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24401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: January 09, 2010, 09:58:48 PM


For those of you who haven't seen this yet:

http://www.zimbio.com/Barack+Obama/articles/fthL9FEqPPn/SNL+Obama+Skit+Shows+Economic+Crisis+China
24402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: January 09, 2010, 09:14:10 PM
A WSJ NEWS ROUNDUP
CARACAS -- President Hugo Chávez said he ordered two F-16 jets to intercept a U.S. military plane that twice violated Venezuelan airspace on Friday in what he called the latest provocation in the South American nation's skies.

Brandishing a photo of the plane, which he described as a P-3, Mr. Chávez said the overflight was the latest incursion in Venezuelan skies by the U.S. military from its bases on the Netherlands' Caribbean islands and from neighboring Colombia.

There was no immediate response from the U.S. Defense Department or the White House.

Mr. Chávez said the F-16s escorted the U.S. plane away after two incursions lasting 15 and 19 minutes each.

The perceived threat of U.S. intervention has become a central element of Mr. Chávez's political discourse and a rallying cry for his supporters.

Foes say the president is hyping the idea of a foreign threat to distract Venezuelans from domestic problems such as a recession and inadequate public services. Mr. Chávez surprised the diplomatic world in December when he accused the Netherlands of abetting potential offensive action against his government by granting U.S. troops access to its islands close to Venezuela.

The Dutch government says the U.S. presence is only for counternarcotics and surveillance operations over Caribbean smuggling routes.
24403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 09, 2010, 09:13:09 PM
GM:

That Jihad Watch piece is interesting, but it would carry more a lot more weight if it were more identifiable.
24404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 09, 2010, 07:03:05 PM
"Islamo-fascist is accurate, if a bit redundant."

I understand the point, but what then are we to make of the actions of the father of Crispy Weiner Christmas bomber?
24405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Walk away from your mortgage? on: January 09, 2010, 06:53:43 PM
January 10, 2010
THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Walk Away From Your Mortgage!
By ROGER LOWENSTEIN

Source: First American CoreLogic, November 2009

John Courson, president and C.E.O. of the Mortgage Bankers Association, recently told The Wall Street Journal that homeowners who default on their mortgages should think about the “message” they will send to “their family and their kids and their friends.” Courson was implying that homeowners — record numbers of whom continue to default — have a responsibility to make good. He wasn’t referring to the people who have no choice, who can’t afford their payments. He was speaking about the rising number of folks who arevoluntarily choosing not to pay.

Such voluntary defaults are a new phenomenon. Time was, Americans would do anything to pay their mortgage — forgo a new car or a vacation, even put a younger family member to work. But the housing collapse left 10.7 million families owing more than their homes are worth. So some of them are making a calculated decision to hang onto their money and let their homes go. Is this irresponsible?

Businesses — in particular Wall Street banks — make such calculations routinely. Morgan Stanley recently decided to stop making payments on five San Francisco office buildings. A Morgan Stanley fund purchased the buildings at the height of the boom, and their value has plunged. Nobody has said Morgan Stanley is immoral — perhaps because no one assumed it was moral to begin with. But the average American, as if sprung from some Franklinesque mythology, is supposed to honor his debts, or so says the mortgage industry as well as government officials. Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. declared that “any homeowner who can afford his mortgage payment but chooses to walk away from an underwater property is simply a speculator — and one who is not honoring his obligation.” (Paulson presumably was not so censorious of speculation during his 32-year career at Goldman Sachs.)

The moral suasion has continued under President Obama, who has urged that homeowners follow the “responsible” course. Indeed, HUD-approved housing counselors are supposed to counsel people against foreclosure. In many cases, this means counseling people to throw away money. Brent White, a University of Arizona law professor, notes that a family who bought a three-bedroom home in Salinas, Calif., at the market top in 2006, with no down payment (then a common-enough occurrence), could theoretically have to wait 60 years to recover their equity. On the other hand, if they walked, they could rent a similar house for a pittance of their monthly mortgage.

There are two reasons why so-called strategic defaults have been considered antisocial and perhaps amoral. One is that foreclosures depress the neighborhood and drive down prices. But in a market society, since when are people responsible for the economic effects of their actions? Every oil speculator helps to drive up gasoline prices. Every hedge fund that speculated against a bank by purchasing credit-default swaps on its bonds signaled skepticism about the bank’s creditworthiness and helped to make it more costly for the bank to borrow, and thus to issue loans. We are all economic pinballs, insensibly colliding for better or worse.

The other reason is that default (supposedly) debases the character of the borrower. Once, perhaps, when bankers held onto mortgages for 30 years, they occupied a moral high ground. These days, lenders typically unload mortgages within days (or minutes). And not just in mortgage finance, but in virtually every realm of our transaction-obsessed society, the message is that enduring relationships count for less than the value put on assets for sale.

Think of private-equity firms that close a factory — essentially deciding that the company is worth more dead than alive. Or the New York Yankees and their World Series M.V.P. Hideki Matsui, who parted company as soon as the cheering stopped. Or money-losing hedge-fund managers: rather than try to earn back their investors’ lost capital, they start new funds so they can rake in fresh incentives. Sam Zell, a billionaire, let the Tribune Company, which he had previously acquired, file for bankruptcy. Indeed, the owners of any company that defaults on bonds and chooses to let the company fail rather than invest more capital in it are practicing “strategic default.” Banks signal their complicity with this ethos when they send new credit cards to people who failed to stay current on old ones.

Mortgage holders do sign a promissory note, which is a promise to pay. But the contract explicitly details the penalty for nonpayment — surrender of the property. The borrower isn’t escaping the consequences; he is suffering them.

In some states, lenders also have recourse to the borrowers’ unmortgaged assets, like their car and savings accounts. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond found that defaults are lower in such states, apparently because lenders threaten the borrowers with judgments against their assets. But actual lawsuits are rare.

And given that nearly a quarter of mortgages are underwater, and that 10 percent of mortgages are delinquent, White, of the University of Arizona, is surprised that more people haven’t walked. He thinks the desire to avoid shame is a factor, as are overblown fears of harm to credit ratings. Probably, homeowners also labor under a delusion that their homes will quickly return to value. White has argued that the government should stop perpetuating default “scare stories” and, indeed, should encourage borrowers to default when it’s in their economic interest. This would correct a prevailing imbalance: homeowners operate under a “powerful moral constraint” while lenders are busily trying to maximize profits. More important, it might get the system unstuck. If lenders feared an avalanche of strategic defaults, they would have an incentive to renegotiate loan terms. In theory, this could produce a wave of loan modifications — the very goal the Treasury has been pursuing to end the crisis.

No one says defaulting on a contract is pretty or that, in a perfectly functioning society, defaults would be the rule. But to put the onus for restraint on ordinary homeowners seems rather strange. If the Mortgage Bankers Association is against defaults, its members, presumably the experts in such matters, might take better care not to lend people more than their homes are worth.

Roger Lowenstein, an outside director of the Sequoia Fund, is a contributing writer for the magazine. His book “The End of Wall Street” is coming out in April.

24406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 09, 2010, 12:34:03 PM
The reason I posted his piece is because it addresses the Republican Party.

Do YOU think the Republican Party stands for Free Minds and Free Markets?

Do you think the Reps are going to fare well with the already built into the pipeline demographics of the American people?  And what happens if/when amnesty and immigration deform are voted in?  shocked

Do you think the Reps are going to fare well with a population educated by the DOEducation, public schools, our Universities, and People magazine?

Do you think the Reps are going to fare well when most voters don't pay taxes?
24407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 09, 2010, 12:28:25 PM
I can think of much better ways, but in case the enemy lurks here I will not articulate them smiley

By the way, may I suggest that we name the enemy?  My preferred term for the enemy is "Islamo Fascists", others like "Jihadis", etc.  But what I suggest is an error is to have a war on a technique (GWOT, GWon-made-disasters, etc.) instead of naming the enemy.

This error is due to PC excrement and leads to PC errors like the responses to the Fort Hood jihadi or the Crispy Weiner Christmas bomber.
24408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 09, 2010, 12:07:07 PM
Actually its a good question.

With the ending of that pre 911 Tom Clancy novel which ended with a jihadi flying an airliner into the Congress during the State of the Union speech, (thus getting the Prez, the Supremes, AND Congress) in mind, I am certainly not going to enter into specifics here, but I could come up with quite a few easier and far more effective things to do-- and I am sure that most of us here could do the same.

So why is the enemy so tunnel visioned on ineffective methodology?
24409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: GOP Grief and Grieving on: January 09, 2010, 10:46:38 AM


G.O.P. Grief and Grieving
By CHARLES M. BLOW
Published: January 8, 2010

The attack on the Republican establishment by the tea party folks grabs the gaze like a really bad horror flick — some version of “Hee Haw” meets “28 Days Later.” It’s fascinating. But it also raises a serious question: Are these the desperate thrashings of a dying movement or the labor pains of a new one?

My money is on the former. Anyone who says that this is the dawn of a new age of conservatism is engaging in wishful thinking on a delusional scale.

There is no doubt that the number of people who say that they are conservative has inched up. According to a report from Gallup on Thursday, conservatives finished 2009 as the No. 1 ideological group. But ideological identification is no predictor of electoral outcomes. According to polls by The New York Times, conservative identification was slightly higher on the verge of Bill Clinton’s first-term election and Barack Obama’s election than it was on the verge of George W. Bush’s first-term election.

It is likely that Republicans will pick up Congressional seats in November partly because of the enthusiasm of this conservative fringe, democratic apathy and historical trends. But make no mistake: This is not 1994.

This is a limited, emotional reaction. It’s a response to the trauma that is the Great Recession, the uncertainty and creeping suspicion about the risks being taken in Washington, a visceral reaction to Obama and an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and loss.

Simply put, it’s about fear-fueled anger. But anger is not an idea. It’s not a plan. And it’s not a vision for the future. It is, however, the second stage of grief, right after denial and before bargaining.

The right is on the wrong side of history. The demographics of the country are rapidly changing, young people are becoming increasingly liberal on social issues, and rigid, dogmatic religious stricture is loosening its grip on the throat of our culture.

The right has seen the enemy, and he is the future.

According to a Gallup report issued this week, Republicans were more than twice as likely as Democrats and a third more likely as independents to have a pessimistic outlook for the country over the next 20 years. That might be the fourth stage of grief: depression.

So what’s their battle plan to fight back from the precipice of irrelevance? Moderation? A stab at modernity? A slate of innovative ideas? No, their plan is to purge the party’s moderates and march farther down the road to oblivion.

Erick Erickson, the incendiary editor of the popular conservative blog RedState, appeared on “The Colbert Report” on Monday and said that “no one really knows what a Republican is anymore.”

Split hairs about labels if you must, but the Republican brand already has begun a slow slide into obscurity. And turning further right only hastens its demise. Quiet as it’s kept, many in the party know this. That, alas, is called acceptance.
24410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reality 1, Obama 0 on: January 09, 2010, 10:22:08 AM
By JAMES TARANTO
Two weeks from today is the deadline for emptying the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, a cutoff that the newly inaugurated President Obama established as one of his first acts in office. No one anymore expects his administration to meet the deadline, and Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that there is increasing doubt as to whether it will carry out the promise at all. "I'm beginning to think that Guantánamo is not ever going to be closed," a Bush administration lawyer and Guantanamo foe, tells Isikoff: "I would bet some money that it's not going to get closed in the Obama presidency":

"To some extent, I think the administration has blown it," adds Marc Falkoff, a lawyer who represents some of the Yemeni detainees at Gitmo. "It has delayed, and they've gotten themselves into a reactive state and you can't get anything done when you're reacting to political winds. . . . It looks like Guantánamo will be around for the foreseeable future."
Obama's promise has run up against reality in several different ways. The revelation that former detainees now based in Yemen were involved in planning the Christmas attack in Detroit prompted the administration to announce a halt to repatriation of Yemenis. (In fairness, we hasten to note that the ex-detainees who rejoined the fight were released while George W. Bush was president.) It turns out there really are terrorists at Guantanamo--who knew?

Well, Democrats in Congress knew (though who knew they knew?). Isikoff reports that the administration cannot legally carry out its plan to move detainees to Illinois's Thomson Correctional Center:

The administration is already blocked from moving any Guantánamo detainees to the U.S. for purposes other than putting them on trial. That's the result of a rider to a congressional appropriations bill that passed overwhelmingly last spring and which expires Sept. 30.
In order to move the Yemenis and other Gitmo detainees to Thomson, the administration needs to persuade the Congress to lift the rider--in an election year, no less--a much more difficult task when the proposal is to move more than 100 detainees to the U.S. rather than 20 or 30.
Opposition to Obama's terrorist-importation plan is bipartisan, notes Isikoff: "If Republicans make big gains in the fall elections, as many analysts now predict, the odds of lifting the anti-Gitmo rider would become even steeper."

But here's the kicker. It turns out the detainees themselves prefer to stay put:

Many of the detainees may not even want to be transferred to Thomson and could conceivably even raise their own legal roadblocks to allow them to stay at Gitmo.
Falkoff notes that many of his clients, while they clearly want to go home, are at least being held under Geneva Convention conditions in Guantánamo. At Thomson, he notes, the plans call for them to be thrown into the equivalent of a "supermax" security prison under near-lockdown conditions.
To the limited extent that the Geneva Conventions have been held to protect unlawful enemy combatants, the detainees would enjoy that protection at Thomson too. They would also have additional rights under U.S. law, since they would be under the jurisdiction of the local U.S. district court rather than the special federal jurisdiction created by the Military Commissions Act of 2006. As a practical matter, though, their lives are cushier at Guantanamo than they would be at Thomson, in part because the risk of escape from a military facility in the middle of nowhere is considerably less than from a prison in the American heartland.

Podcast
James Taranto on Obama and Guantanamo.
.Is there any argument left for closing Guantanamo? Claims of detainee abuse were mostly bunk to begin with (remember when Isikoff's magazine claimed falsely that an interrogator had flushed a Koran down a toilet?), and any irregularities have long since been remedied. The president is reduced to making the frivolous claim that the existence of Guantanamo is dangerous because it is somehow useful to al Qaeda's recruiting efforts.

Ultimately, the case against Guantanamo can be reduced to an ad hominem attack. Obama and his supporters loathe it because it is a symbol of the hated George W. Bush. For the president of the United States, it is past time to move on from petty grievances and deal in a serious and forthright way with the demands of American national security.
24411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Drone Wars on: January 09, 2010, 10:14:33 AM
The Obama Administration has with good reason taken flak for its approach to terrorism since the Christmas Day near-bombing over Detroit. So permit us to laud an antiterror success in the Commander in Chief's first year in office.

Though you won't hear him brag about it, President Obama has embraced and ramped up the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. As tactic and as a technology, drones are one of the main U.S. advantages that have emerged from this long war. (IEDs are one of the enemy's.) Yet their use isn't without controversy, and it took nerve for the White House to approve some 50 strikes last year, exceeding the total in the last three years of the Bush Administration.

From Pakistan to Yemen, Islamic terrorists now fear the Predator and its cousin, the better-armed Reaper. So do critics on the left in the academy, media and United Nations; they're calling drones an unaccountable tool of "targeted assassination" that inflames anti-American passions and kills civilians. At some point, the President may have to defend the drone campaign on military and legal grounds.

The case is easy. Not even the critics deny its success against terrorists. Able to go where American soldiers can't, the Predator and Reaper have since 9/11 killed more than half of the 20 most wanted al Qaeda suspects, the Uzbek, Yemeni and Pakistani heads of allied groups and hundreds of militants. Most of those hits were in the last four years.

"Very frankly, it's the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership," CIA Director Leon Panetta noted last May. The agency's own troubles with gathering human intelligence were exposed by last week's deadly bombing attack on the CIA station near Khost, Afghanistan.

Critics such as counterinsurgency writers David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum allege that drones have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. The U.N. Human Rights Council's investigator on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, has warned the Administration that the attacks could fall afoul of "international humanitarian law principles."

Civilian casualties are hard to verify, since independent observers often can't access the bombing sites, and estimates vary widely. But Pakistani government as well as independent studies have shown the Taliban claims are wild exaggerations. The civilian toll is relatively low, especially if compared with previous conflicts.

Never before in the history of air warfare have we been able to distinguish as well between combatants and civilians as we can with drones. Even if al Qaeda doesn't issue uniforms, the remote pilots can carefully identify targets, and then use Hellfire missiles that cause far less damage than older bombs or missiles. Smarter weapons like the Predator make for a more moral campaign.

As for Mr. Alston's concerns, the legal case for drones is instructive. President Bush approved their use under his Constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, buttressed by Congress's Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and its affiliates after 9/11. Gerald Ford's executive order that forbids American intelligence from assassinating anyone doesn't apply to enemies in wartime.

International law also allows states to kill their enemies in a conflict, and to operate in "neutral" countries if the hosts allow bombing on their territory. Pakistan and Yemen have both given their permission to the U.S., albeit quietly. Even if they hadn't, the U.S. would be justified in attacking enemy sanctuaries there as a matter of self-defense.

Who gets on the drone approved "kill lists" is decided by a complex interagency process involving the CIA, Pentagon and White House. We hear the U.S. could have taken out the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki after his contacts with Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hassan came to light in November, missing the chance by not authorizing the strike. Perhaps al-Awlaki's U.S. citizenship gave U.S. officials pause, but after he joined the jihad he became an enemy and his passport irrelevant.

Tellingly, after the attempted bombing over Detroit, the Administration rushed to leak that Yemenis, with unspecified American help, might have killed al-Awlaki in mid-December in a strike on al Qaeda forces. Al-Awlaki, who also was also in contact with the Nigerian bomber on Northwest Flight 253, may have survived.

While this aggressive aerial bombing is commendable against a dangerous enemy, it also reveals the paradox of President Obama's antiterror strategy. On the one hand, he's willing to kill terrorists in the field, but he's unwilling to hold these same terrorists under the rules of war at Guantanamo if we capture them in the field. We can kill them as war fighters, but if they're captured they become common criminals.

Our own view is that either "we are at war," as Mr. Obama said on Thursday, or we're not.
24412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Treatment of Christians in Muslim lands on: January 09, 2010, 10:08:42 AM
In Egypt, seven Coptic Christians were murdered yesterday by a Muslim gunman as they filed out of a midnight mass in the southern town of Nag Hamadi. In Pakistan, more than 100 Christian homes were ransacked by a Muslim mob last July in the village of Bahmaniwala. In Iraq that same month, seven Christian churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul in the space of three days.

Such atrocities—and there are scores of other examples—are grim reminders that when it comes to persecution, few groups have suffered as grievously as Christians in Muslim lands. Fewer still have suffered with such little attention paid. Now a new report from the non-profit ministry, Open Doors USA, shines a light on the scale of oppression.

In its annual World Watch List, Open Doors ranks eight Muslim countries among the 10 worst persecutors of Christians. The other two, North Korea (which tops the list) and Laos, are communist states. Of the 50 countries on the list, 35 are majority Muslim.

Take Iran, which this year ranks as the world's second-worst persecutor of Christians. Open Doors reports that in 2009 the Islamic Republic arrested 85 Christians, many of whom were also mistreated in prison. In 2008, some 50 Christians were arrested and one Christian couple was beaten to death by security officials. At least part of the reason for the mistreatment appears to be the result of Muslim conversions to Christianity: Apostasy carries a mandatory death sentence in Iran.

In Saudi Arabia (No. 3), all non-Muslim public worship is forbidden. The state forbids the building of any type of non-Muslim house of worship, and Christian expatriates in the kingdom must practice their faith in private. The same goes in the Maldives, where the report notes that all citizens must be Muslim; "the handful of indigenous Christians are forced to believe in complete secrecy." Similarly in Mauritania, conversion to Christianity or any other religions is formally punishable by death.

Little wonder, then, that once-thriving Christian communities in the Muslim world have now largely voted with their feet by fleeing to safer havens, often in Europe or the United States. That's true even in religiously important communities such as Bethlehem, where the Christian majority has largely fled since the arrival in the 1990s of Yasser Arafat's repressive government and the ascendancy of Islamist groups such as Hamas. By contrast, Christians practice their religion freely and openly in Israel, just a few miles distant.

It might seem natural that at least some attention would be paid in the West to the plight of these Christians. Instead, attention seems endlessly focused on "Islamophobia," not least at the U.N.'s misnamed Human Rights Council. In November, much of Europe went berserk over the Swiss referendum to ban the construction of minarets (though not of mosques). But the West's tolerance for its large Muslim populations stands in sharp contrast to the Muslim world's bigotry and persecution of its own religious minorities. That's a fact that ought to be borne in mind the next time Westerners berate themselves about their own supposed "intolerance."
24413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / wsj on: January 09, 2010, 09:45:38 AM
By SUZANNE SATALINE, ALEX P. KELLOGG and CHAD BRAY
NEW YORK -- Law-enforcement officials on Friday announced the arrest of two men linked to a suspect charged in September with planning what authorities have called the most serious home-grown terror plot since Sept. 11, 2001.

That alleged plot centered on Najibullah Zazi, an airport-shuttle driver from Aurora, Colo., who was indicted for planning to make bombs from hair products and household cleaners for attacks in the U.S.

Two men who traveled to Pakistan with Najibullah Zazi were arrested early Friday morning in New York. Video courtesy of Fox News.

Separately, the alleged Christmas bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court in Detroit to charges that he attempted to detonate a bomb and murder 279 passengers and 11 crew members on board a Detroit-bound Northwest flight on Christmas. Outside the courtroom, scores of Muslim Americans held up anti-terrorism posters and waved American flags, while a handful of Nigerian-born Americans carried signs with slogans such as "Nigerians Are Against Terrorism."

The two men arrested Thursday, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, both of New York City, had ties to Mr. Zazi, the shuttle-bus driver. One of the men hasn't been issued terrorism charges; charges on the other man haven't been released, and a Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on what, if anything, he may be charged with.

Mr. Ahmedzay, a 24-year-old cab driver, was charged Friday by a federal grand jury with making false statements to federal authorities. The charging document said Mr. Ahmedzay failed to tell FBI agents every location he visited in Pakistan and Afghanistan during a trip that "occurred on or about and between August 28, 2008, and January 22, 2009."

The indictment also said he lied about his discussions with a person who had attended a military-style training camp in Pakistan during that time period.

Mr. Ahmedzay pleaded not guilty and was held without bail. As of Friday evening, Mr. Medunjanin was still in custody but had not been charged. His lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb, said he expected his client to be arraigned today.


Mr. Medunjanin, 25 years old, is a part-time building superintendent, said Mr. Gottlieb, who also said he did not know where his client was being held, nor why. "The events are despicable...to deny him access to his lawyer,'' Mr. Gottlieb said.

"If they did question him, it would be an illegal interrogation," he said, adding that his client had been unaware he was under surveillance.

According to an FBI spokesman, the arrests are part of "an ongoing investigation" by the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York City, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department.

Authorities believe Mr. Medunjanin and Mr. Ahmedzay accompanied Mr. Zazi on a 2008 trip to Pakistan, where the latter allegedly attended an al Qaeda training camp according to a law-enforcement official. FBI affidavits filed in Mr. Zazi's case said that he told FBI agents in interviews that he attended courses and received instruction on weapons and explosives at an al Qaeda training facility in Pakistan. Mr. Zazi has denied his involvement.

The two men arrested Thursday had been under surveillance since Mr. Zazi's arrest as part of the ongoing investigation.

Rick Nelson, director of the Homeland Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said homegrown terror cells are a major concern. "A U.S. resident or someone with a passport to get into the U.S. is the crown jewel for these terrorist organizations," he said. "This is a very real problem, something Europe has been dealing with a longer period of time than we have."

Initially, authorities went to Mr. Medunjanin's Queens apartment with a search warrant for his passport, the official said. Mr. Medunjanin surrendered the passport without incident.

Mr. Medunjanin left his apartment and began driving erratically on the Whitestone Expressway in Queens, N.Y., crashing into another car and fleeing the scene on foot, the official said. New York City police took him into custody for leaving the scene of an accident. He was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital. Mr. Ahmedzay was picked up Thursday by law enforcement while he was driving a cab in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan.

Mr. Medunjanin's apartment was one of several that agents had searched in September around the time of Mr. Zazi's arrest, the lawyer said. At that time, they took some computers and unspecified literature, all of which were later returned, Mr. Gottlieb said. "There was nothing involving bombs or terror plots on the computer," the lawyer said. Mr. Medunjanin agreed at that time to be interviewed by the agents for several hours over two days, the attorney said. Mr. Gottlieb would not reveal what his client was asked.

Mr. Medunjanin, whose parents are from Bosnia, is a Muslim who attends a mosque, Mr. Gottlieb said. His client knows Mr. Zazi from the neighborhood, he added. He believed that both had attended the same local high school, although Mr. Gottlieb would not comment as to whether his client knows Mr. Zazi in any other capacity. Mr. Medunjanin received a bachelor of arts in economics in 2009 from Queens College, part of The City University of New York.

—Gary Fields contributed to this article.
Write to Suzanne Sataline at suzanne.sataline@wsj.com, Alex P. Kellogg at alex.kellogg@wsj.com and Chad Bray at chad.bray@dowjones.com
24414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 09, 2010, 09:20:47 AM
Did you read the article, and if so, what did you think of its analysis?
24415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on: January 09, 2010, 09:19:33 AM

Across Divide in Iraq, a Sunni Courts Shiites
By ANTHONY SHADID
Published: January 8, 2010
RAMADI, Iraq — In the unforgiving badlands of western Iraq’s Anbar Province, once a cradle of the insurgency and now a muddled landscape of corruption, simmering strife and spirited electoral campaigning, no one seems ready to pardon Hamid al-Hais.

“I always take the path that poses the most obstacles. I always go where no one else dares to go,” said Sheik Hamid al-Hais.
Mr. Hais is a sheik, a title that conveys his tribal pedigree. But that title is too facile in describing one of the more complicated figures in Iraq today. He is also a veteran of the American-backed war against insurgents, a Sunni Muslim politician, and now, in his most recent incarnation, an unlikely confederate of the Iraqi National Alliance, the Shiite Muslim standard-bearer in elections in March for a new Parliament.

A bid for national unity, Mr. Hais calls his foray across Iraq’s entrenched sectarian divide. Many of his neighbors do not see it that way. A traitor to his sect, a stooge of neighboring Iran’s Shiite government, and a rank opportunist, they say.

In his bid for office, Mr. Hais is a bit player in the larger drama of Iraq’s March 7 elections, which United States officials hope will help bridge divisions in the country as the military withdraws its combat troops by August. But in Mr. Hais’s quixotic trek, there is a warning that the elections may just as easily deepen the cleavages — tribal, ethnic and sectarian — that still threaten Iraq’s stability nearly seven years after the American-led invasion.

NOWHERE is that warning more stark than in Anbar, once a showcase of American success in quelling the insurgency. It is now an increasingly unsettled terrain beset by suicide attacks, bombings and assassinations that prompted a Sunni leader to declare that working as a politician here qualifies as the most dangerous job in Iraq.

“I always take the path that poses the most obstacles,” Mr. Hais said, scoffing at the risk, as he took the wheel of his white sport utility vehicle and careened through back roads of countryside he considers his. “I always go where no one else dares to go.”

He quoted a song by Um Kalthoum, the Egyptian diva. “A confident man walks like a king,” he declared.

With hands like a spatula, and girth that rivals his height, Mr. Hais struck an imposing figure as he campaigned along the irrigated farms and groves of date palms outside the provincial capital of Ramadi, populated by families that belong to his tribe of Albu Diyab. Tribal loyalties still run deep in Anbar, and Mr. Hais suggested that they would trump any misgivings his constituency might have over his alliance with Shiite parties that many Sunnis blame for some of the worst sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007.

“I can’t say all of them, but my feeling?” he asked. “They’ll follow me.”

Mr. Hais, 42, still evokes his youthful days as a ne’er-do-well.

In his car, he played loudly a frenetic strain of Arabic pop and, in jest, swerved toward a neighbor riding a bicycle. (The neighbor frowned.) On the trail, he walked with the swagger that a 9-millimeter Beretta in his leather holster brings. Most of his sentences seemed to end in an exclamation point.

“Listen to me!” the married Mr. Hais barked into the phone at his girlfriend.

He hung up, shaking his head. “She’s driving me crazy,” he said.

But beneath the bluster is a compelling argument for an Iraqi identity that transcends sect and allows a man like Mr. Hais, a sheik from Iraq’s most ardently Sunni region, to join hands with parties led by some of the most dogmatic Shiite clergy.

“We’re actually working against sectarianism on the ground, not just through the beautiful words of our speeches,” he said. “The interests of our country require it.”

So far, his words and actions have prompted more outrage than reconsideration. Many in Anbar remain angry about a weeklong trip that Mr. Hais took in June to Iran, a country many Sunnis believe dominates the current government and poses a greater threat to Iraq’s interests than the United States. Since then, some neighbors have taken to calling Mr. Hais’s villa, along the Euphrates, “the Iranian house” or “Khomeini’s house.”

“Absolutely, he’s carrying out an Iranian agenda — without a doubt,” said Dhari al-Hadi, an adviser to Anbar’s governor and deputy of Ahmed Abu Risha, a leading tribal figure in the province. “You wouldn’t find anyone in Anbar who would dare go to Iran.”

MR. HAIS’S Shiite allies at times seem baffled by him, in an Iraqi version of culture shock. They respect his credentials in leading the fight against insurgents and feel confident he can win over enough of his tribe to capture a seat or two. But they are often taken aback by his freewheeling comments in the alliance’s meetings. At various times, he has promised to open bars in Ramadi, stop veiled women from entering Anbar University, break the legs of rival candidates and pursue Baathists in nightclubs in Syria.

“Crazy,” a Shiite colleague said on condition of anonymity, fearful of provoking him. “Then again, if you call someone crazy in Anbar, they consider it a compliment.”

For his part, Mr. Hais finds his new colleagues too reticent.

“They’re always calculating before they say a single word,” he complained.

Lately, though, Mr. Hais seems just as bewildered by his fellow Sunnis.

On a crisp winter day this week, he made his way to the Nineveh Elementary School for Girls in a hardscrabble neighborhood of Ramadi. Teachers there unleashed a torrent of complaints: trash-strewn streets, a lack of money for schools, and drinking water that mixed with sewage and, at times, blood running off from butcher shops.

Mr. Hais listened, slipped the principal an envelope with $1,000, then urged the teachers to organize demonstrations. “It’s up to you to change the reality,” he insisted.

Before long, a former army officer spoke up. “I want to speak frankly,” he said. “We hoped you wouldn’t abandon your province and join the alliance.” Others nodded. “We don’t want Shiites coming into Ramadi,” a woman shouted. “We don’t want Shiite places of worship here.”

More criticism ensued. “We need someone like Saddam Hussein,” a woman cried.

“Someone who will get you into a war and make you all widows?” Mr. Hais asked, with a grimace that suggested he might want his money back.

“At least we’re fighting Iranians and defending our country,” she answered.

An hour later, the meeting ended uneasily. “They’re worn out,” Mr. Hais said, in explanation. But the anger seemed to run deeper, be more intractable.

“He’s a son of Ramadi,” one of the teachers said. “We respect him in that way.”

“But,” she added, “he’s made a mistake.”
24416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A summer in Yemen on: January 09, 2010, 09:05:29 AM
The air is thick and hazy as I tiptoe over the leaves of euphoria-inducing qat, through hoops of golden embroidered hookas, and nestle into the divan between women in Ottoman headdresses singing as frankincense wafts around them. Abeer leans towards me with her wide green eyes and whispers: "Do you know why we burn incense? It is because whenever you sing Muhammad's name, you smell heaven."

Night falls in the Old City of Sana'a as I ride the bus for five cents from this wedding celebration toward the great wall that once protected the city's 14,000 majestic tower houses, many now crumbling. From my dorm window I spot a hoopoe bird soaring over the brown castles, looking down on this high plateau that was once the home of the Queen of Sheba.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's language school is just down the winding cobblestone alleyway from the school where I study Arabic. From my classroom I can hear the call to prayer at the Great Mosque, built during Muhammad's lifetime, where Abdulmutallab prayed day and night. What could this young Nigerian man have seen of Sana'a during his stay in Yemen, before he boarded the Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit?

Perhaps he passed the boy who travels a mile to obtain a fresh bottle of water for me when his shop runs out—sprinting the whole way—and sweetly responds to my thanks: "You are welcome, my sister." Or the cook who gives me a chair hidden from the strong gaze of men chewing qat. Or the motorcyclists narrowly missing the small boys selling tiny bottles of perfume in cardboard boxes on the ground. In the poorest country in the Arab world, would Abdulmutallab have noticed the gentle smile of the cook as he hands me fresh bread at no cost?

I try to open the window of my Arabic classroom, and Arwa, my instructor, swiftly pushes it open. "I am stronger than you." We arm wrestle to prove it, laughing until neither of us can win, and then continue our reading of Arabic media: "President Bush invaded Iraq because of suspected weapons of mass destruction." Arwa quips: "There were no weapons of mass destruction." Just then, we hear a knock at the door and Arwa becomes a black curtain. Only her eyes can be seen through the narrow slat of her naqab.

"Why don't you wear the kind of balto that has the pretty designs on its sleeves?" I ask. "Because then I wouldn't be invisible," she answers. I visit her house, and in a room of dirty clay walls she teaches me to sing a traditional Sana'ani oud song: "How shall I blame my heart? For in loving, it neither thinks nor reasons . . ."

One afternoon, a group of children stop playing to ask me whether I wish to enter Islam to go to heaven. "No? Then you cannot go to heaven." Another day I wear pink instead of black. A boy spits on me.

Children here are more conservative than adults. Abeer's family tells me of Yemeni children returning from Saudi-supported Wahabi summer camps to denounce their parents as "non-Muslims." But with about a 35% unemployment rate, and 75% of Yemen's population under the age of 25, there are few other activities for young people. Extremist organizations providing resources and a sense of purpose thrive. After all, foreigners are kidnapped in this country not to inspire terror, but to bargain with their own government for services.

I spend a morning talking with Abdul Majeed al-Zindani's daughter, Asma, about women's rights. Her father, who is on the U.S. list of al Qaeda affiliates and heads al-Iman University where Abdulmutallab studied in Sana'a, recently launched the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, modeled after the Saudi Arabian organization. "Since women cannot bear the hot sun, why would they want to get a job when they can stay safely inside their homes?" Asma asks me.

One night, I meet with a young imam reputed to give violently anti-American sermons, and ask him to define "extremism." With a large knife, he cuts me a slice of Bint Asahan, a traditional Yemeni dessert drizzled in honey, and insists that I wait for his friend to arrive. A short man with piercing blue eyes and a British accent soon appears, but does not shake my hand. Without answering any of my questions, he cuts deep into my vulnerabilities: my ability to speak Arabic fluently; my right to write my doctoral dissertation on Islam; my understanding of the Yemeni people. I hold back tears. "Not a word, not a word shall you ever write about this interview," he warns. "And do not accuse me of anything."

A few days later, Abeer serves me gisher, made from the roasted shells of al-Mokha coffee beans mixed with cinnamon—a drink Abdulmutallab would have shared many times with his Yemeni counterparts. "This is a gift from me to you," she beams as she places a necklace of coral beads over my head. "I want you to consider me as your sister."

What would Abdulmutallab have thought, had he seen us, or had he been there later that day, when some European students and I play Beatles songs on a guitar in front of the president's mosque? Yemeni boys and girls surround us and cheer. For a few hours in Sana'a, we have something to do.

Ms. Davis-Packard studied in Yemen during the summer of 2008. She is a Ph.D. student in international affairs at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins.
24417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 09, 2010, 09:00:04 AM
Can we get confirmation on this?  shocked
==================================

President Obama did right by Taiwan this week, allowing the sale—over Beijing's loud protests—of sophisticated antimissile batteries to the island democracy. We'll take that as a sign that there's a limit to how far the Administration is willing to go to improve relations with China at the expense of America's democratic allies.

The Bush Administration originally proposed the sale of an advanced Patriot ballistic missile interceptor system, or PAC-3, in 2001, as part of a package that included helicopters, submarines and technology upgrades. But Taiwan was eventually only offered about half of the deal, thanks to political bickering in Washington and Taipei. The formal request to Congress for the sale was only submitted in October 2008.

Meantime, the People's Liberation Army has more than 1,000 missiles pointed at Taiwan's 23 million people, and the Pentagon says it is adding about 100 missiles every year. Then there are the over 60 submarines China has patrolling the waters, plus its development of cyberwarfare capabilities and other asymmetrical threats. Taiwan itself can't possibly win an all-out war against China, but with U.S. help it can make the costs of a Chinese attack too prohibitive to contemplate seriously.

The argument against U.S. arms sales is that it clouds prospects for better relations between Taiwan and the mainland. But as Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou—a vocal advocate for a rapprochement with Beijing—has argued, the arms sales help the Taiwan-China dialogue by allowing Taipei to negotiate from a position of strength. Washington's own relationship with Beijing has hardly suffered over the three decades in which the U.S. has been selling arms to Taipei under terms of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

None of this has prevented China from denouncing the deal, as it has previous sales. A Chinese government spokeswoman said Thursday the PAC-3 sale would cause "serious harm." China is also worked up about Taiwan's request to buy 66 F-16s to bolster its aging air force. The latter is still outstanding, as is about $6 billion worth of items that the Bush Administration didn't put forward for sale, such as Black Hawk helicopters, minesweepers and diesel submarines.

President Obama would be wise to approve those sales. As he has learned in recent months, his overtures to China—including his refusal to meet with the Dalai Lama—haven't been reciprocated in better cooperation on North Korea, Iran and other vital U.S. interests. The sooner Beijing learns this Administration will stand up for its friends, the friendlier it will itself become.
24418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 09, 2010, 08:55:15 AM
Its enough to give one hope!!!  cheesy
24419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Various on: January 09, 2010, 08:54:37 AM
"As on the one hand, the necessity for borrowing in particular emergencies cannot be doubted, so on the other, it is equally evident that to be able to borrow upon good terms, it is essential that the credit of a nation should be well established." --Alexander Hamilton, Report on Public Credit, 1790

"The whole of that Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals... t establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of." --Albert Gallatin, letter to Alexander Addison, 1789

"There is something so far-fetched and so extravagant in the idea of danger to liberty from the militia that one is at a loss whether to treat it with gravity or with raillery; whether to consider it as a mere trial of skill, like the paradoxes of rhetoricians; as a disingenuous artifice to instil prejudices at any price; or as the serious." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29

"The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Spencer Roane, 1821

"[A] rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Marquis de Lafayette, 1823
24420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Election Law vs. First Amendment on: January 09, 2010, 08:50:48 AM
Courts Roll Back Limits on Spending in Election Law
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: January 8, 2010

WASHINGTON — Even before a landmark Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance law expected within days, a series of other court decisions is reshaping the political battlefield by freeing corporations, unions and other interest groups from many of the restrictions on their advertising about issues and candidates.

Legal experts and political operatives say the cases roll back campaign spending rules to the years before Watergate. The end of decades-old restrictions could unleash a torrent of negative advertisements, help cash-poor Republicans in a pivotal year and push President Obama to bring in more money for his party.

If the Supreme Court, as widely expected, rules against core elements of the existing limits, Democrats say they will try to enact new laws to reinstate the restrictions in time for the midterm elections in November. And advocates of stricter campaign finance laws say they hope the developments will prod the president to fulfill a campaign promise to update the presidential campaign financing system, even though it would diminish his edge as incumbent.

Many legal experts say they expect the court to use its imminent ruling, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, to eliminate the remaining restrictions on advertisements for or against candidates paid for by corporations, unions and advocacy organizations. (The case centers on whether spending restrictions apply to a conservative group’s documentary, “Hillary: The Movie.”)

Even if the court rules more narrowly, legal experts and political advocates say that the 2010 elections will bring the first large-scale application of previous court decisions that have all but stripped away those restrictions. Though the rulings have not challenged the bans on direct corporate contributions to parties and candidates, political operatives say that as a practical matter the rulings and a deadlock at the Federal Election Commission have already opened wide latitude for independent groups to advocate for and against candidates.

“It will be no holds barred when it comes to independent expenditures,” said Kenneth A. Gross, a veteran political law expert at the firm of Skadden Arps in Washington.

The United States Chamber of Commerce, the goliath of the lobbying world, is expected to outline its battle plan next week for the midterms. It spent $25 million on advertisements and get-out-the-vote efforts in the 2006 elections and $36 million in 2008, and will spend far more this year, chamber officials say. And in the last election it was already probing the limits of the court’s rulings with commercials like one in New Hampshire denouncing Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, as “a taxing machine.”

Labor unions, stalwart outside allies to the Democrats, plan to take advantage of the changing rules with their own record-setting spending, said Karen Ackerman, political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. But business, she argued, had more to gain.

“The corporate side will always have more to spend than the union side,” she said.

Even before the Supreme Court issues its Citizens United ruling, Democrats in the House and the Senate have begun lamenting its expected result. “Clearly, the Republican Party overwhelmingly would benefit,” said Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland vowed a “prompt legislative response” if the Supreme Court rules broadly. In the meantime, he said, the Democratic campaign committee planned to counterattack big donors to outside groups to show “they are not just disinterested citizens.”

Conservatives accused the Democrats of using the specter of corruption as an excuse to silence their opponents. “What this is about is prohibiting information from reaching the American people if it is critical of them, those poor little dears who can’t stand criticism,” said Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the Republican Senate campaign committee, said: “It is about a nonprofit group’s ability to speak about the public issue. I can’t think of a more fundamental First Amendment issue.”

Still, Mr. Cornyn acknowledged that the expected ruling could “open up resources that have not previously been available” for the Republicans.

Democratic candidates and party committees have raised a total of $396.5 million for the midterms, with $50 million on hand and $10 million debts in public filings released this week. Republicans had raised just $204.7 million, with about $30 million on hand and about $6 million in debts, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The campaign finance system imposed after the Watergate scandal began to spring leaks in the 1990s with the large-scale exploitation of unlimited “soft money” contributions to political parties from wealthy individuals, corporations, unions and others. Congress fortified those rules by eliminating soft money with the 2002 campaign finance law known as McCain-Feingold, and since then activists and operatives have played cat-and-mouse with regulators in the search for other loopholes.

The Supreme Court began to poke new holes in the system in a 2007 ruling that outside groups could pay for critical commercials attacking individual candidates on specific issues up to the day of the election, as long as the ad did not explicitly urge a “vote for” or “vote against.”

The 2010 midterms will be the first big test of the changing rules in part because in 2008 both major party candidates — Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain — explicitly discouraged independent spending by their supporters. The Federal Election Commission had also punished previous efforts to evade the McCain-Feingold rules severely enough to discourage new attempts.

No such restraints apply this year, in part because the changing composition of the Federal Election Commission has created a deadlock blocking vigorous enforcement. “The cop is gone from the beat,” said Trevor Potter, a lawyer for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center who has also worked for Mr. McCain.

Campaign finance laws block outside groups from coordinating with candidates, but it is easy enough for outside allies to read in news reports where a campaign wants to spend money and what message it wants to send. Such groups also tend to favor negative commercials because they are more potent.

So if the court strikes down the restrictions on outside spending, some legal experts say, the remaining restrictions on direct contributions to campaigns would mean much less because it would be easy to support a campaign through an outside group.

“The campaign finance system would certainly be less regulated than any time since Watergate,” said Richard L. Hasen, a campaign law expert at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
24421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reality hits POTH upside the head with a 2x4 on: January 09, 2010, 08:46:51 AM
U.S. Job Losses in December Dim Hopes for Quick Upswing
By PETER S. GOODMAN
Published: January 8, 2010
The nation lost 85,000 jobs from the economy in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, as hopes for a vigorous recovery ran headlong into the prospect that paychecks could remain painfully scarce into next year.

“We’re still losing jobs,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It’s nothing like we had in the free fall of last winter, but we’re not about to turn around. We’re still looking at a really weak economy.”
The disappointing snapshot of the job market intensified pressure on the Obama administration to show results for the $787 billion spending bill it championed last year to stimulate the economy.

At a news conference, Mr. Obama acknowledged the December data as a setback, while outlining plans to deliver $2.3 billion in tax credits to spur manufacturing jobs in clean energy.

“We have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring,” the president told reporters.

Most economists assume the unemployment rate — which held steady at 10 percent in December — will worsen in coming months. The nation would then confront the highest jobless rate in a generation on the eve of November elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, forecasts that the unemployment rate will reach 10.8 percent by October. The so-called underemployment rate — which counts people who have given up looking for work and those who are working part time for lack of full-time positions — now sits at 17.3 percent.

Mr. Zandi argues that the economy requires an additional $125 billion jolt of stimulus spending on construction projects and aid to state and local governments — a proposal that confronts enormous political challenges.

Republicans assert the first dose of stimulus spending has been squandered on dubious projects. The Obama administration, increasingly concerned by the size of federal deficits, is loath to spend more.

Mr. Zandi argues that a failure to spend now to spur growth could leave the United States in a bigger hole.

“If we don’t do it and we slide back into recession,” he said, “that’s going to exacerbate the deficit even more.”

The December jobs report included one encouraging milestone: Data for November was revised to show the economy gained 4,000 jobs that month, compared with initial reports showing a net loss of 11,000 jobs. That was the first monthly improvement since the recession began two years ago.

But the December data failed to repeat the trend, disappointing economists, who had generally expected a decline of 10,000 jobs. The report showed continued slowing in the pace of job losses, but it also underscored that companies were reluctant to hire.

For a fifth consecutive month, temporary help services expanded, adding 47,000 positions in December. That buttressed the notion that companies required more labor, even as they held off hiring full-time workers.

“We’re going in the right direction,” said Michael T. Darda, chief economist at MKM Partners, a research and trading firm. “If we just have a little bit of patience, we’ll start to see monthly increases of 200,000 to 300,000 jobs within six months.”

But millions of people still grappling with the bite of the worst downturn since the Great Depression have exhausted their patience — along with their savings and confidence.

In Charlotte, N.C., Kumar G. Navile, 33, says he has applied for 500 jobs in the year since he lost his position as an engineer.

“You get up every day and say today will be different, but it is mentally challenging,” Mr. Navile said. “I performed well in school. I got a job the day I graduated. It’s been a struggle.”

For those out of work, the market is bleaker than ever. The average duration of unemployment reached 29 weeks in December, the longest since the government began tracking such data in 1948.

“There is almost no hiring going on outside the temporary help sector,” said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project.

Despite the parsing of data and contrasting economic forecasts, no complexity cloaked the basic facts of the report: job openings remain scarce.

“Most people, they’re not looking at the data,” Mr. Baker said. “They’re just asking, ‘Can I get a job?’ And that’s not getting any easier.”

The government’s monthly jobs report, while always important, now stands as the crucial indicator of economic health.

==========

Page 2 of 2)



For years, households spent in excess of incomes by borrowing against the value of homes, leaning on credit cards and tapping stock portfolios. But home prices have plummeted, stock holdings have diminished and nervous banks have sliced credit even for healthy borrowers, leaving the paycheck as the primary source of household finance.


Economists are divided over the nation’s economic prospects. Some argue that recent expansion on the factory floor presages broader economic improvement that will soon deliver job growth.

Not yet. Manufacturing lost 27,000 jobs in December. Construction jobs declined by 53,000. Government shed 21,000 jobs. Despite a surprisingly strong holiday shopping season, retailing lost 10,000 jobs.

Health care remained a bright spot, expanding by 22,000 jobs.

Skeptics argue that the factory expansion merely reflects a rebuilding of inventories after businesses slashed stocks during the panic. Expansion has been aided by stimulus spending and tax credits for homebuyers.

Once these factors fade in coming months, skeptics argue, the economy will confront stubborn challenges — cash-tight households curtailing spending, banks reluctant to lend and businesses unwilling to hire.

Those with the gloomiest outlooks envision a “double dip” recession, in which the economy resumes contracting. Others fear years of stagnation, like Japan’s Lost Decade in the 1990s.

One point of agreement among economists is that the nation cannot recover without millions of new jobs. The economy needs about 100,000 new jobs a month just to keep pace with people entering the work force. When workers gain wages, they spend them at other businesses, creating jobs for other workers — a virtuous cycle, in the parlance of economists.

Recent months have produced tentative signs that such a cycle might be unfolding, even as economists debate its sustainability. The December jobs report added to the ambiguity.

On the one hand, job losses undermined hopes for a quick turnaround. Yet the losses were a far cry from the roughly 700,000 monthly job losses seen a year ago.

“Standing still feels good when you’ve been used to falling backwards,” said Stuart G. Hoffman, chief economist at the PNC Financial Services Group. “But we want to move forward.”
24422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 09, 2010, 08:36:21 AM
What do you think of my two-part entry of January 3?  I always find the Indian perspective worth considering.
24423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bernanke's apologia on: January 09, 2010, 08:34:39 AM


By JUDY SHELTON
This past Sunday, at the American Economic Association's annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga., Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered up a lengthy, professorial defense of U.S. monetary policy over the last decade, focusing on its role in the financial crisis that has gripped the world economy.

It doesn't quite rise to the level of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's claim after a barely foiled attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day that "the system worked really smoothly." But Mr. Bernanke's calm observation that "monetary policy from 2002 to 2006 appears to have been reasonably consistent with the Federal Reserve's mandated goals of maximum sustainable employment and price stability" is nevertheless disturbing.

If the integrity of the dollar is not the Fed's primary concern, or if its notion of "price stability" is restricted to some narrow core inflation index that does not include escalating costs for food and energy, let alone runaway prices for financial market assets and commodities, then the Fed is woefully inadequate to the task of safeguarding the value of our nation's money.

Mr. Bernanke is not oblivious to criticism of the Fed's role in the crisis. His assertion that "regulatory and supervisory policies, rather than monetary policies, would have been more effective means of addressing the run-up in house prices" hints at a possible scapegoat for the housing bubble that presaged financial calamity.

Yet nowhere in his 34-page apologia does the Fed chairman fault Congress for inflicting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the home mortgage industry; nowhere does he attempt to analyze the damaging influence of government intervention in the private sector, or its distorting impact on market assessments of risk-and-return tradeoffs.

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 .Instead of trying to shift blame away from the easy-money policies of the Fed that accommodated such ill-considered government intrusion into the mortgage-lending business—spawning a treacherous boom in exotic derivative instruments structured against seemingly endless supplies of securitized U.S. debt—Mr. Bernanke should strive to better explain why the Fed ignored troubling indications of a growing bubble.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the average sales price of a new home in 2000 was $207,000; the average price in 2007 was $313,600, more than 50% higher in just seven years. During the same period, based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers for the interim years provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average sales price of a new home should have been $250,625 in 2007—that is, if the CPI fully captured the impact of excessive monetary issuance.

In other words, if you assume stable demand and supply, the government's official CPI calculation only accounts for a 21% gain in the average sales price of a new home from the beginning of the decade to the start of the subprime collapse.

Mr. Bernanke glosses over this significant anomaly. He notes breezily in last Sunday's speech that the most rapid price gains in housing occurred in 2004 and 2005. But it's worth reminding the chairman that the Fed kept the federal-funds rate at a then-record low of 1% from June 2003 to June 2004. The most Mr. Bernanke concedes is a begrudging admission that "the timing of the housing bubble does not rule out some contribution from monetary policy."

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Review & Outlook: The Bernanke Record
Review & Outlook: Dear Chairman Bernanke
Review & Outlook: Bernanke's Second Chance
.When it comes to evaluating Fed performance, the Fed itself always seems to get back to using core inflation measures. What about changes in the value of the dollar against other major currencies during the last decade? Shouldn't a decline in global purchasing power for all Americans qualify for consideration in Fed deliberations over appropriate monetary policy?

If price stability constitutes one of the Fed's key objectives, the fact that the dollar went from being worth 1.17 euros in October 2000 to a mere .63 euros in April 2008—roughly half as much—would seem to matter. Should the value of U.S. money really be subject to swings of such magnitude? The dollar's current exchange rate of .69 euros no doubt reflects the "safe haven" status of U.S. investment at times of shaky global finances; it's a residual privilege we seem poised to lose as fiscal imbalances mount.

And what about gold? The price of gold has soared to $1,128 today from $282 at the beginning of the decade, a fourfold increase. During the critical 2002-2006 period—when Mr. Bernanke insists monetary policy was consistent with the Fed's price-stability goals—the dollar price of gold climbed steadily to $700 from below $300. Did the governors of our nation's central bank not notice? Given that the U.S. government holds the largest amount of official gold reserves in the world, it would seem pertinent.

Indeed, gold is viewed by central banks the world over as a unique reserve asset. Contrary to monetary assets denominated in national currencies, its status cannot be undermined by inflation in the issuing country, nor is it subject to repudiation or default.

Which suggests that perhaps it is time to make available to the American public the sort of insurance against dollar depreciation that monetary authorities have long sought for their own portfolios. For those citizens who've become skeptical of the Fed's ability to guarantee price stability in terms more meaningful than elementary CPI statistics—or who believe the bigger threat to their personal financial security lies in a potential repeat of the last debacle—why not provide a new class of Treasury obligations that would guarantee the purchasing power of the dollar in terms of gold?

It would not necessarily be a difficult task. Congress could pass legislation authorizing a limited issuance of gold-backed Treasury notes in compliance with existing legal restrictions pertaining to U.S. savings bonds (to own U.S. savings bonds you must be a U.S. resident and have been issued a Social Security number). The five-year Treasury notes would pay no interest, but they would provide for payment of principal at maturity in either ounces of gold or the face value of the security, at the option of the holder.

In the same way that inflation-indexed Treasury obligations provide an indication to the Fed of aggregate expectations on consumer prices, gold-backed Treasury notes would offer an additional useful tool for conducting monetary policy—one more broadly reflective of potential bubbles in both financial markets and commodities.

Don't be surprised, though, if the Fed balks at the proposal. When it comes to the golden canary, it has already proven itself tone deaf.

Ms. Shelton, an economist, is author of "Money Meltdown: Restoring Order to the Global Currency System" (Free Press, 1994).
24424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: January 09, 2010, 08:26:28 AM
That sounds well reasoned and sound to me-- and all the more persuasive because it is so contrary to perceived type!  cheesy

Let me go to my retired US Marshal friend and see what he has to say.
24425  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 09, 2010, 08:23:40 AM
Wish you could be with us  cry

Anyway, concerning the large discounts for US military, the issue of satisfactory proof has arisen.   Apparently the paperwork which would contain proof of combat (a 100% discount) also contains info which is not for general dissemination.  Therefore our point man on this is Kaju Dog, a veteran of much action in OIF himself.  Just get in touch with us and we will put you in touch with him.
24426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stepping outside the box on: January 08, 2010, 11:17:26 PM
Not saying I agree, but its good to step outside the box sometimes:
====================
Written by a British EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) expert Lewis Page:


Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01...allab_comment/

Quote:
Trouser-bomb clown attacks - how much should we laugh?
Reg investigates case of the undertotally-pants bomber
By Lewis Page

Posted in Policing, 8th January 2010 14:37 GMT

Comment As the smoke clears following the case of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the failed Christmas Day "underpants bomber" of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 fame, there are just three simple points for us Westerners to take away.

First: It is completely impossible to prevent terrorists from attacking airliners.

Second: This does not matter. There is no need for greater efforts on security.
Third: A terrorist set fire to his own trousers, suffering eyewateringly painful burns to what Australian cricket commentators sometimes refer to as the "groinal area", and nobody seems to be laughing. What's wrong with us?

We'll look at the first part to begin with.

In order to destroy an airliner and kill everyone on board, one needs to do a certain amount of damage to it: a lot if it is on the ground without much fuel in it, not so much if it is fuelled up, less yet if it is flying at low altitude, and least of all if it is flying high up.

Formerly there was the option of gaining access to the flight deck - perhaps using the aircraft as a weapon, as on 9/11, perhaps to carry out a hostage strategy - but those days are gone. The 9/11 hijackers have seen to it that the best and most effective ways for terrorists to employ airliners are no longer open to them. Pilots will never open flight deck doors again, no matter the threat to hostages in the cabin; passengers will not permit themselves to be dominated; armed sky marshals are back. If all these fail, following the bloodbath at Ground Zero fighter pilots will not hesitate to shoot.

So the damage must nowadays be done by other means than crashing, most practically by detonating a charge of high explosives on the plane while in flight. This doesn't need to be too big, especially if the jet is at cruising height so that the explosive effects will be enhanced by depressurisation. This is why airliners are a favourite target: because a fairly small amount of explosive can potentially kill a large number of people in one go, which is not the case under most circumstances.

It is an unfortunate and pretty much unavoidable fact that the necessary amount of explosives can easily be carried through any current or likely-future airport security regime, short of universal strip + cavity searches and a total ban on carry-on luggage.

Let's consider, for instance, a future security check involving backscatter X-ray-through-clothes perv scans - much more effective than millimetre wave - and X-raying of carry-on bags as is already normal. There are several ways to beat this.

Firstly, detonators and firing devices can be disguised within permitted electronic equipment such that they will pass through X-raying without trouble. An AA battery casing full of hexamethylenetriperoxidediamine (HMTD) - or some similar sensitive primary - with a flashbulb filament in it is almost impossible for an X-ray operator to pick out from among others, and can be triggered by the flash circuits of any camera.

The difficult bit is the main charge, which needs to be a decent weight and volume of acceptably stable high explosive. But it's not that difficult. Here are just a few ideas:

Several terrorists - only one of whom would need to go aboard the target flight - could carry permissible amounts of liquid explosives through security, combining them later in the air-side lavatories.
Readily available plastic explosives can be rolled out into flat, uniform sheets - they can actually be bought in this form, for instance under the name "Sheetex" - and cut to shape with ease. Such sheets can easily be inserted into luggage, where they won't look noticeably different from normal cardboard or plastic structure, partitions etc under X-ray if they aren't too thick. There are many other ploys along these lines; a sensible and well-resourced terror group could probably buy an X-ray machine and develop a bag containing a charge, detonator and firing circuit which looked entirely legit under scan.
Reasonable amounts of main charge can be carried stuffed into body cavities, undetectable by any body-scan. They would need to be removed before use in order to escape the pronounced dampening effect of the human body, and probably combined with other such payloads to get a bang sure to do the job, but again teamwork and lavatories will see to this.
There's more scope still for the use of checked baggage. US and many other airports nowadays X-ray this (http://www.kodak.com/global/en/servi.../tib5201.shtml), but there are airports which don't. You can easily find out, as a terrorist organisation, routes on which a checked bag won't be X-rayed by packing some unexposed film and making some flights. Once you have identified an airport that doesn't X-ray checked bags, simply put a large time- or barometrically-triggered bomb into a suitcase and have your suicide operative check it before boarding.
The list goes on - and on. Any reasonably competent terrorist organisation, with access to funds, capable technical experts and a small number of operatives able to move about the world freely can blow up airliners in flight. You wouldn't even necessarily need suicide volunteers to carry the bombs, if you were cunning: dupes might be convinced that they were smuggling drugs, money or other contraband, or IRA-style "proxy bombers" could be forced to do your bidding by seizing and threatening their families.

OMG - why aren't we all already dead?
Even if a security miracle occurs and the option of sneaking a bomb onto planes is somehow removed, there still exists the option of shooting planes down. Shoulder-launched homing missiles can be had in some parts of the world. From those same parts of the world, huge tides of illegal immigrants and drugs routinely move into Western nations despite all our governments' efforts to stop them. It would not be hard to move small packages like "double-digit" (SA-14, -16, maybe even -18 if available) anti-aircraft missiles along the same routes.

So, assuming a well-funded, numerous, committed, competent terrorist enemy without scruples and with a broad base of support from which to draw numerous recruits, airliner attacks can't practically be prevented. Planes should be exploding every day, really: if not planes then trains, another situation where blast effects can be magnified. If neither should suit, a few men with automatic weapons can bring a city grinding to a halt fairly easily, as the residents of Mumbai will tell you.

But the truth of the matter is that there is no such enemy out there. Funds are occasionally available, true; the 9/11 plotters were quite well-backed, and even if a terrorist group has no access to oil or gas revenues there may be the option of dealing in heroin as the Taliban do. (Note that all of these sources of money ultimately come from us.)

But people who are willing to kill innocents en masse as a primary goal are fairly rare birds. In Afghanistan you can easily hire large numbers of men for quite small sums of money to do fantastically dangerous things like taking on the British and American armed forces in open combat; some will even cover their own expenses, and a fair few will happily mount a suicide strike against Western troops. In general, just like the Western troops themselves in many instances, these fighting men are quite willing to accept a lot of collateral damage to local people as a cost of doing their main business.

But an awful lot of them would no more intentionally blow up an airliner, nightclub or train full of peaceful folk, would no more open fire into a crowd of unarmed civilians, than a Western soldier would. The likelihood of such squeamishness goes up markedly when you're recruiting outside the unruly and often aggrieved warrior tribesmen of central Asia, as you'll probably have to do for operations against the West.

Assembling a team of committed, loyal mass-murderers is actually very difficult, then, as such people are rare and hard to find. In fact, as we've pointed out in these pages before, the average size of potential terror cells operating in the UK and known to MI5 is ten members. This strongly suggests that five people or so is the upper safe limit before there's a strong chance of a cell having an informer in its midst or among its acquaintance.

It's just about possible then that one might assemble a loyal team of five or a few more and manage to remain, if not off the security services' radar altogether - it normally turns out that successful terrorists were on file somewhere - then far enough down their list to give you some time before you get put under surveillance.

"The system worked" - or more accurately, it is working. Just fine
It's even remotely possible that this small, dedicated and thus unmonitored organisation may contain a few people with the technical skills or contacts to make or obtain bombs or other weapons which actually work. This is rare: more usually you'll get an embarrassing and often inadvertently-funny failure as in the cases of Richard Reid, the comically inept (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07...iocy_outbreak/) UK "car bombers" of 2007, Mr Mutallab this Christmas, etc etc.
 



Sometimes it will be 9/11, and there will be cash in good supply; sometimes it will be 7/7, and competent bomb-making will substitute for money. In neither of those cases, however, was the organisation capable enough to make an effective strike without the use of suicide tactics. Thus those two teams - two of the most serious ever seen in the West under the jihadi banner - wiped themselves out in just one operation. The Madrid bombers, another rare effective group, managed to avoid killing themselves during the operation but were subsequently caught and thus eliminated as a threat just as permanently.

So, even in the rare case where an operational jihadi terror unit is small and committed enough to avoid detection and yet has resources enough to make an effective strike, it is almost always out of play after just one operation. This wasn't true with the more effective terror groups of yesteryear, like the Provisional IRA; but their recruiting/commitment issues were easier, as they had a stated policy against mass murder of civilians (and they were riddled with informers anyway).
That's why planes and trains aren't blowing up every day; why people aren't opening fire into crowds every week (not even in Israel, quite a lot of the time). Because most people, even people who in all other respects you would describe as fanatical extremists, just aren't mass-murderer material - and those that are tend not to be the brightest or most competent buttons in the box*.

That's why the threat of terrorism in general, and airborne terrorism in particular, has been reduced to negligible levels by the measures already in place, and no more are necessary.

No, really. Don't worry about terrorism next time you take a flight. There is a very small risk, as an airline passenger, that you will die violently before you land, but it has nothing to do with terrorists. It is entirely down to the chance of an accident.

Consider this, if you don't believe it. The year 2001, which saw four entire airliners destroyed with total loss of life on 9/11, was not in fact a particularly dangerous year to go flying. More airline passengers died in the year 2000; nearly as many died in 2002. Twice as many were killed flying in 1972, despite the fact that many fewer people flew back then, because airliners were far less safe.

Terrorism simply isn't a visible factor in your chances of dying while flying, or indeed while doing anything else: it is insignificant, a problem that has been almost totally eliminated for Western citizens since its not-very-serious heyday in the 1970s and 80s, and you shouldn't worry about it. It would make absolutely no noticeable difference to your or my chances of violent death/injury if terrorism was eradicated overnight.

"The system worked," said US Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano shortly after the attack, and in the largest sense she was right. Terrorism, like polio, has been effectively stamped out in the developed world - had mostly been so before the Department of Homeland Security was even created, in fact, but that's by the by.

Napolitano was subsequently forced into an abrupt volte-face by sectarian US politics and cretinous media-pumped fear, but she was basically right first time. The free world's counterterrorism system as it stands is working as well as anyone could reasonably ask for.

In the end, the correct response to efforts like those of Mr Mutallab and his incendiary undergarments is not panic and more security, but laughter - much as one might also laugh at the idiotic bum-kamikaze (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/21/bum_bombing/) whose efforts, erm, backfired so messily in Saudi Arabia last summer.

Mr Mutallab should go down in history not as the underpants bomber, but simply as the completely pants bomber. ®

*Mutallab, quite apart from having a rubbish bomb which he should have known probably wouldn't work (he didn't study proper engineering as widely reported, but "Engineering with Business Finance") committed several other blunders. He should have tried to blow the plane up at height, not at low level; doubtless the idea was to bring the plane down into an urban area, but if Mutallab had been a real engineer he'd have known his pant-bomb needed all the help it could get from decompression. Then, he shouldn't have triggered his device such that everyone could see what he was doing and that he was responsible for it. He shouldn't have told his family he was off to become an extremist and cut off contact in the first place, which is what led to him being on various security-services lists - much good though that did.

All in all, a piss-poor performance even among today's generally rubbish terrorists.

Lewis Page went through a lot of quite stressful training and preparation to battle the terrorist threat before being assigned as a military bomb-disposal operator in support of the UK police from 2001-04. He has still never got over the disappointment of finding out just how incredibly rare it is, as a bomb-disposal man in mainland Britain, to encounter a terrorist/criminal bomb of any significance at all, let alone one which has not already either gone off or failed to do so.

You get a special tie if you ever do encounter such a device.

NB: Any terrorists reading this should be aware that an essential precaution has been left out of all the bombing plans above, without which any attack is 90 per cent or more likely to fail due to a classified security tactic in use by the UK (and presumably the US). 
24427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nominee for best rant ever on: January 08, 2010, 11:01:01 PM
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25400862
24428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: January 08, 2010, 09:01:49 PM
Charles Krauthammer, whom I trust needs to description around here, said today on the Bret Baier Report on Fox that what BO did here is no big deal.
24429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: January 08, 2010, 08:45:50 PM
CCP:

While this website is clear testimony that there is considerable overlap in our political views, and I understand that these times can leave us susceptible to the cyberspace equivalent of road rage, what you have posted here is profoundly wrong.

Rachel made no assertion of coercing others!!!  Indeed what she has posted is exemplary in its expression of individual responsibility.

However, YOU made a huge non-sequitur in assuming that because she is Jewish, and many/most Jews are liberals, that she was asserting a right to governmental theft, coercion, and meddling.

You need to take several deep breaths and reconsider your words here.

Marc
24430  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Corrections and Prison on: January 08, 2010, 08:38:07 PM
Glad you liked SouthNarc's PUC DVD.  We think its pretty sharp too-- it is why we offer it  cheesy
24431  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Corrections and Prison on: January 08, 2010, 01:47:27 PM
Maija:

Tail wags for the kind words and of course you may share the URL.

24432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Young guns 2 on: January 08, 2010, 12:36:02 PM
Doug:

Thank you for that.

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

Through the tall trees of northern Wisconsin, Republican Sean Duffy is stalking a giant. The 38-year-old district attorney is talking fiscal responsibility, job creation, entitlement reform. He's scoring Washington for higher taxes, and for a health-care takeover. He's Facebooking and Twittering. He comes across as a serious yet positive reformer, a combo that has caught the public's eye.

He'll need that eye, and more, since his Goliath is one David Obey, Democratic head of the Appropriations Committee, the liberal bull who has occupied Wisconsin's Democratic-leaning 7th congressional seat since before Mr. Duffy was . . . born. That the Republican is getting some traction says something about how bitter voters are with the Democratic agenda. It says something equally important about a nascent GOP effort to rebrand the party.

Meet the new Young Guns.

The recent wave of Democratic retirements bodes well for Republicans. Yet they are still largely winning by default. The public doesn't like the Democratic agenda, but it hasn't forgotten the GOP's own corruption and loss of principle. And crafting a new image is a tough haul for a minority that is stuck responding to events, and that is still populated by many of the same, entrenched faces.

What is happening instead is a real (if underreported) effort to reshape the party from the bottom up—to, in effect, repopulate it with a crop of reformist candidates in the midterm. Behind the effort are three congressmen—Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, Virginia's Eric Cantor and California's Kevin McCarthy.



In 2007, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard profiled this trio as the "Young Guns" of the GOP. Hailing from different parts of the country, from different perspectives, what the three shared was a core belief in fiscal conservatism, a wonkish interest in tackling systemic government failures (budget, entitlements), and an ability to connect to younger voters.

At a recent interview, Rep. McCarthy remembers that not long after the article, the three sat down and vented frustration that party leaders seemed more interested in protecting old faces than investing in new talent. Inspired by Mr. Barnes's label, they began the Young Guns program, to recruit and bring along a new generation of House Republicans.

In the 2008 election, the program singled out 24 conservative candidates, providing them money and help. Seven went on to win in the GOP wipeout. Several of the victors—Texas's Pete Olson, Florida's Tom Rooney—are already proving to be aggressive new voices. Pete Sessions, who took over the National Republican Congressional Committee, was impressed enough to bring the program within the committee structure and expand it.

Participation in Young Guns today is more challenging. Candidates must hit benchmarks to qualify for the title, money and support; 47 candidates are working to qualify. And what exactly is a prospective Young Gun? It isn't as mapped out as Newt Gingrich's Contract With America. Yet it also isn't Rahm Emanuel's famous Red-to-Blue program, which simply ran candidates—regardless of ideology—who could win.

Mr. McCarthy says Young Guns tend to "fit their district." What they have in common is "that they are all fiscal conservatives" who believe in entrepreneurship and limited government. Many were already unhappy with Republican earmarking and spending, and the bailouts and deficits have provided a new focus on cleaning up government and tackling crony capitalism.

Most are running bread-and-butter economic campaigns, similar to Virginia Gov. Elect Bob McDonnell's. They are folks like Stephen Fincher, a farmer running for retiring Democratic Rep. John Tanner's Tennessee seat, or Frank Guinta, mayor of Manchester, challenging New Hampshire's Carol Shea-Porter. Mr. McCarthy is quick to note these are not backroom-anointed candidates, a la Dede Scozzafava in New York. In some districts, more than one prospective Young Gun is running in a primary.

Wisconsin's Mr. Duffy describes it this way: "I'm running because this is the fight of my generation. The prior one fought the Cold War, before that it was World War II. But our fight is becoming one for the principles of free markets and against creeping socialism." He's targeting Mr. Obey for writing the $787 billion stimulus, highlighting Democrats' failed economic program. The DA (who is also a professional lumberjack athlete) is crisscrossing the district to warn about rampant spending, Medicare cuts, higher taxes and overregulation.

But he's also aware that Republicans can only shake a tarnished reputation by embracing a modern, reform agenda. He's been laying out conservative alternatives to government-run health care. He's honest about the coming entitlement bomb. He's proposing a flatter, smarter tax code. In his first fund-raising quarter, he raised $140,000—a record for the district.

Young Guns is no panacea. Party leaders are still searching for a clear message. The NRCC is struggling to raise money to support its recruits. Voters remain skeptical of the GOP, and the environment may improve for Democrats as the year goes on.

Yet what the program does suggest is some of the GOP's heavy hitters are giving thought to the party's future. Given the Republicans' recent years of wandering, that's a start.
24433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: AQ's double agent on: January 08, 2010, 12:29:44 PM
By REUEL MARC GERECHT
The recent death in Afghanistan of seven American counterterrorist officers, one Jordanian intelligence operative, and one exploding al Qaeda double agent ought to give us cause to reflect on the real capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency and al Qaeda.

The report card isn't good. America's systemic intelligence problems were partially on display in the bombing at the CIA's Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province. Worse, al Qaeda showed skill that had been lacking in many of its operations. In response, President Barack Obama will likely be obliged to adopt counterterrorist methods that could make his administration as tough as his predecessor's.

Professionally, one has to admire the skill of suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi's handlers. This operation could well have been months—if not longer—in the making, and neither the Jordanian intelligence service (GID), which supplied the double agent to the CIA, nor Langley apparently had any serious suspicion that al-Balawi still had the soul and will of a jihadist.

That is an impressive feat. The Hashemite monarchy imprisons lots of Islamic militants, and the GID has the responsibility to interrogate them. The dead Jordanian official, Sharif Ali bin Zeid, reportedly a member of the royal family, may not have been a down-and-dirty case officer with considerable hands-on contact with militants, but al-Balawi surely passed through some kind of intensive screening process with the GID. Yet the GID and the CIA got played, and al Qaeda has revealed that it is capable of running sophisticated clandestine operations with sustained deception.

 
Martin Kozlowski
 .Indeed, al Qaeda did to us exactly what we intended to do to them: use a mole for a lethal strike against high-value targets. In the case of al-Balawi, it appears the target was Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin's top deputy. During the Cold War, the CIA completely dropped its guard in the pursuit of much-desired Cuban and East German agents. The result? Most of our assets were plants given to us by Cuban and East German intelligence. With al-Balawi supposedly providing "good" information about al Zawahiri and al Qaeda's terrorist planning, a salivating CIA and the GID proved inattentive to counterintelligence concerns.

Whereas al Qaeda is showing increasing proficiency, the same cannot be said for the CIA. Competent case officers can get duped by a good double. And the GID, whose skill has been exaggerated in fiction and film and by Hashemite-stroked American case officers, isn't a global service. Take it far from its tribal society, where it operates with admirable efficiency, and it is nothing to write home about.

The CIA uses the GID so often not because the Jordanians are brilliant but because the Americans are so often, at best, mediocre. The GID's large cadre of English-speaking officers makes liaison work easy with Langley, which has never been blessed with a large number of Arabic-speaking officers, particularly within the senior ranks.

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Michael Mukasey: What Does the Detroit Bomber Know?
Dorothy Rabinowitz: One 'Allegedly' Too Many
Victoria Toensing: Questions for Abdulmutallab
.Language issues aside, the now-deceased chief of Base Chapman should have kept most of her personnel away from al-Balawi, and should never have allowed seven officers to get that close to him at one time. Traditional operational compartmentation clearly broke down.

It is also highly likely that all of the CIA officers at Chapman—and especially the chief of base, who was a mother of three—were on short-term assignments. According to active-duty CIA officers, the vast majority of Langley's officers are on temporary-duty assignments in Afghanistan, which usually means they depart in under one year. (The same is true for the State Department.) Many CIA officers are married with children and they do not care for long tours of duty in unpleasant spots—the type of service that would give officers a chance of gaining some country expertise, if not linguistic accomplishment.

Moreover, security concerns usually trap these officers into a limited range of contacts. Truth be told, even the most elemental CIA activity—meeting recruited agents or "developmentals" outside of well-guarded compounds—often cannot be done without contractor-supplied security. Without Blackwater, now renamed Xe, which handles security for Langley in Afghanistan, CIA case officers would likely be paralyzed.

The officers at Chapman were probably young. This isn't necessarily bad. As a general rule, younger case officers do better intelligence-collection work than older colleagues, whose zeal for Third World field work declines precipitously as their knowledge and expertise in CIA bureaucratic politics increases. But experience does breed cynicism, which doesn't appear to have been in abundance at the CIA base.

All of this reinforces the common U.S. military criticism of the Agency in Afghanistan and Iraq: It does not often supply the hard tactical and intimate personal and tribal portraits that military officers need to do their work. Army officers are generally among the natives vastly more than their CIA counterparts.

What does this all mean for President Obama? He did not come into office pledging to reform the CIA, only restrain it from aggressively interrogating al Qaeda terrorists. There is near zero chance that the president will attempt to improve the Agency operationally in the field. His counterterrorist adviser, John Brennan, is as institutional a case officer as Langley has ever produced. If Attorney General Eric Holder is so unwise as to bring any charges against a CIA officer for the rough interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee during the Bush administration, the president will likely find himself deluged with damaging CIA-authored leaks. Mr. Obama would be a fool to confront the CIA on two fronts.

But the president is likely to compensate for systemic weakness in American intelligence in substantial, effective ways. Mr. Obama has been much more aggressive than President George W. Bush was in the use of drone attacks and risky paramilitary operations. One can easily envision him expanding such attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Visa issuances, airport security, and perhaps even FBI surveillance of American Muslim militants are likely to become much tougher under Mr. Obama than under Mr. Bush. President Obama will, no doubt, continue to say empirically bizarre things about Guantanamo's imprisonment system creating jihadists, but his administration will now likely find another location to jail militants indefinitely. Too many of President Bush's released detainees have returned to terrorism.

National Security Adviser James Jones has already described the 21st century as the liaison century, where intelligence and security services cooperate energetically. The CIA has often compensated for its internal weaknesses through liaising with foreigners. President Bush and then Central Intelligence Director George Tenet kicked these relationships into hyper-drive after 9/11; President Obama is likely to kick them even further. Mr. Obama may have foreclosed the possibility of the CIA again aggressively questioning jihadists, but he's kept the door wide open for the rendition of terrorists to countries like Jordan, where the GID does not abide by the Marquess of Queensbury rules in its interrogations.

The deadly attack in Fort Hood, Texas, by Maj. Malik Hassan in November, the close call in the air above Detroit on Christmas Day, and now the double-agent suicide bombing in Khost have shocked America's counterterrorist system. Mr. Obama surely knows that one large-scale terrorist strike inside the U.S. could effectively end his presidency. He may at some level still believe that his let's-just-all-be-friends speech in Cairo last June made a big dent in the hatred that many faithful Muslims have for the U.S., but his practices on the ground are likely to be a lot less touchy-feely. This is all for the good. These three jihadist incidents ought to tell us that America's war with Islamic militancy is far—far—from being over.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
24434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 08, 2010, 12:08:36 PM
Well, that is as unsettling as it is unsurprising.

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

Worth reading because of the authors...
 
Don't discount Europe's commitment to Afghanistan

By Carl Bildt and Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Friday, January 8, 2010; A19


For decades, Europeans have heard an enduring message from the United States: Do more. Carry your weight. Don't make America do all the heavy lifting. And this message has been delivered, loud and clear, once again, on Afghanistan.
 
An honest assessment would conclude that over the years these complaints have occasionally had some foundation. The United States has played a central role in defending the values and the security of the Euro-Atlantic community -- something for which Europeans are grateful.
But that honest assessment would also conclude that Europe can pull its weight. That Europe can deliver and can be a real partner for the United States. That is what is happening now in the global mission in Afghanistan. It is important that America recognize its partners' actions at this critical time, because if it becomes the conventional wisdom in the United States to talk down the European contribution, no matter what Europe does, then it will become impossible to sustain our commitment.
 
In just the past few months, the European Union has taken important steps to strengthen its common action in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the surrounding region. For the first time, the European Union has adopted a common action plan for the efforts of its 27 member states and the European Commission. The focus is on building strong state institutions because the best way to defeat the insurgency is to help Afghanistan build a government in which its citizens trust and believe.
 
With the aim of increasing Afghan responsibilities, and in accordance with the priorities set by the government in Kabul, the European Union will concentrate its immediate assistance in six areas: building civilian capacity; strengthening sub-national, or provincial, governance; election review and reform; mechanisms to support the reintegration of former insurgents into society; economic development; and strengthened assistance in building a civilian police force through the E.U. Police Mission in Afghanistan.
 
On the military side, U.S. allies and partners in the NATO-led military operation have responded clearly to President Obama's decision to significantly increase American troop levels in the mission. In early December, the other members of the mission pledged an additional 7,000 troops, on top of the almost 40,000 non-U.S. troops already on the ground. More contributions are possible this year. Non-U.S. forces will eventually be about 40 percent of the total; they already endure about 40 percent of the casualties. There should be no more doubt in the United States on whether America can count on its allies; we are proving that in blood and treasure every day in Afghanistan.
But creating stability in Afghanistan requires more than a military and civilian surge from the United States, the European Union, Canada and our partners. It requires a responsive and responsible Afghan government, coordination among the international community and a regional approach in which Afghanistan's neighbors play a prominent role.
 
The international community needs to develop a renewed partnership with Afghanistan, whereby in return for continued political, civilian and military assistance, we see clear commitments from the government in Kabul and delivery and responsibility on those pledges. In line with the goals stated in President Hamid Karzai's inauguration speech, the international community is looking for improved governance through the reinvigoration of cabinet ministries by reform-oriented appointments, and for efforts to actively fight corruption even at the highest levels. Other key priorities include improving human rights (perhaps by setting up a separate ministry) as well as enhancing national reconciliation where possible.
 
International meetings to be held in London and Kabul this spring are key to creating fresh momentum for our support to Afghanistan. There is a new recognition that we all need to do more and do better on civilian as well as military issues. Everyone understands that one will not work without the other. We need a civilian-military partnership in Afghanistan and the surrounding region as much as we need a partnership across the Atlantic. There is much work ahead in all these respects.
 
As we enter 2010, three things are clear about this mission. First, it is as necessary as ever, for the security of all nations, that the international community succeed in helping Afghanistan become an inhospitable environment for terrorism. Second, that despite all the difficulties -- and they are many -- this mission can succeed, first and foremost because the Afghan people want to stand on their own feet and defeat extremism themselves. Third, that the United States cannot do this alone, and will not have to; Europe, and Canada, will continue to be America's allies, partners and brothers in arms.
 
Carl Bildt is the foreign minister of Sweden. Anders Fogh Rasmussen is secretary general of NATO.

24435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: January 08, 2010, 11:54:09 AM
I too caught that and likewise was shocked by Dobbs apparent conversion.

Glenn Beck predicts that amnesty and linking the extended families of the "forgiven" to get in too will be the next big push of the vast left wing conspiracy.
24436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 08, 2010, 11:44:09 AM
Digest · Friday, January 8, 2010

The Foundation
"Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be..." --John Adams

Government & Politics
If By 'Transparent' You Mean 'Secret'...


After much bribery and arm-twisting, the Senate managed just before Christmas to pass its version of ObamaCare by a 60-39 vote (amazingly, without a single GOP "aye"). Now, the bill heads for conference deliberation televised by C-SPAN, just as the cable channel offered and Barack Obama promised numerous times.

Or not.

Democrats let slip this week that there would be no typical conference committee on the competing House and Senate versions of the health bill, as "leaders" opted instead for private negotiations with "key" congressmen and senators, none of whom is Republican. Once an agreement is reached, each legislative chamber will vote again and send the unified bill to the president.

Without a conference committee, a rule requiring public access to the conference report for at least 48 hours before a vote would conveniently not apply. That means even more liberty-stealing treachery can be slipped into the bill with little notice. Funny how the "public option" doesn't mean that the public gets to know what's in the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) nevertheless had the gall to declare, "There has never been a more open process for any legislation in anyone who's served here's experience." In response, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto mocked, "Has a more false or awkwardly worded statement ever come out of anyone who has served as speaker of the House's mouth?"

In spite of Democrats' best efforts at "transparency," there are many extra-special things that we actually do know about the bill. For example, on page 1,020, the Senate bill states: "It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection." In other words, the bill creates an eternal law by prohibiting future elected Congresses from making changes to this subsection.

What's in the subsection in question? The infamous "death panel" -- the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB), whose objective will be to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending" (read: to ration health care).

Meanwhile, the bill contains what amounts to a marriage penalty worth $2,000 or more in insurance premiums each year. The Wall Street Journal explains, "The disparity comes about in part because subsidies for purchasing health insurance under the plan from congressional Democrats are pegged to federal poverty guidelines. That has the effect of limiting subsidies for married couples with a combined income, compared to if the individuals are single."

Finally, Obama signaled this week that he's willing to break another campaign promise: The "no tax increases on the middle class" pledge. He threw his support behind the Senate's tax on higher end "Cadillac" insurance plans, something unions and House Democrats oppose.

The more the public learns about this continuing saga, the more vigorously opposed they become to "reform." No wonder Democrats want the process to remain secret.

The BIG Lies
"We will have a public, uh, process for forming this plan. It'll be televised on C-SPAN.... It will be transparent and accountable to the American people." --Barack Obama, November 2007

"That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process." --Barack Obama, January 2008

"[T]hese negotiations will be on C-SPAN..." --Barack Obama, January 2008

"We're gonna do all these negotiations on C-SPAN so the American people will be able to watch these negotiations." --Barack Obama, March 2008

"All this will be done on C-SPAN in front of the public." --Barack Obama, April 2008

"I want the negotiations to be taking place on C-SPAN." --Barack Obama, May 2008

"[W]e'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who is, who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." --Barack Obama, August 2008

"We will work on this process publicly. It'll be on C-SPAN. It will be streaming over the Net." --Barack Obama, November 2008

Democrat 'Constitutional Scholars' at It Again
When questioned several weeks back about the constitutional authority for ObamaCare, Obama's publicist, Robert Gibbs, issued this disclaimer: "I don't believe there's a lot of -- I don't believe there's a lot of case law that would demonstrate the veracity" of questions about constitutional authority. Ah, yes, "case law." That's code for amending our Constitution by judicial diktat rather than via its prescribed method as stated in Article V.

This week, Gibbs reiterated, "I do not believe that anybody has legitimate constitutional concerns about the [health care] legislation."

Furthermore, when asked where the authority to mandate that Americans buy health insurance -- that they be forced under penalty of fine or imprisonment to engage in a particular commercial enterprise -- is located in the Constitution, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) answered, "Well, I would assume it would be in the Commerce clause of the Constitution. That's how Congress legislates all kinds of various programs."

Congress too often uses this clause to do whatever it wants to do (the legislative target might, just might, some day engage in interstate commerce, don't you know,) but this incorrect interpretation certainly doesn't make this legislation constitutional.

Quote of the Week
"America's founders intended the federal government to have limited powers and that the states have an independent sovereign place in our system of government. The Obama/Reid/Pelosi legislation to take control of the American health-care system is the most sweeping and intrusive federal program ever devised. If the federal government can do this, then it can do anything, and the limits on government power that our liberty requires will be more myth than reality." --Wall Street Journal op-ed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Liberty University School of Law professor Kenneth Blackwell and American Civil Rights Union senior legal analyst Kenneth Klukowski
24437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Disarmament via the UN on: January 08, 2010, 11:13:21 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDMeDmV0ufU
24438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pro Biotics, second article on: January 08, 2010, 10:18:00 AM
Probiotics: Your Secret Weapon for Better Health
Gary B. Huffnagle, PhD
University of Michigan Medical School

The small and large intestines (gut) do most of the work involved in digesting the 20 tons of food that the average person consumes in a lifetime. This process involves trillions of bacteria -- some of them harmful and others beneficial.
What you may not know: While the gut is most commonly associated with digestion, it's estimated that at least 60% of a person's immune system is located there. "Good" bacteria protect against the growth of harmful bacteria to help prevent infections, such as vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections.

Probiotic bacteria (a subset of good bacteria) also secrete substances that act on intestinal muscles and help regulate motility (the intestinal contractions that move food and waste through the intestine at the proper rate). Because these good bacteria play a key role in preventing infections as well as keeping the digestive system functioning properly, "probiotics" -- dietary supplements or foods that contain beneficial bacteria or yeasts similar to those found in the human gut -- have become increasingly popular, particularly among people who take antibiotics.

Reason: Antibiotics kill not only harmful microorganisms that cause disease, but also the body's beneficial bacteria, sometimes leading to gas, cramping and such conditions as diarrhea. People who take antibiotics regularly may have permanent reductions in probiotic organisms unless they replenish the body's natural supply. For most people, the occasional use of antibiotics -- such as a 10-day course -- is unlikely to cause lasting problems.

WHEN SUPPLEMENTS HELP

Probiotics are live microorganisms. Two of the most beneficial types of probiotics --Lactobacilli and Bifida organisms -- thrive in the naturally acidic environments of the stomach and small intestine.

Probiotics are often recommended for digestion (to help reduce such problems as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea), but they appear to be equally important -- if not more so -- for the immune system.

Probiotics in the intestine stimulate production of white blood cells known as regulatory T cells, which help fight inflammation associated with such disorders as eczema, seasonal allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition in which the bowel becomes inflamed, often resulting in abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

Probiotics also help prevent and treat diarrhea related to Clostridium difficile infection.

There are many dozens of species of probiotic organisms. The most reliable probiotic formulations now available in the US are in capsule form. Most probiotic capsules should be refrigerated.

Two highly effective products are used primarily for digestive problems. Use the one that most closely matches your symptoms... *

Culturelle. Studies over the past 30 years have shown that Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (the active organism in this product) reduces the severity and duration of traveler's diarrhea, as well as diarrhea associated with antibiotic therapy.

Typical dose: One to two daily supplements (each containing 30 billion organisms), taken at the onset of diarrhea. Continue for one week after symptoms stop. To prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea, take the supplements during antibiotic therapy and for at least one week afterward.

Important: To ensure optimal effectiveness of the antibiotic, do not take it at the same time of day you are taking the probiotic.

Align contains Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, an organism shown in studies to decrease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes diarrhea and/or constipation and other digestive problems.

Typical dose: One capsule (containing one billion live organisms) daily -- taken indefinitely if symptoms are ongoing. If the IBS is associated with stomach flu, take the probiotic supplement during symptoms and continue for one week after they subside.

IMMUNE-BOOSTING BENEFITS

To ensure that your immune system is working at its best, it's a good idea to take probiotic supplements and/or to eat foods containing probiotics daily even if you don't have a particular condition that you're trying to treat.

To boost immunity, look for probiotic supplements and foods that contain the bacterium Lactobacillus casei or several probiotic bacteria strains.

My favorite multistrain supplements are Jarro-Dophilus EPS and Theralac. Follow the dosage instructions on the label.

Helpful: Probiotics are stimulated by soluble dietary fiber, so they’re more likely to proliferate in the intestine when you also eat complex carbohydrates, such as legumes, vegetables and whole grains. These foods contain "prebiotics," which provide the nutrition that probiotics need to multiply.

PROBIOTIC FOODS

In the last few years, food manufacturers have begun to promote probiotic-enriched foods, such as the low-fat yogurt Activia and the probiotic dairy drink DanActive (both by Dannon). These products contain the well-researched probiotic bacteriaBifidobacterium animalis and L. casei, respectively.

When these foods are bought in a grocery store and analyzed in a laboratory, they consistently contain about the same number of active organisms as listed on the labels.

Other probiotic food products...

Yogurt. Best choices: Foods with the "live and active cultures" seal from the National Yogurt Association. These products must contain 100 million live bacteria per gram at the time of their manufacture.

Aged cheeses, such as cheddar or blue cheese, typically contain three billion to 10 billion organisms per serving. Generally, the longer a cheese is aged, the higher the probiotic load.

Kefir, a type of fermented milk, usually has at least three billion organisms per serving.

Caution: Aged cheeses and kefir should be avoided by people who have food sensitivities to milk products.

*If you have an immune deficiency, talk to your doctor before taking probiotics
24439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pro Biotics on: January 08, 2010, 10:15:44 AM
Obesity-Causing Bacteria -- and the Cure


There’s little doubt that diet and lifestyle choices play a major role in the obesity epidemic in America. But investigators have recently uncovered another intriguing theory about the causes of obesity -- it turns out that obese people have different gut bacteria. Though this is not the sole factor, experts now are delving further to learn all they can about what role these tiny microbes play in this big threat to our health.

Obese People Host a Different Mix of Bacteria than Lean Individuals

The human body is host to trillions of microbes (bacteria), some that support our health and others that threaten it, notes Andrew Rubman, ND. There is lots of research underway on the connection between obesity and gut bacteria, but early findings already demonstrate that different people are host to different colonies of microorganisms in their guts and these variations affect weight as well as health. Some of the differences may be genetic, others are a result of our unique dietary environments. Several studies in particular highlight the connection...

At Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, scientists found that the intestinal tracts of obese and thin people have different ratios of two types of bacteria that normally predominate in the human gut -- Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. Obese individuals had higher percentages of Firmicutes and lower percentages of Bacteroidetesbacteria, while the lean group had roughly the opposite balance. After the obese individuals lost weight by following a low-calorie diet for one year, the ratio of these two types of bacteria in the obese individuals became more like that of the lean group.

In another experiment, also at Washington University, scientists bred mice to be free of intestinal flora, then fed them gut bacteria taken from obese mice -- and they got fat. In contrast, flora-free mice given gut bacteria from skinny mice gained little weight. The researchers concluded that differences in gut flora may contribute to obesity.
The Ecology of the Gut

While there is more to learn about the influence of gut ecology on weight, keeping the bacteria of your digestive system in proper balance is essential to maintaining optimal health, says Dr. Rubman. He told me it is well-documented that problems in the large intestine -- the hub of the body’s immune system -- quickly lead to problems elsewhere in the body. Beneficial bacteria help your body break down food and absorb nutrients, so it makes sense that having more healthful bacteria helps digestion. Poor diet, emotional stress or physical disease, along with other factors, disturb the natural balance, allowing harmful bacteria to proliferate, so it is harder for good bacteria to protect the mucosal walls of the intestines. When these become more permeable, toxins leak out, challenging immunity and causing inflammation locally and elsewhere in the body.

Our bodies are programmed to protect us from negative external influences and challenges, so threats (such as inflammation) may lead to an increase in energy storage (i.e., calories) to meet the challenge. If this mistaken attempt at self-protection persists, the ecology of the gut adjusts to favor bacteria that are more proficient at extracting calories from food. Over time, these calorie-hungry microbes contribute to weight gain, making it even harder for overweight people to shed unwanted pounds -- an all-too-common complaint. So, the theory goes, people who are already overweight can eat the same meals as lean people, but they’ll absorb more calories. Harmful bacteria also slow the passage of food through the digestive tract, and the more time food spends in the body, the more calories you absorb from it.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to encourage and restore a proper microbial balance in your gut.


One way to optimize your balance of intestinal bacteria is to follow a probiotic diet, which will rev up your metabolism and spur weight loss, according to Joseph Brasco, MD, a gastroenterologist in private practice in Huntsville, Alabama. Especially if you are doing everything right -- eating nutritiously, watching portion size and exercising regularly -- if you still cannot lose weight, the problem may be related to an imbalance of gut flora.

To tip the scales toward weight loss, Dr. Brasco recommends these simple strategies:

Consume more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do, Dr. Brasco emphasizes. Fresh produce encourages the production of friendly microbes. Fiber in fruits and vegetables (especially the skin) helps speed food through the digestive tract. This improves the health of the intestinal lining by nurturing the right bacteria. Toxins don’t linger as long, so they do less damage. In contrast, processed foods, such as breads, doughnuts and cookies, are loaded with starch and simple sugars -- exactly what harmful bacteria thrive upon.
Eat fermented foods every day. To restore proper gut balance, regularly eat yogurt with active cultures, chutneys, unpasteurized sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kefir and miso. Try a new type each day -- for example, snack on yogurt... add chutney to a dinner stew... slice some pickles into your salad. Beneficial organisms associated with fermentation colonize the gut and discourage the growth of harmful bacteria.
Take a daily probiotic supplement. When diet and exercise still fail to generate weight loss, Dr. Brasco has seen patients get good results with probiotics. His favorite brands: Garden of Life’s Primal Defense Ultra and Align (Procter & Gamble), both available at health-food stores and online, and HLC (Pharmax), available through your health care provider. If a probiotic supplement makes you gassy or bloated, try taking it on an empty stomach, suggests Dr. Brasco. Most doctors advise patients to take probiotics with food, but he says trying them away from meals sometimes helps this problem. Other solutions include taking a probiotic supplement every other day to start and working your way up to daily... or you could try a different product based on a different mix of bacteria, since there are a variety available. Ask your doctor for help in identifying the right mix for you.

Source(s):

Andrew Rubman, ND, director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

Joseph Brasco, MD, Center for Colon and Digestive Disease, Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Brasco is coauthor of Restoring Your Digestive Health (Kensington Press) and the upcoming Probiotic Diet
24440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Night Vision on: January 08, 2010, 10:11:54 AM
IIRC I heard yesterday that we are going to be selling various military toys, including night vision capabilities, to the Yemeni government.

I'm wondering if this, particularly the NV gear, is a good idea , , ,
24441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Somalia on: January 08, 2010, 10:10:02 AM
Somalia: Government, Militia Group Joining Forces?
Stratfor Today » January 7, 2010 | 2134 GMT



ALI MUSA/AFP/Getty Images
Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Muhieddin on Nov. 3, 2009Summary
Somali militia Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca has requested money, weapons and training from the Transitional Federal Government in its fight against Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab. If the government and Ahlu Sunna join forces, it could be a turning point in the fight against al Shabaab.

Analysis
The spokesman for the Somali army said late Jan. 6 that the militia Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca has requested that the Mogadishu-based Transitional Federal Government (TFG) supply the group with weapons, training and financial assistance. The spokesman, Abdirazzaq Qaylow, also said that there is a possibility Ahlu Sunna will merge with the TFG.

The Somali government needs all the help it can get in its fight against al Shabaab, which is in firm control of Somalia’s southern regions and is a constant threat to central Somalia as well as the capital. Ahlu Sunna has been combating the Islamist group since late 2008 with the help of the Ethiopian government, but if it were to link up with the TFG as well, it could help shift the balance of power between the TFG and al Shabaab.

Ahlu Sunna is a militia established in the wake of the January 2009 Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia as a way for Addis Ababa to contain the Islamist threat on its border. It operates predominately in the country’s central regions, especially Galguduud, Mudug and Hiran, with the occasional foray into the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and the southern region of Gedo. In recent days, al Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna have been engaged in a battle for control of the central Somali town of Dusamareb after al Shabaab attacked an Ahlu Sunna conference being held there. After initial reports that al Shabaab had taken the town, Ahlu Sunna reportedly drove al Shabaab to the outskirts.





(click image to enlarge)
The announcement by the Somali army came within the context of these recent clashes. Al Shabaab has always been a common enemy of Ahlu Sunna and the TFG, but the militia has fought against the Islamist group without much direct support from the Western-backed government in Mogadishu. Rather, Ahlu Sunna has relied on material and financial assistance from Ethiopia. (The group’s reputation as Addis Ababa’s lackeys is such that militia members often are referred to in Somali press reports as “Ethiopian soldiers.”)

The TFG has been attempting to co-opt Ahlu Sunna for some time, with Somali President Sharif Ahmed specifically calling on the group to join the government in November 2009 and the two sides signing a pact in December stating Ahlu Sunna’s intention to join the government. Should this relationship grow from one based on rhetoric and promises of future cooperation into something substantial — Ahlu Sunna reportedly wants ammunition and armored vehicles for its fight against al Shabaab — it could help the TFG weaken al Shabaab and shift their balance of power.

Since its failed attempt to take Mogadishu in May 2009, al Shabaab has maintained its ability to act as a thorn in the side of both the government and the roughly 5,400-strong African Union (AU) peacekeeping force deployed around the capital, demonstrating its capabilities with occasional suicide bombings in Mogadishu and mortar fire at government and AU positions.

While al Shabaab and anti-government nationalist group Hizbul Islam (which worked in concert during the May 2009 offensive) no longer cooperate as much, their relationship has not been completely severed despite a recent falling-out over control of the southern port city of Kismayo and a series of clashes in southern Somalia near the Kenyan border. Al Shabaab does not possess sufficient forces to topple the government on its own. According to STRATFOR sources, it has threatened certain elements of Hizbul Islam with death should the group refuse to fight alongside al Shabaab.

The TFG has wanted to go on an offensive for months to gain control over the country; Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said Jan. 3 that this push will begin by the end of January. But with government forces not even in control of Mogadishu at the moment, Ahlu Sunna represents an excellent candidate in the eyes of the TFG for use as a proxy in battling al Shabaab in central Somalia and along the Ethiopian border.

Ahlu Sunna, in turn, sees an opportunity in linking up with the government, as there has been an uptick of pledges from foreign governments to increase the level of support and materiel given to Somalia in recent months. A merger with the TFG does not mean Ahlu Sunna would be brought under the umbrella of the TFG’s command structure; rather, the group simply would receive things like weapons, cash and training from the government.

While Ahlu Sunna’s publicly aligning itself with the government — which is run by former Islamists turned pro-West — could add to the perception that the group is a lackey for the West, any negative public relations most likely would be canceled out by the positive effects of what Ahlu Sunna would stand to gain: a share of the spoils of international aid being funneled to the Somali government, which is looking for friends wherever it can find them.
24442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man formerly in Iraq on: January 08, 2010, 09:54:17 AM
forwards me this:

Deadly blasts underscore tenuous security in Iraq's Anbar province

By Leila Fadel and Michael Hastings
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 8, 2010; A10

BAGHDAD -- Five explosions that targeted mostly law enforcement officials ripped through a city in Iraq's Anbar province Thursday, killing at least eight people and underscoring fears that the region's fragile security is deteriorating.

The homemade bombs struck the homes of the deputy police chief, two counterterrorism police officials and a lawyer in the small city of Hit, about 120 miles west of Baghdad, and injured at least 10. The attacks occurred one week after twin explosions killed at least 24 people in Anbar and ripped off the hand of provincial Gov. Qassim Mohammed Fahdawi. They also follow a series of about 40 assassination attempts in the province that have primarily targeted politicians, police officers, tribal chiefs and religious figures.

Anbar was considered an American model of success after Sunni tribal leaders and U.S. forces struck a deal to rein in insurgents in a place once known as a militant heartland. As American troops begin to withdraw from Iraq, the number of U.S. military enclaves in the western province has shrunk from 35 last year to five at present, and by August only three outposts will remain. American forces are largely confined to their base in Ramadi and no longer regularly accompany Iraqi security forces on operations.

Of late, a widespread and complicated power struggle has roiled the province, with elections scheduled for early March and multiple factions trying to assert control over the area, which makes up about one-third of Iraq.

Those forces include the newly elected provincial government, the central government in Baghdad and the traditional tribal leadership. At the same time, insurgents groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq have used the turmoil to reassert themselves.

After last week's bombings, police chief Tariq al-Assal -- widely viewed as ineffective -- was forced out and replaced with a temporary commander from the Iraqi army in Baghdad. Bahaa al-Azzawi was appointed directly by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, angering tribal chiefs, who saw the move as an affront to their power as well as that of the Sahwa fighters, members of the resistance who allied themselves with the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq but now feel abandoned by the government.

"If this weak government still exists after the election, we anticipate a disaster will happen in Anbar," said Sheik Mohammed Albuthaab, who leads an influential Anbar tribe but was left out of the consultations about the new police chief. "The provincial council spends its time traveling abroad to Turkey, Syria and Jordan, not living here."

It is unclear how long Azzawi will hold this post. The provincial council said it will select a permanent commander but did not specify when.

Assal, who had served as the head of Anbar police for two years, accused members of the provincial council of interfering in police matters, which he said led to the recent security lapses.

"Maybe the situation will be better now," he said in an interview. "How the government interferes with security is unacceptable."

Assal charged that last week's dual bombings were made easier because the 29 provincial council members have their own security details and convoys, which he said were not subject to his authority and could be easily infiltrated by insurgent groups.

He said he had urged Fahdawi, the governor, not to visit the scene of a car bombing last week outside the Anbar police headquarters in Ramadi. When the governor did arrive, with an entourage of bodyguards and vehicles, a man wearing a police uniform was able to sneak through the perimeter and blow himself up, injuring Fahdawi and killing a provincial council member, among others.

"The governor was playing Sherlock Holmes," Assal said. "How can I protect them when they don't follow my advice?"

Tribal leaders blamed Assal for the security lapses, saying that he was more interested in bringing investment to the province, not in security, and that the police were corrupt and the provincial government too weak to deal with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"We don't need a jury system, we don't need a judge. The tribes will implement the punishments ourselves," Albuthaab said. "I would execute them all by my own hands. Anyone who is killing people deserves to be executed."

He said members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have been released from local prisons after the U.S. military turned them over to Iraqi authorities as part of the withdrawal agreement, an assertion supported by some Iraqi officials. Many of those former inmates have gone on to engage in attacks, Albuthaab said.

Despite the turmoil, all the parties want the Americans to stick to the pullout timetable.

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that although the violence has caused him some concern, the "security situation in Anbar isn't crumbling."

Hastings is a special correspondent. Special correspondents Aziz Alwan and Uthman al-Mokhtar contributed to this report.
24443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey's ongoing resurgence on: January 07, 2010, 11:47:19 PM
Turkey's Ongoing Resurgence

TURKISH ENERGY MINISTER TANER YILDIZ joined Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov at a Jan. 6 ceremony in southeastern Turkmenistan to inaugurate a natural gas pipeline running from the central Asian state to Iran. Just prior to the ceremony the top Turkish official held a meeting with the two heads of state in Ashgabat. Yildiz’s visit to Turkmenistan was previously unannounced and reportedly took place at the invitation of President Berdimukhammedov a day before.

That the Turkish energy minister was present at the event — a largely Turkmen-Iranian bilateral matter — is extremely interesting from an energy point of view. But events like these provide an opportunity for STRATFOR to step back and take a strategic view of Turkey’s ongoing resurgence on the global scene. Obviously, attendance at the pipeline ceremony was about the Turks trying to enhance ties with a historical foe — the Persians — and attempting to get closer to their fellow Turkic brethren in the Central Asian stomping grounds of their forefathers.

Looking to the east constitutes just one small aspect of Turkey’s plans to reassert itself as a player in the various regions it once ruled or influenced. After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey, under the ruling Justice and Development Party, has embarked upon a policy of cautiously expanding its influence into Europe, the Caucuses, the Middle East, Central, South and even East Asia.

Ankara has not been under any illusion regarding the extent it would be able to successfully expand into these various regions. Centuries of experience — beginning with the difficulties in establishing its empire in medieval times to losing turf to superior forces in the modern age — prove how challenging that prospect would be. And now, in an age where the nation-state has been firmly established as the pre-eminent international actor, it is well aware of how far it can go.

“After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey has embarked upon a policy of cautious expansion.”
More importantly, in each of its target regions, Turkey is running into varying degrees of resistance from a variety of players. In Europe, there is no shortage of countries that have made it abundantly clear that they won’t accept Turkey as an equal member in their political and economic bloc, the European Union. European opposition to Turkey rivals Turkey’s desire to become a member, which is why Ankara continues to push for membership despite overwhelming odds against it. In this regard, Turkey is trying to use its ethnic and religious ties to the Balkans to recreate an enclave in southeastern Europe.

After all, the Ottomans became a player on the European continent over a century prior to taking over the Middle East. In contrast, the trajectory of modern Turkey reveals far more success in the Middle East. Unlike in the past, there are no rival Muslim powers in the form of the Mamluk Sultanate in the Arab world or the successive dominions in Persia.

The growing conflict between the Sunni Arab states and Iran and its Arab Shia allies provides the Turks with an opportunity to mediate between the Iranians and the Arab states that seek to use Ankara to its advantage. The complex Arab-Israeli conflict coupled with the U.S. role in the Middle East creates additional space for the Turks to advance their interests. While it has been busy re-emerging in the Middle East, Turkey has also been very active in the northern rim of the Caucuses.

The Caucuses, however, have proven to be a very tough region because of Russia, which is also in the middle of a resurgence. The region has been a historic battleground between the Turks and the Russians: the Turks lost the region to the Russians nearly a century ago, and the Russians ruled it directly as recently as the early 1990s. Moscow therefore has more leverage over the two principal regional rivals — Azerbaijan and Armenia — which is why Ankara has failed to create a meaningful space there.

The Russian advantage also keeps Central Asia largely out of Turkey’s reach despite being its region of origin during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The countries even continue to share ethnolinguistic ties to the largely Turkic Central Asian republics. Russia has not stopped them from continuing to develop creative ways to try to expand into Central Asia.

Taking advantage of its close ties to the United States coupled with Washington’s interest in Ankara taking a lead in the affairs of the Middle East, Turkey is inserting itself in Southwest Asia in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. This is particularly true in Afghanistan, where it is trying to use its influence among ethnic minorities that share ties with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The jihadist complexity of southwest Asia and the strong Russian influence to its north will, however, continue to limit Turkish moves.

Ultimately, what we have is a careful Turkish strategy that involves probing into its various surrounding regions, attempting to take advantage of potential opportunities. Where the Turks find resistance, they retreat. In places where they encounter little or no resistance, they advance. These very preliminary and exploratory moves will define Turkish attempts at geopolitical revival for some time to come.
24444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 07, 2010, 07:37:00 PM
http://www.cnsnews.com/public/conten...x?RsrcID=59396
Quote:

Brit Hume: 'Jesus Christ' the 'Most Controversial Two Words You Can Ever Utter in the Public Square'
Thursday, January 07, 2010

By Karen Schuberg

(CNSNews.com) – Brit Hume said he was “not surprised” by the media backlash over his remarks to Tiger Woods on “Fox News Sunday” this week. There is a “double-standard” when it comes to speaking publicly about Christianity versus other religions, he said.

Hume, a Fox News analyst, told CNSNews.com: “There is a double standard. If I had said, for example, that what Tiger Woods needed to do was become more deeply engaged in his Buddhist faith or to adopt the ideas of Hinduism, which I think would be of great spiritual value to him, I doubt anybody would have said anything.”

Last Sunday, Hume suggested the golfer-- who has stated that he is Buddhist -- look to Christianity for help to makeover his personal life. In response to host Chris Wallace’s question asking him to predict the biggest sports story of 2010, Hume speculated that while Woods would recover professionally from his now-public admission of adultery, the comeback of his personal life is currently a question mark.

“Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer.” Hume began. “Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation for him.

“I think he’s lost his family; it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal -- the extent to which he can recover -- seems to me to depend on his faith.” Hume said.

The former newsman-turned-commentator continued: “He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be: ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith, and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’”

Hume faced severe media backlash for his Christian words to Woods.

On Tuesday, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann accused Hume of an “attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity.”

MSNBC anchor David Shuster blasted Hume, saying he had no business mentioning Christianity on a political talk show.

“I do think (talking about Christianity on a political talk show) diminishes the discussion of Christianity,” Shuster said. “My Christian friends have said as much, that it diminishes the discussion of Christianity and faith when you have a conversation out-of-the-blue on a political talk show. This wasn’t the ‘700 Club,’ this wasn’t ‘Theocracy Today.’”

Tom Shales, media critic for the Washington Post , in a Tuesday column, demanded that Hume apologize and called his Christian remarks “even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year.”

When CNSNews.com asked Hume if the media uproar over his comments regarding Tiger Woods and a potential conversion to Christianity caught him by surprise, he replied, “No, I’m not surprised.”

When asked if he would do it again, Hume did not hesitate to respond affirmatively.

“Sure,” he said.

CNSNews.com asked Hume: “Why is Jesus Christ taboo in polite conversation or in the world of politics and media?”

“I think it’s been true for a long time in many cultures. It is certainly true in secular America today that the most controversial two words you can ever utter in a public space are ‘Jesus Christ,’” Hume said.

When asked to speculate about the reasons for the mainstream media’s vitriolic reception of Christianity, Hume initially expressed bewilderment

“I’m somewhat at a loss to explain it because so many of the people who purport to be aghast at such mentions are themselves at least nominally Christian. But there it is,” Hume said.

He added: “I think it is true that for people who are not Christian, Christianity makes a fairly extravagant claim which is that the Son of God -- God made Flesh -- came into this world, lived, suffered terribly, and died for the remission of our sins, and then rose again. This is a huge supernatural event, and a lot of people don’t—have a lot of trouble believing it. But if you do purport to believe it, the implications are pretty staggering. And the result is you may end up talking about it,” Hume said.

Hume also ventured possible practical reasons for the public’s searing distaste for Christianity.

“There is certainly a level of anti-Christian bigotry that may have something to do with the fact that on certain issues, the views of Christians are against theirs on certain matters such as abortion and others, but I can’t account for all of it. It is a striking reality, however,” Hume concluded.

The Rev. Pat Mahoney, a Presbyterian minister and executive director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C., said it is important to put Hume’s words on "Fox News Sunday" into context.

“When Brit Hume made the comment, it was not as a newsperson, but it was in a commentary analyst context,” Mahoney said. “He wasn’t reporting on a hard news story. He was sharing 'opinioned' fact which many of the news programs encourage their commentators to do.”

Noting that many journalists feel “awkward” when dealing with matters of Christianity, Mahoney said: “I think really what they are denigrating . . . is (what journalists feel is) a conservative political point of view. That it isn’t so much Christianity per se, but I think it’s how they view Christians,” Mahoney said.

“I think there’s a stereotype among journalists on viewing Christians, that somehow they’re rigid, they’re bigoted, they’re harsh, they’re judgmental, they’re mean-spirited, etc., and that comes forth,” Mahoney added.

“I think (Hume) was trying to reach out to Tiger and offer him hope, and I don’t think Brit Hume should be muzzled on areas of faith when your commentators should be able to freely share [their] opinions on a host of issues,” Mahoney said.

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York City, said Hume was not “imposing” anything.

“He was simply proposing something publicly, and this should be taken at face value,” Donahue said.

Donahue said the double standard reveals itself in the absence of public outrage over atheists who have become “increasingly dogmatic and aggressive and very public and vocal” in expressing their contempt for Christianity.

“That doesn’t seem to bother anybody. It’s always Christianity,” Donahue said.

At heart, the backlash of “hatred” towards Hume’s comments is a reaction against conservative sexual mores, Donahue said.

“So much of it has to do with sexuality of course, because the cultural elites in our society don’t want to be told 'no' by anyone. And when they look at Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church, they see a religion which essentially speaks to virtues of sexual restraint. And that’s really what’s undergirding this,” he told CNSNews.com. 
24445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: January 07, 2010, 07:29:17 PM
No knowledge of the credibility of this site, so caveat lector:
http://federaleagent86.blogspot.com/


Michael Yon Is A 4th Estate Prima Donna
Michael Yon, veteran of the Iraq War and one of the media based bloggers who got his start reporting on the Iraq War from the frontlines has attacked Customs and Border Protection. http://www.michaelyon-online.com/ Very good origional reporting, but his recent Facebook attack on CBP is filled with lies.

Many otherwise good blogs have been commenting on this, but most have gotten it wrong: Michelle Malkin:

http://michellemalkin.com/2010/01/05/airline-security-idiocy-of-the-day-milblogger-michael-yon-handcuffed-joan-rivers-blocked/


Weasel Zippers: http://www.weaselzippers.net/blog/2010/01/war-correspondent-michael-yon-joan-make-me-look-like-a-cat-rivers-tsa-threatsjihadis-with-underwear-.html


Gateway Pundit: http://gatewaypundit.firstthings.com/2010/01/milblogger-michael-yon-arrested-at-seattle-airport/


Hot Air: http://hotair.com/archives/2010/01/05/breaking-michael-yon-arrested-at-seattle-airport/


They all accused the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) of questioning, then arresting Yon.

Well, when you are a conservative, it is important to get your facts straight. They just jumped to conclusions, airport + arrest + Michael Yon = TSA

Well, you guys got it wrong. Yon was detained, he was handcuffed, he was questioned, but it was not TSA, it was Customs and Border Protection. A note to conservative bloggers, TSA Transporation Security Officers, the screeners at the airport, do not have authority or authorization to handcuff you or ask questions about your income. They are not even issued handcuffs and can't carry their own.

You see Yon was arriving in the U.S. at SEATAC (Seattle/Tacoma) Airport. He was arriving from a foreign country, some information says it was Hong Kong. He obviously went through customs and immigration inspection. In the customs part, he decided he would not answer the perfectly legal questions that a Customs and Border Protection Officer (CBPO) asked him. One of the questions that CBPOs sometimes ask is how much money do you make. This is part of the profile of drug smugglers. It is a telling question, since most poor people do not or should not travel internationally. Alot do, but they are using your tax dollars from welfare payments, thank you very much, to travel, but still the same, it is a telling question. Alot of poor people who travel are drug smugglers, and although not the usual suspect, Yon fits a profile for drug smugglers, at least in part. He travels frequently to drug source countries, like Afghanistan and Thailand.

Here is his story from his Facebook profile:

"Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not "arrested", but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eve...ntually came -- they were professionals -- and rescued me from the border bullies." (http://www.facebook.com/)

Well, Michael Yon, even though he is now a member of the Fourth Estate, must learn that CBP does not just ask questions related to national security. And when you refuse to answer questions from a CBPO you will get delayed. It is a common tactic by illegal aliens and drug smugglers to challenge the CBPO and act aggressively, basically play the civil rights activist in order to intimidate and deflect the questioning by the CBPO.

But in such cases, that usually just resorts in a detailed inspection of your person and luggage, not usually getting handcuffed. You have to do quite alot to get handcuffed by CBP. Bascially Yon was being a prima donna, being a member of the Fourth Estate has probably gone to his head, and thought he was above inspection by officers of the United States at a Port-of-Entry.

Interstingly enough, there is also an immigration angle to this. Yon has been stopped before. He travels to the U.S. frequently with his Thai girlfriend or friend, who is not a legal permanent resident, but a visitor visa holder. Now it is quite unusual for an unmarried young Thai woman to get a visitors visa, much less when they have an American "boyfriend" who lives in the U.S. http://www.theaviationnation.com/2009/01/05/michael-yon-on-misguided-airport-security/


Why you ask, because most Thai young women who previously got visitors visas came to the U.S. and never left.

The money quote: "Our Homeland Security was focusing on a 40-year-old Thai bank officer while there are real bad guys out there. Thailand and the United States have had good relations for 175 years, and Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that is proud to say they are friends of the United States."

Well, Michael, CBP has duties other than asking national security questions. While DHS and its components, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) like to brag about how much their mission is about national security and terrorism, that is not quite true.

First the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the agency charged by law, with protecting our national security, legislatively charged with fighting terrorism and espionage. That is not true of DHS and its components. Their primary responsibility is the day-to-day enforcement of our customs and immigration laws. Not to denigrate that, but that is their primary responsibility. Now proper and vigorous enforcement of those laws will impact on national security, but their primary responsibility is enforcing certain laws and those are the immigration laws and customs laws of the U.S. Check them out, they are in Title 8 of the United States Code, Title 19 of the United States Code, and sometimes Title 21 of the United States Code, and in cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration in the case of Title 21, obviously. (Wink, wink, to those who are in the know.)

It seems that we have a meme here with Yon. Apparently he will answer no questions that are not related to national security. Well, Michael, get with the program. As someone who has been in the Army, you should know about rules, laws and regulations. You followed them in the Army, why not know? Why are you giving cover to Islamists who will follow your policy of intimidation of CBP Officers in an attempt to bully their way past inspection of themselves and their possessions?

Also, Yon claims that he was rescued by the SEATAC Police Officers. Well, CBP is a federal agency and does not answer to a local police department. This just exposes you as the arrogant bully that you want to be. Perhaps SEATAC PD informed CBP that they had caught a journalist, then they let him go. You were detained, not arrested, just see the Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio to learn the difference. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_v._Ohio
You were also searched with the wide authority that the Supreme Court has acknowledge exists for border searches. See also United States v. Montoya de Hernandez. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_search_exception#cite_note-0

Basically Michael Yon thinks that customs and immigration laws don't apply to him or his friends. Alot of people think that, but they are in jail, or President of the United States (just where is that birth certificate?).
24446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: January 07, 2010, 07:09:49 PM
Call your senator to have C-span cover the negotiations on the Health Care bill as repeatedly promised by candidate Obama.

http://view.exacttarget.com/?j=fe8512737d6c0c7b76&m=fec515717d62007b&ls=fdfe15717d65017c7c157170&l=fec0157877620c7b&s=fe22117071660175701d77&jb=ffcf14&ju=fe5f13707c6405757610&r=0
24447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lies, damn lies, statistics on: January 07, 2010, 07:05:35 PM
A private sector IPO with numbers like this would get people sent to jail.
========================================

http://www.cato.org/pubs/tbb/tbb-58.pdf

No. 58 • November 2009

Will Federal Health Legislation Cause the Deficit to Soar?
by Daniel J. Mitchell, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute


The health care plan approved by the Senate Finance Committee is supposed to reduce budget deficits over 10 years by $81 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.1 Similarly, the House version of health legislation would reduce 10-year deficits by $104 billion, according to the CBO.2 Supporters of these health care proposals thus argue that the plans are fiscally responsible.

However, enacting a $1 trillion entitlement program would greatly increase the burden of government spending. In addition, promises of lower deficits are a triumph of hope over experience. Government forecasters have a very poor track record of predicting costs. More realistic assumptions suggest that health legislation could easily push up 10-year deficits by $600 billion.

Government-run health care will cost more than the politicians are telling us. The tax increases will not collect as much money as the politicians think. And, to put it mildly, promises of future spending restraint are naïve. The following are some of the reasons why current federal health proposals will mean not just more spending and higher taxes, but also larger deficits and added debt.

1.      The Senate plan would increase federal spending by nearly $900 billion, while the House plan would increase spending by more than $1.2 trillion, according to the CBO. These estimates are far too low because they do not properly measure how people and businesses change their behavior in response to government handouts.

 

1.      Errors in forecasts by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation could have large fiscal implications. If revenues and offsets are 25 percent below the forecast and spending is 50 percent higher than estimated, the 10-year deficits will be $602 billion to $860 billion higher.

 

1.      There are incentives for companies to dump their health plans since workers will then get more take-home pay and be able to obtain health insurance using subsides and handouts from the government. This will dramatically increase budgetary costs.

 

1.      The spending estimates are far too low because they do not recognize that politicians in the future will be tempted to expand subsidies as part of routine vote-buying behavior, similar to what happened with Medicare and Medicaid.

 

1.      Future savings in the Senate plan are based on unrealistic gimmicks such as a “Medicare Commission” and a “Failsafe Budgeting Mechanism.” These absurd ploys share one thing in common—a hollow commitment to be frugal in the future while spending more today.

 

1.      Even the savings that might be real—such as reductions in Medicare payment rates for physicians’ services in the Senate plan—are pushed off into the future, where they can be cancelled by politicians seeking to curry favor with key constituencies.

 

1.      Much of the new spending is “backloaded,” meaning that it does not take effect for several years. This makes the long-run costs appear deceptively low. More than 90 percent of the spending in the Senate plan takes place in the second five years of the 10-year projection, and more than 84 percent of the spending in the House plan is also in the last five years.

 

1.         Outlays in both plans will be climbing by about 8 percent annually toward the end of the 10-year period, much faster than growth in the overall economy.3

 

 

1.         The federal government’s ability to predict healthcare spending leaves much to be desired. When Medicare was created in the 1960s, the long-range forecasts estimated that the program would cost about $12 billion by 1990. It ended up actually costing $110 billion that year, or nine times more than expected.4

 

Source: Joint Economic Committee.Medicare Spending in 1990,Estimated and Actual$12$110$0$40$80$1201967 Estimate for 1990Actual Spending in 1990Billions of Dollars

1.      When Medicaid was created in 1965, it was supposed to be a very small program with annual expenditures of about $1 billion.5 It has now become a huge $280 billion per year burden for federal taxpayers.

 

1.         Medicaid’s disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program is a sobering example. Created in 1987 to subsidize hospitals with large numbers of uninsured patients, the program was supposed to cost $1 billion in 1992, but actually cost a staggering $17 billion.6

 

Source: Joint Economic Committee.Medicaid DSH Spending in 1992,Estimated and Actual$1$17$0$5$10$15$201987 Estimate for 1992Actual Spending in 1992Billions of Dollars

1.         The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage of 1988 was repealed after less than two years, in part because some provisions were already projected to cost six times more than originally forecast. 7

2.      The tax provisions in the health proposals will impose considerable damage while raising less revenue than expected. The House legislation will supposedly raise more than $460 billion from higher income tax rates, but actual collections would likely be far smaller because of reduced incentives to earn income and increased incentives to avoid and evade taxes.

 

1.      The Senate plan has big tax increases on high-cost insurance policies, medical devices, and health insurance providers. However, a substantial share of those projected revenues would evaporate as businesses and consumers alter their behavior to protect themselves from the taxes.

 

1.         With the phase-out of insurance subsidies in some plans, taxpayers with modest incomes will face marginal tax rates of nearly 70 percent, a staggering penalty on upward mobility that will hinder overall economic performance.8

 

1.      To add insult to injury, the Internal Revenue Service would get new enforcement powers to determine if people have acceptable (in the eyes of politicians and bureaucrats) health insurance.

 

Deficits and debt will skyrocket if government-run healthcare is expanded. This will happen if either the House or Senate plan becomes law. Big increases in federal spending and higher taxes are a bleak combination that would substantially slow U.S. economic growth.

1 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), October 7, 2009.

2 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), October 29, 2009.

3 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), October 7, 2009.

4 Joint Economic Committee, “Are Health Care Reform Cost Estimates Reliable?” July 31, 2009. The JEC cites 1967 testimony by Robert J. Myers.

5 Clay Chandler, “Health Care Costs a Long-Term Headache,” Washington Post, October 17, 1993.

6 Joint Economic Committee, “Are Health Care Reform Cost Estimates Reliable?” July 31, 2009.

7 Marilyn Moon, “The Rise and Fall of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act,” National Tax Journal 43, no. 3 (September 1990).

8 Greg Mankiw, “Marginal Tax Rates from Health Reform,” October 10, 2009
24448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 07, 2010, 06:57:07 PM
A point as profoundly sound as it is obvious.

Maybe if we are nice, no more will come , , ,

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

Man threatening Jews hauled off flight in Miami

MIAMI
Thu Jan 7, 2010 9:40am EST

MIAMI (Reuters) - A man who described himself as a Palestinian and said he wanted to "kill all the Jews" was hauled off a Detroit-bound Delta Air Lines flight in Miami and arrested, authorities said on Thursday.

The plane was taxiing away from the terminal at Miami International Airport on Wednesday night when 43-year-old Mansor Mohammad Asad of Toledo, Ohio, began making loud anti-Semitic comments and chanting, apparently in Arabic, Miami-Dade police said in a statement.
"I'm Palestinian and I want (to) kill all Jews," he said, according to witnesses.
The pilot returned the aircraft to the terminal and a Taser device was used to "neutralize" Asad after he charged an arresting officer, the police statement said.
The incident came amid heightened airline security concerns following the attempted bombing of a Northwest flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
Police said Asad faced several criminal charges including threats against a public servant and disorderly conduct. The Delta plane departed for Detroit following a thorough security sweep.
(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Will Dunham)
U.S.
24449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: January 07, 2010, 11:42:55 AM
Gentlemen:

Let us remember we are sitting at the dinner table having a pleasant post-prandial conversation. 

Crafty Dog
24450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 07, 2010, 11:39:58 AM
Exactly.

Changing subjects a bit:

Taylor Disputes Bernanke

Please consider Taylor Disputes Bernanke on Bubble, Says Low Rates Played Role.

John Taylor, creator of the so-called Taylor rule for guiding monetary policy, disputed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s argument that low interest rates didn’t cause the U.S. housing bubble.

“The evidence is overwhelming that those low interest rates were not only unusually low but they logically were a factor in the housing boom and therefore ultimately the bust,” Taylor, a Stanford University economist, said in an interview today in Atlanta.

“It had an effect on the housing boom and increased a lot of risk taking,” said Taylor, 63, who was attending the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

Taylor echoed criticism of scholars including Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who say the Fed helped inflate U.S. housing prices by keeping rates too low for too long. The collapse in housing prices led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

“It had an effect on the housing boom and increased a lot of risk taking,” said Taylor, 63, who was attending the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

Taylor echoed criticism of scholars including Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who say the Fed helped inflate U.S. housing prices by keeping rates too low for too long. The collapse in housing prices led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

“Low rates certainly contributed to the crisis,” Baker said in an interview on Jan. 3. “I don’t know how he can deny culpability. You brought the economy to the brink of a Great Depression.”
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