Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: July 17, 2007, 02:40:55 PM
"A series of staged or permitted attacks would be spun by the captive media as a vindication of the neoconsevatives' Islamophobic policy, the intention of which is to destroy all Middle Eastern governments that are not American puppet states. Success would give the US control over oil, but the main purpose is to eliminate any resistance to Israel's complete absorption of Palestine into Greater Israel."
SB Mig, do you have a URL for this piece?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: July 17, 2007, 02:35:15 PM
TURKEY/IRAQ: Turkey will be making a "strategic mistake" if it launches a cross-border operation against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, said Abdul Rahman Chaderchi, a senior Kurdistan Workers' Party official. Chaderchi also renewed calls for a cease-fire between the two sides. He said a Turkish incursion into Iraq would unite Kurds on both sides of the Iraqi-Turkish border, as well as U.S. forces, against Turkey.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: July 17, 2007, 01:45:38 PM
Mexico Security Memo: July 16, 2007
July 16, 2007 1945 GMT
Hints of a Broken Cease-fire
Violence in the northern state of Nuevo Leon has erupted once again, starting with the attempted assassination of a police chief in Guadalupe on July 14, followed by the targeted killing on July 15 of a police officer in the wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de los Garza. The July 14 attack is significant because it was the first against a police or government official in the state since June 12, when the warring Gulf and Sinaloa cartels apparently declared a cease-fire. Before June 12, such attacks occurred almost daily. Violence also has increased elsewhere in Mexico in recent days, suggesting that the cease-fire has been broken or at least strained. Last week's Mexico Security Memo indicated that any cease-fire would be short-lived, and we expect more killings across the country during the coming week.
Cartels and Kidnapping Rings
Authorities in Nuevo Leon said July 10 they had dismantled a kidnapping gang in Monterrey known as Las Estacas by detaining 14 members of the group in raids at two residences. The raids followed the July 1 arrest of seven members of Los Halcones, a similar kidnapping ring. Police officials said Las Estacas and Los Halcones are both linked to the Gulf cartel.
The deteriorating security situation in Mexico has contributed to a high rate of kidnappings throughout the country, and this has had a significant impact on business. For example, many of the large corporations operating in Baja California state have upgraded security at their facilities in order to mitigate this threat. Even so, abductions are on the rise in Baja California, especially in Tijuana. In most cases involving the kidnapping of high-value targets, the victims are released unharmed after a ransom is paid. These kinds of crimes are examples of the deteriorating security situation.
An Added Security Burden
As Mexico's security forces continue operate against drug cartels, they will have to take on the additional burden of increasing security at energy installations. A group known as the People's Revolutionary Democratic Party (PDPR), a splinter group of the People's Revolutionary Army (EPR), claimed responsibility July 10 for recent pipeline explosions in Guanajuato and Queretaro states.
Without mentioning any specific threats, the PDPR said it will continue a vague harassment campaign against "economic interests of the oligarchy" until the government releases two political prisoners allegedly detained May 25 in Oaxaca state. The PDPR is the most active splinter faction of the EPR, though during the last several years its activities have only been writing and posting online anti-government manifestos.
That the group has apparently pulled off a successful bomb attack against multiple energy targets -- the government has yet to confirm the PDPR was behind the bombings -- could indicate a shift in operations. The most likely scenario, however, is that the group acted when it did because it could, out of operational readiness, and that it will be unable to stage another such attack anytime soon. It is worth noting that Mexican security forces are known to be extremely effective against small anti-government groups such as the EPR; while the police might be wary of taking action against the cartels, they have no problem hunting down poorly armed Marxist rebels.
The body of a man was found wrapped in a blanket with his arms tied behind his back and a single gunshot wound to the neck in Tonala, Jalisco state.
One man died and another was wounded during an attack by six heavily armed men in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan state.
Police discovered the body of a man in a shallow grave with his arms tied behind his back and two gunshot wounds to his head in Charapan, Michoacan state.
Three gunmen died in a firefight with federal police on a highway near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state.
Mexican soldiers on a routine patrol in Sonora state seized 3.5 tons of marijuana, four vehicles and a number of federal police uniforms.
Federal police in Tijuana, Baja California state, detained three members of the Gabacho kidnapping gang, which is suspected in the abduction of several local business owners.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza condemned threats to U.S. journalists by cartel hit men.
Police in Veracruz state reported that six people had been kidnapped in separate incidents by heavily armed men wearing uniforms similar to those of the Federal Investigative Agency.
The body of a man wrapped in a blanket was found along a highway outside Acapulco, Guerrero state. He evidently had been tortured.
Two men were found shot to death on the side of a highway in Durango state.
Two men were shot to death by several gunmen in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state, in apparently related incidents.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: July 17, 2007, 11:14:48 AM
===========Hello From Baqubah:
Superman is published at: http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/superman.htm
I made an appearance today (Tuesday) from Baqubah on Good Morning America to talk about events in Baqubah. That video should be available on their site, and includes loud combat video I shot yesterday (Monday.)
I will be appearing on the Laura Ingraham radio show tomorrow (Wednesday.)
We realize the site has become difficult to navigate after growing beyond all expectations, both in content and readership. The site will be overhauled during the coming months, but the work is very expensive so this will happen in stages.
This site depends 100% on reader support. Every bit helps and is critical. We'll revamp the site as funding permits to allow for easier searches, and will continue to bring cutting edge stories from the war.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our Dismal Savings Rate
on: July 17, 2007, 02:56:57 AM
Don't Dismiss Our Dismal Savings Rate
By BOB MCTEER
July 17, 2007; Page A17
The main fallacy in monetary theory and policy is the confusion of money and wealth. Money is wealth from the individual perspective since individuals can usually exchange it for goods and services. Money -- and financial assets easily converted to money -- may not be wealth for society as a whole if the production of goods and services has not kept pace with claims on it. Early spenders may have some success, but inflation will dilute the buying power of others. The bottom line is that real wealth has to be produced; it can't be printed.
Don't call me a Keynesian, but Keynes's Paradox of Thrift is another example of the fallacy of composition -- what's true for the individual may not be true for the group. Most U.S. families should be saving more. Indeed, the personal saving rate -- the percentage of disposable income not spent on consumption -- hovers around zero, with frequent dips into negative territory. This is made possible, for a while, by selling assets, accumulating debt, or spending capital gains in the housing and stock markets. Money obtained by realizing capital gains spends as well as money earned on the job. But not if too many of us try it at once.
The Paradox of Thrift says that attempts to save more in the aggregate reduce consumption spending, which, if not offset by increases in other spending, will reduce total spending and income. The paradox comes in when attempts to save more results in reduced saving out of lower incomes. The irony is that policy makers advise more saving but those who take the advice will benefit only if most of us ignore it, and policy makers are implicitly counting on that outcome.
A parallel is the farmer who hopes for a good crop year. But, if all or most farmers have a good crop year, the decline in prices may more than offset higher yields. What our farmer really needs is a good crop in a bad crop year. Then he could look for a popular restaurant that isn't crowded.
I realize this is not very sophisticated stuff, but it's on my mind because of the many talking heads I hear dismissing the adverse consequences of our low personal saving rate by saying it ignores capital gains as a source of spending. "Properly measured," they say, saving is not a problem.
Again, that may be true for the few, but not for the many. A penny saved may be a penny earned, but it matters whether it was earned by producing more or by a rise in the price of existing financial assets. A stock or housing market boom creates apparent wealth in the form of capital gains, but trying to convert it to real wealth en masse can make it disappear.
Economists say the main reason they worry about the budget deficit or the current account deficit is their impact on domestic saving. But my guess is that only other economists really get their meaning. Most people may be even further misled by the implication they hear that since the main harm of deficits is their impact on saving, they must not be too harmful after all. The old-fashioned notion that deficits are bad because they create debt that must be paid back with interest is probably a better prod to constructive behavior. Or that deficits impose a burden on our children or grandchildren.
Alan Greenspan has been one of the few economists to explain these matters correctly and -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- understandably, usually in the context of Social Security or other entitlement reforms. Whenever confronted by various financial fixes during congressional testimony, he frequently pointed out that any solution to the problem had to include real economic growth. With claims on output growing rapidly, output has to grow equally rapidly, or the claims are bogus. Any solution to our entitlement problems must include a bigger, more productive economy in the future. It's really as simple as not selling more tickets to the Super Bowl than there are -- or will be -- seats in the stadium. Of course, the political preoccupation with distribution rather than production puts unnecessary limits on the size of the economy on Super Bowl day.
The problem goes beyond government entitlement programs. Consider the baby boomers whose IRAs, 401(k)s and personal investments helped drive the stock market to record highs. What happens when cash-in time comes? There will be a mountain of paper claims on output, but will there be an equally tall mountain of output?
The great French economist, Frederic Bastiat, said that "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else." It's time to get real about producing real wealth, not just financial claims on wealth.
Mr. McTeer is a fellow at National Center for Policy Analysis and former president of the Dallas Fed.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia
on: July 17, 2007, 02:44:57 AM
'For the Sake of One Man'
Getting the facts straight about the old-new Russia.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, July 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
In the six or seven years in which they interacted on a regular basis, Vladimir Putin's police state and journalist Fatima Tlisova had a mostly one-way relationship. Ms. Tlisova's food was poisoned (causing a nearly fatal case of kidney failure), her ribs were broken by assailants unknown, her teenage son was detained by drunken policemen for the crime of not being an ethnic Russian, and agents of the Federal Security Services (FSB) forced her into a car, took her to a forest outside the city of Nalchik and extinguished cigarettes on every finger of her right hand, "so that you can write better," as one of her tormentors informed her. Last year, the 41-year-old journalist decided she'd had enough. Along with her colleague Yuri Bagrov, she applied for, and was granted, asylum in the United States.
Ms. Tlisova and Mr. Bagrov are, as the wedding refrain has it, something old, something new: characters from an era that supposedly vanished with the collapse of the Soviet Union 16 years ago. Now that era, or something that looks increasingly like it, seems to be upon us again. What can we do?
The most important task is to get some facts straight. Fact No. 1: The Bush administration is not provoking a new Cold War with Russia.
That it is seems to be the view of Beltway pundits such as Anatol Lieven, whose indignation at alleged U.S. hostility to Russia is inversely correlated with his concerns about mounting Russian hostility to the U.S., its allies and the likes of Ms. Tlisova. In an article in the March issue of the American Conservative, the leftish Mr. Lieven made the case against the administration for its "bitterly anti-Russian statements," the plan to bring Ukraine into NATO and other supposed encroachments on Russia's self-declared sphere of influence. In this reading, Mr. Putin's increasingly strident anti-Western rhetoric is merely a response to a deliberate and needless U.S. policy of provocation.
Yet talk to actual Russians and you'll find that one of their chief gripes with this administration has been its over-the-top overtures to Mr. Putin: President Bush's "insight" into the Russian's soul on their first meeting in 2001; Condoleezza Rice's reported advice to "forgive Russia" for its anti-American shenanigans in 2003; the administration's decision to permit Russian membership in the World Trade Organization in 2006; the Lobster Summit earlier this month at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport (which Mr. Putin graciously followed up by announcing the "suspension" of Russia's obligations under the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty).
This isn't a study in appeasement, quite. But it stands in striking contrast to the British government's decision yesterday to expel four Russian diplomats over Mr. Putin's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the former FSB man suspected of murdering Alexander Litvinenko in London last November with a massive dose of polonium. "The heinous crime of murder does require justice," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday. "This response is proportional and it is clear at whom it is aimed." Would that Dick Cheney walked that talk.
Now turn to Fact No. 2. Russia is acting with increasingly unrestrained rhetorical, diplomatic, economic and political hostility to whoever stands in the way of Mr. Putin's ambitions.
The enemies' list begins with Mr. Putin's domestic critics and the vocations they represent: imprisoned Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky; murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya; harassed opposition leader Garry Kasparov. It continues with foreign companies which have had to forfeit multibillion-dollar investments when Kremlin-favored companies decided they wanted a piece of the action. It goes on to small neighboring democracies such as Estonia, victim of a recent Russian cyberwar when it decided to remove a monument to its Soviet subjugators from downtown Tallinn. It culminates with direct rhetorical assaults on the U.S., as when Mr. Putin suggested in a recent speech that the threat posed by the U.S., "as during the time of the Third Reich," include "the same claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world."
None of these Kremlin assaults can seriously be laid at the White House's feet, unless one believes the lurid anti-Western conspiracy theories spun out by senior Russian officials. And that brings us to Fact No. 3. Russia has become, in the precise sense of the word, a fascist state.
It does not matter here, as the Kremlin's apologists are so fond of pointing out, that Mr. Putin is wildly popular in Russia: Popularity is what competent despots get when they destroy independent media, stoke nationalistic fervor with military buildups and the cunning exploitation of the Church, and ride a wave of petrodollars to pay off the civil service and balance their budgets. Nor does it matter that Mr. Putin hasn't re-nationalized the "means of production" outright; corporatism was at the heart of Hitler's economic policy, too.
What matters, rather, is nicely captured in a remark by Russian foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin regarding Britain's decision to expel the four diplomats. "I don't understand the position of the British government," Mr. Kamynin said. "It is prepared to sacrifice our relations in trade and education for the sake of one man."
That's a telling remark, both in its substance and in the apparent insouciance with which it was made: The whole architecture of liberal democracy is designed primarily "for the sake of one man." Not only does Mr. Kamynin seem unaware of it, he seems to think we are unaware of it. Perhaps the indulgence which the West has extended to Mr. Putin's regime over the past seven years gives him a reason to think so.
Last night, Ms. Tlisova was in Washington, D.C., to accept an award from the National Press Club on behalf of Anna Politkovskaya. "She knew she was condemned. She knew she would be killed. She just didn't know when, so she tried to achieve as much as she could in the time she had," Ms. Tlisova said in her prepared statement. "Maybe Anna Politkovskaya was indeed very damaging to the Russia that President Putin has created. But for us, the people of the Caucasus, she was a symbol of hope and faith in another Russia--a country with a conscience, honor and compassion for all its citizens."
How do we deal with the old-new Russia? By getting the facts straight. That was Politkovskaya's calling, as it is Ms. Tlisova's, as it should be ours.
Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Amenazas/threats to US Reporters
on: July 16, 2007, 01:01:41 PM
Mexico's Drug Cartels: The Threat to U.S. Reporters
Editors at the San Antonio Express-News ordered their Laredo, Texas, correspondent to leave the U.S.-Mexico border city July 12 after a source told the reporter he was in danger of being killed. The threat reportedly originated from Los Zetas, enforcers for the Gulf drug cartel. In response to the threat, the Dallas Morning News has instructed its Mexico City-based correspondent to stay away from the border for the time being.
Death threats against journalists are common on the Mexican side of the border -- and it is not uncommon to see them acted on. Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based nongovernmental organization that advocates international press freedom, lists Mexico as the most dangerous country in the world -- except for Iraq -- for journalists. The group's 2006 report said nine journalists were killed and three others went missing last year. Journalists from major media outlets, as well as smaller local newspapers, have been killed or have disappeared after reporting on the activities of the drug cartels.
Even journalists working for smaller media outlets closer to the border that cover cartel activities in Mexico have been warned by their sources about their safety. A reporter working for a television station close to the border was threatened after the station aired a story about the Zetas. It is safe to say the killings and the threats against reporters are having a chilling effect on the coverage of drug-trafficking operations in Mexico.
So far, there are no reports that the cartels have carried out targeted killings of American journalists on either side of the border. U.S. authorities, however, believe the Zetas have crossed into the United States and killed other people on the U.S. side. Threats against reporters on the U.S. side, therefore, could easily escalate to an attempt against an American journalist inside the United States. Moreover, there is no reason to believe the enforcers would not strike at American reporters covering drug trafficking on Mexican soil.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza on July 13 publicly condemned threats against U.S. journalists covering the cartels in Mexico. This indicates that the issue is being taken seriously at the higher levels of the U.S government, and will figure into Washington's relations with Mexico City.
The cartels are used to getting their way when it comes to influencing media coverage of their activities. Because of the intimidation and killings, many Mexican editors have been forced to be more selective in their coverage, even closing their papers temporarily until things cool off with the local cartels. The Cambio Sonora newspaper in Sonora state decided to close down temporarily in May following two grenade attacks at the newspaper -- probably from the Comando Negro, enforcers working for the Sinaloa federation of cartels. In February 2006, Nuevo Laredo's El Mañana newspaper ceased its investigative reporting on drug trafficking after an attack with assault rifles and a grenade at the newspaper left one of its reporters paralyzed.
Although some U.S. media outlets appear to be taking action to mitigate the threat against their reporters covering Mexican drug cartels, American journalists continue to follow what has become a major international news story. As the coverage continues, the cartels -- which have not demonstrated any fear of U.S. law enforcement -- could feel compelled to demonstrate their ability to reach across the border.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Unorganized Militia
on: July 16, 2007, 12:15:13 PM
Out of Montana
What happens when a mother of three and small town municipal judge decides to take on the online Jidhad? Shannen Rossmiller tells the story of how she helped unmask a number of malefactors, including some who were seeking to acquire Stinger missiles and finally track down a renegade in the US National Guard. Viewed from one perspective, it is a fascinating case study of the private citizen warrior, embarked on what Rossmiller called her own "counterJihad".
Before 9-11, I had no experience with the Middle East or the Arabic language. I was a mother of three and a municipal judge in a small town in Montana. But the terrorist attacks affected me deeply. ... I began to read vociferously [voraciously] about Islam, terrorism, extremist groups, and Islamist ideology. ...
This housewife found she could fight her private war from a computer keyboard. Her first step was visit and learn all she could about Jihadi websites.
In November 2001, I saw a news report about how terrorists and their sympathizers communicated on websites and Internet message boards and how limited government agencies were in their ability to monitor these web communications. This news report showed me how extensively Al-Qaeda used the Internet to orchestrate 9-11 and how out of touch our intelligence agencies were regarding this Internet activity. Apparently, there were not procedures in place for tracking communications and activity on the Al-Qaeda websites and Internet forums at the time.
So she invented her own procedures. But as she ghosted through the websites and forums, she realized that any further progress required a knowledge of Arabic. Nothing daunted, Rosssmiller set out to learn Arabic. And she did. Over the Internet, from a Cairo language academy.
Early in January 2002, I began taking an Arabic language course online for eight weeks from the Cairo-based Arab Academy, which, that autumn, I supplemented with an intensive Arabic course at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As I learned more Arabic, the jihadi websites opened for me. Certain individuals stood out for either their radicalism or the information that they sent. I followed and tracked these individuals and kept notebooks detailing each website and person of interest.
Soon Rossmiller grew skilled enough to pick out the signature style of individuals and successfully impersonate a Jihadi. If on the Internet nobody knew if you were a dog, it might be equally possible for a mom of three to convince her quarry she was a terrorist looking to hook up.
I created my first terrorist cover identity on the Internet on March 13, 2002, to communicate and interact with these targets. In my first chat room sting, I convinced a Pakistani man that I was an Islamist arms dealer. When he offered to sell me stolen U.S. Stinger missiles to help the jihadists fighting the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, I used the Persian Gulf dialect of Arabic to ask him to provide me with information that I could use to confirm his claims, such as stock numbers. Within a couple of weeks, the missile identification numbers were in my computer inbox.
Stock numbers and the e-mail correspondence in hand, I intended to drive to the closest field office for the FBI here in Montana but was afraid that the FBI would not take me seriously. What were the chances of a Montana mom showing up at their door with information about an individual in Pakistan who was trying to sell Stinger missiles? Instead, I submitted the information to the FBI's online tips site.
A few days later, I received a telephone call from an FBI agent from New Jersey who proceeded to question me. It felt like an interrogation. Several days later, the same agent called to thank me and say that the stock number information for the Stingers did match some of the information that the government had about the missiles.
Encouraged by this success, I continued to communicate with these jihadis online and proceeded to gather more information. Using various Muslim personalities and theatrics for cover, I began monitoring the jihadist chat rooms into the early hours of the morning while my family slept. Plunging in, I started making headway into the world of counterterrorism.
Rossmiller went on to detect early warnings of a bombing attack against expatriates in Saudi Arabia and was even asked -- in 2003 -- to courier some money for Saddam's fedayeen in Jordan. But not all the homes burning the midnight oil in America belonged to individuals fighting for their country. Some of the nocturnal denizens haunting the Internet were bent on selling out their country for gain or out of hatred. At some point Rossmiller's path and theirs were bound to cross.
It was soon afterwards that I learned that I was not the only American surfing the chat rooms. In October 2004, while monitoring Arabic Islamist websites for threat-related information and activity, I saw a message posted in English by a man calling himself Amir Abdul Rashid. He said he was a Muslim convert who "was in a position to take things to the next level in the fight against our enemy (the U.S. government)." He further requested that someone from the mujahideen contact him for details. I was suspicious because Rashid posted his message in English on an Arabic website and was openly seeking contact from the mujahideen. I traced his IP address back to an area outside of Seattle, Washington. Over time, it also became apparent to me that he was a member of the U.S. military.
With the Montana mom aware of him the net slowly closed. Rashid turned out to be Spec. Ryan G. Anderson, whose National Guard unit was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Anderson was hawking the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the M1-AI and M1-A2 Abrams tanks as well as U.S. troop locations in Iraq. The price for this success was the end Rossmiller's anonymity. Called to testify at Anderson's trial, Rossmiller's modus operandi and identity were revealed in court records. Her cloak stripped away, the hunter soon became the hunted.
After the media picked up my identity at Anderson's Article 32 hearing in May 2004, I received numerous threats and, on December 5, 2004, someone stole my car out of my family's garage. It was later found wrecked two counties away from my home, riddled with bullet holes. As a result, I now have permanent security.
There's more. And if you want to know of her other exploits you should as they say, read the whole thing.
Ironically if Rossmiller had been engaged in important sleuthing such as uncovering whether Scooter Libby had talked about Valerie Plame before or after Richard Armitage instead of the trivial pursuit of hunting down terrorists intent on mass murder or traitors selling their country's secrets, her story might already be the subject of a blockbuster movie instead of the obscure pages of Middle East Forum. Rossmiller would be on the Good Morning America and Oprah shows, pulling in money instead of shelling it out for personal security.
Yet her saga is more than a cultural commentary on our times. It also illustrates the largely unrecorded exploits of individuals who are fighting the Jihad on their own time and dime. Wearing a wire for the FBI. Tracking down Jihadi training camps in rural America. Translating documents. Jamming terrorist sites. Raising the alarm. Baking cookies for the troops. It's a story of the gaps in the official warfighting apparatus and the enterprise that quietly fills them in. It is a perfectly 21st century story; a tale of networked counterinsurgency. But it is also a story from the past: of the 18th century idea of a nation in arms, not literally perhaps -- the keyboard is probably a more common weapon -- but of people's war, something that shocked the Continent when the French revolution brought it into European existence.
This perhaps, is Osama Bin Laden's saddest contribution to history. Not that he should make war upon the nations, but that he has raised the nations, right down to their living rooms and front porches, to make war upon him and his.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Aid to Pakistan in Tribal Regions raises concerns
on: July 16, 2007, 08:38:32 AM
GHALANAI, Pakistan — The United States plans to pour $750 million of aid into Pakistan’s tribal areas over the next five years as part of a “hearts and minds” campaign to win over this lawless region from Qaeda and Taliban militants.
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Suicide Bombers Kill at Least 49 in North Pakistan (July 16, 2007)
But even before the plan has been fully carried out, documents and officials involved in the planning are warning of the dangers of distributing so much money in an area so hostile that oversight is impossible, even by Pakistan’s own government, which faces rising threats from Islamic militants.
Who will be given the aid has quickly become one of the most contentious questions between local officials and American planners concerned that millions might fall into the wrong hands. The local political agents and tribal chiefs in this hinterland on the Afghan border have for years accommodated the very groups the American and Pakistani governments seek to drive out.
A closely scripted visit to the hospital here, used for a pilot project by the United States Agency for International Development, showed the challenges on full display. The one-story hospital here was virtually empty on a recent day.
Local people had no way to get there. Three of the 110 beds were occupied. Two operating tables had not been used in months. Many doctors had left because the pay was too meager and security too precarious, said Dr. Yusuf Shah, the chief surgeon.
Sher Alam Mahsud, the local political boss who escorted this reporter on a rare visit, said he wanted all the American aid money “delivered to us.” But the precarious security does not allow the Americans to assess the aid priorities firsthand, or to provide oversight for the first installment of $150 million allocated by the Bush administration.
“Delivering $150 million in aid to the tribal areas could very quickly make a few people rich and do almost nothing to provide opportunity and justice to the region,” said Craig Cohen, the author of a recent study of United States-Pakistan relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Yet it is here in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, as the region is formally called, that Washington is intent on using the development aid as a counterinsurgency tool, according to a draft of the Agency for International Development plan given to The New York Times by an official who worked on it.
The draft warns that the “severe governance deficiencies” in the tribal areas will make it virtually impossible for the aid to be sustainable or to overcome the “area’s chronic underdevelopment and consequent volatility.”
The ambitious plan was publicly highlighted during a visit to Pakistan in June by Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, as a measure of Washington’s support for Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
“The objective driving this decision is the hope that by bringing the FATA into the mainstream and assuring that basic human services and infrastructure are on par with the rest of Pakistan, the people of FATA would be less likely to welcome the presence of Al Qaeda and Taliban,” the draft states. The projects include health and education services, water and sanitation facilities, and agricultural development, it says, making clear that these are a means to a broader end. “The main goal of the United States government in relation to the FATA is counterterrorism,” it says.
One way to improve the chances of the aid’s efficacy would be greater emphasis on political reform in the tribal areas, according to the draft. The Pakistani government has created a panel to study reform of the political structure in the areas, the draft noted, adding that “Usaid should explore opportunities for contributing its substantial experience in local government capacity building to any reform efforts the government of Pakistan decide to undertake.”
Even if the tribal areas were not under the sway of the Taliban, which they increasingly are, the development challenge here would be steep enough, the document and interviews make clear.
The area, home to 3.2 million people, remains a desolate landscape where women are strictly veiled. Female literacy — at 3 percent — is among the lowest in the world. Schools are often used to run businesses. There is no banking system. Smuggling of opium and other contraband is routine.
The hostility to almost anything that smacks of foreign influence is such that money from the modest development agency program, administered by the charity Save the Children at the hospital here, was being delivered anonymously, undercutting any potential public relations benefit for the United States.
“We can’t do branding,” said Fayyaz Ali Khan, the program manager for Save the Children, in an interview in the city of Peshawar. “Usually we say the aid comes from the American people, but here we can’t.”
Suspicions about modern medicine are rife. A Pakistani doctor was blown up in his car in June after trying to counter the anti-vaccine propaganda of an imam in Bajaur, one of the tribal agencies, Pakistani officials said.
The Pakistani government has virtually no authority here. After years of fighting to assert its authority, at the cost of about 600 soldiers, it negotiated peace accords with tribal authorities that have all but confined Pakistani troops to their barracks.
Published: July 16, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)
Tribal elders, local imams and governors known as political agents — their title goes back to the British colonial days — are the on-the-ground arbiters of all decisions in many districts. The political agents are widely considered corrupt.
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Suicide Bombers Kill at Least 49 in North Pakistan (July 16, 2007) A senior American official in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, who would not speak for attribution, defended the plan’s goals as necessary and achievable. The official said that “Pakistani firms, consulting organizations and nongovernmental organizations” would be the main deliverers of the assistance.
The official said, referring to the international aid agency, that these would in turn be “managed under Usaid direct contracts and grants to American and international organizations.”
Mr. Cohen, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was skeptical. Almost every potential recipient of the money was suspect in the eyes of the people it was supposed to help, he said. “The notion that there’s going to be $150 million a year to Pakistani nongovernmental organizations who are going to be out in the open seems naïve to me,” he said.
“The insecurity of the area will require a heavy reliance on local partners” like Pakistani nongovernmental organizations to administer projects, he added. “But the nongovernmental organizations don’t trust the military, the military doesn’t trust the tribal chiefs, and the tribal chiefs won’t trust us unless they’re getting a cut of the money.”
Such Pakistani groups were often targets of the Islamic militants in the tribal areas. The militants are increasingly destroying CD shops and attacking small efforts to gain advantages for women.
Mr. Mahsud, the political agent for the tribal agency, or district, of Mohmand, where the hospital is, had his own ideas. Any aid money from Western donors should be “pooled here,” he said, during an interview at the FATA secretariat headquarters in Peshawar, meaning it should be distributed through local officials.
His power was evident when he drove in his impressive new four-wheel-drive vehicle through the heavy metal black gates that mark the boundary to his tribal agency. Armed men in heavy gray uniforms, wearing black felt berets in the summer heat, snapped to attention.
The hospital itself was barren, and silent. Dr. Shah, the chief surgeon, and other doctors who had come to the hospital for the visit of an outsider, said water was a luxury trucked in by tanker, arriving at best every other day.
One doctor, Aaquila Khan, brimmed with passion about helping the poor and feeble women who came to visit the woefully underequipped hospital, but she lives in Peshawar, more than an hour’s drive away, and so comes in just two or three days a week, mornings only, to treat those female patients.
“They are very much anemic,” she said of eight women she treated during a recent visit. “They are not educated, they are not aware of family planning, they have no money.” Only the women living within walking distance could come, she said.
The aid program run by Save the Children, a small $11 million starter project that hints at the bigger things planned by the Americans, formally began last December with a signing of a memorandum of understanding with the tribal authorities.
The idea is for Pakistani doctors to train health care workers who will go into the field and train traditional health assistants on more modern methods.
But the first training sessions have only just begun, said Mr. Khan, the program manager for Save the Children. The only sign of the program was a “resource room” with a large blond wood table and a dozen or so chairs still in their plastic wrapping.
The training sessions take place in Peshawar, over the tribal boundary, to ensure the safety of the doctors.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: July 15, 2007, 10:16:46 AM
The War About the War
By Herbert Meyer
Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special
Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the
CIA's National Intelligence Council.
The 9-11 attacks did more than start a war; they started a war about the
war. No sooner had the World Trade towers collapsed and the Pentagon burst
into flames than two perceptions of the threat began competing for the
Perception One: We're at War
For the third time in history Islam - or, more precisely, its most radical
element - has launched a war whose objective is the destruction of Western
civilization. Our survival is at stake, and despite its imperfections we
believe that Western civilization is worth defending to the death. Moreover,
in the modern world - where a small number of people can so easily kill a
large number of people - we cannot just play defense; sooner or later that
strategy would bring another 9-11. This conflict really is a clash of
civilizations whose root cause is Islam's incompatibility with the modern
world. So we must fight with everything we've got against the terrorist
groups and against those governments on whose support they rely. If the Cold
War was "World War III," this is World War IV. We must win it, at whatever
Perception Two: We're Reaping What We've Sowed
There are quite a few people in the world who just don't like the United
States and some of our allies because of how we live and, more precisely,
because of the policies we pursue in the Mideast and elsewhere in the world.
Alas, a small percentage of these people express their opposition through
acts of violence. While we sometimes share their opinion of our values and
our policies, we cannot condone their methods. Our objective must be to
bring the level of political violence down to an acceptable level. The only
way to accomplish this will be to simultaneously adjust our values and our
policies while protecting ourselves from these intermittent acts of
violence; in doing so we must be careful never to allow the need for
security to override our civil liberties.
There is no middle ground between these two perceptions. Of course, you can
change a word here and there, or modify a phrase, but the result will be the
same. Either we're at war, or we've entered a period of history in which the
level of violence has risen to an unacceptable level. If we're at war, we're
in a military conflict that will end with either our victory or our defeat.
If we're in an era of unacceptable violence stemming from our values and our
policies, we are faced with a difficult but manageable political problem.
Splitting the Difference
Since the 9-11 attacks, President Bush has been trying to split the
difference. It's obvious that he, personally, subscribes to Perception One.
Just read his formal speeches about the conflict, such as those he's given
to Congress and at venues such as West Point. They are superb and often
brilliant analyses of what he calls the War on Terror. Yet he hasn't done
things that a president who truly believes that we're at war should have
done. For instance, in the aftermath of 9-11 he didn't ask Congress for a
declaration of war, didn't bring back the draft, and didn't put the US
economy on a wartime footing. A president at war would have taken out Iran's
government after overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan -- and then sent
500,000 troops into Iraq, rather than just enough troops to remove Saddam
Hussein but not enough to stabilize that country. And a president at war
would have long since disposed of Syria's murderous regime and helped the
Israelis wipe out Hezbollah.
Study history, and you quickly learn that oftentimes events and the
responses they generate look different a hundred years after they happen
than they look at the time. It may be that history will judge that President
Bush performed heroically, doing the very best that anyone could do given
the two incompatible perceptions about the conflict that have divided public
opinion and raised the level of partisanship in Washington to such a
poisonous level. Or, it may be that history will judge the President to have
been a failure because he responded to 9-11 as a politician rather than as a
Either way, it is the ongoing war about the war that accounts for where we
are today, nearly six years after the 9-11 attacks: We haven't lost, but we
aren't winning; fewer of us have been killed by terrorists than we had
feared would be killed, but we aren't safe.
While experts disagree about how "the war" is going, there isn't much
disagreement over how the war about the war is going: those who subscribe to
Perception Two are pulling ahead.
Here in the US, virtually every poll shows that a majority of Americans want
us "out of Iraq" sooner rather than later, and regardless of what's actually
happening on the ground in that country. Support for taking on Iran - that
is, for separating the Mullahs from the nukes through either a military
strike or by helping Iranians to overthrow them from within - is too low
even to measure. There isn't one candidate for president in either party
who's campaigning on a theme of "let's fight harder and win this thing
whatever it takes." Indeed, the most hawkish position is merely to stay the
course a while longer to give the current "surge" in Iraq a fair chance.
Moreover, just chat with friends and neighbors - at barbeques, at the
barbershop, over a cup of coffee - and you'll be hard-pressed to find a
solid minority, let alone a majority, in favor of fighting-to-win.
However it's phrased, just about everyone is looking for a way out short of
Overseas, public opinion is moving in the same direction. For example, in
Great Britain Tony Blair has stepped aside for Gordon Brown, who in the
midst of the recent terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow has ordered his
government to ban the phrase "war on terror" and to avoid publicly linking
the recent, mercifully failed attacks in London and Glasgow to any aspect of
Islam. The current leaders of Germany and France are less anti-American than
their predecessors, but no more willing to help us fight. Down under in
Australia John Howard - blessed be his name - is holding firm, but for a
combination of reasons may be approaching the end of his long tenure; none
of his likely replacements are nearly so robust. And the Israelis - who are
facing the triple-threat of Hamas, Hezbollah, and before too long a
nuclear-armed Iran - are going through one of their periodic bouts of
A Second Attack
It's possible that something horrific will happen in the immediate future to
shift public support here in the US, and throughout the West, from the
second perception to the first. When asked by a young reporter what he
thought would have the greatest impact on his government's fate, British
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan responded cheerfully: "Events, dear boy,
events." One more 9-11-type attack - biological, chemical, or nuclear - that
takes out Houston, Berlin, Vancouver or Paris, and the leader of that
country will be overwhelmed by the furious public's demands to "turn the
creeps who did this, and the countries that helped them, into molten glass
and don't let's worry about collateral damage." (This will sound even better
in French or German.) Should the next big attack come here in the US, some
among us will blame the President but most won't. The public mood will be
not merely ferocious, but ugly; you won't want to walk down the street
wearing an "I gave to the ACLU" pin in your lapel.
Absent such an event in the near future, it's likely that over the next few
years the war will settle into a phase that proponents of Perception Two
will approve. Simply put, we will shift from offense to defense. The
Department of Homeland Security will become our government's lead agency,
and the Pentagon's role will be diminished. (Nothing will change at the
State Department - but then, nothing ever does.) Most people in the US, and
elsewhere in the West, will be relieved that "the war" is finally over.
To preserve the peace we will have to be more than willing to make the
occasional accommodation to Moslems. If they ask us to put more pressure on
the Israelis - well, we can easily do that. If Moslem checkout clerks at our
supermarkets don't want to touch pork - by all means let's have separate
checkout counters for customers who've bought those products. And now that
we think about it, "Happy Winter" will be as good a greeting, if not a
better one, than "Merry Christmas." Won't it?
Of course, there will be the occasional terrorist attack. Some, like the
recent ones in London and Glasgow, will fail. Others will succeed, but
guided by the mainstream media we will view them with the same detachment as
we would view a meteor shower that brought flaming rocks crashing randomly
into the Earth. Most will land harmlessly in fields, some will land on
houses and kill those few residents unlucky enough to be home at the time.
Once in a while, one will crash into a crowded shopping mall or, sadly, into
a school packed with children. These things happen - alas - and while it's
riveting to watch the latest disaster unfold on television there really
isn't much one can do about it. Life goes on.
In the long run, history always sorts things out.
If it turns out that Perception Two of the threat is valid, then over time
we will become accustomed to the level of casualties caused by the
terrorists. After all, more than 40,000 Americans are killed each year in
traffic accidents and we don't make a big political issue out of that, do
we? Our attitude toward death-by-terrorist-attack will be the same as our
attitude toward deaths on the highway: a tragedy for the victim and members
of the family, but nothing really to fuss over. And if Perception Two is
valid, it's even possible that the terrorist threat eventually will ease.
Can you even remember the last time anyone got bombed by the IRA?
But if those of us who subscribe to Perception One are correct, then it's
only a matter of time before something ghastly happens that will swing
public opinion throughout the West our way - and hard. Whether this will
happen in two years, or five, or in 15 years, is impossible to predict. All
we can know for certain is that if Western civilization really is under
attack from Islam, or from elements within Islam, then they will not give up
or be appeased. At some point they're going to go for the knockout punch.
Fighting, Finally, to Win
The pessimists among us will argue that by this time we'll be too far gone
to save; that years of merely playing defense and of making concessions to
the sensitivities of our enemy will have eroded our military power, and
sapped our will, to the point where de facto surrender will be the only
We optimists see things differently: For better or worse, it's part of the
American character to wait until the last possible moment - even to wait a
bit beyond the last possible moment - before kicking into high gear and
getting the job done. It's in our genes; just think of how many times you've
ground enamel off your teeth watching your own kid waste an entire weekend,
only to start writing a book report at 10:30 Sunday night that, when you
find it on the breakfast table Monday morning is by some miracle a minor
However horrific it may be, the knockout punch won't knock us out. Instead,
it will shift us from playing defense back to offense - and this time we
won't hold back. The president will ask Congress for a declaration of war
and he, or she, will get it. We'll bring back the draft, send our troops
into battle without one hand tied behind their backs by lawyers, and we
won't waste time and energy pussyfooting with the United Nations. And if
we've closed GITMO by this time - we'll reopen it and even double its size
because we're going to pack it. All of this will take longer to organize,
and cost more, than if we'd done it right in the aftermath of 9-11. That's
unfortunate, but that's the way we Americans tend to do things. And when we
do finally start fighting for real -- we'll win.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: July 15, 2007, 08:31:57 AM
HEARTS AND MINDS
What About Muslim Moderates
London does a better job than Washington reaching out to them.
BY R. JAMES WOOLSEY AND NINA SHEA
Sunday, July 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Islamist terrorism has led the American and British governments in the past month to launch separate public-diplomacy programs aimed at engaging Muslims at home and abroad. A quick comparison shows the two initiatives are headed in opposite directions. At least the Brits have finally got it right.
The Bush administration is building bridges to well-funded and self-publicized organizations that claim to speak for all Muslims, even though some of those groups espouse views inimical to American values and interests. After years of pursuing similar strategies--while seeing home-based terrorists proliferate--the Blair-Brown government is now more discerning about which Muslims it will partner with. Stating that "lip service for peace" is no longer sufficient, the British are identifying and elevating those who are willing to take clear stands against terrorism and its supporting ideology.
Thus, in a major address at a two-day government conference early last month (titled "Islam and Muslims in the World Today"), then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, with Gordon Brown in attendance and hosting a reception, vowed to correct an imbalance. He stated that, in Britain's Muslim community, unrepresentative but well-funded groups are able to attract disproportionately large amounts of publicity, while moderate voices go unheard and unpublished.
Mr. Blair emphasized that Islam is not a "monolithic faith," but one made up of a "rich pattern of diversity." The principal purpose of the conference, Mr. Blair stressed, was to "let the authentic voices of Islam, in their various schools and manifestations, speak for themselves." He was as good as his word.
Invitations to participate in the assembly were extended to the less-publicized, moderate groups, such as the Sufi Muslim Council, the British Muslim Foundation and Minhaj-ul-Quran. Notably absent from the program was the Muslim Council of Britain, a group that claims to represent that nation's Muslims but is preoccupied with its self-described struggle against "Islamophobia"--a term it tries to use to shut down critical analysis of anything Islamic, whether legitimate or bigoted.
Also dropped from the speaking roster was the leading European Islamist Tariq Ramadan, who, while denied a visa by the United States, has been a fixture at official conferences on Muslims in Europe. The grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Ramadan is fuzzy on where he stands on specific acts of terror--and he infamously evaded a challenge by Nicolas Sarkozy to denounce stoning.
Mr. Blair committed funds to improve the teaching of Islamic studies in British universities; announced a new effort to develop "minimum standards" for imams in Britain; and, most significantly, declared that henceforth the government would be giving "priority, in its support and funding decisions, to those leadership organizations actively working to tackle violent extremism." Routine but vague press releases against terrorism would no longer do.
A few days later, British backbone was demonstrated again with the knighting of novelist Salman Rushdie. Since 1989, when Iran's mullahs pronounced one of his works "blasphemous," Mr. Rushdie has lived under the shadow of a death threat, the first fatwa with universal jurisdiction against a Muslim living in the West. With the news that Britain would honor him, extremist Muslims rioted. But many Western Muslim reformers, increasingly threatened by death threats and murderous fatwas themselves, cheered the Brits. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian who was born a Muslim in Somalia, wrote: "The queen has honored the freedom of conscience and creativity cherished in the West."
On the eve of his departure from office, Mr. Blair gave a television interview taking on those he once courted--British Islamists who have been quick to level charges of Islamophobia and oppression against Britain and the United States: "The reason we are finding it hard to win this battle [against terror] is that we're not actually fighting it properly. We're not actually standing up to these people and saying, 'It's not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you. Your sense of grievance isn't justified.' . . . Some of what is written on this is loopy-loo in its extremism."
Contrast this with the Bush administration's new approach. On June 27, President Bush delivered his "Muslim Initiative" address at the Washington Islamic Center in tribute to the 50th anniversary of that organization's founding, by Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, and its extremist ideology often flows with the kingdom's money. The Islamic Center is not an exception.
A few years ago when we were with Freedom House, concerned Muslims brought us Saudi educational material they collected from the Washington Islamic Center that instructed Muslims fundamentally to segregate themselves from other Americans. One such text stated: "To be dissociated from the infidels is to hate them for their religion, to leave them, never to rely on them for support, not to admire them, to be on one's guard against them, never to imitate them, and to always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law."
Though Mr. Bush's remarks were intended for all American Muslims, the administration left the invitation list to Washington Islamic Center's authorities. Predictably, they excluded the truly moderate, who are not Saudi-founded or funded: the Islamic Supreme Council of America, the American Islamic Congress, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the Center for Eurasian Policy, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, the Islam and Democracy Project, the Institute for Gulf Affairs, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and many others.
These organizations are frequently shut out of U.S. government events and appointments on the basis that they are considered insignificant or "controversial" by the petro-dollar-funded groups. The administration makes a terrible mistake by making such Wahhabi-influenced institutions as the Washington Islamic Center the gate keepers for all American Muslims.
The actual substance of Mr. Bush's mosque speech--particularly good on religious freedom--was overshadowed by the announcement of its single initiative: America is to send an envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference. Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the OIC was created explicitly to promote hostility to Israel, and its meetings largely consist of ritualistic Israel-bashing. At one last year, Iran's president called for the "elimination of the Zionist regime." It has no mechanism for discussing the human rights of its member states, and thus has never spoken out against Sudan's genocide of Darfuri Muslims. It is advancing an effort to universalize Islamic blasphemy laws, which are applied as often against speech critical of the governments of OIC member states as against profanities. Last month the OIC council of foreign ministers termed Islamophobia "the worst form of terrorism." Currently no Western power holds either member or observer status at the OIC.
The Bush administration is now actively considering whether its public diplomacy should reach out to Muslim Brotherhood groups. While such groups may pay lip service to peace, they do not denounce terror by Hamas, a Brotherhood offshoot. It keeps as its motto: "Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." By choosing those whose definition of terror does not include the murder of Jews, honor killings and lethal fatwas against Muslim dissidents and reformers, the U.S. government makes them look strong--particularly in the shame-and-honor culture of the Middle East--and strengthens their hand against the real moderates and reformers.
Great Britain, as we have been reminded recently, has much work ahead in defeating Muslim terror, as well as in overcoming the misguided form of multiculturalism of its recent past. Not all of Britain's measures will be right for America, with our First Amendment. But the British Labour Party socialists appear to have done one major thing right that this American Republican administration has not: Reach out to Muslim leaders who are demonstrably moderate and share our values, even though they may not have petrodollar-funded publicity machines.
While we don't have a Queen to dub knights, Americans do have distinct way of honoring our heroes. Mr. President, confer the Medal of Freedom on one of our own outstanding Muslim-American citizens. For a selection of honorees, look at who was not invited to your recent speech. If Islamists charge "Islamophobia," repeat after Tony: "Loopy loo. Loopy loo."
Mr. Woolsey, co-chair of the Committee on the Present Danger, was Director of Central Intelligence 1993-1995. Ms. Shea is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Freedom of religion...
on: July 15, 2007, 07:12:39 AM
From another forum:
Somewhere along the way, the Federal Courts and the Supreme Court have misinterpreted the U. S. Constitution. How could fifty States be wrong?
THIS IS VERY INTERESTING! Be sure to read the last two paragraphs. America's founders did not intend for there to be a separation of God and state, as shown by the fact that all 50 states acknowledge God in their state constitutions:
Alabama 1901, Preamble. We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution ...
Alaska 1956, Preamble. We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land ....
Arizona 1911, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution...
Arkansas 1874, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government...
California 1879, Preamble. We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom .....
Colorado 1876, Preamble. We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of Universe.
Connecticut 1818, Preamble. The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy ...
Delaware 1897, Preamble. Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences ...
Florida 1885, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty establish this Constitution...
Georgia 1777, Preamble. We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution...
Hawaii 1959, Preamble. We, the people of Hawaii, Grateful for Divine Guidance .. establish this Constitution.
Idaho 1889, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings ...
Illinois 1870, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.
Indiana 1851, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to chose our form of government.
Iowa 1857, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings . establish this Constitution.
Kansas 1859, Preamble. We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges . establish this Constitution.
Kentucky 1891, Preamble. We, the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties...
Louisiana 1921, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.
Maine 1820, Preamble. We the People of Maine .. acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity ... and imploring His aid and direction.
Maryland 1776, Preamble. We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God or our civil and religious liberty...
Massachusetts 1780, Preamble. We...the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe ... in the course of His Providence, an opportunity ..and devoutly imploring His direction ..
Michigan 1908, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom ... establish this Constitution.
Minnesota 1857, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings.
Mississippi 1890, Preamble. We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.
Missouri 1845, Preamble. We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness ...
Montana 1889, Preamble. We, the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty. establish this Constitution ...
Nebraska 1875, Preamble. We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom .. establish this Constitution ..
Nevada 1864, Preamble. We the people of the State of Nevada, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom establish this Constitution...
New Hampshire 1792, PartI. Art. I. Sec. V. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.
New Jersey 1844, Preamble. We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors ...
New Mexico 1911, Preamble. We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty .
New York 1846, Preamble. We, the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings.
North Carolina 1868, Preamble. We the people of the State of North Carolina grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those ...
North Dakota 1889, Preamble. We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain...
Ohio 1852, Preamble. We the people of the state of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common ....
Oklahoma 1907, Preamble. Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty ... establish this ..
Oregon 1857, Bill of Rights, ArticleI. Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences..
Pennsylvania 1776, Preamble. We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance.
Rhode Island 1842, Preamble. We the People of the State of Rhode Island grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing...
South Carolina, 1778, Preamble. We, the people of he State of South Carolina, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
South Dakota 1889, Preamble. We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties ... establish this
Tennessee 1796, Art. XI. III. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience...
Texas 1845, Preamble. We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God.
Utah 1896, Preamble. Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish this Constitution ....
Vermont 1777, Preamble. Whereas all government ought to ... enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man...
Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI ... Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator ... can be directed only by Reason ... and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other ..
Washington 1889, Preamble. We the People of the State of Washington, grateful! to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution .....
West Virginia 1872, Preamble. Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia .. reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God...
Wisconsin 1848, Preamble. We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility ..
Wyoming 1890, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties ... establish this Constitution...
After reviewing acknowledgments of God from all 50 state constitutions, one is faced with the prospect that maybe, just maybe, the ACLU and the out-of-control Federal Courts are wrong!
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Article I Section 3: All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.
Section 4. No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account
of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth
Rhode Island Constution Article I Section 3: Freedom of religion. -- Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerable ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments; we, therefore, declare that no person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfillment of such person's voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of such person's religious belief; and that every person shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of such person's conscience, and to profess and by argument to maintain such person's opinion in matters of religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect the civil capacity of any person.
Commonwealth of Virginia Article I Section 16. Free exercise of religion; no establishment of religion.
That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other. No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. And the General Assembly shall not prescribe any religious test whatever, or confer any peculiar privileges or advantages on any sect or denomination, or pass any law requiring or authorizing any religious society, or the people of any district within this Commonwealth, to levy on themselves or others, any tax for the erection or repair of any house of public worship, or for the support of any church or ministry; but it shall be left free to every person to select his religious instructor, and to make for his support such private contract as he shall please.
§ 1.07 Rights of conscience; education; the necessity of religion and knowledge (1851)
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society; nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted. No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for office, nor shall any person be incompetent to be a witness on account of his religious belief; but nothing herein shall be construed to dispense with oaths and affirmations. Religion, morality, and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the general assembly to pass suitable laws to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship, and to encourage schools and the means of instruction.
Thomas Jefferson's letter referring to separation of Church and State:http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html
And please note the exclusion of the name "Jesus Christ" from the document and instead the use of Almighty God.
"Jefferson drafted the following measure, but it was Madison who skillfully secured its adoption by the Virginia legislature in 1786. It is still part of modern Virginia's constitution, and it has not only been copied by other states but was also the basis for the Religion Clauses in the Constitution's Bill of Rights. Both men considered this bill one of the great achievements of their lives, and Jefferson directed that on his tombstone he should not be remembered as president of the United States or for any of the other high offices he held, but as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and as the founder of the University of Virginia."
Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow-citizens he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right."
Jefferson in commenting on the act clearly states that the term "Almighty God" DOES NOT include "Jesus Christ" because in doing so would exclude Jews, Muslims, and Hindus. Thus, you contention that the use of the word "God" as Trinitarian finds no basis in history. And also note that "denomination" here means different religion. Jefferson stated:
"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Heroic action in NYC
on: July 15, 2007, 07:02:55 AM
GUNFIGHT COP A SUPER HERO
KEPT COOL & KEPT FIRING DESPITE BULLET WOUNDS
By LEELA de KRETSER, Additional reporting by LORENA MONGELLI, MURRAY WEISS and LARRY CELONA
Officers Herman Yan, 26 (top), and Russel Timoshenko, 23, approach a stolen SUV on Rogers Avenue — parking their car next to a trash can so Timoshenko has cover if he is fired at. But the perps would wait until he was past the can before shooting.
July 11, 2007 -- Cool-headed cop Herman Yan went into autopilot - and followed his NYPD training to the letter - as he ignored the bullets raining down on him and fired back at the gunmen who had brutally shot his partner twice in the face, police experts said yesterday.
Supercop Yan, bleeding profusely after he was struck by a bullet in the arm and reeling after taking a slug in his bulletproof vest, showed no fear as he faced down the thugs who had gravely wounded his partner, Russel Timoshenko, just seconds before.
Three seconds after Timoshenko fell to the ground, exclusive surveillance footage clearly shows the 26-year-old Yan backing down the street as he fires at the stolen BMW X5 that he and Timoshenko had pulled over on Rogers Avenue just after 2:15 a.m.
With nothing to shelter him from the gunfire, Yan is seen on the tape ducking and weaving, trying to keep his body small so it would not be struck by the fusillade, said several experts who reviewed the video for The Post.
"It's all about cover and concealment. He had no cover in front of him, so he did everything he could to keep his body a small moving target," said retired NYPD Detective Mike Charles.
As the perpetrators keep shooting at him, Yan sizes up the situation, and determines that his best move is to get back to the radio car.
All the while, his thoughts are obviously on getting to his partner to try to save his life, said Charles.
Seconds pass before he is seen calmly radioing for assistance - calling in the key details that would help authorities quickly identify two suspects.
The brave officer even refuses to give in to his injuries as he tries to make his way to his partner to check on Timoshenko's condition. In one frame, Yan is seen falling to the ground, clutching his bleeding arm - but before his body touches the asphalt, he jumps back to his feet and continues to head toward his partner.
Yan, released from Kings County Hospital yesterday, said of his gravely ill partner, "I believe in miracles.
"I hope he recovers fully. I will recover fully and be back on the street again. I hope the same thing happens to him."
Yan, his right arm in a sling, added, "I feel fine."
Asked about the bulletproof vest credited with saving his life, Yan said, "Always put it on."
Detective Charles, who spent 20 years on the force and now trains police forces overseas, said, "Everything [Yan] did was perfect and absolutely heroic.
"Look at the way he tries to get low [in the footage during the shooting]. This officer has been shot, but he has no thought for his pain. He is thinking of the threat, his partner and calling in for help."
The brave officer's actions allowed Timoshenko to be carried into a police car just a minute and a half after he was shot. He was taken to the Kings County Hospital, where he is now fighting for his life.
From the moment the two officers pulled over the SUV, they followed their training to a T, said Charles and other experts.
Timoshenko gets out of the police car in line with trash can, making sure he can quickly duck for cover if someone opens fire.
Both officers put their right hands to their guns and walk toward the vehicle at the same pace in a straight line, the procedure whenever a cop pulls over a car.
But the officers face immediate danger when they arrive at the vehicle and see that the windows are tinted, blocking their view of any potential gunmen in the car.
"One of the most dangerous situations in policing is car stops, but officers become even more vulnerable when it's 2:30 in the morning and the vehicle has tinted windows," Charles said. The video shows that Timoshenko was by the rear quarter panel of the SUV- before he could get a clear view of the gunman - when he's shot and falls. http://www.nypost.com/seven/07112007/news/regionalnews/gunfight_cop_a_super_hero_regionalnews_leela_de_kr
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Suzanne Spezzano: Majadpahit Silat
on: July 13, 2007, 09:19:49 PM
From her husband John:
Suzanne's outstanding instructional Silat DVD is finally ready for order. Here's a link to the promo clip on You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3r4oXOX_tc
. CHECK IT OUT!!!
Please contact her to order the DVD at email@example.com
Thanks for your interest!!
I have seen Suzanne teach this material at the Inosanto Academy and think the material excellent. Like much silat, it asks much of the practitioner and is not for everyone. I will be buying it for me because I think the material to be outstanding for moving well on and striking well from the ground in a way that can be quite "outside the box". What I saw had a wonderful "silat yoga" quality and I am thinking that the DVD will contain this material. I will review here once I get my copy.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: July 13, 2007, 10:04:01 AM
The camera doesn't lie, right? Wel-l-l-l-l-l-l........
Force Science News #76
July 13, 2007
Brief, dark, and grainy, the video image is a punch to the gut.
A California sheriff's deputy trying to detain a subject who's on the ground after a high-speed chase says to him, "Get up! Get up!" The man says, "Ok, I'm gonna get up," and starts to rise. Without another word, the deputy shoots him, 3 times in quick succession.
With millions of others, you probably became a vicarious eye-witness when the scene was telecast over and over world-wide. Be honest. The man complied with an officer's command, and the shooting was not an unintentional discharge. Didn't it look like a slam-dunk case of egregious abuse of force?
Late last month [6/28/07], after less than 4 hours' deliberation following a trial that lasted over a month, a jury acquitted the deputy, Ivory Webb Jr., of attempted voluntary manslaughter and firearms assault. The charges could have sent him to prison for 18 years. For people who knew nothing more about the case than what they'd seen on TV or the Internet, the verdict seemed a puzzlement, if not an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
But jurors said the tale of the video took on a whole different flavor when considered in context with circumstances that were little known publicly until Webb's trial.
Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, was part of the defense team. He was brought into the case "to explain the human factors behind the shooting," based on his expertise as a behavioral scientist and on FSRC's unique studies of lethal-force dynamics.
In a recent interview with Force Science News, Lewinski reprised his courtroom testimony and his insider's knowledge of the pressure-cooker confrontation that embroiled Ivory Webb and resulted in his becoming the first LEO ever charged criminally for an on-duty shooting in the history of San Bernardino County.
"It was important to paint a picture of what happened from Webb's perspective," Lewinski says. "The video was so vivid, so seemingly clear-cut, that people didn't properly factor in what led up to the shooting."
The Players. Ivory Webb was 46 years old at the time of the shooting, a former college football player (Rose Bowl '82), the son of a retired California police chief, and a veteran of nearly 10 years with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Most of his career had been spent as a jail officer. Although he'd been on the street for over 4 years, "he had never been the primary officer on a felony vehicle stop," Lewinski says. "He performed pretty much as a backup officer."
The subjects he confronted at the shooting scene were Luis Escobedo, 22, who had a rap sheet from previous run-ins with police and would later be arrested for CCW, and Elio Carrion, 21, an Air Force senior airman and security officer.
The Chase. On the last weekend night in January, 2006, Luis Escobedo and Elio Carrion were at a late-night barbeque in Montclair, east of Los Angeles, celebrating Carrion's recent return from a 6-month stint in Iraq. They'd been "heavily" consuming beer and tequila when they decided to take a fellow partygoer's Corvette for a spin. Both had blood alcohol levels of more than double the state's legal limit.
Escobedo took the wheel (although he had no driver's license) and on a "lightly trafficked industrial road" near some railroad tracks, he opened up the sleek muscle car to see how fast it would go. Soon they passed a San Bernardino deputy who gave pursuit but couldn't keep up.
Webb, returning to patrol from another call, heard radio traffic about the chase and moments later saw the Corvette "coming directly at me. If I hadn't swerved into the other lane, they would have smashed right into me."
Webb barreled after them and soon was driving over 100 mph to keep up. The Corvette screeched around a corner, caromed off curbs, and at one point "spun around and came directly at me a second time." Before colliding, it suddenly smoked into a U-turn and wove wildly from one side of the street to another, then crashed into a cinder block wall facing opposing traffic and "hung up there." The chase had ended in the municipality of Chino.
When Webb pulled up, the vehicle was shaking as the occupants tried to force the doors open, he said. The trunk lid had popped up from the impact, blocking the view from behind. He nosed in slightly toward the right rear of the Corvette and stepped out of his patrol car.
The Confrontation. "Considering that they'd played chicken with him twice and had shown no regard for human safety with their reckless speeding, Webb reasonably assessed the car's occupants as really dangerous," Lewinski says. "He had his full uniform on, his overheads were flashing, and he had his gun and flashlight out, so there was no mistaking his authority.
"Carrion began to exit the vehicle and took a step in the direction of Webb's patrol car. Webb ordered him to show his hands clearly. Carrion didn't. Webb ordered him to get down. Carrion didn't. Inside the vehicle, Escobedo kept reaching his hands into areas Webb could not see." The deputy's commands to both subjects were repeated in a stream, with no compliance. In his frustration and concern, Webb ratcheted up his language with liberal infusions of profanity.
At trial a retired LASD lieutenant testified as a tactical expert for the prosecution and condemned Webb for not remaining "calm and assertive," as officers are trained to do. But Lewinski took Webb's words out of the context of antiseptic Monday morning quarterbacking and put them in the context of his on-the-spot fears.
The chase had led the deputy into an unfamiliar section of Chino and, essentially, "he was lost," Lewinski says. He knew the street he was on but in the blur of the pursuit he'd had a hard time tracking the cross streets. Several times he named the nearest intersection incorrectly when radioing for help. Deputies trying to reach him sometimes cited directions and their own locations erroneously, too.
The two suspects could overhear the radio jabber. "Webb knew that they knew his back up couldn't find him and that he was all alone with two drunken young men who were not complying with any of his orders," Lewinski says.
The pair was physically separated, so Webb constantly had to shift his focus and his flashlight from one to the other to keep tabs on their actions. And they kept trying verbally to intimidate him, Lewinski explains. "Carrion at one point told the deputy, 'I've spent more time than you in the fuckin' police, in the fuckin' military.'
"Webb recognized all this from his jail experience as a common tactic among gangbangers: separate, keep up a barrage of chatter to distract, then attack. Webb ordered them to shut up, but they didn't."
At a point when Carrion had gotten within his reactionary gap, Webb kicked him to take him to the ground. (The prosecution's expert would claim later that police are not trained to kick suspects because it puts them off-balance. But Lewinski points out that in fact kicks and leg strikes are common staples in contemporary defensive tactics.) On the ground, Carrion was propped up on his arms, "controlled to some degree" but not proned out like Webb wanted.
The grinding crash of the speeding Corvette against the wall and the flashing lights and all the yelling that followed had alerted a used car salesman living across the street that something worth filming was going down. He grabbed his Sony digital zoom camera and started recording after Carrion climbed out of the car.
This man, a Cuban refugee, was wanted on old felony warrants for aggravated assault in Florida. His past would surface after his sensational footage saturated the airwaves.
But for now, his camera was about to capture what photographers call "the money shot."
The Shooting. When the video was first reviewed and broadcast, the figures of Webb and Carrion could be grossly seen on the darkened street, the deputy with his gun out standing over the semi-grounded suspect. But subtleties were hard to distinguish. The audio track, too, was tough to make out, although what could be heard sounded discouragingly incriminating.
Carrion: We're here on your side. We mean you no harm.
Webb: OK, get up! (inaudible) Get up!
Carrion: OK, I'm just gonna get up.
Carrion starts to move up. Three shots ring out from Webb's .45. Carrion is hit in the left shoulder, the left thigh, and the left ribs. He's critically wounded but survives.
The digital recording was "enhanced" by an FBI laboratory to reveal more visual detail. Through ultra-sophisticated technology of David Notowitz, a video expert engaged by Webb's attorneys, it was then enhanced even further, to the point that images were recovered from a section of the recording that seemingly had been completely whited out by the amateur cameraman ineptly fiddling with the controls.
Webb had experienced difficulty articulating precisely what happened just before he started shooting. In Lewinski's opinion, he suffered memory problems that are not uncommon after high-intensity officer-involved shootings. "But when the enhanced footage was slowed down and time coded so we could study the action fragment by fragment, I became convinced he was reacting instinctively to a legitimate perceived threat."
As Carrion braces on his hands, resistant to going fully to the ground, he first can be seen jabbing a hand up toward Webb's gun. The weapon is well within his grasp, but he quickly lowers his hand without attempting a grab.
Then the video confirms that he twice reaches his hand inside his black Raiders jacket. Carrion would claim on the witness stand that he was just pointing to his chest. "But the enhanced image shows his hand buried in the jacket up to the knuckles," Lewinski says. "It was definitely inside."
Less than a second later, Webb jerks his gun barrel up slightly as if motioning with it as he commands, "Get up! Get up!"
"He's talking to the hand, focusing on it," Lewinski says. "What I sincerely believe he was thinking was, 'Get your hand up,' meaning get it away from where you may have a weapon hidden and out where I can see it. But the words came out different than his thought.
"Some of our studies have shown that when officers feel they are in control of a situation, they tend to give clear and relevant commands. But when they feel out of control, their commands often deteriorate. For Ivory Webb, that was an enormously stressful situation and there was nothing he felt in control of.
"Under stress and time compression, people commonly experience slips between thought and speech." En Route to the trial, for example, Lewinski asked a harried airline ticket agent for directions to a travelers' lounge. "Down there," she said-and pointed up. Even the prosecutor while cross-examining Lewinski misspoke in referencing something, and apologized for it. "It's easy to do, isn't it?" Lewinski softly replied.
Lewinski cited a case of an officer who, facing a suspect with a knife, repeatedly shouted "Show me your hands!" even though both hands were visible. The officer was trying to say "Drop the knife" but "resorted to familiar commands from his training under stress," Lewinski explained.
In the uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances on the street in Chino, Carrion reaching into his jacket had "extremely threatening implications," Lewinski says. "He turned out not to be armed, but Webb couldn't know that. For the first time in the encounter, Carrion obeyed the command he heard. He began to rise up and a little forward, like starting to lunge. Webb had already made the decision to fire, thinking his life was in jeopardy, and pulled the trigger."
A tactics expert who volunteered for the defense, Sgt. Kenton Ferrin of Inglewood (CA) PD, said he would have shot under the same circumstances. Webb "thought he was going to die," Ferrin testified.
The prosecutor's expert, however, asserted that each of Webb's shots was a deliberate decision, bolstering the contention that the deputy in effect had committed a cold, calculating execution. But Lewinski pointed out that the time-coded video enhancement showed there was just 6/10 of a second between each round. He explained that FSRC's time-and-motion studies had proven that in that tight sequencing, with both the officer and the subject moving slightly, there's no possibility of conscious decision-making prompting each shot. "At that point, after the first round, it was just an instinctive process."
"The purpose of Dr. Lewinski's testimony," says Webb's attorney Michael Schwartz of the Santa Monica law firm Silver, Hadden, Silver, Wexler and Levine, "was to help the jury see that behavior the prosecution considered grounds for suspicion and criminal action could, in fact, be understood as common human behavior in circumstances of extreme stress."
The Outcome. The first poll inside the jury room was 11 for acquittal, 1 for conviction. The dissenter soon changed his mind. When the verdict was announced, Ivory Webb burst into tears and praised God.
That was just the first of the legal challenges he faces. Elio Carrion and his family have asked federal authorities to bring criminal charges against Webb, and a civil suit has of course been filed.
Meanwhile, with cell phone cameras and camcorders proliferating, a profusion of controversial police actions seems destined in days ahead to be seen and judged by millions who understand little about them.
After the Webb verdict, a reporter for the Associated Press interviewed Eugene O'Donnell, a former cop and prosecutor who now teaches police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
"Videos are drenched with caveats," O'Donnell cautioned. "One thing we've learned about videos is that there are often missing pieces."
The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free, direct-delivery subscription, please visit www.forcesciencenews.com
and click on the registration button.
(c) 2007: Force Science Research Center, www.forcescience.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: July 13, 2007, 08:37:16 AM
VDH is always a good read GM.
July 13, 2007
By Charles Krauthammer
"The key to turning [Anbar] around was the shift in allegiance by tribal sheiks. But the sheiks turned only after a prolonged offensive by American and Iraqi forces, starting in November, that put al-Qaeda groups on the run."
-- The New York Times, July 8
Finally, after four terribly long years, we know what works. Or what can work. A year ago, a confidential Marine intelligence report declared Anbar province (which comprises about a third of Iraq's territory) lost to al-Qaeda. Now, in what the Times's John Burns calls an " astonishing success," the tribal sheiks have joined our side and committed large numbers of fighters that, in concert with American and Iraqi forces, have largely driven out al-Qaeda and turned its former stronghold of Ramadi into one of most secure cities in Iraq.
It began with a U.S.-led offensive that killed or wounded more than 200 enemy fighters and captured 600. Most important was the follow-up. Not a retreat back to American bases but the setting up of small posts within the population that, together with the Iraqi national and tribal forces, have brought relative stability to Anbar.
The same has started happening in many of the Sunni areas around Baghdad, including Diyala province -- just a year ago considered as lost as Anbar -- where, for example, the Sunni insurgent 1920 Revolution Brigades has turned against al-Qaeda and joined the fight on the side of U.S. and Iraqi government forces.
We don't yet know if this strategy will work in mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods. Nor can we be certain that this cooperation between essentially Sunni tribal forces and an essentially Shiite central government can endure. But what cannot be said -- although it is now heard daily in Washington -- is that the surge, which is shorthand for Gen. David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, has failed. The tragedy is that, just as a working strategy has been found, some Republicans in the Senate have lost heart and want to pull the plug.
It is understandable that Sens. Lugar, Voinovich, Domenici, Snowe and Warner may no longer trust President Bush's judgment when he tells them to wait until Petraeus reports in September. What is not understandable is the vote of no confidence they are passing on Petraeus. These are the same senators who sent him back to Iraq by an 81 to 0 vote to institute his new counterinsurgency strategy.
A month ago, Petraeus was asked whether we could still win in Iraq. The general, who had recently attended two memorial services for soldiers lost under his command, replied that if he thought he could not succeed he would not be risking the life of a single soldier.
Just this week, Petraeus said that the one thing he needs more than anything else is time. To cut off Petraeus's plan just as it is beginning -- the last surge troops arrived only last month -- on the assumption that we cannot succeed is to declare Petraeus either deluded or dishonorable. Deluded in that, as the best-positioned American in Baghdad, he still believes we can succeed. Or dishonorable in pretending to believe in victory and sending soldiers to die in what he really knows is an already failed strategy.
That's the logic of the wobbly Republicans' position. But rather than lay it on Petraeus, they prefer to lay it on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and point out his government's inability to meet the required political "benchmarks." As a longtime critic of the Maliki government, I agree that it has proved itself incapable of passing laws important for long-term national reconciliation.
But first comes the short term. And right now we have the chance to continue to isolate al-Qaeda and, province by province, deny it the Sunni sea in which it swims. A year ago, it appeared that the only way to win back the Sunnis and neutralize the extremists was with great national compacts about oil and power sharing. But Anbar has unexpectedly shown that even without these constitutional settlements, the insurgency can be neutralized and al-Qaeda defeated at the local and provincial levels with a new and robust counterinsurgency strategy.
The costs are heartbreakingly high -- increased American casualties as the enemy is engaged and spectacular suicide bombings designed to terrify Iraqis and demoralize Americans. But the stakes are extremely high as well.
In the long run, agreements on oil, federalism and de-Baathification are crucial for stabilizing Iraq. But their absence at this moment is not a reason to give up in despair, now that we finally have a counterinsurgency strategy in place that is showing success against the one enemy -- al-Qaeda -- that both critics and supporters of the war maintain must be fought everywhere and at all cost.
None of that surprises me. I knew Ramadi was winnable last November. I posted this on another thread at that time. http://www.fumento.com/military/ramadireturn.html
Excerpts from a long report:
Nobody pretends the Iraqi Army will ever approach the U.S. military in its willingness and ability to fight; but in fairness, how many armies do? Further, it's not as if the anti-Iraqi forces' abilities will ever approach those of the Viet Cong. It's considered remarkable when the enemy is so much as able to coordinate an attack, rather than just tossing a bunch of untrained men at an objective. The Iraqi Army units in Ramadi are capable of defending themselves and going on the attack with just a couple of American advisers. That's real progress. Unfortunately, these units are almost exclusively Shiite at the enlisted level, with Sunni officers, which is not ideal for this Sunni region. But still they have the ability to speak with and relate to Iraqis of any sectarian persuasion better than Americans ever will.
Historically, successful counterinsurgency efforts have involved pacifying areas by plopping small garrisons with interlocking communications into enemy territory and sending out patrols to gather information and engage the enemy. Perhaps the most famous example of such garrison use was that of King Edward I of England (yes, the guy who had Braveheart drawn and quartered), who used castles to consolidate his hold on a conquered but restive Wales. More recently U.S. Army Special Forces established Civilian Irregular Defense Group camps in South Vietnam, manned primarily by indigenous tribes or South Vietnamese with a core of Special Forces soldiers. Such camps are considered one of the most effective strategies of that war. Certainly they were far more useful than the "search and destroy" missions sent out from huge base camps.
The military refers to COP use as "the inkblot strategy." One dot spreads into a bigger spot. Further, the troops are practically forced to work with the locals. That means building up networks of indigenous people who know the terrain, culture, and other people better than any forces – even one from the same country but another province – ever could. This also allows for more direct contact between the leader of the military force and the local leadership. All of this creates a force multiplier. Since the Bush administration appears unlikely to increase troop strength significantly, this ability to make better use of troops without weakening the forward operating bases from which they're drawn is vital.
Another value of the Ramadi COPs over the FOBs and Camp Ramadi is that we're fighting an enemy that relies primarily on roadway bombs – whether IEDS, vehicle-borne IEDs, or suicide-vehicle borne IEDs (driven vehicles) – to inflict casualties and damage, with the potential for greatly restricting movement. But missions from COPs are inherently short-range; you're always almost there. That's less road to be on and hence fewer explosives and ambushes to worry about. Even COPs operating at half strength have no chance of being overrun both because of the inability of the enemy to fight skillfully or mass in large numbers and because of the multilayered defenses.
View from Anvil showing its excellent clear-kill zones. The short-looking tubes are HESCO baskets connected to form an impregnable wall.
An observer atop COP Anvil takes aim.
Sapp showed me the impact of the Combat Operation Post system in Ramadi (Fallujah also has some) on a map. The foreign fighters who come into this area do so along the main highway from the Syrian border to the west. It's a mini-Ho Chi Minh Trail, so to speak. From this road the terrorists used to fan out in the area where the COPs have been inserted. "In the last four months, we've kept pushing them right around here," Sapp indicated, with his finger moving in a counter-clockwise pattern. "Initially we wouldn't go anywhere in this area with anything less than a platoon and sometimes even armor," he said. "But now I allow them to enter with just squads." The only part of the fan still remaining abuts the Euphrates. "We give the terrorists a place to focus here," Sapp says of that last slice. "This gives them somewhere to go and I'd rather they go there where my men can deal with them than have them setting up IEDs thickly throughout the area they used to control."
At Anvil almost all missions are on foot and off the trails. That's part of the beauty of the COP system; you can go almost anywhere you need to on foot without alerting enemy sentinels – which are probably nothing more than some guy paid a few bucks a night to keep watch. The night I was there we set off to grab some of bin Laden's buddies.
Put it all together – the Forward Observation Bases, new Combat Operation Posts, new Observation Posts, tribal cooperation, ever more Iraqi army and police, better intelligence, and public works projects. There's no "stay the course" strategy here; the course changes as necessary and it's continually changed for the better. I believe we are winning the Battle of Ramadi. And if the enemy can be beaten here, he can be beaten anywhere.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3
on: July 13, 2007, 07:51:36 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Reality of Al Qaeda's Resurgence
A leak from the U.S. defense community revealed a document titled "Al Qaeda better positioned to strike the West" on Thursday, touching off a firestorm of debate within the United States over the status of the war on terror. According to the leak, al Qaeda is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago," has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001" and is "showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."
Stratfor cannot analyze the contents of the report because we have not read it; so far, no one has felt it necessary to commit a felony by leaking this specific document to us. But the general thrust of the document, that al Qaeda has regenerated, is clear. Many of Stratfor's readers have noted that this position clashes with our recently clarified assessment that, while al Qaeda remains dangerous, the group's day in the sun is over.
The first and most important question to ask when looking at this leaked report, then, is which al Qaeda is being discussed. Evolution and misuse of terminology means there are now two.
The first is the al Qaeda that carried out the 9/11 attacks. This group deeply understands how intelligence agencies work, and therefore how to avoid them. After the 9/11 attacks, however, this group's security protocols forced it to go underground, pushing itself deeper into the cave each time it thought one of its assets or plans had been compromised. The result was a steady degradation of capabilities, with its attacks proving less and less significant. Stratfor now estimates that, while this al Qaeda -- which we often refer to as the apex leadership, or al Qaeda prime -- still exists and is still dangerous, it is no longer a strategic threat to the United States. Its members can carry out attacks, but not ones of the grandeur and horror of 9/11, or even of the Madrid bombings, that achieve the group's goal of forcing policy changes on Western governments.
The second al Qaeda is a result of the apex leadership's isolation. It represents a range of largely disconnected Islamist militants who either have been inspired by the real al Qaeda or who seek to use the name to bolster their credibility. While many of these groups are rather amateurish, others are deadly efficient. It is best to think of them as al Qaeda franchises. However, these franchises lack the security policy or vision of their predecessor, and they do not constitute a strategic threat.
The difference between a strategic and a tactical threat is the core distinction, and one that should not be trivialized. There are hundreds of militant groups in the world that pose tactical threats, and many of them are indeed affiliated with al Qaeda in some way. As a bombmaker or expert marksman, a single person possesses the skills to kill many people, but that does not make that individual a strategic threat to the United States.
Posing a strategic threat requires the ability to carry out operations in a foreign land, raise and transfer funds, recruit and relocate people, train and hide promising agents, a multitude of reconnaissance and technical skills, and -- most important -- the ability to do all this while avoiding detection before striking at a target of national importance. Yes, an attack against a local mall or a regional airport would be a calamity, but it would not be the sort of strategic attack against national targets that reshapes Western geopolitics as 9/11 did.
Charging that al Qaeda is as strong now as it was in 2001 simply seems a bridge too far. Prior to 9/11, al Qaeda was running multiple operations across multiple regions simultaneously. Its agents were traveling the globe regularly and operating very much in the open financially. Their vision of resurrecting the caliphate was a large and difficult one. Achieving that vision required mobilizing the Muslim masses, and this required spectacular attacks.
A spectacular attack is what they carried out -- once. Since then, all the apex leadership has done is issue a seemingly endless string of empty threats, and consequently its credibility is in tatters. No one doubts al Qaeda's desire to strike at the United States as hard and as often as possible, but the lack of activity indicates its capabilities simply do not measure up.
And even if al Qaeda did not have a goal that required regular attacks, we would still doubt the veracity of this report. If an intelligence agency has penetrated an organization sufficiently to be aware of its full capabilities, the last thing the agency would want to disclose is this success. The agency would keep its intelligence secret until it had neutralized the militants. Shouting to the world that it knows what the militants are up to tells the militants they have been penetrated and starts them on the process of going underground and sealing the leak.
Which, of course, raises the question: What is this report actually seeking to accomplish? That depends on who commissioned the report in the first place, and -- considering the size of the U.S. intelligence community -- it could well mean just about anything. A partial list of justifications could include:
an effort to pressure Pakistan into cracking down on al Qaeda for fear that the group is just about ready to launch another attack,
an effort by the U.S. administration to regenerate its political fortunes by reconsolidating national security conservatives under its wing,
a plea for more funding for this or that branch of U.S. security forces,
a general warning to force any militants currently planning attacks to pull back and reassess -- in essence, an effort by intelligence services to disrupt any cells they have been unable to penetrate,
or even an effort by one branch of the government to discredit the efforts of another.
But regardless of which memos are floating around in Washington these days, al Qaeda prime is not feeling all that confident of late. In his most recent taped release (al Qaeda's attacks have sputtered but its multimedia arm is booming), deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri calls on Muslims everywhere to focus their efforts on the jihad in Afghanistan. He does not focus on Iraq, where the fires burn bright, or on Pakistan, where the apex leadership resides.
It appears the Pakistani government is on the verge of finally moving in force against al Qaeda in the country, and a looming U.S.-Iranian rapprochement is making the position of foreign jihadists in Iraq increasingly tenuous. That leaves the movement with only the mountains of Afghanistan for shelter. After all, there is no spot on the globe farther away from what the West might consider friendly shores.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Canada
on: July 13, 2007, 06:59:07 AM
Global Market Brief: Canada's Arctic Potential
Following up on part of a major campaign promise, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on July 9 announced formal plans to construct up to eight Polar Class 5 Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships -- armed icebreakers -- and establish a deepwater port from which they will operate in the Far North. His speech was rife with words such as "sovereignty" and "national identity," and emphasized Canada's territorial claims in the Arctic. Not only are higher energy prices making more extreme forms of oil and natural gas extraction in the Arctic more attractive, but the receding summer ice pack also is opening up a world of possibilities -- literally.
Global warming has begun changing the geography of the Canadian North. And, given Ottawa's current status in terms of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the slew of Canadian islands extending far into the Arctic, there is little doubt that Canada will reap substantial benefits from the increasing accessibility of the North. Under UNCLOS, countries have full rights to the minerals within their exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles. Special considerations for long continental shelves can extend those rights even farther. In the Arctic, these shelves extend for hundreds of miles, which means that, with the exception of a small disputed area on the U.S. border, the vast bulk of the resources under the Arctic in the Western Hemisphere belong to Canada.
Long-disputed claims in the Arctic are beginning to take on new relevance. The dispute between Denmark and Canada over Hans Island -- a hunk of rocks smaller than New York's Central Park -- began to heat up (in a Canadian/Danish kind of way -- flags were planted and pastry imports were threatened) in 2004, and the U.S.-Canadian spat over a sliver of a wedge of floor in the Beaufort Sea has continued. Though the area of the latter is small by Alaskan standards, it could hold huge oil and natural gas deposits.
But the renewed interest in the Arctic runs deeper than revived territorial disputes. As the ice pack slowly recedes northward, more of Canada's North -- and beyond -- becomes accessible, altering how energy is not only developed but also delivered to market.
The $7 billion, 750-mile-long Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline project, which would ship natural gas southward from the Far North, has already run into a four-year delay, and costs have more than doubled. But if the northern coasts of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories become accessible by water year-round for big liquefied natural gas ships, the pipeline (and its royalties to governments and First Nations) will become completely unnecessary.
Furthermore, as the ice pack continues to recede each year, it opens up more and more potential deposits to year-round offshore drilling without the need for massively costly hardened ice-proof rigs like those in the water off Sakhalin Island.
Given the resources already being exploited at the extreme edge of the ice pack -- the experience of Prudhoe Bay and the promise of Sakhalin -- one can only guess what might lie farther north. But rest assured, there are companies that will find out. And the stage will be set for even more hotly contested battles over the ownership of the North Pole itself.
Oil and natural gas promise huge payoffs (and, despite some current small-scale disputes and the potential for larger ones, Canada will no doubt see its share of the wealth), but a more significant shift is possible: a true opening of the fabled Northwest Passage that could greatly change the face of business. But resource rights along the seafloor and territorial waters on the surface of the sea are governed differently under UNCLOS -- though, in Canada's case, they will be equally contested. While Canada might push the argument that the potential shipping lane (should it open) is within its territorial waters (using the straight baseline method outlined in UNCLOS, which in this case gives the most favorable outcome for Canada), the United States and others will make strong cases that it is an international strait connecting the Pacific and Atlantic -- the trump card in the treaty that would qualify the strait as international waters.
Whatever the ultimate legal status of the Northwest Passage, Canada will have effective control either way. Even before Ottawa's eventual acquisition of as many as eight armed icebreakers -- which will be far and away the largest fleet of such ships in the world -- it will be Canadian icebreakers patrolling the waters of the North. And a more direct route over the North Pole will only open up if the ice of the Arctic Ocean gets close to melting completely.
This is all, of course, 20 years down the road. Today, there are only the first indications -- a receding ice pack, rising energy prices and massive amounts of global maritime shipping. A small window each summer for crude carriers and container ships to make one headlong rush through the Arctic Ocean will hardly be worth the risk, much less worth altering the patterns of global shipping.
But if these trends continue unabated, exploration will certainly expand in the North. Spearheaded in all likelihood by energy interests, explorers will begin to chart and mark the most significant channels, expanding the navigability of the passage. If a reasonable assurance of safety can be made and shipping companies push hard enough, insurers could begin to take their bets. If those early bets pay off, the 21st century will experience one of those true rarities of history: a meaningful shift in global geography.
This will come at a cost -- any meaningful channel will mature amid treaties and compromises. Bad weather, poor visibility for much of the year and ice flow will all inject a certain amount of risk into the equation. But the prospect of cutting as much as 5,000 miles from transoceanic crossings from Europe to the U.S. West Coast is compelling and would fundamentally shift the center of balance of global shipping. The result -- pulling massive amounts of shipping traffic from Panama (and, to a lesser extent, the Suez Canal) -- could free the maritime world from the minor tyranny of the beam and draft restrictions, respectively, of Panamax and Suezmax shipbuilding standards. (Of course, exploration could reveal a new maritime design constraint -- a Canadamax tyranny. If anything, higher standards are needed for shipping hulls that are more likely to encounter ice.)
All that can be certain for now is a wealth of possibility -- and that the Canadian Coast Guard might soon have something to guard.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: July 13, 2007, 06:57:03 AM
Pakistan: Al Qaeda After the Red Mosque
The Red Mosque operation in Pakistan has created both a major opportunity and a serious challenge for al Qaeda prime. The standoff, which ended bloodily, has generated a significant degree of resentment among many Pakistanis, something al Qaeda can be expected to exploit. But the post-Red Mosque operation atmosphere also represents a major security threat to al Qaeda's apex leadership -- which is hiding out in northwestern Pakistan -- explaining the remarks from al Qaeda's No. 2 in his latest communique.
Deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's most recent taped message, which addresses the Red Mosque standoff in Pakistan's capital, contains very telling insights about the situation facing the apex leadership of the transnational jihadist organization, despite being issued before Pakistani security forces overran the mosque/madrassa complex. Now that the mosque operation has ended, having whipped up a great degree of anti-government sentiment, al-Zawahiri can be expected to release a follow-up tape to try to exploit the situation. But even in this initial tape, which was made some time after Red Mosque cult leader Maulana Abdul Aziz was arrested while trying to escape from the facility wearing female robes, al-Zawahiri demonstrates an awareness of the threat to al Qaeda that lies ahead.
As far back as June 2005, we identified that al Qaeda's clandestine global headquarters had relocated to the area comprising the districts of Dir, Malakand and Swat in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) following the ouster of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan. Being based in Pakistan meant al Qaeda could not go too far in staging attacks in country for fear of attracting unwanted attention. It therefore tried to ensure that jihadist activity in the country did not become a security liability for the apex leadership.
Clearly, a great deal of militant activity within Pakistan is not commissioned by al-Zawahiri, but rather is the handiwork of domestic jihadist actors. Despite several attacks against Western and Pakistani government targets since Islamabad joined the U.S. war against jihadism, the government of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf refrained from engaging in major action against the Islamist militancy. The Red Mosque crisis, however, forced the Pakistanis to change their attitude. Not only did the government decided to engage in an unprecedented assault against a mosque, but in a July 12 address to the nation Musharraf also announced plans to go after militant groups all over the NWFP and the adjacent tribal badlands.
We forecasted this move, predicting it could prove devastating for al Qaeda prime. Al-Zawahiri is well aware of the potential for such an outcome, which explains his remarks urging Pakistanis to focus on jihadist activity in Afghanistan as opposed to the situation in Pakistan -- which, from al Qaeda's point of view, is hopeless. Al-Zawahiri said, "Muslims of Pakistan ... you must now back the mujahideen in Afghanistan with your persons, wealth, opinion and expertise, because the jihad in Afghanistan is the door to salvation for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of the region. Die honorably in the fields of jihad."
The call to focus on Afghanistan makes sense given the strategic and tactical situation al Qaeda faces. Pakistan has thus far provided the leadership sanctuary, but at the cost of significantly diminishing al Qaeda's operational capability. Furthermore, despite the significant radical Islamist presence within Pakistan, the country poses significant structural impediments to al Qaeda's objectives.
What al Qaeda really needs is the anarchy Afghanistan offers, presenting conditions conducive not only to the group's survival but also to a revival of its operational capabilities. Al Qaeda calculates that, given U.S. problems in Iraq and the disarray among NATO member states, the United States eventually will force the West yet again to abandon Afghanistan. The jihadists would then be able to use Afghanistan again for their purposes. The West is not going to leave Afghanistan anytime soon, but al Qaeda prime, which faces only bad options, will pursue the best one.
Although al Qaeda would love to exploit the anti-government sentiments that have arisen among Pakistanis in the wake of the storming of the Red Mosque, the group probably is bracing for what Stratfor has identified as the beginning of a long-term struggle between the Pakistani state and the jihadist Frankenstein it created over an extended period. While the struggle against the jihadists will be a long engagement, the founders of al Qaeda could get caught in the cross-fire between Islamabad and its former proxies in the not-too-distant future.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: US sliding down the Laffer Curve
on: July 13, 2007, 06:35:20 AM
We're Number One, Alas
July 13, 2007; Page A12
Some good news on the tax cutting front: Last week lawmakers approved an 8.9 percentage point reduction in the corporate income tax rate. Too bad the tax cutters are Germans, not Americans.
There's a trend here. At least 25 developed nations have adopted Reaganite corporate income tax rate cuts since 2001. The U.S. is conspicuously not one of them. Vietnam has recently announced it is cutting its corporate rate to 25% from 28%. Singapore has approved a corporate tax cut to 18% from 20% to compete with low-tax Hong Kong's rate of 17.5%, and Northern Ireland is making a bid to slash its corporate tax rate to 12.5% to keep pace with the same low rate in the prosperous Republic of Ireland. Even in France, of all places, new President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed reducing the corporate tax rate to 25% from 34.4%.
What do politicians in these countries understand that the U.S. Congress doesn't? Perhaps they've read "International Competitiveness for Dummies." In each of the countries that have cut corporate tax rates this year, the motivation has been the same -- to boost the nation's attractiveness as a location for international investment. Germany's overall rate will fall to 29.8% by 2008 from 38.7%. Remarkably, at the start of this decade Germany's corporate tax rate was 52%.
All of which means that the U.S. now has the unflattering distinction of having the developed world's highest corporate tax rate of 39.3% (35% federal plus a state average of 4.3%), according to the Tax Foundation. While Ronald Reagan led the "wave of corporate income tax rate reduction" in the 1980s, the Tax Foundation says, "the U.S. is lagging behind this time."
Foreign leaders are also learning another lesson: Lower corporate tax rates with fewer loopholes can lead to more, not less, tax revenue from business. The nearby chart shows the Laffer Curve effect from business taxation. Tax receipts tend to fall below their optimum potential when corporate tax rates are so high that they lead to the creation of loopholes and the incentive to move income to countries with a lower tax rate. Ireland is the classic case of a nation on the "correct side" of this curve. It has a 12.5% corporate rate, nearly the lowest in the world, and yet collects 3.6% of GDP in corporate revenues, well above the international average.
The U.S., by contrast, with its near 40% rate has been averaging less than 2.5% of GDP in corporate receipts. Kevin Hassett, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who has studied the impact of corporate taxes, says the U.S. "appears to be a nation on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve: We could collect more revenues with a lower corporate tax rate."
If only the tax writers in Washington would heed this advice. Congress is moving in the reverse direction, threatening to raise the tax rate on corporate dividends, which is another tax on business income. There's also movement in the Senate to raise taxes on the foreign-source income of U.S. companies. The effect would be to raise the marginal tax rate for companies that base their corporate headquarters abroad.
But one reason those countries chose to move to the Cayman Islands and elsewhere is because of the high U.S. corporate tax rate. The Laffer Curve analysis indicates that these corporate tax increases are likely to raise little if any additional revenue, because companies will have a new incentive to move even more of their operations out of the reach of the IRS.
For all the talk of "tax equity," this is also a recipe for further inequality by driving more capital offshore. Research from Mr. Hassett and others has shown that high corporate tax rates reduce the rate of increase in manufacturing wages (See our editorial, "The Wages of Growth," Dec. 26, 2006.). For that matter, most economists understand that corporations don't ultimately pay any taxes. They merely serve as a collection agent, passing along the cost of those taxes in some combination of lower returns for shareholders, higher prices for customers, or lower compensation for employees. In other words, America's high corporate tax rates are an indirect, but still damaging, tax on average American workers.
One immediate policy remedy would be to cut the 35% U.S. federal corporate tax rate to the industrial nation average of 29%. That's probably too sensible for a Congress gripped by a desire to soak the rich and punish business, but a Democrat who picked up the idea could turn the tax tables on Republicans in 2008. Meantime, as the U.S. fails to act, the rest of the world is looking more attractive all the time.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: July 13, 2007, 06:33:22 AM
The Surge Is Working
By OMAR FADHIL
July 13, 2007; Page A13
For nearly three-and-a-half years, the two most dangerous enemies of the American mission in Iraq -- and of the majority of Iraqis who want to build a stable democracy -- had been growing in terms of their capacity to inflict damage. This despite the losses they suffered in battles with Iraqi and American security forces.
Moqtada al-Sadr, on the one hand, grew from a small annoyance as a gang leader in Najaf in April 2003 to become the leader of a monstrous militia that, with the spark al Qaeda provided by bombing the Askari shrine in Samarra, created the sectarian bloodbath we witnessed throughout 2006.
On the other side, al Qaeda's network in Iraq grew from a few dozen infiltrators, supported by disgruntled locals, to an entity that was until recently bragging about establishing Islamic rule on the soil of at least two Iraqi provinces east and west of Baghdad.
And so this country was going through the worst times ever as we moved towards the end of 2006. Iraq was being torn apart by these two terror networks and Iraq was said to be on the verge of "civil war," if it wasn't actually there already.
But the situation looks quite different now.
Last year's crisis made Washington and Baghdad realize that urgent measures needed to be taken to stop the deterioration, and ultimately reverse it. So Washington decided to send in thousands of additional troops. And Baghdad agreed to move its lazy bones and mobilize more Iraqi troops to the capital and coordinate a joint crackdown with the American forces on all outlaw groups, Sunni and Shiite alike.
The big question these days is, did it actually work? Even partially?
First I think we need to remember that states and their traditional armies need to be judged by different metrics than gangs and terror organizations. The latter don't need to win the majority of their battles with American and Iraqi forces. The strength of terrorists and militias is simply their ability to subjugate the civilian populace with fear.
Here is exactly where the American surge and Iraqi plan have proven effective in Baghdad.
The combined use of security walls, the heavy security-force presence in the streets, and an overwhelming number of checkpoints have highly restricted the movement of terrorists and militias inside Baghdad and led to separation. Not a separation of ordinary Sunnis from ordinary Shiites but a separation of both Sunni and Shiite terrorists from their respective priority targets, i.e., civilians of the other sect.
With their movement restricted and their ability to perform operations reduced, they had to look for other targets that are easier to reach. After all, when the goal is to defeat America in Iraq and undermine the democratic political process any target is a good target.
Just look at the difference between the aftermath of the first Samarra bombing in February of 2006 and that of the second bombing in June of 2007. Days after the 2006 bombing more than a hundred Sunni mosques were hit in retaliatory attacks, and thousands of Sunnis were executed by militias in the months that followed. This time only four or five mosques were attacked, none of them in Baghdad proper that I know of.
Sadr's militias have moved the main battlefield south to cities like Samawah, Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah where there's no American surge of troops, and from which many Iraqi troops were recalled to serve in Baghdad. But over there, too, the Iraqi security forces and local administrations did not show the weakness that Sadr was hoping to see. As a result, Sadr's representatives have been forced to accept "truces."
I know this may make things sound as if Sadr has the upper hand, that he can force a truce on the state. But the fact that is missing from news reports is that, with each new eruption of clashes, Sadr's position becomes weaker as tribes and local administrations join forces to confront his outlaw militias.
Al Qaeda hasn't been any luckier than Sadr, and the tide began to turn even before the surge was announced. The change came from the most unlikely city and unlikely people, Ramadi and its Sunni tribes.
In Baghdad the results have been just as spectacular so far. The district where al Qaeda claimed to have established its Islamic emirate is exactly where al Qaeda is losing big now, and at the hands of its former allies who have turned on al Qaeda and are slowly reaching out to the government.
While al Qaeda and Sadr are by no means finished off militarily, what has changed is that both of them are fighting their former public base of support. That course can't lead them to success in fomenting the sectarian war they had bet their money on.
It would be unrealistic to expect political progress to take place along the same timeline as this military progress. The obvious reason is that Iraqi politics tend to be affected by developments on the battlefield. Anyone familiar with the basics of negotiations should understand this.
First things first. Let's allow our troops to finish their job. And when that is done nation-building will follow, and that's where diplomats and politicians will have to do the fighting in their own way while American soldiers can finally enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Backing off now is not an option. The light at the end of the tunnel faded for a whole dark year, but we can see it again now and it's getting brighter. It's our duty to keep walking towards it.
Mr. Fadhil co-writes a blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In Poland, a Jewish revival
on: July 13, 2007, 05:59:34 AM
By CRAIG S. SMITH
Published: July 12, 2007
KRAKOW, Poland — There is a curious thing happening in this old country, scarred by Nazi death camps, raked by pogroms and blanketed by numbing Soviet sterility: Jewish culture is beginning to flourish again.
“Jewish style” restaurants are serving up platters of pirogis, klezmer bands are playing plaintive Oriental melodies, derelict synagogues are gradually being restored. Every June, a festival of Jewish culture here draws thousands of people to sing Jewish songs and dance Jewish dances. The only thing missing, really, are Jews.
“It’s a way to pay homage to the people who lived here, who contributed so much to Polish culture,” said Janusz Makuch, founder and director of the annual festival and himself the son of a Catholic family.
Jewish communities are gradually reawakening across Eastern Europe as Jewish schools introduce a new generation to rituals and beliefs suppressed by the Nazis and then by Communism. At summer camps, thousands of Jewish teenagers from across the former Soviet bloc gather for crash courses in Jewish culture, celebrating Passover, Hanukkah and Purim — all in July.
Even in Poland, there are now two Jewish schools, synagogues in several major cities and at least four rabbis.
But with relatively few Jews, Jewish culture in Poland is being embraced and promoted by the young and the fashionable.
Before Hitler’s horror, Poland had the largest Jewish population in Europe, about 3.5 million souls. One in 10 Poles was Jewish.
More than three million Polish Jews died in the Holocaust. Postwar pogroms and a 1968 anti-Jewish purge forced out most of those who survived.
Probably about 70 percent of the world’s European Jews, or Ashkenazi, can trace their ancestry to Poland — thanks to a 14th-century king, Casimir III, the Great, who drew Jewish settlers from across Europe with his vow to protect them as “people of the king.” But there are only 10,000 self-described Jews living today in this country of 39 million.
More than the people disappeared. The food, the music, the dance, the literature, the theater, the painting, the architecture — in short, the culture — of Jewish life in Poland disappeared, too. Poland’s cultural fabric lost some of its richest hues.
“Imagine what it would mean for the culture of New York if all Spanish-speaking New Yorkers disappeared,” said Ann Kirschner, whose book, “Sala’s Gift,” recounts her mother’s survival through five years in Nazi labor camps.
Sometime in the 1970s, as a generation born under Communism came of age, people began to look back with longing to the days when Poland was less gray, less monocultural. They found inspiration in the period between the world wars, which was the Poland of the Jews.
“You cannot have genocide and then have people live as if everything is normal,” said Konstanty Gebert, founder of a Polish-Jewish monthly, Midrasz. “It’s like when you lose a limb. Poland is suffering from Jewish phantom pain.”
Interest in Jewish culture became an identifying factor for people unhappy with the status quo and looking for ways to rebel, whether against the government or their parents. “The word ‘Jew’ still cuts conversation at the dinner table,” Mr. Gebert said. “People freeze.”
The revival of Jewish culture is, in its way, a progressive counterpoint to a conservative nationalist strain in Polish politics that still espouses anti-Semitic views. Some people see it as a generation’s effort to rise above the country’s dark past in order to convincingly condemn it.
“We’re trying to give muscle to our moral right to judge history,” said Mr. Makuch, the festival organizer.
Mr. Makuch was 14 when an elderly man in his hometown, Pulawy, told him that before the war half of the town was Jewish. “It was the first time I had ever heard the word ‘Jew,’ ” Mr. Makuch recalled.
He became a self-described meshugeneh, Yiddish for “crazy person,” fascinated with all things Jewish. When he moved to Krakow to study, he spent his free time with the city’s dwindling Jewish community. There were about 300 Jews, compared with a prewar population of about 70,000. There are even fewer today.
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While few Jews have returned to the city, Jewish culture has, largely because of Mr. Makuch. In 1988, together with Krzysztof Gierat, he organized the city’s first Festival of Jewish Culture, a one-day affair in a theater that held only 100 people. In 1994, it became an annual event. There are now smaller festivals in Warsaw, Wroclaw and Tarnow.
In Poland, a Jewish Revival Thrives — Minus Jews The Krakow festival has helped revitalize the city’s old Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, which deteriorated after the end of the war.
Today, quaint carved wooden figurines of orthodox Jews and miniature brass menorahs are sold in the district’s curio shops and souvenir stands. Klezmer bands play in its restaurants, though few of the musicians are Jewish.
Along one short street, faux 1930s Jewish merchant signs hang above the storefronts in an attempt to recreate the feel of the neighborhood before the war. Many Jews are offended by the commercialization of their culture in a country almost universally associated with its near annihilation. Others argue that there is something deeper taking place in Poland as the country heals from the double wounds of Nazi and Communist domination.
“There is commercialism, but that is foam on the surface,” Mr. Gebert said. “This is one of the deepest ethical transformations that our country is undergoing. This is Poland rediscovering its Jewish soul.”
This year, the festival had almost 200 events, including concerts and lectures and workshops in everything from Hebrew calligraphy to cooking. More than 20,000 people attended, few of whom were Jewish.
At a drumming workshop in Jozef Dietl primary school, Shlomo Bar, from Israel, led an elderly woman, a young boy in a Pokémon T-shirt and shorts, a young man in dreadlocks and two dozen other, mostly non-Jewish participants in a class on Sephardic rhythms.
Outside, Witek Ngo The, born in Krakow to Vietnamese immigrants, worked as a festival volunteer, directing visitors to other workshops in nearby schools.
In one, Benzion Miller, wearing a black yarmulke, white T-shirt, black suspenders and pants, taught 40 people Hasidic songs, a wood-and-silver crucifix high on the wall behind him.
Half of the festival’s $800,000 budget comes from the national and local governments. The rest is contributed by private donors, primarily from the United States, including the Philadelphia-based Friends of the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival.
Tad Taube, a businessman whose Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture is one of the festival’s biggest donors, was born in Krakow and left shortly before the war.
Together with other donors, Mr. Taube’s foundation has spent more than $10 million to help revive Jewish culture in Poland. He attended the recent groundbreaking for a Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, another effort he has supported.
Like many people involved in the resurgence of Jewish culture in Poland, Mr. Taube said he believed that it was not only important for Poland, but for Jews around the world.
Chris Schwarz, founder and director of Krakow’s Galicia Jewish Museum, agreed, saying, “Rather than coming here just to mourn, we should come with a great sense of dignity, a great sense of pride for what our ancestors accomplished.”
For others, the celebration of Jewish culture in a city just an hour away from Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where a million Jews died, is a triumph of history.
“The fact that you can walk around Krakow with a lanyard around your neck that reads ‘Jewish Culture Festival’ is an extraordinary thing,” Ms. Kirschner said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: July 12, 2007, 08:50:28 PM
Second post of the dayhttp://www.weeklystandard.com/weblog..._in_the_no.asp
Iraq Report: Al Qaeda in the Northern Villages
As Operations Phantom Thunder pushes forward in Baghdad and the Belts, U.S. and Iraqi forces attacked and killed an al Qaeda team attempting to take control of a rural Kurdish village in Diyala. Meanwhile, with critics claiming the U.S. is too al Qaeda focused in its operations, Iraqi and U.S. forces put a significant dent in the Mahdi Army over the past several days.
As Operations Arrowhead Ripper proceeds in the provincial capital of Baqubah and the surrounding areas, al Qaeda in Iraq has been pushed into the farmlands north of the city. Last weekend, al Qaeda struck with suicide attacks at Kurdish cities along the Iranian border, and in a Kurdish village in neighboring Salahadin province, with devastating effects. Almost 200 civilians were killed and hundreds more wounded.
Al Qaeda is pushing into villages where it did not have a presence in the recent past. Yesterday, reports of an al Qaeda assault on the small Shiite village of Sherween slashed across the wires. The AP reported that when al Qaeda in Iraq moved on Sherween, there were no security forces present to stop them. Residents of the town fought back; "25 militants and 18 residents were killed and 40 people wounded in the fighting," a resident of a neighboring town reported. He also stated that al Qaeda was winning.
While the AP report lamented the failure of the Iraqi and U.S. security forces to respond, a joint U.S. and Iraqi task force was quickly assembled and moved in on Sherween early today. "The operation began early Tuesday morning with close air support engaging three river crossings and one bridge with eight 2,000-pound bombs and 14 500-pound bombs. The locations are used by al-Qaida to conduct their attacks and were engaged to prevent their escape," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "The people of Sherween played a vital role in this operation as they fought side-by-side [with] the ISF to help them capture and kill known terrorists." The attack resulted in "20 al-Qaida terrorists killed, 20 detained, and two weapons caches and 12 improvised explosive devices discovered."
Also north of Baqubah, U.S. and Iraqi security forces found an al Qaeda safe house, which contained a possible torture room. "Inside, the patrol found medical supplies, medical equipment and al-Qaida related propaganda," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "Also inside the building was a room with indicators that it had been used as a place of torture, such as blood on the walls and blacked out windows."
As U.S. and Iraq forces move forward with securing Baqubah and the outlying regions, the attacks such at those in Sherween are expected to increase. Al Qaeda is working the seams in Diyala, and the rural farmlands and the Hamrin mountain chain are ideal locations for al Qaeda and allied insurgent groups to fall back upon.
Operations Marne Torch in the Arab Jabour region and Commando Eagle in the Mahmudiyah region continue largely under the radar. A tip from an Iraqi led to the capture of south Baghdad’s most wanted terrorist, along with seven of his associates. The captured man led an al Qaeda terror and intimidation network and was responsible "for shooting down an AH-64 helicopter in April 2006, the abductions of two Soldiers in June 2006, and complex attacks on patrol bases and terrorist acts against both Coalition Forces and Iraqi civilians."
In Arab Jabour, 13 insurgents were detained and several weapons caches were found. In Jisr Diyala, three insurgents were killed after attacking U.S. forces who were attempting to provide medical assistance to Iraqi citizens.
The Green Zone, or International Zone, came under a relatively heavy mortar attack on Tuesday. Upwards of 20 mortars hit inside the Green zone, killing three and wounding 18. Mortars have been launched from inside Sadr City by "rogue" elements of the Mahdi Army. While attacks on the Green Zone have been relatively ineffective militarily, they provide for breathless news reporting.
U.S. forces continue to establish a presence inside Baghdad's worst neighborhood. The Army built a combat outpost in the Ameriya neighborhood in western Baghdad. Ameriya has been the scene of a local uprising against al Qaeda in Iraq by residents and Sunni insurgent groups. Clearing operations in the Rashid district resulted in the discovery of two small caches containing mortars and rockets.
Al Qaeda and allied insurgent groups are pressing hard in Salahadin and Ninewa province as operations are underway in Baghdad, the Belts and Diyala. The mayor of Samarra was reported to have been assassinated in his home on Tuesday, according to Voices of Iraq. He took office in May and was tasked with working to rebuild the al Askaria mosque, which was destroyed by al Qaeda in 2006 and attacked again this June. Iraqi police captured a cell leader of a mortar and sniper network in the city on July 9. In Mosul, the Iraqi Army found a roadside bomb factory that produced IEDs made to look like sections of curb.
Coalition and Iraqi commandos continue to strike at al Qaeda's command network and senior operatives nationwide. In Tuesday's raids, 17 operatives were captured in Mosul, Baghdad, Taji, and northern Babil province. Wednesday's raids resulted in two al Qaeda operatives killed and 20 captured in Mosul, Baghdad, Samarra, and Taji.
Mahdi Army and the Iranian Special Groups
While some commentators are claiming military leaders are only focused on the al Qaeda threat at the exclusion of all other insurgent groups, U.S. and Iraqi security forces continue to devote resources towards dismantling the Mahdi Army and the Iranian-backed "Special Groups."
On July 9, U.S. forces killed eight members of a "criminal militia" inside Sadr City. Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured "twelve insurgents linked to a rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi militia [Mahdi Army]" during two operations in Baghdad on July 8. One of the Mahdi cells was responsible for conducting explosively formed penetrator attacks on U.S. forces. Today, Coalition forces captured a "Secret Cell terrorist ... affiliated with the Jaysh al-Mahdi affiliated Special Groups." Multinational Forces Iraq has been increasingly linking the Mahdi Army and the Iranian Special Groups in its press releases.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: July 12, 2007, 04:03:57 PM
Greetings from Baqubah,
Another quiet day has unfolded here. Tonight, Thursday 12 June, I will do a live radio interview with Hugh Hewitt at 7PM EST.
Also, a new dispatch is published: Al Qaeda on the Run http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/al-qaeda-on-the-run-feasting-on-the-moveable-beast.htm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: July 12, 2007, 03:22:46 PM
BAHRAIN/IRAN: Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa summoned Iran's charge d'affaires to answer questions about Tehran's official position on an editorial written by Hussain Shariatmadari, managing editor of Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan, in which Shariatmadari calls Bahrain an Iranian province, The Media Line reported. Shariatmadari, who is also an adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, wrote that Bahrain was separated from Iran under an illegal agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and the Shah of Iran.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics
on: July 12, 2007, 08:40:16 AM
Do-It-Yourself Tort Reform
By JEFFREY SEGAL and MICHAEL SACOPULOS
July 12, 2007; Page A15
What do you call a surgeon who wears a suit? A defendant. It's an old joke, but at any given moment in the U.S., approximately 60,000 medical malpractice suits are being tried, many involving multiple physician-defendants. That's roughly 10% of the physician population. And once a physician experiences the legal system, it can scar him permanently.
It's not hard to see why. Though the medical tort system is designed to deter unsafe practices and to make negligently injured patients whole, it does neither. Nor does it prevent a high frequency of frivolous lawsuits.
In response, doctors and medical associations have sought relief from lawsuits for years by trying to get tort reform passed at the state and federal levels. Such reforms have solved some problems, but often at the expense of exacerbating others.
For example, while some states have enacted reforms which limit certain types of damages to plaintiffs, this has done little to stem the tide of frivolous law suits. In California -- the tort reform poster child -- an obstetrician will pay $30,000 to $50,000 annually in liability premiums, as compared to the $170,000 obstetricians might pay in certain areas of New York. Yet doctors are actually sued more often in California than in other states, in part because tort lawyers have sought to compensate for decreased payments by pursuing a greater number of claims.
Another tort reform "success story" is Louisiana. The state's dominant malpractice insurer recently reported it spent more money on defending claims than on settlements and judgments. Why? Because Louisiana mandates the use of a screening panel before a lawsuit is filed. Annually, for every three physicians, one claim is made to the panel (a claim frequency that is among the highest in the country). The winner, usually the physician, is forced to pay the cost of the panel. So, the winner does not really win. He just loses less.
In 2002, we launched Medical Justice, a membership-based organization designed to complement tort reform and to head off frivolous lawsuits. Medical Justice pays the bills and provides the services to file countersuits against all proponents of meritless lawsuits.
Our service has two principal components. First, we look at the quality of so-called expert-witness testimony. Behind every frivolous lawsuit there is an "expert" -- usually a physician skilled in testifying before juries and often compensated to the tune of $10,000 dollars a day. Put bluntly, many of these "experts" are frauds, as this newspaper has repeatedly shown in cases regarding asbestosis and silicosis claims.
In a recent case we dealt with, an expert witness detailed how a urologist had botched a vasectomy, even though routine postoperative sperm counts were, as expected, zero. Nonetheless, the patient's wife became pregnant.
A lawsuit gathered momentum based on an expert supporting the least likely hypothesis: surgical error. To almost no one's surprise, a paternity test performed many months later solved this elementary mystery, and the case was dropped. But the urologist took little comfort in being exonerated. Too little. Too Late.
Medical Justice deals with the problem of frivolous or dishonest expert witness testimony by relying on the 2001 case, Austin v. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. There, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of medical specialty societies to police their own members. Many of these societies have panels to review the quality of med-mal testimony. If an expert's testimony is contrary to what a majority or respectable minority in the field would state, that record may translate into an ethical violation, potentially leading to discipline or even expulsion. Such discipline diminishes an expert's credibility in future cases.
Medical Justice's second tool is a patient-physician contract. That contract states that in a legitimate dispute, both sides will utilize only those experts who belong to such societies and who strictly follow their code of ethics. This limits the list to reputable and accountable physician experts, thus precluding the use of hired guns or medical "witnesses having other rational explanations" -- better known by their acronym.
By using contract law to define and enforce reasonable rules, the courtroom becomes less dramatic and more truthful. Virtually all of our patients have been comfortable signing this contract and participating in this process.
Does it work? Yes. After five years of collecting data, we know that Medical Justice plan members are sued at a rate of under just 2% a year. The average doctor is sued at a rate of 8%-12% per year. And the company is top heavy with physicians in "high-risk" specialties.
Further, when meritless cases are filed against plan members, generally they're dropped quickly. In Ohio for example, most "intent to sue" letters historically evolved into lawsuits. When a Medical Justice plan member receives an "intent to sue" letter, the plaintiff's attorney is notified that the defendant has the will and the funds to countersue. The result is that only 20% of the letters mature into bona fide lawsuits.
Finally, the system works because we back our words with deeds by taking action against proponents of frivolous suits. In a sense, Medical Justice has created a contract-based "loser-pays" paradigm. We have helped over a thousand physicians who are tired of being victimized by a system that doesn't prevent collateral damage.
None of this is to say that we don't have a real and sizable problem in this country with patients who are negligently injured, or who die on account of preventable medical errors in the course of their medical treatment. But we can't begin to adequately address the problem of patient safety until we clear the dockets and cut the costs which are wasted on meritless claims and the much larger derivative costs of defensive medicine.
Our legislators have tried and been unable to solve these larger problems. Micromanaging tort reform has proven to be little more than a game of legal whack-a-mole. It's time we give private initiatives a chance to work.
Dr. Segal, a neurosurgeon, is the founder and CEO of Medical Justice Services. Mr. Sacopulos is its general counsel.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics
on: July 11, 2007, 06:54:54 PM
TRIPping Up Property Rights
By ALEC VAN GELDER and PHILIP STEVENS
July 11, 2007
After years of campaigning, activists have narrowed the debate about health care in poor countries to a single premise: Patents drive up the cost of medicines, so patents are bad. Today this fallacy will gain a degree of institutional legitimacy as the European Parliament debates ways to undermine global intellectual property rules.
A handful of MEPs propose that the EU encourage governments in poor countries to issue "compulsory licenses" for patented medicines, revoking the patents and attendant rights -- such as collecting royalties -- that had been granted to a drug maker. The lawmakers also want the EU to exclude intellectual property rights (IPR) clauses from any future trade agreements signed with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Such a move would not only harm European pharmaceutical firms, but distract attention from the real causes of ill health in poor countries.
Thailand got this ball rolling. The interim military government there recently issued a number of compulsory licenses, citing flexibilities in the World Trade Organization's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement, or TRIPS. The junta claimed that the prices of these drugs made it impossible to provide universal access to medicines for the Thai people.
The political brouhaha that followed took all eyes off the thing that mattered most: the state of the Thai health-care system, which was suffering from hospital closures and staffing shortages. Without hospitals and doctors, cheap drugs will do little good.
The problem with the Thai health system isn't money; vast amounts of aid are already on offer. The problem is bad governance and corruption. For example, the Global Fund awarded Thailand $133 million to manufacture its locally produced HIV/AIDS therapy, called GPO-VIR. Four years later, the money was withdrawn because the state drug maker failed to meet international standards.
Others have trodden this road. From 1972 India weakened its IP laws in hopes of driving down medicine prices. It certainly made some drugs less expensive, but it hasn't made Indians any healthier. Access to even basic medicines in India remains unacceptably low. Children go without routine vaccinations. Simple generic anti-infectives are out of reach of the majority of the rural poor.
This goes right to the heart of the medicine-access debate for Africa, too. In 2006, the director of the World Health Organization's HIV Division, Kevin De Cock, said "it is very obvious that the elephant in the room is not the current price of drugs. The real obstacle is the fragility of the health systems. You have health infrastructure that is dilapidated, and supply chains that don't exist."
If African health-care systems are to improve in a sustainable way, it is vital for their economies to grow. Today's European Parliament debate falls short here as well. MEPs are being urged not only to scrap IPR commitments from trade agreements with poor countries but, in some cases, to scrap free-trade agreements altogether.
That would be counterproductive in two obvious ways. First, tearing up these deals would undermine one of the best chances for economic growth these regions have. Second, IPR are a crucial guarantee that patients in poor countries will get high-quality, effective medicines. Many generic-drug manufacturers in countries with weak IP rights -- particularly India -- are reluctant to invest the money needed to bring their factories to international standards. Drugs that do not meet these stringent standards are likely to encourage mutated, drug-resistant strains of disease, which is particularly damaging for malaria or HIV/AIDS patients.
Emasculating TRIPS might allow the MEPs to stick it to Big Pharma, but it takes energy away from the things that really matter: infrastructure, doctors, nurses. Unless poor nations get these, we will still be having this debate in four decades' time.
Mr. van Gelder is network director, and Mr. Stevens health program director, at International Policy Network.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: July 11, 2007, 06:49:03 PM
What Iranians Really Think
By KEN BALLEN
July 11, 2007; Page A14
Keen observers of Iran have insisted for years that the Iranian people are pro-Western, indeed pro-American, while opposed to the largely unelected clerical regime that rules them. For the first time, Terror Free Tomorrow's unprecedented nationwide poll of Iran offers indisputable empirical proof that these commentators are dead-on in their assessment of the "Iranian street."
Discontent with the current system of government, the economy and isolation from the West is widespread throughout Iran. In this context, nuclear weapons are the lowest priority for the Iranian people. The overwhelming popular will to live in a country open to the West and the U.S., with greater economic opportunity, is a powerful plea from every region and segment of society. Iranians also speak with one voice in rejecting the current autocratic rule of their supreme leader and in courageously asking for democracy instead.
Iranian students: A new survey shows their fellow citizens want democracy too.
These are among the significant findings of the first uncensored public opinion survey of Iran since President Ahmadinejad took office. The survey was conducted in Farsi by telephone from June 5 to June 18, 2007, with 1,000 interviews covering all 30 provinces of Iran (and a margin of error of 3.1%). The last poll to ask similar controversial questions was conducted in September 2003 by Abbas Abdi inside Iran. He was imprisoned as a result.
Developing nuclear weapons was seen as a very important priority by only 29% of Iranians. By contrast, 88% of Iranians considered improving the Iranian economy a very important priority. 80% of Iranians favor Iran offering full international nuclear inspections and a guarantee not to develop or possess nuclear weapons in return for outside aid.
Moreover, close to 70% of Iranians also favor normal relations and trade with the U.S. Indeed, in exchange for normal relations, a majority of Iranians even favor recognizing Israel and Palestine as independent states, ending Iranian support for any armed groups inside Iraq, and giving full transparency by Iran to the U.S. to ensure there are no Iranian endeavors to develop nuclear weapons.
Yet the most significant finding of our survey for the future of Iran's present rulers is the opposition to their current system of government. Some 61% of Iranians were willing to tell our pollsters -- over the phone no less -- that they oppose the current Iranian system of government, in which the supreme leader rules according to religious principles and cannot be chosen or replaced by direct vote of the people. More telling, over 79% of Iranians support a democratic system instead, in which the supreme leader, along with all leaders, can be chosen and replaced by a free and direct vote of the people. Only 11% of Iranians said they would strongly oppose having a political system in which all of their leaders, including the supreme leader, are chosen by popular election.
Iranians across all demographic groups oppose the unelected rule of the supreme leader in favor of electing all their leaders. While these views run stronger in Tehran, they are also held across all provinces of Iran, and in both urban and rural areas.
Terror Free Tomorrow's path-breaking survey of Iran demonstrates that the Iranian people are the best ally of the U.S. and the West against the government in Tehran. The considerable challenge is how to support the Iranian people while also achieving important U.S. goals, such as preventing the Iranian government from developing a nuclear arsenal.
There are no easy answers. The U.S., with France, Germany, Britain and the international community, however, should not spurn the clear will of Iranians. The implicit bet Iranians seem to want the world to make is to engage Iran now, and place the burden squarely on Iran's rulers to reject an offer that would clearly improve the life of the Iranian people themselves.
This does not mean that the U.S., Europe and the international community should abandon current sanctions or indeed fail to strengthen future sanctions against the regime. Yet since military options for responding to Iran entail even greater unknowable risks, and sanctions alone so far have proved inadequate, a strategy that also recognizes the consensus of the people of Iran themselves may realistically offer the best hope for all.
Mr. Ballen is president of Terror Free Tomorrow.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: July 11, 2007, 06:44:29 PM
Al Qaeda Cell in the U.S. Or On Its Way, According to New Intel
Share July 10, 2007 6:30 PM
Brian Ross Reports:
Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell ABC News new intelligence suggests
a small al Qaeda cell is on its way to the United States, or may already be
The White House has convened an urgent multi-agency meeting for Thursday
afternoon to deal with the new threat.
THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS
a.. Blotter Secret Document: U.S. Fears Terror 'Spectacular' Planned
b.. Blotter Al Qaeda No. 2 Makes More Threats Against the U.K.
c.. Click Here to Check Out Brian Ross Investigative Photos
Top intelligence and law enforcement officials have been told to assemble in
the Situation Room to report on:
--what steps can be taken to minimize or counter the threat,
--and what steps are being taken to harden security for government buildings
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune
editorial board on Tuesday he had "a gut feeling" that an attack was coming.
"We do worry about whether they are rebuilding their capabilities," Chertoff
said. "We strike at them; we degrade them; but they rebuild."
"It suggests they have information that the cell or cells coming this
direction want to attack a government facility," Brad Garrett, a former FBI
agent and ABC News consultant, said.
Law enforcement officials say the recent failed attacks in London have
provided important new clues about possible tactics.
Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.
And officials say the London attackers' use of the Internet left important
clues that are being used to decode other e-mails that had initially been
deemed unimportant but are now taking on new significance.
A senior administration official said the level of concern of a new terror
attack is now higher than it has been in some time, and the meeting this
week in the situation room is one of a number that have been convened in
light of the new intelligence and what happened in London.
"World News" closer between Charles Gibson and Brian Ross:
Charles Gibson: The obvious question, Brian, is how hard and how specific is
Brian Ross: Not hard, but good. It's being taken very seriously, in
connection with increased chatter, e-mail traffic back and forth, the
attacks in London, and a general concern, as Secretary Chertoff said today,
that summer seems to be a time that al Qaeda likes to attack.
Charles Gibson: And there's been a bunch of tapes that have been coming from
al Qaeda lately.
Brian Ross: In fact, Zawahri put out his eighth tape today and says he had
easy access to the Internet, and he threatened new attacks against London.
Charles Gibson: Once was the day when this intelligence came in, they would
raise the level of concern going to a different color.
Brian Ross: The concern, now, by doing that and not telling Americans what
they can do, where the attack is coming, serves no useful purpose.
White House response:
After the attempted terrorist attacks in the U.K., the U.S. government
convened meetings to discuss the situation -- that is what citizens should
expect. There is no credible evidence of an imminent threat, however, and
counter-terrorism officials regularly meet -- that is not unusual. We are
taking all threats seriously and working to ensure we can keep the
terrorists from striking at innocent people.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / If Saddam were still in power
on: July 11, 2007, 06:42:48 PM
What We Pre-Empted
Today's world would be far worse if Saddam were still in power.
BY PETER J. WALLISON
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Given the problems and U.S. casualties in Iraq, polls show a large majority of the American people believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Yet if we imagine what the world would look like today if Saddam Hussein had not been deposed, it seems clear that almost no outcome in Iraq would be as adverse to the interests of the United States as today's world with Saddam still in power.
It is important to recall that Saddam had thrown the U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq in 1998, and allowed them to return in 2002 only because of the credible threat of a U.S. attack. In addition, the sanctions regime was collapsing--Saddam had learned how to extract billions of dollars for weapons out of the humanitarian exceptions to those sanctions--and our European friends, and perhaps U.N. officials themselves, were complicit in this. Under these circumstances, Saddam could not have been "contained" or rendered harmless, and Iraq could not have been indefinitely subject to U.N. inspections. At some point, Saddam would have been able to throw out the inspectors again, with no further action by the U.N. It was clear that the U.N. itself would do nothing to enforce its own resolutions.
We also know from the reports of the weapons inspectors that Saddam and his scientists were working to develop nuclear weapons, work that certainly would have continued if Saddam had remained in place. Saddam had already demonstrated that he would use chemical weapons, and there is no reason in logic that he wouldn't also restore his chemical weapons stocks once the inspectors had left. He had the largest army in the region, and had shown a determination to use it for expanding his control beyond Iraq. It's not far-fetched, therefore, to consider what economists call a counterfactual--what things would look like today if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq.
First, U.S. troops would still be in Saudi Arabia. Our troops were there because of the Saudis' fear of an Iraqi attack. We should recall that one of the principal reasons Osama bin Laden cited for attacking us--not only on 9/11, but for many years before--was that U.S. troops were supposedly defiling the Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia. As absurd as this seems to us, it apparently resonated with the Mohamed Attas of this world. With Saddam still in power, American arms would be necessary to protect Saudi Arabia, and our presence there would still be a continuing irritant among militants and a source of al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attacks against the United States around the world.
Imagine, also, trying to persuade Iran to abandon the development of nuclear weapons when Iraq--which had attacked Iran--was actively engaged in doing exactly that. We hope now to change Iran's course through economic sanctions--a difficult prospect to be sure--but that would be a hopeless quest if its leaders and population believed they needed nuclear weapons to deter Iraq. Once it became clear that Iran would develop nuclear weapons, many Sunni Arab nations would want a nuclear deterrent, and Israel's position would be hideously complicated.
Then there are Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Before Saddam was deposed by the U.S. invasion, he was bidding for leadership of the Arab world in its opposition to Israel and U.S. policy in the Mideast. We can now see the resources he would have brought to bear in that effort. Saddam was a Sunni leader of a Shiite country. As he watched the Islamic world becoming more fundamentalist, he too became more overtly religious. Undoubtedly, he saw himself as the new Nasser, the one person who could unite the Arab and perhaps the Islamic world against the West and Israel. If he had remained in power, he would now be contesting with Iran for sponsorship of Hezbollah and Hamas. With these two regional powers competing in their militancy against Israel, there would be little chance of a Mideast peace any time soon. Gaza, now under Hamas control, would become a protectorate of Iraq, and the effectiveness of the West's financial boycott would have been nullified.
Saddam's interest in driving the U.S. out of the Middle East would be coincident with those of al Qaeda and he would have the weapons of mass destruction that al Qaeda has been seeking. We could never be sure that if we opposed Saddam--say, in another Iraqi invasion of Kuwait--he would not make weapons of mass destruction available to al Qaeda.
In short, it would be difficult to construct a scenario in which the ultimate outcome of events in Iraq today would be as negative for the United States as a world in which Saddam remained in control of Iraq. So, while we are justifiably dismayed about what is happening today in Iraq, we should not allow this to obscure the central point--that the world is a better and safer place because Saddam is out of power. Looked at this way, we have already achieved a lot; what remains now--as the president and John McCain have said--is to steady ourselves and see it through.
Mr. Wallison is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; he was White House counsel in the Reagan administration.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: July 11, 2007, 06:28:21 PM
Moving Forward in Iraq
The "surge" is working. Will Washington allow the current progress to continue?
BY KIMBERLY KAGAN
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
In Washington perception is often mistaken for reality. And as Congress prepares for a fresh debate on Iraq, the perception many members have is that the new strategy has already failed.
This isn't an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground, as I saw during my visit to Iraq in May. Reports from the field show that remarkable progress is being made. Violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province is down dramatically, grassroots political movements have begun in the Sunni Arab community, and American and Iraqi forces are clearing al Qaeda fighters and Shiite militias out of long-established bases around the country.
This is remarkable because the military operation that is making these changes possible only began in full strength on June 15. To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?
From 2004 to 2006, al Qaeda established safe havens, transport routes, vehicle-bomb factories and training camps in the rural areas surrounding Baghdad, where U.S. forces had little or no footprint. Al Qaeda used these bases to conduct bombings in Baghdad, to displace Shia and Sunni from local towns by sparking sectarian killings, and to force Iraqis to comply with the group's interpretation of Islamic law. Shiite death squads roamed freely around Baghdad and the countryside. The number of execution-style killings rose monthly after the Samarra mosque bombing of February 2006, reaching a high in December 2006. Iranian special operations groups moved weapons across the borders and into Iraq along major highways and rivers. U.S. forces, engaged primarily in training Iraqis, did little to disrupt this movement.
Today, Iraq is a different place from what it was six months ago. U.S. and Iraqi forces began their counterinsurgency campaign in Baghdad in February. They moved into the neighborhoods and worked side-by-side with Baghdadis. As a result, sectarian violence is down. The counterinsurgency strategy has dramatically decreased Shiite death squad activity in the capital. Furthermore, U.S. and Iraqi special forces have removed many rogue militia leaders and Iranian advisers from Sadr City and other locations, reducing the power of militias.
As a consequence, execution-style killings, the hallmark of Shiite militias, have fallen to the lowest level in a year; some Iranian- and militia-backed mortar teams firing on the Green Zone have been destroyed. Equally important, U.S. and Iraqi forces have restricted al Qaeda's bases to ever smaller areas of the city, so that reinforcements cannot flow easily from one neighborhood to another.
Many in Washington say the Baghdad Security Plan has just pushed the enemy to other locations in Iraq. Though some of the enemy certainly left Baghdad when the security plan began, this metaphor is inaccurate. The enemy has long been located outside of Baghdad and was causing violence from suburban bases. What has changed is the disposition of U.S. forces, which are now actively working to expel the enemy from its safe havens rather than ignoring them.
To accomplish this, Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno have encircled Baghdad with a double cordon of U.S. and Iraqi forces. They have been preparing the cordons patiently since February, as the new "surge" units arrived. The surge was completed only in mid-June, and the first phase of the large-scale operations it was intended to support began only on June 15. Since then, U.S. forces have begun blocking major road, river, and transportation route around Baghdad. They are also deployed in critical neighborhoods around outskirts and the interior of the city.
On June 15, Gens. Petraeus and Odierno launched a major offensive against al Qaeda strongholds all around Baghdad. "Phantom Thunder" is the largest operation in Iraq since 2003, and a milestone in the counterinsurgency strategy. For the first time, U.S. forces are working systematically throughout central Iraq to secure Baghdad by clearing its rural "belts" and its interior, so that the enemy cannot move from one safe haven to another. Together, the operations in Baghdad and the "belts" are increasing security in and around the capital.
U.S. and Iraqi forces are thereby attacking enemy strongholds and cutting supply routes all around the city, along which fighters and weapons moved freely in 2006. Coordinated operations south and east of Baghdad are at last interdicting the supply of weapons moving along the Tigris River to the capital. U.S. and Iraqi forces are operating east of Baghdad for the first time in years, disrupting al Qaeda's movement between bases on the Tigris and in Sadr City, a frequent target of its car bombs. North of Baghdad, U.S. forces recently cleared al Qaeda from the city of Baqubah, from which terrorists flowed into Baghdad. They are clearing al Qaeda's car bomb factories from Karmah, northwest of Baghdad, and its sanctuaries toward Lake Tharthar. These operations are supported by counterinsurgency operations west of the capital, from Fallujah to Abu Ghraib. U.S. forces are now, for the first time, fighting the enemy in the entire ring of cities and villages around Baghdad.
This is the Baghdad Security Plan, and its mission is to secure the people of Baghdad. Even so, commanders are not ignoring the outlying areas of Iraq. U.S. forces have killed or captured many important al Qaeda leaders in Mosul recently, and destroyed safe havens throughout northern Iraq. Troops are conducting counterinsurgency operations in Bayji, north of Tikrit. And Iraqi forces have "stepped up" to secure some southern cities. The Eighth Iraqi Army Division has been fighting Shiite militias in Diwaniyah, an important city halfway between Basrah and Baghdad. As commanders stabilize central Iraq, they will undoubtedly conduct successive operations in outlying regions to follow up on their successes and make them lasting.
The larger aim of the new strategy is creating an opportunity for Iraq's leaders to negotiate a political settlement. These negotiations are underway. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is attempting to form a political coalition with Amar al-Hakim and Kurdish political leaders, but excluding Moqtada al-Sadr, and has invited Sunnis to participate. He has confronted Moqtada al-Sadr for promoting illegal militia activity, and has apparently prompted this so-called Iraqi nationalist to leave for Iran for the second time since January.
Provincial and local government is growing stronger. Local and tribal leaders in Anbar, Diyala, Salah ad-Din, North Babil and even Baghdad have agreed to fight insurgents and terrorists as U.S. forces have moved in to secure the population alongside their Iraqi partners. As a result, the number of Iraqis recruited for the police forces, in particular, has risen exponentially since 2006.
This is war, and the enemy is reacting. The enemy uses suicide bombs, car bombs and brutal executions to break our will and that of our Iraqi allies. American casualties often increase as troops move into areas that the enemy has fortified; these casualties will start to fall again once the enemy positions are destroyed. Al Qaeda will manage to get some car and truck bombs through, particularly in areas well-removed from the capital and its belts.
But we should not allow individual atrocities to obscure the larger picture. A new campaign has just begun, it is already yielding important results, and its effects are increasing daily. Demands for withdrawal are no longer demands to pull out of a deteriorating situation with little hope; they are now demands to end a new approach to this conflict that shows every sign of succeeding.
Ms. Kagan, an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies, is executive director of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: July 11, 2007, 05:53:06 PM
"A man who was engulfed in flames after allegedly crashing a Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas cylinders into Glasgow's airport is unlikely to survive his severe burns, a doctor who treated him said Tuesday," the Associated Press reports from Edinburgh, Scotland:
"The prognosis is not good, and he is not likely to survive," a member of the medical team that treated him at the Royal Alexandra Hospital near Glasgow said on condition of anonymity because details about patients are not to be made public.
Apparently the only details about patients that are not to be made public are the names of doctors who make details about patients public.
Political Journal, WSJ
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs
on: July 11, 2007, 05:49:17 PM
Canada ranks fifth worldwide when it comes to marijuana usage, but ranks first among industrialized nations, according to the 2007 World Drug Report.
About 16.8 percent of Canadians ages 15 to 64 light up, compared to 12.6 percent of Americans in the same age bracket, according to the report. Canada’s usage is about four times the worldwide average of 3.8 percent, while the United States' usage is about three times the average.
Marijuana, or cannabis, remains the most commonly used drug in the world with almost 160 million people ages 15 to 64 using it in 2005, said the report, which was put out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Usage is down slightly from 162 million, according to last year’s World Drug Report, which reviewed data from 2004.
The majority of it is grown in the Americas (46 percent), followed by Africa (26 percent). Canada’s usage trails behind Papua New Guinea and Micronesia at 29 percent each, Ghana at 21.5 percent, and Zambia at 17.7 percent. Among European nations, Cyprus topped the list at 14.1 percent, followed by Italy and Spain, both at 11.2 percent.
Doctors: Pot Triggers Psychotic Symptoms Study: Marijuana Damages Brain Report: Pot Getting Stronger Although Canada is a top five user of marijuana, its use among high school students in Ontario declined 19 percent between 2003 and 2005. Cannabis use amongst 12th graders in the U.S. declined 18 percent between 1997 and 2006, and is 38 percent lower than it was at its peak in 1979, the report said.
Cocaine Use Twice as High for U.S. Students
Canada may have cornered the North American market on marijuana use, but U.S. teens are twice as likely to use cocaine as teens in the rest of the world, according to the report.
About 4.8 percent of U.S. 10th graders have used cocaine compared to an average of 2.35 percent of 15 and 16-year-olds in South America countries and an average of 2.4 percent of similarly aged students in European nations.
Overall, Spain had the highest percentage of cocaine users between the ages of 15 and 64 at 3 percent, followed by the U.S. at 2.8 percent, England at 2.4 percent and Canada at 2.3 percenthttp://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,288846,00.html