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27401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: May 18, 2007, 12:21:31 PM
WSJ

Pyongyang's Perfidy
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.
27402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: May 18, 2007, 11:53:43 AM
 
   
 May 18, 2007
12:48pm EDT
WSJ
PEGGY NOONAN

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.
 
27403  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.
27404  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 17, 2007, 09:07:43 PM
Woof Robert:

When OP shot the Nov 2005 Gathering we did not have any problems with glare on the masks reported.

Your question about a wall/getting backed into the crowd is a good one.  It is what I was trying to get at when I said
" Any suggestions for how to define the perimeter?"

I liked the the way R1 had walls on two sides.  Its good to have walls into which to crash!  Maybe we should set the mats at OP's warehouse against one wall?

Location:

http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?searchtype=address&country=US&addtohistory=&searchtab=home&formtype=address&popflag=0&latitude=&longitude=&name=&phone=&level=&cat=&address=2435+N.+Naomi+St.&city=Burbank&state=CA&zipcode=91504

I have no idea where your "cajones" may be cheesy cheesy cheesy  You might want to check the spelling on those two locations  wink

TAC,
Crafty Dog
27405  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
Summary

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.

Analysis

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.
27406  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 17, 2007, 07:51:17 PM
Woof All:

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"  grin  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!
Crafty Dog
27407  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: May 17, 2007, 05:24:33 PM
Hmm, , , , lets see , , , $20 mil for Mayweather + $55mil for Oscar + the fact that is boxing we are talking bout here=_____
27408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: May 17, 2007, 09:19:10 AM
NY Times
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.

=========

Page 2 of 2)



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.

27409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anatomy of a hit job: The Wolfowitz Affair (formerly Paul's Girl) on: May 16, 2007, 05:48:15 PM
You're very welcome-- and thank you for being open to considering a different line of thought.  That is a rare thing!

It is quite impressive to see a hit job like this and to realize how deep and thorough something like this can be-- a very important lesson!

The Will piece is dead on about the WB.  Good find!
27410  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Movie with Guro Dan? on: May 16, 2007, 02:57:48 PM
This just in from Simo Paula in response to my query about this:

Hi Marc & Cindy,

Yes, Marc, Guro is working with David Mamet.  David is a really nice guy and good friend. 

Guro is the Grandmaster, the "Redbelt." 
Love,
Paula
27411  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.
stratfor.com
27412  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.

Here's this:


Contact: Liz Savage
jncimedia@oxfordjournals.org
301-841-1287
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

Contact:

• Article: National Cancer Institute Media Relations Branch, 301-496-6641, ncipressofficers@mail.nih.gov

• Editorial:

o Goran Bjelakovic, goranb@junis.ni.ac.yu

o Christian Gluud, cgluud@ctu.rh.dk

Citations:

• 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/.
27413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: May 16, 2007, 01:04:54 AM
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Conten...3/652nbqjz.asp

The Best Ambassadors
How American troops are making some unlikely friends.
by Jeff Emanuel
05/15/2007 12:00:00 AM

Baghdad

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.
27414  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.
27415  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.
27416  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
http://www.blackfive.net/
 
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...
27417  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 wink

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)
27418  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
27419  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.”

27420  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
27421  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Florida seminar with Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje (June'07) on: May 15, 2007, 10:51:53 AM
A younger version of me too!  These pictures were taken in 1997 or '98.
27422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: May 15, 2007, 08:18:43 AM
WSJ

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).

27423  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.
27424  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
27425  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Florida seminar with Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje (June'07) on: May 15, 2007, 07:39:10 AM
Here I am training with GT Gaje at his home in Bacolod. The manong in the picture is the late Kalimba (sp?).  Picture 17 and forward.

http://dogbrothers.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=6076&g2_page=2

http://dogbrothers.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=6076&g2_page=3

27426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 14, 2007, 11:58:31 PM
stratfor.com

Pakistan: A Border Shooting and Musharraf's Troubles
Summary

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.

Analysis

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.

27427  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 begelko@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/14/MNG9PPQGVV1.DTL

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
27428  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.
27429  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. 
27430  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 
 
 
27431  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
that program?"
"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
father again.

"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!"

"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
money.
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
dog.

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
something!"

"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
usually does.
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.......)
__________________
27432  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Yoga on: May 14, 2007, 06:34:05 PM
Guro Inosanto recommended to me a yoga headstand as a way to help adjust to jet lag.
27433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: May 14, 2007, 04:45:11 PM
Iraq: The Intense Search for Three Missing U.S. Soldiers
Thousands of U.S. troops backed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and spy satellites searched the "Triangle of Death" just south of Baghdad, Iraq, on May 14 for three U.S. soldiers missing in action since insurgents attacked their patrol in the area May 12. The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organization of jihadist insurgent groups, claimed responsibility for the attack on a jihadist Web site May 13, and said it has the soldiers in custody, though it provided no proof.

Although the capture of soldiers is a risk in any war -- indeed, Iraq's insurgents have captured U.S. soldiers in the past -- the U.S. strategy of deploying troops in smaller units increases the odds that enemy combatants will seize American soldiers.




The U.S. patrol, comprising two vehicles with a total of seven soldiers and one Iraqi interpreter, came under attack before dawn some 12 miles west of the town of Mahmudiyah, in the Triangle of Death. The patrol, from the 3rd Infantry Division, likely was out in the predawn hours to clear the road of any improvised explosive devices before the day's traffic began. U.S. troops responding to the attack found the bodies of five members of the unit, including the interpreter, at the scene.

In this case, the initial response to the attack would have come from similar patrols in the area, which would have rushed to the scene to provide reinforcements. At that time, the call would have gone out for the deployment of a quick reaction force, a unit of 10 to 15 soldiers, usually military police or cavalry, held in reserve at a forward operating base (FOB) for the purpose of responding to units in the field that come under attack. Once it is determined that soldiers are indeed missing, the report is sent from the field to the higher levels of command. In this case, the initial notification would have gone at least as high as the divisional command level.

The search for the missing soldiers is the current highest tactical priority for U.S. forces in Iraq -- and all available assets are being used to locate them. Some 4,000 U.S. soldiers have surged into the area where the patrol was ambushed, searching houses and vehicles and detaining suspicious individuals. In addition, UAVs are scouring the area, using video, infrared and other sensors to locate any signs of the soldiers or their captors. Coalition spokesman Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell also said "national means" are being used in the search, meaning the government is using spy satellites capable of collecting all kinds of image, signal and multispectral intelligence. Because they are in a polar orbit and move quickly over the Earth's surface, the satellites can only scan the area for a brief time. The information they collect can be used to narrow the search area for the UAVs, which can loiter over the area longer and provide real-time information. Furthermore, Iraqi interpreters in U.S. employ, as well as local Iraqi sources, have begun collecting intelligence about the soldiers from relatives in the insurgency.

The risk of capture is high in any combat situation in which small units come into direct contact with one another. In recent months, however, the U.S. military has begun deploying troops to neighborhoods in smaller units, rather than sending them out in large convoys from FOBs. This further increases the odds that more U.S. troops will be captured.

In Iraq, U.S. solders are told to resist capture at all costs, and to attempt escape immediately. This is because they can expect no quarter from the enemy or any protection under the Geneva Conventions if captured. If the attackers captured the missing U.S. troops alive, the soldiers likely were wounded during the ambush or while attempting to fight off the attackers.

Although the United States will remain committed to finding the soldiers, the longer the search continues the more intensity it will lose. Should this effort drag on, other events in Iraq will require that units tasked with the hunt be redeployed to other areas. For the time being, however, the search is top priority.

stratfor.com
27434  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Tulsa, OK - Dog Bros or similar training group? on: May 14, 2007, 03:26:47 PM
Woof Yar:

Glad to see you break your posting cherry  smiley  Please email me at Craftydog@dogbrothers.com with relevant information and names.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
27435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Proposed mex-us-can currency called Amero on: May 14, 2007, 02:34:56 PM
Good breakdown Doug.

Bryan:

Note that the CFR is NOT calling for something to replace the Dollar.  I see zero interest on any players part in an "Amero". 

I do agree that powerful business forces are at work in Washington with powerful forces and dynamics there to create supra national obligations that genuinely threaten American freedom.

We see this for example in the efforts to impose gun control via international treaty, UN dictats etc.  We see this in the increasing tendency in our courts to cite laws and opinions of other countries.  Even justices in the Supreme Court are doing this!   We see this in the refusal of the Federal Government to defend our borders, especially the one with Mexico.
27436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Matrimonial Relations on: May 14, 2007, 02:28:12 PM
Matrimonial Relations in Islam

http://littlegreenfootballs.com:80/weblog/?entry=25477_Saudi_Gross-Out_Video_of_the_Day&only
27437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: May 14, 2007, 09:18:35 AM
WSJ
Canada's Cut-and-Run Crowd
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
May 14, 2007

The vote on a nonbinding resolution to bring the troops home had serious implications for Americans. But it didn't take place on Capitol Hill and it wasn't about Iraq.

This vote, taken last month, was held in Canada's House of Commons. Sponsored by the Liberal Party, the resolution called for the country to pull its soldiers out of Afghanistan in May 2009, when its NATO commitment expires. Though the ayes fell short of victory (134-150), it was only because the hard-left New Democratic Party, which wants the troops out now, refused to support it. Thus despite the loss, the resolution creates a lot of uncertainty about Canada's reliability in the struggle against radical Islam.

Canada is a founding member of NATO and has been the U.S.'s security partner in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) since 1958. Both NATO and Norad constitute a recognition that solidarity among Western societies plays a key role in the defense of our shared values and way of life.

Thus, when Canadian politicians start agitating to cut and run from the alliance in the middle of a war, it's a worrying development. One also has to ask whether a wavering Canada suggests a more widespread attitude among NATO members. Does the West have the fortitude to go the distance against this determined and lethal enemy?

Our neighbors to the North have been with us in the fight against al Qaeda since the first moments of the 9/11 attacks. On that day the top ranking officer on duty at Norad's command center in Colorado, which scrambled the jets that responded, was a Canadian. Canadian families opened their homes to thousands of stranded air travelers. In the weeks and months that followed there was no doubt about support from Ottawa.

The Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, didn't hesitate to commit the nation to the allied response. In 2002 Canada sent 800 troops into the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar and the country also made financial commitments. Between 2001 and 2011, Canada is slated to spend $1.2 billion in development assistance in Afghanistan, making it the single largest recipient of Canadian foreign aid.

Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin took the reins in December 2003 and Canada remained committed. In a Sept. 22, 2005 speech, Defense Minster Bill Graham praised the Canadian military's work in Afghanistan, noting that "this is not the time for Canada or the international community to abandon or even reduce our commitment to a country in which we have invested so much in human and financial resources over the past few years."

Despite all this, by the time Mr. Martin called an election for January 2006, Canadians had to face the fact that years of Liberal rule had gutted the military, and that their country's geopolitical relevance, once on a par with that of Australia, had seriously diminished. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper won that election in part because he made restoring Canadian pride an issue. As if to seal his commitment to the effort, the new prime minister chose a visit to the troops in Afghanistan as his first trip abroad. "Your work," Mr. Harper told the soldiers, "is about more than just defending Canada's interest. It's also about demonstrating an international leadership role for our country. Not carping from the sidelines but taking a stand on the big issues that matter. You can't lead from the bleachers." Mr. Harper also led and won a vote, despite his party's minority status, to extend Canada's commitment in Afghanistan by two years, out to May 2009.

There are now 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan and they are doing some of the heaviest lifting. Unlike many other NATO partners, which limit their troops' participation to the more pacified north, Canadian soldiers are fighting in the south alongside U.S., British and Afghan units. Last year Canada took command of NATO operations around Kandahar. Violence escalated again this spring as allied forces launched another offensive against the Taliban. This has coincided with an increase in Canadian casualties. Fifty-four Canadian soldiers have been killed since 2002 and nine of those died in a 10-day period in April, commencing on Easter Sunday.

We are now into the sixth year of this war and polls suggest the public is growing tired of it. Public weariness is not surprising, particularly since the enemy is tied up in the heroin trade and is empowered by civilians who make their living off the poppy crop and by robust demand in Europe. Just ask the Colombians how hard it is to fight the organized crime networks that traffic in prohibited -- and therefore high-value -- substances.

Slow progress is not the only thing working against public confidence. Recent charges that Afghan police abused detainees who were turned over to them by the Canadian military have also played a role and the left is having a field day, as if Canada has its very own "Abu Ghraib." The opposition senses a weakened Mr. Harper, and this explains why it is now attacking the very policy it designed -- despite the fact that holding up Canada's NATO commitments and helping secure and build an Afghan democracy were once noble Liberal goals.

The opportunity to make Afghanistan Mr. Harper's Iraq must be tempting to the Liberals. But by following this line of thinking, the party is playing right into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, who are eager not only to destroy Afghan democracy but more to the point, Canada's.

In his speech in Afghanistan, Mr. Harper reminded the troops that two dozen Canadians lost their lives in the World Trade Center. "Since that time, al Qaeda has singled out Canada as one of the countries targeted for terror," he warned.

Since then it also has become clear that wealthy Saudis are trying to sow radicalism among Canada's significant Muslim population by promoting fundamentalist teaching in local mosques. There has also been an attempt to assert Shariah law in Canada, and at least one significant terror plot has been broken up. None of this is unrelated to what's going on in Afghanistan, and withdrawing from the fight would not reduce the risks to Canada. On the contrary, a Canadian surrender in Afghanistan would be a victory for terrorists and would energize jihad recruitment in Canada. It's easy to see why ambitious Liberals are willing to play the antiwar card so as to return to power. It's harder to understand why the Canadian public would go along with it.

• Write to O'Grady@wsj.com.
27438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Paul's girl (the Wolfowitz affair) on: May 14, 2007, 09:13:35 AM
Corruption Fighter
By BAMBANG HARYMURTI
May 14, 2007

JAKARTA -- Fighting corruption is a hazardous mission. In poor and developing countries you can be assassinated, which happened to journalists Georgy Gongadze in Ukraine and Carlos Alberto Cardozo in Mozambique in 2000. Even in France there is danger, as magistrate Eva Joly discovered.

Ms. Joly prosecuted the state-owned Credit Lyonnais, which had incurred billions of dollars of losses through mismanagement; her seven-year investigation of the Elf Aquitaine oil company exposed corruption at the highest levels of business and political life. As a result she was subjected to intimidation and death threats and had to be constantly under police protection; her adversaries even produced a film portraying her as an unstable zealot. In 2002 the Norwegian government asked her to return to her native land, and promptly appointed her a special adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Justice.

But Ms. Joly, whom I have been privileged to know, remains steadfast in her efforts against official corruption, and assists, where she can, other anti-corruption activists all over the world. She gathered international support for me when I was sentenced to one year of incarceration by an Indonesian court in 2004.

My crime was that of being the editor in chief of a newsweekly magazine that published a story about the possibility of arson in one of Indonesia's largest traditional markets. Instead of using our story as preliminary information to start an investigation, the police decided to investigate us -- and we ended up as defendants in a criminal defamation case. And it was during this difficult time that another friend, Paul Wolfowitz, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about my case. He was then second in command at the Pentagon and a very busy man. Yet he came forward to help.

Now it is Mr. Wolfowitz who is having a very difficult time. As president of the World Bank, he is accused of secretly helping his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, get a hefty pay raise; some former high officials of the bank have demanded his resignation. I was shocked when I read the news. I have known Mr. Wolfowitz for more than two decades and I have never doubted his personal integrity. I have also known Ms. Riza for more than a decade. We share a passion: advocating for a more liberal and democratic interpretation of Islam than what is now prevalent in the Middle East. Since I have been covering news for more than a quarter century, my reporter instinct automatically went to work.

The material available to the public shows that Mr. Wolfowitz declared his special relationship with Ms. Riza to the bank's ethics committee when he first took his position and asked to be recused from matters relating to Ms. Riza, a longtime bank employee. The ethics committee denied this request and recommended that Mr. Wolfowitz have her leave the bank promptly and be compensated fairly. Mr. Wolfowitz followed this advice and, subsequently, the chairman of the ethics committee sent him two letters, thanking him for his action and acknowledging that the matter was considered closed.

Judging from all the documents that are available to the public, it seems to me it is the conduct of the ethics board, and not that of Mr. Wolfowitz, that should be investigated by an independent team. Perhaps headed by Eva Joly. This should be done promptly in order to save the World Bank from losing its effectiveness in its main goal of eradicating global poverty.

In fact, this crisis can turn out to be a great opportunity to show the world how to handle problems of conflict of interest in high places. This is a common problem among World Bank clients, the developing countries.

Poor countries usually lack skilled managers, and many of their competent managers are clustered in a few big families and, among those families' members, intermarriages are quite common. Hence conflicts of interests are much more prevalent, and a solution for handling this problem is greatly needed. The World Bank, which prides itself as being a knowledge bank, is well positioned to provide the answer. The question now is: Can the bank accept this challenge?

I am quite confident that Mr. Wolfowitz can, based on how he handled "odious debt" at the World Bank -- the situation in which loans are made with the knowledge that a big chunk of the money will probably be stolen. He did not give in to the pressure from the left to write off odious debt, and he did not give in to the pressure from the right in the opposite direction. His answer was to increase the corruption-prevention and asset-recovery capabilities of poor countries.

He has found many champions in this endeavor. Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission of Nigeria, is one. Under his leadership, and with $5 million of assistance from the World Bank, his commission has been able to recover $5 billion worth of stolen assets, and to prevent further aid money from being corrupted. It is not by coincidence that Mr. Ribadu has publicly stated his support for Mr. Wolfowitz to remain the president of the World Bank.

Many critics of Mr. Wolfowitz's anti-corruption policy argue that suspending a loan is bad policy, even if there is indication of corruption, because poor people will suffer the most. But consider one of the most successful World Bank projects in my country: the Kecamatan Development Project (KDP), which has given more than $1.3 billion to millions of poor people in 35,000 subdistricts. The poor people decide by themselves, in a very democratic way, which project the money should be spent on. Not a single penny goes through government coffers and, therefore, nothing can be stolen by public officials. The project is done in a transparent way and is supervised by the whole community, and funding will be stopped by the bank if any misuse is detected. This threat of suspension as a collective punishment works very well.

For many poor people in Indonesia, this is the first time that any outsider has helped them in building public infrastructure in their area. It is such a successful program that many countries are now mimicking it. China, for instance, is planning to implement a similar project.

In Indonesia, it is widely believed that around 30% of foreign loans disbursed in the past were stolen. The World Bank has given $25 billion in loans to my country since 1968, which means almost $8 billion of these loans ended up in the wrong places. Imagine how much more effective the World Bank would be if its entire loan program was free from corruption.

Fortunately, some of the stolen money may still be recovered if countries like Indonesia can learn from the Nuhu Ribadu experience and are assisted by the bank. This is an exciting challenge and all the more reason to support the Wolfowitz presidency. I am writing this not just to support a friend in need, but to help save a great institution. Mr. Wolfowitz is on the right track and has the passion needed to succeed in the difficult task of changing the mistaken and deeply embedded paradigm at the World Bank.

Mr. Harymurti is the editor of the weekly newsmagazine and daily newspaper published by Tempo Interactive.
27439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: May 14, 2007, 09:09:39 AM
Second post of the morning:

=========
WSJ
Customer Health Care
By GRACE-MARIE TURNER
May 14, 2007; Page A17

It's Friday evening and you suspect that your child might have strep throat or a worsening ear infection. Do you bundle him up and wait half the night in an emergency room? Or do you suffer through the weekend and hope that you can get an appointment with your pediatrician on Monday -- taking time off your job to drive across town for another wait in the doctor's office?

Every parent has faced this dilemma. But now there are new options, courtesy of the competitive marketplace. You might instead be able to take a quick trip on Friday night to a RediClinic in the nearby Wal-Mart or a MinuteClinic at CVS, where you will be seen by a nurse practitioner within 15 minutes, most likely getting a prescription that you can have filled right there. Cost of the visit? Generally between $40 and $60.

These new retail health clinics are opening in big box stores and local pharmacies around the country to treat common maladies at prices lower than a typical doctor's visit and much lower than the emergency room. No appointment necessary. Open daytime, evenings and weekends. Most take insurance.

 
Who needs magazines and crowded waiting rooms?
Much like the response to Hurricane Katrina, private companies are far ahead of the government in answering Americans' needs, this time for more accessible and more affordable health care. Political leaders across the country seeking to expand government's role in health care should take note.

Thousands of free-standing primary care clinics have been operating for years in malls and main streets around the country, often staffed by physicians and many offering a broad range of health services. The retail health clinics are creating a new model with more limited services at lower prices and almost always staffed by nurses. The Convenient Care Association estimates there are about 325 of these retail clinics operating nationwide today. Seventy-six of them are in Wal-Marts in 12 states, but the company announced last month it will expand to 400 clinics by the end of the decade and 2,000 in five to seven years. They will be run by outside firms, including for-profit ventures like RediClinic as well as local and regional health plans and hospitals.

The industry is rapidly expanding. You can find a MinuteClinic in the CVS on the Strip in Las Vegas. But you also will find many locally-run clinics in pharmacies and food stores across America, such as the Express Clinic in Miami, MediMin in Phoenix, and Curaquick in Sioux City, whose motto is "Get well soon."

Prices vary for services from flu shots ($15-$30), to care for allergies, poison ivy and pink eye ($50-$60), and tests for cholesterol, diabetes and pregnancy (less than $50). Competition already is starting to drive prices down.

Of all patients who have visited the clinics, almost half went there for a vaccination, and one-third received treatment for ear infections, colds, strep throat, skin rashes or sinus infections. Ninety percent said they were satisfied with the care they received. The nurses staffing the clinics are under physician supervision and follow strict protocols to refer patients to physicians or emergency rooms if problems are more serious.

Internists and family doctors are watching. Some see the clinics as useful in providing efficient care for a limited number of uncomplicated ailments, freeing physicians and hospitals to deal with more complex cases. But others are worried about lost business, fragmentation of care, and the quality of care if the clinics miss something serious.

Rick Kellerman, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, concedes, "The retail clinics are sending physicians a message that our current model of care is not always easy to access." The threat of competition from the in-store clinics means some doctors are keeping their practices open later and on Saturdays and holding an hour open for same-day appointments. Competition works.

And competition also worked to force prescription drug prices down: When Wal-Mart announced last year that it was dropping the price of several hundred generic medicines to $4 for a month's supply, other pharmacies, from Target to corner drug stores, followed suit. Wal-Mart now says that a third of all prescriptions filled at its pharmacies are for the $4 generics, and 30% of them are filled by people without insurance.

Take note, Congress: The market is providing cheaper medicines, more affordable care -- and it is also helping the uninsured. A Harris Interactive poll conducted in March for The Wall Street Journal said that 22% of those visiting the clinics were uninsured. Wal-Mart says that half of its clinic visitors are uninsured.

Retail clinics are particularly attractive to 4.5 million people with Health Savings Accounts who have health insurance with higher deductibles and want an affordable option for some of their routine care.

And the clinics are working to solve another problem that is vexing Washington -- creation of electronic medical records. Most retail clinics create computerized patient records, with the goal of making the records accessible throughout the chain. The records also can be emailed to a hospital or to the patient's regular doctor -- or sent by fax if necessary.

Critics of engaging private competition in the health sector will argue that the vast majority of health-care dollars are spent on a relatively small percentage of patients with serious illness, especially those with multiple chronic conditions.

But even coordination of care for those with chronic illnesses lends itself to patient-friendly solutions. The City of Asheville, North Carolina, cut its costs in half for employees with diabetes by teaming up with local pharmacists who did routine exams and got patients to their doctors or hospitals more quickly when they needed intervention. Employees received their medicines for free if they kept appointments, and their health improved.

Because health care is largely regulated and licensed at the state level, some states are more friendly than others at having non-physicians deliver care. California requires that clinics be a medical corporation owned by a physician. In Arizona, each site must be licensed, but in most other states, a single license will serve multiple clinics. Illinois is considering legislation to limit the number of nurses a doctor could supervise to two and restrict the clinics' right to advertise.

This industry is in its infancy and will hardly register in our nation's $2 trillion-plus health care bill. But just as Nucor overturned the steelmaking industry with a faster-better-cheaper way of making low-end rebar, these limited service clinics could be the disruptive innovator in our health-care system. Package pricing for more complex treatments, like knee replacement surgery, may not be far behind.

Government can get in the way, of course, with protectionist policies that throw up more regulatory barriers to entry. But retail clinics could be just the beginning of consumer-friendly innovations, if Congress were to change tax policies in a way that would allow people to have more control over their health spending, as President Bush has proposed.

The linchpin is giving people the same tax benefits whether they get their health insurance at work or on their own, or buy coverage through groups like churches, labor unions and professional or trade associations. Allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines would inject another dose of healthy competition into the system.

With many congressional leaders hostile to free-market solutions, these policy changes are unlikely in the next two years. But as consumers get a taste of what consumer-friendly health care is like, they may well demand that the top-down, centralized health-care delivery of the 20th century give way to a system more in tune with the demands of 21st-century consumers seeking greater value and efficiency.

Ms. Turner is president of the Galen Institute
27440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: FDA vs. last resort terminally ill patients on: May 14, 2007, 08:51:07 AM
WSJ

Black Wednesday at the FDA
By MARK THORNTON
May 14, 2007

May 9, 2007, should be cited in the annals of cancer immunotherapy as Black Wednesday. Within an eight-hour period that day, the FDA succeeded in killing not one but two safe, promising therapies designed and developed to act by stimulating a patient's immune system against cancer. The FDA's hubris will affect the lives and possibly the life spans of cancer patients from nearly every demographic, from elderly men with prostate cancer to young children with the rarest of bone cancers.

The dream of stimulating a person's immune system to fight his cancer is older than the modern era of cancer chemotherapy. Over a hundred years ago, Dr. William Coley at Memorial Hospital in New York City experimented with bacterial agents that appeared to have properties in stimulating immune responses against sarcoma, a cancer of the muscles and bones. Advances ebbed during the era of chemotherapy in the mid-20th century, but over the last 25 years cancer immunotherapy has received much research focus and periodic support from the biotechnology industry.

Progress and investment, however, have been unsteady as tumor shrinkages following treatment never quite translated into "hard," clinically relevant outcomes such as prolongation of the survival of the patient. Still, this type of approach remains the Holy Grail of cancer treatment. One day current treatment approaches such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which often kill most but not all of a cancer, could be made obsolete by a potent immune response that eradicates the cancer cells and provides subsequent protection against return and relapse.

Thus it was remarkable that in the last several months two different biotech companies, with products utilizing two completely different cancer immune approaches, came before the FDA's Advisory Committee Meeting for judgment. The first product, Provenge, made by the Dendreon company, is a cellular therapy that tackles prostate cancer. The results of the Provenge clinical trial in men with prostate cancer who had failed all other therapies appeared before the committee that advises on cell-based cancer products for the FDA Center for Biologics. This committee was comprised of immunology and oncology experts. The second product, Junovan, made by the IDM company, was tested in children with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer that affects just 900 children per year. The results of the Junovan clinical trial appeared before a different committee -- one that judges protein cancer agents and was comprised solely of oncologists with no immunology experts.

Both the Provenge and Junovan clinical trials provided evidence that patients lived longer compared to control groups. But according to the FDA, these "survival advantages" that statisticians talk about had "issues." When the issues were discussed in the Provenge public meeting the majority of the committee (in a 13-4 vote) thought the issues, while relevant and important, were superseded by the solid immunology science behind the product.

However, those voting in the minority, very powerful members of the oncology community, launched an unprecedented PR campaign accusing those in the majority of incompetence and naiveté in matters relating to cancer products. The arrogance of this campaign overlooked the notion that survival data from immune-based products may be qualitatively different from, and may need to be judged by different criteria than, survival data from chemotherapy drugs.

But such intriguing academic discussions never had a chance to take root. Instead -- just a few weeks after the favorable ruling on Provenge -- the Junovan product came before the FDA's Advisory Committee for approval. Incredibly, the improvement in the survival rate of children with bone cancer who received Junovan was summarily dismissed as irrelevant by the committee. Why? The statistical data showing the odds of efficacy were 94% surety instead of the usual goal of 95% surety. This 1% difference was all the committee needed to justify a 12-2 "No" vote.

The Junovan meeting was chaired by the very physician who launched the PR campaign against Provenge. Unlike the meeting on Provenge, however, all discussion time on Junovan was spent kneeling before the altar of statistics -- not a single comment was made about the immunology science supporting the efficacy of Junovan. Remarkably, as the Junovan vote was taking place, the FDA folded under the pressure and announced that it would not abide by the favorable vote on Provenge. Instead, the FDA called for more testing that -- if the product is not killed outright by its maker Dendreon -- will take at least three years to complete.

In the span of eight hours, the dawn of a new era in cancer immunotherapy was driven back into the night. It will be years before we know the full impact of these decisions and how many cancer patients, young and old, have had their lives cut short as a result. For now, however, one thing is clear: While our lawmakers obsess over FDA "safety reforms," no one is holding this government agency accountable for its complicity in stalling therapies for life-threatening diseases.

Dr. Thornton, a former medical officer in the FDA Office of Oncology Products, volunteers as president of the Sarcoma Foundation of America.
27441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, Religion, & Assembly on: May 14, 2007, 08:35:34 AM
All:

The McCain-Feingold law makes me seething angry.  I am utterly baffled that the Supreme Court could have affirmed its constitutionality.

The camel has gotten his nose in the tent and now he seeks to stick his head in.

Marc
====================
WSJ
Cutting the Grass
Congressional Democrats prepare another assault on the First Amendment.

Monday, May 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows 6 in 10 Americans think the Democratic Congress "hasn't brought much change." Eager to change this impression, the Democrats are frantically trying to pass legislation before Memorial Day. First on the agenda is a bill restricting lobbying, which is heading for the House floor with lightning speed. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to pass it tomorrow, sending it to the full House for a final vote next Tuesday or Wednesday.

When a bill moves that quickly, you can bet an someone will try to make some last-minute mischief. Hardly anyone objects to the legislation's requirement that former lawmakers wait two years instead of one before lobbying Congress. Ditto with bans on lobbying by congressional spouses and restrictions on sitting members of Congress negotiating contracts with private entities for future employment.

But the legislation may be amended on the floor to restrict grassroots groups that encourage citizens to contact members of Congress. The amendment, pushed by Rep. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts, would require groups that organize such grassroots campaigns to register as "lobbyists" and file detailed quarterly reports on their donors and activities. The law would apply to any group that took in at least $100,000 in any given quarter for "paid communications campaigns" aimed at mobilizing the public.





The same groups that backed the McCain-Feingold law, limiting political speech in advance of an election, are behind this latest effort to curb political speech. Common Cause and Democracy 21 say special-interest entities hide behind current law to conceal the identities of their donors, whom they would have to reveal if they were lobbying Congress directly. "These Astroturf campaigns are just direct lobbying by another name," says Rep. Meehan, who is resigning from the House this summer and views his bill as his last hurrah in Congress.
But the First Amendment specifically prohibits Congress from abridging "the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for redress of grievances." The Supreme Court twice ruled in the 1950s that grassroots communication isn't "lobbying activity," and is fully protected by the First Amendment. Among the groups that believe the Meehan proposal would trample on the First Amendment are the National Right to Life Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union. The idea goes too far even for Sen. John McCain, who voted to strip a similar provision from a Senate lobbying reform bill last January.

The possible outcomes are disturbing. For example, Oprah Winfrey operates a website dedicated to urging people to contact Congress to demand intervention in Darfur. If her Web master took in over $100,000 in revenue from Ms. Winfrey and similar clients in a single quarter, he might be forced to make disclosures under the law.

"It's huge," Jay Sekulow of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, told The Hill newspaper. "It's the most significant restriction on grassroots activity in recent history. I'd put it up there with the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act"--the formal name for McCain-Feingold.

McCain-Feingold itself is riddled with loopholes, producing a slew of unintended consequences. Its provisions allowing candidates who compete against wealthy opponents who spend their own money to accept larger-than-normal legal contributions in order to compete inexplicably don't apply to the race for president. That means Mitt Romney and John Edwards, both of whom are independently wealthy, have a clear advantage should they run low on cash and need to inject funds into their campaigns quickly.





"Judged by the most visible results on promises like getting big money out of politics or cleaning up politics, campaign finance reform has been, to put it mildly, a disappointment," admits Mark Schmitt, a supporter of such reforms who has written a thoughtful essay in the journal Democracy. He urges reformers to now focus on expanding the "range of choices and voices in the system" and to take seriously the worries of those who fear that McCain-Feingold's restrictions on "election communication" have the potential to squelch important political speech. The Supreme Court is set to rule next month on a case addressing precisely that issue, and Justice Samuel Alito may be more inclined to view McCain-Feingold skeptically than was Sandra Day O'Connor, who was part of a 5-4 majority upholding the law.
Given the checkered history of campaign finance reform, its frequent use by one side of a political debate to hobble opponents, and the prospect that courts may yet find portions of McCain-Feingold unconstitutional, it would be a travesty for a Congress desperate for a quick-fix legislative accomplishment to circumscribe the First Amendment with little debate and even less understanding of what the consequences will be.
27442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: May 14, 2007, 08:31:33 AM
WSJ

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Illinois Tax Implosion
The political limits of "universal" health care.

Monday, May 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

"Universal" government health care has once again returned as a political cause, with many Democrats believing it's the key to White House victory in 2008. They might want to study last week's news from Illinois, where Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich's tax increase to finance health care became the political rout of the year.

The Democratic House in Springfield killed the proposal, 107-0, after Mr. Blagojevich came out against his own idea when it became clear he was going to be humiliated. Only a month earlier he had said he was prepared to wage "the fight of the century" in defense of his plan to impose a $7.6 billion "gross receipts tax" on Illinois businesses.

Easily re-elected in November, the Governor used every trick in the "progressive" political playbook to sell his proposal. Instead of a general tax increase, he claimed it would be "targeted" for universal health care and education. Instead of raising individual taxes, he aimed at business and even built in an exemption for smaller firms. "These corporate guys, they can't avoid this tax," declared the Governor, sounding one of the "populist" themes that liberal columnists are now recommending for national Democrats.

Mr. Blagojevich also pitched his plan as a moral imperative, unveiling it while standing in the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago and saying it was necessary to force businesses to pay their "fair" share of the tax burden. He wanted to force most employers to offer health insurance or pay a 3% payroll tax. Liberal special interest groups--including the state AFL-CIO and the Illinois Education Association--initially supported him.





But a funny thing happened on this road to Canadian health care. The state's more rational Democrats revolted, arguing it would drive businesses out of Illinois. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was an early opponent, and Democratic Lieutenant Governor Patrick Quinn was cool to it. House Speaker Michael Madigan very publicly withheld his support and last week came out against the tax hike.
As tax increases go, this was one of the worst. A "gross receipts tax" is popular with politicians because it applies to every dollar of company revenue, not merely on profits, or on final sales the way a retail sales tax does. But this means the tax tends to hit hardest those small and medium-sized businesses that have healthy sales volumes but narrow profit margins. The tax is a huge revenue-raiser but can also be a job killer.

Mr. Blagojevich tried to soften this impact by creating an exemption for business with annual revenues of less than $5 million. But even with that exemption, retailers would feel the squeeze from the higher cost of goods. And because the tax applies to all business transactions, it creates what economists call a "pyramiding" effect that has a damaging overall economic impact.

The Tax Foundation estimated that Mr. Blagojevich's proposal would have been the largest state tax hike in the last decade, as a share of state general fund revenue--at 27% nearly double the next closest, which was Nevada's 14% increase in 2004. In per capita terms, the tax hike would average about $550 per Illinois resident.

All of this piled on top of the $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees that the Governor imposed in his first term. State revenue has been rising at a respectable 5% annual pace, but spending is rising faster. Jonathan Williams of the Tax Foundation says the Governor's proposed budget this year calls for a 13.2% spending increase, which comes on top of a near double digit increase a year ago. The cumulative impact of this rising tax and spending burden has been to drive businesses out of the state.





"To describe every major CEO in Illinois as fat cats is a mistake," said Chicago Mayor Daley. "They don't have to be here. They can go to Wisconsin. They can go to Indiana. They can go to India. They can go to China. So if you want to beat up businesses, go beat 'em up, and when they leave, just wave to 'em and they're going to wave back to you." Even Jesse Jackson disowned the Governor's plan, noting that "We all want health care. But business closer is not good health."
One lesson here is that it is far easier to talk about "progressive" political causes than to pay for them without doing larger economic harm. In today's global economy, the margin for policy mistakes is smaller, even for individual states. Mr. Daley may appreciate this better than Mr. Blagojevich because he knows the consequences of bad policy will harm Chicago long after the Governor retires to private equity, or some other "fat cat" job.

As for national Democrats, Presidential candidate John Edwards has already proposed a huge tax increase to pay for national health care. At least he's honest about what such promises require, but we doubt it will help his Presidential prospects. Illinois Senator Barack Obama has been silent on his Governor's tax implosion, but someone should get him on the record. And Hillary Clinton, well, we can't wait to see how "universal" her promises will be.

27443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 14, 2007, 08:12:14 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Examining Mullah Dadullah's Death

Afghan intelligence announced on Sunday that top Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah was killed early Saturday during a battle with an Afghan-NATO force in Helmand province. The 40-year-old Taliban leader had emerged as the most important operational commander on which Mullah Mohammad Omar could rely in pressing ahead with the jihadist insurgency in the country. Under his leadership, the Pashtun jihadist movement adopted the tactic of suicide bombings, and he represented the faction close to al Qaeda.

Dadullah's killing is the first major success for Kabul and NATO against the Pashtun jihadists since the resurgence of the Taliban shortly after the ouster of their regime in 2001. Until now, fighters and low- to mid-level leaders had been killed; this is the first time a major Taliban figure has been eliminated. He is known to have been a member of the 10-man Taliban leadership council. His death also will have serious implications for al Qaeda's plans involving the Taliban.

Media reports based on information released by Afghan and NATO officials suggest Dadullah was killed during one of the many battles that have taken place between Taliban fighters and coalition troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan over the past several years. Given the operational security protocols of the Taliban and the stature of Dadullah, however, the official version does not add up. In other words, Afghan and NATO forces carried out the operation to take out Dadullah on the basis of specific human intelligence regarding his location. It is not likely a matter of coincidence nor is it probable that Afghan and NATO troops have been able to enhance their intelligence capabilities on the jihadists. This leaves only one possibility -- the involvement of a third party.

Given the close ties between the Taliban and the Pakistani state and society, it is highly likely that Islamabad is the source of the intelligence on Dadullah. It should be noted that after several years of tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with Kabul claiming that Islamabad was backing the Taliban, the Pakistanis pledged to cooperate with the Afghans against the Taliban. This was relayed by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to Afghan President Hamid Karzai at an April 30 meeting in Turkey, during which they agreed to share intelligence on militant groups.

Though the Musharraf government's decision to work with Kabul on containing the Taliban is fueled by its domestic concerns, Dadullah's death has certain implications for the domestic situation in Afghanistan. Though the insurgency will continue, it has been dealt a significant blow -- and the pace of the Taliban's advance has likely been dampened. More important, the vacuum created by Dadullah's death could trigger infighting between hard-liners linked to al Qaeda and more pragmatic elements.

The Taliban will be worried about how their organizational security net was penetrated and will be suspicious of many within their own ranks, which could lead to internal strife. Already those close to Omar and al Qaeda are concerned about the more pragmatic elements talking to the Karzai administration. There are signs that such elements, knowing Kabul would not strike a deal with them unless they parted ways with Omar and his allies, might have actually helped in the elimination of Dadullah; many within the movement actually did not approve of Dadullah's harsh policies.

Former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdus Salam Zaeef, who represented the Taliban in recent talks with Karzai, reacted to Dadullah's killing by saying it would lead to more fighting, and that talks are the only way to bring the violence to an end. Dadullah's killing also comes a few days after the upper house of the Afghan legislature approved a bill calling for direct talks with the Taliban and a halt to NATO operations against jihadists.

Though anti-jihadist operations will continue, negotiations involving Kabul and Islamabad geared toward further weakening those loyal to Omar and strengthening pragmatic leaders within the movement will become increasingly important in the months ahead.

stratfor.com
27444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: May 14, 2007, 08:03:39 AM
http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/paul-williams051107.htm
=======

Radical Muslim paramilitary compound flourishes in upper New York state
By Paul L. Williams Ph.D., (author of THE DAY OF ISLAM)

With the able assistance of Douglas Hagmann, Bill Krayer and Michael Travis

Friday, May 11, 2007

 
Dr. Paul Williams at the entrance of Islamberg
Situated within a dense forest at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains on the outskirts of Hancock, New York, Islamberg is not an ideal place for a summer vacation unless, of course, you are an exponent of the Jihad or a fan of Osama bin Laden.

The 70 acre complex is surrounded with "No trespassing" signs; the rocky terrain is infested with rattlesnakes; and the woods are home to black bears, coyotes, wolves, and a few bobcats.

 
Muslim Lane
The entrance to the community is at the bottom of a very steep hill that is difficult to navigate even on a bright sunny day in May. The road, dubbed Muslim Lane, is unpaved and marred by deep crevices that have been created by torrential downpours. On a wintry day, few, save those with all terrain vehicles, could venture forth from the remote encampment.

A sentry post has been established at the base of the hill.

The sentry, at the time of this visit, is an African American dressed in Islamic garb - - a skull cap, a prayer shawl, and a loose fitting shalwat kameez. He instructs us to turn around and leave. "Our community is not open to visitors," he says.

Behind the sentry and across a small stream stand dozens of inhabitants of the compound - - the men wearing skull caps and loose fitting tunics, the women in full burqa. They appear ready to deal with any unauthorized intruders.

The hillside is blighted by rusty trailers that appear to be without power or running water and a number of outhouses. The scent of raw sewage is in the air.

The place is even off limits to the local undertaker who says that he has delivered bodies to the complex but has never been granted entrance. "They come and take the bodies from my hearse. They won't allow me to get past the sentry post. They say that they want to prepare the bodies for burial. But I never get the bodies back. I don't know what's going on there but I don't think it's legal."

On the other side of the hill where few dare to go is a tiny village replete with a make-shift learning center (dubbed the "International Quranic Open University"); a trailer converted into a Laundromat; a small, green community center; a small and rather squalid grocery store; a newly constructed majid; over forty clapboard homes; and scores of additional trailers.

 
 
It is home to hundreds - - all in Islamic attire, and all African-Americans. Most drive late model SUVs with license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The locals say that some work as tollbooth operators for the New York State Thruway, while others are employed at a credit card processing center that maintains confidential financial records.

While buzzing with activity during the week, the place becomes a virtual hive on weekends. The guest includes arrivals from the inner cities of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and, occasionally, white-robed dignitaries in Ray-Bans from the Middle East.

Venturing into the complex last summer, Douglas Hagmann, an intrepid investigator and director of the Northeast Intelligence Service, came upon a military training area at the eastern perimeter of the property. The area was equipped with ropes hanging from tall trees, wooden fences for scaling, a make-shift obstacle course, and a firing range. Hagmann said that the range appeared to have been in regular use.

Islamberg is not as benign as a Buddhist monastery or a Carmelite convent. Nearly every weekend, neighbors hear sounds of gunfire. Some, including a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, have heard the bang of small explosives. None of the neighbors wished to be identified for fear of "retaliation." "We don't even dare to slow down when we drive by," one resident said. "They own the mountain and they know it and there is nothing we can do about it but move, and we can't even do that. Who wants to buy a property near that?"

Islamberg's Grocery Store
 
Islamberg's Grocery Store
The complex serves to scare the bejeesus out of the local residents. "If you go there, you better wear body armor," a customer at the Circle E Diner in Hancock said. "They have armed guards and if they shoot you, nobody will find your body."

At Cousins, a watering hole in nearby Deposit, a barfly, who didn't wish to be identified, said: "The place is dangerous. You can hear gunfire up there. I can't understand why the FBI won't shut it down."

Islamberg is a branch of Muslims of the Americas Inc., a tax-exempt organization formed in 1980 by Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, who refers to himself as "the sixth Sultan Ul Faqr," Gilani, has been directly linked by court documents to Jamaat ul-Fuqra or "community of the impoverished," an organization that seeks to "purify" Islam through violence.

 
 
Though primarily based in Lahore, Pakistan, Jamaat ul-Fuqra has operational headquarters in New York and openly recruits through various social service organizations in the U.S., including the prison system. Members live in hamaats or compounds, such as Islamberg, where they agree to abide by the laws of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, which are considered to be above local, state and federal authority. Additional hamaats have been established in Hyattsville, Maryland; Red House, Virginia; Falls Church, Virginia; Macon, Georgia; York, South Carolina; Dover, Tennessee; Buena Vista, Colorado; Talihina, Oklahoma; Tulane Country, California; Commerce, California; and Onalaska, Washington. Others are being built, including an expansive facility in Sherman, Pennsylvania.

Before becoming a citizen of Islamberg or any of the other Fuqra compounds, the recruits - - primarily inner city black men who became converts in prison - - are compelled to sign an oath that reads: "I shall always hear and obey, and whenever given the command, I shall readily fight for Allah's sake."

In the past, thousands of members of the U.S. branches of Jamaat ul-Fuqra traveled to Pakistan for paramilitary training, but encampments, such as Islamberg, are now capable of providing book-camp training so raw recruits are no longer required to travel abroad amidst the increased scrutiny of post 9/11.

Over the years, numerous members of Jamaat ul-Fuqra have been convicted in US courts of such crimes as conspiracy to commit murder, firebombing, gun smuggling, and workers' compensation fraud. Others remain leading suspects in criminal cases throughout the country, including ten unsolved assassinations and seventeen fire-bombings between 1979 and 1990.

The criminal charges against the group and the criminal convictions are not things of the past. In 2001, a resident of a California compound was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of a sheriff's deputy; another was charged with gun-smuggling' and twenty-four members of the Red House community were convicted of firearms violations.

By 2004 federal investigators uncovered evidence that linked both the DC "sniper killer" John Allen Muhammed and "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid to the group and reports surfaced that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was captured and beheaded in the process of attempting to obtain an interview with Sheikh Gilani in Pakistan.

Even though Jamaat ul-Fuqra has been involved in terror attacks and sundry criminal activities, recruited thousands of members from federal and state penal systems, and appears to be operating paramilitary facilities for militant Muslims, it remains to be placed on the official US Terror Watch List. On the contrary, it continues to operate, flourish, and expand as a legitimate nonprofit, tax-deductible charity.

 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paul Williams is the author of THE AL QAEDA CONNECTION and forthcoming THE DAY OF ISLAM. Lee Boyland is the author of THE RINGS OF ALLAH). Dr. Williams can be reached at: letters@canadafreepress.com
27445  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Tippy-tappy drills-- threat or menace? on: May 13, 2007, 06:41:36 PM
Yes! And yes!

In Kali/FMA it is standard doctrine that locks usually require one or more good hits (often to the limb in question) first.
27446  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Philippines-Mexico on: May 13, 2007, 05:31:59 AM
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view_article.php?article_id=33094

LOOKING BACK
A shared past


By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer
Last updated 02:08am (Mla time) 11/17/2006

Published on Page A15 of the November 17, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IDEAS about Mexico differ from Filipino to Filipino and probably depend on the fast-food and television fare he indulges in. Those of my generation developed an idea of Mexico from childhood via television cartoons, so I learned about Mexican jumping beans and a mouse called Speedy Gonzalez, who taught what I originally thought was my first Mexican word: "Andale!'' In college, we were introduced to a place called Tia Maria that allegedly served Mexican food and margaritas that made our weekends happy. So you can see, my idea of Mexico was not properly informed.

Travel is meant to broaden our horizons. I thought I knew Mexico when our family was in the United States and decided to make a side trip to that hot and dusty border town called Tijuana. Tijuana reminded me of Divisoria in the armpit of Manila. My mother was upset when I refused to wear a grimy hat and poncho to pose for a souvenir photo beside a sad-looking burro. Again, that image of Mexico was not properly informed.

It is fortunate that a decade ago I stepped into the real Mexico, together with former Vice President Salvador Laurel and the newly appointed Instituto Cervantes Manila director Pepe Rodriguez, but then it was only an overnight stopover to break a long trip from Jakarta to Havana. Having seen the beach in Cancun where Ferdinand Marcos went skiing and realizing that Mexico was so different from what I had imagined it to be, I jumped ship on the way back to Manila and spent a few days in Mexico City. Ever since that first and brief visit, I have always dreamed of going back, not for holiday but for archival or museum research.

Fortunately, there is a conference in the National Museum that opened yesterday that brings together Filipino and Mexican historians in panels that are designed to help us rediscover our common past as a way of forging a common future. The seminar is open to the public, and we hope that this will be the first of many more to come, both in Manila and Mexico.

It is unfortunate that most Filipinos today do not know or remember that for a long time, the Philippines was actually ruled by Spain, not from Madrid but from Mexico. We also do not realize that some things we think of as part of the Spanish influence in our culture are actually of Mexican origin. We see this in language and, more importantly, plants that were exchanged between our countries during the famous Galleon Trade.

Food is one of the primary areas of mutual understanding. An encounter with the real Mexico will open Filipinos to a richer and more varied fare than the so-called Tex-Mex variety popularized in Manila by American food chains and products, like Taco Bell, Polo Loco, Nachos and Chili's. An assortment of chilis, sauces, sausages and even tamales in Mexican food provides not just familiar tastes, smells and flavors, but the realization of cultural exchange. Philippine mangoes are known and appreciated in Mexico as "mangas de Manila," while fruits, plants and vegetables that are so common in the Philippines and that we presumed to be indigenous, like avocado, corn and chocolate, are actually "immigrants" from Mexico. Some even retain their Aztec names: chayote, "kamote," "singcamas," and probably even "zapote." A number of the vegetables in the nursery rhyme "Bahay Kubo," which incidentally is not about a nipa hut but the vegetables around it, are actually from Mexico.

Cockfighting is believed to have been introduced in Mexico from the Philippines. But there is no doubt that the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the Philippines came from Mexico, and so we have two districts in Makati City called Guadalupe Viejo and Guadalupe Nuevo. The Black Nazarene venerated in Manila's Quiapo district is of Mexican origin and the miraculous black Virgin of Antipolo guided galleon voyages between the Philippines and Mexico, hence her Spanish name is Nuestra Señora de Paz y de Buen Viaje or Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Many Mexican cultural and historical influences have been assimilated seamlessly into everyday Philippine life and we now have to revisit them for better appreciation.

The Galleon Trade is but a footnote in our textbooks, and for some people, it is something that should be forgotten as part of a colonial past. But revisiting this part of our shared past with Mexico is not merely an exercise in academic history or antiquarian taste; it reminds us that long before the word "globalization" was even coined, the Galleon Trade was the first real global trade. While globalization is a contemporary term, history shows that it began 400 years ago when the world became smaller and the meeting between East and West was made possible through the Philippines and Mexico, Manila and Acapulco.

Revisiting the roots of our long cultural and historic ties with Mexico is a first step not just in knowing the past but, more importantly, a way to accept, explore and appreciate commonalities that form the basis for mutual understanding and friendship in the present and a platform to guide us toward a common future. I'm glad we have the elegant Mexican Ambassador Erendira Aracelia Paz Campos in Manila and the new Philippine Ambassador to Mexico Antonio M. Lagdameo to make both ends meet.

27447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: May 13, 2007, 05:13:54 AM
This from today's always suspect NY Times:
===========

Fighting the Terror of Battles That Rage in Soldiers’ Heads
By DAN FROSCH
Published: May 13, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, May 8 — The nightmares that tormented Sgt. Walter Padilla after returning home from Iraq in 2004 prompted extensive treatment by Army doctors, an honorable discharge from the military and a cocktail of medication to dull his suffering.

 
Kevin Moloney for The New York Times
Specialist Alex Lotero said he was belittled when he sought help for anxiety attacks after serving in Iraq.
Still, Sergeant Padilla, 28, could not ward off memories of the people he had killed with a machine gun perched on his Bradley fighting vehicle. On April 1, according to the authorities and friends, he withdrew to the shadows of his Colorado Springs home, pressed the muzzle of his Glock pistol to his temple and squeezed the trigger.

Sergeant Padilla had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at Fort Carson Army base here, where concerns over the treatment of returning soldiers struggling with the condition, compelled members of Congress last month to ask the Government Accountability Office to reassess the military’s mental health policies.

A letter signed by nine senators refers to “a number of upsetting allegations” at the base regarding a lack of treatment for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and the stigmatization of those with the condition. On Monday, some of those senators’ staff members will visit Fort Carson to meet with soldiers, families and commanders, the fourth time this year Congressional staff members have traveled to the base.

The Army, reeling from fallout over its poor handling of outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, dispatched Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker to Colorado to speak with the base’s leaders and soldiers on Tuesday.

General Tucker, the deputy commander of Walter Reed, commended Fort Carson for its treatment of post-traumatic stress and said he viewed the Congressional visits as a means of highlighting the base’s programs that deal with the condition, said an Army spokesman, Paul Boyce.

But Veterans for America, an advocacy group that has lobbied the Army and Congress on behalf of returning soldiers, said the Army must do better, particularly at Fort Carson, where soldiers with the stress disorder have spoken of being punished by their commanders.

The base has 17,500 soldiers assigned to it, and about 26,000 of its soldiers have been deployed to Iraq since the war began.

“Fort Carson is overwhelmed with men and women coming home from Iraq with psychological injuries from war, and there are unit commanders here who don’t understand these medical conditions,” said Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs for the group.

Col. John Cho, the base’s chief medical officer, said Fort Carson had treated 1,703 soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D., since 2003. Colonel Cho disputed the assertion that problems at Fort Carson were widespread. “We’re never going to fully eliminate the stigma associated with P.T.S.D., but the leadership at Carson has been fully supportive of getting soldiers they help they need,” he said.

The Army reports seven suicides of active duty soldiers at Fort Carson since 2004 but says it does not know if any were linked to the disorder. Sergeant Padilla was not included among the seven because he died after being discharged.

Most recently, Staff Sgt. Mark Alan Waltz, who was being treated for post-traumatic stress, was found dead in his living room on April 30. An autopsy of Sergeant Waltz, 40, is pending, but his wife, Renea, believes her husband died from a reaction to the antidepressants he was taking for stress and painkillers prescribed for a back injury. Ms. Waltz is also convinced that the psychological wounds he carried from battle played a part in his death.

Ms. Waltz said her husband was reluctant to seek treatment after returning from Iraq in 2004 because he thought a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder would cost him his rank. She said the condition was eventually diagnosed and he was referred for treatment. Even then, she said, he was “picked out, scrutinized and messed with continually” by his commanding officers.

“It’s not right that our guys are going over to Iraq, doing their job, doing what they’re supposed to do, and they when they come back sick, they’re treated like garbage,” Ms. Waltz said.

Army officials at Fort Carson said Sergeant Waltz’s death was still under review and, citing privacy laws, would not comment further.

Mr. Robinson, of Veterans for America, said the group’s research indicated that since 2004, there had been at least six incidents in which Fort Carson soldiers with stress disorder have died, either from suicide or from accidents involving narcotics or medications.
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In addition, the veterans group is investigating some 30 cases of Fort Carson soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or personality disorders who have complained of mistreatment.

One case involves Specialist Alex Lotero, who returned from Iraq late last year suffering from anxiety attacks and nightmares after dozens of combat missions, including one in which his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb.

Specialist Lotero, a thick-muscled 20-year-old from Miami, said his superiors treated his diagnosis disdainfully, showering him with obscenities and accusing him of insubordination when he missed training for doctors’ appointments.

“They belittled my condition,” he said. “They told me I was broke, that I didn’t have anything left.”

Specialist Lotero eventually checked himself into nearby Cedar Springs Hospital for a few days and is waiting for his medical discharge request to be processed. He points to his forearm, draped in a tattoo of a machine-gun wielding, Vietnam-era soldier. The soldier’s face is ghoulish, his body gaunt and rotting. “This is how I feel right now,” he said.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting Army surgeon general, said Fort Carson had taken “the bull by the horns” in combating the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

General Pollock said the Army was developing initiatives to lessen that stigma and cited examples of officers publicly seeking treatment for combat stress as a means of encouraging their soldiers to follow suit.

“We have to reinforce it again and again,” she said. “I talk with patients, and many of them have looked at me through cheerful eyes and said, ‘You mean I’m not crazy?’ ”

Lt. Col. Laurel Anderson, a psychiatric nurse in charge of behavioral health at Fort Carson’s soldier readiness center, said the number of soldiers referred for mental health screenings had risen from about 12 percent of those seen at the center to 25 percent over the past year.

Colonel Anderson said soldiers sometimes refused her referrals to psychiatrists. “They don’t want anyone to know,” she said.

This year, Colonel Anderson began training officers to de-stigmatize post-traumatic stress disorder within their units. Another training session, this one for noncommissioned officers, is scheduled for Monday.

The Army is also considering sending a unit to Fort Carson and other bases to help soldiers navigate the administrative tangle of medical treatment. But Sergeant Padilla’s death showed that even when a soldier feels comfortable enough to seek treatment, that may not be enough.

Friends and family say Sergeant Padilla complained that antidepressants and painkillers were no substitute for talking with someone who understood what it was like to kill.

“He told me that the doctors weren’t helping him,” said his mother, Carmen Sierra, in a telephone interview from her home in Puerto Rico. “He told me that they couldn’t understand him, that he was still having those nightmares.”

A few months ago, Sergeant Padilla told his girlfriend, Mia Sagahon, that maybe it was time he start speaking with a doctor again. He never did.

27448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: May 13, 2007, 05:06:47 AM
Today's NY Slimes:

===========================

Bill Clinton’s connections, and his endless supply of chits, only begin to capture his singular role in his wife’s presidential candidacy, advisers and friends of the couple say. He is the master strategist behind the scenes; the consigliere to the head of “the family,” as some Clinton aides refer to her operation; and a fund-raising machine who is steadily pulling in $100,000 or more at receptions.


So far, his roles have unfolded in private as he provides ideas to his wife and makes sure she paces herself, and as he acts as something of a field general with donors, instructing them on how to talk up Mrs. Clinton. Eventually, though, he will go public in a big way: Clinton advisers can already imagine a point in 2008 when Mr. Clinton has his own campaign plane, press corps and schedule of events in crucial states while Mrs. Clinton is barnstorming in others.

He is also galvanizing new support. At a recent gathering at Morgan Stanley, organized by Roger C. Altman, a Clinton Treasury Department official who now advises Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Clinton fielded questions for an hour from 60 major new donors about issues like her positions on Iraq and the impact of the compressed 2008 primary schedule. Mr. Clinton also recently filmed a five-minute video, which is being sent to new and old allies, narrating her biography and lavishing praise on her.

“He is the great security blanket for her campaign: Democrats listen to him with intensity, and he can assure her and her staff that he can get her message out,” said Jerry Lundergan, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, who recently played host to Mr. Clinton at a four-hour fund-raiser for the campaign.

But for all the value Mr. Clinton adds to the campaign, there is internal recognition of the potential pitfalls of his involvement. Early on, the Clintons concluded that the former president would not participate in staff conference calls, nor would he call Mrs. Clinton’s aides directly, advisers say. Instead, he would circulate his advice through Mrs. Clinton; Mark Penn, her chief strategist; and a couple of others. The idea has been to keep the lines of authority clear, and also to avoid the messiness and leaks that marked his White House.

Indeed, Democrats close to Mrs. Clinton remain keenly aware of his foibles and blind spots. In private, these allies are blunt: He has disappointed her before, most painfully with Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment. He can be undisciplined, and his love for the cut and thrust of politics could unleash that side, especially if he believes her campaign is in trouble.

“When you’re dealing with the Clintons in ’08, you essentially have two candidates — her and him — and he’s going to have to have a Boy Scout report card given his history,” said Douglas Brinkley, the presidential historian, who is not affiliated with any campaign. “He can definitely help her, but that also means he can hurt her.”

That concern was crystallized by a question that arose at the Republican presidential debate this month: “Would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?” The question underscored the sheer oddity of the Clintonian package deal redux.

Friends say the couple has learned from the mistakes of his 1992 race and has avoided again promoting a two-for-one bargain (which, in her camp’s view, cut against the tradition of voting based on a candidate’s merits alone). Campaign advisers also say that Mr. Clinton is simply too busy with his charitable work to be a full-time candidate spouse at his wife’s side.

At the same time, the advisers say, Mr. Clinton and the campaign view 2008 as a chance to get right what they saw as a mistake in 2000, when Vice President Al Gore shied away from deploying Mr. Clinton.

For example, two friends said Mr. Clinton had told them a victory for Mrs. Clinton in Arkansas in the general election was a personal mission of his. (Mr. Gore lost Arkansas in 2000, as Senator John Kerry did in 2004.) And he is cashing in chits for her that Mr. Gore, post-impeachment, never asked him to do. In March, for instance, Mr. Lundergan opened his home in Kentucky to Mr. Clinton for a fund-raiser as a favor after the couple helped raise money for the state party in 2005 and 2006. (Mr. Clinton carried Kentucky in 1992 and 1996, while Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry did not.)

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is not a do-over of Gore 2000 for Mr. Clinton, their advisers say, but the couple did decide early on that Mrs. Clinton would treat her husband and his administration’s record as assets, rather than distance herself from him in the interest of standing in her own light.

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“We don’t want to make the Al Gore mistake — trying to separate Hillary from the president, or not sending the president out because you think he’s not well liked or because he might be a better speaker than Hillary,” one senior campaign adviser said, who spoke about internal campaign strategy on the condition of anonymity. “Voters would think we were acting phony.”


For now, Mr. Clinton is purposely staying out of the spotlight because he believes it is important for voters to get to know Mrs. Clinton better, friends of the couple say. He believes that the American public will like her the more they see her — “warm up to her” is the phrase that several friends attributed to Mr. Clinton.

“He’s not just sitting in Chappaqua watching the game on TV and calling everybody in the campaign with advice,” said Melanne Verveer, a close friend and adviser of Mrs. Clinton. “He brings enormous strength and assets but is in a very secondary role.”

Yet he continues to adjust to that new role.

“He’s grappling with it a bit now, how he properly plays the role of subordinate,” said a former senior aide to Mr. Clinton who still speaks with him regularly. “His foundation work gives him real focus. And he wants this for her, so badly. He feels he owes it to her on so many levels, for bringing her to Arkansas in the early ’70s and upending her career and everything since.”

The Clintons mostly talk about strategy, not campaign management, advisers say. He receives polling data from Mr. Penn, who was his pollster in 1996, and the two men speak regularly. He sometimes looks over drafts of Mrs. Clinton’s major speeches, and he gives her feedback on her performances.

When need be, she also knows how to cut him off. In preparation for a Senate debate, she more or less ordered him out of the room when he began coaching too much, Democrats close to the Clintons say. During a policy discussion awhile back about New York issues, when Mr. Clinton began to pontificate, she told him that he did not exactly know what he was talking about and to hush up.

Advisers say his advice to her can be boiled down to a few broad themes. He urges her to remember that the biggest person gets elected (in other words, the one who rises above political pettiness) and that the most optimistic candidate wins. He has encouraged her to talk about average people who work hard and play by the rules, classic Clintonian language. And she has, using those phrases and other themes in talking, for example, about regular Americans who are “invisible” to the Bush administration. (Advisers say Mr. Clinton did not devise the invisible line.)

He has also favored town hall forums as better venues for her than formal policy speeches, where she can seem cold and stentorian. And he has advised her to walk beyond the podiums with a microphone on her lapel.

In the campaign’s current plan, Mr. Clinton will not appear regularly at large public events for Mrs. Clinton until the fall, though the timing largely depends on how well she is doing, advisers say. He is adding more income-generating speeches than usual to his personal schedule now, so he has more free time in the fall and in 2008 to campaign for her, advisers add. Still, they note that Mr. Penn has not mapped out which states Mr. Clinton would visit during a general election campaign, if Mrs. Clinton wins the nomination, but that both men see Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Virginia as Republican-leaning states that Mrs. Clinton might contend in.

Instead, Mr. Clinton is raising $100,000 to $200,000 a night at a steady stream of fund-raisers. He had two last Tuesday, in Greenwich, Conn., and in a New York City suburb, and he is expected to attend more than a dozen more through the end of June, probably raising millions of dollars from his political network.

This spring, for instance, as Mrs. Clinton prepared to raise money in Philadelphia, no one was better positioned to provide a lucrative entree than the city’s former mayor, Edward G. Rendell, now the governor of Pennsylvania. Yet Mr. Rendell, a Democrat, was on the sidelines of his party’s presidential primary race.

Then the phone rang.

“It was President Clinton asking if I’d help, and I told him I’d give the go-ahead to a lot of my fund-raisers to join in her event,” said Mr. Rendell, who has not endorsed a candidate. “Philadelphia owes a great deal to his presidency, and we’re good friends. It was an easy call for me to take, and it was an easy call for me to make.”
27449  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Attacks on the Army on: May 13, 2007, 04:45:37 AM
Mexican Drug Cartels: Targeting the Military
May 11, 2007 18 24  GMT



Suspected drug cartel enforcers killed two state police officers May 11 as the officers patrolled the town of Villahermosa in Mexico's Tabasco state. The attack occurred two days after a Mexican sailor was gunned down in the Pacific resort town of Ixtapa. Although attacks against police officers and their chiefs are becoming quite common in Mexico -- a response to President Felipe Calderon's efforts to crack down on the country's drug syndicates -- the cartels now are upping the stakes by targeting the Mexican military.

To some degree or another, the military always has been part of government efforts to stem the flow of drugs through Mexico and reduce the violence associated with cartel wars. Military personnel, however, historically have not been prime cartel targets. That appears to be changing as the cartels better infiltrate the military, learning who they can bribe, who they can intimidate and who they can eliminate when cooperation is not forthcoming.






In some cases, military units are being attacked when they enter cartel territory or interfere with the flow of drugs from South America to markets in the United States, though it also appears that individual officers are being targeted. In Ixtapa, the sailor -- the bodyguard of a navy commander -- died after suspected cartel members attacked a vehicle carrying several Mexican navy personnel. It is unclear what prompted the shooting, though the sailors and/or their commander could have been either on the side of Calderon's anti-cartel efforts or cooperating with a rival cartel.

Seven attacks against police and security forces in April resulted in the deaths of at least eight police officers, including the commander of the Durango state anti-organized crime unit and Guerrero state Police Chief Ernesto Gutierrez Moreno, who was shot to death while eating dinner with his wife and son at a restaurant in the capital, Chilpancingo. During the first week of May, three state or city police chiefs were killed, while a firefight between a Mexican army unit and suspected drug smugglers left five soldiers dead near Caracuaro, in Michoacan state.

On May 8, suspected cartel enforcers killed Eduardo Vidaurri Esquivel, a police detective in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon state. Vidaurri reportedly was the 19th police official to be killed in Nuevo Leon in 2007. A day later, in Guerrero state, gunmen disguised as members of the Federal Investigative Agency shot and killed Artemio Mejia Chavez, public security director in Chilpancingo, while he was on his way to the gym. In that attack, the gunmen acted friendly as they pulled up to Mejia's truck in several vehicles, then opened fire when Mejia went to greet them. The attack against the sailor in Ixtapa, also in Guerrero state, occurred later that night.

As the cartels find weaknesses in the military -- and make inroads into the system through bribery and intimidation -- soldiers and sailors will find themselves at as great a risk of attack as Mexican police. Military units that try to interfere with the movement of drugs through Mexico, and thus the cartels' revenues, will be attacked.

27450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: May 13, 2007, 04:29:56 AM
stratfor.com

Iraq: Transforming Iran's Shiite Proxy, Assisting the United States
Summary

Iran's main Iraqi Shiite proxy announced May 11 it is about to undergo a process of "Iraqization." The move is part of Tehran's detailed offer to assist the United States in stabilizing Iraq. A fresh power-sharing agreement likely will emerge out of this process -- one that will lead to an increase in the Sunni share of the Iraqi political pie, but could upset the Kurds.

Analysis

Officials from Iraq's largest and most pro-Iranian Shiite party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), on May 11 said the group will make significant changes to its platform. These include seeking greater guidance from the country's top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. This is a symbolic shift from SCIRI's current platform, under which the group primarily seeks guidance from the Velayat-e-Faqih, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran.

Following the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Baghdad, an unnamed senior SCIRI official described the move as the "Iraqization" of the country's Shiite Islamist groups. The official added that "significant decisions" pertaining to domestic, regional and international issues were agreed upon during the meeting and will be announced May 12. Among the changes to the group will be changing its name to Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council -- removing the word "revolution" because of the negative connotations it entails, such as the Iranian connection. "There will be a change in two aspects -- the structure of the group and also in its political language, taking into consideration the political facts on the ground," another official said.

Given SCIRI's close alignment with Iran, this move likely has Iran's blessings, and does not represent a real split between SCIRI and its patrons in Tehran. In fact, these details very likely were finalized during Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani's April 30-May 2 visit to Iraq, during which he met with al-Sistani on May 1. Through this overhaul of SCIRI, Tehran and its main Iraqi Shiite proxy are trying to placate the Iraqi Sunnis, who have been clamoring that they have begun the purge of transnational jihadist allies and are worried about the attachment of the Iraqi Shia to Iran. The move to repackage SCIRI will likely be instrumental in steps toward a fresh power-sharing agreement. This will involve the Sunnis acquiring a larger stake in the political system, as is obvious from Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's May 10 remarks that he is encouraged by recent developments -- just a few days after he threatened to pull out of the government.

But such a fresh social contract will not necessarily lead to security and stability in Iraq -- at least not any time soon. This is mainly because the move to reshape SCIRI is just one part of a much more detailed Iranian offer to work with the United States to stabilize Iraq. For example, though Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, says he has been misquoted, he has not denied saying Tehran is willing to assist Washington achieve an "honorable" exit from Iraq. It is this U.S.-Iranian cooperation that has the Iraqi Sunnis and their allies among the Arab states (especially Saudi Arabia) worried that even after making concessions to the Sunnis, Iraq will be dominated by Shia -- and, by extension, Iran.

According to the May 5 issue of the Saudi-owned Arabic daily Al Hayat, during the May 4 international meeting on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki put forward a preliminary proposal on how to put Iraq back together. In this proposal, the Iranians for the first time offered to use their influence to rein in Shiite militia activity, a key Sunni demand. But in return, the Iranians have demanded that once the Iraqi military takes over security from U.S. forces, it should not be given any weapons affording it offensive capabilities -- an issue noted with great alarm in the May 10 issue of Al Hayat.

The Iranians also are in favor of constitutional amendments that would increase the Sunni share in government to as much as 40 percent while retaining 60 percent for the Shia. Furthermore, Tehran has expressed its willingness to hold fresh parliamentary elections. In other words, it has signaled a willingness to go beyond a mere Cabinet reshuffle, agreeing to alterations to the Iraqi state's current structure in order to accommodate the Sunnis -- which likely will upset the Kurdish side of the triangular ethno-sectarian arrangement.

Here again, the Iranians are motivated by their own interests. It is true that the current Iraqi state based on the constitution ratified Oct. 15, 2005, and the subsequent Dec. 15, 2005, elections did not produce the desired results from the Bush administration's viewpoint. And the outcome of the vote and the government did not jibe with Iranian expectations either. Iran knew it could bargain for more, hence it did not settle for the June 2006 deal under which Iraq's security ministries were finalized.

Another key aspect on which the Iranians are prepared to compromise is the future of the Baathists. This a sticking point for the Sunnis because the elements of the former regime constitute a significant portion of the Sunni insurgency and are the teeth of the Sunni community. Tehran is willing to allow a review of the de-Baathification law, but does not want to see a Baathist assume the premiership.

Here, Baathist does not just mean a Sunni political figure, because former President Saddam Hussein's ousted regime had no shortage of Shiite officials, and the Iranians remember how the Iraqi Shia fought against the Iranian army during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Moreover, by using the word Baathist, the Iranians are saying they do not want any Shi'i to emerge as prime minister who is not a pro-Iranian Islamist because the Shiite south is replete with such individuals. This would explain the attempts at a SCIRI makeover.

In essence, the Iranians are prepared to make all these concessions to satisfy the Sunnis, and more important the United States, because the Iranians also relayed at Sharm el-Sheikh that it is in their interest to see a planned U.S. exit from Iraq as opposed to a rush job. Tehran knows that an abrupt U.S. departure from Iraq could spoil its gains there because Iran would be left to clean up the mess afterward.
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