Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: December 13, 2006, 08:07:12 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Plans for Iran
The director of Russia's state nuclear fuel exporting firm, Atomstroyexport, announced on Tuesday that his company will begin preparing to transport Russian-fabricated nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant -- which was also built by the Russians -- in January 2007. He estimated that Bushehr will become operational approximately six months after the fuel arrives in March.
The statement raised heckles throughout the West, where governments -- particularly those of the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- are attempting to slow and, if possible, stop Iranian efforts to launch a nuclear program. And since sanctioning Iran for its nuclear amibitions is the only headline item on the U.N. Security Council's to-do list, international diplomacy seems firmly on track for a train wreck.
But the picture is not nearly as clear-cut as it seems, and no player's role is murkier than that of Russia.
Yes, the Russians are constructing the Bushehr facility and making a pretty penny for doing so; yes, they are contractually committed to supplying Bushehr with Russian-fabricated nuclear fuel; and yes, in order to protect these contracts and their political influence in Iran they have threatened to veto any U.N. resolution that enacts strict sanctions against the country, particularly if those sanctions mention the Bushehr project.
But that hardly means they are enthused about the idea of Iran possessing a robust nuclear program. Russia's interests are simply better served by keeping the project in limbo.
An operational Bushehr would drastically reduce Russia's options and influence, both with the West and with Iran. Once Bushehr goes online and the Russians collect their payment, the West will no longer see Russia as an integral player in the international conflict because Moscow's commercial obligations to Tehran will have been fulfilled. Additionally, the West will not look kindly on any Russian steps to help Iran operationalize its nuclear program.
Moreover, buried in the Russian fuel supply contract is a clause that requires all spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr (which contains plutonium) to be repatriated to Russia. There is little to no doubt that Iran's nuclear agenda is not limited to civilian energy purposes. Should Iran divert such material to a weapons program, Russia would know immediately. In that case, not only would Russia have become a major contributor to the Iranian nuclear project, but it also would be shouldered with the responsibility of restraining a soon-to-be nuclear Iran.
However, so long as Bushehr is not yet operational -- or even better, nearly operational -- the picture is starkly different. The West needs Russia to use its influence over Iran to bring the country to the nuclear negotiating table. Iran needs Russia to use its influence at the U.N. Security Council to shield it from sanctions. Should Bushehr become an operational reality, those needs, and the influence that goes with them, will disappear.
Russia likes to insert itself into issues that let it meddle with U.S. interests, and the Middle East makes for a good playing field. The Iranian nuclear controversy allowed Moscow to carve out a place for itself at the table and assume the role of either spoiler or facilitator, depending on Russian interests. After gaining entry into the World Trade Organization in November, Russia began to soften its stance on sanctions and has now come up with a new draft that shows some promise of surviving a Security Council vote. (The draft conveniently leaves the Bushehr project out of the sanctions package.) At the same time, Russia has been careful not to alienate its friends in Tehran; it has repeated its promises of nuclear fuel shipments while assuring the Iranians that it will make sure any Security Council resolution on sanctions is watered down. Even though such weakened sanctions would hold little significance and be almost impossible to enforce, they would allow the United States to signal to Iran that the nuclear issue will not be ignored while the world watches Iraq.
In the end, however, Russia knows the limits of its influence over Iran; Moscow can best manage its position by leaving the Iranians -- and Bushehr -- hanging.
The only remaining question is: How long can Russia milk this?
The answer is: Longer than one might think. The original deal to build Bushehr dates back to 1995. The project was scheduled to be completed in 1999, and even the Russians have quietly admitted that the reactor core has been ready since late 2004. But because Russia has always based its decisions on politics rather than on reality, the reactor's unveiling might still be a long time coming.
1220 GMT -- UNITED NATIONS -- Russia canceled talks on Iranian nuclear sanctions late Dec. 12 because the United States raised the issue of a jailed Belarusian politician during a closed-door U.N. Security Council session on Cote d'Ivoire and Lebanon, Russian diplomats said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 13, 2006, 07:55:25 AM
One War We Can Still Win
By ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN
Published: December 13, 2006
NO one can return from visiting the front in Afghanistan without realizing there is a very real risk that the United States and NATO will lose their war with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the other Islamist movements fighting the Afghan government.
Declassified intelligence made available during my recent trip there showed that major Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Islami sanctuaries exist in Pakistan, and that the areas they operate in within Afghanistan have increased fourfold over the last year.
Indeed, a great many unhappy trends have picked up speed lately: United States intelligence experts in Afghanistan report that suicide attacks rose from 18 in the first 11 months of 2005 to 116 in the first 11 months of 2006. Direct fire attacks went up from 1,347 to 3,824 during the same period, improvised explosive devices from 530 to 1,297 and other attacks from 269 to 479. The number of attacks on Afghan forces increased from 713 to 2,892, attacks on coalition forces from 919 to 2,496 and attacks on Afghan government officials are 2.5 times what they were.
Only the extensive use of American precision air power and intelligence assets has allowed the United States to win this year’s battles in the east. In the south, Britain has been unable to prevent a major increase in the Taliban’s presence.
The challenges in Afghanistan, however, are very different from those in Iraq. Popular support for the United States and NATO teams has been strong and can be rebuilt. The teams have created core programs for strengthening governance, the economy and the Afghan military and police forces, and with sufficient resources the programs can succeed. The present United States aid efforts are largely sound and well managed, and they can make immediate and effective use of more money.
The Islamist threat is weak, but it is growing in strength — political as well as military. The Afghan government will take years to become effective, reduce corruption to acceptable levels and replace a narcotics-based economy. As one Afghan deputy minister put it to me during my trip: “Now we are all corrupt. Until we change and serve the people, we will fail.”
No matter what the outside world does, Afghans, the United States team and NATO representatives all agree that change will take time. The present central government is at least two or three years away from providing the presence and services Afghans desperately need. The United States’ and NATO’s focus on democracy and the political process in Kabul — rather than on the quality of governance and on services — has left many areas angry and open to hostile influence. Afghanistan is going to need large amounts of military and economic aid, much of it managed from the outside in ways that ensure it actually gets to Afghans, particularly in the areas where the threat is greatest.
This means the United States needs to make major increases in its economic aid, as do its NATO allies. These increases need to be made immediately if new projects and meaningful actions are to begin in the field by the end of winter, when the Islamists typically launch new offensives.
At least such programs are cheap by the standards of aid to Iraq. The projects needed are simple ones that Afghans can largely carry out themselves. People need roads and water, and to a lesser degree schools and medical services. They need emergency aid to meet local needs and win hearts and minds.
The maps of actual and proposed projects make it clear that while progress is real, it covers only a small part of the country. Even a short visit to some of the districts in the southeast, near the border with Pakistan, suggests that most areas have not seen any progress. Drought adds to the problem, much of the old irrigation system has collapsed, and roads are little more than paths. The central government cannot offer hope, and local officials and the police cannot compete with drug loans and income.
The United States has grossly underfinanced such economic aid efforts and left far too much of the country without visible aid activity. State Department plans call for a $2.3 billion program, but unless at least $1.1 billion comes immediately, aid will lag far behind need next year.
Additionally, a generous five-year aid plan from both the United States and its NATO allies is needed for continuity and effectiveness. The United States is carrying far too much of the burden, and NATO allies, particularly France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are falling short: major aid increases are needed from each.
And United States military forces are too small to do the job. Competing demands in Iraq have led to a military climate where American troops plan for what they can get, not what they need. The 10th Mountain Division, which is responsible for eastern Afghanistan, has asked for one more infantry brigade. This badly understates need, even if new Polish forces help in the east. The United States must be able to hold and build as well as win — it needs at least two more infantry battalions, and increases in Special Forces. These increases are tiny by comparison with American forces in Iraq, but they can make all the difference.
The NATO allies must provide stronger and better-equipped forces that will join the fight and go where they are most needed. The British fight well but have only 50 to 75 percent of the forces they need. Canadians, Danes, Estonians, Dutch and Romanians are in the fight. The Poles lack adequate equipment but are willing to fight. France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey are not allowed to fight because of political constraints and rules of engagement. Only French Special Forces have played any role in combat and they depart in January. NATO must exercise effective central command; it cannot win with politically constrained forces, and it must pressure the stand-aside countries to join the fight.
Finally, the United States and NATO have repeated the same mistakes that were made in Iraq in developing effective Afghan Army and police forces, rushing unready forces into combat. The manning of key Afghan army battalions is sometimes below 25 percent and the police units are often unpaid. Corruption and pay problems are still endemic, equipment and facilities inadequate. Overall financing has been about 20 percent of the real-world requirement, and talks with Afghan and NATO officials made it brutally clear that the Germans wasted years trying to create a conventional police force rather than the mix of paramilitary and local police forces Afghanistan really needs.
The good news is that there is a new realism in the United States and NATO effort. The planning, training and much of the necessary base has been built up during the last year. There are effective plans in place, along with the NATO and American staffs to help put them into effect.
The bad news is the same crippling lack of resources that affect every part of the United States and NATO efforts also affect the development of the Afghan Army and police.
It was obvious during a visit to one older Afghan Army battalion that it had less than a quarter of its authorized manpower, and only one man in five was expected to re-enlist. At one police unit, although policemen were supposed to be paid quarterly, they were sometimes not paid at all, leaving them no choice but to extort a living. (In one case, the officer in charge of pay didn’t even fill out forms because he had been passed over for promotion because of his ethnicity.)
The United States team has made an urgent request for $5.9 billion in extra money this fiscal year, which probably underestimates immediate need and in any event must be followed by an integrated long-term economic aid plan. There is no time for the administration and Congress to quibble or play budget games. And, once again, the NATO countries must make major increases in aid as well.
In Iraq, the failure of the United States and the allies to honestly assess problems in the field, be realistic about needs, create effective long-term aid and force-development plans, and emphasize governance over services may well have brought defeat. The United States and its allies cannot afford to lose two wars. If they do not act now, they will.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives
on: December 12, 2006, 11:10:27 PM
Knife-wielding man tackled in mall
var isoPubDate = 'December 11, 2006'
By Christian Burkin
') December 11, 2006
Record Staff Writer STOCKTON - A bizarre stabbing briefly interrupted holiday shopping Sunday evening at Sherwood Mall, but it was back to business as usual less than an hour later.
According to police, an altercation between two men at the Whimsy Family Entertainment arcade led to a vicious knife attack.
The victim suffered both lacerations and stab wounds but is expected to recover, police said.
After the stabbing, several eyewitnesses said, rather than escape, the attacker wandered around the mall, dripping blood and trailing a cleaver-style knife, following a route that was not unlike a shopping trip before eventually being tackled to the ground.
Police were unable to provide an exact time line or identify the suspect late Sunday, but after the stabbing, the attacker's first stop was the mall's security station, where he slashed security monitors - breaking at least one of them - without interruption.
Next, he drifted over to Sunglass Hut, smashed open the glass counter and grabbed a pair of sunglasses before heading for Best Buy. That was at around 5:40 p.m., said Robert Shaw, an employee of Software Etc., which sits between the security station and Sunglass Hut.
Shaw said he didn't see any guards in the area at the time, though shoppers already were fleeing, some of them dropping purses and cell phones as they ran. But at that time, Shaw said, he had other things on his mind.
"I just wanted to get people to the back of the store," he said.
Eventually, the attacker made his way back toward the mall's food court, grabbing a Christmas tree and dragging it behind him along the way.
"He had blood on his shoes and his blade, and he just picked up a Christmas tree and started dragging it around," said Michael Davis, 29.
Finally, the attacker was tackled in the food court.
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said her husband was waiting in line at Panda Express, unaware of what was going on, when the attacker returned. Her husband, who works in construction, tackled the man and wrestled him to the ground, she said.
Stockton Police Department spokesman Pete Smith could not confirm who stopped the knife-wielding man, but he said he had heard that shoppers were involved. Police arrested the suspect at the scene, and he was booked into the County Jail on assault charges. It was not known if there was any relationship between the attacker and the victim, and there was no known motive.
Mall security guards would not comment on their activities during the incident, and calls for comment from mall management were not returned.
The entire food court was taped off after the incident, and officers walked around the area, marking smears of blood on the tile.
With just 15 days left before Christmas, the brief outward rush of shoppers reversed itself, and rubberneckers returned to browsing the mall's stores.
The victim, who police would only say was a man in his mid-20s, was treated at St. Joseph's Medical Center for stab wounds and lacerations to the head. He was expected to recover, Smith said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science
on: December 12, 2006, 11:11:58 AM
Today's NY Times
The Energy Challenge
The Cost of an Overheated Planet
By STEVE LOHR
Published: December 12, 2006
The iconic culprit in global warming is the coal-fired power plant. It burns the dirtiest, most carbon-laden of fuels, and its smokestacks belch millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.
The Energy Challenge
Fossil Fuel Economics
Articles in this series are examining the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future.
Chris Keane for The New York Times
James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy and chairman of a leading utility trade group, at an electrical substation in Charlotte, N.C.
So it is something of a surprise that James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, a coal-burning utility in the Midwest and the Southeast, has emerged as an unexpected advocate of federal regulation that would for the first time impose a cost for emitting carbon dioxide. But he has his reasons.
“Climate change is real, and we clearly believe we are on a route to mandatory controls on carbon dioxide,” Mr. Rogers said. “And we need to start now because the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive this is going to be.”
Global warming is not only an environmental hazard, but also a great challenge for economic policy. Without economic incentives, analysts say, the needed investments in industrial cleanup, innovative low-carbon technologies, fuel-efficient cars and other ways of reducing energy waste will not occur.
Mr. Rogers’s stance is far from universal within the power industry, but it has surprising support, particularly from those, like him, who also produce electricity from carbon-free nuclear reactors.
And despite the Bush administration’s adamant opposition to any limits on fossil fuel emissions, the idea is beginning to pick up momentum in the American political arena as well. Already, California has adopted a policy aimed at reducing the state’s contribution to global warming by 25 percent in the next 14 years.
In Washington, several influential lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, a leading Republican contender for president in 2008, have introduced legislation intended to limit the nation’s carbon dioxide output.
But how would those goals be achieved? Global warming can be seen as a classic “market failure,” and many economists, environmental experts and policy makers agree that the single largest cause of that failure is that in most of the world, there is no price placed on spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Yet it is increasingly clear that there is a considerable cost to carbon dioxide emissions, especially to future generations, as climate specialists warn of declines in farm output in poor tropical countries, fiercer hurricanes and coastal floods that could make many people refugees.
Price List for Polluting
“Setting a real price on carbon emissions is the single most important policy step to take,” said Robert N. Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at Harvard University. “Pricing is the way you get both the short-term gains through efficiency and the longer-term gains from investments in research and switching to cleaner fuels.”
Some academics see an analogy between a global warming policy and the pursuit of national security in the cold war. In the late 1950s, American military spending reached as high as 10 percent of the gross domestic product and averaged about 4 percent, far higher than in any previous peacetime era. A Soviet nuclear attack was a danger but hardly a certainty, just as the predicted catastrophes from global warming are threats but not certainties.
“The issues are similar in that you pay now so things are less risky in the future — it’s an insurance policy,” said Richard Cooper, a Harvard economist. “And in the cold war, we taxed ourselves fairly highly to mitigate that threat.”
What makes such a view more than a conceptual argument is that executives like Mr. Rogers, who is also chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group whose members provide 60 percent of the nation’s electric power, are also pushing for a carbon dioxide-pricing policy to reduce the risk to their companies.
They say that only with some sort of federal policy in place — which would probably take the form of a tax on carbon dioxide waste from any source, or a “cap and trade” regulatory system — will it become clear what carbon cleanup or fuel-switching moves their companies may have to make, and on what sort of timetable.
Investors in alternative energy projects also emphasize the need to set policy priorities.
“We need a policy framework for the long term,” said Vinod Khosla, a leading environment-oriented venture capitalist. “Fifteen years is the minimum horizon of stability that we need.”
Beyond incentives for business, a national global warming policy should include increased federal spending on research on futuristic technologies to curb carbon emissions, advocates say.
Combating global warming, they say, will require over-the-horizon breakthroughs involving safe nuclear energy, hydrogen power and advanced carbon sequestration — or technologies that have not yet been imagined.
But even today, there are sizable opportunities, by insisting on more efficient energy use, that are not being seized, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. In a new report, the institute, a business-oriented research group that is part of McKinsey & Company consultants, estimated that the yearly growth in worldwide energy demand could be cut by more than half through 2020 — to an annual rate of 0.6 percent from a forecast 2.2 percent, using current technology alone.
Page 2 of 3)
Available steps that would yield a more productive, and efficient, use of energy include compact fluorescent lighting, improved insulation on new buildings, reduced standby power requirements and an accelerated push for appliance-efficiency standards.
Carbon’s Possible Future All these moves, McKinsey said, would save money for consumers and businesses. “We were really surprised by these huge straightforward opportunities that are not being taken,” said Diana Farrell, the McKinsey Global Institute’s director. “In some senses, there is a big market failure.”
Energy efficiency can help slow the pace at which the risk from global warming risk increases, but it cannot reverse the trend alone. In the very long term, environmental experts say, the world’s economy needs a technological transformation, from deriving 90 percent of its energy from fossil fuels today to being largely free of emissions from fossil fuels by 2100, through cleanup steps or alternative energy sources.
Science and Uncertainty
Given all the uncertainties, the scientists and economists who design and run simulations of global warming policy acknowledge that their work is at best a tool for thinking about climate change issues.
Still, they tend to agree that over the next 50 years, the cost of slowing and eventually reversing carbon emissions growth will be 1 to 2 percent of global economic output. They assume the focus over those years will be mainly on efficiency and cleaning up electricity generation.
In later years, their cost projections become more varied, ranging from 1 percent to as high as 16 percent of global output, depending on assumptions about how difficult it will be to wean the world’s vehicle fleet from fossil fuels, and to make other technological leaps.
“Going past 2050, the cleverness really has to kick in,” said John M. Reilly, an economist at the M.I.T. Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
A global warming policy would be shaped first by science and social values, before economics. A sensible goal, according to many environmental specialists, is to try to avert a doubling or more of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in this century.
“This is not something that goes on inside a computer, but a grand political calculation,” said Stephen H. Schneider, a climate expert at Stanford University.
Yet even in realms of social policy, where uncertainty is high, there is an implicit calculation of costs and benefits. In the case of global warming, the cost of society’s insurance policy may well be worth it, measured in the damage averted.
But it will not be cheap. Take the experts’ consensus estimate that curbing carbon dioxide emissions over the next 50 years will, on average, cost about 1 percent of global economic activity annually.
It seems a modest figure. Yet in today’s terms, 1 percent of the United States economy is more than $120 billion a year, or $400 a person.
Put another way, $120 billion is about equal to the Bush administration’s tax cuts in 2001; it is also roughly the amount spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars this year.
“There’s no easy way around the fact that if global warming is a serious risk, there will be serious costs,” said W. David Montgomery, an economist at Charles River Associates, a consulting group.
A price on carbon dioxide emissions, most economists agree, would be the most efficient way to combat global warming. And the price, they say, should start small to give industries time to adapt, then ratchet up over the years to encourage long-term investments in energy saving, carbon cleanup and new technology.
The two methods of pricing carbon are to charge a tax on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the air, or to place a cap on total emissions and then let polluters trade permits to emit a ton of carbon dioxide.
Economists like William D. Nordhaus of Yale and Mr. Cooper of Harvard advocate a tax as the clearest price signal to the energy marketplace, and less susceptible to political tampering and market manipulation than a cap-and-trade system. It could also be used to raise revenue to offset other taxes.
In a recent paper, Mr. Cooper suggested an initial tax around $14 a ton of carbon dioxide emitted, which he calculated would translate roughly into a 100 percent tax on coal and add 12 cents to each gallon of gasoline. Such a tax would raise as much as $80 billion a year in the United States.
“There’s nothing sacred about the number,” he said, “but you need to get a significant price into the system to create the incentive for people to go out and look for solutions.”
A Quota or a Tax?
(Page 3 of 3)
Economically, a cap-and-trade system has the same goal as a tax, putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions, but goes about it differently. A limit would be placed on overall emissions, with polluters allocated permits. Then, companies able to go below their emission targets would be allowed to sell their unused “permits to pollute” to companies that could not.
Carbon’s Possible Future A cap-and-trade system also has some political advantages. It can deflect the anger over higher costs and enable governments to use their allocations to essentially buy political support, since permits are the equivalent of cash. Big polluters, who will have to invest most to clean up, could be granted extra allowances in the early years of the program to subsidize their investments.
In the United States, caps and trading have a record of success in combating acid rain, which is caused by sulfur dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants.
“People said it was a crazy idea, too complicated and too regulatory,” said Richard L. Schmalensee, an M.I.T. economist who was an economic adviser to the first President Bush when the sulfur emissions program was designed. “But the lesson learned was that a cap-and-trade system can work.”
The global warming legislative proposals before Congress — including one sponsored by Senator McCain and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, and another by Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico — envision cap-and-trade systems.
But the challenge of controlling carbon emissions is far greater than sulfur. Carbon dioxide is a pervasive byproduct of the economy, and the polluters are many and varied. Once emitted, carbon dioxide is vexingly long-lived in the environment.
The early struggles of the European Union’s carbon emission trading system, set up last year, point to the administrative and political difficulties. The European governments, responding to lobbying by domestic businesses, handed out permits that exceeded the emissions that most companies were already putting into the air. When that became clear in April, the market price of carbon dioxide emissions fell by half.
Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who will soon take the chair of the Senate environment committee, has pledged to push Congress to impose a price on carbon dioxide emissions, as the Europeans have done.
Yet without coordinated international action, even if the United States — the largest source of carbon emissions — reined them in, this would have only limited effect on global warming. China is on track to surpass the United States as the leading emitter of carbon dioxide by 2009, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.
“Unless China and India are brought in, it won’t matter much what the developed world does,” said Scott Barrett, a professor of environmental economics at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.
But developing nations like China and India, energy specialists say, would certainly avoid joining any international effort on global warming without an emphatic move by the United States.
“Every year we delay, we contribute to another year of delay in China, India and elsewhere,” said Jason S. Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan group of energy experts. “The ecological and economic imperative is to start now.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: December 12, 2006, 11:04:52 AM
Here is a Holiday tip.
Oil-- Olive oil that is-- Not just 8 days a week; but 365 days a year!
New Year's Resolution No. 1: Prevent Cancer, Use Olive Oil
If you want to avoid developing cancer, then you might want to add eating more olive oil to your list of New Year's resolutions. In a study to be published in the January 2007 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists from five European countries describe how the anti-cancer effects of olive oil may account for the significant difference in cancer rates among Northern and Southern Europeans.
The authors drew this conclusion based on the outcomes of volunteers from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, and Spain, who consumed 25 milliliters (a little less than a quarter cup) of olive oil every day for three weeks. During this time, the researchers examined urine samples of the subjects for specific compounds known to be waste by-products of oxidative damage to cells, a precursor to cancer. At the beginning of the trial, the presence of these waste by-products was much higher in Northern European subjects than their Southern European counterparts. By the end of three weeks, however, the presence of this compound in Northern European subjects was substantially reduced.
"Determining the health benefits of any particular food is challenging because of it involves relatively large numbers of people over significant periods of time," said lead investigator Henrik E. Poulsen, M.D. of Rigshospitalet, Denmark. "In our study, we overcame these challenges by measuring how olive oil affected the oxidation of our genes, which is closely linked to development of disease. This approach allows us to determine if olive oil or any other food makes a difference. Our findings must be confirmed, but every piece of evidence so far points to olive oil being a healthy food. By the way, it also tastes great."
Another interesting finding in the study suggests that researchers are just beginning to unlock the mysteries of this ancient "health food." Specifically, the researchers found evidence that the phenols in olive oil are not the only compounds that reduced oxidative damage. Phenols are known antioxidant compounds that are present in a wide range of everyday foods, such as dark chocolate, red wine, tea, fruits, and vegetables. Despite reducing the level of phenols in the olive oil, the study's subjects still showed that they were receiving the same level of health benefits.
"Every New Year people make resolutions that involve eating less fat to improve their health," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This academically sound, practically useful study shows that what you eat is just as important as how much you eat. No wonder Plato taught wisdom in an olive grove called Academe."
The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org
) is published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is consistently ranked among the top three biology journals worldwide by the Institute for Scientific Information. FASEB comprises 21 nonprofit societies with more than 80,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB's mission is to enhance the ability of biomedical and life scientists to improve -- through their research -- the health, well-being, and productivity of all people. FASEB serves the interests of these scientists in those areas related to public policy, facilitates coalition activities among member societies, and disseminates information on biological research through scientific conferences and publications.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: December 12, 2006, 11:00:04 AM
U.S. tries Google for intelligence on Iran
Internet search yields names cited in U.N. draft resolution
• Googling Iran intel?
Dec. 11: NBC Andrea Mitchell reports on the State Department using Google to find information on Iran's nuclear program.
By Dafna Linzer
Updated: 1:24 a.m. PT Dec 11, 2006
When the State Department recently asked the CIA for names of Iranians who could be sanctioned for their involvement in a clandestine nuclear weapons program, the agency refused, citing a large workload and a desire to protect its sources and tradecraft.
Frustrated, the State Department assigned a junior Foreign Service officer to find the names another way -- by using Google. Those with the most hits under search terms such as "Iran and nuclear," three officials said, became targets for international rebuke Friday when a sanctions resolution circulated at the United Nations.
Policymakers and intelligence officials have always struggled when it comes to deciding how and when to disclose secret information, such as names of Iranians with suspected ties to nuclear weapons. In some internal debates, policymakers win out and intelligence is made public to further political or diplomatic goals. In other cases, such as this one, the intelligence community successfully argues that protecting information outweighs the desires of some to share it with the world.
But that argument can also put the U.S. government in the awkward position of relying, in part, on an Internet search to select targets for international sanctions.
None of the 12 Iranians that the State Department eventually singled out for potential bans on international travel and business dealings is believed by the CIA to be directly connected to Iran's most suspicious nuclear activities.
"There is nothing that proves involvement in a clandestine weapons program, and there is very little out there at all that even connects people to a clandestine weapons program," said one official familiar with the intelligence on Iran. Like others interviewed for this story, the official insisted on anonymity when discussing the use of intelligence.
What little information there is has been guarded at CIA headquarters. The agency declined to discuss the case in detail, but a senior intelligence official said: "There were several factors that made it a complicated and time-consuming request, not the least of which were well-founded concerns" about revealing the way the CIA gathers intelligence on Iran.
That may be why the junior State Department officer, who has been with the nonproliferation bureau for only a few months, was put in front of a computer.
More than 100 names
An initial Internet search yielded over 100 names, including dozens of Iranian diplomats who have publicly defended their country's efforts as intended to produce energy, not bombs, the sources said. The list also included names of Iranians who have spoken with U.N. inspectors or have traveled to Vienna to attend International Atomic Energy Agency meetings about Iran.
It was submitted to the CIA for approval but the agency refused to look up such a large number of people, according to three government sources. Too time-consuming, the intelligence community said, for the CIA's Iran desk staff of 140 people. The list would need to be pared down. So the State Department cut the list in half and resubmitted the names.
In the end, the CIA approved a handful of individuals, though none is believed connected to Project 1-11 -- Iran's secret military effort to design a weapons system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The names of Project 1-11 staff members have never been released by any government and doing so may have raised questions that the CIA was not willing or fully able to answer. But the agency had no qualms about approving names already publicly available on the Internet.
"Using a piece of intel on project 1-11, which we couldn't justify in open-source reporting, or with whatever the Russians had, would have put us in a difficult position," an intelligence official said. "Inevitably, someone would have asked, 'Why this guy?' and then we would have been back to the old problem of justifying intelligence."
A senior administration official acknowledged that the back-and-forth with the CIA had been difficult, especially given the administration's desire to isolate Iran and avoid a repeat of flawed intelligence that preceded the Iraq war.
"In this instance, we were the requesters and the CIA was the clearer," the official said. "It's the process we go through on a lot of these things. Both sides don't know a lot of reasons for why either side is requesting or denying things. Sources and methods became their stated rationale and that is what they do. But for policymaking, it can be quite frustrating."
Washington's credibility in the U.N. Security Council on weapons intelligence was sharply eroded by the collapse of prewar claims about Iraq. A senior intelligence official said the intelligence community is determined to avoid mistakes of the past when dealing with Iran and other issues. "Once you push intelligence out there, you can't take it back," the official said.
U.S., French and British officials came to agree that it was better to stay away from names that would have to be justified with sensitive information from intelligence programs, and instead put forward names of Iranians whose jobs were publicly connected to the country's nuclear energy and missile programs. European officials said their governments did not rely on Google searches but came up with nearly identical lists to the one U.S. officials offered.
"We do have concerns about Iranian activities that are overt, and uranium enrichment is a case in point," said a senior administration official who agreed to discuss the process on the condition of anonymity. "We are concerned about what it means for the program, but also because enrichment is in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution."
The U.S.-backed draft resolution, formally offered by Britain and France, would impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of 11 institutions and 12 individuals, including the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the directors of Iran's chief nuclear energy facilities, and several people involved in the missile program. It would prohibit the sale of nuclear technologies to Iran and urges states to "prevent specialised teaching or training" of Iranian nationals in disciplines that could further Tehran's understanding of banned nuclear activities.
The text says the council will be prepared to lift the sanctions if Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director general, concludes within 60 days that Iran has suspended its enrichment and reprocessing of uranium and has halted efforts to produce a heavy-water nuclear energy reactor.
Uneasy about sanctions
Many Security Council members are uneasy about the sanctions. The Russians and the Chinese -- whose support is essential for the resolution to be approved -- have told the United States, Britain and France they will not support the travel-ban element of the resolution, according to three officials involved in the negotiations. Russia is building a light-water nuclear reactor in Iran and some people on the sanctions list are connected to the project.
"The Russians have already told us it would be demeaning for people to ask the Security Council for permission to travel to Russia to discuss an ongoing project," a European diplomat said yesterday.
U.S. and European officials said there is room for negotiation with Russia on the names and organizations, but they also said it is possible that by the time the Security Council approves the resolution, the entire list could be removed.
"The real scope of debate will be on the number of sanctions," one diplomat said. "Companies and individuals could go off the list or go on."
Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: December 12, 2006, 08:35:57 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Calderon's Presidential Challenges
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who took office Dec. 1, began his term on unsteady ground. He faces an unresolved conflict in the southern state of Oaxaca, was inaugurated amid a physical brawl in the legislature, is troubled by widespread questioning of his legitimacy after his July 2 election win by a razor-thin margin, and continues to be publicly challenged by his defeated opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who established a "shadow" government.
Given his unsteady start, Calderon knows he must act with resolve if he is to preserve or earn any respect. Settling the Oaxaca conflict is Calderon's first attempt to assert his leadership.
Tensions in Oaxaca have recently lessened, following the Dec. 4 arrest of Flavio Sosa, leader of the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO). Authorities arrested Sosa in Mexico City after he arrived to negotiate with the federal government. A Dec. 10 Oaxaca City march, calling for the release of Sosa and other arrested APPO members and the removal of Oaxacan Gov. Ulises Ruiz, drew less than 2,000 supporters.
High-ranking Democratic Revolutionary Party members led the march, since APPO's remaining leaders are in hiding for fear of being arrested. The hole-up of APPO members highlights the Federal Preventive Police's success in countering the group. The police have carried out massive arrests and raids, and have launched a full investigation into APPO allegations that many of the protest-related shootings have been by off-duty or undercover vigilante police officers.
Calderon's willingness to contend with Oaxaca and issue a serious response within his 10-day rule is a notable diversion from predecessor President Vicente Fox's reluctance to address Oaxaca's unrest. Fox deployed federal forces to Oaxaca at the last minute, making Calderon's administration committed to the conflict for the long haul. When federal forces eventually pull out of the city, Calderon wants to ensure they hand over control to a local authority that is accountable and trustworthy -- no easy task.
Calderon has something to prove, and the weakening APPO is a convenient target. But Sosa's arrest and the subsequent raids and investigations will not be enough to assure Calderon's authority for his entire term. Though he is unlikely to target Lopez Obrador's movement -- since it is largely irrelevant -- Calderon will seek out more avenues, such as cracking down on drug cartels and corruption and improving government transparency, to establish his validity as president and build alliances with opposing parties. He already intends to pursue massive governmental reforms, many of which will be undoubtedly unpopular; however, we can expect to see Calderon lead his quest for change with labor reforms that will create more jobs -- a popular issue in Mexico, where job creation has rarely approached demand.
Maintaining control of his government will prove to be a challenge for Calderon, who, regardless of his successful show of force in Oaxaca, must contend with a fractured populace and a divided Congress. Calderon has proven that he has the backbone to govern Mexico and settle internal conflicts, but Oaxaca is only a start.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: December 11, 2006, 03:50:38 PM
Monday, December 11, 2006
Incoming House intelligence chief botches easy intel quiz
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped to head the Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take over in January, failed a quiz of basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of the key terrorist organizations the intelligence community has focused on since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes answered "they are probably both," then ventured "Predominantly -- probably Shiite."
That is wrong. Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organization and views Shiites as heretics.
Reyes could also not answer questions put by Stein about Hezbollah, a Shiite group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations that is based in Southern Lebanon.
Stein's column about Reyes' answers was published on CQ's Web site Friday evening.
In an interview with CNN, Stein said he was "amazed" by Reyes' lack of what he considers basic information about two of the major terrorists organizations.
"If you're the baseball commissioner and you don't know the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox, you don't know baseball," Stein said. "You're not going to have the respect of the people you work with."
While Stein said Reyes is "not a stupid guy," his lack of knowledge said it could hamper Reyes' ability to provide effective oversight of the intelligence community, Stein believes.
"If you don't have the basics, how do you effectively question the administration?" he asked. "You don't know who is on first."
Stein said Reyes is not the only member of the House Intelligence Committee that he has interviewed that lacked what he considered basic knowledge about terrorist organizations.
"It kind of disgusts you, because these guys are supposed to be tending your knitting," Stein said. "Most people are rightfully appalled."
Pelosi picked Reyes over fellow Californian Rep. Jane Harman, who had been the Intelligence Committee's ranking member, and Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, who had been impeached as a federal judge after being accused of taking a bribe.
Calls from CNN to Reyes' office asking for reaction to Stein's column have not been returned.
Full story from CQ
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: December 11, 2006, 10:18:21 AM
Geopolitical Diary: India's Nuclear Negotiations Enter a New Phase
After 16 months of lobbying and debate, U.S. President George W. Bush is set to sign a landmark civilian nuclear deal with India into law on Monday. The move comes as Congress is preparing to wrap up its lame-duck session -- and as the administration is searching for a much-needed foreign policy success.
With this deal, India will assume roughly the same position as Israel in the nuclear club. Though India is not a signatory of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the U.S. Congress has made a rare exception for it to bypass some key elements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act. Thus, in exchange for placing its civilian nuclear reactors under international safeguards, India will be given access to civilian nuclear fuel and technology from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group -- and sales to India can technically begin.
Nonproliferation lobbyists in Washington have been vocal in their protestations that making such extraordinary exceptions for a nonsignatory sets a dangerous precedent for rival nuclear powers, like China, to sign similar deals with countries like Pakistan -- whose reputation was badly tarnished by the discovery of A.Q. Khan's peddling of nuclear secrets.
Opponents also assert that by allowing India to import uranium for its civilian reactors, the deal indirectly contributes to the advancement of India's military reactors -- which, significantly, are not under international safeguards. Simply stated, the argument is that India, at its current rate of domestic uranium production, could not sustain the production of weapons-grade plutonium and enriched uranium for both military and civilian use. Under the nuclear deal, however, India will be able to import uranium for its civilian reactors and, therefore, could divert more of its domestic uranium production toward its military reactors.
Despite such concerns, the Bush administration is determined to forge ahead with this deal. Below the surface lies Washington's goal of developing India as a strategic proxy in the Indian Ocean basin. During the Cold War, such a close partnership was nearly impossible: India, despite its socialist tendencies, gravitated toward the Soviet orbit even though it publicly was committed to nonalignment. In that environment, the United States was compelled to throw its support to Pakistan, seeking to counter Soviet expansion on the subcontinent. However, the dissipation of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry provided an opening for Washington to re-examine its South Asia policy and pursue a strategic alliance with India. The economic and military strengthening of a secular, democratic power in the region was seen as a way to help safeguard the United States' energy interests in the Gulf and deal with a growing threat from China. And, following the 9/11 attacks, the relationship with India was seen as a way to sustain pressure on Pakistan, forcing its compliance in helping to contain transnational jihadists.
Though the strategic underpinnings of the nuclear agreement are well-defined, the actual legislation has taken a beating over the past year and a half -- and there doubtless will be grumblings from India when the revised agreement goes before the Indian Parliament for debate. For instance, the latest version of the legislation contains a clause mandating that the U.S. president "must terminate all export and re-export of U.S.-origin nuclear materials" to India, and discourage other suppliers from continuing nuclear exports to India should India test a nuclear device, as it did in 1998. Indian atomic scientists and military officials are wholly opposed to a moratorium on nuclear testing, and likely will declare this provision a deal-breaker.
The other big sticking point for India is a provision on securing its cooperation in containing Iran, which U.S. lawmakers have stressed is a necessary condition. The original Senate bill contained a binding clause, stating the need for a presidential determination that India is "fully and actively participating in U.S. and international efforts to dissuade, sanction, and contain Iran for its nuclear program consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions." The revised bill, however, includes a non-binding provision that calls for the president to give a "description and assessment" of India's compliance in dealing with Iran. Though the requirement has been watered down, the mere inclusion of an Iran clause will be cause for protest by India's vocal leftist parties. These parties provide needed support for the ruling Congress-led coalition, and they use their growing political clout as a means of pressure to keep the Singh government from getting too friendly with the United States and thereby alienating long-standing allies like Iran.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have his challenges ahead, to be sure, but in presenting the deal to Parliament, he can be expected to emphasize that it does not embody the final form of the nuclear agreement. Rather, the first major hurdle has been cleared: for the U.S. Congress to change existing laws on selling nuclear supplies to a nonsignatory of the NPT. Washington and New Delhi now must enter a new phase of negotiations to draft a binding bilateral treaty, termed the "123 agreement." They will spend the next several months ironing out the remaining kinks in order to arrive at a final draft -- which again must go to the U.S. Congress for approval. During this treaty construction process, the more contentious, nonbinding aspects of the legislation will likely fall through the cracks, giving Singh more leeway to sell the deal at home.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Reality of the street...
on: December 11, 2006, 07:53:37 AM
Wrong weapon: the Der/Kifer incident - The Ayoob Files
American Handgunner, Sept-Oct, 2003 by Massad Ayoob
Situation: The intruder snarls, "I'm going to kill you." Believing you and your partner are going to be shot, you perform the indicated response. Next thing you know, you're on trial for Murder.
Lesson: It's the reasonable perception that counts. Conceal nothing from your attorney, understand the law, and know "the truth will set you free."
June 30, 2001, about 9:30 PM. The big, dilapidated building at 1301 North Wolfe Street in East Baltimore is surrounded by urban blight. Heroin syringes and beer bottles alike litter the filthy alley alongside the building, and even the sidewalk in front. The building is owned by Lum Der, a Chinese immigrant who followed the American Dream and found it with hard work. The top half of the structure houses Lum's wholesale restaurant supply business. The bottom half is occupied by Abacus Refinishing, a partnership that has been run for the last six years by Lum's son Kenny and his partner, Darrell Kifer, both 35.
The place has been haunted by repeated burglaries, sometimes daily. There's been one just today. Someone smashed through a bricked-up second floor window and took a pile of restaurant supplies. Darrell and Kenny had to spend the afternoon repairing the giant hole in the wall. Now, delayed by that and working late, they're finally finishing their project of the day; repairing a huge wooden bar top from a local tavern. Lights are on downstairs. Industrial fans are blowing to clear glue and varnish fumes and also to dissipate the brutal summer heat. It's obvious to anyone outside that the building is occupied.
They both hear a crash from upstairs.
With a sigh, work is set aside. Perhaps something just fell over, but they have to check. Because of the recent burglaries, and because this is a neighborhood where there have been murders, each brings a gun to work. Kenny is one of the relatively few citizens in Baltimore licensed to carry concealed, and he is wearing a Heckler and Koch US? Compact .45 auto, in a nylon holster on his right hip, with a spare magazine in front of the scabbard. Darrell retrieves the Mossberg 500 shotgun he brings to work daily in a case and keeps loaded there, with eight shells in the full-length magazine under its 20" barrel and a ninth in the firing chamber. All nine are Winchester Low Recoil CO buckshot. Kenny's pistol is also fully loaded with nine rounds, all Cor-Bon 185 grain +P JHP. They don't really think they're going to find an intruder; they never have before. They're just checking for peace of mind. As they go up the narrow staircase that leads to the second floor, Kenny's pistol is still holstered and Darrell's sho tgun is casually down at his side.
They reach the top of the stairs where the second floor warehouse spreads out in front of them in disarray It is dimly lit with only the left bank of lights turned on; the staircase brings them up facing the darkened right side. In front of them, a slender, dark-clad figure rises from a hunkered-down position, its back toward them. They are about 35 feet apart.
Kenny shouts, "Hey!"
The figure faces them, and the intruder says, "I'm gonna kill you motherf***ers!"
They see he is holding something, a dark object, down by his left side in his left hand. Now, he brings it up toward them. There is only one thing to do, and both men do it simultaneously.
Kenny Der draws his pistol, going to the two-handed stance he has always practiced at the shooting range, though he has never fired this particular handgun since he purchased it. This USP is a Variant One, traditional double action, carried hammer down and off safe. Kenny cracks off the first shot double action then fires another as he realizes that he is exposed to the gunman, and begins to drop to kneeling to reduce his target profile. Beside him, Darrell hastily triggers a single un-aimed shotgun blast and runs sideways to his left to get out of the intruder's line of fire.
This puts Darrell, with the 12-gauge, to the antagonist's right and about 25 feet from him. A southpaw, Darrell raises the gun to his left shoulder and pulls the trigger. Nothing. He has forgotten to pump. He racks the action and bam-bam-bam, fires three shots as fast as he can work the slide and trigger. He sees the figure spin and fall, and stops pumping and shooting. Meanwhile, Kenny has kept up a drumbeat of fire with his pistol and gone to slide-lock. He, too, sees the man go down.
Darrell feels a desperate urge to be out of there and sprints back toward the stairs, bumping Kenny as he goes. Kenny reloads, tucking the empty magazine reflexively back in its pouch, and cautiously moves forward keeping his HK trained on the downed figure. He gets a couple of yards away and sees that the man is motionless, looking like a pile of bloody rags, face down. The fallen assailant's left hand is behind him, palm up in what reminds him of a swimmer's stroke. And, near that hand is his weapon.
Oh, God. It's not a gun after all. It's a black steel hammer, just like the ones they use in the shop.
Kenny Der turns and follows Darrell Kifer. He gets on the cell phone and immediately dials 911.
Paramedics arrive first. Elements of Baltimore PD's famous homicide unit arrive some 25 minutes after the shooting. By now, of course, all lights have been turned on so rescue personnel can work on the wounded man and so the first responding patrol officers can clear the building of any other burglary suspects, none of which are found. Tygon Walker, age 37, is pronounced dead of multiple gunshot wounds at the scene. The businessmen tell the cops what happened.
Their guns are taken as evidence. Der has fired all nine rounds that were initially in his pistol and did not fire after reloading. When Kifer's shotgun is unloaded, five live rounds are remaining in the magazine and the last spent shell fired is recovered from the chamber. Three spent 12-gauge hulls and nine spent .45 ACP casings are recovered from positions consistent with where the men tell the detectives they were when they fired. No arrests are made.
Both armed citizens go home shaken. Der finds himself sitting up late, with his other pistol at hand, a Para-Ordnance P13.45. Felons in East Baltimore tend to run in packs and he is desperately afraid of gang retaliation for the shooting. Kifer is likewise distraught; paramedics have had to administer oxygen to him at the death scene.
A police record check shows Tygon Walker to be a career criminal with numerous convictions for burglary and assault. Autopsy shows that six of the nine .45 slugs have struck him, five remaining in the body and that there are numerous buckshot holes of entry and exit in the corpse, with 13 of the .33 caliber lead balls lodged in the cadaver. Many of the wound tracks, and all of the potentially lethal ones, have entered from behind the lateral midline. Extensive needle tracks are also present on both arms.
A toxicology screen shows that at time of death, Walker had 510 micrograms per liter of free morphine in his bloodstream, and 0.21% blood alcohol content. This means that he was more than 2.5 times legally drunk (a standard of 0.08%), and the pathologist who did the autopsy will later tell the Grand Jury how massive the amount of heroin he had on board. Heroin addicts found dead from overdose, he will testify, are often found with only one or two hundred micrograms per liter in their blood.
Five days after the shooting, both men report to the police department to be interviewed in detail, accompanied by legal counsel. Darrell Kifer's interview goes uneventfully. At one point in Der's interrogation, he is asked whether he went up to the body and replies in the negative. After the interview he discusses this with his lawyer, David B. Irwin, and tells him about going up a couple of steps away from the corpse and seeing the hammer. Irwin has him immediately sit down with the lead investigator and explain that. Questioning turns intensively to whether or not he planted the hammer in the suspect's dead hand.
Five months later, the Baltimore City Grand Jury will return a true bill of indictment charging both Der and Kifer with Murder in the First Degree.
The attorneys arrayed against one another in State of Maryland v. Kenny Der and Darrell Kifer were all famous for their courtroom skill, representing a virtual duel of the titans. Mark Cohen, chief prosecutor under district attorney Patricia Jessamy, argued the case personally. Widely considered the best prosecutor in an office of some 200 experienced criminal trial attorneys and one of the best in the country, Cohen had recently prosecuted a young Baltimore man for shooting a priest he claimed had sexually assaulted him. The priest "took the Fifth" on the witness stand and the jury acquitted the man who shot him.
Der was represented by Dave Irwin and Joe Murtha, who became nationally famous for their skillful representation of Linda Tripp during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Kifer's lawyer was Leslie Stein, a well-known local criminal defense specialist.
Trier of the facts was Judge John Glynn. Both sides had agreed to a bench trial, in which there would be no jury and the judge would determine the facts as well as the applicable law. Trial began on Friday, January 17, 2003, in Baltimore Circuit Court, just before the MLK Day holiday weekend. In his opening statement, prosecutor Cohen said it was Murder One because the two defendants had lain in wait to ambush and kill, and because they shot Walker multiple times and in the back. Because they had not retreated as Maryland law required them to do, and because the pistol had been loaded with hollow point bullets. He also implied that the defendants had planted the hammer in Tygon Walker's dead hand. Testimony began with the lead detective, Bob Cherry, describing the scene as he arrived, starting the audiotape of the defendants' interviews.
On Day Two, the judge allowed the defense's only expert witness, me, to testify out of sequence because dates had conflicted with another murder trial on the opposite coast. I explained and demonstrated with still photos and video how even in brighter light than what the defendants had to work with, at the distance of 35 feet, the black steel hammer (16" long, weighing just under 3 pounds) was, when held by its head, almost indistinguishable from a long barreled, blue steel revolver. I used as exemplars an 8 3/8" barrel S&W .44 Magnum (12" overall, just over 3 pounds) and a 10" Dan Wesson .357 (14" long, just over 3 pounds). The judge was shown how a right-handed man might pick up such a hammer with his left hand to feed it to his right hand in a striking posture, exactly mimicking a "man with a gun" appearance.
In states such as Maryland that have a retreat requirement in their self-defense law, retreat is only demanded when it can be done so with complete safety to oneself and others. I explained if the men had turned and ran toward the stairs, they would have been helpless and could have easily been shot in the back, supporting this contention with videotape of firing the .44 with live ammo at 35', recorded by a PACT timer. Two men could not have gotten down the stairs in time, and then found the keys to open the double dead-bolt lock that led into the street where the prosecution said they should have fled. They would likely have been murdered while attempting to do so.
Using a videotape on this issue I had done previously for the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute (1), it was demonstrated the human body can turn 180 degrees in only a fraction of a second. This was supplemented by a video we had done the previous August at the Continental range in Maryland, with the defendants using exemplar weapons. Der had acted out his nine-shot firing sequence a couple of times, each at about 3.5 seconds. Kifer had been able to fire a three-shot sequence from a 12-gauge Mossberg pump in 0.94 of one second. This was absolutely consistent with the time it takes a human body to spin away from danger to it, and with the buckshot pattern entry wounds found on Tygon Walker. I had timed, at the death scene, how long it took Kifer to sprint from his first firing position to his second. In total, from first round to last, the thirteen shots had probably been fired in no more than five seconds.
An Ability Factor
I was also able to explain why the state's pathologist had listed as two shotgun blasts fired into the body was actually only one. The wound pattern on Walker's left arm was identical to the buckshot pattern in his left lower back. Six of the nine pellets in a single blast had torn into the forearm and five had gone through, re-entering the torso amidst the three pellets that had missed the arm.
Finally, it was explained that under contemporary training standards, the hand movement of Walker and the black object in his hand, which both defendants described to police, created an "Ability factor," the reasonable and prudent belief that Walker possessed the power to kill. Being within easy range of the long barreled black revolver the hammer so closely resembled, "Opportunity factor" was fulfilled: their antagonist could be reasonably believed to be capable of killing them both immediately. Finally, the statement "I'm gonna kill you MFs" clearly created "Jeopardy factor," the reasonable and prudent belief the opponent's intent was to kill or cripple them. Ability, Opportunity and Jeopardy came together to create a situation of immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to them which, under the Maryland law, absolutely justified their use of lethal force against Tygon Walker.
The prosecution picked up the ball again in the waning hours of day two and all of day three. Lead investigator Bob Cherry returned to the stand. On cross-examination -- respectful from Irwin, brutal from Stein, like "good cop/bad cop" -- Detective Cherry proved to be an honest man as well as a skillful investigator. He allowed he had never seen a homicide case like this one where the shooters were so forthcoming with information, and still charged with murder. The only new evidence beyond the statements of Kifer and Der that had developed in the five months between interrogation and Grand Jury, Cherry testified, was a statement from the dead man's mother that he was right handed. Of course, the two defendants could not have known that, and there were any number of reasons why Tygon Walker might have picked up the hammer with his non-dominant hand. Needle tracks on both arms indicated that he was ambidextrous enough to inject a heroin syringe with either hand. The state's final witness, a medical examiner who had not done the actual autopsy, admitted the angle of wounds was consistent with a rapidly turning man and with the defendants' accounts of the events. The prosecution closed.
Der and Kifer took the stand on day four, confirming what they had told detectives back when the shooting happened. Der explained that he hadn't mentioned approaching the body at first for fear of being falsely accused of planting the hammer, which he believed had been stolen by the deceased in a previous burglary. (Asphalt embedded on that hammer showed it had been used to pound the outside wall: it had entered the scene from the outside in, almost certainly carried there by the burglar himself.)
Both sides offered impassioned closing arguments, having called only three people apiece to testify before closing their cases. Judge Glynn did not need to waste time with further deliberation. At 3:45 PM on Thursday, January 23, day four of the trial, the judge ruled both defendants Not Guilty on all counts. An ordeal that had lasted for 18 months was over at last.
Tell everything to your attorney before you and he sit down with the investigators to go over the details. If Der had done so, there would not have been the perception that "he lied to us about approaching the body, so he or his partner must have planted the hammer as a throw-down." This had a great deal to do with the decision to bring the case forward.
Many of the defendants' supporters believe the race card was at work here. Within a close time frame to this shooting, an African-American businessman in Baltimore shot and killed an African-American burglar under very similar circumstances, and the DA's office ruled the homicide justifiable. Der, American-born and of Chinese descent, and Kifer, a Caucasian, had killed an African-American. Some believe this created political momentum to bring murder charges in spite of the facts and the law, particularly during a time when the district attorney was coming up for re-election in Baltimore. I can't confirm or deny whether this is true. But, as with the trial of the four NYPD officers who fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo and were acquitted of all charges at trial, this case shows that if you did the right thing based on reasonable perception and acted within the law, justice should ultimately prevail over "the race card." It did this time.
Go ahead and carry hollow points. It's the safest ammo for all concerned, and has been proven to stop fights quicker. When the other side falsely accuses malicious intent in selecting this ammo, you and your expert witnesses will be able to shoot that allegation down as effectively as we did in this case.
Aim, don't just point. Kifer's first shotgun blast, hastily triggered without a visual index, missed entirely. Of Der's first point-fired shots, all missed their target except for a ricochet that struck Walker in the front of one shin. When Kifer triggered his last three shots in a sub-one second volley, the gun was at his shoulder and his eye could see the muzzle was on target; all three blasts inflicted dynamic, stopping hits. Der point-shot every round, and by the time he was dialed in and hitting, his .45 slugs still struck peripherally and by themselves quite possibly would not have brought Walker down. Had each man taken a fraction of a second to aim at the beginning, one or two +P .45 bullets and a shotgun blast entering from the front would very likely have dropped the antagonist. This would have prevented allegations of malice and murder based on "too many shots" and "shots in the back."
I want to thank the many contributors to the defense fund that financed the successful advocacy for Der and Kifer. They all helped to do justice.
(1) "Use of Lethal Force in Self Defense: What Prosecutors, Defenders and Policy-Makers Should Know," American Law Institute/American Bar Association, 2001, $166 postpaid from Police Bookshelf PO Box 122, Concord, NH 03302.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: December 11, 2006, 07:16:19 AM
Published: December 7, 2006
HE had not expected to spend his 60th birthday in a hospital cardiac unit. R. J. Turner, a commercial real estate broker from Frederick County, Va., had planned a robust celebration. “I was going to finish my 10th marathon,” Mr. Turner said, “which isn’t bad for a guy my age.”
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Heather Bancroft/George Washington University
With him is Dr. Frederick C. Lough, director of cardiac surgery at George Washington University Hospital and himself a runner.
But near the start of the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 29, Mr. Turner raised an arm to wave at bystanders, and “everything went black.” Collapsing violently, he gashed his head, chipped a tooth and bit a deep hole in his bottom lip.
Mr. Turner, who had passed a stress test a year before, had just had a heart attack.
This has been an unusual season for the cardiac health of marathoners. After years in which almost no deaths were attributed to heart attacks at this country’s major marathons, at least six runners have died in 2006.
Two police officers, one 53, the other 60, died of heart attacks at the Los Angeles Marathon in March. The hearts of three runners in their early 40s gave out during marathons in Chicago in October, San Francisco in July and the Twin Cities in October. And at the same marathon where Mr. Turner was felled, another man, 56, crumpled near the 17th mile, never to recover.
This year’s toll has sobered race directors and medical directors of marathons. But, as Rick Nealis, the director of the Marine Corps Marathon, said, “Statistically, maybe, it was inevitable.”
Race fields have grown. In 2005, 382,000 people completed a marathon in the United States, an increase of more than 80,000 since 2000, according to marathonguide.com. Meanwhile, the risk of dying from a heart attack during a marathon is about 1 in 50,000 runners, said Dr. Arthur Siegel, the director of internal medicine at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard.
But some physicians, including Dr. Siegel, an author of more than two dozen studies of racers at the Boston Marathon, wonder if there is more to the deaths than mathematical inevitability: Does racing 26.2 miles put a heart at risk?
A new study by Dr. Siegel and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and other institutions is at least suggestive. Sixty entrants from the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon were tested before and after the race. Each was given an echocardiogram to find abnormalities in heart rhythm and was checked for blood markers of cardiac problems — in particular for troponin, a protein found in cardiac muscle cells. If the heart is traumatized, troponin can show up in the blood. Its presence can determine whether there has been damage from a heart attack.
The runners (41 men, 19 women) had normal cardiac function before the marathon, with no signs of troponin in their blood. Twenty minutes after finishing, 60 percent of the group had elevated troponin levels, and 40 percent had levels high enough to indicate the destruction of heart muscle cells. Most also had noticeable changes in heart rhythms. Those who had run less than 35 miles a week leading up to the race had the highest troponin levels and the most pronounced changes in heart rhythm.
The findings, published in the Nov. 28 issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, were a surprise, and not least to the runners. None had reported chest pains or shortness of breath at the finish. All had felt fine, Dr. Siegel said (to the extent one can feel fine after pounding through 26.2 miles).
Within days, the abnormalities disappeared. But something seemed to have happened in the race. “Their hearts appeared to have been stunned,” Dr. Siegel said.
“Although the evidence is not conclusive, it does look like the Boston study is showing some effect on cardiac muscle,” said Dr. Paul D. Thompson, 59, the director of cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, and an author of an editorial that accompanied the study. “It’s far too early to draw any conclusions,” he added. “We’d be seeing lots more bodies piling up if there were real lingering long-term cardiac damage” caused by running marathons.
“Over all, the evidence is strongly in favor of the idea that endurance exercise is helpful in terms of cardiac health,” said Dr. Thompson, who has run more than 30 marathons.
But questions do remain. Another new study, this one out of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, showed completely unexpected results in a group of experienced middle-aged male marathoners. In the study, which was presented in November at a meeting of the American Heart Association, the subjects, each of whom had completed at least five marathons, underwent an advanced type of heart screening called a spiral CT scan. Unlike echocardiograms or stress tests, spiral CTs show the level of calcium plaque buildup or atherosclerosis in the arteries.
Is Marathoning Too Much of a Good Thing for Your Heart?
Published: December 7, 2006
(Page 2 of 2)
More than a third of the runners had significant calcium deposits, suggesting they were at relatively high risk for a heart attack. Only 22 percent of a control group of nonrunners had a comparable buildup.
The researchers scrupulously avoided suggesting that marathoning had caused the men to develop heart disease. (After all, running may have kept them alive when they would otherwise have keeled over years earlier.) But neither did the authors rule out the possibility that in some baffling way distance running had contributed to the men’s arterial gunk.
What worries Dr. Siegel and some of his colleagues is that marathons present an opportunity for silent symptomless heart disease to introduce itself abruptly. The pulsing excitement, the adrenaline, the unpleasant process of “hitting the wall” may trigger physiological changes that loosen arterial plaques, precipitating a heart attack, Dr. Siegel said.
His advice to runners with any history of heart trouble is “train for the race, getting the cardiac benefits of endurance exercise,” then watch the event on television.
The risk of going into cardiac arrest as a spectator, he said, is only about one in a million. (The applicable studies of spectators involved Super Bowl fans.)
Anyone considering joining the ranks of marathoners should undergo a full medical screening, with a visit to a cardiologist for those over 40, Dr. Siegel said. Spiral CT scans are desirable (the cost can range from $250 to $850) and are covered by insurance if recommended by a physician.
Those with a family history of cardiac problems should be especially cautious. “You can’t outrun your genes,” Dr. Siegel said, a reality that marathon medical experts call the Jim Fixx effect, after the author of “The Complete Book of Running,” who died of a heart attack in 1984 at 52. His father had also died young.
Still, the majority of cardiologists remain avid fans of marathons. “It is an extraordinary event,” said Dr. Frederick C. Lough, the director of cardiac surgery at George Washington University Hospital in Washington. “But you have to respect that distance. It’s not something everyone necessarily should attempt.”
Dr. Lough, 57, was less than a block behind Mr. Turner when the older man collapsed. He interrupted his own race to help revive Mr. Turner and accompany him to the hospital, before completing the marathon. “It was a vivid reminder that running does not make anyone immune to heart disease,” Dr. Lough said.
Experts familiar with the new cardiac studies of marathoners urge caution and perspective. The numbers of people studied were small, the findings unexplained, and results have not yet been replicated.
Don’t use the studies, in other words, to justify parking yourself smugly on the couch. “There’s not yet in my opinion cause for alarm,” Dr. Thompson said. “I would still tell people, run.”
His words doubtless will cheer Mr. Turner. “You know the worst thing about almost dying?” he said. “That I didn’t finish.” After having had a stent installed in his heart to open an artery that was about 98 percent blocked, he’s now walking a mile a day and planning his comeback. “I want to get that 10th marathon in,” he said.
But not before he gets a full medical screening, including a spiral CT scan.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology
on: December 11, 2006, 07:11:13 AM
Today's NY Times
Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolution
By NICHOLAS WADE
Published: December 10, 2006
A surprisingly recent instance of human evolution has been detected among the peoples of East Africa. It is the ability to digest milk in adulthood, conferred by genetic changes that occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago, a team of geneticists has found.
Convergent Adaptation of Human Lactase Persistence in Africa and Europe
(Nature Genetics) The finding is a striking example of a cultural practice — the raising of dairy cattle — feeding back into the human genome. It also seems to be one of the first instances of convergent human evolution to be documented at the genetic level. Convergent evolution refers to two or more populations acquiring the same trait independently.
Throughout most of human history, the ability to digest lactose, the principal sugar of milk, has been switched off after weaning because there is no further need for the lactase enzyme that breaks the sugar apart. But when cattle were first domesticated 9,000 years ago and people later started to consume their milk as well as their meat, natural selection would have favored anyone with a mutation that kept the lactase gene switched on.
Such a mutation is known to have arisen among an early cattle-raising people, the Funnel Beaker culture, which flourished some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago in north-central Europe. People with a persistently active lactase gene have no problem digesting milk and are said to be lactose tolerant.
Almost all Dutch people and 99 percent of Swedes are lactose-tolerant, but the mutation becomes progressively less common in Europeans who live at increasing distance from the ancient Funnel Beaker region.
Geneticists wondered if the lactose tolerance mutation in Europeans, first identified in 2002, had arisen among pastoral peoples elsewhere. But it seemed to be largely absent from Africa, even though pastoral peoples there generally have some degree of tolerance.
A research team led by Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Maryland has now resolved much of the puzzle. After testing for lactose tolerance and genetic makeup among 43 ethnic groups of East Africa, she and her colleagues have found three new mutations, all independent of each other and of the European mutation, which keep the lactase gene permanently switched on.
The principal mutation, found among Nilo-Saharan-speaking ethnic groups of Kenya and Tanzania, arose 2,700 to 6,800 years ago, according to genetic estimates, Dr. Tishkoff’s group is to report in the journal Nature Genetics on Monday. This fits well with archaeological evidence suggesting that pastoral peoples from the north reached northern Kenya about 4,500 years ago and southern Kenya and Tanzania 3,300 years ago.
Two other mutations were found, among the Beja people of northeastern Sudan and tribes of the same language family, Afro-Asiatic, in northern Kenya.
Genetic evidence shows that the mutations conferred an enormous selective advantage on their owners, enabling them to leave almost 10 times as many descendants as people without them. The mutations have created “one of the strongest genetic signatures of natural selection yet reported in humans,” the researchers write.
The survival advantage was so powerful perhaps because those with the mutations not only gained extra energy from lactose but also, in drought conditions, would have benefited from the water in milk. People who were lactose-intolerant could have risked losing water from diarrhea, Dr. Tishkoff said.
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, an archaeologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the new findings were “very exciting” because they “showed the speed with which a genetic mutation can be favored under conditions of strong natural selection, demonstrating the possible rate of evolutionary change in humans.”
The genetic data fitted in well, she said, with archaeological and linguistic evidence about the spread of pastoralism in Africa. The first clear evidence of cattle in Africa is from a site 8,000 years old in northwestern Sudan. Cattle there were domesticated independently from two other domestications, in the Near East and the Indus valley of India.
Both Nilo-Saharan speakers in Sudan and their Cushitic-speaking neighbors in the Red Sea hills probably domesticated cattle at the same time, since each has an independent vocabulary for cattle items, said Dr. Christopher Ehret, an expert on African languages and history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Descendants of each group moved southward and would have met again in Kenya, Dr. Ehret said.
Dr. Tishkoff detected lactose tolerance among both Cushitic speakers and Nilo-Saharan groups in Kenya. Cushitic is a branch of Afro-Asiatic, the language family that includes Arabic, Hebrew and ancient Egyptian.
Dr. Jonathan Pritchard, a statistical geneticist at the University of Chicago and the co-author of the new article, said that there were many signals of natural selection in the human genome, but that it was usually hard to know what was being selected for. In this case Dr. Tishkoff had clearly defined the driving force, he said.
The mutations Dr. Tishkoff detected are not in the lactase gene itself but a nearby region of the DNA that controls the activation of the gene. The finding that different ethnic groups in East Africa have different mutations is one instance of their varied evolutionary history and their exposure to many different selective pressures, Dr. Tishkoff said.
“There is a lot of genetic variation between groups in Africa, reflecting the different environments in which they live, from deserts to tropics, and their exposure to very different selective forces,” she said.
People in different regions of the world have evolved independently since dispersing from the ancestral human population in northeast Africa 50,000 years ago, a process that has led to the emergence of different races. But much of this differentiation at the level of DNA may have led to the same physical result.
As Dr. Tishkoff has found in the case of lactose tolerance, evolution may use the different mutations available to it in each population to reach the same goal when each is subjected to the same selective pressure. “I think it’s reasonable to assume this will be a more general paradigm,” Dr. Pritchard said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 11, 2006, 07:04:04 AM
THE BORDER Pakistan has a military base in South Waziristan, an unruly region on the Afghan border that is dominated by local tribes. But one sign of how limited the Pakistani government’s reach is here is that soldiers on a United States base nearby say they routinely see Taliban fighters cross the mountains at night.
By CARLOTTA GALL and ISMAIL KHAN
Published: December 11, 2006
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan, vastly expanding their training of suicide bombers and other recruits and fortifying alliances with Al Qaeda and foreign fighters, diplomats and intelligence officials from several nations say. The result, they say, is virtually a Taliban mini-state.
The militants, the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross-border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year.
The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes and spreading their influence to neighboring areas, according to several American and NATO officials and Pakistani and Afghan intelligence officials.
This year more than 100 local leaders, government sympathizers or accused “American spies” have been killed, several of them in beheadings, as the militants have used a reign of terror to impose what President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan calls a creeping “Talibanization.” Last year, at least 100 others were also killed.
While the tribes once offered refuge to the militants when they retreated to the area in 2002 after the American invasion of Afghanistan, that welcome is waning as the killings have generated new tensions and added to the region’s volatility.
“They are taking territory,” said one Western ambassador in Pakistan. “They are becoming much more aggressive in Pakistan.”
“It is the lesson from Afghanistan in the ’90s,” he added. “Ungoverned spaces are a problem. The whole tribal area is a problem.”
The links among the various groups date to the 1980s, when Arabs, Pakistanis and other Muslims joined Afghans in their fight to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, using a network of training camps and religious schools set up by the Pakistani intelligence agency and financed by the C.I.A. and Saudi Arabia.
The training continued with Pakistani and Qaeda support through the 1990s, and then moved into Afghanistan under the Taliban. It was during this time that Pakistanis became drawn into militancy in big numbers, fighting alongside the Taliban and hundreds of foreign fighters against the northern tribes of Afghanistan. Today the history of the region has come full circle.
Since retreating from Afghanistan in 2002 under American military attacks, the Taliban and foreign fighters have again been using the tribal areas to organize themselves — now training their sights on the 40,000 American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
After failing to gain control of the areas in military campaigns, the government cut peace deals in South Waziristan in 2004 and 2005, and then in North Waziristan on Sept. 5. Since the September accord, NATO officials say cross-border attacks by Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and their foreign allies have increased.
In recent weeks, Pakistani intelligence officials said the number of foreign fighters in the tribal areas was far higher than the official estimate of 500, perhaps as high as 2,000 today.
These fighters include Afghans and seasoned Taliban leaders, Uzbek and other Central Asian militants, and what intelligence officials estimate to be 80 to 90 Arab terrorist operatives and fugitives, possibly including the Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The tightening web of alliances among these groups in a remote, mountainous area increasingly beyond state authority is potentially disastrous for efforts to combat terrorism as far away as Europe and the United States, intelligence officials warn.
They and Western diplomats say it also portends an even bloodier year for Afghanistan in 2007, with the winter expected to serve as what one official described as a “breeding season” to multiply ranks.
“I expect next year to be quite bloody,” the United States ambassador in Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, said in a recent interview. “My sense is the Taliban wants to come back and fight. I don’t expect the Taliban to win, but everyone needs to understand that we are in for a fight.”
One of the clearest measures of the dangers of this local cross-fertilization is the suicide bombings. Diplomats with knowledge of the area’s Pashtun tribes say they have little doubt the tactic emerged from the influence of Al Qaeda, since such attacks were unknown in Pakistan or Afghanistan before 2001.
This year suicide attacks have become a regular feature of the Afghan war and have also appeared for the first time in Pakistan, including two in this frontier province in recent weeks, indicating a growing threat to Pakistan’s security.
In recent weeks, Afghan officials say they have uncovered alarming signs of large-scale indoctrination and preparation of suicide bombers in the tribal areas, and the Pakistani minister of the interior, Aftab Khan Sherpao, publicly acknowledged for the first time that training of suicide bombers was occurring in the tribal areas.
The Afghan intelligence service said last week in a statement that it had captured an Afghan suicide bomber wearing a vest filled with explosives. The man reportedly said he had been given the task by the head of a religious school in the Pakistani tribal region of Bajaur, and that 500 to 600 students there were being prepared to fight jihad and be suicide bombers.
The bomber said that the former head of Pakistani intelligence, Gen. Hamid Gul, was financing and supporting the project, according to the statement, though the claim is impossible to verify. Pakistani intelligence agencies have long nurtured militants in the tribal areas to pressure the rival government in Afghanistan, though the government claims to have ceased its support.
December 11, 2006
(Page 2 of 3)
So numerous are the recruits that a tribal leader in southern Afghanistan, who did not want to be named because of the threat of suicide bombers, relayed an account of how one would-be suicide bomber was sent home and told to wait his turn because there were many in line ahead of him.
The Taliban retreated to Pakistan after American forces drove them out of Afghanistan. They now train fighters in camps across the lawless region.
American military officials say they believe much of the training in Waziristan is taking place under the aegis of men like Jalaluddin Haqqani, once one of the most formidable commanders of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen forces who joined the Taliban in the 1990s.
He has had a close relationship with Arab fighters since the 1980s, when Waziristan was his rear base for fighting the Soviet occupation. Arab fighters had joined him there in the struggle, among them Mr. bin Laden.
Mr. Haqqani later became the Taliban’s minister of tribal affairs and was the main protector for the foreign fighters on their exodus from Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. He and his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, remain the most important local partners for Al Qaeda in Waziristan.
Mr. Haqqani bases himself in North Waziristan and has a host of other Taliban and foreign commanders, in particular Uzbeks, who are loyal to him, United States military officials say.
Money continues to flow in from religious supporters at home and in the Persian Gulf, as well as from a range of illicit activities like a lucrative opium trade, smuggling and even kidnapping, said diplomats, United Nations analysts and local journalists.
“There are clearly very substantial training facilities that are still operating in Waziristan, both north and south, and other parts of FATA and Baluchistan,” said a diplomat in Kabul, referring to the region by the acronym for its formal name, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“Even more worrying is the continued presence of the Taliban and Haqqani leadership networks,” the diplomat said, dismayed at what he characterized as Pakistani passivity in breaking up the networks.
“They haven’t been addressed at all on the Pakistani side,” he added. “They haven’t been pursued.”
The diplomat also singled out Saddique Noor, a Pakistani militant commander in his mid-40s who he said was training suicide bombers in Waziristan and sending them into Afghanistan. Mr. Noor fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban in the 1990s and is a determined opponent of the American and NATO presence in Afghanistan.
Another commander, Beitullah Mehsud, about 40 and also from the region, is now probably the strongest Pakistani Taliban commander and may also be dispatching suicide bombers. He also fought in Afghanistan under the Taliban and claims to have 15,000 fighters under him now.
Both men are loyal to Mr. Haqqani, whom Western diplomats consider one of the most dangerous Taliban commanders because of his links to Al Qaeda and his strong local standing.
The other, for the same reason, is Mullah Dadullah, a ruthless Taliban commander from southern Afghanistan, who has emerged as the main figure in the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban.
The one-legged Dadullah — he lost a leg in fighting — has a flamboyant if cruel reputation. He narrowly escaped capture in northern Afghanistan in 2001, often gives boastful interviews to news agencies, and is known to have personally ordered the killings of aid workers. His latest announcement, made in a phone call to Reuters, was that the Taliban had infiltrated suicide bombers into every Afghan city.
He is widely thought to be based in or around the southern Pakistani town of Quetta but is reported to be constantly on the move. He visited various areas of southern Afghanistan this year and has traveled to Waziristan repeatedly, in particular as the tribes of North Waziristan negotiated their Sept. 5 peace deal with the government, which he sanctioned, according to local reporters and intelligence officials.
Push for Order
The increasingly urgent question for Pakistani, Afghan, American and NATO officials is what can be done to bring the region under control. The Pakistani government’s latest attempt was the Sept. 5 peace accord in North Waziristan.
Under the deal, both the government and militants agreed to cease attacks, and the militants agreed to end cross-border help for the Afghan insurgency, the killings of tribal leaders and accused government sympathizers, and to cease the “Talibanization” of the area.
Page 3 of 3)
Taliban commanders sanctioned the deals, arguing that the militants should concentrate their efforts on the foreign armies in Afghanistan and not waste their energies on clashing with the Pakistani military, journalists working in Waziristan say.
Critics say that the agreement is fatally flawed since it lacks any means of enforcement, and that it has actually empowered the militants. In a report to be released on Dec. 11, the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization, brands it as a policy of appeasement.
The government has taken down checkpoints, released detainees, returned confiscated weapons and vehicles and issued an amnesty. But the militants have increased their activities, benefiting from the truce with the Pakistani military, the groups said.
“From the start the agreement was not good because there are too many concessions and no clauses that are binding,” said Brig. Mahmood Shah, who served as secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas until 2005. “This agreement is not going to work, and if it is working, it is working against the government interest.”
Afrasiab Khattak, a local politician and spokesman for the Awami National Party in Peshawar, also criticized the agreement. The militants rather than the traditional tribal leaders have the power now, he said.
“They have imposed a new elite in Waziristan,” he said. “More than 200 tribal chiefs have been killed, and not a single culprit brought to justice.”
Still, Javed Iqbal, the newly appointed Pakistani secretary of the tribal areas, defended the North Waziristan accord as an effort to return to the traditional way of running the tribal areas, through the tribal chiefs. That system, employed by the British and Pakistani rulers alike, was eroded during the military campaigns of the last few years.
“We have tried the coercive tactic, we did not achieve much,” he said in an interview in Peshawar. “So what do you do? Engage.”
He said the government had let down the tribal elders in Waziristan who had wanted dialogue with the government, but were murdered one after another by the militants. But the big turnout of some 500 to 600 tribal elders at a meeting in Miramshah in North Waziristan in November was encouraging, he said, and showed that the tribes wanted to engage. “We are back in business,” he said.
Loss of Control
Some Pakistani officials admit they have made a serious mistake in allowing the militants so much leeway, but only if they will not be quoted publicly.
Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leadership networks run training camps in various parts of the 500-mile length of the tribal areas, from Baluchistan in the south to the hub of North and South Waziristan, and farther north to Bajaur, said a Western diplomat in Kabul.
A diplomat who visited Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, said the government had almost no control over either of the Waziristans.
“They are absolutely not running the show in North Waziristan, and it runs the risk of becoming like South Waziristan,” he said. “In South Waziristan the government does not even pretend to have a remit that runs outside of its compounds.”
The fundamentalists’ influence is seeping outward, with propaganda being spread on private radio stations, and through a widening network of religious schools and the distribution of CDs and DVDs. It can now be felt in neighboring tribal departments and the settled areas of the North-West Frontier Province. In recent months, Pakistani newspapers have reported incidents of music and barber shops being closed, television sets burned and girls’ schools threatened.
The militants are more powerful than the military and the local tribal police, kill with impunity and shield criminals and fugitives. Local journalists say people blame the militants for a rising tide of kidnappings, killings, robberies and even rapes.
The brutality of some foreign militants has led to rising discontent among their Pakistani hosts, many of whom are also armed and militant, making the region increasingly volatile and uncontrollable.
“Initially, it was sympathy,” one Pakistani intelligence official said. “Then came the money, but it was soon followed by fear. Now, fear is overriding the other two factors, sympathy and money.”
For now, however, the Taliban commanders and the Pakistani militants under them remain unswervingly loyal to jihad in Afghanistan and, despite the tensions, still enjoy local support for the cause, officials and local journalists say.
The failed government military campaigns of recent years, which are seen as dictated by the United States, have further radicalized the local population, many in the region say.
As a potential indicator of local support, the families of two suicide bombers sent to Afghanistan from Waziristan gained renown in the community, according to a local journalist.
“The people support the militants because they are from their own tribe, they are family,” said the journalist, who asked not to be named out of fear of the militants.
Morale is high among the resurgent Taliban after their revival in Afghanistan this year, one Pakistani security official said. That will lead to still more recruitment and better organization and planning in the year ahead.
Fighting traditionally dies down in winter because of the inhospitable conditions in the mountains.
But the new fighting season in the spring will be even bloodier, a Western diplomat in Kabul said. “We have to assume that things will be bad again,” he said, “because none of the underlying causes are being addressed
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology
on: December 10, 2006, 01:39:38 PM
SOUTH NAKNEK, Alaska — The National Geographic Society’s multimillion-dollar research project to collect DNA from indigenous groups around the world in the hopes of reconstructing humanity’s ancient migrations has come to a standstill on its home turf in North America.
A review board stopped DNA research in South Naknek, Alaska.
Billed as the “moon shot of anthropology,” the Genographic Project intends to collect 100,000 indigenous DNA samples. But for four months, the project has been on hold here as it scrambles to address questions raised by a group that oversees research involving Alaska natives.
At issue is whether scientists who need DNA from aboriginal populations to fashion a window on the past are underselling the risks to present-day donors. Geographic origin stories told by DNA can clash with long-held beliefs, threatening a world view some indigenous leaders see as vital to preserving their culture.
They argue that genetic ancestry information could also jeopardize land rights and other benefits that are based on the notion that their people have lived in a place since the beginning of time.
“What if it turns out you’re really Siberian and then, oops, your health care is gone?” said Dr. David Barrett, a co-chairman of the Alaska Area Institutional Review Board, which is sponsored by the Indian Health Service, a federal agency. “Did anyone explain that to them?”
Such situations have not come up, and officials with the Genographic Project discount them as unlikely. Spencer Wells, the population geneticist who directs the project, says it is paternalistic to imply that indigenous groups need to be kept from the knowledge that genetics might offer.
“I don’t think humans at their core are ostriches,” Dr. Wells said. “Everyone has an interest in where they came from, and indigenous people have more of an interest in their ancestry because it is so important to them.”
But indigenous leaders point to centuries of broken promises to explain why they believe their fears are not far-fetched. Scientific evidence that American Indians or other aboriginal groups came from elsewhere, they say, could undermine their moral basis for sovereignty and chip away at their collective legal claims.
“It’s a benefit to science, probably,” said Dr. Mic LaRoque, the Alaska board’s other co-chairman and a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota. “But I’m not convinced it’s a benefit to the tribes.”
The pursuit of indigenous DNA is driven by a desire to shed light on questions for which the archeological evidence is scant. How did descendants of the hunter-gatherers who first left humanity’s birthplace in east Africa some 65,000 years ago come to inhabit every corner of the Earth? What routes did they take? Who got where, and when?
As early humans split off in different directions, distinct mutations accumulated in the DNA of each population. Like bread crumbs, these genetic markers, passed on intact for millennia, can reveal the trail of the original pioneers. All non-Africans share a mutation that arose in the ancestors of the first people to leave the continent, for instance. But the descendants of those who headed north and lingered in the Middle East carry a different marker from those who went southeast toward Asia.
Most of the world’s six billion people, however, are too far removed from wherever their ancestors originally put down roots to be useful to population geneticists. The Genographic Project is focusing on DNA from people still living in their ancestral homelands because they provide the crucial geographic link between genetic markers found today and routes traveled long ago.
In its first 18 months, the project’s scientists have had considerable success, persuading more than 18,000 people in off-the-grid places like the east African island of Pemba and the Tibesti Mountains of Chad to donate their DNA. When the North American team arrived in southwestern Alaska, they found volunteers offering cheek swabs and family histories for all sorts of reasons.
The council members of the Native Village of Georgetown, for instance, thought the project could bolster a sense of cultural pride.
Page 2 of 3)
Glenn Fredericks, president of the Georgetown tribe, was eager for proof of an ancient unity between his people and American Indians elsewhere that might create greater political power. “They practice the same stuff, the lower-48 natives, as we do,” Mr. Fredericks said. “Did we exchange people? It would be good to know.”
Others said the test would finally force an acknowledgment that they were here first, undermining those who see the government as having “given” them their land.
Still others were interested in the mechanics of migration: “Were the lands all combined? Did they get here by boat?” For many nonindigenous Americans who feel disconnected from their roots, the project has also struck a chord: nearly 150,000 have scraped cells from their cheek and sent them to the society with $100 to learn what scientists know so far about how and where their individual forebears lived beyond the mists of prehistory.
By giving the broader public a way to participate, though it is likely to generate little scientific payoff, the project has created an unusual set of stakeholders with a personal interest in its success. More details, the project explains in the ancestral sketches it gives individuals, will come only with more indigenous DNA.
“I think you have to be sensitive to these cultures,” said Jesse R. Sweeney, 32, a bankruptcy lawyer in Detroit who hopes the millennia-size gaps in his own ancestors’ story will eventually be filled in. “But hopefully they will change their mind and contribute to the research.”
Mr. Sweeney’s DNA places his maternal ancestors in the Middle East about 50,000 year ago. After that, they may have gone north. Or maybe south: “This is where the genetic clues get murky and your DNA trail goes cold,” read the conclusion to his test results on the project’s Web site. “By working together with indigenous peoples around the globe, we are learning more about these ancient migrations.”
The first large effort to collect indigenous DNA since federal financing was withdrawn from a similar proposal amid indigenous opposition in the mid-1990s, the Genographic Project has drawn quiet applause from many geneticists for resurrecting scientific ambitions that have grown more pressing. As indigenous groups intermarry and disperse at an ever-accelerating pace, many scientists believe the chance to capture human history is fast disappearing.
“Everyone else had given up,” said Mark Stoneking, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “If they get even a fraction of what they are trying for, it will be very useful.”
Unlike the earlier Human Genome Diversity Project, condemned by some groups as “biocolonialism” because scientists may have profited from genetic data that could have been used to develop drugs, the Genographic Project promises to patent nothing and to avoid collecting medical information. The project has designated half the proceeds from the sale of kits to the public for programs designed to preserve traditional cultures and language.
In May, project officials held a stormy meeting in New York with the indigenous rights group Cultural Survival while protestors carried signs reading “National Geographic Sucks Indigenous Blood.” Shortly after, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recommended suspending the project.
On the ground, every region has its challenges. To make scientific progress, the project’s geneticists are finding they must first navigate an unfamiliar tangle of political, religious and personal misgivings.
Pierre Zalloua, the project director in the Middle East, faces suspicion that he is an emissary of an opposing camp trying to prove their lineages are not important. Himla Soodyall, the project’s South African director, finds herself trying to explain to people who worship their ancestors what more her research could add. In Australia, some aboriginal groups have refused to cooperate.
But among the 10 geneticists the society has given the task of collecting 10,000 samples each by the spring of 2010, Theodore G. Schurr, the project’s North American director, is in last place. Fewer than 100 vials of DNA occupy a small plastic box in his laboratory’s large freezer at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is an assistant professor of anthropology. And at the request of the Alaska review board, he has sent back the 50 or so samples that he collected in Alaska to be stored in a specimen bank under its care until he can satisfy their concerns.
American Indians, Dr. Schurr says, hold the answer to one of the more notable gaps in the prehistoric migration map. Although most scientists accept that the first Americans came across the Bering Strait land bridge that connected Siberia and Alaska some 20,000 years ago, there is no proof of precisely where those travelers came from, and the route they took south once they arrived.
Page 3 of 3)
Comparing the DNA of large numbers of American Indians might reveal whether their ancestors were from a single founding population, and when they reached the Americas. And knowing the routes and timing of migrations within the Americas would provide a foundation for studying how people came to be so different so quickly.
Human History With Genetics
But almost every federally recognized tribe in North America has declined or ignored Dr. Schurr’s invitation to take part. “What the scientists are trying to prove is that we’re the same as the Pilgrims except we came over several thousand years before,” said Maurice Foxx, chairman of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs and a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag. “Why should we give them that openly?”
Some American Indians trace their suspicions to the experience of the Havasupai Tribe, whose members gave DNA for a diabetes study that University of Arizona researchers later used to link the tribe’s ancestors to Asia. To tribe members raised to believe the Grand Canyon is humanity’s birthplace, the suggestion that their own DNA says otherwise was deeply disturbing.
When Dr. Schurr was finally invited to a handful of villages in Alaska, he eagerly accepted. But by the time he reached South Naknek, a tiny native village on the Alaska Peninsula, to report his analysis of the DNA he had taken on an earlier mission, the Alaska review board had complained to his university supervisors.
The consent form all volunteers must sign, the Alaska board said, should contain greater detail about the risks, including the fact that the DNA would be stored in a database linked to tribal information.
Dr. Schurr’s latest attempt at a revised form is to be reviewed this month by the board in Alaska and the by University of Pennsylvania board supervising the project.
In the meantime, his early results have surprised some of the Alaskans who gave him their DNA. In South Naknek, Lorianne Rawson, 42, found out her DNA contradicted what she had always believed. She was not descended from the Aleuts, her test results suggested, but from their one-time enemies, the Yup’ik Eskimos.
The link to the Yup’iks, Ms. Rawson said, only made her more curious. “We want them to do more research,” she added, offering Dr. Schurr more relatives to be tested.
But she will have to wait.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Manly Christians
on: December 09, 2006, 09:52:48 AM
Manliness is next to godliness
By Jenny Jarvie and Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writers
December 7, 2006
NASHVILLE -- The strobe lights pulse and the air vibrates to a killer rock
beat. Giant screens show mayhem and gross-out pranks: a car wreck, a sucker
punch, a flabby (and naked) rear end, sealed with duct tape.
Brad Stine runs onstage in ripped blue jeans, his shirt untucked, his long
hair shaggy. He's a stand-up comic by trade, but he's here today as an
evangelist, on a mission to build up a new Christian man - one profanity at
a time. "It's the wuss-ification of America that's getting us!" screeches
A moment later he adds a fervent: "Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!"
It's an apt anthem for a contrarian movement gaining momentum on the fringes
of Christianity. In daybreak fraternity meetings and weekend paintball wars,
in wilderness retreats and X-rated chats about lust, thousands of Christian
men are reaching for more forceful, more rugged expressions of their faith.
Stine's daylong revival meeting, which he calls "GodMen," is cruder than
most. But it's built around the same theory as the other experimental
forums: Traditional church worship is emasculating.
Hold hands with strangers? Sing love songs to Jesus? No wonder pews across
America hold far more women than men, Stine says. Factor in the pressure to
be a "Christian nice guy" - no cussing, no confrontation, in tune with the
wife's emotions - and it's amazing men keep the faith at all.
"We know men are uncomfortable in church," says the Rev. Kraig Wall, 52, who
pastors a small church in Franklin, Tenn. - and is at GodMen to research
ways to reach the husbands of his congregation. His conclusion: "The syrup
and the sticky stuff is holding us down."
John Eldredge, a seminal writer for the movement, goes further in "Wild At
Heart," his bestselling book. "Christianity, as it currently exists, has
done some terrible things to men," he writes. Men "believe that God put them
on earth to be a good boy."
Cue up the GodMen house band, which opens the revival with a thrashing
challenge to good boys:
Forget the yin and the yang
I'll take the boom and the bang..
Don't need in touch with my feminine side!
All I want is my testosterone high.
The 200 men in the crowd clap stiffly. Stine races through a frenetic
stand-up routine, drawing laughs with his rants against liberals, atheists
and the politically correct. Then Christian radio host Paul Coughlin, author
of "No More Christian Nice Guy," takes the stage. His backdrop: a series of
wanted posters featuring one Jesus of Nazareth.
"Jesus was a very bad Christian," Coughlin declares. After all, he says, the
Son of God trashed a temple and even used profanity - or the New Testament
equivalent - when he called Herod "that fox."
"The idea of Jesus as meek and mild is as fictitious as anything in Dan
Brown's 'Da Vinci Code,' " says Coughlin, 40.
So what's with the standard portraits of Jesus: pale face, beatific smile,
lapful of lambs?
"He's been domesticated," says Roland Martinson, a professor of ministry at
Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. "He's portrayed now as gentle, loving,
kind, rather than as a full-bodied person who kicked over tables in the
temple, spent 40 days in the wilderness wrestling with his identity and with
God, hung out with the guys in the street. The rough-hewn edges and courage
... got lopped off."
Martinson considers the experiments with high-testosterone worship "an
important attempt to address at least one aspect of the difficulty
Christianity is facing with men." He just worries it might go too far. "Too
often, it turns into the man being in charge of the woman," he says.
"Christianity has been there before, and we learned how wrong it was."
In fact, men taking charge is a big theme of the GodMen revival. At what he
hopes will be the first of many such conferences, in a
warehouse-turned-nightclub in downtown Nashville, Stine asks the men: "Are
you ready to grab your sword and say, 'OK, family, I'm going to lead you?' "
He also distributes a list of a real man's rules for his woman. No. 1:
"Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down."
Stine's wife, Desiree, says she supports manly leadership; it seems to her
the natural and God-ordained order of things. As she puts it: "When the
rubber hits the bat, I want to know my husband will protect me."
But some men at the conference run into trouble when they debut their new
attitudes at home. Eric Miller, a construction worker, admits his wife is
none too pleased when he takes off, alone, on a weekend camping trip a few
weeks after the GodMen conference this fall.
"She was a little bit leery of it, as we have an infant," he reports. "She
said, 'I need your help around here.' "
Miller, 26, refuses to yield: "I am supposed to be the leader of the
He's pretty sure his wife will come around once she recognizes he's modeling
his life after Jesus', like a good Christian should. It'll just take a
little explaining, because the Jesus he has in mind is the guy on the wanted
poster: "confrontational and sarcastic when he needed to be," Miller says,
and determined to use "whatever means was necessary to achieve his goal."
Or as another song from the GodMen band declares:
You're not a slave, break the chains...
We've had enough, "cowboy up"
In the power of Jesus' name.
SUCH in-your-face aggression at first troubles Howard Stephenson, who paid
$68 for a day at GodMen in hopes of forging friendships with other Christian
men. When Stine, a born-again Christian, shouts that it's OK to cuss - and
then demonstrates with a defiant "bull...." - Stephenson shifts uneasily.
"This is so extreme for me," he says.
A few weeks later, Stephenson, 43, is still not sold on profanity. But he
has ditched the nice-guy reflex of always turning the other cheek. When he
spots a Wal-Mart clerk writing "Happy Holidays" on a window, he boldly
complains: It should say "Merry Christmas."
The clerk erases the offending greeting. Chalk one up for Christian
"I wouldn't have done that before," Stephenson says proudly. "I am no longer
The virility crusade is, in part, a response to a stark gender gap. Though
churches have tried all sorts of gimmicks to attract men - even sponsoring
clubs for motorcycle riders and paintball players - more than 60% of the
adults at a typical worship service are women. That translates into 13
million more women than men in the pews on any given Sunday, according to
David Murrow, author of "Why Men Hate Going to Church."
Women are also significantly more likely than men to attend Sunday school,
read the Bible and pray regularly, according to the Barna Group, a Christian
Murrow, 45, blames men's lackluster attitude on the feminization of mainline
churches: "Lace curtains. Quilted banners on the wall. Pink carpet. Fresh
flowers at the podium."
Even in evangelical mega-churches, which tend to use more neutral decor, the
mood is hardly alpha male. Dancers wave flowing banners as the choir sings.
TV screens glow with images of flowers and sunsets.
As for the music, "Onward, Christian Soldiers" is long gone. Instead, there
are ballads about Jesus' eternal embrace. "Very Barry Manilow," says Mike
Smith, Stine's manager.
Millions of men, of course, find such worship peaceful or inspirational, not
stifling. And there remain some staunch defenders of the Christian nice guy.
"It's a wonderful thing to see a man welling up in tears," says Greg Vaughn,
who teaches men nationwide how to write love letters to their wives. "It
takes a lot more courage to do that than to talk about football."
The most famous men's ministry, Promise Keepers, packed stadiums throughout
the 1990s with men who wept and hugged one another as they pledged to be
dutiful and pure. Men at Promise Keepers rallies today make the same vows,
but in a nod to the new ethos of manliness, the conferences now carry titles
such as "Storm the Gates" and "Uprising." This year, the theme is
"Unleashed," as in unleashing the warrior within.
"It is not about learning how to be a nicer guy," the website declares.
Coughlin and others in the manly Christian movement are unconvinced. Promise
Keepers still emphasizes obedience and purity. Participants still shed
tears. Plus, children are invited, and women work the arenas as support
staff, so the conversation never gets too raw. In several years of
performing stand-up at Promise Keepers events, Stine never cursed; the
closest he came to vulgarity was his liberal use of the word "stinking."
"I get tired of trying to maintain that Christian persona," he says. "I hate
that sense of decorum. I hate thinking, 'Boy, I hope I don't say the wrong
Stine argues that the genteel facade of a Christian nice guy inhibits
introspection and substitutes cliches for spiritual growth. GodMen is his
attempt to encourage men to get real. His speakers admit to masturbation and
adultery. A workshop called "Training the Penis" encourages men to talk
openly about temptation and bond with guys who share their struggles.
Such honesty, Stine contends, molds better, more godly men than a typical
"We want to force you out of the safe places that have passed for
spirituality," Stine says. "Maybe worship could be hanging out with a bunch
of guys, admitting we like blowing crap up."
A similar - though less ribald - approach is taken by Men's Fraternity,
which was founded in Little Rock, Ark., in 1990 and has expanded around the
world, with hundreds of chapters meeting weekly at 6 a.m. in churches,
office buildings, even car dealerships.
"It's testosterone-friendly," says Rick Caldwell, global director of the
program. He urges chapter leaders to have NFL bloopers on the big screen
when the men come in, and oldies or country-western on the radio. "No
opening prayer. And for heaven's sakes, don't ask the guys to take the hand
of the guys next to them. That scares them to death."
Leaders don't even bring out the Bible until they're well into the
curriculum; instead, they teach ideals of Christian manhood through Steve
Martin movies and clips from "Braveheart."
"Do not think Sunday morning worship," Caldwell says. "Think Saturday
The ironic bit about all this rough-and-tumble manliness is that it often
leads to what can only be described as touchy-feely moments.
Eldredge runs "soul-searching" wilderness retreats in Colorado that prompt
men to bare their innermost needs. Men's Fraternity gets guys talking about
their psychological "wounds" and encourages them to ask their dads: Do you
love me? Are you proud of me? BattleZone Ministries, based in Clovis,
Calif., has posted an online video on how to pray for a man without freaking
him out - but its recommended approach still involves guys laying hands on
Even Stine is thinking that GodMen could use a slightly softer look. He
hopes to roll out the conference nationwide next year, but he plans to
downplay the profanity, make time for group prayer - and maybe even get a
sing-along going. Not a sappy sing-along, mind you.
He'll be looking for a manly Christian hymn.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two
on: December 09, 2006, 09:29:09 AM
(4 of 5)
Ms. Snowe and Mr. LoBiondo, the leaders of the Senate and House panels that oversee the Coast Guard, said they pushed for more spending only after the service’s leaders reassured them during hearings that they were addressing the program’s problems. They both also said they were convinced that the Coast Guard desperately needed Deepwater because its helicopter engines were routinely breaking down and the hulls of old ships were failing.
“We don’t want to waste money; we don’t want ineffective programs,” Ms. Snowe said in an interview. “At the same time, we can’t allow the Coast Guard to languish.”
Mr. Taylor’s district is home to Northrop Grumman’s shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., which is building the Coast Guard’s largest ship, and Northrop and its employees are one of his biggest sources of campaign contributions. He worked along with two key Republicans in Mississippi — Senator Trent Lott, whose father was once a pipe fitter at the Pascagoula shipyard, and Senator Thad Cochran, the chairman of the Senate appropriations committee — to win more money.
Mr. LoBiondo’s district is home to the Coast Guard’s national training center, and Lockheed Martin built its Deepwater equipment testing center just outside his district. He is also one of the top Congressional recipients of Lockheed contributions.
The contractors ran advertisements aimed at lawmakers in Washington publications, delivering ominous messages about the need to stop terrorists before they reach American shores. The Navy League, a nonprofit group partly financed by Lockheed and Northrop, orchestrated telephone calls, letters and visits to lawmakers, reminding them that hundreds of contractors across the country were already working as suppliers on the project.
And the Coast Guard got an important boost when it was widely praised for its helicopter rescues after Hurricane Katrina.
The lobbying effort paid off. In September 2005, Congress agreed to increase the annual financing for Deepwater to nearly $1 billion.
If there was a single ship that could prove to skeptics that the Coast Guard and its contractors could get the job done right, it would be the National Security Cutter, a ship unlike anything the Coast Guard had ever built. Bigger than any existing cutter, it was more like a warship, designed to patrol with Navy vessels.
It would carry sophisticated weapons systems, surveillance equipment, a helicopter and two unmanned aerial vehicles, all vital in its effort to intercept boats suspected of carrying terrorists, drug dealers or illegal immigrants. It was designed to monitor 56,000 square miles a day, an area four times as large as that covered by any other Coast Guard ship.
Because the ship was so expensive — each was expected to cost about $300 million — the Coast Guard decided to build only 8 to replace its fleet of 12 large cutters.
There was just one catch. Even before the cutter began taking form at the Pascagoula shipyard on the Gulf of Mexico, familiar problems cropped up.
The Coast Guard’s engineers believed the design proposed by Northrop and Lockheed had serious structural flaws that could result in the hull collapsing or premature cracking of the hull and deck, according to Mr. Cleary and his boss, Rubin Sheinberg, chief of the Coast Guard’s naval architecture branch.
When they alerted the contractors and Coast Guard officials, they were largely brushed off, the men said. In March 2004, their supervisor protested, saying the Coast Guard should delay construction.
“Significant problems persist with the structural design,” Rear Adm. Erroll M. Brown wrote to the Deepwater project director. “Several of these problems compromise the safety and the viability of the hull, possibly resulting in structural failure and unacceptable hull vibration.”
The Coast Guard decided to move ahead anyway, figuring it would be less disruptive to fix any problems later. As the shipbuilding progressed, other Coast Guard officials began to openly complain that some decisions by the contractors appeared to be motivated by a drive to increase profits, not to best serve the Coast Guard.
Lockheed, for example, ordered computerized consoles for the ship that it had developed for a Navy aircraft carrier. But they were too big for the cutter, said Jay A. Creech, a retired Coast Guard captain working as a contractor on Deepwater.
Page 5 of 5)
A consultant hired by the Coast Guard to review Northrop and Lockheed’s purchasing decisions found that of $210 million worth of contracts awarded in 2004, just 30 percent involved a formal competitive process. Northrop in particular was faulted for failing to aggressively seek bids to ensure the best price.
Northrop and Lockheed “lack the independence needed to make objective decisions in the best interests of the Coast Guard,” an August 2006 report by the Homeland Security inspector general said.
Others say that giving the contractors so much authority was a mistake from the start. “A contractor with a profit motive is never a trusted agent,” said Joe Ryan, a Coast Guard consultant who has helped with the Deepwater project. “They are the vendor, and they are selling you something.”
Problems began to accumulate elsewhere. In Texas, a prototype of the unmanned aerial vehicle that was to be placed on the ship’s deck crashed this year. After the crash, the project, by Bell Helicopter, also faced a money crunch and was put on hold, pushing delivery back to at least 2013, six years after the first national security cutter is scheduled for active duty. Without the two aerial vehicles, the cutter’s surveillance range is reduced by more than half.
By the time the ship was christened last month, its price had grown to $564 million, nearly twice its original cost. (The average price for the eight ships is expected to be $431 million.) And by then, Coast Guard officials had conceded that the ship had structural flaws. Navy experts had evaluated the ship and confirmed many of the earlier warnings.
Admiral Allen said he had been given assurances that the ship was not at risk of a catastrophic hull failure and would not pose a safety threat to its crew. But the Coast Guard has decided to make structural modifications to the vessel and require design changes for the third cutter. Work is too far along to change course on the second cutter.
Four years into the Deepwater project, the Coast Guard, according to its original plan, was supposed to have 26 new or rebuilt ships, 12 new planes and 8 unmanned vehicles, but none are available. Now, officials are scrambling to find an off-the-shelf design for a new cutter and make modest repairs to keep their aging patrol boats operable.
“We don’t have the ships we need, and we don’t have a way to get them anytime soon,” said Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, who will take over the House Appropriations Committee next month. “It’s inexcusable.”
The Coast Guard, which would not disclose the management fees it has paid Northrop and Lockheed, is renegotiating the contract to ensure that the companies honor a commitment to open the work to competition and deliver what they promise.
And Admiral Allen and other Coast Guard officials say the Coast Guard’s engineers are being given more power to supervise the work. Admiral Allen is also creating a division to oversee the procurement and maintenance of its ships and airplanes. “That is the main gap that needs to be closed,” he said.
The Deepwater experiment, one contracting expert said, underscores the need for the Coast Guard to be a smart buyer, even if it has hired high-priced advice.
“The government still needs to be in there so they know what decisions are being made and if the decisions are in their best interest,” said Michele Mackin, an assistant director at the Government Accountability Office. “It is still their money. And they are going to be flying the planes and running the ships.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: December 09, 2006, 09:27:49 AM
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 — Four years after the Coast Guard began an effort to replace nearly its entire fleet of ships, planes and helicopters, the modernization program heralded as a model of government innovation is foundering.
Failure to Navigate
First of two articles
Four years ago the Coast Guard launched what is now a 24-billion dollar program to replace or rebuild nearly its entire fleet of planes, helicopters and large ships. The start-up has been rocky.
PATROL BOATS Converted at a cost of $12 million each, these boats, which have been taken out of service, sustained hull breaches and shaft alignment problems that the Coast Guard tried to repair in Key West, Fla.
The initial venture — converting rusting 110-foot patrol boats, the workhorses of the Coast Guard, into more versatile 123-foot cutters — has been canceled after hull cracks and engine failures made the first eight boats unseaworthy.
Plans to build a new class of 147-foot ships with an innovative hull have been halted after the design was found to be flawed.
And the first completed new ship — a $564 million behemoth christened last month — has structural weaknesses that some Coast Guard engineers believe may threaten its safety and limit its life span, unless costly repairs are made.
The problems have helped swell the costs of the fleet-building program to a projected $24 billion, from $17 billion, and delayed the arrival of any new ships or aircraft.
That has compromised the Coast Guard’s ability to fulfill its mission, which greatly expanded after the 2001 attacks to include guarding the nation’s shores against terrorists. The service has been forced to cut back on patrols and, at times, ignore tips from other federal agencies about drug smugglers. The difficulties will only grow more acute in the next few years as old boats fail and replacements are not ready.
Adm. Thad W. Allen, who took over as Coast Guard commandant in May, acknowledged that the program had been troubled and said that he had begun to address the problems. “You will see changes shortly in the Coast Guard in our acquisition organization,” Admiral Allen said. “It will be significantly different than we have done in the past.”
The modernization effort was a bold experiment, called Deepwater, to build the equivalent of a modest navy — 91 new ships, 124 small boats, 195 new or rebuilt helicopters and planes and 49 unmanned aerial vehicles.
Instead of doing it piecemeal, the Coast Guard decided to package everything, in hopes that the fleet would be better integrated and its multibillion price would command attention from a Congress and White House traditionally more focused on other military branches. And instead of managing the project itself, the Coast Guard hired Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, two of the nation’s largest military contractors, to plan, supervise and deliver the new vessels and helicopters.
Many retired Coast Guard officials, former company executives and government auditors fault that privatization model, saying it allowed the contractors at times to put their interests ahead of the Guard’s.
“This is the fleecing of America,” said Anthony D’Armiento, a systems engineer who has worked for Northrop and the Coast Guard on the project. “It is the worst contract arrangement I’ve seen in all my 20 plus years in naval engineering.”
Insufficient oversight by the Coast Guard resulted in the service buying some equipment it did not want and ignoring repeated warnings from its own engineers that the boats and ships were poorly designed and perhaps unsafe, the agency acknowledged. The Deepwater program’s few Congressional skeptics were outmatched by lawmakers who became enthusiastic supporters, mobilized by an aggressive lobbying campaign financed by Lockheed and Northrop.
And the contractors failed to fulfill their obligation to make sure the government got the best price, frequently steering work to their subsidiaries or business partners instead of competitors, according to government auditors and people affiliated with the program.
Even some of the smaller Deepwater projects raise questions about management. The radios placed in small, open boats were not waterproof and immediately shorted out, for example. Electronics equipment costing millions of dollars is still being installed in the new cutter, even though it will be ripped out because the Coast Guard does not want it. An order of eight small, inflatable boats cost an extra half-million dollars because the purchase passed through four layers of contractors.
Page 2 of 5)
For the Department of Homeland Security, which took over responsibility for the Coast Guard in 2003, Deepwater joins its already long list of troubled programs, including its airport checkpoint measures, its biodefense efforts and its widely condemned handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Four years ago the Coast Guard launched what is now a 24-billion dollar program to replace or rebuild nearly its entire fleet of planes, helicopters and large ships. The start-up has been rocky.
The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general has warned that the department cannot repeat this experience as it begins a $7 billion plan to tighten the border. The department is taking a similar management approach with that plan, relying on the Boeing Corporation to develop, supervise and execute the strategy.
Spokesmen for Northrop and Lockheed, and the partnership they formed to run Deepwater, declined repeated requests for interviews, saying they would leave it to the Coast Guard to discuss the project. The companies also declined to respond to written questions.
Admiral Allen said the Coast Guard engineers and procurement staff team would now play a much larger role in overseeing the project in an effort to rein in its private sector partners, adding that the mistakes made were unacceptable.
“Our people are demoralized by it, they don’t deserve it, and it really impedes our ability to execute our mission,” he said.
On a clear, calm morning in Key West, Fla., one day last month — perfect weather for running drugs and migrants — six of the eight converted Coast Guard patrol boats were broken down or out of service. Their crews had little to do but shine the ships’ already gleaming bells and clean its guns.
The Deepwater plan called for transforming the 110-foot boats into larger, more versatile cutters with rebuilt hulls, new communications and surveillance gear and a 13-foot extension to make room for a small boat launch ramp.
Even before the refurbishing began in 2003, though, Coast Guard engineers expressed doubts that the boats could bear the extra weight the changes would impose. “You could have buckling of the structure of the ship,” Chris Cleary, of the Engineering Logistics Center at the Coast Guard, said he recalls pointing out. But Bollinger Shipyards, a business partner of Northrop and Lockheed, insisted the conversion would succeed.
As the work got under way, the Coast Guard provided only limited oversight. It did not fill dozens of its seats on joint management teams set up for the project. And the Coast Guard assigned seven inspectors to monitor the work, compared with 20 on a similar-size job.
“In theory, we were going drive a 110-foot cutter up to the pier, drop it off and come back in 34 weeks to pick up a 123-foot cutter,” said Lt. Benjamin Fleming, the Coast Guard’s representative at the shipyard in Lockport, La. “We were putting a lot of trust and faith in our partners.”
Michael De Kort, a former Lockheed project manager, said the results quickly became apparent.
The VHF radio on the small launch would be exposed to the elements but was not waterproof, Mr. De Kort said. The classified communications equipment had not been properly shielded to protect messages from eavesdropping. Cameras intended to provide 360-degree surveillance had two large blind spots.
Mr. De Kort said he had repeatedly warned his Lockheed supervisors of the problems, but was rebuffed. “We have an approved design and we aren’t going to change it,” Mr. De Kort said he was told. He was later laid off from the company. Lockheed officials declined to comment.
In September 2004, more serious flaws in the boat conversion program became obvious after the first one, the Matagorda, was launched. As it traveled in relatively heavy seas from Key West to Miami, large cracks appeared in the hull and deck.
Giant steel straps that looked like Band-Aids were affixed to the side of the boats, and the vessels were barred from venturing out in rough water. But cracks and bulges continued to scar the Matagorda and other converted ships, followed by a series of mechanical problems.
Bollinger, it turned out, had overestimated how much stress the modified boats could handle, a miscalculation it cannot fully explain. “The computer broke for some reason,” said T. R. Hamlin, a senior Bollinger manager. “Whether it was a power surge or something, who knows?” The cursory oversight by the Coast Guard meant the mistake was not caught in time.
Page 3 of 5)
After spending about $100 million on the first eight boats, the Coast Guard suspended the conversion plan. Last week, Admiral Allen ordered the boats taken out of service, citing concerns about crew safety.
Facing a shortage of patrol boats, the contractors and the Coast Guard decided to speed development of a larger ship, the Fast Response Cutter. The hull was to be built from glass-reinforced plastic, known as a composite, something never tried on a large American military ship.
While acknowledging that it might cost much more to build the 58 planned cutters with composite hulls instead of steel, Northrop and Lockheed claimed the boats would last longer and require less maintenance, saving money over the long run.
Coast Guard engineers again were doubtful that Northrop’s design would work, citing concerns about weight, hull shape and fuel consumption. The Coast Guard also found inconsistencies in the cost data Northrop used to justify the new hull.
One former Northrop executive said the company was pushing the plan not because it was in the best interest of the Coast Guard, but because Northrop had just spent $64 million to turn its shipyard in Gulfport, Miss., into the country’s first large-scale composite hull manufacturing plant for military ships.
“It was a pure business decision,” said the former executive, who disagreed with the plan and would speak only anonymously for fear of retribution. “And it was the wrong one.”
That became clear when a scale model of the Fast Response Cutter was placed in a tank of water — and flunked the test. After three years and $38 million, Northrop Grumman’s plan was suspended.
The Coast Guard recognized from the start that it might need help financing a project as big as Deepwater, and that was part of the reason it turned to Lockheed and Northrop.
“They have armies of lobbyists, they can help get dollars to get the job done,” explained Jim McEntire, a retired captain who had served as a senior Coast Guard budget official. “The White House and Congress listen to big industrial concerns.”
That assistance would prove valuable. Just months after the contract was awarded in June 2002 through a competitive bidding process, the Coast Guard began to study whether the $17 billion Deepwater budget would be inadequate, given additional costs for antiterrorism equipment. In 2005, the service informed Congress that the program would cost $24 billion over 20 years and that the annual allocation would need to double, to $1 billion.
By then, though, the patrol boat conversion had been halted. Deepwater’s costs were ballooning, but the Coast Guard was having a hard time explaining exactly how it would spend more money. Government auditors were starting to churn out reports warning of serious management weaknesses.
That record disturbed some members of Congress. In May 2005, the House Appropriations Committee slashed the program’s annual budget request nearly in half to register its frustration.
At a hearing two months later, Representative Harold Rogers, a Kentucky Republican who oversees the Homeland Security budget, instructed the Coast Guard to fix its problems and restrain costs. “You simply took the most expensive, all-inclusive Cadillac Seville and we’re going to have to, with our limited funds, fit you into something a bit more appropriate,” Mr. Rogers said. “I hope it’s more than a Chevrolet.”
To fight back, the Coast Guard and contractors relied on Congressional allies, led by Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, Representative Frank A. LoBiondo, Republican of New Jersey, and Representative Gene Taylor, Democrat of Mississippi. Mr. Taylor and Mr. LoBiondo had formed a group called the Congressional Coast Guard Caucus. It began in the late 1990s with 4 members and today has more than 75. The enthusiasm of the three leaders for the Deepwater project was not simply about meeting the Coast Guard’s needs. Maine is home to Bath Iron Works, a major ship builder that Ms. Snowe said might benefit from increased Deepwater spending. While that was a factor, she said it was not her primary motivation.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamo-fascismo en Latino America
on: December 08, 2006, 05:57:05 PM
U.S./PARAGUAY/BRAZIL/ARGENTINA: The U.S. Treasury Department took action Dec. 6 against individuals and companies with alleged links to Hezbollah in the tri-border region of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, Mercopress reported. Alleged funding hubs in Paraguay for Hezbollah, including an electronics company, a shopping mall and connected individuals, are forbidden from doing business with U.S. companies. Any accounts they hold in U.S. banks have been frozen.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: December 08, 2006, 05:55:07 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Undoing De-Baathification, Maybe
Ali al-Lamy, head of Iraq's Supreme National Council for De-Baathification, said Monday that the government has drafted a law that could reinstate thousands of members of the Baath Party who were purged in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Al-Lamy, a Shi'i, said the move will allow many former Baathists -- but not the top 1,500 party cadres considered complicit in crimes -- "to return to their posts or get pensions." He also warned that the party will remain outlawed and that those who insist on remaining affiliated with it will be considered terrorists.
This announcement is most likely a Shiite response to reports that Washington is engaged in negotiations with Sunni insurgent groups. The Iraqi Shia and their Iranian patrons would prefer to control the magnitude and direction of any accommodation with the Sunnis themselves, and do not want to see the United States engaging in direct talks.
The decision to rehabilitate former ruling party members would also explain this weekend's offer from Tehran to consider a hypothetical U.S. offer of talks on Iraq. The Iranians realize that there is an opportunity at hand to consolidate their gains in Iraq; they also feel that they need to counter any U.S.-Sunni deals that could upset Tehran's calculations and those of its proxies within Iraq.
There has been a recent increase in tensions between the Bush administration and its erstwhile Iraqi Shiite allies, but there has been friction over Washington's desire to use the Sunnis as a lever to contain Shiite ambitions for quite some time. In fact, the de-Baathification issue came up during last year's intense negotiations over the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution. At one point, U.S. President George W. Bush personally telephoned the leader of the ruling Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim -- who is also chief of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Iran's closest ally in Iraq -- asking him to make compromises on parts of the constitution that would purge former members of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party from government jobs.
That the Shia, some 15 months later, are willing to make considerable concessions to the Sunnis on this point demonstrates that they fear direct dealings between Washington and the Sunnis can hurt the Shiite position in Iraq. This draft law is essentially a Shiite offer to the Sunnis, who have been demanding the reversal of de-Baathification in exchange for containing the insurgency.
But the Shia are also hedging their bets. They are not prepared to see the reversal of their efforts to neutralize the Baath Party. The law, at the moment, is only a draft. It will be subject to significant back-and-forth negotiations before it comes anywhere close to making it onto the books. The actual law will be a watered down version of today's generous offer.
By extending this olive branch to the Sunnis, the Shia -- who are under pressure to rein in the Shiite militias -- hope to thwart any U.S. moves and to contain the Sunni insurgency. The question now is, how will the Sunnis respond?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 08, 2006, 05:15:36 PM
AFGHANISTAN: British marines withdrew after attacking a Taliban-held valley in southern Afghanistan when artillery fire and airstrikes failed to stop a Taliban counterattack. Resistance was expected, but the British force did not anticipate its strength, Reuters reported, citing British Maj. Andy Plewes. He added that there were not enough coalition troops in the area to hold it completely.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Cuba
on: December 08, 2006, 05:13:23 PM
Cuba After Castro
By George Friedman
It is now apparent that Fidel Castro is dying. He is 80 years old, so that should not be surprising. The Cubans are managing his death as if it were a state secret -- hiding the self-evident -- but that is the nature of the regime, as it is the nature of many governments. The question on the table is whether the Cuban government can survive Castro's death -- and in either case, what course Cuba will follow.
The Communist regime, as we have known it, cannot possibly survive Castro's death. To be sure, Fidel's brother Raul will take over leadership; the Cuban Communist Party, the military and intelligence system, and the government ministries will continue to rule. But the regime that Castro created will be dead. It will be dead because Castro will be dead, and whatever survives him cannot be called the same regime. It will have been fundamentally transformed.
Fidel Castro's departure from the stage, then, leads to two questions. First, what will the future hold for Cuba? And second, will that matter to anyone other than the Cubans?
The Death of a Dream
Under Fidel, the Cuban regime had an end beyond itself. Fidel believed -- and, much more significantly, enough of his citizens and international supporters believed -- that the purpose of the regime was not only to transform life in Cuba but, more important, to revolutionize Latin America and the rest of the Third World and confront American imperialism with the mobilized masses of the globe. Fidel did not rule for the sake of ruling. He ruled for the sake of revolution.
Raul was a functionary of the Castro regime, as were the others who now will step into the tremendous vacuum that Fidel will leave. For Raul and others of his class, the Cuban regime was an end in itself. Their goal was to keep it functioning. Fidel dreamed of using the regime to reshape the world. His minions, including his brother, may once have had dreams, but for a very long time their focus has been on preserving the regime and their power, come what may.
Therefore, on the day that Fidel Castro dies, the regime he created will die with him and a new regime of functionaries will come into existence. That regime will not be able to claim the imaginations of the disaffected and the politically ambitious around the world. The difference between the old and the new in Cuba is the difference between Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev. It is not a difference in moral character but of imagination. Stalin was far more than a functionary. He was, in his own way, a visionary -- and was seen by his followers around the world as a visionary. When the Soviet Union fell into the hands of Brezhnev, it fell into the hands of a functionary. Stalin served a vision; Brezhnev served the regime. Stalin ruled absolutely; Brezhnev ruled by committee and consensus. Stalin was far more than the state and party apparatus; Brezhnev was far less.
Brezhnev's goal was preserving the Soviet state. There were many reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union, but at the core, the fact that mere survival had become its highest aim was what killed it. The Soviets still repeated lifelessly the Leninist and Stalinist slogans, but no one believed them -- and no one thought for one moment that Brezhnev believed them.
It has been many years since Fidel's vision had any real possibility of coming true. Certainly, it has had little meaning since the fall of the Soviet Union. In some ways, the death of Che Guevara in Bolivia was the end. But regardless of when the practical possibilities of Cuba had dissolved, Fidel Castro continued to believe that the original vision was still possible. More important, his followers believed that he believed, and therefore, they believed. No one can believe in Raul Castro's vision. Thus, the era that began in 1959 is ending.
The ascent of Raul raises the question of what hope there is for Cuba.
Fidel promised tremendous economic improvements, along with Cuba's place in the vanguard of the revolution. The vanguard now has disintegrated, and the economic improvements never came in the ways promised. When Fidel took power, he argued that it was economic relations with the imperialists that impoverished Cuba. By the end of his rule, he had come to argue that it was the lack of economic relations with the imperialists that impoverished Cuba -- that the American embargo had strangled the country. That was absurd: Cuba could trade with Canada, the rest of Latin America, Europe, Asia and wherever it wanted. It was not locked out of the world. It wasn't even locked out of the United States, since third parties would facilitate trade. But then, Fidel was always persuasive, even when completely incoherent. That was the foundation of his strength: He believed deeply in what he said, and those who listened believed as well. Fidel was writing poems, not economic analysis, and that kept anyone from looking too closely at the details.
Now, the poetry is ending, and the detail men and bean-counters are in charge. They don't know any poems -- and while they can charge the United States with bearing the blame for all of the revolution's failures, it is not the same as if Fidel were doing it. Regimes do not survive by simple brute strength. There have to be those who believe. Stalin had his believers, as did Hitler and Saddam Hussein. But who believes in Raul and his committees? Certainly, the instruments of power are in their hands, as they were in the hands of other communist rulers whose regimes collapsed. But holding the instruments of power is not, over time, enough. It is difficult to imagine the regime of functionaries surviving very long. Without Fidel, there is little to hope for.
A Question of Control
The future of Cuba once meant a great deal to the international system. Once, there was nearly a global thermonuclear war over Cuba. But that was more than 40 years ago, and the world has changed. The question now is whether the future of Cuba matters to anyone but the Cubans.
Geopolitically, the most important point about Cuba is that it is an island situated 90 miles from the coast of the United States -- now the world's only superpower. Cuba was a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American war, and then was either occupied or dominated by the United States and American interests until the rise of Castro. Its history, therefore, is defined first by its relationship with Spain and then by its relationship to the United States.
From the U.S. standpoint, Cuba is always a geographical threat. If the Mississippi River is the great highway of American agriculture and New Orleans its great port to the world, then Cuba sits directly athwart New Orleans' access to the world. There is no way for ships from New Orleans to exit the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean but to traverse two narrow channels on either side of Cuba -- the Yucatan channel, between Cuba's western coast and the Yucatan; or the Straits of Florida, between the island's northern coast and Florida. If these two channels were closed, U.S. agricultural and mineral exports and imports would crumble. Not only New Orleans, but all of the Gulf Coast ports like Houston, would be shut in.
Cuba does not have the size or strength in and of itself to close those channels. But should another superpower control Cuba, the threat would become real and intolerable. The occupation of Cuba by a foreign power -- whether Spain, Germany, Russia or others -- would pose a direct geopolitical threat to the United States. Add to that the possibility that missiles could be fired from Cuba to the United States, and we can see what Washington sees there. It is not Cuba that is a threat, but rather a Cuba that is allied with or dominated by a foreign power challenging the United States globally. Therefore, the Americans don't much care who runs Cuba, so long as Cuba is not in a politico-military alliance with another power.
Under Spain, there was a minor threat. But prior to World War II, German influence in Cuba was a real concern. And Castro's Communist revolution and alliance with the Soviet Union were seen by the United States as a mortal threat. It was not Cuban ideology (though that was an irritant) nearly so much as Cuba's geopolitical position and the way it could be exploited by other great powers that obsessed the United States. When the Soviet Union went away, so did the American obsession. Now, Washington's Cuba policy is merely a vestige from a past era.
Without a foreign sponsor, Cuba is geopolitically impotent. It cannot threaten U.S. sea-lanes. It cannot be a base for nuclear weapons to be used against the United States. Its regime cannot be legitimized by the fact that the international system is focused on it. That means that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Cubans, under Castro, have been trying to make themselves useful to major powers. Havana approached the Chinese, and they didn't bite. The Russians may be interested in the future, but they have their hands full in their own neighborhood right now. Countries like North Korea and Iran are in no position to exploit the opportunity.
The Cubans have had to content themselves with playing midwife to the leftist movements in Venezuela and Bolivia. The Latin American left in general continues to take its inspiration from Fidel's Cuba. Now, this does not create a new geopolitical reality, but it does create the possibility of one, which is what Fidel has been working on. If Fidel dies, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia are not going to turn to Raul for inspiration and legitimacy. Rather, Raul is going to be looking to Venezuela for cheap oil, while Chavez claims the place of Fidel as the leader of the Latin American left.
So, if Cuba is no longer to be the center of the Latin American revolutionary left, then what is it? It will become an island of occasional strategic importance -- though not important at the moment -- with a regime of functionaries as inspiring as a Bulgarian Party Congress in 1985. Cuba with Fidel was the hope of the Latin American left. Cuba without Fidel is tedious method, a state with a glorious past and a dubious future.
Past as Prologue
Certainly, Raul and his colleagues have superb instruments with which to stabilize Cuban security, but these are no better than the instruments that Romania and East Germany had. Those instruments will work for a while, but not permanently. For the regime to survive, Cuba must transform its economic life, but to do that, it risks the survival of the regime -- for the regime's control of the economy is one of the instruments of stability. Raul is not a man who is about to redefine the country, but he must try.
We are, therefore, pessimistic about the regime's ability to survive. Or more precisely, we do not believe that the successor regime -- communism without Fidel -- can hold on for very long. Raul Castro now is reaching out to the United States, but contrary to the Cuban mythology, the United States cannot solve Cuba's problems by ending the trade embargo. The embargo is a political gesture, not a functioning reality. End it or keep it, the Cuban problem is Cuba -- and without Fidel, the Cubans will have to face that fact.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Energy issues, energy technology
on: December 08, 2006, 05:09:00 PM
The Edison of our age?
Nov 30th 2006
From The Economist print edition
Stanford Ovshinsky may not be a household name, but his inventions have the power to change the world
“THE ages of mankind have been classified by the materials they use—the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Age of Silicon. We are at the dawn of the Hydrogen Age.” So proclaims Stanford Ovshinsky, co-founder of Energy Conversion Devices/ENER, a company based near Detroit, Michigan. “What is more,” he says, “the hydrogen economy is happening already.”
There have been plenty of grandiose but unsubstantiated claims made over the past five years about the potential for hydrogen to replace fossil fuels as an energy carrier, so some scepticism is certainly in order. In particular, President George Bush and the big carmakers have been trumpeting hydrogen fuel cells—electrochemical devices that turn hydrogen into electricity and water vapour—as the replacement for the internal-combustion engine. But the date of commercialisation seems forever slipping just beyond the horizon.
That has prompted a backlash from advocates of rival technologies (such as ethanol-based engines and novel batteries) and from greens, who argue that hydrogen is just a cynical long-term diversion used by Mr Bush and Detroit to avoid short-term action on fuel-economy standards, plug-in hybrids and other here-and-now options. And yet here is Mr Ovshinsky, still trumpeting hydrogen's virtues despite bitter opposition.
Three things set Mr Ovshinsky apart from the hydrogen hypesters. First of all, he is no newcomer. He first outlined his vision for what he calls a “hydrogen loop” some five decades ago as an alternative to fossil fuels. (The loop goes from water to stored hydrogen via solar-powered electrolysis, and from hydrogen back to water, generating electricity in the process, via a fuel cell.) Unlike others, he can hardly be accused of opportunistically seizing upon this obscure techno-fix for political reasons.
The second difference is that Mr Ovshinsky's green credentials are impeccable. He and his wife Iris, who died recently, founded ECD in 1960 with the explicitly stated goal of “using creative science to solve societal problems”. Astonishingly, they had the foresight to predict—long before the oil shocks of the 1970s—that the world's addiction to oil would have unacceptable side effects, from resource wars to climate change. Spend time with Mr Ovshinsky and his employees, and it becomes plain that his social values permeate his organisation.
But what lifts Mr Ovshinsky into the league of genius inventors is something rather less common: success. He is the inventor of the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, which is used to power everything from portable electronics to hybrid cars; around 1 billion such batteries are sold every year. He has also made advances in information technology (he calls information “encoded energy”) and holds critical patents relating to thin-film solar cells, rewriteable optical discs, a new form of non-volatile memory and flat-panel displays. These technologies are being commercialised through deals with Intel, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, General Electric, Chevron, United Solar Ovonic, and others.
Innovation from disorder
What all these apparently disparate inventions have in common is that they rely on Mr Ovshinsky's path-breaking discoveries in the field of disordered or “amorphous” materials, since named “ovonics” in his honour. Such materials can be used for energy generation (in fuel cells and solar cells), for energy storage (in batteries), for computing (to store data on discs or in chips) and to create custom materials with novel properties.
Mr Ovshinsky has spent the past five decades devising actual working products, based on amorphous materials, that fill every niche in his hydrogen loop, from thin-film solar panels to solid-hydrogen storage tanks to “regenerative” fuel cells that can store energy captured while a car is braking. ECD has even “hacked” a Toyota Prius hybrid car so that it runs on pure hydrogen rather than petrol, which he says proves that “we don't have to wait for fuel cells to move into the hydrogen economy.”
All this makes it tempting to compare ECD's co-founder with Thomas Edison, the great inventor from another age who founded General Electric. Both established themselves early on not only as brilliant innovators, but inventors with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Both arose from humble roots: Edison was not born to privilege, while Mr Ovshinsky's father collected scrap by buggy. Mr Ovshinsky did not even go to college, and credits his vast knowledge of science to the public libraries of his native Ohio. He likes to say, “invention comes to the prepared mind.” And Edison, like Mr Ovshinsky, straddled the fields of energy and information technology: he originally made his name with the invention of the quadruplex, a device that increased the capacity of telegraph lines, before moving on to electrification.
Another similarity between the two inventors is that both thought of their inventions as entire systems. They had the verve to envisage a radically different world, but were good at inventing the practical things needed to get there. In Edison's case, his vision was that of mass electrification. He was not the first to make a light bulb, but he vastly improved it and, more importantly, created the generation and distribution technologies needed to make it work, from power stations to electricity meters. His company, now called GE, helped to light up America and then the world.
Despite his lack of formal training, the charming, soft-spoken Mr Ovshinsky is not at all threatened by scientists with fancy degrees: he hires many of them, and has hosted lively debates around a round table at ECD with such prominent scientists as Hellmut Fritzsche and Morrel Cohen of the University of Chicago, David Adler of MIT and Sir Neville Mott of Cambridge University (who went on to win a Nobel prize for work on amorphous materials). Ask him whether he expects his own Nobel, and he responds matter of factly: “Oh, never. I've been nominated before, and Mott gave me credit when he won his, but I'll never get one.” Without a hint of bitterness he adds softly, “I'm not a part of their world.”
Mr Ovshinsky's vision for a hydrogen loop was just a blackboard exercise five decades ago. But since then he has produced the inventions needed to make it work. “Stan starts with a vision, and then goes out to invent what we need to get from here to there,” says Joachim Doehler, a senior scientist at ECD. Doing this requires more than scientific theory: it requires a practical engineer's mind too. “Stan is a very good toolmaker,” says Robert Stempel, ECD's chairman (and a former boss of General Motors, a big carmaker). Mr Ovshinsky's collaborators say that he has an astonishing ability to juggle the permutations of eight or ten novel materials in his head, which gives him an intuitive grasp of which scientific leads to follow. That said, his colleagues joke, he still sometimes cannot remember names correctly.
“Mr Ovshinsky may be 84, but he still dresses in natty suits and moves with a young man's energy.”
The best evidence of Mr Ovshinsky's systems approach at work is his shiny new solar factory in Michigan. Several decades ago, he argued that solar panels ought to be made not as brittle crystalline panels in costly batch processes—how everyone else does it today—but in a continuous process, “by the mile”. He was ridiculed. But he refused to yield, and asked his team to devise processes for producing miles of thin-film solar material. Dr Doehler, a veteran of AT&T's legendary Bell Labs research centre, recalls telling his boss it was impossible. The boss proved him wrong, personally designing much of the solar factory from scratch. Crucially, his approach does not require the expensive silicon used in conventional solar panels.
A sunny future
Mr Ovshinsky points to the happy result on the shop floor: a flexible, self-adhesive strip of solar material that makes power even on cloudy days and is virtually indestructible. The factory, which Mr Bush visited in February, has an order backlog of six months and profit margins approaching 30%, he says. He has another factory in the works nearby, and plans for more: “I see ECD's future as a factory for factories. That's how you build entirely new industries for the future.” So does he see ECD as the GE of the 21st century? “Oh, ECD will be much more than that,” says Mr Ovshinsky merrily. “Energy and information are the twin pillars of the global economy, after all.”
How justified is this boast? Few question his intellect, but some do challenge his record as a corporate boss. An article in Forbes magazine asked in 2003 why investors “keep giving money to Stan Ovshinsky, the inventor who can create anything but profits.” ECD has lost money for most of the 40-plus years that it has been a public company. As even one of Mr Ovshinsky's loyal lieutenants confesses, “This company would have gone bust six times already if it were not for the personal loyalty people felt for Stan and Iris; we went the extra mile for them because this place is unique.”
Inspired by the family's links to the peace and civil-rights movements, the Ovshinsky motto is “with the oppressed, against the oppressor”, and ECD retains the feel of a family firm with those values. What is more, ECD is visibly committed to clean energy—and Mr Ovshinsky is clearly not motivated by money. The New York Times recently analysed executive pay in America and found that bosses typically get 500 times the salary of the average worker at their firms; the ratio at ECD is five to one. He even points out that he is “probably the only chief executive that is a union member”.
The loss of his wife, collaborator and co-founder has clearly devastated Mr Ovshinsky, but do not expect to see him retire anytime soon. He may be 84, but he evidently has plenty of unfinished business to attend to. He still rises early, dresses in natty suits, and moves with the agility and energy of a young man. His intellectual curiosity appears entirely undiminished by a life of learning: his desk at ECD is buried under neat stacks of annotated scientific papers, business plans and other reading material. And he remains as audaciously inventive as ever.
He has worked out how his next generation of solar films will be produced not at 2.5 feet per minute, he says, but 100 times faster. He is convinced he can radically improve the efficiency of fuel-cell electrodes. He thinks he will be able to scale up his firm's hydrogen-storage system to megawatt scale, thus enabling grid storage of renewable power. And so on. As your correspondent departed at the end of a day-long visit, Mr Ovshinsky still had a dinner interview with a television crew, and then planned to work on a cosmology paper at home. As I.I. Rabi, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, is reported to have said when asked if his friend was another Edison: “He's an Ovshinsky, and he's brilliant.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: December 08, 2006, 01:44:26 AM
Reliability of this source is unknown.
Spy Death Tied To American Hiroshima?
By Paul L. Williams, Ph.D. and Lee Boyland
Source - Family Security Matters
The death of Alexander Litvinenko by radiological poisoning points to the possibility that the former Soviet spy may have been involved with Islamic terrorists in the preparation of tactical nuclear weapons for use in the jihad against the United States and its NATO allies.
Litvenenko, a former KGB agent, died in London on November 23 after ingesting a microscopic amount of polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning - - an accusation which the Kremlin has vehemently denied. The denial is fortified by the fact that polonium-210 is a very rare radiological substance that is man-made by bombarding Bismuth-209 with neutrons within a nuclear reactor.
It is expensive to produce and difficult to handle. When Russian officials resorted to nuclear poisoning in the past - - including the assassination of two Swiss intelligence officials who were engaged with Russia and South Africa in the nuclear black market - - they relied on such readily available radiological substances as cesium-137 in salt form. According to nuclear expert David Morgan, killing a spy or political dissident with a grain or two of polonium-210 is as ludicrous as shooting a rat with a howitzer.
Litvinenko, who was born an orthodox Christian, was a convert to Islam with close ties to the Chechen rebels. His last words consisted of his desire to be buried “according to Muslim tradition.”
In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to suitcase nukes that were developed by U.S. and Soviet forces during the Cold War. Reliable sources, including Hans Blix of the United Nation, have confirmed that bin Laden purchased several of these devises from the Chechen rebels in 1996. According to Sharif al-Masri and other al Qaeda operatives who have been taken into custody, several of these weapons have been forward deployed to the United States in preparation for al Qaeda’s next attack on American soil.
This brings us to the mysterious case of Litvinenko.
The neutron source or “triggers” of the suitcase nukes are composed of beryllium-9 and polonium-210. When these two elements are combined, the alpha particle is absorbed by the nucleus of the beryllium causing it to decay by emitting a neutron. Such “triggers” were a feature of early nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Soviet stockpiles.
Polonium-210 has a half-life of 138 days, necessitating the replacement of the triggers every six months. For this reason, the suitcase nukes are far from maintenance-free. In addition, the nuclear core of these devises emit a temperature in excess of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit - - further exposing the weapons to oxidation and rust. Small wonder that al Qaeda operatives including Adnan el-Shukrijumah, who are spearheading “the American Hiroshima” have received extensive training in nuclear technology.
Polonium-beryllium triggers are packaged in foil packs about the size of a package of sugar on a restaurant table. When the twin foil packages are crushed, the elements mix and the neutrons are emitted. A courier transporting nuclear triggers could have had a mishap causing the packages to rupture and a trail of contamination to occur.
Polonium-210 is a fine powder, easily aerosolized. Litvinenko could have inhaled the powder, or had a grain or two on his fingers when he ate the sushi.http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ColoradoFirearmsTrainingGroup/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues
on: December 07, 2006, 10:24:10 PM
You were doing really well until the last section.
Starting this up again:
BUZ: My goal is stated above: to provide folks I respect a source for alternative information, among other things. As best I can tell, your goal is to shout me down or, failing that, tie me up in circular arguments, or failing that, convince Crafty I’m such a rotten fellow I should be shown the door.
MILT: I have no idea what you're talking about. I haven't shouted you down, presented circular arguments, or ever complained to Crafty about you or anyone else.
does not qualify as "start(ing) with a clean slate." PLEASE, EVERYONE (Milt, Buz and everyone) let it go and PROCEED FORWARD FROM HERE.
Lets have that great conversation that is just begging to be had.
Hugs to everyone,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wolves, Dogs and other canines
on: December 07, 2006, 05:34:44 PM
ALDEN, N.Y. -- An elderly couple's dog helped save them from freezing to death during a surprise storm by digging a 20-foot tunnel through the snow.
The snowstorm fell in the Buffalo, N.Y., area in October. Eve Fertig, 81, and her husband, Norman, were taking care of injured birds in a wildlife sanctuary on their Alden property when it hit.
The storm intensified and the couple became trapped by falling trees and heavy snow.
"It just started piling up," Eve Fertig said. "I said, 'Norman, we can't stay here, we'll die.'"
The couple's 160-pound German shepherd-timber wolf mix, Shana, started digging under the trees and through the snow. She dug a 1-foot-wide tunnel 20 feet back to their home.
Shana then came back to Eve and Norman and barked. When the couple hesitated, Shana wouldn't give up. She grabbed Eve Fertig's jacket with her mouth. They all went through the tunnel.
"It was quite a distance," Eve Fertig said. "We get out and she pulls us out. We got on the back deck, got the back door open and we fell inside. And we laid there all night."
Shana, rescued as a neglected puppy from an apparent puppy mill operation, now has a hero's plaque and an honorary fire helmet from firefighters who later checked on the Fertigs.
Shana's hero award for bravery came from the group Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues
on: December 07, 2006, 04:10:56 PM
Dad here. You are so close to actually having a great conversation that it would be a shame to allow the very human temptation to slip in witty zingers ruin things.
I would like to suggest simply taking a clean slate from here forward.
I appreciate your point about science is science, no matter who pays for it-- but for us less than fully educated civilians who lack the education to confidently break down stuff that frankly often goes right over our head with nary a look back, it can leave us with an uneasy feeling to see interested money behind the science. I appreciate, and perhaps Milt underappreciates, that there is money behind the ethos of the Ecos too, but perhaps a moment of reflection will remind you that there are four functions: thinking; feeling; sensation; and intuition and each person has one as a dominant modality. You are a thinker, which is only 10% of the population. If I may, the trick for you is to identify the principle modality of non-thinkers and have techniques to effectively communicate with them. Quick, which type is Milt?
Anyway, lets everyone start with a clean slate-- there is a good conversation to be had here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: December 07, 2006, 12:10:17 PM
Link to : http://www.functionalmedicine.org/about/whatis.asp
an excerpt…What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a science-based field of health care that is grounded in the following principles:
Biochemical individuality describes the importance of individual variations in metabolic function that derive from genetic and environmental differences among individuals.
Patient-centered medicine emphasizes "patient care" rather than "disease care," following Sir William Osler’s admonition that "It is more important to know what patient has the disease than to know what disease the patient has."
Dynamic balance of internal and external factors.
Web-like interconnections of physiological factors – an abundance of research now supports the view that the human body functions as an orchestrated network of interconnected systems, rather than individual systems functioning autonomously and without effect on each other. For example, we now know that immunological dysfunctions can promote cardiovascular disease, that dietary imbalances can cause hormonal disturbances, and that environmental exposures can precipitate neurologic syndromes such as Parkinson’s disease.
Health as a positive vitality – not merely the absence of disease.
Promotion of organ reserve as the means to enhance health span.
Functional medicine is anchored by an examination of the core clinical imbalances that underlie various disease conditions. Those imbalances arise as environmental inputs such as diet, nutrients (including air and water), exercise, and trauma are processed by one’s body, mind, and spirit through a unique set of genetic predispositions, attitudes, and beliefs. The fundamental physiological processes include communication, both outside and inside the cell; bioenergetics, or the transformation of food into energy; replication, repair, and maintenance of structural integrity, from the cellular to the whole body level; elimination of waste; protection and defense; and transport and circulation. The core clinical imbalances that arise from malfunctions within this complex system include:
Hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances
Oxidation-reduction imbalances and mitochondropathy
Detoxification and biotransformational imbalances
Digestive, absorptive, and microbiological imbalances
Structural imbalances from cellular membrane function to the musculoskeletal system
Imbalances such as these are the precursors to the signs and symptoms by which we detect and label (diagnose) organ system disease. Improving balance – in the patient’s environmental inputs and in the body’s fundamental physiological processes – is the precursor to restoring health and it involves much more than treating the symptoms. Functional medicine is dedicated to improving the management of complex, chronic disease by intervening at multiple levels to address these core clinical imbalances and to restore each patient’s functionality and health. Functional medicine is not a unique and separate body of knowledge. It is grounded in scientific principles and information widely available in medicine today, combining research from various disciplines into highly detailed yet clinically relevant models of disease pathogenesis and effective clinical management.
Functional medicine emphasizes a definable and teachable process of integrating multiple knowledge bases within a pragmatic intellectual matrix that focuses on functionality at many levels, rather than a single treatment for a single diagnosis. Functional medicine uses the patient’s story as a key tool for integrating diagnosis, signs and symptoms, and evidence of clinical imbalances into a comprehensive approach to improve both the patient’s environmental inputs and his or her physiological function. It is a clinician’s discipline, and it directly addresses the need to transform the practice of primary care.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: December 07, 2006, 12:08:09 PM
Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 2006 / 10 Kislev, 5767
These terror busters mix motorcycles and swagger
By Ned Warwick
"No one messes with Yasam, especially the ones on the bikes," says an East Jerusalem Arab
JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT)
ERUSALEM — What looms suddenly in your rearview mirror and is past you in a streak on the stone slip of a darkened street is crime-fighting Israeli-style: two men, dressed in black, bent low on a dark motorcycle, the one behind with his automatic rifle angled off his back, the bike darting quick as a bat.
A moment later up ahead, near the Ben Yehuda shopping area in the center of Jerusalem, a man is up against a wall, dressed in clothes that resemble what a Hasidic Jew would wear, but in a faintly raffish way that doesn't quite square with the sober probity of Hasidism. The backseat rider from the motorcycle is frisking him; the driver, still atop his bike, is reaching for the man's identification.
The man is eventually let go but not before he is closely questioned. He has just had his first, and he hopes his last, brush with the motorcycle unit of Yasam, an elite police unit.
In a city that has experienced war, terrorism, and its share of crime, the sight of these fast-moving patrols elicits little reaction. But for newcomers, the first impression is of something straight from a thriller or a gritty science-fiction tale.
Their low-slung KLE 550 motorcycles are powerful and highly maneuverable, the right specs for threading the clogged and narrow streets of this edgy city at high speed.
And speed was of the essence one night in the summer of 2002, when, at the height of the intifada, a Palestinian militant started firing automatic weapons at pedestrians on busy Jaffa Street. A two-man Yasam team, blocks away, heard the gunfire and raced to the scene.
Jumping off their bike, the officers confronted the gunman. Shots were exchanged as pedestrians flattened on the sidewalk; the gunman was killed.
Tzvika Hassia, the superintendent of the Jerusalem Yasam force, said 24 members of his 80-person unit "ride and fight from motorbikes and are meant to answer (to) special criminal or terrorist acts quickly, getting to where cars can't go." Israel is divided into six police districts, and each has a Yasam unit.
To even be considered for the Yasam unit, applicants must have served in one of Israel's military combat units and been highly rated. Given that Israel has had precious few days without conflict, that means nearly all have seen action.
Their dark clothes, their no-nonsense bikes, and a certain common swagger make them stand out in a country where many people wear uniforms and carry guns.
"In my opinion, they are awesome," said Ya'akov Brod, 24, a security guard for the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffeehouse on Jaffa Street near Zion Square. "They are like the best of the best. Although they are police - if you ask me - they are part of the army."
On the narrow, twisting streets of hilly Jerusalem, accidents on the bikes are unavoidable.
"At the speeds we go, there is no way to avoid them," said Alon Weinstein, 31, who joined Yasam 2 ½ years ago after serving in an army reconnaissance unit.
"You have to like motorcycles. You live your life on them," he said, grinning and cradling his M-16. "But this is the best place to be."
The men on each team rotate as the driver and the firepower on the back. They carry M-16s and 9mm handguns. While the units were created - beginning in Jerusalem - during the 1990s to deal with terrorism and then the intifada and the upsurge in suicide bombers, they are no less busy since the intifada gave out and the suicide attacks became rare, a police spokesman said.
While declining to give statistics, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, the units are still stopping militant Palestinians trying to commit terrorist acts. Much of the units' activity on that front takes place without publicity, he said.
In Arab East Jerusalem, feelings toward the Yasam unit are not as warm as those held elsewhere. In fact, none of the shopkeepers interviewed along Salah Eddin Street had a good word for the unit, calling it anti-Arab.
"No one messes with Yasam, especially the ones on the bikes," said Amr Sandouka, 25, who works in the family business selling electronics equipment. "They are rude, violent, and have a license to kill."
"It is shocking to hear those words," Rosenfeld said. "Yasam is the most advanced operational unit in the police that has stopped tens of terrorist attacks and hundreds of criminal acts."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: December 07, 2006, 09:56:49 AM
Somalia Town Threatens to Behead People Who Don't Pray 5 Times Daily
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an official said Wednesday, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.
Shops, tea houses and other public places in Bulo Burto, about 124 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, should be closed during prayer time and no one should be on the streets, said Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, the chairman of the town's Islamic court. His court is part of a network backed by armed militiamen that has taken control of much of southern Somalia in recent months, bringing a strict interpretation of Islam that is alien to many Somalis.
Those who do not follow the prayer edict after three days have elapsed, "will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law," Rage told The Associated Press by phone. "As Muslims we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do."
He said the edict, which covered only Bulo Burto, was being announced over loudspeakers throughout the town.
Somalia's Islamic courts have made varying interpretations of Koranic law, some applying a more strict and radical version of Islam than others. Some of the courts have introduced public executions, floggings of convicts, bans on women swimming in Mogadishu's public beaches and on the sale and chewing of khat, a leafy stimulant consumed across the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East.
After complaints about the lack of consistency from residents in the capital, Mogadishu, the umbrella Council of Islamic Courts set up an appeals court with better educated judges in October.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The English Language
on: December 07, 2006, 01:22:52 AM
An online journal fights for clear, expressive English.
BY JOSEPH EPSTEIN
Thursday, December 7, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
If there is a better losing cause than the fight against slovenly language, I am unaware of it. The first rule of language is change, but why, those of us who have signed up for the fight never cease wondering, does 80 or so percent of this change seem to be for the worse?
Why, for example, do we need the word "icon" to describe hugely successful performers in show business, sports and elsewhere? We began with "star," which was replaced with "superstar"; and when it was discovered that too many superstars were floating around, icon was called in. After icon is used up, we shall, no doubt, have to go straight to "god."
I am myself writing a little book on Fred Astaire for a series of books called American Icons. When I reported this to a witty friend, adding that "icon" was of course a vastly inflated word, itself part of the vocabulary of hype, he, without losing a stroke, replied: "Whaddya mean? What about Ike and Tina Turner?"
In recent years I have written brief essays attacking the overuse and dopey imprecision of the words "icon," "multitasking" and "focus." The success of my attacks can be measured by the vastly increased use over the years of all three words. Cleaning up the language is a herculean job; unlike Hercules' assignment of cleaning up the Augean Stables, here it must be done with the animals still in them. It's a full-time job.
A man who has taken it on is Robert Hartwell Fiske, who runs an online monthly journal called the Vocabula Review (www.vocabula.com
), which, as Mr. Fiske writes, "battles nonstandard, careless English and embraces clear, expressive English," and hopes to encourage its readers to do likewise. Vocabula means "words" in Latin, and words are the name of Mr. Fiske's game. Read the Vocabula Review, and you will be convinced that the battle ought to be yours, too.
Mr. Fiske is the latest--and let us hope not the last--in a line of language guardians that goes back, in English, to Jonathan Swift and has been continued, closer to our time, by H.L. Mencken, H.W. Fowler, George Orwell, F.L. Lucas and Sir Ernest Gowers. About the decay of language, Mr. Fiske is earnest without being humorless, strict without being scornful, and elevated without being snobbish.
The third Sunday of every month, Mr. Fiske publishes a number of articles about "some aspect of the language and its effect on society." Running the operation out of his house in Rockport, Mass., he asks a $25 subscription fee from language lovers (renewing subscribers pay $15), of which--no great surprise here--there are all too few. The Vocabula Review had a high circulation figure of 1,400, but the number is now down to fewer than a thousand.
Mr. Fiske is on the job 24/7, a phrase I feel confident he would, rightly, loathe. Along with running his online magazine, he has produced three useful books--the Dictionary of Concise Writing, the Dimwit's Dictionary, and the Dictionary of Disagreeable English--and an anthology of pieces from the Vocabula Review called "Vocabula Bound."
Each issue of the Vocabula Review (of which there are now 87--one every month since September 1999) is a miscellany of articles on English as it is used in America ("Singular They: The Pronoun That Came In From the Cold"), controversies of the day such as the teaching of English to immigrants ("José, Can You See?"), and various columns and departments, among them Shibboleths, Bethumped With Words, Scarcely Used Words, Clues to Concise Writing, Grumbling About Grammar, and letters from some of the language fanatics who are among Mr. Fiske's subscribers.
I read the Vocabula Review for amusement and as a prophylactic against falling into sloppiness in my own writing. The Vocabula Review is run on the prescriptivist principle that there are correct and incorrect uses of words; the descriptivists hold that any language used by the majority is automatically acceptable English. "Whatever!" might be the descriptivists' motto; "Not in my house you don't" that of the prescriptivists.
The Vocabula Review, in fact, has two mottoes: "A society is generally as lax as its language" and "Well spoken is half sung." Mr. Fiske believes that honest language is elegant language. His online magazine is neither a forum for prescriptivism nor for his prejudices, but deals extensively with the endless oddities and richness of language.
Mr. Fiske's own characteristic tone is perhaps best caught in his Dimwit's Dictionary. In that 400-page work a vast body of words and phrases are shown up for the linguistic ciphers they are. He has established a number of categories for "Expressions That Dull Our Reason and Dim Our Insight." These included grammatical gimmicks, which are expressions (such as "whatever," "you had to be there") that are used by people who have lost their powers of description; ineffectual phrases ("the fact remains," "the thing about it is," "it is important to realize") used by people to delay coming to the point or for simple bewilderment; infantile phrases ("humongous," "gazillions," "everything's relative"), which show evidence of unformed reasoning; moribund metaphors ("window of opportunity") and insipid similes ("cool as a cucumber"); suspect superlatives ("an amazing person," "the best and the brightest"), which are just what the category suggests; torpid terms ("prioritize," "proactive," "significant other"), which are vapid and dreary; not to mention plebeian sentiments, overworked words, popular prescriptions, quack equations, and wretched redundancies.
Behind Mr. Fiske's continuing project is the idea that without careful language there can be no clear thought. Politicians, advertising copywriters, swindlers of differing styles and ambitions know this well and put it to their own devious uses. The rest of us too easily tend to forget this central truth. All words and phrases, to fall back on what I hope isn't a plebeian sentiment, are guilty until proved innocent.
Bad language is viral; it's in the atmosphere, and we all pick it up. Mr. Fiske diagnoses it and tells us, in the Vocabula Review and in his books, how to get well. His aim is a higher standard of linguistic health through the clear and precise use of language. A subscription to Vocabula Review is the intellectual equivalent of a monthly flu shot. A shame we cannot write the cost of his excellent service off to Blue Cross or Medicare.
Mr. Epstein is the author of "Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide" (Atlas Books).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: December 07, 2006, 01:10:46 AM
By Kevin Cullen
THE BOSTON GLOBE December 5, 2006
It was a routine patrol, in the third week of June – if, in fact, there is such a thing as a routine patrol in Fallujah, in Iraq's Anbar province.
MICHELE McDONALD / The Boston Globe
Navy medic Greg Cinelli held Baby Mariam last month at Massachusetts General Hospital, where the Iraqi girl had successful surgery.
Chris Walsh, a Navy medic assigned to a Marines weapons company, was riding in a Humvee with three Marines, when a hidden bomb exploded in the dirt road just in front of them.
Even before the thick dust had settled, the Marines, and Walsh, were out of the vehicle, looking for the insurgents who had planted the remote-control device. The triggerman, as several who joined the pursuit vividly recall, was spotted first on a rooftop, then on the ground making his escape through the maze of ramshackle houses that line the road.
When Walsh and the Marines came to one doorway, M-4 rifles up and ready, a woman emerged from a room, holding an infant and saying, over and over again, “Baby. Baby sick.”
Walsh put his gun down and the woman put the baby down.
Walsh had seen bad things – as an EMT back home in St. Louis, and at war. But he told his comrades he had never seen anything like this: The child, just a few months old, looked as though her insides had been turned inside out.
Her name was Mariam, and she looked up at Walsh with dead eyes.
Suddenly, finding the bad guys became secondary. Walsh, the Marines recall, examined the child, pulled out a digital camera and took pictures to show the doctors back at base camp. As soon as Capt. Sean Donovan, a doctor assigned to the First Battalion 25th Marine Regiment out of Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass., saw them, he knew the baby had a rare condition in which the bladder develops outside the body. Donovan said she wouldn't live long without surgery of a kind she couldn't get in Iraq.
“Then,” Donovan recalls Walsh saying, “we've got to get her out of here, sir.”
The Boston Globe
Marine Lance Cpl. Corey Robbins (left) and Navy medics John Garran (center) and Greg Cinelli were reunited with Baby Mariam at Massachusetts General Hospital. A Marines weapons company found the ailing Iraqi girl in Fallujah.
It seemed a noble sentiment, if, in the middle of a war, a bit naive. But Walsh meant it. Saving Baby Mariam became his mission. At chow one night, he stood up and explained to the Marines in his platoon what he wanted to do. He said he'd need help. And one by one, the Marines put up their hands.
Mike Henderson, a Marine major from Maine, told Walsh and Donovan that his nephew was born with the same condition, called a bladder exstrophy, and that the boy had successful surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. Donovan began using his computer, trying to find the appropriate medical care and a shortcut through the maddening military bureaucracy, a way to get the child out. The Rev. Marc Bishop, a Chelmsford, Mass., priest who is battalion chaplain, started e-mailing friends back home, looking for money and help.
Meanwhile, each week, under the cover of darkness, wearing night-vision goggles, Walsh and a dozen Marines made their way to the shanty where Mariam lived. They parked their Humvees a mile away and walked a different, circuitous route each time.
Staff Sgt. Edward Ewing, the platoon leader who devised and led the covert nocturnal visits, said Walsh's team followed a routine: Lance Cpl. Eric Valdepenas, a 21-year-old from Seekonk, Mass., and Cody Hill, a 23-year-old lance corporal from Oklahoma, hid outside Mariam's house, providing cover, along with some others; Cpl. Jared Shoemaker, 29, a police officer from Tulsa, accompanied Donovan and Walsh inside the house, where they tended to Mariam as best they could, trying to ward off an infection that could kill her.
“We're going to get her the help she needs,” Walsh would say, to a family that didn't speak English but somehow understood that the Americans, loathed as an occupying force by many in Fallujah, represented Mariam's only chance.
Over the summer, they made great strides. Bishop had struck gold with an e-mail to Christopher Anderson, one of his parishioners at St. Mary's Church in Chelmsford. Anderson, who is president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, lined up 16 companies to pay to get the baby to Boston.
Donovan, meanwhile, had found Dr. Rafael Pieretti, a Venezuelan surgeon at Massachusetts General who is one of the few doctors in the United States who specialize in the condition. Pieretti and Massachusetts General offered their services free of charge.
But there it all stalled. There were some 5,000 Iraqi civilians seeking to leave the country for medical care, and Mariam, it seemed, would have to wait her turn.
On Labor Day, Sept. 4, Walsh and his team were on another routine patrol in another section of Fallujah, about a mile from Mariam's house. Ewing was in the lead vehicle and noticed some kids playing soccer off the side of the road. Then came the blast, which lifted the rear of Ewing's 5-ton Humvee off the road. But it was Walsh's Humvee just behind that took what the Marines call a belly shot: The bomb exploded directly under the vehicle.
The Boston Globe
Maureen Walsh (right), the mother of slain medic Chris Walsh, and nurse Katie Dinare visited Baby Mariam last month at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ewing and some Marines rushed to the smoking wreckage. Medic Greg Cinelli tried to keep them away. They pushed their way past him, and Cinelli turned his attention to Hill, who had severe burns over more than half of his body. Hill was in shock but kept asking about the others.
“You made it out!” Cinelli told Hill. “They can, too!”
But Cinelli was just trying to give Hill the will to live. There was nothing he or anybody else could do for the others: Valdepenas, the youngest of eight children, who left the University of Massachusetts at Amherst when his unit got called to active duty, Shoemaker, with a wife back in Oklahoma, and Walsh, the author of the mission for Mariam, were dead.
With their seven-month rotation about to end, and 11 members of their battalion dead and 83 wounded, the Marines decided there was only one way to honor their dead brothers and that was to make sure the baby was saved.
E-mails from Fallujah shot all around the United States, detailing the risks that Walsh and the Marines had taken, the effort expended and the blood spilled. Suddenly, the red tape loosened, and in early October Mariam was flown to Boston. The surgery was successful, and she is doing well.
More than a month after Maureen Walsh buried her son, she stood in her living room in Kansas, reading a handwritten letter from Donovan.
“You need to know this about your son,” Donovan wrote.
She had not known about Mariam, had not known that her son spent months, surrounded by the chaos of war, trying to save her. And it was then, as she stood there, tears falling onto Donovan's letter, that Maureen Walsh knew she had to see the child, and hold her in her arms.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: December 07, 2006, 12:53:17 AM
LONGTIME JIMMY CARTER AIDE QUITS OVER PALESTINE BOOK 'LIES'...:
A longtime aide to Jimmy Carter has resigned from the Carter Center think tank, calling the former president's new book on Israel and the Arabs one-sided and filled with errors.
Kenneth Stein, the Carter Center's first executive director and founder of its Middle East program, sent a letter that bluntly criticized the book to Carter and others.
Stein wrote that the book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid," was replete with factual errors, material copied from other sources and "simply invented segments," according to an excerpt of the letter published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Deanna Congileo, Carter's spokeswoman, said the former president stands by the book.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Energy issues, energy technology
on: December 07, 2006, 12:51:42 AM
New oil production technology is tested
WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A technology developed with U.S. Department of Energy funding has revived oil production in two abandoned oilfields on Osage Indian tribal land in Oklahoma.
Officials say the technology can potentially add billions of barrels of additional domestic oil production in declining fields.
The Department of Energy said production has jumped from zero to more than 100 barrels of oil daily in the two Osage County, Okla., fields, one of which is more than 100 years old.
That success suggests the method might be able to revitalize thousands of other seemingly depleted U.S. oilfields.
The new technology, initially proposed by Grand Resources Inc., an independent oil producer based in Tulsa, Okla., involves the use of horizontal well waterflooding.
Government officials said the United States has more than 218 billion barrels of by-passed conventional oil lying at shallow depths in tens of thousands of declining or depleted reservoirs. If the new technology could tap even 1-10th of that by-passed oil, officials say it would roughly double the nation's proved crude oil reserves.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Lebanon
on: December 07, 2006, 12:38:58 AM
The Syrian-Iranian Agenda for Lebanon
Opposition protests in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, entered their sixth day Dec. 6 as Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora continued to hold his ground against hundreds of thousands of demonstrators calling for his resignation. Hezbollah and its allies plan to continue with the sit-ins for the time being, but are looking at other options to meet their objective of toppling the government. Meanwhile, Syria and Iran are devising plans to determine who will be the next target for assassination in Lebanon.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters staged demonstrations in the heart of the Lebanese capital of Beirut for a sixth consecutive day Dec. 6. Most of the protesters belong to the pro-Syrian March 8 alliance composed primarily of youth supporters of Hezbollah, led by Hassan Nasrallah; the Amal movement, led by Shiite Speaker of the House Nabih Berri; and the Free Patriotic Movement, led by Maronite Christian leader Gen. Michel Aoun.
The demonstrations are one of the instruments the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance is using in an effort to meet its wider objective of undermining the Lebanese government, which is dominated by the anti-Syrian bloc with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora at the helm. Protesters have spent the past six days chanting slogans -- "Down with the U.S. government in Lebanon" is a favorite -- and also studying, smoking hookahs, praying, dancing and sleeping in makeshift camps in the streets. While the demonstrations have had a paralyzing effect on the capital, negotiations have failed to progress and the Lebanese government has yet to cave in to the opposition's demands. Siniora is already under considerable pressure from Arab allies in the region, Europe and the United States not to allow Hezbollah to further consolidate its power and fortify Shiite influence in the region.
Hezbollah had made extensive plans to prevent the protests from turning violent by organizing security squads to break up any clashes along the Sunni-Shiite and Shiite-Druze border areas in and around Beirut. Though these Hezbollah control units have been busy breaking up street fights, violent clashes picked up steam in west Beirut between rival factions, leaving one Shiite demonstrator dead. Sources in the Amal movement's security apparatus have revealed that the clashes in the Qasqas area -- which straddles west Beirut and the southern suburbs where the Shiite protester died -- also spread to the nearby Al Shuhada cemetery. At the cemetery, fighting reportedly broke out between unidentified assailants from the Palestinian Shatila refugee camp and Hezbollah fighters. Four Hezbollah members and two unidentified men from the Shatila camp were killed, though police records made no reference to the deaths since they involved combatants and not civilians. These clashes arising out of the Palestinian camps are indicative of Syria's hand in the Beirut street fights to stoke sectarian violence and show the extent to which Lebanon has devolved into chaos without a strong Syrian security presence in the country.
The demonstrations also have dealt the Lebanese economy a serious blow, with estimates that the country will lose more than $30 million a day if the political crisis continues. To lessen the financial impact, Hezbollah organized the protests to begin on Friday, Dec. 1, after most of Beirut's residents received their paychecks and were off work for the weekend. The economic impact as well as the potential for violence to spread throughout the capital, however, have factored into Hezbollah's calculus in continuing these demonstrations. The Shiite militant and political movement is determined to show it is working in the interests of Lebanese citizens, and not only for its own Shiite sect -- as demonstrated by the strict rules given to protesters to wave only Lebanese national flags and refrain from violence. Particularly after the summer war with Israel, the group is already facing criticism for inviting the war onto Lebanese territory and harming Lebanese business interests.
Hezbollah is still in the process of deciding its next plan of action should the Siniora government fail to accede to the demands. Sources within Hezbollah claim the group's next move will be to have more parliament and civil service members resign and to block access to the Rafik al-Hariri International Airport by sending around 70,000 demonstrators to camp on the main highway. While the Lebanese army commander has made it clear that the airport will remain open and is off limits to the protesters, Hezbollah members believe the army will be unable to restrain a mob of 70,000 people.
Syria, meanwhile, has been looking at its own agenda for Lebanon. Following the assassination of Lebanese Ministry of Industry Pierre Gemayel, a Syrian security delegation made its way to Tehran to discuss at length the assassination of anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian Lebanese figures. To cover up Syria's suspected involvement in the spate of killings, Iran allegedly has suggested killing one or two second-tier Lebanese allies of Syria to confuse the ongoing investigation, led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, who is due to release a report on the political assassinations in mid-December. The prime targets for assassination in this scenario include Najah Wakim, a Greek Orthodox, who is an outspoken supporter of Syria and fierce critic of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, as well as Nasser Qandil, a Shi'i, who is associated with Berri's Amal movement. Both Qandil and Wakim are suspected of playing a role in the al-Hariri assassination, and their killings would give opposition forces an excuse to accuse the March 14 anti-Syrian alliance of the act.
A new Palestinian movement that has appeared in Beirut is expected to aid the Syrians in these assassinations. The group calls itself Harakat Fatah al-Islam, a splinter group of Fatah al-Intifada, which itself split from the Fatah movement in 1983. About 200 members of the new movement have entered Lebanon lately -- some 150 to the Badawi refugee camp near Tripoli and about 50 to the Burj al-Barajneh camp in the southern suburbs.
Evidently, the political assassinations in Beirut are far from over, and Hezbollah is feeling bold enough to escalate the demonstrations to cripple the Siniora government, leaving Lebanon in an all-too-familiar state of chaos. The opportunity for negotiations still exists, but plenty of AK-47s will be passed out to various sects in Beirut to prepare for a worst-case scenario. www.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia
on: December 06, 2006, 06:54:57 PM
Boys expelled from Islamic school for urinating on Bible
12:29 PM December 6
The headmaster of a Melbourne Islamic College has condemned the behaviour of two boys expelled for allegedly urinating on a Bible.
The incident is alleged to have happened on a school camp last week.
Teachers at the East Preston College have petitioned the principal telling of their shock and dismay.
Principal Shaheem Doutie says the behaviour of the boys was unacceptable.
"Principal, teachers and the school community hereby condemn in the strongest possible terms the alleged desecration of the Bible by two of our students at a school camp," he said.
Mr Doutie has offered an unconditional apology to everyone affected.
"I hereby apologise to all staff, including Muslim and non-Muslim teachers, or any other person that was offended by this horrible act as conducted by some ignorant and clearly ill-informed students," he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: December 06, 2006, 12:26:19 PM
From another forum
December 5, 2006
Belgium: Muslims Stone Jewish Children
A story I found in Expatica News caught my attention. It described how Jewish children, who were visiting Beringen, in Limburg province, Belgium, were set upon by "local residents of foreign origins." I tried to think which people "of foreign origins" would want to attack a group of Jewish schoolchildren.
Being of a suspicious mind, I Googled, and eventually found more information, care of Islam in Europe, backed up by reports in Dutch from HLN.be and Eyes and in English from JTA News. Their attackers were, unsurprisingly, Muslim youths of Turkish origin. What is bizarre is why Expatica bothered to report the ethnicity of the victims, but not their assailants.
About 60 Jewish children had gone to stay at a youth hostel on an excursion on Thursday, November 30. They had come to visit the Beringen mines, which include the Vlaams mijnmuseum, a mine which had closed in 1992 but has been preserved, with a museum. Other former coal mines, such as the Charbonnages de Beringen (pictured) which closed in 1989 lie deserted in the area, as historical sites of interest.
The Jewish children had come from Antwerp, and were aged from 12 to 15 years, expecting a stay which would be an educational holiday. The children were Hasidic, and wore their traditional black attire and hats, with long sideburns. As soon as they reached the youth hostel where they were to stay, they came under attack from 10 Turkish Muslims, who pelted them with stones. Once the children had gone into the hostel, the Muslims continued to throw stones and concrete blocks, smashing windows of the building. The Muslims were shouting anti-semitic abuse. The children had to shelter from the missiles and flying glass in an inner corridor of the hostel.
The leaders of the school group called the police, but even after the arrival of police, the youths continues to throw stones and shout insults for about an hour. Once the aggression had subsided, the Muslims continued to stay in the vicinity of the hostel. As a result, police decided that they could not guarantee the schoolboys' safety, and escorted them to the highway for them to return to Antwerp.
Four adults and six youths under the age of 18 were arrested, and at the weekend they were brought before a district court. All were sentenced to 30 hours' of community service, and were ordered to pay compensation to the youth hostel. The commune (district authority) issued an apology to the schoolchildren. It may press charges once all information on the case is clarified.
Already, charges have been filed by centre against racism and for equal chances. Claude Marinower, a Jewish member of parliament, said he will "raise the issue with the ministers of justice and the interior."
Forum, an Antwerp-based Jewish group demanded "drastic measures to guarantee the safety of all youth throughout Belgium. A failure to do so would endanger our democracy."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor
on: December 06, 2006, 01:25:09 AM
Apparently a true story:
Flatulence, not turbulence forces plane landing in Nashville
Flatulence brought 99 passengers on an American Airlines flight to an unscheduled visit to Nashville early Monday morning.
American Flight 1053, from Washington Reagan National Airport and bound for Dallas/Fort Worth, made an emergency landing here after passengers reported smelling struck matches, said Lynne Lowrance, a spokeswoman for the Nashville International Airport Authority.
The plane landed safely. The FBI, Transportation Safety Administration and airport authority responded to the emergency, Lowrance said.
The passengers and five crew members were brought off the plane, together with all the luggage, to go through security checks again. Bomb-sniffing dogs found spent matches.
The FBI questioned a passenger who admitted she struck the matches in an attempt to conceal body odor, Lowrance said. The woman lives near Dallas and has a medical condition.
The flight took off again, but the woman was not allowed back on the plane.
"American has banned her for a long time," Lowrance said.
She was not charged but could have been. While it is legal to bring as many as four books of paper safety matches onto an aircraft, it is illegal to strike a match in an airplane, Lowrance said.http://www.wbir.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=40210
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims
on: December 05, 2006, 12:04:55 PM
Earlier in this thread there was some squabbling over the meaning of Fascism. Here's Mussolini's take on it:
(Hat tip to TB)
<" While I could quote from numerous political and intellectual leaders throughout the war and welfare century, I have chosen one who summed up the dominant political thoughts in the twentieth century. He was the founder of fascism, and he came to power in 1922 in Italy. In 1927, Benito Mussolini stated:
Fascism … believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace…. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it…. It may be expected that this will be a century of authority, a century of the Left, a century of Fascism. For the nineteenth century was a century of individualism…. [Liberalism always signifying individualism], it may be expected that this will be a century of collectivism, and hence the century of the State…. For Fascism, the growth of Empire, that is to say, the expansion of the nation, is the essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite is a sign of decay and death. 
Mussolini's statement bears closer study because it dramatically states some of the guiding principles of the twentieth century:
It states that perpetual peace is neither possible, nor even to be desired.
Instead of peace, war is to be desired because not only is war a noble activity, but it reveals the true courage of man; it unleashes creative energy and causes progress. Moreover, war is the prime mover to enhance and glorify the state. War is the principal method by which collectivists have achieved their goal of control by the few over the many. They actually seek to create or initiate wars for this purpose.
Individualism, the philosophy practiced in the nineteenth century, is to be abolished and, specifically, collectivism is to rule the twentieth century.
Fascism is recognized as a variation of other forms of collectivism, all being part of the Left, as opposed to individualism. It was not until the "Red Decade" of the 30s, and the appearance of Hitler, that leftist intellectuals and the media began to switch Fascism on the political spectrum to the Right so that the "good forms of collectivism," such as socialism, could oppose the "extremism on the Right" that they said was fascism.
The founder of fascism clearly realized that all of these collectivist ideas — i.e., socialism, fascism, and communism — belonged on the Left and were all opposed to individualism. Fascism is not an extreme form of individualism and is a part of the Left, or collectivism.">>