DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: May 20, 2007, 08:30:22 AM
I just clicked on the registered fighters list and count 40.
At the moment Lynn is the only woman. If you think she's up for it and up to it, we'll let her do knife with the men.
With any luck, the deal with OP/Nat Geo signs tomorrow.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Anarchy by Robert Kaplan part five
on: May 20, 2007, 07:55:56 AM
Future wars will be those of communal survival, aggravated or, in many cases, caused by environmental scarcity. These wars will be subnational, meaning that it will be hard for states and local governments to protect their own citizens physically. This is how many states will ultimately die. As state power fades--and with it the state's ability to help weaker groups within society, not to mention other states--peoples and cultures around the world will be thrown back upon their own strengths and weaknesses, with fewer equalizing mechanisms to protect them. Whereas the distant future will probably see the emergence of a racially hybrid, globalized man, the coming decades will see us more aware of our differences than of our similarities. To the average person, political values will mean less, personal security more. The belief that we are all equal is liable to be replaced by the overriding obsession of the ancient Greek travelers: Why the differences between peoples?
The Last Map
In Geography and the Human Spirit, Anne Buttimer, a professor at University College, Dublin, recalls the work of an early-nineteenth-century German geographer, Carl Ritter, whose work implied "a divine plan for humanity" based on regionalism and a constant, living flow of forms. The map of the future, to the extent that a map is even possible, will represent a perverse twisting of Ritter's vision. Imagine cartography in three dimensions, as if in a hologram. In this hologram would be the overlapping sediments of group and other identities atop the merely two-dimensional color markings of city-states and the remaining nations, themselves confused in places by shadowy tentacles, hovering overhead, indicating the power of drug cartels, mafias, and private security agencies. Instead of borders, there would be moving "centers" of power, as in the Middle Ages. Many of these layers would be in motion. Replacing fixed and abrupt lines on a flat space would be a shifting pattern of buffer entities, like the Kurdish and Azeri buffer entities between Turkey and Iran, the Turkic Uighur buffer entity between Central Asia and Inner China (itself distinct from coastal China), and the Latino buffer entity replacing a precise U.S.-Mexican border. To this protean cartographic hologram one must add other factors, such as migrations of populations, explosions of birth rates, vectors of disease. Henceforward the map of the world will never be static. This future map--in a sense, the "Last Map"--will be an ever-mutating representation of chaos.
The Indian subcontinent offers examples of what is happening. For different reasons, both India and Pakistan are increasingly dysfunctional. The argument over democracy in these places is less and less relevant to the larger issue of governability. In India's case the question arises, Is one unwieldy bureaucracy in New Delhi the best available mechanism for promoting the lives of 866 million people of diverse languages, religions, and ethnic groups? In 1950, when the Indian population was much less than half as large and nation-building idealism was still strong, the argument for democracy was more impressive than it is now. Given that in 2025 India's population could be close to 1.5 billion, that much of its economy rests on a shrinking natural-resource base, including dramatically declining water levels, and that communal violence and urbanization are spiraling upward, it is difficult to imagine that the Indian state will survive the next century. India's oft-trumpeted Green Revolution has been achieved by overworking its croplands and depleting its watershed. Norman Myers, a British development consultant, worries that Indians have "been feeding themselves today by borrowing against their children's food sources."
Pakistan's problem is more basic still: like much of Africa, the country makes no geographic or demographic sense. It was founded as a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent, yet there are more subcontinental Muslims outside Pakistan than within it. Like Yugoslavia, Pakistan is a patchwork of ethnic groups, increasingly in violent conflict with one another. While the Western media gushes over the fact that the country has a woman Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, Karachi is becoming a subcontinental version of Lagos. In eight visits to Pakistan, I have never gotten a sense of a cohesive national identity. With as much as 65 percent of its land dependent on intensive irrigation, with wide-scale deforestation, and with a yearly population growth of 2.7 percent (which ensures that the amount of cultivated land per rural inhabitant will plummet), Pakistan is becoming a more and more desperate place. As irrigation in the Indus River basin intensifies to serve two growing populations, Muslim-Hindu strife over falling water tables may be unavoidable.
"India and Pakistan will probably fall apart," Homer-Dixon predicts. "Their secular governments have less and less legitimacy as well as less management ability over people and resources." Rather than one bold line dividing the subcontinent into two parts, the future will likely see a lot of thinner lines and smaller parts, with the ethnic entities of Pakhtunistan and Punjab gradually replacing Pakistan in the space between the Central Asian plateau and the heart of the subcontinent.
None of this even takes into account climatic change, which, if it occurs in the next century, will further erode the capacity of existing states to cope. India, for instance, receives 70 percent of its precipitation from the monsoon cycle, which planetary warming could disrupt.
Not only will the three-dimensional aspects of the Last Map be in constant motion, but its two-dimensional base may change too. The National Academy of Sciences reports that "as many as one billion people, or 20 per cent of the world's population, live on lands likely to be inundated or dramatically changed by rising waters. . . . Low-lying countries in the developing world such as Egypt and Bangladesh, where rivers are large and the deltas extensive and densely populated, will be hardest hit. . . . Where the rivers are dammed, as in the case of the Nile, the effects . . . will be especially severe."
Egypt could be where climatic upheaval--to say nothing of the more immediate threat of increasing population--will incite religious upheaval in truly biblical fashion. Natural catastrophes, such as the October, 1992, Cairo earthquake, in which the government failed to deliver relief aid and slum residents were in many instances helped by their local mosques, can only strengthen the position of Islamic factions. In a statement about greenhouse warming which could refer to any of a variety of natural catastrophes, the environmental expert Jessica Tuchman Matthews warns that many of us underestimate the extent to which political systems, in affluent societies as well as in places like Egypt, "depend on the underpinning of natural systems." She adds, "The fact that one can move with ease from Vermont to Miami has nothing to say about the consequences of Vermont acquiring Miami's climate."
Indeed, it is not clear that the United States will survive the next century in exactly its present form. Because America is a multi-ethnic society, the nation-state has always been more fragile here than it is in more homogeneous societies like Germany and Japan. James Kurth, in an article published in The National Interest in 1992, explains that whereas nation-state societies tend to be built around a mass-conscription army and a standardized public school system, "multicultural regimes" feature a high-tech, all-volunteer army (and, I would add, private schools that teach competing values), operating in a culture in which the international media and entertainment industry has more influence than the "national political class." In other words, a nation-state is a place where everyone has been educated along similar lines, where people take their cue from national leaders, and where everyone (every male, at least) has gone through the crucible of military service, making patriotism a simpler issue. Writing about his immigrant family in turn-of-the-century Chicago, Saul Bellow states, "The country took us over. It was a country then, not a collection of 'cultures.'"
During the Second World War and the decade following it, the United States reached its apogee as a classic nation-state. During the 1960s, as is now clear, America began a slow but unmistakable process of transformation. The signs hardly need belaboring: racial polarity, educational dysfunction, social fragmentation of many and various kinds. William Irwin Thompson, in Passages About Earth: An Exploration of the New Planetary Culture, writes, "The educational system that had worked on the Jews or the Irish could no longer work on the blacks; and when Jewish teachers in New York tried to take black children away from their parents exactly in the way they had been taken from theirs, they were shocked to encounter a violent affirmation of negritude."
Issues like West Africa could yet emerge as a new kind of foreign-policy issue, further eroding America's domestic peace. The spectacle of several West African nations collapsing at once could reinforce the worst racial stereotypes here at home. That is another reason why Africa matters. We must not kid ourselves: the sensitivity factor is higher than ever. The Washington, D.C., public school system is already experimenting with an Afrocentric curriculum. Summits between African leaders and prominent African-Americans are becoming frequent, as are Pollyanna-ish prognostications about multiparty elections in Africa that do not factor in crime, surging birth rates, and resource depletion. The Congressional Black Caucus was among those urging U.S. involvement in Somalia and in Haiti. At the Los Angeles Times minority staffers have protested against, among other things, what they allege to be the racist tone of the newspaper's Africa coverage, allegations that the editor of the "World Report" section, Dan Fisher, denies, saying essentially that Africa should be viewed through the same rigorous analytical lens as other parts of the world.
Africa may be marginal in terms of conventional late-twentieth-century conceptions of strategy, but in an age of cultural and racial clash, when national defense is increasingly local, Africa's distress will exert a destabilizing influence on the United States.
This and many other factors will make the United States less of a nation than it is today, even as it gains territory following the peaceful dissolution of Canada. Quebec, based on the bedrock of Roman Catholicism and Francophone ethnicity, could yet turn out to be North America's most cohesive and crime-free nation-state. (It may be a smaller Quebec, though, since aboriginal peoples may lop off northern parts of the province.) "Patriotism" will become increasingly regional as people in Alberta and Montana discover that they have far more in common with each other than they do with Ottawa or Washington, and Spanish-speakers in the Southwest discover a greater commonality with Mexico City. (The Nine Nations of North America, by Joel Garreau, a book about the continent's regionalization, is more relevant now than when it was published, in 1981.) As Washington's influence wanes, and with it the traditional symbols of American patriotism, North Americans will take psychological refuge in their insulated communities and cultures.
Returning from West Africa last fall was an illuminating ordeal. After leaving Abidjan, my Air Afrique flight landed in Dakar, Senegal, where all passengers had to disembark in order to go through another security check, this one demanded by U.S. authorities before they would permit the flight to set out for New York. Once we were in New York, despite the midnight hour, immigration officials at Kennedy Airport held up disembarkation by conducting quick interrogations of the aircraft's passengers--this was in addition to all the normal immigration and customs procedures. It was apparent that drug smuggling, disease, and other factors had contributed to the toughest security procedures I have ever encountered when returning from overseas.
Then, for the first time in over a month, I spotted businesspeople with attache cases and laptop computers. When I had left New York for Abidjan, all the businesspeople were boarding planes for Seoul and Tokyo, which departed from gates near Air Afrique's. The only non-Africans off to West Africa had been relief workers in T-shirts and khakis. Although the borders within West Africa are increasingly unreal, those separating West Africa from the outside world are in various ways becoming more impenetrable.
But Afrocentrists are right in one respect: we ignore this dying region at our own risk. When the Berlin Wall was falling, in November of 1989, I happened to be in Kosovo, covering a riot between Serbs and Albanians. The future was in Kosovo, I told myself that night, not in Berlin. The same day that Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat clasped hands on the White House lawn, my Air Afrique plane was approaching Bamako, Mali, revealing corrugated-zinc shacks at the edge of an expanding desert. The real news wasn't at the White House, I realized. It was right below.
Copyright © 1994 by Robert Kaplan. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly; February 1994; The Coming Anarchy; Volume 273, No. 2; pages 44-76
Also see: Thomas Homer-Dixon, Jeffrey Boutwell, and George Rathjens, "Environmental Scarcity and Violent Conflict," Scientific American, February 1993; and from Homer-Dixon, "Environmental Scarcity and Global Security" Headline Series (New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1993). The Project on Environment, Population and Security: Conflict, Sustainable Development Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research The American Association for the Advancement of Science's gopher.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Anarchy by Robert Kaplan part four
on: May 20, 2007, 07:54:38 AM
The Lies of Mapmakers
Whereas West Africa represents the least stable part of political reality outside Homer-Dixon's stretch limo, Turkey, an organic outgrowth of two Turkish empires that ruled Anatolia for 850 years, has been among the most stable. Turkey's borders were established not by colonial powers but in a war of independence, in the early 1920s. Kemal Ataturk provided Turkey with a secular nation-building myth that most Arab and African states, burdened by artificially drawn borders, lack. That lack will leave many Arab states defenseless against a wave of Islam that will eat away at their legitimacy and frontiers in coming years. Yet even as regards Turkey, maps deceive.
It is not only African shantytowns that don't appear on urban maps. Many shantytowns in Turkey and elsewhere are also missing--as are the considerable territories controlled by guerrilla armies and urban mafias. Traveling with Eritrean guerrillas in what, according to the map, was northern Ethiopia, traveling in "northern Iraq" with Kurdish guerrillas, and staying in a hotel in the Caucasus controlled by a local mafia--to say nothing of my experiences in West Africa--led me to develop a healthy skepticism toward maps, which, I began to realize, create a conceptual barrier that prevents us from comprehending the political crack-up just beginning to occur worldwide.
Consider the map of the world, with its 190 or so countries, each signified by a bold and uniform color: this map, with which all of us have grown up, is generally an invention of modernism, specifically of European colonialism. Modernism, in the sense of which I speak, began with the rise of nation-states in Europe and was confirmed by the death of feudalism at the end of the Thirty Years' War--an event that was interposed between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which together gave birth to modern science. People were suddenly flush with an enthusiasm to categorize, to define. The map, based on scientific techniques of measurement, offered a way to classify new national organisms, making a jigsaw puzzle of neat pieces without transition zones between them. "Frontier" is itself a modern concept that didn't exist in the feudal mind. And as European nations carved out far-flung domains at the same time that print technology was making the reproduction of maps cheaper, cartography came into its own as a way of creating facts by ordering the way we look at the world.
In his book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Benedict Anderson, of Cornell University, demonstrates that the map enabled colonialists to think about their holdings in terms of a "totalizing classificatory grid. . . . It was bounded, determinate, and therefore--in principle--countable." To the colonialist, country maps were the equivalent of an accountant's ledger books. Maps, Anderson explains, "shaped the grammar" that would make possible such questionable concepts as Iraq, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The state, recall, is a purely Western notion, one that until the twentieth century applied to countries covering only three percent of the earth's land area. Nor is the evidence compelling that the state, as a governing ideal, can be successfully transported to areas outside the industrialized world. Even the United States of America, in the words of one of our best living poets, Gary Snyder, consists of "arbitrary and inaccurate impositions on what is really here."
Yet this inflexible, artificial reality staggers on, not only in the United Nations but in various geographic and travel publications (themselves by-products of an age of elite touring which colonialism made possible) that still report on and photograph the world according to "country." Newspapers, this magazine, and this writer are not innocent of the tendency.
According to the map, the great hydropower complex emblemized by the Ataturk Dam is situated in Turkey. Forget the map. This southeastern region of Turkey is populated almost completely by Kurds. About half of the world's 20 million Kurds live in "Turkey." The Kurds are predominant in an ellipse of territory that overlaps not only with Turkey but also with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the former Soviet Union. The Western-enforced Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, a consequence of the 1991 Gulf War, has already exposed the fictitious nature of that supposed nation-state.
On a recent visit to the Turkish-Iranian border, it occurred to me what a risky idea the nation-state is. Here I was on the legal fault line between two clashing civilizations, Turkic and Iranian. Yet the reality was more subtle: as in West Africa, the border was porous and smuggling abounded, but here the people doing the smuggling, on both sides of the border, were Kurds. In such a moonscape, over which peoples have migrated and settled in patterns that obliterate borders, the end of the Cold War will bring on a cruel process of natural selection among existing states. No longer will these states be so firmly propped up by the West or the Soviet Union. Because the Kurds overlap with nearly everybody in the Middle East, on account of their being cheated out of a state in the post-First World War peace treaties, they are emerging, in effect, as the natural selector--the ultimate reality check. They have destabilized Iraq and may continue to disrupt states that do not offer them adequate breathing space, while strengthening states that do.
Because the Turks, owing to their water resources, their growing economy, and the social cohesion evinced by the most crime-free slums I have encountered, are on the verge of big-power status, and because the 10 million Kurds within Turkey threaten that status, the outcome of the Turkish-Kurdish dispute will be more critical to the future of the Middle East than the eventual outcome of the recent Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
America's fascination with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, coupled with its lack of interest in the Turkish-Kurdish one, is a function of its own domestic and ethnic obsessions, not of the cartographic reality that is about to transform the Middle East. The diplomatic process involving Israelis and Palestinians will, I believe, have little effect on the early- and mid-twenty-first-century map of the region. Israel, with a 6.6 percent economic growth rate based increasingly on high-tech exports, is about to enter Homer-Dixon's stretch limo, fortified by a well-defined political community that is an organic outgrowth of history and ethnicity. Like prosperous and peaceful Japan on the one hand, and war-torn and poverty-wracked Armenia on the other, Israel is a classic national-ethnic organism. Much of the Arab world, however, will undergo alteration, as Islam spreads across artificial frontiers, fueled by mass migrations into the cities and a soaring birth rate of more than 3.2 percent. Seventy percent of the Arab population has been born since 1970--youths with little historical memory of anticolonial independence struggles, postcolonial attempts at nation-building, or any of the Arab-Israeli wars. The most distant recollection of these youths will be the West's humiliation of colonially invented Iraq in 1991. Today seventeen out of twenty-two Arab states have a declining gross national product; in the next twenty years, at current growth rates, the population of many Arab countries will double. These states, like most African ones, will be ungovernable through conventional secular ideologies. The Middle East analyst Christine M. Helms explains, "Declaring Arab nationalism "bankrupt," the political "disinherited" are not rationalizing the failure of Arabism . . . or reformulating it. Alternative solutions are not contemplated. They have simply opted for the political paradigm at the other end of the political spectrum with which they are familiar--Islam."
Like the borders of West Africa, the colonial borders of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, and other Arab states are often contrary to cultural and political reality. As state control mechanisms wither in the face of environmental and demographic stress, "hard" Islamic city-states or shantytown-states are likely to emerge. The fiction that the impoverished city of Algiers, on the Mediterranean, controls Tamanrasset, deep in the Algerian Sahara, cannot obtain forever. Whatever the outcome of the peace process, Israel is destined to be a Jewish ethnic fortress amid a vast and volatile realm of Islam. In that realm, the violent youth culture of the Gaza shantytowns may be indicative of the coming era.
The destiny of Turks and Kurds is far less certain, but far more relevant to the kind of map that will explain our future world. The Kurds suggest a geographic reality that cannot be shown in two-dimensional space. The issue in Turkey is not simply a matter of giving autonomy or even independence to Kurds in the southeast. This isn't the Balkans or the Caucasus, where regions are merely subdividing into smaller units, Abkhazia breaking off from Georgia, and so on. Federalism is not the answer. Kurds are found everywhere in Turkey, including the shanty districts of Istanbul and Ankara. Turkey's problem is that its Anatolian land mass is the home of two cultures and languages, Turkish and Kurdish. Identity in Turkey, as in India, Africa, and elsewhere, is more complex and subtle than conventional cartography can display.
A New Kind of War
To appreciate fully the political and cartographic implications of postmodernism--an epoch of themeless juxtapositions, in which the classificatory grid of nation-states is going to be replaced by a jagged-glass pattern of city-states, shanty-states, nebulous and anarchic regionalisms--it is necessary to consider, finally, the whole question of war.
"Oh, what a relief to fight, to fight enemies who defend themselves, enemies who are awake!" Andre Malraux wrote in Man's Fate. I cannot think of a more suitable battle cry for many combatants in the early decades of the twenty-first century. The intense savagery of the fighting in such diverse cultural settings as Liberia, Bosnia, the Caucasus, and Sri Lanka--to say nothing of what obtains in American inner cities--indicates something very troubling that those of us inside the stretch limo, concerned with issues like middle-class entitlements and the future of interactive cable television, lack the stomach to contemplate. It is this: a large number of people on this planet, to whom the comfort and stability of a middle-class life is utterly unknown, find war and a barracks existence a step up rather than a step down.
"Just as it makes no sense to ask 'why people eat' or 'what they sleep for,'" writes Martin van Creveld, a military historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in The Transformation of War, "so fighting in many ways is not a means but an end. Throughout history, for every person who has expressed his horror of war there is another who found in it the most marvelous of all the experiences that are vouchsafed to man, even to the point that he later spent a lifetime boring his descendants by recounting his exploits." When I asked Pentagon officials about the nature of war in the twenty-first century, the answer I frequently got was "Read Van Creveld." The top brass are enamored of this historian not because his writings justify their existence but, rather, the opposite: Van Creveld warns them that huge state military machines like the Pentagon's are dinosaurs about to go extinct, and that something far more terrible awaits us.
The degree to which Van Creveld's Transformation of War complements Homer-Dixon's work on the environment, Huntington's thoughts on cultural clash, my own realizations in traveling by foot, bus, and bush taxi in more than sixty countries, and America's sobering comeuppances in intractable-culture zones like Haiti and Somalia is startling. The book begins by demolishing the notion that men don't like to fight. "By compelling the senses to focus themselves on the here and now," Van Creveld writes, war "can cause a man to take his leave of them." As anybody who has had experience with Chetniks in Serbia, "technicals" in Somalia, Tontons Macoutes in Haiti, or soldiers in Sierra Leone can tell you, in places where the Western Enlightenment has not penetrated and where there has always been mass poverty, people find liberation in violence. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, I vicariously experienced this phenomenon: worrying about mines and ambushes frees you from worrying about mundane details of daily existence. If my own experience is too subjective, there is a wealth of data showing the sheer frequency of war, especially in the developing world since the Second World War. Physical aggression is a part of being human. Only when people attain a certain economic, educational, and cultural standard is this trait tranquilized. In light of the fact that 95 percent of the earth's population growth will be in the poorest areas of the globe, the question is not whether there will be war (there will be a lot of it) but what kind of war. And who will fight whom?
Debunking the great military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, Van Creveld, who may be the most original thinker on war since that early-nineteenth-century Prussian, writes, "Clausewitz's ideas . . . were wholly rooted in the fact that, ever since 1648, war had been waged overwhelmingly by states." But, as Van Creveld explains, the period of nation-states and, therefore, of state conflict is now ending, and with it the clear "threefold division into government, army, and people" which state-directed wars enforce. Thus, to see the future, the first step is to look back to the past immediately prior to the birth of modernism--the wars in medieval Europe which began during the Reformation and reached their culmination in the Thirty Years' War.
Van Creveld writes, "In all these struggles political, social, economic, and religious motives were hopelessly entangled. Since this was an age when armies consisted of mercenaries, all were also attended by swarms of military entrepreneurs. . . . Many of them paid little but lip service to the organizations for whom they had contracted to fight. Instead, they robbed the countryside on their own behalf. . . ."
"Given such conditions, any fine distinctions . . . between armies on the one hand and peoples on the other were bound to break down. Engulfed by war, civilians suffered terrible atrocities."
Back then, in other words, there was no "politics" as we have come to understand the term, just as there is less and less "politics" today in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, the Balkans, and the Caucasus, among other places.
Because, as Van Creveld notes, the radius of trust within tribal societies is narrowed to one's immediate family and guerrilla comrades, truces arranged with one Bosnian commander, say, may be broken immediately by another Bosnian commander. The plethora of short-lived ceasefires in the Balkans and the Caucasus constitute proof that we are no longer in a world where the old rules of state warfare apply. More evidence is provided by the destruction of medieval monuments in the Croatian port of Dubrovnik: when cultures, rather than states, fight, then cultural and religious monuments are weapons of war, making them fair game.
Also, war-making entities will no longer be restricted to a specific territory. Loose and shadowy organisms such as Islamic terrorist organizations suggest why borders will mean increasingly little and sedimentary layers of tribalistic identity and control will mean more. "From the vantage point of the present, there appears every prospect that religious . . . fanaticisms will play a larger role in the motivation of armed conflict" in the West than at any time "for the last 300 years," Van Creveld writes. This is why analysts like Michael Vlahos are closely monitoring religious cults. Vlahos says, "An ideology that challenges us may not take familiar form, like the old Nazis or Commies. It may not even engage us initially in ways that fit old threat markings." Van Creveld concludes, "Armed conflict will be waged by men on earth, not robots in space. It will have more in common with the struggles of primitive tribes than with large-scale conventional war." While another military historian, John Keegan, in his new book A History of Warfare, draws a more benign portrait of primitive man, it is important to point out that what Van Creveld really means is re-primitivized man: warrior societies operating at a time of unprecedented resource scarcity and planetary overcrowding.
Van Creveld's pre-Westphalian vision of worldwide low-intensity conflict is not a superficial "back to the future" scenario. First of all, technology will be used toward primitive ends. In Liberia the guerrilla leader Prince Johnson didn't just cut off the ears of President Samuel Doe before Doe was tortured to death in 1990--Johnson made a video of it, which has circulated throughout West Africa. In December of 1992, when plotters of a failed coup against the Strasser regime in Sierra Leone had their ears cut off at Freetown's Hamilton Beach prior to being killed, it was seen by many to be a copycat execution. Considering, as I've explained earlier, that the Strasser regime is not really a government and that Sierra Leone is not really a nation-state, listen closely to Van Creveld: "Once the legal monopoly of armed force, long claimed by the state, is wrested out of its hands, existing distinctions between war and crime will break down much as is already the case today in . . . Lebanon, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Peru, or Colombia."
If crime and war become indistinguishable, then "national defense" may in the future be viewed as a local concept. As crime continues to grow in our cities and the ability of state governments and criminal-justice systems to protect their citizens diminishes, urban crime may, according to Van Creveld, "develop into low-intensity conflict by coalescing along racial, religious, social, and political lines." As small-scale violence multiplies at home and abroad, state armies will continue to shrink, being gradually replaced by a booming private security business, as in West Africa, and by urban mafias, especially in the former communist world, who may be better equipped than municipal police forces to grant physical protection to local inhabitants.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Anarchy by Robert Kaplan part three
on: May 20, 2007, 07:53:07 AM
Environmental scarcity will inflame existing hatreds and affect power relationships, at which we now look.
Skinhead Cossacks, Juju Warriors
In the summer, 1993, issue of Foreign Affairs, Samuel P. Huntington, of Harvard's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, published a thought-provoking article called "The Clash of Civilizations?" The world, he argues, has been moving during the course of this century from nation-state conflict to ideological conflict to, finally, cultural conflict. I would add that as refugee flows increase and as peasants continue migrating to cities around the world--turning them into sprawling villages--national borders will mean less, even as more power will fall into the hands of less educated, less sophisticated groups. In the eyes of these uneducated but newly empowered millions, the real borders are the most tangible and intractable ones: those of culture and tribe. Huntington writes, "First, differences among civilizations are not only real; they are basic," involving, among other things, history, language, and religion. "Second . . . interactions between peoples of different civilizations are increasing; these increasing interactions intensify civilization consciousness." Economic modernization is not necessarily a panacea, since it fuels individual and group ambitions while weakening traditional loyalties to the state. It is worth noting, for example, that it is precisely the wealthiest and fastest-developing city in India, Bombay, that has seen the worst intercommunal violence between Hindus and Muslims. Consider that Indian cities, like African and Chinese ones, are ecological time bombs--Delhi and Calcutta, and also Beijing, suffer the worst air quality of any cities in the world--and it is apparent how surging populations, environmental degradation, and ethnic conflict are deeply related.
Huntington points to interlocking conflicts among Hindu, Muslim, Slavic Orthodox, Western, Japanese, Confucian, Latin American, and possibly African civilizations: for instance, Hindus clashing with Muslims in India, Turkic Muslims clashing with Slavic Orthodox Russians in Central Asian cities, the West clashing with Asia. (Even in the United States, African-Americans find themselves besieged by an influx of competing Latinos.) Whatever the laws, refugees find a way to crash official borders, bringing their passions with them, meaning that Europe and the United States will be weakened by cultural disputes.
Because Huntington's brush is broad, his specifics are vulnerable to attack. In a rebuttal of Huntington's argument the Johns Hopkins professor Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese-born Shi'ite who certainly knows the world beyond suburbia, writes in the September-October, 1993, issue of Foreign Affairs, "The world of Islam divides and subdivides. The battle lines in the Caucasus . . . are not coextensive with civilizational fault lines. The lines follow the interests of states. Where Huntington sees a civilizational duel between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Iranian state has cast religious zeal . . . to the wind . . . in that battle the Iranians have tilted toward Christian Armenia."
True, Huntington's hypothesized war between Islam and Orthodox Christianity is not borne out by the alliance network in the Caucasus. But that is only because he has misidentified which cultural war is occurring there. A recent visit to Azerbaijan made clear to me that Azeri Turks, the world's most secular Shi'ite Muslims, see their cultural identity in terms not of religion but of their Turkic race. The Armenians, likewise, fight the Azeris not because the latter are Muslims but because they are Turks, related to the same Turks who massacred Armenians in 1915. Turkic culture (secular and based on languages employing a Latin script) is battling Iranian culture (religiously militant as defined by Tehran, and wedded to an Arabic script) across the whole swath of Central Asia and the Caucasus. The Armenians are, therefore, natural allies of their fellow Indo-Europeans the Iranians.
Huntington is correct that the Caucasus is a flashpoint of cultural and racial war. But, as Ajami observes, Huntington's plate tectonics are too simple. Two months of recent travel throughout Turkey revealed to me that although the Turks are developing a deep distrust, bordering on hatred, of fellow-Muslim Iran, they are also, especially in the shantytowns that are coming to dominate Turkish public opinion, revising their group identity, increasingly seeing themselves as Muslims being deserted by a West that does little to help besieged Muslims in Bosnia and that attacks Turkish Muslims in the streets of Germany.
In other words, the Balkans, a powder keg for nation-state war at the beginning of the twentieth century, could be a powder keg for cultural war at the turn of the twenty-first: between Orthodox Christianity (represented by the Serbs and a classic Byzantine configuration of Greeks, Russians, and Romanians) and the House of Islam. Yet in the Caucasus that House of Islam is falling into a clash between Turkic and Iranian civilizations. Ajami asserts that this very subdivision, not to mention all the divisions within the Arab world, indicates that the West, including the United States, is not threatened by Huntington's scenario. As the Gulf War demonstrated, the West has proved capable of playing one part of the House of Islam against another.
True. However, whether he is aware of it or not, Ajami is describing a world even more dangerous than the one Huntington envisions, especially when one takes into account Homer-Dixon's research on environmental scarcity. Outside the stretch limo would be a rundown, crowded planet of skinhead Cossacks and juju warriors, influenced by the worst refuse of Western pop culture and ancient tribal hatreds, and battling over scraps of overused earth in guerrilla conflicts that ripple across continents and intersect in no discernible pattern--meaning there's no easy-to-define threat. Kennan's world of one adversary seems as distant as the world of Herodotus.
Most people believe that the political earth since 1989 has undergone immense change. But it is minor compared with what is yet to come. The breaking apart and remaking of the atlas is only now beginning. The crack-up of the Soviet empire and the coming end of Arab-Israeli military confrontation are merely prologues to the really big changes that lie ahead. Michael Vlahos, a long-range thinker for the U.S. Navy, warns, "We are not in charge of the environment and the world is not following us. It is going in many directions. Do not assume that democratic capitalism is the last word in human social evolution."
Before addressing the questions of maps and of warfare, I want to take a closer look at the interaction of religion, culture, demographic shifts, and the distribution of natural resources in a specific area of the world: the Middle East.
Built on steep, muddy hills, the shantytowns of Ankara, the Turkish capital, exude visual drama. Altindag, or "Golden Mountain," is a pyramid of dreams, fashioned from cinder blocks and corrugated iron, rising as though each shack were built on top of another, all reaching awkwardly and painfully toward heaven--the heaven of wealthier Turks who live elsewhere in the city. Nowhere else on the planet have I found such a poignant architectural symbol of man's striving, with gaps in house walls plugged with rusted cans, and leeks and onions growing on verandas assembled from planks of rotting wood. For reasons that I will explain, the Turkish shacktown is a psychological universe away from the African one.
To see the twenty-first century truly, one's eyes must learn a different set of aesthetics. One must reject the overly stylized images of travel magazines, with their inviting photographs of exotic villages and glamorous downtowns. There are far too many millions whose dreams are more vulgar, more real--whose raw energies and desires will overwhelm the visions of the elites, remaking the future into something frighteningly new. But in Turkey I learned that shantytowns are not all bad.
Slum quarters in Abidjan terrify and repel the outsider. In Turkey it is the opposite. The closer I got to Golden Mountain the better it looked, and the safer I felt. I had $1,500 worth of Turkish lira in one pocket and $1,000 in traveler's checks in the other, yet I felt no fear. Golden Mountain was a real neighborhood. The inside of one house told the story: The architectural bedlam of cinder block and sheet metal and cardboard walls was deceiving. Inside was a home--order, that is, bespeaking dignity. I saw a working refrigerator, a television, a wall cabinet with a few books and lots of family pictures, a few plants by a window, and a stove. Though the streets become rivers of mud when it rains, the floors inside this house were spotless.
Other houses were like this too. Schoolchildren ran along with briefcases strapped to their backs, trucks delivered cooking gas, a few men sat inside a cafe sipping tea. One man sipped beer. Alcohol is easy to obtain in Turkey, a secular state where 99 percent of the population is Muslim. Yet there is little problem of alcoholism. Crime against persons is infinitesimal. Poverty and illiteracy are watered-down versions of what obtains in Algeria and Egypt (to say nothing of West Africa), making it that much harder for religious extremists to gain a foothold.
My point in bringing up a rather wholesome, crime-free slum is this: its existence demonstrates how formidable is the fabric of which Turkish Muslim culture is made. A culture this strong has the potential to dominate the Middle East once again. Slums are litmus tests for innate cultural strengths and weaknesses. Those peoples whose cultures can harbor extensive slum life without decomposing will be, relatively speaking, the future's winners. Those whose cultures cannot will be the future's victims. Slums--in the sociological sense--do not exist in Turkish cities. The mortar between people and family groups is stronger here than in Africa. Resurgent Islam and Turkic cultural identity have produced a civilization with natural muscle tone. Turks, history's perennial nomads, take disruption in stride.
The future of the Middle East is quietly being written inside the heads of Golden Mountain's inhabitants. Think of an Ottoman military encampment on the eve of the destruction of Greek Constantinople in 1453. That is Golden Mountain. "We brought the village here. But in the village we worked harder--in the field, all day. So we couldn't fast during [the holy month of] Ramadan. Here we fast. Here we are more religious." Aishe Tanrikulu, along with half a dozen other women, was stuffing rice into vine leaves from a crude plastic bowl. She asked me to join her under the shade of a piece of sheet metal. Each of these women had her hair covered by a kerchief. In the city they were encountering television for the first time. "We are traditional, religious people. The programs offend us," Aishe said. Another woman complained about the schools. Though her children had educational options unavailable in the village, they had to compete with wealthier, secular Turks. "The kids from rich families with connections--they get all the places." More opportunities, more tensions, in other words.
My guidebook to Golden Mountain was an untypical one: Tales From the Garbage Hills, a brutally realistic novel by a Turkish writer, Latife Tekin, about life in the shantytowns, which in Turkey are called gecekondus ("built in a night"). "He listened to the earth and wept unceasingly for water, for work and for the cure of the illnesses spread by the garbage and the factory waste," Tekin writes. In the most revealing passage of Tales From the Garbage Hills the squatters are told "about a certain 'Ottoman Empire' . . . that where they now lived there had once been an empire of this name." This history "confounded" the squatters. It was the first they had heard of it. Though one of them knew "that his grandfather and his dog died fighting the Greeks," nationalism and an encompassing sense of Turkish history are the province of the Turkish middle and upper classes, and of foreigners like me who feel required to have a notion of "Turkey."
But what did the Golden Mountain squatters know about the armies of Turkish migrants that had come before their own--namely, Seljuks and Ottomans? For these recently urbanized peasants, and their counterparts in Africa, the Arab world, India, and so many other places, the world is new, to adapt V. S. Naipaul's phrase. As Naipaul wrote of urban refugees in India: A Wounded Civilization, "They saw themselves at the beginning of things: unaccommodated men making a claim on their land for the first time, and out of chaos evolving their own philosophy of community and self-help. For them the past was dead; they had left it behind in the villages."
Everywhere in the developing world at the turn of the twenty-first century these new men and women, rushing into the cities, are remaking civilizations and redefining their identities in terms of religion and tribal ethnicity which do not coincide with the borders of existing states.
In Turkey several things are happening at once. In 1980, 44 percent of Turks lived in cities; in 1990 it was 61 percent. By the year 2000 the figure is expected to be 67 percent. Villages are emptying out as concentric rings of gecekondu developments grow around Turkish cities. This is the real political and demographic revolution in Turkey and elsewhere, and foreign correspondents usually don't write about it.
Whereas rural poverty is age-old and almost a "normal" part of the social fabric, urban poverty is socially destabilizing. As Iran has shown, Islamic extremism is the psychological defense mechanism of many urbanized peasants threatened with the loss of traditions in pseudo-modern cities where their values are under attack, where basic services like water and electricity are unavailable, and where they are assaulted by a physically unhealthy environment. The American ethnologist and orientalist Carleton Stevens Coon wrote in 1951 that Islam "has made possible the optimum survival and happiness of millions of human beings in an increasingly impoverished environment over a fourteen-hundred-year period." Beyond its stark, clearly articulated message, Islam's very militancy makes it attractive to the downtrodden. It is the one religion that is prepared to fight. A political era driven by environmental stress, increased cultural sensitivity, unregulated urbanization, and refugee migrations is an era divinely created for the spread and intensification of Islam, already the world's fastest-growing religion. (Though Islam is spreading in West Africa, it is being hobbled by syncretization with animism: this makes new converts less apt to become anti-Western extremists, but it also makes for a weakened version of the faith, which is less effective as an antidote to crime.)
In Turkey, however, Islam is painfully and awkwardly forging a consensus with modernization, a trend that is less apparent in the Arab and Persian worlds (and virtually invisible in Africa). In Iran the oil boom--because it put development and urbanization on a fast track, making the culture shock more intense--fueled the 1978 Islamic Revolution. But Turkey, unlike Iran and the Arab world, has little oil. Therefore its development and urbanization have been more gradual. Islamists have been integrated into the parliamentary system for decades. The tensions I noticed in Golden Mountain are natural, creative ones: the kind immigrants face the world over. While the world has focused on religious perversity in Algeria, a nation rich in natural gas, and in Egypt, parts of whose capital city, Cairo, evince worse crowding than I have seen even in Calcutta, Turkey has been living through the Muslim equivalent of the Protestant Reformation.
Resource distribution is strengthening Turks in another way vis-a-vis Arabs and Persians. Turks may have little oil, but their Anatolian heartland has lots of water--the most important fluid of the twenty-first century. Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, involving twenty-two major dams and irrigation systems, is impounding the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Much of the water that Arabs and perhaps Israelis will need to drink in the future is controlled by Turks. The project's centerpiece is the mile-wide, sixteen-story Ataturk Dam, upon which are emblazoned the words of modern Turkey's founder: "Ne Mutlu Turkum Diyene" ("Lucky is the one who is a Turk").
Unlike Egypt's Aswan High Dam, on the Nile, and Syria's Revolution Dam, on the Euphrates, both of which were built largely by Russians, the Ataturk Dam is a predominantly Turkish affair, with Turkish engineers and companies in charge. On a recent visit my eyes took in the immaculate offices and their gardens, the high-voltage electric grids and phone switching stations, the dizzying sweep of giant humming transformers, the poured-concrete spillways, and the prim unfolding suburbia, complete with schools, for dam employees. The emerging power of the Turks was palpable.
Erduhan Bayindir, the site manager at the dam, told me that "while oil can be shipped abroad to enrich only elites, water has to be spread more evenly within the society. . . . It is true, we can stop the flow of water into Syria and Iraq for up to eight months without the same water overflowing our dams, in order to regulate their political behavior."
Power is certainly moving north in the Middle East, from the oil fields of Dhahran, on the Persian Gulf, to the water plain of Harran, in southern Anatolia--near the site of the Ataturk Dam. But will the nation-state of Turkey, as presently constituted, be the inheritor of this wealth?
I very much doubt it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Anarchy by Robert Kaplan part two
on: May 20, 2007, 07:51:45 AM
The future could be more tumultuous, and bloodier, than Mazrui dares to say. France will withdraw from former colonies like Benin, Togo, Niger, and the Ivory Coast, where it has been propping up local currencies. It will do so not only because its attention will be diverted to new challenges in Europe and Russia but also because younger French officials lack the older generation's emotional ties to the ex-colonies. However, even as Nigeria attempts to expand, it, too, is likely to split into several pieces. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research recently made the following points in an analysis of Nigeria: "Prospects for a transition to civilian rule and democratization are slim. . . . The repressive apparatus of the state security service . . . will be difficult for any future civilian government to control. . . . The country is becoming increasingly ungovernable. . . . Ethnic and regional splits are deepening, a situation made worse by an increase in the number of states from 19 to 30 and a doubling in the number of local governing authorities; religious cleavages are more serious; Muslim fundamentalism and evangelical Christian militancy are on the rise; and northern Muslim anxiety over southern [Christian] control of the economy is intense . . . the will to keep Nigeria together is now very weak."
Given that oil-rich Nigeria is a bellwether for the region--its population of roughly 90 million equals the populations of all the other West African states combined--it is apparent that Africa faces cataclysms that could make the Ethiopian and Somalian famines pale in comparison. This is especially so because Nigeria's population, including that of its largest city, Lagos, whose crime, pollution, and overcrowding make it the cliche par excellence of Third World urban dysfunction, is set to double during the next twenty-five years, while the country continues to deplete its natural resources.
Part of West Africa's quandary is that although its population belts are horizontal, with habitation densities increasing as one travels south away from the Sahara and toward the tropical abundance of the Atlantic littoral, the borders erected by European colonialists are vertical, and therefore at cross-purposes with demography and topography. Satellite photos depict the same reality I experienced in the bush taxi: the Lome-Abidjan coastal corridor--indeed, the entire stretch of coast from Abidjan eastward to Lagos--is one burgeoning megalopolis that by any rational economic and geographical standard should constitute a single sovereignty, rather than the five (the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria) into which it is currently divided.
As many internal African borders begin to crumble, a more impenetrable boundary is being erected that threatens to isolate the continent as a whole: the wall of disease. Merely to visit West Africa in some degree of safety, I spent about $500 for a hepatitis B vaccination series and other disease prophylaxis. Africa may today be more dangerous in this regard than it was in 1862, before antibiotics, when the explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton described the health situation on the continent as "deadly, a Golgotha, a Jehannum." Of the approximately 12 million people worldwide whose blood is HIV-positive, 8 million are in Africa. In the capital of the Ivory Coast, whose modern road system only helps to spread the disease, 10 percent of the population is HIV-positive. And war and refugee movements help the virus break through to more-remote areas of Africa. Alan Greenberg, M.D., a representative of the Centers for Disease Control in Abidjan, explains that in Africa the HIV virus and tuberculosis are now "fast-forwarding each other." Of the approximately 4,000 newly diagnosed tuberculosis patients in Abidjan, 45 percent were also found to be HIV-positive. As African birth rates soar and slums proliferate, some experts worry that viral mutations and hybridizations might, just conceivably, result in a form of the AIDS virus that is easier to catch than the present strain.
It is malaria that is most responsible for the disease wall that threatens to separate Africa and other parts of the Third World from more-developed regions of the planet in the twenty-first century. Carried by mosquitoes, malaria, unlike AIDS, is easy to catch. Most people in sub-Saharan Africa have recurring bouts of the disease throughout their entire lives, and it is mutating into increasingly deadly forms. "The great gift of Malaria is utter apathy," wrote Sir Richard Burton, accurately portraying the situation in much of the Third World today. Visitors to malaria-afflicted parts of the planet are protected by a new drug, mefloquine, a side effect of which is vivid, even violent, dreams. But a strain of cerebral malaria resistant to mefloquine is now on the offensive. Consequently, defending oneself against malaria in Africa is becoming more and more like defending oneself against violent crime. You engage in "behavior modification": not going out at dusk, wearing mosquito repellent all the time.
And the cities keep growing. I got a general sense of the future while driving from the airport to downtown Conakry, the capital of Guinea. The forty-five-minute journey in heavy traffic was through one never-ending shantytown: a nightmarish Dickensian spectacle to which Dickens himself would never have given credence. The corrugated metal shacks and scabrous walls were coated with black slime. Stores were built out of rusted shipping containers, junked cars, and jumbles of wire mesh. The streets were one long puddle of floating garbage. Mosquitoes and flies were everywhere. Children, many of whom had protruding bellies, seemed as numerous as ants. When the tide went out, dead rats and the skeletons of cars were exposed on the mucky beach. In twenty-eight years Guinea's population will double if growth goes on at current rates. Hardwood logging continues at a madcap speed, and people flee the Guinean countryside for Conakry. It seemed to me that here, as elsewhere in Africa and the Third World, man is challenging nature far beyond its limits, and nature is now beginning to take its revenge.
Africa may be as relevant to the future character of world politics as the Balkans were a hundred years ago, prior to the two Balkan wars and the First World War. Then the threat was the collapse of empires and the birth of nations based solely on tribe. Now the threat is more elemental: nature unchecked. Africa's immediate future could be very bad. The coming upheaval, in which foreign embassies are shut down, states collapse, and contact with the outside world takes place through dangerous, disease-ridden coastal trading posts, will loom large in the century we are entering. (Nine of twenty-one U.S. foreign-aid missions to be closed over the next three years are in Africa--a prologue to a consolidation of U.S. embassies themselves.) Precisely because much of Africa is set to go over the edge at a time when the Cold War has ended, when environmental and demographic stress in other parts of the globe is becoming critical, and when the post-First World War system of nation-states--not just in the Balkans but perhaps also in the Middle East--is about to be toppled, Africa suggests what war, borders, and ethnic politics will be like a few decades hence.
To understand the events of the next fifty years, then, one must understand environmental scarcity, cultural and racial clash, geographic destiny, and the transformation of war. The order in which I have named these is not accidental. Each concept except the first relies partly on the one or ones before it, meaning that the last two--new approaches to mapmaking and to warfare--are the most important. They are also the least understood. I will now look at each idea, drawing upon the work of specialists and also my own travel experiences in various parts of the globe besides Africa, in order to fill in the blanks of a new political atlas.
The Environment as a Hostile Power
For a while the media will continue to ascribe riots and other violent upheavals abroad mainly to ethnic and religious conflict. But as these conflicts multiply, it will become apparent that something else is afoot, making more and more places like Nigeria, India, and Brazil ungovernable.
Mention "the environment" or "diminishing natural resources" in foreign-policy circles and you meet a brick wall of skepticism or boredom. To conservatives especially, the very terms seem flaky. Public-policy foundations have contributed to the lack of interest, by funding narrowly focused environmental studies replete with technical jargon which foreign-affairs experts just let pile up on their desks.
It is time to understand "the environment" for what it is: the national-security issue of the early twenty-first century. The political and strategic impact of surging populations, spreading disease, deforestation and soil erosion, water depletion, air pollution, and, possibly, rising sea levels in critical, overcrowded regions like the Nile Delta and Bangladesh--developments that will prompt mass migrations and, in turn, incite group conflicts--will be the core foreign-policy challenge from which most others will ultimately emanate, arousing the public and uniting assorted interests left over from the Cold War. In the twenty-first century water will be in dangerously short supply in such diverse locales as Saudi Arabia, Central Asia, and the southwestern United States. A war could erupt between Egypt and Ethiopia over Nile River water. Even in Europe tensions have arisen between Hungary and Slovakia over the damming of the Danube, a classic case of how environmental disputes fuse with ethnic and historical ones. The political scientist and erstwhile Clinton adviser Michael Mandelbaum has said, "We have a foreign policy today in the shape of a doughnut--lots of peripheral interests but nothing at the center." The environment, I will argue, is part of a terrifying array of problems that will define a new threat to our security, filling the hole in Mandelbaum's doughnut and allowing a post- Cold War foreign policy to emerge inexorably by need rather than by design.
Our Cold War foreign policy truly began with George F. Kennan's famous article, signed "X," published in Foreign Affairs in July of 1947, in which Kennan argued for a "firm and vigilant containment" of a Soviet Union that was imperially, rather than ideologically, motivated. It may be that our post-Cold War foreign policy will one day be seen to have had its beginnings in an even bolder and more detailed piece of written analysis: one that appeared in the journal International Security. The article, published in the fall of 1991 by Thomas Fraser Homer-Dixon, who is the head of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Toronto, was titled "On the Threshold: Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict." Homer-Dixon has, more successfully than other analysts, integrated two hitherto separate fields--military-conflict studies and the study of the physical environment.
In Homer-Dixon's view, future wars and civil violence will often arise from scarcities of resources such as water, cropland, forests, and fish. Just as there will be environmentally driven wars and refugee flows, there will be environmentally induced praetorian regimes--or, as he puts it, "hard regimes." Countries with the highest probability of acquiring hard regimes, according to Homer-Dixon, are those that are threatened by a declining resource base yet also have "a history of state [read 'military'] strength." Candidates include Indonesia, Brazil, and, of course, Nigeria. Though each of these nations has exhibited democratizing tendencies of late, Homer-Dixon argues that such tendencies are likely to be superficial "epiphenomena" having nothing to do with long-term processes that include soaring populations and shrinking raw materials. Democracy is problematic; scarcity is more certain.
Indeed, the Saddam Husseins of the future will have more, not fewer, opportunities. In addition to engendering tribal strife, scarcer resources will place a great strain on many peoples who never had much of a democratic or institutional tradition to begin with. Over the next fifty years the earth's population will soar from 5.5 billion to more than nine billion. Though optimists have hopes for new resource technologies and free-market development in the global village, they fail to note that, as the National Academy of Sciences has pointed out, 95 percent of the population increase will be in the poorest regions of the world, where governments now--just look at Africa--show little ability to function, let alone to implement even marginal improvements. Homer-Dixon writes, ominously, "Neo-Malthusians may underestimate human adaptability in today's environmental-social system, but as time passes their analysis may become ever more compelling."
While a minority of the human population will be, as Francis Fukuyama would put it, sufficiently sheltered so as to enter a "post-historical" realm, living in cities and suburbs in which the environment has been mastered and ethnic animosities have been quelled by bourgeois prosperity, an increasingly large number of people will be stuck in history, living in shantytowns where attempts to rise above poverty, cultural dysfunction, and ethnic strife will be doomed by a lack of water to drink, soil to till, and space to survive in. In the developing world environmental stress will present people with a choice that is increasingly among totalitarianism (as in Iraq), fascist-tending mini-states (as in Serb-held Bosnia), and road-warrior cultures (as in Somalia). Homer-Dixon concludes that "as environmental degradation proceeds, the size of the potential social disruption will increase."
Tad Homer-Dixon is an unlikely Jeremiah. Today a boyish thirty-seven, he grew up amid the sylvan majesty of Vancouver Island, attending private day schools. His speech is calm, perfectly even, and crisply enunciated. There is nothing in his background or manner that would indicate a bent toward pessimism. A Canadian Anglican who spends his summers canoeing on the lakes of northern Ontario, and who talks about the benign mountains, black bears, and Douglas firs of his youth, he is the opposite of the intellectually severe neoconservative, the kind at home with conflict scenarios. Nor is he an environmentalist who opposes development. "My father was a logger who thought about ecologically safe forestry before others," he says. "He logged, planted, logged, and planted. He got out of the business just as the issue was being polarized by environmentalists. They hate changed ecosystems. But human beings, just by carrying seeds around, change the natural world." As an only child whose playground was a virtually untouched wilderness and seacoast, Homer-Dixon has a familiarity with the natural world that permits him to see a reality that most policy analysts--children of suburbia and city streets--are blind to.
"We need to bring nature back in," he argues. "We have to stop separating politics from the physical world--the climate, public health, and the environment." Quoting Daniel Deudney, another pioneering expert on the security aspects of the environment, Homer-Dixon says that "for too long we've been prisoners of 'social-social' theory, which assumes there are only social causes for social and political changes, rather than natural causes, too. This social-social mentality emerged with the Industrial Revolution, which separated us from nature. But nature is coming back with a vengeance, tied to population growth. It will have incredible security implications.
"Think of a stretch limo in the potholed streets of New York City, where homeless beggars live. Inside the limo are the air-conditioned post-industrial regions of North America, Europe, the emerging Pacific Rim, and a few other isolated places, with their trade summitry and computer-information highways. Outside is the rest of mankind, going in a completely different direction."
We are entering a bifurcated world. Part of the globe is inhabited by Hegel's and Fukuyama's Last Man, healthy, well fed, and pampered by technology. The other, larger, part is inhabited by Hobbes's First Man, condemned to a life that is "poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Although both parts will be threatened by environmental stress, the Last Man will be able to master it; the First Man will not.
The Last Man will adjust to the loss of underground water tables in the western United States. He will build dikes to save Cape Hatteras and the Chesapeake beaches from rising sea levels, even as the Maldive Islands, off the coast of India, sink into oblivion, and the shorelines of Egypt, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia recede, driving tens of millions of people inland where there is no room for them, and thus sharpening ethnic divisions.
Homer-Dixon points to a world map of soil degradation in his Toronto office. "The darker the map color, the worse the degradation," he explains. The West African coast, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, China, and Central America have the darkest shades, signifying all manner of degradation, related to winds, chemicals, and water problems. "The worst degradation is generally where the population is highest. The population is generally highest where the soil is the best. So we're degrading earth's best soil."
China, in Homer-Dixon's view, is the quintessential example of environmental degradation. Its current economic "success" masks deeper problems. "China's fourteen percent growth rate does not mean it's going to be a world power. It means that coastal China, where the economic growth is taking place, is joining the rest of the Pacific Rim. The disparity with inland China is intensifying." Referring to the environmental research of his colleague, the Czech-born ecologist Vaclav Smil, Homer-Dixon explains how the per capita availability of arable land in interior China has rapidly declined at the same time that the quality of that land has been destroyed by deforestation, loss of topsoil, and salinization. He mentions the loss and contamination of water supplies, the exhaustion of wells, the plugging of irrigation systems and reservoirs with eroded silt, and a population of 1.54 billion by the year 2025: it is a misconception that China has gotten its population under control. Large-scale population movements are under way, from inland China to coastal China and from villages to cities, leading to a crime surge like the one in Africa and to growing regional disparities and conflicts in a land with a strong tradition of warlordism and a weak tradition of central government--again as in Africa. "We will probably see the center challenged and fractured, and China will not remain the same on the map," Homer-Dixon says.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Coming Anarchy by Robert Kaplan
on: May 20, 2007, 07:48:49 AM
THE COMING ANARCHY
by Robert D. Kaplan
How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet
The Atlantic Monthly, February 1994http://www.TheAtlantic.com/atlantic/election/connection/foreign/anarcf.htm
table of contents
The Minister's eyes were like egg yolks, an aftereffect of some of the many illnesses, malaria especially, endemic in his country. There was also an irrefutable sadness in his eyes. He spoke in a slow and creaking voice, the voice of hope about to expire. Flame trees, coconut palms, and a ballpoint-blue Atlantic composed the background. None of it seemed beautiful, though. "In forty-five years I have never seen things so bad. We did not manage ourselves well after the British departed. But what we have now is something worse--the revenge of the poor, of the social failures, of the people least able to bring up children in a modern society." Then he referred to the recent coup in the West African country Sierra Leone. "The boys who took power in Sierra Leone come from houses like this." The Minister jabbed his finger at a corrugated metal shack teeming with children. "In three months these boys confiscated all the official Mercedes, Volvos, and BMWs and willfully wrecked them on the road." The Minister mentioned one of the coup's leaders, Solomon Anthony Joseph Musa, who shot the people who had paid for his schooling, "in order to erase the humiliation and mitigate the power his middle-class sponsors held over him."
Tyranny is nothing new in Sierra Leone or in the rest of West Africa. But it is now part and parcel of an increasing lawlessness that is far more significant than any coup, rebel incursion, or episodic experiment in democracy. Crime was what my friend--a top-ranking African official whose life would be threatened were I to identify him more precisely--really wanted to talk about. Crime is what makes West Africa a natural point of departure for my report on what the political character of our planet is likely to be in the twenty-first century.
The cities of West Africa at night are some of the unsafest places in the world. Streets are unlit; the police often lack gasoline for their vehicles; armed burglars, carjackers, and muggers proliferate. "The government in Sierra Leone has no writ after dark," says a foreign resident, shrugging. When I was in the capital, Freetown, last September, eight men armed with AK-47s broke into the house of an American man. They tied him up and stole everything of value. Forget Miami: direct flights between the United States and the Murtala Muhammed Airport, in neighboring Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, have been suspended by order of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation because of ineffective security at the terminal and its environs. A State Department report cited the airport for "extortion by law-enforcement and immigration officials." This is one of the few times that the U.S. government has embargoed a foreign airport for reasons that are linked purely to crime. In Abidjan, effectively the capital of the Cote d'Ivoire, or Ivory Coast, restaurants have stick- and gun-wielding guards who walk you the fifteen feet or so between your car and the entrance, giving you an eerie taste of what American cities might be like in the future. An Italian ambassador was killed by gunfire when robbers invaded an Abidjan restaurant. The family of the Nigerian ambassador was tied up and robbed at gunpoint in the ambassador's residence. After university students in the Ivory Coast caught bandits who had been plaguing their dorms, they executed them by hanging tires around their necks and setting the tires on fire. In one instance Ivorian policemen stood by and watched the "necklacings," afraid to intervene. Each time I went to the Abidjan bus terminal, groups of young men with restless, scanning eyes surrounded my taxi, putting their hands all over the windows, demanding "tips" for carrying my luggage even though I had only a rucksack. In cities in six West African countries I saw similar young men everywhere--hordes of them. They were like loose molecules in a very unstable social fluid, a fluid that was clearly on the verge of igniting.
"You see," my friend the Minister told me, "in the villages of Africa it is perfectly natural to feed at any table and lodge in any hut. But in the cities this communal existence no longer holds. You must pay for lodging and be invited for food. When young men find out that their relations cannot put them up, they become lost. They join other migrants and slip gradually into the criminal process."
"In the poor quarters of Arab North Africa," he continued, "there is much less crime, because Islam provides a social anchor: of education and indoctrination. Here in West Africa we have a lot of superficial Islam and superficial Christianity. Western religion is undermined by animist beliefs not suitable to a moral society, because they are based on irrational spirit power. Here spirits are used to wreak vengeance by one person against another, or one group against another." Many of the atrocities in the Liberian civil war have been tied to belief in juju spirits, and the BBC has reported, in its magazine Focus on Africa, that in the civil fighting in adjacent Sierra Leone, rebels were said to have "a young woman with them who would go to the front naked, always walking backwards and looking in a mirror to see where she was going. This made her invisible, so that she could cross to the army's positions and there bury charms . . . to improve the rebels' chances of success."
Finally my friend the Minister mentioned polygamy. Designed for a pastoral way of life, polygamy continues to thrive in sub-Saharan Africa even though it is increasingly uncommon in Arab North Africa. Most youths I met on the road in West Africa told me that they were from "extended" families, with a mother in one place and a father in another. Translated to an urban environment, loose family structures are largely responsible for the world's highest birth rates and the explosion of the HIV virus on the continent. Like the communalism and animism, they provide a weak shield against the corrosive social effects of life in cities. In those cities African culture is being redefined while desertification and deforestation--also tied to overpopulation--drive more and more African peasants out of the countryside.
A Premonition of the Future
West Africa is becoming the symbol of worldwide demographic, environmental, and societal stress, in which criminal anarchy emerges as the real "strategic" danger. Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, the increasing erosion of nation-states and international borders, and the empowerment of private armies, security firms, and international drug cartels are now most tellingly demonstrated through a West African prism. West Africa provides an appropriate introduction to the issues, often extremely unpleasant to discuss, that will soon confront our civilization. To remap the political earth the way it will be a few decades hence--as I intend to do in this article--I find I must begin with West Africa.
There is no other place on the planet where political maps are so deceptive--where, in fact, they tell such lies--as in West Africa. Start with Sierra Leone. According to the map, it is a nation-state of defined borders, with a government in control of its territory. In truth the Sierra Leonian government, run by a twenty-seven-year-old army captain, Valentine Strasser, controls Freetown by day and by day also controls part of the rural interior. In the government's territory the national army is an unruly rabble threatening drivers and passengers at most checkpoints. In the other part of the country units of two separate armies from the war in Liberia have taken up residence, as has an army of Sierra Leonian rebels. The government force fighting the rebels is full of renegade commanders who have aligned themselves with disaffected village chiefs. A pre-modern formlessness governs the battlefield, evoking the wars in medieval Europe prior to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which ushered in the era of organized nation-states.
As a consequence, roughly 400,000 Sierra Leonians are internally displaced, 280,000 more have fled to neighboring Guinea, and another 100,000 have fled to Liberia, even as 400,000 Liberians have fled to Sierra Leone. The third largest city in Sierra Leone, Gondama, is a displaced-persons camp. With an additional 600,000 Liberians in Guinea and 250,000 in the Ivory Coast, the borders dividing these four countries have become largely meaningless. Even in quiet zones none of the governments except the Ivory Coast's maintains the schools, bridges, roads, and police forces in a manner necessary for functional sovereignty. The Koranko ethnic group in northeastern Sierra Leone does all its trading in Guinea. Sierra Leonian diamonds are more likely to be sold in Liberia than in Freetown. In the eastern provinces of Sierra Leone you can buy Liberian beer but not the local brand.
In Sierra Leone, as in Guinea, as in the Ivory Coast, as in Ghana, most of the primary rain forest and the secondary bush is being destroyed at an alarming rate. I saw convoys of trucks bearing majestic hardwood trunks to coastal ports. When Sierra Leone achieved its independence, in 1961, as much as 60 percent of the country was primary rain forest. Now six percent is. In the Ivory Coast the proportion has fallen from 38 percent to eight percent. The deforestation has led to soil erosion, which has led to more flooding and more mosquitoes. Virtually everyone in the West African interior has some form of malaria.
Sierra Leone is a microcosm of what is occurring, albeit in a more tempered and gradual manner, throughout West Africa and much of the underdeveloped world: the withering away of central governments, the rise of tribal and regional domains, the unchecked spread of disease, and the growing pervasiveness of war. West Africa is reverting to the Africa of the Victorian atlas. It consists now of a series of coastal trading posts, such as Freetown and Conakry, and an interior that, owing to violence, volatility, and disease, is again becoming, as Graham Greene once observed, "blank" and "unexplored." However, whereas Greene's vision implies a certain romance, as in the somnolent and charmingly seedy Freetown of his celebrated novel The Heart of the Matter, it is Thomas Malthus, the philosopher of demographic doomsday, who is now the prophet of West Africa's future. And West Africa's future, eventually, will also be that of most of the rest of the world.
Consider "Chicago." I refer not to Chicago, Illinois, but to a slum district of Abidjan, which the young toughs in the area have named after the American city. ("Washington" is another poor section of Abidjan.) Although Sierra Leone is widely regarded as beyond salvage, the Ivory Coast has been considered an African success story, and Abidjan has been called "the Paris of West Africa." Success, however, was built on two artificial factors: the high price of cocoa, of which the Ivory Coast is the world's leading producer, and the talents of a French expatriate community, whose members have helped run the government and the private sector. The expanding cocoa economy made the Ivory Coast a magnet for migrant workers from all over West Africa: between a third and a half of the country's population is now non-Ivorian, and the figure could be as high as 75 percent in Abidjan. During the 1980s cocoa prices fell and the French began to leave. The skyscrapers of the Paris of West Africa are a facade. Perhaps 15 percent of Abidjan's population of three million people live in shantytowns like Chicago and Washington, and the vast majority live in places that are not much better. Not all of these places appear on any of the readily available maps. This is another indication of how political maps are the products of tired conventional wisdom and, in the Ivory Coast's case, of an elite that will ultimately be forced to relinquish power.
Chicago, like more and more of Abidjan, is a slum in the bush: a checkerwork of corrugated zinc roofs and walls made of cardboard and black plastic wrap. It is located in a gully teeming with coconut palms and oil palms, and is ravaged by flooding. Few residents have easy access to electricity, a sewage system, or a clean water supply. The crumbly red laterite earth crawls with foot-long lizards both inside and outside the shacks. Children defecate in a stream filled with garbage and pigs, droning with malarial mosquitoes. In this stream women do the washing. Young unemployed men spend their time drinking beer, palm wine, and gin while gambling on pinball games constructed out of rotting wood and rusty nails. These are the same youths who rob houses in more prosperous Ivorian neighborhoods at night. One man I met, Damba Tesele, came to Chicago from Burkina Faso in 1963. A cook by profession, he has four wives and thirty-two children, not one of whom has made it to high school. He has seen his shanty community destroyed by municipal authorities seven times since coming to the area. Each time he and his neighbors rebuild. Chicago is the latest incarnation.
Fifty-five percent of the Ivory Coast's population is urban, and the proportion is expected to reach 62 percent by 2000. The yearly net population growth is 3.6 percent. This means that the Ivory Coast's 13.5 million people will become 39 million by 2025, when much of the population will consist of urbanized peasants like those of Chicago. But don't count on the Ivory Coast's still existing then. Chicago, which is more indicative of Africa's and the Third World's demographic present--and even more of the future--than any idyllic junglescape of women balancing earthen jugs on their heads, illustrates why the Ivory Coast, once a model of Third World success, is becoming a case study in Third World catastrophe.
President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who died last December at the age of about ninety, left behind a weak cluster of political parties and a leaden bureaucracy that discourages foreign investment. Because the military is small and the non-Ivorian population large, there is neither an obvious force to maintain order nor a sense of nationhood that would lessen the need for such enforcement. The economy has been shrinking since the mid-1980s. Though the French are working assiduously to preserve stability, the Ivory Coast faces a possibility worse than a coup: an anarchic implosion of criminal violence--an urbanized version of what has already happened in Somalia. Or it may become an African Yugoslavia, but one without mini-states to replace the whole.
Because the demographic reality of West Africa is a countryside draining into dense slums by the coast, ultimately the region's rulers will come to reflect the values of these shanty-towns. There are signs of this already in Sierra Leone--and in Togo, where the dictator Etienne Eyadema, in power since 1967, was nearly toppled in 1991, not by democrats but by thousands of youths whom the London-based magazine West Africa described as "Soweto-like stone-throwing adolescents." Their behavior may herald a regime more brutal than Eyadema's repressive one.
The fragility of these West African "countries" impressed itself on me when I took a series of bush taxis along the Gulf of Guinea, from the Togolese capital of Lome, across Ghana, to Abidjan. The 400-mile journey required two full days of driving, because of stops at two border crossings and an additional eleven customs stations, at each of which my fellow passengers had their bags searched. I had to change money twice and repeatedly fill in currency-declaration forms. I had to bribe a Togolese immigration official with the equivalent of eighteen dollars before he would agree to put an exit stamp on my passport. Nevertheless, smuggling across these borders is rampant. The London Observer has reported that in 1992 the equivalent of $856 million left West Africa for Europe in the form of "hot cash" assumed to be laundered drug money. International cartels have discovered the utility of weak, financially strapped West African regimes.
The more fictitious the actual sovereignty, the more severe border authorities seem to be in trying to prove otherwise. Getting visas for these states can be as hard as crossing their borders. The Washington embassies of Sierra Leone and Guinea--the two poorest nations on earth, according to a 1993 United Nations report on "human development"--asked for letters from my bank (in lieu of prepaid round-trip tickets) and also personal references, in order to prove that I had sufficient means to sustain myself during my visits. I was reminded of my visa and currency hassles while traveling to the communist states of Eastern Europe, particularly East Germany and Czechoslovakia, before those states collapsed.
Ali A. Mazrui, the director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton, predicts that West Africa--indeed, the whole continent--is on the verge of large-scale border upheaval. Mazrui writes, "In the 21st century France will be withdrawing from West Africa as she gets increasingly involved in the affairs [of Europe]. France's West African sphere of influence will be filled by Nigeria--a more natural hegemonic power. . . . It will be under those circumstances that Nigeria's own boundaries are likely to expand to incorporate the Republic of Niger (the Hausa link), the Republic of Benin (the Yoruba link) and conceivably Cameroon."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Six Day War
on: May 20, 2007, 06:41:56 AM
May 17, 2007
May 17, 2007, 8:44PM
History tells why Israel's mistrust of Arabs is deep
By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
There has hardly been an Arab peace plan in the past 40 years — including the current Saudi version — that does not demand a return to the status quo of June 4, 1967. Why is that date so sacred? Because it was the day before the outbreak of the Six Day War in which Israel scored one of the most stunning victories of the 20th century. The Arabs have spent four decades trying to undo its consequences.
The real anniversary of the war should be three weeks earlier. On May 16, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser demanded the evacuation from the Sinai Peninsula of the U.N. buffer force that had kept Israel and Egypt at peace for 10 years. The U.N. complied, at which point Nasser imposed a naval blockade of Israel's only outlet to the south, the port of Eilat — an open act of war.
How Egypt came to this reckless provocation is a complicated tale (chronicled in Michael Oren's magisterial history Six Days of War) of aggressive intent compounded with fateful disinformation. An urgent and false Soviet warning that Israel was preparing to attack Syria led to a cascade of intra-Arab maneuvers that in turn led Nasser, the champion of pan-Arabism, to mortally confront Israel with a remilitarized Sinai and a southern blockade.
Why is this still important? Because that three-week period between May 16 and June 5 helps explain Israel's 40-year reluctance to give up the fruits of the Six-Day War — the Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza — in return for paper guarantees of peace. Israel had similar guarantees from the 1956 Suez War, after which it evacuated the Sinai in return for that U.N. buffer force and for assurances from the Western powers of free passage through the Straits of Tiran.
All this disappeared with a wave of Nasser's hand. During those three interminable weeks, President Lyndon Johnson tried to rustle up an armada of countries to run the blockade and open Israel's south. The effort failed dismally.
It is hard to exaggerate what it was like for Israel in those three weeks. Egypt, already in an alliance with Syria, formed an emergency military pact with Jordan. Iraq, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco began sending forces to join the coming fight.
With troops and armor massing on Israel's every frontier, jubilant broadcasts in every Arab capital hailed the imminent final war for the extermination of Israel.
"We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants," declared PLO head Ahmed Shuqayri, "and as for the survivors — if there are any — the boats are ready to deport them."
For Israel, the waiting was excruciating and debilitating. Israel's citizen army had to be mobilized. As its soldiers waited on the various fronts for the world to rescue the nation from peril, Israeli society ground to a halt and its economy began bleeding to death. Army Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, later to be hailed as a war hero and even later as a martyred man of peace, had a nervous breakdown. He was incapacitated to the point of incoherence by the unbearable tension of waiting with the life of his country in the balance.
We know the rest of the story. Rabin recovered in time to lead Israel to victory. But we forget how perilous was Israel's condition. The victory hinged on a successful attack on Egypt's air force on the morning of June 5. It was a gamble of astonishing proportions. Israel sent the bulk of its 200-plane air force on the mission, fully exposed to antiaircraft fire and missiles. Had they been detected and the force destroyed, the number of planes remaining behind to defend the Israeli homeland — its cities and civilians — from the Arab air forces' combined 900 planes was ... 12.
We also forget that Israel's occupation of the West Bank was entirely unsought. Israel begged Jordan's King Hussein to stay out of the conflict. Engaged in fierce combat with a numerically superior Egypt, Israel had no desire to open a new front just yards from Jewish Jerusalem and just miles from Tel Aviv. But Nasser personally told Hussein that Egypt had destroyed Israel's air force and airfields and that total victory was at hand. Hussein could not resist the temptation to join the fight. He joined. He lost.
The world will soon be awash with 40th anniversary retrospectives on the war — and on the peace of the ages that awaits if Israel would only return to June 4, 1967. But Israelis are cautious. They remember the terror of that unbearable May when, with Israel possessing no occupied territories whatsoever, the entire Arab world was furiously preparing Israel's imminent extinction. And the world did nothing.
Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C. (email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Solar Flashlight
on: May 20, 2007, 05:46:53 AM
An article in today's NY Times about a solar flashlight caught my attention and I posted it on the SC&E forum. While checking out this related website http://bogolight.com/
I saw it mentioned that the company who sells these flashlights has a "buy on give one" program for designated worthy people e.g. poor people in Africa and our troops in Iraq/Afghanistan.
Apparently the light will run for 5 hours on a single day's charge and is supposed to last over 20 years.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Solar Flashlight
on: May 20, 2007, 05:36:44 AM
I saw this in today's NY Times and thought it cool.
Solar Flashlight Lets Africa’s Sun Deliver the Luxury of Light to the Poorest Villages
By WILL CONNORS and RALPH BLUMENTHAL
Published: May 20, 2007
FUGNIDO, Ethiopia — At 10 p.m. in a sweltering refugee camp here in western Ethiopia, a group of foreigners was making its way past thatch-roofed huts when a tall, rail-thin man approached a silver-haired American and took hold of his hands.
The man, a Sudanese refugee, announced that his wife had just given birth, and the boy would be honored with the visitor’s name. After several awkward translation attempts of “Mark Bent,” it was settled. “Mar,” he said, will grow up hearing stories of his namesake, the man who handed out flashlights powered by the sun.
Since August 2005, when visits to an Eritrean village prompted him to research global access to artificial light, Mr. Bent, 49, a former foreign service officer and Houston oilman, has spent $250,000 to develop and manufacture a solar-powered flashlight.
His invention gives up to seven hours of light on a daily solar recharge and can last nearly three years between replacements of three AA batteries costing 80 cents.
Over the last year, he said, he and corporate benefactors like Exxon Mobil have donated 10,500 flashlights to United Nations refugee camps and African aid charities.
Another 10,000 have been provided through a sales program, and 10,000 more have just arrived in Houston awaiting distribution by his company, SunNight Solar.
“I find it hard sometimes to explain the scope of the problems in these camps with no light,” Mr. Bent said. “If you’re an environmentalist you think about it in terms of discarded batteries and coal and wood burning and kerosene smoke; if you’re a feminist you think of it in terms of security for women and preventing sexual abuse and violence; if you’re an educator you think about it in terms of helping children and adults study at night.”
Here at Fugnido, at one of six camps housing more than 21,000 refugees 550 miles west of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, Peter Gatkuoth, a Sudanese refugee, wrote on “the importance of Solor.”
“In case of thief, we open our solor and the thief ran away,” he wrote. “If there is a sick person at night we will took him with the solor to health center.”
A shurta, or guard, who called himself just John, said, “I used the light to scare away wild animals.” Others said lights were hung above school desks for children and adults to study after the day’s work.
Mr. Bent’s efforts have drawn praise from the United Nations, Africare, Rice University and others.
Kevin G. Lowther, Southern Africa director for Africare, the largest American aid group for Africa, said his staff was sending 5,000 of his lights, purchased by Exxon Mobil at $10 each, to rural Angola.
Dave Gardner, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said the company’s $50,000 donation in November grew out of an earlier grant it made to Save the Children to build six public schools in Kibala, Angola, a remote area of Kwanza Sul Province.
“At a dedication ceremony for the first four schools in June 2006,” Mr. Gardner said in an e-mail message, “we noticed that a lot of the children had upper respiratory problems, part of which is likely due to the use of wood, charcoal, candles and kero for lighting in the small homes they have in Kibala.”
The Awty International School, a large prep school in Houston, has sent hundreds of the flashlights to schools it sponsors in Haiti, Cameroon and Ethiopia, said Chantal Duke, executive assistant to the head of school.
“In places where there is absolutely no electricity or running water, having light at night is a luxury many families don’t have and never did and which we take for granted in developed countries,” Ms. Duke said by e-mail. Mr. Bent, a former Marine and Navy pilot, served under diplomatic titles in volatile countries like Angola, Bosnia, Nigeria and Somalia in the early 1990s.
In 2001 he went to work as the general manager of an oil exploration team off the coast of the Red Sea in Eritrea, for a company later acquired by the French oil giant Perenco. But the oil business, he said, “didn’t satisfy my soul.”
The inspiration for the flashlight hit him, he said, while working for Perenco in Asmara, Eritrea. One Sunday he visited a local dump to watch scavenging by baboons and birds of prey, and came upon a group of homeless boys who had adopted the dump as their home.
They took him home to a rural village where he noticed that many people had nothing to light their homes, schools and clinics at night.
With a little research, he discovered that close to two billion people around the world go without affordable access to light.
He worked with researchers, engineers and manufacturers, he said, at the Department of Energy, several American universities, and even NASA before finding a factory in China to produce a durable, cost-effective solar-powered flashlight whose shape was inspired by his wife’s shampoo bottle.
The light, or sun torch, has a narrow solar panel on one side that charges the batteries, which can last between 750 and 1,000 nights, and uses the more efficient light-emitting diodes, or L.E.D.s, to cast its light. “L.E.D.s used to be very expensive,” Mr. Bent said. “But in the last 18 months they’ve become cheaper, so distributing them on a widespread scale is possible.”
The flashlights usually sell for about $19.95 in American stores, but he has established a BoGo — for Buy One, Give One — program on his Web site, BoGoLight.com, where if you buy one flashlight for $25, he will buy and ship another one to Africa, and donate $1 to one of the aid groups he works with.
Mr. Bent, who is now an oil consultant, lives in Houston with his wife and four young children. When he is not in the air flying his own plane, he is often on the road.
Traveling early this month in Ethiopia’s border area with Sudan, Mr. Bent stopped in each town’s market to methodically check the prices and quality of flashlights and batteries imported from China.
He unscrewed the flashlights one by one, inspecting the batteries, pronouncing them “terrible — they won’t last two nights.”
On his last day along the border, Mr. Bent visited Rapan Sadeeq, 21, a Sudanese refugee who is something of a celebrity in his camp, Bonga, for his rudimentary self-made radios, walkie-talkies and periscopes.
The two men huddled in the hut, discussing what parts would be needed to power the radio with solar panels instead of clunky C batteries. “Oh, I can definitely send you some parts,” Mr. Bent said. “You can be my field engineer in Ethiopia.”
Related clip can be found at http://bogolight.com/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: May 20, 2007, 12:13:43 AM
As to Prison Planet, Jones is a complete wacko. Just read his topics, everything is a conspiracy. 9-11 was caused by the government and explosives planted. The planes were remote controlled. FDR provoked Pearl Harbor. If this is your source for news.............
Now, to address some other things, I allow Bill Whittle of http://www.ejectejecteject.com/
to take over by excerpts:
I think the entire nation owes a deep and profound debt of gratitude to the editors of Popular Mechanics magazine. Their debunking of the 9/11 conspiracy was not only first-rate journalism. It was an act of vital national importance. It was heroic.
But Popular Mechanics?! That sort of article should have been front page, above the fold in The New York Times, The LA Times, Washington Post, and all of the other 'media watchdogs' that are -- or so I am assured -- determined to safeguard the republic by presenting the truth.
There are only two small mites I might add to that monumental work.
This whole ball of earwax got started when a French author (by way of gratitude, I presume, for the hundreds of thousands of Americans killed defending his country from a tyranny they themselves were unwilling to fight) claimed that the hole in the Pentagon was far too small to have been caused by a jet. It must have been a missile!
All of these 9/11 conspiracy sites have museum-grade idiots stating what 'obviously' happens at velocities and temperatures that they are flat-out incapable of understanding. Not only are these people too stupid to understand the physics involved with what they are bloviating about -- they are too stupid to realize that they are too stupid.
An airplane is a hollow, extremely light-weight tube of aluminum, cunningly designed to lift not one ounce more than is necessary for safe flight in rough weather. An airplane is as fragile as a hollow-boned bird, and for the same reasons. The Pentagon, on the other hand, is a fortress, and as a matter of one of the very few pieces of good luck on that awful day, the side hit by American Flight 77 happened to be the only one of the five sides that had been recently reinforced to withstand a truck bomb attack.
Now if you have ever seen a bird fly into a window pane, you may realize that it does not leave a nice bird-shaped hole in the window. That is because in each historical conflict between the ground and an airplane, the ground has won every time.
Here's something to prove the point far better than any words could ever do. It is a video of an F-4 Phantom being launched into a reinforced wall at over 500 mph. The Phantom is a big airplane -- not as big as a jetliner, certainly, but far sturdier in construction. When you watch this video, you will see that massive-looking fighter jet simply vaporize into a plume of aluminum dust. Nothing comes through the other side. It. Just. Disappears.
My other small contribution -- which may be widely stated, although I have not seen it -- is to grant this revolting premise for a moment and envision the consequences.
The 9/11 Truthers claim that the twin towers were brought down by controlled demolition. Okay.
Have you ever seen a controlled demolition? Shows like this are all over The Discovery Channel. Do these people realize how all of the insulation and paneling must be stripped away from the support beams? Do they not understand how these beams must be cut open and the explosives placed with great care? Have they not any idea of the amount of time this takes -- months -- and the forest of wires that runs through the structure to the detonating mechanism? Have they given no thought -- none? -- to what an enormous job this is, and how much work goes into getting these explosives exactly where they need to be?
Apparently not. They just figure someone leaves a suitcase somewhere, I guess.
Anyone who has ever -- ever -- seen what is required to bring down a building of that size knows that the site is a disaster area of det cord, pulled paneling, and huge bundles of explosives taped to the structural columns across many floors. Has no one considered that this all had to be started after everyone went home on Monday night and before people reported for work the next day? On multiple floors of two of the busiest public spaces in the world?
No one noticed this on Tuesday morning? Hey Jim, what do you suppose that huge bundle of plastic explosives is doing there where the water cooler used to be? And where do those wires go? Well, must be some logical explanation. Let's get some coffee and bagels.
Now you're talking!
Of all the people in those buildings that morning, no one -- no one -- saw any wires anywhere? No one asked why the drywall was torn down and replaced with grey stuff duct-taped into place? None of the firemen rushing into those burning towers, checking all those floors for survivors -- none of them noticed the building was rigged to explode? That it might possibly be worth a small call on the radio?
My father was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in 2002. I will never forget that day. It changed my life, and it was the event that started me writing here at Eject! Eject! Eject!
The man who coordinated that service was on a hill about a half-mile from that side of the Pentagon on the morning of September 11th, 2001. He told me that they had been informed that something was going on in New York that morning. Then he heard something that he said he thought was a missile attack -- a roar so loud and so far beyond a normal jet sound that he looked up at that exact moment expecting to die.
What he saw emerge from the trees overhead, perhaps a hundred feet above him, was American Airlines Flight 77 as it went by in a silver blur, engines screaming in a power dive as it hit the near side of the Pentagon. He told me -- to my face -- that body parts had rained down all over that sacred field. Just like red hail on a summer day. Those body parts are buried in a special place at the base of that hill.
Now. If Rosie O'Donnell and the rest of that Lunatic Brigade is right and I am wrong, then that man -- that insignificant Army chaplain and his Honor Guard of forty men -- are all liars. He is lying to me for Halliburton and Big Oil. That Chaplain -- and all of those decent, patriotic young men in the Honor Guard, and all the commuters on the roads who saw an American Airlines jet instead of a missile -- all of those people are liars and accessories to murder. And all of the firefighters who went into buildings rigged to explode were pre-recruited suicide martyrs dying for George W. Bush's plans for world conquest. Remember: NOTHING that happened on September 11th needed any more explanation than what was obvious from the second impact... namely, that Islamic terrorists hijacked four American aircraft and flew three of them into their targets. To try to convince people of missile attacks and rigged explosives and mystery jets is nothing more than an intentional assault on reason and common sense, one that damns the innocent and protects those mass murderers with our blood on their hands.
It's an obscenity. It's a filthy, God-damned, criminal obscenity. Nothing less.
You’ve probably seen this word spelled out with various religious symbols.
Who can argue with this? Not me, certainly.
What I CAN argue with is the idea that if only enough stupid, warlike Americans would just get on the Coexist train, then the world would be a happy and peaceful garden. Who else are the people with these bumper stickers preaching to, if not their ill-informed, knuckle-dragging neocon fellow commuters?
Unfortunately, here’s where reality inserts its ugly head. There is no more multi-cultural society on earth than the United States. The United States owns the patent on Coexisting religions and ethnicities. Drive half a mile though any major US urban area and you will see more ancient ethnic enemies living cheek by jowl in harmony than any other spot on the planet. Thursday morning water cooler conversations about Dancing with the Stars wallpaper over more ancient ethnic and religious murders than history has been able to record, and this despite Hollywood and the news media’s deepest efforts to remind you on a daily basis that the black or Hispanic or Asian or white friend in the next cube is secretly seething with racial hatred just beneath that placid veneer.
Americans are able to coexist because they have subjugated, if not abandoned, those ancient religious and ethnic hatreds to join a larger family, that larger family being America. And this is why, if you truly value the idea of coexistence, you should be dead set against multi-cultural grievance and identity politics, which do nothing but pit one ethnic group against the others and reinforce, rather than dilute, ancient resentments and grievances.
Now as it turns out, there is one member of the human family that seems to be having a little difficulty with the whole coexist thing. Muslims are at war with Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are fighting Animists in Africa, Hindus in Kashmir, Buddhists in Southeast Asia…they are blowing up nightclubs and schools and police stations and trains and buses and skyscrapers and are under daily orders to kill Jews on sight anywhere in the world.
I don’t mind preaching so much as preaching to the choir. When I see Coexist bumper stickers in Islamabad and Cairo and especially Riyadh to the degree I see them in Venice, California, I will be a happy man. They will make a very welcome sight covering over the Death to the Infidel! stickers that seem to be somewhat outselling Coexist messages in that part of the world. Until then I think we should coexist and carry a big stick.
End U.S. Imperialism Now!
Can I just take another quick second of your precious time to put this one to bed once and for all?
It is a staple of the left to accuse the US of “Imperialism.” That so many people can level such a charge with a straight face is a testament to the efficacy of forty years of standards-free education reform here and around the world.
An “Empire” is defined as a nation state that has political control over other nation states, and uses that political control to extract the wealth and resources from the subjugated country.
The United States of America does not have any political control over any other sovereign nation on the face of the Earth. We have influence, but influence is to control as a rich uncle is to a prison warden. That’s all you need to know. The entire idea of American Empire and U.S. Imperialism is dead on its face after that. No control means no empire. Period.
But we do have a large footprint in the rest of the world, and have military bases all across the globe. Is that a form of empire?
Look, the whole point of having an empire is to take the wealth out of the colonies and return them to enrich the home country. The US not only does not pull in the resources of other nations…it does exactly the reverse. We pump billions and billions of dollars annually into those nations that host our facilities, and the minute any one of those nations decides we are no longer welcome, we pack our bags, leave and turn those billion-dollar institutions over to the host country. (Look up Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in the Philippines for some recent examples)
This is not “imperial behavior.” It is, in fact, the precise opposite of imperial behavior. I guess somehow STOP U.S. ANTI-IMPERIALISM just doesn’t have the same snap somehow for the North Korean-backed International A.N.S.W.E.R. crowd. Color me shocked.
There are millions of people – actually, probably billions now – who genuinely believe that the wealth of the US was stolen from third world countries. This is one of the great perks of living a life free of the ability to think critically and do a little research. I have heard this slander repeated so many times I decided to look into some actual numbers to see if there is anything to this charge. This is a perfect example of how critical thinking allows you to see the unseen. That attitude, Google and ten minutes is all you need to shoot lies like this down in flames.
Okay. The US Per capita income is $41,300. That of a poor, third world country –Djibouti, say -- is $2,070.
Now it gets interesting. The US gross domestic product – the value of everything we produce in a year -- was last measured as $12 trillion, 277 billion dollars (hundreds of millions of dollars being too insignificant to count in this economy).
The GDP of Djibouti is 1 billion, 641 million US dollars.
A little basic arithmetic shows me that the US has a GDP 7,481 times greater than Djibouti. A 365 day year, composed of 24 hours in a day, yields 8,760 hours per year. Hang on to that for a sec.
Now, let’s suppose the U.S. went into Djibouti with the Marines, and stole every single thing that’s produced there in a year…just grant the premise and say we stole every goddam thing they make. If we hauled away all of Djibouti’s annual wealth, how long would it run the U.S. Economy, which is 7,481 times greater?
Well, 8,760 hours divided by 7,481 gives you an answer of 1.17 hours. In other words, it takes the U.S. 1.17 hours to produce what Djibouti produces in a year.
If the US really did go in and steal everything that the bottom thirty countries in the world produce, it might power the US economy for two or three days.
Conversely, the billions and billions of dollars the US spends annually in aid, rent, etc. – plus uncounted billions more from private American charities – would supply the entire GDP of Djibouti for hundreds of years.
Where’s your Imperialism argument now?
War is not the Answer
Okay. I’m listening. What is the answer?
No, you don’t get to say I don’t know but I know it's not war! If you admit you don’t know what the answer is, then it logically follows that you are in no position to say what it is not.
With regards to Iraq, Saddam started a suicidal war with Iran, and then with the United States. He then proceeded to break every single element of his cease-fire agreement…shooting at allied airplanes trying to belatedly enforce no-fly zones to prevent him from massacring even more of his own people, continuing with a well-documented and undeniable effort to obtain nuclear weapons, and all the rest.
So what is the answer, Mr. Moral Superiority? Sanctions? We sanctioned him for 13 years. He bribed the UN and stole billions of dollars for new palaces and industrial shredders for the opposition. Should we just leave him alone? The New York Times reported a few days ago that Saddam was a year or two away from a nuclear weapon. Do you trust the man’s judgment after Iran and Kuwait? I don’t.
War is an ugly, messy, filthy business, and the greatest slander I have seen in these last three years is the idea that somehow the pro-war crowd thinks war is a great thing. War is an awful thing. And yet I am pro war in this case. How can that be?
This is probably the most useful thing I’ll write in this essay:
Doves think the choice is between fighting or not fighting. Hawks think the choice is between fighting now or fighting later.
If you understand this, you understand everything that follows. You don’t need to think the other side is insane, or evil. Both hawks and doves are convinced they are doing the right thing. But it seems to me there is a choice between peace at any price and a peace worth having.
We cannot undo the invasion and compare that timeline to the one we have. The only data we can use to compare these philosophies is embedded in the pages of history. What does history show?
I cannot think of a single example where appeasement – giving in to an aggressive adversary in the hope that it will convince them to become peaceful themselves – has provided any lasting peace or security. I can say in complete honesty that I look forward to hearing of any historical example that shows it does.
What I do see are barbarian forces closing in and sacking Rome because the Romans no longer had the will to defend themselves. Payments of tribute to the barbarian hordes only funded the creation of larger and better-armed hordes. The depredations of Viking Raiders throughout Northern Europe produced much in the way of ransom payments. The more ransom that was paid, the more aggressive and warlike the Vikings became. Why? Because it was working, that’s why. And why not? Bluster costs nothing. If you can scare a person into giving you his hard-earned wealth, and suffer no loss in return, well then you my friend have hit the Vandal Jackpot. On the other hand, if you are, say, the Barbary Pirates, raiding and looting and having a grand time of it all, and across the world sits a Jefferson – you know, Mr. Liberty and Restraint – who has decided he has had enough and sends out an actual Navy to track these bastards down and sink them all… well, suddenly raiding and piracy is not such a lucrative occupation. So, contrary to doomsayers throughout history, the destruction of the Barbary Pirates did not result in the recruitment of more Pirates. The destruction of the Barbary Pirates resulted in the destruction of the Barbary Pirates.
And it is just so with terrorism. When the results of terrorism do the terrorist more harm than good, terrorism will go away. We need to harm these terrorists, not reward them, if we ever expect to see the end of them.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy
on: May 20, 2007, 12:03:22 AM
From The Sunday Times
May 20, 2007
Putin spy war on the West
Mark Franchetti, Moscow, and Sarah Baxter, Washington
IT IS time to send for George Smiley. Russia’s covert foreign intelligence operations against America have reached cold war levels under President Vladimir Putin, according to Washington officials.
White House intelligence advisers believe no other country is as aggressive as Russia in trying to obtain US secrets, with the possible exception of China.
In particular the SVR, as the former KGB’s foreign intelligence arm is now known, is using a network of undercover agents in America to gather classified information about sensitive technologies, including military projects under development and high-tech research.
Yuri Shvets, a former KGB agent, said: “In the days of the Soviet Union, the number of spies was limited because they had to be based at the foreign ministry, the trade mission or the news agencies like Tass. Right now, virtually every successful private company in Russia is being used as a cover for Russian intelligence operations.” Related Links
Intelligence experts believe that since Putin became president in 2000, the Russians have rebuilt a network of agents in the United States that had been depleted during the country’s transition from communism.
Putin served 16 years in the KGB, including a spell in foreign intelligence in East Germany. He became head of the FSB, the domestic security service. According to Shvets, the FSB has been operating widely in America because of its favoured status with Putin. Agents, some acting under diplomatic cover, are said to be trying to recruit specialists in American facilities with access to sensitive information.
A rare insight into the SVR’s methods was gained six months ago when the authorities in Canada deported a Russian man who had been masquerading as a Canadian citizen.
The alleged SVR agent had been living under a false identity as Paul William Hampel and was detained carrying a fake birth certificate, £3,000 in five currencies and several encrypted pre-paid mobile phone cards.
He claimed to be a lifeguard and travel consultant but counter-intelligence officers believe he based himself in Montreal because the city is the centre of the Canadian aerospace industry. Carrying a Canadian passport, he would have been able to travel freely to the United States.
In another incident last year, the Americans arrested Ariel Weinmann, a former US navy submariner, on charges of spying for the Russians. Weinmann was accused of making electronic copies of classified information which he sought to pass on to his handlers. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail.
John Pike, a military and security analyst who runs GlobalSecurity.org, said a surge in recruitment of US intelligence operatives since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had presented great opportunities for the Russians to penetrate the CIA and other agencies. Shvets believes Russian agents are also entering America legally as immigrants, a rarity in the strictly controlled Soviet era.
The increase in Russian intelligence activity abroad is in step with Moscow’s more aggressive stance since Putin came to power and turned the country’s lagging economy around on the back of record high oil prices.
Putin’s abrasive style has frustrated Washington. Relations between Russia and the United States are worse than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Comparisons with the tension of the cold war years have become commonplace.
“President Putin thinks the United States has been weakened by Iraq,” said Richard Holbrooke, a former US ambassador to the United Nations. “He thinks he has been strengthened by recent events and high-priced oil and he is trying to put Russia back on the international map.”
Estonia, the Baltic state, appeared last week to have become the target of a cyber attack after a row with Moscow over its decision to relocate a Soviet-era military monument. The Estonians claim professional hackers from Russia targeted the internet sites of ministries, parliament, banks, the media and large companies, causing their systems to crash.
The attack followed Russian calls to impose sanctions on Estonia, cuts in Moscow’s oil and gas deliveries and a campaign of intimidation by a Kremlin-backed youth group against the Estonian ambassador. Nato has sent a cyber-crime expert to help the Estonians, fearing that it could be next.
These concerns were raised last week at a European summit attended by Putin and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, at Samara in southern Russia. Merkel traded barbs with Putin over Russia’s human rights record and complained that critics of the Kremlin, including Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, were prevented from attending a protest march.
Moscow and Brussels are due to start talks on an agreement to cover trade, energy and foreign policy but Poland has been blocking the negotiations as a result of a Russian ban on its meat exports. The Kremlin’s relations with Lithuania are also tense following Moscow’s decision to cut oil supplies to the Baltic state.
In February Putin accused America of imposing its will on the rest of the world. He said that Washington’s plans to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic — part of an anti-missile shield bitterly opposed by the Russians — “could provoke nothing less than the beginning of a nuclear era”.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Yoga
on: May 19, 2007, 12:06:59 PM
When I was in Taiwain (1984?) for a couple of weeks I practiced in the park in the morning. While there I saw some hsing-i guys practicing and was intrigued. Also, for some reason I am curious about bagua. Occasionally over the years people familiar with it have mentioned that some of the things I do overlap with bagua.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: May 19, 2007, 08:58:41 AM
Factual Statements=Unprotected Harassment!? A Terrifying Precedent at Tufts
by Greg Lukianoff
May 11, 2007
Today, FIRE announced the decision by a disciplinary panel at Tufts to find the conservative student newspaper, The Primary Source, guilty of “harassment” for, among other things, publishing a satirical ad that listed less-than-flattering facts about Islam during Tufts’ Islamic Awareness Week. You can see the ad here, and Eugene Volokh has also published it with excellent commentary over at his blog, but, just to make sure people see the ad for themselves, I have reprinted the full text:
Arabic Translation: Submission
In the Spirit of Islamic Awareness Week, the SOURCE presents an itinerary to supplement the educational experience.
MONDAY: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” – The Koran, Sura 8:12
Author Salman Rushdie needed to go into hiding after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeni declared a fatwa calling for his death for writing The Satanic Verses, which was declared “blasphemous against Islam.”
TUESDAY: Slavery was an integral part of Islamic culture. Since the 7th century, 14 million African slaves were sold to Muslims compared to 10 or 11 million sold to the entire Western Hemisphere. As recently as 1878, 25,000 slaves were sold annually in Mecca and Medina. (National Review 2002)
The seven nations in the world that punish homosexuality with death all have fundamentalist Muslim governments.
WEDNESDAY: In Saudi Arabia, women make up 5% of the workforce, the smallest percentage of any nation worldwide. They are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle or go outside without proper covering of their body. (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2001)
Most historians agree that Muhammed’s second wife Aisha was 9 years old when their marriage was consummated.
THURSDAY: “Not equal are those believers who sit and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit. Unto all Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit by a special reward.” – The Koran, Sura 4:95
The Islamist guerrillas in Iraq are not only killing American soldiers fighting for freedom. They are also responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties.
FRIDAY: Ibn Al-Ghazzali, the famous Islamic theologian, said, “The most satisfying and final word on the matter is that marriage is form of slavery. The woman is man’s slave and her duty therefore is absolute obedience to the husband in all that he asks of her person.”
Mohamed Hadfi, 31, tore out his 23-year-old wife Samira Bari’s eyes in their apartment in the southern French city of Nimes in July 2003 following a heated argument about her refusal to have sex with him. (Herald Sun)
If you are a peaceful Muslim who can explain or justify this astonishingly intolerant and inhuman behavior, we’d really like to hear from you! Please send all letters to firstname.lastname@example.org
So does this paint Islam in a nice light? No. Is it one-sided? Yes, but that was kind of the point. The students were responding to what they thought was a one-sided and overly rosy depiction of Islam during Islamic Awareness week. But is it unprotected harassment!? One certainly hopes not, or else “harassment” just became a truly lethal threat to free speech—an “exception” that completely swallows the rule.
This is perhaps the most troubling and far-reaching aspect of this case. The Primary Source published a satirical ad filled with factual assertions and because this angered people it was ruled to be unprotected harassment. If what the complaining students wanted to say was that the TPS facts were wrong, then—while this still would not be harassment—that could have been an interesting debate. But instead, in sadly predictable fashion, the students plowed ahead with a harassment claim that, based on the hearing panel’s decision, appeared not even to raise the issue of whether or not the statements in the ad were true, but turned only on how they made people feel. A panel consisting of both faculty and students found the publication guilty in flagrant abuse of what harassment case law and regulations actually say, and demonstrating total ignorance of the principles of a free society. Even in libel law (one of the oldest exceptions to the rule of free speech is that you can be punished for defaming people) truth is rightfully an absolute defense. Here, the fact that TPS printed verifiable information—with citations—was apparently no defense, nor was the fact that the ad concerned contentious issues of dire global importance. Such an anemic conception of free speech should chill anyone who cares about basic rights and democracy itself.
I doubt that the Tufts disciplinary board thought through the full ramifications of their actions. If a Muslim student had published these same statements in an article calling for reform in Islam, would that be harassment? If Tufts wished to be at all consistent (a dubious bet here), it would be.
Since those students and faculty obviously did not think about the ramifications of this decision, we put it to you, President Bacow: do you think the publication of factual assertions should be a punishable offense if they hurt the wrong people’s feelings, regardless of whether or not they are true? I hope he will think hard on what the U.S. would look like if that was the law of the land. It’s not a country that most of us would recognize or even want to live in. We ask again for President Bacow to live up to the best principles of a liberal university in a free society and overturn this dangerous decision.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: May 19, 2007, 08:42:03 AM
Rhode Island man accused of trying to extort gas station owner over fake terror ties
Associated Press - May 19, 2007 7:53 AM ET
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A Rhode Island man is in custody on charges of attempted extortion and impersonating a federal officer over fake terror claims.
Police in Warwick (WAR'-ik), Rhode Island, say George Tabora threatened to claim that the Middle Eastern owner of a gas station was linked to al-Qaida unless the man paid him $$25,000.
The 44-year-old suspect has been in custody since Wednesday after police say they caught his teen-age son trying to retrieve the fake payoff money. Prosecutors say Tabora also his wife in the plot. She worked at the gas station and allegedly backed up the story, telling her boss she'd been contacted by a Homeland Security agent.
The gas station owner told police he had received a phone call from a man claiming to be a federal agent. The man says the caller threatened to jail him and "go after" his wife and daughters if he didn't pay.
Police say they recorded a call from Tabora's home that allegedly set up the money drop.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.http://www.woodtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=6539451
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: May 19, 2007, 08:32:59 AM
Iraq Facing `Many' Civil Wars, Country `Fractured,' Report Says
By Robin Stringer
May 17 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq is facing several civil wars between a number of rival communities struggling for power and has ``fractured'' into regional power bases, a report by an adviser to the U.K. government said.
There are ``many civil wars and insurgencies,'' and the Middle Eastern country has fractured into ``regions dominated by sectarian, ethnic or tribal political groupings,'' said a report released today by Chatham House, a London-based international affairs organization which advises European governments, including Britain.
Iraq's ethnic and sectarian communities include minority Sunni Muslims, majority Shiites, Kurds and Turkmen. Some 1,500 civilians were killed in April, the report said, citing official Iraqi statistics. The U.S. military is deploying about 30,000 additional forces to Baghdad and surrounding areas in an attempt to quell rampant violence in the country.
This year will be ``a particularly crucial period,'' as many of the ``most destabilizing issues,'' including an oil revenue sharing law, federalism and the territorial borders of the autonomous Kurdish region in the north of the country, are due to be resolved, said the report, titled ``Accepting Realities in Iraq.''
The U.S. and U.K., the main military partners in a coalition that invaded Iraq in March 2003, ``continue to struggle'' in their analysis of the country's political and social structures, said Gareth Stansfield, author of the report.
``This analytical failing has led to the pursuit of strategies that suit ideal depictions of how Iraq should look, but are often unrepresentative of the current situation,'' Stansfield said in the report.
Control of the State
In Baghdad, Sunni and Shiite groups are fighting for control of the state. There is a ``rapidly emerging conflict'' between Kurds and non-Kurds in the northern oil hub of Kirkuk, where the majority of the population is Kurdish, Stansfield said.
Tribal Sunni groups are clashing with fighters loyal to al- Qaeda in the western province of al-Anbar. In the south, Shiite groups are fighting for control over Basra, the oil-rich city near the Iranian border, Stansfield said. Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which is Iraqi nationalist and opposed to federalism, is coming into conflict with other Shiite groups, such as the Badr militia, that have close ties with Iran.
In addition, Sunni insurgents are fighting U.S. forces in the country's north and center, and Shiite militiamen are attacking U.K. forces in the south of the country around Basra, the report said.
At least 63,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion, according to the Iraqi Body Count Web site, which tracks media reports of civilian deaths. This may be a conservative total; the United Nations said in January that at least 34,000 civilians were killed around the country last year alone.
U.S. military deaths have risen every month since the intensified security efforts began in February. At least 49 U.S. soldiers have been killed this month, according to Department of Defense statistics. Some 148 U.K. service members have been killed since the invasion.
Stansfield recommends the better inclusion of Sunni representatives and al-Sadr, who has widespread support in the south and Baghdad, in the political process, and backing for Kurdish hopes of a formally autonomous state in the north of the country.
``Iraq must become federal if it is to survive, quite simply because there is no other way to ensure that the Kurds will peacefully remain within the state,'' Stansfield said.
A centralized Iraqi government has resulted in a ``zero-sum competition for power'' and the country instead needs regional arrangements, the report said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Robin Stringer in London at email@example.com
Last Updated: May 16, 2007 19:34 EDT
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea
on: May 18, 2007, 12:21:31 PM
By JOHN R. BOLTON
May 18, 2007; Page A17
Over a month has passed since sweetness and light were due to break out on the Korean Peninsula. On Feb. 13, the Six-Party Talks in Beijing ratified a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, providing for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs. The first step, 60 days after ratification, was to be that North Korea "will shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment" the Yongbyon nuclear facility, and readmit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Other steps were to follow, but the first move was unequivocally to be made by Pyongyang. The 60 days came and went, and indeed, another 35 days have come and gone. No IAEA inspectors have been readmitted, and not even Pyongyang claims that it has "shut down" Yongbyon.
Instead, observers -- especially Iran and other nuclear weapons aspirants -- have witnessed embarrassing U.S. weakness on a supposedly unrelated issue, unmentioned in the Feb. 13 agreement. That issue involves North Korea's widely publicized demand that approximately $25 million frozen in Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) accounts be released and transferred to Pyongyang. The funds came from North Korean counterfeiting of U.S. currency, money laundering and other fraudulent activities uncovered by a U.S. Treasury investigation begun in 2003. The accounts were frozen in 2005 and the BDA was promptly put on Treasury's blacklist for illicit activity.
While the Bush administration denies a direct link, the North Koreans have said publicly that they will not comply with the bilateral agreement until the BDA funds are safely under their control. This obvious quid pro quo is not only embarrassing, it sets a dangerous precedent for other regimes that would blackmail the U.S. What are the consequences of the BDA meltdown?
First, the timetable of the Feb. 13 agreement is already shredded. President Bush said at the time of the deal: "Those who say that the North Koreans have got to prove themselves by actually following through on the deal are right, and I'm one." Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, the deal's U.S. architect and chief negotiator, said: "We need to avoid above all missing deadlines. It's like a broken-window theory: one window is unrepaired, and before you know it you'll have a lot of broken windows and nobody cares."
Those statements were correct when made, and they are correct today. Sadly, however, they no longer seem to be "operative."
Second, by making secret side deals with North Korea, the State Department has left itself vulnerable to future renegotiation efforts. This is the North's classic style: Negotiate hard to reach an agreement, sign it, and then start renegotiating, not to mention violating the deal at will. America's serial concessions on BDA simply confirm to Pyongyang that State is well into the "save the deal" mode, which bodes well for future North Korean efforts to recast it. Consider the sequence of administration positions on BDA: Initially, the criminal investigation and the nuclear issue were not supposed to be connected, but the North insisted and the U.S. gave in.
Then, North Korea moved the renegotiation into high gear, demanding the return of the funds as a precondition to complying with its own commitments. Unwilling to "just say no," the Bush administration tried to distinguish between "licit" and "illicit" funds, returning only those that were legitimate. (This, of course begs the question whether anything that the criminal conspiracy running North Korea does is "licit.") Even the "licit" funds returned, however, were to be used only for "humanitarian" projects in North Korea rather than returned to Kim Jong Il's grasp -- although how in an age of the U.N.'s "Cash for Kim" program the State Department thought this was to be verified remains a mystery.
Nevertheless, North Korea was not satisfied, insisting that all the funds had to be returned to the actual account holders, with no restrictions on their use, even though all agree that at least some were acting illicitly. This, too, State accepted.
Third, we now face the nagging question whether there are other secret side deals beyond BDA. Of course, the BDA agreement was not so secret that Kim Jong Il was barred from knowing about it, by definition. Most troubling, however, is that State apparently thought it too sensitive to share with the American people until the February deal broke down in an unavoidably public way. But even this was not enough for North Korea, which, sensing U.S. weakness, continues to press for more. Although conflicting stories abound, North Korea may be seeking not just the return of the BDA funds, but something much more significant: guaranteed access to international financial markets, even through an American bank. Indeed, this week Wachovia Corp. confirmed that it had been approached by the State Department to assist in the transfer of funds.
Here, the issue is inescapably related to North Korea's nuclear program. The North's access to international financial markets to launder its ill-gotten revenues is critical both to continued financing of its nuclear regime and to keeping Kim Jong Il in power. If this is even close to what the State Department is prepared to do, who will ever again take us seriously when we threaten financial strangulation of rogue states and terrorist groups? Granting this North Korean demand would make U.S. concessions on BDA look paltry by comparison.
Fourth, the BDA affair calls the remainder of the Feb. 13 agreement into question. Just to remind, 2007 is the 13th anniversary of the Agreed Framework, a predecessor U.S.-North Korean agreement, and the 15th anniversary of the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In all likelihood, it is also the 13th and 15th anniversaries, respectively, of North Korea's first violations of those agreements. No serious observer contends there is any sign of a strategic decision by North Korea to give up its nuclear program, which means, therefore, there is no more reason to believe the North will comply with the Feb. 13 deal than it has complied with its predecessors.
It is not even clear if North Korea actually gave up anything significant in the Feb. 13 deal. It is entirely possible, for example, that Yongbyon is now a hulk, well past its useful life span, and that the North agreed, in effect, to shut down a wreck. Even if Yongbyon is not in such parlous condition, it may be that the North has extracted all the plutonium possible from the fuel rods it has, and that Yongbyon therefore offers it nothing more. Here, the omissions in the Feb. 13 agreement become significant. The deal says nothing about the plutonium, perhaps weaponized perhaps not, that North Korea has already reprocessed.
How these issues play out will have ramifications far beyond North Korea, particularly for Iran. Some say the Bush administration entered the Feb. 13 deal because it desperately needed a success. One thing is for certain: It does not need a failure. The president can easily extricate himself from the deal, just based on North Korea's actions to date. He should take the first opportunity to do so.
Mr. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the U.N. and Abroad," forthcoming this fall from Simon & Schuster.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: May 18, 2007, 11:53:43 AM
May 18, 2007
The Man Who Wasn't There
Fred Thompson isn't yet running, but he's running a great campaign.
Friday, May 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Having watched the second Republican debate the other night, it's clear to me the subject today is Fred Thompson, the man who wasn't there. While the other candidates bang away earnestly in a frozen format, Thompson continues to sneak up from the creek and steal their underwear--boxers, briefs and temple garments.
He is running a great campaign. It's just not a declared campaign. It's a guerrilla campaign whose informality is meant to obscure his intent. It has been going on for months and is aimed at the major pleasure zones of the Republican brain. In a series of pointed columns, commentaries and podcasts, Mr. Thompson has been talking about things conservatives actually talk about. Shouldn't homeowners have the right to own a gun? Isn't it bad that colleges don't teach military history? How about that Sarkozy--good news, isn't it? Did you see Tenet on Russert? His book sounds shallow, tell-all-y.
These comments and opinions are being read and forwarded in Internet Nation. They are revealing and interesting, but they're not heavy, not homework. They have an air of "This is the sound of a candidate thinking." That's an unusual sound.
Most illustrative was what started this week as a small trading of barbs with provocateur Michael Moore, whose general and iconic dishabille is meant to show identification with the workingman, though in America workingmen bathe. Mr. Moore was back from Cuba, where he made a documentary on the superiority of Castro's health care system. Mr. Thompson suggested Mr. Moore is just another lefty who loves dictators. Mr. Moore challenged Mr. Thompson to a health-care debate and accused him of smoking embargoed cigars. Within hours Mr. Thompson and his supposedly nonexistent staff had produced a spirited video response that flew through YouTube and the conservative blogosphere. Sitting at a desk and puffing on a fat cigar, Mr. Thompson announces to Mr. Moore he can't fit him into his schedule. Then: "The next time you're down in Cuba . . . you might ask them about another documentary maker. His name was Nicolás Guillén. He did something Castro didn't like, and they put him in a mental institution for several years, giving him devastating electroshock treatments. A mental institution, Michael. Might be something you ought to think about."
You couldn't quite tell if Mr. Thompson was telling Mr. Moore he ought to think more about Cuba, or might himself benefit from psychiatric treatment. It seemed almost . . . deliberately unclear.
Right now Mr. Thompson has the best of both worlds, an air of fearlessness and nothing on the line. He hasn't committed. He's not in. He can take a chance and be himself because he's not afraid, and he's not afraid because he has nothing to lose.
He says he'll get in if enough people ask him to. If they don't, he'll go someplace else and do something else. It's not as if his speech fees would go down.
Why would he run now? Because he thinks there's no one of greater stature on the field. Because he thinks he's got a better, shrewder read of the base than the rest of them. Because he's at an age where you throw the dice or know you never will. Because he thinks the one essential to modern presidential leadership, the one thing you must have now, in the age of terror, is the ability to communicate, and he reads himself as the best communicator. And because he's at a point in his private life where it's possible for him. He's got a wife who's got his back and two kids who've given him a second chance. Even in great careers it's the private life that's hardest to get right. He feels he has.
People speak of Mr. Thompson's movie-star looks. But he's not beautiful, he's heavy and gray. What he has is bearing. He has the manner of someone who thinks a great deal of himself, and thinks it after long personal pondering of his good points, bad points, high points and low. He may or may not be correct in his conclusions, but I suspect they are part of his draw. I suspect people pick them up.
Is he anything beyond a standard Republican conservative? Will he have anything beyond a Mideast policy that consists of win in Iraq, support the surge, and oppose any timetable? Does he stand for any strategic thinking apart from what John McCain unconsciously but aptly characterized as "Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran"? On domestic issues, can Mr. Thompson go beyond standard conservative thought? I happen to be standard conservative myself, but sometimes old things need to be made new, the obvious needs to be made fresh.
Here are some things Mr. Thompson has going for him. He had eight years in the U.S. Senate, and then left in 2002 instead of sticking around and getting all the muck on him. He has a conservative record but a moderate persona. He seems nonradical, non-let's-follow-the-banner-over-the-cliff. He's a Southerner but modern. He has a great voice. (Voices matter. Ask Obama, who has one. Ask Hillary, who doesn't.) He comes to a field that may soon start to feel tired. That to some extent already does. His relatively late entry suggests--suggests--his motives are serious, not just ego-related.
But Mr. Thompson's challenges are real, too. He'll have to show he's serious--that he's in it for big reasons and in it to the end. He'll have to knock down the "low energy, gadfly, hops from thing to thing" charge, which has persisted so long that one assumes there's something in it. He'll have to show he's not just a rote, pro forma conservative--a dumb conservative--but someone who knows times change, horizons shift. He has to show he has run something, or can run something. Romney ran a state, Giuliani a city. Mr. Thompson has run what--a career? Big whoop.
Most importantly for him, and for all the Republican candidates for that matter, Mr. Thompson will have to answer this question: What is he running to do? Why should the Republicans get another eight years, or four years, after all the missteps they've made? Isn't conservatism, or Republicanism, or whatever you call it, just tired? Isn't it over? Isn't America just waiting for whatever will take its place?
Why shouldn't liberalism get a shot? Could they mess up more? Why should we trust Republicans with foreign affairs?
If Fred Thompson can answer these questions, he'll be showing he's something new, and not just the newest candidate, or the latest face.
Reports this week said an announcement could come in June.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anatomy of a hit job: The Wolfowitz Affair (formerly Paul's Girl)
on: May 18, 2007, 11:48:17 AM
World Bank Justice
Wolfowitz's resignation offers a window into a corrupt institution.
Friday, May 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
So after weeks of nasty leaks and media smears, the World Bank's board of executive directors yesterday cleared President Paul Wolfowitz of ethical misconduct for following the board's own advice on how to handle a conflict of interest involving his girlfriend. And Mr. Wolfowitz in turn will resign from the bank at the end of June. Run that by us again?
We've said from the beginning that the charges against Mr. Wolfowitz were bogus, and that the effort to unseat him amounted to a political grudge by those who opposed his role in the Bush Administration and a bureaucratic vendetta by those who opposed his anti-corruption agenda at the bank. That view was vindicated by yesterday's statement, which showed how little the merits of the case against Mr. Wolfowitz had to do with the final result.
Mr. Wolfowitz "assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution, and we accept that," the directors said, thus rejecting the findings of a rigged investigating committee that had ignored key evidence. The most damning judgment the directors could muster is that "a number of mistakes were made," including by the bank's own ethics committee that had refused to let Mr. Wolfowitz recuse himself from matters involving his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.
In other words, this was all about politics. And all that mattered to Mr. Wolfowitz's accusers was to be rid of him, whatever the pretext or methods. The least they can do now is restore Ms. Riza to her job, assuming she wants to be part of an organization that treated her so shabbily.
This all may pass as World Bank justice. For the rest of us, it has served as a window into an institution that seems to observe no rule other than the interests of the unaccountable mandarins who consider themselves its rightful owners. There have been plenty of outrages in the bank's treatment of Mr. Wolfowitz, but for sheer chutzpah nothing exceeds the argument of last week's report by the investigating committee of the board that he had put the institution "in a bad and unfair light" by daring to defend himself publicly against selective and false media leaks designed to smear him. Had Mr. Wolfowitz taken that advice, he would have been out on his ear without so much as the benefit of the formal acquittal he has now received.
As for the Bush Administration, it might be in a better position now had it defended its man as vigorously as he defended himself. Instead, its officials were slow to understand what was happening and--with the exception of President Bush himself--largely mute as the coup unfolded. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson took the line that the U.S. would allow the bank process to work itself out, when it ought to have been clear that the process itself was rigged.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice remained on the sidelines until the very end, and her reported "quiet diplomacy" on Mr. Wolfowitz's behalf was precisely the wrong way to fight a battle being waged on front pages. Her behavior in this case is reminiscent of her pre-emptive capitulation on the famous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union, words that Britain's Butler Report later concluded were "well-founded" but which now are a defining myth of the left's "Bush lied" theology.
Mr. Paulson and Ms. Rice may think that by staying on the sidelines of the Wolfowitz fight they have safeguarded their own political capital. Perhaps, but the precedent being set by Mr. Wolfowitz's departure will damage not just the Bush Administration in the time it has left but U.S. interests for years to come.
An American appointee has been ousted from a multilateral institution by a staff and media cabal on trumped-up charges solely because they disliked Mr. Wolfowitz's priorities. The inmates are now in charge. Yet the U.S. will still be expected to provide the bulk of funding to these institutions--more than 16% at the World Bank--while it cedes de facto control of its operations to a multilateral elite. That's a recipe for declining American influence.
If there is a silver lining here, it is that the public has been able to get a glimpse of how the World Bank works and what it actually accomplishes. Among other lowlights, we've recently been reminded that the bank annually pushes billions in loans to countries like China and Mexico that can easily get credit in private capital markets. We've seen that many of those loans go to projects in places like India or Kenya that are riddled by corruption; the bank may have lost as much as $8 billion to corruption in 25 years of lending to the Suharto regime in Indonesia. We've also learned that the bank funds literally hundreds of projects from Albania to Niger that were ill-conceived and proved to be failures.
We've seen that senior bank personnel, such as former Indonesia country director Dennis de Tray, openly argue that corruption is no big deal and should not get in the way of the bank's "helping people." We've seen how the bank trashed the careers of longstanding and well-regarded employees such as Bahram Mahmoudi, who blew the whistle on a misamanaged project. We've seen how Shengman Zhang, the bank's No. 2 under former President Jim Wolfensohn, seems to think there's nothing amiss with calling for Mr. Wolfowitz's resignation despite the fact that Mr. Zhang's wife was swiftly promoted while working under him.
We've seen how the board of directors apparently covered for one of their own--British Executive Director Tom Scholar--when he was accused of having a conflict of interest because of a personal relationship with an employee at the bank. And we've seen how the bank has served as a well-paid sinecure for out-of-office politicians such as Dutchman Ad Melkert, who has moved comfortably within multilateral institutions making an enviable tax-free salary while performing incompetently and behaving dishonorably.
In a better world, the bank would shrink to perform only its core mission of helping the world's poorest nations. That's not going to happen, however, so the best that President Bush can do now to minimize the damage of the Wolfowitz putsch is by replacing him with someone who shares his agenda and will clean the place up. No European should have a chance to do that given what has transpired, not even Tony Blair. Nor should he name another well known member of the Council on Foreign Relations seminar circuit whom the Europeans and staff can quickly capture.
We've suggested former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who saw first-hand how these institutions function while investigating the U.N.'s Oil for Food scandal. But whoever it is, the core task of Mr. Wolfowitz's successor should be to clean the World Bank stables, or shut it down.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: May 17, 2007, 08:52:06 PM
North Korea: A New Missile and Regional Politics
North Korea has tested in Iran a new intermediate-range missile dubbed the Musudan-1, according to Japanese and South Korean media reports. The news follows word that North Korea displayed the new missile in an April 25 parade, though reportedly only satellite photos of the missile exist. The attention being paid to the Musudan is not really about the changes in North Korean capability, though the missile could represent a substantive improvement over the Scud-based Nodong and Taepodong systems. The focus on the missile is more about the politics surrounding the six-party nuclear talks, South Korean presidential elections, and Japan's constitutional and defense evolution.
North Korea and Iran are celebrating a so-called week of friendship with social and cultural exchanges in each country following a visit by North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hyong Jun to Tehran. During Kim's visit, the two countries called for closer ties, though Iranian officials suggested obstacles to closer cooperation remain, including outstanding North Korean debt to Iran. But as the two remaining "Axis of Evil" member states discuss closer ties, South Korean and Japanese media have reported that North Korea recently tested its newest intermediate-range ballistic missile in Iran.
The missile, dubbed "Musudan-1" by overseas observers, is based on the Soviet-era SS-N-6, a submarine-launched ballistic missile. It reportedly was displayed during North Korea's April 25 military parade. Photos and video of at least three mobile missile systems shown off during the parade were later published, including the AG-1 anti-ship missile (a knockoff of the Silkworm and Seersucker missiles), the Hwasong (a Scud missile derivative) and the KN-02 (North Korea's latest short-range ballistic missile, a prime candidate for the export market, based on the SS-21 Scarab). While most reports suggested four missiles were shown, no images of the fourth were released.
Three days after the parade, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported that U.S. satellite imagery revealed the fourth missile was a new intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of 2,500 to 4,000 kilometers (1,500 to 2,500 miles) that in subsequent reports would be identified as the "Musudan-1." The missile is shorter and wider than the Scud-based designs, as it traces its lineage to early Russian submarine-launched missiles. As such, it is a more stable missile. Coupled with a dual-chamber control engine, rather than steering vanes, this makes the missile substantially more maneuverable -- and accurate -- than current North Korean missiles like the Hwasong, Nodong and Taepodong, all of which are based on Scud technology. Pyongyang has stretched the Scud-based systems to their extreme limits. To their credit, North Korean engineers very nearly put a satellite into orbit based on Scud technology in 1998 -- no small achievement. But the failure of the Taepodong-2 in 2006 (whatever the actual cause) is symptomatic of a generation of engineering pushed too far.
(click to enlarge)
The SS-21 Scarab and SS-N-6 Serb essentially represent a badly needed influx of fresh blood into the North Korean missile program. With the display of North Korean versions of both the KN-02 and Musudan-1 at the April parade, new life has been injected into Pyongyang's missile program. The KN-02 marks a production-level solid-fuel missile system, which can serve as a basis for North Korean understanding of solid propellant. It is worth remembering that the SS-21 remains the mainstay of Russian short-range ballistic missile regiments to this day (though they are slowly being upgraded to the SS-26), and the Russian guidance package is reportedly capable of 95 meters Circle of Equal Probability (a measure of accuracy) -- a huge step up for Pyongyang.
The SS-N-6 is even more significant. Aside from a much more compact design, the dual-chamber control engine is a big advance from the steering vanes of Scud missiles. What will be especially interesting is watching North Korean engineers stretch what was necessarily a compact Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile as they did the Scud. Without the space constraints placed on Soviet designers (e.g., the missile tubes on Soviet submarines), the Musudan-1 can be expanded; it reportedly has already gotten 10 feet longer. Combined with parallel improvements in gyroscopic guidance, the Musudan-1 promises a generational leap for Pyongyang.
North Korea's work on the SS-N-6 variant has been known for quite a while, and there is little surprise that Pyongyang finally decided to roll out the missile for display. As early as 2000 there were reports Pyongyang had completed improvements on the SS-N-6. By 2003 there were expectations North Korea would display the missile during military parades that year, though this did not come to pass. The missile, called the Nodong-B or the Mirim (after an airbase near which it was spotted in 2003), is now apparently called the Musudan-1, though North Korea's own designation is unknown. There were initial suspicions that Pyongyang even tested one of the Musudan (or Mirim) missiles in July 2006.
Despite its substantially enhanced capability versus the existing Scud-based systems, the missile does not represent a major shift in the balance of regional power. Pyongyang has had the Musudan since at least 2000, and deployed it in 2003.
Somewhat more interesting is the potential that North Korea tested the new system in Iran, though even this is not entirely unusual. North Korea has long worked with Iran, Pakistan and others (including Yemen and Saudi Arabia), either exporting missiles to these countries or jointly developing missile systems. North Korean technicians work with the local technicians on the ballistic missiles, and learn from the more frequent test launches in Pakistan and Iran. (Pyongyang is very sparing with its test launches at home, both to mask its real capabilities and because any such launches inevitably pass over or near one of its neighbors, causing additional complications for the government.)
If the Musudan was tested in Iran, perhaps during a series of missile tests earlier this year, it could indicate either a sales demonstration by Pyongyang or the testing of a system already sold to Tehran. The first is more likely, as there are no other signs that Pyongyang has successfully tested the Musudan to date. Either way, it would appear the new missile is intended not only to enhance the domestic security of North Korea, but also to create additional sources of cash -- which fits with previous North Korean missile sales and the renting out of its technicians, with all the implications of proliferation that brings.
Beyond the technical considerations, reports of the new missile and its potential test in Iran reveal political battles in South Korea and Japan as much as they do any military improvements in North Korea or Iran. South Korea's Chosun Ilbo, a conservative paper, has been the first to reveal new North Korean missile developments; South Korean defense officials leak this information to the paper to shape perception and debate over North Korean issues.
In South Korea, there are widely differing views on the best way to deal with North Korea, and the current government's policy of "peace and prosperity" is not universally accepted. By revealing "new" threats from the North, even as Pyongyang and Seoul engage in dialogue, various South Korean factions can show that the government's programs are ineffective or need to at least be tempered and paired with a stronger focus on South Korean security. With presidential elections fast approaching, and outgoing President Roh Moo Hyun accelerating inter-Korean cooperation to solidify his policies and legacy, there is an equal push by the more conservative or cautious elements in the government and military to restrain Roh's initiatives and tread more carefully when dealing with Pyongyang.
Outside of South Korea, the Japanese press and government officials are playing up the Musudan missile issue the most. Tokyo is seeking support for changes to the Japanese Constitution and in Japan's defense posture and relations with other countries (particularly the United States). Tokyo is strongly backing the joint development of new anti-missile technology with the United States, but remains legally constrained in this matter due to regulations regarding the transfer of military technology.
By highlighting the "new" North Korean missile threat, Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma has suggested that Tokyo's current missile-defense plans -- using a combination of the sea-based Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile system -- are insufficient to deal with a longer-range North Korean system like the Musudan. The argument is that Japan needs to modify its defense rules to allow the development of a more robust and longer-range system to supplement the SM-3 and PAC-3 duo. (Ideal supplements could include the U.S. Theater High Altitude Air Defense system and the Airborne Laser).
Raising the specter of a significantly improved North Korean offensive capability also assists Tokyo in its broader moves to rewrite the Japanese Constitution to remove restrictions on collective self-defense, a standing military and missile defense. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gained points in the polls for talking a stronger stance on North Korea, and will continue to build up the political capital for general elections later this year and for the constitutional change battle. And Washington is helping the process along by supplying the satellite images necessary to highlight North Korea's continued military developments.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: May 17, 2007, 07:51:17 PM
It looks like we will be signing the deal with OP/Nat Geo tomorrow or Friday. Assuming this to be the case, the "DB Gathering of the Pack" will be held in OP's warehouse in Glendale.
I was there earlier today with director Dan Jackson. The plan is for the fight area to be 30x40 of wrestling mat. Any suggestions for how to define the perimeter?
The seating should be much better than the de minimis seating at R1. There were church pews there, there is talk of some bleachers, and some talk of scaffolding with planks-- a touch of "Thunderdome"
We're guesstimating that we should be able to hold 300+.
To be worked out is the fighters dinner afterwords. Options are: Somewhere up there in the Glendale area, down in the South Bay area (Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach) or perhaps Torrance (the all you can eat sushi place where we traditionally have gone. Fighters, your thoughts please?
The Adventure continues!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause:
on: May 17, 2007, 09:19:10 AM
Gas May Have Harmed Troops, Scientists Say
By IAN URBINA
Published: May 17, 2007
WASHINGTON, May 16 — Scientists working with the Defense Department have found evidence that a low-level exposure to sarin nerve gas — the kind experienced by more than 100,000 American troops in the Persian Gulf war of 1991 — could have caused lasting brain deficits in former service members.
Possible Sarin Exposure in Iraq, 1991 Though the results are preliminary, the study is notable for being financed by the federal government and for being the first to make use of a detailed analysis of sarin exposure performed by the Pentagon, based on wind patterns and plume size.
The report, to be published in the June issue of the journal NeuroToxicology, found apparent changes in the brain’s connective tissue — its so-called white matter — in soldiers exposed to the gas. The extent of the brain changes — less white matter and slightly larger brain cavities — corresponded to the extent of exposure, the study found.
Previous studies had suggested that exposure affected the brain in some neural regions, but the evidence was not convincing to many scientists. The new report is likely to revive the long-debated question of why so many troops returned from that war with unexplained physical problems. Many in the scientific community have questioned whether the so-called gulf war illnesses have a physiological basis, and far more research will have to be done before it is known whether those illnesses can be traced to exposure to sarin. The long-term effects of sarin on the brain are still not well understood.
But several lawmakers who were briefed on the study say the Department of Veterans Affairs is now obligated to provide increased neurological care to veterans who may have been exposed.
In March 1991, a few days after the end of the gulf war, American soldiers exploded two large caches of ammunition and missiles in Khamisiyah, Iraq. Some of the missiles contained the dangerous nerve gases sarin and cyclosarin. Based on wind patterns and the size of the plume, the Department of Defense has estimated that more than 100,000 American troops may have been exposed to at least small amounts of the gases.
When the roughly 700,000 deployed troops returned home, about one in seven began experiencing a mysterious set of ailments, often called gulf war illnesses, with problems including persistent fatigue, chronic headaches, joint pain and nausea. Those symptoms persist today for more than 150,000 of them, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than the number of troops exposed to the gases.
Advocates for veterans have argued for more than a decade and a half that a link exists between many of these symptoms and the exposure that occurred in Khamisiyah, but evidence has been limited.
The study, financed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first to use Pentagon data on potential exposure levels faced by the troops and magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of military personnel in the exposure zone. It found signs of brain changes that could be due to exposure, showing that troops who had been exposed at higher levels had about 5 percent less white matter than those who had little exposure.
White matter volume varies by individual, but studies have shown that significant shrinkage in adulthood can be a sign of damage.
The study was led by Roberta F. White, chairman of the department of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. White and other researchers studied 26 gulf war veterans, half of whom were exposed to the gases, according to a Defense Department modeling of the likely chemical makeup and location of the plume. The researchers found that troops with greater potential exposure had less white matter.
In a companion study, the researchers also tested 140 troops believed to have experienced differing degrees of exposure to the chemical agents to check their fine motor coordination and found a direct relation between performance level and the level of potential exposure. Individuals who were potentially more exposed to the gases had a deterioration in fine motor skills, performing such tests at a level similar to people 20 years older.
Dr. White says this study and the results of research from other studies provide “converging evidence that some gulf war veterans experienced nervous system damage as a result of service, and this is an important development in explaining gulf war illnesses.”
Phil Budahn, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the research required further examination.
“It’s important to note that its authors describe the study as inconclusive,” Mr. Budahn said, adding, “It was based upon a small number of participants, who were not randomly chosen.”
Dr. White said she did not describe her study as inconclusive, though she said it would be accurate to call it preliminary.
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Lea Steele, a Kansas State University epidemiologist and the scientific director of the veterans department’s advisory committee on gulf war illnesses, said she thought the study was extremely important. Dr. Steele said that gulf war illnesses had been described by their symptoms, but that until now scientists had struggled to find physiological conditions that corresponded with those symptoms.
Possible Sarin Exposure in Iraq, 1991 But the new research, Dr. Steele said, used previously nonexistent brain scanning technology to, essentially, “look into the brain to evaluate the difficult-to-characterize problems affecting gulf war veterans.”
Thus, she said, it is “the first to demonstrate objective indicators of pathology in association with possible low-level sarin-cyclosarin exposures.”
Dr. Daniel J. Clauw, professor of medicine and director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, said that while the study indicated that the veterans had not imagined their illnesses, more research was needed.
“Future studies need to compare the results of brain scans of gulf war veterans with individuals with chronic pain and other symptoms who were not deployed to the gulf war before concluding that any changes are due to wartime exposures,” Dr. Clauw said.
For more than five years after the explosions at Khamisiyah, the Pentagon denied that any American military personnel had been exposed to nerve gas. Confronted by new evidence in 1996 and 1997, it acknowledged that up to 100,000 troops might have been in the path of the plume and exposed to low-level doses that produced no immediate effect. In 2002, it released a report saying the exposures had been too low to have caused a long-term adverse effect on health.
Now, the government is straining to handle the health and rehabilitation needs of soldiers returning from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lawmakers say they are concerned that veterans facilities will soon need to provide brain scans and treatment to soldiers from the 1991 war who learn of the new research.
On May 2, after learning about the research, Senators Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, wrote the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments, asking about their plans for outreach and expanded benefits for exposed troops.
The new research, the senators wrote, finally provides “comfort to the thousands of gulf war veterans who have fought for answers and now know that there is a ‘significant association’ between gulf war illnesses and nerve agent exposure in Khamisiyah, Iraq, in 1991.”
The Pentagon has not decided whether to inform veterans about the possibility of a link between exposure and brain damage.
Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, deputy director of the Force Health Protection and Readiness Initiative at the Defense Department, said that while Dr. White’s study represented an important finding, he did not believe that his department would send letters to potentially exposed veterans alerting them of it.
The impact of the study was limited, Dr. Kilpatrick said, because it did not establish a direct causal connection between sarin exposure and gulf war illnesses, and it depended on Defense Department data that was at best an estimate and at worst a guesstimate of exposure levels by troops.
“But I’m sure we will be talking with members of Congress about it in deciding how to go forward,” said Dr. Kilpatrick, who has handled much of the department’s work on Khamisiyah and troop health issues.
In 2005, the Pentagon notified about 100,000 gulf war veterans who had been exposed that a study showed a link between brain cancer and gas exposure. Ms. Murray said the Pentagon needed to send similar letters about the new research, expressing concern that many veterans might not know that something might be wrong with them.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Musharraf a goner?
on: May 16, 2007, 07:37:02 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Examining a Post-Musharraf Pakistan
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in an interview published Wednesday in the British daily Times Online, calls President Gen. Pervez Musharraf "a gone man." Sharif, who also is leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and was ousted from power by Musharraf in 1999, said Musharraf's "options are totally exhausted, and starting from today [his fall] is simply a matter of time." Sharif is not exaggerating -- with each passing day Musharraf appears to be losing his hold on power.
Musharraf's own constituency, the military, is beginning to show signs of concern -- even his close generals are now privately admitting things have gotten out of hand. There also are indications that the United States has begun to gradually move away from the embattled Pakistani leader.
The developing shift in Washington's attitude is notable, considering that the Bush administration has heavily depended on Musharraf being at the helm in Islamabad during the war on terrorism. But the United States has been preparing for a post-Musharrafian Pakistan for at least a little over a year. In the beginning, however, the U.S. move stemmed from a desire to move beyond reliance on a single individual leader, not because of any threat to Musharraf's hold on power.
Now that the political crisis has imposed a crisis of governance on the Musharraf regime, it is only natural that the United States now move from planning to actually preparing for the time when Musharraf will no longer be Pakistan's president. But the military establishment dominates Pakistan, and Musharraf being both president and military chief raises the question of who will replace him.
However, it is unlikely that one successor will hold both positions because the domestic and international situation precludes the possibility of a military takeover of the country. It should be noted that this assumes that Musharraf continues to try and tough it out, in which case the growing unrest and violence in the country could prompt the corps commanders and agency heads to force him to step down.
In such a situation, the chairman of the Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro, would become acting president and an interim prime minister would be appointed to lead a caretaker government. Such a government would then be tasked with holding new parliamentary elections. The interim administration would be based more or less on a consensus between the political forces and the military. Such elections would lead to a coalition federal government likely composed of at least the two main parties -- the PML-N and the Pakistan People's Party -- with the latter being the senior coalition partner. The new parliament and provincial legislatures, which together constitute the Electoral College that elects the president, would install a new head of state who likely would be a consensus candidate of the parties in the coalition government.
Regarding the position of the chief of the army staff, it is likely that the current vice chief of army staff (VCOAS), Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat, would succeed Musharraf. This is assuming that, if current trends persist, Musharraf will be unable to hold on to power until October, when Hayat is expected to retire. Hayat has worked extensively with Washington in the past several years, especially since he assumed the post of VCOAS in October 2004.
Furthermore, though the current political crisis will lead to the ouster of Musharraf, the military establishment will remain in control of the state for some time. From the U.S. viewpoint this is important because it ensures continuity in policy on the war on terrorism. In the long run it is in Washington's interest to see the military come under civilian control because such a government allows for relatively smooth transitions of power. But in the current circumstances, such a political dispensation could create hurdles in the path of ongoing counterterrorism cooperation because elected regimes are answerable to the masses, which in this case resent U.S. foreign policy toward their region of the world.
Musharraf's exit certainly will represent a major shift in the Pakistani political scene, but it is one for which the United States has been preparing.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Multivitamins and prostate
on: May 16, 2007, 07:13:23 AM
That makes sense to me.
Contact: Liz Savagejncimedia@oxfordjournals.org
Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Heavy multivitamin use may be linked to advanced prostate cancer
The embargo has been lifted at the request of the submitting PIO.
While regular multivitamin use is not linked with early or localized prostate cancer, taking too many multivitamins may be associated with an increased risk for advanced or fatal prostate cancers, according to a study in the May 16 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Millions of Americans take multivitamins because of a belief in their potential health benefits, even though there is limited scientific evidence that they prevent chronic disease. Researchers have wondered what impact multivitamin use might have on cancer risk.
Karla Lawson, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues followed 295,344 men enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study to determine the association between multivitamin use and prostate cancer risk. After five years of follow-up, 10,241 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, including 8,765 with localized cancers and 1,476 with advanced cancers.
The researchers found no association between multivitamin use and the risk of localized prostate cancer. But they did find an increased risk of advanced and fatal prostate cancer among men who used multivitamins more than seven times a week, compared with men who did not use multivitamins. The association was strongest in men with a family history of prostate cancer and men who also took selenium, beta-carotene, or zinc supplements.
“Because multivitamin supplements consist of a combination of several vitamins and men using high levels of multivitamins were also more likely to take a variety of individual supplements, we were unable to identify or quantify individual components responsible for the associations that we observed,” the authors write.
In an accompanying editorial, Goran Bjelakovic, M.D., of the University of Nis in Serbia, and Christian Gluud, M.D., of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, discuss the positive and negative health effects of antioxidant supplements. “Lawson [and colleagues] add to the growing evidence that questions the beneficial value of antioxidant vitamin pills in generally well-nourished populations and underscore the possibility that antioxidant supplements could have unintended consequences for our health,” the authors write.
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: 15 MAY 2007 16:00 ET
• Article: National Cancer Institute Media Relations Branch, 301-496-6641, firstname.lastname@example.org
o Goran Bjelakovic, email@example.com
o Christian Gluud, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Article: Lawson KA, Wright ME, Subar A, Mouw T, Schatzkin A, Leitzmann MF. Multivitamin Use and Risk of Prostate Cancer in the National Institutes of Health – AARP Diet and Health Study. J Natl Cancer Inst 2007; 99: 754-764
• Editorial: Bjelakovic G, Gluud C. Surviving Antioxidant Supplements. J Natl Cancer Inst 2007; 99: 742-743
Note: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute is published by Oxford University Press and is not affiliated with the National Cancer Institute. Attribution to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is requested in all news coverage. Visit the Journal online at http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: May 16, 2007, 01:04:54 AM
The Best Ambassadors
How American troops are making some unlikely friends.
by Jeff Emanuel
05/15/2007 12:00:00 AM
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM saw the advent of a practice that has revolutionized modern war reporting: the embedding of journalists with frontline combat units. This practice gave the media, the American public, and the world, unprecedented access to the soldiers on the front lines, as well as to the war itself. "We were offered an irresistible opportunity: free transportation to the front line of the war, dramatic pictures, dramatic sounds, great quotes," said Tom Gjelten of NPR. "Who can pass that up?"
While the military also benefited from having an eager outlet for its stories and successes, the biggest result of the embedding process was the shift it caused in the relationship between the military and the media--a shift that laid the groundwork for a fundamental change in the dynamics of war reporting. As Major General Buford Blount of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division explained, "A level of trust developed between the soldier and the media that offered nearly unlimited access."
Despite the obvious benefits of embedded reportage, though, the practice has met with its share of criticism from members of the Fourth Estate. Beginning even before OIF kicked off, media spokespersons and others, such as University of Texas professor Robert Jensen, expressed concern that "embedded reporters would inevitably become too sympathetic to the troops with whom they were traveling." Theories were put forth that this was a "primary motivation on the part of military planners in designing the embedded system in the first place," and that the U.S. government was simply taking the approach of, "feed the media beast enough stories that cast U.S. troops in the best possible light and the job of managing the media message is all but taken care of."
The latter is, of course, an absurdly simplistic notion. Rather than simply sitting back and receiving dispatches and releases carefully crafted to "cast U.S. troops in the best possible light," embedded reporters, by the very nature of their task, see the troops with whom they are living and working at all times--the good, the bad, the heroic, the angry, the emotional, and everything else. The former claim though, that reporters will be overly sympathetic to the troops, does ring true to a degree; the debate on that count, then, is whether that is actually a bad thing.
While I was at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) in Baghdad, a pair of Spanish journalists--a newspaper reporter and a photojournalist--walked in, fresh from their embed with the 1-4 Cavalry of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. They had spent two weeks amongst the troops there, living with them and going on missions with them, including house-to-house searches and seizures. Their impressions of these soldiers were quickly made clear.
"Absolutely amazing," David Beriain, the reporter (and the one who spoke English), said of the young Cavalry troops. "In Spain, it is embarrassing--our soldiers are ashamed to be in the army. These young men--and they seem so young!--are so proud of what they do, and do it so well, even though it is dangerous and they could very easily be killed." Beriain explained that the company he had been embedded with had lost three men in the span of six days while he was there--one to a sniper and two to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), both of which had blown armored Humvees into the air and flipped them onto their roofs. Despite this, he said, and despite some of the things that they might have said in the heat of the moment after seeing their comrades killed, the soldiers' resolve, morale, and dedication to the mission remained unshaken.
It was in the process of performing that mission, of coping with the loss of loved ones, and of just being themselves as American soldiers, that these young men were able to win over the admiration and affection of more than one journalist who had arrived in their midst harboring a less-than-positive opinion of the Iraq war and those prosecuting it.
"I love those guys," Beriain said, looking wistfully out the window of the media cloister in the Green Zone that is CPIC. "From the first time you go kick a door with them, they accept you--you're one of them. I've even got a 'family photo' with them" to remember them by. "I really hated to leave."
Such a radical transformation, and such a strong bond of affection, forged in so little time. "It is those common experiences," Beriain explained, "where you are all in danger, and you go through it together. It builds a relationship instantly."
It doesn't matter how skeptical of the war a journalist might be, according to an Army public affairs officer (PAO) who spoke with me on condition of anonymity. "So often, they come out of that experience and--even if their opinion of the war hasn't changed--they're completely won over by the troops."
"I was one of those," admitted Beriain, speaking broken English and blinking away tears. "No matter what you think of the war, or what has happened here, you cannot be around the soldiers and not be completely affected. They are amazing people, and they represent themselves and
the Army better than anyone could ever imagine." A retired Army officer concurred, telling me that these "young troops are some of the best good will ambassadors we've ever produced. It would never occur to one to not tell you what he's really thinking, and they are so earnest" that it is almost impossible not to be won over by them after a short while.
The PAO spoke of a Greek reporter who had been embedded with an American cavalry unit in Iraq. The unit became entrenched in a 45-minute firefight with insurgents. Yanked out of the line of fire by a soldier who put the journalist's life above his own, he waited under cover and in fear of his life for the duration of the battle and with the best possible view of American soldiers in action against an armed and murderous enemy. He believed he had lived to tell the tale only because of the bravery of those young troops. "He had tears in his eyes as he talked about it," the PAO said. "He just kept saying, 'they saved my life, they saved my life these are great men; they are heroes.'"
While it may be decried by some for causing "objective" journalists to lose their cold detachment--to see the soldiers they live alongside as real people--it is that very fact that makes the practice of embedding reporters with military units so beneficial to both parties. Rather than observing events from a safe distance, and thus being able to remove the human element from the equation, embedded reporters are forced to face up to the humanity of their subjects, and to share common experiences--often of the life-and-death variety--with those who they are covering. Human nature being what it is, such proximity has a profound effect. It is a testament both to the soldiers themselves, and to the journalists who volunteer to live and work alongside them, that that effect has, in so many cases, been so positive.
Only days after the conversations recounted above, I left to embed with the 1-4 Cav (the unit of which Beriain and his companion, Sergio Caro, had spoken so highly) and began my own experience living and working with the same troops who had won over these foreign journalists so completely. Having stood alongside them in the trenches, I have to say that they impressed me every bit as much as they did my predecessors--as soldiers, as men, and as Americans.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Movie with Guro Dan?
on: May 15, 2007, 09:13:13 PM
Well, Machado BB and cousin Renato Magno has been doing a lot of movie work and knows David Mamet, so it makes sense that John Machado would be in the movie. Renato also trains Guro I. and has connected him with movie matters previously.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia's Succession Crisis
on: May 15, 2007, 12:11:42 PM
Russia's Succession Crisis
By LEON ARON
May 15, 2007; Page A17
After Boris Yeltsin died on April 23, all Russian television networks waited for almost three hours to break the news. They were afraid to say anything before the Kremlin did. Three days later, in the state-of-Russia address to the Duma, Vladimir Putin announced the unilateral "suspension" by Russia of the 1990 treaty governing the size and positioning of conventional forces in Europe. A few days before, an estimated 4,000 policemen set upon a few hundred protesters in Moscow with a ferocity that shocked even some government officials and legislators.
Even by the standards of Mr. Putin's Russia, these episodes stand apart in the shrillness of their authoritarian insolence and disregard for public opinion inside and outside the country. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Moscow for talks, she might see for herself the reason for the increasingly tense relations between the two countries, and the increasingly harsh climate inside: the jitters that next year's presidential succession is already generating in the Kremlin.
Despite an official propaganda barrage daily proclaiming orderly change after the presidential election in March 2008, the succession is far from a done deal. The erosion or outright eradication of what might be called shock-absorbers of democracy that endow the process and the result of a transition with legitimacy -- elected local authorities, independent parliament and mass media, and genuine opposition -- has ushered in uncertainty and risk. The foundation of the much-touted "vertical of power," as the new system of the Kremlin's dominance over the country's politics and key sectors of the economy is known, is shallow. The stairs going down are gnarled and perhaps unable to bear much weight.
To these generic handicaps to succession in an authoritarian regime, today's Russia adds two serious complications. The first is the tradition of Russian and Soviet political culture -- which Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin tried so hard to overcome, but which Mr. Putin (who has bemoaned the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century") seems to admire and emulate. Successions were hardly smooth even under the tsars, with quite a few legitimate claimants to the throne (or even those already sitting on it by right) strangled, drowned, stabbed or forced to retire into monasteries. In the Soviet era, not one putative heir apparent came to power. Lenin never wished for Stalin to succeed him; Stalin would not have wanted Khrushchev; Khrushchev, ousted by a coup, did not anoint Brezhnev; Brezhnev, Andropov; Andropov, Chernenko; and Chernenko, Gorbachev.
The other obstacle to a smooth transition is the sheer enormity of the stakes. Even after the centuries of the patrimonial state, in which political power has translated into ownership or control of much of the country's natural wealth, never has the jackpot been so huge: Every day more than 19,000 barrels of oil flow through the pipeline for sale abroad, bringing $500 billion a year.
No matter how many promises are being made to presidential hopefuls and their salivating retinues about sharing in the riches, the vertical of power is a sparse, even austere piece of political architecture. There are simply not enough top rent-generating offices in Russian politics, and in the daily expanding state-controlled sector of the economy, to be handed over to all current claimants: not enough Duma committee chairmanships (where the going rate for introducing a law reportedly is $1 million), regional governorships, top positions in the extremely lucrative tax police and customs, company chairmanships and directorships in the oil, gas, metals, armaments, automotive and aviation industries.
In the winner-take-all regime Mr. Putin has forged, his probable decision to hand over the power hardly presages a period of certainty and tranquility. In the words of one of the most astute Russian political observers, Mark Urnov, "those who have failed to become heirs will have nothing to lose. The bets have been placed, the only thing to do is to fight."
There are no lame ducks in Putin's Russia -- only dead ones. Thus, the appointment of the successor must be withheld for as long as possible, to prevent those passed over from coalescing and perhaps even reaching out to the pro-democracy opposition. Such an alliance would be the Kremlin's worst nightmare: a potentially escalating popular movement for unmanaged, free and fair elections, akin to the Ukrainian "Orange Revolution" of 2004-05. The succession games may last well into this fall, and one could do worse, investment-wise, than betting a modest amount in rubles, steadily appreciating against the dollar, that neither of the current front-runners, First Deputy Prime Ministers Dmitry Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov, will get the nod.
Yet managing the succession by keeping the elites off balance is only one source of the Kremlin's nervousness. The other is a slew of potential economic and social crises stemming from subverted, frozen or entirely abandoned structural reforms to redress the commodity dependence, the neglect of "human capital" and the disrepair of the worn-out industrial infrastructure. Camouflaged by the oil wealth and passed over in silence by the re-nationalized or intimidated mass media, these political time bombs are ticking louder and louder.
Despite regular, almost-ritual official calls to shift away from commodity exports to a knowledge-based, high-tech modern economy, the goal has been subverted by the ideologically-motivated turn toward greater state control and the fear of private initiative and wealth-creation. Instead, Russia's expanding economy (and thus the "stability" on which Putin's popularity is founded) remains extremely vulnerable to oil-price fluctuations. At least one-third of the Russian state budget today comes from oil revenues. A World Bank study has concluded that the GDP growth of 5% or higher was "realized in Russia only at times when the oil price has increased." It is widely assumed among independent Russian experts that a precipitous decline to $40 a barrel (not to mention, below) will have immediate and profoundly negative consequences for economy and the standard of living.
Apart from much-needed salary increases for teachers and doctors, the "national projects" on health and education, unveiled by the government with great fanfare in 2005, have done very little to reform the state-based, impoverished, rigid and backward health-care and education systems inherited from the Soviet Union. Amid the oil price boom, Russia spent less on health-care as percentage of GDP in 2005 (the most recent year for which data are available) than in the first year of the fragile post-Soviet economic recovery in 1997. In an August 2006 national survey, 70% of respondents said that they and their families could not count on getting "good" medical care.
The hydrocarbon windfall has done nothing to increase life expectancy, which at 65 years is still below that of China or India. Russia also is a world leader in industrial, aviation and traffic accidents. Crime is rising; over the past six years, there has been a 10% increase in the number of murders and a 73% rise in drug-related crimes.
With the number of working adults, especially males, diminishing precipitously, the worker-to-retiree ratio is estimated by Russia's leading economists to drop to 1 to 1 "in the very near future." Yet already today, the average pension is 25% of the average salary -- the lowest proportion in Europe. Such a pension is 3,000 rubles ($115), whereas the minimal food expenditures ("just not to starve" as a Russian newspaper puts it) is 1,500 rubles. Some in the government have already begun to talk about raising the pension age as the only solution -- something that the estimated 17 million men and women who expect to retire in the next 10 years are most likely to resent and protest, perhaps violently.
Yet the dwindling number of Russians who want to work and make a go of it are daily disheartened and handicapped by corruption. Both in its reach and the amount of money involved, the bribery and sleaze today makes the graft of the 1990s look like the child's play. In the ranking by Transparency International Russia is 121st out of 163 countries, behind Albania, Kazakhstan and Zambia, and on a par with Benin, Gambia, Honduras and Rwanda. The growing independence of courts, one of the most promising achievements of the 1990s, has been reversed by the travesty of the Yukos-Khodorkovsky and spy trials. Not just entrepreneurs, who are now fair game for shakedowns, but even ordinary Russians, are less and less capable of seeking protection in courts against rapacious and incompetent bureaucrats at every level.
Nor is the Russian state capable of providing broad and effective protection in a more immediate sense. While Chechnya is for now "pacified" by the former Islamic guerillas who switched sides, the multi-ethnic North Caucasus is virtually ungovernable, especially its largest "autonomous republic," Dagestan. The conventional armed forces are utterly incapable of dealing with new threats. A dysfunctional relic of the tsarist and Soviet past, for today's conscripts the Russian army is a combination of a prison and torture chamber.
With every family doing everything they can to shield their boys from the army, increasingly it is the bottom of the barrel that the army gets: the functionally illiterate and those with criminal records or a history of drug addiction. There is more than enough money to effect a transition to a modern, lean, mobile, well-equipped, well-trained and motivated force, supported by millions of Russians. President Putin himself promised in the beginning of his first term, but the reform has been abandoned.
Each of these simmering crises may quickly boil over. The prospect of several unfolding in concert is troubling. In combination with falling oil prices, they may cause a political equivalent of a "perfect storm." Yet with the deliberate weakening of the mediating institutions of democracy, the center of political gravity in Putin's Russia has shifted to the very top, making the Kremlin responsible for anything that goes wrong anywhere in the country.
Everything that the Russian authorities do in the next 12 months will be informed by this sense of vulnerability, and aimed at making sure that vagaries of succession are not multiplied or even made unmanageable by the corrupt state's obsessive quest for control in pursuit of ever greater share of the country's oil wealth.
Mr. Aron, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006," released by AEI Press on April 25.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: May 15, 2007, 11:15:45 AM
Here is a SITREP from an NCO on the ground in Ramadi. He sees all the intelligence reports and incident reports in the country. Unit and a couple other items have been #$^^$# for security. More evidence that things are working in Iraq.
...Our morale for killing the enemy is high, but to a man everyone is thoroughly disgusted with the US and all of the stupid things that people are saying about the war. Even watching commercials on TV here makes you upset when you see just how frivolous it all is. You really have to come here to understand just how well things are going at least here in Anbar. AQIZ is getting rolled up left and right and our attacks right now are averaging less than 2 per week in the entire AO! The ones that they do pull off are incredibly weak and all I see on FNC is spot reps of a vbied someplace in the country. I know there are hot areas, but I read all the intel reports and we are creaming these fools.
[armor unit] is an army unit here and they just got done f@#king up AQIZ in [redacted] big time. They swept through the joint and just slayed fools. We are having trouble figuring out where to go right now because everybody is getting rolled and the locals are ratting them out constantly. I'm serious, it is dead out here. That could change, but the people here are not having it anymore. The biggest problem in Ramadi is no electricity. It's getting hot out so that is going to suck for the people in a month or so. Apparently the way the grid is setup makes it difficult to fix but hopefully someone is working on it. Not my department...
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: May 15, 2007, 11:12:13 AM
Third post of the morning.
One notes that these Iranians most definitely are NOT in Iran
Iranians against Antisemitism
ON THE HOLOCAUST CONFERENCE SPONSORED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF IRAN
By Gholam Reza Afkhami and over one hundred others
Tuesday, Juanuary 23, 2007
We the undersigned Iranians,
Notwithstanding our diverse views on the IsraeliˆPalestinian conflict;
Considering that the Nazis' coldly planned "Final Solution" and their ensuing campaign of genocide against Jews and other minorities during World War II constitute undeniable historical facts;
Deploring that the denial of these unspeakable crimes has become a propaganda tool that the Islamic Republic of Iran is using to further its own agendas;
Noting that the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East today is rooted in European ideological doctrines of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has no precedent in Iran's history;
Emphasizing that this is not the first time that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has resorted to the denial and distortion of historical facts;
Recalling that this government has refused to acknowledge, among other things, its mass execution of its own citizens in 1988, when thousands of political prisoners, previously sentenced to prison terms, were secretly executed because of their beliefs;
Strongly condemn the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran on December 11ˆ12, 2006, and its attempt to falsify history;
Pay homage to the memory of the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and express our empathy for the survivors of this immense tragedy as well as all other victims of crimes against humanity across the world.
Abadi, Delnaz (Filmmaker, USA) Abghari, Shahla (Professor, Life University, USA)
Abghari, Siavash (Professor/Chair, Department of Business Administration, Morehouse College, USA)
Afary, Janet (Faculty Scholar/Associate Professor of History, Purdue University, USA)
Afkhami, Gholam Reza (Senior Scholar, Foundation for Iranian Studies, USA)
Afkhami, Mahnaz (Executive Director, Foundation for Iranian Studies/Women's Rights Advocate, USA)
Afshar, Mahasti (Arts/Culture Executive, USA)
Afshari, Ali (Human Rights Advocate/Political Activist, USA) Ahmadi, Ramin (Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine/Founder, Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights, USA)
Akashe-Bohme, Farideh (Social Scientist/Writer, Germany) Akbari, Hamid (Human Rights Advocate/Chair/Associate Professor, Department of Management and Marketing, Northeastern Illinois University, USA)
Akhavan, Payam (Jurist/Senior Fellow, Faculty of Law of McGill University, Canada) Amin, Shadi (Journalist/Women's Rights Activist, Germany)
Amini, Bahman (Publisher, France)
Amini, Mohammad (Writer/Political Activist, USA)
Amjadi, Kurosh (Human Rights Advocate)
Apick, Mary (Actress/Playwright/Producer/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Ashouri, Daryoush (Writer/Translator, France)
Atri, Akbar (Student Rights and Political Activist, USA)
Bagher Zadeh, Hossein (Human Rights Advocate/Former Professor, Tehran University, Great Britain)
Bakhtiari, Abbas (Musician/Director, Pouya Iranian Cultural Center, France)
Baradaran, Monireh (Human Rights Advocate/Writer, Germany) Behnoud, Massoud (Writer/Journalist, Great Britain)
Behroozi, Jaleh (Human Rights Advocate/Iranian Mothers' Committee for Freedom, USA)
Beyzaie, Niloofar (Theater Director/Playwright, Germany) Boroumand, Ali-Mohammad (Lawyer, France)
Boroumand, Ladan (Historian/Research Director, Boroumand Foundation, USA)
Boroumand, Roya (Historian/Human Rights Advocate, USA) Chafiq, Chahla (Sociologist/Writer/ Women's Rights Advocate, France)
Dadsetan, Javad (Filmmaker)
Daneshvar, Abbas (Chemist, Netherlands) Daneshvar, Hassan (Mathematician, Netherlands)
Daneshvar, Reza (Writer, France)
Davari, Arta (Painter, Germany)
Djalili, Mohammad Reza (Professor, L'Institut Universitaire de Hautes Études Internationales, Switzerland)
Ebrahimi, Farah (USA)
Eskandani, Ahmad (Entrepreneur, France)
Fani Yazdi, Reza (Political Activist, USA)
Farahmand, Fariborz (Engineer, USA)
Farssai, Fahimeh (Writer, Germany)
Ghahari, Keivandokht (Historian/Journalist, Germany)
Ghassemi, Farhang (Professor in Strategic Management, France) Hejazi, Ghodsi (Professor/Researcher, Frankfurt University, Germany)
Hekmat, Hormoz (Human Rights Advocate/Editor, Iran Nameh, USA)
Hojat, Ali (Entrepreneur/Human Rights Advocate, Great Britain) Homayoun, Dariush (Writer, Switzerland)
Idjadi, Didier (Professor/Associate Mayor, France)
Jahangiri, Golroch (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany) Jahanshahi, Marjan (Professor, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Great Britain)
Karimi Hakkak (Director, Center for Persian Studies, University of Maryland, USA)
Kazemi, Monireh (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany) Khajeh Aldin, Minoo (Painter, Germany)
Khaksar, Nasim (Writer, Germany)
Khazenie, Nahid (Remote Sensing Scientist/Program Director, NASA, USA)
Khodaparast Santner, Zari (Landscape Architect, USA) Khonsari, Mehrdad (Political Activist, Great Britain)
Khorsandi, Hadi (Poet/Writer, Great Britain)
Khounani, Azar (Educator/Human Rights Advocate, USA) Mafan, Massoud (Publisher, Germany)
Malakooty, Sirus (Composer/Chairman, Artists Without Frontiers, Germany)
Manafzadeh, Alireza (Writer, France)
Mazahery, Ahmad (Engineer/Political Activist, USA)
Mazahery, Lily (Lawyer, President of the Legal Rights Institute/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Memarsadeghi, Mariam (Freedom House, USA)
Mesdaghi, Iraj (Human Rights Advocate/Writer, Sweden) Milani, Abbas (Director, Iranian Studies Program, Stanford University, USA)
Mohyeddin, Samira (Graduate Student, University of Toronto, Canada)
Moini, Mohammadreza (Journalist/ Human Rights Advocate, RSF, France)
Molavi, Afshin (Journalist, USA)
Monzavi, Faeze (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Moradi, Golmorad (Political Scientist/Translator, Germany) Moradi, Homa (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Moshaver, Ziba (London Middle East Institute, SOAS, Research Fellow, Great Britain)
Moshkin-Ghalam, Shahrokh (Ballet Dancer/Actor, France) Mourim, Khosro (Sociologist, France)
Mozaffari, Mehdi (Professor of Political Science, Denmark) Naficy, Majid (Poet/Writer, USA)
Nafisi, Azar (Writer/Johns Hopkins University, USA)
Nassehi, Reza (Human Rights Advocate/Translator, France) Pakzad, Jahan (Teacher/Researcher, France)
Parham, Bagher (Writer/Translator, France)
Parsipour, Shahrnush (Writer, USA)
Parvin, Mohammad (Human Rights Advocate/Founding Director of Mehr/Adjunct Professor, California State University, USA) Pirnazar, Jaleh (Professor, Iranian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA)
Pourabdollah, Farideh (Human Rights Advocate, USA) Pourabdollah, Saeid (Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Rashid, Shahrouz (Poet/Writer, Germany)
Royaie, Yadollah (Poet, France)
Rusta, Mihan (Human Rights Advocate/Refugee Adviser, Germany)
Sadr, Hamid (Writer, Austria)
Sarchar, Houman (Independent Scholar, USA)
Sarshar, Homa (Journalist, USA)
Satrapi, Marjane (Writer, France)
Sayyad, Parviz (Actor/Playwright, USA)
Shahriari, Sheila (World Bank, USA)
Soltani, Parvaneh (Actor/Theater Director, Great Britain) Tabari, Shahran (Journalist, Great Britain)
Taghvaie, Ahmad (Founding Member, Iranian Futurist Association, USA)
Toloui, Roya (Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Vaziri, Hellen (Germany)
Wahdat-Hagh, Wahied (Social Scientist, USA)
Zarkesh Yazdi, Fathieh (Human Rights and Refugee Rights Advocate, Great Britain)
Ziazie, Arsalan (Writer, Germany)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: May 15, 2007, 11:06:36 AM
Second post of the morming. From the Political Journal of the WSJ:
We Won't Take Any More of Your Shiite, Iran
The New York Times reports on an encouraging development in Iraq:
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the country's most powerful Shiite parties, announced Saturday that "revolution" would be dropped from its name and that Iran's top cleric would cease to be the party's dominant spiritual leader.
The change--made to the party's platform at a meeting here on Friday, leaders said--reflected an effort by the group to shore up support among nationalist Iraqis and American officials who have questioned its loyalties because of its Iranian roots.
The Supreme Council was formed in Iran more than 20 years ago with a stated goal of installing a government in Baghdad modeled on Iran's Islamic revolution. But with Saddam Hussein gone and the newly named Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council controlling roughly 25 percent of the seats in Parliament, the need for radical change has passed, the group's leaders said.
"The name should be consistent with the facts on the ground, so there is no need to talk about revolution anymore," said Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, a Supreme Council leader in Parliament and a hard-line cleric. "The word means change, and we have achieved the changes through the Constitution."
The New York Times-owned Boston Globe reports from Tehran that the influence of Iraqi Shiites is growing even there:
Some Iranians are intrigued by the more freewheeling experiment in Shi'ite empowerment taking place across the border in Iraq, where--Iraq's myriad problems aside--imams can say whatever they want in political Friday sermons, newspapers and satellite channels regularly slam the government, and religious observance is respected and encouraged but not required.
In Tehran's storied central bazaar, an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric--rather than to clerics closer to Iran's state power structure, said Jawad al-Ghaie, 48, a wholesaler of false eyelashes and nail extensions and a respected lay donor.
Speaking carefully to avoid directly challenging the Iranian government, he and several fellow merchants suggested that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds more spiritual sway because of his lifelong commitment to quietism. That is the school of thought that says Shi'ite leaders should stay out of government, and Sistani has stuck to it despite the great temptation to wade into the chaos of Iraqi politics.
Yet even as the Times and its daughter paper report on these excellent results of Iraq's liberation, the crazies on the Times editorial page want to put the whole thing to a stop. It's a crazy mixed-up world on West 43rd Street.
Mistaking Words for Weapons
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times: Turkish City Counters Fear of Islam’s Reach
on: May 15, 2007, 11:01:57 AM
KONYA, Turkey, May 12 — In the not too distant past here in Turkey’s religious heartland, women would not appear in public unless they were modestly dressed, a single woman was not able to rent an apartment on her own, and the mayor proposed segregating city buses by sex.
Fears of such restrictions, inflamed by secularist politicians, have led thousands of Turks to march in major cities in the past month. A political party with a past in Islamic politics led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to capture the country’s highest secular post.
Once it succeeds, the secularists’ argument goes, Turkey will be dragged back to an earlier era when Islam ran the state. [Another march drew a million people in Izmir on Sunday.]
But here in Konya, a leafy city on the plains of central Turkey, Mr. Erdogan’s party has done no such thing. In the paradox of modern Turkey, the party here has had a moderating influence, helping to open a guarded society and make it more flexible.
Konya is still deeply attached to its faith. Mosques are spread thickly throughout the city; there are as many as in Istanbul, which has five times the population. But in a part of the world where religion and politics have been a poisonous mix and cultural norms are conservative regardless of religion, it is an oasis: women here wear relatively revealing clothing, couples hold hands and bus segregation is a distant memory.
“We’ve been wearing the same dress for 80 years, and it doesn’t fit anymore,” said Yoruk Kurtaran, who travels extensively in Turkey. “Things used to be black and white.”
Now, he said, “there are a lot of grays.”
The shift shows the evolution of Turkey’s Islamic movement, which has matured under Mr. Erdogan, abandoning the restrictive practices of its predecessors and demonstrating to its observant constituents the benefits of belonging to the European Union.
It also follows a pattern occurring throughout Turkey, where the secularists who founded the state out of the Ottoman Empire’s remains are now lagging behind religious Turks in efforts to modernize it.But secular Turks, like those who took part in the recent protests, do not believe that Mr. Erdogan and his allies have changed.
The mayor who proposed segregation, for example, is now part of Mr. Erdogan’s party. The protesters argue that the party may say it wants more religious freedom for its constituents, for example allowing observant women to wear their head scarves in universities, but it has never laid out its vision for how to protect secular lifestyles.
Mr. Erdogan’s party has been the most flexible and open of all parties that consider Islam an important part of Turkish society. Its politics have so far been respectful of secular freedom in most cases. But there are harder-line members who would like to see a more religious society, and secular Turks fear that highly personal questions like their children’s education and rights for unmarried women could be threatened.
In the country as a whole, religious Turks have felt like second-class citizens for generations, in part a legacy of Ataturk’s radical, secular revolution in the early 20th century. Now, elevated by a decade of economic growth, they are pressing for a bigger share of power.
In Konya some of the change started from the top. In 2003, around the time Mr. Erdogan’s party came to power, an irreverent ophthalmologist and a veterinarian with long hair were appointed to run Selcuk University in Konya. They immediately began challenging the sensibilities of this conservative city, organizing concerts and encouraging student clubs.
Kursat Turgut, the veterinarian, who became vice rector, said he had been confronted by a group of students who went to his office and demanded that he cancel a concert because they did not like the singer. He refused.
“Change is the most difficult thing,” Mr. Turgut said, sitting in the rector’s office, where paintings lined the walls. “It takes time to change a mentality.”
The students were from a nationalist group with an Islamic tinge that for years had used scare tactics to enforce a strict moral code on campus. When Umit, who did not want to give his last name, started at the university’s veterinary school five years ago he was chastised by students from the group for cuddling with his girlfriend and, on another occasion, for wearing shorts.
“They thought they were protecting honor and morals,” said Aliye Cetinkaya, a journalist who moved here 12 years ago for college. “If we crossed the line there was a fight.”
Mr. Turgut and the rector, Suleyman Okudan, shut down the group’s activities. Now, four years later, there are more than 80 student clubs, students like Umit behave and dress any way they choose, and Mr. Turgut’s concerts, open to the public, draw large crowds.
“It is like a different century,” Ms. Cetinkaya said.
She still faces limitations. When she covered a demonstration in Konya early last year against the Muhammad cartoons published in Denmark, stones and shoes were thrown at her because she was not wearing a scarf. But such incidents are rare, and far outweighed by improvements. For example, there were only about 50 women in the two-year degree program she attended a decade ago. Now the number is above 1,000, she said.
The deep-rooted religiosity in Konya found public expression in politics in the late 1980s, when the city became one of the first in the country to elect a pro-Islamic party — the Welfare Party of Necmettin Erbakan, the grandfather of the Turkish Islamic movement — to run the city. Mr. Erbakan himself was elected to Parliament from Konya.
The administration was restrictive: it was a Welfare Party mayor, Halil Urun, who proposed, unsuccessfully, segregating the buses in 1989. But the city kept electing the party until the late 1990s, when it was shut down by the state establishment for straying from secularism.
Then, in 2000, a young member of the banned party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began the Justice and Development Party. Mr. Erdogan had made a concerted effort to take Islam out of politics altogether — aware that continuing to push religion would lead to the same end — and it was unclear whether Konya voters would accept it.
They did. Of the 32 members of the City Council, all but two are now members of Mr. Erdogan’s party.
It was economics that convinced Ahmet Agirbasli, 57, a businessman who sells car parts and pasta. When he was younger he did not shake hands with women. For years he voted for Mr. Erbakan’s party. He did not believe that Turkey’s future was with Europe, but he changed his mind after Mr. Erdogan’s party began reforms with the intention of joining the European Union, and his business began to grow.
“Erbakan didn’t have an open mind,” Mr. Agirbasli said, eating a club sandwich in a hotel restaurant. “He didn’t believe the country needed links with the rest of the world.”
Now he sells macaroni to 50 countries. Five years ago he sold to only 10.
Akif Emre, a columnist at Yeni Safak, a conservative newspaper in Istanbul, argues that Mr. Erdogan has helped to bridge the gap between Turkey’s religious heartland and urban, secular Turks.
“They really accept secularism,” he said of Mr. Erdogan and his allies. “They are changing the mentality. Conservative people changed their lifestyle toward a more secular way.”
Religious Turks, for their part, still harbor an unspoken wariness of the state. New civil organizations are more focused on building mosques than engaging in public debate, and people scrupulously avoid talking about politics.
Religious extremists have been found on the fringes. In January the authorities arrested a man they said was the leader of Al Qaeda in Turkey, and in 2000 a pile of bodies that showed signs of torture was found buried under a villa rented by a homegrown Islamist group called Hezbollah.
“Konya is one of the main hubs of traditional and conservative, anti-Ankara countryside,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a professor of political science at Isik University in Istanbul. “It has a structure that takes religion very seriously and formulates social life around it.”
Rahmi Bastoklu, the leader in Konya of the secularist Republican People’s Party and the only one of the Konya district’s 16 members of Parliament who is not from Mr. Erdogan’s party, put it bluntly: “People have to leave Konya to enjoy themselves.”
But an unspoken understanding between Konya’s religious Turks and the secular state is in place, in which the mosques are left alone, but religious Turks do not press too many demands on the state. The balance is often held steady by Mr. Erdogan’s party.
Still, pushing too hard against the secular establishment might mean the loss of recent gains. “It’s not a useful thing to talk about,” said Ilhan Cumrali, 36, sitting in his clothing store among racks of floor-length skirts. “We are trying to find the right path. If we do it too aggressively there will be a negative reaction.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment
on: May 15, 2007, 10:57:09 AM
Mistaking Words for Weapons
The day after the Virginia Tech massacre, we noted that an earlier shooting at a Virginia campus had been cut short when a student with a legal handgun helped subdue the killer. We suggested that perhaps Virginia Tech officials' decision to designate their campus "gun-free" was not the wisest choice.
Well, it's a good thing we aren't still in college, and not only because we're way too old. If we were, we might have gotten into trouble just for employing our First Amendment rights to defend others' Second Amendment rights. It happened to Troy Scheffler, a 31-year-old graduate student at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., as City Pages, a local weekly, reports:
In the aftermath [of Virginia Tech], officials at Hamline University sought to comfort their 4,000 students. David Stern, the vice president for academic and student affairs, sent a campus-wide email offering extra counseling sessions for those who needed help coping.
Scheffler had a different opinion of how the university should react. Using the email handle "Tough Guy Scheffler," Troy fired off his response: Counseling wouldn't make students feel safer, he argued. They needed protection. And the best way to provide it would be for the university to lift its recently implemented prohibition against concealed weapons.
"Ironically, according to a few VA Tech forums, there are plenty of students complaining that this wouldn't have happened if the school wouldn't have banned their permits a few months ago," Scheffler wrote. "I just don't understand why leftists don't understand that criminals don't care about laws; that is why they're criminals. Maybe this school will reconsider its repression of law-abiding citizens' rights." . . .
On April 23, Scheffler received a letter informing him he'd been placed on interim suspension. To be considered for readmittance, he'd have to pay for a psychological evaluation and undergo any treatment deemed necessary, then meet with the dean of students, who would ultimately decide whether Scheffler was fit to return to the university. . . .
Scheffler obeyed the campus ban and didn't go to class, but his classmate, Kenny Bucholz, told him a police officer was stationed outside the classroom. "He had a gun and everything," Bucholz says.
Hey, wait. Why would the policeman need a gun? Oh yeah, for protection!
Political Journal WSJ
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: May 15, 2007, 08:18:43 AM
Surging Ahead in Iraq
The new strategy can work. But Washington has to give it time.
BY MAX BOOT
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
There is a serious and widening disconnect between the timetables that commanders are using to guide their actions in Iraq and those being demanded by politicians in Washington. Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior U.S. commanders in Iraq, are quite properly planning for the troop "surge" to extend well into next year. That's why the Pentagon has alerted 10 combat brigades with some 40,000 soldiers to get ready to deploy in August. They will be needed to replace troops rotating home.
Back home, however, politicians are demanding results in the next few months--or else. And not just Democrats. House Minority Leader John Boehner has said that if they don't see progress by the fall, even House Republicans will start demanding a Plan B for Iraq, which would presumably involve pulling troops out, not sending more. That message was reinforced by the group of 11 House Republicans who visited the White House last week.
Gen. Petraeus has promised to report back to Congress by September on what kind of progress he is making, but don't expect a definitive answer. He is unlikely to say "the surge has worked" or "the surge has failed." He will instead probably point to a variety of indicators, some of which will be positive, others negative. It will be left to the American people and their leaders to interpret these results as they see fit.
Inevitably, since suicide attacks will still be occurring in Iraq in September, many commentators and politicians will write off the surge as a failure. Many are already doing so, even though the Baghdad Security Plan is barely three months old and the fourth extra U.S. brigade has only recently arrived. The fifth and final one won't be in place until June. It will take many months after that to see whether security conditions are improving--and even if they are (perhaps especially if they are) it would be the height of folly to then start withdrawing U.S. troops, something that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has indicated might happen.
An article in USA Today reported on a Pentagon-funded study which confirms what military historians already know--an average insurgency can run for a decade, but most fail in the end. Translation: If we're going to be successful in Iraq, we're going to have to make a long-term commitment. That doesn't mean 170,000 U.S. combat troops stationed there for 10 years, but it does mean a substantial force--tens of thousands of soldiers--will be needed for many years to come. If we're planning to start withdrawing in September 2007--or even September 2008--we might as well run up the white flag now and let the great Iraqi civil war unfold in all its horror.
Most Americans seem resigned to that fate. In fact many think that the civil war has already begun, and we can't or shouldn't do anything about it. We hear all the time that "we have no business getting into the middle of someone else's civil war"--often from the very same people who in the 1990s were (rightly) urging that we get involved in the civil wars of the former Yugoslavia or who today (rightly) urge us to get involved in the civil war in Sudan.
The reality is that Iraq has been experiencing a fairly low-grade civil war until now--one that has been contained by the presence of U.S. troops. While the troop surge in Baghdad hasn't yet decreased the overall level of violence--suicide bombings, which are notoriously difficult to stop, remain undiminished--the presence of more Iraqi and American troops on the streets has managed to reduce sectarian murders by two-thirds since January. Sunni fanatics are still able to set off their car bombs, but Shiite fanatics are not able to respond in kind by torturing to death 100 Sunnis a night. In other words, the surge is containing the results of the suicide bombings, slowing the cycle of violence that last year was leading Iraq to the brink of the abyss.
If U.S. troops were to pull out anytime in the foreseeable future, the probable result would not be (as so many advocates of withdrawal claim) that Iraqis would "get their act together" and take care of their problems themselves. The far more likely consequence would be an all-out civil war. Not only would this be a humanitarian tragedy for which the U.S. would bear indirect responsibility, but it would also be a catastrophe for American interests in the region. If we are seen as the losers in Iraq, al Qaeda would be seen as the winner. The perception of American weakness fed by a pullout would lead to increased terrorism against the U.S. and our allies, just as occurred following our withdrawal from Somalia in 1993 and from Beirut in 1983.
In the ensuing chaos, it is quite possible that al Qaeda terrorists would succeed in turning western Iraq into a Taliban-style base for international terrorism. Although the momentum at the moment is running against al Qaeda in Anbar Province, the tribal forces who are now cooperating with the Iraqi government would be incapable of defeating al Qaeda on their own. If the U.S. were to pull out, the tribes would likely go back to cooperating with al Qaeda for the sake of self-preservation. And a handful of American Special Operations Forces operating from far-off bases would be helpless to stop the terrorists because they would lack the kind of human intelligence now generated by U.S. troops on the ground.
That is only one of many possible effects of an Iraqi civil war that we need to contemplate before making the fateful decision to give up the fight. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, two serious Democratic analysts, issued a sobering study in January called "Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover From an Iraqi Civil War" that should be required reading for anyone calling for a pullout. Messrs. Byman and Pollack studied a number of civil wars stretching back to the 1970s in countries from Congo to Lebanon, and found that they are never confined within the borders drawn neatly on maps.
Civil wars export refugees, terrorists, militant ideologies and economic woes that destabilize neighboring states, and those states in turn usually intervene to try to limit the fallout or to expand their sphere of influence. "We found that 'spillover' is common in massive civil wars; that while its intensity can vary considerably, at its worst it can have truly catastrophic effects; and that Iraq has all the earmarks of creating quite severe spillover problems," they write. No surprise: After all, Iraq, with its oil wealth, has far more to fight over than Congo or Lebanon or Chechnya.
While a civil war is the most likely outcome in Iraq, it is not inevitable. Contrary to the common myth, Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis have not been at daggers drawn since the dawn of time. Until fairly recently, they lived peaceably side by side; intermarriage was common and major tribes still have both Sunni and Shiite components. The slide toward civil war occurred because of an implosion of central authority and a breakdown of law and order that allowed demagogues on both sides--the likes of Moqtada al Sadr and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--to posture as the defenders of their sectarian groups. That dynamic, while strong, could still be reversed if the Iraqi government, with American support, were able to offer ordinary people what they most ardently desire--security.
With U.S. and Iraqi forces now on the offensive, there have been some encouraging signs of responsible leaders on both sides pulling back from the brink. Sunni tribal chiefs have organized themselves into the Anbar Salvation Council to try to work with the U.S. and the government of Iraq, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made some important gestures toward the Sunnis, such as his support for an equitable oil-revenue sharing law (which hasn't yet passed parliament).
Slow progress toward an acceptable modus vivendi may still be possible as long as the U.S. doesn't insist on artificial timetables to resolve complex and emotional issues. What incentive do Iraqi politicians have to make compromises if they think that American troops are heading out the door? If that's the case, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds would be well advised to avoid making any concessions that would strengthen their mortal enemies. Thus all the talk in Washington about troop withdrawals has the opposite effect from what is intended. Instead of spurring Iraqi politicians to compromise, it leads them to be more obdurate.
It's still possible to stave off catastrophic defeat in Iraq. But the only way to do it is to give Gen. Petraeus and his troops more time--at least another year--to try to change the dynamics on the ground. The surge strategy may be a long shot but every alternative is even worse.
Mr. Boot is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today" (Gotham Books, 2006).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anatomy of a hit job: The Wolfowitz Affair (formerly Paul's Girl)
on: May 15, 2007, 08:09:57 AM
World Bank Jobbery
More evidence the Wolfowitz accusers chose to ignore.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The World Bank board meets today to consider the fate of President Paul Wolfowitz, and the truth is that the verdict may already be in. The board will consider the report of an investigating committee dominated by the same European nations that have been orchestrating the media campaign to depose him.
As almost daily newspaper leaks have disclosed for weeks--in violation of bank rules--the committee concludes that Mr. Wolfowitz violated bank rules in awarding a promotion and salary increase for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza. We've previously reported on the World Bank documents that make it clear this was at worst a misunderstanding--if not a setup by bank officials who wanted his fingerprints on any raise for Ms. Riza. Mr. Wolfowitz had tried to recuse himself, only to be told he couldn't do so and would have to be the one to give her the raise and new job. (See "The Wolfowitz Files," April 16.)
But we've now seen two other documents that reveal the investigating committee's clear bias against Mr. Wolfowitz. They concern its key witness, Xavier Coll, the bank's vice president of human resources, who has joined those saying Mr. Wolfowitz dictated a raise he knew was excessive and then tried to cover it up. In his testimony, Mr. Coll claims that "there is no doubt that the President [Mr. Wolfowitz] knew or had been made aware of by me that this was outside the rules." The investigating panel relies heavily on Mr. Coll's claims to support its findings against Mr. Wolfowitz.
But to reach that conclusion, the committee had to ignore a pair of August 2005 memos in which Mr. Coll told a very different story. Mr. Coll dictated those memos for his own files and marked them "Strictly Confidential and Personal--For Xavier Coll's eyes only unless authorized explicitly by Xavier." They are a contemporaneous account of his negotiations with Ms. Riza and Mr. Wolfowitz.
In an August 22 memo, Mr. Coll reports that "I also felt that we were in a very difficult situation--with no precedent at the Bank--and that it had enormous potential to damage the Bank's reputation. In balance, I thought that the situation required more flexibility than in other past cases and that there was great risk to the Bank if we could not come to a workable agreement in a few days." Yet the investigating panel now asserts that the situation wasn't all that unusual and that Mr. Wolfowitz should have been allowed no such "flexibility" in how he tried to settle the matter.
In the same memo, Mr. Coll also reports that he had urged a lump-sum settlement with Ms. Riza as she left the bank, and concedes that Mr. Wolfowitz "agreed that I should raise this alternative with Ms. Riza. . . . I felt comfortable that I raised my points of concern with the President and that he has taken these seriously and given due consideration."
And regarding a later conversation Mr. Coll had with Ms. Riza, Mr. Coll wrote, "I indicated that while the President wanted to come to an agreement quickly (he was leaving that afternoon for an overseas trip) he also wanted to make sure that we came to the right solution, both for the institution and the staff." Mr. Coll added that Ms. Riza rejected his proposed "financial settlement."
Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz decide to settle the matter by dictating its terms to Mr. Coll. After Mr. Coll recommended that any future raises for Ms. Riza should be contingent on a review of her work outside the bank by "a committee of her peers," Mr. Coll wrote that "this addition brought the process for potential promotions more in line with current practice at the Bank. I felt that, on balance, this was a reasonable way to move forward and find a solution given the very complex and difficult set of circumstances."
Based on our fast reading late yesterday of the final investigating committee report, we could not find these quotes from Mr. Coll's memos. Yet they clearly show that Mr. Coll thought at the time that Mr. Wolfowitz was trying his best to come to a fair conclusion that would not harm Ms. Riza, would protect the bank from any possible litigation, and would do well by bank rules.
All of this is further evidence that what Mr. Wolfowitz is facing here is a kangaroo court. The Europeans and bank staff thought they could get him to leave quietly if they smeared him and Ms. Riza enough in the press. But now that he has fought back to clear his name, the Europeans led by Dutch politician Herman Wijffels have decided to ignore evidence to justify their one-sided conclusions. They also largely ignore Ms. Riza's own statements to the committee while condemning her for objecting to a process that all but ended her career at the bank.
So now the full 24-member board will take up the case, even as European ministers try to browbeat the White House and Treasury to get Mr. Wolfowitz to resign as part of some "plea bargain." But what does Mr. Wolfowitz get out of that--except more leaks saying he left under a cloud?
President Bush should understand that none of this is about Mr. Wolfowitz's "ethics." It is all about the European desire to punish a Bush appointee for his support for the Iraq war and his determination to change the bank's policies to fight corruption rather than simply push taxpayer money out the door. If the board really wants to oust Mr. Wolfowitz, the White House should insist on a recorded vote. We wonder if Europeans really want this showdown.
And oh, yes: President Bush could also help by declaring that, if the Europeans do oust Mr. Wolfowitz, his likely choice as a successor would be Paul Volcker, the former Fed Chairman who has made a recent career of fighting corruption. There is certainly a lot of that to clean up at the World Bank.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Yoga
on: May 15, 2007, 07:44:13 AM
2x World Wrestling Champ, world class MMA coach and general bad *ss Rico Chiaparelli often begins his workouts with Tai Chi. He doesn't do the forms, he works with the core movements
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: May 14, 2007, 11:58:31 PM
Pakistan: A Border Shooting and Musharraf's Troubles
A NATO soldier was killed and four were wounded May 14 after meeting with Pakistani and Afghan forces. NATO said "unknown assailants" opened fire on the soldiers. The Pakistani and Afghan governments have offered wildly different accounts of the attack. The incident spells more trouble for Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's ability to tame his government's relations with Afghanistan and to convince Washington he has what it takes to hold the Pakistani army together while a political crisis boils at home.
Service members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) held a flag meeting with Pakistani and Afghan forces May 14 in the Kurram tribal agency on the Pakistani side of the Pakistani-Afghan border. After the meeting, which was called to stem a border clash between Pakistani troops and Afghans that started the previous day, "unknown assailants" ambushed the ISAF members near Teri Mangal as the convoy traveled back to the Afghan side of the border, leaving one NATO solider dead and four wounded, according to a NATO statement.
Three to four U.S. soldiers and three to four Pakistani soldiers also were injured, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said, though Pakistan's GEO TV reported that one U.S. soldier and one Pakistani soldier were killed. Another senior Pakistani security official said a man disguised as a Pakistani paramilitary soldier had opened fire on the troops.
The Afghan government offered a starkly different account, however. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said that at the meeting, "A Pakistani officer rose up and fired at U.S. soldiers, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers and the wounding of two others."
Evidently, many different stories are circulating. But it appears that a group of jihadists fired at the NATO convoy after the meeting ended. A great deal of resentment is brewing among Pashtuns in the Kurram tribal agency, and it would be reasonable to assume that a NATO convoy would be vulnerable to an attack in the area, particularly after the killing of the Taliban's top military commander, Mullah Dadullah.
The attack and recent border clashes between Pakistani troops and Afghan troops follow an April 30 meeting between Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Ankara, Turkey, aimed at quelling hostilities between the two governments. Afghan-Pakistani relations have long been on the rocks because of Kabul's repeated allegations that Islamabad is dangerously undermining stability in the region by fueling the Taliban insurgency next door. Pakistani moves to build a security fence along the border have further inflamed tensions between Kabul and Islamabad, since the Afghan government views such an effort in an area that is essentially impossible to fence because of the terrain as a blatant attempt to seize Afghan territory.
Faced with a growing political imbroglio at home over the suspension of Pakistan's chief justice, Musharraf has decided to clear his plate a bit by making a concerted effort to improve relations with his Afghan neighbors. Though the two countries have deep-rooted Pashtun ties, Pakistan cannot afford to alienate the Afghan government too much for fear of losing influence in Kabul, contributing to the spread of Talibanization within Pakistan's own borders and giving longtime rival India an opportunity to cozy up to the Afghan government and team up against Islamabad.
Musharraf's meeting with Karzai did result in some notable improvements in the Afghan-Pakistani relationship, with both sides agreeing to share intelligence and quell the jihadist insurgency engulfing the region. The intelligence that led to the death of Dadullah might have been the Musharraf government's way of delivering on the promises it made to Karzai at that summit, though the Afghan government clearly is not ready to ease the pressure off the Pakistani leader any time soon.
By claiming that a Pakistani soldier simply stood up at the meeting and fired at U.S. soldiers, the Afghan government delivered a politically motivated message to Washington that Musharraf cannot be relied on to cooperate on the counterterrorism front, and that he cannot even control his own military. Though the NATO statement contradicted the Afghan story, the idea that Musharraf is gradually losing his grip on the Pakistani army could be gaining some ground in Washington.
The political crisis in Pakistan reached its tipping point May 12-13, when more than 42 demonstrators in the southern port city of Karachi were killed in clashes between pro-government and opposition protesters. The legal row over suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry's dismissal has so emboldened Pakistan's civil society and political opposition parties that everywhere Chaudhry travels massive street demonstrations follow in a show of support against the Musharraf government.
The Pakistani government attempted to quell the demonstrations by playing up militant threats against Chaudhry, urging him to not travel by car and to keep a low profile, but Chaudhry saw through the political ploy and has continued to catalyze mass protests throughout the country. By instigating violent protests, Musharraf and his advisers likely were hoping the ensuing instability would pressure Chaudhry into toning down his campaign and bring calm to Pakistan. But this appears to be yet another miscalculation by Musharraf, as the opposition protesters have only became more emboldened following the deadly riots in Karachi.
Pakistan's generals are watching closely as Musharraf's support is rapidly eroded, and they are now seeing it in their best interest to distance themselves as much as possible from the president. It appears that even the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media arm of the military, has been told to back away from Musharraf. Though the director-general of ISPR has recently operated as Musharraf's press secretary and has often come to the defense of the president, routine journalistic inquiries addressed to the ISPR are now being directed to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. In other words, the ISPR appears to have been issued a directive of some sort telling it not take a stand and to keep a safe distance from the political crisis.
The Karachi riots have backed Musharraf into a tighter corner, and if he wants to finagle his way out of this mess, he will have to make the appropriate concessions: reinstate the chief justice, stand down as army chief and strike a deal with the country's main opposition group, Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) that allows PPP-P leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to save face for dealing with a president whose image has been severely tarnished.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Musharraf has been left with little choice but to yield to the demands of his opponents -- or else risk being pressured by the army generals to step aside in the interest of safeguarding the authority of the military establishment. The Karachi riots have created a scenario in which the best Musharraf can hope for is to be able to play a role in the transition from military to civilian rule during the early 2008 general election and negotiate to stay on as a transitional president, a post that could provide him a safe exit from power. If he does not move soon to quell this political crisis, Washington could need to seriously consider what it can expect from a post-Musharraf regime in Islamabad.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment
on: May 14, 2007, 11:57:31 PM
'Honk for peace' case tests limits on free speech
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, May 14, 2007
When one of Deborah Mayer's elementary school students asked her on the eve of the Iraq war whether she would ever take part in a peace march, the veteran teacher recalls answering, "I honk for peace."
Soon afterward, Mayer lost her job and her home in Indiana. She was out of work for nearly three years. And when she complained to federal courts that her free-speech rights had been violated, the courts replied, essentially, that as a public school teacher she didn't have any.
As a federal appeals court in Chicago put it in January, a teacher's speech is "the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary." The Bloomington, Ind., school district had just as much right to fire Mayer, the court said, as it would have if she were a creationist who refused to teach evolution.
The ruling was legally significant. Eight months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had decided in a case involving the Los Angeles district attorney's office that government employees were not protected by the First Amendment when they faced discipline for speaking at work about controversies related to their jobs. The Chicago appeals court was the first to apply the same rationale to the classroom, an issue that the Supreme Court expressly left unresolved.
But legal analysts said the Mayer ruling was probably less important as a precedent than as a stark reminder that the law provides little protection for schoolteachers who express their beliefs.
As far as the courts are concerned, "public education is inherently a situation where the government is the speaker, and ... its employees are the mouthpieces of the government," said Vikram Amar, a professor at UC's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Whatever academic freedom exists for college teachers is "much, much less" in public schools, he said.
A recent case from a Los Angeles charter school offers more evidence of the limits teachers face in choosing curricula or seeking redress of grievances. The school's administrators forbade seventh-graders from reading aloud at a February assembly the award-winning poem "A Wreath for Emmett Till," about a black teenager beaten to death by white men in 1955.
In an online guide to teaching the poem in grades seven and up, publisher Houghton Mifflin recommends telling students that it will be disturbing; administrators said they feared it would be too much for the kindergartners in the audience and then explained that Till's alleged whistle at a white woman was inappropriate. When social studies teacher Marisol Alba and a colleague signed letters of protest written by students at the largely African American school, both teachers were fired.
The Mayer ruling was disappointing but not surprising, said Michael Simpson, assistant general counsel of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union. For the last decade, he said, federal courts "have not been receptive to arguments that teachers, both K-12 and higher education, have free-speech rights in the classroom."
That's unacceptable, said Mayer, 57, who now teaches seventh-graders in Haines City, Fla. She said she's scraped up enough money, by selling her car, to appeal her case to the Supreme Court, though she doubts the justices will review it.
"If a teacher can be fired for saying those four little words -- 'I honk for peace' -- who's going to want to teach?" she asked. "They're taking away free speech at school. ... You might just as well get a big television and set it in front of the children and have them watch, (using) the curriculum the school board has."
On the other hand, said Francisco Negrón, lawyer for the National School Boards Association, if teachers were free to express their viewpoints in class, school boards would be less able to do their job of determining the curriculum and complying with government demands for accountability.
"Teachers bring their creativity, their energy, their skill in teaching the curriculum, but ... a teacher in K-12 is really not at liberty to design a curriculum," said Negrón, who filed arguments with the court in Mayer's case supporting the Bloomington school district. "That's the function of the school board."
The incident occurred in January 2003, when Mayer was teaching a class of fourth- through sixth-graders at Clear Creek Elementary School. As Mayer recalled it later, the question about peace marches arose during a discussion of an article in the children's edition of Time magazine, part of the school-approved curriculum, about protests against U.S. preparations for war in Iraq.
When the student asked the question about taking part in demonstrations, Mayer said, she replied that there were peace marches in Bloomington, that she blew her horn whenever she saw a "Honk for Peace" sign, and that people should seek peaceful solutions before going to war.
A student complained to her father, who complained to the principal, who canceled the school's annual "Peace Month" observance and told Mayer never to discuss the war or her political views in class.
Mayer, who had been hired after the semester started and had received a good job evaluation before the incident, was dismissed at the end of the school year. The school said it was for poor performance, but the appeals court assumed that she had been fired for her comments and said the school had acted legally.
"Teachers hire out their own speech and must provide the service for which employers are willing to pay," a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 24. "The Constitution does not entitle teachers to present personal views to captive audiences against the instructions of elected officials."
Mayer, the court said, was told by her bosses that she could teach about the war "as long as she kept her opinions to herself." Like the Los Angeles district attorney's employee whose demotion led to the Supreme Court's 2006 ruling, the appellate panel said, Mayer had no constitutional right to say anything on the job that conflicted with her employer's policy.
Mayer's lawyer asked for a rehearing, saying the evidence was clear that the school had no such policy when Mayer answered the student's question. The court denied reconsideration in March without comment.
Mayer, who had taught for more than 20 years, couldn't afford to keep her Indiana home after being fired and left the state. She got another teaching job in Florida, but lost it after disclosing her previous dismissal, and didn't get another position until last fall.
As all parties to Mayer's case recognize, her statements would have been constitutionally protected and beyond the government's power to suppress if she had been speaking on a street corner or at a public hearing.
But in the classroom, as in the workplace, courts have upheld limits on speech. In both settings, past rulings have taken into account the institution's need to function efficiently and keep order, and the rights of co-workers and students not to be subjected to unwanted diatribes.
In 1969, the Supreme Court upheld a high school student's right to wear a black armband as a silent protest against the Vietnam War and barred schools from stifling student expression unless it was disruptive or interfered with education. The court retreated from that standard somewhat in a 1988 ruling upholding censorship of student newspapers, and will revisit the issue in a pending case involving an Alaskan student who was suspended for unfurling a banner outside the school grounds that read, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."
The Supreme Court has never ruled on teachers' free speech. In lower courts, teachers have won cases by showing they were punished for violating policies that school officials never explained to them beforehand or invented after the fact. A federal appeals court in 2001 ruled in favor of a fifth-grade teacher in Kentucky who was fired for bringing actor Woody Harrelson to her class to discuss the benefits of industrial hemp, an appearance that school officials had approved.
But teachers who were on notice of school policies they transgressed have usually lost their cases. In one Bay Area case, in August 2005, a federal judge in San Jose rejected arguments by Cupertino elementary school teacher Stephen Williams that his principal had violated his freedom of speech by prohibiting him from using outside religious materials in history lessons.
Unless the Supreme Court takes up Mayer's case, its legal effect is limited to federal courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the three states in the Seventh Circuit. But Amar, the Hastings law professor, and others said the ruling could be influential elsewhere because there are few appellate decisions on the issue, and because the author, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, is a prominent conservative jurist.
"Very few schools are going to be that harsh in muzzling or silencing their teachers," but the ruling indicates they would be free to do so, Amar said.
Simpson, the National Education Association's lawyer, said the ruling, though within the legal mainstream, was bad for education because teachers are not "hired to read a script." The case might interest the Supreme Court, and the NEA will probably file a brief in support of Mayer's appeal should the justices take the case, he said.
Beverly Tucker, chief counsel of the NEA-affiliated California Teachers Association, said she doubts that federal courts in California would take as conservative a position as the court in Mayer's case. But she expects school districts to cite the ruling in the next case that arises.
"If I were a public school teacher, I would live in fear that some innocuous remark made in the classroom in response to a question from a pupil would lead to me being terminated" under such a ruling, Tucker said.
As for Mayer, she isn't sure what rankles her most -- the impact on her life, the stigma of being branded a rogue teacher, or the court's assertion that a teacher's speech is a commodity purchased by the government.
"My free speech," she said, "is not for sale at any price."
E-mail Bob Egelko at email@example.com
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War?
on: May 14, 2007, 10:07:29 PM
There may be a bit of weird formatting in this piece-- substituting "?" for other punctuation.
New York Times:
Atomic Agency Concludes Iran Is Stepping Up Nuclear Work
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: May 14, 2007
VIENNA, May 14 ? Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran appears to have solved most of its technological problems and is now beginning to enrich uranium on a far larger scale than before, according to the agency?s top officials.
The findings may change the calculus of diplomacy in Europe and in Washington, which aimed to force a suspension of Iran?s enrichment activities in large part to prevent it from learning how to produce weapons-grade material.
In a short-notice inspection of Iran?s operations in the main nuclear facility at Natanz on Sunday, conducted in advance of a report to the United Nations Security Council due early next week, the inspectors found that Iranian engineers were already using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors, according to diplomats and nuclear experts here.
Until recently, the Iranians were having difficulty keeping the delicate centrifuges spinning at the tremendous speeds necessary to make nuclear fuel and were often running them empty or not at all.
Now, those roadblocks appear to have been surmounted. ?We believe they pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich,? said Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the energy agency, who clashed with the Bush administration four years ago when he declared that there was no evidence that Iraq had resumed its nuclear program. ?From now on, it is simply a question of perfecting that knowledge. People will not like to hear it, but that?s a fact.?
It is unclear whether Iran can sustain its recent progress. Major setbacks are common in uranium enrichment, and experts say it is entirely possible that miscalculation, equipment failures or sabotage ? something the United States is believed to have attempted in the past ? could prevent the Iranian government from reaching its goal of producing fuel on what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran boasts is ?an industrial scale.?
The material produced so far would have to undergo further enrichment before it could be transformed into bomb-grade material. To accomplish that, Iran would likely first have to evict the I.A.E.A. inspectors, as North Korea did four years ago.
Even then, it is unclear whether the Iranians have the technology to produce a weapon small enough to fit atop their missiles, a significant engineering challenge.
While the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend all of its nuclear activities, and it has twice imposed sanctions for Tehran?s refusal to do so, some European nations, and particularly Russia, have questioned whether the demand for suspension still makes sense.
The logic of demanding suspension is that it would delay the day that Iran gained the knowledge to produce its own nuclear fuel ? what the Israelis used to refer to as ?the point of no return.? Those favoring unconditional engagement with Iran have argued that the current strategy is creating a stalemate that the Iranians are exploiting, allowing them to make technological leaps while the Security Council steps up sanctions.
The Bush administration, in contrast, has argued that it will never negotiate while the Iranians speed ever closer to a nuclear weapons capability, saying there has to be a standstill as long as talks proceed. In a telephone interview, R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for policy, who is implementing the Iran strategy, said that while he has not heard about the I.A.E.A.?s newest findings, they would not affect American policy.
?We?re proceeding under the assumption that there is still time for diplomacy to work,? he said, although he added that if the Iranians did not agree to suspend production by the time the leaders of the Group of 8 industrial nations meet next month, ?we will move ahead toward a third set of sanctions.?
Mr. ElBaradei has always been skeptical of that strategy, telling European foreign ministers that he doubts the Iranians will fully suspend their nuclear activities and that a face-saving way must be found to resolve the impasse.
?Quite clearly, suspension is a requirement by the Security Council and I would hope the Iranians would listen to the world community,? he said. ?But from a proliferation perspective, the fact of the matter is that one of the purposes of suspension ? keeping them from getting the knowledge ? has been overtaken by events. The focus now should be to stop them from going to industrial scale production, to allow us to do a full-court-press inspection and to be sure they remain inside the treaty.?
The report to the Security Council next Monday is expected to say that since the Iranians stopped complying in February 2006 with an agreement on broad inspections by the agency around the country, the I.A.E.A.?s understanding of ?the scope and content? of Iran?s nuclear activities has deteriorated. I
Inspectors are concerned that Iran has declined to answer a series of questions, posed more than a year ago, about information the agency received from a Pakistani nuclear engineer, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Of particular interest is a document that shows how to design the collision of two nuclear spheres ? something suitable only for producing a weapon.
The inspection conducted on Sunday took place on two hours notice, a time period so short that it appears unlikely that the Iranians could have turned on their centrifuges to impress the inspectors. According to diplomats familiar with the inspectors’ report, in addition to 1,300 working centrifuges, another 300 were being tested and appeared ready to be fed raw nuclear fuel as soon as late this week, the diplomats said. Another 300 are under construction.
“They are at the stage where they are doing one cascade a week,” said one diplomat familiar with the analysis of Iran’s activities, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information. A “cascade” has 164 centrifuges, and experts say that at this pace, Iran could have 3,000 centrifuges operating by June — enough to make one bomb’s worth of material every year. Tehran may, the diplomat said, be able to build an additional 5,000 centrifuges by the end of the year, for a total of 8,000.
The inspectors have tested the output and concluded that Iran is producing reactor-grade uranium, enriched to a little less than 5 percent purity. But that still worries American officials and experts here at the I.A.E.A. If Iran stores the uranium and later runs it through its centrifuges for another four or five months, it can raise the enrichment level to 90 percent — the level needed for a nuclear weapon.
In the arcane terminology of nuclear proliferation, that is known as a “breakout capability,” the ability to throw inspectors out of the country and then produce weapons-grade fuel, as North Korea did in 2003.
Some Bush administration officials and some nuclear experts here at the I.A.E.A. and elsewhere suspect that the Iranians may not be driving for a weapon but rather for that “breakout capability,” because that alone can serve as a nuclear deterrent. It would be a way for Iran to make clear that it could produce a bomb on short notice, without actually possessing one.
One senior European diplomat, who declined to speak for attribution, said Washington would now have to confront the question of whether it wants to keep Iran from producing any nuclear material or whether it wants to keep Tehran from gaining the ability to build a weapon on short notice.
“The key decision you have to make right now,” the diplomat said, “is that if you don’t want the breakout scenario, you would have to freeze the Iranian program at a laboratory scale. Because if you continue this stalemate, that will bring you, eventually, to a breakout capability.”
Those in the Bush administration who take a hard line on Iran make the opposite argument. They say that the only position that President Bush can take now, without appearing to be backing down, is to stick to the administration’s past argument that “not one centrifuge spins” in Iran. They argue for escalating sanctions and the threat that, if diplomacy fails, the United States could take out the nuclear facilities in a military strike.
But even inside the administration, many officials, particularly in the State Department and the Pentagon, argue that military action would prompt greater chaos in the Middle East and Iranian retribution against American forces in Iraq and possibly elsewhere. Moreover, they have argued that Iran’s enrichment facilities are still at an early enough stage that a military strike would not set the country’s program back very far. Such a strike, they argue, would only make sense once large facilities have been built.
Vice President Cheney, in an interview conducted with Fox News at the end of his trip to the Mideast, said today that Iran appears “to be determined to develop the capacity to enrich uranium in order to produce nuclear weapons.” But he issued no threats, saying simply “they ought to comply with the U.N. resolutions.”
He noted that President Bush personally made the decision to engage in talks with Iran, at the ambassadorial level, about Iran’s activities in Iraq. But those talks are supposed to specifically exclude the nuclear dispute.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Yoga
on: May 14, 2007, 10:02:28 PM
Woof Baltic Dog:
I think you underestimate yoga a bit. Certainly there are versions that are naught but pleasant relaxation (nothing wrong with that) AND there are versions which are quite vigorous and physically demanding. Ever see Rickson Gracie"s yoga in the documentary "Choke"? There is additional footage which did not make the documentary which I have seen which is also quite impressive. I have seen the Machado brothers do similar yoga which also descends from Orlando Cani's "Gimnastica Natural". I have some footage Carlos M. doing some of it in my house on 4th street some 10-12 years ago. Also quite impressive. Roger Machado has taken his "yoga jiu jitsu" to a high level. Guro Inosanto has trained with him extensively in it and has blended in silat movements to his personal expression as well.
I think if you were to see any of these men do their yoga you would adjust your opinion.
In my own thought process for myself I think in terms of ALIGNMENT and ELASTICITY more than "stretching".
PS: Don't let him fool you; CWS is a pretty bad ass mo-fo in his own right.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine
on: May 14, 2007, 07:05:35 PM
Brought over from the SCE forum:http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2006/10/71925
Honey Remedy Could Save Limbs
Brandon Keim 10.11.06 | 1:00 AM
When Jennifer Eddy first saw an ulcer on the left foot of her patient, an elderly diabetic man, it was pink and quarter-sized. Fourteen months later, drug-resistant bacteria had made it an unrecognizable black mess.
Doctors tried everything they knew -- and failed. After five hospitalizations, four surgeries and regimens of antibiotics, the man had lost two toes. Doctors wanted to remove his entire foot.
"He preferred death to amputation, and everybody agreed he was going to die if he didn't get an amputation," said Eddy, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
With standard techniques exhausted, Eddy turned to a treatment used by ancient Sumerian physicians, touted in the Talmud and praised by Hippocrates: honey. Eddy dressed the wounds in honey-soaked gauze. In just two weeks, her patient's ulcers started to heal. Pink flesh replaced black. A year later, he could walk again.
"I've used honey in a dozen cases since then," said Eddy. "I've yet to have one that didn't improve."
Eddy is one of many doctors to recently rediscover honey as medicine. Abandoned with the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s and subsequently disregarded as folk quackery, a growing set of clinical literature and dozens of glowing anecdotes now recommend it.
Most tantalizingly, honey seems capable of combating the growing scourge of drug-resistant wound infections, including group A streptococcus -- the infamous flesh-eating bug -- and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which in its most severe forms also destroys flesh. These have become alarmingly more common in recent years, with MRSA alone now responsible for half of all skin infections treated in U.S. emergency rooms. So-called superbugs cause thousands of deaths and disfigurements every year, and public health officials are alarmed.
Though the practice is uncommon in the United States, honey is successfully used elsewhere on wounds and burns that are unresponsive to other treatments. Some of the most promising results come from Germany's Bonn University Children's Hospital, where doctors have used honey to treat wounds in 50 children whose normal healing processes were weakened by chemotherapy.
The children, said pediatric oncologist Arne Simon, fared consistently better than those with the usual applications of iodine, antibiotics and silver-coated dressings. The only adverse effects were pain in 2 percent of the children and one incidence of eczema. These risks, he said, compare favorably to iodine's possible thyroid effects and the unknowns of silver -- and honey is also cheaper.
"We're dealing with chronic wounds, and every intervention which heals a chronic wound is cost effective, because most of those patients have medical histories of months or years," he said.
While Eddy bought honey at a supermarket, Simon used Medihoney, one of several varieties made from species of Leptospermum flowers found in New Zealand and Australia.
Honey, formed when bees swallow, digest and regurgitate nectar, contains approximately 600 compounds, depending on the type of flower and bee. Leptospermum honeys are renowned for their efficacy and dominate the commercial market, though scientists aren't totally sure why they work.
"All honey is antibacterial, because the bees add an enzyme that makes hydrogen peroxide," said Peter Molan, director of the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. "But we still haven't managed to identify the active components. All we know is (the honey) works on an extremely broad spectrum."
Attempts in the lab to induce a bacterial resistance to honey have failed, Molan and Simon said. Honey's complex attack, they said, might make adaptation impossible.
Two dozen German hospitals are experimenting with medical honeys, which are also used in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, however, honey as an antibiotic is nearly unknown. American doctors remain skeptical because studies on honey come from abroad and some are imperfectly designed, Molan said.
In a review published this year, Molan collected positive results from more than 20 studies involving 2,000 people. Supported by extensive animal research, he said, the evidence should sway the medical community -- especially when faced by drug-resistant bacteria.
"In some, antibiotics won't work at all," he said. "People are dying from these infections."
Commercial medical honeys are available online in the United States, and one company has applied for Food and Drug Administration approval. In the meantime, more complete clinical research is imminent. The German hospitals are documenting their cases in a database built by Simon's team in Bonn, while Eddy is conducting the first double-blind study.
"The more we keep giving antibiotics, the more we breed these superbugs. Wounds end up being repositories for them," Eddy said. "By eradicating them, honey could do a great job for society and to improve public health."
1 This story was updated to clarify that there are a range of MRSA symptoms, of which the most severe is necroticizing fasciitis. 10.11.06 | 6:01 PM
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF
on: May 14, 2007, 07:01:13 PM
A young farm lad from North Iowa goes off to college, but about 1/3
of the way through the semester, he has foolishly squandered away
all of the money his parents gave him.
Then he gets an idea. He calls his daddy. "Dad," he says, "you won't
believe the wonders that modern education is coming up with! Why,
they actually have a program here at Iowa State that will teach our
dog Ole Blue how to talk!"
"That's absolutely amazing," his father says. "How do I get him in
"Just send him down here with $1,000" the boy says. "I'll get him
into the course." So, his father sends the dog and the $1,000. About
2/3 way through the semester, the money runs out. The boy calls his
"So how's Ole Blue doing, son," his father asks.
"Awesome, Dad, he's talking up a storm," he says, "but you just
won't believe this - they've had such good results with this program
that they 've implemented a new one to teach the animals how to
"READ," says his father, "No kidding! What do I have to do to get
him in that program?"
Just send $2,500, I'll get him in the class." His father sends the
The boy now has a problem. At the end of the year, his father will
find out that the dog can neither talk, nor read. So he shoots the
When he gets home at the end of the semester, his father is all excited.
"Where's Ole Blue? I just can't wait to see him talk and read
"Dad," the boy says, "I have some grim news. Yesterday morning,
just before we left to drive home, Ole Blue was in the living room
kicked back in the recliner, reading the Wall Street Journal, like he
Then he turned to me and asked, 'So, is your daddy still messing'
around with that little redhead who lives in town?'
The father says, "I hope you SHOT that son of a bitch before he
talks to your Mother!"
"I sure did, Dad!"
"That's my boy!"
(The kid went on to be a successful lawyer.......)