Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Katrina Boondoggle
on: August 29, 2007, 05:01:50 PM
The Political Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
The two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29 has sparked new media interest in the disaster and on the federal response to it. The media interest, in turn, is causing politicians -- and of course the 2008 presidential candidates -- to perk up on the issue. After Katrina hit, it was clear to us that U.S. President George W. Bush was headed for political disaster. We also thought the Democratic Party's long-forgotten liberal side would be revived as a result of the images of New Orleans in Katrina's aftermath.
We were correct about Bush. The war in Iraq has been his political Achilles' heel, but his popularity began to fall seriously after Katrina -- and it has never recovered. The Democratic Party rode the president's war-driven unpopularity to victory in the off-year congressional elections, and it has emerged as the majority party nationwide. The question, then, is whether the remnants of the old "progressive movement" -- which comprises those whose priority issues are labor, the environment and civil rights, and whose politics are at the left edge of the American political spectrum -- have actually seen a revival, or whether the Democratic Party's victories are primarily victories of its moderate wing.
The accounting on that score is more complicated, as some liberal movements have seen significant awakenings, while others have remained dormant. Progressive national political candidates are rare, and the Democratic Party remains focused on showing its pragmatic side rather than its idealistic side. Though we still think a progressive revival is happening, it is coming very slowly and in unanticipated ways.
In the final analysis, the successes and failures on the political left since Katrina show the relative strength of the various special interests that make up that side of the Democratic Party. The environmental and anti-war movements have seen the biggest successes since Katrina, while the civil rights community has been unable to translate the racial aspects of Katrina and its aftermath into a stronger position.
Politics Since Katrina
Before Katrina, Congress and 28 of the 50 governorships were in Republican hands. Now there is a Democratic-controlled Congress and 28 governorships are held by Democrats. Katrina did not cost the Republican Party the 2006 election. Iraq did. Katrina just helped soften the ground for a referendum on the war. Looking back, Katrina may not emerge as the prevailing political issue of the day, but the 2006 election could not have been a landslide without Katrina.
Before February 2002, Bush's approval stood generally above 60 percent. Then, leading up to Katrina, his rating fell into the 45 percent to 52 percent range. Only for two weeks in late 2005 and early 2006 did Bush's public approval rating hit higher than it was the day Hurricane Katrina hit. The slide from re-elected president to political liability for GOP candidates began before Katrina, but most polling data suggests that Katrina's aftermath cemented Bush's approval ratings below 45 percent. Polling suggests that the federal government's handling of the Katrina disaster epitomized voters' long-standing misgivings about Bush, which translated to disapproval for the first time.
Bush approval numbers and the 2006 election aside, however, the political discourse at the national level is mostly unchanged. The Republican Party's 2008 primary candidates include one clear moderate, a libertarian and an array representing the various stations of the political right. The Democratic primary candidates are for the most part from the party's center, each with some policies that are centrist and some that are more liberal.
In other words, the primary candidates look exactly as they have since 1992.
Liberal and Progressive Issues Since Katrina
The war remains the primary political issue in the United States, with energy and the economy following. The promotion of energy to a top national priority is a direct result of Katrina. Hurricane Katrina and then Hurricane Rita reduced U.S. oil production by more than 1 million barrels per day. Today, 200,000 barrels remain offline. The price of oil after Rita "spiked" in the high $70s per barrel, retreat briefly, and has not been lower than $65 per barrel for more than two weeks since.
Concern about energy prices paved the way for a larger debate about oil in the United States. Katrina and Iraq became bound together politically by the argument that U.S. reliance on oil was unhealthy for its economy and security. Energy independence activists said the economic impacts of the post-Katrina price spike showed that the country would benefit from having greater control over its energy sources -- control that dependence on weather (Katrina) or geopolitics (the war) counteracted. Oil independence advocates called for investment in new forms of energy, and for increased domestic energy production.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Katrina Boondoggle
on: August 29, 2007, 04:22:13 PM
The Big Easy’s Billion Dollar Boondoggle
August 29, 2007
Lawrence Kudlow (203) 228-5050
So, the president and Mrs. Bush went down to New Orleans to commemorate the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Who knows? Maybe over a latté with leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards they discussed spending even more money down there. After all, everyone seems to be saying New Orleans needs more cash.
Here’s a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart?
I’ll give you the answer because you’ll never guess it. The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief).
That’s right: a monstrous $127 billion. Of course, not a single media story has highlighted this gargantuan government-spending figure. But that number came straight from the White House in a fact sheet subtitled, “The Federal Government Is Fulfilling Its Commitment to Help the People of the Gulf Coast Rebuild.”
This is an outrage. The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is only $141 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. So the cash spent there nearly matches the entire state gross GDP. That’s simply unbelievable. And to make matters worse, by all accounts New Orleans ain’t even fixed!
You might be asking, Where in the hell did all this money go? Well, the White House fact sheet says $24 billion has been used to build houses and schools, repair damaged infrastructure, and provide victims with a place to live. But isn’t everyone complaining about the lack of housing?
Perhaps all this money should’ve been directly deposited in the bank accounts of the 300,000 people living in New Orleans. All divvied up, that $127 billion would come to $425,000 per person! After thanking Uncle Sam for their sudden windfall, residents could head to Southern California and buy homes that are now on sale thanks to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and bid up the sagging house prices in the state.
The fact sheet goes on to say that $7.1 billion went to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the levees; that the U.S. Department of Education spent $2 billion on local schools; and that the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries has awarded more than $2.5 million (the pikers). The administration also provided $16.7 billion as part of the largest housing-recovery program in U.S. history.
So the billion-dollar question becomes: Where did the rest of that money go?
Meanwhile, according to an article by Nicole Gelinas at the Manhattan Institute, New Orleans has earned the distinct honor of becoming the murder capital of the world. The murder rate is 40 percent higher than before Katrina, and twice as high as other dangerous cities like Detroit, Newark, and Washington, D.C.
Think of this: The idea of using federal money to rebuild cities is the quintessential liberal vision. And given the dreadful results in New Orleans, we can say that the government’s $127 billion check represents the quintessential failure of that liberal vision. Hillary Clinton calls this sort of reckless spending “government investment.”
And that’s just what’s in store for America if she wins the White House next year.
Remember President Reagan’s line during the 1980 campaign about how LBJ fought a big-government spending war against poverty, and poverty won? Well think of all this Katrina spending as the Great Society Redux. And it failed. I suppose the current Bush administration would like to label this “compassionate conservatism.” But guess what? That failed, too.
Right from the start, New Orleans should have been turned into a tax-free enterprise zone. No income taxes, no corporate taxes, no capital-gains taxes. The only tax would have been a sales tax paid on direct transactions. A tax-free New Orleans would have attracted tens of billions of dollars in business and real-estate investment. This in turn would have helped rebuild the cities, schools, and hospitals. Private-sector entrepreneurs would have succeeded where big-government bureaucrats and regulators have so abysmally failed.
This is the real New Orleans Katrina story. It’s a pity that the mainstream media isn’t writing about it. Call it one of the greatest stories never told.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War
on: August 29, 2007, 02:54:08 PM
Move and Countermove: Ahmadinejad and Bush Duel
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Aug. 28 that U.S. power in Iraq is rapidly being destroyed. Then he said that Iran, with the help of regional friends and the Iraqi nation, is ready to fill the vacuum. Ahmadinejad specifically reached out to Saudi Arabia, saying the Saudis and Iranians could collaborate in managing Iraq. Later in the day, U.S. President George W. Bush responded, saying, "I want our fellow citizens to consider what would happen if these forces of radicalism and extremism are allowed to drive us out of the Middle East. The region would be dramatically transformed in a way that could imperil the civilized world." He specifically mentioned Iran and its threat of nuclear weapons.
On Aug. 27, we argued that, given the United States' limited ability to secure Iraq, the strategic goal must now shift from controlling Iraq to defending the Arabian Peninsula against any potential Iranian ambitions in that direction. "Whatever mistakes might have been made in the past, the current reality is that any withdrawal from Iraq would create a vacuum, which would rapidly be filled by Iran," we wrote.
Ahmadinejad's statements, made at a two-hour press conference, had nothing to do with what we wrote, nor did Bush's response. What these statements do show, though, is how rapidly the thinking in Tehran is evolving in response to Iranian perceptions of a pending U.S. withdrawal and a power vacuum in Iraq -- and how the Bush administration is shifting its focus from the Sunni threat to both the Sunni and Shiite threats.
The most important thing Ahmadinejad discussed at his press conference was not the power vacuum, but Saudi Arabia. He reached out to the Saudis, saying Iran and Saudi Arabia together could fill the vacuum in Iraq and stabilize the country. The subtext was that not only does Iran not pose a threat to Saudi Arabia, it would be prepared to enhance Saudi power by giving it a substantial role in a post-U.S. Iraq.
Iran is saying that Saudi Arabia does not need to defend itself against Iran, and it certainly does not need the United States to redeploy its forces along the Saudi-Iraqi border in order to defend itself. While dangling the carrot of participation in a post-war Iraq, Iran also is wielding a subtle stick. One of the reasons for al Qaeda's formation was the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. Radical Islamists in Saudi Arabia regarded the U.S. presence as sacrilege and the willingness of the Saudi regime to permit American troops to be there as blasphemous. After 9/11, the Saudis asked the United States to withdraw its forces, and following the Iraq invasion they fought a fairly intense battle against al Qaeda inside the kingdom. Having U.S. troops defend Saudi Arabia once again -- even if they were stationed outside its borders -- would inflame passions inside the kingdom, and potentially destabilize the regime.
The Saudis are in a difficult position. Since the Iranian Revolution, the Saudi relationship with Iran has ranged from extremely hostile to uneasy. It is not simply a Sunni and Shiite matter. Iran is more than just a theocracy. It arose from a very broad popular uprising against the shah. It linked the idea of a republic to Islam, combining a Western revolutionary tradition with Shiite political philosophy. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is a monarchy that draws its authority from traditional clan and tribal structures and Wahhabi Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudis felt trapped between the pro-Soviet radicalism of the Iraqis and Syrians, and of the various factions of the Palestinian movement on the one side -- and the Islamic Republic in Iran on the other. Isolated, it had only the United States to depend on, and that dependency blew up in its face during the 1990-91 war in Kuwait.
But there also is a fundamental geopolitical problem. Saudi Arabia suffers from a usually fatal disease. It is extraordinarily rich and militarily weak. It has managed to survive and prosper by having foreign states such as the United Kingdom and the United States have a stake in its independence -- and guarantee that independence with their power. If it isn't going to rely on an outside power to protect it, and it has limited military resources of its own, then how will it protect itself against the Iranians? Iran, a country with a large military -- whose senior officers and noncoms were blooded in the Iran-Iraq war -- does not have a great military, merely a much larger and experienced one than the Saudis.
The Saudis have Iran's offer. The problem is that the offer cannot be guaranteed by Saudi power, but depends on Iran's willingness to honor it. Absent the United States, any collaboration with Iran would depend on Iran's will. And the Iranians are profoundly different from the Saudis and, more important, much poorer. Whatever their intentions might be today -- and who can tell what the Iranians intend? -- those intentions might change. If they did, it would leave Saudi Arabia at risk to Iranian power.
Saudi Arabia is caught between a rock and a hard place and it knows it. But there might be the beginnings of a solution in Turkey. Ahmadinejad's offer of collaboration was directed toward regional powers other than Iran. That includes Turkey. Turkey stayed clear of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, refusing to let U.S. troops invade Iraq from there. However, Turkey has some important interests in how the war in Iraq ends. First, it does not want to see any sort of Kurdish state, fearing Kurdish secessionism in Turkey as well. Second, it has an interest in oil in northern Iraq. Both interests could be served by a Turkish occupation of northern Iraq, under the guise of stabilizing Iraq along with Iran and Saudi Arabia.
When we say that Iran is now the dominant regional power, we also should say that is true unless we add Turkey to the mix. Turkey is certainly a military match for Iran, and more than an economic one. Turkey's economy is the 18th largest in the world -- larger than Saudi Arabia's -- and it is growing rapidly. In many ways, Iran needs a good relationship with Turkey, given its power and economy. If Turkey were to take an interest in Iraq, that could curb Iran's appetite. While Turkey could not defend Saudi Arabia, it certainly could threaten Iran's rear if it chose to move south. And with the threat of Turkish intervention, Iran would have to be very careful indeed.
But Turkey has been cautious in its regional involvements. It is not clear whether it will involve itself in Iraq beyond making certain that Kurdish independence does not go too far. Even if it were to move deeper into Iraq, it is not clear whether it would be prepared to fight Iran over Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Turkey does not want to deal with a powerful Iran -- and if the Iranians did take the Saudi oil fields, they would be more than a match for Turkey. Turkey's regime is very different from those in Saudi Arabia and Iran, but geopolitics make strange bedfellows. Iran could not resist a Turkish intervention in northern Iraq, nor could it be sure what Turkey would do if Iran turned south. That uncertainty might restrain Iran.
And that is the thin reed on which Saudi national security would rest if it rejected an American presence to its north. The United States could impose itself anyway, but being sandwiched between a hostile Iran and hostile Saudi Arabia would not be prudent, to say the least. Therefore, the Saudis could scuttle a U.S. blocking force if they wished. If the Saudis did this and joined the Iranian-led stabilization program in Iraq, they would then be forced to rely on a Turkish presence in northern Iraq to constrain any future Iranian designs on Arabia. That is not necessarily a safe bet as it assumes that the Turks would be interested in balancing Iran at a time when Russian power is returning to the Caucasus, Greek power is growing in the Balkans, and the Turkish economy is requiring ever more attention from Ankara. Put simply, Turkey has a lot of brands in the fire, and the Saudis betting on the Iranian brand having priority is a long shot.
The Iranian position is becoming more complex as Tehran tries to forge a post-war coalition to manage Iraq -- and to assure the coalition that Iran doesn't plan to swallow some of its members. The United States, in the meantime, appears to be trying to simplify its position, by once again focusing on the question of nuclear weapons.
Bush's speech followed this logic. First, according to Bush, the Iranians are now to be seen as a threat equal to the jihadists. In other words, the Iranian clerical regime and al Qaeda are equal threats. That is the reason the administration is signaling that the Iranian Republican Guards are to be named a terrorist group. A withdrawal from Iraq, therefore, would be turning Iraq over to Iran, and that, in turn, would transform the region. But rather than discussing the geopolitical questions we have been grappling with, Bush has focused on Iran's nuclear capability.
Iran is developing nuclear weapons, though we have consistently argued that Tehran does not expect to actually achieve a deliverable nuclear device. In the first place, that is because the process of building a device small enough and rugged enough to be useful is quite complex. There is quite a leap between testing a device and having a workable weapon. Also, and far more important, Iran fully expects the United States or Israel to destroy its nuclear facilities before a weapon is complete. The Iranians are using their nuclear program as a bargaining chip.
The problem is that the negotiations have ended. The prospect of Iran trading its nuclear program for U.S. concessions in Iraq has disappeared along with the negotiations. Bush, therefore, has emphasized that there is no reason for the United States to be restrained about the Iranian nuclear program. Iran might not be close to having a deliverable device, but the risk is too great to let it continue developing one. Therefore, the heart of Bush's speech was that withdrawing would vastly increase Iran's power, and an Iranian nuclear weapon would be catastrophic.
From this, one would think the United States is considering attacking Iran. Indeed, the French warning against such an attack indicates that Paris might have picked something up as well. Certainly, Washington is signaling that, given the situation in Iraq and Iran's assertion that it will be filling the vacuum, the United States is being forced to face the possibility of an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.
There are two problems here. The first is the technical question of whether a conventional strike could take out all of Iran's nuclear facilities. We don't know the answer, but we do know that Iran has been aware of the probability of such an attack and is likely to have taken precautions, from creating uncertainty as to the location of sites to hardening them. The second problem is the more serious one.
Assume that the United States attacked and destroyed Iran's nuclear facilities. The essential geopolitical problem would not change. The U.S. position in Iraq would remain extremely difficult, the three options we discussed Aug. 27 would remain in place, and in due course Iran would fill the vacuum left by the United States. The destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities would not address any of those problems.
Therefore, implicit in Bush's speech is the possibility of broader measures against Iran. These could include a broad air campaign against Iranian infrastructure -- military and economic -- and a blockade of its ports. The measures could not include ground troops because there are no substantial forces available and redeploying all the troops in Iraq to surge into Iran, logistical issues aside, would put 150,000 troops in a very large country.
The United States can certainly conduct an air campaign against Iran, but we are reminded of the oldest lesson of air power -- one learned by the Israeli air force against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006: Air power is enormously successful in concert with a combined arms operation, but has severe limitations when applied on its own. The idea that nations will capitulate because of the pain of an air campaign has little historical basis. It doesn't usually happen. Unlike Hezbollah, however, Iran is a real state with real infrastructure, economic interests, military assets and critical port facilities -- all with known locations that can be pummeled with air power. The United States might not be able to impose its will on the ground, but it can certainly impose a great deal of pain. Of course, an all-out air war would cripple Iran in a way that would send global oil prices through the roof -- since Iran remains the world's fourth-largest oil exporter.
A blockade, however, also would be problematic. It is easy to prevent Iranian ships from moving in and out of port -- and, unlike Iraq, Iran has no simple options to divert its maritime energy trade to land routes -- but what would the United States do if a Russian, Chinese or French vessel sailed in? Would it seize it? Sink it? Obviously either is possible. But just how broad an array of enemies does the United States want to deal with at one time? And remember that, with ports sealed, Iran's land neighbors would have to participate in blocking the movement of goods. We doubt they would be that cooperative.
Finally, and most important, Iran has the ability to counter any U.S. moves. It has assets in Iraq that could surge U.S. casualties dramatically if ordered to do so. Iran also has terrorism capabilities that are not trivial. We would say that Iran's capabilities are substantially greater than al Qaeda's. Under a sustained air campaign, they would use them.
Bush's threat to strike nuclear weapons makes sense only in the context of a broader air and naval campaign against Iran. Leaving aside the domestic political ramifications and the international diplomatic blowback, the fundamental problem is that Iran is a very large country where a lot of targets would have to be hit. That would take many months to achieve, and during that time Iran would likely strike back in Iraq and perhaps in the United States as well. An air campaign would not bring Iran to its knees quickly, unless it was nuclear -- and we simply do not think the United States will break the nuclear taboo first.
The United States is also in a tough place. While it makes sense to make threats in response to Iranian threats -- to keep Tehran off balance -- the real task for the United States is to convince Saudi Arabia to stick to its belief that collaboration with Iran is too dangerous, and convince Turkey to follow its instincts in northern Iraq without collaborating with the Iranians. The Turks are not fools and will not simply play the American game, but the more active Turkey is, the more cautious Iran must be.
The latest statement from Ahmadinejad convinces us that Iran sees its opening. However, the United States, even if it is not bluffing about an attack against Iran, would find such an attack less effective than it might hope. In the end, even after an extended air campaign, it will come down to that. In the end, no matter how many moves are made, the United States is going to have to define a post-Iraq strategy and that strategy must focus on preventing Iran from threatening the Arabian Peninsula. Even after an extended air campaign, it will come down to that. In case of war, the only "safe" location for a U.S. land force to hedge against an Iranian move against the Arabian Peninsula would be Kuwait, a country lacking the strategic depth to serve as an effective counter.
Ahmadinejad has made his rhetorical move. Bush has responded. Now the regional diplomacy intensifies as the report from the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is prepared for presentation to Congress on Sept. 15.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia
on: August 29, 2007, 02:44:01 PM
GEORGIA: The Georgian Defense Ministry's budget is being increased, continuing reforms meant to bring the armed forces to NATO standards, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said. Media reports vary about the actual amount of the increase, but most say the current defense budget of around $193 million will increase to between $600 million and $783 million. With the increase, Georgia's defense spending is expected to reach between 4 percent and 4.5 percent of gross domestic product. Nogaideli said he expects parliament to approve the budget increase in defense as well as other sectors by late September.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey
on: August 29, 2007, 12:12:06 PM
Yet another post this AM on Turkey:
A Saudi Mogul
By GLENN R. SIMPSON
August 29, 2007; Page A1
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Yassin Qadi is a well-known multimillionaire, founder of a large supermarket chain here and a close friend of the Turkish premier. "I trust him the same way I trust my father," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on national television last year.
But the Saudi businessman also is a major financier of Islamic terrorism with close business associates who are members of al Qaeda, according to the U.S. Treasury and the United Nations Security Council. At Washington's request, the Security Council ordered Mr. Qadi's assets frozen a few weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The asset freeze has largely crippled Mr. Qadi's international business empire. But previously undisclosed records show he has managed to free up millions of dollars of holdings in Turkey, in apparent violation of the Security Council sanctions -- and without incurring punishment by Turkish authorities.
The case of Mr. Qadi shows the challenges Washington faces in separating friend from foe in the Islamic world. The records detailing his business activities also suggest how easy it can be to skirt sanctions designed to restrict funding of terrorism -- especially for well-connected figures.
Mr. Qadi's friendship with the prime minister also plays into the growing debate in Turkey over the role of Islam in a secular society. Turkey's Parliament for the first time yesterday elected a politician with an Islamist background, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, to the presidency. Immediately after being sworn in, Mr. Gul pledged impartiality, saying, "Secularism -- one of the main principles of our republic -- is a precondition for social peace." But the development nonetheless has heightened concern about the direction this pivotal nation, poised between East and West, is taking.
Within Turkey, a Muslim nation of 70 million with a constitutionally mandated secular government, the role of Islam has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, as rising religious sentiment clashes in some quarters with the country's longstanding commitment to secularism. Mr. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party are broadly popular, but their Islamist roots draw criticism and provoke controversy, especially among critics in the military.
Amid this debate, Mr. Erdogan has been blasted for his ties to Mr. Qadi by political opponents in Turkey and some conservatives in Washington, who say the Turkish government has a hidden Islamist agenda. Mr. Qadi -- who lives near the Red Sea city of Jidda, the Saudi business capital -- denies all links to terrorism and says his U.N. blacklisting is unjust. Officials of Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party and aides to the prime minister didn't respond to requests for comment.
Since coming to power in 2002, the Justice and Development Party has run one of the most pro-Western governments to rule Turkey. It has encouraged a Western-style market economy and made painful overhauls in a bid to join the European Union. The party just won an overwhelming new mandate in parliamentary elections.
But tensions are likely to persist. U.S. diplomats lodged strong objections last year when the Erdogan government intervened in Turkish courts to try to lift the freeze on Mr. Qadi's Turkish assets, according to U.S. officials. The Turkish government reversed course.
"That Erdogan personally vouches for this man...raises the possibility that the prime minister of Turkey is far less interested in combating terrorism than he says," said former Defense Department aide Michael Rubin, a conservative critic of the Turkish government who has close ties to top officials in the Bush administration.
The cosmopolitan Mr. Qadi is an architect by profession who trained with the Chicago-based firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the 1970s. He speaks fluent English and has a son who is an American citizen. Mr. Qadi, whose own father belonged to Jidda's business elite, inherited several million dollars in 1988. He also married into money by wedding a member of the Jamjoom family, one of Saudi Arabia's leading business clans, and is now an influential business figure whom the Saudi media and other Saudi businessmen often defend against U.S. and U.N. terrorism allegations.
The sanctions prohibit international travel by Mr. Qadi, a longtime globe-trotter. It is unclear whether his assets are frozen in Saudi Arabia, which some U.S. officials and private-sector experts claim has failed to take action against powerful business figures suspected of supporting terrorism. In an effort to reclaim his reputation, Mr. Qadi has filed civil suits in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Turkey and other countries. He has also submitted voluminous briefs to the U.S. Treasury in Washington. All of these efforts have been unsuccessful to date.
Mr. Erdogan has defended his friendship with Mr. Qadi, saying the Security Council's terrorist blacklist doesn't prove someone is a terrorist.
Guy Martin, a London-based lawyer for Mr. Qadi, called his terrorist designation "a gross and ongoing miscarriage of justice."
Mr. Qadi, whose business empire is based mostly in Saudi Arabia, is a longtime partner of Turkish businessman Cüneyd Zapsu, as well as other key Justice and Development Party figures. Over the past year, Turkish media and opposition leaders have disclosed that Turkey's financial police investigated the activities of Mr. Qadi and alleged al Qaeda supporters in Turkey. That led them to delve into the relationships of Mr. Qadi and other Saudis with senior Justice and Development figures, including Mr. Erdogan.
Among Mr. Qadi's largest Turkish investments is the discount-supermarket chain BIM, one of Turkey's biggest companies, with more than 1,500 outlets and annual sales of about $1.5 billion. BIM, which trades on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, is a discounter modeled in part on Wal-Mart and other low-price chains. Mr. Zapsu also was among BIM's founding partners.
Mr. Zapsu, who in 2001 helped Mr. Erdogan found the Justice and Development Party, also supported an Islamic charity Mr. Qadi founded that is at the center of the U.S. and Security Council decision to freeze the Saudi businessman's assets. A Turkish financial-police report seen by The Wall Street Journal found that in the 1990s, Mr. Zapsu and his mother gave $300,000 to Mr. Qadi's Muwafaq charity, which U.S. officials labeled a front for al Qaeda shortly after 9/11.
Central Intelligence Agency reports say Muwafaq, now defunct, specialized in purchasing and smuggling arms for Islamic radicals. The U.S. government's special commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and law-enforcement agencies have cited Saudi-backed Islamic charities as a primary source of funding for al Qaeda.
Mr. Zapsu also has business ties to two Islamic banks funded with Saudi capital -- Dallah Al Baraka and Dar Al Mal Al Islam -- that were accused of supporting al Qaeda in civil suits filed by families of Sept. 11 victims in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Both defendants adamantly deny the allegations, and the court dismissed claims against Al Baraka.
Mr. Zapsu said in an email that his business and personal relationships with Mr. Qadi were investigated by Turkish police. He said prosecutors decided last year "that there was no reason for a court case and no wrongdoing." Mr. Zapsu said he sold his interest in BIM in 2003 and no longer is involved with the company.
Two reports by Turkey's financial police allege potential money-laundering and other possible crimes by Mr. Qadi and unnamed associates. But Turkish prosecutors declined to bring criminal cases in both 2004 and 2006, citing a lack of evidence. Mr. Erdogan's political opponents say the probes were quashed by the Finance Ministry. The top officer on the case was recently fired. According to the government, he abused his authority to investigate top politicians.
Mr. Qadi arrived in Turkey in 1996, within a month of alleged al Qaeda logistics coordinator Wael Julaidan. The two men are longtime business partners and engaged in large transactions with a Turkish firm controlled by two of al Qaeda's top leaders, according to business records and U.S. intelligence files. Lawyers for Mr. Julaidan say he denies supporting al Qaeda.
A lengthy paper trail involving an offshore company in the Isle of Man shows how millions of dollars of assets in Turkey once controlled by Mr. Qadi have been shifted in recent years to his associates, in potential violation of the U.N.'s asset freeze. Corporate records show a 26.4% stake in BIM that was originally controlled by Mr. Qadi passed to two of his business partners, through a company called Worldwide Ltd. in the Isle of Man, a tax haven in the U.K.
Worldwide originally was controlled by several people who use the same Jidda business address as Mr. Qadi. In 2004, two Jidda businessmen who are longtime associates of Mr. Qadi took control of Worldwide, Isle of Man filings state. The following year, when BIM released a new financial report, Worldwide disappeared from its list of major shareholders and the two businessmen appeared on the list for the first time. Together with another Isle of Man company, they control precisely 26.4% of BIM shares.
One of the men, Abdul Ghani Al Khereiji, is a longtime business partner of Mr. Qadi who co-founded the Muwafaq charity, records show. He didn't respond to requests for comment. The other new BIM shareholder, architect Zuhair Fayez, also is a longtime associate of Mr. Qadi. Mr. Fayez said in an email that his shares in Worldwide "were not purchased from Mr. Qadi," but he didn't elaborate.
In a statement, BIM said Worldwide transferred its stake to the two men in March 2005. "Our information...is that the assignment procedures were made in accordance with the law," BIM said. The company said it "has no knowledge of the share structure of Worldwide." If Mr. Qadi benefited from the sale of Worldwide shares, that would breach the U.N. sanctions against him.
Some of Mr. Qadi's dealings in Turkey are recounted in a 2006 book, "Charitable Terrorist," by Nedim Sener. Mr. Qadi has filed a defamation suit in an Istanbul court against Mr. Sener, who in the Turkish daily Milliyet also wrote of a real-estate deal involving Mr. Qadi that may also violate the Security Council sanctions. The sanctions, legally binding on U.N. member states, ban any large financial transactions or international travel by the roughly 350 individuals designated as terrorists or their sponsors.
Christophe Payot, a spokesman for the U.N.'s sanctions committee, declined to discuss any possible violations by Turkey or Mr. Qadi. The panel's chairman announced in May it would examine "possible instances of noncompliance" with the al Qaeda sanctions.
The U.N. sanctions aren't always effective, according to experts on the subject. Many countries either don't write or police laws to enforce them, or aren't equipped to track designees who use offshore companies and complex corporate structures. In the case of Mr. Qadi's Turkish assets, the problem is that "there are so many ways of structuring and layering things, they are not clearly his assets," said Victor Comras, an attorney and former U.N. terror-finance expert.
Write to Glenn R. Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey
on: August 29, 2007, 11:45:50 AM
And here's the WSJ's take on this:
August 29, 2007
Turkey's political process reached its expected conclusion yesterday, when the parliament elected Abdullah Gül of the neo-Islamist AK Party as the country's new president. Despite continued grumbling from a wary military, Ankara may finally be able to resume politics as usual.
Yesterday's election, in which Mr. Gül won 339 votes from the 550-member legislature, caps a turbulent four months. The AKP first nominated its co-founder back in April. The result was an electoral boycott by the main opposition party, a threatened coup by the army and a seemingly extralegal annulment of the balloting up to that point by the nation's highest court. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also of the AKP, called early elections to secure a new mandate. Last month his party won a solid victory.
The military tried scare tactics again Monday, writing on its Web site that "centers of evil" were trying to "corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic." Yet a word to the wary of all kinds: Mr. Gül promised during the recent parliamentary campaign to uphold secularism and Turkey's constitution, and the electorate displayed its confidence in him.
Given the military's record of four coups since 1960, its threats can't be taken lightly. Even so, Turkey's generals are traditionally very sensitive to the desires of the country's silent majority, which right now wants stability above all else.
Fortunately, that's what the AKP most likely wants right now, too. It will try to avoid rocking the boat so that it can stay in government. It's been in power for five years now, and parties typically become less, not more, radical the longer they rule. Should the AKP drift from its program of reforms designed to propel Turkey toward European Union membership, its supporters will become agitated.
The Turkish president's authority is fairly limited in any case, though Mr. Gül will wield important veto powers. Under his secularist predecessor, that was seen as a check on any ambitions the AKP might have of foisting Islamism on the country.
So far, there is no indication that Mr. Gül has any hidden agenda for marked change in Turkey. "Secularism -- one of the main principles of our republic -- is a precondition for social peace as much as it is a liberating model for different lifestyles," he said after yesterday's parliamentary vote. "As long as I am in office, I will embrace all our citizens without any bias." Until Mr. Gül gives us cause to believe otherwise, we'll take him at his word.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: August 29, 2007, 11:34:12 AM
yet more , , ,
-- John Fund
In Case You Forgot Who John Huang Was...
Hillary Clinton suddenly has her own version of John Huang, the mysterious fund-raiser and former Clinton political appointee who was at the heart of her husband's 1996 campaign scandals. He's Norman Hsu, a wealthy New Yorker and Democratic fundraiser whose questionable political giving was the subject of an investigative report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Mr. Hsu also happens to be an official high-dollar "HillRaiser" for the Clinton campaign -- and, it turns out, a fugitive from justice since 1992, when he reportedly pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft, agreed to serve three years in prison and then vanished.
How very reminiscent of the strange cast of characters who swirled around the 1996 Clinton campaign. At the center of the controversy over improper contributions and alleged links between the contributors and the Chinese government was James Riady, scion of the shadowy Hong Kong-based Lippo Group, who returned to Asia and never cooperated with investigators. Pauline Kanchanalak, whose $253,000 in contributions had to be returned by the DNC, decamped to her native Thailand. Little Rock restaurateur Charlie Trie, a major-league fund-raiser and recipient of wire transfers from the Bank of China in Hong Kong, took up residence in Beijing to avoid questioning.
Mr. Hsu appears to be following in the footsteps of Mr. Huang, a genius at finding contributors of apparent modest means to donate lavishly to the Clinton campaign. The Journal reported this week that among his prize catches was the family of William Paw, a mail carrier in Daly City, Calif. None of the Paws ever donated to any candidate before 2004, but seven adults in the Paw family have donated $213,000 to Democratic candidates in the last three years, including $55,000 to Mrs. Clinton. In Mr. Huang's day, an Indonesian gardener and his wife, despite being foreign nationals, donated $450,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 1996 and then suddenly had to leave for Jakarta.
E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., the Washington lawyer who represents Mr. Hsu, says his client had nothing to do with the 1996 fundraising scandal and is simply a big fan of the Clintons and Democrats in general. As for that pesky grand theft charge, Mr. Barcella says his client doesn't recall pleading guilty to any criminal charge or having an obligation to serve jail time.
Hmm. Similar memory failures were rampant in the 1996 scandal. Witnesses called before the Senate investigative committee chaired by then-Senator Fred Thompson suffered collective amnesia on just about any subject much beyond their names, titles and Social Security numbers.
To its credit, the Clinton campaign does remember Mr. Hsu and is bravely defending him -- for now. "Norman Hsu is a longtime and generous supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates, including Sen. Clinton," said Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman, on Tuesday. Of course, that was before the latest revelations about Mr. Hsu's criminal record. No doubt he will now be placed in the same memory hole as Mr. Huang and all the other fundraisers for the Clinton political machine whose tactics proved embarrassing.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: August 29, 2007, 11:28:04 AM
Big Source of Clinton's Cash
Is an Unlikely Address
Closely Track Those
Of Top Fund-Raiser
By BRODY MULLINS
August 28, 2007; Page A3
DALY CITY, Calif. -- One of the biggest sources of political donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tiny, lime-green bungalow that lies under the flight path from San Francisco International Airport.
Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee. In all, the six Paws have donated a total of $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005, election records show.
• The Money Race: Compare fund-raising by Clinton, Giuliani, McCain, Obama and other major candidates. Second-quarter data
• Old vs. New Money: Fundraising is heavier than ever. Compare this race with past races.
• Complete coverageThat total ranks the house with residences in Greenwich, Conn., and Manhattan's Upper East Side among the top addresses to donate to the Democratic presidential front-runner over the past two years, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of donations listed with the Federal Election Commission.
It isn't obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. Records show they own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw, the 64-year-old head of the household, is a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service who earns about $49,000 a year, according to a union representative. Alice Paw, also 64, is a homemaker. The couple's grown children have jobs ranging from account manager at a software company to "attendance liaison" at a local public high school. One is listed on campaign records as an executive at a mutual fund.
The Paws' political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign. He has hosted or co-hosted some of her most prominent money-raising events.
People who answered the phone and the door at the Paws' residence declined requests for comment last week. In an email last night, one of the Paws' sons, Winkle, said he had sometimes been asked by Mr. Hsu to make contributions, and sometimes he himself had asked family members to donate. But he added: "I have been fortunate in my investments and all of my contributions have been my money."
Mr. Hsu, in an email last night wrote: "I have NEVER asked a single favor from any politician or any charity group. If I am NOT asking favors, why do I have to cheat...I've asked friends and colleagues of mine to give money out of their own pockets and sometimes they have agreed."
See details on political donations from the Paw family, Norman Hsu and a handful of Mr. Hsu's business associates in New YorkLawrence Barcella, a Washington attorney representing Mr. Hsu, said in a separate email: "You are barking up the wrong tree. There is no factual support for this story and if Mr. Hsu's name was Smith or Jones, I don't believe it would be a story." He didn't elaborate.
A Clinton campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said in an email: "Norman Hsu is a longtime and generous supporter of the Democratic party and its candidates, including Senator Clinton. During Mr. Hsu's many years of active participation in the political process, there has been no question about his integrity or his commitment to playing by the rules, and we have absolutely no reason to call his contributions into question."
Kent Cooper, a former disclosure official with the Federal Election Commission, said the two-year pattern of donations justifies a probe of possible violations of campaign-finance law, which forbid one person from reimbursing another to make contributions.
"There are red lights all over this one," Mr. Cooper said.
There is no public record or indication Mr. Hsu reimbursed the Paw family for their political contributions.
For the 2008 election, individuals can donate a maximum of $4,600 per candidate -- $2,300 for a primary election and $2,300 for a general election -- and a total of $108,200 per election to all federal candidates and national political parties.
Six members of the Paw family list this house in Daly City, Calif., as their address.
In the wake of a 2002 law that set those limits, federal and state regulators and law-enforcement officials said they have seen a spike recently in the number of cases of individuals and companies illegally reimbursing others for campaign donations. Those cases don't necessarily implicate the candidates, who sometimes don't even appear to be aware of such payments executed on their behalf.
The 2002 law also raised penalties for infractions and included the prospect of prison sentences for offenders for the first time. That increased incentives for the FEC and federal prosecutors to investigate and prosecute infractions. Since the law was enacted, the FEC has collected millions of dollars in fines for illegal donations, including its largest-ever penalty, a $3.8 million levy against Freddie Mac last year.
According to public documents, Mr. Hsu once listed his address at the Paw home in Daly City, though it isn't clear if he ever lived there. He now lives in New York, according to campaign-finance records, on which he also lists a half-dozen apparel companies as his employer. In the campaign-finance forms, Mr. Hsu lists his companies as Next Components, Dilini Management, Because Men's Clothes and others.
He is on the board of directors of the New School in New York. News stories in the mid-1980s said he criticized trade policies that made it harder to import goods from China.
Mr. Hsu is also a major fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats. When Democrats won control of Congress in November, he threw a party at New York City hot spot Buddakan with many prominent party leaders. Press reports said that toward the end of the night, he grabbed the microphone from the deejay and shouted: "If you are supporters of Hillary for President 2008, you can stay. Otherwise, get out."
Mr. Hsu has pledged to raise $100,000 or more for Mrs. Clinton, earning the title of "HillRaiser" along with a few hundred other top financial backers of her campaign. Earlier this year, he co-hosted a fund-raiser that raised $1 million for Mrs. Clinton at the Beverly Hills, Calif., home of billionaire Ron Burkle. He is listed as a co-host for another Clinton fund-raiser next month in northern California.
The Paw family is just one set of donors whose political donations are similar to Mr. Hsu's. Several business associates of Mr. Hsu in New York have made donations to the same candidates, on the same dates for similar amounts as Mr. Hsu.
On four separate dates this year, the Paw family, Mr. Hsu and five of his associates gave Mrs. Clinton a total of $47,500. In all, the family, Mr. Hsu and his associates have given Mrs. Clinton $133,000 since 2005 and a total of nearly $720,000 to all Democratic candidates.
The Paw's Daly City home is a one-story house in a working-class suburb of San Francisco. On a recent day, a coiled garden hose rested next to a dilapidated garden with a half-dozen dried out plants. The din of traffic from a nearby freeway was occasionally drowned out by jumbo jets departing San Francisco International Airport.
William and Alice Paw are of Chinese descent. The entire family got their Social Security cards in California in 1982, according to state records. All but one of the Paws registered to vote as "nonpartisan." A San Mateo County elections official said that members of the Paw family vote "sporadically."
No one in the Paw family had ever given a campaign contribution before the 2004 presidential election, according to campaign-finance reports. Then, in July 2004, five members of the family contributed a total of $3,600 to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat. Five of the checks were dated July 27, 2004. About the same time, Mr. Hsu made his first donations to a political candidate, contributing the maximum amount allowed by law to Mr. Kerry in two separate checks, on July 21, 2004, and on Aug. 6.
From then on, the correlation of campaign donations between Mr. Hsu and the Paw family has continued. The first donations to Mrs. Clinton came Dec. 23, 2004, when Mr. Hsu and one Paw family member donated the then-maximum $4,000 to her Senate campaign in two $2,000 checks, campaign-finance records show. In March 2005, the individuals gave a total of $17,500 to Mrs. Clinton.
Since then, Mr. Hsu, his New York associates and the Paw family have continued to donate to Democratic candidates. This year, Alice Paw and four of the Paw children have donated the maximum $4,600 to Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign.
Write to Brody Mullins at email@example.com
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
on: August 29, 2007, 11:25:05 AM
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Not So Hot
August 29, 2007; Page A14
The latest twist in the global warming saga is the revision in data at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, indicating that the warmest year on record for the U.S. was not 1998, but rather 1934 (by 0.02 of a degree Celsius).
Canadian and amateur climate researcher Stephen McIntyre discovered that NASA made a technical error in standardizing the weather air temperature data post-2000. These temperature mistakes were only for the U.S.; their net effect was to lower the average temperature reading from 2000-2006 by 0.15C.
The new data undermine another frightful talking point from environmentalists, which is that six of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1990. Wrong. NASA now says six of the 10 warmest years were in the 1930s and 1940s, and that was before the bulk of industrial CO2 emissions were released into the atmosphere.
Those are the new facts. What's hard to know is how much, if any, significance to read into them. NASA officials say the revisions are insignificant and should not be "used by [global warming] critics to muddy the debate." NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt notes that, despite the revisions, the period 2002-2006 is still warmer for the U.S. than 1930-1934, and both periods are slightly cooler than 1998-2002.
Still, environmentalists have been making great hay by claiming that recent years, such as 1998, then 2006, were the "warmest" on record. It's also not clear that the 0.15 degree temperature revision is as trivial as NASA insists. Total U.S. warming since 1920 has been about 0.21 degrees Celsius. This means that a 0.15 error for recent years is more than two-thirds the observed temperature increase for the period of warming. NASA counters that most of the measured planetary warming in recent decades has occurred outside the U.S. and that the agency's recent error would have a tiny impact (1/1000th of a degree) on global warming.
If nothing else, the snafu calls into question how much faith to put in climate change models. In the 1990s, virtually all climate models predicted warming from 2000-2010, but the new data confirm that so far there has been no warming trend in this decade for the U.S. Whoops. These simulation models are the basis for many of the forecasts of catastrophic warming by the end of the century that Al Gore and the media repeat time and again. We may soon be basing multi-trillion dollar policy decisions on computer models whose accuracy we already know to be less than stellar.
What's more disturbing is what this incident tells us about the scientific double standard in the global warming debate. If this kind of error were made by climatologists who dare to challenge climate-change orthodoxy, the media and environmentalists would accuse them of manipulating data to distort scientific truth. NASA's blunder only became a news story after Internet bloggers played whistleblower by circulating the new data across the Web.
So far this year NASA has issued at least five press releases that could be described as alarming on the pace of climate change. But the correction of its overestimate of global warming was merely posted on the agency's Web site. James Hansen, NASA's ubiquitous climate scientist and a man who has charged that the Bush Administration is censoring him on global warming, has been unapologetic about NASA's screw up. He claims that global warming skeptics -- "court jesters," he calls them -- are exploiting this incident to "confuse the public about the status of knowledge of global climate change, thus delaying effective action to mitigate climate change."
So let's get this straight: Mr. Hansen's agency makes a mistake in a way that exaggerates the extent of warming, and this is all part of a conspiracy by "skeptics"? It's a wonder there aren't more of them.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: August 29, 2007, 11:20:55 AM
I wasn't quite sure where to post this one , , ,
Sarko Steps Up
The French President's Un-Chirac foreign policy.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Nicolas Sarkozy made headlines this week by telling his diplomatic corps that "an Iran with nuclear weapons is for me unacceptable." But the French President did more in his speech than name the gravest current threat to global security, itself a feat of clear thinking. He also signaled that France means to be something more on the international scene than an anti-American nuisance player.
That's worth applauding at a time when the conventional wisdom says the next U.S. President will have to burnish America's supposedly tarnished reputation by making various policy amends. In Germany, under the conservative leadership of Angela Merkel, foreign policy views have been moving closer to the Bush Administration's, not further away, while new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made clear he will not depart significantly from the pro-American course set by Tony Blair.
But it is Mr. Sarkozy who, true to his reputation, has been the boldest in stepping up to his global responsibilities. On Afghanistan, he told the assembled diplomats, "the duty of the Atlantic Alliance as well as that of France," is to "increase efforts." He then announced he would be sending additional trainers to assist the Afghan Army. On Israel, he said he "would never budge" on its security. He warned about Russia, which "imposes its return on the world scene by playing its assets with a certain brutality," and he cautioned against China, which pursues "its insatiable search for raw materials as a strategy of control, particularly in Africa."
It's hard to imagine Jacques Chirac, Mr. Sarkozy's predecessor, speaking this way. (Mr. Sarkozy has also reportedly described French diplomats as "cowards" and proposed "[getting] rid of the Quai d'Orsay." Imagine the media uproar if President Bush mused about doing the same to Foggy Bottom?) No less a departure from past practices at the Élysée Palace is his stance on Iran. In January, Mr. Chirac had mused that an Iranian bomb would "not be very dangerous." Mr. Sarkozy, by contrast, has previously insisted on the need to "leave all options open" when dealing with Iran's nuclear programs.
In his speech this week to the diplomats, Mr. Sarkozy warned of the need for tough diplomacy, including "growing sanctions," to avoid the "catastrophic alternative: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran." That doesn't sound far from Senator John McCain's useful formulation that "There's only one thing worse than the United States exercising the military option; that is a nuclear-armed Iran." The important point is that Mr. Sarkozy has put on record that he won't let Iran develop a bomb under cover of feckless Western diplomacy.
One test of his resolve will be how much France assists the Bush Administration as it seeks to round up votes in the U.N. Security Council for a third round of sanctions on Iran next month. The Administration has had a hard time moving the diplomacy beyond symbolism in part because of the economic ties that other permanent members of the Council, including France, have with the Islamic Republic. The French say they've already pulled out some of their investments in the country, and in recent months France, Germany and other European countries have in fact cut back their export credits to Iran.
Mr. Sarkozy could now demonstrate real seriousness by forcing French energy giant Total from its $2 billion investment in the huge South Pars natural gas project. A corruption probe into the decade-old project could give him the leverage to do so, as could rising pressure in the U.S. Congress to start enforcing sanctions against companies that do business with rogue regimes.
Whatever Mr. Sarkozy does, however, he has plainly set a new tone for French foreign policy. That's not to say we agree with him on every point: He reiterated France's opposition to the war in Iraq and called for a "horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Yet even that puts him well to the right of every U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate. And he warned against the "risks of an antagonistic multipolar world," the very world Mr. Chirac seemed to strive for by opposing the U.S. at every turn.
In a speech last year in New York, Mr. Sarkozy noted that "I've always favored modest effectiveness over sterile grandiloquence. And I don't want to see an arrogant France with a diminished presence." With his remarks Monday, Mr. Sarkozy has given the best evidence to date that his presidency will attempt to enhance French influence not by opposing the U.S. but by working with it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / When pigs fly
on: August 29, 2007, 11:13:02 AM
The Upside of Hamas
The Associated Press reports some surprisingly good news from the erstwhile terror haven of Jenin:
Palestinian police rescued an Israeli soldier Monday after he mistakenly drove into this West Bank town and was surrounded by a mob that later burned his car. Israel praised the rescue as a sign of the growing strength of Palestinian moderates.
Three policemen spotted the Israeli military officer inside the car and escorted him through the mob before taking him to their headquarters, police said. The soldier suffered no injuries and was handed over to Israeli troops. . . .
The rescue was a sharp contrast to seven years ago when two Israeli army reservists strayed into the West Bank city of Ramallah. They were captured by Palestinian police, who took them to a police station. A mob stormed the station and killed the two, throwing one body from a second story window as news photographers took pictures.
That incident, known to shocked Israelis as "the lynching," set the tone for violence and suspicion that has continued ever since.
This latest incident is only an anecdote, not yet a trend; but it may signify that the rise of Hamas is actually forcing "moderate" Palestinians to behave moderately, because accommodating Israel is their only hope for survival.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey
on: August 29, 2007, 08:52:55 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Envisioning Turkey under the AK Presidency
The Turkish parliament on Tuesday elected a former Islamist as the staunchly secularist republic's 11th president. After close to four months marred by controversy and contention, Abdullah Gul, the No. 2 man in Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, made it into the president's chair after the 3rd round of voting. He secured 339 votes in the 550-seat legislature, but he only needed a simple majority of 276.
Gul's election brings to an end the latest chapter of a long struggle between religiously inclined political forces and Turkey's ultra-secularist military establishment -- with this round going to the Islamists. By no means does this mean that the men in uniform have thrown in the towel. Far from it: the generals will be closely watching the AK, and especially the behavior of the 56-year-old Gul. This much was spelled out by military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit on Monday in an Internet statement that said "our nation has been watching the behavior of centers of evil who systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic," and warned that "the military will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey."
Modern Turkey was founded by Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk" in 1923 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, an essentially Islamic polity. Kemal, who himself was a military commander, implemented radical changes whereby the Turkish republic was established as a secular entity along the lines of European states. Since then the military has served as the praetorian guards responsible for preserving the Kemalist character of the constitution and the secular fabric of the republic.
To this end, the military has intervened on four separate occasions (three of them being coups) -- in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997 -- and has banned four of the AK's predecessor groups because their Islamist ideology was seen as a threat to the secular order. Therefore, the military establishment is all too aware of what happened Tuesday. The Turkish political system has entered an unprecedented phase in its evolution, where a single party not only has been able to form two consecutive governments on its own, but also now controls the presidency -- which by extension means it controls the judiciary, because the president appoints key judges.
As far as civil-military relations are concerned, the military clearly has lost the current (and what appears to be a decisive) battle -- but the ideological struggle and the contention over secularism is far from over. More importantly, for the first time since the founding of the Turkish republic more than 80 years ago, a political force rooted in Islamism essentially controls all of the key civilian institutions of the state.
There is a lot of trepidation both within and outside Turkey that this will lead to a major Islamist-secular struggle in the country -- which could lead to a period of domestic instability, despite the fact that the AK took 47 percent of the vote and controls a lion's share of seats in Parliament. This is certainly a possibility. It will not be long before Gul will be caught between his national duties as the head of an ultra-secularist state and his commitment to his party's conservative ideology. One cannot expect him simply to behave as a neutral president.
But the AK did not fight hard to win the presidency just for the sake of winning. The party will gradually want to use the position to further consolidate its hold over the state, trying to redefine the secular character of the state -- moving away from the French style, which expressly renounces religious activity, toward the American model, which provides for more tolerance. Undoubtedly, this will lead to a new wave of struggle between the ruling party and the military.
Two factors are tying the military's hands at the moment. First, of course, is the AK's parliamentary majority. Second is the fear that any direct intervention by the military into politics could have serious repercussions, not just for stability and security in Turkey, but also for the economy. A coup would adversely affect foreign investment in the country, taking it back to the financial crisis that hit prior to the AK's rise to power in 2002. This would explain the uneasy accommodation reached in the past five years between the AK government and the generals.
For its part, the AK might have won the presidency, but it will still continue to tread carefully as far as the domestic policies are concerned, and will avoid tampering with the secular order of things. Over time, however, the party will become emboldened, because of the lack of any serious moves by the military to undercut its power. This is when there will be a behavioral change in Turkey, as the AK government begins to feel confident in engaging in policies that it currently might not want to risk.
Such a change will be most apparent and immediate in the foreign-policy arena, given the changes under way in the region. Iran has for the most part moved away from negotiating with the United States over Iraq and is now trying to take advantage of the expected U.S. drawdown of forces from the country. We have already discussed at length Turkish interests in Iraq with regard to Kurdish separatism. This issue undoubtedly will be of a primary concern to the Turks, especially now that a settlement on Iraq appears highly unlikely. Of even greater significance will be future Turkish behavior toward the larger emerging conflict surrounding Iraq: Iran and the Shia versus the Arab states and the Sunnis.
Here is where an AK regime will be forced to balance pan-Islamic issues with Turkish nationalist objectives. On one hand, Turkey will focus on making sure that the ethno-sectarian conflict does not enable Iraqi Kurds (and by extension Turkish Kurds) to further their separatist agenda. On the other hand, Ankara will have to decide whether to side with the Arab states -- who are fellow Sunnis -- against Iran, or align with Iran, or chart a more neutral course.
This would not have been a complicated matter under a purely secular Turkish government, which would have viewed the issue solely from the point of view of Turkish national interest. But because the AK has pan-Islamic ties to various actors in the Arab/Muslim world, the matter becomes complex. The Saudis and the Iranians subscribe to competing notions of Islam -- not just in the sectarian sense but in ideological terms. That will put an AK-ruled Turkey in a difficult spot.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: August 29, 2007, 08:01:54 AM
Wonder what is behind this?
Sadr set to 'rebuild' Mehdi Army
The Mehdi Army is believed to have some 60,000 fighters
The radical Iraqi Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, has announced the "rebuilding" of his Mehdi Army militia over a maximum period of six months.
He called on all its offices to co-operate with the security forces and exercise "self-control", in a statement issued by his office in Najaf.
The order was read out at a conference in Karbala, where fierce fighting on Tuesday killed more than 50 people.
Police blamed the Mehdi Army for the violence, but it denied involvement.
The militia is strongly opposed to the US presence in Iraq and took part in two uprisings against US-led forces in 2004.
It has also been linked to many sectarian attacks on Iraq's Sunni Arabs and on UK forces in the south of the country. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...st/6968720.stm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: SPP: "Security and Prosperity Partnership"/United Nations
on: August 29, 2007, 07:57:36 AM
U.S. under U.N. law in health emergency
Bush's SPP power grab sets stage for military to manage flu threats
Posted: August 28, 2007
11:15 p.m. Eastern
By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America summit in Canada released a plan that established U.N. law along with regulations by the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization as supreme over U.S. law and set the stage for militarizing the management of continental health emergencies.
The "North American Plan for Avian & Pandemic Influenza" was finalized at the SPP summit last week in Montebello, Quebec.
At the same time, the U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, has created a webpage dedicated to avian flu and has been running exercises in preparation for the possible use of U.S. military forces in a continental domestic emergency involving avian flu or pandemic influenza.
With virtually no media attention, in 2005 President Bush shifted U.S. policy on avian flu and pandemic influenza, placing the country under international guidelines not specifically determined by domestic agencies.
The policy shift was formalized Sept. 14, 2005, when Bush announced a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza to a High-Level Plenary Meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, in New York.
The new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza was designed to supersede an earlier November 2005 Homeland Security report that called for a U.S. national strategy that would be coordinated by the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Agriculture.
The 2005 plan, operative until Bush announced the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, directed the State Department to work with the WHO and U.N., but it does not mention that international health controls are to be considered controlling over relevant U.S. statutes or authorities.
Under the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, Bush agreed the U.S. would work through the U.N. system influenza coordinator to develop a continental emergency response plan operating through authorities under the WTO, North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
WND could find no evidence the Bush administration presented the Influenza Partnership plan to Congress for oversight or approval.
The SPP plan for avian and pandemic influenza announced at the Canadian summit last week embraces the international control principles Bush first announced to the U.N. in his 2005 International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza declaration.
The SPP plan gives primacy for avian and pandemic influenza management to plans developed by the WHO, WTO, U.N. and NAFTA directives – not decisions made by U.S. agencies.
The U.N.-WHO-WTO-NAFTA plan advanced by SPP features a prominent role for the U.N. system influenza coordinator as a central international director in the case of a North American avian flu or pandemic influenza outbreak.
In Sept. 2005, Dr. David Nabarro was appointed the first U.N. system influenza coordinator, a position which also places him as a senior policy adviser to the U.N. director-general.
Nabarro joined the WHO in 1999 and was appointed WHO executive director of sustainable development and health environments in July 2002.
In a Sept. 29, 2005, press conference at the U.N., Nabarro made clear that his job was to prepare for the H5N1 virus, known as the avian flu.
Nabarro fueled the global fear that an epidemic was virtually inevitable.
In response to a question about the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that killed approximately 40 million people worldwide, Nabarro commented, "I am certain there will be another pandemic sometime."
Nabarro stressed at the press conference that he saw as inevitable a worldwide pandemic influenza coming soon that would kill millions.
He quantified the deaths he expected as follows: "I'm not, at the moment at liberty to give you a prediction on numbers, but I just want to stress, that, let's say, the range of deaths could be anything from 5 to 150 million."
In a March 8, 2006, U.N. press conference that was reported on a State Department website, Nabarro predicted an outbreak of the H5N1 virus would "reach the Americas within the next six to 12 months."
On Feb. 1, 2006, NORTHCOM hosted representatives of more than 40 international, federal and state agencies for "an exercise designed to provoke discussion and determine what governmental actions, including military support, would be necessary in the event of an influenza pandemic in the United States."
NORTHCOM and other governmental websites document the growing role the Bush administration plans for the U.S. military to be involved in continental domestic emergencies involving health, including avian flu and pandemic influenza.
NORTHCOM participated in a nationwide Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed exercise – code-named Exercise Ardent Sentry 06 – to rehearse cooperation between Department of Defense and local, state and federal agencies, as well as the Canadian government.
A pandemic influenza crisis was one of the four scenarios gamed in Exercise Ardent Sentry 06, involving a scenario of a plague in Mexico reaching across the border into Arizona and New Mexico.
As has been customary in SPP documents and declarations, the Montebello, Canada, announcement of the North American Plan for Avian & Pandemic Influenza acknowledges in passing the sovereignty of the three nations.
The announcement says, "The Plan is not intended to replace existing arrangements or agreements. As such, each country's laws are to be respected and this Plan is to be subordinate and complementary to domestic response plans, existing arrangements and bilateral or multilateral agreements."
Still, the SPP plan argues the risk from avian and pandemic influenza was so great to North America that the leaders of the three nations were compelled "to work collectively and with all levels of government, the private sector and among-non-governmental organizations to combat avian and pandemic influenza."
Moreover, the SPP plan openly acknowledges, "The WHO's international guidance formed much of the basis for the three countries' planning for North American preparedness and response."
WND previously reported NORTHCOM has been established with a command center at Peterson Air Force Base, tasked with using the U.S. military in continental domestic emergency situations.
WND also has reported President Bush signed in May two documents, National Security Presidential Directive-51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive-20, which give the office of the president extraordinary powers to declare national emergencies and to assume near-dictatorial powers. Following the Montebello summit last week, the SPP North American Plan for Avian & Pandemic Influenza was published on a made-over SPP homepage redesigned to feature agreements newly reached by trilateral bureaucratic working groups.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: August 28, 2007, 11:09:39 PM
In Defense of the Constitution
News & Analysis
015/07 August 28, 2007
CAIR: Media Cowers in Face of Islamist Threat
On August 24th, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), issued a "News Release" trumpeting the role CAIR played in getting the Christian TV program "Live Prayer with Bill Keller" off the air in Tampa, Florida. http://www.cair.com/default.asp?Page=articleView&id=2929&theType=NR
While this is not a free speech issue, (TV stations are free to carry programs as they wish), it is troubling that a national broadcaster would terminate a program based on the demands of an Islamist hate group.especially an Islamic hate group that was not only founded by Islamic terrorists, but now stands as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terrorism case.http://www.nysun.com/article/55778
In view of the fact that CAIR was founded by Islamist terrorists, is here to overthrow constitutional government, actively works to impose Sharia (Islamic law), and other odious aspects of CAIR's perverted brand of "Islam", and one can't help but wonder, "What was CBS thinking?" CBS is in the business to make money; the Bill Keller program paid for its air time; in normal times, this would be considered good business.except for the antics of the unindicted co-conspirator, CAIR.
But these are not normal times.
Islam have become the latest "victim" in the American public arena, thanks to groups like CAIR; groups that purport to support "equal rights", but in reality demand "Special Rights".for Muslims only.
Rights not available to non-Muslims.
That's right. If you are not a Muslim in America , you can be insulted; your faith (or lack of faith) can be made fun of, the way you dress, your voice, your choice of living arrangements.are all fair game.
The odious activities of CAIR have even influenced decisions regarding publication of cartoons.and we don't mean the Danish Cartoons. The popular "Opus" cartoon strip has been pulled from the August 26th and September 2nd editions of many North American newspapers. Why? Could it possibly be the subject matter? Readers may view the August 26th strip and reach their own conclusion: http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2007/08/26/opus/index.htmlhttp://www.berkeleybreathed.com/pages/index.asp
This is an alarming trend. While there is no evidence that CAIR had anything to do with the Opus cartoon strip being pulled, it would seem to fit well with CAIR's agenda to define Islam in America .to define what can be said.or not said.
By a group that tarnishes the meaning of the words "Islamic civil rights group".
It should be noted that when Anti-CAIR attorney Reed Rubinstein asked a reporter from a renowned Washington DC newspaper why they won't report on the obvious connections CAIR has to terrorism, he was told that the newspaper would never print or follow up on information uncovered in the CAIR v Anti-CAIR Lawsuit "because Muslims are an oppressed minority in this country."http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utJs2WoDlYI
This is extremely dangerous, especially since America has a long tradition of inquiry; no subject has been taboo, no course of inquiry subject to censorship in search of the truth on important matters of public interest. This is as it should be.
Whenever there is an article that questions Islam, a commentary that correctly points out problems with Islam in North America, or even dares to raise the issue of Islamic terrorism, CAIR is in the forefront demanding that Islam be described in only the most innocent of terms.
CAIR, once again, is clearly demonstrating what is in store for North America should CAIR's perverted brand of Islam become dominant.
CAIR has, since its founding, told us exactly what is in store for us should its dream of imposing Wahabbi Islam on North America come to fruition. Our "mainstream press" has refused to even make inquiry into any aspect of CAIR's activities on behalf of radical Islam; is it any wonder that most North Americans are woefully ignorant of the threat?
The mainstream press has abdicated its role in society. Is it any wonder that many people now turn to alternative sources for their news?
Come what may, North Americans will never be able to claim we weren't warned.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: August 28, 2007, 07:45:24 PM
Iraq: Iran Versus Saudi Arabia, Minus the United States?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Aug. 28 warned that a power vacuum is imminent in Iraq and said Iran is ready to help fill the gap. This statement represents the shift Stratfor was expecting in Iranian behavior toward Iraq, wherein Tehran is no longer interested in negotiating with the United States because it expects Washington to withdraw from the country. This does not mean the road to Baghdad is clear for the Iranians, which explains why they have said they would work with regional Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Aug. 28 that his country is ready to fill the power vacuum in Iraq. Addressing a press conference in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said, "The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly. Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."
The Iranians are reacting to the emerging situation in Washington, which is leading the United States to effect a military drawdown of sorts in Iraq. As we have said, this leaves the Iranians with no incentive to negotiate with Washington over the future of Iraq. Instead, Iran is moving to take advantage of the expected security vacuum in Iraq and consolidate itself as the major power broker there.
But the Iranians are well aware that such a move will not be easy to pull off and will require Saudi cooperation. The Iranians intend to secure the Arab states' acknowledgement of Tehran's dominant role in Iraq -- a goal that will not come easily, to say the very least. Moreover, the United States is not about to allow Iran the space it needs to secure its interests in Iraq, as evidenced in the Bush administration's evolving Iraq policy, which we see shifting to a military strategy that will leave a residual force focused primarily on countering Iranian expansion in Iraq. Ahmadinejad's message to the Saudis is essentially stating that the inevitable U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will leave the Iranians in a prime position to dominate the country, and that their historical Arab/Sunni rivals in Riyadh will have no choice but to sue for peace -- on Tehran's terms.
Essentially, we are looking at the beginning of a full-scale and direct geopolitical struggle between Tehran and Riyadh over Baghdad as the United States redefines its mission in Iraq.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women
on: August 28, 2007, 06:27:36 PM
Virginia's New Putative Father Registry Violates Fathers' Right to Raise Their Own Children
By Mike McCormick and Glenn Sacks
Virginia's controversial new Putative Father Registry law asks any man who has had heterosexual non-marital sex in Virginia to register with the State. Supporters say the law will help connect fathers with their children before the children are put up for adoption. Critics see it as another example of the erosion of citizens' privacy. Both sides miss the real point of the Registry--to remove a father's right to prevent his child's mother from giving their child up for adoption without his consent.
Incredibly, under the new law, putative fathers who fail to register waive their right to be notified that their parental rights are being terminated. They also forfeit the right to be notified of the adoption proceedings and to consent to the adoption. Rather than being required to make a legitimate effort to find and notify the father, the state can now simply check the Registry and, if the man has not registered, give his child away.
Such violations of fathers' rights are common. For example, in the widely-reported Huddleston adoption case, Mark Huddleston's baby boy was adopted out when he was three days old, but Huddleston didn't know the baby existed until two months after his birth. As a New Mexico court later found, the private adoption agency did not notify Huddleston of the pending adoption, thus denying him the chance to raise his son.
In an adoption case, the burden of identifying the father should be on the mother. It is the mother, not the father, who is certain to be aware of the child's birth, and it is the mother who knows (or should know) the baby's parentage. However, when states have tried to craft measures requiring a mother who seeks to put her baby up for adoption to find and notify the baby's father, there has been opposition from the National Organization for Women and other women's groups.
Defenders of the Registry justify disregarding fathers with numerous unfair assumptions about men and their intentions. For example, Kerry Dougherty, a prominent Virginia newspaper columnist, asserts:
"I think we're being too kind to these men. Guys who don't stick around long enough to find out whether they've caused a pregnancy have terminated their paternal rights. If they know a baby's on the way and then disappear, they aren't fathers...the General Assembly ought to look for ways to strip these irresponsible Romeos of their rights, not invite them to record their random copulations."
One wonders if Dougherty knows anyone who has dated within the last 40 years. It is absurd to think that in modern relationships, when there's an out-of-wedlock birth it must be because the father ran off. In reality, most unwed biological fathers do care about their children, but often do not know of their existence or are unsure that the children really are biologically theirs. There have been countless adoption cases where these fathers have struggled desperately for the right to raise their own children. One also wonders why a woman who wants to avoid the responsibility of raising a child (and of paying child support) is viewed sympathetically, while a man in exactly the same position is a villain.
There are numerous other problems with the Registry. A registrant must provide his social security number, driver's license number, home address, and employer, as well as details about the sexual affair and his sexual partner. This sensitive, personal information will be available to the baby's mother, the lawyers involved in the adoption, court employees, and anyone able to hack in to the computer system.
The law should instead require that an honest, exhaustive search for the father be conducted before an adoption can proceed. This search should include use of the Federal Parent Locator Service, which contains a vast array of information, including the National Directory of New Hires. The FPLS is used to enforce child support, find children involved in parental kidnappings, and to enforce child custody and visitation. State systems are tied into the FPLS, and they are often remarkably effective at finding parents.
Fathers have the right to raise their own children. Virginia's Registry is a shameful attempt to circumvent that right.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: August 28, 2007, 12:20:42 PM
Muslim Patrol Quiets Crime in Shaw
By Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2007; B03
On a sidewalk in Shaw, a dozen Muslim men wearing red T-shirts gather an hour before sundown.
Half line up quietly behind an imam. Facing southeast toward Mecca, they bow their heads and read aloud verses from the Koran. The other half spread themselves out and look up and down the street. After a few minutes, they switch places.
The men have come not just to pray but to assume control over a crime-prone block.
They are part of a Muslim neighborhood watch that lately has focused its efforts on Seventh Street NW between P and Q streets, site of the long-troubled Kelsey Gardens apartment complex. Just a few weeks ago, the location was beset by drug dealers, armed assaults and random shootings.
The group is composed of Muslims who practice a more orthodox form of Islam than such groups as the Nation of Islam, says founder Leroy Thorpe.
It is a spinoff of the Citizens Organized Patrol Efforts, or COPE, a neighborhood watch established in 1988 in Shaw. Both groups dress in ample red T-shirts and red baseball hats with "COPE Patrol" written on them.
About two months ago, owners of the 35-unit Kelsey Gardens complex asked Thorpe to arrange security for the residents and crack down on drug dealers who gravitated to a parking lot in the complex, Thorpe said. The complex is slated to be razed next month and a new structure will take its place. Thorpe said that the owners want to encourage more investment in the area.
"Nobody is going to invest in a drug-infested area," said Thorpe, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who also goes by the Muslim name Mahdi.
D.C. police, who say they know of no other religion-based citizens patrol operating in the District, credit the Muslims with rousting the drug dealers and restoring a measure of public safety to the neighborhood. "There was an overwhelming difference," said Officer Earl Brown of the 3rd Police District.
Patrol members carry no weapons, and several of the men said they had no training in self-defense. But their presence seems to be effective.
"You have eyes and ears in the neighborhood," said Cmdr. Larry McCoy, who heads the Third Police District. "Most people don't like to commit crimes in front of people who are going to tell the police about them."
Driven by the power of faith, the patrol has a secondary aim: to "call people to worship Allah," said Khalil Davis, the imam for the Salafi Society of D.C. mosque.
A long salt-and-pepper beard framing his thin face and dressed in a white dishdasha, the traditional Muslim men's calf-length garment, Davis handed out literature to passersby describing Islam as a religion of peace.
One leaflet contained two pictures, one of waterfalls and natural greenery, the other of a huge, smoky fireball. "You decide," it said. The group called the leaflets "Islam's anti-terror message."
"It is a therapeutic ambience to the community," Davis said of the religion.
"This creates a community that is pure and free of crimes."
But it is a message that can be difficult to spread. Davis tried to distribute the leaflets to pedestrians, but most refused to take them.
The Muslim patrol works 12-hour shifts, three nights a week: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which Thorpe said are peak nights for drug dealing.
On a patrol one recent weeknight, the men walked around the complex in pairs. They were scouting for "suspicious activity" and "undesirable people," Thorpe said.
They peered behind large trash cans in alleys, looking for drug addicts who might be hiding. They went into a parking lot between two buildings and walked between the rows of cars, hoping their presence would chase off anyone who might be lurking.
"They see us, they are going to flee," said Thorpe, who carries a cellphone to call police if he needs help.
This night was uneventful. The walkie-talkies remained mute. Residents walking out of their apartment building waved to the Muslim patrol members, who waved back.
Residents seem to recognizes the Muslim patrol by now, and the Muslims have come to recognize most of the people who live on the block. "Assalamu Alaikum," they say in greeting -- Arabic for "peace be upon you. "
The Muslim patrol group is the only one of its kind in the District, according to the police department, but several patrol members said they hope to duplicate it in other neighborhoods.
"I would love to do it in my neighborhood," said Brian Christopher, 40, who lives with his wife and two children in a neighborhood in Northeast Washington that has no citizens patrol. "But it has to start somewhere."
Several residents and local business people said they were pleased it started in Shaw.
"They are really helping out," said Tony Dolford, 38, a Kelsey Gardens resident who has lived in the neighborhood since 1993.
Everett Lucas, 66, owns the Variety Market across the street from the apartment complex. The market has been open for 34 years.
"One thing you don't see now [in the neighborhood] is drug activity," Lucas said.
"Knock on wood," McCoy said. "It's made a difference. Those planning to do wrong in the neighborhood know they are out there, and it stops them."http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...082701527.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Convert or Die
on: August 28, 2007, 10:10:21 AM
From a website that IMHO hyperventilates on occasion, but here it is:
'Convert or die,' Christians told
Muslims flood neighborhoods with threats
Posted: August 23, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
Christian residents of several neighborhoods in northern Pakistan have been sent letters "inviting" them to abandon Christianity and join Islam – or be killed, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs, the ministry to persecuted Christians around the world.
"There have been numerous threats sent to Peshawar's Kohati area," sources for VOM reported this week. "The letters say if we don't become Muslim we will be killed."
The unsigned threats began several weeks ago, when residents of Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, reported receiving the letters threatening suicide bombings if they did not convert.
(Story continues below)
The letters went to Christian residents of the Tailgodom, Sandagodom and Goalgodom neighborhoods, according to a report from Assist News Service.
"These letters sent a wave of fear and uncertainty among the Christian residents of these … areas," Kamran George, a Peshawar government member, told the news service.
Each of the districts houses an estimated 2,000 Christians.
"Through this open letter you are openly invited to convert to Islam and quit Christianity, the religion of infidels," the letter said. Readers could "ensure your place in heaven" by adopting Islam.
"We will wipe out your slum on next Friday, August, 10th, 2007. And you, yourself would be responsible for the destruction of your men and material. Get ready! This is not a mere threat, our suicide bombers are ready to wipe out your name and signs from the face of earth. Consider it be the Knock of Death," it said.
Although that deadline has passed, Christians still fear the threat, a government official told Assist. He noted that a man dressed in Pakistan's national dress managed to get inside a recent meeting at St. John Catholic Church in Peshawar, but fled immediately when he saw police.
George said the threats were prompted by the suggestion from U.S. presidential candidate Tom Tancredo that the U.S. threaten to bomb Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina in retaliation if there would be a terrorist nuclear attack on the United States.
"We would be pleased to send those to Hell who dared casting malicious eye on Khana Kaba (Mecca, Saudi Arabia) and Prophet's Mosque (Medina, Saudi Arabia). There is death here (in Pakistan) for the agents and followers of the religion of Americans (Christians)," said the letter, written in Urdu, Pakiston's national language, Assist reported.
"We would wipe out the Churches from the face of the earth because our mosques, seminaries and children are being martyred on the directions of United States. We would write a new history with the blood of Infidels. Our suicide bombers, lovers of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) are ready to strike churches, to protect the sanctity of Mecca and Medina, and pride of Islam.
"These suicide bombers would strike at any time or day. It is our first and foremost Jihad (Islamic Holy war) to assassinate and eradicate the infidels from the face of earth," the letter said.
Additional police have been assigned in the region, the same area where a surge of violence followed the recent occupation and storming of the nation's Red Mosque. There, as WND reported, radical leaders faced off against Pakistani forces and said the 1,800 children in the compound had taken oaths on the Quran to fight to the death.
Followers of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, leader of the pro-Taliban mosque, staged the standoff after a crackdown was launched on the mosque for a months-long campaign to expand Islamic religious law.
A minority member of Pakistan's parliament, Pervaiz Masih, even raised the issue of the threats in the legislature's National Assembly, reading the letter to lawmakers and calling on the government to note the insecurity it had created.
The Voice of the Martyrs cited a list of other attacks on Christians in Pakistan in recent weeks that also have raised concerns.
For example, the organization reported that Muslims had confessed and apologized for attacking a church in the Punjab region, but have to this point offered no compensation for injuring Christians and damaging their building.
Reports confirmed seven Christians were hurt and Christian literature was destroyed at a Salvation Army church north of Faisalabad in the attack, and attackers admitted they had planned to burn a page of the Quran – which can bring a life prison sentence in Pakistan – and then blame the Christians of the community.
The attack happened just as Christians were assembling for a worship meeting, and several victims were hit with axes. Bibles and hymn books also were destroyed.
Just weeks earlier, a formal court session in Lahore also sentenced a Pakistani Christian to death for blasphemy. Authorities said Younis Masih, a Christian from Chungi Amar Sadu in Lahore, was accused of blasphemy of the Prophet Muhammad.
Although no one has yet been executed by the state for blasphemy, several have been murdered by extremists.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide says Pakistan's blasphemy laws are regularly misused as a means of settling scores or targeting religious minorities.
The blasphemy laws require only an accusation by one man against another for a case to be filed. In almost all cases the charges are entirely fabricated. Masih was outspoken against incidents of rape committed against Christian girls, and is a Christian himself. It is believed these were the reasons he was accused of blasphemy, according to reports.
VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body. The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, "Tortured for Christ," was released.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause:
on: August 28, 2007, 08:18:25 AM
Will You Answer the Call?
By BOB OKUN
August 28, 2007; Page A13
Stop what you're doing and simply listen for a moment so you may hear a conversation that is going on across America. It is not about who will be the next president, but about why average citizens aren't more fully engaged in the war on terror.
Why haven't we all been asked by our leaders to give more of ourselves as in previous wars? And most importantly, what can and should we all do about the national disconnect between citizen and soldier?
In part, most of us have gone on with our lives with minimal interruption because we are fighting an intensive, protracted two-front war with an all-volunteer force. Only a relatively small slice of American society, myself included, has any real connection to the brave men and women in uniform protecting our freedoms every day. Fewer still have any idea what their families are going through as they wait for their service members to come home.
We as citizens have seemed content that we've contributed to a care package or applauded someone in uniform. But with so little asked of us in terms of personal commitment, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to rally around those whose loved ones sacrifice their time, their safety and even their lives for our country.
Two years ago, my daughters opened my eyes to this national disconnect between average citizens and soldiers, and to how we may repay the burden military families assumed on our behalf. They had sent care packages to the troops overseas through church and Girl Scouts, but they wanted to do more. Then a classmate's father returned from Iraq with severe injuries. The girls wanted a way to show support for their classmate's family, and for all military families.
What started as a kitchen-table idea evolved into ThanksUSA, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing post-secondary school scholarships to the children and spouses of those serving on active duty, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 1,000 military family members in all 50 states and D.C. have already received vocational and college scholarships, and another round will be awarded this year. Hundreds of thousands of other military families need and deserve a variety of support from community members, civic leaders, corporate leaders and all Americans as they set out to reclaim and reassemble their lives in the coming years.
Since the war began, there have been some shining examples, "best practices" in corporate-speak, of businesses supporting the troops and their families.
Home Depot, CVS and Dell have reached out to hire military spouses. Freddie Mac, purchaser of residential mortgages, has helped injured soldiers and their families to manage their finances upon re-entry to civilian life. Entrepreneurs such as Dan Caulfield (a veteran) recently created Hire a Hero, using the Internet to help returning service members connect with eager businesses seeking skilled workers.
Other service organizations are involved, including Fisher House, which provides housing near hospitals for families of wounded veterans, and information clearinghouses for military families such as America Supports You, as well as the modern USO, all doing their part daily to help military personnel.
Our family just completed a 7,000-mile cross country road trip in an overcrowded SUV this month, visiting military bases and military families and touring historical sites that define America's greatness. We can anecdotally report that more and more people recognize the national disconnect between average citizen and soldier, and are beginning to take action, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community to help military families whose loved ones are abroad.
Those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 answered their country's call to duty with no questions or hesitation. When they and their families need your support in the coming years, will you answer the call?
Mr. Okun is president and CEO of ThanksUSA.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: August 28, 2007, 08:14:36 AM
OTOH perhaps the NIE assessment which affects Stratfor's thinking so much is wide of the mark-- it certainly wouldn't be for the first time our intel has been slow to realize changes on the ground:
This Isn't Civil War
By CARTER ANDRESS
August 28, 2007; Page A13
We are winning this war. I write those words from my desk in the Red Zone in downtown Baghdad as hundreds of Iraqis working with my company -- Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd -- execute security, construction and logistics missions throughout the capital and Sunni Triangle. We have been here now over three years.
American-Iraqi Solutions Group, which I helped co-found in March 2004, has been intimately involved with creating the new Iraqi security services. Our principal business as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor is to build bases for the Iraqi army and police and then supply them with water, food, fuel and maintenance services. We are on the cutting edge of the exit strategy for the U.S. military: Stand up an effective Iraqi security structure and then we can bring our troops home.
We are not out of the Iraqi desert yet. But the primary problems we now face on the ground are controllable, given a strong American military presence through 2008. These problems include the involvement of Iran in fueling Shia militancy, the British failure to uphold their security obligations in the south and the tumultuous nature of a new democracy.
Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker recently said the one word he would choose to describe the feelings of the Iraqi people was "fear." A bad choice, from my observation.
That's not the prevailing state of mind, except maybe for those sheltered souls in the Green Zone who are getting hit on a regular basis for the first time in more than a year by primarily Iranian-supplied rockets and mortars. What I see on the faces of the thousands of Iraqis working with us, including our subcontractors and suppliers as well as on the faces of the Iraqi army and police, patrolling and manning the checkpoints and assisting U.S. soldiers in searching for the insurgents is grim determination to get the job done.
I also see exhaustion -- exhaustion with the insurgency, whether it be al Qaeda, neo-Saddamist, or Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), or the Shia militia of Moqtada al-Sadr. The exhaustion is real, and the evidence of the falling support among the Iraqi people for the insurgency in its various guises is inescapable -- unless you are deliberately looking the other way.
A large proportion of our thousand-man work force -- of which 90% are Iraqi citizens -- comes from Sadr City, the Shia slum in east Baghdad. Many carry weapons. These Shia warriors have emphasized in the past several months that they and their neighbors are tired of conflict and only want to feed their families.
You only have to note the lack of U.S. casualties in the ongoing surge to clear JAM out of the highly dangerous urban terrain of Sadr City to realize that the people there do not want to fight us. They are sick of fighting.
As for Sunni resistance, I recently visited the boot camp we operate for the Iraqi army at Habbaniyah in Al Anbar, former heartland of the insurgency. For the first time we are seeing entire Sunni Arab recruiting cohorts at the camp, where before we only saw Shia from outside the province.
The Sunnis of Al Anbar -- finally tired of al Qaeda assassinating their sheikhs when they disagreed with the terrorists -- have committed their children to the security services of a government dominated by the majority Shias, and paid for and run by the Americans. With such a development, you have real progress in integrating the diverse elements in Iraq.
Slowly but surely, Iraqi security services are building up. You only have to travel outside the Green Zone to see them undertaking heroic risks as they work to control the streets in growing numbers and with growing professionalism. In the past couple of months, the Ministry of the Interior established an operations center for all of Baghdad that effectively coordinates nonmilitary logistics movements throughout the capital -- a function previously only undertaken by a coalition contractor. From chaos has come order and in turn, step by step, the Iraqi military is becoming a truly national, not sectarian, force.
I see no civil war between the Shias and Sunnis as I travel practically every day on the roads of Iraq with my Arab and Kurdish security team. The potential for renewed internecine warfare faded earlier this year, when al Qaeda failed to reignite the waning sectarian struggle the second time around with another attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
The perfect storm at the beginning of 2007 created the necessity of reconciliation. The Sunni Arabs who had used al Qaeda as leverage in the political struggle to re-establish their minority rule faced genocide in Baghdad from the Shia death squads. With pressure from the new Democratic majority in Congress, the Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki realized that time was running out for a dominant American presence in Iraq and finally allowed the U.S. military to clean up Sadr City, thus alleviating the death-squad activities.
Both the Sunni and Shia Arab sides of the Iraqi political equation (the Kurds have sided with us from the beginning) now see that there is no alternative to American protection. As a result, Sadr's people and the Sunnis have both returned to parliament. As always, democracy is messy, but it is working. We have to be patient, particularly because this nascent reconciliation has left al Qaeda as the odd man out.
Just as the rockets landing in the Green Zone are from a foreign source -- Iran -- the jihadis who destroy themselves in explosions aimed primarily at mass killings of Shia civilians are almost all foreigners. This is al Qaeda, not Iraq.
Even more to the point: The Iraqis basically ignore the al Qaeda car bombs, mourn the dead and then go to work, to school, join and continue to serve in the military and police -- and life goes on. There is no terror if no one is terrorized.
Let us, the American people, not be terrorized into retreating before our enemy -- al Qaeda -- just when they have begun to stand alone, stripped of allies, in a country beginning to enjoy the fruits of a democracy we have sacrificed much blood to help create.
Mr. Andress, CEO and principal owner of American-Iraqi Solutions Group, is author of "Contractor Combatants: Tales of an Imbedded Capitalist" (Thomas Nelson, 2007).
IRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country is ready to fill the power vacuum in Iraq. Addressing a press conference in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said the United States' power there is collapsing and that Iran will fill the resulting vacuum "with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: August 28, 2007, 07:48:38 AM
I don't like this piece, but it comes from Stratfor and I search for Truth:
Endgame: American Options in Iraq
The latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) summarizing the U.S. intelligence community's view of Iraq contains two critical findings: First, the Iraqi government is not jelling into an effective entity. Iraq's leaders, according to the NIE, neither can nor want to create an effective coalition government. Second, U.S. military operations under the surge have improved security in some areas, but on the whole have failed to change the underlying strategic situation. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias remain armed, motivated and operational.
Since the Iraq insurgency began in 2003, the United States has had a clear strategic goal: to create a pro-American coalition government in Baghdad. The means for achieving this was the creation of a degree of security through the use of U.S. troops. In this more secure environment, then, a government would form, create its own security and military forces, with the aid of the United States, and prosecute the war with diminishing American support. This government would complete the defeat of the insurgents and would then govern Iraq democratically.
What the NIE is saying is that, more than four years after the war began, the strategic goal has not been achieved -- and there is little evidence that it will be achieved. Security has not increased significantly in Iraq, despite some localized improvement. In other words, the NIE is saying that the United States has failed and there is no strong evidence that it will succeed in the future.
We must be careful with pronouncements from the U.S. intelligence community, but in this case it appears to be stating the obvious. Moreover, given past accusations of skewed intelligence to suit the administration, it is hard to imagine many in the intelligence community risking their reputations and careers to distort findings in favor of an administration with 18 months to go. We think the NIE is reasonable. Therefore, the question is: What is to be done?
For a long time, we have seen U.S.-Iranian negotiations on Iraq as a viable and even likely endgame. We no longer believe that to be the case. For these negotiations to have been successful, each side needed to fear a certain outcome. The Americans had to fear that an ongoing war would drain U.S. resources indefinitely. The Iranians had to fear that the United States would be able to create a viable coalition government in Baghdad or impose a U.S.-backed regime dominated by their historical Sunni rivals.
Following the Republican defeat in Congress in November, U.S. President George W. Bush surprised Iran by increasing U.S. forces in Iraq rather than beginning withdrawals. This created a window of a few months during which Tehran, weighing the risks and rewards, was sufficiently uncertain that it might have opted for an agreement thrusting the Shiites behind a coalition government. That moment has passed. As the NIE points out, the probability of forming any viable government in Baghdad is extremely low. Iran no longer is facing its worst-case scenario. It has no motivation to bail the United States out.
What, then, is the United States to do? In general, three options are available. The first is to maintain the current strategy. This is the administration's point of view. The second is to start a phased withdrawal, beginning sometime in the next few months and concluding when circumstances allow. This is the consensus among most centrist Democrats and a growing number of Republicans. The third is a rapid withdrawal of forces, a position held by a fairly small group mostly but not exclusively on the left. All three conventional options, however, suffer from fatal defects.
Bush's plan to stay the course would appear to make relatively little sense. Having pursued a strategic goal with relatively fixed means for more than four years, it is unclear what would be achieved in years five or six. As the old saw goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different outcome. Unless Bush seriously disagrees with the NIE, it is difficult to make a case for continuing the current course.
Looking at it differently, however, there are these arguments to be made for maintaining the current strategy: Whatever mistakes might have been made in the past, the current reality is that any withdrawal from Iraq would create a vacuum, which would rapidly be filled by Iran. Alternatively, Iraq could become a jihadist haven, focusing attention not only on Iraq but also on targets outside Iraq. After all, a jihadist safe-haven with abundant resources in the heart of the Arab world outweighs the strategic locale of Afghanistan. Therefore, continuing the U.S. presence in Iraq, at the cost of 1,000-2,000 American lives a year, prevents both outcomes, even if Washington no longer has any hope of achieving the original goal.
In other words, the argument is that the operation should continue indefinitely in order to prevent a more dangerous outcome. The problem with this reasoning, as we have said, is that it consumes available ground forces, leaving the United States at risk in other parts of the world. The cost of this decision would be a massive increase of the U.S. Army and Marines, by several divisions at least. This would take several years to achieve and might not be attainable without a draft. In addition, it assumes the insurgents and militias will not themselves grow in size and sophistication, imposing greater and greater casualties on the Americans. The weakness of this argument is that it assumes the United States already is facing the worst its enemies can dish out. The cost could rapidly grow to more than a couple of thousand dead a year.
The second strategy is a phased withdrawal. That appears to be one of the most reasonable, moderate proposals. But consider this: If the mission remains the same -- fight the jihadists and militias in order to increase security -- then a phased withdrawal puts U.S. forces in the position of carrying out the same mission with fewer troops. If the withdrawal is phased over a year or more, as most proposals suggest, it creates a situation in which U.S. forces are fighting an undiminished enemy with a diminished force, without any hope of achieving the strategic goal.
The staged withdrawal would appear to be the worst of all worlds. It continues the war while reducing the already slim chance of success and subjects U.S. forces to increasingly unfavorable correlations of forces. Phased withdrawal would make sense in the context of increasingly effective Iraqi forces under a functional Iraqi government, but that assumes either of these things exists. It assumes the NIE is wrong.
The only context in which phased withdrawal makes sense is with a redefined strategic goal. If the United States begins withdrawing forces, it must accept that the goal of a pro-American government is not going to be reached. Therefore, the troops must have a mission. And the weakness of the phased withdrawal proposals is that they each extend the period of time of the withdrawal without clearly defining the mission of the remaining forces. Without a redefinition, troop levels are reduced over time, but the fighters who remain still are targets -- and still take casualties. The moderate case, then, is the least defensible.
The third option is an immediate withdrawal. Immediate withdrawal is a relative concept, of course, since it is impossible to withdraw 150,000 troops at once. Still, what this would consist of is an immediate cessation of offensive operations and the rapid withdrawal of personnel and equipment. Theoretically, it would be possible to pull out the troops but leave the equipment behind. In practical terms, the process would take about three to six months from the date the order was given.
If withdrawal is the plan, this scenario is more attractive than the phased process. It might increase the level of chaos in Iraq, but that is not certain, nor is it clear whether that is any longer an issue involving the U.S. national interest. Its virtue is that it leads to the same end as phased withdrawal without the continued loss of American lives.
The weakness of this strategy is that it opens the door for Iran to dominate Iraq. Unless the Turks wanted to fight the Iranians, there is no regional force that could stop Iran from moving in, whether covertly, through the infiltration of forces, or overtly. Remember that Iran and Iraq fought a long, vicious war -- in which Iran suffered about a million casualties. This, then, simply would be the culmination of that war in some ways. Certainly the Iranians would face bitter resistance from the Sunnis and Kurds, and even from some Shia. But the Iranians have much higher stakes in this game than the Americans, and they are far less casualty-averse, as the Iran-Iraq war demonstrated. Their pain threshold is set much higher than the Americans' and their willingness to brutally suppress their enemies also is greater.
The fate of Iraq would not be the most important issue. Rather, it would be the future of the Arabian Peninsula. If Iran were to dominate Iraq, its forces could deploy along the Saudi border. With the United States withdrawn from the region -- and only a residual U.S. force remaining in Kuwait -- the United States would have few ways to protect the Saudis, and a limited appetite for more war. Also, the Saudis themselves would not want to come under U.S. protection. Most important, all of the forces in the Arabian Peninsula could not match the Iranian force.
The Iranians would be facing an extraordinary opportunity. At the very least, they could dominate their historical enemy, Iraq. At the next level, they could force the Saudis into a political relationship in which the Saudis had to follow the Iranian lead -- in a way, become a junior partner to Iran. At the next level, the Iranians could seize the Saudi oil fields. And at the most extreme level, the Iranians could conquer Mecca and Medina for the Shia. If the United States has simply withdrawn from the region, these are not farfetched ideas. Who is to stop the Iranians if not the United States? Certainly no native power could do so. And if the United States were to intervene in Saudi Arabia, then what was the point of withdrawal in the first place?
All three conventional options, therefore, contain serious flaws. Continuing the current strategy pursues an unattainable goal. Staged withdrawal exposes fewer U.S. troops to more aggressive enemy action. Rapid withdrawal quickly opens the door for possible Iranian hegemony -- and lays a large part of the world's oil reserves at Iran's feet.
The solution is to be found in redefining the mission, the strategic goal. If the goal of creating a stable, pro-American Iraq no longer is possible, then what is the U.S. national interest? That national interest is to limit the expansion of Iranian power, particularly the Iranian threat to the Arabian Peninsula. This war was not about oil, as some have claimed, although a war in Saudi Arabia certainly would be about oil. At the extreme, the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula by Iran would give Iran control of a huge portion of global energy reserves. That would be a much more potent threat than Iranian nuclear weapons ever could be.
The new U.S. mission, therefore, must be to block Iran in the aftermath of the Iraq war. The United States cannot impose a government on Iraq; the fate of Iraq's heavily populated regions cannot be controlled by the United States. But the United States remains an outstanding military force, particularly against conventional forces. It is not very good at counterinsurgency and never has been. The threat to the Arabian Peninsula from Iran would be primarily a conventional threat -- supplemented possibly by instability among Shia on the peninsula.
The mission would be to position forces in such a way that Iran could not think of moving south into Saudi Arabia. There are a number of ways to achieve this. The United States could base a major force in Kuwait, threatening the flanks of any Iranian force moving south. Alternatively, it could create a series of bases in Iraq, in the largely uninhabited regions south and west of the Euphrates. With air power and cruise missiles, coupled with a force about the size of the U.S. force in South Korea, the United States could pose a devastating threat to any Iranian adventure to the south. Iran would be the dominant power in Baghdad, but the Arabian Peninsula would be protected.
This goal could be achieved through a phased withdrawal from Iraq, along with a rapid withdrawal from the populated areas and an immediate cessation of aggressive operations against jihadists and militia. It would concede what the NIE says is unattainable without conceding to Iran the role of regional hegemon. It would reduce forces in Iraq rapidly, while giving the remaining forces a mission they were designed to fight -- conventional war. And it would rapidly reduce the number of casualties. Most important, it would allow the United States to rebuild its reserves of strategic forces in the event of threats elsewhere in the world.
This is not meant as a policy prescription. Rather, we see it as the likely evolution of U.S. strategic thinking on Iraq. Since negotiation is unlikely, and the three conventional options are each defective in their own way, we see this redeployment as a reasonable alternative that meets the basic requirements. It ends the war in Iraq in terms of casualties, it reduces the force, it contains Iran and it frees most of the force for other missions. Whether Bush or his successor is the decision-maker, we think this is where it must wind up.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: August 27, 2007, 10:33:07 PM
Un amigo en Lima me escribe:
Si ahora leí todo del foro. Lo que mas impacta es el mail de tu madre que esta en la región, porque es horrible la situación en el sur y la tierra no ha parado de temblar desde entonces.
Te quería comentar un fenómeno que acompañó al terremoto: Durante el terremoto se ilumino el cielo (6 40 pm es casi oscuro). En ese momento mucha gente pensó que es el fin del mundo y que la tierra iba a abrirse. Parece que en terremotos muy fuertes la energía soltada en tierra se transforma de alguna manera en el cielo en luz.
Después de mas de una semana se pueden ver avances de ayuda. El sistema no estaba preparado para accionar de manera inmediata. Lo mismo pasó con Defensa civil etc…
La primera semana fue caótica. La gente se desesperaba por que no había agua ni alimento ni electricidad. Mi cuñado fue con víveres a los tres días y me contó lo siguiente:
Primeramente para ir tienes que irte en una camioneta 4x4. Tenia que entrar con 20 soldados a la cuidad y a pesar de la escolta para asegurar su vida arrasaron con los víveres (alimento, carpas etc..) y les arrancaron las cosas de la camioneta. Muchos transportes llegaban solo a las cuidades con víveres, fueron arrancados y a los pueblos mas alejados no llega nada. También afectada esta la serranía de la región. Hasta ahora no llega ayuda.
Lo que mas hacia falta en ese momento era agua. (hasta ahora)
El segundo fin de semana ya se vio avances de la ayuda pero sigue el problema con el agua.
Se mando mucha ropa (2100 toneladas fueron juntados en Lima y enviados al sur) y se dono 2 millones 700 mil Soles desde Lima a los hermanos del sur. Falta ahora carpas de emergencia para la gente, seguridad, atención medica y en muchas partes electricidad y agua.
Es un invierno en la costa muy frió este año y con la humedad tan alta es un verdadero problema para toda la gente que vive afuera.
La situación esta un poco mejor en algunas zonas y regiones donde volvió la electricidad. Se esta haciendo censo y también otras cosas de carácter organisatario.
El enfoque esta ahora también en la reconstrucción de las cuidades y en soluciones rápidas para toda la gente que quedo al aire libre. Motiva ver también al ejemplo de Colombia donde fueron destruidas dos cuidades y ahora quedaron modernas y bonitas.
Estamos todos conscientes que las casas en la región del sur tienen sus 100 años y que la mayoría esta construida de adobe. Por radio escuché como reporteros sobrevolaron la región y dieron justo el ejemplo de Humay que estaba al 70% destruida.
La región es una región muy rica y que tiene muchos productos de agricultura para la exportación. La visión es ahora reconstruir viviendas modernas y antisísmicas y incentivar con nuevos proyectos la exportación. Eso en mi opinión seria algo muy saludable porque se estaría dando un paso para la descentralización que urge hace mucho tiempo. Con trabajo creado (la construcción muevo muchos sectores de la economía) por la reconstrucción que tiene que ser moderna y bonita, mas los trabajos que crean las industrias de la agricultura podría surgir de la tragedia a medio plazo algo muy fructífero.
El presidente dio tres órdenes:
1. Desde Cerro Azul (playa 120 km al sur de Lima) hasta Chincha van a construir ahora la carretera mas moderna del Perú.
2. Se va a construir un aeropuerto en Pisco.
3. Van a concesionar el puerto marítimo de Pisco.
Ha llegado ayuda del extranjero (España reaccionó rápido) y la gente en Perú se solidarizo.
Eso fue lo positivo hasta ahora…
Metidas de pata:
1. Después del terremoto Alan García le habló al pueblo por la televisión:
“Felizmente no hubo tanto daño…”(en ese momento se pensó en Lima que solo habían
muerto tres personas-por falta de comunicación que cayó completamente)
2. A la semana aparecieron en la región afectada latas de atún con imágenes de Humala y también de Chávez. Humala dijo que no venia de ellos y que eso era de muy mal gusto.
3. Ministro Rafael Rey regala como agradecimiento a los países que apoyaron en la
región del sur, botellas de Pisco con una etiqueta que dice Pisco 7.9 (como el terremoto en la
scala Richter). Al día siguiente retiró las botellas porque a todo el mundo le pareció muy
desplazado y que se podría mal interpretar.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: August 27, 2007, 09:57:10 PM
The Right to Assembly
By DANIEL SCHWAMMENTHAL
August 27, 2007
"I'm a free thinker," says Freddy Thielemans. Really? Many critics now doubt it after the socialist mayor of Brussels banned a demonstration under the slogan of "Stop the Islamization of Europe" (SIOE).
The rally was scheduled for Sept. 11, and the organizers from Germany, Britain and Denmark had planned to bring about 20,000 people from all over Europe to protest not just Islamist terrorism but what they call the "creeping" introduction of Shariah law in their societies. The march would have ended in front of the European Parliament with a minute of silence for the victims of the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. The organizers now hope that Belgium's administrative court will overrule the mayor's decision tomorrow and allow the rally to proceed as planned.
In the meantime, the ugly word of censorship has been making the rounds. The suspicion gained even more currency when, around the time of his Aug. 9 decision to ban the anti-Islamization protest, Mr. Thielemans authorized an anti-American demonstration slated for Sept. 9. "United for Truth," a loose group of anticapitalists and conspiracy theorists, suggests that the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attacks and demands an end to "state terrorism."
Even so, Mr. Thielemans rejects any questioning of his democratic credentials. The demonstrators' ideology had nothing to do with his decisions, he says. It was all a matter of public security. While there are no indications that the "United for Truth" rally could turn violent, he adds, the same could not be said about SIOE. The police have warned of "a very strong possibility that there will be a breach of peace" at the SIOE march, he told me in his office Friday.
As the mayor of not just Belgium's but Europe's capital, shouldn't he rather err on the side of political freedom? Not in this instance, Mr. Thielemans shoots back. "I won't have Brussels regarded as the capital of racism, that's what I think for sure." Apparently, anti-Americanism doesn't qualify as racism. At any rate, the mayor's characterization of the SIOE protesters seemed to contradict his previous statement that political disagreements had nothing to do with his decision to ban the protest. Pressed on that point, he acknowledged that he has little sympathy for the group but reiterated that his decision was purely based on security reasons. He also qualified his racism charge, admitting that he didn't know enough about the people organizing SIOE.
"But when they consider a community as a whole as a danger, that is disturbing," he said. "I don't mean they intentionally wanted to be racist but it turns into racism in my eyes....The oversimplification of ideas is always a risk."
True, the organizers paint with a broad brush and often care little for nuances. "We have a difficulty with the concept of 'moderate' Islam because the Muslim world is moving toward what the media call 'radical' Islam," Stephen Gash, one of the British organizers, told me over the phone. No doubt their message can be provocative or even extreme, especially when it includes calls for a halt to Muslim immigration.
Yet you don't have to sympathize with the speakers to believe in free speech. Beyond that, banning the protest partly out of fear of violent reactions from Muslims would seem to bolster the protesters' point. If Muslim radicals decide the level of debate about Islam in Europe, doesn't it show that "Islamization," the erosion of traditional European liberties, is a reality? Mr. Thielemans did not address that irony. He said instead that he's not only worried about Muslims reacting violently to a SIOE march. "A number of democrats announced that they'd react too," he said, along with "NGOs that are in favor of peace and integration." It's difficult to see how people who threaten to disrupt a demonstration can be called "democrats" or "in favor of peace." Pressed on the point that the organizers should not be limited in their democratic rights due to what their opponents might do, Mr. Thielemans eventually agreed. In fact, if the counterprotesters were his only worry, he said, he'd probably let the demonstration go ahead. What really concerns him, the mayor said, is the possibility of violent racists infiltrating the protest, mingling among peaceful demonstrators and provoking and attacking foreigners. The mayor says that police have discovered extremist Web sites calling on their followers to join the protest and cause trouble.
Unfortunately, many demonstrations contain the possibility of turning violent and some in the end do so. It is the job of the police to nip such violence in the bud and arrest troublemakers. The pre-emptive strike of banning the entire protest seems justified only if the threat to public safety is significant.
How significant is the threat in this case? The mayor didn't elaborate. He couldn't even say how many potentially violent racist protesters were expected. "That's hard to say. And on top of it you are sometimes astonished -- even people you would never expect can react strangely," he said. "A part of the analysis always remains in the dark."
During our interview at least, not much of this analysis ever came to light. The mayor pointed to a "recent" demonstration in the U.K. where, he said, racist protesters attacked nonwhite bystanders: "The phenomenon would be similar to what happened in London. I don't remember the date but the police absolutely referred to it. It was very violent."
When that particular demonstration took place and what exactly happened remains a mystery. Oddly, Mayor Thielemans didn't know the specifics of an event that apparently was important in his decision to limit civil liberties in his town. His spokesman promised to provide details later about this London protest but never delivered. Whatever happened, it can hardly have been a major race riot. That's not the sort of thing that goes unnoticed in Europe these days.
Of course, the mayor is responsible for public security. If a controversial demonstration that he approved a permit for were to turn violent, he would be held responsible.
Yet freedom of speech, particularly controversial speech, is also a treasured good in a democracy. In this instance, moreover, any immediate threat to public security perhaps should be weighed against a potential long-term threat to peace. Among other things, banning the SIOE demonstration will embolden Muslim radicals by suggesting that violence, or the fear of it, is the way to manipulate freedom lovers. Arguably, a ban may also undermine faith among ordinary people that their concerns about radical Islam can be voiced, and addressed, in a democratic fashion. Perhaps the court will consider this at tomorrow's hearing.
Mr. Schwammenthal edits the State of the Union column.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: August 27, 2007, 09:51:45 PM
If Iraq Falls
By JOSEF JOFFE
August 27, 2007; Page A11
In contrast to President Bush's dark comparison between Iraq and the bloody aftermath of the Vietnam War last week, there is another, comforting version of the Vietnam analogy that's gained currency among policy makers and pundits. It goes something like this:
After that last helicopter took off from the U.S. embassy in Saigon 32 years ago, the nasty strategic consequences then predicted did not in fact materialize. The "dominoes" did not fall, the Russians and Chinese did not take over, and America remained No. 1 in Southeast Asia and in the world.
But alas, cut-and-run from Iraq will not have the same serendipitous aftermath, because Iraq is not at all like Vietnam.
Unlike Iraq, Vietnam was a peripheral arena of the Cold War. Strategic resources like oil were not at stake, and neither were bases (OK, Moscow obtained access to Da Nang and Cam Ranh Bay for a while). In the global hierarchy of power, Vietnam was a pawn, not a pillar, and the decisive battle lines at the time were drawn in Europe, not in Southeast Asia.
The Middle East, by contrast, was always the "elephant path of history," as Israel's fabled defense minister, Moshe Dayan, put it. Legions of conquerors have marched up and down the Levant, and from Alexander's Macedonia all the way to India. Other prominent visitors were Julius Caesar, Napoleon and the German Wehrmacht.
This is not just ancient history. Today, the Greater Middle East is a cauldron even Macbeth's witches would be terrified to touch. The world's worst political and religious pathologies combine with oil and gas, terrorism and nuclear ambitions.
In short, unlike yesterday's Vietnam, the Greater Middle East (including Turkey) is the central strategic arena of the 21st century, as Europe was in the 20th. This is where three continents -- Europe, Asia, and Africa -- are joined. So let's take a moment to think about what would happen once that last Blackhawk took off from Baghdad International.
Here is a short list. Iran advances to No. 1, completing its nuclear-arms program undeterred and unhindered. America's cowed Sunni allies -- Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, the oil-rich "Gulfies" -- are drawn into the Khomeinist orbit.
You might ask: Wouldn't they converge in a mighty anti-Tehran alliance instead? Think again. The local players have never managed to establish a regional balance of power; it was always outsiders -- first Britain, then the U.S. -- who chastened the malfeasants and blocked anti-Western intruders like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.
With the U.S. gone from Iraq, emboldened jihadi forces shift to Afghanistan and turn it again into a bastion of Terror International. Syria reclaims Lebanon, which it has always labeled as a part of "Great Syria." Hezbollah and Hamas, both funded and equipped by Tehran, resume their war against Israel. Russia, extruded from the Middle East by adroit Kissingerian diplomacy in the 1970s, rebuilds its anti-Western alliances. In Iraq, the war escalates, unleashing even more torrents of refugees and provoking outside intervention, if not partition.
Now, let's look beyond the region. The Europeans will be the first to revise their romantic notions of multipolarity, or world governance by committee. For worse than an overbearing, in-your-face America is a weakened and demoralized one. Shall Vladimir Putin's Russia acquire a controlling stake? This ruthlessly revisionist power wants revenge for its post-Gorbachev humiliation, not responsibility.
China with its fabulous riches? The Middle Kingdom is still happily counting its currency surpluses as it pretties up its act for the 2008 Olympics, but watch its next play if the U.S. quits the highest stakes game in Iraq. The message from Beijing might well read: "Move over America, the Western Pacific, as you call it, is our lake."
Europe? It is wealthy, populous and well-ordered. But strategic players those 27 member-states of the E.U. are not. They cannot pacify the Middle East, stop the Iranian bomb or keep Mr. Putin from wielding gas pipelines as tools of "persuasion." When the Europeans did wade into the fray, as in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, they let the U.S. Air Force go first.
Now to the upside. The U.S. may have spent piles of chips foolishly, but it is still the richest player at the global gaming table. In the Bush years, the U.S. may have squandered tons of political capital, but then the rest of the world is not exactly making up for the shortfall.
Nor has the U.S. become a "dispensable nation." That is the most remarkable truth in these trying times. Its enemies from al Qaeda to Iran -- and its rivals from Russia to China -- can disrupt and defy, but they cannot build and lead.
For all the damage to Washington's reputation, nothing of great import can be achieved without, let alone against, the U.S. Can Moscow and Beijing bring peace to Palestine? Or mend a global financial system battered by the subprime crisis? Where are the central banks of Russia and China?
The Bush presidency will soon be on the way out, but America is not. This truth has recently begun to sink in among the major Democratic contenders. Listen to Hillary Clinton, who would leave "residual forces" to fight terrorism. Or to Barack Obama, who would stay in Iraq with an as-yet-unspecified force. Even the most leftish of them all, John Edwards, would keep troops around to stop genocide in Iraq or to prevent violence from spilling over into the neighborhood. And no wonder, for it might be one of them who will have to deal with the bitter aftermath if the U.S. slinks out of Iraq.
These realists have it right. Withdrawal cannot serve America's interests on the day after tomorrow. Friends and foes will ask: If this superpower doesn't care about the world's central and most dangerous stage -- what will it care about?
America's allies will look for insurance elsewhere. And the others will muse: If the police won't stay in this most critical of neighborhoods, why not break a few windows, or just take over? The U.S. as "Gulliver Unbound" may have stumbled during its "unipolar" moment. But as giant with feet of clay, it will do worse: and so will the rest of the world.
Mr. Joffe is publisher-editor of Die Zeit, the German weekly and will be teaching foreign policy at Stanford University this fall. His latest book is "Überpower: The Imperial Temptation of America." (Norton, 2006).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: August 27, 2007, 09:20:29 PM
August 27, 2007; Page A10
At the most recent Republican Presidential debate, on August 5, Mitt Romney said on health care: "We have to have our citizens insured. And we're not going to do that by tax exemptions because the people that don't have insurance aren't paying taxes. What you have to do is what we did in Massachusetts."
Well, maybe not. In Florida on Friday, the former Bay State Governor laid out in detail his plan for overhauling the health-care system. Its main emphasis was on federalism, allowing the states to work out their own approaches. To do so they'd get some crucial free-market assistance from a Romney Administration, including efforts to deregulate the private insurance markets -- and even reform the tax code.
So this is a step forward for Mr. Romney on health policy, largely because it doesn't take Massachusetts as its model. Though he still regards that state's 2006 "universal" health insurance program as one of his signal achievements as Governor, his new proposal drops the most coercive elements, such as the individual mandate and the "pay or play" sanctions on businesses. Perhaps this intellectual progress is due to the influence of new Romney advisers Glenn Hubbard and John Cogan, both respected health-care economists.
In his new plan, Mr. Romney would address the core problem: distortions introduced by the tax code. Businesses are allowed to deduct the cost of providing health insurance to their employees, but individuals can't do the same. This bias creates third-party payer problems for the insured and raises prices for everyone else. The Romney plan would allow those who purchase policies on the individual market to fully deduct all premiums, deductibles and copays, thus restoring the tax parity of health dollars.
It would also offer incentives for health savings accounts, which set aside pre-tax dollars for medical expenses. And it would include medical malpractice reform with teeth -- specialized health courts and caps on punitive and non-economic damages.
Also constructive is Mr. Romney's proposal to turn today's open-ended Medicaid entitlement into federal block grants to the states, and do likewise for federal uncompensated care funds. That would give states maximum flexibility to tailor health plans to their own needs. Mr. Romney hopes the states will create plans to cover the lower- to middle-income uninsured -- and ideally, to help them buy their own private policies.
This pool of federal money would also be leverage to persuade states to make insurance more affordable. In practice, that means doing away with the costly mandates and regulations that many states have imposed. It's a good idea, but we question the willingness of states to actually do so, given that the government health trend has been toward increased centralization and intervention in the marketplace. That was one of the greatest limitations of Governor Romney's plan: Massachusetts did not deregulate before requiring individuals to acquire insurance.
Rather than forcing people to buy plans approved by their state, a better idea would be to allow insurers to sell plans across state lines. This would retain the federalist approach, but individuals could choose which state regulations to buy into, creating a "regulatory marketplace." We suspect there'd be an insurance exodus from Massachusetts, which, for instance, requires plans to cover chiropractic services and in vitro fertilization.
One key difference with Rudy Giuliani, who has also proposed similar changes to the tax code, is that the former New York Mayor would allow for interstate insurance and Mr. Romney would not. Mr. Romney says that the logistical difficulties would become a "camel's nose" for national insurance regulations. Maybe so, but that is always a risk with federalism. A far worse camel's nose is the "universal" plan Mr. Romney championed in Massachusetts. As Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards put it, "If universal health care was good enough for Massachusetts, why isn't it good enough for the rest of the country?"
It's not an unfair question. Mr. Romney's Bay State legacy is now praised by liberals as a prototype for national policy. That's done a great deal to set back the kind of tax reform that he now espouses. The issue for GOP primary voters to consider is why he went in such a different direction in Boston. Granted, a mere Governor couldn't restructure the federal tax code, and he was dealing with a far-left legislature. Yet his willingness to compromise in Massachusetts on core matters of principle, and then trumpet those statist policies as a "free-market" solution, raises questions about how far and easily he'd bend to a Democratic Congress.
Mr. Romney's conversion to free-market health-care thinking is nonetheless welcome -- assuming he believes it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia
on: August 27, 2007, 09:11:40 PM
Georgia on His Mind
The former Soviet republic is becoming a shining star. But will Russia drag it back into darkness?
BY MELIK KAYLAN
Saturday, August 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
TBILISI, Georgia--On Aug. 8, a missile the size of a bus struck near a village some 50 miles north of this Eurasian country's capital city, Tbilisi. It failed to explode. In all likelihood the missile came from Russian jet fighters violating Georgian airspace, as Georgians quickly claimed--the incident was eerily similar to one in March, when Russian attack helicopters flew at night and, without provocation, fired missiles into Georgian territory.
In both cases, Georgian authorities showed the world radar flight path data as proof. The world did nothing the first time, and will likely do nothing again. Meanwhile, unexplained incursions continue daily. This is the kind of near-lethal brinkmanship which Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili believes will only encourage more belligerence from Russia.
Mr. Saakashvili has spent his first 3 1/2 years in office impelling his country forward economically, courting NATO and European Union membership, eradicating corruption and trying to woo Russian-supported secessionists back into the fold. Above all, he strives daily to keep his country, with a population of four million, on the mind of Western nations so its security and success will seem synonymous with theirs--and keep the Russians at bay. The Russians still seem to perceive post-Soviet Georgian independence as a kind of betrayal, responding with an array of destabilizing policies, such as the imposition of embargoes on Georgian goods.
Earlier this summer, I spent some time with Georgia's president, checking on his progress. He has quite a story to tell, particularly about the economy. According to Mr. Saakashvili, Georgia's GDP was less than $3 billion five years ago. It's now $8 billion and will double in three years, and he is straightforward about his inspiration.
"I finally met Margaret Thatcher in London this year," he shouts over the noise of helicopter engines as we fly adjacent to the snow-peaked Caucasus mountains. "I always admired her, and I always thought, if I could do in Georgia a fraction of what she did in the U.K., I would be very happy. . . . And she said to me, 'You are doing all the things in Georgia that I wanted to do in the U.K. and more . . .' "
It's a strange place for an interview, but Mr. Saakashvili keeps a merciless schedule. On this day, after a speech in the main square of Tbilisi, he is presiding over five separate ribbon-cutting ceremonies around the country.
We begin the tour with a three-kilometer visit down a coal mine that has sat unused for 15 years, with the mining community above it going to ruin. It is now being revitalized with German money and machinery. We end the tour past midnight, at a new Turkish-built airport at the resurgent Black Sea resort of Batoumi.
Just four years ago, before the nonviolent Rose Revolution disposed of the Shevardnadze regime and soon voted in Mr. Saakashvili, Georgia was widely considered a failed state on a par with Zimbabwe--with corruption rampant, a stagnant economy and several civil wars smoldering.
That's changing. Three years ago, Mr. Saakashvili famously fired 15,000 traffic policemen and dissolved the pervasive bribery ethos in one stroke. The country is booming: Everywhere new hotels, factories and well-lit roads proclaim the changes. Even the old Soviet tower blocks look festive and newly painted. Foreign investment flows in from every quarter: Kazakhstan to the east, Turkey to the south, Europe and the U.S., the Gulf States, even from Russia, despite all of Mr. Putin's embargoes--and despite the shadow of two secessionist "black holes" inside Georgia backed by Russian arms and money: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Mr. Saakashvili points out a little town in the distance, Tskhinvali, the disputed heart of South Ossetia, nothing more than a sprinkling of houses on a rise of farmland deep inside Georgian territory. "We've offered them everything they want . . . language rights, their own political structures, cross-border rights to their fellow Ossetians. . . . They probably would agree if they were free to do so."
I point down to the terrain beneath us and comment that if the well-regulated squares of green fields down below are any indication, Georgia's agriculture is doing well. "In Soviet times," he says, "all this was a chaotic mess. In contrast, you'd fly over Western Europe and see miles of perfectly cultivated land. . . . Now Georgia is the same. It's beautiful to look at. That's the aesthetic look of the free market."
A day or two later, at a dinner for Georgian businessmen, the president delivers a speech hammering home his well-honed message of self-help. "The government is going to help you in the best way possible, by doing nothing for you, by getting out of your way. Well, I exaggerate but you understand. Of course we will provide you with infrastructure, and help by getting rid of corruption, but you have all succeeded by your own initiative and enterprise, so you should congratulate yourselves."
Mr. Saakashvili's style of leadership feels like a permanent political campaign--which it is, in a way. He seems determined to show citizens how it's being done, visibly to demonstrate accountability, transparency and political process, so they grow accustomed to the sight of politicians answering to them--in short, to Western political habits. All the while, he's exhorting and explaining, striving to change attitudes ingrained through decades of Soviet rule and 15 years of stagnation, strife and corruption. "I keep telling people that this is not a process like some silver-backed gorilla leading them to new pastures. They must do it themselves, and they are."
Mr. Saakashvili famously gets very little sleep, calling his aides at 2 a.m. to remind them of neglected tasks. During the day, he never stops moving.
On one occasion, a sudden onset of severe bad weather forces down both his helicopter--and the one behind it that is full of his security--in farmland beside a small town. No matter. His aides borrow what conveyances they can, and we end up with the president driving a 1956 Volga modeled on a postwar American Dodge. As the sleet and hail hammer down, the car lurches along and we all double up in helpless laughter because the windshield wipers don't work. Mr. Saakashvili sticks one free arm out the driver's-side window to wipe the windshield manually while he drives.
At one point I ask him if security and dealing with Russian threats are a top priority. "We have two limbs of Georgia which are currently detached," he says, careful not to sound provocative, "and we have a hostile, powerful northern neighbor, even more powerful every day with oil money. But we can't be living in a state of gloom and paranoia. . . . When the Russians imposed the embargo on our wines, we simply found new markets. Like-minded countries such as Poland and the Baltic states actively sought out our products.
"When Russia cut off gas supplies, we had to work on developing new sources. So we're developing hydro-power and coal and nuclear energy. Next year, we'll be fully supplied by Azerbaijani power. . . . Everyone said we'd never survive but our success gives confidence to everyone else."
Mr. Saakashvili notes that his country had to diversify its markets anyway. "Georgia's natural strength is its role as a crossroads both culturally and geographically. It was always a kind of bridge on the old Silk Road. So we're building up our highway system; we're completing our rail link from Batoumi to Istanbul through to Europe; we've got the new international airport there.
"Eastwards we're connecting all the way to China via a ferry across the Caspian. It will offer an alternative to the trans-Siberian railway. And of course, the same goes for pipelines such as the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline which goes through Georgia."
I ask him if the Russians are making a big push now with maximum pressure while they can, realizing that before long, consumer countries will develop alternate supply routes to avoid Russian strategic pressure. "No, I don't think the Russians are calculating logically or strategically," he says. "I think it's an emotional and volatile process for them. Logically, they should realize that stable relations all around will pay off for them more in the long run. Instead they're driving countries to find alternative partners . . ."
He also speaks about Russia's domestic anti-Georgian campaign. "It wasn't working very effectively until they actually went to all the schools and asked for a list of all the children with Georgian names. Suddenly, the parents realized this was serious. That and the endless corruption of the Russian system became unbearable for them--so now we have tens of thousands of qualified Georgians . . . coming back and repatriating their money to Georgia."
There is a general sense in Georgia that the U.S. could be more supportive but badly needs Russian help over such critical areas as Iran, North Korea and the fight against terror. Does Mr. Saakashvili think that the U.S. could do more? "All we ask for is moral support," he answers. "It's all about shared values. You can see that the U.S. has a lot of moral authority here. We have a historic sympathy for the U.S. and the West. America should know how strong it still is and keep up the pressure at the highest levels. It should help enhance stability and serve as a deterrent to Russian adventurism."
Mr. Saakashvili also says that "Europe is waking up. After the French election, I was invited on a full state visit. That did not happen in the time of [former President Jacques] Chirac--he had other priorities. Europe is becoming aware that it must engage with the 'near abroad' region between itself and Russia. Europe is ending its false pragmatism.
"In return," he continues, "we are doing our utmost to stay engaged in the international community and to fulfill our obligations. Georgia has 2,000 troops in Iraq now deploying to the Iran border . . . to interdict arms smuggling across the border and we have told them not to be passive--[instead] to be active and get results. Before now they were in the Green Zone but now they will be acting as part of the surge, going wherever US troops can go. . . . failure in Iraq will be a disaster for everyone.
"For us it's also a matter of national pride. Georgian soldiers have always been famous for their courage but they've never fought as Georgians--they've always fought in others' armies. We've had generals in Mameluke, Russian and Soviet armies--even top U.S. generals. Now they will be serving in our name and for our country. In the 1920s Georgian officers fought for Polish independence to keep out the Bolsheviks (Retired U.S. Gen. John Shalikashvili's father was one.) Poland has just put up a monument to those officers (to the chagrin of Mr. Putin)."
Nearing the end of our time together, I ask Mr. Saakashvili, whose administration will surely be remembered for the number and pace of its reforms, if he feels he can let up. Is he on schedule, and what's left undone?
Mr. Saakashvili responds by stressing the importance of integrating Georgia's ethnic minorities. "There used to be areas where only Russian was spoken and the central government had no influence. Now they are all voluntarily learning Georgian. It's important that we show an example to secessionist zones, that they have nothing to fear, that in fact their identity will be better protected by us than Russia."
He also speaks about the vital importance of "ridding ourselves of corruption," of reaching "the point of irreversibility. That's why we are in a hurry. If you relax on corruption it will come back in two months."
Mr. Saakashvili notes of his own country as well as many others emerging from the shadows of communism: "These are not societies with much experience in democratic processes. In parts of Eastern Europe they keep electing useless populists who are corrupt. So far the people here have made the right choices but we must govern in a way that's instructional and symbolic so it settles in the public's consciousness, and they learn to evaluate you by achievement. Democracy means constantly outperforming yourself or you are out on your backside. That's as it should be."
As night falls, back in the sky, we fly close enough to the Abkhazia border to see the contrast between well-lit Georgia and Russian darkness over the secessionist zone. From up above, and on the ground, the symbolism is clear enough.
But to Mr. Saakashvili, the more important issue might be: Is this distinction clear to his friends in the West--and how far will they go to stop the darkness from spilling over into Georgia?
Mr. Kaylan is a writer living in New York.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Takes a lickin', keeps on tickin'
on: August 27, 2007, 08:34:00 PM
Washington Post, Saturday, August 25, 2007; B04
Guard's Husband Charged in Stabbing
D.C. police have arrested a man accused of stabbing his wife at the Southeast Washington elementary school where she was working as a security guard.
Police say Dwayne Porter, 29, entered Ferebee-Hope Elementary School just after 2 p.m. Thursday and stabbed his wife 16 times. His wife, who was not identified in charging documents because she is a witness, is employed by Hawk One Security.
Porter, of the 400 block of Taylor Street NE, has been married to his wife for about five years, and she is the mother of his 2- and 6-year-old children, according to court documents.
His wife was taken to a hospital in critical but stable condition, authorities said. Before she was taken into surgery, she told police that Porter accused her of cheating on him, stabbed her with a pocketknife and fled the scene, according to court documents.
According to court records, police contacted Porter's mother, who said her son had told her that he was going to jail because "I stabbed her." She told police Porter was at her home, in the 1200 block of Perry Street NE, and wanted to turn himself in.
Police arrested Porter at his mother's home Thursday night. After waiving his rights, Porter told police that he had stabbed his wife, authorities said. Porter was charged with assault with intent to kill while armed. He is scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court today.
-- Jenna Johnson
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics
on: August 27, 2007, 07:16:05 PM
A Setback for Socialized Medicine
Hillary Clinton may think bigger government is needed to decide how much Americans should spend on health care and on whom they should spend it. Don't tell that to patients or employers, who've already had enough of third-party diktats thanks to the current system's overreliance on insurance bureaucracies.
For years, visionaries pushed the idea of restoring an active consumer to the equation through the creation of health savings accounts. Guess what? Since HSAs were finally put on an equal tax basis with employer-provided insurance three years ago, no innovation in the history of health insurance has grown as fast. By the end of this year, some eight million Americans will be buying a portion of their medical care with HSA savings, up from 4.5 million in 2006. Savers will have parked about $13.6 billion in the accounts, up from $5.1 billion in 2006.
Liberals complain that HSAs are a "tax break" for wealthy and healthy Americans. In reality, Ms. Clinton and her allies oppose HSAs because they are a cure for the overspending, cost-shifting and inefficiency that otherwise are driving the system towards a government takeover. HSAs work because they restore a consumer's incentive to shop around for cost-effective health care.
Perhaps the best news is that 40% of employers will offer HSAs by year's end, according to Americans for Tax Reform. John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis foresees a critical threshold coming when enough Americans will have these plans that hospitals and doctors will be forced to publish price lists and reduce their costs and improve services to gain customers. That's the way the free-enterprise system works in just about every other industry.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey
on: August 27, 2007, 05:01:51 PM
TURKEY: The Turkish military will safeguard a secular and democratic Turkey against the "evil" Islamic forces in the upcoming presidential election, military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit states on the military's Web site. The military has seized power from civilian governments three times in the past and has threatened to do so again if presidential candidate Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul wins the election.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: August 27, 2007, 12:41:23 AM
From the desk of Paul Belien on Thu, 2007-08-23 11:38
The Arab-European League (AEL), a pro-Hezbollah organization of Arab immigrants in Belgium and the Netherlands, is rallying its members to march in Brussels on 11 September “against Islamophobia and racism in Europe.” The AEL demonstration is a response to the request by the Danish-British-German organization Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) for permission to demonstrate on 9/11 in front of the European Union’s buildings in Brussels against the introduction of Sharia laws in Europe.
Two weeks ago the SIOE demonstration was banned by Freddy Thielemans, the mayor of Brussels. According to Mr Thielemans the SIOE demonstration is a criminal offence because it “incite
to discrimination and hatred, which we usually call racism and xenophobia. [This] is forbidden by a considerable number of international treaties and is punished by our penal laws and by the European legislation.”
SIOE has initiated an appeal against the mayor’s ban before the Belgian Council of State. The CoS is expected to issue its verdict next week. Last week Mayor Thielemans gave permission for a demonstration in Brussels on 9 September by United for Truth (UfT), a group which claims that the terror attacks of 9/11/2001 on the WTC towers in NY and on the Pentagon were organized by the American government.
On its website UfT writes that the Brussels authorities, before giving permission for the UfT demonstration, checked that the demonstration would not address religious topics. “The biggest issue was if there was any possible conflict [of our demonstration] with religion. As we just base ourselves on facts and political issues, we have no intention to discriminate or promote any religion.”
Yesterday the Arab-European League issued a press release emphasizing that its own demonstration on 11 September, which so far has not received the mayor’s permission (Thielemans is waiting for the advice of the police), will not criticize any religion. “The AEL respects everyone’s religious convictions, culture and language […]. The demand for respect for every religious conviction is the central theme [of the demonstration].” The AEL says that freedom of expression is an absolute right, stressing that the organization did not ask for the SIOE demo to be forbidden. “However, the right to have one’s religious convictions, culture and language respected is an equally absolute right.”
The AEL was founded in Belgium in 2000. Its founder, Lebanese-born Hezbollah-member Dyab Abu Jahjah, has called the 9/11/2001 attacks “sweet revenge.” Following the Danish cartoon affair the AEL, advocating unrestricted freedom of speech, published anti-Semitic cartoons which deny the Holocaust. Though such denial is illegal in Belgium, the Belgian authorities failed to take any action. The AEL also demands that Arabic be recognized as an official language in Belgium.
The organization says it stands for three basic demands. “Bilingual education for Arab-speaking kids, hiring quotas that protect Muslims, and the right to keep our cultural customs.” According to Jahjah “Assimilation is cultural rape. It means renouncing your identity, becoming like the others.” In 2002 an AEL demonstration in Antwerp led to street riots and anti-Semitic violence. The AEL wants “the Jewish community in Antwerp to cease its support of, and distance itself
ITALY: MUSLIM TRIES TO WALL UP STATUE OF THE MADONNA
(ANSAmed) - LECCO, AUGUST 21 - A Muslim immigrant triggered a northern villagés ire today by trying to wall up a local statue of the Madonna. The immigrant recently moved in to a new home in the village of Casatenovo near Lecco but was unhappy with the Madonna perched on an alcove outside his lodgings. Armed with a trowel and a bucket of cement, the immigrant moved in to action today, seeking to entomb the statue. The Madonna was rescued at the last minute by a group of angry villagers, who took her away saying they would find an alternative site. But local Mayor Antonio Colombo said the Madonna should be returned to her original resting place. He also threatened to take action against the immigrant, whose actions he described as "arbitrary and uncivilised". "Despicable and intolerant gestures of this sort must not be allowed to undermine our efforts to create a harmonious society based on mutual respect for different idea, traditions and religious convictions," Colombo said.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Blog de Cecilio Andrade
on: August 26, 2007, 10:51:39 PM
Nunca he conocido a Cecilio, pero si' se de su buenisima reputacion a traves de Gabe Suarez y ahora por tu parte tambien. Estoy tremendemente feliz ver su participacion aqui en nuestro foro.
Cecilio, aqui esta's en tu casa.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: August 26, 2007, 01:15:04 AM
From our friend CWS:
23 Aug 07
More on the subject. This is from a fellow Training Officer with a large PD:
"Two of our patrol officers were just involved (Tuesday) in what was nearly a
lethal fight with a robbery suspect in, of all places, a fast-food restaurant
Our officer was in foot-pursuit of a single, bank-robber suspect. The suspect
had at least one pistol with him that he had used to threaten bank employees.
He ran into a local fast-food restaurant and hid in the restroom. Our
fleet-footed officer was right on top of him. When he made physical contact,
the suspect stuck his pistol in the officer's stomach. However, our officer
responded instantly by grabbing the suspect's gun and prevented it
from pointing at him. The suspect's pistol never discharged.
The suspect, large and muscular, bit and fought, trying his best to get back
control of his pistol, but was unable to. Our officer was more than a match
for him, but both the officer's hands were occupied, and he was unable to get
to his own pistol.
A second officer entered bathroom moments behind the first. Seeing what was
going on, he jammed his own service pistol (G22) into the side of the suspect's
head and immediately attempted to fire. The pistol did not fire, because the
slide was pushed out of battery far enough to engage the disconnector.
The astonished officer, not understanding why his pistol would not fire,
abandoned efforts to shoot the suspect, and, using his pistol as a club,
savagely beat the suspect's head until the suspect, by then pleading for the
beating to stop, relinquished control of his own pistol and surrendered.
The suspect was taken into custody without further resistance. He suffered
several cuts but no serious injury. Our officers are okay, but shook-up, as
you might imagine!
Both these officers have been on the job for less than two years. During my
investigation, I apologized to both that, during their academy training, they
were apparently never told that their Glock pistols would not fire with the
slide out of battery. Indeed, the subject of contact-shooting was scarcely
addressed at all. The Academy curriculum is currently being updated/corrected
with regard to that.
However, neither officer carried a serious blade nor a back-up pistol, despite
the fact that their academy training did extensively address those subjects. I
instructed both to get serious blades and back-up guns into their lives
straightaway, before something like this happens to them again!"
Comment: We have a grossly inadequate amount of time to train young police
officers, and lethal-force training, it seems, is always least important in the
eyes of many academy administrators, training administrators, and chiefs of
police. For example, in the case of these two officers, the subject of
contact-shooting was never even mentioned. The omission nearly cost them their
Had the second officer's pistol discharged into the suspect's cranium when he
intended for it to, the fight would have almost certainly ended instantly.
However, as mentioned in recent Quips, when attempting contact shots using an
autoloading pistol, there is always the danger (as in the above case) that the
slide will be pushed out of battery, preventing the pistol from firing at all.
And, even when the pistol does discharge as planned, there is the danger that
bone chips, particles of skin and other bodily tissues, and blood will be
blasted into the pistol, preventing it from firing a second shot.
There are several methods for addressing these issues, from physically holding
the slide forward with the support-side hand as the trigger is pressed, to
withdrawing the pistol, performing a tap-rack-resume, and immediately
attempting to fire again, to posthaste transitioning to a back-up revolver and
re-performing the contact shot. All are valid. None are perfect. This issue
is one with which Operators need to be familiar, and which academies need to
teach, along with knife-fighting and other life-saving skills!
24 Aug 07
Why am I always armed? Why do I train continuously?
This from a friend who works in a prison:
"Today, I had an opportunity to hear stories from several violent offenders,
straight from their own lips. All were in excellent physical shape and would
(and do!) put up a serious fight in any situation. I know few people could
prevail against them with only bare hands. When there is more than one, any
one of us would be in serious danger. Put any one of them into regular
clothing, and they would blend right in most anywhere.
One inmate revealed the reason he was in the prison was multiple murders. He
got high on meth one evening and decided to break into a home. He tied up the
terrified (an unarmed) husband and wife, then decided to murder them. With a
pocket knife, he sawed on a woman's neck until he had cut her head off. Before
he himself was similarly murdered, her husband heard every one of her screams
He took the victims' car and headed out of state. On the way, he ran out of
gas, so he stopped another car, murdered the unarmed driver (again with a
pocket knife), and took that car.
He continued to meet and murder people over the next week, seven in three
states. Finally, he returned home, married his girlfriend, and became a
father! Using DNA analysis, detectives secured a warrant for his arrest two
This is just one prison story, and by no means the worst! This institution
alone is full of them."
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: August 25, 2007, 07:48:42 PM
Peru quake victims battle hunger, cold
By EDISON LOPEZ, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 56 minutes ago
PISCO, Peru - An unforgiving wind lashes Juan Escate as he huddles around a
bonfire with his three children, chilling him as he ponders how to fulfill
his wife's dying plea.
Last week's magnitude-8 earthquake sent Escate's home on the outskirts of
Pisco tumbling down, burying his wife Doris in rubble as she rushed their
16-year-old daughter to safety.
"Promise me you'll take care of my children," he says were his wife's last
The quake forced Escate and thousands of others in this impoverished port
city on Peru's central coast into crudely constructed shelters. Icy ocean
winds carry sand from the beaches and people keep watch all night against
Adults say they are given a handful of rice with some potatoes at midday.
Children receive hot oatmeal for breakfast. Civil Defense has distributed
tents to some survivors, but most are still in flimsy makeshift shelters
near their homes made from pieces of wood and plastic sheets.
Escate's eyes are fixed on a giant pot of steaming rice and potatoes. The
food is not for him and his hungry neighbors but for the group of soldiers
protecting the homeless families from robbery - aid is more valuable now
than personal belongings.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. My children were left without a mother
and I have to take care of them alone," said Escate, his hands callused from
years as a garbage collector. The 16-year-old daughter survived but suffered
a fractured hip and is in a Lima hospital.
"She doesn't know her mother has left us," he said, sitting with his three
sons, ages 5, 8 and 10. The youngest was crying, a thick wool blanket up to
his eyes. The other two sat close to their father, listening intently.
More than 85 percent of the homes here were destroyed and at least 340
people were killed in this city of 90,000 according to Civil Defense
officials. Over all, the earthquake killed 514 in several cities, according
to the Civil Defense.
Wrapped in thick, scratchy blankets, survivors listen to the sound of the
crackling fire that burns on one of the few street corners in the San
Clemente district not blocked by dusty rubble.
Juan Camasca, 37, said 50 of his neighbors were lucky enough to eat a small
piece of chicken after one of the community members slaughtered his animals
to feed them.
He said life is hardest on the outskirts of Pisco, where aid is pouring in
and is available in more than a dozen points throughout the city, but
passing by those just outside.
"The aid came for three days after the earthquake," Camasca said. "They gave
us water, hot water even, but they stopped coming." He said he watched his
friends unsuccessfully try to flag down trucks full of food that didn't even
Last week, a 6-week-old infant died of pneumonia after sleeping with her
family outside their badly damaged home in the nearby province of Canete.
Family members were worried that the house would topple over from one of the
strong aftershocks, which continued for days. They complained that
humanitarian aid did not reach them.
President Alan Garcia announced this week that electricity had returned to
much of the devastated region. But large areas of Pisco remain without
lights. Bonfires illuminate the shadows in the tent cities on its outskirts.
The government has said that rebuilding coastal towns will cost about $220
Ten people are sleeping in Escate's shelter, lighted by a candle stuck
precariously to a wooden plank. Two soldiers peek through the blanket that
serves as the door, to make sure everyone is safe.
"A group of people who came by car tried to loot here, but the town drove
them out and they were captured," said Jorge Huaman, a soldier patrolling
the area, rubbing his hands together to keep warm.
Food is scarce, and government aid has been patchy, especially to rural
areas. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Margareta Wahlstrom, the deputy
emergency relief coordinator, said there is enough water, food, sheeting and
blankets in the country, but that aid efforts here have been poorly
"There've been many actors in place, and there hasn't been good enough
coordination so that the direction the government has given has been
suitably followed," she said Friday.
Garcia's government has also blamed the country's Civil Defense for not
acting quickly and effectively.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: August 25, 2007, 08:49:11 AM
PISCO, Peru, Aug. 23 — Through the choking smoke and with little light to guide him, Luis Palomino dug furiously through the rubble of the San Clemente church here two hours after last week’s earthquake buried parishioners under a pile of adobe stones.
Luis Palomino and his father, Romulo, pulled people from the rubble of a church in Pisco, Peru, after the earthquake.
Then, somewhere in the distance, he heard a baby crying.
Disoriented, Mr. Palomino, 30, said he could not locate the noise, until about five hours later, around 1 a.m., when he and his cousin Abel finally pulled 7-month-old Gerson Williams Alviar from beneath the body of his father, William.
While Gerson survived, both of the baby’s parents and all three of his sisters died in the church that night. So did as many as 60 members of one extended family, the Espinos, to whom the baby is related.
More than a week after the earthquake, the baby’s grandparents and his rescuers insist that if the government had mobilized its rescue efforts sooner, Gerson would not be an orphan today. Nor, they say, would so many people — about 540 in all, more than 432 of them in Pisco — have died from lack of air or from injuries suffered in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that shook southern Peru on Aug. 15.
As it was, families here say they were left to sift the ruins for the dead and the living, amid faint cries and the sounds of cellphone buttons being pressed. “People were alive in there, but no help came,” said Kiara Alviar, 16, one of Gerson’s aunts. “It didn’t have to end this way.”
Professional rescue teams and heavy equipment to move debris did not arrive in Pisco until the next morning, more than 12 hours after the town of 90,000 had been demolished. Many of the victims choked to death on the thick dust cloud from the crumbled adobe stones, officials said.
Peruvians around the country now refer to the disaster as the Pisco earthquake. But the sad fact is that in those first hours, few outside Pisco knew either where it had struck or that it had been so devastating.
The temblor took out Pisco’s electricity and cut off all communications, including fixed-line phones and cellphones. Police radios, the few that there were, did not function, giving local officials little ability to contact rescuers in Lima, the capital city, about a four-hour drive away.
“The national police didn’t have the capacity to do anything,” said the Rev. Luis Miró, a priest at the San Clemente church. “It was a chaotic state. You couldn’t call Lima, there was no light. They didn’t have working radios. It was a huge failure.”
In the days since, many in Pisco have questioned the government’s emergency management system. That night, Alan García, Peru’s president, declared that few deaths were expected and that damage appeared limited.
“Thank God, the earthquakes have not resulted in a great catastrophe,” Mr. García said on television.
But as emergency response teams were mobilizing to reach Ica, the seat of one of Peru’s most important agricultural regions, and Chincha, the initial quake and its aftershocks had leveled more than 85 percent of Pisco, a seaside town of mostly modest adobe homes.
In recent days, Mr. García has said publicly that he regrets the collapse of the telephone system and that the country needs more communication reserves. Even on the night of the tragedy, he said, “Our country should be better connected for circumstances like this.”
That night more than 300 relatives and friends had filled the 200-year-old San Clemente church to pay tribute to Alejandro Nery Espino, the family patriarch, a well-respected man who had managed a fleet of city minibuses and had died a month before of a heart attack at age 67.
The Mass began at dusk. The Espino family filled the first two rows of pews, with friends and other relatives behind them. Just as the Rev. Emilio Torres was finishing the service, the earthquake struck. Witnesses, including two priests in the church, said the earth moved up and down like a jackhammer. Then it swayed from side to side.
“I thought I was dead for sure,” said the Rev. Alfonso Berrade, who was having a cup of tea in the priests’ residence across a courtyard.
Page 2 of 2)
As the roof began raining stones onto them, the churchgoers screamed. Some ran for the exits. About 15 bodies were later found buried at the church’s front door, said Maximo Acosta, the head prosecutor in Pisco.
Mr. Palomino and his father, Romulo, 49, were in Pisco visiting family that Wednesday night. Mr. Palomino’s grandparents were attending the service for Mr. Espino, a longtime friend. Father and son groped their way through the darkened streets with Abel. They finally reached the church around 8 p.m. to search for Mr. Palomino’s grandparents and little cousin.
Once inside, they concentrated on the church’s center area, where they knew most of the mourners would have been sitting.
Then Mr. Palomino heard baby Gerson’s cries, but only for a moment. First, he thought the cries were coming from outside the crumbled church. Moments later, he could not pick them out from the quiet moaning of other churchgoers, buried but alive.
The men continued pulling away stones and calling for family members. Early on, a captain with the National Police yelled at them to get out. “Leave them! Leave them! Get out of here!” the elder Mr. Palomino recalled the captain saying.
The Palominos ignored him and continued their work, dragging both the dead and the living through the church’s front entrance. Romulo Palomino said they pulled out about 20 people, eight of whom were alive.
Local officials in Pisco confirmed that the Palominos had recovered several bodies. They were not alone; the Palominos said they saw other family members working feverishly through the dark, dusty haze, desperate to save their loved ones.
Three hours into the search, Luis Palomino again heard a baby faintly crying. Once he and his cousin had located the sound, they dug for two more hours before finally finding the baby under his father.
“The father saved the baby,” Mr. Palomino said. “He shielded his body and supported all the weight of the falling stones on his back.”
Romulo Palomino, meanwhile, had pulled his own relatives from the church. They were badly injured but alive, he said. But his mother and niece died on the way to a nearby hospital, and his father died once there, he said.
At least 90 people died inside the church in all, about two-thirds of them members of the Espino family.
“The dust and the pressure of the adobes and the columns, it was just too much,” Romulo Palomino said. “It was the dust more than anything that was killing people.”
The morning after the earthquake, father and son took tiny Gerson to a clinic a few blocks away to be examined. The next day, on Friday, relatives of the boy tracked Luis Palomino down. The baby instantly recognized Diego, one of his uncles, the elder Mr. Palomino said.
Today baby Gerson, known as Willy by his surviving family, is living in Ica with his maternal grandparents. Gerson’s cuts have healed. He smiled and looked contented on Wednesday as his aunt Kiara held him and rocked him in a small blanket. But he will never know his mother, Flor de Maria Alviar, a homemaker to her four children, or his father, William Herrera Espino, who was a private security guard. The couple had hoped to open a small business of their own, perhaps a clothes shop, said Manuel Alviar, Gerson’s grandfather. When the baby is older, his relatives plan to tell him more about the day he lost his family in San Clemente.
“I plan to tell him the truth,” said his Marta Alviar, his grandmother. “I will tell him how the help didn’t come soon enough, and how his father saved him, how he gave his life to protect him, as any father should.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's Skat UCAV
on: August 25, 2007, 06:40:21 AM
second post of the morning:
Russia: The Unveiling of the Skat
August 24, 2007 16 06 GMT
A new Russian unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) called the Skat was on display Aug. 24 at Russia's MAKS 2007 air show. Though the UCAV is still under development and details about its capabilities remain unknown, the Skat should not be underestimated.
A mock-up of a Russian unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) being developed by the MiG Aircraft Corp. was displayed Aug. 24 at the MAKS 2007 air show near Moscow. This UCAV, dubbed the Skat, is not to be underestimated, though much about its development and capabilities remains to be seen.
Vaguely similar in appearance to the U.S. Navy’s Northrop Grumman X-47B, the Skat is hardly a new product on the world arms market. UCAVs, which are designed to deploy weapons, are under development in a number of locations around the globe, particularly in Europe. Hence, it is no surprise that Russia, one of the world's chief arms suppliers, also is pursuing them.
Though the unveiling of a wooden UCAV mock-up should not be taken too seriously, it also should not be dismissed offhand. MiG reportedly has been working on the Skat for more than two years, and Russia claims to have committed substantial funds to the country's ongoing unmanned aerial vehicle development.
However, many details about the Skat's development and capabilities are still unknown. The tailless flying wing configuration is a delicate design and requires fly-by-wire technology. Further software development is necessary to allow such a plane to operate autonomously -- an important step up from a more rudimentary remote-control configuration. And indigenous software development capacity is limited in Russia. The Soviets have historically regarded computers solely as a military technology; consequently, software development remains a very underdeveloped sector of the country's economy, and workers with these kinds of skills are aggressively courted by foreign firms.
Reports that the first of two functional Skat test beds will actually have a built-in cockpit for a human pilot -- a substantial design change at a substantial additional cost -- suggest that Russia still has much to do to perfect its unmanned technology.
Furthermore, the development of stealth technology requires a lot of work. The Russians have never believed in such technology, and they have refused to invest in it since the 1970s because of their belief that radar technology would improve faster. (Moscow does not share Washington's faith in small numbers of complex, advanced systems.)
The Skat will not be the best UCAV on the market, and it certainly will not be the stealthiest. But the Russians will build it from the ground up with production efficiency in mind. If they succeed, they will deploy the Skat in numbers and formations larger than those envisioned by the Pentagon for comparable missions. They might suffer a higher rate of attrition, but one should not assume the Skat will not get the job done.