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26751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: September 23, 2007, 05:59:32 AM
Rapeseed biofuel produces more greenhouse gas than oil or petrol?
 
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter
A renewable energy source designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is contributing more to global warming than fossil fuels, a study suggests.

Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from rapeseed and maize have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save.

Other biofuels, especially those likely to see greater use over the next decade, performed better than fossil fuels but the study raises serious questions about some of the most commonly produced varieties.

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution.

"One wants rational decisions rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon because superficially something appears to reduce emissions," said Keith Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of the researchers.

Maize for ethanol is the prime crop for biofuel in the US where production for the industry has recently overtaken the use of the plant as a food. In Europe the main crop is rapeseed, which accounts for 80 per cent of biofuel production.

Professor Smith told Chemistry World: "The significance of it is that the supposed benefits of biofuels are even more disputable than had been thought hitherto."

It was accepted by the scientists that other factors, such as the use of fossil fuels to produce fertiliser, have yet to be fully analysed for their impact on overall figures. But they concluded that the biofuels "can contribute as much or more to global warming by N2 O emissions than cooling by fossil-fuel savings".

The research is published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, where it has been placed for open review. The research team was formed of scientists from Britain, the US and Germany, and included Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on ozone.

Dr Franz Conen, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, described the study as an "astounding insight".

"It is to be hoped that those taking decisions on subsidies and regulations will in future take N2O emissions into account and promote some forms of biofuel production while quickly abandoning others," he told the journal?s discussion board.

Dr Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh, used the findings to calculate that with the US Senate aiming to increase maize ethanol production sevenfold by 2022, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will rise by 6 per cent.

26752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: September 23, 2007, 05:52:53 AM

NY Times
The Day Louis Armstrong Made Noise
By DAVID MARGOLICK
Published: September 23, 2007

FIFTY years ago this week, all eyes were on Little Rock, Ark., where nine black students were trying, for the first time, to desegregate a major Southern high school. With fewer than 150 blacks, the town of Grand Forks, N.D., hardly figured to be a key front in that battle — until, that is, Larry Lubenow talked to Louis Armstrong.

On the night of Sept. 17, 1957, two weeks after the Little Rock Nine were first barred from Central High School, the jazz trumpeter happened to be on tour with his All Stars band in Grand Forks. Larry Lubenow, meanwhile, was a 21-year-old journalism student and jazz fan at the University of North Dakota, moonlighting for $1.75 an hour at The Grand Forks Herald.

Shortly before Mr. Armstrong’s concert, Mr. Lubenow’s editor sent him to the Dakota Hotel, where Mr. Armstrong was staying, to see if he could land an interview. Perhaps sensing trouble — Mr. Lubenow was, he now says, a “rabble-rouser and liberal” — his boss laid out the ground rules: “No politics,” he ordered. That hardly seemed necessary, for Mr. Armstrong rarely ventured into such things anyway. “I don’t get involved in politics,” he once said. “I just blow my horn.”

But Mr. Lubenow was thinking about other things, race relations among them. The bell captain, with whom he was friendly, had told him that Mr. Armstrong was quietly making history in Grand Forks, as he had done innumerable times and ways before, by becoming the first black man ever to stay at what was then the best hotel in town. Mr. Lubenow knew, too, that Grand Forks had its own link to Little Rock: it was the hometown of Judge Ronald Davies, who’d just ordered that the desegregation plan in Little Rock proceed after Gov. Orval Faubus of Arkansas and a band of local segregationists tried to block it.

As Mr. Armstrong prepared to play that night — oddly enough, at Grand Forks’s own Central High School — members of the Arkansas National Guard ringed the school in Little Rock, ordered to keep the black students out. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s meeting with Governor Faubus three days earlier in Newport, R.I., had ended inconclusively. Central High School was open, but the black children stayed home.

Mr. Lubenow was first told he couldn’t talk to Mr. Armstrong until after the concert. That wouldn’t do. With the connivance of the bell captain, he snuck into Mr. Armstrong’s suite with a room service lobster dinner. And Mr. Armstrong, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, agreed to talk. Mr. Lubenow stuck initially to his editor’s script, asking Mr. Armstrong to name his favorite musician. (Bing Crosby, it turned out.) But soon he brought up Little Rock, and he could not believe what he heard. “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country,” a furious Mr. Armstrong told him. President Eisenhower, he charged, was “two faced,” and had “no guts.” For Governor Faubus, he used a double-barreled hyphenated expletive, utterly unfit for print. The two settled on something safer: “uneducated plow boy.” The euphemism, Mr. Lubenow says, was far more his than Mr. Armstrong’s.

Mr. Armstrong bitterly recounted some of his experiences touring in the Jim Crow South. He then sang the opening bar of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” inserting obscenities into the lyrics and prompting Velma Middleton, the vocalist who toured with Mr. Armstrong and who had joined them in the room, to hush him up.

Mr. Armstrong had been contemplating a good-will tour to the Soviet Union for the State Department. “They ain’t so cold but what we couldn’t bruise them with happy music,” he had said. Now, though, he confessed to having second thoughts. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,” he said, offering further choice words about the secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. “The people over there ask me what’s wrong with my country. What am I supposed to say?”

Mr. Lubenow, who came from a small North Dakota farming community, was shocked by what he heard, but he also knew he had a story; he skipped the concert and went back to the paper to write it up. It was too late to get it in his own paper; nor would the Associated Press editor in Minneapolis, dubious that Mr. Armstrong could have said such things, put it on the national wire, at least until Mr. Lubenow could prove he hadn’t made it all up. So the next morning Mr. Lubenow returned to the Dakota Hotel and, as Mr. Armstrong shaved, had the Herald photographer take their picture together. Then Mr. Lubenow showed Mr. Armstrong what he’d written. “Don’t take nothing out of that story,” Mr. Armstrong declared. “That’s just what I said, and still say.” He then wrote “solid” on the bottom of the yellow copy paper, and signed his name.
---
Page 2 of 2)



The article ran all over the country. Douglas Edwards and John Cameron Swayze broadcast it on the evening news. The Russians, an anonymous government spokesman warned, would relish everything Mr. Armstrong had said. A radio station in Hattiesburg, Miss., threw out all of Mr. Armstrong’s records. Sammy Davis Jr. criticized Mr. Armstrong for not speaking out earlier. But Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt and Marian Anderson quickly backed him up.

Mostly, there was surprise, especially among blacks. Secretary Dulles might just as well have stood up at the United Nations and led a chorus of the Russian national anthem, declared Jet magazine, which once called Mr. Armstrong an “Uncle Tom.” Mr. Armstrong had long tried to convince people throughout the world that “the Negro’s lot in America is a happy one,” it observed, but in one bold stroke he’d pulled nearly 15 million American blacks to his bosom. Any white confused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s polite talk need only listen to Mr. Armstrong, The Amsterdam News declared. Mr. Armstrong’s words had the “explosive effect of an H-bomb,” said The Chicago Defender. “He may not have been grammatical, but he was eloquent.”

His road manager quickly put out that Mr. Armstrong had been tricked, and regretted his statements, but Mr. Armstrong would have none of that. “I said what somebody should have said a long time ago,” he said the following day in Montevideo, Minn., where he gave his next concert. He closed that show with “The Star-Spangled Banner” — this time, minus the obscenities.

Mr. Armstrong was to pay a price for his outspokenness. There were calls for boycotts of his concerts. The Ford Motor Company threatened to pull out of a Bing Crosby special on which Mr. Armstrong was to appear. Van Cliburn’s manager refused to let him perform a duet with Mr. Armstrong on Steve Allen’s talk show.

But it didn’t really matter. On Sept. 24, President Eisenhower sent 1,200 paratroopers from the 101st Airborne into Little Rock, and the next day soldiers escorted the nine students into Central High School. Mr. Armstrong exulted. “If you decide to walk into the schools with the little colored kids, take me along, Daddy,” he wired the president. “God bless you.” As for Mr. Lubenow, who now works in public relations in Cedar Park, Tex., he got $3.50 for writing the story and, perhaps, for changing history. But his editor was miffed — he’d gotten into politics, after all. Within a week, he left the paper.
Page 2 of 2)



The article ran all over the country. Douglas Edwards and John Cameron Swayze broadcast it on the evening news. The Russians, an anonymous government spokesman warned, would relish everything Mr. Armstrong had said. A radio station in Hattiesburg, Miss., threw out all of Mr. Armstrong’s records. Sammy Davis Jr. criticized Mr. Armstrong for not speaking out earlier. But Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt and Marian Anderson quickly backed him up.

Mostly, there was surprise, especially among blacks. Secretary Dulles might just as well have stood up at the United Nations and led a chorus of the Russian national anthem, declared Jet magazine, which once called Mr. Armstrong an “Uncle Tom.” Mr. Armstrong had long tried to convince people throughout the world that “the Negro’s lot in America is a happy one,” it observed, but in one bold stroke he’d pulled nearly 15 million American blacks to his bosom. Any white confused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s polite talk need only listen to Mr. Armstrong, The Amsterdam News declared. Mr. Armstrong’s words had the “explosive effect of an H-bomb,” said The Chicago Defender. “He may not have been grammatical, but he was eloquent.”

His road manager quickly put out that Mr. Armstrong had been tricked, and regretted his statements, but Mr. Armstrong would have none of that. “I said what somebody should have said a long time ago,” he said the following day in Montevideo, Minn., where he gave his next concert. He closed that show with “The Star-Spangled Banner” — this time, minus the obscenities.

Mr. Armstrong was to pay a price for his outspokenness. There were calls for boycotts of his concerts. The Ford Motor Company threatened to pull out of a Bing Crosby special on which Mr. Armstrong was to appear. Van Cliburn’s manager refused to let him perform a duet with Mr. Armstrong on Steve Allen’s talk show.

But it didn’t really matter. On Sept. 24, President Eisenhower sent 1,200 paratroopers from the 101st Airborne into Little Rock, and the next day soldiers escorted the nine students into Central High School. Mr. Armstrong exulted. “If you decide to walk into the schools with the little colored kids, take me along, Daddy,” he wired the president. “God bless you.” As for Mr. Lubenow, who now works in public relations in Cedar Park, Tex., he got $3.50 for writing the story and, perhaps, for changing history. But his editor was miffed — he’d gotten into politics, after all. Within a week, he left the paper.


26753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 22, 2007, 09:00:30 PM
Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter

Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.

They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Israeli special forces had been gathering intelligence for several months in Syria, according to Israeli sources. They located the nuclear material at a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in the north.


Evidence that North Korean personnel were at the site is said to have been shared with President George W Bush over the summer. A senior American source said the administration sought proof of nuclear-related activities before giving the attack its blessing.

Diplomats in North Korea and China believe a number of North Koreans were killed in the strike, based on reports reaching Asian governments about conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials.

Syrian officials flew to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last week, reinforcing the view that the two nations were coordinating their response.
Source TimesOnline /Drudge
26754  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Distractions on: September 22, 2007, 01:10:19 PM
Although aimed at LEOs, the following seems to me to be relevant to all of us:

I. Have you tried these distractions?

Force Science News #81
September 21, 2007


   
Have you tried these distractions?

In a recent report on the value of using distractions to defuse potentially violent confrontations, we invited officers to submit some of their favorite ploys for diverting dicey suspects from thoughts of attacking.

Here's a sampling of responses we received, along with a trainer's observations on the need for more emphasis on communications skill instruction.

Our original article, "Distractions and aggressive subjects," was transmitted 8/24/07 [Read it now].

Let's see; there's Grumpy, Dopey, Tipsy... No, wait....

One of the tricks my team uses with volatile drunks involves a little humor. We tell them if they can name the 7 dwarfs before we get them back to the station, we'll let them go. They're usually occupied throughout the journey and are still trying to name all 7 while being booked in. Some of the regulars have even gotten used to the challenge and start naming the dwarfs as soon as we confront them.

Insp. Gerry Kiernan
Hampshire Police
United Kingdom

"I saw his demeanor change to a calm, how-can-I-help look"

I was working a high-crime housing project area, looking for a known gang member who had earlier fled from a vehicle stop involving a stolen auto. I located him as he walked down a sidewalk, but I knew he would flee if I bailed out of my patrol car and tried to rush him.

I parked across the street at a location he was walking toward. He was obviously nervous as I leisurely exited my car. I said, "Sir, have you seen a little 4-year-old boy? He's missing and we're trying to find him."

He looked at me a bit puzzled. I began to describe this imaginary child as I walked toward him, and I saw his demeanor change from a nervous fleeing look to a calm, how-can-I-help look. He walked with me to my patrol car while we discussed the "missing person."

I then transitioned into discussing the stolen vehicle. He became very compliant and cooperative and now wanted to help us find the car thief. After I checked him for weapons, he voluntarily went back to the stolen vehicle with me to help with the investigation. He was subsequently booked for auto theft and miscellaneous other charges without resistance.

Ofcr. Paul Willett
California Highway Patrol

Sniff, sniff

My partner and I would often pretend to smell smoke in the house while on domestics and other calls to private residences when the subjects were not paying attention to us. We'd both start walking around sniffing and asking loudly, "Do you smell smoke?" More often than not, the occupants would stop what they were doing and start sniffing. We could then gain their attention and deal with the situation calmly.

Brian Carter (ret.)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Deflecting Rage by Creating a Void Where It's Aimed

As I was booking a drunk for domestic violence, he started to swear and insult me, his voice becoming louder and louder. His hands, on the counter, clenched into fists. He said loudly, "Your mom musta been a real whore to raise a bastard like you."

Keeping a bladed stance and my hands up, I said, "Oh, you know my mom? She works the downtown area. They call her Gummy Bear 'cause she's got no teeth."

He looked at me with red, watery eyes and burst out laughing. The rest of the process went smoothly.

I used a common judo principle, "pull when pushed." I had every right to throw him into a separation cell, but by not responding, by creating a 'void' where he aimed his rage, his emotionality had nothing to fight against. And since his 'problem' was a woman, my statement had an element of, not agreement, but empathy.

An emotional action needs a calculated response, before a rational discussion can be attempted.

Dpty. Paul McRedmond
Multnomah County (OR) S.O.

"An inexpensive, non-incendiary distraction"

On vehicle stops, we all know that despite direction to see their hands, occupants, if they're high and holding controlled substances, often keep stuffing the seats in hope you won't notice. We have to consider also that they could be stashing or retrieving a weapon.

The routine seems to be that the officer repeats the commands in a louder tone and then louder again, maybe even drawing his pistol to emphasize the message. The problem is that the suspect is likely looking at where he/she wants to hide the drugs or weapon and is panicking to the point of auditory exclusion.

I've found that an open-handed slap as hard as you can with your free hand onto the roof of the car almost without fail causes everyone inside to magically freeze. It seems to serve as an inexpensive, non-incendiary distraction that breaks the suspect's attention fixation.

Det. Sgt. Chris Sheehan
Medicine Hat (Alberta) Police Service

Quick ice-breakers

Before joining law enforcement, I worked in a mental institution. I quickly learned that minor and innocent distractions when talking to upset or mentally ill persons was a quick ice breaker.

I used such simple things as "I really like that pair of boots you have there" and "It sure is hot here today. Let's move over to the shade and talk." These worked really well in conveying that I was interested in the person I was dealing with and his immediate well-being. There were times when this approach did not work, and I just responded in a quiet and respectful voice, addressing the person as Sir or Miss.

Instruction in distraction techniques should be included in every officer's annual refresher training.

Sgt. Phillip Schumpert
Federal Correctional Institution
Big Spring, TX

Just whistle

I am well-known for using a Fox 40 police whistle to stop domestics. I blow it until they stop yelling. Sometimes they get upset with me, distracting anger from each other.

I also use the whistle to disperse large, unruly crowds by walking into the crowd and blowing till they disperse. This has worked wonders for breaking up fights at large bar scenes. At one such scene, a lieutenant was told by the other LEOs, "Watch this." Then I did my act and the crowd of approximately 300 left in moments.

Ofcr. Steven Baum
Niagara Falls (NY) P.D.

The sorry state of police communications training

Distraction techniques are sometimes called "pattern interrupts," and their effectiveness in circumventing undesirable subject behavior is well researched.

The irony is that many major police agencies either provide officers with no communications skills training or the time allocated is inadequate or the method of training proves to be ineffective.

Law enforcement agencies and their trainers are providing the best officer safety training and equipment ever offered in policing. Extensive time is spent on weapon retention, weapon disarming, ground fighting, multiple assailant attacks, and a multitude of other skills. All these are essential.

But-have agencies provided as much training to equip their officers with the necessary skills to stay out of confrontations as they have to ensure that they win them? Surveys of agencies and academies indicate that typically less than 5% of the available instructional time is spent on communication training, despite the fact that officers will need to display communication competence during 95% of their active duties.

Even a cursory risk-management review of this situation should raise the alarm for agency administrators, particularly in light of the increasing civil litigation resulting from behavior-based complaints.

Police communications must be designed around the psychology of persuasion. Powerful verbal and non-verbal communication can work to modify a subject's behavior in such subtle ways that they are not detectable by the individual being influenced. However, officers who are not properly trained in these strategies may unwittingly use words and body language that undermine their attempt to positively influence behavior.

Strategic communications should be built upon the cornerstone of officer safety training and taught by use-of-force instructors. This maximizes the buy-in from front-line troops, since they correctly perceive that the training focus is on enhancing their safety and equipping them to better conduct their job, rather than as just a political initiative.

S/Sgt. Chris Butler
Chief Crowfoot Learning Center
Calgary (Alberta) Police Service

26755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: September 22, 2007, 01:06:29 PM

Woof GM:

I certainly appreciate your point, but let me offer this: 

The same thing as you properly predict with the MB in Egypt just happened with Hamas in Palestine/Gaza.  I know that some have used this to say that President Bush's push for democracy is foolishness.  However, to me it seems like what happened with Hamas has been a good thing.  No longer are we pushing Israel to negotiate with a government that does not represent its people nor can commit them.  No longer does the world subsidize the PA government as it did before.  The Gaza strip has been declared , , , what was it?  "hostile territory"? as Israel begins to shut down electricity and other essentials.  Would any of this have been possible without the election of Hamas?

What would happen if the MB took over Egypt via elections?

In the big picture are we better off standing by our convictions, or supporting yet again another problematic regime out realism?

The question is just that-- a question, not an argument.
26756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: September 22, 2007, 12:23:13 PM
Second post of the morning:

Although the Egyptian Government is usually on the other side of things, this article seems relevant to the subject of this thread:

===========

WSJ

Egyptian Exile
By JOSHUA MURAVCHIK
September 22, 2007

Far from the public eye a drama is playing out that will have the utmost consequences for the Bush administration's goal of promoting democracy in the Middle East. The region's most prominent dissident, Egyptian sociologist Saad Edin Ibrahim, suddenly finds himself in a kind of perambulatory exile, hopping from conference to conference -- in nine countries in the last three months. The one place he dare not go is home to Egypt because well-placed officials have warned him not to put himself within President Hosni Mubarak's grasp.

What has Mr. Ibrahim done to enrage President Mubarak? He has loudly advocated democracy in public writings, interviews with Western reporters, and, most unforgivably, in a face-to-face meeting with President George W. Bush. As a result, members of Mr. Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party filed nine formal requests with the state prosecutor's office this summer for indictments against Mr. Ibrahim, for "damaging the state's economic interests" and even "treason." The state-run press has conducted a smear campaign against him.

Most recently, Egypt's largest paper, Al Ahram, carried a front-page editorial signed by Osama Saraya, its editor-in-chief, that branded Mr. Ibrahim an "agent" of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and a "criminal." Still more ominously, the author averred that Mr. Ibrahim had "repeated his old crime itself by giving false information to a foreign reader" to obscure "the environment of freedom and reform that Egypt lives in."

The real point of this absurd argument was to encourage and justify a repetition of the ordeal to which the Egyptian state subjected Mr. Ibrahim seven years ago. In 2000 he became the region's most celebrated political prisoner when he was jailed on spurious charges stemming from the efforts of his Ibn Khaldun Center to monitor Egyptian elections. Altogether he spent two years behind bars before Egypt's highest and most politically independent judicial body, the Court of Cassation, overturned his conviction. Alas, this did not come before his health had been permanently damaged.

Torture is all too common in Egyptian prisons, but his jailers were reluctant to leave scars on Mr. Ibrahim because the U.S. government followed his case closely. (He is married to an American and holds American as well as Egyptian citizenship.) Instead they resorted to sleep deprivation. After 45 days of being roughly wakened each time he started to doze, Mr. Ibrahim suffered a stroke.

A fit, athletic man who was still jogging at the age of 60, Mr. Ibrahim, 68, now walks with a severe limp. Another term in prison could literally seal his doom. Worse, Egyptian dissidents do not put it past the intelligence services, or mukhabarat, to arrange an "accident" that would rid Mr. Mubarak of this meddlesome advocate without generating the international campaign that will ensue if he is imprisoned. They point to the recent mysterious defenestration in London of Ashraf Marwan, an alleged spy for Israel, whose death the Israeli press suggests may have been caused by Egyptian agents. Fears of such dirty tricks are not paranoid: Just prior to Mr. Ibrahim's imprisonment in 2000 an unidentified truck ran his car into a ditch.

The campaign against Mr. Ibrahim is the latest evidence that Egypt is marching backwards on democracy and human rights. In his 2005 state of the union address, President Bush had called upon "the great and proud nation of Egypt [to] show the way toward democracy in the Middle East." When Mr. Mubarak announced Egypt's first ever presidential election, it seemed as if his exhortation was being heeded. To no one's surprise, the election was not fair, but hopes for the future were kindled by Mr. Mubarak's pledge to inaugurate an era of political reform after his re-election.

Instead, Mr. Mubarak had his main competitor, Ayman Nour, tossed in prison on trumped up charges, where he languishes in declining health. Mr. Mubarak then pushed through constitutional "reform" in the form of 35 amendments adopted as a single indivisible package, precluding meaningful deliberation. This was followed by arrests of dissident bloggers and other critics -- both secular and Islamist -- and then by the vicious persecution of a group of "Quranists," Muslim reformers who want a return to original Scripture as opposed to subsequent interpretations that are often more narrow-minded. Now, the hounding of Mr. Ibrahim completes the mockery of the hopes of 2005.

The new attacks on Mr. Ibrahim began in late May this year when the wife of the emir of Qatar hosted a conference to launch the Arab Foundation for Democracy. The Qatari government endowed it with $10 million with which to support reformers in the region, and Mr. Ibrahim was named to the board. Some of Egypt's state-controlled media portrayed the whole operation as a front for Mr. Ibrahim's disloyal activities. Ironically, he had been condemned previously for accepting Western donations for pro-democracy work, but now it turned out that Arab donations were no better. Apparently it was the purpose of the funds, rather than their source, that made them taboo.

A week later, Mr. Ibrahim spoke at a conference on democracy held in Prague, where President Bush met with him and dissidents from other countries. The Egyptian press again went into high dudgeon -- some even dubbing Mr. Ibrahim's organization the "Son of Zion Center" -- when Mr. Bush, in his highly publicized speech there, mentioned Ayman Nour as one of those "who couldn't join us because they are being unjustly imprisoned." The other absentees named by Mr. Bush were from Belarus, Burma, Cuba and Vietnam. The Egyptian government bristled at being placed in such company and accused Mr. Ibrahim of putting Mr. Bush up to it.

In his own Prague remarks, Mr. Ibrahim appealed to Western governments: "As freedom fighters, we ask you to stop supporting dictators in our countries. . . . in the name of stability and continuity." Soon thereafter, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reduce U.S. aid to Egypt by $200 million unless that country showed progress on human rights. Mr. Mubarak blamed Mr. Ibrahim.

All of this has profound consequences not only for Mr. Ibrahim and Egypt, but for Washington, too. Mr. Ibrahim is being persecuted more for the actions of the U.S. president and Congress than for what he, himself, did. Can we tolerate this? In May, the Syrian dissident, Kamal Labwani, was sentenced to years in prison for the simple act of meeting U.S. officials. But Syria is a hostile state, an unindicted coconspirator in the Axis of Evil. Egypt, in contrast, is an ally to which we give $2 billion each year.

This relationship, of course, is exactly the problem. No U.S. administration wants to butt heads with Egypt, and the Senate declined to go along with the House's conditional cut in Egypt's aid.

Mr. Mubarak may see Mr. Ibrahim's alleged offenses as a matter of national honor. But is our own national honor not also at stake if someone, an American citizen no less, is persecuted for holding a conversation with the president of the U.S.? Somehow, Mr. Bush and Congress must convey a stern warning to Mr. Mubarak: Hands off Saad Edin Ibrahim.

Mr. Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is writing a book about democrats in the Middle East.

26757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / TANSTAAFL on: September 22, 2007, 11:59:46 AM


No Free lunch

There was a Chemistry professor in a large college
that had some Exchange students in the class. 
One day while the class was in the lab the Prof
noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept
rubbing his back And stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the
matter. The student told him he had a bullet
lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting
communists in his native country who were trying to
overthrow his country's government and install a new
communist government.

In the midst of his story he looked at the professor
and asked a strange question. He asked,
'Do you know how to catch wild pigs?'

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for
the punch line. The young man said this was no joke.
'You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in
the woods and putting corn on the ground.  The pigs
find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free
corn.  When they are used to coming every day, you
put a fence down one side of the place where they
are used to coming.  When they get used to the fence,
they begin to eat the corn again and you put up
another side of the fence.  They get used to that
and start to eat again. You continue until you have
all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the
last side.  The pigs, who are used to the free corn,
start to come through the gate to eat, you slam the
gate on them and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom.
They run around and around inside the fence, but
they are caught.  Soon they go back to eating the
free corn.  They are so used to it that they have
forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves,
so they accept their captivity.

The young man then told the professor that is exactly
what he sees happening to America. The government
keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and
keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of
programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for
unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies,
payments not to plant crops (CRP),welfare, medicine,
drugs, etc. while we continually lose our freedoms
- just a little at a time.


One should always remember 'There is no such thing
as a free Lunch!' Also, 'You can never hire someone
to provide a service for you cheaper than you can
do it yourself.

Also, if you see that all of this wonderful
government 'help' is a problem confronting the
future of democracy in America, you might want to
send this on to your friends.  If you think the free
ride is essential to your way of life then you will
probably delete this email, but God help you when
the gate slams shut!
26758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 22, 2007, 11:55:07 AM
 
 
   
     
   
 
 

 
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HillaryCare Flops in California
By JOHN FUND
September 22, 2007

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Hillary Clinton is patting herself on the back for proposing a health-care plan that is much more politically astute than her 1993 Rube Goldberg effort. She told an audience in New York this week: "I think I have successfully thought through all of the objections and pre-empted them."

She may want to think again. Last January, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed an eerily similar plan using the same rhetoric and even the same slogan adopted by Mrs. Clinton to describe hers: "Shared Responsibility."

That's no coincidence. Both ArnoldCare and HillaryCare 2.0 are the product of the same advisers. But despite all of its clever political compromises, ArnoldCare is bogged down in trench warfare in California's liberal Democratic legislature. If anything passes, it will likely be only a shell of a bill without any financing component. Legislators will hope voters approve a general tax increase to pay for it in November 2008.

The two plans have many features in common. ArnoldCare's $12 billion-a-year price tag represents about a 10th of Mrs. Clinton's estimate for the costs of her plan, roughly in line with California's share of the national economy. Both include mandates to buy health insurance, a ban on premium differences based on health status, Medicaid expansion, and a requirement that insurers have to offer policies to all applicants.

All of this is the brainchild of Laurie Rubiner, who directed health-care issues at the liberal New America Foundation until she left in 2005 to become Mrs. Clinton's Senate legislative director. She was replaced by Len Nichols, who in 1993 served as the liaison between President Bill Clinton's budget office and Mrs. Clinton's health-care task force. Ms. Rubiner isn't taking direct credit for selling Mr. Schwarzenegger on her plan, but aides to the governor confirm her role. Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation acknowledges that Ms. Rubiner "incubated and hatched" the ideas at the heart of the governor's plan. Ms. Rubiner declined to respond to a request for an interview.

Given the similarities, here are some political lessons that ArnoldCare might teach us about how Mrs. Clinton's plan might be received:

• The claim that no new bureaucracies are created will be challenged. Like Gov. Schwarzenegger, Mrs. Clinton envisions requiring everyone to prove they have health insurance. But she's vague on the details: "At this point, we don't have anything punitive that we have proposed." You can bet she will have some ideas.
 

Even so, making certain people have insurance is easier said than done. California has had a law mandating that drivers have car insurance since 1970 and has required physical proof of insurance to register a car for a decade. Even so, the Insurance Research Council says 25% of the state's drivers remain uninsured.

• Illegal aliens and their access to health insurance will be controversial. Mrs. Clinton promises health care for all, but is punting on the issue of whether the illegal aliens who often use emergency room services will be covered. Ms. Rubiner admits it's a "huge issue," but says "that's one we're going to have to think through a little bit."
 

Criticism of the governor's plans to cover illegal aliens forced him to drop the idea, but this week he fumed at those who raise such "Mickey Mouse"-type concerns. Mrs. Clinton's plan could be caught between populist forces opposing health care for illegal aliens and liberals who will insist on it.

• Hoping for bipartisan support isn't the same thing as getting it. Gov. Schwarzenegger sincerely believed he could convince Republicans to support his plan. In the end, he couldn't find anyone from either party to push his plan in the legislature. It was too tax-heavy for Republicans (his effort to call proposed tax hikes "loans" flopped) and not nearly interventionist enough for Democrats.
 

"The governor got significant parts of the business community to sign on, from Safeway to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce," one adviser to the governor told me. "But that didn't move the anti-tax Republican base."

• Nothing big passes Congress these days without bipartisan support. "The lesson from California is just how difficult it is to deal with so many players that have such disparate demands," says Dan Walters, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. "The governor's original plan had the doctors opposing the fees it imposed on them and the nurses' union upset because it wasn't single-payer. Having all the first responders who dress in white opposing your plan isn't politically healthy."
 

Sen. Clinton claims she now realizes she'll need actual votes to pass something. But traces of the old Hillary remain. "I wish it were possible to just wave a magic wand and say from the White House, 'Here's what I want.' But that's not the way it works," she told the Associated Press.

The real test may be her willingness to accept some market-oriented GOP proposals such as tax-free savings accounts for health care and a curb on frivolous liability lawsuits as the price for the bipartisan support she now claims to want. Now that really would be a New Hillary.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com.
 
WSJ
26759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: September 22, 2007, 09:50:30 AM
Second post of the morning:

The Chosen
Essential works about Judaism.

BY RUTH R. WISSE
Saturday, September 22, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

1. "Days of Awe" by S.Y. Agnon (Schocken, 1948).

During the 10 days between the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the fast of Yom Kippur, Jews submit themselves to the all-knowing and unerring judgment of God. It is sometimes a challenge to experience this soul-sifting in the modern world as most others go about their daily business. For those who desire help--or for those who simply want to gain a deeper understanding of the observances--look no further than "Days of Awe," a nonfiction work by novelist S.Y. Agnon (1888-1970), who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1966. His compendium of Jewish practices, legends and commentaries traces the rhythm of these September rituals, from the pre-holy day preparations to the aftermath of the concluding meal. The material includes simple customs (like eating an apple sweetened with honey), kabbalistic interpretations of the ram's horn blasts that are sounded in the synagogue, and prescriptions for a thorough moral accounting. Though my devotions do not approach the intensity of those of my ancestors--who, in the words of a Yiddish saying, trembled with the fish in the seas in the days of judgment--this little book puts me in awe of generations of Jews as they stood in awe of God.

2. "A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People" edited by Eli Barnavi (Schocken, 1992).

My teacher, the late Salo Baron, published 18 volumes of a "Social and Religious History of the Jews"--a project that he did not live to complete. Obviously, no single book can encompass all of Jewish experience. But when I want to find out about Jews in Palestine under the Romans, or learn how Jews fared in Muslim lands, or trace the migration of Jews to America, I turn to "A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People," an attractive volume of maps, documents, time lines and basic information. If I don't find exactly what I'm looking for, I become engrossed in something else, like an account of Jewish agriculture in South America. The book's organization is quirky, but its mixing of anthropology, history, religion and culture reflects how they are woven into the life of the Jews.

3. "Daniel Deronda" by George Eliot (1876).

One of the finest books about Jewish experience was written by an Englishwoman. George Eliot studied Judaism for years before writing this novel, her last, and her hero's gradual discovery of his Jewish origins seems to reproduce her own evolving appreciation of what Jews were about. Daniel Deronda's mother despised being Jewish, and when he was born she arranged for him to be raised as the ward of a wealthy English gentleman. But Deronda is pleased as his self-discovery unfolds, and he dreams of helping Jews find their own land "such as the English have"--in effect becoming a Zionist more than two decades before Theodor Herzl founded the Zionist movement. The novel has its painful side. Deronda's Jewish path thwarts his potential romance with the lovely Gwendolen Harleth, and well-meaning Christians who want to envelop Deronda in their embrace must learn from him the art of "separateness with communication."

4. "Tevye the Dairyman" by Sholem Aleichem (1894-1914).

No one did more than the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916) to forge the connection between Jewishness and comedy, and no character does it better than Tevye the Dairyman. In Aleichem's Tevye stories, set in Russia and collected in various forms over the years, the monologues of this first stand-up Jewish comedian treat many of the crises that Jews experienced in confronting modernity. A traditional father of many daughters (whittled down to three in the musical adaptation "Fiddler on the Roof"), Tevye must face both their challenges to his paternal authority and the dangers posed by the czarist regime. He does so with a philosophical humor that many readers attribute to Jewishness itself. "What does it say in the prayer book? We're God's chosen people; it's no wonder the whole world envies us." Whenever I teach this work, filled with specifically Jewish quotations and expressions, students of other minorities--especially those from religious families--recognize Tevye's predicaments, and they appreciate the moral balance he strives to maintain between metaphysical confidence and the disillusioning evidence presented by daily life.

5. "The Bellarosa Connection" by Saul Bellow (Penguin, 1989).

In this cautionary tale about the dangers of forgetting, the narrator, a cultured American Jewish widower, is the founder of the Mnemosyne Institute in Philadelphia. Appropriately for someone who teaches the techniques of memory, he lives in a house filled with antiques. A sudden inquiry from Jerusalem sends him in search of Harry Fonstein, a near-relative he hasn't seen in 30 years. Harry was once saved from the Nazis in Italy by the personal intervention of showman Billy Rose (mangled in Italian as "Bellarosa"), and for the remainder of this brief book the unnamed narrator recalls for us the story of the rescue and his encounters with Harry and his wife, Sorella, the woman he married after immigrating to America. Oversize yet delicate, Sorella functions as the book's oracle when she says: "The Jews could survive everything that Europe threw at them. . . . But now comes the next test--America." Wryly, and at his own expense, the memory-man describes how, by neglecting Harry and Sorella, he himself has failed that test.

Ms. Wisse, whose "Jews and Power" has just been published by Schocken, teaches Yiddish literature and comparative literature at Harvard.

WSJ
26760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: September 22, 2007, 09:42:39 AM
At State Dept., Blog Team Joins Muslim Debate
               
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
Published: September 22, 2007
WASHINGTON — Walid Jawad was tired of all the chatter on Middle Eastern blogs and Internet forums in praise of gory attacks carried out by the “noble resistance” in Iraq.

 
A page from the Web site Arabs Gate, one of the sites where a State Department blog team has contributed to the debate.
So Mr. Jawad, one of two Arabic-speaking members of what the State Department called its Digital Outreach Team, posted his own question: Why was it that many in the Arab world quickly condemned civilian Palestinian deaths but were mute about the endless killing of women and children by suicide bombers in Iraq?

Among those who responded was a man named Radad, evidently a Sunni Muslim, who wrote that many of the dead in Iraq were just Shiites and describing them in derogatory terms. But others who answered Mr. Jawad said that they, too, wondered why only Palestinian dead were “martyrs.”

The discussion tacked back and forth for four days, one of many such conversations prompted by scores of postings the State Department has made on about 70 Web sites since it put its two Arab-American Web monitors to work last November.

The postings, are an effort to take a more casual, varied approach to improving America’s image in the Muslim world.

Brent E. Blaschke, the project director, said the idea was to reach “swing voters,” whom he described as the silent majority of Muslims who might sympathize with Al Qaeda yet be open to information about United States government policy and American values.

Some analysts question whether the blog team will survive beyond the tenure of Karen P. Hughes, the confidante of President Bush who runs public diplomacy. The department expects to add seven more team members within the next month — four more in Arabic, two in Farsi and one in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan.

The team concentrates on about a dozen mainstream Web sites such as chat rooms set up by the BBC and Al Jazeera or charismatic Muslim figures like Amr Khaled, as well as Arab news sites like Elaph.com. They choose them based on high traffic and a focus on United States policy, and they always identify themselves as being from the State Department.

They avoid radical sites, although team members said that jihadis scoured everywhere.

The State Department team members themselves said they thought they would be immediately flamed, or insulted and blocked from posting. But so far only the webmaster at the Islamic Falluja Forums (www.al-faloja.info) has revoked their password and told them to get lost, they said.

Not that they don’t attract plenty of skeptical, sarcastic responses. One man identifying himself as an Arab in Germany commented that they were trying to put lipstick on a pig. During Congressional testimony last week by Gen. David H. Petraeus, for example, the two-man team went into chat rooms to ask people their opinion.

“God bless America, the giving mother,” went one sarcastic response, going on to say that everything the United States does goes into “the balance of your pockets, I mean the balance of your rewards.” Another noted that Iraqis were better off before the invasion, while a third jokingly asked the Digital Outreach Team for a green card.

Mr. Jawad’s responses tend toward the earnest: “We do not deny that the situation in Iraq is difficult, but we are achieving success in decreasing the level of violence there with the contribution of the Iraqis who care about their nation and who reject the terrorists and killers who target their victims based on sect,” he wrote at one point. He directed the green card writer to the Web sites describing how to apply.

Mr. Jawad and his colleague, Muath al-Sufi, are circumspect about biographical details that would allow readers to pigeonhole them by their roots, religion or education. Mr. Jawad, would only say that he is in his 30s, was born in Texas and raised around the Arab world. Mr. Sufi also said he was in his 30s.

The team said certain topics repeated regularly, including arguments over the accusations that American soldiers tortured Iraqis at Abu Ghraib and President Bush’s comment that the fight against terrorism is a “crusade.” Much time is also spent trying to douse the Internet brush fires that erupt whenever prominent Americans from talk-show hosts to politicians make anti-Muslim remarks of the “bomb Mecca” variety.

Each response is carefully shaped in English by the team and translated into often poetic Arabic.

“We try to put ourselves in the mindset of someone receiving the message,” said Duncan MacInnes, the director of the Counterterrorism Communication Center, of which the Digital Outreach Team is one branch. “Freedom for an Arab doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning it has for an American. Honor does. So we might say terrorism is dishonorable, which resonates more.”

Analysts said they had been surprised by the positive response, with people seemingly eager to engage, although the overall impact was impossible to assess. “They are not carrying the slogans of liberalization or democratization across the region,” said Adel al-Toraifi, a Saudi political analyst. “They are talking about peace and dialogue, and I think that makes it difficult for those debating them to justify criticizing them.”

Mr. Toraifi said the postings had generated some debate in the Arab world and had been the subject of a column in an Algerian newspaper lauding the State Department for discussing policy with ordinary people, something the writer said the Algerian government would never do.

Indeed, several analysts said having State Department employees on the Web helps to counter one source of radicalization — the sense that Washington is too arrogant to listen to the grievances of ordinary Arabs, so violence is the sole means to attract attention.

Mr. Jawad and Mr. Sufi say that in their roughly two dozen weekly postings they avoid all religious discussions, like whether jihad that kills civilians is legitimate. They even steer clear of arguments, instead posting straightforward snapshots of United States policy.

Mr. Jawad is often maligned as a “U.S. agent,” including by Radad, the man of the “just Shiites” remark. After Mr. Jawad wrote that all life was equally worth preserving, part of the man’s response was, “Don’t you think an agent of Arab nationality deserves to be killed?”

Mr. Jawad wrote back in part, “It seems to me that many people are quick to offer judgments based on political views so those who oppose them are always agents and infidels. Which leads to law of the jungle, which is not just, but chaotic.”

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.
26761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: September 22, 2007, 09:34:15 AM
Written with shading typical of the NY Times, but the subject is important and some interesting data is covered:

Israeli Raid on Syria Fuels Debate on Weapons
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By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: September 22, 2007
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 — American concerns about ties between Syria and North Korea have long focused on a partnership involving missiles and missile technology. Even many hawks within the Bush administration have expressed doubts that the Syrians have the money or technical depth to build a serious nuclear program like the one in Iran.

But the Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike inside Syria has reignited debate over whether the Syrians are trying to overcome past obstacles by starting their own small nuclear program, or by trying to buy nuclear components from an outside supplier. It is a particularly difficult question for American spy agencies, which are still smarting from the huge prewar misjudgments made about the status of Iraq’s weapons programs.

American officials are now sorting through what they say are Israel’s private claims that what their jets struck was tied to nuclear weapons development, not merely to missile production. So far, American officials have been extremely cautious about endorsing the Israeli conclusion.

Syria’s efforts to bolster its missile arsenal have been a source of worry for Israel for years, especially given Syria’s track record of arming Hezbollah fighters when they clash with Israeli troops. During the summer of 2006, Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group, fired hundreds of missiles at targets inside Israel from Lebanon, surprising Israeli officials with the sophistication of its arsenal.

And North Korean engineers are long believed to have helped Syria develop a sophisticated class of Scud missiles that have a longer range and are more accurate than earlier versions. According to GlobalSecurity.org, a defense research organization, North Korea has helped Syria develop the Scud-D missile, with a range of about 435 miles.

Whether Syria is actively pursuing a nuclear program has been the subject of fierce debate in Washington for several years. The dispute was at the center of the fight in 2005 over the nomination of John R. Bolton to become ambassador to the United Nations.

At the time, several intelligence officials said they had clashed in 2002 and 2003 with Mr. Bolton, then an under secretary of state, about the extent of Syria’s unconventional weapons programs. According to the officials, Mr. Bolton wanted to include information in a public speech about a Syrian nuclear program that could not be corroborated by intelligence agencies.

In recent interviews, Mr. Bolton has suggested that the Israeli strike may have partly vindicated his view.

Yet that is hard to assess, since whatever information a few senior officials in Washington and Jerusalem possess has been so restricted that two senior Asian diplomats, representing close American allies who are frequently updated on North Korea, said late this week that they had received no useful information from their American counterparts.

On Thursday, President Bush declined three times to shed any light on the Israeli strike, although he did repeat a warning to North Korea.

It is unclear to what extent the secrecy about the Israeli strike has been motivated by American doubts about the intelligence or by an effort to protect sources and classified information. But American officials are now looking at the possibility that the Syrians saw an opportunity to buy some of the basic components of a nuclear program on the cheap, perhaps because North Korea is trying to get elements of its nuclear program out of the country to meet deadlines in a precarious denuclearization agreement with Washington.

American officials are also studying at least two technology trade agreements between Syria and North Korea that were signed over the summer, trying to determine whether the arrangements may be designed for nascent nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

“One has to balance the skepticism that the Syrians can build an indigenous nuclear program with the very sobering assessment that North Korea is the world’s No. 1 proliferator and a country willing to sell whatever it possesses,” said a former senior Bush administration official who once had full access to the intelligence about both countries, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing intelligence assessments.

Though it has long sold its missile technology — to Syria, Iran, Pakistan and other customers — North Korea has never been known to export nuclear technology or material. Last Oct. 9, hours after the North tested its first nuclear device, Mr. Bush went in front of cameras in the White House to issue the North a specific warning that “the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or nonstate entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable of the consequences of such action.”

His declaration that day had been urged for years by hard-liners in the administration who believed that the United States had never been explicit enough with North Korea. They saw their opportunity after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, ignored pressure from China, South Korea, Russia and others and conducted its test.

Even though the Israelis are whispering that there was a nuclear connection to the Sept. 6 attack, so far there has been no hard evidence that the North has ever tried to sell elements of its two nuclear programs. One of those programs, involving plutonium, is quite advanced, enough to produce six to a dozen nuclear weapons. But selling that fuel would be enormously risky, and perhaps easily detectable.

The other program, based on uranium-enrichment equipment believed to have been bought from the network created by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear engineer, is assessed to be in its very early stages, and some doubt the North Koreans ever made much progress on it at all. That program involves the construction of centrifuges to enrich uranium, the path that Iran is taking. But it is complex, expensive and hard to hide, and many experts believe it is beyond Syria’s capabilities or budget.

Syria does have one very small research reactor, which is Chinese built. But it was described in a 2004 Swedish defense research agency report as “the smallest on the world market and incapable of military applications.”

John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org said that, given its neighborhood, Syria might be interested in a nuclear deterrent, but that he was highly skeptical that Damascus could at this point have developed anything that would pose a significant risk to Israel.

“Any country in the region that was not at least learning what it would take to develop a nuclear program is asleep at the switch,” he said. “But the proposition that there is anything sufficiently mature to warrant bombing is difficult to believe.”
26762  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamismo radical y España on: September 22, 2007, 09:22:27 AM
Cecilio:

Gracias por esta informacion.  Esperamos mas por favor.

!La Aventura continua!
Marc
26763  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: September 22, 2007, 09:20:45 AM
Jose:

!Buenisima idea!  Pero como se ve en los recientes eventos en Peru, la pregunta que planteas aqui no se limita a Mexico.  Por favor, comienza un nuevo hilo dedicado a esta tema.

Gracias,
Marc
26764  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru on: September 22, 2007, 09:18:41 AM
NY Times
Chileans Order Peru’s Ex-Chief Home for Trial
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: September 22, 2007

SANTIAGO, Chile, Sept. 21 — Chile’s Supreme Court on Friday approved the extradition of Peru’s former president, Alberto K. Fujimori, on charges of human rights abuses and corruption during his time in power in the 1990s.

Peruvians with photos of relatives who were killed at La Cantuta University today celebrating a ruling by Chile’s Supreme Court to extradite Peru’s former president.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, may have broader influence, legal experts said. In Latin America and elsewhere, former heads of state have normally been able to avoid extradition, even between countries with treaties, or they have been sent for trial before special tribunals, usually after political negotiations between governments.

The very fact that Chile’s judiciary seriously reviewed the case at the request of Peruvian prosecutors was exceptional, and the judges then treated Mr. Fujimori, Peru’s president from 1990 to 2000, like any citizen, handling his case in its own courts.

After the ruling, Mr. Fujimori, 69, continued under house arrest in a mansion in this capital city, where he has been since June while awaiting a ruling on the extradition request. He arrived here in 2005, en route from exile in Japan back to Peru, where he had wanted to return to power.

Mr. Fujimori faced a return home on Friday under circumstances very different from what he had hoped. The prospect of his trial and imprisonment in Peru seems certain not only to undo those ambitions, but also to introduce a polarizing and potentially destabilizing figure back into Peru’s politics.

“For me this is an opportunity to return,” Mr. Fujimori said in comments Friday on Peruvian radio, “because my objective is to reunite with the people.”

“I’m physically and emotionally prepared to deal with this situation,” he said.

Mr. Fujimori has retained a loyal following in Peru despite the revelations of abuse and generalized corruption in institutions controlled by him and his former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. Even today the government of President Alan García relies on votes from pro-Fujimori lawmakers to approve legislation, and declarations from prison by Mr. Fujimori could alter Peru’s political landscape.

“This is not the best scenario for Alan García, since Fujimori will almost certainly make waves,” said José Ugaz, a Peruvian lawyer who was a special state attorney investigating Mr. Fujimori and Mr. Montesinos. “But it is a clear victory against corruption and impunity.”

Peru’s comptroller general has estimated that Mr. Fujimori received $43.2 million to $59.4 million from the national intelligence service from 1992 to 2000, and he is accused of arranging the transfer of $15 million in state funds to Mr. Montesinos shortly before the collapse of his government.

In addition, Mr. Fujimori is accused of human rights abuses related to the activities of the Colina Group, a secretive squad of military intelligence officers believed to have carried out more than two dozen extrajudicial killings in the early 1990s. The squad carried out massacres in which 25 people died in 1991 and 1992.

“This is not vengeance, but justice,” said Gisela Ortiz, 35, the sister of one of nine students killed by the group at La Cantuta University in 1992. The squad’s operatives shot and killed the students and a professor, later hiding their bodies. “I feel tranquillity,” Ms. Ortiz said as she and other relatives of victims gathered Friday at a park in Lima.

Mr. Fujimori has denied the charges, despite videotaped evidence in which the death squad’s operational head stated that Mr. Fujimori specifically approved policy creating the group.

“This will strengthen us because the truth will become known,” Santiago Fujimori, Mr. Fujimori’s brother and a Peru congressman, said in comments to the Andina news agency.

After faxing his resignation from Tokyo in 2000, Mr. Fujimori received citizenship from Japan, from which his parents had emigrated to Peru.

In 2005 Mr. Fujimori unexpectedly ended his self-imposed exile and traveled to Chile, apparently intending to return to Peru and try for a political comeback. But he was arrested soon after he arrived, and Peru quickly sought extradition.

Chile’s Supreme Court had been reviewing the case since July, when one of its members ruled against extradition. Under Chilean law, the case was appealed to the full court. The court said last week that it had reached a decision, but delayed its ruling until after a national holiday that ended Wednesday.

“It was easier than expected to get to this point,” said Justice Alberto Chaigneau, who announced the ruling, pointing to the court’s unanimous decision on the human rights charges.

The ruling could ease political tension between Chile and Peru, at odds for decades over maritime boundaries. President Michelle Bachelet phoned Mr. García to tell him of the ruling.

Chile’s decision to take up the case was significant, given its courts’ previous hesitance to grant the extradition of a Nazi war criminal and a perception that the judiciary lacked independence during and after the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who presided over human rights abuses.

“This is a breaking point in international law,” said Alfredo Etcheberry, the Chilean lawyer who represented Peru’s government in the extradition case. “It is the first time Chile grants delivery of a former head of state by way of extradition to the country where he is wanted.”

Before now, Chile and other countries have been reluctant to do that. Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the former dictator of Paraguay, for example, lived in exile in Brazil from 1989 until his death last year. Despite a treaty between the countries, and the fact that he was wanted on murder charges, no serious effort was made to extradite him.

In other recent cases, former heads of state have been turned over to international tribunals. Serbia delivered Slobodan Milosevic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Nigeria handed over Charles Taylor, the former dictator of Liberia, to face trial by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

But the Chilean decision offers a contrast, because it was a domestic court and not the executive branch in negotiation with other governments that ruled to extradite a former head of state.

José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch, said the ruling fit a trend begun when the British House of Lords ruled that General Pinochet could be extradited to Spain to face charges of torture.

“This is a significant historical decision for both Chile and Peru,” Mr. Vivanco said. “It involves the workings of domestic institutions, not political negotiations between governments.”

But in the Pinochet case, the British courts ultimately turned down Spain’s extradition request and let the general return to Chile on grounds that a series of strokes had left him unfit for trial.

“A taboo has been broken, with Fujimori treated like any other person accused of embezzlement or murder who flees to Chile,” said M. Cherif Bassiouni, an expert on extradition at the DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. “The symbolic consequences of this decision will embolden other countries to say that nobody is above the law.”

Andrea Zarate contributed reporting from Lima.

26765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 22, 2007, 09:15:07 AM
This article from today's NY Slimes could easily have gone in the Media thread as an example of liberal media bias-- witness the repeated efforts to blur the distinction between illegal and legal immigrants.  It could also have gone in the immigration thread as an example of the consequences of illegal immigration.  And it fits here-- this has all the makings of a political football.
==========

Immigrants’ Emergency Care Is Limited by U.S. Rule


 

By SARAH KERSHAW
Published: September 22, 2007
The federal government has told New York State health officials that chemotherapy, which had been covered for illegal immigrants under a government-financed program for emergency medical care, does not qualify for coverage. The decision sets the stage for a battle between the state and federal governments over how medical emergencies are defined.

The change comes amid a fierce national debate on providing medical care to immigrants, with New York State officials and critics saying this latest move is one more indication of the Bush administration’s efforts to exclude the uninsured from public health services.
State officials in New York and other states have found themselves caught in the middle. The New York dispute, focusing on illegal immigrants with cancer — a marginal group of unknown size among the more than 500,000 people living in New York illegally — has become a flash point for health officials and advocates for immigrants in recent weeks.

Under a limited provision of Medicaid, the national health program for the poor, the federal government permits emergency coverage for illegal immigrants and other noncitizens. But the Bush administration has been more closely scrutinizing and increasingly denying state claims for federal payment for some emergency services, Medicaid experts said.

Last month, federal officials, concluding an audit that began in 2004 and was not challenged by the state until now, told New York State that they would no longer provide matching funds for chemotherapy under the emergency program. Yesterday, state officials sent a letter to the federal Medicaid agency protesting the change, saying that doctors, not the federal government, should determine when chemotherapy is needed.

Federal health officials declined to discuss chemotherapy or the New York claims. But Dennis Smith, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement, “Longstanding interpretations by the agency have been that emergency Medicaid benefits are to cover emergencies.”

The federal statute that defines an emergency under Medicaid makes it clear that routine care for illegal immigrants and nonresidents, including foreign students and visitors, is not covered. But the only procedures it specifically excludes from reimbursement are organ transplants, leaving to the states the task of further defining an emergency. States and courts have grappled with the question for years, yielding no clear definition.

Some states have maintained that any time a patient is able to schedule an appointment — as opposed to showing up at an emergency room — the condition would not be considered an emergency. Others, including New York, have defined an emergency as any condition that could become an emergency or lead to death without treatment.

“There are clearly situations that we consider emergencies where we need to give people chemotherapy,” Richard F. Daines, the New York State health commissioner, said in an interview late yesterday. “To say they don’t qualify is self-defeating in that those situations will eventually become emergencies.”

Dr. Daines said that for every effort in the state to use Medicaid “creatively” to cover the uninsured, “the Bush administration, at every chance, is pushing it back.”

The state estimated that the federal government denied $60 million in matching funds for emergency Medicaid from 2001 to 2006, including $11.1 million for chemotherapy. Medicaid costs are typically split evenly between the state and the federal government.

It is unclear how many other states are providing chemotherapy to illegal immigrants, because all emergency services are generally lumped together in state Medicaid reports. But others have also been challenged on emergency Medicaid claims.

In Washington State, where illegal immigrants are entitled to Medicaid coverage for a month or more after treatment in an emergency, officials said a federal audit of their emergency Medicaid claims was under way, and the state has asked the federal government to provide a definition of emergency services.

“The awkward position state Medicaid programs are in is trying to figure out what kinds of medical care should be available for emergency conditions,” said Douglas Porter, assistant secretary for the Washington Health and Recovery Services Administration.

Washington and other states have also fought the federal government over Medicaid for infants born to illegal immigrants, an issue reflected in the ferocious debate over the national children’s health insurance program.

In the wake of stricter federal rules, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and 20 other states have extended full Medicaid coverage, using only state money, to some immigrants who do not qualify for federal aid. Under federal law, proof of citizenship is required for full Medicaid coverage, but not for emergency coverage.

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(Page 2 of 2)



But some states with growing immigrant populations, like Georgia and Arizona, have themselves moved to limit coverage under emergency Medicaid, leading to intense opposition from immigrant health advocates.


Advocates for breast cancer patients said they were particularly concerned about the denial of coverage after lobbying the federal government for years to provide breast cancer screening to uninsured women. Under a program offered to underinsured and uninsured women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides free or low-cost screening.

“To allow women to be diagnosed with breast cancer and then create an obstacle for them to get treatment is a horrendous policy,” said Donna Lawrence, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in New York.

In New York City, cancer kills 15,000 residents a year. It is the second leading cause of death among both the native- and the foreign-born, according to a 2006 survey by the city’s health department, with lung, breast and colon cancer the top killers.

The state had initially accepted the federal finding that New York was not entitled to federal reimbursement for chemotherapy under the emergency Medicaid program. But until last month, state health officials had not informed medical providers that the treatment would no longer be covered by either state or federal funds.

That provoked a pitched outcry from immigrant health advocates over the last few weeks, and state health officials reversed their position this week, saying Medicaid should cover the treatment.

State officials said they were challenging the federal decision on the grounds that chemotherapy treatment qualifies as an emergency under the federal government’s own rules. Certain conditions, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord and bone marrow disease, could require immediate chemotherapy.

The state’s letter also said that chemotherapy can be used to “cure cancer, control cancer and/or ease cancer symptoms,” and that if that the measures typically used to treat cancer were not available to patients, their health could be in serious jeopardy — one of the federal criteria in determining an emergency.

The cost of emergency Medicaid is still a relatively small portion of state Medicaid budgets, experts said, and a majority of the money is spent on care for pregnant women, labor and delivery. But the demand for it rising quickly as the immigrant population balloons.

Health advocates say that many illegal immigrants who need and qualify for emergency care are afraid to seek help, and that emergency Medicaid is underused.

A recent study of emergency Medicaid services in North Carolina found that spending, largely devoted to pregnant women, increased by 28 percent from 2001 to 2004; still, the emergency costs accounted for less than 1 percent of total Medicaid expenditures.

New York City public hospitals, which serve 400,000 uninsured patients a year, among them illegal immigrants, would continue to provide the cancer treatment no matter what, said officials from the Health and Hospitals Corporation. But if there is no reimbursement from Medicaid, they said, they will have to look elsewhere for financial support.
26766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: September 22, 2007, 09:04:41 AM

There Is No God but Politics
by Theodore Dalrymple   

In my youth (in which I include my early adulthood), I read a lot of philosophy. In those days, I picked up books of metaphysics with an excitement that I cannot now recapture, and that completely mystifies me, indeed seems to me faintly ridiculous. I still cannot quite make up my mind, however, whether or not I wasted my time. After all, I was a medical student, not someone training to be an intellectual. I doubt that philosophy made me a better person, let alone a better doctor, but I suppose it is possible that it made me a better writer, which is not the same thing at all.


In those days, the Soviet Union loomed very large in all our imaginations. It was the ruffian on the stair of western civilisation, or a looming presence to the east. And that meant that, for anyone who wanted to understand the world, it appeared necessary to immerse himself in Marxism (actually, it was more important to read the history of the Russian intelligentsia from the time of Nicholas I than to read Marx), since the Soviet Union claimed to be a society founded on Marxist principles.


Marxist writers were not famed for their clarity or elegance of exposition. Indeed, clarity was rather looked down upon by them, for the dialectical nature of the world was inherently hard to understand and therefore to express. For Marxists, clarity was simplification, or worse still vulgarisation. It was the handmaiden of false consciousness that misled the workers into not being revolutionaries.


As with philosophy, I am not sure whether my efforts to understand Marxism were a complete waste of time, which I could and should have employed better. At any rate, when the Soviet Union collapsed, no thanks to my efforts to understand Marxism, I  thought, 'Well, at least I shall never have to struggle through any ideological nonsense again if I want to understand what is going on.'


How wrong I was! In short order, I found myself reading about Islam, a subject of great interest to scholars, no doubt, for nothing human fails to interest them, and of course also because Islam was the basis of great civilisations in the past, but not a subject (in my opinion) worth studying for any internal or new truths that it might be expected to yield me. No; I found myself reading about Islam because it had suddenly emerged as the next potential totalitarianism.


During my reading, I found myself swinging like a pendulum between taking Islam as a threat very seriously indeed, and not taking it seriously at all. The reasons for taking it seriously were that a large proportion of humanity was Muslim, that an aggressive and violent minority had emerged within that population with apparently very widespread, if largely passive, approval, and that the leadership of western countries was very weak and vacillating in the face of this, or any other, challenge. The reasons for not taking Islam seriously were that, in the modern world, it was intellectually nugatory, that the disproportion in power between the rest of the world and the Islamic world appeared to be growing rather than contracting, and that behind all the bluster about the certain possession of the unique, universal and divinely ordained truth for man was an anxiety that the whole edifice of Islam, while strong, was extremely brittle, which explained why free enquiry was so limited in Islamic countries. There was a subliminal awareness - and perhaps not always subliminal - that free philosophical and historical debate could quickly and fatally undermine the hold of Islam on various societies. Fundamentalism was therefore a manifestation of weakness and not of strength.


Recently, I have been reading one of Sayyid Qutb's best-known books, Milestones. Of course, not being an Arabic-speaker, I rely on the accuracy of the translation. Qutb, who was hanged by the secularising nationalist, Nasser, in 1966, for allegedly plotting the overthrow of the government, was one of the most influential Muslim thinkers of the 20th Century. He did not start out as an Islamist, but became one partly in response to his sojourn in the United States. He was appalled by what he saw there as its moral laxity (though he went at a time now looked back on by moral conservatives as a time of great and even exemplary personal restraint, at least by comparison with the moral atmosphere of today). He was a cultivated man, and very far from an ignorant one. He did not deny, for example, the contribution that Europe (and America , which he regarded as part of Europe) had made: speaking of the Renaissance and the recent past, he said:

   This was the era during which Europe 's genius created its
   marvellous works in science, culture, law and material
   production, due to which mankind has progressed to great
   heights of creativity and material comfort.


He did not expect the Muslim world to equal the European world in wealth or power soon, but this did not worry him. Like many an intellectual from a materially backward society, at least by comparison with a much richer and more advanced one, he consoled himself with the spiritual superiority of his own society, at least in potential. (Actually, he was highly critical also of so-called Muslim societies, which he criticised for not being Islamic enough and for chasing after the false god of westernisation.)


Curiously, though, Qutb's thought has many parallels with Marxism. Where Marx has Historical Inevitability, Qutb has God's Law. Marx, you remember, envisages a time when the state will wither away and history will end. In Marx's vision, political power will have dissolved, and the exploitation of man by man will have ceased, to be replaced by the mere administration of things. (How anybody of minimal intelligence could have believed such a thing beats me.) In Qutb's vision, all political power will have dissolved, replaced by man's spontaneous obedience to God's law. Just as the administration of things in Marx's utopia will not confer power on the administrators, presumably because everything will be so plentiful that no one will be tempted to appropriate more than the next man, so in Qutb's utopia no one will have to interpret the law and gain power from doing so. God's law will be as evident as thing will be abundant in Marx's classless society.


In both Marx and Qutb, the idea is expressed that, under the new dispensation, man will become more human, less animal. Personally, I have always found this kind of thought an appallingly arrogant slur on all the people who have lived before the thinker of it: does humanity really have to wait for Marx and Qutb before it becomes truly human?                     

Marx understood that the classless society could not come about by merely preaching socialism, as if it were merely an ethical demand or theory. Violence would be necessary. Similarly, Qutb denies that the world will become Islamic merely by preaching the word of God. He refers to Mohammed's Meccan period, when the Prophet did not resort to arms. This, he says, was merely tactical; it would have been impossible in practice to impose his rule by force. But when he went to Medina, he had no hesitation in fighting his enemies, including those who simply did not accept his message.

Just as Marx says that a showdown between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is inevitable, leading to the triumph of the former and the subsequent establishment of a classless society, so Qutb thinks that a showdown between believers and infidels is inevitable, leading to the victory of Islam, which will eliminate all religious conflict. Is this Marx or Qutb speaking:

   [there] is a natural struggle between two systems which cannot
   co-exist for long.

It is Qutb; but it could have been taken from the writings of thousands of followers of Marx, if not from Marx himself, including Mao Tse-Tung.


The violent imposition of a socialist and Islamic society is justified in the same way in Marx and Qutb: if people were really free, that is to say suffering from neither false consciousness not jahilliyah (ignorance of divine guidance), they would accept the socialist or Islamic state not merely without demur, but joyously, as being for their own good freely chosen. True freedom in both Marx and Qutb is the recognition of necessity. Everything that prevents people from seeing the truth of their messages is an enemy of real, as against merely apparent, freedom.


There is very little that is specifically spiritual in Qutb's book: it is a political rather than a religious manifesto. And like Marx, he insists that Islam is not so much a body of doctrine or theory or facts, but a method. His notion is uncommonly like the Marxist one of praxis, of a dialectical relationship between theory and practice. Here is what he says about the Islamic society to come:
   Only when such a society comes into being, faces various
   practical problems, and needs a system of law, the Islam initiates
   the constitution of law and injunctions, rules and regulations.

Over and over again he insists, just like Marx, that Islam is not doctrine, but a unified theory and practice.


Qutb insists that the triumph of Islam is the only way that what he calls the lordship of man over man will be abolished, just as Marx and Marxists insist that the triumph of Marxism is the only way that the exploitation of man by man will cease. 


Marx believed that man once lived in a state of primitive communism which ended with the division of labour. Qutb believes (much less excusably or plausibly) that the first generations after Mohammed lived in a perfectly functioning Islamic society. He doesn't ask himself, at least not in this book, why it was, then, that three of the four supposedly rightly-guided caliphs were brutally murdered. This is a very odd kind of perfection, to say the least. But, just as the division of labour came and spoiled primitive communism, so did Greek philosophy and other innovations come and spoil the perfect Islamic society. Why perfection should fall apart because of outside influences - could perfection be as imperfect as that? - is a question Qutb does not ask himself.


Throughout his book, one senses his rage. Just as Marx expresses his admiration for the work the bourgeoisie has done in the past, so does Qutb pay tribute to Europe: but both Marx and Qutb are full of hatred. Of course, Qutb would have claimed to be nothing more than a humble instrument of God, expressing God's design for humanity, just as Marx would have claimed that he was merely the mouthpiece of historical inevitability. But all is not humility that claims to be humble. Self-knowledge and self-examination is no more part of Qutb's programme than it is of Marx's.


Qutb's book is obsessed with the achievement of political and social power. There is very little spiritual content in it. He says:
   It is clear, then that a Muslim community cannot be formed or
   continue to exist until it attains sufficient power to confront the
   existing jahili society.

Only the total triumph of Islam (in Qutb's sense) will bring peace to the world, just as all human conflict will end when the classless society is brought about by the final triumph of the proletariat.


The only religious aspect of Qutb's thought is his belief that the Koran is the unmediated word of God, a belief that he does not, because he cannot, justify. For him, the will of God is indisputably known without any need of interpretation, and in fact he knows it. It isn't difficult to see, then, that in the name of the destruction of all political authority and of the lordship of man over man in obedience to God's will, Qutb thinks he ought to be total dictator, and that he is as obsessed with the here and now as any Marxist.


It is the same old story. As Dostoyevsky said, starting out from limitless freedom, we end up with total despotism.
26767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: September 22, 2007, 07:54:15 AM
The Sword of Wood
retold by Doug Lipman
There was once a king who loved nothing better than to go out alone in the clothes of a commoner. He wanted to meet the ordinary people of his kingdom--to learn their way of life, and especially their way of thinking about the world. One night, this king found himself walking in the poorest, narrowest street of the city. This was the street of the Jews. He heard a song in the distance. The king thought, "A song sung in this place of poverty must be a lament!" But as he got closer, he could hear the true character of the song: it was a song of pride! "Bai-yum-dum, bai-yum-bai, yum-bai, bai...."

The king was drawn to the source of the song: the smallest, humblest shack on that street. He knocked on the door. "Is a stranger welcome here?"

The voice from within said, "A stranger is G-d's gift. Come in!"

In the dim light inside, the king saw a man sitting on the only piece of furniture, a wooden box. When the king came in, the man stood up and sat on the floor, offering the king the crate for a seat.

"Well, my friend," the king asked, "what do you do to earn a living?"

"Oh, I am a cobbler."

"You have a shop where you make shoes?"

"Oh, no, I could not afford a shop. I take my box of tools--you are sitting on it--to the side of the road. There I repair shoes for people as they need them."

"You cobble shoes by the side of the road? Can you make enough money that way?"

The cobbler spoke with both humility and pride. "Every day, I make just enough money to buy food for that day."

"Just enough for one day? Aren't you afraid that one day you won't make enough, and then you'll go hungry?"

"Blessed be G-d, day by day."

The next day, the king determined to put this man's philosophy to the test. He issued a proclamation that anyone wishing to cobble shoes by the side of the road must purchase a license for fifty pieces of gold.

That night, the king returned to the street of the Jews. Again he heard a song in the distance, and thought, "This time, the cobbler will be singing a different tune." But when the king neared the house he heard the cobbler sing the same song. Worse, it was even longer, with a new phrase that soared joyfully: "Ah, ha-ah-ah, ah-hah, ah-hah, ah-yai."

The king knocked on the door. "Oh, my friend, I heard about that wicked king and his proclamation. I was so worried about you. Were you able to eat today?"

"Oh, I was angry when I heard I could not make my living in the way I always have. But I knew: I am entitled to make a living and I will find a way. As I stood there saying those very words to myself, a group of people passed me by. When I asked them where they were going, they told me: into the forest to gather fire wood. Every day, they bring back wood to sell as kindling. When I asked if I could join them, they said, 'There is a whole forest out there. Come along!'

"And so I gathered fire wood. At the end of the day, I was able to sell it for just enough money to buy food for today."

The king sputtered. "Just enough for one day? What about tomorrow? What about next week?"

"Blessed be G-d, day by day."

The next day, the king again returned to his throne, and issued a new proclamation: anyone caught gathering firewood in the royal forest would be inducted into the royal guard. For good measure, he issued another: no new members of the royal guard would be paid for forty days.

That night, the king returned to the street of the Jews. Amazed, he heard the same song! But now, it had a third part that was militant and determined: "Dee, dee, dee, dee-dee, dee-dee, dah...."

The king knocked on the door. "Cobbler, what happened to you today?"

"They made me stand at attention all day in the royal guard! They issued me a sword and a scabbard. But then they told me I wouldn't be paid for forty days!"

"Oh, my friend, I bet you wish now that you had saved some money."

"Well, let me tell you what I did. At the end of the day, I looked at that metal sword blade. I thought to myself, that must be valuable! So I removed the blade from the handle, and fashioned another blade of wood. When the sword is in the scabbard, no one can tell the difference. I took the metal blade to a pawnbroker, and I pawned it for just enough money to buy food for one day."

The king was stunned. "What if there's a sword inspection tomorrow?"

"Blessed be G-d, day by day."

The next day, the cobbler was pulled out of line in the king's guard. He was presented with a prisoner in chains.

"Cobbler, this man has committed a horrible crime. You are to take him to the square. Using your sword, you are to behead him."

"Behead him? I'm an observant Jew. I couldn't take another human life."

"If you do not, we'll kill both of you."

The cobbler led this poor, trembling man into the square, where a crowd had gathered to watch the execution. The cobbler put the prisoner's head on the chopping block. He stood tall, his hand on the handle of his sword. Facing the crowd, he spoke.

"Let G-d be my witness: I am no murderer! If this man is guilty as charged, let my sword be as always. But if he is innocent, let my sword turn to wood!"

He pulled his sword. The people gasped when they saw the wooden blade. They bowed down at the great miracle that had happened there.

The king, who had been watching all of this, came over to the cobbler. He took him by both his hands, and looked him deep in the eyes. "I am the king. And I am your friend who has visited you these last nights. I want you to come live with me in the palace and be my advisor. Please teach me how to live like that--one day at a time."

Then, in front of everyone, the two of them danced and sang: "Bai-yum-dum, bai-yum-bai, yum-bai, bai...."

I first found this story in Dov Noy's Folktales of Israel, University of Chicago Press, 1963. Another, essentially similar, Jewish version from Afghanistan is in Howard Schwartz's Elijah's Violin, Harper and Row, 1983. This story is sometimes attributed to Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav, who retold and interpreted it. The basic plot is also known in Turkey and Uzbekistan, as well as in Finland, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and Greece.
26768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 22, 2007, 07:19:33 AM
Second post of the morning:

WSJ

THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW

21st-Century Monk
Tibet's spiritual leader thanks America for its support.

BY MARY KISSEL
Saturday, September 22, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

DHARAMSALA, India--"So, Rupert Murdoch is buying your newspaper?"

It's unclear whether the Dalai Lama's private secretary is making small talk about News Corp.'s impending takeover of Dow Jones, or if he's obliquely reminding me of Mr. Murdoch's oft-quoted reference to his boss as "a very political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes." I'm momentarily flummoxed--how does one reply when surrounded by monks?--but I recover as we make our way through clouds to the Dalai Lama's residence here in the Himalayan foothills.

For more than 40 years, the man better known as "His Holiness"--or, if you're in China, the "splittist," "separatist" or--the ultimate slight--"politician"--has been waging a peaceful campaign for a free Tibet, which was invaded by Communist China in 1949 and has been brutally suppressed ever since. His "middle way" diplomacy, a talk-and-talk-some-more approach, has produced distinctly middling results. In the lead-up to next summer's Beijing Olympics, the atrocities in Tibet have barely been mentioned--overshadowed by China's weapons sales in Darfur, a world away.

Over the border, China is tightening its vise. The State Administration for Religious Affairs declared last month that all Buddhist reincarnations must get government approval, a move that sets the stage for Beijing to name its own Dalai Lama once this one passes. The Party's "Go West" campaign is flooding Tibet with Han Chinese, marginalizing the native Tibetans. And a wave of recent political crackdowns has been left largely unnoticed in the Western press.

But the Dalai Lama seems unperturbed, even buoyant. He emerges from the mist, shuffling down a footpath to minister to a waiting line of devotees. He chats with a group of former Tibetan special forces personnel who helped whisk him over the border in 1959 ("let's take a photograph"); then he tends to the sick ("visit a doctor"), and blesses visiting Buddhist pilgrims.

In the line also stand two teenage Tibetan schoolgirls whose father was imprisoned last month for standing up at Tibet's annual Lithang horseracing festival and denouncing the local monks for cooperating with the communists--sparking sympathetic protests and subsequent crackdowns all over the province. "Your father is a brave man," the he tells the ponytailed girls, who look simultaneously awed and sad. (The secretary is translating for me in a jarringly perfect American accent; he spent time in New Jersey as a youth.)

The girls had trekked over the Himalayas to Nepal and, later, to India and freedom. Like many of the approximately 3,000 refugees who come here every year, they may never see their family again. The Dalai Lama, the private secretary whispers in my ear, grants each of them an audience upon his arrival in Dharamsala. Moving into a sitting room, we leave the misty courtyard behind.

There is room for cautious optimism for Tibetans that things will improve in their homeland, but perhaps not in the Dalai Lama's lifetime. As China gets richer and citizens search for spiritual fulfillment, underground religious movements are budding across the country. Last year, more than 500 mainland Chinese trekked to southern India to hear the Dalai Lama preach, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile. Others now come to Dharamsala to learn Buddhism and then return to China. When Zhao Ziyang, China's former premier, passed away, his family asked the Dalai Lama for a blessing.

"Chinese society is now ruled by autocrats," the Dalai Lama says with a laugh, as we start our formal interview. "But the society is still Chinese society." (The New Jersey-infused private secretary sits nearby, helping with translations when necessary.) "Chinese society built many, many Buddhist temples. . . . Now with a little liberalization, or lenient policy, their religious faith is now, khare-zego-re [Tibetan for 'what is the word?'], returning, reviving, including the Buddhist faith." I must have looked surprised at his cheerful optimism. "Mmm," he murmurs, shifting slightly in his chair.

Authoritarian, closed societies are "unpredictable," but the Dalai Lama insists that he's taking the right approach. "We are not seeking independence," he says. "We want a solution according to the Chinese Constitution." The Constitution, as his negotiators often remind Beijing, says "all nationalities in the People's Republic of China are equal," and adds "the state protects the lawful rights and interests of the minority nationalities and upholds and develops the relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's nationalities."





Beijing, of course, insists that this the "splittist" wants "independence," not autonomy. That was true--30 years ago. Through the upheaval of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, there wasn't much dialogue to be had with Beijing. In the early 1970s, as the Cultural Revolution was peaking, the Dalai Lama decided to shift to a call for autonomy, not independence, as a sign of good faith. At the time, he described it as a "middle approach."
Since then, the monk who's never been far from politics has tried to separate himself from the process to give it real legitimacy. The Tibetan government-in-exile founded a parliament in 1960. But in 1991, a new constitution, the Charter of Tibetans in Exile, transferred the power to select its members to the Tibetan people. In 2001, the charter was amended to allow the direct election of the prime minister--Samdhong Rinpoche, a reincarnate lama himself. "I have no longer any political status," the Dalai Lama emphasizes. "I remain just a simple Buddhist monk," he says, "quiet!"

Beijing hasn't responded in kind to these gestures. If anything, the relationship has deteriorated over six rounds of talks. Last year President Hu Jintao's administration launched an intensive round of attacks against the Dalai Lama, calling him "unworthy" of being a religious leader. China's rhetorical venom has created a growing sense of fury in the Tibetan exile community. Many Tibetans worry that the Communist Party is playing a waiting game, stringing along the Tibetan negotiators until the Dalai Lama passes--a fear that the Buddhist leader acknowledges.

"There's certainly more and more signs of frustrations, not only on our side, but inside," the Dalai Lama admits. A Tibetan youth tried to immolate himself when Mr. Hu visited Mumbai last year; another tried last month. In Tibet, violent tendencies have been crushed by the communists, but that doesn't mean they won't surface. "The suicides, the bombings, these things . . . it's possible," the Dalai Lama acknowledges, sighing slightly, with his hands now open. "But then, we always ask people to keep, keep peace."





One way of doing that is to institutionalize the Tibetan cause in the younger generation. Through private donations, the Tibetan government funds the Tibetan Children's Village, a network of schools for refugee children. Others are educated at Indian government-funded institutions. All teach Tibetan language, culture and a version of Chinese history that would never see the light of day on the mainland.
"In the past, Tibetans, particularly the nomads and also the farmers, they simply carried their centuries-old way of life . . . completely ignorant about the current world," the Dalai Lama says. "We Buddhists must be Buddhists of the 21st century." (Maybe that's why the secretary is following Mr. Murdoch's purchases so closely.)

Another way to perpetuate the movement--especially inside China--is to debunk the Communist Party's characterization of religion as a destabilizing force. The Dalai Lama preaches what he dubs "secular ethics"--the idea that there are common experiences that all people, regardless of religious faith, share. In his view, all spiritual traditions talk about basic concepts of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, self-discipline. While these ideas may come packaged in different philosophies, the message is the same.

"The main thing is some kind of usefulness to others." He pauses. "That's the meaning of life," he says, leaning forward and pointing his finger at me gently.

Despite his optimism, there's little chance that the "middle way" will spark a breakthrough anytime soon. From Beijing's perspective, the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet would galvanize Tibetans to rally behind their leader and push for independence--an example that China, which has suppressed other ethnic groups, such as the Uighurs, could not tolerate.





For the Communist Party, Tibet remains the third rail of politics--a topic so sensitive that it turns mild-mannered Chinese bureaucrats red in the face at a mere mention. The party toyed briefly with liberalization of the region in the 1980s, only to find Tibetans gleefully displaying the Dalai Lama's image and calling for independence. In 1989, a crackdown ensued, overseen by now-President Hu, then the party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Since taking office, Mr. Hu has installed a loyal hard-liner to oversee the area.
China's economy is increasingly providing political cover for its suppression of Tibet; it's too big and important to let a little bright light shine on human-rights abuses in a faraway land. The Dalai Lama's cause is especially lonely in Asia, given China's economic rise and its rapidly accruing military clout. "Very few" democracies in the region publicly support Tibet, with the notable exception of India--which comes under pressure frequently from Beijing. The silence is deafening, given that many Asian democracies, including those in Japan and South Korea, are home to large populations of Buddhists.

Even Western democratic nations come under intense pressure from Beijing. Belgium cancelled an official visit with the Dalai Lama before an EU-China meeting in May this year. Australian Prime Minister John Howard hesitated to meet the Buddhist leader in June, but, after intense lobbying from Washington, acquiesced. Germany's Angela Merkel is proving braver--she's hosting the Dalai Lama's first-ever visit to the German chancellery on Sunday.

"When we look at Tibet issue locally, then almost hopeless," the Dalai Lama concedes. But from a "wider perspective," the Tibet cause is "always hopeful." Recalling how the Soviet Union changed, he muses for a moment on how China is developing. "China is communist without communist ideology--only power," he declares. "So logically, no future!" The "only future" for China is "democracy, rule of law, free press, religious freedom, free information. China's future depends on these factors." That's something, he adds, that President Hu must know. "I really feel sympathy" for him.





The U.S. has always proved a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause--a close relationship that makes the Dalai Lama feel "proud." America, he says is a "champion of democracy, freedom and liberty. So their full support means they recognize our struggle as a just cause and a moral issue." Next month's Congressional Gold Medal award ceremony has sent the Chinese Embassy into high defensive gear. But that hasn't stopped President Bush from scheduling a private audience with the Dalai Lama.
"Of course, sometimes I have disagreement with . . . President Bush, but as a person, I always made clear, personally, I like him. He's very straightforward," the Dalai Lama recalls, "down to earth." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a "close friend of me personally and, I should say, a close friend of Tibet."

As we end, the Dalai Lama drapes a traditional white katag scarf around my neck and presents me with a pin depicting Potala Palace in Lhasa, his ancestral home. Then, like a child might, he throws his arms around me, and whispers into my ear: "We are passing through a difficult period," he says. "One ancient nation, with a unique heritage in a way, dying. So support from the free world is very much appreciated."

But will the free world follow through?

Ms. Kissel is The Wall Street Journal Asia's editorial page editor.
26769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 22, 2007, 07:11:54 AM
Second post of the morning:

Political Journal/WSJ

'A Very Interesting Past'
"A top campaign adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton says Rudy Giuliani's stormy personal life will be fair game should he win the Republican nomination for president," the New York Post reports:

"There's a lot that the rest of the country is going to get to know about Mayor Giuliani that the folks in New York City know," said Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor and a co-chairman of the Clinton campaign.

"I can't even get into the number of marriages and the fact that his children--the relationship he has with his children--and what kind of circumstances New York was in before Sept. 11," Vilsack said during an interview on NY1 last night.

"There are lot of issues involving Mayor Giuliani . . . He's got a very interesting past."

Giuliani is just lucky Mrs. Clinton doesn't practice the politics of personal destruction.
26770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: September 22, 2007, 07:10:12 AM
Dead Metaphor?
Here is a story to brighten your weekend: Early this afternoon we received an email from one of our most loyal readers. We'll withhold his name, because our purpose here isn't to make him look silly. Suffice it to say that he writes us several times a week, his nickname for President Bush is "Chimpy," and the following message, which we quote verbatim, is actually quite a bit more temperate than his usual fare:

No wonder the entire world sees this fool for the complete moron that he is.

I now see that his supporters, such as your august self, have truly, really, fundamentally no shame and no sense of embarrassment. Bush makes us all look like dopes--after all he was elected twice (ooops, make that stole the election twice--my bad)

If only his idiot gaffs were the worst of it...

He is truly worthless as a president and as a man!


Our correspondent sent us a link to a blog called First Draft, in which someone styling himself "Holden Caulfield" says of the president, "Christ, what a dumbass," and links to the following Reuters dispatch:

Nelson Mandela is still very much alive despite an embarrassing gaffe by U.S. President George W. Bush, who alluded to the former South African leader's death in an attempt to explain sectarian violence in Iraq.

"It's out there. All we can do is reassure people, especially South Africans, that President Mandela is alive," Achmat Dangor, chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said as Bush's comments received worldwide coverage. . . .

"I heard somebody say, Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas," Bush, who has a reputation for verbal faux pas, said in a press conference in Washington on Thursday. . . .

References to his death--Mandela is now 89 and increasingly frail--are seen as insensitive in South Africa.

So, what did President Bush actually say? Here's the quote in context, from the White House transcript:

Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. I thought an interesting comment was made when somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, where's Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas. He was a brutal tyrant that divided people up and split families, and people are recovering from this. So there's a psychological recovery that is taking place. And it's hard work for them. And I understand it's hard work for them. Having said that, I'm not going the give them a pass when it comes to the central government's reconciliation efforts.

In this context, it is clear that the literal meaning of "Where's Mandela?" is "Where is the Iraqi who will play the role in his country that Mandela played in postapartheid South Africa?" This was a pithy metaphor, not an "embarrassing gaffe."

Now, how did Reuters get the story wrong? There are, it seems to us, three explanations:

Stupidity. The reporter was so bone-headedly literal-minded that he simply did not understand the rhetorical device Bush was employing.


Laziness. The reporter wasn't actually at the press conference and didn't bother to check the context of the quote.


Dishonesty. The reporter knew full well that Bush was speaking metaphorically and deliberately twisted his meaning in order to fit the stereotype that Bush "has a reputation for verbal faux pas."
In the case of the particular Reuters dispatch "Caulfield" links to, laziness is the most likely answer. It's datelined Johannesburg, so the reporter surely was not at the press conference. But ultimately the explanation for the "worldwide coverage" this "gaffe" has received is either stupidity or dishonesty. Some journalist either failed to understand or deliberately misrepresented Bush's remark. And the joke is on people like our Bush-hating correspondent, who gullibly eat this stuff up.

political journal WSJ
26771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 22, 2007, 06:50:17 AM
     
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Potential presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich on Tuesday blasted the modern-day road to the White House as too long, too expensive and verging on "insane."


Ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich says the presidential campaign structure is "stunningly dangerous."

 The former House speaker from Georgia said he will decide whether to enter the GOP presidential field in October. But in a wide-ranging speech at the National Press Club in Washington, he ridiculed campaign consultants and spin doctors who he said are extending the 2008 campaign. He said presidential debates have become "almost unendurable."

"These aren't debates," the former Georgia congressman said. "This is a cross between [TV shows] 'The Bachelor,' 'American Idol' and 'Who's Smarter than a Fifth-Grader.'"

"What's the job of the candidate in this world?" asked Gingrich. "The job of the candidate is to raise the money to hire the consultants to do the focus groups to figure out the 30-second answers to be memorized by the candidate. This is stunningly dangerous."  Watch why Gingrich is "deeply worried" »

Gingrich said the need to raise tens of millions of dollars has driven campaigns to begin cranking up much earlier than ever. Meanwhile, he said, advisers are telling candidates to begin campaigning "as soon as possible -- I need a check."

"Go look at all the analysis," said Gingrich. "Why are people starting early? Because you can't build the organization. What are you building the organization for? So you can raise the money."

But for most voters, he said, the race "begins after Christmas, no matter what the news media has to cover." He cited the example of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who was the Democratic front-runner until the first votes of the 2004 campaign were cast.

Don't Miss
Gingrich sees Clinton/Obama ticket
"Normal, rational Iowans who had rigorously avoided politics for the entire previous year looked up and said, 'He's weird.' And they looked back down, and Howard Dean disintegrated," Gingrich said.

At the same time, he said, any candidate who dares to change position on an issue during a two-year campaign risks being labeled a "flip-flopper" -- an epithet used to undercut 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry and one being waved at current Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.

"You begin to trap people," Gingrich said. "As the campaigns get longer, you're asking a person who's going to be sworn in in January of 2009 to tell you what they'll do in January of 2007, when they haven't got a clue -- because they don't know what the world will be like, and you're suggesting they won't learn anything through the two years of campaigning."

"For the most powerful nation on Earth to have an election in which Swift Boat veterans versus National Guard papers becomes a major theme verges on insane," said Gingrich, referring to 2004 campaign controversies that targeted Kerry and President Bush. "I mean, it's just -- and to watch those debates, I found painful -- for both people. They're both smarter than the debates."

He blamed the pressures of sound-bite campaigning for the recent controversy over Sen. Barack Obama's declaration that he would dispatch U.S. troops to Pakistan to attack leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network if Pakistani authorities fail to get them.

Gingrich said the Illinois Democrat, one of his party's leading presidential candidates, "said a very insightful thing in a very dangerous way." But the response, he said, "was to attack Senator Obama, not to explore the underlying kernel of what he said."

Gingrich's answer to the problems would be to get rid of limits on campaign financing, which he said have made the problems worse by requiring more individual donations to meet the same goals, and to stage a series of "dialogues" among the major-party candidates -- once a week, for 90 minutes, for nine weeks before the elections.

Candidates would pick the topics, and their answers would be uninterrupted "except for fairness on time," he said.

"After nine 90-minute conversations in their living rooms, the American people would have a remarkable sense of the two personalities and which person had the right ideas, the right character, the right capacity to be a leader," he said.

Gingrich, who has long billed himself as a visionary, led the Republicans who captured both houses of Congress in 1994 elections. National polls in July ranked him fifth among current GOP contenders, with average support of 7 percent, according to a CNN poll released Monday.

Gingrich stepped down as House speaker in 1998, after Republicans lost seats amid the drive to impeach then-President Bill Clinton over allegations that he lied under oath about a sexual relationship with a White House intern.


In March, Gingrich acknowledged he was having an affair of his own around the same time. He insisted he was not a hypocrite because Clinton was not impeached for the affair -- but for lying about it.

The Senate acquitted Clinton the following year, and his wife, former first lady-turned-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, is among the current Democratic front-runners. E-mail to a friend
26772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 22, 2007, 06:37:01 AM
The long march to be a superpower

Aug 2nd 2007 | BEIJING AND TIANJIN
From The Economist print edition

The People's Liberation Army is investing heavily to give China the military muscle to match its economic power. But can it begin to rival America?

THE sight is as odd as its surroundings are bleak. Where a flat expanse of mud flats, salt pans and fish farms reaches the Bohai Gulf, a vast ship looms through the polluted haze. It is an aircraft-carrier, the Kiev, once the proud possession of the Soviet Union. Now it is a tourist attraction. Chinese visitors sit on the flight deck under Pepsi umbrellas, reflecting perhaps on a great power that was and another, theirs, that is fast in the making.

Inside the Kiev, the hangar bay is divided into two. On one side, bored-looking visitors watch an assortment of dance routines featuring performers in ethnic-minority costumes. On the other side is a full-size model of China's new J-10, a plane unveiled with great fanfare in January as the most advanced fighter built by the Chinese themselves (except for the Ukrainian or Russian turbofan engines—but officials prefer not to advertise this). A version of this, some military analysts believe, could one day be deployed on a Chinese ship.

The Pentagon is watching China's aircraft-carrier ambitions with bemused interest. Since the 1980s, China has bought four of them (three from the former Soviet Union and an Australian one whose construction began in Britain during the second world war). Like the Kiev, the Minsk (berthed near Hong Kong) has been turned into a tourist attraction having first been studied closely by Chinese naval engineers. Australia's carrier, the Melbourne, has been scrapped. The biggest and most modern one, the Varyag, is in the northern port city of Dalian, where it is being refurbished. Its destiny is uncertain. The Pentagon says it might be put into service, used for training carrier crews, or become yet another floating theme-park.

American global supremacy is not about to be challenged by China's tinkering with aircraft-carriers. Even if China were to commission one—which analysts think unlikely before at least 2015—it would be useless in the most probable area of potential conflict between China and America, the Taiwan Strait. China could far more easily launch its jets from shore. But it would be widely seen as a potent symbol of China's rise as a military power. Some Chinese officers want to fly the flag ever farther afield as a demonstration of China's rise. As China emerges as a trading giant (one increasingly dependent on imported oil), a few of its military analysts talk about the need to protect distant sea lanes in the Malacca Strait and beyond.

This week China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), as the armed forces are known, is celebrating the 80th year since it was born as a group of ragtag rebels against China's then rulers. Today it is vying to become one of the world's most capable forces: one that could, if necessary, keep even the Americans at bay. The PLA has little urge to confront America head-on, but plenty to deter it from protecting Taiwan.

The pace of China's military upgrading is causing concern in the Pentagon. Eric McVadon, a retired rear admiral, told a congressional commission in 2005 that China had achieved a “remarkable leap” in the modernisation of forces needed to overwhelm Taiwan and deter or confront any American intervention. And the pace of this, he said, was “urgently continuing”. By Pentagon standards, Admiral McVadon is doveish.

In its annual report to Congress on China's military strength, published in May, the Pentagon said China's “expanding military capabilities” were a “major factor” in altering military balances in East Asia. It said China's ability to project power over long distances remained limited. But it repeated its observation, made in 2006, that among “major and emerging powers” China had the “greatest potential to compete militarily” with America.

Since the mid-1990s China has become increasingly worried that Taiwan might cut its notional ties with the mainland. To instil fear into any Taiwanese leader so inclined, it has been deploying short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) on the coast facing the island as fast as it can produce them—about 100 a year. The Pentagon says there are now about 900 of these DF-11s (CSS-7) and DF-15s (CSS-6). They are getting more accurate. Salvoes of them might devastate Taiwan's military infrastructure so quickly that any war would be over before America could respond.

Much has changed since 1995 and 1996, when China's weakness in the face of American power was put on stunning display. In a fit of anger over America's decision in 1995 to allow Lee Teng-hui, then Taiwan's president, to make a high-profile trip to his alma mater, Cornell University, China fired ten unarmed DF-15s into waters off Taiwan. The Americans, confident that China would quickly back off, sent two aircraft-carrier battle groups to the region as a warning. The tactic worked. Today America would have to think twice. Douglas Paal, America's unofficial ambassador to Taiwan from 2002 to 2006, says the “cost of conflict has certainly gone up.”

The Chinese are now trying to make sure that American aircraft-carriers cannot get anywhere near. Admiral McVadon worries about their development of DF-21 (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missiles. With their far higher re-entry velocities than the SRBMs, they would be much harder for Taiwan's missile defences to cope with. They could even be launched far beyond Taiwan into the Pacific to hit aircraft-carriers. This would be a big technical challenge. But Admiral McVadon says America “might have to worry” about such a possibility within a couple of years.

Once the missiles have done their job, China's armed forces could (so they hope) follow up with a panoply of advanced Russian weaponry—mostly amassed in the past decade. Last year the Pentagon said China had imported around $11 billion of weapons between 2000 and 2005, mainly from Russia.

China knows it has a lot of catching up to do. Many Americans may be unenthusiastic about America's military excursions in recent years, particularly about the war in Iraq. But Chinese military authors, in numerous books and articles, see much to be inspired by.

On paper at least, China's gains have been impressive. Even into the 1990s China had little more than a conscript army of ill-educated peasants using equipment based largely on obsolete Soviet designs of the 1950s and outdated cold-war (or even guerrilla-war) doctrine. Now the emphasis has shifted from ground troops to the navy and air force, which would spearhead any attack on Taiwan. China has bought 12 Russian Kilo-class diesel attack submarines. The newest of these are equipped with supersonic Sizzler cruise missiles that America's carriers, many analysts believe, would find hard to stop.

There are supersonic cruise missiles too aboard China's four new Sovremenny-class destroyers, made to order by the Russians and designed to attack aircraft-carriers and their escorts. And China's own shipbuilders have not been idle. In an exhibition marking the 80th anniversary, Beijing's Military Museum displays what Chinese official websites say is a model of a new nuclear-powered attack submarine, the Shang. These submarines would allow the navy to push deep into the Pacific, well beyond Taiwan, and, China hopes, help defeat American carriers long before they get close. Last year, much to America's embarrassment, a newly developed Chinese diesel submarine for shorter-range missions surfaced close to the American carrier Kitty Hawk near Okinawa without being detected beforehand.

American air superiority in the region is now challenged by more than 200 advanced Russian Su-27and Su-30 fighters China has acquired since the 1990s. Some of these have been made under licence in China itself. The Pentagon thinks China is also interested in buying Su-33s, which would be useful for deployment on an aircraft-carrier, if China decides to build one.

During the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995-96, America could be reasonably sure that, even if war did break out (few seriously thought it would), it could cope with any threat from China's nuclear arsenal. China's handful of strategic missiles capable of hitting mainland America were based in silos, whose positions the Americans most probably knew. Launch preparations would take so long that the Americans would have plenty of time to knock them out. China has been working hard to remedy this. It is deploying six road-mobile, solid-fuelled (which means quick to launch) intercontinental DF-31s and is believed to be developing DF-31As with a longer range that could hit anywhere in America (see map below), as well as submarine-launched (so more concealable) JL-2s that could threaten much of America too.

All dressed up and ready to fight?

But how much use is all this hardware? Not a great deal is known about the PLA's fighting capability. It is by far the most secretive of the world's big armies. One of the few tidbits it has been truly open about in the build-up to the celebrations is the introduction of new uniforms to mark the occasion: more body-hugging and, to howls of criticism from some users of popular Chinese internet sites, more American-looking.

As Chinese military analysts are well aware, America's military strength is not just about technology. It also involves training, co-ordination between different branches of the military (“jointness”, in the jargon), gathering and processing intelligence, experience, and morale. China is struggling to catch up in these areas too. But it has had next to no combat experience since a brief and undistinguished foray into Vietnam in 1979 and a huge deployment to crush pro-democracy unrest ten years later.

China is even coyer about its war-fighting capabilities than it is about its weaponry. It has not rehearsed deep-sea drills against aircraft-carriers. It does not want to create alarm in the region, nor to rile America. There is also a problem of making all this Russian equipment work. Some analysts say the Chinese have not been entirely pleased with their Su-27 and Su-30 fighters. Keeping them maintained and supplied with spare parts (from Russia) has not been easy. A Western diplomat says China is also struggling to keep its Russian destroyers and submarines in good working order. “We have to be cautious about saying ‘wow’,” he suggests of the new equipment.

China is making some progress in its efforts to wean itself off dependence on the Russians. After decades of effort, some analysts believe, China is finally beginning to use its own turbofan engines, an essential technology for advanced fighters. But self-sufficiency is still a long way off. The Russians are sometimes still reluctant to hand over their most sophisticated technologies. “The only trustworthy thing [the Chinese] have is missiles,” says Andrew Yang of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan.

The Pentagon, for all its fretting, is trying to keep channels open to the Chinese. Military exchanges have been slowly reviving since their nadir of April 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet hit an American spy plane close to China. Last year, for the first time, the two sides conducted joint exercises—search-and-rescue missions off the coasts of America and China. But these were simple manoeuvres and the Americans learned little from them. The Chinese remain reluctant to engage in anything more complex, perhaps for fear of revealing their weaknesses.

The Russians have gained deeper insights. Two years ago the PLA staged large-scale exercises with them, the first with a foreign army. Although not advertised as such, these were partly aimed at scaring the Taiwanese. The two countries practised blockades, capturing airfields and amphibious landings. The Russians showed off some of the weaponry they hope to sell to the big-spending Chinese.

Another large joint exercise is due to be held on August 9th-17th in the Urals (a few troops from other members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a six-nation group including Central Asian states, will also take part). But David Shambaugh of George Washington University says the Russians have not been very impressed by China's skills. After the joint exercise of 2005, Russians muttered about the PLA's lack of “jointness”, its poor communications, and the slowness of its tanks.

China has won much praise in the West for its increasing involvement in United Nations peacekeeping operations. But this engagement has revealed little of China's combat capability. Almost all of the 1,600 Chinese peacekeepers deployed (including in Lebanon, Congo, and Liberia) are engineers, transport troops, or medical staff.

A series of “white papers” published by the Chinese government since 1998 on its military developments have shed little light either, particularly on how much the PLA is spending and on what. By China's opaque calculations, the PLA enjoyed an average annual budget increase of more than 15% between 1990 and 2005 (nearly 10% in real terms). This year the budget was increased by nearly 18%. But this appears not to include arms imports, spending on strategic missile forces and research and development. The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London says the real level of spending in 2004 could have been about 1.7 times higher than the officially declared budget of 220 billion yuan ($26.5 billion at then exchange rates).

This estimate would make China's spending roughly the same as that of France in 2004. But the different purchasing power of the dollar in the two countries—as well as China's double-digit spending increases since then—push the Chinese total far higher. China is struggling hard to make its army more professional—keeping servicemen for longer and attracting better-educated recruits. This is tough at a time when the civilian economy is booming and wages are climbing. The PLA is having to spend much more on pay and conditions for its 2.3m people.

Keeping the army happy is a preoccupation of China's leaders, mindful of how the PLA saved the party from probable destruction during the unrest of 1989. In the 1990s they encouraged military units to run businesses to make more money for themselves. At the end of the decade, seeing that this was fuelling corruption, they ordered the PLA to hand over its business to civilian control. Bigger budgets are now helping the PLA to make up for some of those lost earnings.

The party still sees the army as a bulwark against the kind of upheaval that has toppled communist regimes elsewhere. Chinese leaders lash out at suggestions (believed to be supported by some officers) that the PLA should be put under the state's control instead of the party's. The PLA is riddled with party spies who monitor officers' loyalty. But the party also gives the army considerable leeway to manage its own affairs. It worries about military corruption but seldom moves against it, at least openly (in a rare exception to this, a deputy chief of the navy was dismissed last year for taking bribes and “loose morals”). The PLA's culture of secrecy allowed the unmonitored spread of SARS, an often fatal respiratory ailment, in the army's medical system in 2003.

Carrier trade

The PLA knows its weaknesses. It has few illusions that China can compete head-on with the Americans militarily. The Soviet Union's determination to do so is widely seen in China as the cause of its collapse. Instead China emphasizes weaponry and doctrine that could be used to defeat a far more powerful enemy using “asymmetric capabilities”.

The idea is to exploit America's perceived weak points such as its dependence on satellites and information networks. China's successful (if messy and diplomatically damaging) destruction in January of one of its own ageing satellites with a rocket was clearly intended as a demonstration of such power. Some analysts believe Chinese people with state backing have been trying to hack into Pentagon computers. Richard Lawless, a Pentagon official, recently said China had developed a “very sophisticated” ability to attack American computer and internet systems.

The Pentagon's fear is that military leaders enamored of new technology may underestimate the diplomatic consequences of trying it out. Some Chinese see a problem here too. The anti-satellite test has revived academic discussion in China of the need for setting up an American-style national security council that would help military planners co-ordinate more effectively with foreign-policy makers.

But the Americans find it difficult to tell China bluntly to stop doing what others are doing too (including India, which has aircraft-carriers and Russian fighter planes). In May Admiral Timothy Keating, the chief of America's Pacific Command, said China's interest in aircraft-carriers was “understandable”. He even said that if China chose to develop them, America would “help them to the degree that they seek and the degree that we're capable.” But, he noted, “it ain't as easy as it looks.”

A senior Pentagon official later suggested Admiral Keating had been misunderstood. Building a carrier for the Chinese armed forces would be going a bit far. But the two sides are now talking about setting up a military hotline. The Americans want to stay cautiously friendly as the dragon grows stronger.
26773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 21, 2007, 10:59:39 PM
Wow.  This could get very interesting.
26774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Montana Mom on: September 21, 2007, 04:28:45 PM
http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/...f-montana.html

Out of Montana

What happens when a mother of three and small town municipal judge decides to take on the online Jidhad? Shannen Rossmiller tells the story of how she helped unmask a number of malefactors, including some who were seeking to acquire Stinger missiles and finally track down a renegade in the US National Guard. Viewed from one perspective, it is a fascinating case study of the private citizen warrior, embarked on what Rossmiller called her own "counterJihad".
Before 9-11, I had no experience with the Middle East or the Arabic language. I was a mother of three and a municipal judge in a small town in Montana. But the terrorist attacks affected me deeply. ... I began to read vociferously [voraciously] about Islam, terrorism, extremist groups, and Islamist ideology. ...


This housewife found she could fight her private war from a computer keyboard. Her first step was visit and learn all she could about Jihadi websites.
In November 2001, I saw a news report about how terrorists and their sympathizers communicated on websites and Internet message boards and how limited government agencies were in their ability to monitor these web communications. This news report showed me how extensively Al-Qaeda used the Internet to orchestrate 9-11 and how out of touch our intelligence agencies were regarding this Internet activity. Apparently, there were not procedures in place for tracking communications and activity on the Al-Qaeda websites and Internet forums at the time.


So she invented her own procedures. But as she ghosted through the websites and forums, she realized that any further progress required a knowledge of Arabic. Nothing daunted, Rosssmiller set out to learn Arabic. And she did. Over the Internet, from a Cairo language academy.

Early in January 2002, I began taking an Arabic language course online for eight weeks from the Cairo-based Arab Academy, which, that autumn, I supplemented with an intensive Arabic course at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As I learned more Arabic, the jihadi websites opened for me. Certain individuals stood out for either their radicalism or the information that they sent. I followed and tracked these individuals and kept notebooks detailing each website and person of interest.


Soon Rossmiller grew skilled enough to pick out the signature style of individuals and successfully impersonate a Jihadi. If on the Internet nobody knew if you were a dog, it might be equally possible for a mom of three to convince her quarry she was a terrorist looking to hook up.
I created my first terrorist cover identity on the Internet on March 13, 2002, to communicate and interact with these targets. In my first chat room sting, I convinced a Pakistani man that I was an Islamist arms dealer. When he offered to sell me stolen U.S. Stinger missiles to help the jihadists fighting the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, I used the Persian Gulf dialect of Arabic to ask him to provide me with information that I could use to confirm his claims, such as stock numbers. Within a couple of weeks, the missile identification numbers were in my computer inbox.
Stock numbers and the e-mail correspondence in hand, I intended to drive to the closest field office for the FBI here in Montana but was afraid that the FBI would not take me seriously. What were the chances of a Montana mom showing up at their door with information about an individual in Pakistan who was trying to sell Stinger missiles? Instead, I submitted the information to the FBI's online tips site.
A few days later, I received a telephone call from an FBI agent from New Jersey who proceeded to question me. It felt like an interrogation. Several days later, the same agent called to thank me and say that the stock number information for the Stingers did match some of the information that the government had about the missiles.
Encouraged by this success, I continued to communicate with these jihadis online and proceeded to gather more information. Using various Muslim personalities and theatrics for cover, I began monitoring the jihadist chat rooms into the early hours of the morning while my family slept. Plunging in, I started making headway into the world of counterterrorism.


Rossmiller went on to detect early warnings of a bombing attack against expatriates in Saudi Arabia and was even asked -- in 2003 -- to courier some money for Saddam's fedayeen in Jordan. But not all the homes burning the midnight oil in America belonged to individuals fighting for their country. Some of the nocturnal denizens haunting the Internet were bent on selling out their country for gain or out of hatred. At some point Rossmiller's path and theirs were bound to cross.
It was soon afterwards that I learned that I was not the only American surfing the chat rooms. In October 2004, while monitoring Arabic Islamist websites for threat-related information and activity, I saw a message posted in English by a man calling himself Amir Abdul Rashid. He said he was a Muslim convert who "was in a position to take things to the next level in the fight against our enemy (the U.S. government)." He further requested that someone from the mujahideen contact him for details. I was suspicious because Rashid posted his message in English on an Arabic website and was openly seeking contact from the mujahideen. I traced his IP address back to an area outside of Seattle, Washington. Over time, it also became apparent to me that he was a member of the U.S. military.


With the Montana mom aware of him the net slowly closed. Rashid turned out to be Spec. Ryan G. Anderson, whose National Guard unit was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Anderson was hawking the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the M1-AI and M1-A2 Abrams tanks as well as U.S. troop locations in Iraq. The price for this success was the end Rossmiller's anonymity. Called to testify at Anderson's trial, Rossmiller's modus operandi and identity were revealed in court records. Her cloak stripped away, the hunter soon became the hunted.
After the media picked up my identity at Anderson's Article 32 hearing in May 2004, I received numerous threats and, on December 5, 2004, someone stole my car out of my family's garage. It was later found wrecked two counties away from my home, riddled with bullet holes. As a result, I now have permanent security.


There's more. And if you want to know of her other exploits you should as they say, read the whole thing.
Ironically if Rossmiller had been engaged in important sleuthing such as uncovering whether Scooter Libby had talked about Valerie Plame before or after Richard Armitage instead of the trivial pursuit of hunting down terrorists intent on mass murder or traitors selling their country's secrets, her story might already be the subject of a blockbuster movie instead of the obscure pages of Middle East Forum. Rossmiller would be on the Good Morning America and Oprah shows, pulling in money instead of shelling it out for personal security.
Yet her saga is more than a cultural commentary on our times. It also illustrates the largely unrecorded exploits of individuals who are fighting the Jihad on their own time and dime. Wearing a wire for the FBI. Tracking down Jihadi training camps in rural America. Translating documents. Jamming terrorist sites. Raising the alarm. Baking cookies for the troops. It's a story of the gaps in the official warfighting apparatus and the enterprise that quietly fills them in. It is a perfectly 21st century story; a tale of networked counterinsurgency. But it is also a story from the past: of the 18th century idea of a nation in arms, not literally perhaps -- the keyboard is probably a more common weapon -- but of people's war, something that shocked the Continent when the French revolution brought it into European existence.
This perhaps, is Osama Bin Laden's saddest contribution to history. Not that he should make war upon the nations, but that he has raised the nations, right down to their living rooms and front porches, to make war upon him and his.
26775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight on: September 21, 2007, 11:44:53 AM
Jonah's Dilemma
By MICHAEL B. OREN and MARK GERSON
September 21, 2007

This year, as on every Yom Kippur, Jews throughout the world will recite the Book of Jonah, one of the Hebrew Bible's shortest and most enigmatic texts. Jonah is the only Israelite prophet to preach to Gentiles, and the only prophet who clearly hates his job. And yet Jews read the book on their holiest day of the year because of its message of atonement and forgiveness. But Jonah also conveys crucial lessons for all Americans as they grapple with crises in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and yearn for far-sighted leadership.

"Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it," God commands Jonah, explaining that the Assyrians must repent for their sins or face divinely-unleashed destruction. The task seems straightforward, yet Jonah balks. He tries to flee, first to sea and later to the desert. If Nineveh heeds his warnings and is spared, its citizens will later question whether the city was really ever in danger and assail Jonah for forcing them to make needless sacrifices. But if Nineveh ignores his exhortations and is destroyed, then Jonah has failed as a prophet. Either way he loses -- that's the paradox of prophecy. And so he bolts, only to discover that God will not let him out of that bind. Jonah must be swallowed by a big fish before begrudgingly accepting his mission.

 
Jonah's quandary is routinely encountered by national leaders, especially during crises. Winston Churchill, for example, prophetically warned of the Nazi threat in the 1930s, but if he had convinced his countrymen to strike Germany pre-emptively, would he have been hailed for preventing World War II or condemned for initiating an unnecessary conflict? As president in 1945, Harry Truman predicted that Japan would never surrender and that a quarter of a million GIs would be killed invading it. And so he obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only to be vilified by many future historians. But what if the atomic bombs were never dropped and the Battle for Japan claimed countless casualties -- would history have judged Truman more leniently?

Recent presidents, in particular, have struggled with such dilemmas while wrestling with the question of terror. Jimmy Carter failed to retaliate for the takeover the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. Marines out of Beirut in 1983 after Islamist bombers destroyed their headquarters, and Bill Clinton remained passive in the face of successive al Qaeda attacks. And yet, had these presidents gone to war, would Americans today credit them with averting a 9/11-type attack or would they have been denounced for overreacting? If American leaders had stood firmly earlier in Iran, Lebanon or Afghanistan, would U.S. troops today be battling in Iraq?

President Bush presents a striking example here. After 9/11, he cautioned that the United States would again be attacked unless it acted pre-emptively in Iraq. But while there is no way of knowing whether terrorists would have struck America if President Bush had refrained from invading Iraq, many Americans now denounce the president for initiating an avoidable, unwinnable war. This is the tragedy of leadership. Policy makers must decide between costly actions and inaction, the price of which, though potentially higher, will ultimately remain unknown -- a truly Jonah-like dilemma.

Unlike presidents, of course, Jonah knew the outcome of his decision: A penitent Nineveh would not be destroyed by God. And yet he so feared the paradox of prophecy that he risked his life to escape it. In the end, the citizens of Nineveh repented and were saved -- and the Book of Jonah was revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

America's leaders, by contrast, are unlikely to replicate Jonah's good fortune. They must decide whether to keep troops in Iraq, incurring untold losses of American lives and resources, or whether to withdraw and project an image of weakness to those who still seek to harm the U.S. If diplomatic efforts fail to deter Iran from enriching uranium, American policy makers will have to determine whether to stop the Islamic Republic by force or coexist with a highly unstable, nuclear-armed Middle East. They will be reproved for the actions they take to forestall catastrophe, but may receive no credit for averting cataclysms that never occur. For Mr. Bush and his successors, this will remain the tragic dilemma of leadership. It is an onus worth contemplating on this and every Yom Kippur.

Mr. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present," is a visiting professor at Yale. Mr. Gerson is co-founder and chairman of the Gerson Lehman Group.


WSJ
26776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 11:37:23 AM
Yet more:  Ron Paul vs. Bernanke!
http://gold-market.org/
26777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria, Lebanon on: September 21, 2007, 11:28:58 AM
Showdown in Lebanon
By MICHAEL YOUNG
September 21, 2007

BEIRUT -- On Wednesday Antoine Ghanem became the fourth anti-Syrian member of the Lebanese parliament to be assassinated in two years. He was the latest victim of a protracted political crisis in Lebanon that both preceded and was exacerbated by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005.

Soon after that murder, international pressure and a mass uprising dubbed "the Cedar Revolution" put an end to Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon. But Syrian President Bashar Assad never reconciled himself to the forced departure. Now Syria is trying to use the upcoming Lebanese presidential election to reimpose its hegemony over its smaller neighbor.

 
A Lebanese inspector investigates the damaged car of the anti-Syrian Lebanese lawmaker Antoine Ghanem, Thursday Sept. 20, 2007.
Next week Lebanon will enter the constitutional period, during which its parliament must choose a new president. The election might allow the Lebanese to finally be rid of Syria's peon, President Emile Lahoud, whose mandate was forcibly extended by Damascus three years ago. However, there is a real danger that it will be the final nail in the coffin of the Cedar Revolution.

The outcome will also help determine whether Syria can win an important round in a regional struggle pitting its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas against a loose coalition of forces including the United States, the mainstream Sunni Arab regimes, and European states. Amid heightening polarization throughout the Middle East, a Syrian victory in Lebanon could also exacerbate simmering tensions elsewhere.

In fact, the election might conceivably not take place at all. Mr. Assad realizes that any successor to Mr. Lahoud who seeks to consolidate Lebanon's sovereignty would be a barrier to the revival of Syrian supremacy. Damascus's Lebanese allies, most significantly Hezbollah, agree.

Hezbollah, which presides over a semi-autonomous territory with a private army of its own, knows that only renewed Syrian sway over Lebanon would allow it to continue its struggle against Israel and the U.S. Iran backs Syria, both to keep alive Tehran's deterrence capability against Israel (thanks to the thousands of rockets it has supplied Hezbollah in south Lebanon), and because Syria is a vital partner in allowing Iran to expand its reach across the Middle East.

There are also opportunities in this election for Syria's adversaries. The anti-Syrian Lebanese parliamentary majority, as well as the Bush administration and its more reliable European allies, believe that any new president must secure the gains made in 2005, when Lebanon recovered its independence. Their priority is to prevent the election of someone who might turn back the clock. The problem is that this anti-Syrian majority sits with Syria's friends in the parliament, which elects the president. They must come to a mutually satisfactory agreement or Lebanon will find itself even more dangerously divided than it already is.

This election is not just about a president; it is also, for many of those involved, about existential issues. Hezbollah, a revolutionary, military party that feeds off conflict (or "resistance") to survive, has no place in a liberated, liberal, cosmopolitan country at peace with the world. Similarly, Syria's most prominent enemies -- the Sunni leader Saad Hariri, the Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt and the Christian Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea -- all risk political and even physical elimination if Syria triumphs. Damascus, if it cannot impose its man or a cipher whose flimsiness would allow Syria to gain ground, will encourage its allies to create a political vacuum as leverage to subsequently push a favorite into office.

Syria is also waging an existential fight. The tribunal to convict those responsible for the assassination of Hariri has been approved under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and several weeks ago the Dutch government agreed to locate the court in the Netherlands (the exact location as yet undecided). For Mr. Assad, whose regime is a prime suspect in the Hariri murder, the signs are ominous. By again bringing Lebanon under his authority, the Syrian president doubtless feels he can hamper the court's proceedings, perhaps until more favorable circumstances allow him to negotiate a deal similar to the one that got Libya's top leadership off the hook for the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, as well as that of a UTA French airliner in 1989.

In this context, diplomatic sources in Beirut note that the Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, and some European states, including the Vatican, had sought to delay formation of the tribunal. However, the progress on situating the tribunal suggests this effort failed.

That is why Mr. Assad might, after all, be more interested in holding a presidential election now, so Syrian allies in Beirut can gum up the tribunal's machinery before it's too late. In this scenario, Damascus would want a weak consensus candidate who stands somewhere in the middle. However, the nub of Syria's strategy could be to ensure that its comrades in Beirut, in collaboration with the Christian politician Michel Aoun, gain veto power in the government that will be formed after the election. That veto power -- plus a limp president and Syria's control over parliamentary procedure through the pro-Syrian parliament speaker -- would give Damascus substantial influence in Beirut, including over administrative decisions relating to the tribunal and to the implementation of the U.N. resolutions to disarm Hezbollah and maintain tranquility in the southern border area.

If Syria does prefer a president to a vacuum, this vulnerability must be exploited in coming weeks by those who want Lebanon fully freed of Syrian domination. Mr. Assad will play hardball, but he faces some heat. An Israeli air raid against Syria earlier this month, though reported to be directed against some sort of nuclear facility, may conceivably have been interpreted by Syria as an effort to intimidate it before Lebanon's election. In recent weeks, moreover, Saudi-Syrian hostility has escalated to unheard-of levels. Both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt are fearful of Syria's close ties with Iran. For these two countries, a hegemonic, Islamist, Shiite Iran threatens their regional power and their Sunni-led regimes. This Sunni-Shiite rivalry happens to be playing itself out in Lebanon, where the results could have serious consequences for the Saudis and Egyptians.

The U.S. also knows the hazards of the Lebanese presidential election, and the Bush administration will not sign off on a president it regards as pro-Syrian. The difficult situation in Iraq, like Saudi-Syrian tensions, will probably make the administration tougher in opposing candidates it doesn't like. However, the European states -- France, Spain and Italy -- making up the bulk of the U.N. force in South Lebanon, worry that a void in Beirut might harm their soldiers. All have made it amply clear to Syria that it must change its ways in Lebanon, but they remain vulnerable on the ground, amid suspicion that Syria played a role, direct or indirect, in an attack last June that killed six troops of the Spanish U.N. contingent.

All sides, even Syria, would like to avoid a Lebanese vacuum at the end of November when Mr. Lahoud's time will be up -- if they can achieve their goals. The danger is that in the quest for compromise we might be heading toward a lowest common denominator on the presidency, thus giving Syria and its allies precisely what they want: a weak, ineffective president followed by a decisive advantage in any new government. That would only aggravate the current polarization in the country. Lebanon has the startling potential of becoming either the Middle East's salvation, or its nightmare. What happens here will have serious repercussions for what happens in the region as a whole.

Mr. Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

RELATED ARTICLES AND BLOGS
26778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 21, 2007, 09:38:40 AM
I don't know how reliable this website is, but I do know that the group being discussed here has crossed by radar screen previously:

Terrorists Training in Rural America? (A lot more info on these compounds including Pictures, articles,history etc. on our website www.ChristianAction.org)


CBNNews.com - RED HOUSE, Va. - Islamic extremists in the United States have traditionally set up shop in big cities with large Muslim populations: places like New York City, Dearborn, Michigan and even Washington, DC. But one secretive group is doing just the opposite.

They call themselves Muslims of America. They’ve established compounds throughout the rural U.S. Members say they moved to the countryside to lead peaceful lives free of “Western decadence.” But others say that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Certainly, when you’re in a rural area it enables you to better escape from the prying eyes of law enforcement,” said CBN News consultant David Gartenstein-Ross.

He says Muslims of America has close ties to a violent Pakistani group named Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Both groups are led by the same extremist cleric: Sheikh Mubarak Gilani.
“Sheikh Gilani is an extremist figure known to be very much involved in the jihads against India, also known to be very much anti-Semitic,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

Gilani’s images and messages are all over the Muslims of America Web site.
He founded the group during a visit to Brooklyn in 1980. Shoe bomber Richard Reid and Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammed are said to have been among his followers.

Gilani encouraged his U.S. pupils-mostly African Americans-to move to rural areas and establish Muslim communes. The group now has dozens of these communes nationwide.

“Al Fuqra has compounds from coast-to-coast.and what this indicates is they’re going to areas where land is plentiful–where you can get land for relatively cheap prices,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

CBN News visited the group’s 45-acre site in Red House, Virginia - a town so small you can barely find it on a map. There are no traffic lights, and the only signs of industry are a pair of convenience stores. So when a street sign popped up named after a radical Pakistani sheikh-along with men and women dressed in traditional Islamic garb- the locals took notice.
Sheikh Gilani has been on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar for years. He’s currently under investigation for possible ties to al-Qaeda. He also trained jihadists to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
In addition, Gilani attended a 1993 jihadist conference in Sudan along with members of Hamas, Hezbollah and Osama bin Laden himself.

American journalist Daniel Pearl was on his way to interview Gilani in 2002 when he was murdered. The sheikh denies any involvement in Pearl’s killing.

CBN News spoke to a former member of Muslims of America who wishes to remain anonymous. ‘Mustafa’ says Gilani runs the group from Lahore, Pakistan.
“He’s the leader of the group. He’s a former member of the Pakistani military. His father was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. He has great connections to Pakistani intelligence, the ISI,” he said.
Mustafa says Muslims of America serves as a cash cow for Gilani and Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Each member is required to send 30 percent of their income to Gilani. The group even had a treasurer that checked members’ pay stubs.

“He said that the 30 percent is money that God has chosen to take from you. And if you spend that 30 percent you are stealing from God,” Mustafa’ said.
Group members hand deliver thousands of dollars in cash at a time to Gilani in Pakistan.

Mustafa said, “The money got to Pakistan through the elders who traveled to Pakistan. They carried cash with them or they sent it Western Union. Since there’s Americans under Gilani’s rule who live in Pakistan, it’s like from one American name to another American name and it’s never linked to Gilani at all.”

Sheikh Gilani uses these American dollars to help fund the Taliban and other terrorist groups, according to Mustafa.
Muslims of America compounds are filled with ex-cons from rough backgrounds. Many converted to Islam in prison. Mustafa says there’s at least one semi-automatic weapon in every home.

A local law enforcement official told us he’s had no problems with Muslims of America in Red House. But the group has a long track record of violent activity on U.S. soil.

During the 80s and 90s, members firebombed Hindu and Hare Krishna temples and assassinated two rival Muslim leaders. Federal raids on the group’s Colorado compound in the early 90s turned up bombs, automatic weapons, and plans for terrorist attacks. And at least three members have been arrested on weapons charges since 9/11.
Mustafa says the group raises money through a variety of criminal activities.

“A lot of the guys will do bootlegging–you know, it’s all illegal- videotapes, CDs, clothing,” he said.
In March, federal investigators broke up a multi-state counterfeit goods ring. Local residents tell CBN News that some of those arrested lived at the Red House compound.
Mustafa said, “The counterfeiting comes in with the bootlegging. It’s all counterfeit movies not sanctioned by Paramount or MGM or things like that — they’re not legitimate.”

Law enforcement sources say they’re keeping a close eye on Muslims of America compounds.
“One of the law enforcement sources that I spoke to was concerned that you could have a Waco-type situation,” Gartenstein-Ross said.
But a video on the group’s Web site calls into question just how seriously authorities understand the group’s beliefs and intentions. The clip shows the former head of South Carolina’s FBI branch speaking at a Muslims of America-sponsored event in 2004 that honored “diversity.”
Mustafa says such “outreach” efforts are a mistake. He continues to fear for his safety since leaving the compound. But he says he’s speaking out because he considers Muslims of America a dangerous group.
A lot more about the Muslims of America compounds including articles, Pictures , History Etc. on our website www.ChristianAction.org
copy and paste this link into your browser to View the video from CBN News.
mms://sm1.cbn.org/News/Archive/HighRes/EST30 Islamic Training Camp AM v2_000030p0000621p7.wmv
26779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: September 21, 2007, 09:34:24 AM
September 21, 2007

"Muhammad cat" cartoonist gets one month in jail; magazine banned

"Unfortunately, Muslims in the West must live with the local laws on freedom of expression." But for how long?
An update on this story. "Bangladesh detains cartoonist for offending Islam," from IslamOnline (thanks to Paul):
A Bangladeshi cartoonist has been detained for drawing a caricature offensive to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Bangladesh witnessed mass protests after the publication of an anti-Islamic caricature by cartoonist Arifur Rahman.
The offensive cartoon, published in the 431st issue of Alpin, a weekly supplement of Bangladesh daily Prothom Alo, led to a one-month jail sentence to Rahman after the Bangladeshi Home Affairs Minister ruled that his drawings hurt Muslims’ feelings.

Islam was introduced to Bangladesh in the twelfth century by Sufi missionaries, and subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread the noble faith. Even though religion is practiced in a moderate manner in Bangladesh, the government bans any insult to Islam.

According to the BBC, the cartoon featured a conversation between a cleric and a child and ended with a joke about Prophet Mohammed's (PBUH) name.

The head of clerics of Dhaka’s main mosques filed complaints against the cartoonist who was arrested from his residence last Tuesday and handed over to the Tejgaon police station.
Rahman violated Section 54 code of criminal procedure and under such emergency laws; the government has the authority to detain people without charge if they are deemed to threaten national security.

Meanwhile, Prothom Alo published an apology on its front page for the “unfortunate publication”, withdrew the copies of that issue from the market and fired the cartoonist.
However, many in Bangladesh did not view such measures as enough and demanded that the newspaper be shut down....
Muslims might be a little relieved that those who offend their religion get punished in some countries as this is not the first time that involves the publication of anti-Islamic cartoons....

Western media often claims that such offensive cartoons shouldn’t anger Muslims and that their publication do not violate the laws of “freedom of expression“.

Unfortunately, Muslims in the West must live with the local laws on freedom of expression, Ibrahim el-Zayat, of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, told the BBC....

"Magazine banned for 'Mohammad cat' cartoon," from Reuters (thanks to JE):
BANGLADESH has suspended publication of a magazine after a cartoon it published this week triggered protests by Muslims who said it was offensive to the devout.

The suspension of publication of the Alpin, the weekly satire magazine of leading Bengali daily Prothom Alo, was ordered as some Muslim groups called for a street protest after Friday noon prayers, and a march towards the Prophom Alo office.
The daily has apologised for the cartoon in which a small boy referred to his cat as "Mohammad cat".

The protesters said it was a deliberate attempt by the cartoonist to ridicule Islam's Prophet Mohammad....
Police said that to avert any violence over the cartoon they would strictly enforce emergency laws banning protests and rallies.

"We shall impose a tight watch around Dhaka's Baitul Mokarram mosque from where the protesters would likely start their march," said a police officer.

Police have also deployed outside the daily's office.
Prothom Alo published a third apology toay and appealed to all to take the printing of the cartoon as a mistake.

On Wednesday police broke up a street march by hundreds of Islamists in Dhaka, demanding "death to the Prothom Alo editor" and "hang the cartoonist".

A government statement on Thursday said: "The magazine in its 431st issue has hurt the sentiment of devoted Muslims" and risked upsetting law and order....

26780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 09:30:32 AM
One more on this.  Here's Brian Wesbury, who track record is amongst the very best in the land.  It was written just before Bernanke's big cut.
=================

September 18, 2007
Keep Fingers Crossed For a Hard Money Fed
By Brian Wesbury

Tuesday's meeting at the Federal Reserve is the most important in at least several years, but not because of the reason most people think. The markets and most pundits are asking whether the Fed will give a 25 or 50 basis point rate cut. But, we still hold out hope the Fed will do the right thing, which is not cut rates at all. Cutting rates, when they are already too low, will "lock in" inflation, force more rate hikes later, and puts the Fed's credibility as an inflation fighter at risk.

After all, the economy looks good. Using the latest data on sales, inventories, trade, and production our "add-em-up" forecast of real GDP growth remains at 3% for Q3. High frequency data, like initial claims for unemployment insurance are also painting a robust and resilient picture.

San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen said last week that the U.S. economy has proven before that it can rebound quickly from financial turbulence and that "the effects of these disruptions can turn out to be surprisingly small."

In addition, conditions in the commercial paper market are improving rapidly, a good piece of news because so many analysts focused on problems in this market as a reason for the Fed to cut rates. Never mind that there is no historical link between commercial paper and future economic growth, and that problems were mostly isolated in the asset-backed marketplace.

It is true that overly-aggressive mortgage borrowers, lenders, and investors have issues that will take a long time to be fully worked out. But there are few signs that these troubles are dragging down the rest of the economy.

Some try to make it seem that the entire economy is at risk of drowning if the Fed, like an alert lifeguard, doesn't throw out a life ring (rate cut) to the credit markets. But, cutting the federal funds would be more like turning an entire cruise ship around, risking everyone on board, just to save one person.

We understand this desire, but it's an emotional decision not a rational one. This is a job for the Coast Guard, or in monetary policy language - the Discount Window. The Window is a specific tool designed to help particular financial institutions that are really having trouble. It does not cause general inflationary pressures, and it does not lead to a further misallocation of resources.

Measures of "core" inflation have fallen of late, but these measures are not useful when food and energy prices have been volatile in only one direction - up. Gold prices are over $700/oz. and the dollar is at a 15-year low. In addition, China's consumer prices are up 6.5% versus a year ago, a 10-year high. This is important because China pegs its currency to the dollar, which means its inflation rates are largely determined by the Fed. The evidence seems very clear. Inflation is visible in many markets. Nonetheless, because the conventional wisdom assumes a slowdown ahead, it ignores this inflation and recent strong economic growth. This seems like risky behavior to us.

During the past few days the stars seem to be aligning to strengthen Chairman Bernanke's resolve if he decides to resist rate cuts. Former Chairman Alan Greenspan opined that the winding down of globalization will put upward pressure on inflation in the years ahead. Meanwhile, the heads of the European Central Bank and Bank of England have both refrained from cutting rates and have publicly defended their positions, noting that staying the course now will diminish the threat and severity of future crises.

Now the ball's in Bernanke's court: will he go with the consensus if others at the Fed want to cut or will he stand his ground and do the right thing?

Brian Wesbury is the Chief Economist for First Trust Advisors in Chicago, IL.
26781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: September 21, 2007, 09:24:51 AM
Columbia's Priorities
Next week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's Holocaust-denying president, who has said that "Israel must be wiped off the map," will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session. As the titular leader of a U.N. member state, Ahmadinejad is entitled to visit the city for this reason. But he is not entitled to something else he received, namely an appearance to speak at Columbia University, where he will be introduced by none other than Lee Bollinger, Columbia's president.

Yesterday Bollinger put out a statement defending his decision to authorize the event, and it was filled with high-minded rhetoric:

Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas--to understand the world as it is and as it might be. To fulfill this mission we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes. Necessarily, on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs many, most or even all of us will find offensive and even odious. We trust our community, including our students, to be fully capable of dealing with these occasions, through the powers of dialogue and reason.

But there is one little problem here. As Bill Kristol points out:

As Columbia welcomes Ahmadinejad to campus, Columbia students who want to serve their country cannot enroll in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at Columbia. Columbia students who want to enroll in ROTC must travel to other universities to fulfill their obligations. ROTC has been banned from the Columbia campus since 1969. In 2003, a majority of polled Columbia students supported reinstating ROTC on campus. But in 2005, when the Columbia faculty senate debated the issue, President Bollinger joined the opponents in defeating the effort to invite ROTC back on campus.

The original decision to kick ROTC off campus was the product of 1960s anti-Americanism, but the ostensible reason the policy continues is objection to the law, signed by President Clinton, that prohibits open homosexuals from serving in the military. Apparently some ideas are so odious that they are unworthy of answering "through the powers of dialogue and reason."

So, what is Ahmadinejad's regime's policy on homosexuals in the military? We don't know, but according to Human Rights Watch, Iran is not a terribly friendly place for gay civilians:

On Sunday, November 13, the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung [sic] two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan.

The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran's shari'a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men. Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death.

If the U.S. military executed homosexuals instead of merely discharging them, perhaps Bollinger would welcome ROTC back to Columbia.
26782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 21, 2007, 09:22:31 AM
WSJ

Schip of State
Can President Bush hold the line on spending?

BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Friday, September 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Congress will soon ship the White House a bill that throws huge amounts of new dollars at the government's health-insurance program for children. President Bush will veto it. What happens next will demonstrate whether the beleaguered Mr. Bush has any hope of getting his party to toe the fiscal line in upcoming spending battles, and by consequence whether Republicans have any hope of restoring their fiscal credibility with voters.

It's a big moment, all the more so because the battle over the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or Schip, is a perfect first example of how Democrats intend to play their spending fights this fall. They're demanding at least $30 billion more than Mr. Bush's own generous $5 billion Schip increase. Any congressional Republican who votes against this hike will be accused of leaving "poor kids" to suffer without health care. The goal here, as it will be in all the big money fights to come--appropriations bills, a farm bill--will be to make it too politically hot for Republicans to stand by their spending principle.

So far, that strategy is working a treat. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John Boehner both understand that this fall is their big opportunity to make things right with the base, at least on spending, prior to next year's election. They've been exhorting--or perhaps better to say begging, pleading, beseeching--their members to think about the lost GOP brand, and to help President Bush snap shut the government wallet. At least in private, the members keep assuring their leaders that, yes, yes, they get it.

But as Schip shows, this resolve wafts away in the face of any Democratic press conference accusing Republicans of meanness toward children. It was none other than ranking Finance Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley who helped craft the $35 billion Senate Schip increase; the Iowan went so far as to suggest he was being a fiscal prude because his bill was cheaper than the blowout $50 billion expansion from House Democrats. That proved a good-enough excuse for more than a dozen other spend-happy Republicans to help give Democrats 68 votes for the bill in early August. For the record, that's one more vote than Sen. Harry Reid needs to override a presidential veto.





This bodes ill for big spending battles to come. Despite last year's pledges to restore budget discipline, Democrats have been so busy chasing phantom Justice Department corruption and paying back campaign contributors with symbolic votes that they've yet to finish a single spending bill. With just nine days left in the fiscal year, they'll have to pass a continuing resolution next week to allow the government to keep running.
It also means Democrats are all but assured to try to finish the budget by wrapping most or all of the spending bills into one giant omnibus provision. You can bet that jalopy will screech in at many billions of dollars higher than Mr. Bush's top line number. You can also bet that hanging from its sides will be special-interest booty galore--money for roads, bridges, Katrina victims, low-income seniors, homeless veterans and border security. All this will be designed to make it difficult for Republicans to vote it down. And if temptation isn't enough, Democrats will also claim that GOP members who sustain a presidential veto will be responsible for shutting down government.

Or take the farm bill, the House version of which has earned a veto threat because of its lack of reform, and because it is the first in decades to include a hefty tax increase to pay for all its handouts. Democrats will allege that farm-state Republicans who vote against it are traitors to their ag constituents, who stand to continue getting big subsidies.

Sitting between his party and a potential spending binge is, therefore, the president's veto pen. The fight over Schip has moved to the House, where most Republicans, to their credit, voted against the initial bill. But with House Democrats now promising to pare back the legislation to Senate size, and to remove its more offensive provisions, GOP opposition is crumbling. More than a few are thinking about next year's elections, and how nice it would be to avoid claims that they helped throw impoverished kiddies to the health-care wolves.





Many House Republicans in fact are working under the assumption that Mr. Bush will compromise, and give them cover for blowing through his initial Schip limit. They can't quite bring themselves to believe that the White House would put them in the very public and embarrassing position of having to override their own president on a question of fiscal responsibility.
And, to be fair, why should they? For six years the administration failed to pick a fight on spending when Republicans controlled Congress, instead letting every highway bill, farm giveaway and pork project rush through. The White House's newfound spending religion has unfortunately come at about the same time the president's poll numbers have gone in the tank. Don't think at least a few Republicans won't use that as an excuse to buck him now.

Yet it's precisely the position Mr. Bush is going to have to put his own Republicans in if he hopes to remain relevant in the ensuing spending fights. The big spenders on both sides of the aisle are sniffing for any sign of White House weakness, and will rightly view any slipping or sliding as license to break the piggy bank. If the president rolls on Schip, he'll be rolled on every spending question from now until he packs the china. Mr. Bush seems to understand the bigger stakes, and only yesterday gave a feisty speech outlining yet again why he intends to veto the current Schip legislation, and warning yet again that he won't back down.

Congressional Republicans would be wise to take him at his latest word, for their own sake. The recent GOP campaign over earmark disclosure is good politics and a start to recognizing voter anger over Washington's spending ways. But it's also a one-trick pony. Conservatives voters will see the bigger test of re-found fiscal responsibility in whether its Washington representatives are willing to say no to big new government spending. That begins with Schip.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.

26783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 09:08:18 AM
Woof:

Scott Grannis is IMHO an outstanding economist (supply side orientation).  I have followed his work for several years now and we correspond from time to time. 

I begin my effort to answer your question with his recent comments on the dollar (pre-half percent rate cut):

"I think it is only logical that the euro will be used more and more 
as  reserve currency, and the dollar less. The euro economy is 
already as large as the U.S. economy, so ultimately I would suspect 
that large institutions with reserve holdings will hold about as many 
euros as they will dollars. The dollar has been the currency of 
choice because it has been the currency of choice for the biggest 
economy in the world, but now that has changed. People have been slow 
to move to the euro because it is still a young currency and the ECB 
is still not fully tested. But given time that will change in the 
euro's favor. That said, I don't see why that necessarily means that 
the dollar has to fall further relative to the euro.

"Even when the dollar was THE reserve currency, it suffered huge 
fluctuations in its value against other currencies.

"In any event, "reserve currency" status is not the be all and end all 
for a currency. Central bank holdings of reserves amount to a handful 
of trillions of dollars (held in a mix of currencies). Compare that 
to the financial asset holdings of U.S. households which amount to 
over $40 trillion, and the $10 trillion of liquid dollar-denominated 
bonds. Compare also to the value of liquid, high-quality non-dollar 
bonds traded around the globe, which stands at roughly $15 trillion. 
Bottom line, central banks hold only a small fraction of the world's 
dollar-denominated bonds, so their preference for one currency's 
bonds over another are not all that important."

This was in response to my sending him this German article translated into English:

Greenspan: Euro Gains As Reserve Choice
Monday September 17, 8:07 am ET

Report: Former Fed Boss Says Euro Could Replace U.S. Dollar As 
Favored Reserve Currency

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan 
Greenspan said it is possible that the euro could replace the U.S. 
dollar as the reserve currency of choice.
According to an advance copy of an interview to be published in 
Thursday's edition of the German magazine Stern, Greenspan said that 
the dollar is still slightly ahead in its use as a reserve currency, 
but added that "it doesn't have all that much of an advantage" anymore.

The euro has been soaring against the U.S. currency in recent weeks, 
hitting all-time high of $1.3927 last week as the dollar has fallen 
on turbulent market conditions stemming from the ongoing U.S. 
subprime crisis. The Fed meets this week and is expected to lower its 
benchmark interest rate from the current 5.25 percent.

Greenspan said that at the end of 2006, some 25 percent of all 
currency reserves held by central banks were held in euros, compared 
to 66 percent for the U.S. dollar.

In terms of being used as a payment for cross-border transactions, 
the euro is trailing the dollar only slightly with 39 percent to 43 
percent.

Greenspan said the European Central Bank has become "a serious factor 
in the global economy."

He said the increased usage of the euro as a reserve currency has led 
to a lowering of interest rates in the euro zone, which has "without 
any doubt contributed to the current economic growth."

http://www.stern.de

As you can see Scott doesn't panic easily.  This brings us to his comments of yesterday:

"The most incredible thing is that those who are supposed to be the dollar's stewards (the Fed and Treasury) have had absolutely nothing to say on the subject of the dollar approaching all-time lows against most major currencies. Benign neglect to da max is not helping things at all. Watch for more dollar weakness, but this is a potentially volatile situation since it won't take much to turn things around."

The Adventure continues , , ,
Marc

PS:  From this morning:  Stocks are higher in early action as traders get a reprieve from a falling dollar as the greenback is showing some signs of life, and a rebound in Treasuries, which is lowering yields, helping spread optimism on Wall Street. Volatility and volume is relatively heavier amid quadruple witching as commodity and option contracts rollover. Crude oil traders are taking a breather, pushing prices lower following a recent bullish surge in the commodity prices
26784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 21, 2007, 08:56:46 AM
1133 GMT -- RUSSIA, IRAQ -- Iraq could offer significant incentives to Russian oil and gas firms to operate in Iraq and expects Russia to write off 80 percent of Baghdad's Soviet-era debt of $13 billion in return, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Sept. 21 in Moscow. The incentives could be granted before Iraqi energy legislation is approved, Zebari said.

stratfor.com
26785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 21, 2007, 08:54:41 AM
Just a quick yip here to respond to SB Mig's question to me:

Part of the concern over habeas corpus I believe to be due to some comments made by recently departed AG Albert Gonzales which left even me looking like a Jewish Don King.  Sen. Spector's comments quoted by SB Mig IIRC were in response to AG AG's comments on HC.

IMHO there has been considerable smoke blown on the matter that is the subject of this thread.  The Bush team's approach I think could have been much better and has in some cases generated some of the concerns.  This I suspect to have been due in part to that portion of the opposition who simply loathes Bush, loathes the War, doesn't think there is a war or a danger to us, wants us to lose, etc.   IMO some of this opposition has gotten right up to the line of treason when it reveals military secrets concerning  funding Iraqi journalists, following enemy financial flows and the like.  In return the Bush people have simply figured WTF, nothing we explain will ever satisfy these people-- whom at the moment have been busy drawing the enemy's attention to the fact that many calls between countries other than the US are actually routed through the US and that we have been listening in.  I find it quite absurd to call this "spying on American citizens" or even to call listening to foreign enemy jihadis calling America "spying on American citizens".

One result of all this is to concern unecessarily good-hearted American people who quite properly wish to be vigilant about our freedoms-- we are in times where the inherent dynamic can easily lead us astray!  With so much smoke, surely there must be fire!  An example of unnecessary concerns would be SB Mig's concerns over circumstantial evidence-- an utter non-issue as so ably described by GM's post.

Overall I think GM is doing an outstanding job of presenting clear analysis of a most vexing problem. 

SB Mig's central question though does remain: "What safeguards prevent application of "non-habeas" to our own population?"

SB, what did you think of the two Mukasey articles which I posted above?
26786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Belarus, Poland, Russia on: September 21, 2007, 08:30:00 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Belarus' Problem with Polish Priests

Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Kosinets said on Thursday that all foreign Catholic priests would be banned from the country, with the ban taking effect over the next few years. Of the roughly 350 Catholic priests in the country -- it is predominantly Russian Orthodox -- the majority are foreign and almost all of those are Polish. Belarus has been targeting foreign Catholics since last year, deporting all those without papers. Now the campaign is extended to all foreign Catholic priests, regardless of their legal status. Kosinets said "foreign priests cannot conduct religious activities in Belarus because they do not understand the mentality and traditions of the Belarusian people."

What makes this interesting is the strategic position of Belarus. Belarus is the buffer between Russia and Poland. Buffer overstates it. Though there recently have been some tensions between Russia and Belarus, Belarus is as close to an unreformed Soviet republic as still exists. More than any of the former Soviet republics, it would appear eager to welcome back the Soviet Union. In general Russia has, until recently, kept Belarus at arm's length precisely for this reason. Russian President Vladimir Putin had his own problems with Russians nostalgic for the "good old days" and did not need the addition of an unreconstructed Belarus added to the mix.

However, as we already have discussed, the Russians have recently become much more assertive, and the internal disposition of Belarus is less of a barrier to good relations. Indeed, in order for Russia to regain its sphere of influence, Belarus plays a critical strategic role. Russia must have Belarus in its camp if it is to use the window of opportunity available to it to redefine its relations with the Baltics. In particular, Russia has no border with Lithuania. For that, it needs Belarus.

Russia sees Poland as a critical problem. The Poles have been deeply involved in Ukraine before and after the Orange Revolution, and have been particularly vocal in their support of the Baltics against Russian pressure. In addition, the Poles have been eager to host the U.S. anti-missile shield.

Belarus and Russia both remember the role of the Catholic Church, working with the labor union Solidarity, in overthrowing the Polish communist government. For both countries, the disintegration of the Soviet empire started in Poland and was driven by the Catholic Church. The Vatican and Russia have had relatively good relations since the fall of the Soviet Union, but that does not mean much in this climate. Neither Minsk nor Moscow trusts the Catholic Church, or in particular, Polish priests.

Therefore, the decision to begin their expulsion -- even if only over the course of a few years -- is designed not only to get rid of what might be troublesome priests, but also to make certain the Polish population of Belarus, small though it might be, does not become a center of Polish nationalism in Belarus. Perhaps more important, it is a signal to Poland that it will be blocked if it tries to engage Belarus in any way. In addition, it plays to mutual Russian Orthodox sentiment, which ties together nationalists in both Belarus and Russia.

In and of itself, this is a small matter. But in the current context of relations in the region, small matters point to more serious issues. There is increasing tension between Poland and Russia. If Russia wants to regain its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union, it will have to deal with the Baltics, which are now part of NATO. It cannot do that without aligning with Belarus or without blocking Polish influence. Russia must intimidate Poland as well. The Poles have an element of comfort so long as Belarus is genuinely separate from Russia. It is their buffer zone on the northern European plain.

Therefore, any sign of tension between Poland and Belarus -- particularly coupled with closer alignment between Belarus and Russia -- matters. Normally, the expulsion of foreigners, priests or not, would not register. But now, the expulsion of Polish priests from Belarus does matter, particularly when the Russian Orthodox Church is involved. It points to closer collaboration with Russia and growing tension with Poland. And that can matter a great deal over the coming months.
26787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 21, 2007, 08:25:51 AM
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

-- Nathan Hale (before being hanged by the British, 22 September
1776)

Reference: The Spirit of `Seventy-Six, Commager and Morris (476);
original General William Hull, Campbell (37-38)
26788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2007, 08:31:43 PM
Rudy takes on Hillary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L63Ff_mGzs
26789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 20, 2007, 04:54:42 PM
I hear that Iran's Ahmandinejad, freshly rejected from laying a wreath at Ground Zero of 911 in NYC, will be speaking at my alma mater , , , oy vey.
============


http://www.wcbs880.com/NYPD-Rejects-Iran-President-s-Viewing-Request/968136
 
 
 
NYPD Rejects Iran President's Viewing Request

 
NEW YORK (WCBS 880)  -- UPDATE: NYPD is rejecting the request from the President of Iran to visit Ground Zero.

NYPD is citing security reasons for the reason of rejecting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request to visit the old World Trade Center.

STATEMENT FROM NYPD:
A request earlier this month to permit a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero during the United Nations General Assembly was rejected in a meeting which included NYPD, Secret Service, and Port Authority officials. The site is closed to visitors because of construction there. That was the only request.  Requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds.
 
26790  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: September 20, 2007, 04:52:55 PM
MMA has a new fan:


http://www.theguyfromboston.com/playvideo2.asp?video=PuTYJg_SYwg
26791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The New Race for the Arctic: on: September 20, 2007, 03:44:43 PM
A Russian expedition has proved that a ridge of mountains below the Arctic Ocean is part of Russia's continental shelf, government officials have said.
The August expedition planted the Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole and gathered soil samples.

Russia's Natural Resources Ministry said early test results on the soil samples showed Russia is geologically linked to the Lomonosov Ridge.

The Arctic is thought to be rich in oil, gas and mineral reserves.
"Results of an analysis of the Earth's crust show that the structure of the underwater Lomonosov mountain chain is similar to the world's other continental shelves, and the ridge is therefore part of Russia's land mass," a statement from the ministry said.

Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic has been challenged by the other nations with territory bordering the ocean - including the US and Canada.

Competition for territorial and economic rights in the Arctic has heated up as melting polar ice caps have opened up the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...pe/7005483.stm

26792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: September 20, 2007, 02:13:02 PM
The Moran Liability

Real friction is developing in Congress between one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenants and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. At issue are harshly critical comments made by Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia about the alleged influence of Jewish-Americans in government. Congressional Quarterly reports that Mr. Hoyer "stopped just short of calling [Mr. Moran] an anti-Semite and urged him to recant."

Mr. Moran is an ethically-challenged bully boy who represents the Washington D.C. suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria. He's notorious for not keeping his mouth under control. Last November, he bluntly told fellow Democrats who opposed Jack Murtha for majority leader -- Ms. Pelosi's preferred candidate -- that punishment would come to those who failed to toe the line: "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do you do it." (House Democrats ignored the threat and backed Mr. Hoyer instead.)

Mr. Moran's latest verbal belly flop involves remarks to the Jewish magazine Tikkun in which Mr. Moran called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) "the most powerful lobby and has pushed this [Iraq] war from the beginning. I don't think they represent the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all, but because they are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful -- most of them are quite wealthy -- they have been able to exert power."

Mr. Hoyer wasted no time noting that such language adopted "a canard that is absolutely not true, that the Jewish community controls the press, media, government and other institutions. It has been used by those who are anti-Semitic for a very long period of time."

But this is not the first time Mr. Moran has expressed such views. Shortly after the war began, the congressman whipped up an anti-war rally by saying: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

When will Democrats finally discipline Mr. Moran, easily one of their most embarrassing members? Frankly, when will the news media abandon its obsession with Senator Larry Craig's bathroom footwork and report on Mr. Moran's record? It's not hard to find him, even when he's home. Just leave Washington, D.C., cross the Potomac River and take an extreme left for a few miles until you reach Alexandria.

Political Journal WSJ
26793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2007, 02:11:55 PM
-- John Fund
London Puts Rudy in a Generous Mood

You can't get much more productive than Rudy Giuliani during his whirlwind tour of London this week. He met with the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair, accepted an award from Margaret Thatcher and engaged in some Churchillian rhetoric indirectly slapping down Hillary Clinton.

The occasion was Mr. Giuliani's receipt of an award named after Mrs. Thatcher from the Atlantic Bridge think tank. In his acceptance speech, he ventured into foreign policy by calling for NATO membership to be enlarged beyond Europe, indeed "to any country who meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness, global responsibility." He specifically suggested membership for Australia, Israel, Singapore and Japan.

Given that NATO membership carries with it the right to expect U.S. military support in the event of an attack by any country, Mr. Giuliani's proposed sweeping expansion left even some Americans in his audience unsettled. "I'm not sure the speechwriters fully thought that one out," one American with experience on Capitol Hill told me.

Any such quibbles, however, were a small bump in the road on what was essentially a Giuliani lovefest in London. American expatriates who attended a Giuliani fundraiser were thrilled with remarks he made just before arriving in London criticizing what he called Hillary Clinton's attempts to portray herself as a new "Iron Lady." He said such attempts would fail because she had surrendered to her party's hard left on the Iraq war. "I don't think Margaret Thatcher would impugn the integrity of a commanding general in a time of war, as Hillary Clinton did, or require an army to give a schedule of their retreat to the enemy, as the Democrats are suggesting," Mr. Giuliani said.

"That's the kind of muscular rhetoric that's needed to win against the Clintons," Robert Jameson, an American businessman in London, told me. "If you don't take them on first, they will roll over you."
=========
-- John Fund
Senators Fret About Their 'Primary' Responsibility

Not only are presidential candidates flummoxed by the ever-changing, ever-earlier 2008 primary calendar, now Senators are getting into the act. At a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee yesterday, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) testified on behalf of their bill to create a regional primary system and somehow exert control over the increasingly chaotic process.

The move comes after Michigan and Florida broke both parties' rules and moved their nominating contests to January 15 and January 29, respectively. Party rules say no state can hold its primary before February 5th, though Democrats granted special waivers to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The Senate bill would still allow Iowa and New Hampshire to cast the first ballots, though Mr. Lieberman, who famously bragged he had achieved a "three-way tie for third" after his fifth-place finish in the 2004 New Hampshire primary, said he was concerned about their "disproportionate impact" on the nominating calendar's outcome.

Some, though, have questioned whether any move by Congress to control the nominating process is constitutional. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution provides for the election of the executive branch, though nowhere does the document address primaries or nominating contests. A 2000 decision by the Supreme Court ruled that a law allowing primary voters in California to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, unconstitutionally violated a political party's First Amendment right to freedom of association. Similar so-called "blanket primaries" were struck down in Washington State and in Alaska.

After the Washington State primary was struck down, the Washington State Grange sponsored an initiative on the 2004 ballot providing for a "top-two" system, by which the top two finishers in the first round of balloting, regardless of party, would advance to a runoff. The measure passed with nearly 60% of the vote, yet the established political parties again claimed the system would unfairly preclude their right to select their own nominees. The Washington State Republican Party brought suit and the case is slated to be the first heard in the Supreme Court's new term, with arguments to be given on October 1st. The outcome could be vital in determining whether Sens. Lieberman, Klobuchar, Alexander and the rest of Congress will actually be Constitutionally able to intervene in the primary scheduling brouhaha.


Political Journal WSJ
26794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: September 20, 2007, 09:13:36 AM
The subject of this article is exactly the sort of thing where the NY Times often becomes the NY Slimes so caveat lector.

That said, I post it here precisely because it leaves me utterly flabbergasted.  Aren't we supposed to be killing enemy combatants?!?  Why on earth are these men on trial?!  angry angry angry


==========

Hearing in Killing of Afghan Puts Army War Effort on Trial
   
By PAUL VON ZIELBAUER
Published: September 20, 2007

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Sept. 19 — At the close of a two-day hearing on charges that Special Forces soldiers murdered an Afghan man near his home last October, it is increasingly evident that the Army is also examining itself and how it is fighting the war in Afghanistan.

A Special Forces colonel presiding over the hearing must determine whether sufficient evidence exists to recommend courts-martial for the two soldiers accused of killing the man, Nawab Buntangyar, who had been identified as an “enemy combatant,” while he walked unarmed outside his home near the Pakistan border.

But the focus of the hearing frequently shifted from the soldiers’ actions and toward the Army’s decision to bring charges against them. It also shifted to the effect on the Afghan people of Special Forces soldiers being allowed to kill some Afghan fighters more or less on sight.

From the beginning of the proceeding, Col. Kevin A. Christie, the presiding officer, seemed pressed to figure out why a military lawyer pursued murder charges after an Army investigation cleared the two soldiers of wrongdoing when they killed Mr. Buntangyar, who as a designated enemy combatant was subject to attack under the Special Forces’ classified rules of engagement.

In questions to several witnesses, Colonel Christie indicated that the Army was aware of the risks of trying to win the tactical battle in Afghanistan by aggressively pursuing the enemy in an unconventional war, as balanced against the potential expense of losing the larger strategic battle for the hearts and minds of Afghan civilians.

The decision by the general in charge of Special Forces to allow limited public access to the hearing was itself a sign of the Army’s desire to be seen as reflective and open to scrutiny, specialists in military justice said.

In an exchange that reflected the underlying issues of concern to the Special Forces command here, Colonel Christie asked Maj. Matthew McHale, the company commander in charge of the assault team that included the two accused soldiers, about the repercussions of how his men had killed Mr. Buntangyar.

Mr. Buntangyar was killed on Oct. 13, 2006, when Master Sgt. Troy Anderson, acting on orders from Capt. Dave Staffel, shot him in the face from a distance of about 100 feet. The order to shoot came after Afghan Border Police officers had surrounded Mr. Buntangyar’s home, exchanged a friendly greeting with him and asked him twice to confirm his identity. Captain Staffel and Sergeant Anderson were charged with premeditated murder in June, two months after an Army investigation determined Mr. Buntangyar’s “enemy combatant” status justified killing him.

“Would you tell your teams to do things that had limited tactical effects if they had potential strategic negative effects?” Colonel Christie asked Major McHale.

The major said assault teams continually weigh the two goals during missions.

The colonel asked if he thought the “strategic effect” of shooting a man whom the Afghan police had essentially lured out of his home “adds to the credibility of the police,” an institution that the American military is desperate to make independent and trustworthy in the eyes of local residents.

Major McHale conceded that the killing could undermine the public perception of the police. But, he added, they were unreliable and often sloppy. At the home, the police had to gesture to communicate with Special Forces soldiers because the police had accidentally locked their radios and car keys in their vehicles.
26795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: September 20, 2007, 09:02:11 AM


KAFR AL MANSHI ABOU HAMAR, Egypt — The men in this poor farming community were seething. A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor’s office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor.

At a symposium on female circumcision in Tanta, Egypt, a poster reads, "The Beginning of the End, No to Female Circumcision."
The girl died, but that was not the source of the outrage. After her death, the government shut down the clinic, and that got everyone stirred up.

“They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.

“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.

Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.

But as the men in this village demonstrated, widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly, very slowly. This country is conservative, religious and, for many, guided largely by traditions, even when those traditions do not adhere to the tenets of their faith, be it Christianity or Islam.

For centuries Egyptian girls, usually between the ages of 7 and 13, have been taken to have the procedure done, sometimes by a doctor, sometimes by a barber or whoever else in the village would do it. As recently as 2005, a government health survey showed that 96 percent of the thousands of married, divorced or widowed women interviewed said they had undergone the procedure — a figure that astounds even many Egyptians. In the language of the survey, “The practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.”

Though the practice is common and increasingly contentious throughout sub-Saharan Africa, among Arab states the only other place where this practice is customary is in southern Yemen, experts here said. In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot hold most jobs, the practice is viewed as abhorrent, a reflection of pre-Islamic traditions.

But now, quite suddenly, forces opposing genital cutting in Egypt are pressing back as never before. More than a century after the first efforts to curb this custom, the movement has broken through one of the main barriers to change: It is no longer considered taboo to discuss it in public. That shift seems to have coincided with a small but growing acceptance of talking about human sexuality on television and radio.

For the first time, opponents said, television news shows and newspapers have aggressively reported details of botched operations. This summer two young girls died, and it was front-page news in Al Masry al Yom, an independent and popular daily. Activists highlighted the deaths with public demonstrations, which generated even more coverage.

The force behind this unlikely collaboration between government, nongovernment organizations, religious leaders and the news media is a no-nonsense 84-year-old anthropologist named Marie Assaad, who has been fighting against genital cutting since the 1950s.

“I never thought I would live to see this day,” she said, reading about the subject in a widely circulated daily newspaper.

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Dr. Nasr el-Sayyid, assistant to the minister of health, said there had already been a drop in urban areas, along with an aggressive effort in more than 100 villages, mostly in the south, to curb the practice. “Our plan and program over the next two years is aiming to take it down 20 percent nationwide,” he said.

 World View With Michael Slackman (mp3)The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women.

And it will be a challenge to convince influential people like Osama Mohamed el-Moaseri, imam of a mosque in Basyoun, the city near where the 13-year-old girl lived, and died. “This practice has been passed down generation after generation, so it is natural that every person circumcises his daughter,” he said. “When Ali Gomaa says it is haram, he is criticizing the practice of our fathers and forefathers.”

But the movement against genital cutting has matured and is increasingly prepared for these arguments. At first, Ms. Assaad and a group of intellectuals who together created a task force simply lectured their neighbors, essentially calling the practice barbaric.

“At the beginning we preached and said this is wrong,” she recalled. “It didn’t work. They said, ‘It was done to our mothers and grandmothers, and they are fine.’ ”

She and her colleagues sounded like out-of-touch urban intellectuals, she said. But over time, they enlisted the aid of Islamic scholars and health care workers, hoping to disperse misconceptions — like the idea that cutting off the clitoris prevents homosexuality — and relate to people’s lives.

“Circumcision is a very old custom and has absolutely no benefits,” Vivian Fouad, who helps staff the national hot line, said to a caller wondering what to do with her own daughter. She continued: “If you want to protect your daughter, then you have to raise her well. How you raise your child is the main factor in everything, not mutilating your daughter.”

Egypt is a patriarchal society, but women can be a powerful force. So Ms. Assaad helped persuade two important women, elite and privileged, who like herself could not believe the practice was as widespread as it was, to join her battle.

The first was Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of President Hosni Mubarak and a political force in her own right. The second was an ally of Mrs. Mubarak, Mosheira Khattab, head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a government agency that helps set national health and social policies.

Mrs. Khattab has become a force in pressing the agenda. Her council now has a full-time staff working on the issue and runs the hot line. She toured the Nile Delta region, three cities in one day, promoting the message, blunt and outraged that genital cutting had not stopped.

“The Koran is a newcomer to tradition in this manner,” she said. “As a male society, the men took parts of religion that satisfied men and inflated it. The parts of the Koran that helped women, they ignored.”

It is an unusual swipe at the Islamists who have promoted the practice as in keeping with religion, especially since the government generally tries to avoid taking on conservative religious leaders. It tries to position itself as the guardian of Islamic values, aiming to enhance its own wilted legitimacy and undercut support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but popular opposition movement.

But the religious discourse concerning genital cutting has changed, and that is credited to Ms. Assaad’s strategy of reaching up to people like Mrs. Mubarak and out to young women like Fatma Ibrahim, 24. When Ms. Ibrahim was 11 years old, she said, her parents told her she was going for a blood test. The doctor, a relative, put her to sleep and when she woke, she said she could not walk.

The memory haunts her now, and though she says that her parents “will kill” her if they find out, she has become a volunteer in the movement against genital cutting, hoping to spare other women what she endured.

“I am looking to talk to the young, the ones who will be parents in 10 years,” she said. “This is my target group. I talk to the young. When I get married, inshallah, I will never, ever circumcise my daughter.”

26796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 20, 2007, 08:55:08 AM
Big Terror Trial Shaped Views of Justice Pick
 
 
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: September 20, 2007
On Jan. 17, 1996, after a nine-month terrorism trial and a rambling 100-minute lecture from a blind sheik found guilty of conspiring to wage war against the United States, Judge Michael B. Mukasey had had enough.

With a few terse, stern and prescient remarks, he sentenced the sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, to life in prison. Judge Mukasey said he feared the plot could have produced devastation on “a scale unknown in this country since the Civil War” that would make the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which had left six people dead, “almost insignificant by comparison.”

Long before most Americans had given deep consideration to the terrorist threat from radical Islam or to whether the criminal justice system is the right forum for trying people accused of terrorism, Judge Mukasey received an intensive education on those topics.

The vivid lessons Judge Mukasey took away from the trial — notably that the urgency of the threat requires tilting toward protecting national security even at some cost to civil liberties — have echoed through his speeches and writings. Now, as President Bush’s choice for attorney general, he is poised to put those lessons into practice.

Mr. Abdel Rahman and nine other men were convicted of plotting a “day of terror” that would have included blowing up the United Nations Building, the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.

The trial, which remains the longest and most complex international terrorism case ever presented in a United States court, involved almost the entire array of national security issues that Judge Mukasey would face if confirmed as the Bush administration’s third attorney general. Those issues include the proper balance between security and liberty, between intelligence gathering and criminal prosecution, and between government secrecy and accountability.

In his writings, Judge Mukasey has made clear that, although the issues are difficult ones, he is inclined to favor security, intelligence and secrecy over the competing values.

Rules applicable in ordinary criminal cases, Judge Mukasey wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal, “do not protect a society that must gather information about, and at least incapacitate, people who have cosmic goals that they are intent on achieving by cataclysmic means.”

Although Judge Mukasey’s handling of the trial received praise from the appeals court and from some — but hardly all — of the lawyers involved, his writings and public remarks show that the case left him shaken and deeply skeptical about the ability of civilian courts to try people accused of terrorism without compromising national security.

Mary Jo White, the United States attorney in Manhattan at the time, said the trial was a master class for all concerned.

“I’m certain that his views were influenced by what he learned in that trial, both substantively and procedurally,” Ms. White said, referring to the detailed information presented about the nation’s enemies and the difficulty of addressing the threat in a criminal prosecution.

Ronald L. Kuby, a defense lawyer in the case, said he did not know if the trial shaped Judge Mukasey’s thinking. But he said it certainly illuminated the judge’s approach.

“He was violating the rights of Arabs before it was popular,” Mr. Kuby said. “It was very much like trying a case with two prosecutors, one of whom was wearing a black robe and who was considerably more intelligent than the one hired for the job.”

Judge Mukasey removed Mr. Kuby from the case over what the judge said were conflicts of interest. Other defense lawyers generally praised Judge Mukasey’s handling of the case.

“He ran the tightest ship you ever saw,” said Roger L. Stavis, another defense lawyer. “He’s a very kind, generous man, but also a tough law-and-order guy.”

But Mr. Stavis also wondered about whether a conventional trial was capable of addressing the charges in the case. “It doesn’t fit,” he said. “You cannot get at the problem in a discrete trial in an American courtroom.”

The case was unusual from the start. It relied, for instance, on a Civil War-era seditious conspiracy statute that made it a crime to plot to levy war on the United States.

“The tools we had to charge terrorism were appallingly bad,” said Andrew C. McCarthy, the lead prosecutor. Partly by happenstance, then, the case brought the metaphor of terrorism as a war into an American courtroom.

Judge Mukasey was concerned throughout about balancing the defendants’ rights against national security. He ordered an array of potential evidence to be disclosed to the defense, for instance, but drew the line at information he said would needlessly compromise intelligence operations.

In his Wall Street Journal article, he wrote that terrorism prosecutions “risk disclosure to our enemies of methods and sources of intelligence that can then be neutralized.”

The risk, he wrote, is not theoretical. A list of unindicted co-conspirators provided to the defense in the 1995 trial, including Osama bin Laden, reached Mr. bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, within 10 days, Judge Mukasey wrote, “letting him know that his connection to that case had been discovered.”

Judge Mukasey has complained bitterly about the porous nature of criminal proceedings in other settings, too.

When Mr. Kuby, the defense lawyer, applied for a security clearance for a later trial, Judge Mukasey met with a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent to argue against the idea, saying he was convinced that Mr. Kuby had leaked sealed documents to Newsday and The New York Times.
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(Page 2 of 2)

“Mukasey stated that he could not imagine anyone who would be less trustworthy with sensitive information than Kuby,” a special agent’s summary of the interview said. Mr. Kuby, who did not receive the clearance and denied leaking the documents, obtained the summary through a freedom of information request.

Mr. McCarthy, the prosecutor, said the problem of unauthorized disclosures was widespread and pernicious. “The F.B.I. was leaking, too,” he said.

In remarks at the Brooklyn Law School in 2000, Judge Mukasey was also critical of the news organizations for contacting former jurors after the nine-month trial. For the jurors’ security, Judge Mukasey had allowed them to serve anonymously. “The court tries at all costs to keep that information secret,” he said.

The case also gave Judge Mukasey early exposure to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that required warrants from a secret court to monitor international communications involving people in the United States.

The 1995 trial involved surveillance of four defendants based on six warrants from the secret court. Judge Mukasey ordered that the surveillance tapes be disclosed, though he denied a defense request for documents related to the warrant applications.

“Disclosure of the conversations,” the judge reasoned in a 1994 decision, “does not disclose the strategies, capabilities and techniques of those who gather information.”

As if anticipating a debate that would arise after 9/11, he added that it should be perfectly permissible to use foreign intelligence information in criminal investigations and prosecutions. “There is no contradiction, indeed there is probably often a congruence, between foreign intelligence information and evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” Judge Mukasey wrote in 1994.

His understanding of the law, at least in 2000, was imperfect. “If warrants are granted,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks published in The Journal of Law & Policy, “an appeal can be taken to an ad hoc court.”

But F.I.S.A. litigation is a one-sided affair. When applications are granted, the government has won and would have no reason to appeal. The proceedings are kept secret from the subjects of surveillance, who do not participate and have no way to appeal. Indeed, the F.I.S.A. appeals court said in 2002 that it was hearing its first appeal — filed by the government, after a government loss. It is not known to have heard any appeals since.

Mr. McCarthy, the lead prosecutor in the 1995 trial, said the lawyers, the jury and the judge had all emerged from it transformed.

Going in, he said, “there was a great impulse, certainly in the Justice Department but also in the courts, that we had best show to the world that we can take our own worst enemies and give them due process.”

That view, Mr. McCarthy said, has turned out to be naïve, and he has proposed the creation of a new national security court to address the problem. In his Wall Street Journal article last month, Judge Mukasey said Mr. McCarthy’s proposal and similar ones “deserve careful scrutiny.”

26797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 20, 2007, 08:37:06 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Increasingly Mysterious Israeli-Syrian Encounter

Israeli opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday on Israeli TV that Israel launched an operation into Syria a couple of weeks ago. He shed little light on it; what was most interesting was that Netanyahu went out of his way not only to support the mission but also to praise Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for carrying it out.

That there was an Israeli mission Sept. 6 is not new news. That Netanyahu would be the one to confirm it is curious, and that he would praise Olmert -- a political opponent -- is intriguing. But what is fascinating is the ongoing silence about the purpose of the mission. What were the Israelis attacking?

Normally, we would expect secrecy, but in this case it is exceedingly odd. Having admitted Israel carried out an operation in Syria (he did not admit it was an airstrike), Netanyahu already has opened Israel up to what little political fallout there might be. Why not also identify the target? The Syrians certainly know what the target was, and by now so does any country with space reconnaissance capabilities -- not to mention its allies. Admittedly, we don't like being left out, but the desire to keep the nature of the mission secret from the public while admitting that it took place is by far the most arresting aspect of the story. What could the Israelis have hit that they don't want to talk about -- and that, frankly, the Syrians won't discuss either?

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region, and the Israelis have started talking about improved relations with Syria. Israeli President Shimon Peres recently said tensions between Israel and Syria are over, and that Israel is ready to negotiate a peace settlement -- a statement as mysterious in its own way as Netanyahu's discussion of the mission. When did Israeli-Syrian tensions end? Add to this that Rice said the United States will not stand in the way of peace between Syria and Israel and the confusion is complete. She was in the region to move the peace process forward, after all. The only ones making any sense are the Syrians, who rejected all overtures and said Israel is being insincere. At least some things remain true to form.

Most intriguing are the reports we have received from Lebanon claiming that a serious division has opened up in the leadership of Hezbollah over the prospect of Syria working out a peace agreement with Israel. To even hear of a division within Hezbollah over the subject is startling, let alone the fact that the group is taking the possibility of a peace treaty seriously.

Israel periodically raises the possibility of a peace settlement with Syria, usually not all that sincerely, so Peres' comment is not completely strange. The report on Hezbollah taking this seriously is more interesting, but remember that rumors always flow in Lebanon, and this one may not be true -- or Hezbollah is simply getting itself bent out of shape.

But the thing we just can't get away from is Netanyahu admitting that there was a mission, praising Olmert, implying that it was significant and not even hinting at the target -- even though it's not a secret. We know this: The airstrike took place in Northern Syria, along the Turkish border. Both the Turks and Syrians have said so. The Israelis don't care a bit what the Syrians think, but they do care what the Turks might think. Could the target have been something entering Syria from Turkey that the Israelis didn't want arriving? That would be a reason for the secrecy about the target from both the Israelis and Syrians. Neither want to alienate Turkey, even if Turkey -- or some Turks -- were smuggling something into Syria. The Syrians wouldn't want to admit the route and the Israelis wouldn't want to embarrass the Turks.

The Turks have wanted the Israelis and Syrians to negotiate with each other. Perhaps having put the Turks in an unpleasant position, the Israelis launched a peace offensive toward Syria to satisfy Turkish sensibilities, and Washington accepted the concept of negotiations with Syria because it had no choice -- and it was confident the Syrians would sink them anyway. In the meantime, Hezbollah panicked at the thought that the Syrians might not.

This is, as they say, thin. But ever since the Sept. 6 attack, we have been drawn to the mystery of it. Every few days, the mystery deepens. As more information comes out, it is less and less understandable. Meanwhile, more uncertainties swirl around Israeli-Syrian relations. Whatever happened on Sept. 6 simply seems to grow more and more important.

stratfor.com
26798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 20, 2007, 08:26:32 AM
"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the
objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means,
by which those objects can be best attained."

-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 206
26799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 19, 2007, 11:24:20 PM
GM:

That point about rendition beginning under Clinton is very interesting.  I didn't know that.

Marc
26800  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: September 19, 2007, 10:01:22 PM
Spoke to Thom Beers over at OP today and he is good with our using their warehouse again, but needs to discuss it with the VP of Biz Affairs before confirming.
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