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25351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion and theocratic politics on: February 19, 2011, 01:14:18 PM
Doug is right.  It looks like we are now seeing whether it will be a struggle between civilization and barbarism or between Islam and everyone else.
25352  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Chess on: February 19, 2011, 01:02:41 PM
Great comments-- what's a Benoni Defense?

Conrad always plays white against me.  For quite some time he has focused on a QP opening.  For a while I did well playing QB-4 in response, but eventually he solved that  cool

25353  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big Brother seeks to track gold buyers on: February 19, 2011, 12:52:28 PM

Prepare To Give Up All Private Data For Any Gold Purchase Over $100
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/18/2011 20:59 -0500

A week ago, when we reported on a move by the Dutch central bank that
ordered a pension fund to forcibly reduce its gold holdings, we speculated
that "this latest gold confiscation equivalent event is most certainly
coming to a banana republic near you." And while we got the Banana republic
right, the event that we are about to describe is not necessarily identical.
It is much worse. A bill proposed in the State of Washington (House Bill
1716), by representatives Asay, Hurst, Klippert, Pearson, and Miloscia,
whose alleged purpose is to regulate secondhand gold dealers, seeks to
capture "the name, date of birth, sex, height, weight, race, and address and
telephone number of the person with whom the transaction is made" or said
otherwise, of every purchaser of gold in the state of Washington.
Furthermore, if passed, Bill 1716 will record "a complete description of the
property pledged, bought, or consigned, including the brand name, serial
number, model number or name, any initials or engraving, size, pattern, and
color or stone or stones" and of course price. But the kicker: if a
transaction is mode for an amount over $100, which means one tenth of an
ounce of golds, also required will be a "signature, photo, and fingerprint
of the person with whom the transaction is made." In other words, very soon
Washington state will know more about you than you know about yourself, if
you dare to buy any gold object worth more than a C-note. How this proposal
is supposed to protect consumers against vulture gold dealers we don't quite
get. Hopefully someone will explain it to us. We do, however, get how
Americans will part with any and all privacy if they were to exchange fiat
for physical. And in a police state like America, this will likely not be
taken lightly, thereby killing the gold trade should the proposed Bill pass,
and be adopted elsewhere.
25354  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Iran on: February 19, 2011, 12:08:24 AM
Concerns Over Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Iran

The Persian Gulf island of Bahrain was Thursday’s geopolitical focal point. The day began with domestic security forces storming an encampment of protesters in a central square in the capital of Manama — an operation that left five people dead and another 100-200 reportedly injured. While the army is trying to ensure against further protests, more unrest in the coming days cannot be ruled out. Manama’s trepidation can be gauged from the fact that Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa chaired an extraordinary session of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) foreign ministers.

Bahrain is unique in that it is the only country among the mostly wealthy Arab states on the Arabian Peninsula that is experiencing public unrest. However, public agitation is by no means new, as it has a lengthy tradition of pro-democracy mass risings. But in the wake of the toppling of presidents who long ruled Tunisia and Egypt, this latest wave of unrest in Bahrain is seen with a greater sense of urgency.

“From Riyadh’s perspective, the empowerment of Shia in neighboring Bahrain could very likely embolden its own Shiite minority…”
In addition to being the only GCC member state to experience demonstrations, the country’s location and sectarian demographic sets it apart from every other Arab nation. An overwhelming Shiite majority seeks a greater say in the country ruled by a Sunni royal family and in close proximity to Iran. Thus, the demand for democracy, which in the case of other Arab countries is seen by many around the world as a positive development, is a cause of regional and international concern for Bahrain.

This would explain why U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked by phone with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa (also deputy commander of the country’s armed forces) to discuss the security situation. Washington is not only concerned about security and stability because it is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, but also because of the fear that Iran could potentially exploit the situation to its advantage. As it stands, Iran already has the upper hand in its struggle with the United States over Iraq and Lebanon.

The potential for the al-Khalifas to make concessions to the Shia is a frightening prospect for the Saudis, who are already trying to deal with the Shiite empowerment in Baghdad and Beirut. From Riyadh’s perspective, the empowerment of Shia in neighboring Bahrain could very likely embolden its own Shiite minority (20 percent of the kingdom’s population, concentrated in the kingdom’s oil rich Eastern province, which is in close proximity to Bahrain).

Even before the outbreak of regional unrest, Saudi Arabia has had a difficult time in light of the pending transition of the geriatric king and the top three princes. But now with the contagion that began in North Africa engulfing Saudi Arabia’s immediate neighborhood, there is a sense of alarm in the Saudi capital. A senior member of the House of Saud, Prince Talal bin Abdel-Aziz, who is close to King Abdullah, told BBC Arabic that the regional unrest threatened the kingdom unless it engaged in political reforms and the only one who could initiate the process is the country’s 86-year old ailing monarch.

But now with Bahrain in play, the Saudis are not just concerned about calls for democracy, but also the rise of Shia on the Arabian Peninsula and with it, a more assertive Iran.

25355  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What are some indications your finger is broken? on: February 18, 2011, 04:47:36 PM
I thought people would be all over this thread  cheesy
25356  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: February 18, 2011, 04:46:55 PM
If you like, I can do both  evil
25357  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New DBMA Classes Starting March 1st in Chino Hills, California on: February 18, 2011, 04:46:10 PM
25358  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Chess on: February 18, 2011, 04:45:31 PM
I play games live at sometimes.  I haven't used the capability, but apparently they have coaching there too.  Worth it to pay a few $ a month I think.
25359  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / OTOH here's this on: February 18, 2011, 04:28:24 PM
OTOH, here's Wesbury:,-sugar,-or-dead-cat-bounces
25360  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Skin Gun for Skin Burns on: February 18, 2011, 02:48:44 PM
25361  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Strassel on: February 18, 2011, 02:28:50 PM
Washington and Lincoln—those birthday boys—ought to be smiling.

The 112th House of Representatives spent the week debating how to fund the rest of fiscal 2011. In sharp contrast to his recent predecessors, Speaker John Boehner is sticking to his vow to make the chamber more open and accountable. His committee chairmen having presented a base spending bill, Mr. Boehner threw open the floor for full discussion. Some 600 amendments came pouring in.

"Chaos," "a headache," "turmoil," "craziness," "confused," "wild," "uncontrolled" are just a few of the words the Washington press corps has used to describe the ensuing late-night debates. There's a far better word for what happened: democracy. It has been eons since the nation's elected representatives have had to study harder, debate with such earnestness, or commit themselves so publicly. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is unpredictable. But as this Presidents Day approaches, it's a fabulous thing to behold.

And about time. The Democrats' style of management—on ObamaCare, cap and trade, financial regulation, stimulus—was to secretly craft bills and ram through a vote, denying members a chance to read, to debate, to amend. They learned this from former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who infamously micro- managed his GOP majority from 2003-2005. The House had become a place where the leadership called all the shots and the majority saluted.

But this week the country witnessed the House coming together to argue over and exercise its foremost responsibility: power over the purse. And from the look of the amendments, both sides were eager to use that funding authority to put the Obama policy machine on notice.

There were amendments to prohibit funds for the mortgage-modification program (Darrell Issa, R., Calif.), for wasteful broadband grants (Jim Matheson, D., Utah), for further TSA full-body scanning machines (Rush Holt, D., N.J.), for the salaries of State Department envoys tasked with shutting Guantanamo Bay (Tim Huelskamp, R., Kan.). And amendments designed to cut off funding for IRS agents enforcing ObamaCare.

View Full Image

Martin Kozlowski
 .Americans got to see what happens when members of Congress exercise their collective knowledge of the federal government. Mr. Issa put forward amendments to prohibit the National Institutes of Health from spending money studying the impact of yoga on hot flashes in menopausal women. Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum offered to strike funding for the Department of Defense to sponsor Nascar race cars. Indiana Republican Todd Rokita proposed getting rid of money provided for dissertation research under a 1970 Housing Act.

Neglected questions were once again asked. Should we get rid of federal funding for the arts? Should the government be designating federal monuments? What's the role of NASA? And Congress finally got to air some dirty secrets.

One of this week's more symbolically rich cuts came from Arizona's Republican Jeff Flake, who won an amendment erasing $34 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, Pa. The center, despite serving no real purpose, had been protected for decades, via earmarks, by the late Defense appropriations chair John Murtha.

The nation witnessed Democrats—the members not in the majority—offer their own amendments, a courtesy Speaker Nancy Pelosi never extended. In the main, that meant seeing that nothing much has changed on that side of the aisle. Most Democratic amendments were to restore funds for even the most minor GOP cuts. Texas's Sheila Jackson Lee even went to the mat to continue funding for those road signs bragging about the stimulus.

Remarkably, voters saw Republicans disagree vehemently with each other. Just as remarkably, the world did not stop spinning. To the contrary, these arguments helped flesh out differences and proved it is possible for gentlemen to have honest disagreements. Nowhere was this more clear than in this week's vote to defund a second (duplicative) engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The engine is being developed in a town near Mr. Boehner's Ohio district, and the speaker is a supporter. Yet 100 Republicans joined 123 Democrats (and Defense Secretary Robert Gates) to oppose the second engine and save taxpayers $450 million this year and $3 billion in the long-run.

Mr. Boehner didn't have to allow that vote. Mrs. Pelosi wouldn't have. But in opening the House, Mr. Boehner has done far more than put reform above his own priorities. This week's exercise forced members to read the underlying spending bill; to understand the implications of hundreds of amendments; to remain on the floor for debate; and to go on record with votes for which voters will hold them accountable.

Some of these amendments are duplicates. Some weren't heard. Some failed. Even those that pass now must survive the Senate. But what isn't in doubt is that Congress, this week, earned its pay. Long may that last.

25362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MB leader to speak in Tahrir Square on: February 18, 2011, 02:23:14 PM
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2011, 06:49:49 PM »     


Wonderful: Muslim Brotherhood’s “spiritual leader” to preach in Tahrir Square tomorrow

posted at 6:15 pm on February 17, 2011 by Allahpundit

I linked it a week ago, but if you haven’t yet read Lee Smith’s analysis of how Qaradawi’s emergence in Egypt could mirror Khomeini’s return to Iran from exile, read it now. (“Qaradawi approves of wife-beating, he defends female genital mutilation and signs off on female suicide bombers, and he attacks Shia for trying to subvert Sunni nations.”) And bear in mind, not only is the Brotherhood an international movement, Qaradawi himself is already internationally famous throughout the region for his show on Al Jazeera. So the spectacle of his appearance in Tahrir Square — no doubt to be carried live on AJ — is something that could galvanize fanatics in Egypt and beyond, reaching other Sunni countries that have gone wobbly like Yemen. Or, in the ultimate worst-case scenario, Saudi Arabia.

    For the first time since he was banned from leading weekly friday prayers in Egypt 30 years ago, prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi will lead thousands in the weekly prayers from Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday.

    Sources told Al Arabiya that a military force will accompany the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars from his home to Tahrir Square, provide security for the prayers and accompany him back to his residence…

    Sheikh Qaradawi confirmed in a telephone call with the German Press Agency that he would lead tomorrow’s prayers in Tahrir, with hundreds of thousands expected to attend.

Once you’re done with Lee Smith’s piece, dive into this post at Hit & Run by Stephen J. Smith collecting evidence on the wires (and beyond) that the Saudis are already hard at work inside Bahrain to crush the Shiite protests there. That’s not surprising — a Saudi intervention was expected there at some point given how high the stakes are — but the extent of their presence is a shock. Hit & Run makes it sound like a full-fledged invasion, with at least one eyewitness reporting that Saudi tanks are “everywhere.” The Journal also reports a full military crackdown, replete with troops now in control of the square where protesters demonstrated for three days, but they seem to believe it’s the Bahraini military at work. Until last night, the demonstrations had been comparatively upbeat, with some protesters even advocating leaving the king in power if legal reforms could be worked out. Now it’s a death struggle, literally: “Shouts of ‘Death to the al-Khalifa’ have increasingly been heard.”

If the Saudis are scared now, wait until tomorrow when Qaradawi leads the region-wide democracy parade. Exit question: There’s no way the U.S. wants this guy seizing the moment in Egypt, especially with our “friends” in Riyadh getting nervous. Is this the best proof yet of how little leverage we have left over the Egyptian military?
25363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan on: February 18, 2011, 02:19:50 PM
There were two big speeches this week, and I mean big as in "Modern political history will remember this." Together they signal something significant and promising. Oh, that's a stuffy way to put it. I mean: The governors are rising and are starting to lead. What a relief. It's like seeing the posse come over the hill.

The first speech was from Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor who is the answer to the question, "What if Calvin Coolidge talked?" President Coolidge, a spare and serious man, was so famously silent, the story goes, that when a woman at a dinner told him she'd made a bet she could get him to string three words together, he smiled and said, "You lose." But he was principled, effective and, in time, broadly popular.

The other speech was from a governor newer to the scene but more celebrated, in small part because he comes from a particular media market and in large part because he has spent the past year, his first in office, taking on his state's most entrenched political establishments, and winning. His style—big, rumpled, garrulous, Jersey-blunt—has captured the imagination of the political class, and also normal people. They look at him and think, "I know that guy. I like that guy."

Both Mr. Daniels, who spoke Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who spoke Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute, were critical of both parties and put forward the same message: Wake up. We are in crisis. We must save our country, and we can. But if we don't move now, we will lose it. This isn't rhetoric, it's real.

Here's why response at both venues was near-rapturous: Everyone knew they meant it. Everyone knew they'd been living it.

Mr. Daniels began with first principles—the role and purpose of government—and went to what he has done to keep his state's books in the black in spite of "the recent unpleasantness." He turned to the challenge of our era: catastrophic spending, the red ink that is becoming "the red menace." He said: "No enterprise, small or large, public or private, can remain self-governing, let alone successful, so deeply in hock to others as we are about to be." If a foreign army invaded, we would set aside all secondary disputes and run to the ramparts. We must bring that air of urgency to the spending crisis. It is "our generational assignment. . . . Forgive the pun when I call it our 'raison debt.'"

He argued for cuts and sunsetting, for new arrangements and "compacts" with the young. What followed has become controversial with a few conservatives, though it was the single most obvious thing Daniels said: "We have learned in Indiana, big change requires big majorities. We will need people who never tune in to Rush or Glenn or Laura or Sean," who don't fall asleep at night to C-Span, who are not necessarily engaged or aligned.

Rush Limbaugh, who is rightly respected for many reasons—lost in the daily bombast, humor and controversy is that fact that for 20 years he has been the nation's most reliable and compelling explainer of conservative thought—saw Mr. Daniels's remarks as disrespectful. Radio listeners aren't "irrelevant or unnecessary."

Of course they're not. Nor are they sufficient. If you really want to change your country, you cannot do it from a political base alone. You must win over centrists, moderates, members of the other party, and those who are not preoccupied with politics. This doesn't mean "be less conservative," it means broadening the appeal of conservative thinking and approaches. It starts with not alienating and proceeds to persuading.

The late Rep. Henry Hyde, he of the Hyde amendment, once said to me, "Politics is a game of addition." You start with your followers and bring in new ones, constantly broadening the circle to include people who started out elsewhere. You know the phrase Reagan Democrats? It exists because Reagan reached out to Democrats! He put out his hand to them and said, literally, "Come walk with me." He lauded Truman, JFK and Scoop Jackson. He argued in his first great political speech, in 1964, that the choice wasn't right or left, it was up or down.

That's what Mr. Daniels was saying. "We can search for villains on ideological grounds," but it's a waste of time. Compromise and flexibility are necessary, "purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers." We must work together. You've got to convince the other guy.

Mr. Christie covered similar territory in a way that was less aerial, more on-the-ground. He spoke of making change in Jersey.

Pensions and benefits on the state level, he said, are the equivalent of federal entitlements. They have powerful, "vocal" constituencies. He introduced pension and benefit reforms on a Tuesday in September, and that Friday he went to the state firefighters convention in Wildwood. It was 2 p.m., and "I think you know what they had for lunch." Mr. Christie had proposed raising their retirement age, eliminating the cost-of-living adjustment, increasing employee pension contributions, and rolling back a 9% pay increase approved years before "by a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature."

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

click here to order her new book, Patriotic Grace
.As Mr. Chrisie recounted it: "You can imagine how that was received by 7,500 firefighters. As I walked into the room and was introduced. I was booed lustily. I made my way up to the stage, they booed some more. . . . So I said, 'Come on, you can do better than that,' and they did!"

He crumpled up his prepared remarks and threw them on the floor. He told them, "Here's the deal: I understand you're angry, and I understand you're frustrated, and I understand you feel deceived and betrayed." And, he said, they were right: "For 20 years, governors have come into this room and lied to you, promised you benefits that they had no way of paying for, making promises they knew they couldn't keep, and just hoping that they wouldn't be the man or women left holding the bag. I understand why you feel angry and betrayed and deceived by those people. Here's what I don't understand. Why are you booing the first guy who came in here and told you the truth?"

He told them there was no political advantage in being truthful: "The way we used to think about politics and, unfortunately, the way I fear they're thinking about politics still in Washington" involves "the old playbook [which] says, "lie, deceive, obfuscate and make it to the next election." He'd seen a study that said New Jersey's pensions may go bankrupt by 2020. A friend told him not to worry, he won't be governor then. "That's the way politics has been practiced in our country for too long. . . . So I said to those firefighters, 'You may hate me now, but 15 years from now, when you have a pension to collect because of what I did, you'll be looking for my address on the Internet so you can send me a thank-you note.'"

It can be a great relief to turn away from Washington and look at the states, where the rubber meets the road. Real leadership is happening there—the kind that can inspire real followership.

25364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul? on: February 18, 2011, 02:08:48 PM
A friend sent me these:

By themselves, they do not present a lot of evidence.  OTOH Ron Paul has a very dicey history on this front.  A newsletter sent out under his name for several years had some pretty bad stuff in it, which RP blamed on an unsupervised employee.  Also, not proof, but a favorite RP theme is "international banker conspiracy", a possibility I don't deny, but an idea often intertwined with some pretty vile anti-semitism.
25365  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Australia; Patriot Post on: February 18, 2011, 01:52:48 PM
"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson

Government & Politics
Fiscal Insanity: The White House Budget
Last year, Democrats in Congress didn't even bother to pass a budget. Given the increases proposed in the White House budget released Monday, it might behoove Congress to rinse, lather and repeat. Last November, Barack Obama's very own deficit commission recommended that federal spending be cut by $4 trillion over the next decade -- which is still far too little for our liking -- but Obama must have misunderstood. He apparently thought they meant he should spend $4 trillion this year.

The administration's budget proposal sets federal spending for fiscal 2012 at $3.73 trillion, yet another dubious new record for this administration. The deficit for the '12 budget would be $1.65 trillion, or 10.9 percent of GDP, also a record. That would bring the total national debt equal to the worth of the entire U.S. economy, or $15 trillion. Yet Obama has the chutzpah to tout the shamelessly inadequate spending cuts in his budget.

Erskine Bowles, a Clinton administration lackey who co-chaired Obama's deficit commission, was far closer to the mark when he said that the White House's proposal is "nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare." Even Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asserted that it would leave the nation with "unsustainable obligations over time."

As for the "cuts" and "savings," The Wall Street Journal notes, "Although the White House trumpets $2.18 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, those savings are so far off in the magical 'out years' that you can barely see them from here."

Perhaps most appalling is Obama's utter failure to address entitlement spending -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- which together constitute the majority of federal spending. Even the liberal Washington Post gets it: "President Obama's budget kicks the hard choices further down the road," said the headline of its recent editorial, which also criticized the president for his budgetary "gimmickry." In other words, the necessary cuts won't happen unless House Republicans begin to undertake the hard work right now.

One of the reasons Obama can claim deficit reduction is the old tax trick -- raise taxes and count on exact revenue increases, completely ignoring the negative effect that doing so will have on the economy. In fact, the White House anticipates economic growth of more than 4 percent in the next three to four years, which is a full percentage point higher than most private economists or the Congressional Budget Office project.

The budget anticipates that taxes on the top two income brackets will rise in 2013, and it includes raising the capital gains tax to 20 percent from 15 percent plus new taxes on energy companies totaling $300 billion. On top of that, the administration is seeking 5,100 additional IRS agents to reduce the estimated $300 billion in unpaid taxes. All told, Obama is counting on $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue -- money taken out of the economy to pay for more government. He keeps calling that government spending "investment," as if that makes it acceptable.

Under this budget, the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of ObamaCare (despite a judge's recent ruling that the law is unconstitutional, we might add), will become the nation's first $1 trillion department by 2014. "In fact," says CNSNews editor Terence Jeffrey, "HHS already is costing American taxpayers more per year in inflation-adjusted dollars than the entire federal government cost back in 1965, the year President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed Medicare into law." This year's total is $909.7 billion, which is $170 billion more than the Department of Defense.

About his budget, Obama claimed, "Just like every family in America, the federal government has to do two things at once: It has to live within its means while still investing in the future. If your family [is] trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, you might put off a vacation, but you wouldn't want to sacrifice saving for your kids' college education or making key repairs in your house. So you cut back on what you can't afford to focus on what you can't do without, and that's what we've done with this year's budget." Such a claim is absurd. House Republicans should lead the charge against it.

News From the Swamp: GOP Works to Cut Spending
House Republicans are doing some budget work themselves, debating legislation to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The GOP is considering measures that would reduce federal spending by $61 billion this year, including defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and eliminating $450 million for a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, though other defense cuts failed. Republicans are also debating blocking funding for ObamaCare, and dethroned nine "czars" Thursday. Some conservative Republicans are pushing for an additional $20 billion in cuts.

Barack Obama issued a veto threat almost as soon as the House began debate on the cuts. The White House said that the GOP's plans "will undermine our ability to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world." It's important to note that $61 billion is still a pathetically small piece of the $3+ trillion budget, so Democrats might want to tone down their cries of despair -- and Republicans might want to toughen up.

25366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Atlanta PD taps into private cameras too on: February 18, 2011, 01:45:54 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Someday very soon, if you stroll through Piedmont Park, travel the Downtown Connector, hit one of the bars or restaurants in Midtown or visit the Georgia Dome or Philips Arena, you'll have an invisible companion: the Atlanta Police Department.

This spring, the department will open a video integration center designed to compile and analyze footage from thousands of public and private security cameras throughout the city. Images from as many as 500 cameras in downtown and Midtown are expected to be flowing into the center by mid-summer.

Several metro Atlanta police agencies use cameras to bolster public safety, but the city's new venture, which will integrate data supplied by private entities such as CNN, America's Mart and Midtown Blue as well as public agencies such as the Federal Reserve, MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation, represents a whole new level of electronic surveillance.

Atlanta police Chief George Turner pointed to the case of Charles Boyer, gunned down outside a Virginia-Highland apartment building in November, to show what cameras can do. Footage from a security camera, which captured images of men refueling a vehicle similar to one described by witnesses to the shooting, contributed to the arrest five days later of the three men charged with Boyer's murder.

"How successful were we in solving that crime because of the video we had?" Turner asked in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "That's an example of how this will work."

In fact, the technology installed in the new center will be capable of much more, according to David Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which funds a camera network operated by the private security agency Midtown Blue.

The foundation raised a half-million dollars to supplement the $2.6 million in federal funds the city will use to build its new center. The federal money came from Homeland Security grants and Justice Department seizure funds.

Wilkinson said the center will use software that can identify suspicious activity and guide officers right to the scene of a crime as it's occurring. In effect, the software will multiply the eyes and ears of the five to seven people per shift who will initially monitor video footage around the clock.

"Monitoring is somewhat of a fallacy," Wilkinson said. "Analytics will help control the cameras."

The software includes a program called "Gun Spotter," which automatically cues up cameras in the vicinity of the sound of gunfire, so dispatchers can get a quick jump on what happened. Other software will send images to the officers' in-car computers and even to the screens of web-enabled smart phones.

"The real goal is to prevent the crime," Wilkinson said. "You do that by setting up police patrols, cameras, things that deter criminal from ever committing crime."

Facial recognition systems, license plate reading and automatic tracking programs also are available, although cities such as Chicago, which has pioneered citywide video surveillance, has reported those technologies are not yet ready for prime time.

Atlanta is modeling its surveillance network after Chicago's, which integrates data from a 10,000-camera network. This week, the Illinois ACLU issued a report demanding a moratorium on further expansion of Chicago's system on the grounds that it represents an unacceptable threat to personal privacy.

"Cameras do not deter crime, they just displace it," said Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the Illinois ACLU. "It's difficult to see where the benefits of using cameras outweighs the costs --- including a vast amount of money, potential privacy invasion and a potential chilling of free speech."

With the promise of integrated surveillance capabilities in the hands of Atlanta police, Georgia's ACLU is voicing similar concerns.

"We always hope for strong oversight and regulation to make sure there are no violations of privacy," Georgia ACLU attorney Chara Fisher Jackson said. "But until we see it [at work], we won't say what actions we might take."

Greg McGraw, who lives in East Cobb and works in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward, isn't too worried about police looking over his shoulder.

"People expose themselves so much on Facebook, privacy is a joke," McGraw said. "If it's going to make people safer, I'm for it."

Megan Larion, who lives in Buckhead and manages a Virginia-Highland apartment complex, is OK with the cameras, too, especially when she thinks about Boyer's slaying.

"I guess those folks who think these cameras mark the end of the world will be upset, but that's all," Larion said. "I think it's a good thing. It'll improve our industry, and people will feel more safe."

For a preview of how Atlanta's proposed network will function, you just have to look at the nearly 50 video screens that flicker above the front office of Midtown Blue. When someone calls in to report suspicious activity, a video dispatcher can remotely pan, tilt or zoom any one of the $13,000 cameras, tracking the suspect and directing an officer to the spot.

"When you have a dispatcher sitting here, you can actually catch crimes before they occur," said Col. Wayne Mock, a retired Atlanta policeman who manages Midtown Blue.

If a crime does occur, the cameras make excellent witnesses, he said. "The video tells you what actually happened and doesn't get excited like the average witness might."

Other local police agencies also are using cameras to bolster the impact of their officers.

"We were convinced that this was an effective force multiplier," said Lilburn police Chief John Davidson.

But cities in other states have encountered glitches. Cincinnati is currently on its second video surveillance network; the first system, started in 2005, proved ineffective. And Orlando's system failed to deliver on its promise when the city ran short of funds for the necessary software.

In Chicago, even with cameras on every corner, as Mayor Richard M. Daley famously said he wants, video has its limits, said Jonathan Lewin, managing deputy director of the city's emergency management office.

"It provides an overall positive effect if you can saturate the area," Lewin said. "But it's not going to provide the panacea that will completely eliminate crime."

25367  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: February 18, 2011, 01:30:46 PM
I am reminded of the ditty found on bathroom stalls.

"Here I sit, broken-hearted.  All this way, and I only farted."

Eloquent piece there by Ryan, but , , , where are the cuts?
25368  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Rising Commodity Prices on: February 18, 2011, 01:22:47 PM
Agenda: Rising Commodity Prices
February 18, 2011 | 1842 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a message to G-20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Paris this weekend, calling for efforts to rein in commodity speculators. But STRATFOR’s Peter Zeihan argues that governments and central banks bear some responsibility.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Colin: G-20 finance ministers and central bankers are meeting in Paris this weekend against a background of sharply rising food and commodity prices. Earlier this week, the World Bank’s chief, Robert Zoellick, warned that food prices were at dangerous levels and have pushed 44 million more people into poverty in the last nine months. G-20 is currently chaired by France, and France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has struck a characteristically populist note by urging commodity speculators be reined. But is it that simple? Might not governments and central banks bear some responsibility?

Welcome to Agenda, and this week I’m pleased to welcome back Peter Zeihan. Peter, commodity prices have become very volatile, many rising well above inflation levels, particularly for food and some minerals, and seem to bear no relationship to supply and demand.

Peter: Commodity prices are something we keep a close eye on here at STRATFOR, as they have a huge impact on industrial growth and honestly just flat out social stability; if a country can’t feed its people, it tends not to be a country for very long. However we have not actually done predictions on commodity prices for several years, and here’s why. There have been a number of changes in international financial markets over the last decade, but the one that impacts commodity prices the most is the simple fact that there is a lot of credit out there and has been for the last 10 years. The biggest change in the last 10 years is the onset of a very different type of credit cycle. The amount of capital and credit available in the system overall has just expanded logarithmically.

Colin: And why is that?

Peter: Mostly it’s due to the aging of the baby boomers. You have an entire generation, the largest generation in American history, that is all closing in on retirement, so they’re saving up huge amounts of capital and that puts so much money into the system. Another factor is that Asian savings for the first time are actually able to tap the international market; so all the overproduction in Japan and China — the money that it’s generating is mostly flowing back into global supply. But probably the one that is most applicable for today, and really for the last four years, is going to be the money supply of the various major economies. Now the United States catches a lot of criticism for what it’s doing with something called quantitative easing, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s printing currency in order to help bolster asset values here in the United States. And the United States is committed to printing up to $50 billion a month for the next seven months; they started this back in November. What most people don’t realize is that the United States is hardly the only country in play here. The U.S. money supply has expanded by about 17 percent over the course of the last four years. But if you look at everybody else, you’ll notice something very interesting. European, Japanese and Chinese money supply have all expanded by more. In fact, Chinese money supply has more than tripled over that same time period. So of about the $17 trillion of U.S. dollar equivalent that these four countries have added to the money supply, the United States is actually responsible for a very small percentage of it. All of this money has to go somewhere. Now, the countries do this for various reasons. For the Europeans, it’s to try to stabilize their banking sector; for the Japanese and the Chinese, it’s in order to make sure that the banks have sufficient cash so they can subsidize their various industrial sectors that are noncompetitive. But not all of the money stays where it’s intended; a lot of it does make it into investment markets. And so, yes, the U.S.’s expanding the money supply does have an impact upon food prices and oil prices, pushing them up, but not nearly as much as the euro or the yuan.

Colin: So, you’re saying this means more money splashing into investments like commodities. But it used to be the case — the argument, if you like, about speculation — that the more liquid the market, the more reliable the market price as a guide to value.

Peter: Well, certainly the more individual players you have, the easier it will be for prices to settle at some sort of equilibrium. What we are dealing with here isn’t simply more players, but an absolutely massive surge in the amount of capital that is available from two forms. One of course is legitimate forms that people have saved for their own retirement or for any other reason. And two is just this massive money that the various center banks have been pushing into the system. The issue is not so much the number of players, although that does complicate the picture, but just the sheer volume and velocity of money that has entered the system right now. Various central governments have decided that increasing the money supply is a way of smoothing over all of the problems from the financial crisis from late 2007 all the way up to the current day. There is no sign that any of the major central banks are going to change this policy. If you look at the chart, you’ll notice that the Chinese money supply has actually been increasing almost exponentially over the course of the last six or seven years. They need this just to keep their system afloat, and a lot of that money is simply feeding right back into commodity prices.

Colin: Do you see this as a short-term phenomenon?

Peter: So long as you have a sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and so long as you have a Chinese system that is not competitive in the traditional sense, this is a factor that’s going to stick with us for quite some time. Now, if the debt crisis in Europe breaks and the euro goes away, and if the Chinese collapse under their own contradictions, all of a sudden those two central banks are actually gone. And you could go, in theory anyway, back to something that’s a little bit more normal.

Colin: Organizations like the Bank for International Settlements and the IMF will be aware of this, but what can they do about it?

Peter: Yes, I believe that they are aware. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to tackle it. From the European point of view, they are doing this in order to maintain the stability of their government debt markets and their banking sector. They will not change this policy because they see it as their lifeline. For the Chinese, this is how they maintain social stability. They’ve probably exhausted their depositor base and so they have to print money in order to keep their banking sector liquid. Should they stop, they’ll be dealing with a nationwide revolution. Against that sort of core interest, it’s difficult to imagine organizations like the IMF or the World Bank or the BIS having any lever that can be used. This is the new normal for now.

Colin: Fascinating, Peter. Thank you very much. Peter Zeihan, ending this week’s Agenda. Thanks for being with us until the next time. Goodbye.

25369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: February 18, 2011, 01:17:33 PM
FWIW, the brief version of my take on this:

As JDN notes, the market is generally considered to be a leading indicator. (Contrarily it is sometimes said the market can be wrong longer than you can stay solvent, but I digress , , ,).   If that is so here, let us see what was on the horizon when the market crashed, and what has been on the horizon as is has "returned" to roughly where it was.

The market dived when BO decisively passed McCain in the polls.  Coincidence?  Look at all the deranged possibilities that were on the horizon:  Obamacare, Cap & Trade (!!!), high and higher taxes, mad spending, regulations, mortgage boondoggles, bailouts, takeover of the auto industry, crony facism, defeaet in Iraq and the mid-east and much, much more--this group here needs no complete list to get my point.  Multiply the movement in market prices by computer trading by hedge funds and other mo-mo players.

What was on the horizon when the market began to climb?

The possibility, then the probability that BO and the Demogogues would get crushed in the polls.  Cap & Trade? Dead in the water.  Expiration of the Bush rates and other tax increases?  Dead.  More stimulus boondoggles-- less clear, but certainly far less than would be the case had the Dems retained control of the house.  Chance of defunding Obamacare.  BO himself?  Now forced to pretend to be a centrist. etc etc.  With these things, money that had been sitting on the sidelines (and there was a lot of it due to BO generated uncertainty) began coming back into play.

As GM notes in his way, a very good case can be made that the current moves of the market are essentially the market being "wrong" due to gamers playing with easy money sloshing around the system, hedge fund momentum computer trading (a big  majority of trades now if I am not mistaken) and those being fooled by what is essentially a quintessential bear trap.

QE2 is spending $600B for a claimed 3M jobs saved-- i.e. $200,000 per job!!!  The Fed govt is borrowing some 35-40% of every dollar it spends.  The deficit is some 9-10% of GDP (some claim 8, but whatever) The % of the budget that must go to cover interest payments, even at these articially low level interest levels, is some 12%.  What happens if/when interest rates double? Triple? Quadruple? (and note a large % of our borrowings are short term) This can happen!  Look at what happened in the late 70s under Carter-- and having lived through then and now, IMHO we are in FAR, FAR worse shape now.  BO's budget numbers are even more criminal than the usual baseline budgeting numbers.  The demographic chickens of SS, Medicaid, and Medicare are coming home to roost.  Many state governments are essentially bankrupt.  All of us here are familiar with the unemployment data.

The hazy fibology of the progressives aside, the reality is that FDR's programs created a market pattern similar to the one we see now-- minus the late 30s seeing things turn down again badly.  Like the 30s, the possibility of a world wide conflict looms.

To call the market's wild government induced ride a doubling from the bottom, as JDN does, while mathematically correct, IMHO misses most of the picture.
25370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 17, 2011, 11:30:03 PM
The enemies of freedom are patient. 

Are we?

Moral power is part of the American mix.  We don't fight nearly as well without it as with it.
25371  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Iranian moves on: February 17, 2011, 11:19:48 PM
Iranian Moves in the Wake of Arab Unrest

A number of Iran-related developments made for a busy Wednesday in the Middle East.

The day began with Iran’s most important military commander, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, saying that Iran’s elite military force would soon unveil a project that would “surprise the world.” Then, Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on his movement’s military forces to be prepared to invade Israel in the event of an Israeli attack on Lebanon. Nasrallah was responding to a statement from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who a day earlier warned about the eruption of conflict on Israel’s northern border.

Wednesday’s most significant statement came from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said two Iranian naval vessels would be passing through the Suez Canal en route to Syria. Lieberman described the move as “a provocation that proves Iran’s nerve and self-esteem are growing from day to day.” The Israeli foreign minister went on to say that the global community needed to realize that his country could not “ignore these provocations forever.”

“Even if the street agitation in Arab capitals had not erupted, Iranian military ships making their way through the heart of the Arab world would still create a major stir in the Arab countries, Israel and the United States.”
These statements come at a time when Egypt and other states in the wider Arab world are dealing with domestic unrest. The United States and Israel are concerned about future regional stability in the wake of the regional commotion, especially with Egypt in play. It is true that Iran was already a problem, but in the current uncertain circumstances, the behavior of Tehran’s clerical regime becomes an even bigger concern.

Iran, which already has the upper hand in its regional struggle with the United States, would like to be able to take advantage of the current situation by creating more problems for Washington at a time when the Obama administration is trying to manage the situation in the Arab countries without weakening its position regarding Iraq and Iran. There are already concerns about Iranian backing for the protesters from the Shiite majority community in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain.

Furthermore, Iranian warships ferrying through the Suez Canal on their way to Syria had been planned ahead of the recent unrest in Arab countries. Even if the street agitation in Arab capitals had not erupted, Iranian military ships reportedly making their way through the heart of the Arab world would still create a major stir in the Arab countries, Israel and the United States. And now that the region is in the middle of unprecedented instability, the event — and the Iranians appear to be proceeding — carries a much bigger significance.

The Islamic republic is attempting to telegraph to everyone in the region and beyond of its growing regional prowess. Iran knows that its moves will not go unnoticed. The United States, Israel and the Arabs cannot just dismiss Tehran’s moves as minor, especially not in the current Middle East climate.

Certainly Iran does not yet posses the kind of naval capability for power projection far away from its shores, nor does it want to pick an actual fight. But its neighbors and the United States cannot be sure of that and it is this perception that makes Tehran’s moves significant.

25372  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 17, 2011, 09:06:40 PM
I think the piece is on to a very important point.  Much thinking in the Arab world is a result of what is learned in the aftermath of the suppression of free speech.  I would REALLY like to see A LOT of this.
25373  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reading Adam Smith in Arabic on: February 17, 2011, 08:43:04 PM
At this time of unrest and transition in the Arab world, the United States's capacity to communicate core values of democracy and individual liberty is a priority. Our capability to translate them into Arabic is a necessity. We need to expose the Arab world to the fundamental texts of Western political and philosophical thought. Indeed, the export of ideas may be the most valuable commodity we have to offer.

Of course we hear similar sentiments often. But our seduction by the power of the Internet has distracted us from remembering the power of books.

Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. State Department initiated a little-known but very important project, the Arabic Book Program. It primarily operates out of our embassies in Cairo and Amman, and the U.S. Consulate General's office in Jerusalem. As the State Department explains, the objective is "translating into Arabic, publishing and distributing selected books from American writers in various areas, including economics, management sciences, politics, humanities, arts, and the environment."

 Global View Columnist Bret Stephens reveals the disturbing history of one of Egypt's rising powers.
.A March 2010 State Department Inspector General Report stated that the Cairo and Amman embassies operate the translation program, but that it "is relatively small, translating 6 to 10 titles each year." In addition, the title selection committee "meets every six months." This is hardly a rigorous production schedule, and it demonstrates a lack of serious commitment to the project.

Quality is also an issue. Despite a stated intent to do so, the Arabic Book Program has not prioritized its limited resources on primary source documents of political philosophy or books that constitute expositions on core principles that can assist struggling nations.

The "in stock" publications available from the embassy in Amman, for example, include only one text from the American founding, "The Federalist Papers." That's a good choice, but Publius cannot carry the weight alone.

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Our seduction by the power of the Internet has distracted us from remembering the power of books. The export of ideas may be the most valuable commodity we have to offer.
.To its credit, the program has translated Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America." But these are not listed as in stock. In contrast, available titles currently circulating include things like the popular environmental studies textbook "Who Pays the Price? The Sociocultural Context of the Environmental Crisis" and novelist Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club."

Notably missing are translations of John Locke's "Second Treatise of Government" and many other influential classics of Western liberal thought. Search the program's collections and you will not find Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations," but you will find a more recent book called "The Natural Wealth of Nations: Harnessing the Market for the Environment."

The Arabic Book Program was a good idea that was never taken far enough. A 2002 United Nations Arab Human Development Report noted that, "Translation is one of the most important channels for the dissemination of information and communication with the rest of the world." It added that, "The translation movement in the Arab world, however, remains static and chaotic."

The report explained that in the Arab world fewer than five translated books per million people were published in the early 1980s, while a corresponding rate in a country like Hungary was 519 translated books per million. Little has changed in the past three decades.

These failures need correction. The ongoing revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere are a stark reminder of the exigency involved. The State Department program should start doing more and better now.

Mr. Kochan is an associate professor of law at Chapman University.

25374  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: February 17, 2011, 06:02:32 PM
Testicles would help too.
25375  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: February 17, 2011, 05:58:18 PM
President Obama's 2012 budget is not a serious governing document. It's a political one, designed to boost his re-election chances.

By repeatedly saying that his budget reduces the deficit by $1 trillion over 10 years, he hopes the numbers make him sound fiscally conservative. But he puts off 95% of the deficit reduction until after his term ends in 2013. And he assumes that economic growth in the next few years will be at least 25% higher than credible economic forecasters estimate.

Mr. Obama's budget includes $1.6 trillion in tax increases that are real enough—but most of the spending cuts are not. For example, as Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman pointed out to me, the administration projects war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan at surge levels for the next decade, and then conjures up about $1.3 trillion in defense savings by assuming drawdowns in each theater—drawdowns that were already in the cards. Outside of this sham transaction, according to Mr. Ryan, there are only $104 billion in real spending cuts over the next 10 years.

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Mr. Obama's budget includes $1.6 trillion in tax increases that are real enough—but most of the spending cuts are not.
.Moreover, the administration simply ignores entitlements. This is a dereliction of duty, although it has a certain political logic: The budget is not meant to be taken seriously—it's meant to be quickly forgotten so that the administration can turn attention to, and attack, what congressional Republicans do about federal spending.

Mr. Obama wants House Republicans to take the lead in cutting current spending and proposing future restraint in entitlement and other mandatory spending. He's betting that letting Republicans take the lead will cripple them. This misreads public opinion. But it is plausible to believe that Republican mistakes can help revive Mr. Obama's political fortunes. So it's important that the GOP offers real budget cuts without coming across as angry and frenetic. Republicans need to patiently show what they are doing and why, and to express their sadness and disappointment over Mr. Obama's failure of leadership.

Congressional Republicans need to make methodical and sensible recommendations for cutting discretionary outlays and restraining future entitlement spending. They must explain to the public why the Obama budget will lead to our nation suffering horrific tax increases, massive austerity cuts, and real human suffering. They need to show that the president's fiscal path is, to use a favorite word of his, unsustainable.

Tactically, Republicans should respond to Mr. Obama's agenda as they did to his infatuation with high-speed rail projects. Three days after Vice President Joe Biden touted the magical balm of high-speed trains, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers released the continuing resolution for the balance of fiscal year 2011.

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is the author of the book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).

Email the author atKarl@Rove.comor visit him on the web Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.

Click here to order his book,Courage and Consequence.
.It cut the rest of this fiscal year's high-speed rail funds, rescinded $3.5 billion appropriated in previous fiscal years but still unspent, and rescinded $3.75 billion in unspent transportation money from the 2009 stimulus, almost all of it from Mr. Obama's high-speed rail plan. Overall, nearly $8 billion was cut from transportation, but none from vital road projects that are real priorities for the states.

The result: Very few Americans believe the billions Mr. Obama wants for speedy trains from Milwaukee to Madison, or Columbus to Cincinnati, will spark economic recovery. This still leaves transportation spending higher than it was two years ago, when Mr. Obama came into office. Republicans can reasonably ask the public: Are we better off with all the spending and red ink Mr. Obama has added over the past two years?

There will be dozens of such confrontations in the months ahead. How Republicans handle these opportunities will go a long way toward determining how popular their agenda is. Politics involves optics as well as policy ideas.

The evidence of the federal government's budget woes is so overwhelming that Americans are ready for tough actions. They understand that failing to make cuts now and to restrain entitlements in the years ahead will doom our children and grandchildren—indeed our country—to a future less prosperous and less free.

Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).

25376  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kessler on: February 17, 2011, 05:55:08 PM
So where the heck are all the jobs? Eight-hundred billion in stimulus and $2 trillion in dollar-printing and all we got were a lousy 36,000 jobs last month. That's not even enough to absorb population growth.

You can't blame the fact that 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed on lost housing jobs or globalization—those excuses are played out. To understand what's going on, you have to look behind the headlines. That 36,000 is a net number. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in December some 4,184,000 workers (seasonally adjusted) were hired, and 4,162,000 were "separated" (i.e., laid off or quit). This turnover tells the story of our economy—especially if you focus on jobs lost as a clue to future job growth.

With a heavy regulatory burden, payroll taxes and health-care costs, employing people is very expensive. In January, the Golden Gate Bridge announced that it will have zero toll takers next year: They've been replaced by wireless FastTrak payments and license-plate snapshots.

Technology is eating jobs—and not just toll takers.

Tellers, phone operators, stock brokers, stock traders: These jobs are nearly extinct. Since 2007, the New York Stock Exchange has eliminated 1,000 jobs. And when was the last time you spoke to a travel agent? Nearly all of them have been displaced by technology and the Web. Librarians can't find 36,000 results in 0.14 seconds, as Google can. And a snappily dressed postal worker can't instantly deliver a 140-character tweet from a plane at 36,000 feet.

So which jobs will be destroyed next? Figure that out and you'll solve the puzzle of where new jobs will appear.

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 .Forget blue-collar and white- collar. There are two types of workers in our economy: creators and servers. Creators are the ones driving productivity—writing code, designing chips, creating drugs, running search engines. Servers, on the other hand, service these creators (and other servers) by building homes, providing food, offering legal advice, and working at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many servers will be replaced by machines, by computers and by changes in how business operates. It's no coincidence that Google announced it plans to hire 6,000 workers in 2011.

But even the label "servers" is too vague. So I've broken down the service economy further, as a guide to figure out the next set of unproductive jobs that will disappear. (Don't blame me if your job is listed here; technology spares no one, not even writers.)

• Sloppers are those that move things—from one side of a store or factory to another. Amazon is displacing thousands of retail workers. DMV employees and so many other government workers move information from one side of a counter to another without adding any value. Such sloppers are easy to purge with clever code.

• Sponges are those who earned their jobs by passing a test meant to limit supply. According to this newspaper, 23% of U.S. workers now need a state license. The Series 7 exam is required for stock brokers. Cosmetologists, real estate brokers, doctors and lawyers all need government certification. All this does is legally bar others from doing the same job, so existing workers can charge more and sponge off the rest of us.

But eDiscovery is the hottest thing right now in corporate legal departments. The software scans documents and looks for important keywords and phrases, displacing lawyers and paralegals who charge hundreds of dollars per hour to read the often millions of litigation documents. Lawyers, understandably, hate eDiscovery.

Doctors are under fire as well, from computer imaging that looks inside of us and from Computer Aided Diagnosis, which looks for patterns in X-rays to identify breast cancer and other diseases more cheaply and effectively than radiologists do. Other than barbers, no sponges are safe.

• Supersloppers mark up prices based on some marketing or branding gimmick, not true economic value. That Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Two-Tone Date for $9,200 doesn't tell time as well as the free clock on my iPhone, but supersloppers will convince you to buy it. Markups don't generate wealth, except for those marking up. These products and services provide a huge price umbrella for something better to sell under.

• Slimers are those that work in finance and on Wall Street. They provide the grease that lubricates the gears of the economy. Financial firms provide access to capital, shielding companies from the volatility of the stock and bond and derivative markets. For that, they charge hefty fees. But electronic trading has cut into their profits, and corporations are negotiating lower fees for mergers and financings. Wall Street will always exist, but with many fewer workers.

• Thieves have a government mandate to make good money and a franchise that could disappear with the stroke of a pen. You know many of them: phone companies, cable operators and cellular companies are the obvious ones. But there are more annoying ones—asbestos testing and removal, plus all the regulatory inspectors who don't add value beyond making sure everyone pays them. Technologies like Skype have picked off phone companies by lowering international rates. And consumers are cutting expensive cable TV services in favor of Web-streamed video.

Like it or not, we are at the beginning of a decades-long trend. Beyond the demise of toll takers and stock traders, watch enrollment dwindle in law schools and medical schools. Watch the divergence in stock performance between companies that actually create and those that are in transition—just look at Apple, Netflix and Google over the last five years as compared to retailers and media.

But be warned that this economy is incredibly dynamic, and there is no quick fix for job creation when so much technology-driven job destruction is taking place. Fortunately, history shows that labor-saving machines haven't decreased overall employment even when they have made certain jobs obsolete. Ultimately the economic growth created by new jobs always overwhelms the drag from jobs destroyed—if policy makers let it happen.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge fund manager, is the author most recently of "Eat People And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs," just out from Portfolio.

25377  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: With nary an American in sight , , , Libya on: February 17, 2011, 05:49:18 PM
Local media and human-rights groups monitoring Libya reported at least four protesters killed in recent clashes with security forces and regime supporters, as Col. Moammar Gadhafi mobilized large pro-government demonstrations across the North African country on Thursday.

Anti-Gadhafi groups reported on social-media sites late Thursday that Libyan protesters took to the streets in four cities Thursday afternoon.

Farnaz Fassihi has the latest on the military crackdown in Bahrain following three days of protests. Plus, unrest continues in Libya, Yemen and Iraq. Also, Egypt says Iran has asked for permission to allow its warships to pass through the Suez Canal.

It was impossible to verify the accounts, but videos circulated on Facebook showed demonstrators burning a security detention center Wednesday night and hundreds of protesters marching Thursday afternoon on a main road in Benghazi chanting anti-Gadhafi slogans. Protests were also reported in Zentan, Rijban, and Shahat.

The violence in Libya, one of the Arab world's most repressive regimes, has ratcheted up pressure on a dictator whose hold on power had seemed more secure than other leaders in the region just a few days ago. Expatriate human-rights groups and opposition activists had called for demonstrations on Thursday against Col. Gadhafi, amid Arab revolts in neighbor Tunisia and Egypt, and unrest across much of the Arab world.

The violence in Libya is still relatively limited, and a clear picture of the extent of the clashes may not emerge for days, with local media closely circumscribed and foreign reporters all but barred from entering the country. But some analysts had expected Col. Gadhafi to better weather the regional unrest.

Government supporters shout slogans and hold portraits of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during a pro-government gathering in Tripoli on Thursday.
Demonstrators demand the release of a detained human rights campaigners in a rare show of unrest in the eastern city of Benghazi. Video courtesy of Reuters.

Libya has a number of advantages that leaders elsewhere in North Africa don't: A very small population—about 6.5 million—and brimming coffers, thanks to recently high oil prices.

Col. Gadhafi has ruled Libya since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1969, keeping the peace through a heavy-handed security force that tolerates very little dissent. He has also allowed the country's tribal leaders a measure of self-governance, and has been generous doling out oil revenues to win allegiances.

Significant unrest could further shake oil markets, already jittery about deadly protests in Bahrain, in the oil-rich Persian Gulf; unrest in Algeria, another big oil producer; and the revolution in Egypt, through which a large share of global supply passes on its way to world markets.

Libya, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, pumps just under 2 million barrels of oil a day, making it one of the world's largest producers.

"If the situation continues to grow worse and gains more momentum, and the regime loses ground, prices will be impacted," said Riad Kahwaji, at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, a Dubai-based think tank.

Tawfiq Alghazwani, a Dublin-based member of the National Congress of Libyan Opposition, said that during protests this week one protester was killed in central Benghazi and two more in an eastern part of the city. Another death was reported in a village near the capital, Tripoli, he said.

The online edition of the Benghazi-based Quryna newspaper, which is pro-Gadhafi, confirmed two of those deaths, reporting two youths were shot by security forces on Wednesday in the eastern regions of the city. It also said the regional security chief had been fired for his handling of the unrest there, citing security sources.

Benghazi, Libya's second city, with a population of about a million, has long been a hotbed of anti-Gadhafi activism. It has been the site of several crackdowns on dissident, including the execution of a group of young Libyans accused of treason in 1987 and the violent suppression of a riot outside the Italian consulate in 2006.

Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-based group, said it had confirmed the death in central Benghazi and accused Libyan security forces of rounding up activists ahead of demonstrations planned for Thursday, the anniversary of the 1987 and 2006 crackdowns.

A small protest in Benghazi Tuesday night, calling for the release of a human-rights lawyer, flared into an anti-Gadhafi demonstration that was violently ended by police and government supporters, according to local media reports and a human-rights group monitoring the event.

Libyan government spokesman Abdulmajeed Eldursi said Thursday he had seen reports of the four deaths, but couldn't confirm them. He denied security forces used violence.

"There is no use of violence (by the authorities) or anything that is not justified," he said. "When there is a crowd, the security will try to disperse them but there is no excessive use of violence at all."

Mr. Eldursi said Benghazi was quiet Thursday, and that pro-government rallies were taking place across the country.

Thousands of pro-Gadhafi loyalists spent the night camping in tents in the main sports stadium in Benghazi, said Mr. Alghazwani, of the opposition group.
25378  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bahrain on: February 17, 2011, 05:32:19 PM
Thread discipline please!  That belongs either in the Egypt thread or the Islam Theocracy thread.

Analyst Kamran Bokhari explains how the sectarian-driven civil unrest in Bahrain could serve as a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

After Egypt, Bahrain has become the most significant place where street agitation is taking place in the Middle East. Bahrain is significant because it is the only wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country where we are seeing mass protests and a government crackdown. The country being a proxy battleground for Saudi Arabia and Iran makes it even more significant.

Pro-democracy street agitation is not a stranger to Bahrain. There have been such protests, going as far back as the early 1990s, with the opposition forces demanding that the monarchy make room for a more constitutional framework and a much more democratic polity. So, what is happening is not entirely new. What makes this significant — this latest round of unrest — is that it comes in the context of the overall regional unrest that started in Tunisia and moved to Egypt (in both Tunisia and Egypt we saw the fall of the sitting presidents). What makes this even more significant is that in Bahrain you have a sectarian dynamic; the country is ruled by a Sunni monarchy that presides of an overwhelmingly large Shiite population, estimated to be about 70 percent of the country’s total population.

It’s not just the sectarian dynamic that makes the protests significant in Bahrain. There is also a wider geopolitical contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has been going on for several decades and, more recently, since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Since then, Saudi Arabia has been very worried about Iranian attempts to project power across the Persian Gulf into the Arabian Peninsula. And with Bahrain having a heavy Shiite population, this is a cause for concern in Saudi Arabia, as Saudi Arabia is neighbors with Bahrain and has its own 20 percent Shiite population.

From the point of view of the United States, Bahrain is also significant because it is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The 5th Fleet is one of the key levers that serve as a counter to Iran, or any movement on the part of Iran. It is not clear at this point to what degree Iran is involved in the uprising Bahrain. There are linkages, but to what degree Iran is playing those linkages is not clear at this point. Nonetheless, it is one of those flashpoints between Shiite Iran and the largely Sunni Arab world, and Bahrain is going to be very interesting in terms of how both sides battle it out in the form of a proxy contest.

Should Bahrain succumb to unrest and the monarchy has to concede to the demands of the protesters at some point in the future, this becomes a huge concern for the security of countries like Saudi Arabia, particularly where there is a 20 percent Shiite population that has been keeping quiet for the most part, but could be emboldened, based on what they have seen in Egypt and now what they are looking at in terms of Bahrain.

25379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2 on: February 17, 2011, 03:57:42 PM
Bahrain: A Sunni-Shiite Struggle with Geopolitical Implications

Long-running sectarian strife between Bahrain’s Shiite majority and ruling Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy is the driving force behind civil unrest in Bahrain. Bahrain was the first among Persian Gulf countries to witness significant demonstrations, and protesters clashed with riot police early on. After two days of demonstrations led by Shiite opposition groups, a heavy crackdown was launched on Pearl Square in the heart of Manama late Feb. 16 on mostly Shiite protesters who were camping overnight.

Most of the protesters’ demands initially centered on political reform, the demands of some (though not all) gradually escalated to the removal of the prime minister and then the king. Pearl Square, the focal point of the protests, has been cleared and is being held by Bahraini security forces. (Roughly 90 percent of Bahrain’s security apparatus is Sunni.) Even after this show of force, the potential for further sectarian strife between Shiite protesters and security forces remains, especially as funeral processions are likely to add to the current unrest.

The ruling Sunni family may be a minority in the Shiite-majority country, but some 54 percent of the population is made up of foreign guest workers, who are notably not taking part in the demonstrations. Energized by the crackdown, seven opposition groups, including both Shia and Sunnis, reportedly are forming a committee to unify their position with the aim of getting at least 50,000 people to the streets Feb. 19. Young, enraged men may feel the compulsion to face off against security forces again, but they are unlikely to be able to mobilize enough people to overwhelm the security apparatus.

The al-Khalifa family is no stranger to communal strife, and appears capable of putting down the unrest, but the events of the past few days will make the task of managing the tiny country’s demographic imbalance that much more difficult for the regime.

Sectarian tensions in Bahrain bear close watching, as the country is a significant proxy battleground in the broader geopolitical struggle between Saudi Arabia and the United States on one side and Iran on the other. Bahrain is home to the U.S. 5th Fleet, while for its part, Saudi Arabia fears that a regime turnover to the Shia in Bahrain would encourage the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province to follow suit. Iranian media and STRATFOR Iranian diplomatic sources appear to be making a concerted effort to spread stories of Saudi special operations forces deploying to Bahrain to help crack down on Shiite protesters. Such stories could enable Iran to justify assistance to the Bahraini Shia, particularly to Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group, turning the country into a more overt proxy battleground between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran may be attempting to amplify the Sunni-Shiite conflict at a time when the United States is already particularly stressed in the region to boost its negotiating position, but Iran is also facing problems of its own at home.

Iran: Standard Operating Procedure

Following the 2009 post-election uprising and subsequent crackdown, Iranian opposition groups are using the unrest in the Arab world to fuel an attempted comeback against the clerical regime. Protests Feb. 14 numbered in the thousands and remained concentrated in Tehran (smaller protests also were reportedly in Esfahan and Shiraz), with embattled opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi encouraging protesters to mobilize. The regime used the deaths of two student protesters to call for the hanging of Mousavi and Karroubi for inciting the unrest that led to the protesters’ deaths. More unrest is expected during the protesters’ funeral processions and on Feb. 18 following Friday prayers, but Iran’s experienced security apparatus and Basij militiamen have resorted to their usual, effective tactics of breaking up the demonstrations and intimidating the opposition.

Poor socio-economic conditions, high youth unemployment (around 26 percent) and disillusionment with the regime are all notable factors in the development of Iran’s opposition movement, but as STRATFOR stressed in 2009, the primarily youth-driven, middle- and upper-class opposition in Tehran is not representative of the wider population, a significant portion of which is supportive of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The more apathetic observers have yet to demonstrate a willingness to put their lives and their families’ lives at risk by opposing the government. Rather than posing an existential threat to the Ahmadinejad government, the Iranian opposition largely remains an irritant to the regime.

Libya: Crowd Control, Gadhafi-Style

Demonstrators in Libya planned a “Day of Rage” on Feb. 17 as a rare show of protest against the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Media coverage in Libya is severely limited, but reports and eyewitness videos trickled out showing deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in the cities of Benghazi and Al Bayda. In Tripoli, meanwhile, footage of Gadhafi blowing kisses and towering above a crowd of his supporters dominated Libyan state television. Violent clashes between protesters and police earlier broke out late Feb. 15 in Benghazi, where demonstrators demanded the release of human rights activist and lawyer Fathi Turbil.

Libya’s youth unemployment is the highest in North Africa, averaging somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. This is compounded by the regime’s gross mismanagement of efforts to develop the non-oil sector economy. Calls for jobs, basic access to services, housing and media and political freedoms have been made by fledgling opposition groups with leaders based abroad, groups that have nudged demonstrators on via social media.

Public demonstrations in a police state like Libya are notable, but the Gadhafi regime is also extremely adept at putting down dissent in the sparsely populated desert country. While the regime will rely on its iron fist to contain the unrest, it has also made limited concessions in releasing Turbil while promising further prison releases. Pro-government demonstrators have been unleashed, subsidies are likely to be doled out, and security forces are cracking down hard while Gadhafi is doing an effective job in making a mockery of the unrest by taking part in his own pro-government demonstrations. Most important, the Gadhafi regime has had success in pardoning and re-integrating members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to guard against the Islamist militant threat and has maintained a close relationship between the army and the country’s main tribes.

The civil unrest in Libya is unlikely to pose a meaningful threat to the regime, but it could impact the country’s ongoing power-struggle between Gadhafi’s two sons. The younger and reform-minded son, Seif al Islam (along with his ally, National Oil Corporation chairman Shukri Ghanem), has been put on the defensive of late by his brother, Motasem, who is Libya’s national security adviser and has the support of many within the political and military old guard. Seif al-Islam has sought to distinguish himself from old guard politics and to build his credibility in the country, even going so far as having his charity organization publish a report on Libyan human rights abuses that harshly criticized the regime. The old guard has since pushed back on Seif al-Islam, but the current unrest could strengthen his case that limited reforms to the system are required for the long-term viability of the Gadhafi regime.

Yemen: No Relief for Sanaa

Even before the current spate of opposition unrest, Yemen already faced immense challenges in creating jobs (youth unemployment is roughly 35 percent and unemployment overall is estimated around 16 percent), developing the economy without the petrodollar cushion its neighbors enjoy, containing a secessionist movement in the south and the al-Houthi rebellion in the north, and fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a threat exacerbated by the fact that jihadist sympathizers have penetrated Yemen’s intelligence and security apparatus.

After taking a gamble in recent months in making limited political concessions to the main opposition coalition Joint Meetings Party (JMP) led by the Islamist party Islah, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh now faces daily protests in the capital city of Sanaa and Aden. Over the past month, most of the demonstrations have numbered in the hundreds and on a couple occasions in the low thousands. The protests started out peacefully, but have turned more violent in recent days as protesters and security forces have clashed. (One young protester was reportedly shot dead Feb. 16.)

In attempt to take the steam out of the political opposition, Saleh has announced that he will not run for re-election in 2013, and that he would do away with pending amendments that would have abolished presidential term limits. Those moves helped stymie complaints that Saleh would try to hand the presidency to his eldest son, Ahmed Saleh, who currently commands the Republican Guard, the elite military force that serves as the president’s first line of defense. Saleh has also called on the main opposition parties to form a unity government and has been offering a number of political concessions behind the scenes. Those moves, while making Saleh appear weak and politically vulnerable, appeared to be working Feb. 13, when the JMP announced it would drop out of the demonstrations and resume dialogue with the government. The JMP has since reversed its decision, feeling that there is no better time to pressure Saleh into making concessions than now.

The multitude of threats the Saleh regime faces put Yemen at higher risk than most of the other countries experiencing unrest. Saleh’s ability to survive depends on two key factors: the tribes and the army. Saleh has long been effective at co-opting the country’s main tribes and in keeping the military elite loyal. The army still stands behind the president, but STRATFOR sources in Yemen have indicated that the regime is growing increasingly nervous about tribal loyalties.

The demonstrators on the streets meanwhile remain relatively limited in number. That dynamic could change if the situation further deteriorates and people start recalculating their estimates of Saleh’s ability to survive. Should Saleh become too big of a liability, a contingency plan is in place for Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, who has been the main interlocutor between the regime and the opposition, to take over. Saleh for now has some staying power, but his grip is showing increasingly serious signs of slipping.

Syria: Maintaining the Iron Fist

Soon after the unrest in Egypt broke out, Syrian opposition youth activists (most of whom are based outside the country) attempted to organize their own “Day of Rage” via social media to challenge the al Assad regime. Like Bahrain, Syria’s ruling elite faces a demographic dilemma: It is an Alawite regime in a Sunni-majority country. Fortunately for the regime, the demonstrations scheduled for Feb. 4-5 in the cities of Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Al-Qamishli quickly fell flat. The demonstrations were sorely lacking in numbers and interest. Even the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, likely reflecting on the violent consequences of the 1982 Hama insurrection, stuck to issuing statements with their demands instead of risking participation in the demonstrations. Syrian plainclothes police promptly harassed the dozen or so who did show up.

Nonetheless, the Syrian regime appears to be taking the threat of regional unrest seriously, and has moved quickly to build up its security presence and dole out subsidies to keep a check on further protest attempts. In a rare interview, Syrian President Bashar al Assad indicated to The Wall Street Journal that he also would implement political and media reforms with an aim to hold municipal elections this year. While social media tools like Facebook have been widely celebrated as the catalyst for revolution, the Syrian case illustrates how such tools act as enablers of the regime. Confident in its ability to put down protests, the Syrian government lifted a five-year ban on Facebook and YouTube in February, thereby facilitating its ability to track any opposition plans in the works.

Though Syria got a scare early on in the wave of Mideast unrest, it appears to have all the tools in place to maintain the regime’s grip on power.

Saudi Arabia: House of Saud is Safe, for Now

Virtually any spark of unrest in the Middle East will turn heads toward Saudi Arabia, where the global price of oil hangs precariously on the stability of the House of Saud. Though feeble opposition groups have called for greater political and press freedoms, no demonstrations have erupted in the oil kingdom. Saudi petrodollars continue to go a long way in keeping the population pacified, and the regime under Saudi King Abdullah in particular has spent recent years engaging in various social reforms that, while limited, are highly notable for Saudi Arabia’s religiously conservative society.

Critically, the House of Saud has had success since 9/11, and particularly since 2004, in co-opting the religious establishment, which has enabled the regime to contain dissent while also keeping tabs on AQAP activity bubbling up from Yemen. The main cause for concern in Saudi Arabia is centered on the succession issue, as the kingdom’s aging leadership will eventually give way to a younger and more fractious group of royals. Saudi Arabia will offer assistance where it can to contain unrest in key neighbors like Bahrain and Yemen, but for now is largely immune from the issues afflicting much of the region.

25380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor Special Report-1 on: February 17, 2011, 03:45:20 PM
Unrest in the Middle East: A Special Report
February 17, 2011 | 1949 GMT

STRATFORRelated Special Topic Page
The Egypt Unrest: Full Coverage
Footage of self-immolations in Algeria, clashes between police and protesters in Yemen and Bahrain, government reshufflings in Jordan and fledgling street demonstrations in Iran could lead to the impression of a domino effect under way in the Middle East in which aging autocrats are on the verge of being uprooted by Tunisia-inspired revolutionary fervor. A careful review of  unrest in the Middle East and North Africa , however, exposes a very different picture.

Many of the protests sprouting up in these countries have a common thread, and that alone is cause for concern for many of the region’s regimes. High youth unemployment, a lack of political representation, repressive police states, a lack of housing and rising commodity prices are among the more common complaints voiced by protesters across the region. Social media has been used both as an organizing tool for protesters and a surveillance enabler by regimes. More generally, the region is witnessing a broad, public reaction to the layers of corruption that have become entrenched around these regimes over the past several decades.

Regime responses to those complaints also have been relatively consistent, including subsidy handouts; changes to the government, in many cases cosmetic; promises of job growth, electoral reform, and a repeal of emergency rule; and in the case of Egypt, Yemen and Algeria, public dismissal of illegitimate succession plans. Anti-regime protesters in many of these countries have faced off with mostly for-hire pro-regime supporters tasked with breaking up the demonstrations, the camel cavalry in Egypt being the most vivid example of this tactic.

(click here to enlarge image)
While the circumstances at first glance appear dire for most of the regimes, each of these states also has unique circumstances. While Tunisia can be considered a largely organic, successful uprising, for most of these states, the regimes retain the tools to suppress dissent, divide the opposition and maintain power. In others, those engaging in the civil unrest are pawns in behind-the-scenes power struggles. In all, the assumed impenetrability of the internal security apparatus and the loyalties and intentions of the army remain decisive factors in determining the direction of the unrest.

Egypt: The Military’s ‘Revolution’

In the past several days Egypt has not witnessed a popular revolution but a carefully managed succession by the military. The demonstrations, numbering around 200,000 to 300,000 at their peak, were genuinely inspired by the regime turnover in Tunisia, pent-up socio-economic frustrations (youth unemployment in Egypt stands out around 25 percent) and extreme disillusionment with former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

It must be recognized that the succession crisis in Egypt was playing out between the country’s military elite and Mubarak well before protests began in Egypt on Jan. 25. The demonstrators, encouraged by both internal and external pro-democracy groups, were in fact a critical tool the military used to maneuver Mubarak out while preserving the regime. So far, the Egyptian military has maintained the appearance of being receptive to opposition demands. Over time, however, the gap between opposition and military elite interests will grow, as the latter works to maintain its clout in the political affairs of the state while also containing a perceived Islamist threat.

Tunisia: Not Over Yet

Though Tunisia had some domestic pro-democracy groups before unrest began in December 2010, Tunisia saw one of the region’s more organic uprisings. Years of frustration with corruption and the political and business monopoly of former President President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime, high youth unemployment (estimated at around 30 percent in the 15-29 age group), and rising commodity prices fueled the unrest. The self-immolation of an educated young man who was trying to sell fruits and vegetables started the unrest, helping break down the fear that Tunisia’s internal security apparatus had maintained for decades.

The ouster of Ben Ali and his family and a reshuffling of the government for now have calmed most of the unrest. A sense of normalcy is gradually returning as Tunisians look ahead to as-yet unscheduled elections due sometime in 2011. Since Tunisia won its independence from France in 1956, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party — which served as Ben Ali’s main political vehicle — has dominated the country. This leaves opposition groups with little to no experience in managing political, much less business affairs. RCD politicians have been quick to seek to disassociate themselves from the Ben Ali name in hopes of retaining their wealth and political clout while the opposition remains unorganized and divided. Unlike Egypt, the Islamist opposition, led by the formerly exiled leadership of the Ennahda party, remains largely marginal. In all likelihood, Tunisia will end up with another government dominated by many of the former Ben Ali elites, albeit with a democratic face.

This creates the potential for another wave of unrest, raising the question of the Tunisian army’s motives. The military dropped its support for Ben Ali less than a month after the uprising began, and only three days after Ben Ali called for the army to maintain order in the streets of the capital. The Tunisian army is likely looking to the Egypt model, in which the military is now standing at the helm and benefiting from a number of political and economic perks as a result. Ultimately, the situation in Tunisia remains in flux, and an army intervention down the line should not be ruled out.

Algeria: The Power Struggle Behind the Protests

Many of the same socioeconomic factors afflicting its North African neighbors like Tunisia and Egypt have fueled Algeria’s protests. (Youth unemployment in Algeria is around 20 percent, and high food prices were causing riots even before the regional unrest began.) Thus far, the major protests have averaged in the hundreds as the internal security apparatus has resorted to increasingly forceful measures to restrict demonstrations in Algiers and to the east in the Kabylie region’s Bejaia province.

Thousands of riot police have been deployed ahead of mass demonstrations planned for Feb. 18 and Feb. 25. The protests are primarily youth-driven, and are being organized through channels like Facebook in defiance of the country’s ban on demonstrations in the capital. The Rally for Culture and Democracy party led by Said Sadi, the National Coordination for Change and Democracy and Algeria’s League for Human Rights have coordinated the protests. Critically, a number of the country’s most powerful trade unions are taking part. The banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) has also reportedly called on Algerians to take part in the march to demand “regime change,” prompting Algerian authorities on Feb. 11 to arrest hardliner FIS second-in-command Ali Belhadj.

While the civil unrest will continue to capture the cameras’ attention, the real struggle in Algeria is not playing out in the streets. A power struggle has long been under way between the country’s increasingly embattled president, Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, and the head of the Military Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DRS), Gen. Mohamed “Toufik” Mediene. After ending a bloody civil war with radical Islamists led by the FIS, Bouteflika came to power in 1999 as a civilian leader. He relied on a combination of accommodation and force to stabilize the country. Widely regarded as the chief power broker in Algerian politics, Mediene has held his post since 1990 and consequently lays claim to a wide network of political, security business and trade union connections. Bouteflika relied heavily on Mediene to both contain the Islamist threat and also to reduce the clout of the army in Algerian politics. The president then started running into serious trouble when he attempted to expand his own influence at the expense of Mediene and his allies.

The power struggle between the two has intensified in recent years, with state-owned energy firm Sonatrach even getting caught in the fray. Bouteflika, age 73, won a third term in 2009 after abolishing Algeria’s two-term limit. His current term is set to expire in 2014. Numerous hints have been dropped that the aging president either would hand power to his younger brother or to the prime minister, plans that Mediene strongly opposes.

Not by coincidence, one of the main organizers of the demonstrations, Saeed Saidi (a Berber) is known to be on excellent terms with Mediene, also a Berber. The call for Berber rights — Berbers make up roughly one-third of the Algerian population — has been one of the leading drivers of the demonstrations thus far. A large portion of Algeria’s majority Arab population, however, has yet to show an interest in taking to the streets in protest against the regime. The country’s powerful trade unions, which have strong political connections and a proven ability to twist Bouteflika’s arm through crippling strikes demanding more limits on foreign investment and better wages, are a critical element to the demonstrations.

Overall, while the roots of Algeria’s civil unrest are like those in Tunisia and Egypt, the youth demonstrators are not the decisive factor in determining the course of events in the country. The timing appears ripe for Mediene to lay pressure on Bouteflika to meet his demands on the coming succession. How far Mediene goes in undercutting (and perhaps attempting to remove Bouteflika) remains to be seen.

The Algerian military must also be watched closely in the coming weeks. Bouteflika has a number of close allies in the military elite to counter Mediene, but there are also a number of disaffected soldiers in lower ranks who have seen the military’s profile decline under Bouteflika’s rule. Bouteflika has attempted to pacify the opposition with subsidies (aided by the current high price of oil) a vow to lift emergency rule by the end of February and promises of (limited) political reforms. But the president is likely to rely more heavily on force against protesters and quiet concessions to trade unions while trying to cope with the bigger threat posed by the country’s intelligence chief.

Morocco: Regime Confident Amid the Strife

Morocco has been quiet during the recent wave of unrest. Though it has yet to experience any mass demonstrations, small protests have occurred and at least four cases of self-immolations have been reported since the first incident in Tunisia on Dec. 17, 2010. Now, however, a recently-created Facebook group known as “Moroccans for Change” has called for a nationwide protest Feb. 20, something the government of King Mohammed VI has responded to by meeting with opposition parties and promising to speed up the pace of economic, social and political reforms.

Just as in Egypt, there are many strands in the Moroccan opposition, from secular pro-democracy groups to Islamists. Those planning the Feb. 20 protests are not seen as having much in common with the Islamist Justice and Development Party or the largest opposition force and main Islamist group in the country, the banned Justice and Charity party — which is believed to have a membership of roughly 200,000. Where Morocco differs from Egypt, however, is in the fact that the opposition is not calling for regime change, but rather a greater say in the political system, i.e., from within the constitutional monarchy.

In one of its main demands, the opposition has called for a new constitution that would strip power from the monarchy and from the network of state and business elites known as the Makhzen. Demands for higher wages and state-subsidized housing are also opposition priorities, along with calls for less police brutality, a common source of animosity toward governments in the Arab world.

In a sign of the Moroccan government’s confidence in managing the situation, the government has given its formal approval to the Feb. 20 protest march. Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri has meanwhile expressed fears that Algeria may seek to take advantage of the current state of upheaval in the Arab world to stir up unrest in Western Sahara, a buffer territory bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania held by rebel group opposed to Moroccan control of the region, known as the Polisario Front. The Polisario Front has long been supported by Algeria, Morocco’s neighbor and rival. Raising the threat of Algerian meddling could also be a way for Morocco to justify a strong security presence in containing potential unrest.

In sum, the planned demonstrations in Morocco are illustrations of opportunism as opposed to a serious potential popular uprising — much less regime change.

Jordan: The Accommodationist Approach

The Jordanian opposition, led by the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, was quick to seize on the Tunisian and Egyptian unrest and organize peaceful sit-in demonstrations in their ongoing  push for electoral reform and fresh parliamentary elections . The Hashemite monarchy, however, has had much more experience in accommodating its Islamist opposition. The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), is allowed political representation, albeit not at a level they deem sufficient. King Abdullah II acted quickly to pre-empt major civil unrest in the country by handing out millions of dollars in subsidies and by forming a new government.

While making concessions, Abdullah has worked to avoid giving in too much to Islamist demands, making clear that there are limits to what he will do. Former general and now Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit heads the new government. His Cabinet, sworn in Feb. 9, includes some figures with an Islamist background. Even though the IAF announced that it would not participate in the new government and called for fresh elections, it also said it would wait before judging the new government’s sincerity about reform plans, and would continue to hold peaceful demonstrations. In other words, the IAF understands its limits and is not attempting a regime overthrow, meaning the situation is very much contained. Meanwhile, opportunistic tribal leaders, who traditionally support the Jordanian regime, recently decided to voice complaints against regime corruption to extract concessions while the situation was still tense. The Jordanian government quickly dealt with the situation through quiet concessions to the main tribal leaders.

25381  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 2/27/11 Guro Crafty in Manhattan Beach on: February 17, 2011, 02:43:21 PM
Woof All:

I am looking forward to covering the stickgrappling-- I don't often do it in seminar.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
25382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 17, 2011, 02:40:10 PM
Looks like Israel is going to be real sorry it didn't finish the job last time and clear Hezbollah out, all the way through the Bekaa Valley  cry
25383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 17, 2011, 02:32:47 PM
So Media Matters or Race on SCH would be a good place for it smiley
25384  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 17, 2011, 02:25:24 PM
Ummm , , , fun story, but what does it have to do with the subject of this thread?  cheesy
25385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: February 17, 2011, 02:11:55 PM
25386  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: February 17, 2011, 02:09:06 PM
That's very funny.  Not the most decisive law enforcement I've ever seen  cheesy  Perhaps a Taser which have given the officers some courage, , ,
25387  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: February 17, 2011, 10:10:54 AM

Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny "The Guiding Force", ODB
Eric "Top Dog" Knaus "The Fighting Force", ODB
Arlan "Salty Dog" Sanford "The Silent Force", ODB
Benjamin "Lonely Dog" Rittiner
Mike "Dogzilla" Tibbitts ODB


Alvis "Hound Dog" Solis
Brian "Porn Star Dog" Jungwiwattanattaporn
Bryan "Guide Dog" Stoops
Chris "The Tree That Walks" Poznik
Chris "True Dog" Clifton
Colin "Point Dog" Stewart
Corey "Dog Pound" Davis
Dale "Island Dog" Franks
Dave "Wild Dog" Crosby
Dean "Kaju Dog" Webster
Dennis "Edge Dog" Hall
Ed "Hot Dog" Solomon
Erik "Tennesee Dog" Bryant
Francisco "Frankfurter" Taruc
Fred "Sun Dog" Martinez
Gints "Baltic Dog" Klimanis
Greame "Scotty Dog" Higgins
Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
Gregory "Junkyard Dog" Van Zuyen
Ian "Hair of the Dog" Wilde ODB
Ivan "Kuma Dog" Reboli
Jeff "Sleeping Dog" Inman
John "Underdog" Salter
Lester "Surf Dog" Grifin  ODB
Loki "Tricky Dog" Jorgenson
Marcus "Giri Dog" Schillinger
Mark "Mongrel" Balluf  ODB
Mark "Puppy Dog" Sanden ODB
Mark "Shark Dog" Lawson ODB
Mark "Sheepdog" Scott
Marlon "Red Dog" Hoess-Boettger
Mat "Boo Dog" Booe
Mike "Rain Dog" Florimbi
Mike "Scrappy Dog" De Lio
Mike "War Dog" Barredo
Nick "Pappy Dog" Papadakis
Nick "Raw Dog" Sacoulas
Oskar "Spider Dog" Bernal
Philip "Sled Dog" Gelinas ODB
Roan "Poi Dog" Grimm
Steve "Iron Dog" Shelburn
Stefan "Cro Dog" Kostanjevec
Teddy "Tahiti Dog" Moux
Tim "Scurvy Dog" Ferguson
Tinu "3D Dog" Blatter
"Kahuna Dog"
Tom "Howling Dog" Guthire
Burton "Lucky Dog" Richardson


Abu "C-Desert Dog" Dayyeh
Andreas "C-Flexi Dog" Hommel
Brian "C- Ferox Dog" Alagao
Chris "C-Rogue Dog" Smith
Christian "C- Lefty Dog" Eckert
Daniel "C-Hidden Dog" Budar  (alias, "Dog in sheep's clothing")
Dave "C-StrayDog" Rothburg
Detlef "C-Sinatra Dog" Thiem
Dominic "C-Sleazy Dog" Ischer
Gerald "C-Heretic Dog" Boggs
Gerry "C-Celtic Dog" Casey
Heiko "C-Crossover Dog" Zauske
Hugh "C-Irish Dog" Sargeant
James "C-Mako Dog" Kelly
Jerome "C-Frisbee Dog" Challon
Kai "C-Suicide Dog" Schilling
Mamerto "C-Bull Dog" Estepa
Michael "C-Zen Dog" Blake
Milt "C-Devil Dog" Tinkoff
Oli "C-Ghost Dog" Schaer
Peter "C-Grumpy Dog" Fray
Randall "C-Wolf Dog" Gregory
Renato "C-Cerebus" Judalena
Rene "C-Growling Dog" Cocolo
Riccardo "C-Full Metal Dog" Bassani
Rich "C-Hellhound" Raphael
Richard "C-Seeing Eye Dog" Estepa
Roberto "C-Staffy Dog" Cereda
Roger "C-Space Dog" Tinkoff
Russ "C-Bad Dog" Iger
Ryan "C-Guard Dog" Gruhn
Shaun "C-Sneaky Dog" Owens
Stefan "C-Diligent Dog" Ramsauer
Thomas "C-Sword Dog" Rickert
Tom "C-Howling Dog" Guthire
Tomek "C-Tank Dog" Jurkiewicz
Thorsten "C-Lena Dog" Picker
Torben "C-Old Dog" Lorenian
Tyler "C-Dirty Dog" Morin
Mark "C-Fu Dog" Houston
Mark "C-Beowulf" Houston


"Dog" Andrew Flores
"Dog" Axel Datschun
"Dog" Benjamin Schlieper
"Dog" Bryan Lorentzen
"Dog" Chris Hawker
"Dog" Chris Schultz
"Dog" Chuck Blanchard
"Dog" D.A.
"Dog" Dan Farley
"Dog" Danny Suarez
"Dog" David Lowndes
"Dog" Davide Musi
"Dog" Fabian Tillmanns
"Dog" Federico Corriente
"Dog" Filippo Pani
"Dog" Gabriele Cortonesi
"Dog" Greg Moody
"Dog" Ishmael Solis
"Dog" Ivan Pirozhkov
"Dog" James Macdonald
"Dog" Jay Cosby
"Dog" Jeremy Lowen
"Dog" Jiri Söderblom
"Dog" Kai Schwahn
"Dog" Kai Spintig
"Dog" Kase Wright
"Dog" Kostas Tountas
"Dog" Lars Christie
"Dog" Lorenz Glaza
"Dog" Ludo Bachy
"Dog" Manfred Schilka
"Dog" Mark Smith dec.
"Dog" Matt Tucker
"Dog" Mauricio Sanchez
"Dog" Meynard Ancheta
"Dog" Mick Smith
"Dog" Michele Gemini
"Dog" Miguel DeCoste
"Dog" Miguel Lopez
"Dog" Miguel Velez
"Dog" Mike Norrell
"Dog" Mo Estepa
"Dog" Odin
"Dog" Ole Fredricksen
"Dog" Ole Leinz
"Dog" Oliver Zaum
"Dog" Pawel Imiela
"Dog" Ray Wilson
"Dog" Rodolfo Manzano Diaz
"Dog" Rodney Libramonte
"Dog" Sebastian Ehlen
"Dog" Shanu Singh
"Dog" Sigi Fischer
"Dog" Simon Hehl
"Dog" Simon Godsland
"Dog" Steve Gruhn
"Dog" Thomas Britschgi
"Dog" Tom Perruso
"Dog" Tom Stillman
"Dog" Tony Caruso
"Dog" Tony Fernandez
"Dog" Troy Hodges
"Dog" Vitaliano Sestito
"Dog" Will Dixon
"Dog" Wieslaw Hapke

Cat Sisters

Linda "Black Cat"
Linda "Bitch" Matsumi
Lynn "C-Psycho Bitch" Brown
"Cat" Heather Kerr
25388  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Israel May 6-7 on: February 17, 2011, 08:08:13 AM
TTT-- to provoke Noa into posting more info evil cheesy
25389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 17, 2011, 07:51:32 AM
I do too.

So, what do we do?

My starting point is that what we are doing now is utterly incoherent and we need to get WAY out of our current mental boxes.

When blended with Baraq's strategy in the mid-east IMHO we are on the precipice of complete defeat: being run out of the mid-east and Afpakia, Pak's nuke program completely slipping its leash, Iranian nukes, Lebanon being taken over by Heabollah, serious war against Israel, the return of the Taliban to rule in Afg, etc etc etc

I for one remain intrigued by the idea of an alliance with India and dismemberment of Pakistan while cutting a deal giving Pashtunistan to the Pashtuns in return for them being very clear on the concept that we will rain death and destruction on them if they EVER support attacks on the West (and separating the Pashtuns from the rest of Afg might really simplify things for Afg) destroying Pak's nuke program, and related actions. 
25390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: February 17, 2011, 07:41:45 AM
I get that BUT

a) does that not lead to situations where ultimately such a strategy blows up amidst revolution and/or chaos?
b) does that not lead to a diminishment of our moral power in the world?  (Do you believe in moral power at all?)
c) does that not lead to weak support from the American people?
d) does it bother your sleep at all?

25391  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A dilema on: February 17, 2011, 07:22:10 AM
A Dilemma in U.S.-Pakistani Relations

While most of the recent international focus has been on Egypt’s unrest and the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, another key geopolitical crisis has been brewing, this time between the United States and Pakistan. Getting a bit of respite from the situation in Egypt, U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on the Pakistani government to release a U.S. security contractor serving at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore. Raymond Davis shot and killed two armed Pakistani nationals on Jan. 27 because he thought they were going to rob him. U.S. Sen. John Kerry arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday as part of an effort to secure the release of Davis, who has been held in a Pakistani prison. Kerry is also attempting to ease tensions between the two sides.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have long been extremely tense over disagreements on how to prosecute the war in Afghanistan. From the American point of view, Pakistan is not taking action against Afghan Taliban forces operating on its soil. Conversely, the Pakistanis feel that the incoherence of the United States’ strategy for Afghanistan threatens Pakistani security.

“Many Pakistanis deeply resent what they see as their leaders’ quick surrender of national rights to appease the Americans.”
This latest crisis, however, has taken the situation to a new level. Washington insists that in keeping with the international conventions of diplomatic immunity, Islamabad needs to release Davis. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been prosecuting Davis in keeping with its laws.

Beyond competing versions about the shooting and how the matter needs to be resolved, this standoff is difficult for both sides. The Obama administration cannot afford to see a foreign country prosecute one of its diplomats. Likewise, neither the government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari nor the country’s military establishment can afford to be seen domestically as giving up an American who has admitted to killing two Pakistani nationals, especially in light of strong anti-American sentiment.

The Pakistanis are in a far worse situation than the Americans because of the country’s extremely unstable economic, security and political conditions. As a result, Islamabad is heavily reliant on Washington’s goodwill while dealing with the exceedingly difficult circumstances it faces. And in the interest of sustaining the much-needed relationship with the United States, Pakistan is not in a position to resist pressure from its great power patron.

Succumbing to American pressure, however, can lead to further unrest in Pakistan, where a significant segment of the population feels strongly that Davis should be punished according to the law of the land. Many Pakistanis deeply resent what they see as their leaders’ quick surrender of national rights to appease the Americans. If the Pakistani government handed Davis over to American authorities, there could be further deterioration in political and security conditions — no Pakistani government can afford to be seen as caving into U.S. demands.

In addition to the political backlash, Pakistani Taliban rebels threatened to target all officials responsible for giving in to U.S. demands. This is a problem not just for the Pakistanis, but also for the Americans. The U.S. strategy for Afghanistan depends upon cooperation from Pakistan.

For Pakistan to cooperate with Washington’s efforts to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan, Islamabad needs to be stable. Thus, the Davis case has complicated an already difficult situation. The key challenge for the United States is how to retrieve Davis and not make matters worse for Islamabad so that the two sides can focus on the bigger picture in Afghanistan.

25392  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: February 17, 2011, 07:19:37 AM

That said, there is the stubborn, dilema of this:

"a greater risk in not pushing for changes because Arab leaders would have to resort to ever more brutal methods to keep the lid on dissent."

How do you address this question?

25393  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 17, 2011, 07:16:41 AM
Yes they have smiley

Concerning India, the night he was first showing that "worst case scenario" map, I commented to my son that the India assertion was quite dubious IMO.  Last night GB had some comment to the effect that acknowledged the point.

So, anyway, GM, may I ask you to be our intrepid daily reporter of the GB Show? grin
25394  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH's Kristoff on Bahrain on: February 17, 2011, 06:50:31 AM

The gleaming banking center of Bahrain, one of those family-run autocratic Arab states that count as American allies, has become the latest reminder that authoritarian regimes are slow learners.

Bahrain is another Middle East domino wobbled by an angry youth — and it has struck back with volleys of tear gas, rubber bullets and even buckshot at completely peaceful protesters. In the early-morning hours on Thursday here in the Bahrain capital, it used deadly force to clear the throngs of pro-democracy protesters who had turned Pearl Square in the center of the city into a local version of Tahrir Square in Cairo. This was the last spasm of brutality from a regime that has handled protests with an exceptionally heavy hand — and like the previous crackdowns, this will further undermine the legitimacy of the government.

“Egypt has infected Bahrain,” a young businessman, Husain, explained to me as he trudged with a protest march snaking through Manama. Husain (I’m omitting some last names to protect those involved) said that Tunisia and Egypt awakened a sense of possibility inside him — and that his resolve only grew when Bahrain’s riot police first attacked completely peaceful protesters.

When protesters held a funeral march for the first man killed by police, the authorities here then opened fire on the mourners, killing another person.

“I was scared to participate,” Husain admitted. But he was so enraged that he decided that he couldn’t stay home any longer. So he became one of the countless thousands of pro-democracy protesters demanding far-reaching change.

At first the protesters just wanted the release of political prisoners, an end to torture and less concentration of power in the al-Khalifa family that controls the country. But, now, after the violence against peaceful protesters, the crowds increasingly are calling for the overthrow of the Khalifa family. Many would accept a British-style constitutional monarchy in which King Hamad, one of the Khalifas, would reign without power. But an increasing number are calling for the ouster of the king himself.

King Hamad gave a speech regretting the deaths of demonstrators, and he temporarily called off the police. By dispatching the riot police early Thursday morning, King Hamad underscored his vulnerability and his moral bankruptcy.

All of this puts the United States in a bind. Bahrain is a critical United States ally because it is home to the American Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Washington has close relations with the Khalifa family. What’s more, in some ways Bahrain was a model for the region. It gives women and minorities a far greater role than Saudi Arabia next door, it has achieved near universal literacy for women as well as men, and it has introduced some genuine democratic reforms. Of the 40 members of the (not powerful) Lower House of Parliament, 18 belong to an opposition party.

Somewhat cruelly, on Wednesday I asked the foreign minister, Sheik Khalid Ahmed al-Khalifa, if he doesn’t owe his position to his family. He acknowledged the point but noted that Bahrain is changing and added that some day the country will have a foreign minister who is not a Khalifa. “It’s an evolving process,” he insisted, and he emphasized that Bahrain should be seen through the prism of its regional peer group. “Bahrain is in the Arabian gulf,” he noted. “It’s not in Lake Erie.”

The problem is that Bahrain has educated its people and created a middle class that isn’t content to settle for crumbs beneath a paternalistic Arab potentate — and this country is inherently unstable as a predominately Shiite country ruled by a Sunni royal family. That’s one reason Bahrain’s upheavals are sending a tremor through other gulf autocracies that oppress Shiites, not least Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s leaders may whisper to American officials that the democracy protesters are fundamentalists inspired by Iran. That’s ridiculous. There’s no anti-Americanism in the protests — and if we favor “people power” in Iran, we should favor it in Bahrain as well.

Walk with protesters here, and their grievances seem eminently reasonable. One woman, Howra, beseeched me to write about her brother, Yasser Khalil, who she said was arrested in September at the age of 15 for vague political offenses. She showed me photos of Yasser injured by what she described as beatings by police.

Another woman, Hayat, said that she had been shot with rubber bullets twice this week. After hospitalization (which others confirmed), she painfully returned to the streets to continue to demand more democracy. “I will sacrifice my life if necessary so my children can have a better life,” she said.

America has important interests at stake in Bahrain — and important values. I hope that our cozy relations with those in power won’t dull our appreciation that history is more likely to side with protesters being shot with rubber bullets than with the regimes doing the shooting.

25395  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYTimes: Women's Lacrosse on: February 17, 2011, 06:44:09 AM
Interesting question presented here.  To this article I would also raise the contrast suggested by Rugby's approach and football's approach:

Published: February 16, 2011
Camille Richardson has heard all the arguments, read all the comments, and sees the logic. But as a freshman midfielder for the Columbia women’s lacrosse team who is fully aware of the dangers of head trauma, Richardson makes one thing clear: She has no interest in wearing a helmet, as the men must.

“Wearing a helmet,” Richardson said, “would just bring us closer to football and hockey.”
Although some safety advocates call for head protection in women’s lacrosse, almost everyone involved in the sport has said that its current ban on helmets for everyone but goaltenders is actually the safest approach. Hockey safety experts question if helmets foster more physical play. Football looks back and wonders whether big face masks encouraged a recklessness that can lead to long-term brain damage.

Now at its own crossroad, women’s lacrosse — with 250,000 playing nationwide — wants to take the road less battered. And so begins the second stage of sports’ continuing parry with head injuries — in which the best protection, many experts insist, is no protection at all.

“It’s hard to absolutely prove, but what we’ve seen is that behavior can change when athletes feel more protected, especially when it comes to the head and helmets,” said Dr. Margot Putukian, Princeton’s director of athletic medicine services and chairwoman of the U.S. Lacrosse safety committee. “They tend to put their bodies and heads in danger that they wouldn’t without the protection. And they aren’t as protected as they might think.”

Although boys’ lacrosse rules mandate helmets and face masks at all age levels, girls’ lacrosse, whose season at many schools begins this month, is drastically different. Amy Bokker, Stanford’s women’s coach, only half-jokingly says that it shouldn’t be called lacrosse at all.

Girls at all levels cannot body check; collisions are minimized.

Contact with the head is so off limits that accidental intrusion with stick or body within seven inches of the head — an area known as the halo — is a major foul. Even shooting with a defender in line with the goal is illegal.

Even so, girls’ lacrosse does see its share of concussions, mostly on accidental stick-to-head contact, collisions and falls. According to research by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, not only does the sport have the third-highest rate of concussion among female scholastic sports (behind soccer and basketball), but its in-game rate is only about 15 percent less than the rougher male version.

Research suggests that even though men’s lacrosse helmets are required only to eliminate skull fracture and intracranial bleeding — like football helmets — the headgear is probably decreasing the concussion rate to some extent. Yet as recently as December, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association voted by 9 to 2 to continue banning hard helmets in the women’s game, a stance echoed by U.S. Lacrosse.

Not everyone agrees with that decision.

“Any time we can prevent a concussion, we should try to do it,” said Dr. Brian Rieger, director of the Central New York Sports Concussion Center, who has shared his feelings with U.S. Lacrosse. “Even though it’s usually a short-lived event, there are certain situations, I’ve seen it, where even a kid with one concussion can be out of school for weeks or months, and struggle. When you see a child or parent go through it, it makes me feel we should do anything to prevent it.”

At the annual meeting last month of the National Organizing Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or Nocsae, which sets performance standards for almost all organized sports’ safety gear, one of the most heated exchanges concerned U.S. Lacrosse’s continued ban on hard helmets and face guards. Dr. Jack Ryan, representing the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, complained: “Somebody’s got to stand up and say, What are you doing? This to me is like, come on, you’re not serious. This is 2011.”

Then again, other sports have spent the last several years realizing that safety equipment can bring dangers of its own. Checking in professional hockey became considerably more vicious with the adoption of helmets in the 1970s and ’80s, and football players felt so protected by their helmets and face masks that head-to-head collisions became commonplace at every age level. Scaling back protection now in order to dissuade violent play would be too dangerous, experts say, both physically and legally.

Even though women’s lacrosse rules against contact would be unchanged or even strengthened with the adoption of helmets, the ethos would almost certainly change, more than a dozen coaches, players and officials said in interviews. One of Camille Richardson’s teammates at Columbia, the senior attacker Olivia Mann, said that after the move to make eyewear mandatory for the 2005 season, “It’s subconscious, but you see harder checking, and rougher play.”


Page 2 of 2)

Richardson and Mann gladly demonstrated what they see helmets doing to their sport. As Mann played defense and Richardson cradled the ball with her head up, the women used their feet to grab position and cut.

The term, they explained, was to “wrong-foot” your opponent.
They were then asked to pretend they were wearing helmets. Without knowing it, solely on instinct, Mann violated the halo rule by swinging her stick close to Richardson’s head. This was partly because Richardson, feeling protected, slightly dipped her head and leaned in toward, rather than away, from contact.

“I would be more likely to take risky checks, which would change the nature of defense completely,” Mann said. “Now, trying not to foul her, it’s very much about where I get my hands and body. If she’s wearing a helmet, I don’t have to worry about physically injuring her. I’m more likely to sacrifice my body positioning to get at her stick.”

Another teammate, Kelly Buechel, said, “You want someone to beat you because they’re more skilled than you, not because they’re more brutal than you.”

Mouth guards and eye guards are required in women’s lacrosse. And the rules have for decades allowed soft headgear — usually a headband or a crown of soft padding, borrowed from kickboxing or elsewhere. But these go essentially unused because players consider them either unnecessary or ugly. (Web sites for three women’s lacrosse equipment outlets don’t list any sort of head protection for sale.) The rare women’s player who does wear the soft headgear, experts said, usually has a prior head injury and is feeling more protected than she actually is.

In November, U.S. Lacrosse did accede and approach Nocsae about developing a standard for some form of head protection for women — almost certainly soft — that might protect against some stick-to-head concussions. Nocsae officials at the annual meeting recommended at least hard face masks, if not helmets, and somewhat grudgingly accepted the assignment.

The U.S. Lacrosse president, Steve Stenersen, said that during this age of concussion awareness in youth sports, he opposed any headgear that would, he said, “upset the balance between safety and game integrity, or bring some unintended consequence.”

“Everybody looks at equipment intervention as the end-all, be-all — but it’s not, and the football discussion bears that out,” Stenersen said. He added that U.S. Lacrosse would rather emphasize education and rules enforcement and keep the game unchanged.

“People are less focused on those because they’re less tangible, and the picture of a helmet on a kid makes them feel better,” he said. “But it’s much more complicated than that.”
25396  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 17, 2011, 06:34:54 AM
Anyone?  Pretty please?

Last night's show was quite remarkable-- (I think GM would have found it quite congenial). 

It would be really awesome if someone could write up 1-3 paragraphs about it, about each night.  (The night's where he blathers on could be covered with one to two sentences  cheesy )
25397  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Secret report for BO on: February 17, 2011, 06:30:34 AM
This Pravda on the Hudson piece I find quite interesting and hope it will excite some comment here.  Combined with some things on Glenn Beck's fascinating show last night, it begins to appear that Baraq & Company have a hand or three in what is going on.


Secret Report Ordered by Obama Identified Potential Uprisings
Published: February 16, 2011
WASHINGTON — President Obama ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.

Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, these officials said.
The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.

Administration officials did not say how the report related to intelligence analysis of the Middle East, which the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, acknowledged in testimony before Congress, needed to better identify “triggers” for uprisings in countries like Egypt.

Officials said Mr. Obama’s support for the crowds in Tahrir Square in Cairo, even if it followed some mixed signals by his administration, reflected his belief that there was a greater risk in not pushing for changes because Arab leaders would have to resort to ever more brutal methods to keep the lid on dissent.

“There’s no question Egypt was very much on the mind of the president,” said a senior official who helped draft the report and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss its findings. “You had all the unknowns created by Egypt’s succession picture — and Egypt is the anchor of the region.”

At the time, officials said, President Hosni Mubarak appeared to be either digging in or grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him. Parliamentary elections scheduled for November were widely expected to be a sham. Egyptian police were jailing bloggers, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had returned home to lead a nascent opposition movement.

In Yemen, too, officials said Mr. Obama worried that the administration’s intense focus on counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda was ignoring a budding political crisis, as angry young people rebelled against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an autocratic leader of the same vintage as Mr. Mubarak.

“Whether it was Yemen or other countries in the region, you saw a set of trends” — a big youth population, threadbare education systems, stagnant economies and new social network technologies like Facebook and Twitter — that was a “real prescription for trouble,” another official said.

The White House held weekly meetings with experts from the State Department, the C.I.A. and other agencies. The process was led by Dennis B. Ross, the president’s senior adviser on the Middle East; Samantha Power, a senior director at the National Security Council who handles human rights issues; and Gayle Smith, a senior director responsible for global development.

The administration kept the project secret, officials said, because it worried that if word leaked out, Arab allies would pressure the White House, something that happened in the days after protests convulsed Cairo.

Indeed, except for Egypt, the officials refused to discuss countries in detail. The report singles out four for close scrutiny, which an official said ran the gamut: one that is trying to move toward change, another that has resisted any change and two with deep strategic ties to the United States as well as religious tensions. Those characteristics would suggest Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen.

By issuing a directive, Mr. Obama was also pulling the topic of political change out of regular meetings on diplomatic, commercial or military relations with Arab states. In those meetings, one official said, the strategic interests loom so large that it is almost impossible to discuss reform efforts.

The study has helped shape other messages, like a speech Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave in Qatar in January, in which she criticized Arab leaders for resisting change.

“We really pushed the question of who was taking the lead in reform,” said an official. “Would pushing reform harm relations with the Egyptian military? Doesn’t the military have an interest in reform?”

Mr. Obama also pressed his advisers to study popular uprisings in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia to determine which ones worked and which did not. He is drawn to Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child, which ousted its longtime leader, Suharto, in 1998.

While the report is guiding the administration’s response to events in the Arab world, it has not yet been formally submitted — and given the pace of events in the region, an official said, it is still a work in progress.
25398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / German company in disturbing deal with Russia on: February 16, 2011, 05:26:03 PM

The Russian Defense Ministry made a deal with German private defense company Rheinmetall for the construction of a combat training center for Russian troops. The deal does not necessarily indicate further military cooperation between Germany and Russia, though it does highlight the existing close ties between Berlin and Moscow. Although few concrete details of the deal are known, it is likely to draw close scrutiny from several of Germany’s NATO allies, particularly those that lie between Germany and Russia.

German private defense company Rheinmetall signed a deal Feb. 9 with the Russian Defense Ministry to build a combat training center for the Russian military. The center, which would be built at an existing Russian military installation at Mulino, near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, is designed for the comprehensive training of brigade-size units (thousands of soldiers) and would improve modeling and simulation of tactical combat situations. Russia’s Defense Ministry has also invited Rheinmetall to handle the “support, repair and modernization of military equipment,” and Rheinmetall’s mobile ammunition disposal systems would be available for Russia to buy.

It remains unclear what the exact financial and technical aspects of the deal will be, such as the specific costs of the project or the extent to which German expertise and personnel will be involved in the center’s training functions. However, the agreement reflects the value Russia sees in more closely understanding and potentially learning from Western military training methodologies. Also, the Russian military’s preferring to sign such a deal with a German defense company is another example of increasingly robust ties between Berlin and Moscow. Regardless of the specific details, this agreement will be cause for concern to Germany’s NATO allies, particularly the Central Europeans and the Baltic states.

It is important to note that Rheinmetall is not an arm of the German government; it is a private defense and automotive company. The defense arm of the company is, however, Europe’s top supplier of defense technology and security equipment for ground forces. It specializes in armor, gunnery, propellants and munitions manufacturing but has a fairly broad defense portfolio comprising training and simulation solutions as well as command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, target acquisition and reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) — all of which are of particular interest for Moscow. Rheinmetall training systems reportedly are used across the world, with countries like India and Norway employing naval and armored vehicle simulators. Rheinmetall is the first foreign firm to build such a training center in Russia.

From a technical standpoint, a training facility designed and built by Germany could, in and of itself, be an important improvement for Russian ground combat training, simulations and exercises. Also, any additional or more advanced and expanded partnerships with Rheinmetall could be a significant boost to Russia’s ongoing military reform and modernization efforts. While Russia swiftly defeated Georgian forces in the August 2008 war, it did so with notable tactical and operational shortcomings and deficiencies. Improving training regimes and technology, particularly with an emphasis on more modern Western simulators, information technology and updated approaches to training, could be significant in the long run. For the Germans, it is an opportunity to profit from Russia’s modernization drive and to potentially lay the groundwork for further military or political deals.

From a political standpoint, the deal does not necessarily indicate growing military ties between Berlin and Moscow. In order to infuse some fresh thinking, specifically a Western military perspective, into its own armed forces, Russia chose to go with a German company. The choice therefore indicates already close ties. Also, there are other areas in which Russian-German military cooperation is evident; according to STRATFOR sources, the Germans are going to help the Russians train border guards in Tajikistan on the Tajik-Uzbek border.

Furthermore, the Russian military could be using the training center, for which Rhienmetall’s training and simulation expertise will be potentially significant in their own right, both to test-drive broader doctrinal experimentation and integration of foreign concepts and to lay the foundation for future ties and exchanges with the German defense industry. The scope of and intent for the training center remain unclear, as precious few details of the agreement have been announced. It is possible that this is a generic training center through which troops from all over the country will pass, but it is also possible that the center and its training will be tailored for a more specific unit, operating environment or mission.

Either way, this deal is bound to make the states located between Russia and Germany — particularly Poland and the Baltic states — nervous. To these countries, Russian-German military cooperation of any kind will have the undertones of inter-war cooperation between the German Weimar Republic and the Soviet Union, which allowed Germany to secretly build up its military despite limitations imposed by the Versailles Treaty. These sort of deals are not forgotten in Central Europe, and any deal — no matter how profit-driven or innocuous it may be — will invite careful scrutiny from Germany’s eastern NATO allies and could further weaken the binds holding the alliance together.

Read more: The Significance of Russia's Deal with Germany's Rheinmetall | STRATFOR
25399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 16, 2011, 05:22:37 PM
Maybe they will be too broke to do anything about it?

Until just a few years ago, Egypt’s ruling military elite was able to “borrow” money from Egyptian banks with no intention of paying it back. President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal changed all that, reforming and privatizing the system in order to build an empire for himself. For the first time in centuries, Egypt’s financial position was not entirely dependent upon outside forces. Now, Mubarak and his reform-minded son are out of the picture and Egypt has a budget deficit and a government debt load that are teetering on the edge of sustainability.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit called on the international community Feb. 15 to help speed Egypt’s economic recovery. Such foreign assistance will certainly be essential, but only in part because of the economic disruptions caused by the recent protests. Even more important, the political machinations that led to the protests indicate Egypt’s economic structure is about to revert to a dependence upon outside assistance.

Egypt is one of the most undynamic economies of the world. The Nile River Delta is not navigable at all, and it is crisscrossed by omnipresent irrigation canals in order to make the desert bloom. This imposes massive infrastructure costs upon Egyptian society at the same time as it robs it of the ability to float goods cheaply from place to place. This mix of high capital demands and low capital generation has made Egypt one of the poorest places in the world in per capita terms. There just has not been money available to fund development.

As a result, Egypt lacks a meaningful industrial base and is a major importer of consumer goods, machinery, vehicles, wood products (there are no trees in the desert) and foodstuffs (Egypt imports roughly half of its grain needs). Egypt’s only exports are a moderate amount of natural gas and fertilizer, a bit of oil, cotton products and some basic metals.

The bottom line is that even in the best of times Egypt faces severe financial constraints — its budget deficit is normally in the range of 7 to 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) — and with the recent political instability, these financial pressures are rising.

The protests have presented Egypt with a cash-crunch problem. At $13 billion in annual revenues, tourism is the country’s most important income stream. The recent protests shut down tourism completely — at the height of the tourist season, no less. The Egyptian government estimates the losses to date at about $1.5 billion. Military rule, tentatively expected to last for the next six months, is going to crimp tourism income for the foreseeable future. Simultaneously, the government wants to put together a stimulus package to get things moving again. Details are almost nonexistent at present, but a good rule of thumb for stimulus is that it must be at least 1 percent of GDP — a bill of about $2 billion. So assuming that everything goes back to normal immediately — which is unlikely — the government would have to come up with $3.5 billion from somewhere.

Which brings us to financing the deficit, and here we get into some of the political intrigue that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

One cannot simply walk out of Egypt, so since the time of the pharaohs the Egyptian leadership has commanded a captive labor pool. This phenomenon meant more than simply having access to very cheap labor (free in ancient times); it also meant having access to captive money. Just as the pharaohs exploited the population to build the pyramids, the modern-day elite — the military leadership — exploited the population’s deposits in the banking system. This military elite — or, more accurately, the firms it controlled — took out loans from the country’s banks without any intention of paying them back. This practice enervated the banks in particular and the broader economy in general and contributed to Egypt’s chronic capital shortage. It also forced the government to turn to external sources of financing to operate, in particular the U.S. government, which was happy to play the role of funds provider during the final decade of the Cold War. There were many results, with high inflation, volatile living standards and overall exposure to international financial whims and moods being among the more disruptive.

Over the past 20 years, three things have changed this environment. First, as a reward for Egypt’s participation in the first Gulf War, the United States arranged for the forgiveness of much of Egypt’s outstanding foreign debt. Second, with the Cold War over, the United States steadily dialed back its economic assistance to Egypt. Since its height in 1980, U.S. economic assistance has dwindled by over 80 percent in real terms to under a half-billion dollars annually, forcing Cairo to find other ways to cover the difference (although Egypt is still the second-largest recipient of American military aid). But the final — and most decisive factor — was internal.

Mubarak’s son Gamal sought to change the way Egypt did business in order to build his own corporate empire. One of the many changes he made was empowering the central bank to actually enforce underwriting standards at the banks. The effort began in 2004, and early estimates indicated that as many as one in four outstanding loans had no chance of repayment. By 2010 the system was largely reformed and privatized, and the military elite’s ability to tap the banks for “loans” had largely disappeared. The government was then able to step into that gap and tap the banks’ available capital to fund its budget deficit. In fact, it is this arrangement that allowed Egypt to weather the recent global financial crisis as well as it did. For the first time in centuries, Egypt’s financial position was not entirely dependent upon outside forces. The government’s total debt load remains uncomfortably high at 72 percent of GDP, but its foreign debt load is only 11 percent of GDP. The economy was hardly thriving, but economically, Egypt was certainly a more settled place. For example, Egypt now has a mortgage market, which did not exist a decade ago.

From Gamal Mubarak’s point of view, four problems had been solved. The government had more stable financing capacity, the old military guard had been weakened, the banks were in better shape, and he was able to build his own corporate empire on the redirected financial flows in the process. But these changes and others like them earned the Mubarak family the military’s ire. Mubarak and his reform-minded son are out of the picture now, and the reform effort with them. With the constitution suspended, the parliament dissolved and military rule the order of the day, it stretches the mind to think that the central bank will be the singular institution that will retain any meaningful policy autonomy. If the generals take the banks back for themselves, Egypt will have no choice but to seek international funds to cover its budget shortfalls. Incidentally, we do not find it surprising that now — five days after the protests ended — the banks are still closed by order of the military government.

Yet Egypt cannot simply tap international debt markets like a normal country. While its foreign debt load is small, its total debt levels are very similar to states that have faced default and/or bailout problems in the past. An 8-percent-of-GDP budget deficit and a 72-percent-of-GDP government debt load are teetering on the edge of what is sustainable. As a point of comparison, Argentina defaulted in 2001 with a 60-percent-of-GDP debt load, and it had far more robust income streams. Even if Egypt can find some interested foreign investors, the cost of borrowing will be prohibitively high, and the amounts needed are daunting. Plainly stated, Cairo needed to come up with $16 billion annually just to break even before the crisis and the likely banking changes that will come along with it.

25400  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / First rain drops of the coming storm? on: February 16, 2011, 05:14:27 PM
This reads to me as much worse than that:

If attacks from Sinai start hitting Israel, things could get really hairy really quickly.
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