Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: April 21, 2007, 01:00:22 AM
The "Israelification of America". I like the sound of that.
Here's this from the WSJ:
Guns, Politics and the Law
The Second Amendment may finally get its day in court.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
That the Virginia Tech massacre did not occasion a widespread round of political hand-wringing over gun control is, as one newspaper put it, a silent testimony to how far the gun-control debate has shifted in the past decade and a half.
Yes, the usual suspects have attempted to use the murder spree on campus as evidence of the danger of guns in America. But as unlikely a combination of leaders from Harry Reid to George Bush has been as one in warning we should avoid a "rush to judgment" in the wake of the killings.
That's progress of a sort, even if the Democrats' abandonment of the issue flows more from political calculation than principle. Political calculation, after all, is based on something beyond mere politics. The Democratic Party may have decided that gun control became a political liability in the 1994 and 2000 elections, but that doesn't go far toward explaining why that is so.
First, as we noted earlier this week, what happened in Blacksburg was evidence more than anything of the fact that there are sick and evil people in the world willing to do harm to others for no earthly reason. Pushing much beyond that point is political opportunism.
But over the past decade and a half, evidence of another sort has been accumulating. Violent-crime rates peaked in 1991, according to the Justice Department, and have fallen steeply since. Over the same period, gun-control laws in many states have been relaxed. Correlation does not equal causation, but it does make it difficult to argue that greater legal access to guns drives up levels of violent crime.
Whether concealed-carry laws and the like have held down crime rates remains a hotly debated subject. Certainly, more aggressive and effective policing, especially in big cities, has been a major force in driving down crime. One irony of this is that law-enforcement types have long been a major pro-gun-control force, even though it would seem that how their job is defined and performed has much more to do with crime levels than whether guns are available legally.
When violent-crime rates were rising, as they did steadily from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, it was easy to get political traction with calls to "do something" about gun control. This was true whether legally available guns had anything to do with those crime rates. But with crime rates falling even as legal gun access expanded, the argument has lost much of its plausibility, and so its force.
Which isn't to say no one makes the argument any more. The nearly uniform reaction in Europe to the Virginia Tech shootings has been to pin it on America's gun culture. Related to this is the charge that America is prevented from taking sensible steps to prevent gun violence by the invidious influence of groups such as the National Rifle Association. Quite apart from the fact that this implies American politicians and voters alike are dupes of the "gun lobby," it ignores the evidence, noted above, that violent crime and legal gun access either have nothing to do with one another or are, if anything, inversely correlated.
As this political debate evolves, it appears that the Supreme Court may finally get a case in which to weigh in on the Constitutional question of the right to bear arms. Last month, Judge Laurence Silberman on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of plaintiffs who claimed that their Second Amendment rights were violated by Washington's strict gun-control laws. The Supreme Court has not heard a Second Amendment case in decades, but federal appeals courts have generally taken a very restricted view of citizens' rights under the Second Amendment. The D.C. Circuit's 2-1 decision sets up a direct conflict with other circuits, and could wind up at the Supreme Court.
This could be a defining moment for gun control, as Judge Silberman's ruling unequivocally declares that "the right to keep and bear arms" under the Second Amendment belongs to individuals and not, as some have argued, only to National Guardsmen or members of government-organized "militias." "The phrase 'the right of the people,'" Judge Silberman wrote, ". . . leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual." He added: "The wording . . . also indicates that the right to keep and bear arms was not created by government, but rather preserved by it." In all, the decision is as clear a statement of the right to keep and bear arms as one could want. The mayor of D.C. has requested a rehearing of the case by the full D.C. Circuit. If that is denied, or if the full court sides with Judge Silberman, the next stop would be the Supremes.
A Supreme Court decision on what the Second Amendment means could transform the gun-control debate in this country. For now, the relatively muted political response to the Virginia Tech killings may be taken as a sign that, on this issue at least, our politics have become a little less reactive and a little more rational.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: April 21, 2007, 12:52:10 AM
No URL for this, but from a usually reliable source.
Jihadist video shows boy beheading man
By ABDUL SATTAR, Associated Press Writer
Fri Apr 20, 2:24 PM ET
The boy with the knife looks barely 12. In a high-pitched voice, he denounces the bound, blindfolded man before him as an American spy. Then he hacks off the captive's head to cries of "God is great!" and hoists it in triumph by the hair.
A video circulating in Pakistan records the grisly death of Ghulam Nabi, a Pakistani militant accused of betraying a top Taliban official who was killed in a December airstrike in Afghanistan.
An Associated Press reporter confirmed Nabi's identity by visiting his family in Kili Faqiran, their remote village in southwestern Pakistan.
The video, which was obtained by AP Television News in the border city of Peshawar on Tuesday, appears authentic and is unprecedented in jihadist propaganda because of the youth of the executioner.
Captions mention Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's current top commander in southern Afghanistan, although he does not appear in the video. The soundtrack features songs praising Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and "Sheikh Osama" — an apparent reference to Osama bin Laden, who is suspected of hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The footage shows Nabi making what is described as a confession, being blindfolded with a checkered scarf.
"He is an American spy. Those who do this kind of thing will get this kind of fate," says his baby-faced executioner, who is not identified.
A continuous 2 1/2-minute shot then shows the victim lying on his side on a patch of rubble-strewn ground. A man holds Nabi by his beard while the boy, wearing a camouflage military jacket and oversized white sneakers, cuts into the throat. Other men and boys call out "Allahu akbar!" — "God is great!" — as blood spurts from the wound.
The film, overlain with jihadi songs, then shows the boy hacking and slashing at the man's neck until the head is severed.
A Pashto-language voiceover in the video identifies Nabi and his home village of Kili Faqiran in Baluchistan province, which lies about two hours' drive from the Afghan border.
A reporter went to the village, and Nabi's distraught and angry father, Ghulam Sakhi, confirmed his son's identity from a still picture that AP made from the footage. He said neighbors had told him the video is available at the village bazaar, but he had no wish to see it.
Sakhi said his son had been a loyal Taliban member who fought in Afghanistan and sheltered the hard-line Afghan group's leaders in the family's mud-walled compound.
He blames the Taliban and wants to avenge his son's death.
"The Taliban are not mujahedeen. They are not fighting for the cause of Islam," the 70-year-old said. "If I got my hands on them I would kill them and even tear their flesh with my own teeth."
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, told AP he had no information about Nabi or the video. None of the group's commanders he contacted could confirm the execution, he said.
The method of Nabi's death was not unusual for Pakistan's lawless tribal regions. Suspected informers are regularly found beheaded and dumped along the side of the road in the lawless, mountainous regions along the Afghan-Pakistani border where al-Qaida and Taliban militants find sanctuary.
But such al-Qaida-style killings are rarely featured in the Taliban's increasingly frequent propaganda videos. The use of a child to conduct the beheading stands out even among those filmed by militants in Iraq.
"This is outright barbarism," Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said after viewing the video. "Whosoever has committed this, whether they are Taliban or anybody else or any Afghan or al-Qaida or anybody, they are enemy No. 1 of the Muslims."
The video accuses Nabi of responsibility for a U.S. airstrike that killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, who was regarded as one of the top three associates of Omar, the Taliban supreme leader. He was hit while traveling by car in Afghanistan's Helmand province Dec. 19.
Osmani was the highest-ranking Taliban leader to die since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the hard-line regime in late 2001 for refusing to hand over bin Laden following the Sept. 11 terror attack on the United States.
The U.S. military said at the time that Osmani's death was a serious blow to militant operations, and NATO commanders said this week that a feared spring offensive had yet to materialize.
Sakhi, a retired mosque preacher with a long gray beard, spoke unashamedly of his son's Taliban affiliation and wept twice during an interview in his simple home at the foot of a mountain valley in Baluchistan province.
He said Nabi fought against the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance that helped U.S. forces to victory in Afghanistan.
After returning to Pakistan, Nabi ran a religious school in the Baluchistan capital of Quetta and had regularly sheltered both Osmani and Dadullah at the family compound, the father said.
He said Nabi also bought weapons for Taliban fighters and organized medical treatment for those injured during fighting in Afghanistan.
Some days after Osmani's death, Nabi went to Peshawar and then to Wana, a tribal town considered a militant stronghold, to collect money from Taliban officials to buy guns and food for militants in Afghanistan, Sakhi said.
He said his son called at the end of January to reveal that a tribal council had sentenced him to death on charges of tipping off U.S. forces about Osmani's movements, despite his denials.
His son passed the phone to Dadullah, but the militant leader ignored his pleas for clemency, Sakhi said.
"I talked to him and said you visited us and my son was a close friend so why are you going to hang him? He just said, 'How are you?', and switched off the phone," Sakhi said.
"They are the enemies of Islam," he said of the Taliban. "They are behaving like savages."
Sam Zarifi, Asia research director for Human Rights Watch, said the use of a child to commit such an act constituted a war crime and was a "new low" in the conflict in Afghanistan.
He noted the Taliban had teenage combatants but they were not recruited on a large scale because of the availability of adult fighters. He said he had seen children in the background of some jihadist videos but none in which they were directly involved in violence.
"I don't know why they would do this," Zarifi said. "The Taliban have to some extent tried to play to the public in Afghanistan and have not engaged in the complete sowing of mayhem that we have seen in Iraq. But this kind of act is really egregious. It's off the charts."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / India
on: April 21, 2007, 12:30:32 AM
India: The Islamization of the Northeast
India's insurgent-ridden northeastern region has long given foreign powers a gamut of exploitable secessionist movements to use to prevent India from emerging as a major global player. Though India has grown accustomed to the ongoing volatility in its northeastern corridor, growing Islamization in the region -- spurred by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and instability in neighboring Bangladesh -- will give New Delhi a good reason to pay closer attention to its porous northeastern border.
Northeastern India is a region wracked by secessionist violence, where wide networks of drug smuggling, extortion and arms trafficking run rampant. India has traditionally dealt with the myriad secessionist movements through force, fearing that any concessions made to one group would only exacerbate the others' secessionist tendencies and further undermine the country's territorial integrity.
The balkanization of the region and the constant drain on Indian resources required to deal with these rebel movements was all part of the United Kingdom's blueprint for the Indian subcontinent to prevent its former colony from developing a strong national identity and emerging as a major Asiatic power. Up until the partition in 1947, the British played a major role in encouraging tribal, ethnic, religious and linguistic identities, and in isolating various tribal groups from the mainland and the plains areas in Assam for the British East India Co. to secure its commercial enterprise.
Pakistan did not hesitate to jump in where the British left off in the post-partition period, and has since used its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to fund, train and arm these rebel groups in order to keep India's hands tied. The largest and most powerful of the northeast secessionist movements is the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). Once a student movement with populist aims to redistribute the state's oil wealth, ULFA has gradually changed into what appears to be a moneymaking machine with a strong willingness to do the ISI's bidding. ULFA runs an impressive extortion racket in the northeast, where Assam's tea plantation owners and corporate leaders are regularly targeted.
The group maintains that its armed campaign will not let up until the Indian government engages it in unconditional peace talks. Yet, when New Delhi makes such an offer, ULFA usually responds with a bombing, as was the case in the April 9 bomb attack near Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's motorcade in the Assamese capital of Guwahati. ULFA's leadership understands that New Delhi is not about to reward the armed movement with political concessions, and does not wish to disturb the financial networks it has running throughout the region. Moreover, to preserve their militant proxy, the group's handlers in both Pakistan's and Bangladesh's intelligence services have told ULFA not to hold peace talks with the Indian government.
Pakistan's ISI, in cooperation with Bangladesh's Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), appears to be investing a considerable amount of resources in solidifying India's militant corridor. There are growing indications that these two agencies are working clandestinely in Bangladesh to bring all the northeast-based insurgent outfits and jihadist elements under one umbrella. The ISI has facilitated cooperation between ULFA and other northeastern militant outfits with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, Islamist militant groups in Kashmir, Islamist groups in Bangladesh and a growing number of al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups operating in the region.
Religion, ethnicity and ideology lose relevance within this militant network, as each group has a common interest in furthering their militant and financial capabilities by working together. For example, Tigers cadres organize training camps in the northeast and use their maritime contacts to assist ULFA in transporting arms and narcotics up to Cambodia in ULFA-owned shrimp trawlers that operate out of Bangladesh's Chittagong port. The Tigers have also been known to train Maoist rebels in Nepal and India at camps in the jungles of India's eastern state of Bihar.
ULFA's growing links with Bangladeshi Islamists and jihadist elements in the area are increasingly coming to light. The April 9 attack timed with Singh's visit to Assam marked the group's first-ever suicide bombing, a tactic that was pioneered by the Tigers (a non-Islamist, majority Hindu group) and has been frequently employed by Islamist militants. Prior to the attack, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa warned that New Delhi's offer for unconditional peace talks was not acceptable, and that that ULFA cadres "have reached such a stage they would strap bombs on their chest and attack." ULFA's adoption of suicide bombing looks to be the result of the group's increased Islamization caused by collusion with Islamist outfits in the region. The bomber in the April 9 suicide attack was Ainul Ali, a Muslim. Indian security sources revealed that ULFA did not have many Muslim cadres in its fold in the past, but the increasing flow of Bangladeshi refugees across the border has given the group more -- and more capable -- members willing to sacrifice their lives for the group's cause with nudging from the ISI.
Collaboration between ULFA and the Islamist militants will expand further, as political conditions in Bangladesh appear to be indirectly contributing to the empowerment of Islamists there. Using the Pakistani military regime as an example, Bangladeshi army chief Lt. Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed is reasserting the army's role in Bangladeshi politics -- which have long suffered from a bitter political feud between the family dynasties represented by the Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Begum Khaleda Zia. With both party leaders driven into exile, a political vacuum has started to take root in the country, and Bangladesh's Islamist parties are anxiously waiting to fill it.
India will be taking note of these political developments in Dhaka, though there is not much New Delhi can or wants to do to intervene. As a result, New Delhi is facing a bleak situation in which the ISI's maneuvers and Bangladesh's political troubles are sure to further constrain India's ability to dig itself out of the militant trap Pakistan has set.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Cops need naps
on: April 21, 2007, 12:26:14 AM
Force Science News #70
April 20, 2007
The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a
non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free,
direct-delivery subscription, please visit www.forcesciencenews.com
click on the registration button.
In this issue
I. SNOOZE YOU LOSE? ACTUALLY, THE OPPOSITE MAY BE TRUE
II. FATIGUE LINKED TO FAULTY JUDGMENT, FEDERAL AGENCY SAYS
[NOTE: We'd like to hear your reaction to the observations and proposals
made by Trainer Tom Aveni in the report below. Please E-MAIL US at:firstname.lastname@example.org
. We'll print a representative sampling of responses in a
future edition of Force Science News.]
I. SNOOZE YOU LOSE? ACTUALLY, THE OPPOSITE MAY BE TRUE
Does your agency encourage you to nap on duty?
Probably not. But your department might get better performance and you might
be safer if regulated snoozing was permitted, according to well-known
trainer and consultant Tom Aveni, head of the Police Policy Studies Council
and a Technical Advisory Board member of the Force Science Research Center
at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
Recent research reports offer some impressive support for Aveni's
unconventional position by documenting the health and judgment benefits of
limited workplace dozing.
"Most of the egregious errors committed in law enforcement occur when
officers are fatigued or dealing with low-light conditions," Aveni pointed
out in a presentation on "Surviving the Night Shift" at a conference of the
International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Assn. (ILEETA). And the
rotating, irregular, or extended shifts common in policing contribute
significantly to officer fatigue, he declared.
"Those working rotating shifts, for example, average 5.5 hours of sleep when
working night hours," Aveni said. Because of second jobs, family
obligations, or disrupted sleep patterns, some officers, at least on
occasion, come to work with as little as 3 hours' sleep, "resulting in the
same level of impaired performance as ingesting the legal limit of alcohol.
"Sleep deficits may be partly recouped on days off," but until a full and
satisfying compensation occurs an officer's "mood and performance are
Given the slim, real-world probability of consistently getting sufficient
sleep, naps during duty hours could help officers fight dangerous fatigue,
Aveni argues, along with brief exercise breaks, proper caffeine intake, low
glycemic (sugary) food consumption, and exposure whenever possible to
brightly lighted areas.
"Napping is usually seen as being derelict of duty, but progressive agencies
really should encourage it. It's a healthy means of fighting fatigue, and a
short nap--20 to 30 minutes--can work wonders in increasing alertness and
Recent research studies tend to agree.
For instance, a 6-person research team at Stanford University, headed by Dr.
Rebecca Smith-Coggins, studied the effects of napping on 49 resident
physicians and nurses working nights (1930-0730) in a university trauma
center ER. Some were allowed to take up to a 40-min. nap at 0300, while a
control group stayed awake for the entire 12-hr. shift.
Napping was done in a dark, quiet room away from ER activities, with a bed
and linens provided. Ninety percent of the nap subjects, whose mean age was
30, were able to fall asleep quickly (within 11 minutes) and slept for an
average of nearly 25 minutes.
Before and after the shift and also after the nap period, both groups were
tested for vigilance, memory, mood, and task performance. After shift, all
subjects participated in a 40-min. driving simulation test to measure
"behavioral signs of sleepiness and driving accuracy."
At the end of shift, the nap subjects showed quicker reaction times and
fewer lapses in vigilance, according to the study. They reported "more
vigor, less fatigue, and less sleepiness" than those who had worked without
napping. Moreover, the nappers were able to more quickly complete a simple
job-performance task (the simulated insertion of a catheter IV) and
exhibited "less dangerous driving," although both groups showed signs of
driving impairment after working overnight.
The only negative outcome evident in the nappers was a temporary worsening
of memory "immediately after the nap." This was attributed to sleep inertia,
"the feeling of grogginess...that can persist for up to 30 minutes after
Generally, "nap intervention provided beneficial effects," the researchers
noted, and planned naps in the workplace might well "promote a high level of
alertness, attention to detail, and decision-making proficiency."
[A full report of this study appears in the Nov. 2006 issue of the Annals of
Emergency Medicine, under the title "Improving Alertness and Performance in
Emergency Dept. Physicians and Nurses: the Use of Planned Naps." A summary
appears at: http://www.aemj.org/cgi/content/abstract/9/5/466
Aveni speculates that some officers' moral judgment may also be improved by
fatigue relief in the form of napping. Certainly the findings of another
recent study suggest that morally framed decision-making can be negatively
impacted by extended fatigue, which tends to affect activity in the region
of the brain that plays a major role in moral reasoning.
In this study, Dr. William Killgore and colleagues at the Walter Reed Army
Institute of Research tested 26 healthy, active-duty military personnel
after 2 sleepless nights to see whether the lack of shut-eye would hinder
their ability to make decisions in the face of emotionally charged, moral
dilemmas. "The findings could have implications for people who are both
routinely sleep-deprived and often need to make quick decisions in a
crisis," the researchers said. That would include soldiers in combat and
cops on the street.
The participants were first tested after an adequate sleep period and again
after an unusually long stint (53.5 hours) of continuous wakefulness. They
were given a wide variety of decision-making scenarios, including some that
were highly emotionally charged, highly personal, and burdened with moral
For example, one scenario stated: "You are negotiating with a powerful and
determined terrorist who is about to set off a bomb in a crowded area."
Thousands of people would be killed by the detonation. Your one advantage is
that you have his teen-age son in your custody. [The] only one thing you can
do to stop him from detonating his bomb [is to] break one of his son's arms"
in front of a camera "and then threaten to break the other one if he does
not give himself up." The participants were asked: "Is it appropriate for
you to break the terrorist's son's arm?"
[All other scenarios used are described at:http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/293/5537/2105/DC1
The researchers were not concerned with evaluating "right" or "wrong"
answers-only with analyzing the decision-making process. Among other things
they found that:
--the test participants took significantly longer to decide how to react to
the highly personal, morally charged situations when they were
sleep-deprived compared to when they were well rested. This suggests that
fatigue "has a particularly debilitating effect on judgment and
decision-making processes that depend heavily upon the integration of
emotion with cognition," the researchers concluded.
--sleep loss also led generally "to an increase in the permissiveness or
tolerance for judging difficult courses of action as appropriate," the study
found. Only participants with above-average "emotional intelligence," the
ability to empathize and interact socially with other people, showed
resistance to being influenced by sleeplessness in this regard.
Such findings "may have implications for those in occupations" frequently
associated with sleep loss "and in which real-world moral dilemmas may be
encountered.... When sleep deprived, such personnel may experience greater
difficulty reaching morally based decisions under emotionally evocative
circumstances and may be prone to choosing courses of action that differ
from those that they would have chosen in a fully rested state," the study
"The implications for police work, where life-and-death decisions must often
be made in crisis mode, is obvious," Aveni recently told Force Science News.
[A full report of this study can be found in the journal Sleep, vol. 30, #3,
2007, under the title: "The Effects of 53 Hours of Sleep Deprivation on
Moral Judgment." For an abstract, go to: http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?citationid=3172
A third recent study concerned an important health benefit of napping.
A team of Greek and American researchers, headed by Dr. Androniki Naska of
the University of Athens Medical School, confirmed that people who take at
least 3 naps a week lasting 30 minutes or longer cut their risk of dying
from a heart attack by 37 percent.
The study followed more than 23,600 originally healthy men and women for
more than 6 years. Even those who napped only occasionally had a 12 per cent
lower coronary mortality rate than those who never napped. Men who were
working seemed especially to benefit.
Napping, the researchers said, appeared to reduce stress, and "there is
considerable evidence that both acute and chronic stress are related to
[A full report of this study appeared in Archives of Internal Medicine on
Feb. 12, 2007, under the title "Siesta in Healthy Adults and Coronary
Mortality in the General Population." A summary can be found at: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/167/3/296
"Police agencies need to start looking at napping as a restorative,
preventive measure, as something that can prevent serious errors," Aveni
"Other measures for fighting fatigue tend to be transitory. Rolling your
squad car window for a blast of cold, fresh air may perk you up for 2 to 3
minutes. Taking an exercise break where you do jumping jacks may buy you a
half hour's benefit. But with a nap of at least 20 minutes, you'll see a
pronounced improvement in performance, in vigilance, in eye-hand
coordination that can last up to 4 hours.
"Officers forced to work rotating shifts are thrust into an unnatural work
environment. In many cases, your body never adjusts to the changes in
schedule. Agencies need to consider effective countermeasures for safety's
Most agencies would understandably want to control where any officially
sanctioned napping takes place, Aveni acknowledges. Inside a patrol car is
not recommended, not only because of public perception but also because of
discomfort, distractions, and safety.
A sound-insulated area with recliners or cots inside a police facility is
more desirable, with naps scheduled in advance or permitted on request. Time
should be allowed, he says, to counteract sleep inertia upon awakening with
mild exercise before heading back on patrol.
Napping could become a collective bargaining issue in the future, Aveni
believes. But today, he admits, he knows of no department with an official
The precedent is there, however, in industries like trucking, railroading,
and aviation. A New York company called MetroNaps has started marketing
customized napping "pods"--7-ft.-long, hooded recliners with headphones,
temperature controls, and lights that dim--to corporations willing to be on
the cutting edge of a new trend.
Reflecting on other hazardous occupations where "preventive napping" has
become part of the culture, Aveni notes: "If we held law enforcement to
civilian standards, this would be a very different profession."
[REMEMBER: We welcome your reactions to Aveni's remarks at: email@example.com
II. FATIGUE LINKED TO FAULTY JUDGMENT, FEDERAL AGENCY SAYS
An association between fatigue and faulty judgment in life-or-death
situations is dramatically drawn in a recent review by the National
Transportation Safety Board of airline accidents and near misses.
"Even though the Board's report concerns air traffic controllers, law
enforcement officers, too, risk disastrous consequences from the effect of
sleep deprivation on brain function," Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director
of the Force Science Research Center told Force Science News. "As with the
controllers, slower reaction times, missed cues, and foggy judgment brought
on by fatigue in cops can result in lost lives. The difference is that with
police officers the lives lost may include their own."
Lewinski cites a study some years ago of officer fatalities in auto
accidents. Researchers found that the highest-risk time for officers was
when driving home after a critical incident that significantly extended
their work day. "The combination of coming off an adrenalin dump and
entering a sleep-deprivation state produced fatigue that impaired their
attention and judgment with deadly consequences," Lewinski explains.
He also points out that most major disasters in the last 3 decades, from the
nuclear meltdown at Three-Mile Island to the explosion of the Challenger
shuttle, "were caused by individuals operating with significant sleep
deprivation, often on the first night of a new shift."
In a letter this month urging reform in scheduling and training, the NTSB
linked sleep deprivation in air traffic controllers to the worst U.S.
airline crash in 5 years and to at least 4 near-fatal incidents.
The fatal crash claimed 49 lives last August when a commuter jet tried to
use a closed runway in Lexington, KY. The controller on duty had reported to
work for the midnight shift after sleeping for only 2 hours.
The close calls included a controller working after only 4 hours' sleep who
ordered a passenger jet to take off directly into the path of another plane
in Chicago and a controller who cleared a cargo jet for takeoff on a closed
runway in Denver who had gotten 60 to 90 minutes of sleep before working an
"The human brain is most alert and functions best when well-rested,"
Lewinski says. "You may think you can will yourself to overcome fatigue or
compensate for it with caffeine intake, for example. But that's true only
within fairly rigid limitations. Beyond those limits, physiology will win
out, to your decided disadvantage."
[For more details, see "Fatigue threatens air safety, NTSB says," by Alan
Levin in USA TODAY, 4/11/07 at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-04-10-fatigue-air-safety_N.htm
(c) 2007: Force Science Research Center, www.forcescience.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Here she is, Miss America
on: April 21, 2007, 12:21:32 AM
Some comments on a separate point follow.
82-Year-Old Ex-Beauty Queen Stops Intruder by Shooting Out Tires
Friday , April 20, 2007
WAYNESBURG, Ky. —
Miss America 1944 has a talent that likely has never appeared on a beauty pageant stage: She fired a handgun to shoot out a vehicle's tires and stop an intruder.
Venus Ramey, 82, confronted a man on her farm in south-central Kentucky last week after she saw her dog run into a storage building where thieves had previously made off with old farm equipment.
Ramey said the man told her he would leave. "I said, 'Oh, no you won't,' and I shot their tires so they couldn't leave," Ramey said.
She had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun.
"I didn't even think twice. I just went and did it," she said. "If they'd even dared come close to me, they'd be 6 feet under by now."
Ramey then flagged down a passing motorist, who called 911.
Curtis Parrish of Ohio was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, Deputy Dan Gilliam said. The man's hometown wasn't immediately available. Three other people were questioned but were not arrested.
After winning the pageant with her singing, dancing and comedic talents, Ramey sold war bonds and her picture was adorned on a B-17 that made missions over Germany in World War II, according to the Miss America Web site.
Ramey lived in Cincinnati for several years and was instrumental in helping rejuvenate Over-the-Rhine historic buildings. She returned to Kentucky in 1990 to live on her farm.
"I'm trying to live a quiet, peaceful life and stay out of trouble, and all it is, is one thing after another," she said.
Also, in all the hoopla in the wake of VT, one point that I have not seen made and which makes sense to me is the point that our homeland is in danger from Islamo-fascism. Unilateral disarmament is always a bad idea, but particularly so in such a moment.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Snaggletooth Variations:
on: April 20, 2007, 10:17:55 PM
I very much enjoyed meeting the two of you in person and working with you-- and the ride to Pittsburgh. There's not many people with whom an extended conversation about the shift from demand side economics during Nixon-Ford-Carter to supply side economics under Regan-Bush takes place
As for that clip, our editor Night Owl, who is Filipino, found it. It is from a movie about Lapu Lapu. I'm watching my personal copy of the DVD right now and when I get to where we give credit for it I will post it here.
All the best to a new and less Caucausion you in your Snaggletooth Variations training
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: April 20, 2007, 04:26:00 PM
U.S./SAUDI ARABIA: The United States plans to sell Joint Direct Attack Munition smart bombs to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said while he was in Israel. Israel had expressed its opposition to the sale, citing concerns that the systems could fall into militant hands and undermine Israel's defense strategy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: April 20, 2007, 01:39:41 PM
From: Roy Beck, President, NumbersUSA
Date: Friday 20APR07 1:30 p.m. EDT
Phone this aft to decry near-agreement on Senate amnesty
FRIENDS, MEDIA SAY THE END IS NEAR ...
PROVE THEM WRONG.
Please call offices of Republican Senators this afternoon.
The story below from CongressDailyAM suggests that Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) may be moving slightly toward Republican Senate negotiators who, according to this story, are ready to sign off on an amnesty for 12 million illegal aliens.
If this is true, it means that a lot of Republican Senators are getting ready to back an amnesty even though they and their staffers have been telling you they will NEVER vote for an amnesty.
Your phone calls should not assume that any one of these GOP Senators has decided to sign-off on the Kennedy "compromise" amnesty. But you should express every bit of concern that the story below raises.
It also would be very helpful if you would call the Senators' local offices.
You can get all the phone numbers for your own two Senators at: http://numbersusa.com/myMembers
You can get phone numbers for other states' Senators at (pick a state, then click on the Senator -- scroll to the bottom of the Profile page for all the phone numbers): http://profiles.numbersusa.com/
Until yesterday, it had been looking like the differences were going to be too great for Kennedy and the "middle-ground" Republicans like Sen. Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Isakson (R-GA), as well as for Senate GOP leaders like Sen. McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lott (R-MS). But now, the danger appears to have risen considerably.
I have been meeting all last night and today with congressional staffers and leaders of other immigration-reduction organizations.
The overall consensus is that a disastrous compromise is very, very near. That would mean an amnesty passing the Senate in May and a lot of momentum for the House to pass it in July.
I cannot over-emphasize how important it is for you to give immediate feedback to all GOP Senators to this news.
And remember to state that an amnesty is anything that allows illegal aliens to keep what they broke the law to obtain: (1) residence in the U.S. and (2) jobs in the U.S. Don't let them get by with vague language about opposing a "blanket amnesty" or a "citizenship amnesty" or an "automatic amnesty."
Either these Senators are willing to let illegal aliens live and work in the U.S. legally and indefinitely, or they are willing to stand against amnesty.
And remember that agreeing to a "trigger" just means that illegal aliens will get immediate legal rights to live and work in U.S. but won't get to start the process for a permanent green card and citizenship until the trigger of enforcement is met. Anybody who agrees to a "trigger" is agreeing to an amnesty.
When you call, talk specifically about this article, which nearly all of our Senate contacts are telling us seems to be accurate.
You will see that our Rosemary is quoted as saying that we have all but given up on the Senate. That is true in terms of anything good coming out. But she was taken a bit out of context. We still have high hopes of voters putting enough pressure on their Senators to block the amnesty from coming out of the Senate.
Senate Group Close To Immigration Deal
By FAWN JOHNSON
A core group of senators that has been meeting almost daily for the last several weeks is close to announcing the outlines of a comprehensive immigration bill that could be the basis for Senate debate in late May.
"I think we've made a ton of progress, and I think next week, we might even be able to talk about it more publicly," said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who is part of the group. "The problems are small and manageable."
"There isn't overall agreement," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. "The discussions, I think, are being taken in good faith. ...It's a constructive dialogue."
Two components likely to be part of the agreement are a "trigger" mechanism that would delay implementation of a guestworker program until enforcement mechanisms are in place and a new "Z visa" program for undocumented workers in the United States, according to Martinez.
The negotiators have agreed to use the Z visa to give undocumented workers benefits not available for future guestworkers. "Once you have a Z visa, you can do something for the population here. Give them, not a certain or immediate path to citizenship, but a potential path to citizenship. And then the guestworkers you can deal with just as guestworkers," Martinez said.
The trigger provision might be enough to win support from Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who voted against the Senate immigration bill last year. Isakson wants sophisticated surveillance at the border, bolstered border patrol and biometric ID cards for all foreign entrants into the country.
"If you have a meaningful security outline to trigger the reform, then that makes the reform work," Isakson said. "I've been very encouraged by the progress we've been making."
Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Gutierrez have been key players in the talks, which also include Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz.
Last year, when Isakson first floated his trigger idea on the floor, he said it would take two years to satisfy his enforcement criteria. Today, he said, that process would take only 18 months because the Homeland Security Department has beefed up enforcement.
Lawmakers in the negotiations say the administration's stepped-up involvement and its willingness to debate details have gone a long way in mollifying members with differing points of view. "Kennedy and McCain and myself and others have moved. And I think Kyl and Cornyn have also moved," Martinez said.
Menendez concurred. "We've all moved," he said.
If the members of the group can hold together, Republicans who last year did not support the Senate bill could sign on, including Kyl, Cornyn, Isakson, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. That would fit with the administration's goal of attracting a substantial number of Senate Republicans to a comprehensive bill to give cover to House Republicans.
"The Senate is so far removed from reality," said NumbersUSA Government Relations Director Rosemary Jenks, whose group opposes any type of legal status for illegal immigrants. Jenks said she and other opponents have all but given up on the Senate, but they hope to stop a bill in the House that creates legalization opportunities for illegal workers.
House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who has been handed the task of shepherding an immigration bill through the House this year, is beginning the process with a series of hearings -- up to two a week -- on every aspect of the issue. "We'll know a lot more at the end," she said.
In the House, the plan is to pass an immigration bill in July. It could be the last bill members vote on before departing for the August recess.
In the Senate, lawmakers are considering moving an immigration proposal directly to the floor, bypassing the Judiciary Committee, which is mired in other issues. "And then it goes to the House, and then who knows," said Martinez.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War?
on: April 20, 2007, 01:13:32 PM
IRAN: Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani will meet with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on April 25 to discuss Iran's nuclear program, the ISNA news service reported. The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran in March over Tehran's refusal to discontinue its uranium enrichment program.
RUSSIA: Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia will not send uranium enrichment centrifuges to countries that do not possess adequate expertise, including Iran, Pakistan and India. Ivanov noted Russia's commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and confirmed that China is not included on the list. Russia plans to sign agreements with China during 2007 to build the fourth phase of a uranium enrichment plant.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yale does something to end the violence
on: April 20, 2007, 12:41:09 PM
Weapons to go offstage
Trachtenberg cites Virginia Tech attack
Staff Reporter and Copy Editor
Jeffrey White/Photography Editor
Sarah Holdren ‘08, speaking Thursday before the opening of ‘Red Noses,’ protested new restrictions on using weapons in campus plays.In Other News
In the wake of Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech in which a student killed 32 people, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has limited the use of stage weapons in theatrical productions.
Students involved in this weekend’s production of “Red Noses” said they first learned of the new rules on Thursday morning, the same day the show was slated to open. They were subsequently forced to alter many of the scenes by swapping more realistic-looking stage swords for wooden ones, a change that many students said was neither a necessary nor a useful response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
According to students involved in the production, Trachtenberg has banned the use of some stage weapons in all of the University’s theatrical productions. While shows will be permitted to use obviously fake plastic weapons, students said, those that hoped to stage more realistic scenes of stage violence have had to make changes to their props.
Trachtenberg could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
“Red Noses” director Sarah Holdren ’08 said she first heard about the changes in a phone call from a friend as she arrived at the Off-Broadway Theater on Thursday morning. At the theater, technical director Jim Brewczynski told her about the new regulations. The pair then met with Trachtenberg, who initially wanted no stage weapons to be used in the show, Holdren said, though she later agreed to permit the use of obviously fake weapons.
In a speech made before last night’s opening show of “Red Noses,” Holdren said that Trachtenberg’s decision to force the production to use wooden swords instead of metal swords will do little to stem violence in the world.
“Calling for an end to violence onstage does not solve the world’s suffering: It merely sweeps it under the rug, turning theater — in the words of this very play — into ‘creamy bon-bons’ instead of ‘solid fare’ for a thinking, feeling audience,” she said. “Here at Yale, sensitivity and political correctness have become censorship in this time of vital need for serious artistic expression.”
Holdren said she is primarily worried about the University’s decision to place limitations on art, rather than the specific inconvenience to her production.
“I completely understand that the University needs to respond to the tragedy, but I think it is wrong to conflate sensitivity and censorship,” she said in an interview. “It is wrong to assume that any theater that deals with tragic matter is sort of on the side of those things or out to get people; they’re not — they’re out to help people through things like this. I want my show and all shows to be uplifting to people. That’s why I’m upset about this — it’s not because my props were taken — it’s about imposing petty restrictions on art as the right way to solve the problems in the world.”
Brandon Berger ’10, who plays a swordsman in the show, said the switch to an obviously fake wooden sword has changed the nature of his part from an “evil, errant knight to a petulant child.”
“They’re trying to make an appropriate gesture, but they did it in an inappropriate way — they’ve neutered the play,” he said. “The violence is important to what it actually means. What these types of actions do is very central — it is not gratuitous.”
Susie Kemple ’08, an actress in the show, said Trachtenberg’s way of dealing with the Virginia Tech massacre was not beneficial to the students’ own mourning process.
“It is problematic because all of us were incredibly shocked by the events at Virginia Tech,” Kemple said. “We turn to extracurriculars in our grief [and] the Yale administration makes the healing more difficult. None of the shows are about massive gun violence — this show is about showing and explaining the human experience.”
Berger also said he finds the ruling inconsistent because forms of stage violence that do not involve weapons — such as hangings — are still permitted.
“Red Noses” will end its run Saturday night.http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/20843
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sunni Tribes in Anbar form anti-insurgent party
on: April 20, 2007, 11:03:23 AM
Today's LA Times:
THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: A COUNCIL OF SHEIKS
Iraqi tribal chiefs forming an anti-insurgent party
The Sunni sheiks aim to set up a council and enter elections. They also seek to enhance U.S. troops' image.
By Chris Kraul, Times Staff Writer
April 20, 2007
RAMADI, IRAQ — A group of Sunni tribal leaders in beleaguered Al Anbar province said Thursday that it intended to form a national party to oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process.
The announcement came after 200 sheiks said to represent 50 tribes met here and agreed to form a provincial sheiks council and hold the first convention in May of their new party, called Iraq Awakening. Sheiks from three other provinces will attend, organizers said.
The driving force behind the new party, Sheik Abdul-Sattar abu Risha, said in an interview that the tribal leaders would be pushing a slate of candidates in Al Anbar provincial elections later this year, as well as in the next round of national parliamentary balloting, scheduled for 2009.
One purpose of the party, Sattar said, is to promote a better image of American-led forces "to the Iraqis here." He added that the tribes also would participate in a U.S.-backed effort to reestablish a court system in Ramadi, the provincial capital.
The sheik is a leader of the Abu Risha tribe that is part of the larger Dulaimi tribal confederation in Al Anbar. His grab for power has been resented by some. His base of support remains around Ramadi, although he has been trying to reach out to other branches of the Dulaimi tribe around the province. Still, his history remains the subject of speculation, and others are wary of him, even though they may seek nominal affiliation with his movement as tribal leaders move to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates.
U.S. military leaders here said they were cheered by the announcement because cooperation from sheiks in Al Anbar in recent months had contributed to a rise in Iraqi police and army recruitment and a sharp reduction in insurgent attacks on U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies.
After remaining neutral or in favor of the insurgency that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many Al Anbar sheiks eventually grew disenchanted due to the brutality of foreign-led militants. Sattar said he began organizing sheiks in September after his father and three brothers were killed by insurgents.
"The terrorists destroyed the network of people and how they communicate, and the new sheiks council is here to bring it back and fight the insurgents until they are out of the country," Sattar said.
Improved security in Al Anbar, for which the U.S. military gives strong credit to the evolving views of the region's sheiks, has been something of a bright spot in Iraq in recent months.
The sheiks, who have long served as cultural leaders here, felt marginalized by the political system imposed after the 2003 invasion. Some U.S. occupation officials viewed the sheiks and their hold over extended families as undemocratic.
Al Anbar Gov. Mamoun Sami Rasheed said Thursday that the sheiks marginalized themselves by refusing to participate in Iraq's 2005 elections and, in some cases, supporting the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization.
The sheiks in turn have mocked some of the provincial representatives for being absentee politicians with no local track record.
But some sheiks in Ramadi and other parts of Al Anbar have established closer links with U.S. armed forces since last year, when they began speaking out against the insurgency and Al Qaeda in Iraq.
With the sheiks' encouragement, Al Anbar tribes have contributed thousands of recruits to Iraq's security forces in recent months, enabling U.S.-led troops to hold and pacify parts of the restive province.
The number of insurgent attacks in Ramadi and its outlying areas has fallen to a fraction of what it was a year ago, said U.S. Army Col. John Charlton, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, who is overall military commander in the Ramadi area.
Sattar said the sheiks council would offer "full accountability for anyone in his tribe. Also they will know of any strangers — man, woman or child — who try to mix in their neighborhoods."
Analysts who lauded the sheiks' announcement as well as U.S. efforts to work with them cautioned that the political situation remained fluid.
"It's only now that the United States appears convinced of the need to build up local support against Al Qaeda," said Joost Hiltermann, a consultant with the International Crisis Group in Amman, the capital of Jordan. "What these people want is a restoration of Sunni power, or a preservation of certain privileges, or more simply, protection of their community from the Shiite majority and Iran."
Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said the "most important result may not be in the battlefield but in producing new Sunni voices that Shiites and Kurds can negotiate with."
Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution in Washington said that improving U.S. relations with Sunni sheiks made "eminent sense" but that officials needed to be thinking about the "next step."
"We need better contacts among Sunnis for the purposes of negotiating an end to the civil war," he said, "and this could create an opportunity to create partners in the larger project while also serving an immediate need."
Times staff writer Ned Parker in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: April 20, 2007, 11:00:32 AM
A HISTORY LESSON STILL UNLEARNED
by Amir Taheri
April 18, 2007
With war drums beating louder, senior military commanders in Tehran miss few opportunities to warn the government against plunging the country into an unequal fight with the United States and its allies.
One such warning came last month from the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRCG) General Rahim Safavi.
In an unusually frank assessment of the situation, he told an audience of guardsmen that the country lacked the necessary means to defend its extensive land and sea borders. He insisted that everything be done to avoid an "unhappy episode".
In Tehran's military circles, the phrase "unhappy episode" is a codeword for the only direct military clash that has so far taken place between the Islamic Republic and the United States.
The clash came on April 18, 1988, exactly 19 years ago today.
At the time, the Islamic Republic censored all news of the event so that most Iranians do not even know that it happened at all. For their part, the Americans also "managed" the flow of information about the clash to prevent its strategic importance from becoming apparent at the time.
Nevertheless, the clash between the navy of the Islamic Republic and a US naval task force led by the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, was subsequently classed as one of the five naval battles of historic importance that established American sup-remacy at sea.
The background to the clash was rather complicated.
At the time, the Islamic Republic was at war against Iraq under Saddam Hussain, rejecting United Nations pleas for a ceasefire.
Towards the end of 1987, the Islamic Republic started firing on Kuwaiti oil tankers passing through the Gulf on the grounds that Arab oil money fuelled Saddam's war machine. Weeks of efforts by the UN, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), and the nonaligned bloc to persuade Tehran to stop attacking Kuwaiti tankers produced no results.
It was then that President Ronald Reagan decided to put the Kuwaiti tankers under the US flag and escort them through the waterway.
The Islamic Republic retaliated by mining some of the shipping lanes in the waterway. On April 14, 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine and was seriously damaged. It was towed to Dubai where it arrived two days later.
The following day experts established that the mine had been made in Iran and placed by the IRCG.
Within hours, President Ronald Reagan ordered the US task force to retaliate. The IRCG responded by firing missiles at US vessels without inflicting any harm.
The US task force seized the opportunity to unleash its superior firepower to virtually break the Iranian navy.
The Americans lost two men, the crew of a helicopter that came down in an accident far from the battle.
The IRCG lost 87 men and over 300 wounded. Later, the Islamic Republic filed a suit against the US at the International Court at The Hague claiming losses amounting to several billion dollars. (The court rejected Tehran's suit in November 2003.)
The battle's effect in Tehran was immediate.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the leader of the Islamic Republic, was initially inclined to retaliate by ordering Hezbollah to carry out suicide attacks against American and other Western interests.
However, he was persuaded by Hashemi Rafsanjani, then the ayatollah's closest aide, to take a deep breath and maintain a low profile. There was to be no retaliation. The remaining vessels of the Iranian navy were ordered to clear their movements with the US task force in advance to avoid any misunderstanding.
The battle, nicknamed by the US "Operation Praying Mantis", was followed in July by a tragic accident when the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air jetliner by mistake, killing all 290 passengers and crew.
Khomeini interpreted the accident as a deliberate escalation by the US and feared that his regime was in danger. Rafsanjani and other advisers used that fear to persuade the ayatollah to end the war with Iraq, something he had adamantly refused for eight years.
A broken Khomeini appeared on TV to announce that he was "drinking the chalice of poison" by accepting a UN-ordered ceasefire. He was no longer going to Karbala on his way to Jerusalem.
In his memoirs, Rafsanjani makes it clear that without the disastrous naval battle and the downing of the Iran Air jet, Khomeini would not have agreed to end a war that had already claimed a million Iranian and Iraqi lives.
The reason was that Khomeini was leader of a regime that lacked adequate mechanisms for self-restraint. He was the driver of a vehicle with no clutch or reverse-gear, let alone a brake, and thus was doomed to speed ahead until it hit something hard.
Interestingly, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a similar image recently when he committed the regime to a no-compromise position on the nuclear issue. "This train has no reverse-gear and no brakes," he said.
Khomeini could have ended the war with Iraq years earlier, obtaining decent terms for Iran. He did not because the extremist nature of his regime made it impossible to even contemplate the fact that realism, prudence and compromise are key elements of good leadership.
Khomeini could not have ended the war. He needed Reagan to do it for him. If the Islamic Republic is a train without a reverse-gear and brakes, it does not need a conductor. It could race ahead until it hits something hard on its way.
Amir Taheri is an Iranian writer based in Europe
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Posada
on: April 20, 2007, 08:55:32 AM
El New York Times de hoy:
A 79-year-old anti-Castro Cuban exile and former C.I.A. operative linked to the bombing of a Cuban airliner was released on bail yesterday and immediately returned to Miami to await trial on immigration fraud charges.
A billboard in Havana bears a likeness of Luis Posada Carriles and reads, “Cuba declares him guilty” in the bombing of a Cuban jetliner in 1976.
The man, Luis Posada Carriles, was released from the Otero County Prison in Chaparral, N.M., after posting a $350,000 bond on the immigration charges.
His release infuriated the authorities in Cuba and Venezuela, who have been trying to extradite him to stand trial over the 1976 airliner bombing, which killed 73 people, including several teenage members of Cuba’s national fencing team.
The United States Justice Department had tried unsuccessfully to prevent his release, arguing that his escape from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 increased the risk that he might flee before the scheduled start of his trial on immigration charges on May 11.
The court rejected the Justice Department’s argument, but it increased security measures by ordering Mr. Posada to be fitted with an ankle bracelet to track his whereabouts. He was ordered to remain under house detention with his wife in Miami until the immigration trial begins.
Mr. Posada, a gray-haired former intelligence operative and United States Army officer, has been detained since May 2005, when he entered the United States illegally.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela said Thursday in Caracas, “We demand that they extradite that terrorist and murderer to Venezuela, instead of protecting him.”
Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, the chief of the Cuban Interests Section, Cuba’s diplomatic representation in Washington, told Agence France-Presse yesterday, “Cuba forcefully condemns this decision and holds the government of the United States totally responsible for the fact that Posada Carriles is free in Miami.”
Prensa Latina, the Cuban news agency, reported last night that 50,000 people had gathered at a demonstration in Bayamo, a city in southeastern Cuba, to protest the release of Mr. Posada and to demand that he be tried for the jetliner bombing.
The Cuban government has also accused Mr. Posada, an avowed opponent of the island’s Communist rule, of plotting to assassinate the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, in Panama in 2000, and of planning a series of explosions in tourist hotels in Havana in 1997.
Mr. Posada was jailed in Panama in connection with the attempt on Mr. Castro’s life but was later pardoned by Panamanian officials. He admitted, then later denied, that he had directed the wave of hotel bombings in 1997.
He has also repeatedly denied responsibility for the bombing of the plane, known as Cubana Airlines Flight 455. The jet blew apart and crashed off the coast of Barbados on Oct. 6, 1976.
Investigators in Venezuela, where Mr. Posada had been chief of operations in the secret intelligence police, traced at least one of the bombs to the plane’s luggage compartment. The investigators found that two Venezuelans had checked bags through to Havana but got off the plane at a scheduled stop in Barbados.
The men had worked for Mr. Posada, who was arrested in Venezuela and charged with the bombing. He escaped from prison in 1985 dressed as a priest after associates bribed a guard.
Cuban officials have accused the United States of hypocrisy in battling terrorists by not prosecuting Mr. Posada or deporting him to stand trial on terrorism charges in another country. They routinely refer to Mr. Posada as “the bin Laden of the Americas.”
Mr. Posada’s shadowy past as a Central Intelligence Agency operative put the United States in a politically delicate position. In his early years, he had received military training in the United States and worked for the C.I.A. to bring down the Castro government. He participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Later he was involved in supplying arms to rebels in Nicaragua.
The United States has acknowledged his long record of violent acts. In court papers filed in his immigration fraud case, the Justice Department described him as “an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plots.”
Mr. Posada was detained in 2005 after he entered the United States on false pretenses. According to an indictment unsealed this year, he lied when he told border officials he had paid a smuggler to drive him from Mexico to Texas. He actually entered the country on a small boat. He also lied about using an alias.
An immigration judge has blocked Mr. Posada’s extradition to Cuba or Venezuela, ruling that he could be subject to torture in those countries. Efforts to deport him to another country have failed because so far no other country has been willing to take him.
His arrival in Miami yesterday afternoon set off mixed reactions among the area’s many Cuban exiles, who see him as both a patriot and an embarrassment.
“We have been fighting this war on terror, and here we are releasing a man who has a history of terrorist acts and is a fugitive of justice in other countries,” said Elena Freyre, executive director of the Cuban-American Defense League, a moderate exile group in Miami. “It’s absolutely appalling.”
But Miguel Saavedra, president of Vigilia Mambisa, a small, hard-line anti-Castro exile group, said he felt vindicated by Mr. Posada’s release on bail.
“The only ones accusing him are the governments of Cuba and Venezuela,” Mr. Saavedra said. “They can only accuse him because they haven’t been able to prove anything. If he is sent to Cuba or Venezuela, it would be the equivalent of executing him.”
Terry Aguayo contributed reporting from Miami.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: April 20, 2007, 08:37:27 AM
In the aftermath of VT, here's an interesting development:
Dingell, NRA Working on Bill to Strengthen Background Checks
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2007; A10
With the Virginia Tech shootings resurrecting calls for tighter gun controls, the National Rifle Association has begun negotiations with senior Democrats over legislation to bolster the national background-check system and potentially block gun purchases by the mentally ill.
Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.), a gun-rights Democrat who once served on the NRA's board of directors, is leading talks with the powerful gun lobby in hopes of producing a deal by early next week, Democratic aides and lawmakers said.
Under the bill, states would be given money to help them supply the federal government with information on mental-illness adjudications and other run-ins with the law that are supposed to disqualify individuals from firearms purchases. For the first time, states would face penalties for not keeping the National Instant Criminal Background Check System current.
The legislation, drafted several years ago by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), has twice passed the House, only to die in the Senate. But Cho Seung Hui's rampage Monday has given it new life.
Since 1968, individuals deemed mentally ill by the legal system are not supposed to be able to buy guns. A court's ordering Cho into treatment in late 2005 should have been reported to the federal background check system, congressional aides said. Instead, his background check came up clean, and he legally bought the two handguns used to kill 32 students and teachers before he committed suicide.
"The states are not putting records into the system," McCarthy said yesterday.
The measure could be the first gun control law to pass Congress since enactment of the now-lapsed assault weapons ban 13 years ago. But, McCarthy said, the deaths at Virginia Tech are not enough to propel the bill to passage. That is why the NRA is being brought into the process.
Multiple gun control measures were introduced after the Columbine High School shootings eight years ago, but the NRA helped thwart them all, then helped defeat Vice President Al Gore's 2000 bid for the White House. With that in mind, Democratic leaders are anxious to bring the NRA aboard as they try to respond to this week's shootings.
The gun lobby stayed relatively neutral during past efforts to pass the measure, but this time Dingell is pushing for an endorsement, or even for the NRA to make it a "key vote" for its supporters.
McCarthy, whose husband was killed during a gunman's rampage on the Long Island Rail Road, admits her crusades for far more stringent gun control measures have made her toxic in gun circles.
So Dingell is handling negotiations with the NRA, said an aide participating in those talks. Dingell is also in talks with Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.), the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has asked Dingell to broker a deal by Tuesday. But the aide said Dingell and NRA negotiators are skeptical they can reach an accord that quickly.
"We'd rather get a good bill than a quick bill," he said.
But pitfalls remain. The NRA must balance its desire to respond to the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in the nation's history with its competition with the more strident Gun Owners of America, which opposes any restrictions on gun purchases.
An NRA lobbyist said last night that the group would not comment on the effort.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War
on: April 19, 2007, 11:17:41 PM
The Gulf States and Containing the Shiite Revival
Iran's prospects in Iraq and the spread of Shiite Islam in the region have put the Sunni states of the Persian Gulf on edge. Though the Gulf powers cannot rely on their own military strength to counter Iran's expansion, they do have several tools at their disposal to help keep the Iranians at bay -- the most important of which is cold, hard cash.
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's fall and the subsequent rise of Iraq's Shiite majority represented the collapse of a strategic Sunni buffer state for the Sunni Arab world. This opening also provided Iran a golden opportunity to spread its influence into the heart of the Arab world by consolidating control over the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. Though the United States has served as the main blocker to Iranian ambitions in Iraq, it has become increasingly clear that Washington is in no position to enforce a political resolution in Baghdad through military force.
With the Iraq war having passed the four-year mark, the Sunni states of the Persian Gulf are growing more and more alarmed at the thought of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, which would leave Iran to pick up the pieces. These states cannot be assured that Iranian power in Iraq will not eventually seep through their own borders -- especially considering that the Shia in Saudi Arabia inhabit the oil-rich Eastern Province, which borders Iraq and Persian Gulf states like Kuwait and Bahrain that have sizable Shiite populations of their own. The Arab Gulf states have a variety of tools at their disposal to fend off the Iranians, though each has its limits and risks.
The Gulf States' Levers -- and Weaknesses
Militarily speaking, the Arab Gulf states rely completely on the United States for their defense. U.S. allies in the Gulf are receiving some of the best U.S. military hardware available, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates just got the OK from Israel to provide Saudi Arabia with advanced military technology to bolster the Saudi defense posture in the Gulf. (Details of the actual technology are still sketchy.) But for all their technological sophistication, Saudi forces lack the skills, war experience, mentality, training, manpower and leadership of a true military power. That said, the Saudis do have the means to contain Iran's militant proxies.
The Arab Gulf states have a critical need to maintain a robust Sunni presence in Iraq to counter the country's Shiite majority, which has gained control of the Iraqi government for the first time. While the Shiite political powers in Iraq are strengthened by well-trained Shiite militia groups trained and supplied by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq receives substantial funding and support from Iraq's Arab neighbors. This strategy helps prevent the Shiite militants from running over the Sunni population in Iraq -- at the cost of playing with fire. Saudi Arabia has a jihadist threat of its own to deal with, and sooner or later well-trained veterans from Iraq will be returning to the kingdom to fight.
The Saudis also hold the energy lever in their hands. By substantially expanding Saudi oil production from its current 8.6 million barrels per day (bpd), the Saudis could seriously strain the Iranian energy industry, which already sorely lacks the technology, experience and government backing needed to fund major refinery projects, and therefore heavily depends on high oil prices. As a result, the world's fourth-largest oil producer actually imports 40 percent of its gasoline, and parcels out heavy gasoline subsidies to Iranian citizens for fear of sparking domestic unrest, further draining Iran's economy. But for Saudi Arabia to make a big enough dent in the energy markets to hurt Iran, Saudi oil production would have to get up to 15 million bpd. This would take until at least 2015, relegating this to a long-term option for the Saudis.
Finally, the Gulf Arabs possess the risk-free option of putting their petrodollars to good use in containing the Iranian advance. Iraqi and Saudi officials announced April 18 that the Saudi government has agreed to forgive 80 percent of the more than $15 billion that Iraq owes the kingdom. Riyadh is not under any illusions that its war-torn neighbor would be able to repay the debt any time soon, if at all, but this goodwill gesture toward the Shiite-dominated government will help the Saudis buy some much-needed influence in Baghdad. The Saudi government is well-aware that the Iraqi Shiite bloc does not see eye to eye on a number of issues with its patrons in Tehran, and hopes to exploit this rift by weaning the Shiite Arabs in Iraq away from Iran.
Cash for Influence
The idea of using cash to pull Iran's Shiite allies closer to the Arab fold has taken hold throughout the Arab Gulf region. The Alawite-Baathist regime in Syria -- a close ally of Iran -- stands to benefit a great deal from this strategy as literally hundreds of millions of Gulf dollars are now flowing into Syria in the form of foreign investment. For example, Kharafi Group, a Kuwaiti conglomerate, now operates a taxi company, has opened four Costa Coffee outlets and has helped finance the opening of a new Sheraton hotel in Damascus. Syria's economy has long stagnated under the al Assad regime's Soviet-style economic policies, and its population is hungry for foreign goods.
Saudi Arabia has long used cash to buy influence in Lebanon as well, where Iran has made extensive inroads in the Shiite community. The Saudi royal family groomed slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and helped finance his ambitious development projects in Beirut, which have now passed on to his son, Saad al-Hariri, who prefers to live his life as a business tycoon rather than a political leader. Though the al-Hariri family owes a great deal to Riyadh for the latter's success in developing Beirut into a cosmopolitan hub in the Middle East following Lebanon's devastating civil war, Iran's Shiite proxies in Lebanon have put up a stiff resistance to Saudi influence. By financing development projects in Lebanon's impoverished, Shiite-concentrated south, the Iranians have gained a strong foothold in the country to empower Hezbollah politically and militarily.
The Ethnic Card
In each of these projects, the Gulf Arab governments are realistic in terms of how much of a political return they expect to receive. Pumping cash into Iranian strongholds throughout the region will not sever local Shia's ties with the Iranians; Shiite identity is a structural factor the Iranians can always exploit. Instead, the Saudis and the other Sunni states hope to use the Arab ethnic factor to their advantage to counter Iranian influence.
But playing the ethnic card also comes with a price. To keep the Arab Shia in their camp, the Iranians have pulled ahead of the Saudis in this game by calling for pan-Islamist unity, in which Muslims are urged to rise above nationalistic and sectarian divisions. This pan-Islamist campaign threatens Saudi Arabia's role as the leader of the Islamic world, particularly in situations in which it seeks to play up the Arab ethnic factor to drive a wedge between Iran and the Arab Shia.
Arab powers in the region face a reality in which Iran is recasting the region's balance of power in favor of the Shia through its extended reach in Iraq and its nuclear ambitions. Though the Arab Gulf states face substantial limitations in their ability to suppress their historical Persian rival, the realization has sunk in that the United States will not be able to run the Iraq show on its own -- meaning the Gulf Arab governments are going to have to put their petrodollars to the test.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: April 19, 2007, 06:47:29 PM
THE THREE-DIMENSIONAL PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES
By DICK MORRIS
Published on TheHill.com on April 18, 2007.
All the polling and analysis of the 2008 presidential primaries neatly bifurcate their consideration into partisan categories. In the Democratic primary, Clinton, Obama and Edwards face off, while in the Republican contest, the polls take measure of Giuliani, McCain, Romney and, depending on their assumptions, Gingrich and Fred Thompson. But this analysis fundamentally ignores one of the most important elements in the looming contest of 2008: the likelihood that independents and even Republicans may enter the Democratic primary to support or oppose Hillary Clinton. So polarizing is her candidacy that the migration into the Democratic primary could be enormous, even so large as to overshadow the core Democratic partisans who always vote in their party’s contests.
In all, 24 states — including big ones like California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois — with a combined 56 percent of America’s population permit independents to vote in the Democratic primary; 19 states, with 39 percent of the population, let anyone vote in either primary, even if they are registered in the opposite party. More importantly, among the early states, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have completely open primaries and permit voters to choose whichever primary they wish. California law is particularly odd (as is often the case with that state). Independents can vote only in the Democratic primary — not in the Republican contest. This provision virtually assures a massive influx of unaffiliated voters into the Clinton-Obama battle.
Crossovers were an important factor the last time both parties had simultaneous nominating processes. In 2000, Bush and Gore wrapped up most of the votes of the loyalists of their respective parties while challengers McCain and Bradley split the independent vote. Had either McCain or Bradley not run, it is possible that the remaining candidate would have gotten so many independent votes that he might have been nominated.
But in 2008, all the gravitational pull will be into the Democratic primary. If Giuliani is well ahead by primary season, the GOP contest could turn out to be anti-climactic. But even if the Republican primary will be fought closely, none of the candidates has the same potential to attract or repel voters as Hillary Clinton.
So which will it be? Will Hillary attract or repel independent voters? The Gallup organization recently released a composite of its polling on Hillary among independents over the past three years. It found that while Democrats hold a favorable opinion of the former first lady by 83 percent to 13, independents break in her favor by only 51 percent to 43. Republicans, needless to say, dislike her: Among GOPers the favorable rating is only 20 percent to 76.
Given these data, two factors would indicate that the crossover voting laws may spell trouble for Hillary:
If she only leads Obama by 5 to 10 points among Democrats when she has an 83-13 favorability rating, she will likely do much worse among independents.
The passion and the depth of animus against Hillary, particularly among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, may be so intense as to motivate them to participate in the Democratic primary in great numbers.
Most current polling fails to capture the likelihood of crossover voting. News media surveys generally ask Democrats what they think about the Democratic field and Republicans what they think about the GOP contenders. Since half the states do not permit independents, much less members of the opposite party, to enter the primaries, few national samples ask independents what they are likely to do. Those that do tend not to divide their samples along the lines of each state’s law; fewer still ask Republicans if they will vote in the Democratic primary. So crossover voting is a blind spot in most current polling.
All strategists and pollsters need to amend their thinking to view the primaries as the three-dimensional processes they really are.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain
on: April 19, 2007, 02:46:00 PM
-- John Fund
The Comeback Kid?
It's hardly news that John McCain's second run for the White House hasn't gone all that swimmingly. Sen. McCain never expected the adulation of the conservative base, whose mistrust has only increased since 2000. What Mr. McCain did expect was the support of moderate Republicans and independents.
Today's he's encountering almost the opposite. Mr. McCain's steadfast support of the Iraq war has irritated moderates who were otherwise fond of his maverick ways, and it has also given the media a reason to turn against its darling of the 2000 race. On the other hand, conservatives may be starting to readjust their traditional love-hate relationship with the Arizona Senator precisely because they see Mr. McCain's support of the war as both right and honorable.
Mr. McCain's staunch and very public support for the war has clearly given him a boost in the Republican field -- as shown by five polls taken since his appearance on "60 Minutes" a week and a half ago, all of which have him back above 20%.
There are other good signs for Mr. McCain. In a recent CNN poll, he received 24%, just three points behind Rudy Giuliani, who was at 27%. Less encouragingly, when Fred Thompson is taken out of the mix, Mr. Giuliani jumps to 31%, while Mr. McCain remains at 25%. Because former Sen. Thompson is likely to get into the race, what these numbers suggest is that Mr. Giuliani's support is much more fickle than Mr. McCain's. Also, despite Mr. McCain's poor first quarter fundraising totals, he was second only to Sen. Barack Obama in grassroots fundraising (i.e., donors who gave $200 or less). Mr. McCain's support might not yet be broad enough to capture the nomination but it is deep.
Of course, his fortunes are tied to Iraq in a way the other candidates' aren't. The perceived wisdom is that if Iraq falls, so does Mr. McCain. Quite possible, but it's also possible that conservatives would see Mr. McCain's determination to achieve victory in Iraq as the sort of quality they want in their next president.
-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics.com
Quote of the Day
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 19, 2007, 02:22:58 PM
Thank you for helping the conversation move forward with a good summary of your source Rog-- a good example for all of us btw!-- however it appears I have failed to make my point clear.
I was not looking for a US vs. the UK/Australia comparison. Rather I was looking for intra UK/Australia before/after analysis.
Turning to the larger conversation, personally at the moment I find myself thinking more in terms of the inevitable flotsam of the anonymous interaction of modern life , , , Looking at the is guy in evo-psych terms my snap impression is of a guy in a culture somewhat alien to him who simply was always getting shut down by all the kitty flashing around him and it drove him angry bonkers. If guns didn't exist he probably be doing arson or bombs.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The hit job on Paul's girl--
on: April 19, 2007, 01:10:58 AM
First, please remember to accompany URLs that you may post with a description of their contents and why you are posting them.
Second, turning to the merits, here's this from the WSJ:
The Wolfowitz Files
The anatomy of a World Bank smear.
Monday, April 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz's ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.
Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.
The documents tell a very different story--one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.
The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank's general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz's lawyers:
"First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member." (Our emphasis here and elsewhere.)
That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board--composed of representatives from donor nations--decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza's job entailed a "de facto conflict of interest" that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.
Ms. Riza was on a promotion list at the time, and so the bank's ethicists also proposed that she be compensated for this blow to her career. In a July 22, 2005, ethics committee discussion memo, Mr. Danino noted that "there would be two avenues here for promotion--an 'in situ' promotion to Grade GH for the staff member" and promotion through competitive selection to another position." Or, as an alternative, "The Bank can also decide, as part of settlement of claims, to offer an ad hoc salary increase."
Five days later, on July 27, ethics committee chairman Ad Melkert formally advised Mr. Wolfowitz in a memo that "the potential disruption of the staff member's career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record . . ." In the same memo, Mr. Melkert recommends "that the President, with the General Counsel, communicates this advice" to the vice president for human resources "so as to implement" it immediately.
And in an August 8 letter, Mr. Melkert advised that the president get this done pronto: "The EC [ethics committee] cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier [Coll, the human resources vice president] should act upon your instruction." Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.
Needless to say, none of this context has appeared in the media smears suggesting that Mr. Wolfowitz pulled a fast one to pad the pay of Ms. Riza. Yet the record clearly shows he acted only after he had tried to recuse himself but then wasn't allowed to do so by the ethics committee. And he acted only after that same committee advised him to compensate Ms. Riza for the damage to her career from a "conflict of interest" that was no fault of her own.
Based on this paper trail, Mr. Wolfowitz's only real mistake was in assuming that everyone else was acting in good faith. Yet when some of these details leaked to the media, nearly everyone else at the bank dodged responsibility and let Mr. Wolfowitz twist in the wind. Mr. Melkert, a Dutch politician now at the U.N., seems to have played an especially cowardly role.
In an October 24, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz, he averred that "because the outcome is consistent with the Committee's findings and advice above, the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed." A month later, on November 25, Mr. Melkert even sent Mr. Wolfowitz a personal, hand-written note saying, "I would like to thank you for the very open and constructive spirit of our discussions, knowing in particular the sensitivity to Shaha, who I hope will be happy in her new assignment."
And when anonymous World Bank staffers began to circulate emails making nasty allegations about Ms. Shaha's job transfer and pay in early 2006, Mr. Melkert dismissed them in a letter to Mr. Wolfowitz on February 28, 2006, because they "did not contain new information warranting any further review by the Committee." Yet amid the recent media smears, Mr. Melkert has minimized his own crucial role.
All of this is so unfair that Mr. Wolfowitz could be forgiven for concluding that bank officials insisted he play a role in raising Ms. Riza's pay precisely so they could use it against him later. Even if that isn't true, it's clear that his enemies--especially Europeans who want the bank presidency to go to one of their own--are now using this to force him out of the bank. They especially dislike his anticorruption campaign, as do his opponents in the staff union and such elites of the global poverty industry as Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development. They prefer the status quo that holds them accountable only for how much money they lend, not how much they actually help the poor.
Equally cynical has been the press corps, which slurred Mr. Wolfowitz with selective reporting and now says, in straight-faced solemnity, that the president must leave the bank because his "credibility" has been damaged. Paul Wolfowitz, meet the Duke lacrosse team.
The only way this fiasco could get any worse would be for Mr. Wolfowitz to resign in the teeth of so much dishonesty and cravenness. We're glad the Bush Administration isn't falling for this Euro-bureaucracy-media putsch. Mr. Wolfowitz has apologized for any mistakes he's made, though we're not sure why. He's the one who deserves an apology.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: April 18, 2007, 06:10:11 PM
CAIR’s Grievance Theater, the Flying Imams and 9/11
By Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 18, 2007
It’s a tale of two Novembers with the horror of September 11th sandwiched in between.
In November 2006, six imams on a US Airways Minneapolis to Phoenix flight begin engaging in bizarre behaviors eerily similar to those used by the 9/11 hijackers to takeover the planes used on that terrible day: shouting slogans in Arabic; leaving assigned seats to position themselves much like the 9/11 attackers; requesting seat belt extenders that they positioned on the floor, rather than used to secure themselves. Responding to the reasonable concerns of passengers and the flight crew, the imams were removed from the plane by authorities.
Seven years earlier in November 1999, two Saudi students on an America West flight from Phoenix to Columbus were detained after landing because they had made repeated attempts to enter the cockpit area of the plane during the flight.
In both cases, CAIR rose up to defend the offenders in question and engaged in their now standard grievance theater protest politics. In the most recent case, CAIR has tried to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the incident by backing the "Flying Imams" and supporting their lawsuit against the airlines and passengers for responding to their bizarre behavior. The lawsuit is being handled by a Muslim attorney associated with CAIR.
When it comes to the November 1999 incident, any mention of CAIR’s involvement or defense of the Saudi students has been scrubbed from the organization’s website. It’s no wonder, as the 9/11 Commission Report (page 521, footnote 60) explains that the FBI now considers the incident as a “dry run” for the 9/11 hijackings. And the two men involved? As the 9/11 Commission Report explains, Hamdan al-Shalawi was in Afghanistan in November 2000 training at an Al-Qaeda camp to launch “Khobar Tower”-type attacks against the US in Saudi Arabia, and Mohammad Al-Qadhaieen was arrested in June 2003 as a material witness in the 9/11 attacks. Both men were friends of Al-Qaeda recruiter, Zakaria Mustapha Soubra, who drove them to the airport that day in Qadhaieen’s car. Another friend of Shalawi is Ghassan al-Sharbi, another Al-Qaeda operative that would later be captured in Pakistan with high-level Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida.
There is a connection between these two incidents, as the leader of the six “Flying Imams” this past November is none other than Omar Shahin, the former imam of the Islamic Center of Tucson, where the two Saudi students from the November 1999 incident attended. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz told the Washington Post in September 2002 that the mosque served as “basically the first cell of Al-Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started”. (Len Sherman’s Arizona Monthly November 2004 article, “Al Qaeda among Us”, provides greater detail about the connections between the Saudi pair involved in the November 1999 event and the Al-Qaeda cell that operated in Tucson and Phoenix.)
Their current silence and website purge notwithstanding, immediately after the November 1999 “dry run”, CAIR was not shy about publicly speaking on the incident. “It seems like they single out some individuals because of their name, the way they look or their national origin,” huffed current CAIR National Vice Chairman Ahmad Al-Akhras (who was then president of the CAIR Ohio chapter) in an interview with the Egyptian daily, Al-Ahram. That same article quoted Nihad Awad, Executive Director and Co-Founder of CAIR, who explained, “the hysteria around [the crash of] EgyptAir [Flight 990] has created a negative atmosphere that leads to such incidents.”
CAIR not only gave indirect support to the 9/11 “dry run” hijackers by launching an aggressive media defense and circulating their woeful tale of innocents victimized by the bigotry of non-Muslims, but as Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reminds us, in 2000 CAIR fronted a lawsuit for Shalawi and Qadhaieen against America West by hiring attorneys and calling for a boycott of the airline as a result of the incident. Again, two identical events eight years apart with CAIR playing the exact same role.
CAIR was unsuccessful in the lawsuit stemming from the November 1999 9/11 “dry run”, as the judge quickly dismissed the case, but they did succeed in creating an atmosphere of intimidation that was certainly aimed at stopping airline passengers from speaking up about suspicious behavior. Did CAIR’s campaign of intimidation silence any of the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, or United Airlines Flight 93 who might have witnessed suspicious behavior of the 9/11 hijackers that day? Since all the passengers of those flights were silenced forever, we will never know.
But the horrific consequences of their previous defense of the 9/11 “dry run” has not prevented CAIR from using the exact same tactics and rhetoric in the current “Flying Imams” case. As Janet Levy recently explained in an article here at FrontPage (“The Minneapolis Six Sabotage Airline Security”), the CAIR-backed lawsuit by the six imams is being used as a propaganda device to advance CAIR’s legislative agenda for the passage of a bill through Congress that would prevent authorities from acting on suspicious behavior, much like what was seen in the November 1999 and November 2006 incidents, as well as 9/11.
As their current protest politics in the “Flying Imams” case demonstrates, CAIR shows no remorse for their complicity in providing cover for the 9/11 “dry run” operatives, though the purge of their website of any mention of their participation was clearly an attempt to try to wipe the public record clean of their involvement. But in light of their past actions and with their pursuit of the current lawsuit, it seems fair to ask: will thousands more Americans need to be murdered before CAIR brings the curtain down on their grievance theater road show? Tragically, we might have the opportunity to find out.
Patrick Poole is an author and public policy researcher. He also maintains a blog, "Existential Space," where he writes on a number of cultural, political and religious issues.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jim Morrison
on: April 18, 2007, 01:07:39 PM
BEGGING A PARDON: Florida Governor Charlie Crist stating that he is seriously considering pardoning Jim Morrison's 1970 indecent exposure and profanity convictions stemming from a 1969 concert in Miami. The Doors frontman was appealing the convictions at the time of his death in 1971, when he was only 27. "Trying to clear his name and then he dies. If you have a heart pounding in your chest, that has to tug at you a little bit," Crist said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 12:52:43 PM
Rog makes the reasonable request that when we post an article that we include a brief statement of why we are doing so.
The following piece establishes VT in some sort of larger context of time and shows that guns are not the only technology i.e. suggesting that even if guns did not exist, something else would be used to effectuate evil.
For the staticians among us:
April 17, 2007
BLACKSBURG, ERFURT, LITTLETON
A Chronicle of the Worst Rampages Ever
The names Erfurt, Littleton and Dunblane stand for some of the bloodiest school shootings ever perpetrated. Blacksburg will now likely join that list. SPIEGEL ONLINE documents some of the worst shooting rampages in history.
February 12, 2007 : Ten people were killed during two shootings on the same day, one in Salt Lake City, Utah and one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In Salt Lake City, the gunman opened fire in a shopping mall, killing five before he was shot and killed by the police. In Philadelphia, three men were killed at a business meeting before the gunman ultimately killed himself.
Photo Gallery: The Worst Ever School Massacres
October 2, 2006 : In Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, 32-year-old truck driver Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself in a one-room Amish school house before killing five schoolgirls execution-style before killing himself.
March 21, 2005 : At Red Lake Senior High School in Minnesota, 16-year-old student Jeff Weise opened fire, killing five fellow students, a teacher and a security guard. Prior to the rampage, he had shot his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend. It later became apparent that Weise had visited neo-Nazi Web sites prior to the shooting.
April 26, 2002 : At Gutenberg Gymnasium in Erfurt, Germany, 19-year-old Robert Steinhäuser killed 16 people and himself within just 10 minutes. Among the dead were 12 teachers, the school secretary, two students and a policeman. Steinhäuser had been expelled from the school one year prior to the attack.
March 27, 2002 : Thirty-three-year-old Richard Durn opened fire at a town hall in western Paris, calmly shooting at 40 people, killing eight of them. He committed suicide by jumping out of the fourth floor of police headquarters after he was captured.
September 26, 2001 : A 57-year-old attacker forced his way into the parliament of the Swiss canton Zug and opened fire. He killed 14 people before turning his gun on himself.
June 8, 2001 : Former janitor Mamoru Takuma rampaged through an elementary school in the Japanese city of Osaka. He stabbed eight children to death and wounded a number of others. He was sentenced to death and was hanged in September 2004.
April 20, 1999 : Two students stormed Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and murdered 12 other students aged 14 to 18 as well as a teacher. A further 24 people were injured before the attackers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed themselves.
March 24, 1998 : In Jonesboro, Arkansas, four students and a teacher were killed when two middle school boys aged 13 and 11 set off the fire alarm. The two then began shooting at the evacuated students from the woods nearby. A further nine students and a teacher were wounded in the hail of bullets.
May 22, 1997 : In north-eastern Brazil, a former soldier killed 17 people. First he murdered his wife and mother-in-law before leaving his home and firing randomly at people on the streets. The reason for his attack appears to have been rumors about his apparent homosexuality.
April 28, 1996 : Thirty-five people were killed and a further 37 wounded when 28-year-old Martin Bryant went on a rampage in the town of Port Arthur on the island of Tasmania in Australia. Bryant opened fire in a café with an automatic weapon before moving to the neighboring gift shop and then the parking lot outside. It took hours before the police were able to capture the killer.
March 13, 1996 : In the deadliest attack on children in United Kingdom history, 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton opened fire in a school gymnasium, killing 16 five- and six-year-olds and one teacher in the Scottish town of Dunblane. Hamilton then committed suicide.
September 23-24, 1995: In the French town of Toulon, a 16-year-old student killed his step-father, his half-brother and his mother on the evening of Sept. 23. The next morning, he continued his rampage, killing a further 10 victims.
October 16, 1991 : George Hennard drove his pickup into Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas and opened fire on the guests inside. He killed 23 people and wounded 20 before eventually killing himself.
December 6, 1989 : Twenty-five-year-old Marc Lepine killed 14 women and wounded a further 13 people at the École Polytechnique at the University of Montreal in the worst school massacre in Canada's history. He then took his own life. In a letter he left behind, he indicated a hate for feminists as a motive for the shooting.
July 18; 1984: James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old welder, walked into a McDonald's in San Ysidro, California and opened fire with a 9-mm Uzi semi-automatic and other weapons. He killed 21 people and wounded 19 before being gunned down by the police.
August 1, 1966 : At the University of Texas at Austin, a student ascended a tower at the university and opened fire on people below. In all he killed 15 people, including his wife and mother the night before. He was shot dead by the police.
June 11, 1964 : In Volkhoven near Cologne, Germany, an army veteran stormed a school, killing eight children and stabbing two teachers to death.
May 18, 1927 : In the deadliest mass school murder in United States history, former school board member Andrew Kehoe set off three bombs in Bath Township, Michigan killing 45 people and wounding 58. Kehoe killed himself and the superintendent by blowing up his own vehicle.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Law of Unexpected consequences strikes again.
on: April 18, 2007, 12:49:22 PM
cause more smog, deaths By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer
Wed Apr 18, 7:12 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Switching from gasoline to ethanol — touted as a green alternative at the pump — may create dirtier air, causing slightly more smog-related deaths, a new study says.
Nearly 200 more people would die yearly from respiratory problems if all vehicles in the United States ran on a mostly ethanol fuel blend by 2020, the research concludes. Of course, the study author acknowledges that such a quick and monumental shift to plant-based fuels is next to impossible.
Each year, about 4,700 people, according to the study's author, die from respiratory problems from ozone, the unseen component of smog along with small particles. Ethanol would raise ozone levels, particularly in certain regions of the country, including the Northeast and Los Angeles.
"It's not green in terms of air pollution," said study author Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University civil and environmental engineering professor. "If you want to use ethanol, fine, but don't do it based on health grounds. It's no better than gasoline, apparently slightly worse."
His study, based on a computer model, is published in Wednesday's online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology and adds to the messy debate over ethanol.
Farmers, politicians, industry leaders and environmentalists have clashed over just how much ethanol can be produced, how much land it would take to grow the crops to make it, and how much it would cost. They also disagree on the benefits of ethanol in cutting back fuel consumption and in fighting pollution, especially global warming gases.
In January, President Bush announced a push to reduce gas consumption by 20 percent over 10 years by substituting alternative fuels, mainly ethanol. Scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that could mean about a 1 percent increase in smog.
Jacobson's study troubles some environmentalists, even those who work with him. Roland Hwang of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that ethanol, which cuts one of the key ingredients of smog and produces fewer greenhouse gases, is an important part of reducing all kinds of air pollution.
Jacobson's conclusion "is a provocative concept that is not workable," said Hwang, an engineer who used to work for California's state pollution control agency. "There's nothing in here that means we should throw away ethanol."
And Matt Hartwig, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, the largest Washington ethanol lobby group, said other research and real-life data show "ethanol is a greener fuel than gasoline."
But Jacobson found that depends on where you live, with ethanol worsening the ozone problem in most urban areas.
Based on computer models of pollution and air flow, Jacobson predicted that the increase in ozone — and diseases it causes — would be worst in areas where smog is already a serious problem: Los Angeles and the Northeast.
Most of those projected 200 deaths would be in Los Angeles, he says, and the only place where ozone would fall is the Southeast because of the unique blend of chemicals in the air and the heavy vegetation.
The science behind why ethanol might increase smog is complicated, but according to Jacobson, part of the explanation is that ethanol produces more hydrocarbons than gasoline. And ozone is the product of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide cooking in the sun.
Also, the ethanol produces longer-lasting chemicals that eventually turn into hydrocarbons that can travel farther. "You are really spreading out pollution over a larger area," he said.
And finally, while ethanol produces less nitrogen oxide, that can actually be a negative in some very smoggy places. When an area like Los Angeles reaches a certain high level of nitrogen oxide, that excess chemical begins eating up spare ozone, Jacobson said.
Hwang agreed that that is a "well-known effect."
While praising Jacobson as one of the top atmospheric chemists in the nation, Hwang said he had problems with some of Jacobson's assumptions, such as an entire switch to ethanol by 2020. Also, he said that the ozone difference that Jacobson finds is so small that it may be in the margin of error of calculations.
Jacobson is also ignoring that ethanol — especially the kind made from cellulose, like switchgrass — reduces greenhouse gases, which cause global warming. And global warming will increase smog and smog-related deaths, an international scientific panel just found this month, Hwang said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics
on: April 18, 2007, 12:33:59 PM
Old Timers Can Tell You This Isn't Stagflation
By Caroline Baum
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- People who were in diapers in the 1970s glibly talk about stagflation as if it were the coexistence of 2.5 percent real growth and 2.5 percent inflation. It's not.
Stagflation refers to the persistence of below trend growth (high unemployment) and stubbornly high inflation. The term was probably used first by a British member of Parliament, Ian MacLeod, in a 1965 speech to the House of Commons.
``We now have the worst of both worlds -- not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other. We have a sort of `stagflation' situation,'' the Tory MP said.
The disease wasn't confined to the U.K. It traveled swiftly and aggressively across the pond, taking root in the U.S. in the 1970s. The combination of loose monetary policy, two oil supply shocks, one in 1973 and the other in 1979, an over-regulated economy and a downshift in trend productivity growth conspired to deliver a decade of sluggish growth and high unemployment, a state of affairs that was previously thought to violate a basic law of nature.
Notice that I didn't include increased spending for the Vietnam War as a ``cause'' of higher inflation. It is always and everywhere the province of the central bank to monetize any spending, the government's or the private sector's, by printing enough money to pay for it in depreciated dollars.
When global stock markets went into one of their periodic swan dives last May, market reporters were at a loss to explain why. The ``S'' word made its first appearance of the cycle, went into remission and came back just in time for the Labor Department to report a 0.6 percent jump in the consumer price index for March, the biggest monthly increase in almost a year.
Outside of food and energy, the inflation news was unexpectedly good. The core CPI rose 0.1 percent in March and 2.5 percent in the last 12 months, down from a peak of 2.9 percent in September. The trend looks decidedly down, albeit in fits and starts.
So much so that ardent inflation hawk Stephen Cecchetti, professor of global finance at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and a former research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, was inspired to publish a mea culpa in his monthly inflation missive.
``Well, I guess I could have been more wrong, but I'm not sure how,'' Cecchetti writes. ``For some time, I've expected inflation to rise, and it has been stable. Now, there are increasing signs that the inflation trend is actually falling,'' with evidence accumulating that the trend may fall ``to something closer to 2 percent,'' the Fed's implicit ceiling.
Instead of expecting further rate increases, Cecchetti now envisions the funds rate ``slowly falling back to neutral'' once the decline in inflation has been assured.
One key piece of evidence is the performance of owners equivalent rent, which comprises 30 percent of the core CPI. This measure of the imputed rental value of a home, derived from a survey of rental units, tends to understate inflation at the lows and overstate it at the highs. The 3-month annualized change in OER has come down from a peak of 4.9 percent last June to 3.1 percent in March.
So why the talk about stagflation?
Most economists, schooled in Keynesian theory, aren't very good at differentiating between the demand side and the supply side of the economy. They don't think it matters if prices rise because of a reduction in output or an increase in demand. No wonder they can't distinguish between that '70's economy and today's.
``Is it stagflation or is it just normal, late-cycle behavior of a lagging indicator?'' says Paul Kasriel, director of economic research at the Northern Trust Corp. in Chicago. ``In the stagflation of the '70s, energy prices were rising because of absolute declines in oil production. There was a wage-price spiral because of strong unions. Neither of these holds today.''
Inflation has the distinction of being a lagging economic indicator. The change in the CPI for services is one of seven components of the Index of Lagging Economic Indicators. A second laggard is the change in labor cost per unit of output, or ``wage inflation,'' another faux concept. (Wages are the price of labor. Inflation is a general rise in the price level.)
What that means is that over time, these indicators have proved to turn up after the business cycle trough and down after the peak.
``Inflation typically lags growth by about a year, so the slowdown in growth since the spring of last year has only just started to depress core CPI,'' says Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York. ``The process has much further to run.''
Not Greenspan's Fed
The Federal Reserve is focused on inflation expectations, both as a vote of confidence in its credibility and as an independent determinant of inflation. Policy makers seem to have realized that talking more equates to expecting less.
In other words, the more Fed officials express their inflation concerns and downplay the notion that weak growth could motivate them to lower the benchmark overnight rate, the more restrained are market-based inflation expectations.
This is not the Greenspan Fed, where the slightest tremor in financial markets and hint of investor distress prompted the former Fed chairman to push the panic-ease button. As I wrote last February, when Ben Bernanke stepped into those oh-so-large Greenspan shoes, ``The Greenspan `put' may retire with the chairman.''
It may mean investors have to buy puts of their own as insurance against the slowdown in economic growth.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: April 18, 2007, 12:28:16 PM
The Populist Republic
By ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA
The Washington Post
April 18, 2007
I am fascinated by the similarities between Russia and Latin America. The latest wave of repression against critics of President Vladimir Putin and the victory obtained by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in last Sunday's referendum, which provides a green light toward setting up a constituent assembly that will give him authoritarian powers, remind us that despotic populism is alive and kicking.
Last weekend's detentions in Moscow and St. Petersburg of members of the "Other Russia," an opposition organization that includes former chess champion Garry Kasparov as one of its leaders, are a reminder that Russia is a ruthless autocracy.
With the exception of Venezuela, the authoritarian institutions operating under democratically elected governments in Latin America are not as bad as Russia's. Power is more decentralized in Latin America, where governments have not been able or willing to wrest back economic influence from the private interests that surfaced during the market reforms of the 1990s. Mexico was also dominated by a party-state for much of the 20th century and underwent a process of reform in the 1990s. Despite its many flaws, reform improved the political and economic environment. In Russia, liberal democracy never quite surfaced. Mr. Putin reacted against the oligarchy of the 1990s by establishing his own oligarchy. By contrast, although there was much crony capitalism, Mexico's system is freer.
With the return of populism to various parts of Latin America, a number of countries are headed in the direction of Russia. The formula usually combines a democratic origin, the dismantling of republican institutions from within and reliance on natural resources that are in high demand in the international markets. Last Sunday, Ecuadorians voted in large numbers to essentially rewrite the constitution. In this, Mr. Correa, who wants to replace democracy with an authoritarian regime, is following the example of his friend Hugo Chavez and of Bolivia's Evo Morales. And if Mexico's and Peru's current governments do not deliver economic improvement, we could easily see populists taking over the reins of power there too.
Russia and Latin America are the products of histories dominated by the absence of civil rights and property rights. In Russia, the absence of a liberal tradition doomed the transition to liberal democracy in the 1990s. In Latin America, the republics of the 19th century preserved the oligarchic structure of the colony. In the 20th century, they mostly experimented with populist democracy and military dictatorship.
Recent developments prove that the populist republic is not a thing of the past in Latin America. And the populist republic -- the combination of democratic appearances and autocratic controls, sustained by the sale of oil and minerals -- has much in common with Mr. Putin's Russia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 18, 2007, 12:23:23 PM
Hollywood Interrogates Al Qaeda
By KYNDRA ROTUNDA
April 18, 2007; Page A16
CBS's hit series "Criminal Minds" recently aired an episode entitled "Lessons Learned," where FBI agents traveled to Guantanamo Bay and coaxed a confession from a known terrorist detainee that led to the prevention of an anthrax attack on a Northern Virginia shopping mall. The point of the story was that the regular interrogation tactics (pictured as brutal assaults on the prisoner) were not working, and that the military should adopt the enlightened methods of the crack interrogators from "Criminal Minds."
Having served as an Army Judge Advocate General's Corps officer in Gitmo, a legal adviser to criminal investigators pursuing leads in the war on terror, and a Military Commissions prosecutor, I have first-hand knowledge and experience about what happens there. And here is the ironic truth: The military has outlawed some of the "Criminal Minds" interrogators' tactics -- in response to pressure by the international community.
On TV, an analyst observed the detainee's behavior from an adjoining room behind two-way glass for revealing body movements and language. Subtle movements and body language signaled which statements were true and which were false, leading to a breakthrough that saved lives. In reality, when such a tactic was used at Gitmo the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called it "torture." Gitmo authorities used to employ Behavior Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs, pronounced "biscuits"), trained psychologists/psychiatrists who did exactly what the TV analyst did: used psychology to help interrogators learn the truth. But the ICRC considered their role in planning and assisting with interrogations "a flagrant violation of medical ethics." The military responded by curtailing the role of BSCTs.
On TV, CIA and FBI interrogators used the detainee's religion to gain leverage. The CIA interrogators refused to allow the detainee to pray; then the FBI allowed the prayers but adjusted them to manipulate the detainee's sense of time. Because of the manipulation, the detainee admitted responsibility for an attack that he incorrectly believed had already occurred, allowing the attack to be thwarted. In reality, the U.S. does not manipulate detainee's religious practices. In Gitmo, everything stops, including interrogations, so detainees can pray. The Islamic call to prayer is broadcast, several times a day, over loudspeakers. Everyone in and around the detention camp is forced to listen.
On TV, the interrogators give the detainee a prayer mat and point out the direction to Mecca to win his gratitude. In reality, the U.S. gives religious items such as prayer mats, prayer caps, prayer oil, prayer beads and Qurans to all detainees. They don't need anyone to point out the direction of Mecca because the U.S. paints black arrows on the ground pointing toward Mecca in every cell and around the camp.
In fact, at Camp Bucca, a U.S.-run detention camp in Iraq, the U.S. erected a tent as a makeshift mosque and designated it off-limits to prison guards so that detainees could pray in solitude. The detainees used their privacy to turn the "mosque" into a weapons cache, and then attacked the prison guards. This led to a battle for control of the camp that lasted four days.
Despite the debacle at Camp Bucca, the military still designates some items (such as the Quran) as "off-limits" to prison guards, even though detainees misuse the Quran to conceal illegal contraband, including prescription pills. U.S. forces in Gitmo go to these great lengths despite the fact that the Geneva Conventions provide for POWs to practice their religion only "on condition that they comply with the disciplinary routine prescribed by military authorities."
On "Criminal Minds," the detainee glanced toward bottles of water lining a table, and said, "They line it up to show what I cannot have." In reality, detainees at Gitmo receive ample food and water, including Halal meals and imported seasonal fruits and nuts from their native countries for special occasions.
While the crime show's creators must resort to fiction to depict interrogations, they don't have to fictionalize the contempt that most detainees show for Americans. Hollywood gets that part right. On TV, the fictional detainee said of killing innocent Americans: "There is no such thing, they were infidels . . . they hurt me by existing! The infidels will fall at the hands of the righteous, and that is when the jihad will end."
In reality, according to Gitmo's Web site, one detainee said, "The people who died on 9/11/2001 were not innocent . . . my group will shake up the U.S. and the countries who follow the U.S." Another told military police officers that he would "come to their homes and cut their throats like sheep." Yet another detainee threatened, "I will arrange for the kidnapping and execution of U.S. citizens living in Saudi Arabia. Small groups of four of five U.S. citizens will be kidnapped, held and executed. They will have their heads cut off." These real statements make one thing clear: life in Gitmo has not broken the detainees' spirits.
Hollywood sets unrealistic expectations for many things. The "Criminal Minds" episode represents one instance where truth is tamer, and many would argue stranger, than fiction.
Ms. Rotunda teaches at George Mason School of Law and is director of the law school's clinic that provides pro bono legal assistance to military families. She is currently writing a book about legal issues in the war on terror
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 12:22:49 PM
This from the editorial page of today's WSJ makes some comparative references to other countries:
By DAVID B. KOPEL
April 18, 2007; Page A17
The bucolic campus of Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va., would seem to have little in common with the Trolley Square shopping mall in Salt Lake City. Yet both share an important characteristic, common to the site of almost every other notorious mass murder in recent years: They are "gun-free zones."
Forty American states now have "shall issue" or similar laws, by which officials issue a pistol carry permit upon request to any adult who passes a background check and (in most states) a safety class. Research by Carlisle Moody of the College of William and Mary, and others, suggests that these laws provide law-abiding citizens some protection against violent crime. But in many states there are certain places, especially schools, set aside as off-limits for guns. In Virginia, universities aren't "gun-free zones" by statute, but college officials are allowed to impose anti-gun rules. The result is that mass murderers know where they can commit their crimes.
Private property owners also have the right to prohibit lawful gun possession. And some shopping malls have adopted anti-gun rules. Trolley Square was one, as announced by an unequivocal sign, "No weapons allowed on Trolley Square property."
In February of this year a young man walked past the sign prohibiting him from carrying a gun on the premises and began shooting people who moments earlier were leisurely shopping at Trolley Square. He killed five.
Fortunately, someone else -- off-duty Ogden, Utah, police officer Kenneth Hammond -- also did not comply with the mall's rules. After hearing "popping" sounds, Mr. Hammond investigated and immediately opened fire on the gunman. With his aggressive response, Mr. Hammond prevented other innocent bystanders from getting hurt. He bought time for the local police to respond, while stopping the gunman from hunting down other victims.
At Virginia Tech's sprawling campus in southwestern Va., the local police arrived at the engineering building a few minutes after the start of the murder spree, and after a few critical minutes, broke through the doors that Cho Seung-Hui had apparently chained shut. From what we know now, Cho committed suicide when he realized he'd soon be confronted by the police. But by then, 30 people had been murdered.
But let's take a step back in time. Last year the Virginia legislature defeated a bill that would have ended the "gun-free zones" in Virginia's public universities. At the time, a Virginia Tech associate vice president praised the General Assembly's action "because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus." In an August 2006 editorial for the Roanoke Times, he declared: "Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."
Actually, Virginia Tech's policy only made the killer safer, for it was only the law-abiding victims, and not the criminal, who were prevented from having guns. Virginia Tech's policy bans all guns on campus (except for police and the university's own security guards); even faculty members are prohibited from keeping guns in their cars.
Virginia Tech thus went out of its way to prevent what happened at a Pearl, Miss., high school in 1997, where assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieved a handgun from his car and apprehended a school shooter. Or what happened at Appalachian Law School, in Grundy, Va., in 2002, when a mass murder was stopped by two students with law-enforcement experience, one of whom retrieved his own gun from his vehicle. Or in Edinboro, Pa., a few days after the Pearl event, when a school attack ended after a nearby merchant used a shotgun to force the attacker to desist. Law-abiding citizens routinely defend themselves with firearms. Annually, Americans drive-off home invaders a half-million times, according to a 1997 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Utah, there is no "gun-free schools" exception to the licensed carry law. In K-12 schools and in universities, teachers and other adults can and do legally carry concealed guns. In Utah, there has never been a Columbine-style attack on a school. Nor has there been any of the incidents predicted by self-defense opponents -- such as a teacher drawing a gun on a disrespectful student, or a student stealing a teacher's gun.
Israel uses armed teachers as part of a successful program to deter terrorist attacks on schools. Buddhist teachers in southern Thailand are following the Israeli example, because of Islamist terrorism.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., long-time gun control advocates, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), agreed that making airplane cockpits into "gun-free zones" had made airplanes much more dangerous for everyone except hijackers. Corrective legislation, supported by large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, allowed pilots to carry firearms, while imposing rigorous gun-safety training on pilots who want to carry.
In many states, "gun-free schools" legislation was enacted hastily in the late 1980s or early 1990s due to concerns about juvenile crime. Aimed at juvenile gangsters, the poorly written and overbroad statutes had the disastrous consequence of rendering teachers unable to protect their students.
Reasonable advocates of gun control can still press for a wide variety of items on their agenda, while helping to reform the "gun-free zones" that have become attractive havens for mass killers. If legislators or administrators want to require extensive additional training for armed faculty and other adults, that's fine. Better that some victims be armed than none at all.
The founder of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, understood the harms resulting from the type of policy created at Virginia Tech. In his "Commonplace Book," Jefferson copied a passage from Cesare Beccaria, the founder of criminology, which was as true on Monday as it always has been:
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
Mr. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo., and co-author of the law school textbook, "Gun Control and Gun Rights" (NYU Press).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 12:15:12 PM
So Rog, what do you suggest? Today's Opinion Journal of the WSJ contains a reference to one practical approach.
Virginia vs. Gun Crime
Much is being made of the fact that Virginia resident Cho Seung-Hui legally bought the guns he used in his killing spree. But there is gun control and gun control.
In fact, Virginia has been a pioneer in clamping down on gun related crimes and has seen gun violence drop dramatically as a result. In 1997, "Project Exile" was launched by a U.S. Attorney in Richmond to move many gun-related crimes to federal court, allowing prosecutors to expedite the cases, impose stiffer sentences and prevent bail being offered to criminals caught using firearms. The last point was especially important: A criminal apprehended with a gun would face instant jail with little chance of being let out before trial.
To make sure the news got around, Virginia set up a private foundation to pay for a public awareness campaign. Word didn't take long to spread. At the time, an aide to then-Gov. James Gilmore told us of one criminal nabbed trying to flush a pistol down a toilet while police were kicking in his door even as the suspect left a pile of drugs for the cops to confiscate. He was apparently more afraid of being caught with a gun than of being caught with drugs.
In similar fashion, Mayor Rudy Giuliani made aggressive use of New York's stop-and-frisk authority to target habitual criminals packing guns as they traveled around the five boroughs. New York City and the state of Virginia have very different gun control regimes, but their success in reducing gun violence came by focusing on criminals, not retailers and the general public. At first, Project Exile in Richmond was controversial, but it quickly proved to be a success -- cutting gun violence in the city by 40% -- and has been adopted across Virginia and copied by other states.
Such laws wouldn't solve the problem of mad shooters like Cho Seung-Hui, and gun-control advocates will undoubtedly continue to demand laws to prohibit all gun sales. Those more interested in results will settle for effective gun control that has proved politically viable -- i.e. aimed at controlling the behavior of the 1% who are criminals, not the 99% who aren't.
-- Brendan Miniter
A Tragedy Foretold
The Virginia Tech killings were foreshadowed last August when escaped jail inmate William Morva allegedly killed a hospital guard and a sheriff's deputy just off campus and then fled to the Blacksburg school. His trial for those murders and other charges is set for September. The tragedy generated warnings about the school's vulnerability to violence that were ignored.
Jonathan McGlumphy, a Virginia Tech graduate student, wrote an op-ed in the school newspaper Collegiate Times calling on the campus community to "accurately assess the actions of all parties [in the Morva case] to ascertain what could have been done better or worse." His list was topped by university officials whom he said wrongly allowed morning classes to take place -- an eerie parallel to Monday's murders in which two hours elapsed between the first killings and the bulk of the homicides.
But Mr. McGlumphy saved his real ire last August for the school's policy of prohibiting students, faculty and staff members with concealed handgun permits from carrying legal firearms on campus. He noted that the campus gun ban "is completely artificial, and relies on the honor system... It is impossible to truly prevent someone from bringing a firearm if they are so inclined."
Mr. McGlumphy noted that any permit holder has gone through both firearm training and an extensive background check to obtain that permit. In Virginia, any permit holder must be 21 years of age or older, which excludes most college students, and holders are statistically less likely to commit violent crime than the general population. Mr. McGlumphy bluntly asked in the wake of the Morva incident whether "all students, faculty and staff would have been safer if CHP holders were not banned from carrying their weapons on campus? "
As evidence, Mr. McGlumphy cited a 2002 incident at the Appalachian School of Law in nearby Grundy, Virginia. Gunman Peter Odighizuwa killed three people and was only stopped when two permit-holding students ran to their cars, got their weapons, and subdued him.
But when a bill was introduced in Virginia's legislature last year to allow permit holders to carry guns on college campuses, Virginia Tech officials helped make sure it died in committee. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker boasted: "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
To Mr. McGlumphy such an attitude merely created a campus-wide "Safe Zone" for criminals. "For the university to continue to enforce its no-gun policy is to continue to put students in greater danger from the Morvas of the world," he wrote in Virginia Tech's campus paper last August.
Mr. McGlumphy now sadly concludes that the killings of 32 students and faculty this past Monday may have resulted partly because student Cho Seung-Hui knew that a university lecture hall was one place in Virginia where he had nothing to fear from the law-abiding people he was stalking.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 12:07:19 PM
Ummm, for the record actually he didn't call you a name. Also worth considering is that when you posted this
"Coming from a president who thinks pre-emptive wars, assassinations, secret imprisonment, and torture are all a-OK, his presence at the service was fairly inappropriate. If he didn't enjoy effective immunity from the consequences of his policies, it might occur to him that the above could just as easily be said about the masses of dead Iraqis. , , , could it be that why stuff like this is happening with increasing frequency in the US is a question that Bush and his speechwriters would prefer not to examine too closely?"
you open the door to his comment
Returning to the subject at hand "For the record, I am not against guns and I support our right to (some limited) gun ownership. I just don't buy this NRA fantasy of an armed-to-the-teeth (but educated and responsible) population somehow being the solution to all violent crime."
I am delighted to see that you apparently recognize that there is a personal Consitutional right to regulated gun ownership. Have I understood you correctly on this?
I think you will find that most "pro-gun" people can be similarly described. The problem is that there is a very substantial movement in this country, found principally in the Democratic Party, MSM and academia that is passionately for the disarmament or virtual disarmament of the American people. These people interpret the Second Amerndment as a matter of the rights of the States to have a National Guard or something like that. These people simply seek to incrementally increase the burdens and irrationality of the various regulatory schemes of the Feds and the States to eventually destroy gun rights in America-- the very same path as was taken in England and Australia.
But for the disingenuous bad faith of these people pretending to be for reasonable regulation when they actually seek disarmament of the American people I think you would find that the NRA (of which I am a member) would be much more flexible.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Parkour
on: April 18, 2007, 11:39:11 AM
Black Grass or anyone:
I like the point about this having self-defense applications-- sometimes running away is the best course of action and being able to jump from a height with a knowledge of how to do it and of what one is capable seems a good thing.
Any thoughts on how many reps to do? How many days rest between? How to modulate other training? How age affects these answers? And what about those forward rolls that we see in these clips? Is this a show-off technique or is it one that allows for greater absorbancy of the shock of the impact? Do we have a people who parachute who can give us some pointers?
I have a vauge memory of an airborne military person telling me something about if you were falling from a really big height that after the feet hit that it was better to fall to one side of the body than the other; something to do about the organs inside. Anyone?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 11:30:11 AM
OK here's an analysis that has nothing to do with guns-- a WSJ editorial from many years ago that was reprinted today. On a personal note I am left with a sense of wonderment that I should be posting it given who I thought I was in 1968. Life truly is an Adventure.
August 1968 and the death of self-restraint.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 10:00 a.m. EDT
(Editor's note: This editorial appeared in The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 1993.)
The gunning down of abortion doctor David Gunn in Florida last week shows us how small the barrier has become that separates civilized from uncivilized behavior in American life. In our time, the United States suffers every day of the week because there are now so many marginalized people among us who don't understand the rules, who don't think that rules of personal or civil conduct apply to them, who have no notion of self-control. We are the country that has a TV commercial on all the time that says: "Just do it." Michael Frederick Griffin just did it.
An anti-abortion protester of intense emotions, he walked around behind the Pensacola Women's Medical Services Clinic and pumped three bullets into the back of Dr. Gunn. Emptied himself, Michael Griffin then waited for the police to take him away. A remark by his father-in-law caught our eye: "Now we've got to take care of two grandchildren."
As the saying goes, there was a time. And indeed there really was a time in the United States when life seemed more settled, when emotions, both private and public, didn't seem to run so continuously at breakneck speed, splattering one ungodly tragedy after another across the evening news. How did this happen to the United States? How, in T.S. Eliot's phrase, did so many become undone?
We think it is possible to identify the date when the U.S., or more precisely when many people within it, began to tip off the emotional tracks. A lot of people won't like this date, because it makes their political culture culpable for what has happened. The date is August 1968, when the Democratic National Convention found itself sharing Chicago with the street fighters of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
The real blame here does not lie with the mobs who fought bloody battles with the hysterical Chicago police. The larger responsibility falls on the intellectuals--university professors, politicians and journalistic commentators--who said then that the acts committed by the protesters were justified or explainable. That was the beginning. After Chicago, the justifications never really stopped. America had a new culture, for political action and personal living.
With great rhetorical firepower, books, magazines, opinion columns and editorials defended each succeeding act of defiance--against the war, against university presidents, against corporate practices, against behavior codes, against dress codes, against virtually all agents of established authority.
What in the past had been simply illegal became "civil disobedience." If you could claim, and it was never too hard to claim, that your group was engaged in an act of civil disobedience--taking over a building, preventing a government official from speaking, bursting onto the grounds of a nuclear cooling station, destroying animal research, desecrating Communion hosts--the shapers of opinion would blow right past the broken rules to seek an understanding of the "dissidents" (in the '60s and '70s) and "activists" (in the '80s and now).
Concurrently, the personal virtue known as self-restraint was devalued. In the process, certain rules that for a long time had governed behavior also became devalued. Whatever else was going on here, we were repeatedly lowering the barriers of acceptable political and personal conduct.
You can argue, as many did and still do, that all this was necessary because the established order wouldn't respond or change. But then you still need to account for the nation's simultaneous dive into extensive social and personal dysfunction. You need to account for what is happening to those people within U.S. society who seem least able to navigate the political and personal torrents that they become part of, like Michael Griffin. Those torrents began with the antiwar movement in the 1960s.
Those endless demonstrations, though, were merely one part of a much deeper shift in American culture--away from community and family rules of conduct and toward more autonomy, more personal independence. As to limits, you set your own.
The people who provided the theoretical underpinnings for this shift--the intellectuals and political leaders who led the movement--did very well, or at least survived. They are born with large reservoirs of intelligence and psychological strength. The fame and celebrity help, too.
But for a lot of other people it hasn't been such an easy life to sustain. Not exceedingly sophisticated, neither thinkers nor leaders, never interviewed for their views, they're held together by faith, friends, fun and, at the margins, by fanaticism. The big political crackups make the news--a Michael Griffin or the woman on trial in Connecticut for the attempted bombing of the CEO of a surgical-device company or the '70s radicals who accidentally blew themselves up in a New York brownstone. But the personal crackups just float like flotsam through the country's hospitals and streets. You can also see some of them on daytime TV, America's medical museum of personal autonomy.
It may be true that most of the people in Hollywood who did cocaine survived it, but many of the weaker members of the community hit the wall. And most of the teenage girls in the Midwest who learn about the nuances of sex from magazines published by thirtysomething women in New York will more or less survive, but some continue to end up as prostitutes on Eighth Avenue. Everyone today seems to know someone who couldn't handle the turns and went over the side of the mountain.
These weaker or more vulnerable people, who in different ways must try to live along life's margins, are among the reasons that a society erects rules. They're guardrails. It's also true that we need to distinguish good rules from bad rules and periodically re-examine old rules. But the broad movement that gained force during the anti-war years consciously and systematically took down the guardrails. Incredibly, even judges pitched in. All of them did so to transform the country's institutions and its codes of personal behavior (abortion, for instance).
In a sense, it has been a remarkable political and social achievement for them. But let's get something straight about the consequences. If as a society we want to live under conditions of constant challenge to institutions and limits on personal life, if we are going to march and fight and litigate over every conceivable grievance, then we should stop crying over all the individual casualties, because there are going to be a lot of them.
Michael Griffin and Dr. David Gunn are merely two names on a long list of confrontations and personal catastrophe going back 25 years. That today is the status quo. The alternative is to start rethinking it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 11:16:40 AM
"What have we as a society done since Columbine to make such incidents any less likely to occur? This thread (to this forum's credit) started out with expressions of shock and sympathy for the victims, but now it's all but devolved into a discussion about fears that incidents like this will increase the appeal of gun control laws. IMO, that says quite a bit."
Not sure I follow here. You ask what we have done as a society to lessen the chances of such incidents, yet we are not to discuss allowing the population to defend itself vs. disarming the population?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia
on: April 18, 2007, 11:12:18 AM
Well, we seem to be drifting well afield here from "Islam in Australia"
Forgive me this brief return to the subject of this thread
GM, Erik-- excellent exchange you guys have going here and one in which I would like to participate. Any chance of one or both of you re-posting it to a thread where it is more on topic and is more likely to be seen by those interested in these matters? If this is too much of a hassle, then carry on here.
Islamic hate film gets PG rating
By Liam Houlihan
April 15, 2007 01:00am
Death Series movies urge children to martyr themselves
Censor board awarded series PG rating
Film vilifies Jewish as 'army of pigs'
A PRO-TERROR hate film that urges children to martyr themselves in Islam's war on the West and calls Jews "pigs" has been rated PG by Australia's censors.
Sheik Feiz Mohammed's DVD box set, which also calls for the murder of non-believers, was initially seized by Federal anti-terror police. But the Office of Film and Literature Classification has ruled that The Death Series is suitable to be bought and watched by children. The shock decision has seen the nation's peak censorship body slammed as weak and out of touch by family groups and the Jewish community. It has also made a mockery of the Attorney-General's plans to bring in tough new laws that ban material which "advocates" terrorism. The PG decision comes as Australian-born Sheik Feiz, who is in exile in Lebanon, is still preaching to Australians by phone.
The films urge parents to make their children holy warriors and martyrs, and praises jihad as the pinnacle of Islam. The radical sheik makes snorting noises on the films as he vilifies Jews as the "army of pigs". He blames a lack of courage for martyrdom on the battlefield for the "humiliation" of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Guantanamo.
The censors' finding means children of any age can watch the films - but it is advised under-15s have a parent present.
The OFLC finding said the sheik's calls to "jihad" and "martyrdom" were ambiguous. And it found that comments vilifying Jews as an "army of pigs" and saying "behind me is a Jew, come kill him" were mitigated by the context.
The Australian/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council said the PG rating proved the current censorship guidelines had dangerous shortcomings.
"In the Feiz Mohammed case, as well as others, there seems to be inadequate consideration to the dangers posed by the non-fiction advocacy of violence and bigotry, as opposed to its graphic depiction," AIJAC head Dr Colin Rubenstein said.
He said he hoped that a review of the laws would deal with the serious problem of incitement. The Australian Family Association said the Sheik Feiz decision was just the latest ruling by a "hardened" OFLC detached from community values. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,21556613-421,00.html?from=public_rss#
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia
on: April 17, 2007, 11:59:35 PM
We're going on a bit of a tangent to the subject of this thread here, but that's OK.
"So, I'm completely with you regarding "wake up folks, something nasty is brewing" like in reference to Nazis and pre-WWII Japanese, but I don't get a sense of differentiation between Islam, Muslims, and terrorism. My in-laws and many, many of their countrymen are Muslims and victims of Islamist terrorism. It freaks me out when public discourse in this country fails to differentiate. Believe me, there's a big, big difference."
Here you bring up a key point I think. I readily grant that the preponderance of posts on the various variations of this subject on this forum tend to be strongly leery of Islam precisely because something nasty is brewing, but I do hope you will have time to invest in reading back in the various threads. If you do so I think you will also find some posting of quite favorable things as well.
As it says on the Rules of the Road WE SEEK TRUTH. It sounds like you belong here as part of this search. The conversation may be vigorous, because Truth matters and its discernment in these troubled times can be as elusive as it is important.
So in closing I draw your attention to certain questions and doubts I have to help you communicate more effectively with me.
a) I sense a "good cop bad cop" routines between "good" and "bad" muslims-- and like good cop/bad cop, ultimately that they are two faces of the same coin.
b) I sense that "good muslims" have a very strong aversion to standing with "good infidels" against "bad muslims".
c) This is shown by the tremendous scarcity of translators and interpretors coming forward from the millions of Arab, Persian and Pakistani immigrants and their children in America.
d) To be Muslim, my understanding is that one must seek Sharia. Sharia is not only a religious idea, it seeks to be the law-- a political idea. And the political idea of Sharia is contrary to Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State-- all core American inalienable rights derived from our Creator. In other words, I do not seeing a way around raising the question that in America Sharia, hence Islam, is per se seditious.
I have more to say, but the wife beckons me to watch "Dancing with the Stars" with her. Methinks these folks would all get fatwa-ed if their dances were to come to the attention of a goodly number of Muslim leaders.
The Adventure continues!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: April 17, 2007, 10:25:23 AM
ISRAEL/PNA: Israeli troops disguised as Palestinians killed Ashraf Hanaysheh, an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader, Reuters reported, citing a Palestinian source. The special unit of paramilitary border police saw Hanaysheh near the town of Jenin in the northern West Bank, identified him as a senior operative and surrounded him. When Hanaysheh drew a weapon in response, the officers shot and killed him. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is a group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
EGYPT: Egyptian authorities have arrested a man accused of spying on the country's nuclear program for Israel, state Prosecutor Hisham Badawi said. The man, an engineer employed by Egypt's nuclear energy agency, allegedly took reports from his workplace with plans to exchange them for money. Two other foreigners, reportedly from Japan and Ireland, also have been charged.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: April 17, 2007, 08:35:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: U.S., Iran Lose from Major Changes in Baghdad
The al-Sadrite bloc pulled out of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government on Monday. This move is a function of intra-Shiite wrangling at the tactical level. The development also affects U.S.-Iranian relations and the stabilization of Iraq, but the question is whether it has brought the United States and Iran closer to a deal on Iraq or has had the opposite effect.
The biggest problem for the United States in Iraq remains radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's movement. In 2004 al-Sadr's Mehdi Army fought battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces to gain recognition as a major Shiite political force and to establish a political presence in Baghdad.
Once in government, and after the eruption of Shiite sectarian attacks against Sunnis following the destruction of the Al Askariyah shrine in As Samarra in February 2006, the al-Sadrites became the major obstacle to containing the Sunni insurgency because of their hyper-indulgence in sectarian killings of Sunnis. And though it already was having trouble in trying to contain this Sunni insurgency, Washington faced an even bigger challenge when Mehdi Army attacks against Sunnis torpedoed negotiations with Sunni political principals.
Since many observers see the al-Sadrites as a major obstacle to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, and are aware of the hostility between Washington and Tehran, most wrongly infer that the radical Iraqi Shiite Islamist movement is Iran's main proxy in Iraq. The reality is that al-Sadr also has been a problem for the Iranians. Because of its Arab/Iraqi nationalist tendencies and its rivalry with the most pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite group -- the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- Iran has had a difficult time utilizing the al-Sadrite movement for its own goal of securing influence in Iraq.
To realize this goal, Iran knows it must either attain its objective through a Shiite-dominated strong central government in Baghdad or through an autonomous Shiite federal zone in southern Iraq that would be similar to the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north. The al-Sadrites pose a problem to both scenarios.
The establishment of an autonomous southern Shiite zone involves the creation of regional government that would be dominated by the SCIRI since it has a far better organizational setup in the nine Shiite majority governorates in the south. The al-Sadrite power base, on the other hand, would get divided between pockets in the south and in Baghdad -- which is why the al-Sadrites oppose this idea. But even under current arrangements, the al-Sadrites have been the key obstacle in preventing the ruling Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, from emerging as a coherent Shiite political bloc -- a medium the Iranians need to pursue their agenda in Iraq.
Though Iran has indeed obtained short-term tactical benefits by playing the various Shiite factions against each other and by causing inter-faction rifts, a factionalized Iraqi Shiite community is a liability to Iranian interests. The al-Sadrites left the Cabinet to secure their own partisan goals, likely with Tehran's blessing. Iran needed this to happen in order to counter U.S. moves against the clerical regime. But eventually Iran must get al-Sadr to stop being a maverick and fall in line with the Iraqi Shiite establishment because instability within this community is dangerous for Tehran.
This is the point at which U.S. and Iranian interests begin to converge; both Washington and Tehran cannot afford to see the collapse of the current political arrangement. The Bush administration can no longer afford to start from scratch in forming a new coalition government. As for the Iranians, the current arrangement is the best it can expect from a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. It cannot get any better for Tehran but it can certainly get worse.
Therefore, Cabinet reshuffles in keeping with the current power-sharing mechanism are tolerable, but any changes to the basic political formula brought about by the withdrawal of one or more factions from the Cabinet and/or parliamentary coalition could be detrimental to both Washington and Tehran.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: April 17, 2007, 08:00:00 AM
Hezbollah's German Helpers
By ALEXANDER RITZMANN and MARK DUBOWITZ
April 17, 2007
Hezbollah arrived in the European Union back in the 1980s, along with refugees from the civil war in Lebanon. Despite its deadly track record and a 2005 European Parliament resolution recommending the banning of the Iranian-funded group, it is still legal on the Continent. France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden prevent the EU from jointly designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Holding currently both the E.U. and G-8 presidencies, Berlin would be in a strong position to head the fight against an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the replacement of Lebanon's fragile democracy with a Tehran-backed Islamic state. So far, however, Germany has squandered this unique opportunity to push for a Hezbollah ban. Berlin's passivity is consistent with its tolerant approach toward the "Party of God" over the past two decades.
While under the watchful eye of German law enforcement and intelligence, Hezbollah enjoys significant operational freedom. In the late 1990s, for example, it was able to recruit in Germany Steven Smyrek, a German convert to Islam, and train him in Lebanon as a suicide bomber. He was luckily arrested at Tel Aviv airport before he could blow up Israeli civilians.
German security services believe that about 900 Hezbollah core activists are in the country and regularly meet in 30 cultural community centers and mosques. These activists financially support Hezbollah in Lebanon through fund-raising organizations, such as the "Orphans Project Lebanon Association." This harmless-sounding charity belongs to the Lebanese "al-Shahid (the Martyr) Association," which is part of the Hezbollah network that supports the families of militia fighters and suicide bombers.
According to a German government report from February, the attitude of Hezbollah supporters in Germany "is characterized by a far-reaching, unlimited acceptance of the ideology and policy (of Hezbollah)." Berlin is also aware that representatives of Hezbollah's "foreign affairs office" in Lebanon regularly travel to Germany to give orders to their followers.
* * *
So why does the German government tolerate these activities?
First, the Hezbollah leadership in Beirut recognizes the value of a German safe haven. It demands that Hezbollah followers carefully obey German law, which Berlin claims they do "to a large extent." Experience from attacks in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere suggest, though, that terrorists follow the law up and until the point they decide to strike.
Second, too many Germany policymakers uncritically accept the idea that there is supposedly a political Hezbollah -- an Islamist but legitimate movement independent of those Hezbollah terrorists who have murdered hundreds of people around the world. To believe that fairy tale, they even ignore Hezbollah's own words. As Mohammed Fannish, member of the "political bureau" of Hezbollah and former Lebanese energy minister put it in 2002: "I can state that there is no separating between Hezbollah's military and political arms."
Hezbollah's leadership, the Shurah Council, controls the totality of its activities -- social, political and what it calls "military." Funding for Hezbollah is fungible: Money collected in Germany supposedly for social and political causes frees up funds for terrorist attacks.
In ignoring the threat from Hezbollah, the German government puts hope above experience. While it tries to spare German citizens from the wrath of Hezbollah, it plays down the danger of a group that seeks to destroy both Lebanese democracy and the Jewish state. In the end, this approach also compromises the safety of German citizens. On July 31, 2006, two Lebanese students, Yussuf Mohammed El Hajdib and Jihad Hamad, placed bombs hidden in suitcases on two regional trains in Germany, but they failed to go off. Germany's federal law enforcement agency concluded that a successful explosion would have resulted in a tragedy on par with the London subway attacks of July 2005. The two suspects said they wanted to take revenge for the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
Just four month earlier, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah repeatedly urged Muslims on Hezbollah's TV-station al-Manar "to take a decisive stand" in the cartoon controversy. He said that he is certain that, "...not only millions, but hundreds of millions of Muslims are ready and willing to sacrifice their lives in order to defend the honor of their Prophet. And you are among them." The German federal prosecutor is still investigating the organizational affiliations of the two Lebanese terror suspects.
What is well established already is that al-Manar broadcasts into Germany (and the rest of Europe), the Middle East and North Africa. While eight out of 10 satellite providers (including four European) have dropped al-Manar, ARABSAT, majority-owned by the Saudi government, and Nilesat, owned by the Egyptian government, continue these broadcasts. Hezbollah TV's deadly mix of racial hatred, anti-Semitism, glorification of terrorism and incitement to violence are popular among Arabic-speaking youth in Europe. Young Muslims in Berlin recently asked in a German TV show to explain their hatred of the U.S. and Jews cited al-Manar as one of their primary sources of information.
In the past, the German government has shown strong resolve when it saw a threat to German security. It banned the Hamas "charity" al-Aqsa as well as the radical Sunni Islamist Hizb-ut Tahrir group. And it joined the EU in designating the PKK, the radical Kurdish group, as a terrorist organization.
Would branding the "Party of God" a terrorist group make any difference? Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah himself gave the answer in March 2005 when he told Arab media that European blacklisting would "destroy Hezbollah. The sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed."
With so much power comes great responsibility to act.
Mr. Ritzmann, a former member of the Berlin State Parliament, is a senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy. Mr. Dubowitz is chief operating officer of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and director of its Coalition Against Terrorist Media project.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Chimpanzees
on: April 17, 2007, 05:53:36 AM
Today's NY Times:
Almost Human, and Sometimes Smarter
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: April 17, 2007
CHICAGO — Observed in the wild and tested in captivity, chimpanzees invite comparison with humans, their close relatives. They bear a family resemblance that fascinates people, and scientists see increasing evidence of similarities in chimp behavior and skills, making some of them think on the vagaries of evolution.
From the top, Ayumu, a 6-year-old male, shows foresight in stacking blocks; chimps can outperform humans at some memory tasks; they use simple tools like twigs to dig out ants and termites, and rocks to crack open nuts.
For some time, paleontologists and evolutionary biologists have known that chimp ancestors were the last line of today’s apes to diverge from the branch that led to humans, probably six million, maybe four million years ago. More recent examination shows that despite profound differences in the two species, just a 1.23 percent difference in their genes separates Homo sapiens from chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes.
And certain similarities between the two species, scientists say, go beyond expressive faces and opposable thumbs.
Chimps display a remarkable range of behavior and talent. They make and use simple tools, hunt in groups and engage in aggressive, violent acts. They are social creatures that appear to be capable of empathy, altruism, self-awareness, cooperation in problem solving and learning through example and experience. Chimps even outperform humans in some memory tasks.
“Fifty years ago, we knew next to nothing about chimpanzees,” said Andrew Whiten, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “You could not have predicted the richness and complexity of chimp culture that we know now.”
Jane Goodall, a young English woman working in Africa in the 1960s, began changing perceptions. At first, experts disputed her reports of chimps’ using tools and social behavior. The experts especially objected to her references to chimp culture. Just humans, they insisted, had “culture.”
“Jane suffered early rejection by the establishment,” Richard Wrangham, a Harvard anthropologist, said. “Now, the people who say chimpanzees don’t have emotions and culture are the ones rejected.”
The new consensus framed discussions in March at a symposium, “The Mind of the Chimpanzee,” at the Lincoln Park Zoo here. More than 300 primatologists and other scientists reviewed accumulating knowledge of chimps’ cognitive abilities.
After one session, Frans de Waal of Emory University said that as recently as a decade ago there was still no firm consensus on many of the social relationships of chimps. “You don’t hear any debate now,” he said.
In his own studies at the Yerkes Primate Research Center at Emory, Dr. de Waal found that chimps as social animals have had to constrain and alter their behavior in various ways, as have humans. It is a part of ape inheritance, he said, and in the case of humans, the basis for morality. The provocative interpretation was advanced in his recent book, “Primates and Philosophers.”
Other reports shortly before the symposium had elaborated on the abilities of chimps as toolmakers. Jill Pruetz, a primatologist at Iowa State University, described 22 examples of chimps in Senegal making stick spears to hunt smaller primates for their meat. Dr. Goodall was the first to call attention to chimps as hunting carnivores, not strictly vegetarians.
Dr. Pruetz observed several chimps jabbing the spears into hollow tree trunks where bush babies often dwell. Just one attempt was successful. Previously, chimps had been seen using sticks mainly to extract termites from their nests.
A team of archaeologists led by Julio Mercader of the University of Calgary reported finding stones in Ivory Coast that chimps used 4,300 years ago to crack nuts. Today’s chimps have often been videotaped using rocks as a hammer to open nuts. The old stones with starch residues from nuts, the researchers said, were the earliest strong evidence of chimp tool use, and the finding suggested that chimps had learned the skill on their own, rather than copying humans.
Other researchers combine field work showing chimp behavior in natural habitats with laboratory experiments that are created to disclose their underlying intelligence — what scientists call their “cognitive reserve.”
For example, chimps on their own would not sit at a computer responding with rapid touches on the screen as a test of their immediate memory. Videos of their doing just that at Kyoto University in Japan especially impressed the symposium scientists.
Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a Kyoto primatologist, described a young chimp watching as numbers 1 through 9 flashed on the computer screen at random positions. Then the numbers disappeared in no more than a second. White squares remained where the numbers had been. The chimp casually but swiftly pressed the squares, calling back the numbers in ascending order — 1, 2, 3, etc.
The test was repeated several times, with the numbers and squares in different places. The chimp, which had months of training accompanied by promised food rewards, almost never failed to remember where the numbers had been. The video included scenes of a human failing the test, seldom recalling more than one or two numbers, if any.
Chimpanzees defend territories and patrol boundaries, as this group is doing in Uganda, where one patrol was seen to kill and mutilate a trespassing male.
QUICK STUDIES Chimpanzees pass on what they have learned. Here a group watches and learns while Georgia, trained separately, puts a token in a bucket to obtain food.
“Humans can’t do it,” Dr. Matsuzawa said. “Chimpanzees are superior to humans in this task.”
Dr. Matsuzawa suggested that early human species “lost the immediate memory and, in return, learned symbolization, the language skills.”
“I call this the trade-off theory,” he continued. “If you want a capability like better immediate memory, you have to lose some other capability.”
Other experiments at Kyoto’s primate center demonstrated the ability of chimps to recognize themselves and focus attention on others. Masaki Tomonaga, who conducted the tests, said that an infant made eye with its mother at about 2 months and that sometime after the first year was able to maintain a gaze as the mother moved about.
Dr. Tomonaga said such “gaze following” developed in humans about the same age, “though infant humans generally have more complex interactions.”
Misato Hayashi, also from Kyoto, described experiments with infant chimps’ manipulating nesting cups and square and cylindrical blocks. They were slower to learn than humans, but the manual dexterity was there. A human starts stacking blocks shortly after age 1, he said; chimps are almost 3 before getting the hang of it.
In experiments with mirrors, researchers showed that chimps had an awareness of themselves that is absent in monkeys but present in dolphins and all the great apes. Similar tests by Emory scientists showed some self-recognition among elephants.
These behaviors were reported by Dr. de Waal and his associate J. M. Plotnik, who said that they “may suggest convergent cognitive evolution probably related to complex sociality and cooperation well documented in both chimpanzees and elephants.”
Other researchers said that when confronted with problems obtaining food from the other side of a fence, chimps were not only clever on their own and often competitive with a fellow chimp, but they also showed a willingness to cooperate with one another to get the job done.
Brian Hare of Duke University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said bonobos outperformed their chimp relatives in cooperative tasks and shared food more readily.
The emotions of caring and mourning have been observed, as in the case of the chimp mother that carried on her back the corpse of her 2-year-old daughter for days after she had died. After fights between two chimps, scientists said, others in the group were seen consoling the loser and acting as mediators to restore peace.
Devyn Carter of Emory described the sympathetic response to a chimp named Knuckles, who was afflicted with cerebral palsy. No fellow chimp was seen to take advantage of his disability. Even the alpha male gently groomed Knuckles.
Dr. Wrangham of Harvard said the challenge to primatologists working in the field was to learn how much of the behavior and “surplus cognitive capacity” observed in captivity applied in the wild.
The answer seems to vary from one isolated chimp community to another. Scientists said that indicated the role of social learning — picking up skills by emulation — and responses to different opportunities in separate cultures.
At Gombe, the site in Tanzania where Dr. Goodall made a name for herself, the chimps with stick tools are accomplished extractors of termites from their nests. But termite fishing is rare in Bossou, Guinea. At Bossou, and not Gombe, chimps have learned to make use of many other tools, including stones for cracking nuts.
Dora Biro of the University of Oxford in England has studied tool use by chimps at the Bossou site. They fold leaves in a mat to sponge water out of tree hollows and scoop algae off stream surfaces. They collect edible ants with sticks. They take stouter tree branches and pound the juicy palm fiber to a pulp, preparing another favorite food.
Videos of Bossou nutcrackers show adult chimps, often female, placing a nut on a flat stone anvil and slamming down on it with a smaller rock. Two or three youngsters sit around watching. The adults do not appear to be giving instructions, except by example
What we’ve learned is that manipulation of objects begins around 1 year of age,” Dr. Biro said. “If it involves two or three objects, as in cracking nuts, that happens at 3 ½ to 5 years. If it is not learned by 6 or 7, it will never be acquired.”
Center for Great Apes
Knuckles, top, has cerebral palsy. Although Knuckles' disability made him an easy target, chimps in his community never took advantage of him.
With a Founding Mother in the Field of Primatology (April 17, 2007) At a dense forest in the Congo Republic, Crickette M. Sanz of the Max Planck institute said the chimps seemed as curious about her as she was about them. Groups came forward, calling others to join them. Sometimes, they sat with her for hours, eating fruit, grooming and even mating.
For a more detached study, Dr. Sanz deployed 18 video cameras at remote locations and recorded 84 hours of chimp tool use. Leaf sponging was the simplest, she concluded, and collecting honey with a long stick required the most effort and risk, with termite fishing having “the highest element of success.”
Dr. Sanz, who has worked with her husband, David B. Morgan, on some of the research, described mother chimps’ carefully withdrawing from a hole sticks swarming with black termites while their infants looked on. These social interactions, she said, passed on essential techniques and behaviors to the next generation.
“Socially transmitted adjustable behavior,” Dr. de Waal said, is a hallmark of culture.
Chimp behavior sometimes turns violent, particularly in territorial clashes. In Uganda, John Mitani of the University of Michigan observed chimp patrols regularly policing the forest boundaries of their communities. One patrol was seen assaulting an adult male, killing and emasculating him.
Kristin Bonnie, another Emory primatologist, said the transmission of behavior could be benign and spontaneous, with the prospect of reward being secondary. “It is the desire to act like others, an identification with certain others,” she explained, citing as an example the way chimps usually clasp hands while grooming each other.
At the symposium, researchers said the interest in learning more about chimps was not just a case of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Their behavior and intelligence, scientists say, may offer insights into the abilities of early human ancestors like Australopithecus afarensis, the apelike “Lucy” species that thrived more than three million years ago. A more urgent motivation for the research, primatologists say, is that these are sentient beings and the closest living relatives of humans, and their survival is threatened.
Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, a primatologist at the Lincoln Park Zoo and a symposium organizer, said researchers needed “to keep their eyes out for ways to improve the care of chimpanzees.”
Diseases like ebola and anthrax are taking their toll. Hunting chimps for “bush meat” is increasing. Many of the forest habitats of chimps in central Africa are being cut by loggers and land developers. As a result, Dr. Lonsdorf said, “Groups of the animals are getting closer together, which increased the threat of chimp violence and territorial disputes.”
Dr. Goodall recalled that when she went to Africa nearly a half-century ago, at least a million chimps lived in the continent, and “now there are perhaps only 150,000.” In that time, they have impressed scientists with physical and emotional reminders of their kinship to humans and their occasional triumphs over them at a computer screen.