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26701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wear Hijab or die! on: December 20, 2007, 02:38:26 PM

Tehran, 19 Dec. (AKI) - A top Muslim cleric in Iran, Hojatolislam Gholam Reza Hassani said on Wednesday that women in Iran who do not wear the hijab or Muslim headscarf, should die.

"Women who do not respect the hijab and their husbands deserve to die," said Hassani, who leads Friday prayers in the city of Urumieh, in Iranian Azerbaijan.

"I do not understand how these women who do not respect the hijab, 28 years after the birth of the Islamic Republic, are still alive," he said.

"These women and their husbands and their fathers must die," said Hassani, who is the representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in eastern Azerbaijan.

Hassani's statements came after two Kurdish feminists in Iran were accused of being members of an armed rebel group and of carrying out subversive activities threatening the security of the state.

It is believed that his statements and the arrests could spark a fresh crackdown on women who do not repect the Islamic dress code in Iran.

Thousands of women in Iran have already been warned this year for their "un-Islamic dress" such as wearing tight, short coats and skimpy headscarves.
26702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: December 20, 2007, 09:57:01 AM
Stand By Steyn
by Robert Spencer

Posted: 12/19/2007

The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal have begun proceedings against Mark Steyn, author of America Alone. They are responding to complaints from the Canadian Islamic Congress about an excerpt from the book that was published in the Canadian journal Maclean’s. “The article,” the CIC claims, “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt,” and was “flagrantly Islamophobic.”

To be sure, the article was pretty strong stuff. Here’s a bit of it: “There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe -- without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.” Even worse, it goes on to say: “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.”

“A Muslim continent”! “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes”! No wonder the CIC was upset. And not just the CIC: writer Jim Henley, whose articles have appeared in The New Republic and The American Spectator Online, quoted the “mosquitoes” line and called Steyn a “racist.” There were just two problems: The “Muslim continent” statement is not only factual, it’s stated in words no one can characterize as inflammatory. (Also, it’s been said by Libya’s strongman Muammar Qaddafi). Second, “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes” was not Steyn’s phrase. He was quoting Mullah Krekar, a jihadist who currently resides in Norway, although officials have been trying for years to get him out of the country..

And that sums up the problem with the Canadian human rights commissions’ action against Steyn: he was simply reporting on contemporary European reality. It was not Mark Steyn, but Algerian leader Houari Boumédienne who said at the United Nations in 1974: “One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.” Those who want to silence Steyn want to suppress facts and limit free speech.

It was not Steyn who said that “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor,” and that “the conquest this time will not be by the sword but by preaching and ideology.” That was Al-Jazeera’s Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, who is widely hailed as a moderate reformer in the West. Did Steyn say that Muslims “will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it”? Nope. That one comes from a Saudi Sheikh, Muhammad bin Abd Al-Rahman Al-‘Arifi, imam of the mosque of King Fahd Defense Academy.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is putting itself in the peculiar position of penalizing those non-Muslims who report on such statements, as if it is somehow an act encouraging “hatred and contempt” to reveal the unpleasant reality that comprises mainstream Islamic rhetoric today. There is no indication that the CHRC has done a thing to investigate the possibility that some Muslims in Canada might hold the views of Mullah Krekar, Qaddafi, Boumédienne, Qaradhawi and Sheikh Muhammad. When the CIC’s President Mohamed Elmasry said in 2004 that all Israelis over age eighteen were legitimate targets, the CHRC took no action. But Elmasry, you see, is part of a protected victim class.

Actions like the one against Steyn threaten the foundation of free society. Once you declare one group off-limits for critical examination, once you declare that these people -- whoever they may be -- must at all costs not be offended, then you have destroyed one of the essential elements of free speech and political debate. In a free society, people with differing opinions live together in harmony, agreeing not to force their neighbor to be silent if his opinions offend them. If offensive speech had been prohibited in the 1770s, there would be no United States of America, and that is one of the reasons for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Of course, Canada is a different case -- but wherever offensive speech is prohibited, the tyrant’s power is solidified. That is no less so in this case, although the tyrant in question is of a different kind.
26703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: December 20, 2007, 09:43:43 AM

Muslims call ham sandwich hate crime

Sher Zieve
April 24, 2007

As they are "highly offensive" to Muslims, it appears that our politically correct leftist-run middle school system will soon no longer allow any pork products on school property. At Lewiston, ME Middle School, placing pork in the mere presence of Muslims is currently being called a hate crime. Note: Jews also believe pork is unclean but, there has never been any effort by the public school system to remove pork, in order to honor their religious beliefs. That is reserved solely for Muslims. For that matter, celebrations of Christian holidays are being summarily removed from the public school system, while Muslim holidays are commemorated — and Muslim foot washing basins and prayer rooms are being built. All manner of Islamic demands, no matter what the complaint, are being met and Islam is quickly and clearly being established as the "superior" religion in the USA — now in the public school systems and, no doubt, soon in the entire country.

The latest incident of "Muslim outrage" involves a middle-school student purportedly placing a ham sandwich wrapped in a baggie on a lunch table where Somali Muslim students sit. One 14 year-old unnamed Somali student is reported to have said: "At the school the next day, I didn't feel safe. I felt like everybody was against me. Before I felt like I fit in, and everything was normal." The ham-placing "offending student" has been suspended, the Maine middle school is calling the placing of the ham sandwich a "hate crime" and the local police are investigating the child. More charges against the child may be forthcoming. School Superintendent Leon Levesque said: "The school incident is being treated seriously as a hate incident!" Then, in the true and remarkable spirit of the Kumbaya-for-Islam set, Levesque added: "We've got some work to do to turn this around and bring the school community back together again." Note: Again, 'presenting pork' is only an offense and "hate crime" if it involves Muslims.

Even the Portland, ME based Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence has become involved. Its Executive Director Stephen Wessler immediately went off the deep end and commented: "It's extraordinarily hurtful and degrading to Muslims, whose religion prohibits them from being around ham. It's important to respond swiftly." Huh? Respond swiftly to an evil ham sandwich? Wessler then added warningly: "Incidents like this that involve degrading language or conduct are often said by the perpetrator as a joke. I know that conduct is never static. It's part of a process of escalation!" Is Wessler actually saying: "Today it's a ham sandwich, tomorrow it's the world!"? What has happened to the alleged minds of our supposedly educated adults, when a non-threatening childish prank is raised to the level of a hate crime? Oh — I forgot. To Muslims we are now being led to believe that everything is potentially threatening. However, real threats from real Islamic terrorists are increasingly discounted by our PC society. 9/11 is a fading memory in all too many minds and Islamic Imams can not only threaten passengers on planes but, then turn around and sue said passengers for complaining about them!

Now, not only do we have Congressional leaders working to appease each and every aspect of Islam that has vowed to destroy us but, we have the US public school system bowing to all complaints — or even potential complaints — from Muslim students and their parents. Of course, any and all complaints from Christian and Jewish students are ignored. Special privileges are progressively being given to Muslims and even facilities are being built, with tax payer dollars, for them on US campuses. No such privileges or construction projects are being afforded to or for any other religious group. And too many are continuing to remain silent. In this case, as in others, silence equates to acceptance. Islam is taking over the USA from both without and within — apparently with the consent of the new 'silent majority.' It's a tragedy that SCOTUS did not include mosques in its ruling on the separation of church and state. It has not only come back to haunt and bite us but, will soon render we-the-people and our country as only so much dust in the wind. If we do not now speak up loudly at these injustices and inequities, soon we won't be allowed to speak at all.

Sher Zieve is an author, political commentator, and staff writer for The New Media Alliance ( Zieve's op-ed columns are widely carried by multiple internet journals and sites, and she also writes hard news. Her columns have also appeared in The Oregon Herald, Dallas Times, Boston Star, Massachusetts Sun, Sacramento Sun, in international news publications, and on multiple university websites. Ms. Zieve is currently working on her first political book: "The Liberal's Guide To Conservatives."
26704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics on: December 19, 2007, 10:26:01 AM
Laws of Nature, Source Unknown
Published: December 18, 2007

“Gravity,” goes the slogan on posters and bumper stickers. “It isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law.”

And what a law. Unlike, say, traffic or drug laws, you don’t have a choice about obeying gravity or any of the other laws of physics. Jump and you will come back down. Faith or good intentions have nothing to do with it.

Existence didn’t have to be that way, as Einstein reminded us when he said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Against all the odds, we can send e-mail to Sri Lanka, thread spacecraft through the rings of Saturn, take a pill to chase the inky tendrils of depression, bake a turkey or a soufflé and bury a jump shot from the corner.

Yes, it’s a lawful universe. But what kind of laws are these, anyway, that might be inscribed on a T-shirt but apparently not on any stone tablet that we have ever been able to find?

Are they merely fancy bookkeeping, a way of organizing facts about the world? Do they govern nature or just describe it? And does it matter that we don’t know and that most scientists don’t seem to know or care where they come from?

Apparently it does matter, judging from the reaction to a recent article by Paul Davies, a cosmologist at Arizona State University and author of popular science books, on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times.

Dr. Davies asserted in the article that science, not unlike religion, rested on faith, not in God but in the idea of an orderly universe. Without that presumption a scientist could not function. His argument provoked an avalanche of blog commentary, articles on and letters to The Times, pointing out that the order we perceive in nature has been explored and tested for more than 2,000 years by observation and experimentation. That order is precisely the hypothesis that the scientific enterprise is engaged in testing.

David J. Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, told me in an e-mail message, “I have more confidence in the methods of science, based on the amazing record of science and its ability over the centuries to answer unanswerable questions, than I do in the methods of faith (what are they?).”

Reached by e-mail, Dr. Davies acknowledged that his mailbox was “overflowing with vitriol,” but said he had been misunderstood. What he had wanted to challenge, he said, was not the existence of laws, but the conventional thinking about their source.

There is in fact a kind of chicken-and-egg problem with the universe and its laws. Which “came” first — the laws or the universe?

If the laws of physics are to have any sticking power at all, to be real laws, one could argue, they have to be good anywhere and at any time, including the Big Bang, the putative Creation. Which gives them a kind of transcendent status outside of space and time.

On the other hand, many thinkers — all the way back to Augustine — suspect that space and time, being attributes of this existence, came into being along with the universe — in the Big Bang, in modern vernacular. So why not the laws themselves?

Dr. Davies complains that the traditional view of transcendent laws is just 17th-century monotheism without God. “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,” he said in his e-mail message.

But the idea of rationality in the cosmos has long existed without monotheism. As far back as the fifth century B.C. the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and his followers proclaimed that nature was numbers. Plato envisioned a higher realm of ideal forms, of perfect chairs, circles or galaxies, of which the phenomena of the sensible world were just flawed reflections. Plato set a transcendent tone that has been popular, especially with mathematicians and theoretical physicists, ever since.

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate from the University of Texas, Austin, described himself in an e-mail message as “pretty Platonist,” saying he thinks the laws of nature are as real as “the rocks in the field.” The laws seem to persist, he wrote, “whatever the circumstance of how I look at them, and they are things about which it is possible to be wrong, as when I stub my toe on a rock I had not noticed.”

The ultimate Platonist these days is Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In talks and papers recently he has speculated that mathematics does not describe the universe — it is the universe.


Page 2 of 3)

Dr. Tegmark maintains that we are part of a mathematical structure, albeit one gorgeously more complicated than a hexagon, a multiplication table or even the multidimensional symmetries that describe modern particle physics. Other mathematical structures, he predicts, exist as their own universes in a sort of cosmic Pythagorean democracy, although not all of them would necessarily prove to be as rich as our own.

“Everything in our world is purely mathematical — including you,” he wrote in New Scientist.

This would explain why math works so well in describing the cosmos. It also suggests an answer to the question that Stephen Hawking, the English cosmologist, asked in his book, “A Brief History of Time”: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” Mathematics itself is on fire.

Not every physicist pledges allegiance to Plato. Pressed, these scientists will describe the laws more pragmatically as a kind of shorthand for nature’s regularity. Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, put it this way: “A law of physics is a pattern that nature obeys without exception.”

Plato and the whole idea of an independent reality, moreover, took a shot to the mouth in the 1920s with the advent of quantum mechanics. According to that weird theory, which, among other things, explains why our computers turn on every morning, there is an irreducible randomness at the microscopic heart of reality that leaves an elementary particle, an electron, say, in a sort of fog of being everywhere or anywhere, or being a wave or a particle, until some measurement fixes it in place.

In that case, according to the standard interpretation of the subject, physics is not about the world at all, but about only the outcomes of experiments, of our clumsy interactions with that world. But 75 years later, those are still fighting words. Einstein grumbled about God not playing dice.

Steven Weinstein, a philosopher of science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, termed the phrase “law of nature” as “a kind of honorific” bestowed on principles that seem suitably general, useful and deep. How general and deep the laws really are, he said, is partly up to nature and partly up to us, since we are the ones who have to use them.

But perhaps, as Dr. Davies complains, Plato is really dead and there are no timeless laws or truths. A handful of poet-physicists harkening for more contingent nonabsolutist laws not engraved in stone have tried to come up with prescriptions for what John Wheeler, a physicist from Princeton and the University of Texas in Austin, called “law without law.”

As one example, Lee Smolin, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, has invented a theory in which the laws of nature change with time. It envisions universes nested like Russian dolls inside black holes, which are spawned with slightly different characteristics each time around. But his theory lacks a meta law that would prescribe how and why the laws change from generation to generation.

Holger Bech Nielsen, a Danish physicist at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and one of the early pioneers of string theory, has for a long time pursued a project he calls Random Dynamics, which tries to show how the laws of physics could evolve naturally from a more general notion he calls “world machinery.”

On his Web site, Random Dynamics, he writes, “The ambition of Random Dynamics is to ‘derive’ all the known physical laws as an almost unavoidable consequence of a random fundamental ‘world machinery.’”

Dr. Wheeler has suggested that the laws of nature could emerge “higgledy-piggledy” from primordial chaos, perhaps as a result of quantum uncertainty. It’s a notion known as “it from bit.” Following that logic, some physicists have suggested we should be looking not so much for the ultimate law as for the ultimate program..

Anton Zeilinger, a physicist and quantum trickster at the University of Vienna, and a fan of Dr. Wheeler’s idea, has speculated that reality is ultimately composed of information. He said recently that he suspected the universe was fundamentally unpredictable.

I love this idea of intrinsic randomness much for the same reason that I love the idea of natural selection in biology, because it and only it ensures that every possibility will be tried, every circumstance tested, every niche inhabited, every escape hatch explored. It’s a prescription for novelty, and what more could you ask for if you want to hatch a fecund universe?


Page 3 of 3)

But too much fecundity can be a problem. Einstein hoped that the universe was unique: given a few deep principles, there would be only one consistent theory. So far Einstein’s dream has not been fulfilled.Cosmologists and physicists have recently found themselves confronted by the idea of the multiverse, with zillions of universes, each with different laws, occupying a vast realm known in the trade as the landscape.

In this case there is meta law — one law or equation, perhaps printable on a T-shirt — to rule them all. This prospective lord of the laws would be string theory, the alleged theory of everything, which apparently has 10500 solutions. Call it Einstein’s nightmare.

But it is soon for any Einsteinian to throw in his or her hand. Since cosmologists don’t know how the universe came into being, or even have a convincing theory, they have no way of addressing the conundrum of where the laws of nature come from or whether those laws are unique and inevitable or flaky as a leaf in the wind.

These kinds of speculation are fun, but they are not science, yet. “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds,” goes the saying attributed to Richard Feynman, the late Caltech Nobelist, and repeated by Dr. Weinberg.

Maybe both alternatives — Plato’s eternal stone tablet and Dr. Wheeler’s higgledy-piggledy process — will somehow turn out to be true. The dichotomy between forever and emergent might turn out to be as false eventually as the dichotomy between waves and particles as a description of light. Who knows?

The law of no law, of course, is still a law.

When I was young and still had all my brain cells I was a bridge fan, and one hand I once read about in the newspaper bridge column has stuck with me as a good metaphor for the plight of the scientist, or of the citizen cosmologist. The winning bidder had overbid his hand. When the dummy cards were laid, he realized that his only chance of making his contract was if his opponents’ cards were distributed just so.

He could have played defensively, to minimize his losses. Instead he played as if the cards were where they had to be. And he won.

We don’t know, and might never know, if science has overbid its hand. When in doubt, confronted with the complexities of the world, scientists have no choice but to play their cards as if they can win, as if the universe is indeed comprehensible. That is what they have been doing for more than 2,000 years, and they are still winning.

26705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: December 19, 2007, 10:20:32 AM
“Time magazine hasn’t announced its pick for ‘man of the year’ yet, but we certainly know ours: Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq and architect of the surge strategy that is turning the tide in the war. Petraeus formulated a brilliant counterinsurgency plan. He executed it with care and diligence. And when much of the country didn’t want to notice the security gains that the surge had wrought, he took the national media spotlight to defend his strategy and his honor. In all this, he was nothing less than masterly. When Petraues testified on Capitol Hill in early September, much of the media and the Left simply refused to believe that violence in Iraq was down... And the day Petraeus’s testimony began, ran its infamous ‘General Petraeus or General Betray Us?’ ad. It said that ‘every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed’; that Petraeus ‘is constantly at war with the facts’; and that the general ‘is cooking the books for the White House.’... Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped just short of calling him a liar, saying that to believe his report required ‘a willing suspension of disbelief.’ Less than a month later, however, Petraeus’s critics had been effectively silenced... That the surge has worked is no longer up for debate. On a trip to Iraq the week after Thanksgiving, even John Murtha stated flatly, ‘I think the surge is working.’... That Petraeus has achieved so much in such a short time despite the frustrations of Iraqi politics is a testament to his skill as a strategist and a leader of men. For making victory in Iraq look possible again, and for pulling a nation back from the brink of civil war, Petraeus deserves the praise and thanks of all Americans. With or without a Time cover, he is the man of the year.” —National Review
26706  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 19, 2007, 08:55:12 AM
IMHO our misguided War on Drugs has many costs-- one of which is a logic of kicking in people's doors on no-knock warrants lest the drugs be flushed.  In a free (hence armed) society, the potential for tragedy and clusterfcuk is obvious.

MINNEAPOLIS — With her six kids and husband tucked into bed, Yee Moua was watching TV in her living room just after midnight when she heard voices — faint at first, then louder. Then came the sound of a window shattering.
Moua bolted upstairs, where her husband, Vang Khang, grabbed his shotgun from a closet, knelt and fired a warning shot through his doorway as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He let loose with two more blasts. Twenty-two bullets were fired back at him, by the family's count.
Then things suddenly became clear.
"It's the police! Police!" his sons yelled.
Khang, a Hmong immigrant with shaky command of English, set down his gun, raised his hands and was soon on the ground, an officer's boot on his neck.
The gunmen, it turned out, were members of a police SWAT team that had raided the wrong address because of bad information from an informant — a mistake that some critics say happens all too frequently around the country and gets innocent people killed.
"I have six kids, and only one mistake almost took my kids' life," said Moua, 29. "We will never forget this." /**/
No one was hurt in the raid Sunday, conducted by a task force that fights drugs and gangs, though two police officers were hit by the shotgun blasts and narrowly escaped injury because they were wearing bulletproof vests.
Police apologized to the family and placed the seven officers on leave while it investigates what went wrong.
Such mistakes are a fact of police work, some experts said.
"Does going to the wrong address happen from time to time? Yes," said John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association in Doylestown, Pa. "Do you corroborate as best you can the information the informant gives you? Absolutely. But still from time to time mistakes are made."
One of the biggest botched raids in recent years happened in Atlanta in 2006, when police killed a 92-year-old woman in a hail of nearly 40 bullets after she fired a shot at what she thought were intruders. Police had gone to her house on a drug raid, but no drugs were found.
Prosecutors said that in obtaining a search warrant, Atlanta police falsely told a judge that an informant had confirmed drug dealing there. The scandal led to a shake-up in the department, two officers pleaded guilty to manslaughter and civil rights charges, and the city faces at least two lawsuits.
Reliable figures on the frequency of erroneous raids are hard to come by. Federal agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, said they do not keep track.
A study last year by the libertarian Cato Institute said: "Because of shoddy police work, over-reliance on informants, and other problems, each year hundreds of raids are conducted on the wrong addresses, bringing unnecessary terror and frightening confrontation to people never suspected of a crime."
Gnagey disputed the reliability of the research behind those figures, and said it is impossible to know whether they are too high or too low. He said no dependable estimates exist.
"Going to the wrong home is an extreme rarity," said Mark Robbins, a law enforcement professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. "It's just unfortunate that when it does, it often ends up in violent and even tragic incidents."
In the Minneapolis case, the nature of the tip and precisely what police were looking for were not disclosed; they have not released the search warrant. And it was not clear how far off the mark the informant was in supplying the address.
No charges were brought against Khang, a laid-off machine operator who lives in crime-ridden north Minneapolis. Khang used the shotgun for hunting, said his brother, Dao Khang. In Minnesota, no license is required to own a shotgun.
Khang, who speaks some English but used an interpreter during an interview, said he does not remember hearing any calls of "Police!" until his sons shouted. He said he would never knowingly shoot at officers.
"That's why I reacted the way I did, to protect my family and two sons," said Khang, 34, whose children are ages 3 to 15.
Lt. Amelia Huffman, a police spokeswoman, said the information in the search warrant came from a source who had been reliable in the past.
Huffman said officers who routinely work on drug and gang cases are trained to try to corroborate their information. As for why the process didn't work this time, "that's one of the things the internal investigation will go through in exhaustive detail," she said.
The Hmong are hill people from Laos who aided the CIA during the Vietnam War by fighting the Viet Cong. Hmong refugees began arriving in Minnesota in the late 1970s, and there are perhaps 60,000 Hmong in Minnesota today.
The Khang family is living with relatives until the house gets cleaned up. The raid left six windows broken and walls and ceilings pocked with pellet and bullet holes.
"The whole family is badly shaken and still trying to understand what happened," Moua said.

26707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: December 19, 2007, 08:31:32 AM
This Is Not Your Land Anymore
An outrageous story of eminent-domain abuse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The legal phrase "eminent domain" has become all too familiar to nonlawyers in recent years as the U.S. Supreme Court has gradually expanded the power of municipalities to condemn private property and seize it for "public" use--even if they just end up handing property over to another private party. The court's now infamous Kelo decision (2005) no doubt pleased the city fathers of New London, Conn., who had taken possession of some residential neighborhoods for the sake of private developers. But it outraged nearly everyone else, not least Susette Kelo, the plaintiff whose home was coveted.

Outrage, appropriately, is the sustained effect of Carla Main's "Bulldozed," the case study of another instance of eminent-domain abuse, this time in the working-class town of Freeport, Texas (pop. 13,500), on the Gulf coast. Six years ago, after decades of decline, Freeport decided to revitalize itself by building a private marina on the Old Brazos River, which runs through the center of town. City leaders hoped that the development would attract hotels, restaurants, art galleries and tourists. But to make it all happen, they needed the land of a local family business. "Bulldozed" tells the story of a fight over domain, eminent and otherwise.

Ms. Main begins with the members of the Gore family, whose shrimping business has operated in Freeport since the 1940s. They own 330 feet of riverfront land, where shrimp boats dock and unload, and a state-of-the-art processing plant nearby. The family's company, called Western Seafood, employs more than 50 people and pays Freeport nearly $20,000 in taxes every year. Not that such good citizenry was enough to shield the company from the hazards of municipal overreach.
In March 2002, a group of private investors, led by a man named H. Walker Royall, formed a company called Freeport Waterfront Properties. Six months later, consultants hired by the city released a redevelopment plan--and, amazingly, it recommended a private marina, just what Mr. Royall's investors had hoped for. The city did not open the marina project to competition; it just handed it over to Freeport Waterfront. Conveniently, Mr. Royall sat on the board of Sun Resorts, another company that the city selected, also without competition, this time to manage the marina once it was built.

The cozy arrangements didn't stop there. Freeport agreed to give the private investors $6 million in the form of a no-recourse loan. (The city's annual budget was $13 million.) It promised to cover their cost overruns with a loan of up to $400,000. It gave them a tax abatement. And it limited the investors' financial liability to $250,000 in cash, leaving the city on the hook for other cost overruns.

The only obstacle to this sweetheart deal was Western Seafood. It owned the land where Mr. Royall and his friends wanted to build. The city came up with a clever way around this problem. Claiming eminent domain, it proposed to take only part of the company's land--paying the Gores $260,000 in compensation. But the part the city officially wanted was riverfront land. Without it, Western Seafood wouldn't have access to its shrimpboats, and the "problem" of the rest of Western Seafood's land--expensive property, crowded with buildings and industrial equipment--would take care of itself. The city would get it virtually without paying for it.

The tale gets worse. Freeport was in a position to consider building a marina in the first place only because a "guillotine gate" in the river--insulating boats from hurricanes and storm surges--made Freeport a safe harbor. When the guillotine gate needed modernization several years ago, Ms. Main reports, the city didn't have the money for the $300,000 job. So the Gores gave the city a gift of $150,000. If they hadn't been so generous, the city never would have tried to take their land.

Ms. Main's legal background and reporting skills serve her well as she navigates the Gores' messy, twisting fight against city hall. Her tone is usually judicious, though not always. (Recounting one insincere proposal from the city to create a tiny buffer between Western Seafood and the marina, she exclaims: "Buffer, my ass!") From time to time, she steps away from Freeport to give a primer on eminent domain and the legal arguments surrounding the claims of municipalities on private land.
But "Bulldozed" is at heart a story about trouble in a small town, a sort of eminent-domain version of "In Cold Blood," although it lacks a satisfying conclusion. In 2003, the Gores and Freeport took one another to court and fought a long, rancorous battle. After a series of defeats, the family was seemingly victorious. Freeport abandoned its plan for a private marina--only to unveil a plan for a public marina that would also need much of the Gores' land. As "Bulldozed" closes, the two sides are heading back to the courthouse once more.

Mr. Last is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard. You can buy "Bulldozed" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.

26708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: December 19, 2007, 08:10:35 AM
"Strangers are welcome because there is room enough for them
all, and therefore the old Inhabitants are not jealous of them;
the Laws protect them sufficiently so that they have no need of
the Patronage of great Men; and every one will enjoy securely the
Profits of his Industry. But if he does not bring a Fortune with
him, he must work and be industrious to live."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Those Who Would Remove to America,
February 1784)

Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 977.
26709  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: December 19, 2007, 12:22:42 AM
Shogun and Ninja leave Chute Boxe
Team makes statement regarding fighters' departure

Shortly after published, first hand, the news regarding Murilo Ninja’s departure from Chute Boxe, the team from Curitiba released a briefing on its official site announcing that Mauricio Shogun to would be leaving the team.

“We regret very much the departure of Murilo and Mauricio Rua, they are fighters brought up in the team and left to start their own team in the USA. We’d like to remind them that the doors to Chute Boxe shall always be open for both of them and we wish them luck and success in their new endeavors,” stated Rudimar Fedrigo, who leads Chuteboxe along with Rafael Cordeiro.

Check out the bulletin first published early this afternoon on

After Wanderlei Silva and Andre Dida’s departure, Chute Boxe loses another one of its big stars. As ascertained by, Murilo Ninja, who submitted the Frenchman Xavier Foupa-Pokan at Cage Rage 24, on the first of the month, has called it quits with the team from Curitiba.

Ninja, along with his brother Mauricio Shogun, was a symbol of Chute Boxe for many years at Pride, when they displayed for the world aggressive muay thai, enchanting the Japanese and making the academy popular. Ninja will be back in the cage in March for EliteXC, the event in which he will fight for four more times, aside from disputing the Cage Rage belt this coming July.

“I left the academy. I’m putting together my own team, in Massachusetts, USA. I spoke with Rudimar (Fedrigo) on Friday, it was a friendly departure, no worries. It was better for me, my career is short and I don’t earn big purses, so I have to look out for what is best for me and my future. Next week I’ll take a better look at the details regarding my new team: Name, structure, those things. I don’t know about my brother, what I know is that I left,” said Ninja in finishing.
26710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: December 19, 2007, 12:13:42 AM
Iran: Wielding its Regained Nuclear Leverage

While the United States tries to downplay Russia's Dec. 17 announcement that nuclear fuel had been delivered to Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility, Iran is brimming with confidence and making announcements about domestic uranium enrichment activity and the construction of a second nuclear power plant. Tehran has regained -- and is keeping a firm grip on -- its nuclear bargaining chip to use in negotiations with Washington, but the Bush administration's patience could be wearing thin.


Iran has been oozing with confidence ever since Russia's Dec. 17 announcement that nuclear fuel had been delivered to Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility. After years of politically motivated delays, the Iranians finally got their hands on the key to making Bushehr operational -- and thus regained their nuclear leverage in negotiations with Washington after the recent National Intelligence Estimate essentially obliterated an Iranian nuclear weapons threat. The regained leverage lies in the unstated fact that an operational Bushehr can theoretically produce enough plutonium to make a small, crude plutonium bomb on a weekly basis if the Iranians decide to kick out inspectors and tinker with the reactor output.

Washington is doing everything in its power to downplay this latest development in Iran's nuclear saga, saying that since Russia has provided fuel (with appropriate International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards), Tehran has no reason to continue enrichment for civilian nuclear power. But the Iranians are milking the Bushehr fuel delivery for all it is worth, and in a flurry of statements Tehran is dramatically inflating the threat of its nuclear program for its own political gain.

Immediately following the Bushehr fuel delivery announcement, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief and Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh announced on state television that the Bushehr development would not stop Iran's uranium enrichment process, and that enrichment would continue at the Natanz plant in central Iran to provide enough nuclear fuel for local power plants. He went on to say that the 3,000 centrifuges allegedly operating at Natanz would be increased to 50,000. The next day, Iran announced that it had done an aerial survey of "generous amounts" of uranium deposits in central and southern Iran (although how one can spot uranium deposits from the air is a mystery).

Aghazadeh also announced Dec. 17 that Iran was building a 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in Darkhovein, south of the city of Ahvaz in the southwestern province of Khuzestan. Iran is claiming all components of this plant would be made by Iranian engineers. But while the Iranians have no doubt carefully watched Russian construction at Bushehr (and diligently taken notes), the construction of a large power generation reactor is a technically challenging undertaking that realistically requires a bit more engineering experience than looking over someone's shoulder. Even India -- a country far more advanced both in terms of an engineering base in general and nuclear experience in particular -- is still looking to Russia to build nuclear power generation facilities in its country. The Russians also strategically did not give the Iranians the benefit of learning how the reactor vessel for Bushehr was built. That crucial component was built near St. Petersburg and then shipped to Bushehr in November 2001, leaving Iran with the limited knowledge of how to insert an already-built vessel into the reactor design.

Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly had to import much of its hardware for uranium enrichment -- and that hardware, whether of domestic or foreign manufacture, does not yet appear to be of particularly high quality. That said, the reactors do not require as much fine machining precision as uranium enrichment does. The Russian light water VVER-1000 power unit design (a Russian acronym for water-cooled, water-moderated and with a roughly 1,000 megawatt capacity) now in place in Bushehr is a late Soviet design thought to be more forgiving than comparable Western designs in terms of functionality -- but without the full suite of safety features. Even if Iran lacks the capability to build this plant completely on its own, it can break ground and begin constructing the facilities whenever it wants and attempt to extract political benefits from that construction for years without making substantial forward progress with the actual reactor vessel design.

With the nuclear card back in its hand, Iran can afford to push the nuclear envelope with the United States to bolster its position in the Iraq negotiations. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Iranians seem to be dragging their feet in the talks and were likely the main impetus behind postponement of a meeting with U.S. officials in Baghdad that was scheduled to take place Dec. 18. While U.S. President George W. Bush's administration is exercising patience in dealing with Iran's nuclear stunts, that patience could soon wear thin, spelling trouble for a future settlement on Iraq.

The definition of a nuclear weapons program is highly subjective, as illustrated by the divergence in views between Israel and the United States over whether the production of fissile material represents a weapons program. The United States could easily manipulate the subjectivity of this nuclear debate for political purposes if Washington wanted to revitalize the threat of military action against the Islamic republic. A shift in the U.S. position on Iran's nuclear ambitions does not appear imminent, but it is certainly possible.

26711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Naval Power on: December 18, 2007, 04:23:03 PM
Why TR Claimed the Seas
December 18, 2007; Page A20
On Dec. 16, 1907, the 16 battleships of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet sailed from Hampton Roads, Va., on a 43,000-mile journey around the world. The occasion was immediately understood as Teddy Roosevelt's way of declaring that the United States, already an economic superpower, was also a military one. Unnoticed by most Americans, this past Sunday marked its centennial.

There is an enduring, bipartisan strain in American politics (think Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich) that wishes to forgo the military role. As wonderfully recounted by Jim Rasenberger in "America 1908," the voyage of the Great White Fleet, as it was popularly known, was energetically opposed by members of Congress, who sought to cut off its funding when it was halfway around the world. Sound familiar? Mark Twain considered the venture as further evidence that TR was "clearly insane . . . and insanest upon war and its supreme glories."

Teddy Roosevelt addresses sailors of the Great White Fleet, February 1909.
In fact, Roosevelt had sound strategic reasons for putting the fleet to sea. A year earlier, the British had commissioned their revolutionary Dreadnought battleship, setting off an arms race with Germany that helped set Europe on a course to World War I. Labor riots against Japanese immigrants in California had strained relations with Japan, whose dramatic naval victory over Russia at the battle of Tsushima had made the rest of the world keenly aware of this rising Asian power.

"Nearly every day fresh bulletins of sinister Japanese maneuvers appeared in the European and American press," writes Mr. Rasenberger, including rumors of thousands of Japanese troops disguised as Mexican peasants, "preparing to attack America." Roosevelt himself later explained that he had "become uncomfortably conscious of a very, very slight undertone of veiled truculence" from the Japanese. "It was time for a show down."

The voyage itself was fraught with risk. By shifting the bulk of America's naval might to the Pacific, Roosevelt left the Eastern seaboard largely undefended. Slight miscalculations on the first leg of the journey nearly left the fleet without enough coal to reach South America. The transit through the Straits of Magellan (the Panama Canal would not open until 1914) could have crippled any one of the ships and sunk the entire enterprise. There were serious worries the Japanese would sink the fleet at anchor in Yokohama. The fear was compounded by the discovery that the armor belt of the battleships, fully laden with men and stores, dropped several inches below the waterline.

The fears turned out to be misplaced. Journalists embedded in the fleet used primitive wireless devices to report rapturous public receptions everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Sydney to Marseilles. The fleet crowned itself in further glory when it provided disaster relief in Messina, Sicily, after a devastating earthquake. The tradition would live on in U.S. Navy relief operations, most recently in Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Perhaps the greatest surprise were the supposedly hostile Japanese, who greeted the visiting fleet with an honor guard of 16 companion battleships and crowds of Japanese waving American flags. "The Japanese nation," the mayor of Tokyo told Rear Adm. Charles Sperry, "asks you to convey the message that the Japanese believe that war between Japan and America would be a crime against the past, present and future of the two countries."

From the perspective of a half-century, the mayor's assurances may have seemed bitterly hollow, but the arrival of the American fleet was followed four years later by Japan's first real experience of democracy and two years after that with Japan's entry into World War I on the Allied side. Plainly, no similar impression was made by the fleet on the Europeans, and one wonders what might have been if Germany, which so consistently underrated American power, had had a closer look at it. A prewar "entangling alliance" between the U.S., Britain and France might also have dissuaded Berlin from marching toward the Marne.

Yet if there was a lesson here, it was lost to the U.S. during the interwar period. Just 13 years after the Great White Fleet returned to the U.S., it was physically scrapped under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, which set strict limits on the number and size of battleships the major powers could build and deploy. Only after Pearl Harbor and World War II did Americans really seem to learn the lesson that their position as a maritime power could not be wished away, and that their maritime interests could only be defended by a powerful Navy.

That remains no less true today, even as the Navy goes through something of an identity crisis. America's wars have become up-country affairs, and the big ships of our blue-water Navy are not quite adapted to brown-green waters where today's conflicts are likely to take place. John McCain, whose grandfather sailed with the fleet (and was among the officers pictured here listening to Roosevelt), recently complained to The Wall Street Journal about the huge cost overruns in the development of a new generation of so-called Littoral Combat Ships.

Whatever the procurement problems or tactical issues, a supremely powerful Navy is not a luxury the U.S. can safely dispense with. In September, ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy made their first-ever port calls in Germany, France, Britain and Italy, and Chinese admirals are frequent guests on American warships. "The Chinese Great White Fleet is not too far off on the horizon," says a senior Navy official in a recent conversation.

China's current rise, like America's a century ago, is not something anyone can stop. It can be steered. Making sure our vision for the Navy stays true to Teddy Roosevelt's is one way of ensuring the Chinese don't make the mistake of steering it our way.

• Write to
26712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: December 18, 2007, 04:16:32 PM
Turkey's Terror Problem Is Ours
December 18, 2007; Page A21

It's been nearly two months since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) sparked an international crisis with a major attack inside Turkey, and more than six weeks since President Bush promised Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington would aid Turkey's fight against terrorism. Heady talk of intelligence sharing and cooperation followed and, indeed, may have been a factor in this weekend's Turkish air strikes on PKK targets in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Yet at the same time the Bush administration -- more precisely its increasingly assertive State Department -- has embraced an ill-advised diplomatic strategy toward the PKK that will likely backfire on our long-standing NATO ally, and could serve to undermine what is left of President Bush's "global war on terrorism."

Rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, near the Turkish border in the remote village of Lewzhe, in northern Iraq, July 2007.
With 100,000 Turkish troops amassed alongside the Iraqi frontier, it is understandable that U.S. diplomats want to avert a military crisis. But, rather than take a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism, the State Department is counseling Turkey to offer political concessions. On Dec. 13, for example, State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Dell Dailey said, "We have not looked at a military solution as the solution to the PKK. Our preference is a political solution," both inside Iraqi Kurdistan and inside Turkey.

The desired political solution seems to be Iraqi Kurdish action to close down the safe haven on Iraqi soil in exchange for a general amnesty law in Turkey to forgive most PKK members and perhaps other Kurdish-language broadcasting and constitutional reforms as well.

Such a deal at this time would be cockeyed. Turkey has a legitimate grievance against both the PKK and Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. During its Oct. 21 attack on Turkish troops, PKK tactics mirrored those taught by U.S. Special Forces to Mr. Barzani's peshmerga fighters, suggesting its complicity in training terrorists. A diplomatic solution should not reward such behavior.

This needn't mean solely a military solution either. Rather, U.S. officials should threaten isolation and a cessation of all financial assistance until Mr. Barzani ceases his safe haven. Confronted with such demands since 2003, Mr. Barzani has always begged for more time, only to let his promises lag when the diplomatic spotlight passed.

It is trendy to seek "root causes" of terror and to discount terrorist ideology. For State Department officials who believe the PKK is just an outgrowth of inequality and discrimination in Turkey, a deal may seem logical. The group's ideology should negate such a compromise. The PKK has its roots in the revolutionary turmoil of the 1970s. Its leader, a university drop-out named Abdullah Öcalan, immersed himself in the Marxism and Maoism fashionable among intellectuals of the day and became a committed revolutionary. Cloaking himself in Kurdish nationalism, Öcalan's first target was not the Turkish military, but rather nonviolent Kurdish civil rights groups.

In August 1984, the PKK launched an insurgency in southeastern Turkey. Like Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, it targeted the educated and modern. PKK terrorists executed school teachers for being public servants. PKK gangs burned medical clinics and murdered their staff. Health care collapsed. As al Qaeda would do two decades later in Iraq, the PKK destroyed critical infrastructure to drive a wedge between the state and the local population. Before ending in 1997, the PKK campaign claimed 30,000 lives, the majority ethnic Kurds killed by the PKK itself.

The terror campaign ended not with political concession, but coercion: Turkey threatened to expand its military campaign to Syria, which sheltered the PKK. As the Turkish military mobilized along Syria's frontier, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad blinked and order the PKK out. Öcalan sought Greek protection. Rather than try to negotiate compromise with a terrorist, U.S. forces took a no-nonsense approach. U.S. (and Israeli) intelligence tipped Ankara off to Öcalan's whereabouts. On Feb. 16, 1999, Turkish Special Forces captured the PKK leader outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. Today, Öcalan serves his life sentence time on the prison island of Imrali, but controls his organization through trusted lieutenants.

Every time the PKK finds a safe haven, it renews violence. Iran briefly sheltered PKK fighters after their expulsion from Syria. No sooner had the PKK established camps than it restarted its terrorism. Turkey responded by bombing both PKK targets and Iranian Revolutionary Guards posts around the Iranian town of Piranshahr. While Tehran seldom takes diplomatic demarches or deals seriously, faced with a military red-line, the ayatollahs, too, backed down. No U.S. official, obviously, counseled that Turkey should compromise.

And yet, in the name of diplomacy, the Bush administration now does. The White House validates Mr. Barzani's decision to play the terror card. For the State Department to accept Mr. Barzani's excuse -- that Kurdish solidarity prohibits a crackdown upon the PKK -- is naïve. Kurdish solidarity is an oxymoron. Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Barzani fought the group he now protects. His change of heart came after the Turkish parliament's 2003 decision not to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Overestimating the chill in U.S.-Turkish relations, he took a hard line against Ankara. As Turkey at the time offered amnesty to those rank-and-file PKK members without blood on their hands, Mr. Barzani welcomed the PKK leaders he once fought. Turkish authorities say they have photographs of senior PKK commanders receiving medical treatment in Erbil hospitals and meeting with Barzani associates in nearby restaurants. Last spring, Mr. Barzani threatened in an al-Arabiya television interview to unleash insurgency inside Turkey.

So as Mr. Barzani denies complicity in terrorism, he nevertheless seeks to leverage it into diplomatic gain. To link demands for Mr. Barzani to crack down with any Turkish political concession suggests that President Bush has learned nothing from his predecessors' failures. The Bush administration's strategy today mirrors the Clinton administration's approach to late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat, in which the State Department matched every empty Arafat promise with demands for good-faith concessions from Israel, the democracy he victimized. While Kurdish officials tell credulous diplomats that the PKK threat would disappear if only Ankara offered greater concessions, the opposite is true: Concessions fuel terror.

Any Turkish compromise prior to a complete disarmament and expulsion of PKK terrorists from northern Iraq could encourage Syria and its Lebanese proxies to demand concessions in exchange for insincere promises to cease terror support. Pakistan, too, may once again leverage its support and safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership into demands upon both Washington and Kabul.

Turkey has been a poor ally in recent years, but fighting terror requires alliances to trump politics. Every country has the right to defend its citizens from terrorism. Mr. Barzani may give silk carpets to diplomats, provide lavish spreads during their visits, and have his praises sung by high-powered Beltway lobbyists, but so long as he provides the PKK a safe haven, he is a terror enabler. Forcing Turkey to negotiate with the PKK or its intermediaries would only justify its terrorism, and would be no wiser than counseling compromise with Hezbollah, Hamas, or al Qaeda.

Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
26713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain on: December 18, 2007, 04:08:31 PM
A busy day on this thread!

Here's today's WSJ on McCain:

McCain's Surge
Why he's making a primary comeback.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Endorsing John McCain for President yesterday, Joseph Lieberman stressed that his Senate colleague would always elevate his country above his party. Coming from a man who was excommunicated by Democrats for his views on Iraq, this was a fitting sentiment--and it may also explain why Mr. McCain seems to be staging something of a primary resurgence.

As recently as January, Mr. McCain was the putative Republican favorite, but his support collapsed amid his campaign mismanagement and the GOP's immigration meltdown. Now primary voters seem prepared to give him a second look in an unstable race. Mike Huckabee has galloped to a lead in Iowa, bruising Mitt Romney, though without much scrutiny of the former Arkansas Governor's record. Fred Thompson has yet to offer a compelling rationale for his candidacy. Rudy Giuliani for a time defied political gravity based on his New York reform leadership, but he has been hurt by questions about his judgment and ethics.

Re-enter Mr. McCain, who is nothing if not a known GOP commodity. One of his problems has been that to some Republicans he is too well known. This is the John McCain who was adored by the media for opposing tax cuts, favoring limits on free speech as part of "campaign finance reform," and embracing a cap and trade regime for global warming. This is the John McCain who was also endorsed this weekend by the Des Moines Register and Boston Globe, two liberal papers that are sure to endorse a Democrat next year.

Our own differences with Mr. McCain have mainly been over economics, and especially taxes. Despite record surpluses in 2000, the Senator refused to propose tax cuts as part of his Presidential bid--one reason he lost to George W. Bush. He also opposed the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, often using the language of the left.
Mr. McCain paid a visit to our offices last Friday, and he now says he supports extending the Bush tax rates, even admitting they helped the economy emerge from recession. "Without a doubt. Without the slightest doubt," he told us. "Absolutely."

In a spirited exchange, Mr. McCain justified his previous opposition by arguing that there was no discipline on spending. "To the everlasting shame and embarrassment of the Republican Party and this Administration," he noted, "we went on a spending spree and we didn't pay for it." That's true enough, and in an ideal world tax cuts would be offset dollar-for-dollar by spending cuts.

But in practice Congress will never do so, which means Republicans are left to be tax collectors for the welfare state. The experience of the Reagan and Bush years is that tax cutting has its own economic benefits, and that revenues will rebound far more quickly than the critics claim. We asked Mr. McCain what he'd do when faced with a Democratic Congress that insists he raise taxes in 2009, and he replied that he'd say "No" and cite JFK's successful tax-cutting in the 1960s. This is intellectual progress, and we trust such McCain advisers as Phil Gramm and Tim Muris will conduct further tutorials.

More than economics, Mr. McCain has two main strengths in this GOP race: His record on national security, and the belief that he can reach enough non-Republicans to assemble a viable center-right coalition and defeat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in what could be a difficult GOP year. Mr. Lieberman's endorsement is notable because it reinforces both of those claims. Mr. Lieberman had to win GOP and independent voters to keep his Connecticut Senate seat after he lost the Democratic primary, and Mr. McCain won in New Hampshire in 2000 with the help of independents who could vote in the GOP primary. He'll need their support again this year.

The two men have also been stalwarts on Iraq, even when it became unpopular, and despite paying a political price for it. Mr. McCain also argued persuasively for the changes in strategy now known as the surge. In his Friday visit with us, the Senator spoke with authority on all manner of foreign policy. He is a hawk in the Reagan mold on Iran, the larger Middle East and overall defense spending.
Our guess is that this national security record is the main reason for his own political surge. With the success of General David Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, even some conservatives have taken to arguing that foreign and military policy will become less important in 2008. We doubt it. This is still a post-9/11 country, and voters know they will be electing a Commander in Chief in a world that is as dangerous as it was during the height of the Cold War. In an election against any Democrat next year, Mr. McCain would have little trouble winning the security debate.

26714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 18, 2007, 01:30:09 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The U.S.-Iranian Dance

The Russians said on Monday they have delivered their first fuel shipment to the Iranian power plant at Bushehr. This fulfills a long-standing Russian agreement with Iran, which was reaffirmed at the meeting of Caspian Sea nations held in Tehran in October. The same day, U.S. President George W. Bush said at a press conference, without prompting, "If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich." A White House spokesman later said, "There is no doubt that Russia and the rest of the world want to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon." Monday's announcement provides one more avenue for the Iranians to make a strategic choice to suspend enrichment.

The Iranians also have said they will continue to enrich their own uranium. The Israelis have pointed to the uranium enrichment program as proof that the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon, saying enriched uranium constitutes the essence of a nuclear weapons program; Bush also focused on uranium enrichment.

If the intelligence community imposed the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Bush against his will, this would be the perfect time for him to reverse it. That the Iranians are continuing to enrich uranium in spite of Russia's decision could easily be construed as part of an Iranian weapons program. Bush so far has not done that. In fact, aside from assertions by others that the NIE blindsided him, there is no evidence whatever of it. Both Bush and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney publicly endorsed the NIE and no steps have been taken to reverse it. If the president had wanted to reverse it, this was the time to do so. He has not, at least not yet.

Apart from everything else, there is the basic assumption that enriching uranium constitutes a weapons program. Enriched uranium is a necessary condition for building one sort of device, but it is far from being a sufficient condition. As we have said before, there are multiple, non-nuclear technologies needed to build a weapon that can be mounted on a missile, attached to an aircraft or stowed in the hull of a ship. First the weapon must be miniaturized, which is far from easy to do. It then must be ruggedized to withstand the extraordinary stresses of delivery. For example, a nuclear weapon must be small enough to fit on a missile but rugged enough to withstand the high Gs of launch, vibration, vacuum and extreme temperatures -- not to mention moisture. These are not trivial technologies. It is the difference between having a device that can be exploded under special conditions, and one that can take out a city.

But the technology is not the key -- it simply is the analytic justification for Bush to support the NIE as he has, and to be much calmer with the Russian action and Iranian response than he would have been a few months ago. The key is to be found in a scheduled Dec. 18 meeting the Iranians postponed. The Iranians and Americans were supposed to meet in Baghdad to discuss security in Iraq. The United States is looking for reciprocity from the Iranians. So far it has not gotten it; on the contrary, the Iranians have been publicly uncooperative and truculent.

Bush has certain room to run with this strategy. But the more truculent the Iranians, the more he will be under pressure to revert to his prior position, which is that Iran has a nuclear program and is a danger to the world. The same rationale that allows the NIE to state that there is no nuclear program in spite of an enrichment program allows a reversal of a finding. The definition of a nuclear program is more than a little complex, and, as the NIE proves, is subject to reinterpretations depending on political necessity. Bush went with the redefinition expecting reciprocity on other issues from Iran. If it does not happen, he can again change course.
26715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: December 18, 2007, 12:43:52 PM
This could fit on any of a number of threads, but because the discs in question were being sold in the UK, I post it here:
26716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 18, 2007, 12:29:18 PM
Although I disagree with RP on War with Islamic Fascism (and that is a REALLY important disagreement) there is quite a bit I agree with him on-- and those too are REALLY important things.  (Trivia-- I voted for him when he ran for President on the Libertarian ticket)  Even though I won't be voting for him, I am very glad he is in the race and doing well.  He reminds us of our Founding Fathers and our Constitution.

Here's an endorsement he picked up yesterday.

"At one end of the character scale, you have the sickening sight of Mitt Romney, a hollow shell of cynicism and salesmanship, recrafted to appeal to a base he studied the way Bain consultants assess a company. [Ron] Paul and [John] McCain are at the other end. They have both said things to GOP audiences that they knew would offend. They have stuck with their positions despite unpopularity. They're not saints, but they believe what they say. Both have also taken a stand against the cancerous and deeply un-American torture and detention regime constructed by Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. In my book, that counts.... [Ron Paul] is the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds. And in a primary campaign where the very future of conservatism is at stake, that cannot be ignored. In fact, it demands support" -- blogger Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, on why he is endorsing Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination.
26717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; John Adams on: December 18, 2007, 11:50:31 AM
"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails
in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as
only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things
will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real
disposition of human nature; it is what neither the honorable
member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortunate that
awaits our State constitution, as well as all others."

-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
June 1788)

Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 26.


This one by John Adams I think particularly profound:

"We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." John Adams
26718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 18, 2007, 11:36:58 AM
Don't Have a Cow, Man
With her aura of inevitability diminishing, Hillary Clinton is resorting to ever more degrading campaign methods, the Associated Press reports from Dunlap, Iowa:

Standing atop a stage in a livestock auction barn, [Mrs.] Clinton likened the experience to her quest to woo undecided voters in the closing days before Iowa's pivotal caucuses.

"I've been to cattle barns before and sales before, in Arkansas, but I've never felt like I was the one that was being bid on,'' Clinton told a crowd in western Iowa. ''I know you're going to inspect me. You can look inside my mouth if you want. I hope by the end of my time with you I can make the case for my candidacy and to ask you to consider caucusing for me.''
26719  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: December 18, 2007, 11:27:25 AM
Pretty good!
26720  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Bolivia on: December 17, 2007, 10:33:55 PM
Bolivia: Unrest and the Threat to Exports
December 17, 2007 15 58  GMT


Bolivia is locked in a struggle for its future between its largely indigenous western highlands and the more Europeanized lowlands. The turmoil threatens all three of its main export sectors in varying degrees.


The struggle between Bolivia's highlands and lowlands threatens to disrupt all three of its main export sectors -- some more than others.

President Evo Morales' center of power lies in the eastern highlands, which are populated by indigenous people who make up roughly two-thirds of the country's population. The opposition's power base lies in the western lowlands. The lowlanders, who are largely of European descent, generate more than two-thirds of the Bolivia's wealth, although they only make up about one-third of the population.

Nearly all of the country's exports are generated in the lowlands; the exports fall into three categories. First are Bolivia's natural gas exports, which are transported via two pipelines. One pipeline supplies Brazil exclusively, while the second supplies Argentina and Chile. Second are various minerals, largely zinc, iron ore and tin. Third are agricultural products -- mostly soybeans -- that are sent to the nations of South America's southern cone. Most of the highland population practices subsistence farming, and Bolivia is actually a net importer of foodstuffs despite the lowland soybean exports.

The ongoing instability in Bolivia's political system could disrupt all of these export sectors. The least vulnerable of the three categories, ironically, is the mines. While most of the mines are located in the highlands, where various indigenous protests regularly interrupt shipments, the mines are not the subject of the political dispute. Operations there might not be ideal, but there is no change on the horizon, no matter how far things degrade in the highland-lowland equation.

Natural gas falls in the middle in terms of risk. Morales' constitutional reforms aim to harness most natural gas export income for the central government -- something that would disenfranchise the lowlands economically. While no one in Bolivia wants to see the natural gas flows stop, nearly all of the country's natural gas fields are precisely where the highlands slope down into the lowlands -- exactly where the two sides would clash if the situation degrades into fighting. Such a shift would threaten exports to all three of the southern cone states equally. Bolivia exports 2.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to Argentina -- with some of that flowing on to Chile -- and has the capacity to ship 10 billion cubic meters annually to Brazil, although Brazil typically imports only about half of that amount.

In the long term, however, while disruption is a looming probability, whoever ends up on top will still have an interest in exporting the natural gas. The real question for Bolivian energy is, will anyone still want it? All three southern cone states are making efforts to eliminate their need for Bolivian natural gas -- not only because of the political chaos, but also because of Morales' recent nationalization of the energy sector. Of the three, Argentina is the furthest from success.

Bolivia's political instability threatens its agricultural exports the most. These exports are generated almost exclusively in the lowlands. One part of Morales' constitutional changes would launch a land reform. That would break up the large farms of the lowlands and redistribute the land to the indigenous population in small plots, a process that would likely eliminate most exports.

26721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Coming Dhimmitude on: December 17, 2007, 10:30:19 PM
Katherine Kersten: Normandale's 'meditation room' is home to a single faith

By Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
Last update: December 16, 2007 - 8:53 PM

Last week, I visited a Muslim place of worship. A schedule for Islam's five daily prayers was posted at the entrance, near a sign requesting that shoes be removed. Inside, a barrier divided men's and women's prayer space, an arrow informed worshippers of the direction of Mecca, and literature urged women to cover their faces.
Sound like a mosque?
The place I'm describing is the "meditation room" at Normandale Community College, a 9,200-student public institution in Bloomington.

Until recently, the room was the school's only usable racquetball court. College administrators converted the court into a meditation room when construction forced closure of the previous meditation room.
A row of chest-high barriers splits the room into sex-segregated sections. In the smaller, enclosed area for women sits a pile of shawls and head-coverings. Literature titled "Hijaab [covering] and Modesty" was prominently placed there, instructing women on proper Islamic behavior.
They should cover their faces and stay at home, it said, and their speech should not "be such that it is heard."
"Enter into Islaam completely and accept all the rulings of Islaam," the tract read in part. "It should not be that you accept what entertains your desires and leave what opposes your desires; this is from the manners of the Jews."
"[T]he Jews and the Christians" are described as "the enemies of Allaah's religion." The document adds: "Remember that you will never succeed while you follow these people."
A poster on the room's door advertised a local lecture on "marriage from an Islamic perspective," with "useful tips for marital harmony from the Prophet's ... life." Other fliers invited students to join the Normandale Islamic Forum, or participate in Ramadan celebrations.
One thing was missing from the meditation room: evidence of any faith but Islam. No Bible, no crucifix, no Torah.

Normandale's administration is facilitating the room's Islamization. The college's building crew erected the barrier separating men's and women's sections, according to Ralph Anderson, dean of student affairs. College officials also posted signs at the room's entrance asking students to remove shoes -- a Muslim custom before prayers. This was "basically a courtesy to Muslim students," Anderson said.

Despite the room's Islamic atmosphere, Anderson says it "is open to everyone."

Why is the meditation room segregated by sex? "Muslim students prefer that areas be divided into male and female," he said. "Other students don't care."
Doesn't sex-segregation present a constitutional problem in a public educational institution? "I don't want to comment on that," he said.
And the literature regarding Jews and Christians? "I would probably take it out if I knew it was in there," said Anderson.
Normandale's zealous effort to accommodate Muslim students is not new. Chad Lunaas, a former student who works at the college part time, cites examples.
Last year on Fridays, he says, he often entered the bathroom to find that "every sink and toilet stall had someone washing his feet." Other students couldn't use the bathroom at these times, and those who tried felt awkward.
Lunaas finally expressed his concerns to a Muslim student who "seemed to be in charge."
"His attitude was, 'We don't have to listen to you, we can do whatever we want,' " he said.
Confrontations also erupted in the sex-segregated meditation room, according to Lunaas. "Muslim students just took it over. They made people who were not of the Muslim religion feel very uncomfortable, especially if they were female."
One female student tried to use the room when Muslim students were in it, said Lunaas. "She believed she should be treated equally. They were telling her to leave, to take off her shoes, to go to the other side of the divider."
Anderson says he met several times with concerned students. But "the whole thing was just basically swept aside," according to Lunaas.
Anderson said that in the incident involving the young woman, "both sides were probably out of line."
Howard Odor, who advises the college's Somali Student Association, said he has not been aware of "any issues" since the meditation room has been in the racquetball court. "I can guarantee that college policy is that anyone who wants to go in there and pray or meditate can do so."
But many at the college see a bigger issue.
"For all practical purposes, this meditation room is essentially a Muslim prayer room," said Chuck Chalberg of Normandale's history faculty. "Something this unprecedented goes beyond religious toleration."

Katherine Kersten • Join the conversation at my blog, Think Again, which can be found at
26722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can we actually be up to something intelligent? on: December 17, 2007, 02:43:05 PM

IRAN: Russia's first shipment of fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant gives Iran one more reason to suspend its uranium enrichment program, a White House spokesman said. He added that if Iran is getting fuel from Russia, it does not need its own program.
26723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: December 17, 2007, 02:41:24 PM

LEBANON: A senior Iranian intelligence officer arrived in Lebanon the week of Dec. 9, and Imad Mughniyye, Hezbollah official in charge of foreign operations, is accompanying the officer to his meetings there, Stratfor sources said Dec. 16. The two have held continuous talks with Hezbollah foreign operations officers in meetings attended by Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa. They later traveled to the town of Nabi Sheit in the northern Biqaa, then met with Syrian intelligence officers led by Brig. Gen. Ali Diab in Hezbollah training grounds in Shara near the border village of Janta.
26724  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 17, 2007, 01:46:27 PM
Andy and a couple of his English buddies while they were in town to train at the Inosanto Academy fought with Top Dog and me in the early 90s.  IIRC it was Andy (or Phil?) who became the UK champion in the TV show "The Gladiators" or something like that , , ,
26725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Parenting Issues on: December 17, 2007, 12:13:52 PM
12 Ways to Make Your Kids Financially Savvy
December 17, 2007; Page R1

Ten years after I am dead and gone, I suspect only two people will give much thought to me, and their names are Henry and Hannah.

They're my legacy, so I hope they thrive -- and I sure hope they remember me fondly.

Henry and Hannah are, of course, my children, now ages 15 and 19, respectively. Like any parent, I spend a lot of time thinking about my kids, including how I can best help them financially.  This isn't simply about coughing up dollars and cents, though the sums involved have been frighteningly large. Rather, what it's really about is passing along values.  Yes, I want my kids to be financially successful. But mostly, I want them to be competent, contented managers of their own money, so they don't spend their lives agonizing over their finances and dogged by foolish mistakes.

I am not claiming to have the road map for every parent. We all have different values, different incomes and strong ideas about how best to raise children -- and you will likely scoff at some of the things I've done. With that caveat, here are a dozen ways I have endeavored to help my kids financially.


If children are to grow up to be successful savers and investors, they need to learn two key skills: How to delay gratification and how to take risks prudently. The first is easily the most important. Indeed, the self-control needed to delay gratification is associated not only with good saving habits, but also with things like succeeding in school and coping better with frustration and stress.  Yet this isn't an easy skill to teach. Henry and Hannah grew up spending their parents' cash, so they didn't have much incentive to curb their desires. My response? Make them feel like they're spending their own money.

One of my early tricks was the soda game, which I learned about from a reader. When my children   were young and we went to restaurants, I would give them a choice: They could have a soda or they could have $1.  Henry and Hannah ended up drinking a lot of water.


Emboldened by the soda game's success, I looked for other ways to apply the same notion. The breakthrough came when Hannah was 14 and Henry was 10. That was when I opened a savings account for each of them. The accounts came with a cash-machine card.  Every three months since then, I have deposited pocket money for them in their savings accounts and, as they have grown older, their clothing allowance as well. That way, they've had to learn to budget for a three-month period. More important, they no longer ask me for money.  Instead, if they want to buy something, they have to ask themselves. The effect has been startling. Henry and Hannah almost immediately became more careful spenders.

Sound manipulative? You'd better believe it. But I also think of it as financial self-defense. Suppose Henry and Hannah don't learn good money skills and grow up to be financial deadbeats. If they ended up deeply in debt, I can't imagine not helping -- at which point their financial problems would be mine.


I haven't just molded Henry and Hannah with financial incentives. I have also used family stories.

Values are passed down to our children in the stories we tell. My children may live in an affluent household in an affluent town. But I want them to know that their mother and I struggled financially, and that they will likely have their own struggles. So I talk about the mouse- and cockroach-infested Brooklyn apartment where we all lived while their mother worked on her Ph.D. and we squeaked by on a junior reporter's salary. I tell them about the beaten-up '76 Camaro that used to stall if the traffic light stayed red too long. I recount taking them as toddlers to the "toy museum," otherwise known as FAO Schwarz, where we would play with the dolls and the trains but never buy.

Instead of regaling my children with these tales, I could simply lecture them about the virtues of thrift. But the stories pack far more punch.


I have also encouraged my kids to be suspicious of displays of opulence, whether it's the big house, the fancy car or the designer clothes. The fact is, this sort of spending doesn't lead to lasting happiness, but it can create a heap of financial stress.

In belittling conspicuous consumption, I may be a little too strident, but there's a reason. Henry and Hannah may have grown up hearing about the dilapidated Brooklyn apartment. But I grew up hearing a far more powerful story, about my maternal grandfather and his four siblings, who in the 1940s each inherited what today would be millions of dollars. My grandfather's siblings quickly blew the money on fast cars and high living. My grandfather blew his money more slowly, on horses and cattle farming. Either way, the great family fortune was gone, and reckless spending was largely to blame.


When my children were young, I opened a variable annuity for each of them. This isn't a product I particularly like, because many have outrageously high annual expenses and charge back-end sales commissions if you sell within, say, the first seven years.

Still, there are a few no-load variable annuities with low annual expenses, notably the offerings from Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group. Moreover, unlike with an individual retirement account, you don't need earned income to fund a variable annuity, so you can open an account for a toddler. Today, my kids' low-cost variable annuities are each worth some $37,000.

I have long been captivated by the idea of starting Henry and Hannah on the road to retirement. Think about it: The dollars I invested when they were youngsters might enjoy six decades of tax-deferred compounding. That's enough to turn $1 into over $100, assuming an 8% annual return. And thanks to the tax penalty on early withdrawals, my children will be discouraged from touching the money before they are 59½.


There are far better investment vehicles than a variable annuity, and my chance came a few years ago. Hannah got a job at a local restaurant, which meant she had earned income. That allowed me to open a Roth individual retirement account for her, which will give Hannah tax-free growth.

Instead, I could have funded a regular IRA, where withdrawals are taxable but you get an initial tax deduction. That tax deduction, however, wouldn't have been worth much, given Hannah's low tax rate, so the Roth seemed like a better bet.

The money I've stashed in my kids' variable annuities and in Hannah's Roth IRA won't be nearly enough to pay for their retirement, especially once you figure in inflation. But fully funding their retirement was never my aim. Rather, the accounts are intended to be a powerful example, showing my children how money will grow if they are willing to sit quietly with a diverse collection of low-cost funds.


When I bought my first home, my parents helped me financially, and I want to do the same for my kids. To that end, I have invested $15,000 for each of them.  Even with a decade or more of growth, that $15,000 probably won't be nearly enough for a 20% down payment. But it will give them something to build on.  I stashed Hannah's $15,000 in a target-date mutual fund that's geared toward 2010, while Henry's money is in a 2015 fund. I bought those funds knowing my kids probably won't buy homes until five or 10 years after those dates.

My thinking: Target-date funds typically have around half their money in stocks as of their target date, and then they continue to become more conservative in the years that follow. By the time my kids need their down-payment money, their target-date funds should be largely invested in bonds.


When my kids buy a house, they won't just need a down payment. They will also want to have a good credit score. 
With that in mind, I listed Hannah as a joint account holder on my Visa card earlier this year. That meant the card's credit history was added to her previously blank credit report.  Suddenly, she looked like a model financial citizen. That allowed her, a few months later, to apply for a Discover card on her own. I now have her on a strict regimen, where she charges a small sum each month and dutifully pays it off, thus slowly building up a good credit score.

When Henry reaches college age, I will go through the same nonsense with him. This, alas, is necessary nonsense. The reality is, a good credit score will help my kids get a lower mortgage rate, lower insurance premiums and a host of other financial benefits.


Full disclosure: I am divorced. But even before my marriage broke up, I was horrified by the way many families blow $20,000 or $30,000 on a single day of celebration for a wedding.  To put such spending in context, consider this: According to the Federal Reserve's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, more than 96% of households headed by someone 65 to 74 had some savings -- but the median value of these financial assets, including things like checking accounts, stocks and mutual funds, was just $36,100.
Spending $30,000 on a party is not one of my values, and I've made sure my kids know it. I have told them I will give them $5,000 toward a wedding or at age 30, whichever comes first. What if they want the $30,000 wedding? They can ask their mother.


While an expensive wedding is low on my list of priorities, a good education ranks near the top. My ex-wife and I long ago agreed that we would pay the full cost of our children's undergraduate education. Again, this was something my parents did for me, and we all tend to be heavily influenced by our parents' behavior.

There is, however, a limit to my generosity. I have told Henry and Hannah that, if they want to go on to graduate school, they will have to take out loans. I may relent somewhat when the time comes. But I think that there should be some cost to staying in school, so I am not inclined to continue footing the full tab.


As you might gather, I have talked to my kids a fair amount about money. They know they will graduate college debt-free, they will get some help toward a house down payment and they will receive just $5,000 toward a wedding. They know about the retirement accounts. I have also promised them $5,000 upon graduating college, to get them started in the world.

No doubt some folks will think I'm overly generous, while others might consider me cheap. Many will question my priorities. For instance, folks have told me that they would have skipped the retirement accounts and allocated more toward a house down payment.  But, frankly, the precise sums aren't that important. Instead, what I am striving to do is set expectations. By detailing everything to Henry and Hannah, I have made it clear where I think my financial responsibility ends and where theirs will begin.


Along the way, I have also endeavored to teach my kids about sensible investing. It's been a slow process.

For instance, earlier this decade, I tried a family investment contest. We all picked a mutual fund, I invested $50 a month in each and then we tracked who fared best. I thought the competition would grab their interest, but it wasn't a great success. Maybe Henry and Hannah were too young.  Indeed, I have continued to show them their mutual-fund statements as they arrive in the mail, and my kids have grown more interested as they have grown older. They have also become more curious about the financial markets, and I can now chat about investing for at least 30 seconds before they reach for their iPods.

I hope enough of this will stick, and they will grow up to be prudent managers of their own money. The potential savings are huge. A financial adviser might charge 1% of a portfolio's value each year, and then recommend mutual funds that cost another 1%. What if my children learn to build their own index-fund portfolios that cost a mere 0.2% a year? When their portfolios hit $1 million, they will pay just $2,000 a year in investment costs, instead of the $20,000 they would be paying if they used an adviser. And, with any luck, they will remember whom to thank.

--Mr. Clements, who is based in New York, writes the Getting Going column for The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at

26726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 17, 2007, 08:55:48 AM
Money Illusions
December 17, 2007; Page A20
Groucho Marx once asked, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" Too bad Groucho doesn't work at either the Federal Reserve or on Wall Street, where economists have been predicting that slower economic growth would lead to a slowdown in inflation. They should have believed their own eyes.

As any American who has shopped for groceries or gasoline can tell you, prices are rising. That was confirmed last Friday in the official figures for November, with overall consumer prices jumping 0.8% from a month earlier. That was the largest monthly gain in two years, and 4.3% higher than a year ago. The report for producer prices was equally as alarming a day earlier, rising 3.2%. The producer price index is up 7.7% in the past 12 months, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Some analysts continue to ignore all this and focus on so-called "core" inflation, which excludes food and energy. That is cold comfort to Americans who devote increasingly larger chunks of their monthly budget to -- food and energy. One lesson of the past few years is that relying too much on core inflation data, as the Fed has done until recently, can be a dangerous mistake. We couldn't help but notice that former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, a longtime "core" watcher, was quoted last week as saying it is now a less reliable guide to monetary policy.

Not surprisingly, equity markets fell Friday on the inflation news -- the same markets that only a week earlier had been begging for easier money from the Fed. Anyone who recalls the 1970s understands that inflation is very bad for stocks in general, though of course price-sensitive shares like commodities can do very well for a while. If nothing else, the inflation figures should remind us that there is no free lunch for Wall Street in continuing its cheerleading for easier money.

It should also remind us once again that inflation doesn't rise or fall along with economic growth. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon and reflects the supply and demand for currency created by central banks. We learned in the 1970s that rising prices can co-exist with slower growth, and we learned in the 1980s, or should have, that rapid growth can co-exist with falling levels of inflation.

Those are lessons too many people seem to have forgotten this decade, which is why the Fed now has both less credibility and less leeway to ease money amid the housing recession and mortgage mess. If politicians want to help the economy, they'll stop relying on the monetary delusion and instead focus on fiscal policy -- specifically, a tax cut.

26727  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamismo radical y España on: December 17, 2007, 08:06:53 AM
Con la bajisima taza de nacimiento por Espanoles en Espana (tengo entendido que es alredor de 1.2  shocked shocked shocked ) es dificil ver como el pais puede sobrevivir como un pais del oeste.
26728  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: December 17, 2007, 08:03:02 AM
Stung in Miami
December 17, 2007; Page A20

Argentina isn't conscientious about paying its debts, but maybe that's about to change under freshly inaugurated President Cristina Kirchner. Two news items that broke last week suggest that her government may be running a hefty tab with President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and is earnestly trying to repay him.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged on Wednesday that Mrs. Kirchner's recent election campaign was the destination for $800,000 in cash shipped south in a suitcase from Mr. Chávez in August. If true, it would confirm what many Argentines have long suspected: that Argentina, under former President Nestor Kirchner and now his wife, has been leased out to the Venezuelan strongman in much the same way that Bolivia and Nicaragua have come under Mr. Chavez's influence.

This is grim not only for Argentine democracy. If members of the Organization of American States are indeed on Mr. Chávez's payroll, it would explain why the Washington-based multilateral organization, charged with defending democracy, has been so timid with the anti-democratic Venezuelan president.

It also raises questions about whether Mrs. Kirchner was acting in good faith last week when she met with Mr. Chávez's sworn enemy in South America, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, to discuss the plight of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and 44 others held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Mrs. Kirchner went on the offensive last week, charging that the U.S. sting operation was "garbage." But the feds may have the goods. Recall that the bagman carrying the $800,000 returned to his home in Florida after being released by the Argentine authorities. The U.S. attorney in Miami says that three Venezuelans and an Uruguayan acted as foreign agents when they traveled to the U.S. to try to silence him "in an effort to keep the lid on a burgeoning international scandal."

Given the nonchalance with which the smuggler approached his task, it is not hard to fathom that the transaction was considered routine by Venezuela and that he was only an unlucky one who got caught. The Argentine daily La Nación revealed last summer that Venezuelan aircraft and personnel regularly land and bypass customs inspections at Jorge Newberry Airport in Buenos Aires.

Mrs. Kirchner would owe Mr. Chávez a lot if he did indeed underwrite her campaign. So perhaps that explains the pro-Chávez attitude she took last Tuesday toward Colombia's hostage issue when she met with President Uribe in Buenos Aires. Rather than endorse the 1949 Geneva Convention and, as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet did recently, call for the FARC to immediately release its victims without conditions, Mrs. Kirchner pressured the Colombian head of state to be more forthcoming. In other words, she took the same line as Mr. Chávez and the FARC, insisting that Mr. Uribe is the barrier to progress.

Mrs. Kirchner may have domestic political reasons for avoiding the subject of the Geneva Convention. Her government -- and her husband's before her -- relies on allies, advisers and cabinet members who are former members of Argentine terror groups that made a living from kidnapping in the 1970s. If the FARC is guilty of violating the convention, so too are many kirchneristas.

If she has a debt with Mr. Chávez, she now has an additional motivation for trying to place blame on Mr. Uribe rather than the terrorists. Mr. Chávez makes no secret of his support for the FARC or his enmity for Mr. Uribe. The FARC leadership hangs out in Caracas and runs its drugs through Mr. Chávez's backyard. If he wanted to free the hostages for purely humanitarian reasons, he could have already done so. The guerrillas need passage through Venezuelan territory and could be brought to heel anytime Mr. Chávez wants.

Mr. Uribe may have made a big mistake by even considering a hostage negotiation with the FARC. The rebels have never suggested that they are interested in peace. They want to trade their "political" captives -- police, soldiers, politicians and three American contractors -- for a strategic gain that will enhance the efficiency of their narcotics and kidnapping businesses. In light of this reality, Mr. Uribe would have been better off sticking to a policy of no talks with terrorists.

But the Colombian government is under intense pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and hostage family members, so he gambled on opening a dialogue. He took an even bigger risk by agreeing to allow Mr. Chávez to act as a negotiator. The Venezuelan president almost immediately violated the ground rules by attempting to talk directly with the military. His goal was to secure the guerrillas' No. 1 demand, a new rebel territory guaranteed free of Colombian forces. Mr. Uribe promptly and wisely fired the Venezuelan "negotiator," but now he finds himself under renewed pressure from Mrs. Kirchner to do more to satisfy the demands of the narcotraffickers.

According to local news reports, in her meeting with Mr. Uribe, Mrs. Kirchner showed no appreciation of Colombia's latest concession to the FARC, to allow an internationally observed, demilitarized zone of 150 square kilometers for 30 days in order to exchange 500 FARC insurgents that the government holds for the hostages. The FARC has also ignored the offer.

Nor does the Argentine president seem interested in getting to the bottom of the "suitcase affair." Instead, an enraged Mrs. Kirchner went before television cameras last week and played the gender card. "This president may be a woman but she is not going to allow herself to be pressured," she said in reference to U.S. antipathy toward her friend, Mr. Chávez.

Her attitude can't be too comforting to Colombians, men or women, who live with the FARC terror that Mr. Chávez and now Mrs. Kirchner want to appease.

• Write to O'
26729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: December 17, 2007, 07:58:37 AM
The NY Times covers the AP.  Caveat Lector!

Case Lays Bare the Media’s Reliance on Iraqi Journalists
Published: December 17, 2007
Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi photographer who had a hand in The Associated Press’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize for photography before being jailed without charges by the United States military, finally had a day in court last week. But his story, which highlights the unprecedented role that Iraqis are playing in news coverage of the war, is really just beginning.

He was held for around 20 months by the military — in Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere, with no right to contest his detention —before being turned over to an Iraqi magistrate, who will act as a one-man grand jury and decide if there is enough evidence to link him to the insurgency. He has not been formally charged with a crime.

The Associated Press has staunchly defended Mr. Hussein, pointing out that his role as a journalist involved getting close to the insurgency. Over the last three years, the American military has held at least eight other Iraqi journalists for periods of weeks or month without charges and released them all, apparently unable to find ties to the insurgency, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent nonprofit organization.

As for Mr. Hussein and his lawyers, “they were not given a copy of the materials that were presented and which they need to prepare a defense,” The Associated Press said in a statement last week, noting that Mr. Hussein was still being detained without formal charges. “The Associated Press continues to believe that claims Bilal is involved with insurgent activities are false.”

A spokesman for the military said that Mr. Hussein had been detained as “an imperative security threat” and that he has persistently been “treated fairly, humanely and in accordance with all applicable law.”

In a lengthy e-mail message, the spokesman said that Mr. Hussein had been named by “sources” as having “possessed foreknowledge of an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) attack” on American and Iraqi forces, “that he was standing next to the I.E.D. triggerman at the time of the attempted attack, and that he conspired with the I.E.D. triggerman to synchronize his photograph with the explosion.”

The e-mail message did not say whether the photograph in question is the one that Mr. Hussein took in Falluja on Nov. 8, 2004, of Iraqi insurgents firing a mortar and small arms, which was among the 20 from The Associated Press that collectively won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography.

The military spokesman said further: “The Associated Press was informed that the sources had reported Mr. Hussein’s knowing and willing offer to provide a false Iraqi national identification card to an alleged sniper, whom Mr. Hussein knew was wanted” by the military, “in order to assist the sniper in eluding capture.”

For its part, The Associated Press hired a New York lawyer and former prosecutor, Paul Gardephe, to investigate the situation. He published a 46-page report that concluded “there is no evidence — in nearly a thousand photographs taken over the 20-month period — that his activities ever strayed from those of a legitimate journalist.” Mr. Gardephe was in Iraq last week defending Mr. Hussein.

The role of Iraqis as front-line reporters, and the dangers they face working for Western news organizations, is well known. In a few recent examples, in October a journalist for The Washington Post, Salih Saif Aldin, was shot dead in a Baghdad neighborhood rife with sectarian violence. That death occurred three months after a local journalist working for The New York Times was killed in the same area. Of the 124 journalists killed in Iraq since the war began, 102 have been Iraqi, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

And while Western journalists do depend on Iraqi freelancers, several news organizations, including The New York Times, continue to have resident correspondents who leave their compounds to report in Baghdad and beyond.

Several editors and reporters overseeing Iraqi coverage for Western news organizations said they worked hard to vet their local hires for sectarian and political ties that could slant their coverage, and offered extensive training in the rules of Western journalism. But there are no official background checks that can be conducted, as American and European companies routinely do when making domestic hires. Rather, news organizations try to get to know their prospective Iraqi hires in person and then judge them by the work they produce.

“A person is usually recommended by another journalist and brought in for an interview, and you sit down and have a long discussion with that person,” said John Daniszewski, The Associated Press’s international editor. “Like any job applicant in the states, people go through a probationary period. They are given lessons, it’s like an apprenticeship relationship.”

Mr. Daniszewski added, “When you are working side by side, you get to know the person, and if the person seems unreliable, or if you ever see someone not completely honest with you, he is out the door.”

Page 2 of 2)

The reporters and editors said that they often had to filter out obvious sectarian biases from news copy, and, as a matter of policy, would not run statistics like death counts from the field without official confirmation from the military. But, these journalists emphasized, there is a big difference between bias seeping into news copy and insurgents infiltrating news organizations.

According to The Associated Press, Mr. Hussein, a 36-year-old member of a prominent Falluja farming family, had a modest job history before the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq: he worked in a grocery store, an auto parts joint and handed out goods as part of a United Nations assistance program. Photography was his hobby, and an uncle had set up a darkroom for him.

When soldiers and journalists flooded into Falluja in April 2004, Mr. Hussein began working as a driver and helper for The Associated Press. “He said he always wanted to be a professional photographer,” Mr. Daniszewski said. “And we had a need there. We gave him training, equipment and he just did good work.” In April 2006, Mr. Hussein was detained in Ramadi by the United States military, which said it had evidence linking him to the insurgency, but did not press charges.

The situation has not dissuaded foreign news organizations from continuing to lean heavily on local stringers. “They’re essential,” said Marjorie Miller, the foreign editor of The Los Angeles Times. “We couldn’t do our job without them, more so than in any other war we’ve covered.”

David Schlesinger, the editor in chief of Reuters, said, “using local staff is something we do everywhere in the world. But it’s become so dangerous in Iraq, we’re even more dependent on local staff there than in other places.”

In any foreign outpost, Western news organizations rely on locals to get the job done, often as drivers or translators. “The reliance on local staff is nothing new, whether it be in the West Bank, or Gaza or other places,” said Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “News organizations know how to vet and scrutinize information.”

However, he said, Iraq “is the most dangerous conflict we’ve seen at C.P.J. in our 26 years. In Iraq, the ubiquity and scale of danger has really hampered the ability of journalists to gather news.”

Mr. Hussein is one of more than 24,000 individuals held by the American military worldwide, most in Iraq, according to statistics cited by The Associated Press. But not even the nudging of a giant Western news organization was enough keep him from spending 20 months behind bars without being formally charged with a crime.

“The Iraqi courts seem to be completely overwhelmed,” said Linda A. Malone, a law professor at the College of William and Mary who advised the Justice Department during the trial of Saddam Hussein. “There’s a tremendous backlog. That’s not to say this one might not be a priority. Hopefully that would be the case given the issue of journalistic freedom versus national security.”

26730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 17, 2007, 07:37:05 AM
"No government ought to be without censors & where the press is
free, no one ever will."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to George Washington, 9 September 1792)
26731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: FDA vs. medical freedom on: December 17, 2007, 07:36:09 AM
Stop the War on Drugs
December 17, 2007; Page A21

In December 2005, Eli Lilly & Co. pled guilty to a criminal indictment from the Bush Justice Department and paid $36 million in fines and "disgorgement" of its ill-gotten gains. The company's crime was mounting a concerted effort to inform doctors that, according to leading medical authorities, the firm's estrogen-modulating drug Evista substantially reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

The finding came from a series of landmark national studies, some eventually touted by government research. So why the criminal charge?

At the time Eli Lilly was conveying the cancer information to doctors, the Food and Drug Administration had approved Evista for treating osteoporosis, not preventing cancer. Only this past September -- eight years after the first significant cancer prevention results were published -- did the FDA approve Evista for use against breast cancer, turning Eli Lilly's speech "crime," by some measures, into a public service.

For patients and doctors who rely on the latest clinical information to make hard decisions, no relevant scientific discovery took place between the medical findings, the legal prosecution, and the FDA's approval of those same results. In fast moving fields like cancer, where doctors tailor treatments based on evidence that's constantly evolving, two years can be an eternity of waiting to learn about important science. For some patients, that interval can be fatal.

At issue is what's referred to as "off-label promotion" -- allegations that drug companies "encourage" doctors to use medicines for purposes not yet approved by FDA. These charges are applied even when the information drug firms are sharing is part of educational meetings, peer review journal articles or treatment guidelines issued by medical-specialty societies and government researchers.

The prosecutions are aimed at recouping federal money. The argument is that the medical community is goaded by the drug companies into filing "false claims" with the government, where hospitals and health plans charge Medicare and Medicaid for drugs used for unapproved indications.

Drug firms tend to settle these cases. Firms have good reason to cut a deal: If they fight and lose in court, they can be banned from doing any business with government programs like Medicare. At one time, prosecutions were aimed at a handful of bad actors who encouraged prescriptions for purposes far outside popular medical practice. But like a lot of government efforts, the scope of these prosecutions expanded to encompass a much broader slice of medical activity.

The Justice Department rarely alleges in these cases that the scientific information is false or misleading, only that a firm can be "ahead of the science" in sharing with doctors information about emerging uses of medicines, even when those new uses quickly become the mainstay of care. Underlying this, of course, is a nagging presumption that doctors can't be trusted to weigh for themselves this sort of medical information, and thus need the FDA's supervision.

This might be more tolerable in a world where the FDA rapidly adjudicates study results to decide what belongs in and out of drug labels. In reality, the FDA reserves 10 months to consider supplemental uses for marketed drugs, and the entire process usually is much longer. In many cases, doctors don't easily learn about these new drug uses, or get targeted education on prescribing, without the role of the drug firm that is the only deep-pocketed actor with an incentive to share this kind of information.

The Philadelphia U.S. Attorney's Office has waged a multiyear investigation into the biotech company Genentech. They are alleging that meetings the company sponsored for oncologists in the 1990s were illegal -- because Genentech shared information about unapproved uses for its drug Rituxan, used largely in the treatment of lymphoma. Never mind that the forms of lymphoma for which Rituxan was to be used were largely fatal, that some of those uses are now approved by the FDA, or that the education was based on findings from large studies, including one supported by the government. In fact, if you queried the National Cancer Institute's Web site -- even at the time when Genentech allegedly engaged in the illegal educational activity -- for advice on the best treatments for some of these same forms of lymphoma, the search returned "Rituxan."

"Off label" are now dirty words in conventional lexicon, made synonymous with lawbreaking as a result of these prosecutions, even though these words describe the way more than half of cancer medicine is practiced. It is true that some off-label drug use is based on very unsettled science and has more risks. But medicine -- and not just cancer care -- involves lots of hard choices. And the more serious the disorder, often the more likely it is that for every right and wrong treatment choice there are many other practical decisions painted in shades of gray. Efforts to confine patients and doctors to FDA-approved uses have their own health consequences, raising the question: Just who is in the best position to make these hard choices?

The travails of another Genentech drug, the breast-cancer medicine Herceptin, demonstrate the health consequences of these prosecutions. Herceptin was widely used in advanced breast cancers for years, and recently it was found to cut recurrence by about half in some patients with earlier-stage tumors. The results were first published early in 2005, and the new use was approved by the FDA in late 2006. The wider use of Herceptin will save lives, but doctors didn't embrace it right away.

Herceptin prescriptions spiked when the study was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine, only to tail off before spiking again at the time of FDA approval. Those early adopters were probably familiar with the drug and the findings, perhaps through practicing in busy academic centers. Some of the late adopters might have been reluctant to take up the new use without the benefit of targeted education. You can bet that folks at Genentech, living under the thumb of the Philadelphia U.S. attorney, weren't about to talk up the landmark findings.

The use of Herceptin in early-stage breast cancers was roughly half what you'd expect for the almost two years between publication of the study's findings and the FDA nod. It's hard to deny that some of those Herceptin-eligible women who didn't get the drug are now unnecessarily doomed.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey could add to the staff manual for his attorneys a requirement that they merely check with a public health authority like the National Institutes of Health to see if a certain "off-label" use falls within the scope of appropriate medical care before waging a legal war. Even that may be a hard sell in Washington, where prosecutions are pursued on the basis of how much money they can recoup.

This month Rep. Henry Waxman took umbrage at a copy of a draft FDA guidance (he leaked it himself) saying that, as a public health matter, the FDA found it appropriate for drug firms to share study reprints from peer reviewed medical journals. Drug firms are persona non grata in Washington, a result of the industry's own excesses, but also of a lot of political targeting. The result is an anything-that-bashes-pharma goes mentality in policy making.

Politicians wage broad wars on medicine to claim thin strips of ideological terrain. This would be good political theater if there weren't so many human victims.

Dr. Gottlieb, a practicing physician and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was deputy commissioner of the FDA from 2005 to 2007.

26732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 17, 2007, 07:30:15 AM
U.N. Budget Boom
December 17, 2007; Page A20
Most of our readers probably wouldn't mind working for an outfit whose budget is slated to expand by 25% next year. But then again, most of our readers don't work for the United Nations.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's proposed "initial" budget for 2008-09 is $4.2 billion, a mere 15% increase over the Secretariat's current budget. Oops, make that $4.8 billion, which includes the "add ons" the Secretary General has already identified. But even that's not the final final figure. The U.N. budget is released piece by piece -- how convenient -- and the U.S. estimates that the full budget will end up being in excess of $5.2 billion, a 25% increase over the last two-year budget cycle of 2006-07.

Yes, the U.N. has a lot on its plate and the world is full of challenges. But Mr. Ban's proposed increases aren't going for humanitarian assistance in Darfur or development aid to Africa. Roughly 75% is for salaries and other staff costs -- in other words, toward boosting the size of the U.N. bureaucracy. Peacekeeping goes on a separate budget, which is anticipated to grow 40%, to $7 billion from $5 billion.

The U.S. is the largest donor to the U.N., paying roughly one-quarter of its budget. With the support of Japan, the second-largest donor, the U.S. is making the entirely reasonable demand that the U.N. set budget priorities. If it wants more money for X, it should be required to identify spending cuts for Y or Z.

Mr. Ban's proposed budget is the "largest increase in the history of the U.N.," said Ambassador Mark Wallace of the U.S. mission to the U.N. in a statement last week. For a body that still hasn't implemented many of the reforms proposed by Paul Volcker's Oil for Food report, this should be unacceptable to every major donor.

26733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 17, 2007, 07:15:03 AM
Al Qaeda No. 2 blasts 'traitors'

(CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant warned in a video statement released Sunday that Iraqi tribal leaders who side with U.S. troops against al Qaeda fighters would face reprisals when Americans leave Iraq.
 An image of al-Zawahiri taken from an earlier videotape.

"I warn those individuals from among the armed factions who have been involved in cooperation against the Mujahedeen that history is recording everything, and that they will lose both their religion and life," Ayman al-Zawahiri said.

"The Americans will soon be departing, God permitting, and won't keep defending them forever. And let them look at the fate of America's agents in Vietnam and the fate of the Shah of Iran. Intelligent is he who learns from other's mistakes," he added.

Al Qaeda's No. 2 called such Iraqi leaders "traitors" and "scum."


So what happened to the mighty Iraqi army standing on its own?

Iraq sees need for foreign troops for 10 years
1 hour, 28 minutes ago

Iraq will need foreign troops to help defend it for another 10 years, but will not accept U.S. bases indefinitely, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq," Dabbagh told the state-run al-Iraqiya television in an interview broadcast late on Sunday.
"I do not think that there is a threat of an invasion of Iraq, or getting involved in a war. (But) to protect Iraqi sovereignty there must be an army to defend Iraq for the next 10 years," he said.

"But on the other hand, does Iraq accept the permanent existence of U.S. bases, for instance? Absolutely no. There is no Iraqi who would accept the existence of a foreign army in this country," he said. "America is America and Iraq is Iraq."

The United States now has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, formally operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate enacted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate for what it says will be a final year to the end of 2008, and conditions for U.S. troops to stay on beyond that date are to be negotiated in the next few months.
Violence has subsided after the United States dispatched 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year, and Washington now says it will bring about 20,000 home by mid-2008. Troop levels for the second half of the year are to be decided in March.

(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
26734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: December 17, 2007, 07:08:08 AM
0640 GMT -- SINGAPORE, UNITED STATES -- Under the new Secure Freight Initiative signed by Singaporean and U.S. officials, cargo leaving Singapore for the United States will be scanned for nuclear and radiological materials, the U.S. Embassy and Singapore's Ministry of Transport said in a joint statement Dec. 17, Channel News Asia reported. The scans will be conducted during a six-month trial of the new system. Singapore is one of seven global ports participating in the trial, the report said.
26735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: December 17, 2007, 07:03:27 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Reading Turkey's Airstrike in Iraq

Turkey announced on Sunday that it had bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq in a predawn raid. According to Turkish media, the attacks involved more than 50 planes, began at 1 a.m. local time on Sunday, continued for three hours and were followed by artillery attacks. They reportedly focused on the areas of Zap, Avasin and Hakurk, but went as deep as Qandil, where senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the targeted group, reportedly were based. This is a much more substantial strike than the last notable one, which occurred in mid-November.

Notably, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said that the United States cleared the attack, opening Iraqi airspace and also providing intelligence. According to Reuters, a U.S. Embassy official in Ankara said in response, "We have not approved any decision. It is not for us to approve. However, we were informed before the event." We interpret this statement to mean that the United States did in fact approve the attacks, since "it is not for us to approve" is not Washington's position on foreign powers launching airstrikes on Iraq.

Most interesting is the Turkish claim that the United States provided intelligence to the Turks for the airstrikes. This makes sense. The Americans definitely do not want a major Turkish invasion into Iraq at this time. Washington is trying to stabilize the country, and a Turkish invasion is the last thing the United States needs. At the same time, the Turkish government is under intense domestic political pressure to do something about PKK actions inside Turkey. It is politically impossible for Ankara to remain passive.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with U.S. President George W. Bush earlier in the month, and the two sides undoubtedly laid out their concerns: The United States didn't want an invasion, but Turkey had to do something effective. Non-PKK Kurds were loath to provide intelligence on PKK facilities and personnel that would benefit the Turks, regardless of intra-Kurdish political differences. The solution was for the United States to provide intelligence to the Turks, and for Turkey to warn the Americans so that the airspace would be clear and no U.S. personnel would be in the strike zone.

That was the price the United States had to pay to avoid a Turkish ground invasion. The decision might strain U.S.-Kurdish relations, but that is the price Iraqi Kurds have to pay to keep Turkey out. For the Turks, it was the most effective measure they could take without having a confrontation with the United States. All the players are looking for the lowest cost possible. But it's not clear that they bought the outcome they were hoping for.

It is difficult to strike a guerrilla group from the air and be successful. Airstrikes alone are unlikely to stop the PKK -- the militants would have to be engaged on the ground in order to be defeated. Therefore, if all that took place Sunday morning was an airstrike, the PKK will be back striking Turkish targets in no time. If, on the other hand, the airstrikes were cover for covert ground action against the PKK -- either by Turkish special forces or by those of another country -- then it might be that the PKK was in fact hurt badly enough to interrupt, if not end, the cycle of violence. In that case, the crisis might subside.

Over the next few weeks we will get a better sense of what happened before dawn on Sunday, based on whether the PKK hits back.

Situation Reports

0922 GMT -- IRAQ, TURKEY -- The Iraqi government has demanded that Turkey stop conducting airstrikes in northern Iraq, saying the Dec. 16 strikes destroyed hospitals, schools and bridges, Press TV reported Dec. 17, citing the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. "We demand that Turkish authorities stop such actions against innocent people," the statement said. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan denied the strikes hit civilian areas. To protest the strikes, Baghdad has summoned Turkey's ambassador to Iraq.

26736  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 16, 2007, 11:54:54 PM
Where did the system come from?
26737  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 16, 2007, 11:42:30 AM
Any URLs?
26738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: December 16, 2007, 09:42:25 AM
The LA Times reaches Orwellian levels of PC cowardice by refusing to identify the religion/ideology of the guilty here:

Try to Find "Islam" or "Muslim" in this Article on Terror Guilty Pleas


Plot posed a real, immediate threat, experts say

The case illustrates how quickly authorities must be prepared to move once they learn of terrorists' plans.

By Greg Krikorian, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 15, 2007

It was not the most spectacular domestic terrorism plot since the Sept. 11 attacks, and certainly not the best-known.

But no other case posed such a real and immediate threat as the audacious scheme to attack more than a dozen military centers, synagogues and other sites in Southern California, experts said Thursday.

"If you look at the roster of defendants in terrorism cases, it often seems like a casting call. They all have aspirations, but most lack real talent and helpful connections," said Brian Levin, an attorney and director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

"But here you actually had a case where defendants had a radicalized ideology, a list of targets and they had already gone from planning to operations," Levin said. "This was beyond merely a threat. In this instance, they were operational."

The guilty pleas announced Friday in what is known as the JIS case represented an important win for the Justice Department, after a string of high-profile courtroom defeats in terrorism-related prosecutions. Just Thursday, a jury in Miami acquitted one man charged with plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and deadlocked on charges against his six alleged accomplices.

The courtroom ending mirrored a mistrial declared earlier this year in a Dallas prosecution against five Islamic men accused in the largest terrorism-financing case brought by the U.S. government.

"The bottom line is that when you look at a lot of these prosecutions, many people are accused of lying to investigators or [other crimes] rather than terrorist acts or threats to national security," Levin said. "And that is why you have seen a bit of prosecutorial fatigue set in with the public. . . . There is a lot of talk about what could have happened in a case" rather than evidence of a pressing threat.

By contrast, the JIS plot was within 60 days of launching, according to sources close to the investigation.

The case illustrated how quickly authorities must be prepared to move in the event of an actual terrorist threat, they said. In a matter of weeks, the FBI, Los Angeles and Torrance police departments and two dozen other agencies conducted 19 searches, seized two dozen computer hard drives and examined about 53,000 documents, all without the normal luxury of moving at their own pace with undercover informants, surveillance and wiretaps.

The plotters "were flying dangerously below the radar," said the FBI's John Miller, who was the LAPD's counter-terrorism head at the time the case broke. He added that the defendants had robbed gas stations for the money to buy rifles, had picked their targets and had set a date.

"The clock was ticking. All they needed to do was to start killing," he said.

The prison-hatched scheme raised another fear in U.S. counter-terrorism circles, particularly within California, which has the nation's largest inmate population: Were there other members of the conspiracy, spawned in cellblocks and prison libraries, preparing to carry on the plan?

"We were confident that we could make a case against the people we had in custody," said Randy Parsons, the retired former head of counter-terrorism for the FBI in Los Angeles. "Our greatest concern was: Did we miss somebody? Is there somebody who has been released from prison or radicalized on the street that we might have missed who might be about to go operational?"

More than 350 federal agents, state investigators and local police worked five weeks, around the clock, to determine if others had escaped their dragnet. In the end, they did not find additional accomplices, but their investigation led to new intelligence coordination between prison officials and outside law enforcement.

For all its urgency, however, the case never drew the attention of lesser threats. One reason was that news of the JIS investigation trickled out over the course of weeks.

In addition, the federal indictment of the four defendants, though announced by top Justice Department officials in Los Angeles and Washington, was unsealed as the nation's attention was riveted on Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.

Too, the men charged with terrorism did not fit the stereotype of the foreign-born menace that had been drilled into the American psyche after Sept. 11.

For professor Levin, that may be the long-term lesson of the case.

"I think this case shows you cannot racially or religiously profile an ideology. It is fanaticism, not faith, that drives this extremism," Levin said. "And disenfranchised people will craft their hatred into an ideology of their choice. That is why religious converts are so good for this radicalization . . . because those who have been raised in a faith know better."
26739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malaysia on: December 15, 2007, 10:29:38 PM
This piece is from the once venerable name of Reuters, now often a source that is less than honest in its shadings:


Indonesia cleric warns of big disaster if bombers executed
Sat Dec 15, 2007 12:42am EST

CILACAP, Indonesia, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A controversial Indonesian Muslim cleric warned on Saturday that the country would suffer a big disaster if three Bali bombers on death row were executed.

Abu Bakar Bashir, accused by some foreign governments of once heading the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, spoke before visiting the three Islamic militants awaiting execution for their role in the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island.

"I'm worried if they were executed there would be a big disaster," Bashir told reporters on the way to Nusakambangan, an island prison complex off the southern coast of Java where the three are being held. Bashir said he wanted to advise the convicts -- Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas -- to be patient and to seek God's forgiveness for their wrongdoing.

"It is true they were defending Muslims but their methods were wrong. That is why they are now fasting to pay for the loss of innocent lives," Bashir said. He did not say if the innocent lives included those of foreign holidaymakers, the majority of 202 people who died in the attack.

In an interview with Reuters in October, the three militants said they had no regrets, except for the fact that some Muslims had died in the blasts.

No date for the execution of the three Bali bombers has been set although the Supreme Court has rejected their final appeal.

The Bali bombings and several other deadly attacks have been blamed on militants from Jemaah Islamiah, of which Bashir was alleged to have been the spiritual leader and co-founder. Bashir was jailed for 30 months for conspiracy over the Bali bombings but was later cleared.

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, with about 85 percent of its more than 220 million population following Islam.

While the vast majority of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate, the country has seen the emergence of an increasingly vocal militant minority.

Although there has been no major bomb attack since 2005, police say Indonesia still faces a considerable threat from Islamic militants. (Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; editing by Roger Crabb)
26740  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Ryan Gracie dead! on: December 15, 2007, 01:35:25 PM
According to news carried by Globo TV, the black belt Ryan Gracie was found dead in the cell where he was being held at a police station in Sao Paulo after having been accused of car theft yesterday in the city of Sao Paulo. According to the Sao Paulo State Secretariat of Public Security, Ryan was alone in the cell."

More info in the article:
26741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: December 15, 2007, 01:17:04 PM
Israel: US report on Iran may spark war

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 27 minutes ago

JERUSALEM - Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state.

In his remarks — Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report — Avi Dichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence in general, including information about Palestinian security forces' crackdown on militant groups. The Palestinian action is required as part of a U.S.-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.

Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.

He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the Yom Kippur Jewish holy day on which it began.

"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."

Dichter didn't elaborate on the potential scenario but seemed to imply that a world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable to attack by the Islamic regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had disputed the U.S. intelligence assessment this month, saying that Iran continues its efforts to obtain components necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran still poses a major threat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.

Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and backed the United States in its international efforts to exert pressure on Iran to stop the program. Israel considers Iran a significant threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program and repeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the disappearance of Israel.

Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.

"A misconception by the world's leading superpower is not just an internal American occurrence," Dichter said.

Any future faulty U.S. intelligence on the actions of Palestinian security forces could damage peace efforts, Dichter said.

"Those same (intelligence) arms in the U.S. are apt to make a mistake and declare that the Palestinians have fulfilled their commitments, which would carry with it very serious consequences from Israel's vantage point," Dichter said.
26742  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 15, 2007, 09:32:51 AM
A moment on the lighter side of things:
26743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain at the WSJ on: December 15, 2007, 09:24:30 AM
Of Pork and Patriotism
John McCain doesn't mince words when it comes to Iraq, the State Department and spending.

Saturday, December 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

John McCain sits across the table from the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, fielding questions on everything from taxes to torture to terror. He's asked what surprised him the most about the behavior House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with regard to Iraq. His answer--"their lack of patriotism"--is of the characteristically impolitic kind that often defines his personality. Over the course of a 75-minute conversation, it's on display time and again.

For a candidate who was mostly written off by the media only six months ago, the senior senator from Arizona seems remarkably confident of his primary chances.

Mr. McCain is 71. But the tired, sluggish, former front-runner you may have read about was nowhere in evidence when the senator came to the Journal's offices yesterday. In his place was a combative and--yes--straight-talking candidate with no qualms about rising to a challenge or speaking his mind. In short, he looks once again like the spry 63-year-old who nearly knocked off front-runner George W. Bush eight years ago.

When asked whether he would tag Hillary Clinton as well with a "lack of patriotism," Mr. McCain does dial it down a notch. "Maybe 'lack of patriotism' is too harsh," he allows. "'Putting political ambitions ahead of the national interest' may be a more subtle way" of putting it. He then adds, with a chuckle, "And we all know how subtle I am."
Just how subtle comes across in expanding on Mrs. Clinton's stance on the war and on the surge. "She had that very clever line--I don't know who wrote it for her--that you'd have to suspend disbelief in order to believe that the surge is working. Well, you'd have to suspend disbelief that it's not now." And then, as if confronting her in a presidential debate, he addresses the absent senator from New York directly: "Do you still stand by that statement, Senator Clinton? Do you still believe you'd have to suspend disbelief to believe that this surge is working?"

Mr. McCain is almost as scathing about his own party's behavior in power as he is about Congress's current leaders. Of the Republican congressional majority that was voted out in 2006, he says: "We let spending get out of control. . . . And we would have won the 2006 elections if we had restrained spending. Our base didn't desert us because of the war in Iraq. Our base deserted us because of the Bridge to Nowhere. I'll take you to a town hall tomorrow and I'll say 'Bridge to Nowhere' and everyone in that room will know what I'm talking about. That bridge is more famous than the Brooklyn Bridge."

That version of the events of November 2006 is not universally shared, even within the GOP, but it does serve Mr. McCain's interests pretty well. He has been one of the most prominent and unapologetic supporters of the war in Iraq, even though he at times disagreed with the administration about tactics and strategy.

And he voted against the Bush tax cuts--even though he admits that they helped the economy in the midst of a recession. "We all know that [they helped]. Without a doubt. Without the slightest doubt. Absolutely."

Even so, he defends his opposition to them on the grounds, he told us, that Congress couldn't get spending under control. "I opposed the tax cuts because there was no spending restraint. . . . If we'd enacted spending restraints, we'd be talking about more tax cuts today. And to the everlasting shame and embarrassment of the Republican Party and this administration, we went on a spending spree and we didn't pay for it. . . . And every time I called over to the White House and said, look, you've got to veto these bills, the answer was, 'We'll lose the majority, we'll lose this election, we'll lose the speaker.' Well, you know what happened."

The words "I told you so" don't quite pass his lips, but his sense of vindication is plain enough.

As for the tax cuts themselves, he now pledges that he would fight to make them permanent. "I will not agree to any tax increase," he says. And then once more for emphasis: "I will not agree to any tax increase."

His combativeness is on display again when the subject of interrogation techniques is raised. It's a subject on which the Journal's editorial board has been critical of Mr. McCain in the past. Does he assert, he is asked, that techniques such as waterboarding never produce reliable information?
He turns it back on the questioner: "I do assert that America's moral image in the world is badly damaged when it comes out that we torture people. . . . I do assert that we're going to win this battle against al Qaeda on ideological grounds."

Then he adds: "So my assertion is that it's fascinating, it's fascinating, that those who have served in the military--particularly in positions of responsibility--almost all of them say, 'Don't do it.' Those who have never served, those who have never heard a shot fired in anger and never will, say, 'Let's torture the hell out of them. Let's take them to the rack. Let's do what the Spanish Inquisition invented.' "

That last is a caricature, and given the jab at "those who have never served," it might even come across as a mean-spirited one, but Mr. McCain manages to put it across without any evident derision in his demeanor or voice. On the contrary, it is said almost amiably.

Likewise, when he's asked what he thinks about the State Department, he delivers the jab with a smile: "Sometimes you have a little personal bias when you find out that they nearly rebelled when the secretary of state said all of them had to go serve in Iraq. I mean, please. Please." He continues: "I think we ought to have a State Department that understands that service to the country is what they're all about. And if that means going into countries where there may be some danger in serving, then by God that's the place they should want to go first." It helps to have volunteered for service in Vietnam if one wants to say that kind of thing.

He doesn't pull any punches with the CIA, either, asking whether it has become a "rogue agency" when queried about the intelligence community's handling of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. On the NIE, he adds: "I want to know why in the world we should have any relaxation with regards to Iran just because they have had a pause in the quickest part of the program to build a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile the enrichment goes on. And they're still exporting the explosive devices. They're still supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. They're still dedicated to the extinction of Israel. What's the change?"

As for direct talks between President Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. McCain is once again scathing: "That is the most overrated thing in the world. We know who's going to profit from that. . . . Who gains in stature from face-to-face meetings? That is the ultimate question. . . . If they want to negotiate"--an open question, it would seem, in Mr. McCain's eyes--"we can find lots of ways to negotiate. But say we have to have face-to-face? Come on. Come on. That's just foolishness. And I would not do one thing that would enhance the prestige of the president of Iran."

In Iraq, meantime, Mr. McCain sees events at long last moving in the right direction. "I think this is a seminal moment in American history. I really do. Because we've got a long way to go. Al Qaeda is on the run but they're not defeated, OK?

"And we've got really a long way to go. But I'm telling you, if we could keep going like this for another nine months to a year or so, and get the Maliki government to start functioning effectively--and a lot of things are happening by the way that are not at the highest level--I think you're going to see things happen in the rest of the Middle East.

"The Syrians sent someone to Annapolis [for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks]. That's good news. The Iranians may be cutting back on the explosive devices. Pakistan: Musharraf is acting as we wanted him to."

In his view, these are all connected, and all related in turn to the reversal of fortunes in Iraq since the surge began. "And I'm convinced that if we can continue this success, you're going to see a change in the Middle East. Plus, some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. If we fail, we're not going to be in the neighborhood and it's every nation and every group for themselves."

Of course, Mr. McCain will have to resign himself to being right but ignored unless he can actually win. And while he may once have been seen as what he calls "the designated successor" to the Republican nomination, he's now a distinct underdog. So he places a lot of emphasis on what he calls the "volatility" of the current race.
"We all know that if I sat here two weeks ago and I said, 'By the way, Huckabee is ahead in Iowa and South Carolina,' you'd just have said, 'Yeah, right.' " He goes on: "I think you're going to see a lot of ups and downs. Sixty percent, 70%, 80% say they're undecided."

He also sees hope, ironically, in the despondency of the GOP faithful. "Our base is dispirited. I'm telling you, our base is dispirited. We're going to have to rev up our base. We're going to have to promise them we're going to stop this spending. We're going to have to promise them that we'll get trust and confidence back with them."

The senator says he doesn't worry too much about the electoral tactics, but he does know what lies ahead. "We've got to win New Hampshire," he says, or at least exceed expectations there. "And then I think we can do well in South Carolina. In South Carolina we've got the base this time. The Attorney General, the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Graham, most of the base."

Whether that's true or not, Mr. McCain still trails by 15 points on average in South Carolina. But assuming he can do well there, "then I think we're obviously very much in the game. What happens to Huckabee, what happens to Rudy, what happens to Romney--all this stuff is in such flux now that it's very difficult to predict and so we're not paying a lot of attention, obviously." Still, he's paying some attention, apparently.

Overall, the impression Mr. McCain gives is that he is enjoying this campaign tremendously. Asked whether he thinks he's running a better campaign since his financing fell off a cliff along with his poll ratings, he shoots back with a laugh, "Do you think I could have run a worse campaign before my finances went south?"

He blames his fall from front-runner status on his leadership on immigration reform, and says, "If I lose this election, it will be on the immigration issue. There's no question in my mind." But as with the other issues he discussed in our meeting, he doesn't give the impression that he regrets his stand for one minute.

Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
26744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: December 15, 2007, 12:50:08 AM
What I was trying to ask, apparently too laconically, is that why does one need drugs to lose weight?

Anyway, what do you think of this?

The Dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup
By John Mericle M.D.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
Before we get to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), we will take a look at two other frequently used sweeteners, dextrose and maltodextrin.

Dextrose is more or less an industry term for glucose. Glucose isthe most prevalent sugar in the human and the only molecule that the brain can metabolize. Dextrose is refined from corn starch. It has a very high glycemic index (no surprise since it is glucose) and while it contains no fructose, it is still a simple sugar that is very readily absorbed. It is not as dangerous as sucrose but it still is a highly processed product that should be avoided.

Maltodextrin is also a refined product usually made from either corn or potatoes. It is multiple glucose units somewhat loosely hooked together (a polymer). Because the bonds between the glucose units are very weak, it is also very readily absorbed and has a very high glycemic index. Like dextrose it should be avoided as much as possible. It has been called a "sugar substitute"but that is based on a rather strict definition of sugar as "sucrose." It is a very common additive and I have found it in many packaged foods, including potato chips.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup is made by treating corn (which is usually genetically modified corn) with a variety of enzymes, some of which are also genetically modified, to first extract the sugar glucose and then convert some of it into fructose, since fructose tastes sweeter than glucose. The end result is a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose, that is called "high fructose corn syrup." Improvements in production occurred in the 1980's making it cheaper than most other sweeteners. I remember in the 1980's when the price of Pepsi dropped from about $3 for a sixpack to about $1.50. In 1966 refined sugar such as sucrose was the was the leading sweetener / additive. In 2001 corn sweeteners accounted for 55% of the sweetener market. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup went from zero in 1966 to 62.6 pounds per person in 2001. A 12 ounce soda can contain as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
Once again, the dangerous combination: fructose and glucose.
When high fructose corn syrup breaks down in the intestine, we once again find near equal amounts of glucose and fructose entering the bloodstream. As covered in recent newsletters, the fructose short-circuits the glycolytic pathway for glucose. This leads to all the problems associated with sucrose. In addition, HFCS seems to be generating a few of its own problems, epidemic obesity being one of them. Fructose does not stimulate insulin production and also fails to increase "leptin" production, a hormone produced by the body's fat cells. Both of these act to turn off the appetite and control body weight. Also, fructose does not suppress ghrelin, a hormone that works to increase hunger. This interesting work is being done by Peter Havel at UC Davis.

Some of the problems associated with high fructose corn syrup:
Increased LDL's (the bad lipoprotein) leading to increased risk of heart disease.
Altered Magnesium balance leading to increased osteoporosis.
Increased risk of Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus.
Fructose has no enzymes or vitamins thus robbing the body of precious micro-nutrients.
Fructose interacts with birth control pills and can elevate insulin levels in women on the pill.
Accelerated aging.
Fructose inhibits copper metabolism leading to a deficiency of copper, which can cause increased bone fragility, anemia, ischemic heart disease and defective connective tissue formation among others.

The list below is from The San Francisco Chronicle February 18, 2004

"How much is too much?

The list below shows how much sugar, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is in each of these single servings.

Sunkist soda: 10 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
Berkeley Farms low-fat yogurt with fruit: 10 teaspoons of sugar
Mott's applesauce: 5 teaspoons of sugar
Slim-Fast chocolate cookie dough meal bar: 5 teaspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup: 1 teaspoon of sugar
Hansen's Super Vita orange-carrot Smoothie: 10 teaspoons of sugar"

Today's health tip:

Cut down or stop any food or drink with high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn treated with genetically modified enzymes.

Stop or limit all foods with either dextrose or maltodextrin.

Once again, read all your food labels carefully.

Consumption of the limited amounts of fructose that occur in fresh whole organic fruit is not a problem.

Stryer Biochemistry Fourth Edition
"Sugar coated We're drowning in high fructose corn syrup. Do the risks go beyond our waistline?"
Kim Severson, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Kick the "sugar habit" with the only diet that is 100% Sugar-Free, the MericleDiet. Make the transition away from dangerous sugar additives to healty "organic" complex carbhydrates easy. To visit the MericleDiet follow the link below:
Thanks for your attention.
Copyright © John Mericle M.D. 2005 All Rights Reserved
26745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 14, 2007, 08:22:08 PM
So much for that modesty campaign , , ,
26746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: December 14, 2007, 06:13:02 PM
In response to the preceding post elsewhere, someone responded with this piece:


Gregory Cochran

There is a good chance that an odd cluster of hereditary neurological diseases among the Ashkenazi Jews is a side-effect of strong selection for increased intelligence. The idea is not really new, but the evidence has gotten stronger with time, and I have recently found some intriguing supporting data.. Four of these syndromes - Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher's, and mucolipidosis type IV - are recessive lysosomal storage diseases. The first three of these are caused by deficient variants of enzymes that break down sphingolipids, which play a role in neuron membrane structure and also as signaling molecules. Homozygotes, who have no working copy of the breakdown enzymes, become ill. Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick cause retardation and death in childhood, but Gaucher's disease is milder and more variable. The form common in Ashkenazi Jews does not cause brain damage, although there can be other problems with the spleen and bones. . Mucolipidosis type IV probably involves a defect in endocytosis. It causes retardation and death in early life.

Canavan disease is caused by mutations in the aspartoacylase gene. It is the only known genetic disorder caused by a defect in the metabolism of a small metabolite, N-acetyl-L-aspartic acid, synthesized exclusively in the brain in a cell-specific manner. It too is fatal in early life.

Familial dysautonomia is a recessive disease that results in abnormalities of the sensory and autonomic nervous systems. It does not cause retardation, but greatly shortens life.

Torsion dystonia is caused by a dominant gene with low penetrance.. The symptoms involve inappropriate contractions of muscles. In a mild case, that might mean a tendency to writer's cramp: in a severe case, it means uncontrollable contractions that leave your limbs twisted and useless. About 30% of the individuals with this gene have some noticeable symptoms, about 10% have very serious symptoms that can leave them in a wheel chair. The problem is not in the muscles, but in areas of the brain that control muscles. Torsion dystonia does not cause retardation... not hardly.

Each of these hereditary neurological diseases is more common among the Ashkenazi than in any other group, and in several of these syndromes, the great majority of all cases are found among the Ashkenazi, who make up less than 0.2% of the human race. ~4% of the Ashkenazi are carriers for Tay-Sachs, about 1% are carriers for Niemann-Pick, ~5% carry a Gaucher mutation, ~1% carry a mutation for mucolipidosis type IV, ~2% carry a Canavan mutation, ~3% carry the familial dysautonomia gene, and about 0.03% have the dominant torsion dystonia mutation. Altogether about 16% of Ashkenazi Jews carry one of these mutations.

Rare genetic diseases can become common in a group by chance, especially if that group does not mix much with others and if it has recently expanded from a small founding population.. Both of those conditions existed among the Ashkenazi, but that explanation probably does not work in this case, because for most of these diseases, more than one mutation of the same gene has become common in this population. That is the case for Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher's disease, mucolipidosis type IV, and Canavan disease. Only torsion dystonia and familial dysautonomia are caused by lone mutations. It would be incredibly unlikely for chance to greatly elevate the frequency of two or more mutations of the same gene. It would be even less likely to do this repeatedly in genes involved in closely related metabolic pathways. So somehow, natural selection, rather than chance, must have favored these mutations. If mutations that affect a particular organ or function give a reproductive edge in some environment, they can become common, even if they cause disease in double dose. The most famous example of this is the sickle cell mutation, which gives heterozygotes good protection against falciparum malaria and causes very serious problems in homozygotes. We know of a number of other malaria-protective mutations besides sickle-cell affecting red cells; Hemoglobin C, Hemoglobin E, G6PD deficiency, alpha- and beta- thalassemia, and Melanesian ovalocytosis. The malaria resistance mutations involve multiple common mutations of the same gene, and multiple mutations of closely related genes that affect the same physiological system - in this case the red cell. Among the Ashkenazi we find the same pattern, only the system affected is the central nervous system. Jared Diamond and others have suggested that these Ashkenazi hereditary neurological diseases might have given protection against tuberculosis, but this seems unlikely. These mutations are not common in other adjacent ethnic groups, and they modify molecules whose primary function is in the central nervous system. In some cases, such as Canavan disease, they are only found in the brain.

So a change in brain function, as the source of the fitness advantage in heterozygotes carrying these mutations, is the way to bet. That notion is not just based on this genetic and biochemical evidence: we start out already knowing that Ashkenazi Jews have a higher average IQ than any other group, something like 110-115. What, other than natural selection, could cause this? We also know that for a long time they lived under very unusual conditions, conditions very favorable to this kind of evolutionary change. They had a very different job mix from their neighbors: none of them were farmers ('Scribe, banker, jeweler, shopkeeper'), and they almost never intermarried.

Some new evidence - new to me, anyhow - strengthens the case. It turns out that GM2-ganglioside, which accumulates in Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick patients, is a signal for dendrite growth. In homozygotes it causes inappropriate dendrite growth neurons. In heterozygotes, GM2-ganglioside levels would only be slightly elevated and might favor moderately increased dendrite growth - which might increase IQ. The build-up product in Gaucher's disease seems to caused increased axonal growth.

The story in torsion dystonia is more obvious Unlike most genetic diseases, it is dominant. You only need one copy of the mutant gene to have problems. That also means that any benefit must be large. When a recessive mutation is rare, there are many more carriers than homozygotes, and even a small advantage among heterozygotes can balance serious bad effects in the rare homozygtes. A dominant has to give a hefty advantage, even more so if it has any costs, which the torsion dystonia gene surely does. So if torsion dystonia is part of this Ashkenazi pattern of hereditary neurological disease and pays off in IQ, it must make a big difference, and that difference will probably show up in patients. ( Note that in diseases like Tay-Sachs, nobody even studies carriers. Doctors are not geneticists.) Apparently it does. I found several reports of materially increased IQ among Ashkenazi torsion dystonia patients. . The difference is apparently so striking that it is mentioned in the very first scientific article on the disease, by Flatau back in 1911. Many other physicians made the same observation. And if you think that plenty that being crippled makes you smarter, think again: nobody every said that about polio victims. Roswell Eldridge, in a small group of patients, found that the average IQ was 122, 10 points higher than their controls matched for age, sex, ethnic background, and school. . The same mutation has been seen elsewhere, but is very rare. In this group the payoff outweighed the trouble, while in every other human group it did not. We have found the gene (in 1997), which codes for an ATP-binding protein, but as yet I don't believe that we know exactly how it causes trouble or what it does normally. But I'll hazard a guess: the change accelerates some brain system tied to cognitive functioning - nearly redlines it, leaves it vulnerable to common insults in a way that can cause spectacular trouble. You might compare to overclocking a chip. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't.

More generally, if this is what I think it is, all these Ashkenazi neurological diseases are hints of ways in which one could supercharge intelligence. One, by increasing dendrite growth: two, by fooling with myelin: three, something else, whatever is happening in torsion dystonia. In some cases the difference is probably an aspect of development, not something you can turn on and off. In other cases, the effect might exist when the chemical influence is acting and disappear when the influence does. In either case, it seems likely that we could - if we wanted to - developed pharmaceutical agents that had similar effects. The first kind, those affecting development, would be something that might have to be administered early in life, maybe before birth. while the second kind would be 'smart pills' that one could pop as desired or as needed. Of course, we have to hope that we can find ways of improving safety. Would you take a pill that increased your IQ by 10 or 15 points that also had a 10% chance of putting you in a wheel chair?

Gregory Cochran
26747  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 4 Elements query to Marc Denny on: December 14, 2007, 01:10:38 PM

For those who missed it at

here is the piece upon which Skinny Devil's question is based:


The Days Before A Fight by Guro Crafty
The days before the fight are always a powerful crucible. I have a non-martial art teacher who when someone seeks to leave a situation that makes them uncomfortable says, "Whatever you do, keep on being here in this moment." I may not have the quote exactly right, but I hope I have the gist of it.

Scientist Konrad Lorenz's book "Behind the Mirror" addresses the evolutionary biology of consciousness. There is a passage in the book wherein he describes how a cat at play will seamlessly string together unrelated behaviors/movements from stalking prey, fighting a rival, bluffing a predator, courtship, killing prey etc. He then points out that the instant that the cat is stressed (e.g. the appearance of a rival) this ability disappears.

Many martial arts discuss how there are different mindsets/qualities with which one can defend/fight. Often the names are a bit poetic; Fire, Water, Wind, Rock, Earth, etc. but the point is made that the more realized the fighter is, the better his ability to fluidly shift between them. In the intense adrenal state of a fight, this can be a very good trick to actually do, yet as Lorenz's point about the cat makes clear, the state of Play is the state where this happens best. ("What Is Play?" in evolutionary biological terms is an interesting question in its own right.) Thus, the best fight is where the fight is play. Thus in Dog Brothers Martial Arts we say

"Do not have a Way as you Play. Fight the Way you Play. Let your Fight be Play" (c)

The Learning that takes place in the adrenal state is some of the deepest and highest that there is. (The adrenal state of course can be triggered by many things, not only immediate physical danger; criticism by loved ones, humiliation, etc etc.) The greater the adrenal state, the profounder the Learning. The greater the state of Play, the better the result. The more that one can move in both directions simultaneously, the better. "The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation. Higher consciousness through harder contact." (c)

Guro Crafty
26748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Global Money Machine on: December 14, 2007, 11:51:53 AM
The Global Money Machine
December 14, 2007; Page A21

Robert Graves defined hell as "words repeated endlessly until they all but lose their meaning." "Liquidity" is one such word from the financial lexicon. Yet, properly defined, it is the clue to the potentially disastrous outlook for the global economy and financial markets.

It is a no-brainer to say that the credit crunch is making liquidity scarce. It is less clear why central banks are powerless to do anything to stop it contracting, and why this shrinkage will sabotage economic growth as economies fall prey to the credit drought in places as far-flung as the Baltic states to China, as well in the OECD countries.

But to back up for a minute, what is liquidity? Two years ago, when confronted with financial-sector balance sheets and asset prices that were growing at a multiple of GDP and money supply that wasn't, we at Independent Strategy found our answer. At the time, there was precious little correlation between money and financial-asset prices. That seemed strange. Unless return on assets, measured by corporate return on capital, was rising exponentially, there was no justification for asset prices to be doing so.

Further research indicated that what was driving asset prices was the supply of copious and cheap credit with which to buy them. This type of asset money or credit was not counted in the traditional definition of liquidity, which is simply broad money, made up of central-bank money and bank lending.

The reason for the exponential growth in credit, but not in broad money, was simply that banks didn't keep their loans on their books any more -- and only loans on bank balance sheets get counted as money. Now, as soon as banks made a loan, they "securitized" it and moved it off their balance sheet.

There were two ways of doing this. One was to sell the securitized loan as a bond. The other was "synthetic" securitization: for example, using derivatives to get rid of the default risk (with credit default swaps) and lock in the interest rate due on the loan (with interest-rate swaps). Both forms of securitization meant that the lending bank was free to make new loans without using up any of its lending capacity once its existing loans had been "securitized."

So, to redefine liquidity under what I call New Monetarism, one must add, to the traditional definition of broad money, all the credit being created and moved off banks' balance sheets and onto the balance sheets of nonbank financial intermediaries. This new form of liquidity changed the very nature of the credit beast. What now determined credit growth was risk appetite: the readiness of companies and individuals to run their businesses with higher levels of debt.

No longer could central banks determine how much debt was created. They used to do that by limiting the amount of central-bank money they supplied, which formed the base of all loans, and then obliging commercial banks to make reserves for every loan. This made lending capacity finite. Now that the loans didn't stay on banks' balance sheets, this control mechanism was ineffective. Lending capacity became almost infinite -- for a while. Indeed, central banks didn't even control the price of money very well any more; again; risk appetite set how risk was priced and central-bank rates held very little sway over the outcome. Yield curves, which were inverting at the time, had the effect that when central banks raised rates, long-term credit markets reduced them.

The credit tide is now ebbing. Since August, the credit system has been frozen solid. Debt issuance for all sectors of the economy has plummeted. Banks don't trust each other's balance sheets (and they alone know how bad their assets are). The rates at which they lend to each other show the same levels of risk premium as at the outbreak of the crisis, despite central banks' efforts to inject liquidity into markets.

For these reasons the Federal Reserve this week announced joint actions with central banks around the world to ease liquidity conditions. The Fed said it will initiate a series of auctions under the Term Auction Facility (TAF) that will inject funds to a broader range of participant depositary institutions against a broader range of collateral. The minimum rate of interest charged will be the expected fed-funds rate over the term of the loan. The auctions start on Dec. 17 for an amount of $20 billion to be lent for 20 days. Other auctions are planned for Dec. 20, Jan. 14 and Jan. 28. At the same time, the Fed set up bilateral swap agreements with the Swiss National Bank and the European Central Bank, so that these central banks could also borrow U.S. currency to fund dollar liquidity needs among their own banks.

These measures are an extension of what central banks were doing anyway: substituting central-bank money for funds normally lent and borrowed between banks in the interbank market. The funds themselves are not a "net" addition to liquidity, because they are paid back when the loan becomes due. The Fed's additional TAF auctions will help fulfill the responsibility of the central bank to ensure the proper functioning of financial markets by providing temporary liquidity. But they are not an additional easing of monetary policy or a bailout of banks' bad assets.

Therein lies the problem: The auctions address a liquidity shortage -- caused by the banks' refusal to lend and borrow from each other due to mistrust of each other's balance sheets -- but cannot address the solvency problem inherent in the balance sheets themselves.

Moreover, much of the leverage that fuels the economy is downstream from the banks, and on the balance sheets of nonbank financial intermediaries (such as brokers, hedge funds and investment banks) in the form of securitized debt and derivatives. Neither these entities nor many of the assets they own are eligible for central bank loans.

It was excessively optimistic risk appetite and consequent mispricing of risk that created this leverage problem. The reversal of risk appetite is now driving the deleveraging process. Just as the central banks were powerless to control the expansion of liquidity in the expansionary phase, it is unlikely that they can control its contraction and its economic consequences.

The deleveraging process will be ugly. First, the junk assets that the banks moved off balance sheet will have to be financed by the banks, and a lot of them will have to be moved back onto banks' balance sheets. As this happens, bank lending capacity gets used up. Second, re-intermediated junk assets will have to be written down. This destroys bank capital and further reduces lending capacity.

Finally, future bank lending practice is going to be changed. Much more lending will be kept on banks' balance sheets. When loans are securitized, banks will remain responsible for the quality of the credit and have to make prudent reserves against it. All this means lower liquidity expansion, particularly of asset money, and lower economic growth.

In a globalized system, no one is immune. The big shock of 2008 will be that the China bubble pops. After all, where would China be without excessive global liquidity flooding into its domestic markets over a quasi-fixed exchange rate and excessive household borrowing stoking U.S. consumer demand for China's goods? We are about to find out.

Mr. Roche, president of Independent Strategy, a global investment consultancy based in London, is the author of "New Monetarism" (Independent Strategy, 2007).

26749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 14, 2007, 11:48:10 AM
U.S.: Targeted Officer Killings Crossing the Border?
Police in Arizona were still searching Dec. 14 for two suspects involved in a recent home invasion targeting a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Tucson. The agent told police that he woke early Dec. 9 as four armed men forcibly entered his home. At least one suspect fired at the agent, at which point he retrieved his service weapon and returned fire as the suspects retreated in a sport utility vehicle (SUV). His shots apparently struck at least one of the suspects, who was found shot to death several hours later in a rural area. Another suspect was later detained after police discovered the SUV in flames, apparently set ablaze by the attackers in order to destroy evidence.

Home invasions can have a variety of motives. In this case, the incident very likely involved a failed assassination attempt -- an idea that raises concerns about new forms of violence associated with Mexican organized crime crossing the border.

There are several reasons to believe this home invasion was not a random occurrence but rather an intentional attempt to kill the agent. First, the agent reportedly drove a Border Patrol vehicle that he parked at home every night -- and criminals looking for an easy burglary target are unlikely to pick the home of an armed law enforcement officer. Second, though police have officially said that no motive has been determined, one blog reporting on this incident has described police sources as saying it involved an assassination attempt gone wrong.

This attack, then, was almost certainly associated with some element of Mexican organized crime. Drug trafficking organizations and smuggling groups certainly would have had an interest in targeting the agent, and Mexico's drug cartels are notorious for violent killings targeting police officers and army personnel across Mexico, carried out by highly trained and heavily armed former military members employed by the cartels. For instance, at least seven Mexican police officers were killed and five wounded last week alone in incidents involving grenades, assault rifles, assassinations, and one kidnapping and fatal beating.

Though cartels' hit men have ample resources and there is evidence they have operated cells inside the United States, the suspects in the Tucson case more likely belonged to a U.S.-based gang working on behalf of a Mexican criminal organization.
The fact that the two suspects who have been identified are 19 and 20 years old suggests that they are not the experienced military-trained operatives employed by Mexico's drug cartels. Also, experienced and trained operatives would not have retreated after being fired at by one person -- and, frankly, an attack by more seasoned operatives most likely would not have failed. Even if the attackers had experience targeting poorly-trained police officers in Mexico, it is much more difficult to successfully attack a well-trained U.S. federal law enforcement officer.

Though there is currently no evidence that the agent in this case was involved in illegal activity, it is important to note that many police and government officials targeted for assassination in Mexico have been paid off by a rival criminal organization. Corruption has not been limited to the Mexican side of the border; many low-paid agents in the United States have found themselves facing the dilemma of "plata o plomo" -- "silver or lead" -- which means take a bribe or take a bullet.

Police also are often targeted simply for doing their job. For example, after Mexican police in the border city of Tecate shut down a smuggling tunnel running under the border last week, a group of gunmen entered the home of a Tecate police commander -- who had been on the job less than a week -- and shot him more than 50 times while he lay in bed. His family was unharmed, though this was not the case when a former police officer in Mexico's Sinaloa state was shot to death, along with his wife and three young daughters, at his home several weeks ago.

While targeted killings of police are common in Mexico, they have yet to reach similar levels in the United States. Over the last few years, though, there has been an increasing trend of criminal activity commonplace in Mexico spreading north across the border, including kidnapping, threats against journalists and extortion. This latest incident raises concerns that targeted killings of police officers could be the next form of violence exported across the border.

26750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anatomy of a hit job: The Wolfowitz Affair (formerly Paul's Girl) on: December 14, 2007, 11:33:00 AM

Epitaph to a Smear
December 14, 2007; Page A20
Given the campaign of vilification endured earlier this year by the World Bank's Shaha Riza, we thought readers might like to know the results of an investigation into a concocted scandal about her. Don't expect to read about this in the media that was once so eager to trash her.

Ms. Riza is the bank employee whose personal relationship with then-bank President Paul Wolfowitz created the bogus conflict of interest that ultimately led to his resignation in June. The principal charge concerned the details of her allegedly excessive pay raise, which brought her salary in line with roughly 1,400 other employees of the bank. But a subplot about a trip she took to Iraq in the spring of 2003 was conveniently trotted out at the height of the controversy to help force Mr. Wolfowitz out.

Here are the facts. In early 2003, Ms. Riza was invited by the State Department to go to Iraq and advise on ways to set up a democratic government, with a particular focus on civil society and women's issues. The trip got the enthusiastic go-ahead from then-bank President James Wolfensohn.

To comply with bank rules concerning outside work, Ms. Riza agreed to take a month-long unpaid leave from her job, amounting to a loss in salary of about $10,000. To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, she also declined any pay (except travel and other expenses) from the Science Applications International Corp., the Pentagon contractor that organized the trip.

Thus did matters stand until the phony Wolfowitz scandal blew up this spring. On April 18, the Washington Post ran a story under the headline, "Defense Eyes Wolfowitz Friend's Contract." The same day, National Public Radio followed up with "Wolfowitz Faces New Allegations of Favoritism," quoting Ms. Riza's former supervisor, Jean-Louis Sarbib, saying the trip was "unusual and not terribly above board." Graeme Wheeler, a bank managing director, also included the trip among the reasons for his widely publicized demand at the time that Mr. Wolfowitz resign.

The very next day, however, Reuters reported that in 2005 the Pentagon's Inspector General had looked into Ms. Riza's trip and found there was "insufficient basis to warrant further investigation." The IG noted that Ms. Riza, who has long experience working with Arab reformers and is fluent in Arabic and Turkish, among other languages, was uniquely well qualified for the position. The New York Times confirmed the substance of the Reuters story on April 20, adding that the IG had found that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz had "not exerted improper influence in Ms. Riza's hiring." Oddly, the Times chose to run this news under the misleading headline "Wolfowitz Backed Friend for Iraq Contract in '03."

Despite this finding, in late June of this year Xavier Coll, then the bank's vice president for human resources, hired Canadian law firm Goodmans LLP to investigate Ms. Riza's trip, supposedly because of questions related to the approval process for the trip. Mr. Coll is known to readers of this page for the dishonest account he gave of his role in authorizing Ms. Riza's raise.

Fast forward six months. Following a call from us, a bank spokesman says the investigation has been completed, and that the report finds "no basis to conclude misconduct occurred." The tab for this fishing expedition? The bank won't say, and Goodmans didn't return our calls. But a source estimates the cost to the bank runs north of $500,000.

That figure may be pocket change at the bank, though it is hardly so for the poor people whom the bank ostensibly exists to serve. But the episode is also a revealing example of the lengths to which the bank's bureaucrats were prepared to go to destroy the career of one of their own colleagues, for no greater sin than her connection to Mr. Wolfowitz. And it says something about the media, which in its efforts to "get Wolfowitz" didn't scruple to trash her reputation. In a better world, Ms. Riza's accusers, in the bank and the media, would publicly acknowledge her vindication.

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