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24351  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 20, 2008, 12:49:40 AM
Lets be precise now-- the LAPD stopped doing holds that attack the windpipe.  Stopping the blood flow is a completely distinct matter.

If I read the CA case correctly the question presented means that for the purpose of the question presented the court must assume the allegations to be true.  In this case the allegations are that the defendant got hyper and a bit hysterical and by so doing left the plaintiff crippled.  Did the law protect this behavior?  Was the defendant within the class protected by the law?

24352  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 19, 2008, 03:14:14 PM
Here's the full article:

California Supreme Court allows good Samaritans to be sued for nonmedical care
The ruling stems from a case in which a woman pulled a crash victim from a car 'like a rag doll,' allegedly aggravating a vertebrae injury.

By Carol J. Williams
December 19, 2008

Being a good Samaritan in California just got a little riskier.

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a young woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle isn't immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn't medical.


The divided high court appeared to signal that rescue efforts are the responsibility of trained professionals. It was also thought to be the first ruling by the court that someone who intervened in an accident in good faith could be sued.

Lisa Torti of Northridge allegedly worsened the injuries suffered by Alexandra Van Horn by yanking her "like a rag doll" from the wrecked car on Topanga Canyon Boulevard.  Torti now faces possible liability for injuries suffered by Van Horn, a fellow department store cosmetician who was rendered a paraplegic in the accident that ended a night of Halloween revelry in 2004.


But in a sharp dissent, three of the seven justices said that by making a distinction between medical care and emergency response, the court was placing "an arbitrary and unreasonable limitation" on protections for those trying to help.

In 1980, the Legislature enacted the Health and Safety Code, which provides that "no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission."  Although that passage does not use the word "medical" in describing the protected emergency care, it was included in the section of the code that deals with emergency medical services. By placing it there, lawmakers intended to shield "only those persons who in good faith render emergency medical care at the scene of a medical emergency," Justice Carlos R. Moreno wrote for the majority.

The high court cited no previous cases involving good Samaritan actions deemed unprotected by the state code, suggesting the challenge of Torti's rescue effort was the first to narrow the scope of the law.

The three dissenting justices argued, however, that the aim of the legislation was clearly "to encourage persons not to pass by those in need of emergency help, but to show compassion and render the necessary aid."  Justice Marvin R. Baxter said the ruling was "illogical" because it recognizes legal immunity for nonprofessionals administering medical care while denying it for potentially life-saving actions like saving a person from drowning or carrying an injured hiker to safety.

"One who dives into swirling waters to retrieve a drowning swimmer can be sued for incidental injury he or she causes while bringing the victim to shore, but is immune for harm he or she produces while thereafter trying to revive the victim," Baxter wrote for the dissenters. "Here, the result is that defendant Torti has no immunity for her bravery in pulling her injured friend from a crashed vehicle, even if she reasonably believed it might be about to explode."

Both opinions have merit, "but I think the majority has better arguments," said Michael Shapiro, professor of constitutional and bioethics law at USC.

Shapiro said the majority was correct in interpreting that the Legislature meant to shield doctors and other healthcare professionals from being sued for injuries they cause despite acting with "reasonable care," as the law requires.  Noting that he would be reluctant himself to step in to aid a crash victim with potential spinal injuries, Shapiro said the court's message was that emergency care "should be left to medical professionals."

Torti's liability has yet to be determined in court, and if the Legislature is unhappy with any judgment arising from the immunity denial, it can revise the code, he concluded.

Torti, Van Horn and three other co-workers from a San Fernando Valley department store had gone out to a bar on Halloween for a night of drinking and dancing, departing in two cars at 1:30 a.m., the justices noted as background.

Van Horn was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle driven by Anthony Glen Watson, whom she also sued, and Torti rode in the second car. After Watson's car crashed into a light pole at about 45 mph, the rear car pulled off the road and driver Dion Ofoegbu and Torti rushed to help Watson's two passengers escape the wreckage.

Torti testified in a deposition that she saw smoke and liquid coming from Watson's vehicle and feared the car was about to catch fire. None of the others reported seeing signs of an imminent explosion, and Van Horn said in her deposition that Torti grabbed her arm and yanked her out "like a rag doll."  Van Horn's suit alleges negligence by Torti in aggravating a vertebrae injury suffered in the crash, causing permanent damage to the spinal cord.

Neither Torti nor her attorney, Ronald D. Kent, could be reached immediately. Kent's Los Angeles law office said he was in meetings on the East Coast and may not have seen the decision.

Van Horn's attorney, Robert B. Hutchinson, disputed the notion that the ruling could have a chilling effect on laymen coming to the rescue of the injured. Good Samaritan laws have been on the books for centuries and state that "if a person volunteers to act, he or she must act with reasonable care," Hutchinson said.

"Ms. Torti ran up in a state of panic, literally grabbed Ms. Van Horn by the shoulder and yanked her out, then dropped her next to the car," he said, deeming Torti's assessment of an imminent explosion "irrational" and her action in leaving Van Horn close to the car inconsistent with that judgment.

Hutchinson said it was too early to say what sum Van Horn might seek in damages; her original suit was summarily dismissed in Los Angeles County Superior Court before he could arrange expert assessments of the costs of her life care and loss of potential income. It was her ambition to become a Hollywood makeup artist -- a dream no longer achievable, the lawyer said.

Torti's trial at the Chatsworth courthouse is expected next year.
24353  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: December 19, 2008, 09:48:52 AM
"Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

24354  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: December 19, 2008, 09:33:42 AM
If it were as clear as it seems in this WSJ editorial, why did all the Reps on the committee vote in support of the report?  Is it because one of them is Sen. McCain and with his personal history that no one was willing to go against him? 

Regardless, a troubling issue , , ,
==========================
The release of Carl Levin's report on the Bush Administration's alleged "torture" policies was a formality: The Senator's conclusions were politically predetermined long ago. Still, the credulity and acclaim that has greeted this agitprop is embarrassing, even by Washington standards.

 
AP
Sen. Carl Levin.
According to the familiar "torture narrative" that Mr. Levin sanctifies, President Bush and senior officials sanctioned detainee abuse, first by refusing to accord al Qaeda members Geneva Convention rights, and second by conspiring to rewrite the legal definition of torture. The new practices were then imposed on military leaders and spread through the chain of command. Therefore, Mr. Bush, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their deputies are morally -- and legally -- responsible for all prisoner abuse since 9/11, not least Abu Ghraib.

Nearly every element of this narrative is dishonest. As officials testified during Mr. Levin's hearings and according to documents in his possession, senior officials were responding to requests from the CIA and other commanders in the field. The flow was bottom up, not top down. Those commanders were seeking guidance on what kind of interrogation was permissible as they tried to elicit information from enemies who want to murder civilians. At the time, no less than Barack Obama's Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, was saying that terrorists didn't qualify for Geneva protections.

This was the context in which the Justice Department wrote the so-called "torture memos" of 2002 and 2003. You'd never know from the Levin jeremiad that these are legal -- not policy -- documents. They are attempts not to dictate interrogation guidelines but to explore the legal limits of what the CIA might be able to do.

It would have been irresponsible for those charged with antiterror policy to do anything less. In a 2007 interview former CIA director George Tenet described the urgency of that post-9/11 period: "I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are going to be blown up, planes that are going to fly into airports all over again . . . Plot lines that I don't know -- I don't know what's going on inside the United States." Actionable intelligence is the most effective weapon in the war on terror, which can potentially save thousands of lives.

We know that the most aggressive tactic ever authorized was waterboarding, which was used in only three cases against hardened, high-ranking al Qaeda operatives, including Abu Zubaydah after he was picked up in Pakistan in 2002. U.S. officials say the information he gave up foiled multiple terror plots and led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11. As Dick Cheney told ABC this week, "There was a time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from one source" -- KSM.

Starting in 2002, key Congressional leaders, including Democrats, were fully briefed by the CIA about its activities, amounting to some 30 sessions before "torture" became a public issue. None of them saw fit to object. In fact, Congress has always defined torture so vaguely as to ban only the most extreme acts and preserve legal loopholes. At least twice it has had opportunity to specifically ban waterboarding and be accountable after some future attack. Members declined.

As for "stress positions" allowed for a time by the Pentagon, such as hooding, sleep deprivation or exposure to heat and cold, they are psychological techniques designed to break a detainee, but light years away from actual torture. Perhaps the reason Mr. Levin released only an executive summary with its unsubstantiated charges of criminal behavior -- instead of the hundreds of pages of a full declassified version -- is that the evidence doesn't fit the story. If it did, Mr. Levin or his staff would surely have leaked the details.

Not one of the 12 nonpartisan investigations in recent years concluded that the Administration condoned or tolerated detainee abuse, while multiple courts martial have punished real offenders. None of the dozen or so Abu Ghraib trials and investigations have implicated higher ups; the most senior officer charged, a lieutenant colonel, was acquitted in 2006. Former Defense Secretary Jim Schlesinger's panel concluded that the abuses were sadistic behavior by the "night shift."

Now that Mr. Obama is on his way to the White House, even some Democrats are acknowledging the complicated security realities. Dianne Feinstein, a Bush critic who will chair the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, recently told the New York Times that extreme cases might call for flexibility. "I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible," she said (our emphasis). Ms. Feinstein later put out a statement that all interrogations should be conducted within the more specific limits of the U.S. Army Field Manual but said she will "consider" other views. But that is already the law for most of the government. What the Bush Administration has insisted on is an exception for the CIA to use other techniques (not waterboarding) in extreme cases.

As for Mr. Levin, his real purpose is to lay the groundwork for war-crimes prosecutions of Bush officials like John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Jim Haynes who acted in good faith to keep the country safe within the confines of the law. Messrs. Obama and Holder would be foolish to spend their political capital on revenge, but Mr. Levin is demanding an "independent" commission to further politicize the issue and smear decent public servants.

As Mr. Levin put it in laying on his innuendo this week, a commission "may or may not lead to indictments or civil action." It will also encourage some grandstanding foreign prosecutor to arrest Mr. Rumsfeld and other Bush officials like Pinochet if they ever dare to leave the U.S. Why John McCain endorsed this Levin gambit is the kind of mystery that has defined, and damaged, his career. We hope other Republicans push back.

Mr. Levin claims that Bush interrogation programs "damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives." The truth is closer to the opposite. The second-guessing of Democrats is likely to lead to a risk-averse mindset at the CIA and elsewhere that compromises the ability of terror fighters to break the next KSM. The political winds always shift, but terrorists are as dangerous as ever.

 

24355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / S-300 to Iran on: December 19, 2008, 12:49:54 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia, Obama and the S-300
December 18, 2008
There has been extensive discussion of the idea that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama might be tested early in his term by foreign powers, much as other presidents have been tested. If reports in the Russian media are correct, Obama’s first test is starting to take shape: According to RIA Novosti news agency, Russia is in the process of “implementing a contract” that would ultimately deliver the S-300 strategic air defense system to Iran.

Rumors concerning the S-300 have been on-again, off-again for years, but RIA Novosti reported that “Moscow has earlier met its obligations on supplying Tor-M1 systems to Iran and is currently implementing a contract to deliver S-300 systems.” The news agency also quoted Alexander Fomin, deputy head of the federal agency in charge of Russia’s military exports, as saying, “Russia’s military and technical cooperation with Iran has a positive impact on stability in this region.” Fomin added, “We have developed, are developing and will continue to develop this cooperation further. The region’s security to a large extent depends on this.” The article follows reports that an Israeli military delegation traveled to Moscow in recent days to try to dissuade Russia from delivering the weapons.

The importance of the S-300 — specifically the more modern PMU series — is that it would increase the difficulty of air attacks against Iran. The first stage of any attack is the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). Except in the case of a sudden attack on a single target, SEAD is a precursor to any sustained air campaign, and given the relatively large number of Iranian nuclear sites, taking out those facilities would involve such an extended campaign. Having to suppress a series of S-300PMU batteries would extend substantially the number of sorties and the time required for this phase of the attack.

This would affect both Israeli and American calculations. Given the size of Israel’s air force and the distances involved, the additional attrition and time involved in the SEAD phase might well extend an Iran campaign beyond Israel’s capabilities. It is not clear whether the S-300 would take a conventional Israeli option off the table, but it certainly would make things more difficult should Israel decide to carry out the attack. The United States would have greater ability to make such a move, but Washington’s recent agreement with Baghdad stipulates that Iraq cannot be used as a base for attacks against neighboring countries. And the Turks do not want the Americans to attack Iran from their soil. Put simply, the introduction of the S-300 would push the difficulty of a non-nuclear attack to the limit for Israel and complicate matters for the United States.

Of course, this is what the Russians mean to do. We do not know what happened during the conversations U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger held in Moscow in recent days, but the Russians clearly have decided to turn up the heat. Russia has shifted its position from not wanting to increase tensions through the sale of the S-300 to seeing the sale as stabilizing the region — which it would do at the expense of potentially reducing U.S. and Israeli options.

Moscow does not want the Iranians to have nuclear weapons, but the Russian view is that the Iranians are rather far away from developing them. The more important issue for Russia is forcing the Americans to recognize Moscow’s sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union - by withdrawing their support for Ukraine, Georgia and other countries in the region. For the United States, the Iranian issue has been a priority. The Russians have just made it clear that if the Americans do not give them what they want, they will complicate U.S. policy on Iran as much as they can.

Obama takes office in about a month. It is not clear what point the Russians have reached in actually transferring S-300s, but in a month’s time, they could be either on the verge of transferring or already in the process. That means Obama will be forced to respond very quickly to Russia’s action. His options include forcing some sort of confrontation with the Russians; doing nothing, and thus accepting Russia’s intrusion into a core American interest; moving rapidly to deal with Iran; or (and we doubt intensely that he would choose this option) moving to strike Iran before the S-300s become operational.

It may be that American defense analysts will conclude that the S-300 does not significantly affect the balance of power in the region. But the S-300 does affect the psychological balance. The Iranians will feel that they are far less isolated than the Americans want them to feel, and that change alone will have a significant effect. Whether viewed militarily or politically, Russia’s action matters.

This is not a situation on the scale of the Cuban missile crisis, but it is a significant challenge to American interests on Russia’s part. If Obama does nothing, he will be seen as weak; if he gives the Russians what they want, he will be seen as an appeaser. And if he moves toward a major crisis or even military action, he will be seen as overly aggressive. With this move, Russia’s aim was to push Obama into a corner and say, in Russian, “Welcome to the big leagues.”
24356  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: December 18, 2008, 01:48:59 AM
If I remember correctly, the Dept of Ag was virtually wiped out until Bush resurrected it  angry angry angry
24357  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: December 18, 2008, 01:46:29 AM
"It may certainly be soon to tell if the last few decades  are a turning point but the statistics are currently not in favor  of feminism/working mothers causing  rising violence and the breakdown of society."

Delivered with panache and wit cheesy but I stilll insist upon the point that mothers matter and when they disappear from their children's lives the consequences are profound.
24358  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Healing Aspect of DBMA on: December 17, 2008, 11:28:31 PM
Ummm, , , , the second one  cheesy
24359  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio en estupidez on: December 17, 2008, 11:27:11 PM
Esta' en Portugues:

http://www.nothingtoxic.com/media/1228874022/Pistol_Whipping_Cop_Accidentally_Shoots_Guy_in_Head
24360  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Healing Aspect of DBMA on: December 17, 2008, 08:18:44 PM
The one at 3:30 on the second clip was new to me.  Obvious once you see it, but new to me nonetheless.  cool
24361  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 17, 2008, 08:07:54 PM
Agradezco la felizidad y orgullo de jugar adjedrez con mi hijo y ver como el nivel de su juego este' creciendo.
24362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 17, 2008, 08:03:04 PM
I'm thinking the Green Team piece belongs better on the Cognitive Dissonance thread , , ,

Anyway, fair and reasonable man that SBM is, of course he gets the absurdity of the Palin baby nonsense-- what remains IMHO is that there is no good reason that I can see for all of us not to see the original certificate.  Period.
24363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 17, 2008, 07:58:40 PM
Exactly so. 

I am in most hearty agreement with BBG about the primal importance of what is at stake here.
24364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: December 17, 2008, 07:54:32 PM
I had an interesting conversation with a couple trying to sign me up for Greenpeace yesterday in front of the Whole Foods store. cheesy  The male half of the couple apparently was some sort of grad science student.   Armed as I was with the contents of this thread and the Pathological Science thread, he had a very hard time with me.  His frustration as I popped the various bubbles of  specious reasoning and misleading misrepresentations with which he was used to having his way (its not like the folks going into Whole Foods represent a reluctant to belief group on the whole  wink ) was quite enjoyable.  His girlfriend had a harder time of it  cheesy 

Good fun!  Thanks to BBG, GM, Doug et al for al the ammo!
24365  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 16, 2008, 11:48:04 AM
Can David Paterson Say 'No' to a Kennedy?

Media reaction to news that Caroline Kennedy is actively seeking appointment to the U.S. Senate seat held by Hillary Clinton was certainly different from how the media responded to Sarah Palin's arrival on the national stage. Mrs. Palin may have been a mayor, chairwoman of a major state regulatory commission and a governor, but her entrance into big-time politics was widely ridiculed.

In contrast, the 51-year-old Ms. Kennedy is a shy and private person who has never held a job in public life beyond her 22 months planning strategic partnerships for New York City's public schools. She has co-authored books such as "The Right to Privacy" and also co-chaired Barack Obama's vice-presidential selection committee.

But her political experience is painfully limited. A family friend, noting that she had never campaigned for anyone outside her immediate family before Mr. Obama, had to reach in explaining to Newsweek magazine that she could handle the rigors of campaigning. "She worked rope lines and spoke at campaign stops for Obama and was not turned off by that," the friend said. "In fact, she enjoyed herself."

There is no doubt Ms. Kennedy could raise tens of millions of dollars for the two Senate races she would have to run in quick succession -- one in 2010 for the remaining two years of Mrs. Clinton's term and another in 2012 for a full six-year term. She no doubt would also receive the same kind of kid-glove treatment from most of the media that Barack Obama has.

But don't count on a Kennedy continuing the dynasty that has kept a member of the family in the U.S. Senate for all but two of the last 56 years. A key factor in who will be appointed to the Senate seat is how the selection would benefit the political interests of New York Governor David Paterson, the man who will make the decision.

Mr. Paterson is himself a governor who happened into his job by accident after the spectacular fall of Eliot Spitzer. With a slowing economy, the prospect of massive tax increases and a volatile group of special interests making demands on the state's budget, his job in winning a full term in his own right won't be easy.

That's why the safest choice for Mr. Paterson might be to appoint state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has been viewed as a possible primary challenger to the governor in 2010. Promoting Mr. Cuomo would remove the largest single obstacle to Mr. Paterson's election to the office he now holds, but it might also irritate women voters who were used to having Mrs. Clinton represent New York in the nation's capital.

"My heart goes out to David Paterson," Democratic political strategist Dan Gerstein says. "He's sadly become the grand champion of the no-win situation. No matter who he picks, he will alienate a lot of different communities."

Now, with Ms. Kennedy's openly public interest in going to the U.S. Senate, the question is whether he is willing to "just say no" to the Democratic Party's most powerful family dynasty.

-- John Fund

Obama's School Choice Is to Punt

In picking Chicago public schools chief Arne Duncan to be his Education Secretary, Barack Obama chose a middle course between appointing a fiery reformer and a favorite of the politically powerful teachers' unions that backed his candidacy.

Mr. Obama had been under pressure from liberals to appoint Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor viewed as an "old guard" defender of the educational status quo. On the other hand, many of his business supporters were backing Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City's public schools and someone who has often confronted teacher unions.

Mr. Obama instead opted for Mr. Duncan, a friend and Hyde Park neighbor who has often played basketball with the President-elect. Nonetheless, education reformers pronounced themselves pleased with the choice. Whitney Tilson, a founder of Democrats for Education Reform, said he had been impressed by Mr. Duncan's support for merit pay for teachers and willingness to shut down some failing public schools. Mr. Tilson said Mr. Duncan had been able to bring "real change" to the nation's third largest public school system and was the "perfect balance of being strong and getting what he wants and doing it in a way that wins."

All that may be true, but after seven years of Mr. Duncan's tenure in Chicago, its schools still remain seriously troubled. Mr. Obama, for his part, certainly never entrusted his own children to the Chicago public school system -- even schools in the affluent Hyde Park neighborhood where he lived. Instead, he sent both of his children to private schools -- as he intends to do when he moves to Washington, D.C.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"For the last decade or so, the Democrats have not been as strong on education reform as the Republicans have. The Republicans have been much, much better, in my opinion, on ensuring strict accountability for schools and for districts, for ensuring that people are held responsible for closing the achievement gap and significantly increasing student achievement levels for every single child. What worries me about the Democrats is that they tend to be softer on these things, and soft is not what we need right now. Allowing schools to continue to fail year in and year out without significant ramifications either to the district or to the school is doing a disservice to the children. . . . I don't think it's too much for the children of this country to ask for to have somebody who's leading the education system who is always going to put their interests first and foremost, who is not going to care about the politics, the political flak, how many adults get mad at them, keeping the adults happy" -- District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, on why despite being an Obama voter she is "somewhat terrified of what the Democrats are going to do on education," in an interview with NationalJournal.com's Amy Harder.

What If Sarah Palin Had Come from Chicago and Barack Obama from Alaska?

What's the difference between a hockey mom and a Chicago pol?

Apparently, it's more than lipstick. During the presidential campaign, Sarah Palin was criticized for having too thin a résumé to be vice president. But one portion of her record stands out now as being particularly relevant in the wake of Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest last week and Barack Obama's long-standing silence of Chicago ethics.

In 2003, Ms. Palin was appointed chairwoman and ethics supervisor of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. Before long she spotted what appeared to be ethical violations by fellow Republicans and also found the governor's response to be so sluggish that it bordered on willful blindness. The two Republicans she pointed fingers at were Randy Ruedrich, the state GOP chairman and a fellow oil and gas commissioner, and Gregg Renkes, the state's attorney general. Her beef with Mr. Ruedrich was that he appeared to be too close to a company he was supposed to be regulating. And Mr. Renkes appeared to have a financial conflict of interest in negotiating a coal-exporting trade agreement.

Mrs. Palin blew the whistle internally on both men. When nothing happened, she quit less than two years into her term. Later, when she was criticized by some Republicans for unfairly pointing an accusatory finger, she penned an op-ed and, using her famous hockey-mom metaphor, underlined the importance of holding government officials -- even members of her own party -- to high ethical standards. The incident cemented her reputation as a reformer when both men were later forced to resign and Mr. Ruedrich paid a $12,000 fine. Mrs. Palin went on to unseat Mr. Murkowski in a hard-fought GOP primary in 2006.

Compare this record to Mr. Obama's. An ethical cloud has been hanging over Mr. Blagojevich for years. We now know federal officials began looking into his affairs within months after he was elected in 2002. Mr. Obama came up in Chicago politics, shared at least one fundraiser with Mr. Blagojevich -- Tony Rezko, who was recently convicted of fraud and bribery -- and several other acquaintances, including top labor officials. But he apparently never saw any reason to publicly question the governor's ethics. In the past week the Obama camp has been compiling a list of contacts with Mr. Blagojevich and his inner circle since Election Day, which it will supposedly release next week. When that list comes out, let's hope it accurately portrays the overlap between the Obama and Blagojevich circles in Chicago. The question that will remain, however, is why didn't Mr. Obama ever assume the type of leadership role Mrs. Palin did in moving against public corruption within his own party and state?

-- Brendan Miniter

24366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bankruptcy is the perfect remedy on: December 16, 2008, 08:25:58 AM
WSJ
Bankruptcy Is the Perfect Remedy for Detroit
Washington hates the idea because it would lose leverage.Article


   
By TODD J. ZYWICKI
While Washington tries to arrange a bailout, the Detroit Three auto makers and their union, the United Auto Workers, keep insisting that bankruptcy would be the kiss of death. Not so: a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will likely result in a stronger domestic industry.

To understand why, consider that the fundamental question to ask of any firm facing bankruptcy is whether it is "economically failed" or simply "financially failed."

If a typewriter manufacturer were to file for bankruptcy today it likely would be considered an economically failed enterprise. The market for typewriters is small and shrinking, and the manufacturer's financial, physical and human capital would probably be better redeployed elsewhere, such as making computers.

A financially failed enterprise, on the other hand, is worth more alive than dead. Chapter 11 exists to allow it to continue in business while reorganizing. Reorganization arose in the late 19th century when creditors of railroads unable to meet their debt obligations threatened to tear up their tracks, melt them down, and sell the steel as scrap. But innovative judges, lawyers and businessmen recognized that creditors would collect more if they all agreed to reduce their claims and keep the railroads running and producing revenues to pay them off. The same logic animates Chapter 11 today.

General Motors looks like a financially failed rather than an economically failed enterprise -- in need of reorganization not liquidation. It needs to shed labor contracts, retirement contracts, and modernize its distribution systems by closing many dealerships. This will give rise to many current and future liabilities that may be worked out in bankruptcy. It may need new management as well. Bankruptcy provides an opportunity to do all that. Consumers have little to fear. Reorganization will pare the weakest dealers while strengthening those who remain.

So why do the Detroit Three managements and the UAW insist that "bankruptcy is not an option"? Perhaps because of the pain that would be inflicted upon both.

The bankruptcy code places severe limitations on the compensation that can be paid to a manager unless there is a "bona fide job offer from another business at the same or greater rate of compensation." Given the dismal performance of the Detroit Three in recent years, it seems unlikely that their senior management will be highly coveted on the open market. Incumbent management is also likely to find its prospects for continued employment less-secure.

Chapter 11 also provides a mechanism for forcing UAW workers to take further pay cuts, reduce their gold-plated health and retirement benefits, and overcome their cumbersome union work rules. The process for adjusting a collective bargaining agreement is somewhat complicated and begins with a sort of compulsory mediation process. But if this fails a company can (with court permission) nullify the agreement. This doomsday scenario is rarely triggered, however, as its threat casts a large shadow over negotiations, providing a stick to force concessions.

Those Washington politicians who repeat the mantra that "bankruptcy is not an option" probably do so because they want to use free taxpayer money to bribe Detroit into manufacturing the green cars favored by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, rather than those cars American consumers want to buy. A Chapter 11 filing would remove these politicians' leverage, thus explaining their desperation to avoid a bankruptcy.

In short, Detroit and the public has little to fear from a bankruptcy filing, but much to fear from the corrupt bargain that is emerging among incumbent management, the UAW and Capitol Hill to spend our money to avoid their reality check.

Mr. Zywicki is a professor of law at George Mason University School of Law.

24367  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 16, 2008, 07:59:51 AM
Interesting BBG.  I wonder what Michael Yon is saying about all this?

Anyway, in a totall different vein, here's this from the WSJ:

Every visitor to Pakistan has seen them: 20-foot tall roadside replicas of a remote mountain where, a decade ago, Pakistan conducted its first overt nuclear tests. This is what the country's leaders -- military, secular, Islamist -- consider their greatest achievement.

 
AP
A model of Chaghi mountain, the site of Pakistan's nuclear test.
So here's a modest proposal: Let's buy their arsenal.

A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear program (and midwife to a few others), likes to point out what a feat it was that a country "where we can't even make a bicycle chain" could succeed at such an immense technological task. He exaggerates somewhat: Pakistan got its bomb largely through a combination of industrial theft, systematic violation of Western export controls, and a blueprint of a weapon courtesy of Beijing.

Still, give Mr. Khan this: Thanks partly to his efforts, a country that has impoverished the great mass of its own people, corruptly enriched a tiny handful of elites, served as a base of terrorism against its neighbors, lost control of its intelligence services, radicalized untold numbers of Muslims in its madrassas, handed the presidency to a man known as Mr. 10%, and proliferated nuclear technology to Libya and Iran (among others) has, nevertheless, made itself a power to be reckoned with. Congratulations.

But if Pakistanis thought a bomb would be a net national asset, they miscalculated. Yes, Islamabad gained parity with its adversaries in New Delhi, gained prestige in the Muslim world, and gained a day of national pride, celebrated every May 28.

What Pakistan didn't gain was greater security. "The most significant reality was that the bomb promoted a culture of violence which . . . acquired the form of a monster with innumerable heads of terror," wrote Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy earlier this year. "Because of this bomb, we can definitely destroy India and be destroyed in its response. But its function is limited to this."

In 2007, some 1,500 Pakistani civilians were killed in terrorist attacks. None of those attacks were perpetrated by India or any other country against which Pakistan's warheads could be targeted, unless it aimed at itself. But Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has made it an inviting target for the jihadists who blew up Islamabad's Marriott hotel in September and would gladly blow up the rest of the capital as a prelude to taking it over.

The day that happens may not be so very far off. President Asif Ali Zardari was recently in the U.S. asking for $100 billion to stave off economic collapse. So far, the international community has ponied up about $15 billion. That puts Mr. Zardari $85 billion shy of his fund-raising target. Meantime, the average Taliban foot soldier brings home monthly wages that are 30% higher than uniformed Pakistani security personnel.

Preventing the disintegration of Pakistan, perhaps in the wake of a war with India (how much restraint will New Delhi show after the next Mumbai-style atrocity?), will be the Obama administration's most urgent foreign-policy challenge. Since Mr. Obama has already committed a trillion or so in new domestic spending, what's $100 billion in the cause of saving the world?

Today in Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Barack Obama-sanCondi's Korean FailureThe Sole of Liberation

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Global View: Let's Buy Pakistan's Nukes
– Bret StephensMain Street: Gitmo Lawyers Are the Latest in Radical Chic
– William McGurn

COMMENTARY

The Return of Realpolitik in Arabia
– Fouad AjamiThe Lessons From 30 Years of Chinese Reform
– Hugo RestallHow Blackwater Serves America
– Erik D. PrinceBankruptcy Is the Perfect Remedy for Detroit
– Todd J. ZywickiThis is the deal I have in mind. The government of Pakistan would verifiably eliminate its entire nuclear stockpile and the industrial base that sustains it. In exchange, the U.S. and other Western donors would agree to a $100 billion economic package, administered by an independent authority and disbursed over 10 years, on condition that Pakistan remain a democratic and secular state (no military rulers; no Sharia law). It would supplement that package with military aid similar to what the U.S. provides Israel: F-35 fighters, M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters. The U.S. would also extend its nuclear umbrella to Pakistan, just as Hillary Clinton now proposes to do for Israel.

A pipe dream? Not necessarily. People forget that the world has subtracted more nuclear powers over the past two decades than it has added: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and South Africa all voluntarily relinquished their stockpiles in the 1990s. Libya did away with its program in 2003 when Moammar Gadhafi concluded that a bomb would be a net liability, and that he had more to gain by coming to terms with the West.

There's no compelling reason Mr. Zardari and his military brass shouldn't reach the same conclusion, assuming excellent terms and desperate circumstances. Sure, a large segment of Pakistanis will never agree. Others, who have subsisted on a diet of leaves and grass so Pakistan could have its bomb, might take a more pragmatic view.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that it remains a country that can't do the basics, like make a bicycle chain. If what its leaders want is prestige, prosperity and lasting security, they could start by creating an economy that can make one -- while unlearning how to make the bomb.
24368  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CFLs on: December 16, 2008, 07:53:09 AM
Lights Out for Thomas Edison

Brief Analysis

No. 637

December 10, 2008

Read Article as PDF | Get Adobe Reader

by H. Sterling Burnett and Amanda Berg

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will soon ban the most
common light bulbs in the United States.  New efficiency standards will
require manufacturers to produce incandescent bulbs that use less energy per
unit of light produced, starting with 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012,
down to 40-watt bulbs in 2014.

Under the new standards:

100-watt light bulbs are banned entirely.
70-watt light bulbs will have to be 36 percent to 136 percent more
efficient.
50-watt bulbs must be 50 percent to 112 percent more efficient.
40-watt bulbs will have to improve 50 percent to 110 percent.

Incandescent bulbs cannot meet these new standards absent a significant
technological breakthrough.  Thus, the common light bulb will soon be
extinct.

Illuminating Efficiency.  The alternative for most household uses will be
compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) designed to fit standard incandescent bulb
bases.  CFLs currently make up only 5 percent of the light bulb market.
They have been touted for years as the smart choice for consumers interested
in reducing their energy bills, due to their extended lifespan and low
energy use vis-à-vis the equivalent light output from an incandescent.  For
example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb produces 850 lumens - the same light
output as a 13-watt to 18-watt CFL.   Unfortunately, except under a fairly
narrow range of circumstances, CFLs are less efficient than advertised.
Manufacturers claim the average life span of a CFL bulb is 10,000 hours.
However, in many applications the life and energy savings of a CFL are
significantly lower:

CFLs must be left on for at least 15 minutes or used for several hours per
day to achieve their full energy saving benefits, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Applications in which lighting is used only briefly (such as closets,
bathrooms, motion detectors and so forth) will cause CFL bulbs to burn out
as quickly as regular incandescent bulbs.

CFLs often become dimmer over time - a study of U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Star" products found that after 40 percent of their rated service
life, one-fourth of tested CFLs no longer produced the full amount of light.

At about $3 per bulb, CFLs are expensive, whereas incandescent bulbs cost
only 20 cents per bulb, on average.  And there are other drawbacks.  For
instance:

When initially switched on, CFLs may provide as little as 50 percent to 80
percent of their rated light output and can take up to three minutes to
reach full brightness.
CFLs often don't fit existing light fixtures, such as small-base lamps and
candlelabras, so these will have to be replaced.
Standard CFLs will not operate at low temperatures, making them unsuitable
for outdoor lighting.
CFLs can emit an annoying buzz.

CFLs emit infrared light that can interfere with remote-controlled devices,
such as televisions, video games and stereo equipment.
CFLs are simply unsuited for many common uses. The new law therefore
excludes whole classes of light bulbs from the standards, including
appliance light bulbs (ovens and refrigerators), flashing and colored
lights, traffic signals, shatter-resistant bulbs, three-way adjustable bulbs
and so forth.

Hidden Dangers of CFLs.  CFLs contain potentially toxic mercury.  Thus,
there are health and environmental concerns regarding their proper disposal.
Shattered CFLs in municipal landfills have the potential to leach mercury
into the soil.  Over time this mercury could seep into the groundwater or
nearby streams.  For this reason, a number of states and localities have
outlawed disposing CFLs with normal trash - instead, consumers must take
their used CFLs to authorized hazardous waste disposal sites.

The EPA recommends recycling CFLs.  However, curbside recycling is not
available everywhere and often doesn't include CFLs.  Recycling facilities
that accept CFLs are not common within major metropolitan areas, much less
in rural areas where on-site incineration or trenches are often used - both
of which release mercury into the atmosphere.
Perhaps even more important is the danger of broken CFLs in the home. The
EPA has provided detailed guidelines to avoid unsafe indoor mercury levels
[see the sidebar].

Cleaning up mercury from a shattered CFL can be costly.  For example, when a
CFL broke in her daughter's bedroom, Brandy Bridges of Prospect, Maine,
called on the state's  Department of Environmental Protection to make sure
she cleaned up the broken glass and mercury powder safely.  A specialist
found unsafe levels of mercury in the air and recommended an environmental
cleanup firm, who estimated the clean up cost of at $2,000.  Beause her
mother was unable to pay the exorbitant cleaning bill, the girl's room
remained sealed off in plastic for more than a month.

Conclusion.  Consumers consider many factors in addition to energy
efficiency when they purchase light bulbs.  The ban on incandescent bulbs
will be costly and potentially dangerous.  The public has not yet embraced
CFLs, and the government should not impose on consumers its preferences
regarding the types of lights used in the home.  As the deficiencies of CFLs
become more apparent with widespread use, perhaps Congress will let
consumers decide.

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba637/
24369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / New technique against Giardia promising against others too on: December 16, 2008, 07:39:46 AM
A Coat of Many Proteins May Be This Parasite’s Downfall
NYT
By NICHOLAS WADE
Published: December 15, 2008

If you return from a trip abroad to find you have projectile vomiting, roaring flatulence, sulfurous belching and explosive diarrhea, the bad news is that you won’t die; you just have an attack of giardiasis, a form of purgatory devised by the single-celled parasite known as giardia.

SHIFTY When giardia must wear all its 190 coat proteins at once instead of selecting one and changing it often, it cannot hide from the immune system.

Giardia infections can linger for months because the parasite plays a cunning defense against the body’s immune system. In its genomic wardrobe, it has 190 coats to choose from. As soon as the immune system has generated antibodies against one coat, giardia switches to another. Because of the parasite’s persistence and infectivity, some 280 million cases of giardiasis occur in the world each year, the World Health Organization estimates, though most of these are in developing countries where people are more inured to the disease.

Giardia’s offensive game could have a fatal weakness, however. Biologists led by Hugo D. Luján at the Catholic University of Córdoba in Argentina have gained a striking insight into its coat-shuffling stratagem.

With this knowledge, they have accomplished a cunning counterploy: they have forced the parasite to make and wear all its coat proteins at the same time. This altered parasite, they hope, should serve as the perfect vaccine, because it immunizes the body to the full repertoire of giardia’s coat proteins all at once. The idea has worked well in animal tests, Dr. Luján said.

He thinks the same general approach — forcing expression of all coat proteins simultaneously — might help produce vaccines against the other protozoan parasites that rely on coat switching to dodge the immune system. These include malaria and the trypanosomes that cause sleeping sickness and Leishmaniasis.

Dr. Luján and his team have identified the mechanism by which giardia controls its coat proteins, they report in the current issue of Nature. Each of the parasite’s 190 coat genes is the recipe for making a different protein, and the parasite switches its coat every 10 generations or so. To produce the coat, giardia does not switch these genes on one at a time, as might be expected. Instead, it seems to leave them all turned on, allowing each to generate a messenger RNA copy of itself. Usually the messenger RNAs would direct the synthesis of proteins, but giardia then destroys all but one of the messengers, and the survivor makes the coat of the day.

To kill its messenger RNAs, giardia has adapted an ancient cellular system known as RNA interference. The system is designed to destroy foreign RNA, like that of invading viruses, so it was surprising to find it regulating a cell’s own RNAs, Dr. Luján said.

He proved this was the case by disrupting giardia’s production of enzymes, like those known as Dicer and Argonaute, that are components of the RNA interference system. With its RNA selection system out of business, giardia produces many — Dr. Luján believes probably all — of the coat proteins in its repertoire and inserts them into its outer covering.

He said he did not yet know how the organism shifted between coats but suspected that the RNA interference system favored whichever messenger RNA happened to be the most abundant at the time, and destroyed all others.

In an experiment that has not yet been published, Dr. Luján has tested gerbils, the laboratory animal often used in giardia work, with a vaccine consisting just of giardia with its RNA interference system blocked. “We saw complete protection,” he said.

Dr. Theodore E. Nash, a leading expert on giardia at the National Institutes of Health, said the new report was “a major advance in the field.” Since 1979, Dr. Nash has developed many of the methods to study giardia and its coat shuffling, several of which were used by Dr. Luján, who worked for five years in Dr. Nash’s lab.

Another giardia expert, Dr. Rodney Adam of the University of Arizona, said Dr. Luján’s work on giardia’s coat gene control was interesting “but not the whole story.” As for making a vaccine, he said that “this is not an organism to which natural infection will confer immunity.” People in developing countries may get one infection after another, although they do get a much less severe form of the disease.

Malaria also evades the immune system by switching its protein coat. Dr. Kirk Deitsch, an expert on malaria coat genes at the Weill Cornell Medical College, said Dr. Luján’s new finding “may be conceptually applicable to malaria,” although the malaria parasite does not use RNA interference and no one yet knows how to make it display all its 60 coat protein genes at once.

A human vaccine for giardia could be of great benefit if the many mild cases in the developing world do in fact undermine health. Some experts believe persistent giardia infection causes malnutrition, but others are less sure of this.

For the much smaller number of Westerners who are not inured to the disease, a vaccine would be a welcome addition to the few available drugs. It would have been a godsend for the Crusaders, who are known from historical accounts to have suffered terribly from a variety of intestinal diseases that had no respect for rank. In 1249 King Louis IX, who led the Seventh Crusade, had such serious diarrhea that part of the monarch’s breeches were cut away to ease his personal hygiene. Giardia may well have been his tormentor. Using a sensitive immunological test, researchers who excavated a medieval latrine in the city of Acre, once part of the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, detected the presence of giardia, they reported in the July issue of The Journal of Archaeological Science.

Giardia itself is far more ancient than any Crusader kingdom. Though a single-celled organism, it belongs to the eukaryotes, the domain that includes all plants and animals. In the tree of eukaryotic life, giardia belongs to one of the earliest branches. It lacks mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles that are almost a badge of eukaryote identity. Even stranger, each giardia cell possesses two nuclei; no one knows what benefit offsets the cost of maintaining the second. Before this enigmatic microbe plagued people, it was doubtless the scourge of many earlier species. Dr. Luján’s discovery may be a critical step in curbing giardia’s merciless torment of its fellow eukaryotes.
24370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dr. Jessica Fridrich on: December 16, 2008, 07:36:28 AM
Prediction:

Rachel will use this one to tease GM  cheesy

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

Specializing in Problems That Only Seem Impossible to Solve
by VENKATARAMAN
NYT
Published: December 15, 2008

“It’s a little plastic toy,” said Jessica Fridrich, tossing a Rubik’s Cube between her long-fingered hands on a stormy afternoon in her office at Binghamton University, her fingernails painted with a pastel pink gloss.


MATH AS METHOD Jessica Fridrich’s strategy for quickly solving the Rubik’s Cube requires using at least 53 algorithms.

But the little toy, an icon of the era of Pac-Man and high-top sneakers, has made a big comeback. For a thriving subculture of people who try to solve the cube as fast as possible, Dr. Fridrich is a pioneer and a patron saint. She forged what remains arguably the world’s most common strategy for speed-solving the puzzle, and appeared in a documentary about the Rubik’s Cube released this fall.
Dr. Fridrich first cracked the colorful walls of the Rubik’s Cube in 1981 as a teenager living in a Czech coal mining city. Few people will spend decades decoding a plastic block, no matter how mathematically intricate. But few people are as tenacious as the architect of “The Fridrich Method,” a roadmap that requires a speedcuber to memorize and unleash at least 53 algorithms, each of which is a series of turns of the cube’s rows and columns in a given sequence.

For Dr. Fridrich, tackling an impossible puzzle is not a hobby, and the Rubik’s Cube is not simply a game. They are obsessions.

Trapped in Czechoslovakia until the Velvet Revolution made migration to the United States for doctoral study possible, Dr. Fridrich, self-taught in differential and integral calculus, sketched out a solution to the Rubik’s Cube in a tattered notebook even before owning one.

Dr. Fridrich, 44, an electrical engineering professor, is frequently confronted at academic conferences and asked to solve the cube on the spot. She fields e-mail messages from 13-year-olds in Japan and has inspired scores of YouTube videos from cube enthusiasts riffing on her method, which was propagated on the Internet in the late 1990s as the puzzle saw a resurgence.

“She chose the basic route, the direction we would take up the mountain,” said Dan Knights, winner of the 2003 World Rubik’s Cube Championship (Dr. Fridrich placed second). “And other people are finding different ways from one ledge to another.”

Mr. Knights, 29, used the Fridrich Method to win the 2003 competition after seeking her out as a mentor four years earlier. At first confounded by her techniques, he took a year off from college to learn them while traveling by train through Europe and Asia.

The Fridrich Method requires first solving the top two layers of the three-tiered Rubik’s Cube, selecting the face with the central white square as the roof. (Each face has a middle square of a distinct color attached to the cube’s central joint that dictates the color the face will be when solved.) Most speedcubers learn to do this by intuition, improvising until the white face remains intact and other squares fall into place on their correctly colored sides. The crux of the Fridrich Method lies in solving the third and last layer of the cube without compromising the color scheme put into place in the initial steps.

To solve the third layer, the speedcuber must assemble all of the yellow squares on the bottom face by applying one of 40 algorithms in a phase called “orientation.” The cuber must instantly recognize which algorithm to apply in order to have any hope of solving it with haste. In the final step, permutation, one of 13 algorithms restores the cube’s chromatic harmony, one color per face.

The world’s fastest speedcubers, including Dr. Fridrich, know more than 100 algorithms to whisk the cube to its solution. They recognize when the puzzle is jumbled or positioned in their palms in a way that one set of moves is quicker than 99 others.

As a teenager, Dr. Fridrich saw a man demonstrating the Rubik’s Cube at a mathematics seminar, and scrambled defiantly through a crowd to touch it. She says it was immediately clear that she was “cube possessed,” her shorthand for people who spend most of their waking hours learning to speed-solve the cube. Even though no cubes were for sale in her country then — the few people who had them bought them in Hungary — she would not be stopped. She picked up Kvant, a Russian math journal that outlined one method of solving the cube, and worked it out on paper.

When she finally got her first cube, left behind by family friends visiting from France, she began to improvise, cubing faster and faster to beat record times from Prague, Hungary and the United States printed in newspapers. By the time the Czech national championship took place in 1982, Dr. Fridrich was one of the fastest speedcubers in the country. She won the championship, solving the cube in less than 23 and a half seconds — a time that would now be laughably long in international competition — going onto place 10th in the first world championship in Budapest.

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Page 2 of 2)



After earning her master’s degree, she was building mathematical models of rock deformation at a mining institute when she was recruited by a professor from Binghamton who heard about her mastery of the cube and her grades at the Czech Technical University in Prague. After a brief meeting in which she described her cube algorithms, he asked her to apply for the doctoral program in systems sciences. She had no résumé, so she dashed one off on a typewriter just before the professor’s train left the station. A year later, she arrived in Binghamton, where she has lived ever since.


In her research in digital forensics, Dr. Fridrich uses computers to tackle another seemingly intractable puzzle: matching a photograph with the individual camera that took it. Law enforcement agencies plan to use the techniques to track down child pornographers and movie pirates.

“She looks at a problem that seems insolvable,” said George J. Klir, the retired professor who recruited her 18 years ago. “And she finds a way to solve it, again and again.”

Dr. Fridrich was drawn to “camera ballistics” because of its inscrutable mysteries, similar to those the Rubik’s Cube held in the early ’80s. “It was very visual,” she said. “Usually when you develop an algorithm or a formula you cannot really see it.”

When Dr. Fridrich forged her Rubik’s Cube algorithms, she did so by trial and error, using only pencil, paper and a cube. Today, the cube is no longer an uncharted territory like digital forensics, but a terrain well-plowed by personal computers and the sweaty palms of speedcubers.

Software programs can compute the quickest solution to any given mix-up of the cube’s faces. Hundreds, possibly thousands of speedcubers have tweaked the Fridrich Method to work with a technique called “finger pushing,” best used on cubes with joints eased loose by repetitive stress so you can flick their walls instead of grabbing rows to rotate them. Now, Dr. Fridrich said, the cube has been “optimized to death,” and holds little allure — even though she still keeps nearly 20 of the plastic puzzles scattered around her office and home.

Dexterity once defined Dr. Fridrich, who now uses just six fingers to hunt and peck on her keyboard. She has been far surpassed by speedcubers with records of 14, 13 and 10 seconds, some of whom can solve the cube blindfolded after studying it for less than a minute. “Today I would probably be in 20th or 30th place,” she said. “I am letting it go because I think it’s time for others to succeed.”

For someone who wins for the sake of winning, who never roots for the underdog, in sports or in life, this retreat from speedcubing seems something like a reluctant acceptance that some things are indeed, impossible.

At the very least, she admitted, “it’s not yet possible to do everything at once.”
24371  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Studies in Criminal Activities on: December 16, 2008, 07:24:13 AM
Kidnapping Negotiator Is Now a Victim in Mexico
NYT   
By MARC LACEY
Published: December 15, 2008

MEXICO CITY — An American security consultant who has helped negotiate the release of scores of kidnapping victims in Latin America was himself kidnapped last week in northern Mexico after delivering a seminar there on how to avoid that fate, officials said Monday.

The F.B.I. and Mexican law enforcement officials are investigating the abduction, which took place Wednesday evening in Saltillo, an industrial city a three-hour drive from the Texas border.

The consultant, Felix Batista, 55, was giving security seminars for business owners in Coahuila State when he was abducted by a group of armed men.

He arrived Dec. 6 and gave two seminars on Monday and Tuesday, the local news media reported. On Wednesday, he met with police officials, and later in the day, he was in a restaurant when he received a call on his cellphone that prompted him to get up and leave, officials told the local news media. That is when the armed men took him away, officials and local newspapers said.

“I do a lot of security consulting, and the last thing I think of is being a victim in the process,” said Jon M. French, a former State Department official who runs his own security company in Mexico City, Problem Solvers. “Talk about turning the tables.”

Mr. Batista works for ASI Global, a security company based in Houston. It operates a 24-hour hot line that aids clients with, among other things, responding to kidnappings.

“We’re still gathering information on what occurred,” said Charlie LeBlanc, the president of ASI Global’s parent company. He confirmed that Mr. Batista had been kidnapped, but declined to say whether a ransom had been demanded.

Mr. LeBlanc said the company and Mr. Batista’s relatives were working with colleagues and law enforcement officials to gain his release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Felix and his family at this time,” Mr. LeBlanc said in a statement.

Coahuila has not been among the most violent places in Mexico, where killings and kidnappings have soared. Many of them are associated with drug traffickers moving narcotics to the United States.

But the state, which abuts Texas, has not been immune either. Two of the state’s anti-kidnapping chiefs have been abducted in recent years, according to local news reports. State lawmakers, clearly frustrated with the rising level of impunity, recently sent a bill to Mexico’s Congress asking for a constitutional amendment allowing the death penalty for kidnappers who kill captives.

Mr. Batista, a former United States Army officer credited with helping to free hostages abducted by Colombian rebels, has frequently been quoted by journalists on Mexico’s drug violence. He offered regular seminars to wealthy Mexicans who feared they were abduction targets.

At a private security conference in Tijuana in February, Mr. Batista said kidnappings in northern Mexico were especially delicate because drug traffickers were frequently involved.

“The narco-kidnappers are not looking for chump change,” he was quoted as saying by McClatchy Newspapers in April. “It’s a pretty darn good side business.”

In August, he appeared on NBC News, saying, “The middle class and the middle upper class are suffering the vast majority of the cases.”

In an article published this month by Security Management, a trade journal, Mr. Batista detailed how he had helped negotiate the ransom of a wealthy Mexican entrepreneur. Before he was called in, the family had given $1 million to a group of people who had falsely claimed to be the kidnappers.

Mr. Batista helped persuade the real kidnappers to reduce their ransom demand to $300,000. A daughter of the kidnapped businessman had nothing but praise for Mr. Batista’s efforts.

“Felix even cooked for us sometimes,” she was quoted as saying. “It’s important not to lose hope or get depressed, because you need to keep strong to help.”

Hundreds of Mexicans are kidnapped every year, although the authorities can only guess at the exact figure because most cases are never reported. There is widespread agreement that the problem has worsened recently as drug cartels, facing pressure from the army and the federal police, seek new revenue streams.

In one case that ended tragically last week, the authorities confirmed that remains discovered recently in southern Mexico City were those of Silvia Vargas, a teenager kidnapped in 2007. Her parents, who went public with her disappearance and offered a reward for information leading to her release, held a memorial service on Sunday, asking everyone to wear white.

“We know that Silvia is with God,” the family said in a statement.
24372  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: December 16, 2008, 07:20:04 AM
The NYTimes in typical form

Pirates Outmaneuver Warships Off Somalia
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: December 15, 2008
ON THE ARABIAN SEA — Rear Adm. Giovanni Gumiero is going on a pirate hunt.

Italian sailors on patrol on the Arabian Sea. Pirates based in Somalia are still able to operate in the area.

An Italian naval destroyer, foreground, escorted a merchant vessel that was carrying a cargo of humanitarian aid to Somalia in November.

From the deck of an Italian destroyer cruising the pirate-infested waters off Somalia’s coast, he has all the modern tools at his fingertips — radar, sonar, infrared cameras, helicopters, a cannon that can sink a ship 10 miles away — to take on a centuries-old problem that harks back to the days of schooners and eye patches.

“Our presence will deter them,” the admiral said confidently.

But the wily buccaneers of Somalia’s seas do not seem especially deterred — instead, they seem to be getting only wilier. More than a dozen warships from Italy, Greece, Turkey, India, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, Britain, Malaysia and the United States have joined the hunt.

And yet, in the past two months alone, the pirates have attacked more than 30 vessels, eluding the naval patrols, going farther out to sea and seeking bigger, more lucrative game, including an American cruise ship and a 1,000-foot Saudi oil tanker.

The pirates are recalibrating their tactics, attacking ships in beelike swarms of 20 to 30 skiffs, and threatening to choke off one of the busiest shipping arteries in the world, at the mouth of the Red Sea.

United Nations officials recently estimated that Somali pirates had netted as much as $120 million this year in ransom payments — an astronomical sum for a country whose economy has been gutted by 17 years of chaos and war. Some shipping companies are now rerouting their vessels to avoid Somalia’s waters, detouring thousands of miles around the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa.

The pirates are totally outgunned. They continue to cruise around in fiberglass skiffs with assault rifles and at best a few rocket-propelled grenades. One Italian officer said that going after them in a 485-foot-long destroyer, bristling with surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes, was like “going after someone on a bicycle with a truck.”

But the pirates — true to form — remain unfazed.

“They can’t stop us,” said Jama Ali, one of the pirates aboard a Ukrainian freighter packed with weapons that was hijacked in September and was still being held.

He explained how he and his men hid out on a rock near the narrow mouth of the Red Sea and waited for the big gray ships with the guns to pass before pouncing on slow-moving tankers. Even if foreign navies nab some members of his crew, Mr. Jama said, he is not worried. He said his men would probably get no more punishment than a free ride back to the beach, which has happened several times.

“We know international law,” Mr. Jama said.

Western diplomats have said that maritime law can be as murky as the seas. Several times this year, the Danish Navy captured men they suspected to be pirates, only to dump them on shore after the Danish government decided it did not have jurisdiction.

The American warships surrounding the hijacked Ukrainian freighter have intercepted several small skiffs going to the freighter, but let the men aboard go because American officials said they did not want to put the freighter’s crew in danger.

This seeming impunity is especially infuriating to the new cadre of private security guards, fresh from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, hired to tag along on merchant voyages to add a layer of protection. Burly men with tattooed forearms and shaved heads sipping Heineken and checking their watches are now common sights on the beaches of Oman, Kenya and Djibouti. They have their own ideas for dealing with seafaring outlaws.

“We should make ’em walk the plank,” one British security guard said.

Despite tough talk, the guards are unarmed (because most countries do not allow them to bring weapons into port), so they are often forced to confront machine-gun-toting pirates with fire hoses.

Or worse. There was even a recent case, according to several security contractors, in which Filipino crew members pelted pirates with tomatoes in an attempt to stop them from scaling the hull of their ship. It did not work.

The Italian naval officers say the piracy patrols are helping — already the Italians have rescued several merchant vessels surrounded by pirate skiffs. The Italian destroyer is part of a NATO mission that began in October.

“But the answer is to have a good, strong government on land,” Admiral Gumiero said. “That’s the only way to end this, for sure.”
==========
Page 2 of 2)



That said, strong government is nowhere to be found. The piracy epidemic is not so much a separate problem as a symptom of the failed state of Somalia — a place crawling with guns, gangs and criminals that has not had a functioning central government since 1991.

In Xarardheere, much of the economy is based on piracy.


 Many Somalia analysts think that it is about to get even worse. The Ethiopian military, which has been shoring up a weak and unpopular transitional Somali government, says it will pull out within a month.

The transitional government, split by poisonous infighting, seems on the brink of collapse. Islamic militants with links to Al Qaeda are poised to take over. Famine is steadily creeping toward millions of people, many withering away in plastic huts that are no match for the intense sun or the drenching rains.

United Nations officials are swinging into crisis mode, calling high-level meetings in East Africa and New York to address piracy and the greater Somali mess. Some United Nations officials are pushing to send in peacekeepers, but no countries are rushing to offer troops.

Some American officials have proposed chasing the pirates on the shore and raiding their dens, which are well known but so far untouched. Somalia’s transitional leaders, anxious for any help, said they would welcome that.

“This is a cancer and it’s growing,” said Abdi Awaleh Jama, an ambassador at large for the transitional federal government. “We have to extract it once and for all.”

More than 100 ships have been attacked off Somalia’s coast in 2008, far more than in any previous year on record. The economic costs are piling up, with higher insurance payments for shippers, higher fuel costs because of detours and new private security bills, not to mention the million-dollar ransom payments.

The cash-starved Egyptian government is poised to lose billions of dollars if ships from the Middle East and Asia stop using the Suez Canal, one of Egypt’s biggest foreign-exchange earners, and go around Africa instead.

But the end of piracy could be an economic catastrophe — for many Somalis. Their country exports almost nothing these days, and more legitimate forms of business have largely died off.

Entire clans and coastal villages now survive off piracy, with women baking bread for pirates, men and boys guarding hostages, and others serving as scouts, gunmen, mechanics, accountants and skiff builders. Traders make a nice cut off the water, fuel and cigarettes needed to sustain such oceangoing voyages.

Pirates are known as the best customers of all.

“They pay $20 for a $5 bottle of perfume,” said Leyla Ahmed, a shopkeeper in Xarardheere, a notorious pirate den on the Somali coast.

Maritime experts say that the naval efforts will take time. “Let’s wait and see,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau in London. “You must appreciate it’s a very large stretch of water, a massive area,” he said, referring to the several hundred thousand square miles of sea where the naval ships are patrolling.

Then there is the nettlesome question of what to do with the pirates. Italian officers on pirate patrol seemed uncomfortable at the thought of actually capturing a real live pirate. There is not even a brig or place to hold the pirates on the destroyer.

“Our main goal is providing safe passage,” said Fabrizio Simoncini, the destroyer’s captain.

So far, they have done a decent job at that, escorting at least eight humanitarian ships, with 30,000 tons of badly needed aid for Somalia.

The Indian Navy recently announced that it had arrested 23 pirates, though it is not clear where the suspects would be prosecuted. Last week in Nairobi, Kenya, at an antipiracy conference, British officials outlined a plan for their navy to capture Somali pirates and hand them over to Kenyan courts.

But according to Kenneth Randall, dean of the University of Alabama School of Law and an international law scholar, “Any country can arrest these guys and prosecute them at home, under domestic laws that apply.

“I’m actually surprised people think it’s unclear,” he said. “The law on piracy is 100 percent clear.”

He said that international customary law going back hundreds of years had defined pirates as criminals who robbed and stole on the high seas. Because the crimes were committed in international waters, he said, all countries had not only the authority but also the obligation to apprehend and prosecute them.

The Italians clearly have the resources. Out on the front lines, or front waves, beefy Italian marines prowl the decks with machine guns. Radar screens blip and beep. Sailors make announcements over the destroyer’s radio, telling nearby cargo ships to put out an S O S with their position as soon as they spot any pirates.

The Italians said that, deep down, pirates were creatures of the sea, no matter how many navy ships were hot on their tail. “When the sea is calm, the moon is bright, the weather is good, it’s easy to see how the pirates are encouraged,” said Enrico Vignola, a lieutenant on the ship.

For visitors on board, lunchtime was the highlight. The officers summoned up from the oily bowels of the destroyer a banquet of homemade pasta, marinated eggplant sliced paper thin, prosciutto-wrapped dates and tiramisu, finished off with cool glasses of spumante.

It seems that when Italians hunt for pirates, they hunt in style.

24373  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 16, 2008, 07:10:54 AM
Woof All:

I added to the name of the thread this AM to reflect my sense that there is an American Creed.  It was articulated and defined by our Founding Fathers, but others since then have done so as well.  Its why I quote President Reagan here, and have quoted Martin Luther King here.  Note that the standard non-contemporaries of the FF must meet to belong here on this thread is a very high one indeed!

Before continuing, lets bring some light to the dark side of this.  There ARE certain thoughts and values which are part of being a true American-- and YES I am saying that if you don't, you aren't.  For example, a belief in the pursuit of happiness enabled by freedom of choice, informed by freedom of speech, made real by separation of church and state.  If you don't believe in these things, you are not a true American and if you work against them, you are no friend of mine.

The point however is not to exclude, the point is to find what it is that unites us.

I recognize that I take a risk here-- how rare!  cheesy  Know that I will be fairly ruthless in shutting down any tendencies to drift into the cats and dogs squabbles of the moment--  we look here for the deeper and abiding essence of things.  If the experience shows this to be a mistake, well then I will change my mind and revert the thread to its original definition.

Lets kick things off with something I ran across yesterday:
====================================

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=931696981298d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD
 
The oath of allegiance is:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

In some cases, USCIS allows the oath to be taken without the clauses:

". . .that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law. . .
=================

I wonder why it is, and whether it is sound, to allow the oath to be taken in less than its entirety , , ,

Marc
24374  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 16, 2008, 05:12:47 AM
Cecilio:

Que bueno verte por estes partes aqui  smiley  Como habra's notado, ahora tengo software de traduccion, lo cual me permitira' contribuir mas y mejor aqui.

Todos:

Hoy agradezco que mi esposa regresa esta noche de visita a su madre.

La Aventura continua!
Marc
24375  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Webster on: December 16, 2008, 05:10:04 AM
"The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head."

--Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788
24376  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Not good for the resume on: December 15, 2008, 11:24:30 PM
US anti-kidnapping expert kidnapped in MexicoDec 15 03:00 PM US/Eastern

MEXICO CITY (AP) - A well-known U.S. anti-kidnapping expert has himself fallen victim to the wave of abductions in Mexico as unidentified assailants snatched him from a street in the northern state of Coahuila.
Local authorities say American Felix Batista was in Mexico to give talks and offer advice against kidnapping. The former U.S. army officer sometimes serves as a negotiator with kidnappers.
Batista is a consultant for the Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global LLC. ASI Global President Charlie LeBlanc says Batista was abducted on Dec. 10 in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila. LeBlanc said Monday that the FBI and Mexican police are working on the case, but would not say whether any ransom demand has been received.


http://www.breitbart.com/print.php?i...show_article=1
24377  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 15, 2008, 05:19:56 PM
SB et al:

I sincerely hope that BO was born in HI.  I think it would be an utter tragedy and disaster if it turns out that he was not and therefor ineligible to serve.

"Perhaps the most common argument of those questioning Obama's eligibility is that he should just release his full, original birth certificate, rather than the shorter certification, which is a copy. His failure to do so only proves there is reason to be suspicious, they say, and if the document was released, the issue would go away. But that's unlikely. It was, after all, the Obama campaign's release of the certification this summer that stoked the fever of conspiracy mongers."

This is specious reasoning for reasons obvious to the general IQ level of this forum.   Count me amongs those who can't think of a good reason not to release the original.

Marc 
24378  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan on: December 15, 2008, 12:56:22 PM
Third post of day:

THE GIPPER
"The most dangerous myth is the demagoguery that business can be made to pay a larger share, thus relieving the individual. Politicians preaching this are either deliberately dishonest, or economically illiterate, and either one should scare us. Business doesn't pay taxes, and who better than business to make this message known? Only people pay taxes, and people pay as consumers every tax that is assessed against a business. Begin with the food and fiber raised in the farm, to the ore drilled in a mine, to the oil and gas from out of the ground, whatever it may be -- through the processing, through the manufacturing, on out to the retailer's license. If the tax cannot be included in the price of the product, no one along that line can stay in business." --Ronald Reagan
24379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bill of Rights on: December 15, 2008, 12:55:11 PM
BILL OF RIGHTS ANNIVERSARY
Today, 15 December, is the 217th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to our Constitution, as ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke's 1689 thesis, Two Treatises of Government, regarding the protection of "property" (in the Latin context, proprius, or one's own "life, liberty and estate"); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state's Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.

Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate individual rights and a clear delineation on constraints upon the central government. As oft trampled and abused as the Bill of Rights is, Patriots should remain vigilant in the fight for our rights.
24380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Its not going away , , , on: December 15, 2008, 12:53:44 PM
These seem like some fair points to me , , ,

"Anyone who relies solely on MSM outlets ... may not even know that Obama has, to this day, not authorized the state of Hawaii to release his Certificate of Live Birth -- the 'long form' -- to prove that he is a 'natural born citizen' (NBC), a Constitutional requirement of all presidents. Instead, We, the People, have online access to an Obama document known as a Certification of Live Birth, which, as Randall Hoven explains at American Thinker blog, is a computer-generated short form that is not even accepted by the Hawaii Department of Home Lands as adequate verification of Hawaiian identity. ... Further dimming the online document's Holy Grail aspects, it has been altered -- the certificate's number has been redacted -- which, according to a statement printed on the document, actually invalidates it. But that's not all. Back on Oct. 31, Hawaii's director of health, along with the registrar of Vital Statistics, released a statement verifying that the Hawaii's Department of Health has Obama's 'original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.' Well, that's just great. But no matter how many times this statement from 'Hawaiian authorities' is cited as the NBC clincher, it doesn't prove a thing. It turns out, as Hoven reports, that Hawaii issues birth certificates even for babies born elsewhere, so simply having an original Hawaiian birth certificate 'on record' doesn't answer the key questions. Namely: What exactly does this original birth certificate say? And why doesn't Obama simply authorize the document's release and be done with the question? ... I think it is nothing less than good citizenship to seek to verify that Obama is a 'natural born citizen' since our elites, which include the major political parties and the MSM, failed to bring the matter to its extremely simple resolution long ago. But while important, this isn't just a story about whether we as Americans are right or wrong to ask our president-elect the question about his original birth certificate. It is about whether our president-elect is right or wrong not to answer it." --columnist Diana West
24381  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: December 15, 2008, 12:32:52 PM
Does that mean the white man was right to kill the buffalo that blanketed the prairies when we arrived? rolleyes cheesy
24382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Triggerfish on: December 15, 2008, 11:34:58 AM
Second post of the morning

FOIA docs show feds can lojack mobiles without telco help
By Julian Sanchez | Published: November 16, 2008 - 10:45PM CT

Related StoriesCourt: warrant needed to turn cell phone into homing beacon

Courts in recent years have been raising the evidentiary bar law enforcement agents must meet in order to obtain historical cell phone records that reveal information about a target's location. But documents obtained by civil liberties groups under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that "triggerfish" technology can be used to pinpoint cell phones without involving cell phone providers at all.

Triggerfish, also known as cell-site simulators or digital analyzers, are nothing new: the technology was used in the 1990s to hunt down renowned hacker Kevin Mitnick. By posing as a cell tower, triggerfish trick nearby cell phones into transmitting their serial numbers, phone numbers, and other data to law enforcement. Most previous descriptions of the technology, however, suggested that because of range limitations, triggerfish were only useful for zeroing in on a phone's precise location once cooperative cell providers had given a general location.

This summer, however, the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Justice Department, seeking documents related to the FBI's cell-phone tracking practices. Since August, they've received a stream of documents—the most recent batch on November 6—that were posted on the Internet last week. In a post on the progressive blog Daily Kos, ACLU spokesperson Rachel Myers drew attention to language in several of those documents implying that triggerfish have broader application than previously believed.

 As one of the documents intended to provide guidance for DOJ employees explains, triggerfish can be deployed "without the user knowing about it, and without involving the cell phone provider." That may be significant because the legal rulings requiring law enforcement to meet a high "probable cause" standard before acquiring cell location records have, thus far, pertained to requests for information from providers, pursuant to statutes such as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and the Stored Communications Act.


The Justice Department's electronic surveillance manual explicitly suggests that triggerfish may be used to avoid restrictions in statutes like CALEA that bar the use of pen register or trap-and-trace devices—which allow tracking of incoming and outgoing calls from a phone subject to much less stringent evidentiary standards—to gather location data. "By its very terms," according to the manual, "this prohibition applies only to information collected by a provider and not to information collected directly by law enforcement authorities.Thus, CALEA does not bar the use of pen/trap orders to authorize the use of cell phone tracking devices used to locate targeted cell phones." 


Perhaps surprisingly, it's only with the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 that the government has needed any kind of court order to use triggerfish. While previously, the statutory language governing pen register or trap-and-trace orders did not appear to cover location tracking technology. Under the updated definition, these explicitly include any "device or process which records or decodes dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information."
24383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Audit on: December 15, 2008, 11:12:38 AM
Audit
As the first digital president, Barack Obama is learning the hard way how difficult it can be to maintain privacy in the information age. Earlier this year, his passport file was snooped by contract workers in the State Department. In October, someone at Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaked information about his aunt's immigration status. And in November, Verizon employees peeked at his cell phone records.

What these three incidents illustrate is not that computerized databases are vulnerable to hacking -- we already knew that, and anyway the perpetrators all had legitimate access to the systems they used -- but how important audit is as a security measure.

When we think about security, we commonly think about preventive measures: locks to keep burglars out of our homes, bank safes to keep thieves from our money, and airport screeners to keep guns and bombs off airplanes. We might also think of detection and response measures: alarms that go off when burglars pick our locks or dynamite open bank safes, sky marshals on airplanes who respond when a hijacker manages to sneak a gun through airport security. But audit, figuring out who did what after the fact, is often far more important than any of those other three.

Most security against crime comes from audit. Of course we use locks and alarms, but we don't wear bulletproof vests. The police provide for our safety by investigating crimes after the fact and prosecuting the guilty: that's audit.

Audit helps ensure that people don't abuse positions of trust. The cash register, for example, is basically an audit system. Cashiers have to handle the store's money. To ensure they don't skim from the till, the cash register keeps an audit trail of every transaction. The store owner can look at the register totals at the end of the day and make sure the amount of money in the register is the amount that should be there.

The same idea secures us from police abuse, too. The police have enormous power, including the ability to intrude into very intimate aspects of our life in order to solve crimes and keep the peace. This is generally a good thing, but to ensure that the police don't abuse this power, we put in place systems of audit like the warrant process.

The whole NSA warrantless eavesdropping scandal was about this. Some misleadingly painted it as allowing the government to eavesdrop on foreign terrorists, but the government always had that authority. What the government wanted was to not have to submit a warrant, even after the fact, to a secret FISA court. What they wanted was to not be subject to audit.

That would be an incredibly bad idea. Law enforcement systems that don't have good audit features designed in, or are exempt from this sort of audit-based oversight, are much more prone to abuse by those in power -- because they can abuse the system without the risk of getting caught. Audit is essential as the NSA increases its domestic spying. And large police databases, like the FBI Next Generation Identification System, need to have strong audit features built in.

For computerized database systems like that -- systems entrusted with other people's information -- audit is a very important security mechanism. Hospitals need to keep databases of very personal health information, and doctors and nurses need to be able to access that information quickly and easily. A good audit record of who accessed what when is the best way to ensure that those trusted with our medical information don't abuse that trust. It's the same with IRS records, credit reports, police databases, telephone records -- anything personal that someone might want to peek at during the course of his job.

Which brings us back to President Obama. In each of those three examples, someone in a position of trust inappropriately accessed personal information. The difference between how they played out is due to differences in audit. The State Department's audit worked best; they had alarm systems in place that alerted superiors when Obama's passport files were accessed and who accessed them. Verizon's audit mechanisms worked less well; they discovered the inappropriate account access and have narrowed the culprits down to a few people. Audit at Immigration and Customs Enforcement was far less effective; they still don't know who accessed the information.

Large databases filled with personal information, whether managed by governments or corporations, are an essential aspect of the information age. And they each need to be accessed, for legitimate purposes, by thousands or tens of thousands of people. The only way to ensure those people don't abuse the power they're entrusted with is through audit. Without it, we will simply never know who's peeking at what.

Obama stories:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/20/...
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/11/01/...
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122724536331647671.html
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/...
http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/...
NSA domestic spying:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120511973377523845.html

FBI's Next Generation Identification System:
http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel08/...

This essay first appeared on the Wall Street Journal website.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122877438178489235.html
24384  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unintended consequences on: December 15, 2008, 11:06:15 AM
U.S. President George W. Bush made what is likely his final trip as president to Iraq on Sunday. During the trip, he discussed what progress had been made while reiterating that the war there has not yet been won decisively. Bush was undoubtedly correct on both counts, but in a sense, these are no longer the key (or at least the only) questions that have to be asked in evaluating the Iraq war.

We have discussed the reasoning behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq innumerable times, and the issue certainly has been debated to the point that it is unlikely there is anyone left who hasn’t made up his mind on the subject. The point that significant progress has been made but that the situation remains fluid strikes us as fairly uncontroversial. Few deny that progress has been made; few would say the war is over.

There are four ways to evaluate the Iraq war. First, was the U.S. goal in the war worthy of the effort it required? Second, did the war achieve its intended goal? Third, was the war effort executed effectively? And finally, did the war have unintended consequences elsewhere? This last issue has always been discussed in terms of international hostility toward the United States or radicalization in the Muslim world. These subjects are worthy of discussion, but to our minds, the greatest unintended consequence of the Iraq war was the opportunity it provided for other states to enhance their power. The United States’ commitment to Iraq provided the world with breathing room and space for maneuver that it otherwise might not have had.

For five years, the bulk of American ground war-fighting capability was committed to Iraq. During that time, the threat posed by American power declined. Venezuela, for example, with all its talk about an American invasion, knew perfectly well that the United States was in no position to think about Caracas. This gave Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez room for maneuver that he otherwise might not have felt he had. In another example, there is much discussion of the need to intervene in Darfur. Whatever the wisdom of such an action, the Sudanese government has known the United States was in no position to play a leading role in such an operation. And whatever threats Washington might have made against Pakistan, Islamabad knew perfectly well that a multidivisional attack was not an option. With U.S. land power off the table for five years, the American ability to shape the world through threats and actions was severely diminished.

Nowhere was this better demonstrated than in the former Soviet Union. Russia is intrinsically weaker than the United States, but military power is not an abstract relationship. Judging military power is a question of which side can bring more power to bear in a certain place at a certain time. In a country like Georgia this past summer, Russian power was greater than American power — and this is now true throughout the Russian periphery. Moscow is now free to reshape the former Soviet Union without fear of meaningful American intervention. This fact is obvious to all of these countries, and it conditions their responses.

One can argue that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was justified, and one can also argue that the war was executed as effectively as possible. But Bush nailed the indisputable problem: the war is still not over. The fact that the war has taken too long from a global perspective is, to us, the key issue that is rarely discussed. It is not the situation on the ground in Iraq that frames the question of the war; it is the war’s effect on American strategic power around the world.

Because the Iraq war has lasted as long as it has, it has opened doors for other countries – doors that would have been closed had it been possible to end the war more quickly. The fact that the Iraq war is still continuing, and that it likely will last at least another 18 months, has created strategic consequences — independent of the question of the wisdom of the war in the first place. Even if the Iraq war were to end with a U.S. victory tomorrow, it nevertheless has brought with it profound strategic costs.
24385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: December 15, 2008, 10:36:12 AM
Ummm, , , , I think I have it right.  Gore's theory is convenient to liberal fascism's designs for increased state power.   The facts are in its way.  Yes?
24386  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Last words on: December 15, 2008, 10:32:44 AM
"'Tis well."

--George Washington, last words, 14 December 1799
24387  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 15, 2008, 03:01:32 AM
Iran's universities are again the scene of battles over the country's future. In the digital age, we're able to take a better peek inside.

Footage of recent student protests in Tehran, Shiraz and Hamedan are all over the Internet. In particular, one clip of a student dressing down a government dignitary reveals a remarkable willingness to defy the regime. On the video, a young man at Shiraz University rises to address the visiting speaker of parliament and former nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. "I'm not going to ask you a question because I don't accept you as the legitimate speaker or the parliament as legitimate," the student says, citing the elimination of opposition candidates in the previous parliamentary election.

Watch the Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syMT93tETME

Courtesy of YouTube.Sitting on stage before a hundred or so students, Mr. Larijani looks taken aback and says nothing. "Let me tell you what is weighing heavily on my heart," the student continues. "I hate three things. One, I hate [President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Applause erupts -- in itself an act of defiance, since the mullahs consider clapping, along with neckties, a Western habit. "Two, I hate him for his hypocrisy." At this point, some pro-regime students -- whom reports link to the government-sanctioned Basij organization, the mullahs' brown shirts -- interrupt with chants and heckles. Amid the mayhem, the video ends. We don't know the young man's name or what happened to him after this October 9 encounter. Some Iranians speculate he was arrested; others say he went into hiding.

Since the last student uprising was crushed six years ago, Iran has seen sporadic but growing resistance to the regime -- most recently at the "Student Day" rallies on December 6 that commemorate the 1953 killing of three demonstrators by the Shah's army. The Shiraz student calls to mind the lone man, that "unknown rebel," who stood up to Chinese tanks during the Tiananmen protests. President-elect Obama says the U.S. should engage Iran. As one of our friends points out, "He has a choice: Engage with what Larijani represents, or engage with the generation of that student."
24388  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Disarming ourselves on: December 15, 2008, 02:58:52 AM
Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo get more press, but among the most urgent national security challenges facing President-elect Obama is what to do about America's stockpile of aging nuclear weapons. No less an authority than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls the situation "bleak" and is urging immediate modernization.

 
Department of Defense
Robert Gates.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Gates's new boss appeared to take a different view. Candidate Obama said he "seeks a world without nuclear weapons" and vowed to make "the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy." His woolly words have given a boost to the world disarmament movement, including last week's launch of Global Zero, the effort by Richard Branson and Queen Noor to eliminate nuclear weapons in 25 years. Naturally, they want to start with cuts in the U.S. arsenal.

But the reality of power has a way of focusing those charged with defending the U.S., and Mr. Obama will soon have to decide to modernize America's nuclear deterrent or let it continue to deteriorate. Every U.S. warhead is more than 20 years old, with some dating to the 1960s. The last test was 1992, when the U.S. adopted a unilateral test moratorium and since relied on computer modeling. Meanwhile, engineers and scientists with experience designing and building nuclear weapons are retiring or dying, and young Ph.D.s have little incentive to enter a field where innovation is taboo. The U.S. has zero production capability, beyond a few weapons in a lab.

Background Reading
 

COMMENTARY

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons (01/04/07)
– George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam NunnToward a Nuclear-Free World (01/15/08)
– George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn

THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW

Gen. Kevin Chilton: Sounding the Nuclear Alarm (11/22/08)
– Melanie KirkpatrickWe're told Mr. Gates's alarm will be echoed soon in a report by the Congressionally mandated commission charged with reviewing the role of nuclear weapons and the overall U.S. strategic posture. The commission's chairman is William Perry, a former Clinton Defense Secretary and a close Obama adviser. Mr. Perry is also one of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," the nickname given to him, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn for an op-ed published in these pages last year offering a blueprint for ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

The commission's interim report is due out any day now, and the advance word is that Mr. Perry has come back to Earth. We're told the report's central finding is that the U.S. will need a nuclear deterrent for the indefinite future. A deterrent is credible, the report further notes, only if enemies believe it will work. That means modernization.

That logic ought to be obvious, but it escapes many in Congress who have stymied the Bush Administration's efforts to modernize. Britain, France, Russia and China are all updating their nuclear forces, but Mr. Bush couldn't even get Congress this year to fund so much as R&D for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Senator Dianne Feinstein dismissed the RRW, saying "the Bush Administration's goal was to reopen the nuclear door."

In today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Madoff and MarketsDisarming OurselvesIran's YouTube Generation

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

The Americas: Innocents Die in the Drug War
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Internet Attacks Are a Real and Growing Problem
– L. Gordon Crovitz

COMMENTARY

Bush Blinks on the Auto Bailout
– Paul IngrassiaThe Fed Still Has Plenty of Ammunition
– Frederic S. MishkinIt's Time to Junk the Electoral College
– Jonathan SorosIn the House, similar damage has been done by Ellen Tauscher, chairman of the subcommittee on strategic weapons. Ms. Tauscher, whose California district includes the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, likes to talk about a strong nuclear deterrent while bragging about killing the RRW. She also wants to revive the unenforceable Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate rejected in 1999. Let's hope the Perry report helps with her nuclear re-education.

If Congress isn't paying attention, U.S. allies are. The U.S. provides a nuclear umbrella for 30-plus countries, including several -- Japan, Germany and South Korea, for example -- capable of developing their own nuclear weapons. If they lose confidence in Washington's ability to protect them, the Perry report notes, they'll kick off a new nuclear arms race that will spread world-wide.

In a speech this fall, Mr. Gates said "there is no way we can maintain a credible deterrent" without "resorting to testing" or "pursuing a modernization program." General Kevin Chilton, the four-star in charge of U.S. strategic forces, has also spent the past year making the case for modernization. "The time to act is now," he told a Washington audience this month.

The aging U.S. nuclear arsenal is an urgent worry. A world free of nuclear weapons is a worthy goal, shared by many Presidents, including Ronald Reagan. Until that day arrives, no U.S. President can afford to let our nuclear deterrent erode.

 
24389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Internet Attacks on: December 15, 2008, 02:50:49 AM
In the 1960s, the Pentagon looked for a secure way to keep its lines of communication going in the event of all-out war. The interlinked packet networks of computers became the Internet. Fast-forward to today, and that system of open protocols brings the enormous benefits of the Web to civilian life. But the Web has also become an open field for cyber warriors seeking to harm the U.S.

We're only now realizing that many of these attacks have happened, as evidence mounts that outsiders accessed sensitive government networks and other databases. A report based on closed-door information about cyber attacks reached a sobering conclusion: Foreign governments and terrorist groups are focused on cyber offensives in a "battle we are losing."

Last week's Center for Strategic and International Studies report disclosed that the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Commerce all have had intrusions by unknown foreign entities. The Pentagon's computers are probed "hundreds of thousands of times each day." An official at the State Department says terabytes of its information have been compromised. The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security had to go offline for several months. NASA has stopped using email before shuttle launches. Jihadist hackers are trying to confuse military computers into mistaking the identities of friendly and unfriendly forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The quasigovernmental commission revealing these cyber attacks is made up of private-sector information executives, military and intelligence officials, and two members of Congress. The study found that no department knew the extent of damage done to other departments. The extent of the harm is not known.

"The organization of the federal government, which dates to the 1930s or earlier, is part of the reason we are vulnerable," says the report. "Our industrial-age organization makes a cyber-dependent government vulnerable and inefficient. A collection of hierarchical 'stovepipes' is easier to attack and harder to defend because security programs are not of equal strength (the weakest link compromises all) and stovepiped defenders cannot appreciate the scope of, and respond well to, a multiagency attack."

As the first to build out an Internet grid, the U.S. is more vulnerable than countries that have built their infrastructure later. China, for example, constructed its Internet much later, on a more secure set of protocols. "Many Americans believe that our nation still leads in cyberspace, just as many Americans in 1957 believed that the U.S. led in space until a Soviet satellite appeared over their heads," the study says.

It's telling that the U.S. doesn't have a publicly stated doctrine on cyber defense that warns enemies and commits to taking action in response. Likening today's issues to the Cold War, the report says there should be clear rules about who will be punished how for what. It's in the nature of cyber attacks that it's hard to know exactly who's responsible, but some response must be made. "These uncertainties limit the value of deterrence for cybersecurity," the report says. "The deterrent effect of an unknown doctrine is quite limited."

In today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Madoff and MarketsDisarming OurselvesIran's YouTube Generation

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

The Americas: Innocents Die in the Drug War
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Internet Attacks Are a Real and Growing Problem
– L. Gordon Crovitz

COMMENTARY

Bush Blinks on the Auto Bailout
– Paul IngrassiaThe Fed Still Has Plenty of Ammunition
– Frederic S. MishkinIt's Time to Junk the Electoral College
– Jonathan SorosOne problem is that Russia and China are the main suspects, but the U.S. defense establishment hesitates to say so too loudly. It's true that few cyber attackers are ever clearly identified. No one knows for sure who brought down the Internet in Estonia in 2007, when Moscow was outraged when a Soviet-era war memorial was relocated in Tallinn. Or who was behind the cyber attacks that virtually shut down government communications and financial transactions in the former Soviet republic of Georgia earlier this year. Likewise, many foreign visitors had their PCs and BlackBerrys compromised during the Olympics in Beijing, where cybersnooping equipment is widely available.

Data are lost, communications are compromised, and "denial of service" attacks bring down selected Web sites and national networks. Supposedly confidential corporate information, the report warns, is almost certainly being hacked. As more individuals and companies rely on "cloud computing" -- storing information and services such as email remotely on supposedly secure servers -- foreign intelligence agencies and commercial snoops may have access.

A former official at Darpa, the Pentagon research agency that launched the Web, testified to Congress last year that a major cyber attack on the U.S. could knock out electricity, banking and digital-based communications. Americans would be left rooting around for food and water, trading with one another for firewood (presumably not on eBay). Even if end-of-the-world visions are overdone, it's past time to assess risks and justify countermeasures.

The report has recommendations for the Obama administration, including a new government structure for cyber protection and working more closely with the private sector on security research. The broader point is that it's about time that we knew the extent of the cyberwarring against us. The first step to fighting back is to admit that there's a fight on.

Write to informationage@wsj.com
24390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: December 15, 2008, 02:37:48 AM
Let not the facts get in the way of a convenient theory tongue
24391  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: December 15, 2008, 02:35:35 AM
In contrast to the notions of this article are the writings of Austrian ethnologist (study of animals) and Nobel Laureate Konrad Lorenz who, like psychologist Carl Jung and Sandhurst military historian John Keegan (History of War) point out that over time War has become evermore efficient in its brutality.  Working from memory, the deaths of the American Civil War exceeded what went before, yet was exceeded by the trench warfare of WW1, then the 20 million or so killed by Stalin and the tens of millions killed by Mao, then WW2 (including the use of nuclear weapons etc.)

Against the long term trend, it is risky to see the last few decades as a historical turning point.  If could be, but there's plenty to suggest otherwise as well.
24392  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush: "It was a size 10 shoe" on: December 14, 2008, 06:58:12 PM
President Bush shows some good reflexes in dealing with cranky reporter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duLds-TZMGw
24393  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: December 14, 2008, 02:49:02 PM
Rachel:

May I suggest taking this over to the Evolutionary Psychology/Biology thread on the SCE forum?  Once there I look forward to raising Konrad Lorenz's analysis of this issue (Jung too) -- which is completely to the contrary.  He held that the 20th Century was the most brutal in human history.

TIA,
Marc

PS:  Wright's book on "Non-Zero Sum" is brilliant.
24394  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 14, 2008, 02:42:48 PM
I'm not getting the motive to be disingenuous here , , , huh
24395  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: December 14, 2008, 02:40:42 PM
Thank you for continuing my education once again Rachel.

This in particular caught my attention:

"The Jewish people (Jewish tradition has it that all Jewish souls were at Sinai) agreed to obey the Torah before they heard it or understood it."

VERY interesting.
24396  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Safe at hom on: December 14, 2008, 10:37:06 AM
FWIW:

By PETER BERGEN
Published: December 13, 2008
Washington


A FEW days before the presidential election, the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, told a group of intelligence officials that the new administration could well be tested by a terrorist attack on the homeland in its first year in office. “The World Trade Center was attacked in the first year of President Clinton, and the second attack was in the first year of President Bush,” he said.

President-elect Barack Obama made a similar observation when he told “60 Minutes” that it was important to get a national security team in place “because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack.” During the campaign, Joe Biden warned that “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.”

Should we be worried? In fact, the probability of a Qaeda attack on the United States is vanishingly small, for the same reasons that for the past seven years the terrorist group has not been able to carry out one.

President Bush and his supporters have often ascribed the absence of a Qaeda attack on the United States to the Iraq war, which supposedly acted as “flypaper” for jihadist terrorists, so instead of fighting them in Boston, America has fought them in Baghdad. Other commentators have said that Al Qaeda is simply biding its time to equal or top 9/11.

The real reasons are more prosaic. First, the American Muslim community has rejected the Qaeda ideological virus. American Muslims have instead overwhelmingly signed up for the American Dream, enjoying higher incomes and educational levels than the average.

Second, though it is hard to prove negatives, there appear to be no Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States. If they do exist, they are so asleep they are comatose. True, in 2003, the F.B.I. arrested Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker who met with Qaeda leaders in Pakistan after 9/11 and then had a plot to demolish the Brooklyn Bridge with a pair of blowtorches, a deed akin to trying to blow up the Statue of Liberty with a firecracker. But he is an exceptional case. Two years after his arrest, a leaked F.B.I. report concluded, “To date, we have not identified any true ‘sleeper’ agents in the U.S.”

Third, when jihadist terrorists have attacked the United States, they have arrived from outside the country, something that is much harder to do now. The 19 hijackers of 9/11 all came from elsewhere. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 Trade Center bombing, flew to New York from Pakistan. Today’s no-fly list and other protective measures make entering the country much more difficult.

Fourth, the Bush administration has made Americans safer with measures like the establishment of the National Counterterrorism Center, where officials from different branches of government share information and act on terrorist threats. As a result of such measures, scores of terrorism cases have been aggressively investigated in the United States. But despite the billions of dollars invested in all these efforts and the thousands of men and women who get up every day to hunt for terrorists, the resulting cases have almost never involved concrete terrorist plots or acts.

Of the so-called terrorism cases since 9/11, many have revolved around charges of “material support” for a terrorist group, a vague concept that can encompass almost any dealings with organizations that have at one point engaged in terrorism. And in the cases where a terrorist plot has been alleged, the plans have been more aspirational than realistic.

If Al Qaeda can’t get people into the country, doesn’t have sleeper cells here and is unable to garner support from the American Muslim community, then how does it pull off an attack in the United States? While a small-bore attack may be organized by a Qaeda wannabe at some point, a catastrophic mass-casualty assault anything along the lines of 9/11 is no longer plausible.

This is not to say Al Qaeda is no longer a threat to our interests. It has of course regenerated itself on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan since 9/11, and as the 2005 attacks on the London subways and the foiled 2006 plot to bring down airliners leaving Heathrow Airport showed, it remains a grave danger to Britain.

In addition, Al Qaeda’s inability to attack the American homeland for the foreseeable future does not then mean that it can’t kill large numbers of American living overseas. If the 2006 “planes plot” had succeeded, British prosecutors say, as many as 1,500 passengers would have died, many of them Americans.

The incoming Obama administration has much to deal with, between managing two wars and the implosion of the financial system and car industry. But the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the United States in its early stages by Al Qaeda is close to zero.

Peter Bergen is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know.”
24397  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: December 14, 2008, 10:17:02 AM
Though some may roll their eyes at her name, I think Dr. Laura Schlessinger is on sound ground when she says that at least one parent should be dedicated to the home and the children and that that one parent is usually the mother.    I think a lot of the societal breakdown that we have seen in recent decades is due to children being raised by daycare, nannies, and TV instead of loving mothers.
24398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-Pak on: December 14, 2008, 10:11:33 AM
When the majority of the Muslim world decides that the struggle is between civilization and barbarism instead of between the West and Islam, then the war can be won.
24399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: December 14, 2008, 09:37:40 AM
Rachel:

I've been meaning to ask you about these words of yours:

"Women joined the work force not because of  feminism but because of economic necessity.  I would credit feminism for  encouraging woman to be doctors as well as nurses but not for getting them a job outside the home in the first place."

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that given a choice, most women would rather have their work be their homes and their families.  I'm OK with the concept, but am more than a little surprised to here it come from you. cheesy

"Capitalism encourages people to wait before having a family."

In that the dynamic we discuss was present in spades in the Russian population of the Soviet Empire, I'd quibble with the word "capitalism" and would suggest using "economically developed" instead.
24400  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 14, 2008, 01:27:44 AM
Agradezco un buen entrenamiento de Kali Tudo esparring hoy despues de mi clase.  Sigo explorando nueva materia.
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