyo.

In late February a press tour was held in Manchester and London to promote Pacquiao's contest with Hatton. The Philippine ambassador attended the news conferences in both cities. 'They have to be there,' Arum explains. 'Not because of Manny's career, but because of theirs.'

Though it once boasted one of south-east Asia's best-performing economies, the Philippines is now saddled with a large national debt, and tens of millions of people live in poverty. A third of the population live on less than a dollar a day. The economy is heavily dependent on the billions of dollars sent home each year by the huge Filipino overseas workforce, but the world recession is driving the country towards economic collapse.

The Philippines also possesses the highest birth rate in Asia, with forecasters predicting the population of 90 million (it is the world's 12th most populous country) could double within three decades, pushing the fragile economy past breaking point.
It is also the world's biggest rice importer, and has seen prices soar in recent years. The Philippines needs, if not a miracle, then an individual who embodies unity and hope for the future.

'It is too premature to judge the future of Manny Pacquiao in political terms,' Ampong says. 'The realm of Philippine politics is a tricky one. There is a huge gap between rich and poor, and trying to bridge the gap is an idealistic wish. I'm not suspicious of his motives, but what about the numbskull politicians following him? What are their motives? I think Philippine politics is going
to be very difficult for him.'

Pacquiao, unaccustomed to defeat, has already discovered that winning at the ballot box is not as straightforward as winning in the ring. In February 2007 he announced he was running for congress under President Arroyo's party, to widespread dismay from both his fans and the general public. Arroyo had become president in 2004 in controversial circumstances, following vote-rigging allegations. These have contributed to the unrest in Mindanao where, in a 2008 survey, 58 per cent of citizens said they felt Arroyo had cheated in the election.

On May 17 2007 Pacquiao was defeated in the congressional elections by Darlene Antonino-Custodio, running for the Nationalist People's Coalition, who received 139,061 votes to Pacquiao's 75,908. Pacquiao had funded his campaign with his own money, though it has been claimed that much of the funds were siphoned off by his own supporters. Political naivety, and his support for a controversial president, appear to have cost him victory on this occasion. Pacquiao's boxing fans rejoiced after the election defeat, and he returned to the ring. But not, it seems, for much longer. It remains to be seen whether he can hold on to his phenomenal popularity once he hangs up his gloves.

'Manny needs to distance himself from Arroyo if he intends to maintain his popularity in the Philippines,' Ampong says. Indeed, it is possible that the backlash has already begun. Pacquiao has recently had run-ins with the Philippine media, a situation that was unthinkable a few years ago. The Manila Bulletin reported in the summer of 2007 that he had a gambling problem, though the reporter later apologised personally to Pacquiao, who withdrew a libel action against the newspaper.

Once he is ensconced in politics, more people may emerge who are determined to bring him down. And unlike Hatton and De La Hoya, they may fight dirty. 'I spent a month in the Philippines in 2007 trying to dissuade Manny from running for congress but to no avail,' Mike Koncz, a close friend of Pacquiao and one of his long-term advisers, says. 'It is just his burning desire and strong belief that he can make a difference in Philippine politics. Do I agree? No, because one man cannot change the system over there, but that's his belief. He thinks he can change the system for the better and help people out of poverty that way. And when Manny feels like that, you can't change his mind. He's a fighter, and he always will be.'

It is Monday morning, three weeks before the fight. Back in the gym, Pacquiao is on familiar ground. The speedball is a blur on the far wall, and the fighter, totally focused and with his fists flashing, is framed by a huge poster of Muhammad Ali, open-mouthed, behind him. Training over, he stops for a chat. I ask if he is ever worried about losing. He pauses for a moment and then smiles. 'I have no fear in my life,' he says. 'I don't fear losing. Why feel fear in your heart when you believe in God?'

Ricky Hatton vs Manny Pacquiao is exclusively live on Saturday night on Sky Box Office and in high definition on Sky Box Office HD. To order, call 08442-410888
23657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Chrysler and more on: May 02, 2009, 02:01:42 AM
This could go in more than one thread:

Geopolitical Diary: Chrysler Files for Bankruptcy
May 1, 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama announced Thursday that automaker Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, allowing it to restructure its debts and consolidate profitable assets into a new company. At the heart of the deal is an agreement with Italian carmaker Fiat, which will take an initial 20 percent stake in Chrysler. Fiat has an option to increase its holdings to 35 percent if certain performance criteria are met (such as bringing a fuel-efficient engine family to the U.S.-manufactured Chryslers and allowing Chrysler to use its global distribution network), and it could become Chrysler’s majority owner by 2016. As part of the bankruptcy deal, the U.S. government will take an 8 percent stake in the automaker, while the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments together will take a 2 percent stake.

Chrysler has 54,000 employees, and that – combined with the ramifications for the U.S. automotive supplier industry, particularly in the manufacturing states of the Midwest – makes the company’s fate a deeply political issue within the United States. But the impact of the bankruptcy will be felt in other countries also. In fact, the U.S. plan for Chrysler hinges on a transfer of technology from Europe, meant to help the beleaguered company learn the ways of small and efficient automobile manufacturing. The irony is that Chrysler intends to keep Jeep and Dodge — neither of which are considered small or efficient — as the core assets of its new fleet.

A further irony is that Chrysler has turned to the Italian automaker Fiat, which has had financial difficulties of its own, for manufacturing and business acumen. In Europe, Fiat’s vehicles have suffered decades of image problems, depressing the price that the Turin-based company can ask for its cars. Furthermore, Fiat went through exceedingly difficult times in 2003 and 2004, when (again ironically) it was General Motors that was nearly forced to bail the company out. By 2005, Fiat was in such dire straits that it exercised an option to sell its car division to the American manufacturer, forcing GM to buy it at market price. But GM was so wary of Fiat’s enormous debt and unimpressed by the car division that it chose to pay a $2 billion penalty instead of taking ownership.

Further questions arise over the impact that the Chrysler bankruptcy will have on U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico. For Canada, the key is Ontario’s manufacturing sector, which accounts for 42,000 assembly and 75,000 auto parts supplier jobs. Having suffered heavy job losses in both sectors in 2007 and 2008, the minority Conservative government cannot allow further economic hardship to strike in Ontario — the government already has faced multiple challenges from the Canadian Liberal Party during its tenure.

For Mexico, the matter is more than political: It is a matter of life and death. The auto-manufacturing sector employs roughly 450,000 people — 100,000 in Ciudad Juarez alone. Juarez is at the center of a drug war that has pitted the Mexican army and federal law enforcement against several cartels, which also are battling each other for control over key drug transshipment points into the United States. Massive layoffs in the automotive sector would create a large pool of disaffected but able-bodied people, who would be great recruits for the cartels. The situation also could widen the rift between the notoriously rebellious and independent-minded residents of Chihuahua and the federal government in Mexico City, complicating efforts by federal law enforcement to conduct operations in Juarez.

The financial burden of a potential collapse of the automotive sector would only add to several economic and social problems that Mexico faces. Mexico is suffering from the impact of swine flu, substantial decline in remittances from emigrants living abroad and low prices for its energy exports — which the government depends on for about 40 percent of tax revenue. Added to this would be the cost of a program that obligates the government to pick up one-third of autoworkers’ salaries when companies suspend factory operations.

The implications of the U.S. auto industry developments for Mexico and Canada will not be clear until the situation regarding GM – which also has been faltering — is resolved. A restructuring plan for GM as well as Chrysler could add to the implications for auto suppliers in the United States and its immediate neighbors in North America. But GM has a much more extensive network than Chrysler does outside of North America — with significant operations in Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela), Africa (Egypt and South Africa), Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Thailand) and Australia. The possibility of a GM bankruptcy has already soured relations between the Obama administration and the German government, which refuses to rescue GM’s Opel division. That issue has had political ramifications, months ahead of the German election in September.

Given GM’s global reach, the potential collapse of that company, following the Chrysler bankruptcy filing, would cause shock waves for a number of countries and leave their governments to deal with the domestic effects. And that might sour the Obama administration’s relations with some key allies in the future.
23658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Census 2010 on: May 01, 2009, 11:52:13 PM
Good thread subject-- and one worthy of continuing attention as all this develops.
23659  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: May 01, 2009, 11:35:45 PM
Looking forward to tomorrow  cool
23660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IF Stone on: May 01, 2009, 11:28:35 PM
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/i-f--stone--soviet-agent-case-closed-15120%20
23661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Podhoretz: thought piece on Israel and BO on: May 01, 2009, 11:23:21 PM
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/how-obama-s-america-might-threaten-israel-15132%20
23662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maybe they should look for them in Mexico , , , on: May 01, 2009, 10:29:30 PM
http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepu...efolo0425.html

Phoenix police reported 11 of their own assault rifles missing this week based on the results of an audit which showed no trace of the weapons.

With 381 rifles deployed from precinct patrols to SWAT teams across Phoenix, police spokesmen downplayed the audit.  Four days after a detective filed a loss report, they said the weapons probably were stashed in a car trunk or locker somewhere and were simply misplaced, rather than out on the street.

"They were put into the (National Crime Information Center database) to ensure they don't get into the wrong hands," said Officer Luis Samudio.   A loss report detailed more than $7,000 in stolen weapons, according to Samudio.

Board members from the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association argued that the missing rifles reflected poorly on a department that prohibits its sworn officers from purchasing their own assault rifles for duty.  The list included a non-lethal training rifle and a Steyr-AUG rifle which sells for as much as $5,000, according to some estimates.

"If they were still conducting their audit and they felt confident they knew where they are, why would they enter them into NCIC as stolen?" said Ken Crane, a board member of the law-enforcement group. "They wouldn't have taken that step unless they exhausted all means to locate those rifles first."

Some major U.S. police departments allow private purchases to equip more officers with the high-powered weapons required in some situations.  Phoenix City Council approved the purchase of 80 more Bushmaster AR-15 rifles in March, allowing police to use more than $59,000 to secure the added firepower. However, it could take until this fall to phase the weapons into patrol because of manufacturer backlogs due to military orders.

This spring's order marked the first police rifle purchase since actor David Spade donated $100,000 in December to help buy more rifles.

Representatives of the law-enforcement group estimated that one in 10 Phoenix patrol officers have access to a rifle in field, with only 128 available to the patrol force of about 1,200 officers.
23663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: May 01, 2009, 11:43:24 AM
Caspian Pipeline Consortium
Stratfor Today » April 30, 2009 | 2115 GMT

Alexander Aleshkin/Epsilon/Getty Images
LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2008Summary
Russia is on the cusp of acquiring BP’s stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline, which would give Moscow majority ownership of a vital energy asset. This shows that Russia is actively pursuing consolidation in the energy sector and working to make Europe’s plans to diversify away from Russian energy all the more difficult.

Vagit Alekperov, president of Russian oil firm LUKoil, is in Kazakhstan until May 1, meeting with officials from the Kazakh government and BP to negotiate on the acquisition of BP’s 6.6 percent stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) oil pipeline. According to STRATFOR sources in Moscow, Alekperov will finalize a deal to acquire BP’s share of a joint venture it holds with LUKoil known as LUKARKO B.V. The joint venture has a 12.5 percent stake of the total pipeline; LUKoil’s acquisition would give Russia majority ownership of the strategic energy asset.


The CPC pipeline has a history of garnering significant attention from regional and global players in the energy industry, and for good reason. First commissioned in 2001, the CPC was designed to bring Kazakhstan’s hefty oil resources from the Tengiz oil field to the export terminal in Russia’s port city of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea coast. With a capacity of around 700,000 barrels per day flowing from the Caspian across the Caucasus, this pipeline is of vital strategic importance. Furthermore, the CPC is the only major pipeline traversing Russian territory that is not majority-owned by the Russians; rather, it is split among a hodgepodge of governments and businesses.

This lack of majority ownership has long been a thorn in Moscow’s side, as much of Russia’s strategic strength and foreign policy decisions are driven by its dominance of energy resources. Consequently, Moscow has been working to block any progress on the CPC pipeline and to eventually become a majority owner. Russia used heavy-handed tactics, such as charging enormous taxes and transit fees on the pipeline, to block any effort to expand it. In addition, Moscow sought to increase its ownership in the consortium in order to have more decision-making power regarding the pipeline. Russia purchased a 7 percent stake owned by Oman in November 2008, but this only gave Moscow 31 percent outright ownership of the pipeline — not a controlling stake. Moscow also gained partial ownership in the Rosneft-Royal Dutch/Shell joint venture (which holds a 7.5 percent stake) and the LUKoil-BP LUKARKO joint venture, but still failed to surpass the 50 percent threshold needed for majority ownership.

That will now change. If the meeting between Alekperov and Kazakh and BP officials produces an agreement, which is all but guaranteed, LUKoil (a private company that is not directly owned by the Kremlin but is frequently used to the Kremlin’s advantage), will own LUKARKO’s entire 12.5 percent stake in the CPC, giving Russia majority ownership. This likely will have enormous consequences, as Russia will be in control of decision-making for the pipelines, and the pipeline expansion plans the Kremlin has blocked up until now could change or move forward with the Kremlin as the primary overseer.

It will not be all smooth sailing, however. After the completion of the LUKoil-BP deal, Russian ownership of the CPC will be split among three major constituencies: LUKoil, state-owned oil giant Rosneft and pipeline monopoly Transneft. The Kremlin masterminded this arrangement so that Russia would not appear to have overwhelming influence in the consortium, as ownership would be divided among an independent player that happens to be based in Russia (LUKoil) and government-owned firms. But these companies are not just competitors; they are actually adversaries, in that they are involved with different oligarchs’ clans that are vying for power within the Russian elite.

Moscow understands this and has been consolidating power massively, nationalizing and taking control of assets from a wide range of strategic industries — from banking to energy and everything in between —that were once solely under the oligarchs’ control. The ongoing economic recession, which has hit Russia quite hard, has actually facilitated this process, allowing Moscow to keep all the important players within its borders and beyond in check. Thus, the Kremlin has made plans to consolidate the CPC shares held by Transneft, Rosneft, and LUKoil under one umbrella, though this will not be easy, as none of these companies will want to relinquish its portion of the pipeline. Moscow will have to either fight or accept that its control over the shares is weakened, as the shares are split up — though they are still in Russian hands.

Ultimately, the move to acquire BP’s stake in the CPC pipeline will strengthen Russia’s dominance, giving it ownership of all the major energy infrastructure that touches its soil. As seen in the recent deal to take over Turkmenistan’s strategic pipeline to Iran, Moscow is vigorously reasserting itself in the region through energy deals. The most important intended audience for these moves are the Europeans, who must sit back and watch as their plans for energy diversification away from Russia take another blow.

23664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: May 01, 2009, 11:03:42 AM
I still remember Biden's howlers in his debate with Sarah Palin about Lebanon and Hezbollah-- from the man chosen for his int'l expertise to balance out His Glibness.

Anyway, , , here's this worrisome little item.

Soros Influenza

In other bad news from the Pentagon, "Democratic Party financier George Soros, who puts much of the blame for Islamic terrorists on America and former president George W. Bush, can celebrate his first foothold inside the Pentagon," writes columnist Rowan Scarborough. "It is in the person of Rosa Brooks, far-left former Los Angeles Times columnist." Brooks was also a lawyer for Soros' Open Societies Institute, which in turn is sugar daddy for MoveOn.org. She will now be "principal adviser" for Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, the Number 3 official and top policymaker at the Pentagon. This means that Brooks will have an influence on such things as budget, troop deployments and weapons purchases. She will also, according to the Pentagon, "develop cross-regional planning," which means she will hold sway over foreign relations.

In light of her coming role, her views on national security might be pertinent, and a look at Brooks' diatribes quickly reveals the problem. She compared President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler (how original) and called Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney "psychotics who need treatment." Perhaps most telling is this passage from a 2007 article: "[Al Qaeda] was little more than an obscure group of extremist thugs, well financed and intermittently lethal but relatively limited in their global and regional political pull. On 9/11, they got lucky -- but despite the unexpected success of their attack on the U.S., they did not pose an imminent mortal threat to the nation. Today, things are different. Thanks to U.S. policies, al Qaeda has become the vast global threat the administration imagined it to be in 2001." Uh, thanks to U.S. policies Rosa, al-Qa'ida has not made a successful attack on U.S. soil since 2001.

Sadly, however, the fact that a DoD undersecretary now has a total wingnut as an advisor isn't exactly earth-shattering news given the radicalism threaded throughout this administration. Barack Obama still has at least 1,359 days left.

PartiotPost
23665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Accidental discharges during crimes on: May 01, 2009, 10:58:39 AM
From the 'Court Jesters' File: Accidental Shooting Ruling
The Supreme Court also ruled this week on a case involving a robbery during which the perpetrator accidentally fired his gun. He claimed that the automatic 10-year sentence for firing a weapon during a crime was too harsh for something that was an accident. The Court disagreed. Mandatory minimum sentences are another can of worms, but we agree with Chief Justice John Roberts, who pointed out that if criminals wanted to avoid the penalty for firing the gun, even by accident, they should "lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care during the underlying violent or drug trafficking crime, leave the gun at home or -- best yet -- avoid committing the felony in the first place."

Funnier still is the dissent, written by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by Stephen Breyer, which said, "Accidents happen, but they seldom give rise to criminal liability. Indeed, if they cause no harm, they seldom give rise to any liability. The court today nevertheless holds that petitioner is subject to a mandatory additional sentence -- a species of criminal liability -- for an accident that caused no harm." Call us crazy for pointing it out, but these are two of the justices who dissented from last year's Heller ruling, which affirmed the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In other words, they are in the unusual position of defending a criminal who accidentally fired a weapon during a crime while maintaining that law-abiding citizens have no right to own a firearm.

PatriotPost
23666  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Team Dog Brothers MMA? on: May 01, 2009, 09:09:59 AM
Starting this coming Tuesday at 14:00 at Boxing Works in Hermosa Beach.
23667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: May 01, 2009, 08:46:21 AM
"We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape -- that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 45
23668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment on: May 01, 2009, 08:09:23 AM
Thanks for the save. smiley
23669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment on: April 30, 2009, 09:53:00 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009...t-free-speech/

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-1913
23670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 8 year old girl allowed to divorce 50 yr. old man on: April 30, 2009, 09:50:41 PM
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090430/...child_marriage

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Writer Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press Writer – 19 mins ago
CAIRO – An 8-year-old Saudi girl has divorced her middle-aged husband after her father forced her to marry him last year in exchange for about $13,000, her lawyer said Thursday.
Saudi Arabia has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad for permitting child marriages. The United States, a close ally of the conservative Muslim kingdom, has called child marriage a "clear and unacceptable" violation of human rights.
The girl was allowed to divorce the 50-year-old man who she married in August after an out-of-court settlement had been reached in the case, said her lawyer, Abdulla al-Jeteli. The exact date of the divorce was not immediately known.
A court in the central Oneiza region previously rejected a request by the girl's mother for a divorce and ruled that the girl would have to wait until she reached puberty to file a petition then.
There are no laws in Saudi Arabia defining the minimum age for marriage. Though a woman's consent is legally required, some marriage officials don't seek it.
But there has been a push by Saudi human rights groups to define the age of marriage and put an end to the phenomenon.
One Saudi human rights activist Sohaila Zain al-Abdeen was optimistic that the girl's divorce would help efforts to get a law passed enforcing a minimum marriage age of 18.
"Unfortunately, some fathers trade their daughters," she told The Associated Press. "They are weak people who are sometimes in need of money and forget their roles as parents."
It was not clear if the man received money for the divorce settlement. The man had given the girl's father 50,000 riyals, or about $13,350, as a marriage gift in return for his daughter, the lawyer said.
The 8-year-old girl's marriage was not the only one in the kingdom to receive attention in recent months. Saudi newspapers have highlighted several cases in which young girls were married off to much older men or young boys including a 15-year-old girl whose father, a death-row inmate, married her off to a cell mate.
Saudi Arabia's conservative Muslim clergy have opposed the drive to end child marriages. In January, the kingdom's most senior cleric said it was permissible for 10-year-old girls to marry and those who believe they are too young are doing the girls an injustice.
But some in the government appear to support the movement to set a minimum age for marriage. The kingdom's new justice minister was quoted in mid-April as saying the government was doing a study on underage marriage that would include regulations.
There are no statistics to show how many marriages involving children are performed in Saudi Arabia every year. Activists say the girls are given away in return for hefty marriage gifts or as a result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his infant daughters and sons to cousins out of a belief that marriage will protect them from illicit relationships.
23671  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: April 30, 2009, 12:44:00 PM
Night Owl and I will begin editing this coming week.
23672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: April 30, 2009, 11:37:09 AM
BEIRUT, Lebanon — He has been mentor to some of the most brutal terrorists on earth. But Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a prominent cleric and theorist of jihad living in Jordan, has grown tired of hearing younger extremists accuse him of going soft.

The site Jihadica notes Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s citation and has one of its own.
So in a recent Internet post to his followers, Mr. Maqdisi defended his hard-line credentials by invoking a higher authority: the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

“Credit is due to the testimony of enemies,” Mr. Maqdisi wrote, as he directed his readers to a recent journal article by Joas Wagemakers, a Dutch scholar of jihadism, and the “Militant Ideology Atlas,” both published by the center. Both identified Mr. Maqdisi as a dangerous and influential jihadi theorist, he noted.

So did two articles by liberal Arab columnists, Mr. Maqdisi added proudly, including one that referred to him as a “sheik of violence” and “the head of the snake.”

It is not new for Islamic extremists to cite Western counterterrorism reports. Ayman Zawahri, the deputy of Osama bin Laden, has referred at least twice in his taped statements to “Stealing Al Qaeda’s Playbook,” a 2004 article also published by the center. But recently Mr. Maqdisi has taken this hall-of-mirrors phenomenon to a new level, complaining bitterly that secular Western analysts generally understand him better than many in his own community.

“I am surprised at the low level of their thinking,” Mr. Maqdisi wrote of his critics, “and how the enemies of religion read and understand us better than they do.”

The complaint is a testament to the growing community of Western jihad watchers, an obsessive and multilingual crew who monitor and debate terrorist Web statements like Talmudic scholars poring over a manuscript.

It also illustrates the fragmentation of authority within the global jihadist movement, where even prominent figures like Mr. Maqdisi are vulnerable to younger critics who feel free to interpret the call to jihad, and the Koran generally, as they see fit.

For the Western analysts, being cited approvingly by a Qaeda figure can be unsettling.

“It is inevitably a little bit flattering,” said Thomas Hegghammer, a fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, who first pointed out Mr. Maqdisi’s complaint on the blog he edits, Jihadica. “But it does make me worry a bit about the implications of what I do and what I write.”

The home page of the Jihadica site, founded a year ago by the scholar William F. McCants, advertises itself with an anonymous quotation said to be taken from a survey of jihadists about Internet sites that monitor militant Islamism online: “It is, in my view, the most important and dangerous among the sites in this group.”

All this self-consciousness is multiplied by the Internet, which has become a recruiting tool for jihadists but is also uniquely vulnerable to spies and informers. The fact that Western scholars and defense analysts have occasionally proposed using influential theorists like Mr. Maqdisi to undermine jihadist movements only makes this worse.

For all their suspicion toward each other, many militant Islamists often speak of Western analysts — especially those with a clear link to the military — with the respect due a true enemy. Mr. Maqdisi, whose Web site includes the world’s largest online compilation of jihadist literature (it is searchable by author), is clearly aware of what is written about him, and about jihad generally.

Despite his stature, he has been fighting off criticism from jihadists for years. Born in what is now the West Bank, Mr. Maqdisi spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s, where his writings and speeches legitimizing violence influenced Osama bin Laden and others. In the mid-1990s he was sent to prison in Jordan and became the spiritual mentor of a fellow prisoner, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who later became notorious for decapitating hostages as the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

In 2005 Mr. Maqdisi was briefly released from prison and criticized Mr. Zarqawi’s bloody car-bombing campaign against the Shiites of Iraq. That led some to accuse him of becoming a tool for the Jordanian or American authorities, an accusation that has been renewed in recent months.

Mr. Maqdisi, who is now under house arrest in Jordan, has angrily turned that accusation against his critics, arguing that their efforts to undermine him and other jihadist leaders derive from a strategy outlined by Western analysts working for “the Crusader RAND Corporation.”

In fact, at least a few Islamists seem to see the hand of the RAND Corporation, an American policy organization that produces reports on terrorism and other subjects, in many plots. This year a hard-line Saudi cleric told this reporter during an interview that “RAND-ites” were seeking to de-Islamize Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Maqdisi’s problem is more homegrown. A new generation of jihadists, many of them less educated and respectful of authority than their elders, has begun taking issue with him. Mr. Maqdisi believes suicide bombing is a legitimate tactic but has said it should not be used indiscriminately, and he has spoken against the sectarian massacres in Iraq. For this he is accused of turning his back on jihad.

In a sense, Mr. Maqdisi can hardly complain, because he did the same thing to his clerical elders when he was young.

“For several decades, there has been a dynamic at work in the radical Sunni Islamist community where each new generation becomes less principled, less learned, more radical, and more violent than the one before it,” said Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle East studies at Princeton.

In fact, recently some Western counterterrorism experts have seized on this trend and hailed it as proof that Al Qaeda and its affiliates are doomed to destroy themselves in an orgy of violence and in-fighting. Whether Mr. Maqdisi will also cite those Western theories in defense of his own approach remains to be seen.

23673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: April 30, 2009, 11:33:09 AM
A Chilling Effect on U.S. Counterterrorism
April 29, 2009
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been carefully watching the fallout from the Obama administration’s decision to release four classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration that authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In a visit to CIA headquarters last week, President Barack Obama promised not to prosecute agency personnel who carried out such interrogations, since they were following lawful orders. Critics of the techniques, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have called for the formation of a “truth commission” to investigate the matter, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal inquiry into the matter.

Realistically, those most likely to face investigation and prosecution are those who wrote the memos, rather than the low-level field personnel who acted in good faith based upon the guidance the memos provided. Despite this fact and Obama’s reassurances, our contacts in the intelligence community report that the release of the memos has had a discernible “chilling effect” on those in the clandestine service who work on counterterrorism issues.

In some ways, the debate over the morality of such interrogation techniques — something we do not take a position on and will not be discussing here — has distracted many observers from examining the impact that the release of these memos is having on the ability of the U.S. government to fulfill its counterterrorism mission. And this impact has little to do with the ability to use torture to interrogate terrorist suspects.

Politics and moral arguments aside, the end effect of the memos’ release is that people who have put their lives on the line in U.S. counterterrorism efforts are now uncertain of whether they should be making that sacrifice. Many of these people are now questioning whether the administration that happens to be in power at any given time will recognize the fact that they were carrying out lawful orders under a previous administration. It is hard to retain officers and attract quality recruits in this kind of environment. It has become safer to work in programs other than counterterrorism.

The memos’ release will not have a catastrophic effect on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, most of the information in the memos was leaked to the press years ago and has long been public knowledge. However, when the release of the memos is examined in a wider context, and combined with a few other dynamics, it appears that the U.S. counterterrorism community is quietly slipping back into an atmosphere of risk-aversion and malaise — an atmosphere not dissimilar to that described by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) as a contributing factor to the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.

Cycles Within Cycles
In March we wrote about the cycle of counterterrorism funding and discussed indications that the United States is entering a period of reduced counterterrorism funding. This decrease in funding not only will affect defensive counterterrorism initiatives like embassy security and countersurveillance programs, but also will impact offensive programs such as the number of CIA personnel dedicated to the counterterrorism role.

Beyond funding, however, there is another historical cycle of booms and busts that can be seen in the conduct of American clandestine intelligence activities. There are clearly discernible periods when clandestine activities are deemed very important and are widely employed. These periods are inevitably followed by a time of investigations, reductions in clandestine activities and a tightening of control and oversight over such activities.

After the widespread employment of clandestine activities in the Vietnam War era, the Church Committee was convened in 1975 to review (and ultimately restrict) such operations. Former President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Bill Casey as director of the CIA ushered in a new era of growth as the United States became heavily engaged in clandestine activities in Afghanistan and Central America. Then, the revelation of the Iran-Contra affair in 1986 led to a period of hearings and controls.

There was a slight uptick in clandestine activities under the presidency of George H.W. Bush, but the fall of the Soviet Union led to another bust cycle for the intelligence community. By the mid-1990s, the number of CIA stations and bases was dramatically reduced (and virtually eliminated in much of Africa) for budgetary considerations. Then there was the case of Jennifer Harbury, a Harvard-educated lawyer who used little-known provisions in Texas common law to marry a dead Guatemalan guerrilla commander and gain legal standing as his widow. After it was uncovered that a CIA source was involved in the guerrilla commander’s execution, CIA stations in Latin America were gutted for political reasons. The Harbury case also led to the Torricelli Amendment, a law that made recruiting unsavory people, such as those with ties to death squads and terrorist groups, illegal without special approval. This bust cycle was well documented by both the Crowe Commission, which investigated the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, and the 9/11 Commission.

After the 9/11 attacks, the pendulum swung radically to the permissive side and clandestine activity was rapidly and dramatically increased as the U.S. sought to close the intelligence gap and quickly develop intelligence on al Qaeda’s capability and plans. Developments over the past two years clearly indicate that the United States is once again entering an intelligence bust cycle, a period that will be marked by hearings, increased controls and a general decrease in clandestine activity.

Institutional Culture

It is also very important to realize that the counterterrorism community is just one small part of the larger intelligence community that is affected by this ebb and flow of covert activity. In fact, as noted above, the counterterrorism component of intelligence efforts has its own boom-and-bust cycle that is based on major attacks. Soon after a major attack, interest in counterterrorism spikes dramatically, but as time passes without a major attack, interest lags. Other than during the peak times of this cycle, counterterrorism is considered an ancillary program that is sometimes seen as an interesting side tour of duty, but more widely seen as being outside the mainstream career path — risky and not particularly career-enhancing. This assessment is reinforced by such events as the recent release of the memos.

At the CIA, being a counterterrorism specialist in the clandestine service means that you will most likely spend much of your life in places line Sanaa, Islamabad and Kabul instead of Vienna, Paris or London. This means that, in addition to hurting your chances for career advancement, your job also is quite dangerous, provides relatively poor living conditions for your family and offers the possibility of contracting serious diseases.

While being declared persona non grata and getting kicked out of a country as part of an intelligence spat is considered almost a badge of honor at the CIA, the threat of being arrested and indicted for participating in the rendition of a terrorist suspect from an allied country like Italy is not. Equally unappealing is being sued in civil court by a terrorist suspect or facing the possibility of prosecution after a change of government in the United States. Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of CIA case officers who are choosing to carry personal liability insurance because they do not trust the agency and the U.S. government to look out for their best interests.

Now, there are officers who are willing to endure hardship and who do not really care much about career advancement, but for those officers there is another hazard — frustration. Aggressive officers dedicated to the counterterrorism mission quickly learn that many of the people in the food chain above them are concerned about their careers, and these superiors often take measures to rein in their less-mainstream subordinates. Additionally, due to the restrictions brought about by laws and regulations like the Torricelli Amendment, case officers working counterterrorism are often tightly bound by myriad legal restrictions.

Unlike in television shows like “24,” it is not uncommon in the real world for a meeting called to plan a counterterrorism operation to feature more CIA lawyers than case officers or analysts. These staff lawyers are intricately involved in the operational decisions made at headquarters, and legal issues often trump operational considerations. The need to obtain legal approval often delays decisions long enough for a critical window of operational opportunity to be slammed shut. This restrictive legal environment goes back many years in the CIA and is not a new fixture brought in by the Obama administration. There was a sense of urgency that served to trump the lawyers to some extent after 9/11, but the lawyers never went away and have reasserted themselves firmly over the past several years.

Of course, the CIA is not the only agency with a culture that is less than supportive of the counterterrorism mission. Although the prevention of terrorist attacks in the United States is currently the FBI’s No. 1 priority on paper, the counterterrorism mission remains the bureau�s redheaded stepchild. The FBI is struggling to find agents willing to serve in the counterterrorism sections of field offices, resident agencies (smaller offices that report to a field office) and joint terrorism task forces.

While the CIA was very much built on the legacy of Wild Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services, the FBI was founded by J. Edgar Hoover, a conservative and risk-averse administrator who served as FBI director from 1935-1972. Even today, Hoover’s influence is clearly evident in the FBI’s bureaucratic nature. FBI special agents are unable to do much at all, such as open an investigation, without a supervisor’s approval, and supervisors are reluctant to approve anything too adventurous because of the impact it might have on their chance for promotion. Unlike many other law enforcement agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI rarely uses its own special agents in an undercover capacity to penetrate criminal organizations. That practice is seen as being too risky; they prefer to use confidential informants rather than undercover operatives.

The FBI is also strongly tied to its roots in law enforcement and criminal investigation, and special agents who work major theft, public corruption or white-collar crime cases tend to receive more recognition — and advance more quickly — than their counterterrorism counterparts.

FBI special agents also see a considerable downside to working counterterrorism cases because of the potential for such cases to blow up in their faces if they make a mistake — such as in the New York field office’s highly publicized mishandling of the informant whom they had inserted into the group that later conducted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It is much safer, and far more rewarding from a career perspective, to work bank robberies or serve in the FBI’s Inspection Division.

After the 9/11 attacks — and the corresponding spike in the importance of counterterrorism operations — many of the resources of the CIA and FBI were focused on al Qaeda and terrorism, to the detriment of programs such as foreign counterintelligence. However, the more time that has passed since 9/11 without another major attack, the more the organizational culture of the U.S government has returned to normal. Once again, counterterrorism efforts are seen as being ancillary duties rather than the organizations’ driving mission. (The clash between organizational culture and the counterterrorism mission is by no means confined to the CIA and FBI. Fred’s book “Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent” provides a detailed examination of some of the bureaucratic and cultural challenges we faced while serving in the Counterterrorism Investigations Division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.)

Liaison Services

One of the least well known, and perhaps most important, sources of intelligence in the counterterrorism field is the information that is obtained as a result of close relationships with allied intelligence agencies — often referred to as information obtained through “liaison channels.”

Like FBI agents, most CIA officers are well-educated, middle-aged white guys. This means they are better suited to use the cover of an American businessmen or diplomat than to pretend to be a young Muslim trying to join al Qaeda or Hezbollah. Like their counterparts in the FBI, CIA officers have far more success using informants than they do working undercover inside terrorist groups.

Services like the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, the Saudi Mabahith or the Yemeni National Security Agency not only can recruit sources, but also are far more successful in using young Muslim officers to penetrate terrorist groups. In addition to their source networks and penetration operations, many of these liaison services are not at all squeamish about using extremely enhanced interrogation techniques — this is the reason many of the terrorism suspects who were the subject of rendition operations ended up in such locations. Obviously, whenever the CIA is dealing with a liaison service, the political interests and objectives of the service must be considered — as should the possibility that the liaison service is fabricating the intelligence in question for whatever reason. Still, in the end, the CIA historically has received a significant amount of important intelligence (perhaps even most of its intelligence) via liaison channels.

Another concern that arises from the call for a truth commission is the impact a commission investigation could have on the liaison services that have helped the United States in its counterterrorism efforts since 9/11. Countries that hosted CIA detention facilities or were involved in the rendition or interrogation of terrorist suspects may find themselves exposed publicly or even held up for some sort of sanction by the U.S. Congress. Such activities could have a real impact on the amount of cooperation and information the CIA receives from these intelligence services.

Conclusion

As we’ve previously noted, it was a lack of intelligence that helped fuel the fear that led the Bush administration to authorize enhanced interrogation techniques. Ironically, the current investigation into those techniques and other practices (such as renditions) may very well lead to significant gaps in terrorism-related intelligence from both internal and liaison sources — again, not primarily because of the prohibition of torture, but because of larger implications.

When these implications are combined with the long-standing institutional aversion of U.S. government agencies toward counterterrorism, and with the difficulty of finding and retaining good people willing to serve in counterterrorism roles, the U.S. counterterrorism community may soon be facing challenges even more daunting than those posed by its already difficult mission.
23674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The real culture war is over the free market on: April 30, 2009, 11:17:38 AM
By ARTHUR C. BROOKS
There is a major cultural schism developing in America. But it's not over abortion, same-sex marriage or home schooling, as important as these issues are. The new divide centers on free enterprise -- the principle at the core of American culture.

Despite President Barack Obama's early personal popularity, we can see the beginnings of this schism in the "tea parties" that have sprung up around the country. In these grass-roots protests, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have joined together to make public their opposition to government deficits, unaccountable bureaucratic power, and a sense that the government is too willing to prop up those who engaged in corporate malfeasance and mortgage fraud.

The data support the protesters' concerns. In a publication with the ironic title, "A New Era of Responsibility," the president's budget office reveals average deficits of 4.7% in the five years after this recession is over. The Congressional Budget Office predicts $9.3 trillion in new debt over the coming decade.

And what investments justify our leaving this gargantuan bill for our children and grandchildren to pay? Absurdities, in the view of many -- from bailing out General Motors and the United Auto Workers to building an environmentally friendly Frisbee golf course in Austin, Texas. On behalf of corporate welfare, political largess and powerful special interests, government spending will grow continuously in the coming years as a percentage of the economy -- as will tax collections.

Still, the tea parties are not based on the cold wonkery of budget data. They are based on an "ethical populism." The protesters are homeowners who didn't walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don't want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don't need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right -- and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.

Voices in the media, academia, and the government will dismiss this ethical populism as a fringe movement -- maybe even dangerous extremism. In truth, free markets, limited government, and entrepreneurship are still a majoritarian taste. In March 2009, the Pew Research Center asked people if we are better off "in a free market economy even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time." Fully 70% agreed, versus 20% who disagreed.

Free enterprise is culturally mainstream, for the moment. Asked in a Rasmussen poll conducted this month to choose the better system between capitalism and socialism, 13% of respondents over 40 chose socialism. For those under 30, this percentage rose to 33%. (Republicans were 11 times more likely to prefer capitalism than socialism; Democrats were almost evenly split between the two systems.)

The government has been abetting this trend for years by exempting an increasing number of Americans from federal taxation. My colleague Adam Lerrick showed in these pages last year that the percentage of American adults who have no federal income-tax liability will rise to 49% from 40% under Mr. Obama's tax plan. Another 11% will pay less than 5% of their income in federal income taxes and less than $1,000 in total.

To put a modern twist on the old axiom, a man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart; a man who is still a socialist at 40 either has no head, or pays no taxes. Social Democrats are working to create a society where the majority are net recipients of the "sharing economy." They are fighting a culture war of attrition with economic tools. Defenders of capitalism risk getting caught flat-footed with increasingly antiquated arguments that free enterprise is a Main Street pocketbook issue. Progressives are working relentlessly to see that it is not.

Advocates of free enterprise must learn from the growing grass-roots protests, and make the moral case for freedom and entrepreneurship. They have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can. It's also a moral issue to lower the rewards for entrepreneurial success, and to spend what we don't have without regard for our children's future.

Enterprise defenders also have to define "fairness" as protecting merit and freedom. This is more intuitively appealing to Americans than anything involving forced redistribution. Take public attitudes toward the estate tax, which only a few (who leave estates in the millions of dollars) will ever pay, but which two-thirds of Americans believe is "not fair at all," according to a 2009 Harris poll. Millions of ordinary citizens believe it is unfair for the government to be predatory -- even if the prey are wealthy.

Political strategy aside, intellectual organizations like my own have a constructive role in the coming cultural conflict. As policymakers offer a redistributionist future to a fearful nation and a new culture war simmers, we must respond with tangible, enterprise-oriented policy alternatives. For example, it is not enough to point out that nationalized health care will make going to the doctor about as much fun as a trip to the department of motor vehicles. We need to offer specific, market-based reform solutions.

This is an exhilarating time for proponents of freedom and individual opportunity. The last several years have brought malaise, in which the "conservative" politicians in power paid little more than lip service to free enterprise. Today, as in the late 1970s, we have an administration, Congress and media-academic complex openly working to change American culture in ways that most mainstream Americans will not like. Like the Carter era, this adversity offers the first opportunity in years for true cultural renewal.

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute.
23675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington; Franklin on: April 30, 2009, 11:09:45 AM
"Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party generally. ... A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 19 September 1796
============
"A republic, if you can keep it." --Benjamin Franklin
23676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 30, 2009, 11:06:20 AM
Re transferability:

Doesn't this issue have its roots in the wage and price controls of WW2?  IIRC the govt did allow health insurance to become part of the payments to workers without taxing it-- but if an individual wants to buy insurance on his own, he must do so with after tax dollars.  Yes?
23677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary pays herself off on: April 29, 2009, 04:15:42 PM
Moving this from the His Glibness thread:

"Under federal campaign finance rules, Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign committee -- called Friends of Hillary -- can't donate to her presidential campaign, but it can purchase such assets as the mailing list."

So she sends herself millions of dollars otherwise prohibited by law, and buys 'the list'.

"The second-largest list payment, about $822,000, came from Mrs. Clinton's political action committee, Hill PAC."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124096138758165891.html
---
We listen to these panderers call for campaign finance reform only to then watch them make a mockery of the laws they pass
23678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 29, 2009, 11:44:17 AM
Second post of AM

Pakistan’s Frontier Corps paramilitary unit and army sent troops, backed by fixed-wing aircraft, into Buner district in the North-West Frontier Province to flush out Taliban fighters, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas announced April 28. Abbas added that the army had completed another operation launched a day earlier in southern parts of the Dir district. Both these offensives come in the wake of the Taliban move to project power beyond Swat, especially into Buner, within days of the ratification of the Swat peace agreement.

Islamabad has oscillated between military operations and peace agreements with jihadist groups in the Pashtun northwest ever since the army first began operations in the Waziristan region in March 2004. Since then, the Talibanization has spread from the autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border deeper into the NWFP, with Swat becoming a major stronghold for Pakistani Taliban. After failing to defuse the insurgency in Swat with military operations, the state negotiated a “Shariah for peace” deal in hopes that it will help keep the Swat-based Taliban within the confines of the district.





(click image to enlarge)
Islamabad’s objective was bound to fail, however; not only do the Taliban have larger national and transnational ambitions, but the agreement itself was applicable to the greater Swat region, including the adjoining districts of Dir, Malakand, Buner,and Shangla. The vague nature of the implementation of the “Shariah” system in the area gave the Taliban the perfect opening to send militiamen into regions such as Dir and Buner.

Another problem with the deal is that it was made with the founder of the local Taliban group Tehrik-i-Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, who shares control of the Swat-based jihadists with his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. There are other Taliban factions, such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, in Swat. Furthermore, the Swat deal has encouraged the rise of other more localized Taliban commanders in the various parts of the greater Swat region who are not necessarily accountable to those with whom the NWFP provincial government cut a deal.

Meanwhile, there is a growing realization within the army and the government that while Islamabad lacks the capability and the comprehensive national strategy to deal with jihadists, the Taliban cannot be allowed to expand their operational sphere in the NWFP. Therefore, the short-term strategy is to keep the Pashtun jihadists boxed into Swat — hence the move to flush the Taliban out from those areas before they set up shop in the adjacent districts.

The problem is that this approach jeopardizes the peace agreement, which will widen the scope of the counter-insurgency offensive beyond Islamabad’s current wishes. Tactical-level operations devoid of any coherent strategic plan are unlikely to help in the long run, and Islamabad could soon find itself fighting jihadists for control of the province.
23679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James and the joys of motherhood on: April 29, 2009, 11:39:24 AM
James, as usual, came home really late one Saturday night after being at the
bar all night drinking. Not only was he drunk, he was sloppy drunk. He
carefully crept into bed next his wife, who fell sleep angry hours earlier,
and gave her a goodnight kiss on the check in hopes that she wouldn't wake
up.



He awoke in the middle of the night to a strange man standing at the end of
his bed wearing a long flowing white robe. "Who the hell are you," demanded
James, "and what are you doing in my bedroom?" The mysterious man answered
"This is not your bedroom, and my name is St. Peter".



James didn't take the news so well. "You mean I'm dead! That can't be, I
have so much to live for, I haven't even said goodbye to my family. you've
got to send me back right away!"



St. Peter replied "You cannot go back as you were, you have passed away
James. However, you can be reincarnated - but there is a catch. We can only
send you back as a dog or a hen." James was devastated, but knowing that
there was a farm just down the road from his house, he asked to be sent back
as a hen.



A flash of light later, he was covered in feathers and clucking around
pecking at corn on the ground. "This ain't so bad," he thought until he felt
a strange feeling churning inside him. The farmyard rooster strolled over
and said "So you're the new hen, huh? How are you enjoying your first day
here?" "It's not so bad" replies James, "but I have this strange feeling
inside like I'm about to explode". "You're ovulating" explained the rooster,
"haven't you ever laid an egg before?"



"Never" replies James.



"Well just relax and let it happen."



And so he did, and just a few uncomfortable seconds later an egg pops out
from under his tail. An immense feeling of relief swept over him - emotions
got the better of him as he experienced the joy motherhood for the first
time. When he laid his second egg, the feeling of happiness was overwhelming
and he knew that being reincarnated as a hen was the best thing that ever
happened to him. ever!



The joy of motherhood continued to build and, just as he was just about to
lay his third egg, he felt an enormous smack on the back of his head and
heard his wife shout "James, wake up you drunken bas*ard, you're sh*tting
the bed!"
23680  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: April 29, 2009, 08:58:30 AM
Now shipping!!!
23681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: US plans to go after opium on: April 29, 2009, 08:30:59 AM
Its the NYTimes.  Caveat lector!

Looks like it could be a major development.  Perfect timing in view of Krenz's point two above-- it would have been really nice if the President gave the generals the troops they tell him they need instead of half the number  angry

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

ZANGABAD, Afghanistan — American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations.

 
The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency. The additional troops, the centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to reverse the course of the seven-year war, will roughly double the number already in southern Afghanistan. The troops already fighting there are universally seen as overwhelmed. In many cases, the Americans will be pushing into areas where few or no troops have been before.

Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to reap as much as $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade, which now makes up 90 percent of the world’s total. That is enough, the Americans say, to sustain all of the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan for an entire year.

“Opium is their financial engine,” said Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. “That is why we think he will fight for these areas.”

The Americans say that their main goal this summer will be to provide security for the Afghan population, and thereby isolate the insurgents.

But because the opium is tilled in heavily populated areas, and because the Taliban are spread among the people, the Americans say they will have to break the group’s hold on poppy cultivation to be successful.

No one here thinks that is going to be easy.

Only 10 minutes inside the tiny village of Zangabad, 20 miles southwest of Kandahar, a platoon of American soldiers stepped into a poppy field in full bloom on Monday. Taliban fighters opened fire from three sides.

“From the north!” one of the soldiers yelled, spinning and firing.

“West!” another screamed, turning and firing, too.

An hour passed and a thousand bullets whipped through the air. Ammunition was running low. The Taliban were circling.

Then the gunships arrived, swooping in, their bullet casings showering the ground beneath them, their rockets streaking and destroying. Behind a barrage of artillery, the soldiers shot their way out of Zangabad and moved into the cover of the vineyards.

“When are you going drop the bomb?” Capt. Chris Brawley said into his radio over the clatter of machine-gun fire. “I’m in a grape field.”

The bomb came, and after a time the shooting stopped.

The firefight offered a preview of the Americans’ summer in southern Afghanistan. By all accounts, it is going to be bloody.

Like the guerrillas they are, Taliban fighters often fade away when confronted by a conventional army. But in Afghanistan, as they did in Zangabad, the Taliban will probably stand and fight.

Among the ways the Taliban are believed to make money from the opium trade is by charging farmers for protection; if the Americans and British attack, the Taliban will be expected to make good on their side of that bargain.

Indeed, Taliban fighters have begun to fight any efforts by the Americans or the British to move into areas where poppy grows and opium is produced. Last month, a force of British marines moved into a district called Nad Ali in Helmand Province, the center of the country’s poppy cultivation. The Taliban were waiting. In a five-day battle, the British killed 120 Taliban fighters and wounded 150. Only one British soldier was wounded.

Many of the new American soldiers will fan out along southern Afghanistan’s largely unguarded 550-mile-long border with Pakistan. Among them will be soldiers deployed in the Stryker, a relatively quick, nimble armored vehicle that can roam across the vast areas that span the frontier.

All of the new troops are supposed to be in place by Aug. 20, in order to provide security for Afghanistan’s presidential election.

The presence of poppy and opium here has injected a huge measure of uncertainly into the war. Under NATO rules of engagement, American or other forces are prohibited from attacking targets or people related only to narcotics production. Those people are not considered combatants.

But American and other forces are allowed to attack drug smugglers or facilities that are assisting the Taliban. In an interview, General Nicholson said that opium production and the Taliban are so often intertwined that the rules do not usually inhibit American operations.

“We often come across a compound that has opium and I.E.D. materials side by side, and opium and explosive materials and weapons,” General Nicholson said, referring to improvised explosive devices. “It’s very common — more common than not.”
-----------
Page 2 of 2)



But the prospect of heavy fighting in populated areas could further alienate the Afghan population. In the firefight in Zangabad, the Americans covered their exit with a barrage of 20 155 millimeter high-explosive artillery shells — necessary to shield them from the Taliban, but also enough to inflict serious damage on people and property. A local Afghan interviewed by telephone after the firefight said that four homes had been damaged by the artillery strikes.

Then there is the problem of weaning poppy farmers from poppy farming — a task that has proved intractable in many countries, like Colombia, where the American government has tried to curtail poppy production. It is by far the most lucrative crop an Afghan can farm. The opium trade now makes up nearly 60 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product, American officials say. The country’s opium traffickers typically offer incentives that no Afghan government official can: they can guarantee a farmer a minimum price for the crop as well as taking it to market, despite the horrendous condition of most of Afghanistan’s roads.

“The people don’t like to cultivate poppy, but they are desperate,” Mohammed Ashraf Naseri, the governor of Zabul Province, told a group of visitors this month.

To offer an alternative to poppy farming, the American military is setting aside $250 million for agriculture projects like irrigation improvements and wheat cultivation. General Nicholson said that a $200 million plan for infrastructure improvements, much of it for roads to help get crops to market, was also being prepared. The vision, General Nicholson said, is to try to restore the agricultural economy that flourished in Afghanistan in the 1970s. That, more than military force, will defeat the Taliban, he said.

“There is a significant portion of the enemy that we believe we can peel off with incentives,” the general said. “We can hire away many of these young men.”

Even if the Americans are able to cut production, shortages could drive up prices and not make a significant dent in the Taliban’s profits.

The foray into Zangabad suggested the difficulties that lie ahead. The terrain is a guerrilla’s dream. In addition to acres of shoulder-high poppy plants, rows and rows of hard-packed mud walls, used to stand up grape vines, offer ideal places for ambushes and defense.

But the trickiest thing will be winning over the Afghans themselves. The Taliban are entrenched in the villages and river valleys of southern Afghanistan. The locals, caught between the foes, seem, at best, to be waiting to see who prevails.

On their way to Zangabad, the soldiers stopped in a wheat field to talk to a local farmer. His name was Ahmetullah. The Americans spoke through a Pashto interpreter.

“I’m very happy to see you,” the farmer told the Americans.

“Really?” one of the soldiers asked.

“Yes,” the farmer said.

The interpreter sighed, and spoke in English.

“He’s a liar.”





23682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iranian arms ship sunk? on: April 29, 2009, 08:27:02 AM
LINK
CAVEAT: While sources not completely thin, not completely gelled either. Haaretz is reporting, as well as Egyptian & Sudanese media (with their different perspective as you might imagine).

Last update - 07:53 27/04/2009
'Iran arms ship bound for Gaza downed near Sudan'

By Haaretz Service

An Iranian vessel laden with weapons bound for the Gaza Strip was torpedoed off the coast of Sudan last week, allegedly by Israeli or American forces operating in the area, the Egyptian newspaper El-Aosboa reported on Sunday.

Anonymous sources in Khartoum told the newspaper that an unidentified warship bombed the Iranian vessel as it prepared to dock on Sudan before transferring its load for shipment to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

These sources said they suspects U.S. or Israeli involvement in the attack, but neither Washington nor Jerusalem have released a statement yet on the matter.

The Israel Air Force, meanwhile, is suspected of attacking a convoy of Iranian arms that passed through Sudan en route to Gaza in January, according to reports released in March.

American officials confirmed the IAF involvement in that attack, The New York Times later reported, abd said they had received intelligence reports that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards operative had gone to Sudan to help organize the weapons convoy said the report.

Israel has neither denied nor confirmed involvement in that incident.

In February, Cypriot authorities detained an Iranian arms ship en route Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, apparently upon request of the U.S. and Israel.

A search of the ship, which was sailing from Iran to the Syrian port of Latakia, found ammunition for T-72 tanks, used by the Syrian army, as well as various types of mortar shells, said a senior Israeli official.

The United States has claimed that the ship was carrying weapons from Iran to Hamas or the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.
23683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on: April 29, 2009, 08:21:19 AM
"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature."

--Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, June 1788
23684  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Team Dog Brothers MMA? on: April 28, 2009, 10:54:58 AM
Frankfurter for one  cool
23685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oy vey on: April 28, 2009, 08:59:03 AM
By SUZANNE SATALINE, JONATHAN D. ROCKOFF and CHRISTOPHER CONKEY
As secret missions go, this one was a flop.

On Monday morning, one of the 747s used to ferry around the U.S. president was dispatched to the Statue of Liberty, escorted by a fighter jet. Assignment: Get some fresh glamour shots of the plane.

The Air Force said the flight needed to remain confidential. So while New York police knew about it, as did at least one person in the mayor's office, regular New Yorkers remained in the dark.

As a result, to onlookers Monday all across downtown Manhattan -- where the World Trade Center once stood -- the photo shoot looked like a terrorist attack. People watched in horror as a massive aircraft, trailed closely by an F-16 fighter jet, banked and roared low near the city, in a frightening echo of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Fearing the worst, thousands of people streamed out of the skyscrapers and into the streets. Some buildings ordered evacuations. "Oh God, it was mayhem in here, just mayhem," says Rubin Shimon, manager of Styling Haircutters, a barbershop near Ground Zero. Many people took shelter in the shop to call loved ones on their cellphones.

It was all over in a half-hour or so. Then the finger-pointing began. "I'm annoyed -- furious is a better word -- that I wasn't told," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference. He'd been scheduled to talk about a swine-flu outbreak at a Queens school, but also sounded off at the federal government for its "badly conceived" flyover plan.

He chastised his own office for its role in keeping the flyover secret. On Thursday night, city officials say, a junior mayoral aide had been alerted to the flyover by the Federal Aviation Administration, which requested that it be kept secret. Someone in City Hall alerted the New York Police Department, but no public announcement was made.

Marc Mugnos was reprimanded for not apprising the mayor, and a disciplinary letter was placed in his file, a spokesman said. Mr. Mugnos couldn't be reached for comment.

 Low-Flying Plane Causes Scare in Manhattan
1:44
A low-flying airplane escorted by military jets sent worried workers fleeing offices in the New York City area. The FAA said it was a "photo op" conducted by a unit of the Air Force.
The email sent to City Hall describes a "flying photo op" -- government-speak for a publicity photo -- to include two or possibly three passes over the area. The email, sent by an FAA official and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, lists flight patterns and specifies a photo-op altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 feet.

The email specifies that the information "only be shared with persons with a need to know" and "shall not be released to the public." It also says that, "Due to the possibility of public concern regarding [Department of Defense] aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies...has been accomplished."

The email's author, James J. Johnston, of FAA air traffic, declined to comment.

An Obama administration official said the mission was "classified" by the military and that the FAA, which controls much of the airspace over Manhattan, did what the military asked. "The mission was to send [the aircraft] up to get a picture of it flying around the Statue of Liberty," this person said. "They said they needed to update their photo files." President Obama wasn't aboard.

More
Vote: How does the Air Force One "photo op" affect your confidence in White House decision making?Wash Wire: Caldera Takes BlamePlane Scare Has Happened BeforeReaders' reactions: Plane 'Flying VERY Low'Readers' Photos: Jets Circle N.Y.Send photos to yourphotos@wsj.comThe New York photo shoot wasn't the only one planned. The White House had scheduled a follow-up session on May 5 or May 6 in Washington, D.C., according to two government officials. The D.C. flyover has now been canceled, a government official said.

Louis Caldera, a former Secretary of the Army who runs the White House Military Office, took the blame. "While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption," he said. "I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."

Mr. Caldera met Monday afternoon with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina "to hear the president's displeasure," an official said.

It was a beautiful spring day in the Big Apple -- perfect for picture taking. The aircraft, painted in White House livery, was trailed by one F-16 fighter jet. The aircraft had flown from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, across New Jersey, down the Hudson River and then circled the Statue of Liberty before heading off.

For many who witnessed the maneuver, it stirred dark memories. Andrew Wybolt, who works for Barclays PLC in a skyscraper that borders the Hudson, said people rushed for the windows when they heard the planes. "They just started sprinting and freaking out," he said.

 
Associated Press
Louis Caldera, pictured in 2006, took blame for the flight.
Thousands of workers from Merrill Lynch, American Express and other companies in the buildings that ring the former World Trade Center site hustled for the exits. Many stood outside their offices, nervously looking up into the sky, while hundreds of others walked north, along the West Side Highway, as thousands of people had done the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

"To do something like this to all these people who have already been through 9-11 is just wrong," said Greg Forman, a broker at the New York Mercantile Exchange, which is located in a building along the Hudson river, across the street from the World Trade Center site.

One block north, construction workers on the 43-story Goldman Sachs Group Inc. tower said they had a close-up view of the low-flying plane. "I saw that thing coming and ran down the stairs," said Eddie Navedo, who was clearing construction debris on the 23rd floor of the new building when he spotted the plane flying low over the river, then banking sharply to the west. "Everybody was saying, it's a terrorist attack."

Not everyone lost his cool. Mr. Shimon, the manager of the barbershop where people fled on Monday, was present for the attacks in 2001, and in fact at that time worked in a shop even closer to the World Trade Center than his current one. He watched the towers fall that day.

So did the events of Monday scare him? "To tell you the truth, not really," Mr. Shimon said. "I didn't think it was such a big deal. I'm a New Yorker."

—Jonathan Weisman, Alex Frangos and Michael Corkery contributed to this article
23686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Barofsky gets it right on: April 28, 2009, 08:53:53 AM
A high-five is due the Special Inspector General for the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. In his quarterly report to Congress last week, Neil Barofsky promotes a reform to help prevent the next credit disaster.

Mr. Barofsky criticizes the New York Fed's Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) for relying on the major credit-rating agencies to determine if securities are safe enough for taxpayers. Under the TALF, the New York Fed provides nonrecourse loans to private firms to buy AAA-rated pools of mortgages and other assets. But can you trust that triple-A rating?

Mr. Barofsky notes that credit ratings on residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) "have proven to be unreliable and largely irrelevant to the actual value and performance of the security. Arguably, the wholesale failure of the credit rating agencies to rate adequately such securities is at the heart of the securitization market collapse, if not the primary cause of the current credit crisis." Hear, hear.

Could this message finally penetrate the crania of senior U.S. officials? Mr. Barofsky reports that his office "has been informed by the Federal Reserve that it is considering, but has not yet adopted" a plan to replace credit ratings with actual examinations of the underlying loan portfolios. He further reports that Treasury says that "conducting due diligence with respect to the underlying collateral" will be part of its plan for investing in mortgage-backed securities. Imagine that: Trying to find out what they are buying before committing your money.

So many bad ideas are coming from Washington these days that a rare good one needs more exposure and support. Pour it on, Mr. Barofsky. Taxpayers need a champion, and the financial system needs an alternative to the credit-rating oligopoly.
23687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: What's in the pipeline? on: April 28, 2009, 08:21:05 AM
Where Will the Swine Flu Go Next?

AS the swine flu threatens to become the next pandemic, the biggest questions are whether its transmission from human to human will be sustained and, if so, how virulent it might become. But even if this virus were to peter out soon, there is a strong possibility it would only go underground, quietly continuing to infect some people while becoming better adapted to humans, and then explode around the world.

What happens next is chiefly up to the virus. But it is up to us to create a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Influenza viruses are unpredictable because they are able to mutate so rapidly. That capacity enables them to jump easily from species to species, infecting not only pigs and people but also horses, seals, cats, dogs, tigers and so on. An avian virus responsible for the 1918 pandemic jumped first from birds to humans, then from humans to swine (as well as other animals). Now, and not for the first time, pigs have given a virus back to humans.

Mutability makes even existing, well-known flu viruses unpredictable. A new virus, formed by a combination of several existing ones as this virus is, is even less predictable. After jumping to a new host, influenza can become more or less virulent — in fact, different offshoots could go in opposite directions — before a relatively stable new virus emerges.

Influenza pandemics have occurred as far back in history as we can look, but the four we know about in detail happened in 1889, 1918, 1957 and 1968. The mildest of these, the so-called Hong Kong flu in 1968, killed about 35,000 people in the United States and 700,000 worldwide. Ordinary seasonal influenza, in comparison, now kills 36,000 Americans a year, because the population has a higher proportion of elderly people and others with weak immune systems. (If a virus like the Hong Kong flu hit today, it would probably kill more people for the same reason.)

The worst influenza pandemic, in 1918, killed 675,000 in the United States. And although no one has a reliable worldwide death toll, the lowest reasonable number is about 35 million, and some scientists believe it killed as many as 100 million — at a time when the world’s population was only a quarter of what it is today. The dead included not only the elderly and infants but also robust young adults.

What’s important to keep in mind in assessing the threat of the current outbreak is that all four of the well-known pandemics seem to have come in waves. The 1918 virus surfaced by March and set in motion a spring and summer wave that hit some communities and skipped others. This first wave was extremely mild, more so even than ordinary influenza: of the 10,313 sailors in the British Grand Fleet who became ill, for example, only four died. But autumn brought a second, more lethal wave, which was followed by a less severe third wave in early 1919.

The first wave in 1918 was relatively mild, many experts speculate, because the virus had not fully adapted to humans. And as it did adapt, it also became more lethal. However, there is very good evidence that people who were exposed during the first wave developed immunity — much as people get protection from a modern vaccine.

A similar kind of immune-building process is the most likely explanation for why, in 1918, only 2 percent of those who contracted the flu died. Having been exposed to other influenza viruses, most people had built up some protection. People in isolated regions, including American Indian reservations and Alaskan Inuit villages, had much higher case mortality — presumably because they had less exposure to influenza viruses.

The 1889 pandemic also had a well-defined first wave that was milder than succeeding waves. The 1957 and 1968 pandemics had waves, too, though they were less well defined.

In all four instances, the gap between the time the virus was first recognized and a second, more dangerous wave swelled was about six months. It will take a minimum of four months to produce vaccine in any volume, possibly longer, and much longer than that to produce enough vaccine to protect most Americans. The race has begun.

John M. Barry, a visiting scholar at the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, is the author of “The Great Influenza.”
23688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Cyberweapons race on: April 28, 2009, 08:10:40 AM
When American forces in Iraq wanted to lure members of Al Qaeda into a trap, they hacked into one of the group’s computers and altered information that drove them into American gun sights.

When President George W. Bush ordered new ways to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb last year, he approved a plan for an experimental covert program — its results still unclear — to bore into their computers and undermine the project.   (WHY ON EARTH IS THIS INFO BEING DIVULGED?!?-- Marc)

And the Pentagon has commissioned military contractors to develop a highly classified replica of the Internet of the future. The goal is to simulate what it would take for adversaries to shut down the country’s power stations, telecommunications and aviation systems, or freeze the financial markets — in an effort to build better defenses against such attacks, as well as a new generation of online weapons.

Just as the invention of the atomic bomb changed warfare and deterrence 64 years ago, a new international race has begun to develop cyberweapons and systems to protect against them.

Thousands of daily attacks on federal and private computer systems in the United States — many from China and Russia, some malicious and some testing chinks in the patchwork of American firewalls — have prompted the Obama administration to review American strategy.

President Obama is expected to propose a far larger defensive effort in coming days, including an expansion of the $17 billion, five-year program that Congress approved last year, the appointment of a White House official to coordinate the effort, and an end to a running bureaucratic battle over who is responsible for defending against cyberattacks.

But Mr. Obama is expected to say little or nothing about the nation’s offensive capabilities, on which the military and the nation’s intelligence agencies have been spending billions. In interviews over the past several months, a range of military and intelligence officials, as well as outside experts, have described a huge increase in the sophistication of American cyberwarfare capabilities.

Because so many aspects of the American effort to develop cyberweapons and define their proper use remain classified, many of those officials declined to speak on the record. The White House declined several requests for interviews or to say whether Mr. Obama as a matter of policy supports or opposes the use of American cyberweapons.

The most exotic innovations under consideration would enable a Pentagon programmer to surreptitiously enter a computer server in Russia or China, for example, and destroy a “botnet” — a potentially destructive program that commandeers infected machines into a vast network that can be clandestinely controlled — before it could be unleashed in the United States.

Or American intelligence agencies could activate malicious code that is secretly embedded on computer chips when they are manufactured, enabling the United States to take command of an enemy’s computers by remote control over the Internet. That, of course, is exactly the kind of attack officials fear could be launched on American targets, often through Chinese-made chips or computer servers.

So far, however, there are no broad authorizations for American forces to engage in cyberwar. The invasion of the Qaeda computer in Iraq several years ago and the covert activity in Iran were each individually authorized by Mr. Bush. When he issued a set of classified presidential orders in January 2008 to organize and improve America’s online defenses, the administration could not agree on how to write the authorization.

A principal architect of that order said the issue had been passed on to the next president, in part because of the complexities of cyberwar operations that, by necessity, would most likely be conducted on both domestic and foreign Internet sites. After the controversy surrounding domestic spying, Mr. Bush’s aides concluded, the Bush White House did not have the credibility or the political capital to deal with the subject.

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Cyberwar would not be as lethal as atomic war, of course, nor as visibly dramatic. But when Mike McConnell, the former director of national intelligence, briefed Mr. Bush on the threat in May 2007, he argued that if a single large American bank were successfully attacked “it would have an order-of-magnitude greater impact on the global economy” than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mr. McConnell, who left office three months ago, warned last year that “the ability to threaten the U.S. money supply is the equivalent of today’s nuclear weapon.”


The scenarios developed last year for the incoming president by Mr. McConnell and his coordinator for cybersecurity, Melissa Hathaway, went further. They described vulnerabilities including an attack on Wall Street and one intended to bring down the nation’s electric power grid. Most were extrapolations of attacks already tried.

Today, Ms. Hathaway is the primary author of White House cyberstrategy and has been traveling the country talking in vague terms about recent, increasingly bold attacks on the computer networks that keep the country running. Government officials will not discuss the details of a recent attack on the air transportation network, other than to say the attack never directly affected air traffic control systems.

Still, the specter of an attack that could blind air traffic controllers and, perhaps, the military’s aerospace defense networks haunts military and intelligence officials. (The saving grace of the air traffic control system, officials say, is that it is so old that it is not directly connected to the Internet.)

Studies, with code names like Dark Angel, have focused on whether cellphone towers, emergency-service communications and hospital systems could be brought down, to sow chaos.

But the theoretical has, at times, become real.

“We have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids,” said Joel F. Brenner, who oversees counterintelligence operations for Dennis Blair, Mr. McConnell’s successor as national intelligence director, speaking at the University of Texas at Austin this month. “Do I worry about those grids, and about air traffic control systems, water supply systems, and so on? You bet I do.”

But the broader question — one the administration so far declines to discuss — is whether the best defense against cyberattack is the development of a robust capability to wage cyberwar.

As Mr. Obama’s team quickly discovered, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies both concluded in Mr. Bush’s last years in office that it would not be enough to simply build higher firewalls and better virus detectors or to restrict access to the federal government’s own computers.

“The fortress model simply will not work for cyber,” said one senior military officer who has been deeply engaged in the debate for several years. “Someone will always get in.”

That thinking has led to a debate over whether lessons learned in the nuclear age — from the days of “mutually assured destruction” — apply to cyberwar.

But in cyberwar, it is hard to know where to strike back, or even who the attacker might be. Others have argued for borrowing a page from Mr. Bush’s pre-emption doctrine by going into foreign computers to destroy malicious software before it is unleashed into the world’s digital bloodstream. But that could amount to an act of war, and many argue it is a losing game, because the United States is more dependent on a constantly running Internet system than many of its potential adversaries, and therefore could suffer more damage in a counterattack.

In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the National Research Council will argue that although an offensive cybercapability is an important asset for the United States, the nation is lacking a clear strategy, and secrecy surrounding preparations has hindered national debate, according to several people familiar with the report.

The advent of Internet attacks — especially those suspected of being directed by nations, not hackers — has given rise to a new term inside the Pentagon and the National Security Agency: “hybrid warfare.”

It describes a conflict in which attacks through the Internet can be launched as a warning shot — or to pave the way for a traditional attack.



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Page 3 of 4)



Early hints of this new kind of warfare emerged in the confrontation between Russia and Estonia in April 2007. Clandestine groups — it was never determined if they had links to the Russian government — commandeered computers around the globe and directed a fire hose of data at Estonia’s banking system and its government Web sites.


The computer screens of Estonians trying to do business with the government online were frozen, if they got anything at all. It was annoying, but by the standards of cyberwar, it was child’s play.

In August 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia, the cyberattacks grew more widespread. Georgians were denied online access to news, cash and air tickets. The Georgian government had to move its Internet activity to servers in Ukraine when its own servers locked up, but the attacks did no permanent damage.

Every few months, it seems, some agency, research group or military contractor runs a war game to assess the United States’ vulnerability. Senior intelligence officials were shocked to discover how easy it was to permanently disable a large power generator. That prompted further studies to determine if attackers could take down a series of generators, bringing whole parts of the country to a halt.

Another war game that the Department of Homeland Security sponsored in March 2008, called Cyber Storm II, envisioned a far larger, coordinated attack against the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It studied a disruption of chemical plants, rail lines, oil and gas pipelines and private computer networks. That study and others like it concluded that when attacks go global, the potential economic repercussions increase exponentially.

To prove the point, Mr. McConnell, then the director of national intelligence, spent much of last summer urging senior government officials to examine the Treasury Department’s scramble to contain the effects of the collapse of Bear Stearns. Markets froze, he said, because “what backs up that money is confidence — an accounting system that is reconcilable.” He began studies of what would happen if the system that clears market trades froze.

“We were halfway through the study,” one senior intelligence official said last month, “and the markets froze of their own accord. And we looked at each other and said, ‘Our market collapse has just given every cyberwarrior out there a playbook.’ ”

Just before Mr. Obama was elected, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy research group in Washington, warned in a report that “America’s failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration.”

What alarmed the panel was not the capabilities of individual hackers but of nations — China and Russia among them — that experts believe are putting huge resources into the development of cyberweapons. A research company called Team Cymru recently examined “scans” that came across the Internet seeking ways to get inside industrial control systems, and discovered more than 90 percent of them came from computers in China.

Scanning alone does no damage, but it could be the prelude to an attack that scrambles databases or seeks to control computers. But Team Cymru ran into a brick wall as soon as it tried to trace who, exactly, was probing these industrial systems. It could not determine whether military organizations, intelligence agencies, terrorist groups, criminals or inventive teenagers were behind the efforts.

The good news, some government officials argue, is that the Chinese are deterred from doing real damage: Because they hold more than a trillion dollars in United States government debt, they have little interest in freezing up a system they depend on for their own investments.

Then again, some of the scans seemed to originate from 14 other countries, including Taiwan, Russia and, of course, the United States.

Bikini Atoll for an Online Age

Because “cyberwar” contains the word “war,” the Pentagon has argued that it should be the locus of American defensive and offensive strategy — and it is creating the kind of infrastructure that was built around nuclear weapons in the 1940s and ’50s.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is considering proposals to create a Cyber Command — initially as a new headquarters within the Strategic Command, which controls the American nuclear arsenal and assets in space. Right now, the responsibility for computer network security is part of Strategic Command, and military officials there estimate that over the past six months, the government has spent $100 million responding to probes and attacks on military systems. Air Force officials confirm that a large network of computers at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama was temporarily taken off-line within the past eight months when it was put at risk of widespread infection from computer viruses.



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Page 4 of 4)



But Mr. Gates has concluded that the military’s cyberwarfare effort requires a sharper focus — and thus a specific command. It would build the defenses for military computers and communications systems and — the part the Pentagon is reluctant to discuss — develop and deploy cyberweapons.



In fact, that effort is already under way — it is part of what the National Cyber Range is all about. The range is a replica of the Internet of the future, and it is being built to be attacked. Competing teams of contractors — including BAE Systems, the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and Sparta Inc. — are vying to build the Pentagon a system it can use to simulate attacks. The National Security Agency already has a smaller version of a similar system, in Millersville, Md.

In short, the Cyber Range is to the digital age what the Bikini Atoll — the islands the Army vaporized in the 1950s to measure the power of the hydrogen bomb — was to the nuclear age. But once the tests at Bikini Atoll demonstrated to the world the awesome destructive power of the bomb, it became evident to the United States and the Soviet Union — and other nuclear powers — that the risks of a nuclear exchange were simply too high. In the case of cyberattacks, where the results can vary from the annoying to the devastating, there are no such rules.

The Deterrence Conundrum

During the cold war, if a strategic missile had been fired at the United States, screens deep in a mountain in Colorado would have lighted up and American commanders would have some time to decide whether to launch a counterattack. Today, when Pentagon computers are subjected to a barrage, the origin is often a mystery. Absent certainty about the source, it is almost impossible to mount a counterattack.

In the rare case where the preparations for an attack are detected in a foreign computer system, there is continuing debate about whether to embrace the concept of pre-emption, with all of its Bush-era connotations. The questions range from whether an online attack should be mounted on that system to, in an extreme case, blowing those computers up.

Some officials argue that if the United States engaged in such pre-emption — and demonstrated that it was watching the development of hostile cyberweapons — it could begin to deter some attacks. Others believe it will only justify pre-emptive attacks on the United States. “Russia and China have lots of nationalistic hackers,” one senior military officer said. “They seem very, very willing to take action on their own.”

Senior Pentagon and military officials also express deep concern that the laws and understanding of armed conflict have not kept current with the challenges of offensive cyberwarfare.

Over the decades, a number of limits on action have been accepted — if not always practiced. One is the prohibition against assassinating government leaders. Another is avoiding attacks aimed at civilians. Yet in the cyberworld, where the most vulnerable targets are civilian, there are no such rules or understandings. If a military base is attacked, would it be a proportional, legitimate response to bring down the attacker’s power grid if that would also shut down its hospital systems, its air traffic control system or its banking system?

“We don’t have that for cyber yet,” one senior Defense Department official said, “and that’s a little bit dangerous.”
23689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: April 28, 2009, 07:59:40 AM
"It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good; and that this spirit is more apt to be diminished than prompted, by those occasions which require an unusual exercise of it."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 37
23690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Understanding Swine Flu on: April 28, 2009, 07:19:39 AM


By HENRY I. MILLER
The extent and impact of the swine flu epidemic, which appears to have originated in Mexico and spread rapidly to a dozen countries and parts of the U.S., is still unknown. The epidemiology of such disease outbreaks is rather like a jigsaw puzzle, and we are now at the stage where the picture is intriguing even if we're not sure what we're seeing.

 
Chad Crowe
 We do know the number of cases in Mexico exceeds 1,995, there have been at least 149 deaths, and there have been 20 cases in five U.S. states (with no fatalities as yet). And that the outbreak causes us to confront complex issues that encompass medicine, epidemiology, virology and even politics and ethics.

These events demonstrate that good surveillance is needed in order to detect early on that a new infectious agent, transmissible between humans, has emerged. Unfortunately, conditions in many countries are conducive to the emergence of such new infectious agents, especially flu viruses, which mutate rapidly and inventively. Intensive animal husbandry procedures that place poultry and swine in close proximity to humans, combined with unsanitary conditions, poverty and grossly inadequate public-health infrastructure of all kinds -- all of which exist in Mexico, as well as much of Asia and Africa -- make it unlikely that a pandemic can be prevented or contained at the source.

In theory, a flu pandemic might be contained in its early stages by performing "ring prophylaxis" -- aggressively using antiflu drugs, vaccines and quarantines to isolate relatively small outbreaks of the new infectious agent. Addressing H5N1 avian flu in 2005, Johns Hopkins University virologist Donald S. Burke said, "it may be possible to identify a human outbreak at the earliest stage, while there are fewer than 100 cases, and deploy international resources -- such as a WHO [World Health Organization] stockpile of antiviral drugs -- to rapidly quench it. This 'tipping point' strategy is highly cost-effective."

But a strategy can be "cost-effective" only if it is feasible. Early ring prophylaxis might work in Minneapolis, Toronto, Singapore or Zurich. In places such as Indonesia, China and Mexico, however, the expertise, coordination, discipline and infrastructure are lacking. Moreover, there is no vaccine available to prevent infection of humans by the new H1N1 swine flu (or by H5N1 avian flu, for that matter).

The rapid and constant movement of goods and people around the world makes early containment virtually impossible. We saw this with the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in 2003: Within a matter of weeks, the disease spread rapidly from southern China to infect individuals in some 37 countries, killing about 800.

In the current swine flu outbreak, New York City high-school students apparently brought the virus back from Mexico and infected their classmates. All six cases so far reported in Canada were connected directly or indirectly with travel to Mexico.

Flu viruses can be directly transmitted (via droplets from sneezing or coughing) from pigs to people, and vice versa. These cross-species infections occur most commonly when people are in close proximity to large numbers of pigs, such as in barns, livestock exhibits at fairs, and slaughterhouses. And, of course, flu is transmissible from human to human, either directly or via contaminated surfaces.

Pigs are uniquely susceptible to infection with flu viruses of mammalian and avian origin. This is of concern for a couple of reasons. First, pigs can serve as intermediaries in the transmission of flu viruses from birds to people. And when avian viruses infect pigs, they adapt and become more efficient at infecting mammals -- which makes them more easily transmitted and dangerous to humans.

Second, pigs can serve as hosts in which two (or more) influenza viruses infecting an animal simultaneously can undergo "genetic reassortment," a process in which pieces of viral RNA (the virus's genetic material, similar to DNA) are shuffled and exchanged, creating a new organism. The influenza viruses responsible for the world-wide 1957 and 1968 flu pandemics -- which killed about 70,000 and 34,000, respectively, in the U.S. -- were such viruses, containing genes from both human and avian viruses.

Experience shows that attempts to stem the spread of an outbreak may actually exacerbate it. In 2006, China's chaotic effort to vaccinate 14 billion chickens to control avian flu was compromised by counterfeit vaccines and the absence of protective gear for vaccination teams. This likely spread contagion by vaccinators who carried infected fecal material on their shoes from one farm to another.

The situation in Mexico resembles the scenario we might expect for an outbreak of a major human-to-human pandemic in its earliest stages: a large number of illnesses among social and family contacts of victims; infection of health-care workers and patients in hospitals where the victims are treated; and the rapid spread of confirmed cases from an initial region to other countries as people infected by the virus travel while it is incubating, but before they become seriously ill.

Because they have been stockpiled for use in the event of an avian flu pandemic, large amounts of the antiflu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza are available. However, they must be administered during the first couple of days after symptoms begin to be an effective treatment. They can also prevent the onset of the disease if administered in adequate doses prior to exposure. The danger of using antiflu drugs in poor countries with inadequate public-health facilities such as Mexico is that they may be administered improperly and in suboptimal doses, which would promote viral resistance and intensify an outbreak.

If the swine flu outbreak becomes a pandemic with a high rate of severe complications (such as pneumonia) and death, we will need to be smart, nimble and flexible. That will involve triage on many levels -- including decisions about which patients are likely to benefit from scarce commodities such as drugs and ventilators -- as well as "social engineering" determinations about issues such as mandatory quarantine, the canceling of public events, shutting airports and closing our southern border. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Dr. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is a former flu researcher and was an official at the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration from 1977 to 1994.
23691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Source on: April 28, 2009, 07:09:16 AM
The Source


By Tzvi Freeman
It's not that Abraham and Moses gave the world the ideas of morality and value of life. These ideas were known to Adam and to Noah -- only that with time, humankind had mostly forgotten them.

What these giants brought to the world was a greater idea: That the values essential to humanity's survival can only endure when they are seen as an outcome of monotheism. They must be tied to an underlying reality, and that reality is the knowledge of a Oneness that brings us into being.
23692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party on: April 28, 2009, 12:05:04 AM

After attending my local Tea Party, I signed up at their website.  This came in today:

http://southbaytaxdayteaparty.typepad.com:80/south-bay-tax-day-tea-party/2009/04/your-tax-dollars-at-work.html
23693  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Team Dog Brothers MMA? on: April 27, 2009, 07:37:49 PM
Hope to kick things off in a week or two.  We are looking at Tuesdays, mid-day in Hermosa Beach.

 cool
23694  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Tribe grows on: April 27, 2009, 06:55:46 PM
We are proud to announce the birth of a son, Dougal Fraser Stewart born at 19.58 GMT at 7lb 11oz, to Cat Lynn and C-Point Dog cool cool cool
23695  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: April 27, 2009, 06:27:09 PM
Oraciones por la gente de Mexico en su momentos dificiles.
23696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pig Flu gathering momentum here in US on: April 27, 2009, 03:48:40 PM

"Swine flu fears prompt global quarantine plans"
By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard, Ap Medical Writer –

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Monday the threat of spreading swine flu infections was a concern but "not a cause for alarm," while customs agents began checking people coming into the United States by land and air. The World Health Organization said there were 40 confirmed cases in the U.S. but no deaths.

Countries across the globe increased their vigilance amid increasing worries about a worldwide pandemic, Obama told a gathering of scientists that his administration's Department of Health and Human Services "has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively."

The acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Richard Besser, said that Americans should be prepared for the problem to become more severe, and that it could involve "possibly deaths."

The quickening pace of developments in the United States in response to some 1,600 swine flu infections in neighboring Mexico — and reports of over 100 deaths — was accompanied by a host of varying responses around the world. The European Union advised against nonessential travel to the U.S. and Mexico, while China, Taiwan and Russia considered quarantines and several Asian countries scrutinized visitors arriving at their airports.

U.S. customs officials began checking people entering U.S. territory. Officers at airports, seaports and border crossings were watching for signs of illness, said Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling.

If a traveler says something about not feeling well, the person will be questioned about symptoms and, if necessary, referred to a CDC official for additional screening, Easterling said. The customs officials were wearing personal protective gear, such as gloves and masks, he said.

Multiple airlines, including American, United, Continental, US Airways, Mexicana and Air Canada, said they were waiving usual penalties for changing reservations for anyone traveling to, from, or through Mexico, but had not canceled flights.

The CDC's Besser said that while the U.S. hasn't advised against travel to Mexico, it has urged people to take precautions, such as frequent hand-washing while there.

A private school in South Carolina was closed Monday because of fears that young people who recently returned from Mexico might have been infected.

"We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States," Obama said. "I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies, and the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take."

"But one thing is clear: Our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community," the president said. "And this is one more example of why we cannot allow our nation to fall behind."

Besser, the CDC official, described the new U.S. border initiative as "passive screening." He said authorities were "asking people about fever and illness, looking for people who are ill."

The U.S. declared a national health emergency in the midst of uncertainty about whether the mounting sick count meant new infections were increasing or health officials had simply missed something that had been simmering for weeks or months. The declaration allowed Washington to ship roughly 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile to states in case they are needed.

Besser traveled the morning news-show circuit Monday, telling interviewers the U.S. government was being "extremely aggressive" and saying he wouldn't personally recommend traveling to parts of Mexico where the new virus had taken hold.

Besser said he was not reassured by the fact that so far in the U.S., no one had died from the disease.

"From what we understand in Mexico, I think people need to be ready for the idea that we could see more severe cases in this country and possibly deaths," he said. "That's something people have to be ready for and we're looking for that. So far, thankfully, we haven't seen that. But we're very concerned and that's why we're taking very aggressive measures."

Meanwhile, officials of Newberry Academy in South Carolina said Monday that seniors from the school were in Mexico earlier this month and some had flu-like symptoms when they returned.

State Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Jim Beasley said test results on the students could come back as early as Monday afternoon. The agency has stepped up efforts to investigate all flu cases in South Carolina. There have been no confirmed swine flu cases in the state.

A New York City school where eight cases were confirmed will be closed Monday and Tuesday, and 14 schools in Texas, including a high school where two cases were confirmed, will be closed for at least the next week. Some schools in California and Ohio also were closing after students were found or suspected to have the flu.

In Mexico, the outbreak's center, soldiers handed out 6 million face masks to help stop the spread of the virus that is suspected in up to 103 deaths. Most other countries are reporting only mild cases so far, with most of the sick already recovering.

Spain reported its first confirmed swine flu case on Monday and said another 17 people were suspected of having the disease. The European Union health commissioner advised Europeans to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico and the United States. Also, three New Zealanders recently returned from Mexico are suspected of having it.

"These are the early days," said World Health Organization spokesman Peter Cordingley. "It's quite clear that there is a potential for this virus to become a pandemic and threaten globally." He said it was spreading rapidly in Mexico and the southern United States.

Worldwide, attention focused on travelers.

"It was acquired in Mexico, brought home and spread," Nova Scotia's chief public health officer, Dr. Robert Strang, said of Canada's first confirmed cases.

___

Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson and Olga R. Rodriguez in Mexico City; Frank Jordans in Geneva; Mike Stobbe in Atlanta; Maria Cheng in London and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.
23697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Change in plans? on: April 27, 2009, 01:19:46 PM
Second post of the day:

NYT

BAGHDAD — The United States and Iraq will begin negotiating possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat troops from Iraqi cities, focusing on the troubled northern city of Mosul, according to military officials. Some parts of Baghdad also will still have combat troops.


Some combat troops will remain at Camp Prosperity, which is in the heart of Baghdad.

Everywhere else, the withdrawal of United States combat troops from all Iraqi cities and towns is on schedule to finish by the June 30 deadline, and in many cases even earlier. But because of the level of insurgent activity in Mosul, United States and Iraqi military officials will meet Monday to decide whether to consider the city an exception to the deadline in the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, between the countries.

“Mosul is the one area where you may see U.S. combat forces operating in the city” after June 30, the United States military’s top spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. David Perkins, said in an interview.

In Baghdad, however, there are no plans to close the Camp Victory base complex, consisting of five bases housing more than 20,000 soldiers, many of them combat troops. Although Victory is only a 15 minute drive from the center of Baghdad and sprawls over both sides of the city’s boundary, Iraqi officials say they have agreed to consider it outside the city.

In addition, Forward Operating Base Falcon, which can hold 5,000 combat troops, will also remain after June 30. It is just within Baghdad’s southern city limits. Again, Iraqi officials have classified it as effectively outside Baghdad, so no exception to the agreement needs to be granted, in their view.

Combat troops with the Seventh Field Artillery Regiment will remain in the heart of Baghdad at Camp Prosperity, located near the new American Embassy compound in the Green Zone. In addition to providing a quick reaction force, guarding the embassy and noncombat troops from attack, those soldiers will also continue to support Iraqi troops who are now in nominal charge of maintaining security in the Green Zone.

The details of troop withdrawals and the transfer of facilities are negotiated by the Joint Military Operations Coordinating Committee, led by the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, and the Iraqi defense minister, Abdul Qadir al-Obaidi. At its meeting on Monday, the committee will discuss a host of transfer issues, as well as whether to grant any exceptions to the June 30 deadline, and it will make recommendations to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a final decision.

The spokesman for the Iraqi military, Maj. Gen. Muhammad al-Askari, who is also the secretary to the committee’s Iraqi contingent, said also that a decision on Mosul would be made at Monday’s meeting, which he called “critical.”

“I personally think even in Mosul there will be no American forces in the city, but that’s a decision for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi prime minister,” General Askari said.

General Perkins also expressed specific concerns about Mosul, noting how important the city is to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown group that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners.

“For Al Qaeda to win, they have to take Baghdad. To survive they have to hold on to Mosul,” he said. “Mosul is sort of their last area where they have some maybe at least passive support.”

In Baghdad, whether combat troops remain in the city may well be a function of how they are defined, as well as where the city limits lie.

The Camp Victory complex includes Camps Victory, Liberty, Striker and Slayer, plus the prison known as Camp Cropper, where so-called high-value prisoners are kept. It also includes the military side of Baghdad International Airport.

General Askari emphatically said that the June 30 provision did not apply to the Camp Victory complex because it was effectively outside the city. General Askari also said having American combat troops at Camp Prosperity would not violate the terms of the agreement, because they are there for force protection and to guard the nearby embassy.

“If there is a small group to stay in that camp to guard the American Embassy, that’s no problem,” he said. “The meaning of the SOFA is that their vehicles cannot go in the streets of Baghdad and interfere with our job.”

The Green Zone was handed over to Iraqi control Jan. 1, when the agreement went into effect. In addition to the United States-Iraqi patrols, most of the security for the Green Zone’s many checkpoints and heavily guarded entry points is still done by the same private contractors who did it prior to Jan. 1.

“What you’re seeing is not a change in the numbers, it’s a doctrine change,” said First Sgt. David Moore, a New Jersey National Guardsman with the Joint Area Support Group, which runs the Green Zone. “You’re still going to have fighters. Every U.S. soldier is trained to fight.”

One of the Green Zone’s biggest bases, Forward Operating Base Freedom, was handed back to Iraqi control on April 1, at least most of it. The United States military kept the swimming pool.

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

age 2 of 2)


In addition to troops, Camp Prosperity will house many American contractors and other personnel. Next door, at Camp Union III, the military is in the process of setting up housing for several thousand soldiers, trainers and advisers working for the Multi-National Security Transition Command, which now has its headquarters elsewhere in the Green Zone.

While those principal Baghdad bases will remain, the United States military has been rapidly erasing its footprint everywhere else in Baghdad. The so-called troop surge added 77 small bases, known as combat outposts, patrol bases and joint security stations, spread throughout the city’s neighborhoods to get United States troops closer to the people. At the height, in 2007, there were nearly 100 such bases. All of them will have been turned over to the Iraqis by June 30, and many already have been, General Perkins said. He added that in many cases the Iraqis would choose not to use them for their own troops.

Nationwide, the American military presence is also changing quickly as June 30 approaches. A survey of northern and central Iraqi provinces by New York Times reporters confirmed that American troops had already withdrawn from all of the bases situated in the centers of major towns or cities, with the exception of Mosul.

General Perkins said that American combat forces had already been drawing down steadily in Iraq’s cities, replaced by Iraqi troops. By September 2008, the number of American troops in Iraq had dropped by about 20 percent from the peak during the so-called troop surge in 2007, he said. An additional 8,000 left by the end of January.

As of April 17, there were 137,934 American service members in Iraq, according to Lt. Col. Amy Hannah, a public affairs officer. An additional 16,000 will go by September, General Perkins said.

“We don’t want to lose the gains we’ve had so far,” he said. “We don’t want to rush to failure here. This isn’t just, we’re going home. We’re just moving.”

“We don’t mean you won’t have soldiers trained in combat skills in the city,” General Perkins said. Trainers and advisers can stay, under the terms of the agreement, and combat troops can re-enter on operations if invited by the Iraqis, he said.

General Perkins gave the example of sending the 82nd Airborne Division to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “The 82nd are combat troops, but that was not a combat mission,” he said.
23698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq brings this to our attention on: April 27, 2009, 12:50:22 PM
Iraqi leader: U.S. raid that killed 2 breached accord

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is accusing U.S. troops of violating the security agreement between the two countries after a raid in Wasit province Sunday that left two people dead, Iraqi State TV reported.
 
U.S. troops raided a house in the city of Kut and arrested six suspected members of so-called "special groups" -- groups that are funded, armed and trained by Iran, according to the U.S. military.
 
During the operation, which the military said was "fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government," a man and a woman were killed by U.S. troops, the military said.
 
Al-Maliki's accusation that the United States violated the security pact is the first time the Iraqi government has claimed a breach in the deal that governs the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. It was reached last November and implemented in January.
 
Under the agreement, the U.S. military cannot carry out raids without Iraqi permission and warrants. And Iraq has primary jurisdiction over members of the U.S. military who commit "grave premeditated felonies" outside of certain geographical boundaries and when they are off duty.
 
Al-Maliki has asked Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, to release the suspects detained in the raid, and to hand over "those who committed the crime" -- or U.S. troops -- to the Iraqi judiciary, state television reported.
 
The U.S. military statement said when troops approached the residence, "an individual with a weapon came out of the home. Forces assessed him to be hostile, and they engaged the man, killing him," the U.S. military statement said.
 
A woman who "moved into the line of fire" was also killed in the shooting, the U.S. military said.
 
An Interior Ministry official told CNN the raid was on the home of a tribal leader, and said U.S. forces killed the leader's wife and brother and detained a number of family members.
Speaking on Iraqi State TV, the deputy governor of Wasit province called the killings "cold-blooded murder."
 
The U.S. military said there was a warrant issued for the arrest of the targeted individual -- "a network financier, who is also responsible for smuggling weapons into the country to support JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade," a U.S. military statement said.

Iraqi State TV reported that Iraq's defense ministry ordered the arrest of two Iraqi commanders in Kut who apparently allowed the U.S. military to carry out the raid.
23699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan on: April 27, 2009, 12:44:53 PM
"We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression -- to preserve freedom and peace. Since the dawn of the atomic age, we've sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. 'Deterrence' means simply this: making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States, or our allies, or our vital interests, concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression." --Ronald Reagan
23700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 27, 2009, 12:42:00 PM
"In response to an unprecedented expansion of federal power, citizens have held hundreds of 'tea party' rallies around the country, and various states are considering 'sovereignty resolutions' invoking the Constitution's Ninth and Tenth Amendments. For example, Michigan's proposal urges 'the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States.' While well-intentioned, such symbolic resolutions are not likely to have the slightest impact on the federal courts, which long ago adopted a virtually unlimited construction of Congressional power. But state legislatures have a real power under the Constitution by which to resist the growth of federal power: They can petition Congress for a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. An amendments convention is feared because its scope cannot be limited in advance. The convention convened by Congress to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation produced instead the entirely different Constitution under which we now live. Yet it is precisely the fear of a runaway convention that states can exploit to bring Congress to heel. ...[A] Federalism Amendment would provide tea-party enthusiasts and other concerned Americans with a concrete and practical proposal by which we can restore our lost Constitution."

--Georgetown University professor of constitutional law Randy Barnett
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"It really is difficult to imagine how people who have entirely given up managing their own affairs could make a wise choice of those who are to do that for them. One should never expect a liberal, energetic, and wise government to originate in the votes of a people of servants." --French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

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"One of the most important events of our lifetimes may have just transpired. A federal agency has decided that it has the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe. Nominally, the Environmental Protection Agency's announcement ... only applies to new-car emissions. But pretty much everyone agrees that the ruling opens the door to regulating, well, everything. According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide -- the gas you exhale -- as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It is literally impossible to imagine a significant economic or human activity that does not involve the production of one of these gases. Don't think just of the gas and electricity bills. Cow flatulence is a serious concern of the EPA's already. What next? ... Whether or not global warming is a crisis that warrants immediate, drastic action (I don't think it does), and whether or not such wholesale measures would be an economic calamity (they would be), the EPA's decision should be disturbing to people who believe in democratic, constitutional government. ...[T]he EPA has launched its power grab over all that burns, breathes, burps, flies, drives and passes gas."

--National Review editor Jonah Goldberg
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