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24951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 3 out of 4 mosques say , , , on: February 26, 2008, 12:30:29 PM
WND is not always the most reliable of sites.  That said, this does raise concerns:

==========

3 in 4 US Mosque preach anti Western extremism

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The WorldNetDaily story below is a MUST-READ, for two reasons. First, the study reported in the story confirms what a Freedom House study of a few years ago found – that a high percentage of mosques in the United States are promoting hatred, violence, jihad, and the goal of sharia law to replace American constitutional law.

Second, that there is no, we repeat, no systematic U.S. government effort to investigate these mosques. Stunning!
Please forward this email to as many people as possible.
HOMELAND INSECURITY
Study: 3 in 4 U.S. mosques preach anti-West extremism
Secret survey exposes widespread radicalism
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

An undercover survey of more than 100 mosques and Islamic schools in America has exposed widespread radicalism, including the alarming finding that 3 in 4 Islamic centers are hotbeds of anti-Western extremism, WND has learned [emphasis added].
The Mapping Sharia in America Project, sponsored by the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, has trained former counterintelligence and counterterrorism agents from the FBI, CIA and U.S. military, who are skilled in Arabic and Urdu, to conduct undercover reconnaissance at some 2,300 mosques and Islamic centers and schools across the country.
"So far of 100 mapped, 75 should be on a watchlist," an official familiar with the project said [emphasis added].
Many of the Islamic centers are operating under the auspices of the Saudi Arabian government and U.S. front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood based in Egypt.

Frank Gaffney, a former Pentagon official who runs the Center for Security Policy, says the results of the survey have not yet been published. But he confirmed that "the vast majority" are inciting insurrection and jihad through sermons by Saudi-trained imams and anti-Western literature, videos and textbooks.

The project, headed by David Yerushalmi, a lawyer and expert on sharia law, has finished collecting data from the first cohort of 102 mosques and schools. Preliminary findings indicate that almost 80 percent of the group exhibit a high level of sharia-compliance and jihadi threat, including:

Ultra-orthodox worship in which women are separated from men in the prayer hall and must enter the mosque from a separate, usually back, entrance; and are required to wear hijabs.

Sermons that preach women are inferior to men and can be beaten for disobedience; that non-Muslims, particularly Jews, are infidels and inferior to Muslims; that jihad or support of jihad is not only a Muslim's duty but the noblest way, and suicide bombers and other so-called "martyrs" are worthy of the highest praise; and that an Islamic caliphate should one day encompass the U.S. [emphasis added].

Solicitation of financial support for jihad [emphasis added].

Bookstores that sell books, CDs and DVDs promoting jihad and glorifying martyrdom.

Though not all mosques in America are radicalized, many have tended to serve as safe havens and meeting points for Islamic terrorist groups. Experts say there are at least 40 episodes of extremists and terrorists being connected to mosques in the past decade alone.

Some of the 9/11 hijackers, in fact, received aid and counsel from one of the largest mosques in the Washington, D.C., area. Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center is one of the mosques identified by undercover investigators as a hive of terrorist activity and other extremism.

It was founded and is currently run by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Imams there preach what is called "jihad qital," which means physical jihad, and incite violence and hatred against the U.S.

Dar al-Hijrah's ultimate goal, investigators say, is to turn the U.S. into an Islamic state governed by sharia law [emphasis added].
Another D.C.-area mosque, the ADAMS Center, was founded and financed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been one of the top distributors of Wahhabist anti-Semitic and anti-Christian dogma.

Even with such radical mosques operating in its backyard, the U.S. government has not undertaken its own systematic investigation of U.S. mosques [emphasis added].

In contrast, European Union security officials are analyzing member-state mosques, examining the training and funding sources of imams, in a large-scale project.

Some U.S. lawmakers want the U.S. to conduct its own investigation.

"We have too many mosques in this country," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y. "There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully."


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ACT for America
P.O. Box 6884
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
www.actforamerica.org

ACT for America is an issues advocacy organization dedicated to effectively organizing and mobilizing the most powerful grassroots citizen action network in America, a grassroots network committed to informed and coordinated civic action that will lead to public policies that promote America’s national security and the defense of American democratic values against the assault of radical Islam. We are only as strong as our supporters, and your volunteer and financial support is essential to our success. Thank you for helping us make America safer and more secure.
24952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: February 26, 2008, 12:17:21 PM
Obama and the Power of Words
By STEPHEN F. HAYES
February 26, 2008; Page A19

These are words that move and uplift, that give hope to the hopeless. These words inspired millions of voters nationwide to join the grand experiment called democracy, casting votes for their candidate, their country, their destiny:

"More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values . . . For those who have abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!"

So Ronald Reagan proclaimed on July 17, 1980, as he accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Mich.

 
Earlier that day, the New York Times ran a long profile of Reagan on its front page. The author, Howell Raines, lamented that the news media had been unsuccessful in getting Reagan to speak in anything other than "sweeping generalities about economic and military policy." Mr. Raines further noted: "political critics who characterize him as banal and shallow, a mouther of right-wing platitudes, delight in recalling that he co-starred with a chimpanzee in 'Bedtime for Bonzo.'"

Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."

Conservatives understood that this Reagan-as-a-simpleton view was a caricature (something made even clearer in several recent books, particularly Reagan's own diaries). That his opponents never got this is what led to their undoing. Those critics who giggled about his turn alongside a chimp were considerably less delighted when Reagan won 44 states and 489 electoral votes in November.

One Reagan adviser had predicted such a win shortly after Reagan had become the de facto nominee the previous spring. In a memo about the coming general election contest with Jimmy Carter, Richard Whalen wrote Reagan's "secret weapon" was that "Democrats fail to take him very seriously."

Are Republicans making the same mistake with Barack Obama?

 
For months now, Hillary Clinton has suggested that Mr. Obama is all rhetoric, no substance. This claim, or some version of it, has been at the center of her campaign since November. One day after losing to him in Wisconsin and Hawaii -- her ninth and tenth consecutive defeats -- she rather incredibly went back to it again. "It's time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions," she said -- a formulation that could be mistaken for a sound bite.

As she complained about his lack of substance, tens of thousands of people lined up in city after city, sometimes in subfreezing temperatures, for a chance to get a shot of some Mr. Obama hopemongering. Plainly, her critique is not working.

And yet, Republicans are picking it up. In just the past week, conservative commentators have accused Mr. Obama of speaking in "Sesame Street platitudes," of giving speeches that are "almost content free," of "saying nothing." He has been likened to Chance the Gardner, the clueless mope in Jerzy Koscinski's "Being There," whose banal utterances are taken as brilliant by a gullible political class. Others complain that his campaign is "messianic," too self-aggrandizing and too self-referential.

John McCain has joined the fray. In a speech after he won primaries in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, Mr. McCain said: "To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude." After Wisconsin, he sharpened the attack, warning that he would expose Mr. Obama's "eloquent but empty call for change."

The assumption behind much of this criticism is that because Mr. Obama gives a good speech he cannot do substance. This is wrong. Mr. Obama has done well in most of the Democratic debates because he has consistently shown himself able to think on his feet. Even on health care, a complicated national issue that should be Mrs. Clinton's strength, Mr. Obama has regularly fought her to a draw by displaying a grasp of the details that rivals hers, and talking about it in ways Americans can understand.

 
In Iowa, long before the race became the national campaign it is today, Mr. Obama spent much of his time at town halls in which he took questions from the audience. His answers in such settings were often as good or better than the rhetoric in his stump speech, and usually more substantive. He spoke about issues like immigration and national service in a thoughtful manner -- not wonky, not pedantic, but in a way that suggested he'd spent some time thinking about them before.

More important for the race ahead, Mr. Obama has the unique ability to offer doctrinaire liberal positions in a way that avoids the stridency of many recent Democratic candidates. That he managed to do this in the days before the Iowa caucuses -- at a time when he might have been expected to be at his most liberal -- was quite striking.

His rhetorical gimmick is simple. When he addresses a contentious issue, Mr. Obama almost always begins his answer with a respectful nod in the direction of the view he is rejecting -- a line or two that suggests he understands or perhaps even sympathizes with the concerns of a conservative.

At Cornell College on Dec. 5, for example, a student asked Mr. Obama how his administration would view the Second Amendment. He replied: "There's a Supreme Court case that's going to be decided fairly soon about what the Second Amendment means. I taught Constitutional Law for 10 years, so I've got my opinion. And my opinion is that the Second Amendment is probably -- it is an individual right and not just a right of the militia. That's what I expect the Supreme Court to rule. I think that's a fair reading of the text of the Constitution. And so I respect the right of lawful gun owners to hunt, fish, protect their families."

Then came the pivot:

"Like all rights, though, they are constrained and bound by the needs of the community . . . So when I look at Chicago and 34 Chicago public school students gunned down in a single school year, then I don't think the Second Amendment prohibits us from taking action and making sure that, for example, ATF can share tracing information about illegal handguns that are used on the streets and track them to the gun dealers to find out -- what are you doing?"

In conclusion:

"There is a tradition of gun ownership in this country that can be respected that is not mutually exclusive with making sure that we are shutting down gun traffic that is killing kids on our streets. The argument I have with the NRA is not whether people have the right to bear arms. The problem is they believe any constraint or regulation whatsoever is something that they have to beat back. And I don't think that's how most lawful firearms owners think."

In the end, Mr. Obama is simply campaigning for office in the same way he says he would operate if he were elected. "We're not looking for a chief operating officer when we select a president," he said during a question and answer session at Google headquarters back in December.

"What we're looking for is somebody who will chart a course and say: Here is where America needs to go -- here is how to solve our energy crisis, here's how we need to revamp our education system -- and then gather the talent together and then mobilize that talent to achieve that goal. And to inspire a sense of hope and possibility."

Like Ronald Reagan did.

Mr. Hayes, a senior writer for The Weekly Standard, is the author of "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President," (HarperCollins, 2007).
24953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 26, 2008, 12:13:41 PM
Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and the Good War
February 25, 2008
By George Friedman

There has been tremendous controversy over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which consistently has been contrasted with Afghanistan. Many of those who opposed the Iraq war have supported the war in Afghanistan; indeed, they have argued that among the problems with Iraq is that it diverts resources from Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been seen as an obvious haven for terrorism. This has meant the war in Afghanistan often has been perceived as having a direct effect on al Qaeda and on the ability of radical Islamists to threaten the United States, while Iraq has been seen as unrelated to the main war. Supporters of the war in Iraq support the war in Afghanistan. Opponents of the war in Iraq also support Afghanistan. If there is a good war in our time, Afghanistan is it.

It is also a war that is in trouble. In the eyes of many, one of the Afghan war’s virtues has been that NATO has participated as an entity. But NATO has come under heavy criticism from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for its performance. Some, like the Canadians, are threatening to withdraw their troops if other alliance members do not contribute more heavily to the mission. More important, the Taliban have been fighting an effective and intensive insurgency. Further complicating the situation, the roots of many of the military and political issues in Afghanistan are found across the border in Pakistan.

If the endgame in Iraq is murky, the endgame if Afghanistan is invisible. The United States, its allies and the Kabul government are fighting a holding action strategically. They do not have the force to destroy the Taliban — and in counterinsurgency, the longer the insurgents maintain their operational capability, the more likely they are to win. Further stiffening the Taliban resolve is the fact that, while insurgents have nowhere to go, foreigners can always decide to go home.

To understand the status of the war in Afghanistan, we must begin with what happened between 9/11 and early 2002. Al Qaeda had its primary command and training facilities in Afghanistan. The Taliban had come to power in a civil war among Afghans that broke out after the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban had close links to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). While there was an ideological affinity between the two, there was also a geopolitical attraction. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan concerned Pakistan gravely. India and the Soviets were aligned, and the Pakistanis feared being caught in a vise. The Pakistanis thus were eager to cooperate with the Americans and Saudis in supporting Islamist fighters against the Soviets. After the Soviets left and the United States lost interest in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis wanted to fill the vacuum. Their support of the Taliban served Pakistani national security interests and the religious proclivities of a large segment of the ISI.

After 9/11, the United States saw Afghanistan as its main problem. Al Qaeda, which was not Afghan but an international Islamist group, had received sanctuary from the Taliban. If the United States was to have any chance of defeating al Qaeda, it would be in Afghanistan. A means toward that end was destroying the Taliban government. This was not because the Taliban itself represented a direct threat to the United States but because al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan did.

The United States wanted to act quickly and decisively in order to disrupt al Qaeda. A direct invasion of Afghanistan was therefore not an option. First, it would take many months to deploy U.S. forces. Second, there was no practical place to deploy them. The Iranians wouldn’t accept U.S. forces on their soil and the Pakistanis were far from eager to see the Taliban toppled. Basing troops in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan along the northern border of Afghanistan was an option but also a logistical nightmare. It would be well into the spring of 2002 before any invasion was possible, and the fear of al Qaeda’s actions in the meantime was intense.

The United States therefore decided not to invade Afghanistan. Instead, it made deals with groups that opposed the Taliban. In the North, Washington allied with the Northern Alliance, a group with close ties to the Russians. In the West, the United States allied with Persian groups under the influence of Iran. The United States made political arrangements with Moscow and Tehran to allow access to their Afghan allies. The Russians and Iranians both disliked the Taliban and were quite content to help. The mobilized Afghan groups also opposed the Taliban and loved the large sums of money U.S. intelligence operatives provided them.

These groups provided the force for the mission. The primary U.S. presence consisted of several hundred troops from U.S. Special Operations Command, along with CIA personnel. The United States also brought a great deal of air power, both Navy and Air Force, into the battle. The small U.S. ground force was to serve as a political liaison with the Afghan groups attacking the Taliban, to provide access to what weapons were available for the Afghan forces and, above all, to coordinate air support for the Afghans against concentrations of Taliban fighters. Airstrikes began a month after 9/11.

While Washington turned out an extraordinary political and covert performance, the United States did not invade. Rather, it acquired armies in Afghanistan prepared to carry out the mission and provided them with support and air power. The operation did not defeat the Taliban. Instead, it forced them to make a political and military decision.

Political power in Afghanistan does not come from the cities. It comes from the countryside, while the cities are the prize. The Taliban could defend the cities only by massing forces to block attacks by other Afghan factions. But when they massed their forces, the Taliban were vulnerable to air attacks. After experiencing the consequences of U.S. air power, the Taliban made a strategic decision. In the absence of U.S. airstrikes, they could defeat their adversaries and had done so before. While they might have made a fight of it, given U.S. air power, the Taliban selected a different long-term strategy.

Rather than attempt to defend the cities, the Taliban withdrew, dispersed and made plans to regroup. Their goal was to hold enough of the countryside to maintain their political influence. As in their campaign against the Soviets, the Taliban understood that their Afghan enemies would not pursue them, and that over time, their ability to conduct small-scale operations would negate the value of U.S. airpower and draw the Americans into a difficult fight on unfavorable terms.

The United States was not particularly disturbed by the outcome. It was not after the Taliban but al Qaeda. It appears — and much of this remains murky — that the command cell of al Qaeda escaped from Afghan forces and U.S. Special Operations personnel at Tora Bora and slipped across the border into Pakistan. Exactly what happened is unclear, but it is clear that al Qaeda’s command cell was not destroyed. The fight against al Qaeda produced a partial victory. Al Qaeda clearly was disrupted and relocated — and was denied its sanctuary. A number of its operatives were captured, further degrading its operational capability.

The Afghan campaign therefore had these outcomes:

Al Qaeda was degraded but not eliminated.
The Taliban remained an intact fighting force, but the United States never really expected them to commit suicide by massing for U.S. B-52 strikes.
The United States had never invaded Afghanistan and had made no plans to occupy it.
Afghanistan was never the issue, and the Taliban were a subordinate matter.
After much of al Qaeda’s base lost its sanctuary in Afghanistan and had to relocate to Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan became a sideshow for the U.S. military.
Over time, the United States and NATO brought about 50,000 troops to Afghanistan. Their hope was that Hamid Karzai’s government would build a force that could defeat the Taliban. But the problem was that, absent U.S. and NATO forces, the Taliban had managed to defeat the forces now arrayed against them once before, in the Afghan civil war. The U.S. commitment of troops was enough to hold the major cities and conduct offensive operations that kept the Taliban off balance, but the United States could not possibly defeat them. The Soviets had deployed 300,000 troops in Afghanistan and could not defeat the mujahideen. NATO, with 50,000 troops and facing the same shifting alliance of factions and tribes that the Soviets couldn’t pull together, could not pacify Afghanistan.

But vanquishing the Taliban simply was not the goal. The goal was to maintain a presence that could conduct covert operations in Pakistan looking for al Qaeda and keep al Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan. Part of this goal could be achieved by keeping a pro-American government in Kabul under Karzai. The strategy was to keep al Qaeda off balance, preserve Karzai and launch operations against the Taliban designed to prevent them from becoming too effective and aggressive. The entire U.S. military would have been insufficient to defeat the Taliban; the war in Afghanistan thus was simply a holding action.

The holding action was made all the more difficult in that the Taliban could not be isolated from their sources of supply or sanctuary; Pakistan provided both. It really didn’t matter whether this was because President Pervez Musharraf’s government intended to play both sides, whether factions inside the Pakistani military maintained close affinities with the Taliban or whether the Pakistani government and army simply couldn’t control tribal elements loyal to al Qaeda. What did matter was that all along the Afghan border — particularly in southern Afghanistan — supplies flowed in from Pakistan, and the Taliban moved into sanctuaries in Pakistan for rest and regrouping.

The Taliban was and is operating on their own terrain. They have excellent intelligence about the movements of NATO forces and a flexible and sufficient supply line allowing them to maintain and increase operations and control of the countryside. Having retreated in 2001, the Taliban systematically regrouped, rearmed and began operating as a traditional guerrilla force with an increased penchant for suicide attacks.

As in Vietnam, the challenge in fighting a guerrilla force is to cut it off from its supplies. The United States failed to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and that allowed men and materiel to move into South Vietnam until the United States lost the appetite for war. In Afghanistan, it is the same problem compounded. First, the lines of supply into Pakistan are even more complex than the Ho Chi Minh trail was. Second, the country that provides the supplies is formally allied with the United States. Pakistan is committed both to cutting those lines of supply and aiding the United States in capturing al Qaeda in its Northwest. That is the primary mission, but the subsidiary mission remains keeping the Taliban within tolerable levels of activity and preventing them from posing a threat to more and more of the Afghan countryside and cities. There has been a great deal of focus on Pakistan’s assistance in northwestern Afghanistan against al Qaeda, but much less on the line of supply maintaining the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. And as Pakistan has attempted to pursue a policy of balancing its relations with the Taliban and with the United States, the Pakistani government now faces a major jihadist insurgency on its own turf.

Afghanistan therefore is not — and in some ways never has been — the center of gravity of the challenge facing the United States. Occupying Afghanistan is inconceivable without a fundamental shift in Pakistan’s policies or capabilities. But forcing Pakistan to change its policies in southern Afghanistan really is pointless, since the United States doesn’t have enough forces there to take advantage of a Pakistani shift, and Washington doesn’t care about the Taliban in the long run.

The real issue is the hardest to determine. Is al Qaeda prime — not al Qaeda enthusiasts or sympathizers who are able to carry out local suicide bombings, but the capable covert operatives we saw on 9/11 — still operational? And even if it is degraded, given enough time, will al Qaeda be able to regroup and ramp up its operational capability? If so, then the United States must maintain its posture in Afghanistan, as limited and unbalanced as it is. The United States might even need to consider extending the war to Pakistan in an attempt to seal the border if the Taliban continue to strengthen. But if al Qaeda is not operational, then the rationale for guarding Kabul and Karzai becomes questionable.

We have no way of determining whether al Qaeda remains operational; we are not sure anyone can assess that with certainty. Certainly, we have not seen significant operations for a long time, and U.S. covert capabilities should have been able to weaken al Qaeda over the past seven years. But if al Qaeda remains active, capable and in northwestern Pakistan, then the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will continue.

As the situation in Iraq settles down — and it appears to be doing so — more focus will be drawn to Afghanistan, the war that even opponents of Iraq have acknowledged as appropriate and important. But it is important to understand what this war consists of: It is a holding action against an enemy that cannot be defeated (absent greater force than is available) with open lines of supply into a country allied with the United States. It is a holding action waiting for certain knowledge of the status of al Qaeda, knowledge that likely will not come. Afghanistan is a war without exit and a war without victory. The politics are impenetrable, and it is even difficult to figure out whether allies like Pakistan are intending to help or are capable of helping.

Thus, while it may be a better war than Iraq in some sense, it is not a war that can be won or even ended. It just goes on.

stratfor
24954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Joseph Story: Federalism on: February 26, 2008, 11:55:07 AM
"The true test is, whether the object be of a local character, and
local use; or, whether it be of general benefit to the states. If
it be purely local, congress cannot constitutionally appropriate
money for the object. But, if the benefit be general, it matters
not, whether in point of locality it be in one state, or several;
whether it be of large, or of small extent."

-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 453.
24955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts on: February 26, 2008, 11:53:21 AM
Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts

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By Robert Piggott
Religious affairs correspondent, BBC News

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

The country's powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.


The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad.
As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.


This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation. Not exactly the same, but... it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion
Fadi Hakura,
Turkey expert, Chatham House

But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam.

It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.

'Reformation'
Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion.

Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.


Some messages ban women from travelling without their husband's permission... But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone
Prof Mehmet Gormez,
Hadith expert,
Department of Religious Affairs

Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it.

The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University's School of Theology.

An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings - also known individually as "hadiths" - can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.

"Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim - or pseudo-Muslim - practice of female genital mutilation," he says.

"You can find messages which say 'that is what the Prophet ordered us to do'. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition."

The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various - often conservative - cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control.

Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.

Revolutionary
Turkey is intent on sweeping away that "cultural baggage" and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet.

But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted.

Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example.

"There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband's permission and they are genuine.

"But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet's time it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons."
=======

The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research.
Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said "he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone".

So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet's goal was.

Original spirit
Yet, until now, the ban has remained in the text, and helps to restrict the free movement of some Muslim women to this day.


There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment... This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them
Hulya Koc, a "vaize"
As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called "vaizes".

They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey's vast interior.

One of the women, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran - one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith.

She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women.

"There are honour killings," she explains.

"We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love.
"There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them."

'New Islam'
According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam - changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy.

He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.
"This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation," he says.

"Not exactly the same, but if you think, it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. "

Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam.

Now, he says, "they are trying to fashion a new Islam."
Significantly, the "Ankara School" of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy.

They have also taken an even bolder step - rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.

"You have to see them as a whole," says Fadi Hakura.
"You can't say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.

"I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...pe/7264903.stm
24956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is that your final question? on: February 26, 2008, 11:37:13 AM
Is That Your Final Question?
Published: February 26, 2008
NY Times
Tonight, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will debate in Ohio. It will be the 20th debate, and possibly the last, of the Democratic presidential campaign. Is there anything left to ask? The Opinion section asked five experts to pose the questions that they feel have not been answered over the course of more than a year of campaigning. Here’s what they would ask the candidates if they were moderating tonight’s debate.


1. Responding to a questionnaire from The Boston Globe on presidential power, you both criticized President Bush’s use of signing statements, with which he has asserted a constitutional right to bypass more than 1,000 sections of bills that he has signed into law. You both also said you would continue using signing statements, though in a less aggressive way.

But the American Bar Association has called for an end to this practice, and Senator John McCain says he will never issue a signing statement. Why are they wrong?

2. Both of you have said the Constitution does not allow a president to detain a citizen without charges as an enemy combatant. But President Bush won court rulings upholding the indefinite detention of two Americans as enemy combatants. Were the courts wrong? Does a president have the authority to interpret the Constitution differently from the judiciary? Would you ever use the court-approved authority to hold a citizen indefinitely as an enemy combatant?

3. Both of you have said that President Bush cannot attack Iran without first obtaining Congressional authorization for the use of military force. But two Democratic presidents, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton, ordered American forces into extended armed conflicts without Congressional authorization. Did the Korean and Kosovo wars violate the Constitution? Would an attack on Iran be legally different, and if so, how?

4. Are there any circumstances — including in matters of detention, surveillance, interrogation and troop deployments — under which you believe that presidents have the constitutional power as commander in chief to bypass laws in order to take an action they think is necessary to protect national security?

5. Proponents of the so-called unitary executive theory argue that the Constitution does not allow Congress to enact statutes that place the actions of executive-branch officials beyond the president’s control, such as by giving independent decision-making authority to the head of a regulatory agency. Do you agree?

— CHARLIE SAVAGE, a reporter for The Boston Globe and the author of “Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.”

1. Social Security will go into a cash deficit during the next president’s prospective second term. Therefore, if elected, you will: a) do nothing and leave growing deficits to your successor; b) cut benefits, eligibility or both, as President Bush tried; c) raise the payroll tax; or d) there is no d. Those are the only options.

2. Domestic gun owners kill more Americans each year than terrorists have in total since 2000 (even if you define all American fatalities in Iraq as related to terrorism). Can the homeland be secure when our schools are not? If your answer is no, will you take on the National Rifle Association and work for a gun law with teeth?

3. Senator Obama, virtually all economists say trade is good for growth, but you have blamed trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement for the loss of American jobs. Do you really think building an economic wall along the Rio Grande will promote a stronger, more resilient American economy, and if so why?

4. Senator Clinton, will you take on your Wall Street friends and raise the effective income tax on private-equity fund managers and hedge fund managers, who are now taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent? Please explain why the richest Americans should pay the lowest taxes.

5. Senator Obama, you rail against the oil companies, but under the American system of free enterprise, aren’t companies supposed to earn a profit — and even to charge what the market will bear?

==========



6. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a president you both have evoked, said Americans need fear only fear itself. Under President Bush, Americans have been told to so fear terrorism that the executive branch has been permitted to snoop on citizens, hijack the powers of Congress and torture foreigners. Do you agree that fear of terrorism has been pushed too far, and if so, what measures would you adopt to return the United States to a more normal civilian life?

— ROGER LOWENSTEIN, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the author of the forthcoming “While America Aged.”
1. Both of you have argued for more widespread access to the Internet in schools. Given the recent “To Read or Not to Read” report from the National Endowment for the Arts, which revealed a steep decline in reading among young people, and the lack of evidence that computers in the classroom help students learn, wouldn’t federal funds be better spent on projects that encourage reading and engagement with the arts?

2. The Internet is often praised as a liberating force in American culture, but it has also drawn comparisons to an unruly mob. Would you support a federally financed, long-term study of how our use of this technology is changing our behavior, for good and for ill?

3. You have both admitted to being BlackBerry addicts. How has this desire for constant connection and endless information changed your personal relationships and how has it transformed political culture?

— CHRISTINE ROSEN, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society.

The long advocacy for universal health-care coverage by Democrats has earned a base of public support, but it has also provided an easy focus for political attacks. Although universal coverage will protect businesses and families from unmanageable costs, it will also increase government spending considerably and increase government involvement in health care.

The strategy you have adopted as candidates is the same one that Democrats have used for decades without success (including in 1993, when I was a health policy adviser in the first Clinton administration). You have both designed plans that aim to minimize government costs and to minimize changes for Americans with good health coverage, while still constructing a safety net of coverage for the growing millions without insurance.

This approach, however, inevitably increases the complexity of our Rube Goldberg health system. It has made your policies difficult to explain. It has failed to prevent charges that you are promoting “socialized medicine.” And it has cost you the enthusiasm of Americans who want a simpler, tax-based, Medicare-for-all system.

How do you persuade supporters of single-payer health care that your proposals are worth fighting for? And how can you assure the rest of us that the costs and complexities of your plans are actually manageable?

— ATUL GAWANDE, a general surgeon, a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance.”

1. Senator Obama, as commander in chief an American president must understand the sense of honor that motivates his armed forces. Last September, MoveOn.org ran an advertisement in The Times that mocked Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, as “General Betray Us.” You chose not to vote on the Senate resolution that condemned the advertisement. Would you still characterize the Senate vote as a “stunt” and “empty politics”?

2. Samantha Power, one of Senator Obama’s chief foreign policy advisers, strongly criticized the United States in her book “A Problem From Hell” for failing to intervene in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and for the three-year delay in intervening in the Bosnian war, until the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Saddam Hussein also committed genocide by killing thousands of Iraqi Kurds with chemical weapons in the late 1980s and massacring thousands of Shiite marsh dwellers in southern Iraq after the first gulf war. How could we have left Mr. Hussein in power? How can Senator Obama say that removing a genocidal killer was a “dumb” war?

3. Senator Clinton, you have stated that American troop withdrawals from Iraq will begin as soon as you take office as president. But you also note on your campaign Web site that you will order “narrow and targeted operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region.”

Isn’t that what the surge is about? The United States and local leaders have allied to drive out members of Al Qaeda from Baghdad and other areas. How is your policy any different from the policy of President Bush?

4. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution bars any former president from election to a third term. Is it truly consistent with the spirit of the Constitution to have the same professional couple occupying the White House for 12 years? Isn’t this all the more true when Bill Clinton promised that voters would receive, during his first term, “two for the price of one”?

— RUTH WEDGWOOD, a professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns Hopkins, was an adviser to the Rudolph Giuliani campaign.
24957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain on: February 26, 2008, 11:20:39 AM
Well, its the NY Times, so McCain Feingold gets kid glove treatment, but FWIW:

The Real McCain
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By DAVID BROOKS
Published: February 26, 2008
You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but political consultants are as faddish as anyone else. And the current vogueish advice among the backroom set is: Go after your opponent’s strengths. So in the first volley of what feels like the general election campaign, Barack Obama has attacked John McCain for being too close to lobbyists. His assault is part of this week’s Democratic chorus: McCain isn’t really the anti-special interest reformer he pretends to be. He’s more tainted than his reputation suggests.

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David Brooks

Go to Columnist Page » Well, anything is worth trying, I suppose, but there is the little problem of his record. McCain has fought one battle after another against lobbyists and special interests. And while I don’t have space to describe all his tussles, or even the lesser ones like his fight with the agricultural lobby against sugar subsidies, I thought that, amidst all these charges, it might be worth noting some of the McCain highlights from the past dozen years.

In 1996, McCain was one of five senators, and the only Republican, to vote against the Telecommunications Act. He did it because he believed the act gave away too much to the telecommunications companies, and protected them from true competition. He noted that AT&T alone gave $780,000 to Republicans and $456,000 to Democrats in the year leading up to the vote.

In 1998, McCain championed anti-smoking legislation that faced furious opposition from the tobacco lobby. McCain guided the legislation through the Senate Commerce Committee on a 19-1 vote, but then the tobacco companies struck back. They hired 200 lobbyists and spent $40 million in advertising (three times as much as the Harry and Louise health care reform ads). Many of the ads attacked McCain by name, accusing him of becoming a big government liberal. After weeks of bitter debate, the bill died on the Senate floor.

In 2000, McCain ran for president and reiterated his longstanding opposition to ethanol subsidies. Though it crippled his chances in Iowa, he argued that ethanol was a wasteful giveaway. A recent study in the journal Science has shown that when you take all impacts into consideration, ethanol consumption increases greenhouse gas emissions compared with regular gasoline. Unlike, say, Barack Obama, McCain still opposes ethanol subsidies.

In 2002, McCain capped his long push for campaign finance reform by passing the McCain-Feingold Act. People can argue about the effectiveness of the act, but one thing is beyond dispute. It was a direct assault on lobbyist power, and earned McCain undying enmity among many important parts of the Republican coalition, who felt their soft money influence was being diminished.

In 2003, the Senate nearly passed the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. The act was opposed by the usual mix of energy, auto and mining companies. But moderate environmental groups were thrilled that McCain-Lieberman was able to attract more than 40 votes in the Senate.

In 2004, McCain launched a frontal assault on the leasing contract the Pentagon had signed with Boeing for aerial refueling tankers. McCain’s investigation exposed billions of dollars of waste and layers of contracting irregularity.

In 2005, McCain led the Congressional investigation into the behavior of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The investigation was exceedingly unpleasant for Republicans, because it exposed shocking misbehavior by important conservative activists.

Over the past few years, McCain has stepped up his longstanding assault on earmarks. Every year, McCain goes to the Senate floor to ridicule the latest batch of earmarks, and every year his colleagues and the lobbyists fume. For years, McCain has proposed legislative remedies — greater transparency, a 60-vote supermajority requirement — that were brutally unpopular with many colleagues until, suddenly, now.

Over the course of his career, McCain has tried to do the impossible. He has challenged the winds of the money gale. He has sometimes failed and fallen short. And there have always been critics who cherry-pick his compromises, ignore his larger efforts and accuse him of being a hypocrite.

This is, of course, the gospel of the mediocre man: to ridicule somebody who tries something difficult on the grounds that the effort was not a total success. But any decent person who looks at the McCain record sees that while he has certainly faltered at times, he has also battled concentrated power more doggedly than any other legislator. If this is the record of a candidate with lobbyists on his campaign bus, then every candidate should have lobbyists on the bus.

And here’s the larger point: We’re going to have two extraordinary nominees for president this year. This could be one of the great general election campaigns in American history. The only thing that could ruin it is if the candidates become demagogues and hurl accusations at each other that are an insult to reality and common sense.

Maybe Obama can start this campaign over.
24958  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: llustrisimo- Any one know of Locations in So.Cali on: February 25, 2008, 11:26:40 PM
The Ilustrissimo comes to us via Lameco.
24959  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Anyone have any good Circuit Ideas for home on: February 25, 2008, 11:24:59 PM
What's your heart rate?  What is your mission?
24960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Balkans on: February 25, 2008, 11:13:21 PM
Organization of Islamic Conference: ‘Independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and further enhance the joint Islamic action’

February 20th, 2008 INFORMATION (via an email dated Feb. 18, 2008) :

With regard to the declaration of independence by Kosovo yesterday, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu made the following remark today (18 February 2008) in Dakar at the opening of the OIC Senior Officials Meeting preparatory to the forthcoming OIC Summit to be held there on 13-14 March 2008:
“…a very important event took place yesterday. Kosovo has finally declared its independence after a long and determined struggle by its people. As we rejoice this happy result, we declare our solidarity with and support to our brothers and sisters there. The Islamic Umma wishes them success in their new battle awaiting them which is the building of a strong and prosperous a state capable of satisfying of its people. There is no doubt that the independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and further enhance the joint Islamic action.”
24961  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: February 25, 2008, 02:40:51 PM
It's all downhill from here

From The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead by David Shields. © 2008 by David Shields.
Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Your brain starts shrinking at 25. Your handshake starts going soft at 30. At 40, your memory starts to slip. In a new book, author David Shields catalogues the myriad ways that our bodies gradually betray us.



If you could live forever in good health at a particular age, what age would you be? As people get older, their ideal age gets higher. For 18- to 24-year-olds, it's age 27; for 25- to 29-year-olds, it's 31; for 40- to 49-year-olds, it's 40; and for people over 64, it's 59.


Your strength and coordination peak at 19. Your body is the most flexible until age 20; after that, joint function steadily declines. World-class sprinters are almost always in their late teens or early 20s. Your stamina peaks in your late 20s or early 30s; marathon records are invariably held by 25- to 35-year-olds.


Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine, said, "The effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of 25 and 40." Which is in fact true: Creativity peaks in the 30s, then declines rapidly; most creative achievements occur when people are in their 30s. Degas said, "Everyone has talent at 25; the difficulty is to have it at 50." The consolation of the library: When you're 45, your vocabulary is three times as large as it is at 20. When you're 60, your brain possesses four times the information than it does at 20.


Your IQ is highest between ages 18 and 25. Once your brain peaks in size—at age 25—it starts shrinking, losing weight, and filling with fluid. As you age, your responses to stimuli of all kinds become slower and more inaccurate, especially in more complex tasks. From ages 20 to 60, your reaction time to noise slows 20 percent. At 60, you make more errors in verbal learning tasks. Given a list of 24 words, an average 20-year-old remembers 14 of the words, a 40-year-old remembers 11, a 60-year-old remembers nine, and a 70-year-old remembers seven.


Most people reach skeletal maturity by their early 20s. At 30, you reach peak bone mass. Your bones are as dense and strong as they'll ever be. In your late 30s, you start losing more bone than you make. At first you lose bone slowly, 1 percent a year. The older you get, the more you lose.


Beginning in your early 20s, your ability to detect salty or bitter things decreases, as does your ability to identify odors. The amount of ptyalin, an enzyme used to digest starches, in your saliva decreases after age 20. After age 30, your digestive tract displays a decrease in the amount of digestive juices. At 20, in other words, your fluids are fleeing, and by 30, you're drying up.


Lauren Bacall said, "When a woman reaches 26 in America, she's on the slide. It's downhill all the way from then on. It doesn't give you a tremendous feeling of confidence and well-being."

Until you're 30, your grip strength increases; after 40, it declines precipitously. After age 65, your lower arm and back muscle strength declines. Owing to reduced coordination rather than loss of strength, your power output—e.g., your ability to turn a crank over a period of time—falls after age 50.


By age 35, nearly everyone shows some of the signs of aging, such as graying hair, wrinkles, less strength, less speed, stiffening in the walls of the central arteries, degeneration of the heart's blood vessels, diminished blood supply to the brain, elevated blood pressure. The maximum rate your heart can attain is your age subtracted from 220; therefore it falls by one beat every year. Your heart is continually becoming a less-efficient pumping machine.


Emerson said, "After 30, a man wakes up sad every morning, excepting perhaps five or six, until the day of his death."


In My Dinner With André, Wallace Shawn says, "I grew up on the Upper East Side, and when I was 10 years old I was rich, an aristocrat, riding around in taxis, surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and music. Now I'm 36, and all I think about is money."


Mozart died at 35; Byron, at 36; Raphael and van Gogh, at 37. The oldest age at which anyone broke a track-and-field record was 41, in 1909.


Beginning at 40, your white blood cells, which fight cancer and infectious diseases, have a lowered capacity. Each year, more fat gets deposited in the walls of medium and larger arteries, causing the arterial walls to narrow. The weight of your small intestine decreases; the volume and weight of your kidneys shrink. Total blood flow to the kidneys decreases by 10 percent for every decade after the age of 40. Every organ will eventually get less nourishment than it needs to do its job.


Cicero said, "Old age begins at 46." He died at 53.


Victor Hugo said, "Forty is the old age of youth. Fifty is the youth of old age."


Every decade after age 50, your brain loses 2 percent of its weight. You have difficulty learning things and you remember less and less. Memory per se—the actual encoding of information—isn't diminished in a healthy, older person, but retrieval can be an excruciatingly slow process and take many more attempts. Older people are more susceptible to distraction, have trouble coordinating multiple tasks, and have decreased attention spans. In simple tasks and common situations, the old do fine, but when exercise or other stress is added, they often struggle. Perhaps this is why some older people, finding it harder to cope, tend to start searching for comfort rather than excitement.


Evelyn Waugh said, "Old people are more interesting than young. One of the particular points of interest is to observe how after 50 they revert to the habits, mannerisms, and opinions of their parents, however wild they were in youth."

"At 50, everyone has the face he deserves," said George Orwell.

Virgil, author of The Aeneid, died at 50. Shakespeare died at 52.

You gain weight until age 55, at which point you begin to shed weight (specifically, lean tissue, muscle mass, water, and bone). More fat now accumulates in your thighs and less in your abdomen. Your extremities become thinner and your trunk thicker. Middle-aged spread isn't only the result of increased fatty tissue; it's also caused by losing muscle tone and your skin literally thinning out as each skin cell loses its robustness.

In late middle age, the skin in your hands becomes less sensitive to touch. Your skin cells regenerate less often. The skin weakens and dries, the number of sebaceous glands declines dramatically, and all of the tissues of the skin undergo some change: You get wrinkles and gray hair. Wrinkles don't come from age, though. They come from sunlight, which slowly maims the face, causing wrinkles, mottling, and loose skin. "The years between 50 and 57 are the hardest," said T.S. Eliot. "You are being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down."

Your blood cholesterol increases. At 60, you've lost 25 percent of the volume of saliva you normally secrete for food; it becomes more difficult to digest heavy meats.

Emerson said, "'Tis strange that it is not in vogue to commit hara-kiri, as the Japanese do, at 60. Nature is so insulting in her hints and notices, does not pull you by the sleeve, but pulls out your teeth, tears off your hair in patches, steals your eyesight, twists your face into an ugly mask, in short, puts all contumelies upon you, without in the least abating your zeal to make a good appearance, and all this at the same time that she is moulding the new figures around you into wonderful beauty, which of course is only making your plight worse."

The PR flak Harlan Boll defends his lying about his celebrity clients' ages by saying, "The American public doesn't really forgive people for getting older." Which is of course true. Jackie Kennedy said if she knew she was going to get cancer at 65, she wouldn't have done all those sit-ups. In jail, O.J. Simpson bemoaned to his girlfriend that the once admirable, apple-like shape of his posterior had collapsed into middle-aged decrepitude. Gravity sucks.


By the time you reach 65, you've lost 30 percent to 40 percent of your aerobic power. The walls of your heart thicken, and you're more likely to develop coronary disease. Sixty percent of 60-year-old men, and the same percentage of 80-year-old women, have a major narrowing in at least one coronary artery. A stiffening in the walls of the major arteries results in a progressive increase in blood pressure, which imposes an increasing load on the heart. Since the heart has to work harder for each heartbeat and use more energy, the overall efficiency of the cardiovascular system drops significantly.

When you're a young adult, the reflex that tells you it's time to urinate occurs when your bladder is half-full. For people over age 65, the message isn't received until your bladder is nearly full.


At 68, Edmund Wilson said, "The know­ledge that death is not so far away, that my mind and emotions and vitality will soon disappear like a puff of smoke, has the effect of making earthly affairs seem unimportant and human beings more and more ignoble. It is harder to take human life seriously, including one's own efforts and achievements and passions."

In your late 60s, you eat less. Your metabolic rate decreases slightly. The density of your skin's circulatory systems—veins, capillaries, arterioles—is reduced, which is why old people feel cold sooner. Also, your skin functions less well as a barrier because the skin is thinner—like wearing too light a coat. As you age, your facial skin temperature falls. For older people, a comfortable temperature is 10 to 15 degrees higher than it is for a younger person.

There are now more people in the United States over 65 than ever before. Only 30 percent of people ages 75 to 84 report disabilities—the lowest percentage ever reported.

Five percent to 8 percent of people over 65 have dementia; half of those in their 80s have it.

Aristotle described childhood as hot and moist, youth as hot and dry, and adulthood as cold and dry. He believed aging and death were caused by the body being transformed from one that was hot and moist to one that was cold and dry—a change that he viewed as not only inevitable but desirable.

At age 90, you grow increasingly less likely to develop cancer; the tissues of an old person don't serve the needs of aggressive, energy-hungry tumors.


When you're very young, your ability to smell is so intense as to be nearly overwhelming, but by the time you're in your 80s, not only has your ability to smell declined significantly but you yourself no longer even have a distinctive odor. You can stop using deodorants. You're vanishing.

"As we get older," the British poet Henry Reed helpfully observed, "we do not get any younger."
24962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia on: February 25, 2008, 02:31:14 PM
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au...-12332,00.html

Muslims want universities to fit prayer time
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Richard Kerbaj and Milanda Rout | February 25, 2008

MUSLIM university students want lectures to be rescheduled to fit in with prayer timetables and separate male and female eating and recreational areas established on Australian campuses.

International Muslim students, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, have asked universities in Melbourne to change class times so they can attend congregational prayers. They also want a female-only area for Muslim students to eat and relax.

But at least one institution has rejected their demands, arguing that the university is secular and it does not want to set a precedent for requests granted in the name of religious beliefs.

La Trobe University International chief officer John Molony said several students had approached the Bundoora institution about rearranging class times to fit in with daily prayers.

Mr Molony said the university was attempting to "meet the needs" of an increasing number of Muslim international students, including doubling the size of the prayer room on campus.

La Trobe University International College director Martin Van Run said that although it was involved in discussions with the Muslim students who had made the requests, the university was not planning to change any timetables.

"That would seriously inconvenience other people at the college and it is not institutionally viable," he told The Australian. "We are a secular institution ... and we need to have a structured timetable."

Mr Van Run said that Saudi students were fully aware that the university was secular before coming to study there. "They know well in advance the class times," he said.

A spokesman for RMIT University would neither confirm nor deny reports that Muslim students had requested timetable changes.

One university source told The Australian that the requests by Muslim international students for timetable changes included a petition.

"Some of the students would prefer that lecture times were organised so it would be easy for them to attend prayers," he said. "But it wouldn't be a good precedent to set."

Islamic leaders yesterday backed the push by Muslim students to have their lectures arranged to accommodate prayer sessions, but said such a move would be essential only for congregational Friday prayers.

Female Muslim leader Aziza Abdel-Halim said yesterday it was a religious duty for those who followed Islam to preach with their fellow believers on Fridays.

But the former senior member of John Howard's Muslim reference board said there was nothing in Islam that indicated men and women be segregated when it came to educational activities.

"There's nothing in Islam that says there should be complete segregation, especially in educational institutions," said Sister Abdel-Halim.

She said afternoon prayers for Muslims - Zhohor, at 1.10pm, and Asr, at 4.50pm - could be performed until 10 minutes before the following daily prayer, so it was more appropriate to alter prayer times than lecture schedules.

"It's reasonable to ask for the lectures to be shifted around on Friday," Sister Abdel-Halim said. "But if it's going to cause havoc with the timetable, I don't think it's really feasible to ask forevery single prayer to be catered for."
24963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: February 25, 2008, 02:23:15 PM
Will the first casualty of a pandemic be "the plan"?

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic/cdcplan.htm

24964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Electron filmed on: February 25, 2008, 01:26:35 PM
Electron Filmed for First Time - Yahoo! News

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20080225/sc_livescience/electronfilmedforfirsttime
24965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Joseph Sotry: Taxes on: February 25, 2008, 12:36:30 PM

"In a general sense, all contributions imposed by the government
upon individuals for the service of the state, are called taxes,
by whatever name they may be known, whether by the name of tribute,
tythe, tallage, impost, duty, gabel, custom, subsidy, aid, supply,
excise, or other name."

-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 337.
24966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 25, 2008, 12:32:49 PM
Summary
A Feb. 25 suicide bombing in Rawalpindi killed the Pakistani army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmed Baig. This is the second attack in less than a month that has targeted the army’s medical corps in Rawalpindi, and it likely signifies that Pakistan’s jihadists now are targeting senior military officials.

Analysis
A Feb. 25 suicide bombing in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi killed the army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmed Baig. Preliminary reports said the bomber, who was disguised as a beggar, approached Baig’s car in a crowded commercial area on Mall Road, not far from the army’s general headquarters, and detonated. Baig was traveling with his driver and bodyguard. Eight people were killed and another 35 were injured. This is the second attack targeting the army’s medical corps in Rawalpindi in less than a month; on Feb. 4, a suicide bomber drove his car into a bus carrying doctors from the Army Medical College, killing eight people.

Baig is the first general to be killed in the jihadist insurgency, which mostly has targeted security forces, especially the army. The three-star surgeon general is among the lesser-known principal staff officers. He likely was the easiest to target, given his modest security. Nevertheless, it seems that the jihadists, after striking various key institutions (the army, air force, Inter-Services Intelligence and Special Service Group), have started targeting senior military officials — several of whom live and work in Rawalpindi.

It is worth noting that the Pakistani Taliban, led by Abdullah Mehsud, declared a cease-fire a few days ago, and Islamabad said it is engaged in talks with the group. Following the Feb. 18 elections, which passed without any jihadist-related violence, Mehsud issued a statement via his spokesman saying he is ready to enter into a peace agreement with the new government.

That said, the jihadist insurgency is a key issue for Pakistan’s new civilian government.
stratfor
24967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: another new guy on: February 25, 2008, 11:36:48 AM
A Howl of Welcome Grimel!
24968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ElBaradei's Real Agenda on: February 25, 2008, 11:18:05 AM
ElBaradei's Real Agenda
By DANIELLE PLETKA and MICHAEL RUBIN
February 25, 2008; Page A14
WSJ

On Friday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei submitted a report on Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA's Board of Governors. It concluded that, barring "one major remaining issue relevant to the nature of Iran's nuclear programme" -- including a mysterious "green salt project" -- Iran's explanations of its suspicious nuclear activities "are consistent with [the IAEA's] findings [or at least] not inconsistent."

The report represents Mr. ElBaradei's best effort to whitewash Tehran's record. Earlier this month, on Iranian television, he made clear his purpose, announcing that he expected "the issue would be solved this year." And if doing so required that he do battle against the IAEA's technical experts, reverse previous conclusions about suspect programs, and allow designees of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an unprecedented role in crafting a "work plan" that would allow the regime to receive a cleaner bill of health from the IAEA -- so be it.

 
Mr. ElBaradei's report culminates a career of freelancing and fecklessness which has crippled the reputation of the organization he directs. He has used his Nobel Prize to cultivate an image of a technocratic lawyer interested in peace and justice and above politics. In reality, he is a deeply political figure, animated by antipathy for the West and for Israel on what has increasingly become a single-minded crusade to rescue favored regimes from charges of proliferation.

Mr. ElBaradei assumed the directorship on Dec. 1, 1997. On his watch, but undetected by his agency, Iran constructed its covert enrichment facilities and, according to the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, engaged in covert nuclear-weapons design. India and Pakistan detonated nuclear devices. A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear godfather, exported nuclear technology around the world.

In 2003, Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi confessed to an undetected weapons effort. Mr. ElBaradei's response? He rebuked the U.S. and U.K. for bypassing him. When Israel recently destroyed what many believe was a secret (also undetected) nuclear facility in Syria, Mr. ElBaradei told the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh that it is "unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility," although his agency has not physically investigated the site.

The IAEA's mission is to verify that "States comply with their commitments, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and other non-proliferation agreements, to use nuclear material and facilities only for peaceful purposes." Yet in 2004 Mr. ElBaradei wrote in the New York Times that, "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security."

IAEA technical experts have complained anonymously to the press that the latest report on Iran was revamped to suit the director's political goals. In 2004, Mr. ElBaradei sought to purge mention of Iranian attempts to purchase beryllium metal, an important component in a nuclear charge, from IAEA documents. He also left unmentioned Tehran's refusal to grant IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military complex, where satellite imagery showed a facility seemingly designed to test and produce nuclear weapons.

The IAEA's latest report leaves unmentioned allegations by an Iranian opposition group of North Korean work on nuclear warheads at Khojir, a military research site near Tehran. It also amends previous conclusions and closes the book on questions about Iran's work on polonium 210 -- which nuclear experts suspect Iran experimented with for use as an initiator for nuclear weapons, but which the regime claims was research on radioisotope batteries. In 2004, the IAEA declared itself "somewhat uncertain regarding the plausibility of the stated purpose of the [polonium] experiments." Today it finds these explanations "consistent with the Agency's findings and with other information available."

The IAEA director seems intent on undercutting Security Council diplomacy. Just weeks after President George Bush toured the Middle East to build Arab support for pressure on Tehran, Mr. ElBaradei appeared on Egyptian television on Feb. 5 to urge Arabs in the opposite direction, insisting Iran was cooperating and should not be pressured. And as he grows more and more isolated from Western powers intent on disarming Iran, Mr. ElBaradei has found champions in the developing and Arab world. They cheer his self-imposed mission -- to hamstring U.S. efforts to constrain Iran's program, whether or not the regime is violating its non-proliferation obligations or pursuing nuclear weapons.

In working to undermine sanctions, however, Mr. ElBaradei demeans the purpose of his agency and undercuts its non-proliferation mission. He also makes military action all the more likely.

Ms. Pletka and Mr. Rubin are, respectively, vice president for and resident scholar in Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
24969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mexico Under Siege on: February 25, 2008, 11:04:01 AM
Mexico Under Siege
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
February 25, 2008; Page A14

Mexico City

Perhaps it is a sign of a maturing electorate that Barack Obama's past drug use has not become a disqualifying factor in his bid for the presidency. It may signify that Americans are beginning to view the intake of mind-altering substances as a private decision.

For those who embrace the notion of personal responsibility, such a change in public attitudes might be considered progress. But in Mexico, what suggests an increase in tolerance of illegal drug use in the U.S. has a tragic flipside: the gut-wrenching violence that arises when demand meets prohibition. This country is paying dearly for that contradiction.

Under prohibition, only criminals can serve the market for illegal narcotics. And they have a lot of incentive to do so since prohibition pushes prices up. These market dynamics have given rise to transnational crime networks -- modern, savvy businesses run by ruthless killers bent on preserving their income. Anyone who tries to get in the way risks becoming a statistic. Last year in Mexico there were 2,713 homicides attributable to organized crime, up from 2,120 in 2006 -- according to the intelligence arm of the country's attorney general.

 
It's a pretty grim picture. Yet there is at least one man in Mexico who believes that it doesn't have to be this way. His name is Eduardo Medina Mora, and 14 months ago he chose to accept what some would regard as mission impossible: taking on the job of attorney general with the express goal of restoring order to a nation turned upside down by organized crime.

I interviewed him last year, just 100 days into his new job, and I met with him again two weeks ago to take a reading on progress. He reports that the Mexican state is reasserting itself, though he also warns that the battle is far from won.

Mr. Medina Mora suffers no illusions about his office's capacity to shut off the supply of drugs to the U.S., or for that matter in Mexico, where drug use is on the increase. That's a welcome relief: After decades of a war on drugs claiming thousands of innocent lives, poisoning institutions in developing countries, and raising the incentive for pushing narcotics on children -- all the while delivering not a modicum of success -- the argument for attacking supply to end demand is by now tedious.

Instead, Mr. Medina Mora is a realist. "The objective," he says, "cannot be destroying narcotrafficking or drug-related crime, because demand is inelastic." "It is very important not to lose perspective on the goal," he tells me. "Trying to get rid of consumption and trafficking is impossible, as a bold objective."

This in no way implies surrender on his part. What's important, he says, is that the goal be clearly understood. Instead of focusing on supply, he is concentrating on the suppliers, and specifically their ability to run business empires. It's about removing "the enormous economic and fire power" of the cartels which threaten the Mexican democracy, and "recovering the territory [controlled by organized crime] for the people and the state." This view is not unlike that of Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe, who has led the fight to end the tyranny of organized crime in some parts of his country.

In Mexico, Mr. Medina Mora continues, "there are areas where organized crime disputes the state's exclusive use of force and its power to collect taxes. They are not only shipping drugs but they are involved in extortion, prostitution rings, smuggling goods and people, stealing Pemex [the state-owned oil company] products, and forcing legal businesses to pay protection taxes."

The attorney general's strategy has been to hit these businesses where it hurts most: in their pocketbooks. By studying the way the narcotics market works, his office has used "operational mapping and mapping of their supply and distribution routes" to "put obstacles in the way and block traditional flows." This approach involves tighter controls on air traffic, better technology and smarter inspection systems for shipments from South America.

Mr. Medina Mora says the plan is working, and rattles off a string of captures and seizures, including some 10 drug-trafficking planes -- even one DC-9 -- large enough to carry up to five metric tons of cocaine. Last year he reeled in a 23.5 metric-ton shipment of cocaine coming by sea from the Colombian port of Buenaventura, and broke up a Mexico City operation that allegedly supplied "meth" producers annually with over 100 metric tons of the precursor pseudoephedrine.

The attorney general is rightly proud of this record, and says that lower availability has meant sharp increases in the street price of both cocaine and "meth" in 38 cities in the U.S. -- according to U.S. officials. Still, the seizure scorecard does nothing to prove progress in the battle against drug use, any more than body counts reveal who is winning a war. And as prices rise so do cartel incentives, particularly when demand is notoriously resistant to change.

But going by Mr. Medina Mora's measure of success -- which is damage to organized crime such that it ceases to dominate Mexican territory and society -- there may be progress. Unfortunately, he says, proof of that could come in the form of more violence in the short run. "When this kind of criminal network begins to collapse, the criminals go back to more primitive methods of crime -- kidnapping, car theft and extortion. They fragment and lose control; cells start operating on their own and fighting with each other. Turf becomes very important."

As if to prove his point, two days after we talked a bomb exploded in the trendy neighborhood of Zona Rosa here. A government investigation is ongoing, but there is reason to believe that the device was meant as payback to law enforcement for the arrest two days earlier of seven members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

Mr. Medina Mora believes more could be done with greater international cooperation against money laundering, and with a U.S. effort to stem the flow of high-powered weapons into Mexico. Another way, which he is too polite to mention, would be for U.S. authorities to acknowledge that under present policies they are losing their drug war.

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
WSJ
24970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's Finance Ploy on: February 25, 2008, 10:48:26 AM
Obama's Finance Ploy
February 25, 2008; Page A14
Barack Obama is promising to end partisanship in Washington, and here's a place to start: He could stop playing politics with the Federal Election Commission in a way that could hamper John McCain's campaign against, well, Mr. Obama.

The Illinois Senator is blocking confirmation of one of President Bush's appointees to the FEC, which administers election laws. This has left the agency two commissioners short of the quorum it needs to make decisions -- with the potential for direct harm to Mr. McCain's campaign. As we've been writing, the Arizona Senator took out a controversial $1 million loan that FEC Chairman David Mason has said might lock him into the public finance system for the primary season. Mr. McCain doesn't want to do that because he'd have to abide by spending limits that would reduce his campaigning this spring and summer. Mr. Mason says the FEC needs to rule on the matter, but without a quorum Mr. McCain is left hanging.

 
The FEC must also vote to certify that Mr. McCain can receive an estimated $85 million in public funds for the November election. The Republican has already pledged to accept those funds, and the spending limits that go with them, and he is counting on the money to make him competitive against a Democratic nominee. However, no FEC quorum, no public McCain funds in the fall -- and a potentially big advantage for Mr. Obama, who is raising far more in private donations.

The FEC dispute centers on Hans von Spakovsky, a Bush appointee whose two-year recess term ended in December and who has been renominated. Before coming to the FEC, Mr. von Spakovsky was a lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he supported voter-ID laws that Democrats claim will harm black voters but have been vindicated in court. Mr. von Spakovsky's nomination was approved by the Rules Committee in September, but then Mr. Obama intervened with a "hold." Other Democrats have since joined him.

Mr. von Spakovsky was supposed to be voted on in a package of four FEC nominees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid instead demanded that all four get individual votes, hoping to tank only Mr. von Spakovsky. The six FEC commissioners have staggered terms, and one Republican and one Democrat are supposed to end their terms simultaneously so there is no partisan advantage. Mr. von Spakovsky is paired with Steven Walther, a Nevada lawyer with close ties to Mr. Reid. The Majority Leader can hardly expect to get his hand-picked choice, while throwing Mr. Bush's overboard.

All of this is the rankest sort of partisan Beltway gamesmanship, all the worse because it is rooted in racial politics. It is precisely what Mr. Obama says he wants to rise above, but apparently that will happen only after he wins the Presidency. Mr. Obama also boasts about his role in crafting last year's lobbying and ethics law, which includes a provision requiring candidates to report "bundled" campaign contributions. The FEC was unable to devise the rules for that provision before it lost its quorum in December. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is bundling away.

We dislike these campaign laws, in part because they allow the likes of Mr. Obama to claim to be reformers while working the rules to their own advantage. But if Senators who want to be President are going to pass these rules, the least they can do is give the FEC the ability to enforce them.

WSJ
24971  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Dan Inosanto on: February 25, 2008, 10:43:16 AM
Guro I. has a substantial role in this movie:

http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony/redbelt/trailer/
24972  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Father's Question on: February 24, 2008, 03:23:17 PM
Well this matter wandered off the radar screen until my son's class was shown a video repeating this cowardly doctrine this past week.  He came home to me upset.  He feels afraid he will be thrown out of the school should ever he have to defend himself.

So I spoke with the school's office and made arrangements to see the video in question for myself this coming Thursday. The principal got wind of my interest and we had a very serious conversation this past Friday. In our previous dealings I have found her to be a rather level headed woman and I suspect she finds me to be , , , interesting  wink so we had a basis upon which I could begin the conversation.

I stated the matter plainly-- the school's policy was wrong and I most certainly am teaching my son to defend himself. She countered with the to-be-expected. I told her I had told him to disobey the schools policy should he be struck, and she said he would be punished. I asked if that would include a mark on his record. She said it could, though not likely for ordinary scuffles. Then I hit her with a point that I picked up here; I told her that like all human beings, my son had the God-given right, the constitutional right under the Ninth Amendment, and statutory rights under the laws of California to defend himself and that should the school ever put a disciplinary mark on him that I would bring the full power of the courts to bear.

This she was not expecting  evil She knows I used to be a lawyer and it most certainly knocked her off-balance for the logic of the point was new to her. I followed up by saying that I understood that if she had two scrapping boys both hollering "He started it!" that I had no problem with both being given detention or analogous punishment, but any mark on his record would be met by a lawsuit.

We talked some more. She tried PC twaddle and I told her the school was teaching cowardice and I was teaching my son to grow up into a man. Eventually she said she would take another look at the handbook, consult with the distict bureacracy etc. I offered to help her redraft the passage in question and she answered that she just might take me up on that.

The Adventure continues , , ,
24973  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: February 24, 2008, 12:43:44 PM
Jeanne Assam tells of her gunfight

http://www.officer.com/web/online/Top-News-Stories/Colorado-Security-Officer-Recalls-Encounter-With-Church-Gunman/1$40322
24974  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Living, Training, and Fighting with Eyeglasses on: February 24, 2008, 09:49:21 AM
Woof All:

At my wife's urging I finally got around to something I should have done many years ago-- I went to the eye doctor.

Apparently I am 20/70 for near range and 20/30 for far range.  I now have blended bi-focals for my desk, aorund the house, and another pair that are for out and about (beyond arm's length).

My wife had me get silver frames "to go with my hair" (Ouch!   )

Anyway, its a whole new world-- things are much sharper!

So as I start this chapter, and figuring out how to live with glasses (e.g. developing habits so that I don't lose them--the
f@#$%ng things are expensive!) it occurs to me that there are issues regarding fighting, training etc. 

Any tips?

TAC,
Crafty Dog
24975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / After serving they fight to become citizens on: February 24, 2008, 07:45:15 AM

Its the NY Times, so caveat lector
==========================


Despite a 2002 promise from President Bush to put citizenship applications for immigrant members of the military on a fast track, some are finding themselves waiting months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlogs. One, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick of the Army, who had tried three times to file for citizenship, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application.

 
Reach of War
 
Alan Zale for The New York Times
Abdool Habibullah, an ex-marine, is waiting to hear about his application. “If what I’ve done for this country isn’t enough for me to be a citizen, then I don’t know what is,” he said.

About 7,200 service members or people who have been recently discharged have citizenship applications pending, but neither the Department of Defense nor Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps track of how long they have been waiting. Immigration lawyers and politicians say they have received a significant number of complaints about delays because of background checks, misplaced paperwork, confusion about deployments and other problems.

“I’ve pretty much given up on finding out where my paperwork is, what’s gone wrong, what happened to it,” said Abdool Habibullah, 27, a Guyanese immigrant who first applied for citizenship in 2005 upon returning from a tour in Iraq and was honorably discharged from the Marines as a sergeant. “If what I’ve done for this country isn’t enough for me to be a citizen, then I don’t know what is.”

The long waits are part of a broader problem plaguing the immigration service, which was flooded with 2.5 million applications for citizenship and visas last summer — twice as many as the previous year — in the face of 66 percent fee increases that took effect July 30. Officials have estimated that it will take an average of 18 months to process citizenship applications from legal immigrants through 2010, up from seven months last year.

But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas.

At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which checks the names of citizenship applicants against those in its more than 86 million investigative files, has been overwhelmed, handling an average of 90,000 name-check requests a week. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the F.B.I. was asked to check 4.1 million names, at least half of them for citizenship and green card applicants, a spokesman said.

“Most soldiers clear the checks within 30 to 60 days, or 60 to 90 days,” said Leslie B. Lord, the Army’s liaison to Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes citizenship applications. “But even the soldier with the cleanest of records, if he has a name that’s very similar to one that’s in the F.B.I. bad-boy and bad-girl list, things get delayed.”

Such explanations are why Mr. Habibullah has decided that once he does become a citizen — if he ever becomes a citizen — he will change his name.

“I figured that’s part of the reason things got delayed,” he said. “You know, that I have a Muslim name.”

Thousands of Muslim civilians have also found themselves waiting months or years for background checks, and have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Denver. But advocates for the immigrant service members said that those with pending applications are from a variety of backgrounds and that they do not suspect a pattern of discrimination against Muslims.

Some 31,200 members of the military were sworn in as citizens between October 2002 and December 2007, according to the immigration service, but a spokeswoman, Chris Rhatigan, said she could not determine how long it took for them to be naturalized since the agency does not maintain a database tracking military cases.

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

Page 2 of 2)



Over all, 312,000 citizenship or green card applications are pending name checks, including 140,000 that have been waiting more than six months, immigration officials said. This month, immigration authorities eased background-check requirements for green cards, saying that if applicants had been waiting more than six months, they could be approved without an F.B.I. check, and approvals could be revoked later “in the unlikely event” that troubling information was found.

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Enlarge This Image
 
Mr. Mohammed on duty in Iraq, where he was in the Army.

Reach of War
Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times
Michelle Murphy, whose son Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick was killed in Iraq before his citizenship application was approved.

After hearing complaints from at least half a dozen service members over the past three months, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York has drafted a bill to create a special clearinghouse to ensure that applications from active and returning members of the military are processed quickly and smoothly. A spokesman said several other lawmakers reported hearing many similar stories.

“These are men and women who are risking their lives for us,” Mr. Schumer said in a telephone interview. “They’ve met all the requirements for citizenship, they have certainly proved their commitment to our country, and yet they could lose their lives while waiting for a bureaucratic snafu to untangle.”

In interviews, immigration lawyers and military officials said that in general, the naturalization process takes service members between six months and a year, which is about half the current average wait for civilians. But some cases drag on much longer because of background-check delays or because applications are misplaced, or notices are mailed to stateside addresses after an applicant has been deployed, causing appointments to be missed.

“You try to resolve these things amicably, reaching out to the military, reaching out to immigration officials, but you hit roadblock after roadblock,” said David E. Piver, a Pennsylvania lawyer who filed at least six petitions in federal court over the past five years on behalf of service members experiencing longer than usual delays on their citizenship applications.

“It’s usually not any substantive issue that’s causing those delays,” he said. “What it boils down to are bureaucratic snafus.”

Feyad Mohammed, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago who lives with his parents in Richmond Hill, Queens, was naturalized last month — four years after he filed the first of four citizenship applications, and six months after his honorable discharge from the Army as a sergeant.

Mr. Mohammed first applied in 2004, after he returned from the first of his two tours in Iraq. But the application seemed to have been lost; when he checked after a few months, he said, no one at the immigration service could tell him where it was or even if it had been received. He filed again in 2005, but missed his interview several months later; it had been scheduled in Iraq, during his second combat tour, but he was home on leave on the appointed day.

After he was discharged in July 2007, Mr. Mohammed filed another application. The paperwork was returned because he had not included a check covering the processing fee, he said, ignoring a Bush administration initiative that exempts combat veterans from application fees for up to a year after discharge. It was then that Mr. Mohammed reached out to Senator Schumer’s office, which helped him file a fourth, and final, time.

When he was sworn in Jan. 25 at the federal courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Mohammed said, he felt “relieved.”

“I was a citizen,” he said. “I could finally move on with my life.”

But Sergeant Frederick, a 21-year-old immigrant from Trinidad, would be awarded citizenship only posthumously, on the day of his burial. He is one of more than 90 immigrant service members to be naturalized after losing their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Sergeant Frederick’s mother, Michelle Murphy, said that he had filed his citizenship application a year before he was deployed to Iraq in 2005, but that his application was sent back to her Maryland home three times — once because of incomplete biographical information, again because he had left a box unchecked, and once more because he had not paid the fee.

Finally, Ms. Murphy said, Sergeant Frederick received a letter saying that the fingerprints he had included with his application could not be read and that he needed to submit new ones. She contacted immigration officials, who arranged for him to submit a new set of fingerprints on Oct. 19, 2005, near his base in Tikrit. On the way back from the appointment, his convoy hit a roadside bomb.

“If somebody is fighting for a country, if he’s deployed, if he’s in the middle of a war, it shouldn’t be that hard for them to become a citizen,” Ms. Murphy, 42, said in a telephone interview.

After his death, the immigration service began accepting enlistment fingerprints with service members’ citizenship applications, provided applicants authorized the military to share their files with immigration officials. A bill to make such sharing automatic has been passed by the House and is pending a final Senate vote.

In the meantime, Mr. Habibullah is working as an aircraft hydraulics mechanic in Connecticut, though he hopes to get a better-paying job in the federal government once he is naturalized. In October, Mr. Habibullah’s father and grandmother became citizens in separate ceremonies, though they applied fully two years after he did.

Mr. Habibullah has passed the citizenship test and been interviewed, and he said he does not know what to do to move his application through the backlog faster.

“Every time I ask about it, I get the same answer: it’s pending the background check,” Mr. Habibullah said as he looked over his military medals, which are displayed on a wall in the Mount Vernon, N.Y., apartment he shares with his wife and 1-month-old son. “I’m at the point right now that I’ve almost given up on it.”
24976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Balkans on: February 24, 2008, 07:37:20 AM
Third article of the morning giving the case against our support of Kosovo secession.  Again, the reliability of the source is unknown.
====================

Genocide in Kosovo
Albanian Skenderbeg Division



The historical and political precedents for the creation of a greater Sqiperia or Greater Albania was set during World War II when the Kosovo and Metohija regions along with territory Southwest of lake Skutari from Montenegro and the western region of Southern Serbia, or Juzna Srbija (now part of Macedonija), were annexed to Albania by the Axis powers led by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, under a plan devised by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler to dismember and to destroy the Serbian Nation and people, which the Germans and Italians perceived as the main threat to the axis powers and to the Third Reich in the Balkan.
On April 7, 1939, Italian troops invaded and occupied Albania forcing the Albanian ruler King Zog I Ahmed Bey Zogu, to flee to Greece. Italy formally annexed into the Kingdom of Italy under the Italian king Victor Immanuel and established a military government and viceroy. The Italian began a program to colonize the country when thousands of settlers emigrated to Albania. An Albanian Fascist Party was established with Albanian Black skirts based on Italian models. The Albanian Army consisted of three infantry brigades of 12 000 men.
On October 28 1940, Italy invaded Greece from Albania with 10 Italian divisions and the Albanian Army but were driven back.

Germany sought to assist the Italian-Albanian offensive by operation Alpine Violet, a plan to move a corps of tree German mountain divisions to Albania by air and sea. Instead German built up a heavy concentration of the German Twelfth Army on the northwest Greek Border with Bulgaria, from where the German invasion was launched.
On April 6, 1941, Nazi Germany and the axis powers invaded Yugoslavia, Operation Punishment, and Greece forcing the capitulation of Yugoslavia on the 17th, and Greece on the 23rd. Yugoslavia was subsequently occupied and dismembered. The Axis powers established a greater Albania or greater Shqiperia at the expense of Serbia and Montenegro. Territory from Montenegro was annexed to Greater Albania. From Serbia, the Kosovo and Metohija were ceded to greater Albania, along with the western part of Southern Serbia (Juzna Srbija), now part of Macedonia, an area which was part of Stara Srbija (Ancient Old Serbia). This Kosovo-metohija region and the surrounding territory annexed to Greater Albania was called "New Albania".
To create an ethnically pure Shqiptar Kosovo, which Albanian called "Kosova", the Shqiptari (Albanians) launched a widescale campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Ethnic Serbs in the Kosovo-Metohija regions were massacred, and their homes were burned, and survivors were brutally driven out and expelled in policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The Balli Kombetar (BK or National Union) was an Albanian nationalist group led by Midhat Fresheri and Ali Klissura whose political objective was to in incorporate Kosovo-Metohija into a Greater Albania and to ethnically cleanse the region of Orthodox Serbs

The Abanian Committee of Kosovo organized massive campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Orthodox Serbian inhabitants of Kosovo- Metohuja. A contemporary report described the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Serbs as follows:
Armed with material supplied by the Italians, the Albanians hurled themselves against helpless settlers in their homes and villages. According to the most reliable sources, the Albanian burned many Serbian settlements, killing some of the people and driving out others who escaped to the mountains. At present other Serbian settlement are being attacked and the property of individuals and of communities is either being confiscated or destroyed. It is not possible to ascertain at the present time the exact number of victims of those atrocities, but it may be estimated that at least between 30.000 and 40.000 perished.
Bedri Pejani, the Muslim leader of the Albanian National committee, called for the extermination of Ortodox Serbian Cristians in Kosovo Metohija and for a union of a Greater Albania with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Rashka (Sandzak) region of Serbia, into a great Islamic state. The grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El Husseini was presented to Pejani a plan which he approved as a being in the interest of Islam. The Germans however rejected the plan.
On September 3, 1943, Italy capitulated by signing an armistice with the Allies. The German were now forced to occupy Albania with the collapse of the Italian forces. The Germans sent the 100th Jaeger Division from Greece and the 297th Infantry Division from Serbia and the German 1st Mountain Division to occupy Albania. These troops were organized into the XXI Mountain Corps which was under the command of General Paul Bader.

Additional security forces for the interior were needed, however, to free up Germans troops for defense of the coastline. The decision was made to form an Albanian SS mountain division for this purpose. In April in 1944, recruitment for the Albanian SS division began under direction of the newly formed Albanian Nazi party, which has been formed through the efforts of Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Acting upon instructions of Reichsfuehrer SS Henrich Himmler, the SS main office ordered the formation of an Albanian volunteer mountain division on April 17, 1944. SS Brigadefuehrern and Generalmajor of the Waffen SS Josef Fitzhum, who Headed the Higher SS and Police Command in Albania, oversaw the forming and training of the division.
The SS high Command planed to create a mountain division of 10.000 men. The Higher SS and Police Command in Albania, in conduction with the Albanian National Committee, listed 11.398 possible recruits for the Waffen SS mountain division. Most of these recruits were "kossovars", shqiptar Ghegs from Kosovo Metohija in Serbia. The Shqiptar Tosks were found mainly in southern Albania. Most of the Shqiptar collaborators with the nazi forces were theNazi forces were the so-called Kossovars, ethnic Shqiptars from the Kosmet of Serbia. The Nazi German-sponsored Albanian gendarmes, special police and para-military units were made up by Kossovars. The Kossovars were under the direct control of the Albanian Interior Minister Xhafer Deva.
The Skanderbeg Division was formed and trained in Kosovo and was made up mostly of muslim Shqiptar Kossovars. There were only a small number of Albanians from Albania proper in the division. The Skanderbeg Mountain Division of the Wafen SS was thus essentially a Kosovo or Kosmet Division. The Division was stationed and operated in Kosovo and other Serbian regions almost exclusively.

Its a long article but worth reading............. the rest is here -------> http://www.kosovo.net/skenderbeyss.html
24977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Balkans on: February 24, 2008, 07:35:13 AM
The reliability of this source is unknown to me.  I post it as an example of part of the case being made that our support of Kosovo independence is a mistake.  Note the date.
===========================

Albanians and Afghans fight for the heirs of to Bosnia's SS past



Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1993
By Robert Fox in Fojnica (Bosnia)
"DOCUMENTS!" shouted a man in a beret with an insignia in green Arabic script outside the UN house in the Bosnian mountain town of Fojnica. He was hostile and demanded our presence at the police station.
Later the police chief apologised, but made clear that authority had passed to the men with the Koranic texts hanging from their fatigues.
Last summer Muslim and Croat leaders in Fojnica asked the WN to declare it a "zone of peace". Since then war has ravaged the town, bringing murder, mayhem and exile to at least half its original population of 12,000. Different, and alien, forces are now in charge -- some of the toughest in the Bosnian Muslim army.
These are the men of the Handzar division. "We do everything with the knife, and we always fight on the frontline," a Handzar told one UN officer.
Up to 6000-strong, the Handzar division glories in a fascist culture. They see themselves as the heirs of the SS Handzar division, formed by Bosnian Muslims in 1943 to fight for the Nazis. Their spiritual model was Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who sided with Hitler.
According to UN officers, surprisingly few of those in charge of the Handzars in Fojnica seem to speak good Serbo-Croatian. "Many of them are [Muslim] Albanian, whether from Kosovo (the Serb province where Albanians are the majority) or from Albania itself."
They are trained and led by veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, say UN sources. The strong presence of native Albanians is an ominous sign. It could mean the seeds of war are spreading south via Kosovo and into Albania, thence to the Albanians of Macedonia.
Pakistani fundamentalists are known to have had a strong hand in providing arms and a small weapons industry for the Bosnian Muslims.
Hardline elements of the Bosnian army, like the Handzar, appear to have the backing of an increasingly extreme leadership in Sarajevo, represented by Mr Ejup Ganic, Foreign Minister, Mr Haris Silajdzic, Prime Minister, and Mr Enver Hadjihasanovic, the new army chief.
The Handzars are working closely with other units around Fojnica, preparing for the long assault on Kiseljak to the east and Prozor to the west, a campaign likely to last years.
The first political act in this new operation appears to have been the murder of the two monks in the monastery. Last month Brother Nikola Milicevic, 39, and Brother Mato Migic, 56, were surprised by a four-man squad.
After an argument, Brother Nikola was shot dead on the spot. His colleague was only wounded, but finished off by a shot in the neck.
Mysteriously, the police guard disappeared a few minutes before. The murder squad withdrew after the killings.
The Provincial for the Franciscans of Bosnia, Petar Andjelovic, demanded an explanation. He received condolences from President Alija Izetbegovic and a note from the police in Sarajevo that the matter was under investigation.
The Provincial is convinced this was a political murder to deepen the division between Croats and Muslims. He also believes it was sanctioned by Sarajevo.
"I can say that for the moment all responsibility for this killing falls at the door of the Bosnian army," he told an Italian Catholic magazine last week. "Somebody very powerful must have organised this."
The way the Handzars have settled in Fojnica suggests they are playing for a long war. The town is self-sufficient in meat, vegetables and cereals. The terrain is ideal for guerrilla operations.
More significant is the nature of the Handzars, and the influences of the Albanians in their command, and the support from Pakistan. These suggest, politically and militarily, the war in Bosnia has spread - under the dozing eyes of the West.

http://www.srpska-mreza.com/Bosnia/again-hanjar.html
24978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We bombed the wrong side? on: February 24, 2008, 07:29:37 AM
We bombed the wrong side?

by Lewis MacKenzie



National Post, 6 April 2004
www.globalresearch.ca 11 April 2004
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MAC404A.html

Five years ago our television screens were dominated by pictures of Kosovo-Albanian refugees escaping across Kosovo's borders to the sanctuaries of Macedonia and Albania. Shrill reports indicated that Slobodan Milosevic's security forces were conducting a campaign of genocide and that at least 100,000 Kosovo-Albanians had been exterminated and buried in mass graves throughout the Serbian province. NATO sprung into action and, in spite of the fact no member nation of the alliance was threatened, commenced bombing not only Kosovo, but the infrastructure and population of Serbia itself -- without the authorizing United Nations resolution so revered by Canadian leadership, past and present.

Those of us who warned that the West was being sucked in on the side of an extremist, militant, Kosovo-Albanian independence movement were dismissed as appeasers. The fact that the lead organization spearheading the fight for independence, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was universally designated a terrorist organization and known to be receiving support from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda was conveniently ignored.
The recent dearth of news in the North American media regarding the increase in violence in Kosovo compared to the comprehensive coverage in the European press strongly suggests that we Canadians don't like to admit it when we are wrong. On the contrary, selected news clips on this side of the ocean continue to reinforce the popular spin that those dastardly Serbs are at it again.
A case in point was the latest crisis that exploded on March 15. The media reported that four Albanian boys had been chased into the river Ibar in Mitrovica by at least two Serbs and a dog (the dog's ethnic affiliation was not reported).Three of the boys drowned and one escaped to the other side. Immediately, thousands of Albanians mobilized and concentrated in the area of the divided city. Attacks on Serbs took place throughout the province resulting in an estimated 30 killed and 600 wounded. Thirty Serbian Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed, more than 300 homes were burnt to the ground and six Serbian villages cleansed of their occupants. One hundred and fifty international peacekeepers were injured.

Totally ignored in North America were the numerous statements from impartial sources that said there was no incident between the Serbs, the dog and the Albanian boys. NATO Police spokesman Derek Chappell stated on March 16 that it was "definitely not true" that the boys had been chased into the river by Serbs. Chappell went on to say that the surviving boy had told his parents that they had entered the river alone and that three of his friends had been swept away by the current. Admiral Gregory Johnson, the overall NATO commander, further stated that the ensuing clashes were "orchestrated and well-planned ethnic cleansing" by the Kosovo-Albanians. Those Serbs forced to leave joined the 200,000 who had been cleansed from the province since NATO's "humanitarian" bombing in 1999. The '"cleansees" have become very effective "cleansers."

In the same week a number of individuals posing as Serbs ambushed and killed a UN policeman and his local police partner. During the firefight one of them was wounded which caused an immediate switch from Serbian to Albanian as he screamed, "I've been hit"! The UN pursued the attackers and tracked them to an Albanian-run farm where they discovered weapons and the wounded Albanian who had died from his wounds. Four Albanians were arrested. Once again, the ambush had been reported in the United States but not the follow-up which clearly indicated yet another orchestrated provocation by the Albanian terrorists.
Kosovo is administered by the UN, the very organization many Canadians have indicated they would like to see take over from the United States in Iraq. The fact the UN cannot order its civilian employees to go or stay anywhere -- they have to volunteer -- combined with recent history that saw the UN abandon Iraq after a single brutal attack on their compound in Baghdad and the reality that Kosovo, under the organization's administration, is a basket case, disqualifies it from consideration for such a role.

Since the NATO/UN intervention in 1999, Kosovo has become the crime capital of Europe. The sex slave trade is flourishing. The province has become an invaluable transit point for drugs en route to Europe and North America. Ironically, the majority of the drugs come from another state "liberated" by the West, Afghanistan. Members of the demobilized, but not eliminated, KLA are intimately involved in organized crime and the government. The UN police arrest a small percentage of those involved in criminal activities and turn them over to a judiciary with a revolving door that responds to bribes and coercion.
The objective of the Albanians is to purge all non-Albanians, including the international community's representatives, from Kosovo and ultimately link up with mother Albania thereby achieving the goal of "Greater Albania." The campaign started with their attacks on Serbian security forces in the early 1990s and they were successful in turning Milosevic's heavy-handed response into worldwide sympathy for their cause. There was no genocide as claimed by the West -- the 100,000 allegedly buried in mass graves turned out to be around 2,000, of all ethnic origins, including those killed in combat during the war itself.

The Kosovo-Albanians have played us like a Stradivarius. We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure and independent Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early '90s and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary. When they achieve independence with the help of our tax dollars combined with those of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, just consider the message of encouragement this sends to other terrorist-supported independence movements around the world.
Funny how we just keep digging the hole deeper!

Maj-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, now retired, commanded UN troops during the Bosnian civil war of 1992.
24979  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: February 23, 2008, 11:14:37 PM
Thank you.

What is the URL for the discussion on the Krav forum?
24980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: February 23, 2008, 10:03:40 PM
Islamic Charities Draw More Scrutiny
By GLENN R. SIMPSON
February 23, 2008; Page A4

Counterterrorism officials in the U.S. and the Middle East, who in recent years have shut down several Islamic charities accused of financing terrorist organizations, now are pursuing what they describe as a second constellation of such groups.

Key figures who avoided the initial legal dragnet in 2001 and 2002 have continued to raise funds that help Islamic militants in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and other conflict areas, counterterrorism officials in Washington and the Middle East said in recent interviews. The officials said Islamic fund-raisers have taken donor files and moved from one group to another a step ahead of the authorities, officials said.

•  The News: Counterterrorism officials who shut down Islamic charities that they accused of funding terrorist organizations are targeting a second group of charities.
•  The Background: Officials say Islamic fund-raisers have taken donor files and moved from one group to another, remaining a step ahead of authorities.
•  The Controversy: Over the last six years, little evidence has emerged directly connecting charities to individual acts of terrorism."Government can come in and close down the charity, but the donor list still exists," said prosecutor Pat Roane, the Justice Department's point man on terrorism financing. "The donor list is gold."

Islamic charities became a major focus after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when U.S. officials concluded the charities played a large role in sustaining the infrastructure of radical Islamic groups. Using a set of new laws, the U.S. Treasury froze the assets of numerous groups in the U.S. and overseas.

But over the last six years little evidence has emerged directly connecting charities to individual acts of terrorism, and Muslim leaders and civil libertarians have charged that the government is over-reaching in pursuing the charities.

Questions about the government's approach arose particularly after prosecutors failed in some high-profile trials to prove that charities were connected to terrorists or terrorist organizations. The charities' leaders and their supporters say they send money from American Muslims to legitimate social and aid organizations in the Middle East.

One scholar, Ibrahim Warde of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, argues in a 2007 book, "The Price of Fear," that the connection between charities and terrorism is largely a myth.

Government officials, while acknowledging that charities' role in individual attacks seems to be slight, say evidence from several of the criminal cases have demonstrated direct ties between charities and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Kenneth Wainstein, the Justice Department national-security chief, said in an interview that intelligence reports continue to find that charities are being used by terrorist groups to provide both funds and logistics help, such as with visas and work permits in conflict zones. Mr. Wainstein and other officials say many of an estimated six million Muslims in the U.S. follow the tenets of their faith and give generously to charities that promote Islam and provide welfare to needy Muslims in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but the funds often are diverted to other purposes in these war zones to underwrite items such as communications, logistics and medicine for groups fighting the U.S. military or U.S. allies.

In the years after Sept. 11, the Justice Department now alleges, fund-raising efforts in the U.S. shifted to at least two existing groups that were missed in the initial sweep: a charity in Boston called Care International, and another in Columbia, Mo., called the Islamic American Relief Agency. Care International's officers were recently convicted of tax fraud in Boston federal court, while backers of the Missouri group are under indictment for similar offenses. In the Care International case, prosecutors presented evidence that the group was an extension of Osama bin Laden's original outpost in the U.S., a Brooklyn-based Islamic organization. But Mr. Warde criticized prosecutors for not charging any of the defendants with terrorism support. The Care International officers are expected to appeal.

A month after the government shut down many top charities in December 2001, Islamic fund-raisers set up a new group in Toledo, Ohio, called Kindhearts, which the Treasury in 2006 shut down and identified in a public statement as "the progeny of Holy Land Foundation and Global Relief Foundation," two defunct charities that the U.S. designated as supporters of terrorism. Two other charities, Kinder USA and Life for Relief and Development, remain under investigation but have denied any ties to terrorism.

Terrorism investigators say Islamic charity fund-raisers are more sophisticated than they originally realized. Khalil Jassemm, the founder of one group under investigation, self-published a 494-page guide to running such groups -- "Islamic Perspective on Charity, a Comprehensive Guide for Running a Muslim Nonprofit In the U.S." -- that walks charity officials through the numerous laws governing such groups. The book was made available by The Investigative Project, a Washington nonprofit that researches terrorism issues.

Mr. Jassemm founded Life for Relief and Development. Terrorism investigators say some of its personnel are supporters of the Islamic Party of Iraq and in 2006 was raided by the FBI in Michigan and by the U.S. military in Iraq. A spokesman for the charity said Mr. Jassemm has left the group and now lives in Jordan. He didn't respond to an email request for a meeting. The group says it isn't affiliated with any political groups in Iraq.

Officials say the moves against the organizations have aroused anger and opposition among many American Muslims and some civil-liberties advocates -- creating what counterterrorism officials acknowledge is a public-relations problem.

For one thing, critics have chided the government for keeping much of its evidence of terrorist connections secret and resorting to nonterrorism charges, such as tax and money-laundering violations, to put the leaders of some charities out of business.

Prosecutors say, though, that they won't abandon tactics that have brought results. "We incapacitate the bad guys," said Justice's Mr. Wainstein. "It might not be the sexiest way of doing it, and if we get criticized, so be it."

One big problem, some front-line prosecutors said, is that intelligence can show signs of terrorism support, but it is difficult to obtain the kind of unambiguous evidence that will stand up in court to prove money ended up with terrorists overseas. "Once it hits a foreign bank, it is gone to us," said one federal prosecutor who asked not to be named.

Write to Glenn R. Simpson at glenn.simpson@wsj.com
wsj
24981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 23, 2008, 09:59:37 PM
New Pakistani Leaders, U.S., at Odds on Militants
Key Parties Seek Talks
With Islamic Forces;
Americans Urge Battle
By YOCHI DREAZEN in Washington and ZAHID HUSSAIN in Pakistan
February 23, 2008; Page A4

The U.S. wants Pakistan to take stronger measures against Islamic militants who are threatening the stability of neighboring Afghanistan. But the country's new leaders are already signaling that they would prefer a softer approach.

With Pakistan being hit by a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks, including a car bomb Friday that killed at least 12 people, U.S. policymakers believe senior Pakistani military officials have come to see Islamic violence as a serious threat to the country's future and may now be willing to mount an aggressive campaign against the religious militants responsible for the bloodshed.

•  The News: The U.S. wants Pakistan to take stronger measures against Islamic militants who are threatening the stability of neighboring Afghanistan.
•  The Background: Policy makers believe Pakistani officials have come to see Islamic violence as a serious threat and may be willing to mount an aggressive campaign against the militants.
•  The Other Side: The country's new leaders already are signaling that they would prefer a softer approach.Pakistan's unpopular president, Pervez Musharraf, has expressed concern about the possible "Talibanization" of his country by al-Qaeda and Taliban militants and periodically ordered his military to battle the extremists.

But key officials in Pakistan's two main opposition parties -- the Pakistan People's Party, led by the widower of assassinated former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League of ex-Premier Nawaz Sharif -- say that they want instead to open talks with the Islamic militants operating along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

"We will use force wherever it is necessary, but will also use other means to veer them away from extremism," said Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's widower and the leader of the PPL.

The two parties swept to victory in the past week's parliamentary elections and are working together to form a new government. They spent Friday mulling candidates for prime minister.

The Bush administration is using the violence to prod Pakistan to take steps it has long resisted, like giving the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Operations commandoes a freer hand to hunt Islamic militants within Pakistan and agreeing to have larger numbers of American military trainers deploy to Pakistan to help the country's army prepare for a long-term struggle against Islamic guerillas.

Pentagon officials have also publicly expressed a willingness to mount joint combat operations with the Pakistani military, should Pakistan request such assistance.

 
"If I was wearing a different hat and was in the Pakistani military, I would be deeply concerned about the unrest and the lack of stability and security that appears to be caused by Talibanization," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, who commands the Army's 101st Airborne Division, which is deploying to Afghanistan this spring.

The push comes amid mounting American concern about the situation in the largely lawless tribal regions along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, which have devolved into safe havens for Islamic militants carrying out attacks inside both countries. Senior American commanders had long worried that an unstable Afghanistan had the potential to spark unrest inside Pakistan but now worry just as much about instability inside Pakistan spilling over into Afghanistan.

U.S. officials worry that Pakistan's next government may try to back out of agreements Mr. Musharraf made with the Pentagon on operations in the tribal areas, including the mobilization of a tribal military unit and the aggressive use of American Predator drones to attack terrorist targets.

"We're not saying that the leader has to be Musharraf," said a U.S. official working on Pakistan. "But we're concerned that politics could end up distracting" Pakistan from the growing threat posed by the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The Pakistani armed forces have long believed that India posed the biggest threat to Pakistani national security, and senior Pakistani officials may be unwilling -- or unable -- to reorient their military towards a protracted conflict with Islamic militants inside their own borders.

"The Pakistani armed forces are trained to fight India and fighting pro al-Qaeda insurgents in the tribal areas is a completely new experience for them," a senior Pakistani official acknowledged.

James Dobbins, an analyst at the Rand Corp. who served as the Bush administration's first envoy to Afghanistan, said many Pakistani leaders fundamentally disagree with American officials about the magnitude of the threat posed by Islamic violence. "The popular attitude towards the attacks is that they are a reaction to the U.S. war on terror rather than an intended threat to the Pakistani sovereignty and government," he said.

Pakistani officials say that they have nearly 30,000 troops battling militants in northwest Pakistan and in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, as well as an additional 70,000 deployed on the entire 1,500-mile-long border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The size of that deployment, they argue, shows that the country is already serious about battling Islamic extremists.

Still, Pakistani commanders acknowledge that their forces have struggled to oust the well-entrenched militants, who have inflicted heavy casualties on the Pakistani troops and shown resiliency in the face of Pakistani and U.S. strikes.

A senior Pakistani commander said that the army's morale had plummeted after a long series of tactical setbacks, including the killings of hundreds of troops by suicide bombers who struck their convoys, camps and mess halls, and the videotaped beheadings of some of the soldiers who fell into the hands of the militants. "This challenge cannot be met until the army's standing is restored," the officer said.

WSJ
24982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Virtual Fence on: February 23, 2008, 09:42:18 PM
U.S. Curbs Big Plans
For Border Tech Fence
By EVAN PEREZ and AUGUST COLE
February 23, 2008; Page A1

WASHINGTON -- The government yesterday officially unveiled its $20 million "virtual fence," touted for months as one of the most effective ways to secure America's leaky U.S.-Mexico border.

But the problems that have plagued the high-tech barrier mean that the fence's first 28 miles will also likely be its last. The Department of Homeland Security now says it doesn't plan to replicate the Boeing Co. initiative anywhere else. A spokeswoman says there are no plans to expand the project beyond its first phase, although Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says "some elements" of the project may be used in other locations.

 
Nine tall towers punctuate the fence.
The effective mothballing of the concept is a setback for the government's border-protection efforts, an embarrassment for politicians backing the idea of an electronic fence and a blow to Boeing, the project's designer. It will also do little to settle the fractious politics of immigration, which continue to reverberate around the campaign trail.

The virtual fence, called Project 28, came up during Thursday's debate in Austin, Texas, when both Democratic presidential candidates expressed their support for a high-tech alternative to the federal government's construction of a 12-foot-tall physical fence. That project, begun last year, has elicited outcry from Texas property owners and local officials.

"Let's deploy more technology and personnel, instead of the physical barrier," said New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama of Illinois agreed: "There may be areas where it makes sense to have some fencing. But for the most part, having [the] border patrolled, surveillance, deploying effective technology, that's going to be the better approach." Both senators had earlier voted for legislation mandating 700 miles of physical fence in sections of California, Arizona and Texas.

It's unlikely that any administration will be able to embark on an immigration revamp until it can persuade skeptical Republicans it can effectively police the border. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican and likely presidential nominee, sponsored a comprehensive immigration bill last year that collapsed due to strong opposition from his own party. He has since said he supports securing the border before tackling more controversial immigration proposals, such as providing a way for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status in the U.S.

Project 28 was based on off-the-shelf technology tied together by Boeing. Cameras and radar mounted atop 98-foot towers would pick out smugglers and illegal immigrants from miles away, allowing fewer agents to patrol a given stretch of border. Command centers and mobile communications systems were also part of the contract.

But getting all these elements to work together harmoniously has proven problematic. Project 28's technology problems included software integration issues and difficulty getting the towers' cameras to synch with the radar systems. The radar had trouble identifying objects amid desert scrub and trees. Rain posed problems to the surveillance systems, and concerns persist that the towers are tempting targets for increasingly well-armed drug gangs looking to shut down the system.

At his news conference yesterday, Mr. Chertoff played down the technological problems, which he likened to finding problems during a house inspection that aren't significant enough to nullify a purchase contract. "I have personally witnessed the value of this system, and I have spoken directly to the border-patrol agents who are involved in operating that system over the last few months and who have seen it produce actual results in terms of identifying and allowing the apprehension of people who are illegally smuggling across the border," he said.

A Boeing spokeswoman says Project 28 "is a proof of concept. The concept works." The company is nonetheless changing how it produces the technology. There will be more hardware and software testing at special centers, instead of relying on fixes made at the border, the spokeswoman says.

Government officials had great ambitions for the project. Although it's unlikely that the entire border would be policed electronically, there are potentially 6,000 miles of the U.S. border with Canada and Mexico that could have been covered by advanced systems. That work would be worth billions of dollars. Success in the U.S. could also have led to overseas customers who want to use technology to track cross-border traffic and smuggling.

Last month during a tour, customs and border-patrol officials showed Attorney General Michael Mukasey the rugged terrain that Project 28 oversees. A Homeland Security Blackhawk helicopter soared above a vast expanse of breathtaking jagged desert peaks, amid which Project 28 towers stood their sentinel watch over the border. "Admittedly, we gave Boeing some of the roughest parts of the border to work with," a border-patrol official told the attorney general, explaining what he said were many problems the system had encountered.

In August, Boeing replaced the manager of Project 28. For months, Boeing and Homeland Security wouldn't say when the work was going to be complete. In early December, the government said it was closing in on taking delivery. But that same month, the government gave Boeing another $64 million contract to fix the "common operating picture," which lets agents in vehicles see imagery from the towers' surveillance systems. Yesterday's announcement marked the final end of the testing period.

Homeland Security officials took possession of the system over the objections of Congress, which has been critical of the department and of Boeing for the problems that have bedeviled the program. "We are no safer and out millions of dollars," said Democratic Pennsylvania Congressman Christopher Carney, oversight chairman in the House Homeland Security committee. "We were led to believe that this was going to be a Beta test for a virtual fence for the border. Certainly this is not the force multiplier it was supposed to be."

Laura Keehner, a Homeland Security spokeswoman, said, "Those who choose to criticize without seeing the technology firsthand are merely bystanders of the product and have no idea how hard our border patrol is working to keep America safe. We would not have accepted it if it didn't work."

In the meantime, construction of the physical barrier continues. On Friday, Mr. Chertoff said the government has already built about 300 miles of fence and is on pace to build about 670 miles by the end of the year.
WSJ
24983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: February 23, 2008, 09:35:44 PM
Gen. Burwell B. Bell
The North Korean Threat
By MELANIE KIRKPATRICK
February 23, 2008; Page A9

On the Acela between
New York and Washington

The Cold War may be over, but Gen. Burwell B. (B.B.) Bell is still on duty. This American soldier is serving in the one place on the planet where that conflict hasn't ended, and where it has the potential to turn "hot" in the blink of an eye: the Korean Peninsula. With a new president taking over in Seoul on Monday promising to take a tougher line with Pyongyang, it's a good moment to revisit the subject of the North's military capabilities -- and the South's readiness.

In Pentagon lingo, Gen. Bell is "triple-hatted." He commands the 28,500 U.S. forces in South Korea, the combined U.S.-South Korean forces in time of war, and the United Nations forces that have been stationed south of the 38th parallel since 1953, when the armistice in the Korean War was signed. As such, he is probably the world's leading expert on North Korea's military strength.

 
That's the topic we start with as we chat aboard the express train taking the general and his entourage from New York to Washington, where he'll report to the president the next day. The general is in plain clothes -- for security reasons, U.S. military officers don't travel in uniform -- but that doesn't stop passengers from staring at the straight-backed men in buzz cuts as we climb aboard at Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan. We are escorted by local police officers and two of the soldiers who have been patrolling Penn Station since the 9/11 attacks.

In light of all the publicity given the six-party disarmament talks, it's interesting that the first words out of Gen. Bell's mouth don't include "nuclear." "First and foremost, I'm worried . . . about the conventional threat that the North Korean military poses to South Korea," he says.

"What worries me is that North Korea is a 'military first' country where all their resources and their focus goes into the maintenance of the military apparatus . . . This is a very large military, over a million men under arms in a very small country of only 22 million people. That means . . . [at] any time 5% of the whole country, regardless of age, [is] serving on active duty."

The North Korean army is in the midst of its winter training cycle right now, the general says. He notes that Pyongyang didn't bother to inform the U.N. command in advance, as required under the armistice accord. "Every time we conduct a large exercise, 30 days before that exercise . . . we inform them just like we're supposed to. . . . But they don't afford us with the same privileges. I will tell you that. We have to find out through other means what they are up to." Six-party negotiators take note: Kim Jong Il is not in the habit of keeping promises.

Gen. Bell describes the North Korean military as deployed in a "threatening posture" with "about 70% of their force within 90 miles of the demilitarized zone." Their equipment is old -- the Russians and the Chinese have stopped supplying them -- and training is poor. The army's capabilities have deteriorated in recent years, he says -- a factor, some argue, in Kim Jong Il's reluctance to give up his nuclear program. The North Korean dictator knows his army's potential to hammer the South with conventional arms isn't as good as it used to be.

Even so, Gen. Bell says, the North Koreans "certainly have the capability of bringing aerial fires, rocket and conventional cannon artillery to bear against Seoul . . . They don't need to bring any guns forward. So, they can certainly, at a moment's notice, engage targets in Seoul, should they choose to." He adds: "There would be casualties. But I will tell you, our purpose is to quickly eliminate that threat." Some of the missiles, many believe, would be carrying chemical weapons.

On the nuclear threat, Gen. Bell states bluntly, "We don't know what we don't know." North Korea tested a nuclear device in October 2006, but, he says, it is "totally unclear to me" whether the country has the capability of delivering a nuclear weapon on a missile. That's why the six-party talks are important, he says, even though the North Koreans refused to declare their nuclear programs on Dec. 31, as they had promised. Why did they miss the deadline?

"I can't speculate," the general responds, but "I assume that they want something that they're going to negotiate for." They've "slowed the process down, and it's disquieting, but nevertheless they're still disabling their [Yongbyon nuclear] reactor. That process has gone forward. . . . We've got people up there, the five parties, [and] there are people supervising, observing [the] removal of these fuel rods."

Things are "pretty quiet" along the DMZ these days, Gen. Bell says, though there's "a flare-up every now and then" and "there is some kind of engagement with a North Korean citizen once or twice a month" -- usually a ship straying into South Korean waters. Most such visitors want to be repatriated, he says -- any North Korean may stay in South Korea if he wishes -- but "we see defections from their military from time to time."

Overall, he says, North Korea specializes in "wild cyclical flows in behavior" -- what he characterized in Senate testimony last year as "alternating provocations and engagement overtures." Lately, however, "they haven't shown that kind of aggressive provocative stuff." Kim Jong Il has even invited the New York Philharmonic to visit later this month, he notes. "That sounds really nice, doesn't it? Meanwhile, his army is training like crazy in their forward position." Sarcasm noted.

Gen. Bell addressed the Korea Society earlier in the day on the subject of the South's readiness to take more responsibility for its own defense. He stresses this point in our conversation.

The Republic of Korea's military "is world class," he says. Or, as he told the Korea Society, in language that befits his native Oak Ridge, Tenn. (and explains why Bell impersonators abound at the Pentagon), "This beast can hunt." To translate from the Tennessean: "I proclaim loudly and clearly that the capacities of the [South] Korean forces are second to none on the globe, and it would not be wise for the North Koreans to test that."

The South Korean army has already largely replaced the U.S. Second Infantry Division along the DMZ. And on April 17, 2012, the South will take full responsibility for its own defense in wartime, with the U.S. military in a supporting role -- 59 years after the end of the Korean War. Meanwhile, the U.S. base in the heart of downtown Seoul is being moved south.

South Korea's anti-American President Roh Moo-hyun leaves office Monday, and while any man with four stars on his shoulders knows better than to publicly diss the leader of a U.S. ally, it's not hard to see that Gen. Bell is counting the days. "The alliance weathered a couple of storms recently," he told the Korea Society, "but it's got to rain a little for the flowers to grow."

This particular flower is called Lee Myung-bak. He's the former businessman, legislator and mayor of Seoul who is the president-elect. The general calls Mr. Lee "pro-American" and notes that he was elected "by an overwhelming majority" of voters on a platform that promised to improve relations with the U.S.

Gen. Bell points to a recent poll showing that 77% of South Koreans support having U.S. troops in their country. To Americans who say the U.S. should pack up and go home, he says, "The Republic of Korea several years ago sent a message to Americans that perhaps we weren't welcome . . . But I can flat tell you that those days are behind us."

Gen. Bell thinks the U.S. military will have a role on the peninsula even after reunification of the two Koreas. The alliance "has purpose throughout the 21st century and beyond," he says. "The mutual defense treaty between the two nations has merit outside the single context of North Korea."

A rising China goes unmentioned here. "It's not to anybody's advantage to create a security vacuum which could lead to misunderstanding and even conflict," the general says. "You know, when you look at the history in that area of the world it's replete with conflict after conflict after conflict. It's been very quiet for 55 years and there's no reason why it ought not to be throughout this century and beyond." He also notes that 25% of the world's trade goes through Northeast Asia.

Gen. Bell is the senior-most general in the U.S. Army, and Korea is his last posting before retirement. He began his military career in 1969 as a second lieutenant in a cavalry unit in the Fulda Gap. It was the height of the Cold War.

"Bad Hersfeld, Germany," he says, "12 kilometers from the East-West German border. Unbelievable military apparatus just across the border, facing us." Thirty-nine years later and 5,000 miles east, it's deja vu along the DMZ.

Gen. Bell talks of the "negative Cold War environment" that pertains in the North, the global economic miracle that has passed it by, and the "tortured" people. He expresses the hope that North Korea will "take down that wall," as the East Germans did. But "until then, we've got to deter and be ready."

Ms. Kirkpatrick is a deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.

WSJ
24984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: February 23, 2008, 09:31:40 PM
And here is Peggy's piece:

Try a Little Tenderness
February 22, 2008; Page W14
Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.)

Mr. Obama is magnetic, interacts with the audience, leads a refrain: "Yes, we can." It's good, and compared with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, neither of whom seems really to enjoy giving speeches, it comes across as better than it is. But is it eloquence? No. Eloquence is deep thought expressed in clear words. With Mr. Obama the deep thought part is missing. What is present are sentiments.

Our country can be greater, it holds unachieved promise, our leaders have not led us well. "We struggle with our doubts, our fears, our cynicism." Fair enough and true enough, but he doesn't dig down to explain how to become a greater nation, what specific path to take--more power to the state, for instance, or more power to the individual. He doesn't unpack his thoughts, as they say. He asserts and keeps on walking.

So his draw is not literal eloquence but a reputation for eloquence that may, in time, become the real thing.

But his big draw is this. In a country that has throughout most of our lifetimes been tormented by, buffeted by, the question of race, a country that has endured real pain and paid in blood and treasure to work its way through and out of the mess, that for all that struggle we yielded this: a brilliant and accomplished young black man with a consensus temperament, a thoughtful and peaceful person who wishes to lead. That is his draw: "We made that." "It ended well."

People would love to be able to support that guy.

His job, in a way, is to let them, in part by not being just another operative, plaything or grievance-monger of the left-liberal establishment and left-liberal thinking. By standing, in fact, for real change.

Right now Mr. Obama is in an awkward moment. Each day he tries to nail down his party's leftist base, and take it from Mrs. Clinton. At the same time his victories have led the country as a whole to start seeing him as the probable Democratic nominee. They're looking at him in a new way, and wondering: Is he standard, old time and party line, or is he something new? Is he just a turning of the page, or is he the beginning of a new and helpful chapter?

Mr. Obama did not really have a good week, in spite of winning a primary and a caucus, and both resoundingly. I don't refer to charges that he'd plagiarized words from a Deval Patrick speech. He borrowed an argument that was in itself obvious--words matter--and used words in the public sphere. In any case Mrs. Clinton has lifted so many phrases and approaches from Mr. Obama, and other candidates, that her accusation was like the neighborhood kleptomaniac running through the street crying, "Thief! Thief!"

His problem was, is, his wife's words, not his, the speech in which she said that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country, because Obama is winning. She later repeated it, then tried to explain it, saying of course she loves her country. But damage was done. Why? Because her statement focused attention on what I suspect are some basic and elementary questions that were starting to bubble out there anyway.

* * *

Here are a few of them.

Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like "international justice" than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?

Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised--so raised in the liberal cocoon--that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?

Why is all this actually not a distraction but a real issue? Because Americans have common sense and are bottom line. They think like this. If the president and his first lady are not loyal first to America and its interests, who will be? The president of France? But it's his job to love France, and protect its interests. If America's leaders don't love America tenderly, who will?

 
And there is a context. So many Americans right now fear they are losing their country, that the old America is slipping away and being replaced by something worse, something formless and hollowed out. They can see we are giving up our sovereignty, that our leaders will not control our borders, that we don't teach the young the old-fashioned love of America, that the government has taken to itself such power, and made things so complex, and at the end of the day when they count up sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax they are paying a lot of money to lose the place they loved.

And if you feel you're losing America, you really don't want a couple in the White House whose rope of affection to the country seems lightly held, casual, provisional. America is backing Barack at the moment, so America is good. When it becomes angry with President Barack, will that mean America is bad?

* * *

Michelle Obama seems keenly aware of her struggles, of what it took to rise so high as a black woman in a white country. Fair enough. But I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful, and from a working-class family with two functioning parents who made sure she got to school.

That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family, and she apparently came from the privileged part of that divide. A lot of white working-class Americans didn't come up with those things. Some of them were raised by a TV and a microwave and love our country anyway, every day.

Does Mrs. Obama know this? I don't know. If she does, love and gratitude for the place that tries to give everyone an equal shot would seem to be in order.
WSJ
24985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times conspiracy? on: February 23, 2008, 09:18:52 PM
Question:  Let me see if I have the timeline on this correct:  The NYTimes was siiting on its McCain-Lobbyist story at the same time it was endorsing him?  The better to set up a Dem victor?
24986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peggy Noonan on: February 22, 2008, 07:02:16 PM
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Try a Little Tenderness
February 22, 2008
Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.)

Mr. Obama is magnetic, interacts with the audience, leads a refrain: "Yes, we can." It's good, and compared with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, neither of whom seems really to enjoy giving speeches, it comes across as better than it is. But is it eloquence? No. Eloquence is deep thought expressed in clear words. With Mr. Obama the deep thought part is missing. What is present are sentiments.

Our country can be greater, it holds unachieved promise, our leaders have not led us well. "We struggle with our doubts, our fears, our cynicism." Fair enough and true enough, but he doesn't dig down to explain how to become a greater nation, what specific path to take--more power to the state, for instance, or more power to the individual. He doesn't unpack his thoughts, as they say. He asserts and keeps on walking.

So his draw is not literal eloquence but a reputation for eloquence that may, in time, become the real thing.

But his big draw is this. In a country that has throughout most of our lifetimes been tormented by, buffeted by, the question of race, a country that has endured real pain and paid in blood and treasure to work its way through and out of the mess, that for all that struggle we yielded this: a brilliant and accomplished young black man with a consensus temperament, a thoughtful and peaceful person who wishes to lead. That is his draw: "We made that." "It ended well."

People would love to be able to support that guy.

His job, in a way, is to let them, in part by not being just another operative, plaything or grievance-monger of the left-liberal establishment and left-liberal thinking. By standing, in fact, for real change.

Right now Mr. Obama is in an awkward moment. Each day he tries to nail down his party's leftist base, and take it from Mrs. Clinton. At the same time his victories have led the country as a whole to start seeing him as the probable Democratic nominee. They're looking at him in a new way, and wondering: Is he standard, old time and party line, or is he something new? Is he just a turning of the page, or is he the beginning of a new and helpful chapter?

Mr. Obama did not really have a good week, in spite of winning a primary and a caucus, and both resoundingly. I don't refer to charges that he'd plagiarized words from a Deval Patrick speech. He borrowed an argument that was in itself obvious--words matter--and used words in the public sphere. In any case Mrs. Clinton has lifted so many phrases and approaches from Mr. Obama, and other candidates, that her accusation was like the neighborhood kleptomaniac running through the street crying, "Thief! Thief!"

His problem was, is, his wife's words, not his, the speech in which she said that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country, because Obama is winning. She later repeated it, then tried to explain it, saying of course she loves her country. But damage was done. Why? Because her statement focused attention on what I suspect are some basic and elementary questions that were starting to bubble out there anyway.

* * *

Here are a few of them.

Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like "international justice" than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?

Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised--so raised in the liberal cocoon--that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?

Why is all this actually not a distraction but a real issue? Because Americans have common sense and are bottom line. They think like this. If the president and his first lady are not loyal first to America and its interests, who will be? The president of France? But it's his job to love France, and protect its interests. If America's leaders don't love America tenderly, who will?

 
And there is a context. So many Americans right now fear they are losing their country, that the old America is slipping away and being replaced by something worse, something formless and hollowed out. They can see we are giving up our sovereignty, that our leaders will not control our borders, that we don't teach the young the old-fashioned love of America, that the government has taken to itself such power, and made things so complex, and at the end of the day when they count up sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax they are paying a lot of money to lose the place they loved.

And if you feel you're losing America, you really don't want a couple in the White House whose rope of affection to the country seems lightly held, casual, provisional. America is backing Barack at the moment, so America is good. When it becomes angry with President Barack, will that mean America is bad?

* * *

Michelle Obama seems keenly aware of her struggles, of what it took to rise so high as a black woman in a white country. Fair enough. But I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful, and from a working-class family with two functioning parents who made sure she got to school.

That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family, and she apparently came from the privileged part of that divide. A lot of white working-class Americans didn't come up with those things. Some of them were raised by a TV and a microwave and love our country anyway, every day.

Does Mrs. Obama know this? I don't know. If she does, love and gratitude for the place that tries to give everyone an equal shot would seem to be in order.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
 
24987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: February 22, 2008, 06:41:34 PM
Unleashing the 'Exaflood'
By BRET SWANSON and GEORGE GILDER
February 22, 2008; Page A15

Two decades ago, Sun Microsystems prophesied: "The network is the computer." Today, BitTorrent video and 3D graphics flood the Internet, Apple iPhones tap the Net's computing power, and PC-king Microsoft pursues Net-centric Yahoo. Sun's mantra has become reality.

But as the Internet booms and moves to the center of the global economic sphere, it draws proportional attention from politicians and regulators. In Congress and at the FCC, legislators and lawyers think they can manage overflowing Net traffic and commerce better than the network companies themselves. Next week, the FCC is meeting en banc at Harvard Law School to consider two petitions that seek to ban network "traffic management." The meeting's host, Rep. Ed Markey, has renewed his pursuit of a far-reaching Internet regulatory regime known as "net neutrality."

These regulatory efforts overlook a fundamental shift: An upsurge of technological change and a rising tide of new forms of data are deeply transforming the Internet's capabilities and uses.

The first phase of the Net was the original Arpanet research project that connected a few, and then a few thousand, scientists. The second phase brought the Internet to the masses, with the advent of the World Wide Web, the graphical browser and email in the mid-1990s. Internet traffic boomed 100-fold between 1994 and 1996. In the third phase of Net evolution, network architecture and commercial business plans reflect the dominance of rich video and interactive media traffic.

The third wave is now swelling into an exaflood, or torrent, of Internet and Internet Protocol (IP) traffic. There's YouTube, IPTV, high-definition images and "cloud computing" -- in which individuals and businesses use the centralized computing resources of Google and IBM data centers, instead of the local computing resources of their own PCs or office systems. Not to mention the ubiquitous mobile camera.

To give you an idea of the scope, an exabyte (a one-quintillion byte unit of information or computer storage) is 50,000 times larger than a digitized Library of Congress. By the end of 2006, annual U.S. Internet traffic was around 10 exabytes.

As new fiber-optic wireline and 3G wireless networks from AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cox and Cogent bring us real broadband for the first time, the nature and volume of Net traffic is changing dramatically. By mid-2007, Microsoft Video Calling was generating as many bytes as the entire Internet in 1997.

Cisco's newest video-conferencing system requires 15 megabits per second in each direction. A one-hour conference call could thus produce 13.5 gigabytes, which is more than a high-definition movie. Just 75 of these Cisco conference calls would equal the entire Internet traffic of the year 1990.

Netflix, which is gradually moving from the post office to the Net, last year shipped 1.8 million DVDs every day. If converted to high definition, Netflix would have mailed 5.8 exabytes of motion pictures, or almost half the size of the entire U.S. Internet of 2007.

Building on rapid advances in Nvidia and ATI graphics processors, one 3D multiplayer game (such as Second Life or World of Warcraft) with one million users could generate more than an exabyte per year of network traffic, or almost a tenth of last year's U.S. Internet volume.

In a new Discovery Institute report, we estimate that, by 2015, U.S. IP traffic will reach an annual total of 1,000 exabytes, or one million million billion bytes. The U.S. Internet will thus be 50 times larger by 2015, equal to 50 million Libraries of Congress. This will require some $100 billion in new Internet infrastructure in the U.S. over the next five years.

We need a dramatic expansion in raw capacity, or bandwidth, and also fine-grained traffic management capabilities to ensure robust service for increasingly demanding consumers. But none of this can happen if we regulate complex network traffic engineering and experimental business plans.

All networks use some form of traffic management, whether crude or complex. As our colleague Ken Ferree notes, every industry, from grocery store "express lines" to "singles" ski-lift lines, attempts to shape and manage demand. Today's communications networks buffer, label, parse, schedule, prioritize, route, switch, modify, replicate, police and meter the bits flowing through their links and nodes. New pricing schemes that charge per byte consumed might also help to manage supply and demand on the Internet.

The petitions under consideration at the FCC and in the Markey net neutrality bill would set an entirely new course for U.S. broadband policy, marking every network bit and byte for inspection, regulation and possible litigation. Every price, partnership, advertisement and experimental business plan on the Net would have to look to Washington for permission. Many would be banned. Wall Street will not deploy the needed $100 billion in risk capital if Mr. Markey, digital traffic cop, insists on policing every intersection of the Internet.

Capacious, big-bandwidth networks will transcend many of today's specific complaints. As raw capacity expands, more and more applications and users can peacefully coexist. But inevitably, sophisticated network users with innovative applications will find creative ways to push the boundaries of capacity on certain network links, and some bits will be shuffled and queued.

The network is now a global computer made up of hardware, software and human minds. But this new, fast-changing and highly organic computer is no more easily regulated than were the circuits, storage, memory and protocols of a mainframe or PC. Leaving it to Washington agencies and committees to engineer the exaflood would be an act of unimaginable folly.

Mr. Swanson is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Global Innovation at The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Mr. Gilder is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

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

24988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama's Cash Games on: February 22, 2008, 06:36:38 PM
Obama's Cash Games
February 22, 2008; Page A14
Too soft to withstand a Republican assault. Too vague to know how he'd govern. Those two big raps on Barack Obama can now be shelved. The Illinois senator this week provided his first, highly illuminating, example of how he'd operate in the Oval Office. It's clear he's as crafty as Hillary Clinton.

This case study has to do with that great love of good-government types, campaign finance. Last year, Mr. Obama sparked his campaign by pressuring Republicans to join him in a pledge to use only public money in a general election. Last week, when rival and fellow pledge-taker John McCain reminded him of that promise, Mr. Obama refused to go "locking" himself into an agreement.

 
This "No, We Can't" moment is supposedly a function of the Obama campaign's belief that it can massively out-raise Mr. McCain, and wants no public financing limits. The more cynical (and likelier) case is that Mr. Obama is using this in hopes of handicapping Mr. McCain in the upcoming months -- well before the general election begins.

Whatever the motive, this is a telling first example of the actual cash value of Mr. Obama's soaring words. From the start, Mr. Obama's promises to reform government, to make campaign finance more transparent, to weed out "moneyed special interests" have been integral to Obamamania.

This is no mere side issue, but the stuff on which the senator lifts crowds. "Now I know some will say we can't make this change," he thundered in one "transparency" talk on lobbyists. "That the culture of corrosive influence in politics is too sprawling to spotlight . . . That's not how I see it . . . Making government accountable to the people isn't just a cause of this campaign -- it's been a cause of my life for two decades."

Consider, too, that this is one of the few instances in which Mr. Obama did more than talk. His campaign won rave reviews when it last year forwarded a proposal to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to allow candidates to defensively raise money for a general election, but give it back if both sides agreed to public money. Mr. Obama then committed to taking public funds if his competitor did. This was a key moment in the Obama rise, a supposed example of his "fresh thinking."

Where is that "fresh thinking" now? Mr. Obama made his pledge when his campaign and fund-raising prospects were unknown. Today, the charismatic candidate is inching closer to the nomination. He is said to be collecting money at a clip of a million dollars a day. Liberal bloggers are pressuring him to keep this advantage. And Mr. Obama, with nary a whiff of remorse for the "cause of his life," has changed gears.

"This should be a warning for anyone caught up in Obama rhetoric," says Todd Harris, a Republican strategist. "When that rhetoric meets political expediency, it's not the rhetoric that wins." What makes this even wilier gamesmanship is that it is far from clear that it's in Mr. Obama's interest to forgo public financing. He instead appears to be using the threat that he is a money powerhouse to contain Mr. McCain now.

Bradley Smith, former head of the FEC and current chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, notes that one reason nominees take public financing in the general election (President Bush and John Kerry did) is that it is a fab financial deal. Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama would each receive about $85 million to spend in the two months between conventions and Nov. 4. That's a whopping $1.4 million a day, and about as much as Mr. Obama spent last year.

Mr. Smith points out that even a red-hot Obama would struggle to best Mr. McCain's $85 million. It takes money to raise money, so he'd need closer to $100 million to realize $85 million. Even under public financing, Mr. McCain can raise about $20 million in private funds, which Mr. Obama would also have to match. And the Democrat would need to do all this while simultaneously staying competitive in a primary fight that could conceivably last through the summer. Do the math and he'd probably need to gin up $200 million over eight months, a near-impossible feat. "What he's probably doing is using this as leverage," says Mr. Smith.

 
How so? The answer may be found in the op-ed Mr. Obama penned this week in USA Today in response to criticism. In it, Mr. Obama said he still wants to "aggressively pursue such an agreement," but dramatically raises the stakes. Any "solidly constructed" agreement, in his mind, would now have to go beyond public dollars, and also "limit fundraising help" from "outside groups" and "address the amounts that Senator McCain . . . will spend for the general election while the Democratic primary contest continues." Hmmm.

Mr. Obama knows Republican 527 groups are scooping up cash and will soon unleash it to Mr. McCain's advantage. He knows Mr. McCain's greatest asset is the next few months, when he'll be able to define himself and his opponents while Democrats slap away at each other. So Mr. Obama is proposing a new ethical challenge to Mr. McCain, one that conveniently hobbles his rival. You can call this savvy, and it might reassure voters who've wondered if Mr. Obama has the fists to tangle with the big boys. But you can't call it high-minded or visionary.

Mr. McCain is pounding Mr. Obama on his pledge, and that's to be expected. But he'll have to tread carefully. Too much focus on the public money question will only remind Republicans he is the goody-two-shoes coauthor of McCain-Feingold. A bigger risk is that Mr. McCain -- who is now being hit on his ethical record -- will fall for this and unilaterally disarm in an effort to burnish his credentials. Doing so won't help him win his base, or an election. (His bigger concern should be sorting out the FEC mess he's created with his November campaign loan.)

The real shame is that voters must suffer through all this. As two believers in complex campaign-finance laws, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama helped create a system that now requires both to engage in games over 527 spending and tax subsidies. If they really believed in better government, they'd call for a system in which donors can give what they want, so long as it is transparent. That's called having faith in your citizens, and it would be change we could believe in.
WSJ
24989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: February 22, 2008, 11:50:12 AM
Profiles of valor: USAF Tech. Sgt. Sudlow
United States Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Sudlow of Pandora, Ohio, toured in Iraq leading the 424th Medium Truck Detachment on supply convoys that logged more than 434,000 miles on some of the world’s most dangerous roads. The cargo in Sudlow’s convoys allowed Coalition forces to maintain their operational tempo and complete their respective missions. Despite the constant threat of IEDs and car bombs, Sudlow and Detachment 424 escorted 4,680 tractor-trailers and protected 2,300 foreign-national drivers. By taking the initiative to upgrade the convoy vehicles under his command with “Go-Lights” and sirens, Sudlow substantially increased the safety of his men and their chances of success. Sudlow also helped capture a group of thieves who had stolen military and civilian equipment from his convoy. For his service, he was awarded the Bronze Star, the military’s fourth-highest combat award.
24990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ PD on: February 22, 2008, 11:14:48 AM
The Spirit of Mary Mapes Lives On

Expect the John McCain campaign to attack the "liberal media" as part of its strategy to overcome the innuendo-rich New York Times story alleging that the Arizona Senator had questionable ties with a telecom lobbyist.

The Times has had the story since last December when the Drudge Report published a bare-bones outline of the paper's investigation. After top-flight Washington lawyer Robert Bennett was wheeled in by Team McCain and the Senator hotly denied the report's thesis to New York Times Editor Bill Keller, the story disappeared. So why has it returned now just as Mr. McCain has wrapped up the GOP nomination?

The New Republic confirms that it was set to run a major story by reporter Gabe Sherman on how the lobbyist story was handled by the Times newsroom. McCain aide Charlie Black says it looks as if the paper decided it would rather hobble the thinly-sourced story out now rather than be subjected to criticism from media peers for "covering" it up.

Even so, you can expect some of that criticism to persist. The New Republic's Noam Scheiber writes on the magazine's blog: "The [New York Times] story reads to me like it had originally been much more ambitious, but had its guts ripped out somewhere along the way. The obvious question is whether those guts will ever trickle out now that this story has surfaced."

You can expect a lot of reporters to begin their own digging into the relationship between Mr. McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman. Assuming no major revelations emerge, the McCain campaign should be able to weather the controversy given the hostility the Republican base feels towards the New York Times. I just wouldn't count on a lot of warmth in relations between the Times and the McCain forces in the months ahead. Indeed, the McCain campaign is promising to "go to war" with the Times in its efforts to knock down the story.

-- John Fund

Luckabee

Has Mike Huckabee been delaying his pull-out from the presidential race in order to see if something untoward happens to John McCain, such as today's New York Times story linking the Arizona senator to a female lobbyist?

At a recent breakfast with Washington reporters, Mr. Huckabee admitted that, absent a "stumble," his rival would get the GOP nomination. Perhaps the New York Times story was the "stumble" Mr. Huckabee was waiting for. If so, unless more damning revelations are on their way, the vague innuendo of the Times piece seems insufficient to improve the former Arkansas governor's chances.

But the Times story is likely to embolden Mr. Huckabee to stay in the race at least through Texas. Exit polls in Wisconsin this week found that 42% of GOP voters didn't think Mr. McCain's positions were "conservative enough." If that's the case in Wisconsin, what about deeply-red Texas? Huckabee aides believe their candidate still has an outside chance of upsetting Mr. McCain, so it looks as if Mike Huckabee will be bedeviling the frontrunner at least until Texas votes on March 4.

-- John Fund

Campaign Finance Fallout

For a textbook case on the problems with campaign finance regulation, look no further than this morning's New York Times. The Grey Lady suggests Republican Presidential frontrunner John McCain had an improper relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, although the story doesn't offer much in the way of evidence. For good measure, the paper also dredges up Mr. McCain's role in the decades-old Keating Five scandal to tarnish his more recent squeaky-clean reputation as a scourge of "special interests" and cleanser of money from politics.

Here's the irony: Lobbyists and other moneyed interests have been pouring enough cash into Mr. McCain's campaign that he can effectively answer the attacks. Given the strict fund-raising law that he coauthored, that might not have been possible had the Times story landed last summer when his campaign was out of favor with large numbers of donors.

Mr. McCain raised $11.7 million in January, largely from individual contributors -- money that he can spend on TV spots, radio ads and direct mailings and to pay campaign professionals to work the press and counter the Times allegations. Having money to spend is tantamount to having a chance to be heard amidst the booming media echo chamber. Notice that though the Times itself mentions Mr. McCain's denial of romantic involvement with Ms. Iseman in the fourth paragraph, it doesn't bother to quote a response from Team McCain until the 49th paragraph.

Mr. McCain is lucky he's the front-runner and has a wide funding-raising base. Under the onerous restrictions of McCain-Feingold, which would have prohibited him from raising large sums quickly from a handful of dedicated supporters, another candidate would have a hard time being heard over the media din. Indeed, if the Times had held back its story until Nov. 1, 2008, even a well-financed frontrunner would have been limited in his ability to respond -- because the law tightly restricts advertising just before an election.

-- Joseph Sternberg

Tsunama

Calling Sen. Barack Obama's 10 victories since February 5 a "winning streak" severely understates what has taken place since Super Duper Tuesday.

Mr. Obama has not only defeated Sen. Hillary Clinton; he has crushed her. Not including the Virgin Islands, for which exact results are not yet available, Obama has won eight states and Washington, D.C., by an average of 32 percentage points.

Mr. Obama's 17-point win Tuesday in Wisconsin was his smallest margin of victory among the nine elections. He carried Hawaii and the District of Columbia by more than 50 points, and Virginia by a surprisingly large 29 points. He won Nebraska by 36 points and Washington State by 37 points, carrying every one of Washington's 39 counties. This monumental stomping over the past two weeks has given Mr. Obama a lead of about 160 pledged delegates, according to the latest RealClearPolitics count.

Conventional wisdom -- and polls -- suggest this run of lopsided victories will not continue through the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio, where Mrs. Clinton's support among Latinos and labor unions, respectively, presumably allows her a strong shot at winning both states. However, Mrs. Clinton's lead has begun to slip in recent days, with Mr. Obama pulling even in the two most recent Texas polls. Get ready to throw conventional wisdom out the window one more time this year: The gravitational force of Obamamania might pull even Texas and Ohio out of Hillary's orbit in the next two weeks.

-- Kyle Trygstad, RealClearPolitics.com

Oh Brother

Fidel Castro always has been notorious for giving his little brother Raúl the dirty work. Some things never change.

With Fidel's announcement that he will not accept the role of "president" for another term when the national assembly meets on Sunday, Raúl inherits the power just as things appear to be coming unglued. One such warning came from a group of university students several weeks ago.

Attending university in Cuba has always implied a willingness to support, or at least passively accept, the Castro dictatorship. Fail to conform and there is no chance of higher education. That's why students and student leaders have typically tended to be patsies for the regime. Yet when Ricardo Alarcón, speaker of the Cuban national assembly and a Fidel loyalist, went to the Computer Sciences University in January, he was met by a group of students who publicly challenged government policies. In comments that were captured on video tape, they criticized the Cuban electoral system, the pricing of many consumer goods in scarce U.S. dollars, restrictions on travel abroad, lack of Internet access and the prohibition against Cubans staying at resort hotels in their own country.

Shockwaves reverberated throughout the island. Not long after, the mother of one of the students reported that her son had been detained by state security. He later appeared on national television to deny that he had come under any pressure from the regime. He added that any critical comments made by the students were merely suggestions for "improving socialism."

The Cuban people, of course, know better, but more and more are willing to speak such heresies, which is perhaps something Fidel took into account when he decided to step down. It's too early to call it a burgeoning free-speech movement, but sooner than he thinks, Raúl may face an unappetizing choice: Ratchet up repression to preserve the now-questioned Castro dictatorship or tolerate more open dissent in hope of some kind of honeymoon with the U.S. and other Western nations.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady



24991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The English Language on: February 22, 2008, 11:04:05 AM
David Gordon kindly reminds me of this:

http://eutrapelia.blogspot.com:80/2005/09/pause-celebre.html
24992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: February 22, 2008, 10:45:34 AM
Foraging for Taliban AKs?!?  WTF?!?

http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2008/02/democratic-debate.html
24993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: February 22, 2008, 08:53:22 AM
His and Her Finances
February 22, 2008; Page A14
Stonewalling and secrecy helped Bill and Hillary Clinton win the White House without a thorough enough vetting in 1992. Now they're trying to do it again, this time by not disclosing either their income tax returns or the donor list for the Clinton Foundation.

All of this has become the target of greater attention since Mrs. Clinton loaned her struggling campaign $5 million last month. She waited until after the crucial Super Tuesday voting to disclose this news, and initially described the loan as "my money." Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson then clarified that the cash had come from Mrs. Clinton's 50% "share" of the couple's joint resources.

 
Is America a great country or what? Only seven years ago the Clintons were swimming in legal bills. They've since cashed in on their celebrity to pay off a $2 million mortgage on their Washington D.C. home, and are now able to lend $5 million to Mrs. Clinton's campaign. The Senator has had her own success, earning more than $5 million for her "Living History" memoir. But the real income source has been the former President, who has been giving $450,000 speeches, and in general parlaying his political fame into personal riches.

Mr. Clinton is now trying to unwind a business relationship with billionaire pal Ron Burkle. This deal made him a partner -- along with the ruler of Dubai -- in the Yucaipa Global Fund. How much did Mr. Clinton earn from a partnership with men whose business interests might be affected by the policy actions of a President Hillary Clinton? The Clintons and their accountant know, but the public doesn't.

 
Mr. Clinton has also been raising cash for the Clinton Foundation, which funds his charitable activities and Presidential library. The foundation has raised more than $500 million, but Mr. Clinton has refused to release a donor list.

What we do know is that Mr. Clinton has allowed donors to use his influence to advance their business interests. That was the case with Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining financier, who won a huge mining concession in Kazakhstan after Mr. Clinton flew all the way to Almaty to introduce him to President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Bloomberg reported this week that Mr. Clinton has also been a frequent flyer on Mr. Giustra's corporate jet.

Mr. Giustra later donated $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation and has pledged $100 million more. As the New York Times has reported, Mr. Clinton used his trip to praise Mr. Nazarbayev's bid to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, even as Senator Clinton was slamming the country's record on corruption and elections. If Mr. Clinton's personal business is going to affect U.S. foreign policy, he ought to tell the world who his benefactors are.

We've seen this nondisclosure before. During the 1992 campaign, the Clintons claimed to be coming clean by releasing their tax returns from 1980 forward. But they steadfastly refused to release their returns for prior years, and only later did we learn that 1978 and 1979 were the tax years when Mrs. Clinton reported her 10,000% cattle-futures trading profit. Remember Red Bone and Jim Blair, and how she claimed she had made the investment on her own after reading the Wall Street Journal? For that matter, remember the other characters who provided cash for the Clintons in return for nights in the Lincoln Bedroom, among other things?

Senator Clinton has said she'll make her tax returns public only if she wins the Democratic nomination. Mr. Clinton has said he'll disclose his future donors only if she is President. Once again they're trying to block disclosure until it's too late to inform the judgment of voters.

Mr. Obama has released his tax returns and has suggested Mrs. Clinton do the same because "the American people deserve to know where you get your income from." If the Clintons continue to keep his and her finances under wraps, the public would be wise, given their history, to assume they have something to hide.

WSJ
24994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The English Language on: February 22, 2008, 08:45:30 AM
Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location
 Cary Conover for The New York Times
Neil Neches, on a No. 5 train, underneath the placard that has earned him plaudits for his proper use of the semicolon.
 
By SAM ROBERTS
Published: February 18, 2008
Correction Appended

It was nearly hidden on a New York City Transit public service placard exhorting subway riders not to leave their newspaper behind when they get off the train.

“Please put it in a trash can,” riders are reminded. After which Neil Neches, an erudite writer in the transit agency’s marketing and service information department, inserted a semicolon. The rest of the sentence reads, “that’s good news for everyone.”

Semicolon sightings in the city are unusual, period, much less in exhortations drafted by committees of civil servants. In literature and journalism, not to mention in advertising, the semicolon has been largely jettisoned as a pretentious anachronism.

Americans, in particular, prefer shorter sentences without, as style books advise, that distinct division between statements that are closely related but require a separation more prolonged than a conjunction and more emphatic than a comma.

“When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life,” Kurt Vonnegut once said. “Old age is more like a semicolon.”

In terms of punctuation, semicolons signal something New Yorkers rarely do. Frank McCourt, the writer and former English teacher at Stuyvesant High School, describes the semicolon as the yellow traffic light of a “New York sentence.” In response, most New Yorkers accelerate; they don’t pause to contemplate.

Semicolons are supposed to be introduced into the curriculum of the New York City public schools in the third grade. That is where Mr. Neches, the 55-year-old New York City Transit marketing manager, learned them, before graduating from Tilden High School and Brooklyn College, where he majored in English and later received a master’s degree in creative writing.

But, whatever one’s personal feelings about semicolons, some people don’t use them because they never learned how.

In fact, when Mr. Neches was informed by a supervisor that a reporter was inquiring about who was responsible for the semicolon, he was concerned.

“I thought at first somebody was complaining,” he said.

One of the school system’s most notorious graduates, David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer who taunted police and the press with rambling handwritten notes, was, as the columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote, the only murderer he ever encountered who could wield a semicolon just as well as a revolver. (Mr. Berkowitz, by the way, is now serving an even longer sentence.)

But the rules of grammar are routinely violated on both sides of the law.

People have lost fortunes and even been put to death because of imprecise punctuation involving semicolons in legal papers. In 2004, a court in San Francisco rejected a conservative group’s challenge to a statute allowing gay marriage because the operative phrases were separated incorrectly by a semicolon instead of by the proper conjunction.

Louis Menand, an English professor at Harvard and a staff writer at The New Yorker, pronounced the subway poster’s use of the semicolon to be “impeccable.”

Lynne Truss, author of “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,” called it a “lovely example” of proper punctuation.

Geoffrey Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, praised the “burgeoning of punctuational literacy in unlikely places.”

Allan M. Siegal, a longtime arbiter of New York Times style before retiring, opined, “The semicolon is correct, though I’d have used a colon, which I think would be a bit more sophisticated in that sentence.”

The linguist Noam Chomsky sniffed, “I suppose Bush would claim it’s the effect of No Child Left Behind.”

New York City Transit’s unintended agenda notwithstanding, e-mail messages and text-messaging may jeopardize the last vestiges of semicolons. They still live on, though, in emoticons, those graphic emblems of our grins, grimaces and other facial expressions.

The semicolon, befittingly, symbolizes a wink.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 19, 2008
An article in some editions on Monday about a New York City Transit employee’s deft use of the semicolon in a public service placard was less deft in its punctuation of the title of a book by Lynne Truss, who called the placard a “lovely example” of proper punctuation. The title of the book is “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” — not “Eats Shoots & Leaves.” (The subtitle of Ms. Truss’s book is “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.”)

24995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes: Clinton donors PO'd on: February 22, 2008, 08:28:06 AM
Nearly $100,000 went for party platters and groceries before the Iowa caucuses, even though the partying mood evaporated quickly. Rooms at the Bellagio luxury hotel in Las Vegas consumed more than $25,000; the Four Seasons, another $5,000. And top consultants collected about $5 million in January, a month of crucial expenses and tough fund-raising.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

“We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,” said a prominent New York donor. “So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.”

The high-priced senior consultants to Mrs. Clinton, of New York, have emerged as particular targets of complaints, given that they conceived and executed a political strategy that has thus far proved unsuccessful.

The firm that includes Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist and pollster, and his team collected $3.8 million for fees and expenses in January; in total, including what the campaign still owes, the firm has billed more than $10 million for consulting, direct mail and other services, an amount other Democratic strategists who are not affiliated with either campaign called stunning.

Howard Wolfson, the communications director and a senior member of the advertising team, earned nearly $267,000 in January. His total, including the campaign’s debt to him, tops $730,000.

The advertising firm owned by Mandy Grunwald, the longtime media strategist for both Mrs. Clinton and Bill Clinton, the former president, has collected $2.3 million in fees and expenses, and is still owed another $240,000.

“Fees and payments are in line with industry standards,” Mr. Wolfson said. “Spending priorities have been consistent with overall strategic goals.”

But some Democrats are now asking if the money spent on a campaign that appears to be sputtering — $106 million so far — was worth it.

“It’s easy to be critical, but had she won Iowa, none of this would have mattered. It wouldn’t have mattered what she spent because money would have come pouring in,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant and a veteran of Mr. Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election bid. “But the fact that she did not has made everyone focus on where the dollars went — and where they think the money should’ve gone.”

Mrs. Clinton came into January with a cash advantage over Mr. Obama, with about $19 million available for the primary, compared with about $13 million for him. She wound up spending at roughly the same rate as Mr. Obama, about a million dollars a day, but because she performed dismally compared to him in raising money, she ended the month essentially in the red and was forced to lend her campaign $5 million, while he had $19 million for the coming contests.

Over all, Mrs. Clinton has spent more than $35 million on media, polling and consulting. A comparison with Mr. Obama’s spending is difficult because of the ways the campaigns labeled expenses, but it appears he spent about $40 million in those areas.

In other notable expenditures during the lean month of January, Mrs. Clinton paid $275,000 to Sunrise Communications, a South Carolina firm that was supposed to turn out black voters for her and collected nearly $800,000 in total. She lost that state to Mr. Obama by a wide margin. Even small expenses piled up in January: the campaign spent more than $11,000 on pizza and $1,200 on Dunkin’ Donuts runs.

Mr. Penn, the chief strategist, said in an interview that, since 2001, he no longer owned any of the political consulting firm of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates. He said the firm’s fees were capped at $20,000 a month and that the “great bulk” of the payments went for direct mail.

Joe Trippi, who was a senior adviser to John Edwards’s presidential campaign, said he believed that the Clinton team had made two fundamental errors.

First, he argued, Mrs. Clinton built a top-down fund-raising operation that relied on a core group of donors to write checks early on for the maximum amount, $4,600 for the primary and the general election, which left few of them to go back to when money became tight. Mr. Obama, by contrast, focused on building a network of small donors whose continued ability to give has been essential to his success this winter.

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

Page 2 of 2)


And second, Mr. Trippi said, the Clinton campaign spent money as though the race were going to be over after a handful of states had voted and was not prepared for a contest that would stretch for months.

“The problem is she ran a campaign like they were staying at the Ritz-Carlton,” Mr. Trippi said. “Everything was the best. The most expensive draping at events. The biggest charter. It was like, ‘We’re going to show you how presidential we are by making our events look presidential.’ ”

For instance, during the week before the Jan. 19 caucuses in Nevada, the Clinton campaign spent more than $25,000 for rooms at the Bellagio in Las Vegas; nearly $5,000 was spent at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas that week. Some staff members also stayed at Planet Hollywood nearby.

From the start of the campaign, some donors had concerns about the Clinton team’s ability to manage money.

Patti Solis Doyle, Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign manager until she was replaced on Feb. 10, also ran her Senate re-election bid in 2006. That campaign spent about $30 million even though Mrs. Clinton faced only token Democratic and Republican opposition.

“The Senate race spending in 2006 was an omen for a lot of us inside the campaign, but Hillary assured us that her presidential bid would be the best run in history,” said one major Clinton fund-raiser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations within the campaign.

Yet the Clinton campaign at times found itself spending money on items that were not ultimately helpful. As part of their get-out-the-vote effort in Iowa, the campaign came up with a plan to have a local supermarket deliver sandwich platters to pre-caucus parties. It spent more than $95,384 on Jan. 1 at Hy-Vee Inc., a local grocery chain in West Des Moines, Iowa, in addition to buying loads of snow shovels to clear the walks for caucusgoers. Mrs. Clinton came in third in the Jan. 3 caucus. It did not snow.

Mr. Obama’s fund-raising surged after his Iowa victory. In January, he brought in more than $2.50 for every $1 she was given, and from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5, Mr. Obama spent nearly $16 million on political advertisements — more than $4 million more than Mrs. Clinton, according to a survey by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at TNS Media Intelligence. Mr. Obama broadcast 3,000 more advertisements than she did, and he was able to air those ads not only in the states that were immediately up for grabs but also in contests on Feb. 5 and beyond.

For instance, Mr. Obama spent nearly $480,000 on 1,331 spots in Missouri; he won the state’s primary, a closely fought contest and a national political bellwether, by one percentage point.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is not without highly paid consultants. His top media strategist is David Axelrod, whose firm received $175,000 in January and has collected $1.2 million over all. Mr. Obama’s polling is spread between four firms that have received $2.8 million collectively.

“Obviously, some campaigns are more careful and wise with their money than others,” Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who ran John Kerry’s presidential campaign until November 2003. “But these budgetary post-mortems tend to follow a familiar pattern; winners are by definition smart, and losers are dumb and wasteful. In truth, campaign budgeting is hard and complicated and three-dimensional and just impossible to understand without the full time-and-place context of the whole race.”

24996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on Washington on: February 22, 2008, 08:14:25 AM
"His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one
would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble."

-- Thomas Jefferson (on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter
Jones, 2 January 1814)

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
(1319)
24997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: FDA vs. medical freedom on: February 21, 2008, 08:26:39 AM
A Moral Test for the FDA
February 21, 2008; Page A16
WSJ
Some 40,000 women died from breast cancer in 2007. Almost unbelievably, the federal government may block one of the disease's more promising therapies for no other reason than the Food and Drug Administration's obsolete, even antimodern, regulations and approval models. Since the lives of terminally ill patients are in the balance, this is fundamentally a moral test -- and one, true to type, that the FDA may well flunk.

At issue is the biologic medicine Avastin, which interferes with the growth and spread of tumors through the body by choking off their blood supply. Manufactured by Genentech, Avastin was approved for colorectal cancer in 2004 and lung cancer in 2006, and it's been shown effective for treating recurrent or metastatic breast cancer. But in December, the FDA's Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 5-4 against approval. The FDA is not bound by such decisions but usually follows them, and a final ruling is expected by Saturday.

A denial in this case would not only be unscientific but unethical. It's not as though the panel or the larger FDA bureaucracy don't recognize or acknowledge Avastin's real benefits. Rather, the FDA's lords of medicine may conclude that those benefits don't matter. And they don't matter, as the panel argued, because they don't fall into the categories that the FDA generally uses to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a drug.

In clinical trials, Avastin demonstrated the longest reported "progression-free survival" for patients with advanced breast cancer. That means they live longer before their disease spreads or worsens. An initial study submitted to the FDA showed that Avastin in combination with Taxol (another cancer therapy) delayed the growth of tumors by about 11 months -- some five and half months longer than Taxol alone. Additionally, more than twice as many patients experienced significant tumor shrinkage.

In February, Genentech also released the preliminary findings of a more rigorous follow-up study, including the FDA's "gold standard" of randomized and placebo-controlled clinical trials. It again confirmed that Avastin improves progression-free survival, though the full results have not yet been made public.

In other words, dying patients live nearly twice as long on average before their disease gets worse, and maybe longer. It translates into an improvement in quality of life by delaying the onset of symptoms. But only in a few isolated contemporary cases has the FDA deemed progression-free survival as a relevant "end point" for approval. There's no reason besides the FDA's complacency and archaic procedures; a recent review by the agency's own Science Board concluded that "evaluation methods have remained largely unchanged over the last half-century."

Extending life is the FDA's acid test for any anticancer agent, but studies designed to prove it take years and thousands of patients to get large average effects. In the Avastin study, women lived slightly longer, a median of 26.5 months compared with 24.8 with Taxol alone. But those results weren't proved statistically significant to FDA satisfaction. Advanced therapies, however, often prove more effective among targeted populations and in some patients over others. Perhaps that's why, as the Journal's Marilyn Chase reported yesterday, even two members of the oncology panel may recant their nay votes.

At the very least, approval criteria should be broadened beyond crude mortality rates. Between the 1950s and early 1980s, when the treatments for cancer were far more limited, the FDA considered the response of tumors to treatment adequate to make judgments. Some of the most important chemotherapy drugs for cancer and autoimmune diseases gained approval during that period -- cyclophosphamide, tamoxifen and others. Many are still used today, including to treat breast cancer. But it took years, sometimes decades, to learn how to use and dose them effectively once they were on the market.

No doubt thousands of lives were saved or improved by such trial and error, which is another name for medical progress. That's precisely what the FDA's bureaucratic culture, led by oncology drug chief Richard Padzur, is now obstructing. Another major culprit is political pressure from Congress, where Members know they can always get headlines by calling for a crackdown on Big Pharma or exploiting public safety anxieties. Never mind patient interest.

* * *
Patients with limited options shouldn't be denied drugs that may improve what life they have left, even if it doesn't extend life in the end. Thousands of breast-cancer sufferers, on the advice of their oncologists, are currently taking Avastin "off label," and an adverse FDA decision this week will make it far more difficult for them to do so. It would also be the latest moral indictment of everything that's wrong with the FDA.

24998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / thomas Paine on: February 21, 2008, 08:24:10 AM
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in
its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an
intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same
miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country
without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that
we furnish the means by which we suffer."

-- Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776)

Reference: Thomas Paine: Collected Writings , Foner ed., Library
of America (6)
24999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Africa on: February 21, 2008, 08:08:29 AM
This from the WSJ could just as easily have gone in the Media Matters thread:

Geldof Praises Bush
February 20, 2008
President Bush is visiting Africa, and the Washington Times's Fishwrap blog reports he is being joined by Bob Geldof, "an Irish rock and roll singer and longtime social activist who has helped, along with U2 rocker Bono, raise awareness about need in Africa":

Mr. Geldof has remained closely engaged with African affairs since then, and he spoke off the cuff to reporters today who were waiting for a press conference with Mr. Bush and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Mr. Geldof praised Mr. Bush for his work in delivering billions to fight disease and poverty in Africa, and blasted the U.S. press for ignoring the achievement.
Mr. Bush, said Mr. Geldof, "has done more than any other president so far."
"This is the triumph of American policy really," he said. "It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion."
"What's in it for [Mr. Bush]? Absolutely nothing," Mr. Geldof said.
Mr. Geldof said that the president has failed "to articulate this to Americans" but said he is also "pissed off" at the press for their failure to report on this good news story.
"You guys didn't pay attention," Geldof said to a group of reporters from all the major newspapers.
Apparently they still aren't paying attention. Apart from the Times, the only press reference we could find to Geldof's comments was an editorial in the conservative Investor's Business Daily.

For the past 2½ years or so, we've been hearing endlessly that Americans hate President Bush, that even those who don't hate him disapprove of him, that even those who don't disapprove of him are tired of him, and that his presidency is an unqualified failure. Now comes a surprising dissent from that view, and hardly anyone pays attention. It's a man-bites-dog story, but the press corps looks more like a herd of sheep.
25000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Muslims Students debate inclusion on: February 21, 2008, 08:00:01 AM
This is exactly the sort of subject where the NYT can be at its most disingenuous, but we search for Truth, so caveat lector.
======================

SAN JOSE — Amir Mertaban vividly recalls sitting at his university’s recruitment table for the Muslim Students Association a few years ago when an attractive undergraduate flounced up in a decidedly un-Islamic miniskirt, saying “Salamu aleykum,” or “Peace be upon you,” a standard Arabic greeting, and asked to sign up.

Amir Mertaban has pointed out that hypocrisy can factor into some conservative responses by association members.
Mr. Mertaban also recalls that his fellow recruiter surveyed the young woman with disdain, arguing later that she should not be admitted because her skirt clearly signaled that she would corrupt the Islamic values of the other members.

“I knew that brother, I knew him very well; he used to smoke weed on a regular basis,” said Mr. Mertaban, now 25, who was president of the Muslim student group at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, from 2003 to 2005.

Pointing out the hypocrisy, Mr. Mertaban won the argument that the group could no longer reject potential members based on rigid standards of Islamic practice.

The intense debate over whether organizations for Muslim students should be inclusive or strict is playing out on college campuses across the United States, where there are now more than 200 Muslim Students Association chapters.

Gender issues, specifically the extent to which men and women should mingle, are the most fraught topic as Muslim students wrestle with the yawning gap between American college traditions and those of Islam.

“There is this constant tension between becoming a mainstream student organization versus appealing to students who have a more conservative or stricter interpretation of Islam,” said Hadia Mubarak, the first woman to serve as president of the national association, from 2004 to 2005.

Each chapter enjoys relative autonomy in setting its rules. Broadly, those at private colleges tend to be more liberal because they draw from a more geographically dispersed population, and the smaller numbers prompt Muslim students to play down their differences.

Chapters at state colleges, on the other hand, often pull from the community, attracting students from conservative families who do not want their children too far afield.

At Yale, for example, Sunnis and Shiites mix easily and male and female students shocked parents in the audience by kissing during the annual awards ceremony. Contrast that with the University of California, Irvine, which has the reputation for being the most conservative chapter in the country, its president saying that to an outsider its ranks of bearded young men and veiled women might come across as “way Muslim” or even extremist.

But arguments erupt virtually everywhere. At the University of California, Davis, last year, in their effort to make the Muslim association more “cool,” board members organized a large alcohol-free barbecue. Men and women ate separately, but mingled in a mock jail for a charity drive.

The next day the chapter president, Khalida Fazel, said she fielded complaints that unmarried men and women were physically bumping into one other. Ms. Fazel now calls the event a mistake.

At George Washington University, a dodge ball game pitting men against women after Friday prayers drew such protests from Muslim alumni and a few members that the board felt compelled to seek a religious ruling stating that Islamic traditions accept such an event.

Members acknowledge that the tone of the Muslim associations often drives away students. Several presidents said that if they thought members were being too lax, guest imams would deliver prayer sermons about the evils of alcohol or premarital sex.

Judgment can also come swiftly. Ghayth Adhami, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, recalled how a young student who showed up at a university recruitment meeting in a Budweiser T-shirt faced a few comments about un-Islamic dress. The student never came back.

Some members push against the rigidity. Fatima Hassan, 22, a senior at the Davis campus, organized a coed road trip to Reno, Nev., two hours away, to play the slot machines last Halloween. In Islam, Ms. Hassan concedes, gambling is “really bad,” but it was men and women sharing the same car that shocked some fellow association members.

 


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“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Ms. Hassan said. “I am chill about that whole coed thing. I understand that in a Muslim context we are not supposed to hang out with the opposite sex, but it just happens and there is nothing you can do.”

But as Saif Inam, the vice president of the chapter at George Washington put it, “At the end of the day, I don’t want God asking me, ‘O.K. Saif, why did you organize events in which people could do un-Islamic things in big numbers?’ ”
The debate boils down to whether upholding gender segregation is forcing something artificial and vaguely hypocritical in an American context.

“As American Islam gets its own identity, it is going to have to shed some of these notions that are distant from American culture,” said Rafia Zakaria, a student at Indiana University. “The tension is between what forms of tradition are essential and what forms are open to innovation.”

American law says men and women are equal, whereas Muslim religious texts say they “complement” each other, Ms. Zakaria said. “If the law says they are equal, it’s hard to see how in their spiritual lives they will accept a whole different identity.”

The entire shift of the association from a foreign-run organization to an American one took place over arguments like this.

The Americans won out partly because the number of Muslim American college students hit a critical mass in the late 1990s, and then, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, foreign students, fearful of their visas being revoked, started avoiding a group that was increasingly political.

Some critics view strict interpretation of the faith as part of the association’s DNA. Organized in the 1960s by foreign students who wanted collective prayers where there were no mosques, the associations were basically little slices of Saudi Arabia. Women were banned. Only Muslim men who prayed, fasted and avoided alcohol and dating were welcomed. Meetings, even idle conversations, were in Arabic.

Donations from Saudi Arabia largely financed the group, and its leaders pushed the kingdom’s puritan, Wahhabi strain of Islam. Prof. Hamid Algar of the University of California, Berkeley, said that in the 1960s and 1970s, chapters advocated theological and political positions derived from radical Islamist organizations and would brook no criticism of Saudi Arabia.

That past has given the associations a reputation in some official quarters as a possible font of extremism, but experts in American Islam believe college campuses have become too diverse and are under too much scrutiny for the groups to foster radicals.

Zareena Grewal, a professor of religion and American studies at Yale, pointed to several things that would repel extremists. Members are trying to become more involved in the American political system, Professor Grewal said, and the heavy presence of women in the leadership would also deter them. Members “are not sitting around reading ‘How to Bomb Your Campus for Dummies,’ ” she said.

Its leaders think the organization is gradually relaxing a bit as it seeks to maintain its status as the main player for Muslim students.

“There were drunkards in the Prophet Muhammad’s community; there were fornicators and people who committed adultery in his community, and he didn’t reject them,” Mr. Mertaban said. “I think M.S.A.’s are beginning to understand this point that every person has ups and downs.”
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