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27501  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: April 28, 2007, 09:18:17 AM
We now have over 30 fighters registered. We have never had so many registered so far in advance. In addition to the US, we have fighters from Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, UK, Canada, Australia and Tahiti.
27502  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spike TV, the Dog Brothers Gathering Webisodes; National Geographic on: April 28, 2007, 09:15:42 AM
Things continue to move forward well with OP.
27503  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: April 28, 2007, 09:14:04 AM
Woof Greg

Its always gratifying to a teach to hear such things.  I look forward to your arrival in LA.

The Adventure continues!
Guro C.

PS:  Remember to upgrade your handle here on the Forum to "C-Cyborg Dog"
27504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Water on: April 28, 2007, 08:55:46 AM
David Gordon has brought to my attention the simple but important observation that water scarcity increasingly is going to be a real problem around the world.  Here's an article on point which he just sent me from The Economist

Australia's water shortage

The big dry

From The Economist print edition

Australia is struggling to cope with the consequences of a devastating drought. As the world warms up, other countries should pay heed

THE mouth of the Murray-Darling river sets an idyllic scene. Anglers in wide-brimmed sunhats wade waist-deep into the azure water. Pleasure boats cruise languidly around the sandbanks that dot the narrow channel leading to the Southern Ocean. Pensioners stroll along the beach. But over the cries of the seagulls and the rush of the waves, there is another sound: the mechanical drone from a dredging vessel. It never stops and must run around the clock to prevent the river mouth from silting up. Although the Murray-Darling is Australia's longest river system, draining a basin the size of France and Spain combined, it no longer carries enough water to carve its own path to the sea.

John Howard, Australia's prime minister, arrived here in February and urged the four states through which the Murray-Darling flows to hand their authority over the river to the federal government. After seven years of drought, and many more years of over-exploitation and pollution, he argued that the only hope of restoring the river to health lies in a complete overhaul of how it is managed. As the states weigh the merits of Mr Howard's scheme, the river is degenerating further. Every month hydrologists announce that its flow has fallen to a new record low (see chart). In April Mr Howard warned that farmers would not be allowed to irrigate their crops at all next year without unexpectedly heavy rain in the next few months. A region that accounts for 40% of Australia's agriculture, and 85% of its irrigation, is on the verge of ruin.


The drought knocked one percentage point off Australia's growth rate last year, by the government's reckoning. It is paying out A$2m ($1.7m) a day in drought-relief to farmers. If mature vines and fruit trees die in the coming months through the lack of water, the economic fallout will be more serious and lasting. Most alarming of all, the Murray-Darling's troubles are likely to worsen. As Australia's population continues to grow so does demand for water in the cities and for the crops that grow in the river basin. Meanwhile, global warming appears to be heating the basin up and drying it out. Although few scientists are confident that they can ascribe any individual event—including today's drought—to global warming, most agree that droughts like the present one will become more common.

Many of the world's rivers, including the Colorado in America, China's Yellow river and the Tagus, which flows through Spain and Portugal, are suffering a similar plight. As the world warms up, hundreds of millions of people will face the same ecological crisis as the residents of the Murray-Darling basin. As water levels dwindle, rows about how supplies should be used are turning farmers against city-dwellers and pitching environmentalists against politicians. Australia has a strong economy, a well-funded bureaucracy and robust political institutions. If it is struggling to respond to this crisis, imagine how drought will tear apart other, less prepared parts of the world.

Droughts have long plagued the Murray-Darling. The region is afflicted by a periodic weather pattern known as El Niño. At irregular intervals of two to seven years, the waters of the central Pacific warm up, heralding inclement weather throughout the southern hemisphere. Torrential rains flood the coast of Peru, while south-eastern Australia wilts in drought. The duration of these episodes is as unpredictable as their arrival. They can range from a few months to several years. As a result, the flow of the Darling, the longest tributary of the Murray, varies wildly, from as little as 0.04% of the long-term average to as much as 911%. Although the most recent El Niño ended earlier this year, it has left the soils in the basin so dry and the groundwater so depleted that the Murray-Darling's flow continues to fall, despite normal levels of rainfall over the past few months.

Protracted droughts are a part of Australian folklore. Schoolchildren learn a hackneyed Victorian poem in praise of "a sunburnt country...of droughts and flooding rains". Dorothea Mackellar wrote those lines just after the "Federation drought" of the late 1890s and early 1900s. The recession that accompanied it was so severe that it helped nudge Australia's six states, at the time separate British colonies, into uniting as a federation, or commonwealth, as Australians tend to call it.

Water politics
Negotiations over the federal constitution almost foundered on the subject of the Murray-Darling. South Australia, at the mouth of the river, wanted it kept open for navigation to the hinterland, allowing the state to become a trading hub. Its capital, Adelaide, also depended on water piped from the Murray to keep its taps running—as it still does. Further upstream, Victoria and New South Wales wanted to build dams to encourage agriculture. Queensland played little part in the row, since its stretch of the Darling was sparsely populated at the time. In the end, Victoria and New South Wales agreed to ensure a minimum flow to South Australia and to divide the remaining water equally between themselves. Like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, Australian engineers gaily pockmarked the basin with dams, weirs and locks, with little thought for what that would do downstream.

By the 1990s the drawbacks were evident. For one thing, states were allowing irrigators to use too much water. By 1994 human activity was consuming 77% of the river's average annual flow, even though the actual flow falls far below the average in dry years. The mouth of the river was beginning to silt up—a powerful symbol of over-exploitation. Thanks to a combination of reduced flow and increased run-off from saline soils churned up by agriculture, the water was becoming unhealthily salty, especially in its lower reaches. The tap water in Adelaide, which draws 40% of its municipal supplies from the river and up to 90% when other reserves dry up, was beginning to taste saline. The number of indigenous fish was falling, since the floods that induce them to spawn were becoming rarer. Toxic algae flourished in the warmer, more sluggish waters. In 1991 a hideous bloom choked a 1,000km (625 mile) stretch of the Darling.

Such horrors stirred indignation among urban Australians. The bad publicity put tourists off river cruises, fishing trips and visits to the basin's various lakes and wetlands. Many small businesses got hurt in the process. The citizens of Adelaide, which contains several marginal parliamentary seats, began to worry that the taps would run dry. Farmers were also starting to fear for the security and quality of their water supplies.



So Australia embarked on a series of reforms that in many ways serve as a model for the management of big, heavily exploited rivers. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia agreed to cap the amount of water they took from the river and to keep clear, public records of water-use rights. They also made plans to reduce salinity and increase "environmental flows". The commonwealth agreed to encourage this by allocating buckets of cash to compliant states. All these initiatives were to be managed by a body, called the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, in which the commonwealth and the various riparian states, including Queensland and the tiny Australian Capital Territory (ACT), had equal representation and where decisions were taken by consensus.

Moreover, Australia's politicians also agreed to a set of principles by which water should be managed throughout the country. There should be no more subsidies for irrigation. Farmers should pay for the maintenance of channels and dams. For each river and tributary, scientists would calculate the maximum sustainable allocations of water and states would make sure that extractions did not exceed that figure. To ensure that such a scarce resource was used as efficiently as possible, water should be tradable, both within and between states. And the minimum environmental flows necessary to keep the river in good health should be accorded just as high a status as water put to commercial uses.

Guided by these principles, the states and the commonwealth have made much progress. By 1999 the average salinity of the river in South Australia had fallen by over 20%. In the late 1990s salinity levels were falling within the prescribed limit over 90% of the time, compared with roughly 60% in the 1970s and 1980s. The construction of fish ladders around dams and weirs, and the release of extra water into important breeding grounds, has spawned a recovery in native species. The commission is spending A$650m to boost environmental flows, mainly by stemming losses from irrigation, and hence leaving more water in the river.

The trade in water has taken off. There are two basic sorts of transaction: sales of part of a farmer's water allocation for the year or a permanent transfer. Temporary exchanges between farmers in the same state topped 1,000 gigalitres (220 billion gallons) in 2003, or around a tenth of all water used for agriculture. That roughly matches the cumulative amount of water that has changed hands permanently within the same state.

Meanwhile, the commission has codified rules for trading water between users in different states. The volumes are much smaller, but the system is working as economists had hoped. In general, water is flowing from regions with salty soil to more fertile ones; from farms that are profligate with water to ones that are more efficient; and from low-value crops to more profitable ones. In particular, struggling dairy and rice farmers in New South Wales and Victoria have sold water to the booming orchards and vineyards of South Australia. A government assessment of a pilot scheme for interstate trade determined that such shifts prompted A$767m of extra investment in irrigation and food-processing between 1997 and 2001. Another study found that water trading helped to reduce the damage wrought by droughts.

But there are lots of problems. For one thing, the reforms concern only water that has already reached the river. Farmers in certain states can still drill wells to suck up groundwater, and tree plantations absorb a lot of rainwater that would otherwise find its way into the river. Little dams on farms, which block small streams or trap run-off from rain or flooding, are an even bigger worry. Little is known about how many there are or how fast their numbers are growing. In theory, most states are trying to regulate them, but the rules are full of loopholes and enforcement is difficult. Hydrologists fear that the severity of the drought has encouraged farmers to build more dams.

Some states are keener on the reforms than others. In 1995, when New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria agreed to cap the amount of water they took from the river, Queensland refused to join them on the grounds that it uses only a tiny share of the basin's water. The state government felt it had a right to promote irrigation along its stretch of the Darling to bring Queensland to the same level of agricultural development as the other states. It has since agreed to negotiate a cap. But earlier this year, despite the ongoing drought, it awarded new water-use rights to farmers on the Warrego, one of the tributaries of the Darling.

New South Wales, meanwhile, frequently exceeds its cap. Its farmers plant mainly annual crops, such as rice and wheat, instead of perennials like fruit trees or grape vines. If there is not enough water to go round, its farmers may suffer for a season, but their earnings are not permanently diminished. So the state tends to be less cautious in its allocation of water than Victoria or South Australia. However, the commission has no power to ensure that states stick to their caps. It can only denounce offenders publicly, in the forlorn hope that the shame will induce them to behave better.

Climate change is likely to exacerbate all these disputes. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), a government agency, estimates that it could reduce the Murray's flow by as much as 5% in 20 years and 15% in 50 years. But other projections are much more cataclysmic. CSIRO cites a worst case of 20% less water in 20 years and 50% in 50 years. Peter Cullen, an academic and member of the government's National Water Commission, points out that inflows to the Murray have fallen to less than half of their long-term average over the past six years. He thinks it would be prudent to manage water on the assumption that low flows are here to stay.

Mr Howard argues that the Murray-Darling Basin Commission moves too slowly to cope with all the upheaval. He wants the states to surrender their powers over the basin to the commonwealth. That will allow his government, he says, to work out exactly how much water is being siphoned off through wells and dams, and to use that information to set a new, sustainable cap on water use.

The government would also help farmers meet the new restrictions by investing in more efficient irrigation or by buying up their water rights—all without any of the typical bickering and foot-dragging that have held up collective action in the past. To entice the states to agree, he is offering to spend A$10 billion of the commonwealth's money on the various schemes. But the advantage of adopting policies by consensus, presumably, is that they may prove more durable than anything imposed from Canberra. National governments, even in Australia, are not immune to inefficiency and bias. They are often at loggerheads with the states.

Moreover, not all Australians want to move as quickly as Mr Howard does. He faces an election later this year in which his environmental record—and particularly his lack of action on global warming—will be a big issue. Nor does the federal government have any experience of managing rivers. In a recent book, "Water Politics in the Murray-Darling Basin", Daniel Connell argues that any institutional arrangement that fails to give enough weight to regional concerns will not last.

Running a river
Several state governments have their doubts about Mr Howard's plan. South Australia wants the administration of the river put in the hands of a panel of independent experts. Victoria, the only state to reject the prime minister's scheme outright, says that he could achieve the same goals without any extra powers by simply withholding money from recalcitrant states. Its government has also complained that the scheme would reward the most wasteful irrigators for their inefficiency, by helping to pay for improvements to their infrastructure and then allowing them to use much of the water saved. So the extravagant irrigators of New South Wales will end up with extra water, while their parsimonious counterparts in Victoria will benefit less.

Moreover, many Australians are uncomfortable with the idea of water trading, says Blair Nancarrow, the head of the Australian Research Centre for Water in Society, a division of CSIRO. People living in less fertile areas fear that local farmers will gradually sell all their water rights, eroding employment and commerce and killing off the area's towns. Concerned politicians have insisted on limits to the amount of water that can be traded out of regions and states each year and have refused to allow the commission to buy water directly from farmers for environmental flows. The National Party, the junior partner in Australia's coalition government, draws much of its support from the countryside and is particularly reluctant to give free rein to the water market.

In the eyes of Mr Cullen, however, many of the changes Australians fear are inevitable. As it is, he notes, the amount of money farms make for every million litres of water they use varies dramatically between states, from roughly A$300 in New South Wales to A$600 in Victoria and A$1,000 in South Australia. He believes that investment and water will continue to gravitate towards the bigger, more professionally managed farms. In the long run, the irrigation of pasture for livestock, which currently consumes about half of the basin's agricultural water, will not make sense. The number of small, family-owned farms will shrink.

Ian Zadow owns just such a farm, near Murray Bridge in South Australia, which has been in the family since 1905. He is also head of the local irrigators' association. His son used to work on the farm with him. But farming cannot support two families, so the younger man has taken a job tending graveyards instead. "If you can pay all your bills and get three meals on the table," says Mr Zadow, "that's about as good as it is going to get."

At the moment however, things are nowhere near that good. Last year, he saw his allocation of water slashed first by 20%, then by 30% and finally by 40%. Next season, unless much more rain falls, he stands to get no allocation at all. He feels that city-dwellers should do their bit to help farmers by conserving more water. When push comes to shove, he says, politicians will always give priority to the cities over the countryside, since they are home to more voters. He also thinks irrigators in New South Wales and Victoria should be trying harder to save water. Before too long Mr Zadow's complaints may be echoed by millions of farmers around the world.

If the Australian drought continues, the thousands who depend on irrigation water for a living will be in deep trouble. Many are already in debt and struggling to make ends meet. When asked what will happen if there is no water for them this year, Mr Zadow hesitates for a moment before replying, "Christ knows."
27505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Miss Black America on: April 28, 2007, 08:03:28 AM
>Subject: Miss Black America Contest
>Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 22:20:19 -0500
Since Don Imus started this, and also in keeping with the spirit of Political correctness, I present the
following to you....
There will only be 49 contestants in the Miss Black America Contest this year because no one wants
to wear the BANNER that says!!

27506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: April 28, 2007, 07:04:46 AM
C.I.A. Held Qaeda Leader in Secret Jail for Months
Published: April 28, 2007
NY Times

WASHINGTON, April 27 — The Central Intelligence Agency held a captured Qaeda leader in a secret prison since last fall and transferred him last week to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Friday.

» Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an Iraqi Kurd who is said to have joined Al Qaeda in the late 1990s and ascended to become a top aide to Osama bin Laden, is the first terrorism suspect known to have been held in secret C.I.A. jails since President Bush announced the transfer of 14 captives to Guantánamo Bay last September.

The Pentagon announced the transfer, giving few details about his arrest or confinement.

Mr. Iraqi’s case suggests that the C.I.A. may have adopted a new model for handling prisoners held secretly — a practice that Mr. Bush said could resume and that Congress permitted when it passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Unlike past C.I.A. detainees, including the Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was held by the agency for several years after being seized in Pakistan in 2003, Mr. Iraqi was turned over to the Pentagon after a few months of interrogation. He appears to have been taken into C.I.A. custody just weeks after Mr. Bush declared C.I.A. jails empty.

Last fall, Mr. Bush declared the agency’s interrogations “one of the most successful intelligence efforts in American history.” But its secret detention of terrorism suspects has been widely criticized by human rights organizations and foreign governments as a violation of international law that relied on interrogation methods verging on torture.

Intelligence officials said that under questioning Mr. Iraqi had provided valuable intelligence about Qaeda hierarchy and operations. It appears he gave up this information after being subjected to standard interrogation methods approved for the Defense Department — not harsher methods that the C.I.A. is awaiting approval to use.

A debate in the administration has delayed approval of the proposed C.I.A. methods.

Military and intelligence officials said the prisoner was captured last fall on his way to Iraq, where he may have been sent by top Qaeda leaders in Pakistan to take a senior position in Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. That group has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq, including the bombing last year of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

In a message to agency employees on Friday, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, called the capture “a significant victory.” He said C.I.A. operatives had played “a key role in efforts to locate” Mr. Iraqi. Though American officials would not say where or when he had been captured, they said it was not in Pakistan or Iran, countries where he was known to have operated in recent years.

Human rights advocates expressed anger that the United States continued a program of secret detention, and some wondered why the C.I.A. claimed it needed harsh interrogation methods to extract information from detainees when it appeared that Mr. Iraqi had given up information using Pentagon interrogation practices.

“The C.I.A. can’t seem to get its story straight, said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch. “If they can get good intelligence without using abusive techniques, why do they so desperately need to use the abusive techniques?” But he said that there was no way to know whether Mr. Iraqi had been mistreated, because “no independent monitors have been able to see him since his arrest.”

In his message on Friday, General Hayden said that the agency always operated “in keeping with American laws and values.”

American officials have long been worried about efforts by Qaeda leadership in Pakistan to exert control over its Iraqi offshoot, known as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and the dispatch of Mr. Iraqi to help run the Iraqi affiliate has raised concern among American military officials that the links between the groups are growing.

“We do definitely see links to the greater Al Qaeda network,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

But the relationship between Qaeda fighters in Iraq and the top leadership has appeared to wax and wane over the years, often over tactical disagreements.

In 2005, Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s second in command, wrote a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then the top Al Qaeda operative in Iraq, urging him to refrain from killing Shiites. But since then, terrorist experts have said that they see Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as largely independent of the organization hub in Pakistan.
27507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight on: April 27, 2007, 09:00:02 PM
The videos hosted by this site present certain deep questions very clearly:
27508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: April 27, 2007, 08:58:14 PM
There's several worthy reads from Stratfor on Mexico on the Spanish (and English  embarassed ) Language Forum, but I've decided to start posting them here from hereonin.


Mexico: Grenade Attacks In Durango
April 27, 2007 21 37  GMT

Three Mexican army-issue grenades were detonated in the city of Gomez Palacio in the state of Durango on April 27, killing one police officer and injuring four others. One explosion occurred outside the municipal Public Security Office and two happened outside the Attorney General's office. Unidentified men on motorcycles and in light trucks threw the grenades at the offices and also fired machine guns at the Attorney General's office. Police have questioned two unidentified individuals in relation to the bombings as part of an ongoing investigation.
27509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: April 27, 2007, 07:45:38 PM
Seven dollar myths
By Axel Merk

Without shying away from controversy, we do away with a number of myths of why the US dollar ought to move up or down.

Myth I: The dollar is safe because the
US has ample assets
Some say the US current-account deficit that requires foreigners to arrange for more than $3 billion of capital inflows every business day just to keep the dollar from falling does not matter. These pundits say a deficit of 6.5% of gross domestic product

(GDP) is sustainable because the deficit is only about 1% of all private assets held in the United States; as a result, deficits could be carried a long, long time.

This argument is one about the dollar going to zero, an extreme case of the dollar losing relative to other currencies. However, the current-account deficit and its affect on the dollar are about cash flow: putting it in the context of GDP is reasonable, as GDP is a cash-flow measure of production. Comparing it to private savings is mixing apples with oranges.

Myth II: The dollar is doomed because
of the large US budget deficit
Just as dollar optimists are wrong to say the dollar is safe because of the United States' tremendous wealth, dollar pessimists are mistaken by putting too much emphasis on the budget deficit. By issuing debt, the direct impact of the budget deficit can be mitigated to the burden of interest payments. Of course, as interest payments become excessively large, they will weigh on the dollar eventually. However, the linkage to the dollar is indirect. While it is correct that large budget deficits structurally weaken the US in the long run, it is not appropriate to link short-term dollar movements to the budget deficit.

Myth III: A lower dollar will cure the trade deficit
All too often we hear how much more competitive the US would be if it only allowed the dollar to fall. While a weaker dollar may be a short-term boost to earnings and make exports a tad more competitive, it will not bring back industries that have been outsourced. It is most unlikely that the US will thrive on exporting shoes to China, no matter how low the dollar will fall.

What a weaker dollar may do is provide temporary relief. But unless the US turns into a society of savers and investors, a weaker dollar will only be a pause to an even weaker dollar as imbalances are built up yet again.

Myth IV: A lower trade deficit will save the dollar
Odds are that the current-account deficit may be close to its peak. However, that does not mean the dollar is out of the woods: if an abatement in the rate at which the current-account deficit deepens were due to a sustained improvement in savings and investments, it might have long-term positive implications for the dollar.

But it looks as if the driver behind any "improvement" (if one can talk of such as the deficit continues to widen) will be due to a drop in domestic consumption due to a slowing economy. Rather than being good news for the dollar, this discourages foreign investors to invest in the US. American chief executive officers focus their investments abroad, so why should foreigners invest in the US?

As the US economy slows and consumers can no longer extract equity from their homes, the savings rate ought to go up. Famous for having dipped into negative territory, consumers have to pare back their spending as access to easy money dries up.

Myth V: A weak economy causes a currency to falter
We agree that the US economy is heavily dependent on growth to keep the dollar stable. But it is a US-specific problem: in the current environment, it may not apply to the European Union. The key difference is that, in recent years, the EU has focused on structural reform rather than growth; as a result, it does not have the severe current-account deficit the US has. Should the world economy slow down, many markets may suffer, but the euro might still do comparatively well. Europe has plenty of issues, but as far as the euro is concerned, the region is in a very strong position.

In contrast, a reduction of foreign-money inflows into the US is the single biggest threat to the greenback. As a result, the dollar has been reacting negatively to any news signaling a slowdown of US consumer spending. And as consumer spending is closely linked to the fate of the housing market, negative data on housing may reflect negatively on the dollar. As the housing market is not very liquid, any adjustment process is likely to be long and grinding.

Myth VI: China is the problem
In our assessment, China is the most responsible player in Asia. We believe other Asian countries, including Japan, are willing to risk a destruction of their currencies to continue to export to American consumers. The Chinese are taking their imbalances very seriously and are working hard at addressing many issues facing a nation governing 1.4 billion people. Having invited Western investment banks to invest billions in their local banks has provided an encouragement for reform from within.

If there is one thing that spooks the currency markets more than a slowdown in US real estate, it is the flaring-up of a protectionist-talking US Congress. When presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently expressed concern about the Chinese buying up the majority of US debt, the dollar fell sharply. If protectionist measures increase, foreigners will have fewer incentives to purchase dollar-denominated assets, providing pressure on both the dollar and interest rates.

Interestingly, nobody seems to focus on the fact that there is an unconventional solution to foreigners holding too much of America's debt: live within your means and do not issue debt. Such an old-fashioned concept would indeed strengthen the dollar. Unfortunately, none of the presidential candidates at either side of the aisle seem to have heard of this notion.

Myth VII: Higher interest rates help the dollar
It seems that ever since academics developed a theory of how interest-rate differentials move currencies, the theory has not worked. Yet just about every textbook continues to teach it. Aside from the fact that expectations on future interest rates and inflation are more relevant than actual interest rates, there are simply too many factors influencing currencies to be able to focus on interest rates. Why do some low-yielding currencies, such as the Swiss franc, perform reasonably well, whereas many developing countries have weak currencies despite high interest rates?

A good year ago, the US joined the ranks of developing nations in paying more in interest to overseas creditors than it receives in interest from its own investments. As a result, higher US interest rates mean higher payments abroad, further weakening the foundations of the US dollar.

There are many more myths about the dollar, but the selection above may provide some food for thought.

Axel Merk is the portfolio manager of the Merk Hard Currency Fund.
27510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: April 27, 2007, 07:41:40 PM
Saudi Arabia: Al Qaeda's Widening Focus
April 27, 2007 21 42  GMT


Saudi security forces announced April 27 that they have rounded up 172 militants plotting to attack oil facilities and military bases in the kingdom. Al Qaeda's core leadership appears to be working to give a boost to the network's regional nodes, from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. Conditions in Iraq have led to this widening of al Qaeda's focus, though the capabilities of the regional nodes remain dubious.


The Saudi Interior Ministry announced April 27 that it had arrested 172 militants, including non-Saudis, plotting attacks against Saudi Arabia's oil refineries, public figures and military bases. Saudi police also seized more than $32.4 million in cash from seven armed cells in the kingdom. The suspects, according to a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman, had been "influenced by the deviant ideology" (a common Saudi reference for al Qaeda.) Prior to this roundup, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz told reporters that the interior ministry will soon announce a new list of most-wanted militant suspects in the kingdom.

The possible revival of al Qaeda's Saudi node came to light in February with the reappearance of the group's online magazine, Sawt Al Jihad, which called for attacks against energy-related targets on the Arabian Peninsula. The regular publication of Sawt Al Jihad was, previously, closely linked with a higher degree of operational strength for the Saudi node. Since the February online edition, however, the Saudi node has not kept up with its historic biweekly publication schedule, calling the group's publishing capabilities -- and operational ability -- into question.

The February edition of Sawt Al Jihad claimed that several of the militants who participated in the February 2006 attack against the oil facility in Abqaiq are "still alive and still fighting," and even included an interview with one of the survivors of that attack. The attempt on Abqaiq marked al Qaeda's first notable attempt to target Saudi Arabia's energy infrastructure and revealed that the group's target selection was shifting beyond Western operations and personnel. The planners behind the Abqaiq operation have had more than a year to learn from their mistakes, and judging from the rhetoric in Sawt Al Jihad, they likely have been gearing up for a larger attack against key Saudi oil installations.

Saudi officials said some of the suspects rounded up in this latest raid had received aviation training in other countries, implying a 9/11-style plot to fly aircraft into a target, such as an oil facility. Al Qaeda's core leadership has a known penchant for using aircraft in large-scale operations, though Saudi Arabia has ample empty space to re-route flight paths and set up no-fly zones over major energy installations. Although the Royal Saudi Air Force possesses the most advanced air-defense system in the region outside of Israel, it is doubtful that Saudi operators could identify the emerging threat or that Saudi commanders could react to it in time to prevent an airborne suicide attack from being at least partially successful.

Even if the Saudi node attacked a major oil target in Saudi Arabia -- whether by plane, boat, car or foot -- it would only damage a portion of any facility, considering the sheer size of and security surrounding energy installations (the Abqaiq facility, for example, occupies more than a square mile of territory.) That said, even a failed attempt on a vital energy target, such as the Ras Tanura oil port, would send massive psychological shockwaves through the energy market -- a fact al Qaeda acknowledged in the Sawt Al Jihad publication, saying the price of oil would have spiked even more had the Saudi government not lied about the extent of the damage.

Riyadh's series of counterterrorism strikes since June 2004 have significantly degraded the Saudi al Qaeda node's operational capabilities. The damage from the recent roundup will end up taking even more wind out of the node's sails, forcing the militants to regroup, re-evaluate their pending operations and tighten operational security to avoid further run-ins with the police. Though the Saudi node is unlikely to return to its glory days of the summer of 2004, when al Qaeda activity was most intense in the kingdom, the group continues to come up with ambitious plots and shows no sign of getting wiped out in the near future.

In addition to the Saudi node, al Qaeda appears to be giving a boost to other regional branches, revealing a surge of activity by al Qaeda franchises across the board. Over the past month, North Africa has witnessed a significant uptick in jihadist activity by al Qaeda's node in the Maghreb. Suicide bombings are also on the rise in the Horn of Africa as Somalian Islamists appear to be enhancing their cooperation with jihadists. In Afghanistan, Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah has aligned himself more closely with al Qaeda by giving credit for the February Bagram Air Base attack to Osama Bin Laden, even though the Afghan Taliban command is more than capable of pulling off such an attack itself.

The most active al Qaeda node is in Iraq, where the country's continued downward spiral has created an ideally chaotic environment for the group to maintain a strong presence. Though al Qaeda's Iraq node is in a relatively comfortable position, it has been facing increasing flack from the Sunni nationalist insurgents who have been turning against their former jihadist allies in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province. As the environment in some of Iraq's Sunni areas has turned increasingly inhospitable to the jihadists, some of these militants could be driven to return home and wage attacks in their home countries using the tactics they have picked up in Iraq. This already appears to have taken effect, as illustrated by the Algerian node's adoption of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

A surge of al Qaeda activity does not necessarily imply improved capability. As the latest raid in Saudi Arabia illustrated, Saudi security forces are extremely active in rooting out al Qaeda cells, and the North African police states are quite capable of containing the jihadist presence in their countries. The best chance of success for al Qaeda remains in its usual hotspots of Iraq and Afghanistan. That said, the level of training these two theaters of operation provide allows al Qaeda to ensure its continuity, as lessons learned there regarding operational security and tradecraft spread to al Qaeda's local affiliates.
27511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: April 27, 2007, 07:38:55 PM
Estonia: Baiting the Bear

The Estonian government arrested some 300 protesters April 27 during the removal of a Soviet monument commemorating the end of World War II. For the most vulnerable member of the NATO alliance, the action is not so much waving the flag as it is testing the winds.


A Soviet-era monument called the Bronze Soldier, located in downtown Tallinn, Estonia, was dismantled the night of April 26-27, despite the protests by some 500 ethnic Russians. The Russian Duma and Foreign Ministry immediately responded, calling the action "blasphemy" and "disgusting." The Duma recommended Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately sever all economic and diplomatic contact with Estonia. The Estonian government plans to exhume and remove the remains of Soviet soldiers interred under the monument as well for reburial in a cemetery.

Estonia sees the monument, constructed during what Estonians call the "Soviet occupation," as a lingering sign of Russia's overbearance. Yet, of the three Baltic states, Estonia is the one that tends to have the best relationship with Moscow and prefers to keep the lowest profile. This raises a question: Why dismantle the Bronze Solider now?

Controversy over the statue is nothing new; it has been simmering ever since Estonia achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia's biggest holiday -- the celebration of the anniversary of victory in World War II, a conflict in which at least 20 million Russians died -- is just around the corner on May 9. After 15 years of relatively harmless sniping, it seems the Estonians have chosen this precise moment to step on the Kremlin's most sensitive nerve.

That might be precisely the case.

On April 26, Putin gave his state of the union address, in which he essentially lambasted everything the United States stands for. For Estonia, such a speech is the equivalent of an air raid siren. Aside from Luxembourg, Estonia is the smallest NATO member, and none is more strategically exposed. If Russia is about to go on a strategic tear, no one faces the prospect of more suffering -- and more quickly -- than does Estonia.

But rather than cowering in silence, the Estonians might have struck upon a rather interesting strategy: Test the waters to see just how real this Russian change of tune is. After all, if it is real, it is best to know soon. And if it is just rhetoric for public consumption, it is best to continue with business as usual without developing an ulcer.

By this logic, no matter how much Estonia's actions annoyed the Russians, those actions are not of a magnitude to make Moscow rapidly shift its entire military strategic and foreign doctrines. But dismantling the monument will force the Russians to show at least some of their cards.

Whether or not the Estonian strategy is truly to tell the Russians to "Put up or shut up," the world will know the Russian mind very soon. Estonia provoked the Duma and the Russian Foreign Ministry into their expected responses and, in doing so, placed the issue squarely on Putin's desk. His response will be Russia's policy.

It is a response Putin will weigh very carefully. While the Kremlin thinks of Estonia as an ungrateful, malcontented speck on its western border, it is an ungrateful, malcontented speck that also happens to be a full member of the NATO alliance and the European Union. The former grants Estonia the nuclear umbrella, and the latter means any economic sanctions against Estonia would immediately draw retaliation from all of Europe. If Putin is going to call Estonia's bluff, it will not be a simple overreaction -- it will be a calculated move that will have repercussions far beyond a mere stump of broken rock in a Tallinn traffic circle.
27512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: April 27, 2007, 04:58:01 PM
Second post of the day:


Certified Madness
April 27, 2007; Page A17

One of the more interesting sections of the war funding bill Congress will soon send President Bush is its provision for "readiness." The bill prohibits spending funds "to deploy any unit of the Armed Forces to Iraq unless the chief of the military department concerned has certified in writing . . . that the unit is fully mission capable."

John Murtha (D., Pa.), chairman of the House subcommittee on defense appropriations, is mainly responsible for the clause. Mr. Murtha is a Marine Vietnam combat veteran and he's concerned that U.S. forces don't have all the resources they need to complete their missions.

U.S. Navy Ensign George Gay would have been bemused.

Ensign Gay became famous in World War II as the sole survivor of Torpedo Eight, a squadron flying off of the USS Hornet in the pivotal Battle of Midway. If ever there was a unit of the armed forces that wasn't "mission capable," it was Torpedo Eight.

In June 1942, the Navy's new torpedo bomber, the Grumman TBF Avenger, wasn't ready. So Ensign Gay and the other Americans had to fly old Douglas TBD Devastators, an aircraft that was inadequate for the task of taking on Japanese fighters.

A Devastator's top speed was about 200 mph. The Japanese interceptors -- Zeros -- could do around 350 mph. That's correct, the Japanese pilots had an advantage of about 150 miles per hour.

But Ensign Gay's bigger problem was training. "When we finally got up to the Battle of Midway it was the first time I had ever carried a torpedo on an aircraft," he later told a Navy interviewer, "and was the first time I had ever taken a torpedo off of a ship, had never even seen it done. None of the other ensigns in the squadron had either."

Ensign Gay and the others got the attack plan in "chalk talks" and then rehearsed the attack by walking through the steps on the flight deck.

Not a single TBD flying that day from the Hornet made it back. Ensign Gay was the only one of the 30 men in his squadron who survived the attack and he had to be fished from the sea a day after the battle. The TBDs from the other two American carriers suffered similar losses.

But by drawing the Zeros to themselves, the slow, low-flying Devastators gave U.S. dive bombers a clear shot to strike from above. The dive bombers sank three of the four Japanese carriers, a loss that decided the outcome of a battle that proved to be turning point in the war in the Pacific.

Which gets us back to Mr. Murtha's readiness provision.

Lieutenant Gay (he was promoted) later briefed the events to a Navy interviewer. He described the situation, succinctly, as "a difficult problem."

"We had old planes and we were new," the pilot recalled. "We had a dual job of not only training a squadron of boot Ensigns," he said, "we also had to fight the war at the same time."

In fact, training and fighting became one and the same. Ensign Gay's squadron leader told him and the others to follow him to the target, and then they figured out a way to get through the flack when they got there.

Ensign Gay and the other pilots knew they were ill-equipped and under-trained. But they flew the mission anyway because they also knew that something larger was at stake -- like losing the war if they waited until someone was willing to "certify in writing" that they met official readiness standards.

It's unfortunate, and often tragic, but that's what happens in war, or at least one that you are serious about. And that's the issue. Are we serious about the war? Can anyone imagine Congress in 1942 passing a provision like the one in the current bill? Would they constrain Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower the way they propose to constrain Gen. David H. Petraeus?

Mr. Murtha has good intentions, but he's got it exactly wrong. If U.S. forces lack the equipment or training they need, it's his job, as the chairman of the one subcommittee specifically responsible for originating defense appropriations, to make sure they get it.

If legislators really don't believe we should continue in Iraq, they need to come clean, shut down the war -- and accept the risks, and take responsibility for the consequences. Otherwise, they need to provide U.S. forces the means to carry out their missions.

Mr. Berkowitz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
27513  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 27, 2007, 02:33:02 PM
"Kali Tudo" available at grin
27514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: April 27, 2007, 11:47:27 AM
WSJ- Opinion Journal

Little Big Brother

Howard Dean, head of the Democratic National Committee, once again is proving he has unusual views on the media. He says groups that want to hear candidates talk openly should bar the media. "If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press," is how he bluntly put it.

On one level, that's not so controversial an idea. Today's "gotcha" journalism certainly makes candidates cautious and fearful that any stray remark will be blown out of proportion by someone in search of a headline.

But Mr. Dean's reasoning for why the media should be shut out of political meetings was revealing. He says the Golden Age of media coverage by Olympian figures such as Walter Cronkite is long gone. "The media has been reduced to info-tainment," he told the Mortgage Bankers Association. "Info-tainment sells. The problem is they reach the lowest common denominator instead of forcing a little education down our throats, which we are probably in need of from time to time." By "education," I take it Mr. Dean is referring to views of the enlightened "progressive" kind.

The Democratic Party's chairman has long expressed a position that federal regulation of the media -- in the form of a new Fairness Doctrine or the breakup of entities such as Fox News -- wouldn't be a bad idea. In 2003, while a presidential candidate, he railed, "Media corporations have too much power... The media has clearly abused their privilege, and it is hurting our democracy."

Of course, some would say having political figures such as Mr. Dean who are overtly hostile to the media holding politicians like themselves to account may also not be good for democracy. Like many liberals, Mr. Dean just hasn't gotten used to a media universe where there are players beyond the Big Three networks and the traditional newspapers whose newsrooms were stuffed almost exclusively with Democrats.

-- John Fund
27515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: April 27, 2007, 11:27:59 AM
Missile Defense Mischief
April 27, 2007; Page A16

One of the Bush Administration's quiet successes has been missile defense -- from the negotiated demise of the Cold War ABM Treaty to initial ground-based deployments. But that progress is suddenly in jeopardy from opposition in Russia and Congress, and just when we might really begin to need it against the likes of Iran.

The immediate dispute concerns the U.S. offer to extend missile defenses to Europe. The Czech Republic has expressed interest in providing a site for a tracking radar, while Poland is considering whether to host the interceptors that would destroy incoming missiles.

Linked to upgraded radars in Britain and Greenland and a command-and-control system in Colorado, the Polish and Czech sites could protect Europe from long-range missiles launched from Iran. It would also provide an additional layer of defense for America's East Coast. Tehran is expected to have long-range missiles by 2015 or sooner, and since the world can't seem to muster the resolve to halt its nuclear program, missile defense would seem a logical -- and urgent -- priority.

If only. After Warsaw and Prague announced negotiations with the U.S., some Europeans, notably the French and the Germans, accused the U.S. of acting unilaterally. Moscow has called it "destabilizing," and Democrats in Congress have vowed to kill it. Representative Ellen Tauscher, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, is opposing the Pentagon's $310 million request to begin construction next year.

The arguments against the "third site," as the Polish-Czech contribution is known, are updated versions of the anti-Star Wars rhetoric of the Reagan years. Ms. Tauscher claims the missile defense system isn't "fully tested," but the initial system the Bush Administration has fielded in Alaska and California and now wants to extend to Europe isn't the final architecture. The idea is to follow the models provided by the JSTAR military surveillance plane and Predator spy plane. Both were still in the experimental phase when they were called into service in the Gulf War and Afghanistan, respectively. The missile defense system is constantly being tested and upgraded.

Critics also argue that the third site wouldn't protect all of Europe from Iranian missiles because the Southern flank would remain exposed. But the site is designed to defend against missiles with ranges of more than 1,500 kilometers, which means Greece, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria aren't at risk from this specific threat. The Iranian threat against Southern Europe is from medium- and short-range missiles, which require different kinds of defenses, and the U.S. is prepared to work with individual countries as well as NATO to install Patriots or other systems against those missiles.

Moscow's objection is that the third site is somehow intended for use against Russian missiles. This is untrue -- as the Russians well know because U.S. officials have briefed them repeatedly on how the system would operate and have even offered to bring Russia under the missile-defense umbrella, an offer Moscow has so far rejected.

No one believes 10 interceptors based in Poland could deter the thousands of missiles in Russia's arsenal, and it's unclear what game Moscow is playing here. Perhaps it hopes to forestall U.S. missile defenses for Georgia or other former Soviet republics, or maybe it sees an opportunity to drive a wedge between Washington and Warsaw, where the government is already facing heat over Poland's role in Iraq.

Democrats claim that the third site creates "divisions" among our European allies and should therefore be subject to NATO's multilateral seal of approval -- and a consensus process that would mean the kiss of death. But why should bilateral agreements between the U.S. and the sovereign nations of Poland and the Czech Republic be subject to NATO approval any more than U.S. agreements with Denmark and Britain over the radars located in their territories? Or agreements with Germany, the Netherlands or Italy on other kinds of missile defenses? In any case, NATO may acquire theater missile defenses, which could be deployed to protect against medium- and short-range missiles.

Iran's not the only potential missile threat. More than 20 nations, including North Korea and Syria, have ballistic missiles and their proliferation is sure to continue. The third site is part of the Bush Administration's vision of missile defense with a global reach. Since the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, nations have been lining up to get under the new missile defense umbrella. The U.S. and its allies are safer for it.
27516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Paul's girl on: April 27, 2007, 11:23:13 AM


Africans for Wolfowitz
Third World reformers resist a coup by rich Europeans.

Friday, April 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

One of the most revealing subplots in the European coup attempt against World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is who is coming to the American's defense. The rich European donor countries want him to resign, while the Africans who are the bank's major clients are encouraging him to stay.

You wouldn't know this from the press coverage, which continues to report selective leaks from the bank staff and European sources who started this political putsch. The latest "news" is that the European Parliament has asked Mr. Wolfowitz to resign, thus sustaining that body's reputation for irrelevant but politically correct gestures. If Mr. Wolfowitz leaves, no doubt some of the europols will angle for the job.

The more telling story is the support for the bank president from reform-minded Africans. At a press conference during this month's World Bank-IMF meetings in Washington, four of the more progressive African finance ministers were asked about the Wolfowitz flap. Here's how Antoinette Sayeh, Liberia's finance minister, responded:

"I would say that Wolfowitz's performance over the last several years and his leadership on African issues should certainly feature prominently in the discussions . . . . In the Liberian case and the case of many forgotten post-conflict fragile countries, he has been a visionary. He has been absolutely supportive, responsive, there for us . . . . We think that he has done a lot to bring Africa in general . . . into the limelight and has certainly championed our cause over the last two years of his leadership, and we look forward to it continuing."

The deputy prime minister for Mauritius, Rama Krishna Sithanen, then piped in that "he has been supportive of reforms in our country . . . . We think that he has done a good job. More specifically, he has apologized for what has happened."
Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's poorest region, and Mr. Wolfowitz has appropriately made it his top priority. On his first day on the job, he met with a large group of African ambassadors and advocates. His first trip as bank president was a swing through Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa. He also recruited two African-born women vice presidents, a rarity at the bank.

If you're surprised by that last fact, then you don't appreciate that the World Bank has always been a sinecure for developed-world politicians. They get handsome salaries, tax free, and their performance is measured not by how much poverty they cure but by how much money they disperse.

Mr. Wolfowitz has upset this sweetheart status quo by focusing more on results, and especially on the corruption that undermines development and squanders foreign aid. Yet many of the poor countries themselves welcome such intervention. At the same April 14 press conference, Zambian Finance Minister N'Gandu Peter Magande endorsed the anticorruption agenda:

"We should keep positive that whatever happens to the president, if, for example, he was to leave, I think whoever comes, we insist that he continues where we have been left, in particular on this issue of anticorruption. That is a cancer that has seen quite a lot of our countries lose development and has seen the poverty continuing in our countries. And therefore . . . we want to live up to what [Wolfowitz] made us believe" that "it is important for ourselves to keep to those high standards."

The real World Bank scandal is that Mr. Wolfowitz's enemies don't care much about Africa. The French and Brits who want him ousted have never entirely shaken the paternalism they developed during the colonial era. Their real priority is controlling the bank purse-strings and perquisites.
As for the coup attempt, Mr. Wolfowitz's fate now rests with the 24-member bank board. Europeans dominate, while we saw only two Africans listed on the bank's Web site. These profiles in buck-passing have asked Mr. Wolfowitz to meet with them on Monday; his lawyer can join him but won't be allowed to speak.

The noisy leaking and staff protests are aimed at getting Mr. Wolfowitz to make their life easy by resigning. But that would only validate their campaign to oust him for giving his girlfriend a raise that the bank's own ethics committee advised him to deliver after he had tried to recuse himself. Since our editorial reported on all of these "ethics" details two weeks ago, no one has even tried to dispute our facts. The critics have shifted to a new line that, because his "credibility" has been damaged by these selective smears, Mr. Wolfowitz must now resign "for the good of the bank."

Let's hope the White House doesn't fall for this rot, and, by the way, it's about time Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson spent some of his political capital and defended Mr. Wolfowitz. He'd be in good company among Africa's progressive leaders.

Mr. Berkowitz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

27517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 27, 2007, 08:44:25 AM
Second post of the morning:

Scotland: A Model for the Rest of Us

by Rob Blackstock

After the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech, it is time that we turned to an older, more civilized country as a role-model. I speak, of course, of Scotland. Scotland has long since evolved beyond such displays of violence as we saw in Blacksburg this past week.

A United Nations report has labeledScotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America. England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.

The reason why is obvious: on March 13, 1996, a lone gunman entered the Dunblane, Scotland school gym and killed 16 children and their teacher. Within the next year handguns were made illegal in Britain bringing an end to gun violence in that ancient land.

The ban has had no discernible effect on gun crime, which has continued a steady rise dating back more than 25 years and which accounted for some 4,000 injuries in the UK last year [2006]. Immediately after the ban, the number of shootings actually went up and has stayed up, though the homicide rate, which is relatively low, has been almost unaffected. In Scotland, for instance, the rate of about eight killings a year by guns has remained the same despite the Dunblane ban.

Bravo for the Brits! Without guns, people are now safe to walk the streets.

[Dr. Ian] Holland and his colleagues operate on someone in Glasgow an average of every six hours, every day of the year. They try to fix the damage done by knives, razors, bats, fists, kicks and, very occasionally, innocent accidents. More than a thousand patients are sent to maxillofacial surgery every year as a result of violence in Glasgow alone – and the figure is rising. Only a fraction is reported to the police.

When will we Americans realize that the only way to make law-abiding people safe is to take away everyone’s guns?

Early indications, in the west [of Scotland] at least, suggest [crime statistics] will be up again in 2006-07, at least for murder – the easiest violent crime to count. There were 60 murders in Strathclyde between April and December 2006, 19 more than in the last nine months of 2005. Officially, reported attempted murders were up too – to nearly 300.

Without the guns, criminals are no longer able to hurt the innocent. Gang violence will come to an end.

[In Scotland, a] crackdown on the sale of swords has been launched as part of a campaign to tackle knife crime and violence….

The measures are the latest steps from the Scottish Executive to curb the problem of knife crime….

[Justice Minister Cathy] Jamieson said: "Knife-carrying is all too prevalent in some communities, particularly in the west of Scotland, and has cut short and scarred too many young lives.

"In these areas police, doctors and law-abiding citizens have seen the damaging effects of swords, including samurai swords, being wielded on the streets. "It is simply far too easy at present for these weapons to be bought and sold."

Other parts of the plan brought in under the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act doubled the maximum penalty for carrying a knife to four years, gave police the unconditional power to search someone they suspect of carrying a weapon and increased the minimum age for buying a knife from 16 to 18.

[Detective Chief Superintendent] John Carnochan, head of the police's violence reduction unit, hailed the measures as "another major step forward in the fight against knife crime and violence". More than half the murders in Scotland each year are carried out with knives or other sharp weapons.

True, law-abiding people including women and the elderly will no longer have the means to defend themselves from the young, violent criminal once all guns are confiscated, but those people will no longer have a need for self-defense. Without the guns, there will be no violence from which to be protected.

3 per cent of Scots had been victims of assault compared with 1.2 per cent in America and just 0.1 per cent in Japan, 0.2 per cent in Italy and 0.8 per cent in Austria. In England and Wales the figure was 2.8 per cent.

Scotland has shown us all, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that removing guns solves the underlying problem. Today, Scotland is once more a picturesque land where you and your mates can gather for a peaceful pint at the local pub.

Glasses and bottles face being banned from Edinburgh's pubs and clubs under plans to tackle the soaring number of violent attacks fuelled by drink….

The move comes after the number of glass and bottle attacks in the city soared by 40 per cent last year….

A similar ban is about to be rolled out across Glasgow….

So allow me to raise a glass to my ancestral people, the Scots, and to say thank you. Thank you for showing us the result of outlawing guns. Peace, serenity and culture.

The machetes are worst. As heavy as they are sharp, they cleave cheeks and split jaws – mash faces. Victims never look the same again, their twisted smiles revealing the true scale of Scotland's toll of violent crime.

April 27, 2007

Rob Blackstock [send him mail] teaches economics at Louisiana Tech University and is the Senior Economist for American Economic Services.

Copyright © 2007
27518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 27, 2007, 08:30:24 AM

I posted this on the Race thread in the SCH forum, but frankly SCH has lower readership than R&P here and the closing line of this piece which I find funny in the extreme I think merits it being posted on this thread as well.


EEOC Is Moving On; Fast Food and a Dicey Neighborhood Await

By Al Kamen
Friday, April 27, 2007; A21

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in an uproar over a decision by Chair Naomi C. Earp to move its 500-employee headquarters from fine offices in downtown to a "developing" -- but not quite arrived -- area in desolate Northeast near the old Woodie's warehouse on New York Avenue.

At a hostile meeting yesterday to quell a growing rebellion, Earp told several hundred employees -- and others viewing on closed-circuit television -- that "the determining factor is price" in her decision and that employees "should not overreact to concerns about safety."
The agency has been at 18th and L streets NW since then-Chairman Clarence Thomas blocked Reagan administration efforts in 1989 to ship it to the suburbs. The downtown location also houses the Washington field office, which is where people go to file discrimination complaints.
But the current landlord didn't renew the lease, and Earp said she did not want to "pick a fight with" the General Services Administration over the location. So the employees -- mostly civil rights lawyers -- are out by July 2008.

Some employees surveyed the new neighborhood. They found, according to an e-mail Monday about their field trip, that across from the proposed headquarters there's a seven-acre empty lot with "lots of garbage, empty wine and liquor bottles, broken glass, and condoms ringing the perimeter of the (chain link) fence." The nearest business is a "dilapidated liquor store two blocks away."

There are also warehouses in the area and self-storage buildings and, across from the employee parking lot, another big vacant lot. There are a few small dilapidated buildings and a building under construction, the surveyors reported.

For lunch, instead of Luigi's, the Palm or several excellent Asian bistros near the current headquarters, there'll be only a McDonald's 3 1/2 blocks away and a Wendy's a block beyond that. For a change of pace, there's the upscale Chez Roi, also known as Roy Rogers, just four blocks away.
Some employees are disabled, opponents of the move note, and on dark winter evenings they would be especially vulnerable to criminals. The McDonald's parking lot, next door to the city's largest methadone clinic, was named in 2002 "as being one of the largest open-air drug markets in the region." "It is unclear whether this has improved," the employees said.
Still, the area is clearly changing. And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters is nearby, and those employees don't seem to be worried about crime.

"Give me a handgun and a bulletproof vest and an ATF windbreaker, and I wouldn't worry either," an unhappy EEOC official told us.
27519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: April 27, 2007, 08:27:45 AM

This is priceless.  ROTFLMAO-- Marc


EEOC Is Moving On; Fast Food and a Dicey Neighborhood Await

By Al Kamen
Friday, April 27, 2007; A21

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in an uproar over a decision by Chair Naomi C. Earp to move its 500-employee headquarters from fine offices in downtown to a "developing" -- but not quite arrived -- area in desolate Northeast near the old Woodie's warehouse on New York Avenue.

At a hostile meeting yesterday to quell a growing rebellion, Earp told several hundred employees -- and others viewing on closed-circuit television -- that "the determining factor is price" in her decision and that employees "should not overreact to concerns about safety."
The agency has been at 18th and L streets NW since then-Chairman Clarence Thomas blocked Reagan administration efforts in 1989 to ship it to the suburbs. The downtown location also houses the Washington field office, which is where people go to file discrimination complaints.
But the current landlord didn't renew the lease, and Earp said she did not want to "pick a fight with" the General Services Administration over the location. So the employees -- mostly civil rights lawyers -- are out by July 2008.

Some employees surveyed the new neighborhood. They found, according to an e-mail Monday about their field trip, that across from the proposed headquarters there's a seven-acre empty lot with "lots of garbage, empty wine and liquor bottles, broken glass, and condoms ringing the perimeter of the (chain link) fence." The nearest business is a "dilapidated liquor store two blocks away."

There are also warehouses in the area and self-storage buildings and, across from the employee parking lot, another big vacant lot. There are a few small dilapidated buildings and a building under construction, the surveyors reported.

For lunch, instead of Luigi's, the Palm or several excellent Asian bistros near the current headquarters, there'll be only a McDonald's 3 1/2 blocks away and a Wendy's a block beyond that. For a change of pace, there's the upscale Chez Roi, also known as Roy Rogers, just four blocks away.
Some employees are disabled, opponents of the move note, and on dark winter evenings they would be especially vulnerable to criminals. The McDonald's parking lot, next door to the city's largest methadone clinic, was named in 2002 "as being one of the largest open-air drug markets in the region." "It is unclear whether this has improved," the employees said.
Still, the area is clearly changing. And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters is nearby, and those employees don't seem to be worried about crime.

"Give me a handgun and a bulletproof vest and an ATF windbreaker, and I wouldn't worry either," an unhappy EEOC official told us.
27520  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 27, 2007, 08:25:22 AM
Andy's a buddy via his being a Machado BB and via our having trained together at RAW/R1, so I am bummed for him.  This was a big opportunity for him to get what he came for in MMA  cry

The guy was four inches taller than him (given Andy's stocky build, this can't be a rare experience for him) and Andy is a Machado BB, so BJ's advice to take it to the ground seems to as obvious as it was sound.  Also to my eye it looked like no one ever showed Andy the footwork fundamentals of fighting unmatched leads.  Combine that with the opponent's reach advantage and the result was what it was.
27521  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What would you have done? on: April 26, 2007, 11:33:47 PM

That is quite excellent.  I will be adding the underlying concept to my tool kit.  Thank you.

Dog Corey:

Nice find!

Crafty Dog
27522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Message from Loyalonehk on: April 26, 2007, 10:26:26 PM
I've moved Loyalonehk's post from another thread to here-- Marc

The video is about 10 mins long but worth the time.
My old Chief sent this link to me today...

27523  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 26, 2007, 04:56:04 PM
From the Underground forum:

Date: 04/26/07 02:48 PM
 Member Since: 11/17/2006
1733 Total Posts  Ignore User 

Report: UFC Opts for No Drug Testing at UFC 69 or UFC 70
Posted by UFC Junkie on April 26, 2007 at 9:15 am ET

Fighters from neither Houston's UFC 69 event nor last weekend's UFC 70 event in England underwent drug testing following their bouts, according to Steve Sievert of the Houston Chronicle.

According to Sievert, officials from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation stated that the drug testing was the responsibility of the "sanctioning body" of UFC 69, which in this case, was none other than the UFC.

The UFC simply chose not to test anyone.

Sievert has some feedback from Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs, regarding the matter. Unfortunately, he doesn't offer much in the way of an explanation, other than saying the UFC would have had no authority to discipline the fighters even if they did test positive for performance-enhancing or recreational drugs. (Really?)

Add this latest fiasco to growing list of grievances regarding the TDLR and its first-ever UFC event in the state of Texas. Earlier this month, contacted the commission to get a list of salaries from the fighters at the April 7 event. This information is readily available from other state commissions and considered a matter of public record.

However, with the Texas commission, our numerous phone calls and email messages were ignored. No explanation was given, and no information was sent. I later learned that other media outlets were told that the commission wouldn't release the information until the state's attorney general decided whether or not the figures could stay private. Of course, never got an answer either way.

Sievert also asked Ratner about testing for UFC 70, which took place in Manchester, England. Ratner said they simply had no legal means to do it.

However, just a few days before the UFC 70 event, UFC president Dana White said that the organization would administer the drug tests -- and that Ratner, the former head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, would be in charge of the process. White made the comments during a conference call to reporters a few days before the event.

Said White:

[Each drug test] will be a random drug test, and actually, what we are doing for this is Marc Ratner will be overseeing and has flown over a lot of inspectors, judges and referees. As far as safety goes, we always go overboard. Ratner is overseeing the whole thing.

The tests, of course, never happened.

In fact, England was apparently so ill-prepared for the event that the UFC reportedly had to fly over two U.S. inspectors, three judges and a doctor who consulted with local officials on the night of the event.

England's Boxing Board of Control, after all, does not regulate MMA.

27524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fire Jackson and Sharpton on: April 26, 2007, 04:16:28 PM

Updated:2007-04-13 16:07:16
Time for Jackson, Sharpton to Step Down
Pair See Potential for Profit, Attention in Imus Incident
Sports Commentary

I’m calling for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the president and vice president of Black America, to step down.

Their leadership is stale. Their ideas are outdated. And they don’t give a damn about us.

We need to take a cue from White America and re-elect our leadership every four years. White folks realize that power corrupts. That’s why they placed term limits on the presidency. They know if you leave a man in power too long he quits looking out for the interest of his constituency and starts looking out for his own best interest.

We’ve turned Jesse and Al into Supreme Court justices. They get to speak for us for a lifetime.


If judged by the results they’ve produced the last 20 years, you’d have to regard their administration as a total failure. Seriously, compared to Martin and Malcolm and the freedoms and progress their leadership produced, Jesse and Al are an embarrassment.

Their job the last two decades was to show black people how to take advantage of the opportunities Martin and Malcolm won.

Have we at the level we should have? No.

Rather than inspire us to seize hard-earned opportunities, Jesse and Al have specialized in blackmailing white folks for profit and attention. They were at it again last week, helping to turn radio shock jock Don Imus’ stupidity into a world-wide crisis that reached its crescendo Tuesday afternoon when Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer led a massive pity party/recruiting rally.

Hey, what Imus said, calling the Rutgers players "nappy-headed hos," was ignorant, insensitive and offensive. But so are many of the words that come out of the mouths of radio shock jocks/comedians.

Imus’ words did no real damage. Let me tell you what damaged us this week: the sports cover of Tuesday’s USA Today. This country’s newspaper of record published a story about the NFL and crime and ran a picture of 41 NFL players who were arrested in 2006. By my count, 39 of those players were black.

You want to talk about a damaging, powerful image, an image that went out across the globe?

We’re holding news conferences about Imus when the behavior of NFL players is painting us as lawless and immoral. Come on. We can do better than that. Jesse and Al are smarter than that.

Had Imus’ predictably poor attempt at humor not been turned into an international incident by the deluge of media coverage, 97 percent of America would’ve never known what Imus said. His platform isn’t that large and it has zero penetration into the sports world.

Imus certainly doesn’t resonate in the world frequented by college women. The insistence by these young women that they have been emotionally scarred by an old white man with no currency in their world is laughably dishonest.

The Rutgers players are nothing more than pawns in a game being played by Jackson, Sharpton and Stringer.

Jesse and Al are flexing their muscle and setting up their next sting. Bringing down Imus, despite his sincere attempts at apologizing, would serve notice to their next potential victim that it is far better to pay up than stand up to Jesse and Al James.

Stringer just wanted her 15 minutes to make the case that she’s every bit as important as Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma. By the time Stringer’s rambling, rapping and rhyming 30-minute speech was over, you’d forgotten that Tennessee won the national championship and just assumed a racist plot had been hatched to deny the Scarlet Knights credit for winning it all.

Maybe that’s the real crime. Imus’ ignorance has taken attention away from Candace Parker’s and Summitt’s incredible accomplishment. Or maybe it was Sharpton’s, Stringer’s and Jackson’s grandstanding that moved the spotlight from Tennessee to New Jersey?

None of this over-the-top grandstanding does Black America any good.

We can’t win the war over verbal disrespect and racism when we have so obviously and blatantly surrendered the moral high ground on the issue. Jesse and Al might win the battle with Imus and get him fired or severely neutered. But the war? We don’t stand a chance in the war. Not when everybody knows “nappy-headed ho’s” is a compliment compared to what we allow black rap artists to say about black women on a daily basis.

We look foolish and cruel for kicking a man who went on Sharpton’s radio show and apologized. Imus didn’t pull a Michael Richards and schedule an interview on Letterman. Imus went to the Black vice president’s house, acknowledged his mistake and asked for forgiveness.

Let it go and let God.

We have more important issues to deal with than Imus. If we are unwilling to clean up the filth and disrespect we heap on each other, nothing will change with our condition. You can fire every Don Imus in the country, and our incarceration rate, fatherless-child rate, illiteracy rate and murder rate will still continue to skyrocket.

A man who doesn’t respect himself wastes his breath demanding that others respect him.

We don’t respect ourselves right now. If we did, we wouldn’t call each other the N-word. If we did, we wouldn’t let people with prison values define who we are in music and videos. If we did, we wouldn’t call black women bitches and hos and abandon them when they have our babies.

If we had the proper level of self-respect, we wouldn’t act like it’s only a crime when a white man disrespects us. We hold Imus to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That’s a (freaking) shame.

We need leadership that is interested in fixing the culture we’ve adopted. We need leadership that makes all of us take tremendous pride in educating ourselves. We need leadership that can reach professional athletes and entertainers and get them to understand that they’re ambassadors and play an important role in defining who we are and what values our culture will embrace.

It’s time for Jesse and Al to step down. They’ve had 25 years to lead us. Other than their accountants, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who has benefited from their administration.

27525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 26, 2007, 11:04:25 AM
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais published today that Afghan and NATO forces are losing the war against Taliban militants. Musharraf also said claims that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence is aiding Taliban fighters are false and were invented by Afghan and NATO officials attempting to "hide their shame because they are losing."
27526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: April 26, 2007, 10:45:19 AM

NBC anchor Brian Williams -- whose reports from Iraq earlier this year were spot-on -- has kindly introduced my latest dispatch about American soldiers at war on his blog on the MSNBC news website.  Please click here for Part I of "Desires of the Human Heart."

I will publish the second part soon.

I am still with our British friends in Basra.  These excellent soldiers have been fighting harder than I realized. Just some hours ago, I was present when British soldiers honored three of their fallen. We were briefly attacked during the memorial ceremony, when the coffins were carefully carried onto the airplane, but the Brits did not miss a step in bestowing honors on their brethren.  Please click here to read British Forces at War.

At least three more installments are coming about the Brits, possibly four, depending on communications.  I'm able to get more work done with the Brits due to the hefty support they offer. It’s made a tremendous difference and is another reason I will regret leaving the Brits later this week, although I have requested a return later this year.

The sad news about leaving the Brits is lightened by some very good news. I've asked our Marines fighting in Anbar province for permission to accompany them and I'll be embedding with our Marines in roughly one week.

On a final note, this site is funded by readers and your support is essential. The recent action in Basra and surrounding areas has left me with destroyed photo gear—including a lens I had just managed to replace--and a dying laptop. I appreciate the support more than I can ever adequately express.

Basra, Iraq
27527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's current conciliatory mood swing on: April 26, 2007, 10:32:58 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Current Conciliatory Mood Swing

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani arrived in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday to resume talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana over Tehran's nuclear program. Negotiations came to an abrupt halt in December 2006 when the United Nations imposed long-awaited sanctions on the Islamic Republic. A few days before Larijani's meeting with Solana, the European Union approved a second phase of U.N. sanctions, which includes a ban on Iranian arms exports and an asset freeze targeting 28 individuals, one-third of whom are members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Despite the new sanctions, Iran has continued to play nice and has issued a series of conciliatory statements expressing its desire to create a rational atmosphere for negotiations. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said April 22 that the United States is showing signs of "softening" its stance toward Iran, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he is ready to hold talks with U.S. President George W. Bush. Even Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dialed back the pressure, telling Israel Radio on April 23 that there is still time for the international community to peacefully prevent Iran from going nuclear.

The Iranian nuclear playbook revolves around consolidating that country's power in Iraq. During the ebb and flow of negotiations between Washington and Tehran, the Iranians have developed a number of bargaining chips -- including their nuclear program -- to strengthen their hand against the United States in discussions about a post-Saddam Hussein power structure in Baghdad. Throughout this process, Iran has undergone a number of calculated mood swings in order to shape the discussions in its favor. We now are witnessing one such swing. Iran is taking a conciliatory approach ahead of a key meeting May 3-4 at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, at which Iran and the United States are expected to participate in a multilateral discussion about how to bring security to Iraq.

Thus far, Iran is playing hard to get, making it appear as though Washington -- not Tehran -- is begging for talks on Iraq. Iran played the same game ahead of earlier meetings attended by both U.S. and Iranian representatives, including a March meeting in Baghdad and the February security conference in Munich, Germany. Iran's apparent hesitation this time around has been attributed to the "venue and agenda" of the meeting. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari traveled to Tehran on Wednesday with a mission sent by Washington to convince the Iranians to participate in the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, which was originally set to take place in Ankara, but was moved to Egypt, likely due to the protestations of Iraq's Kurdish bloc. (Iran and Turkey are both outside the Arab fold and are on the same page in terms of ensuring that Iraqi Kurds do not carve out a separate region for themselves while Baghdad burns -- making Ankara an ideal meeting place in Iran's eyes.)

One thing Tehran does not want is for the Arab powers and the United States to turn the Egypt conference into a Tehran-bashing event, in which all the blame for Iraq's security problems would fall on its eastern neighbor. Iran wants to go into the talks on relatively equal footing with the United States, and will attempt to extract concessions from Washington ahead of the meeting, including the release of the five Iranian officials who were seized by U.S. forces in January from an Iranian diplomatic office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil. This explains Iran's recent public statements that it has received positive signs regarding the five Iranians being held in Iraq. By bringing the private negotiations into the public sphere, Iran is trying to hold the United States to any behind-the-scenes assurances it might have given about freeing the diplomats.

Iran has not yet announced whether its representatives will attend the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting. While the Iranians likely will make the trip, do not expect them to take any big leaps during the negotiations. Iran is still watching to see how the U.S. congressional debate over Iraq war funding shapes up, and can clearly see the Bush administration battling popular opinion by refusing to set a date for withdrawing from Iraq. If Iran could be assured that the upcoming U.S. presidential race would produce a leader who would attempt to get U.S. forces out of Iraq quickly, the clerical regime could risk dragging out the negotiations. But this is by no means guaranteed, and Bush is doing all he can to convince Iran that U.S. troops are in the Gulf for the long haul -- and that it is in Iran's best interest to deal now before the tide turns against it. Moreover, the Iranians are not at all confident about the state of Iraq's Shiite bloc, which is rife with fissures.

With all of these uncertainties, Iran likely will continue to stall, and to manipulate the nuclear negotiations as much as possible until it can better manage the Iraqi Shia.
27528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: April 26, 2007, 10:30:54 AM
HillaryCare Installment Plan
The Schip strategy for government-run health care.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Any doubt that "universal" health care has returned as a dominant political issue vanished with last month's forum for Democratic Presidential candidates in Nevada. "We need a movement," Hillary Clinton declared. "We need people to make this the No. 1 voting issue in the '08 election."

She and her friends in Congress are already working on it, notably by proposing to greatly expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. "Schip" was enacted in 1997 as Bill Clinton's health-care consolation prize after the implosion of HillaryCare. It expires in September without reauthorization, and Democrats are using the opening to turn it into another giant middle-class health-care entitlement. Call it HillaryCare on the installment plan.

Schip was conceived--or at least sold--as a way to insure children from low-income families that aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Included as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Schip began as a federal block grant of about $40 billion over 10 years. States receive an annual fixed federal contribution. Then they match the funds and design their own programs, by expanding Medicaid, creating a separate Schip program or some combination. States determine eligibility and benefits; some have premiums or co-pays, usually at negligible rates.
The Bush Administration wants to add $4.8 billion to the Schip budget, bringing it to $30 billion over the next five years. Democrats want to see that and raise by $50 billion to $60 billion. They pronounce Schip "underfunded"--and sure enough, 2007 funding already falls short of covering enrollees in 18 states by about $900 million.

But this "crisis" arose because some states have grossly exceeded Schip's mandate. They are using the program to expand government-subsidized coverage well beyond poor kids--to children from wealthier families and even to adults. And they're doing so even as some 8.3 million poor children continue to go uninsured.

The Schip legislation defines potential recipients as children in families making twice the federal poverty line, or $41,300 a year for a family of four. But states are encouraged to apply for waivers to allow for more flexibility. Now 15 states have eligibility thresholds above 200% of poverty, and nine of those are at or over 300%. In New Jersey, the figure is 350%. New York recently passed a budget raising eligibility to the highest in the nation at 400%--or $82,600 for a family of four. That's an income close to what Democrats usually define as "rich" when they're trying to raise taxes.

Some states are using Schip to create universal child health programs, regardless of need. Governor Rod Blagojevich recently expanded the Illinois Schip program to insure all children, with premiums and co-pays based on parental income. Pennsylvania's "Cover All Kids" and Tennessee's "Cover Kids" programs do the same.

As of February 2007, the Government Accountability Office found that 14 states were using Schip to cover adults: pregnant women, parents of Medicaid or Schip kids--and even childless adults. Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin cover more adults than children. In 2005 Minnesota spent 92% of its grant insuring adults, and Arizona spent two-thirds the same way.

And no wonder: The Schip funding structure provides incentives for running over budget. In three-year periods, all unspent Schip allocations across the 50 states are tallied up and redistributed. A state that exceeds its allotment gets more money from a state that didn't. In the 14 states that went over budget in 2005, 55% of Schip recipients were adults.

We're all for federalism, and if states want to raise taxes to pay for government-run health care, they have every right. The problem is when they exploit federal policy loopholes to do so and thus stick taxpayers in more responsible states with a larger tab. In 2005, 28 states received an extra grant, either through redistribution or the feds picking up the check for overruns. Thus the federal government pays about 70% of total Schip outlays, despite the premise of "matching" state grants.
A bill introduced by Senator Clinton and Representative John Dingell would make all of this worse. It would index government Schip outlays to national health spending and growth in states' child population. Without "quantifiable" progress--i.e., expanded rolls--funding drops. The legislation would also create incentives for states to expand Schip to the New York level of 400% of poverty. If this keeps up, a family will soon be eligible for Schip and subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

In other words, what began as a hard-cap grant to cover the working poor is evolving into an open-ended entitlement to cover whatever promises states make. And all under the political cover of helping "children." Instead of debating government-run health care on its merits, Democrats are building it step by step on the sly. Or as Mrs. Clinton put it in Nevada, "Make no mistake. This will be a series of steps."

There's a lesson here for Republicans, who agreed to create Schip in a trade for Mr. Clinton's signature on their "balanced budget." Balanced budgets vanish in the blink of an election, while entitlements like Schip live on and expand as an ever-larger claim on taxpayers. Mark this down as another case in which Bill Clinton outfoxed Newt Gingrich. The least Republicans can do now is work to return Schip to its original, more modest purposes.

27529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun Confiscation after Katrina on: April 26, 2007, 08:56:24 AM
Gun Confiscation after Katrina
27530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / New Prostate Cancer Test on: April 26, 2007, 08:30:00 AM
New Prostate Cancer Test May Detect More Tumors

By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2007; A03

An experimental blood test for prostate cancer may help eliminate tens of thousands of unnecessary biopsies at the same time that it detects many tumors that are now missed by the test commonly used, its developers said yesterday.

PSA, the current test, measures a protein normally produced by the prostate, while the experimental one, called EPCA-2, detects a chemical made principally in cancerous tissue.

Prostate cancer, the most common malignancy in men, is one of the more perplexing areas of medicine. Physicians are unsure how to find it and when to treat it.

Today, about 80 percent of prostate biopsies find no tumor -- a percentage that is rising as physicians become more aggressive in searching for the disease.

"We hope this will minimize the number of unnecessary biopsies," said Robert H. Getzenberg, a molecular biologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital who developed the new test, which is still under study and not yet commercially available. A description of it appears today in the journal Urology.

"It's an exciting new marker," said Martin G. Sanda, a urologist at Harvard Medical School. "There certainly is a need for a better test than PSA. Everyone accepts that." His view was echoed by Gerald L. Andriole Jr., chief of urologic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, who said that "if the data hold up, this marker will be a substantial improvement over PSA."

The PSA test casts a net that is too big and too full of holes. Finding a replacement that catches fewer healthy men, but more of those who do have cancer, would help settle at least one of the clinical conundrums concerning prostate cancer.

The new test is being developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Onconome Inc., a Seattle-based biomedical company. It could become commercially available in 2008.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 230,000 American men each year, and about 30,000 die of it. The death rate is 2.5 times higher among blacks than among whites.

At the moment, men are screened for the disease in two ways -- by a rectal exam and by the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test. If a lump is detected or if the PSA is above 2.5 (nanograms per milliliter of plasma), most physicians will suggest a biopsy.

EPCA-2 is a protein that is part of the "nuclear matrix," the scaffolding inside a cell's nucleus that helps it copy its genes. The Hopkins researchers measured it in different groups of men whose cancer status was known.

They tried the new test on 30 men with PSA readings above 2.5 and in whom biopsies found no cancer. All had normal EPCA-2 readings (below 30 ng per ml.). This suggested that the test may eliminate many of the "false-positive" PSA results -- readings that are abnormal but apparently do not denote cancer.

On the other hand, the EPCA-2 test appears able to detect cancer even when the tumor is small. It identified 36 out of 40 men who had cancer confined to the prostate gland, and 39 out of 40 men in whom the tumor had spread. It also identified many men -- 14 out of 18 -- who had cancer but whose PSAs were normal.

This last group is especially worrisome to physicians. A study published three years ago found that about 12 percent of men with normal PSA readings have cancer.

The new test is not perfect, though. Getzenberg and his colleagues tried it on 35 men with severe "benign prostatic hypertrophy" -- enlargement of the prostate that sometimes makes the PSA go up but is not cancer. In eight of them, the EPCA-2 was high, suggesting that the EPCA-2 test would flag some men who turn out not to have cancer -- although probably not as many as the PSA test does.

The new test will not help solve the other major clinical uncertainty in prostate cancer. It is unclear who will clearly benefit from aggressive treatment and who are likely to be able to live a normal life if the tumors are simply followed and removed only if they begin to cause symptoms.
27531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: April 25, 2007, 12:33:17 PM
Harry's War
Democrats are taking ownership of a defeat in Iraq.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.
--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, April 12.

Gen. David Petraeus is in Washington this week, where on Monday he briefed President Bush on the progress of the new military strategy in Iraq. Today he will give similar briefings on Capitol Hill, but maybe he should save his breath. As fellow four-star Harry Reid recently informed America, the war Gen. Petraeus is fighting and trying to win is already "lost."

Mr. Reid has since tried to "clarify" that remark, and in a speech Monday he laid out his own strategy for Iraq. But perhaps we ought to be grateful for his earlier candor in laying out the strategic judgment--and nakedly political rationale--that underlies the latest Congressional bid to force a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq starting this fall. By doing so, he and the Democrats are taking ownership of whatever ugly outcome follows a U.S. defeat in Iraq.

This isn't to say that the Administration hasn't made its share of major blunders in this war. But at least Mr. Bush and his commanders are now trying to make up for these mistakes with a strategy to put Prime Minister Maliki's government on a stronger footing, secure Baghdad and the Sunni provinces against al Qaeda and allow for an eventual, honorable, U.S. withdrawal. That's more than can be said for Mr. Reid and the Democratic left, who are making the job for our troops more difficult by undermining U.S. morale and Iraqi confidence in American support.
In his speech Monday, Mr. Reid claimed that "nothing has changed" since the surge began taking effect in February. It's true that the car bombings and U.S. casualties continue, and may increase. But such an enemy counterattack was to be expected, aimed as it is directly at the Democrats in Washington. The real test of the surge is whether it can secure enough of the population to win their cooperation and gradually create fewer safe havens for the terrorists.

So far, the surge is meeting that test, even before the additional troops Mr. Bush ordered have been fully deployed. Between February and March sectarian violence declined by 26%, according to Gen. William Caldwell. Security in Baghdad has improved sufficiently to allow the government to shorten its nightly curfew. Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has been politically marginalized, which explains his apparent departure from Iraq and the resignation of his minions from Mr. Maliki's parliamentary coalition--a sign that moderate Shiites are gaining strength at his expense.

More significantly, most Sunni tribal sheikhs are now turning against al Qaeda and cooperating with coalition and Iraqi forces. What has turned these sheikhs isn't some grand "political solution," which Mr. Reid claims is essential for Iraq's salvation. They've turned because they have tired of being fodder for al Qaeda's strategy of fomenting a civil war with a goal of creating a Taliban regime in Baghdad, or at least in Anbar province. The sheikhs realize that they will probably lose such a civil war now that the Shiites are as well-armed as the insurgents and prepared to be just as ruthless. Their best chance for survival now lies with a democratic government in Baghdad. The political solution becomes easier the stronger Mr. Maliki and Iraqi government forces are, and strengthening both is a major goal of the surge.

By contrast, Mr. Reid's strategy of withdrawal will only serve to enlarge the security vacuum in which Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents have thrived. That's also true of what an American withdrawal will mean for the broader Middle East. Mr. Reid says that by withdrawing from Iraq we will be better able to take on al Qaeda and a nuclear Iran. But the reality (to use Mr. Reid's new favorite word) is that we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, and if we lose there we will only make it harder to prevail in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Countries do not usually win wars by losing their biggest battles.

As for Iran, Mr. Reid's strategy of defeat would guarantee that the radical mullahs of Tehran have more influence in Baghdad than the moderate Shiites of Najaf. It would also make the mullahs even more confident that they can build a bomb with impunity and no fear of any Western response.
The stakes in Iraq are about the future of the entire Middle East--and of our inevitable involvement in it. In calling for withdrawal, Mr. Reid and his allies, just as with Vietnam, may think they are merely following polls that show the public is unhappy with the war. Yet Americans will come to dislike a humiliation and its aftermath even more, especially as they realize that a withdrawal from Iraq now will only make it harder to stabilize the region and defeat Islamist radicals. And they will like it even less should we be required to re-enter the country someday under far worse circumstances.

This is the outcome toward which the "lost" Democrats and Harry Reid are heading, and for which they will be responsible if it occurs. The alternative is to fight for a stable Iraqi government that can control the country and keep it together in a federal, democratic system. As long as such an outcome is within reach, it is our responsibility to achieve it.

27532  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Condtioning for the stick on: April 25, 2007, 11:27:59 AM
Woof All:

We are in conversation with Torqueblades (Mike) about how to get the price down so that we can carry these here in our catalog. 

27533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: April 25, 2007, 10:49:34 AM
Ballistic Missile Submarines: The Only Way to Go

Russia and China are both in the process of fielding a new class of ballistic missile submarines. These submarines, longtime prudent investments for states with nuclear weapons, are becoming an essential -- and ultimately, the only -- option for a survivable nuclear deterrent.


For the better part of a decade, four nations have maintained a regularly patrolling strategic deterrent at sea: the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Israel (whose use of nuclear warheads mounted on cruise missiles aboard its three Dolphin-class submarines is an open secret). However, that decade also has seen China and Russia complete nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programs. This is particularly important because diving beneath the ocean's surface is quickly becoming the only way to hide.


At its peak, the Soviet navy operated more than 60 SSBNs. The fleet is now one-quarter that size, and most of the boats are in poor condition. In 2002, the Russian navy did not conduct a single strategic deterrence patrol. The current fleet of aging SSBNs can barely hold the line. Not only is Russia investing in the future of its SSBN program, but it also is essentially starting from scratch.

The Yuri Dolgoruky, the lead boat of Russia's newest Borei-class SSBN, has a troubled past. Laid down in 1996, the Yuri Dolgoruky was neglected and construction was held up because of economic troubles after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The parallel development of the SS-NX-28 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) failed, and the design had to be adjusted during construction to accommodate a different missile, the SS-NX-30 Bulava.

Although the Bulava has had several successful launches, three failures in the fourth quarter of 2006 demonstrated the missile was far from ready. Nevertheless, the Yuri Dolgoruky was launched April 15. (It will spend at least a year being fitted out.) Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Alexei Moskovsky has promised seven more by 2017.

Of course, Moskovsky's statements are nothing if not ambitious. A series of successful Bulava tests will be necessary. But the ultimate success of the Borei class is essential for Russia's ability to maintain its nuclear deterrent. It is perhaps the top defense priority, along with the continued fielding of the land-based Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). And it is something Russia can afford.

In recent years, Russia has politically and economically consolidated and has been fiscally conservative enough to keep a balanced budget. Russian President Vladimir Putin's policies, and a hefty windfall from high energy prices, have turned Russia's $160 billion debt in 2000 into $400 billion in currency reserves and surplus funds. In March, the Kremlin shed its fiscal conservatism with a new budget for 2007-2010 that dramatically increases spending in many sectors, including defense. The budget and economic conditions are reminiscent of the Soviet budgets of the 1970s, during which Moscow launched its last dramatic increase in defense spending.


For the Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN), nuclear-powered submarines have been a challenge. At times, the PLAN was an understudy of a less-than-perfect master: the Russian navy. Though the PLAN has made incremental improvements, its nuclear submarines reportedly have yet to attain modern standards of performance.

The PLAN's older Xia-class SSBN, though able to launch missiles, never made an official deterrence patrol. However, the new Jin-class SSBN (Type 094) reportedly is undergoing sea trials. It spent some five years under construction and sources indicate it was launched in mid-2004. It reportedly is not up to modern SSBN standards, and there are rumors of nuclear propulsion problems. However, the shift to sea trials suggests it will ultimately deploy. The JL-2 SLBM with which it is to be fitted appears to have had several successful trial launches. If the Jin class is deployable, the bulk of the continental United States -- now only vulnerable to a small arsenal of China's longest-range land-based missiles -- would be within reach of the JL-2 SLBM.

Though dozens of funding priorities compete for the money, China's military spending has continued to rise. China has a small nuclear deterrent, so it must ensure that the deterrent it has is mobile and survivable; thus, while Beijing's pocketbook is not bottomless, the SSBN program should continue receiving the funding it needs.


Both the Russian Borei and the Chinese Jin are still at least a year from operational capability, and their sister boats -- still under construction -- will need to be completed in the next few years in order to build to a constantly patrolling rotation. But in five to 10 years, Russia and China both intend to have such a rotation in place.

While the significance of a new SSBN is greater for China, which has yet to field a functioning sea-based deterrent, the decay of Russia's SSBN fleet is such that the Borei marks a new beginning there.

India could be working toward a missile submarine as well, but that development is 10-20 years away. Countries like Pakistan could one day follow the Israeli example -- diesel submarines armed with cruise missiles. Diesel boats lack the endurance of their nuclear-powered brethren, but can run even quieter for short periods. The cruise missiles have a shorter range than SLBMs, but are technically easier to launch and require no major modifications to a standard hull, since they can be launched horizontally like torpedoes.

While none of these developments fundamentally alters the strategic balance of a unipolar world, advances in Russia and China's SSBN programs mark the first time in a decade that nations other than traditional U.S. allies are building sea-based deterrents.

The Increasing Importance of the Sea-based Deterrent

Early in the Cold War, ICBMs were almost prohibitively large and expensive. The submarine was a way to move shorter-range missiles closer to one's adversary. But as missile accuracy improved (the dramatically increasing potential yield of strategic warheads did not hurt, either), the prospect of a successful "first strike" began to alter the role of the SSBN. It became a valuable "first strike" platform because it could move close to an adversary's coast, giving the enemy less time to react to a missile launch.

But its greatest value as the most survivable leg of a nuclear triad is its capacity for a "second," or retaliatory, strike. Much harder to keep track of than platforms in fixed positions, an SSBN lurking at sea is the ultimate wild card. Land-mobile missile systems (as opposed to fixed, silo-based missiles) are another way of accomplishing this, but technological advances will make them increasingly vulnerable.

A joint U.S. program between the defense and intelligence communities is working to test space-based radar. Destined to succeed in one form or another, space-based radar will one day be able to track objects across the face of the Earth -- objects such as land-mobile launch vehicles -- and keep close enough tabs on them that their locations can be effectively targeted by strategic warheads.

In a unipolar world -- in which the United States will have the best intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and weapons of increasing speed and accuracy -- the nuclear weapon is the only true guarantor of national independence. Even a minimal deterrent allows nations to focus on and confront regional disputes, as well as protect their interests abroad. An SSBN fleet is, of course, not absolutely necessary -- whether mounted on a land-based missile or a submarine, a nuclear weapon is a substantial bargaining chip -- but it is becoming increasingly difficult to hide anything from the United States. The U.S. military has a technological edge beneath the waves as well, but even a modestly well-built submarine traveling below 5 knots is hard to track, and it certainly has a better chance than a fixed concrete silo. Consequently, the sea-based leg of a nation's nuclear triad is evolving from a prudent choice for survivability to the most essential element of a meaningful nuclear deterrent.
27534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 25, 2007, 10:46:09 AM
1108 GMT -- IRAQ -- The body of Mohammad al-Issawi, a top al Qaeda leader in Iraq, has been identified by Multinational Forces (MNF) officials, the MNF said in an April 25 statement. Al-Issawi, who was known to have supplied weapons to insurgents and support an Iraqi car bombing network, was killed in a raid against insurgents April 20.
27535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: April 25, 2007, 10:44:58 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Hamas' Political Struggle

The armed wing of Palestinian Hamas movement, Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for launching 40 rockets and 70 mortar shells on parts of Israel bordering the Gaza Strip. The move brings to an end the five-month truce with the Jewish state. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has reportedly opted for a "limited military response" to the rocket attacks, which occurred after a daylong IDF offensive this past weekend that killed nine Palestinians, including five militants. The rocket fire, according to IDF officials, was a diversionary tactic to provide cover for a militant infiltration to nab IDF soldiers to up the stakes in the pending prisoner swap between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The cease-fire between the Hamas-led government and Israel is not exactly foolproof. Hamas is notorious for using various militant front organizations to periodically carry out attacks and remind Israel of its militant campaign's strength. But since Hamas swept parliamentary elections more than a year ago, the Hamas leadership has had to balance between proving itself as a legitimate political entity worthy of foreign aid and interaction, and as the leading Palestinian militant organization whose skilled use of explosive devices makes it capable of pressuring Israel into making concessions.

After five months of Hamas silence, however, the group made a point to take direct responsibility for the rocket attack that marked Israel's 59th Independence Day. This shift in stance comes more than two months after Hamas and Fatah leaders signed an agreement in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to reshuffle the government in an attempt to halt endless street clashes between the rival groups and ease the economic blockade on the Palestinian territories. Though Hamas and Fatah made some progress in creating a national unity government, security issues persist, the economic embargo is still largely intact and the government itself has yet to function. It is no surprise that Hamas' organizational strength has slowly begun to wither away, with increasingly more of the party's members growing disillusioned with a political agenda that has left them paralyzed and doubting whether a political future is really what is good for the Hamas movement.

This difference of opinion is becoming increasingly visible in the top rung of the Hamas command, where the group's external leadership led by exiled politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and internal leadership led by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh are battling for dominance over the movement. While exiled in Damascus, Syria, Meshaal and his colleagues do not wish to see Haniyeh compromise on Hamas' principles by making the appropriate concessions that would give the movement a moderate make-over and end up further sidelining the group's exiled leaders. Meshaal exerts a great degree of control over Hamas' militant wing, and he uses that control to prevent Hamas from making any significant political headway, as illustrated with Tuesdays's rocket barrage and subsequent claim of responsibility by the group's armed wing. Haniyeh, on the other hand, understands the need for Hamas to empower itself politically and avoid a major confrontation with Israel that would signal the (physical and political) end of Hamas' Gaza leadership.

These internal divisions are only exacerbated by the impasse on the pending prisoner exchange between the Israeli and Palestinian governments and an intense rivalry between Hamas and Fatah over control of the security forces. Five weeks into his job, Palestinian Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi tried to resign. Al-Qawasmi was chosen as an independent candidate to help quell the controversy over having a Hamas-ruled government in control of a security apparatus dominated by Fatah loyalists. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attempted to appease his Fatah followers by appointing Muhammad Dahlan, a senior Fatah figure and former interior minister, as national security adviser to restructure the security forces and thus undermine al-Qawasmi's authority. Dahlan's experience in cracking down on Hamas militants in the 1990s has made him a mortal enemy in the eyes of Hamas leaders, providing yet another point of contention between the two factions.

As we anticipated, the lawlessness in the territories has provided jihadist elements with fertile ground to take root in the Palestinian theater. The growing jihadist presence in the area has come to light with recent attacks against Western targets, including the American International School in Gaza, Western-style boutiques, music and cosmetics stores, as well as the recent kidnapping and killing of British Broadcasting Corp. journalist Alan Johnston, whose death was claimed by a previously unknown jihadist-oriented group called the Brigades of Tawhid and Jihad. Though Israel benefits from keeping the Palestinians in disarray, the attrition of Hamas' organizational control and the worsening security conditions in the Gaza Strip are creating the conditions for Israel to face a future in which it will be battling the jihadist menace along its own border.
27536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: April 25, 2007, 08:28:16 AM

Published: April 25, 2007
NY Times
ISTANBUL, April 24 — Turkey’s ruling party on Tuesday chose a presidential candidate with an Islamic background, a move that will extend the reach of the party — and the emerging class of devout Muslims it represents — into the heart of Turkey’s secular establishment for the first time.

The selection has focused the worries of secular Turks who fear that sexual equality, as well as drinking alcohol and wearing miniskirts, could eventually be in danger.
Abdullah Gul, 56, the foreign minister, whose wife wears a Muslim head scarf and who is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closest political ally, is expected to be confirmed as president by Parliament in several rounds of voting that begin Friday. That will boost Turkey’s new political class — modernizers from a religious background.

“These are the new forces, the new social powers,” said Ali Bulac, a columnist for a conservative newspaper, Zaman, in Istanbul. “They are very devout. They don’t drink. They don’t gamble. They don’t take holidays. They are loaded with a huge energy. This energy has been blocked by the state.”

Turkey is a Muslim country, but its state, founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is strictly secular, and the presidency is its most important office. The current president is Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a secularist with a judicial background whose term is expiring.

Mr. Gul, an affable English speaker who has long been his party’s public face abroad, nodded to secular concerns in a news conference in Ankara after his nomination, saying, “Our differences are our richness.” His candidacy was a concession: the choice most distasteful to the secular establishment was Mr. Erdogan himself, who deftly bowed out.

Still, if Mr. Gul is confirmed, his party would occupy the posts of president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker, a lineup that the opposition party leader, Deniz Baykal, called “unfavorable.” His party later announced that it would boycott the vote.

In the Middle East, where mixing religion with government has been seen as poisonous for modernity, Turkey’s very light blend stands out as unusual, even unique.

“This party has done more for the modernization of Turkey than all the secular parties in the previous years,” said Joost Lagendijk, a member of the European Parliament who heads a committee on Turkish issues. “They were willing to open up the system, to challenge the elite.”

The party that Mr. Gul helped found, known by its Turkish initials, AK, sprang from the Islamic political movements of the 1990s. But the AK became significantly more moderate after taking power on a national scale in 2002. Since then, it has applied pragmatic policies that helped create an economic boom and opened up the state in ways that the rigid secular elite, which relied heavily on state control, had never imagined, in part to qualify for membership in the European Union.

Although the party is publicly adamant about keeping religion separate from policy, bristling at shorthand descriptions of it as pro-Islamic, it draws much of its support from Turkey’s religiously conservative heartland. Once on the periphery, these traditional Turks are now emerging as a powerful middle class that has driven Turkey’s boom. The economy has nearly doubled in the four years that the AK has been in power, largely because it has stuck to an economic program prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Gul’s candidacy goes to the heart of the secular-religious debate, because the presidency is such a revered symbol with real powers — he is commander in chief and has a veto. Turkish military leaders in the past have remarked that they would refuse to visit the presidential palace if a woman in a head scarf were living in it.

“How can she now become the host of a palace that represents the very same principles?” said Necmi Yuzbasioglu, a professor of constitutional law at Istanbul University.

Mehmet A. Kislali, a columnist with the newspaper Radikal, who has contacts with the military, said: “The military should not be underestimated. Thousands of officers are watching the developments.”

But the party’s only real application of Islam has been its grass-roots approach. In practices that would be familiar to Shiite Muslims in Lebanon or to Palestinians in Gaza, women’s groups go door to door offering aid, community centers offer women’s literacy classes and sports centers give free physical therapy to handicapped children.

The question of religion aside, economic progress under the AK has been extraordinary, with a steady rise in entrepreneurship. In Istanbul, fuel-efficient taxis zip down tulip-lined streets. New parks have sprung up. The air is less polluted.

Mustafa Karaduman, a textile designer and fashion house owner, is among the new entrepreneurs. He is from Anatolia, a capital of middle-class production, and the homeland of Mr. Gul. His fashion house has turned into an empire, supplying Islamic clothing for women in Europe and the Middle East. He is 50, has seven children, and is an outspoken opponent of the miniskirt.

“My mission,” he says, “is to cover all women around the world.”


In Turkey, a Sign of a Rising Islamic Middle Class

(Page 2 of 2)

The country’s wealth has drawn more observant Turks into public life. Some religious schools now teach English, unheard of a decade ago, improving the chances of students from religious backgrounds on university entrance exams.

At the Kartal Anadolu Imam Hatip High School in a conservative middle-class neighborhood, 16-year-old girls in head scarves and sweatshirts played basketball last week in brightly patterned Converse sneakers. (Skulls were a popular choice.) Last year, 94 students were admitted to universities, up from almost none a decade ago, said Hadir Kalkan, the school’s principal, pointing to students’ career choices in marketing, broadcasting, psychology and finance. Just 14 chose to continue religious training.

The city pool and gym in the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Okmeydani is a testament to the ascendancy of the pious middle class. Few observant women attended in 1996, when the pool opened, an attendant said. Now they fill treadmills and lap lanes.

“I always wanted to but there were no places to go,” said Dondu Koc, a 46-year-old in yellow sweat pants as she pedaled an exercise bike in a room full of women on Wednesday. Before Mr. Erdogan’s stewardship as mayor of the city, there was only one public pool. Now there are three, and five are under construction.

The complex is separated by sex, an arrangement Ms. Koc likes because it lets her and other covered women pedal, jog and swim without their head scarves. But the division irritates secular Turks.

“There shouldn’t be a split like this,” said Tamis Demirel, 47, a homemaker whose hair was still wet from her swim. “We sit next to each other; we should swim next to each other, too.”

The remark seemed to answer the question of Elif Demir, a 19-year-old office clerk at a youth rally for Mr. Erdogan on Sunday. “We have no problem with women wearing miniskirts,” she said, “but why are they so bothered with our head scarves?”

That frustration took the form of a public scolding at a meeting on the far edge of Istanbul on Friday night, where a man who supports Mr. Erdogan’s party complained about what he said was weak party support for religious schools.

“What about Koran courses?” he asked a party representative. “We are looking for generations that have morality.”

The apartment where the meeting took place bore the traces of upper-middle-class life: a running machine, a washing machine and a dryer. Brightly colored scarves covered the hair of the hostesses.

The representative, Kenan Danisman, paused as the evening prayer began. He then offered some pragmatic advice. “If you transfer this prayer into practical support, in three to five years, the problems that hurt peoples’ consciences will be resolved.”

It is precisely the open question of religion’s role in society that makes secular Turks so uncomfortable. Mr. Erdogan may be explicit in his opposition to Islam’s entering policy, but what about the rank and file who are filling jobs in public administration — what is their view of sexual equality? Secular Turks worry that their conservative worldview will lead to a reinterpretation of the rules and lower tolerance for a secular lifestyle.

“People like me are not calculating the economy or what sort of policies they are making,” said Basak Caglayan, 35, a financial consultant who will be married next month. “The life we expect, we want, for our children, is changing. I worry about that.”
27537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 25, 2007, 08:05:47 AM
The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily

"[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole
body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike,
especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from
this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on
every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be
influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see
many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail,
no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it."

-- Federal Farmer (Antifederalist Letter, No.18, 25 January 1778)

Reference: The Complete Anti-Federalist, Storing,
ed., vol. 2 (342) The Founders Constitution
27538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 24, 2007, 12:40:32 PM
"Against [the] historical backdrop, two facts stand out about our collection of enemies in Iraq, with a particular focus on the ex-Ba'athists and the terrorists who produced the bulk of the violence over the conflict's first three years. First, they are a small group relative to the population within which they are found. And second, even by the standards of our nation's past enemies, they are a despicable lot... National pride should not of course keep us in a war we have indeed lost. But we should give the surge a chance, and consider a number of 'Plan Bs' if it fails, before giving up this important fight to this heinous foe in this crucial part of the world" -- Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writing in the Washington Times.
27539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: April 24, 2007, 12:38:25 PM
Love That Loophole

Mitt Romney has an ace up his sleeve when it comes to his presidential campaign. Not only did the former Massachusetts governor raise more money than any other GOP candidate in the first quarter, but he has the potential to outspend his opponents regardless of how much money he raises.

Mr. Romney has a personal fortune that exceeds $500 million, and while he has only chipped in about $2 million of his personal funds so far, he has the option to donate far more. Even more importantly, his opponents would not be eligible for the provision in the McCain-Feingold law of 2002 that allows congressional candidates to accept contributions in excess of usual limits when facing a wealthy self-funding opponent. The so-called "Millionaires' Amendment" was inadvertently excluded from applying to presidential campaigns. "If Romney pours millions of his own dollars into the race, Republican primary opponents would have little recourse but to raise further funds in $2,300 increments, a time-consuming process," reports The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

In Congressional campaigns, the Millionaire's Amendment has sometimes made a big difference. In 2004, a then-obscure Illinois state senator used the provision to accept contributions as large as $12,000 in his uphill race for the Democratic Senate nomination against wealthy businessman Blair Hull. Without that financial leg up, Barack Obama might still be voting on driver's license fee bills as a state legislator in Springfield.

Mr. Romney insists he plans to raise money from his proven network of contributors and their friends. But he has the option of pouring in additional resources in advance of the "Super Tuesday" collection of 24 state primaries on Feb. 5, when close to 40% of all delegates will be at stake.

-- John Fund  Political Journal of the WSJ
27540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Time; Rings of thought, Lines of thought on: April 24, 2007, 11:40:04 AM
Texts That Run Rings Around Everyday Linear Logic

NY Times
Published: March 26, 2007

The feeling is familiar. You are listening to a piece of music, and nothing links one moment with the next. Sounds seem to emerge without purpose from some unmapped realm, neither connecting to what came before nor anticipating anything after. The same thing can happen while reading. Passages accumulate like tedious entries in an exercise book. Chaos, disorder, clumsiness, disarray: these must be the marks of poor construction or, perhaps, of deliberate provocation.

In a strange way, though, the very same sensations might also be marks of our own perceptual failures. Perhaps the order behind the sounds is simply not being heard; perhaps the logic of the argument is not being understood. Paying attention to anything alien can be like listening to a foreign language. There may be logic latent in the sounds, but it is not evident to untrained ears.

This is one reason we so persist in trying to find order, even when it is not first apparent. It is almost a faith in science, psychology, religion and art: an unshakable conviction that some pattern will be found. And often it is. Now, a brief book by the British anthropologist Mary Douglas, “Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition” (Yale University Press), provides another glimpse, cursory but suggestive, of this quest for pattern.

Over the course of her career Ms. Douglas has become a master at discerning order in unexpected forms and surprising places. In an unassuming way, without pretense or revolutionary claims, she reveals the logic behind the varied customs of a society. One of the arguments made in her classic book “Purity and Danger” was that herein lies the very work of a culture: to shape a rigorous order that can hold threatening outside forces at bay. Societies divide the world into the clean and the unclean, the permitted and the forbidden, the pure and the polluted, imposing their categories on the continuities of nature, creating order while disclosing it.

This order is also preserved and passed on through literary and religious texts, which must themselves communicate a culture’s way of understanding the world. Why, though, Ms. Douglas asks, are so many of these texts so disorganized, so clumsily written — at least according to generations of readers? The biblical Book of Numbers, she points out, has been dismissed as an unstructured miscellany; one important scholar, Julius Wellhausen, looked at it, she writes, as if it were a “kind of attic used for storing biblical materials that did not fit,” almost a “junk room for the rest of the Pentateuch.”

Over the centuries many Chinese novels have also been attacked for lack of structure, repetition and episodic incoherence. So have Persian and Zoroastrian poetry. Even the Iliad has come in for its share of criticism. Ms. Douglas adds, “The terms disarray and chaotic, together with disordered, clumsy, and other pejoratives” crop up very often in descriptions of the texts that interest her. She herself reacts like an anthropologist surveying a society’s strange customs. “Whenever I read criticism of dire editorial confusion,” she writes, “my pulse quickens; I scent a hidden structure.”

In many cases she finds one. “Writings that used to baffle and dismay unprepared readers, when read correctly, turn out to be marvelously controlled and complex compositions,” she writes. Many epic works of non-Western cultures, she explains, have a distinctive shape: they are constructed in the form of rings.

Here is how the ring works. First there is an introductory section, a prologue that presents the theme and context. The story then proceeds toward its crucial center: the turning point and climax. Once there, the beginning is invoked again and the tale reverses direction. The second half of the story rigorously echoes the first, using verbal markers — like repetition or changes in style — but proceeding as a mirror image, as if the writer is walking backward through the plot. The ending is a return to the beginning. The ring structure also resembles an unrolling thread that is then pulled back onto its spool.

This pattern, Ms. Douglas and other writers have suggested, appears again and again in world literature. She argues, for example, that the biblical story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac is laid out in ring form. It begins with God’s call to Abraham; the turning point comes when the angel calls to Abraham before he strikes Isaac, their interchange echoing the words at the beginning. Then, step by step, the story reverses itself, repeating at each step language used earlier.

In her brilliant analysis of the biblical book Numbers (fully explored in another of her volumes, “In the Wilderness”), Ms. Douglas has found that the entire text is constructed in a circling and mirroring form, in which bands of narrative alternate with layers of legal writ. A work that might seem a structural hodgepodge takes on, in her analysis, a rigorous logic; the parallels established by the ring form assume important meanings that are crucial for understanding the biblical book’s preoccupation with the priesthood and authority.

Ms. Douglas explores the ring structure in more recent literature as well (including Laurence Sterne’s “Tristram Shandy”), but for the most part, she writes, the pattern has become lost to Western perception. Narratives rigorously written in ring form have come to seem chaotic and clumsy. This is not, she insists, because they are esoteric codes but because today we look elsewhere for order, distrusting the ring form’s rigorous demands. The ring can seem to overturn linear logic and expectation; we prefer open-ended explorations and mistake order for chaos.

I’m not sure that that is the full explanation. And this book is too limited a survey to do the theme justice; it suggests more than it proves. But there is a compelling reason for why the ring pattern that Ms. Douglas outlines works so well: It maps out the ways in which human beings make sense of things.

At first one event follows another. We may not be entirely sure where it is going. Is there a point at all? Then, with declarative emphasis comes the turning, where, with a shock, we hear a first echo. We connect these different moments; a pattern begins to take shape. Then, step by step, other similarities are heard — they too take on meaning — moving backward from the most recent to the earliest in time, until we return to where we began. This kind of narrative needs to be heard again, for it is only in the retelling that the full nature of its order is revealed.

The ring form thus seems to presume repetition and re-interpretation to be understood; it almost takes on the aspect of ritual. It also seems to presume a community that will share in accumulated understanding. Is this perhaps what makes the ring form so alien to contemporary life? Right now, disorder seems much more realistic.

Connections, a critic’s perspective on arts and ideas, appears every other Monday.

A friend responds:

I recall a dim memory of a book I read some years ago called the Gift of the Jews which argued that until the emergence of a more linear, future oriented thinking pattern, thoughts and societies and world views were circular, “rings,” based on the repetitive pattern of the days and seasons.  


After all, the entirety of life in those days was focused on the daily and seasonal cycles that always closed on themselves, so why would one have any other world view?  Your ancestors and your successors could expect precisely the same life.  It was always so, and would always be so.


Then the human capacity for thinking forward, beyond the circular view of everyday life, began to take hold and people thought forward longer term, developed plans, built buildings, then cities, and the current linear thinking model evolved and became dominant as we separated from the natural cycle of the earth.  Storage of surpluses and complexities of trade necessitated a change of viewpoint.


This thesis seems consistent with your points, Ed. Today everyday logic is linear.  Four thousand years ago everyday logic was circular, like the passage of time.  Round and round.


Maybe that is why the older texts are constructed as indicated in your column.


27541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jewish Resistance to the Nazis on: April 24, 2007, 11:36:06 AM

Exhibition Review

Resisting the Nazis Despite the Odds


Published: April 16, 2007

The discipline and determination are half-brilliant, half-mad: in 1940, in Warsaw, the Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum decided that the entire experience of Jewry under Nazi rule should be thoroughly documented. The internment of Jews within the Warsaw ghetto, he wrote (with chilly irony), “provided even greater opportunity for development of the archive.”

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Shulamith Posner-Mansbach/ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The show at the Museaum of Jewish Heritage includes this 1932 photo taken in Kiel, Germany. More Photos »


Slide Show

Resisting the Nazis

A competition was established to select writers, teachers and intellectuals; they would study topics like community life, education, crime, youth, art and religion, while helping to smuggle information into the ghetto. Comprehensiveness and objectivity were meant to eclipse surrounding horrors, documenting them for the future. The secret project was called, in heavily sardonic code, Oyneg Shabbes, using the Yiddish words for a celebration welcoming the Sabbath.

“To our great regret, however, only part of the plan was carried out,” Mr. Ringelblum writes, explaining with hyperbolic understatement: “We lacked the necessary tranquillity for a plan of such scope and volume.” Writers were executed; some were exiled for slave labor; and, in 1942, hundreds of thousands of ghetto residents were deported to death camps. Before the ghetto was consumed in the final conflagrations of an armed rebellion, Mr. Ringelblum’s archive was buried in tin boxes and milk cans that were only partly rediscovered after the war.

This epic is briefly alluded to in the important exhibition “Daring to Resist: Jewish Defiance in the Holocaust,” opening today at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in association with the Ghetto Fighters’ House in Israel. Mr. Ringelblum is mentioned here, and facsimiles of the buried documents (now housed in Warsaw) are shown, but they are primarily demonstrating that in extreme times resistance to tyranny takes many forms. One is the enterprise of Oyneg Shabbes: documentation.

Others forms of resistance are reflected in objects that in ordinary times have no distinctiveness: a ritual slaughterer’s knife used at great risk to butcher kosher chickens in Denmark so they could be smuggled into Germany in the 1930s; a blue-and-white wrestling sash from 1934 awarded to Jewish contestants no longer permitted to compete with their fellow Germans; a girl’s 1938 report card from a school founded by Jews in Berlin after Jewish children were banned from public schools.

And reflecting later years are artifacts from even darker times, including false documents used by Jewish women who were couriers secretly bearing information from beyond the walls of ghettos and camps. Also on view are a violin, a stage set, school notebooks: all relics of a resilient Jewish life nurtured at the brink of extinction. (“When the children will come out of the cage,” one survivor recalls being told, “they should be able to fly.”)

There is even a pillowcase given to a Lithuanian woman by Rivka Gotz, who defied the Nazi ban on Jewish childbirth and smuggled her newborn son, Ben, out of the Shavli ghetto in a suitcase, placing him under the woman’s secret care. The pillowcase now comes from Ben Gotz’s collection.

Such is the evidence of resistance of one kind or another: creating institutions in the face of oppression; following religious observances that were the object of Nazi repugnance; continuing cultural life with defiant pride; risking life to bring new life into being. It is not until late in the exhibition that visitors see the first guns used by Jewish partisans or can read the first accounts of their sabotage as they darted from forests like gnats in the face of the German war machine.

The exhibition’s curator, Yitzchak Mais, former director of the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem and a curator of the planned Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, explains in a valuable companion volume to the show (which also includes many difficult-to-find firsthand accounts) that his intention was to address the kinds of accusatory questions that the writer Primo Levi said he often heard as a survivor: “Why did you not escape? Why did you not rebel?”

Mr. Mais’s answer is that Jews did, again and again There were more than 90 Jewish fighting organizations in European ghettos and three rebellions at the hellish centers of the Nazi death-kingdom: at Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau. But also, Mr. Mais suggests, “visitors to our exhibition will be challenged to re-evaluate their understanding of what constitutes resistance.”

This is the show’s greatest strength, and also its greatest weakness. It is a strength because to demonstrate how all of this involved resistance, the exhibition must convey just how extraordinary the circumstances were: the gradually tightening grip that held European Jews; the impressions that couldn’t fully foreshadow what was to come; the human impulse toward hope being slowly stifled. “How does one respond,” an introductory film asks, “when the future is unknown?”

“Who can you turn to?” asks the label text. “Who will speak for you when your government turns enemy and neighbors turn away?” “Is it better to lie low or stand tall?” And another question: “To stay or to go?”

When the scale of the Nazi ambition starts to become clear, it is beyond comprehension. The show includes numerous fragments of interviews with survivors (which unfortunately are too brief and miscellaneous) that capture those impressions. One woman recalls the postcards arriving from relatives whom the Nazis had just relocated “East”; they are full of carefully phrased optimism and artificially cheery description. But after the Nazi-supervised pap, one card ominously adds: “Very soon we are going to visit Uncle Mavet.” Mavet, in Hebrew, means death.

But the exhibition’s polemical focus is also a weakness, for it ends up turning resistance into a catchall concept that applies to any refusal to submit completely. There is an element of truth here, but also a needless desire to encompass every act of pride and survival within the idea of resistance. The result is almost too reassuring: Jews, the label text tells us, “recognized that their most precious resource was hope,” and, “They acted imaginatively to shield their communities from despair and promote the will to resist.”

It is as if the exhibition were shying away from too much complication. Almost unmentioned, for example, are the moral quandaries faced by Jewish leaders who even at best had to weigh the communal benefits of cooperation with the communal costs of resistance. In one of the show’s short videos, a survivor recalls being called before community leaders when they learn of her plan to escape. They cite the massacres that would follow. She is asked, “Who gave you the right to buy your freedom at the price of others?”

That dilemma is unexplored. That would mean examining the idea of resistance more intensively; making more distinctions, not fewer. Why, for example, did it take so much time for Jewish resistance to erupt into outright refusal and rebellion? In the show’s companion book, the historian David Engel suggests that at first Jews saw the Nazi phenomenon as a recurrence of earlier traumas, as part of the cycle of Jewish historical experience. Jews, after all, had received full German citizenship only in 1871, so if they were deprived of benefits in 1933, it was more a regression than a cataclysm.

The sense of repetitive cycles was reinforced by the literal medievalism of German oppression: the ghettos, the yellow stars, the governing Jewish councils. These historical echoes, Mr. Engel suggests, made Jews less likely to see clearly what was happening and made resistance less likely.

Those who did see, like the partisan Abba Kovner, took very different actions. In 1941, at 23, he said that the German goal was the “absolute, total annihilation” of the Jews. This put the entire situation in a new context. Unfortunately in this show one doesn’t fully grasp how drastically interpretation shaped response; the partisans were a turning point as much as a continuation. Here, though, their acts almost become a supplement to broadly defined resistance, and the fighters lack individuality.

In a 2001 PBS documentary, “Resistance: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans,” Kenneth M. Mandel and Daniel B. Polin tell the story through interviews with 11 partisans who become recognizable individuals recounting an astonishing past. Some of those same figures appear in this exhibition’s videos, but they are stripped of context and speaking in snippets. We don’t learn enough about them to fully understand their achievement.

This makes the exhibition less powerful than it might have been. But at a time when Nazism has become a denatured metaphor for any political system deemed unpleasantly powerful, and when the concept of resistance has been perverted into meaninglessness by terrorist groups boasting exterminationist goals, this show begins to re-establish the sense of scale that once made Nazism so horrific and resistance so difficult.

27542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Heart Attack article part two on: April 24, 2007, 08:51:32 AM

"The single biggest delay is from the onset of symptoms and calling 911,"
said Dr. Bernard Gersh, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic. "The average time
is 111 minutes, and it hasn't changed in 10 years."

'Time Is Muscle'

At least half of all patients never call an ambulance. Instead, in the
throes of a heart attack, they drive themselves to the emergency room or are
driven there by a friend or family member. Or they take a taxi. Or they

Patients often say they were embarrassed by the thought of an ambulance
arriving at their door.

"Calling 911 seems like such a project," Mr. Orr said. "I reserve it for car
accidents and exploding appliances. I feel like if I can walk and talk and
breathe I should just get here."

It is an understandable response, but one that can be fatal, cardiologists

"If you come to the hospital unannounced or if you drive yourself there,
you're burning time," Dr. Antman said. "And time is muscle," he added,
meaning that heart muscle is dying as the minutes tick away.

There may be false alarms, Dr. Sopko said.

"But it is better to be checked out and find out it's not a problem than to
have a problem and not have the therapy," he said.

Calling an ambulance promptly is only part of the issue, heart researchers
say. There also is the question of how, or even whether, the patient gets
either of two types of treatment to open the blocked arteries, known as
reperfusion therapy.

One is to open arteries with a clot-dissolving drug like tPA, for tissue
plasminogen activator.

"These have been breakthrough therapies," said Dr. Joseph P. Ornato, a
cardiologist and emergency medicine specialist who is medical director for
the City of Richmond, Va. "But the hooker is that even the best of the clot
buster drugs typically only open up 60 to 70 percent of blocked arteries -
nowhere close to 100 percent."

The drugs also make patients vulnerable to bleeding, Dr. Ornato said.

One in 200 patients bleeds into the brain, having a stroke from the
treatment meant to save the heart.

The other way is with angioplasty, the procedure Mr. Orr got. Cardiologists
say it is the preferred method under ideal circumstances.

Stents have recently been questioned for those who are just having symptoms
like shortness of breath. In those cases, drugs often work as well as
stents. But during a heart attack or in the early hours afterward, stents
are the best way to open arteries and prevent damage. That, though, requires
a cardiac catheterization laboratory, practiced doctors and staff on call 24
hours a day. The result is that few get this treatment.

"We now are seeing really phenomenal results in experienced hands," Dr.
Ornato said. "We can open 95 to 96 percent of arteries, and bleeding in the
brain is virtually unheard of. It's a safer route if it is done by very
experienced people and if it is done promptly. Those are big ifs."

The ifs were not a problem for Mr. Orr. His decision to go to Brigham and
Women's Hospital proved exactly right. But he did not know that when he
chose the hospital - he chose it because his doctor was affiliated with

A Need for More Angioplasty

Currently, 30 percent of patients who are candidates for reperfusion do not
receive it, and of those who do, only 18 percent are treated with
angioplasty, said Dr. Alice Jacobs, director of the cardiac catheterization
laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine and a past president of
the American Heart Association. Of the nation's 5,000 acute care hospitals,
Dr. Jacobs said, only 1,200 provide angioplasty.

Most hospitals, she said, cannot offer angioplasty because they do not have
enough patients for a team of doctors to maintain their skills. An obvious
solution would be to make heart attack care more like trauma care - sending
patients to the nearest hospital that can provide angioplasty as quickly as
possible. But that is not always easy, Dr. Jacobs said, because hospitals do
not want to lose cardiac patients.

A major reason, she said, is financial. Hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare
according an index that measures the acuity of medical conditions they

"If your cardiac patients are transferred, your acuity index goes down,
which lowers overall Medicare reimbursement for other problems like
pneumonia and renal disease," Dr. Jacobs said.

It is also difficult for patients who live in rural areas, where community
hospitals are too small to offer angioplasty and larger hospitals that do
offer it are hours away. Minnesota is experimenting with a program using
helicopters to transport patients quickly. But for most rural patients
elsewhere, angioplasty is almost an impossibility.

Dr. Antman suggests that heart disease patients ask their doctor if there is
a hospital nearby that does angioplasty around the clock. If so, they might
want to discuss with their doctor whether to ask that an ambulance take them
there if they are having a heart attack.

It is the sort of advice that makes cardiologists nervous - they do not want
to encourage patients to dictate treatment. But, Dr. Antman said, if it is
feasible to get to an angioplasty-providing hospital within an hour, "in
most cases that would be preferable."

Getting the Proper Therapy

Opening an artery is only the start of treatment. The next part is at least
as problematic: Patients have to get the right drugs, in the right doses,
and have to take them for the rest of their lives.

"Care is getting a lot better," Dr. Peterson said. "But the only caveat is
that they are only really looking at, Did you get therapy? No one is looking
too closely at, Did you do it right?"

For example, he said, a recent study found that heart attack patients were
getting blood-thinning prescription drugs to prevent clots, as they should,
but up to 40 percent were getting the wrong dose, usually one too high.

And even if every prescription were exactly right, as many as half of all
patients do just what Mr. Orr did after his first heart attack. They stop
taking many or all of their drugs.

Sometimes it is a matter of communication.

"The information did not get to the primary doctor and the primary doctor
did not know to renew the prescription," Dr. Peterson said. "When we talk to
patients, they say: 'No one communicated to me the importance of being on
the medications long term. I thought I would only need them for three
months, I thought it would be like an antibiotic. I thought they put in a
stent so why do I need a drug?' "

But there may be more to it than ignorance. There also is the image those
pills convey of a sick person.

Mr. Orr said he did not like to think of himself as someone who had to take
a fistful of pills every day. Even the recommended daily aspirin seemed
superfluous, he thought.

"I think I sort of pooh-poohed the notion that one tablet of aspirin each
day would do anything," Mr. Orr said.

What it does is make blood less likely to clot. In Mr. Orr's case, Dr.
Antman said, it is likely that when Mr. Orr was exercising on the
cross-trainer, an area of plaque ruptured. Then a clot began to form in the
area, eventually blocking the artery.

The problem was not exercise, which is good for people with heart disease,
but Mr. Orr's decision not to take his medications, Dr. Antman said. If he
had been taking aspirin that clot would have had more difficulty forming and

Dr. Antman has a message for patients: With a disease as serious as heart
disease, those who take responsibility are often the ones who survive.

Having a heart attack, even if it turns out well, as his did, is a
life-altering experience, Mr. Orr said.

His first heart attack, Mr. Orr said, "came out of the blue." When he was
discharged from the hospital, he was terrified that it would happen again
when he was alone and unable to call for help. "I had a really hard time
with it," he said. "I only stayed in my own house for one night and then I
moved to a friend's house for two weeks."

Now Mr. Orr plans to be serious about taking his medication and getting back
to his diet and exercise program. He will call an ambulance if he ever has
symptoms again. Still, he hates to think of himself as a patient. "I'm a
little freaked out that I will have to take medication for the foreseeable
eternity," Mr. Orr said.

But the day after he got home from the hospital, he thought about what had

"The gravity of the situation just sort of clicked," Mr. Orr said. "I
started to cry."
27543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Heart Attack article on: April 24, 2007, 08:49:39 AM
A MD friend recommends this article: "An unusually thoughtful and competent recent medical NYT article"


April 8, 2007

Keith Orr thought he would surprise his doctor when he came for a checkup.

His doctor had told him to have a weight-loss operation to reduce the amount
of food his stomach could hold, worried because Mr. Orr, at 6 feet 2 inches,
weighed 278 pounds. He also had a blood sugar level so high he was on the
verge of diabetes and a strong family history of early death from heart
attacks. And Mr. Orr, who is 44, had already had a heart attack in 1998 when
he was 35.

But Mr. Orr had a secret plan. He had been quietly dieting and exercising
for four months and lost 45 pounds. He envisioned himself proudly telling
his doctor what he had done, sure his tests would show a huge drop in his
blood sugar and cholesterol levels. He planned to confess that he had also
stopped taking all of his prescription drugs for heart disease.

After all, he reasoned, with his improved diet and exercise, he no longer
needed the drugs. And, anyway, he had never taken his medications regularly,
so stopping altogether would not make much difference, he decided.

But the surprise was not what Mr. Orr had anticipated. On Feb. 6, one week
before the appointment with his doctor, Mr. Orr was working out at a gym
near his home in Boston when he felt a tightness in his chest. It was the
start of a massive heart attack, with the sort of blockage in an artery that
doctors call the widow-maker.

He survived, miraculously, with little or no damage to his heart. But his
story illustrates the reasons that heart disease still kills more Americans
than any other disease, as it has for nearly a century.

Medical research has revealed enough about the causes and prevention of
heart attacks that they could be nearly eliminated. Yet nearly 16 million
Americans are living with coronary heart disease, and nearly half a million
die from it each year.

It's not that prevention doesn't work, and it's not that once someone has a
heart attack there is little to be done. In fact, said Dr. Elizabeth Nabel,
director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National
Institutes of Health, age-adjusted death rates for heart disease dropped
precipitously in the past few decades, and prevention and better treatment
are major reasons why.

But the concern, Dr. Nabel and others say, is that much more could be done.
In many ways, scientists' hard-won and increasingly detailed understanding
of what causes heart disease and what to do for it often goes unknown or

Studies reveal, for example, that people have only about an hour to get
their arteries open during a heart attack if they are to avoid permanent
heart damage. Yet, recent surveys find, fewer than 10 percent get to a
hospital that fast, sometimes because they are reluctant to acknowledge what
is happening. And most who reach the hospital quickly do not receive the
optimal treatment - many American hospitals are not fully equipped to
provide it but are reluctant to give up heart patients because they are so

And new studies reveal that even though drugs can protect people who already
had a heart attack from having another, many patients get the wrong doses
and most, Mr. Orr included, stop taking the drugs in a matter of months.
They should take the drugs for the rest of their lives.

"We've done pretty well," Dr. Nabel said. "But we could be doing much
better. I've heard some people refer to it as the rule of halves. Half the
people who need to be treated are treated and half who are treated are
adequately treated."

The result, heart researchers say, is a huge disconnect between what is
possible and what is actually happening.

Crucial Miscalculations

Keith Orr's story has themes that resonate with every cardiologist. He did
many things right, but also made some crucial miscalculations that were so
common that nearly every patient makes them, cardiologists say. But not
everyone comes out as well.

Mr. Orr anticipated a pleasant day on Feb. 6, starting with a workout at his
gym, then lunch with a friend before he went to work at Smith & Wollensky, a
steakhouse where he is a manager.

He arrived at the gym around noon and lifted weights, concentrating on the
pectoral muscles of his chest. Then he moved on to an elliptical
cross-trainer for cardiovascular exercise.

After half an hour on the elliptical, Mr. Orr felt a tightness in his chest.
"I attributed it to the weight training," he said, but stopped exercising,
showered, dressed and walked to his car.

"I felt really bad, out of sorts," he said. The pressure in his chest would
ease off and then intensify, and now he was sweating profusely and was
nauseated. When he arrived at the restaurant, he told his friend Darrin
Friedman that he would have to beg off from lunch. "I feel like hell," he
told Mr. Friedman.

He went home and lay on his bed.

"I knew at that point that it was not a pulled muscle," Mr. Orr said. "It's
a completely different feeling of pressure and discomfort. You feel as
though something is genuinely wrong."

It was 3:15. And the pain was no longer intermittent. It was constant.

Mr. Orr called Mr. Friedman and asked him to drive him to an emergency room.
A few minutes later, the two set off for Brigham and Women's Hospital, about
a 10-minute drive.

"Keith was hunched over and he didn't put his seat belt on," Mr. Friedman
said. "I kept asking him, 'Is it getting better or getting worse or staying
the same?' For the first 10 minutes he said, 'It's about the same.' Then,
when we were a block or so away, he said: 'I'm not doing well. I think it's
getting worse.' "

When they arrived at the hospital's emergency department, Mr. Friedman
explained that his friend was having chest pains. Immediately, Mr. Orr was
wheeled off for an electrocardiogram, showing his heart's electrical
signals. It was ominous, including one pattern called the tombstone T wave
because patients who had it died in the days before there were aggressive
treatments to open arteries.

The next thing Mr. Orr knew, he was being rushed to the cardiac
catheterization laboratory for a procedure to open his artery.

"They said: 'We're going now. We're going now,' " Mr. Orr recalled. "That
really scared me. Someone kept yelling: 'Do you have his labs? Do you have
his labs?' Someone else said, 'We'll transfer them later.' "

The electrocardiogram was at 3:45 p.m., roughly 30 minutes after his
symptoms changed from intermittent to constant and 5 minutes after he got to
the hospital.

At 3:52 p.m., Dr. Ashvin Pande, a cardiology fellow, was chatting in the
hallway when he was called to the catheterization lab.

"Big M.I. coming in," a nurse told Dr. Pande, using the abbreviation for
myocardial infarction, or heart attack. At the time, the room was occupied -
a patient was lying on the table for an elective procedure. He was quickly
wheeled out and Mr. Orr was wheeled in. It was 3:56 p.m.

Within minutes, Dr. James M. Kirshenbaum, director of acute interventional
cardiology, assisted by Dr. Pande, threaded a thin tube, like a long and
narrow straw, from an artery in Mr. Orr's groin to his heart. They injected
a dye to make Mr. Orr's arteries visible to an X-ray and they saw the
problem - a huge clot in his heart's left anterior descending artery,
blocking blood flow to most of his heart.

The quickest option was to open that artery with a balloon and keep it open
with a stent, a tiny mesh cage, if possible.

It worked - the balloon shattered the clot and pushed the debris against the
artery wall and the stent held the artery open. Then a different problem
arose. When the large clot was pushed aside, the debris was shoved against
the opening of a small artery that branched from the larger one, much as a
snowplow clearing a street can block a driveway.

"We made a calculated decision that it would be worth sacrificing the branch
to secure the main vessel," Dr. Pande said. But, fortunately, they were able
to insert another balloon through the stent and into the small artery,
opening it too.

At 4:43, the procedure was over and Mr. Orr was wheeled to the coronary
intensive care unit. He had been awake but sedated and experienced what he
said was the amazing feeling of having his artery opened. "As soon as the
balloon goes in, all the pain disappears," he said. "You know immediately."

The cardiologists who saved his life walked out of the room, grinning and

"This adrenaline rush is why people like me go into cardiology," Dr. Pande

The First Call: An Ambulance

Mr. Orr was incredibly lucky, said Dr. Elliott Antman, director of the
coronary care unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He ended up with little
or no damage to his heart, even though he teetered between lifesaving
decisions and critical miscalculations in his moments of crisis.

The first lifesaving decision was to go to a hospital soon after his chest
pain began. But the miscalculation was to call his friend for a ride. He
should have called an ambulance.

Had his friend gotten caught in traffic, Mr. Orr might have been dead or
sustained serious injury to his heart. He might have had to go to a
rehabilitation center and learn special tactics for conserving energy, like
sliding a coffeepot along a counter instead of lifting it.

What few patients realize, Dr. Antman said, is that a serious heart attack
is as much of an emergency as being shot.

"We deal with it as if it is a gunshot wound to the heart," Dr. Antman said.

Cardiologists call it the golden hour, that window of time when they have a
chance to save most of the heart muscle when an artery is blocked.

But that urgency, cardiologists say, has been one of the most difficult
messages to get across, in part because people often deny or fail to
appreciate the symptoms of a heart attack. The popular image of a heart
attack is all wrong.

It's the Hollywood heart attack, said Dr. Eric Peterson, a cardiologist and
heart disease researcher at Duke University.

"That's the man clutching his chest, grimacing in pain and going down," Dr.
Peterson said. "That's what people imagine a heart attack is like. What they
don't imagine is that it's not so much pain as pressure, a feeling of
heaviness, shortness of breath."

Most patients describe something like Mr. Orr's symptoms - discomfort in the
chest that may, or may not, radiate into the arms or neck, the back, the
jaw, or the stomach. Many also have nausea or shortness of breath. Or they
break out in a cold sweat, or have a feeling of anxiety or impending doom,
or have blue lips or hands or feet, or feel a sudden exhaustion.

But symptoms often are less distinctive in elderly patients, especially
women. Their only sign may be a sudden feeling of exhaustion just walking
across a room. Some say they broke out in a sweat. Afterward, they may
recall a feeling of pressure in their chest or pain radiating from their
chest but at the time, they say, they paid little attention.

Patients with diabetes might have no obvious symptoms at all other than
sudden, extreme fatigue. It's not clear why diabetics often have these
so-called silent heart attacks - one hypothesis attributes it to damage
diabetes can cause to nerves that carry pain signals.

"I say to patients, 'Be alert to the possibility that you may be short of
breath,' " Dr. Antman said. "Every day you walk down your driveway to go to
your mailbox. If you discover one day that you can only walk halfway there,
you are so fatigued that you can't walk another foot, I want to hear about
that. You might be having a heart attack."

Other times, said Dr. George Sopko, a cardiologist at the National Heart,
Lung and Blood Institute, symptoms like pressure in the chest come and go.
That is because a blood clot blocking an artery is breaking up a bit,
reforming, breaking and reforming. It was what happened to Mr. Orr when he
was at the gym and meeting his friend afterward.

"It's a pre-heart attack," Dr. Sopko said. A blood vessel is on its way to
being completely blocked. "You need to call 911."

But most people - often hoping it is not a heart attack, wondering if their
symptoms will fade, not wanting to be alarmist - hesitate far too long
before calling for help.
27544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: April 24, 2007, 08:28:05 AM
Bomb Threats: Evacuations Not Always the Best Course of Action
The April 16 massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., has generated a spate of bomb threats against schools and universities across the United States. In many cases, school authorities react to such threats by ordering the evacuation of students and faculty from buildings on campus. Evacuations, however, could expose students to a real danger lurking outside -- and should be used only as a last resort.

The University of Minnesota evacuated eight buildings on its Minneapolis campus April 18 after a student reported having found a typed bomb threat in a chemistry building's bathroom. All classes and meetings in those buildings were canceled and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought to search for explosives. A six-hour search of the campus, however, turned up nothing and the buildings were reopened the next day. Similar evacuations have taken place at numerous schools and universities in the four days since the Virginia shooting spree.

Ordering an evacuation tends to be the first response to any bomb threat, whether one occurs at schools and universities or public buildings and private businesses. The vast majority of these threats, however, turn out to be hoaxes, usually called in by pranksters or mentally disturbed individuals.

Although an evacuation can provide emotional reassurance that something is being done about the threat, it is not the best action to take when a nonspecific bomb threat is received. In cases in which the threat does not identify a specific classroom or building, sending people out into the open air can put them in more danger than keeping them in place. In a nonspecific threat, the bomb could be anywhere, including outside of buildings. Moreover, there is always the risk that a gunman called in the threat in order to shoot down a crowd of people gathered outside. In Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998, two students aged 13 and 11 set off the fire alarm at Westside Middle School and shot at people as they evacuated, killing four students and a teacher.

Of the bomb threats called into universities and high schools since the Virginia Tech massacre, none was connected to an actual bombing attempt. History has shown that people who intend to kill with explosives are unlikely to give any kind of warning. Furthermore, most cases of school violence involve guns rather than bombs. Although the two students who carried out the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., included pipe bombs in their arsenal, all of their victims were killed with guns.

The safest way to respond to a bomb threat against a campus or compound is to notify people over a public address system, providing only information that might assist in a search. Although the normal response would be to evacuate a classroom, dormitory or office that had been threatened, it is important to remember two things: Most bomb threats are hoaxes and the real danger might lie outside of the threatened area. Ideally, then, people in the threatened area should first search their immediate area, starting under tables and desks, then move to desktops and finally to shelves and cabinets. The people best suited to search for anything unusual in a room are those who use it daily and are familiar with potential hiding places -- and thus would be able to spot anything that was not there the day before.

Only if a suspicious object is found should an evacuation be ordered. Once such an order is given, students or workers should gather at a prearranged rally point or secondary location. There, a head count can be made and authorities notified of the status. Meanwhile, a cordon should be established around the affected building to keep people away from it.

Threats of bombing and other violence against schools and universities will likely continue as long as the Virginia Tech massacre remains fresh in the public consciousness -- and as long as schools provide students with time off every time one occurs. While evacuations can calm jittery nerves, they are not always the best course of action.
27545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The modern Liberal mindset explained! on: April 24, 2007, 06:49:54 AM
It took me a while to get around to this.  Frankly I anticipated a bit of a screed, but actually found the talk to be thoughtful.
27546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Christianity on: April 24, 2007, 06:48:11 AM

What do you make of this thread?
27547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The party of Hate on: April 24, 2007, 06:33:10 AM
I gather that Barack is not seen by some blacks as being "black enough" or some such thing.  Anyway, why is it that race-baiting has worked so well for so long? 

(BTW FWIW IMHO this era may be coming to an end)
27548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pizzeria owner tragically shoots armed robber on: April 24, 2007, 06:28:16 AM
Moving GM's post and SgtMac's response to this thread-- Marc


This is why the "Chronic" and the SF bay area are such a joke.....


Posts: 26

     Re: SF Chronic: Oakland Pizzeria Owner “Tragically” Shoots Armed Robber
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2007, 08:44:08 PM »     

Quote from: G M on April 21, 2007, 05:06:36 PM

This is why the "Chronic" and the SF bay area are such a joke.....

What I found truly offensive was this piece of garbage

“There is definitely a balance,” said Officer Roland Holmgren, department spokesman. “This thing had potential — who knows where the suspects were going to take the situation? But by no stretch of the imagination are we agreeing with or justifying what the owner did.”
Holmgren said, “We’re not saying that we want citizens to go out there and arm themselves and take the law into their own hands. We want citizens to be good witnesses, to be good report-takers and to identify suspects.”
The shooting has left two families traumatized, Holmgren said. “There are no winners in this whole case,” he said. 

As a police officer myself, I found this little bureaucratic weasel offensive as an example of my profession in the extreme.  'There are no winners in this whole case"....except the storeowner, society and the gene pool.  Where is SF recruiting their officers from?  Straight out of the BERKLEY?!

“We want citizens to be good (little sheeple) witnesses, to be good report-takers and to identify suspects (and be victims, if necessary....but for god sake don't fight back!).”

I'll let the late good Colonel Jeff Cooper speak my reply.

"We continue to be exasperated by the view, apparently gaining momentum in certain circles, that armed robbery is okay as long as nobody gets hurt! The proper solution to armed robbery is a dead robber, on the scene.”-Jeff Cooper

"The police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and this is not only acceptable, but mandatory.”-Jeff Cooper

Where I come from, our police department would have given the store owner a medal.

Aspiring raper? pffffft
27549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Power Curve on: April 24, 2007, 12:36:24 AM
From yesterday's WSJ:

Shattering the Bell Curve
The power law rules.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Life isn't fair. Many of the most coveted spoils--wealth, fame, links on the Web--are concentrated among the few. If such a distribution doesn't sound like the familiar bell-shaped curve, you're right.

Along the hilly slopes of the bell curve, most values--the data points that track whatever is being measured--are clustered around the middle. The average value is also the most common value. The points along the far extremes of the curve contribute very little statistically. If 100 random people gather in a room and the world's tallest man walks in, the average height doesn't change much. But if Bill Gates walks in, the average net worth rises dramatically. Height follows the bell curve in its distribution. Wealth does not: It follows an asymmetric, L-shaped pattern known as a "power law," where most values are below average and a few far above. In the realm of the power law, rare and extreme events dominate the action.

For Nassim Taleb, irrepressible quant-jock and the author of "Fooled by Randomness" (2001), the contrast between the two distributions is not an amusing statistical exercise but something more profound: It highlights the fundamental difference between life as we imagine it and life as it really is. In "The Black Swan"--a kind of cri de coeur--Mr. Taleb struggles to free us from our misguided allegiance to the bell-curve mindset and awaken us to the dominance of the power law.

The attractiveness of the bell curve resides in its democratic distribution and its mathematical accessibility. Collect enough data and the pattern reveals itself, allowing both robust predictions of future data points (such as the height of the next five people to enter the room) and accurate estimations of the size and frequency of extreme values (anticipating the occasional giant or dwarf.

The power-law distribution, by contrast, would seem to have little to recommend it. Not only does it disproportionately reward the few, but it also turns out to be notoriously difficult to derive with precision. The most important events may occur so rarely that existing data points can never truly assure us that the future won't look very different from the present. We can be fairly certain that we will never meet anyone 14-feet tall, but it is entirely possible that, over time, we will hear of a man twice as rich as Bill Gates or witness a market crash twice as devastating as that of October 1987.

The problem, insists Mr. Taleb, is that most of the time we are in the land of the power law and don't know it. Our strategies for managing risk, for instance--including Modern Portfolio Theory and the Black-Scholes formula for pricing options--are likely to fail at the worst possible time, Mr. Taleb argues, because they are generally (and mistakenly) based on bell-curve assumptions. He gleefully cites the example of Long Term Capital Management (LTCM), an early hedge fund that blew up after its Nobel laureate founders "allowed themselves to take a monstrous amount of risk" because "their models ruled out the possibility of large deviations."

Mr. Taleb is fascinated by the rare but pivotal events that characterize life in the power-law world. He calls them Black Swans, after the philosopher Karl Popper's observation that only a single black swan is required to falsify the theory that "all swans are white" even when there are thousands of white swans in evidence. Provocatively, Mr. Taleb defines Black Swans as events (such as the rise of the Internet or the fall of LTCM) that are not only rare and consequential but also predictable only in retrospect. We never see them coming, but we have no trouble concocting post hoc explanations for why they should have been obvious. Surely, Mr. Taleb taunts, we won't get fooled again. But of course we will.
Writing in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne, Mr. Taleb divides the world into those who "get it" and everyone else, a world partitioned into heroes (Popper, Hayek, Yogi Berra), those on notice (Harold Bloom, necktie wearers, personal-finance advisers) and entities that are dead to him (the bell curve, newspapers, the Nobel Prize in Economics).

A humanist at heart, Mr. Taleb ponders not only the effect of Black Swans but also the reason we have so much trouble acknowledging their existence. And this is where he hits his stride. We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias (our tendency to reaffirm our beliefs rather than contradict them), narrative fallacy (our weakness for compelling stories), silent evidence (our failure to account for what we don't see), ludic fallacy (our willingness to oversimplify and take games or models too seriously), and epistemic arrogance (our habit of overestimating our knowledge and underestimating our ignorance).

For anyone who has been compelled to give a long-term vision or read a marketing forecast for the next decade, Mr. Taleb's chapter excoriating "The Scandal of Prediction" will ring painfully true. "What is surprising is not the magnitude of our forecast errors," observes Mr. Taleb, "but our absence of awareness of it." We tend to fail--miserably--at predicting the future, but such failure is little noted nor long remembered. It seems to be of remarkably little professional consequence.

I suspect that part of the explanation for this inconsistency may be found in a study of stock analysts that Mr. Taleb cites. Their predictions, while badly inaccurate, were not random but rather highly correlated with each other. The lesson, evidently, is that it's better to be wrong than alone.

If we accept Mr. Taleb's premise about power-law ascendancy, we are left with a troubling question: How do you function in a world where accurate prediction is rarely possible, where history isn't a reliable guide to the future and where the most important events cannot be anticipated?

Mr. Taleb presents a range of answers--be prepared for various outcomes, he says, and don't rush for buses--but it's clear that he remains slightly vexed by the world he describes so vividly. Then again, beatific serenity may not be the goal here. As Mr. Taleb warns, certitude is likely to be found only in a fool's (bell-curve) paradise, where we choose the comfort of the "precisely wrong" over the challenge of the "broadly correct." Beneath Mr. Taleb's blustery rhetoric lives a surprisingly humble soul who has chosen to follow a demanding and somewhat lonely path.

I wonder how many of us will have the courage to join him. Very few, I predict--unless, of course, something unexpected happens.

Dr. Shaywitz is a physician-scientist in New Jersey. You can buy "The Black Swan" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.

27550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 24, 2007, 12:25:06 AM
AFGHANISTAN: Approximately 200 Taliban fighters have been surrounded by Afghan and NATO forces in a village in the Chora district of Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, the Afghan Interior Ministry said. Several Taliban leaders, including Mullah Dadullah, are believed to be in the group, though the Taliban have denied Dadullah is in Uruzgan province. U.S. forces also reported that rebel leader Gul Haqparast was killed in an April 20 air attack in Afghanistan's Laghman province.
Pakistan: Political Pressure on the President

Pakistani opposition forces prepared for a large demonstration outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad on April 21 to protest the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and his aides have made plans to instigate clashes between the opposition and government supporters to justify a police crackdown in the Pakistani capital and send a strong message to the Red Mosque mullahs who are pursuing an aggressive Talibanization campaign. Though Musharraf still faces intense political pressure, he and his advisers seem to have more tricks up their sleeves to help the general finagle his way out of this political fracas.


The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party plans to lead a massive rally outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad on April 24 to express the opposition's solidarity with Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, whose suspension by the government sparked a national outcry that threatens Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's hold on power. Musharraf might have thought the agitation caused by Chaudhry's suspension would fizzle out and give him room to ensure his and his party's victory in upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections; but the opposition, despite ongoing government raids and arrests targeting opposition leaders, has sustained a relatively solid campaign to oust Musharraf.

The chief justice issue is the driver behind a host of problems Musharraf is facing, including ongoing tensions between Kabul and Islamabad over Pakistan's involvement in sustaining the Afghan Taliban insurgency, a growing Talibanization campaign in Pakistan (especially the one led by a group of rogue mullahs from the Red Mosque in Islamabad), fresh sectarian clashes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the ongoing struggle to crack down on jihadist and Talibanizing forces in order to manage Islamabad's relations with Washington. Musharraf has had one too many sleepless nights riding this derailing train but knows that if he can manage to hold off the opposition on a couple of these fronts, he can handle the other issues and ensure he remains Pakistan's president.

In line with this plan, Musharraf is temporarily escaping the heat from the Chaudhry protests by going on a tour to Poland, Spain, Bosnia and Turkey to enhance Pakistan's trade ties. By leaving the country during a political imbroglio, Musharraf is indicating that he has things under control and his government is still in the driver's seat. The trip also will give Musharraf a chance to tackle one of his difficulties: Afghanistan. During the president's April 29-30 visit to Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will mediate a face-to-face meeting between Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Musharraf realizes the need to sustain Pakistan's relevance in Washington's eyes and has thus tacitly allowed Islamist militants to use Pakistan as a launchpad for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, much to the ire of the Afghan government. Islamabad previously brushed off Karzai's allegations that Pakistan was fueling the Taliban insurgency as mere lies; however, Musharraf is likely to exhibit a marked change of attitude during the Turkey visit. Already fearing the growing Talibanization in his own country, Musharraf will assure Karzai that Pakistan will do more to rein in the Taliban along the border. Nothing concrete is likely to come out of these talks, but Musharraf could take incremental steps toward smoothing over Pakistan's relations with the Afghan government by the time he leaves Ankara.

While traveling, Musharraf has left his security and intelligence agencies in charge of managing the opposition protests. To counter the opposition's April 24 demonstrations, the Pakistani government has organized a 2,000-strong pro-government procession from Punjab to Islamabad, led by supporters of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. Two notable figures that helped plan this march were Punjabi Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja and Salman Shah, financial adviser to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Islamabad is eager to show that there are sizeable numbers of pro-Musharraf lawyers willing to contend with the anti-government protesters. The purpose of the pro-government lawyers' march is to create the perception that the lawyers protesting the government are not the sole representatives of the legal community -- rather, they are a section of the legal community manipulated by the PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami, the more radical of the two top parties in the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) Islamist alliance. The pro-government march planners also have arranged for several delinquents, party strongmen and government agents to take part and set off a confrontation between the chief justice supporters and the pro-government demonstrators. The anticipated clashes are intended to justify a government crackdown against the opposition protesters and demonstrate how the government is going on the offensive. Musharraf hopes to kill two birds with one stone by using this police crackdown to send a message to the Red Mosque mullahs, who have taken advantage of the Chaudhry debacle to advance their own aggressive Talibanization campaign.

Meanwhile, rumors abound that Musharraf has finally cut a deal with his primary political opponent, Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P). The two are ready to cut a deal, but there is no assurance that either side will uphold its part of the bargain without backstabbing the other. In essence, Musharraf is being advised that Bhutto will betray him while Bhutto thinks Musharraf does not want to give up power to the extent the PPP-P would like. Bhutto is working on a power-sharing agreement with Musharraf that would allow her to return to Pakistan from exile in Dubai and build up the PPP-P's presence in the government. To finalize a deal, however, Musharraf has to stand down as the country's army chief to allow for the return of a civilian government. Musharraf has indicated during closed-door meetings that he will give up the army uniform in October. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it looks as though Musharraf will not be able to escape from this political storm without giving up his military title once the electoral transition is over.

The talk of Musharraf-Bhutto deal-making has also given the Pakistani government enough fodder to keep the Pakistani opposition front divided. The country's main Islamist group, the MMA, voiced its concerns April 22 about Bhutto's intentions when party leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman said in a Daily Times report that if the PPP-P was planning a deal with the government, it should do so in the open and not through hidden channels. Bhutto's PPP-P has long been wary of joining hands with the MMA because of ideological differences. This has prevented Bhutto from entering into any "grand alliance" with both the MMA and the PML-N (the smaller of the country's two main opposition parties led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted from office in the 1999 coup). Knowing that Musharraf would not bend to the demands of a broad opposition coalition, Bhutto sees it in her interest to wage an independent campaign that would allow her to shore up her political position while keeping Musharraf in the picture to manage the army generals.

More important -- and contrary to public statements -- Bhutto sees Musharraf, who shares with the PPP-P a common secular ideology, as a medium through which her party could stage a political comeback. Should Musharraf lose his power, all bets are off. This is why, unlike Sharif, Bhutto does not favor using the Chaudhry crisis to oust Musharraf. She wants to use the crisis to pressure Musharraf into negotiating with her.

For any real deal to come from the Bhutto-Musharraf talks, the Pakistani president needs to devise some way to ensure he remains president without making the PPP-P look like it has sold out. One plan that has been circulating involves Musharraf getting re-elected by a comfortable majority in the current parliament before the parliament is dissolved ahead of general elections, thereby ensuring that he would not have to go up against a possibly unfriendly parliament when the time comes to vote on who takes the presidency in September or October. Such a move would be easily labeled unconstitutional, however, and would be a big risk for Musharraf considering the political pressure he already faces over the chief justice suspension. Another plan is to finish the current government's term as planned, dissolve the parliament and bring in an interim government to conduct the elections. Without the parliament in session to form an electoral college for the presidential election (the federal parliament and the four provincial legislatures constitute the electoral college that elects the president, per the constitution), the constitution dictates that the sitting president remains in charge. Musharraf can then step down as army chief, and give Bhutto and a large chunk of the opposition a legitimate reason to vote for him after the new parliament is voted in.

A number of different plans are in the works, and Musharraf is unlikely to have decided just yet on how he plans to contain the opposition forces. One thing for certain is that the general has not run out of options, and officials in Washington are just as eager to see how Musharraf manages to work his way out of this political fracas to ensure U.S. interests in combating al Qaeda and Taliban militants do not get tangled up in Musharraf's mess.
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