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24801  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 20, 2009, 08:07:44 AM
24802  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The State of Surveillance on: May 20, 2009, 07:05:06 AM
In October, British newspapers reported that Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government was working on a plan to monitor every phone call, Web-site visit, text message and email in the country, entering the information into a vast database that would be used to catch terrorists, pedophiles and scam artists. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary (that is, a member of the Conservative opposition), warned that "any suggestion of the government using existing powers to intercept communications data without public discussion is going to sound extremely sinister." The Sunday Times reported a "fierce backlash inside Whitehall," with senior officials calling the database scheme "impractical, disproportionate and potentially unlawful." Michael Parker, the spokesman for a British civil-liberties group, told the Daily Express: "This is stalking. If an individual carried out this sort of snooping, it would be a crime."

Mr. Brown's government tried to blunt such attacks by saying that its electronic dragnet would not be as extensive as the press had claimed and that government investigators, in any case, would still need "ministerial warrants" to listen to or read the contents of communications. Not everyone felt reassured, however. Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions for England and Wales, warned that "decisions taken in the next few months and years about how the state may use these [surveillance] powers, and to what extent, are likely to be irreversible," adding: "We need to take very great care not to fall into a way of life in which freedom's back is broken by the relentless pressure of a security state."

The episode illustrates two points that are reinforced by British journalist Ross Clark's wry and revealing book "The Road to Big Brother." First, despite the U.K.'s reputation as one of the most watched societies in the world -- it has more surveillance cameras per capita than any other country -- its citizens, including its law-enforcement officials, still care about privacy. Second, their complaints are more easily ignored than analogous complaints in the U.S., where the Fourth Amendment, along with various statutes, prevents the executive branch from unilaterally changing the rules that limit government snooping.

In the U.S., implementing a data-collection program like the one contemplated by the British government would require not only the "public discussion" demanded by Dominic Grieve but congressional authorization, which would in turn be reviewed by courts that are unlikely to allow the state to gather so much private information on so many innocent people. Nor would American courts let the police stop and search people's pockets and bags in any public place for any reason, a policy that Mr. Clark says may soon become British law.

The Road to Big Brother
By Ross Clark
(Encounter, 140 pages, $21.95)

Still, there is much that Americans can learn from the British experience with surveillance. Take all those cameras. So far in the U.S., they have been limited mainly to detecting traffic violations. Although traffic cameras have generated heated debate, the main concern has to do with whether they reduce or increase accidents and whether municipalities are sacrificing public safety for the sake of revenue (by reducing the duration of yellow lights, for example). But there is no constitutional barrier to erecting surveillance cameras throughout the U.S. -- provided they focus only on public areas. After all, the government could, in theory, post police officers on every corner, and they would be free to look and listen without violating anyone's Fourth Amendment rights. Looking and listening from a distance does not change the constitutional question.

Yet there is something to be said, fiscal concerns aside, for not having a cop on every corner. The sense of being constantly watched does tend to put a damper on things, potentially affecting the topics people discuss, the ways they dress, the businesses they visit, even the books they read while sitting on park benches.

By Mr. Clark's account, the cost of such surveillance is not worth paying. In Britain, he says, the evidence that the government's cameras are good at deterring or detecting crime is thin. Facial-recognition software aimed at catching known suspects has been a bust, easily foiled by poor lighting, hats, sunglasses and even a few months of aging. Mr. Clark argues that Britain's cameras are, in reality, a relatively cheap way of seeming to do something about crime. He finds that "electronic surveillance is not always augmenting traditional policing; it is more often than not replacing it, with poor results." Likewise, huge collections of information gleaned from private sources such as phone companies, banks and credit bureaus (along the lines of America's renamed but not abandoned Total Information Awareness Program) are apt to be unmanageable and rife with errors. Mr. Clark notes: "There is a fundamental rule about databases: the bigger they are, the more useless they become."

Again and again, Mr. Clark finds, high-tech systems that seem at first to be outrageous invasions of privacy turn out to be outrageous boondoggles that don't succeed at their official goals and actually get in the way of catching the bad guys and protecting the public. "The excessive collection of data tends to act as a fog through which authorities struggle to find what they are looking for," Mr. Clark writes. "The more Big Brother watches, the less he seems to see."

An excessively nosy government poses many dangers, as Mr. Clark emphasizes, including exposure to fraud and blackmail, unjustified interference with freedom of travel, and mistaken incrimination. But it is reassuring to realize that the government is not competent enough to be omniscient.

Mr. Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a nationally syndicated columnist.
24803  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak's nukes on: May 20, 2009, 06:16:23 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Doubts and Concerns About Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal
May 19, 2009
Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on Monday denied a claim, published Sunday by The New York Times, that Pakistan was adding to its nuclear arsenal. Kaira said, “Pakistan does not need to expand its nuclear arsenal, but we want to make it clear that we will maintain a minimum nuclear deterrence that is essential for our defense and stability. We will not make any compromise.”

The Times had reported that, at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on May 14, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen had succinctly answered “yes,” without elaborating, when asked if he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

A nuclear arsenal cannot be expanded on a whim. The processes Mullen was referring to are products of years of labor to refine, modernize and expand the arsenal — work that in all likelihood has proceeded apace since before Pakistan’s 1998 tests (even if the focus after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks shifted for a time to security, safety, and command and control).

Mullen said he feels “comfortable,” based on what he knows and what the Pakistanis have told him, about the increased security measures established during the last three to four years to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The Pakistanis are in the middle of one of their most aggressive offensives against the Taliban in and around Swat Valley, and they expect Washington to follow through with promises of $3 billion in military aid over the next five years and $7.5 billion in civilian assistance as a reward for their efforts. Since a good amount of unchecked U.S. aid to Pakistan frequently has been diverted to corporate entities for the benefit of military commanders in the past, U.S. lawmakers are naturally poking into every nook and cranny in Pakistan to see where future funds might wind up. Of course, the last thing Washington wants is for Pakistan to use U.S. money to beef up the very nuclear arsenal the United States is attempting to keep secure from jihadists.

But Pakistan has very different priorities in mind. A big part of the reason Islamabad and Washington don’t see eye-to-eye on how to manage the jihadist problem is Pakistan’s deep-seated fear of its larger and more powerful neighbor, India. While the United States is trying to keep Pakistan focused on its northwestern border with Afghanistan, where the writ of the Pakistani state is eroding at the hands of the jihadists, the Pakistani military leadership is far more concerned with keeping most troops stationed on the eastern border with India. This is a Pakistani fact of life that will not change, no matter how much the United States attempts to reassure Islamabad over India’s military intentions.

Pakistan has been playing catch-up with India since the 1947 partition. Lacking India’s geographic strategic depth, economic foundation and political cohesion, Pakistan has based its security policy on two primary pillars.

The first involves the state’s long-standing Islamization policy, which has been used as an unconventional tool to foster militants in places like Afghanistan and Kashmir, to gain allies and fend off rivals. Since Pakistan was more likely to suffer defeat in a direct military engagement with India, it increasingly relied on proxies to keep the Indians too busy putting out fires at home to seriously entertain military options against the Pakistanis.

The second pillar is rooted in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal — a last-resort option designed to keep the Indians at bay should the militant proxies push New Delhi’s buttons too hard. Pakistan would be quantitatively and qualitatively beaten by the Indians in a military contest, and currently it can only dream of reaching nuclear parity with India. Still, the nuclear arsenal is Islamabad’s most valued defense against Indian aggression. In fact, just six months ago, Pakistan reminded India of the nuclear threat, seeking to make New Delhi reconsider any plans for military retaliation in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

With Taliban and scores of Kashmiri Islamist militants now turning on the Pakistani state, it has become all too clear that Islamabad’s first defense strategy — the militant proxy project — is coming undone. Once, this strategy both ensured the integrity of the state and reinforced Pakistan’s defense of its borders. Now, the same strategy is breaking it apart.

This is not to say that the military leadership is psychologically prepared to abolish the militant proxy strategy completely. But as the security and intelligence apparatus works to sort out the “good” militants from the “bad” militants that have turned against it, the Pakistani state naturally feels pressured to ramp up its second line of defense against India.

In all likelihood, Pakistan has been modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal for some time. Now that concerns are being raised over Pakistan’s nuclear plans and the potential diversion of U.S. funds, aid earmarks are coming into question — and Washington will experience even more difficulty in trying to deal with the Pakistanis and instill sufficient confidence in Islamabad to sustain the offensive against the Taliban. Furthermore, Washington is bound to run into complications with India, which will demand that the United States not stand idle while Pakistan expands its nuclear capability.

But as Mullen said himself, the Pakistanis “are very protective of their nuclear weapons,” and understandably so. These days, Pakistan’s concerns about securing its nuclear arsenal don’t apply only to the Indians and the jihadists. On Monday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said, “We want to tell the world in categoric terms that, with the blessing of God, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe and will remain safe. No one, no matter how powerful and influential, eyeing on our national assets, will succeed.” Gilani undoubtedly was referring to fears in his country that the United States might try to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, given sufficient cause to believe that the nuclear facilities could fall to jihadist control. As we have discussed previously, such U.S. threats were made loud and clear following the Sept. 11 attacks: Pakistan was pressured to admit U.S. Special Forces into the nuclear facilities in order to stave off a crisis with both Washington and New Delhi.

As the jihadists grow stronger, Pakistan sees another crisis approaching. It therefore will try to refine, modernize and expand its nuclear arsenal as much as it can, while it can.
24804  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reality bites BO in the butt #3 on: May 20, 2009, 05:49:46 AM
WASHINGTON — In an abrupt shift, Senate Democratic leaders said they would not provide the $80 million that President Obama requested to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The move escalates pressure on the president, who on Thursday is scheduled to outline his plans for the 240 terrorism suspects still held there.

In recent days, Mr. Obama has faced growing demands from both parties, but particularly Republicans, to lay out a more detailed road map for closing the Guantánamo prison and to provide assurances that detainees would not end up on American soil, even in maximum security prisons.

The move by Senate Democrats to strip the $80 million from a war-spending bill and the decision to bar, for now, transfer of detainees to the United States, raised the possibility that Mr. Obama’s order to close the camp by Jan. 22, 2010, might have to be changed or delayed.

“Guantánamo makes us less safe,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said at a news conference where he laid out the party’s rationale for its decision, which is expected to be voted on this week. “However, this is neither the time nor the bill to deal with this. Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a comprehensive, responsible plan from the president. We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.”

Senate Democrats said they still backed Mr. Obama’s decision to close the prison. But lawmakers have not exactly been eager to accept detainees in their home states. When the tiny town of Hardin, Mont., offered to put the terrorism suspects in its empty jail, Montana’s senators, both Democrats, and its representative, a Republican, quickly voiced opposition.

Administration officials have indicated that if the Guantánamo camp closes as scheduled more than 100 prisoners may need to be moved to the United States, including 50 to 100 who have been described as too dangerous to release.

Of the 240 detainees, 30 have been cleared for release. Some are likely to be transferred to foreign countries, though other governments have been reluctant to take them. Britain and France have each accepted one former detainee. And while as many as 80 of the detainees will be prosecuted, it remains unclear what will happen to those who are convicted and sentenced to prison.

At the White House, the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the administration expected that Congress would eventually release the money to close the camp, and he suggested that the concerns of lawmakers would start to be addressed on Thursday, when Mr. Obama will present a “hefty pa rt” of his plan.

At the Pentagon, a spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said he believed that the administration remained on track to meet the deadline for closing the prison. “I see nothing to indicate that that date is at all in jeopardy,” Mr. Morrell said.

As the administration has struggled with the issue, it has come under assault from the right and the left.

Conservatives have sought to portray the president as weak on national security. Liberals, including some human rights advocates, have criticized several of Mr. Obama’s decisions, including his plan to revive the military commissions created by the Bush administration to prosecute terrorism suspects held at Guantánamo.

Lawmakers, mindful of polls showing wide public opposition to bringing detainees to the United States, have expressed concerns about the safety of their constituents, and some have said that any location housing detainees, even the most secure prisons, would become a potential target for a terrorist attack.

On Tuesday Republicans, including the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has been warning for weeks about the dangers of closing the prison, applauded the Democrats’ decision.

At a news conference, Mr. McConnell said he hoped it was a prelude to keeping the camp open and dangerous terrorism suspects offshore, where he said they belong. He noted that no prisoner had escaped from Guantánamo since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Guantánamo is the perfect place for these terrorists,” Mr. McConnell said. “However, if the president ends up sticking with this decision to close it next January, obviously they need a place to be. It ought not to be the United States of America.”

Senate Democrats on Tuesday conceded that their decision to shift course in part reflected the success of Republicans in putting them on the defensive.

But the Democrats said they had also acted to avert a partisan feud that would delay the military-spending measure, which is needed to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security programs through Sept. 30.

, , ,

24805  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 20, 2009, 05:47:14 AM
As noted in the Nuclear War thread, it appears that our money is financing intensification of Pak's nuke program.  Now, surprise!, it appears we are arming the Taliban.   cry cry cry  God bless our troops and keep them safe.


KABUL — Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.

Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

The presence of this ammunition among the dead in the Korangal Valley, an area of often fierce fighting near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, strongly suggests that munitions procured by the Pentagon have leaked from Afghan forces for use against American troops.

The scope of that diversion remains unknown, and the 30 magazines represented a single sampling of fewer than 1,000 cartridges. But military officials, arms analysts and dealers say it points to a worrisome possibility: With only spotty American and Afghan controls on the vast inventory of weapons and ammunition sent into Afghanistan during an eight-year conflict, poor discipline and outright corruption among Afghan forces may have helped insurgents stay supplied.

The United States has been criticized, as recently as February by the federal Government Accountability Office, for failing to account for thousands of rifles issued to Afghan security forces. Some of these weapons have been documented in insurgents’ hands, including weapons in a battle last year in which nine Americans died.

In response, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, the American-led unit tasked with training and supplying Afghan forces, said it had made accountability of all Afghan police and military property a top priority, and taken steps to locate and log rifles issued even years ago. The Pentagon has created a database of small arms issued to Afghan units.

No similarly thorough accountability system exists for ammunition, which is harder to trace and more liquid than firearms, readily changing hands through corruption, illegal sales, theft, battlefield loss and other forms of diversion.

American forces do not examine all captured arms and munitions to trace how insurgents obtained them, or to determine whether the Afghan government, directly or indirectly, is a significant Taliban supplier, military officers said.

The reasons include limited resources and institutional memory of issued arms, as well as an absence of collaboration between field units that collect equipment and the investigators and supervisors in Kabul who could trace it.

In this case, the rifle magazines were captured last month by a platoon in Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry, which killed at least 13 insurgents in a nighttime ambush in eastern Afghanistan. The soldiers searched the insurgents’ remains and collected 10 rifles, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, 30 magazines and other equipment.

Access to Taliban equipment is unusual. But after the ambush, the company allowed the items to be examined by this reporter.

Photographs were taken of the weapons’ serial numbers and markings on the bottoms of the cartridge casings, known as headstamps, which can reveal where and when ammunition was manufactured. The headstamps were then compared with ammunition in government circulation, and with this reporter’s records of ammunition sampled in Afghan magazines and bunkers in multiple provinces in recent years.

The type of ammunition in question, 7.62x39 millimeter, colloquially known as “7.62 short,” is one of the world’s most abundant classes of military small-arms cartridges, and can come from dozens of potential suppliers.

It is used in Kalashnikov rifles and their knockoffs, and has been made in many countries, including Russia, China, Ukraine, North Korea, Cuba, India, Pakistan, the United States, the former Warsaw Pact nations and several countries in Africa. Several countries have multiple factories, each associated with distinct markings.

The examination of the Taliban’s cartridges found telling signs of diversion: 17 of the magazines contained ammunition bearing either of two stamps: the word “WOLF” in uppercase letters, or the lowercase arrangement “bxn.”

“WOLF” stamps mark ammunition from Wolf Performance Ammunition, a company in California that sells Russian-made cartridges to American gun owners. The company has also provided cartridges for Afghan soldiers and police officers, typically through middlemen. Its munitions can be found in Afghan government bunkers.

The “bxn” marking was formerly used at a Czech factory during the cold war. Since 2004, the Czech government has donated surplus ammunition and equipment to Afghanistan. A.E.Y. Inc., a former Pentagon supplier, also shipped surplus Czech ammunition to Afghanistan, according to the United States Army, including cartridges bearing “bxn” stamps.

Most of the Wolf and Czech ammunition in the Taliban magazines was in good condition and showed little weathering, denting, corrosion or soiling, suggesting it had been removed from packaging recently.

There is no evidence that Wolf, the Czech government or A.E.Y. knowingly shipped ammunition to Afghan insurgents. A.E.Y. was banned last year from doing business with the Pentagon, but its legal troubles stemmed from unrelated allegations of fraud.

Given the number of potential sources, the probability that the Taliban and the Pentagon were sharing identical supply sources was small.

Rather, the concentration of Taliban ammunition identical in markings and condition to that used by Afghan units indicated that the munitions had most likely slipped  rolleyes  from state custody, said James Bevan, a researcher specializing in ammunition for the Small Arms Survey, an independent research group in Geneva.


Mr. Bevan, who has documented ammunition diversion in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, said one likely explanation was that interpreters, soldiers or police officers had sold ammunition for profit or passed it along for other reasons, including support for the insurgency. “Same story, different location,” he said.

The majority of cartridges in the remaining 13 Taliban magazines bore headstamps indicating they were made in Russia in the Soviet period. Several rounds had Chinese stamps and dates indicating manufacture in the 1960s and ’70s. A smaller number were Hungarian. Much of this other ammunition was in poor condition.

Hungarian and Chinese ammunition had also been provided to the Afghan government by A.E.Y., making it possible that several of the remaining magazines included American-procured rounds.

The American military did not dispute the possibility that theft or corruption could have steered Wolf and Czech ammunition to insurgents.

Capt. James C. Howell, who commands the company that captured the ammunition, said illicit diversion would be consistent with an enduring reputation of corruption in Afghan units, especially the police. “It’s not surprising,” he said.

But he added that in his experience this form of corruption was not the norm. Rather than deliberate diversion, he said, the more likely causes would be poor discipline and oversight in the Afghan national security forces, or A.N.S.F. “I think most A.N.S.F. don’t want their own stuff coming back at them,” he said.

Captured Taliban rifles provide a glimpse at arms diversion as well.

After the battle in the eastern village of Wanat last year, in which 9 Americans died and more than 20 were wounded, investigators found a large cache of AMD-65 assault rifles in the village’s police post, which was implicated in the attack, according to American officers. In all, the post had more than 70 assault rifles, but only 20 officers on its roster. Three AMD-65s were recovered near the battle as well.

The AMD-65, a distinctive Hungarian rifle, was rarely seen in Afghanistan until the United States issued it by the thousands to the Afghan police. They can now be found in Pakistani arms bazaars.

In the American ambush last month, all of the 10 captured rifles had factory stamps from China or Izhevsk, Russia. Those with date stamps had been manufactured in the 1960s and ’70s.

Photographs of the weapons and serial numbers were provided to Brig. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, the deputy commander of the transition command. Upon checking the Pentagon’s new database, the general said one of the Chinese rifles had been issued to an Afghan auxiliary police officer in 2007. How Taliban insurgents had acquired the rifle was not clear.

The auxiliary police, which augmented the Afghan Interior Ministry, were riddled with corruption and incompetence. They were disbanded last year.

Speaking about the captured Taliban ammunition, General Ierardi cautioned that the range of headstamps could indicate that insurgent use of American-procured munitions was not widespread. He noted that the captured ammunition sampling was small and that munitions might have leaked through less nefarious means.

“The mixed ammo could suggest battlefield losses; it could suggest captured ammo,” he said. He added, however, that he did not want to appear defensive and that accountability of Afghan arms and munitions was of “highest priority.”

“The emphasis from our perspective is on accountability of all logistics property,” he said. Leakage of Pentagon-supplied armaments to insurgents is an “absolutely worst-case scenario,” he said, adding, “We want to guard against the exact scenario you laid out.”

24806  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our 400th post! on: May 20, 2009, 05:40:27 AM
"This Government, the offspring of your own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
24807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 20, 2009, 05:12:15 AM
Ha!  Great minds think alike , , , or something like that.  I just posted the same piece on the SCH forum a couple of minutes ago smiley
24808  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 20, 2009, 05:10:42 AM
Now, now, gentlemen, lets stick to the merits of the subject matter at hand , , ,
24809  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / GPS satellites to begin failing? on: May 20, 2009, 05:05:42 AM
Network of satellites could begin to fail as early as 2010

It has become one of the staples of modern, hi-tech life: using satellite navigation tools built into your car or mobile phone to find your way from A to B. But experts have warned that the system may be close to breakdown.

US government officials are concerned that the quality of the Global Positioning System (GPS) could begin to deteriorate as early as next year, resulting in regular blackouts and failures – or even dishing out inaccurate directions to millions of people worldwide.

The warning centres on the network of GPS satellites that constantly orbit the planet and beam signals back to the ground that help pinpoint your position on the Earth's surface.

The satellites are overseen by the US Air Force, which has maintained the GPS network since the early 1990s. According to a study by the US government accountability office (GAO), mismanagement and a lack of investment means that some of the crucial GPS satellites could begin to fail as early as next year.

"It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption," said the report, presented to Congress. "If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected."

The report says that Air Force officials have failed to execute the necessary steps to keep the system running smoothly.

Although it is currently spending nearly $2bn (£1.3bn) to bring the 20-year-old system up to date, the GAO – which is the equivalent of Britain's National Audit Office – says that delays and overspending are putting the entire system in jeopardy.

"In recent years, the Air Force has struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within cost and schedule goals," said the report. "It encountered significant technical problems … [and] struggled with a different contractor."

The first replacement GPS satellite was due to launch at the beginning of 2007, but has been delayed several times and is now scheduled to go into orbit in November this year – almost three years late.

The impact on ordinary users could be significant, with millions of satnav users potential victims of bad directions or failed services. There would also be similar side effects on the military, which uses GPS for mapping, reconnaissance and for tracking hostile targets.

Some suggest that it could also have an impact on the proliferation of so-called location applications on mobile handsets – just as applications on the iPhone and other GPS-enabled smartphones are starting to get more popular.

Tom Coates, the head of Yahoo's Fire Eagle system – which lets users share their location data from their mobile – said he was sceptical that US officials would let the system fall into total disrepair because it was important to so many people and companies.

"I'd be surprised if anyone in the US government was actually OK with letting it fail – it's too useful," he told the Guardian.

"It sounds like something that could be very serious in a whole range of areas if it were to actually happen. It probably wouldn't damage many locative services applications now, but potentially it would retard their development and mainstreaming if it were to come to pass."

The failings of GPS could also play into the hands of other countries – including opening the door to Galileo, the European-funded attempt to rival America's satellite navigation system, which is scheduled to start rolling out later next year.

Russia, India and China have developed their own satellite navigation technologies that are currently being expanded.
24810  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 19, 2009, 12:34:34 PM

That was very funny.

24811  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 19, 2009, 11:38:04 AM
And on that gracious note, may I suggest we move on from this particular little discussion.
24812  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rest in Peace on: May 19, 2009, 08:19:30 AM

Nice piece.  Nice picture.


I regret to inform that Poi Dog's uncle has died in a motorcycle accident.  Our prayers to the family and Poi.

24813  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: May 19, 2009, 08:14:49 AM
24814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's shopping on: May 19, 2009, 12:55:55 AM
Back when the Bush Administration was warning about Iran's nuclear progress, or its deadly meddling in Iraq, the typical Democratic and media response was to treat the Islamic Republic as innocent until proven guilty. This month, Democrat Robert Morgenthau supplied the proof.

In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was largely ignored by the media, the legendary Manhattan District Attorney opened a window on how Iran is secretly obtaining the ingredients for an arsenal of mass destruction. Mr. Morgenthau, whose recent cases have exposed illicit Iranian finance and procurement networks, has discovered what he calls "Iran's shopping list for materials related to weapons of mass destruction." They add up to "literally thousands of records."

Missile accuracy appears to be a key Iranian goal. In one of Mr. Morgenthau's cases -- the prosecution of Chinese citizen Li Fang Wei and his LIMMT company for allegedly scamming Manhattan banks to slip past sanctions on Iran -- the DA uncovered a list that included 400 sophisticated gyroscopes and 600 accelerometers. These are critical for developing accurate long-range missiles. He also found that Iran was acquiring a rare metal called tantalum, "used in those roadside bombs that are being used against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan." So much for the media notion that Iran has played no part in killing American GIs.

Mr. Morgenthau also noted that the material shipped by LIMMT "included 15,000 kilograms of a specialized aluminum alloy used almost exclusively in long-range missile production; 1,700 kilograms of graphite cylinders used for banned electrical discharge machines which are used in converting uranium; more than 30,000 kilograms of tungsten-copper plates; 200 pieces of tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders, all used for missiles; 19,000 kilograms of tungsten metal powder, and 24,500 kilograms of maraging steel rods . . . especially hardened steel suitable for long-range missiles."

Lest anyone think that these materials may have innocent uses, Mr. Morgenthau added that "we have consulted with top experts in the field from MIT and from private industry and from the CIA. . . . Frankly, some of the people we've consulted are shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they're buying."

Mr. Morgenthau's information is corroborated by a staff report for the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Democrat John Kerry, which notes that Iran is making nuclear progress on all fronts, and that it "could produce enough weapons-grade material for a bomb within six months." The committee also notes that "Iran is operating a broad network of front organizations," and that authorities suspect "some purchases for Iran's nuclear and missile programs may have come through an elaborate ruse to avoid U.S. financial sanctions on dealing with Iranian banks."

As we've reported, Lloyds bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in January with Mr. Morgenthau's office in which it admitted to a $300 million "stripping" scheme designed to hide the Iranian origin of banking transfers from 2001 to 2004. Several other banks are also in the crosshairs of Mr. Morgenthau and the Justice Department.

All this should put to rest any doubts about the Iranian regime's purposes and determination. As for what the U.S. should do about it, the committee report insists that "direct engagement" must be a part of American strategy, and so it seems fated to be under the Obama Administration. The least it can do is heed Mr. Morgenthau's central point about everything he's learned about Iran's nuclear progress: "It's late in the game, and we don't have a lot of time."
24815  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 18, 2009, 10:54:02 PM
"You guys sure do have a lot of fat people in the U.S."

Reminds me of a very international after dinner conversation in Bern, Switzerland.  We were riffing on national stereotypes.  I asked what the stereotype was of Americans.  "Fat people in shorts with white socks" came the answer.  Ouch!!!
24816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's latest move against Israel on: May 18, 2009, 10:49:11 PM
Obama's latest calculated move against the Jewish State

By Anne Bayefsky | In advance of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the United States today, President Obama unveiled a new strategy for throwing Israel to the wolves. It takes the form of enthusiasm for the United Nations and international interlopers of all kinds. Instead of ensuring strong American control over the course of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or the Arab-Israeli peace process, the Obama administration is busy inserting an international mob between the U.S. and Israel. The thinking goes: If Israel doesn't fall into an American line, Obama will step out of the way, claim his hands are tied, and let the U.N. and other international gangsters have at their prey.

It began this past Monday with the adoption of a so-called presidential statement by the U.N. Security Council. Such statements are not law, but they must be adopted unanimously — meaning that U.S. approval was essential and at any time Obama could have stopped its adoption. Instead, he agreed to this: "The Security Council supports the proposal of the Russian Federation to convene, in consultation with the Quartet and the parties, an international conference on the Middle East peace process in Moscow in 2009."

This move is several steps beyond what the Bush administration did in approving Security Council resolutions in December and January — which said only that "The Security Council welcomes the Quartet's consideration, in consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow in 2009." Apparently Obama prefers a playing field with 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 22 members of the Arab League — most of whom don't recognize the right of Israel to exist — and one Jewish state. A great idea — if the purpose is to ensure Israel comes begging for American protection.

The U.N. presidential statement also makes laudatory references to another third-party venture, the 2002 Arab "Peace" Initiative. That's a Saudi plan to force Israel to retreat to indefensible borders in advance of what most Arab states still believe will be a final putsch down the road. America's U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, announced to the Security Council that "we intend to integrate the Arab Peace Initiative into our own approach."

Make no mistake: This U.N. move, made with U.S. approval, sets America on a well-calculated collision course with Israel. U.S. collusion on this presidential statement was directly at odds with Israel's wishes and well-founded concerns about the U.N.'s bona fides on anything related to Israel. Israeli U.N. ambassador Gabriella Shalev issued a statement of Israel's position: "Israel does not believe that the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East. This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves. Furthermore, the timing of this Security Council meeting is inappropriate as the Israeli government is in the midst of conducting a policy review, prior to next week's visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United States…Israel shared its position with members of the Security Council."

By contrast, Rice told reporters: "We had a very useful and constructive meeting thus far of the Council. We welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov's initiative to convene the Council, and we're very pleased with the constructive and comprehensive statement that will be issued by the president of the Council on the Council's behalf. This was a product of really collaborative, good-faith efforts by all members of the Council, and we're pleased with the outcome."

The Obama administration's total disregard of Israel's obvious interest in keeping the U.N. on the sidelines was striking. Instead of reiterating the obvious — that peace will not come if bigots and autocrats are permitted to ram an international "solution" down the throat of the only democracy at the table — Rice told the Council: "The United States cannot be left to do all the heavy lifting by itself, and other countries …must do all that they can to shore up our common efforts." In a break with decades of U.S. policy, the Obama strategy is to energize a U.N. bad cop so that the U.S. might assume the role of good cop — for a price.

On Tuesday the Obama administration did it again: It ran for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. As expected, the administration won election to represent the Council's Western European and Others Group — it was a three-state contest for three spaces.

The Council is most famous, not for protecting human rights, but for its obsession with Israel. In its three-year history it has:

adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than condemning the 191 other U.N. members combined;
entrenched an agenda with only ten items, one permanently reserved for condemning Israel and another for condemning any other U.N. state that might "require the Council's attention";
held ten regular sessions on human rights, and five special sessions to condemn only Israel;
insisted on an investigator with an open-ended mandate to condemn Israel, while all other investigators must be regularly renewed;
spawned constant investigations on Israel, and abolished human-rights investigations (launched by its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights) into Belarus, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Moreover, every morning before the Human Rights Council starts, all states — and even observers like the Palestinians — get together in their regional blocs for an hour to negotiate, share information, and determine positions. All, that is, except Israel. The Western European and Others Group refuses to give Israel full membership. Now the U.S. will be complicit in this injustice.

Joining the Council has one immediate effect on U.S.-Israel relations: It gives the Obama administration a new stick to use against Israel. Having legitimized the forum through its membership and participation, the U.S. can now attempt to extract concessions from Israel in return for American objections to the Council's constant anti-Israel barrage.

Obama administration officials may believe they can put the lid back on Pandora's box after having invited the U.N., Russia, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to jump into the process of manufacturing a Palestinian state while Israel is literally under fire. They have badly miscalculated. By making his bed with countries that have no serious interest in democratic values, the president has made our world a much more dangerous place.

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Comment by clicking here.

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and editor of
24817  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Pak clusterfcuk continues to deepen on: May 18, 2009, 11:00:01 AM

Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says
Published: May 17, 2009
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the assessment of the expanded arsenal in a one-word answer to a question on Thursday in the midst of lengthy Senate testimony. Sitting beside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he was asked whether he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

“Yes,” he said quickly, adding nothing, clearly cognizant of Pakistan’s sensitivity to any discussion about the country’s nuclear strategy or security.

Inside the Obama administration, some officials say, Pakistan’s drive to spend heavily on new nuclear arms has been a source of growing concern, because the country is producing more nuclear material at a time when Washington is increasingly focused on trying to assure the security of an arsenal of 80 to 100 weapons so that they will never fall into the hands of Islamic insurgents.

The administration’s effort is complicated by the fact that Pakistan is producing an unknown amount of new bomb-grade uranium and, once a series of new reactors is completed, bomb-grade plutonium for a new generation of weapons. President Obama has called for passage of a treaty that would stop all nations from producing more fissile material — the hardest part of making a nuclear weapon — but so far has said nothing in public about Pakistan’s activities.

Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who served as the co-author of Mr. Obama’s review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, reflected the administration’s concern in a recent interview, saying that Pakistan “has more terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on earth, and it has a nuclear weapons program that is growing faster than anyplace else on earth.”

Obama administration officials said that they had communicated to Congress that their intent was to assure that military aid to Pakistan was directed toward counterterrorism and not diverted. But Admiral Mullen’s public confirmation that the arsenal is increasing — a view widely held in both classified and unclassified analyses — seems certain to aggravate Congress’s discomfort.

Whether that discomfort might result in a delay or reduction in aid to Pakistan is still unclear.

The Congressional briefings have taken place in recent weeks as Pakistan has descended into further chaos and as Congress has considered proposals to spend $3 billion over the next five years to train and equip Pakistan’s military for counterinsurgency warfare. That aid would come on top of $7.5 billion in civilian assistance.

None of the proposed military assistance is directed at the nuclear program. So far, America’s aid to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure has been limited to a $100 million classified program to help Pakistan secure its weapons and materials from seizure by Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “insiders” with insurgent loyalties.

But the billions in new proposed American aid, officials acknowledge, could free other money for Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, at a time when Pakistani officials have expressed concern that their nuclear program is facing a budget crunch for the first time, worsened by the global economic downturn. The program employs tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including about 2,000 believed to possess “critical knowledge” about how to produce a weapon.

The dimensions of the Pakistani buildup are not fully understood. “We see them scaling up their centrifuge facilities,” said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been monitoring Pakistan’s continued efforts to buy materials on the black market, and analyzing satellite photographs of two new plutonium reactors less than 100 miles from where Pakistani forces are currently fighting the Taliban.

“The Bush administration turned a blind eye to how this is being ramped up,” he said. “And of course, with enough pressure, all this could be preventable.”

As a matter of diplomacy, however, the buildup presents Mr. Obama with a potential conflict between two national security priorities, some aides concede. One is to win passage of a global agreement to stop the production of fissile material — the uranium or plutonium used to produce weapons. Pakistan has never agreed to any limits and is one of three countries, along with India and Israel, that never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Yet the other imperative is a huge infusion of financial assistance into Afghanistan and Pakistan, money considered crucial to helping stabilize governments with tenuous holds on power in the face of terrorist and insurgent violence.

Senior members of Congress were already pressing for assurances from Pakistan that the American military assistance would be used to fight the insurgency, and not be siphoned off for more conventional military programs to counter Pakistan’s historic adversary, India. Official confirmation that Pakistan has accelerated expansion of its nuclear program only added to the consternation of those in Congress who were already voicing serious concern about the security of those warheads.

During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, veered from the budget proposal under debate to ask Admiral Mullen about public reports “that Pakistan is, at the moment, increasing its nuclear program — that it may be actually adding on to weapons systems and warheads. Do you have any evidence of that?”

It was then that Admiral Mullen responded with his one-word confirmation. Mr. Webb said Pakistan’s decision was a matter of “enormous concern,” and he added, “Do we have any type of control factors that would be built in, in terms of where future American money would be going, as it addresses what I just asked about?”

Similar concerns about seeking guarantees that American military assistance to Pakistan would be focused on battling insurgents also were expressed by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman.

“Unless Pakistan’s leaders commit, in deeds and words, their country’s armed forces and security personnel to eliminating the threat from militant extremists, and unless they make it clear that they are doing so, for the sake of their own future, then no amount of assistance will be effective,” Mr. Levin said.

A spokesman for the Pakistani government contacted Friday declined to comment on whether his nation was expanding its nuclear weapons program, but said the government was “maintaining the minimum, credible deterrence capability.” He warned against linking American financial assistance to Pakistan’s actions on its weapons program.

“Conditions or sanctions on this issue did not work in the past, and this will not send a positive message to the people of Pakistan,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his country’s nuclear program is classified.

24818  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: May 17, 2009, 11:45:12 PM
Finally spoke with the producer/director.  We're next in the cue-- they're on a project that is giving them some trouble-- and then it is us.  They liked the footage they shot a lot.   They asked my ideas on how to put the piece together.  We shall see.  The Adventure continues , , ,
24819  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: tennis elbows in kali on: May 17, 2009, 11:42:22 PM
Well, the new agey guys snored me before I could get to the end, but the Doczac guy is dead on with one of what I believe to be the two principal patterns to look for.   Guro Inosanto taught me to to put a rubber band around my, pardon the expression, "crane's beak" and to high rep spread the fingers against the resistance of rubber band.  Doczac bring to my attention a point I had not appreciated previously-- adding the flexion of the wrist.  I will explore this.
24820  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 08:21:59 PM
Now you've done it JDN!  cheesy

First rule when you find yourself in a hole.  Stop digging  cheesy cheesy cheesy
24821  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / !Que verguenza! on: May 17, 2009, 08:17:17 PM
From New York Times:

May 17, 2009

Men Dressed as Police Free Mexican Inmates


MEXICO CITY — Armed men dressed as Mexican federal police officers entered a heavily guarded prison in the northern state of Zacatecas early Saturday morning and freed more than 50 inmates, many of whom were believed to be drug traffickers allied with the powerful Gulf Cartel, the authorities said.

The huge jailbreak, which took place about 5 a.m., was an embarrassment to the government of President Felipe Calderón, who has touted the arrests of thousands of drug traffickers over the last two years as evidence that organized crime groups were on the defensive.

The team of criminals who gained entry to the prison in Cieneguillas showed how vulnerable Mexican institutions remain.

The men arrived in a caravan of 15 vehicles with police markings as well as in a helicopter, according to news reports. To gain entry, the gunmen claimed that they were carrying out an authorized prisoner transfer.

After subduing the guards, they left with 53 of the prison’s 1,500 inmates, in an operation that lasted only minutes, officials said.

After they got away, police officers and soldiers swarmed the state, closing many roads as they searched for the fugitives, El Sol de Zacatecas, a local newspaper, reported.

Gov. Amalia García Medina of Zacatecas told reporters that there were indications that prison guards and their supervisors, who were being held for investigation, might have been complicit in the jailbreak.

It would not have been the first time. One of Mexico’s top drug lords, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001 in a getaway that investigations found was possible only with the aid of dozens of prison guards. Mr. Guzmán, who was named this year to the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, hid in a laundry cart.
Mexican authorities are well aware of the vulnerability of their prisons. Mr. Calderón has dramatically increased the number of top drug traffickers extradited to the United States in recent years, to reduce the likelihood that they will continue to run their operations from behind bars or, worse still, find a way out.
24822  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / LAST MINUTE CHANGE on: May 17, 2009, 02:47:49 PM
TOMORROW (MONDAY) will be held at 12:30!!!
24823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq recommends this article on: May 17, 2009, 02:44:37 PM
24824  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 02:41:31 PM
Or as I put it when I ran for Congress for the Libertarian Party:  "They had a vote.  You're paying."
24825  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 11:23:27 AM


Your basic point is sound, but I would also point out that many women's rights groups define rape in very Orwellian terms.  A few years back we had a thread here where it was reported that as they define it (working from memory here so the number could be off somewhat) some 80% of women who have been raped don't know they were raped.   huh huh huh

24826  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: May 17, 2009, 12:08:04 AM
From here forward the plan is for Monday's at 11:00.  We should have the place to ourselves then.
24827  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: May 17, 2009, 12:06:54 AM
After a week hiatus due to the silat camp, we were back in action today.

Was planning to go deep into military DLO with those who were there, but an out of towner showed up so instead we went deep into Kali Tudo.  Good times!

Then after class was over, Kevin stuck around and we went deep into military DLO Cool
24828  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 16, 2009, 09:44:06 AM
Those who leaf through the secret files of any intelligence service know what grave mistakes bad intelligence can lead to. But they also know that sometimes even excellent intelligence doesn't change a thing.

The Israeli intelligence community is now learning this lesson the hard way. It has penetrated enemies like Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet despite former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's willingness to authorize highly dangerous operations based on this intelligence, and despite the unquestionable success of the operations themselves, the overall security picture remains as grim as ever.

In 2002, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed his friend and former subordinate, Gen. Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad. Gen. Dagan found the organization lacking in imagination and shying away from operational risks. Mr. Sharon, who knew Gen. Dagan from his days as head of a secret assassinations unit that acted against Fatah in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s, told the general that he wanted "a Mossad with a knife between its teeth."

Gen. Dagan transformed the Mossad from top to bottom and made the organization's sole focus Iran's nuclear project and its ties to jihadist organizations. He put tremendous pressure on his subordinates to execute as many operations as possible. Moreover, he built up ties with espionage services in Europe and the Middle East on top of Israel's long-standing relationship with the CIA.

In tandem with Gen. Dagan's Mossad revolution, other Israeli military intelligence has also made outstanding breakthroughs. The Shin-Bet (Israel's internal intelligence service), in cooperation with the military, has made huge strides in its understanding of Palestinian guerilla organizations.

The results have been tremendous. During the last four years, the uranium enrichment project in Iran was delayed by a series of apparent accidents: the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the crash of two planes carrying cargo relating to the project, and two labs that burst into flames. In addition, an Iranian opposition group in exile published highly credible information about the details of the project, which caused Iran much embarrassment and led to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

On July 12, 2006, thanks to precise intelligence, the Israeli Air Force destroyed almost the entire stock of Hezbollah's long-range rockets stored in underground warehouses. Hezbollah was shocked.

In July 2007, another mysterious accident occurred in a missile factory jointly operated by Iran and Syria at a Syrian site called Al-Safir. The production line -- which armed Scud missiles with warheads -- was shut down and many were killed.

In September 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor built by Syria and aided by North Korea in Dir A-Zur -- despite Syria's significant efforts to keep it a secret. With indirect authorization from a very high ranking Israeli official, the CIA published incriminating pictures obtained by Israel of the site before it was bombed. These photos convinced the world that the Syrians were indeed attempting to manufacture a nuclear bomb.

In February 2008, Hezbollah's military leader, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in Damascus. In August of that year, Gen. Mohammed Suliman, a liaison to Hamas and Hezbollah who participated in the Syrian nuclear project, was assassinated by a sniper.

In December 2008, Israel initiated operation Cast Lead, which dealt Hamas a massive blow. Most of its weapons were destroyed within days by Israeli air strikes. (Israel also knew where the Hamas leadership was hiding, but since it was in a hospital Mr. Olmert refused to authorize the strike.) In January 2009, Israeli Hermes 450 drones attacked three convoys in Sudan that were smuggling weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

These are all excellent achievements, but did they change reality? Mostly not.

The destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor seems to have put a temporary end to President Bashar Assad's ambitions of acquiring a nuclear weapon. However, the public humiliation caused by the site's bombing did not sway him from supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and hosting terrorist organizations.

Even worse, the heads of Israeli intelligence are now losing sleep over recent information showing that attempts to delay the Iranian nuclear project have failed. Despite some technical difficulties, the Iranians are storming ahead and may possess a nuclear bomb as early as 2010. Hezbollah, although weakened by the 2006 war and Mughniyah's assassination, has become the leading political force in Lebanon.

On the southern front, despite the convoy bombings in Sudan, the trafficking of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip continues. Hamas's standing among Palestinians has strengthened. And if a cease-fire is negotiated between Hamas and Israel it would be perceived as a victory for Hamas.

The bottom line is that excellent intelligence is very important, but it can only take you so far. In the end, it's the tough diplomatic and military decisions made by Israeli leaders that ensure the security of the state.

Mr. Bergman, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author of the "The Secret War With Iran" (Free Press, 2008).

24829  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Armed Forces Day on: May 16, 2009, 09:35:10 AM
Today is Armed Forces Day.

Thank you for all you do.

24830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 16, 2009, 09:08:45 AM
I simply went from one form of aggression to another. 
24831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: May 16, 2009, 12:18:50 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Familiar U.S.-Israeli Course On Iran
May 15, 2009
A report published Thursday by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama had sent an American envoy to tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to lose patience and surprise Washington with an attack against Iran. The report claimed that, rather than waiting for Netanyahu’s arrival in Washington on May 18, Obama decided to send a senior American official to Israel (who was not named) to meet with Netanyahu and senior Israeli leaders. The message reportedly revealed the Obama administration’s concern that Washington would be “caught off-guard and find themselves facing facts on the ground at the last minute” in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran.

This report, like several preceding it in the Israeli press, appears to be a deliberate leak. On May 10, another report from Haaretz — this one citing “confidential reports sent to Jerusalem” — claimed that the United States had set October as the deadline for completing its first round of talks with Tehran over its nuclear program. If the Iranians remained intransigent, the United States was expected to harden its stance against Tehran, according to the article.

Whether these leaks are coming from the Israelis or the Americans doesn’t matter much. What matters is the motive driving them — and in this realm, we see a familiar “good cop-bad cop” routine between the United States and Israel emerging.

The Israelis have made no secret about their lack of enthusiasm over Obama’s attempts to engage Iran diplomatically. They believe little will come out of these negotiations, and that Tehran feels little compulsion to make meaningful concessions over its nuclear program. All the same, Israel’s options toward Iran are limited. Talking about a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is one thing, but carrying out an operation on the scale necessary to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability would be extraordinarily difficult, even with U.S. participation, and nearly impossible without it. The Israelis understand the need to preserve their strategic relationship with the United States, but also harbor real fears about the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States, meanwhile, is juggling a dozen foreign policy issues at once. Given the growing military focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the last thing Washington needs is an Israeli attack against Iran and the Middle East flare-up that would follow. Right now, the goal for Washington is to seal things up in Iraq, hand off a good deal of responsibility for the region to Turkey, an ascending power, and turn its attention to other issues.

The Haaretz reports send a very clear message: The United States wants talks with Iran, does not want an Israeli attack against Iran, but is assuring Israel that firm deadlines are being established for negotiations. The Israelis are not pleased about the prospect of talks, and the U.S.-Israeli relationship is under strain. Therefore, Israel just might be rash enough to attack Iran on its own and surprise the United States.

This is a useful message for both Israel and the United States to be disseminating. Netanyahu can reaffirm perceptions at home that he is being tough on the Iranian nuclear issue and drawing a line with the Americans. Obama, meanwhile, can apply more pressure on the Iranians by giving the impression that Washington can only do so much to hold the Israelis back from attacking Iran. The likely next step in the cycle is for Iran to start reaching out to Russia and exaggerating perceptions of Moscow’s support for Iran. This can be accomplished through rhetoric over things like potential sales of Russian strategic air defense systems to Iran and Moscow finally giving Iran what it needs to complete the Bushehr nuclear facility.

So far, this is all very much expected. Israel’s options are limited; the United States’ options are limited; even Iran’s options are limited. The most practical move just now would seem to be a return to the rhetoric with which all three are so familiar.
24832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 16, 2009, 12:16:31 AM
Perhaps your retired judge exemplifies that we have a legal system and not a justice system  smiley

Neither of my French speaking sources have responded to my requests to summarize the contents.

BTW, I am reminded of the time some union goons took me to the top floor (12th floor) of a building under construction when I was in the carpenter's union in Philadelphia oh so many years ago.   Word was that they had held the son of the president of the general contractor out over the edge by his feet.   Word was that they had dropped a can of spackling (the stuff for sealing seams of drywall-- weight about 50 pounds?) onto the hood of the Cadillac of the president of the electrical contractor (from 12 floors, it made one helluva dent , , ,).  So by the time they chatted with me, there was nary a threat as they persuaded me of the merits of their position , , ,
24833  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 16, 2009, 12:10:36 AM
Ok, I'll beg-- please tell us why  cheesy
24834  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 16, 2009, 12:08:17 AM
Can't you guys just skim past posts by posters you don't like?
24835  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 15, 2009, 08:38:53 PM

Would you please be so kind as to send me these various clips in as high a resolution as feasible please?  It would be greatly appreciated.
24836  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio: Una matanza por cuchillo en el metro on: May 15, 2009, 08:33:35 PM
Mucho para analizar y pensar aqui.  !Adelante caballeros!
24837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 14, 2009, 07:18:21 AM
"Problem here is that this isn't supposed to be a debate IMO, just each person who wants to make their own observations about a situation.  I am here to look for a wider and deeper understanding, not here to dish out punishment."

Well said!
24838  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: May 14, 2009, 07:15:35 AM
The impression of Commander in Chiefs competence, character, and integrity left by this episode are dispiriting indeed.
24839  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / School girls poisoned on: May 13, 2009, 05:37:38 PM
84 Hospitalized in Apparent Poisoning at Afghan Girls School
Tuesday , May 12, 2009
MUHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan —

At least 84 Afghan schoolgirls were admitted to a hospital Tuesday for headaches and vomiting in the third apparent poison attack on a girls school in as many weeks, officials and doctors said.

The students were lining up outside their school in northeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday morning when a strange odor filled the school yard, and one girl collapsed, said the school's principal, who was herself in a hospital bed gasping for breath as she described the event.

"We took her inside and splashed water on her face," said Mossena, who like many Afghans goes by one name. Then other girls started passing out in the yard and they sent all the students home.

It was unclear if the incident was a deliberate attack on the school, though the Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan, who oppose girls education, have been known to target schoolgirls.

Mossena said she did not know what happened next because she collapsed and woke up in the main hospital in Muhmud Raqi, the capital of Kapisa province, which lies just northeast of Kabul.

At least 98 patients were admitted from Aftab Bachi school, including the principal, 11 teachers and two cleaners, said Khalid Enayat, the hospital's deputy director. He said about another 30 students were being monitored to see if they developed symptoms, although they were not admitted to the hospital. An official earlier said 89 schoolgirls had been hospitalized.

Click here for photos.

Tuesday's apparent attack is the third alleged poisoning at a girls' school in less than three weeks. It comes one day after 61 schoolgirls and one teacher from a school in neighboring Parwan province were admitted to a hospital after complaining of sudden illness. They were irritable, confused and weeping, and several of the girls passed out.

The patients in Kapisa complained of similar symptoms to those in the Parwan incidents -- headaches, vomiting and shivering, said Aziz Agha, a doctor treating the girls.

"I got dizzy and my head hurt. Some other students took me home, then I passed out and they brought me to the hospital," said a startled looking 11-year-old, Tahira, from her hospital bed.

The fifth grader said she planned to go back to school when she felt better, but that now it would fill her with fear.

"I'm going to be scared when I go back to school. What if we die?" she said.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Zemeri Bashary said officials suspect some sort of gas poisoning, and that police were still investigating.

Under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, girls were not allowed to attend school. Though it was unclear if the recent incidents were the result of attacks, militants in the south have previously assaulted schoolgirls by spraying acid in their faces and burning down schools to protest the government.

Scores of Afghan schools have been forced to close because of violence. Still, the three recent apparent poisonings have taken place in northeast Afghanistan, which is not as opposed to education for girls as Afghanistan's conservative southern regions.

The first apparent poison attack took place late last month in Parwan, when dozens of girls were hospitalized after being sickened by what Afghan officials said were strong fumes or a possible poison gas cloud.
24840  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CEO BO on the advertising budget on: May 13, 2009, 02:22:44 PM
I see CEO BO is halving the advertising budget for Chrysler.

Oy fcuking vey!!! 

The march to liberal fascism continues, and our Pravda press cheers and the sheople bleat  tongue tongue tongue cry cry cry
24841  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: May 13, 2009, 01:37:17 PM
From Borneo

13 May 2009

The command shakeup in Afghanistan has many people talking.  I've been with the British Army.  British officers have many questions about the change.  I have no special knowledge of the situation other than a couple of hunches based on recent experiences. I can say that of my concerns about AfPak, U.S. military leadership is at the very bottom of the list.  Our leadership is strong and experienced.  In broad strokes, I'm simply not concerned.  I am greatly concerned about AfPak, though.  The situation continues to rot.

Please see read: Gates, Petraeus, McKiernan, McChrystal and Rodriguez
24842  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Paine; and noting a landmark on: May 13, 2009, 10:31:10 AM
"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

--Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

Also, with quiet satisfaction I note today that this thread now has over 25,000 reads and one short of 400 posts-- which works out to over 62 reads per post.  In that when the thread began it averaged much less (15) for the longest time, that means that current reads per post are much higher.

Together, inspired and informed by what we read here, we shall sally forth and defend the American Creed.

24843  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: May 13, 2009, 03:26:24 AM
Agradezco los retos que la Vida me esta' brindando.
24844  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: May 13, 2009, 03:23:27 AM
Maturity of the Soul

By Tzvi Freeman
The ultimate elevation of the soul is to find it has purpose. To discover that it is not here simply to be, but to accomplish, to heal, to make better. In that moment of discovery, the soul graduates from being G‑d's little child to become His representative.
24845  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 13, 2009, 03:03:26 AM

I salute your determination to stay in good spirits here, but , , , dude!!! On the logic front my vote is that you are getting your butt kicked!   cheesy
24846  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 13, 2009, 02:04:25 AM
Thank you.
24847  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 12, 2009, 09:24:47 PM
Ron Balicki shared that with me back around '96-97.  It wouldn't surprise me if he got it from Erik Paulsen.
24848  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Reality Toys on: May 12, 2009, 09:06:30 PM
a) The key ring of the key fob is removable

b) What are the philosophical issues pertaining to a stylus?
24849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 12, 2009, 10:45:09 AM
HAven't looked into this for myself yet, but these are said to have GPS jammers:

DIY version. Some experience required.

Store-bought versions. Some do cell phones or GLONASS as well.
24850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obamacare will stifle your doctor on: May 12, 2009, 12:02:49 AM
At the heart of President Barack Obama's health-care plan is an insurance program funded by taxpayers, administered by Washington, and open to everyone. Modeled on Medicare, this "public option" will soon become the single dominant health plan, which is its political purpose. It will restructure the practice of medicine in the process.

Chad Crowe
 Republicans and Democrats agree that the government's Medicare scheme for compensating doctors is deeply flawed. Yet Mr. Obama's plan for a centrally managed government insurance program exacerbates Medicare's problems by redistributing even more income away from lower-paid primary care providers and misaligning doctors' financial incentives.

Like Medicare, the "public option" will control spending by using its purchasing clout and political leverage to dictate low prices to doctors. (Medicare pays doctors 20% to 30% less than private plans, on average.) While the public option is meant for the uninsured, employers will realize it's easier -- and cheaper -- to move employees into the government plan than continue workplace coverage.

The Lewin Group, a health-care policy research and consulting firm, estimates that enrollment in the public option will reach 131 million people if it's open to everyone and pays Medicare rates, as many expect. Fully two-thirds of the privately insured will move out of or lose coverage. As patients shift to a lower-paying government plan, doctors' incomes will decline by as much as 15% to 20% depending on their specialty.

Physician income declines will be accompanied by regulations that will make practicing medicine more costly, creating a double whammy of lower revenue and higher practice costs, especially for primary-care doctors who generally operate busy practices and work on thinner margins. For example, doctors will face expenses to deploy pricey electronic prescribing tools and computerized health records that are mandated under the Obama plan. For most doctors these capital costs won't be fully covered by the subsidies provided by the plan.

Government insurance programs also shift compliance costs directly onto doctors by encumbering them with rules requiring expensive staffing and documentation. It's a way for government health programs like Medicare to control charges. The rules are backed up with threats of arbitrary probes targeting documentation infractions. There will also be disproportionate fines, giving doctors and hospitals reason to overspend on their back offices to avoid reprisals.

The 60% of doctors who are self-employed will be hardest hit. That includes specialists, such as dermatologists and surgeons, who see a lot of private patients. But it also includes tens of thousands of primary-care doctors, the very physicians the Obama administration says need the most help.

Doctors will consolidate into larger practices to spread overhead costs, and they'll cram more patients into tight schedules to make up in volume what's lost in margin. Visits will be shortened and new appointments harder to secure. It already takes on average 18 days to get an initial appointment with an internist, according to the American Medical Association, and as many as 30 days for specialists like obstetricians and neurologists.

Right or wrong, more doctors will close their practices to new patients, especially patients carrying lower paying insurance such as Medicaid. Some doctors will opt out of the system entirely, going "cash only." If too many doctors take this route the government could step in -- as in Canada, for example -- to effectively outlaw private-only medical practice.

These changes are superimposed on a payment system where compensation often bears no connection to clinical outcomes. Medicare provides all the wrong incentives. Its charge-based system pays doctors more for delivering more care, meaning incomes rise as medical problems persist and decline when illness resolves.

So how should we reform our broken health-care system? Rather than redistribute physician income as a way to subsidize an expansion of government control, Mr. Obama should fix the payment system to align incentives with improved care. After years of working on this problem, Medicare has only a few token demonstration programs to show for its efforts. Medicare's failure underscores why an inherently local undertaking like a medical practice is badly managed by a remote and political bureaucracy.

But while Medicare has stumbled with these efforts, private health plans have made notable progress on similar payment reforms. Private plans are more likely to lead payment reform efforts because they have more motivation than Medicare to use pay as a way to achieve better outcomes.

Private plans already pay doctors more than Medicare because they compete to attract higher quality providers into their networks. This gives them every incentive, as well as added leverage, to reward good clinicians while penalizing or excluding bad ones. A recent report by PriceWaterhouse Coopers that examined 10 of the nation's largest commercial health plans found that eight had implemented performance-based pay measures for doctors. All 10 plans are expanding efforts to monitor quality improvement at the provider level.

Among the promising examples of private innovation in health-care delivery: In Pennsylvania, the Geisinger Clinic's "warranty" program, where providers take financial responsibility for the entire episode of care; or the experience of the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia, where doctors are paid more for delivering better outcomes.

There are plenty of alternatives to Mr. Obama's plan that expand coverage to the uninsured, give them the chance to buy private coverage like Congress enjoys, and limit government management over what are inherently personal transactions between doctors and patients.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D., N.Y.) has introduced a bipartisan measure, the Small Business Cooperative for Healthcare Options to Improve Coverage for Employees (Choice) Act of 2009, that would make it cheaper and easier for small employers to offer health insurance. Mr. Obama would also get bipartisan compromise on premium support for people priced out of insurance to give them a wider range of choices. This could be modeled after the Medicare drug benefit, which relies on competition between private plans to increase choices and hold down costs. It could be funded, in part, through tax credits targeted to lower-income Americans.

There are also measures available that could fix structural flaws in our delivery system and make coverage more affordable without top-down controls set in Washington. The surest way to intensify flaws in the delivery of health care is to extend a Medicare-like "public option" into more corners of the private market. More government control of doctors and their reimbursement schemes will only create more problems.

Dr. Gottlieb, a former official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a practicing internist. He's partner to a firm that invests in health-care companies
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