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24401  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: February 06, 2009, 08:21:56 PM
I had a nasty bout of cellulitis back in September.  I thought it simply was a nasty shin bruise and it got nasty enough to require some strong antibiotics.  Definitely to be taken seriously.
24402  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 06, 2009, 08:50:53 AM
 angry angry angry

I have just written him again.
24403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Melloan: Stagflation coming on: February 06, 2009, 08:04:35 AM
By GEORGE MELLOAN
As Congress blithely ushers its trillion dollar "stimulus" package toward law and the U.S. Treasury prepares to begin writing checks on this vast new appropriation, it might be wise to ask a simple question: Who's going to finance it?

 
Chad CroweThat might seem like a no-brainer, which perhaps explains why no one has bothered to ask. Treasury securities are selling at high prices and finding buyers even though yields are low, hovering below 3% for 10-year notes. Congress is able to assure itself that it will finance the stimulus with cheap credit. But how long will credit be cheap? Will it still be when the Treasury is scrounging around in the international credit markets six months or a year from now? That seems highly unlikely.

Let's have a look at the credit market. Treasurys have been strong because the stock market collapse and the mortgage-backed securities fiasco sent the whole world running for safety. The best looking port in the storm, as usual, was U.S. Treasury paper. That is what gave the dollar and Treasury securities the lift they now enjoy.

But that surge was a one-time event and doesn't necessarily mean that a big new batch of Treasury securities will find an equally strong market. Most likely it won't as the global economy spirals downward.

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For one thing, a very important cycle has been interrupted by the crash. For years, the U.S. has run large trade deficits with China and Japan and those two countries have invested their surpluses mostly in U.S. Treasury securities. Their holdings are enormous: As of Nov. 30 last year, China held $682 billion in Treasurys, a sharp rise from $459 billion a year earlier. Japan had reduced its holdings, to $577 billion from $590 billion a year earlier, but remains a huge creditor. The two account for almost 65% of total Treasury securities held by foreign owners, 19% of the total U.S. national debt, and over 30% of Treasurys held by the public.

In the lush years of the U.S. credit boom, it was rationalized that this circular arrangement was good for all concerned. Exports fueled China's rapid economic growth and created jobs for its huge work force, American workers could raise their living standards by buying cheap Chinese goods. China's dollar surplus gave the U.S. Treasury a captive pool of investment to finance congressional deficits. It was argued, persuasively, that China and Japan had no choice but to buy U.S. bonds if they wanted to keep their exports to the U.S. flowing. They also would hurt their own interests if they tried to unload Treasurys because that would send the value of their remaining holdings down.

But what if they stopped buying bonds not out of choice but because they were out of money? The virtuous circle so much praised would be broken. Something like that seems to be happening now. As the recession deepens, U.S. consumers are spending less, even on cheap Chinese goods and certainly on Japanese cars and electronic products. Japan, already a smaller market for U.S. debt last November, is now suffering what some have described as "free fall" in industrial production. Its two champions, Toyota and Sony, are faltering badly. China's growth also is slowing, and it is plagued by rising unemployment.

American officials seem not to have noticed this abrupt and dangerous change in global patterns of trade and finance. The new Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, at his Senate confirmation hearing harped on that old Treasury mantra about China "manipulating" its currency to gain trade advantage. Vice President Joe Biden followed up with a further lecture to the Chinese but said the U.S. will not move "unilaterally" to keep out Chinese exports. One would hope not "unilaterally" or any other way if the U.S. hopes to keep flogging its Treasurys to the Chinese.

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting the federal deficit will reach $1.2 trillion this fiscal year. That's more than double the $455 billion deficit posted for fiscal 2008, and some private estimates put the likely outcome even higher. That will drive up interest costs in the federal budget even if Treasury yields stay low. But if a drop in world market demand for Treasurys sends borrowing costs upward, there could be a ballooning of the interest cost line in the budget that will worsen an already frightening outlook. Credit for the rest of the economy will become more dear as well, worsening the recession. Treasury's Wednesday announcement that it will sell a record $67 billion in notes and bonds next week and $493 billion in this quarter weakened Treasury prices, revealing market sensitivity to heavy financing.

So what is the outlook? The stimulus package is rolling through Congress like an express train packed with goodies, so an enormous deficit seems to be a given. Entitlements will go up instead of being brought under better control, auguring big future deficits. Where will the Treasury find all those trillions in a depressed world economy?

There is only one answer. The Obama administration and Congress will call on Ben Bernanke at the Fed to demand that he create more dollars -- lots and lots of them. The Fed already is talking of buying longer-term Treasurys to support the market, so it will be more of the same -- much more.

And what will be the result? Well, the product of this sort of thing is called inflation. The Fed's outpouring of dollar liquidity after the September crash replaced the liquidity lost by the financial sector and has so far caused no significant uptick in consumer prices. But the worry lies in what will happen next.

Even when the economy and the securities markets are sluggish, the Fed's financing of big federal deficits can be inflationary. We learned that in the late 1970s, when the Fed's deficit financing sent the CPI up to an annual rate of almost 15%. That confounded the Keynesian theorists who believed then, as now, that federal spending "stimulus" would restore economic health.

Inflation is the product of the demand for money as well as of the supply. And if the Fed finances federal deficits in a moribund economy, it can create more money than the economy can use. The result is "stagflation," a term coined to describe the 1970s experience. As the global economy slows and Congress relies more on the Fed to finance a huge deficit, there is a very real danger of a return of stagflation. I wonder why no one in Congress or the Obama administration has thought of that as a potential consequence of their stimulus package.

Mr. Melloan is a former deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.

 
24404  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 06, 2009, 07:52:11 AM
Are you saying that is what is up on their site now?!?  URL please!!!
24405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pandora on: February 06, 2009, 07:49:24 AM
I too listen to Pandora and like it a lot.
24406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: February 06, 2009, 07:48:32 AM
"Strive to be the greatest man in your country, and you may be disappointed. Strive to be the best and you may succeed: he may well win the race that runs by himself."

--Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1746
24407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Lieberman: Afg will be a quagmire for AQ on: February 06, 2009, 07:47:07 AM
By JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
Although President Barack Obama and all of us in Congress are understandably focused on the economic crisis, we also face multiple crises in the rest of the world -- beginning with the war in Afghanistan. Security there has been deteriorating as the insurgents have grown in strength, size and sophistication, expanding their influence over an increasing swath of territory.

Reversing the downward spiral will not be easy. But as Gen. David Petraeus once said of another war, "Hard is not hopeless." And we possess considerable strengths in this fight.

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The biggest strength is the American military, which through the crucible of Iraq has transformed itself into the most effective counterinsurgency force in history. Although Iraq and Afghanistan are very different, many of the guiding principles of counterinsurgency do apply to both theaters -- most importantly, the need to provide security for the population. Moreover, our troops will be redeploying from Iraq to Afghanistan with the momentum, experience and morale that comes with success.

We also have an ally in the Afghan people -- a proud people with a proud history. Although their frustration with our coalition is growing, Afghans are not eager to return to the tyranny and poverty of the Taliban. That is why the insurgents have not won their support and must resort to self-defeating tactics of cruelty and coercion.

The other critical strength, and reason for hope, is the broad support for success in Afghanistan in the new administration and Congress. Mr. Obama has made clear this is a war he intends to win. He has pledged to deploy more troops and appointed one of our most talented diplomats, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The combination of Mr. Holbrooke and Gen. Petraeus led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is not a team to bet against.

That, then, is the good news. The bad news is that, even if we do everything right, conditions are likely to get worse before they get better, and the path ahead will still be long, costly and hard. The president's pledge to send more troops to Afghanistan is absolutely necessary and right -- but turning the tide will take more than additional troops. In fact, we must match the coming surge in troop strength with at least five other "surges" equally important to success.

- First and most importantly, we need a surge in the strategic coherence of the war effort. As we learned in Iraq, success in counterinsurgency requires integrating military and civilian operations into a seamless and unified strategy. In Afghanistan, we do not have in place a nationwide, civil-military campaign plan to defeat the insurgency.

This is an unacceptable failure. It is also the predictable product of a balkanized military command structure, in which different countries are left to pursue different strategies in different places. The international civilian effort in Afghanistan is even more disorganized, as well as unsynchronized with the military.

Unquestionably, it is a good thing so many countries are contributing to the fight in Afghanistan, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to our allies for their sacrifices. But we also owe them success, and that demands an integrated campaign plan and stronger American leadership.

- Second, we need a surge in civilian capacity. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul needs to be transformed and expanded, with the necessary resources and the explicit direction to work side by side with the military at every level. In particular, the civilian presence must be ramped up outside our embassy -- at the provincial, district and village levels, embedding nonmilitary experts with new military units as they move in.

- Third, we need to help surge the Afghan war effort. This means expanding the Afghan army to 200,000 or more, and ensuring they are properly equipped, paid and mentored.

The U.S. needs to take tough action to combat the pervasive corruption that is destroying the Afghan government and fueling the insurgency. This requires a systemic response, not just threatening specific leaders on an ad hoc basis. Specifically, we must invest comprehensively in Afghan institutions, both from top-down and bottom-up.

In doing so, the U.S. should embrace a policy of "more for more" -- specifically, by offering the Afghan government a large-scale, 10-year package of governance and development aid in exchange for specific benchmarks on performance and progress.

- Fourth, we need a surge in our regional strategy. As many have observed, almost all of Afghanistan's neighbors are active in some way inside that country. Some of this activity is positive -- for instance, aid and investment -- but much of it is malign, providing support to insurgent groups. We must help "harden" Afghanistan by strengthening its institutions at both the national and local levels, empowering Afghans to stop their neighbors from using their country as a geopolitical chessboard.

The U.S. can help by beginning to explore the possibility of a bilateral defense pact with Kabul, which would include explicit security guarantees.

Some neighbors are hedging their bets today because they fear what happens "the day after" America grows tired and disengages from the region, as we did once before, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Nothing will discourage this destabilizing behavior better than a long-term American commitment to Afghanistan.

- Fifth, success in Afghanistan requires a sustained surge of American political commitment to the mission. Fortunately, and unlike Iraq, the Afghan war still commands bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people. But as more troops are deployed to Afghanistan and casualties rise, this consensus will be tested.

Indeed, there are already whispers on both the left and the right that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, that we should abandon any hope of nation-building there, additional forces sent there will only get bogged down in a quagmire.

Why are these whisperings wrong? Why is this war necessary?

The most direct answer is that Afghanistan is where the attacks of 9/11 were plotted, where al Qaeda made its sanctuary under the Taliban, and where they will do so again if given the chance. We have a vital national interest in preventing that from happening.

It is also important to recognize that, although we face many problems in Afghanistan today, none are because we have made it possible for five million Afghan children -- girls and boys -- to go to school; or because child mortality has dropped 25% since we overthrew the Taliban in 2001; or because Afghan men and women have been able to vote in their first free and fair elections in history.

On the contrary, the reason we have not lost in Afghanistan -- despite our missteps -- is because America still inspires hope of a better life for millions of ordinary Afghans and has worked mightily to deliver it. And the reason we can defeat the extremists is because they do not.

This, ultimately, is how the war on terror will end: not when we capture or kill Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar -- though we must do that too -- but when we have empowered and expanded the mainstream Muslim majority to stand up and defeat the extremist minority.

That is the opportunity we have in Afghanistan today: to make that country into a quagmire, not for America but for al Qaeda, the Taliban and their fellow Islamist extremists, and into a graveyard in which their dreams of an Islamist empire are finally buried.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. This op-ed is adapted from a speech he delivered last week at the Brookings Institution.

 
24408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Demographics on: February 06, 2009, 07:31:26 AM
A brave new dangerous world
 
Dual demographic trends in the developed and developing worlds point to increased future conflict and instability, Peter A Buxbaum writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Peter Buxbaum in Washington, DC for ISN Security Watch
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?ots591=4888CAA0-B3DB-1461-98B9-E20E7B9C13D4&lng=en&id=96082


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“The world is entering a demographic transformation of historic and unprecedented dimensions.”

That was the essential message of a recently released monograph from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan Washington think tank. The coming demographic dislocations are beginning to attract the attention of geopolitical and military thinkers and planners.

Geopolitics, much like the local variety, is an intensely human endeavor. So is the expression of geopolitical aspirations in the form of war and armed conflict.

That explains why, when the United States Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) examined trends that will impact the future posture of US military forces, first and foremost on its list was demographics. Around the same time that JFCOM released its Joint Operating Environment report last month, the CSIS, which often contributes thought leadership to the US government, released The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century.

“In the future, conflicts will remain human,” Rear Admiral John Richardson, JFCOM’s director of strategy and policy, told ISN Security Watch. “That’s why demographics are important.”

“There is a growing interest in demographics among governments and policymakers,” added Richard Jackson, a senior fellow at CSIS and co-author of its report, in an interview. “The developed world is rapidly approaching a demographic tipping point where the trends are about to turn negative. The window of opportunity to prepare for this challenge is now closing.”

In a nutshell, there are two broad demographic trends facing the world through 2030: a population boom in the developing world and population decline in the developed world.

The world will add 60 million people each year and reach a total of 8 billion by the 2030s, noted the JFCOM report. Ninety-five percent of that increase will occur in developing countries, many of which will experience “youth bulges.” A “youth bulge” is defined as the ratio of youth aged 15 to 24 to the total population aged 15 and over. Political demographers say youth bulges are predictors of civil unrest, revolution and war.

“The developed world confronts the opposite problem,” said the JFCOM report. “During the next 25 years population growth in the developed world will likely slow or in some cases decline.”

Russia’s population is already declining by one-half of one percent annually, with the prospect that the decline will continue. Japan’s population will fall from 128 million to approximately 117 million in the 2030s due to a collapse in the country's birth rate. China’s population will continue to grow over the next quarter century, but its population will age significantly because of the strict enforcement of the government’s family planning policy. The trend in the US differs from much of the rest of the developed world thanks to higher fertility and immigration rates.

Migration

In addition to the population explosion in the developing world, there will also be increased migration to cities. Since conflict will occur where people are, from a military standpoint, “it is almost inevitable that forces will find themselves involved in combat or relief operations in cities,” said the JFCOM report.

“These urban settings are not going to be Manhattan,” said Richardson. “They are going to be sprawling structures where instability can easily brew. Growing populations put pressures on such basic resources as water and food. Where you see youth bulges is also where you see resource challenges.” Richardson sees future US forces increasingly being called upon by partner governments for urban crisis management.

Although US forces now have experience in urban warfare, thanks to operations in Iraq, cities are not the favored battlegrounds. “Operations in urban terrain will confront joint force commanders with a number of conundrums,” said the JFCOM report. “The very density of building and population will inhibit the use of kinetic means, given the potential for collateral damage as well as large numbers of civilian casualties.” Such inhibitions could also increase US casualties, the report noted.

Demographic transformation response

Population trends in Russia are an emblematic although exaggerated example of what is occurring in much of the developed world. “Russia will be experiencing a population decline not seen since the plague of the Middle Ages,” said Jackson. “This is a cause for concern because an extreme misalignment of geopolitical aspirations and demographic fundamentals can lead countries to behave unpredictably.”

Will Russia meekly accept the fate of its demographic decline, or will this trend feed extremism and provoke aggression?

“Russia has window of opportunity that is closing soon,” said Joe Purser, director of the JFCOM Futures Group. “It may face a situation in 20 or 30 years when it will be unable to see to its own security.” Purser speculated that one possible Russian reaction will be to “establish a frontier of instability around the old Soviet states in order to maintain influence” in those areas.

Rapid demographic transition in Russia, and also in China, Iran and Pakistan, “could push them toward civil collapse, or toward ‘neo-authoritarianism,’” said the CSIS report.

Youth and violence

These demographic trends will also make it less likely that nations in the developed world will sacrifice their youth in military adventures, according to the CSIS report, while “regions such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where the youth bulge will reach over 50 percent of the population, will possess fewer inhibitions about engaging in conflict.”

The CSIS report also identified a “correlation between extreme youth and violence.” The likelihood of violence “grows explosive” when the youth bulge exceeds 35 percent, according to JFCOM. The youth bulges in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well in Iraq, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, already exceed that level, the JFCOM report noted.

Contrary to popular opinion, the violence engendered by a youth bulge does not necessary correlate with the failure of the local society to keep up an adequate rate of economic development.

“Some of the East Asian tigers are cases in point,” noted Jackson. “A rapidly transitioning developing world is likely to be a riskier world,” the CSIS report concluded, without regard to rates of economic growth.

“There is a paradox of development,” Jackson explained, “in which rising per capital income can be destabilizing in the short and medium run” even as it promotes stability in the long run. Among the reasons for this phenomenon: massive internal migrations which loosen extended family ties and exacerbate ethnic tensions.

Demographics and development

The United States faces a different scenario than much of the rest of the developed world, by both the JFCOM and CSIS accounts, with its population increasing by 50 million to a total of 355 million by 2030.

“This growth will result not only from births in current American families,” said the JFCOM report, “but also from continued immigration, especially from Mexico and the Caribbean, which will lead to major increases in America’s Hispanic population.”

The US has a current fertility rate of 2.6, 2.0 being the replacement rate, the highest in the developed world, and 1.9 when the Hispanic population is subtracted out, still high for a developed country. “This means that the US will have a growing workforce whereas elsewhere in the developed world it will be stagnating or declining,” said Jackson.

The major implications of these dual population trends is that “the population and GDP of the developed world will steadily shrink as a share of the world’s total,” said the CSIS report. “In tandem, the global influence of the developed world will likely decline.”

On the other hand, “The population and GDP of the United States will steadily expand as a share of the developed world’s total. The influence of the United States in the developed world will likely rise.”

This means the US must be prepare for an even larger role than it now has in maintaining global security, said CSIS, and that “leaders in the United States, Europe, and Japan need to acknowledge and prepare for this reality, while seeking ways to strengthen multilateralism.”

The CSIS monograph recommends enhanced investments from the developed world in development assistance and soft power in order to prevent the stresses in the developing world from rapid demographic, economic and social change from erupting into security threats. The developed world must also be perceived as the champions of the young and the aspiring. “If they are unwilling to commit substantial resources to helping young nations, the global appeal of their values and ideals will diminish,” said the CSIS report.

One major obstacle to allocating the kinds of resources contemplated by CSIS is the increasing burden of aging populations on the resources of developed countries. But what hangs in the balance is not only the security and economic well being of developing world populations, but what JFCOM’s Joint Operating Environment terms the “battle of the narrative.”



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Peter Buxbaum, a Washington-based independent journalist, has been writing about defense, security, business and technology for 15 years. His work has appeared in publications such as Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Information Week, Defense Technology International, Homeland Security and Computerworld. His website is www.buxbaum1.com.

24409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / France in Afg on: February 06, 2009, 07:28:07 AM
French soldiers soluting during a 2006 ceremony.
Domestic distractions allow Sarkozy room to maneuver as he boosts France's presence in Afghanistan despite public skepticism, but funding and resource questions may determine the end game, Thomas Withington writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Thomas Withington for ISN Security Watch
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?ots591=4888CAA0-B3DB-1461-98B9-E20E7B9C13D4&lng=en&id=96200

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France continues to increase its military presence in Afghanistan as part of Paris' contribution to the continuing NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission.

Reports in early February spoke of additional unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being deployed to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul to support French Sperwer drones already in theatre. These pilotless aircraft will provide 24-hour reconnaissance and surveillance pictures to French troops on the ground.

The country's presence is also being beefed-up with the possible arrival of advanced Eurocopter EC-665 Tigre attack helicopters this summer, while Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) Dassault Mirage-2000D combat aircraft are being redeployed from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Kandahar, southwest Afghanistan. This will shorten their flying time to possible trouble spots in the south of the country.

The increase in France's presence in Afghanistan follows the ambush of troops from the Armée de Terre (French Army) 8e Régiment Parachutiste d'Infanterie de Marine (8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment) in Sarobi province, north of Kabul last August, which left 10 troops dead and another 21 injured. This was the largest wartime loss of life for the French armed forces since 23 October 1983 when 58 troops were killed during a bomb attack on their barracks in Beirut. New BAE Systems RG-31 Nyala mine-protected vehicles are also on the way from the US to protect French troops from attack by mines and improvised explosive devices.

Hot on the heels of the attack, the Assemblée nationale (lower house of the French Parliament) voted 340 to 210 in September last year to continue the country's Afghan deployment, and also to authorize an extra 700 troops (to supplement the circa 2,500 soldiers France currently has in Afghanistan) along with additional attack helicopters, UAVs, artillery and logistical support.

Where 'freedom is being decided'

The intensification of France's involvement in Afghanistan follows a statement by President Nicolas Sarkozy in which he explained the country's motivations for remaining in Afghanistan, despite the misgivings of French popular opinion: "Why are we there? Because it is where a large part of the world's freedom is being decided. This is the place where terrorism is being fought. We are not there to fight against the Afghans but with them, not to leave them on their own to fight the dark forces of barbarity."

On the ground, French strategy follows a twin track, according to François Géré, president of the l'Institut Français d'Analyse Stratégique (French Institute for Strategic Analysis) in Paris.

"French troops continue to train and form the Afghan security forces as well as the army, and continue to help the population to protect itself in de-mining. We continue to have medical teams who are bringing healthcare to the population. On the other hand, the increase in French troops is aimed at becoming more offensive with the real commitment to engage the adversary where necessary. Not to avoid the fight," he told ISN Security Watch.

Despite the commitment of the French government to the Afghan operation, the intensification of France's effort is being performed against a backdrop of cutbacks for the country's armed forces. Last year's Livre Blanc (white paper) recommended the disbandment of 20 of the French Army's regiments and battalions. Although these reductions are not being drawn from front-line infantry units - instead being taken from support units such as logistics and engineer personnel, and signalers - the loss of these units could cause problems in terms of supporting a military operation being performed 5,579 kilometers from Paris. The cost of France's involvement in 2008 was reported at around €250 million (US$319 million), almost a 50 percent increase on the cost of the operation for 2007.

Room to maneuver

In the wake of last August's ambush, French opposition to the country's continued involvement in Afghanistan was reported to run at around 55 percent. That said, Gérè believes that Sarkozy and his government "face no significant and well-articulated political position" in opposition to its involvement in Afghanistan.

This has given Sarkozy considerable political room to maneuver in terms of increasing France's commitment in the country - a fact underlined by last September's vote in favor of continuing the French Afghan deployment. However, this political space may not be permanent.

"If we were to suffer additional significant casualties, the government would have to reconsider its position," Géré noted. "I'm not saying that the French government would decide to withdraw," he added.

In fact, some of the blame for the lack of French public support may lie at the administration's door: "The French government has not articulated very well the reasons why we are in Afghanistan and that is the reason why the [skeptical] public is in the majority."

Despite public opposition to the Afghan operation, the government may also be able to benefit from a degree of popular distraction. A general strike on 29 January in which between one and 2.5 million French workers may have taken to the streets to air a host of grievances ranging from disquiet over proposed education reforms to the government's handling of the economic crisis, has kept domestic issues firmly at the top of the political agenda for the time being.

"French people are much more concerned by unemployment and the credit crisis rather than Afghanistan," Géré said. However, we need to take into consideration that if the financial crisis in France aggravates, there could be questions about why we are spending money in Afghanistan."

Playing both sides

Following the inauguration of US President Barack Obama in January, France, along with several NATO members, may soon find themselves under increasing US pressure to pledge more troops to Afghanistan as the new administration embarks on a "surge" against the Taliban in the lead up to the presidential elections in the country in mid-August.

However, Obama and his colleagues may face disappointment in Paris. On 21 January, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin ruled out enlarging the country's military footprint in Afghanistan: "We have made the necessary effort. Considering additional reinforcements is out of the question for now."

Morin, however, also took the opportunity to reiterate France's reasons for its continued presence in Afghanistan, saying that the operation was "indispensable for the Afghans, who have the right to finally know peace. Indispensable for the French themselves because their security hangs in a great part on that region, one of the most instable in the world."

It is possible that Morin chose to tread a careful line in his interview with the Europe 1 radio station; on one hand reiterating his government's commitment to Afghanistan and the ISAF mission in general, while also reassuring skeptical parts of the French population that, even in light of a new US administration pledging a firmer effort in the country, France would not be increasing its commitment beyond the troop and equipment increases promised in September.

The end game

Moreover, there could also be financial motivations for the French government refusing to pledge anything more than what has already been promised. France's GDP is predicted to decline from 0.9 percent for 2008 to -1.2 percent for 2009, according to figures from the Economist Intelligence Unit. The government may be choosing to husband its cash flow as much as possible.

"If we increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, we will obviously need extra money to pay for them," Géré argued.

The only way such a move could be done without significantly increasing costs would be to redeploy some of the circa 2,000 French troops operating with the EU Peacekeeping Force (EUFOR) in Chad in support of the UN/AU peacekeeping efforts in West Darfur, Sudan.

Reducing the numbers of French troops in the EUFOR mission could send a message to President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan that France no longer places as much importance on this mission as it does on the Afghan operation. This could encourage the Sudanese government, armed forces and proxy janjaweed militias to increase their violence in the troubled West Darfur province while EUFOR attempts to redress the loss of French troops with fresh soldiers from other European nations.

A French reduction of its EUFOR presence could also send the wrong message as regards Paris' commitment to European security and defense policy.

Finally, Sarkozy and his colleagues would find that any increase in France's troop numbers in Afghanistan "would be very difficult to do without a debate in Parliament," said Géré.

The president may want to avoid such a move in the current turbulent economic environment, lest it gives opposition parliamentarians the opportunity to ask why money is being found for an increased Afghan commitment while the French economy remains in the doldrums.

France's Afghanistan endgame may not be as far away as the country's population might think. The current global financial crisis and France's economic woes could have a decisive effect on the Sarkozy government's desire and ability to keep French boots on the ground.

"My sense is that for financial reasons, we have no alternative but to stay for a maximum of two years and to transfer the responsibility for security to the Afghan government," noted Géré.

Furthermore, pulling French troops out by 2012 could have the accompanying benefit of avoiding some of the problems that might be caused by the cutbacks of support personnel recommended by last year's white paper.



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Thomas Withington is an independent defense consultant, writer and analyst based in Toulouse, France. He is a Research Associate at the Centre for Defence Studies, King's College, London and an Associate Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
24410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on: February 06, 2009, 07:26:30 AM
Greetings,
 
"It's Raining" was first published yesterday on Instapundit, one of my favorite blogs.

This will be a long year in Afghanistan, and I plan to spend about six months or more, there or in the region.  Not looking forward to months of combat, but the war is only worsening and very few writers remain who will embed with combat forces for any length of time.  I don't know of any, actually, remaining who will go for months on end.  Not sure how much of my 2009 will be with U.S. forces; some of our allies are requesting coverage and extending the red carpet, and it's very important to know how our military alliance is doing.  The alliance is key to the war.  Whether it shows signs of falling apart, or sticking together, is crucial.

Embedding is very difficult, dangerous, time consuming, and expensive, and so long embeds simply do not seem to be happening.

My end-goal for 2009 is to bring back news and summary so that the reader will understand the overall trajectory of the war.  Are we winning or losing?  Is it worth it?  What exactly are our goals in Afghanistan?  I don't know what our goals are.  Does anyone know? 
 
My reporting from 2006, unembedded in Afghanistan, proved that it is not necessary to embed with U.S. forces, or even to consult with commanders or the Pentagon, to predict the trajectory of the war with reasonable accuracy.  I like covering combat forces simply because I like them.  And they need coverage, especially so since practically nobody else will do it for them, but much of the decision making regarding embeds will be based on how much support derives from command.  End goal: to accurately summarize for the reader the trajectory of the war, and long embeds might actually hinder my ability to predict the war. 
 
Iraq only continues to improve.  I plan to return to Iraq this year.  That war truly is over.  We can start bringing our men and women home, but it's crucial to pay close attention to the advice of our military commanders.
 
Please read, "It's Raining." 
24411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Familia 2 on: February 06, 2009, 07:22:35 AM


The Gulf organization followed up this challenge by placing a red ice chest in the center of Lázaro Cárdenas. The head of a member of its sworn enemies lay inside the container, next to which a green poster proclaimed: “Greetings Chayo, Rogaciano and Changa [reference to leaders of La Familia]. This is for the collection of queers who support the terrorists of La Familia; we do not kill innocent people; we kill terrorists like this one … We don’t kidnap and we want neither to work with you nor to have contact with you and those you rely on … Thanks for those who are supporting us. Sincerely: Gulf Cartel 100 percent.”

Journalists for Proceso magazine reported that the police received an anonymous tip indicating the whereabouts of the alleged perpetrators of the violence. After meeting with members of La Familia near the Cuitzeo security barracks, authorities seized, blindfolded, handcuffed, and arrested three Zetas for the tragedy. Family members of the prisoners claimed that they were subjected to physical and psychological torture. In the words of a sister and wife:

“They asked him why he had thrown the grenades, which he denied. Later they tied his hands with packing tape and beat him with boards. He told us that later they dragged him to a river and left him there all night. He also says that they had him with his arms up all day, always blindfolded.”

The newspaper Milenio has reported the appearance of La Familia in Guanajuato, where it emulates the Italian mafia by controlling the small outlets that sell cocaine and marijuana to individuals. When a local distributor refused to cooperate, he was killed. In the past, Juan José “The Blue One” (so called because of his bluish skin color) Esparragoza Moreno, an ally of El Chapo, controlled Guanajuato. In a negotiation between capos, El Azul relinquished the plaza to La Familia, thus avoiding violent confrontation. Dominance in Guanajuato helps La Familia impede its rivals’ access to Michoacan.

Organization and resources

Journalist Richard Ravelo asserts that the 4,000 members of La Familia were born and raised in Michoacan, that they earn between US$1,500 and US$2,000 per month, and that they are well connected with state and local officials. They reportedly attend church regularly, carry Bibles, and distribute the Good Book in local government offices.

They claim to enjoy grassroots’ support because they provide assistance to campesinos, construct schools, donate books, prevent the sale of adulterated wine, and employ “extremely strong strategies” to bring order to the Tierra Caliente. Thus, they offered a contrast to the Milenio Cartel, which has recruited outsiders called Antizetas.

They acquire resources by selling protection to merchants, street vendors of contraband, hotels, local gangs, and small-scale drug sellers. Rather than speak in terms of extortion, La Familia claims to “protect” its clients. Members the organization wear uniforms, carry arms, and drive vehicles similar to those of the Federal Agency of Investigation. This allows them greater freedom to move around their areas of interest.[13] Still, leaders of the group have become so brazen that they have designed their own outfits to mark their identity and distinguish their members from adversaries.

Reports indicate the fragmentation of La Familia, whose leadership - known as “Los Sierras” - holds sway in the Tierra Caliente. These factions include: Los Historicos, who have links with Los Zetas; “Los Extorsionistas, composed of businessmen and growers who concentrate on extorting money from anyone from surgeons to municipal mayors; Los Cobradores de Deudas (“Debt Collectors”), who are allied with the Milenio and Sinaloa cartels and who traffic in meth; and An unnamed group that concentrates on selling pirated films and DVDs.

La Familia’s current leaders, Bible-toting fanatics Moreno Gonzalez and Mendez Vargas, may have direct or indirect ties with devotees of the New Jerusalem movement. Dionisio “The Uncle” Loya Plancarte, once a Zeta, now presents himself as the spokesman for the organization.

The 53-year-old Michoacan native, who manages press and public relations for La Familia, claims that through kidnappings and executions the cartel is ensuring “a peaceful climate for law-abiding citizens.” In addition, he cited as his organization’s principal targets “El Chapo Guzman and the Beltran Leyva brothers because they were responsible for methamphetamine addiction in Michoacan communities.”

In October 2008, authorities captured Wenceslao Álvarez Álvarez, an ally of La Familia who ran an international operation out of Nueva Italia, a Michoacan municipality where, ironically, in November 1938, President Lázaro Cárdenas established the first communal farm, promising to make it a model of progress for the nation. Like many other growers in the Tierra Caliente, Álvarez Álvarez produced avocados. He claims to have turned to narco-trafficking to avenge the 1999 kidnapping and murder of his father by a vicious local gang, Los Arcila. Led by Jorge Álvarez Arcila, a local farmer, and Daniel Farias, the former warden of the Patzcuaro prison, these brigands enjoyed impunity as they carried out a dozen kidnappings in the Tierra Caliente between 1996 and 2000.

Alvarez Alvarez’s cocaine network allegedly extended from Colombia through Guatemala and Mexico to Atlanta and other US cities. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has identified him as a lieutenant of Miguel “El L-40” Treviño Morales, a top figure in Los Zetas. Álvarez Álvarez called the charges against him “false,” insisting that he was only a grower of tomatoes, peppers, mangos, and other crops on land rented by his entire family. In addition to his underworld exploits, he also has an interest in “Los Mapaches” of Nueva Italia, a second-division soccer team that he purchased for 1 million pesos.

Conclusion

The group known as La Familia bears similarities to Colombia’s United Self-Defense Forces (AUC), an amalgam of rightwing vigilantes, rural self-defense militia, former military and police personnel, who oppose anyone believed to be supportive of the guerrillas belonging to the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).

The religious zeal of La Familia manifests itself in preference for executions over negotiations. So strong is the organization that it has gained a major beachhead in Michoacan, eclipsed Los Zetas in Mexico state, crossed swords with the ruthless Beltran Leyva brothers in Mexico state, and ousted a faction of the Sinaloa cartel from Guanajuato. La Familia is extremely volatile because of its diverse components and bloodthirsty fanaticism.

Mexico’s heavily armed, vicious groups are increasingly conducting operations north of the Rio Grande. Too long ignored by Washington, this threat from the Mexican cartels - and their Andean suppliers - must become a priority of the Obama administration.
24412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / La Familia on: February 06, 2009, 07:21:12 AM
Another deadly Mexican syndicate

ISN Link
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?lng=en&id=95963

La Familia is extremely volatile because of its diverse components and bloodthirsty fanaticism, George W Grayson writes for FPRI.

By George W Grayson for FPRI

The death toll related to narco-trafficking in Mexico more than doubled last year, from 2,275 in 2007 to 5,207 in 2008. An increasingly important contributor to this ghastly mayhem is the shadowy Michoacana family, or La Familia. Its center of operations is the Pacific Coast state of Michoacan, home to trafficking routes and sophisticated factories for producing methamphetamine, as well as the port Lázaro Cárdenas, an open sesame for drug imports.

Although organized several years earlier, La Familia burst into the limelight on September 6, 2006, when 20 masked desperados stormed into scruffy Sol y Sombra night spot in Uruapan, Michoacan, fired shots into the air, ran up to the second floor from where they tossed five human heads onto the black and white dance floor.

They left behind a message, written on cardboard: “The family doesn’t kill for money. It doesn’t kill women. It doesn’t kill innocent people, only those who deserve to die. Know that this is divine justice.”

Club owner Carlos Alvarez nervously defended the assailants. “These men didn’t come here to hurt anyone, they work against bad people, those men whose heads they cut were like bugs,” reported National Public Radio.

Victor Alejandro, the owner of a small shop across the road from the dance hall, says he’s afraid to be seen talking to a stranger. “There are informants everywhere,” he says.

The day before, the killers had seized their victims from a mechanic’s shop and hacked off their heads with bowie knives while the men writhed in pain. “You don’t do something like that unless you want to send a big message,” said a US law enforcement official.

A similar self-righteous message appeared at the foot of a black cross in Apatzingan, in the heart of the Tierra Caliente, which embraces 32 municipalities at the intersection of Michoacan, Guerrero, and Mexico State. In this highly productive zone, La Familia, Los Zetas paramilitaries linked to the powerful Tamaulipas-based Gulf Cartel, and the local Milenio Cartel of the Valencia family engage in bloody warfare for control of growing areas and transit routes.

In addition, Michoacan finds the several criminal organizations fighting for the cocaine and precursor chemicals for methamphetamine that arrive through Lázaro Cárdenas, the state’s largest port, or through nearby entry points. This was the gateway for multimillionaire Chinese-Mexican Zhenli Ye Gon, who is now under arrest in the US, to import chemicals for the meth production in the super-laboratories throughout the state. The port of Lázaro Cárdenas’ importance lies in its strategic location: Half of Mexico’s population lives within some 300 kilometers of this coastal city.

Origins

Various currents have fed into the heterogeneous organization, which emerged in 2004 with the stated “mission” of eradicating trafficking in meth, or “ice,” and other narcotics, kidnappings, extortion, murder-for-hire, highway assaults, and robberies, according to one of its founders, Nazario “The Craziest One” Moreno González. La Familia may have begun as vigilantes determined to thwart the manufacture and transport of meth by the Michoacan-based Milenio Cartel, a stalwart ally of Joaquín “Shorty” or “The Uncle” Guzmán Loera and his Sinaloa Cartel, the major competitor to his Gulf counterparts.

There is also the possibility that they sprang to life to prevent Los Zetas from entering their bailiwick. Narco-criminal Carlos Rosales Mendoza, formerly a member of the local Milenio cartel, switched his loyalty to the Gulf Cartel. In response to his new ally’s request, Gulf boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillen dispatched Los Zetas led by Efraín Teodoro Torres or “Zeta 14” and Gustavo “The Erotic One” Gonzalez Castro, to help Rosales Mendoza protect his plaza at La Union, a municipality in Guerrero near Petacalco and Lázaro Cárdenas on the Pacific Coast.

Another Gulf Cartel accomplice was Carlos Pinto Rodríguez, a native of Huerta de Gámbara in the Tierra Caliente. Pinto Rodríguez became even more violent after his son died in a shoot-out. After Rosales Mendoza participated in an unsuccessful attempt to free Cardenas Guillen from La Palma high-security prison, the Army captured him at his attractive residence in the Colonia Lomas de Santa Maria, Morelia, on 24 October 2004. EsMas and Reforma reported that Rosales Mendoza offered a huge bribe if his captors would release him.

In reaction to Los Zetas’ incursion, Juan Jose “The Grandfather” Farías, leader of the local Rural Guards, a uniformed Mexican army auxiliary linked to the 43rd Military Zone in Apatzingan, took the offensive. He sought to expel the intruders from his region as if he were an agent of the French Resistance fighting the Nazis. Meanwhile, he was suspected of being a major narco-trafficker in the region. He is believed to have worked with Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, also called Nemesio, who is the cousin of Abigaíl and Jose Mendoza Valencia, relatives of Armando Valencia Cornelio, the chief of the Milenio Cartel until his imprisonment in La Palma.

In retaliation for Farias’ opposition, Los Zetas decapitated cheese-maker Raúl Farías Alejandres, a relative of The Grandfather, on 4 September 2006. A note next to the corpse warned: “One by one you go falling. Greetings. La Familia sends its regards.” Four more beheadings followed.

The Grandfather, the intrepid Zeta fighter who owns restaurants, hotels, and orchards, has disappeared, perhaps because the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) is investigating his possible connections Ye Gon. He and his followers are allied with the Valencias and the Sinaloa Cartel.

In 2007, Uriel Farías Álvarez, The Grandfather’s brother and a PRI stalwart, won a landslide victory for the mayorship of Tepalcatepec, which, along with Aguililla, Apatzingan, and Buenavista Tomatlán, lies in a drug-smuggling corridor that connects the Tierra Caliente with Jalisco. He pooh-poohs the idea that he or his relatives have ties to the underworld: “My brother only kept a lookout on orders of the Army. And as a result they said he was a narco.”

How La Familia describes its goals

Handwritten, poorly-spelled, enigmatic missives showed up next to the decapitated heads in Uruapan as part of its intense propaganda campaign designed to intimidate both foes, terrorize the local population, and inhibit action by the government. Like Los Zetas, La Familia disseminates news of its deeds nationally by conventional media as well as by internet videos and carefully placed banners.

On the heels of the Uruapan atrocity, La Familia took out a half-page advertisement in newspapers claiming to be crime-fighters. El Sol of Morelia and La Voz de Michoacan both ran the group’s manifesto. Such expressions of civic virtue aside, 18 of 32 police officers in the Tepalcatepec area resigned after receiving death threats from La Familia, while local newspapers exercise self-censorship concerning the sinister band.

On 18 August 2006, the organization decapitated Jesús Rodríguez Valencia, a member of the Milenio Cartel, placing the following message next to his cadaver: “All that rises falls of its own weight, it would be like this, the family greets you.” Three months later, the police discovered two bodies on the Zamora-La Barca highway, next to which was a note that said: “For those who sell ice. This is divine justice. Sincerely, La Familia.” “Divine justice. No to the meth makers, La Familia,” was the text discovered alongside a body found on the Jacona-Los Reyes highway. The message appeared on a green card, reflecting the color that La Familia uses on its emblems, placards, and communications.

In all, authorities attributed 17 decapitations to La Familia in 2006 alone. Between the murder of Rodriguez Valencia that August and 31 December 2008, La Familia killed scores, if not hundreds, of people. There were 233 executions in Michoacan, most of whose victims belonged to one criminal band or another.

What may have begun as a small group of armed men on the prowl to protect their children from meth has turned into a major criminal outfit that is just as well-armed and organized as any top-tier drug smuggling organization in Mexico.

The Attorney General’s Office claims that elements of organization not only sell narcotics in many of the municipalities of their home state, but also seek to dominate the distribution route to the US border that snakes through territory traditionally in the hands of the Sinaloa cartel. To this end, they have established safe houses as refuges for their traffickers at strategic points along the route northward. While originating in Michoacan, La Familia has extended its activities to Mexico State, where it controls or has conducted operations in numerous municipalities.

Spreading conflict

La Familia has corrupted and or intimidated law-enforcement personnel. In August 2008, a drug distributor in the Valle de Toluca accused Jose Manzur Ocana, the well-connected former PGR delegate in the state, of providing protection to Los Zetas and La Familia. Although placed in a witness-protection program, the informant was among those executed in the La Marquesa bloodbath discussed below.

In early November 2008, 100 local police in Chalco, just outside Mexico City, demanded the dismissal of their chief, Carlos Adulfo Palafox, whom they accused of having ties with La Familia. Mexico State’s Attorney General Alberto Bazbaz also cited Jesús Garcia Carrasco, commander of the state’s Judicial Police, as a possible collaborator after he reportedly received 70,000 pesos per month to provide information to La Familia.

La Familia’s rivals have struck back. In August 2008, three bodies, bearing grotesque torture marks and their hands and feet tied, turned up in San Pablito in the Tultepec municipality. The “narco-message at the scene stated: “All of the Michoacan Family will die, but I leave [these bodies] so that you believe me.” In September 2008, enemies pumped 18 bullets into the body of José Luis “El Jaguar” Carranza Galván, whom the PGR identified as a principal operator of La Familia.

La Familia has not made all police kowtow. After law-enforcement agents took into custody Miguel “The King” Carvajal in the Valle de Bravo in January 2008, they received a telephone death threat if they “touched” their prisoner. In a similar vein, El Rey told the police: “don’t hit me [for] I come in the spirit of peace; my chiefs are now in conversations with your commanders to strike a deal.” Despite this bravado, the extortionist and hit man for La Familia remained behind bars.

In September 2008, in the Nicolás Romero municipality authorities captured Lázaro “The Indian” Bustos Abarca Nicolas Romero, who commanded a band of 20 kidnappers linked to La Familia. Ten days later, the PGR reported the murder of 24 people in La Marquesa park in Mexico State. Officials hypothesized that the murders arose from a clash between La Familia and the Beltran Leyva brothers over control of Huixquilucan, a strategic plaza for drug shipments. In mid-November, the federal police took into custody Pedro Jaime Chávez Rosales, former director of public safety for the municipality, who was believed to be involved in the multiple executions.

In Mexico City, on 31 July 2008, a body was found in the trunk of a Chevrolet Corsa parked in the capital’s southern borough of Coyoacan. A note attached to the corpse said: “For not paying. Sincerely, La Familia."

The western boroughs of Miguel Hidalgo and Cuajimalpa also have become a zone for money-laundering and drug transit, exciting a raging conflict among Colombian traffickers, Los Zetas, and La Familia. The competitors dispatch their foes with high-powered weapons, decapitations, and asphyxiation with plastic bags. Next to three bodies discovered in September 2008 lay the message: “I was victim of a kidnapping by those who call themselves La Familia Michoacana; thus, I am carrying out justice by my own hand.”

Grenade attack in Morelia

The PGR initially accused La Familia of carrying out the 15 September 2008, grenade attack in Morelia’s Melchor Ocampo plaza. Authorities advanced the theory that the fanatical band sought to attract a greater contingent of federal police and military to the state in order to thwart Los Zetas from consolidating their trafficking routes.

In response to such allegations, the organization immediately revved up its public relations apparatus. It dispatched a text message to local reporters and residents denying participation in the tragedy and placing the blame on Los Zetas, which responded with its own communiques in the form of banners unfurled in prominent spots in Puebla, Reynosa, Cancun, Oaxaca, and Nuevo Laredo.

It offered a US$5 million reward in dollars, Euros, or another currency to anyone who could help capture members of La Familia, which it alleged produced the mayhem: “The Gulf cartel energetically condemns the September 15 attack against the Mexican people. We offer our aid for the arrest of the leaders who call themselves ‘La Familia’.” The narco-banners specifically mentioned such chiefs as Moreno Gonzalez, Jesús “El Chango” Méndez Vargas, and Enrique “El Kiki” Tlacaltepetl.

24413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 05, 2009, 11:25:28 PM
OK, so what do we do now in Afg/Afg-Pak?
24414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A signal to Iran on: February 05, 2009, 11:18:36 PM
   
Geopolitical Diary: A U.S. Treasury Move and a Signal to Iran
February 5, 2009

The U.S. Treasury Department added the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) to its list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday. PJAK is a sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the prominent Kurdish guerrilla group that operates in Turkey and has bases in northern Iraq. PJAK also has bases in northern Iraq, but focuses its operations on northwestern Iran, where that country’s Kurdish minority is concentrated.

The timing of the Treasury move is significant. Tehran has complained for some time that the United States, in collaboration with Israeli and Western intelligence organizations, supports groups like PJAK whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Iranian regime.

And the Iranians have cause for concern. The geopolitical core of Iran, where the population is most densely concentrated, is in the mountainous northern and central regions. That geography itself creates ample opportunities for foreign rivals or domestic opponents to stir up trouble for the regime: Since only about half of the population is ethnically Persian, one of Iran’s chief security imperatives is to contain minority ethnic groups dispersed throughout the mountains. The group of biggest concern for the Iranians has been Mujahideen e-Khalq (MeK), a cult-like Islamist-Marxist rebel group with the explicit goal of overthrowing the clerical regime.

MeK fighters have been holed up in Iraq’s Diyala province, under the watch of the U.S. military – but now that U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq in large numbers, something must done about the approximately 3,000 MeK members. Iran wants guarantees that groups like the MeK and PJAK will be neutralized. By placing PJAK on the U.S. terror list, Washington has made a symbolic move that tells Tehran that it is prepared to make certain concessions that will allow the clerical regime to rest more comfortably.

It is not clear yet how favorably the Iranians might respond to this move. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has made it clear that it will pursue engagement with Iran, and a number of backchannel discussions have been set into motion. But the Iranians are taking things slowly. With presidential elections approaching in June, Tehran is struggling to work out its next steps in negotiating with Washington. There is also more work to be done to prepare the Iranian public psychologically for public negotiations with the so-called “Great Satan.”

Iran’s priority right now is to convince the populace and surrounding states that Tehran is pursuing these negotiations from a position of strength. It intends to demonstrate that strength with things like satellite launches, pronouncements that wax philosophic about Iran’s nuclear achievements, and political victories in neighboring Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States is grappling with the complexities of an engagement policy through gestures such as the blacklisting of PJAK – even as Washington tries to downplay more contentious issues like Iran’s nuclear program, and to maintain a hard-line stance on sanctions.

There remains a long way to go in revising the U.S.-Iranian narrative of negotiations, but Tehran has little time to stall. The Iranians need to negotiate with the United States over common interests in Iraq, especially if they want to secure an internationally recognized sphere of influence there. Although final results are not yet known, provincial elections in Iraq this past weekend appear to have strengthened factions that complicate Iran’s ambitions there – and that, in turn, bodes well for the security situation and a U.S. drawdown. The Iranians are slowly coming to terms with the fact that Washington will have a significant stake in Baghdad well after the withdrawal, especially as figures like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are strengthening central authority at the expense of Iran’s closest Shiite allies. And even when the drawdown is complete, a residual force of probably 10,000 to 20,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, to keep the Iranians at bay and allay the fears of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Of course, there are still plenty of things for Tehran to discuss with Washington that would help Iran to break out of its isolation. The United States and its NATO allies are turning to Tehran for assistance in neighboring Afghanistan, where Iran can provide intelligence and logistical support to help contain the Taliban. Cooperation with the Americans over Afghanistan isn’t nearly as touchy a subject as cooperation over Iraq — Afghanistan hasn’t invaded Iran in recent memory, and Iraq has. But it still would mean breaking the ice publicly and sitting down for talks.

 
24415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 05, 2009, 09:42:54 PM
I would offer the possiblity that what he is trying to do is scaring the bejeezus out of the market.  The collapse really got going when it became clear that McCain was going to pander and that BO was going to win.

For the record, Bush pandered too.  Virtually no one, even in the Rep party is getting the analysis right-- a classic credit bubble (the Fed's negative interest rates, the FMs, the CRA, etc and all that was leveraged from these).  The solution methinks is to be found in a blend of supply side and Austrian economics.  This not being remotely on any serious political radar screen, the market is right to freak out.  The fcukers in Washington are in the process of committing major historic errors.  The world economy is fragmenting, the uni-polar moment of the US is done, and we are led by Hamlet, a.k.a. His Glibness who throws away Iraq to depend on the Russians to supply his decision to go in heavy to the Afg quagmire in order to prove he is tough-- all the while groveling with the Iranians and their nukes, and groveling to the Russians (prediction Star Wars in easter Europe is done for and the Russian sphere of influence will recoalesce).

Fcuk!!!
24416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 05, 2009, 09:35:27 PM
I have been trying to get a serious discussion going on about this in the Afg-Pak thread, and also in the India-Pak thread, but to little avail.  Maybe it will get going here?  Anyway, in particular see post 292 at  http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=944.250
which is a Stratfor piece (what a surprise there-- not!).  I am intrigued by their notion of distinguishing the Taliban and AQ and identifying our core mission as preventing Afg from once again becoming a base for AQ to attack the US.  I have always understood all the rest to originate from this core objective.

That said, I think it is in the India-Pak thread, but there are two major pieces written by Indian intel people that make a powerful argument about the ISI and the young officers of the Pak army being the true players in all this.  One of the Indian intel people goes on to suggest encouraging the disintegration of the Pakistan state into more little quasi-feudal backwaters.  Of course we would need to neutralize their nukes.   

I think the mental exercise of considering outside our mental box solutions like this would be good for us.

I also think that we must resolve the cognitive dissonance of our incoherence re the opium trade.

Bottom line, I'm willing to consider a wide range of actions.  I don't know what to do, but I see disaster ahead on the current course of action-- including what HG seems to have in mind.
24417  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 05, 2009, 09:25:12 PM
 cool
24418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / So funny you could cry on: February 05, 2009, 06:21:09 PM
 

 Stimulus package explained............

       "Sometime this year, taxpayers will receive an Economic Stimulus
Payment. This is a very exciting new program that I will explain using the Q and
A format:

       "Q. What is an Economic
 Stimulus Payment?
       "A. It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers.

       "Q. Where will the government get this money?
       "A. From taxpayers.

       "Q. So the government is giving me back my own money?
       "A. No, they are borrowing it from China. Your children and grandchildren are
expected to repay the Chinese.

       "Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
       "A. The plan is that you will use the money to purchase a
high-definition TV set, thus stimulating the economy.

       "Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of China?
       "A. Shut up."


       Below is some helpful advice on how to best help the US economy by
spending your stimulus check wisely:

       If you spend that money at Wal-Mart, all the money will go to China.
       If you spend it on gasoline it will go to Hugo Chavez, the Arabs and Al
Queda.
       If you purchase a computer it will go to Taiwan.
       If you purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico, Honduras,
Chile and Guatemala.
       If you buy a car it will go to Japan and Korea.
       If you purchase prescription drugs it will go to India.
       If you purchase heroin it will go to the Taliban in Afghanistan
       If you give it to a charitable cause, it will go to Nigeria. And none of
it will help the American economy.

       We need to keep that money here in America. You can keep the money in
America by spending it at yard sales, going to a baseball game, or spend it on
prostitutes, beer (domestic ONLY), or tattoos, since those are the only
businesses still in the US.

 

 

24419  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 05, 2009, 06:12:43 PM
I am delighted to say that I have received a prompt and gracious reply informing me that all use of our term "Kali Tudo" has been removed.  cool
24420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 05, 2009, 05:39:26 PM
Huss:

Sorry to be anal again, but wouldn't that post about China be better in the China thread?   cheesy

24421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 05, 2009, 05:37:32 PM
As evidenced by many of my posts in the Afg-Pak thread and the India-Pak thread for many months now, I have wondered WTF is our strategy.    It has been incoherent, and under Commader in Chief His Glibness I fear it is about to get much worse.
24422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Extermination of Jews in Ukraine in 1941 on: February 05, 2009, 05:34:59 PM
Interesting site:
http://www.einsatzgruppenarchives.com/documents/wehrmacht.html



An excerpt:


"From a Wehrmacht Report on the Extermination of Jews in Ukraine"



December 2, 1941
Armanment in the Ukraine
Inspector


Secret
To: The Office of Wi Rü [Industrial Armament Department]
OKW [High Command of theWehrmacht]
General of the Infantry Thomas
Berlin


...c. The Jewish Question

Settling of the Jewish Question in Ukraine has been made more difficult because in the cities the Jews constituted a major part of the population. What we have here is therefore - just as in the Government-General -a massive population policy problem. Many cities had more than 50 percent Jews. Only the rich Jews fled before the German troops. The great majority of the Jewish masses remained under the German Administration. The entire situation was complicated by the fact that these Jews carried out almost all the work in the skilled trades and even provided part of the labor for small - and medium-sized industries; apart from trade, some of which had become superfluous as the result of the direct or indirect effects of the war. [Their] elimination was therefore bound to have profound economic consequences, including even direct effects on the military economy (supplies for troops).

From the outset the attitude of the Jewish population was anxious-willing. They tried to avoid anything that might displease the German Administration. That they hated the German Administration and the Army in their hearts is obvious and not surprising. However, there is no evidence that the Jews, either as a body, or even in any considerable numbers, have taken part in sabotage, etc. Without doubt there have been some terrorists or saboteurs among them, just as there have been among the Ukrainians. But it cannot be claimed that the Jews as such present any kind of danger for the German Wehrmacht. The troops and the German Administration have been satisfied with the work output of the Jews, who are of course motivated by no emotion except fear.

Immediately following the military operations, the Jewish population remained undisturbed at first. It was only weeks, in some cases months, later that systematic shooting of the Jews was carried out by units of the Order Police specially set up for this purpose. This Aktion moved in the main from east to west. It was carried out entirely in public, with the assistance of Ukrainian militia; in many cases, regrettably, also with the voluntary participation of members of the Wehrmacht. These Aktionen included aged men, women, and children of all ages, and the manner in which they were carried out was appalling. The gigantic number of executions involved in this Aktion is far greater than any similar measure undertaken in the Soviet Union up to now. Altogether about 150,000 to 200,000 Jews may have been executed in the section of Ukraine belonging to the RK [Retchskommissariat]; up to now no consideration was given to the interests of the economy.

To sum up it could be said that the solution of the Jewish Question as carried out in Ukraine, evidently motivated by ideological principles, has had the following consequences:

a) Elimination of some, in part superfluous, eaters in the cities.
b) Elimination of a part of the population which undoubtedly hated us.
c) Elimination of urgently needed craftsmen, who were in many cases indispensable for the requirements of Wehrmacht.
d) Consequences in connection with foreign propaganda that are obvious.
e) Adverse effects on troops which in any case have indirect contact with executions.
f) Brutalizing effects on the units (Order Police) which carry out the executions...



Source: Nuremberg Documents PS-3257, as cited in Yitzak Arad, Yisrael Gutman and Abraham Margaliot, eds. Documents on the Holocaust (Jerusalem and Oxford: Yad Vashem and Pergamon Press, 1987) p. 417 (Document 190).


Gitelman, Zvi, Bitter Legacy: Confronting the Holocaust in the USSR. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1997. pp. 273 - 274
24423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Justice Ginsburg has pancreatic cancer on: February 05, 2009, 01:25:40 PM
Justice Ginsburg was my Constitutional Law prof at Columbia.
==========================
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090205/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_ginsburg;_ylt=AowRVyeYqrWNA2W32SNRwJfgtY54

Ginsburg is hospitalized with pancreatic cancer

 AP – In this Oct. 23, 2008 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reads from a small book version …
 Slideshow: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery Thursday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the court said.

Ginsburg, 75, had the surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She will remain in the hospital for seven to 10 days, said her surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan, according to a release issued by the court.

The court announcement said the cancer is apparently in the early stages.

In 1999, Ginsburg had surgery for colon cancer and had chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The only woman on the court, she has been a justice since 1993.

The pancreatic cancer was discovered during a routine, annual exam late last month at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.  A CAT scan revealed a tumor measuring about 1 centimeter across the center of the pancreas, the court said.  Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers: Nearly 38,000 cases a year are diagnosed and overall, fewer than 5 percent survive five years.  The reason: Fewer than one in 10 cases are diagnosed at an early stage — like Ginsburg's appears to be — before the cancer has begun spreading through the abdomen and beyond. That's because early pancreatic cancer produces few symptoms other than vague indigestion.  Even when caught early, surgery for pancreatic cancer is arduous. Doctors typically remove parts of the pancreas, stomach and intestines. Radiation and chemotherapy are common after surgery.

Ginsburg has recently told her former law clerks and others that she envisioned serving on the court into her 80s, although those comments were made before the latest diagnosis.

Ginsburg is one of only two female justices ever. The other is Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired in 2006.  In her previous bout with cancer, Ginsburg received treatment throughout the court's term and never missed a day on the bench.  The justices, in the midst of a winter break, hold their next private conference on Feb. 20 and return to the bench on Feb. 23.

The court's announcement offered few details about the surgery. Brennan is a renowned surgeon whose expertise is treatment of pancreatic cancers and tumors on other soft tissues, like the adrenal and thyroid glands. He was chair of Memorial Sloan-Kettering's surgery department from 1985 until June 2006.

24424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 05, 2009, 01:19:58 PM
"The one good thing about taxes is that we don't get all the government we pay for."  Will Rogers
24425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A dream that will not come true on: February 05, 2009, 01:17:38 PM
03 February 2009 
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/afghanistan-a-dream-that-will-not-come-true.htm

Afghanistan is a gaunt, thorny bush, growing amid rocks and dust on dry windswept plains, sweltering deserts, and man-crushing mountains. Its neighbors are treacherous. The Afghan people are mostly living relics, only more advanced than hidden tribes in the Amazon, but centuries behind the least advanced European nations.

Afghanistan is a gaunt, thorny bush, subsisting on little more than sips of humidity from the dry air. We imagined that we could make the bush into a tree, as if straw could be spun into gold or rocks transmuted to flowers. If we continue to imagine that we can turn the thorny bush into a tree, eventually we will realize the truth, but only after much toil, blood and gold are laid under the bush, as if such fertilizer would turn a bush into a tree. We did not make Afghanistan what it is. Afghanistan has existed for thousands of years. It grows the way it grows because the bush drops seeds that make more bushes, never trees.


We must alter our expectations for Afghanistan. There are bigger problems afoot. The ice is melting, banks are melting, and the prestige of great nations that do great things is melting, because they thought they could transform a thorny bush into a tree.
24426  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 05, 2009, 01:15:25 PM
Chad:

Thank you for the heads up!!! 

I have just emailed them informing them of our trademark of the name.   Looking for the best in people I anticipate a favorable response  smiley

TAC,
Guro Crafty
24427  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: February 05, 2009, 11:55:28 AM
We are confirmed!
====================

This is to confirm the date September 20th, 2009 for the Dog Brother's 
Gathering of the Pack at Powerhouse Gym in Burbank.  If this date is a 
problem, please let us know asap.  Last year's event was a success, 
and we're looking to build on that positive momentum.  Thanks!

E

Eric the Trainer
www.ericthetrainer.com
24428  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / MRSA on: February 05, 2009, 11:47:23 AM
Basic stuff, but good to be reminded from time to time.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Know the Truth about MRSA Skin Infections
The truth about methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) may surprise you, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that causes skin and other kinds of infections. Sometimes called “the superbug,” MRSA is resistant to certain antibiotics, but several antibiotics still work. And many times, antibiotics aren’t even needed—doctors are often able to treat MRSA skin infections by simply draining them. Because skin infections caused by MRSA are increasing, the CDC launched a new campaign to educate families about MRSA and provide a four-step process for helping prevent infections.

Although most of these skin infections are mild, some infections may become life-threatening. According to the CDC, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from MRSA skin infections.

Step 1: Know the signs and symptoms of MRSA and get treatment early
A staph skin infection, including one caused by MRSA, usually appears as a bump or infected area on the skin that may be red, swollen, painful, warm to the touch, or full of pus or other drainage. It is especially important to contact your health care provider if these signs and symptoms are accompanied by a fever.

Step 2: Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered
Keeping cuts and scrapes covered will help prevent spreading bacteria to others. If you think the area is infected, contact your healthcare provider and follow his or her instructions about proper care of the infection. Be sure to discard used bandages in the trash.

Step 3: Encourage good hygiene such as cleaning hands regularly
Bacteria and other germs are often spread from person to person by direct contact—mostly by our hands. Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after changing a bandage or touching infected skin.

Step 4: Discourage sharing of personal items such as towels and razors
Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, or clothing that may have had contact with infected skin or soiled bandages. Wash sheets, towels, and clothes with water and laundry detergent. Water temperatures for household laundry depend on the type of fiber or fabric of the clothing. In general, wash and dry in the warmest temperatures recommended on the clothing label. Use a clothes dryer to dry clothes completely.
24429  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Darkness, Secrecy, , , and Knowledge wants to be free on: February 05, 2009, 11:40:36 AM
Woof All:

Many/most martial arts have/had some sort of tradition of secrecy-- Kali/the FMA in particular.

In a youtube UFC world that is being put to a severe Darwinian challenge. Many questions are presented. 

They tend to fall into two basic categories:
1) Dangerous knowledge
2) Competitive advantage

For example, concerning Dangerous Knowledge:

Why keep knife techniques secret that are already being shown on youtube for free?   Why should knife techniques be secret in a world of guns?  What screening should teacher do? 

This thread is for consideration of these and related questions.

We kick things off with this clip of a white supremacist group into street MMA. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pxhx4d-w0k&feature=dir

The Adventure continues,
CD
24430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Satellite launch implications on: February 05, 2009, 11:10:53 AM
Second post

Summary
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Feb. 3 declared a nighttime indigenous satellite launch a success. The technology required to pull off such a launch is, by and large, also applicable to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Though responses from foreign governments have been slow to come in, such a success — if genuine — will give Tehran new leverage with the United States and Europe.


Iran claims to have inserted a small telecommunications satellite into orbit during a nighttime launch broadcast on Iranian state television Feb. 3, amid the 10-day celebration of the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the country on television, calling the launch a success.

If the claims are true, the event would mark the first indigenously designed and built satellite Iran has put into orbit on its Safir Omid (“Envoy of Hope”) satellite launch vehicle (SLV), which is also indigenously designed and built. This is a feat Iran apparently failed to accomplish last August (and something North Korea just barely failed to do in 1998 with its first Taepodong SLV). While this satellite insertion is a significant development in and of itself for the Iranian missile program, it has much more far-reaching implications for Iran’s relations with other powers.

Stratfor argued two years ago that such a launch was quite feasible based on Iranian cooperation with North Korea and Pakistan in missile development. The Safir Omid has the same distinctive narrow, elongated shape as North Korea’s Taepodong series. Indeed, North Korea is currently moving its own latest Taepodong SLV to a new launch facility on the country’s northwest coast for an anticipated launch later this spring.

Both the Taepodong and the Safir Omid rely heavily on the Russian Scud design, which is itself based heavily on the Nazi V-2 from World War II and has likely been pushed beyond its inherent design limitations in many ways. A demonstration of successful staging and satellite insertion, however, is also a demonstration of rudimentary intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. The distinction between an SLV and an ICBM is largely one of guidance and payload. (This is not to say, however, that an ICBM version of the Safir Omid would necessarily have anywhere near the range to reach the continental United States on a conventional ballistic trajectory, that it has any meaningful degree of accuracy, or that Iran is anywhere near having a nuclear device that could be mounted on it.)

For the United States, the launch certainly gives new impetus to the argument in favor of completing a pair of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic. While the new administration of President Barack Obama has thus far kept its position on these installations deliberately ambiguous, it will be the White House’s first major policy choice on BMD. And Iran might have just made it more difficult (though hardly impossible) to delay the building of these installations, much less to cancel them outright.

The Iranian launch also comes close on the heels of a Feb. 2 announcement by NATO that it would permit member states to make independent, bilateral arrangements with Tehran for the transit of supplies to NATO military forces in Afghanistan. The relationship between the West and Iran is complex, especially as most or all of Europe is likely within range of an Iranian ICBM version of the Safir Omid. The launch will not necessarily derail such transit talks, but Iran’s relationships with even the more amenable European powers still face significant hurdles. But as North Korea has so aptly demonstrated, such launches — in addition to serving as nationalistic fodder for domestic audiences — can have very real utility in international negotiations.
24431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Treasury Dept puts Kurd Party on Terrorist list on: February 05, 2009, 11:05:31 AM
The U.S. Treasury Department added the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) to its list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday. PJAK is a sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the prominent Kurdish guerrilla group that operates in Turkey and has bases in northern Iraq. PJAK also has bases in northern Iraq, but focuses its operations on northwestern Iran, where that country’s Kurdish minority is concentrated.

The timing of the Treasury move is significant. Tehran has complained for some time that the United States, in collaboration with Israeli and Western intelligence organizations, supports groups like PJAK whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Iranian regime.

And the Iranians have cause for concern. The geopolitical core of Iran, where the population is most densely concentrated, is in the mountainous northern and central regions. That geography itself creates ample opportunities for foreign rivals or domestic opponents to stir up trouble for the regime: Since only about half of the population is ethnically Persian, one of Iran’s chief security imperatives is to contain minority ethnic groups dispersed throughout the mountains. The group of biggest concern for the Iranians has been Mujahideen e-Khalq (MeK), a cult-like Islamist-Marxist rebel group with the explicit goal of overthrowing the clerical regime.

MeK fighters have been holed up in Iraq’s Diyala province, under the watch of the U.S. military – but now that U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq in large numbers, something must done about the approximately 3,000 MeK members. Iran wants guarantees that groups like the MeK and PJAK will be neutralized. By placing PJAK on the U.S. terror list, Washington has made a symbolic move that tells Tehran that it is prepared to make certain concessions that will allow the clerical regime to rest more comfortably.

It is not clear yet how favorably the Iranians might respond to this move. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has made it clear that it will pursue engagement with Iran, and a number of backchannel discussions have been set into motion. But the Iranians are taking things slowly. With presidential elections approaching in June, Tehran is struggling to work out its next steps in negotiating with Washington. There is also more work to be done to prepare the Iranian public psychologically for public negotiations with the so-called “Great Satan.”

Iran’s priority right now is to convince the populace and surrounding states that Tehran is pursuing these negotiations from a position of strength. It intends to demonstrate that strength with things like satellite launches, pronouncements that wax philosophic about Iran’s nuclear achievements, and political victories in neighboring Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States is grappling with the complexities of an engagement policy through gestures such as the blacklisting of PJAK – even as Washington tries to downplay more contentious issues like Iran’s nuclear program, and to maintain a hard-line stance on sanctions.

There remains a long way to go in revising the U.S.-Iranian narrative of negotiations, but Tehran has little time to stall. The Iranians need to negotiate with the United States over common interests in Iraq, especially if they want to secure an internationally recognized sphere of influence there. Although final results are not yet known, provincial elections in Iraq this past weekend appear to have strengthened factions that complicate Iran’s ambitions there – and that, in turn, bodes well for the security situation and a U.S. drawdown. The Iranians are slowly coming to terms with the fact that Washington will have a significant stake in Baghdad well after the withdrawal, especially as figures like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are strengthening central authority at the expense of Iran’s closest Shiite allies. And even when the drawdown is complete, a residual force of probably 10,000 to 20,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, to keep the Iranians at bay and allay the fears of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Of course, there are still plenty of things for Tehran to discuss with Washington that would help Iran to break out of its isolation. The United States and its NATO allies are turning to Tehran for assistance in neighboring Afghanistan, where Iran can provide intelligence and logistical support to help contain the Taliban. Cooperation with the Americans over Afghanistan isn’t nearly as touchy a subject as cooperation over Iraq — Afghanistan hasn’t invaded Iran in recent memory, and Iraq has. But it still would mean breaking the ice publicly and sitting down for talks.
24432  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Venezolano on: February 05, 2009, 09:07:47 AM
!Adelante caballero!
24433  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pos. Drug tests in Bonds case on: February 05, 2009, 08:52:52 AM
Positive Drug Tests in Bonds Case
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: February 4, 2009

The government’s perjury case against Barry Bonds gained vivid detail on Wednesday when more than 200 pages of evidence were unsealed. The pages included documents tying Bonds to four positive tests for steroids, calendars that prosecutors described as doping schedules, and a transcript of a recorded conversation in which Bonds’s former trainer is quoted as saying that he injected Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs.

Three urine samples that were sent for testing in 2000 and 2001 by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative showed the presence of anabolic steroids, according to the documents. A fourth test from a 2003 sample collected by Major League Baseball showed the presence of the designer steroid THG, the fertility drug clomid and a form of testosterone not naturally produced by the body.

When tested under Major League Baseball’s program, that sample came back negative for performance-enhancing drugs. But after the sample was seized in a 2004 raid by federal agents, it was retested by the U.C.L.A. Olympic Analytical Laboratory, with a different and, for Bonds, potentially troublesome result.

Not all of the information provided in the unsealed documents is new. But the documents provide a more complete portrait of the evidence that federal prosecutors have gathered on Bonds since the investigation of Balco began in 2002. Bonds is scheduled to go on trial March 2 in San Francisco on charges that he committed perjury in 2003 when he told the grand jury investigating Balco that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds’s lawyers filed a motion two weeks ago to have much of the evidence in the case excluded, arguing that it could not be authenticated. As part of that motion, the defense lawyers filed the evidence in dispute under seal, not wishing for it to be revealed. But United States District Judge Susan Illston ordered that it be made public and has scheduled a hearing for Thursday about its admissibility.

“While it may seem damning now, the judge may exclude a lot of the evidence and it may never make it before the jury,” said Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, in assessing the new information about the case. “But with all the attention being given to the case, the judge is going to have to be extra careful that the jury she seats has not been prejudiced by this information.”

Among the most intriguing sections in the unsealed documents is a description of what authorities said was a tape-recorded conversation, made in 2003, between Bonds’s former business manager, Steve Hoskins, and Bonds’s longtime trainer, Greg Anderson. Anderson spent more than a year in prison on contempt-of-court charges for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Bonds.

According to a summary of the tape and a partial transcript, Anderson told Hoskins that he had injected Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs and that they were not detectable under baseball’s drug-testing program at the time. Anderson also told Hoskins that he had advance notice of when the drug tests would be conducted.

“I’ll know like probably a week in advance, or two weeks in advance,” Anderson is quoted as telling Hoskins in the transcript. According to the documents, Hoskins was recording the conversation, which took place in the Giants’ clubhouse, because Bonds’s father, Bobby, did not believe his son was using steroids.

Hoskins and Bonds were childhood friends who became particularly close after Bonds returned to San Francisco to play for the Giants in 1993. The two had a falling out in 2003 and Hoskins later cooperated with federal authorities, telling them that Bonds flew into “roid rages.” In the partial transcript, Hoskins is quoted as asking Anderson if the drugs being given to Bonds were the same “that Marion Jones and them were using.”

“Yeah, same stuff, the same stuff that worked at the Olympics,” Anderson is quoted as saying.

And, Anderson added for emphasis, Olympians were tested every week. “So that’s why I know it works,” Anderson is quoted as saying. (Jones, an Olympic gold-medal winner, pleaded guilty in 2007 to making false statements about her use of performance-enhancing drugs and received a six-month prison sentence.)

Although the results of the three urine samples that Balco tested in 2000 and 2001 do not have Bonds’s name on them, prosecutors say they can be connected to handwritten notes seized at Balco and Anderson’s home in 2003. Those notes display the names of Bonds and other individuals and numbers that, prosecutors say, correlate to samples that Balco sent for drug testing. Prosecutors contend that the three tests show Bonds tested positive for two steroids — methenolone and nandrolone — in November 2000 and February 2001.

But in their 28-page motion to exclude evidence, Bonds’s lawyers said: “It appears that as to every proffered test result, the government can attempt to link Mr. Bonds to the sample in question only through purported hearsay statement of Anderson.”
===========

In all, five pages of handwritten notes are attributed to Anderson, and in disputing them, the defense states: “The notes are barely comprehensible. Their author(s) are unknown as are the time and purpose of their preparation.”

The defense lawyers said the notes were indicative “of the government’s zeal to convict Mr. Bonds by any means at all.” They also said the doping calendars, which the prosecutors say Anderson created so he could monitor Bonds’s use of drugs, should not be admissible, either.

The fourth positive steroid test cited in the documents does not involve Anderson or his notes. Instead, it stems from the anonymous drug tests that were conducted by Major League Baseball in 2003, the first year of steroid testing on the major league level. There were no penalties for positive results, and not even the players were supposed to know how their tests came out.

Bonds’s urine sample did not produce a positive test under baseball’s guidelines. But in a raid in 2004, authorities seized the samples and test results of Bonds and the nine other players who had testified before the Balco grand jury. Two years later, the U.C.L.A. laboratory that retested Bonds’s sample concluded that it contained the designer steroid THG, known as “the clear”; clomid, an anti-estrogen drug used to stimulate natural testosterone levels; and the presence of testosterone not naturally made by the body.

Baseball did not test for THG in 2003 and did not begin testing for clomid until the 2007 season. Why Bonds did not test positive for testosterone in 2003 is not clear.

When Bonds testified before the Balco grand jury in 2003, he said that he had used the “clear” and the “cream,” a lotion with epitestosterone and testosterone, but did not believe they were performance-enhancing drugs. He said he believed the “clear” was flaxseed oil and that the “cream” was a balm for arthritis. He said he used the “cream” sparingly.

The New York Times reported last week that federal authorities had detected a steroid other than the “clear” and the “cream” in a urine sample from Bonds. The documents unsealed Wednesday said that testosterone had been detected in Bonds’s 2003 sample, but did not say whether the source was the “cream” or another anabolic steroid.

“You cannot tell from a urine analysis whether a person has used the cream or has been using other sources of testosterone, like gels, patches or injectables,” said Dr. Gary I. Wadler, an antidoping expert and member of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The documents also included a 2006 letter from Commissioner Bud Selig to Bonds notifying him of a first-time positive test for amphetamines, which does not result in a suspension. The test result does not appear to be directly related to the perjury case.

24434  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYT: Science found wanting in crime labs on: February 05, 2009, 08:39:06 AM
Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs
By SOLOMON MOORE
Published: February 4, 2009
Forensic evidence that has helped convict thousands of defendants for nearly a century is often the product of shoddy scientific practices that should be upgraded and standardized, according to accounts of a draft report by the nation’s pre-eminent scientific research group.


Robert L. Stinson, convicted of murder in 1984, was freed from a Wisconsin prison last month after tests found that bite-mark and DNA analysis did not match evidence from the crime scene.

 

The report by the National Academy of Sciences is to be released this month. People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting.

The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court. It concludes that Congress should create a federal agency to guarantee the independence of the field, which has been dominated by law enforcement agencies, say forensic professionals, scholars and scientists who have seen review copies of the study. Early reviewers said the report was still subject to change.

The result of a two-year review, the report follows a series of widely publicized crime laboratory failures, including the case of Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer from Portland, Ore., and Muslim convert who was wrongly arrested in the 2004 terrorist train bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people and wounded 2,000.

American examiners matched Mr. Mayfield’s fingerprint to those found at the scene, although Spanish authorities eventually convinced the Federal Bureau of Investigation that its fingerprint identification methods were faulty. Mr. Mayfield was released, and the federal government settled with him for $2 million.

In 2005, Congress asked the National Academy to assess the state of the forensic techniques used in court proceedings. The report’s findings are not binding, but they are expected to be highly influential.

“This is not a judicial ruling; it is not a law,” said Michael J. Saks, a psychology and law professor at Arizona State University who presented fundamental weaknesses in forensic evidence to the academy. “But it will be used by others who will make law or will argue cases.”

Legal experts expect that the report will give ammunition to defense lawyers seeking to discredit forensic procedures and expert witnesses in court. Lawyers could also use the findings in their attempts to overturn convictions based on spurious evidence. Judges are likely to use the findings to raise the bar for admissibility of certain types of forensic evidence and to rein in exaggerated expert testimony.

The report may also drive federal legislation if Congress adopts its recommendations. Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, who has pushed for forensic reform, said, “My hope is that this report will provide an objective and unbiased perspective of the critical needs of our crime labs.”

Forensics, which developed within law enforcement institutions — and have been mythologized on television shows from “Quincy, M.E.” to “CSI: Miami” — suffers from a lack of independence, the report found.

The report’s most controversial recommendation is the establishment of a federal agency to finance research and training and promote universal standards in forensic science, a discipline that spans anthropology, biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and law. The report also calls for tougher regulation of crime laboratories.

In an effort to mitigate law enforcement opposition to the report, which has already delayed its publication, the draft focuses on scientific shortcomings and policy changes that could improve forensics. It is largely silent on strictly legal issues to avoid overstepping its bounds.

Perhaps the most powerful example of the National Academy’s prior influence on forensic science was a 2004 report discrediting the F.B.I. technique of matching the chemical signatures of lead in bullets at a crime scene to similar bullets possessed by a suspect. As a result, the agency had to notify hundreds of people who potentially had been wrongfully convicted.

In its current draft report, the National Academy wrote that the field suffered from a reliance on outmoded and untested theories by analysts who often have no background in science, statistics or other empirical disciplines.

Although it is not subject to significant criticism in the report, the advent of DNA profiling clearly set the agenda. DNA evidence is presented in less than 10 percent of all violent crimes but has revolutionized the entire science of forensics. While DNA testing has helped to free more than 200 wrongfully convicted people, “DNA was a shock to police culture and created an alternative scientific model, which promoted standardization, transparency and a higher level of precision,” said Paul Giannelli, a forensic science expert at Case Western Reserve University School of Law who presented his research to the National Academy. Enforcement officials, Mr. Giannelli said, “chose to say they never make mistakes, but they have little scientific support, and this report could blow them out of the water.”

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



Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs


Published: February 4, 2009
(Page 2 of 2)



Peter J. Neufeld, a co-director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that uses DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, presented to the academy a study of trial transcripts of 137 convictions that were overturned by DNA evidence and found that 60 percent included false or misleading statements regarding blood, hair, bite mark, shoe print, soil, fiber and fingerprint analyses.


The courts have long struggled with the proper role of scientific evidence. In a 1993 landmark decision, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the Supreme Court held that scientific testimony had to meet an objective standard. Federal courts have occasionally excluded evidence like handwriting and hair analysis.

Donald Kennedy, a Stanford scientist who helped select the report’s authors, said federal law enforcement agencies resented “intervention” of mainstream science — especially the National Academy — in the courts.

He said the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Justice Department, tried to derail the forensic study by refusing to finance it and demanding to review the findings before publication. A bipartisan vote in Congress in 2005 broke the impasse with a $1.5 million appropriation.

Mr. Shelby also accused the National Institute of Justice of trying to infiltrate the forensic study panel with lobbyists for private DNA analysis companies, who were seeking to limit the research to DNA studies.

The National Institute of Justice said it would not comment until the report was released. But a preview of potential turf wars played out in the presentations to the National Academy in December 2007. A forensic expert from the Secret Service blasted the F.B.I. for developing questionable techniques “on an ad-hoc basis, without proper research.”

He said the Secret Service wanted the National Academy “to send a message to the entire forensic science community that this type of method development is not acceptable practice.”

Everyone interviewed for this article agreed that the report would be a force of change in the forensics field.

One person who has reviewed the draft and who asked not to be identified because of promises to keep the contents confidential said: “I’m sure that every defense attorney in the country is waiting for this report to come out. There are going to be challenges to fingerprints and firearms evidence and the general lack of empirical grounding. It’s going to be big.”
24435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: on: February 05, 2009, 07:58:14 AM
"Wish not so much to live long as to live well."

--Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1746
24436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iraq's elections on: February 04, 2009, 11:50:09 PM
Iraq's Remarkable Election
The government ensured integrity and security. Iran and sectarianism were the big losers.
 
By KIMBERLY KAGAN and FREDERICK W. KAGAN
When the surge in Iraq began in January 2007, no one imagined that two years later Iraq would plan and conduct provincial elections with limited Coalition assistance and presence, that those elections would proceed smoothly and peacefully, and that the United Nations special envoy would be able to certify its legitimacy immediately. Nor could anyone have dreamt that the news story would be not the smoothness and peacefulness of the polling, but its results and the prospects they offer for political progress in Iraq.

The security was an impressive demonstration of the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and its legitimacy with Iraqis. Iraqi National Police, local police, and Iraqi Army troops were entirely responsible for the physical security of all polling places on election day. They rehearsed procedures for requesting and receiving quick-reaction forces drawn from Coalition and other Iraqi troops, but did not need to implement these emergency plans.


There had been reason to fear suicide bombers at polling sites, but none struck. But Iraqis were confident enough to bring their children to polling places. This was the first time that U.S. forces were not increased prior to an Iraqi election.

The Iraqi High Electoral Commission played a role in conducting legitimate elections. It standardized procedures for ISF securing the polls. Working in conjunction with the U.N. Assistance Mission Iraq, the commission guided the registration of voters and candidates, and oversaw polling procedures, absentee balloting, and the counting of ballots.

Iraqi voters chose nationalist, secularist parties over religious parties by a wide margin. In the mostly Shiite south, candidates associated with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party appear to have gained significantly. This outcome is noteworthy because Dawa came to power in the 2005 elections with virtually no grass-roots support or organization. Few would have predicted Mr. Maliki's electoral success even a year ago.

Moqtada al-Sadr, by contrast, relied on grass-roots support for his movement and seemed poised to dominate elections in the south a year ago. But he lost much of his popular support when Iraqi Security Forces defeated his militias in Basra, Baghdad and Maysan in June 2008. The door was open for the well-organized Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council (ISCI), the clerically dominated party that had controlled many important provincial governorships and councils in the south. Yet Iraqis voted instead for Mr. Maliki's coalition or for the secular Shiite coalition of former prime minister Iyad Allawi.

Mr. Maliki certainly used his position as prime minister and his control of Iraq's wealth to enhance his political position among the Shiites. But he delivered more than money. He cleared southern Iraq's urban areas of Shiite militias, including those directly and actively supported by Iran, and re-established civil order in wartorn Basra, Diwaniyah, Karbala, Maysan, Wasit and Dhi Qar provinces. He thereby gave a degree of security to these communities for which he is now being rewarded electorally.

Early results in the Sunni-Arab core provinces of Anbar, Salah-ad-Din and Diyala are equally heartening. Large numbers of Sunni Arabs boycotted the 2005 provincial and parliamentary elections, leading to feelings of political disenfranchisement that helped fuel the insurgency. Furthermore, those Sunni Arabs who did vote in the 2005 parliamentary elections elected a very narrow and extremist slate that claimed to speak for the entire Sunni-Arab community and refused to make compromises with the Shiite government.

The Sunni political spectrum in 2009 encompasses a much wider range of views, which have each achieved a share of the votes. This development offers the possibility of real cross-sectarian coalitions, as Mr. Maliki is no longer dependent on ISCI for influence in the Shiite areas, and can choose among possible Sunni partners in mixed areas.

The most surprising results were from Ninewah province in the north, where a new political entity formed in 2008 called al Habda seems to have won a majority of the council seats. The Sunni boycott of the 2005 provincial elections had left this province largely under the influence of Kurdish council-members. Kurdish leaders took advantage of that fact to try to create conditions on the ground that would support the annexation of large parts of Ninewah, including parts of its capital, Mosul, to the Kurdish Regional Government.

This effort was highly destabilizing. Ninewah is one of the most diverse provinces, and many of its Arabs and ethnic minorities resented what they perceived as Kurdish expansion. Resentment against this expansion, and also against the failure of the provincial government to provide services, perpetuated a low-level insurgency in this area, permitting al Qaeda to retain its last foothold in Iraq.

Al Habda is a provincial coalition that stands against Kurdish domination of the province and for the provision of security and services to the people of Ninewah. Its rise offers an opportunity to deprive al Qaeda of tacit support within Mosul. It will also force Kurdish leaders to re-evaluate their insistence on "maximalist" demands that threatened to unravel Iraq.

The big loser in this election was Iran. Iranian agents spent a lot of money trying to influence the outcome of the elections in the south, and they largely failed. Iran's favored parties did poorly. The Iranians had hoped to persuade Iraqi voters to punish Mr. Maliki for signing the security agreement with the United States. Instead, these elections proved to be a powerful vote of confidence for the prime minister and his policies, including that agreement.

The big winner in this election was the concept of a unitary Iraq. An attempt to hold a referendum on establishing an autonomous Basra failed before the election. ISCI, the only Arab party that had favored the creation of an autonomous Shiite region, lost ground throughout that region, including in its own stronghold of Najaf. Iraqis have sent a clear message that they want to live in a single state with a strong central government connected to strong provincial governments, rather than in some sort of artificially federated state.

Despite these achievements, American forces will continue to play a vital role as honest brokers and impartial arbiters standing behind efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully. National elections will not occur until December, which may cause considerable tension in a parliament whose majority rests on the disfavored parties. The parliamentary conflict between the prime minister and the disfavored parties may be dramatic.

Results in Ninewah and the south offer the prospect of political resolutions to thorny problems that had been generating violence. In the short term, however, those who stand to lose by those political resolutions may well increase violence and brinksmanship.

Al Qaeda will respond violently, if desperately, to the new Sunni political order. Iran has trained and armed Shiite extremists who fled from Baghdad, Basra and Maysan, and who will seek to reinfiltrate and destabilize those areas.

Also, Iraqi and Kurdish security forces narrowly avoided armed conflict in August 2008 in the ethnically-mixed city of Khanaqin. The status of Kirkuk is still unresolved, much more delicate, and has the potential to generate conflict between the central and regional governments in 2009. The seating of the new councils between now and March, and the election of new governors by those councils, will certainly generate friction, if not armed conflict or assassinations. There are still district (local) and parliamentary (national) elections ahead in 2009.

Now that Iraqis have elected provincial governments of their liking, it is essential that those governments succeed. They will have large budgets to execute with new statutory powers. And the expectations of their electorates are very high.

U.S.-run Provincial Reconstruction Teams, civilian-military units working to rebuild government functions, have a growing role to play in Iraq's provinces and depend on the presence and dispersion of U.S. forces to function. U.S. forces and headquarters still help connect the provinces and the central government, aiding the Iraqi government.

Iraq has gone from being an impending disaster to a golden opportunity. Helping Iraqi internal politics develop peacefully and across sectarian lines is a critical part of reintegrating Iraq into the Arab world, making the world's only Shiite-controlled Arab state acceptable to the Sunni regimes that surround it. That reintegration, in turn, offers tantalizing prospects for balancing Iran and stabilizing the heart of the Muslim world. The stakes in Iraq remain very high, but we are finally starting to see the return on our investment.

Ms. Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War. Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author of "Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power" (AEI Press, 2008).

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



Iraq's Latest Progress
Political compromise follows security, not vice versa.
 
 
One sign that Iraq's local elections went well on the weekend is that there's been so little reporting of the event. Mayhem in the Middle East always gets attention, but a democracy growing in Baghdad is apparently a snooze.

The result is nonetheless worth noting because it showed several encouraging trends in Baghdad while settling some old debates in Washington. While complete results won't be known until the end of the week, the vote itself was peaceful and early returns suggest a victory for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition and other secular parties at the expense of more religious Shiite parties.

This isn't surprising considering that Mr. Maliki is getting -- and deserves -- credit for rescuing Basra, Baghdad's Sadr City and other parts of Iraq from sectarian violence in the last year. Mr. Maliki's coalition ran on a nationalist platform, in contrast to a couple of the religious parties more closely identified with Iran. The theory that a democratic Iraq would inevitably fall under the orbit of the radical mullahs in Qom has taken another blow.
Iraqi Shiites in particular seemed to favor a strong central government in Baghdad, rather than a splintered nation of the kind favored only a couple years ago by sectarian politicians -- not to mention then-Senator Joe Biden. Iraqi Sunnis also participated this time, unlike in 2005, which shows that they too believe they can get their share of power from the still-largely Shiite government in the capital. Ethnic tensions haven't vanished -- especially in Mosul and Kirkuk in the North, where Arabs and Kurds mix uneasily -- but we are a long way from the fragmenting Iraq of famous prediction.

The peacefulness of the election is also noteworthy. When provincial elections were last held in 2005, terrorists attacked more than 100 polling stations, and U.S. and Iraqi military leaders were girding this time for a macabre reprise. But al Qaeda and other terrorists were a no-show, and we'll wager that isn't because they made a strategic decision to be nice. Rather, it's evidence both of al Qaeda's weakness in Iraq, along with the growing effectiveness of Iraq's security forces.

The election is further evidence that President Bush and proponents of the 2007 surge were right on another point as well: to wit, that security would precede political reconciliation. Recall that Senator Jack Reed, Mr. Biden and for that matter Barack Obama insisted in 2007 that a political agreement was needed before the killing would stop. But such an accord was impossible until Iraqis began to feel safe enough to be able to make compromises. The surge brigades (Iraqi and American), the new U.S. counterinsurgency strategy and above all the demonstration of sustained U.S. commitment improved security so much that democratic deal-making became possible.

All this amounts to a huge strategic gift to the Obama Administration. Iraq now stands as a democratic and pluralistic model for other Arab states, and as proof that Iranian-style theocracy isn't in the Shiite political DNA. If the "smart power" that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton likes to talk about has any meaning, it's to capitalize on developments like these.

That's why we're puzzled by media reports that Mr. Obama intends to name Christopher Hill to replace Ryan Crocker as America's ambassador in Baghdad. Part of the puzzle is that retired Marine General Anthony Zinni -- a straight-shooter if ever there was one, with long experience in Mideast diplomacy -- claims he was tapped for the job, until the White House withdrew the offer without notice or explanation.

But the greater puzzle is why Mr. Hill -- who has spent the better part of the last few years making unreciprocated concessions to North Korea and whose previous stints included postings in Macedonia, Poland and South Korea -- is qualified to be the ambassador. Unlike Mr. Crocker, Mr. Hill has no real diplomatic experience in the Middle East and is not an Arabic speaker, no small point since Prime Minister Maliki is not an English speaker.

Especially with U.S. troop levels going down, Iraqis need the assurance of someone both more knowledgeable and sympathetic. Plenty of Iraqis -- especially Sunnis -- remain suspicious that the U.S. will bargain with Tehran by conceding Iranian interests in Iraq. As ambassador, Mr. Crocker held talks with the Iranians but emerged with a sober view of Tehran's malignant role in Iraqi politics. The elections were another notable sign of Iraq's democratic progress, and the U.S. needs an emissary who won't lose the Iraqi trust so painstakingly won by so many.
24437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Arrest Michael Phelps! on: February 04, 2009, 11:24:18 PM
But is this a matter for freedom of choice (a.k.a. "Stupid should hurt")  or for the feds kicking in doors?

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

By STANTON PEELE
The sheriff's office in Richland County, S.C., is investigating a report -- prompted by a photo of the event published in a British tabloid -- that Olympic hero Michael Phelps smoked marijuana there. It's possible Mr. Phelps will be prosecuted. That's right: For those of you who don't know, marijuana is illegal.

I'm guessing it won't take much investigating to discover that Mr. Phelps used the drug at a University of South Carolina house party last November. After all, the 23-year-old swimming phenom -- whose feats in the pool and at meals have been promoted across the globe -- has publicly apologized for doing so, promising "my fans and the public it will not happen again."

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And why wouldn't he apologize? Fat chance Mr. Phelps is about to become a drug policy reformer. He -- and his mom -- want to keep those endorsements rolling in. Imagine if all the prominent people who have ever been exposed for drug use argued for their decriminalization? There would be mayhem -- a lot of people might take drugs and no one would arrest them! The federal government's own surveys reveal that 40% of Americans have consumed marijuana, including the last three presidents of the United States.

The attitude of most Americans, Richland County's sheriff aside, is "Who cares?" After all, smoking pot didn't prevent Barack Obama from becoming president. And obviously, recreational marijuana use hasn't harmed Mr. Phelps, whose prodigious performances have garnered 14 gold medals, the most in Olympic history. If he can smoke pot and perform at such a superhuman level, then perhaps we should reconsider the effects of -- and punishments for -- use of the substance.

Today, not only is it illegal to smoke marijuana, but, most people are surprised to learn, the number of arrests for marijuana use and possession are increasing. In that bastion of liberal values and political views, New York City, close to 400,000 people were apprehended for marijuana misdemeanors in the decade ending in 2007. This was almost 10 times the number arrested in the previous decade. In 2007 alone, nearly 800,000 Americans were arrested for simple possession of marijuana, according to FBI statistics.

But, you're probably thinking, very few presidents, Olympic champions and college students are arrested for drug use. My daughter attends a prominent private university in the city, and she tells me many of her peers smoke pot. Yet neither she nor I had ever heard of a single arrest for this crime on campus.

Who are all of these people getting arrested? And what the heck's the matter with them? Don't they know how to get pot delivered 24/7 to their dorm via carriers from whom you order by cellphone?

Well, here's a hint: 83% of those arrested in New York City in the last decade were African-American or Latino. This occurred even though these groups, while underrepresented among college students, don't actually comprise the majority of drug users.

Then why are they the ones who are most often arrested?

It's complicated. Neighborhoods, social status, police activism, lingering racism, money and power, legal representation: It's a giant ball of wax.

Which gets us back to Michael Phelps and the sheriff of Richland County. What's amazing is not that he would prosecute a marijuana user -- this happens daily across the U.S. What's incredible is that the sheriff wants to apply the law equally, including to an Olympic god.

Next thing you know, he'll be suggesting that we imprison government officials who don't pay their taxes. Doesn't the man know how the world works?

Let me mention one thing I am grateful for: At least Mr. Phelps didn't claim he was addicted, enter the Betty Ford Center for 28 days, then emerge to do public service ads about his recovery. Now that would be hypocritical.

Mr. Peele is a psychologist, attorney and creator of the Life Process Program for addiction recovery. His most recent book is "Addiction-Proof Your Child" (Crown, 2007).
24438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: February 04, 2009, 11:17:31 PM
His Glibness's weak vacilations already begin to bear insipid fruit  tongue

Geopolitical Diary: Prague Stalls on Lisbon Treaty
February 4, 2009
After a long and arduous debate, the lower house of the Czech parliament voted Tuesday on the Lisbon Treaty, a key document meant to streamline decision making in the European Union and serve as its proto-constitution.

Or at least that was the plan.

Instead, Prague has delayed the debate and the subsequent vote yet again, this time until Feb. 15. The official reason is that the relevant parliamentary committees have not yet examined the treaty — originally drafted in September 2007 — sufficiently to reach a unified stance. However, the real reason has nothing to do with Prague’s suspicion of the Lisbon Treaty, with the Czech Republic’s case of euroskepticism or even with the European Union. At issue is the geopolitical choice that Prague feels pressured to make between a resurging Moscow on one side and, on the other, a new American administration that is undecided on its level of commitment to ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Europe.

In short, Prague is struggling to decide to whom it will turn for protection and with whom it needs agreements in order to avoid becoming collateral damage in a Moscow-Washington fight — something with which all of its Central European neighbors can certainly empathize.

The Czechs currently hold the rotating EU presidency. This fact has been something of a running embarrassment for the bloc, since the Czech Republic is the one country (apart from the notoriously euroskeptical Ireland) that has stalled on ratifying the core treaty that is supposed to make the EU more efficient. However, Prague’s skepticism toward the Lisbon Treaty and the general idea of greater European political unity is long held. Fundamentally, the Czech Republic’s fear is that under the new treaty, its own foreign policy agenda would be subject to Brussels’ approval — particularly since Lisbon sets out provisions for streamlining and centralizing decision-making on EU foreign policy (such as the creation of a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and of a “president of the European Union,” a position that would be held by a person rather than a country and would serve for two and a half years).

For a country that historically has been stuck between competing land powers in Europe (Germany, Austria, Poland and the Soviet Union/Russia), giving away control over foreign policy is tantamount to surrendering its only means of expressing a modicum of independence. The Czechs are hardly alone in this way of thinking. The Poles, Balts and Hungarians, for example, are all newer to the EU, and would be on the front line in any potential conflict with Russia. They want to retain the ability to bargain on their own terms, not become bargaining chips for Paris and Berlin to trade with Moscow.

To compensate, all of these states — but most notably Poland and the Czech Republic — have been looking not to Western Europe for security, but to the United States. These two countries have struck preliminary deals to host BMD sites (Poland would host the missile sites and the Czech Republic would house the radar installations). It is not so much that these sites would provide any direct defense against Russia — in fact, Prague even offered to include the Russians in the project — but that they would be manned by Americans, that is important. Having U.S. boots on Czech and Polish soil — even if just a few hundred technicians and support security staff — would ward off the Russians like garlic would vampires. Or so Warsaw and Prague hope.

However, the election of U.S. President Barack Obama has changed the calculus for Warsaw and Prague. Obama thus far has been noncommittal on whether the United States will continue its BMD plan in Central Europe, and this has rattled Prague and Warsaw to the core. For them, the perception of U.S. dithering — no matter the stated reason — signals possible abandonment in order to prevent a larger U.S. clash with Russia.

Prague is therefore delaying its vote on the Lisbon Treaty again, holding off a decision until it gets firmer security commitments from Washington. If the United States does abandon the Czech Republic, Prague’s choices would be to try to reshape the Lisbon Treaty in order to form a better set of protective measures — which would be highly difficult if not impossible — or to turn toward the Kremlin to strike a deal.

Either way, Central Europeans will be looking for assurances that they would not become stepping-stones in a Russian path to Western Europe once again.
24439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 04, 2009, 10:06:02 PM
Its just like during the Michigan primaries.  Hot Air is right that is vapidity is showing.   I fear we are in for one helluva ride.
24440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: February 04, 2009, 07:50:34 PM
Confirmation
http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-02-04-voa79.cfm?rss=asia

24441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: February 04, 2009, 07:39:25 PM
 shocked

Refresh my memory-- what was Stephanopolous under President Clinton?  Press Secretary?  or?
24442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russians happy with BO on: February 04, 2009, 07:37:27 PM
Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons

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

From Times Online

February 4, 2009

Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons




Tony Halpin in Moscow

Russia moved swiftly today to extend a hand to President Obama over American plans for big cuts in nuclear weapons.

Sergei Ivanov, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia was ready to sign a new strategic missile treaty with the United States after The Times disclosed that Mr Obama is to seek an 80 per cent reduction in stockpiles.

"We welcome the statements from the new Obama Administration that they are ready to enter into talks and complete within a year, in this very confined timeframe, the signing of a new Russian-US treaty on the limitation of strategic attack weapons," said Mr Ivanov, a hawkish former defence minister once seen as a candidate to become president of Russia.

He added: "We are also ready for this, undoubtedly."



The landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1991 is due to expire in December. It reduced stockpiles held by the two states from 10,000 to 5,000 but there has been little progress in negotiating a successor treaty.

Talks faltered in part over President George W. Bush's enthusiasm for siting a missile-defence shield in eastern Europe, a move that infuriated Russia. Mr Obama has not said whether he will press ahead with the plan to put ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

A delay in the programme could ease Russian concerns and pave the way for talks to cut the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 each. An official in the US Administration told The Times: “We are prepared to engage in a broader dialogue with the Russians over issues of concern to them.”

The significance of missile defence as an obstacle to successful negotiations was underlined by a former chief of staff for the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. Colonel-General Viktor Yesin said that a deal on missile cuts made sense only if Washington accepted Moscow's security concerns.

"If the American Administration really intends to radically cut Russia's and the US's strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,000 warheads, this would undeniably be a step that could promote real nuclear disarmament," he told Interfax news.

"However, with such considerable reductions of nuclear arsenals, an equal level of security for Russia and the US could be ensured only on condition that Washington drops the idea of deploying . . . its missile defence system in Europe."

Andrei Piontkovsky, executive director of the Strategic Studies Centre in Moscow, said that defence experts in Russia understood that the US missile shield posed no military threat, but Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and former president, was determined to prove that the West could not decide anything in Eastern Europe without Moscow's approval.

"The Start treaty for Russia is a symbol that it is still a superpower, so I think the Kremlin would be satisfied with the fact that Obama is not pushing this issue [missile defence] ahead," Mr Piontkovsky said.

Pavel Felgengauer, one of Russia's leading defence analysts, told The Times that Mr Obama would face domestic pressure to accelerate the missile-defence programme after Iran's success in launching a satellite into space yesterday.

"This puts a serious shadow over the arms-control negotiations because it was assumed that the Democrats would freeze or postpone deployment of this project until the missile threat emerged. Now it has," he said.

"The pressure is going to be on the new US Administration to continue deployment and maybe even speed it up. With missile defence in Europe getting this new impulse from Tehran, that makes it even more difficult to achieve results with Russia."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle5660089.ece
24443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Russians happy with BO on: February 04, 2009, 07:33:06 PM
Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons

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

From Times Online

February 4, 2009

Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons




Tony Halpin in Moscow

Russia moved swiftly today to extend a hand to President Obama over American plans for big cuts in nuclear weapons.

Sergei Ivanov, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia was ready to sign a new strategic missile treaty with the United States after The Times disclosed that Mr Obama is to seek an 80 per cent reduction in stockpiles.

"We welcome the statements from the new Obama Administration that they are ready to enter into talks and complete within a year, in this very confined timeframe, the signing of a new Russian-US treaty on the limitation of strategic attack weapons," said Mr Ivanov, a hawkish former defence minister once seen as a candidate to become president of Russia.

He added: "We are also ready for this, undoubtedly."



The landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1991 is due to expire in December. It reduced stockpiles held by the two states from 10,000 to 5,000 but there has been little progress in negotiating a successor treaty.

Talks faltered in part over President George W. Bush's enthusiasm for siting a missile-defence shield in eastern Europe, a move that infuriated Russia. Mr Obama has not said whether he will press ahead with the plan to put ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

A delay in the programme could ease Russian concerns and pave the way for talks to cut the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 each. An official in the US Administration told The Times: “We are prepared to engage in a broader dialogue with the Russians over issues of concern to them.”

The significance of missile defence as an obstacle to successful negotiations was underlined by a former chief of staff for the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. Colonel-General Viktor Yesin said that a deal on missile cuts made sense only if Washington accepted Moscow's security concerns.

"If the American Administration really intends to radically cut Russia's and the US's strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,000 warheads, this would undeniably be a step that could promote real nuclear disarmament," he told Interfax news.

"However, with such considerable reductions of nuclear arsenals, an equal level of security for Russia and the US could be ensured only on condition that Washington drops the idea of deploying . . . its missile defence system in Europe."

Andrei Piontkovsky, executive director of the Strategic Studies Centre in Moscow, said that defence experts in Russia understood that the US missile shield posed no military threat, but Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and former president, was determined to prove that the West could not decide anything in Eastern Europe without Moscow's approval.

"The Start treaty for Russia is a symbol that it is still a superpower, so I think the Kremlin would be satisfied with the fact that Obama is not pushing this issue [missile defence] ahead," Mr Piontkovsky said.

Pavel Felgengauer, one of Russia's leading defence analysts, told The Times that Mr Obama would face domestic pressure to accelerate the missile-defence programme after Iran's success in launching a satellite into space yesterday.

"This puts a serious shadow over the arms-control negotiations because it was assumed that the Democrats would freeze or postpone deployment of this project until the missile threat emerged. Now it has," he said.

"The pressure is going to be on the new US Administration to continue deployment and maybe even speed it up. With missile defence in Europe getting this new impulse from Tehran, that makes it even more difficult to achieve results with Russia."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle5660089.ece
24444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Colter: Second hand children on: February 04, 2009, 07:28:02 PM
by  Ann Coulter

02/04/2009


It's been weeks since the last one, so on Sunday, The New York Times Magazine featured yet another cheery, upbeat article on single mothers. As with all its other promotional pieces on single motherhood over the years, the Times followed a specific formula to make this social disaster sound normal, blameless and harmless -- even brave.

These single motherhood advertisements include lots of conclusory statements to the effect that this is simply the way things are -- so get used to it, bourgeois America! "(A)n increasing number of unmarried mothers," the article explained, "look a lot more like Fran McElhill and Nancy Clark -- they are college-educated, and they are in their 30s, 40s and 50s."

Why isn't the number of smokers treated as a fait accompli that the rest of us just have to accept? Smoking causes a lot less damage and the harm befalls the person who chooses to smoke, not innocent children.

The Times' single motherhood endorsements always describe single mothers as the very picture of middle-class normality: "She grew up in blue-collar Chester County, Pa., outside Philadelphia, and talks like a local girl (long O's). Her father was a World War II vet who worked for a union and took his kids to Mass most Sundays." Even as a girl she dreamed of raising a baby with a 50 percent greater chance of growing up in poverty.

 How about some articles on all the nice middle-class smokers whose fathers served in World War II and took them to Mass? Only when describing aberrant social behavior do Times writers even recognize what normality is, much less speak of it admiringly.

According to hysterical anti-smoking zealots at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking costs the nation $92 billion a year in "lost productivity." (Obviously these conclusions were produced by people who not only have never smoked, but also don't know any smokers, who could have told them smoking makes us 10 times more productive.)

Meanwhile, single motherhood costs taxpayers about $112 billion every year, according to a 2008 study by Georgia State University economist Benjamin Scafidi.

Smoking has no causal relationship to crime, has little effect on others and -- let's be honest -- looks cool. Controlling for income, education and occupation, it causes about 200,000 deaths per year, mostly of people in their 70s.

Single motherhood, by contrast, directly harms children, occurs at a rate of about 1.5 million a year and has a causal relationship to criminal behavior, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, sexual victimization and almost every other social disorder.

If a pregnant woman smokes or drinks, we blame her. But if a woman decides to have a fatherless child, we praise her as brave -- even though the outcome for the child is much worse.

Thus, the Times writes warmly of single mothers, always including an innocent explanation: "Many of these women followed a similar and familiar pattern in having their first child: They planned to marry, found they hadn't by their 30s, looked some more and then decided to have a child without a husband." At which point, a stork showed up with their babies.

So apparently, single motherhood could happen to anyone!

How about: These smokers followed a similar and familiar pattern, they planned never to start smoking, found themselves working long nights at the law firm and then decided to have a cigarette to stay alert.

Then there is the Times' reversal of cause and effect, which manages to exonerate the single mother while turning her into a victim: "The biggest reason that children born to unmarried mothers tend to have problems -- they're more likely to drop out of school and commit crimes -- is that they tend to grow up poor."

First, the reason the children "tend to grow up poor" is that their mothers considered it unnecessary to have a primary bread-earner in the family.

Second, the Times simply made up the fact that poverty, rather than single motherhood, causes anti-social behavior in children. Poverty doesn't cause crime -- single mothers do. If poverty caused crime, how did we get Bernie Madoff?

Studies -- including one by the liberal Progressive Policy Institute -- have shown that controlling for factors such as poverty and socioeconomic status, single motherhood accounts for the entire difference in black and white crime rates.

The Times' claim that poverty is the "biggest reason" for the problems of illegitimate children is on the order of claiming that the biggest reason that smokers develop heart disease and lung cancer is not because they smoke, but because they tend to work so hard. It's a half-baked, wishful-thinking theory contradicted by all known evidence. Other than that, it holds up pretty well.

Finally, the Times produced an imaginary statistic that is valid only in the sense that no study has specifically disproved it yet. "No one has shown," the Times triumphantly announced, "that there are similar risks for the children of college-educated single mothers by choice."

No one has shown that there are similar risks for smokers who run marathons, either. There are probably about as many college graduate single mothers by choice (7 percent) as there are smokers who run marathons. And, unlike single mothers, smokers who run marathons look really cool.


If the establishment media wrote about smoking the way they write about unwed motherhood, I think people would notice that they seem oddly hellbent on destroying as many lives as possible.
24445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: BO's rendition policy on: February 04, 2009, 05:19:19 PM
Obama and the Treatment of Terrorist Suspects
February 4, 2009
By Fred Burton and Ben West

U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order Feb. 1 approving the continued use of renditions by the CIA. The order seems to go against Obama’s campaign promises to improve the image of the United States abroad, as renditions under the Bush administration had drawn criticism worldwide, especially from members of the European Union. The executive order does not necessarily mean that renditions and other tactics for dealing with terrorist suspects will proceed unchanged, however.

Obama came into office promising changes in the way the United States combats terrorism. One of these changes was a new emphasis on legal processes and a shift away from controversial methods of treating terrorist suspects, like rendition, harsh interrogation techniques and secret prisons. The Obama administration can and will roll back some of these tactics, as demonstrated by the president’s Jan. 22 order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But some will continue.

Renditions and the Legal Process
Renditions are a powerful tool for counterterrorism operations. They involve agents moving into a foreign country to execute a warrant. Once the fugitive is located, agents track, seize and transport him out of the country for interrogations, or to stand trial, as in the cases of Lebanese hijacker Fawaz Younis, CIA shooter Mir Amal Kanzi, 1993 World Trade Center bombers Abdel Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) and Mahmud Abouhalima, and even Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (aka Carlos the Jackal).

Some of the individuals targeted for renditions have warrants out for their arrest, but are taking refuge in countries that either lack the law enforcement capability to capture them or cannot arrest and extradite them for political reasons. By contrast, the renditions where there is no indictment or warrant and where the suspect is transported to a secret prison for interrogation and detention without a public trial are far more controversial. Renditions of either kind virtually always occur with the knowledge of the host country, and usually with the host government’s express consent. (Few countries wish to shelter suspected terrorist masterminds.)

Renditions thus involve legal questions as much as they do diplomatic questions. Before renditions can be carried out, the Washington bureaucracy kicks into full swing. The U.S. State Department must consider the diplomatic ramifications. The ambassador in the host country must consider his or her position and judge the response of his or her contacts in the host country government. The U.S. Justice Department must also sign on. Finally, the agency in charge of actually nabbing the suspect must be willing to work within any restrictions imposed by any one of the many individuals who must approve the operation.

Even when the government ultimately deems a rendition operation legal, numerous factors can still stymie the effort (not least of which is that by the time all the necessary approvals have been obtained, the window of opportunity to nab the suspect might have closed). So while Obama’s executive order in theory permits renditions, it is only one part of the whole process; the appropriate members of Obama’s administration must also be on board.

Many members of the Obama administration also served in the Clinton administration, which was widely seen as considering all legal ramifications of potential renditions before taking any action. As a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, new Attorney General Eric Holder enjoyed a reputation for deliberating on renditions to the point of inaction — effectively vetoing such operations.

While an appearance of greater attention to the law might come as a relief to many, actors in the field do not have the luxury of endless deliberation and total consensus — they have a narrow window of opportunity in which to act on perishable intelligence. Assuming that Obama’s administration acts with deliberation and pursues consensus building (as he himself has emphasized, and has demonstrated in the bipartisan nature of his Cabinet selections), the legality of renditions might become moot if they are not agreed upon in a timely manner. There is a fine line to walk between efficiency and legality in this field, with extremes on either side being detrimental to national security.

By their very nature, renditions are ad hoc and rarely fit into a nice, clean process, something that explains their controversial nature. They frequently occur in countries allied to the United States, meaning the practice falls outside the scope of war. And renditions resulting in suspects’ standing trial are far less controversial than those involving secret prisons, harsh interrogation tactics and reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations — tactics disfavored by the Obama administration.

Alternatives to Rendition

Apprehending suspects in foreign countries does not always involve controversial tactics. U.S. counterterrorism officials also use tactics abroad that are not forbidden under U.S. law, though they might be illegal if used within the United States (and could well be illegal in the country where U.S. agents employ them). In general, such tactics remain constant as administrations change. These tactics include surveillance of foreign targets, ruse operations and economic incentives and punishments to encourage cooperation in counterterrorism efforts.

Ruse operations, a less controversial way to apprehend fugitives than renditions, involve deception, obviating the need to jump through the bureaucratic hoops required for renditions. Ruse operations involve luring suspects to a location where U.S. agents can apprehend them legally. This involves persuading targets to venture into international waters, for example, or even to travel to the United States, where U.S. agents lie in wait.

While such tactics avoid the legal complexities surrounding renditions, they are extremely difficult to carry out. Suspects worth chasing around the world typically are not overly gullible, and know where it is safe to travel. So while there is no reason to believe that ruse operations will cease anytime soon, successful ones are few and far between.

Sometimes killing a terrorist target is both more efficient and less legally complex than renditions or ruse operations. Tactical strikes, such as the unmanned aerial vehicle-launched missile strikes against suspected al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, both remove a suspected terrorist target and avoid drawn-out legal processes. Like its predecessor, the Obama administration apparently sees striking at al Qaeda targets along the Pakistani-Afghan border as acceptable within the scope of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, despite Pakistani protests. The latest such U.S. strike came Jan. 23, just three days after Obama took office. Given the administration’s presumed hesitation based on legal reservations and an unwillingness to expand warfare beyond the Afghan theater, this tactic is unlikely to pop up in other areas of the world without a serious threat escalation.

Secret Prisons and Interrogation Issues

Obama on Jan. 22 also ordered the CIA to close its secret prisons around the world that hold detainees without adhering to U.S. legal standards. Because fewer than 100 detainees were held in these prisons, however, this is a minor point.

A different executive order also issued Jan. 22 applied the interrogation guidelines outlined in the U.S. military field handbook and the Geneva Conventions to the CIA. Obama and Holder also have made it clear that the new administration views waterboarding as torture and thus illegal, settling the debate on the matter.

Still, it is only a matter of time before new techniques used by interrogators in the field will face questions of legality and morality. No national leader can micromanage at the field level. Even though the Justice Department and senior White House officials in the Bush administration signed secret findings authorizing the CIA to conduct waterboarding in specific cases, tactical, field-level topics do not stick around at the level of national policy for very long.

With secret prisons on the way out, more restrictions on how agents act in the field and an expected decline in renditions, a greater U.S. reliance on third countries to carry out rendition operations is possible. During the Clinton and Bush administrations, countries like Egypt and Jordan were known to cooperate with U.S. agencies in detaining and interrogating prisoners.

Critics claimed that relying on third countries exploited a loophole that allowed the United States to see that unsavory acts were committed without directly carrying them out. Obama’s emphasis on using diplomacy to improve the U.S. image in the world suggests that his administration will turn to other countries for counterterrorism assistance instead of operating unilaterally. Obama already has asked for other countries to help out more in Afghanistan (specifically European countries). Obama might also tap third countries like Portugal, Switzerland or Germany to take in detainees leaving Guantanamo who are not sent back to home countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia after the facility’s closure. Working with these countries to ensure safe delivery of the detainees out of U.S. custody will remove a lightning rod for criticism of the United States in the Muslim world.

Delegating counterterrorism responsibilities to other countries allows the United States to avoid the legal complexities inherent in renditions, secret prisons and harsh interrogation. But ultimately, increased reliance on other countries with different interests can enhance the overall complexity of missions. It is also important to remember that the United States possesses one of the most capable counterterrorism forces in the world, and that other countries simply cannot carry out the same missions that the United States does. This is not to say that pursuing U.S. interests abroad does not call for diplomacy (which is one of the administration’s main tools to fight terror), but that seeking international approval and establishing legal cover does reduce efficiency and restrain U.S. capabilities. Finding the balance between fighting terror efficiently and remaining within legal boundaries will be a key challenge for the Obama administration.

24446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A tear goes out to our British brothers on: February 04, 2009, 04:33:35 PM
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1129143/Soldier-lost-legs-Afghanistan-refused-permission-specially-adapted-bungalow-grandparents-land.html

Soldier who lost both legs in Afghanistan is refused permission for specially-adapted bungalow on grandparents' land
By Vanessa Allen
Last updated at 1:09 AM on 28th January 2009
Comments (95) Add to My Stories
 'Devastated': Marine Joe Townsend with his grandfather David Carter

After losing both legs to an anti-tank mine while serving in Afghanistan, 20-year-old Joe Townsend was trying his best to rebuild his life.

And after 20 operations in hospital, the Royal Marine’s grandfather gave him the best possible incentive to get better.
David Carter decided to build a modest bungalow on land near the home he shares with his wife Lynda, 60, to help Joe become more independent. It seemed the perfect solution.

But the council disagreed. Joe’s bungalow would be ‘intrusive’, planners said. And anyway, his case was not exceptional enough for them to waive strict laws and allow the bungalow to be built.

They narrowly ruled against the plans, even though there had been no objections – and despite a direct appeal from Joe, who was desperate to live near his family, in Pevensey, East Sussex.

Their decision devastated the wheelchair-bound veteran. It means he must stay in a rehabilitation centre instead.

‘I said I had been a local lad all my life and always wanted to live round my granddad’s,’ he said.

‘His idea of building me a place in his paddock was a massive incentive for me to crack on, get better and get my independence back. The rejection was a kick in the teeth.’

Mr Townsend was 19 when his legs were amputated after he stepped on an anti-tank mine buried on his patrol’s route in Helmand in February.

He has had many operations, with more surgery due next month, and has received round-the-clock care at Headley Court Armed Forces rehabilitation centre, in Surrey.

 Rejected: Mr Carter stands by the plot of land where he wanted to build the bungalow

Most people had seemed happy to help him get on with his life. The plans for his bungalow, which would have had a treatment room, a bedroom for a carer and an en- suite bathroom, were drawn up for free by an architect who wanted to thank Joe for his sacrifice.

Meanwhile, Mr Carter, 72, said his neighbours had supported the scheme. Critics condemned the council for not doing the same. Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former soldier, said: ‘Marine Townsend has paid an extraordinary price for his service to this country. I believe he is an extraordinary case and should be viewed as such.’

The Royal British Legion said: ‘This man’s injuries were incurred defending this country abroad.

‘I hope this council will reconsider what their decision means, not only to this individual but symbolically to all our Armed Forces.’

Councillor Niki Oakes, who considered the application and by coincidence is also a double amputee, had called on the committee to help Joe.

‘I said “Damn the rules!” There has to be a way to get round them sometimes in a case like this,’ she said.

But Wealden District Council stood firm: ‘The proposed dwelling by reason of its siting and detailed design would appear as an intrusive development within this semi-rural area. The circumstances in this case are not considered sufficient to warrant an exception to the usual restraint policies.’
24447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / News now made in China too? on: February 04, 2009, 11:49:04 AM
Bringing this over from the China thread

China: Beijing Plans to Infiltrate Mainstream Western Media(to buy & control failing MSM)
Boxun ^ | 01/28/09

Beijing Plans to Infiltrate Mainstream Western Media

By chinafreepress.org (translation)

Jan 28, 2009 - 11:06:03 AM

Boxun Exclusive

In mid-January 2009, a week before Chinese New Year, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party held a meeting to discuss its plan for foreign propaganda work in the year to come. It summarized the past decade's progress in co-opting international Chinese-language media into doing the propaganda work of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Politburo decided that in addition to continuing its Chinese-language international image promotion, it plans to infiltrate and influence mainstream Western media. The meeting cited the example of the Russian former KGB officer and present tycoon who has purchase the defunct British newspaper The Evening Standard. This overt an approach is undesirable, the meeting concluded, and instead influential overseas Chinese in the media business should be utilized to purchase and operate mainstream Western media organs.

The spring 2008 coverage of the uprising in Tibet by CNN and other Western mainstream media organs sounded an alarm. China's Politburo concluded that it must counter this by infiltrating and influencing Western coverage of China and China's image in the international media.

The opportunity is presently ripe because of the downturn in the world economy. Many media organizations are in economic difficulty, even going bankrupt, and they can be purchased and it will look like an investment and business opportunity and not the attempt of the Chinese government to infiltrate Western media organs and influence Western popular opinion toward China that it is.

Full Chinese report at:

http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/china/2009/01/200901280838.shtml

http://www.boxun.us/news/publish/chinanews/Beijing_Plans_to_Infiltrate_Mainstream_Western_Media.shtml
24448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rape used to create bombers on: February 04, 2009, 10:57:47 AM
 Insurgents Use Rape to Create Female Bombers

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

BBC News: Iraq's 'female bomber recruiter'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7869570.stm

 
Samira Jassim is accused of recruiting dozens of female attackers


Suspected militant recruiter Samira Jassim reportedly calls herself "the Mother of Believers". Detained in January by Iraqi security forces, the mother of six is accused of converting dozens of vulnerable women into suicide attackers.

In an apparent video confession, the middle-aged woman described how she identified potential bombers, helped supply them with explosives and led them to their targets.  She also explained, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, how insurgents used rape as a tool, with the "shamed" women persuaded to redeem themselves through suicide attacks.

Her apparent confession could help throw light on the recent increase in attacks in Iraq involving female bombers. In 2007 there were eight suicide attacks by women; in 2008 there were 32, the US military says. In early January, a female bomber killed at least 35 Shia pilgrims in a blast near a Baghdad shrine.

Insurgents use female bombers because they can hide explosives under their robes and are less likely to be searched by male guards at security checkpoints.

'Bring her to us'

Samira Jassim worked with Sunni militants from the Ansar al-Sunnah group in Diyala province, one of the last remaining centres of Sunni insurgency, Iraqi security officials said.
 
Women can sometimes bypass the security checks in Iraqi cities

She had recruited 80 women to act as bombers, 28 of whom had gone on to launch attacks, a military spokesman told journalists at a news conference in Baghdad. 

In a filmed confession, the black-robed Jassim described how she recruited one woman for an attack in the city of Mukdadiyah, 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

"I talked to her a number of times," she said. "I went back to them (the militants) and gave them the details on her. And they told me, bring her to us... And I took her to the police station and that's where she blew herself up."

She also described the long process of persuading a woman named Amal, who had family problems, to launch an attack.

"I talked to her many times, sat with her and she was very depressed," she said.

In a separate interview with AP a week after her 21 January arrest, Jassim also described how insurgents used organised rape as a way of generating more bombers. Her role was to persuade the traumatised victims that carrying out a suicide attack was their only way out.

That claim was impossible to verify, AP said, and during their interview with her police interrogators sat in an adjoining room.  But in a culture where rape is considered very shameful for the victim, it is not implausible, correspondents say.
24449  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: February 04, 2009, 08:58:42 AM
Agradezco que mi hijo ha cambiado de escuela.  Estamos muy, muy contentos con la nueva situacion.
24450  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 04, 2009, 08:57:08 AM
Gracias por los informes Denny. 
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