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23651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor overview on: November 23, 2010, 05:21:07 PM
A bit unfair methinks to evaluate pre 911 behavior by post 911 standards.

Anyway, here's this overview by Stratfor, which does a rather nice job I think of synthesizing many of the points made by the various participants in our conversation here:

By Scott Stewart

Over the past few weeks, aviation security — specifically, enhanced passenger-screening procedures — has become a big issue in the media. The discussion of the topic has become even more fervent as we enter Thanksgiving weekend, which is historically one of the busiest travel periods of the year. As this discussion has progressed, we have been asked repeatedly by readers and members of the press for our opinion on the matter.

We have answered such requests from readers, and we have done a number of media interviews, but we’ve resisted writing a fresh analysis on aviation security because, as an organization, our objective is to lead the media rather than follow the media regarding a particular topic. We want our readers to be aware of things before they become pressing public issues, and when it comes to aviation-security threats and the issues involved with passenger screening, we believe we have accomplished this. Many of the things now being discussed in the media are things we’ve written about for years.

When we were discussing this topic internally and debating whether to write about it, we decided that since we have added so many new readers over the past few years, it might be of interest to our expanding readership to put together an analysis that reviews the material we’ve published and that helps to place the current discussion into the proper context. We hope our longtime readers will excuse the repetition.

We believe that this review will help establish that there is a legitimate threat to aviation, that there are significant challenges in trying to secure aircraft from every conceivable threat, and that the response of aviation security authorities to threats has often been slow and reactive rather than thoughtful and proactive.


Commercial aviation has been threatened by terrorism for decades now. From the first hijackings and bombings in the late 1960s to last month’s attempt against the UPS and FedEx cargo aircraft, the threat has remained constant. As we have discussed for many years, jihadists have long had a fixation with attacking aircraft. When security measures were put in place to protect against Bojinka-style attacks in the 1990s — attacks that involved modular explosive devices smuggled onto planes and left aboard — the jihadists adapted and conducted 9/11-style attacks. When security measures were put in place to counter 9/11-style attacks, the jihadists quickly responded by going to onboard suicide attacks with explosive devices concealed in shoes. When that tactic was discovered and shoes began to be screened, they switched to devices containing camouflaged liquid explosives. When that plot failed and security measures were altered to restrict the quantity of liquids that people could take aboard aircraft, we saw the jihadists alter the paradigm once more and attempt the underwear-bomb attack last Christmas.

In a special edition of Inspire magazine released last weekend, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) noted that, due to the increased passenger screening implemented after the Christmas Day 2009 attempt, the group’s operational planners decided to employ explosive devices sent via air cargo (we have written specifically about the vulnerability of air cargo to terrorist attacks).

Finally, it is also important to understand that the threat does not emanate just from jihadists like al Qaeda and its regional franchises. Over the past several decades, aircraft have been attacked by a number of different actors, including North Korean intelligence officers, Sikh, Palestinian and Hezbollah militants and mentally disturbed individuals like the Unabomber, among others.


While understanding that the threat is very real, it is also critical to recognize that there is no such thing as absolute, foolproof security. This applies to ground-based facilities as well as aircraft. If security procedures and checks have not been able to keep contraband out of high-security prisons, it is unreasonable to expect them to be able to keep unauthorized items off aircraft, where (thankfully) security checks of crew and passengers are far less invasive than they are for prisoners. As long as people, luggage and cargo are allowed aboard aircraft, and as long as people on the ground crew and the flight crew have access to aircraft, aircraft will remain vulnerable to a number of internal and external threats.

This reality is accented by the sheer number of passengers that must be screened and number of aircraft that must be secured. According to figures supplied by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in 2006, the last year for which numbers are available, the agency screened 708,400,522 passengers on domestic flights and international flights coming into the United States. This averages out to over 1.9 million passengers per day.

Another reality is that, as mentioned above, jihadists and other people who seek to attack aircraft have proven to be quite resourceful and adaptive. They carefully study security measures, identify vulnerabilities and then seek to exploit them. Indeed, last September, when we analyzed the innovative designs of the explosive devices employed by AQAP, we called attention to the threat they posed to aviation more than three months before the Christmas 2009 bombing attempt. As we look at the issue again, it is not hard to see, as we pointed out then, how their innovative efforts to camouflage explosives in everyday items and hide them inside suicide operatives’ bodies will continue and how these efforts will be intended to exploit vulnerabilities in current screening systems.

As we wrote in September 2009, getting a completed explosive device or its components by security and onto an aircraft is a significant challenge, but it is possible for a resourceful bombmaker to devise ways to overcome that challenge. The latest issue of Inspire magazine demonstrated how AQAP has done some very detailed research to identify screening vulnerabilities. As the group noted in the magazine: “The British government said that if a toner weighs more than 500 grams it won’t be allowed on board a plane. Who is the genius who came up with this suggestion? Do you think that we have nothing to send but printers?”

AQAP also noted in the magazine that it is working to identify innocuous substances like toner ink that, when X-rayed, will appear similar to explosive compounds like PETN, since such innocuous substances will be ignored by screeners. With many countries now banning cargo from Yemen, it will be harder to send those other items in cargo from Sanaa, but the group has shown itself to be flexible, with the underwear-bomb operative beginning his trip to Detroit out of Nigeria rather than Yemen. In the special edition of Inspire, AQAP also specifically threatened to work with allies to launch future attacks from other locations.

Drug couriers have been transporting narcotics hidden inside their bodies aboard aircraft for decades, and prisoners frequently hide drugs, weapons and even cell phones inside body cavities. It is therefore only a matter of time before this same tactic is used to smuggle plastic explosives or even an entire non-metallic explosive device onto an aircraft — something that would allow an attacker to bypass metal detectors and backscatter X-ray inspection and pass through external pat-downs.

Look for the Bomber, Not Just the Bomb

This ability to camouflage explosives in a variety of different ways, or hide them inside the bodies of suicide operatives, means that the most significant weakness of any suicide-attack plan is the operative assigned to conduct the attack. Even in a plot to attack 10 or 12 aircraft, a group would need to manufacture only about 12 pounds of high explosives — about what is required for a single, small suicide device and far less than is required for a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Because of this, the operatives are more of a limiting factor than the explosives themselves; it is far more difficult to find and train 10 or 12 suicide bombers than it is to produce 10 or 12 devices.

A successful attack requires operatives who are not only dedicated enough to initiate a suicide device without getting cold feet; they must also possess the nerve to calmly proceed through airport security checkpoints without alerting officers that they are up to something sinister. This set of tradecraft skills is referred to as demeanor, and while remaining calm under pressure and behaving normally may sound simple in theory, practicing good demeanor under the extreme pressure of a suicide operation is very difficult. Demeanor has proved to be the Achilles’ heel of several terror plots, and it is not something that militant groups have spent a great deal of time teaching their operatives. Because of this, it is frequently easier to spot demeanor mistakes than it is to find well-hidden explosives. Such demeanor mistakes can also be accentuated, or even induced, by contact with security personnel in the form of interviews, or even by unexpected changes in security protocols that alter the security environment a potential attacker is anticipating and has planned for.

There has been much discussion of profiling, but the difficulty of creating a reliable and accurate physical profile of a jihadist, and the adaptability and ingenuity of the jihadist planners, means that any attempt at profiling based only on race, ethnicity or religion is doomed to fail. In fact, profiling can prove counterproductive to good security by blinding people to real threats. They will dismiss potential malefactors who do not fit the specific profile they have been provided.

In an environment where the potential threat is hard to identify, it is doubly important to profile individuals based on their behavior rather than their ethnicity or nationality — what we refer to as focusing on the “how” instead of the “who.” Instead of relying on physical profiles, which allow attack planners to select operatives who do not match the profiles being selected for more intensive screening, security personnel should be encouraged to exercise their intelligence, intuition and common sense. A Caucasian U.S. citizen who shows up at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi or Dhaka claiming to have lost his passport may be far more dangerous than some random Pakistani or Yemeni citizen, even though the American does not appear to fit the profile for requiring extra security checks.

However, when we begin to consider traits such as intelligence, intuition and common sense, one of the other realities that must be faced with aviation security is that, quite simply, it is not an area where the airlines or governments have allocated the funding required to hire the best personnel. Airport screeners make far less than FBI special agents or CIA case officers and receive just a fraction of the training. Before 9/11, most airports in the United States relied on contract security guards to conduct screening duties. After 9/11, many of these same officers went from working for companies like Wackenhut to being TSA employees. There was no real effort made to increase the quality of screening personnel by offering much higher salaries to recruit a higher caliber of candidate.

There is frequent mention of the need to make U.S. airport security more like that employed in Israel. Aside from the constitutional and cultural factors that would prevent American airport screeners from ever treating Muslim travelers the way they are treated by El Al, another huge difference is simply the amount of money spent on salaries and training for screeners and other security personnel. El Al is also aided by the fact that it has a very small fleet of aircraft that fly only a small number of passengers to a handful of destinations.

Additionally, airport screening duty is simply not glamorous work. Officers are required to work long shifts conducting monotonous checks and are in near constant contact with a traveling public that can at times become quite surly when screeners follow policies established by bureaucrats at much higher pay grades. Granted, there are TSA officers who abuse their authority and do not exhibit good interpersonal skills, but anyone who travels regularly has also witnessed fellow travelers acting like idiots.

While it is impossible to keep all contraband off aircraft, efforts to improve technical methods and procedures to locate weapons and IED components must continue. However, these efforts must not only be reacting to past attacks and attempts but should also be looking forward to thwart future attacks that involve a shift in the terrorist paradigm. At the same time, the often-overlooked human elements of airport security, including situational awareness, observation and intuition, need to be emphasized now more than ever. It is those soft skills that hold the real key to looking for the bomber and not just the bomb.

23652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 23, 2010, 04:35:05 PM
As is often the case you raise pertinent points and probing questions.  Off the top of my head:

a) An interview with Peter Kant, VP of Rapiscan in today's LA Times makes the following points:
   1) He asserts that the US Marshal's case invovled a different company's scanner and re-asserted the claim that Rapiscan's do not store images;
   2) He states that Rapiscan will be "releasing in the next few months a threat recognition upgrade where the system never even uses an image.  It just automatically detects any anomaly on the body and directs the TSA officer" to where on the body the anomaly is located.  This would seem to solve quite a bit of the objections here.

b) I don't see that it is necessary to use the palm of the hand; wouldn't the back of the hand suffice?

c) I gather that dogs can be extremely useful, yet I have yet to see one in use

d) Although I wasn't impressed with the synopsis of Ron Paul's proposal posted here the other day, I did hear an interview with him wherein he sounded rather persuasive about what can be accomplished by allowing the private sector (e.g. the airlines) to take over; which the Homeland Security law which created the TSA allows.

23653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Stratfor on: November 23, 2010, 01:24:27 PM
second post

North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery fire near their disputed border in the Yellow Sea/West Sea on Nov. 23. The incident raises several questions, not the least of which is whether Pyongyang is attempting to move the real “red line” for conventional weapons engagements, just as it has managed to move the limit of “acceptable” behavior regarding its nuclear program.

Special Topic Page
Conflict on the Korean Peninsula
North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery fire near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), their disputed western border in the Yellow Sea/West Sea on Nov. 23. The incident damaged as many as 100 homes and thus far has killed two South Korean soldiers with several others, including some civilians, wounded. The South Korean government convened an emergency Cabinet meeting soon after the incident and called for the prevention of escalation. It later warned of “stern retaliation” if North Korea launches additional attacks. Pyongyang responded by threatening to launch additional strikes, and accused South Korea and the United States of planning to invade North Korea, in reference to the joint Hoguk military exercises currently under way in different locations across South Korea.

The incident is the latest in a series of provocations by Pyongyang near the NLL this year following the sinking of the South Korean warship ChonAn in March. Over the past several years, the NLL has been a major hotspot. While most border incidents have been low-level skirmishes, such as the November 2009 naval episode, a steady escalation of hostilities culminated in the sinking of the ChonAn. The Nov. 23 attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeongdo represents another escalation; similar shellings in the past were for show and often merely involved shooting into the sea, but this attack targeted a military base. It also comes amid an atmosphere of higher tensions surrounding the revelation of active North Korean uranium enrichment facilities, South Korea’s disavowal of its Sunshine Policy of warming ties with the North and an ongoing power succession in Pyongyang.

Over the years, North Korea has slowly moved the “red line” regarding its missile program and nuclear development. It was always said that North Korea would never test a nuclear weapon because it would cross a line that the United States had set. Yet North Korea did test a nuclear weapon in October 2006, and then another in May 2009, without facing any dire consequences. This indicates that the red line for the nuclear program was either moved, or was rhetorical. The main question after the Nov. 23 attack is whether Pyongyang is attempting to move the red line for conventional attacks. If North Korea is attempting to raise the threshold for a response to such action, it could be playing a very dangerous game.

However, the threat North Korea’s nuclear program poses is more theoretical than the threat posed by conventional weapons engagements. Just as it seems that a North Korean nuclear test would not result in military action, the ChonAn sinking and the Nov. 23 attack seem to show that an “unprovoked” North Korean attack also will not lead to military retaliation. If this pattern holds, it means North Korea could decide to move from sea-based to land-based clashes, shell border positions across the Demilitarized Zone or take any number of other actions that certainly are not theoretical.

The questions STRATFOR is focusing on after the Nov. 23 attack are as follows:

Is North Korea attempting to test or push back against limits on conventional attacks? If so, are these attacks meant to test South Korea and its allies ahead of an all-out military action, or is the North seeking a political response as it has with its nuclear program? If the former, we must reassess North Korea’s behavior and ascertain whether the North Koreans are preparing to try a military action against South Korea — perhaps trying to seize one or more of the five South Korean islands along the NLL. If the latter, then at what point will they actually cross a red line that will trigger a response?
Is South Korea content to constantly redefine “acceptable” North Korean actions? Does South Korea see something in the North that we do not? The South Koreans have good awareness of what is going on in North Korea, and vice versa. The two sides are having a conversation about something and using limited conventional force to get a point across. We should focus on what the underlying issue is.
What is it that South Korea is afraid of in the North? North Korea gives an American a guided tour of a uranium enrichment facility, then fires across the NLL a couple of days after the news breaks. The South does not respond. It seems that South Korea is afraid of either real power or real weakness in the North, but we do not know which.
23654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 23, 2010, 12:48:50 PM
Ahem , , ,
23655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential on: November 23, 2010, 12:43:25 PM
With the 2010 elections over, its time to give the 2012 Presidential its own thread.  We kick it off with some reflections from Peggy Noonan:

All eyes have been on Capitol Hill, but let's take a look at the early stages of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

This week the papers have been full of sightings—Newt and Huckabee are in Iowa, Pawlenty's in New Hampshire. But maybe the more interesting story is that a lot of potential candidates will decide if they are definitely going to run between now and New Year's—and some of them will be deciding over Thanksgiving weekend. It's all happening now, they're deciding in long walks, at the dinner table, and while watching the football game on the couch. They'll be talking it through, sometimes for the first time and sometimes the tenth. "Can we do this?" "Are we in this together?" "How do you feel?"

In some cases those will be hard conversations. A largely unremarked fact of modern presidential politics is the increased and wholly understandable reluctance of candidates' families to agree to a run. Looking at it through a purely personal prism, and that's where most people start, they see it not as a sacrifice, which it is, but a burden, a life-distorter, and it is those things too. But they have to agree to enter Big History, or a candidate can't go. And a lot of them don't want the job, if victory follows candidacy, of "the president's family." The stakes are too high, the era too dramatic, the life too intense. They don't want the intrusion, the end of all privacy, the fact that you're always on, always representing.

A president's spouse gets mass adulation one week and mass derision the next. But if you're a normal person you probably never wanted mass adulation or mass derision.

So what's happening now in the homes of some political figures is big and in some cases will be decisive. Potential candidates already have been approached by and met with campaign consultants, gurus looking for a gig telling them "Don't worry about all the travel, you can have a Facebook campaign, we'll make you the first I-pad candidate! You can keep your day job. You can even work your day job!" And then there are the potential contributors, the hedge fund libertarian in Greenwich, and the conservative millionaire in a Dallas suburb, who are raring to go. Candidates have to decide by at least New Year's in order to be able to tell them to stay close and keep their powder dry, and in order to plan an announcement in the spring, in time for the first big GOP debate, at the Reagan Library.

Some candidates and their families are not wrestling with the idea of running, of course. Mitt Romney, for instance, surely knows he's running. But not every potential candidate is serious about it. Some look like they're letting the possibility they'll run dangle out there because it keeps them relevant, keeps the cameras nearby, keeps their speech fees and book advances up. The one thing political journalists know and have learned the past few decades is that anyone can become president. So if you say you may run you are immediately going to get richer and more well known and treated with more respect by journalists. Another reason unlikely candidates act like they're running is that who knows, they may. It's hard to decide not to. It excites them to think they might. It helps them get up that morning and go to the 7 a.m. breakfast. "I'm not doing this for nothing, I may actually run. The people at the breakfast may hug me at my inauguration; I may modestly whisper, 'Remember that breakfast in Iowa when nobody showed? But you did. You're the reason I'm here.'" They're not horrible, they're just human. But history is serious right now, and it seems abusive to fake it. If you know in your heart you're not going to run you probably shouldn't jerk people around. This is history, after all.

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Chad Crowe
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.All this decision making takes place within the context of a new mood in the party. We are at the beginning of what looks like a conservative renaissance, free of the past and back to basics. It is a revived conservatism restored to a sense of mission.

The broader context is this: Every four years we say, 'This is a crucial election,' and every four years it's more or less true. But 2012 will seem truer than most. I suspect it will be, like 1980, a year that feels like a question: Will America turn itself around or not? Will it go in a dramatically new direction, or not.

And if there are new directions to be taken, it's probably true that only a president, in the end, can definitively lead in that new direction. On spending, for instance, which is just one issue, it's probably true that the new Congress will wrestle with cuts and limits and new approaches, and plenty of progress is possible, and big issues faced. But at the end of the day it will likely take a president to summon and gather the faith and trust of the people, and harness the national will. It's probably true that only a president can ask everyone to act together, to trust each other, even, and to accept limits together in pursuit of a larger good.

Right now, at this moment, it looks like the next Republican nominee for president will probably be elected president. Everyone knows a rising tide when they see one. But everything changes, and nothing is sure. President Obama's poll numbers seem to be inching up, and there's reason to guess or argue that he hit bottom the week after the election and has nowhere to go but up.

Most of my life we've lived in a pretty much fifty-fifty nation, with each cycle decided by where the center goes. Mr. Obama won only two years ago by 9.5 million votes. That's a lot of votes. His supporters may be disheartened and depressed, but they haven't disappeared. They'll show up for a presidential race, especially if the Republicans do not learn one of the great lessons of 2010: The center has to embrace the conservative; if it doesn't, the conservative loses. Add to that the fact that the White House is actually full of talented people, and though they haven't proved good at governing they did prove good not long ago at campaigning. It's their gift. It's ignored at the GOP's peril.

All of this means that for Republicans, the choice of presidential nominee will demand an unusual level of sobriety and due diligence from everyone in the party, from primary voters in Iowa to county chairmen in South Carolina, and from party hacks in Washington to tea party powers in the Rust Belt. They are going to have to approach 2012 with more than the usual seriousness. They'll have to think big, and not indulge resentments or anger or petty grievances. They'll have to be cool eyed. They'll have to watch and observe the dozen candidates expected to emerge, and ask big questions.

Who can lead? Who can persuade the center? Who can summon the best from people? Who will seem credible (as a person who leads must)? Whose philosophy is both sound and discernible? Who has the intellectual heft? Who has the experience? Who seems capable of wisdom? These are serious questions, but 2012 is going to be a serious race.

Good luck to those families having their meetings and deliberations on Thanksgiving weekend.

23656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey on board for BMD network on: November 23, 2010, 10:50:15 AM
4th post of the morning

Despite reservations on NATO’s proposed ballistic missile defense (BMD) network, Turkey agreed Nov. 20 at the alliance’s summit in Lisbon to participate in the plan. Ankara will experience some fallout from this decision in managing its delicate relationships with Russia and Iran. Nonetheless, the decision to join the NATO BMD network allows Ankara to keep ties with Washington on a more solid footing — a critical factor in enabling Turkey to consolidate its geopolitical gains in its near abroad.

Turkey agreed Nov. 20 to integrate itself into NATO’s planned ballistic missile defense (BMD) network during the alliance’s summit in Lisbon.

Though a potential Iranian missile threat is often cited as the motivation for the U.S.-led BMD project, a deeper, strategic purpose lies in its ability to provide the United States with a platform to underwrite a Eurasian alliance aimed at containing Russia’s growing influence in its former Soviet territory. Turkey is also concerned about Russia’s growing influence, but until this point has been reluctant to sign on to a BMD proposal. However, sensing a geopolitical opportunity in its near abroad, Ankara believes that its relationship with the United States — which has frayed over the past year — must be strengthened in order to take full advantage of its blossoming role. Washington welcomes Turkey playing that role, particularly in the Middle East, as long as Ankara remains a strong partner with the West, something it is attempting to affirm with its consent to the deal.

The United States had already secured bilateral commitments from Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania to participate in the project. Turkey, given its prime geographic positioning in the region, remained a key component to the project. A forward-deployed sensor, like the portable X-band radar currently positioned in Israel, would provide additional sensors closer to the Middle East to more rapidly acquire, track and plot an intercept of ballistic targets.

Turkey’s Opportunity

Turkey has reached a point where it has the wherewithal to assert its regional autonomy, which has manifested in it taking very public positions against the United States regarding Israel and Iran. Naturally, Turkey does not want to be seen as part of a military project that singles out Iran at a time when Ankara has invested a great deal of diplomatic capital in trying to earn Tehran’s trust to mediate the long list of disputes Iran has with its adversaries. In addition, Turkey currently depends on Russia for the bulk of its energy supplies, and has little interest in provoking a confrontation with its historic rival, especially as Turkey is trying to expand its foothold in the Caucasus and Central Asia, where Moscow carries substantial influence.

But other strategic considerations eventually outweighed Turkey’s reasons to resist the project. Turkey, under the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party, has seen its relations deteriorate considerably with the United States over the past year, only exacerbated by Turkey’s crisis in relations with Israel over the flotilla incident. A movement, which is making some progress, has more recently developed in both Washington and Ankara to put U.S.-Turkish relations back on a strategic track in light of more pressing geopolitical demands.

The United States needs to militarily extricate itself from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, in particular, Turkey faces an historic opportunity to fill a vacuum created by the U.S. exit and reclaim its influence in the broader Middle East. The United States sees Turkey as a strong regional ally whose interests are most in line with those of Washington, especially when it comes to the need to contain Iran, manage thorny internal Iraqi affairs, elicit more cooperation from Syria and balance against Russia in the Caucasus. If Turkey is to reap the geopolitical gains in its surrounding region, it cannot afford a rupture in relations with the United States triggered by Ankara turning its back on BMD.

Negotiating the Deal

Turkey thus bargained hard over its BMD participation, taking care to assert its autonomy in these negotiations and avoid grouping itself with countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, which are looking for a highly visible U.S. commitment against Russia. The Turkish demands were for its BMD participation to take place under the aegis of NATO, as opposed to a bilateral treaty with the United States. The project also had to ensure that all of Turkish territory be protected by the BMD systems placed within the country, and command-and-control over the system. Finally, Turkey demanded that no countries (like Russia, Iran or Syria) be cited as the source of the missile threat.

In signing on to the deal at Lisbon, Turkish President Abdullah Gul claimed that Turkey’s NATO allies met all of Ankara’s demands. Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defiantly asserted that Turkey was not forced into this project against its will, and that Turkey’s demands over command-and-control of the system were “misinterpreted.” In fact, the United States rejected this demand (the design of the system would not allow for Turkey to operate the system autonomously) and it appears that Turkish officials were finding a way to back down from this stipulation. Turkey did, however, achieve its aim of removing mention of specific targets and made clear it was only signing on to the NATO BMD plan, as opposed to a bilateral BMD commitment to the United States.

Behind the scenes, U.S. officials made clear that it would be unwise for Turkey to risk a rupture in relations with Washington at this time, and that its commitment to the project was critical to securing U.S. cooperation on other issues important to Turkey. The United States also argued that Turkey’s desire to avoid a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf over Iran’s nuclear ambitions was best met with Turkish participation in a missile shield that would (theoretically) increase the region’s defenses and thus reduce the need for military action. The NATO alliance aims to complete discussions over the details of what the system will entail and how control of the system will be distributed by June 2011.

Fallout with Iran and Russia?

Having taken the BMD leap, Turkey will now have to downplay the strategic significance of this deal to Russia and Iran to prevent a fissure in relations with both countries.

With Iran, Ankara will have to convince Tehran that Turkey’s maintaining a close relationship with the United States — and thus preserving the leverage it holds with Washington in the region — is the Iranians’ best buffer against an attack. There are likely serious limitations to this argument, but Iran is also not about to sacrifice a crucial diplomatic ally as tensions continue to escalate with the United States.

Turkey will likely face a much more difficult time ahead in dealing with Russia. Turkey is watching nervously as the U.S.-Russian “reset” of relations is weakening with snags over the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, continued U.S. support for allies in the former Soviet periphery and, of course, the more obvious U.S. push for BMD. Turkey has been among those supporting Russian inclusion in the NATO BMD plan. This is a move that would at least symbolically dilute the very premise of the project, but does not preclude the significance of the United States working directly with critical NATO allies in installing and operating missile defense installations in the region. The details of what Russian inclusion would actually entail have yet to be sorted out, and it remains unlikely that Russia would be integrated into the system in terms of operational control or veto over the system’s use. So far, Moscow has agreed to discuss its inclusion in the project, but this idea remains very much in limbo.

For Turkey, this means Ankara must keep a close watch on the trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations to decide its next moves. As Turkey continues its difficult balancing act, it will rely primarily on its trade and energy deals with Russia in an attempt to mitigate the rising pressure it is already facing from Moscow. No amount of diplomatic statements can ignore the fact that Ankara is giving its symbolic commitment to a defense shield that has Russia squarely in its sights.

23657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LATimes: new concept for helmet design on: November 23, 2010, 10:35:57 AM
The much-maligned combat helmet worn by U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan sustained another blow Monday as engineers from MIT reported that the headgear, as currently designed, did little to protect troops from blast-related brain injury.

But the research team identified a design change that could substantially improve the helmet's ability to reduce the risk of concussion: a face shield capable of deflecting the rippling force of an explosion away from the soft tissues of the face.

With a shield in place, "you actually do mitigate the effects of the blast quite significantly," said Raul Radovitzky, lead author of a study published Monday in the online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The report is not the first to identify the shortcomings of the military's so-called advanced combat helmet. A study published in August used computer simulations to determine that when blast waves roll over the helmet, the internal pads that are designed to cushion the wearer's head actually stiffen and transfer concussive energy to the skull and brain, increasing the likelihood of injury.

The new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study contradicted those findings, reporting instead that the helmet doesn't contribute to brain injury when it is hit by the concussive blast waves of an improvised explosive device.

Radovitzky and colleagues from the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies in Cambridge, Mass., and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., also relied on computer simulations to gauge the effect of a blast directly in front of a soldier on the "intracranial contents" of a helmet-encased head.

Radovitzky said that in fashioning a computer model of the brain, his team used assumptions about the brain's structure, density and position within the skull that were more refined and realistic than those used by the authors of the August study.

One of the authors of that report, physicist Eric G. Blackman of the University of Rochester, called the new finding "important."

"I think it will turn out to be a consideration in the future redesign of helmets," Blackman said.

Traumatic brain injury, often called TBI or concussion, has become one of the most distinctive and intractable wounds sustained by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The armed services have diagnosed more than 188,000 cases among troops who have served in the Middle East.

Many experts think the true toll is far higher, because the effects of brain injury can be easy to miss. The Rand Corp. has estimated that as many as 320,000 service members may have suffered brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brain injuries from explosions during combat appear similar to those that occur in car accidents, falls and sporting events. In most cases, a soldier close to an explosion is thrown against a wall or to the floor, causing "brain whiplash," said neurosurgeon Jam Ghajar, president of the Brain Trauma Foundation.

But for many troops, brain trauma appears to occur without a direct blow to the head. That mystery has left most experts guessing how, exactly, the damage occurs.

Some speculate that concussive waves of energy pass through the skull and knock the brain around within its cavity. Others suggest an explosion hits the chest with a powerful jolt, setting off sudden changes of blood flow and pressure that harm the brain. An explosion's light, heat, chemical byproducts or even a sudden surge of electromagnetic energy could possibly disturb and damage the brain.

Running experiments on humans is impractical — hence the need for sophisticated computer simulations. Until medical experts understand how bombs hurt brains, though, the value of those simulations is limited.

"While the work of Radovitzky and others is compelling, these computational models are just that — models," said Dr. Kenneth C. Curley, director of neurotrauma research for the U.S. Army's Medical Research and Materiel Command at Ft. Detrick, Md. "Models are only as precise as the data available to drive them."
23658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 23, 2010, 10:30:56 AM
Although I am "right wing" in my insistence on sound science and good economics, my spiritual practice leads me to believe that this planet IS our Garden of Eden, and that our dominion over it requires that we be good gardeners of it.  Having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, our danger is that our knowledge will kill the Garden.  The parable of Genesis is powerful and IMHO well-connected to the deeper truths.
23659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor-3 on: November 23, 2010, 10:11:22 AM
Turkey and the World
The question of the hidden agenda of the AKP touches its foreign policy, too. In the United States, nerves are raw over Afghanistan and terror threats. In Europe, Muslim immigration, much of it from Turkey, and more terror threats make for more raw nerves. The existence of an Islamist-rooted government in Ankara has created the sense that Turkey has “gone over,” that it has joined the radical-Islamist camp.

This is why the flotilla incident with Israel turned out as it did. The Turks had permitted a fleet to sail for Gaza, which was blockaded by Israel. Israeli commandos boarded the ships and on one of them got into a fight in which nine people were killed. The Turks became enraged and expected the rest of the world, including the United States and Europe, to join them in condemning Israel’s actions. I think the Turkish government was surprised when the general response was not directed against Israel but at Turkey. The Turks failed to understand the American and European perception that Turkey had gone over to the radical Islamists. This perception caused the Americans and Europeans to read the flotilla incident in a completely unexpected way, from the Turkish government’s point of view, one that saw the decision to allow the flotilla to sail as part of a radical-Islamist agenda. Rather than seeing the Turks as victims, they saw the Turks as deliberately creating the incident for ideological reasons.

At the moment, it all turns on the perceptions of the AKP, both in Turkey and the world. And these perceptions lead to very different interpretations of what Turkey is doing.

In this sense, the ballistic missile defense (BMD) issue was extremely important. Had the Turks refused to allow BMD to be placed in Turkey, it would have been, I think, a breakpoint in relations with the United States in particular. BMD is a defense against Iranian missiles. Turkey does not want a U.S. strike on Iran. It should therefore have been enthusiastic about BMD, since Turkey could argue that with BMD, no strike is needed. Opposing a strike and opposing BMD would have been interpreted as Turkey simply wanting to obstruct anything that would upset Iran, no matter how benign. The argument of those who view Turkey as pro-Iranian would be confirmed. The decision by the Turkish government to go forward with BMD was critical. Rejecting BMD would have cemented the view of Turkey as being radical Islamist. But the point is that the Turks postured on the issue and then went along. It was the AKP trying to maintain its balance.

The reality is that Turkey is now a regional power trying to find its balance. It is in a region where Muslim governments are mixed with secular states, predominantly Christian nations and a Jewish state. When you take the 360-degree view that the AKP likes to talk about, it is an extraordinary and contradictory mixture of states. Turkey is a country that maintains relations with Iran, Israel and Egypt, a dizzying portfolio.

It is not a surprise that the Turks are not doing well at this. After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey is new to being a regional power, and everyone in the region is trying to draw Turkey into something for their own benefit. Syria wants Turkish mediation with Israel and in Lebanon. Azerbaijan wants Turkish support against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Israel and Saudi Arabia want Turkish support against Iran. Iran wants Turkey’s support against the United States. Kosovo wants its support against Serbia. It is a rogue’s gallery of supplicants, all wanting something from Turkey and all condemning Turkey when they don’t get it. Not least of these is the United States, which wants Turkey to play the role it used to play, as a subordinate American ally.

Turkey’s strategy is to be friends with everyone, its “zero conflict with neighbors” policy, as the Turks call it. It is an explicit policy not to have enemies. The problem is that it is impossible to be friends with all of these countries. Their interests are incompatible, and in the end, the only likely outcome is that all will find Turkey hostile and it will face distrust throughout the region. Turkey was genuinely surprised when the United States, busy finally getting sanctions into place against Iran, did not welcome Turkey’s and Brazil’s initiative with Iran. But unlike Brazil, Turkey lives in a tough neighborhood and being friendly with everyone is not an option.

This policy derives, I think, from a fear of appearing, like the Ottoman Empire, so distrusted by secularists. The Ottoman Empire was both warlike and cunning. It was the heir to the Byzantine tradition and it was worthy of it. Ataturk simplified Turkish foreign policy radically, drawing it inward. Turkey’s new power makes that impossible, but it is important, at least at this point in history, for Turkey not to appear too ambitious or too clever internationally. The term neo-Ottoman keeps coming up, but is not greeted happily by many people. Trying to be friendly with everyone is not going to work, but for the Turks, it is a better strategy now than being prematurely Byzantine. Contrary to others, I see Turkish foreign policy as simple and straightforward: What they say and what they intend to do are the same. The problem with that foreign policy is that it won’t work in the long run. I suspect the Turkish government knows that, but it is buying time for political reasons.

It is buying time for administrative reasons as well. The United States entered World War II without an intelligence service, with a diplomatic corps vastly insufficient for its postwar needs and without a competent strategic-planning system. Turkey is ahead of the United States of 1940, but it does not have the administrative structure or the trained and experienced personnel to handle the complexities it is encountering. The Turkish foreign minister wakes up in the morning to Washington’s latest demand, German pronouncements on Turkish EU membership, Israeli deals with the Greeks, Iranian probes, Russian views on energy and so on. It is a large set of issues for a nation that until recently had a relatively small foreign-policy footprint.

Turkey and Russia
Please recall my reasons for this journey and what brought me to Turkey. I am trying to understand the consequences of the re-emergence of Russia, the extent to which this will pose a geopolitical challenge and how the international system will respond. I have already discussed the Intermarium, the countries from the Baltic to the Black seas that have a common interest in limiting Russian power and the geopolitical position to do so if they act as a group.

One of the questions is what the southern anchor of this line will be. The most powerful anchor would be Turkey. Turkey is not normally considered part of the Intermarium, although during the Cold War it was the southeastern anchor of NATO’s line of containment. The purpose of this trip is to get some sense of how the Turks think about Russia and where Russia fits into their strategic thinking. It is also about how the Turks now think of themselves as they undergo a profound shift that will affect the region.

Turkey, like many countries, is dependent on Russian energy. Turkey also has a long history with Russia and needs to keep Russia happy. But it also wants to be friends with everyone and it needs to find new sources of energy. This means that Turkey has to look south, into Iraq and farther, and east, toward Azerbaijan. When it looks south, it will find itself at odds with Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia. When it looks east, it will find itself at odds with Armenia and Russia.

There are no moves that Turkey can make that will not alienate some great power, and it cannot decline to make these moves. It cannot simply depend on Russia for its energy any more than Poland can. Because of energy policy, it finds itself in the same position as the Intermarium, save for the fact that Turkey is and will be much more powerful than any of these countries, and because the region it lives in is extraordinarily more complex and difficult.

Nevertheless, while the Russians aren’t an immediate threat, they are an existential threat to Turkey. With a rapidly growing economy, Turkey needs energy badly and it cannot be hostage to the Russians or anyone else. As it diversifies its energy sources it will alienate a number of countries, including Russia. It will not want to do this, but it is the way the world works. Therefore, is this the southern anchor of the Intermarium? I think so. Not yet and not forever, but I suspect that in 10 years or so, the sheer pressure that Russian energy policy will place on Turkey will create enough tensions to force Turkey into the anchor position.

If Moldova is the proof of the limits of geopolitical analysis, Turkey is its confirmation. There is endless talk in Turkey of intentions, hidden meanings and conspiracies, some woven decades ago. It is not these things that matter. Islam has replaced modernism as the dynamic force of the region, and Turkey will have to accommodate itself to that. But modernism and secularism are woven into Turkish society. Those two strands cannot be ignored. Turkey is the regional power, and it will have to make decisions about friends and enemies. Those decisions will be made based on issues like energy availability, economic opportunities and defensive positions. Intentions are not trivial, but in the case of Turkey neither are they decisive. It is too old a country to change and too new a power to escape the forces around it. For all its complexity, I think Turkey is predictable. It will go through massive internal instability and foreign tests it is not ready for, but in the end, it will emerge as it once was: a great regional power.

As a subjective matter, I like Turkey and Turks. I suspect I will like them less as they become a great power. They are at the charming point where the United States was after World War I. Over time, global and great powers lose their charm under the pressure of a demanding and dissatisfied world. They become hard and curt. The Turks are neither today. But they are facing the kind of difficulties that only come with success, and those can be the hardest to deal with.

Internally, the AKP is trying to thread the needle between two Turkish realities. No one can choose one or the other and govern Turkey. That day has passed. How to reconcile the two is the question. For the moment, the most difficult question is how to get the secularists to accept that, in today’s Turkey, they are a large minority. I suspect the desire to regain power will motivate them to try to reach out to the religious, but for now, they have left the field to the AKP.

In terms of foreign policy, they are clearly repositioning Turkey to be part of the Islamic world, but the Islamic world is deeply divided by many crosscurrents and many types of regimes. The distance between Morocco and Pakistan is not simply space. Repositioning with the Islamic world is more a question of who will be your enemy than who will be your friend. The same goes for the rest of the world.

In leaving Turkey, I am struck by how many balls it has to keep in the air. The tensions between the secularists and the religious must not be minimized. The tensions within the religious camp are daunting. The tensions between urban and rural are significant. The tensions between Turkey and its allies and neighbors are substantial, even if the AKP is not eager to emphasize this. It would seem impossible to imagine Turkey moving past these problems to great power status. But here geopolitics tells me that it has to be this way. All nations have deep divisions. But Turkey is a clear nation and a strong state. It has geography and it has an economy. And it is in a region where these characteristics are in short supply. That gives Turkey relative power as well as absolute strength.

The next 10 years will not be comfortable for Turkey. It will have problems to solve and battles to fight, figuratively and literally. But I think the answer to the question I came for is this: Turkey does not want to confront Russia. Nor does it want to be dependent on Russia. These two desires can’t be reconciled without tension with Russia. And if there is tension, there will be shared interests with the Intermarium, quite against the intentions of the Turks. In history, intentions, particularly good ones, are rarely decisive.
23660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor-2 on: November 23, 2010, 10:10:48 AM
For Ataturk, Turkish national survival depended on modernization, which he equated with the creation of a secular society as the foundation of a modern nation-state in which Islam would become a matter of private practice, not the center of the state or, most important, something whose symbols could have a decisive presence in the public sphere. This would include banning articles of clothing associated with Islamic piety from public display. Ataturk did not try to suppress Muslim life in the private sphere, but Islam is a political religion that seeks to regulate both private and public life.

Ataturk sought to guarantee the survival of the secular state through the military. For Ataturk, the military represented the most modern element of Turkish society and could serve two functions. It could drive Turkish modernization and protect the regime against those who would try to resurrect the Ottoman state and its Islamic character. Ataturk wanted to do something else — to move away from the multinational nature of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk compressed Turkey to its core and shed authority and responsibility beyond its borders. Following Ataturk’s death, for example, Turkey managed to avoid involvement in World War II.

Ataturk came to power in a region being swept by European culture, which was what was considered modern. This Europeanist ideology moved through the Islamic world, creating governments that were, like Turkey’s, secular in outlook but ruling over Muslim populations that had varying degrees of piety. In the 1970s, a counter-revolution started in the region that argued for reintegrating Islam into the governance of Muslim countries. The most extreme part of this wave culminated in al Qaeda. But the secularist/Europeanist vision created by Ataturk has been in deep collision with the Islamist regimes that can be found in places like Iran.

It was inevitable that this process would affect Turkey. In 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. This was a defining moment because the AKP was not simply a secular Europeanist party. Its exact views are hotly debated, with many inside and outside of Turkey claiming that its formal moderation hides a hidden radical-Islamist agenda.

We took a walk in a neighborhood in Istanbul called Carsamba. I was told that this was the most religious community in Istanbul. One secularist referred to it as “Saudi Arabia.” It is a poor but vibrant community, filled with schools and shops. Children play on the streets, and men cluster in twos and threes, talking and arguing. Women wear burqas and headscarves. There is a large school in the neighborhood where young men go to study the Koran and other religious subjects.

The neighborhood actually reminded me of Williamsburg, in the Brooklyn of my youth. Williamsburg was filled with Chasidic Jews, Yeshivas, children on the streets and men talking outside their shops. The sensibility of community and awareness that I was an outsider revived vivid memories. At this point, I am supposed to write that it shows how much these communities have in common. But the fact is that the commonalities of life in poor, urban, religious neighborhoods don’t begin to overcome the profound differences — and importance — of the religions they adhere to.

That said, Carsamba drove home to me the problem the AKP, or any party that planned to govern Turkey, would have to deal with. There are large parts of Istanbul that are European in sensibility and values, and these are significant areas. But there is also Carsamba and the villages of Anatolia, and they have a self-confidence and assertiveness that can’t be ignored today.

There is deep concern among some secularists that the AKP intends to impose Shariah. This is particularly intense among the professional classes. I had dinner with a physician with deep roots in Turkey who told me that he was going to immigrate to Europe if the AKP kept going the way it was going. Whether he would do it when the time came I can’t tell, but he was passionate about it after a couple of glasses of wine. This view is extreme even among secularists, many of whom understand the AKP to have no such intentions. Sometimes it appeared to me that the fear was deliberately overdone, in hopes of influencing a foreigner, me, concerning the Turkish government.

But my thoughts go back to Carsamba. The secularists could ignore these people for a long time, but that time has passed. There is no way to rule Turkey without integrating these scholars and shopkeepers into Turkish society. Given the forces sweeping the Muslim world, it is impossible. They represent an increasingly important trend in the Islamic world and the option is not suppressing them (that’s gone) but accommodating them or facing protracted conflict, a kind of conflict that in the rest of the Islamic world is not confined to rhetoric. Carsamba is an extreme case in Istanbul, but it poses the issue most starkly.

This is something the main opposition secularist party, the People’s Republican Party (CHP), can’t do. It has not devised a platform that can reach out to Carsamba and the other religious neighborhoods within the framework of secularism. This is the AKP’s strength. It can reach out to them while retaining the core of its Europeanism and modernism. The Turkish economy is surging. It had an annualized growth rate of 12 percent in the first quarter of 2010. That helps keep everyone happy. But the AKP also emphasizes that it wants to join the European Union. Now, given how healthy the Turkish economy is, wanting to join the European Union is odd. And the fact is that the European Union is not going to let Turkey in anyway. But the AKP’s continued insistence that it wants to join the European Union is a signal to the secularists: The AKP is not abandoning the Europeanist/modernist project.

The AKP sends many such signals, but it is profoundly distrusted by the secularists, who fear that the AKP’s apparent moderation is simply a cover for its long-term intentions — to impose a radical-Islamist agenda on Turkey. I don’t know the intentions of the AKP leadership, but I do know some realities about Turkey, the first being that, while Carsamba can’t be ignored, the secularists hold tremendous political power in their own right and have the general support of the military. Whatever the intentions imputed to the AKP, it does not have the power to impose a radical-Islamist agenda on Turkey unless the secularists weaken dramatically, which they are not going to do.

The CHP cannot re-impose the rigorous secularism that existed prior to 2002. The AKP cannot impose a radical-Islamist regime, assuming it would want to. The result of either attempt would be a paralyzing political crisis that would tear the country apart, without giving either side political victory. The best guard against hidden agendas is the inability to impose them.

Moreover, on the fringes of the Islamist community are radical Islamists like al Qaeda. It is a strategic necessity to separate the traditionally religious from the radical Islamists. The more excluded the traditionalists are, the more they will be attracted to the radicals. Prior to the 1970s this was not a problem. In those days, radical Islamists were not the problem; radical socialists were. The strategies that were used prior to 2002 would play directly into the hands of the radicals. There are, of course, those who would say that all Islamists are radical. I don’t think that’s true empirically. Of the billion or so Muslims, radicals are few. But you can radicalize the rest with aggressive social policies. And that would create a catastrophe for Turkey and the region.

The problem for Turkey is how to bridge the gap between the secularists and the religious. That is the most effective way to shut out the radicals. The CHP seems to me to have not devised any program to reach out to the religious. There are some indications of attempted change that came with the change in leadership a few months ago, but overall the CHP maintains a hostile suspicion toward sharing power with the religious.

The AKP, on the other hand, has some sort of reconciliation as its core agenda. The problem is that the AKP is serving up a weak brew, insufficient to satisfy the truly religious, insufficient to satisfy the truly secular. But it does hold a majority. In Turkey, as I have said, it is all about the AKP’s alleged hidden intentions. My best guess is that, whatever its private thoughts and political realities are, the AKP is composed of Turks who derive their traditions from 600 years of Ottoman rule. That makes Turkish internal politics, well, Byzantine. Never forget that at crucial points the Ottomans, as Muslim as they were, allied with the Catholics against the Orthodox Christians in order to dominate the Balkans. They made many other alliances of convenience and maintained a multinational and multireligious empire built on a pyramid of compromises. The AKP is not the party of the Wahhabi, and if it tried to become that, it would fall. The AKP, like most political parties, prefers to hold office.

Turkey and the World
23661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor-1 on: November 23, 2010, 10:09:10 AM
Part 5: Turkey

We arrived in Istanbul during the festival of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael on God’s command and praises the God who stayed his hand. It is a jarring holiday for me; I was taught that it was Isaac who God saved. The distinction between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between Hagar and Sarah, between Abraham and the Jews and Abraham and the Muslims. It ties Muslims, Jews and Christians together. It also tears them apart.

Muslims celebrate Eid with the sacrifice of animals (sheep and cattle). Istanbul is a modern commercial city, stunningly large. On this day, as we drove in from the airport, there were vacant lots with cattle lined up for those wishing to carry out the ritual. There were many cattle and people. The ritual sacrifice is widely practiced, even among the less religious. I was told that Turkey had to import cattle for the first time, bringing them in from Uruguay. Consider the juxtaposition of ancient ritual sacrifice so widely practiced that it requires global trade to sustain it.

The tension between and within nations and religions is too ancient for us to remember its beginnings. It is also something that never grows old. For Turkey, it is about a very old nation at what I think is the beginning of a new chapter. It is therefore inevitably about the struggles within Turkey and with Turkey’s search for a way to find both its identity and its place in the world.

Turkey’s Test
Turkey will emerge as one of the great regional powers of the next generation, or so I think. It is clear that this process is already under way when you look at Turkey’s rapid economic growth even in the face of the global financial crisis, and when you look at its growing regional influence. As you’d expect, this process is exacerbating internal political tensions as well as straining old alliances and opening the door to new ones. It is creating anxiety inside and outside of Turkey about what Turkey is becoming and whether it is a good thing or not. Whether it is a good thing can be debated, I suppose, but the debate doesn’t much matter. The transformation from an underdeveloped country emerging from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire to a major power is happening before our eyes.

At the heart of the domestic debate and foreign discussion of Turkey’s evolution is Islam. Turkey’s domestic evolution has resulted in the creation of a government that differs from most previous Turkish governments by seeing itself as speaking for Islamic traditions as well as the contemporary Turkish state. The foreign discussion is about the degree to which Turkey has shifted away from its traditional alliances with the United States, Europe and Israel. These two discussions are linked.

At a time when the United States is at war in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and in confrontation with Iran, any shift in the position of a Muslim country rings alarm bells. But this goes beyond the United States. Since World War II, many Turks have immigrated to Europe, where they have failed to assimilate partly by choice and partly because the European systems have not facilitated assimilation. This failure of assimilation has created massive unease about Turkish and other Muslims in Europe, particularly in the post-9/11 world of periodic terror warnings. Whether reasonable or not, this is shaping Western perceptions of Turkey and Turkish views of the West. It is one of the dynamics in the Turkish-Western relationship.

Turkey’s emergence as a significant power obviously involves redefining its internal and regional relations to Islam. This alarms domestic secularists as well as inhabitants of countries who feel threatened by Turks — or Muslims — living among them and who are frightened by the specter of terrorism. Whenever a new power emerges, it destabilizes the international system to some extent and causes anxiety. Turkey’s emergence in the current context makes that anxiety all the more intense. A newly powerful and self-confident Turkey perceived to be increasingly Islamic will create tensions, and it has.

The Secular and the Religious
Turkey’s evolution is framed by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the creation of modern Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk’s task was to retain the core of the Ottoman Empire as an independent state. That core was Asia Minor and the European side of the Bosporus. For Ataturk, the first step was contraction, abandoning any attempt to hold the Ottoman regions that surrounded Turkey. The second step was to break the hold of Ottoman culture on Turkey itself. The last decades of the Ottoman Empire were painful to Turks, who saw themselves decline because of the unwillingness of the Ottoman regime to modernize at a pace that kept up with the rest of Europe. The slaughter of World War I did more than destroy the Ottoman Empire. It shook its confidence in itself and its traditions.

23662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: November 23, 2010, 09:48:26 AM
Looks good, but I don't have the 55 minutes it would take to watch it.  Would you be so kind as to give a summary?
23663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 23, 2010, 09:46:30 AM
"So how many planes would have to kaboom before you figured that the statistical outliers had been exhausted?"

   Being, like you, of triple digit IQ, I get that. smiley   

   That said, we must also look at the other side of the coin too.   What happens if they bomb a train e.g. the AMTRAK one that then Senator Joe Biden used to take every day/weekend?  Do we then institute the same level of security on trains?  What if they bomb the DC or the NYC subway?  Do we then institute the same level of security?  What about buses?  AQ now talks of a strategy of hemorraging us with tactics of a plethora of smaller and smaller attacks and bleeding us with the costs of our current responses. 

   The variety of ways in which an open society such as ours can be attacked is infinite?  We cannot do "whatever it takes" to achieve perfect security.

    Maybe we need a more aggro response-- more like El Al and more based on playing the probabilities.
23664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Norks artillery hits Sorks on: November 23, 2010, 09:27:49 AM
Before moving to this disconcerting developement I would like to take a moment to note that on Fox's Brett Baier Special Report yesterday, there was a good discussion (especially Krauthammer-- no surprise there) on the role of China in enabling the Norks and that the real issue was to  , , , demotivate the Chinese in this direction.  Apparently a trial balloon has been floated quite recently about the US lending the Sorks some tactical nukes, something the Chinese really don't want.  The conversation went on to suggest that encouraging Japan to nuclearize would really freak the Chinese too.  Bottom line, the idea is to make clear to the Chinese that if they don't want the Sorks and the Japanese going nuke, they had best choke the supply lines to the Norks-- without which the Norks cannot survive.

North Korea and South Korea have reportedly traded artillery fire Nov. 23 across the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea to the west of the peninsula. Though details are still sketchy, South Korean news reports indicate that around 2:30 p.m. local time, North Korean artillery shells began landing in the waters around Yeonpyeongdo, one of the South Korean-controlled islands just south of the NLL. North Korea has reportedly fired as many as 200 rounds, some of which struck the island, injuring at least 10 South Korean soldiers, damaging buildings and setting fire to a mountainside. South Korea responded by firing some 80 shells of its own toward North Korea, dispatching F-16 fighter jets to the area and raising the military alert to its highest level.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has convened an emergency Cabinet meeting, and Seoul is determining whether to evacuate South Koreans working at inter-Korean facilities in North Korea. The barrage from North Korea was continuing at 4 p.m. Military activity appears to be ongoing at this point, and the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff are meeting on the issue. No doubt North Korea’s leadership is also convening.

The North Korean attack comes as South Korea’s annual Hoguk military exercises are under way. The exercises — set to last nine days and including as many as 70,000 personnel from all branches of the South Korean military — span from sites in the Yellow Sea including Yeonpyeongdo to Seoul and other areas on the peninsula itself. The drills have focused in particular on cross-service coordination and cooperation in recent years.

Low-level border skirmishes across the demilitarized zone and particularly the NLL are not uncommon even at the scale of artillery fire. In March, the South Korean naval corvette ChonAn was sunk in the area by what is broadly suspected to have been a North Korean torpedo, taking tensions to a peak in recent years. Nov. 22 also saw South Korean rhetoric about accepting the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the peninsula, though the United States said it has no plans at present to support such a redeployment.

While the South Korean reprisals — both artillery fire in response by self-propelled K-9 artillery and the scrambling of aircraft — thus far appear perfectly consistent with South Korean standard operating procedures, the sustained shelling of a populated island by North Korea would mark a deliberate and noteworthy escalation.

The incident comes amid renewed talk of North Korea’s nuclear program, including revelations of an active uranium-enrichment program, and amid rumors of North Korean preparations for another nuclear test. But North Korea also on Nov. 22 sent a list of delegates to Seoul for Red Cross talks with South Korea, a move reciprocated by the South, ahead of planned talks in South Korea set for Thursday. The timing of the North’s firing at Yeonpyeongdo, then, seems to contradict the other actions currently under way in inter-Korean relations. With the ongoing leadership transition in North Korea, there have been rumors of discontent within the military, and the current actions may reflect miscommunications or worse within the North’s command-and-control structure, or disagreements within the North Korean leadership.

23665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 10:22:36 PM
Well yes, there are , , , what's the term I looking for , , , "outliers" I think it is-- those data points that lay outside the bulk of the distribution pattern. 

23666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Attempted impeachment on: November 22, 2010, 07:36:01 PM
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced an impeachment move in parliament.
.Iran's parliament revealed it planned to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but refrained under orders from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exposing a deepening division within the Iranian regime.

Lawmakers also launched a new petition to bring a debate on the president's impeachment, conservative newspapers reported Monday.

The reports of impeachment efforts came as a retort to a powerful body of clerics that urged Mr. Khamenei to curb the parliament's authority and give greater clout to the president.

In a report released Sunday and discussed in parliament Monday, four prominent lawmakers laid out the most extensive public criticism of Mr. Ahmadinejad to date.

They accused him and his government of 14 counts of violating the law, including illegally importing gasoline and oil, failing to provide budgetary transparency and withdrawing millions of dollars from Iran's foreign reserve fund.

"The president and his cabinet must be held accountable in front of the parliament," the report stated. "A lack of transparency and the accumulation of legal violations by the government is harming the regime."

The conservative lawmakers say the president is illegally operating beyond the checks and balances of the constitution by ignoring the legislature on economic and foreign policy.

Their ultraconservative foes—led by Mr. Khamenei, who has final say in all state matters—see the president as the main agent of the state. Mr. Ahmadinejad hails from this ultraconservative camp, favoring populist economic policies and taking a more defiant stance abroad, as opposed to mainstream conservatives' more pragmatic approach.

Conservative newspapers reported on Monday that lawmakers have started a motion to collect the 74 signatures needed to openly debate impeachment. Mousa Reza Servati, the head of the parliament's budgetary committee, was quoted as saying 40 lawmakers, including Mr. Servati, have signed the motion.

Grounds for Dismissal | Key charges against Iran President Ahmadinejad
Withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund.
Trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for gasoline imports in 2008.
Illegally importing gasoline, oil and natural gas at a value of about $9 billion since 2007.
Failing to provide transparency in budget spending and curbing parliamentary oversight.
Failing to provide transparency about the source of money for the president's domestic travels and about the allocation of money in Iran's provinces.
Failing to implement or notify ministries about 31 legislative items passed by the parliament in 2010.
Iran's Islamic Consultative Assembly
.The move to remove the president from office marks the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that parliament has discussed impeachment of a president. Though the legislature is backed by the Iranian constitution, lawmakers can't drive Mr. Ahmadinejad from office without the supreme leader's agreement.

One issue on which both camps are broadly united is in supporting Iran's right to proceed with its nuclear program against the objections of the international community.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is likely to continue positioning himself on the international stage as the defiant voice of Iran's leadership, as Tehran prepares for a new round of nuclear talks, scheduled tentatively for Dec. 5.

The conservative camp also closed ranks behind Mr. Ahmadinejad after the turbulent 2009 presidential election and its violent aftermath—setting aside differences to support the regime. But a considerable portion of highly influential members of the conservative bloc, such as speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani, appear to have begun to view Mr. Ahmadinejad as a liability.

"The parliament is now openly questioning Ahmadinejad's credibility and his ability to run the country. If the tensions escalate, the conservatives will have no choice but to sack him in order to save the regime's reputation," said Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, a political analyst in Washington and a former parliament member in Iran.

The next few months present a big challenge for Iran's government as it plans to gradually eliminate subsidies for fuel, food and utilities from an economy that is already strained by a string of tough international sanctions over is controversial nuclear program.

Economists have warned the subsidy cuts will drive up inflation, and authorities have tightened security to prevent riots and uprisings in response to the cuts.

Some of Mr. Ahmadinejad's alleged violations included withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund, trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for importing gasoline in 2008, and illegal imports of gasoline, oil and natural gas since 2007 at a value of about $9 billion.

On websites and blogs, the primary outlet for Iran's opposition, Iranians urged the parliament not to give in to Mr. Khamenei's orders and, as one blogger wrote, "act independently for the good of the public."

On Saturday, the Guardian Council, the appointed body of ultraconservative clerics that oversees legislation and acts as a mediator between the government and the parliament, said a "mediating committee" that included council members recommended that Mr. Khamenei curb the powers of the parliament in favor of giving the president a wider hand.

The remarks infuriated parliament members, who said they had made no such recommendation, leading to a heated open debate on the parliament floor on Monday.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has had an uneasy relationship with parliament since his election in 2006, but the differences escalated in his second term, when lawmakers refused to approve eight of his cabinet nominees.

Mr. Khamenei intervened, asking parliament members to compromise. In the end only three cabinet choices were refused.

The parliament also fought Mr. Ahmadinejad for a year over his economic plan and the cutting of subsidies. Mr. Ahmadinejad finally wrote a letter to Mr. Khamenei complaining of the parliament acting as an obstacle for his administration. The committee consists of four lawmakers, three representatives from the administration, three independent lawyers and three members of Guardian Council. The final report is to be sent to Khamenei for review.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at

23667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malaysian hacks Fed and DOD contractor on: November 22, 2010, 07:23:57 PM

By Michael Isikoff National investigative correspondent
NBC News NBC News
updated 11/22/2010 5:52:27 AM ET 2010-11-22T10:52:27
WASHINGTON — How did a hacker in Malaysia manage to penetrate a computer network operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland?

And what was the same accused cybercriminal doing this summer when he allegedly tapped into the secure computers of a large Defense Department contractor that managed systems for military transport movements and other U.S. military operations?

Those are among the puzzling questions raised by allegations against Lin Mun Poo, a 32-year-old Malaysia native whose case illustrates the mounting national secrets threats posed by overseas cyberattacks, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials tell NBC News.

The U.S. government’s case against Poo, who was arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday and entered a plea of not guilty, has so far gotten little attention. But many of the allegations against him seem alarming on their face, according to cybercrime experts. "This is scary stuff," said one U.S. law enforcement official.
Poo was arrested by Secret Service agents last month shortly after flying into New York's John F. Kennedy airport with a "heavily encrypted" laptop computer containing a "massive quantity of stolen financial account data," including more than 400,000 credit card, debit card and bank account numbers, according to a letter filed by federal prosecutors last week laying out a "factual proffer" of their evidence against Poo. [ Click here to read the prosecutors' letter in PDF format.]

He later confessed to federal agents that he had gotten the credit and bank card data by tapping into the computer networks of "several major international banks" and companies, and that he expected to use the data for personal profit, either by selling it or trading it, according to the prosecutors' letter.

Poo's court-appointed lawyer did not respond to a request from NBC News for comment.

'Impressive level of criminal activity'
But far more disturbing, according to U.S. intelligence officials and computer crime experts, was his penetration of both a Federal Reserve network of 10 computers in Cleveland as well as the secure networks of a "major" Defense Department contractor. According to the prosecutors' letter, the Pentagon contractor, which has not been identified, provides system management for military transport and other "highly-sensitive military operations."

"To have the skills to break into highly sensitive systems like that is an impressive level of criminal activity," said Kurt Baumgartner, a senior security researcher for Kaspersky Lab, a computer security firm.

While there is much about Poo's alleged activities that remain unexplained — including his purpose in accessing the military contractor's computers — his case underscores the continued vulnerabilities of computer networks that are critical to the country’s national security, U.S. intelligence experts said.

"If a guy from Malaysia can get into networks like this, you can imagine what the Chinese and Russians, the people with real capabilities, are able to do," said one former senior U.S. intelligence official, who monitored cyberthreats and asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly.
In fact, the penetration of sensitive national security computers by overseas hackers — many of them believed to be state sponsored — is rapidly emerging as one of the country’s most alarming national security threats, officials said. And the threat is not just from foreign governments and for-profit hackers. Officials have also expressed worries that terrorist groups may be capable of the same sorts of sophisticated penetrations.

U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Bill Lynn recently disclosed in a Foreign Affairs article that the Pentagon suffered a significant compromise of its classified military computer networks in 2008, when officials discovered that a malicious computer code had been inserted into a U.S. military laptop at a base in the Middle East. ( Click here to read the Foreign Affairs article, registration required.)
The flash drive's code was placed there by a "foreign intelligence agency," Lynn wrote, and quickly spread to the classified network run by the U.S. Central Command. This in turn prompted a Pentagon operation to neutralize the penetration, which was code-named "Buckshot Yankee," according to Lynn’s article.

"There was massive concern about that," the former U.S. intelligence official said of the 2008 penetration. "People were freaked out."

The foreign intelligence agency was widely believed to be Russia's, the former official said. The country's agents were attempting to "exfiltrate" data from the classified Central Command computers, but Pentagon officials were never able to determine whether they had succeeded in doing so, the official added.

That same year, in an incident first reported by Newsweek in November and later amplified in Bob Woodward's recent book, "Obama's Wars," Chinese hackers penetrated the campaign computers of the Barack Obama and John McCain presidential campaigns, prompting the Bush White House to advise both camps to take countermeasures to protect their data.

Related article: China web hijacking shows Net at risk

As Lynn presented the problem in his article, the penetrations of U.S. military data are growing "exponentially," one of the key reasons the Pentagon recently set up the United States Cyber Command to beef up defenses.

"Every day, U.S. military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times and scanned millions of times," Lynn wrote. "Adversaries have acquired thousands of files from U.S. networks and from the networks of U.S. allies and industry partners, including weapons blueprints, operational plans and surveillance data."

So far, it is unclear whether Poo’s alleged hacking created any comparable compromise of sensitive U.S. government data. Federal prosecutors allege that he hacked into the Federal Reserve computers in Cleveland by transmitting "malicious" computer codes and commands and that the attack resulted in "thousands of dollars in damages" that affected "10 or more" Federal Reserve computers.
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But June Gates, a spokeswoman for the Federal Reserve in Cleveland, said the penetration was restricted to a network of "test" computers used for checking out new software and applications and did not contain sensitive Federal Reserve data about banks in the region. She declined, however, to respond to questions about whether Federal Reserve officials were aware of the hacking attack when it occurred in June — or only learned about it last month after Secret Service agents seized Poo’s computer.

Troop movements compromised?
Pentagon officials said Sunday they were unable to respond immediately to questions about whether Poo's hacking of the contractor's computers had compromised military troop movements. But spokesman Bryan Whitman said in an e-mailed statement to NBC News: "We are keenly aware that our networks are being probed everyday. That's precisely why we have a very robust and layered active defense to protect our networks and preserve our freedom of movement in this domain."

Another critical question is whether Poo was working with a larger hacking network and, if so, who may have been a part of it. The indictment against him alleges that he acted "together with others." But the indictment does not identify any co-conspirators. It also does not indicate what Poo expected to do with the data he may have accessed by hacking into the Pentagon contractor computers. [ Click here to read the indictment in PDF format.]

Baumgartner, the computer crime expert, said that so far the information about Poo hacking into military contractor and Federal Reserve computers does not seem to square with the seemingly run-of-the-mill purpose behind his acquisition of stolen credit card and ATM data. He was arrested hours after his arrival at JFK when undercover Secret Service agents observed him allegedly selling stolen credit numbers for $1,000 at a diner in Brooklyn.
"It doesn’t add up," Baumgartner said. "This doesn't fit with a profile of somebody from overseas that has infiltrated a defense contractor and the Federal Reserve."

So far, almost nothing is known about who Poo really is, what his motivations are, and who his accomplices might be. But Baumgartner said he believes "that there's a lot more to do this story that hasn't come out."
23668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Reagan on: November 22, 2010, 07:15:14 PM
"Two hundred years ago, the Congress of the United States issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation stating that it was 'the indispensable duty of all nations' to offer both praise and supplication to God. Above all other nations of the world, America has been especially blessed and should give special thanks. We have bountiful harvests, abundant freedoms, and a strong, compassionate people. I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love of faith and freedom. Our pioneers asked that He would work His will in our daily lives so America would be a land of morality, fairness, and freedom. Today we have more to be thankful for than our pilgrim mothers and fathers who huddled on the edge of the New World that first Thanksgiving Day could ever dream. We should be grateful not only for our blessings, but for the courage and strength of our ancestors which enable us to enjoy the lives we do today. Let us reaffirm through prayers and actions our thankfulness for America's bounty and heritage." --Ronald Reagan

23669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 07:06:39 PM

I will be interested to read GM's response to that.


Thank you for your offerings in response to my request for citations of efficacy; that said they are less than I look for.  In them I see only assertions of efficacy by people whom I do not necessarily trust 100%.  It seems to me it would be very simple to have someone strap on something imitating an underwear bomb and making a cliip of what it looks like on the scanner.   30-60 seconds on youtube should be enough.  smiley
"The 2001 law creating the TSA gave airports the right to opt out of the TSA program in favor of private screeners after a two-year period. Now, with the TSA engulfed in controversy and hated by millions of weary and sometimes humiliated travelers, Rep. John Mica, the Republican who will soon be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is reminding airports that they have a choice. Mica, one of the authors of the original TSA bill, has recently written to the heads of more than 150 airports nationwide suggesting they opt out of TSA screening. 'When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees,' Mica writes. 'TSA has grown larger, more impersonal, and administratively top-heavy. I believe it is important that airports across the country consider utilizing the opt-out provision provided by law.' In addition to being large, impersonal, and top-heavy, what really worries critics is that the TSA has become dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what those critics call 'security theater' -- that is, a show of what appear to be stringent security measures designed to make passengers feel more secure without providing real security. 'That's exactly what it is,' says Mica. 'It's a big Kabuki dance.' Now, the dance has gotten completely out of hand." --columnist Byron York
"After Muslim terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria tried to detonate explosive material in his underwear over Detroit last Christmas, the government began requiring nude body scans at airports. The machines, which cannot detect chemicals or plastic, would not have caught the diaper bomber. So, again, no hijackers were stopped, but being able to see passengers in the nude boosted the morale of airport security personnel by 22 percent. After explosives were inserted in two ink cartridges and placed on a plane headed to the United States from the Muslim nation of Yemen, the government banned printer cartridges from all domestic flights, resulting in no improvement in airport security, while requiring ink cartridges who traveled to take Amtrak. So when the next Muslim terrorist, probably named Abdul Ahmed al Shehri, places explosives in his anal cavity, what is the government going to require then? ... Only because the terrorists are Muslims do we pretend not to notice who keeps trying to blow up our planes. ... If the government did nothing more than have a five-minute conversation with the one passenger per flight born outside the U.S., you'd need 90 percent fewer Transportation Security Administration agents and airlines would be far safer than they are now. Instead, Napolitano just keeps ordering more invasive searches of all passengers, without exception -- except members of Congress and government officials, who get VIP treatment, so they never know what she's doing to the rest of us." --columnist Ann Coulter

23670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Ireland on: November 22, 2010, 04:48:39 PM
Dispatch: The Irish Bailout and Germany's Opportunity
November 22, 2010 | 2220 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Analyst Marko Papic examines the EU-IMF bailout of Ireland and the opportunities it may present for Germany.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

The EU and the IMF have come to an agreement with Ireland to provide Dublin with between €80 and €90 billion worth of loans. The bailout will be conditioned on Ireland pushing through a budget deficit reduction plan that will seek to bring the budget deficit under 3% of GDP as mandated by the Eurozone fiscal rules.

The terms of the bailout deal are still being revealed but what seems to be clear at this point is that the Irish low corporate tax rate will remain the same. At 12.5% the Irish corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in Europe and has really been the point of contention between Ireland and its larger EU member states. Countries like France have for long time focused on the Irish corporate tax rate in the argued that it gives Dublin an unfair competitive advantage over continental economies and that Ireland has been able to attract investors into Ireland with it’s low corporate rate. However behind this criticism is also a perception in Paris but also in Berlin that the low corporate tax rate has allowed Ireland to also be independent and to be independent-minded, however Dublin is fully funded until mid-2011 and therefore it felt that it was able to protect its corporate tax rate in the negotiations for the bailout right now, it felt it had an upper hand so to say.

What has happened now is that Germany seems to have withdrawn the corporate tax rate as one of the conditions for the bailout and has therefore allowed Ireland to keep it for the time being. Germany and France will take a wait-and-see approach with Ireland on this thorny issue and will wait for Ireland to slip up on the terms of its bailout bringing up the corporate tax rate perhaps at some later point in the future.

For Germany the bailout is another opportunity. First it allows Berlin to illustrates to the markets the effectiveness of the European Financial Stability Fund the EFSF which has about €440 billion plus the IMF money that brings it up to €750 billion. Now the fund was specifically designed to bail out Ireland, Portugal and Spain if the need arose. Now Ireland is falling down which means that Portugal could very will be next but the Portuguese needs would not be anymore to those of Ireland and Greece. And therefore the FSF has more than enough to handle both Ireland and Portugal however if Madrid also taps the EFSF the euro zone and Berlin may soon find themselves without any more ammunition in their clip to deal with further crises.

Ultimately Germany does not feel that the current crisis is one of existential nature. On one hand the uncertainty about the Eurozone and its’ markets means that the Euro is trading lower which helps German exports immensely. Furthermore Germany is using the opportunity of the crisis to redesign the European Union and its institutions and especially Eurozone fiscal rules and enforcement mechanisms of those rules. The real test for Eurozone therefore is not the panic level in Madrid or Lisbon or Dublin rather to what extent are the policymakers in Berlin concened.

23671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 12:43:01 PM
a) that former DHS head Chertkoff (sp?) lobbied for the Rapiscan scanners? and/or

GM Having people leave either elected or appointed office to then lobby for private industry is nothing new.

Marc:   Neither is corruption, the possibility of which is the point of my question.

b) assertions that they do not spot items such as the Crispy Weiner bomber's bombs?

GM: To determine that, we'd need to experiment with the backscatter device as it's used by TSA. I don't know that the critics have done that.

Marc:  Nor am I aware of data showing that these things WOULD pick up Crispy Weiner bombs.   You frequently amaze me with your ability to come up with citations for your positions.    Please feel free to amaze me again.  smiley

23672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 11:53:13 AM

What do you make of

a) that former DHS head Chertkoff (sp?) lobbied for the Rapiscan scanners? and/or
b) assertions that they do not spot items such as the Crispy Weiner bomber's bombs?
c) Also, what about the use of dogs instead of radiation and groping?
23673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LEDs on: November 22, 2010, 09:24:49 AM
I think LEDs (new kind of hi tech light) are going to be a VERY strong sector and have what are for me some very large postions.  The sector had a huge run up  grin and recently gave a goodly portion of it back.  cry    My belief in this hypothesis is such that I added more.  Biggest position is CREE.  Others are AIXG, RBCN, and PWER.  Some of these are not pure LED plays. 

IMHO (and I have been wrong plenty) it is still a very good time to get in on these.  RBCN has been the subject of intense shorting and the shorts may be about to get stuffed worse than by a TSA groping  cheesy  DO YOUR OWN DILIGENCE, ONLY YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU.

The very savvy David Gordon writes:

"Oh, sure, I get that the bears conceded a great Q3 but wait, they say, for a terrible Q4. Except, Q4 is half-complete, and my tracking indicia show yet another phenomenal quarter. (Caveat: for a company of Rubicon’s size, teeny, one order postponement could put a serious damper on a quarter’s revenues.) So what we have is a stock in an intermediate term correction, which you and I hope and prefer to be an intermediate term base.

"While to my eye RBCN’s chart did not presage an upside “sling-shot” I would have preferred it had not reversed and declined as it has. I know one thing: granted sufficient time, RBCN will be much higher than today’s close and much higher than its all time high.

btw, a bottom is not the low trade but a process that unfolds over time.

■  says:
November 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm
What do these short traders know or are they soon to be creamed?

Stocks With Huge Short Interests (RBCN, BPI, GAP, CONN)

"Rubicon Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: RBCN) has approximately 60% of its float sold short, as of November 9.
Rubicon is a semiconductor company, trading at just over 10 times next years earnings, so it’s not expensive at all. The company has traded in a wide range in the past year, from $13.68 to $35.90, so shares are fairly volatile.

Read more:

■ dmg says:
November 17, 2010 at 4:40 am
File the question, Patrick, under “What’s wrong with this picture?” 

"The shorts remain convinced that RBCN cannot, will not, sustain its revenues and earnings. Oops, but the company has to date. So the shorts argue now that its margins are unsustainable, and emphasize that everyone will see this truth in the next earnings (Q4) report. Except my channel checks show that this argument (declining margins to occur NOW) also incorrect. The initial glimmers of intermediate term bases for the group begin to proliferate — first AIXG and VECO, now CREE — grants succor to the investor. Only RBCN continues to suck swamp water. But for how much longer…?

"Imagine or pretend you are not already long the shares. Piece together the puzzle and ask yourself, “Does the decline, and possible i/t base, offer itself as opportunity to invest?” I know my answer. And I believe the market offers its clues. I gain confidence by the action of the group AND RBCN’s patterns in its larger periodicities (weekly and monthly bars).

23674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / But , , , we didn't think they really meant it , , , on: November 22, 2010, 08:18:08 AM

Pupils at Islamic schools across the country are being taught to chop off a criminal's hand and that Jews are conspiring to take over the world, a BBC investigation claimed on Monday.

Up to 5,000 pupils aged between six and 18 are being taught Sharia law punishments using "weekend-school" text-books which claim those who do not believe in Islam will be subjected to "hellfire" in death, the Panorama programme said.

A text book for 15-year-olds advises: "For thieves their hands will be cut off for a first offence, and their foot for a subsequent offence."

"The specified punishment of the thief is cutting off his right hand at the wrist. Then it is cauterised to prevent him from bleeding to death," it added.

Young pupils are warned that the punishment for engaging in homosexual acts is death by stoning, burning with fire or throwing off a cliff and that the "main goal" of the Jews is to "have control over the world and its resources."

The schools are part of the "Saudi Students Clubs and Schools in the UK and Ireland" organisation. The BBC investigation claimed that one school in London is owned by the Saudi government.

Education Minister Michael Gove told the BBC programme: "I have no desire or wish to intervene in the decisions that the Saudi government makes in its own education system.

"But I?m clear that we cannot have anti-Semitic material of any kind being used in English schools. Ofsted (Britain's education watchdog) will be reporting to me shortly."
23675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now, that's a big satellite , , , on: November 22, 2010, 08:06:24 AM

National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) released a press note saying that the Air Force has launched its spy satellite from Cape Canaveral station on Sunday at 5:58 p.m.

The satellite is being dubbed as the largest satellite in the world. More details were not given as it is a classified mission.

The unmanned 23-story rocket carried the classified spy satellite.

Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, commander 45th Space Wing of the Air Force, said that this mission will help them in strengthening the national defense.

“Experts believe that the secret payload is a satellite capable of listening to a variety of transmissions from around the world. Such a satellite would have giant antennas stretching up to the size of a football field.
”Rocket launch faced many delays
The satellite, called NROL-32, had to face a series of delays due to technical problems.

The latest was a fault in the pair of temperature sensors, which delayed the Nov. 19 launch.

The 235 feet Delta 4 rocket is actually made up of three boosters, providing 2 million pounds of thrust and making it the most powerful rocket in service.

The rocket is made by United Launch Alliance, which is a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed. It made its first flight in 2004.

The rocket is capable of carrying payloads up to 24 tons in to low Earth orbit and 11 tons in geosynchronous orbits, which is used by communication satellites.

Experts believe that the secret payload is a satellite capable of listening to a variety of transmissions from around the world. Such a satellite would have giant antennas stretching up to the size of a football field.

Cloudy skies denied the spectacular show to the observers that could have been made more splendid by the rising moon.

But Florida residents doesn't need to be disappointed as they may be able to see space shuttle Discovery blast off on its final flight on Dec. 3, this year.

Satellite termed crucial for national defense
NRO Director Bruce Carlson said in press release that this is the most aggressive launch NRO had in the last 20 years.

He added that the new satellites are necessary for the new missions of NRO and will replace the existing ones before they fail.

“Now when I buy something people complain about how expensive it is, but nobody ever complains when it’s time to die and keep right on ticking,” Carlson a former general of the Air Force added. “We bought most of our satellites for three, five or eight years and we keep them in orbit for ten, twelve and up to twenty years.”

23676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Look at the bright side on: November 21, 2010, 10:19:18 PM
23677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: November 21, 2010, 10:15:05 PM
OK, , , but this is English, not Hebrew.  I can tell because I know I can't read or speak Hebrew, but I can read this. cheesy
23678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: November 21, 2010, 07:03:26 PM
"The soul is liberated from the body and returns closer to her source than ever before. , , , If the soul has become entrenched in material pleasures, she experiences the pain of ripping herself away from them so that she can experience the infinitely higher pleasure of basking in G-dly light. If she is soiled and injured by acts that sundered her from her true self while below, then she must be cleansed and healed. On the other hand, the good deeds and wisdom she has gained on her mission below serve as a protection for her journey upwards."

Why the use of the feminine pronouns here?
23679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Charleston, SC 1860 on: November 21, 2010, 01:19:41 PM
As he stepped gingerly from a launch onto the wharf, few of those watching could have imagined that this man would, within a matter of weeks, become the most famous military officer in America. None, surely, could have guessed that women would soon beg for locks of that meticulously combed gray hair, or that woodcuts of that bland, impassive face would appear on the front pages of magazines around the nation and across the Atlantic.

Everything about him seemed middling. He was in his fifties, of intermediate rank, medium height and moderate demeanor; circumspect in his political opinions; pleasant-mannered but lacking in charm; handsome without the slightest degree of magnetism. He was known in the service mainly – to the extent that he was known at all – for having translated certain French artillery textbooks into English. Even his name was nondescript, easily forgettable: Maj. Robert Anderson.

Library of Congress
Robert AndersonAnd yet here was the person to whom the United States government had just entrusted one of the most delicate military and political assignments in American history: command of the federal garrison in Charleston Harbor, the very epicenter of the exploding secession crisis. Perhaps more than any man except Abraham Lincoln himself, Anderson would set the course of events in the months ahead, and would make decisions that fixed the country on a path toward war or peace.

Within a fortnight after Lincoln’s election, everyone in America was aware that South Carolina would soon attempt to leave the Union; its legislature had already set a date for a “secession convention” in less than a month’s time. As soon as the formalities were complete, all federal property within the state’s borders would be, at least to the seceders’ eyes, subject to immediate confiscation. In particular, the three forts guarding Charleston Harbor – of which Anderson was about to take command on behalf of the United States – would immediately become foreign military bases within the sovereign Republic of South Carolina. Would they surrender peacefully – or, by resisting, bring war?

Luckily for the founding fathers of the nascent republic, those three citadels – Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter – “guarded” Charleston in only the most figurative sense. Waiting on Moultrie’s parade ground to welcome Anderson was a tiny detachment of soldiers that could scarcely even be termed a garrison: just two companies of barely 30 men each, not counting a small brass band.

And these were anything spit-and-polish troops. Their outgoing commander, Lt. Col. John Gardner, 67 years old, had been shunted off to Fort Moultrie as a none-too-demanding spot where he could wind down an army career that had begun in the hazy days before the War of 1812. Not surprisingly, Gardner was far from a martinet, and his men spent more time attending local cotillions and barbecues than they did taking artillery practice. Drifts of sand half-covered Fort Moultrie’s outer walls; grazing cows sometimes wandered blithely across the battlements.

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.The two other two forts posed even less of a threat to the forces of secession. Fort Sumter, built on an artificial island in the harbor’s mouth, sat unfinished after decades of start-and-stop construction, and it housed just a few military engineers supervising some civilian workmen. Castle Pinckney, though its guns overlooked the town itself, was under the protection of but a single ordnance sergeant.

The cautious, temporizing administration of James Buchanan, the lame-duck president, may have appointed Anderson because he seemed as unthreatening as the forts themselves. Born in the border state of Kentucky, he detested secessionists and abolitionists in equal measure. The major personally owned no slaves, but his Georgia-born wife had inherited quite a number, whom she later sold off; Anderson once quipped dryly that “the increase of her darkies” had made him rich. He knew both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line well: his long career had seen him posted to Maine and Florida, New Jersey and Virginia. When the War Department plucked him out of the middle ranks of the officer corps for the Charleston appointment, he was serving on a commission to revise the curriculum at West Point, where he had once been an instructor.

Anderson had fought the Seminoles, led troops in the war with Mexico, and been brevetted for gallantry at Molino del Rey – but, as a devout Christian, he loved peace. Indeed, he loathed violence with the certitude of a man who had seen far too much of it already. The Buchanan administration believed it had found a soldier incapable of any rash act, one who would put no American lives at risk either to disrupt the Union or to defend it.

But the officers and men who welcomed Major Anderson to Charleston inspected their quiet new commander with searching eyes. They knew that in a certain sense, he – and they – would hold more power in the months ahead than President Buchanan himself. “The truth is we are the government at present,” one of them would soon write. “It rests upon the points of our swords. Shall we use our position to deluge the country in blood?”

23680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Von Mises on: November 21, 2010, 01:45:53 AM
This piece could go on the Economics thread on the SCH forum, but I put it here because of the reference to Glenn Beck-- who BTW IMHO had a fine week this week.

Nov 18th 2010

Taking von Mises to pieces

Why is the Austrian explanation for the crisis so little discussed?


JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES is back. The British economist has modern intellectual champions in Paul Krugman and Robert Skidelsky. For all today’s talk of austerity, a policy of Keynesian fiscal stimulus was adopted by most governments in the immediate aftermath of the credit crisis.


In contrast policymakers seem to show a lot less interest in the economic ideas of the “Austrian school” led by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who once battled Keynes for intellectual supremacy. Yet the more you think about recent events, the odder that neglect seems.


A one-paragraph explanation of the Austrian theory of business cycles would run as follows. Interest rates are held at too low a level, creating a credit boom. Low financing costs persuade entrepreneurs to fund too many projects. Capital is misallocated into wasteful areas. When the bust comes the economy is stuck with the burden of excess capacity, which then takes years to clear up.


Take that analysis piece by piece. Were interest rates held too low? The case seems self-evident for Ireland and Spain, where the European Central Bank was setting a one-size-fits-all monetary policy. Many people would also argue that the Federal Reserve kept rates too low. Some lay the housing boom of 2003-06 at the Fed’s door, others criticise the central bank’s tendency to slash rates whenever the financial markets wobbled.


Was capital misallocated? Again most people would accept that too many houses and apartments were built in Ireland and Spain, as well as individual American states like Florida and Nevada. In some places these dwellings may sit idle for a while, keeping downward pressure on property prices.


Economists who would not describe themselves as Austrian have reached conclusions that chime with Hayek. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, in their book “This Time is Different”, argued that past financial crises have been followed by long periods of sluggish growth. Hyman Minsky, an American economist who died in 1996, said that the financial cycle led to economic volatility. Long booms tended to result in excessive risk-taking and “Ponzi finance”, where investors buy assets with borrowed money in the hope of quick capital gains. Minsky’s reputation has soared since the start of the credit crunch.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a very popular financial author thanks to his books “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan”. One of his principal ideas is the difficulty of forecasting given the role of chance and extreme events. That echoes the views of Hayek, who wrote that “the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”


The Austrians may have said smart things about the boom, but what about the bust? One criticism is that the Austrians offered a “counsel of despair”, suggesting that the authorities do nothing while a crisis blows itself out. At least the monetarists propose cutting rates and expanding the money supply and the Keynesians promote deficit spending.


But Lawrence White, an economist at George Mason University in Washington, DC, argues that this is an unfair characterisation. “Hayek was not a liquidationist,” he says, referring to the philosophy of Andrew Mellon, President Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era treasury secretary, who wanted to “purge the rottenness out of the system”. Hayek believed the central bank should aim to stabilise nominal incomes. On that basis Mr White thinks the Fed was right to pursue the first round of quantitative easing, since nominal GDP was falling, but wrong to pursue a second round with activity recovering.


Mr White is one of the few current economists to promote the Austrian approach. This may be because economists divided into Keynesians and monetarists in the 1970s. You might think that the Austrians would find common cause with the monetarists. But Milton Friedman rejected their analysis, stating in 1998 that: “The Austrian business-cycle theory has done the world a great deal of harm.” Efficient-market theorists disliked the Austrians because they appeared to assume that businessmen could act irrationally.


The libertarian streak of the Austrians still has its fans. Glenn Beck, a lachrymose Fox News pundit, turned Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” into an unlikely bestseller earlier this year. Being associated with Mr Beck will not persuade many academics to take Austrian economic ideas seriously. Given the repeated credit booms and busts of the past 40 years, that may be a pity.
23681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New Nork nuke plant on: November 21, 2010, 01:29:14 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Sat, November 20, 2010 -- 9:00 PM ET

North Koreans Unveil New Plant for Nuclear Use

North Korea showed a visiting American nuclear scientist last
week a vast new facility it secretly and rapidly built to
enrich uranium, confronting the Obama administration with the
prospect that the country is preparing to expand its nuclear
arsenal or build a far more powerful type of atomic bomb.

Whether the calculated revelation is a negotiating ploy by
North Korea or a signal that it plans to accelerate its
weapons program even as it goes through a perilous leadership
change, it creates a new challenge for President Obama.

The scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who
previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said
in an interview that he had been "stunned" by the
sophistication of the new plant.

Read More:
23682  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Vancouver January 29-20 on: November 20, 2010, 04:23:41 PM
PS:  Loki/Tricky Dog - Maelstrom Martial Arts - 604.908.5833

23683  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Vancouver January 29-30 on: November 20, 2010, 04:22:24 PM
Woof All:

I am delighted to announce my return to Vancouver, once again to be hosted by my good friend Tricky Dog.  The seminar will be held at  

More info to follow soon.

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
23684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Preaching to the choir around here on: November 20, 2010, 04:00:22 PM
Government Strangles High-Tech Growth
Published on August 28, 2010 by Ernest Istook

The CEO of Intel has joined the ranks of those labeling big government as
the cause of our economic slump, not the solution.
Paul Otellini says it already costs Intel an extra billion dollars to build
a microchip plant in the U.S., rather than overseas. In his illustration,
it's an extra 25% to create a $4 billion facility.
He told this to an Aspen gathering of the Technology Policy Institute,
adding that government is killing America's leadership for jobs of tomorrow.
Otellini said, "We seemed a generation ahead of the rest of the world in
information technology. That simply is no longer the case."
While promoting education, research, favorable trade policies, and broadband
expansion, he made it clear that tax policies are key--policies that are the
opposite of what Congress and the Obama Administration are promoting:
As CNET reported on his speech, "Take factories. 'I can tell you
definitively that it costs costs1 billion more per factory for me to build,
equip, and operate a semiconductor manufacturing facility in the United
States,' Otellini said. The rub: Ninety percent of that additional cost of a
$4 billion factory is not labor but the cost to comply with taxes and
regulations that other nations don't impose."
How do we get companies to expand in America rather than overseas? The Intel
CEO explained, "Adjust the U.S. corporate tax rate to a rate that is
competitive world-wide. At Intel, we generate 75% of our revenue and much of
our profit abroad. The U.S. tax treatment of that income makes it extremely
expensive to repatriate that profit and invest here. If our tax rate
approached the rest of the world, corporations would have a natural
incentive to invest here given many of the natural advantages that exist in
this country."
He suggested lowering the rate to 25%. That reduction echoes a Heritage
Foundation proposal in its "Solutions for America," which recommends, "The
U.S. corporate tax rate should be set at or below the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development average of 26% to eliminate the
incentive to move businesses and jobs overseas."
Otellini also stressed the need not to penalize companies when they
repatriate their foreign earnings and bring them back to the U.S. He's
joined by many others in the high-tech community who warn that what some
call "closing tax loopholes" actually hurts the ability to create jobs in
America. Sybase CEO John Chen has written, "President Barack Obama has
proposed to raise taxes on the international operations of U.S. businesses.
There is one thing the proposal can effectively achieve: make the United
States an even less friendly place to do business, and thus delay the
economic recovery. . . . Although intended to keep investments and jobs from
leaving our country, in the long run the measures in the proposal will drive
investments away, and kill jobs in the U.S."
The high-tech sector's complaints are part of a growing chorus from job
creators who describe how Washington is smothering economic growth.
The Business Roundtable sent a 50-page letter to the White House describing
how Obama's agenda is stifling growth and killing jobs. A GOP letter
complained of 191 intended rules and regulations that EACH would impose
$100-million or more of growth-killing cost burdens on businesses.
Worried about what their own government is doing to them, businesses
continue to sit on a $1.8-trillion cash stockpile, holding it back for the
extra costs they face from more taxes and more regulation.
The White House happy talk of a "Recovery Summer" grates like nails on a
blackboard. That rhetoric collapses with news that second quarter growth was
at a 1.6% annual rate--less than half the first quarter rate and well below
original White House numbers.
To put America back to work, it's time to heed those who create jobs, rather
than politicians who create more government. Intel and others should not
face a $1-billion hurdle to expanding in the USA instead of overseas.
Former Congressman Ernest Istook is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage

23685  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bruises on: November 20, 2010, 03:55:41 PM
Linda "Bitch" Matsumi recommends these:
23686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't mess with Texas on: November 20, 2010, 03:44:18 PM
23687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-11 on: November 20, 2010, 03:36:30 PM
OMII is back home in the USA.  Welcome home! cool
23688  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Flying Car on: November 20, 2010, 01:28:07 PM
I've been in a few traffic jams where this would have been handy , , ,
23689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 19, 2010, 06:27:28 PM
Glenn Beck says that former DHS head Chertkoff (sp?) is a lobbyist for the company that makes the scanners (Rapiscan) and that George Soros until 3 days ago had 11,000 shares.

Also, that Europe uses dogs just fine to solve the same challenges.
23690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Allman Bros: Whipping Post with very good quality video on: November 19, 2010, 06:25:08 PM
23691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And so it goes , , , on: November 19, 2010, 10:41:46 AM

Around the Nation: Latinos Now Majority in CA Schools
Thanks to an immigration influx and a higher Latino birth rate, the state of California announced last week that Latinos are now an absolute majority among California public school students. That news was greeted by advice for Latino parents by UC-Berkeley professor of education and public policy Bruce Fuller: Their influence will only grow as they realize the schools they attend are underfunded. Leave it to a UC-Berkeley professor to forget, conveniently, that California schools just received an extra infusion of $1.2 billion from the federal government prior to the start of the school year. It's also worth pointing out that only around 60 percent of those Latino parents are currently able to vote, since many are here illegally with their children now attending public schools.

Add in the fact that illegal immigrant children are able to attend California's public university system for just the cost of in-state tuition, and it's small wonder that outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who promised to terminate the $15 billion deficit he was handed in 2004, is leaving behind a budget hole that's grown to more than $25 billion. Of course, it could also have something to do with this list of California agencies sucking the state dry.

Given the state's fiscal disaster and high unemployment, perhaps the main reason Latinos are now the majority in the state's schools is that 5,000 legal American citizens are fleeing the state each week. It's a trend that shows few signs of abating.

23692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta on: November 19, 2010, 10:40:03 AM
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta
In a ceremony at the White House Tuesday, United States Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta became the first living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the account of Giunta's actions, click here.

Of Giunta, Wall Street Journal columnist and former Bush speechwriter William McGurn wrote, "When we think of military heroism, we may think of Rambos decorated for great damage inflicted on the enemy. In fact, the opposite is true. Every Medal of Honor from these wars has been for an effort to save life. Even more telling, each specifically recognizes bravery that cannot be commanded."

"On that ridge in Afghanistan, Salvatore Giunta could not save his sergeant," McGurn continued. "But he did deprive the enemy of its victory -- and death of some of its sting. ... [A] fellow soldier (who earned a Silver Star in the same firefight) put it this way. 'The last thing [Sgt. Josh] Brennan ever saw was us,' says Sgt. Erick Gallardo. 'You know, he saw us fighting for him. ... We fought for him and he's home with his family now because of that.' It's a soldier's gift. Because of Sgt. Giunta, the family of Josh Brennan know that when their loved one breathed his last, he did so knowing he was among friends willing to put their own lives at risk for him." A fine gift, indeed. Thank you, Staff Sgt. Giunta, for your service to our great country.

23693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WTH, it was only 18 minutes , , , on: November 19, 2010, 10:33:45 AM
Internet Traffic from U.S. Government Websites Was Redirected Via Chinese Servers

By Joshua Rhett Miller

Published November 16, 2010

When 15 percent of the world's Internet traffic -- including the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates office, the Senate and several U.S. government agencies — was redirected last April onto computer routers in China, it also may have left the sites vulnerable to surveillance — or worse.

Nearly 15 percent of the world's Internet traffic -- including data from the Pentagon, the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other U.S. government websites -- was briefly redirected through computer networks in China last April, according to a congressional commission report obtained by

It was not immediately clear whether the incident was deliberate, but the April 18 redirection could have enabled malicious activities and potentially caused an unintended "diversion of data" from many U.S. government, military and commercial websites, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission states in a 316-page report to Congress.

A draft copy of the report was obtained on Tuesday by The final 2010 annual report to Congress will be released during a press conference in Washington on Wednesday.

According to the draft report, a state-owned Chinese telecommunications firm, China Telecom, "hijacked" massive volumes of Internet traffic during the 18-minute incident. It affected traffic to and from .gov and .mil websites in the United States, as well as websites for the Senate, all four military services, the office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and "many others," including websites for firms like Dell, Yahoo, IBM and Microsoft.

"Although the Commission has no way to determine what, if anything, Chinese telecommunications firms did to the hijacked data, incidents of this nature could have a number of serious implications," the report reads. "This level of access could enable surveillance of specific users or sites."

Citing a separate cyberattack against Google's operations in China earlier this year, the report notes China's history of "malicious computer activities" that "raise questions about whether China might seek intentionally to leverage these abilities to assert some level of control over the Internet, even for a brief period."

The report continues, "Any attempt to do this would likely be counter to the interests of the United States and other countries. At the very least, these incidents demonstrate the inherent vulnerabilities in the Internet's architecture that can affect all Internet users and beneficiaries at home and abroad."

Chris Smoak, a research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, said, whether intentional or accidental, incidents like the one on April 18 occur "two or three times a year" as large amounts of data are routed through multiple nations. He declined to indicate whether he believes the incident was deliberate.

"There's no way to really say," Smoak said. "Due to the short duration, it's very difficult to say."

Smoak said security vulnerabilities pertaining to Internet routing processes is one of the more "unfortunate aspects" of the digital age.

"They weren't designed with security in mind, they were designed with performance in mind and the end result," he said referring to the routing system. "We're very susceptible in that anyone could do this at any time."

The report details how the Internet routing process is susceptible to manipulation and lists how the exchange of data between networking equipment typically relies on "trust-based" transactions.

The report reads: "If a computer user in California, for example, seeks to visit a website hosted in Texas, the data would likely make several 'hops' (that is, transit multiple servers) along the way," the report reads. "Data are supposed to travel along the most efficient route. However, Internet infrastructure does not necessarily correlate to the geographical world in a predictable way, so it would be unusual for data to transit a server physically located in Georgia, or some other somewhat removed location."

The process, however, could be subject to manipulation if networking equipment in a remote location, such as China, advertised a route claiming to be the most efficient data path. Effectively, Smoak said, the servers will try to get the information to its destination by the fastest means possible, but the data could conceivably be censored or changed altogether.

"It's an unfortunate aspect of the technology we use today," Smoak said. "It's all based on trust."

Sam Masiello, director of threat management at McAfee, said the security breach could have been potentially "very damaging" given the large amounts of data transferred across the Internet every second.

"It could potentially be very damaging, the reason being you don't know what traffic was being routed to those servers at the time," Masiello told "But if you're the criminal, how do you identify [sensitive information]? It's like trying to find a very small needle in a very, very large haystack."

Masiello said he did not find any evidence leading him to believe that the incident was intentional, but noted increasing number of cyberattacks emanating from China.

"We've certainly seen a lot of Internet crime coming out of China and a lot of criminals that are based out of China, but as far as an actual link back to China Telecom, it's very difficult to say," Masiello said. "Who's to say criminals did not get into China Telecom? But the fact of the matter remains, we've seen a lot of cybercrime emanating out of China in the past year."

Regardless of the intention behind the breach, Masiello concluded: "This type of attack shows there is a vulnerability in the Internet system, even if someone if able to hijack it for a very short period of time."

23694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NY Times: This is your brain on metaphors on: November 19, 2010, 10:02:17 AM
Despite rumors to the contrary, there are many ways in which the human brain isn’t all that fancy. Let’s compare it to the nervous system of a fruit fly. Both are made up of cells, of course, with neurons playing particularly important roles. Now one might expect that a neuron from a human will differ dramatically from one from a fly. Maybe the human’s will have especially ornate ways of communicating with other neurons, making use of unique “neurotransmitter” messengers. Maybe compared to the lowly fly neuron, human neurons are bigger, more complex, in some way can run faster and jump higher.

We study hard to get admitted to a top college to get a good job to get into the nursing home of our choice. Gophers don’t do that.
.But no. Look at neurons from the two species under a microscope and they look the same. They have the same electrical properties, many of the same neurotransmitters, the same protein channels that allow ions to flow in and out, as well as a remarkably high number of genes in common. Neurons are the same basic building blocks in both species.

So where’s the difference? It’s numbers — humans have roughly one million neurons for each one in a fly. And out of a human’s 100 billion neurons emerge some pretty remarkable things. With enough quantity, you generate quality.

Erin Schell
 Neuroscientists understand the structural bases of some of these qualities. Take language, that uniquely human behavior. Underlining it are structures unique to the human brain — regions like “Broca’s area,” which specializes in language production. Then there’s the brain’s “extrapyramidal system,” which is involved in fine motor control. The complexity of the human version allows us to do something that, say, a polar bear, could never accomplish — sufficiently independent movement of digits to play a trill on the piano, for instance. Particularly striking is the human frontal cortex. While occurring in all mammals, the human version is proportionately bigger and denser in its wiring. And what is the frontal cortex good for? Emotional regulation, gratification postponement, executive decision-making, long-term planning. We study hard in high school to get admitted to a top college to get into grad school to get a good job to get into the nursing home of our choice. Gophers don’t do that.

There’s another domain of unique human skills, and neuroscientists are learning a bit about how the brain pulls it off.

Consider the following from J. Ruth Gendler’s wonderful “The Book of Qualities,” a collection of “character sketches” of different qualities, emotions and attributes:

Anxiety is secretive. He does not trust anyone, not even his friends, Worry, Terror, Doubt and Panic … He likes to visit me late at night when I am alone and exhausted. I have never slept with him, but he kissed me on the forehead once, and I had a headache for two years …


Compassion speaks with a slight accent. She was a vulnerable child, miserable in school, cold, shy … In ninth grade she was befriended by Courage. Courage lent Compassion bright sweaters, explained the slang, showed her how to play volleyball.

What is Gendler going on about? We know, and feel pleasure triggered by her unlikely juxtapositions. Despair has stopped listening to music. Anger sharpens kitchen knives at the local supermarket. Beauty wears a gold shawl and sells seven kinds of honey at the flea market. Longing studies archeology.

Symbols, metaphors, analogies, parables, synecdoche, figures of speech: we understand them. We understand that a captain wants more than just hands when he orders all of them on deck. We understand that Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” isn’t really about a cockroach. If we are of a certain theological ilk, we see bread and wine intertwined with body and blood. We grasp that the right piece of cloth can represent a nation and its values, and that setting fire to such a flag is a highly charged act. We can learn that a certain combination of sounds put together by Tchaikovsky represents Napoleon getting his butt kicked just outside Moscow. And that the name “Napoleon,” in this case, represents thousands and thousands of soldiers dying cold and hungry, far from home.

And we even understand that June isn’t literally busting out all over. It would seem that doing this would be hard enough to cause a brainstorm. So where did this facility with symbolism come from? It strikes me that the human brain has evolved a necessary shortcut for doing so, and with some major implications.

A single part of the brain processes both physical and psychic pain.
.Consider an animal (including a human) that has started eating some rotten, fetid, disgusting food. As a result, neurons in an area of the brain called the insula will activate. Gustatory disgust. Smell the same awful food, and the insula activates as well. Think about what might count as a disgusting food (say, taking a bite out of a struggling cockroach). Same thing.

Now read in the newspaper about a saintly old widow who had her home foreclosed by a sleazy mortgage company, her medical insurance canceled on flimsy grounds, and got a lousy, exploitative offer at the pawn shop where she tried to hock her kidney dialysis machine. You sit there thinking, those bastards, those people are scum, they’re worse than maggots, they make me want to puke … and your insula activates. Think about something shameful and rotten that you once did … same thing. Not only does the insula “do” sensory disgust; it does moral disgust as well. Because the two are so viscerally similar. When we evolved the capacity to be disgusted by moral failures, we didn’t evolve a new brain region to handle it. Instead, the insula expanded its portfolio.

Or consider pain. Somebody pokes your big left toe with a pin. Spinal reflexes cause you to instantly jerk your foot back just as they would in, say, a frog. Evolutionarily ancient regions activate in the brain as well, telling you about things like the intensity of the pain, or whether it’s a sharp localized pain or a diffuse burning one. But then there’s a fancier, more recently evolved brain region in the frontal cortex called the anterior cingulate that’s involved in the subjective, evaluative response to the pain. A piranha has just bitten you? That’s a disaster. The shoes you bought are a size too small? Well, not as much of a disaster.

Now instead, watch your beloved being poked with the pin. And your anterior cingulate will activate, as if it were you in pain. There’s a neurotransmitter called Substance P that is involved in the nuts and bolts circuitry of pain perception. Administer a drug that blocks the actions of Substance P to people who are clinically depressed, and they often feel better, feel less of the world’s agonies. When humans evolved the ability to be wrenched with feeling the pain of others, where was it going to process it? It got crammed into the anterior cingulate. And thus it “does” both physical and psychic pain.

Another truly interesting domain in which the brain confuses the literal and metaphorical is cleanliness. In a remarkable study, Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto and Katie Liljenquist of Northwestern University demonstrated how the brain has trouble distinguishing between being a dirty scoundrel and being in need of a bath. Volunteers were asked to recall either a moral or immoral act in their past. Afterward, as a token of appreciation, Zhong and Liljenquist offered the volunteers a choice between the gift of a pencil or of a package of antiseptic wipes. And the folks who had just wallowed in their ethical failures were more likely to go for the wipes. In the next study, volunteers were told to recall an immoral act of theirs. Afterward, subjects either did or did not have the opportunity to clean their hands. Those who were able to wash were less likely to respond to a request for help (that the experimenters had set up) that came shortly afterward. Apparently, Lady Macbeth and Pontius Pilate weren’t the only ones to metaphorically absolve their sins by washing their hands.

This potential to manipulate behavior by exploiting the brain’s literal-metaphorical confusions about hygiene and health is also shown in a study by Mark Landau and Daniel Sullivan of the University of Kansas and Jeff Greenberg of the University of Arizona. Subjects either did or didn’t read an article about the health risks of airborne bacteria. All then read a history article that used imagery of a nation as a living organism with statements like, “Following the Civil War, the United States underwent a growth spurt.” Those who read about scary bacteria before thinking about the U.S. as an organism were then more likely to express negative views about immigration.

Another example of how the brain links the literal and the metaphorical comes from a study by Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado and John Bargh of Yale. Volunteers would meet one of the experimenters, believing that they would be starting the experiment shortly. In reality, the experiment began when the experimenter, seemingly struggling with an armful of folders, asks the volunteer to briefly hold their coffee. As the key experimental manipulation, the coffee was either hot or iced. Subjects then read a description of some individual, and those who had held the warmer cup tended to rate the individual as having a warmer personality, with no change in ratings of other attributes.

Another brilliant study by Bargh and colleagues concerned haptic sensations (I had to look the word up — haptic: related to the sense of touch). Volunteers were asked to evaluate the resumes of supposed job applicants where, as the critical variable, the resume was attached to a clipboard of one of two different weights. Subjects who evaluated the candidate while holding the heavier clipboard tended to judge candidates to be more serious, with the weight of the clipboard having no effect on how congenial the applicant was judged. After all, we say things like “weighty matter” or “gravity of a situation.”

What are we to make of the brain processing literal and metaphorical versions of a concept in the same brain region? Or that our neural circuitry doesn’t cleanly differentiate between the real and the symbolic? What are the consequences of the fact that evolution is a tinkerer and not an inventor, and has duct-taped metaphors and symbols to whichever pre-existing brain areas provided the closest fit?

Jonathan Haidt, of the University of Virginia, has shown how viscera and emotion often drive our decisionmaking, with conscious cognition mopping up afterward, trying to come up with rationalizations for that gut decision. The viscera that can influence moral decisionmaking and the brain’s confusion about the literalness of symbols can have enormous consequences. Part of the emotional contagion of the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda arose from the fact that when militant Hutu propagandists called for the eradication of the Tutsi, they iconically referred to them as “cockroaches.” Get someone to the point where his insula activates at the mention of an entire people, and he’s primed to join the bloodletting.

More From The Stone
Read previous contributions to this series.
.But if the brain confusing reality and literalness with metaphor and symbol can have adverse consequences, the opposite can occur as well. At one juncture just before the birth of a free South Africa, Nelson Mandela entered secret negotiations with an Afrikaans general with death squad blood all over his hands, a man critical to the peace process because he led a large, well-armed Afrikaans resistance group. They met in Mandela’s house, the general anticipating tense negotiations across a conference table. Instead, Mandela led him to the warm, homey living room, sat beside him on a comfy couch, and spoke to him in Afrikaans. And the resistance melted away.

This neural confusion about the literal versus the metaphorical gives symbols enormous power, including the power to make peace. The political scientist and game theorist Robert Axelrod of the University of Michigan has emphasized this point in thinking about conflict resolution. For example, in a world of sheer rationality where the brain didn’t confuse reality with symbols, bringing peace to Israel and Palestine would revolve around things like water rights, placement of borders, and the extent of militarization allowed to Palestinian police. Instead, argues Axelrod, “mutual symbolic concessions” of no material benefit will ultimately make all the difference. He quotes a Hamas leader who says that for the process of peace to go forward, Israel must apologize for the forced Palestinians exile in 1948. And he quotes a senior Israeli official saying that for progress to be made, Palestinians need to first acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and to get their anti-Semitic garbage out of their textbooks.

Hope for true peace in the Middle East didn’t come with the news of a trade agreement being signed. It was when President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan attended the funeral of the murdered Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. That same hope came to the Northern Irish, not when ex-Unionist demagogues and ex-I.R.A. gunmen served in a government together, but when those officials publicly commiserated about each other’s family misfortunes, or exchanged anniversary gifts. And famously, for South Africans, it came not with successful negotiations about land reapportionment, but when black South Africa embraced rugby and Afrikaans rugby jocks sang the A.N.C. national anthem.

Nelson Mandela was wrong when he advised, “Don’t talk to their minds; talk to their hearts.” He meant talk to their insulas and cingulate cortices and all those other confused brain regions, because that confusion could help make for a better world.

(Robert Sapolsky’s essay is the subject of this week’s forum discussion among the humanists and scientists at On the Human, a project of the National Humanities Center.)

23695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Stuxnet update on: November 19, 2010, 09:54:39 AM
Tangent:  I wonder if the Chinese can do stuff like this to us?

Worm Was Perfect for Sabotaging Centrifuges
Published: November 18, 2010
Experts dissecting the computer worm suspected of being aimed at Iran’s nuclear program have determined that it was precisely calibrated in a way that could send nuclear centrifuges wildly out of control.

Their conclusion, while not definitive, begins to clear some of the fog around the Stuxnet worm, a malicious program detected earlier this year on computers, primarily in Iran but also India, Indonesia and other countries.

The paternity of the worm is still in dispute, but in recent weeks officials from Israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether Israel was behind the attack, or knew who was. American officials have suggested it originated abroad.

The new forensic work narrows the range of targets and deciphers the worm’s plan of attack. Computer analysts say Stuxnet does its damage by making quick changes in the rotational speed of motors, shifting them rapidly up and down.

Changing the speed “sabotages the normal operation of the industrial control process,” Eric Chien, a researcher at the computer security company Symantec, wrote in a blog post.

Those fluctuations, nuclear analysts said in response to the report, are a recipe for disaster among the thousands of centrifuges spinning in Iran to enrich uranium, which can fuel reactors or bombs. Rapid changes can cause them to blow apart. Reports issued by international inspectors reveal that Iran has experienced many problems keeping its centrifuges running, with hundreds removed from active service since summer 2009.

“We don’t see direct confirmation” that the attack was meant to slow Iran’s nuclear work, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview Thursday. “But it sure is a plausible interpretation of the available facts.”

Intelligence officials have said they believe that a series of covert programs are responsible for at least some of that decline. So when Iran reported earlier this year that it was battling the Stuxnet worm, many experts immediately suspected that it was a state-sponsored cyberattack.

Until last week, analysts had said only that Stuxnet was designed to infect certain kinds of Siemens equipment used in a wide variety of industrial sites around the world.

But a study released Friday by Mr. Chien, Nicolas Falliere and Liam O. Murchu at Symantec, concluded that the program’s real target was to take over frequency converters, a type of power supply that changes its output frequency to control the speed of a motor.

The worm’s code was found to attack converters made by two companies, Fararo Paya in Iran and Vacon in Finland. A separate study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that finding, a senior government official said in an interview on Thursday.

Then, on Wednesday, Mr. Albright and a colleague, Andrea Stricker, released a report saying that when the worm ramped up the frequency of the electrical current supplying the centrifuges, they would spin faster and faster. The worm eventually makes the current hit 1,410 Hertz, or cycles per second — just enough, they reported, to send the centrifuges flying apart.

In a spooky flourish, Mr. Albright said in the interview, the worm ends the attack with a command to restore the current to the perfect operating frequency for the centrifuges — which, by that time, would presumably be destroyed.

“It’s striking how close it is to the standard value,” he said.

The computer analysis, his Wednesday report concluded, “makes a legitimate case that Stuxnet could indeed disrupt or destroy” Iranian centrifuge plants.

The latest evidence does not prove Iran was the target, and there have been no confirmed reports of industrial damage linked to Stuxnet. Converters are used to control a number of different machines, including lathes, saws and turbines, and they can be found in gas pipelines and chemical plants. But converters are also essential for nuclear centrifuges.

On Wednesday, the chief of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity center in Virginia, Sean McGurk, told a Senate committee that the worm was a “game changer” because of the skill with which it was composed and the care with which it was geared toward attacking specific types of equipment.

Meanwhile, the search for other clues in the Stuxnet program continues — and so do the theories about its origins.
23696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Is this the BJJ school? on: November 19, 2010, 08:39:58 AM
23697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ain't no sunshine , , , on: November 19, 2010, 08:02:38 AM
Dispatch: Koreas Refocusing Policy Postures
November 18, 2010 | 1938 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Following South Korea’s declaration that the Sunshine Policy has failed and North Korea threatening another nuclear test, Analyst Rodger Baker examines politics on the peninsula.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

The South Korean Unification Ministry’s latest white paper declares the Sunshine Policy a failure. The Sunshine Policy set up under former President Kim Dae Jung to encourage North Korea to change its behavior through friendly actions through economic assistance. The Unification Ministry said that this is been a failure, that the North Koreans have not changed their behavior, the North Korean population is no better off, and that it remains in effect a threat to South Korea.

As the South Koreans are reviewing their North Korean policies, the North Koreans appear to be ramping up for another nuclear test or at least making it appear that that’s what they’re doing. There are increasing reports from the region that there is activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site, and this is raising concerns that Pyongyang is going to carry out its third test.

The North Koreans have a reputation of raising the stakes before they reenter negotiations. What they will do is that they will use that to shape the discussions and shape the sense of immediacy. It brings people into the negotiations in a way where you want to deal with the immediate issue of the nuclear test, and other issues that are long-standing maybe take out second place. The North Koreans gain the benefit of going back to the status quo before they have to start stepping down from there.

As the North Koreans really try to solidify the new leadership, there is always a push for some grand and bold action to make it clear who’s in charge. When Kim Jong-Il came to power there was the Taepodong launch. With Kim Jong Un, it very well may be a nuclear test just to show that from the beginning he is strong, he is tough.

From the South perspective they’re looking at starting to take over security responsibility for the peninsula from the United States - you have changes in that dynamic with the U.S. defense relationship where really the two Koreas are our re-looking at each other. In North, you have the leadership transition underway, in the south we really moved beyond some of the past types of governments considered pro-North Korean. But also you have a new pressure building for both Koreas.

The Chinese have become much more assertive in their political behavior and even in their military behavior in the region. Japan is starting to wake up it seems - feeling threats from China, feeling threat from Russia. The United States is re-engaging in the region. And what happens when you have these large powers coming and pressing against each other in the Pacific region, very often where it all overlaps is the Korean peninsula. In southern Seoul and in Pyongyang, they’re feeling this increasing pressure, an increasing sense of concern for what historically they would’ve called the minnow between whales.

23698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NATO and other matters on: November 19, 2010, 07:55:23 AM
Senior Eurasia analyst Lauren Goodrich examines the prospects for this weekend’s crucial NATO summit in Lisbon on the alliance’s future.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Colin Chapman: NATO is at a crossroads. Friday and Saturday see the most important meeting of the organization since the end of the Cold War. The meeting to be held in the Portuguese capital Lisbon will be attended by the president of Russia for the first time. So does NATO face just a facelift or a transformation?

Welcome to Agenda. And joining me to discuss this is STRATFOR Senior Eurasia Analyst Lauren Goodrich. Lauren, the agenda looks very different at this NATO summit. It’s not going to be about Afghanistan, is it?

Lauren Goodrich: Not at all. This is the most critical NATO summit in over a decade because they’re going to be drafting the Strategic Concept Document. This Strategic Concept Document is pretty much the mission statement of NATO. It’s the third one drafted since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Strategic Concept during the Cold War, of course, was to contain the Soviets. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, the strategic concept changed to pretty much deal with the fall of the Soviet Union at first, and then shifted again in 1999 in order to expand NATO’s ability to intervene outside the Eurasian theatre. This allowed NATO to militarily intervene in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, etc… So now it’s time for the third strategic concept document to actually be drafted. This one is going to set what is NATO’s focus for the next decade. What is the threat for the next decade?

Chapman: So what is the threat in the next decade?

Goodrich: Well that’s the problem. You have 28 members now of NATO all with differing interests and different definitions of what a threat is. This is where we go into pretty much how NATO is divided into three camps.

The first camp is what I would call the Atlanticists – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark. The Atlanticists are interested in the non-Eurasian theatre. They want NATO to focus on the threats that we’ve seen recently such as the war in Afghanistan and nontraditional threats such as terrorism.

The second camp is actually the core Europeans led by the French and Germans. They are interested in limiting NATO, a leaner NATO, having the members not be as committed and limiting their ability to commit. And also having NATO work with other organizations such as the United Nations.

The third group within NATO which is the Intermarium states. This is the more interesting group because it’s newer NATO members - mainly the ones from Central Europe. What they see as a threat is what the core and the root level NATO theat was going back to the beginning of NATO - the Soviets. And the Central Europeans want NATO to focus back on the Russians.

Chapman: It’s called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but after this is it going to emerge as something completely different?

Goodrich: Well that depends on the Strategic Concept Document that’s drafted this weekend. But how do you draft a common document when you have so many diverging interests in NATO at this moment? The Strategic Concept Document looks like it’s only going to show how divided the alliance is now.

Chapman: Let me throw that question back to you. Could this all really be resolved in just two days?

Goodrich: Well the negotiations over this concept document have been going on for quite a while now. But we are not seeing any ability for them to come together. Even in the past week we’ve seen statements out of France and the Poles, the United States, United Kingdom, the Germans - everyone’s on a different page.

Chapman: Lauren – why did the Russians accept an invitation to attend – what do they expect to get out of it?

Goodrich: Well the NATO summit is actually in two parts. The first part is the NATO summit in which they will be discussing the Strategic Concept Document. The second part is actually the Russian-NATO summit, which is why Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was invited. Medvedev is going with two goals. The first goal is to see what comes out of the first part of the summit. The more divided NATO is especially over the Strategic Concept Document, the better it is for the Russians. The Russians know that as long as NATO is divided, it can never agree on things like expansion – especially into the former Soviet states. Or declaring Russia as the target of their focus.

The second is for Medvedev to sit down with U.S. President Barack Obama. This is the very first one-on-one since the U.S. elections. The Russians were very wary going into these elections because they know the Republicans tend to have a firmer, more aggressive take on Russia. Since the elections, which did not go in Obama’s favor occurred, Russia has grown wary as to whether Obama would stick to his previous commitments on having warmer relations with Russia.

Chapman: I suppose one of the ironies of all this is just as things look as if they could change, they might not change because of the state of America’s politics.

Goodrich: Very much so. The United States and Russia seemed as if they were on a warming period under Barack Obama – starting in about April – but really fleshing out over the summer. The United States and Russia decided that it was better to have a temporary detente between their two countries in order to focus on more important issues of the moment.

For the United States this meant that they needed Russia to agree to sanctions on Iran and logistical support for Afghanistan. For Russia, this meant that they needed the U.S. to cease support for Georgia and Ukraine, freeze ballistic missile defense plans in Central Europe, as well as aiding Russia in its modernization and privatization programs. Both sides actually agreed to all of this until the elections.

The START Treaty ended up being the bellwether of whether this temporary detente was being successful or not. It looked like it was going to slide through both legislatures in both Russia and the United States easily - until the elections. So now we have a stall on START.

Chapman: So summing up, its’t NATO really just playing into Russia’s hands? As these groups in NATO argue about the future, the Russians just get on about their own business.

Goodrich: Very much so. They’re counting on the divisions within NATO. As long as it’s divided Russia will have a much easier time in order to clamp down on its resurgence especially in its former Soviet states and be able to start even pushing on the NATO members themselves.

Chapman: Thanks very much Lauren. Lauren Goodrich there, and that’s Agenda for this week. I’m Colin Chapman. See you next time.
Thursday, November 18, 2010   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

U.S.-Russian Relations in Pre-Summit Flux

Just days before the NATO summit in Lisbon in which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama will meet, Medvedev has postponed his annual State of the State address from Nov. 22 to Nov. 30 to account for a possible shift in U.S.-Russian relations, according to STRATFOR sources in Moscow.

Over the past six months, Moscow and Washington had set many of their disagreements aside to achieve more critical goals. Russia wanted aid on its modernization and privatization programs, a cessation of Western support for Georgia and Ukraine, and a freeze on ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Russia’s periphery. The United States wanted Russia to sign onto sanctions against Iran and to drop support for Tehran, as well as provide increased logistical support for the war in Afghanistan. On all these issues, there was some sort of common ground found, meaning that Moscow and Washington seemed to have struck a temporary detente.

“START seems to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.”
One bellwether to judge U.S.-Russian relations has been the new START Treaty — the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia. Obama and Medvedev agreed on START in April and it looked as if it would pass in both countries’ legislatures, especially in time for the November NATO summit. STRATFOR sources in Moscow even indicated that a delegation from the United States two months ago ensured that relations were in a warming period and that START would be signed.

But there has been a shift in Washington in the past month since the November U.S. elections.

Since the elections, the U.S. Senate — which must ratify START – has shifted positions. There are senators who are either vociferously opposed to the START document or against it in its current form. There is even a concern that since the elections, START may not even make it to the floor for debate. Russian officials have directly linked the Senate’s stall on START to a possible break of any reset in relations between Moscow and Washington. Part of the Senate debate on START is whether the United States should even contribute to Russia’s modernization program, which Obama agreed to on Medvedev’s last visit. A delay or reversal on either issue on the U.S. side is an indication that Washington is either divided over the future of Russian relations or is starting to cool from its recent warming.

But problems in the Senate over relations with Russia seem to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.

The next issue is that at the NATO summit, there is the NATO treaty on BMDs that could possibly include Russia’s participation in some yet undefined format in any future BMD projects. But this Russian participation would not preclude Washington from making a bilateral deal on setting up missile defense installations – in countries such as Poland and Czech Republic. While Russia would enjoy being included in a NATO treaty on BMD, it is much more concerned with Washington’s bilateral deals on BMD projects in Central Europe. This is an issue Russia had previously assumed was frozen, but without the new NATO treaty covering U.S. bilateral deals, the issue of BMD in Central Europe is back on the table much to Russia’s chagrin.

Lastly, there are rumors that military support from the West is returning to Georgia. At this time, STRATFOR cannot confirm these rumors from Moscow sources, but if true, every guarantee Russia struck over the summer with the United States on forming a temporary detente has been abandoned.

This is the fear Moscow has going into this NATO summit over the weekend. Russia seems to be unsure if all the recent signs over the past few weeks on START, modernization, BMD and Georgia are really a decision in the United States to return to an aggressive stance with Russia, or if there are other explanations, like party politics in Washington. This is why Medvedev has pushed back his State of the State address, and sources say that a second version of the speech is being written in which the president won’t be so warm on relations with the United States.

What happens next will be key. If the U.S. has abandoned its understandings with Russia, then it is time for Moscow to reciprocate. This could mean that everything from resuming support for Iran to pulling back on support for the mission in Afghanistan could be considered in the Kremlin.

23699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 19, 2010, 12:19:52 AM
"Amsterdam, where access to drugs is relatively unproblematic, is among the most violent and squalid cities in Europe."

Perchance is any of that due to the clash of civilizations occurring there?
23700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: November 19, 2010, 12:14:41 AM
A couple of random thoughts:

a) One way of thinking about things is that our sweet tooth is nature's way of cluing us to eat certain things that are sweet e.g. fruit.  Instead we eat sugar and our body is confused.  Its near for carbo fuel is sated, but it remains hungry for the nutrition which it was intended to receive by eating the fruit.

b) Muscles consume calories, even at rest.  Part of healthy living is to realize the natural potential for muscle mass.  Genetic disposition to eat (appetite) has a tendency to be suitable for the intended muscle mass of the human in question.   If natural muscle mass is not achieved, there will be an inherent contradiction between the disposition to eat and the disposition to eat a certain amount.

Just rambling here , , ,
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