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27451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / M-4 in dust test on: December 22, 2007, 09:41:59 AM
Newer carbines outperform M4 in dust test

By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Dec 17, 2007 9:25:16 EST

The M4 carbine, the weapon soldiers depend on in combat, finished last in a recent “extreme dust test” to demonstrate the M4’s reliability compared to three newer carbines.

Weapons officials at the Army Test and Evaluation Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., exposed Colt Defense LLC’s M4, along with the Heckler & Koch XM8, FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle and the H&K 416 to sandstorm conditions from late September to late November, firing 6,000 rounds through each test weapon.

When the test was completed, ATEC officials found that the M4 performed “significantly worse” than the other three weapons, sources told Army Times.

Officials tested 10 each of the four carbine models, firing a total of 60,000 rounds per model. Here’s how they ranked, according to the total number of times each model stopped firing:

• XM8: 127 stoppages.

• MK16 SCAR Light: 226 stoppages.

• 416: 233 stoppages.

• M4: 882 stoppages.

the results of the test were “a wake-up call,” but Army officials continue to stand by the current carbine, said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier, the command that is responsible for equipping soldiers.

“We take the results of this test with a great deal of interest and seriousness,” Brown said, expressing his determination to outfit soldiers with the best equipment possible.

The test results did not sway the Army’s faith in the M4, he said.

“Everybody in the Army has high confidence in this weapon,” Brown said.

Lighter and more compact than the M16 rifle, the M4 is more effective for the close confines of urban combat. The Army began fielding the M4 in the mid-1990s.

Army weapons officials agreed to perform the test at the request of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in July. Coburn took up the issue following a Feb. 26 Army Times report on moves by elite Army combat forces to ditch the M4 in favor of carbines they consider more reliable. Coburn is questioning the Army’s plans to spend $375 million to purchase M4s through fiscal 2009.

Coburn raised concerns over the M4’s “long-standing reliability” problems in an April 12 letter and asked if the Army had considered newer, possibly better weapons available on the commercial market.

John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn, who was traveling, said the senator was reviewing the test results and had yet to discuss it with the Army.

The M4, like its predecessor, the M16, uses a gas tube system, which relies on the gas created when a bullet is fired to cycle the weapon. Some weapons experts maintain the M4’s system of blowing gas directly into the firing mechanism of the weapon spews carbon residue that can lead to fouling and heat that dries up lubrication, causing excessive wear on parts.

The other contenders in the dust test — the XM8, SCAR and 416 — use a piston-style operating system, which relies on a gas-driven piston rod to cycle the weapon during firing. The gas is vented without funneling through the firing mechanism.

The Army’s Delta Force replaced its M4s with the H&K 416 in 2004 after tests revealed that the piston operating system significantly reduces malfunctions while increasing the life of parts. The elite unit collaborated with the German arms maker to develop the new carbine.

U.S. Special Operations Command has also revised its small-arms requirements. In November 2004, SOCom awarded a developmental contract to FN Herstal to develop its new SCAR to replace its weapons from the M16 family.

And from 2002 to 2005, the Army developed the XM8 as a replacement for the Army’s M16 family. The program led to infighting within the service’s weapons community and eventually died after failing to win approval at the Defense Department level.

How they were tested

The recent Aberdeen dust test used 10 sample models of each weapon. Before going into the dust chamber, testers applied a heavy coat of lubrication to each weapon. Each weapon’s muzzle was capped and ejection port cover closed.

Testers exposed the weapons to a heavy dust environment for 30 minutes before firing 120 rounds from each.

The weapons were then put back in the dust chamber for another 30 minutes and fired another 120 rounds. This sequence was repeated until each weapon had fired 600 rounds.

Testers then wiped down each weapon and applied another heavy application of lubrication.

The weapons were put back through the same sequence of 30 minutes in the dust chamber followed by firing 120 rounds from each weapon until another 600 rounds were fired.

Testers then thoroughly cleaned each weapon, re-lubricated each, and began the dusting and fire sequencing again.

This process was repeated until testers fired 6,000 rounds through each weapon.

The dust test exposed the weapons to the same extreme dust and sand conditions that Army weapons officials subjected the M4 and M16 to during a “systems assessment” at Aberdeen last year and again this summer. The results of the second round of ATEC tests showed that the performance of the M4s dramatically improved when testers increased the amount of lubrication used.

Out of the 60,000 rounds fired in the tests earlier in the summer, the 10 M4s tested had 307 stoppages, test results show, far fewer than the 882 in the most recent test.

in the recent tests, the M4 suffered 643 weapon-related stoppages, such as failure to eject or failure to extract fired casings, and 239 magazine-related stoppages.

Colt officials had not seen the test report and would not comment for this story, said James Battaglini, executive vice president for Colt Defense LLC, on Dec. 14.

Army officials are concerned about the gap between the two tests becaus the “test conditions for test two and three were ostensibly the same,” Brown said.

There were, however, minor differences in the two tests because they were conducted at different times of the year with different test officials, Brown said. Test community officials are analyzing the data to try to explain why the M4 performed worse during this test.

Weapons officials pointed out that these tests were conducted in extreme conditions that did not address “reliability in typical operational conditions,” the test report states.

Despite the last-place showing, Army officials say there is no movement toward replacing the M4.

The Army wants its next soldier weapon to be a true leap ahead, rather than a series of small improvements, Brown said.

“That is what the intent is,” he said, “to give our soldiers the very best and we are not going to rest until we do that.”

Col. Robert Radcliffe, head of the Directorate of Combat Developments for the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., said the test results will be considered as the Army continues to search for ways to improve soldier weapons.

For now, he said the Army will stick with the M4, because soldier surveys from Iraq and Afghanistan continue to highlight the weapon’s popularity among troops in the combat zone.

“The M4 is performing for them in combat, and it does what they needed to do in combat,” Radcliffe said.
27452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: December 22, 2007, 09:31:11 AM
I am left wondering if PC cowardice accounts for this article's failure to mention the role of illegal aliens in overwhelming emergency departments.  Notice how most/all of the examples given are from places like Tucscon AZ.

Seriously ill suffer as relationship between physician and hospital unravels
By Christopher Lee
The Washington Post
updated 12:39 a.m. MT, Fri., Dec. 21, 2007
Hospital emergency departments across the United States, already struggling with overcrowding and growing patient loads, are increasingly unable to find specialists to help treat seriously injured and ill patients, according to medical experts.

Crucial minutes, hours and even days can go by as patients suffering from trauma, strokes, broken bones and other maladies await evaluations by neurologists, orthopedic surgeons and other specialists because hospitals are having difficulty getting them to serve 24-hour emergency "on-call" shifts.

"It can mean death," said Linda Lawrence, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a practicing emergency department doctor in California. "Patients have died in transport, or waiting to find a neurosurgeon, or getting to a heart center for a cardiologist."

A nationwide survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2005, the most recent available, found that of the 1,328 emergency department directors who responded, 73 percent said they had a problem with inadequate on-call coverage by specialists, including neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and obstetrician/gynecologists. That was up from 67 percent in 2004.

Stretched to breaking point

The shortage comes at a time when emergency rooms at many hospitals are routinely stretched to the breaking point. The annual number of visits to emergency departments rose 18 percent, to 110 million, from 1994 to 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, the number of hospitals operating 24-hour emergency departments fell by 12 percent.

The shortage of specialists is the result of a fear of malpractice lawsuits, a reluctance to go without pay when seeing uninsured patients, and a growing intolerance for the disruption in their personal lives and private practices, the experts say. Many specialists are also decreasing their work for general hospitals.

Retiree Mary Jo McClure, 74, experienced the problem firsthand one Friday afternoon in January when she fell down some concrete steps, tearing large chunks of flesh from one leg. The plastic surgeon on call for Tucson Medical Center refused to leave her private-practice patients to come to the emergency department to treat McClure, who has health insurance. The doctor said instead she would see the injured woman in her office the next Monday.

But over the weekend, the specialist telephoned the family to say that she could not treat McClure after all because she performs only cosmetic procedures and is not trained to handle severe wounds, McClure said.

"What was she doing on the roster?" asked McClure, who searched for six days before finding a plastic surgeon at another hospital who would see her. "Do they expect you to walk in for a face-lift? . . . That was a very bad day, because you are hurt and you're in pain, and you always feel like the hospital will help you."

'A constant issue'

Judy Rich, the hospital's executive vice president and administrator, said the plastic surgeon later acknowledged that she should have seen McClure.

"It's a constant issue, our emergency room coverage," Rich said. "We count on the medical staff to come in when they are called. . . . There's too many patients and not enough specialists many times in communities, and Tucson, I think, is pretty typical of the kind of dilemma that we have."

In the Washington area, specialists are generally available, but emergency room patients sometimes must be transferred to get the expert care they need, said Eric Glasser, assistant chief of the emergency department at Georgetown University Hospital.

"At Georgetown, we take referrals from the whole region, because some hospitals can't find a neurosurgeon," said Glasser, president of the D.C. chapter of the emergency physicians' group. "They have to be transported long distances when minutes count. And that, in turn, impacts overcrowding in our hospitals."

For the most part, the dearth of specialists nationally arises not from a numerical shortage but from the growing unwillingness of many specialists to take on-call duty, said Ann S. O'Malley, a physician and senior researcher who co-authored a new study of the issue for the District-based Center for Studying Health System Change.


Traditionally, many specialists agreed to pull on-call duty in exchange for admitting privileges and use of a general hospital's facilities to perform operations and other procedures as part of their regular practice, O'Malley said. But the rise of physician-owned specialty hospitals and outpatient surgical centers over the past 15 years has reduced doctors' reliance on the general hospital.

"The historic relationship between physicians and hospitals is unraveling," O'Malley said.

Another factor is the rising number of the uninsured, with specialists complaining that they often do not get paid for treating patients they see in the emergency room. Moreover, rising malpractice insurance costs and the threat of lawsuits have made more physicians reluctant to see such patients, with whom they have no established professional relationship. Because taking on-call duty can require trips to the emergency department at any hour, it can disrupt doctors' personal lives and force them to reschedule appointments or elective surgeries for their regular, paying patients.

"It's our responsibility to take care of these patients, because that's what we do. That's part of our inherent fiber of being an orthopedic surgeon," said Leon S. Benson, a hand surgeon near Chicago who is active in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a professional association. "But there's no question that as the inconvenience and fatigue and poor compensation and difficulty in having appropriate resources to take care of patients build up, you get this perfect-storm effect where more and more people are thinking, 'Gee, I don't know if I want to do that anymore.' "

Benson, 47, an associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at Northwestern University, takes emergency department on-call duty every other day, but he acknowledged that he is the exception these days.

'System is being pressured'

"I can understand nationally why this is becoming a bigger issue, because the system is being pressured," he said. "More volume is getting through a pipe that's getting smaller in diameter. And then what you actually do while you're on call gets to be more and more painful."

Some hospitals have taken steps such as hiring specialists full time or on contract, covering professional fees for doctors who see uninsured patients, and paying physicians daily or monthly stipends for on-call duty, said O'Malley, the analyst. That helps, Benson said, but hospitals might impress physicians more by setting aside trauma rooms and teams of people to assist the on-call specialist in a timely, efficient way when an emergency arises.

The shortage of on-call specialists is so dire at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, Tex., that the hospital sometimes has to haul out telemedicine equipment that enables neurologists in faraway cities such as San Antonio to evaluate possible stroke victims through a video link, said Juan Fitz, associate director of the emergency department.

Sarah Thompson, 29, an emergency medical technician at Covenant, said she had to be admitted to the hospital for six days in September before doctors could find an oral surgeon to evaluate a swelling in her jaw and neck. It turned out to be cat-scratch fever that caused swollen lymph nodes and a secondary infection, not an abscessed tooth, as doctors first suspected, she said.

"They had an oral surgeon on call, but he wouldn't come to see me," said Thompson, who was pregnant. "He was supposed to be taking call. And then they called him, and they said he was out of town. It was a big mess-up. . . . All of our doctors were very frustrated with the situation. They tried their best."

Lawrence, the president of the emergency physicians' group, said that legislation introduced this year on Capitol Hill -- but not yet considered in committee -- would create a bipartisan national commission to study challenges related to the provision of emergency medical services, including the on-call specialist problem.

"Something people don't understand is that even if you have insurance, if I don't have an on-call orthopedic surgeon, I can't help you," Lawrence said. "It's an issue that affects everybody, insured and uninsured. If there's no bed available, there's no bed available."

27453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 22, 2007, 09:23:04 AM

Dec 20, 2007 23:58 | Updated Dec 21, 2007 1:18
Why the US hasn't seen smuggling tapes

Despite efforts by the country's top security echelon to share with Congress videotapes of Egypt assisting Hamas in arms smuggling, the footage has been shown only to some administration officials and never made it to Congress, to avoid infuriating the Egyptians, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The videotapes included footage of Egyptian border policemen allegedly assisting a group of close to 80 Hamas terrorists crossing illegally into Gaza through a hole they had cut in the border fence.
Defense officials said there was also evidence that the Egyptians were assisting Hamas with smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip under the Philadelphi Corridor.
The decision to send the tapes to the Israeli Embassy in Washington was made by Israel's top defense echelon to influence the appropriations process in Congress ahead of a decision to withhold part of the foreign aid granted to Egypt.
That the tape was not shown to Congress reflects a desire by Israel's political and diplomatic echelon not to escalate tension with Cairo by becoming directly involved in lobbying against Egypt in Congress.
For months there has been a debate inside the government over how directly Israel should get involved in the issue inside Washington.
The perception that won the day this time was that over-involvement would be seen by Cairo as an infringement of certain diplomatic "rules" between the two countries and could lead to a major crisis.
The Bush administration is also opposed to pushing too far on the issue at the present time.
The defense establishment believes that showing the tapes can be an effective way of pressuring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak into clamping down on Hamas's smuggling activities.
"If key congressmen and senators see this, then it will provide a clear picture of the situation and ensure that the money is withheld," a senior official said. "When this happens, Mubarak will feel that he has no choice but to stop the smuggling."
Congress on Wednesday sent a foreign aid bill to US President George W. Bush that for the first time conditions some Egyptian military aid on its efforts to crack down on smuggling into Gaza and improving its human rights record.
According to the legislation, $100 million of the $1.3 billion in Egyptian military aid has been set aside until the secretary of state certifies that Egypt has met these obligations, though the secretary can waive the requirements if she feels holding back the $100m. would harm American national security interests.
An earlier version of the bill would have held back $200m. and not have given the secretary of state a waiver, but it was watered down throughout the process.
Still, critics of Egypt's activities feel that the move sends a strong message that Congress is watching the country and is willing to take some moves that might anger what the administration feels is a key US ally.
Also, according to Washington sources, part of the rationale of continuing with the military aid - begun as part of the Camp David Accords - is that some of it will be used to combat smuggling.
Bush is expected to sign the bill soon. icle%2FShowFull
27454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We will outfcuk you say Khamenei spokesman on: December 21, 2007, 07:30:51 PM
Iran: Europe will become a Muslim continent, says Khamenei's spokesman

Tehran, 21 Dec. (AKI) - Europe will eventually become a Muslim continent, according to a representative of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

"In a dozen years, Europe will be an Islamic continent," said Rasul Jalilzadeh on Friday as he was speaking to the basiji, a voluntary organisation in the capital Tehran.

"The Islamisation of the European continent is imminent and this step favours the arrival of the Mahdi," he said, referring to the 12th imam of Shiite Islam.

Shiites believe that the Imam Mahdi, who disppeared as an adolescent, will return to bring an end to chaos and bring universal justice.

Rasul Jalilzadeh believes that "the Islamisation of Europe is one of the consequences of the Islamic revolution in Iran" in that "the messages and values that this revolution has transmitted to the Europeans, to convince them "to abandon their current faiths and convert to Shiite Islam."
27455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: December 21, 2007, 04:37:16 PM

For the past thirty years America's public schools have been producing students who are increasingly less educated. Democratic politicians across the country feel that pencil manufacturers are the ones responsible for creating this education crisis and are filing lawsuits against them.

One of the cities suing the pencil industry is Oakland, California. Said one Democratic City Councilwoman in Oakland, "It is an undisputed fact that 99% of all American public school students use pencils on a daily basis. These pencils are faulty because they allow students to spell words incorrectly, as well as commit grammatical and mathematical errors. It is time that pencil manufacturers be held accountable for their role in producing inferior students."

The City of Atlanta is also suing pencil manufacturers. The Mayor of Atlanta told BNN, "The pencil makers currently have technology available to put 'Student Safety Devices' on their products. But they refuse to do it. These 'Student Safety Devices' would prevent students from committing academic errors and help them to be better pupils . Our lawsuit is designed to send a message to pencil producers that we will no longer allow them to victimize the children in our school district."

Pencil manufacturers, however, claim that their products do not cause students to commit academic errors. Said Lawrence McDowell of the Sanford Pencil Company, "A pencil is an inanimate object. It is a tool which a student uses at his or her ability level. In the hands of an intelligent and educated student it can be used for producing excellent academic work. In the hands of a lazy student, who watches nine hours of television a day, a pencil is used to produce inferior academic work. The pencil is not responsible for creating either the excellent work or the inferior work."

The Mayor of Atlanta disagrees with McDowell. Said the Mayor, "That defense is straight out of the National Pencil Association (NPA) handbook. We are trying to do something that will help our students perform better in school. But it is obvious that all they care about is their profit margin."
While the lawsuits against the pencil manufacturers move forward, Democrats on Capital Hill are planning to introduce 'Pencil Control Legislation' that would require every pencil to have a 'Student Safety Device' installed. Republicans, who have traditionally sided with the National Pencil Association are showing signs that they may cave to public pressure and vote with Democrats on this bill.

More on this story as it unfolds.
27456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: December 21, 2007, 04:22:25 PM
On a PPP basis, the dollar is now dramatically undervalued.  The explanation lies I think in the fact that much of Europe has cut and simplified taxes and investment capital, which if I understand correctly dwarfs trade, flows to Europe instead of us.

Anyway, here's an interesting URL:

Seems like a good list of places to go for intel ahead of the herd.
27457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Perils of Zero Sum on: December 21, 2007, 01:50:32 PM
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy
By Martin Wolf

Published: December 19 2007 02:00 | Last updated: December 19 2007 02:00

We live in a positive-sum world economy and have done so for about two centuries. This, I believe, is why democracy has become a political norm, empires have largely vanished, legal slavery and serfdom have disappeared and measures of well-being have risen almost everywhere. What then do I mean by a positive-sum economy? It is one in which everybody can become better off. It is one in which real incomes per head are able to rise indefinitely.

How long might such a world last, and what might happen if it ends? The debate on the connected issues of climate change and energy security raises these absolutely central questions. As I argued in a previous column ("Welcome to a world of runaway energy demand", November 14, 2007), fossilised sunlight and ideas have been the twin drivers of the world economy. So nothing less is at stake than the world we inhabit, by which I mean its political and economic, as well as physical, nature.

According to Angus Maddison, the economic historian, humanity's average real income per head has risen 10-fold since 1820.* Increases have also occurred almost everywhere, albeit to hugely divergent extents: US incomes per head have risen 23-fold and those of Africa merely four-fold. Moreover, huge improvements have happened, despite a more than six-fold increase in the world's population.

It is an astonishing story with hugely desirable consequences. Clever use of commercial energy has immeasurably increased the range of goods and services available. It has also substantially reduced both our own drudgery and our dependence on that of others. Serfs and slaves need no longer satisfy the appetites of narrow elites. Women need no longer devote their lives to the demands of domesticity. Consistent rises in real incomes per head have transformed our economic lives.

What is less widely understood is that they have also transformed politics. A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad. In traditional agrarian societies the surpluses extracted from the vast majority of peasants supported the relatively luxurious lifestyles of military, bureaucratic and noble elites. The only way to increase the prosperity of an entire people was to steal from another one. Some peoples made almost a business out of such plunder: the Roman republic was one example; the nomads of the Eurasian steppes, who reached their apogee of success under Genghis Khan and his successors, were another. The European conquerors of the 16th to 18th centuries were, arguably, a third. In a world of stagnant living standards the gains of one group came at the expense of equal, if not still bigger, losses for others. This, then, was a world of savage repression and brutal predation.

The move to the positive-sum economy transformed all this fundamentally, albeit far more slowly than it might have done. It just took time for people to realise how much had changed. Democratic politics became increasingly workable because it was feasible for everybody to become steadily better off. People fight to keep what they have more fiercely than to obtain what they do not have. This is the "endowment effect". So, in the new positive-sum world, elites were willing to tolerate the enfranchisement of the masses. The fact that they no longer depended on forced labour made this shift easier still. Consensual politics, and so democracy, became the political norm.

Equally, a positive-sum global economy ought to end the permanent state of war that characterised the pre-modern world. In such an economy, internal development and external commerce offer better prospects for virtually everybody than does international conflict. While trade always offered the possibility of positive-sum exchange, as Adam Smith argued, the gains were small compared with what is offered today by the combination of peaceful internal development and expanding international trade. Unfortunately, it took almost two centuries after the "industrial revolution" for states to realise that neither war nor empire was a "game" worth playing.

Nuclear weapons and the rise of the developmental state have made war among great powers obsolete. It is no accident then that most of the conflicts on the planet have been civil wars in poor countries that had failed to build the domestic foundations of the positive-sum economy. But China and India have now achieved just that. Perhaps the most important single fact about the world we live in is that the leaderships of these two countries have staked their political legitimacy on domestic economic development and peaceful international commerce.

The age of the plunderer is past. Or is it? The biggest point about debates on climate change and energy supply is that they bring back the question of limits. If, for example, the entire planet emitted CO 2 at the rate the US does today, global emissions would be almost five times greater. The same, roughly speaking, is true of energy use per head. This is why climate change and energy security are such geopolitically significant issues. For if there are limits to emissions, there may also be limits to growth. But if there are indeed limits to growth, the political underpinnings of our world fall apart. Intense distributional conflicts must then re-emerge - indeed, they are already emerging - within and among countries.

The response of many, notably environmentalists and people with socialist leanings, is to welcome such conflicts. These, they believe, are the birth-pangs of a just global society. I strongly disagree. It is far more likely to be a step towards a world characterised by catastrophic conflict and brutal repression. This is why I sympathise with the hostile response of classical liberals and libertarians to the very notion of such limits, since they view them as the death-knell of any hopes for domestic freedom and peaceful foreign relations.

The optimists believe that economic growth can and will continue. The pessimists believe either that it will not do so or that it must not if we are to avoid the destruction of the environment. I think we have to try to marry what makes sense in these opposing visions. It is vital for hopes of peace and freedom that we sustain the positive-sum world economy. But it is no less vital to tackle the environmental and resource challenges the economy has thrown up. This is going to be hard. The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity. Without it, dark days will come. That has never been truer than it is today.

*Contours of the World Economy, 1-2030 AD, Oxford University Press 2007
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
27458  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: December 21, 2007, 01:37:57 PM
Vanerlei sparring to get ready for Liddell-- is this sparring partner the right body type?  Isn't Liddell taller than V.?
27459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Diary of the WSJ on: December 21, 2007, 01:27:39 PM
Bush on the Comeback Trail

Just as Newt Gingrich was the best thing that ever happened to Bill Clinton, so Nancy Pelosi has become a great political asset to George W. Bush. Mr. Bush is on a roll legislatively and even his poll numbers are inching up while Congress's have sunk into the teens. There's nothing like having a foil in Congress to rehabilitate a president. Just ask Harry Truman.

This time last year it would have been inconceivable that Mr. Bush would have a successful 2007, or that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congress would have fewer than one-in-four voters approving their performance. I've made a list of Mr. Bush's policy victories over the Democrats:

1) S-CHIP -- Mr. Bush vetoed the Democrats' bill expanding middle-class health care subsidies and Democrats were unable to override that veto.

2) Alternative Minimum Tax -- Democrats passed AMT reform without the offsetting tax hikes they had threatened.

3) Energy bill -- What was a monster at the beginning of the year is now just a fairly harmless CAFE standards bill. Environmentalists are fuming.

4) Hate Crimes Legislation -- Mr. Bush blocked it. The Congressional Black Caucus is furious.

5) War funding -- Mr. Bush prevailed without any pull-out date. At the start of the year this looked impossible.

6) The Budget -- Mr. Bush mostly prevailed on domestic spending totals.

7) No new taxes -- all of the Democratic tax proposals were killed, including tobacco taxes, hedge fund taxes and energy company taxes.

It pretty much looks like the White House ran the table. Merry Christmas, Madam Speaker.

-- Stephen Moore
POTUS vs. Pork

President Bush signaled during his news conference yesterday that he just might have had it with earmarks, those special-interest pork projects that are often dropped into spending bills without proper hearings or oversight.

After expressing disappointment at the thousands of earmarks stuffed into the foot-tall Omnibus spending bill passed by Congress, Mr. Bush told reporters: "I am instructing the budget director to review options for dealing with the wasteful spending in the omnibus bill."

The president gave no details, but South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a vocal critic of earmarks, has an idea what the president may have in mind. He has long cited a Congressional Research Service opinion that 90% of earmarks are suspect because they were slipped into committee reports and not written into law. "These non-legislated earmarks are not legally binding," Mr. DeMint says. "President Bush could ignore them. He doesn't need a line-item veto." The Club for Growth reports that Mr. Bush might be planning an executive order that would tell federal agencies simply to ignore Congress' earmarks if they aren't written into law and spend the money on higher priorities.

Such a bold move would result in a dramatic boost in President Bush's credibility on the budget. The federal government is now an astounding 185 times as big in real terms as it was a century ago. A general sense that Republicans have forgotten why they were sent to Washington is a big reason why the GOP lost control of Congress last year. The road to redemption has to include a crackdown on earmarks, which Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn calls "the gateway drug to higher spending in many other areas."

-- John Fund
27460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Huckabee on: December 21, 2007, 11:16:49 AM
Skinny Devil:

The question you ask is a large one, larger than I have had time to answer in the hurry of holiday affairs-- and it belongs on a different thread.  IIRC there is a "Why we fight?" thread-- would you repost your question there?

Anyway, here's this on Huckabee.


Leap of Faith
December 21, 2007; Page A18
As pigs in pokes go, the Democratic Party bought itself a big one in 1988. Michael Dukakis was relatively unknown, but he was also the last man standing. Only too late did his party, along with the rest of the country, realize Mr. Dukakis was a typecast liberal -- a furlougher of felons, and a guy who looked mighty awkward in a tank.

This is what happens when a party takes a flyer, and it could be Republicans' turn with Mike Huckabee. The former Baptist minister and governor of Arkansas is surging in Iowa, and is tied with Rudy Giuliani in national polls. He's selling his party on a simple message: He's not those other guys, with their flip-flops and different faiths, and dicey social positions. As to what Mr. Huckabee is -- that's as unknown to most voters as the Almighty himself.

Mr. Huckabee is starting to get a look-see by the press, though whether the nation will have time to absorb the findings before the primaries is just as unknown. The small amount that has been unearthed so far ought to have primary voters nervous. It isn't just that Mr. Huckabee is far from a traditional conservative; he's a potential ethical time bomb.

On policy, Mr. Huckabee's tenure in Arkansas has shown him to be ambivalent about tax increases, variously supporting sales tax hikes, cigarette and gasoline taxes and Internet taxes. Spending increased 65% from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation.

He's so lackluster on education reform that he recently received an endorsement from the New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association -- the first ever of a GOP candidate. The union cited Mr. Huckabee's opposition to school vouchers. Mr. Huckabee is a fan of greater subsidies for farmers and "clean energy." He's proven himself a political neophyte on foreign policy, joining Democrats to skewer President Bush and glorify the "diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy" line.

Most of this is out there, thoroughly documented, and even now slowly filtering its way to voters. Of more concern is what has not yet been discovered about Mr. Huckabee's time as Arkansas lieutenant governor and governor, in particular on ethical issues. There are signs that Mr. Huckabee's background -- borne of the same Arkansas establishment that produced Bill Clinton -- is ripe to provide the sort of pop-up political scandal that could derail a general election campaign.

In Arkansas, Mr. Huckabee was investigated by the state ethics committee at least 14 times. Most of the complaints centered on what appears to be a serial disregard for government rules about gifts and outside financial compensation. He reported $112,000 worth of gifts in one year alone, nearly double his $67,000 salary.

Five of the 14 investigations resulted in admonishments: Two for failing to report gifts (one was later overturned), the other three for some $80,000 that Mr. Huckabee and his wife received but failed to initially report. One of these admonishments involved a $23,500 payment to Mr. Huckabee from an opaque organization called Action America that he helped found in 1994 while lieutenant governor, and that was designed to coordinate his speeches and supplement his income.

Mr. Huckabee caused an uproar when he used a $60,000 account intended to maintain the governor's mansion for personal expenses, including restaurant meals, dry cleaning and boat supplies. He also faced a lawsuit over his assertion that $70,000 worth of furniture donated to the mansion was his to keep. Sprinkled among all this are complaints about the misuse of state planes and campaign funds, mistakes on financial disclosure forms, and fights over documents related to ethics investigations.

Any one of these episodes individually may appear penny ante, but they add up to a disturbing pattern. People I've spoken with who worked with Mr. Huckabee in Arkansas dispute the idea that he is "corrupt." They instead ascribe his ethical mishaps to a "blind spot" rooted in his beginnings as a Baptist minister and a Southern culture of gift-giving; they suggest he never made the mental transition to public office.

Some will also argue Mr. Huckabee is no more ethically challenged than Mr. Giuliani, who is getting pounded with questions about Judith Nathan's security detail and Giuliani Partner clients. The difference is that Hizzoner is a celebrity whose past bones were long ago picked clean by the media crows. Even the Nathan flap is an extension of news that made the rounds five years ago.

The obscure governor from Arkansas is, in contrast, a deep sea for media diving. Most recent have been stories about his pardons and commutations, as well as the news that R.J. Reynolds contributed to Action America. Mr. Huckabee -- who now wants a national smoking ban in public places -- responded that he never knew he accepted tobacco money, which has inspired a former adviser to claim Mr. Huckabee is being "less than truthful." What's next?

The GOP is still reeling from its financial scandals, which helped Democrats tag the party with a "culture of corruption" in last year's congressional races. A Huckabee nomination would also neutralize one of the biggest weapons against nominee Hillary Clinton -- her own ethically tortured past. If the subject came up at all, it would be a race to the Arkansas bottom. A matchup with Barack Obama could be worse, since the "politics of hope" senator has so far avoided scandal and could bludgeon Mr. Huckabee on his past.

Democrats know it. Here's an interesting statistic: Since the beginning of 2007, the Democratic National Committee has released 102 direct attacks on Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani has warranted 78; John McCain 68; Fred Thompson 21. Mike Huckabee? Four. The most recent of these landed back in March. GOP voters may not have examined Mr. Huckabee's record, but the left has -- and they love what they see.

So far, GOP voters do, too. Most appear attracted to Mr. Huckabee's image as a "sincere" and "genuine" guy. The former governor may be both of those, but he's also got a past. Voters are going to want to look before they leap.

Write to
27461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: December 21, 2007, 11:02:05 AM

Our Friends in Baghdad
Can't Mrs. Clinton move beyond Bush-bashing on America's interests in the Middle East?
Friday, December 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Will the United States remain committed to supporting its friends and opposing its enemies in the Muslim world?

This question has been asked for decades by people from Indonesia to Morocco and throughout the Middle East. And there is no clear answer. American engagement in the Muslim world has been fitful and incoherent, leaving our friends and our opponents believing that we are at best unreliable. In the past, supporting our friends has been taken to mean Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In the case of the last three, it has meant helping more or less authoritarian governments retain power in exchange for their help in stabilizing the region.

But today, new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq--democracies the U.S. made possible--struggle to survive against attacks from our common enemies. Both are reaching out to the U.S. and asking for a commitment of our support.

This is an epochal moment: The U.S. has a chance to break away from failed policies of the past and throw itself behind two new constitutional democracies that occupy critical geostrategic positions in the most dangerous part of the world. Will we seize this moment or let it pass?

In Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be seizing it. Recently, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a joint communiqué in which the U.S. committed to helping Iraq defend its government against internal and external threats. In response, the Maliki government asked for a one year renewal of the current United Nation's Security Council Resolution that governs U.S. forces operating in Iraq. Mr. Maliki is also committed to working out bilateral relations with the U.S. to govern future American operations in his country.
The joint American-Iraqi communiqué marks the beginning of the normalization of relations between allies in a common fight against al Qaeda, and against Iranian efforts to dominate the Middle East. It doesn't commit the U.S. to specific force levels and it allows future governments in Washington and Baghdad to decide the role the U.S. will play in the coming years in Iraq. It is, however, an important statement of America's resolve. Even more important, it is a statement of Iraq's desire to align itself with us.

The U.S. hasn't charted as wise a course in Afghanistan. Since the establishment of Hamid Karzai's government in 2004, the Afghans have sought a bilateral agreement committing the U.S. to protect Afghanistan against foreign and domestic threats. The speaker of Afghanistan's parliament, Younos Qanuni, reiterated that desire within the past month.

But, despite a 2005 joint communiqué similar to the recent Bush-Maliki exchange, the Bush administration has deflected Kabul's request for a bilateral relationship into a much more nebulous and less effective relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A relationship with NATO is not what the Afghans want or need.

The transition of the Afghan security and reconstruction missions from U.S. to NATO control was undertaken more with an eye on what is good for NATO than for what is good for Afghanistan, and the Afghans have not benefited from it. They still want an American commitment. Given their centrality in the fight against al Qaeda and their determination in the face of our common enemies, they deserve it.

Unfortunately, opposition to the war in Iraq and partisan politics prevent a reasoned discussion of America's interests in the Muslim world. Sen. Hillary Clinton, a leader of the liberal internationalist wing of the Democratic Party (whose husband wisely committed American forces to the Balkans in the 1990s to stop genocide and establish constitutional government there), immediately attacked the Bush-Maliki communiqué.

She joined the unthinking chorus of war opponents who saw it simply as another way of institutionalizing "George Bush's endless war." Rather than pressing the administration to offer similar guarantees to another key ally at the heart of the fight against terrorism, liberal internationalists instead attacked the administration.

What sort of strategy is this? Shall we refuse our help to democratic states we helped bring into existence when they are attacked by our common foes? Shall we make a statement that we will not support our friends or that we prefer to support authoritarian regimes?
Mrs. Clinton has said that she expects U.S. troops to be in Iraq until the end of her administration, and quite rightly. But under what terms will they be there, if we do not establish a bilateral relationship with an Iraqi state eager to assert its own sovereignty, and therefore unwilling to continue in the sort of international receivership to which the Security Council subjects it?

As U.S. forces move into former insurgent strongholds in Iraq, the local people, both Sunni and Shiite, ask our soldiers not "When are you leaving?" but "Will you stay this time?" The rise of Iran's power has frightened many Gulf Arab states so much that they now ask the same question: Will the U.S. stand by them this time?

The notion that attacks on America result from the American presence in the Muslim world is nonsensical. America and its allies have been attacked when we had troops in the Middle East and when we did not; when we intervened in regional crises and when we ignored them. But our policies over the past few decades have resulted in the worst of both worlds--we have generated whatever irritant our presence in the region creates without giving our friends (and enemies) the assurance that we will actively pursue our interests and those of our allies.

It was one thing to debate how much support to offer authoritarian regimes providing questionable support to our efforts. Refusing now to defend states trying to establish constitutional and democratic government will be quite another. The immorality of such a decision is apparent. It would also be strategic stupidity.

It is time to move beyond reflexive Bush-bashing and antiwar sloganeering and consider our real interests in the Muslim world and how to secure them. It starts by declaring that we will stand by our friends in defense of common goals and against common enemies.

Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of "No Middle Way: The Challenge of Exit Strategies from Iraq" (AEI Press, 2007).

27462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mormons on: December 21, 2007, 10:50:44 AM

Interesting, and coincidentally enough this from today's WSJ:


Church Separation
The Mormons still haven't settled their race problem.

Friday, December 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

In an "Official Declaration" issued on June 8, 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints extended "priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church." The church announced that a "revelation had been received" by its then-president Spencer Kimball. Until then, Mormonism was a defiantly apartheid faith that denied blacks full participation based on doctrinal beliefs that whites are "pure" and "delightsome," while black-skinned people are "unrighteous," "despised" and "loathsome" descendants of the biblical Cain, who was cursed for killing Abel.

By 1978, the U.S. was more than a century removed from a civil war over the status of blacks; W.E.B Du Bois and Henry Moskowitz had co-founded the NAACP; and President Truman had integrated the military three decades before.

By 1978, Plessy v. Ferguson had been overturned by Brown v. Board of Education, and Thurgood Marshall was a Supreme Court justice.

By 1978, Jackie Robinson had not only retired from the Brooklyn Dodgers but was fielding grounders in the hereafter.

By 1978, Martin Luther King Jr. had given his "I Have a Dream" speech, and Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

By 1978, the universities of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama had been integrated.

By 1978, Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 calling for "segregation of the races," had endorsed integration and hired black staffers.

Which is to say that in a decades-long march toward civil rights that eventually included even the likes of former Dixiecrats, the LDS church was still bringing up the rear.

It's true that, in the late 1970s, other religious denominations in the U.S. still tended to be largely segregated by race out of choice or custom. But according to journalists Richard and Joan Ostling's "Mormon America," only the Mormons "had instituted such a sharp racial preference or placed it at the level of divine revelation."
Armand Mauss, a leading scholar on Mormons and race, and a Mormon himself, has noted that "much of the conventional 'explanation' for the priesthood restriction was simply borrowed from the racist heritage of nineteenth-century Europe and America, especially from the justifications for slavery used in the ante-bellum South."

The priesthood proscription, which operated under a "one-drop rule," wasn't in place simply to keep blacks out of leadership posts. Ultimately, the ban was a manifestation of a central belief that blacks are unfit to be full members of the church on Earth, or to exist alongside whites in heaven.

In the Mormon system, "the priesthood is everything," write the Ostlings, and boys normally enter the first stage at age 12. "Without priesthood, many routine forms of church participation are beyond reach, such as distribution of the sacrament," write the authors. "Priesthood is the necessary condition for men receiving temple endowments and eternal sealings of marriage that admit its holders to the highest tier in heaven and potential godhood."

Mormon leaders were applauded for finally ending the prohibition. But according to Mr. Mauss, the church has never repudiated the teachings that supported the policy. In 2004, he wrote, "ironically, the doctrinal folklore that many of us thought had been discredited, or at least made moot, through the 1978 revelation, continued to appear . . . [in church literature] written well after 1978 and continues to be taught by well-meaning teachers and leaders in the church to this very day." And "Mormon America," which was just re-released, notes plainly that "Mormon teaching against race-mixing remains in force."

In 1978, Mitt Romney was a 31-year-old vice president at Bain & Co. and a lifelong devout Mormon. Throughout his current campaign for the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney has declined to distance himself from the repugnant racial teachings of his church.
On "Meet the Press" last Sunday, the candidate was asked by Tim Russert if "it was wrong for your faith to exclude [blacks] as long as it did." Mr. Romney dodged the question, instead stating: "I told you where I stand. My view is that there--there's, there's no discrimination in the eyes of God, and I could not have been more pleased to see the change that occurred."

In his ballyhooed speech earlier this month, Mr. Romney said he wouldn't renounce any of Mormonism's precepts. He also implied that questions like Mr. Russert's come too close to a "religious test" for public office that the Constitution explicitly forbids. But in a country with America's racial past, Mr. Russert's question isn't a religious test. It's due diligence. And for all his claims to the contrary, Mr. Romney has, in fact, been willing to distance himself from past teachings of the church--just not those having to do with its treatment of black people.

"Look, the polygamy, which was outlawed in our church in the 1800s, that's troubling to me," he told "60 Minutes" in May. "I must admit, I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy." Gee, I can.

Mr. Riley is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
27463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Liberty on: December 21, 2007, 10:33:28 AM
"The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Richard Rush, 20 October 1820)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition),
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 15:283.
27464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Madison: Property Rights on: December 20, 2007, 11:57:59 PM
"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort;
as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as
that which the term particularly expresses.  This being the end
of government, that alone is a just government which impartially
secures to every man whatever is his own."

-- James Madison (Essay on Property, 29 March 1792)

Reference: Madison: Writings, Rakove, ed., Library of America (515)
27465  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: December 20, 2007, 11:54:04 PM

I. "Canadian Response" technique brings quick restraint of combative, super-strong subjects, FSRC advisor tells excited delirium conference
[View this article with photos on]
A technique for "working smarter rather than harder" to restrain unusually strong, combative subjects was described by an advisor to the Force Science Research Center at a recent international conference on in-custody deaths that featured presentations by nearly 20 of the world's leading authorities on excited delirium (ED).
The technique, which requires a coordinated effort by several officers, involves "humanely misaligning" a struggling suspect's muscles and joints to control his movements and reduce his capability of resisting while restraint devices are applied, explains Chris Lawrence, who outlined the tactic at the 2nd annual symposium of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths last month [11/07] in Las Vegas.
"A resisting subject can generate significant power with his arms, legs, and shoulders," Lawrence says. "If you take these out of their natural power alignment, the individual can be controlled with less effort and with greater safety."
Initially conceived as a response tool for ED confrontations, the procedure can be used effectively in managing a wide variety of strong, combative subjects, from drunks to the violently enraged and drug-fueled, says Lawrence, a prominent Canadian defensive tactics trainer and a technical advisor to FSRC at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
The technique was devised, tested, and refined by a cadre of Canadian police trainers led by Lawrence, in consultation with street officers, DT instructors, and ED medical experts scattered through North America. Lawrence, a columnist for FSRC's strategic partner, has researched and reported on ED developments to LE audiences for about 9 years.
BENEFITS. "Often when officers try to control a resistant person who's exerting tremendous strength, as in excited delirium, they end up trying to out-muscle him," Lawrence told Force Science News. "This requires significant exertion, and unless the officers' efforts are greater than the suspect's, they won't prevail. Even if they succeed, there's a risk of injury to the officers, the subject, sometimes even to innocent bystanders.
"Rather than work harder, the suggestion is to work smarter," with the coordinated application of leverage and body mechanics. With this method, which Lawrence informally calls the Canadian Response, "even officers whose size and strength can't begin to match that of the suspect should still quickly prevail, with a greater margin of safety for everyone involved."
In training sessions, Lawrence selects "the biggest guy in the class" to role-play the subject and "5 other big people" to try to control him. The officers are told to "use any technique you want to get the subject into a prone, controlled position," while the subject is instructed to "do anything you want to get out."
Typically, Lawrence claims, "within 4 to 5 seconds, the subject has been able to rise up at least to his hands and knees."
After instruction in the Canadian Response, 5 of the smallest people in class take on the biggest one. "I stand there ordering him to get up, but he can't. The usual reaction is, 'I can't believe this.'"
"The Canadian Response shares the key component of all good physical control techniques," notes FSRC's executive director, Dr. Bill Lewinski. "It allows officers to maximize their biomechanical advantages and diminishes the biomechanical advantages of the subject. When done well, it should literally rob the subject of his power, regardless of his size, strength, and physical and emotional intensity."
Maximizing speed and minimizing exertion in achieving effective restraint is especially important when dealing with ED subjects who are not compliant with verbal persuasion, Lawrence explains.
"There's nothing a police officer with a first-aid certificate can do to help the subject at the side of the road. Experts agree that getting these people to a medical facility as promptly as possible without unnecessarily intensifying their agitated, overstressed state with a prolonged struggle appears to increase their chances of surviving what can be a fatal episode. Unless they are physically controlled, however, ambulance crews won't transport them, so restraint, when necessary, becomes imperative as a first step in receiving medical care."
GROUND POSITIONING. The Canadian Response works best with 4-5 officers concentrating on a subject who's on the ground, front side down. (Lawrence does not specifically address how he gets there, but the presumption is that he's tackled, Tasered, tripped, or otherwise brought down and maneuvered to a prone position; pain compliance will not reliably do the job because the subject may well be impervious to pain.)
"The ground provides a consistent , reliable platform that works to the officers' mechanical advantage," Lawrence says, "and getting the subject proned out actually results in lesser force being necessary than if he were on his back. So long as the subject is face down, you're in less danger from his natural weapons," his limbs.
ARM CONTROL. Experimentation showed that even highly muscled individuals display the least strength in weight-lifting when their arms are straight out at their sides, Lawrence says, so this is the position the first 2 officers want to get the proned subject's arms into-extended out at an angle of 90 degrees or slightly higher from the ribcage.
If the officers sit facing away from the subject, they can each grab an arm, fully extend it, clamp it with the crook of their elbow, and lock it in against their side and across their thigh-a seated variation of the arm-bar maneuver. With one hand controlling the subject's wrist, they turn his palm up, then use their upper-body weight to lean against and apply pressure to the back of his deltoid (shoulder) muscle, pushing toward the ground.
"This pins him, without causing injury," Lawrence says. "By keeping his arms locked out and anchored, his wrists turned and off the ground, and his shoulders down, you misalign his muscles and joints. His arms are less effective in offering resistance, but his ability to breathe remains uncompromised."
In some cases, Lawrence points out, subjects may go prone with their arms tucked under them, hands clasped tight against their chest-what Lawrence calls a powerful "turtle position." To avoid a strenuous struggle to gets the arms free, you are often best off to use a baton as a leverage tool and pry them out.
LEG CONTROL. The next 2 officers secure the subject's legs. "Again, the principle is misalignment of the muscles to reduce the subject's ability to generate power," Lawrence says.
These officers each capture a foot and get on the ground between the subject's legs to move the heels as far apart as possible. Pushing against each other back-to-back can help gain leverage in parting and extending the legs.
Continuing to face away from each other, each officer then wraps his/her body around an ankle, turning the toes out and bringing his/her weight to bear against the end of the long leg bones to hold the limbs down securely.
"This positioning substantially reduces the subject's ability to raise his legs and exert himself with the most powerful parts of his body," Lawrence says.
5th OFFICER. If an additional officer is present, he or she can be plugged in where needed most.
If more control is necessary, this officer, kneeling at the subject's head, can apply pressure through his/her hands to the subject's shoulders, roughly where the rotator cuffs are (not on the spine). "This tends to be more effective than holding the subject's head," Lawrence explains, "because a head hold leaves more possibility for the subject to torque his shoulders, move his upper trunk substantially, and try to get up or buck to a more powerful position."
If the subject seems well-controlled, the 5th officer "can also work as a quarterback, overseeing the process and scanning for threats." Or he/she can move in to begin the handcuffing process.
HANDCUFFING. The Canadian Response involves the use of multiple pairs of handcuffs, not only for easier initial application but also because this allows the subject to be transported by ambulance in a more desirable position for monitoring.
If an extra officer is not available, the arm-control officers must handle the cuffing on their own. If they have trouble reaching their cuffs, a leg officer may be able to hand up a set to get the process started. "This is very flexible," Lawrence says.
One arm-control officer goes first, transitioning from the pin position by raising the subject's wrist high, turning the arm, and bending the elbow so the arm folds behind the subject's back in a cuffing position. The officer turns to face the subject's spine as he/she brings the arm around. The subject's upper arm is held firmly between the officer's knees, one of which is placed over the subject's scapula, the other on the ground. Once a cuff is on that wrist, the other officer repeats the process with the other arm.
Now the unused portions of the 2 handcuff sets can be hooked together. Or, with large subjects, they can be connected to a third set of cuffs interposed between them. "The idea is to create enough separation between the subject's hands that he can lie flat, without riding on his cuffed wrists, once he is turned over on his back for ambulance transport," Lawrence says.
He warns, however, that a subject who must be transported by patrol car rather than by ambulance should not be handcuffed with extended space between his wrists.
Important: The subject should not be turned onto his back until his legs are firmly restrained.
LEG RESTRAINT. Once the subject is handcuffed, his legs are then brought together, under control, and are securely strapped together. Once the strap is cinched snug, the loose end can be stood on to keep the subject from moving his legs. Note: This is a hobble restraint, not hog-tying.
TRANSPORT. After the legs are strapped, the subject can be rolled to his side. When he's transferred to a gurney for transport to a medical facility, the strap can be tied to the end of the stretcher to keep the subject from raising or thrashing his legs. EMS personnel will apply additional restraints of their own, but at least one officer should still ride in the ambulance for added security.
"With the daisy chain of handcuffs, the subject should be able to lie on his back with his hands beside his hips so that the paramedics or EMTs can better monitor him," Lawrence says. "With him supine [face up], they're better able to watch his breathing, use a stethoscope to check his heart, apply a blood pressure cuff, start an IV, and so on.
"The usual gurney strapping will prevent him from sliding the cuffs below his butt and attempting escape."
Lawrence cautions that use of this control procedure is by no means an iron-clad guarantee against injury to officers or subjects. Nor can it assure that a subject beset by ED won't still die suddenly and unexpectedly, despite the best efforts of police and medical personnel. "There is still a great deal that's unknown about this complicated phenomenon," he says, "including exactly why the ED experience culminates in death for some of these subjects. Plus, no tactic is guaranteed to work on a particular subject, and every control technique has some element of risk.
"But based on what we know so far, the Canadian Response seems to provide hope for safely handing an afflicted subject off to medical personnel. It requires no new equipment for officers to buy or to carry on their belts or in their car, and it incorporates the kind of simple DT movements that they are already familiar with."
Obviously, performing smoothly as a team requires practice. "But officers who've trained in the technique are amazed at how successful it can be," Lawrence says.
He plans to demonstrate the technique at the ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Assn.) 2008 training conference, Apr. 1-5 in Wheeling, IL, a suburb of Chicago.
Lawrence can be reached at
[For previous articles on challenges and recommendations related to controlling ED subjects, search the Force Science News archives at Our thanks to PoliceOne trainer Gary Klugiewicz, a member of FSRC's national advisory board, for tipping us to Lawrence's Las Vegas presentation.]
II. FSRC to bring reality to English Parliament
Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center, will make a presentation this month [12/07] before a committee of Parliament in London, England, regarding FSRC's latest findings on use-of-force dynamics, decision-making, perceptions, and memory.
Parliament's House Affairs Committee on Human Rights is looking into issues regarding Taser use, the nature of law enforcement-related violence, civil rights, and other concerns related to police interaction with British citizenry.
"I expect lively dialogue with members of the committee after presenting our research," Lewinski says, "and I hope to emphasize what science reveals about police use of force." 
27466  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: December 20, 2007, 09:22:45 PM
That's Tomek, he is a Polish Group Leader under Guro Lonely.
27467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 1 out of 16 in Germany on: December 20, 2007, 08:02:18 PM,1518,524739,00.html

Interior Ministry Warns of Radicalization of Muslims
A new study commissioned by Germany's Interior Ministry warns of a growing threat from the radicalization of Muslims in the country. Six percent of Muslims in Germany support violence in the name of Islam, the authors write.

Muslims protest in Dusseldorf against the Danish Muhammad cartoons in this Feb. 2006 photo. The Interior Ministry has warned that exclusion of Muslims from mainstream German society is leading to radicalization.
A new study released by Germany's Interior Ministry has added new fuel to the debate about integration of Muslims in Germany, with the report warning about the danger of radicalization of Muslims.

According to the study, which was published Tuesday, around 40 percent of Muslims surveyed had a "fundamentalist orientation," which the authors defined as a strongly religious worldview and moral values.

However, the authors concluded that the vast majority of Muslims in Germany reject religiously motivated terrorism and violence: Some 92 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that terrorist acts in the name of Islam were a serious sin and an insult to Allah.

But the authors saw a potential threat in a small minority with Islamist leanings: Around 6 percent of those surveyed were classified as having "violent tendencies," while 14 percent of respondents had "anti-democratic" tendencies.

Around 12 percent of the Muslims in Germany identified with a religious-moral critique of the West and supported corporal punishment and the death penalty. The report also concluded that religious beliefs are becoming increasingly important for young people.

The study, which was carried out by Katrin Brettfeld and Peter Wetzels from the Institute for Criminology at the University of Hamburg, was commissioned by the Interior Ministry in an attempt to finding out the extent to which the Muslim community in Germany provides a breeding ground for extremist groups and potential terrorists. The authors interviewed 1,750 Muslims living in Germany for the study. Of that number, around 40 percent had German citizenship.

'Fundamental Religious Orientation'

In the introduction to the report, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble writes that the study leads to the "worrying conclusion that a serious potential for Islamist radicalization has developed in Germany." According to Schäuble, the lack of integration of immigrants into German society is leading to a "fundamental religious orientation."

The survey found that more than half of the respondents felt themselves excluded from German society and felt they were treated as foreigners. Around 20 percent had experienced some form of racism within the last 12 months.

Reacting to the study, Christine Haderthauer, general secretary of the conservative Bavarian party the Christian Social Union, said that her party "has always warned against the dangers of parallel societies. Our fears have been confirmed in a shocking manner." She said that Germany needs "an offensive to promote religious tolerance among young Muslims."

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 However social anthropologist Werner Schiffauer urged caution when interpreting the results. He told the daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau that "anti-democratic attitudes were equally common among Muslims and Germans (sic)," adding that it could not be concluded that Islam encourages anti-democratic tendencies. Leaders of groups representing the Turkish community and Muslims in Germany also urged caution in interpreting the results.

In concluding that 6 percent of Muslims in Germany have violent tendencies, the study appears to contradict to some extent the findings of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which monitors Islamist activity in the country. According to its 2006 report, there are currently around 32,000 Islamists in Germany who pose a potential security threat. That figure represents slightly more than 1 percent of the around 3 million Muslims who live in the country.

The Interior Ministry under Schäuble has sparked a series of controversies in recent months. Schäuble was the subject of heated criticism in July of this year when he appeared to suggest in a SPIEGEL interview (more...) that the targeted killing of terrorists might have to be considered. Schäuble's opponents have condemned him for attempting to constantly stretch the limits of what is acceptable under Germany's constitution in the fight against terror.

Other controversial positions Schäuble has promoted recently include taking terrorists into preventive custody, deploying the German army in domestic operations and searching suspects' computers online without their knowledge.

27468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wear Hijab or die! on: December 20, 2007, 02:38:26 PM

Tehran, 19 Dec. (AKI) - A top Muslim cleric in Iran, Hojatolislam Gholam Reza Hassani said on Wednesday that women in Iran who do not wear the hijab or Muslim headscarf, should die.

"Women who do not respect the hijab and their husbands deserve to die," said Hassani, who leads Friday prayers in the city of Urumieh, in Iranian Azerbaijan.

"I do not understand how these women who do not respect the hijab, 28 years after the birth of the Islamic Republic, are still alive," he said.

"These women and their husbands and their fathers must die," said Hassani, who is the representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in eastern Azerbaijan.

Hassani's statements came after two Kurdish feminists in Iran were accused of being members of an armed rebel group and of carrying out subversive activities threatening the security of the state.

It is believed that his statements and the arrests could spark a fresh crackdown on women who do not repect the Islamic dress code in Iran.

Thousands of women in Iran have already been warned this year for their "un-Islamic dress" such as wearing tight, short coats and skimpy headscarves.
27469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: December 20, 2007, 09:57:01 AM
Stand By Steyn
by Robert Spencer

Posted: 12/19/2007

The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal have begun proceedings against Mark Steyn, author of America Alone. They are responding to complaints from the Canadian Islamic Congress about an excerpt from the book that was published in the Canadian journal Maclean’s. “The article,” the CIC claims, “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt,” and was “flagrantly Islamophobic.”

To be sure, the article was pretty strong stuff. Here’s a bit of it: “There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe -- without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.” Even worse, it goes on to say: “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.”

“A Muslim continent”! “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes”! No wonder the CIC was upset. And not just the CIC: writer Jim Henley, whose articles have appeared in The New Republic and The American Spectator Online, quoted the “mosquitoes” line and called Steyn a “racist.” There were just two problems: The “Muslim continent” statement is not only factual, it’s stated in words no one can characterize as inflammatory. (Also, it’s been said by Libya’s strongman Muammar Qaddafi). Second, “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes” was not Steyn’s phrase. He was quoting Mullah Krekar, a jihadist who currently resides in Norway, although officials have been trying for years to get him out of the country..

And that sums up the problem with the Canadian human rights commissions’ action against Steyn: he was simply reporting on contemporary European reality. It was not Mark Steyn, but Algerian leader Houari Boumédienne who said at the United Nations in 1974: “One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.” Those who want to silence Steyn want to suppress facts and limit free speech.

It was not Steyn who said that “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor,” and that “the conquest this time will not be by the sword but by preaching and ideology.” That was Al-Jazeera’s Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, who is widely hailed as a moderate reformer in the West. Did Steyn say that Muslims “will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it”? Nope. That one comes from a Saudi Sheikh, Muhammad bin Abd Al-Rahman Al-‘Arifi, imam of the mosque of King Fahd Defense Academy.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is putting itself in the peculiar position of penalizing those non-Muslims who report on such statements, as if it is somehow an act encouraging “hatred and contempt” to reveal the unpleasant reality that comprises mainstream Islamic rhetoric today. There is no indication that the CHRC has done a thing to investigate the possibility that some Muslims in Canada might hold the views of Mullah Krekar, Qaddafi, Boumédienne, Qaradhawi and Sheikh Muhammad. When the CIC’s President Mohamed Elmasry said in 2004 that all Israelis over age eighteen were legitimate targets, the CHRC took no action. But Elmasry, you see, is part of a protected victim class.

Actions like the one against Steyn threaten the foundation of free society. Once you declare one group off-limits for critical examination, once you declare that these people -- whoever they may be -- must at all costs not be offended, then you have destroyed one of the essential elements of free speech and political debate. In a free society, people with differing opinions live together in harmony, agreeing not to force their neighbor to be silent if his opinions offend them. If offensive speech had been prohibited in the 1770s, there would be no United States of America, and that is one of the reasons for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Of course, Canada is a different case -- but wherever offensive speech is prohibited, the tyrant’s power is solidified. That is no less so in this case, although the tyrant in question is of a different kind.
27470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: December 20, 2007, 09:43:43 AM

Muslims call ham sandwich hate crime

Sher Zieve
April 24, 2007

As they are "highly offensive" to Muslims, it appears that our politically correct leftist-run middle school system will soon no longer allow any pork products on school property. At Lewiston, ME Middle School, placing pork in the mere presence of Muslims is currently being called a hate crime. Note: Jews also believe pork is unclean but, there has never been any effort by the public school system to remove pork, in order to honor their religious beliefs. That is reserved solely for Muslims. For that matter, celebrations of Christian holidays are being summarily removed from the public school system, while Muslim holidays are commemorated — and Muslim foot washing basins and prayer rooms are being built. All manner of Islamic demands, no matter what the complaint, are being met and Islam is quickly and clearly being established as the "superior" religion in the USA — now in the public school systems and, no doubt, soon in the entire country.

The latest incident of "Muslim outrage" involves a middle-school student purportedly placing a ham sandwich wrapped in a baggie on a lunch table where Somali Muslim students sit. One 14 year-old unnamed Somali student is reported to have said: "At the school the next day, I didn't feel safe. I felt like everybody was against me. Before I felt like I fit in, and everything was normal." The ham-placing "offending student" has been suspended, the Maine middle school is calling the placing of the ham sandwich a "hate crime" and the local police are investigating the child. More charges against the child may be forthcoming. School Superintendent Leon Levesque said: "The school incident is being treated seriously as a hate incident!" Then, in the true and remarkable spirit of the Kumbaya-for-Islam set, Levesque added: "We've got some work to do to turn this around and bring the school community back together again." Note: Again, 'presenting pork' is only an offense and "hate crime" if it involves Muslims.

Even the Portland, ME based Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence has become involved. Its Executive Director Stephen Wessler immediately went off the deep end and commented: "It's extraordinarily hurtful and degrading to Muslims, whose religion prohibits them from being around ham. It's important to respond swiftly." Huh? Respond swiftly to an evil ham sandwich? Wessler then added warningly: "Incidents like this that involve degrading language or conduct are often said by the perpetrator as a joke. I know that conduct is never static. It's part of a process of escalation!" Is Wessler actually saying: "Today it's a ham sandwich, tomorrow it's the world!"? What has happened to the alleged minds of our supposedly educated adults, when a non-threatening childish prank is raised to the level of a hate crime? Oh — I forgot. To Muslims we are now being led to believe that everything is potentially threatening. However, real threats from real Islamic terrorists are increasingly discounted by our PC society. 9/11 is a fading memory in all too many minds and Islamic Imams can not only threaten passengers on planes but, then turn around and sue said passengers for complaining about them!

Now, not only do we have Congressional leaders working to appease each and every aspect of Islam that has vowed to destroy us but, we have the US public school system bowing to all complaints — or even potential complaints — from Muslim students and their parents. Of course, any and all complaints from Christian and Jewish students are ignored. Special privileges are progressively being given to Muslims and even facilities are being built, with tax payer dollars, for them on US campuses. No such privileges or construction projects are being afforded to or for any other religious group. And too many are continuing to remain silent. In this case, as in others, silence equates to acceptance. Islam is taking over the USA from both without and within — apparently with the consent of the new 'silent majority.' It's a tragedy that SCOTUS did not include mosques in its ruling on the separation of church and state. It has not only come back to haunt and bite us but, will soon render we-the-people and our country as only so much dust in the wind. If we do not now speak up loudly at these injustices and inequities, soon we won't be allowed to speak at all.

Sher Zieve is an author, political commentator, and staff writer for The New Media Alliance ( Zieve's op-ed columns are widely carried by multiple internet journals and sites, and she also writes hard news. Her columns have also appeared in The Oregon Herald, Dallas Times, Boston Star, Massachusetts Sun, Sacramento Sun, in international news publications, and on multiple university websites. Ms. Zieve is currently working on her first political book: "The Liberal's Guide To Conservatives."
27471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics on: December 19, 2007, 10:26:01 AM
Laws of Nature, Source Unknown
Published: December 18, 2007

“Gravity,” goes the slogan on posters and bumper stickers. “It isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law.”

And what a law. Unlike, say, traffic or drug laws, you don’t have a choice about obeying gravity or any of the other laws of physics. Jump and you will come back down. Faith or good intentions have nothing to do with it.

Existence didn’t have to be that way, as Einstein reminded us when he said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Against all the odds, we can send e-mail to Sri Lanka, thread spacecraft through the rings of Saturn, take a pill to chase the inky tendrils of depression, bake a turkey or a soufflé and bury a jump shot from the corner.

Yes, it’s a lawful universe. But what kind of laws are these, anyway, that might be inscribed on a T-shirt but apparently not on any stone tablet that we have ever been able to find?

Are they merely fancy bookkeeping, a way of organizing facts about the world? Do they govern nature or just describe it? And does it matter that we don’t know and that most scientists don’t seem to know or care where they come from?

Apparently it does matter, judging from the reaction to a recent article by Paul Davies, a cosmologist at Arizona State University and author of popular science books, on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times.

Dr. Davies asserted in the article that science, not unlike religion, rested on faith, not in God but in the idea of an orderly universe. Without that presumption a scientist could not function. His argument provoked an avalanche of blog commentary, articles on and letters to The Times, pointing out that the order we perceive in nature has been explored and tested for more than 2,000 years by observation and experimentation. That order is precisely the hypothesis that the scientific enterprise is engaged in testing.

David J. Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, told me in an e-mail message, “I have more confidence in the methods of science, based on the amazing record of science and its ability over the centuries to answer unanswerable questions, than I do in the methods of faith (what are they?).”

Reached by e-mail, Dr. Davies acknowledged that his mailbox was “overflowing with vitriol,” but said he had been misunderstood. What he had wanted to challenge, he said, was not the existence of laws, but the conventional thinking about their source.

There is in fact a kind of chicken-and-egg problem with the universe and its laws. Which “came” first — the laws or the universe?

If the laws of physics are to have any sticking power at all, to be real laws, one could argue, they have to be good anywhere and at any time, including the Big Bang, the putative Creation. Which gives them a kind of transcendent status outside of space and time.

On the other hand, many thinkers — all the way back to Augustine — suspect that space and time, being attributes of this existence, came into being along with the universe — in the Big Bang, in modern vernacular. So why not the laws themselves?

Dr. Davies complains that the traditional view of transcendent laws is just 17th-century monotheism without God. “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,” he said in his e-mail message.

But the idea of rationality in the cosmos has long existed without monotheism. As far back as the fifth century B.C. the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and his followers proclaimed that nature was numbers. Plato envisioned a higher realm of ideal forms, of perfect chairs, circles or galaxies, of which the phenomena of the sensible world were just flawed reflections. Plato set a transcendent tone that has been popular, especially with mathematicians and theoretical physicists, ever since.

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate from the University of Texas, Austin, described himself in an e-mail message as “pretty Platonist,” saying he thinks the laws of nature are as real as “the rocks in the field.” The laws seem to persist, he wrote, “whatever the circumstance of how I look at them, and they are things about which it is possible to be wrong, as when I stub my toe on a rock I had not noticed.”

The ultimate Platonist these days is Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In talks and papers recently he has speculated that mathematics does not describe the universe — it is the universe.


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Dr. Tegmark maintains that we are part of a mathematical structure, albeit one gorgeously more complicated than a hexagon, a multiplication table or even the multidimensional symmetries that describe modern particle physics. Other mathematical structures, he predicts, exist as their own universes in a sort of cosmic Pythagorean democracy, although not all of them would necessarily prove to be as rich as our own.

“Everything in our world is purely mathematical — including you,” he wrote in New Scientist.

This would explain why math works so well in describing the cosmos. It also suggests an answer to the question that Stephen Hawking, the English cosmologist, asked in his book, “A Brief History of Time”: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” Mathematics itself is on fire.

Not every physicist pledges allegiance to Plato. Pressed, these scientists will describe the laws more pragmatically as a kind of shorthand for nature’s regularity. Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, put it this way: “A law of physics is a pattern that nature obeys without exception.”

Plato and the whole idea of an independent reality, moreover, took a shot to the mouth in the 1920s with the advent of quantum mechanics. According to that weird theory, which, among other things, explains why our computers turn on every morning, there is an irreducible randomness at the microscopic heart of reality that leaves an elementary particle, an electron, say, in a sort of fog of being everywhere or anywhere, or being a wave or a particle, until some measurement fixes it in place.

In that case, according to the standard interpretation of the subject, physics is not about the world at all, but about only the outcomes of experiments, of our clumsy interactions with that world. But 75 years later, those are still fighting words. Einstein grumbled about God not playing dice.

Steven Weinstein, a philosopher of science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, termed the phrase “law of nature” as “a kind of honorific” bestowed on principles that seem suitably general, useful and deep. How general and deep the laws really are, he said, is partly up to nature and partly up to us, since we are the ones who have to use them.

But perhaps, as Dr. Davies complains, Plato is really dead and there are no timeless laws or truths. A handful of poet-physicists harkening for more contingent nonabsolutist laws not engraved in stone have tried to come up with prescriptions for what John Wheeler, a physicist from Princeton and the University of Texas in Austin, called “law without law.”

As one example, Lee Smolin, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, has invented a theory in which the laws of nature change with time. It envisions universes nested like Russian dolls inside black holes, which are spawned with slightly different characteristics each time around. But his theory lacks a meta law that would prescribe how and why the laws change from generation to generation.

Holger Bech Nielsen, a Danish physicist at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and one of the early pioneers of string theory, has for a long time pursued a project he calls Random Dynamics, which tries to show how the laws of physics could evolve naturally from a more general notion he calls “world machinery.”

On his Web site, Random Dynamics, he writes, “The ambition of Random Dynamics is to ‘derive’ all the known physical laws as an almost unavoidable consequence of a random fundamental ‘world machinery.’”

Dr. Wheeler has suggested that the laws of nature could emerge “higgledy-piggledy” from primordial chaos, perhaps as a result of quantum uncertainty. It’s a notion known as “it from bit.” Following that logic, some physicists have suggested we should be looking not so much for the ultimate law as for the ultimate program..

Anton Zeilinger, a physicist and quantum trickster at the University of Vienna, and a fan of Dr. Wheeler’s idea, has speculated that reality is ultimately composed of information. He said recently that he suspected the universe was fundamentally unpredictable.

I love this idea of intrinsic randomness much for the same reason that I love the idea of natural selection in biology, because it and only it ensures that every possibility will be tried, every circumstance tested, every niche inhabited, every escape hatch explored. It’s a prescription for novelty, and what more could you ask for if you want to hatch a fecund universe?


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But too much fecundity can be a problem. Einstein hoped that the universe was unique: given a few deep principles, there would be only one consistent theory. So far Einstein’s dream has not been fulfilled.Cosmologists and physicists have recently found themselves confronted by the idea of the multiverse, with zillions of universes, each with different laws, occupying a vast realm known in the trade as the landscape.

In this case there is meta law — one law or equation, perhaps printable on a T-shirt — to rule them all. This prospective lord of the laws would be string theory, the alleged theory of everything, which apparently has 10500 solutions. Call it Einstein’s nightmare.

But it is soon for any Einsteinian to throw in his or her hand. Since cosmologists don’t know how the universe came into being, or even have a convincing theory, they have no way of addressing the conundrum of where the laws of nature come from or whether those laws are unique and inevitable or flaky as a leaf in the wind.

These kinds of speculation are fun, but they are not science, yet. “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds,” goes the saying attributed to Richard Feynman, the late Caltech Nobelist, and repeated by Dr. Weinberg.

Maybe both alternatives — Plato’s eternal stone tablet and Dr. Wheeler’s higgledy-piggledy process — will somehow turn out to be true. The dichotomy between forever and emergent might turn out to be as false eventually as the dichotomy between waves and particles as a description of light. Who knows?

The law of no law, of course, is still a law.

When I was young and still had all my brain cells I was a bridge fan, and one hand I once read about in the newspaper bridge column has stuck with me as a good metaphor for the plight of the scientist, or of the citizen cosmologist. The winning bidder had overbid his hand. When the dummy cards were laid, he realized that his only chance of making his contract was if his opponents’ cards were distributed just so.

He could have played defensively, to minimize his losses. Instead he played as if the cards were where they had to be. And he won.

We don’t know, and might never know, if science has overbid its hand. When in doubt, confronted with the complexities of the world, scientists have no choice but to play their cards as if they can win, as if the universe is indeed comprehensible. That is what they have been doing for more than 2,000 years, and they are still winning.

27472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: December 19, 2007, 10:20:32 AM
“Time magazine hasn’t announced its pick for ‘man of the year’ yet, but we certainly know ours: Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq and architect of the surge strategy that is turning the tide in the war. Petraeus formulated a brilliant counterinsurgency plan. He executed it with care and diligence. And when much of the country didn’t want to notice the security gains that the surge had wrought, he took the national media spotlight to defend his strategy and his honor. In all this, he was nothing less than masterly. When Petraues testified on Capitol Hill in early September, much of the media and the Left simply refused to believe that violence in Iraq was down... And the day Petraeus’s testimony began, ran its infamous ‘General Petraeus or General Betray Us?’ ad. It said that ‘every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed’; that Petraeus ‘is constantly at war with the facts’; and that the general ‘is cooking the books for the White House.’... Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped just short of calling him a liar, saying that to believe his report required ‘a willing suspension of disbelief.’ Less than a month later, however, Petraeus’s critics had been effectively silenced... That the surge has worked is no longer up for debate. On a trip to Iraq the week after Thanksgiving, even John Murtha stated flatly, ‘I think the surge is working.’... That Petraeus has achieved so much in such a short time despite the frustrations of Iraqi politics is a testament to his skill as a strategist and a leader of men. For making victory in Iraq look possible again, and for pulling a nation back from the brink of civil war, Petraeus deserves the praise and thanks of all Americans. With or without a Time cover, he is the man of the year.” —National Review
27473  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 19, 2007, 08:55:12 AM
IMHO our misguided War on Drugs has many costs-- one of which is a logic of kicking in people's doors on no-knock warrants lest the drugs be flushed.  In a free (hence armed) society, the potential for tragedy and clusterfcuk is obvious.

MINNEAPOLIS — With her six kids and husband tucked into bed, Yee Moua was watching TV in her living room just after midnight when she heard voices — faint at first, then louder. Then came the sound of a window shattering.
Moua bolted upstairs, where her husband, Vang Khang, grabbed his shotgun from a closet, knelt and fired a warning shot through his doorway as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He let loose with two more blasts. Twenty-two bullets were fired back at him, by the family's count.
Then things suddenly became clear.
"It's the police! Police!" his sons yelled.
Khang, a Hmong immigrant with shaky command of English, set down his gun, raised his hands and was soon on the ground, an officer's boot on his neck.
The gunmen, it turned out, were members of a police SWAT team that had raided the wrong address because of bad information from an informant — a mistake that some critics say happens all too frequently around the country and gets innocent people killed.
"I have six kids, and only one mistake almost took my kids' life," said Moua, 29. "We will never forget this." /**/
No one was hurt in the raid Sunday, conducted by a task force that fights drugs and gangs, though two police officers were hit by the shotgun blasts and narrowly escaped injury because they were wearing bulletproof vests.
Police apologized to the family and placed the seven officers on leave while it investigates what went wrong.
Such mistakes are a fact of police work, some experts said.
"Does going to the wrong address happen from time to time? Yes," said John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association in Doylestown, Pa. "Do you corroborate as best you can the information the informant gives you? Absolutely. But still from time to time mistakes are made."
One of the biggest botched raids in recent years happened in Atlanta in 2006, when police killed a 92-year-old woman in a hail of nearly 40 bullets after she fired a shot at what she thought were intruders. Police had gone to her house on a drug raid, but no drugs were found.
Prosecutors said that in obtaining a search warrant, Atlanta police falsely told a judge that an informant had confirmed drug dealing there. The scandal led to a shake-up in the department, two officers pleaded guilty to manslaughter and civil rights charges, and the city faces at least two lawsuits.
Reliable figures on the frequency of erroneous raids are hard to come by. Federal agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, said they do not keep track.
A study last year by the libertarian Cato Institute said: "Because of shoddy police work, over-reliance on informants, and other problems, each year hundreds of raids are conducted on the wrong addresses, bringing unnecessary terror and frightening confrontation to people never suspected of a crime."
Gnagey disputed the reliability of the research behind those figures, and said it is impossible to know whether they are too high or too low. He said no dependable estimates exist.
"Going to the wrong home is an extreme rarity," said Mark Robbins, a law enforcement professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. "It's just unfortunate that when it does, it often ends up in violent and even tragic incidents."
In the Minneapolis case, the nature of the tip and precisely what police were looking for were not disclosed; they have not released the search warrant. And it was not clear how far off the mark the informant was in supplying the address.
No charges were brought against Khang, a laid-off machine operator who lives in crime-ridden north Minneapolis. Khang used the shotgun for hunting, said his brother, Dao Khang. In Minnesota, no license is required to own a shotgun.
Khang, who speaks some English but used an interpreter during an interview, said he does not remember hearing any calls of "Police!" until his sons shouted. He said he would never knowingly shoot at officers.
"That's why I reacted the way I did, to protect my family and two sons," said Khang, 34, whose children are ages 3 to 15.
Lt. Amelia Huffman, a police spokeswoman, said the information in the search warrant came from a source who had been reliable in the past.
Huffman said officers who routinely work on drug and gang cases are trained to try to corroborate their information. As for why the process didn't work this time, "that's one of the things the internal investigation will go through in exhaustive detail," she said.
The Hmong are hill people from Laos who aided the CIA during the Vietnam War by fighting the Viet Cong. Hmong refugees began arriving in Minnesota in the late 1970s, and there are perhaps 60,000 Hmong in Minnesota today.
The Khang family is living with relatives until the house gets cleaned up. The raid left six windows broken and walls and ceilings pocked with pellet and bullet holes.
"The whole family is badly shaken and still trying to understand what happened," Moua said.

27474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: December 19, 2007, 08:31:32 AM
This Is Not Your Land Anymore
An outrageous story of eminent-domain abuse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The legal phrase "eminent domain" has become all too familiar to nonlawyers in recent years as the U.S. Supreme Court has gradually expanded the power of municipalities to condemn private property and seize it for "public" use--even if they just end up handing property over to another private party. The court's now infamous Kelo decision (2005) no doubt pleased the city fathers of New London, Conn., who had taken possession of some residential neighborhoods for the sake of private developers. But it outraged nearly everyone else, not least Susette Kelo, the plaintiff whose home was coveted.

Outrage, appropriately, is the sustained effect of Carla Main's "Bulldozed," the case study of another instance of eminent-domain abuse, this time in the working-class town of Freeport, Texas (pop. 13,500), on the Gulf coast. Six years ago, after decades of decline, Freeport decided to revitalize itself by building a private marina on the Old Brazos River, which runs through the center of town. City leaders hoped that the development would attract hotels, restaurants, art galleries and tourists. But to make it all happen, they needed the land of a local family business. "Bulldozed" tells the story of a fight over domain, eminent and otherwise.

Ms. Main begins with the members of the Gore family, whose shrimping business has operated in Freeport since the 1940s. They own 330 feet of riverfront land, where shrimp boats dock and unload, and a state-of-the-art processing plant nearby. The family's company, called Western Seafood, employs more than 50 people and pays Freeport nearly $20,000 in taxes every year. Not that such good citizenry was enough to shield the company from the hazards of municipal overreach.
In March 2002, a group of private investors, led by a man named H. Walker Royall, formed a company called Freeport Waterfront Properties. Six months later, consultants hired by the city released a redevelopment plan--and, amazingly, it recommended a private marina, just what Mr. Royall's investors had hoped for. The city did not open the marina project to competition; it just handed it over to Freeport Waterfront. Conveniently, Mr. Royall sat on the board of Sun Resorts, another company that the city selected, also without competition, this time to manage the marina once it was built.

The cozy arrangements didn't stop there. Freeport agreed to give the private investors $6 million in the form of a no-recourse loan. (The city's annual budget was $13 million.) It promised to cover their cost overruns with a loan of up to $400,000. It gave them a tax abatement. And it limited the investors' financial liability to $250,000 in cash, leaving the city on the hook for other cost overruns.

The only obstacle to this sweetheart deal was Western Seafood. It owned the land where Mr. Royall and his friends wanted to build. The city came up with a clever way around this problem. Claiming eminent domain, it proposed to take only part of the company's land--paying the Gores $260,000 in compensation. But the part the city officially wanted was riverfront land. Without it, Western Seafood wouldn't have access to its shrimpboats, and the "problem" of the rest of Western Seafood's land--expensive property, crowded with buildings and industrial equipment--would take care of itself. The city would get it virtually without paying for it.

The tale gets worse. Freeport was in a position to consider building a marina in the first place only because a "guillotine gate" in the river--insulating boats from hurricanes and storm surges--made Freeport a safe harbor. When the guillotine gate needed modernization several years ago, Ms. Main reports, the city didn't have the money for the $300,000 job. So the Gores gave the city a gift of $150,000. If they hadn't been so generous, the city never would have tried to take their land.

Ms. Main's legal background and reporting skills serve her well as she navigates the Gores' messy, twisting fight against city hall. Her tone is usually judicious, though not always. (Recounting one insincere proposal from the city to create a tiny buffer between Western Seafood and the marina, she exclaims: "Buffer, my ass!") From time to time, she steps away from Freeport to give a primer on eminent domain and the legal arguments surrounding the claims of municipalities on private land.
But "Bulldozed" is at heart a story about trouble in a small town, a sort of eminent-domain version of "In Cold Blood," although it lacks a satisfying conclusion. In 2003, the Gores and Freeport took one another to court and fought a long, rancorous battle. After a series of defeats, the family was seemingly victorious. Freeport abandoned its plan for a private marina--only to unveil a plan for a public marina that would also need much of the Gores' land. As "Bulldozed" closes, the two sides are heading back to the courthouse once more.

Mr. Last is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard. You can buy "Bulldozed" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.

27475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: December 19, 2007, 08:10:35 AM
"Strangers are welcome because there is room enough for them
all, and therefore the old Inhabitants are not jealous of them;
the Laws protect them sufficiently so that they have no need of
the Patronage of great Men; and every one will enjoy securely the
Profits of his Industry. But if he does not bring a Fortune with
him, he must work and be industrious to live."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Those Who Would Remove to America,
February 1784)

Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 977.
27476  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: December 19, 2007, 12:22:42 AM
Shogun and Ninja leave Chute Boxe
Team makes statement regarding fighters' departure

Shortly after published, first hand, the news regarding Murilo Ninja’s departure from Chute Boxe, the team from Curitiba released a briefing on its official site announcing that Mauricio Shogun to would be leaving the team.

“We regret very much the departure of Murilo and Mauricio Rua, they are fighters brought up in the team and left to start their own team in the USA. We’d like to remind them that the doors to Chute Boxe shall always be open for both of them and we wish them luck and success in their new endeavors,” stated Rudimar Fedrigo, who leads Chuteboxe along with Rafael Cordeiro.

Check out the bulletin first published early this afternoon on

After Wanderlei Silva and Andre Dida’s departure, Chute Boxe loses another one of its big stars. As ascertained by, Murilo Ninja, who submitted the Frenchman Xavier Foupa-Pokan at Cage Rage 24, on the first of the month, has called it quits with the team from Curitiba.

Ninja, along with his brother Mauricio Shogun, was a symbol of Chute Boxe for many years at Pride, when they displayed for the world aggressive muay thai, enchanting the Japanese and making the academy popular. Ninja will be back in the cage in March for EliteXC, the event in which he will fight for four more times, aside from disputing the Cage Rage belt this coming July.

“I left the academy. I’m putting together my own team, in Massachusetts, USA. I spoke with Rudimar (Fedrigo) on Friday, it was a friendly departure, no worries. It was better for me, my career is short and I don’t earn big purses, so I have to look out for what is best for me and my future. Next week I’ll take a better look at the details regarding my new team: Name, structure, those things. I don’t know about my brother, what I know is that I left,” said Ninja in finishing.
27477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: December 19, 2007, 12:13:42 AM
Iran: Wielding its Regained Nuclear Leverage

While the United States tries to downplay Russia's Dec. 17 announcement that nuclear fuel had been delivered to Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility, Iran is brimming with confidence and making announcements about domestic uranium enrichment activity and the construction of a second nuclear power plant. Tehran has regained -- and is keeping a firm grip on -- its nuclear bargaining chip to use in negotiations with Washington, but the Bush administration's patience could be wearing thin.


Iran has been oozing with confidence ever since Russia's Dec. 17 announcement that nuclear fuel had been delivered to Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility. After years of politically motivated delays, the Iranians finally got their hands on the key to making Bushehr operational -- and thus regained their nuclear leverage in negotiations with Washington after the recent National Intelligence Estimate essentially obliterated an Iranian nuclear weapons threat. The regained leverage lies in the unstated fact that an operational Bushehr can theoretically produce enough plutonium to make a small, crude plutonium bomb on a weekly basis if the Iranians decide to kick out inspectors and tinker with the reactor output.

Washington is doing everything in its power to downplay this latest development in Iran's nuclear saga, saying that since Russia has provided fuel (with appropriate International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards), Tehran has no reason to continue enrichment for civilian nuclear power. But the Iranians are milking the Bushehr fuel delivery for all it is worth, and in a flurry of statements Tehran is dramatically inflating the threat of its nuclear program for its own political gain.

Immediately following the Bushehr fuel delivery announcement, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief and Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh announced on state television that the Bushehr development would not stop Iran's uranium enrichment process, and that enrichment would continue at the Natanz plant in central Iran to provide enough nuclear fuel for local power plants. He went on to say that the 3,000 centrifuges allegedly operating at Natanz would be increased to 50,000. The next day, Iran announced that it had done an aerial survey of "generous amounts" of uranium deposits in central and southern Iran (although how one can spot uranium deposits from the air is a mystery).

Aghazadeh also announced Dec. 17 that Iran was building a 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in Darkhovein, south of the city of Ahvaz in the southwestern province of Khuzestan. Iran is claiming all components of this plant would be made by Iranian engineers. But while the Iranians have no doubt carefully watched Russian construction at Bushehr (and diligently taken notes), the construction of a large power generation reactor is a technically challenging undertaking that realistically requires a bit more engineering experience than looking over someone's shoulder. Even India -- a country far more advanced both in terms of an engineering base in general and nuclear experience in particular -- is still looking to Russia to build nuclear power generation facilities in its country. The Russians also strategically did not give the Iranians the benefit of learning how the reactor vessel for Bushehr was built. That crucial component was built near St. Petersburg and then shipped to Bushehr in November 2001, leaving Iran with the limited knowledge of how to insert an already-built vessel into the reactor design.

Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly had to import much of its hardware for uranium enrichment -- and that hardware, whether of domestic or foreign manufacture, does not yet appear to be of particularly high quality. That said, the reactors do not require as much fine machining precision as uranium enrichment does. The Russian light water VVER-1000 power unit design (a Russian acronym for water-cooled, water-moderated and with a roughly 1,000 megawatt capacity) now in place in Bushehr is a late Soviet design thought to be more forgiving than comparable Western designs in terms of functionality -- but without the full suite of safety features. Even if Iran lacks the capability to build this plant completely on its own, it can break ground and begin constructing the facilities whenever it wants and attempt to extract political benefits from that construction for years without making substantial forward progress with the actual reactor vessel design.

With the nuclear card back in its hand, Iran can afford to push the nuclear envelope with the United States to bolster its position in the Iraq negotiations. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Iranians seem to be dragging their feet in the talks and were likely the main impetus behind postponement of a meeting with U.S. officials in Baghdad that was scheduled to take place Dec. 18. While U.S. President George W. Bush's administration is exercising patience in dealing with Iran's nuclear stunts, that patience could soon wear thin, spelling trouble for a future settlement on Iraq.

The definition of a nuclear weapons program is highly subjective, as illustrated by the divergence in views between Israel and the United States over whether the production of fissile material represents a weapons program. The United States could easily manipulate the subjectivity of this nuclear debate for political purposes if Washington wanted to revitalize the threat of military action against the Islamic republic. A shift in the U.S. position on Iran's nuclear ambitions does not appear imminent, but it is certainly possible.

27478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Naval Power on: December 18, 2007, 04:23:03 PM
Why TR Claimed the Seas
December 18, 2007; Page A20
On Dec. 16, 1907, the 16 battleships of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet sailed from Hampton Roads, Va., on a 43,000-mile journey around the world. The occasion was immediately understood as Teddy Roosevelt's way of declaring that the United States, already an economic superpower, was also a military one. Unnoticed by most Americans, this past Sunday marked its centennial.

There is an enduring, bipartisan strain in American politics (think Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich) that wishes to forgo the military role. As wonderfully recounted by Jim Rasenberger in "America 1908," the voyage of the Great White Fleet, as it was popularly known, was energetically opposed by members of Congress, who sought to cut off its funding when it was halfway around the world. Sound familiar? Mark Twain considered the venture as further evidence that TR was "clearly insane . . . and insanest upon war and its supreme glories."

Teddy Roosevelt addresses sailors of the Great White Fleet, February 1909.
In fact, Roosevelt had sound strategic reasons for putting the fleet to sea. A year earlier, the British had commissioned their revolutionary Dreadnought battleship, setting off an arms race with Germany that helped set Europe on a course to World War I. Labor riots against Japanese immigrants in California had strained relations with Japan, whose dramatic naval victory over Russia at the battle of Tsushima had made the rest of the world keenly aware of this rising Asian power.

"Nearly every day fresh bulletins of sinister Japanese maneuvers appeared in the European and American press," writes Mr. Rasenberger, including rumors of thousands of Japanese troops disguised as Mexican peasants, "preparing to attack America." Roosevelt himself later explained that he had "become uncomfortably conscious of a very, very slight undertone of veiled truculence" from the Japanese. "It was time for a show down."

The voyage itself was fraught with risk. By shifting the bulk of America's naval might to the Pacific, Roosevelt left the Eastern seaboard largely undefended. Slight miscalculations on the first leg of the journey nearly left the fleet without enough coal to reach South America. The transit through the Straits of Magellan (the Panama Canal would not open until 1914) could have crippled any one of the ships and sunk the entire enterprise. There were serious worries the Japanese would sink the fleet at anchor in Yokohama. The fear was compounded by the discovery that the armor belt of the battleships, fully laden with men and stores, dropped several inches below the waterline.

The fears turned out to be misplaced. Journalists embedded in the fleet used primitive wireless devices to report rapturous public receptions everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Sydney to Marseilles. The fleet crowned itself in further glory when it provided disaster relief in Messina, Sicily, after a devastating earthquake. The tradition would live on in U.S. Navy relief operations, most recently in Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Perhaps the greatest surprise were the supposedly hostile Japanese, who greeted the visiting fleet with an honor guard of 16 companion battleships and crowds of Japanese waving American flags. "The Japanese nation," the mayor of Tokyo told Rear Adm. Charles Sperry, "asks you to convey the message that the Japanese believe that war between Japan and America would be a crime against the past, present and future of the two countries."

From the perspective of a half-century, the mayor's assurances may have seemed bitterly hollow, but the arrival of the American fleet was followed four years later by Japan's first real experience of democracy and two years after that with Japan's entry into World War I on the Allied side. Plainly, no similar impression was made by the fleet on the Europeans, and one wonders what might have been if Germany, which so consistently underrated American power, had had a closer look at it. A prewar "entangling alliance" between the U.S., Britain and France might also have dissuaded Berlin from marching toward the Marne.

Yet if there was a lesson here, it was lost to the U.S. during the interwar period. Just 13 years after the Great White Fleet returned to the U.S., it was physically scrapped under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, which set strict limits on the number and size of battleships the major powers could build and deploy. Only after Pearl Harbor and World War II did Americans really seem to learn the lesson that their position as a maritime power could not be wished away, and that their maritime interests could only be defended by a powerful Navy.

That remains no less true today, even as the Navy goes through something of an identity crisis. America's wars have become up-country affairs, and the big ships of our blue-water Navy are not quite adapted to brown-green waters where today's conflicts are likely to take place. John McCain, whose grandfather sailed with the fleet (and was among the officers pictured here listening to Roosevelt), recently complained to The Wall Street Journal about the huge cost overruns in the development of a new generation of so-called Littoral Combat Ships.

Whatever the procurement problems or tactical issues, a supremely powerful Navy is not a luxury the U.S. can safely dispense with. In September, ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy made their first-ever port calls in Germany, France, Britain and Italy, and Chinese admirals are frequent guests on American warships. "The Chinese Great White Fleet is not too far off on the horizon," says a senior Navy official in a recent conversation.

China's current rise, like America's a century ago, is not something anyone can stop. It can be steered. Making sure our vision for the Navy stays true to Teddy Roosevelt's is one way of ensuring the Chinese don't make the mistake of steering it our way.

• Write to
27479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: December 18, 2007, 04:16:32 PM
Turkey's Terror Problem Is Ours
December 18, 2007; Page A21

It's been nearly two months since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) sparked an international crisis with a major attack inside Turkey, and more than six weeks since President Bush promised Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington would aid Turkey's fight against terrorism. Heady talk of intelligence sharing and cooperation followed and, indeed, may have been a factor in this weekend's Turkish air strikes on PKK targets in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Yet at the same time the Bush administration -- more precisely its increasingly assertive State Department -- has embraced an ill-advised diplomatic strategy toward the PKK that will likely backfire on our long-standing NATO ally, and could serve to undermine what is left of President Bush's "global war on terrorism."

Rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, near the Turkish border in the remote village of Lewzhe, in northern Iraq, July 2007.
With 100,000 Turkish troops amassed alongside the Iraqi frontier, it is understandable that U.S. diplomats want to avert a military crisis. But, rather than take a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism, the State Department is counseling Turkey to offer political concessions. On Dec. 13, for example, State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Dell Dailey said, "We have not looked at a military solution as the solution to the PKK. Our preference is a political solution," both inside Iraqi Kurdistan and inside Turkey.

The desired political solution seems to be Iraqi Kurdish action to close down the safe haven on Iraqi soil in exchange for a general amnesty law in Turkey to forgive most PKK members and perhaps other Kurdish-language broadcasting and constitutional reforms as well.

Such a deal at this time would be cockeyed. Turkey has a legitimate grievance against both the PKK and Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. During its Oct. 21 attack on Turkish troops, PKK tactics mirrored those taught by U.S. Special Forces to Mr. Barzani's peshmerga fighters, suggesting its complicity in training terrorists. A diplomatic solution should not reward such behavior.

This needn't mean solely a military solution either. Rather, U.S. officials should threaten isolation and a cessation of all financial assistance until Mr. Barzani ceases his safe haven. Confronted with such demands since 2003, Mr. Barzani has always begged for more time, only to let his promises lag when the diplomatic spotlight passed.

It is trendy to seek "root causes" of terror and to discount terrorist ideology. For State Department officials who believe the PKK is just an outgrowth of inequality and discrimination in Turkey, a deal may seem logical. The group's ideology should negate such a compromise. The PKK has its roots in the revolutionary turmoil of the 1970s. Its leader, a university drop-out named Abdullah Öcalan, immersed himself in the Marxism and Maoism fashionable among intellectuals of the day and became a committed revolutionary. Cloaking himself in Kurdish nationalism, Öcalan's first target was not the Turkish military, but rather nonviolent Kurdish civil rights groups.

In August 1984, the PKK launched an insurgency in southeastern Turkey. Like Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, it targeted the educated and modern. PKK terrorists executed school teachers for being public servants. PKK gangs burned medical clinics and murdered their staff. Health care collapsed. As al Qaeda would do two decades later in Iraq, the PKK destroyed critical infrastructure to drive a wedge between the state and the local population. Before ending in 1997, the PKK campaign claimed 30,000 lives, the majority ethnic Kurds killed by the PKK itself.

The terror campaign ended not with political concession, but coercion: Turkey threatened to expand its military campaign to Syria, which sheltered the PKK. As the Turkish military mobilized along Syria's frontier, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad blinked and order the PKK out. Öcalan sought Greek protection. Rather than try to negotiate compromise with a terrorist, U.S. forces took a no-nonsense approach. U.S. (and Israeli) intelligence tipped Ankara off to Öcalan's whereabouts. On Feb. 16, 1999, Turkish Special Forces captured the PKK leader outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. Today, Öcalan serves his life sentence time on the prison island of Imrali, but controls his organization through trusted lieutenants.

Every time the PKK finds a safe haven, it renews violence. Iran briefly sheltered PKK fighters after their expulsion from Syria. No sooner had the PKK established camps than it restarted its terrorism. Turkey responded by bombing both PKK targets and Iranian Revolutionary Guards posts around the Iranian town of Piranshahr. While Tehran seldom takes diplomatic demarches or deals seriously, faced with a military red-line, the ayatollahs, too, backed down. No U.S. official, obviously, counseled that Turkey should compromise.

And yet, in the name of diplomacy, the Bush administration now does. The White House validates Mr. Barzani's decision to play the terror card. For the State Department to accept Mr. Barzani's excuse -- that Kurdish solidarity prohibits a crackdown upon the PKK -- is naïve. Kurdish solidarity is an oxymoron. Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Barzani fought the group he now protects. His change of heart came after the Turkish parliament's 2003 decision not to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Overestimating the chill in U.S.-Turkish relations, he took a hard line against Ankara. As Turkey at the time offered amnesty to those rank-and-file PKK members without blood on their hands, Mr. Barzani welcomed the PKK leaders he once fought. Turkish authorities say they have photographs of senior PKK commanders receiving medical treatment in Erbil hospitals and meeting with Barzani associates in nearby restaurants. Last spring, Mr. Barzani threatened in an al-Arabiya television interview to unleash insurgency inside Turkey.

So as Mr. Barzani denies complicity in terrorism, he nevertheless seeks to leverage it into diplomatic gain. To link demands for Mr. Barzani to crack down with any Turkish political concession suggests that President Bush has learned nothing from his predecessors' failures. The Bush administration's strategy today mirrors the Clinton administration's approach to late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat, in which the State Department matched every empty Arafat promise with demands for good-faith concessions from Israel, the democracy he victimized. While Kurdish officials tell credulous diplomats that the PKK threat would disappear if only Ankara offered greater concessions, the opposite is true: Concessions fuel terror.

Any Turkish compromise prior to a complete disarmament and expulsion of PKK terrorists from northern Iraq could encourage Syria and its Lebanese proxies to demand concessions in exchange for insincere promises to cease terror support. Pakistan, too, may once again leverage its support and safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership into demands upon both Washington and Kabul.

Turkey has been a poor ally in recent years, but fighting terror requires alliances to trump politics. Every country has the right to defend its citizens from terrorism. Mr. Barzani may give silk carpets to diplomats, provide lavish spreads during their visits, and have his praises sung by high-powered Beltway lobbyists, but so long as he provides the PKK a safe haven, he is a terror enabler. Forcing Turkey to negotiate with the PKK or its intermediaries would only justify its terrorism, and would be no wiser than counseling compromise with Hezbollah, Hamas, or al Qaeda.

Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
27480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain on: December 18, 2007, 04:08:31 PM
A busy day on this thread!

Here's today's WSJ on McCain:

McCain's Surge
Why he's making a primary comeback.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Endorsing John McCain for President yesterday, Joseph Lieberman stressed that his Senate colleague would always elevate his country above his party. Coming from a man who was excommunicated by Democrats for his views on Iraq, this was a fitting sentiment--and it may also explain why Mr. McCain seems to be staging something of a primary resurgence.

As recently as January, Mr. McCain was the putative Republican favorite, but his support collapsed amid his campaign mismanagement and the GOP's immigration meltdown. Now primary voters seem prepared to give him a second look in an unstable race. Mike Huckabee has galloped to a lead in Iowa, bruising Mitt Romney, though without much scrutiny of the former Arkansas Governor's record. Fred Thompson has yet to offer a compelling rationale for his candidacy. Rudy Giuliani for a time defied political gravity based on his New York reform leadership, but he has been hurt by questions about his judgment and ethics.

Re-enter Mr. McCain, who is nothing if not a known GOP commodity. One of his problems has been that to some Republicans he is too well known. This is the John McCain who was adored by the media for opposing tax cuts, favoring limits on free speech as part of "campaign finance reform," and embracing a cap and trade regime for global warming. This is the John McCain who was also endorsed this weekend by the Des Moines Register and Boston Globe, two liberal papers that are sure to endorse a Democrat next year.

Our own differences with Mr. McCain have mainly been over economics, and especially taxes. Despite record surpluses in 2000, the Senator refused to propose tax cuts as part of his Presidential bid--one reason he lost to George W. Bush. He also opposed the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, often using the language of the left.
Mr. McCain paid a visit to our offices last Friday, and he now says he supports extending the Bush tax rates, even admitting they helped the economy emerge from recession. "Without a doubt. Without the slightest doubt," he told us. "Absolutely."

In a spirited exchange, Mr. McCain justified his previous opposition by arguing that there was no discipline on spending. "To the everlasting shame and embarrassment of the Republican Party and this Administration," he noted, "we went on a spending spree and we didn't pay for it." That's true enough, and in an ideal world tax cuts would be offset dollar-for-dollar by spending cuts.

But in practice Congress will never do so, which means Republicans are left to be tax collectors for the welfare state. The experience of the Reagan and Bush years is that tax cutting has its own economic benefits, and that revenues will rebound far more quickly than the critics claim. We asked Mr. McCain what he'd do when faced with a Democratic Congress that insists he raise taxes in 2009, and he replied that he'd say "No" and cite JFK's successful tax-cutting in the 1960s. This is intellectual progress, and we trust such McCain advisers as Phil Gramm and Tim Muris will conduct further tutorials.

More than economics, Mr. McCain has two main strengths in this GOP race: His record on national security, and the belief that he can reach enough non-Republicans to assemble a viable center-right coalition and defeat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in what could be a difficult GOP year. Mr. Lieberman's endorsement is notable because it reinforces both of those claims. Mr. Lieberman had to win GOP and independent voters to keep his Connecticut Senate seat after he lost the Democratic primary, and Mr. McCain won in New Hampshire in 2000 with the help of independents who could vote in the GOP primary. He'll need their support again this year.

The two men have also been stalwarts on Iraq, even when it became unpopular, and despite paying a political price for it. Mr. McCain also argued persuasively for the changes in strategy now known as the surge. In his Friday visit with us, the Senator spoke with authority on all manner of foreign policy. He is a hawk in the Reagan mold on Iran, the larger Middle East and overall defense spending.
Our guess is that this national security record is the main reason for his own political surge. With the success of General David Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, even some conservatives have taken to arguing that foreign and military policy will become less important in 2008. We doubt it. This is still a post-9/11 country, and voters know they will be electing a Commander in Chief in a world that is as dangerous as it was during the height of the Cold War. In an election against any Democrat next year, Mr. McCain would have little trouble winning the security debate.

27481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 18, 2007, 01:30:09 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The U.S.-Iranian Dance

The Russians said on Monday they have delivered their first fuel shipment to the Iranian power plant at Bushehr. This fulfills a long-standing Russian agreement with Iran, which was reaffirmed at the meeting of Caspian Sea nations held in Tehran in October. The same day, U.S. President George W. Bush said at a press conference, without prompting, "If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich." A White House spokesman later said, "There is no doubt that Russia and the rest of the world want to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon." Monday's announcement provides one more avenue for the Iranians to make a strategic choice to suspend enrichment.

The Iranians also have said they will continue to enrich their own uranium. The Israelis have pointed to the uranium enrichment program as proof that the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon, saying enriched uranium constitutes the essence of a nuclear weapons program; Bush also focused on uranium enrichment.

If the intelligence community imposed the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Bush against his will, this would be the perfect time for him to reverse it. That the Iranians are continuing to enrich uranium in spite of Russia's decision could easily be construed as part of an Iranian weapons program. Bush so far has not done that. In fact, aside from assertions by others that the NIE blindsided him, there is no evidence whatever of it. Both Bush and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney publicly endorsed the NIE and no steps have been taken to reverse it. If the president had wanted to reverse it, this was the time to do so. He has not, at least not yet.

Apart from everything else, there is the basic assumption that enriching uranium constitutes a weapons program. Enriched uranium is a necessary condition for building one sort of device, but it is far from being a sufficient condition. As we have said before, there are multiple, non-nuclear technologies needed to build a weapon that can be mounted on a missile, attached to an aircraft or stowed in the hull of a ship. First the weapon must be miniaturized, which is far from easy to do. It then must be ruggedized to withstand the extraordinary stresses of delivery. For example, a nuclear weapon must be small enough to fit on a missile but rugged enough to withstand the high Gs of launch, vibration, vacuum and extreme temperatures -- not to mention moisture. These are not trivial technologies. It is the difference between having a device that can be exploded under special conditions, and one that can take out a city.

But the technology is not the key -- it simply is the analytic justification for Bush to support the NIE as he has, and to be much calmer with the Russian action and Iranian response than he would have been a few months ago. The key is to be found in a scheduled Dec. 18 meeting the Iranians postponed. The Iranians and Americans were supposed to meet in Baghdad to discuss security in Iraq. The United States is looking for reciprocity from the Iranians. So far it has not gotten it; on the contrary, the Iranians have been publicly uncooperative and truculent.

Bush has certain room to run with this strategy. But the more truculent the Iranians, the more he will be under pressure to revert to his prior position, which is that Iran has a nuclear program and is a danger to the world. The same rationale that allows the NIE to state that there is no nuclear program in spite of an enrichment program allows a reversal of a finding. The definition of a nuclear program is more than a little complex, and, as the NIE proves, is subject to reinterpretations depending on political necessity. Bush went with the redefinition expecting reciprocity on other issues from Iran. If it does not happen, he can again change course.
27482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: December 18, 2007, 12:43:52 PM
This could fit on any of a number of threads, but because the discs in question were being sold in the UK, I post it here:
27483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 18, 2007, 12:29:18 PM
Although I disagree with RP on War with Islamic Fascism (and that is a REALLY important disagreement) there is quite a bit I agree with him on-- and those too are REALLY important things.  (Trivia-- I voted for him when he ran for President on the Libertarian ticket)  Even though I won't be voting for him, I am very glad he is in the race and doing well.  He reminds us of our Founding Fathers and our Constitution.

Here's an endorsement he picked up yesterday.

"At one end of the character scale, you have the sickening sight of Mitt Romney, a hollow shell of cynicism and salesmanship, recrafted to appeal to a base he studied the way Bain consultants assess a company. [Ron] Paul and [John] McCain are at the other end. They have both said things to GOP audiences that they knew would offend. They have stuck with their positions despite unpopularity. They're not saints, but they believe what they say. Both have also taken a stand against the cancerous and deeply un-American torture and detention regime constructed by Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. In my book, that counts.... [Ron Paul] is the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds. And in a primary campaign where the very future of conservatism is at stake, that cannot be ignored. In fact, it demands support" -- blogger Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, on why he is endorsing Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination.
27484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; John Adams on: December 18, 2007, 11:50:31 AM
"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails
in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as
only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things
will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real
disposition of human nature; it is what neither the honorable
member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortunate that
awaits our State constitution, as well as all others."

-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
June 1788)

Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 26.


This one by John Adams I think particularly profound:

"We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." John Adams
27485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 18, 2007, 11:36:58 AM
Don't Have a Cow, Man
With her aura of inevitability diminishing, Hillary Clinton is resorting to ever more degrading campaign methods, the Associated Press reports from Dunlap, Iowa:

Standing atop a stage in a livestock auction barn, [Mrs.] Clinton likened the experience to her quest to woo undecided voters in the closing days before Iowa's pivotal caucuses.

"I've been to cattle barns before and sales before, in Arkansas, but I've never felt like I was the one that was being bid on,'' Clinton told a crowd in western Iowa. ''I know you're going to inspect me. You can look inside my mouth if you want. I hope by the end of my time with you I can make the case for my candidacy and to ask you to consider caucusing for me.''
27486  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: December 18, 2007, 11:27:25 AM
Pretty good!
27487  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Bolivia on: December 17, 2007, 10:33:55 PM
Bolivia: Unrest and the Threat to Exports
December 17, 2007 15 58  GMT


Bolivia is locked in a struggle for its future between its largely indigenous western highlands and the more Europeanized lowlands. The turmoil threatens all three of its main export sectors in varying degrees.


The struggle between Bolivia's highlands and lowlands threatens to disrupt all three of its main export sectors -- some more than others.

President Evo Morales' center of power lies in the eastern highlands, which are populated by indigenous people who make up roughly two-thirds of the country's population. The opposition's power base lies in the western lowlands. The lowlanders, who are largely of European descent, generate more than two-thirds of the Bolivia's wealth, although they only make up about one-third of the population.

Nearly all of the country's exports are generated in the lowlands; the exports fall into three categories. First are Bolivia's natural gas exports, which are transported via two pipelines. One pipeline supplies Brazil exclusively, while the second supplies Argentina and Chile. Second are various minerals, largely zinc, iron ore and tin. Third are agricultural products -- mostly soybeans -- that are sent to the nations of South America's southern cone. Most of the highland population practices subsistence farming, and Bolivia is actually a net importer of foodstuffs despite the lowland soybean exports.

The ongoing instability in Bolivia's political system could disrupt all of these export sectors. The least vulnerable of the three categories, ironically, is the mines. While most of the mines are located in the highlands, where various indigenous protests regularly interrupt shipments, the mines are not the subject of the political dispute. Operations there might not be ideal, but there is no change on the horizon, no matter how far things degrade in the highland-lowland equation.

Natural gas falls in the middle in terms of risk. Morales' constitutional reforms aim to harness most natural gas export income for the central government -- something that would disenfranchise the lowlands economically. While no one in Bolivia wants to see the natural gas flows stop, nearly all of the country's natural gas fields are precisely where the highlands slope down into the lowlands -- exactly where the two sides would clash if the situation degrades into fighting. Such a shift would threaten exports to all three of the southern cone states equally. Bolivia exports 2.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to Argentina -- with some of that flowing on to Chile -- and has the capacity to ship 10 billion cubic meters annually to Brazil, although Brazil typically imports only about half of that amount.

In the long term, however, while disruption is a looming probability, whoever ends up on top will still have an interest in exporting the natural gas. The real question for Bolivian energy is, will anyone still want it? All three southern cone states are making efforts to eliminate their need for Bolivian natural gas -- not only because of the political chaos, but also because of Morales' recent nationalization of the energy sector. Of the three, Argentina is the furthest from success.

Bolivia's political instability threatens its agricultural exports the most. These exports are generated almost exclusively in the lowlands. One part of Morales' constitutional changes would launch a land reform. That would break up the large farms of the lowlands and redistribute the land to the indigenous population in small plots, a process that would likely eliminate most exports.

27488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Coming Dhimmitude on: December 17, 2007, 10:30:19 PM
Katherine Kersten: Normandale's 'meditation room' is home to a single faith

By Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
Last update: December 16, 2007 - 8:53 PM

Last week, I visited a Muslim place of worship. A schedule for Islam's five daily prayers was posted at the entrance, near a sign requesting that shoes be removed. Inside, a barrier divided men's and women's prayer space, an arrow informed worshippers of the direction of Mecca, and literature urged women to cover their faces.
Sound like a mosque?
The place I'm describing is the "meditation room" at Normandale Community College, a 9,200-student public institution in Bloomington.

Until recently, the room was the school's only usable racquetball court. College administrators converted the court into a meditation room when construction forced closure of the previous meditation room.
A row of chest-high barriers splits the room into sex-segregated sections. In the smaller, enclosed area for women sits a pile of shawls and head-coverings. Literature titled "Hijaab [covering] and Modesty" was prominently placed there, instructing women on proper Islamic behavior.
They should cover their faces and stay at home, it said, and their speech should not "be such that it is heard."
"Enter into Islaam completely and accept all the rulings of Islaam," the tract read in part. "It should not be that you accept what entertains your desires and leave what opposes your desires; this is from the manners of the Jews."
"[T]he Jews and the Christians" are described as "the enemies of Allaah's religion." The document adds: "Remember that you will never succeed while you follow these people."
A poster on the room's door advertised a local lecture on "marriage from an Islamic perspective," with "useful tips for marital harmony from the Prophet's ... life." Other fliers invited students to join the Normandale Islamic Forum, or participate in Ramadan celebrations.
One thing was missing from the meditation room: evidence of any faith but Islam. No Bible, no crucifix, no Torah.

Normandale's administration is facilitating the room's Islamization. The college's building crew erected the barrier separating men's and women's sections, according to Ralph Anderson, dean of student affairs. College officials also posted signs at the room's entrance asking students to remove shoes -- a Muslim custom before prayers. This was "basically a courtesy to Muslim students," Anderson said.

Despite the room's Islamic atmosphere, Anderson says it "is open to everyone."

Why is the meditation room segregated by sex? "Muslim students prefer that areas be divided into male and female," he said. "Other students don't care."
Doesn't sex-segregation present a constitutional problem in a public educational institution? "I don't want to comment on that," he said.
And the literature regarding Jews and Christians? "I would probably take it out if I knew it was in there," said Anderson.
Normandale's zealous effort to accommodate Muslim students is not new. Chad Lunaas, a former student who works at the college part time, cites examples.
Last year on Fridays, he says, he often entered the bathroom to find that "every sink and toilet stall had someone washing his feet." Other students couldn't use the bathroom at these times, and those who tried felt awkward.
Lunaas finally expressed his concerns to a Muslim student who "seemed to be in charge."
"His attitude was, 'We don't have to listen to you, we can do whatever we want,' " he said.
Confrontations also erupted in the sex-segregated meditation room, according to Lunaas. "Muslim students just took it over. They made people who were not of the Muslim religion feel very uncomfortable, especially if they were female."
One female student tried to use the room when Muslim students were in it, said Lunaas. "She believed she should be treated equally. They were telling her to leave, to take off her shoes, to go to the other side of the divider."
Anderson says he met several times with concerned students. But "the whole thing was just basically swept aside," according to Lunaas.
Anderson said that in the incident involving the young woman, "both sides were probably out of line."
Howard Odor, who advises the college's Somali Student Association, said he has not been aware of "any issues" since the meditation room has been in the racquetball court. "I can guarantee that college policy is that anyone who wants to go in there and pray or meditate can do so."
But many at the college see a bigger issue.
"For all practical purposes, this meditation room is essentially a Muslim prayer room," said Chuck Chalberg of Normandale's history faculty. "Something this unprecedented goes beyond religious toleration."

Katherine Kersten • Join the conversation at my blog, Think Again, which can be found at
27489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can we actually be up to something intelligent? on: December 17, 2007, 02:43:05 PM

IRAN: Russia's first shipment of fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant gives Iran one more reason to suspend its uranium enrichment program, a White House spokesman said. He added that if Iran is getting fuel from Russia, it does not need its own program.
27490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: December 17, 2007, 02:41:24 PM

LEBANON: A senior Iranian intelligence officer arrived in Lebanon the week of Dec. 9, and Imad Mughniyye, Hezbollah official in charge of foreign operations, is accompanying the officer to his meetings there, Stratfor sources said Dec. 16. The two have held continuous talks with Hezbollah foreign operations officers in meetings attended by Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa. They later traveled to the town of Nabi Sheit in the northern Biqaa, then met with Syrian intelligence officers led by Brig. Gen. Ali Diab in Hezbollah training grounds in Shara near the border village of Janta.
27491  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 17, 2007, 01:46:27 PM
Andy and a couple of his English buddies while they were in town to train at the Inosanto Academy fought with Top Dog and me in the early 90s.  IIRC it was Andy (or Phil?) who became the UK champion in the TV show "The Gladiators" or something like that , , ,
27492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Parenting Issues on: December 17, 2007, 12:13:52 PM
12 Ways to Make Your Kids Financially Savvy
December 17, 2007; Page R1

Ten years after I am dead and gone, I suspect only two people will give much thought to me, and their names are Henry and Hannah.

They're my legacy, so I hope they thrive -- and I sure hope they remember me fondly.

Henry and Hannah are, of course, my children, now ages 15 and 19, respectively. Like any parent, I spend a lot of time thinking about my kids, including how I can best help them financially.  This isn't simply about coughing up dollars and cents, though the sums involved have been frighteningly large. Rather, what it's really about is passing along values.  Yes, I want my kids to be financially successful. But mostly, I want them to be competent, contented managers of their own money, so they don't spend their lives agonizing over their finances and dogged by foolish mistakes.

I am not claiming to have the road map for every parent. We all have different values, different incomes and strong ideas about how best to raise children -- and you will likely scoff at some of the things I've done. With that caveat, here are a dozen ways I have endeavored to help my kids financially.


If children are to grow up to be successful savers and investors, they need to learn two key skills: How to delay gratification and how to take risks prudently. The first is easily the most important. Indeed, the self-control needed to delay gratification is associated not only with good saving habits, but also with things like succeeding in school and coping better with frustration and stress.  Yet this isn't an easy skill to teach. Henry and Hannah grew up spending their parents' cash, so they didn't have much incentive to curb their desires. My response? Make them feel like they're spending their own money.

One of my early tricks was the soda game, which I learned about from a reader. When my children   were young and we went to restaurants, I would give them a choice: They could have a soda or they could have $1.  Henry and Hannah ended up drinking a lot of water.


Emboldened by the soda game's success, I looked for other ways to apply the same notion. The breakthrough came when Hannah was 14 and Henry was 10. That was when I opened a savings account for each of them. The accounts came with a cash-machine card.  Every three months since then, I have deposited pocket money for them in their savings accounts and, as they have grown older, their clothing allowance as well. That way, they've had to learn to budget for a three-month period. More important, they no longer ask me for money.  Instead, if they want to buy something, they have to ask themselves. The effect has been startling. Henry and Hannah almost immediately became more careful spenders.

Sound manipulative? You'd better believe it. But I also think of it as financial self-defense. Suppose Henry and Hannah don't learn good money skills and grow up to be financial deadbeats. If they ended up deeply in debt, I can't imagine not helping -- at which point their financial problems would be mine.


I haven't just molded Henry and Hannah with financial incentives. I have also used family stories.

Values are passed down to our children in the stories we tell. My children may live in an affluent household in an affluent town. But I want them to know that their mother and I struggled financially, and that they will likely have their own struggles. So I talk about the mouse- and cockroach-infested Brooklyn apartment where we all lived while their mother worked on her Ph.D. and we squeaked by on a junior reporter's salary. I tell them about the beaten-up '76 Camaro that used to stall if the traffic light stayed red too long. I recount taking them as toddlers to the "toy museum," otherwise known as FAO Schwarz, where we would play with the dolls and the trains but never buy.

Instead of regaling my children with these tales, I could simply lecture them about the virtues of thrift. But the stories pack far more punch.


I have also encouraged my kids to be suspicious of displays of opulence, whether it's the big house, the fancy car or the designer clothes. The fact is, this sort of spending doesn't lead to lasting happiness, but it can create a heap of financial stress.

In belittling conspicuous consumption, I may be a little too strident, but there's a reason. Henry and Hannah may have grown up hearing about the dilapidated Brooklyn apartment. But I grew up hearing a far more powerful story, about my maternal grandfather and his four siblings, who in the 1940s each inherited what today would be millions of dollars. My grandfather's siblings quickly blew the money on fast cars and high living. My grandfather blew his money more slowly, on horses and cattle farming. Either way, the great family fortune was gone, and reckless spending was largely to blame.


When my children were young, I opened a variable annuity for each of them. This isn't a product I particularly like, because many have outrageously high annual expenses and charge back-end sales commissions if you sell within, say, the first seven years.

Still, there are a few no-load variable annuities with low annual expenses, notably the offerings from Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group. Moreover, unlike with an individual retirement account, you don't need earned income to fund a variable annuity, so you can open an account for a toddler. Today, my kids' low-cost variable annuities are each worth some $37,000.

I have long been captivated by the idea of starting Henry and Hannah on the road to retirement. Think about it: The dollars I invested when they were youngsters might enjoy six decades of tax-deferred compounding. That's enough to turn $1 into over $100, assuming an 8% annual return. And thanks to the tax penalty on early withdrawals, my children will be discouraged from touching the money before they are 59½.


There are far better investment vehicles than a variable annuity, and my chance came a few years ago. Hannah got a job at a local restaurant, which meant she had earned income. That allowed me to open a Roth individual retirement account for her, which will give Hannah tax-free growth.

Instead, I could have funded a regular IRA, where withdrawals are taxable but you get an initial tax deduction. That tax deduction, however, wouldn't have been worth much, given Hannah's low tax rate, so the Roth seemed like a better bet.

The money I've stashed in my kids' variable annuities and in Hannah's Roth IRA won't be nearly enough to pay for their retirement, especially once you figure in inflation. But fully funding their retirement was never my aim. Rather, the accounts are intended to be a powerful example, showing my children how money will grow if they are willing to sit quietly with a diverse collection of low-cost funds.


When I bought my first home, my parents helped me financially, and I want to do the same for my kids. To that end, I have invested $15,000 for each of them.  Even with a decade or more of growth, that $15,000 probably won't be nearly enough for a 20% down payment. But it will give them something to build on.  I stashed Hannah's $15,000 in a target-date mutual fund that's geared toward 2010, while Henry's money is in a 2015 fund. I bought those funds knowing my kids probably won't buy homes until five or 10 years after those dates.

My thinking: Target-date funds typically have around half their money in stocks as of their target date, and then they continue to become more conservative in the years that follow. By the time my kids need their down-payment money, their target-date funds should be largely invested in bonds.


When my kids buy a house, they won't just need a down payment. They will also want to have a good credit score. 
With that in mind, I listed Hannah as a joint account holder on my Visa card earlier this year. That meant the card's credit history was added to her previously blank credit report.  Suddenly, she looked like a model financial citizen. That allowed her, a few months later, to apply for a Discover card on her own. I now have her on a strict regimen, where she charges a small sum each month and dutifully pays it off, thus slowly building up a good credit score.

When Henry reaches college age, I will go through the same nonsense with him. This, alas, is necessary nonsense. The reality is, a good credit score will help my kids get a lower mortgage rate, lower insurance premiums and a host of other financial benefits.


Full disclosure: I am divorced. But even before my marriage broke up, I was horrified by the way many families blow $20,000 or $30,000 on a single day of celebration for a wedding.  To put such spending in context, consider this: According to the Federal Reserve's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, more than 96% of households headed by someone 65 to 74 had some savings -- but the median value of these financial assets, including things like checking accounts, stocks and mutual funds, was just $36,100.
Spending $30,000 on a party is not one of my values, and I've made sure my kids know it. I have told them I will give them $5,000 toward a wedding or at age 30, whichever comes first. What if they want the $30,000 wedding? They can ask their mother.


While an expensive wedding is low on my list of priorities, a good education ranks near the top. My ex-wife and I long ago agreed that we would pay the full cost of our children's undergraduate education. Again, this was something my parents did for me, and we all tend to be heavily influenced by our parents' behavior.

There is, however, a limit to my generosity. I have told Henry and Hannah that, if they want to go on to graduate school, they will have to take out loans. I may relent somewhat when the time comes. But I think that there should be some cost to staying in school, so I am not inclined to continue footing the full tab.


As you might gather, I have talked to my kids a fair amount about money. They know they will graduate college debt-free, they will get some help toward a house down payment and they will receive just $5,000 toward a wedding. They know about the retirement accounts. I have also promised them $5,000 upon graduating college, to get them started in the world.

No doubt some folks will think I'm overly generous, while others might consider me cheap. Many will question my priorities. For instance, folks have told me that they would have skipped the retirement accounts and allocated more toward a house down payment.  But, frankly, the precise sums aren't that important. Instead, what I am striving to do is set expectations. By detailing everything to Henry and Hannah, I have made it clear where I think my financial responsibility ends and where theirs will begin.


Along the way, I have also endeavored to teach my kids about sensible investing. It's been a slow process.

For instance, earlier this decade, I tried a family investment contest. We all picked a mutual fund, I invested $50 a month in each and then we tracked who fared best. I thought the competition would grab their interest, but it wasn't a great success. Maybe Henry and Hannah were too young.  Indeed, I have continued to show them their mutual-fund statements as they arrive in the mail, and my kids have grown more interested as they have grown older. They have also become more curious about the financial markets, and I can now chat about investing for at least 30 seconds before they reach for their iPods.

I hope enough of this will stick, and they will grow up to be prudent managers of their own money. The potential savings are huge. A financial adviser might charge 1% of a portfolio's value each year, and then recommend mutual funds that cost another 1%. What if my children learn to build their own index-fund portfolios that cost a mere 0.2% a year? When their portfolios hit $1 million, they will pay just $2,000 a year in investment costs, instead of the $20,000 they would be paying if they used an adviser. And, with any luck, they will remember whom to thank.

--Mr. Clements, who is based in New York, writes the Getting Going column for The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at

27493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 17, 2007, 08:55:48 AM
Money Illusions
December 17, 2007; Page A20
Groucho Marx once asked, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" Too bad Groucho doesn't work at either the Federal Reserve or on Wall Street, where economists have been predicting that slower economic growth would lead to a slowdown in inflation. They should have believed their own eyes.

As any American who has shopped for groceries or gasoline can tell you, prices are rising. That was confirmed last Friday in the official figures for November, with overall consumer prices jumping 0.8% from a month earlier. That was the largest monthly gain in two years, and 4.3% higher than a year ago. The report for producer prices was equally as alarming a day earlier, rising 3.2%. The producer price index is up 7.7% in the past 12 months, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Some analysts continue to ignore all this and focus on so-called "core" inflation, which excludes food and energy. That is cold comfort to Americans who devote increasingly larger chunks of their monthly budget to -- food and energy. One lesson of the past few years is that relying too much on core inflation data, as the Fed has done until recently, can be a dangerous mistake. We couldn't help but notice that former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, a longtime "core" watcher, was quoted last week as saying it is now a less reliable guide to monetary policy.

Not surprisingly, equity markets fell Friday on the inflation news -- the same markets that only a week earlier had been begging for easier money from the Fed. Anyone who recalls the 1970s understands that inflation is very bad for stocks in general, though of course price-sensitive shares like commodities can do very well for a while. If nothing else, the inflation figures should remind us that there is no free lunch for Wall Street in continuing its cheerleading for easier money.

It should also remind us once again that inflation doesn't rise or fall along with economic growth. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon and reflects the supply and demand for currency created by central banks. We learned in the 1970s that rising prices can co-exist with slower growth, and we learned in the 1980s, or should have, that rapid growth can co-exist with falling levels of inflation.

Those are lessons too many people seem to have forgotten this decade, which is why the Fed now has both less credibility and less leeway to ease money amid the housing recession and mortgage mess. If politicians want to help the economy, they'll stop relying on the monetary delusion and instead focus on fiscal policy -- specifically, a tax cut.

27494  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamismo radical y España on: December 17, 2007, 08:06:53 AM
Con la bajisima taza de nacimiento por Espanoles en Espana (tengo entendido que es alredor de 1.2  shocked shocked shocked ) es dificil ver como el pais puede sobrevivir como un pais del oeste.
27495  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: December 17, 2007, 08:03:02 AM
Stung in Miami
December 17, 2007; Page A20

Argentina isn't conscientious about paying its debts, but maybe that's about to change under freshly inaugurated President Cristina Kirchner. Two news items that broke last week suggest that her government may be running a hefty tab with President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and is earnestly trying to repay him.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged on Wednesday that Mrs. Kirchner's recent election campaign was the destination for $800,000 in cash shipped south in a suitcase from Mr. Chávez in August. If true, it would confirm what many Argentines have long suspected: that Argentina, under former President Nestor Kirchner and now his wife, has been leased out to the Venezuelan strongman in much the same way that Bolivia and Nicaragua have come under Mr. Chavez's influence.

This is grim not only for Argentine democracy. If members of the Organization of American States are indeed on Mr. Chávez's payroll, it would explain why the Washington-based multilateral organization, charged with defending democracy, has been so timid with the anti-democratic Venezuelan president.

It also raises questions about whether Mrs. Kirchner was acting in good faith last week when she met with Mr. Chávez's sworn enemy in South America, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, to discuss the plight of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and 44 others held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Mrs. Kirchner went on the offensive last week, charging that the U.S. sting operation was "garbage." But the feds may have the goods. Recall that the bagman carrying the $800,000 returned to his home in Florida after being released by the Argentine authorities. The U.S. attorney in Miami says that three Venezuelans and an Uruguayan acted as foreign agents when they traveled to the U.S. to try to silence him "in an effort to keep the lid on a burgeoning international scandal."

Given the nonchalance with which the smuggler approached his task, it is not hard to fathom that the transaction was considered routine by Venezuela and that he was only an unlucky one who got caught. The Argentine daily La Nación revealed last summer that Venezuelan aircraft and personnel regularly land and bypass customs inspections at Jorge Newberry Airport in Buenos Aires.

Mrs. Kirchner would owe Mr. Chávez a lot if he did indeed underwrite her campaign. So perhaps that explains the pro-Chávez attitude she took last Tuesday toward Colombia's hostage issue when she met with President Uribe in Buenos Aires. Rather than endorse the 1949 Geneva Convention and, as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet did recently, call for the FARC to immediately release its victims without conditions, Mrs. Kirchner pressured the Colombian head of state to be more forthcoming. In other words, she took the same line as Mr. Chávez and the FARC, insisting that Mr. Uribe is the barrier to progress.

Mrs. Kirchner may have domestic political reasons for avoiding the subject of the Geneva Convention. Her government -- and her husband's before her -- relies on allies, advisers and cabinet members who are former members of Argentine terror groups that made a living from kidnapping in the 1970s. If the FARC is guilty of violating the convention, so too are many kirchneristas.

If she has a debt with Mr. Chávez, she now has an additional motivation for trying to place blame on Mr. Uribe rather than the terrorists. Mr. Chávez makes no secret of his support for the FARC or his enmity for Mr. Uribe. The FARC leadership hangs out in Caracas and runs its drugs through Mr. Chávez's backyard. If he wanted to free the hostages for purely humanitarian reasons, he could have already done so. The guerrillas need passage through Venezuelan territory and could be brought to heel anytime Mr. Chávez wants.

Mr. Uribe may have made a big mistake by even considering a hostage negotiation with the FARC. The rebels have never suggested that they are interested in peace. They want to trade their "political" captives -- police, soldiers, politicians and three American contractors -- for a strategic gain that will enhance the efficiency of their narcotics and kidnapping businesses. In light of this reality, Mr. Uribe would have been better off sticking to a policy of no talks with terrorists.

But the Colombian government is under intense pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and hostage family members, so he gambled on opening a dialogue. He took an even bigger risk by agreeing to allow Mr. Chávez to act as a negotiator. The Venezuelan president almost immediately violated the ground rules by attempting to talk directly with the military. His goal was to secure the guerrillas' No. 1 demand, a new rebel territory guaranteed free of Colombian forces. Mr. Uribe promptly and wisely fired the Venezuelan "negotiator," but now he finds himself under renewed pressure from Mrs. Kirchner to do more to satisfy the demands of the narcotraffickers.

According to local news reports, in her meeting with Mr. Uribe, Mrs. Kirchner showed no appreciation of Colombia's latest concession to the FARC, to allow an internationally observed, demilitarized zone of 150 square kilometers for 30 days in order to exchange 500 FARC insurgents that the government holds for the hostages. The FARC has also ignored the offer.

Nor does the Argentine president seem interested in getting to the bottom of the "suitcase affair." Instead, an enraged Mrs. Kirchner went before television cameras last week and played the gender card. "This president may be a woman but she is not going to allow herself to be pressured," she said in reference to U.S. antipathy toward her friend, Mr. Chávez.

Her attitude can't be too comforting to Colombians, men or women, who live with the FARC terror that Mr. Chávez and now Mrs. Kirchner want to appease.

• Write to O'
27496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: December 17, 2007, 07:58:37 AM
The NY Times covers the AP.  Caveat Lector!

Case Lays Bare the Media’s Reliance on Iraqi Journalists
Published: December 17, 2007
Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi photographer who had a hand in The Associated Press’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize for photography before being jailed without charges by the United States military, finally had a day in court last week. But his story, which highlights the unprecedented role that Iraqis are playing in news coverage of the war, is really just beginning.

He was held for around 20 months by the military — in Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere, with no right to contest his detention —before being turned over to an Iraqi magistrate, who will act as a one-man grand jury and decide if there is enough evidence to link him to the insurgency. He has not been formally charged with a crime.

The Associated Press has staunchly defended Mr. Hussein, pointing out that his role as a journalist involved getting close to the insurgency. Over the last three years, the American military has held at least eight other Iraqi journalists for periods of weeks or month without charges and released them all, apparently unable to find ties to the insurgency, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent nonprofit organization.

As for Mr. Hussein and his lawyers, “they were not given a copy of the materials that were presented and which they need to prepare a defense,” The Associated Press said in a statement last week, noting that Mr. Hussein was still being detained without formal charges. “The Associated Press continues to believe that claims Bilal is involved with insurgent activities are false.”

A spokesman for the military said that Mr. Hussein had been detained as “an imperative security threat” and that he has persistently been “treated fairly, humanely and in accordance with all applicable law.”

In a lengthy e-mail message, the spokesman said that Mr. Hussein had been named by “sources” as having “possessed foreknowledge of an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) attack” on American and Iraqi forces, “that he was standing next to the I.E.D. triggerman at the time of the attempted attack, and that he conspired with the I.E.D. triggerman to synchronize his photograph with the explosion.”

The e-mail message did not say whether the photograph in question is the one that Mr. Hussein took in Falluja on Nov. 8, 2004, of Iraqi insurgents firing a mortar and small arms, which was among the 20 from The Associated Press that collectively won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography.

The military spokesman said further: “The Associated Press was informed that the sources had reported Mr. Hussein’s knowing and willing offer to provide a false Iraqi national identification card to an alleged sniper, whom Mr. Hussein knew was wanted” by the military, “in order to assist the sniper in eluding capture.”

For its part, The Associated Press hired a New York lawyer and former prosecutor, Paul Gardephe, to investigate the situation. He published a 46-page report that concluded “there is no evidence — in nearly a thousand photographs taken over the 20-month period — that his activities ever strayed from those of a legitimate journalist.” Mr. Gardephe was in Iraq last week defending Mr. Hussein.

The role of Iraqis as front-line reporters, and the dangers they face working for Western news organizations, is well known. In a few recent examples, in October a journalist for The Washington Post, Salih Saif Aldin, was shot dead in a Baghdad neighborhood rife with sectarian violence. That death occurred three months after a local journalist working for The New York Times was killed in the same area. Of the 124 journalists killed in Iraq since the war began, 102 have been Iraqi, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

And while Western journalists do depend on Iraqi freelancers, several news organizations, including The New York Times, continue to have resident correspondents who leave their compounds to report in Baghdad and beyond.

Several editors and reporters overseeing Iraqi coverage for Western news organizations said they worked hard to vet their local hires for sectarian and political ties that could slant their coverage, and offered extensive training in the rules of Western journalism. But there are no official background checks that can be conducted, as American and European companies routinely do when making domestic hires. Rather, news organizations try to get to know their prospective Iraqi hires in person and then judge them by the work they produce.

“A person is usually recommended by another journalist and brought in for an interview, and you sit down and have a long discussion with that person,” said John Daniszewski, The Associated Press’s international editor. “Like any job applicant in the states, people go through a probationary period. They are given lessons, it’s like an apprenticeship relationship.”

Mr. Daniszewski added, “When you are working side by side, you get to know the person, and if the person seems unreliable, or if you ever see someone not completely honest with you, he is out the door.”

Page 2 of 2)

The reporters and editors said that they often had to filter out obvious sectarian biases from news copy, and, as a matter of policy, would not run statistics like death counts from the field without official confirmation from the military. But, these journalists emphasized, there is a big difference between bias seeping into news copy and insurgents infiltrating news organizations.

According to The Associated Press, Mr. Hussein, a 36-year-old member of a prominent Falluja farming family, had a modest job history before the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq: he worked in a grocery store, an auto parts joint and handed out goods as part of a United Nations assistance program. Photography was his hobby, and an uncle had set up a darkroom for him.

When soldiers and journalists flooded into Falluja in April 2004, Mr. Hussein began working as a driver and helper for The Associated Press. “He said he always wanted to be a professional photographer,” Mr. Daniszewski said. “And we had a need there. We gave him training, equipment and he just did good work.” In April 2006, Mr. Hussein was detained in Ramadi by the United States military, which said it had evidence linking him to the insurgency, but did not press charges.

The situation has not dissuaded foreign news organizations from continuing to lean heavily on local stringers. “They’re essential,” said Marjorie Miller, the foreign editor of The Los Angeles Times. “We couldn’t do our job without them, more so than in any other war we’ve covered.”

David Schlesinger, the editor in chief of Reuters, said, “using local staff is something we do everywhere in the world. But it’s become so dangerous in Iraq, we’re even more dependent on local staff there than in other places.”

In any foreign outpost, Western news organizations rely on locals to get the job done, often as drivers or translators. “The reliance on local staff is nothing new, whether it be in the West Bank, or Gaza or other places,” said Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “News organizations know how to vet and scrutinize information.”

However, he said, Iraq “is the most dangerous conflict we’ve seen at C.P.J. in our 26 years. In Iraq, the ubiquity and scale of danger has really hampered the ability of journalists to gather news.”

Mr. Hussein is one of more than 24,000 individuals held by the American military worldwide, most in Iraq, according to statistics cited by The Associated Press. But not even the nudging of a giant Western news organization was enough keep him from spending 20 months behind bars without being formally charged with a crime.

“The Iraqi courts seem to be completely overwhelmed,” said Linda A. Malone, a law professor at the College of William and Mary who advised the Justice Department during the trial of Saddam Hussein. “There’s a tremendous backlog. That’s not to say this one might not be a priority. Hopefully that would be the case given the issue of journalistic freedom versus national security.”

27497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 17, 2007, 07:37:05 AM
"No government ought to be without censors & where the press is
free, no one ever will."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to George Washington, 9 September 1792)
27498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: FDA vs. medical freedom on: December 17, 2007, 07:36:09 AM
Stop the War on Drugs
December 17, 2007; Page A21

In December 2005, Eli Lilly & Co. pled guilty to a criminal indictment from the Bush Justice Department and paid $36 million in fines and "disgorgement" of its ill-gotten gains. The company's crime was mounting a concerted effort to inform doctors that, according to leading medical authorities, the firm's estrogen-modulating drug Evista substantially reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

The finding came from a series of landmark national studies, some eventually touted by government research. So why the criminal charge?

At the time Eli Lilly was conveying the cancer information to doctors, the Food and Drug Administration had approved Evista for treating osteoporosis, not preventing cancer. Only this past September -- eight years after the first significant cancer prevention results were published -- did the FDA approve Evista for use against breast cancer, turning Eli Lilly's speech "crime," by some measures, into a public service.

For patients and doctors who rely on the latest clinical information to make hard decisions, no relevant scientific discovery took place between the medical findings, the legal prosecution, and the FDA's approval of those same results. In fast moving fields like cancer, where doctors tailor treatments based on evidence that's constantly evolving, two years can be an eternity of waiting to learn about important science. For some patients, that interval can be fatal.

At issue is what's referred to as "off-label promotion" -- allegations that drug companies "encourage" doctors to use medicines for purposes not yet approved by FDA. These charges are applied even when the information drug firms are sharing is part of educational meetings, peer review journal articles or treatment guidelines issued by medical-specialty societies and government researchers.

The prosecutions are aimed at recouping federal money. The argument is that the medical community is goaded by the drug companies into filing "false claims" with the government, where hospitals and health plans charge Medicare and Medicaid for drugs used for unapproved indications.

Drug firms tend to settle these cases. Firms have good reason to cut a deal: If they fight and lose in court, they can be banned from doing any business with government programs like Medicare. At one time, prosecutions were aimed at a handful of bad actors who encouraged prescriptions for purposes far outside popular medical practice. But like a lot of government efforts, the scope of these prosecutions expanded to encompass a much broader slice of medical activity.

The Justice Department rarely alleges in these cases that the scientific information is false or misleading, only that a firm can be "ahead of the science" in sharing with doctors information about emerging uses of medicines, even when those new uses quickly become the mainstay of care. Underlying this, of course, is a nagging presumption that doctors can't be trusted to weigh for themselves this sort of medical information, and thus need the FDA's supervision.

This might be more tolerable in a world where the FDA rapidly adjudicates study results to decide what belongs in and out of drug labels. In reality, the FDA reserves 10 months to consider supplemental uses for marketed drugs, and the entire process usually is much longer. In many cases, doctors don't easily learn about these new drug uses, or get targeted education on prescribing, without the role of the drug firm that is the only deep-pocketed actor with an incentive to share this kind of information.

The Philadelphia U.S. Attorney's Office has waged a multiyear investigation into the biotech company Genentech. They are alleging that meetings the company sponsored for oncologists in the 1990s were illegal -- because Genentech shared information about unapproved uses for its drug Rituxan, used largely in the treatment of lymphoma. Never mind that the forms of lymphoma for which Rituxan was to be used were largely fatal, that some of those uses are now approved by the FDA, or that the education was based on findings from large studies, including one supported by the government. In fact, if you queried the National Cancer Institute's Web site -- even at the time when Genentech allegedly engaged in the illegal educational activity -- for advice on the best treatments for some of these same forms of lymphoma, the search returned "Rituxan."

"Off label" are now dirty words in conventional lexicon, made synonymous with lawbreaking as a result of these prosecutions, even though these words describe the way more than half of cancer medicine is practiced. It is true that some off-label drug use is based on very unsettled science and has more risks. But medicine -- and not just cancer care -- involves lots of hard choices. And the more serious the disorder, often the more likely it is that for every right and wrong treatment choice there are many other practical decisions painted in shades of gray. Efforts to confine patients and doctors to FDA-approved uses have their own health consequences, raising the question: Just who is in the best position to make these hard choices?

The travails of another Genentech drug, the breast-cancer medicine Herceptin, demonstrate the health consequences of these prosecutions. Herceptin was widely used in advanced breast cancers for years, and recently it was found to cut recurrence by about half in some patients with earlier-stage tumors. The results were first published early in 2005, and the new use was approved by the FDA in late 2006. The wider use of Herceptin will save lives, but doctors didn't embrace it right away.

Herceptin prescriptions spiked when the study was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine, only to tail off before spiking again at the time of FDA approval. Those early adopters were probably familiar with the drug and the findings, perhaps through practicing in busy academic centers. Some of the late adopters might have been reluctant to take up the new use without the benefit of targeted education. You can bet that folks at Genentech, living under the thumb of the Philadelphia U.S. attorney, weren't about to talk up the landmark findings.

The use of Herceptin in early-stage breast cancers was roughly half what you'd expect for the almost two years between publication of the study's findings and the FDA nod. It's hard to deny that some of those Herceptin-eligible women who didn't get the drug are now unnecessarily doomed.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey could add to the staff manual for his attorneys a requirement that they merely check with a public health authority like the National Institutes of Health to see if a certain "off-label" use falls within the scope of appropriate medical care before waging a legal war. Even that may be a hard sell in Washington, where prosecutions are pursued on the basis of how much money they can recoup.

This month Rep. Henry Waxman took umbrage at a copy of a draft FDA guidance (he leaked it himself) saying that, as a public health matter, the FDA found it appropriate for drug firms to share study reprints from peer reviewed medical journals. Drug firms are persona non grata in Washington, a result of the industry's own excesses, but also of a lot of political targeting. The result is an anything-that-bashes-pharma goes mentality in policy making.

Politicians wage broad wars on medicine to claim thin strips of ideological terrain. This would be good political theater if there weren't so many human victims.

Dr. Gottlieb, a practicing physician and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was deputy commissioner of the FDA from 2005 to 2007.

27499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 17, 2007, 07:30:15 AM
U.N. Budget Boom
December 17, 2007; Page A20
Most of our readers probably wouldn't mind working for an outfit whose budget is slated to expand by 25% next year. But then again, most of our readers don't work for the United Nations.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's proposed "initial" budget for 2008-09 is $4.2 billion, a mere 15% increase over the Secretariat's current budget. Oops, make that $4.8 billion, which includes the "add ons" the Secretary General has already identified. But even that's not the final final figure. The U.N. budget is released piece by piece -- how convenient -- and the U.S. estimates that the full budget will end up being in excess of $5.2 billion, a 25% increase over the last two-year budget cycle of 2006-07.

Yes, the U.N. has a lot on its plate and the world is full of challenges. But Mr. Ban's proposed increases aren't going for humanitarian assistance in Darfur or development aid to Africa. Roughly 75% is for salaries and other staff costs -- in other words, toward boosting the size of the U.N. bureaucracy. Peacekeeping goes on a separate budget, which is anticipated to grow 40%, to $7 billion from $5 billion.

The U.S. is the largest donor to the U.N., paying roughly one-quarter of its budget. With the support of Japan, the second-largest donor, the U.S. is making the entirely reasonable demand that the U.N. set budget priorities. If it wants more money for X, it should be required to identify spending cuts for Y or Z.

Mr. Ban's proposed budget is the "largest increase in the history of the U.N.," said Ambassador Mark Wallace of the U.S. mission to the U.N. in a statement last week. For a body that still hasn't implemented many of the reforms proposed by Paul Volcker's Oil for Food report, this should be unacceptable to every major donor.

27500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 17, 2007, 07:15:03 AM
Al Qaeda No. 2 blasts 'traitors'

(CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant warned in a video statement released Sunday that Iraqi tribal leaders who side with U.S. troops against al Qaeda fighters would face reprisals when Americans leave Iraq.
 An image of al-Zawahiri taken from an earlier videotape.

"I warn those individuals from among the armed factions who have been involved in cooperation against the Mujahedeen that history is recording everything, and that they will lose both their religion and life," Ayman al-Zawahiri said.

"The Americans will soon be departing, God permitting, and won't keep defending them forever. And let them look at the fate of America's agents in Vietnam and the fate of the Shah of Iran. Intelligent is he who learns from other's mistakes," he added.

Al Qaeda's No. 2 called such Iraqi leaders "traitors" and "scum."


So what happened to the mighty Iraqi army standing on its own?

Iraq sees need for foreign troops for 10 years
1 hour, 28 minutes ago

Iraq will need foreign troops to help defend it for another 10 years, but will not accept U.S. bases indefinitely, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq," Dabbagh told the state-run al-Iraqiya television in an interview broadcast late on Sunday.
"I do not think that there is a threat of an invasion of Iraq, or getting involved in a war. (But) to protect Iraqi sovereignty there must be an army to defend Iraq for the next 10 years," he said.

"But on the other hand, does Iraq accept the permanent existence of U.S. bases, for instance? Absolutely no. There is no Iraqi who would accept the existence of a foreign army in this country," he said. "America is America and Iraq is Iraq."

The United States now has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, formally operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate enacted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate for what it says will be a final year to the end of 2008, and conditions for U.S. troops to stay on beyond that date are to be negotiated in the next few months.
Violence has subsided after the United States dispatched 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year, and Washington now says it will bring about 20,000 home by mid-2008. Troop levels for the second half of the year are to be decided in March.

(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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