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24201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mormons on: December 07, 2007, 08:33:23 AM
Woof All:

With Romney's speech yesterday in the news this morning, I open this thread on Mormonism with a piece in this morning's WSJ that accords with my understanding of things. 

TAC,
Marc
================



What Iowans Should Know About Mormons
Mitt Romney's speech and American tolerance.
WSJ
BY NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY
Friday, December 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Yesterday, at the end of Mitt Romney's speech, he told a story from the early days of the First Continental Congress, whose members were meeting in Philadelphia in 1774: "With Boston occupied by British troops . . . and fears of an impending war . . . someone suggested they pray." But because of the variety of religious denominations represented, there were objections. "Then Sam Adams rose and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot."

Were Adams alive today, he most certainly would hear a prayer from a Mormon. It is hard to imagine a group more patriotic than the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But there is reason to believe that voters in Iowa and elsewhere will not accept Mr. Romney's invitation--put forward implicitly in his remarks yesterday at the George Bush Library--to ignore religious differences and embrace him simply as a man of character who loves his country.

A recent Pew poll shows that only 53% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mormons. That's roughly the same percentage who feel that way toward Muslims. By contrast, more than three-quarters of Americans have a favorable opinion of Jews and Catholics. Whatever the validity of such judgments, one has to wonder: Why does a faith professed by the 9/11 hijackers rank alongside that of a peaceful, productive, highly educated religious group founded within our own borders?

Many evangelicals in the GOP view Mormonism as "a cult," or at least not a Christian faith. One Southern Baptist leader recently called it the "fourth Abrahamic religion." I remember, a couple of years ago, sitting in on an apologetics class at a Christian high school in Colorado Springs, Colo., and hearing the teacher describe a critical moment in the history of the Muslim faith, when the rock that now sits under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem tried to fly to heaven and had to be restrained by Mohammad. Acknowledging that it sounded a little wacky, the teacher added: "Well, it's no stranger than that guy who found golden tablets in upstate New York." The students laughed uproariously at the reference to the Mormons' founding father, Joseph Smith.





Six years ago, I probably could have counted on one finger the number of Mormons I had met. Having lived most my life in the Northeast, my situation was hardly unique. Then, while researching a book on religious colleges, I decided to spend some time at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In preparation, I picked up "Mormon America: The Power and the Promise" by religion reporters Richard and Joan Ostling. The Ostlings offer a comprehensive account of the church's history and theology, as well as helpful descriptions of the Mormons' cultural and political outlook. "The onetime believers in plural marriage, considered a dire threat to Victorian probity and the entire nation," the authors write, "have become the exemplars of conservative monogamous family values."
It is hard to disagree. Mormons marry young and have large families. They don't drink, smoke or gamble. The church does not condone homosexuality. Members give at least 10% of their income to the church and often volunteer more than 20 hours a week in some religious capacity. With no professional clergy, the survival of congregations (or "stakes") is entirely dependent on lay participation. All young Mormon men and many women spend two years as missionaries, their travels funded by their own families. The church stocks soup kitchens across the country and internationally (both its own and those of other faiths) with food from its farms and warehouses.

Rather than behaving like an insular cult, members are integrated into the society around them, sending their kids to public schools and assuming leadership positions locally and nationally. Once Mormons complete their missionary service, they are not obliged to proselytize, so having Mormons as neighbors doesn't mean a constant bombardment with invitations to join up.

But many Americans, unless they've actually had a Mormon neighbor, might find all these rosy facts meaningless, feeling deeply uneasy with some of Mormonism's tenets. A lot of what we call religious tolerance depends on social contact, not theological understanding, and there are only about six million LDS members in the U.S., mostly concentrated in the Western states (though increasingly less so). If you press Baptists, they will acknowledge finding Catholics' belief in transubstantiation implausible at best; Jews like me have a little trouble getting over the virgin birth. But we all get along, for the most part, because we know each other and live similar lives as Americans, whatever faith we profess.

But most Iowans will not meet a Mormon in the next six weeks unless Mr. Romney comes to call--Mormons make up less than one half of 1% of the state's population. So let me offer a brief snapshot, not in the hope that Iowans will vote for Mr. Romney but in the hope that, if they don't vote for him, their decision won't have anything to do with his religion.





The young men and women at Brigham Young University are among the smartest, hardest-working and most pleasant college kids you will find anywhere. (For better or worse, I have visited dozens of college campuses.) The student body lives by the Mormon principle: "The glory of God is intelligence." Most reside off campus without adult supervision, yet they adhere strictly to curfews, rules about contact with the opposite sex and every other church directive. They are purposeful but seem to enjoy themselves, spending their free time hiking in the sprawling desert. And BYU has America's largest ROTC program outside of our military schools.
This last fact is one I had occasion to think about on my trip. I left for BYU on Sept. 7, 2001, and returned home a week later. On 9/11, the students gathered for a campuswide devotional. The university president tried to comfort the students with "the eternal perspective." My eternal perspective is not the same as theirs, of course. But hearing more than 20,000 young people around me reciting the Pledge of Allegiance made me realize that our temporal perspective is the same. I'm sure Sam Adams would have agreed.

Ms. Riley is The Wall Street Journal's deputy Taste editor.
24202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam's Silent Moderates on: December 07, 2007, 08:07:41 AM
Islam’s Silent Moderates
comments 
By AYAAN HIRSI ALI
Published: December 7, 2007
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)



IN the last few weeks, in three widely publicized episodes, we have seen Islamic justice enacted in ways that should make Muslim moderates rise up in horror.

A 20-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, reported that she had been abducted by several men and repeatedly raped. But judges found the victim herself to be guilty. Her crime is called “mingling”: when she was abducted, she was in a car with a man not related to her by blood or marriage, and in Saudi Arabia, that is illegal. Last month, she was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes with a bamboo cane.

Two hundred lashes are enough to kill a strong man. Women usually receive no more than 30 lashes at a time, which means that for seven weeks the “girl from Qatif,” as she’s usually described in news articles, will dread her next session with Islamic justice. When she is released, her life will certainly never return to normal: already there have been reports that her brother has tried to kill her because her “crime” has tarnished her family’s honor.

We also saw Islamic justice in action in Sudan, when a 54-year-old British teacher named Gillian Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in jail before the government pardoned her this week; she could have faced 40 lashes. When she began a reading project with her class involving a teddy bear, Ms. Gibbons suggested the children choose a name for it. They chose Muhammad; she let them do it. This was deemed to be blasphemy.

Then there’s Taslima Nasreen, the 45-year-old Bangladeshi writer who bravely defends women’s rights in the Muslim world. Forced to flee Bangladesh, she has been living in India. But Muslim groups there want her expelled, and one has offered 500,000 rupees for her head. In August she was assaulted by Muslim militants in Hyderabad, and in recent weeks she has had to leave Calcutta and then Rajasthan. Taslima Nasreen’s visa expires next year, and she fears she will not be allowed to live in India again.

It is often said that Islam has been “hijacked” by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates.

But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted — and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?

Usually, Muslim groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference are quick to defend any affront to the image of Islam. The organization, which represents 57 Muslim states, sent four ambassadors to the leader of my political party in the Netherlands asking him to expel me from Parliament after I gave a newspaper interview in 2003 noting that by Western standards some of the Prophet Muhammad’s behavior would be unconscionable. A few years later, Muslim ambassadors to Denmark protested the cartoons of Muhammad and demanded that their perpetrators be prosecuted.

But while the incidents in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and India have done more to damage the image of Islamic justice than a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the organizations that lined up to protest the hideous Danish offense to Islam are quiet now.

I wish there were more Islamic moderates. For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan. But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam’s image. We hear that violence is not in the Koran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign and so on. But the evidence mounts up.

Islamic justice is a proud institution, one to which more than a billion people subscribe, at least in theory, and in the heart of the Islamic world it is the law of the land. But take a look at the verse above: more compelling even than the order to flog adulterers is the command that the believer show no compassion. It is this order to choose Allah above his sense of conscience and compassion that imprisons the Muslim in a mindset that is archaic and extreme.

If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate?

When a “moderate” Muslim’s sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch Parliament and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Infidel.”
24203  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Suppliments: Legal and Illegal on: December 07, 2007, 08:00:53 AM
2 Players Suspended for Acquistion of Hormones
MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: December 7, 2007
NY Times
Major League Baseball yesterday suspended two players linked to the acquisition of performance-enhancing drugs, perhaps creating a template for players who could be named by George J. Mitchell when he issues his report on the use of banned substances in baseball, likely by the end of next week.

The players — Jay Gibbons of the Orioles and José Guillén, who played for the Mariners last season and is now with the Royals — will serve 15-day suspensions at the start of the 2008 season.

Neither Gibbons nor Guillén has tested positive for a banned substance. But each was linked, through documentary evidence, to having received human growth hormone and steroids.

The commissioner’s office appears to be signaling how it will deal with players who may be named in Mitchell’s report. The 15-day suspensions to Gibbons and Guillén stand in sharp contrast to the 50-day suspensions players now receive for failing a drug test for the first time.

Mitchell, who was appointed to conduct his investigation by Commissioner Bud Selig in March 2006, has documentary evidence, but no test results, that ties dozens of players to purchases of drugs from 1995 through 2005.

Mitchell received information from Kirk Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse attendant who pleaded guilty in April to federal charges of steroid distribution.

Several lawyers familiar with the investigation said yesterday that Mitchell, a former United States senator, may issue the report next Thursday.

Mitchell, through an investigation spokesman, declined to comment. A spokesman for Major League Baseball also declined to comment.

Since February, 15 current and former players, including Gibbons and Guillén, have been tied to shipments of performance-enhancing drugs from clinics and pharmacies being investigated by the Albany County district attorney’s office.

The commissioner’s office said that four of those players would not be punished because its internal investigation had concluded that there was not enough evidence to suspend them based on the penalties in place at the time they are suspected of receiving the substances.

The four are Scott Schoeneweis of the Mets, Gary Matthews Jr. of the Angels, Troy Glaus of the Blue Jays and Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals.

Suspending players tied to receiving shipments of banned substances could prove tricky. The penalties for a violation of the drug program have changed four times since 2003, and Major League Baseball feels compelled to punish players by the guidelines in place at the time.

Baseball began suspending players the first time they violated the program in 2005. Anonymous testing for steroids began in 2003. The first time a player violated the program, in 2004, he was not subject to a suspension. In 2005, a player faced a 10-game suspension the first time he violated the program. Before the 2005 season, baseball banned H.G.H., a substance that it, like the N.F.L., does not test for.

Between October 2003 and July 2005, Gibbons received six shipments of H.G.H. and two shipments of steroids, SI.com reported in September.

“I am deeply sorry for the mistakes that I have made,” Gibbons said yesterday in a written statement.

Michael Weiner, the general counsel for the players union, said Gibbons did not plan to appeal his suspension.

Guillén, according to a report in The San Francisco Chronicle, ordered more than $19,000 worth of H.G.H. and steroids from May 2002 to June 2005. Weiner said Guillén would appeal.
24204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / B. Franklin: Education on: December 07, 2007, 07:33:23 AM
"The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in
all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of
private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments
have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention,
to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of
Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to
serve the Publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Proposals Relating to the Education of
Youth in Pensilvania, 1749)

Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 324.
24205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 06, 2007, 08:36:48 PM
Still a Dangerous World
Democrats imply the U.S. can talk its way out of global threats.

BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Thursday, December 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The most disturbing thing about the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran wasn't the news itself, but how the episode displayed the wild and manic swings that now characterize American politics. A regular watcher of our politics could be forgiven for feeling that one isn't watching a serious country but a place that conducts its internal affairs like a Saturday morning cartoon show. Thunk! Boooinng!

For some time, the conventional storyboard drawn for the Bush presidency has been that the U.S. is led by a bumbling Elmer Fudd, who outlandishly overestimates the danger from such imagined threats as Saddam Hussein, Syria or Iran's mysterious-looking mullahs. Prominent political figures here design their comments on world events to fit inside cartoon dialogue balloons. John Edwards, after the NIE story broke, denounced the Bush-Cheney "rush to war with Iran." Sen. Harry Reid demanded a "diplomatic surge."

These wide, all-or-nothing swings may serve the melodramatic needs of politics and the press, but they don't much help an electorate that will vote a year from now to send a new U.S. president out into the world. With or without the NIE's opinion of Iran's nuclear program, that world is still a dangerous place.





Let's assume for argument's sake that Iran did stop its nuke program in 2003. Why, then, in 2006 was Iran performing test flights of the Shabab-2 and Shabab-3 ballistic missiles, the latter with a range of some 1,200 miles? Commenting at the time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Iranians "are not unaware that the security environment is one in which if they actually were to do something, Iran would suffer greatly." But as of this week, they might not.
Indeed last week, just as the U.S. intelligence professionals were preparing to tell the world it could forget about Iran (as yesterday's news reports made clear the world is about to do), the Iranian defense ministry announced it has built a new 1,200-mile missile, the Ashura. In September, it put on display the 1,100-mile-range Ghadr-1 missile. If this is all an inconsequential feint, it's a remarkably big one.

North Korea in July 2006 tested the long-range Taepodong-2, a nuclear payload-capable ballistic missile. North Korea has exported its missile technology to Iran and Pakistan. And of course Hezbollah, in the same month North Korea was testing the Taepodong-2, fired thousands of Katyusha rockets at Israel, re-establishing the operational viability of short-range bombardment.

China is developing three strategic, long-range missiles--the JL-1, and the DF-31 and DF-31A; the latter two are mobile ICBMs. This technology did not go away with the Cold War.

In January, after much effort to do so, China successfully used a kinetic-kill vehicle launched from a ballistic missile to destroy a satellite orbiting at 500 miles altitude.

The Bush administration's effort to place a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe as counterweight to Iran's missiles was conventionally mocked by elite opinion as a rerun of Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars scheme." In fact, Japan, Australia, Germany, Italy, Israel and Denmark are all attempting to develop antimissile technology. France is building a short-range ballistic missile defense system, the SAMP/T. What are they all afraid of?

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, indeed virtually all the nations of the Middle East are seeking nuclear-power capability. Possibly it's all just to keep the lights on in the tourist hotels, but nuclear-energy production is still a dual-use technology. It is now believed that Israel bombed Syria in September to destroy a nuclear-bomb facility built in part by North Korea.





This is a more complex and hair-trigger world than the Cold War years between the U.S. and Soviet Union. The idea that George Bush's handling of all these volatile moving pieces has been "incompetent" and has "isolated" the U.S. is a dangerous caricature, though that caricature is the way our Roller-Derby politics has chosen to talk about the world. The NIE/Iran drama this week is a case study--reduced in press reports to another Bush intelligence "flip-flop," as though the president wrote this stuff himself in the Oval Office.
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and even Mike Huckabee want us to entrust them with managing the world's flourishing threats. Has any offered sufficient reason why we should? In other political systems, a candidate's strategic policies tend to flow from his party. Here we mostly get whatever these hyper-ambitious individuals choose to reveal during a campaign--and the foreign-policy views of their party in Congress.

This Wednesday, after the NIE's release, the Democratic candidates had a fresh opportunity at an Iowa debate to describe how their presidencies would address Iran and the world. John Edwards chose to attack Sen. Clinton for voting in September to label Iran's Revolutionary Guards as terrorists. She and Sen. Obama, along with Democrats in Congress, said the new Iran intelligence estimate now mandates diplomacy only. Sen. Obama: "They should have stopped the saber rattling, should have never started it. And they need, now, to aggressively move on the diplomatic front."

But in a July essay for Foreign Affairs, Sen. Obama said nuclear weapons "in the hands of a radical theocracy" is "too dangerous." While he favored "tough-minded" diplomacy with Iran, "we must not rule out using military force."

Which version is one supposed to believe? The candidates seeking votes from their party's pacifists, or the person who wants to represent his country's interests in a hostile world?





One would like more on this than we're getting from the candidates in both parties. But the Democrats especially have tied themselves to the word "diplomacy," giving the impression that the U.S. can literally talk its way out of any bad outcomes that Iran, Syria, North Korea or free-agent terrorists have planned for us.
Put it this way: Would they, like Israel, have bombed that factory in Syria without pre-discussing it with Bashar Assad or Kim Jong-Il? No candidate's answer to that will make everyone happy. But the more than 100 million Americans who'll vote next year need a better idea than they've got of how the next president plans to deal with the world. Not the cartoon world, but the real world.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Thursdays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
WSJ
24206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gitmo goes to Court on: December 06, 2007, 05:19:48 PM
Gitmo Goes to Court
The judiciary has no business managing how we fight wars abroad.

BY DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. AND LEE A. CASEY
Thursday, December 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The Supreme Court heard a spirited argument yesterday on whether foreign enemies, captured and held overseas, are entitled to the protections of the United States Constitution. Since the founding of our republic, the answer to that question has always been an unequivocal "No."

If, after hearing Boumedienne v. Bush, the court makes up new rules, it will mark an unprecedented expansion of judicial power into areas--the conduct of foreign affairs and war making--the Constitution reserves to the president and Congress, the elected representatives of the American people. The Boumedienne case is as much about the Supreme Court's willingness to constrain its own power as it is about detainee rights.

This latest challenge to the Bush administration's war policies was brought by enemy combatants held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, who claim the right to a habeas corpus hearing--to determine the legality of their detention--before the federal courts. Congress attempted to foreclose such claims in 2005, when it passed the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), creating an elaborate administrative process through which detainees can contest their classification as "enemy combatants," with an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., and the Supreme Court. All other federal court jurisdiction was withdrawn at that time.

Nevertheless, because the Supreme Court wanted to clarify that the new system applied to pending, as well as future, cases, the court permitted these challenges to go forward in its 2006 decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Congress responded immediately, passing the Military Commissions Act (MCA) and overruling Hamdan.





The MCA established a system of military tribunals to try the Guantanamo detainees, again with appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., and the Supreme Court. The law also stated with remarkable clarity that these procedures excluded all other judicial review for detainee claims, past, present and future. As one judge wrote in dismissing Mr. Boumedienne's case after the MCA was enacted--"it is almost as if the [congressional] proponents of these words were slamming their fists on the table shouting 'When we say 'all,' we mean all--without exception.'"
Last April, the Supreme Court appeared to agree, refusing to revive the appeals. Unfortunately, it changed its mind in June, agreeing to consider whether Congress can constitutionally refuse the Guantanamo detainees--who are not U.S. citizens or held on U.S. territory--access to habeas corpus rights. This is not a close question. When the framers adopted the Constitution to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" they were not talking about enemy aliens overseas engaged in a war against the republic they founded.

That, certainly, was the Supreme Court's conclusion in Johnson v. Eisentrager (1950), which involved similar claims by Germans arrested by U.S. forces in China, and then imprisoned in occupied Germany. Their habeas claims were rightly rebuffed.

As Justice Robert Jackson wrote for the court, "Such extraterritorial application of organic law [the Constitution] would have been so significant an innovation in the practice of governments that, if intended or apprehended, it could scarcely have failed to excite contemporary comment." Such a rule would, indeed, have been bizarre--handicapping the U.S. in its foreign relations and putting it at a permanent disadvantage compared to every other country on earth.

That was true in 1950, and it remains true today. To grant constitutional rights to the Guantanamo detainees, the Supreme Court must ignore its own settled precedent--on which the president and Congress were entitled to rely--and rewrite the Constitution itself.

The consequences would be disastrous. Such a decision would bring judges to the battlefield. As Justice Jackson warned, permitting foreign enemies to haul American officials into court "would diminish the prestige of our commanders, not only with enemies but with wavering neutrals. It would be difficult to devise more effective fettering of a field commander than to allow the very enemies he is ordered to reduce to submission to call him to account in his own civil courts and divert his efforts and attention from the military offensive abroad to the legal defensive at home."

Because the Constitution does not apply to foreigners overseas, the procedural rights accorded to the Guantanamo detainees are a matter exclusively for the political branches. Subjecting them to constitutional scrutiny would overstep the judiciary's legitimate power, making it the ultimate arbiter of U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, if the court were to grant constitutionally based habeas rights to aliens overseas, there is no principled means of avoiding extension of the entire Constitution anywhere in the world where U.S. forces (or officials) may go.

For the first time in American history, an entire panoply of the federal government's overseas actions directed at foreigners, including surveillance and even use of deadly force, would become subject to constitutional strictures. This would transform the U.S. into a Gulliver, bound by its own judicial strings, on the international stage.

The Constitution grants the Supreme Court a limited original jurisdiction, and leaves Congress free to define its appellate authority and the judicial power of the lower federal courts. Here, Congress has determined that detainees will have certain administrative means of challenging their detention, and a review by the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court. That is all Congress deemed appropriate here--and, needless to say, this is more than other captured enemy combatants have received in the past.





Even if habeas corpus applied--and there is no precedent for its application (either in British or American practice) to foreigners held overseas--the processes established by Congress in the DTA and MCA would constitute an adequate substitute. The Supreme Court has long recognized that, even with respect to Americans held in the U.S., habeas review is limited in scope. If focuses on questions of law rather than a detailed analysis of the factual record. Many different procedures are sufficient to meet any constitutional habeas requirement.
In these cases, the factual inquiry detainees are accorded under the Pentagon's "combatant status review tribunals" are an adequate substitute for habeas. They are modeled on the review legitimate prisoners of war would receive under the Geneva Conventions in accordance with the Supreme Court's 2004 decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, and linked with the right of appeal to the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court on procedural and constitutional standards. This fact alone is more than sufficient for the court to uphold the MCA, without ever reaching the underlying constitutional issues involved. Justice Anthony Kennedy--a potential decisive vote in this case--seemed sympathetic to this argument.

After years of public debate, with many of the key issues playing a prominent role in the presidential and congressional elections, Congress and the president have created a system that allows enemy combatants to challenge their detention, and to achieve a limited judicial review in U.S. courts. This is sufficient. The Supreme Court should not reject the law merely because it might disagree with the policy results adopted by the elected branches of government.

The court has already meddled more in this area in the last several years than in all of prior history. It has no right to demand more.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the U.S. Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

WSJ
24207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamiltaon on the Senate on: December 06, 2007, 09:29:08 AM
"The history of ancient and modern republics had taught them
that many of the evils which those republics suffered arose
from the want of a certain balance, and that mutual control
indispensable to a wise administration. They were convinced
that popular assemblies are frequently misguided by ignorance,
by sudden impulses, and the intrigues of ambitious men; and that
some firm barrier against these operations was necessary. They,
therefore, instituted your Senate."

-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
June 1788)

Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 43.
24208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Logic of Torture on: December 05, 2007, 08:39:53 AM
The Logic of Torture
Why the subject of torture provokes so much yelling and so little argumentation.
WSJ
BY KEITH BURGESS-JACKSON
Wednesday, December 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

During the past few years, in the wake of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, much has been written about torture, almost none of it, regrettably, philosophically edifying. May I help?

The most important thing to keep in mind as you reflect on torture is that there are different types of question one can ask about it. Different types of question call for different types of answer (and therefore different types of expertise). First, there are conceptual questions. What is torture? How does torture differ from such things as torment, punishment, harsh treatment, cruelty, vengeance, sadism and violence? Can torture be accidental? Must it involve physical (as opposed to mental) pain? Can deprivation or confinement constitute torture? Conceptual questions such as these are about the concepts, ideas, categories and distinctions we use. Answering them is the province of philosophy.

Second, there are factual questions. Given a conception of torture, how widespread is it? Is there less of it now than there used to be, and if so, why? Who practices it, and why? What forms does it take? Is waterboarding torture? How much pain or suffering does a particular form of torture typically inflict? How much pain or suffering does a particular instance of torture actually inflict? Is torture effective as a means of gathering information? If so, how effective? Factual questions such as these are about how things are. Answering them requires investigation, consultation (with relevant experts) and observation. Philosophers, as such, have no expertise in this area. This doesn't mean philosophers can't make factual claims, for they can and do; it means their philosophical training doesn't make their factual claims more likely to be true. In other words, philosophers have no comparative advantage in ascertaining how things are.

Third, there are evaluative questions. Given a conception of torture, is torture permissible? If so, in what circumstances? Is torture ever obligatory? If so, why? Should the law permit torture? If so, how should it be regulated to prevent (or minimize the likelihood of) abuse? Perhaps torture should be illegal even if it is, in rare cases, morally permissible. Law and morality are different institutions, after all, with different purposes, standards and limitations. A thing can be morally permissible but legally impermissible, just as a thing can be legally permissible but morally impermissible.

It is important to distinguish questions about what the law is from questions about what the law ought to be. Whether torture is legally permissible is a factual question about the law. (Not all factual questions are easy to answer, obviously, and some answers to factual questions are controversial. For proof of this, see science.) Whether torture should be permitted by law, and if so in what circumstances, is an evaluative question about the law. If you want to know whether torture is legally permissible, consult an attorney who specializes in that type of law. You would not consult an attorney if you wanted to know whether torture should be legally permissible, for that is an evaluative question, and attorneys, as such, have no evaluative expertise.

Not all facts about torture are relevant to its moral permissibility. What makes a fact relevant is that it connects up to a moral principle. For example, suppose I am a hedonistic utilitarian. My principle (of utility) mandates that I maximize pleasure (or, put negatively, that I minimize suffering). This makes the amount of suffering inflicted during torture relevant. How much suffering torture inflicts, both quantitatively and qualitatively, is a factual question about which reasonable people can differ. Many facts about torture, such as where it takes place, on whom it is inflicted, and how many people administer it, are morally irrelevant and therefore of no interest to those who are interested solely in its moral status.


 

Just as two or more people can support the same presidential candidate for different reasons, two or more people can oppose torture for different reasons. Some people oppose torture solely because of its consequences. These are known as consequentialists. Utilitarianism is a species of consequentialism (and hedonistic utilitarianism a species of utilitarianism). To a consequentialist, no type of act is intrinsically wrong, i.e., wrong in and of itself. Lying is not intrinsically wrong; cheating is not intrinsically wrong; stealing is not intrinsically wrong; torturing is not intrinsically wrong; even killing innocent people is not intrinsically wrong. Each act, to a consequentialist, must be evaluated on its own merits. Acts that maximize the good (e.g., happiness) are right, while acts that do not maximize the good are wrong. Consequentialists have no principled objection to torture. When an act of torture is wrong, it is wrong solely because, qua act, it fails to maximize the good. When it maximizes the good, it is not wrong.
Some consequentialists prefer to focus on rules, practices or entire moral codes rather than concrete acts. They say that we should adopt whatever rules, practices or moral codes maximize the good when generally adhered to (or followed), and then act in accordance with those rules, practices or codes. We should not evaluate acts individually, on a case-by-case basis. Since only rare cases of torture maximize the good, these theorists would adopt a rule that prohibits torture. This means that we should refuse to torture even if, in a particular case, it would maximize the good. Act-consequentialists accuse rule-consequentialists of "rule-worship." Why (they ask) should one follow a rule even in those cases where it is known that breaking the rule would maximize the good?

Deontologists reject consequentialism. Deontologists believe that certain types of act, such as torture, are intrinsically wrong. There are two types of deontologist. Absolute deontologists believe that no amount of good could possibly justify torture. Even if torturing X were the only way to save the lives of a million innocent people, it would be wrong to torture X. Even if torturing X were the only way to prevent Y from torturing a million innocent people, it would be wrong to torture X. Absolute deontology is a hard doctrine, as you can see, but it has (and always has had) its adherents.

Moderate deontologists agree with absolute deontologists that certain acts, such as torture, are intrinsically wrong, but disagree that nothing could possibly justify them. Moderate deontologists have thresholds. Here is an example of a high threshold: A moderate deontologist might believe that torture is permissible only if it saves the lives of at least 1,000 innocent people. A low threshold might require that 50 innocent lives be saved. An even lower threshold might require that five innocent lives be saved. Moderate deontologists agree with consequentialists that consequences count, but disagree that only consequences count. Moderate deontology comes in degrees, depending on where the threshold is set. Think of it this way. Consequentialism is 0; absolute deontology is 1; moderate deontology ranges from 0.000001 to 0.999999. Moderate deontology with a low threshold is close to consequentialism on the spectrum. Moderate deontology with a high threshold is close to absolute deontology on the spectrum.

You can now see that normative ethical theorists of different stripes can oppose--albeit for different reasons--a given instance of torture. An absolute deontologist can oppose it because it's a case of torture, which is categorically prohibited. A moderate deontologist can oppose it because (1) it's a case of torture, which is intrinsically wrong, and (2) it will not produce enough good to justify it. A consequentialist can oppose it because it does not maximize the good. When I hear that someone opposes torture, I want to know why. Is he an absolute deontologist? A moderate deontologist? A consequentialist? Once I get an answer to this question, I can probe for inconsistencies.

Another point to keep in mind is this: That two or more normative ethical theories converge on certain cases, or even on many cases, does not mean that they're identical. All it takes to make two normative ethical theories different is one case--actual or hypothetical--in which they produce different results, and that is the situation here with respect to absolute deontologists, moderate deontologists and consequentialists. There are cases (if only hypothetical) in which both types of deontologist condemn an act of torture while consequentialists commend it. There are cases in which absolute deontologists condemn an act of torture while moderate deontologists and consequentialists commend it. Morality, like politics, makes strange bedfellows.


 

One difference between law and morality is that law is practical. Law must attend to such things as efficiency. Laws are addressed to classes of people, not to individuals. You've probably heard the expression that hard cases make bad law. This is another way of saying that just because a given act is morally permissible doesn't mean that the law should permit acts of that type. Take euthanasia, for example. It may be that in a particular case, it is morally permissible for someone to engage in mercy killing. It doesn't follow from this that mercy killing should be permitted by law, for people might misapply the rule and end up killing those who don't want to be killed. The law errs on the side of caution, for practical reasons.
The reasoning just used in the case of euthanasia can be applied to torture. Even if torture can be justified in particular cases, such as when it is necessary to learn the location of a bomb, it might be dangerous for the law to allow it. Certainly we don't want torture to be routine, for that opens the door to abuses. The best policy might be to prohibit torture (having carefully defined it), while allowing as a defense the claim that it was necessary to save many innocent lives. This is only a sketch of an argument, but you can see how it might be developed. The idea is to create a strong legal presumption against torture, while allowing for the possibility of rebuttal in a court of law.

Some people think philosophers have their heads in the clouds. It's an old but false complaint. Most philosophers--even those who work in metaphysics or epistemology rather than ethics--care very much about public affairs, and their training in conceptual analysis equips them to contribute to it. We must be careful, though, about the nature and scope of philosophical expertise. Philosophers, as such, have neither factual nor evaluative expertise. (I would argue that nobody has evaluative expertise.) Philosophers can be as wrong about the facts as anyone else, and the fact that X is a philosopher does not give X's values any greater weight.

What philosophers can contribute to public affairs--and perhaps ought to contribute--is conceptual clarification. As a result of their training, philosophers are adept at sorting things out, identifying fallacies (understood as characteristic errors in reasoning), uncovering hidden assumptions, spotting inconsistencies, and showing why one thing is or is not relevant to some other thing. Philosophers are technicians, not sages.

Nothing I have said implies that philosophers can't argue. But notice what that involves. Every argument with an evaluative conclusion must, in order to be valid, have at least one evaluative premise. (This is known as Hume's Law.) To persuade somebody to accept a conclusion, you must use only premises that he accepts. If your interlocutor rejects one of your premises, including the evaluative one, your argument gets no grip on him (although it might get a grip on someone else, with different beliefs and values). You will to have to back up, as it were, and argue for the premise that your interlocutor rejects. This new argument will also need to have at least one evaluative premise. If your interlocutor rejects it, you will have to back up and argue for it--and so on, until you find common ground. The idea is to show your interlocutor that he has inconsistent beliefs. The only leverage a philosopher has is the principle of noncontradiction.

Argumentation is hard. It requires time, patience, energy, charity and intelligence. Could that be why there is so much yelling and so little arguing when it comes to important matters such as torture?

Mr. Burgess-Jackson is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he teaches courses in logic, ethics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of law, and social and political philosophy. He blogs at keithburgess-jackson.com.


24209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 05, 2007, 08:28:07 AM
There are several very important posts on the NIE revision in the "Big Picture WW3" thread in the last few days, but now I begin posting on this subject in this thread, beginning with a very important timeline by Stratfor:

=======

Iran's Nuclear Gambit: A Timeline of Events
Summary

The release of a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that says Iran quit work on its nuclear weapons program four years ago marks a momentous shift in the dynamics of the Middle East, as well as in the relationships among the United States, Iran and Iraq. This timeline shows how events have played out in recent years.

Analysis

On Dec. 3, the United States released a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that says Iran halted work on its nuclear weapons program in 2003. This is an extremely significant development.

At first glance, it might appear that this report -- a compilation of information from all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies -- is an attempt by the intelligence community to undermine the Bush administration's dealings with and position on Iran. Its contents negate the rationale for any future U.S. military action against the country, and directly contradict many of the past assertions of the U.S. leadership, which has repeatedly said that Iran is a dangerous nation bent on building up its nuclear arsenal.

In reality, this document marks a momentous shift in the dynamics of the Middle East, as well as in the relationships among the United States, Iran and Iraq. As Stratfor has said many times, Iran's nuclear program primarily represents a bargaining chip to be used as leverage in Tehran's talks with the United States in order to gain it concessions in Iraq. The NIE indicates that Washington and Tehran have made significant progress in this back-channel back-and-forth, and that the positive signs coming out of Iraq lately have culminated in some sort of agreement.

The battle over Iran's nuclear plans and the future of Iraq has not been an easy one. Stratfor has carefully monitored its development, and we have explained the intrinsic link between Tehran's nuclear program and the U.S.-Iranian negotiations. Following is Stratfor's account of the events that have shaped this process since the lead-up in 2002 to the Iraq war:




October 2002: As U.S. military intervention in Iraq seems increasingly inevitable, Iranian-U.S. back-channel meetings accelerate while Iran looks to extract political concessions from the United States over Iraq in return for its cooperation. With the aid of Ahmed Chalabi, Iran coaxes the United States into Iraq with intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.


January 2003: A top Iranian official says his country supports U.S. efforts to disarm Iraq. The announcement signals that Iran has implicitly approved a U.S. war, despite its concerns of U.S. military action spilling across its border. Stratfor believes such support will open the door to U.S.-Iranian cooperation.


March 2003: The United States invades Iraq, and swiftly topples the Iraqi regime. In return for cracking down on al Qaeda fugitives in Iran and guaranteeing Shiite cooperation during the invasion, Iran is expecting Washington to allow Baghdad to fall in Tehran's hands.


April 2003: Iran, fearing that the United States will renege on its end of the deal, sparks a major Shiite uprising to remind Washington of its ability to send Iraq up in flames. U.S.-Iranian relations are on the decline.


May 2003: With some nudging from the Russians, Iran feels out the United States for a deal, with strong indications that Tehran has agreed to hand over al Qaeda suspects to the United States or a third country. Iran follows up with a letter to the U.S. government calling for a comprehensive deal over Iraq in which it would cooperate on its nuclear program. Still confident in its ability to handle the insurgency and unwilling to be held hostage to Iran's geopolitical ambitions, the United States rebuffs the offer and concludes that the Iranians and Iraqi Shia are undependable allies, and that a deal with Iran is no longer necessary to bring order to Iraq.


June 2003: Angered by the U.S. double-cross, Iran creates a crisis with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its nuclear program and wavers back and forth in its nuclear negotiations with the Europeans.


July 2003: Still evaluating its next steps, the United States reconsiders the need to negotiate with Iran, and calls in the services of former Secretary of State James Baker in Iraq.


October 2003: Progress is again seen on the U.S-Iranian negotiating front as Iran opens the doors to the IAEA and British, French and German foreign ministers for talks on nuclear facility inspections. Arab governments, concerned about a possible U.S.-Iranian alliance in Iraq, look to establish a common policy to curb both Washington and Tehran.


Fall 2003: Iran halts its nuclear weapons program, according to the NIE released Dec. 3, 2007.


January 2004: In the wake of a massive December earthquake that destroyed the Iranian city of Bam, the United States offers to send a humanitarian delegation to Tehran led by Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. Iran rejects the offer, saying the timing is not right. Tehran also says Washington must respect Iran before contacts between the countries can take place.


February 2004: After months of issuing paradoxical statements on its nuclear program, Iran emerges out of February parliamentary elections with a conservative-controlled parliament. With the ability to look beyond the domestic front, the Iranian government once again signals it is ready to do business with the United States.


May 2004: Iran demonstrates its cooperation by getting involved in negotiations between Washington and Shiite rebel leader Muqtada al-Sadr.


June 2004: The United States looks favorably upon Saudi Arabia's increased involvement in the Iraq war, much to Iran's chagrin. The Iranians seek added leverage in the negotiations and engage in several tit-for-tat diplomatic spats, including the seizure of three British patrol boats along the Iraq-Iran border. The ensuing months follow the same theme of increased tensions between Washington and Tehran.


November 2004: Iran agrees -- for the time being -- to comply with IAEA demands to halt enrichment activity in the interest of securing a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad for the December and January legislative elections.


February-March 2005: After a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq is established, the Iranian nuclear issue flares up again as Iran works to keep the United States out of its nuclear talks with France, Germany and the United Kingdom in order to maintain its leverage. U.S. war rhetoric against Iran picks up steam in the coming month, prompting Iran to come clean on its nuclear program.


June-August 2005: Mysterious explosions occur in Tehran and the Arab-majority town of Ahwaz, sparking Iranian suspicions that Western intelligence agencies are riling up an anti-regime movement. Iranian presidential elections yield a surprise result, in which Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani admits defeat and black-horse candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rises to power.


September 2005: By now it is clear that Ahmadinejad's election was part of Iran's nuclear bargaining strategy to project a carefully honed image of irrationality to convince the Americans of the utility of dealing with Iran. Ahmadinejad's fiery anti-Israeli rhetoric leads to division within the ruling ranks in Tehran over how to deal with the United States. The United States also returns the Iranian snub over the Bam earthquake aid offer by rejecting an Iranian offer of 20 million barrels of oil in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The offer was made on the condition that Washington lift trade sanctions against Iran.


December 2005-January 2006: The United States attempts to re-create Iran's worst nightmare by throwing its support behind Iraq's Sunnis. Sources in Lebanon reveal major preparations by Hezbollah for a military conflict, suggesting Iran could soon play its Hezbollah card in the negotiations.


February 2006: After the IAEA passes a resolution to present the nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council, Iran returns to a belligerent stance on its nuclear program, threatening to resume industrial-scale enrichment and pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.


March 2006: Just as things could not look any darker for the United States and Iran, the Iranian government offers to take bilateral back-channel negotiations over Iraq into the public sphere, and the United States accepts. Iran is not ready to sacrifice its nuclear leverage just yet, and reiterates that these talks will address Iraq only.


April 2006: U.S.-Iranian negotiations appear to have hit a snag. The United States proceeds with plans to strip Iran financially and Iran makes a major announcement regarding its nuclear program.


May 2006: Ahmadinejad makes another offer for talks with the United States by sending a peculiar letter to U.S. President George W. Bush proposing fresh ways to mend relations. At the same time, Iran continues its rhetorical blitzkrieg about its nuclear program.


June 2006: Iraq's Sunni camp makes an apparent down payment on a political settlement when al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is killed in a U.S. airstrike. The ball is now in Iran's court to get the Shia to reciprocate. Iraq has reached a break point.


July 2006: Realizing it could push for a better deal with Washington, Iran decides to pull out all stops and flip the negotiating table over by reactivating Hezbollah in Lebanon and drawing Israel into a costly war. Iran sends a clear message that it has assets throughout the region to help it achieve its demands in Iraq.


August-September 2006: Emboldened by its success in Lebanon, Iran strikes a conciliatory tone with the United States again.


October-November 2006: The perception is that the Bush administration is weak and disintegrating. With an aim to shape the November U.S. congressional elections to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Iran activates its proxies to ensure November is the deadliest month to date for U.S. casualties since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.


December 2006: The Iraq Study Group releases its report calling for a U.S. dialogue with Iran. Iran still assumes it has cornered the United States into implementing a withdrawal plan, leaving Tehran to pick up the pieces in Iraq.


January 2007: Bush throws off Iranian expectations with his announcement of a new strategy to surge troops into Iraq. The United States couples this strategy with an offer to the Iranians to talk. The Iranians return to the drawing board.


February 2007: The U.S.-Iranian covert intelligence war heats up, as both sides engage in saber-rattling to shore up their negotiating positions. Once again Iran makes a power play in the waters when it seizes a group of British marines and sailors in the Persian Gulf.


March 2007: Realizing their busted flushes in Iraq, U.S. and Iranian officials meet in Baghdad to discuss Iraq.


May 2007: Iran and the United States engage in publicly announced bilateral talks over Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At the summit, Iran presents a groundbreaking proposal to stabilize Iraq. Iran is careful to keep the nuclear issue out of the negotiations. There are doubts, however, as to whether the regional players can deliver on their end of the deal.


June 2007: The United States considers meeting Iran's demand to unlink the nuclear and Iraq issues in order to move the negotiations forward.


August 2007: U.S. and Iranian diplomats meet in Baghdad to hammer out a security agreement on Iraq. Later in the month, the latest NIE makes it apparent that the U.S. surge strategy is not yet yielding sufficient results and that the strategy must begin to shift. Iran gets excited at the thought of a pending U.S. withdrawal, claiming it will fill the vacuum in Iraq. Bush, however, follows up with another surprise, saying the United States will maintain its surge strategy.


September 2007: Iran issues another feeler for talks with the United States and replaces its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps chief. Washington increases the heat concerning war and sanctions.


October 2007: Iran gets some added leverage when it looks to Russia for a sponsor in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq. For its own interests, Russia acts as Iran's backup and makes more promises to deliver nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr facility. An intra-Iranian debate over next steps in Iraq erupts with the resignation of Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani.


November 2007: With violence dropping in Iraq, the United States feels it is in a strong enough position to move forward in negotiations with Iran. Iran says it will participate in a fourth round of talks on Iraq with the United States. Iran makes a major conciliatory move on the nuclear front when it hands over a set of blueprints to the IAEA that details how to shape weapons-grade uranium into a form usable in a nuclear warhead. Though no date has been set, it looks as though the atmosphere is being set for a serious round of negotiations between the United States and Iran.


December 2007: In a massive reversal of U.S. policymaking, the U.S. intelligence community releases an NIE report that claims Iran had stopped work on a nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, though its intentions still remain unclear. With the rationale for U.S. military aggression against Iran gone, negotiations between Washington and Tehran are more serious than ever.
24210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: December 05, 2007, 08:16:09 AM
The second post of the morning.
==============

'High Confidence' Games
The CIA's flip-flop on Iran is hardly reassuring.
WSJ
Wednesday, December 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

In his press conference yesterday, President Bush went out of his way to praise the "good work" of the intelligence community, whose latest National Intelligence Estimate claims the mullahs of Iran abandoned their nuclear weapons program in 2003. "This is heartening news," Mr. Bush said. "To me, it's a way for us to rally our partners."

We wish we could be as sanguine, both about the quality of U.S. intelligence and its implications for U.S. diplomacy. For years, senior Administration officials, including Condoleezza Rice, have stressed to us how little the government knows about what goes on inside Iran. In 2005, the bipartisan Robb-Silberman report underscored that "Across the board, the Intelligence Community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors." And as our liberal friends used to remind us, you can never trust the CIA. (Only later did they figure out the agency was usually on their side.)





As recently as 2005, the consensus estimate of our spooks was that "Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons" and do so "despite its international obligations and international pressure." This was a "high confidence" judgment. The new NIE says Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 "in response to increasing international scrutiny." This too is a "high confidence" conclusion. One of the two conclusions is wrong, and casts considerable doubt on the entire process by which these "estimates"--the consensus of 16 intelligence bureaucracies--are conducted and accorded gospel status.
Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

For a flavor of their political outlook, former Bush Administration antiproliferation official John Bolton recalls in his recent memoir that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage "described Brill's efforts in Vienna, or lack thereof, as 'bull--.'" Mr. Brill was "retired" from the State Department by Colin Powell before being rehired, over considerable internal and public protest, as head of the National Counter-Proliferation Center by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

No less odd is the NIE's conclusion that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to "international pressure." The only serious pressure we can recall from that year was the U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the time, an Iranian opposition group revealed the existence of a covert Iranian nuclear program to mill and enrich uranium and produce heavy water at sites previously unknown to U.S. intelligence. The Bush Administration's response was to punt the issue to the Europeans, who in 2003 were just beginning years of fruitless diplomacy before the matter was turned over to the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Bush implied yesterday that the new estimate was based on "some new information," which remains classified. We can only hope so. But the indications that the Bush Administration was surprised by this NIE, and the way it scrambled yesterday to contain its diplomatic consequences, hardly inspire even "medium confidence" that our spooks have achieved some epic breakthrough. The truth could as easily be that the Administration in its waning days has simply lost any control of its bureaucracy--not that it ever had much.

In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale--that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core.

The U.S. also knows that Iran has extensive technical information on how to fit a warhead atop a ballistic missile. And there is considerable evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has been developing the detonation devices needed to set off a nuclear explosion at the weapons testing facility in Parchin. Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one.

Mr. Bush's efforts to further sanction Iran at the U.N. were stalled even before the NIE's release. Those efforts will now be on life support. The NIE's judgments also complicate Treasury's efforts to persuade foreign companies to divest from Iran. Why should they lose out on lucrative business opportunities when even U.S. intelligence absolves the Iranians of evil intent? Calls by Democrats and their media friends to negotiate with Tehran "without preconditions" will surely grow louder.





The larger worry here is how little we seem to have learned from our previous intelligence failures. Over the course of a decade, our intelligence services badly underestimated Saddam's nuclear ambitions, then overestimated them. Now they have done a 180-degree turn on Iran, and in such a way that will contribute to a complacency that will make it easier for Iran to build a weapon. Our intelligence services are supposed to inform the policies of elected officials, but increasingly their judgments seem to be setting policy. This is dangerous.
24211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Madison-- Balance of Powers on: December 05, 2007, 07:43:17 AM
"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for;
but one in which the  powers of government should be so divided
and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no
one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually
checked and restrained by the others."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 58, 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 48
24212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: December 05, 2007, 07:34:46 AM
Good observations.

Apparently not everyone is persuaded by the NIE.

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

Posted December 04, 2007 01:47 PM  Hide Post
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/05/world/middleeast/05we...rss&pagewanted=print

December 5, 2007
Israel Unconvinced Iran Has Dropped Nuclear Program

By STEVEN ERLANGER and GRAHAM BOWLEY
JERUSALEM, Dec. 4 — Israel today took a darker view of Iran’s nuclear ambitions than the assessment released by United States intelligence agencies on Monday, saying it was convinced that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.

It said Iran had probably resumed the nuclear weapons program the American report said was stopped in autumn 2003. “It is apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a certain period of time,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio. “But in our estimation, since then it is apparently continuing with its program to produce a nuclear weapon.”

Israel led the reaction around the world today to the new intelligence assessment released in the United States on Monday that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Iran welcomed the report. “It is natural that we welcome it,” the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, told state-run radio. “Some of the same countries which had questions or ambiguities about our nuclear program are changing their views realistically.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said the new assessment should now help ease the international confrontation with Iran and prompt it to cooperate fully with the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The agency had been criticized in the past by the Bush administration for not pressing Iran hard enough on its nuclear intentions.

"This new assessment by the U.S. should help to defuse the current crisis," the IAEA’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said in a statement.

"At the same time, it should prompt Iran to work actively with the IAEA to clarify specific aspects of its past and present nuclear program as outlined in the work plan and through the implementation of the additional protocol."

But the United States, Britain and France urged the international community to maintain pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment activities despite the new assessment.

"We think the report’s conclusions justify the actions already taken by the international community to both show the extent of and try to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and to increase pressure on the regime to stop its enrichment and reprocessing activities," a spokesman for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"It confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons and shows that the sanctions program and international pressure were having an effect,” he said.

France expressed a similar opinion. "It appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations," a French foreign ministry spokeswoman was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"We must keep up the pressure on Iran,” the spokeswoman said, adding that France “will continue “to work on the introduction of restrictive measures in the framework of the United Nations.”

At a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, today in Moscow, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Iran should ensure its nuclear activities are "open and transparent," Bloomberg reported. Mr. Putin’s spokesman said that Russia is offering to supply Iran fuel for the Russian-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr, in southern Iran, with the intention of persuading Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, Bloomberg reported.

“The sooner we ship it, the less they will have a need for their own program," the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted as saying.

The new American intelligence assessment comes at a sensitive time, when the six powers involved in negotiating with Iran — the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany — have decided to press ahead with a new United Nations Security Council resolution.

Iran had maintained since 2003, when it started negotiations with the three European countries, France, Germany and Britain, that its program was peaceful and not meant for military purposes. It insisted that it wanted to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel for its nuclear reactors.

However, the West had accused Iran of having a clandestine nuclear program. The Security Council has already imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran for its defiance to halt its enrichment program.

With his comments today, Mr. Barak, the Israeli defense minister, came close to contradicting the American assessment of “moderate confidence” that Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program by mid-2007 and that the halt to the weapons program “represents a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program.”

In other words, while the Americans think Iran has stopped its nuclear weapons program while continuing to enrich uranium as rapidly as it can, Israel thinks that Iran has resumed its nuclear weapons program with the clear aim of building a nuclear bomb.

Israel must act in accordance with its intelligence estimates, Mr. Barak suggested. “It is our responsibility to ensure that the right steps are taken against the Iranian regime. As is well known, words don’t stop missiles.”

Assessments may differ, Mr. Barak said, “but we cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the earth, even if it is from our greatest friend.”

Mr. Barak also said that the apparent source for the new American assessment on the weapons program was no longer functioning. “We are talking about a specific track connected with their weapons building program, to which the American connection, and maybe that of others, was severed,” Mr. Barak said cryptically.

It was only today that Israel received and began to assess a copy of the classified American report, which is believed to run some 130 pages, Israeli officials said.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that diplomacy remained the correct path for now to deter Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. But he was explicit about the Israeli conclusion that Iran’s intention is military, not civilian.

“We believe that the purpose of the Iranian nuclear program is to achieve nuclear weapons,” Mr. Regev said. “There is no other logical explanation for the investment the Iranians have made in their nuclear program.”

Some of the differences on estimates for when Iran could be capable of producing a bomb are slight, a matter of a few months, between Israel’s estimate of late 2009 or early 2010 to Washington’s 2010-2015. “A lot of it is splitting hairs,” Mr. Regev said. “Is it 2009 or 2010? Is it likely or very likely? These words are vague.”

Mr. Olmert, who had been briefed on the new assessment in Washington last week, tried to play down the gap in judgments with Washington. “According to this report, and to the American position, it is vital to continue our efforts, with our American friends, to prevent Iran from obtaining non-conventional weapons,” he said.

The American assessment said that Iran probably halted the weapons program “primarily in response to international pressure,” a judgment Israel embraced as a call for further diplomatic action.

But Israeli experts on Iran said that the American report will make any action against Iran less likely, whether diplomatic or military, and would probably kill or dilute American-led efforts to pass another sanctions resolution through the United Nations Security Council.

Efraim Kam, former Israeli military intelligence official on Iran and deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that the report “makes it very hard for anyone in the United States or Israel who was thinking of going for a military option.”

If American intelligence thinks there is no military nuclear program, “that makes it harder for Israel to go against it,” he said, since an Israeli attack would require operational coordination with Washington, “and will also make it harder to pass tougher sanctions. A lot of countries will be happy to go along with that — Russia, China — it’s a gift for the Iranians.”

He said the American assessment surprised him. “The report says its assessment is correct for now, but it could change any time,” he said. “Maybe the Iranians assessed that it was better for them to halt the military program and concentrate on enriching uranium,” which takes a long time, “and then go back to it.”

Iran was shocked this week when Chinese banks refused loans to Iranian businessmen, probably because of American pressure.

The head of the Iran-China chamber of commerce said Monday that over the past week Chinese state banks had refused to open a letter of credit for Iranian businessmen, the daily Etemad reported.

“The banks have not given any reason for these restrictions yet,” he said, adding that a trade delegation was in Beijing to discuss the restriction and that Iran’s central bank was also negotiating with the Chinese.

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.
24213  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: December 04, 2007, 11:43:10 PM
Unmatched weapons fight-- not work suitable

http://youtube.com/watch?v=oA2QK09K-zs
24214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 04, 2007, 02:08:55 PM
WSJ 
With the Afghan Army
By ANN MARLOWE
December 4, 2007; Page A20

Kabul, Afghanistan

The half dozen cadets at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan stood straight and tall in the cramped room they share with six others. I asked, "Are you worried about graduating and going to fight the Taliban?" They smiled. "If you are afraid, you are not here," one said in English.

Seeing these self-assured young men, each of whom has beat out five others for one of the 300 places in the freshman class, it's not hard to understand why the Afghan National Army is one of the unqualified success stories of coalition nation-building efforts. "Since April, the ANA has not lost an engagement with the insurgency," says Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in six eastern Afghan provinces. A 2006 survey showed that 91% of Afghans in the volatile eastern provinces had "a lot" or "some" confidence in the ANA.

Beginning in 2002 with a few dozen officers, the ANA is now 50,000 strong. Most have come through the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), which currently puts 5,000 men at a time through a 10-week Basic Warrior Training course modeled on the program at Fort Benning, Ga. A kandak, or battalion, of 1,000 soldiers leaves to fight every two weeks, each one deploying as a unit in a province where security is iffy. Just two corps of the army are in the stable northern and western provinces; three are in the south and east.

The KMTC replaces academies that ceased to function during the war years, and represents a sea change in Afghan military culture. Instructors are no longer allowed to hit the students, and the laws of war are taught early on. Drill is kept to a minimum -- "just enough for them to be soldiers," as Brigadier Tim Allen, who mentors the ANA training command, puts it -- with the focus on maneuvers.

The KMTC retains some distinctively Afghan aspects. One is the attention paid to ethnic balance. Another is basic literacy training. After four weeks of training, soldiers are tested for literacy in their mother tongue (Dari or Pashto) and sent for instruction accordingly. The most recent kandak to pass through was just 30% literate at the four-week mark; trainers admit that the 10-week course isn't long enough to bring everyone up to full literacy. NCOs must be literate to enter training.

According to Maj. Jim Fisher, a reservist and the senior U.S. mentor for Basic Warrior Training, the dropout percentages are in the low 20s. Not every recruit has what it takes, and some soldiers turn out to have left home without telling their families, who find out and implore them to return. Others turn out to be under the age minimum, 17. And some, faced with a deployment in a dangerous area in a remote province, instead elect to join the Afghan National Police near their homes. This option has grown in popularity lately, since police salaries are due to reach parity with the army in January.

In some eastern and southern provinces, recruits face Taliban intimidation. Many recruits admitted to me that they do not wear their uniforms home on vacation.

Officers follow a different path. A British-run officer training school, established in 2006 and based on Sandhurst, has graduated around 100 high school and college graduates. Now it is taking in 130 men in each class with a target output of 102 second lieutenants after the program.

The 630-student National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA) is the gem of the system. Founded in March 2005 and modeled on West Point, it's currently admitting classes of 300 cadets and expecting a 25% attrition rate. It will admit women as 10% of the student body in 2011, when female dorms are ready. The applicant pool has been steadily rising, mainly by word of mouth, with 1,200 applying last year and 1,800 this year. All the professors are Afghan, with the exception of the instructors in foreign languages.

Everything at the NMAA is geared to producing a national army free of regional and ethnic biases. Even their living quarters take ethnic and regional balance into account. In one random dormitory room I visited, the 12 cadets came from all over the country. In fact, these young men have been so well drilled that random questions about unrelated issues are apt to include a reference to the fact that "we are one Army for all of Afghanistan."

ANA officer pay is decent by Afghan standards, but, as in the U.S., money would not be anyone's primary motivation. A brigadier general makes $580 a month, a major $330, a second lieutenant $210. The cadets I met seemed driven by patriotism and, in many cases, family tradition: As at West Point, many cadets have relatives who are officers.

Col. Scott Hamilton, a graduate of West Point and a civil engineering professor there, terms the achievement "staggering." "Imagine starting a four-year liberal arts college from scratch," he says. "And then imagine that in Afghanistan."

Ms. Marlowe is the author of "The Book of Trouble" (Harcourt, 2006), a memoir.

 
24215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Thomas Jefferson: RKBA vs. tyranny on: December 04, 2007, 01:22:13 PM
No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government" --

Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334
24216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: December 04, 2007, 10:44:59 AM
Second post of the morning:

The Allure of Tyranny
December 4, 2007; Page A20
'It is ultimately a cruel misunderstanding of youth to believe it will find its heart's desire in freedom," says Leo Naphta, the great character of Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain." "Its deepest desire is to obey." On Sunday, voters as far apart as Caracas and Vladivostok took to the polls and put Naphta's theory to a practical test.

 
In Russia, the result of parliamentary elections was a triumph for President Vladimir Putin: His party, United Russia, won 64% of the vote. Add that to the votes taken by the Kremlin's allies and the Putin tally reaches 80%, with the principal "democratic" opposition represented (at 11.5%) by the Communists. The vote sets up Mr. Putin, an exceptionally fit 55, to rule Russia for another four-year term, and perhaps several terms beyond that.

By happy contrast, Hugo Chávez's effort to establish himself as Venezuela's president-for-life via a constitutional referendum seems to have failed by a narrow margin. Even so, an astonishing 49% of voters were prepared, according to the official count, to permanently forgo the opportunity to choose a president other than Mr. Chávez.

 
The phenomenon in which masses of people enthusiastically sign away their democratic rights is not new: It happened in Germany and Austria in the 1930s. But it's one that Americans especially have a hard time coming to grips with. The freedom agenda may no longer be in vogue, but most Americans implicitly endorse George Bush's view that "eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul." When it doesn't -- when, in fact, it is consciously and deliberately spurned -- we rationalize it in ways that go only so far in offering a persuasive account of the dark allure of tyranny.

Culture is one rationalization. The word is invoked by everyone from self-described Burkean conservatives to left-wing cultural relativists to explain the supposed failure of some benighted corners of the world to adopt and sustain democratic norms. In this view, Africa and the Arab world are too tribal; the Muslim world makes no distinction between the divine and the mundane; Latin America cannot find a stable middle ground between populism and paternalism; the Chinese are too used to emperors and mandarins, the Russians too used to czars and bureaucrats. And so on.

But cultural determinism often runs afoul of reality: The example of China is counterexampled by Taiwan; Zimbabwe by Botswana; Jeddah by Dubai; President Chávez by President Álvaro Uribe in neighboring Colombia. Like baseball statistics, culture has a way of explaining a lot until it suddenly explains nothing.

A second line has it that the Putins and Chávezes of the world owe their popularity to bread-and-circuses tactics: the canny manipulation of the media, their appeal to nationalism and xenophobia, bureaucratic patronage and above all the benefit of having petrodollars to shower on favored constituencies.

Here the argument is that the two men rule by what amounts to an elaborate hoax. Yet that only begs the question of why the hoax is so widely believed. Venezuelans and Russians can travel abroad, and still have considerable (albeit diminishing) access to foreign sources of news and opinion; they can read the anxious op-eds warning of creeping dictatorship. In Venezuela, that might have even tipped the scales in Sunday's vote. Yet in Russia, "outside meddling" has had no measurable effect on Mr. Putin's overwhelming and genuine popularity, which seems only to have been enhanced by the perception that the West increasingly fears and mistrusts him.

Perhaps the most conventional theory is that Messrs. Putin and Chávez, like most autocrats, ultimately rule through a combination of intimidation and dirty tricks. Thus in a Saturday op-ed in this newspaper, Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov asks why Mr. Putin feels compelled to engage in "heavy-handed campaigning if he knows he and United Russia are going to win?" Mr. Kasparov's answer is that the president "is very aware of how brittle his power structure has become."

Plainly the fear factor is central to the politics of both countries. But neither is it the whole story. Russians and Venezuelans alike elected their current leaders with bitter memories of democracy: economic collapse and social chaos under Boris Yeltsin; the incompetent revolving-door governments of Rafael Caldera and Carlos Andrés Pérez. Messrs. Putin and Chávez both came to office promising to reverse the disintegrating trend with what the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden once called "the smack" -- he meant the word in its physical sense -- "of firm government." Their track records over the past eight years represent, if nothing else, the fulfillment of that promise, and the widespread gratitude that promise-keeping engendered.

That is the crucial context in which Chavismo and Putinism need to be understood. "The totalitarian phenomenon," observed the late French political philosopher Jean-Francois Revel, "is not to be understood without making allowance for the thesis that some important part of every society consists of people who actively want tyranny: either to exercise it themselves or -- much more mysteriously -- to submit to it. Democracy will therefore always remain at risk."

There is a lesson here for President Bush, who in headier moments seems to forget that freedom's goodness must first be demonstrated instrumentally -- that is, in terms of what it tangibly delivers -- before it can be demonstrated morally or spiritually. There is a broader lesson here, too, that while tyranny may ripen in certain political climates, it springs from sources deep within ourselves: the yearning for a politics without contradictions; the terror inscribed in the act of choice.

Thank goodness there is usually more to human nature than that, as courageous Venezuelans proved Sunday. Other times, that's all there is. Welcome to Mr. Putin's democracy.
24217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: December 04, 2007, 10:41:04 AM
Islam and Teddy Bears
December 4, 2007

Sudan's President yesterday pardoned Gillian Gibbons, jailed last Sunday for insulting Islam -- an offense so arbitrarily constructed these days, it's getting hard to avoid. The British teacher incurred the wrath of the Islamic regime, otherwise busy slaughtering fellow Muslims in Darfur, by allowing her mostly Muslim students at an English school in Khartoum to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

In a rally on Friday, thousands of protesters, many armed with clubs and swords, called for Ms. Gibbons's death. The faithful were angry that she was sentenced to "only" 15 days after being threatened with 40 lashes and six months. Her early release and the fact that Europe has been spared similar demonstrations of Muslim piety as during the 2005-2006 Danish Muhammad-cartoon riots, is probably the best one can say about this affair.

"I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone," Ms. Gibbons said. But what she intended doesn't matter. In the paranoid vision of Muslim fanatics, even a stuffed toy can be part of the "plot against Islam." Where believers are determined to feel insult where none was intended and, worse, use violence to revenge any slight, imagined or real, interreligious dialogue becomes, let's say, problematic. While Ms. Gibbon's ordeal seems over, thanks largely to Western pressure, another woman is still feeling the full justice of Shariah law. In Saudi Arabia, a gang rape victim was sentenced to six months and 200 lashes. Her crime? When the then-19-year-old woman was abducted by her tormentors, she was in a car alone with an unrelated man.

The Girl of Qatif, as the rape victim is known, is not as lucky as Ms. Gibbons. The Saudi Foreign Minister, responding yesterday to the White House's criticism of the punishment as "outrageous," showed his sympathy -- for the barbaric treatment accorded the woman. "What is outraging about this case" he told reporters, "is that it is being used against the Saudi government and people."

A measure of a society's moral stature is how it treats its weakest members. In the Middle East, women are among the most vulnerable. Western media and women-rights groups usually greet female subjugation in the Muslim world as a nonevent. This time, Ms. Gibbons and the Saudi rape victim received broad press coverage as well as expressions of support from Western governments. We await the day that more Muslims speak out against violence perpetrated against women in the name of their religion.

WSJ
24218  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Thom Beers Interview WJFK RADIO Sept. 07 on: December 03, 2007, 10:50:50 PM
NBC strikes deal to air prime-time docudramas
By Meg James, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 3, 2007
LA TIMES

NBC is turning over precious real estate to outside producers in an effort to spend less money on programming as its business is challenged by a changing entertainment landscape.

Under a deal quietly finalized last week, NBC agreed to carve out a two-hour block on its prime-time schedule for adventure documentaries produced by Thom Beers, whose credits include such popular cable shows as "Deadliest Catch" and "Monster Garage."

NBC confirmed Sunday that it had ordered three of the so-called docudramas from the partnership of Beers and BermanBraun, the production company formed this year by former network entertainment chiefs Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun. NBC plans to buy at least three more shows in the same genre from the partnership.

The deal is noteworthy because NBC has promised, at least initially, to run the Beers shows back-to-back on the same night and could eventually expand the block to three hours.

"This is a totally unique deal with tons of potential," said Braun, a former top executive at Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network and Yahoo. "We love the docudrama format. It's a form of television that hasn't been actively explored on the network level."

NBC had considered airing the block Saturday nights, when prime-time viewership is low, but it has not decided on a night.

The arrangement is not a first of its kind for NBC. Producer Peter Engel provided a Saturday morning block of shows that included "Saved by the Bell," which began its run in the late 1980s.

Five years ago, NBC structured a deal with Discovery Communications Inc. to provide Saturday morning programming, but that has since expired.

In some ways, NBC is ripping a page from Discovery, which has enjoyed robust ratings from shows including those produced by Beers, who is chief executive of Original Productions.

Network executives are struggling to find more cost-effective ways to make shows at a time when prime-time ratings are falling because of newer technologies such as digital video recorders and the Internet.

Until recently, a TV company could make money by airing a single episode two or three times during a season on its network. Producers reaped huge rewards when successful shows were sold into syndication.

But these days, ratings for repeats have declined, threatening the industry's system for covering its losses on the shows that didn't work. What's more, the major networks such as NBC are streaming their shows on the Internet, but the returns are negligible compared with those from syndication. No wonder that, with production costs soaring on dramas and comedies, TV executives have been trying to find savings.





Shows such as "Deadliest Catch" that generate robust ratings cost only about $600,000 an hour to produce, compared with as much as $3 million for an hourlong prime-time drama, according to two people familiar with the finances. Beers said his shows appealed to a particularly lucrative niche of young men who are not always tuned into network TV.

"I'm a blue-collar guy, I came out of New York and this is the world I know," he said in an interview.

The idea for the programming block originated this year, when Braun and Berman, formerly president of Fox Entertainment and Paramount Pictures, began discussing ways to program Saturday night with NBC. Not lost on the executives was the success that Fox Broadcasting has enjoyed with its 20-year franchise of "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" on Saturday.

The producers then zeroed in on shows such as "Deadliest Catch" and "Ice Road Truckers," which Beers said attracted nearly 5 million viewers during its season finale in August. Berman and Braun approached Beers, and they arranged the partnership.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, NBC Universal has agreed to buy at least 30 hours of programming from Beers and BermanBraun.

NBC declined to comment on the deal.

meg.james@latimes.com


24219  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 03, 2007, 09:32:22 PM
Long, but it has the 911 transcript

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

(CBS) The 911 call came from a Pasadena, Tex., resident, who alerted police to two burglary suspects on a neighbor's property. Before he hung up, two men were dead by his hand.

Joe Horn, 61, told the dispatcher what he intended to do: Walk out his front door with a shotgun.

"I've got a shotgun," Horn said, according to a tape of the 911 call. "Do you want me to stop them?"

"Nope, don't do that - ain't no property worth shooting somebody over, OK?" the dispatcher responded.

"Hurry up man, catch these guys, will you? 'Cause I'm ain't gonna let 'em go, I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm not gonna let 'em go. I'm not gonna let 'em get away with this ----."

Shortly after, Horn said he sees one suspect was standing in front of his house, looking at it from the street.

"I don’t know if they’re armed or not. I know they got a crowbar 'cause that's what they broke the windows with. ... Man, this is scary, I can't believe this is happening in this neighborhood."

He gets more agitated. The dispatcher asks if he can see the suspects but they had retreated into the target's house, out of view: "I can go out the front [to look], but if I go out the front I'm bringing my shotgun with me, I swear to God. I am not gonna let 'em get away with this, I can't take a chance on getting killed over this, OK? I'm gonna shoot, I'm gonna shoot."

"Stay inside the house and don’t go out there, OK?" the dispatcher said. "I know you're pissed off, I know what you're feeling, but it's not worth shooting somebody over this, OK?"

"I don’t want to," Horn said, "but I mean if I go out there, you know, to see what the hell is going on, what choice am I gonna have?

"No, I don’t want you to go out there, I just asked if you could see anything out there."

The dispatcher asks if a vehicle could be seen; Horn said no. The dispatcher again says Horn should stay inside the house.

Almost five minutes into the call, police had not arrived.

"I can’t see if [the suspects are] getting away or not," Horn said.

Horn told the dispatcher that he doesn’t know the neighbors well, unlike those living on the other side of his home. "I can assure you if it had been their house, I would have already done something, because I know them very well," he said.
Dispatcher: "I want you to listen to me carefully, OK?"

Horn: "Yes?"

Dispatcher: "I got ultras coming out there. I don't want you to go outside that house. And I don't want you to have that gun in your hand when those officers are poking around out there."

Horn: "I understand that, OK, but I have a right to protect myself too, sir, and you understand that. And the laws have been changed in this country since September the First and you know it and I know it."

Dispatcher: "I understand."

Horn: "I have a right to protect myself ..."

Dispatcher: "I'm ..."

Horn: "And a shotgun is a legal weapon, it's not an illegal weapon."

Dispatcher: "No, it's not, I'm not saying that, I'm just not wanting you to ..."

Horn: "OK, he's coming out the window right now, I gotta go, buddy. I'm sorry, but he's coming out the window. "

Dispatcher: "No, don't, don't go out the door, Mister Horn. Mister Horn..."

Horn: "They just stole something, I'm going out to look for 'em, I'm sorry, I ain't letting them get away with this ----. They stole something, they got a bag of stuff. I'm doing it!"

Dispatcher: "Mister, do not go outside the house."

Horn: "I'm sorry, this ain't right, buddy."

Dispatcher: "You gonna get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun, I don't care what you think."

Horn: "You wanna make a bet?"

Dispatcher: "Stay in the house."

Horn: "There, one of them's getting away!

Dispatcher: "That's alright, property's not something worth killing someone over. OK? Don't go out the house, don't be shooting nobody. I know you're pissed and you're frustrated but don't do it."

Horn: "They got a bag of loot."

Dispatcher: "OK. How big is the bag?" He then talks off, relaying the information.

Dispatcher: "Which way are they going?"

Horn: "I can't ... I'm going outside. I'll find out."

Dispatcher: "I don't want you going outside, Mister..."

Horn: "Well, here it goes buddy, you hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going."

Dispatcher: "Don't go outside."
On the tape of the 911 call, the shotgun can be heard being cocked and Horn can be heard going outside and confronting someone.

"Boom! You're dead!" he shouts. A loud bang is heard, then a shotgun being cocked and fired again, and then again.

Then Horn is back on the phone:
"Get the law over here quick. I've now, get, one of them's in the front yard over there, he's down, he almost run down the street. I had no choice. They came in the front yard with me, man, I had no choice! ... Get somebody over here quick, man."

Dispatcher: "Mister Horn, are you out there right now?"

Horn: "No, I am inside the house, I went back in the house. Man, they come right in my yard, I didn't know what the --- they was gonna do, I shot 'em, OK?"

Dispatcher: "Did you shoot somebody?

Horn: "Yes, I did, the cops are here right now."

Dispatcher: "Where are you right now?"

Horn: "I'm inside the house. ..."

Dispatcher: "Mister Horn, put that gun down before you shoot an officer of mine. I've got several officers out there without uniforms on."

Horn: "I am in the front yard right now. I am ..."

Dispatcher: "Put that gun down! There's officers out there without uniforms on. Do not shoot anybody else, do you understand me? I've got police out there..."

Horn: "I understand, I understand. I am out in the front yard waving my hand right now."

Dispatcher: "You don't have a gun with you, do you?

Horn: "No, no, no."

Dispatcher: "You see a uniformed officer? Now lay down on the ground and don't do nothing else."

Yelling is heard.

Dispatcher: "Lay down on the ground, Mister Horn. Do what the officers tell you to do right now."
Two days later, Horn released a statement through an attorney.

“The events of that day will weigh heavily on me for the rest of my life," it said. "My thoughts go out to the loved ones of the deceased.”

The identities of the men killed were released Friday.

They are Miguel Antonio Dejesus, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30. Official records show that each of them had a prior arrest in Harris County for drug offenses.

The men were reportedly shot at a distance of less than 15 feet.

A woman who lives nearby who asked not to be identified told CBS News affiliate KHOU correspondent Rucks Russell that she always saw Horn as a grandfather figure. "He is the guardian of the neighborhood," she said. "He takes care of all our kids. If we ever need anything, we call him.”

But according to Tom Lambright, Horn’s attorney and a friend for more than four decades, he’s the one in need now. “He just needs everyone to know he’s not a villain, he’s not a bad guy,” Lambright said.

He went on to say that Horn voluntarily gave an extensive video statement to police immediately following the shooting.

Horn was not taken into custody after the shooting. A Harris County grand jury will decide if charges are to be filed.

Lambright says Horn acted in complete and total self defense and has nothing to hide.

Local opinion has been passionate on both sides of the shooting.

One letter to the Houston Chronicle said, "He didn't shoot them in the legs, to make sure they did not run away, or hold them at gunpoint until police arrived. No, he was judge, jury and executioner."

Another letter writer praised Horn, saying, "Where does the line form to pin a medal on Joe Horn? I want to get in line." Another wrote, "Let's get rid of the police force and just hire Joe Horn!"

Support for Horn was also running about 2-1 in an online survey of readers on the KHOU Web site.

The incident may prove a test for a new law recently passed in Texas which expands the right of citizens to use deadly force.

Under Texas law, people may use deadly force to protect their own property or to stop arson, burglary, robbery, theft or criminal mischief at night.

But the legislator who authored the "castle doctrine" bill told the Chronicle it was never intended to apply to a neighbor's property, to prompt a "'Law West of the Pecos' mentality or action," said Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth. "You're supposed to be able to defend your own home, your own family, in your house, your place of business or your motor vehicle."
24220  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 03, 2007, 09:16:54 PM
Important legal issues presented in this story:

AP Texas News
Nov. 15, 2007, 11:38AM
Elderly man shoots two suspected burglars at neighbor's home
© 2007 The Associated Press

PASADENA, Texas — A grand jury will decide if an elderly man who shot and killed two men he believed were robbing his neighbor's home acted within the limits of the state's self-defense laws.

The man, who is in his 70s, shot the two suspected burglars Wednesday afternoon in a quiet subdivision of the city southeast of Houston. He confronted the men as they were leaving through a gate leading to the front yard of his neighbor's home.

Just before the shootings, the man called 911 to say that he heard glass breaking and saw two men entering the home through a window, Pasadena police said.
"The man told the dispatcher: "I'm getting my gun and going to stop them. The dispatcher said, 'No, stay inside the house; officers are on the way.'," said police spokesman Vance Mitchell. "Then you hear him rack the shotgun. The next sound the dispatcher heard was a boom. Then there was silence for a couple of seconds and then another boom."

The telephone line then went dead, but the man called police again and told a dispatcher what he had done. He said he confronted the suspected burglars and asked them to stop, but they did not.
The man then fired twice, striking one of the suspected burglars in the chest, and the other on the side. The shooter's name was not released.

When police arrived, they found one dead man across the street, and the other two houses behind a bank of mailboxes in the Village Grove East subdivision.  The suspects' names were not released, but police said they had documentation from Puerto Rico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

Under state law, Texans are allowed to defend themselves with deadly force to protect their own property. The person using deadly force must believe there is no other way to protect their belongings.  Defense attorney Tommy LaFon, a former Harris County prosecutor, said the gunman may be on safe legal ground if the neighbor whose home was burglarized tells police he asked the man to watch his property.  "If the homeowner comes out and says, 'My neighbor had a greater right of possession than the people trying to break in,' that could put him (the gunman) in an ownership role," LaFon said.

According to the state penal code, a person can use force or deadly force to defend someone else's property if he reasonably believes he has a legal duty to do so or the property owner had requested his protection.
__________________
Here is the actual 911 call:
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f3d_1195171937
===================================
Texas Penal Code
§ 9.43. PROTECTION OF THIRD PERSON'S PROPERTY. A person
is justified in using force or deadly force against another to
protect land or tangible, movable property of a third person if,
under the circumstances as he reasonably believes them to be, the
actor would be justified under Section 9.41 or 9.42 in using force
or deadly force to protect his own land or property and:
(1) the actor reasonably believes the unlawful
interference constitutes attempted or consummated theft of or
criminal mischief to the tangible, movable property;
(2) the actor reasonably believes that: (A) the third person has requested his protection of the land or property;
(B) he has a legal duty to protect the third person's land or property; or
(C) the third person whose land or property he uses force or deadly force to protect is the actor's spouse, parent, or child, resides with the actor, or is under the actor's care.


§ 9.42. DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT PROPERTY. A person is
justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or
tangible, movable property:
(1) if he would be justified in using force against the
other under Section 9.41; and
(2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the
deadly force is immediately necessary:
(A) to prevent the other's imminent commission of
arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the
nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime; or
(B) to prevent the other who is fleeing
immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated
robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the
property; and
(3) he reasonably believes that:
(A) the land or property cannot be protected or
recovered by any other means; or
(B) the use of force other than deadly force to
protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or
another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

§ 9.41. PROTECTION OF ONE'S OWN PROPERTY. (a) A person in
lawful possession of land or tangible, movable property is
justified in using force against another when and to the degree the
actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to
prevent or terminate the other's trespass on the land or unlawful
interference with the property.
(b) A person unlawfully dispossessed of land or tangible,
movable property by another is justified in using force against the
other when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force
is immediately necessary to reenter the land or recover the
property if the actor uses the force immediately or in fresh pursuit
after the dispossession and:
(1) the actor reasonably believes the other had no
claim of right when he dispossessed the actor; 


and


Quote:
Sec. 83.001. CIVIL IMMUNITY A defendant who uses force or deadly force that is justified under Chapter 9, Penal Code, is immune from civil liability for personal injury or death that results from the defendant's use of force or deadly force, as applicable. 
24221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Solving a Geopolitical Problem with Iran on: December 03, 2007, 07:32:32 PM
The NIE Report: Solving a Geopolitical Problem with Iran
By George Friedman
stratfor

The United States released a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Dec. 3. It said, "We judge with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." It went on to say, "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005." It further said, "Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs."

With this announcement, the dynamics of the Middle Eastern region, Iraq and U.S.-Iranian relations shift dramatically. For one thing, the probability of a unilateral strike against Iranian nuclear targets is gone. Since there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program, there is no rationale for a strike. Moreover, if Iran is not engaged in weapons production, then a broader air campaign designed to destabilize the Iranian regime has no foundation either.

The NIE release represents a transformation of U.S. policy toward Iran. The Bush administration made Iran's nuclear weapons program the main reason for its attempt to create an international coalition against Iran, on the premise that a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable. If there is no Iranian nuclear program, then what is the rationale for the coalition? Moreover, what is the logic of resisting Iran's efforts in Iraq, rather than cooperating?

In looking at the report, a number of obvious questions come up. First, how did the intelligence community reach the wrong conclusion in the spring of 2005, when it last released an NIE on Iran, and what changed by 2007? Also, why did the United States reach the wrong conclusions on Iran three years after its program was halted? There are two possible answers. One is intelligence failure and the other is political redefinition. Both must be explored.

Let's begin with intelligence failure. Intelligence is not an easy task. Knowing what is going on inside of a building is harder than it might seem. Regardless of all the technical capabilities -- from imagery in all spectra to sensing radiation leakage at a distance -- huge uncertainties always remain. Failing to get a positive reading does not mean the facility is not up and running. It might just have been obscured, or the technical means to discover it are insufficient. The default setting in technical intelligence is that, while things can be ruled in, they cannot simply be ruled out by lack of evidence.

You need to go into the building. Indeed, you need to go into many buildings, look around, see what is happening and report back. Getting into highly secure buildings may be easy in the movies. It is not easy in real life. Getting someone into the building who knows what he is seeing is even harder. Getting him out alive to report back, and then repeating the process in other buildings, is even harder. It can be done -- though not easily or repeatedly.

Recruiting someone who works in the building is an option, but at the end of the day you have to rely on his word as to what he saw. That too, is a risk. He might well be a double agent who is inventing information to make money, or he could just be wrong. There is an endless number of ways that recruiting on-site sources can lead you to the wrong conclusion.

Source-based intelligence would appear to be the only way to go. Obviously, it is better to glean information from someone who knows what is going on, rather than to guess. But the problem with source-based intelligence is that, when all is said and done, you can still be just as confused -- or more confused -- than you were at the beginning. You could wind up with a mass of intelligence that can be read either way. It is altogether possible to have so many sources, human and technical, that you have no idea what the truth is. That is when an intelligence organization is most subject to political pressure. When the intelligence could go either way, politics can tilt the system. We do not know what caused the NIE to change its analysis. It could be the result of new, definitive intelligence, or existing intelligence could have been reread from a new political standpoint.

Consider the politics. The assumption was that Iran wanted to develop nuclear weapons -- though its motivations for wanting to do so were never clear to us. First, the Iranians had to assume that, well before they had an operational system, the United States or Israel would destroy it. In other words, it would be a huge effort for little profit. Second, assume that it developed one or two weapons and attacked Israel, for example. Israel might well have been destroyed, but Iran would probably be devastated by an Israeli or U.S. counterstrike. What would be the point?

For Iran to be developing nuclear weapons, it would have to have been prepared to take extraordinary risks. A madman theory, centered around the behavior of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was essential. But as the NIE points out, Iran was "guided by a cost-benefit approach." In simple terms, the Iranians weren't nuts. That is why they didn't build a nuclear program.

That is not to say Iran did not benefit from having the world believe it was building nuclear weapons. The United States is obsessed with nuclear weapons in the hands of states it regards as irrational. By appearing to be irrational and developing nuclear weapons, the Iranians created a valuable asset to use in negotiating with the Americans. The notion of a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands appeared so threatening that the United States might well negotiate away other things -- particularly in Iraq -- in exchange for a halt of the program. Or so the Iranians hoped. Therefore, while they halted development on their weapons program, they were not eager to let the Americans relax. They swung back and forth between asserting their right to operate the program and denying they had one. Moreover, they pushed hard for a civilian power program, which theoretically worried the world less. It drove the Americans up a wall -- precisely where the Iranians wanted them.

As we have argued, the central issue for Iran is not nuclear weapons. It is the future of Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 was the defining moment in modern Iranian history. It not only devastated Iran, but also weakened the revolution internally. Above all, Tehran never wants to face another Iraqi regime that has the means and motivation to wage war against Iran. That means the Iranians cannot tolerate a Sunni-dominated government that is heavily armed and backed by the United States. Nor, for that matter, does Tehran completely trust Iraq's fractured Shiite bloc with Iran's national security. Iran wants to play a critical role in defining the nature, policies and capabilities of the Iraqi regime.

The recent U.S. successes in Iraq, however limited and transitory they might be, may have caused the Iranians to rethink their view on dealing with the Americans on Iraq. The Americans, regardless of progress, cannot easily suppress all of the Shiite militias. The Iranians cannot impose a regime on Iraq, though they can destabilize the process. A successful outcome requires a degree of cooperation -- and recent indications suggest that Iran is prepared to provide that cooperation.

That puts the United States in an incredibly difficult position. On the one hand, it needs Iran for the endgame in Iraq. On the other, negotiating with Iran while it is developing nuclear weapons runs counter to fundamental U.S. policies and the coalition it was trying to construct. As long as Iran was building nuclear weapons, working with Iran on Iraq was impossible.

The NIE solves a geopolitical problem for the United States. Washington cannot impose a unilateral settlement on Iraq, nor can it sustain forever the level of military commitment it has made to Iraq. There are other fires starting to burn around the world. At the same time, Washington cannot work with Tehran while it is building nuclear weapons. Hence, the NIE: While Iran does have a nuclear power program, it is not building nuclear weapons.

Perhaps there was a spectacular and definitive intelligence breakthrough that demonstrated categorically that the prior assessments were wrong. Proving a negative is tough, and getting a definitive piece of intelligence is hard. Certainly, no matter how definitive the latest intelligence might have been, a lot of people want Iran to be building a nuclear weapon, so the debate over the meaning of this intelligence would have roared throughout the intelligence community and the White House. Keeping such debate this quiet and orderly is not Washington's style.

Perhaps the Iranians are ready to deal, and so decided to open up their facility for the Americans to see. Still, regardless of what the Iranians opened up, some would have argued that the United States was given a tour only of what the Iranians wanted them to see. There is a mention in the report that any Iranian program would be covert rather than overt, and that might reflect such concerns. However, all serious nuclear programs are always covert until they succeed. Nothing is more vulnerable than an incomplete nuclear program.

We are struck by the suddenness of the NIE report. Explosive new intelligence would have been more hotly contested. We suspect two things. First, the intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program consisted of a great number of pieces, many of which were inherently ambiguous and could be interpreted in multiple ways. Second, the weight of evidence for there being an Iranian nuclear program was shaded by the political proclivities of the administration, which saw the threat of a U.S. strike as intimidating Iran, and the weapons program discussion as justifying it. Third, the change in political requirements on both sides made a new assessment useful. This last has certainly been the case in all things Middle Eastern these past few days on issues ranging from the Palestinians to Syria to U.S. forces in Iraq -- so why should this issue be any different?

If this thesis is correct, then we should start seeing some movement on Iraq between the United States and Iran. Certainly the major blocker from the U.S. side has been removed and the success of U.S. policies of late should motivate the Iranians. In any case, the entire framework for U.S.-Iranian relations would appear to have shifted, and with it the structure of geopolitical relations throughout the region.

Intelligence is rarely as important as when it is proven wrong.
24222  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Death in the Cage on: December 03, 2007, 06:13:31 PM


Houston mixed martial artist Sam Vasquez died Friday, more than five weeks after he was critically injured in a bout.

He was 35.

Vasquez is the first mixed martial arts fighter to die after suffering injuries in a sanctioned bout. American Doug Dedge died in 1998 after being knocked out in an unregulated fight in the Ukraine.

Vasquez was hospitalized after being knocked out in the third round of a fight against Vince Libardi of San Antonio at the Renegades Extreme Fighting show Oct. 20 at Toyota Center. He lost consciousness and suffered a seizure immediately following the knockout. Vasquez had been in intensive care at St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston before being transferred to a local hospice last Monday.

The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Vasquez's death. The cause of death is still to be determined.

"It's a terrible thing; a rare thing," said Lewis Wood, who assisted with preparations for the fight but was not Vasquez's primary trainer. "Obviously, injuries are common, but no one ever expects anything like this to happen. He was the nicest guy in the world. This is a hard one for everyone who knew him."

While hospitalized, Vasquez suffered a massive stroke. According to comments posted by Vasquez's wife, Sandra, to a forum on www.txmma.com, Vasquez was in a medically induced coma and had undergone two surgeries to remove blood clots in his brain. As with all combat-sports bouts sanctioned by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, Vasquez was required to be medically cleared to fight.

Renegades promoter Saul Soliz has been staging professional and amateur shows in Texas since 2000. He had the necessary license from the TDLR to stage the event. Calls to Soliz were not returned.

Vasquez is survived by his wife and a son.


http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/sports/5346309.html




2nd article

http://sports.yahoo.com/mma/news?slug=dm-fighterdeath120207&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Sam Vasquez of Houston may have become the first fighter to die from injuries sustained in mixed martial arts competition in North America.

A report by The Fight Network cited the Harris County (Texas) medical examiner's office confirming Vasquez's death at 8:15 p.m. Friday. The cause of death was not released.

Vasquez had been battling for his life since taking a hard right to the chin from 21-year old Vince Libardi on Oct. 20 during a Renegades Extreme Fighting show at the Toyota Center in Houston. The blow knocked Vasquez out and he was rushed to St. Joseph Medical Center, where he stayed until moving to hospice care on Monday.

The 35-year-old Vasquez was competing in the featherweight division (145 pound weight class) in the third match of a 12-match card promoted by Saul Soliz, the longtime boxing coach of Ultimate Fighting Championship superstar Tito Ortiz. The show was overseen by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Calls to the department on Sunday were not immediately returned.

After taking a flurry of punches from Libardi, Vasquez collapsed in the ring and the fight was waved off at 2:50 of the third round. Emergency medical technicians worked on him in the ring for several minutes until he suffered what appeared to be a seizure and was rushed to the hospital.

 
Vasquez's condition worsened from there. On Nov. 4, two weeks after being admitted, he underwent the first of two surgeries to relieve the pressure of a large clot in his brain, then had a massive stroke on Nov. 9 and was placed in a medically induced coma.

Vasquez, who had a seven-year-old son, came into the match with a 1-1 record, and had not fought in 13 months. Libardi, 14 years Vasquez's junior, entered the match with seven pro fights and 10 rounds of action over three fights in the time since Vasquez had last fought in Sept. 2006.

"There was nothing out of the ordinary," Paul Erickson, who was at ringside taking photos, said in an interview with The Fight Network. "They scrambled and hit the cage. Sammy stood up and looked a little wobbly. Then he went down and the referee called the doctor in. It didn't seem like anything was out of the ordinary. Sammy was winded and looked exhausted, but he wasn't unconscious when they carried him out. Everyone was puzzled at the time because no one could tell when or where he was injured."

MMA had until recently been considered highly controversial, and a group of critics led by Sen. John McCain caused it to be banned in several states in the mid-to-late 1990s and pressured cable companies to not air its pay-per-view events.

In the past two-and-a-half years, though, the sport exploded in popularity due to television exposure of UFC, the sport's major league franchise. UFC's success has spawned hundreds of smaller promotions around North America with many states now holding more MMA events than boxing events.

Mixed martial arts officials and fans have long noted that there had never been a death in a sanctioned MMA match, a statistic no other combat sport could claim.

The only confirmed death prior to government oversight came when 31-year-old Douglas Dedge of Chipley, Fla. passed away on March 18, 1998, from severe brain injuries suffered in a match two days earlier at a non-sanctioned event called World Super Challenge in Kiev, Ukraine. Dedge had passed out in a training session leading up to the fight, but went through with the match anyway.


24223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Huckabee on: December 03, 2007, 12:12:09 PM
When I first met Mike Huckabee, now the GOP frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses, it was 1993 and he had just been elected Arkansas's first GOP lieutenant governor in a stunning upset. He spoke glowingly at the time of his political consultant, Dick Morris. But Mr. Morris soon went back to his old client Bill Clinton, like Mr. Huckabee a man born in Hope, Ark., to help Mr. Clinton repair his battered presidency.

Flash forward 14 years: While Mr. Morris underwent a famous falling-out with the Clintons, he remains a favorite of Mr. Huckabee and Politico.com reports the two men "have been holding private conversations" on a regular basis. It's no surprise then that Mr. Morris has been extolling Mr. Huckabee's virtues in his newspaper columns and Fox News appearances. Just last week, he defended the former Arkansas governor against attacks on his tax record by the free-market Club for Growth. "Mike Huckabee is a fiscal conservative," Mr. Morris insisted.

Few would be shocked if Mr. Morris, a famously flexible political advocate, were soon defending Mr. Huckabee against charges that he had a curious habit of pardoning convicted felons. In one famous case, Mr. Huckabee pushed for the freedom of Wayne Dumond, a convicted rapist -- who, 11 months later, sexually assaulted and murdered a woman.

Mr. Morris told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that Mr. Huckabee's sometimes left-leaning record on spending and criminal justice would be an overall plus because many voters agree with the former governor in the power of forgiveness. "He puts all of the Bible into play," Mr. Morris told the Times. "It's not just 'thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not,' but it's the positive aspects of his religion, too -- which is 'love thy neighbor,' and 'when I was naked you clothed me,' and a sense of helping poor people."

Mr. Morris is often brilliant, but his knowledge of internal Democratic Party politics is stronger than his expertise on the reactions and behavior of GOP primary voters. Mr. Huckabee is on a roll now, but voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have only just begun to be told about his surprisingly liberal record in Arkansas. Since some 40% of Iowa caucus goers in the past have been strong Christians, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Huckabee's faith and background as a minister will continue to trump evidence of his often liberal views.

-- John Fund
Huckabee's Tax Challenge

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is good at one-liners. When asked if Jesus would have supported the death penalty, he shot back: "Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office." When asked if NASA should land on Mars, he said yes and Hillary Clinton should be on the first rocket. Asked by a reporter what he thought about former Sen. Fred Thompson's attack ad that shows an old news clip of Mr. Huckabee as governor before he lost 100 pounds listing one tax after another he would support raising, the governor got off one of his better lines: He said that he must have been under the influence of sugar at the time.

It's a good line, but not good enough. Mr. Huckabee's easy style, quick wit and solid support from Christian conservatives have propelled him into serious contention for the GOP nomination. He's running strong in Iowa and within striking distance in New Hampshire. He now represents the biggest threat to Mitt Romney's strategy of winning the nomination by winning big in Iowa and New Hampshire. But to put the race away, Mr. Huckabee will need to unite fiscal conservatives and Christian voters -- the coalition that sent the last three Republican presidents to the White House.

That coalition could fracture, however, unless Mr. Huckabee quickly addresses his record on taxes. He likes to point out that as governor he cut taxes some 90 times. What he doesn't say, however, is that he also raised more than 20 different taxes for a net tax hike during his tenure of about $500 million. He also left it to his successor -- Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe -- to cut the state's hated sales tax, which Mr. Beebe did shortly after taking office.

When we pressed Mr. Huckabee on his tax record a few months ago, he said he "won't apologize" for raising taxes because he needed the money to repair his state's decrepit highways. Fresh asphalt always seems to appeal to Republican elected officials -- especially those who love earmarking federal highway funds. But it's not something that will win over fiscal conservatives. What Mr. Huckabee needs now is to offer a plausible explanation on why he won't raise taxes as president for similar reasons -- what he needs, in short, is a big tax reform commitment that can appeal to both wings of the Republican Party.

-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day I

"In the biggest surprise of the campaign so far, the election that almost everyone thought would be about Iraq is turning out not to be.... The result is that both the Democratic and Republican campaigns are looking more like the campaigns of the 1990s. The Republican who has benefited most from Iraq's slide [to a lower ranking in the concerns of voters] is Mike Huckabee, who this summer was in low single digits in Iowa and is now running neck and neck with Mitt Romney for first place. A few months ago, commentators were saying that conservatives no longer cared as much about abortion, gay marriage and the like; they were more focused on the 'war on terror.' Rudy Giuliani has bet his whole campaign on that proposition. Romney's competence theme is a not-so-subtle critique of the way President Bush has handled the war. Huckabee, by contrast, has virtually no national security profile. In an Iraq-dominated campaign, it's hard to imagine him as a serious contender" -- Washington Post columnist Peter Beinart, on polls showing a sharp decline in the number of primary voters who say Iraq is their top concern.

Political Journal/WSJ
24224  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "DLO 2: Bringing a Gun to a Knife Attack" on: December 03, 2007, 11:00:56 AM
I just realized we have two threads on DLO-2.  In the interest of thread coherency, this being the bigger thread of the two, I am pasting below today's post on the other thread and locking the other thread.

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

Wow!

I just received DLO & DLO 2 and have watched the first DVD of the series. EXCELLENT material. Can't wait to see DLO2!!!

Skinny Devil
24225  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 2: Bringing a gun to a knife attack on: December 03, 2007, 10:59:21 AM
Woof Skinny Devil:

Our bad-- there are two threads dedicated to this topic, so I am pasting your post here on the other one because the other thread is bigger and locking this thread.  Sorry for our mixup.

TAC
CD
24226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rudy on Taxes and Spending on: December 03, 2007, 09:45:32 AM
   
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The Meaning of Fiscal Conservatism
By RUDY GIULIANI
December 3, 2007; Page A21

With economic uncertainty weighing on the minds of many Americans, Congress is preparing to recess after another year of profligate spending, protectionist talk and promises of higher taxes. No wonder some people feel like we're moving in the wrong direction. But I'm optimistic as I look to the future. It's not our country that's moving in the wrong direction -- it's Congress, and Washington's culture of wasteful spending.

Over the last decade, nondefense spending has increased by 65% -- the federal government currently spends $24,000 per household -- while the number of earmarked pork projects rocketed from close to 1,000 to a height of nearly 14,000. This year, with only one appropriations bill enacted, earmarks already number 2,161.

A return to fiscal conservative principles can put America back on the right track, while giving Washington a much-needed dose of discipline.

Fiscal conservatism is based on two fundamental principles -- cutting taxes and controlling spending. In recent years, the Republican Party has successfully cut taxes, but we have fallen short when it comes to controlling spending. The next president will need to strengthen both sides of the fiscal conservative equation, while reforming the culture of wasteful government spending with transparency and accountability. I believe I can do it because I've done it, and in a place that might even be more difficult than Washington.

We need to keep taxes low for our economy to grow. It's not just a theory for me. I cut taxes 23 times as mayor of New York City with a Democratic City Council and State Assembly, and saw that lower taxes can result in higher revenue. Amid fears of an economic slowdown, now is the time to cut taxes, not raise them. But the Democratic presidential candidates all seem determined to impose an unprecedented $3 trillion tax hike on the American people.

Republicans have a clearer understanding of how our economy works. This summer, I unveiled my tax plan, which committed to making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, while aiming for still-lower marginal rates. We'll give the death tax the death penalty, index the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation as a step toward eliminating it entirely, expand tax-free savings accounts, and expand health-care choice through tax reform. We also need to reduce the corporate tax rate -- which is currently the second highest in the industrialized world, behind Japan -- to at least the average of the other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, or 28%. These actions will protect American jobs, empowering us to compete and win in the global economy.

Controlling spending must be a chief executive's priority or it doesn't get done. That's a lesson I learned from Ronald Reagan, and put into action when I was mayor. Real per capita spending actually fell during my administration. We cut the city bureaucracy by 20%, excluding cops on the street and teachers in the classroom.

We can do the same thing in Washington. Over the course of the next two terms, 42% of the federal civilian workforce is due to retire. We'll only hire back half, taking the opportunity to right-size government by taking advantage of technology like the private sector did in recent years, and ultimately save taxpayers $21 billion annually.

We also need to return to spending controls and caps, a proven way to make Washington set priorities. As president, I will direct all federal agency heads to find 5% to 10% efficiency savings. If they come back to me and say it's impossible to find 5% savings in a $2 billion agency, I'll call on the Office of Management and Budget to identify the cuts. It's time to put the "M" back in OMB.

Reforming a culture of wasteful spending requires standing up to special interests and insisting on transparency and accountability. Congress spent $29 billion on earmarks last year alone. Earmarks are the broken windows of the federal budget, signs of dysfunction and distress. Recent examples range from the absurd ($1.1 million in 2005 for researching baby food made from salmon) to the self-congratulatory ($2 million for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service). The American people want us to end earmarks once and for all.

But more needs to be done. We need to root out wasteful spending and fraud in benefit payments and contracts by convening a Government Waste Commission, such as the one that closed military bases. It can require Congress to vote up or down on a whole package of recommended cuts, beginning by considering the 3% of programs currently rated "ineffective" by the federal government itself.

Finally, we can both save money and provide better services by consolidating duplicative programs. We don't need 342 economic development programs or 130 programs serving at risk youth or 72 federal programs dedicated to ensuring safe water (according to a 2004 report). No doubt many of these programs are worthy, but citizens shouldn't have to navigate a maze of overlapping bureaucracies. Digital one-stop-shop centers will provide better citizen service at lower cost, while transforming industrial age bureaucracies to fit the information-age citizen.

Returning to principles of fiscal conservatism is not an end to itself. We believe these ideas ultimately help government work better for all Americans. Cutting taxes and controlling spending creates a government that is smaller and smarter, more efficient and more effective. It can help balance the budget and reduce the deficit. Most of all, a healthy combination of pro-growth policies and fiscal discipline unleashes the genius of America's free-market economy -- empowering not government, but the citizens it exists to serve.

Mr. Giuliani is the former mayor of New York and a Republican presidential candidate.

 
24227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Mason on: December 03, 2007, 09:19:06 AM
"Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his
constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass
of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate
in their burdens."

-- George Mason (speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention,
17 June 1788)

Reference: The Papers of George Mason, Rutland, ed., vol. 3 (1093)
[Sheehan (5:5)]
24228  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: December 02, 2007, 09:45:49 AM
Closest thing I've ever seen to a flying man.  Amazing.

http://www.biertijd.com/mediaplayer/...biertijd.com/m
24229  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "DLO 2: Bringing a Gun to a Knife Attack" on: December 01, 2007, 11:30:01 PM
Woof All:

The following quick initial review is by LEO and frequently published writer Kevin Davis:

"Die Less Often 2: Brining a Gun to a Knife Attack

"I just finished reviewing the second installment of Marc Denny and Gabe
Suarez's study of the "interface of empty hands and gun in defending
against the knife and I must say that I was very pleased with the DVD.

"When Calibre Press first examined knife defense for law enforcement more than
twenty years ago with "Surviving Edged Weapons" they sought out Dan Inosanto
to illustrate the deadly effectiveness of edged weapons.  Needless to say it
opened many officers eyes as to the devastating potential of the blade.
That said there was a large group of officers that believed that the answer
was to draw and shoot the knife wielding suspect, (this is still true
today...). 

"The first Die Less Often DVD clearly showed that unless you have
trained in simple gross motor skills and understand the dynamics of the
knife attack, the most you might achieve is a "mutual slay."  Die Less Often
2 picks up where the first DVD let off and shows how to first stop the
attack using the Kali Fence and Dog Catcher and then create the opening for
the pistol using sound movement.  Incorporating empty hand and the gun is a
"must" for today's LEO or armed citizen as statistics clearly show that most
armed encounters are close range affairs and frequently look more like a
"fight with guns" than the traditional "gunfight" a la "Shootout at the OK
Corral".

"Kudos to Marc and Gabe for bringing their respective talents together in the
pursuit of a safer way to defend against the blade.  I look forward to more
collaborative effort from these two modern day martial arts masters."
24230  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 01, 2007, 11:03:27 AM
Officer asks for help:

A) Hue & Cry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hue_and_cry

B)  The 2007 Florida Statutes


Title XLVI
CRIMESChapter 843
OBSTRUCTING JUSTICEView Entire Chapter843.06 Neglect or refusal to aid peace officers.--Whoever, being required in the name of the state by any officer of the Florida Highway Patrol, police officer, beverage enforcement agent, or watchman, neglects or refuses to assist him or her in the execution of his or her office in a criminal case, or in the preservation of the peace, or the apprehending or securing of any person for a breach of the peace, or in case of the rescue or escape of a person arrested upon civil process, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. History.--s. 16, ch. 1637, 1868; RS 2585; GS 3505; RGS 5391; CGL 7530; s. 2, ch. 28118, 1953; s. 1, ch. 63-433; s. 1039, ch. 71-136; s. 32, ch. 73-334; s. 1338, ch. 97-102.
24231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian wrench on: November 30, 2007, 02:36:53 PM
Russia: A Wrench in U.S. Plans for the Middle East
stratfor
Summary

Not to be outshined by the United States, the Russian government has been busy forging Middle East peace negotiations of its own, particularly between Syria and Israel over the Golan Heights. Though Iran is already nervous at the thought of Syria coming to terms with Israel, the mullahs in Tehran can be somewhat assured that the Russians have not really set their sights on a comprehensive peace agreement. Instead, Moscow is playing its own crafty game of diplomacy to sabotage Washington's efforts at Annapolis.

Analysis

Russia has been spending a good deal of time in the Middle Eastern sandbox lately. From hosting Hamas leaders in Moscow to backing up Iran against the United States and playing the role of messenger between Israel and Syria, there is no conflict in the region that Moscow has not thrown itself into.

As part of this aggressive diplomatic campaign, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, the premier Russian troubleshooter on all issues Middle Eastern (going back to the Soviet days), paid a private visit to Damascus in early November to deliver a message from President Vladimir Putin. It is believed that Primakov played a role in convincing Syrian President Bashar al Assad to send a representative to Annapolis and abandon plans for a Hamas-led "countersummit" in Damascus. The Primakov visit was followed by a Nov. 15 trip by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov and Russian Middle East envoy Sergei Yakovlev to Tel Aviv, where the two met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Israeli National Security Council Secretary Ilan Mizrahi.

The next step in the game was revealed Nov. 29, when the Israeli daily Maariv reported that Sultanov is working on an Israeli-Syrian peace plan that would give Syria sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but provide a long-term lease for Israel to hold onto the strategic 7,296-foot Mount Hermon that it captured in the 1967 war. Information circulating in Moscow suggests that these moves are part of the Kremlin's efforts to convince the Syrians and Israelis to participate in a bilateral summit in Russia that would center on the issues of the Golan Heights and Syria's role in Lebanon.

For all this diplomatic maneuvering, the Russians are not exactly sincere in their efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East. Rather, the Russians intend to shift the track set by Washington at the Annapolis conference toward much thornier issues -- involving players the United States wants to avoid. By bringing up sticky issues such as the Golan Heights (which Washington had attempted to sidestep at the Annapolis conference) and organizing negotiations with Hamas (which Washington is trying to pretend does not exist as it moves negotiations forward between Fatah and Israel), Russia is strategically bending U.S. efforts at Annapolis out of shape -- all under the aegis of progress, of course. The Russian calculus is simple: shift the track toward "negotiations" that are certain to lead nowhere.

Despite Russia's true intentions, Iran is not comfortable in the slightest with the idea of Syria inching toward talks with Israel and the United States. These fears likely have been compounded by the sudden turnaround in Lebanon, where the pro-West opposition and the United States have pretty much agreed to granting Syria's wish in having Lebanon's army chief, Michel Suleiman, take the presidency. Unless Syria's negotiations with Washington are held in concert with Iranian negotiations with the United States over Iraq, Tehran does not want Damascus in the negotiating picture. However, given that any progress on the Golan Heights issue with Israel must include the question of Syria's support for Hamas and Hezbollah -- Israel's two primary national security concerns and the two bargaining chips that Syria is unprepared to sacrifice at this point -- the Iranians can have reasonable assurance that these talks will not lead anywhere. The Russians are not interested in alliance management in the Middle East. This is about throwing a wrench into U.S. plans to create a new order in the region.
24232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sinaloa Federation next? on: November 30, 2007, 02:23:47 PM
Targeting Mexico's Drug Cartels: Is the Sinaloa Federation Next?
Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon stepped up pressure on organized crime and drug trafficking organizations nearly a year ago, the hardest-hit organization has been the Gulf cartel. The extradition of cartel leader Osiel Cardenas-Guillen to the United States, the capture of several Gulf lieutenants and the concentrated presence of security forces in the cartel's territory have combined to put much more pressure on Gulf members than on those belonging to its rival, the Sinaloa federation of cartels. But Mexico City could soon begin targeting high-ranking members of the Sinaloa federation.

U.S. counternarcotics sources say Sinaloa leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, is now believed to be hiding out in Pachuca, a city in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. Guzman has been on the run since he escaped in 2001 from the Puente Grande maximum security prison in Jalisco state. Identifying the location of one of the most elusive drug traffickers in Mexico is a vital step in expanding the scope of the current war against the cartels.





The city where Guzman is believed to be hiding is not the most likely of locations -- perhaps the reason he has successfully eluded law enforcement for so long. Hidalgo state is not near the Sinaloa cartel's home territory of northwestern Sinaloa state, where Guzman is likely to have more friends and associates willing to aid him. Large cities in Sinaloa territory, however, are places where Mexican authorities would focus their search for him. Far from being an isolated village in the middle of nowhere, Pachuca is a state capital, located about 100 miles from Mexico City. Most important, in a country where cartel territory is violently conquered and defended, Pachuca is an essentially neutral region, in which rival drug traffickers do not have a particular interest in extending their influence.





Despite the risks of arrest and attack by rivals, Guzman has not exactly been hiding under a rock. Although his personal security needs are high -- requiring a large contingent of heavily armed bodyguards -- that fact has not stopped him from taking occasional trips over the last few years. One particularly high-profile event was his wedding in Coahuila state in July, for which the local military commander reportedly ordered some of his soldiers to man roadblocks out of the area -- assumingly following a payoff. While romancing his 18-year-old bride, Guzman reportedly flew to her town in one of his six private aircraft after several hundred security guards had locked down the town.

Such high-profile and public movements simply mean that Guzman has been receiving assistance from a variety of official sources. In the world of Mexican organized crime, it is common for high-ranking cartel figures to have law enforcement officers and military personnel on their payrolls. They also typically have strong connections to government officials at all levels, who provide protection in exchange for financial contributions. Guzman has a long history of buying off officials who are in the position to help him. In the Puente Grande prison break, for instance, at least 30 guards were implicated in assisting in the escape.

Since Calderon's crackdown, Mexican authorities have been cooperating more and more with their more capable U.S. counterparts. They most likely focused on the Gulf cartel first because, unlike Sinaloa territory, the area in northeastern Mexico controlled by the Gulf cartel has more important industrial and commercial interests. This kind of coordination could be what is needed to take Guzman into custody.

It is unclear exactly what will happen to the Sinaloa federation once Guzman is out of the picture, though it unlikely will maintain its current form. The Sinaloa cartel leads a federation of smaller drug trafficking organizations, most significantly the Zambada Garcia organization and the Esparragoza organization, both of which are led by former high-ranking Juarez cartel members. With Guzman either dead or in custody, the leaders of these groups could reassess their relationships with the Sinaloa group, resulting in a loss of a significant portion of Sinaloa's territory and limiting its ability to import South American cocaine.

stratfor
24233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: November 30, 2007, 12:13:08 PM
Quote of the Day

"I think CNN does itself a great disservice when it doesn't apply the exact same kind of criteria to both debates. I covered both of them. In the Democratic debate, I don't think there were any questions that were clearly coming from, you know, a Republican point of view. They were generally sympathetic. They were about global warming and health care and education, all kind of Democratic issues. They weren't challenging them. There was one kind anti-tax question, I think, but they weren't challenging the basic principles of the Democratic Party. There were lots of questions last night [at the GOP debate] that were. I think the question about the Bible was mocking. I think one of the abortion questions was clearly not from someone who was pro-life" -- Mara Liasson of National Public Radio on the Republican and Democratic presidential debates sponsored by CNN and Google's YouTube affiliate.

CNN's Bumper Crop

Last week, CNN's Anderson Cooper quipped in an interview with Townhall.com that "campaign operatives are people too" and CNN wasn't worried if political partisans posed questions at the GOP debate he'd be moderating the following Wednesday. "We don't investigate the background of people asking questions [by submitting video clips]. It's not our job," he said.

Yet now CNN's logo has egg splattered all over it as the network scrambles to explain how a co-chair of Hillary Clinton's veterans' committee was allowed to ask a video question on gays in the military at Wednesday's debate. The questioner, retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, was flown at network expense from California to the debate site in Florida so he could repeat his question to the candidates in person. CNN claims it verified retired Brig. Gen. Kerr's military status and checked his campaign contribution records, contradicting Mr. Cooper's blasé attitudes. But the network still somehow missed his obvious connection to the Hillary campaign which any Google search would have turned up.

CNN later airbrushed Mr. Kerr's question out of its rebroadcast of the debate, indicating that it apparently doesn't think "campaign operatives" are legitimate questioners at the network's debates.

Now it appears that an amazing number of partisan figures posed many of the 30 questions at the GOP debate while pretending to be CNN's advertised "undecided voters." Yasmin from Huntsville, Alabama turns out to be a former intern with the Council on American Islamic Relations, a group highly critical of Republicans. Blogger Michelle Malkin has identified other plants, including declared Obama supporter David Cercone, who asked a question about the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans. A questioner who asked a hostile question about the pro-life views of GOP candidates turned out to be a diehard John Edwards supporter (and a slobbering online fan of Mr. Cooper). Yet another "plant" was LeeAnn Anderson, an aide to Leo Gerard, president of the American Steel Workers Union and a prominent Edwards backer.

It seems more "plants" are being uprooted with each passing day. Nearly one-third of the questioners seem to have some ties to Democratic causes or candidates. Another questioner worked with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's staff. A former intern with Democratic Rep. Jane Harman asked a question about farm subsidies. A questioner who purported to be a Ron Paul supporter turns out to be a Bill Richardson volunteer. David McMillan, a TV writer from Los Angeles, turns out to have several paeans to John Edwards on his YouTube page and has attended Barack Obama fundraisers.

Given CNN's professed goal to have "ordinary Americans" ask questions at its GOP debate, how odd that so many of the video questioners selected by CNN turned out to be not just partisan Democrats, but actively hostile to the GOP's messages and candidates.

political journal WSJ
24234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: November 30, 2007, 10:08:20 AM
American Brain Drain
November 30, 2007; Page A16
One myth dogging the immigration debate is that employers are fibbing (or grossly exaggerating) when they claim that hiring foreign professionals is unavoidable because U.S.-born Ph.D.s are hard to come by. But a new report on doctorates from U.S. universities shows they're telling the truth, and then some.

Foreign-born students holding temporary visas received 33% of all research doctorates awarded by U.S. universities in 2006, according to an annual survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. That number has climbed from 25% in 2001. But more to the point of business competitiveness, foreign students comprised 44% of science and engineering doctorates last year.

"China was the country of origin for the largest number of non-U.S. doctorates in 2006," says the report, followed by India, Korea, Taiwan and Canada. "The percentage of doctorates earned by U.S. citizens ranged from lows of 32% in engineering and 47% in physical sciences, to highs of 87% in education and 78% in humanities." Given this reality, is it any wonder that 40% of Ph.D.s working in U.S. science and engineering occupations are foreign-born?

Immigration opponents still claim that the likes of Intel and Oracle merely want to hire Chinese engineers on the cheap. In fact, U.S. law already prohibits companies from paying these foreign nationals less than natives. And all other things being equal, the American job applicant has an advantage because employers are required to pay an additional $4,000-$6,000 in taxes and fees on every H-1B visa holder they hire.

A mere 65,000 H-1B visas for foreign professionals are allocated each year. And this year, as in the previous four, the quota was exhausted almost as soon as the applications became available in April. This effectively means that more than half of all foreign nationals who earned advanced degrees in math and science in 2007 have been shut out of the U.S. job market.

Economic protectionists oppose lifting the visa cap to meet demand. But it makes little sense for our universities to be educating these talented foreign students, only to send them packing after graduation. Current policies have MIT and Stanford educating the next generation of innovators -- and then deporting them to create wealth elsewhere.

Closing the door to foreign professionals puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage and pushes jobs out of the country. Worse, it does so at a time when other nations are rolling out the welcome mat. Earlier this year Microsoft, which is the third-largest sponsor of H-1B visas, announced plans to open a new software development center near Vancouver. The decision to locate the facility in Canada was based in part on the fact that it doesn't have access to enough foreign workers state-side.

"We currently do 85% of our development work in the U.S., and we'd like to continue doing that," says Jack Krumholtz, the company's director of government affairs. "But if we can't hire the developers we need, . . . we're going to have to look to other options to get the work done." Meanwhile, the European Union recently introduced its own new temporary work visa that's designed to reduce red tape and waiting periods for foreign professionals.

If the U.S. spurns this human capital, it will find a home somewhere else. And that will be America's loss.
24235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fred's Folly on: November 30, 2007, 06:39:53 AM
Fred's Folly
Too bad Thompson won't sell his good ideas.

BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Friday, November 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

On Fox News this Sunday, Fred Thompson laid out the most creative tax proposal yet in the race for president. It should have been an important moment, the point at which GOP aspirants finally dug into a core issue and went a few rounds over marginal rates and corporate levies.

Instead, nothing. The Thompson plan inspired little fanfare, less press and didn't even merit time during this week's GOP debate. The black hole says everything about the mess that is the Thompson campaign, and just as much about today's intellectually bereft Republican primary campaign.

The standard rap on the former Tennessee senator is that he's lazy. This is meant to explain why--despite movie-star status, Southern conservative credentials, and Beltway experience--his campaign has been as fizzy as day-old cherry Coke. The reality is more complex--and more concerning for Mr. Thompson's presidential prospects.

The Watergate attorney has made himself into this election's Don Quixote, the impractical idealist tilting at "the system." Even as he announced his run on the Jay Leno show in September, Mr. Thompson quipped he "wasn't in the room when they made the rules" that resulted in today's sped up, big-money, 24-hour-news-byte primary. He has refused to play nice--declaring late and declining to join rivals in the media hoopla and nonstop campaign. It has proven a case study in the folly of trying to single-handedly buck modern politics.





It might have helped if Mr. Thompson, who stated his intention to trust in "the people" to give him a hearing, had offered those people something more than personality at the start of his tardy campaign. It has instead only been very recently that he has, admirably, tried to craft himself into the ideas candidate.
He's proposed revitalizing America's armed forces by increasing the core defense budget, building up a million-member ground force, and instituting sweeping missile defense. He went where no other GOP candidate has yet gone with a detailed plan to shore up Social Security, by changing the benefits formula and offering voluntary "add on" accounts for younger workers. He would re-energize school vouchers. His border security blueprint certainly matches Mitt Romney's or Rudy Giuliani's in its, ahem, creativity and thoroughness.

This week's tax proposal was decidedly fresh, going beyond the run-of-the-mill candidate promise to extend the Bush tax cuts, and calling for the end of the death tax and the AMT, a cut in the corporate tax rate and even a voluntary flat tax. According to a campaign source, in upcoming weeks Mr. Thompson will unveil plans to reduce federal spending by limiting nondefense growth to inflation, earmark reform, and a one-year freeze on the hiring of non-essential civilian workers and contractors.

There's plenty here to get conservative voters and bloggers and pundits engaged in some healthy, even lively, debate. That is, if they'd heard any of this. Most haven't, and for that Mr. Thompson has mostly himself to blame.

While it isn't clear who set the "rules" for this manic election, they're set. Voters may only pay attention at the end, but having an infrastructure to make sure those voters hear you in the final months is the work of years. By sitting back, Mr. Thompson allowed his rivals to scoop up the well-connected policy wonks, committed state activists and aggressive fund-raisers that oil a campaign. His own refusal to "do" the media and public-event circus has muzzled his message, as the failure of his tax-plan announcement shows.

Think back to 1999, when Gov. George W. Bush--who knew something about campaigns--unveiled his own tax outline. His people had a dozen brainy conservative economists at the ready to blitz the media. Outside business groups stood by with glowing press releases. Average families were found to serve as real-life examples of how the tax cut would help. The campaign staff fanned out and joined local activists to manage the grass roots. The candidate himself devoted endless time to flogging his idea in public appearances and to every press person and editorial board around.

None of this happened in the wake of Mr. Thompson's Fox announcement. The campaign simply didn't have the stuff to pull it off. Worse, its own leader refused to do what is expected. A look at Mr. Thompson's schedule revealed not a single public appearance for three days after the release, right up to Wednesday's highly uninformative CNN debate.





Speaking of dull debates, that's Mr. Thompson's other problem. To the extent he is now trying to float ideas (and he could use even more), the rest of the field wants nothing of it. The GOP went into this race thinking itself the likely loser, and that fear has defined the primary. The candidates aren't vying to lead a wayward party out of malaise, or energize voters with new ideas. They're instead trying to be the answer to a question: Who can beat her?
That's made the race about biography, in particular on issues like national security and immigration, where Republicans hope a Hillary Clinton will be weak. Mr. Giuliani's campaign is about his past as a New York tough guy who can face down terrorists. Mr. Romney's, his past as an MBA who can manage our border. Mr. McCain's, his past as a Vietnam vet who recognized the problems in Iraq. There's no future in this present, and Mr. Thompson's lackluster delivery of his own agenda has allowed the front-runners to continue avoiding the big debates.

Mr. Thompson's inertia has meant his campaign is no longer in control of its destiny. His best shot now is that Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Romney go nuclear, leaving him with a ticket out of Iowa and some hope. He still ranks second behind Mr. Giuliani in national polls. But putting himself in a position to build off any lucky outcomes will involve trying to play the game he so detests. If he believes his ideas are as important for the country as he says they are, he will.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.

24236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Madison: Virtue on: November 30, 2007, 05:16:51 AM
"Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a
wretched situation. No theoretical checks-no form of government
can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will
secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is
a chimerical idea, if there be sufficient virtue and intelligence
in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these
men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence
in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them."

-- James Madison (speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention,
20 June 1788)

Reference: The True Republican, French, ed. (28-29)
24237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CT Scan risks on: November 30, 2007, 05:15:40 AM
Editorial
Published: November 30, 2007

CT scans have long been cited as a prime example of how the overuse of fancy medical technologies can drive up the cost of health care. Now there are newly voiced concerns that computed tomography, or CT, may be a health risk as well.

The scans, which were introduced in the 1970s, have revolutionized medical imaging by producing three-dimensional views of organs and other tissues. The scans are undeniably of great value in helping doctors diagnose just what is causing a patient’s illness or pain. But a critique published in The New England Journal of Medicine by two researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research warns that usage has spread so rapidly that high, lifetime doses of radiation are now becoming a pubic health hazard.

More than 62 million CT scans were performed in the United States last year, a huge increase from the 3 million performed in 1980. And each scan gives the patient a far higher dose of radiation than a conventional X-ray would. Unfortunately, even many doctors have no idea how much radiation a CT scan delivers.

The risk that a single CT scan might cause cancer is very small, and the medical benefits of diagnosing an ailment far outweigh the slight radiation risk. The problem comes when CT scans are not medically appropriate, such as full-body scans to screen patients who feel fine on the chance that some hidden disease might be detected, or when CT scans are repeated again and again as patients traipse from one doctor to another while their medical records lag behind.

The researchers cite previous estimates that a third of all CT scans performed in the United States could be replaced with less risky diagnostic technologies or not performed at all. If true, that means that some 20 million adults and 1 million children in this country are being irradiated unnecessarily each year. In coming decades, the researchers suggest, as many as 2 percent of all cancers in the United States may be because of radiation from CT scans performed today.

Even if these predictions are on the high side, as some radiologists and medical device manufacturers contend, the message for patients and their doctors is clear: Restrict the use of CT scans to cases where they can truly aid in diagnosis and consider other options, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging, which have no radiation risk.

NY Times
24238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who is that living in my house? on: November 30, 2007, 04:55:59 AM
Caveat Lector: NY Times

BAGHDAD, Nov. 29 — As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a plan to absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.

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Michael Kamber for The New York Times
A mother led her daughter to a car waiting in Baghdad’s Mansour neighborhood Sunday after arriving from Damascus, Syria.
The Iraqi government lacks a mechanism to settle property disputes if former residents return to Baghdad only to find their homes occupied, the officials said. Nor has the Iraqi government come forward with a detailed plan to provide aid, shelter and other essential services to the thousands of Iraqis who might return. American commanders caution that if the return is not carefully managed, there is a risk of undermining the recent security gains.

“All these guys coming back are probably going to find somebody else living in their house,” said Col. William Rapp, a senior aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, speaking at a two-day military briefing on measuring military trends for a small group of American reporters in Baghdad.

“We have been asking, pleading with the government of Iraq, to come up with a policy so that it is not put upon our battalion commanders and the I.S.F. battalion commanders to figure it out on the ground,” he added, referring to the American and Iraqi security force commanders.

When sectarian violence soared in 2006, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fled to Syria and Jordan, or moved to safer areas in Iraq. But now that the American troop reinforcement plan and a new counterinsurgency strategy have helped reverse a rising tide of car bombings and sectarian killings, there are signs that Iraqis are starting to return.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has hailed the development as an indication that security is beginning to improve. As if to underscore Mr. Maliki’s point, 375 Iraqi refugees arrived Thursday in a convoy of buses from Damascus, Syria, escorted by heavily armed policemen. After the lengthy journey, the tired Iraqis were ushered into the white marble affluence of the Mansour Melia Hotel in Baghdad to receive a promised government payout to people returning to the capital.

Many neighborhoods in Baghdad have become largely Shiite or Sunni, as one group drove the other out in calculated sectarian cleansing. Sunnis have moved into Shiite homes, and Shiites into Sunni ones. This segregation has contributed to the decline in violence. But what would happen if the original residents insisted on moving back into their homes?

Ahmad Chalabi, a Shiite politician and former Iraqi exile who made common cause with the Americans against Saddam Hussein, has been charged with developing a plan to provide services.

American officers discussed estimates of the displaced Iraqis at a seminar here on the military’s metrics of assessing violence in Iraq held at Camp Victory.

Recent American military data indicates that for the fourth week in a row, the nationwide weekly number of attacks is at its lowest level since January 2006. The number of civilians killed, as measured by the American and Iraqi governments, continued to decline in November. The number of weekly casualties, wounded as well as killed, suffered by Iraqi civilians, Iraqi forces and American forces, increased last week by 56 percent but was still below the level for most of 2006 and 2007.

The military also lowered its tally of how many Iraqis had joined neighborhood watch groups. The new figure for Concerned Local Citizens, as the military calls the volunteers, is 60,321. The previous estimate of 77,000 erroneously combined the number of volunteers who are currently serving with those who had expressed a willingness to join.

Col. Martin Stanton, who oversaw the count, said he told General Petraeus about the new figures this week.

Military officials said that they were seeking to make greater use of some Iraqi government data to provide a more comprehensive portrayal of the situation in Iraq. Though there are concerns about the reliability of some Iraqi reports, American military data generally understates Iraqi civilian deaths, since American units only report what they observe, officials said. At General Petraeus’s recommendation, the Pentagon is expected for the first time to include the Iraqi government data on civilian deaths in its report next month on security trends in Iraq.

While there is no question that large numbers of Iraqis have left their homes, American officials said that the exact number is not available. The International Organization for Migration has reported that the number of internally “displaced” Iraqis — those who have fled their homes but still live in Iraq — has grown to more than one million since the February 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. Among those displaced Iraqis, more than 350,000 live in Baghdad Province, according to estimates by humanitarian organizations.
==========

Estimates by the Iraqi Red Crescent of the number of displaced Iraqis run much higher, but are marred by the double and triple counting of Iraqis who move from one area to another, American officials say. One difficulty in fixing an accurate count is that many displaced Iraqis do not register their migrant status with Iraqi authorities, American officials said.

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A New, Sectarian Map In addition, more than two million Iraqis are also estimated to have left Iraq altogether for neighboring counties like Syria and Jordan and other nations.

Col. Cheryl L. Smart, who tracks the data on displaced Iraqis for General Petraeus’s command, said that the American military had been “very vocal” with the Iraqi government about the need to establish a system to adjudicate claims about property rights and to avoid using Iraqi troops to carry out “forced evictions.”

Colonel Rapp voiced the hope that confrontations might be avoided by building new homes for returning Iraqis instead of forcing all of the squatters to leave. “It is probably going to be resolved with new housing construction as opposed to wholesale evictions and resettlement,” he said.

“Whether they will remix is probably a multiyear, decade kind of issue,” he added, referring to the possibility of sectarian reintegration.

“The immediate return of I.D.P.’s will create tensions in that system, and we are concerned about it,” he said, referring to the internally displaced people in Iraq.

A senior Sunni official said that the government was not doing nearly enough. “There are many missing links,” said an Iraqi vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni. “We don’t have a comprehensive plan. We have a ministry of migration, but the problem is the bureaucracy.”

Speaking at his home in the Huriya neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, Mr. Chalabi said he was aware of the issue of returnees’ lingering fears. “I don’t think that people who have committed crimes or transgressions against their fellows in those areas would come back,” Mr. Chalabi said. “But the fear of, for example, the Sunnis here, is that the people who did the transgressions on the other side continue to be here and that they may threaten them.”

He said that he had put forward proposals for large-scale new housing developments, but that they should not be on a sectarian basis. “Baghdad is an integrated city and we should try to get it back to an integrated city,” he said.

Col. J. B. Burton, commander of the Second Brigade Combat Team of the First Infantry Division, which controlled northwest Baghdad until this month, said that some neighborhood leaders had made efforts to allow displaced Iraqis to return to their residences, but that their programs were hampered by the lack of a national plan.

“Displacement is a national issue,” Colonel Burton said Thursday in an e-mail exchange. “The government has got to establish policies which are not focused on sects.”

Most of the Iraqis who returned to the Mansour Melia Hotel on Thursday said they were returning voluntarily after hearing reports that the security situation had improved, but some said they had been forced to return because they had no jobs or money in Syria.

Some said their houses were long ago destroyed by Shiite militias or Sunni insurgents, or still occupied by people on the other side of the sectarian divide. Others said that it was still too unsafe to go back to areas like Dora, Jihad and Mansour, and that they would have to stay with relatives.

Abdul Kadim Mohammed, 58, a Shiite from Abu Ghraib, said he would be staying with relatives for now. “I feel more comfortable in Baghdad but still can’t go to Abu Ghraib, which is not completely good,” he said. “The next step that the government needs to work on is how to get back to our homes.”

24239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: November 30, 2007, 04:46:55 AM
November 29, 2007
Guilty Verdict in Sudan for British Teacher

By REUTERS
KHARTOUM, Nov 29 (Reuters) - A British teacher accused of insulting Muslims after her class called a teddy bear Mohammad was found guilty and jailed for 15 days, a defence lawyer said on Thursday.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, was ordered to be deported after she had completed her sentence.

"She was found guilty of insulting religion and the sentence is 15 days (in jail) and deportation," defence lawyer Ali Ajib said after the trial in a Khartoum courtroom, which lasted less than a day.

Robert Boulos, head of Unity high school where Gibbons worked, said: "We are happy with the verdict. It is fair. There were a lot of political pressures and attention."

He added: "We will be very sad to lose her."

When asked what he thought of the verdict, the head of Gibbons's defence teams, Kamal al-Jazouli, said: "It was not bad."

Gibbons was on Wednesday charged with insulting Islam, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs because of the toy's name. Under Sudan's penal code, she could have faced 40 lashes, a fine, or up to one year in jail.

In court, judge Mohammed Youssef listened to two accounts -- one from school secretary Sarah Khawad, who filed the first complaint about the teddy bear's name, and one from the official who has been investigating the case, court sources said.

Teachers at the school say that calling the teddy bear Mohammad, the name of the prophet of Islam, was not her idea in the first place and that no parents objected when Unity High School sent parents circulars about a reading project which included the teddy bear as a fictional participant.

In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had earlier told the Sudanese ambassador he was concerned about Gibbons.

"We believe that this was an innocent misunderstanding," Miliband said in a statement.

Sudan has had poor relations with Britain, the United States and most European countries for several years, mainly because of their disagreements over how to handle the conflict in the Darfur region in western Sudan.

The U.N. Security Council, of which Britain is a permanent member, wants to deploy a joint U.N.-African force to Darfur to restore order and help displaced people return home. Khartoum reluctantly agreed but is disputing many details.

Several British Muslim groups said they supported Gibbons.

"This (charging Gibbons) is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith," said Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the MCB, Britain's largest Muslim organisation.
24240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: November 30, 2007, 04:43:29 AM
http://www.theindychannel.com/news/14732117/detail.html

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jenni Crowley says she can't understand why her son, a Marine reservist, is charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi soldier. Next week, she'll be in California to watch his lawyers try to clear him.The court-martial of Lance Cpl. Delano Holmes, 22, a graduate of Indianapolis' Ben Davis High School, is scheduled to begin Monday at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he has been held in a brig since February.Holmes (pictured) is accused of fatally stabbing Munther Jasem Muhammed Hassin as the two men stood watch at a security post in Fallujah, Iraq, on Dec. 31, according to one of Holmes' attorneys.

Holmes is charged with unpremeditated murder. Crowley and Holmes' defense team say he was acting in self-defense."I can't believe this," Crowley told 6News' Rafael Sanchez of the charge. "This is a nightmare."Steve Cook, one of Holmes' attorneys, said earlier this year that Holmes and Hassin struggled in darkness after Hassin allegedly opened his cell phone and then lit a cigarette. The men were not supposed to display any illuminated objects because of the threat of sniper fire, and Holmes made repeated attempts to make Hassin extinguish the cigarette, Cook said.

Holmes knocked the cigarette out of Hassin's hands, and they started wrestling, according to Cook. Holmes thought Hassin was reaching for his loaded AK-47, so the Marine killed him with his bayonet and then radioed for help, Cook said.Crowley said her son "has never wavered from the fact that he did not intend to kill this Iraqi soldier.""He facing the possibility of life in prison, based on the charges, simply for defending himself when he felt he had no other option," Crowley said.Crowley started a Web site to inform people about the case and raise money for Holmes' legal defense fund.Crowley will go to California for the court-martial, which is expected to last about two weeks."It won't be easy," she said. "It will be a very hard time again for our family and for Del, but I have to believe that the God I know and love and trust will see us through somehow."
24241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Counseling AQ in SA on: November 29, 2007, 09:37:06 PM
URL=1,500 Qaeda Members Freed After Counseling]1,500 Qaeda Members Freed After Counseling[/URL]

1,500 Qaeda Members Freed After Counseling
BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 27, 2007
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/67016




WASHINGTON — On the eve of the Annapolis summit on the Middle East conflict, the Saudi royal family released 1,500 members of Al Qaeda from prison, requiring them only to promise to refrain from jihad within the Arabian Peninsula.

The presence of the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, at the peace parley has been touted by the White House and the State Department as an important diplomatic breakthrough.

Mr. Faisal has said he was reluctant to attend the meeting, the first time the Saudis would be formal participants in an international peace conference dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict. In an interview with Time magazine, he said he would not shake the Israeli prime minister's hand and that he was only interested in a response to his kingdom's peace offer, a full withdrawal from the territory Israel won in 1967 in exchange for peace.

However, while the State Department was wooing the Saudi foreign minister, the kingdom's Interior Ministry released about 1,500 Al Qaeda members arrested in crackdowns that began in 2003 against the group headed by Osama bin Laden.

The story first broke over the weekend in the Saudi newspaper Al Watan. In an interview with the newspaper, a member of a special committee to reform jihadists in the kingdom, Muhammad al-Nujaimi, said the newly released prisoners had been reformed.

"The committee has met around 5,000 times to offer counseling to 3,200 people, who were accused of embracing the takfir ideology. The committee has successfully completed reforming 1,500 people," he said.

The ideology of takfir is prevalent in both fundamentalist interpretations of Sunni and Shiite Islam, and it holds that there are separate rules that allow Muslims to kill, lie to, and steal from nonbelievers.

While the Saudi state has at times been targeted by Muslims embracing the philosophy of takfir, its mosques and Ministry of Culture and Information also have been exporting the strain of Islam that encourages this doctrine.

Yesterday, an American intelligence analyst who was following the story said he was wary about the release of the prisoners. "This Saudi process of reform has been so opaque. What no one knows right now is whether the people who have gone through this program have pledged to stop practicing terror or whether they are only pledging to stop terror inside the kingdom."

Mr. Nujaimi told Al Watan that the reformed prisoners have pledged to end their campaign to rid the Arabian Peninsula of infidels. "After several graded sessions with the committee, and having been convinced of their misguided vision, they renounced their erroneous ideologies, including the concept of driving out all infidels from the Arabian Peninsula," he said.

The director of the Gulf and Energy program at the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs, Simon Henderson, told the New York Sun yesterday that he did not think the prisoner release was connected to Mr. Faisal's visit. "I don't see this as being connected with the Saudi decision to take part in the Annapolis meeting," he said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Henderson was skeptical about the program. "This would appear to be 1,500 people reformed so far out of 3,200 who have entered the so-called counseling process," he said. "By my calculation, that is less than a 50% success rate. And what is success? They don't use violence in the kingdom. Does this mean they can use this elsewhere, for example, in Iraq?"
24242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Holland, Norway on: November 29, 2007, 05:40:08 PM


Cabinet warns Wilders on anti-Koran film

Wednesday 28 November 2007
The cabinet is concerned about a ‘provocative’ film about the Koran by anti-immigration party PVV leader Geert Wilders which he expects to be shown on tv at the end of January.
The justice, foreign and home affairs ministers, who are worried about a backlash from Islamic countries, have warned Wilders about the risks of screening such a film.
Justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin stressed that while Wilders is free to express his views about the Koran, he also has a responsibility towards society in general. ‘Think about the what the repercussions could be,’ he said.
If the film is hard-hitting, it could evoke hard-hitting reactions against himself and others,’ says the minister. Those who want a free debate must show respect for all religions and for things that are sacrosanct for others, he said.
Wilders says it is not the aim of his film to insult people but if they are insulted, that is ‘a pity but not my problem’. He says he wants Muslims to realise that the Koran is a ‘terrible and fascist’ book which inspires people to commit ‘terrible’ deeds.
He repeated his belief that the Koran, like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, should be banned in the Netherlands.
Abdelmajid Khairoun, chairman of the Dutch umbrella organisation of Muslim organisations, said Wilders’ film would damage not only Muslims but the Netherlands in general. In addition it could lead to a boycott of Dutch products similar to the anti-Danish reaction which followed the controversy about cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed two years ago.

© DutchNews.nl
===================

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

http://www.aftenposten.no/english/lo...cle2126760.ece

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday that Krekar, the former head of Islamic guerrilla group Ansar al Islam, told a Kurdish web site that he's sure the Norwegian authorities will never deport him, because that would spark "reaction" against Norway from his Islamic supporters.
Krekar told web site Awane that the "reaction" would come from his relatives, from an armed group, and also from those who follow his religious teachings and sympathize with him.
The groups, he said, "probably are from Somalia or Morocco." He refused to specify what type of "reaction" he expected.
Krekar's remarks are being widely interpreted as new threats against Norway, and that, predictably enough, has sparked more anger among Norwegians who can't understand why Krekar remains in the country.
The official version is that Krekar faces a death sentence if sent back to his native Iraq. Norway won't deport anyone if their lives would officially be in danger, and no other country has volunteered to take over responsibility for Krekar.
The mullah originally came to Norway as a refugee, later won permission to have his family join him, and since has lived largely off Norwegian welfare. He first got in trouble with Norwegian authorities when it became known that he had repeatedly violated the terms of his asylum by traveling voluntarily back to northern Iraq, to lead the guerrilla group. US authorities have long considered Krekar a terrorist suspect.
__________________
Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who kept their swords.--Ben Franklin

24243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Military fires warning shot across Chavez's bow on: November 29, 2007, 04:58:41 PM
stratfor

VENEZUELA: Venezuela's armed forces might join citizens in opposing President Hugo Chavez's constitutional changes if their approval in a Dec. 3 referendum causes violence, Bloomberg reported, citing an interview with retired Venezuelan army officer Joel Acosta Chirinos published by Brazil's O Globo newspaper. Chirinos added that the possibility of the armed forces taking up arms cannot be ruled out.
24244  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / College Football concussions on: November 29, 2007, 09:17:41 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/29/sports/ncaafootball/29concussions.html?th&emc=th

Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, a Heisman Trophy contender, was knocked unconscious by a crushing hit three weeks ago. The Oklahoma freshman quarterback Sam Bradford sustained a concussion while being trampled in a game two weeks ago.

Each impact triggered the delicate and controversial process of determining when the athlete is fit to return to the field, both that day and in subsequent weeks. College players operate in a murky zone: their bodies are between youth and manhood, they play in quasi-professional environments on national television — unpaid but with the riches of professional careers dangling before them — and no rules govern how concussions are treated in college football.

Amid much debate about the dangers of concussions, the National Football League has adopted new rules and guidelines for handling the injury. Experts are trying to raise awareness at the high school level, where players appear particularly susceptible to postconcussion syndrome and more serious injuries. At the college level, each team can devise its own procedure for diagnosing and treating concussions.

Hawaii’s Brennan and Oklahoma’s Bradford, both cleared by their team’s medical personnel, will start in crucial games Saturday: Brennan against Washington and Bradford against top-ranked Missouri in the Big 12 Conference championship game. Hawaii and Oklahoma stand to receive millions of dollars if they qualify for an elite bowl game.

Pritchard also has been cleared as Stanford prepares to play Saturday against the University of California at Berkeley, its archrival. But Coach Jim Harbaugh said in a telephone interview yesterday that he had not decided whether Pritchard would start or if T. C. Ostrander, who has started four games this season, will take Pritchard’s place.

Back at the Pritchard home in Lakewood, Wash., Kelli Pritchard, Tavita’s mother, has found herself resisting the urge to get as involved with her son’s care as her instincts tell her. She said that while she trusts Stanford’s medical staff, a part of her knows that a few years ago she would be driving Tavita to his pediatrician and having tremendous influence over his safety.

“I have to be careful that I’m not being condescending and asking questions that are totally inappropriate,” Kelli Pritchard said. “And yet I can’t ever separate myself from being the mama bear.”

Harbaugh said he expected both Pritchard and Ostrander to play Saturday because both are capable and of similar talent. He said he would decide how much each plays, and who starts, solely on how they perform in practice.

“We’ll make that evaluation on who gives us the best chance to win,” Harbaugh said. He added that unless Pritchard displayed the effects of the concussion in practice, which he had not through Tuesday, the injury would not be a consideration. “If there was some kind of postconcussion effect, like being not as accurate with his passes, that would without question impact how much he plays,” Harbaugh said.

Pritchard’s case has been scrutinized heavily both inside and outside Stanford, in part because of a strange series of events in which Pritchard was removed from the Notre Dame game last Saturday but returned for several downs after Ostrander was injured, only to be removed again.

Pritchard’s concussion took place late in the third quarter when he was struck in the helmet after a long scramble. He lay motionless for about 30 seconds before standing up and woozily walking off the field.

Harbaugh said trainers on the sideline gave Pritchard the Standardized Assessment of Concussion test, a 10-minute series of questions that evaluates short-term memory, cognitive awareness and other neurological issues.

“He received a perfect score,” Harbaugh said. Doctors also determined that Pritchard was displaying no physical symptoms of a concussion.

When Ostrander injured his hand midway through the fourth quarter, Harbaugh said he was told by medical personnel that Pritchard had been cleared to play. Pritchard appeared for one series, and took one hard tackle in which his head struck the ground again, before Ostrander returned for the rest of the game.

“The doctors determined that he was cleared to go back in after 10 minutes,” Harbaugh said. “I believe that there definitely should be scrutiny on this. But the other thing that I’m saying is that we have a concussion protocol. Tavita passed that. We have a battery of doctors that were with him from the time he got hit until the time he went back into the game. And that decision is clearly in the hands of the doctors, 100 percent. Coaches don’t make those decisions, and neither do the players.”

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

Page 2 of 2)


Pritchard said in a telephone interview: “I think it looked worse than it was. It kind of looked like T. C. went down, is Tavita O.K., he’s O.K., and I run in. People need to know that there was a lot more that was done beforehand.”


The question of whether a player who sustains a concussion should ever return to the same game can be divisive. It is strongly discouraged at the high school level because studies have shown that teenagers’ brain tissue is less developed and they are more susceptible to subsequent concussions, which in rare cases can lead to coma or death. (At least 50 high school or younger football players in more than 20 states since 1997 have been killed or have sustained catastrophic head injuries on the field, according to research by The New York Times.)

N.F.L. players, meanwhile, are generally believed to be fit to return if their symptoms have cleared.

Dr. Henry Feuer, who works the sidelines for every home football game for Indiana University and the Indianapolis Colts, and also counsels many of his state’s high schools, agreed with several other experts that college athletes are generally more comparable to professionals than high school players. He also said that most — if not all — Division I programs have formal postconcussion guidelines and testing.

“I feel strongly that teenagers are different, and high schools often don’t have a physician on the sideline,” Feuer said. “In college they almost always do and they have sports-medicine athletic trainers, too.”

Oklahoma’s Bradford sustained a concussion in a Nov. 17 game against Texas Tech, and was removed after telling team personnel that he was forgetting the plays. Scott Anderson, the Sooners’ head athletic trainer, said that Oklahoma used the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics test, another set of questions that evaluate neurological symptoms, in determining that Bradford should not return to the game.

Bradford was cleared to play the next week. Anderson said he was pleased that Bradford alerted team personnel to his injury because, as opposed to a sprained knee, concussions can be (and often are) hidden by a player who wants to stay in the game.

“One of our huge battles with concussion is we’re extremely dependent on self-reporting,” Anderson said.

The injury to Hawaii’s Brennan was obvious — while he was scrambling in the fourth quarter, a Fresno State player hit him at full speed virtually helmet-to-helmet. Brennan was briefly knocked unconscious and did not return. The Hawaii team doctor, Andrew Nichols, declined to be interviewed about how Brennan was cleared to play the following week, on Nov. 16. Last Friday, in a victory against Boise State, Brennan passed for 495 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Brennan had the extra consideration of his professional future. Sustaining another concussion could cost him several spots and millions of dollars in next spring’s N.F.L. draft. Without discussing Brennan specifically, Feuer said that he asks every prospect at the N.F.L. combine about his concussion history.

“You check for easy concussability, and whether it takes them a long time to get back,” Feuer said. “That gets put into their negative column, or whatever, come draft time.”

The last thing Kelli Pritchard said she has considered this week was how Tavita’s sitting out Saturday would affect his N.F.L. future. She speaks with Tavita several times a day on the phone to monitor how he is feeling, but knows that all she can do is hope that her feelings are considered.

“I know a lot is going to go into this decision,” Kelli Pritchard said. “It’s a really hard decision to make for everybody, because everybody’s going to get criticized one way or another.”
24245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Balkans on: November 29, 2007, 08:50:07 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Breaking Eggs in Kosovo

Kosovo is one of those places people know have problems, but figure will be contained and not become a concern to the international community. Ever since the air campaign conducted against Yugoslavia in 1999 by NATO, and particularly the United States, the Serbian province of Kosovo has been treated as territory occupied and policed by NATO and the policy of the occupiers has been, ultimately, to create a separate and independent Kosovo, which is ethnically dominated by Albanians but historically part of Serbia.

Ethnic Albanians and Serbs from Kosovo conducted talks for the last three days, but failed to reach an agreement on Kosovo's status. French Lt. Gen. Xavier de Marnhac, speaking at a press conference, warned of tough times ahead in Kosovo and asked for clear guidance from the international community as to what he is supposed to do if violence erupts. "It's going to be tough and to expect to do that without breaking eggs, forget it," De Marnhac said. "We will definitely break some eggs." We assume this is French for kicking some butt.

The problem is that Belgrade regards Kosovo as part of Serbia and its current ethnic makeup as the result of Albanian and NATO actions, and does not intend to abandon the province. The rest of Europe does not really want to force it to. Once it is established that a region with a different ethnic makeup has the inherent right to independence, then other regions in Europe might also lay claim to independence. There is Northern Ireland, the Basque regions of Spain, the Hungarian regions in Romania and Slovakia and a range of aspiring nations in the former Soviet Union.

European stability since World War II has rested on the concept that borders are inviolable, even if they contain within them regions of other nationalities. The break-up of Czechoslovakia was the result of mutual agreement, and that is precisely what the Europeans want. They do not want Kosovo to set a precedent for Belgian Walloons wanting out of Belgium. To a great extent the world wars of the 20th century were triggered by borders not matching nationalities.

The Europeans expected the Serbs to behave like Europeans, abandoning nationalism for the economic benefits of inclusion in the European Union. That would have solved everything, but the Serbs have not behaved that way. They accept exclusion from Europe if the price is Kosovo. This has baffled Europe. They do not know how to deal with Serbia. They do not want to separate Kosovo by force, nor can they get Serbia to agree to separation.

Add to this the fact that the Russians are adamantly opposed to an independent Kosovo and the entire matter is elevated to a global issue. The Russians see themselves as allies of Serbia and they fear that if Albanian Muslims are allowed to become independent from an Orthodox Christian country, the precedent might spread to Chechnya or elsewhere in Russia. Moreover, Putin is looking for a chance to test his strength against the United States, and the last thing the Europeans want is the Russians and Americans testing their strength in Europe. They have had quite enough of that.

On the other hand, the Kosovar Albanians seem committed to declaring unilateral independence soon. When they do, the NATO troops in Kosovo will have to make a decision on exactly which eggs to break. That is why de Marnhac asked for guidance on what to do should the Albanians declare a state. If NATO defends the new state, then the precedent is set, and it will have to break Serbian eggs. If it suppresses the new state, then it has to break Albanian eggs.

The Euro-American assumption was that at some point the Serbs in Belgrade would break and force the Serbs in Kosovo to accept an Albanian government. That hasn't happened and it probably won't. The problem is that the Americans and Europeans don't have a Plan B. An Albanian move to independence will leave everyone paralyzed, which is exactly why the Albanians will try it. The next step is probably to try to get the Albanians not to declare independence, but they have little motivation to listen.

If Kosovo breaks out of the box it was placed in in 1999, there will be another Balkan crisis, another Christian-Muslim confrontation and a confrontation between NATO and Russia. That should be enough to convince anyone that the evolution of events in Kosovo will matter. The Serbs will refuse to bend and the Albanians will not let this chance slip.

We understand the good general warning about broken eggs and asking for guidance on which eggs to break. Unfortunately, guidance requires a political decision, and NATO does not make decisions well. Therefore the underlying policy of NATO will continue to consist of hope coupled with civil servants holding meetings. Until all hell breaks loose in the Balkans again.

stratfor
24246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on govt. debt on: November 29, 2007, 08:39:10 AM
"As on the one hand, the necessity for borrowing in particular
emergencies cannot be doubted, so on the other, it is equally
evident that to be able to borrow upon good terms, it is essential
that the credit of a nation should be well established."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Report on Public Credit, 9 January 1790)

Reference: The Reports of Alexander Hamilton, Cooke, ed. (2)
24247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Huckabee on: November 28, 2007, 06:51:55 PM
Third post of the day:

Political Journal/WSJ

"From day one, I have been convinced that [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee, who is an amazing talent, is running for president to further his career, not serve in the Oval Office. Landing hefty speaking fees and handsome book deals, and perhaps his own cable television gig, are assuredly in his future. It's not that Huckabee is beneath the presidency; it's that he operates in a different orbit. He longs for the spotlight. He loves to entertain and is less concerned with the substance of what he says than with the impression he leaves.... He is a modern-day populist who delights in the sowing-and-reaping praise of others, especially those from the left, but for what, to advance some sort of ideological cause? No, it's about advancing Mike Huckabee" -- David Sanders, a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and a former aide to Mike Huckabee.
24248  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: November 28, 2007, 05:18:04 PM
Baltic Dog:

What word on yours?

CD
24249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington to Patrick Henry on: November 28, 2007, 01:59:41 PM
"My ardent desire is, and my aim has been...to comply strictly
with all our engagements foreign and domestic; but to keep the U
States free from political connections with every other Country.
To see that they may be independent of all, and under the
influence of none.  In a word, I want an American character,
that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves
and not for others; this,  in my judgment, is the only way to be
respected abroad and happy at home."

-- George Washington (letter to Partick Henry, 9 October 1775)

Reference: The Writings of George Washington, Fitzpatrick, ed.,
vol. 34 (335)
24250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 9 year old suspended for hate crime on: November 28, 2007, 01:57:27 PM
http://www.azcentral.com/12news/news/articles/racism112707-CR.html

9-year old suspended for 'hate crime'
Robert Anglen
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 27, 2007 03:05 PM

A Glendale elementary school principal has admitted to telling a 9-year old boy that it is OK to have racist feelings as long as you keep them to yourself.

“As we said to (the boy) when he was in here, in your heart you may have that feeling, and that is OK if that is your personal belief,” Abraham Lincoln Traditional School Principal Virginia Voinovich said in a tape-recorded parent-teacher conference.

The boy was suspended for three days this month for allegedly committing a “hate crime” by using the expression “brown people.” advertisement 
 
 


In an interview Monday, Voinovich would not address her comments, first saying she didn't remember the incident, then demanding a copy of the recording and finally insisting that she could not talk about a student's discipline.

The circumstances of the boy’s suspension itself raise troubling questions about student discipline, interrogation and oversight at Abraham Lincoln.

According to school officials, the boy made a statement about “brown people” to another elementary student with whom he was having a conflict. They maintain it was his second offense using the phrase.

But the tape recording indicates this only came out after another parent was allowed to question the boy and elicited from him the statement that he “doesn't cooperate with brown people.”

After that was reported to the boy's teacher, he was made to stand in front of his class and publicly confess what he'd said.

The boy maintains that he never said it; that the words were put in his mouth by the parent who questioned him. That parent happens to be the mother of the student with whom he is having a conflict—and she happens to work for Abraham Lincoln as a detention-room officer.

The tape indicates that rather than just spouting off with racial invective, the boy was asked first why he didn't want to cooperate with brown people by the parent/school official.

In court, this might be called entrapment. Not to mention a conflict of interest.

Officials at the Washington Elementary School District, who are supposed to oversee Voinovich, wouldn't comment about the boy’s suspension. They said only the principal is qualified to talk about it.

Well, the boy’s mother is talking, and she is angry. She has also removed her son from the school.

“I want parents to know … that principals can abuse their powers,” Sherry Neve, 35, said. “Principals need to have pro-active supervisors. I want the parents to know that the principal was influencing my son in a way I wouldn't want him to be raised.”

Neve said school officials didn’t advise her of the incident until several days after they questioned her son. When Neve objected to the suspension during the conference, Voinovich told her that she didn't have any rights; that parents give up their rights to discipline when they send a child to school, the tape shows.

“If you don't want that, you can take him out of here,” Voinovich said tersely.

Neve insists that her son is not a racist and that he never differentiated a person's color until the school made it in an issue.

“We were raised to be color blind,” she said. “My children were raised the same way.”

But let's assume for a minute that the boy actually made the comment. Does this make him a racist and guilty of a hate crime? Or does it make him a confused 9-year-old in need of counseling?

Instead of taking an opportunity to educate the boy and get to the root of the problem, the principal taught him another lesson altogether: It's OK to feel like a racist as long as you keep your feelings to yourself.

Kids often say the darndest things. Apparently, so do principals.
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