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26051  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Training Partners on: May 27, 2007, 12:50:48 PM
That's in Germany folks  cheesy
26052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: May 27, 2007, 09:02:57 AM
Concerning "widening gap", I remember in the early Reagan years there was much indignation about the widening gap between rich and poor, blah blah.  What these economic illiterates did not understand was that with the cut of the top tax rate from 70% to 30% it made more sense to allow the money to be taxed than to keep it in the shelters-- hence the dramatic increase in "the rich" in government data.
26053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: May 27, 2007, 08:56:54 AM
Thank you Doug.

Jumping to a separate topic now:

There is the matter of RFID chips interacting with Wi-Fi technology creating a Brave New World in which where we go is tracked all the time.    angry

This has already begun.  I remember in Spain my rent-a-phone rang.  It was a commercial message-- from a store that I was passing at that moment.  The phone told the phone company where I was at all times, and the phone company had an arrangement with various businesses to call me with advertising when I was near their stores.  shocked  angry angry

I just ran across this practical solution on the WT forum:

"Your cellphone company keeps a GPS log of where the phone has been and when. Some of the newer phones can contact the tower even after you have turned it off (9-1-1 technology, for your safety of course). If you are traveling somewhere that you rather not have someone privy to, then drop it in one of those camera film bags that you can buy at any camera store. The lead-lined ones that protect the film from airport X-rays and such. On or off your phone will disappear as far as their tower created GPS log goes. I have personally tested this with phones available to me.

"CELL = 800-900 MHZ, PCS = 1850-1990 MHZ (at least here in the Southeastern US). These wavelengths do not penetrate water or lead well."

Technological road kill that I am I cannot vouch for this-- is there someone here who can comment?

As for the RFID & Wi Fi, some people say not to worry, the RFID chip can only read for a few feet, others counter that the point is that its LOCATION can be tracked, which is a separate point.  Again, technological roadkill that I am I cannot say, but I am profoundly concerned about the rapidly growing capabilities of these technologies.  Not only are they becoming more and more poweful, but they are also becoming incredibly small
26054  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sparring/fighting with bladed weapons on: May 26, 2007, 07:51:18 PM
Good comments San 86.

Just a quick yip to add that our endorsement clip of Shocknife can be found at www.Shocknife.com

Yip!
26055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 26, 2007, 12:20:20 PM
http://billroggio.com/archives/2007/05/hostage_of_the_talib.php  Bill Roggio of The Fourth Rail has daily updates on Islam over the World. He frequently travels to the different areas for first hand looks.
 
 
Pakistan - Hostage of the Taliban
Hostage crises ended in Islamabad & North Waziristan as one begins in Bannu; anti-Taliban elements calls for help go unheeded

As the political crisis over the suspension of Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry for alleged misconduct consumes the energy of the government of President Pervez Musharraf, the Taliban and its allies continue to push forward with the establishment of Talibanistan in Pakistan. In Islamabad, the capital, the clerics of the Lal Masjid – or Red Mosque – held police hostage and faced no repercussions. In the Northwest Frontier Province two hostage crises involving government officials went unanswered by the Pakistani government. All the while, the Northwest Frontier Province descends further into a Taliban dominated state within a state.

The hostage standoff in Islamabad began after the Lal Masjid 'brigade' kidnapped 4 Pakistani policemen on May 18 and accused them of ‘spying’ for the government. two days later, the government caved to the kidnappers' demands and released 4 members of the mosque in exchange for 2 of the 4 kidnapped police. Security forces then cordoned the area around the mosque and arrested 36 members, while the "Lal Masjid brigade" began setting up fighting positions. Maulana Ghazi then threatened a wave of suicide attacks against Pakistan if an assault ensued.

One day later, the security forces called off any potential operation to free the two remaining policemen, and two days later the standoff has ended as the 2 remaining police have been released.

The Lal Masjid showdown intensified at the end of March, when Maulana Abdul Aziz, the senior cleric at the mosque gave the government 7 days to impose sharia law, and began setting up sharia courts and sending out the burke clad, baton wielding female students as enforcement squads. Maulana Abdul Aziz, the leader of the Lal Masjid, stated the brigade can now enforce sharia and attack CD and video shops in the capital. “Our students can attack these outlets anytime because the deadline given to their owners had already passed,” Aziz said in his Friday sermon. Aziz also encouraged the Taliban “to continue their jihad against obscenity, prostitution, video shops and other social vices and expand it to every nook and corner of the NWFP,” Dawn reported.

To the west, in the lawless, Taliban dominated regions of the Northwest Frontier Province, the other hostage drama played itself out in North Waziristan. The Taliban kidnapped nine government employees, including six women, and held them for five days before releasing them on May 23. The Taliban openly run North Waziristan, and were unhappy they were not informed of an outside presence. "The militants [Taliban] complained that they were not consulted by the government on development works launched in the area," said Zair Gul Wazir, one of the hostages. "He said that the militants had kidnapped them to protest against the policies of the NWFP governor and the agency’s political administration."

North Waziristan has been a hotbed of activity the past week. On May 20, the Taliban beheaded a 'US spy' in the tribal agency. Thirteen dead Taliban were repatriated to North Waziristan after being killed in the fighting in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military purportedly struck an al Qaeda training camp in the village of Zargarkhel, where three Uzbeks were said to be among the 4 killed. Eleven of the 15 members of the North Waziristan "tribal peace committee," which is responsible for maintaining the North Waziristan accord, resigned over the Zargarkhel strike. The reason given was they believe the Pakistani government broke the terms of the accord, despite the fact that the Taliban violates the terms of treaty on a daily basis.

Pakistani Police believe Matiur Rehman, al Qaeda commander in Pakistan, is "spending most of his time in Waziristan training and organizing al Qaeda militants." President Pervez Musharraf admitted that al Qaeda is in Pakistan on local television. "Al -Qaeda is in our mountains, in Mir Ali [North Waziristan]. This is completely true." Several days later, Pakistan's Foreign Office claimed "there is no Al Qaeda base in Pakistan."

As the hostage crises ends in Islamabad and North Waziristan, another begins in the Northwest Frontier Province district of Bannu. The Taliban kidnapped 3 government agents, including a military intelligence officer, as they were driving through the region. The officer's driver and other official were released, but the intelligence officer is still in custody. On May 20, Bannu police found 3 suicide vests on a bus bound for Lahore. In early March, the Pakistani government assessed Bannu, along with several other districts and tribal agencies, as falling under the influence of the Taliban. The situation has gotten so bad the Bannu tribes vowed to take action against the Taliban if the government would not. The tribes request for help has fallen on deaf ears.

The situation in Charsadda has faired no better. The Taliban bombed a music shop in the settled district on May 23. A "student of a local madressah" detonated a bomb near Pakistani Interior Minister Sherpao's home. A suicide bomber attempted to assassinate Mr. Sherpao in Charsadda in April and South Waziristan's Abdullah Mehsud was behind the attack. And the Christian residents of Charsadda have pleaded with the government to provide protection after the Taliban threaten to kill them if they failed to convert to Islam. The government has remained silent on the issue of protecting Charsadda's Christians.

Elsewhere in the Northwest Frontier Province, the Taliban’s power grows. Taliban fighters from Waziristan are reported to be massing in the district of Swat and are being sheltered by Faqir Mohammad’s banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi [TNSM - the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law]. Faqir, who is based out of the Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuary of Bajaur and is an ally of Ayman al-Zawahiri, was recently pardoned by the Pakistani government.

In Tank, where a curfew was imposed after the Taliban raided cities and towns in the settled district, the Taliban fired 7 rockets at a military outpost on May 24. In Bara, the Lashkar Islam put out a order for a journalist’s death and ordered the closure of music shops. In Torkhum, the Taliban bombed 10 fuel tankers, which were heading to Afghanistan to supply NATO forces. Pakistani truck drivers have gone on strike out of fear of being attacked.

In Mohmand Agency, a tribal jirga met to discuss the prevention of the ‘Talibanisation’ of the agency. Like the Charsadda Christians and the Bannu tribes, the Mohmand tribal leaders’ calls for help from the Pakistani government have gone unanswered.
26056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Energy issues on: May 26, 2007, 09:08:10 AM
stratfor.com

Global Market Brief: Fear, War, Smog, Storms and the Price of Summer Vacation
Every summer, gasoline prices in the United States go up. This is not because oil tycoons get frisky and realize they can squeeze a little bit more from the people driving to the nearest park with bicycles strapped to the tops of their sport utility vehicles; it is the sum of a variety of mostly structural factors within the U.S. system that are susceptible to natural disasters, along with the risk factors that vary every summer and make the oil market susceptible to unrest, wars and rumors of war.

The good news is that this summer, a few of the key risk factors that inflate crude oil prices with panic premiums could subside -- such as violence in Nigeria, which should wane in the wake of national elections, and tensions between the United States and Iran over Iraq's future, which could be settled in talks soon. If all the stars align, there could even be a rare downward step adjustment in crude prices. The bad news -- aside from the unlikelihood of the stars aligning -- is that a world without strife would still have hurricanes.

Before looking at the specifics of this summer, it is worth reviewing why prices tend to pick up in March and spike around Memorial Day each year, remaining high until they begin to fall in November. Besides the obvious uptick in gasoline demand (first in the spring when farmers hit planting season and then for pleasure driving and vacations as days become longer and sunnier), one culprit for a spike in U.S. prices at the pump is smog -- or rather, how our federal and local governments react to it.

In winter, the standard gasoline is one of about three blends. In the summer, to reduce smog, a crisscross of federal and local government standards mandate special blends. These requirements are not in harmony; myriad blends are mandated and sometimes differ from one part of a state to another (as in California and Texas), depending in part on a location's temperature, altitude and urban density -- that is, the extent to which volatile organic compounds in fuel are likely to evaporate, and the extent to which the air in that place is already unhealthy. Even areas that have similar characteristics request different summer blends.

This variety of requirements results in the inefficient production of boutique blends -- and refineries initially tend to err on the side of caution, producing enough to meet the low end of estimated demand or adding additives to each blend as the trucks are filled rather than ending up with too much of a blend that no one else in the country will buy. Summer additives also tend to be more expensive than winter blend components. (The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy will release a "Fuel System Requirements Harmonization Study" in 2008. States probably will not want to give up their individual powers to regulate, however -- and new legislative authority would be needed at the federal level to overcome the boutique fuels phenomenon.)

Thus, as the switch is made from winter to summer blends, prices go up. Then, as the summer driving season begins, demand surges and prices stay high. The U.S. system is equipped to handle the boutique blends, so they do not pose the threat of shortages or worse price spikes -- unless there is an unexpected disruption in the supply chain by, say, an immense storm that hits the majority of U.S. refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The government has demonstrated it can be flexible when a real disaster strikes; after Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration temporarily waived the air quality standards requiring the variety of blends, which helped mitigate price spikes.

Another factor that can affect summer gasoline prices is oil and gasoline inventories. The Energy Department released its inventory report May 23, and the numbers were not as grim as feared. Although gasoline inventories are still 7 percent below their five-year average for this time of year, they have been climbing rapidly since April, following a three-month period of unexpected refinery fires and other problems on top of regular spring maintenance. Crude oil inventories are actually 7.6 percent above their five-year average, so there is plenty to draw from as refineries play catch-up. There are relatively few giant refineries in the United States, however, so each time one goes offline it is a significant concern. And contrary to the stories of conspiracy theorists, who claim oil companies choose not to build more refineries because they want to keep prices up, the actual reason is the difficulty of overcoming "not-in-my-backyard" campaigns bolstered by environmentalists whenever a new refinery is proposed.

This summer's bad news is that experts expect the hurricane season to be worse than average. Then again, in 2006 these same experts predicted a repeat of 2005 and, instead, El Nino caused a very mild storm season. A direct hit on refining infrastructure still recuperating from Katrina in 2005 is not very likely. However, the possibility remains and makes those who trade on risks jittery -- which brings us to the price of crude.

The price of Nymex crude is hovering around $65 per barrel. The average person can rattle off the reasons for this high price: their names are Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Almost every country that produces oil in large quantities is either nationalizing its energy sector (which tends to limit production) or is a political mess (or at risk of quickly becoming one). Then factor in the U.S.-jihadist war, hurricanes, pirates (yes, pirates -- though mostly around Africa and Southeast Asia, not in the Caribbean). And while these concerns about reliable supplies run rampant, world demand is increasing, driven by growing economies worldwide -- particularly China and India, the voracious newcomers to the global resource buffet.

It generally costs less than $32.50 to produce and transport a barrel of oil; the price of oil is floating on a cushion of fear-driven speculation. Even though there has not been an oil supply crisis for more than three decades, when buyers order for future delivery, they are willing to pay top dollar now on the chance that, if they wait, some catastrophe will drive prices far higher.

The circumstances behind anxiety-based oil prices are not likely to get a whole lot worse this year -- and, in some ways, they are getting better. Nigeria is over the worst of the election-driven attacks against oil infrastructure that reduced its output by one-third this year, and that production is beginning to come back on line. After a period of post-election calm, militant attacks are likely to increase later in the summer, but chances are that things will not get quite as bad as they were. In addition, Iran and the United States appear to be finally ready to sit down together and hammer out a deal on Iraq. The first direct and public bilateral talks are scheduled to take place May 28. If this process succeeds -- and, of course, many things could disrupt it -- it still remains to be seen whether the violence in Iraq can be tamed. However, the oil flow from Iraq mostly depends not on peace in the Sunni triangle but on revenue-sharing arrangements among Iraq's various interest groups and regions, which a deal with Iran could help solidify. And, of course, a deal with Iran would decrease the already slight likelihood of a U.S. airstrike against Iran or -- the nightmare scenario -- of conflict in the Persian Gulf leading to an obstruction of the Strait of Hormuz.

Oil traders do not tend to lower prices incrementally as things get gradually better -- only to raise them in fits as their fears are played upon. This means that, from time to time, there is a significant correction -- a sharp drop in oil prices. While we are not prepared to forecast such an adjustment this year, it seems to be more likely than the fruition of the worst fears propping up the current price.

One other thing to note: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is back, in a light kind of way. That is, OPEC countries have actually begun pumping below capacity again -- something that has not happened for years. The flip side to this is that OPEC no longer controls nearly as much of total global production as it did in the 1970s. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia does not really want to curtail its production and Venezuela cannot afford to. So, while it is something to watch, OPEC is no longer the main issue.

Overall, while gasoline prices will not be kind this summer, they probably will not behave erratically. The main variables that would disrupt this equation are a very nasty hurricane or relative peace in the Middle East. One of those sounds a little more plausible than the other.

CHINA: China's new State Investment Co. surprised global markets May 20 by announcing a planned purchase of a 9.9 percent stake in U.S. private equity player the Blackstone Group. This move proved China's ability to outsmart the markets (as far as the management of its $1.2 trillion of foreign exchange reserves) and its ability to carry out internal economic reforms while mitigating adverse global market effects. Blackstone is the first foreign equity purchase made with Chinese state foreign reserves, but it will not likely be the last. Watch out for new Chinese foreign exchange reserve-funded purchases in other foreign financial intermediaries next.

RUSSIA: Russian nickel company Norilsk Nickel raised its offer for Canadian mining company LionOre Mining International Ltd. to $6.3 billion May 23, trumping a bid by rival Swiss company Xstrata of $5.7 billion. Norilsk Nickel's bid comes with the blessing of the Kremlin, which is expected eventually to solidify its control over the company and thus ensure Norilsk Nickel has access to whatever funding it needs to expand abroad. Norilsk Nickel already holds around an 18 percent stake in the global market for nickel production. By the time the Kremlin consolidates control over the company, it could find itself with an even larger and richer prize.

FRANCE: France will eventually sell its 15 percent stake in the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS), the parent company of aircraft maker Airbus, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said May 18. Though Airbus has experienced a bout of major setbacks, France's political desire to have a European aerospace champion has almost guaranteed its continued existence, and the company has been subsidized with almost $15 billion worth of EU funds. However, the new French government has promised to reform many of the problems weighing France down. Sarkozy's statement that the French government might pull out of EADS altogether suggests that Airbus' key government support is waning -- and that its lifetime could be limited.

AFRICA: The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) approved a common external tariff system May 23 at a meeting in Kenya. The agreement lowers tariffs for COMESA countries to 10 percent for intermediate products and 25 percent for finished goods, and eliminates tariffs on capital goods and raw materials. The agreement brings COMESA closer to implementing a customs union in 2008 that would allow the 20-state bloc to operate commercially like the European Union. Seven COMESA states have yet to join the free trade area launched in 2000, citing revenue losses and competition from more advanced states. The common tariff system will make trade among member states more efficient, and a customs union would improve COMESA's ability to compete with larger economies.

AUSTRALIA: Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced May 22 that Australia will transfer monopoly control of wheat exports from the scandal-engulfed AWB Ltd. (formerly known as the Australian Wheat Board) to a grower-owned company by mid-2008. An independent task force is investigating a claim that AWB paid $224 million in bribes between 1999 and 2003 to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government. Though the move will benefit farm groups by transferring ownership back to the growers, the continuation of the single-desk structure likely will anger the U.S. farm lobby, which has long opposed the system. The move will benefit Howard domestically by strengthening his coalition and bolstering support from farmers in an election year. The group most negatively affected by the new deal will be nongrower investors in the AWB, who will have no stake in the new company.

IRAN: Gasoline prices in Iran increased by 25 percent May 22. Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said rationing will begin around June 5. The increase -- which follows a May 20 announcement that the government would not raise fuel prices -- is part of Tehran's efforts to reduce state subsidies for gasoline and discourage smugglers who have been buying fuel at Iran's relatively low price and sneaking it out of the country to sell. The pragmatic conservative establishment, led by Expediency Council head Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, likely designed the move to create problems for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration as part of an effort to weaken his faction's influence in the government.

IRAQ/U.S./UAE: Halliburton is considering $80 billion in projects around the globe as it rethinks its exit from Iraq, Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar said May 22. Lesar forecasts Halliburton investments in the Eastern Hemisphere -- including the Middle East, Russia, Africa, East Asia and the North Sea -- to hover around 70 percent of total capital investment over the next five years. Halliburton also has shown a willingness to sign deals with certain state actors or companies in the Middle East and Russia that the international community frowns upon. Lesar's hint that the company will reconsider its exit from Iraq indicates Halliburton is expecting a political settlement in Iraq that will allow energy majors to re-enter the reconstruction process.

MERCOSUR: Mercosur members' foreign affairs and economy ministers announced some details about the proposed Banco del Sur on May 22. Most important is that the development bank will have equal representation and capital share from its seven members, with the initial capital likely totaling between $2 billion and $3 billion. At least initially, the bank will be capable of development lending, but not of bailing out countries in the event of a serious economic shock. This is a blow to the vision of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who -- with support from Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia -- has for months proposed Banco del Sur as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Brazil's involvement in Banco del Sur has created the terms to keep the bank tame.

BOLIVIA/BRAZIL: Bolivia said May 23 it will compensate Brazilian state oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro $112 million for the nationalization of two refineries by June 10. Brazil indicated May 21 that it would accept natural gas instead of cash as payment, but then said unless the first payment is made by June 11, the matter will be tabled. Talks over the compensation were troubled; Brazil threatened to suspend investment in Bolivia if fair compensation was not offered, while Bolivia threatened to expropriate the facilities if its offers were rejected. The compensation agreement is important to both countries, but more so to Bolivia: Brazil is a key investor in Bolivia and purchases about 25 million cubic meters of natural gas daily -- nearly two-thirds of Bolivian output.
26057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Apocaholics Anonymous on: May 26, 2007, 08:58:15 AM
      * The Coming Dollar Devaluation (1970) by Harry Browne

      * The Coming Dark Age (1971) by Roberto Vacca

      * The Coming Credit Collapse (1974), by Alexander Paris

      * The Coming Bad Years (1978), but Howard Ruff

      * The Coming Real Estate Crash (1979) by English and Cardiff

 

The 1970s were also book-ended by two big #1 best-sellers telling the same story from the religious and secular angle: “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey (1970) and “Crisis Investing” by Doug Casey (1979).  They were the biggest best-sellers each year.

25 Years Ago (1982): The Coming Kondratieff Collapse!

I didn’t stay out of the Doomsday press for long.  By 1979, I was back in the business, in Virginia, writing free-lance special reports for a leading direct mail marketer on a more secular version of The End of the World.  As “Mr. X,” I wrote a series of reports on survival havens, banking secrecy, the collapse of the stock market and the fiat currency system.  I was consulting editor to Survival Tomorrow, Tax Angles and Personal Finance (formerly the Inflation Survival Letter) at KCI.  In 1982, my first special report for Jim Blanchard was on the coming Third World Loan Crisis, leading to the demise of major New York City money center banks, including the much maligned Citibank. 

In brief, I said, trying to re-arrange loans to Third World nations was “like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”  At the time, most Latin American nations were following the  Juan Peron model, as military dictatorships, starting in Peru (from 1948 to 1980), then Venezuela (1952), Colombia (1953), Bolivia (1964), Brazil (1964), Uruguay (1972) and Chile, under Gen. Auguste Pinochet (1973 to 1988).  The giant of the region, Brazil, was ruled by a succession of four-star generals from 1964 to 1985, as their economy reeled from one crisis to another.  Central America was in the same condition. El Salvador was under the military’s thumb for over 60 years, from 1931 to 1992.  Then came military juntas in Guatemala (1954 to 1986), Honduras (1963-82), Nicaragua’s Sandinistas (1979-90) and Panama under General Noreiga (1968-89), so the situation indeed looked bleak.

Latin America dominated the news in 1982, when I was writing that Third World debt threatened to bring down the region, and perhaps cause many major North American money center banks to fail.  The major New York money banks and the U.S. Treasury of the late 1970s had loaned too much money to the “ABC” nations (Argentina, Brazil and Chile), who were each in default on those loans, after crippling back-to-back recessions.

Like others, I said it was futile to re-arrange those loans. But behind the scenes, several New York bankers and Reagan-era Treasury officials quietly negotiated with the Latin American debtors, offering to reschedule their debts at lower interest rates, in exchange for some political concessions – such as free elections – which resulted in the gradual forced retirement of several military dictators.  Throughout the mid-1980s, military juntas were replaced by democracies, the last one by a dramatic invasion of Panama in 1989.

As a result of increased economic freedom south of the border, between 1987 and 1994, external debt as a percent of GDP declined by fully half in most Latin American nations: In Chile, external debt fell from 109% of GDP in 1987 to 42% by 1994.  Argentina’s debt fell from 58% of GDP to 31%.  The biggest basket case of the early 1980s, Brazil, reduced its external debt to the lowest level in Latin America, at just 25.8% by 1994.  Even Mexico’s debt fell significantly, from 79% of GDP to 44%.  We heard all about their high debt levels in the 1980s.  But I bet your never heard the rest of the story.  In 1975, there were only 31 global democracies, but now, we have over 120 democracies.

By the way, Nikolai Kondratieff was proved right: The 1979-82 depression came exactly 50 years after the 1929-32 depression, but none of the Doomsday prophets noticed that.

20 Years Ago – A Wave of “Coming Crash” Books (after the Crash)

The #1 Best-seller in 1987 was Dr. Ravi Batra’s “The Great Depression of 1990.”   Dr. Batra turned out to be right on his timing, but wrong on his geography.  Japan suffered a decade-long Great Depression in the 1990s, but according to Batra and others, Japan was the last place this could happen.  Many other best-sellers of 1987 were proclaiming the superiority of the Japanese management system, Japan’s work ethic, its currency, its wealth and ability to “buy up American assets” from Hawaiian hotels to Hollywood studios.  (As it turned out, Japan only knew how to pay way too much for those assets.)

Several other authors (including me) tried their hands at “coming crash” books, sadly published about the same time the crash happened, failing to warn anyone in time, and keeping them from re-investing in stocks, which would have been the smartest move at the time.  In the next wave of “coming crash” books, the overextended American debts were the paramount threat.  Harry Browne wrote “The Economic Time Bomb: How You Can Profit from the Emerging Crisis” in 1989.  Harry’s “bullet points” predict this:

Be ready for both a deep recession and severe inflation.
Why deposit insurance doesn’t make your bank account safe.
How the trade deficit could trigger the next depression.
Budget deficits have reached a limit – causing the worst recession since 1937.
An economic time bomb is set to implode – one wrong move can set it off.
 
Not one threat came to pass, despite deeper budget deficits and trade deficits in 1990-91.

Then came “The Great Reckoning” (1990), also predicting a “Depression in the 1990s.” But the 1990s turned out to be the best decade ever for global economic growth and the stock markets of free countries, as the Dow gained 5-fold, from 2,365 to 11,723. 

It was at this time (1990) that I wised up and, mercifully, partook in the bulk of that rise:

10-50 Years Ago         DOW               10-Year Gain

April 18, 1957              488.03             192.8%

April 20, 1967              878.62               80.0%

April 20, 1977              942.59                 7.3%

April 20, 1987              2270.60           140.9%

April 21, 1997              6660.21           193.3%

April of 2007                c. 12,500           87.7%

            60-Year Gain: 75-fold              +7,400%

 

For my grandchildren’s generation, I look for another 75-fold gain in the next 60 years, despite threats from Global Warming, the Housing Crisis, the Triple Deficits in America, and anything else Doomsday prophets dream up in the future.  I have been inoculated against such fears.  Please join me in abandoning the siren song of the Prophets of Doom.

“Apocaholics Anonymous” Bibliography: For Further Reading

 (1) Proof that “Things Really are Getting Better”

Anderson, Terry L., editor, “You Have to Admit It’s Getting Better: From Economic Prosperity to Environmental Quality,” Hoover Press, 202 pages.

Goklany, Indur M., “The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives, on a Cleaner Planet,” Cato Institute, 2007

Lomborg, Bjorn, “The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World,” Cambridge University Press, 1998, 352 pages + 153p of notes and bibliography.

Moore, Stephen & Simon Julian L., “It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years, CATO Institute, 2000, 265 pages.

Simon, Julian L., “Population Matters: People, Resources, Environment and Immigration,” Transaction Publishers, 1993

(2) Countering the Current Global Warming Scare

Avery, Dennis T. & Singer, S. Fred, “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years,” Rowman & Littlefield, 2007

Horner, Christopher C., “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism,” Regnery Publishing, 2007

Michaels, Patrick, “Shattered Consensus” (2005) and “Meltdown” (2003)

(3) How Media and Mass Psychosis Mislead You

Chafetz, Morris E., MD, “Big Fat Liars: How Politicians, Corporations, and the Media Use Science and Statistics to Manipulate the Public,” Nelson Current, 2005.

Mackay, Charles, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” 1841 first edition, 700+ pages

Simon, Julian, “Hoodwinking the Nation,” Transaction Publishers, 1999, 127 pages

(4) Currently Popular Doomsday Books in 2007: Random Sampling

Arnold, Daniel A., “The Great Bust Ahead: The Greatest Depression in American and UK History is Just Several Short Years Away.”

Brussee, Warren: “The Second Great Depression: Starting 2007, Ending 2020”

Panzner, Michael, “Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future from Four Impending Catastrophes.”

Rubino, John, “How to Profit from the Coming Real Estate Bust”

Schiff, Peter, “Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse.”

Wiedemer, David & Robert, “America’s Bubble Economy: Profit When it Pops”

In addition, Bill Bonner’s & Addison Wiggin’s “Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis” (a 2005 best-seller) will be turned into a documentary film in 2008.  Perhaps they will join Al Gore in the Apocaholics Hall of Fame in Hollywood.
26058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Apocaholics Anonymous on: May 26, 2007, 08:55:33 AM
http://www.godward.org/commentary/Out%20of%20the%20Box/Apocaholics%20Anonymous.htm

Welcome to “Apocaholics Anonymous” –
Join Me in a Crusade for Panic-Free Living
Updated for the Atlanta Investment Conference
20th Anniversary Reunion, 8:45 am, April 20, 2007
By Gary Alexander, Recovering Apocaholic

 

Hi, I’m Gary and I’m a recovering Apocaholic.  I am currently Apocalypse free for nearly 18 years.  I left the church of the Religious Apocalypse in 1976, over 30 years ago, and I resigned from the secular church of the Financial Apocalypse in 1989.  Yes, I still feel the urge to proclaim the end of all things, from time to time, but I white-knuckle my way to a history book for a little perspective, and then I breathe easier. If you wish to join AA, the only requirement is that you give up the adrenaline rush of media-fed fantasies.

Since I spoke to you last on this subject, in 1994, we have survived “Bankruptcy 1995” (the original epidemic of Hockey Stock charts), the Big Bang in Hong Kong, years of Y2K scare stories, a SARS epidemic, Mad Cow disease, Bird Flu, a real threat on 9/11, Triple Deficits (Budget, Trade and Balance of Payments), wars in Serbia/Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, Deflation in 2003, Inflation since then, The Perfect Storms of 2005 (Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the 3 Witches of the Bermuda Triangle), and today’s reigning fears of Global Warming, $200 Oil and the Sub-prime Housing Loan Crisis Implosion.

But before we go from today’s Sub-prime to the ridiculous claims of imminent collapse, let me introduce the depths of my past addiction to the Apocalypse.  I was born in July 1945, the day the first atomic bomb exploded in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  That mushroom crowd has haunted our lives ever since. As a teenager, I became convinced the world would end before I was 30.  Too soon old…too late smart, I was very, very wrong:


50 Years Ago (1957) – The “Duck and Cover” Generation

My apocalyptic addiction began 50 years ago, in the Year of Sputnik, when all of us Seattle-area 7th graders – mostly the offspring of Boeing engineers – were told that we must now learn more science and math, to close the missile gap with the Soviet Union.  

Back in 1957, the U.S. was the proud owner of 100,000 kilograms of U-235, in what was termed “45 times overkill” of the Soviets.  But the Soviets had more missiles than we did. In that same year, 1957, the first underground nuclear explosion was set off near Las Vegas.  In junior high, I soon became addicted to dystopian novels, like On the Beach, by Nevil Shute, a Briton who had moved to Australia, in order to be among the last on earth to be fried by the inevitable radiation cloud following nuclear Armageddon.  The novel was adapted for the screen in 1959, directed by Stanley Kramer, and starring Gregory Peck as captain Dwight Lionel Towers of the USS Sawfish. The story was set in the near future, 1963 in the book (1964 in the movie), in the months following World War III.  Nuclear fallout killed ALL life, with hot air currents killing off Australia last,  

The characters made their best effort to enjoy what remained of their life before dying from radiation poisoning.  The film was shot in Melbourne, with a chilling ending of wind-swept but empty city streets there. That image has haunted me, to this day. I am convinced that this hopelessness sewed the seeds for the senseless rush to immediate gratification in the 1960s.  With a world about to die, hedonism soon reigned supreme.


In high school, I read Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and the scathing exposes and novels of Philip Wylie (1902-1971), son of a Presbyterian minister father and a novelist mother (who died when he was five).  Wylie wrote apocalyptic nuclear war novels like “Tomorrow” (1954), about the atomic bombing of two fictional Midwest cities adjacent to each other in the mid-1950s.  One had an effective civil defense program, and the other did not.  Later, I read his novel, “Triumph” (1963), another graphic description of the effects of nuclear war story involving a worst-case USA/USSR “spasm war,” in which both sides emptied their arsenals into each other with extensive use of “dirty” bombs to maximize casualties, resulting in the main characters (in a very deep bomb shelter) being the sole survivors in the northern hemisphere, the new Adam and Eve of a new creation.

In the financial realm, I was also becoming convinced that America’s economy was doomed, especially after reading John Kenneth Galbraith’s “The Affluent Society” (1958), which said the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, while advertising creates artificial demand in the West. The same theme was echoed in Vance Packard’s “The Hidden Persuaders” (1957).  He followed up with “The Status Seekers” (1959) and “The Waste Makers” (1960).  Also popular was a book we young cynics all read, “The Ugly American” (1958), by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick.  America was supposedly incredibly shallow and bigoted in the 1950s, soon to be rescued by the Liberated 1960s.

P.S. The world is still a dangerous and violent place, but the most chilling example of violent death now is in Africa, with machetes.  We’ve now gone over 61 years without using nuclear bombs against humans – thank God.  Back in the late 1960s, Herman Kahn wrote “On Thermonuclear War” and “Thinking the Unthinkable,” in which he demonstrated that we can survive a nuclear holocaust, but that didn’t seem likely in 1962:  

 

45 Years Ago (1962): The Cuban Missile Crisis and “Silent Spring”

The closest we came to a nuclear exchange was in October, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in my high school senior year.  That was one of the events that caused me to throw away a National Merit Scholarship and decide to attend a small church college that seemed to made sense of these global threats.  Another impetus was the collapse of the global ecology, as demonstrated in another best-selling book that I read in 1962:
 
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) published “Silent Spring” in 1962, based on a compilation of articles she had written for The New Yorker.  Her book is credited with launching the environmental movement that culminated in Earth Day (1970), including a worldwide ban on the main villain in her book, DDT.  Silent Spring was a Book of the Month Club main selection, spending several weeks on the New York Times best seller list.  It was actively endorsed by one of my heroes at the time, a Washington State native, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, as well as many other nature advocates in my school.

As a result of that book and further research, I wrote an extended scientific article for a national magazine in 1970, linking the chemicals in DDT to many of the pest sprays commonly used in homes.  I wrote other articles supporting the ban in DDT, which I am ashamed to say, has caused the deaths of millions of Asians and Africans since then.  Many insect-borne diseases were on the verge of extinction in 1970, when the U.S. tied foreign aid to poor nations to their “voluntary” banning of DDT, to our great shame.

Knock, knock!
Who’s There?
Armageddon!
Armageddon Who?
Armageddon outa here!

 
In 1963, I threw away my future to apply to Ambassador College and join the Worldwide Church of God, in effect saying “Armageddon Outa Here.”  The book that motivated me the most was Herbert Armstrong’s “1975 in Prophecy,” in which he showed from several perspectives that the world couldn’t make it past 1975.  After four years of their college indoctrination, I became a leading writer, editor and researcher for a decade (1966-76) for their publications, turning secular trends into Apocalyptic rhetoric in magazines and in the electronic radio media, writing radio and TV scripts for the voice of “The World Tomorrow,” the late Garner Ted Armstrong.  I didn’t have long to wait for ammunition:

 
40 Years Ago: “The Population Bomb!” and “Famine 1975”

Upon graduation from college, my job of predicting the End of the World by 1975 was made incredibly easier by a wave of new books proclaiming the inevitable end, based on the centuries-old (and easily discredited) theories of Thomas Robert Malthus, who wrote in 1798 that population grew geometrically, but food production could only grow in small (arithmetic) increments.  In 1967, the brothers William and Paul Paddock wrote a book called “Famine 1975,” in which they said it was impossible for food production to keep up with population growth. The title of their first chapter said, “The Population-Food Collision Is Inevitable; It Is Foredoomed.”  The Paddocks believed that the Malthusian formula was on a collision course and all we could do was starve a little less than others.

Then came Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” (1968), in which he opened famously by saying, “The battle to feed humanity is over.  In the 1970s and 1980s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death, in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”  Writing in Ramparts magazine, he went even further, “Hundreds of millions of people will soon perish in smog disasters in New York and Los Angeles…the oceans will die of DDT poisoning by 1979…the U.S. life expectancy will drop to 42 years by 1980, due to cancer epidemics.”  Hepatitis and dysentery would sweep America by 1980 and nearly all of us would wear gas masks.  Over 65 million Americans would starve in the 1980s, leaving only 22.6 million starved Americans alive in 1990.  In 1990, he incredibly justified his claims as being right – a trait common to Doomsday prophets. *

 “The individual will frequently emerge not only unshaken but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before.  Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view.” – Leon Festinger, “When Prophecies Fail.”

In the meantime, Dr. Normal Borlaug was launching the Green Revolution, which has managed to feed billions more people on moderately more arable soil than in the 1960s.  Instead of starving against our will, millions of us are trying to starve voluntarily – by dieting.  Food is far cheaper, relative to the overall growth of the cost of living, than in the 1960s.  From 1977 to 1994, food costs fell 77% in real terms.  Grain is in surplus, despite 46 million idle arable acres of U.S. farmland, and 11 million idle acres in Europe.  

In the first 15 years after “Earth Day,” we made great progress against pollution.  The amount of particulates spewed into the air fell by 64%, carbon monoxide emissions fell 38%, ocean dumping of industrial wastes was cut by 94%, and the number of rivers unfit for swimming dropped 44%.  By 1990, cars emitted 78% fewer pollutants.  Yet Lester Brown’s annual “State of the Earth” keeps saying the opposite, that pollution is growing.

And for anyone who still believes in Dr. Malthus, I have one word to share with you: Chickens!  Are they food, or are they population?  Do they grow arithmetically, or geometrically?  On the Delmarva Peninsula alone, 90 million cluckers live their nasty, brutish, crowded and short lives on the way the chopping block and your local KFC.

The famine/population fear is older than Malthus.  Confucius thought the earth was full, 2500 years ago. Romans thought they had “worn out the earth.”  St. Jerome said “the world is already full, and the population too large for the soil.” Tertullian wailed about “teeming populations of Carthage” with “numbers burdensome to the world.”  He saw death from famine, war and disease as “the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.”  In truth, Rome was rich when it was crowded, and a wasteland when it was empty.

35 Years Ago – The Club of Rome and “The Limits to Growth”

In the early 1970s, Garner Ted Armstrong pulled me aside and gave me a challenging new project, which might take years to finish.  He said that all the globe’s trends are getting worse, and that if we could only “feed all these trends into a computer,” we could predict the precise time of the end.  Maybe it’s 1975, as we all still thought at the time, or maybe it’s a little later than that.  After all, we can count the hairs we lose each day and predict when we will go bald.  So we could do the same with all other trends – depleting resources, increased crime, nuclear overkill, chemical and environmental pollutants, etc.

Ambassador College had a new IBM 370 computer and a huge programming team at my disposal, so I set out on this impossible project full of hope.  Two years later, I gave up, but a bunch of secular statisticians in Cambridge, Massachusetts did not give up.  They fed all the same kind of data into Harvard’s massive mainframe and came out with their magnum opus, “Limits to Growth,” modeling the future consequences of growing world population and finite resources.  The study was commissioned by the world’s aristocracy, gathered into a group they called the Club of Rome.  Limits to Growth was written by Dennis and Donella Meadows, among many others.  The book used computer simulation to project a rolling Doomsday.  (All this made me feel like less of a religious nut….)

In short, the report’s authors projected that, at the exponential growth rates they expected to continue, all the known world supplies of zinc, gold, tin, copper, oil, and natural gas would be completely exhausted in 1992.  They set specific dates for each commodity.   President Carter later bought into this idea and published his gloomy Global 2000 report.

Then, along came Dr. Julian Simon, who bet Dr. Paul Ehrlich $1,000 that the price of commodities would FALL, not rise, implying an expansion of resources, rather than a contraction of supplies during the decade in which they were all to disappear – the 1980s.  

By 1985, instead of running out of oil, an oil glut pushed the price down from $40 to $10 a barrel.  Shortages beget higher prices and more exploration, not depletion of resources.  In the extreme cases, shortages create new technologies.  A wood shortage in England in the early 17th Century led to the use of coal and the birth of the industrial revolution. A shortage of whales led to the use and discovery of petroleum, and electrical lighting.  The stench of horse manure in urban streets led to the invention of the horseless carriage.

30 Years Ago – Global Cooling and “The Next Ice Age”

My final TV script for Garner Ted Armstrong came in 1975, when I was about to leave the cocoon of the Church of the Apocalypse for a more mundane job at the University of Southern California.  He wanted a program on Global Cooling, or the Coming Ice Age.  In 1975, there were several covers in major news magazines about the Coming Ice Age.  

One example was Newsweek, for the week of April 28, 1975.  It said that leading climate scientists were “almost unanimous” (sound familiar?) in their predictions of global cooling.  Time Magazine had “The Coming Ice Age” on its cover, and the November 1976 issue of National Geographic had a lead article on the problem of global cooling.

Later on, physicists combined the threat of natural cooling with nuclear war to predict a “Nuclear Winter.”  Our future was clearly frigid.  The trend from 1935 through 1975 was a gradual cooling of temperatures, since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. (Most record-high state temperatures, to this day, were set in the 1930s, not in the 1990s, Mr. Gore.)

One day in the control studio, Garner Ted Armstrong showed me a news clipping that pointed to the potential threat of carbon-dioxide emissions contributing to future global warming – a threat that currently assaults us in the daily media.  He looked me in the eye, as his trusted researcher, and asked point blank, “Which is it – warming or cooling?”

 

“With any luck, sir,” I quipped, “We’ll get both, and then they will offset each other.”

He was not amused.  But I was on my way out and no longer cared what he thought. I was happy that a peaceful new job awaited me at a less Apocalyptic California college. But that did not stop me from reading a series of best-sellers and coming back to the Doomsday business three years later.  In the 1970s alone, all of this was “Coming…”
26059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dutch Drug Policy on: May 26, 2007, 08:28:47 AM
second post of the morning:

Drug policy of the Netherlands
The drug policy of the Netherlands is based on 2 principles:

Drug use is a public health issue, not a criminal matter
A distinction between hard drugs and soft drugs exists
It is a pragmatic policy. Most policymakers in the Netherlands believe that if a problem has proved to be unsolvable, it is better to try controlling it instead of continuing to enforce laws with mixed results. By comparison, most other countries take the point of view that drugs are detrimental to society and must therefore be outlawed, even when such policies fail to eliminate drug use. This has caused friction between the Netherlands and other countries, most notably with France and Germany. As of 2004, Belgium seems to be moving toward the Dutch model and a few local German legislators are calling for experiments based on the Dutch model. Switzerland has had long and heated parliamentary debates about whether to follow the Dutch model, but finally decided against it in 2004; currently a ballot initiative is in the works on the question.


Public health
The Dutch drug policy is based on the general principle of self-determination in matters of the body. Specifically, that it is not illegal to hurt yourself; however, you remain liable for the consequences of your actions. Because of this, users are not prosecuted for possession of small quantities of soft drugs ("for personal use"). Driving under the influence of drugs is nevertheless prohibited, as is being under the influence in public (of either alcohol or other drugs), mainly from a public nuisance perspective.





Hard drugs/soft drugs
A distinction is drawn between hard drugs (which bear "unacceptable" risks; e.g. cocaine, heroin, etc.) and soft drugs such as the psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms as well as cannabis products: hashish and marijuana (as defined in the Dutch Opium Act). The distinction is drawn on whether the substance is only psychologically addictive (i.e. producing no worse effect than moderate craving when withdrawn) or also physically addictive. One of the main aims of this policy is to separate the markets for soft and hard drugs so that soft drug users are less likely to come into contact with hard drugs. This policy also aims to take the soft drug market out of the hands of the criminals, thus reducing crime.

So-called coffee shops are allowed to sell soft drugs openly, and to keep supplies greater than the amounts allowed by law for personal use, though they are only allowed to sell individual customers the amount allowed for personal use. The coffeeshops' wholesale suppliers, however, are still criminalized. In theory, the limit of the "for personal use" clause is 5 cannabis plants per person for growing, or possession of 5 grams of hashish or marijuana per person. However, to be prosecuted one would need to possess considerably higher quantities than that. An example of a sentence in 2004 for possession of 360 grams: confiscation and a fine of €750. Coffeeshops pay taxes just like any other business, though there are some special exemptions for them, mostly because they cannot show receipts for their supply of marijuana.

Large-scale dealing, production, import and export are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, even if this does not supply end users or coffeeshops with more than the allowed amounts. Exactly how coffeeshops get their supplies is rarely investigated, however. What is certain is that coffeeshops do sell cannabis that comes from countries where it is illegal. Large suppliers tend to be criminals motivated by profit who do not make the distinction between hard and soft drugs. Hence, the soft drug policy, by failing to address the issue of supply, has made the Netherlands the main center for hard drug trafficking in Europe. Creating a highly controlled, legal production chain for cannabis to combat this problem has been proposed by a number of Dutch politicians over the last few years. By the end of 2005, the majority of the Dutch Parliament was in favour of an experiment with controlled cultivation and production of cannabis. It is still uncertain when and how this experiment will take place, due to judicial issues.


Non-enforcement
Cannabis remains a controlled substance in the Netherlands and both possession and production for personal use are still misdemeanors, punishable by fine. Coffee shops are also illegal according to the statutes.

However, a policy of non-enforcement has led to a situation where reliance upon non-enforcement has become common, and because of this the courts have ruled against the government when individual cases were prosecuted.

This is because the Dutch Ministry of Justice applies a gedoogbeleid (policy of tolerance or allowance policy) with regard to soft drugs: an official set of guidelines telling public prosecutors under which circumstances offenders should not be prosecuted. This is a more official version of the common practice in other countries, in which law enforcement sets priorities as to which offenses are important enough to spend limited resources on.

Proponents of gedoogbeleid argue that such a policy offers more consistency in legal protection in practice, than without it. Opponents of the Dutch drug policy either call for full legalization, or argue that laws should penalize morally wrong or decadent behavior, whether this is enforceable or not.

In the Dutch courts, however, it has long been determined that the institutionalized non-enforcement of statutes with well defined limits constitutes de facto decriminalization. The statutes are kept on the books mainly due to international pressure and in adherence with international treaties.


Drug law enforcement
Despite the high priority given by the Dutch government to fighting narcotics trafficking, the Netherlands continue to be an important transit point for drugs entering Europe, a major producer and exporter of amphetamines and other synthetic drugs, and an important consumer of illicit drugs[citation needed]. The export of the synthetic drug ecstasy to the U.S. during 1999 reached unprecedented proportions[citation needed]. The Netherlands' special synthetic drug unit, set up in 1997 to coordinate the fight against designer drugs, appears to be successful[citation needed]. The government has stepped up border controls and intensified cooperation with neighbouring countries.

Although drug use, as opposed to trafficking, is seen primarily as a public health issue, responsibility for drug policy is shared by both the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sports, and the Ministry of Justice.

In contrast with most countries' policies, the Dutch policy has yielded positive results in the war against drugs. The Netherlands spends more than €130 million annually on facilities for addicts, of which about fifty percent goes to drug addicts. The Netherlands has extensive demand reduction programs, reaching about ninety percent of the country's 25,000 to 28,000 hard drug users. The number of hard drug addicts has stabilized in the past few years and their average age has risen to 38 years. The number of drug-related deaths in the country remains the lowest in Europe.

On 27 November 2003, the Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner announced that his government was considering rules under which coffeeshops would only be allowed to sell soft drugs to Dutch residents in order to satisfy both European neighbours' concerns about the influx of drugs from the Netherlands, as well as those of Netherlands border town residents unhappy with the influx of "drug tourists" from elsewhere in Europe. As of 2006 nothing has come of this proposal and Dutch coffeehouses still enjoy robust foreign patronage.


Implications of international law
The Netherlands is a party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The 1961 convention prohibits cultivation and trade of naturally-occurring drugs such as cannabis; the 1971 treaty bans the manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs such as barbiturates and amphetamines; and the 1988 convention requires states to criminalize illicit drug possession:

Subject to its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal system, each Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence under its domestic law, when committed intentionally, the possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for personal consumption contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention, the 1961 Convention as amended or the 1971 Convention.
The International Narcotics Control Board typically interprets this provision to mean that states must prosecute drug possession offenses. The conventions clearly state that controlled substances are to be restricted to scientific and medical uses. However, Cindy Fazey, former Chief of Demand Reduction for the United Nations Drug Control Programme, believes that the treaties have enough ambiguities and loopholes to allow some room to maneuver. In her report entitled The Mechanics and Dynamics of the UN System for International Drug Control, she notes:

Many countries have now decided not to use the full weight of criminal sanctions against people who are in possession of drugs that are for their personal consumption. The Conventions say that there must be an offence under domestic criminal law, it does not say that the law has to be enforced, or that when it is what sanctions should apply. . . . Despite such grey areas latitude is by no means unlimited. The centrality of the principle of limiting narcotic and psychotropic drugs for medical and scientific purposes leaves no room for the legal possibility of recreational use. . . . Nations may currently be pushing the boundaries of the international system, but the pursuit of any action to formally legalize non-medical and non-scientific drug use would require either treaty revision or a complete or partial withdrawal from the current regime.
The Netherlands policy of keeping anti-drug laws on the books while limiting enforcement of certain offenses is carefully designed to reduce harm while still complying with the letter of international drug control treaties. This is necessary in order to avoid criticism from the International Narcotics Board, which historically has taken a dim view of any moves to relax official drug policy. In their annual report, the Board has criticised many governments, including Canada, for permitting the medicinal use of cannabis, Australia for providing injecting rooms and the United Kingdom for proposing to downgrade the classification of cannabis[1], which it has since done.


Recent developments
In 2005, Gerd Leers, mayor of the border city of Maastricht, criticised the current policy as inconsistent, by recording a song with the Dutch punk rock band De Heideroosjes. By allowing possession and retail sales of cannabis, but not cultivation or wholesale, the government creates numerous problems of crime and public safety, he alleges, and therefore he would like to switch to either legalising and regulating production, or to the full repression that his party (CDA) officially advocates. The latter suggestion has widely been interpreted as rhetorical.[2] Leers's comments have garnered support from other local authorities and put the cultivation issue back on the agenda.
26060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Forfeiture laws on: May 26, 2007, 08:26:26 AM
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/50450_assets13.shtml

Critics target drug raid seizures
Police often keep property even absent a conviction

Thursday, December 13, 2001

By SAM SKOLNIK
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Before dawn, heavily armed officers stormed Shane Hendrickson's Tacoma home. They busted open the front door, grabbed the self-employed painter and hauled him off to the police station.

There, they grilled him, accusing him of participating in a major pot-growing operation. Hendrickson steadfastly denied it, and hours later, detectives had enough doubts to cut him loose.

   
   Chris Jones of Woodinville Public Auto Auction prepares a scooter seized in a drug raid for auction. Law enforcement agencies that make property seizures keep 90 percent of auction proceeds. Jeff Larsen / Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Click for larger photo
By the time he returned home that day, Oct. 4, Hendrickson's baby-blue 1984 Chevy van -- with Dialed-in Paint Co. stenciled on the sides -- was gone. So were his business papers, including bids for upcoming jobs. And his girlfriend's new computer and all her disks.

In the blink of an eye, Hendrickson, 27, was out of work.

"It just kind of shut me down for a while," he said. "These people think they're above God."

Hendrickson, though, was more fortunate than most. He hasn't been charged with a crime, and, after a month or so, the last of his property was returned -- albeit with a lawyer's help.

In the past decade, drug-related property seizures have skyrocketed in Washington, with annual proceeds raised from auctions statewide jumping from $1.2 million to a record $6.7 million in 2000. That doesn't count forfeitures made by federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or the FBI.

In King County last year, authorities seized $2.2 million in drug-related assets. But even though four out of 10 criminal cases either never got off the ground or fell apart, the bulk of the cars, cash, cellular phones, stereos and other goods grabbed from those suspects were never returned, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has found.

One out of five people whose property was seized were never charged with a crime. When people were charged, the cases were dropped about 23 percent of the time, according to records obtained from the state Treasurer's Office and a search of computerized court documents.

Washington's powerful property-seizure law, loudly criticized by defense attorneys and civil rights activists, allows police departments, sheriff's offices and drug task forces to take a suspect's property if authorities believe it was used in connection with a drug crime or purchased with tainted money.

Fears of overzealous law enforcement have spurred a drive to revamp the law -- toughening the legal standard for forfeiture and barring police from taking a person's property until he or she is convicted of a crime.

Backers of Initiative 256, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, must collect 197,734 valid signatures by Jan. 4 in order to put the measure before the 2002 Legislature. Lawmakers can pass I-256 outright or put it on the ballot next November.

Forfeiture money helps fund drug enforcement efforts, which critics call a blatant conflict, driving authorities to seize as much as they can from suspects -- even when there's insufficient evidence to support criminal charges.

 
 

"There's a huge financial incentive for police to be taking property," said Jerry Sheehan, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington. "That they can do that without any charges ever being brought, let alone any conviction gained, is very troubling."

Legislators adopted modest reforms this year, passing a bill that shifts the burden of proof to police when their seizures are challenged. Law enforcement agencies are also required to pay legal fees if they lose such a challenge. The bill passed only after a tougher measure, similar to the current initiative, failed.

Law enforcement officials say further restrictions would hurt their ability to crack down on drug dealers by choking off some of the money supporting undercover operations.

"We don't want to jump off of the cliff" with an initiative that could effectively end forfeitures in Washington, said Christopher Hurst, a Black Diamond Police Department detective and Democratic state representative. "The answer here really falls somewhere in the middle."

"In reality, money is the engine that drives drug dealers," said Steve Tucker, a King County sheriff's detective who has worked drug cases since 1989. "If you take away the money, it's not only deterrence for new guys, it's stopping repeat offenders. If you dismantle the structure, including the proceeds, they have to start again at ground zero."

But why are so many suspected drug dealers finding their property seized but escaping punishment?

The P-I examined 236 King County cases involving property seizures last year and found that 50 suspects, or 21 percent, were never charged. Of the 186 cases that were prosecuted, 42 (23 percent) dissolved into acquittals or dismissed charges, court records show. There has been no resolution in 19 other cases.

Thus, at least 39 percent of the 236 cases never resulted in convictions, a fact law enforcement officials say isn't surprising.

They say many of the smaller fish turn state's evidence or become informants at the behest of detectives in hopes of busting higher-ranking traffickers. To shield the suspect from liability, the property is often purchased in the name of a different party, a "straw owner," such as a girlfriend. In those cases, the property owner is not the suspected criminal and doesn't get charged.

Even though the criminal cases often crumble, property seizures usually stand up. In the vast majority of cases, people who have property seized never get it back, according to defense attorneys, prosecutors and police.

That's because police have less to prove in taking property than in convicting people of a crime, said Seattle attorney Richard Troberman.

"You are operating under a much lower legal standard, and you are usually not even facing an attorney," he said.

When it comes to challenging property seizures, low-income people don't have the same right to a public defender that they do in the criminal system. Troberman said prosecutors have testified that in about 80 percent of the cases in which people contest the forfeitures, no attorney is present. That's roughly the same percentage of cases the police win, one hearing examiner estimates.

The move to change Washington's law comes in the midst of efforts to reform property-seizure standards nationwide.

After years of failed efforts, Congress last year passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., that toughens the standard for federal forfeitures. And voters in Oregon and Utah passed initiatives last year to change their own laws.

In July, unsatisfied with the legislation passed in Olympia, a coalition of activists -- on the left and the right of the political spectrum -- took matters into their own hands by pushing a citizens initiative. In addition to preventing police from seizing property until a conviction is notched, the Innocent Property Owners Protection Initiative would redirect forfeiture-related proceeds from police to state education and drug-treatment programs.

In a related effort, the ACLU next year plans to introduce a bill to mandate that the state's forfeiture law align itself with a provision in the state constitution that says proceeds derived from forfeitures should be used to fund the state school system.

"There was a purpose in the Bill of Rights," said Erne Lewis, a Libertarian Party activist who is spearheading the initiative effort. "It was to protect individuals and their property. Forfeiture is a weapon, and this is what they'll tell you. 'We use this to get guilty pleas,' they say. Well, so does torture."

   
A Jeep Cherokee, also seized in a drug raid, was among the items scheduled to be auctioned off in November. Nearly 40 percent of drug cases in which property is seized in King County do not result in a criminal conviction. Jeff Larsen / Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Click for larger photo   
Under Washington's law, the agency that seizes the goods gets to keep 90 percent of the proceeds, after a public auction.

The rest goes to a state fund that provides assistance to domestic violence victims, AIDS-infected babies and others. The law states that forfeited property "shall be retained by the seizing law enforcement agency exclusively for the expansion and improvement of controlled substances-related law enforcement activity."

But that's not the way some agencies, which have been slapped by state auditors for misusing seized property, have seen it.

It took 2 1/2 years after concerns were first raised internally for the King County Sheriff's Office to stop allowing employees to use vehicles seized in drug cases. At one point, 21 detectives and officials -- including the budget and accounting director, the legal adviser, a volunteer chaplain and the Asian community liaison -- were driving the cars.

In March 1997, a drug unit sergeant, Dawn Grout, raised the issue in a letter to Frank Adamson, chief of the Criminal Investigations Division, apparently to little effect.

The following February, she sent another memo identifying 16 drug-seized vehicles that she said were still "assigned to non-drug enforcement personnel in direct violation of state law."

The issue was still unresolved in September 1999, when the Auditor's Office concluded after a brief investigation that "some vehicles are not being appropriately used" at the sheriff's office. A short time later, the last of the seized cars were returned to the drug unit.

Sheriff Dave Reichert, who was appointed in March 1997, about four weeks before Grout sent her first memo, said that "when the problem rose to my level, I took care of it. I took the cars away."

Not everyone, including long-time budget and accounting chief Jon McCracken, was happy about losing the cars, Reichert said.

McCracken, who had been driving a 1991 beige Buick Park Avenue sedan, referred calls seeking his comment to sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart.

Urquhart said part of McCracken's job is to handle the accounting of large amounts of money involved in drug seizures and undercover buys.

"We thought it was a legitimate use of a vehicle," Urquhart said, defending McCracken's prior use of the vehicle. "Where do you draw the line? If 25 percent of the activity is drug investigation-related, is that enough?"

When Puyallup police arrested Lance Gloor on a drug charge in December 1999, they practically stripped his house bare. Hundreds of items were seized, ranging from two cars and stereo gear to the 22-year-old maintenance worker's collection of music CDs.

"They cleaned me out," he said.

Gloor later pleaded guilty to growing marijuana and hired a lawyer to try to fight the property seizure. When he went to the police station to press his case, Gloor said, he saw his big-screen TV in the break room. His $2,000 stereo speakers, he was told, were in the office of one of the detectives who made the bust.

Neither the detective, Wayne Spencer, nor Police Chief Rodger Cool returned calls for comment.

For the most part, Gloor prevailed. Craig Adams, legal adviser for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, recommended returning much of Gloor's property, concluding that police went too far.

"I looked at the case, and I didn't think it was a very good one, in terms of search-and-seizure and the like," Adams said. "I said (to police), 'What proof do you have that this is proceeds of drug money?' I don't think there was a whole lot of evidence, quite honestly.

"When they take CDs and stuff, I mean, come on. ... How are you going to prove it was bought with drug money?"

It wasn't the first time Adams has had to tell officials from Pierce County law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff's department, to return seized property.

"I have an obligation to act ethically," he said. "If I don't, I'm dirty."

The Gloor case, however, illustrates how easy it is to cart off a person's belongings and how difficult it can be to get them back.

Two years later, many of Gloor's possessions -- including 150 CDs, a camera, a camcorder, a silver chain, an electronic safe and about $2,000 in small bills -- have still not been returned -- or accounted for.

Police and prosecutors are quick to point out that suspected drug dealers who have property seized are legally entitled to a hearing to try to persuade a hearing examiner to give them back their stuff.

Last year, for example, the King County Sheriff's Office alone seized various items from 155 people, according to state records. Of those cases, 44 people requested hearings to contest the seizures.

But fewer than half ever actually had their hearings, estimated Keith Scully, a deputy prosecutor assigned to the sheriff's office. Some claimants settled their cases before the hearing, he said, and many more simply didn't show up.

Several factors weigh against the claimants. The hearing examiners are often current or retired police officers or prosecutors. And citizens who cannot afford a lawyer to represent them in the civil proceeding often have to go up alone against a police attorney.

Shane Hendrickson of Tacoma was lucky enough to be able to avoid going through the hearing process. Tacoma police returned his property after determining that he merely knew people involved in the marijuana-cultivation plot.

Today, Hendrickson is eager to forget the whole episode.

"I just really, really, really want to wash my hands of this and keep going."



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

P-I reporter Candace Heckman contributed to this report. P-I reporter Sam Skolnik can be reached at 206-467-1039 or samskolnik@seattlepi.com

26061  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 26, 2007, 07:14:27 AM
For the record, the reason that TD and the whip man agreed to stop when the gap was closed was that the whip man simply was not competitive with TD.

OTOH my sense of C-Cyborg is that his competence is , , , quite sound.  evil

Changing subjects, Dan Jackson is offering the possiblity of an 8 foot high wall 20 feet long on the north side of the fight area made out of studs and plywood.  Comments?
26062  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: May 26, 2007, 07:02:19 AM
White House Is Said to Debate ’08 Cut in Iraq Troops by 50%
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/washington/26strategy.html?th&emc=th         
 
By DAVID E. SANGER and DAVID S. CLOUD
Published: May 26, 2007
WASHINGTON, May 25 — The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.

It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.

The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.

The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad.

Still, there is no indication that Mr. Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, and one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction.

The officials declined to be quoted for attribution because they were discussing internal deliberations that they expected to evolve over several months.

Officials say proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations.

So far, the concepts are entirely a creation of Washington and have been developed without the involvement of the top commanders in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, both of whom have been enthusiastic supporters of the troop increase.

Those generals and other commanders have made it clear that they are operating on a significantly slower clock than officials in Washington, who are eager for significant withdrawals before the president leaves office in January 2009.

In an interview in Baghdad on Thursday, General Odierno, the senior United States ground commander, said any withdrawal of American troops was not advisable until December, “at a minimum.”

Even then, he said, redeployments should be carried out slowly, to avoid jeopardizing security gains.

General Odierno, who has pushed for extending the troop increase into next year, noted that units were in place or available to continue that effort through next April.

But the ideas under discussion, from the National Security Council to the Pentagon, envision reductions beginning well before then. The last time American troop levels in Iraq were anywhere near 100,000 was in January 2004, when they fell briefly to about 108,000.

One of the ideas, officials say, would be to reduce the current 20 American combat brigades to about 10, which would be completed between the spring of 2008 and the end of the year.

Several administration officials said they hoped that if such a reduction were under way in the midst of the presidential campaign, it would shift the debate from whether American forces should be pulled out by a specific deadline — the current argument consuming Washington — to what kind of long-term presence the United States should have in Iraq.

“It stems from a recognition that the current level of forces aren’t sustainable in Iraq, they aren’t sustainable in the region, and they will be increasingly unsustainable here at home,” said one administration official who has taken part in the closed-door discussions.

But other officials in Washington cautioned that any drawdown could be jeopardized by a major outbreak of new violence. Vice President Dick Cheney and others might argue that even beginning a withdrawal would embolden elements of Al Qaeda and the Shiite militias that have recently appeared to go underground.

Missing from much of the current discussion is talk about the success of democracy in Iraq, officials say, or even of the passage of reconciliation measures that Mr. Bush said in January that the troop increase would allow to take place. In interviews, many senior administration and military officials said they now doubted that those political gains, even if achieved, would significantly reduce the violence.

The officials cautioned that no firm plans have emerged from the discussions. But they said the proposals being developed envision a far smaller but long-term American presence, centering on three or four large bases around Iraq. Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.

Both Mr. Bush and Secretary Gates appeared to allude to the new ideas at separate news conferences on Thursday, though they were careful not to be specific about how or when what they are terming the post-surge phase would begin.

Mr. Gates described the administration’s goal of eventually shifting the mission in Iraq to one that is “more to train, equip, continue to go after Al Qaeda and provide support.” Such a mission, he noted, “clearly would involve fewer forces than we have now.”

Any change of course “is going to be the president’s decision,” Mr. Gates said, but one greatly influenced by assessments from General Petraeus and the new American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, who are to provide an assessment of the situation in September. Mr. Gates also referred to “the possible need for some kind of residual force in Iraq for some protracted period of time.”

A rapid transfer of responsibility to Iraqi forces and withdrawal to large bases was attempted in 2005 and 2006, with disastrous results when the Iraqi units proved incapable of halting major attacks, and sectarian violence worsened.

“We’ve been here before,” General Odierno said in the interview, referring to the decisions that are coming up on how quickly to hand over authority to Iraqi units. “We’ve rushed the transition and soon lost many areas that we had before. This time it’s about having enough combat power to stay.”

But what is different now is the political environment in the United States. While Democrats in Congress relented this week and dropped demands to attach a schedule for withdrawal to a bill to finance military efforts in Iraq, White House officials concede that they have bought a few months, at best.

By the fall, they say, they are likely to lose several Republican senators and many members of the House who voted with Mr. Bush in recent weeks.

During his own news conference, Mr. Bush referred on four separate occasions to the report of the Iraq Study Group, headed by the former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and the former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton.

That report, about which Mr. Bush appeared distinctly unenthusiastic when it was issued in December, called for the withdrawal of all American combat troops by the end of March 2008. Mr. Gates was a member of the study group, though he resigned to take up his current post before the report was written.

David E. Sanger reported from Washington and David S. Cloud from Baghda
26063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: May 26, 2007, 06:56:57 AM
Mosques awarded Homeland Security grants
Posted: May 25, 2007 1:00 a.m. Eastern | © 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

While the European Union investigates mosques for ties to Islamic terrorism, the U.S. government is giving mosques security grants that are designed to protect churches, synagogues and other nonprofit groups from Islamic terror.

Most recently, the Islamic Society of Baltimore landed a $15,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to upgrade security at its Maryland mosque.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations since April has been urging leaders of mosques and Islamic schools across the nation to apply for the DHS grants, even though the agency's program was set up to help protect nonprofit facilities that are at high risk for attacks by Islamic terrorists.
CAIR encouraged its Muslim members to take advantage of $24 million in federal funds DHS has made available – specifically, DHS says, for nonprofit organizations "deemed high-risk for a potential international terrorist attack."

Organizations in 46 urban areas designated high risk for Islamic terror attack are eligible to participate in the new Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

The CAIR alert issued April 29 to Muslim members reads as follows: "ACTION REQUESTED: All eligible 501(c)(3) American mosques and other Islamic institutions are urged to begin the application process to receive training and to purchase equipment such as video cameras, alarm systems and other security enhancements."

Several Islamic institutions already have applied and are receiving government approval.

U.S. officials who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity expressed dismay that CAIR would drain limited federal funds away from higher risk targets for terrorism. They argue mosques are among the lowest risk for such attacks.

In fact, a number of mosques across the nation actually have promoted Islamic terrorism and have been tied to Islamic terrorists, including the large Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Washington, where some of the 9/11 hijackers received spiritual guidance, as well as help obtaining housing and IDs.

Terrorism experts note some 80 percent of U.S. mosques are funded and controlled through the Saudi Arabian government.

"Mosques have tended to serve as safe havens and meeting points for Islamic terrorist groups," said terror expert Steve Emerson. "Of course, we are not referring to all mosques, but there are at least 40 episodes of extremists and terrorists being connected to mosques in the past decade."
Meanwhile, European Union security officials earlier this month announced they will analyze member-state mosques, examining the training and funding sources of imams, in a project to be completed by fall.
Even in the wake of 9/11, remarkably, U.S. authorities have yet to conduct any similar sweeping investigation of the nation's 2,000 mosques. There also has been no nationwide effort to identify Muslim clerics who preach terrorism, even as an alarming number of imams have been caught up in separate terrorism investigations.

Law enforcement sources blame the hesitancy on political pressure applied by Washington-based CAIR, which sits on the FBI's community advisory board and routinely lodges complaints about case agents who question mosque leaders and followers. The bureau seldom makes a raid in the Muslim community without first contacting CAIR officials.

CAIR claims mosques have been victims of "terrorist" attacks since 9/11, which the group says triggered a backlash of "Islamophobic" vigilantism. When pressed, the group cites only scattered cases of vandalism, however, many of which the FBI has investigated and ruled out as "hate crimes."

No mosque in America has suffered a bombing attack, and there are no examples of international Muslim terrorists attacking mosques in America – the whole point of DHS' target-hardening grant program.

CAIR itself has had ties to terrorism. The nonprofit lobby group is a foreign-funded spin-off of a Hamas front group, and it has seen several of its executives convicted of terror-related crimes since 9/11.
26064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Algerian Women on: May 26, 2007, 06:40:55 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/world/africa/26algeria.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

ALGIERS, May 25 — In this tradition-bound nation scarred by a brutal Islamist-led civil war that killed more than 100,000, a quiet revolution is under way: women are emerging as an economic and political force unheard of in the rest of the Arab world.


Algerian Women’s Growing Participation in Society
Women make up 70 percent of Algeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.

In a region where women have a decidedly low public profile, Algerian women are visible everywhere. They are starting to drive buses and taxicabs. They pump gas and wait on tables.

Although men still hold all of the formal levers of power and women still make up only 20 percent of the work force, that is more than twice their share a generation ago, and they seem to be taking over the machinery of state as well.

“If such a trend continues,” said Daho Djerbal, editor and publisher of Naqd, a magazine of social criticism and analysis, “we will see a new phenomenon where our public administration will also be controlled by women.”

The change seems to have sneaked up on Algerians, who for years have focused more on the struggle between a governing party trying to stay in power and Islamists trying to take that power.

Those who study the region say they are taken aback by the data but suggest that an explanation may lie in the educational system and the labor market.

University studies are no longer viewed as a credible route toward a career or economic well-being, and so men may well opt out and try to find work or to simply leave the country, suggested Hugh Roberts, a historian and the North Africa project director of the International Crisis Group.

But for women, he added, university studies get them out of the house and allow them to position themselves better in society. “The dividend may be social rather than in terms of career,” he said.

This generation of Algerian women has navigated a path between the secular state and the pull of extremist Islam, the two poles of the national crisis of recent years.

The women are more religious than previous generations, and more modern, sociologists here said. Women cover their heads and drape their bodies with traditional Islamic coverings. They pray. They go to the mosque — and they work, often alongside men, once considered taboo.

Sociologists and many working women say that by adopting religion and wearing the Islamic head covering called the hijab, women here have in effect freed themselves from moral judgments and restrictions imposed by men. Uncovered women are rarely seen on the street late at night, but covered women can be seen strolling the city after attending the evening prayer at a mosque.

“They never criticize me, especially when they see I am wearing the hijab,” said Denni Fatiha, 44, the first woman to drive a large city bus through the narrow, winding roads of Algiers.

The impact has been far-reaching and profound.

In some neighborhoods, for example, birthrates appear to have fallen and class sizes in elementary schools have dropped by nearly half. It appears that women are delaying marriage to complete their studies, though delayed marriage is also a function of high unemployment. In the past, women typically married at 17 or 18 but now marry on average at 29, sociologists said.

And when they marry, it is often to men who are far less educated, creating an awkward social reality for many women.

Khalida Rahman is a lawyer. She is 33 and has been married to a night watchman for five months. Her husband was a friend of her brothers who showed up one day and proposed. She immediately said yes, she recalled.

She describes her life now this way: “Whenever I leave him it is just as if I am a man. But when I get home I become a woman.”

Fatima Oussedik, a sociologist, said, “We in the ’60s, we were progressive, but we did not achieve what is being achieved by this generation today.” Ms. Oussedik, who works for the Research Center for Applied Economics and Development in Algiers, does not wear the hijab and prefers to speak in French.

Researchers here say the change is not driven by demographics; women make up only a bit more than half of the population. They said it is driven by desire and opportunity.

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



Published: May 26, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)



Algeria’s young men reject school and try to earn money as traders in the informal sector, selling goods on the street, or they focus their efforts on leaving the country or just hanging out. There is a whole class of young men referred to as hittistes — the word is a combination of French and Arabic for people who hold up walls.

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Algerian Women’s Growing Participation in Society
Increasingly, the people here have lost faith in their government, which draws its legitimacy from a revolution now more than five decades old, many political and social analysts said. In recent parliamentary elections, turnout was low and there were 970,000 protest votes — cast by people who intentionally destroyed their ballots — nearly as many as the 1.3 million votes cast in support of the governing party.

There are regular protests, and riots, all over the country, with people complaining about corruption, lack of services and economic disparities. There are violent attacks, too: bombings aimed at the police, officials and foreigners. A triple suicide bombing on April 11 against the prime minister’s office and the police left more than 30 people dead.

In that context, women may have emerged as Algeria’s most potent force for social change, with their presence in the bureaucracy and on the street having a potentially moderating and modernizing influence on society, sociologists said.

“Women, and the women’s movement, could be leading us to modernity,” said Abdel Nasser Djabi, a professor of sociology at the University of Algiers.

Not everyone is happy with those dynamics. Some political and social analysts say the recent resurgence in radical Islamist activity, including bombings, is driven partly by a desire to slow the social change the country is experiencing, especially regarding women’s role in society.

Others complain that the growing participation of women in society is a direct violation of the faith.

“I am against this,” said Esmail Ben Ibrahim, an imam at a neighborhood mosque near the center of the city. “It is all wrong from a religious point of view. Society has embarked on the wrong path.”

The quest for identity is a constant undercurrent in much of the Middle East. But it is arguably the most complicated question in Algeria, a nation whose borders were drawn by France and whose people speak Berber, Arabic and French.

After a bitter experience with French occupation and a seven-year revolutionary war that brought independence in 1962 at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, the leaders here chose to adopt Islam and Arab identity as the force to unify the country. Arabic replaced French as the language of education, and the French secular curriculum was replaced with a curriculum heavy on religion.

At the same time, girls were encouraged to go to school.

Now, more than four decades later, Algeria’s youth — 70 percent of the population is under 30, researchers said — have grown up with Arabic and an orientation toward Middle Eastern issues. Arabic-language television networks like Al Jazeera have become the popular reference point, more so than French television, observers here said.

In the 1990s radical Islamist ideas gained popular support, and terrorism was widely accepted as a means to win power. More than 100,000 people died in years of civil conflict. Today most people say the experience has forced them to reject the most radical ideas. So although Algerians are more religious now than they were during the bloody 1990s, they are more likely to embrace modernity — a partial explanation for the emergence of women as a societal force, some analysts said.

That is not the case in more rural mountainous areas, where women continue to live by the code of tradition. But for the time being, most people say that for now the community’s collective consciousness is simply too raw from the years of civil war for Islamist terrorists or radical Islamic ideas to gain popular support.

There is a sense that the new room given to women may at least partly be a reflection of that general feeling. The population has largely rejected the most radical interpretation of Islam and has begun to return to the more North African, almost mystical, interpretation of the faith, sociologists and religious leaders said.

Whatever the underlying reason, women in the streets of the city are brimming with enthusiasm.

“I don’t think any of this contradicts Islam,” said Wahiba Nabti, 36, as she walked through the center of the city one day recently. “On the contrary, Islam gives freedom to work. Anyway, it is between you and God.”

Ms. Nabti wore a black scarf covering her head and a long black gown that hid the shape of her body. “I hope one day I can drive a crane, so I can really be financially independent,” she said. “You cannot always rely on a man.”
26065  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: May 26, 2007, 06:14:35 AM
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-soldiers26may26,1,2186023.story?coll=la-headlines-world

LA Times
Mexico's drug war takes toll on army
Since December, 89 soldiers have been reported killed. They're among 1,000 narcotics-related deaths this year.
By Carlos Martinez and Sam Enriquez, Times Staff Writers
May 26, 2007


MEXICO CITY — The number of Mexican soldiers slain has jumped dramatically since President Felipe Calderon began using the army to battle drug traffickers, records show.

Since December, when Calderon began the campaign, 89 soldiers have been reported killed, compared with less than a dozen from January through November of 2006, according to army records provided to The Times.

The escalation of attacks on soldiers has come as 12,700 troops man roadside checkpoints and patrol cities in nine Mexican states where rival drug gangs battle for control of ports, roads and other smuggling routes.

The Mexican army reported that troops slain since December included 27 soldiers on duty and 37 off duty. The circumstances of 25 more deaths remain under investigation.

Calderon dispatched the army, along with several thousand federal police officers, shortly after taking office because of concerns that incompetence and corruption had hampered local and state police and judges in combating well-financed drug gangs.

More than 2,000 killings last year were reportedly drug-related.

The killings of troops include the ambush of five men, including a colonel, in Michoacan state this month. In April, authorities found the bodies of three soldiers bearing signs of torture. A message next to the bodies said, "Whoever gets involved will die."

The troop deaths are among more than 1,000 killings so far this year attributed to drug violence, according to tallies by Mexican newspapers. The government doesn't keep an official count.

Calderon's failure to slow the violence has drawn criticism from opposition parties, which have called on him to revise his military strategy. The president said Thursday during a speech in the state of Durango that he was not ready to change course.

"Organized crime wants to scare the Mexican people," Calderon said. "It wants to scare the Mexican people so that the government crosses its arms and they go unpunished. They want us to retreat…. Our stance is clear: not a step backward."

Army salaries have gone up slightly, but pay for the lowest ranks begins at about $2,460 a year, plus room, board, uniforms and medical care. Generals are paid between $8,000 and $10,000 a year.

The government pays the funeral expenses of slain soldiers and also provides a lump sum equal to 40 months' pay to their immediate families.

The families also continue to collect the monthly salaries of slain soldiers and are entitled to full medical coverage at military hospitals and clinics, as well as discounts at three luxury hotel chains.
26066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: May 26, 2007, 06:02:19 AM
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-nuclear26may26,1,754545.story?coll=la-headlines-world
Arabs make plans for nuclear power
Iran's program appears to be stirring interest that some fear will lead to a scramble for atomic weapons in the volatile region.
By Bob Drogin and Borzou Daragahi, LA Times Staff Writers
May 26, 2007



VIENNA — As Iran races ahead with an illicit uranium enrichment effort, nearly a dozen other Middle East nations are moving forward on their own civilian nuclear programs. In the latest development, a team of eight U.N. experts on Friday ended a weeklong trip to Saudi Arabia to provide nuclear guidance to officials from six Persian Gulf countries.

Diplomats and analysts view the Saudi trip as the latest sign that Iran's suspected weapons program has helped spark a chain reaction of nuclear interest among its Arab rivals, which some fear will lead to a scramble for atomic weapons in the world's most volatile region.

The International Atomic Energy Agency sent the team of nuclear experts to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to advise the Gulf Cooperation Council on building nuclear energy plants. Together, the council members — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the seven sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates — control nearly half the world's known oil reserves.

Other nations that have said they plan to construct civilian nuclear reactors or have sought technical assistance and advice from the IAEA, the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, in the last year include Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Yemen, as well as several North African nations.

None of the governments has disclosed plans to build nuclear weapons. But Iran's 18-year secret nuclear effort and its refusal to comply with current U.N. Security Council demands have raised concerns that the Arab world will decide it needs to counter a potentially nuclear-armed Iran. The same equipment can enrich uranium to fuel civilian reactors or, in time and with further enrichment, atomic bombs.

"There is no doubt that countries around the gulf are worried … about whether Iran is seeking nuclear weapons," Gregory L. Schulte, the U.S. representative to U.N. agencies in Vienna, said in an interview. "They're worried about whether it will prompt a nuclear arms race in the region, which would be to no one's benefit."

The United States has long supported the spread of peaceful nuclear energy under strict international safeguards. Schulte said Washington's diplomatic focus remained on stopping Iran before it could produce fuel for nuclear weapons, rather than on trying to restrict nations from developing nuclear power for generating electricity.

But those empowered to monitor and regulate civilian nuclear programs around the world are worried. Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the IAEA, warned Thursday that the surge of interest in sensitive nuclear technology raised the risk of weapons proliferation. Without singling out any nation, he cautioned that some governments might insist on enriching their own uranium to ensure a steady supply of reactor fuel.

"The concern is that by mastering the fuel cycle, countries move dangerously close to nuclear weapons capability," ElBaradei told a disarmament conference in Luxembourg.

Iran is the obvious case in point. Tehran this week defied another U.N. Security Council deadline by which it was to freeze its nuclear program. The IAEA reported that Iran instead was accelerating uranium enrichment without having yet built the reactors that would need the nuclear fuel. At the same time, the IAEA complained, Iran's diminishing cooperation had made it impossible to confirm Tehran's claims that the program is only for peaceful purposes.

That has unnerved Iran's neighbors as well as members of the Security Council.

"We have the right if the Iranians are going to insist on their right to develop their civilian nuclear program," said Mustafa Alani, a security expert at the Gulf Research Center, a think tank based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. "We tell the Iranians, 'We have no problem with you developing civilian nuclear energy, but if you're going to turn your nuclear program into a weapons program, we'll do the same.' "

Iran sought to rally Arab support for its nuclear program at the World Economic Forum meeting of business and political leaders this month in Jordan.

"Iran will be a partner, a brotherly partner, and will share its capabilities with the people of the region," Mohammed J.A. Larijani, a former deputy foreign minister, told reporters.

Arab officials were cool to his approach, however, and openly questioned Iran's intentions.

The IAEA team's weeklong foray to Saudi Arabia followed ElBaradei's visit to the kingdom in April. The Gulf Cooperation Council plans to present the results of its study on developing nuclear plants to the leaders of council nations in the Omani capital of Muscat in December.

"They don't say it, but everyone can see that [Iran] is at least one of the reasons behind the drive to obtaining the nuclear technology," said Salem Ahmad Sahab, a professor of political science at King Abdulaziz University in Jidda, Saudi Arabia. "If the neighbors are capable of obtaining the technology, why not them?"

Officially, leaders of the Arab gulf states say they are eager to close a technology gap with Iran, as well as with Israel, which operates two civilian reactors and is widely believed to have built at least 80 nuclear warheads since the 1960s. Israel does not acknowledge its nuclear arsenal under a policy aimed at deterring regional foes while avoiding an arms race.

Advocates argue that the gulf states need nuclear energy despite their vast oil and natural gas reserves.

The region's growing economies suffer occasional summer power outages, and the parched climate makes the nations there susceptible to water shortages, which can be offset by the energy-intensive processing of seawater.


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

The promising future of nuclear energy in electricity generation and desalination can make it a source for meeting increasing needs," Abdulrahman Attiya, the Kuwaiti head of the Gulf Cooperation Council, told the group this week in Riyadh.

Attiya also cited long-term economic and environmental advantages to nuclear energy.

"A large part of Gulf Cooperation Council oil and gas products can be used for export in light of expected high prices and demand," he said. "It will also help to limit the increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the gulf region."

It remains unclear how many countries will carry through on ambitious and enormously expensive nuclear projects. In some cases, analysts say, the nuclear announcements may be intended for domestic prestige, and as a signal to Iran that others intend to check its emergence as a regional power. As a result, some analysts say fears of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East are overblown.

"Those who caricature what's going on as Sunni concern about a Shiite bomb are really oversimplifying the case," said Martin Malin, a nuclear expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, referring to Sunni Muslim-led Arab countries and Shiite Muslim-led Iran.

Aggressive international monitoring, he contended, could ensure that nuclear energy programs don't secretly morph into weapons capabilities.

"If what Jordan is really concerned about is energy, and the U.S. is concerned about weapons, all kinds of oversight can be provided," Malin said.

A Russian diplomat here similarly cautioned that Iran's influence on other nations' nuclear plans might be overstated. "I should be very cautious about any connection between these two things," he said. "We don't deny that even Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear activities."

Although enthusiasm for prospective nuclear programs appears strongest in the Middle East, governments elsewhere have displayed interest in atomic power after years of decline in the industry that followed the 1979 reactor accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and the far worse 1986 radiation leak at Chernobyl in Ukraine. About 30 countries operate nuclear reactors for energy, and that number seems certain to grow.

"There's certainly a renaissance of interest," said an IAEA official who works on the issue. "And there's likely to be a renaissance in construction over the next few decades."

IAEA officials say the largest growth in nuclear power is likely to occur in China, India, Russia, the United States and South Africa, with Argentina, Finland and France following close behind. The United States has 103 operating plants, more than any other country, and as many as 31 additional plants are under consideration or have begun the regulatory process.

And there are other nations in line. Oil-rich Nigeria and Indonesia are preparing to build nuclear plants. Belarus and Vietnam have approached the IAEA for advice. Algeria signed a deal with Russia in January on possible nuclear cooperation. Morocco and Poland are said to be considering nuclear power. Myanmar disclosed plans to purchase a Russian research reactor.

Even Sudan, one of the world's poorest countries, has expressed interest.

"When Sudan shows up, we say, 'You're in a real early stage and here's what you need. A law. Get people trained. Build roads. And so on,' " the IAEA official said.

So far, the nuclear programs around Iran are in the early planning stages. Alani, the security expert in Dubai, said most of the nations in the region were scoping out the possibilities but had made no final decisions or begun constructing facilities.

"They feel it's a right and significant move at least to put [their] foot in the door of civilian nuclear energy," he said. "It's not a race, not yet."

===============
Going nuclear

Unlike Iran, most of the countries that have recently begun exploring or setting up nuclear programs are staunch allies of the U.S., often with strong military and political ties to Washington. A sampling of some regional nations' plans:

Yemen

Seeks to join the Gulf Cooperation Council's nuclear project.

Egypt

Plans to revive a nuclear energy program it abandoned two decades ago.

Turkey

Plans to build three nuclear power plants along the Black Sea coast.

Jordan

Plans to pursue a nuclear energy program.

Tunisia

Plans to build its first nuclear power plant by 2020.

Source: Bob Drogin, Times staff writer



26067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: May 26, 2007, 05:50:28 AM
Doug:

Amazing how this CBO study received absolutely no coverage and amazing that the Republicans have not made use of it.

Perhaps Newt Gingrich, who certainly had a big hand in the welfare reform, will use it if  wink he runs , , ,

Marc
26068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tawfik Harrid on Jihad Watch on: May 25, 2007, 09:48:58 PM
Tawfik Hamid speaks truth to power in the usually reliably dhimmi Wall Street Journal, echoing points we have often made here:
To bring an end to Islamophobia, we must employ a holistic approach that treats the core of the disease. It will not suffice to merely suppress the symptoms. It is imperative to adopt new Islamic teachings that do not allow killing apostates (Redda Law). Islamic authorities must provide mainstream Islamic books that forbid polygamy and beating women.

Accepted Islamic doctrine should take a strong stand against slavery and the raping of female war prisoners, as happens in Darfur under the explicit canons of Shariah ("Ma Malakat Aimanikum"). Muslims should teach, everywhere and universally, that a woman's testimony in court counts as much as a man's, that women should not be punished if they marry whom they please or dress as they wish.

We Muslims should publicly show our strong disapproval for the growing number of attacks by Muslims against other faiths and against other Muslims. Let us not even dwell on 9/11, Madrid, London, Bali and countless other scenes of carnage. It has been estimated that of the two million refugees fleeing Islamic terror in Iraq, 40% are Christian, and many of them seek a haven in Lebanon, where the Christian population itself has declined by 60%. Even in Turkey, Islamists recently found it necessary to slit the throats of three Christians for publishing Bibles.

Of course, Islamist attacks are not limited to Christians and Jews. Why do we hear no Muslim condemnation of the ongoing slaughter of Buddhists in Thailand by Islamic groups? Why was there silence over the Mumbai train bombings which took the lives of over 200 Hindus in 2006? We must not forget that innocent Muslims, too, are suffering. Indeed, the most common murderers of Muslims are, and have always been, other Muslims. Where is the Muslim outcry over the Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq?

Islamophobia could end when masses of Muslims demonstrate in the streets against videos displaying innocent people being beheaded with the same vigor we employ against airlines, Israel and cartoons of Muhammad. It might cease when Muslims unambiguously and publicly insist that Shariah law should have no binding legal status in free, democratic societies.

It is well past time that Muslims cease using the charge of "Islamophobia" as a tool to intimidate and blackmail those who speak up against suspicious passengers and against those who rightly criticize current Islamic practices and preachings. Instead, Muslims must engage in honest and humble introspection. Muslims should--must--develop strategies to rescue our religion by combating the tyranny of Salafi Islam and its dreadful consequences. Among more important outcomes, this will also put an end to so-called Islamophobia.
26069  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media on: May 25, 2007, 07:15:44 PM
I agree about the risks of the chairs.  I guess I was thinking more in terms of what looked like a hand held vacuum cleaner that I saw in one of those ciips.  IIRC you followed up nicely with a low kick.
26070  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media on: May 25, 2007, 06:35:56 PM
Will you be bringing a vacuum cleaner (or anything else intriguing) to the Gathering?  If so please post on the Gathering thread.
26071  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 25, 2007, 05:51:12 PM
"some of the knife fights got a little out of control"

Now that's an understatement!!!  I would say that out of all the fights only a handful of times did we see a fighter not get "killed"-- usually several times.

Maybe its time to pull out my old trick of waving a live blade around the faces of the fighters during the Magic Words Talk. evil grin
26072  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: May 25, 2007, 05:39:30 PM

He aqui el articulo del Los Angeles Times, primera pagina:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-mexico25may25,1,3049437.story?coll=la-headlines-world

Mexico to boost tapping of phones and e-mail with U.S. aid
Calderon is seeking to expand monitoring of drug gangs; Washington also may have access to the data.
By Sam Enriquez, Times Staff Writer
May 25, 2007

- LA PLAZA: News, observations and links about Latin America from Times correspondents
MEXICO CITY — Mexico is expanding its ability to tap telephone calls and e-mail using money from the U.S. government, a move that underlines how the country's conservative government is increasingly willing to cooperate with the United States on law enforcement.

The expansion comes as President Felipe Calderon is pushing to amend the Mexican Constitution to allow officials to tap phones without a judge's approval in some cases. Calderon argues that the government needs the authority to combat drug gangs, which have killed hundreds of people this year.

Mexican authorities for years have been able to wiretap most telephone conversations and tap into e-mail, but the new $3-million Communications Intercept System being installed by Mexico's Federal Investigative Agency will expand their reach.

The system will allow authorities to track cellphone users as they travel, according to contract specifications. It includes extensive storage capacity and will allow authorities to identify callers by voice. The system, scheduled to begin operation this month, was paid for by the U.S. State Department and sold by Verint Systems Inc., a politically well-connected firm based in Melville, N.Y., that specializes in electronic surveillance.

Although information about the system is publicly available, the matter has drawn little attention so far in the United States or Mexico. The modernization program is described in U.S. government documents, including the contract specifications, reviewed by The Times.

They suggest that Washington could have access to information derived from the surveillance. Officials of both governments declined to comment on that possibility.

"It is a government of Mexico operation funded by the U.S.," said Susan Pittman, of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Queries should be directed to the Mexican government, she said.

Calderon's office declined to comment.

But the contract specifications say the system is designed to allow both governments to "disseminate timely and accurate, actionable information to each country's respective federal, state, local, private and international partners."

Calderon has been lobbying for more authority to use electronic surveillance against drug violence, which has threatened his ability to govern. Despite federal troops posted in nine Mexican states, the violence continues as rival smugglers fight over shipping routes to the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as for control of Mexican port cities and inland marijuana and poppy growing regions.

Nonetheless, the prospect of U.S. involvement in surveillance could be extremely sensitive in Mexico, where the United States historically has been viewed by many as a bullying and intrusive neighbor. U.S. government agents working in Mexico maintain a low profile to spare their government hosts any political fallout.

It's unclear how broad a net the new surveillance system will cast: Mexicans speak regularly by phone, for example, with millions of relatives living in the U.S. Those conversations appear to be fair game for both governments.

Legal experts say that prosecutors with access to Mexican wiretaps could use the information in U.S. courts. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have held that 4th Amendment protections against illegal wiretaps do not apply outside the United States, particularly if the surveillance is conducted by another country, Georgetown University law professor David Cole said.

Mexico's telecommunications monopoly, Telmex, controlled by Carlos Slim Helu, the world's second-wealthiest individual, has not received official notice of the new system, which will intercept its electronic signals, a spokeswoman said this week.

"Telmex is a firm that always complies with laws and rules set by the Mexican government," she said.

Calderon recently asked Mexico's Congress to amend the country's constitution and allow federal prosecutors free rein to conduct searches and secretly record conversations among people suspected of what the government defines as serious crimes.

His proposal would eliminate the current legal requirement that prosecutors gain approval from a judge before installing any wiretap, the vetting process that will for now govern use of the new system's intercepts. Calderon says the legal changes are needed to turn the tide in the battle against the drug gangs.

"The purpose is to create swift investigative measures against organized crime," Calderon wrote senators when introducing his proposed constitutional amendments in March. "At times, turning to judicial authorities hinders or makes investigations impossible."

But others argued that the proposed changes would undermine constitutional protections and open the door to the type of domestic spying that has plagued many Latin American countries. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe last week ousted a dozen generals, including the head of intelligence, after police were found to be wiretapping public figures, including members of his government.

"Calderon's proposal is limited to 'urgent cases' and organized crime, but the problem is that when the judiciary has been put out of the loop, the attorney general can basically decide these however he wants to," said John Ackerman, a law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. "Without the intervention of a judge, the door swings wide open to widespread abuse of basic civil liberties."

The proposal is being considered by a panel of the Mexican Senate. It is strongly opposed by members of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. Members of Calderon's National Action Party have been lobbying senators from the former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, for support.

Renato Sales, a former deputy prosecutor for Mexico City, said Calderon's desire to expand federal policing powers to combat organized crime was parallel to the Bush administration's use of a secret wiretapping program to fight terrorism.

"Suddenly anyone suspected of organized crime is presumed guilty and treated as someone without any constitutional rights," said Sales, now a law professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. "And who will determine who is an organized crime suspect? The state will."

Federal lawmaker Cesar Octavio Camacho, president of the justice and human rights commission in the lower house of Congress, said he too worried about prosecutorial abuse.

"Although the proposal stems from the president's noble intention of efficiently fighting organized crime," he said, "the remedy seems worse than the problem."

*


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
sam.enriquez@latimes.com

Carlos Martínez and Cecilia Sánchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau and Times staff writer Henry Weinstein in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
26073  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: May 25, 2007, 02:56:27 PM
Gracias Jose por su analyis/resumen de la situacion.

Veo en el pereiodico esa manana que Mexico sera' compartiendo con el gobierno Estadounidense lo que oiga en las llamadas hecho en Mexico.  Eso no se habra' visto hace unos pocos anos.



26074  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 25, 2007, 02:48:33 PM
Tom Stillman just mentioned in the DB in the media thread that he will be bringing a "swing blade", and C-Cyborg (no current internet access) has asked me to post that he has a whip which he would like to try.  Post here if you are interested.

Any other off the beaten path items we will be seeing?
26075  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sparring/fighting with bladed weapons on: May 25, 2007, 09:39:06 AM
All:

I'd like to interject here about the words "sparring" and "fighting".

Over the years some people in an effort to dimish what we do have called what we do "sparring" and not "fighting".  I readily admit to this being a bit of a pet peeve of mine.  By the standards of other things that are called fights (boxing, kickboxing, MMA, etc) what we do is fight, not spar.

In that the conversation here in great part is about what we sometimes playfully call "sport knife dueling" done in a training hall context, the word "sparring" is often more accurate that "fighting", but IMHO I dislike the word sparring for what happens at a Gathering.

JMHO,
CD
26076  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sparring with bladed weapons on: May 25, 2007, 08:06:29 AM
Excellent post CWS!

To clarify, my comment about aluminun training blades was directed exclusively towards occasional high adrenal days like a DB Gathering.  Also, we continue to explore the Shocknife.

I agree entirely that the NOK trainers are quite good.  As a matter of fact, after the Gathering my intention is to look into us carrying them here on this website.

Yip!
CD
26077  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Baltic Dog and the Bay Area clan on: May 24, 2007, 11:37:04 PM
http://video.nbc11.com/player/?id=111120
26078  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sparring with bladed weapons on: May 24, 2007, 11:16:42 PM
I think aluminum training blades  and the pain they can generate and the risk of hand breaks that they entail has some merit , , ,
26079  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: May 24, 2007, 06:07:00 PM
Hola Jose':

!Bienvenidos!

Lo que paso' aqui' es que una falla tecnologica borro' unos anos de hilos en este foro y pedimos la velocidad que teniamos.  Ahora se le hace falta al foro mucha contribucion en espanol y estoy reducido al contribuir muchas cosas en ingles.  Espero que sean de interes a personas como tu.

Tambien, que bueno que trabajes en proteccion ejecutivo.  Ojala que compartas con nosotros tu perspectiva aqui tanto como quieras.   Si quieres, comienza con tu ideas sobre lo que esta' diciendo Stratfor sobre la situacion en Mexico.  Segun ellos los narcotraficantes son creciendo en su potencia hasta que ahora son una verdadera amenaza al bienestar del ejericto y a la mera estado.

!La Aventura continua!
Crafty Dog

PD:  Agradezco cualquiera ayuda con mi espanol que me brinde.  smiley
26080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Capt Zembiec, part two on: May 24, 2007, 05:56:34 PM

 
From the LAT
The Unapologetic Warrior In Iraq, a Marine Corps Captain Is Living Out His Heart's Desire By Tony Perry.  Tony Perry is The Times' San Diego bureau chief. He last wrote for the magazine about reporting from Iraq. August 22, 2004 Anyone who prefers that their military officers follow the media-enforced ideal of being diffident, silent about their feelings, unwilling to talk about their combat experience and troubled by the violence of their chosen profession should skip this story. Marine Corps Capt. Douglas Zembiec is none of these things. Zembiec, an All-American wrestler and 1995 graduate of the Naval Academy, is the charismatic commander of Echo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division. During the monthlong battle in Iraq earlier this year for the Sunni Triangle city of Fallouja, no combat unit did more fighting and bleeding than Echo Company, and during it all—from the opening assault to the final retreat ordered by the White House -— Zembiec led from the front. He took on the most dangerous missions himself, was wounded by shrapnel, repeatedly dared the enemy to attack his Marines, then wrote heartfelt letters to the families of those who were killed in combat, and won the respect of his troops and his bosses. It was the time of his life, he acknowledged later, for by his own definition Zembiec is a warrior, and a joyful one.  He is neither bellicose nor apologetic: War means killing, and killing means winning. War and killing are not only necessary on occasion, they're also noble. "From day one, I've told [my troops] that killing is not wrong if it's for a purpose, if it's to keep your nation free or to protect your buddy," he said. "One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy." For his Marines, Zembiec asks for respect, not sympathy, even as one-third of his 150-man company became casualties. "Marines are violent by nature -- that's what makes us different," he said. "These young Marines didn't enlist to get money to go to college. They joined the Marines to be part of a legacy."

He knows talk like that puts him outside mainstream America and scares the bejabbers out of some people. Modern America is uncomfortable with celebrating those who have gone to war and killed their nation's enemy. Maybe it's because American military hardware is thought to be so superior that any fight with an adversary is a mismatch. Then again, people who feel that way probably have not stared at the business end of a rocket-propelled grenade launched by an insurgent hopped up on hatred for America. Or maybe, like so many attitudes of the press and public toward the military, the queasiness about unabashed combat veterans is traceable to public opposition to the Vietnam War. A cynic I know says that although Americans remember Sgt. York from World War I and Audie Murphy from World War II, the only heroes most remember from Vietnam are Colin L. Powell and John McCain. One helped fellow soldiers after a helicopter crash, the other was shot down on a mission and survived a horrendous POW experience. Neither is known for killing the enemy. An essay this spring in Proceedings, a publication of the U.S. Naval Institute, suggested that the ideal of battlefield bravery has been replaced by a culture of victimhood. Navy reservist Roger Lee Crossland wrote that Americans after Vietnam seemed to prefer "safe heroes, heroes whose conduct was largely nonviolent …. "The prisoner of war and the casualty, Crossland lamented, have replaced the battlefield leader as the ultimate hero. Take your own media reality-check. Which is seen more frequently: stories about the potential for post-traumatic stress among U.S. troops or stories about troops who have successfully carried the fight to their enemy? My association with Zembiec started with his one-word answer to a question of mine. It was April 6, the second day of the siege of Fallouja by two battalions of Marines, the "two-one," and the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, the "one-five." A Marine patrol from two-one had been fired on as it ventured just a few yards into the Jolan neighborhood, and the Marines were quickly assembling a retaliatory assault to be led by Zembiec's Echo Company. Marines were piling into assault vehicles—windowless metal boxes on treads that can, in theory, bring Marines to the edge of the fight quickly and without casualties. At the "two-one" camp, Marines were running every which way as the assault was forming up for the mile-long drive to the spot where the patrol had been ambushed. I had never met Zembiec, but by his tone and body language, he clearly was in charge. Accommodating embedded media appeared to be on no one's to-do list. "Do you have room for me?" I shouted as Zembiec rushed past. "Always," he shouted over his shoulder. I piled into one of the assault vehicles and sat next to a Marine chewing dreadful-smelling tobacco and another talking sweetly about his sister having a baby. The ride was bumpy beyond belief; bumpy and scary as continuous gunfire from insurgents pelted the sides of our vehicle with an ominous plink-plink-plink sound. The vehicles finally rumbled to a halt in a dusty field just a few hundred yards from a row of houses where the insurgents were barricaded. The insurgents stepped up their fire from AK-47s, punctuated with rocket-propelled grenades. The Marines rushed out the rear hatch, quickly fanned out and began returning fire with M-16s as they ran directly toward the enemy. Zembiec was in the lead. "Let's go!" he yelled. "Keep it moving, keep it moving!" The battle for Fallouja had begun in earnest, and Zembiec was in the forefront, practicing the profession that's been his heart's desire since childhood. I saw Zembiec periodically over the next weeks. He was supremely quotable and candid. By nature -- and under orders from the commanding general -- Marine officers try to be helpful to the press. Zembiec went a step further. He took time even when time was short. Even when circumstances were grim -- as when a "short round" from a mortar killed two Marines and injured nine others—he was upbeat. His enthusiasm and confidence were infectious. At 31, he still retains a slight boyishness. Like many Marine officers, he has thought a great deal about his profession, its role in the world, and the nature of men in combat. He leans forward when giving answers and looks directly at his questioner. He has a rock -- solid belief in the efficacy of the American mission in Iraq. He seemed to genuinely like talking to reporters, telling them of the successes of his Marines, his plans to push the insurgents to the Euphrates River and force them to surrender or die. It was not to be. After a month in Fallouja, with the prospect of even bloodier combat to come, including civilian casualties, politicians in Baghdad and Washington called for a retreat just as the Marines seemed to be on the verge of success. Political concerns had trumped tactical ones. After Echo Company—and Fox and Golf companies—had withdrawn from frontline positions, Zembiec reflected on what had occurred. In measured tones, without boasting, he sat under a camouflage net in a dusty spot outside Fallouja and answered all questions, and invited reporters to his parents' home in New Mexico for a barbecue. As the Iraqi sun began its daily assault, and the temperature soared to 100 degrees, Zembiec drank bottled water and talked about the fight that had just passed, including what turned out to be the finale, a two-hour firefight April 26 in which his Marines and the insurgents had closed to within 30 meters of each other in a deafening, explosive exchange. Zembiec called that fight "the greatest day of my life. I never felt so alive, so exhilarated, so purposeful. There is nothing equal to combat, and there is no greater honor than to lead men into combat. Once you've dealt with life and death like that, it gives you a whole new perspective." Zembiec joined the Marine Corps to fight. He nearly quit a few years ago in hopes of becoming an FBI agent like his father, because the prospect of seeing combat seemed too remote. But he decided that being a rifle company commander was too good to pass up. Before Fallouja, his only combat experience had been in 1999, when he spent a month as platoon commander of a reconnaissance unit in Kosovo. He had been stationed in Okinawa during last year's assault on Baghdad, an experience that he found enormously frustrating. Marines in Iraq were in combat, and Zembiec was watching the war on television. A broad-shouldered 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 190 pounds, Zembiec is an imposing physical presence even among Marines known for their tough-muscled physiques. He oozes self-confidence ("confidence is a leadership trait") and at meetings with top officers, he never expressed doubts about success. When called to headquarters with other commanders for an intelligence briefing, he seemed impatient to return to his troops and always positioned himself near the door for a quick getaway once the talk was finished. "He's everything you want in a leader: He'll listen to you, take care of you and back you up, but when you need it, he'll put a boot" up your behind, said Sgt. Casey Olson. "But even when he's getting at you, he doesn't do it so you feel belittled." The image of Zembiec leading the April 6 charge had a lasting impact on his troops. Leading by example is a powerful tool. "He gets down there with his men," said Lance Cpl. Jacob Atkinson. "He's not like some of these other officers: He leads from the front, not the rear." Said Lt. Daniel Rosales: "He doesn't ask anything of you that he doesn't ask of himself." To his bosses, Zembiec had the aggressiveness and fearlessness they wanted in a commander. He was not reluctant to put himself and his troops at risk to draw out the insurgents. As Maj. Joseph Clearfield, the battalion's operations officer, said: "He goes out every day and creates menacing dilemmas for the enemy." A quote from Zembiec in a Los Angeles Times story drew a flood of e-mails from stateside military personnel. He had remarked about having a "terrific day" in Fallouja. "We just whacked two [insurgents] running down an alley with AK-47s." Navy Lt. David Ausiello e-mailed that he met Zembiec at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where "the legend began." Ausiello was a plebe (freshman) and Zembiec a senior. "Doug was not a screamer," Ausiello said. "He was a leader, and every plebe in our company knew it. I like to think of him as a gentle giant." Zembiec set the standard at the academy for fitness and toughness, Ausiello said. He also rebelled mildly, on occasion, by slyly shouting out an oddball word while standing in formation, to the dismay of senior officers reviewing the troops. Brig. Gen. Richard Kramlich, upon learning that a reporter had met Zembiec, smiled broadly and said, "He's something, isn't he?" Kramlich taught at the academy when Zembiec was a wrestler. "Everybody's out for blood" in wrestling, Zembiec told the Albuquerque Journal, his hometown newspaper, in 1995. "You better be tough." As Echo Company suffered casualties during the battle for Fallouja, Zembiec counseled his Marines to stay focused. But he never acted as a buddy, never addressed the troops by their first names, and discouraged excessive mourning over the mounting casualty toll. "Pity gets you killed in this profession," he said. With three dead and more than 50 wounded, Echo Company had the largest number of casualties of any Marine rifle company in Iraq. To civilians, the figure may seem horrific, but Zembiec notes that in past wars, it was common for Marine rifle companies to suffer even greater casualties and continue "taking the fight to the enemy." Between firefights, he wrote condolence letters to the families of the dead Marines. He also recommended individuals for combat commendations: "I'm completely in awe of their bravery," he said. "The things I have seen them do, walking through firestorms of bullets and rocket-propelled grenades and not moving and providing cover fire for their men so they can be evacuated…. " He thinks the cliché about troops being enveloped by the "fog of war" is overstated. "It's just the opposite," he said. "You become acutely aware and attuned to your environment. You become like a wild animal. Your vision, your hearing, everything becomes clearer." He is not given to introspection, not even about the April 26 fight in which he led a mission that turned into an ambush. After two hours of fighting, one Marine was dead and 16 were wounded. "I don't second-guess myself or have doubts or regrets about that day, except that lots of Marines got busted up. Not to be cold, but that's the way with battle. It goes with going into harm's way." Only reluctantly did he order a pullback. "I would have stayed there and fought all day but I had [Marines with] injuries," including himself. He was hit in the leg with shrapnel. Born in Hawaii, Zembiec grew up in New York, Texas and New Mexico as his father's career took him to different FBI offices. In Albuquerque -- where his parents make their retirement home —- he loved to hunt deer and bobcat. Military service was a natural career path. His father's friends included men who had served with distinction, among them a Medal of Honor winner. His father, Donald, served in the Army in the 1960s. He is not surprised that his son was in the thick of the action in Iraq. "He's wanted to do this his entire life," he said. "I always thought I saw leadership in him." My own generation of baby boomers went to college in order to express their individuality. Zembiec was searching for something else at the Naval Academy. "It was a culture of hardness and mental toughness and challenge. You're there to be part of a team. It's not about you." He quickly decided to join the Marines. Navy life aboard ship seemed too far from the action. "I liked the idea of the Marine Corps being shock troops. They're combat arms; they're men on the ground." Zembiec's battalion is due back in Camp Pendleton in October. In April, he plans to marry his longtime girlfriend, a sales executive for a pharmaceutical firm, in a ceremony at the Naval Academy chapel. Thoughts of leaving the corps are now gone. His next promotion—to major—might give him greater responsibility, but it would take him away from troops in the field. He jokes about turning it down in order to stay close to the action, sounding nostalgic about the firefights of April. "There was a lot of lead in the air that day," he says of one such fight. Would you want Douglas Zembiec in charge of U.S. foreign policy? Maybe, maybe not. Would you want him on your side if you -- or your nation -- got involved in a street brawl? Without a doubt. He is, as his fellow officers say, a military hybrid of modern tactics and ancient attitudes. "Doug is the prototypical modern infantry officer," Clearfield said. "He's also not that much different than the officers who led the Spartans into combat 4,000 years ago."
26081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: May 24, 2007, 05:55:27 PM
 
Here is more about the good major. He was a very respected man. Killed just a short time ago, May 11th, Blackfive had written about him many times. A genuine warrior, he will be sorely missed. You can read the personal comments about him here.  http://www.blackfive.net/main/2004/08/marine_captain_.html
 
http://www.blackfivhttp://www.blackfive.net/main/2004/08/marine_captain_.htmle.net/main/2007/05/a_lion_falls_go.html
 
The Fallen Lion - Godspeed Major Doug Zembiec
Posted By Blackfive
"Your son was killed in action today. Despite intense enemy machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire, your son fought like a lion. He remained in his fighting position until all his wounded comrades could be evacuated from the rooftop they were defending. It was during his courageous defense of his comrades that Aaron was hit by enemy fire.... With the exception of the Marines on Security, every man in the company attended the service. Aaron was respected and admired by every Marine in his company. His death brought tears to my eyes, tears that fell in front of my Marines. I am unashamed of that fact."
      - Douglas Zembiec, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, writing to the mother of Aaron C. Austin, included in Operation Homecoming by Andrew Carroll

Doug Zembiec, Major in the USMC, was known at the "Unapologetic Warrior".  We featured him here as Someone You Should Know almost three years ago (must read).  In fact, he was among the few that I included when I began that index - he is very "Mattis-like" or, maybe, General Mattis is very "Zembiec-like".

Just a few months before, then Captain, Zembiec led Echo Company into Fallujah.  We caught that as part of the Showdown series about Fallujah (link here).  Zembiec was leading his unit into combat where most of his men (53) had been wounded, with some wounded two or three times and still in the fight.  He talks about his Navy Hospital Corpsmen that kept his men alive (link here).

 
Zembiec Family Photo - Captain Doug Zembiec, April 2004
It is with tears and a heavy heart that I inform you that Major Doug Zembiec was killed this week.  We have lost a true lion, a warrior without peer, a Marine among Marines...from his Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device:

"On two occasions, Captain Zembiec coordinated the actions of the Marines from atop a tank while rocket-propelled grenades and enemy small arms fire impacted all around him. Wherever the battle raged with intensity, Zembiec could be found inspiring Marines to aggressively repel the enemy's determined assault..."

He was already wounded badly before he jumped on that tank.  And from the Comments of that long-ago post here, Marines spoke up about Doug:

I served with Capt Zembiec. I was a Scout/Sniper that was with him and Echo Company. I was awarded the Silver Star for my actions in Fallujah. I would Die for this man. I only wish people could see what this man did for his Marines. - Ethan Place

I was one of his platoon commanders at the time, and I know that he earned our respect and admiration. Our Marines couldn't imagine following a different company commander. Major Zembiec will always be an inspiration to me, no matter what I am doing. - Edward Solis

And from members of his unit:

There is no one better to go to war with - Sergeant Major William S. Skiles (Echo Company First Sergeant in 2004)

The love of his Marines and the Corps far surpasses anyone else I know. I don't think there are enough words to describe him as an individual. - Captain Darryl Ayers

He's everything you want in a leader: He'll listen to you, take care of you and back you up, but when you need it, he'll put a boot your... - Sergeant Casey Olson

He's not like some of these other officers: He leads from the front, not the rear. - Lance Corporal Jacob Atkinson

Doug is the prototypical modern infantry officer.  He's also not that much different than the officers who led the Spartans into combat... - LtCol Joseph Clearfield

Right now, the Zembiecs are mourning a heavy, heavy loss.  Doug's wife, Pam, and 1-year old daughter, Fallyn Justice, are with family members now.

I'll post more information as it comes in.  I've struggled with how much to share at this point.  I'll let you know if we can help in some small way.  One thing for certain, Doug Zembiec would want you to celebrate his life, his time with his family and his time on this Earth as a Marine.

“Day by day, fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it.” - Thucydides, The Funeral Speech for Pericles

Godspeed, Major Zembiec, godspeed...
26082  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sparring with bladed weapons on: May 24, 2007, 05:11:40 PM
Woof:

With DB Gatherings part of the charm is that there are "No judges, no referees, no trophies"-- so part of me is leery of being pulled into such a function.

yip!
CD
26083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nature on: May 24, 2007, 11:13:58 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM

Absolutely amazing!
26084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Evolutionary Biology and Psychology on: May 24, 2007, 11:04:18 AM
http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/04/iraq-the-americas-3-gen-gangs/

Iraq & the Americas: 3 GEN Gangs Lessons and Prospects

Iraq & the Americas: 3 GEN Gangs Lessons and Prospects

Robert J. Bunker & John P. Sullivan
Gangs and Iraqi insurgents, militias, and other non-state groups share common origins based on tribalism, and therefore, it is expected that they will exhibit similar structures and behaviors. It is our belief that further insight into Iraq’s present situation and future prospects may be derived from a perspective utilizing 3rd generation gang (3 GEN Gangs) studies which present lessons learned from the emergence and spread of gangs within the United States, and other parts of the world, over roughly the last four decades. (1) Basically, from a 3 GEN Gangs perspective, three generations of gangs have been found to exist: turf based, drug based, and mercenary based. The first generation gangs, comprising the vast majority, focus on protecting their turf. These gangs, the least developed of the three generational forms, provide both protection and identity to their members and little more. While some drug dealing is evident, it tends with these gangs to be a sideline activity.

The more evolved second and third generation gangs provide more tangible economic- and, later, political- based rewards to their members. Far fewer second generation gangs exist in relation to first generation gangs and, in turn, an even smaller number of third generation gangs exist in relation to second generation gangs—at least with regard to gangs found in the Americas. Second generation gangs focus on drug market development and exploitation and are far more sophisticated than turf based gangs. Third generation gangs are the most politicized, international in reach, and sophisticated of the gang generational forms. They will readily engage in mercenary endeavors and actively seek political power and financial gain from their activities. Certain terrorist groups (such as the Red Brigades in Italy), drug cartels, and local warlords all have attributes and organizational structures akin to third generation gangs. (2)

From a 3 GEN Gangs perspective, Iraq has been essentially overrun by 3rd generation gangs and their criminal-soldier equivalents. This is reminiscent of the nightmare scenario for the US already starting to develop in Central and South America (and, to a lesser extent, within the US) with the emergence, growth, and expansion of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and other Maras. In many ways, the ‘Gangs of Iraq’ are a prelude to the ‘Gangs of the Americas’ that we will be increasingly facing in the Western Hemisphere.

Gangs emerge, prosper, and solidify their position as a viable social organizational form in housing projects, neighborhoods, prisons, slums, cities, urban regions, and even entire countries that have undergone (or are undergoing) varying forms of societal failure. The rise of newer forms of tribalism leading to gang emergence may be derived from combinations that include lack of jobs, high levels of poverty and drug abuse, low educational levels, an absence of functional families, along with high levels of crime and lawlessness, including that generated by domestic internal strife, which result in a daily threat of bodily injury. Further, newer forms of tribalism may readily mingle with older pre-existing forms of tribalism based on kinship, clan, and other extended family groupings.

Iraq’s current situation, at least for the middle and southern sections, is far from hopeful. Currently some where between 1,000 and 5,000 people are now being killed throughout Iraq each month because of sectarian violence, gang wars, and rampant criminal activity. Total post-invasion deaths in Iraq taking place during the American and allied stability and support operations (SASO) period ranges anywhere from 50,000 to +100,000. (3) Societal strife generated by ethnic and religious intolerance— derived from older forms of Middle Eastern tribalism— has resulted in neighborhood ethnic cleansing and the emergence of fortified enclaves. Extra-judicial killings and torture (i.e. street justice) have become the norm as have home invasion robberies, carjackings, petty theft, assaults, and kidnappings for ransom. Shifting coalitions of former regime loyalists, foreign Jihadi fighters linked to al Qaeda, Shia and Sunni militiamen tied to local clerics, criminal gangs of numerous types, competing Iraqi ministries and even active military and police units, along with foreign operatives promoting the interests of Iran, Hizballah, and Syria make for a chaotic and ever-changing threat landscape.

Americans, once universally hailed as liberators except by the most hardened former regime loyalists, are now viewed by many Iraqis at best as unwanted foreigners that will hopefully leave soon and at worst as hated crusaders that should be actively singled out, tortured, and killed. The northern Kurd-dominated region of the country is far more stable and supportive of American forces than the two other sections of Iraq but still is not free of sectarian violence in the urban centers and sabotage, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, suicide bombings, and assassinations occur throughout the region.

Insight can be gained by juxtaposing strife ridden Iraq with the US and other regions of the world, specifically Central and South America, with their high levels of gang emergence and activity. Gangs are very much a social cancer within American society and are a by-product of the new form of tribalism that has emerged nationally—possibly as a partial result of the demise of the older melting pot culture and an overemphasis on cultural relativism and heterogeneity.

As a consequence, gangs have spread at an alarming rate throughout American society. In the US, about 58 cities had gangs in 1960. By 1992, the number of cities with gangs had jumped to 769. (4) Luckily, the vast majority of gangs in the US are composed of the relatively less-evolved Turf gangs—though second generation drug gangs have been common for decades now and third generation mercenary gangs, in the current form of the Maras, have just recently started to appear within our borders.

Still, even though most gangs in the US are Turf-based gangs, gang-related homicides in our country have probably totaled about 100,000 over the last 20 years. This is an educated guess based on an extrapolation of Los Angeles county gang homicide data as no national gang homicide statistics exist. (5) The daily attrition rate on America’s streets due to gang violence has either gone unrecognized or is not yet viewed as a national security threat by our federal government. To its credit, however, FBI led national task forces to contend with the criminal activities and atrocities (e.g. torture and machete attacks) committed by MS-13 and other violent gang members have now been put in place. (6)

In Central and South America, gangs are now nothing less than out of control. Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala are all being directly threatened by the Maras. (7) In addition, Brazilian society was recently brought to its knees by a powerful prison gang that instigated a limited duration state wide insurgency that resulted in numerous civilian and law enforcement deaths and temporarily paralyzed the national economy. (Cool Mexico, furthermore, is seeing a fusion of its powerful drug cartels and gangs with an ensuing drug war that is resulting in numerous killings and decapitations—much like the ritual Jihadi beheadings witnessed in Iraq. (9) No statistics or even estimates for the number of gang-related homicides that have taken place in Central and South America exist but they must surely be on par, if not far greater, than those that are estimated to have taken place in America over the last twenty years. If this is the case, gang killings for all of the Americas would now number, at the very least, in the low hundreds of thousands for that time span.

Of direct interest is the continuum of environmental modification represented by gang activities in the US at one extreme and in parts of the Americas and Iraq at the other. Even the most basic level US gangs will attempt to culturally influence and modify their surroundings with drive-by shootings, the use of gang graffiti to mark their territory, and the take over of selected public spaces. Iraqi gangs and groups, on the other hand, are engaging in full out ethnic cleansing, neighborhood takeovers, and direct political control of those individuals living within their sphere of influence. Early intervention can prevent gangs from taking over a neighborhood, city, urban region and other environments. However, if allowed to evolve and engage in unchecked activities for too long they promise to replace legitimate political authority. As such, 3 GEN Gangs readily fill the vacuum left by the absence of legitimate authority.

Iraq’s future prospects, given this scenario are bleak. The domination of Iraq by 3 GEN Gangs and other non-state entities (e.g. insurgent and terrorist groups, the militias of the clerics, and renegade police, military, and private security forces) has destroyed any chance of a free and democratically unified country emerging anytime soon, or possibly even for decades to come. The Iraqi operational environment has now seen the total blurring of crime and war. Perhaps, it is now even too far gone to salvage from a traditional policing or military perspective—only time will tell in this regard. (10)

This brings us some measure of concern with regard to the future prospects vis-à-vis the gang situation in the Americas. As more and more 3 GEN Gangs begin to emerge, thrive, and expands their networks in the Western Hemisphere the long term prospects for large regions of the Americas may very well, at some point, also come into question. Currently, 3 GEN Gangs have already take control in slums and other urban no-go zones, prisons, and some provinces and territories of various states including Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. That such gangs are now starting to emerge within the United States should also give pause for concern. These developments in global context may ultimately cause us to re-examine our policies in the Americas and elevate our concerns over the “Gangs of the Americas” to the same level as that currently afforded the “Gangs of Iraq.”

Notes

1. For an overview and literature survey of this topic see John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gang Studies: An Introduction”, Journal of Gang Research. Forthcoming.
2. A perspective on the Red Brigades as a 3 GEN Gang can be found in Max G. Manwaring, “Gangs and Coups D’ Streets in the New World Disorder: Protean Insurgents in Post-Modern War”, Robert J. Bunker, ed., Criminal-States and Criminal-Soldiers, special double issue of Global Crime, Vol. 7. No. 3-4. August/November 2006; for drug cartel and warlord similarities to 3 GEN Gangs see John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Drug Cartels, Street Gangs, and Warlords”, Robert J. Bunker, ed., Non-State Threats and Future Wars, special issue of Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 13. No. 2. Summer 2002, pp. 40-53.
3. Actual numbers of Iraqis killed each month and total figures are unknown. Sources are unreliable and typically inflated or deflated in order to benefit the policies or agenda of the group providing the statistics. We can safely say that 1,000 to 2,000 people are being killed each month but the upper limit of 5,000 people is no longer out of the range of possibility given the high levels of violence now generated by the simultaneous insurgency and civil war taking place. Iraqi casualty reports and tracking websites offer total numbers killed upwards from 50,000.
4. Malcolm W. Klein, The American Street Gang, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 92-95.
5. Los Angeles County gang homicide information provided by Sgt. Wes McBride, Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, Retired, Safe Streets Bureau.
6. Statement of Chris Swecker, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division Federal Bureau of Investigation Before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere House International Relations Committee April 20, 2005.
7. See Ana Arana, “How the Street Gangs Took Central America,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 84, No. 3. May/June 2005, pp. 98-110.
8. See Andrew Downie, “Police Are Targeted in Deadly Attacks, Prison Riots in Brazil”, Los Angeles Times, Sunday, May 14, 2006, p. A25; Marcelo Soares and Patrick J. McDonnell, “Inmates Unleash a Torrent of Violence on Brazilian City”, Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, May 16, 2006, pp. A1, A16; and Marcelo Soares and Patrick J. McDonnell, “Death Toll in Sao Paulo Rise to 133; City is Calm”, Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, May 17, 2006, p. A16.
9. See Lisa J. Campbell, “The Use of Beheadings by Fundamentalist Islam”, Robert J. Bunker, ed., Criminal-States and Criminal-Soldiers, special double issue of Global Crime, Vol. 7. No. 3-4. August/November 2006.
10. The US military seems to think that temporarily raising troop levels in order to neutralize Muqtada al-Sadr’s ‘Mahdi Army’ (Shia militia) and possibly launching an offensive into the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province in support of the Iraqi government offer the best hopes for victory. This plan is being debated within the government and already criticized in some quarters. See Julian E. Barnes, “Larger U.S. effort in Iraq is proposed”, Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, December 13, 2006, pp. A1, A16; and Maura Reynolds, “Majority support pullout timeline”, Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, December 13, 2006, pp. A17.

----------

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is CEO of the Counter-OPFOR Corporation. John P. Sullivan is senior research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism and a lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

26085  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sparring with bladed weapons on: May 24, 2007, 11:01:55 AM
Woof All:

I have great interest in this subject and we already have some highly qualified folks here discussing it.  cool I look forward to the discussion.

TAC,
CD
26086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: May 24, 2007, 09:03:56 AM
Interesting idea.  Please feel free to start such a thread in the MA forum.
26087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: May 24, 2007, 12:17:13 AM
Robert:

I know-- he started training with me recently.  Cool guy, he's a jazz drummer too, showed me a couple of beginner's basics.

Tom:

This was the last track of a movie on Jimi which I saw when it came out.  When it was over, sat there a very long time.

26088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Disconcerting Survey on: May 22, 2007, 06:32:11 PM
If one does some calculations about how many people these various %s work out to, some disconcerting numbers result.
===================================



http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nat...sns-ap-topnews

Most U.S. Muslims Reject Suicide Bombings


By ALAN FRAM
Associated Press Writer
Originally published May 22, 2007, 10:45 AM EDT
WASHINGTON // One in four younger U.S. Muslims say suicide bombings to defend their religion are acceptable at least in some circumstances, though most Muslim Americans overwhelmingly reject the tactic and are critical of Islamic extremism and al-Qaida, a poll says.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, one of the most exhaustive ever of the country's Muslims, revealed a community that in many ways blends comfortably into society. Its largely mainstream members express nearly as much happiness with their lives and communities as the general public does, show a broad willingness to adopt American customs, and have income and education levels similar to others in the U.S.


Even so, the survey revealed noteworthy pockets of discontent.

While nearly 80 percent of U.S. Muslims say suicide bombings of civilians to defend Islam can not be justified, 13 percent say they can be, at least rarely.

That sentiment is strongest among those younger than 30. Two percent of them say it can often be justified, 13 percent say sometimes and 11 percent say rarely.

"It is a hair-raising number," said Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Washington-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, which promotes the compatibility of Islam with democracy.

He said most supporters of the attacks likely assumed the context was a fight against occupation -- a term Muslims often use to describe the conflict with Israel.

U.S. Muslims have growing Internet and television access to extreme ideologies, he said, adding: "People, especially younger people, are susceptible to these ideas."

Federal officials have warned that the U.S. must be on guard against homegrown terrorism, as the British suffered with the London transit bombings of 2005.

Even so, U.S. Muslims are far less accepting of suicide attacks than Muslims in many other nations. In surveys Pew conducted last year, support in some Muslim countries exceeded 50 percent, while it was considered justifiable by about one in four Muslims in Britain and Spain, and one in three in France.

"We have crazies just like other faiths have them," said Eide Alawan, who directs interfaith outreach at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., one of the nation's largest mosques. He said killing innocent people contradicts Islam.

Andrew Kohut, Pew director, called support for the attacks "one of the few trouble spots" in the survey.

The question did not specify where a suicide attack might occur, who might carry it out or what was meant by using a bombing to "defend Islam."

In other findings:

_Only 5 percent of U.S. Muslims expressed favorable views of the terrorist group al-Qaida, though about a fourth did not express an opinion.

_Six in 10 said they are concerned about a rise in Islamic extremism in the U.S., while three in four expressed similar worries about extremism around the world.

_Yet only one in four consider the U.S. war on terrorism a sincere attempt to curtail international terror. Only 40 percent said they believe Arab men carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

_By six to one, they say the U.S. was wrong to invade Iraq, while a third say the same about Afghanistan -- far deeper than the opposition expressed by the general U.S. public.

_Just over half said it has been harder being a U.S. Muslim since the 9/11 attacks, especially the better educated, higher income, more religious and young. Nearly a third of those who flew in the past year say they underwent extra screening because they are Muslim.

The survey estimates there are roughly 2.35 million Muslim Americans. It found that among adults, two-thirds are from abroad while a fifth are U.S.-born blacks.

By law, the Census Bureau does not ask about peoples' religions.

Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,050 Muslim adults from January through April, including some in Arabic, Urdu and Farsi. Subjects were chosen at random, from a separate list of households including some with Muslim-sounding names, and from Muslim households that had participated in previous surveys.

The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.
26089  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 22, 2007, 06:26:18 PM
Maija:

Go for it!

CD

26090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: May 22, 2007, 06:24:33 PM
Ugh.  angry angry angry

No doubt they would have some choice things to say about Michele Malkin too , , ,
26091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 22, 2007, 09:24:23 AM
A Reporter's Fate
The BBC held hostage in Gaza.

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Dozens of hostages were released in Gaza over the weekend, in the wake of a truce called between the warring factions of Hamas and Fatah. The BBC's Alan Johnston, now in his 11th week of captivity, was not among them.

I last saw Mr. Johnston in January 2005, the day before Mahmoud Abbas was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Johnston was by then the only Western correspondent living and working full time in Gaza, although the Strip was still considered a safe destination for day-tripping foreign journalists. He kindly lent me his office to interview Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, and asked whether I was still editing the Jerusalem Post. He seemed genuinely oblivious to the notion that my by-then former association with an Israeli newspaper was not the sort of information I wanted broadcast to a roomful of Palestinian stringers.

January 2005 was also the last time one could feel remotely optimistic about an independent Palestinian future. Mr. Abbas had campaigned for office promising "clean legal institutions so we can be considered a civilized society." He won by an overwhelming margin in an election Hamas refused to contest. There had been a sharp decline in Israeli-Palestinian violence, thanks mainly to Israeli counterterrorism measures and the security fence. A Benetton outlet had opened in Ramallah, signaling better times ahead.

In Gaza things were different, however, and Mr. Johnston was prescient in reporting on the potential for internecine strife: "This internal conflict between police and the militants cannot happen," one of his stories quotes a Palestinian police chief as saying. "It is forbidden. We are a single nation." Yet in 2005 more Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians than by Israelis. It got worse in 2006, following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Hamas's victory in parliamentary elections. "The occupation was not as bad as the lawlessness and corruption that we are facing now," Palestinian editor Hafiz Barghouti admitted to Mr. Johnston in a widely cited remark.





When Mr. Johnston was kidnapped by persons unknown on March 12--apparently dragged at gunpoint from his car while on his way home--he became at least the 23rd Western journalist to have been held hostage in Gaza. In most cases the kidnappings rarely lasted more than a day. Yet in August FOXNews's Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were held for two weeks, physically abused and forced to convert to Islam. Plainly matters were getting progressively worse for foreigners. So why did the BBC keep Mr. Johnston in place?
 Yet the BBC also seemed to operate in the Palestinian Authority with a sense of political impunity. Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti described Mr. Johnston as someone who "has done a lot for our cause"--not the sort of endorsement one imagines the BBC welcoming from an equivalent figure on the Israeli side. Other BBC correspondents were notorious for making their politics known to their viewers: Barbara Plett confessed to breaking into tears when Arafat was airlifted to a Parisian hospital in October 2004; Orla Guerin treated Israel's capture of a living, wired teenage suicide bomber that March as nothing more than a PR stunt--"a picture that Israel wants the world to see."

Though doubtlessly sincere, these views also conferred institutional advantages for the BBC in terms of access and protection, one reason why the broadcaster might have felt relatively comfortable posting Mr. Johnston in a place no other news agency dared to go.

By contrast, reporters who displeased Palestinian authorities could be made to pay a price. In one notorious case in October 2000, Italian reporter Riccardo Cristiano of RAI published a letter in a Palestinian newspaper insisting he had not been the one who had broadcast images of two Israeli soldiers being lynched in Ramallah. "We respect the journalistic regulations of the Palestinian Authority," he wrote, blaming rival Mediaset for the transgression. I had a similar experience when I quoted a Palestinian journalist describing as "riff-raff" those of his neighbors celebrating the attacks of Sept. 11. Within a day, the journalist was chided and threatened by Palestinian officials for having spoken to me. They were keeping close tabs.

Still, whatever the benefits of staying on the right side of the Palestinian powers-that-be, they have begun to wane. For years, the BBC had invariably covered Palestinian affairs within the context of Israel's occupation--the core truth from which all manifestations of conflict supposedly derived. Developments within Gaza following Israel's withdrawal showed the hollowness of that analysis. Domestic Palestinian politics, it turned out, were shot through with their own discontents, contradictions and divisions, not just between Hamas and Fatah but between scores of clans, gangs, factions and personalities. Opposition to Israel helped in some ways to mute this reality, but it could not suppress it.





This is the situation--not a new one, but one the foreign media had for years mostly ignored--in which the drama of Mr. Johnston's captivity is playing out. Initial reports suggested he had been kidnapped by the so-called Popular Resistance Committee; later an al Qaeda affiliate called the Army of Islam claimed to have killed him. More recently, evidence has come to light suggesting he's alive and being held by a criminal gang based in the southern town of Rafah. The British government is reportedly in talks with a radical Islamist cleric in their custody, Abu Qatada, whose release the Army of Islam has demanded for Mr. Johnston's freedom. What the British will do, and what effect that might have, remains to be seen.
For now, one can only pray for Mr. Johnston's safe release. Later, the BBC might ask itself whether its own failures of prudence and judgment put its reporter's life in jeopardy. The BBC's Paul Adams has said of his colleague that it was "his job to bring us day after day reports of the Palestinian predicament." For that act of solidarity one hopes a terrible price will not be paid.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

26092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: May 22, 2007, 09:16:56 AM
WSJ
The Left's Iraq Muddle
Yes, it is central to the fight against Islamic radicalism.

BY BOB KERREY
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

At this year's graduation celebration at The New School in New York, Iranian lawyer, human-rights activist and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi delivered our commencement address. This brave woman, who has been imprisoned for her criticism of the Iranian government, had many good and wise things to say to our graduates, which earned their applause.

But one applause line troubled me. Ms. Ebadi said: "Democracy cannot be imposed with military force."

What troubled me about this statement--a commonly heard criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq--is that those who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.





Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view. The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were "over there." It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the "head of the snake." But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.
As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.





Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.
Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn't exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.

The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.

Mr. Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska and member of the 9/11 Commission, is president of The New School.

26093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: May 22, 2007, 08:51:30 AM
In the last couple of weeks I have finally jettisoned KVHI-- a big loser for me than totally offset my gains in MVIS.

I retain the big position in MVIS and have entered into bigger positions in ISIS and LNOP.

ISIS is per David Gordon's recommendation.  His http://eutrapelia.blogspot.com/ offers some of the finest market commentary and stock commentary/advice to be found anywhere. (I recently doubled by solid position in GOOG at 462 on his call)

LNOP is a hot choice of George Gilder, whose advice led me to seriously disasatrously consequences a few years ago, but Rick Neaton who continues following the Gilder universe has persuaded me about this one.

TAC!
26094  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NY Times: NFL Player to fight on: May 22, 2007, 08:45:06 AM

LAKE FOREST, Calif., May 16 — When Johnnie Morton finished playing wide receiver in the National Football League, he carefully reviewed his retirement options: be host of a talk show, expand his real estate profile, maybe work on his golf game.

Morton played 12 professional seasons, including 8 with the Detroit Lions. He caught 43 touchdown passes in his career.
After much consideration, Morton decided that it would be best to spend his free time being body slammed into a chain-link fence by two men named Joker and Gun.

“Crazy, huh?” Joker said.

Joker’s real name is Mike Guymon. Gun’s real name is Tony Bonello. Together, they are teaching Morton how to compete in mixed martial arts, one of the few sports that may be more violent and more dangerous than professional football.

“I’ve gotten hit a lot in my life,” said Morton, who spent 12 seasons going over the middle against N.F.L. safeties. “But I’ve never gotten hit like this.”

Morton will walk into a ring for the first time June 2 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, beginning his second career. He expects to ask himself the same question that friends, family members and former teammates have been asking him for months: What in the world are you thinking?

Mixed martial arts combines wrestling, boxing and kick boxing with jujitsu, tae kwon do and Muay Thai. Punches to the head and knees to the gut are encouraged. Even the most accomplished fighters get their faces rearranged into cubist paintings.

Two months ago, Morton’s only experience with mixed martial arts was watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship on television. He admired the fighters, mainly because they were the only athletes who seemed more fearless than football players. Morton memorized their names as if they were N.F.L. superstars.

“Some people want to bungee jump,” Morton said. “Others want to jump out of planes. I would never do that. But I want to do this.”

Morton, 35, does not have to fight for a living. He went to the University of Southern California, had a cameo playing himself in the movie “Jerry Maguire,” and was named one of People magazine’s most eligible bachelors. He is rich, handsome, and almost as marketable as Tiki Barber, the former Giants running back who is now a news correspondent for NBC’s “Today” show.

Morton, meanwhile, goes to work at a gym in an Orange County office park. The gym — Joker’s Wild Fighting Academy — includes a ring with a chain-link fence. Japanese and American flags hang from the ceiling, reminding Morton of his mixed heritage.

In Detroit, where Morton spent eight seasons, he was the kind of player who did not get tired even during two-a-days. He can bench press 400 pounds. His body fat is less than 5 percent. But during a sparring session Wednesday, he could not summon the energy to get off his hands and knees. Joker and Gun had to drag him to his feet.

“Let me die in peace,” Morton moaned.

Then he remembered that he was a former professional football player, that his girlfriend was watching, and that Joker and Gun do not believe in peace.

Morton charged at his sparring partner, battering him with a combination of punches and dropping him to the mat with a sweep of his leg. Morton used one hand to grab the man’s neck and the other to pound the side of his face.

If Morton were in the N.F.L., he would have drawn a 15-yard penalty, an automatic ejection, a fine and a possible suspension. But here, he prompted Joker and Gun to do their version of a touchdown dance.

“Look at this guy,” Gun said. “He’s beautiful. He has tons of money. He has an incredibly happy lifestyle. And he’s putting his brain on the line. He’s putting his manhood on the line. It’s hard to say what would make him do it.”

Morton is not the first N.F.L. player to enter the ring, only the most celebrated. Michael Westbrook, a former receiver for the Washington Redskins, won a fight two years ago over Jarrod Bunch, a former running back for the Giants. Bob Sapp, a washout as a N.F.L. lineman, became a formidable competitor in mixed martial arts.

One afternoon last winter, Morton was eating lunch at the Health Emporium when a man named Joey Sakoda approached him. Sakoda first asked Morton if he wanted to go to a mixed martial arts fight. Then Sakoda asked Morton if he wanted to participate.

Sakoda works for Superagent Athletes, a Japanese agency that represents Joker and Gun, both title holders. Sakoda acted quickly, placing Morton on the Dynamite!! U.S.A. fight card, which includes a mixed martial arts star (Royce Gracie) as well as a novelty act (Hong Man Choi, a 7-foot-2 South Korean.)
=====

Morton was afraid to tell his parents. His mother, Katsuko, is Japanese-American. His father, Johnnie Sr., is African-American. Johnnie Sr. was once shot eight times while in his car. Katsuko and Johnnie Sr. did not want their son taking any more risks with his body.

Morton is getting no tuneups. He is fighting in less than two weeks, on Showtime pay-per-view, in the same stadium where he played college football. He will be paid about as much money as he used to earn for a single N.F.L. game.

One of the broadcasters will be Jay Glazer, who has a unique perspective on the bout. Glazer is best known as an N.F.L. analyst, but he also competes in mixed martial arts. When he visits N.F.L. training camps in the summer, players ask him more about fighting than about football.

“Football players are looked at as the biggest and baddest guys on the planet,” Glazer said. “People see them as superheroes. But football players also need someone to look up to. They view mixed martial arts as something even they are unwilling or unable to do. All the guys love Johnnie. But they think he’s nuts.”

N.F.L. players may not want to get into the ring, but they are willing to get in a gym. For years, many players have used boxing as part of their off-season workout regimen. Recently, they have started to turn to mixed martial arts.

According to Glazer, Philadelphia’s Brian Dawkins and Jacksonville’s Donovin Darius have trained at a mixed martial arts gym. So has Barber. This winter, Kansas City’s Jared Allen worked out at Arizona Combat Sports in Tempe.

“Football used to be our only real gladiator sport,” said Trevor Lally, the owner of Arizona Combat Sports gym. “Now, players have M.M.A. to give them a taste of that one-on-one combat. The combat is what they love.”

Morton was never a fighter. Like many receivers, he would try to hit linebackers when they were looking the other way. But Morton said there was only one person in the N.F.L. he would really like to see in the ring — Matt Millen, the Lions’ president. Millen directed a homosexual epithet at Morton after a game between Detroit and Kansas City in 2003, when Morton was playing for the Chiefs.

Morton is not ready to give up football just yet. He was released by the San Francisco 49ers two years ago but said that his agent was talking to a couple of teams. Ideally, he would fight in June and go to a training camp in July.

Morton is trying to shift back and forth, from the mainstream of sports to the fringes, from Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to Joker and Gun. When Morton finished his workout Wednesday, Joker shouted out one more piece of advice, for the road home and the road to retirement.

“Drive fast,” he said. “Take chances.”
26095  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 22, 2007, 02:45:45 AM
The deal should be signed tomorrow or Wednesday to make everything firm and final, but at the moment we have a verbal agreement.

Assuming all goes as planned, the location is this:

Location:  2435 N. Naomi St. Burbank, CA 91504  (park on lot off  Burton Ave)
26096  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: May 22, 2007, 01:34:46 AM
stratfor.com

Mexico: A Deteriorating Security Situation
May 21, 2007 22 26  GMT



Summary

About 150 state police officers in Mexico's northern Nuevo Leon state went on strike May 21, demanding higher salaries and more resources to fight organized crime, which has claimed the lives of six state police officers in the past four days. Given that drug cartels have increasingly targeted police, army and government personnel in response to a federal campaign to combat organized crime -- and are showing no signs of stopping -- the security situation in Mexico likely will continue deteriorating.

Analysis

About 150 state police officers in Mexico's northern Nuevo Leon state went on strike May 21, demanding higher salaries and more resources to fight organized crime, which has claimed the lives of six state police officers in the past four days. Reports indicate the strike temporarily left a large portion of downtown Monterrey with little to no police presence. City police officers filled in for the state police, who have reached a deal with the government and are scheduled to return to work May 22.

Mexico's drug cartels have increasingly targeted police, army and government personnel in response to a federal campaign to combat organized crime. As this campaign continues, Mexico probably will not be able to reduce violent drug-related crimes in the near future.






Although Mexico has become increasingly violent since the government began its crackdown on organized crime in December 2006, recent violence in the northern states of Nuevo Leon and Sonora has contributed significantly to the country's deteriorating security situation. In addition to the deaths of the six Nuevo Leon police officers in the last four days, threats against journalists have further strained state police forces. A group of about 30 newspaper and television reporters protested May 19 in front of a state government building, demanding greater protection after a TV cameraman and reporter reportedly were kidnapped by drug traffickers earlier in the month. Perhaps the most notorious incident occurred May 16 in the town of Cananea, in Sonora state, where 40-50 armed men abducted seven police officers and six civilians, later killing seven. The ensuing gunbattle with police brought the death toll to 23.

The federal response to such violence highlights the challenges Mexico's security forces face in combating organized crime. Despite a government move to send more than 300 federal and state police officers and army soldiers to the Cananea area, most of the attackers escaped. This increased police presence also did not prevent the May 17 targeted killing of Sonora Police Chief Pedro Cordova Herrera. In addition, the state government announced May 20 it would begin investigating all municipal police officers in Cananea for possible cartel links. This investigation highlights the fundamental corruption problem Mexico's security forces are battling as they continue to fight the cartels.

The recent wave of violence in Sonora and Nuevo Leon can be explained by geography; the states share borders with the United States, making them valuable to drug cartels and trafficking organizations that move narcotics and people across the border. But drug-related violence is on the rise throughout Mexico; according to the attorney general's office, Mexico saw an average of 225 crimes per day related to narcotics trafficking between Dec. 1, 2006, and March 31, 2007. This represents a 40 percent increase over the 2006 average of 159 deaths per day.

For now, the federal government still appears both able and willing to commit more troops and resources to President Felipe Calderon's campaign against organized crime. On May 21, Morelos was added to the list of states to which army soldiers have been deployed. But the effectiveness of federal troops is questionable in such operations, given that the Mexican army is primarily trained and deployed for disaster response. Hence, it seems the security situation in Mexico will continue to deteriorate.
26097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: May 22, 2007, 01:32:10 AM


You post eludes me entirely SB Mig-- what are you talking about?  huh
26098  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Team Ruthless on Fox 5 in DC this morning on: May 22, 2007, 01:30:08 AM
I had a fine time there and am scheduled to return in October.

A hearty woof to Dino & Ashley for this well-deserved feather in their cap!
26099  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 22, 2007, 01:28:49 AM
This has been a perennial struggle in our knife fighting.  Indeed this issue drove the push to aluminum blades and drives the push to the Shocknife.

I'm not really sure how to resolve it-- but I will note that Linda of the Bay Area clan (Baltic Dog's crew) had an outstanding knife fight against a man a few years back which is like to appear in our upcoming DBMA DVD "Die Less Often Volume 2" -- so it certainly can be done.

26100  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies of interest on: May 22, 2007, 01:24:41 AM
It has recently come to my attention that Stallone is a major anti-gun rights guy.  What a hypocrite.
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