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24901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Govt. can on: March 06, 2011, 11:04:22 PM
24902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / France on: March 06, 2011, 06:35:21 PM

Date unknown:  French police avoid near lynching by muslim youth, flee"muslim"zone. DRM Ireland

O'Reilly bit (date unknown) on communist-Islamo fascist alliance of convenience

For the record, I don't have a terribly high opinion of O'Reilly
24903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Excrement headed towards fan on: March 06, 2011, 06:21:18 PM
Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week's "day of rage" by what is now called the "Hunayn Revolution".

Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.

The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.
24904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WTF on British SAS mission in Libya? on: March 06, 2011, 06:17:41 PM

A British diplomatic effort to reach out to Libyan rebels has ended in humiliation as a team of British special forces and intelligence agents left Benghazi after being briefly detained.

The six SAS troops and two MI6 officers were seized by Libyan rebels in the eastern part of the country after arriving by helicopter four days ago. They left on HMS Cumberland, the frigate that had docked in Benghazi to evacuate British and other EU nationals as Libya lurched deeper into conflict. The diplomatic team's departure marked a perfunctory end to a bizarre and botched venture.

"I can confirm that a small British diplomatic team has been in Benghazi," said William Hague, the foreign secretary. "The team went to Libya to initiate contacts with the opposition. They experienced difficulties, which have now been satisfactorily resolved. They have now left Libya."

Audio of a telephone conversation between the UK's ambassador to Libya, Richard Northern, and a senior rebel leader was later leaked.

Northern suggested in the call that the SAS team had been detained due to a misunderstanding.

The rebel leader responded: "They made a big mistake, coming with a helicopter in an open area."

Northern said: "I didn't know how they were coming."

Despite the failure of the mission, Hague indicated that Britain would continue to try to make contact with the opposition.

"We intend, in consultation with the opposition, to send a further team to strengthen our dialogue in due course," he said. "This diplomatic effort is part of the UK's wider work on Libya, including our ongoing humanitarian support. We continue to press for Gaddafi to step down and we will work with the international community to support the legitimate ambitions of the Libyan people."

According to Guardian sources, the British intelligence and special forces unit were caught near the al-Khadra Farm Company, 18 miles (30km) south-west of Benghazi. A senior member of Benghazi's revolutionary council said: "They were carrying espionage equipment, reconnaissance equipment, multiple passports and weapons. This is no way to conduct yourself during an uprising.

"Gaddafi is bringing in thousands of mercenaries to kill us, most are using foreign passports and how do we know who these people are?

"They say they're British nationals and some of the passports they have are British. But the Israelis used British passports to kill that man in Dubai last year."

Rebel leaders said claimed the captives had been treated well and would be released as soon as the British government vouched for their identity with the rebel command.

The news follows Sunday Times claims that an SAS unit was being held by rebel forces it had approached in an attempt to open up diplomatic channels to opponents of Muammar Gaddafi.

Whitehall sources said on Friday it needed to learn more about the leadership of the anti-Gaddafi forces and find out what logistical support they needed, but would not give arms to the rebels, as an international arms embargo was in place.

British officials during the day declined to comment on reports that special forces were being held but defended the objective of the mission.

The defence secretary, Liam Fox said: "It is a very difficult situation to be able to understand in detail. There are a number of different opposition groups to Colonel Gaddafi in Libya who do seem relatively disparate. We want to clearly understand what the dynamic is here because we want to be able to work with them to ensure the demise of the Gaddafi regime, to see a transition to greater stability in Libya and ultimately to more representative government.

"So getting a picture of that is relatively difficult, as is widely reported. Communications are being interrupted, there are difficulties with mobile phones, with the internet potentially being interfered with.

"So we are trying to build a picture – it's essential that the government does that and it's essential that all western governments do that so we are able to get a clearer idea of what we are able to do in terms of helping the people of Libya."

David Cameron, speaking at the Tory party spring conference in Cardiff, repeated his call for "Gaddafi to go". "On Libya, our strategy is clear," he said. "We will continue to intensify pressure on the regime. We will continue to state clearly that international justice has a long reach and a long memory, and that those who commit crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by this crisis, and continue to demand access for aid agencies to reach those in need.

And we will continue to plan, with our allies, for every eventuality. "

The Sunday Times reported Libyan and British sources confirming the SAS unit had been detained by rebel forces it had approached to secure a meeting with a junior diplomat to offer help in their fight against Gaddafi. The mission backfired when rebel leaders in Benghazi objected to foreign interference from governments which had not yet formally recognised them as Libya's legitimate rulers, it said.
24905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re Williams piece on: March 06, 2011, 02:38:55 PM
That is a very good piece there Doug, well-prefaced by your comments. 

Question raised:  Given the Natural Rights basis for our Consitution, how do we articulate that in a way that can fly on the international stage, especially viz the Muslim world?
24906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak President Zardari writes: on: March 06, 2011, 02:20:23 PM

I hope YA will comment.
24907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: March 06, 2011, 02:05:51 PM
This can't be true-- the Pravdas haven't reported it rolleyes  More seriously now  cry
24908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reality bites POTH in the butt on: March 06, 2011, 09:16:05 AM
The editorial board of the NY Times (Pravda on the Hudson) struggles mightily  cheesy

At a time when public school students are being forced into ever more crowded classrooms, and poor families will lose state medical benefits, New York State is paying 10 times more for state employees’ pensions than it did just a decade ago.

That huge increase is largely because of Albany’s outsized generosity to the state’s powerful employees’ unions in the early years of the last decade, made worse when the recession pushed down pension fund earnings, forcing the state to make up the difference.
Although taxpayers are on the hook for the recession’s costs, most state employees pay only 3 percent of their salaries to their pensions, half the level of most state employees elsewhere. Their health insurance payments are about half those in the private sector.

In all, the salaries and benefits of state employees add up to $18.5 billion, or a fifth of New York’s operating budget. Unless those costs are reined in, New York will find itself unable to provide even essential services.

To point out these alarming facts is not to be anti- union, or anti-worker. In recent weeks, Republican politicians in the Midwest have distorted what should be a serious discussion about state employees’ benefits, cynically using it as a pretext to crush unions.

New York does not need that sort of destructive game playing. What it needs is a sober examination of the high costs of wages and benefits, and some serious proposals to rein them in while remaining fair to hard-working government employees.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pursued a reasonable course, making it clear that he expects public unions to make sacrifices, starting with a salary freeze. He wants to require greater employee contributions to pensions and health benefits, with a goal of saving $450 million.

Negotiations begin this month, but so far union leaders have publicly resisted Mr. Cuomo’s proposals. If they don’t budge, Mr. Cuomo says he will have to lay off up to 9,800 workers. That would damage the state’s struggling economy. Some compromise must be found.

Here are the three most expensive areas of spending that need to be addressed:

WAGES Last April, in the midst of one of the worst financial crises that New York and the nation have ever faced, the state’s unionized workers got a 4 percent pay raise that cost $400 million. It came on top of 3 percent raises in each of the previous three years. These raises were negotiated long before the recession began, by a Legislature that routinely gave in to unions that remain among the biggest political contributors in Albany.

During the same period, many private-sector workers had their pay or hours cut. Private-sector wages in New York dropped nearly 9 percent in 2008. In 2009, Gov. David Paterson pleaded with the unions to give up the raises to help the state out of its crisis. Union leaders attacked him in corrosive television ads, and Mr. Paterson eventually caved, settling for an agreement that reduced pension payments to new employees. The deal wasn’t enough to address New York’s serious fiscal problems.

The average salary for New York’s full-time state employees in 2009 (even before the last round of raises) was $63,382, well above the state’s average personal income that year of $46,957. Mr. Cuomo’s proposed salary freeze for many of the state’s 236,000 employees is an important step to rein in New York’s out-of-control payroll. It could save between $200 million and $400 million.

He may need to go further. Even after the current labor contract runs out on April 1, more than 50,000 workers are in line for step increases and longevity pay negotiated in that contract, which will cost about $140 million. A clause in the state labor law known as the Triborough Amendment allows contract provisions for all workers to proceed until a new contract is reached.

This clause, unique to New York, was a well-meaning attempt to give some balance to state unions, which by law are not allowed to strike and had no leverage to draw management to the table in flush years. The problem with the Triborough Amendment is that it gives the unions far less incentive to bargain, as we saw last year.


(Page 2 of 2)

The amendment should be re-examined. Allowing the state to cut wages or benefits without a contract would be unfair, especially given the no-strike law. But the state should, at least, have the power to freeze wages and benefits once a contract runs out, which would give both sides an incentive to bargain.

PENSIONS In 2000, employee pensions cost New York State taxpayers $100 million. They now cost $1.5 billion, and will be more than $2 billion in 2014. Wall Street’s troubles are a big part of that. But so are state politics. The Legislature, ever eager to curry favor with powerful unions, added sweeteners to pensions and allowed employees to stop making contributions after 10 years.
In 2009, Albany began to recognize the deep hole it had dug. Under the state Constitution, a worker’s pension benefits cannot be cut back once granted. So under the agreement Mr. Paterson reached with the unions, a more rigorous tier was created for nonuniformed employees hired after 2009. It raised their retirement age from 55 to 62, required pension contributions every year instead of just the first 10, and capped the amount of overtime that is calculated in pension benefits.

The deal did not go far enough. New employees can still retire with full benefits at 62, while most American workers must wait until 65. They can still drive up pension payments by earning overtime in their final years, up to a $15,000 cap. And most important, they have to contribute only 3 percent of their pay to their pension; the national norm for public employees is double that.

In the next few weeks, Mr. Cuomo will propose a less-generous tier for new employees. Ideally, it will address all of these problems: pushing the full-retirement age to 65, raising employee contributions to 6 percent, and ending the use of overtime in calculating payments.

An investigation by The Times last year found that 3,700 retired public workers were getting six-figure pensions, largely because of overtime abuse, and that number is expected to grow. The system even allows workers on full pensions to double-dip and return to state employment, a practice the Legislature should end. Recently, Gannett Newspapers found more than 2,000 people collecting both state salaries and pensions.

It is also worth considering giving new employees the option to join what is known as a defined-contribution system, similar to the 401(k) plans widely in use in the private sector, and reducing the reliance on a guaranteed benefit system that has proved so ruinously expensive. The 401(k) system shifts the risk of a falling stock market to the employee instead of the state, but in the long run may be necessary to protect vital state services from economic downturns.

HEALTH INSURANCE As national health care costs have soared, the state’s payments for employees’ and retirees’ care has more than doubled in the last decade. This fiscal year, the state will pay $3 billion; that is projected to keep growing by $300 million to $400 million a year.

Health care contributions by state retirees are considerably lower than for workers in the private sector or the federal government, and will almost certainly have to be raised as baby boomers retire.

Current state employees pay 10 percent of their health insurance premiums for single policies, and 25 percent for family policies, which is roughly in line with national averages for the public sector. But it is considerably less than most private workers pay — 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

If the state is unable to achieve the necessary savings in wages and pensions, it may need to seek higher insurance contributions for all state workers. That benefit is not protected by the state Constitution.

Unlike Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Governor Cuomo is not trying to break the unions. He is pressing them to accept a salary freeze and a reduction in benefits for new workers. The unions need to negotiate seriously.

We are also urging the governor to rethink his pledge to cap property taxes and allow a tax surcharge on high incomes to expire at the end of this year. That would bring the state an additional $2 billion this fiscal year, and $4 billion the following year — not enough to solve the fiscal crisis, but a serious down payment.

The state’s middle-class workers will have to make real sacrifices. New York’s many wealthy residents, all of whom are benefiting substantially from a new federal tax break, should have to pay their fair share as well.
24909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: MERS on: March 06, 2011, 09:01:33 AM
FOR more than a decade, the American real estate market resembled an overstuffed novel, which is to say, it was an engrossing piece of fiction.

Mortgage brokers hip deep in profits handed out no-doc mortgages to people with fictional incomes. Wall Street shopped bundles of those loans to investors, no matter how unappetizing the details. And federal regulators gave sleepy nods.
That world largely collapsed under the weight of its improbabilities in 2008.

But a piece of that world survives on Library Street in Reston, Va., where an obscure business, the MERS Corporation, claims to hold title to roughly half of all the home mortgages in the nation — an astonishing 60 million loans.

Never heard of MERS? That’s fine with the mortgage banking industry—as MERS is starting to overheat and sputter. If its many detractors are correct, this private corporation, with a full-time staff of fewer than 50 employees, could turn out to be a very public problem for the mortgage industry.

Judges, lawmakers, lawyers and housing experts are raising piercing questions about MERS, which stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, whose private mortgage registry has all but replaced the nation’s public land ownership records. Most questions boil down to this:

How can MERS claim title to those mortgages, and foreclose on homeowners, when it has not invested a dollar in a single loan?

And, more fundamentally: Given the evidence that many banks have cut corners and made colossal foreclosure mistakes, does anyone know who owns what or owes what to whom anymore?

The answers have implications for all American homeowners, but particularly the millions struggling to save their homes from foreclosure. How the MERS story plays out could deal another blow to an ailing real estate market, even as the spring buying season gets under way.

MERS has distanced itself from the dubious behavior of some of its members, and the company itself has not been accused of wrongdoing. But the legal challenges to MERS, its practices and its records are mounting.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled last year that MERS could no longer file foreclosure proceedings there, because it does not actually make or service any loans. Last month in Utah, a local judge made the no-less-striking decision to let a homeowner rip up his mortgage and walk away debt-free. MERS had claimed ownership of the mortgage, but the judge did not recognize its legal standing.

“The state court is attracted like a moth to the flame to the legal owner, and that isn’t MERS,” says Walter T. Keane, the Salt Lake City lawyer who represented the homeowner in that case.

And, on Long Island, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled in February that MERS could no longer act as an “agent” for the owners of mortgage notes. He acknowledged that his decision could erode the foundation of the mortgage business.

But this, Judge Robert E Grossman said, was not his fault.

“This court does not accept the argument that because MERS may be involved with 50 percent of all residential mortgages in the country,” he wrote, “that is reason enough for this court to turn a blind eye to the fact that this process does not comply with the law.”

With MERS under scrutiny, its chief executive, R. K. Arnold, who had been with the company since its founding in 1995, resigned earlier this year.

A BIRTH certificate, a marriage license, a death certificate: these public documents note many life milestones.

For generations of Americans, public mortgage documents, often logged in longhand down at the county records office, provided a clear indication of homeownership.

But by the 1990s, the centuries-old system of land records was showing its age. Many county clerk’s offices looked like something out of Dickens, with mortgage papers stacked high. Some clerks had fallen two years behind in recording mortgages.

For a mortgage banking industry in a hurry, this represented money lost. Most banks no longer hold onto mortgages until loans are paid off. Instead, they sell the loans to Wall Street, which bundles them into investments through a process known as securitization.


Page 2 of 3)

MERS, industry executives hoped, would pull record-keeping into the Internet age, even as it privatized it. Streamlining record-keeping, the banks argued, would make mortgages more affordable.

But for the mortgage industry, MERS was mostly about speed — and profits. MERS, founded 16 years ago by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and big banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, cut out the county clerks and became the owner of record, no matter how many times loans were transferred. MERS appears to sell loans to MERS ad infinitum.
This high-speed system made securitization easier and cheaper. But critics say the MERS system made it far more difficult for homeowners to contest foreclosures, as ownership was harder to ascertain.

MERS was flawed at conception, those critics say. The bankers who midwifed its birth hired Covington & Burling, a prominent Washington law firm, to research their proposal. Covington produced a memo that offered assurances that MERS could operate legally nationwide. No one, however, conducted a state-by-state study of real estate laws.

“They didn’t do the deep homework,” said an official involved in those discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because he has clients involved with MERS. “So as far as anyone can tell their real theory was: ‘If we can get everyone on board, no judge will want to upend something that is reasonable and sensible and would screw up 70 percent of loans.’ ”

County officials appealed to Congress, arguing that MERS was of dubious legality. But this was the 1990s, an era of deregulation, and the mortgage industry won.

“We lost our revenue stream, and Americans lost the ability to immediately know who owned a piece of property,” said Mark Monacelli, the St. Louis County recorder in Duluth, Minn.

And so MERS took off. Its board gave its senior vice president, William Hultman, the rather extraordinary power to deputize an unlimited number of “vice presidents” and “assistant secretaries” drawn from the ranks of the mortgage industry.

The “nomination” process was near instantaneous. A bank entered a name into MERS’s Web site, and, in a blink, MERS produced a “certifying resolution,” signed by Mr. Hultman. The corporate seal was available to those deputies for $25.

As personnel policies go, this was a touch loose. Precisely how loose became clear when a lawyer questioned Mr. Hultman in April 2010 in a lawsuit related to its foreclosure against an Atlantic City cab driver.

How many vice presidents and assistant secretaries have you appointed? the lawyer asked.

“I don’t know that number,” Mr. Hultman replied.


“I wouldn’t even be able to tell you, right now.”

In the thousands?


Each of those deputies could file loan transfers and foreclosures in MERS’s name. The goal, as with almost everything about the mortgage business at that time, was speed. Speed meant money.

ALAN GRAYSON has seen MERS’s record-keeping up close. From 2009 until this year, he served as the United States representative for Florida’s Eighth Congressional District — in the Orlando area, which was ravaged by foreclosures. Thousands of constituents poured through his office, hoping to fend off foreclosures. Almost all had papers bearing the MERS name.

“In many foreclosures, the MERS paperwork was squirrelly,” Mr. Grayson said. With no real legal authority, he says, Fannie and the banks eliminated the old system and replaced it with a privatized one that was unreliable.

A spokeswoman for MERS declined interview requests. In an e-mail, she noted that several state courts have ruled in MERS’s favor of late. She expressed confidence that MERS’s policies complied with state laws, even if MERS’s members occasionally strayed.

“At times, some MERS members have failed to follow those procedures and/or established state foreclosure rules,” the spokeswoman, Karmela Lejarde, wrote, “or to properly explain MERS and document MERS relationships in legal pleadings.”

Such cases, she said, “are outliers, reflecting case-specific problems in process, and did not repudiate the MERS business model.”


Page 3 of 3)

MERS’s legal troubles, however, aren’t going away. In August, the Ohio secretary of state referred to federal prosecutors in Cleveland accusations that notaries deputized by MERS were signing hundreds of documents without any personal knowledge of them. The attorney general of Massachusetts is examining a complaint by a county registrar that MERS owes the state tens of millions of dollars in unpaid fees.

As far back as 2001, Ed Romaine, the clerk for Suffolk County, on eastern Long Island, refused to register mortgages in MERS’s name, partly because of complaints that the company’s records didn’t square with public ones. The state Court of Appeals later ruled that he had overstepped his powers.
But Judith S. Kaye, the state’s chief judge at the time, filed a partial dissent. She worried that MERS, by speeding up property transfers, was pouring oil on the subprime fires. The MERS system, she wrote, ill serves “innocent purchasers.”

“I was trying to say something didn’t smell right, feel right or look right,” Ms. Kaye said in a recent interview.

Little about MERS was transparent. Asked as part of a lawsuit against MERS in September 2009 to produce minutes about the formation of the corporation, Mr. Arnold, the former C.E.O., testified that “writing was not one of the characteristics of our meetings.”

MERS officials say they conduct audits, but in testimony could not say how often or what these measured. In 2006, Mr. Arnold stated that original mortgage notes were held in a secure “custodial facility” with “stainless steel vaults.” MERS, he testified, could quickly produce every one of those files.

As for homeowners, Mr. Arnold said they could log on to the MERS system to identify their loan servicer, who, in turn, could identify the true owner of their mortgage note. “The servicer is really the best source for all that information,” Mr. Arnold said.

The reality turns out to be a lot messier. Federal bankruptcy courts and state courts have found that MERS and its member banks often confused and misrepresented who owned mortgage notes. In thousands of cases, they apparently lost or mistakenly destroyed loan documents.

The problems, at MERS and elsewhere, became so severe last fall that many banks temporarily suspended foreclosures.

Some experts in corporate governance say the legal furor over MERS is overstated. Others describe it as a useful corporation nearly drowning in a flood tide of mortgage foreclosures. But not even the mortgage giant Fannie Mae, an investor in MERS, depends on it these days.

“We would never rely on it to find ownership,” says Janis Smith, a Fannie Mae spokeswoman, noting it has its own records.

Apparently with good reason. Alan M. White, a law professor at the Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana, last year matched MERS’s ownership records against those in the public domain.

The results were not encouraging. “Fewer than 30 percent of the mortgages had an accurate record in MERS,” Mr. White says. “I kind of assumed that MERS at least kept an accurate list of current ownership. They don’t. MERS is going to make solving the foreclosure problem vastly more expensive.”

THE Sarmientos are one of thousands of American families who have tried to pierce the MERS veil.

Several years back, they bought a two-family home in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn for $723,000. They financed the purchase with two mortgages from Lend America, a subprime lender that is now defunct.

But when the recession blew in, Jose Sarmiento, a chef, saw his work hours get cut in half. He fell behind on his mortgages, and MERS later assigned the loans to U.S. Bank as a prelude to filing a foreclosure motion.

Then, with the help of a lawyer from South Brooklyn Legal Services, Mr. Sarmiento began turning over some stones. He found that MERS might have violated tax laws by waiting too long before transferring his mortgage. He also found that MERS could not prove that it had transferred both note and mortgage, as required by law.

One might argue that these are just legal nits. But Mr. Sarmiento, 59, shakes his head. He is trying to work out a payment plan through the federal government, but the roadblocks are many. “I’m tired; I’ve been fighting for two years already to save my house,” he says. “I feel like I never know who really owns this home.”

Officials at MERS appear to recognize that they are swimming in dangerous waters. Several federal agencies are investigating MERS, and, in response, the company recently sent a note laying out a raft of reforms. It advised members not to foreclose in MERS’s name. It also told them to record mortgage transfers in county records, even if state law does not require it.

MERS will no longer accept unverified new officers. If members ignore these rules, MERS says, it will revoke memberships.

That hasn’t stopped judges from asking questions of MERS. And few are doing so with more puckish vigor than Arthur M. Schack, a State Supreme Court judge in Brooklyn.

Judge Schack has twice rejected a foreclosure case brought by Countrywide Home Loans, now part of Bank of America. He had particular sport with Keri Selman, who in Countrywide’s court filings claimed to hold three jobs: as a foreclosure specialist for Countrywide Home Loans, as a servicing agent for Bank of New York and as an assistant vice president of MERS. Ms. Selman, the judge said, is a “milliner’s delight by virtue of the number of hats that she wears.”

At heart, Judge Schack is scratching at the notion that MERS is a legal fiction. If MERS owned nothing, how could it bounce mortgages around for more than a decade? And how could it file millions of foreclosure motions?

These cases, Judge Schack wrote in February 2009, “force the court to determine if MERS, as nominee, acted with the utmost good faith and loyalty in the performance of its duties.”

The answer, he strongly suggested, was no.
24910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Montana considers reversing Med Marijuana law on: March 06, 2011, 08:54:24 AM
BOZEMAN, Mont. — With his electrician’s tool belt and company logo cap, Rick Schmidt looks every bit the small-business owner he in fact is. That he often reeks of marijuana these days ... well, it is just part of the job, he said.

“I went on a service call the other day — walked in and a guy said to me, ‘What have you been smoking?’ ” said Mr. Schmidt, 39.
For Gallatin Electric, a six-employee company founded by Mr. Schmidt’s father, Richard, as for other businesses in this corner of south-central Montana, medical marijuana has been central to surviving hard times as the construction industry and the second-home market collapsed. Not the smoking of it, the growing of it or even the selling of it, but the fully legal, taxable revenues being collected from the industry’s new, emerging class of entrepreneurs. Three of the four electricians on staff at Gallatin, Mr. Schmidt said, are there only because of the work building indoor marijuana factories.

Questions about who really benefits from medical marijuana are now gripping Montana. In the Legislature, a resurgent Republican majority elected last fall is leading a drive to repeal the six-year-old voter-approved statute permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes, which opponents argue is promoting recreational use and crime.

If repeal forces succeed — the House last month voted strongly for repeal, and the Senate is now considering it — Montana would be the first to recant among the 15 states and the District of Columbia that have such laws.

In Bozeman, a college and tourism town north of Yellowstone National Park, construction jobs and tax collections dried up just as the marijuana business was blossoming; residents and politicians here say the interconnection of economics and legal drugs would be much more complicated to undo.

Economic ripples or entanglements extend in every direction, business people like the Schmidts say — gardening supply companies where marijuana growers are buying equipment, mainstream bakeries that are contracting for pot-laced pastries, and even the state’s biggest utility, NorthWestern Energy, which is seeing a surge in electricity use by the new factories. Medical marijuana, measured by numbers of patients, has roughly quadrupled in Montana in the last year.

“It’s new territory we’re treading in here,” said Brad Van Wert, a sales associate at Independent Power Systems, a Bozeman company that completed its first solar installation last month — a six-kilowatt rooftop solar array, costing about $40,000 — for a medical marijuana provider called Sensible Alternatives.

Mr. Van Wert said that his company was assertively going after this new market, and that marijuana entrepreneurs, facing big tax bills, were responding to the appeal of a 30 percent tax credit offered by the state for expansion of renewable energy.

The Bozeman City Council passed regulations last year sharply restricting the numbers of storefront suppliers downtown. But growers and providers say that even though the regulations restricted their numbers, they also created a climate of legitimacy that has made other businesses more comfortable in dealing with them for equipment and supplies.

And unlike the situation in sunny California or Colorado, where medical marijuana has similarly surged, growing marijuana indoors is all but mandatory here, a fact that has compounded the capital expenditures for start-ups and spread the economic benefits around further still. An industry group formed by marijuana growers estimates that they spend $12 million annually around the state, and that 1,400 jobs were created mostly in the last year in a state of only 975,000 people.

“Twenty-five thousand dollars a month,” one new grower and medical marijuana provider, Rob Dobrowski, said of his outlay for electricity alone, mainly for his light-intensive grow operation that supplies four stores around the state.

Mr. Dobrowski was a construction contractor until the recession hit, as were two of his brothers who have joined him in the business. He said he now employs 33 people, from a standing start of zero a year ago.

Bozeman’s mayor, Jeff Krauss, a Republican, said he thought there was an element of economic fairness to be considered in the debate about medical marijuana’s future. “I don’t think anybody passed it thinking we were creating an industry,” he said, referring to the 2004 voter referendum. But like it or not, he said, it has become one, and legal investments in the millions of dollars have been made.

“Somewhere around 25 people have made anywhere from a $60,000 to a $100,000 bet on this industry,” Mr. Krauss said, referring to the local startups and their capital costs.


Page 2 of 2)

“Now the Legislature has got us saying, ‘Ha, too bad, you lose,’ ” Mr. Krauss added. “Boy is that a bad message to send when we’re in the doldrums.”

One owner of a gardening supply company in the Bozeman area estimated that a person could essentially buy a job for $15,000, beginning a small growing operation with 100 plants. Especially for construction trade workers who were used to being self-employed before the recession, the owner said, the rhythms of the new industry feel familiar.
“Forty to 50 percent of customers come from construction,” said the owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because her national suppliers threatened to stop doing business with her if their products were openly associated with marijuana. “Plumbers, electricians, the whole genre of working-class, blue-collar Montana.”

There are shadowy corners in the supposedly compassionate world of medical marijuana. The owner of one downtown pastry shop, where the sale of marijuana cookies and brownies accounts for about 15 percent of revenue, said he broke off a relationship with his first marijuana provider, who wanted the baker to use less marijuana in the products and falsify the ingredients to save the grower production costs.

And it is easy to find workers in this new economy who were in the illegal pot world before. But it is also easy to find people like Josh Werle, 29, who took a job as a grower at a company called A Kinder Caregiver after work as a commercial painter dried up.

Mr. Werle, a fourth-generation Montanan, said his family had seen many industries fade and fail over the decades — from railroads to agriculture, and now, in his case, construction. He said he had also worried about his health as a painter, breathing fumes all day. But the economy is what finally pushed him out.

“I never envisioned myself working in this,” said Tara Gregorich, 29, who graduated last May from Montana State University with a degree in environmental horticultural science. She sat under the lights in an industrial grow room, legs splayed around a plant that she was trimming lower shoots from to encourage growth. “But this is one of the few industries in Montana that is year-round.”

At Gallatin Electric, Rick Schmidt said he still made a sharp distinction between medical marijuana and street drugs. Illegal drug dealers, he said, “should have the book thrown at them.”

But he thinks medical use probably does have benefits.

Mr. Schmidt said his father-in-law, who suffers from post-polio syndrome, was considering applying for a medical marijuana card
24911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chapman: Farm Subsidies on: March 06, 2011, 08:47:06 AM
Editor's Note: Steve Chapman is on vacation. The following column was originally published in October 2007.

Here's how the American free enterprise system works. You have an idea for a business. You find the money to start it up. You try to give customers something they want at a price low enough to keep them happy but high enough to earn a profit. Either your plan works, allowing you to make a living, or it doesn't, indicating you should find a different line of work.

Unless, of course, you are a farmer, in which case all this may sound unfamiliar. A lot of American agriculture operates in an environment where none of the usual rules apply -- where the important thing is not catering to the consumer, but tapping the Treasury. It's a sector that, ever since the Great Depression, has been a ward of the government, both coddled and controlled.

By any reasonable standard, federal agriculture policy is past due for a major overhaul. But judging from the latest farm legislation moving through Congress, not much is going to change.

Back in the 1930s, when the economy was a wreck, the survival of capitalism was in doubt and Oklahoma was blowing away, you could understand the impulse for Washington to intervene on behalf of farmers. But the days when agriculture meant a lifetime of toil for a meager living are just a memory. Today, farmers monitor soil conditions by computer, drive air-conditioned tractors and have a higher average income than nonfarmers.

Yet many of them continue to enjoy treatment other industries can only dream about. Imagine the government rigging the market to assure high prices to people selling concrete or cameras. Dairy farmers and sugar growers get exactly that, courtesy of the Department of Agriculture. Farmers who plant a host of other crops receive compensation anytime their prices fall below a fixed minimum.

That's not the strangest part. These days, you don't have to grow anything at all to harvest federal crop subsidies. Instead, Washington will send you a check based on the amount of a product you raised in the past, even if you don't feel like growing it anymore.

Homeowners in one Texas subdivision found themselves getting federal money because their land was formerly used to cultivate rice. Some farmers pocket the payments they get for one commodity but plant something else, enabling them to earn two incomes for the price of one crop.

All this is sweet for the lucky few who happen to be holding buckets when the federal cash falls out of the sky. But someone has to foot the bill, and that someone is anyone who 1) eats or 2) pays taxes. Government meddling raises the price of products at the grocery, while burning up billions of dollars in federal revenues. A study by Sallie James and Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute, a free-market think tank, put the total cost of farm programs at $430 billion over the past decade.

Some farmers, and some urbanites, assume that agriculture would plunge into a death spiral if the government ever stopped furnishing all this help. In fact, the majority of people plowing fields would never miss it. In 2005, 85 percent of all federal payments went to just four crops -- corn, wheat, cotton and rice. Two-thirds of all farmers are locked out of the largesse.

"For most commodities (such as fruits and vegetables, hay, meat products, ornamentals), there is little government involvement or income support," report economists Bruce Gardner of the University of Maryland and Daniel Sumner of the University of California at Davis. Not only that, but the commodities that get no help are just as profitable as those that do.

Yet Congress shows little interest in ridding us of this extravagant waste. President Bush proposed to trim costs and reduce payments to the richest growers, but the five-year farm bill approved by the House of Representatives in July omitted these modest reforms. A more ambitious bill to significantly reduce the federal role in agriculture, meanwhile, was cut down like a weed. The Senate is currently considering its own version, but the Agriculture Committee has indicated it's quite content with the status quo.

The American economy has undergone radical transformation in the past 75 years, and the majority of farmers have shown they can prosper outside a government-run hothouse. Yet our leaders seem to think that what was good enough for Ma and Pa Kettle is good enough for us.
24912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 06, 2011, 08:41:56 AM
For what was the sentence which Huckabee commuted?
24913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brit soldiers held by rebels? on: March 06, 2011, 08:40:28 AM

Further developments:
24914  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Felon Spy on: March 06, 2011, 08:18:15 AM

Just type in a street name at the top of the form & your whole neighborhood map will pop up. Every place you see a red balloon or thumb tack is the home of a convicted felon. Just place your mouse over an icon & not only will the name come up, but also the crime they were convicted of. Know your neighbors..... <>

24915  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 06, 2011, 08:09:48 AM
My wife has set our TV to record the 1950s show "I love Lucy".  We watched two episodes last night with our children.  I am grateful for their laughter and for the family values of the show.
24916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 06, 2011, 08:07:42 AM
What does Huckabee have to do with four LEO murders in Washington?
24917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saunders: Service, then Litigation on: March 06, 2011, 08:04:56 AM
Last month, the website Politico reported that the Department of Justice dropped its representation of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his former deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and other defendants in a lawsuit filed by convicted al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla and his mother. The Department of Justice continues to represent Defense Secretary Robert Gates, but no longer the Bushies.

Padilla, you may recall, is an American citizen who was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in 2002; authorities claimed that he was plotting to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb." After the Bush administration designated Padilla as an "enemy combatant," he was held in a South Carolina Navy brig for 44 months.

Padilla was not convicted for plotting a U.S. terrorist attack -- largely because the case against him was built on information gleaned during harsh interrogations. But in 2007, Padilla was convicted for "conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country" and "material support for terrorism." A judge sentenced him to 17 years in prison.

From his cell, Padilla now is suing Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others on the grounds that his "enemy combatant" status, military detention and the harsh interrogations -- the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats -- were unconstitutional. The suit originally named former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a number of lower-level officials from the brig and 48 unnamed John Does -- including guards and orderlies whose name tags were covered -- against whom Padilla later dropped his complaint.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel of South Carolina threw out Padilla's suit.

In a way, it doesn't matter. Padilla can't lose. He's in prison already. It won't hurt him to appeal Gergel. In 2005, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Padilla's military detention -- and still he can sue. The ACLU is involved. Padilla is only seeking $1 in damages -- but the big money, as far as taxpayers are concerned, is in the legal fees his attorneys seek.

In the meantime, defendants have had to live with a nightmare hovering over their heads. Now they face the added expense of legal bills to defend themselves for defending this country. The DOJ only pays legal fees of up to $200 per hour. Former CIA attorney W. George Jameson observed, "$200 an hour, that's kind of a junior attorney in a big law firm. That doesn't get you very far."

Padilla also is suing former Justice Department official John Yoo for writing memos that authorized the use of harsh interrogation techniques. In 2009, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco ruled that the case against Yoo, who was told to hire a private attorney, can go forward. Please note: The courts haven't looked at whether Padilla's charges are factual.

Jameson recently co-founded the nonprofit Council on Intelligence Issues to provide legal assistance and other services to current and former intelligence officers. The Politico story, he told me, made the intelligence community somewhat nervous, although "it's hard to tell how nervous to be." It depends on why the DOJ did what it did.

Alas, the Justice Department won't say why it won't represent Rumsfeld and crew. Spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler explained that such "matters are confidential and covered by the attorney-client privilege." Personal counsel ensures that employees "receive full, complete and independent legal advice." An unnamed private attorney source involved in the case told Politico that the DOJ can't fulfill its duty to represent clients "zealously" for policy reasons.

Jameson tells me it is not uncommon for the feds to drop representation when there is disagreement on a case. It can be advantageous for a defendant to have a private attorney if the feds are lukewarm. One reason he is not as troubled as you might expect: "I think the president understands the importance of continuity."

Fair enough, but in dropping the Padilla defendants, Justice changed course in what seems to be a partisan move.

I fear for the next set of John Does. They're not going to be able to afford $1,000-per-hour attorneys who specialize in this area of litigation.

In August 2001, FBI supervisors impeded agents' efforts to get a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop. He later pleaded guilty to helping plan 9/11. Want more?

I feel for the muckety-mucks, too. They must go to sleep painfully aware that their public service now can mean endless litigation tomorrow. If they anger the other political spectrum's lawyers, the reward will be depositions, attorney consultations -- and now more likely, the lion's share of the legal tab.
24918  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / From Cro Dog on: March 05, 2011, 02:02:38 PM


He was a stickfighter!!!

But stickfighting wasn`t the most important thing in his life. His family was...
He leaves his widow, two grown sons and his 8 year old daughter.

Today I did a "In memoriam Akram C-Desert Dog Abu-Dayyeh Seminar" here in Munich. His widow was there. too.
Most of the Munich dogbrother clan joined the seminar today, Chris "C-Rogue Dog" Smith and his wife were there.

I am still impressed by the strength of his widow. I had the chance to speak to her for a couple of minutes.
She said, Abu did everything for his family, now that he his gone she realizes, that she had a life like a princess.
His daughter (who shows great promise for tennis) had a tennis tournament last sunday. She said, that she will win it for her father. So she did. She won the tournament...

I started the seminar with a little speech, followed by a minute`s silence.
Abu´s widow joined our circle and read a poem Abu wrote a couple of days before his passing. The poem deals with the death...
Most of us had to fight back one`s tears.

After that we had a good time (Los Triques), doing what Abu enjoyed so much. The complete earnings of the seminar and donations from the Munich clan went directly to his widow, in order to be a fast help.

The widow got today from the Munich clan 1.070 €!!!

This made me very proud...

The collection goes on, I got already an remarkable amount at the paypal account.

If you want to make donations please use my paypal account:

Also big thanks from his widow, to all of you. She read all the posts from the forum, it lightens her pain to read that her man was also respected in the Dog Brother Tribe.

Stefan Cro Dog

Munich Dogbrother Clan
24919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTB: Romney on: March 05, 2011, 01:44:43 PM
Pravda on the Beach had a piece on Romney today.  Says he is looking to make himself look less patrician, less "perfect", more human, etc.  Commented on him being poll-driven, blah blah.
24920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah-Mex narco connection? on: March 05, 2011, 11:53:50 AM
24921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BATF clusterfcuk gets weirder on: March 05, 2011, 11:43:37 AM

BTW, amongst the many questions raised here, I wonder why the gun in question was dropped at the scene? Isn't that rather odd?  Why were the illegals arrested at the scene of Agent Terry's killing deported instead of being held as material witnesses or more serious charges?
24922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey's Moment of Reckoning on: March 05, 2011, 12:04:10 AM
Turkey's Moment of Reckoning
In a high-powered visit to Cairo, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Thursday with the members of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). In addition to meeting with the military elite, the Turkish leaders are also talking to the opposition forces. On Thursday, Gul and Davutoglu met with Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and over the course of the next three days they are expected to meet with opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradei and Arab League chief Amr Mousa, as well as the Jan. 25 Youth Coalition.

” Whether Ankara is ready or not, the Middle East is accelerating Turkey’s rise.”
Turkey’s active role in trying to mediate the unrest developing in its Islamic backyard should not come as a surprise (at least not for STRATFOR readers). Turkey has been on a resurgent path, using its economic clout, geographic positioning, military might and cultural influence to expand its power throughout the former Ottoman territory. In more recent years, this resurgence has largely taken place at Turkey’s own pace, with it managing a post-Saddam Iraq, intensifying hostilities with Israel for political gain, fumbling with the Russians in the Caucasus over Armenia and Azerbaijan, fiddling with Iranian nuclear negotiations, and so on. With geopolitical opportunities presenting themselves on all of its borders, Turkey, having been out of the great power game for some 90-odd years, could afford some experimentation. In this geopolitical testing phase, Turkey could spread itself relatively far and wide in trying to reclaim influence, all under the Davutoglu-coined “zero problems with neighbors” strategy.

The invisible hand of geopolitics teaches that politicians, regardless of personality, ideology or anything else, will pursue strategic ends without being necessarily aware of their policies’ contributions to (or detractions from) national power. The gentle nudges guiding Turkey for most of the past decade are now transforming into a firm, unyielding push.

The reasoning is quite simple. The Iraq War (and its destabilizing effects) was cold water thrown in Turkey’s face that snapped Ankara to attention. It took some time for Turkey to find its footing, but as it did, it sharpened its focus abroad in containing threats and in exploiting a range of political and economic opportunities. Now, from the Sahara to the Persian Gulf, Turkey’s Middle Eastern backyard is on fire, with mass protests knocking the legs out from under a legacy of Arab cronyism. Whether Ankara is ready or not, the Middle East is accelerating Turkey’s rise.

In surveying the region, however, Turkish influence (with the exception of Iraq) is still in its infant stages. For example, in Egypt (where the Turks ruled under the Ottoman Empire for 279 years from 1517-1796), there is not much Turkey can do or may even need to do. The Egyptian military very deliberately managed a political transition to force former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak out and is now calling the shots in Cairo. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) welcomes the stability ushered in by the military, but would also like to see Egypt transformed in its own image. Having lived it for decades, the AKP leadership has internalized the consequences of military rule and has made the subordination of the military to civilian (particularly Islamic) political forces the core of its political agenda at home. Turkey’s AKP has a strategic interest in ensuring the military in Egypt keeps its promise of relinquishing control to the civilians and providing a political opening for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has tried to model itself after the AKP. Davutoglu has in fact been very open with his assertion that if the military fails to hand over power to the civilians and hold elections in a timely manner, Turkey’s support will go to the opposition. The Egyptian SCAF is unlikely to be on the same page as the AKP leadership, especially considering the military’s concerns over the Muslim Brotherhood. This will contribute to some tension between Turkey and Egypt moving forward, but Turkey will face serious arrestors if it attempts to change the military’s course in Egypt.

Where Turkey is needed, and where it actually holds significant influence, is in the heart of the Arab world, Iraq. The shaking out of Iraq’s Sunni-Shia balance (or imbalance, depending on how you view it) is the current pivot to Persian Gulf stability. With the United States withdrawing from Iraq by year’s end and leaving little to effectively block Iran, the region is tilting heavily toward the Shia at the expense of U.S.-allied Sunni Arab regimes. Exacerbating matters is the fact that many of these Arab regimes are now facing crises at home, with ongoing uprisings in Bahrain, Oman and Yemen and simmering unrest in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This is spreading real concerns that Iran is seizing an opportunity to fuel unrest and destabilize its Arab neighbors. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on March 2, in the first public acknowledgment of this trend, that the Iranians were directly and indirectly backing opposition protests in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, and “doing everything they can to influence the outcomes in these places.”

Another piece fell into place that same day when Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Sultan said during a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul in Riyadh said that the Saudi royals “want to see Turkey as a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia.” Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the pillars of Arab power in the region, but that power is relative. Egypt is just now reawakening after decades of insularity (and enjoys a great deal of distance from the Iran issue) and Saudi Arabia is feeling abandoned by the United States, that, for broader strategic reasons is doing whatever it can to militarily extricate itself from the Islamic world to regain its balance. The Saudis are thus issuing a distress signal and are doing so with an eye on Turkey.

Will Turkey be able to deliver? Ankara is feeling the push, but the country is still in the early stages of its revival and faces limits in what it can do. Moreover, filling the role of an effective counter to Iran, as the United States and Saudi Arabia are eager to see happen, must entail the AKP leadership abandoning their “zero problems with neighbors” rhetoric and firming up a position with the United States and the Sunni Arabs against the Iranians. Regardless of which path Ankara pursues, Turkey’s time has come.

24923  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: March 04, 2011, 10:01:38 PM;photovideo

24924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WTF?!?: BATF sting operation on: March 04, 2011, 10:00:50 PM;photovideo

BATF let 2,500 guns "walk" into Mexico, including many AKs and some 50 calibers!  shocked shocked shocked  The cynical amongst us might even wonder if at some level there were Machiavellian machinations involved with an eye towards restricting US gun rights.

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I appreciate the staff briefing that Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) officials provided on February 10, 2011. However, the briefers focused on general issues related to challenges in successfully prosecuting gun trafficking cases. They refused to answer specific questions about the facts and circumstances that led me to request the briefing.

Specifically, they refused to say whether the approximately 103 weapons seized according to the Jaime Avila indictment were the only seizures related to the nearly 770 weapons mentioned in the indictment. They refused to say whether the third assault rifle purchased by Avila in January 2010—the one not found at the scene of CBP Agent Brian Terry’s shooting—has been recovered elsewhere. When asked whether ATF had encouraged any gun dealer to proceed with sales to known or suspected traffickers such as Avila, the briefers said only that they did not have any “personal knowledge” of that.

Therefore, please provide the following documents to the Committee:

1) All records relating to communications between the ATF and the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) who sold the weapons to Avila, including any Report of Investigation (ROI) or other records relating to the December 17, 2009 meeting “to discuss his role as an FFL during this investigation.”

2) All records relating to communications between ATF headquarters and Phoenix Special Agent in Charge (SAC) William Newell from December 1, 2010 to the present, including a memorandum, approximately 30 pages long, from SAC Newell to ATF headquarters following the arrest of Jaime Avila and the death of CBP Agent Brian Terry.

3) A copy of the presentation, approximately 200 pages long, that the Group 7 Supervisor made to officials at ATF Headquarters in the Spring of 2010.


4) Copies of all e-mails related to Operation Fast and Furious, the Jaime Avila case, or the death of CBP Agent Brian Terry sent to or from SAC Newell, Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) George Gillette, Group 7 Supervisor, or the Case Agent between November 1, 2009 and January 31, 2011.

Please provide documents in batches on a rolling basis as they are identified and located. Also, please prioritize your search for documents and produce them in the following order: (1) documents in response to requests one through three, (2) documents in response to request four dated between December 13, 2010 and January 31, 2011, and (3) documents in response to request four dated between November 1, 2009 and December 13, 2010.

I look forward to receiving your response. Please provide the first set of requested documentation by no later than February 23, 2011. If you have any questions please contact Jason Foster or Brian Downey at ..... All formal correspondence should be sent electronically in PDF format to or via facsimile to.....


Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member

cc: The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Kenneth E. Melson, Acting Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
The Honorable Alan D. Bersin, Commissioner, United States Customs and Border Protection
Public Information Officers:

Please make every effort for the next two weeks to maximize coverage of ATF operations/enforcement actions/arrests at the local and regional level. Given the negative coverage by CBS Evening News last week and upcoming events this week, the bureau should look for every opportunity to push coverage of good stories. Fortunately, the CBS story has not sparked any follow up coverage by mainstream media and seems to have fizzled.

It was shoddy reporting, as CBS failed to air on-the-record interviews by former ATF officials and HQ statements for attribution that expressed opposing views and explained the law and difficulties of firearm trafficking investigations. The CBS producer for the story made only a feigned effort at the 11th hour to reach ATF HQ for comment.

This week (To 3/1/2011), Attorney General Holder testifies on the Hill and likely will get questions about the allegations in the story. Also (The 3/3/2011), Mexico President Calderon will visit the White House and likely will testify on the Hill. He will probably draw attention to the lack of political support for demand letter 3 and Project Gunrunner.

ATF needs to proactively push positive stories this week, in an effort to preempt some negative reporting, or at minimum, lessen the coverage of such stories in the news cycle by replacing them with good stories about ATF. The more time we spend highlighting the great work of the agents through press releases and various media outreaches in the coming days and weeks, the better off we will be.

Thanks for your cooperation in this matter. If you have any significant operations that should get national media coverage, please reach out to the Public Affairs Division for support, coordination and clearance.

Thank you,

Scot L. Thomasson

Chief, ATF Public Affairs Division

Washington, DC

Desk 202-648-7089

Cell 206-730-0005
24925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: March 04, 2011, 08:34:26 PM
Something our President would do well to appreciate.
24926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary and AJ on: March 04, 2011, 03:51:43 PM
I want my Al Jazeera!   rolleyes
24927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Non-farm payrolls 3/4/11 on: March 04, 2011, 11:12:57 AM
Non-farm payrolls increased 192,000 in February To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 3/4/2011

Non-farm payrolls increased 192,000 in February.  Revisions to December/January added 58,000, bringing the net gain to 250,000.  The consensus expected a gain of 196,000.

Private sector payrolls increased 222,000 in February, the 12th consecutive monthly gain.  December/January were revised up 46,000, for a net gain of 268,000.  February private-sector gains were led by administrative/support services (+35,000), health care (+34,000), manufacturing (+33,000), and construction (+33,000).  The largest decline was for retail (-8,000).
The unemployment rate fell to 8.9% in February from 9.0% in January.
Average weekly earnings – cash earnings, excluding benefits – were unchanged in February but up 2.3% versus a year ago. 
Implications:  Very good report on the labor market this morning. Including upward revisions to prior months, non-farm payrolls increased 250,000. But this includes a decline in government; private sector payrolls were up 268,000 (again, including upward revisions to prior months). The strength was confirmed by figures on civilian employment – an alternative measure of jobs that is better at picking up the self-employed and small start-up businesses – which increased 250,000 in February. Meanwhile, the increase in jobs pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.9%, the lowest in almost two years. Once again, what was particularly good about the drop in the jobless rate was that it was all due to full-time workers, showing that employers are getting more confident. In fact, the net share of private industries adding jobs was at the highest level since 1998. Getting into the details of the report, we see signs of a recovery in home building: in the past two months, residential construction payrolls have increased 19,000, the most since early 2006. Although average hourly earnings were unchanged in February, the number of hours worked increased 0.2%. As a result, total cash earnings for workers increased at a healthy 3.2% annual rate in February and are up 3.7% in the past year. So far, this is more than enough for workers, as a whole, to keep up with inflation. Given better economic news on both manufacturing and service output, as well as auto sales and chain store sales, the underlying trend in job growth will continue to accelerate in the months ahead.
24928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan on: March 04, 2011, 10:42:48 AM
When you step back and try to get a sense of the larger picture in the battle between the states and their public employee unions, two elements emerge. One seems small but could prove decisive, and the other is big and, if I'm seeing it right, carries significant implications.

The seemingly small thing is that the battles in the states, while summoning emotions from all sides, are not at their heart emotional. Yes, a lot of people are waving placards, but it's also true that suddenly everyone's talking about numbers; the numbers are being reported in the press and dissected on talk radio. This state has a $5 billion deficit; that state has projected deficits in the tens of millions. One estimate of New Jersey's bill for health and pension benefits for state workers over the next 30 years is an astounding $100 billion—money the state literally does not have and cannot get. The very force of the math has the heartening effect of squeezing ideology right out of the story. It doesn't matter if you're a liberal or a conservative, it's all about the numbers, and numbers are sobering things.

The rise of arithmetic as a player in the drama is politically promising because when people argue over data and hard facts, and not over ideological loyalties and impulses, progress is more possible. Governors can take their stand, their opponents can take theirs, and if they happen to argue the budget problem doesn't really exist, they'll have to prove it. With numbers.

The big thing that is new has to do with the atmospherics of the drama.

 Asst. Editorial Features Editor David Feith on teachers union priorities
.Let's look for a second at one of the most famous battles, in New Jersey. A year ago Chris Christie was sworn in as the new governor. He immediately faced a $10.7 billion deficit and catastrophic debt projections. State and local taxes were already high, so that if he raised them he'd send people racing out of the state. So Mr. Christie came up with a plan. He asked the state's powerful teachers union for two things: a one-year pay freeze—not a cut—and a modest 1.5% contribution to their benefit packages.

The teachers union went to war. They said, "Christie is trying to kill the unions," so they tried to kill him politically. They spent millions on ads trying to take him down.

And it backfired. They didn't kill him, they made him. Chris Christie is a national figure now because the teachers union decided, in an epic political drama in which arithmetic is the predominant fact, to ignore the math. They also decided to play the wrong role in the drama. They decided to play the role of Johnny Friendly, on whom more in a moment.

If the union leaders had been smart—if they'd had a heart!—they would have held a private meeting and said, "Look, the party's over. We've done great the past 20 years, but now taxpayers are starting to resent us, and they have reason. They're losing their benefits and footing the bill for our gold-plated plans, they don't have job security and we do, taxes are high. We have to back off."

They didn't do this. It was a big mistake. And the teachers union made it just as two terrible but unrelated things were happening to their reputation. In what might be called an expression of the new spirit of transparency that is sweeping the globe, two documentaries came out in 2010, "The Lottery" and "Waiting for Superman." Both were made by and featured people who are largely liberal in their sympathies, and both said the same brave thing: The single biggest impediment to better schools in our country is the teachers unions, which look to their own interests and not those of the kids.

In both films, as in real life, the problem is the unions themselves, not individual teachers. They present teachers who are heroic, who are creative and idealistic. But they too, in the films, are victims of union rules.

View Full Image

Getty Images
Marlon Brando in a scene from 'On The Waterfront' with Lee J Cobb.
.That's the unions' problem in terms of atmospherics. They are starting to destroy their own reputation. They are robbing themselves of their mystique. They still exist, and they're big and rich—a force—but they are abandoning the very positive place they've held in the American imagination. Polls are all over the place on union support, but I'm speaking of the kind of thing that is hard to quantify and that has to do with words like "luster" and "tradition."

Unions have been respected in America forever, and public employee unions have reaped that respect. There are two great reasons for this. One is that unions always stood for the little guy. The other is that Americans like balance. We have management over here and the union over here, they'll talk and find balance, it'll turn out fine.

But with the public employee unions, the balance has been off for decades. And when they lost their balance they fell off their pedestal.

When union leaders negotiate with a politician, they're negotiating with someone they can hire and fire. Public unions have numbers and money, and politicians need both. And politicians fear strikes because the public hates them. When governors negotiate with unions, it's not collective bargaining, it's more like collusion. Someone said last week the taxpayers aren't at the table. The taxpayers aren't even in the room.

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

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.As for unions looking out for the little guy, that's not how it's looking right now. Right now the little guy is the public school pupil whose daily rounds take him from a neglectful family to an indifferent teacher who can't be removed. The little guy is the beleaguered administrator whose attempts at improvement are thwarted by unions. The little guy is the private-sector worker who doesn't have a good health-care plan, who barely has a pension, who lacks job security, and who is paying everyone else's bills.

This is a major perceptual change. In my lifetime, people have felt so supportive of unions. That great scene in the 1979 film "Norma Rae," in which the North Carolina cotton mill worker played by Sally Field holds up the sign that says UNION—people were moved by that scene because they believed in its underlying justice. When I was a child, kids bragged if their father had a union job because it meant he was part of something, someone was looking out for him, he was a citizen.

There were hiccups—the labor racketeering scandals of the 1950s, Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. But they served as a corrective to romanticism. Men in groups will be men in groups, whether they run a government or a union. Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan captured this in their 1954 masterpiece, "On the Waterfront," in which Terry Malloy, played by Marlon Brando, stands up to the selfish, bullying union chief Johnny Friendly. Brando's character testifies to the Waterfront Commission and then defiantly stands down Johnny and his goons. "I'm glad what I done today. . . . You hear me? Glad what I done."

We're at quite a moment when public employee unions remind you of Johnny Friendly. They're so powerful, such a base of the Democratic Party, and they must think nothing can hurt them. But they can hurt themselves. And they are. Are they noticing?

24929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Philippines wondering WTF was that? on: March 04, 2011, 10:35:08 AM
Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines wants China to explain why two of its patrol boats harassed a Philippine ship searching for oil in a disputed area of the South China Sea, an official said Friday.

The incident occurred Wednesday at Reed Bank near the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

"We're in conversation with our Chinese friends and we are seeking an explanation from them," Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a news conference.

China Confronts Philippine Oil Vessel, Spurring Dispute

.Reed Bank—about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of the Philippine province of Palawan—"is our territory," he added.

Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the military's Western Command headquartered in Palawan, said two warplanes were deployed Wednesday after oil explorers from the Philippine Department of Energy complained of harassment. When the planes reached the area, the Chinese vessels had left, he said.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Ethan Sun reiterated his country's claim to the Spratly Islands and adjacent waters, but said Beijing was committed to maintaining peace and stability in the area and resolving disputes through peaceful negotiations.

A Philippine military official said Thursday the Chinese boats maneuvered close to the Philippine vessel at least twice, apparently threatening to ram it but then turning away. They did not fire any warning shots, he said.

A Philippine navy patrol ship has been deployed to secure the oil exploration, which will resume, the official added.

The Spratlys have rich fishing grounds and are believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits. They also straddle busy sea lanes that are a crucial conduit for oil and other resources fueling China's fast-expanding economy and those of other Asian nations. They have long been regarded as a potential flash point for conflict in Asia.

24930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: 12.7% increase in military budget on: March 04, 2011, 10:31:40 AM

BEIJING—China announced plans to increase its defense budget by 12.7% this year, a pickup from last year's sharply lower growth that comes amid fresh confrontations over territorial issues with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

China expects to spend 601.1 billion yuan ($91.4 billion) on defense in 2011, up from 533.4 billion yuan last year, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the National People's Congress, said Friday, ahead of the start of the legislature's annual session on Saturday.

Mr. Li said the military budget would be used for purposes including "appropriate armament development," training and human resources, while stressing that it remained relatively low as a proportion of China's GDP and overall budget, and dismissing concerns that it threatened neighboring countries.

"China's defense spending is relatively low in the world," he said. "Every bit of China's limited military strength will be used for safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and this will not pose a threat to any country."

The projected rise is faster than last year's 7.5% increase—the slowest clip in decades—but is significantly slower than the roughly 19% annual growth in years before 2010.

The headline figure does not, however, include key items such as arms imports and the program to develop a stealth fighter and an aircraft carrier, according to foreign military experts who estimate that China's real defense spending is far higher.

The figure's announcement also comes amid signs that China's growing economic and military power is prompting other nations in the region to beef up their own militaries, pushing Asia into a new arms race, and in many cases to shore up defense ties with the U.S.

Japan, which revised its national-defense guidelines last year to focus more on the threat from China, expressed fresh concern Friday about the rise in Chinese military spending.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters that China's defense expenditure was "very high," and urged the Chinese government to be more transparent about how it planned to use its newfound military firepower.

"Whether it should be regarded as offensive or defensive would require a close look," he said, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

On Wednesday, Japan scrambled fighter jets to chase off two Chinese military planes which it said flew within 34 miles of disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are known as Senkaku in Japan and as Diaoyu in China.

Japanese government spokesman Yukio Edano said Japan would not protest formally as the Chinese planes did not leave international airspace, but he also voiced concern over China's growing military power and said Japan would monitor the situation. China's Foreign Ministry didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Relations between Asia's two biggest economies plunged to their lowest ebb in years in September following collisions near the islands between two Japanese coast guard patrol boats and a Chinese fishing vessel.

China's more forceful stance on that and other territorial issues last year also alarmed other countries in the region.

On Wednesday, the Philippines deployed two war planes to protect oil explorers who complained that they were being harassed by two Chinese patrol boats in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

The Philippine government demanded an explanation Friday for the incident at Reed Bank near the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Ethan Sun reiterated his country's claim to the Spratly Islands and adjacent waters, but said Beijing was committed to maintaining peace and stability in the area and resolving disputes through peaceful negotiations, according to the Associated Press.

South Korea's Coast Guard said Friday it seized two Chinese fishing boats and their crews on Thursday after they were found fishing illegally in South Korea's Exclusive Economic Zone, 64 miles southwest of Keokrulbiyeol island in the west sea.

During the process, one South Korean policeman was hurt by a weapon wielded by Chinese fishermen, and one Chinese fisherman was shot in his leg, the coast guard said.

China's Foreign Ministry didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on that incident.

But Chinese officials and academics have toned down their rhetoric this year in an apparent bid to address concerns that China plans to use its expanding military clout to assert its territorial claims, and to challenge U.S. military supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

In January, China jolted the region with a test flight of a new stealth jet fighter, indicating that China is further along in using the advanced technology than previous Pentagon statements had suggested.

China is also developing an antiship ballistic missile that could threaten U.S. naval vessels in the Asia-Pacific region, where the U.S. has long been dominant.

However, Mr. Li pointed out that China's military spending accounted for only about 6% of China's national budget, which he said was lower than in recent years—and well below the level of the U.S.

The defense budget "will see some increase, but the ratio of spending to GDP is quite low -- lower than in many countries," he added.

24931  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC/MMA Thread on: March 04, 2011, 10:28:20 AM
A buddy of mine who had a number of amateur kickboxing fights out of Benny "the Jet" Urquidez's gym did a fight scene with JCVD in "Lionheart" (the remake of Charles Bronson's "Hard Times").  He told me JC had no footwork, no range awareness, and in general sucked.

You ever see the clip of JC on the Arsenio Hall show wherein he admits that he and Dolph Lungren staged a pushing match at Cannes as a publicity stunt to help promote a movie?
24932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: March 04, 2011, 10:21:45 AM
With an intention of figuring out how to get away with doing this in the US,  highly placed anonymous sources who regularly read this forum for its penetrating insight, have asked us to see if we can ferret out GM's response to this development  cheesy
24933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ATF runs guns?!? on: March 04, 2011, 10:16:07 AM
24934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: March 04, 2011, 12:12:48 AM
I too found it a useful analysis for cutting through progressive FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).
24935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gay pre-empts Christianity in UK? on: March 04, 2011, 12:00:00 AM
24936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Beach on Newt on: March 03, 2011, 05:42:20 PM,0,2306522.story
24937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wall of Lies on: March 03, 2011, 05:40:40 PM
Good thumbnail refutations of the most common lies about Israel.
24938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 03, 2011, 05:33:59 PM
Re 2:  The AFL-CIO is a socialist organization, so too many others with whom the police are standing with regard to matters in WI.  By allowing commies like VJ to participate, the Fraternal Order of Police et al are lending their patina of respectability to them.

4: VJ et al have infiltrated NY State school books and are using them to spread the socialist message.

and from GB's email today:

5: In a very candid interview, President Obama said that 'race is still an issue' for him and that a 'key component' of the Tea Party is racism. That's quite a claim considering there's no evidence of racism - the best argument supporting that theory is 'President Obama is African American. Tea Parties oppose the President's policies. Therefore Tea Parties are racist. What'd Glenn think of the comments? He explained on radio today.
24939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Remember the Alamo on: March 03, 2011, 03:39:40 PM
America's Third War: Texas Farmers Under Attack at the Border

By Kris Gutiérrez

Published March 03, 2011


In Texas, nearly 8,200 farms and ranches back up to the Mexican border.  The men and women who live and work on those properties say they’re under attack from the same drug cartels blamed for thousands of murders in Mexico.

“It’s a war, make no mistake about it,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “And it’s happening on American soil.”

Texas farmers and ranchers produce more cotton and more cattle than any other state, so Staples is concerned this war could eventually impact our food supply, and calls it a threat to our national security.

“Farmers and ranchers are being run off their own property by armed terrorists showing up and telling them they have to leave their land,” Staples said.

To raise awareness, Commissioner Staples launched the website It’s a place where frustrated and scared farmers can share their stories.

One Texas farmer, who asked not to be identified, said it’s common for him to see undocumented immigrants walking through his property.

“I see something, I just drive away,” he said. “It is a problem, I’ve learned to live with it and pretty much, I’ve become numb to it.”

Another farmer, Joe Aguilar, said enough is enough. After walking up on armed gunmen sneaking undocumented immigrants into the United States through his land, Aguilar decided to sell his farm.“It’s really sad to say, you either have to beat ‘em or join ‘em and I decided not to do either,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar's family farmed 6,000 acres of land along the Texas-Mexico border for nearly 100 years.

“Our farmers and ranchers can’t afford their own security detail,” Staples said. “We’re going to become more dependent on food from foreign sources.  Americans don’t like being dependent on foreign oil, they won’t stand for being dependent on foreign food.”

For more on the battle at our border, visit

24940  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Mass murder stopped by killing man? on: March 03, 2011, 02:37:51 PM
Associated Press$57108

A heavily armed man who crashed his pickup truck, then shot an EMT responding to the accident before being killed by police appeared to be on his way to carry out a mass killing, police said Wednesday.

The man, who was not identified by police, had a rifle strapped to his chest, and extra ammunition inserted in elongated wristbands on his arms, Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey told reporters. He had six weapons in his possession, including a Tec-9 automatic pistol.

"It is clear to us that this man was out to commit mayhem in this county," Mulvey said of the suspect, whom he described as about 31. Police believe he moved to Long Island from Florida in the past year. The Ford pickup truck he was driving had Florida license plates.

"There may have been some turmoil in his personal life," Mulvey said, but he would not elaborate. The suspect had an arrest record for petty larceny, but there were no arrests for any violence, police said.

The EMT, identified as 20-year-old Justin Angell of Bellmore, was in stable condition at Nassau University Medical Center. He posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was getting better.

"To everyone ... thank u so much for the calls concerns and visits ... just got up and walked a bit," said part of the message.

Shooting erupted at about 10 p.m. Tuesday in Bellmore after the man hit a utility pole with his truck. When the volunteer ambulance crew arrived, he fired at least eight shots at them from an assault rifle, wounding Angell.

Police responding to the crash then shot the man when he threatened them; the rifle the gunman was carrying had a laser scope and two officers realized they were being targeted. Mulvey said the fatal shot came from a third officer with the K-9 unit, who believed he was assisting with the car crash.

"None of us expect when they come upon the scene of an accident to be fired on," Mulvey said.

It was not clear whom the gunman may have been targeting, but Mulvey was convinced had the crash not occurred, a mass shooting was imminent.

"He has strapped to his chest a firearm with a scope. He has in his lap a long barreled revolver, and in his pocket a semiautomatic pistol," Mulvey said. "He's utilizing an assault weapon with a laser scope and there's a Tec-9 behind the passenger seat within easy arm reach of his hand, and another weapon in the car.

"It all evokes to me evidence that had he not been stopped by police, there very well could have been mayhem committed in this community."

Nassau County, located just east of New York City, is often considered America's first suburb. About 1.5 million people live in the county, which has been described as one of the wealthiest in the U.S.

24941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 03, 2011, 01:57:30 PM
Mitt has patrician guilt complex and when push comes to shove will always fold to race baiting and class warfare.
24942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: ISI and CIA on: March 03, 2011, 08:37:08 AM
Pakistani Intelligence and the CIA: Mutual Distrust and Suspicion
March 3, 2011

By Scott Stewart

On March 1, U.S. diplomatic sources reportedly told Dawn News that a proposed exchange with the Pakistani government of U.S. citizen Raymond Davis for Pakistani citizen Aafia Siddiqui was not going to happen. Davis is a contract security officer working for the CIA who was arrested by Pakistani police on Jan. 27 following an incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt. Siddiqui was arrested by the Afghan National Police in Afghanistan in 2008 on suspicion of being linked to al Qaeda.

During Siddiqui’s interrogation at a police station, she reportedly grabbed a weapon from one of her interrogators and opened fire on the American team sent to debrief her. Siddiqui was wounded in the exchange of fire and taken to Bagram air base for treatment. After her recovery, she was transported to the United States and charged in U.S. District Court in New York with armed assault and the attempted murder of U.S. government employees. Siddique was convicted in February 2010 and sentenced in September 2010 to 86 years in prison.

Given the differences in circumstances between these two cases, it is not difficult to see why the U.S. government would not agree to such an exchange. Siddique had been arrested by the local authorities and was being questioned, while Davis was accosted on the street by armed men and thought he was being robbed. His case has served to exacerbate a growing rift between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI).

Pakistan has proved to be a very dangerous country for both ISI and CIA officers. Because of this environment, it is necessary for intelligence officers to have security — especially when they are conducting meetings with terrorist sources — and for security officers to protect American officials. Due to the heavy security demands in high-threat countries like Pakistan, the U.S. government has been forced to rely on contract security officers like Davis. It is important to recognize, however, that the Davis case is not really the cause of the current tensions between the Americans and Pakistanis. There are far deeper issues causing the rift.

Operating in Pakistan

Pakistan has been a very dangerous place for American diplomats and intelligence officers for many years now. Since September 2001 there have been 13 attacks against U.S. diplomatic missions and motorcades as well as hotels and restaurants frequented by Americans who were in Pakistan on official business. Militants responsible for the attack on the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008 referred to the hotel as a “nest of spies.” At least 10 Americans in Pakistan on official business have been killed as a result of these attacks, and many more have been wounded.

Militants in Pakistan have also specifically targeted the CIA. This was clearly illustrated by a December 2009 attack against the CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, in which the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, used a Jordanian suicide operative to devastating effect. The CIA thought the operative had been turned and was working for Jordanian intelligence to collect intelligence on al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan. The attack killed four CIA officers and three CIA security contractors. Additionally, in March 2008, four FBI special agents were injured in a bomb attack as they ate at an Italian restaurant in Islamabad.

Pakistani intelligence and security agencies have been targeted with far more vigor than the Americans. This is due not only to the fact that they are seen as cooperating with the United States but also because there are more of them and their facilities are relatively soft targets compared to U.S. diplomatic facilities in Pakistan. Militants have conducted dozens of major attacks directed against Pakistani security and intelligence targets such as the headquarters of the Pakistani army in Rawalpindi, the ISI provincial headquarters in Lahore and the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) and police academies in Lahore.

In addition to these high-profile attacks against facilities, scores of military officers, frontier corps officers, ISI officers, senior policemen and FIA agents have been assassinated. Other government figures have also been targeted for assassination. As this analysis was being written, the Pakistani minorities minister was assassinated near his Islamabad home.

Because of this dangerous security environment, it is not at all surprising that American government officials living and working in Pakistan are provided with enhanced security to keep them safe. And enhanced security measures require a lot of security officers, especially when you have a large number of American officials traveling away from secure facilities to attend meetings and other functions. This demand for security officers is even greater when enhanced security is required in several countries at the same time and for a prolonged period of time.

This is what is happening today in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The demand for protective officers has far surpassed the personnel available to the organizations that provide security for American officials such as the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the CIA’s Office of Security. In order to provide adequate security for American officials in high-threat posts, these agencies have had to rely on contractors provided by large companies like Blackwater/Xe, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy and on individual contract security officers hired on personal-services contracts. This reliance on security contractors has been building over the past several years and is now a fact of life at many U.S. embassies.

Using contract security officers allows these agencies not only to quickly ramp up their capabilities without actually increasing their authorized headcount but also to quickly cut personnel when they hit the next lull in the security-funding cycle. It is far easier to terminate contractors than it is to fire full-time government employees.

CIA Operations in Pakistan

There is another factor at play: demographics. Most CIA case officers (like most foreign-service officers) are Caucasian products of very good universities. They tend to look like Bob Baer and Valerie Plame. They stick out when they walk down the street in places like Peshawar or Lahore. They do not blend into the crowd, are easily identified by hostile surveillance and are therefore vulnerable to attack. Because of this, they need trained professional security officers to watch out for them and keep them safe.

This is doubly true if the case officer is meeting with a source who has terrorist connections. As seen in the Khost attack discussed above, and reinforced by scores of incidents over the years, such sources can be treacherous and meeting such people can be highly dangerous. As a result, it is pretty much standard procedure for any intelligence officer meeting a terrorism source to have heavy security for the meeting. Even FBI and British MI5 officers meeting terrorism sources domestically employ heavy security for such meetings because of the potential danger to the agents.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the primary intelligence collection requirement for every CIA station and base in the world has been to hunt down Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership. This requirement has been emphasized even more for the CIA officers stationed in Pakistan, the country where bin Laden and company are believed to be hiding. This emphasis was redoubled with the change of U.S. administrations and President Barack Obama’s renewed focus on Pakistan and eliminating the al Qaeda leadership. The Obama administration’s approach of dramatically increasing strikes with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) required an increase in targeting intelligence, which comes mostly from human sources and not signals intelligence or imagery. Identifying and tracking an al Qaeda suspect amid the hostile population and unforgiving terrain of the Pakistani badlands also requires human sources to direct intelligence assets toward a target.

This increased human intelligence-gathering effort inside Pakistan has created friction between the CIA and the ISI. First, it is highly likely that much of the intelligence used to target militants with UAV strikes in the badlands comes from the ISI — especially intelligence pertaining to militant groups like the TTP that have attacked the ISI and the Pakistani government itself (though, as would be expected, the CIA is doing its best to develop independent sources as well). The ISI has a great deal to gain by strikes against groups it sees as posing a threat to Pakistan, and the fact that the U.S. government is conducting such strikes provides the ISI a degree of plausible deniability and political cover.

However, it is well known that the ISI has long had ties to militant groups. The ISI’s fostering of surrogate militants to serve its strategic interests in Kashmir and Afghanistan played a critical role in the rise of transnational jihadism (and this was even aided with U.S. funding in some cases). Indeed, as we’ve previously discussed, the ISI would like to retain control of its militant proxies in Afghanistan to ensure that Pakistan does not end up with a hostile regime in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal from the country. This is quite a rational desire when one considers Pakistan’s geopolitical situation.

Because of this, the ISI has been playing a kind of a double game with the CIA. It has been forthcoming with intelligence pertaining to militants it views as threats to the Pakistani regime while refusing to share information pertaining to groups it hopes to use as levers in Afghanistan (or against India). Of course, the ability of the ISI to control these groups and not get burned by them again is very much a subject of debate, but at least some ISI leaders appear to believe they can keep at least some of their surrogate militants under control.

There are many in Washington who believe the ISI knows the location of high-value al Qaeda targets and senior members of organizations like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which are responsible for many of the attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This belief that the ISI is holding back intelligence compels the CIA to run unilateral intelligence operations (meaning operations it does not tell the ISI about). Many of these unilateral operations likely involve the recruitment of Pakistani government officials, including members of the ISI. Naturally, the ISI is not happy with these intelligence operations, and the result is the mistrust and tension we see between the ISI and the CIA.

It is important to remember that in the intelligence world there is no such thing as a friendly intelligence service. While services will cooperate on issues of mutual interest, they will always serve their own national interests first, even when that places them at odds with an intelligence service they are coordinating with.

Such competing national interests are at the heart of the current tension between the CIA and the ISI. At present, the CIA is fixated on finding and destroying the last vestiges of al Qaeda and crippling militant groups in Pakistan that are attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Americans can always leave Afghanistan; if anarchy and chaos take hold there, it is not likely have a huge impact on the United States. However, the ISI knows that after the United States withdraws from Afghanistan it will be stuck with the problem of Afghanistan. It is on the ISI’s doorstep, and it does not have the luxury of being able to withdraw from the region and the conflict. The ISI believes that it will be left to deal with the mess created by the United States. It is in Pakistan’s national interest to try to control the shape of Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal, and that means using militant proxies like Pakistan did after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.

This struggle between the CIA and ISI is a conundrum rooted in the conflict between the vital interests of two nations and it will not be solved easily. While the struggle has been brought to the public’s attention by the Davis case, this case is really just a minor symptom of a far deeper conflict.

24943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A conspiracy lining in a silver cloud on: March 03, 2011, 08:06:10 AM
I took a good size position in PAAS at around 8.50.  It is now nearly 4x that, so this article was of great interest to me.


As Americans know all too well by this point, commodity prices — for corn, wheat, soybeans, crude oil, gold and even farmland — have been going through the roof for what seems like forever. There are many causes, primarily supply and demand pressures driven by fears about the unrest in the Middle East, the rise of consumerism in China and India, and the Fed’s $600 billion campaign to increase the money supply.

Nonetheless, how to explain the price of silver? In the past six months, the value of the precious metal has increased nearly 80 percent, to more than $34 an ounce from around $19 an ounce. In the last month alone, its price has increased nearly 23 percent. This kind of price action in the silver market is reminiscent of the fortune-busting, roller-coaster ride enjoyed by the Hunt Brothers, Nelson Bunker and William Herbert, back in 1970s and early 1980s when they tried unsuccessfully to corner the market. When the Hunts started buying silver in 1973, the price of the metal was $1.95 an ounce. By early 1980, the brothers had driven the price up to $54 an ounce before the Federal Reserve intervened, changed the rules on speculative silver investments and the price plunged. The brothers later declared bankruptcy.

Accusations that JPMorganChase and HSBC allegedly manipulated precious metal markets are worth looking into.
.The Hunts may be gone from the market, but there are still plenty of people suspicious about the trading in silver, and now they have the Web to explore and to expand their conspiracy narratives. This time around — according to bloggers and commenters on sites with names like Silverseek, 321Gold and Seeking Alpha — silver shot up in price after a whistleblower exposed an alleged conspiracy to keep the price artificially low despite the inflationary pressure of the Fed’s cheap money policy. (Some even suspect that the Fed itself was behind the effort to keep silver prices low, as a way to keep the dollar’s value artificially high.) Trying to unravel the mysterious rise in silver’s price is a conspiracy theorist’s dream, replete with powerful bankers, informants, suspicious car accidents and a now a squeeze on short sellers. Most intriguingly, however, much of the speculation seems highly plausible.
The gist goes something like this: When JPMorgan Chase bought Bear Stearns in March 2008, it inherited Bear Stearns’ large bet that the price of silver would fall. Over time, it added to that bet, and then the international bank HSBC got into the market heavily on the bear side as well. These actions “artificially depressed the price of silver dramatically downward,” according to a class-action lawsuit initiated by a Florida futures trader and filed against both banks in November in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

“The conspiracy and scheme was enormously successful, netting the defendants substantial illegal profits” in the billions of dollars between June 2008 and March 2010, according to the suit. The suit claims that JPMorgan and HSBC together “controlled over 85 percent the commercial net short positions” in silvers futures contracts at Comex, a Chicago-based exchange on which silver is traded, along with “25 percent of all open interest short positions” and a “a market share in excess of 9o percent of all precious metals derivative contracts, excluding gold.”

In the United States, trading in precious metals and other commodities is regulated and closely monitored by a federal agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In September 2008, after receiving hundreds of complaints that silver future prices were being manipulated downward by JPMorgan and HSBC, the commission’s enforcement division started an investigation. In November 2009, an informant, described in the law suit only as a former employee of Goldman Sachs and a 40-year industry veteran, approached the commission with tales of how the silver traders at JPMorgan were bragging about all the money they were making “as a result of the manipulation,” which entailed “flooding the market” with “short positions” every time the price of silver started to creep upward. The idea was that by unloading its short positions like a time-released capsule, JPMorgan’s traders were keeping the price of silver artificially low.

Soon enough, the informant was identified as Andrew Maguire, an independent precious metals trader in London. On Jan. 26, 2010, Maguire sent Bart Chilton, a member of the futures trading commission, an e-mail urging him to look into the silver trading that day. “It was a good example of how a single seller, when they hold such a concentrated position in the very small silver market can instigate a sell off at will,” Maguire wrote.

On Feb. 3, 2010, Maguire gave the futures trading commission word about an impending “manipulation event” that he said would occur two days later, when the Labor Department’s non-farm payroll numbers would be released. He then spelled out two trading scenarios about which he had been told. “Both scenarios will spell an attempt by the two main short holders” — JPMorganChase and HSBC — “to illegally drive the market down and reap very large profits,” Maguire wrote in an e-mail to a trading-commission investigator.

On Feb. 5, Maguire took a victory lap, writing in another e-mail to the trading commission that “silver manipulation was a great success and played out EXACTLY to plan as predicted.” He added, “I hope you took note of how and who added the short sales (I certainly have a copy) and I am certain you will find it is the same concentrated shorts who have been in full control since JPM took over the Bear Stearns position … I feel sorry for all those not in this loop. A serious amount of money was made and lost today and in my opinion as a result of the CFTC’s allowing by your own definition an illegal concentrated and manipulative position to continue.”

In March 2010, Maguire released his e-mails publicly, in part because he felt the trading commission’s enforcement arm was not taking swift enough action. He was also unhappy over not being invited to a commission hearing on position limits scheduled for March 25. Then came the cloak and dagger element: the day after the hearing, Maguire was involved in a bizarre car accident in London. As he was at a gas station, a car came out of a side street and barreled into his car and two others; London police, using helicopters and chase cars, eventually nabbed the hit-and-run driver. Reports that the perpetrator was given a slap on the wrist inflamed the online crowds that had become captivated by Maguire’s odd story.

In any case, the class-action lawsuit contends that between March 2010 and November 2010, JPMorgan Chase and HSBC reduced their short positions in the silver market by 30 percent, causing the metal’s price to rise dramatically, but leaving them still with a large short position. Now, with the value of silver rising nearly every day, the two banks are caught in a “massive short squeeze,” according to one market participant, that appears to be costing them the billions they made originally plus billions more. Whether these huge losses will show up on the books of JPMorgan Chase and HSBC remains to be seen. (Parsing through the publicly filed footnotes of derivative trades is no easy task.)

Nonetheless, the conspiracy-minded have claimed that the Fed must have somehow agreed to make JPMorgan and HSBC whole for any losses the banks suffered if and when the price of silver rose above the artificially maintained low levels — as in right now, for instance. (About all this, a JPMorganChase spokesman declined to comment.)

Some two-and-a-half years later, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s investigation is still unresolved, and at least one commissioner — Bart Chilton — thinks that after interviewing more than 32 people and reviewing more than 40,000 documents, there has been enough investigating and not enough prosecuting. “More than two years ago, the agency began an investigation into silver markets,” Chilton said at a commission hearing last October. “I have been urging the agency to say something on the matter for months … I believe violations to the Commodity Exchange Act have taken place in silver markets and that any such violation of the law in this regard should be prosecuted.”

What’s more, Chilton said in an interview last week, that “one participant” in the silver market still controlled 35 percent of the silver market as recently as a few months ago, “enough to move prices,” he said, and well above the 10 percent “position limits” the commission has proposed to comply with Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Since that law’s passage last summer, the commodities exchanges have issued waivers permitting the ownership of silver positions above the limits the C.F.T.C. has proposed, and which were supposed to be in place by January of this year. Yet the waivers remain in place, and the big traders have not been penalized, much to Chilton’s frustration And the mystery deepens: last Thursday, the price of silver fell $1.50 per ounce in less than an hour before recovering. “This was robbery at its most obvious and most vindictive,” wrote Richard Guthrie, a London-based trader, in an e-mail to Chilton. “How many investors lost money and positions to the financial benefit of an elite few?”

It’s getting harder and harder to continue to brush off Andrew Maguire’s claims as the rantings of a rogue trader with a nutty online following. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission should immediately release the files from its investigation into the supposed manipulation of the silver market so the public can determine whether JPMorganChase and HSBC did anything illegal, with or without the help of the Fed. In addition, the commission should start enforcing the 10 percent threshold on silver positions it has proposed to comply with Dodd-Frank law. Basically, the other commissioners must join with Bart Chilton to do the job they are required to do: Protecting the sanctity of the markets and preventing the sorts of manipulation we’ve seen all too often.

24944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 02, 2011, 11:56:02 PM
Fear of Domestic Unrest in Saudi Arabia
Unrest in the Persian Gulf region has been limited to small countries like Bahrain, Yemen and Oman. On Tuesday, however, the region’s powerhouse, Saudi Arabia, seemed to be inching closer to unrest within its borders. Reuters reported that authorities in the Eastern Province city of al Hafouf arrested a Shiite cleric who, in a sermon during congregational prayers last Friday, called for a constitutional monarchy. Reuters quoted a local rights activist as saying that state security forces arrested Tawfiq al-Amir, who was previously detained for demanding religious freedom.

“The Saudis fear that any gains made by the Bahraini Shia could energize the kingdom’s Shiite minority.”
Ever since popular risings toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents, the Saudis have worried about the potential for unrest within the kingdom. But when street demonstrations erupted in neighboring Bahrain, Saudi Arabia became even more concerned because Bahrain’s opposition is largely made up of the small island country’s 70 percent Shiite majority.

Terrified at the prospect of empowerment of the Bahraini Shia, Riyadh has been closely working with Manama to contain the unrest. The Saudis fear that any gains made by the Bahraini Shia could energize the kingdom’s Shiite minority (estimated at 20 percent of the population, concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province and linked to Bahrain via a causeway). The arrest of the Saudi Shiite cleric, however, could accelerate matters. The world’s largest exporter of crude could experience unrest even before the Bahraini Shia are able to extract concessions from their minority Sunni rulers.

Compounding matters for the Saudis is the fact that this is not just a sectarian rising: There are a great many Sunnis within the kingdom who desire political reforms, too. Such demands create problems for the house of al-Saud at a time when the royal family is reaching a historic impasse due to an aging leadership.

Between the need to manage the transition, contain the general calls for political reforms, and deal with a restive Shiite population, the Saudi kingdom becomes vulnerable to its archrival, Iran, which is looking at the regional unrest as an opportunity to project power across the Persian Gulf. Even if there had been no outbreak of public agitation, Arabian Peninsula leaders were gravely concerned about a rising originating in Iran. From the Saudis’ point of view, the 2011 withdrawal of American forces from Iraq will leave them exposed to an assertive Iran.

And now, domestic turmoil, especially turmoil involving the Shia, exacerbates matters for the Saudis. Political reforms in the kingdom threaten the Saudis’ historic hold on power. But any such reforms also translate into enhanced status of the minority Shiite population, which in turn means more room for potential Iranian maneuvers.

The Saudis are thus facing a predicament in which pressures to effect change on the domestic level have serious geopolitical implications.

24945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 02, 2011, 07:52:38 PM
I thought GB did a good job of summarizing the possible 3 point attack plan:

a)getting lots of money with the manipulation of the oil market in 2007-2008
b) naked bear raids on Bear Stearns and Lehman and the intended direconsequences thereto which nearly occurred according to some
c) the intention to finish off the dollar as an international currency.
24946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 02, 2011, 03:32:36 PM
24947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: March 02, 2011, 03:30:31 PM

If you are in touch with Fay, please give her my warm greetings.
@ All:  As usual, BD brings soundly reasoned analysis.
24948  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Jean Claude Van Damme to kickbox fight? on: March 02, 2011, 11:13:36 AM
24949  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Calderon Security on: March 02, 2011, 11:01:08 AM
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is visiting the United States March 2 and March 3. We thought it would be a good time to discuss the unique threat assessment that will be written pertaining to President Calderon’s visit.

Calderon’s visit comes at a very critical time with the confluence of issues that are taking place not only inside of Mexico, but in the United States, which makes this threat assessment much more difficult than any current head of state visiting. We’ve had the recent high-profile killings of Americans in Mexico such as David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the missionary killing and the recent Zeta killing of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent. You have the politics of the immigration issue, as well as the politics of guns, meaning the guns flowing into Mexico from the United States and the domestic politics of that issue in general. Another element that will be factored into the threat assessment, regardless of the likelihood of this occurring, would be the cartels’ ability to pay for high-priced mercenaries or assassins to carry out some sort of attack.

One other aspect that is also factored into the threat assessment is the radical fringe link to domestic groups of concern. Specifically the Secret Service will be calling their database looking for adverse intelligence on individuals that have surfaced in connection to the immigration or gun issue that may have made threats against public officials. This issue is a significant one on the heels of the shooting of the congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona. Another element that would be factored into the threat assessment would be president Calderon’s statements as recent as last week, where he raised the issue of drug consumption in the United States fueling cartel violence, as well as the United States government not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.

Given all the concern surrounding Calderon’s visit to the United States, there will be an effort to minimize public exposure and at any kind of event that is open, you will find enhanced screening for firearms specifically to mitigate the risk from these unknown variables — such as another John Hinckley surfacing — that may not have raised the awareness of the secret service in Washington.

The “Above the Tearline” aspect is the politics of Calderon’s visit at this moment in time due to the confluence of events that have taken place, make this threat assessment much more complex, and also raises the risks to President Calderon.

24950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Calderon Security on: March 02, 2011, 11:00:27 AM
I saw this morning that the ICE agent recently murdered in Mexico was killed by a Texas bought AK; the second such killing in recent events according to the article.


Mexican President Felipe Calderon is visiting the United States March 2 and March 3. We thought it would be a good time to discuss the unique threat assessment that will be written pertaining to President Calderon’s visit.

Calderon’s visit comes at a very critical time with the confluence of issues that are taking place not only inside of Mexico, but in the United States, which makes this threat assessment much more difficult than any current head of state visiting. We’ve had the recent high-profile killings of Americans in Mexico such as David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the missionary killing and the recent Zeta killing of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent. You have the politics of the immigration issue, as well as the politics of guns, meaning the guns flowing into Mexico from the United States and the domestic politics of that issue in general. Another element that will be factored into the threat assessment, regardless of the likelihood of this occurring, would be the cartels’ ability to pay for high-priced mercenaries or assassins to carry out some sort of attack.

One other aspect that is also factored into the threat assessment is the radical fringe link to domestic groups of concern. Specifically the Secret Service will be calling their database looking for adverse intelligence on individuals that have surfaced in connection to the immigration or gun issue that may have made threats against public officials. This issue is a significant one on the heels of the shooting of the congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona. Another element that would be factored into the threat assessment would be president Calderon’s statements as recent as last week, where he raised the issue of drug consumption in the United States fueling cartel violence, as well as the United States government not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.

Given all the concern surrounding Calderon’s visit to the United States, there will be an effort to minimize public exposure and at any kind of event that is open, you will find enhanced screening for firearms specifically to mitigate the risk from these unknown variables — such as another John Hinckley surfacing — that may not have raised the awareness of the secret service in Washington.

The “Above the Tearline” aspect is the politics of Calderon’s visit at this moment in time due to the confluence of events that have taken place, make this threat assessment much more complex, and also raises the risks to President Calderon.

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