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25201  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: December 21, 2010, 11:51:37 AM
Source?  Fair enough.  It was sent to me by a friend who is a senior US Marshal.
25202  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: December 21, 2010, 11:46:43 AM
IED attack on Police in Nuevo Leon

A small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated around 1 p.m. Dec. 17 inside a sport-utility vehicle outside the Zuazua Public Security Secretariat offices (the equivalent of a municipal police station) in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. In addition to destroying the vehicle, the blast injured at least three people and damaged several surrounding vehicles. A message attributed to the Sinaloa Federation and Gulf cartel addressed to “Zeta Police” was found shortly thereafter near the site of the explosion that read, “The state of Nuevo Leon does not guarantee the security of its citizens in the state, and more than a thousand kidnappings are not reported for fear of the authorities. Eleven more car bombs are waiting to be detonated to bring justice for the kidnapped, for the police and corrupt officials are aware.” Nuevo Leon authorities have been quick to say the claim of 11 more IEDs is false, but have offered little in the way of proof. Additionally, authorities have not officially said whether they believe area drug-trafficking organizations were involved in the attack, despite the very public message.

This attack is the year’s fifth successful deployment of an IED against a specified target in Mexico; one occurred in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, and three occurred near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. While there has not been any indication as to the composition or exact size of the device, photographic evidence of the blast scene indicates that the device was relatively small and on the scale seen with other devices deployed in the country this year.

The enforcement arm of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) organization, La Linea, was responsible for the Juarez IED on July 15, and the group indicated after the attack that it would continue its “car bomb” campaign as long as the Federal Police continued to support the Sinaloa Federation, which the VCF accuses the police of doing. Despite these warnings, only one other IED was deployed in Juarez, a few weeks later, and the Mexican military was able to render it safe before it detonated. However, it appears from the message left near the scene and the geographic disparity between Juarez and Nuevo Leon that entirely different actors were responsible for the Dec. 17 incident.

The message falls in line with the strategy pursued by the New Federation alliance. In the spring, elements of the New Federation began taking the fight against Los Zetas to their stronghold in the Monterrey metro region, targeting not only Los Zetas members and operatives but also their support network in the region, including local politicians and local and regional police.

It remains to be seen whether the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf cartel will actually follow through with a sustained bombing campaign against law enforcement believed to be associated with Los Zetas. If the groups do follow through with their pledge to deploy 11 more IEDs, it would be a significant escalation in the tempo of these types of attacks. While IED attacks in the country thus far have been discriminating in their targeting, the imprecise nature of IEDs greatly increases the risk of civilian casualties.


Nuevo Laredo Prison Break

A prison break the morning of Dec. 17 at the Center for Social Readaptation (CERESO) in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, led to the escape of between 141 and 192 prisoners (the latest figure reported was 151). This is merely the latest in a string of prison breaks in Tamaulipas since January; the total number of prisoners having escaped in the state this year is more than 300.

In the Dec. 17 escape, the prisoners (reportedly both federal and local), working with complicit guards, were able to exit the prison facilities through a service entrance into waiting vehicles. Additionally, the prison director was reported missing the morning of Dec. 17. Multiple source reports indicate Los Zetas were the primary orchestrators of the escape, with some STRATFOR sources saying Los Zetas’ motivation was to augment their forces in the region. The prisoners were reportedly told that once released, they either must work for Los Zetas or be killed. Additionally, STRATFOR sources said the nephew of Los Zetas No. 2 Miguel “Z-40” Trevino Morales was one of the escapees from the CERESO unit.

Los Zetas have experienced several setbacks throughout much of 2010, with several regional plaza bosses and numerous operatives being killed or apprehended. However, developments in the last few months have weakened the Gulf cartel and the New Federation’s grip on Tamaulipas border region, and Los Zetas appear to be poised to regain some of their lost ground, particularly in the Reynosa and Matamoros regions. If the reported ultimatum for the freed prisoners is correct, this influx of forces for Los Zetas could provide the necessary resources to begin a campaign to retake these lost areas. However, the true number of prisoners that will actually go to work for Los Zetas remains to be seen; some likely will renege on their promise and slip back into Mexican society — only now with a bounty on their heads.



(click here to view interactive map)

Dec. 13

Unidentified gunmen shot a man to death during a suspected kidnapping in the Jardines Universidad neighborhood of Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
The body of an unidentified person was discovered near Tlajomulco, Jalisco state. The body was wrapped in a blanket tied together with a string and had a bag over its head.

Dec. 14

Four police officers were reportedly shot to death by a fellow police officer in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The attacker later committed suicide.
Police found a decapitated body in the trunk of a car in the Ejidos de San Agustin neighborhood of Chimalhuacan, Mexico state. The victim’s head had been placed on the trunk lid.
Two decapitated bodies were found on a soccer field in Huixquilucan, Mexico state.

Dec. 15

In a recorded message released to a TV station, La Familia Michoacana (LFM) leader Servando Gomez Martinez called on his followers to continue fighting and called for more marches against the federal government. Gomez Martinez also confirmed the death of Nazario Gomez in Michoacan state during the week of Dec. 13.
The dismembered body of a man was found in several bags in Guadalajara, Jalisco state. A handwritten sign near the victim attributed the crime to the Jalisco Cartel, New Generation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the arrests of eight suspected members of LFM in Georgia and North Carolina. One of those arrested is believed to be the primary supplier of illegal drugs for LFM in Washington.
Unidentified gunmen shot and injured two police officers in Allende, Nuevo Leon state.
Authorities were alerted through an anonymous call about three boxes allegedly containing explosives that were placed near separate hospitals in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. The boxes contained clocks inside and were designed to give the appearance of being explosive devices.

Dec. 16

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a police guard post in the Roma neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, but did not cause any injuries.
One suspected cartel gunman was killed and two bystanders were injured during a firefight between soldiers and gunmen in the La Estanzuela neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Dec. 17

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped two employees from the nightclub where they worked in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The victims were later discovered shot to death.
A decapitated head was discovered wrapped in cloth inside a bag outside a bar near Texcoco, Mexico state.
A car with explosives inside was detonated outside a police station in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. Approximately 151 inmates escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The director of the prison was reported missing after the escape.

Dec. 18

Federal security forces arrested four police officers suspected of participating in an attack on other police forces in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state on Dec. 16. Ten other officers had been arrested Dec. 17 for their alleged participation in the attack.
An e-mail sent to news outlets by a group calling itself the “Ex-Mysterious Disappearers” announced that former legislator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos will be freed soon by his kidnappers.

Dec. 19

Unidentified gunmen forced security personnel to pull back from a crime scene where a decapitated body was present in Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The gunmen reportedly arrived to recover the body.
Military authorities announced the seizure of a suspected methamphetamine lab in the municipality of Tuxpan, Jalisco state.
Authorities announced the arrest of suspected Colombian drug trafficker Jerson Enrique Camacho Cedeno in an unspecified part of Mexico. Camacho Cedeno is allegedly linked to Los Zetas.
25203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 21, 2010, 11:46:12 AM
IED attack on Police in Nuevo Leon

A small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated around 1 p.m. Dec. 17 inside a sport-utility vehicle outside the Zuazua Public Security Secretariat offices (the equivalent of a municipal police station) in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. In addition to destroying the vehicle, the blast injured at least three people and damaged several surrounding vehicles. A message attributed to the Sinaloa Federation and Gulf cartel addressed to “Zeta Police” was found shortly thereafter near the site of the explosion that read, “The state of Nuevo Leon does not guarantee the security of its citizens in the state, and more than a thousand kidnappings are not reported for fear of the authorities. Eleven more car bombs are waiting to be detonated to bring justice for the kidnapped, for the police and corrupt officials are aware.” Nuevo Leon authorities have been quick to say the claim of 11 more IEDs is false, but have offered little in the way of proof. Additionally, authorities have not officially said whether they believe area drug-trafficking organizations were involved in the attack, despite the very public message.

This attack is the year’s fifth successful deployment of an IED against a specified target in Mexico; one occurred in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, and three occurred near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. While there has not been any indication as to the composition or exact size of the device, photographic evidence of the blast scene indicates that the device was relatively small and on the scale seen with other devices deployed in the country this year.

The enforcement arm of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) organization, La Linea, was responsible for the Juarez IED on July 15, and the group indicated after the attack that it would continue its “car bomb” campaign as long as the Federal Police continued to support the Sinaloa Federation, which the VCF accuses the police of doing. Despite these warnings, only one other IED was deployed in Juarez, a few weeks later, and the Mexican military was able to render it safe before it detonated. However, it appears from the message left near the scene and the geographic disparity between Juarez and Nuevo Leon that entirely different actors were responsible for the Dec. 17 incident.

The message falls in line with the strategy pursued by the New Federation alliance. In the spring, elements of the New Federation began taking the fight against Los Zetas to their stronghold in the Monterrey metro region, targeting not only Los Zetas members and operatives but also their support network in the region, including local politicians and local and regional police.

It remains to be seen whether the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf cartel will actually follow through with a sustained bombing campaign against law enforcement believed to be associated with Los Zetas. If the groups do follow through with their pledge to deploy 11 more IEDs, it would be a significant escalation in the tempo of these types of attacks. While IED attacks in the country thus far have been discriminating in their targeting, the imprecise nature of IEDs greatly increases the risk of civilian casualties.


Nuevo Laredo Prison Break

A prison break the morning of Dec. 17 at the Center for Social Readaptation (CERESO) in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, led to the escape of between 141 and 192 prisoners (the latest figure reported was 151). This is merely the latest in a string of prison breaks in Tamaulipas since January; the total number of prisoners having escaped in the state this year is more than 300.

In the Dec. 17 escape, the prisoners (reportedly both federal and local), working with complicit guards, were able to exit the prison facilities through a service entrance into waiting vehicles. Additionally, the prison director was reported missing the morning of Dec. 17. Multiple source reports indicate Los Zetas were the primary orchestrators of the escape, with some STRATFOR sources saying Los Zetas’ motivation was to augment their forces in the region. The prisoners were reportedly told that once released, they either must work for Los Zetas or be killed. Additionally, STRATFOR sources said the nephew of Los Zetas No. 2 Miguel “Z-40” Trevino Morales was one of the escapees from the CERESO unit.

Los Zetas have experienced several setbacks throughout much of 2010, with several regional plaza bosses and numerous operatives being killed or apprehended. However, developments in the last few months have weakened the Gulf cartel and the New Federation’s grip on Tamaulipas border region, and Los Zetas appear to be poised to regain some of their lost ground, particularly in the Reynosa and Matamoros regions. If the reported ultimatum for the freed prisoners is correct, this influx of forces for Los Zetas could provide the necessary resources to begin a campaign to retake these lost areas. However, the true number of prisoners that will actually go to work for Los Zetas remains to be seen; some likely will renege on their promise and slip back into Mexican society — only now with a bounty on their heads.



(click here to view interactive map)

Dec. 13

Unidentified gunmen shot a man to death during a suspected kidnapping in the Jardines Universidad neighborhood of Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
The body of an unidentified person was discovered near Tlajomulco, Jalisco state. The body was wrapped in a blanket tied together with a string and had a bag over its head.

Dec. 14

Four police officers were reportedly shot to death by a fellow police officer in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The attacker later committed suicide.
Police found a decapitated body in the trunk of a car in the Ejidos de San Agustin neighborhood of Chimalhuacan, Mexico state. The victim’s head had been placed on the trunk lid.
Two decapitated bodies were found on a soccer field in Huixquilucan, Mexico state.

Dec. 15

In a recorded message released to a TV station, La Familia Michoacana (LFM) leader Servando Gomez Martinez called on his followers to continue fighting and called for more marches against the federal government. Gomez Martinez also confirmed the death of Nazario Gomez in Michoacan state during the week of Dec. 13.
The dismembered body of a man was found in several bags in Guadalajara, Jalisco state. A handwritten sign near the victim attributed the crime to the Jalisco Cartel, New Generation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the arrests of eight suspected members of LFM in Georgia and North Carolina. One of those arrested is believed to be the primary supplier of illegal drugs for LFM in Washington.
Unidentified gunmen shot and injured two police officers in Allende, Nuevo Leon state.
Authorities were alerted through an anonymous call about three boxes allegedly containing explosives that were placed near separate hospitals in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. The boxes contained clocks inside and were designed to give the appearance of being explosive devices.

Dec. 16

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a police guard post in the Roma neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, but did not cause any injuries.
One suspected cartel gunman was killed and two bystanders were injured during a firefight between soldiers and gunmen in the La Estanzuela neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Dec. 17

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped two employees from the nightclub where they worked in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The victims were later discovered shot to death.
A decapitated head was discovered wrapped in cloth inside a bag outside a bar near Texcoco, Mexico state.
A car with explosives inside was detonated outside a police station in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. Approximately 151 inmates escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The director of the prison was reported missing after the escape.

Dec. 18

Federal security forces arrested four police officers suspected of participating in an attack on other police forces in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state on Dec. 16. Ten other officers had been arrested Dec. 17 for their alleged participation in the attack.
An e-mail sent to news outlets by a group calling itself the “Ex-Mysterious Disappearers” announced that former legislator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos will be freed soon by his kidnappers.

Dec. 19

Unidentified gunmen forced security personnel to pull back from a crime scene where a decapitated body was present in Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The gunmen reportedly arrived to recover the body.
Military authorities announced the seizure of a suspected methamphetamine lab in the municipality of Tuxpan, Jalisco state.
Authorities announced the arrest of suspected Colombian drug trafficker Jerson Enrique Camacho Cedeno in an unspecified part of Mexico. Camacho Cedeno is allegedly linked to Los Zetas.
25204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: December 21, 2010, 11:34:41 AM
Generally, I would like to see the principal of "opt-in" as versus "opt-out" with full and easy to understand disclosure of exactly what is involved.
25205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dairy fat good? on: December 21, 2010, 11:31:05 AM
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20054459 The full text article is free.
 
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009 Oct;6(10):2626-38. Epub 2009 Oct 12.

Food choices and coronary heart disease: a population based cohort study of rural Swedish men with 12 years of follow-up.
Holmberg S, Thelin A, Stiernström EL.

Research and Development Centre, Kronoberg County Council, Box 1223, SE-351 12 Växjö, Sweden. sara.holmberg@ltkronoberg.se

Abstract
Coronary heart disease is associated with diet. Nutritional recommendations are frequently provided, but few long term studies on the effect of food choices on heart disease are available. We followed coronary heart disease morbidity and mortality in a cohort of rural men (N = 1,752) participating in a prospective observational study. Dietary choices were assessed at baseline with a 15-item food questionnaire. 138 men were hospitalized or deceased owing to coronary heart disease during the 12 year follow-up. Daily intake of fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease when combined with a high dairy fat consumption (odds ratio 0.39, 95% CI 0.21-0.73), but not when combined with a low dairy fat consumption (odds ratio 1.70, 95% CI 0.97-2.98). Choosing wholemeal bread or eating fish at least twice a week showed no association with the outcome.

PMID: 20054459 [PubMed - in process]PMCID: PMC2790097Free PMC Article


25206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler: Tea Party=Revolt of the Creditor and Saver class on: December 20, 2010, 04:29:20 PM
Moved from the wrong thread to here:


 Longevity gives life to Tea Party
By Spengler

How could the Tea Party elect five senators and 40 members of the United States Congress last November, none with political experience and many with evident eccentricities? The answer is that a single issue united a slapdash agglomeration of amateurs, with sufficient power to override all the sources of weakness.

The Tea Party represents creditors of the government who do not want to be cheated out of their savings; that is, people close to retirement age who fear slow confiscation by inflation. Governments that run huge deficits normally reduce them by
debasing the currency, in order to repay their debts in inflated money.

In fact, the Tea Party is a triumph of economic rationality over lack of talent: its reason for being is so compelling and so clear that it has succeeded despite the silliness of some of its candidates. One top Republican pollster thinks that the "I am not a witch" message aired by losing Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell in Delware was the single worst piece of advertising in political history.

Elite commentators tend to dismiss the Tea Party as a mob of engaged boos. On the contrary, pollster Scott Rasmussen, reports, the Tea Partiers tend to be older than 45, married, wealthier and better educated than the general population, and concerned first of all with federal spending and deficits. The most important thing to know about such people is that there are more of them than ever before in American history.

Young families with small children borrow money from older people who have finished raising families. Most Americans begin adulthood heavily in debt and become lenders as they approach retirement. The changing proportions of young and old Americans has enormous bearing on political outcomes.

United States of America Dependency Ratios
YEAR TOTAL CHILD OLD AGE 
1975 55 39 16
1980 51 34 17
1985 50 32 18
1990 52 33 19
1995 53 34 19
2000 51 33 19
2005 50 31 19
2010 50 30 19
2015 52 30 22
2020 56 31 25
2025 60 31 29
2030 63 32 32

Two facts stand out in the table above showing the proportion of child vs elderly dependents in the United States. Elderly dependents have remained fairly static as a percentage of total population during the past 40 years. But the proportion will jump from 19% today to 32% in 2030. This seismic change in American demographics explains a great deal.

In 1975, when Jimmy Carter ran for president, 39 out 100 Americans were dependent children, but only 16 out of 100 Americans were dependent elderly. The baby boomers were in their twenties and starting families. Once elected president, Carter allowed the inflation rate to reach double-digits by 1981. A family that bought a house for $60,000 in January 1975 could have sold it for $110,000 in January 1981. In fact, home prices offered positive returns after inflation (stocks, bonds, and cash all showed negative real returns during the 1980s).

Elderly people on fixed pensions took part-time jobs or ate pet food as the value of money shrank; young people caught a free ride on the inflation wave. No one liked inflation, to be sure, but it was an ill wind that blew good to a great many people. The Carter administration, though, made an elementary blunder: as inflation drove up nominal income, it also pushed middle class taxpayers into higher tax brackets intended to soak the rich. With a top tax rate of 70%, the tax squeeze due to inflation became a crushing burden on the middle class, and the high rate of taxation on nominal capital gains was often confiscatory. If the Carter administration had indexed tax rates to inflation, it might have lasted a second term.

Now the tables are turned. By 2030, elderly dependents will comprise 32% of the American population, twice the level in 1975. For the first time in history, the number of elderly dependents will equal the number of child dependents. Americans now aged 45 will retire in 2030, and it is their concerns that give buoyancy to the Tea Party.

The Tea Party is an exercise in economic rationality. Measured inflation in the United States is less than 1% (according to the woefully inadequate Consumer Price Index), but the Tea Partiers anticipate higher inflation in the future should the federal government remain at 11% of gross domestic product.

This is not the first time that monetary issues have motivated the formation of an important third party. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a prolonged deflation under the gold standard drew Western farmers to the inflationist Free Silver movement. Permitting silver coinage would have increased the money supply, raised the price level and helped debtors. The movement was powerful enough to take over the Democratic Party in 1896, when its candidate William Jennings Bryan (an unknown 36-year-old congressman) excoriated Eastern creditor interests and their ''cross of gold'' imposed by Eastern creditor interests.

The proportion of prospective pensioners in the rest of the industrial world exceeds that in the United States, as shown in Table 2 below:

More developed regions of the world Dependency Ratios
YEAR TOTAL CHILD OLD AGE 
1975 54 37 17
1980 52 34 18
1985 49 32 17
1990 49 31 19
1995 50 29 20
2000 49 27 21
2005 48 25 23
2010 48 24 24
2015 51 25 26
2020 54 25 29
2025 57 25 33
2030 61 24 36
2035 63 24 39
2040 66 24 41
2045 68 25 43
2050 70 25 45

America's open political model makes it relatively easy for challengers to force their way onto the stage (although not to remain their for long), so the Tea Party as such is likely to remain a distinctly American phenomenon. But the shift towards an older population also will act as a brake on inflationist impulses elsewhere, for example, on the extent to which France and Germany will bail out Ireland, Portugal, Greece, or Spain.

In its first electoral outing, America's Tea Party helped shift the political balance. It would be incautious to view it as a passing expression of voter frustration. On the contrary: spontaneity and inexperience held the Tea Party back from harvesting the political support that should come to it. If the Tea Party does a better job of screening and prepping candidates - or the Republican party has the good sense to adopt its program - demographics and rational interest will make it an even stronger force as time passes, and an obstacle to a new inflation cycle.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman senior editor at First Things (www.firstthings.com).

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/LL07Aa01.html
25207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Greedy Innkeeper or Generous Capitalist? on: December 20, 2010, 04:28:17 PM
Greedy Innkeeper or Generous Capitalist? To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/20/2010


The Bible story of the virgin birth is at the center of much of the holiday cheer at this time of the year. The book of Luke tells us Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus decreed a census should be taken. Mary gave birth after arriving in Bethlehem and placed baby Jesus in a manger because there was “no room for them in the inn.”

Over the centuries, people have come to believe that because Jesus was born in a stable, and not in a hotel room, Mary and Joseph must have been mistreated by a greedy innkeeper. This innkeeper only cared about profits and decided this young couple was not “worth” his best accommodations. This angle on the traditional story is repeated in just about every play, skit, or sermon on the subject.
 
These stories persist even though the Bible records no complaints at the time and there was apparently no charge for the use of the stable. It may be that the stable was the only place available. Bethlehem, like other small towns, was overflowing with people who were returning to their ancestral homes for the census, which was ordered by the Romans for the purpose of levying a tax.
 
If there was a problem, it was caused by the unintended consequences of government policy. However, a political spin has been added to the story and it blames capitalism and capitalists for being greedy and uncaring, even evil.
 
A different narrative could be easily generated. The innkeeper was generous to a fault – a hero even. He was over-booked, but he charitably offered his stable, a building that would not have existed if it weren’t for his foresight and industriousness. And don’t forget, the government officials who ordered the census slept in their own beds with little care for the wellbeing of those who had to travel regardless of their difficult life circumstances.
 
If you must find “evil” in either one of these narratives, remember that evil is ultimately perpetrated by individuals, not the institutions in which they operate.
 
And this is why it’s important to favor economic and political systems that limit the use and abuse of power over others. In the story of baby Jesus, a law that requires innkeepers to always have extra rooms, or to take in anyone who asks, would “fix” the problem of the evil innkeeper.
 
This regulation, which would be enforced by government, would have unintended consequences. Fewer people would become innkeepers because they would need to build larger structures (that could accommodate the crowd during a census). But because censuses are rare, the innkeeper would be forced to charge higher prices to cover costs. This, in turn, would cause many to complain that the innkeeper was greedy.
 
This does not mean that free markets are perfect or create utopia, they aren’t and they don’t. But, business can’t force you to buy a service or product. You have a choice – even if it’s not exactly what you want. And good business people try to make you happy in creative and industrious ways.
 
Government doesn’t always care. In fact, if you happen to live in North Korea or Cuba, and are not happy about the way things are going, you can’t leave. And just in case you try, armed guards will help you think things through.
This is why the framers of the US Constitution made sure there were “checks and balances” in the system. We’re now seeing that system operate. In reaction to the health care bill passed earlier this year, voters rejected many of the bill’s supporters and boosted the clout of its opponents. And the “new” majority favors lower taxes and less spending.
 
For many, this is not like having a savior. But it should give us all reason to hope for a better world in the years ahead.
25208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bean Bags vs. Bullets on: December 20, 2010, 04:10:45 PM
Or this:

"Border Patrol Agent Terry and the BORTAC team were under standing orders to always use ("non-lethal") bean-bag rounds first before using live ammunition. When the smugglers heard the first rounds, they returned fire with real bullets, and Agent Terry was killed in that exchange. Real bullets outperform bean bags every time."
25209  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bean Bags vs. Bullets on: December 20, 2010, 04:09:43 PM
"Border Patrol Agent Terry and the BORTAC team were under standing orders to always use ("non-lethal") bean-bag rounds first before using live ammunition. When the smugglers heard the first rounds, they returned fire with real bullets, and Agent Terry was killed in that exchange. Real bullets outperform bean bags every time."
25210  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 20, 2010, 04:07:20 PM
Dome light?  Good idea.

"Horizontal gaze nystagmus": another fascinating datum to add to my repertoire smiley
25211  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pulled over by the police last night on: December 20, 2010, 12:55:21 PM
Woof All:

Coming home from Pappy Dog's 40th birthday party last night I was pulled over by the police for speeding on a big, wide open boulevard in a low populations density area.  It was raining heavily.  The flashing lights went on as I entered a busy intersection. 

I finished crossing the intersection and pulled into the very empty parking lot of a Del Taco and parked.  The officer parked behind me so I had no exit.  I rolled down my window and stuck out both my hands as he approached.  "Why were you doing 55 on a rainy night?" he asked.  Not wanting to contradict him, yet not wanting to admit to my speed I said "55?  It did not seem like that."

"Why were you driving so fast?"
"I grew up in NYC."
"Have you been drinking?"
"Not at all."  At this point I vigorously exhaled in his face to show my confidence that my breath was non-alcholic.  cheesy
"Where are you coming from?"
"A party."
"Were you drinking there?"
"No sir.  I don't drink at all."
Then he did a "Watch my finger" test which apparently I passed.
"Alright then.  Slow down your driving."
"Thank you sir."
And that was it.
25212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Repeal Amendment on: December 20, 2010, 11:49:20 AM
second post of the morning:

POTH:

The same people driving the lawsuits that seek to dismantle the Obama administration’s health care overhaul have set their sights on an even bigger target: a constitutional amendment that would allow a vote of the states to overturn any act of Congress.

Under the proposed “repeal amendment,” any federal law or regulation could be repealed if the legislatures of two-thirds of the states voted to do so.
The idea has been propelled by the wave of Republican victories in the midterm elections. First promoted by Virginia lawmakers and Tea Party groups, it has the support of legislative leaders in 12 states. It also won the backing of the incoming House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor, when it was introduced this month in Congress.

Like any constitutional amendment, it faces enormous hurdles: it must be approved by both chambers of Congress — requiring them to agree, in this case, to check their own power — and then by three-quarters of, or 38, state legislatures.

Still, the idea that the health care legislation was unconstitutional was dismissed as a fringe argument just six months ago — but last week, a federal judge agreed with that argument. Now, legal scholars are handicapping which Supreme Court justices will do the same.

The repeal amendment reflects a larger, growing debate about federal power at a time when the public’s approval of Congress is at a historic low. In the last several years, many states have passed so-called sovereignty resolutions, largely symbolic, aimed at nullifying federal laws they do not agree with, mostly on health care or gun control.

Tea Party groups and candidates have pushed for a repeal of the 17th Amendment, which took the power to elect United States senators out of the hands of state legislatures. And potential presidential candidates like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin have tried to appeal to anger at Washington by talking about the importance of the 10th Amendment, which reserves for states any powers not explicitly granted to the federal government in the Constitution.

“Washington has grown far too large and has become far too intrusive, reaching into nearly every aspect of our lives,” Mr. Cantor said this month. “Massive expenditures like the stimulus, unconstitutional mandates like the takeover of health care and intrusions into the private sector like the auto bailouts have threatened the very core of the American free market. The repeal amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around.”

Randy E. Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown who helped draft the amendment, argued that it stood a better chance than others that have failed to win ratification. “This is something state legislatures have an interest in pursuing,” he said, “because it helps them fend off federal encroachment and gives them a seat at the table when Congress is proposing what to do.”

Professor Barnett, considered by many scholars to be the intellectual godfather of the argument that the health law is unconstitutional, first proposed the repeal amendment in a column published by Forbes.com in 2009.

Tea Party groups in Virginia contacted him. Virginia’s governor, attorney general and speaker of the House, all Republicans, then expressed their support. The speaker, William J. Howell, joined Professor Barnett in an op-ed article proposing the amendment in The Wall Street Journal in September.

Virginia was a particularly ripe place to start the argument. The attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, was among the first attorneys general to try to overturn the federal health care law, filing a lawsuit minutes after President Obama signed the measure last spring.

Mr. Cuccinelli argued that the federal provision establishing a health insurance mandate was against a law the legislature had recently passed decreeing that no resident could be required to have health insurance. The judge who declared the mandate unconstitutional last week was ruling in that case.

This month, Mr. Cuccinelli wrote to the attorneys general of every state for their support of the repeal amendment.

The measure was introduced in the House by Representative Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, who was a founder of the Western States Coalition, which advocates states’ rights.

Sanford V. Levinson, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas, called the proposal “a really terrible idea” because it would give the same weight to small states as it would to large ones, allowing those with a relatively small proportion of the national population to have outsize influence.

“There’s not the slightest chance it would get through Congress” or be ratified by the states, he said. “You can bet the ranch that there are enough state legislators in the large states who will not consider it a good idea to reinforce the power of small parochial rural states in which most Americans do not live.”

Even if it were approved, it would be extremely unlikely to have any practical effect, Professor Levinson said. “Any bill that can get through the byzantine, gridlocked process of being approved by two houses and the presidential signature is wildly unlikely to be opposed by two-thirds of the states,” he said.

Marianne Moran, a lawyer in Florida who runs RepealAmendment.org, said that legislative leaders in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, as well as Virginia, were backing the amendment.

“Considering we’ve had 12 states get on board in the last two or three months that we’ve been pushing this, I think we’re getting some speed,” she said. “No amendment has ever been ratified without a broad national consensus — it’s an uphill battle — but we’ve done it 27 times as a country, and I think we can get enough states to agree.”

Proponents say their effort is not directed at any one law or set of laws. “Our desire is to have it in place so we can repeal as things come up,” Ms. Moran said. “What we’re trying to do is to draw a line in the sand saying the federal government has gone too far.”
25213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: December 20, 2010, 11:08:29 AM
It seems to me that having clear statement of legal rights of privacy should be of great assistance to people looking to defend their privacy.
25214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Commerce Clause on: December 20, 2010, 11:04:55 AM
"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." --James Madison

Liberty
"
  • ne reason the Founding Fathers decided to break with England was their dismay with England's mercantilist system, which generally required colonists to purchase manufactured goods from, or through, England rather than produce them in the colonies. Hatred for this system inspired a Virginia farmer named George Washington to try to convert his colonial farm into a self-sufficient unit -- where ... he could produce and consume what he wanted without trading with others, especially those in England. The Framers, who had not forgotten English mercantilism, wrote the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to create a free-trade zone among the American states. Their aim was to facilitate freedom, not restrict it. ... [Judge Henry] Hudson, while carefully staying within the Supreme Court precedent of Wickard v. Filburn, correctly understood that the issue raised by Obamacare's individual mandate ... is freedom itself. 'The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers,' Hudson wrote in his opinion. ... And you thought liberals believed in freedom of choice?" --columnist Terence Jeffrey
25215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Apps got their eye on you , , , on: December 19, 2010, 04:06:16 PM
Good intel there GM.  Here's more:

DECEMBER 18, 2010
Your Apps Are Watching You
A WSJ Investigation finds that iPhone and Android apps are breaching the privacy of smartphone users

By SCOTT THURM and YUKARI IWATANI KANE
Few devices know more personal details about people than the smartphones in their pockets: phone numbers, current location, often the owner's real name—even a unique ID number that can never be changed or turned off.

These phones don't keep secrets. They are sharing this personal data widely and regularly, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

An examination of 101 popular smartphone "apps"—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone's unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone's location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them.

 WSJ's Julia Angwin explains to Simon Constable how smartphone apps collect and broadcast data about your habits. Many don't have privacy policies and there isn't much you can do about it.
Among the apps tested, the iPhone apps transmitted more data than the apps on phones using Google Inc.'s Android operating system. Because of the test's size, it's not known if the pattern holds among the hundreds of thousands of apps available.

Apps sharing the most information included TextPlus 4, a popular iPhone app for text messaging. It sent the phone's unique ID number to eight ad companies and the phone's zip code, along with the user's age and gender, to two of them.

Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks. iPhone and Android versions of a game called Paper Toss—players try to throw paper wads into a trash can—each sent the phone's ID number to at least five ad companies. Grindr, an iPhone app for meeting gay men, sent gender, location and phone ID to three ad companies.

"In the world of mobile, there is no anonymity," says Michael Becker of the Mobile Marketing Association, an industry trade group. A cellphone is "always with us. It's always on."

The Journal's Cellphone Testing Methodology
The Wall Street Journal analyzed 50 popular applications, or "apps," on each of the iPhone and Android operating systems to see what information about the phones, their users and their locations the apps send to themselves and to outsiders. More >

iPhone maker Apple Inc. says it reviews each app before offering it to users. Both Apple and Google say they protect users by requiring apps to obtain permission before revealing certain kinds of information, such as location.

"We have created strong privacy protections for our customers, especially regarding location-based data," says Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr. "Privacy and trust are vitally important."

The Journal found that these rules can be skirted. One iPhone app, Pumpkin Maker (a pumpkin-carving game), transmits location to an ad network without asking permission. Apple declines to comment on whether the app violated its rules.
Smartphone users are all but powerless to limit the tracking. With few exceptions, app users can't "opt out" of phone tracking, as is possible, in limited form, on regular computers. On computers it is also possible to block or delete "cookies," which are tiny tracking files. These techniques generally don't work on cellphone apps.

The makers of TextPlus 4, Pandora and Grindr say the data they pass on to outside firms isn't linked to an individual's name. Personal details such as age and gender are volunteered by users, they say. The maker of Pumpkin Maker says he didn't know Apple required apps to seek user approval before transmitting location. The maker of Paper Toss didn't respond to requests for comment.

Journal Community
Vote: Do you think apps should tell you when they collect and send information about the mobile device?

Many apps don't offer even a basic form of consumer protection: written privacy policies. Forty-five of the 101 apps didn't provide privacy policies on their websites or inside the apps at the time of testing. Neither Apple nor Google requires app privacy policies.

To expose the information being shared by smartphone apps, the Journal designed a system to intercept and record the data they transmit, then decoded the data stream. The research covered 50 iPhone apps and 50 on phones using Google's Android operating system. (Methodology at WSJ.com/WTK.)

The Journal also tested its own iPhone app; it didn't send information to outsiders. The Journal doesn't have an Android phone app.

Among all apps tested, the most widely shared detail was the unique ID number assigned to every phone. It is effectively a "supercookie," says Vishal Gurbuxani, co-founder of Mobclix Inc., an exchange for mobile advertisers.

On iPhones, this number is the "UDID," or Unique Device Identifier. Android IDs go by other names. These IDs are set by phone makers, carriers or makers of the operating system, and typically can't be blocked or deleted.

"The great thing about mobile is you can't clear a UDID like you can a cookie," says Meghan O'Holleran of Traffic Marketplace, an Internet ad network that is expanding into mobile apps. "That's how we track everything."

Ms. O'Holleran says Traffic Marketplace, a unit of Epic Media Group, monitors smartphone users whenever it can. "We watch what apps you download, how frequently you use them, how much time you spend on them, how deep into the app you go," she says. She says the data is aggregated and not linked to an individual.

More From the Series
A Web Pioneer Profiles Users by Name
Web's New Goldmine: Your Secrets
Personal Details Exposed Via Biggest Sites
Microsoft Quashed Bid to Boost Web Privacy
On Cutting Edge, Anonymity in Name Only
Stalking by Cellphone
Google Agonizes Over Privacy
On the Web, Children Face Intensive Tracking
'Scrapers' Dig Deep for Data on Web
Facebook in Privacy Breach
Insurers Test Data Profiles to Identify Risky Clients
Shunned Profiling Technology on the Verge of Comeback
Race Is On to 'Fingerprint' Phones, PCs
The Tracking Ecosystem
Follow @whattheyknow on Twitter
Complete Coverage: What They Know
The main companies setting ground rules for app data-gathering have big stakes in the ad business. The two most popular platforms for new U.S. smartphones are Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. Google and Apple also run the two biggest services, by revenue, for putting ads on mobile phones.

Apple and Google ad networks let advertisers target groups of users. Both companies say they don't track individuals based on the way they use apps.

Apple limits what can be installed on an iPhone by requiring iPhone apps to be offered exclusively through its App Store. Apple reviews those apps for function, offensiveness and other criteria.

Apple says iPhone apps "cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user's prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used." Many apps tested by the Journal appeared to violate that rule, by sending a user's location to ad networks, without informing users. Apple declines to discuss how it interprets or enforces the policy.

Phones running Google's Android operating system are made by companies including Motorola Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Google doesn't review the apps, which can be downloaded from many vendors. Google says app makers "bear the responsibility for how they handle user information."

Google requires Android apps to notify users, before they download the app, of the data sources the app intends to access. Possible sources include the phone's camera, memory, contact list, and more than 100 others. If users don't like what a particular app wants to access, they can choose not to install the app, Google says.

"Our focus is making sure that users have control over what apps they install, and notice of what information the app accesses," a Google spokesman says.

Neither Apple nor Google requires apps to ask permission to access some forms of the device ID, or to send it to outsiders. When smartphone users let an app see their location, apps generally don't disclose if they will pass the location to ad companies.

Lack of standard practices means different companies treat the same information differently. For example, Apple says that, internally, it treats the iPhone's UDID as "personally identifiable information." That's because, Apple says, it can be combined with other personal details about people—such as names or email addresses—that Apple has via the App Store or its iTunes music services. By contrast, Google and most app makers don't consider device IDs to be identifying information.

A growing industry is assembling this data into profiles of cellphone users. Mobclix, the ad exchange, matches more than 25 ad networks with some 15,000 apps seeking advertisers. The Palo Alto, Calif., company collects phone IDs, encodes them (to obscure the number), and assigns them to interest categories based on what apps people download and how much time they spend using an app, among other factors.

By tracking a phone's location, Mobclix also makes a "best guess" of where a person lives, says Mr. Gurbuxani, the Mobclix executive. Mobclix then matches that location with spending and demographic data from Nielsen Co.

In roughly a quarter-second, Mobclix can place a user in one of 150 "segments" it offers to advertisers, from "green enthusiasts" to "soccer moms." For example, "die hard gamers" are 15-to-25-year-old males with more than 20 apps on their phones who use an app for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Mobclix says its system is powerful, but that its categories are broad enough to not identify individuals. "It's about how you track people better," Mr. Gurbuxani says.

Some app makers have made changes in response to the findings. At least four app makers posted privacy policies after being contacted by the Journal, including Rovio Mobile Ltd., the Finnish company behind the popular game Angry Birds (in which birds battle egg-snatching pigs). A spokesman says Rovio had been working on the policy, and the Journal inquiry made it a good time to unveil it.

Free and paid versions of Angry Birds were tested on an iPhone. The apps sent the phone's UDID and location to the Chillingo unit of Electronic Arts Inc., which markets the games. Chillingo says it doesn't use the information for advertising and doesn't share it with outsiders.

Apps have been around for years, but burst into prominence when Apple opened its App Store in July 2008. Today, the App Store boasts more than 300,000 programs.

Other phone makers, including BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. and Nokia Corp., quickly built their own app stores. Google's Android Market, which opened later in 2008, has more than 100,000 apps. Market researcher Gartner Inc. estimates that world-wide app sales this year will total $6.7 billion.

Many developers offer apps for free, hoping to profit by selling ads inside the app. Noah Elkin of market researcher eMarketer says some people "are willing to tolerate advertising in apps to get something for free." Of the 101 apps tested, the paid apps generally sent less data to outsiders.

Ad sales on phones account for less than 5% of the $23 billion in annual Internet advertising. But spending on mobile ads is growing faster than the market overall.

Central to this growth: the ad networks whose business is connecting advertisers with apps. Many ad networks offer software "kits" that automatically insert ads into an app. The kits also track where users spend time inside the app.

Some developers feel pressure to release more data about people. Max Binshtok, creator of the DailyHoroscope Android app, says ad-network executives encouraged him to transmit users' locations.

Mr. Binshtok says he declined because of privacy concerns. But ads targeted by location bring in two to five times as much money as untargeted ads, Mr. Binshtok says. "We are losing a lot of revenue."

Other apps transmitted more data. The Android app for social-network site MySpace sent age and gender, along with a device ID, to Millennial Media, a big ad network.

In its software-kit instructions, Millennial Media lists 11 types of information about people that developers may transmit to "help Millennial provide more relevant ads." They include age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views. In a re-test with a more complete profile, MySpace also sent a user's income, ethnicity and parental status.

A spokesman says MySpace discloses in its privacy policy that it will share details from user profiles to help advertisers provide "more relevant ads." My Space is a unit of News Corp., which publishes the Journal. Millennial did not respond to requests for comment on its software kit.

App makers transmitting data say it is anonymous to the outside firms that receive it. "There is no real-life I.D. here," says Joel Simkhai, CEO of Nearby Buddy Finder LLC, the maker of the Grindr app for gay men. "Because we are not tying [the information] to a name, I don't see an area of concern."

Scott Lahman, CEO of TextPlus 4 developer Gogii Inc., says his company "is dedicated to the privacy of our users. We do not share personally identifiable information or message content." A Pandora spokeswoman says, "We use listener data in accordance with our privacy policy," which discusses the app's data use, to deliver relevant advertising. When a user registers for the first time, the app asks for email address, gender, birth year and ZIP code.

Google was the biggest data recipient in the tests. Its AdMob, AdSense, Analytics and DoubleClick units collectively heard from 38 of the 101 apps. Google, whose ad units operate on both iPhones and Android phones, says it doesn't mix data received by these units.

Google's main mobile-ad network is AdMob, which it bought this year for $750 million. AdMob lets advertisers target phone users by location, type of device and "demographic data," including gender or age group.

A Google spokesman says AdMob targets ads based on what it knows about the types of people who use an app, phone location, and profile information a user has submitted to the app. "No profile of the user, their device, where they've been or what apps they've downloaded, is created or stored," he says.

Apple operates its iAd network only on the iPhone. Eighteen of the 51 iPhone apps sent information to Apple.

Apple targets ads to phone users based largely on what it knows about them through its App Store and iTunes music service. The targeting criteria can include the types of songs, videos and apps a person downloads, according to an Apple ad presentation reviewed by the Journal. The presentation named 103 targeting categories, including: karaoke, Christian/gospel music, anime, business news, health apps, games and horror movies.

People familiar with iAd say Apple doesn't track what users do inside apps and offers advertisers broad categories of people, not specific individuals.

Apple has signaled that it has ideas for targeting people more closely. In a patent application filed this past May, Apple outlined a system for placing and pricing ads based on a person's "web history or search history" and "the contents of a media library." For example, home-improvement advertisers might pay more to reach a person who downloaded do-it-yourself TV shows, the document says.

The patent application also lists another possible way to target people with ads: the contents of a friend's media library.

How would Apple learn who a cellphone user's friends are, and what kinds of media they prefer? The patent says Apple could tap "known connections on one or more social-networking websites" or "publicly available information or private databases describing purchasing decisions, brand preferences," and other data. In September, Apple introduced a social-networking service within iTunes, called Ping, that lets users share music preferences with friends. Apple declined to comment.

Tech companies file patents on blue-sky concepts all the time, and it isn't clear whether Apple will follow through on these ideas. If it did, it would be an evolution for Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who has spoken out against intrusive tracking. At a tech conference in June, he complained about apps "that want to take a lot of your personal data and suck it up."

—Tom McGinty and Jennifer Valentino-DeVries contributed to this report.
25216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 19, 2010, 03:57:54 PM
GM:

Well that certainly makes for a pithy rejoinder to the POTH claptrap!
25217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pravda on the Hudson: Justice Scalia and the Tea Party-- oy vey! on: December 19, 2010, 12:03:03 PM


Justice Scalia and the Tea Party
Published: December 18, 2010
When the Tea Party holds its first Conservative Constitutional Seminar next month, Justice Antonin Scalia is set to be the speaker. It was a bad idea for him to accept this invitation. He should send his regrets.

Related
Times Topic: Antonin Scalia
The Tea Party epitomizes the kind of organization no justice should speak to — left, right or center — in the kind of seminar that has been described in the press. It has a well-known and extreme point of view about the Constitution and about cases and issues that will be decided by the Supreme Court.

By meeting behind closed doors, as is planned, and by presiding over a seminar, implying give and take, the justice would give the impression that he was joining the throng — confirming his new moniker as the “Justice from the Tea Party.” The ideological nature of the group and the seminar would eclipse the justice’s independence and leave him looking rash and biased.

There is nothing like the Tea Party on the left, but if there were and one of the more liberal justices accepted a similar invitation from it, that would be just as bad. This is not about who appointed the justice or which way the justice votes. Independence and the perception of being independent are essential for every justice.

Justice Scalia has been particularly assertive that the American public should trust his ability to handle ethical questions. Incidents like this seminar emphasize that it is in the interest of the Supreme Court to provide him and every justice with more specific guidance. The court remains the only federal court not covered by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. The court and the country would be better off if the justices were responsible to the code. Even without a duty to the code, each justice has a duty to its principles. Each has a duty to promote the judiciary’s impartiality. That means avoiding any activity that could raise reasonable doubts about his or her ability to decide cases fairly.

By presiding over this seminar, Justice Scalia would provide strong reasons to doubt his impartiality when he ruled later on any topic discussed there. He can best convey his commitment to the importance of his independence, and the court’s, by deciding it would be best not to attend.
25218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Emasculation of Men In Contempory Society on: December 19, 2010, 11:54:39 AM
Wrestler Sees Legal Move; Prosecutor Sees Assault
By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: December 18, 2010

CLOVIS, Calif. — At 17 years old, Preston Hill is known around the Fresno area as an accomplished wrestler, a leader of his high school team, the Buchanan Bears, and a potential candidate for a college scholarship in the sport he loves.

(Preston Hill, 17, with his mother, Kirsten, and wrestling medals he has won since the fourth grade. He now faces sexual battery charges over a move he used on a teammate in practice.)

But over the past several months, Preston has been battling another opponent, the Fresno County district attorney, who has charged him with a bizarre crime: using a wrestling move to sexually assault a teammate.

According to a police report, during a July practice Preston used a maneuver informally known as a “butt drag” — which involves grabbing the haunch of an opponent to gain leverage — to roughly and intimately assault a smaller, younger wrestler on his team in retaliation for a supposed affront.

Preston has denied attacking the younger boy, who is 14, telling the investigating officer that he was merely executing a common maneuver that “everyone does,” in order to “to motivate people who don’t move on the mats.”

“Hill replied that this was a wrestling move,” according to the police report.

The case, which is expected to go to trial next month, shocked students and parents alike in this Fresno suburb, and brought accusations of both lax supervision by coaches and overzealousness by prosecutors. It has also cast an unwelcome pall on high school wrestling, and again raised questions about bullying in schools, particularly in the often macho arena of sports.

Mike Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, a nonprofit group, said he had been fielding questions about the case, which was first reported by The Fresno Bee. In addition to explaining what a “butt drag” is, he said, he has also been trying to reassure people that the behavior that allegedly happened on the mat is not a regular occurrence.

“There is no sport that is more closely refereed; it would be harder to get away with something in wrestling than any other sport,” he said. “But unfortunately, in contact sports, cheap shots and illegal techniques happen all the time.”

The police in Clovis, a middle-class enclave where wrestling is a proud tradition, say the case began over the summer. The 14-year-old accuser, who has not been identified, told the police that he had been “bullied by several students,” including Preston Hill, who, the younger boy said, had made a habit of taking his drinking water during practice.

On July 15, however, according to the younger boy’s account, he refused to hand his water over, prompting threats from Preston, including menacing gestures. The police report states that at a practice that evening, Preston purposefully stood near the younger boy during a wrestling exercise and, when the coach whistled for wrestling to begin, threw the younger boy down, pinned him to the mat and performed an invasive “butt drag” maneuver.

If convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery, Preston could face six months in county jail. He has been suspended from Buchanan High School, a handsome suburban school that won the state wrestling team championship in 2006. The school district declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing student confidentiality laws.

This month, a Fresno County judge delayed the trial to allow the district attorney time to gather more evidence, and ordered both sides in the case not to talk about it. But a person close to the Hill family, who requested anonymity because of the order, said there seemed to be a number of inconsistencies in the accuser’s account and a lack of witnesses, a detail borne out by the police report.

The Bee reported that the Fresno County district attorney had considered dropping the case, until prosecutors found a witness to the threat alleged to have been made by Preston. The district attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

But the Hill family representative said Preston, who had hoped to gain a wrestling scholarship, refused to take a deal from the district attorney because he says he did not do anything wrong.

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

Page 2 of 2)



The 14-year-old accuser’s father, Ross Rice, said it would have been easier not to press charges. “But that’s the wrong attitude,” he said. “That’s when you can end up with a Columbine situation.”

Mr. Rice said that he had nothing against wrestling — he competed in the sport in high school — but that “there needs to be some serious clarity by coaches and the national wresting community on moves that are close to that part of the body.”

Wrestling coaches say that while grabbing the backs of the legs and buttocks during a match could lead to accidental groping, there is no legitimate reason for a wrestler to get as invasive as Preston is accused of being.

“There’s absolutely no advantage in doing that,” said Dennis DeLiddo, a former coach at nearby Fresno State University. “And we don’t want guys like that in the sport anyway, if they’re probing.”

Several classmates of Preston’s at Buchanan High School said the accusation seemed out of character.

“Everyone knows him for being Preston Hill, the wrestler,” said James Munro, a 16-year-old junior. “No one has any problems with him.”

Katy Tudor, a friend of Preston’s and a wrestler, was more blunt. “You have to expect that things are going to happen that you don’t like; you’re going to get hurt,” she said. “If you don’t like it, go play basketball.”

One recent Friday evening, the wrestling season seemed in full swing, with a tournament at a rival high school, Clovis West. Inside the gym, six mats of matches were going on at once, with a constant tweeting of referee’s whistles and a steady array of headlocks, half nelsons and takedowns.

On the Buchanan bench, Coach Tyrell Blanche was animated, rubbing wrestlers’ shoulders and cheering them on. But he has declined to comment on the case, though he may be called to testify at trial. Preston’s defense lawyer, Stephen Quade, told The Bee that he would call several witnesses when court convenes on Jan. 13.

Among those watching the tournament was Mr. DeLiddo, who said the incident had cast his sport in a bad light. “I don’t know the motive behind this, but I’m here to defend the sport,” he said. “That sort of thing has got nothing to do with wrestling.”
25219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paul Revere's Ride on: December 19, 2010, 11:48:34 AM
NY Times

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW published his best-known poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” 150 years ago tomorrow — the same day that South Carolina seceded from the United States.

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear/ Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” Before Longfellow published those lines, Revere was never known for his ride, and Longfellow got almost every detail of what happened in 1775 wrong. But Longfellow didn’t care: he was writing as much about the coming war as about the one that had come before. “Paul Revere’s Ride” is less a poem about the Revolutionary War than about the impending Civil War — and about the conflict over slavery that caused it. That meaning, though, has been almost entirely forgotten.

Longfellow, a passionately private man, was, just as passionately and privately, an abolitionist. His best friend was Charles Sumner, for whom he wrote, in 1842, a slim volume called “Poems on Slavery.” Sumner, a brash and aggressive politician, delivered stirring speeches attacking slave owners; Longfellow, a gentler soul, wrote verses mourning the plight of slaves, poems “so mild,” he wrote, “that even a slaveholder might read them without losing his appetite for breakfast.”

Still, publishing those poems cost Longfellow something: a piece of his privacy, with pressure from fellow abolitionists to enter politics. “I should be found but a weak and unworthy champion in public debate,” he demurred. Asked to write once more about slavery, he refused: “I think no one who cares about the matter will be at any loss to discover my opinion on that subject.”

Yet Longfellow’s abolitionist zeal didn’t abate. He secretly spent money he earned from his best-selling poems, like “The Song of Hiawatha,” to buy slaves their freedom. In 1856, when Sumner gave his famous “Crime Against Kansas” speech in the Senate, Longfellow congratulated him: “At last the spirit of the North is aroused.” That speech nearly cost Sumner his life — it so incensed a South Carolina representative, Preston Brooks, that he beat Sumner with a cane on the Senate floor.

The next year, Longfellow wrote to Sumner calling the Dred Scott decision heart-breaking, and wishing he could find a way to write about it: “I long to say some vibrant word, that should have vitality in it, and force. Be sure if it comes to me I will not be slow in uttering it.” On Dec. 2, 1859, the day John Brown was hanged, Longfellow wrote in his diary, “This will be a great day in our history, the date of a new Revolution quite as much needed as the old one.”

Pondering that new Revolution, Longfellow got to thinking about the old one. In April 1860, he began writing “Paul Revere’s Ride.” While he worked on the poem, he worried about the fate of the nation. Around the same time he went to see Frederick Douglass speak and read Sumner’s latest speech, which predicted that “the sacred animosity between Freedom and Slavery can end only with the triumph of Freedom.” In November, weeks after finishing “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Longfellow rejoiced in his diary that Lincoln had won the presidency; echoing Sumner, he wrote: “Freedom is triumphant.”

“Paul Revere’s Ride” was published in the January 1861 issue of The Atlantic, which appeared on newsstands on Dec. 20. It was read as a rallying cry for the Union. It is a poem about waking the sleeping, and waking the dead: “Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,/ In their night encampment on the hill.” The dead are Northerners, awakened, at last aroused. But the dead are also the enslaved, entombed in slavery — an image that was, at the time, a common conceit: Douglass called his escape “a resurrection from the dark and pestiferous tomb of slavery.”

Much of the poem echoes stanzas in Longfellow’s earlier abolitionist verses, including “The Witnesses”:

These are the bones of Slaves;

They gleam from the abyss;

They cry, from yawning waves,

‘We are the Witnesses!’

Thanks to poems like “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Longfellow was once the country’s most respected and beloved poet. But, beginning with the rise of New Criticism in the early 20th century, literary scholars have dismissed his poetry as cloying, drippy and even childish. Generations of schoolchildren have memorized “Paul Revere’s Ride”; critics have barely read it.

Yet neglecting Longfellow, taking the politics out of Longfellow, thinking of Longfellow as childish, have both occluded the poem’s meaning and made it exceptionally serviceable as a piece of political propaganda. It is, after all, a rousing call to action:

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoofbeats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

With the history of the poem forgotten, this became all-purpose stuff. “We still need some Paul Revere of conscience to alert every hamlet and every village of America that revolution is still at hand,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967. In 1971, the Vietnam Veterans against the War marched Revere’s ride in reverse; four years later, Gerald Ford quoted Longfellow to call for renewed pride in America.

This year George Pataki came to Boston to unveil an organization called “Revere America”: “We’re here today to tell the people of America,” he declared, “that once again our freedom is in danger” ... from health care.

A century and a half ago, there was quite a bit more at stake. “The dissolution of the Union goes slowly on,” Longfellow wrote in his diary in January 1861. “Behind it all I hear the low murmur of the slaves, like the chorus in a Greek tragedy.” They cry, from the abyss.


Jill Lepore is a professor of history at Harvard and the author, most recently, of “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History.”


25220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Rest in Peace R.I.P. RIP on: December 18, 2010, 07:39:49 PM
Captain Beefheart at 69 years of age of MS.  cry
25221  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Skiing meets paragliding on: December 18, 2010, 07:37:57 PM
http://vimeo.com/17909042
25222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISI drops dime on CIA station chief on: December 17, 2010, 10:53:27 PM

Reporting from Washington and Islamabad, Pakistan —

The CIA station chief in Pakistan has been called home, a U.S. official said, after a lawyer for a local journalist publicly revealed the officer's name and said he should be held accountable for the deaths of the client's relatives in a U.S. drone strike.

The development is likely to worsen the mistrust roiling Washington's fragile alliance with Islamabad, which is central to its military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan and the struggle against Islamic militants.



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Pakistani journalist Karim Khan filed a police complaint Monday alleging that his brother and son were killed when a missile fired from a CIA drone hit their home in North Waziristan in December 2009. The complaint and a separate notice to the U.S. Embassy of his intent to sue identified a person they claimed was the CIA station chief in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

Khan said his two relatives were teachers and that they did not have any connection to Islamic militants, who are the targets of covert U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. His lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, said Friday that he obtained the CIA officer's name from two Pakistani newspaper reporters, and included it in the lawsuit because he believed the man should be punished for civilian deaths caused by the drone strikes.

"He should be arrested and executed in this country," Khan said outside an Islamabad police station, according to news reports.

Although Akbar refused to identify the reporters, suspicions about the source of the information fell on Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI. The ISI historically has maintained strong ties with certain Pakistani journalists, who have published information aimed at bolstering the agency's interests.

Pakistani intelligence sources denied involvement.

The agency's relationship with the U.S. has been rocky in recent years. It cooperates with Washington by providing intelligence that helps the CIA target Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. But the U.S. suspects elements in the ISI of providing support to Afghan Taliban militants and commanders who attack U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

New U.S. intelligence reports say Pakistan has proved unwilling to stop its clandestine support of militants who mount attacks from the tribal areas. And according to military and State Department documents disclosed this year by the WikiLeaks website, U.S. intelligence suggests that elements of the ISI are continuing to arm, train and fund militants.

The CIA station chief's departure "is understandable, because once his name is out, his utility is over," said a Pakistani intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The officer, whose name remains classified, is returning to the U.S. because "terrorist threats against him in Pakistan were of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act," said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

CIA spokesman George Little declined to address the matter directly, but said, "Our station chiefs routinely encounter major risk as they work to keep America safe … their security is obviously a top priority for the CIA, especially when there's an imminent threat."

Khan says his son and brother were killed by a drone strike in North Waziristan on Dec. 31. The number of drone strikes in North Waziristan has risen steeply in the last year as the U.S. targets refuges of the Haqqani network, a wing of the Afghan Taliban regarded as one of the biggest threats against American and allied forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on a surprise visit Friday to Kabul, the Afghan capital, that U.S. officials had begun to speak bluntly to Pakistani officials, including army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, about the need to attack militants in areas such as North Waziristan.

"To make the kind of progress we need to make in Afghanistan, progress in Pakistan is critical," Mullen said.

Akbar and Khan held a news conference in Islamabad on Nov. 29. Front-page articles in Pakistani newspapers and television newscasts publicized the CIA officer's name the next day. When Khan and other protesters marched to the parliament building Dec. 9 and held a sit-in against U.S. drone strikes, several demonstrators held up posters with the officer's name printed in large black letters.

One Pakistani newspaper claimed the agent entered the country on a business visa without diplomatic immunity. CIA officers sometimes pose as diplomats, in which case they usually cannot be prosecuted. In other cases they operate under "nonofficial cover," which exposes them to foreign legal action.

Though U.S. officials sometimes speak privately about the drone program in general, they tend not to discuss individual strikes. U.S. officials have acknowledged noncombatant deaths through drone strikes but say they are extremely rare.

Other groups challenge the U.S. count and say that as many as a third of the people killed in the strikes are not militants.

The government of Pakistan cooperates with the strikes, even though it sometimes denounces them to the public.

It has been a record year for drone strikes in Pakistan, with 113 so far, up from 53 last year and 34 in 2008, according to the New America Foundation. On Friday, U.S. missiles struck compounds in Pakistan's Khyber district, killing 54 alleged militants, according to news reports citing Pakistani officials.

The CIA post of Pakistan station chief is a crucial one because that station is the epicenter of the spy agency's program to attack militants with missiles fired from unmanned aerial drones. John D. Bennett, who in July was named to head the National Clandestine Service, the CIA's operations arm, had previously served as Islamabad station chief.

The outing of a station chief is rare but not without precedent.

Last year, an Italian prosecutor won convictions in absentia of 23 Americans, all but one allegedly CIA officers, in connection with the "extraordinary rendition" of an Egyptian cleric from Milan to Egypt in 2003. The cleric says he was tortured by the Egyptians. Among those convicted were former Rome station chief Jeffrey Castelli and former Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, whose names became public as a result of the court case.

ken.dilanian@latimes.com

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

25223  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rest in Peace on: December 17, 2010, 06:23:57 PM
GM, GM:  Lets take it to Homeland Security, US-Mexico, or the Immigration threads please.

Grayson:  I had not heard about GM Presas.  Thank you for the sad news.
25224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Japanese TSA on: December 17, 2010, 06:14:07 PM

http://fromtheold.com/news/entertainment/japanese-version-tsa-20798

25225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: India-China on: December 17, 2010, 12:46:11 AM
China and India: Dragon vs. Elephant

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, a massive diplomatic entourage and a business delegation representing 100 firms arrived in India on Wednesday for a three-day visit. Wen began the visit by addressing concerns over the growing Sino-Indian rivalry, proclaiming that there need be no essential conflict between the Dragon and the Elephant and that Asia has room enough for both of them. After meeting with Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, Wen will travel to Pakistan, a staunch Chinese ally and Indian arch-foe, to emphasize where his deepest commitments lie.

Wen’s visit comes at a time of revived mutual suspicion. Two major incidents in particular have aggravated sore spots in the relationship. Riots in Lhasa, Tibet, in 2008 caused Beijing to worry more about breakaway tendencies in its far western province, whose exiled government is supported by New Delhi. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s continued support of various militant proxies has put the Sino-Pakistani alliance into renewed focus for New Delhi, especially in light of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

But alongside these signal events, Beijing’s growing economic clout has led it to expand infrastructure and military installations across its western regions in an attempt to bolster its territorial claims and secure its far-flung provinces from separatist or militant influences. India has bulked up its border infrastructure and security in response. And, perhaps most novel, Beijing’s growing dependency on overseas oil and raw materials has driven it to seek land and sea pathways to the Indian Ocean through closer relations with South Asian states generally and port agreements with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, leading India to worry it will be encircled and someday threatened by China’s navy.

Economic growth is one of the primary reasons world powers have courted India this year, with U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy already having visited. Wen’s trip is no different, and already the two sides claim to have signed nearly 50 deals worth an estimated $16 billion if actualized. But deepening economic relations have not eased tensions, especially given the growing Indian trade deficit with China (from a surplus of $832 million in 2005 to a deficit of nearly $16 billion in 2009), which Wen acknowledged on the first day of his visit needed to be improved while simultaneously asking for greater market access for Chinese exporters.

“Beijing has its mind set on gaining control of land and sea routes to the Indian Ocean and needs internal mobility in its far west to prevent separatism and fortify its borders, and these policies are driving tensions with India higher.”
While India is keen on displaying its relationship with China as far more cooperative than confrontational, a serious self-critique is developing within New Delhi over its slow reaction to Chinese moves in the Indian periphery. China’s presence may be much more visible now in places like Kashmir, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but that presence was built up methodically over several years. India, with no shortage of issues to keep itself occupied at home, is now finding that it is years behind China in countries that New Delhi would like to believe sit firmly within its sphere of influence.

In the past. India could rely on its influence in Tibet to send a warning to China. In fact, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna aired this threat in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in November when he said that just as India has been sensitive to Chinese concerns over Tibet and Taiwan, Beijing too should be mindful of Indian sensitivities on Jammu and Kashmir. The problem India has now is that this warning simply does not carry as much weight as it did. China has made considerable progress in building up the necessary political, economic and military linkages into Tibet to deny the Indians opportunities to needle Beijing in critical buffer territory. Moreover, India has not been able to invest the necessary time and effort into strengthening competitive relationships in more distant places like Southeast Asia and Taiwan — and has only begun with Japan — that would deeply unsettle Beijing. In fact, a discussion is taking place within some military circles in India over how China may be deliberately playing up issues on its land borders in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh to divert India’s attention northward while China pursues its objectives in the Indian Ocean basin, something that STRATFOR alluded to when the stapled visa issue flared up in the summer.

Yet India is not alone in its alarm. The world is increasingly looking at China not only as a source of growth, but as an independent-minded and potentially unpredictable variable in the international system. Beijing’s increasing boldness has become one of the chief talking points in foreign policy circles, extending beyond international hard bargaining over resources and into China’s conduct around its entire periphery and in international organizations. When India openly worries about China’s intentions in exercising its newly found strengths, it is joined by the likes of Japan, South Korea, Australia, a number of China’s Southeast Asian neighbors and, most important, the United States.

The problem for Beijing is that it is ultimately outnumbered, and overpowered, but its attempts to prepare against threats make it appear more threatening. Beijing sees the international coalition forming against it, and in particular fears U.S. attention will soon come to rest squarely on it and that a strategic relationship with India is part of American designs. Hence, Wen has reason to play nice with India, if only to make China appear a more benign player and not hasten India’s moves to counteract it. Nevertheless, Beijing has its mind set on gaining control of land and sea routes to the Indian Ocean and needs internal mobility in its far west to prevent separatism and fortify its borders, and these policies are driving the tensions with India higher. Thus, while India senses Chinese encirclement in South Asia, Beijing senses American encirclement, of which India is only one part. Even with modern technology, the Himalayas remain a gigantic divider. But these two states have fought a border war in the Himalayas before, so the risks are real. Regardless of growing economic cooperation, both sense a growing security threat from the other that cannot be easily allayed.

25226  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rest in Peace on: December 17, 2010, 12:06:53 AM
JDN:

Forgive me, but the point is NOT "most illegals/most immigrants".  The point that when we do not control our border SOME illegals will be doing what we saw here and responsibility for that DOES fall on those who are not defending our borders.  IMHO first and therefore foremost, that would include our current Commander in Chief.
25227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Two Californias on: December 16, 2010, 08:30:39 PM
Unfgbelievable , , ,

And here's more:

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/255320/two-californias-victor-davis-hanson

25228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Asia & Africa on: December 16, 2010, 08:10:39 PM
That may or may not turn out to be the case.  Either way she sounds like an outstanding human being.
25229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: BO Administration calls for Privacy Policy Office & Privacy Bill of Rights on: December 16, 2010, 11:42:20 AM



By JULIA ANGWIN
The Obama administration called Thursday for the creation of a Privacy Policy Office that would help develop an Internet "privacy bill of rights" for U.S citizens and coordinate privacy issues globally.

The U.S. Commerce Department's report stopped short of calling directly for specific privacy legislation. Instead, it recommends a "framework" to protect people from a burgeoning personal data-gathering industry and fragmented U.S. privacy laws that cover certain types of data but not others.

The report marks a turning point for federal Internet policy. During the past 15 years of the commercial Internet, Congress and executive branch agencies have largely taken a hands off approach to the Internet out of a concern that a heavy government hand would stifle innovation.

More
Complete Coverage: What They Know
.The report cites comments from some major technology companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., expressing concerns about the current patchwork of rules and guidelines governing online privacy.

The 88-page Commerce Department report states that the use of personal information has increased so much that privacy laws may now be needed to restore consumer trust in the medium.

The report is preliminary and will be completed next year. At that time, the administration is expected to make more specific legislative recommendations.

The report rejects the current state of Internet privacy notices. It says people shouldn't be expected to read and understand the legal jargon contained in privacy policies "that nobody understands, if they say anything about privacy at all."

A better approach, the report suggests, might be for companies to conduct privacy impact assessments that would be available to the public. Such reports "could create consumer awareness of privacy risks in a new technological context," the report said.

The Commerce report says people should be notified when data about them is being used in a way that is different than the reason for which it was collected. "Consumers need to know that when their data are re-used, the re-use will not cause them harm or unwarranted surprise," the report says.

It calls for a Privacy Policy Office that would "serve as a center of commercial data privacy policy expertise." The agency wouldn't oversee government use of data or existing health and financial privacy laws. Instead, it would aim to help the personal data-gathering industry develop codes of conduct that could be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

The report also calls for the development of a national data breach law that would make it easier for companies to navigate the current patchwork of state data breach laws.

It also calls for strengthening the existing wiretapping law—written in 1986—to protect more types of data from government surveillance.

Write to Julia Angwin at julia.angwin@wsj.com



Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703395204576023521659672058.html#ixzz18IVnjUbO
25230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Copper Bullets? on: December 16, 2010, 11:14:20 AM
Get the Lead Out of HuntingBy ANTHONY PRIETO
Published: December 15, 2010
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I’VE hunted elk, deer and wild pigs in the American West for 25 years. Like many hunters, I follow several rules: Respect other forms of life, take only what my family can eat and the ecosystem can sustain, and leave as little impact on the environment as possible.

That’s why I hunt with copper bullets instead of lead. We’ve long known about the collateral damage caused by lead ammunition. When bald and golden eagles, vultures, bears, endangered California condors and other scavengers eat the innards, called gutpiles, that hunters leave in the field after cleaning their catch or the game that hunters wound but don’t capture, they can ingest poisonous lead fragments. Most sicken, and many die.

When I began hunting, I buried the lead-laden gutpiles. It would help if more hunters did this, but it’s not enough. Scavengers often dig gutpiles up anyway. And the meat that hunters take home to their families could be tainted. I’ve seen X-rays of shot game showing dust-sized lead particles spread throughout the meat, far away from the bullet hole. The best solution is to stop using lead ammunition altogether.

So last summer conservationists — along with the organization I run — formally petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead bullets and shot nationwide (there are limited bans for some hunting areas and game). The E.P.A. rejected the petition, and we’ve since filed a lawsuit to get the agency to address the problem.

Unfortunately, there is vocal opposition to any ammunition regulation from groups like the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which see the campaign as an attack on hunting rights, and fear that the cost of non-lead ammunition would drive hunters away from the sport.

But this campaign has nothing to do with revoking hunting rights; if it did, I would not be involved. It’s an issue of using non-toxic materials. Was the removal of lead paint from children’s toys a plot to do away with toys? Did the switch to unleaded gas hide an ulterior motive of removing vehicles from our roads?

And although copper bullets can be more expensive than lead ones, the cost of ammunition is a small fraction of what I spend on hunting, which includes gear, optics, food, gas and licenses. No one will quit hunting over spending a few more quarters per bullet. Besides, the more hunters switch to copper, the faster prices will come down. Back in the ’90s, before pre-loaded copper cartridges could be bought over the counter, I had to hand-load my copper bullets. But already it’s easy to find them in many calibers, including those for my Browning .270 and my Winchester .300.

The dozen friends I hunt with love shooting non-lead bullets, and it’s not just because they’re doing something good for the environment. The ballistics are better. I’ve killed more than 80 pigs and 40 deer shooting copper. These bullets travel up to 3,200 feet per second and have about a 98 percent weight retention — meaning they don’t fragment as easily as lead. Copper kills cleanly. It can help keep our hunting grounds clean as well.


Anthony Prieto is the founder of Project Gutpile, a hunting group that advocates lead-free ammunition.


25231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH columnist on Dr. Hawa Abdi on: December 16, 2010, 11:02:02 AM
Heroic, Female and MuslimBy NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: December 15, 2010
 
 What’s the ugliest side of Islam? Maybe it’s the Somali Muslim militias that engage in atrocities like the execution of a 13-year-old girl named Aisha Ibrahim. Three men raped Aisha, and when she reported the crime she was charged with illicit sex, half-buried in the ground before a crowd of 1,000 and then stoned to death.

Nicholas D. Kristof

Dr. Hawa Abdi runs a hospital in Somalia and stands up to extremists there.

That’s the extremist side of Islam that drives Islamophobia in the United States, including Congressional hearings on American Muslims that House Republicans are planning for next year.

But there’s another side of Islam as well, represented by an extraordinary Somali Muslim woman named Dr. Hawa Abdi who has confronted the armed militias. Amazingly, she forced them to back down — and even submit a written apology. Glamour magazine, which named Dr. Hawa a “woman of the year,” got it exactly right when it called her “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.”

Dr. Hawa, a 63-year-old ob-gyn who earned a law degree on the side, is visiting the United States to raise money for her health work back home. A member of Somalia’s elite, she founded a one-room clinic in 1983, but then the Somalian government collapsed, famine struck, and aid groups fled. So today Dr. Hawa is running a 400-bed hospital.

Over the years, the hospital became the core of something even grander. Thousands and thousands of people displaced by civil war came to shelter on Dr. Hawa’s 1,300 acres of farmland around the hospital. Today her home and hospital have been overtaken by a vast camp that she says numbers about 90,000 displaced people.

Dr. Hawa supplies these 90,000 people with drinking water and struggles to find ways to feed them. She worries that handouts breed dependency (and in any case, United Nations agencies can’t safely reach her now to distribute food), so she is training formerly nomadic herding families to farm and even to fish in the sea.

She’s also pushing education. An American freelance journalist, Eliza Griswold, visited Dr. Hawa’s encampment in 2007 and 2008 and was stunned that an unarmed woman had managed to create a secure, functioning oasis surrounded by a chaotic land of hunger and warlords. Ms. Griswold helped Dr. Hawa start a school for 850 children, mostly girls. It’s only a tiny fraction of the children in the camp, but it’s a start. (Ms. Griswold also wrote movingly about Dr. Hawa in her book “The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam.”)

In addition, Dr. Hawa runs literacy and health classes for women, as well as programs to discourage female genital mutilation. And she operates a tiny jail — for men who beat their wives.

“We are trying an experiment,” she told me. “We women in Somalia are trying to be leaders in our community.”

So Dr. Hawa had her hands full already — and then in May a hard-line militia, Hizb al-Islam, or Party of Islam, decided that a woman shouldn’t run anything substantial. The militia ordered her to hand over operations, and she refused — and pointedly added: “I may be a woman, but I’m a doctor. What have you done for society?”

The Party of Islam then attacked with 750 soldiers and seized the hospital. The world’s Somalis reacted with outrage, and the militia backed down and ordered Dr. Hawa to run the hospital, but under its direction.

She refused. For a week there were daily negotiations, but Dr. Hawa refused to budge. She demanded that the militia not only withdraw entirely but also submit a written apology.

“I was begging her, ‘Just give in,’ ” recalled Deqo Mohamed, her daughter, a doctor in Atlanta who spoke regularly to her mother by telephone. “She was saying, ‘No! I will die with dignity.’ ”

It didn’t come to that. The Party of Islam tired of being denounced by Somalis at home and around the world, so it slinked off and handed over an apology — but also left behind a wrecked hospital. The operating theater still isn’t functional, and that’s why Dr. Hawa is here, appealing for money (especially from ethnic Somalis). She has worked out an arrangement with Vital Voices, a group that helps to empower female leaders, to channel tax-deductible contributions to her hospital.

What a woman! And what a Muslim! It’s because of people like her that sweeping denunciations of Islam, or the “Muslim hearings” planned in Congress, rile me — and seem profoundly misguided.

The greatest religious battles are often not between faiths, but within faiths. The widest gulfs are often not those that divide one religion from the next, but those between extremists and progressives within a single faith. And in this religious season, there’s something that we can all learn from the courage, compassion and tolerance of Dr. Hawa Abdi.

25232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What say we to this POTH editorial? on: December 16, 2010, 10:58:39 AM
As the body count in the Mexican drug wars mounts beyond 30,000, federal authorities have tracked more than 60,000 guns in the past four years back across the border to American dealers. Congress, enthralled with the gun lobby, has done nothing about a legal loophole increasingly at the heart of the carnage — the dealers’ freedom to make multiple sales of AK-47s and other battlefield assault rifles without having to report to federal authorities, as the law requires for handgun sales.

No wonder one dealer felt free to sell 14 AK-47s to one trafficker in a single day.

The gun lobby previously convinced an obeisant Congress that “long guns” like military rifles and shotguns were not favored by criminals and deserved a pass at dealers supposedly catering to sportsmen. But the drug war toll is proving otherwise, with use of high- power long guns more than doubling in the past five years as cartel gunmen turn to the rat-a-tat annihilators easily obtainable across the border.

A big reason for that preference is the failure to require reports on multiple rifle sales, according to a new inspector general’s report at the Justice Department. In Texas, the traffic is white hot. Eight of the top 12 dealers in Mexican crime guns are nestled profitably near the border, according to The Washington Post, which spent a year penetrating some of the data secrecy that Congress has enacted to protect the gun industry.

With a more Republican Congress in the wings and Democratic lawmakers openly fearful of the gun lobby’s political clout, there is no expectation of courageous legislating to close the loophole. But executive order is another possibility. It has enough traction lately among Justice Department officials to prompt a “grass-roots alert” by the National Rifle Association to its four million members, according to The Post.

It is hard to believe that most ordinary N.R.A. members would not agree something must be done about the cross-border sale of war weapons that underpins the drug scourge. If it takes an executive order to cut the carnage, President Obama should not hesitate.

25233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Here come the Chinese into US Wind on: December 16, 2010, 10:56:01 AM


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/16/business/global/16wind.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a25
25234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH progress around Kandahar on: December 16, 2010, 10:51:28 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan — As the Obama administration reviews its strategy in Afghanistan, residents and even a Taliban commander say the surge of American troops this year has begun to set back the Taliban in parts of their southern heartland and to turn people against the insurgency — at least for now.

Mixed Picture on Taliban as Pentagon Reviews War
On Thursday, the Pentagon will release a year-end review of the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan.

While the review seems certain to emphasize progress that has been made around the important southern city of Kandahar, security in other critical areas of the country continues to deteriorate.

The uneven picture in Afghanistan is raising questions about whether the United States military is gambling too heavily on a strategy aimed at breaking the back of the Taliban in their southern stronghold, at the expense of securing the country over all. (It would have helped if our CiC didn't announce that we are leaving too one suspects)



The stepped-up operations in Kandahar Province have left many in the Taliban demoralized, reluctant to fight and struggling to recruit, a Taliban commander said in an interview this week. Afghans with contacts in the Taliban confirmed his description. They pointed out that this was the first time in four years that the Taliban had given up their hold of all the districts around the city of Kandahar, an important staging ground for the insurgency and the focus of the 30,000 American troops whom President Obama ordered to be sent to Afghanistan last December.

“To tell you the truth, the government has the upper hand now” in and around Kandahar, the Taliban member said. A midlevel commander who has been with the movement since its founding in 1994 and knows it well, he was interviewed by telephone on the condition that his name not be used.

NATO commanders cautioned that progress on the battlefield remained tentative. It will not be clear until next summer if the government and the military can hold on to those gains, they said. Much will depend on resolving two problems: improving ineffectual local governments and strengthening Afghan troops to fight in NATO’s place.

The Taliban commander said the insurgents had made a tactical retreat and would re-emerge in the spring as American forces began to withdraw.

But in a dozen interviews, Afghan landowners, tribal elders and villagers said they believed that the Taliban could find it hard to return if American troops remained.

The local residents and the Taliban commander said the strength of the American offensive had already shifted the public mood. Winning the war of perceptions is something the military considers critical to the success of the counterinsurgency strategy being pursued by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the coalition commander.

While coalition gains in other parts of the south are spottier, Afghans with Taliban contacts say the insurgents have lost their bases in the rural areas around Kandahar and are a much weakened force in their old southern stronghold. Commanders have taken refuge across the border in Pakistan and are unwilling to return, they said.

“They are very upset and worried,” said one Afghan who lives in Quetta, the western Pakistani city where the Taliban leadership is based, and knows a number of Taliban commanders who live in his neighborhood. “This whole operation in the south has made it very difficult for them. They have lost their heart. A lot of leaders have been killed.”

NATO commanders have issued reams of press releases on the capture and killing of Taliban fighters.

While an emphasis on body counts can be misleading when fighting an indigenous insurgency, Afghans around the country said the strategy of targeted raids on Taliban field commanders had hit the movement hard. The Taliban member also confirmed the impact, and said the Taliban were dismayed to see the much more concerted offensive by coalition forces, as well as the corresponding shift in the public mood.

American forces have occupied former bases of the Taliban in districts surrounding Kandahar, and set up positions in the same buildings, including the Taliban’s main headquarters and courthouse in Sayedan where they held trials under Islamic law, or Shariah.

“Positioning themselves in the Taliban bases signals to the people that the Taliban cannot come back,” said one landowner from Panjwai, an important district outside the city of Kandahar. Like many others, he asked not to be named, indicating there was still widespread fear of Taliban retribution in the rural communities.

“Our Afghan security forces are assuring us that they will stay, and that gives hope,” said Hajji Agha Lalai, a provincial council member from Panjwai District. A medical worker who visited his home village in Panjwai on Monday said the area that used to be the front line between the government and the Taliban was now completely cleared and safe.

The coalition and government forces had blocked access to Panjwai and Zhare, another important district outside Kandahar, with wire fencing, concrete blast walls and tank berms so that all traffic had to filter through their checkpoints, making it nearly impossible for insurgents to move through the area clandestinely, the Taliban member and residents said.

Raids on houses of suspected Taliban members have also badly rattled those Taliban remaining in the area, landowners and residents said. Most of the Taliban have either fled or gone into hiding, they said. One local landlord, Abdul Aleem, said a group of Taliban had begged for food and lodging from villagers in Zhare 20 days ago, but were terrified whenever they heard shooting.

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The Taliban are even more concerned that the Americans are gaining the upper hand in the battle of perceptions on who is winning the war, several people with contacts in the Taliban said. “The people are not happy with us,” the Taliban fighter said. “People gave us a place to stay for several years, but we did not provide them with anything except fighting. The situation is different now: the local people are not willingly cooperating with us. They are not giving us a place to stay or giving us food.”

On Thursday, the Pentagon will release a year-end review of the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan.

While the review seems certain to emphasize progress that has been made around the important southern city of Kandahar, security in other critical areas of the country continues to deteriorate.

The uneven picture in Afghanistan is raising questions about whether the United States military is gambling too heavily on a strategy aimed at breaking the back of the Taliban in their southern stronghold, at the expense of securing the country over all.

NATO’s announcement that it would remain until a transfer to Afghan forces in 2014 has also convinced people that it will not withdraw quickly, he said.
“The Americans are more serious, and another thing that made people hopeful was when they said they would stay until 2014,” the Taliban commander said. “That has made people change their minds.”

That shift in support could hamper Taliban operations, said one landowner, a former guerrilla fighter who has Taliban contacts. “It will hurt the leadership because they will not have people to work for them in the area,” he said.

The Taliban leadership was so concerned that it held a meeting recently to discuss how to counter the American-led offensive and regain key districts around the city of Kandahar, the Taliban member said. They appointed a new commander, Maulavi Sattar, to oversee the winter campaign in Kandahar and are pressing fighters to stall expansion of coalition and government forces in the province, and prevent recruitment of local police officers in the districts.

Nevertheless the Taliban fighters were losing heart and showing signs of division, said the Taliban commander, who has been sheltering in Kandahar city since the insurgents were routed from his district in October.

He said he traveled recently to the Pakistani border town of Chaman and met three Taliban commanders there. But when he asked when they were coming back to Kandahar, they said they were reluctant to return and feared they would be killed. “They said they feared our own men, that other Taliban might betray them,” he said.

The Afghan living in Quetta said that Taliban commanders he knew were trying to recruit and pay others to fight while holding themselves back. “One threw me 50,000 Pakistani rupees and said, ‘If you have anyone who can go and fight, take them and go and fight,’ ” he said. “When they threw me the money, they said, ‘If you don’t want to go and fight, could you find some recruits for the spring?’ ”

The Taliban leaders and commanders will certainly not give up, Afghans familiar with them said. Some of them have moved to Pakistan and will rest up until the spring. Others have shifted to more remote areas, where the coalition and government presence is not as strong.

“The Taliban will come back in the spring, but most people predict that they will not come with the force of previous years because they have been hit very hard and they keep being hit,” the landowner from Kandahar said.

“And if the Americans stay, the Taliban commanders will never come back,” he said.
25235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson explains BO's homeland defense for nukes on: December 16, 2010, 10:46:39 AM
Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.
But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So officials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public.

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”

Officials say they are moving aggressively to conduct drills, prepare communication guides and raise awareness among emergency planners of how to educate the public.

Over the years, Washington has sought to prevent nuclear terrorism and limit its harm, mainly by governmental means. It has spent tens of billions of dollars on everything from intelligence and securing nuclear materials to equipping local authorities with radiation detectors.

The new wave is citizen preparedness. For people who survive the initial blast, the main advice is to fight the impulse to run and instead seek shelter from lethal radioactivity. Even a few hours of protection, officials say, can greatly increase survival rates.

Administration officials argue that the cold war created an unrealistic sense of fatalism about a terrorist nuclear attack. “It’s more survivable than most people think,” said an official deeply involved in the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The key is avoiding nuclear fallout.”

The administration is making that argument with state and local authorities and has started to do so with the general public as well. Its Citizen Corps Web site says a nuclear detonation is “potentially survivable for thousands, especially with adequate shelter and education.” A color illustration shows which kinds of buildings and rooms offer the best protection from radiation.

In June, the administration released to emergency officials around the nation an unclassified planning guide 130 pages long on how to respond to a nuclear attack. It stressed citizen education, before any attack.

Without that knowledge, the guide added, “people will be more likely to follow the natural instinct to run from danger, potentially exposing themselves to fatal doses of radiation.”

Specialists outside of Washington are divided on the initiative. One group says the administration is overreacting to an atomic threat that is all but nonexistent.

Peter Bergen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and New York University’s Center on Law and Security, recently argued that the odds of any terrorist group obtaining a nuclear weapon are “near zero for the foreseeable future.”

But another school says that the potential consequences are so high that the administration is, if anything, being too timid.

“There’s no penetration of the message coming out of the federal government,” said Irwin Redlener, a doctor and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “It’s deeply frustrating that we seem unable to bridge the gap between the new insights and using them to inform public policy.”

White House officials say they are aware of the issue’s political delicacy but are nonetheless moving ahead briskly.

The administration has sought “to enhance national resilience — to withstand disruption, adapt to change and rapidly recover,” said Brian Kamoie, senior director for preparedness policy at the National Security Council. He added, “We’re working hard to involve individuals in the effort so they become part of the team in terms of emergency management.”

A nuclear blast produces a blinding flash, burning heat and crushing wind. The fireball and mushroom cloud carry radioactive particles upward, and the wind sends them near and far.

The government initially knew little about radioactive fallout. But in the 1950s, as the cold war intensified, scientists monitoring test explosions learned that the tiny particles throbbed with fission products — fragments of split atoms, many highly radioactive and potentially lethal.

But after a burst of interest in fallout shelters, the public and even the government grew increasingly skeptical about civil defense as nuclear arsenals grew to hold thousands of warheads.

In late 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the director of central intelligence told President George W. Bush of a secret warning that Al Qaeda had hidden an atom bomb in New York City. The report turned out to be false. But atomic jitters soared.

“History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act,” Mr. Bush said in late 2002.

In dozens of programs, his administration focused on prevention but also dealt with disaster response and the acquisition of items like radiation detectors.

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

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“Public education is key,” Daniel J. Kaniewski, a security expert at George Washington University, said in an interview. “But it’s easier for communities to buy equipment — and look for tech solutions — because there’s Homeland Security money and no shortage of contractors to supply the silver bullet.”

Dr. Irwin Redlener of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness says new insights are not reaching the public.
Multimedia
 Graphic
Duck and Cover
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 revealed the poor state of disaster planning, public and private officials began to question national preparedness for atomic strikes. Some noted conflicting federal advice on whether survivors should seek shelter or try to evacuate.
In 2007, Congress appropriated $5.5 million for studies on atomic disaster planning, noting that “cities have little guidance available to them.”

The Department of Homeland Security financed a multiagency modeling effort led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The scientists looked at Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other big cities, using computers to simulate details of the urban landscape and terrorist bombs.

The results were revealing. For instance, the scientists found that a bomb’s flash would blind many drivers, causing accidents and complicating evacuation.

The big surprise was how taking shelter for as little as several hours made a huge difference in survival rates.

“This has been a game changer,” Brooke Buddemeier, a Livermore health physicist, told a Los Angeles conference. He showed a slide labeled “How Many Lives Can Sheltering Save?”

If people in Los Angeles a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took no shelter, Mr. Buddemeier said, there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout in that region.

Taking shelter in a place with minimal protection, like a car, would cut that figure to 125,000 deaths or injuries, he said. A shallow basement would further reduce it to 45,000 casualties. And the core of a big office building or an underground garage would provide the best shelter of all.

“We’d have no significant exposures,” Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout.

On Jan. 16, 2009 — four days before Mr. Bush left office — the White House issued a 92-page handbook lauding “pre-event preparedness.” But it was silent on the delicate issue of how to inform the public.

Soon after Mr. Obama arrived at the White House, he embarked a global campaign to fight atomic terrorism and sped up domestic planning for disaster response. A senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the new administration began a revision of the Bush administration’s handbook to address the issue of public communication.

“We started working on it immediately,” the official said. “It was recognized as a key part of our response.”

The agenda hit a speed bump. Las Vegas was to star in the nation’s first live exercise meant to simulate a terrorist attack with an atom bomb, the test involving about 10,000 emergency responders. But casinos and businesses protested, as did Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He told the federal authorities that it would scare away tourists.

Late last year, the administration backed down.

“Politics overtook preparedness,” said Mr. Kaniewski of George Washington University.

When the administration came out with its revised planning guide in June, it noted that “no significant federal response” after an attack would be likely for one to three days.

The document said that planners had an obligation to help the public “make effective decisions” and that messages for predisaster campaigns might be tailored for schools, businesses and even water bills.

“The most lives,” the handbook said, “will be saved in the first 60 minutes through sheltering in place.”
25236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson on: December 16, 2010, 09:02:36 AM


The New York Times Nov. 20, 2009, on its decision not to publish secret data: "The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."

The Times a year later (Nov. 29, 2010) on its decision to publish illegally acquired WikiLeaks data: Despite their provenance, "The Times believes that the (WikiLeaks) documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises, and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."
25237  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: December 16, 2010, 08:51:03 AM
Mexico and the Cartel Wars in 2010
December 16, 2010


Editor’s Note: This week’s Security Weekly is a heavily abridged version of STRATFOR’s annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels. The full report, which includes far more detail and diagrams depicting the leadership of each cartel along with our updated cartel map, will be available to our members on Dec. 20.

By Scott Stewart

Related Link
Mexican Drug Cartels: Two Wars and a Look Southward
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
In our 2010 annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the dynamics among the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations, along with an account of the government’s effort to combat the cartels and a forecast of the battle in 2011. The annual cartel report is a product of the coverage STRATFOR maintains on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year. In response to customer requests for more and deeper coverage of Mexico, STRATFOR will also introduce a new product in 2011 designed to provide an enhanced level of reporting and analysis.

In 2010, the cartel wars in Mexico have produced unprecedented levels of violence throughout the country. No longer concentrated in just a few states, the violence has spread all across the northern tier of border states and along much of both the east and west coasts of Mexico. This year’s drug-related homicides have surpassed 11,000, an increase of more than 4,400 deaths from 2009 and more than double the death toll in 2008.


Cartel Dynamics

The high levels of violence seen in 2010 have been caused not only by long-term struggles such as the fight between the Sinaloa Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (also known as the Juarez cartel) for control of the Juarez smuggling corridor but also from the outbreak of new conflicts among various players in the cartel landscape. For example, simmering tensions between Los Zetas and their former partners in the Gulf cartel finally boiled over and quickly escalated into a bloody turf war along the U.S.-Tamaulipas state border. The conflict has even spread to states like Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Tabasco and has given birth to an alliance between the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana (LFM) called the New Federation.

Last December, it appeared that Los Zetas were poised to make a move to assume control over much, if not all, of the Gulf cartel’s territory. The Gulf cartel knew it could not take on Los Zetas alone with its current capabilities so in desperation it reached out to its main rivals in Mexico — the Sinaloa Federation and LFM — for help, thus forming the New Federation. With the added resources from the New Federation, the Gulf cartel was able to take the fight to Los Zetas and actually forced its former partners out of one of their traditional strongholds in Reynosa. The New Federation also expanded its offensive operations to other regions traditionally held by Los Zetas, namely the city of Monterrey and the states of Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Veracruz.

This resulted in Los Zetas being pushed back on their heels throughout the country, and by June it looked as if Los Zetas’ days might be numbered. However, a chain of events that began with the July 28 death of Sinaloa Federation No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel served to weaken the alliance and forced the Sinaloa and LFM to direct attention and resources to other parts of the country, thus giving Los Zetas some room to regroup. The situation along the border in eastern Mexico is still very fluid and the contest between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of the region will continue in 2011.



(click here to enlarge image)
The death of Arturo Beltran Leyva in December 2009 in a Mexican marine raid led to a vicious battle between factions of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) for control of the group, pitting Arturo’s brother, Hector Beltran Leyva, against Arturo’s right-hand man, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. The war between the two BLO factions ended with the arrests of the leadership of the Valdez Villarreal faction, including La Barbie himself on Aug. 30, and this faction has been heavily damaged if not completely dissolved. Hector’s BLO faction adopted the name Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), or the South Pacific Cartel, to distance itself from the elements associated with Valdez that still clung to the BLO moniker. The CPS has aligned itself with Los Zetas against Sinaloa and LFM and has actively fought to stake a claim to the Colima and Manzanillo regions in addition to making inroads in Michoacan.

After being named the most violent organized-crime group in Mexico by former Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora in 2009, LFM has been largely a background player in 2010 and was active on two main fronts: the offensive against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation in northeastern Mexico and the fight against elements of the CPS and Los Zetas in southern Michoacan and Guerrero states, particularly around the resort area of Acapulco. LFM and CPS have been locked in a heated battle for supremacy in the Acapulco region for the past two years and this conflict shows no signs of stopping, especially since the CPS appears to have recently launched a new offensive against LFM in the southern regions of Michoacan. Additionally, after the death of Sinaloa leader El Nacho Coronel in July and the subsequent dismantlement of his network, LFM attempted to take over the Jalisco and Colima trafficking corridors, reportedly straining relations between the Sinaloa Federation and LFM.

LFM has been hard hit in the latter months of 2010, its losses on the battlefield amplified by the arrest of several senior operatives in early December. The Dec. 10 death of LFM spiritual leader Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno Gonzalez will further challenge the organization, and STRATFOR will be carefully watching LFM over the next several weeks for additional signs that it is collapsing.

Two former heavyweights on the Mexican drug-trafficking scene have continued a declining trajectory in 2010: the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization/Juarez cartel (VCF) and the Arellano Felix Organization/Tijuana cartel (AFO). The VCF continues to lose ground to the Sinaloa Federation throughout Chihuahua state, most notably in the Ciudad Juarez area. The VCF’s influence has largely been confined to the urban areas of the state, Juarez and Chihuahua, though it appears that its influence is waning even in its traditional strongholds (Sinaloa now appears to be moving narcotics through the Juarez smuggling corridor). Following a bitter war between two factions of the AFO, the organization is a shell of its former self. While the AFO faction under the leadership of Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano emerged victorious over the faction led by Eduardo “El Teo” Garcia Simental, who was a Sinaloa Federation proxy, it appears that Sanchez Arellano has reached an agreement with Sinaloa and is allowing it to move narcotics through Tijuana.

In the past, these sorts of agreements have proved to be temporary — one need only look at recent history in Juarez and the cooperation between Sinaloa and the VCF. Because of this, it is likely at some point that the Sinaloa Federation will begin to refuse to pay taxes to the AFO. When that happens, it will be important to see if the AFO has the capability to do anything about it.

The death of El Nacho Coronel and the damage-control efforts associated with the dismantlement of his network, along with the continued focus on the conflict in Juarez, forced the Sinaloa Federation to pull back from other commitments, such as its operations against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation. On the business-operations side, Sinaloa has made inroads in other regions and other continents. As noted above, the organization also has reportedly made progress in extending its control over the lucrative Tijuana smuggling corridor and is making significant progress in asserting control over the Juarez corridor.

Over the past few years, Sinaloa has gained control of, or access to, smuggling corridors all along Mexico’s northern border from Tijuana to Juarez. This means that Sinaloa appears to be the group that has fared the best over the past few years amid the intensifying violence. This would apply more specifically to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and his faction of the Sinaloa Federation, which has benefited greatly by events since 2006. In addition to the fall of external foes like the AFO and Juarez cartels, he has seen the downfall of strong Sinaloa personalities who could have risen up to contest his leadership, men like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and El Nacho Coronel. Sinaloa members who attract a lot of adverse publicity for the federation, such as Enrique “El Cumbais” Lopez Acosta also seem to run into bad luck with some frequency. Additionally, STRATFOR sources continue to report a sustained effort by the Sinaloa Federation to expand its logistical network farther into Europe and its influence deeper into Central America and South America.


Escalation

Some of the groups that have borne the brunt of the cartel wars, such as Los Zetas, the AFO and the VCF, have seen a decrease in their ability to move narcotics. This has forced them to look for other sources of income, which typically means diversifying into other criminal enterprises. A steady stream of income is important for the cartels because it takes a lot of money to hire and equip armed enforcer units required to guard against incursions from rival cartels and the Mexican government. It also takes money to purchase narcotics and to maintain the networks required to smuggle them from South America into the United States. This reliance on other criminal enterprises to generate income is not a new development for cartel groups. Los Zetas have long been active in human smuggling, oil theft, extortion and contract enforcement, while the VCF and AFO have traditionally been involved in extortion and kidnap-for-ransom operations. However, as these groups found themselves with their backs against the wall in 2010, they began to escalate their criminal fundraising operations. This increase in extortion and kidnapping has had a noticeable effect on businesses and wealthy families in several cities, including Monterrey, Mexico’s industrial capital. The wave of kidnapping in Monterrey even led to the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey ordering the departure of all minor dependents of U.S. government personnel beginning in September.

Some of the more desperate cartel groups also began to employ improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2010. The VCF has made no secret about its belief that the Federal Police are working for and protecting the Sinaloa Federation in Juarez. Following the July 15 arrest of a high-ranking VCF lieutenant, VCF enforcers from La Linea conducted a fairly sophisticated ambush directed against the Federal Police using a small IED hidden inside a car containing a cadaver that the attackers called in to police. The blast killed two Federal Police agents and injured several more at the scene. La Linea attempted to deploy another IED under similar circumstances Sept. 10 in Juarez, but Federal Police agents were able to identify the IED and call in the Mexican military to defuse the device. La Linea has threatened to use more and larger IEDs but has yet to follow through on those threats.

There were also three small IEDs deployed in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, in August. On Aug. 5, a substation housing the rural patrol element of the Municipal Transit Police was attacked with a small IED concealed inside a vehicle. Then on Aug. 27, two other IEDs placed in cars successfully detonated outside Televisa studios and a Municipal Transit Police station in Ciudad Victoria. The Ciudad Victoria IED attacks were never claimed, but Los Zetas are thought to be the culprits. The geographic and cartel-territorial disparity between Ciudad Victoria and Juarez makes it unlikely that the same bombmaker is responsible for all the devices encountered in Mexico this year.

To date, the explosive devices deployed by cartel groups in Mexico have been small, and La Linea and the Ciudad Victoria bomber did show some discretion by not intentionally targeting large groups of civilians in their attacks. However, should cartel groups continue to deploy IEDs, the imprecise nature of such devices will increase the risk of innocent civilians becoming collateral damage. This will be especially true if the size of the devices is increased, as La Linea has threatened to do. The cartels clearly have the skills required to build and deploy larger devices should they so choose, and explosives are plentiful and easy to obtain in Mexico.


Outlook

The administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has dismantled several cartel networks and captured or killed their leaders in 2010, most notably Sinaloa No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal and Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. While such operations have succeeded in eliminating several very dangerous people and disrupting their organizations, however, they have also served to further upset the balance of power among Mexico’s criminal organizations. This imbalance has increased the volatility of the country’s security environment by creating a sort of vicious feeding frenzy among the various organizations as they seek to preserve their own turf or seize territory from rival organizations.

Calderon has also taken steps to shift the focus from the controversial strategy of using the Mexican military as the primary tool to wage war against the cartels to using the newly reformed Federal Police. While the military still remains the most reliable security tool available to the Mexican government, the Federal Police have been given more responsibility in Juarez and northeast Mexico, the nation’s most contentious hot spots. Calderon has also planted the seeds to reform the states’ security organizations with a unified command in hopes of professionalizing each state’s security force to the point where the states do not have to rely on the federal government to combat organized crime. Meanwhile, the Mexican Congress has take steps to curb the ability of the president to deploy the military domestically by proposing a National Security Act that would require a state governor or legislature to first request the deployment of the military rather than permitting the federal government to act unilaterally.

The successes that the Calderon administration has scored against some major cartel figures such as La Barbie and El Nacho in 2010 have helped foster some public confidence in the war against the cartels, but disruptions to the balance of power among the cartels have added to the violence, which is clearly evidenced by the steep climb in the death toll. As long as the cartel landscape remains fluid, with the balance of power between the cartels and the government in a constant state of flux, the violence is unlikely to end or even recede.

This means that Calderon is at a crossroads. The increasing level of violence is seen as unacceptable by the public and the government’s resources are stretched to the limit. Unless all the cartel groups can be decapitated and brought under control — something that is highly unlikely given the government’s limitations — the only way to reduce the violence is to restore the balance of power among the cartels. This balance can be achieved if a small number of cartels come to dominate the cartel landscape and are able to conduct business as usual rather than fight continually for turf and survival. Calderon must take steps to restore this balance in the next year if he hopes to quell the violence and give his National Action Party a chance to maintain power in the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. In Mexico, 2011 promises to be an interesting year indeed.

25238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 16, 2010, 08:50:30 AM
Mexico and the Cartel Wars in 2010
December 16, 2010


Editor’s Note: This week’s Security Weekly is a heavily abridged version of STRATFOR’s annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels. The full report, which includes far more detail and diagrams depicting the leadership of each cartel along with our updated cartel map, will be available to our members on Dec. 20.

By Scott Stewart

In our 2010 annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the dynamics among the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations, along with an account of the government’s effort to combat the cartels and a forecast of the battle in 2011. The annual cartel report is a product of the coverage STRATFOR maintains on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year. In response to customer requests for more and deeper coverage of Mexico, STRATFOR will also introduce a new product in 2011 designed to provide an enhanced level of reporting and analysis.

In 2010, the cartel wars in Mexico have produced unprecedented levels of violence throughout the country. No longer concentrated in just a few states, the violence has spread all across the northern tier of border states and along much of both the east and west coasts of Mexico. This year’s drug-related homicides have surpassed 11,000, an increase of more than 4,400 deaths from 2009 and more than double the death toll in 2008.


Cartel Dynamics

The high levels of violence seen in 2010 have been caused not only by long-term struggles such as the fight between the Sinaloa Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (also known as the Juarez cartel) for control of the Juarez smuggling corridor but also from the outbreak of new conflicts among various players in the cartel landscape. For example, simmering tensions between Los Zetas and their former partners in the Gulf cartel finally boiled over and quickly escalated into a bloody turf war along the U.S.-Tamaulipas state border. The conflict has even spread to states like Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Tabasco and has given birth to an alliance between the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana (LFM) called the New Federation.

Last December, it appeared that Los Zetas were poised to make a move to assume control over much, if not all, of the Gulf cartel’s territory. The Gulf cartel knew it could not take on Los Zetas alone with its current capabilities so in desperation it reached out to its main rivals in Mexico — the Sinaloa Federation and LFM — for help, thus forming the New Federation. With the added resources from the New Federation, the Gulf cartel was able to take the fight to Los Zetas and actually forced its former partners out of one of their traditional strongholds in Reynosa. The New Federation also expanded its offensive operations to other regions traditionally held by Los Zetas, namely the city of Monterrey and the states of Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Veracruz.

This resulted in Los Zetas being pushed back on their heels throughout the country, and by June it looked as if Los Zetas’ days might be numbered. However, a chain of events that began with the July 28 death of Sinaloa Federation No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel served to weaken the alliance and forced the Sinaloa and LFM to direct attention and resources to other parts of the country, thus giving Los Zetas some room to regroup. The situation along the border in eastern Mexico is still very fluid and the contest between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of the region will continue in 2011.



(click here to enlarge image)
The death of Arturo Beltran Leyva in December 2009 in a Mexican marine raid led to a vicious battle between factions of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) for control of the group, pitting Arturo’s brother, Hector Beltran Leyva, against Arturo’s right-hand man, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. The war between the two BLO factions ended with the arrests of the leadership of the Valdez Villarreal faction, including La Barbie himself on Aug. 30, and this faction has been heavily damaged if not completely dissolved. Hector’s BLO faction adopted the name Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), or the South Pacific Cartel, to distance itself from the elements associated with Valdez that still clung to the BLO moniker. The CPS has aligned itself with Los Zetas against Sinaloa and LFM and has actively fought to stake a claim to the Colima and Manzanillo regions in addition to making inroads in Michoacan.

After being named the most violent organized-crime group in Mexico by former Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora in 2009, LFM has been largely a background player in 2010 and was active on two main fronts: the offensive against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation in northeastern Mexico and the fight against elements of the CPS and Los Zetas in southern Michoacan and Guerrero states, particularly around the resort area of Acapulco. LFM and CPS have been locked in a heated battle for supremacy in the Acapulco region for the past two years and this conflict shows no signs of stopping, especially since the CPS appears to have recently launched a new offensive against LFM in the southern regions of Michoacan. Additionally, after the death of Sinaloa leader El Nacho Coronel in July and the subsequent dismantlement of his network, LFM attempted to take over the Jalisco and Colima trafficking corridors, reportedly straining relations between the Sinaloa Federation and LFM.

LFM has been hard hit in the latter months of 2010, its losses on the battlefield amplified by the arrest of several senior operatives in early December. The Dec. 10 death of LFM spiritual leader Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno Gonzalez will further challenge the organization, and STRATFOR will be carefully watching LFM over the next several weeks for additional signs that it is collapsing.

Two former heavyweights on the Mexican drug-trafficking scene have continued a declining trajectory in 2010: the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization/Juarez cartel (VCF) and the Arellano Felix Organization/Tijuana cartel (AFO). The VCF continues to lose ground to the Sinaloa Federation throughout Chihuahua state, most notably in the Ciudad Juarez area. The VCF’s influence has largely been confined to the urban areas of the state, Juarez and Chihuahua, though it appears that its influence is waning even in its traditional strongholds (Sinaloa now appears to be moving narcotics through the Juarez smuggling corridor). Following a bitter war between two factions of the AFO, the organization is a shell of its former self. While the AFO faction under the leadership of Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano emerged victorious over the faction led by Eduardo “El Teo” Garcia Simental, who was a Sinaloa Federation proxy, it appears that Sanchez Arellano has reached an agreement with Sinaloa and is allowing it to move narcotics through Tijuana.

In the past, these sorts of agreements have proved to be temporary — one need only look at recent history in Juarez and the cooperation between Sinaloa and the VCF. Because of this, it is likely at some point that the Sinaloa Federation will begin to refuse to pay taxes to the AFO. When that happens, it will be important to see if the AFO has the capability to do anything about it.

The death of El Nacho Coronel and the damage-control efforts associated with the dismantlement of his network, along with the continued focus on the conflict in Juarez, forced the Sinaloa Federation to pull back from other commitments, such as its operations against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation. On the business-operations side, Sinaloa has made inroads in other regions and other continents. As noted above, the organization also has reportedly made progress in extending its control over the lucrative Tijuana smuggling corridor and is making significant progress in asserting control over the Juarez corridor.

Over the past few years, Sinaloa has gained control of, or access to, smuggling corridors all along Mexico’s northern border from Tijuana to Juarez. This means that Sinaloa appears to be the group that has fared the best over the past few years amid the intensifying violence. This would apply more specifically to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and his faction of the Sinaloa Federation, which has benefited greatly by events since 2006. In addition to the fall of external foes like the AFO and Juarez cartels, he has seen the downfall of strong Sinaloa personalities who could have risen up to contest his leadership, men like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and El Nacho Coronel. Sinaloa members who attract a lot of adverse publicity for the federation, such as Enrique “El Cumbais” Lopez Acosta also seem to run into bad luck with some frequency. Additionally, STRATFOR sources continue to report a sustained effort by the Sinaloa Federation to expand its logistical network farther into Europe and its influence deeper into Central America and South America.


Escalation

Some of the groups that have borne the brunt of the cartel wars, such as Los Zetas, the AFO and the VCF, have seen a decrease in their ability to move narcotics. This has forced them to look for other sources of income, which typically means diversifying into other criminal enterprises. A steady stream of income is important for the cartels because it takes a lot of money to hire and equip armed enforcer units required to guard against incursions from rival cartels and the Mexican government. It also takes money to purchase narcotics and to maintain the networks required to smuggle them from South America into the United States. This reliance on other criminal enterprises to generate income is not a new development for cartel groups. Los Zetas have long been active in human smuggling, oil theft, extortion and contract enforcement, while the VCF and AFO have traditionally been involved in extortion and kidnap-for-ransom operations. However, as these groups found themselves with their backs against the wall in 2010, they began to escalate their criminal fundraising operations. This increase in extortion and kidnapping has had a noticeable effect on businesses and wealthy families in several cities, including Monterrey, Mexico’s industrial capital. The wave of kidnapping in Monterrey even led to the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey ordering the departure of all minor dependents of U.S. government personnel beginning in September.

Some of the more desperate cartel groups also began to employ improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2010. The VCF has made no secret about its belief that the Federal Police are working for and protecting the Sinaloa Federation in Juarez. Following the July 15 arrest of a high-ranking VCF lieutenant, VCF enforcers from La Linea conducted a fairly sophisticated ambush directed against the Federal Police using a small IED hidden inside a car containing a cadaver that the attackers called in to police. The blast killed two Federal Police agents and injured several more at the scene. La Linea attempted to deploy another IED under similar circumstances Sept. 10 in Juarez, but Federal Police agents were able to identify the IED and call in the Mexican military to defuse the device. La Linea has threatened to use more and larger IEDs but has yet to follow through on those threats.

There were also three small IEDs deployed in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, in August. On Aug. 5, a substation housing the rural patrol element of the Municipal Transit Police was attacked with a small IED concealed inside a vehicle. Then on Aug. 27, two other IEDs placed in cars successfully detonated outside Televisa studios and a Municipal Transit Police station in Ciudad Victoria. The Ciudad Victoria IED attacks were never claimed, but Los Zetas are thought to be the culprits. The geographic and cartel-territorial disparity between Ciudad Victoria and Juarez makes it unlikely that the same bombmaker is responsible for all the devices encountered in Mexico this year.

To date, the explosive devices deployed by cartel groups in Mexico have been small, and La Linea and the Ciudad Victoria bomber did show some discretion by not intentionally targeting large groups of civilians in their attacks. However, should cartel groups continue to deploy IEDs, the imprecise nature of such devices will increase the risk of innocent civilians becoming collateral damage. This will be especially true if the size of the devices is increased, as La Linea has threatened to do. The cartels clearly have the skills required to build and deploy larger devices should they so choose, and explosives are plentiful and easy to obtain in Mexico.


Outlook

The administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has dismantled several cartel networks and captured or killed their leaders in 2010, most notably Sinaloa No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal and Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. While such operations have succeeded in eliminating several very dangerous people and disrupting their organizations, however, they have also served to further upset the balance of power among Mexico’s criminal organizations. This imbalance has increased the volatility of the country’s security environment by creating a sort of vicious feeding frenzy among the various organizations as they seek to preserve their own turf or seize territory from rival organizations.

Calderon has also taken steps to shift the focus from the controversial strategy of using the Mexican military as the primary tool to wage war against the cartels to using the newly reformed Federal Police. While the military still remains the most reliable security tool available to the Mexican government, the Federal Police have been given more responsibility in Juarez and northeast Mexico, the nation’s most contentious hot spots. Calderon has also planted the seeds to reform the states’ security organizations with a unified command in hopes of professionalizing each state’s security force to the point where the states do not have to rely on the federal government to combat organized crime. Meanwhile, the Mexican Congress has take steps to curb the ability of the president to deploy the military domestically by proposing a National Security Act that would require a state governor or legislature to first request the deployment of the military rather than permitting the federal government to act unilaterally.

The successes that the Calderon administration has scored against some major cartel figures such as La Barbie and El Nacho in 2010 have helped foster some public confidence in the war against the cartels, but disruptions to the balance of power among the cartels have added to the violence, which is clearly evidenced by the steep climb in the death toll. As long as the cartel landscape remains fluid, with the balance of power between the cartels and the government in a constant state of flux, the violence is unlikely to end or even recede.

This means that Calderon is at a crossroads. The increasing level of violence is seen as unacceptable by the public and the government’s resources are stretched to the limit. Unless all the cartel groups can be decapitated and brought under control — something that is highly unlikely given the government’s limitations — the only way to reduce the violence is to restore the balance of power among the cartels. This balance can be achieved if a small number of cartels come to dominate the cartel landscape and are able to conduct business as usual rather than fight continually for turf and survival. Calderon must take steps to restore this balance in the next year if he hopes to quell the violence and give his National Action Party a chance to maintain power in the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. In Mexico, 2011 promises to be an interesting year indeed.

25239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I am depressed on: December 16, 2010, 08:39:44 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thu, December 16, 2010 -- 6:00 AM ET
-----

Afghan Report Sees Troop Withdrawal on Schedule for July
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
======================================

So, the bug out is on schedule.  As promised to the Muslim world by Ahmadinjad (too cranky to look up proper spelling) the US essentially is being run out of the mid-east.  The Dems chorus of defeatist chorus against The Surge in Iraq persuaded all there that we were leaving and so they aligned themselves accordingly and now our CiC, elected to fight "the right war" in Afg, after having sabotaged any chance of success by telling the enemy we were leaving, begins our departure.  China challenges throughout SE Asia.  Even our long time ally the Philippines (along with many, many other countries) bows its head in submission by not going to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies this year.  The time is coming when we will be run out of Taiwan.  In addition to the peace at any price elements of our political spectrum, the isolationist/libertarian spirit of our polity-animated the results of a a decade of piss-poor leadership and results as well as a genuine spending crisis, calls for cuts in military spending even as the Chinese challenge our Navy in the western Pacific and the Russians put missiles in Venezuela and our 2,000 mile border with Mexico is a narco war zone.   Europe's currency (hence economic union?) teeters and we may well be only a economic step or two behind. cry cry cry

The Adventure continues, , ,
25240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hostage reunion on: December 16, 2010, 08:21:20 AM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/hostages-press-release.htm
25241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cyberwar and American Freedom on: December 15, 2010, 09:37:50 PM
Intriguing hypothesis-- and chilling in its implications for the various penetrations Chinese has already accomplished of US military systems.
25242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: December 15, 2010, 12:47:03 PM
second post of day

Industrial production increased 0.4% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/15/2010


Industrial production increased 0.4% in November, beating a consensus expected gain of 0.3%. Production is up at a 2.8% annual rate in the past six months.

Despite a 6.0% drop in auto production, manufacturing output rose 0.3% in November despite a 6.0% decline in autos. Non-auto manufacturing rose a strong 0.7%. In the past six months, auto production is down at a 4.7% annual rate while non-auto manufacturing is up at a 3.1% rate.
 
The production of high-tech equipment was up 0.9% in November and is up at a 2.9% annual rate in the past six months.
 
Overall capacity utilization rose to 75.2% in November, the highest since October 2008. Manufacturing capacity use increased to 72.8%, the highest since the failure of Lehman Brothers.
 
Implications:  Another month, another increase in factory output and no sign of a double dip. Many analysts are using the election and tax deal to turn bullish. They are scrambling to catch up to an economy that was already growing before a single person cast a vote. Like retail sales, manufacturing output rose for the fifth consecutive month in November. Due to a 2% increase in utility output, overall industrial production rose 0.4%. Look for another surge in utility output next month as December is turning out to be unusually cold in much of the country. In mid-2009, capacity utilization was at a 45-year low of 68.2%. Now, only 17 months later, capacity utilization is 7 percentage points higher, at 75.2%. Two factors are boosting utilization: expanding output and a depreciating capital stock. In fact, because of depreciation, total capacity (the ability to produce) in manufacturing has fallen back down to 2007 levels. Assuming we are correct that real GDP expands 4% in 2011, capacity utilization will climb to near the long-term average of 80% next year. Not only will companies be forced to invest but the Federal Reserve will face greater fears of inflation coming from a constrained sector of the economy. In other news this morning, the Empire State index, a measure of manufacturing in New York, rebounded sharply in December, climbing from -11.1 in November to +10.6.
25243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PIIG Flu contagion spreading to Belgium, Austria? on: December 15, 2010, 11:25:18 AM
Woof All:

A lot of bearish sentiment has been expressed around here-- including by me.  Worth noting IMHO that when the PIIG Flu acts up in Europe, the dollar rises.  Also, if I am not mistaken, rising interest rates here in the US tend to strengthen the dollar.  If the scenario envisioned below reifies, we could be surprised by where things go for the dollar.
=========


Stratfor Summary
Standard & Poor’s said Dec. 14 that it likely will downgrade Belgium’s credit rating due to the size of the country’s government debt and budget deficit, along with its inability to form a stable government. The announcement indicates that Europe’s financial woes are spreading from the PIIGS — Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain — to more established economies, particularly Belgium and Austria.

Standard & Poor’s warned Dec. 14 that Belgium’s mix of high government debt, a high budget deficit and the chronic inability to form a stable government would likely force the ratings agency to downgrade the country’s credit rating (currently at AA+), possibly within six months. Such an event is not yet inevitable, but the mere announcement of the “negative watch” heralds the spread of Europe’s ongoing financial troubles to Europe’s more established states.

Until now nearly all concern for the financial stability of eurozone states has focused on the PIIGS, an acronym investors created to refer to Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. These states share certain characteristics that include large — and in many cases, popped — bubbles in real estate and finance, high budget deficit and debt levels, and political difficulty in addressing the problems.

To this list of states in distress, STRATFOR would like to add two more developed Western European countries: Austria and Belgium, both of which share key negative characteristics of the PIIGS.

Belgium is certainly the worse off of the two. It suffers from a residential real estate bubble roughly as bad as Spain’s, roughly half again as bad in relative terms as the U.S. subprime crisis. Belgium’s 2009 headline government debt level clocked in at 96 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), 20 percentage points worse than Portugal — the next PIIGS state that STRATFOR expects will need a bailout. But perhaps most important is that modern Belgium cannot seem to hold a government together. Since the last elections in April 2007 it has had three separate governments, and that does not include the 18 months of interim governments required to hash out coalition deals that were complex and unstable in equal measure. The soon-to-be-mounting obsession among investors is that such political dysfunction will make the austerity required to fix the budget next to impossible.

Austria is better off than Belgium by all of these measures. Its debt and deficit are both considerably lower (68 percent of GDP versus 96 percent of GDP and 3.5 percent of GDP versus 6 percent of GDP, respectively), its political system is more or less in order, and its housing sector — nearly alone within Europe — was never overbuilt. Austria’s biggest outlier is that its banks are listing badly, due to their overexuberance in lending into the now-popped credit bubble that plagues Central Europe.



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The point that Austria and Belgium have most in common, however, is one they share with the weaker states of the PIIGS grouping: They are largely dependent upon external financing to manage their sovereign debt loads. Austria, Belgium, Greece and Ireland are all relatively small states with limited indigenous financial resources. When a state faces financial duress, the first thing the government does is hash out a deal — often forcefully — with its own financial sector, applying those resources to the problem. Such is standard fare in major states such as Germany and Italy. Smaller states often lack such options, forcing the governments to turn to international investors for cash. In good times this is irrelevant, but when money gets tight and investors get scared, an investor stampede can crush a state’s finances overnight. Such a calamity was precisely what forced the Greek and Irish breakdowns and bailouts. The exposure of all four of these states to such outsiders is more than 50 percent of GDP, which as Greece and Ireland have already demonstrated so vividly, is an amount that simply cannot be coped with in a panic.

Austria and Belgium are advanced, technocratic economies with sophisticated financial sectors. Any financial contagion that breaks into the developed states of Western Europe via these two countries would terrify investors who have been fairly convinced that the euro’s problems were safely sequestered in the somewhat manageable states of the PIIGS grouping. Should Austria or Belgium go the way of Greece, all bets will be off in Europe.



Read more: Europe's Financial Troubles Spread to Belgium, Austria | STRATFOR
25244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: December 15, 2010, 11:20:10 AM
Today, Dec. 15, is the anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to our Constitution, as ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke's 1689 thesis, Two Treatises of Government, regarding the protection of "property" (in the Latin context, proprius, or one's own "life, liberty and estate"); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state's Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.

Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate individual rights and a clear delineation on constraints upon the central government. As oft trampled and abused as the Bill of Rights is, Patriots should remain vigilant in the fight for our rights.

25245  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Rest in Peace BP Agent Brian A. Terry on: December 15, 2010, 11:17:12 AM




It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry who was shot and killed during an encounter with armed subjects.  Agent Terry was working in the “Peck Well” area near Rio Rico, Arizona when he was fatally injured. 

 

During the encounter, one assailant was wounded and immediately taken into custody.  Three additional suspects were apprehended shortly thereafter.  Border Patrol agents are currently tracking a fifth suspect and I assure you that every effort will be expended to bring this remaining suspect into custody.       

 

Agent Terry entered on duty with Academy Class 699 on July 23, 2007.  He is survived by his parents and sister in Detroit, Michigan. Please keep Agent Terry and his family in your thoughts and prayers as they have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. 

 

This is a stark reminder of the realities we face in our mission to protect our borders and our communities. We will continue to stand firm in our commitment to that mission. 

 

In difficult times like these it is important that we turn to and support one another.  Peer Support members, the Tucson Sector Chaplaincy Program, and the Employee Assistance Program are all available to any employee who may need them.  Updates will be provided about this tragic situation as soon as information becomes available.

 

Respectfully,

 

Richard A. Barlow
Deputy Chief Patrol Agent
Tucson Sector Headquarters 
25246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric on: December 15, 2010, 10:54:22 AM
By HENRY HITCHINGS
'I worry incessantly that I might be too clear," Alan Greenspan once claimed. He intended the remark to be crowd-pleasing, but it served as an acknowledgment of the necessary ambiguity of professional economics. To be clear is to leave oneself open to attack; there is safety in obscurity. In many quarters clarity is interpreted as oversimplification, and the cryptic utterance is regarded as a mark of expertise. Yet the murkiness of public discourse often results not from willful indistinctness but simply from a blithe, untutored lack of rhetorical know-how.

In "Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric," Ward Farnsworth sets out to remedy this. A professor at the Boston University School of Law, Mr. Farnsworth has previously published "The Legal Analyst," which he described as "a collection of tools for thinking about legal questions," and a guide to chess tactics. This book manifests his familiar pragmatism and distaste for rarefied theory; billed as "a lively set of lessons," it is in fact more akin to a well- curated exhibition of rhetorical accessories.

"Everyone speaks and writes in patterns," Mr. Farnsworth states. We have absorbed models of expression, which we reproduce "without thinking much about it." Yet we can study the patterns and learn to make our utterances more effective. To this end he maps the rhetorical figures that are, as he puts it, "practical ways of working with large aesthetic principles." Selecting passages from favorite authors and orators, and providing judicious remarks about them, he offers "help to those who wish to be on better terms with such techniques."

In its popular use, the adjective "rhetorical" has become a slur, conveying images of bombast and bloatedness. We are apt to associate it with the prolix statements of policy makers and the aureate pomposity of evangelists. Mr. Farnsworth wants to reclaim the word and the principles it truly betokens.

View Full Image
.Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric
By Ward Farnsworth
Godine, 254 pages, $26.95
.He is the inheritor of a substantial tradition. The ancient literature on rhetoric includes works by Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian. The subject was treated extensively by Renaissance scholars such as Erasmus and Juan Luis Vives, George Puttenham and Thomas Wilson. Its modern apostles, on the whole less eminent, are numerous. Mr. Farnsworth, however, is unusual in focusing on techniques rather than articulating a general plea for expressive poise.

Although the bulk of the book consists of examples, Mr. Farnsworth's interleaved commentary is valuable. He explains, for instance, polysyndeton: It is the repeated use of a conjunction, as in Mark Twain's "a German daily is the slowest and saddest and dreariest of the inventions of man." In addition, Mr. Farnsworth gives us six reasons to use it, including a certain artless effect, which "may enhance the speaker's credibility." When it comes to asyndeton—the omission of conjunctions, as in Twain's "Munich did seem the horriblest place, the most desolate place, the most unendurable place"—he offers seven such reasons. This is done with modest brevity rather than in a labored and didactic fashion.

An incidental effect of Mr. Farnsworth's selection of examples is a kind of covert literary criticism. We are alerted to G.K. Chesterton's love of chiasmus—the ABBA pattern in which repetition involves reversal. Chesterton writes that "we do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws" and that "an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." According to Mr. Farnsworth, the device suited the author because "he believed that modern thought constantly had things backward."

One gets the impression that, a century on from Chesterton, Mr. Farnsworth finds our own modernity topsy-turvy. He notes the decline of rhetoric in our times and his chosen examples come from authors and orators between the age of Shakespeare and the 1950s. The modern politician is for him "a creature of very modest literacy and wit," who strains for grandiloquence and "spoils what he touches." Instead of rhetoric, the politician favors figures of another kind: Today's infatuation with statistics is a bid for scientific exactness but tends to crowd out finesse.

Having taken Latin and Greek at school, I knew a little bit about rhetoric before settling down with Mr. Farnsworth. But while chiasmus and ellipsis were familiar, many of his terms were new to me. Most are not words to slip into casual conversation—"Great epizeuxis in your presentation, George!"—but they usefully label forms of ingenuity, and a familiarity with them sharpens our sensitivity to the range of ways in which language can be mobilized to influence and excite us.

The most immediate pleasure of this book is that it heightens one's appreciation of the craft of great writers and speakers. Mr. Farnsworth includes numerous examples from Shakespeare and Dickens, Thoreau and Emerson, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. He also seems keen to rehabilitate writers and speakers whose rhetorical artistry is undervalued; besides his liking for Chesterton, he shows deep admiration for the Irish statesman Henry Grattan (1746-1820), whose studied repetition of a word ("No lawyer can say so; because no lawyer could say so without forfeiting his character as a lawyer") is an instance, we are told, of conduplicatio. But more than anything Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference.

Mr. Hitchings is the author of "The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English" (2008).

25247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Uncertainty on: December 15, 2010, 10:43:54 AM
y JOHN D. MCKINNON, GARY FIELDS And LAURA SAUNDERS
WASHINGTON—Welcome to the world of the temporary tax code.

 The U.S. tax code is slowly being turned into a temporary patchwork of provisions that need to be addressed every year or two, depriving individuals and businesses of the predictability they need for long-range plans. John McKinnon discusses. Also, Brett Arends says not only are the Democrats politically bankrupt and the Republicans morally bankrupt, but that this tax deal will play a big role in America's undoing.
.In the late 1990s, there were typically fewer than a dozen tax provisions that had just a limited lease on life and needed to be renewed every year or so.

Today there are 141.

Now Congress, taking up a deal worked out between the Obama administration and Republican leaders, is poised to turn the whole personal income-tax system into something of a temporary structure. The plan embraces a broad range of provisions—an extension of Bush-era rates, a new estate-tax formula—but for only two years. A payroll-tax cut in the bill is for a single year.

 .This means that if the compromise passes largely intact, the U.S. will have no permanent regime governing levies on salaries, capital gains and dividends, the Social Security tax, as well as a slew of targeted breaks for families, students and other groups. This on top of dozens of corporate-tax provisions that already were subject to annual renewal.

The level of uncertainty, unusual for developed nations, complicates planning and discourages hiring and investment, many economists and corporate executives say.

"I haven't seen anything like it, and it's hard historically to find anything like" the current and pending negotiations, says Mortimer Caplin, an Internal Revenue Service commissioner in the Kennedy administration who at 94 is just three years younger than the income tax itself. "This Congress has left an awful lot up in the air."

A vote to pass the tax deal in the Senate is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday; prospects for swift approval in the House remained cloudy but party leaders seem increasingly resigned to the measure clearing Congress intact.

 Democrats are predicting that a tax deal will clear a crucial hurdle comfortably in the Senate today, with a margin they hope will add momentum to the deal in the House. Aaron Zitner and Neal Lipschutz discuss. Also, Nick Timiraos discusses worry among economists that the housing market could be headed toward another downdraft as mortgage lenders tighten credit.
.The two-year expiration of the bill's main provisions on individual rates would occur just after the next presidential election, and few in Washington envision a long-term solution being crafted at such a charged time.

At the same time, the possibility of a sweeping tax-system revamp can itself add to the uncertainty, what with politicans increasingly ready to talk about this. President Barack Obama has lately, as has the deficit-reduction panel he appointed, including Republican members such as Rep. Dave Camp, future chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The possibility of an overhaul that would put on the table long-established credits and deductions could further uproot predictability.

This year has been something of a test case for tax uncertainty, with concern about what would happen when provisions adopted in 2001 and 2003 expired at year-end.

More
Tax-Cut Bill Draws Wide Support in Senate
Tax-Cut Vote Splits New York Senators
Tax Deal Set to Pass Senate
Pelosi Walks Tax-Deal Tightrope
Wealth Report: Depending on the Rich
.Sales of certain kinds of life insurance rose as families wrestled with the possibility that estate taxes would jump in 2011. With no assurance the 15% rate on dividend income would last past 2010, Kraft Foods Inc., Exelon Corp. and Altria Group Inc. asked their shareholders to contact Congress in opposition to an increase. Stocks of utilities, which traditionally pay high dividends, appeared to factor in the possibility of a rise in the dividend tax rate in 2011, analysts said.

At Incobrasa Industries Ltd., a producer of biodiesel in Gilman, Ill., sales manager Douglas Santos has been waiting to see what happens to an expired tax subsidy for his industry. He is running at 25% capacity, vs. 100% in 2008. Mr. Santos wants Congress to make up its mind one way or the other. "Just do something," he says. The bill before Congress would restore the subsidy.

Economic research has shown businesses tend to be more reluctant to invest when they perceive high levels of uncertainty about various things, including over taxes. The pressure on policy makers to narrow the budget deficit, not merely simplify the tax system, further muddies the waters now, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology tax economist James Poterba, who finds "the crystal ball…particularly unclear at the moment."

Some call the worries exaggerated. "I truly do believe the concerns expressed over tax uncertainty are truly overblown," says Martin Sullivan, an economist with Tax Analysts, a nonprofit tax publisher, who sees today's situation as quite manageable compared with the profound business uncertainty companies faced during the financial crisis.

Important 'Extenders' | Provisions That Need to Be Renewed Regularly
Protection from alternative minimum tax
Enhanced charitable deductions for business
Business research credit
Ethanol subsidies
Biodiesel incentives
Faster depreciation for business investments
Tax deferral of overseas financing income
Expensing of 'brownfields' remediation
Charitable donation of IRA assets
Deductibility of state and local sales taxes

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Bloomberg News
 
Catherine McGraw, center, waits to check out at a J.C. Penney store in Mentor, Ohio.
.Deductibility for school supplies

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Associated Press
 
Stacey Ressler, a teacher in Wernersville, Pa., organizes classroom supplies she purchased.
.."We're used to [uncertainty] in the tax world," he says. "What's changed in the last few years is the size of the temporary extensions."

Obama administration officials note that the tax code has been through gyrations before, for example in the 1980s, when Congress adopted accelerated depreciation in 1981, only to repeal it five years later. That threw real-estate markets into an uproar and added to problems that contributed to the savings-and-loan collapse.

The White House says the current confusion points to the need for a system that is more stable and simpler. "We've got to have a larger debate about...how is this country going to win the economic competition of the 21st century," President Obama said last week. "That's going to mean looking at the tax code and saying, what's fair, what's efficient? And I don't think anybody thinks the tax code right now is fair or efficient."

Small business is often looked to as a source of job growth. But the latest monthly survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business advocacy group, found that 75% of owners felt it wasn't a good time to expand, and one in five said the main reason was doubt about policy environment, including taxes.

For smaller companies, tax uncertainty could be an incentive to expand overseas rather than in the U.S., according to Tom Duesterberg, president of the Manufacturers Alliance, a group representing medium-size firms. Companies "can't wait until all these [tax] questions are resolved," he says. "They are not going to wait until all that definitively happens. They have to deploy cash, please their shareholders and expand and grow."

Billy Hoffpauir, a developer in Lafayette, La., says he has been trying to sell some real estate because "with the current uncertainty, I am unable to quantify the risk to make long-term investment decisions." If he finds buyers, he says, he would be likely to plow the cash into "other interests, probably overseas," because some foreign countries have more favorable taxes and regulations. The tax situation is the overwhelming driver in his business decisions, Mr. Hoffpauir says.

Lea Bailes, president of Guier Fence in Blue Springs, Mo., says his plans for next year depend on how the tax debate turns out: "We're looking at acquiring a couple of smaller fence companies. The number we acquire, honestly, will depend on what we have to pay in tax."

The company, which employs about 70, would try to hire two to three new workers for each acquisition, possibly 10 in all. "If everybody our size can add 10 employees, we'd be a lot farther down the road in dealing with the unemployment," Mr. Bailes says.

Guier is in the process of acquiring another firm now, and while Mr. Bailes likes to take time to make such decisions, he worries that concern over a possible rise in capital-gains rates might make the seller push to complete the sale this year. The bill in Congress would keep the current 15% top rate for two years.

One reason unsettled rules on individual income taxes affect planning at small businesses is that many don't pay corporate tax, but pass business income through to the owners for taxation on their personal returns.

Bill Wiygul, whose family owns four auto-repair businesses in northern Virginia, estimates he and his wife would pay at least $20,000 more in various taxes in 2011 if Congress doesn't address parts of the code, including the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT snags a growing number of filers each year, and while Congress regularly limits the number affected—and likely will do so again this week or next—this has so far been an AMT "patch," never a permanent fix.

Mr. Wiygul says he would trade an increase in tax rates for greater certainty if the pain was shared by all. "We are petrified," he says. "We would be more actively pursuing expansion opportunities if we felt like the climate was more certain."

Large multinationals are only marginally affected directly by income-tax provisions on the table this year. Yet the stakes might be high for these companies. Executives worry about becoming a target for lawmakers seeking revenue to narrow deficits.

If a broad revision "is a true 'step back, let's take a fresh look,' we would not be frightened by that," says Ken Cohen, a vice president at Exxon Mobil Corp. But if it pits industry versus industry or becomes a hunt for revenue, "that's the process we would have much more apprehension about."

The reasons the tax code has acquired an increasingly temporary cast have to do with deficits, a divided Congress and even the constitutional system.

Political division contributes because of the daunting task of mustering a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate. Legislative shepherds of the Bush cuts resorted to passage under what is called "budget reconciliation," requiring only a majority vote. But a measure passed this way can't be for longer than the budget that authorizes it, in this case 10 years. Hence the provisions expire in 2010.

Such an outcome is less likely in countries with parliamentary systems because these leave the government less subject to having its will thwarted by a large minority. "Very few countries have tax provisions that expire unless legislative action is taken," says Jeffrey Owens, head of tax at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. "Also, in most OECD countries, it's the government that initiates new legislation, and once proposed the legislation generally passes."

Deficits tempt legislators to give tax provisions a temporary term to disguise their cost. For proponents of a new tax provision, the strategy is to get a foot in the door by passing it for a year or two, at a seemingly affordable cost, intending to renew it regularly.

That is how the number of provisions up for yearly extension has ballooned. Though the provisions are often extended in a bundle, a given provision's inclusion in the bundle is never certain.

Perhaps nowhere has tax uncertainty been felt more intensely this year than in the estate tax, always a controversial matter.

A 2001 law lowered its rate and increased the exemption in steps, with the tax lapsing in 2010 and then, unless Congress acts, returning in 2011 at a 55% top rate on estates of $1 million or more. The unusual hiatus coupled with a far more costly tax as soon as 2010 ended gave "just an unbelievable Alice-in-Wonderland aspect" to planning for certain well-to-do families, says Bruce Stone, a Miami-area estate lawyer.

Sales of a life-insurance policy commonly used for estate planning rose 22% in the first nine months from a year earlier, and their death-benefit coverage was up 30%. Though the policies can also be used for other purposes, part of the jump seemed clearly to be for hedging against the possible estate-tax jump in 2011.

In a few cases, the uncertainty drove people to ponder extreme measures to avoid a tax hit for heirs.

David Drouhard, a Washington-state farmer who is 56, received a diagnosis of advanced kidney cancer 14 months ago and faced a grim set of treatment choices. Most offered little chance of extending his life more than 18 months, although an immunity-boosting drug held out some hope. Mr. Drouhard says he worried that inaction on the estate tax would force his family to sell his wheat and alfalfa farm, now worth about $3 million, to pay taxes if he died in 2011.

After much deliberation, Mr. Drouhard decided to take the immunity-boosting drug, but with a caveat: "I said, 'If we don't see results from the first series [of treatments], I'm going to stop,"' he says. "I try to take care of my family, so why not go ahead and die instead of living another six months." He has responded well to the treatment, but adds: "I think it's wrong that you have to make that kind of decision."

The compromise Congress is weighing this week would set a top estate-tax rate at 35% and the exemption at $5 million.

But this would be for just two years. Just as this year, a failure by Congress to act then would cause the tax to then revert to a top 55% rate and $1 million exemption, in this case in 2013.

25248  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / LATimes: NFL supports CA student athlete head injury bill on: December 15, 2010, 10:32:31 AM


The NFL is lending its public relations muscle to a proposal that would require California student athletes who leave a game after a head injury to get written medical clearance before returning to the field or court.

Retired players, including Raiders legends Jim Otto and Fred Biletnikoff and San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl players Keena Turner and Eric Davis, recounted their own experiences Tuesday to support the measure in Sacramento.

Davis told how a blow to the head in a game against the Detroit Lions rendered him temporarily blind in his left eye. Reasoning that he played the left side of the field, and the bad eye was facing the sideline, Davis said he stayed in the game, unaware of the risk he was taking.



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Since then, research has shown that repeated head trauma can lead to brain bleeding, memory loss, depression and even death. Middle school and high school athletes, whose brains are still developing, are even more vulnerable than college athletes and professionals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The decision to leave a game should be "out of the player's hands, and out of the coach's hands," Davis said, because they can be too caught up in the competition to make good decisions.

The NFL, which drastically amended its own approach to the treatment of brain injuries following headlines about the tragic health problems of aging players, is backing legislation in 44 states this year that would require young players who suffer head injuries to stay off the field for at least the rest of the day and to get a medical professional's signature before they play again.

Parents would have to sign a "concussion awareness fact sheet" before their kids could play in a sports program in any league covered by the California bill. The prohibition would apply not only to official school teams but also to nonprofits and other organizations using public school facilities for youth sports.

Like legislation the NFL is backing around the country, California's is modeled on a Washington State law enacted after a middle school football player returned to the field following a head injury and suffered subsequent damage that left him connected to a ventilator, fighting for his life.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi (D-Castro Valley), sponsor of California's proposal, AB 25, backed unsuccessful legislation in the past that would have required high school coaches to be trained to spot symptoms of potentially dangerous head and neck injuries. Hayashi said she thinks the current bill stands a better chance of success because it would not place a financial burden on schools.

"We're assuming that the students are covered under their parents' healthcare plan," Hayashi said, and the required medical discharge would be no more burdensome than if "they had a cold, or the flu."

State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark), the bill's co-sponsor, said he expected coaches to welcome the measure because it would relieve them of the burden of deciding whether a player could safely get back in the game following a potentially dangerous blow to the head.

More than 3 million sports and recreation-related concussions are suffered each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Football is the leading cause among high school boys; soccer is the main reason for high school girls.

Nearly half of those injured return to play too early, according to a 2010 report by the Center for Injury Research and Policy, based at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Sixteen percent of high school football players who lost consciousness following a blow to the head returned to play the same day, the report says.

Staying in the game following head injuries was routine in the era when Otto, a Hall of Fame center, was snapping balls and taking a pounding for the Raiders in the 1960s and 1970s. Otto has endured nearly 70 surgeries on his knees, shoulders and hips to repair damage done during his years in the NFL's trenches.

Standing at the podium Tuesday, Otto motioned to his former teammate. "I remember looking over at Biletnikoff in the huddle, looking all cross-eyed, and saying, 'Snap out of it.' He'd say, 'I am snapped out of it.' "

Now that he understands the dangers of repeated head injuries, mostly from watching friends struggle with the long-term effects, Otto said, "It's imperative that this thing has to pass and that our children have to be protected."
25249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: December 15, 2010, 10:01:23 AM
This subject belongs in the Constitutional Law thread.
25250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Surprise surprise (soda) on: December 15, 2010, 09:58:01 AM
Over the last year, Save the Children emerged as a leader in the push to tax sweetened soft drinks as a way to combat childhood obesity. The nonprofit group supported soda tax campaigns in Mississippi, New Mexico, Washington State, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

At the same time, executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity.

The talks with Coke are still going on. But the soda tax work has been stopped. In October, Save the Children surprised activists around the country with an e-mail message announcing that it would no longer support efforts to tax soft drinks.

In interviews this month, Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer of Save the Children, said there was no connection between the group’s about-face on soda taxes and the discussions with Coke. A $5 million grant from PepsiCo also had no influence on the decision, she said. Both companies fiercely oppose soda taxes.

Ms. Miles said that after Save the Children took a prominent role in several soda tax campaigns, executives reviewed the issue and decided it was too controversial to continue.

“We looked at it and said, ‘Is this something we should be out there doing and does this fit with the way that Save the Children works?’ ” she said. “And the answer was no.”

Ms. Miles said the talks with Coke were continuing and the grant under discussion was significantly larger than past donations from the soft drink giant. Coke has given the group about $400,000 since 1991, according to a company spokeswoman.

Save the Children has received much more money from Pepsi through the PepsiCo Foundation, which it has designated as a “corporate partner” in recognition of the $5 million grant for work in India and Bangladesh. PepsiCo awarded the grant in early 2009, before the charity began its soda tax advocacy.

Representatives of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi said they had not asked the charity to alter its position on soda taxes.

But soda tax advocates say that soft drink makers are flexing their muscles in opposition to soda taxes. In Washington State, the American Beverage Association, a trade group that includes Coke and Pepsi, spent $16.5 million to win passage of a November ballot initiative that overturned a small tax on soft drinks enacted by the legislature to help plug a budget gap. The beverage association outspent supporters of the tax by more than 40 to 1, and the tax was repealed.

Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children’s Alliance, an advocacy group in Seattle, said Save the Children’s decision to abandon the issue was “a significant loss, especially at a time when the American Beverage Association has just shown that their resources are unlimited.” The alliance got $25,000 from Save the Children to help advocate for a soda tax.

Kelly D. Brownell, a soda tax advocate and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said that many food and beverage companies made donations to nonprofit groups fighting hunger but it was less common for them to finance work to address obesity.

“It would be a shame if there were a quid pro quo and the groups felt pressure to oppose something like a soda tax,” Mr. Brownell said.

Public debate about soda taxes has intensified over the last year. Proponents say that if the tax were large enough, perhaps a penny an ounce or more, it could reduce consumption of sugary beverages, which are high in calories and can contribute to obesity. In addition, money raised by the tax could be spent on public health efforts to fight obesity.

The soda companies argue that it is unfair to blame their products for the obesity epidemic, which has complex causes. They say that policies should be focused instead on getting people to exercise more.

So far, tax proposals have gotten little traction. Last year, federal lawmakers considered a soft drink tax to help pay for health care reform, but that idea was dropped. Governors, state lawmakers and mayors have proposed taxes but made little headway.

Save the Children’s involvement in the issue began in late 2009, when it got a $3.5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fight childhood obesity through a program it called the Campaign for Healthy Kids. Save the Children initially financed the work of local groups, some of which focused on improving school lunches and requiring health education in schools. But local activists in Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington State used the grants to push for a soda tax.

When politicians in Philadelphia and Washington proposed soda taxes this year, the Campaign for Healthy Kids got more directly involved, paying for lobbyists and polling. “We really took the lead on those and were publicly identified with those,” said Andrew Hysell, an associate vice president for Save the Children and the director of the obesity campaign.

None of the soda tax measures supported by Save the Children passed, although in Washington, the city council removed a sales tax exemption for carbonated beverages.

Save the Children’s prominent role in Philadelphia and Washington led top executives of the charity to review the work. Ms. Miles said they concluded the advocacy was not part of the charity’s mission.

“We made a decision that it was an issue that was controversial among our constituents and really was not core to the work we’re doing in the U.S.,” Ms. Miles said. She said that while the charity’s constituents included corporate donors, concerns over fund-raising were not involved in the decision.

Mr. Hysell informed soda tax advocates of the change in October and the Campaign for Healthy Kids removed declarations of support for soda taxes from its Web site.

Officials of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who had encouraged Save the Children to advocate for soda taxes, are disappointed.

“They were obviously some of the strongest out there working on the issue, and we had such high hopes,” said Dwayne Proctor, team director for childhood obesity at the foundation. He said the two groups would continue to work together on other aspects of the obesity fight.

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