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27101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 03, 2007, 04:14:10 PM

"PS:  We are getting a bit afield from the subject of this thread.  If we want to continue this conversation please continue on the Immigration thread."

This is in the interest of thread coherency.  This thread is about "The 2008 Presidential Race".  So would you please repost your response on the Immigration thread and I will delete it here.

Thank you.
27102  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Canis Bostonus..... on: June 03, 2007, 03:18:39 AM
C-Cyborg Dog is from Boston, but is out here in LA to train with me for the next several months.
27103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 07:14:17 PM
If we want to keep a fcukin' genius like Simon Cao (formerly of Avanex) here in the US and not running off to set up a cheaper operation in China where he can find a ton of people who a fcukin' brilliant workaholics for pennies a day, it behooves us to have it not too hard to bring them here.

PS:  We are getting a bit afield from the subject of this thread.  If we want to continue this conversation please continue on the Immigration thread.
27104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 01:15:31 PM
Woof Milt:

In a very unprofitable period of my life,  cry I followed surfed the peak of the NAZ boom and crashed and burned along with it.  During this time I followed the Gilder Technology Report and related readings.  My impressions on this issue were formed during that time.  As can be seen from some of the threads on the SCH forum here, I retain an interest.


27105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 02, 2007, 01:11:09 PM

Well, I sure don't see anything objectionable to what Newt said or any reason to think him less presidential timber , , ,
27106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 09:16:16 AM
IMHO, that is a separate question-- and if we wait for its answer, we will become a nation of hamburger flippers in the meantime.

Perhaps worth noting in the case of the Chinese is that they are allowed to have only one child.  Therefore that child receives the undivided attention of both parents.

Whatever the reason, our high tech sector desparately needs these people and our country desparately needs a strong high tech sector.
27107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 02, 2007, 09:12:29 AM
As the Presidential race 2008 thread bears witness,  smiley I'm favor Newt at present.

What did he say about Rove?
27108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: June 02, 2007, 08:56:38 AM
Another fine call by David Gordon on JCG, which jumped over 10% yesterday.  Thanks to his table pounding I expanded my position just in time.
27109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: June 02, 2007, 08:54:44 AM
Published: June 2, 2007
San Francisco
NY Times

IF it turns out that none of his fellow passengers were actually infected with the dangerous form of tuberculosis he carries, then Andrew Speaker, the young honeymooner who recently eluded government efforts to keep him off commercial flights, may actually have done a favor to public health. His case has brought to light the neglected but growing problem of super drug-resistant tuberculosis, and the ease with which this deadly airborne disease can travel around the world.

Federal health officials have recently warned state and city TB treatment programs to expect budget cuts of as much as 25 percent over the next five years. But Mr. Speaker is not the first world traveler to carry the most drug-resistant TB, and he will surely not be the last. Instead of cutting back on TB research and treatment, we should be intensifying our efforts to fight the disease.

We urgently need tests capable of diagnosing drug resistance overnight, so that we can know which patients present the most danger to the public. We need new drugs to outwit the disease. And we need to support a worldwide effort to prevent TB bacteria from developing further drug-resistance.

Tuberculosis is an illness that was once thought to be under control. A century ago, it was responsible for one in five deaths in the United States. But then antibiotics came along, and a national effort to develop new drugs and diagnostic tools and to institute TB-control public health programs drove down the rates of tuberculosis in the United States to the point where people assumed it was eradicated.

Twenty years ago, complacency about TB control combined with the H.I.V. epidemic and a growing immigrant population to bring about a resurgence. As a result, in the early 1990s, TB programs in the United States were rebuilt to provide better patient care and case investigation and to improve adherence to treatment.

These programs have become models for TB treatment around the world. But unfortunately, in many countries, public health standards still fall short. Patients infected with tuberculosis are given inadequate courses of antibiotics, or they fail to adhere to the course of treatment they are given. In such cases, the most drug-resistant strains of the bacteria are allowed to multiply.

It’s easy to see how drug resistance in any one country grows into a global problem. One-third of the world’s population carries the TB bacillus in their bodies, and in the stream of people traveling around the world the bacteria are constantly on the move.

The World Health Organization estimates that each person with TB infects 10 to 15 other people, usually by coughing the germs into the air. And once the bacteria reach a new host, they can either progress to disease, keeping the cycle going, or be carried around for years or decades, only to cause illness later on in a chosen few. A robust immune system is needed to contain the infection, but even in healthy people, 5 percent to 10 percent of those exposed go on to develop TB.

The most extremely resistant form of the illness — the kind that Mr. Speaker has, known as XDR-TB, which is impervious to even our most powerful antibiotics — is now found all over the world. It is thought to be rare, though the exact numbers are unknown. But we know that the numbers are rising, because strains of TB that are resistant to multiple drugs — the precursors to XDR-TB — are proliferating. In 2004, almost half a million of the more than 8 million cases of tuberculosis worldwide were resistant to the most potent TB drugs. And drug resistance feeds further drug resistance.

Adding to the problem is the long time, often a period of months, that it takes to detect drug resistance. Doctors are forced to treat in the dark, not knowing whether their drugs are actually working.

What is needed are tests capable of diagnosing drug resistance within 24 hours — tests that do not require letting the bacteria grow in culture for days but rather identify gene mutations that confer drug resistance.

Such genetic tests to detect resistance to first-line TB drugs already exist, though they are in limited use, mainly in New York and California. We need to put in the effort to develop them for the second-line antibiotics, and make the investment to ensure that the quick tests are put into widespread use.

Perhaps if Mr. Speaker’s doctors had known before he left for Paris that his tuberculosis was the drug-resistant kind, they might have taken even stronger action to keep him from flying to Europe in the first place. State and federal laws give public health officials the authority they need to keep contagious patients away from the public, but in exercising that authority, it helps to know the danger that a patient poses.

In addition, we need more drugs to treat TB. No new drug class has been approved for TB since the antibiotic rifampin, 35 years ago. Without effective drugs to treat the new superbugs, patients often suffer longer periods of contagion, and that makes their treatment extremely costly (from about $90,000 to more than $700,000 per patient).

Last fall, the World Health Organization proclaimed XDR-TB to be a public health emergency and called on governments to provide $95 million in 2007 to deal with the problem. Three bills now before Congress would increase domestic and international spending for TB treatment and research.

As global travel continues to increase and the rate of drug-resistant TB rises, the number of cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis inevitably will grow. It is essential that we redouble our efforts to halt the epidemic of drug resistance and the global spread of all forms of TB.

L. Masae Kawamura is the director of the tuberculosis control section of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

27110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: June 02, 2007, 08:51:50 AM
NY Times Editorial
A Cyberblockade in Estonia
Published: June 2, 2007
The small but technologically adept nation of Estonia has raised an alarm that should be heard around the wired world. Last month it weathered what some describe as the first real war in cyberspace when its government and much of its commerce nearly shut down for days because of an orchestrated Internet assault.

The assault on Estonia’s virtual society began in April after authorities moved a real bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from a central park in Tallinn to a military graveyard farther from the center of the city. For many Estonians, the statue was another reminder of Soviet invaders who took over their homes at Stalin’s orders. But Russians and Estonians of Russian descent immediately took to the streets to protest. The statue’s move was, for them, a sign of disrespect for Soviets who battled the Nazis in World War II.

The rioting and looting in Tallinn turned out to be nothing compared to what began happening to Estonia’s computers. Waves of unwanted data quickly clogged the Web sites of the government, businesses and several newspapers, shutting down one branch of their computer network after another. One minister described it as a kind of electronic blockade, like having the nation’s ports all shut to the sea. Estonian authorities charged that the data flood came on orders from the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin’s government has denied any involvement.

In recent years, governments, businesses and individuals have focused on ways to keep hackers or destructive viruses from stealing or destroying sensitive information. But Estonia should put the computer-dependent world on full notice that there can be many offensive forms of information warfare and figuring out how to stop it — and ultimately who is behind it — is essential to all of our security.
27111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: June 02, 2007, 07:25:24 AM
HillaryCare Blooms
All the Democratic health plans spurn market-based reforms.

Saturday, June 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The HillaryCare experiment ended badly in 1994, but Democrats are back in the universal health-care laboratory. All the party's major Presidential candidates have or will introduce plans, and last week Hillary Clinton presented the first part of hers. The former First Lady joked that she's "tangled with this issue before" and has "the scars to show for it." But the lesson she seems to have learned is political, not substantive--that is, make any plans for government control gauzy and incremental, not grandiose.

Mrs. Clinton will unroll her universal plan later this year; last week's speech focused on lowering health-care costs, which stand at $1.9 trillion for 2005. She says she can trim that by "at least" $120 billion. A big lump of that figure comes from digitizing and integrating medical records. Not a bad idea, probably: A 2005 RAND study suggests it could produce $77 billion in net savings a year with 90% adoption. Computerized record-keeping is so unobjectionable that it's also a pet issue of Newt Gingrich, among other Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton also nodded at medical malpractice reform. She neglected, however, to support the proposals that would actually reduce costs, such as punitive damage caps and specialized medical courts. These, not incidentally, are also the programs most vigorously opposed by the tort bar.

Her main thrust addressed prevention to reduce the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Mrs. Clinton would do so by mandating that insurers re-orient their policies to cover prevention, at least when dealing with the federal government--no doubt with other mandates to follow.

This was only the first of Mrs. Clinton's promises to crack down on the "marketing and schemes" of the insurance industry. She decried companies, for instance, that "discriminate" against those with pre-existing conditions, and would require that "anyone" be allowed to join a plan, whenever. This is called "guaranteed issue"; it allows people to wait until they're sick before seeking insurance, making it less affordable for everyone else.

Guaranteed issue is precisely one of the mandates that makes insurance so expensive in states like Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. Policies might be more affordable if the insurance market were deregulated; now, the market is balkanized by 50 separate sets of state regulations, inhibiting innovation and economies of scale. But for the Senator from New York, it's easier to blame nefarious business.

Mrs. Clinton also took some predictable swipes against the pharmaceutical companies for the cost of prescription drugs. She would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices and allow for reimportation from foreign countries. These drugs, of course, are cheaper because foreign governments impose price controls on pharmaceuticals that mostly originated in the U.S.

The Senator also discussed at length her proposal to create a regulatory pathway for the approval of generic copies of biotechnology medicines. Not only is such a program shot through with serious scientific and intellectual-property concerns, but the best research indicates that the savings range for follow-on biologics falls between 5% and 13% over the original drugs. The U.S. spent $52.7 billion on biologics in 2005, so the potential savings are small while what Mrs. Clinton suggests could hamstring the most innovative medical sector.

Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama offered his own full-dress plan, which promises to "provide coverage for all." The Presidential hopeful latched on to many of the same worn-out policy ideas as Mrs. Clinton--guaranteed issue, drug reimportation and more severe insurance regulation. As it turns out, though, Mr. Obama's program isn't necessarily universal. He would retain the private insurance system while creating a parallel public health plan based on the one currently available for federal employees; a sliding subsidy would be provided to those with lower incomes. The campaign says this will cost the federal government between $50 billion and $65 billion per year, and will be paid for by repealing the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.
The Obama plan has been roughed up on the left because it doesn't mandate 100% coverage outright, aiming instead to cut down the number of uninsured. The John Edwards camp calls the program "simply inadequate." For his part, Mr. Edwards has offered a universal plan that would require businesses to cover their employees or else pay into a government fund to provide coverage; and he'd create a new, expanded federal entitlement program modeled after Medicare. Mr. Edwards estimates it will cost between $90 billion and $120 billion a year--and some experts say the price will be higher than that--which he proposes to fund by raising taxes. At least Mr. Edwards is somewhat honest about cost, as opposed to the free-lunchism of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. Put simply, a universal health-care system can't be financed with savings from computerized medical records.

What's most striking is that all these Democratic proposals spurn market reforms and the tax code, which is biased toward health spending. Because third-party businesses--but not individuals--can deduct health expenditures, the tax code insulates those with private insurance from the real costs of their treatment decisions and then prices uninsured Americans out of the market. Instead of aggrandizing more power to the government, changing this arrangement would devolve more control to patients and their doctors, and reduce overall spending as part of the bargain.

In any event, it will be interesting to see in the coming months how Mrs. Clinton negotiates what she calls "the moral imperative" to extend universal coverage to all Americans. Given that most of her proposals so far would raise, not lower, the cost of health care, she might want to go back to the drawing board.

27112  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: June 02, 2007, 06:48:40 AM
From: "Martial Arts Tournaments" <>
Subject: [Eskrima] Pro fight league is a hit

Pro fight league is a hit
John Boyle
Herald, Everett, Wash

Aaron Stark will step into the ring at the Everett Events Center
tonight with his mind set on knocking his opponent unconscious or
beating him into submission.

The Oregon native is 205 pounds of tough, a fighter in the
International Fight League, the world's first team-based professional
mixed martial arts league, which is making its first stop in
Washington tonight.

And Stark's long-term dream: To make world-class pinot noir.


When he's not busy fighting or training, Stark is the vineyard manager
for Colene Clemens Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The
family-owned vineyard, named for Stark's grandmother, planted pinot
noir vines - three different Dijon clones, Stark says with pride - two
years ago, and Stark said they hope to produce their first wines next

Oh yeah, the former college wrestler is also a member of Mensa
International, an organization of people with high IQs.

While mixed martial arts competitions, best known from the Ultimate
Fighting Championships that draw huge crowds and pay-per-view ratings,
continue their rapid growth in this country and abroad (see last
week's cover of Sports Illustrated as evidence), they also fight
constant misconceptions.

Gone are the early days of the sport when there were no weight classes
and few rules. Despite the violence of the sport - and there's no
arguing that it is violent - fighters say the sport is much safer than
the casual observer might believe.

These are athletes, and well-rounded ones at that, not brawlers.

"I do think that's something we're always dealing with," Stark said.
"I won't tell you that there aren't any savages in the business, but
most of the guys tend to be fairly well-rounded guys outside of the
ring. They're guys with families, guys who went to college. I don't
have any hatred for my opponents. It's a sport."

The IFL's visit tonight gives local fight fans a chance to see the
sport up close. The IFL, which started last year and is in its first
full season, differs from Ultimate Fighting by being a team sport.
Tonight's card features fighters from four of the teams in the 12-team
league: Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; and Tokyo. Each team has
fighters in five weight classes, and teams win by winning three or
more of the five matches.

Competitions take place in a round-robin format from January to June,
with the top two teams competing for the IFL Championship in

While the IFL may not have the name recognition of Ultimate Fighting,
it is certainly doing well in its first full season. Matches are held
in smaller venues, similar in size to the 8,300-seat Everett Events
Center, and usually draw between 5,000 and 8,000 fans. The league also
has TV contracts with FSN, which airs a weekly show Friday nights, and
with MyNetworkTV, which has a two-hour show on Mondays that is part
fight action and part a behind-the-scenes look at the league.

In the early to mid-1990s, the early days of mixed martial arts in the
U.S., fighters could get away with almost anything. The sport was
referred to as "human cockfighting" by Republican Sen. John McCain of
Arizona and was banned in many states before changes were made.

Now the sport is regulated. It has weight classes and rules.

The IFL's Web site lists 27 actions constituting fouls, including
butting with the head, eye gouging, biting, hair pulling, fish
hooking, groin attacks of any kind, elbows to the face or head, and -
get ready to cringe - intentionally placing a finger in any opponent's

The sport's top athletes are just that: athletes, not barroom brawlers
stepping into the ring. Most come into the sport with a background in
one fighting discipline and then learn others such as boxing,
kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, karate, Muay Thai or tae kwon do.

Unlike boxing, mixed martial arts has not had a death in a sanctioned event.

"It's definitely not as bad as what people think," said Ryan Schultz,
a member of the Portland Wolfpack and one of the league's stars.
"We're not just brutes up there beating the crap out of each other.
We're all friends. It's totally a sport. Most of us, we're pretty
easygoing guys."

The IFL is also unique in that is provides a steady fight schedule and
steady pay. While the top fighters on pay-per-view fights are making
good money, other fighters can struggle to find fights at all, let
alone fights that pay well. IFL fighters, on the other hand, have
contracts with the league that provide a steady paycheck and health

"I've fought all over the place, in Japan, Hawaii, Canada, just
looking for fights," said Schultz, who wrestled at the University of
Nebraska. "With this league it's great. With IFL, you can plan your
life a little bit better. You know when you're fighting. They take
care of us."

That financial security is something some fighters never thought
they'd get from fighting.

"My first five fights were for free," said Brad Blackburn, an Olympia
native who fights for the Seattle Tiger Sharks. "Now I'm getting paid
enough to pay my bills. I was hoping one day it would pay, but I never
really thought it would. I'm getting paid to go out and do something I

Controversial or not, the sport on display tonight in Everett seems
here to stay.

"This sport is definitely blowing up," Schultz said. "It's fun to be
on that train. It's exciting; you can definitely see the change in how
popular it's becoming. I think it's here to stay and I see it doing
big, big things."

More about the sport

Fighting styles used: Boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu,
karate, Muay Thai and tae kwon do are the most prominent - also judo,
aikido and others.

How a fight is won: Matches are won by knockout, technical knockout
(referee or corner stoppage), submission or tap out (when an athlete
resigns the match because he is in a compromised hold or choke), or a
judge's decision. The team that wins the best three of five matches
wins the team competition.

Common terms

Armbar: A type of armlock in which the arm is hyper-extended at the
elbow in order to get an opponent to submit or tap out.

Ground-and-pound: A technique in which an athlete gains an advantage
through a takedown, assumes a top position and strikes down on the

Heelhook: A submission hold applied on the heel and then fully
accomplished by twisting the knee at the joint.

Submission hold: A choke or joint manipulation that is meant to cause
an opponent to submit or tap out.

Tap/tap out: An act of submission or giving up in which an opponent,
hopelessly captured in a submission hold or being pummeled by strikes,
taps the mat or his opponent in lieu of blacking out or risking bodily

Takedown: The act of putting your opponent to the floor with a tackle,
sweep, Greco-throw or other technique, typically involving the legs.

IFL timeline

Jan. 6, 2006: Real estate developer and martial arts aficionado Kurt
Otto and Gareb Shamus, founder of Wizard Entertainment, announce the
creation of the International Fight League. The IFL will field four
teams (Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Moline, Ill.) and play host
to two national tournaments in 2006 before formally launching a full
season in 2007.

April 29, 2006: The IFL makes its debut at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic
City, N.J. The Quad Cities Silverbacks post a 4-1 win over the Los
Angeles Anacondas, and the Seattle Tiger Sharks edge the New York
Pitbulls 3-2.

June 2-Nov. 20, 2006: The league expands to 12 teams for the 2007
season, adding franchises in Portland, Ore.; Tokyo; Toronto; San Jose,
Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Orange County, Calif.; Chicago; and in Nevada.

Nov. 29, 2006: The IFL begins trading as a public company under the
OTC Bulletin Board ticker symbol (IFLI: OTC.BB).

Jan. 19, 2007: The IFL holds its inaugural regular-season event at The
Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., where the Toronto Lions defeat the
San Jose Razorclaws and the Southern California Condors beat the
Seattle Tiger Sharks.

Today: The IFL comes to the Everett Events Center.

Source: The IFL
27113  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 02, 2007, 06:42:25 AM
Woof All:

Maija left a phone message last night that she has mailed in her fighter's registration  cool

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
27114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: June 02, 2007, 06:40:28 AM

Syria's Useful Idiots
June 1, 2007; Page A13

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council voted to set up a tribunal that will try suspects in the February 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Syria is the leading suspect in the case, so the establishment of the tribunal serves as a step toward creating a stable Lebanon. It also poses a clarifying question to the United States: What will engaging Syria mean for building a liberal future for Lebanon?

At the moment, it is clear that Syria hasn't stopped meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs. The Security Council only created its tribunal after efforts to establish a similar tribunal within Lebanon were stymied by Syrian allies. Indeed, to understand what is at stake in the Lebanese crisis today, flip through the report released last April by the U.N. commission investigating the Hariri assassination.

The commission, led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, now assumes that Hariri's assassination was tied to his political activities, particularly his preparations for the summer 2005 legislative elections. This sets up a key passage in the report: "[A] working hypothesis is that the initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement got underway and most likely before early January 2005. This leads to a possible situation in the last weeks before his murder in which two tracks, not necessarily linked, were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway."

Lebanese citizens celebrate Wednesday's establishment of a U.N. tribunal for the Rafiq Hariri murder.
For anyone who followed Lebanese politics at the time, this deceptively anodyne passage says a lot. Hariri was hoping to score a victory against Syria and its Lebanese allies during the elections, after Syria had extended the mandate of his bitter rival, President Emile Lahoud. The Syrians felt that such a victory would jeopardize their position in Lebanon and, although there was mediation to patch up Hariri's differences with the Syrians, the plot to eliminate him continued. It is plain from Mr. Brammertz's phrasing that those who were planning the former prime minister's elimination are the same ones with whom the intermediaries were trying to reconcile him.

Mr. Brammertz is building a case that, from the information provided to date, can only point the finger at Syria and its Lebanese supplicants. The Hariri tribunal, now that it has been formally established, poses an existential threat to the Syrian regime, and it is in Lebanon that the Syrians have and will continue to hit back to save themselves.

The outbreak of violence in northern Lebanon between the Lebanese army and a group calling itself Fatah al-Islam is the latest stage in such an endeavor. In a BBC interview last week, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora openly linked Fatah al-Islam to Syrian intelligence. The group has claimed to be an al Qaeda affiliate, but observers in Lebanon, including Palestinian sources usually critical of the Siniora government, qualify this, saying that Fatah al-Islam is acting on Syria's behalf. The daily Al-Hayat has reported that the group's weapons come from caches belonging to Palestinian organizations under Syrian control, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada, from which Fatah al-Islam allegedly broke off.

Meanwhile, a more subtle battle is taking place over interpretation of what is happening in Lebanon. This is especially important because there are those in Washington who still insist that something can be gained from dealing with Syria. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thought so in April when she visited Damascus, did the Gertrude Bell tour of the Hamadiyyeh souq, and capped it all with a visit to President Bashar Assad, all for precisely nothing in return.

The Iraq Study Group also thought Syria could be a useful partner in Iraq, even as all the signs suggest that Damascus has little real influence there and is sowing dissension to compensate. That's why understanding what is going on in Lebanon is vital for a sense of what can be gained from Syria elsewhere. Yet something is amiss when the most obvious truths are those the pundits won't consider.

For example, what did the former CIA agent Robert Baer mean in Time magazine, when he wrote that the Lebanese government should "know better" than to believe that Fatah al-Islam is a Syrian creation, because "at the end of the day Fatah Islam is the Syrian regime's mortal enemy"? Mr. Baer's point was that a Lebanese civil war might undermine Syrian stability, but also that Sunni Islamists oppose the minority Alawite Syrian regime. He reminded us that "the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood used northern Lebanon as a rear base to seize the Syrian city of Hama in 1982."

It is Mr. Baer who should know better. Syria has fueled a sectarian war in neighboring Iraq by funneling Sunni al Qaeda fighters into the country, without worrying about what this might mean for its own stability. Syria's vulnerabilities have not prevented it from hosting Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. And Syria's anxieties notwithstanding, throughout its years in Lebanon it developed ties with many Sunni Islamist groups and recently welcomed to Damascus a prominent Lebanese Islamist it has co-opted, Fathi Yakan.

The point is that Syria will have no qualms about provoking sectarian discord in Lebanon to ward away the menace of the Hariri tribunal.

And what are we to make of the journalist Seymour Hersh, now considered an authority on Lebanese Sunni Islamist groups on the basis of a flawed article he wrote for the New Yorker last March? In that article, and in a recent CNN interview, he indirectly suggested that Fatah al-Islam had received weapons not from Syria but from the Siniora government.

The only source Mr. Hersh cited in his article for the Fatah al-Islam story was Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 agent who co-directs Conflicts Forum, an institution advocating dialogue with Islamist movements. Mr. Crooke did not have direct knowledge of what he was claiming, as he "was told" that weapons and money were offered to the group, "presumably to take on Hezbollah."

Mr. Hersh is wading into very muddy waters with very simple ideas. The relationship of the Lebanese government and the Hariri camp with Sunni Islamists is byzantine, but there is no evidence to date that the government or the Hariris had any strategy to use al Qaeda against Hezbollah. In fact most Lebanese Sunni Islamists are not linked to al Qaeda. And Mr. Hersh has provided no proof that Fatah al-Islam received government assistance. Still, the Syrian regime's media has repeatedly used Mr. Hersh's charges to discredit the Lebanese government.

Then there are those with little patience for Lebanese independence. Arguing that Syria is worth more to the U.S. than Lebanon, they advocate Washington's ceding Lebanon to Syria as a price for constructive dialogue. For example, Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staffer now at the New America Foundation, recently told National Public Radio, where he appears regularly, that the Bush administration had "romanticized" the 2005 "Cedar Revolution." This was his way of implying that the latter was worth discarding. For Mr. Leverett and others, a Lebanon free of Syria is inherently unstable, even as they disregard Syrian responsibility for that instability.

In a March 2005 op-ed in the New York Times, as Lebanese took to the streets demanding a Syrian pullout, Mr. Leverett urged the U.S. to abandon efforts to establish a "pro-Western government" in Beirut. Instead, he proposed that "the most promising (if gradual) course for promoting reform in Syria is to engage and empower [President] Assad, not to isolate and overthrow him."

This makes for restorative reading today, as Mr. Assad's regime pursues its destabilization of Lebanon, Iraq and Palestinian areas, ignores domestic reform and continues to detain thousands of political opponents in its prisons.

There is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind on Syria. However, an "open mind" can be shorthand for blindness or bad faith. Given the evidence, it makes no sense to dismiss Syrian involvement in the Lebanese crisis, or to blame the crisis on an al Qaeda affiliate allegedly financed by the Lebanese government. Nor does it make sense to assume that Lebanon is a burden that the U.S. should jettison in favor of a stabilizing Syria, considering the fact that al Qaeda materialized from across the Syrian border. We're asked to believe that a group, said to be financed by the Siniora government, picked a fight with that very government, and somehow innocently did so just as the U.N. prepared to establish a tribunal the Syrians fear.

When Syria is systematically exporting instability throughout the region, you have to wonder whether its regime can be a credible partner to the U.S.

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


Justice for Lebanon
June 1, 2007; Page A12
Russia and China refused to endorse Wednesday's Security Council vote to establish an international tribunal for the February 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister. The tribunal, they argued, was an illegitimate form of outside interference in the country's domestic affairs. As for Syria's role in Mr. Hariri's murder -- the very reason the tribunal was needed in the first place -- that's a form of meddling our friends in Moscow and Beijing apparently prefer not to notice.

The good news is that these two veto-wielding powers abstained from the vote, which means the tribunal will be established by international fiat by June 10 if the Lebanese parliament fails to do it before then. In Beirut, this brought dancing in the streets; Mr. Hariri's son Saad called the resolution a "victory the world has given to oppressed Lebanon and a victory for an oppressed Lebanon in the world."

By contrast, Syria denounced the U.N. vote as a "degradation of Lebanon's sovereignty," which -- considering the source -- is almost amusing. Iranian-proxy Hezbollah was equally dismayed: It has spent the last six months attempting to block the tribunal by calling mass demonstrations and trying to bring down the democratic government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. For Hezbollah especially, the resolution marks a major political defeat, and therefore a strategic victory for anyone who cares about Lebanon's future as a sovereign democracy.

Nobody should be under any illusions that the road forward for the tribunal will be easy. The Syrians have consistently tried to derail the U.N. investigation leading to the tribunal. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who recently met with Condoleezza Rice in Egypt, was secretly taped threatening Rafik Hariri just weeks before his death. He then lied about it to U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis -- a useful reminder of the value of trying to negotiate anything with the regime of Bashar Assad.

Damascus almost certainly had a hand in the assassinations of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians Gibran Tueni in 2005 and Pierre Gemayal in 2006. More recently, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat has reported that the leadership of Fatah al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Lebanon, consists entirely of Syrian officers. The Lebanese army has been fighting a pitched battle with the group for the past two weeks in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared -- this despite the fact that the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh reported that the Lebanese government, with the connivance of Saudi Arabia and the Bush Administration, was actually behind the group. (See Michael Young's dispatch nearby.)

As in Iraq, the Syrian game in Lebanon is to foment chaos and then offer itself as the solution. The gambit has plainly impressed at least some people: Wang Guangya, the Chinese ambassador to the U.N., argued that the tribunal would "add to the uncertainties embodied in the already turbulent political and security situation in Lebanon." Comments like that will surely embolden the Syrians to sow more chaos in Lebanon to show that the price of justice in the service of a fallen leader will be prohibitively high.

But whatever happens next, passage of the resolution has shown the Syrians and their Lebanese friends that they cannot assassinate political enemies without paying a price of their own. As U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad put it Wednesday to the Security Council, "there can be no peace . . . without justice." We've heard that slogan before; in the case of Lebanon, at least, it happens to be true.

27115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 01, 2007, 04:20:38 PM

Dog Brothers Inc. is proud to support Michael Yon in his mission to report the truth from the frontlines.
27116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Asia on: June 01, 2007, 12:14:18 PM

Show of Bad Faith
June 1, 2007

As Islamist protestors' shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" echoed through Putrajaya's Palace of Justice, the Malaysian Federal Court Wednesday reaffirmed that religion is determined by court orders and not personal conscience. The two-to-one landmark decision by the country's highest court marks a monumental setback to religious freedom and human rights in Malaysia, a secular country increasingly influenced by Islamism.

Lina Joy, about whom I wrote on this page last September, is an ethnic Malay born into an Islamic family who converted to Christianity in 1998 at the age of 36. Desiring to live as a Christian, she sought to have "Islam" removed from her national identification card so that she could marry her Roman Catholic fiancé. However, the National Registration Department refused her request without an official order from the Islamic Sharia court declaring her an apostate. Because Ms. Joy was not a Muslim, she argued that the Sharia court -- which constitutionally has jurisdiction only in limited, enumerated matters relating to family law "over persons professing the religion of Islam" -- had no jurisdiction over her decision.

Once a Muslim, forever a Muslim in Malaysia.
On principle, Ms. Joy never applied to the Sharia court because she rightly reasoned that the state could not tell her what she believes in her heart. Further, no Sharia court has ever recognized an application for apostasy made by an ethnic Malay. Instead, a common judgment has been years-long sentences to religious "rehabilitation" camps for re-education in Islam.

Ms. Joy courageously filed suit in civil court, optimistic that the federal Constitution's provisions for equal protection and freedom of religion for all Malaysians would strengthen her case. The trial court dismissed her application, arguing that ethnic Malays are constitutionally defined as Muslim, thereby making conversion from Islam illegal. The judge also reasoned that allowing this exemption would encourage future converts. The Court of Appeals subsequently wrote that allowing Ms. Joy's conversion would "consequently be inviting the censure of the Muslim community."

Any hope that Ms. Joy might find protection from the federal Constitution was crushed by the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the doctrine that if you are born a Muslim, you will stay a Muslim until the community decides otherwise. Ignoring Lina Joy's years of Catholic study, church attendance, and the baptism certificate she presented as proof of her sincerity, Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in his decision, "You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another."

Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim among the three judges, dissented, arguing that because the National Registration Department had required a special approval only for Muslims, it violated the equal treatment provision in Article Eight of the federal Constitution. In its perverse way, Wednesday's ruling was discriminatory only against those born into Islam.

Even beyond Ms. Joy's plight, this and similar rulings set dangerous precedents for related cases regarding the application of Sharia law. Consider Subashini Rajasingam, whose husband embraced Islam in 2006 and then converted their eldest son. He then filed an application before the Kuala Lumpur Sharia Court to dissolve their civil marriage and obtain custody of the children. Ms. Subashini lost her case in both lower courts, and the Federal Court granted leave to appeal on May 17.

Malaysia's religious and ethnic diversity, growing economy, and regional leadership make these rulings all the more troubling. Indicators such as Ms. Joy's case, in which judges unabashedly set aside constitutional protections in favor of the sensibilities of Muslim believers, suggest that there is growing support for Islamization.

Just as Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists mingle in Kuala Lumpur's Central Market, so too have Sharia and civil law existed side by side since Malaysia's Constitution came into force in 1957. Now, the prospects of Sharia and civil law peacefully coexisting have grown dim. Malaysia's ability to protect fundamental human rights while navigating its parallel legal system among rising religious and ethnic tensions is an indication of whether it's possible anywhere.

In Malaysia, where Islam as the state religion was historically merely a symbolic statement, and where the Constitution reflects religious freedom for people of all faiths, the issue is not whether Sharia can accommodate human rights. It's whether human rights can accommodate Sharia.

Ms. Joy remains in hiding, trapped in a legal quagmire designed by a state judging her religion according to her ethnicity and not what she professes. Meanwhile her country -- whose motto is "Unity is Strength" -- is at a cultural and legal crossroads. Wednesday's ruling is a step toward an Islamic state in which group religious sentiment trumps the most fundamental human right, the right without which other rights are meaningless -- the right to follow one's conscience. Let us hope Malaysia can turn back in time.

Ms. Wu is the International Director of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C
27117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: June 01, 2007, 12:08:36 PM
A Back Door for Terrorists

Published: June 1, 2007
AMID all of the xenophobia and nativism surrounding the immigration debate, there is a real security concern. In the language of the bureaucracy, the problem is referred to as the “O.T.M.’s,” or Other Than Mexicans.

Thousands of non-Mexicans are caught crossing the United States border every year. They cannot be sent back to Mexico, but must be deported to their home country. Until recently, most were given a deportation hearing date and then simply released. Not surprisingly, few showed up for their scheduled appearances. Beginning last year, however, most who are caught are put into detention. They are then put through a procedure called expedited removal, under which many are flown back home within a few weeks.

Many of these non-Mexicans come from Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and other areas of concern to counterterrorism officials. What we don’t know is how many others are evading the Border Patrol every year and what happens to them when they leave the border area. It’s not too hard to imagine that these illegal immigrants, who have clearly spent a lot of money getting to Mexico and then into the United States, are able to buy themselves an identity and corroborating papers once in an American city.

Since 9/11, it has been far more difficult to get a visa to enter the United States if you are a citizen of a country considered a terrorism concern. But it is not difficult for a Pakistani, for example, to enter Mexico or another Central American country from which he can get to our border relatively easily, cross it and blend in.

The Real ID Act of 2005, which among other things established standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards, has now been put off until at least 2009. And many states are in open revolt against its tough requirements for issuing driver’s licenses.

The result is that potential terrorists here illegally can easily use phony licenses or, in many states, get real ones issued to them, along with credit cards and all of the other papers needed to blend into our society. (The only places in this country that seem to check the validity of drivers’ licenses are bars in college neighborhoods.) Indeed, those arrested for allegedly planning to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey included illegal immigrants who apparently had little difficulty getting along in this country.

In his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy last month, President Bush was right to express concern that Al Qaeda is trying to bring terrorists into the United States. He was wrong, however, to claim that fighting in Iraq somehow helps stop such attempts. In the absence of a secure border and verifiable biometric identification systems, preventing terrorists from getting in to this country and setting up sleeper cells here is almost impossible. Maybe we will get serious after the next attack.

Richard A. Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, is the author of “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.”

27118  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 01, 2007, 11:43:19 AM
For our purposes shooting any video at all is verboten. angry  In addition to the obvious business reasons, there is also the very important matter of fighters knowing that they can come to play secure in the knowledge that they will not be unfairly portrayed. 

For example several years back we had someone sneak a video of a fight and spread it all over the internet at "Our Style beats Style XYZ".     This made for some very bad feelings on the part of Style XYZ (a knife oriented system) and for a while there was talk of settling things on the sidelines at the next Gathering.   Fortunately I was able to steer things in a different direction.

Folks, what we have built is something very special.  If we do it right, it looks easy.  That does not mean it is easy. 

I repeat, shooting any video at all is verboten.
27119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Huber: Germs and the City on: June 01, 2007, 11:36:15 AM

Friday Feature / Peter Huber: Germs and the City

Two centuries of success against infectious disease have left us complacent—and vulnerable.


There have been at work among us three great social agencies: the London City Mission; the novels of Mr. Dickens; the cholera.” Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb quotes this reductionist observation at the end of her chapter on Charles Dickens in The Moral Imagination; her debt is to an English nonconformist minister, addressing his flock in 1853. It comes as no surprise to find the author of Hard Times and Oliver Twist discussed alongside Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill in a book on moral history. Nor is it puzzling to see Dickens honored in his own day alongside the City Mission, a movement founded to engage churches in aiding the poor. But what’s V. cholerae doing up there on the dais beside the Inimitable Boz? It’s being commended for the tens of millions of lives it’s going to save. The nastiness of this vile little bacterium has just transformed ancient sanitary rituals and taboos into a new science of epidemiology. And that science is about to launch a massive—and ultimately successful—public effort to rid the city of infectious disease.


The year 1853, when a Victorian doctor worked out that cholera spread through London’s water supply, was the turning point. Ordinary people would spend the next century crowding into the cities, bearing many children, and thus incubating and spreading infectious disease. Public authorities would do all they could to wipe it out. For the rest of the nineteenth century, they lost more ground than they gained, and microbes thrived as never before. Then the germ killers caught up—and pulled ahead. When Jonas Salk announced his polio vaccine to the press in April 1955, the war seemed all but over. “The time has come to close the book on infectious disease,” declared William Stewart, the U.S. surgeon general, a few years later. “We have basically wiped out infection in the United States.”


By then, however, infectious diseases had completed their social mission. Public authorities had taken over the germ-killing side of medicine completely. The focus shifted from germs to money—from social disease to social economics. As germs grew less dangerous, people gradually lost interest in them, and ended up fearing germ-killing medicines more than the germs themselves.


Government policies expressed that fear, putting the development, composition, performance, manufacture, price, and marketing of antibiotics and vaccines under closer scrutiny and control than any public utility’s operations and services. The manufacturers of these drugs, which took up the germ-killing mission where the sewer commission left off, must today operate like big defense contractors, mirror images of the insurers, regulatory agencies, and tort-litigation machines that they answer to. Most drug companies aren’t developing any vaccines or antibiotics any more. The industry’s critics discern no good reason for this at all: as they tell it, the big drug companies just can’t be bothered.


These problems capture our attention only now and again; they hardly figure in the much louder debate about how much we spend on doctors and drugs, and who should pay the bills. “Public health” (in the literal sense) now seems to be one thing, and—occasional lurid headlines notwithstanding—not a particularly important one, while “health care” is quite another.


We will bitterly regret this shift, and probably sooner rather than later. As another Victorian might have predicted—he published a book on the subject in 1859—germs have evolved to exploit our new weakness. Public authorities are ponderous and slow; the new germs are nimble and fast. Drug regulators are paralyzed by the knowledge that error is politically lethal; the new germs make genetic error—constant mutation—the key to their survival. The new germs don’t have to be smarter than our scientists, just faster than our lawyers. The demise of cholera, one could say, has been one of the great antisocial developments of modern times.


By withdrawing from the battlefield just long enough to let us drift into this state of indifference, the germs have set the stage for their own spectacular revival. Germs are never in fact defeated completely. If they retire for a while, it’s only to search, in their ingeniously stupid and methodically random way, for a bold new strategy. They’ve also contrived, of late, to get human sociopaths to add thought and order to the search. The germs will return. We won’t be ready.


Read Peter Huber’s Complete Article in the City Journal:
27120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Growing Demand for the rare American Iman on: June 01, 2007, 11:11:43 AM
Today's NY Times-- Often on topical subjects, but always a suspect source:

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. — Sheik Yassir Fazaga regularly uses a standard American calendar to provide inspiration for his weekly Friday sermon.

Sheik Yassir Fazaga greeting worshipers after a prayer service. He went to high school in Orange County, Calif., and now leads a mosque there.
Around Valentine’s Day this year, he talked about how the Koran endorses romantic love within certain ethical parameters. (As opposed to say, clerics in Saudi Arabia, who denounce the banned saint’s day as a Satanic ritual.)

On World AIDS Day, he criticized Muslims for making moral judgments about the disease rather than helping the afflicted, and on International Women’s Day he focused on domestic abuse.

“My main objective is to make Islam relevant,” said Sheik Fazaga, 34, who went to high school in Orange County, which includes Mission Viejo, and brings a certain American flair to his role as imam in the mosque here.

Prayer leaders, or imams, in the United States have long arrived from overseas, forced to negotiate a foreign culture along with their congregation. Older immigrants usually overlook the fact that it is an uneasy fit, particularly since imported sheiks rarely speak English. They welcome a flavor of home.

But as the first generation of American-born Muslims begins graduating from college in significant numbers, with a swelling tide behind them, some congregations are beginning to seek native imams who can talk about religious and social issues that seem relevant to young people, like dating and drugs. On an even more practical level, they want an imam who can advise them on day-to-day American matters like how to set up a 401(k) plan to funnel the charitable donations known as zakat, which Islam mandates.

“The problem is that you have a young generation whose own experience has nothing to do with where its parents came from,” said Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Near Eastern studies department at the University of California, Berkeley, who surveys Muslim communities.

But the underlying quandary is that American imams are hard to find, though there are a few nascent training programs. These days, many of the men leading prayers across the United States on any given Friday are volunteers, doctors or engineers who know a bit more about the Koran than everyone else. Scholars point out that one of the great strengths of Islam, particularly the Sunni version, is that there is no official hierarchy.

But this situation is fueling a debate about just how thoroughly an imam has to be schooled in Islamic jurisprudence and other religious matters before running a mosque.

The downside for Islam in America, some critics argue, is that those interpreting Islamic law often lack a command of the full scope of the traditions carried in the Koran and the hadith, the sayings of the prophet Muhammad considered sacred.

“I call it ‘hadith slinging,’ ” said Prof. Khaled Abou el Fadl, a specialist in Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles. “I throw a couple of hadiths at you, and you throw a couple of hadiths at me, and that is the way we do Islamic law,” he added. “It’s like any moron can do that.”

Experts say the problem is exacerbated because few immigrant parents want their children to become imams.

“Immigrant parents want their children to become doctors, engineers, computer scientists,” Dr. Bazian said. “If you suggested that they might want their kid to study to become an imam, they would hold a funeral procession.” Ultimately, in the absence of trained sheiks, good religion in many American mosques has come to be defined through rigid adherence to rituals, Professor Abou el Fadl said, adding, “It’s ritual that defines piety.”

The few imams born or at least raised in the United States who win over their congregations tend to be younger men who can play pickup basketball with the teenagers, but also have enough training in classical Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence that the older members accept their religious credentials.

Imam Ronald Smith Jr., 29, who runs the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach, Fla., converted to Islam at 14 to escape the violence in his African-American community in Atlantic City. As part of his training, he spent six years studying at the Islamic University in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

“Foreign imams, because of the culture in their countries, kind of stick to the mosque and the duties of the mosque without involving themselves much in the general community,” Imam Smith said. “The hip-hop culture is difficult to understand if you have never lived it.”


(Page 2 of 2)

The foreign imams’ idea of mosque outreach, Imam Smith said, is sponsoring an evening lecture series where everyone sits around for an hour and listens to a speech about being devout or maybe world politics, which teenagers find less than compelling.

Mosque leaders say the risk is that younger Muslims, already feeling under assault in the United States because of the faith’s checkered reputation, might choose one of two extremes. They either drift away from the faith entirely if they cannot find answers, or leave the mosque for a more radical fringe.

Here in Mission Viejo, Sheik Fazaga wears street clothes much of the time, but dons traditional robes to deliver the Friday sermon at the mosque, a building distinguishable from the surrounding strip malls and low-slung office buildings mostly by its airy exterior dome of metal filigree painted sea green. It was a practice he started 10 years ago when he first returned home and kind of fell into the imam’s job around age 24, because some members considered him too young for the position.

Born in the East African nation of Eritrea, he moved to the Arab world before coming to Mission Viejo at age 15. Drawn toward Islam by college students, he enrolled in the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, a Virginia campus of al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The United States government expelled much of the faculty in 2004 as part of the crackdown on extremist Islamic rhetoric.

The school was accused of being an American outpost of the puritanical Wahhabi sect, a label Sheik Fazaga rejects. But that might be one reason he has been stopped for questioning some 20 times — every time he returns home from abroad.

“ ‘How come you don’t dress like an imam?’— that’s their favorite question,” he said with a wry grin.

Younger Muslims seek him out for guidance, he said, and the fact that he is studying for a master’s degree in psychological therapy helps. Teenagers have requested advice about being addicted to Internet pornography, he said, and about sexual orientation. He counsels adolescents — gay and straight — that sexual attraction is natural, but to act on it is wrong and that any addiction should be treated.

Previous imams would simply admonish the youths that something was a forbidden abomination, subject closed.

Gihan Zahran, 43, an Egyptian immigrant, remembers a previous Arab imam who even told a much perplexed teenager that wearing Nike shoes was “haram,” or forbidden in Arabic, without explaining why. Some Muslims consider this aloofness particularly ineffective in America, given that they are a minority faced by majority practices like drinking alcohol that clash with their faith and that teenagers confront daily.

Ms. Zahran’s sister Nermeen Zahran, 42, recently went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. She is a real estate agent, and has not veiled her hair at least partly because it might affect her livelihood in a conservative place like Orange County.

When she went on the hajj, as it is called in Arabic, a fellow pilgrim asked the Egyptian imam who accompanied them from Southern California his opinion of her not wearing the scarf afterward.

“He was so mad, so offended and said he couldn’t believe it could happen,” Nermeen Zahran recalled over a glass of orange juice in the neat condominium she shares with her sister. His basic reaction, she said, was that there was no point in seeking forgiveness for previous sins if one did not take the veil afterward.

Ms. Zahran has also consulted religious figures about periodic bouts of depression, but the usual response was that her faith lacked vigor.

Now she talks to Sheik Fazaga about it, she said. “He tries to solve the problems and doesn’t tell you that you have to accept that this is your life, this is what Allah gave you, and if you don’t then you are not a good Muslim.”

She wonders, in the end, whether a purer form of Islam will develop in the United States, with prayer leaders focused on the concerns of the community, rather than not treading on the toes of the government that supports them, as in much of the Arab world.

Mosques will probably continue to address the wishes of the immigrant population for another decade, but after that the tide will shift away from them, experts suggest.

“Islam in America is trying to create a new cultural matrix that can survive in the broader context of America,” said Prof. Sherman Jackson, who teaches Arabic and Islamic law at the University of Michigan. “It has to change for the religion to survive.”
27121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 01, 2007, 08:54:26 AM
I loathe Hillary Evita Clinton, but I think she is correct to agree with those who favor reforming the H1B visas to faciliatate immigration by the highly educated.
27122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 01, 2007, 08:50:55 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Musharraf Cracks Down

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Thursday called an emergency meeting of the country's top military brass, including corps commanders and agency heads, for June 1 to discuss the domestic political situation. The same day, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sen. Muhammad Ali Durrani said all private electronic media outlets must now obtain permission from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority before each live broadcast. Pakistan's Supreme Court also said it plans to investigate reports of state authorities and political groups harassing and threatening journalists.

The country's increasingly assertive judiciary and media have played a key role in the growing crisis of governance. The most recent blow to Musharraf came May 26 during a Supreme Court Bar Association seminar titled "Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary," when several prominent lawyers harshly criticized the government and the military's control of the state. Several TV channels carried the event live.

The seminar enraged the Musharraf regime, which responded by saying abusive and derogatory remarks about national institutions, especially the armed forces, will not be tolerated. In a May 30 speech to officers at the Jehlum garrison, Musharraf warned the media to stop politicizing the judicial crisis, though media criticism of the Pakistani government is hardly unprecedented.

In fact, the country has seen a major proliferation of private television channels under Musharraf's rule. The government allowed this in order to counter public criticism that it is a military-dominated autocratic regime. It also could afford to allow the increasingly vibrant media its freedom since Musharraf faced no real challenge to his rule.

But in the wake of the suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, this vibrancy has damaged the public perception of the government. Yet, because the country's opposition parties continue to be divided over how to move against Musharraf, media coverage of political events and the broadcasting of damning criticism have not resulted in the protests attaining critical mass. Nonetheless, the government is moving toward a major crackdown that will drastically curtail free speech.

The nature of the criticism -- which has been aimed not only at the president, but also at the military's domination of the state -- and its reception within Musharraf's own constituency could present major problems for Musharraf's ability to rule.

Musharraf's most important source of power is the support he receives from the military, particularly the army. Criticism of Musharraf due to his dual role as military chief and president is one thing, but the questioning of the military's control over the state changes things dramatically. This forces the top generals to question Musharraf's ability to look after the military's interests. Hence, Musharraf is rushing to clamp down on the media. He must now show the generals he is very much in control and is capable of ensuring that the military maintains its hold on the state. Losing the confidence of the army's senior leadership would prove fatal to his own hold on power.

It is unlikely a crackdown on political dissent will help Musharraf shore up his position; in fact, it likely will make the situation worse for him. The verdict in Chaudhry's appeal case and the controversial presidential vote set to take place in September will only accelerate the momentum of the country's growing unrest.
27123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: May 31, 2007, 09:13:47 PM
Woof Brian:

Interesting post, but I'm thinking this is not quite the right thread for it.  Would you be so kind as to post in Geopolitical Matters at and then I will delete it here?

27124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: May 31, 2007, 10:38:08 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Keeping U.S. Troops in Iraq

The White House on Wednesday compared the future U.S. troop presence in Iraq to that in South Korea. This is not so much an announcement of a plan to create a specific force structure or basing arrangement as it is a statement about the length and character of Washington's commitment to Baghdad. The real underlying significance of the announcement is simple: the United States is not leaving Iraq any time soon.

While perhaps at first indistinguishable from the Bush administration's well-rehearsed company line -- that the United States is committed to Iraq -- White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's choice of analogies comes amid the first public negotiations between Washington and Tehran on Iraq's stability. These negotiations themselves are the product of years of behind-the-scenes discussions aimed at finding a way to reconcile nearly incompatible national interests. Nevertheless, the very existence of public negotiations on the subject suggests substantial progress has been made from the impasse that existed earlier in the year.

The South Korea analogy is thus no small statement, no accident and no coincidence. This was not the standard "we stand by Iraq" press conference; the White House appears to have made an assertion that reflects a much deeper agreement with Tehran. Washington could well be positioning itself to garner domestic and Iraqi support for a U.S. military presence in Iraq that will continue for the foreseeable future (significantly, while reassuring Sunni allies in Iraq they will not be abandoned).

That presence, of course, will shift dramatically from the current arrangement. This is consistent with some changes already in the cards: a reduced U.S. troop presence and operational tempo, a shift from combat to advising and support, and a withdrawal from day-to-day security operations. The exact basing configuration and force structure are mere details, yet to be decided and -- especially in the case of Iraqi Kurdistan -- up for negotiation. But at the end of the day, a significant U.S. military presence will remain in Iraq.

That presence ultimately will mean the same thing for Iraq that it has meant for South Korea: an attack on Iraq is the same as an attack on the United States.

This position, whether official or unstated, has little to do with Iraq's internal sectarian strife. Rather, it creates a strategic tripwire in the region: the U.S. military physically interposes itself between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and gives Washington enough sway in Baghdad to provide a counterweight to Tehran's very real influence there. If the public talks continue to progress, Iraq could become the next nation to have its security (at least in terms of border integrity, if not internal stability) guaranteed by the United States -- a commitment from Washington that has rarely proven to be short-lived.

But first, of course, there are the negotiations. For Iran, a large U.S. military presence in Iraq would be little better than a U.S.-backed Sunni puppet government in Baghdad (which is Tehran's worst fear, whether or not Washington thinks it is attainable). Thus, if the Iranians have truly agreed to this arrangement -- and that is an exceedingly large "if" -- serious U.S. concessions will be forthcoming.

High on Iran's list of priorities, for example, is a significant role for Tehran in training (and thus influencing and controlling) Iraqi security forces. With a continued but more isolated U.S. military presence in the country, Iran needs a counterbalance. The trick, of course, is that these very security forces have been Washington's own counterbalance to Tehran's power over the Shiite militias -- and U.S. influence over the security apparatus will become increasingly important as the U.S. military draws back from day-to-day security operations.

In other words, Washington appears poised to set up a long-term presence in Iraq that is very nearly unacceptable for Tehran. If a deal is to proceed, Washington will have to reciprocate in kind with an equally unappetizing and nearly unacceptable concession, like sharing influence and perhaps even military participation in Iraq's security apparatus. It is a concession Washington could have a difficult time living with, even if the White House's representatives have agreed to it in principle.

The ability of the two sides to put this prospective compromise into practice is therefore far from certain. The situation is extremely fragile. Elections are looming in the United States and crucial power brokers in Iraq and Iran are falling ill. With both sides walking so close to the line, either could renege at the slightest provocation or the merest perceived shift in national interest.

Complicating matters further, any long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq will have to be worked out with the Iraqi government itself. Even after reaching this compromise with Washington, Tehran will need to convince its Shiite allies in Iraq to play ball -- and, through them, it will need to compel a controlling share of all Iraqi Shia to go along.

The Sunnis, and especially the Kurds, can probably follow suit. However, the Shiite and Sunni landscapes in Iraq are both highly fractured and dominated by Islamist forces, which will oppose a long-term U.S. military presence on Iraqi soil.

Should all go incredibly well -- should the various pieces of the puzzle not only fit into place but also hold their positions -- there will be a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. But while this might serve Washington's interests in part by providing a bulwark against jihadists, it also will fuel the jihadist fire. It is worth remembering that the origins of al Qaeda trace back to a single issue: the long-term U.S. military presence in nearby Saudi Arabia.
27125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Christianity on: May 31, 2007, 09:03:41 AM
What I Think About Evolution

Published: May 31, 2007

IN our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.
27126  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 31, 2007, 08:22:34 AM
Yes there are bathrooms  cheesy

I've been meaning to ask DJ (Dan Jackson) about showers.  In the absence thereof I'm thinking some hoses might do  grin
27127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: May 31, 2007, 08:19:04 AM
ssions Revelation
May 30, 2007
The G-8 summit starts next week, and the U.S. is already under attack for blocking hostess German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposal to curb so-called greenhouse gases. President George W. Bush's environmental adviser confirmed yesterday that the White House won't go along with an economically crippling plan to halve emissions from their 1990 levels by mid-century.

Amid all the Euro sanctimony about global warming and carping about America's unwillingness to play along with their grand schemes, a few truths are inconvenient. The U.S. is reducing emissions, without any need for caps. And on this score, America is outpacing Europe's jolly green giants.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Friday that energy-related CO2 emissions fell 1.3% last year, according to preliminary data, even as the economy grew 3.3%. Those emissions account for four-fifths of all greenhouse gases in the U.S. It's the third time since the base year of 1990 that America has recorded a decrease, but the first not to occur during a recession (as in 1991 and 2001). During the same period, Europe managed only once, in 1997, to cut CO2 emissions by at least 1% while its economy grew by more than 2%. (The EU has not released data for 2006.)

A single year doesn't make a trend, but the American one is clear. Since 2000, emissions are nearly flat, thanks to a strong economy that nurtures innovation and efficiency. U.S. manufacturers are curbing CO2 output, pushing last year's total below 1990 levels in absolute terms. After outpacing the U.S. during the Clinton-Gore '90s, Europe has fallen behind this decade on reducing greenhouse emissions.

The Kyoto-hugging Europeans want to tax or crimp this very American competitiveness. As next week's summit will likely prove again, no one can match the Europeans for the output of dangerous policy. Yet anyone seriously concerned about the environment can take a closer look at America's recent record of success.
27128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 31, 2007, 12:13:00 AM

'We Are the Only People Preventing Them From Telling the Story'
In a Memorial Day column, David Carr of the New York Times complains about a U.S. military rule requiring that embedded reporters "obtain a signed consent from a wounded soldier before the image can be published. Images that put a face on the dead, that make them identifiable, are simply prohibited."

Why is it so important to show images of hurt and dead Americans? A fellow Timesman gives away the game:

James Glanz, a Baghdad correspondent who will become bureau chief for The New York Times next month, said that although he and others had many great experiences working with the rank-and-file soldiers, some military leaders seem determined to protect something besides the privacy of their troops.

"As the number of reporters there dwindles further and further because of the difficult conditions we work under, the kind of work they are able to publish becomes very important," Mr. Glanz said. "This tiny remaining corps of reporters becomes a greater and greater problem for the military brass because we are the only people preventing them from telling the story the way they want it told."

Hmm, we thought the job of a reporter was to tell stories, not to prevent others from doing so. Furthermore, is it even possible to imagine a Times correspondent saying his job is to prevent the enemy from telling its story?

And here's an example of the kind of journalism the Times's Baghdad bureau produces. This is from a news account, also in yesterday's Times:

On Sunday, American troops freed 42 Iraqi prisoners from what military officials described as a Qaeda hideout northeast of Baghdad. Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman, said some of the captives appeared to have been tortured.

The raid was part of a security effort involving 3,000 additional troops sent to Diyala, a violent province north of the capital with a mixed population of Sunnis and Shiites. Colonel Garver said the hideout had been found because of a tip from an Iraqi, and that all 42 freed prisoners were receiving medical care.

"Some of the rescued stated they had been suspended from the ceiling," he said. "Some of them stated they had been there for four months. One young man stated he was 14 years old."

This is a good story, one that points up the brutality of the enemy and the bravery of American servicemen. Given Glanz's ideas about the press's role, you almost have to wonder how reporter Damien Cave managed to sneak it into the paper.

Well, here's how: The passage we quoted above was paragraphs 11 through 13 of a story titled "Roadside Bombing Kills 2 More G.I.'s in Iraq."

The story is not accompanied by a picture of the two dead soldiers' bodies. Do you wish it were?


Two Papers in One!

" There is one matter on which American military commanders, many Iraqis and some of the Bush administration's staunchest Congressional critics agree: if the United States withdrew its forces from Baghdad's streets this fall, the murder and mayhem would increase."--news story, New York Times, May 27

"It's upsetting to think that Mr. Bush believes the raging sectarian violence in Iraq awaits reigniting. . . . But we have grown accustomed to this president's disconnect from reality and his habit of tilting at straw men, like Americans who . . . don't worry about what will happen after the United States withdraws, as it inevitably must."--editorial, New York Times, May 27
27129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: May 31, 2007, 12:01:30 AM
Also, I am back to breakeven on CREE!  smiley

PCL chugs forward nicely.
27130  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gathering Numbers on: May 30, 2007, 12:01:19 PM
He's LAPD  cool
27131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 30, 2007, 12:00:26 PM
Hat tip to David Gordon:


Following the Money Trail Online

From David Pogue comes this referral to an interesting site.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have one.

That's what I keep telling myself, anyway, to avoid becoming depressed by

It's a new Web site with a very simple mission: to correlate lawmakers' voting records with the money they've accepted from special-interest groups.

All of this is public information. All of it has been available for decades. Other sites, including, expose who's giving how much to whom. But nobody has ever revealed the relationship between money given and votes cast to quite such a startling effect.

If you click the "Video Tour" button on the home page, you'll see a six-minute video that illustrates the point. You find out that on H.R.5684, the U. S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, special interests in favor of this bill (including pharmaceutical companies and aircraft makers) gave each senator an average of $244,000. Lobbyists opposed to the bill (such as anti-poverty groups and consumer groups) coughed up only $38,000 per senator.

Surprise! The bill passed.

If you click "Timeline of Contributions," you find out that -- surprise again! -- contributions to the lawmakers surged during the six weeks leading up to the vote. On this same page, you can click the name of a particular member of Congress to see how much money that person collected.

Another mind-blowing example: from the home page, click "California." Click "Legislators," then click "Fabian Nunez." The resulting page shows you how much this guy has collected from each special-interest group -- $2.2 million so far -- and there, in black-and-white type, how often he voted their way.

Construction unions: 94 percent of the time. Casinos: 95 percent of the time. Law firms: 78 percent of the time. Seems as though if you're an industry lobbyist, giving this fellow money is a pretty good investment.

A little time spent clicking through to these California lawmakers' pages reveals a similar pattern in most of them.

(A few, on the other hand, appear to be deliciously contrary. Jim Brulte has accepted over $67,000 from the tobacco industry, but hasn't voted in their favor a single time. Is that even ethical -- I mean, by the standards of this whole sleazy business?)

For some reason, doesn't reveal these "percent of the time" figures for United States Congress, only for California. You can easily see how much money each member has taken, but the column that correlates those figures with their voting record is missing.

Now, not all bills exhibit the same money-to-outcome relationships. And it's not news that our lawmakers' campaigns accept money from special interests. What this site does, however, is to expose, often embarrassingly, how that money buys votes.

I probably sound absurdly naive here. But truth is, I can't quite figure out why these contributions are even legal. Let the various factions explain their points till they're blue in the face, sure -- but to cut checks for millions of dollars? isn't always easy to figure out, and not all of its data is complete. In fact, it's not even evident from the list of bills which ones have already been voted on -- a distinct disappointment, since the juicy patterns don't emerge until the vote is complete.

On the other hand, it's painstakingly non-partisan. And it uses very good data; for example, the information on contributions comes from the Center for Responsive Politics (the nonprofit, nonpartisan research group behind, and each special industry's interests (for or against each bill) are taken exclusively from public declarations of support or opposition (Web sites, news articles, Congressional hearings and so on).

Spend a few minutes poking around. Check out a couple of the people you voted for. Have a look at how often their votes align with the interests of the lobbyists who helped to get them elected.

And be glad makes it so easy to spot those correlations.

Labels: Humanities
27132  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 29, 2007, 09:54:53 PM

Dan is a pretty bright guy, I think he is up to keeping track of things smiley


Gints makes a very good point about dual function cameras.  This concerns us.


27133  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Training Partners on: May 29, 2007, 09:52:33 PM
The Umpad tribe is at a very good level.  Highly recommended.
27134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: May 29, 2007, 06:55:31 PM
I posted this in the Libertarian thread as well:


Of course I hungry bird could mess up the best laid plans....

Scientist: Military Working on Cyborg Spy Moths

Tuesday , May 29, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not-too-distant future, a moth may take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth's entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a "reliable tissue-machine interface."

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts — known from science fiction as cyborgs — has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is involved with the research, said in a speech last week at the University of Southampton in England that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of U.S. military research.

Brooks said that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as just part of its overall research into microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

"This is going to happen," said Brooks. "It's not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply."

"Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places," he continued. "A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and 'grown' inside it."

"Once the moth hatches," Brooks said, "machine learning is used to control it."

Brooks has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and is a founder of iRobot, the MIT-derived manufacturer of both Roomba robot floor cleaners and PackBots, military robots used by the Pentagon to defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brooks said that the military would be increasingly reliant on "semi-autonomous" devices, including ones which could fire.

"The DoD has said it wants one-third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there's no doubt their things will become weaponized, so the question comes: Should they be given targeting authority?"

"The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn't," he said, "but perhaps it's time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use."
Debates such as those over stem-cell research would "pale in comparison" to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures — including humans — and machines, Brooks told the Southampton audience.

"Biological engineering is coming," Brooks said. "There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people's retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we're going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes."

"There's going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just ... well, there's going to be a lot of moral debates," he said.

Another iRobot project being developed as part of the U.S. military's "Future Combat Systems" program, Brooks said, was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced "sug-vee"), basically the next generation of the PackBot, one which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment.

The 30-pound device, which can survive a drop of 30 feet onto concrete, has a small "head" with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called "Red Owl" which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

"It's designed to be the troop's eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too," Mr Brooks said.
27135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: May 29, 2007, 06:54:23 PM
Scary implications for us freedom loving civilians  shocked


Scientist: Military Working on Cyborg Spy Moths

Tuesday , May 29, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not-too-distant future, a moth may take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth's entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a "reliable tissue-machine interface."

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts — known from science fiction as cyborgs — has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is involved with the research, said in a speech last week at the University of Southampton in England that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of U.S. military research.

Brooks said that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as just part of its overall research into microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

"This is going to happen," said Brooks. "It's not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply."

"Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places," he continued. "A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and 'grown' inside it."

"Once the moth hatches," Brooks said, "machine learning is used to control it."

Brooks has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and is a founder of iRobot, the MIT-derived manufacturer of both Roomba robot floor cleaners and PackBots, military robots used by the Pentagon to defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brooks said that the military would be increasingly reliant on "semi-autonomous" devices, including ones which could fire.

"The DoD has said it wants one-third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there's no doubt their things will become weaponized, so the question comes: Should they be given targeting authority?"

"The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn't," he said, "but perhaps it's time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use."
Debates such as those over stem-cell research would "pale in comparison" to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures — including humans — and machines, Brooks told the Southampton audience.

"Biological engineering is coming," Brooks said. "There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people's retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we're going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes."

"There's going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just ... well, there's going to be a lot of moral debates," he said.

Another iRobot project being developed as part of the U.S. military's "Future Combat Systems" program, Brooks said, was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced "sug-vee"), basically the next generation of the PackBot, one which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment.

The 30-pound device, which can survive a drop of 30 feet onto concrete, has a small "head" with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called "Red Owl" which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

"It's designed to be the troop's eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too," Mr Brooks said.
27136  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 29, 2007, 06:50:13 PM
No, just an appearance from the mists of time to witness the present.  cheesy grin cool
27137  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 29, 2007, 05:50:03 PM
I just spoke with Top Dog and he confirms that he is coming  afro

I just spoke with Salty Dog and he says he thinks he can make it , , ,
27138  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 29, 2007, 12:37:10 AM
Baltic Dog:

I will be discussing the matter of Idris with Thom Beers tomorrow.

Tom S.

That is a reality question.  Check with VP of Reality Cindy at 310-540-6853

27139  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 28, 2007, 10:17:43 PM
Thom has emailed me that regular cameras are OK!!!  cool grin cool
27140  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 28, 2007, 07:38:07 PM
I've brought up the subject of cameras with Dan, who has kicked it up the food chain to Thom Beers.  It is a holiday weekend, so no surprise that we have not heard back from TB yet.  With any luck we will get a ruling from him tomorrow.

Also, in case I didn't mention it, Dan says that they are working on providing some sort of temporary AC  cool
27141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: May 28, 2007, 12:24:01 PM
Apple Computer announced today that it has developed a computer chip that can store and play music in women's breast implants. The iTit will cost $499 or $599 depending on size. This is considered to be a major breakthrough because women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.
27142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Memorial Day on: May 28, 2007, 09:44:03 AM

America's Honor
The stories behind Memorial Day.

Monday, May 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.

Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict--a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent's grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham's Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.

Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers--honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless--in our midst.

In my own boyhood, figures such as Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy and John Basilone were household names. And it was assumed that what they had done defined us as well as them, telling us what kind of nation we were. But the 110 Medal recipients alive today are virtually unknown except for a niche audience of warfare buffs. Their heroism has become the military equivalent of genre painting. There's something wrong with that.
What they did in battle was extraordinary. Jose Lopez, a diminutive Mexican-American from the barrio of San Antonio, was in the Ardennes forest when the Germans began the counteroffensive that became the Battle of the Bulge. As 10 enemy soldiers approached his position, he grabbed a machine gun and opened fire, killing them all. He killed two dozen more who rushed him. Knocked down by the concussion of German shells, he picked himself up, packed his weapon on his back and ran toward a group of Americans about to be surrounded. He began firing and didn't stop until all his ammunition and all that he could scrounge from other guns was gone. By then he had killed over 100 of the enemy and bought his comrades time to establish a defensive line.

Yet their stories were not only about killing. Several Medal of Honor recipients told me that the first thing they did after the battle was to find a church or some other secluded spot where they could pray, not only for those comrades they'd lost but also the enemy they'd killed.

Desmond Doss, for instance, was a conscientious objector who entered the army in 1942 and became a medic. Because of his religious convictions and refusal to carry a weapon, the men in his unit intimidated and threatened him, trying to get him to transfer out. He refused and they grudgingly accepted him. Late in 1945 he was with them in Okinawa when they got cut to pieces assaulting a Japanese stronghold.

Everyone but Mr. Doss retreated from the rocky plateau where dozens of wounded remained. Under fire, he treated them and then began moving them one by one to a steep escarpment where he roped them down to safety. Each time he succeeded, he prayed, "Dear God, please let me get just one more man." By the end of the day, he had single-handedly saved 75 GIs.

Why did they do it? Some talked of entering a zone of slow-motion invulnerability, where they were spectators at their own heroism. But for most, the answer was simpler and more straightforward: They couldn't let their buddies down.

Big for his age at 14, Jack Lucas begged his mother to help him enlist after Pearl Harbor. She collaborated in lying about his age in return for his promise to someday finish school. After training at Parris Island, he was sent to Honolulu. When his unit boarded a troop ship for Iwo Jima, Mr. Lucas was ordered to remain behind for guard duty. He stowed away to be with his friends and, discovered two days out at sea, convinced his commanding officer to put him in a combat unit rather than the brig. He had just turned 17 when he hit the beach, and a day later he was fighting in a Japanese trench when he saw two grenades land near his comrades.

He threw himself onto the grenades and absorbed the explosion. Later a medic, assuming he was dead, was about to take his dog tag when he saw Mr. Lucas's finger twitch. After months of treatment and recovery, he returned to school as he'd promised his mother, a ninth-grader wearing a Medal of Honor around his neck.

The men in World War II always knew, although news coverage was sometimes scant, that they were in some sense performing for the people at home. The audience dwindled during Korea. By the Vietnam War, the journalists were omnipresent, but the men were performing primarily for each other. One story that expresses this isolation and comradeship involves a SEAL team ambushed on a beach after an aborted mission near North Vietnam's Cua Viet river base.
After a five-hour gunfight, Cmdr. Tom Norris, already a legend thanks to his part in a harrowing rescue mission for a downed pilot (later dramatized in the film BAT-21), stayed behind to provide covering fire while the three others headed to rendezvous with the boat sent to extract them. At the water's edge, one of the men, Mike Thornton, looked back and saw Tom Norris get hit. As the enemy moved in, he ran back through heavy fire and killed two North Vietnamese standing over Norris's body. He lifted the officer, barely alive with a shattered skull, and carried him to the water and then swam out to sea where they were picked up two hours later.

The two men have been inseparable in the 30 years since.

The POWs of Vietnam configured a mini-America in prison that upheld the values beginning to wilt at home as a result of protest and dissension. John McCain tells of Lance Sijan, an airman who ejected over North Vietnam and survived for six weeks crawling (because of his wounds) through the jungle before being captured.

Close to death when he reached Hanoi, Sijan told his captors that he would give them no information because it was against the code of conduct. When not delirious, he quizzed his cellmates about camp security and made plans to escape. The North Vietnamese were obsessed with breaking him, but never did. When he died after long sessions of torture Sijan was, in Sen. McCain's words, "a free man from a free country."

Leo Thorsness was also at the Hanoi Hilton. The Air Force pilot had taken on four MiGs trying to strafe his wingman who had parachuted out of his damaged aircraft; Mr. Thorsness destroyed two and drove off the other two. He was shot down himself soon after this engagement and found out by tap code that his name had been submitted for the Medal.

One of Mr. Thorsness's most vivid memories from seven years of imprisonment involved a fellow prisoner named Mike Christian, who one day found a grimy piece of cloth, perhaps a former handkerchief, during a visit to the nasty concrete tank where the POWs were occasionally allowed a quick sponge bath. Christian picked up the scrap of fabric and hid it.

Back in his cell he convinced prisoners to give him precious crumbs of soap so he could clean the cloth. He stole a small piece of roof tile which he laboriously ground into a powder, mixed with a bit of water and used to make horizontal stripes. He used one of the blue pills of unknown provenance the prisoners were given for all ailments to color a square in the upper left of the cloth. With a needle made from bamboo wood and thread unraveled from the cell's one blanket, Christian stitched little stars on the blue field.

"It took Mike a couple weeks to finish, working at night under his mosquito net so the guards couldn't see him," Mr. Thorsness told me. "Early one morning, he got up before the guards were active and held up the little flag, waving it as if in a breeze. We turned to him and saw it coming to attention and automatically saluted, some of us with tears running down our cheeks. Of course, the Vietnamese found it during a strip search, took Mike to the torture cell and beat him unmercifully. Sometime after midnight they pushed him into our cell, so bad off that even his voice was gone. But when he recovered in a couple weeks he immediately started looking for another piece of cloth."

We impoverish ourselves by shunting these heroes and their experiences to the back pages of our national consciousness. Their stories are not just boys' adventure tales writ large. They are a kind of moral instruction. They remind of something we've heard many times before but is worth repeating on a wartime Memorial Day when we're uncertain about what we celebrate. We're the land of the free for one reason only: We're also the home of the brave.
Mr. Collier wrote the text for "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty" (Workman, 2006).
27143  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 27, 2007, 11:15:09 PM
Thank you for that Tom-- and my judgement is that things like this go best when the Tribe is consulted  grin

Changing subjects-- good news!  Jeff Quail of Shocknife has promised us two of the new model of his Shocknife  afro

27144  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 27, 2007, 05:59:14 PM

I think the idea here is to be ourselves.

The rolling loading dock door at RAW/R1 was there because that's what the place used to be.

Right now what interests me is getting our sense of the fight area, its boundaries, seating and things like that.

Dan, I may have located access to several folding wrestling/gymnastic pads of the type seen in the background of our "Snaggletooth Variations" promo clip on the front page here at at 1:07 and forward.  I can picture laying this down just outside of the perimeter of the wrestling mat that will be used for the fight area itself (How goes the search for the one we will be using.  Each one will only be a foot or two high.  If the fight crashes onto them, most likely most of the fighters will fall onto them , , ,

27145  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Training Partners on: May 27, 2007, 12:50:48 PM
That's in Germany folks  cheesy
27146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: May 27, 2007, 09:02:57 AM
Concerning "widening gap", I remember in the early Reagan years there was much indignation about the widening gap between rich and poor, blah blah.  What these economic illiterates did not understand was that with the cut of the top tax rate from 70% to 30% it made more sense to allow the money to be taxed than to keep it in the shelters-- hence the dramatic increase in "the rich" in government data.
27147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: May 27, 2007, 08:56:54 AM
Thank you Doug.

Jumping to a separate topic now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the RFID & Wi Fi, some people say not to worry, the RFID chip can only read for a few feet, others counter that the point is that its LOCATION can be tracked, which is a separate point.  Again, technological roadkill that I am I cannot say, but I am profoundly concerned about the rapidly growing capabilities of these technologies.  Not only are they becoming more and more poweful, but they are also becoming incredibly small
27148  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sparring/fighting with bladed weapons on: May 26, 2007, 07:51:18 PM
Good comments San 86.

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

27149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 26, 2007, 12:20:20 PM  Bill Roggio of The Fourth Rail has daily updates on Islam over the World. He frequently travels to the different areas for first hand looks.
Pakistan - Hostage of the Taliban
Hostage crises ended in Islamabad & North Waziristan as one begins in Bannu; anti-Taliban elements calls for help go unheeded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Mohmand Agency, a tribal jirga met to discuss the prevention of the ‘Talibanisation’ of the agency. Like the Charsadda Christians and the Bannu tribes, the Mohmand tribal leaders’ calls for help from the Pakistani government have gone unanswered.
27150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Energy issues on: May 26, 2007, 09:08:10 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOLIVIA/BRAZIL: Bolivia said May 23 it will compensate Brazilian state oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro $112 million for the nationalization of two refineries by June 10. Brazil indicated May 21 that it would accept natural gas instead of cash as payment, but then said unless the first payment is made by June 11, the matter will be tabled. Talks over the compensation were troubled; Brazil threatened to suspend investment in Bolivia if fair compensation was not offered, while Bolivia threatened to expropriate the facilities if its offers were rejected. The compensation agreement is important to both countries, but more so to Bolivia: Brazil is a key investor in Bolivia and purchases about 25 million cubic meters of natural gas daily -- nearly two-thirds of Bolivian output.
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