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24501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: June 05, 2008, 05:54:59 PM
Savy trader DG stays away from GG like the plague!

My biggest current winner is POT.  I bought at 50 and it is now well over 200  grin grin grin

24502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 04, 2008, 09:26:15 PM
June 4, 2008

In today's Political Diary:

- Obama By a Nose (Uplifted)
- Hillary for Veep?
- Osama School of Journalism (Quote of the Day I)
- Bad Man (Quote of the Day II)
- Voters vs. the Climate Gang


A Less Than Convincing Victory

Barack Obama effectively won the Democratic nomination last night, and he must be
relieved the long primary season is over. Every primary since early March has
demonstrated a worrying inability on his part to expand his coalition within the
Democratic Party. The Montana and South Dakota primaries last night showed him once
again winning upper-class Democrats who frequent Starbucks, while salt-of-the-earth
Democrats who like Dunkin Donuts coffee are still with Hillary Clinton.

In Montana, Mr. Obama won 75% of the vote in trendy Bozeman, where Ted Turner and
other celebrities have ranches. He won only 50% in Billings, the state's largest
city. He won college-educated voters but not those without college educations.
Meanwhile, in winning South Dakota yesterday, Mrs. Clinton won six out of ten female
voters and split men with Mr. Obama.

There are other troubling signs for Mr. Obama in yesterday's primary numbers. Once
again, Mrs. Clinton carried the one-fifth of voters who made up their minds in the
last week of campaigning -- winning that group by six points in Montana and a
stunning 26 points in South Dakota.

Worse for Mr. Obama, about one-fourth of Clinton voters in Montana told exit
pollsters they would plump for John McCain in November if his opponent is Barack
Obama. Another 10% said they planned to stay home. In South Dakota, about 15% of
Clinton supporters indicated a preference for Mr. McCain and an equal number said
they didn't plan to vote in the fall.

Mr. Obama has pulled off a remarkable feat in snatching the nomination from someone
who once appeared to be an invincible frontrunner. But he did so without ever
cracking into Mrs. Clinton's support among working-class, female, and older white
voters. Mr. Obama's hopes of winning the White House will hinge on whether he can
reach those voters in the fall election.

-- John Fund.


Inside the Tent or Out?

Can Hillary Clinton cajole or bully Barack Obama into putting her on his ticket as
the vice presidential candidate? It won't be for lack of trying. Yesterday, Mrs.
Clinton said she "was open" to the idea. In reality, her allies behind the scenes
are pushing the idea hard, with the emphasis on bullying.

"Last night, when Obama went over the top in delegates and could claim the
nomination as his, Hillary organized a rally of all of her supporters, directly
competing for airtime with the newly minted nominee," notes Dick Morris, the former
Clinton political consultant who is now a strong critic of the couple.

On another front, a group called HillaryGrassrootsCampaign.com sent out an email
last night claiming to represent a half-million Hillary backers "who are ready to be
'former' Democrats because of the contempt and disregard that has been shown to the
many party faithful who support Sen. Clinton's presidential candidacy." The implied
message is that Hillary backers might be coaxed back into the fold if she were made
the vice presidential nominee.

On the surface, Mrs. Clinton has a good argument that she could combine her
lower-income supporters with the upscale liberals that form the heart of Mr. Obama's
coalition. But in reality, the bitterness that Obama advisers, especially his wife
Michelle, harbor against Mrs. Clinton may override any matchmaking efforts.

Then there is the issue of governing. Should Mr. Obama become president, no doubt
Mrs. Clinton will demand a relevant role shaping public policy -- and one that could
conflict with Obama priorities. There's also the issue of Bill Clinton, who would
soak up Washington media attention as the spouse of a vice president. Given the
former president's recent penchant for seemingly uncontrollable outbursts, not all
the attention would necessarily be good.

Mrs. Clinton may desperately want the visibility of the vice presidential nomination
as a way to extend her political shelf life for a future presidential run. But right
now, she is far from having convinced Team Obama that she can transform herself into
a trusted and loyal member of their team.

-- John Fund


Quote of the Day I

"The New York Times won the Pulitzer for revealing the fact of the Terrorist
Surveillance Program. Now, with all due respect to being here in the National Press
Club with a lot of my friends in the press, I thought the idea that The New York
Times would win the Pulitzer Prize, one of the highest awards in journalism, for
revealing one of the nation's most important secrets and telling the enemy how it
was we were intercepting their communications, frankly was less than honorable. It
bothered me, greatly" -- Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking Monday at the Gerald
R. Ford Journalism Prize Luncheon:


Quote of the Day II

"Why do we love to believe that mankind is a plague upon the Earth? We view anything
and everything that happens in nature, no matter how barbaric, bloody, or
destructive, as good. Indeed, the word 'natural' has no negative connotation at all.
If a volcano like Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines dumps millions of tons of sulfur
into the stratosphere, cooling the Earth for two or three years, this is simply
Mother Nature at work. If humans did it, we would call it an environmental
catastrophe" -- University of Alabama climate scientist Roy Spencer, writing in
National Review.


Voters on Cap and Trade: Just Say No

Today the Senate will take its first major vote on the cap-and-trade
Lieberman-Warner bill to reduce global warming. It's expected to fail to get the 60
votes needed for passage, but what's more important is that the U.S. voting public
is almost universally against paying the costs.

A just-released Wilson Research Poll commissioned by the National Center for Public
Policy Research finds that 91% of respondents do not want to pay even the
conservative cost estimates associated with cap and trade. The poll also found that
71% are not willing to pay more for electricity and 65% don't want to pay even a
penny more at the pump for gasoline.

"If you ask the public do they want to do something to fight global warming, they
say 'sure,'" says David Ridenour, the director of NCPPR. "But when you ask them if
they want to pay more for cap and trade, they almost universally say 'no.'" In other
words, only if it's a free lunch are voters willing to go along. And given the high
costs and uncertainty of any benefits from policies to prevent climate change, it's
far from clear that voters are being irrational here.

A spokesman from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change objects that such polls and
studies don't take account of the "offsetting benefits to the economy from cap and
trade." But those benefits are speculative at best. A study by climate expert
Patrick J. Michaels of the University of Virginia estimates that cap and trade would
only lower temperatures by 0.01 degrees by 2050, which is hardly going to yield
major economic windfalls.

The Lieberman-Warner plan would increase petroleum prices by 5.9% by 2015, according
to Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The
National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the Lieberman-Warner proposal
would increase electricity prices by about 13%. With oil prices exceeding $120 a
barrel, Americans want the Senate to find ways to lower, not raise, their energy
bills.

-- Stephen Moore


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24503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A primer on: June 04, 2008, 09:20:32 PM
http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/primer_on_gasoline_prices/html/petbro.html

and

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/gdu/gasdiesel.asp


Have only skimmed, but sent by a friend of reliable judgment.


     
24504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unraveling part 2 on: June 04, 2008, 08:58:12 PM


Hanif Qadir, now 42, revealed to us that he himself was recruited by Al Qaeda after the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Jihadist recruiters in east London, no doubt noting wealth, sought out Qadir, who had earned enough money running a car repair shop to buy a Rolls-Royce and live in some style. "The guy who handled me was a Syrian called Abu Sufiyan. ... I'm sure he was from Al Qaeda," recalls Qadir. "He was good at telling you what you wanted to hear ... he touched all my emotional buttons." Qadir agreed to join. He drew up a will and, in December 2002, bought a first-class ticket to Pakistan. But, as the truck he was in crossed the dirt roads into Afghanistan, a chance occurrence changed his life: A truck, carrying wounded fighters, approached them from the other direction. Among them was a young Punjabi boy whose white robes were stained with blood. "These are evil people," another of the wounded shouted. "[W]e came here to fight jihad, but they are just using us as cannon fodder." Qadir's truckload of wannabe jihadists made a u-turn. "That kid, he was like an angel. He kicked me back into reality," recalls Qadir. "When I landed back in the U.K., I wanted to find [the Al Qaeda recruiters] and cut their heads off."

Qadir never found them, but he became determined to stop others like him from being recruited. In 2004, he and his brother opened the gym and community center in the Walthamstow neighborhood of east London. Soon, hundreds of young Muslims were attending.

The scale of the challenge was quickly clear. Soon after the center opened, he got wind that pro-Al Qaeda militants were secretly booking rooms there for their meetings. Worse, in the summer of 2006, several of those arrested in connection with the Al Qaeda airlines plot, including alleged ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, were found to have attended his gym. But, rather than shutting the radicals out, Qadir continued to allow them to meet. "Sometimes our youngsters get into debates with these people, for example on jihad, and make them look ridiculous in front of their followers," he says. Qadir believes his approach is finally starting to pay off: "The extremists are burning out: The number of radicals in Walthamstow is diminishing, not growing."

At another mosque in London, the Muslim Brotherhood joined forces with the British authorities to reclaim the institution from pro-Al Qaeda militants. The Brotherhood is the most powerful Islamist group in the Arab world, with chapters throughout Europe and North America. It has long opposed Al Qaeda's jihad, a stance that so angered Zawahiri that he published a book, The Bitter Harvest, condemning the organization in 1991. From the late '90s, the Finsbury Park mosque in London had been dominated by the pro-Al Qaeda cleric Abu Hamza Al Masri. During that time, few selfrespecting jihadists traveling through London passed up the free accommodation in its basement. Visitors included Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "twentieth hijacker" of the September 11 plot, and Richard Reid, who tried to down a U.S.-bound airliner with a shoe bomb in December 2001.

In 2003, British police shut the mosque, but Abu Hamza's followers continued to have a strong presence in the area. In February 2005, police helped broker a deal for the mosque to re-open under the leadership of the local chapter of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a Muslim Brotherhood group. No sooner had the moderates gained control of the Finsbury Park mosque than they were confronted by Abu Hamza's angry followers, led by the pugnacious Atilla Ahmet, who calls himself "the number-one Al Qaeda in Europe" and who, in October, pled guilty to providing British Muslims with terrorist training. "They brought sticks and knives with them," recalls Kamal El Helbawy, spokesman for the new trustees at the mosque.

Undeterred, a few days later Helbawy gave the first Friday sermon, explaining that this was a new start for the mosque and stressing how important it was for Muslims to live in harmony with their neighbors. Detective Inspector Lambert, the Metropolitan police officer who helped broker the takeover, says that, because of its social welfare work and its track record supporting the Palestinian cause, the MAB has "big street cred in the area and [has] made an impact on Abu Hamza's young followers."

Salman Al Oudah, the Saudi preacher, spoke at the re-opened mosque in 2006, as has Abdullah Anas, an Algerian former mujahedin fighter based in London who has been a critic of Al Qaeda for years. Anas worked with bin Laden in Pakistan during the '80s, fought in Afghanistan for almost a decade against the communists, and married the daughter of a Palestinian cleric who is still lionized as the spiritual godfather of the jihadist movement, the most radical wing of which would morph into Al Qaeda. Anas told us that his critiques of Al Qaeda were not well-received in 2003, but that, "in the last two or three years, there has been a change in opinion," citing the Madrid and London bombings as turning points. In 2006, Anas went public with his criticisms of Al Qaeda, in an interview with Asharq Al Awsat, one of the leading newspapers in the Arab world, criticizing the London subway bombings as "criminal deeds ... prohibited by the Sharia."

Detective Inspector Lambert told us preachers like Anas and Al Oudah "can't be discounted. ... When you have Muslim leaders who are attacked both by Al Qaeda supporters and by commentators who oppose engagement [with Islamists], then they are in a useful position."

 


In December, Al Qaeda's campaign of violence reached new depths in the eyes of many Muslims, with a plot to launch attacks in Saudi Arabia while millions were gathered for the Hajj. Saudi security services arrested 28 Al Qaeda militants in Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh, whose targets allegedly included religious leaders critical of Al Qaeda, among them the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abd Al Aziz Al Sheikh, who responded to the plot by ruling that Al Qaeda operatives should be punished by execution, crucifixion, or exile. Plotting such attacks during the Hajj could not have been more counterproductive to Al Qaeda's cause, says Abdullah Anas, who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca himself. "People over there ... were very angry. The feeling was, how was it possible for Muslims to do that? I still can't quite believe it myself. The mood was one of shock, real shock."

Is Al Qaeda going to dissipate as a result of the criticism from its former mentors and allies? Despite the recent internal criticism, probably not in the short term. As one of us reported in The New Republic early last year, Al Qaeda, on the verge of defeat in 2002, has regrouped and is now able to launch significant terrorist operations in Europe ("Where You Bin?" January 29, 2007). And, last summer, U.S. intelligence agencies judged that Al Qaeda had "regenerated its [U.S.] Homeland attack capability" in Pakistan's tribal areas. Since then, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have only entrenched their position further, launching a record number of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year. Afghanistan, Algeria, and Iraq also saw record numbers of suicide attacks in 2007 (though the group's capabilities have deteriorated in Iraq of late). Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is still able to find recruits in the West. In November, Jonathan Evans, the head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5, said that record numbers of U.K. residents are now supportive of Al Qaeda, with around 2,000 posing a "direct threat to national security and public safety." That means that Al Qaeda will threaten the United States and its allies for many years to come.

However, encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups like Al Qaeda are the seeds of their own long-term destruction: Their victims are often Muslim civilians; they don't offer a positive vision of the future (but rather the prospect of Taliban-style regimes from Morocco to Indonesia); they keep expanding their list of enemies, including any Muslim who doesn't precisely share their world view; and they seem incapable of becoming politically successful movements because their ideology prevents them from making the real-world compromises that would allow them to engage in genuine politics.

Which means that the repudiation of Al Qaeda's leaders by its former religious, military, and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement. As Churchill remarked after the battle of El Alamein in 1942, which he saw as turning the tide in World War II, "[T]his is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Noman Benotman, bin Laden's Libyan former companion-in-arms, assesses that Al Qaeda's recent resurgence, which he says has been fueled by the Iraq war, will not last. "There may be a wave of violence right now, but ... in five years, Al Qaeda will be more isolated than ever. No one will give a toss about them." And, given the religio-ideological basis of Al Qaeda's jihad, the religious condemnation now being offered by scholars and fighters once close to the organization is arguably the most important development in stopping the group's spread since September 11. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell tacitly acknowledged this in his yearly report to Congress in February, when he testified that, "Over the past year, a number of religious leaders and fellow extremists who once had significant influence with Al Qaeda have publicly criticized it and its affiliates for the use of violent tactics."

Most of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad), but their anti-Al Qaeda positions are making Americans safer. If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter. The U.S. government neither has the credibility nor the Islamic knowledge to effectively debate Al Qaeda's leaders, but the clerics and militants who have turned against them do. Juan Zarate, a former federal prosecutor and a key counterterrorism adviser to President Bush, acknowledged as much in a speech in April when he said, "These challenges from within Muslim communities and even extremist circles will be insurmountable at the end of the day for Al Qaeda."

These new critics, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, have created a powerful coalition countering Al Qaeda's ideology. According to Pew polls, support for Al Qaeda has been dropping around the Muslim world in recent years. The numbers supporting suicide bombings in Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, for instance, have dropped by half or more in the last five years. In Saudi Arabia, only 10 percent now have a favorable view of Al Qaeda, according to a December poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based think tank. Following a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year, support for suicide operations amongst Pakistanis has dropped to 9 percent (it was 33 percent five years ago), while favorable views of bin Laden in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, around where he is believed to be hiding, have plummeted to 4 percent from 70 percent since August 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Al Qaeda's leaders have been thrown on the defensive. In December, bin Laden released a tape that stressed that "the Muslim victims who fall during the operations against the infidel Crusaders ... are not the intended targets." Bin Laden warned the former mujahedin now turning on Al Qaeda that, whatever their track records as jihadists, they had now committed one of the "nullifiers of Islam," which is helping the "infidels against the Muslims."

Kamal El Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, believes that Al Qaeda's days may be numbered: "No government, no police force, is achieving what these [religious] scholars are achieving. To defeat terrorism, to convince the radicals ... you have to persuade them that theirs is not the path to paradise."

Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank are research fellows at New York University's Center on Law and Security. Peter Bergen is also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know.




© The New Republic 2008
 
24505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unraveling on: June 04, 2008, 08:57:23 PM
The Unraveling
 by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank
The jihadist revolt against bin Laden.
Post Date Wednesday, June 11, 2008
 
 DISCUSS ARTICLE [56] |  PRINT |  EMAIL ARTICLE
 
 
 
Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard, 17 hours in a Toyota pickup truck bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since Al Qaeda had moved to Afghanistan in 1996. Benotman, the scion of an aristocratic family marginalized by Qaddafi, had known bin Laden from their days fighting the Afghan communist government in the early '90s, a period when Benotman established himself as a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

Credit: Courtesy of Noman Benotman
 View Larger Image
Noman Benotman on a Libyan government private jet bound for Tripoli on a secret mission in January 2007.
 
The night of Benotman's arrival, bin Laden threw a lavish banquet in the main hall of his compound, an unusual extravagance for the frugal Al Qaeda leader. As bin Laden circulated, making small talk, large dishes of rice and platters of whole roasted lamb were served to some 200 jihadists, many of whom had come from around the Middle East. "It was one big reunification," Benotman recalls. "The leaders of most of the jihadist groups in the Arab world were there and almost everybody within Al Qaeda."

Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the United States in 1998. Over the next five days, bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past twenty years."

Despite the warm welcome, Benotman surprised his hosts with a bleak assessment of their prospects. "I told them that the jihadist movement had failed. That we had gone from one disaster to another, like in Algeria, because we had not mobilized the people," recalls Benotman, referring to the Algerian civil war launched by jihadists in the '90s that left more than 100,000 dead and destroyed whatever local support the militants had once enjoyed. Benotman also told bin Laden that the Al Qaeda leader's decision to target the United States would only sabotage attempts by groups like Benotman's to overthrow the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. "We made a clear-cut request for him to stop his campaign against the United States because it was going to lead to nowhere," Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it."

Benotman says that bin Laden tried to placate him with a promise: "I have one more operation, and after that I will quit"--an apparent reference to September 11. "I can't call this one back because that would demoralize the whole organization," Benotman remembers bin Laden saying.

After the attacks, Benotman, now living in London, resigned from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, realizing that the United States, in its war on terrorism, would differentiate little between Al Qaeda and his organization.

 


Benotman, however, did more than just retire. In January 2007, under a veil of secrecy, he flew to Tripoli in a private jet chartered by the Libyan government to try to persuade the imprisoned senior leadership of his former group to enter into peace negotiations with the regime. He was successful. This May, Benotman told us that the two parties could be as little as three months away from an agreement that would see the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group formally end its operations in Libya and denounce Al Qaeda's global jihad. At that point, the group would also publicly refute recent claims by Al Qaeda that the two organizations had joined forces.

This past November, Benotman went public with his own criticism of Al Qaeda in an open letter to Zawahiri, absorbed and well-received, he says, by the jihadist leaders in Tripoli. In the letter, Benotman recalled his Kandahar warnings and called on Al Qaeda to end all operations in Arab countries and in the West. The citizens of Western countries were blameless and should not be the target of terrorist attacks, argued Benotman, his refined English accent, smart suit, trimmed beard, and easygoing demeanor making it hard to imagine that he was once on the front lines in Afghanistan.

Although Benotman's public rebuke of Al Qaeda went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating Al Qaeda, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose victims since September 11 have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over Al Qaeda's leaders, and who--alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, the senseless killings in Muslim countries, and Al Qaeda's barbaric tactics in Iraq--have turned against the organization, many just in the past year.

After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."

Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by Al Qaeda's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al Qaeda's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where Al Qaeda's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.

Additionally, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since September 11: hundreds of ordinary Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a U.S. hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to Al Qaeda have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr. Zawahiri but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with Al Qaeda's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.

 


Two months before Benotman's letter to Zawahiri was publicized in the Arab press, Al Qaeda received a blow from one of bin Laden's erstwhile heroes, Sheikh Salman Al Oudah, a Saudi religious scholar. Around the sixth anniversary of September 11, Al Oudah addressed Al Qaeda's leader on MBC, a widely watched Middle East TV network: "My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed ... in the name of Al Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?"

What was noteworthy about Al Oudah's statement was that it was not simply a condemnation of terrorism, or even of September 11, but that it was a personal rebuke, which clerics in the Muslim world have shied away from. In Saudi Arabia in February, one of us met with Al Oudah, who rarely speaks to Western reporters. Dressed in the long black robe fringed with gold that is worn by those accorded respect in Saudi society, Al Oudah recalled meeting with bin Laden--a "simple man without scholarly religious credentials, an attractive personality who spoke well," he said--in the northern Saudi region of Qassim in 1990. Al Oudah explained that he had criticized Al Qaeda for years but until now had not directed it at bin Laden himself: "Most religious scholars have directed criticism at acts of terrorism, not a particular person. ... I don't expect a positive effect on bin Laden personally as a result of my statement. It's really a message to his followers."

Al Oudah's rebuke was also significant because he is considered one of the fathers of the Sahwa, the fundamentalist awakening movement that swept through Saudi Arabia in the '80s. His sermons against the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait helped turn bin Laden against the United States. And bin Laden told one of us in 1997 that Al Oudah's 1994 imprisonment by the Saudi regime was one of the reasons he was calling for attacks on U.S. targets. Al Oudah is also one of 26 Saudi clerics who, in 2004, handed down a religious ruling urging Iraqis to fight the U.S. occupation of their country. He is, in short, not someone Al Qaeda can paint as an American sympathizer or a tool of the Saudi government.

Tellingly, Al Qaeda has not responded to Al Oudah's critique, but the research organization Political Islam Online tracked postings on six Islamist websites and the websites of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya TV networks in the week after Al Oudah's statements; it found that more than two-thirds of respondents reacted favorably. Al Oudah's large youth following in the Muslim world has helped his anti-Al Qaeda message resonate. In 2006, for instance, he addressed a gathering of around 20,000 young British Muslims in London's East End. "Oudah is well known by all the youth. It's almost a celebrity culture out there. ... He has definitely helped to offset Al Qaeda's rhetoric," one young imam told us.

More doubt about Al Qaeda was planted in the Muslim world when Sayyid Imam Al Sharif, the ideological godfather of Al Qaeda, sensationally withdrew his support in a book written last year from his prison cell in Cairo. Al Sharif, generally known as "Dr. Fadl," was an architect of the doctrine of takfir, arguing that Muslims who did not support armed jihad or who participated in elections were kuffar, unbelievers. Although Dr. Fadl never explicitly called for such individuals to be killed, his takfiri treatises from 1988 and 1993 gave theological cover to jihadists targeting civilians.

Dr. Fadl was also Zawahiri's mentor. Like his protégé, he is a skilled surgeon and moved in militant circles when he was a member of Cairo University's medical faculty in the '70s. In 1981, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated and Zawahiri was jailed in connection with the plot, Dr. Fadl fled to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he operated on wounded mujahedin fighting the Soviets. After Zawahiri's release from jail, he joined Dr. Fadl in Peshawar, where they established a new branch of the "Jihad group" that would later morph into Al Qaeda. Osama Rushdi, a former Egyptian jihadist then living in Peshawar, recalls that there was little doubt about Dr. Fadl's importance: "He was like the big boss in the Mafia in Chicago." And bin Laden also owed a deeply personal debt to Dr. Fadl; in Sudan in 1993, the doctor operated on Al Qaeda's leader after he was hurt in an assassination attempt.

So it was an unwelcome surprise for Al Qaeda's leaders when Dr. Fadl's new book, Rationalization of Jihad, was serialized in an independent Egyptian newspaper in November. The incentive for writing the book, he explained, was that "jihad ... was blemished with grave Sharia violations during recent years. ... [N]ow there are those who kill hundreds, including women and children, Muslims and non Muslims in the name of Jihad!" Dr Fadl ruled that Al Qaeda's bombings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere were illegitimate and that terrorism against civilians in Western countries was wrong. He also took on Al Qaeda's leaders directly in an interview with the Al Hayat newspaper. "Zawahiri and his Emir bin Laden [are] extremely immoral," he said. "I have spoken about this in order to warn the youth against them, youth who are seduced by them, and don't know them."

Dr. Fadl's harsh words attracted attention throughout the Arabic-speaking world; even a majority of Zawahiri's own Jihad group jailed in Egyptian prisons signed on and promised to end their armed struggle. In December, Zawahiri released an audiotape lambasting his former mentor, accusing him of being in league with the "bloodthirsty betrayer" Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and, in a 200-page book titled The Exoneration, published in March, he replied at greater length, portraying Dr. Fadl as a prisoner trying to curry favor with Egypt's security services and the author of "a desperate attempt (under American sponsorship) to confront the high tide of the jihadist awakening."

 


Ultimately, the ideological battle against Al Qaeda in the West may be won in places such as Leyton and Walthamstow, largely Muslim enclaves in east London, whose residents included five of the eight alleged British Al Qaeda operatives currently on trial for plotting to bring down U.S.-bound passenger jets in 2006. It is in Britain that many leaders of the jihadist movement have settled as political refugees, and "Londonistan" has long been a key barometer of future Islamist trends. There are probably more supporters of Al Qaeda in Britain than any other Western country, and, because most British Muslims are of Pakistani origin, British militants easily can obtain terrorist training in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Al Qaeda's main operational hub since September 11. And now, because it is difficult for Al Qaeda to send Middle Eastern passport holders to the United States, the organization has particularly targeted radicalized Muslims in Britain for recruitment. So the nexus between militant British Muslims, Pakistan, and Al Qaeda has become the leading terrorist threat to the United States.

Over the last half-year, we have made several trips to London to interview militants who have defected from Al Qaeda, retired mujahedin, Muslim community leaders, and members of the security services. Most say that, when Al Qaeda's bombs went off in London in 2005, sympathy for the terrorists evaporated.

In Leyton, the neighborhood mosque is on the main road, a street of terraced houses, halal food joints, and South Asian hairdressers. Around 1,000 people attend Friday prayers there each week.

Usama Hassan, one of the imams at the mosque, has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from Imperial College in London, read theoretical physics at Cambridge, and now teaches at Middlesex University. But he also trained in a jihadist camp in Afghanistan in the '90s and, until a few years ago, was openly supportive of bin Laden. And, in another unusual twist, he is now one of the most prominent critics of Al Qaeda. Over several cups of Earl Grey in the tea room next to the mosque, Hassan--loquacious and intelligent, every bit the university lecturer--explained how he had switched sides.

Raised in London by Pakistani parents, Hassan arrived in Cambridge in 1989 and, feeling culturally isolated, fell in with Jamiat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al Sunnah (JIMAS), a student organization then supportive of jihads in Palestine, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. In December 1990, Hassan traveled to Afghanistan, where he briefly attended an Arab jihadist camp. He was shown how to use Kalashnikovs and M-16s and was taken to the front lines, where a shell landed near his group's position. "My feeling was, if I was killed, then brilliant, I would be a martyr," he recalls. Later, as a post-graduate student in London, Hassan played a lead role in the student Islamic Society, then a hotbed of radical activism. "At the time I was very anti-American. ... It was all black and white for us. I used to be impressed with bin Laden. There was no other leadership in the Muslim world standing up for Muslims." When September 11 happened, Hassan says the view in his circle was that "Al Qaeda had given one back to George Bush."

Still, as Al Qaeda continued to target civilians for attacks, Hassan began to rethink. His employment by an artificial intelligence consulting firm also integrated him back toward mainstream British life. "It was a slow process and involved a lot of soul-searching. ... Over time, I became convinced that bin Laden was dangerous and an extremist." The July 2005 bombings in London were the clincher. "I was devastated by the attack," he says. "My feeling was, how dare they attack my city."

Three days after the London bombings, the Leyton mosque held an emergency meeting; about 300 people attended. "We explained that these acts were evil, that they were haram," recalls Hassan. It was not the easiest of crowds; one youngster stormed out, shouting, "As far as I'm concerned, fifty dead kuffar is not a problem."

In Friday sermons since then, Hassan says that he has hammered home the difference between legitimate jihad and terrorism, despite a death threat from pro-Al Qaeda militants: "I think I'm listened to by the young because I have street cred from having spent time in a [jihadist] training camp. ... Jihadist experience is especially important for young kids because otherwise they tend to think he is just a sell-out who is a lot of talk." This spring, Hassan helped launch the Quilliam Foundation, an organization set up by former Islamist extremists to counter radicalism by making speeches to young Muslims in Great Britain about how they had been duped into embracing hatred of the West.

 


Such counter-radicalization efforts will help lower the pool of potential recruits for Al Qaeda--the only way the organization can be defeated in the long term. But the reality facing British counterterrorism officials, such as Detective Inspector Robert Lambert, the recently departed head of the Metropolitan police's Muslim Contact Unit, is that "Al Qaeda values dozens of recruits more than hundreds of supporters." In order to target the most radical extremists, the Metropolitan police have backed the efforts of a Muslim community group, the Active Change Foundation, based around a gym in Walthamstow run by Hanif and Imtiaz Qadir, two brothers of Kashmiri descent.

24506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on the Steyn Trial on: June 04, 2008, 08:42:30 PM
Here's more on the Steyn trial of my previous post:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/...f-461ff39cb6cd

The show trial begins

David Warren
The Ottawa Citizen


Wednesday, June 04, 2008


The writings of Canada's most talented journalist, Mark Steyn, went on trial in Vancouver on Monday, in a case designed to challenge freedom of the press. It is a show trial, under the arbitrary powers given to Canada's obscene "human rights" commissions, by Section 13 of our Human Rights Act.

I wrote "obscene" advisedly. A respondent who comes before Canada's "human rights" tribunals has none of the defences formerly guaranteed in common law. The truth is no defence, reasonable intention is no defence, nor material harmlessness, there are no rules of evidence, no precedents, nor case law of any kind. The commissars running the tribunals need have no legal training, exhibit none, and owe their appointments to networking among leftwing activists.

I wrote "show trial" advisedly, for there has been a 100 per cent conviction rate in cases brought to "human rights" tribunals under Section 13.

Take this in:

A group of Islamist fanatics, claiming to speak for every Muslim in Canada, charged Maclean's magazine with "spreading hatred against Muslims" for having printed a lucid and reasonable (if controversial) excerpt from Steyn's bestselling book, America Alone. This is a news story that should be on the front page of every newspaper in Canada, every day until it is resolved.

Everything about this case stinks to high heaven. It was brought before three different "human rights" tribunals simultaneously. The British Columbian venue was openly "jurisdiction shopped" because the province's human rights tribunals have an especially egregious record for ignoring respondents' most basic Charter rights. The charges were brought more than a year after the article appeared. There was an open attempt at extortion, when representatives of the complainant called a press conference in which an offer was made to retract the charges for unspecified considerations.

The case is the more ludicrous because the allegations brought are semi-literate (for instance, Steyn's quotations of lunatic Islamist imams are confused with Steyn's own assertions). The remedies sought keep changing; the arguments keep changing; the explanation of why the complainant has brought the case and what he hopes to gain from it has kept changing. And now the show trial has begun, the prosecution is presenting a parade of entirely irrelevant testimony. (Has Steyn properly understood the Koran? Etc.)

A farce, but a farce that has huge consequences for Canada: for by such methods free speech and free press are being snuffed out. The Left may think they have found the ideal method to silence anyone who challenges their insane, "politically correct" ideas, but have instead created a monster that can as easily eat them next.

This is a disaster also for Canada's Muslims, for the views of fanatical Islamists are being presented as representative of all. No single person has done so much to advance contempt for Islam in this country as Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, the complainant in this case, whose public assertions include, for example, the view every adult Israeli citizen is a valid target for Palestinian hitmen.

The bland acceptance of this man, by mainstream Canadian media, as the definitive spokesman for Muslim interests in Canada, cannot be blamed on the Muslim community. Innumerable Muslims have disavowed him, and yet are entirely ignored. Indeed: Mark Steyn has been among the few journalists distinguishing between camps. He would be: for he has plenty of Muslim supporters.

There is some good news. It appears the Harper government has finally been goaded into calling a public inquiry into proceedings of at least the federal "human rights" commission. Some good may come from public confirmation of the outrageous, often sick behaviour of its members and hangers-on, which Canada's leading bloggers have been documenting.

But the problem is at once more urgent and much broader than any carefully-focused inquiry can present. For what radical activists have achieved through "human rights" commissions is now endemic, in all kinds of "star chamber" and "kangaroo court" operations, in everything from the tax system to provisions of family law.

Another crucial point:

While media attention to Mark Steyn's show trial is inadequate, it is nevertheless the best publicized case ever to come before our "human rights" bureaucracies. Most of the victims of these neo-Maoist tribunals have been "little people," with nothing like the resources Maclean's magazine has put in play to defend itself and Steyn, and no media reporting whatever. They have been persecuted, stripped of their livelihoods and savings, demonized among their neighbours, made to endure humiliating "re-education" programs - without lawyers, without assistance of any kind -- all for exercising rights that any Canadian would have taken for granted a mere generation ago.

I want justice for Mark Steyn. But I also want justice for all these little people, who have been crushed under the jackboot of "political correction."

David Warren's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
24507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why we went to Iraq on: June 04, 2008, 06:24:02 PM
Why We Went to Iraq
By FOUAD AJAMI
June 4, 2008

Of all that has been written about the play of things in Iraq, nothing that I have seen approximates the truth of what our ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, recently said of this war: "In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came."

It is odd, then, that critics have launched a new attack on the origins of the war at precisely the time a new order in Iraq is taking hold. But American liberal opinion is obsessive today. Scott McClellan can't be accused of strategic thinking, but he has been anointed a peer of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. A witness and a presumed insider – a "Texas loyalist" – has "flipped."

 
Associated Press Photo/Nabil al-Jurani 
Iraqi Army soldiers secure Basra, April 2008.
Mr. McClellan wades into the deep question of whether this war was a war of "necessity" or a war of "choice." He does so in the sixth year of the war, at a time when many have forgotten what was thought and said before its onset. The nation was gripped by legitimate concern over gathering dangers in the aftermath of 9/11. Kabul and the war against the Taliban had not sufficed, for those were Arabs who struck America on 9/11. A war of deterrence had to be waged against Arab radicalism, and Saddam Hussein had drawn the short straw. He had not ducked, he had not scurried for cover. He openly mocked America's grief, taunted its power.

We don't need to overwork the stereotype that Arabs understand and respond to the logic of force, but this is a region sensitive to the wind, and to the will of outside powers. Before America struck into Iraq, a mere 18 months after 9/11, there had been glee in the Arab world, a sense that America had gotten its comeuppance. There were regimes hunkering down, feigning friendship with America while aiding and abetting the forces of terror.

Liberal opinion in America and Europe may have scoffed when President Bush drew a strict moral line between order and radicalism – he even inserted into the political vocabulary the unfashionable notion of evil – but this sort of clarity is in the nature of things in that Greater Middle East. It is in categories of good and evil that men and women in those lands describe their world. The unyielding campaign waged by this president made a deep impression on them.

Nowadays, we hear many who have never had a kind word to say about the Iraq War pronounce on the retreat of the jihadists. It is as though the Islamists had gone back to their texts and returned with second thoughts about their violent utopia. It is as though the financiers and the "charities" that aided the terror had reconsidered their loyalties and opted out of that sly, cynical trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Islamism is on the ropes, if the regimes in the saddle in key Arab states now show greater resolve in taking on the forces of radicalism, no small credit ought to be given to this American project in Iraq.

We should give the "theorists" of terror their due and read them with some discernment. To a man, they have told us that they have been bloodied in Iraq, that they have been surprised by the stoicism of the Americans, by the staying power of the Bush administration.

There is no way of convincing a certain segment of opinion that there are indeed wars of "necessity." A case can always be made that an aggressor ought to be given what he seeks, that the costs of war are prohibitively high when measured against the murky ways of peace and of daily life.

"Wars are not self-starting," the noted philosopher Michael Walzer wrote in his seminal book, "Just and Unjust Wars." "They may 'break out,' like an accidental fire, under conditions difficult to analyze and where the attribution of responsibility seems impossible. But usually they are more like arson than accident: war has human agents as well as human victims."

Fair enough. In the narrow sense of command and power, this war in Iraq is Mr. Bush's war. But it is an evasion of responsibility to leave this war at his doorstep. This was a war fought with congressional authorization, with the warrant of popular acceptance, and the sanction of United Nations resolutions which called for Iraq's disarmament. It is the political good fortune (in the world of Democratic Party activists) that Sen. Barack Obama was spared the burden of a vote in the United States Senate to authorize the war. By his telling, he would have us believe that he would have cast a vote against it. But there is no sure way of knowing whether he would have stood up to the wind.

With the luxury of hindsight, the critics of the war now depict the arguments made for it as a case of manipulation and deceit. This is odd and misplaced: The claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were to prove incorrect, but they were made in good faith.

It is also obtuse and willful to depict in dark colors the effort made to "sell" the war. Wars can't be waged in stealth, and making the moral case for them is an obligation incumbent on the leaders who launch them. If anything, there were stretches of time, and critical turning points, when the administration abdicated the fight for public opinion.

Nor is there anything unprecedented, or particularly dishonest, about the way the rationale for the war shifted when the hunt for weapons of mass destruction had run aground. True, the goal of a democratic Iraq – and the broader agenda of the war as a spearhead of "reform" in Arab and Muslim lands – emerged a year or so after the onset of the war. But the aims of practically every war always shift with the course of combat, and with historical circumstances. Need we recall that the abolition of slavery had not been an "original" war aim, and that the Emancipation Proclamation was, by Lincoln's own admission, a product of circumstances? A war for the Union had become a victory for abolitionism.

America had not been prepared for nation-building in Iraq; we had not known Iraq and Iraqis or understood the depth of Iraq's breakdown. But there was nothing so startling or unusual about the connection George W. Bush made between American security and the "reform" of the Arab condition. As America's pact with the Arab autocrats had hatched a monster, it was logical and prudent to look for a new way.

"When a calf falls, a thousand knives flash," goes an Arabic proverb. The authority of this administration is ebbing away, the war in Iraq is unloved, and even the "loyalists" now see these years of panic and peril as a time of exaggerated fear.

It is not easy to tell people of threats and dangers they have been spared. The war put on notice regimes and conspirators who had harbored dark thoughts about America and who, in the course of the 1990s, were led to believe that terrible deeds against America would go unpunished. A different lesson was taught in Iraq. Nowadays, the burden of the war, in blood and treasure, is easy to see, while the gains, subtle and real, are harder to demonstrate. Last month, American casualties in Iraq were at their lowest since 2003. The Sunnis also have broken with al Qaeda, and the Shiite-led government has taken the war to the Mahdi Army: Is it any wonder that the critics have returned to the origins of the war?

Five months from now, the American public will vote on this war, in the most dramatic and definitive of ways. There will be people who heed Ambassador Crocker's admonition. And there will be others keen on retelling how we made our way to Iraq.

Mr. Ajami, a Bradley Prize recipient, teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift" (Free Press, 2006).
24508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Steyn on Trial in Canada; Jordan subpoenas; Bardot fined on: June 04, 2008, 06:18:36 PM
VANCOUVER -In the subterranean bowels of a provincial courthouse, a bizarre and frightening spectacle starts to unfold. At issue are the pointed musings of Mark Steyn, a journalist and author living in the United States. A lengthy excerpt from his controversial book, America Alone, was published two years ago in Toronto-based Maclean's magazine, a weekly publication owned by Toronto-based Roger's Publishing Ltd.
The book excerpt ran as a cover story, entitled "Why the Future Belongs to Islam," and argued that Western democracy is threatened by the spread of Islam. In response, a human rights complaint was made here, in British Columbia, by an electrical engineer living in Waterloo, Ont.
That's the bizarre part, or one slice of it. None of the main players starring in this quasi-judicial drama actually live or work in B. C. Not Mr. Steyn, not the editors responsible for Maclean's, and not Mohamed Elmasry, a Muslim who launched a complaint to the B. C. Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of all Muslims in this province.
Neither Mr. Steyn, nor his editors, nor Mr. Elmasry were in sight when the tribunal panel began the week-long hearing yesterday. Mr. Steyn will not testify, say lawyers for Maclean's. Nor will Mr. Elmasry, the aggrieved. So why bring the complaint forward here? Because Mr. Elmasry can. This thanks to provincial human rights legislation of a breadth and elasticity not known in other parts of Canada.
Mr. Elmasry, the president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, and a highly controversial figure himself -- especially among Jewish groups -- claims the Steyn excerpt denigrated and vilified Canadian Muslims and promoted hatred of an identifiable group.
He is not obliged to demonstrate what harm occurred to whom, or to what degree. Maclean's magazine and Mr. Steyn could still be found to have violated B. C.'s Human Rights Code. No proof of damage is required.
Meanwhile, if found to have violated the code, Maclean's faces sanctions, including payment to the complainant "an amount that the member or panel considers appropriate to compensate that person for injury to dignity, feelings and self respect or to any of them."...
Packing the small gallery behind them were Mark Steyn supporters, Internet bloggers, and others opposed to limits placed on free speech.
Mr. Joseph opened with a blistering attack. The Steyn excerpt that Maclean's published in October, 2006, presented Muslims as "a violent people" who hold traditional Canadian values "in contempt," he alleged. Their religion was portrayed as "inhuman" and "violent." Even the cover image that Maclean's chose to run with the Steyn excerpt was hauled before the inquiry. The image of two Muslim women, along with the magazine's cover line, "could have been the picture of a horror cult movie," declared Mr. Joseph.
He soon swerved off topic, referring to inflammatory passages from Mr. Steyn's book that did not appear in Maclean's. He mentioned "20 other articles" that ran in Maclean's, beginning in January, 2005; these were also unkind to Muslims, he alleged, even if they were not part of his client's complaint. Mr. Joseph even slammed Maclean's for publishing letters from readers praising the magazine and Mr. Steyn.

Full article here.
http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/...3fda2ca5dd&p=1
=============

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,363182,00.html


A Danish cartoonist and ten newspaper editors have reportedly been summoned by Jordan's public prosecutor on charges of "blasphemy" for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
According to the Copenhagen Post, prosecutor Hassan Abdullat has subpoenaed the 11 Danes for drawing and reprinting cartoons they say offend Islam, charging them with "threatening the national peace."
Under Jordanian law, reproducing images of the Prophet Muhammad inside — or even outside the country — is illegal under the Jordanian Justice Act, the newspaper wrote.
A lawyer representing "The Prophet Unites Us," a Jordanian group angling for the prosecution, said that if the Danish journalists did not appear in Jordan for legal proceedings, the next step would be to inform Interpol and seek their arrest.
But the Danish foreign ministry said that the journalists would not be forcibly deported, as the printing of the controversial cartoons is not a punishable offense in Denmark.
Jordanian courts have not issued an indictment, but lawyers are hoping the case will help establish an international law against slandering religion, according to Danish reports.

Abdullat has summoned Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist facing death threats for his depiction of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.
Abdullat also subpoenaed the editors of ten newspapers that reprinted the infamous cartoon in March, the paper reported.
The summons came just one day after the Danish embassy in Pakistan was destroyed in a bombing that killed 6, apparently a reprisal for the reprinting of the cartoons.
__________________

Brigitte Bardot fined £12,000 for racial hatred after claiming Muslims are destroying France

Last updated at 5:55 PM on 03rd June 2008

French film star Brigitte Bardot was today convicted of provoking discrimination and racial hatred for writing that Muslims are destroying France.

A Paris court also handed down a €15,000 ($11,920) fine against the former screen siren turned animal rights campaigner.

A leading French anti-racism group known as MRAP filed a lawsuit last year over a letter Bardot, 73, sent to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

The remarks by the star, who helped popularise the bikini during her heyday in the 1950s, were published in her foundation's quarterly journal.

In the December 2006 letter to Mr Sarkozy, now the president, Bardot said France is "tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts."

The actress, who is most famous for her sex kitten role in And God Created Woman, was referring to the Muslim feast of Eid el-Kebir, celebrated by slaughtering sheep.

Bardot's lawyer, Francois-Xavier Kelidjian, said he would talk to her about the possibility of an appeal.

"She is tired of this type of proceedings," he said.

"She has the impression that people want to silence her. She will not be silenced in her defense of animal rights."

The court also ordered Bardot to pay €1,000 (£795) in damages to MRAP, as well as one symbolic euro to two other anti-racism groups.

French anti-racism laws prevent inciting hatred and discrimination on racial or religious or racial grounds.

Bardot had been convicted four times previously for inciting racial hatred.

She was first fined in 1997 for her comments published in Le Figaro newspaper.

A year later she was convicted for making a statement about the growing number of mosques in France "while our church bells fall silent".

In 1998 she was convicted for making a statement about the growing number of mosques in France.

In a book she wrote in 1999, called "Le Carre de Pluton" (Pluto's Square), she again criticised Muslim sheep slaughter and was fined 30,000 francs £3,000).

In a 2001 article named, Open Letter to My Lost France, she lamented: "...my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims."

In her 2003 book, A Scream in the Silence, she warned of the “Islamicisation of France”, and said of Muslim immigration: “Over the last twenty years, we have given in to a subterranean, dangerous, and uncontrolled infiltration, which not only resists adjusting to our laws and customs but which will, as the years pass, attempt to impose its own."

She was fined €5,000 (then worth £2,900)

Find this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz...ng-France.html

24509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Obama We Don't Know on: June 04, 2008, 06:15:27 PM
e Obama We Don't Know
June 4, 2008; Page A20
With Barack Obama clinching the Democratic Party nomination, it is worth noting what an extraordinary moment this is. Democrats are nominating a freshman Senator barely three years out of the Illinois legislature whom most of America still hardly knows. The polls say he is the odds-on favorite to become our next President.

Think about this in historical context. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were relatively unknown, but both had at least been prominent Governors. John Kerry, Walter Mondale, Al Gore and even George McGovern were all long-time Washington figures. Republican nominees tend to be even more familiar, for better or worse. In Mr. Obama, Democrats are taking a leap of faith that is daring even by their risky standards.

 
AP 
No doubt this is part of his enormous appeal. Amid public anger over politics as usual, the Illinois Senator is unhaunted by Beltway experience. His personal story – of mixed race, and up from nowhere through Harvard – resonates in an America where the two most popular cultural icons are Tiger Woods and Oprah. His political gifts are formidable, especially his ability to connect with audiences from the platform.

Above all, Mr. Obama has fashioned a message that fits the political moment and the public's desire for "change." At his best, he offers Americans tired of war and political rancor the promise of fresh national unity and purpose. Young people in particular are taken by it. But more than a few Republicans are also drawn to this "postpartisan" vision.

Mr. Obama has also shown great skill in running his campaign. No one – including us – gave him much chance of defeating the Clinton machine. No doubt he benefited from the desire of even many Democrats to impeach the polarizing Clinton era. But he also beat Hillary and Bill at their own game. He raised more money, and he outworked them in the small-state caucuses that provided him with his narrow delegate margin. Even now, he is far better organized in swing states than is John McCain's campaign. All of this speaks well of his preparation for November, and perhaps for his potential to govern.

Yet govern how and to what end? This is the Obama Americans don't know. For all of his inspiring rhetoric about bipartisanship, his voting record is among the most partisan in the Senate. His policy agenda is conventionally liberal across the board – more so than Hillary Clinton's, and more so than that of any Democratic nominee since 1968.

We can't find a single issue on which Mr. Obama has broken with his party's left-wing interest groups. Early on he gave a bow to merit pay for teachers, but that quickly sank beneath the waves of new money he wants to spend on the same broken public schools. He takes the Teamsters line against free trade, to the point of unilaterally rewriting Nafta. He wants to raise taxes even above the levels of the Clinton era, including a huge increase in the payroll tax. Perhaps now Mr. Obama will tack to the center, but somehow he will have to explain why the "change" he's proposing isn't merely more of the same, circa 1965.

There is also the matter of judgment, and the roots of his political character. We were among those inclined at first to downplay his association with the Trinity United Church. But Mr. Obama's handling of the episode has raised doubts about his candor and convictions. He has by stages moved from denying that his 20-year attendance was an issue at all; to denying he'd heard Rev. Jeremiah Wright's incendiary remarks; to criticizing certain of those remarks while praising Rev. Wright himself; to repudiating the words and the reverend; and finally this weekend to leaving the church.

Most disingenuously, he said on Saturday that the entire issue caught him by surprise. Yet he was aware enough of the political risk that he kept Rev. Wright off the stage during his announcement speech more than a year ago.

A 2004 Chicago Sun-Times interview with Mr. Obama mentioned three men as his religious guides. One was Rev. Wright. Another was Father Michael Pfleger, the Louis Farrakhan ally whose recent remarks caused Mr. Obama to resign from Trinity, but for whose Chicago church Mr. Obama channeled at least $225,000 in grants as a state senator. Until recently, the priest was connected to the campaign, which flew him to Iowa to host an interfaith forum. Father Pfleger's testimony for the candidate has since been scrubbed from Mr. Obama's campaign Web site. A third mentor was Illinois state Senator James Meeks, another Chicago pastor who has generated controversy for mixing pulpit and politics.

The point is not that Mr. Obama now shares the radical views of these men. The concern is that by the Senator's own admission they have been major moral influences, and their views are starkly at odds with the candidate's vision as a transracial peacemaker. Their patronage was also useful as Mr. Obama was making his way in Chicago politics. But only now, in the glare of a national campaign, is he distancing himself from them. The question is what in fact Mr. Obama does believe.

The young Senator has been a supernova exploding into our politics, more phenomenon than conventional candidate. His achievement in winning the Democratic nomination has been impressive. Now comes a harder audience. The presidency has to be earned, and Americans have a right to know much more about the gifted man who is the least tested and experienced major party nominee in modern times.
24510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: June 03, 2008, 09:39:15 PM
A very high IQ friend recommends Taleb's book highly.
24511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water on: June 03, 2008, 09:37:02 PM
June 3, 2008
In Spain, Water Is a New Battleground
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
FORTUNA, Spain — Lush fields of lettuce and hothouses of tomatoes line the roads.
Verdant new developments of plush pastel vacation homes beckon buyers from Britain
and Germany. Golf courses — dozens of them, all recently built — give way to the
beach. At last, this hardscrabble corner of southeast Spain is thriving.

There is only one problem with the picture of bounty: this province, Murcia, is
running out of water. Swaths of southeast Spain are steadily turning into desert, a
process spurred on by global warming and poorly planned development.

Murcia, traditionally a poor farming region, has undergone a resort-building boom in
recent years, even as many of its farmers have switched to more thirsty crops,
encouraged by water transfer plans, which have become increasingly untenable. The
combination has put new pressures on the land and its dwindling supply of water.

This year, farmers are fighting developers over water rights. They are fighting one
another over who gets to water their crops. And in a sign of their mounting
desperation, they are buying and selling water like gold on a rapidly growing black
market, mostly from illegal wells.

Southern Spain has long been plagued by cyclical droughts, but the current crisis,
scientists say, probably reflects a more permanent climate change brought on by
global warming. And it is a harbinger of a new kind of conflict.

The battles of yesterday were fought over land, they warn. Those of the present
center on oil. But those of the future — a future made hotter and drier by climate
change in much of the world — seem likely to focus on water, they say.

“Water will be the environmental issue this year — the problem is urgent and
immediate,” said Barbara Helferrich, a spokeswoman for the European Union’s
Environment Directorate. “If you already have water shortages in spring, you know
it’s going to be a really bad summer.”

Dozens of world leaders will be meeting at the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization headquarters in Rome starting Tuesday to address a global food crisis
caused in part by water shortages in Africa, Australia and here in southern Spain.

Climate change means that creeping deserts may eventually drive 135 million people
off their land, the United Nations estimates. Most of them are in the developing
world. But Southern Europe is experiencing the problem now, its climate drying to
the point that it is becoming more like Africa’s, scientists say.

For Murcia, the arrival of the water crisis has been accelerated by developers and
farmers who have hewed to water-hungry ventures highly unsuited to a drier, warmer
climate: crops like lettuce that need ample irrigation, resorts that promise a
swimming pool in the yard, acres of freshly sodded golf courses that sop up millions
of gallons a day.

“I come under a lot of pressure to release water from farmers and also from
developers,” said Antonio Pérez Gracia, the water manager here in Fortuna, sipping
coffee with farmers in a bar in the town’s dusty square. He rued the fact that he
could provide each property owner with only 30 percent of its government-determined
water allotment.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do this summer,” he added, noting that the local aquifer
was sinking so quickly that the pumps would not reach it soon. “I come under a lot
of pressure to release water, from farmers and also from developers. They can
complain as much as they want, but if there’s no more water, there’s no more water.”


Rubén Vives, a farmer who relies on Mr. Pérez Gracia’s largess, said he could not
afford the black market water prices. “This year, my livelihood is in danger,” said
Mr. Vives, who has farmed low-water crops like lemons here for nearly two decades.

The hundreds of thousands of wells — most of them illegal — that have in the past
provided a temporary reprieve from thirst have depleted underground water to the
point of no return. Water from northern Spain that was once transferred here has
also slowed to a trickle, as wetter northern provinces are drying up, too.

The scramble for water has set off scandals. Local officials are in prison for
taking payoffs to grant building permits in places where there is not adequate
water. Chema Gil, a journalist who exposed one such scheme, has been subject to
death threats, carries pepper spray and is guarded day and night by the Guardia
Civil, a police force with military and civilian functions.

“The model of Murcia is completely unsustainable,” Mr. Gil said. “We consume two and
a half times more water than the system can recover. So where do you get it? Import
it from elsewhere? Dry up the aquifer? With climate change we’re heading into a
cul-de-sac. All the water we’re using to water lettuce and golf courses will be
needed just to drink.”

Facing a national crisis, Spain has become something of an unwitting laboratory,
sponsoring a European conference on water issues this summer and announcing a
national action plan this year to fight desertification. That plan includes a shift
to more efficient methods of irrigation, as well as an extensive program of
desalinization plants to provide the fresh water that nature does not.

The Spanish Environment Ministry estimates that one-third of the county is at risk
of turning into desert from a combination of climate change and poor land use.

Still, national officials visibly stiffen when asked about the “Africanization” of
Spain’s climate — a term now common among scientists.

“We are in much better shape than Africa, but within the E.U. our situation is
serious,” said Antonio Serrano Rodríguez, the secretary general for land and
biodiversity at Spain’s Environment Ministry.

Still, Mr. Serrano and others acknowledge the broad outlines of the problem. “There
will be places that can’t be farmed any more, that were marginal and are now
useless,” Mr. Serrano said. “We have parts of the country that are close to the
limit.”

While southern Spain has always been dry and plagued by cyclical droughts, the
average surface temperature in Spain has risen 2.7 degrees compared with about 1.4
degrees globally since 1880, records show.

Rainfall here is predicted to fall 20 percent from this year to 2020, and 40 percent
by 2070, according to United Nations projections.

The changes on the Almarcha family farm in Albanilla over the past three decades are
a testament to that hotter, drier climate here. Until two decades ago, the farm grew
wheat and barley, watered only by rain. As rainfall dropped, Carlo Almarcha, 51,
switched to growing almonds.

About 10 years ago, he quit almonds and changed to organic peaches and pears, “since
they need less water,” he explained. Recently he took up olives and figs, “which
resist drought and are less sensitive to weather.”

Mr. Almarcha participates in a government water trading system, started last year,
in which farmers pay three times the normal price — 33 cents instead of 12 per cubic
meter — to get extra water. The black market rate is even higher. Still, his outlook
is bleak.

“You used to know that this week in spring there will be rain,” he said, standing in
his work boots on parched soil of an olive grove that was once a wheat field. “Now
you never know when or if it will come. Also, there’s no winter any more and plants
need cold to rest. So there’s less growth. Sometimes none. Even plants all seem
confused.”

While Mr. Almarcha has gradually moved toward less thirsty crops, the government’s
previous water transfer plans have moved many farmers in the opposite direction. The
farmers have shifted to producing a wide range of water-hungry fruits and vegetables
that had never been grown in the south. Murcia is traditionally known for figs and
date palms.

“You can’t grow strawberries naturally in Huelva — it’s too hot,” said Raquel
Montón, a climate specialist at Greenpeace in Madrid, referring to the nearby
strawberry capital of Spain. “In Sarragosa, which is a desert, we grow corn, the
most water-thirsty crop. It’s insane. The only thing that would be more insane is
putting up casinos and golf courses.” Which, of course, Murcia has.

In 2001, a new land use law in Murcia made it far easier for residents to sell land
for resort development. Though southern Spain has long had elaborate systems for
managing its relatively scarce water, today everyone, it seems, has found ways to
get around them.

Grass on golf courses or surrounding villas is sometimes labeled a “crop,” making
owners eligible for water that would not be allocated to keep leisure space green.
Foreign investors plant a few trees and call their vacation homes “farms” so they
are eligible for irrigation water, Mr. Pérez Gracia said.

“Once a property owner’s got a water allotment, he asks for a change of land use,”
he explained. “Then he’s got his property and he’s got his water. It’s supposed to
be for irrigation, but people use it for what they want. No one knows if it goes to
a swimming pool.”

While he said his “heart goes out to the real farmers,” he did not have the
personnel to monitor how people use their allotments.

With so much money to be made, officials set aside laws and policies that might
encourage sustainable development, Mr. Gil, the journalist, said. At first, he was
vilified in the community when he wrote articles critical of the developments.
Recently, as people are discovering that the water is running out, the attitude is
shifting.

But even so, people and politicians tend to regard water as a limitless resource.
“Politicians think in four-year blocks, so it’s O.K. as long as it doesn’t run out
on their watch,” said Ms. Montón of Greenpeace. “People think about it, but they
don’t really think about what happens tomorrow. They don’t worry until they turn on
the tap and nothing flows.”

24512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Big Read on: June 03, 2008, 09:13:21 PM
By George Friedman

The Saudis are hosting an interfaith conference June 4. Four hundred Islamic scholars from around the world will be there, with one day devoted to interfaith issues. Saudi King Abdullah will open the conference, over which Saudi Shura Council head Saleh bin Huma will preside. This is clearly intended to be a major event, not minimized by the fact that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s most influential leader — who heads Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body that elects and can remove the Supreme Leader — will be attending as well. Rafsanjani was specifically invited by the Saudi ambassador to Iran last Wednesday with the following message: “King Abdullah believes you have a great stature in the Islamic world … and he has assigned me the duty of inviting you to the conference.” We would not have expected to see a meeting on interfaith dialogue even a year ago.


For its part, al Qaeda condemned the conference. Its spokesman, Abu Yahya al-Libi, said of Abdullah via videotape that “He who is called the defender of monotheism by sycophantic clerics is raising the flag of brotherhood between religions … and thinks he has found the wisdom to stop wars and prevent the causes of enmity between religions and peoples.” He went on to say “By God, if you don’t resist heroically against this wanton tyrant … the day will come when church bells will ring in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula.” In the past, the Saudis have been very careful not to push al Qaeda, or the kingdom’s own conservatives, too far.

One reason for the change might be the increasing focus by conservative Saudi clerics on the Shia, particularly Iran and Hezbollah. Twenty-two leading conservative clerics issued a statement condemning the Shia as destabilizing the Arab world and hostile to Sunnis. More important, they claimed that Iran and Hezbollah are only pretending to be hostile to the United States and Jews. In a translation by The Associated Press, the clerics said that “If they (Shiites) have a country, they humiliate and exert control in their rule over Sunnis. They sow strife, corruption and destruction among Muslims and destabilize security in Muslim countries … such as Yemen.” This view paralleled statements by al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri a few weeks back.

No Fear of the Conservatives
To begin understanding all this, we need to start with the obvious fact that the Saudi government is no longer afraid of antagonizing conservatives. It should be remembered that there was extensive al Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004 after the Saudis increased their cooperation with the United States. The Saudis eliminated this activity, and the royal family has done extensive work in decreasing its internal rifts as well as reaching out to tribal leaders. Nevertheless, the Saudi government has been careful not to push too far. Holding a meeting to study interfaith dialogue would appear to be crossing the line. But clearly the Saudis don’t think so.

There are three reasons for this. First, al Qaeda has been crippled inside Saudi Arabia and in the broader region. The U.S. boast that al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run is no exaggeration. Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Iraq are on the run because of a split among Sunni conservatives. Conservative Sunnis have their roots in local communities. Al Qaeda is an international grouping that moves into communities from the outside. As such, they threaten the interests of local Sunni leaders who are more unlikely to share theological values with al Qaeda in the long-term, and don’t want to be displaced as communal leaders nor want to see their communities destroyed in al Qaeda’s adventures. Theology aside, al Qaeda pushed its position too far, and those Sunnis who might theoretically support them have come to see them as a threat.

Second, and far more important, there is Saudi money. At current oil prices, the Saudis are absolutely loaded with cash. In the Arabian Peninsula as elsewhere, money buys friends. In Arabia, the rulers have traditionally bound tribes and sects to them through money. At present, the Saudis can overwhelm theological doubts with very large grants and gifts. The Saudi government did not enjoy 2004 and does not want a repeat. It is therefore carefully strengthening its ties inside Saudi Arabia and throughout the Sunni world using money as a bonding agent. That means that conservative Sunnis who normally would oppose this kind of a conference are less apt to openly criticize it.

Third, there is the deepening Sunni-Shiite split. In Christian history, wars between co-religionists like Roman Catholics and Protestants were brutal, and the distrust still echoes today. The Sunni-Shiite split, like the Catholic-Protestant split, ranges across theological and national interests. Iran is the major Shiite nation. It is mistrusted and feared by the Sunni Saudis, whose enormous wealth and military weakness leaves them vulnerable to the Iranians and forces them into an alliance with the Americans.

At this particular point, where Tehran’s mismanagement of Iran’s economy and particularly its oil industry has caused it to be left out of the greatest benefits of the surge in oil prices, the Saudis are worried that internal Iranian tensions and ambitions will cause Tehran at least to increase its subversive activities among Shia in the Arabian Peninsula and in Lebanon. Hence conservative Saudi clerics have focused their attacks on Iran and Hezbollah — officially without government sanction, but clearly not shut down by the government.

Protecting the Oil Bonanza
Behind all of this, something much deeper and more important is going on. With crude prices in the range of $130 a barrel, the Saudis are now making more money on oil than they could have imagined five years ago when the price was below $40 a barrel. The Saudis don’t know how long these prices will last. Endless debates are raging over whether high oil prices are the result of speculation, the policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve, conspiracy by the oil companies and so on. The single fact the Saudis can be certain of is that the price of oil is high, they don’t know how long it will remain high, and they don’t want anything interfering with their amassing vast financial reserves that might have to sustain them in lean times should they come.

In short, the Saudis are trying to reduce the threat of war in the region. War is at this moment the single greatest threat to their interests. In particular, they are afraid of any war that would close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a large portion of the oil they sell flows. The only real threat to the strait is a war between the United States and Iran in which the Iranians countered an American attack or blockade by mining the strait. It is assumed that the United States could readily deal with any Iranian countermove, but the Saudis have watched the Americans in Iraq and they are not impressed. From the Saudi point of view, not having a war is the far better option.

At the same time, if the Iranians decide to press the issue, the Saudis would be in no position to defend themselves. It is assumed that the United States would protect the Saudi oil fields out of self-interest. But any American government — and here they are looking past the Bush administration — might find it politically difficult to come to the aid of a country perceived as radically Islamist. Should another contingency come to pass, and the Iranians — either through insurgency or attack — do the unexpected, it is in the Saudi interest to create an image that is more compatible with U.S. tastes. And of course nothing does that better than interfaith dialogue. At this point, the Saudis are only at the point of discussing interfaith dialogue, but this still sets the stage.

It also creates a forum in which to drive home to the Iranians, via Rafsanjani, the unease the Saudis feel about Iranian intentions, using Hezbollah as an example. In permitting public attacks on the Shia, the Saudis do two things. First, they placate a domestic conservative constituency by retargeting them against Shiites. Second, they are boosting the theological framework to allow them to support groups who oppose the Shia. In particular that means supporting groups in Lebanon who oppose Hezbollah and Sunni groups in Iraq seeking more power in the Shiite dominated government. In doing this, Riyadh signals the Iranians that the Saudis are in a position to challenge their fundamental interests in the region — while Iran is not going to be starting Shiite uprisings in Arabia while the price of oil is high and the Shia can be made content.

Pacifying the Region
The Saudis are engaged in a massive maneuver to try to pacify the region, if not forever, then for at least as long as oil prices are high. The Saudis are quietly encouraging the Syrian-Israeli peace talks along with the Turks, and one of the reasons for Syrian participation is undoubtedly assurances of Saudi investments in Syria and Lebanon from which Damascus can benefit. The Saudis also are encouraging Israeli-Palestinian talks, and there is, we suspect, Saudi pressure on Hamas to be more cooperative in those talks. The Saudis have no interest in an Israeli-Syrian or Israeli-Hezbollah conflict right now that might destabilize the region.

Finally, the Saudis have had enough of the war in Iraq. They do not want increased Iranian power in Iraq. They do not want to see the Sunnis marginalized. They do not want to see al Qaeda dominating the Iraqi Sunnis. They have influence with the Iraqi Sunnis, and money buys even more. Ever since 2003, with the exception of the Kurdish region, the development of Iraqi oil has been stalled. Iraqis of all factions are aware of how much money they’ve lost because of their civil war. This is a lever that the Saudis can use in encouraging some sort of peace in Iraq.

It is not that Saudi Arabia has become pacifist by any means. Nor are they expecting (or, frankly, interested in) lasting peace. They are interested in assuring sufficient stability over the coming months and years so they can concentrate on making money from oil. To do this they need to carry out a complex maneuver. They need to refocus their own religious conservatives against the Shia. They need to hem in Iran, the main Shiite power. They need to reposition themselves politically in the United States, the country that ultimately guarantees Saudi national security. And they need to at least lower the temperature in Middle Eastern conflicts or, better still, forge peace treaties.

The Saudis don’t care if these treaties are permanent, but neither would they object if they were. Like any state, Saudi Arabia has interests to pursue; these interests change over time, but right now is the time for stability. Later is later. It is therefore no surprise that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited Riyadh for talks this weekend. The discussions weren’t theological in nature. Mubarak shares with the Saudis an interest in an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Mubarak fears the spread of Hamas’ ideas back into Egypt and he wants the radical Palestinian group kept in its Gaza box. A large cache of weapons uncovered in the Sinai last week, including surface to air missiles, is as much a threat to Egypt as to Israel. Mubarak has been in no position to conclude such an agreement, even though he has tried to broker it. The Saudis have the financial muscle to make it happen. Clearly the Egyptians and Saudis have much to discuss.

We are not at the dawn of a new age in the Middle East. We are in a period where one country has become politically powerful because of mushrooming wealth, and wants to use that power to make more wealth. A lasting peace is not likely in the Middle East. But increased stability is possible, and while interfaith dialogue does not strike us as a vehicle to this end, hundreds of millions in oil revenue does. Peace has been made on weaker foundations.
24513  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: June 03, 2008, 09:02:09 PM
Mexico Security Memo: June 2, 2008
Stratfor Today » June 2, 2008 | 2137 GMT
Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Record Violence, Same Government Response
Last month’s 493 drug-related killings in Mexico made May the deadliest month yet in the government’s fight against drug cartels, according to tallies reported by Mexican media. In addition to increasing overall violence, a closer look at the homicides reveals other disturbing — albeit not too surprising — trends. The 64 police officers killed during May is more than twice the average of 27 killed per month during January through April. The geographic distribution of the violence is a continuation of trends we observed over the past several months. The violence is concentrated primarily in areas controlled by the Juarez cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, and the Beltran Leyva brothers. Chihuahua and Sinaloa states account for more than 50 percent of the killings, followed by Guerrero, Durango, Sonora, and Baja California states. Gulf territory states like Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas accounted for less than 3 percent of the killings.

The passing of yet another record month in Mexico’s struggle against the cartels provides an opportunity to consider the government’s response to the violence. Stratfor has been waiting for decisive action from the Mexican government since the May 8 assassination of the acting head of the country’s federal police. Such action has yet to occur, however, and recent statements by the administration of President Felipe Calderon gave no hint that any change in strategy is forthcoming. This past week, Calderon and several Cabinet secretaries publicly defended the administration’s strategy, citing progress thus far and repeating the oft-heard statement that this would be a long-term struggle requiring cooperation at all levels of government as well as with the military. Other activities such as routine small-scale troop deployments and raids continued as usual.

It is still unclear exactly what options Mexico City has in order to curb the escalating violence. For whatever reason, the government has not mobilized substantially more military forces over the past several months, opting instead to redeploy active forces from one hot spot to another. The government has 27,000 troops deployed to various hot spots of drug-trafficking related violence out of approximately 240,000 total troops. Other options, such as negotiating with cartel leaders, probably would not be practical given the fractured nature of criminal organizations in Mexico and their penchant for breaking their agreements. At this point, however, Calderon may not yet be feeling pressure to consider such options. The violence is still concentrated primarily among those involved in the drug trade and in cities long considered cartel strongholds. This certainly will not always be the case, and Stratfor has observed several ways in which violence is already increasingly affecting the civilian population. That, combined with the increasing threat to police, probably will represent the tipping point after which the government steps up its operations as the war on the cartels continues to escalate.

Border Smuggling Happenings
Two men were shot dead this week at a ranch located near Guadalupe, Chihuahua state, a small town which lies just across the border from Tornillo, Texas, on a remote part of the border. One of the victims was a former mayor of Guadalupe; his daughter was killed three days later on the day of the ex-mayor’s funeral when a man traveling in a vehicle shot her while she was driving. Her seven-year-old daughter was wounded in the attack, which according to many reports occurred as she was driving as part of her father’s funeral procession. Police have not announced a motive for the killings, and there is no known connection between this family and smuggling or drug trafficking organizations. This incident highlights the value to smugglers of private property adjacent to the border, however, and such violence directed against families seems consistent with narcotics activity.

Authorities in the United States believe the majority of illicit drugs entering the United States from Mexico arrive via official ports of entry, either hidden among legitimate goods or in the trunks of cars waved through by corrupt border officials. A smaller portion of drugs are smuggled through tunnels or overland through holes in border fences. Frequently, these smuggling efforts are aided by private property owners along the international border, who own land where drug shipments can be staged before finally being exported to the United States. While these types of smugglings are believed to constitute a minority of drug shipments to the United States, however, continuing security operations and the arrests of corrupt border officials in cartel strongholds like Reynosa and Ciudad Juarez may prompt drug traffickers to rely more heavily on remote locations like Guadalupe to bring drugs across the border.





(click to view map)

May 27
Seven federal agents died during a raid on a safe-house in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, which sparked a four hour firefight. The suspects in the safe-house repelled the raid with automatic weapons and fragmentation grenades. The incident claimed the largest number of federal agents killed in a single action during the fight against the cartels.
Authorities in Mexico City announced the deployment of 200 additional federal agents to Sinaloa state as part of a “complete offensive” against organized crime there.
The body of an unidentified man was found in a vehicle near Mexico City, wrapped in a blanket and with two gunshot wounds.
Soldiers in Suchiate, Chiapas state, reported the seizure of approximately 500 pounds of cocaine from a farm. The drugs were found hidden among a truck full of bananas.
The bodies of three men were found along a road in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. They were bound at the hands and appeared to have been shot execution style.
May 28
Two severed heads were found along a highway in Durango state. A note next to one of the heads read, in part, “We can respond too.”
The body of a state police commander in Sinaloa state was found along a river near Culiacan, Sinaloa state. Authorities believe he had been abducted the day before.
A former federal agent died in Mexico City after being shot nine times outside his home midday. He reportedly had worked at Mexico City’s international airport, and been involved in the seizure of drug and ephedra shipments destined for the Sinaloa cartel. The assassinations of other federal police officers also have been linked to drug shipments at the airport.
The body of a woman was found alongside a highway in Tabasco state along with a note that read, in part, “Keep talking, informant. The army is not going to protect you and yours.”
Motorists in Zapotlan del Rey, Jalisco state, found a suitcase on a roadside that contained the body of an unidentified woman bearing signs of torture.
May 29
Four unidentified men, one of whom may have been a police officer, were shot by gunmen in a vehicle as they stood outside a store in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
One man died and another was wounded when they were shot by gunmen as they traveled in a vehicle in Zapopan, Jalisco state.
May 30
Authorities in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, reported discovering the body of a man beside a road along with a note that read, in part, “To those that still don’t believe and work with El Chapo Guzman. Sincerely, La Linea.”
The police chiefs of two towns in Chihuahua state — Nuevo Casas Grandes and Ignacio Zaragoza — resigned from their positions.
June 1
Federal police arrested eight men and one woman in a suspected cartel safe-house in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. During the raid, authorities seized firearms, grenades, eight vehicles, radios, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, and 60 pounds of cocaine.
The bodies of two men and one woman with several gunshot wounds were found at an intersection in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
24514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: June 03, 2008, 06:41:55 PM
Islamic extremists to get therapy not jail in Government's new 'anti-radicalisation' plan

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 3:53 PM on 03rd June 2008

Islamic extremists could receive counselling instead of criminal charges under new Government plans to 'deradicalise' religious fanatics issued today.

The move is part of a £12.5m Home Office plan which give councils guidance about how to prevent extremism spreading.

People who fall under the influence of violent organisations will not automatically face prosecution under the new plan.

Instead it will concentrate on a national 'deradicalisation' programme that will try to persuade extremists to change their views through therapy and counselling from community groups.

The scheme will seek to reverse the process of indoctrination carried out by al Qaida-related extremists, using unnamed 'specialised techniques'.

Community groups and councils in England and Wales will get cash from a £12.5m fund to implement the new measures.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: 'The national security challenges we face demand fresh approaches.

'A key element of our strategy aims to stop people getting involved in extremist violence.

'We are investing at local level to build resilient communities, which are equipped to confront violent extremism and support the most vulnerable individuals.'

However the plan came in for criticism for being pointless.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said of today's publication: 'This is pointless when the Government is fuelling the problem it is seeking to solve with its draconian approach to 42 days.'

Ms Smith is facing a battle with MPs to extend the time police can hold terror suspects without charge from 28 days to 42 days.

The 72-page plan also said councils should make sure they have systems to remove funding or other support from inappropriate groups.

Councils should ask police to vet anyone involved in projects that receive government anti-radicalisation funding, it urged.

However local groups that challenge the messages of violent extremists should be supported, it went on.

If a group is found to be promoting violent extremism, local agencies and the police should consider disrupting or removing funding, and deny access to public facilities, the document added.

The measures on 'de-radicalisation' are based on examples overseas and on a scheme in Leicester which 'aims to encourage young people to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which lead to young people becoming alienated and disempowered'.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said: 'Preventing violent extremism is about supporting local people to build resilient communities where extremists and their messages of hate cannot take root.

'Nationally and locally there is a growing alliance against violent extremism. A majority of individuals and organisations are working together to prevent radicalisation and extremism in a small minority of communities.

'We are putting funding where it is needed and today's new guidance sets out our clear expectations around what local authorities and their partners should achieve.

'Local leadership is vital and it is those people that know their communities best - community leaders, local authorities, police and schools - who, with support from government, provide the key to tackling this issue.

'Whilst no-one pretends it is easy we are already seeing some fantastic work including projects working with some of the most vulnerable young people, work to strengthen governance in mosques and the capacity of imams and Muslim women beginning to take a stronger role.'

A Home Office spokesman said the maps referred to in today's strategy document were already being drawn up.

They would not focus only on Muslim extremism but 'anywhere prone to extremist talk and violent behaviour,' he said.

'This is not an anti-Muslim document,' he said. 'It will cover denominations of all faiths.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...tion-plan.html
24515  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: June 03, 2008, 06:40:01 PM
Man with gun is shot and killed instead
http://www.dailynews.com/ci_9453065?source=rss

A man who pointed a gun at his intended victim was shot by the victim instead, police said.
Rosalio DeLa Rosa, 22, and 17-year-old accomplice where in a market near Parthenia Street and Woodley Avenue on Sunday at around 12:55 a.m. when they became involved in a dispute with Anthony DeLa Cruz, police said.

During the argument, DeLa Rosa claimed his gang affiliation and asked DeLa Cruz "where you from?" DeLa Cruz denied any gang ties and left the market in his vehicle. DeLa Rosa and the juvenile followed DeLa Cruz in their vehicle, brandishing a gun at DeLa Cruz several times before using their vehicle to stop DeLa Cruz' vehicle.

As DeLa Rosa got out of his vehicle he pointed a gun at DeLa Cruz. DeLa Cruz, in fear for his life, fired his own gun at DeLa Rosa, striking him once and causing him and the gun to fall to the ground. The juvenile then picked up the gun and fired the weapon at DeLa Cruz, but it misfired. DeLa Cruz fired at the minor, striking him once in the torso.

DeLa Cruz fled the location and flagged down police. He was arrested.

DeLa Rosa and the minor were both taken to a local hospital where DeLa Rosa was pronounced dead. The minor was treated for his injury, booked for murder and is being held without bail. DeLa Cruz was booked on a manslaughter charge and is being held on $100,000 bail.

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call Van Nuys Homicide Detectives M. Martinez or L. Lowande at (818) 374-0040. On off
24516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 03, 2008, 12:38:30 AM
Iraq hits milestones on U.S. troop deaths, oil

Sun Jun 1, 2008 12:22pm EDT

* U.S. monthly death toll drops to new low

* Iraq says oil production at post-war high

* Australia pulls out combat troops



By Ross Colvin

BAGHDAD, June 1 (Reuters) - U.S. troop deaths in Iraq fell to their lowest level last month since the 2003 invasion and officials said on Sunday improved security also helped the country boost oil production in May to a post-war high.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Iraq's oil minister credited better security for the two milestones, which illustrated a dramatic turnabout in the fortunes of a country on the brink of all-out sectarian civil war just 12 months ago.

"We've still got a distance to go but I think lower casualty rates are a reflection of some real progress," Gates told reporters in Singapore. "The key will be to continue to sustain the progress we have seen."

American generals have stressed that the security gains are both fragile and reversible. That was shown in March, when an Iraqi government offensive against Shi'ite militias in southern Basra sparked a surge in violence in the capital and other cities, catching U.S. and Iraqi officials off guard.

The U.S. military said 19 soldiers died in May, the lowest monthly death toll in a five-year-old war that has so far claimed the lives of more than 4,000 American soldiers.

Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told Reuters in an interview that the improved security had helped Iraq, which has the world's third-largest oil reserves, raise oil production to a post-war high of 2.5 million barrels per day in May.

Iraq's oil industry, hit by decades of sanctions, war and neglect, was a vulnerable target for saboteurs after the U.S. invasion. Attacks on pipelines quickly destroyed any hopes of using Iraq's vast oil reserves to fund its reconstruction.

The military says violence in Iraq is now at a four-year low following crackdowns by U.S. and Iraqi forces on Shi'ite militias in southern Basra and Baghdad and on al Qaeda in the northern city of Mosul, its last major urban stronghold.

"In May we have exceeded for the first time a 2 million barrels per day export rate. In production we have exceeded 2.5 million bpd," Shahristani said.

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in May also fell, to 505, after reaching a seven-month high of 968 in April, figures compiled by the interior, defence and health ministries showed.



SUICIDE BOMBING

U.S. officials credit the turnaround in security to President George W. Bush's decision to send 30,000 extra troops to Iraq, a rebellion by Sunni tribal leaders against al Qaeda, and a ceasefire by anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

But a suicide bombing in the town of Hit in western Anbar province on Saturday night that killed the local police chief underscored the fragility of Iraq's improved security.

Police said a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint, killing police chief Lieutenant-Colonel Khalil Ibrahim al-Jazzaa, eight other policemen and four civilians.

In Iraq's more stable south, about 500 Australian troops pulled out of their base in the city of Nassiriya, signalling an end to Australia's combat mission in the country.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq invasion, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Labour party won election last November largely on Rudd's campaign promise to bring the troops home this year.

The war is also a big issue in the U.S. presidential election, with Republican nominee John McCain vowing not to withdraw troops until the war is won, and his Democratic opponents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton promising to bring them home as soon as possible.

Baghdad and the United States are negotiating a new deal that will provide a legal basis for U.S. troops in Iraq when their United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a rare statement on the talks that they were at their early stages, but he acknowledged there were differences between Iraq and the United States over what should be included in the agreement.

"The Iraqi side has a vision and their draft differs from the American side and their vision," he said.

The talks have angered many Iraqis who suspect the United States of wanting to keep a permanent presence in Iraq, and on Friday thousands of Iraqis answered a call by Moqtada al-Sadr to protest against the negotiations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meanwhile asked France to supply sophisticated weaponry during a visit by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Sunday. (Additional reporting by Haider al-Nasrallah in Nassiriya, Ammar al-Awani in Ramadi, Adrian Croft, Ahmed Rasheed, Michael Georgy and Aws Qusay in Baghdad and Andrew Gray in Singapore; Editing by Charles Dick)
__________________
24517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Military Solution to Terrorism on: June 03, 2008, 12:33:14 AM
There Is a Military Solution to Terror
June 3, 2008; Page A19
Sadr City in Baghdad, the northeastern districts of Sri Lanka and the Guaviare province of Colombia have little in common culturally, historically or politically. But they are crucial reference points on a global map in which long-running insurgencies suddenly find themselves on the verge of defeat.

For the week of May 16-23, there were 300 "violent incidents" in Iraq. That's down from 1,600 last June and the lowest recorded since March 2004. Al Qaeda has been crushed by a combination of U.S. arms and Sunni tribal resistance. On the Shiite side, Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army was routed by Iraqi troops in Basra and later crumbled in its Sadr City stronghold.

In Colombia, the 44-year-old FARC guerrilla movement is now at its lowest ebb. Three of its top commanders died in March, and the number of FARC attacks is down by more than two-thirds since 2002. In the face of a stepped-up campaign by the Colombian military (funded, equipped and trained by the U.S.), the group is now experiencing mass desertions. Former FARC leaders describe a movement that is losing any semblance of ideological coherence and operational effectiveness.

In Sri Lanka, a military offensive by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has wrested control of seven of the nine districts previously held by the rebel group LTTE, better known as the Tamil Tigers. Mr. Rajapaksa now promises victory by the end of the year, even as the Tigers continue to launch high-profile terrorist attacks.

All this is good news in its own right. Better yet, it explodes the mindless shibboleth that there is "no military solution" when it comes to dealing with insurgencies. On the contrary, it turns out that the best way to end an insurgency is, quite simply, to beat it.

Why was this not obvious before? When military strategies fail – as they did in Vietnam while the U.S. pursued the tactics of attrition, or in Iraq prior to the surge – the idea that there can be no military solution has a way of taking hold with civilians and generals eager to deflect blame. This is how we arrived at the notion that "political reconciliation" is a precondition of military success, not a result of it.

There's also a tendency to misjudge the aims and ambitions of the insurgents: To think they can be mollified via one political concession or another. Former Colombian president Andres Pastrana sought to appease the FARC by ceding to them a territory the size of Switzerland. The predictable result was to embolden the guerrillas, who were adept at sensing and exploiting weakness.

The deeper problem here is the belief that the best way to deal with insurgents is to address the "root causes" of the grievance that purportedly prompted them to take up arms. But what most of these insurgencies seek isn't social or moral redress: It's absolute power. Like other "liberation movements" (the PLO comes to mind), the Tigers are notorious for killing other Tamils seen as less than hard line in their views of the conflict. The failure to defeat these insurgencies thus becomes the primary obstacle to achieving a reasonable political settlement acceptable to both sides.

This isn't to say that political strategies shouldn't be pursued in tandem with military ones. Gen. David Petraeus was shrewd to exploit the growing enmity between al Qaeda and their Sunni hosts by offering former insurgents a place in the country's security forces as "Sons of Iraq." (The liberal use of "emergency funds," aka political bribes, also helped.) Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has more than just extended amnesty for "demobilized" guerrillas; he's also given them jobs in the army.

But these political approaches only work when the intended beneficiaries can be reasonably confident that they are joining the winning side. Nobody was abandoning the FARC when Mr. Pastrana lay prostrate before it. It was only after Mr. Uribe turned the guerrilla lifestyle into a day-and-night nightmare that the movement's luster finally started to fade.

Defeating an insurgency is never easy even with the best strategies and circumstances. Insurgents rarely declare surrender, and breakaway factions can create a perception of menace even when their actual strength is minuscule. It helps when the top insurgent leaders are killed or captured: Peru's Shining Path, for instance, mostly collapsed with the capture of Abimael Guzmán. Yet the Kurdish PKK is now resurgent nine years after the imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, thanks to the sanctuary it enjoys in Northern Iraq.

Still, it's no small thing that neither the PKK nor the Shining Path are capable of killing tens of thousands of people and terrorizing whole societies, as they were in the 1980s. Among other things, beating an insurgency allows a genuine process of reconciliation and redress to take place, and in a spirit of malice toward none. But those are words best spoken after the terrible swift sword has done its work.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com
24518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ross McGinnis RIP on: June 03, 2008, 12:31:21 AM
A Man in Full
June 3, 2008; Page A20
Next week on Flag Day, Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis would have turned 21 years old. Yesterday, President Bush presented his family with a posthumous Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for courage in combat. It was the fourth time the Medal has been awarded for those who have served in Iraq.

 
Associated Press Photo/Family photo via The Oil City Derrick 
Private First Class Ross Andrew McGinnis
In the gunner's hatch of a Humvee driving through Baghdad on December 4, 2006, Private McGinnis saw a grenade fly through the hatch, rolling to where it could have injured the four other soldiers inside. In easy position to leap and save himself, McGinnis instead jumped to cover the grenade with his body to shield his comrades.

The four men he saved were all at the White House yesterday to pay their respects. They and his parents, Thomas and Romayne McGinnis, knew Ross as one who, at 137 pounds and six feet tall, had barely outgrown his boyhood when he joined the Army on his 17th birthday, the first day he was eligible to enlist. The Knox, Pennsylvania native was known not to take things too seriously, the soldiers said – and yet in an instant he displayed the self-sacrifice that defines heroism in battle across generations. Although he didn't grow while he was in the Army, "he seemed to stand a lot taller," his father said. "He was a man."

All of America's men and women in uniform today are volunteers, and they have answered the call knowing they may be put in harm's way. "Supporting the troops" has become a mantra in our politics, but the true heroism of our soldiers goes beyond the slogans and politics to countless individual acts of courage under fire. At the moment it mattered, in a war worth fighting, Ross McGinnis honored America's finest traditions and our own better natures.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the Opinion
24519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: June 03, 2008, 12:20:07 AM
I poorly timed my exit from EZCH and have not re-entered.

I have been dancing with a minor position in HPLF (artificial liver startup), so far rather profitably.  Exited water play BSHF just in time to take a minor profit before it nosedived; ISIS fully entered and in the black;

TAC!
24520  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 03, 2008, 12:15:49 AM
I am grateful for the people whom I trained today and for my wife who takes care of our children while I do so.
24521  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Getting Started? on: June 02, 2008, 06:32:27 PM
Woof DX:

I am on the road at the moment.  Please email your phone number @ Craftydog@dogbrothers.com.

It may take me a few days to get back to you.

TAC,
Guro Crafty
24522  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: June 01, 2008, 12:42:10 AM
I was trying to dead pan it. cheesy
24523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mex weapons laws for gringos on: May 31, 2008, 07:32:34 PM
http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/tijuana/warning.html
24524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Name that war!!! on: May 31, 2008, 05:53:07 PM
Woof All:

Earlier today on the WW3 thread GM posted a nice piece about the PC cowardice of our terminology concerning the name of the war in which we find ourselves (the War on Terrorism) and our enemy (terrorists).

We are not a war with a tactic, we are at war with a world-wide movement of religious fascists.  So, what shall we name the war and what shall we name our enemy?

My personal choice has been the War with Islamo Fascism and to name our enemy Islamo Fascists.   When he was still around here these terms would always set off Roger-- always a good indicator of probably being on the right track  cheesy -- but the floor is open for all suggestions-- both serious and fun.

Yip!
Marc
24525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: May 31, 2008, 05:48:27 PM
Woof GM:

My hearty concurrence on the essence of the piece you post.

I'm going to start a thread on this right now.  evil

TAC!
Marc
24526  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 31, 2008, 05:43:45 PM
Woof Tony:

NO DISRESPECT TAKEN AT ANY POINT.   Poi Dog is right-- this was simply my idea of being funny.

TAC,
CD
24527  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: May 31, 2008, 12:45:14 PM
Kumu Rick:

What an interesting idea!   I will ask Pappy Dog to get in touch with you and check the place out while I am on the road.

CD
24528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Drug Massacre leaves town terrorized on: May 31, 2008, 11:05:31 AM
Drug Massacre Leaves a Mexican Town Terrorized


 
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: May 31, 2008
VILLA AHUMADA, Mexico — A massacre here two weeks ago has turned this once sleepy town into a ghostly emblem of the drug violence that has swept Mexico over the last year and a half, gutting local police forces, terrifying citizens and making it almost impossible for the authorities to assert themselves.


In Villa Ahumada, Mexico, on May 18. The night before, dozens of gunmen killed six people in the town, including two civilians who were together in a pickup truck, and abducted others.


On the night of May 17, dozens of men with assault rifles rolled into town in several trucks and shot up the place. They killed the police chief, two officers and three civilians. Then they carried off about 10 people, witnesses said. Only one has been found, dead and wrapped in a carpet in Ciudad Juárez.

The entire municipal police force quit after the attack, and officials fled the town for several days, leaving so hastily that they did not release the petty criminals held in the town lockup. The state and federal governments sent in 300 troops and 16 state police officers, restoring an uneasy semblance of order. But townspeople remain terrified.

“Yeah, we’re afraid, everyone’s afraid,” said José Antonio Contreras, a 17-year-old who was threatened by the gunmen. “Nobody goes out at night.”

Tourists driving south from Texas to the Pacific Coast beaches pass through Villa Ahumada on Highway 45. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when this dusty town on the railroad tracks was best known for its roadside burrito stands, its good cheese and its having recorded one of the coldest temperatures in Mexico — 23 below zero in January 1962.

In recent years, however, it also became a way station along one of Mexico’s major drug smuggling routes. Villa Ahumada lies about 85 miles south of El Paso on the main highway from the city of Chihuahua to the border city of Ciudad Juárez.

Mexico’s drug violence has by now become so pervasive that it is infecting even small communities like this one, which has fewer than 9,000 residents.

Around the country in the last 18 months, more than 4,000 people have been killed in similar attacks and gun battles, even as President Felipe Calderón has tried to take back towns where the local police and officials were on the payroll of drug kingpins.

This week, seven federal officers died in a gun battle with cartel henchmen when they tried to enter a house in Culiacán, Sinaloa, a city notorious for its traffickers. The officers had been sent to the city, along with 2,700 other soldiers and agents, to track down a reputed drug kingpin believed to have ordered the assassination of the acting federal chief of police, who was killed in Mexico City on May 8.

When the police arrived, banners were hung in the city taunting the officers and saying the reputed kingpin, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, reigned supreme in Culiacán.

In Villa Ahumada less than two weeks after the massacre, people remained so cowed that even the mayor and his police commissioner declined requests to be interviewed. When asked who the gunmen were and why they had come, most of the residents who were interviewed shook their heads and whispered that spies were everywhere. In private, however, some acknowledged that the town had long been home to narcotics traffickers in league with a reputed drug dealer, Pedro Sánchez Arras.

Frightened residents, who did not want to be identified, said Mr. Sánchez’s agent in the town was Gerardo Gallegos Rodelo, a 19-year-old tough guy who went around with an armed posse. It was rumored that he and Mr. Sánchez had links to a drug cartel in Ciudad Juárez that is controlled by the Carrillo Fuentes family. Law enforcement officials did not confirm the claim.

Several residents said Mr. Gallegos and Mr. Sánchez had also seemed to enjoy good relations with the local police. People shrugged and tolerated the arrangement. The town was peaceful, after all, some said. It seemed best to leave well enough alone.

“Wherever you are in Mexico these days there are drug dealers, not just here,” explained Raúl Moreno, 64, a day laborer. “They didn’t bother anyone. No one bothered them.”

The trouble started, people here say, when Mr. Gallegos was killed in a shootout with a group of reputed gangsters in Hidalgo del Parral, in the southern part of Chihuahua State, on April 6.
=============

Page 2 of 2)



Two days later, the army swooped in on his funeral in Villa Ahumada and arrested dozens of people in attendance, taking into custody a police commander, Adrián Barrón, among others. It remains unclear what those detained will be charged with, the attorney general’s office said.

The arrest seemed to set in motion the trouble in Villa Ahumada. Late on the Saturday night four days after Mr. Sánchez’s arrest, said Mr. Contreras, the 17-year-old, he and several other boys were dancing at a party for a friend in a hall just off the main square when they heard the rat-tat-tat of machine-gun fire.

He hurriedly left the party with his girlfriend and mother, but they ran into three cars full of heavily armed men, he said. Spewing death threats, the men forced the three to lie on the ground. He waited for the shots, but the cars roared off. One of the men called out, “We’ll be back.”

For three hours, the gunmen roamed the town in six pickups and sport utility cars. They strafed a used car lot with bullets. They pumped more than 75 rounds into two men riding in a truck. One was Julio Armando Gómez, the manager of a roast chicken place. The other was Mario Alberto González Castro, 41, who sold tickets at the bus station.

Mr. González’s wife, who asked to be identified only by her nickname, Cuquis, said she had gone looking for her husband when she heard the shooting and found his lifeless body oozing blood in the car. Her hands trembled with fear when she was asked who might be behind the killing; then she broke down, saying she had told the police what she knew and could not say anything else. “He was innocent, innocent above all else,” she said through her sobs.

The gunmen caught up to the police chief, José Armando Estrada Rodríguez, and two officers, Óscar Zuñiga Dávila and José Luis Quiñones Juárez, who were sitting in their patrol car at a gas station. The attackers killed the three men with 26 shots from an assault rifle, officials said.

Also killed was Luis Eduardo Escobedo Ruiz, 21, who happened to be pulling into a parking lot near the gas station. More than 100 shells were found outside his car.

Privately, some residents speculated that the attackers came from a rival drug cartel intent on dislodging the Carrillo Fuentes family from Ciudad Juárez and the cities along the route down through Chihuahua State to Sinaloa State. Some whisper it was Joaquín Guzmán, an accused drug kingpin known as “El Chapo,” who sent the commandos. Others mention the Zetas, feared hired killers in the employ of the Gulf Cartel.

“They are getting rid of all the people connected to Pedro Sánchez,” said one young man, requesting anonymity for fear of the cartels. “All the police worked for Pedro.”

The state authorities say they still have little information about what happened, much less whom the gunmen worked for. The fearful silence of residents makes it hard for investigators to make progress, Eduardo Esparza, a spokesman for the state attorney general, said.

“At this moment, we have no lines of investigation,” he said. “It’s hard to get information. The families of the victims refuse to talk, mainly out of terror. One can’t advance at a good pace. There are lots of barriers.”

One measure of those barriers is that the state police have been informed of only two kidnappings on the night the raiders came to town, but several residents insisted that at least 10 people were missing.

The townspeople say they feel a pall hanging over them. The roadside restaurants and vendors of cheese say fewer people stop in the town, apparently out of fear. Soldiers in Humvees with mounted machine guns patrol the streets.

Some residents said they were stunned that the entire police force of more than 20 officers had stepped down. Many say the town will never be able to afford the cost of a more professional force that could stop future attacks.

“One feels very disillusioned with the government,” said the owner of a popular restaurant, who has spent her life in the town. “There is no one who seems to be able to do anything.”


24529  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 31, 2008, 02:16:01 AM
So can I.  evil cheesy cheesy
24530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillbillery rolls her dice on: May 31, 2008, 02:05:37 AM


WSJ

The Argument for Nominating Hillary
By LANNY J. DAVIS
May 31, 2008

After the votes are in from Puerto Rico tomorrow and South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton will be able to make a facts-based case that they represent a significant majority of grass-roots Democrats.

Chances are Sens. Obama and Clinton will virtually split the more than 4,400 delegates – including Florida and Michigan – elected by more than 34 million people over the past five months.

Sen. Clinton has already won the most votes, but there is controversy over including the over 300,000 votes from Michigan, since Sen. Obama was not on the ballot (by his own choice). But if Sen. Clinton wins a substantial victory in Puerto Rico tomorrow – with an expected record turnout exceeding two million voters – she could well end up with more popular votes than Sen. Obama, even if Michigan's primary votes are excluded.

Worst case, she could come out with a 2% deficit in elected pledged delegates. But that gap can be made up, if most of the remaining 200 or so unpledged superdelegates decide to support Sen. Clinton as the strongest candidate against John McCain – or if others committed to Sen. Obama decide to change their minds for the same reason. A number of superdelegates previously committed to Sen. Clinton later announced support for Sen. Obama, so it's certainly possible that, when confronted with growing evidence that Sen. Clinton is stronger than Sen. McCain, they might switch back.

The final argument for Hillary comes down to three points – with points one and two leading to the third.

First, Sen. Clinton is more experienced and qualified to be president than is Sen. Obama. This is not to say Sen. Obama cannot be a good, even great, president. I believe he can. But Sen. Clinton spent eight years in the White House. She was not a traditional first lady. She was involved in policy and debate on virtually every major domestic and foreign policy decision of the Clinton presidency, both "in" and "outside" the room with her husband. She has been a U.S. senator for eight years and has a record of legislative accomplishments, including as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

With no disrespect or criticism intended, Sen. Obama has been an Illinois state senator for eight years and a U.S. senator for just four years. He has, understandably, fewer legislative accomplishments than Sen. Clinton. That's just a fact. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that Sen. Clinton would be less vulnerable to criticism from Sen. McCain on the "experience" issue.

Second, Sen. Clinton's position on health care gives her an advantage over Sen. McCain. Her proposal for universally mandated health care based primarily on private insurance and individual choices is a stark contrast to Sen. McCain's total reliance on private market insurance, HMOs or emergency rooms for the 45 million or more uninsured. Sen. Obama's position, while laudable in its objective, does not mandate universal care and, arguably, won't challenge Sen. McCain as effectively as will Sen. Clinton's plan.

Despite the fact that Sen. Obama's campaign made the Iraq war a crucial issue in the Iowa caucuses and early primaries, there has never been a significant difference between his position and Sen. Clinton's. Sen. Obama deserves credit for opposing military intervention in Iraq while he was running for the state senate in early 2002.

But in 2004, Sen. Obama said he "did not know" how he would have voted on the war resolution had he been a senator at the time. That summer he told the Chicago Tribune: "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage" of the Iraq War. (This is a statement that Sen. Clinton would not have made.) While he served in the Senate, he voted 84 out of 85 times the same as Sen. Clinton on Iraq-war related votes. The only exception is when he supported President Bush's position on the promotion of a general that Sen. Clinton opposed.

Third and finally, there is recent hard data showing that, at least at the present time, Sen. Clinton is a significantly stronger candidate against Sen. McCain among the general electorate (as distinguished from the more liberal Democratic primary and caucus electorate).

According to Gallup's May 12-25 tracking polling of 11,000 registered voters in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Sen. Clinton is running stronger against Sen. McCain in the 20 states where she can claim popular-vote victory in the primaries and caucuses. In contrast, Sen. Obama runs no better against Sen. McCain than does Sen. Clinton in the 28 states plus D.C. where he has prevailed. "On this basis," Gallup concludes: "Clinton appears to have the stronger chance of capitalizing on her primary strengths in the general election."

The 20 states, Gallup points out, not only encompass more than 60% of the nation's voters, but "represent more than 300 Electoral College votes while Obama's 28 states and the District of Columbia represent only 224 Electoral College votes." Sen. Clinton leads Sen. McCain in these 20 states by seven points (50%-43%), while Sens. Obama and McCain are pretty much tied. But in the 26 states plus D.C. that Sen. Obama carried in the primaries/caucuses, he and Sen. Clinton are both statistically tied with Sen. McCain (Clinton 45%-McCain 47%; Obama 45%-McCain 46%).

Gallup's state-by-state polling in seven key battleground "purple" states also shows Sen. Clinton winning cumulatively in these states by a six-point margin (49%-43%) over Sen. McCain, while Sen. Obama loses to Sen. McCain by three points – a net advantage of 9% for Sen. Clinton. These key seven states – constituting 105 electoral votes – are Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, Arkansas, Florida and Michigan.

Meanwhile, Sen. Obama holds about an equal advantage over Sen. McCain in six important swing states that he carried in the primaries and caucuses – Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri. But these constitute less than half – 54 – of the electoral votes of the larger states in which Sen. Clinton is leading.

The latest state-by-state battleground polls (published May 21-23) by other respected polling organizations verify Gallup's findings that Sen. Clinton is significantly stronger against Sen. McCain in the key states that a Democrat must win to gain the presidency. According to various poll data within the last 10 days:

- Pennsylvania: Sen. Clinton leads McCain 50%-39%; Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are effectively tied.

- Ohio: Sen. Clinton leads Sen. McCain 48%-41%, Sen. Obama is down 44%-40%.

- Florida: Sen. Clinton leads Sen. McCain 47%-41%; Sen. McCain leads Sen. Obama 50%-40%. (Sen. Clinton has a net advantage of 16 points!)

- North Carolina: Despite a substantial primary victory, Sen. Obama is down 8% vs. Sen. McCain, (51%-43%), while Sen. Clinton leads by 6% (49%-43%).

- Nevada: Sen. Clinton up 5%, Sen. Obama down 6%.

Even the theory that Sen. Obama can open up significant numbers of "red" states has not been borne out by recent polling. For example: in Virginia, which Sen. Obama won substantially in the Feb. 12 Democratic primary, he is currently down in at least one recent, respected poll by a significant 9% margin – one point greater than the 8% margin Sen. Clinton is behind Sen. McCain.

Finally, one unfortunate argument is making the rounds lately to convince superdelegates to go for Sen. Obama. That is the prediction that if Sen. Obama is not the nominee, African-American and other passionate Obama supporters will conclude that the nomination had been "stolen" and will walk out of the convention or stay at home. On the other side are the many women and others strongly committed to Sen. Clinton promising that if she is denied the nomination, they will refuse to vote for Sen. Obama.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are progressive, pro-civil rights, pro-affirmative action, pro-choice Democrats. Neither Obama supporters nor Clinton supporters who care about the issues, the Supreme Court, and the need to begin withdrawing from Iraq can truly mean they will actively or passively help Sen. McCain get elected. Threats of walkouts or stay-at-homes by good Democrats are not the answer, nor should they be a factor in superdelegate decisions.

But there is one possible scenario that avoids disappointment and frustration by passionate supporters of both candidates, that combines the strengths of one with the strengths of the other, and that virtually guarantees the election of a Democratic president in 2008:

A Clinton-Obama or an Obama-Clinton ticket.

Stay tuned.

Mr. Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98, is a longtime friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
24531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: May 31, 2008, 01:56:23 AM
Woof Rachel:

I look forward to answering you in the thoughtful manner your post deserves, but at the moment simply do not have the time due to work matters.

So for the moment, I plant you an additional question:

If the courts can change the definition of marriage from being between a man and a woman, why not poligamy too?  As the following article shows, this is not only a theoretical question.

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

John Turley-Ewart: Sharia by stealth — Ontario turns a blind eye to polygamy
Posted: May 29, 2008, 4:07 PM by John Turley-Ewart

It’s an issue the Liberal government of Ontario, led by Premier Dalton McGuinty, doesn’t want to deal with — polygamy in the Muslim community. Last week the Toronto Star told the story of Safa Rigby, a 35-year-old mother of five children who recently learned her husband of 14 years had two other wives. Ms. Rigby’s life is in tatters. She followed her husband’s advice that she leave Toronto and live in Egypt for a year on the grounds that it would be better for their children to spend more time in a Muslim country. Now she knows it was a ruse. He used her time there to marry two other women.
Ms. Rigby does not support polygamy, which has been illegal in Canada for more than a century. But Toronto Imam Aly Hindy, who runs the Toronto Salahuddin Islamic Centre, does. He married Ms. Rigby’s husband knowing he already had a wife and counselled him to keep the marriage secret from Ms. Rigby for as long as possible. Hindy has by his own admission performed 30 ceremonies in which men were married who already had wives. When Ms. Rigby confronted Hindy his response was reportedly cold and unsympathetic: “You will have to stand beside him in these difficult times,” Hindy told her. “You should stop causing problems to (sic) him. You will not get anything by divorce except destroying your life” he went on to say.

For Hindy this is not about Ms. Rigby or her husband’s desire to marry another woman — but making a broader political point.
Hindy is using polygamy as a proxy for his fundamentalist version of Islam, something he wants to see legitimized in Canadian society as a whole. It is part of an attempt at empire building, a bid that if successful will enhance his influence within the Muslim and demonstrate that Ontario and Canada is too ignorant and too afraid of Islam to uphold its own laws. He has admitted as much, challenging Ontario’s government to dare stop him. “If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that,” he told the Star. Interviewed after the Star story appeared on the John Oakley Show on AM 640Toronto, Hindy was not apologetic and argued that freedom of religion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms trumped prohibitions against polygamous marriages.
When he and another Imam from Toronto, Steve Rockwell, were challenged on the appropriateness of polygamy by a Muslim caller to the Oakley Show, the caller was immediately attacked and his identity as a true Muslim questioned because he did not follow Hindy’s view that polygamy is a foundational pillar of Islam that grows out of Sharia Law. This speaks to a troubling absolutist interpretation of Islamic law, which runs against the reality that Sharia law is much more flexible that Hindy allows for, a fact well documented by Anver Emon, a specialist in Islamic law at the University of Toronto. Moreover, as noted in the Star article on Ms. Rigby, there is grave doubt that the Charter protects Islamic polygamy, as Hindy believes. Nik Bala, who teaches family law at Queen’s University, points out that “Islam permits polygamy, but doesn’t require it to be a practising Muslim.” This is key, and may mean Hindy’s attempt to find shelter behind the Charter will fail. Moreover, the impact polygamy has on women's equality and children could also sway the courts to uphold Canada's ban on polygamy.


But there is little chance at the moment that this will become a Charter issue down the road. Dalton McGuinty’s government has responded to the revelations about polygamy in the Muslim community by denying its existence. On Wednesday Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin responded to a question on the issue in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario saying:
“Polygamy is a serious crime in Ontario . It’s not something that’s tolerated. As you know, the best advice I can give the honourable member opposite is that if she has any evidence that someone is engaging in multiple marriages, she should report it, because our Registrar General and our official reporting mechanisms have no evidence that that’s happening. As you know, Mr. Speaker, marriage is a contract. A contract require a licence, and once a marriage occurs, it has to be registered. There are no multiple marriages being registered in the province of Ontario.”
Mr. McMeekin’s response is a shameful twisting of the law. The criminal code is clear. Section 293. (1) reads: “Every one who
(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
(i) any form of polygamy, or
(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”
There is no provision in the law, contrary to Mr. McMeekin’s assertion in the Ontario Legislature, that a polygamous marriage has to be registered before the government can act. The opposite is in fact true.
By turning a blind eye to polygamy, Premier McGuinty is giving licence to Sharia by stealth.
In 2005 Ontario’s premier rightly ruled out Sharia family courts, conceding that Muslim women may well fair poorly if such a system was allowed to be established. The same concern exists today, yet Ontario’s Liberals sit on their hands.
Muslim women like Ms. Rigby are being victimized as are her children. Imam Hindy has told her to put up with her husband’s desire for other wives. She has properly said no and has now obtained a divorce. When will Premier McGuinty’s government say no and enforce the law it is bound to uphold?

jturley-ewart@nationalpost.com
24532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: May 31, 2008, 01:52:37 AM
John Turley-Ewart: Sharia by stealth — Ontario turns a blind eye to polygamy
Posted: May 29, 2008, 4:07 PM by John Turley-Ewart

It’s an issue the Liberal government of Ontario, led by Premier Dalton McGuinty, doesn’t want to deal with — polygamy in the Muslim community. Last week the Toronto Star told the story of Safa Rigby, a 35-year-old mother of five children who recently learned her husband of 14 years had two other wives. Ms. Rigby’s life is in tatters. She followed her husband’s advice that she leave Toronto and live in Egypt for a year on the grounds that it would be better for their children to spend more time in a Muslim country. Now she knows it was a ruse. He used her time there to marry two other women.
Ms. Rigby does not support polygamy, which has been illegal in Canada for more than a century. But Toronto Imam Aly Hindy, who runs the Toronto Salahuddin Islamic Centre, does. He married Ms. Rigby’s husband knowing he already had a wife and counselled him to keep the marriage secret from Ms. Rigby for as long as possible. Hindy has by his own admission performed 30 ceremonies in which men were married who already had wives. When Ms. Rigby confronted Hindy his response was reportedly cold and unsympathetic: “You will have to stand beside him in these difficult times,” Hindy told her. “You should stop causing problems to (sic) him. You will not get anything by divorce except destroying your life” he went on to say.

For Hindy this is not about Ms. Rigby or her husband’s desire to marry another woman — but making a broader political point.
Hindy is using polygamy as a proxy for his fundamentalist version of Islam, something he wants to see legitimized in Canadian society as a whole. It is part of an attempt at empire building, a bid that if successful will enhance his influence within the Muslim and demonstrate that Ontario and Canada is too ignorant and too afraid of Islam to uphold its own laws. He has admitted as much, challenging Ontario’s government to dare stop him. “If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that,” he told the Star. Interviewed after the Star story appeared on the John Oakley Show on AM 640Toronto, Hindy was not apologetic and argued that freedom of religion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms trumped prohibitions against polygamous marriages.
When he and another Imam from Toronto, Steve Rockwell, were challenged on the appropriateness of polygamy by a Muslim caller to the Oakley Show, the caller was immediately attacked and his identity as a true Muslim questioned because he did not follow Hindy’s view that polygamy is a foundational pillar of Islam that grows out of Sharia Law. This speaks to a troubling absolutist interpretation of Islamic law, which runs against the reality that Sharia law is much more flexible that Hindy allows for, a fact well documented by Anver Emon, a specialist in Islamic law at the University of Toronto. Moreover, as noted in the Star article on Ms. Rigby, there is grave doubt that the Charter protects Islamic polygamy, as Hindy believes. Nik Bala, who teaches family law at Queen’s University, points out that “Islam permits polygamy, but doesn’t require it to be a practising Muslim.” This is key, and may mean Hindy’s attempt to find shelter behind the Charter will fail. Moreover, the impact polygamy has on women's equality and children could also sway the courts to uphold Canada's ban on polygamy.


But there is little chance at the moment that this will become a Charter issue down the road. Dalton McGuinty’s government has responded to the revelations about polygamy in the Muslim community by denying its existence. On Wednesday Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin responded to a question on the issue in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario saying:
“Polygamy is a serious crime in Ontario . It’s not something that’s tolerated. As you know, the best advice I can give the honourable member opposite is that if she has any evidence that someone is engaging in multiple marriages, she should report it, because our Registrar General and our official reporting mechanisms have no evidence that that’s happening. As you know, Mr. Speaker, marriage is a contract. A contract require a licence, and once a marriage occurs, it has to be registered. There are no multiple marriages being registered in the province of Ontario.”
Mr. McMeekin’s response is a shameful twisting of the law. The criminal code is clear. Section 293. (1) reads: “Every one who
(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
(i) any form of polygamy, or
(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”
There is no provision in the law, contrary to Mr. McMeekin’s assertion in the Ontario Legislature, that a polygamous marriage has to be registered before the government can act. The opposite is in fact true.
By turning a blind eye to polygamy, Premier McGuinty is giving licence to Sharia by stealth.
In 2005 Ontario’s premier rightly ruled out Sharia family courts, conceding that Muslim women may well fair poorly if such a system was allowed to be established. The same concern exists today, yet Ontario’s Liberals sit on their hands.
Muslim women like Ms. Rigby are being victimized as are her children. Imam Hindy has told her to put up with her husband’s desire for other wives. She has properly said no and has now obtained a divorce. When will Premier McGuinty’s government say no and enforce the law it is bound to uphold?

jturley-ewart@nationalpost.com
24533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ on the Run on: May 31, 2008, 01:51:56 AM
Al Qaeda on the Run
May 31, 2008
A year ago in July, a National Intelligence Estimate warned that al Qaeda had "protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability," meaning it could be poised to strike America again. The political reaction was instantaneous and damning. "This clearly says al Qaeda is not beaten," said Michael Scheuer, the former CIA spook turned antiterror scold.

What a difference 10 months – and a surge – make.

CIA Director Michael Hayden painted a far more optimistic picture in an interview yesterday in the Washington Post. "On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said. "Near strategic defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally – and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' – as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam."

What happened? To certain sophisticates, this is all al Qaeda's doing: By launching suicide attacks on Shiite and even Sunni targets, and ruling barbarically wherever they took control, the group has worn out its welcome in the Muslim world.

There's some truth in this. The Sunni Awakening in Iraq was in part a reaction by local clan leaders against al Qaeda's efforts to subjugate and brutalize them. The Arab world took note when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ordered the November 2005 bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan, in which nearly all of the victims were Sunni Arabs. Extremist Islamic parties took an electoral drubbing in Pakistan's elections earlier this year following a wave of suicide bombings, one of which murdered Benazir Bhutto.

It's also true that al Qaeda finds itself on the ideological backfoot, even in radical circles. As our Bret Stephens reported in March, Sayyed Imam, a founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and once a mentor to Ayman al Zawahiri, has written an influential manifesto sternly denouncing his former comrades for their methods and theology. This was enough to prompt a 215-page rebuttal from Zawahiri, who seems to have time on his hands. Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker and Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank in the New Republic have recently written about similar jihadist defections.

But the U.S. offensives in Afghanistan and especially Iraq deserve most of the credit. The destruction of the Taliban denied al Qaeda one sanctuary, and the U.S. seems to have picked up the pace of Predator strikes in Pakistan – or at least their success rate. This has damaged al Qaeda's freedom of movement and command-and-control.

As for Iraq, Zawahiri himself last month repeated his claim that the country "is now the most important arena in which our Muslim nation is waging the battle against the forces of the Crusader-Zionist campaign." So it's all the more significant that on this crucial battleground, al Qaeda has been decimated by the surge of U.S. forces into Baghdad. The surge, in turn, gave confidence to the Sunni tribes that this was a fight they could win. For Zawahiri, losing the battles you say you need to win is not a way to collect new recruits.

General Hayden was careful to say the threat continues, and he warned specifically about those in Congress and the media who "[focus] less on the threat and more on the tactics the nation has chosen to deal with the threat." This refers to the political campaign to restrict wiretapping and aggressive interrogation, both of which the CIA director says have been crucial to gathering intelligence that has blocked further terrorist spectaculars that would have burnished al Qaeda's prestige.

One irony here is that Barack Obama is promising a rapid withdrawal from Iraq on grounds that we can't defeat al Qaeda unless we focus on Afghanistan. He opposed the Iraq surge on similar grounds. Yet it is the surge, and the destruction of al Qaeda in Iraq, that has helped to demoralize al Qaeda around the world. Nothing would more embolden Zawahiri now than a U.S. retreat from Iraq, which al Qaeda would see as the U.S. version of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.

It is far too soon to declare victory over al Qaeda. Still, Mr. Hayden's upbeat assessment is encouraging, and it suggests that President Bush's strategy of taking the battle to the terrorists is making America safer.

WSJ
24534  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 31, 2008, 01:38:36 AM
Very good Poi Dog.

Can you guys keep a secret?
24535  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Win Win on: May 31, 2008, 01:31:47 AM
Woof All:

About 6 weeks ago I had a very productive conversation with the principal and got her to agree in principal with the concept of the right of self-defense.  She agreed to have me help her draft the language for next year's school handbook.  Today we finally got around to it.

Here is the language we agreed upon:


"FIGHTING:   Part of a good education is learning how to resolve conflict peacefully and we take that seriously here at __________.  If a student is being harassed or bullied, the proper solution is to report the matter to a teacher or other school authority.  The matter will then be mediated in a civilized manner.  Parental support in this area is particularly important. 
 
"At the same time, of course we recognize that everyone has the right to defend his/herself if attacked.   Of course distinguishing self-defense and fighting can sometimes be quite a challenge!
 
"In the event of an altercation, it is the responsibility of the principal or designee to interview all students who were involved and any witnesses.  A determination will be made based upon the facts as to whether or not an attack which was defended or fighting occurred.  Then the principal/designee will make a determination on the merits and as to suitable punishment, if any.  Know that  two children claiming "He started it!" is likely to be resolved with the punishment of both."
 
The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog

24536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Spelling reform? on: May 30, 2008, 09:42:15 PM
National Spelling Bee
Brings Out Protesters
Who R Thru With Through
Rewriting the P's and Q's Is Quest
Of Group That Prefers Phonetics
By REBECCA DANA
May 30, 2008; Page A1

A fyoo duhzen ambishuhss intelectchooals, a handful ov British skool teechers and wuhn rokit siuhntist ar triing to chang the way we spel.

They are the leaders of the spelling-reform movement, a passionate but sporadic 800-year-old campaign to simplify English orthography. In its long and failure-ridden history, the movement has tried to convince an indifferent public of the need for a spelling system based on pronunciation.

TONGUE? TONGE? TOUNG? TUNG?

 
 
Read arguments for and against simplified spelling as far back as the 15th century.
ROZEVULT'S LIST

 
Review the 300 simplified spellings President Roosevelt designated for use in government documents in August 1906.Reformers, including Mark Twain, Charles Darwin and Theodore Roosevelt, argued that phonetic spellings would make it easier for children, foreigners and adults with learning disabilities to read and write. For centuries, few listened, and the movement, exhausted by its own rhetoric and disputes within its ranks, sputtered out. It's back.

Spelling reform is currently enjoying a renaissance in the U.S. and Britain. At a time when young people are inventing their own shorthand for email and text messages, the reformers see a fresh opportunity 2 convert people 2 the cause.

In recent years, the ranks of Britain's Spelling Society and the American Literacy Council have swelled from a few stalwart members to more than 500, which in this effort is a lot. Reformers are energized: Some are writing to dictionary editors urging them to include simplified spellings in new editions. Others are organizing academic conferences, including one on June 7 in Coventry, England, on "The Cost of Spelling." The American Literacy Council just allocated $45,000 of its $250,000 private endowment to develop a series of DVDs using simplified spelling to teach English to international students. The Spelling Society has hired its first publicist.

 
Getty Images 
Pierce Dageforde of Omaha, Neb., misspelled his word Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.
And in their most effective initiative to date, reformers organize a protest every year outside the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which ends today.

Still, no one is particularly optimistic.

"It probably won't happen," says Edward Rondthaler, the father of the modern American spelling-reform movement, chairman emeritus of the ALC and a founder of the International Typeface Council. Mr. Rondthaler is 102 years old and lives on the bank of the Croton River in New York, in a Sears Roebuck house he bought for $7,000 in 1941. After a lifetime spent at the helm of a movement that has made no significant progress, he is still an advocate of spelling reform.

"I have always known it would not happen, but I worked for it anyway, because it should happen," he says. "We have 42 different sounds in English, and we spell them 400 different ways. Isn't that a rather silly thing to do?"

Dream Scenario

About 30 million Americans are functionally illiterate, meaning they lack basic written communications skills, according to the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. The reformers believe Byzantine word spellings that evolved from the English language's Latin, Greek, French, German and Scandinavian roots are to blame. In their dream scenario, a sik person wud cof, a hapee person wud laf, and no American child wud ever spend his free time studeeing for a speling bee.

 
But even as Americans struggle to learn to read, popular culture celebrates master spellers. At least three major films about spelling have been made in recent years: "Bee Season," the documentary "Spellbound," and "Akeelah and the Bee." The hit Broadway musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" closed in January after 1,136 performances. Such is the interest in competitive spelling these days that Disney's ABC television network will air the final two hours of the National Spelling Bee live in prime time tonight.

The spelling reformers are trying to capitalize on the moment. Every year, a group travels to the Bee site, the Grand Hyatt in Washington, to hold a protest on the sidewalk outside. They hand out pamphlets and pins that say "I'm Thru with Through." Some dress as bumblebees. Last year, the protesters spent much of the $1,500 budget allotted to them by the American Literacy Council, to hire a Benjamin Franklin impersonator to articulate for children, television cameras and other passersby the Founding Father's advocacy of spelling reform. They stress that they are protesting the words themselves, not the children who are competing.

The Bee protest was the brainchild of Alan Mole, president of the ALC and a rocket scientist -- an aerospace stress analyst -- in Colorado. It is organized every year by Elizabeth Kuizenga, a California teacher of English-as-a-second-language and the mother of the actress Rebecca Romijn (pronounced romaine). Ms. Kuizenga says she became interested in spelling reform as a child, when she mispronounced the word "ignorance" and her parents laughed at her.

Many other languages have undertaken spelling reforms in the 20th century, including French, Greek, Spanish, Swedish, Irish, Japanese and Hebrew. In 1996, four German-speaking countries agreed on a comprehensive spelling reform of the language. Ms. Kuizenga wondered: "Why not English?"

Dating back to a 13th-century monk named Orm, the spelling-reform movement was a pet project for religious leaders and ivory-tower intellectuals for much of its history. Noah Webster catapulted the movement into relevance in the 18th century, when he created a new, distinctly American orthography on a patriotic impulse, around the time of the Revolutionary War. Webster, who died in 1843, is why Americans write "color" instead of "colour" and "theater" instead of "theatre." He fought his whole life for government-mandated spelling reform and died despondent that it never happened.

Campaign for Reform

Later, a group of determined professors from Oxford, Columbia and Yale took up Webster's cause and began campaigning for widespread reform. The movement reached its apogee on Aug. 20, 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt, a terrible speller, officially changed the spelling of 300 English words.

 
What seemed like a good idea -- changing "through" to "thru," and so on -- turned into a humiliating disaster. Newspapers mocked him as "Rozevult." Congress voted 142-24 to overturn the order.

Modern Critics

Modern critics find a number of faults with the theory of spelling reform. Some consider English spelling beautiful because each word reflects its own evolutionary history. Others argue the idea of phonetic spelling fails to take dialect into account, since pronunciation varies widely from one English-speaking place to another. Finally, the spelling-reform movement has never been able to settle on a single simplification scheme.

But hope springs eternal. "People think we're suggesting a major change in the English language," says Ms. Kuizenga. "We don't even think that's possible, and we certainly don't see any point to it. We're all people who love the English language just as much as anyone, if not more. We just want to make it a little easier to spell."
24537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamic indoctrination in a Texas public school on: May 30, 2008, 05:16:08 PM
Public school students at Friendswood Junior High in the Houston area have been roped into Islamic training by representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations during class time, prompting religious leaders to protest over Principal Robin Lowe's actions.
Pastor Dave Welch, spokesman for the Houston Area Pastor Council, confirmed the indoctrination had taken place and called it "unacceptable."
"The failure of the principal of Friendswood Junior High to respect simple procedures requiring parental notification for such a potentially controversial subject, to not only approve but participate personally in a religious indoctrination session led by representatives of a group with well-known links to terrorist organizations and her cavalier response when confronted, raises serious questions about her fitness to serve in that role," the pastors' organization said. According to a parent, whose name was withheld, the children were given the Islamic indoctrination during time that was supposed to be used for a physical education class.

The rest here:

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=65659
24538  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 30, 2008, 02:10:30 PM
Yes I can.
24539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Run against Congress on: May 30, 2008, 01:44:53 PM
McCain Should Run Against Congress
May 30, 2008
WSJ

When House Minority Leader John Boehner is asked whether his party needs to distance itself from George W. Bush, he likes to point out the president isn't on the ticket this fall. True. Several hundred incumbent GOP members of Congress are, however, and don't think John McCain hasn't noticed.

With Congress's approval rating at record lows, the time is ripe for a slam campaign. Barack Obama won't do it, since his Democratic colleagues are running the joint. But it's a huge opportunity for Mr. McCain, who could play Congress's failings off his promises for reform. Even as Republicans sagely warn their nominee to distance himself from the president, they're beginning to see that his more productive option might just be to throw them – and Congressional Democrats – under the Straight Talk bus.

 
AP 
Mr. McCain could take encouragement from history. Harry Truman managed a 1948 victory by trashing the "Do Nothing Congress." Upstart Barry Goldwater in 1952 told Arizonans that Majority Leader Ernest McFarland represented the mess in Washington, and snatched the Democrat's seat. Tom Daschle followed McFarland, after being pilloried for turning the Senate into a dead zone.

Today's Congress is ripe for a shredding. The GOP kicked off an era of public disgust with its corruption and loss of principle, a reputation it has yet to shake. Democrats have, impressively, managed to alienate voters further with inaction and broken promises. Congress has come to represent the institutional malaise that so frustrates voters. That distaste explains this year's appetite for "change."

Mr. McCain could play off that hunger, and in the process provide his campaign with the theme it still sorely needs. Mr. Obama has his "change" slogan, but as of yet no innovative policies to hang on it. Mr. McCain's problem is opposite: He's laid out smart ideas – an optional flat tax, health-care tax credits, a veto of all earmarks – but has yet to find a narrative to bring them together. One solution: Latch on to a subject that today occupies only a part of his speeches – the promise of "political reform" – and turn it into a full-fledged philosophy. Theme: "Your government has failed you, and here's how I plan to fix it."

Congress is the embodiment of that failure, and Mr. McCain could use it to draw distinctions. He could swivel the focus away from the Bush comparison, and toward Mr. Obama's kinship with today's all-talk Democratic Congress. He could tell voters that the party they feel is today failing them in the Capitol will also fail them in the White House.

As for bad-mouthing the GOP as part of this process, it isn't likely Mr. McCain would offend his conservative base. Most of it is already offended by Congress. His criticism of today's diminished GOP brand, and a promise to revive it, might even help him with the rank-and-file, and would certainly draw independents.

Mr. McCain has so far only flirted with this idea. He wrote an op-ed criticizing the farm bill, but it was largely an abstract complaint about policy. He might have instead made its focus the skewering of a Congress that relentlessly shovels subsidies to agribusiness, and then directly tied that naked vote-buying to today's high prices. A proponent of entitlement reform, he could flay Congress for its decades of inaction on Social Security. His earmark criticism might name names, including those in his party, whose pork addiction has sullied politics. If he's looking for suggestions, he could start with the Alaska delegation.

Mild as Mr. McCain's criticism has been, it's already got Republicans spooked. Many in the party resisted falling in behind his reform message, and some worry that's already taking a toll – creating difficulties even in races that should have been easy.

Consider: As part of his condemnation of the farm bill, Mr. McCain singled out a $93 million earmark for racehorses. While Mr. McCain avoided naming the author, it happened to be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Mr. McConnell has bragged in ads about the pork he brings home to Kentucky, even as his election opponents (taking their cue from Mr. McCain) use those earmarks to paint him as part of a Washington crony culture.

Republicans haven't been worried about Mr. McConnell's seat, and a recent Rasmussen poll has Mr. McCain with a whopping 25 percentage-point lead over Mr. Obama in the state. Yet that same poll had Mr. McConnell's opponent with a five percentage-point lead. And only 67% of declared McCain voters said they'd vote for their four-term Republican senator.

If Congressional Republicans were smart, they'd be figuring out now how to get some protection from a potential McCain onslaught. A unilateral earmark ban? A new resolve against the farm bill? They'd better think of something. If Mr. McCain does take aim at the big, fat Congressional target in front of him, right now it's the GOP, as much as Democrats, that he'll hit.

Write to kim@wsj.com
24540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: May 30, 2008, 11:41:28 AM
Which is my point exactly-- sexual energies do not belong in military units, especially combat units, lest they sow doubt and discord.

Again, I have not served, so I leave this to those that have-- but I do note that civilian interventions, e.g. by President Hillbillary Clinton, puts at risk the careers of those with thinking similar to mine should they express that thinking.
24541  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 30, 2008, 11:28:58 AM
Punong Guro Edgar Sulite made such a ball for me back in 1990-- which is quite a bit before the modern medicine ball craze  wink  He also gave me a couple of special exercises, which now that I write about them here I remind myself I need to get back to them embarassed
24542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rare uncontacted tribe photographed in Amazon on: May 30, 2008, 11:15:04 AM
Woof Maxx:

This may stay posted for only a few days.  Would you please post the content as well?

TIA,
CD
24543  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Ghurkas in Iraq? and anyone know what system of Hand To Hand they use? on: May 29, 2008, 07:12:10 PM
Mike Mai of El Segundo is trained by GM Gyi in the Kukri.  I do not know his criteria for people who wish to learn it.

GM Gyi has been a good teacher to me and is an outstanding martial artist.  I will say though that I did not feel fairly treated in my dealings with the prime website which attacks him concerning the legitimacy of his record.  Last time I looked (several years ago) they were still soliciting accusations that were both anonymous and hearsay-- which is not my idea of the right way to bring a man down.  Regardless of the merits of the matter I find it remarkable how many people simply fail to note this point, but I digress , , ,  I leave it to him to defend himself from these accusations or not.  He has stated for the record that he regrets any errors/mistakes and never meant to hurt anyone.  He is now well into his 70s and as far as I know is dedicating himself to teaching yoga and his Bando Monk system.
24544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: May 29, 2008, 12:13:28 PM
Clinton Time

Hillary Clinton continues to feverishly campaign, convinced she can pull out a symbolic nationwide popular-vote lead when the final states finish their primaries on June 3.

Right now, she actually leads Barack Obama by a hair if the Florida and Michigan primary votes are counted, but the Democratic National Committee has ruled those votes invalid. If Mrs. Clinton does well in Puerto Rico this coming weekend, she could overtake Mr. Obama in the popular vote even excluding Michigan, where he removed himself from the ballot and she didn't.

Of course, Mr. Obama's simple reply is that it's only delegates that count and right now he has 190 more delegates than she does. But that won't stop Mrs. Clinton from using every argument on the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee's special meeting that will be held this Saturday. She has already compared the need to seat the delegations of the two states to the abolition of slavery and the likely stolen election in Zimbabwe. She scored a half victory when party lawyers conceded at least the principle this week, issuing a brief recommending that half the Florida and Michigan delegates be seated.

In the end, the result will likely be determined more by raw political power than rhetoric, logical or strained. The 30-member committee has 13 Hillary backers serving on it, eight Obama supporters and the rest haven't declared a preference. The most likely outcome? Don Fowler, a former chair of the DNC who supports Mrs. Clinton, thinks the committee is likely to relent and seat some delegates, but he says "even I would assert that there has to be some kind of retribution, some kind of sanction" for the two states jumping the DNC's primary calendar.

But that may not end the matter. If Mrs. Clinton doesn't like the result and is still contesting the nomination, she is free to appeal any decision to the party's Credentials Committee. That committee could hold its first meeting on the matter as early as June 29.

Mr. Obama and the media have more or less declared the Democratic nomination fight over. But Mrs. Clinton knows that as soon as the primaries end, the contest moves into the backrooms where legal maneuvering and strong-arm tactics are in play. For those looking for a reason why Mrs. Clinton is continuing to fight on, everyone knows those are skills the Clintons excel in.

-- John Fund

Democrats, Be Careful What You Wish For

On Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton sent a letter to all Democratic superdelegates in which she makes what may be her final plea for the nomination. Brush away the gobbledygook and we are left with this key paragraph:

"I am ahead in states that have been critical to victory in the past two elections. From Ohio, to Pennsylvania, to West Virginia and beyond, the results of recent primaries in battleground states show that I have strong support from the regions and demographics Democrats need to take back the White House. I am also currently ahead of Senator McCain in Gallup national tracking polls, while Senator Obama is behind him. And nearly all independent analyses show that I am in a stronger position to win the Electoral College, primarily because I lead Senator McCain in Florida and Ohio."

Unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, it is also almost certainly too late. Whether it's the superdelegates or the Democratic National Committee, everyone wants the race to end soon after the final primaries are held next week. And the only way for it to end quickly is to give the nomination to Sen. Barack Obama.

That may turn out to be a mistake for Democrats, because Mrs. Clinton's case -- that she is the strongest general election candidate -- continues to be supported by the polls. Gallup recently looked at the 20 states where Mrs. Clinton has prevailed in the popular vote this primary season and found that she "is currently running ahead of McCain... while Obama is tied with McCain in those same states." Those states include Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Arkansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan -- all swing states come the general election. In Gallup's analysis of these swing states, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. McCain by six points, while Mr. Obama is losing to Mr. McCain by three points.

Gallup further notes that "Clinton's 20 states represent more than 300 Electoral College votes while Obama's 28 states and the District of Columbia represent only 224 Electoral College votes." In the general election, Mrs. Clinton would not win every state she has won in the primaries, nor would Mr. Obama lose every state in the general he has lost in the primaries. But things get trickier for Mr. Obama. As Gallup found, in the 28 states Mr. Obama has won this primary season, "he is performing no better than Clinton is in general-election trial heats versus McCain." With little else to go on at this stage in the general election, Gallup's analysis should be a powerful tool in Mrs. Clinton's campaign for superdelegates.

And yet at this point there is not much the superdelegates can do if they wish to avoid a contested convention. But remember these numbers (and Mrs. Clinton's letter), because if nominating Mr. Obama turns out to be the blunder this data suggests it could be, then all the finger-pointing and recriminations that will come after the first Tuesday in November will wind its way back to where we are right now.

-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics.com

Quote of the Day I

"If Scott McClellan's allegations about President Bush sound as if he copied them from the editorial page of any liberal newspaper, there is a reason for it: As White House press secretary, McClellan was not privy to sensitive policy decisions and therefore has no specifics to back up his charges.... [H]e alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth [in making the case for the Iraq war] and that Bush 'managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option.' McClellan cites no details, and for good reason. McClellan was not invited to attend classified meetings where the decisions about going to war were discussed" -- Ronald Kessler, Washington bureau chief for Newsmax.com, on former White House media adviser Scott McClellan's new book criticizing the selling of the Iraq war.

Quote of the Day II

"If he revs up the Republican convention and speaks for John McCain... I will feel a disappointment and a hurt. But I hope Democrats will give him a pass for the same reason that I would give him a pass and forgive him, because he's a progressive Democrat who gave us [control of] the U.S. Senate. To do otherwise smacks of cynicism, revenge, and lack of gratitude" -- former Clinton adviser and Lieberman friend Lanny Davis, quoted in the National Journal on the growing mood among Senate Democrats and staffers to punish Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman for supporting Republican John McCain for president.

Local Hero

Mitt Romney may be adding another state to the long list for which he can claim a personal connection should he choose to run for president again. Later this month, the former venture capitalist and governor is closing on a home in La Jolla, just north of San Diego. Mr. Romney's office says he has no intention of running for statewide office in California, noting that one of his five sons lives near San Diego and his wife Ann often visits the area to ride horses.

But owning a house in the state that sends the largest single delegation to Republican conventions certainly could help Mr. Romney, as it would facilitate building relationships with donors, officeholders and volunteers. Last week, Mr. Romney announced he was forming the Free and Strong America political action committee to facilitate his funneling support to fellow Republicans.

With California added, Mr. Romney now has an impressive list of places he can sort of call "home." He was born in Michigan, where his late father's record as governor helped him carry that state's primary this year. He successfully ran the 2000 Winter Olympics in Utah, where he also maintains a home. Then there is his summer home in New Hampshire, a useful staging area for meeting voters in the nation's first primary state. Oh, and then finally there is Massachusetts, where Mr. Romney spent much of his business career and where he served as governor from 2003 to 2007.

All in all, an impressive haul. The five states where Mr. Romney either has homes or family ties represent a fifth of the country's population. That puts to shame even Hillary Clinton's multiple state connections which involved Illinois where she was born, Arkansas where she was First Lady, and New York where she was elected to the Senate.

24545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Florida Revelation on: May 29, 2008, 07:16:58 AM
The Florida Revelation . . .
May 29, 2008; Page A16
Republicans in Congress may be out of gas, but that doesn't mean conservative ideas aren't percolating elsewhere, and even on the supposedly Democratic stronghold of health care. Take the news from Florida, where GOP Governor Charlie Crist succeeded last week in moving an innovative reform through the state legislature.

The Sunshine State has about 3.8 million people without insurance, or about 21% of the population, the fourth-highest rate in the country. The "Cover Florida" plan hopes to improve those numbers by offering access to more affordable policies. As even Barack Obama says, the main reason people are uninsured isn't because they don't want to be; it's because coverage is too expensive.

 
But the Florida reform, which both houses of the legislature approved unanimously, renounces Mr. Obama's favored remedy: It nudges the government out of the health-care marketplace. Insurance companies will be permitted to sell stripped-down, no-frills policies exempted from the more than 50 mandates that Florida otherwise imposes, including for acupuncture and chiropractics. The new plans will be designed to cost as little as $150 a month, or less.

Mr. Crist observed that state regulations increase the cost of health coverage, and thus rightly decided to do away with at least some of them. It's hard to believe, but this qualifies as a revelation in the policy world of health insurance. The new benefit packages will be introduced sometime next year and include minimum coverage for primary care and catastrophic expenses for major illness.

Critics are already saying that, without mandates, the plan won't guarantee quality of care. That's purportedly why the states have imposed more than 1,900 specific-coverage obligations. But invariably mandates are the product of special-interest lobbying. Health-care providers – not consumers – are always asking for tighter regulation, because they profit from making everyone subsidize generous plans that cover, say, podiatry or infertility treatment. Given the choice, consumers might choose policies that cover some services but not others.

These government rules are imposed without regard for how much they will cost and who will bear the burden. In practice, the costs are disproportionately carried by lower- and middle-income workers, who already on average have more limited insurance coverage as part of their compensation, or none at all. When prices rise because of mandates, the less affluent are often forced to make an all-or-nothing choice between "Cadillac coverage," which involves just about everything, or going uninsured. In other words, they're prohibited from buying the lower-cost options that might be better suited to their needs.

Governor Crist is to be credited for removing this artificial, regressive floor on plans. It's a simple matter of equity. And though the plan will only enroll those who have gone without coverage for six months, it also creates a clearinghouse that will let small businesses that can't afford coverage offer their employees a variety of similar policies.

Despite his often populist brand of politics (such as on hurricane insurance), Mr. Crist also avoided the typical liberal health-care response of expanding public programs. Mitt Romney should have taken this route in Massachusetts, but fell instead for the siren song of "universal coverage," even if provided by the government. Florida is already having a tough fiscal year, but such state-level expansions are often pushed anyway.

Some 13 states currently offer bare-bones policies on a full or trial-run basis. While not a cure-all, they're movement in the right direction – especially as the states can't do anything about the continuing tax bias for employer-provided health insurance. That kind of much-needed change can only come from Washington, as John McCain is proposing.

The Florida success also shows the political benefits when Republicans talk seriously about health care. Mr. Crist has made increasing consumer choice a signature issue. When Mr. McCain talked up his health-care reforms earlier this spring, he did so in Tampa. He chose the right state.
24546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Diversity in faculties of men on: May 29, 2008, 07:08:45 AM
"The diversity in the faculties of men from which the rights
of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a
uniformity of interests.  The protection of these faculties is
the first object of government."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 10, 23 November 1787)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 10 (78)
24547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time to bust Telmex on: May 29, 2008, 07:02:25 AM
It's Time to Bust the Telmex Monopoly
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
May 19, 2008; Page A13
WSJ

It is a decade overdue, but Mexico finally has a clear path to ending the near-monopoly status of Telmex – Carlos Slim's Telefonos de Mexico. Whether President Felipe Calderón seizes the day will signal just how serious he is about modernizing his country's economy.

The cost to the economy of Telmex's dominance cannot be overstated. Lack of competition is the reason Mexicans pay some of the highest telecom charges in the developed world, according to a report last year by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. It's also the reason Mexicans' access to telephone services – landlines and mobile – is "one of the lowest in the OECD." As a result, while the world forges ahead in the information age, Mexico is being left in the Stone Age.

 
Mexico finally has a clear path to ending Telmex's near-monopoly. But will President Felipe Calderón seize the opportunity? Americas columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports. (May 18)
Good news came last week when the government ordered Telmex to provide interconnection to a key competitor. It is the first time since 1997, when Telmex's monopoly privileges ran out, that the government has been willing to enforce the terms of the 1990 concession title. That is the agreement signed at the time of privatization.

Even so, the ruling does nothing to solve the main cause of Mexico's inefficient and costly telecom market. Until Telmex is forced to provide competitive pricing to non-Telmex carriers that have to use the network, and simple number portability to customers who want to switch to other carriers, competition will not evolve. Telmex should also have to cease its practice of cross-subsidizing its telephony businesses.

Until now, Mr. Slim has been an immoveable object. When his monopoly privileges expired in 1997, regulators tried to make him provide network access, at competitive rates, to the other carriers. But by then he had gotten used to the spoils of the monopoly. Whenever regulators have tried to force competitive practices, he has used the courts to block them.

Mexico's largest special interest is also known for using his influence in the halls of Congress and with the executive. During the presidency of Vicente Fox (2000-2006), a former Telmex employee was miraculously named the minister of communication and transport. Judging from how little was accomplished under Mr. Fox, that minister wasn't shy about looking after his former boss's interests.

 THE AMERICAS IN THE NEWS

 
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.Until now, Mexicans have been wary of crossing the powerful Mr. Slim, who is said to control 40% of advertising in the country. But the problems caused by Telmex's uncompetitive practices can no longer be ignored. To that end the telecom regulator, known by the Spanish acronym Cofetel, has drafted a proposal aimed at creating an environment where competition can flourish. The initiative calls for interconnection for all competitors at cost-based rates. It would also introduce an institutional framework similar to that of most OECD countries, and bring Mexico into compliance with the World Trade Organization.

The trouble is that Mr. Slim has already shown that he can litigate to eternity anything coming from the regulator. So even if the new regulation is adopted, Telmex is likely to use the injunction process to block its effectiveness. That is, unless Mr. Calderón trades Mr. Slim something for his cooperation.

Economic giants have gigantic appetites, and Mr. Slim's needs to be fed again. Having consumed Mexican telephony, he now wants to begin eating into the television market by delivering video. But the terms of his 1990 purchase of Telmex strictly forbid such an expansion.

So all the Calderón government has to do to tame the Telmex beast is to enforce the terms of the existing title concession. This would mean that the company would have to adopt accounting practices that avoid cross-subsidization. It also would mean making it clear to Mr. Slim that the Telmex concession title prohibits the provision of television services.

If Telmex wants to change the terms of that original contract so it can compete in video, Mr. Calderón should exact a price. If the company otherwise complies with its original obligations, the Cofetel plan can be put on the table, along with a fee, as the cost of a television license.

Standing firm on this point is important to the future of both television and telephony in Mexico. Right now cable companies are trying to deliver telephone services, but Telmex's interconnection rates are making it difficult to compete. Mr. Slim will crush these midsized competitors if he is allowed to offer video without opening telephony.

The Slim dynasty cannot prosper if it cannot expand into television. If Mexican regulators get smart and begin to aggressively privatize the wireless spectrum, its odds are even slimmer. That's why this is the moment to drive a stake through the heart of the Telmex monopoly. If Mr. Calderón passes up the chance, he will seal his own fate as a reformer and practically guarantee that Mexico will fail to live up to its potential in the next decade.
24548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: May 29, 2008, 06:30:04 AM
I don't understand how the US legal system has obtained jurisdiction over battlefield matters in Iraq:

http://www.blackfive.net/
24549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Asian Banks and Rising Commodity Prices on: May 29, 2008, 12:39:33 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Asian Banks and Rising Commodity Prices
May 28, 2008
Export-based economies that depend on a steady stream of dollars are beginning to feel the effects of an economic slowdown in the United States. This was evident Tuesday when central banks in Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea began selling dollars in what is most likely an effort to strengthen their currencies against the dollar — a conscious decision to demote the importance of cheap exports in favor of controlling inflation.

Typically, East Asian countries hoard dollars in order to keep their own currencies weak. Weak currencies translate into lower prices and higher demand from foreign markets which in turn supports the export-centric East Asian economies. But this system works best when the dollar is strong and the price low for raw material like minerals (including oil), building supplies and food.

Right now this is not the case. With oil at $130 per barrel, grain prices at record highs and raw materials in fierce demand, the situation is becoming dire for manufacturing economies.

The currency-strengthening move undertaken by the central banks Tuesday is a shift in policy. Historically, a weak-currency export strategy has been a mainstay in East Asian economies. In fact, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore all dragged themselves out of post World War II doldrums using this strategy. Since then, they have migrated from manufacturing-based economies to ones that are technological and service-centered. Others like Indonesia (which is still largely agriculturally based) are also hurting from the recent rise in commodity, energy and food prices but not to the degree of a manufacturing-based economy.

The recent currency manipulation strategy raises the specter of the East Asian financial crisis, set off by the Thai government’s decision in 1997 to float the baht. While the events Tuesday do not necessarily signal the beginning of another crisis, they certainly show that at least a few East Asian countries have hit some sort of threshold. They can no longer keep up with rising commodity prices. While Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea are lower- and mid-level economies in East Asia, the decisions by their central banks are important, especially as a sign of what may come.

In fact, the real pain from high commodity prices is not necessarily being felt by the countries that tinkered with their currencies Tuesday, but by China and Thailand. As of 2006, manufacturing made up 41 percent and 35 percent of the Chinese and Thai economies respectively. By far, these countries operate the most manufacturing-dependent economies in East Asia.

In China and Thailand, factories are the backbone of the economy. In order to fuel the machines that produce the goods, these economies demand electricity, heat and large amounts of commodities ranging from iron to copper to platinum. Trucks, trains and boats are required to get those products to port and all consume fuel also. Compared to economies such as Japan, which is much more technology- and service-based, China and Thailand use far more energy and raw materials per dollar of wealth created.

Therein lies their weakness. China in particular is feeling the pain of high commodity prices. Like the other East Asian countries, it also has an export-based economy. But China’s case is special in that its top priority is political stability — a balance derived by providing its people with basic requirements like food. Thus far, China has been successful in doing so by reaping the benefits of a red-hot economy that has brought it wealth at a rapid pace. But rising commodity prices threaten the country’s economy and political stability in two ways. First, the high cost of raw materials and energy means that factories are seeing their already-tight profit margins shrink even further. Second, the rising cost of food can quickly lead to social upheaval if workers cannot afford to feed their families.

Although it has not employed the same methodology as the central banks on Tuesday, China has been taking action to strengthen its currency gradually since July 2005 — not by selling off dollars that it holds, but by making its yuan policy more flexible.

While other countries can buy breathing room by selling off chunks of U.S. dollars, the same luxury does not exist for China. If the yuan stays relatively weak against the dollar, then the country will continue to suffer high commodity prices and become vulnerable to food and energy shortages and thus social unrest. However, if China suddenly ramps up the current gradual strengthening of the yuan, then it risks shuttering factories that depend on exports and thus increasing unemployment. China also runs the risk of devaluing a significant portion of the approximately $1.7 trillion in savings it holds in foreign exchange reserves.

Ultimately, these actions — and those taken by the central banks Tuesday — do not change the fact that China, like all manufacturing-heavy economies, is in for some challenging times ahead.
24550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove says on: May 29, 2008, 12:28:37 AM
Obama's Revisionist History
By KARL ROVE
May 29, 2008; Page A15

This week's minor controversy about Barack Obama's claim that an uncle liberated Auschwitz was quickly put to rest by his campaign. They conceded that it was a great uncle whose unit liberated Buchenwald, 500 miles away.

But other, much more troubling, episodes have provided a revealing glimpse into a candidate who instinctively resorts to parsing, evasions and misdirection. The saga over Rev. Jeremiah Wright is Exhibit A. In just 62 days, Americans were treated to eight different explanations.

First, on Feb. 25, Mr. Obama downplayed Rev. Wright's divisiveness, saying he was "like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with." A week later, Mr. Obama insisted, "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," suggesting that Rev. Wright was criticized because "he was one of the leaders in calling for divestment from South Africa and some other issues like that."

The issue exploded on March 13, when ABC showed excerpts from Rev. Wright's sermons. Mr. Obama's spokesman said the senator "deeply disagrees" with Rev. Wright's statements, but "now that he is retired, that doesn't detract from Sen. Obama's affection for Rev. Wright or his appreciation for the good works he has done."

The next day, Mr. Obama offered a fourth defense: "The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation." Mr. Obama also told the Chicago Tribune, "In fairness to him, this was sort of a greatest hits. They basically culled five or six sermons out of 30 years of preaching."

Then, four days later, in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama finally repudiated Rev. Wright's comments, saying they "denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." But Mr. Obama went on to say, "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother. . . ."

Ten days later, Mr. Obama said if Rev. Wright had not retired as Trinity's pastor, and "had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended . . . then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church." (Never mind that Rev. Wright had made no such acknowledgment.)

On April 28, at the National Press Club, Rev. Wright re-emerged – not to apologize but to repeat some of his most offensive lines. This provoked an eighth defense: "[W]hatever relationship I had with Rev. Wright has changed, as a consequence of this. I don't think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign . . . ." Self-interest is a powerful, but not noble, sentiment in politics.

The Rev. Wright affair is just one instance where the Illinois senator has said something wrong or offensive, and then offered shifting explanations for his views. Consider flag pins.

Mr. Obama told an Iowa radio station last October he didn't wear an American flag lapel pin because, after 9/11, it had "became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues . . . ." His campaign issued a statement that "Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol." To highlight his own moral superiority, he denigrated the patriotism of those who wore a flag.

Yet by April, campaigning in culturally conservative Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama was blaming others for the controversy he'd created, claiming, "I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us . . . ." A month later Mr. Obama was once again wearing a pin, saying "Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don't."

The Obama revision tour has been seen elsewhere. Last July, Mr. Obama pledged to meet personally and without precondition, during his first year, the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Criticized afterwards, he made his pledge more explicitly, naming Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Venezuela strongman Hugo Chávez as leaders he would grace with first-year visits.

By October, Mr. Obama was backpedaling, talking about needing "some progress or some indication of good faith," and by April, "sufficient preparation." It got so bad his foreign policy advisers were (falsely) denying he'd ever said he'd meet with Mr. Ahmadinejad – even as he still defended his original pledge to have meetings without precondition.

The list goes on. Mr. Obama's problem is a campaign that's personality-driven rather than idea-driven. Thus incidents calling into question his persona and character can have especially devastating consequences.

Stripped of his mystique as a different kind of office seeker, he could become just another liberal politician – only one who parses, evades, dissembles and condescends. That narrative is beginning to take hold. If those impressions harden into firm judgments, Mr. Obama will have a very difficult time in November.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
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