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28501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 10, 2007, 10:06:39 AM
Speaking of the devil , , ,
28502  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: January 10, 2007, 01:21:31 AM
Lo siguiente me lo mando' mi amigo Venezolano:

Venezuela Stocks, Bonds Sink on Chavez's Nationalization Plans
2007-01-09 15:31 (New York)
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Alex Kennedy
      Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan stocks had their biggest drop
on record and bonds tumbled after President Hugo Chavez pledged to
nationalize the country's largest phone company and utilities.
      Shares of Caracas-based telephone company CA Nacional
Telefonos de Venezuela, or Cantv, plunged 27 percent in U.S.
trading to $12.25. The local shares, which account for almost a
fifth of the Caracas Stock Exchange Index, didn't trade in Caracas
until about 15 minutes before the close of trading, then fell 30
percent, the biggest drop ever. Trading of Electricidad de Caracas,
the nation's largest private power company, was halted in the
morning after the shares slid 20 percent.
      Chavez's threat yesterday to take control of ``everything that
was privatized'' went beyond what investors had anticipated,
sending the stock exchange index down 19 percent. Foreign companies
with operations in Venezuela, including power company AES Corp. and
steelmaker Ternium SA, also fell.
      ``Nobody knows what's going to happen so investors are
assuming the worst,'' said Urban Larson, who helps manage $2
billion in stocks in emerging markets assets at F&C Investments in
Boston. ``Some markets are riskier than others, and it's been clear
for some time that Venezuela is riskier.''
      A drop to an 18-month low in the price of oil, Venezuela's
biggest export, added to declines in the country's stocks and
bonds. Crude oil for February delivery fell 43 cents, or 0.8
percent, to $55.66 a barrel at 2:09 p.m. in New York. Futures
touched $53.88, the lowest since June 13, 2005.

                             Yields Rise
      The yield on the government's benchmark 9 1/4 percent dollar
bonds due in 2027 rose to a one-month high of 7.05 percent. The
yield has jumped 39 basis points, or 0.39 percentage point, since
Jan. 3. The bond price, which moves inversely to the yield, fell
0.95 cents on the dollar to 123.7 cents, according to JPMorgan
Chase & Co. The bonds now yield 2.34 percentage points more than
similar-maturity U.S. Treasuries.
      The yield on the 6.25 percent so-called Interest and Principal
Protected bonds, due April 2017, fell to 3.99 percent from 4.02
percent yesterday, according to Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA.
The price, which moves inversely to the yield, rose to 119, the
highest in three weeks. The TICC. which is dollar-denominated and
traded in the local market, offers currency protection.
      An index of Venezuelan ADRs fell 35 percent. U.S.-traded
shares of Ternium, a Luxembourg-based steelmaker with mills in
Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela, fell $1.07, or 3.9 percent, to
$26.38. Ternium is controlled by Argentina's Techint Group.
      Shares of Canada's Crystallex International Corp., which is
developing Venezuela's biggest bullion deposit, fell 34 cents, or
8.4 percent, to C$3.69, after falling 9.4 percent yesterday.
Arlington, Virginia-based AES Corp., which owns an 85 percent stake
in Electricidad, fell 90 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $20.12, as of
2:33 p.m. in New York.
      Trading on shares of both Cantv and Electricidad, known as
EDC, will be suspended for the next two days, Fernando de Candia,
the nation's stock exchange regulator, said in a statament. The
drop in the index is ``temporary,'' he said.
      President George W. Bush's administration urged Venezuela to
compensate U.S. companies that would be affected by Chavez's plan
to transfer the country's utilities to state ownership, White House
spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
      ``Political risk clearly reached a new peak after all this,''
said Claudia Calich, who manages $900 million in emerging market
debt for Invesco Inc. in New York. ``Investors will be very
attentive to upcoming announcements.''
      The plunge in the index, the biggest since Bloomberg started
tracking it at the end of 1993, will be temporary, Ex-President
Carlos Andres Perez sold Cantv to a group of private investors led
by GTE Corp. in 1991, a year before Chavez became a national figure
by trying to overthrow Perez.

                       Political Ceremony

      Chavez, speaking from Caracas as he swore in new cabinet
members, pledged to exert greater control over the oil industry.
Chavez, a 52-year-old former lieutenant colonel who has clashed
with U.S. President Bush, won re-election to a new six-year term
last month.
      Chavez's plans may result in further declines in investment in
an economy that, after growing 10 percent each of the past three
years on the back of rising oil prices, risks overheating. Since
1999, manufacturers have trimmed spending on new plant and
equipment to the point that non-government investment equals no
more than 4 percent of gross domestic product, one of the lowest in
the region.
      The plan also risks making the economy of Venezuela more
dependent on oil. The Chavez administration has benefited from oil
prices that averaged more than $60 a barrel last year, compared
with about $15 a barrel when he first won office in 1998.
      ``If Chavez chooses this path then we'll see a flight of
capital away from bonds and Venezuelan assets in general,'' said
Luis Costa, an emerging market debt strategist at ING Groep NV in
London. ``Foreign investors will become scared of developments.''


     Chavez yesterday said that ``those sectors that are so
strategic, such as electric power, everything that was privatized,
will be nationalized.''
      Nationalization would probably be the biggest step toward
reversing the legacy of previous governments that privatized
companies and opened Venezuelan markets to foreign investors. It
would add to restrictions in foreign-currency trading Chavez first
imposed in early 2003. Banks endure interest-rate caps in Venezuela
and phone, power rates and rents are also controlled.
      The perceived risk of owning Venezuela's bonds surged today.
Credit-default swaps based on $10 million of the nation's U.S.
dollar-denominated bonds jumped 9.7 percent to $169,000 from
$154,000 yesterday, according to data compiled by Lehman Brothers
Inc. An increase in price indicates deterioration in the perception
of credit quality; a decline suggests improvement.

                            `Find an Exit'

      ``Portfolio investors should try to find an exit,'' said
Richard Segal, head of research at Argonaftis Capital Management in
London. ``Chavez has been trying to do this for a long time and he
felt that the latest presidential victory for him gives him that
      Venezuela, a founding member of OPEC, is the world's fifth-
largest oil exporter.
      The energy ministry said yesterday that four joint ventures
may be nationalized; the government has been negotiating to give
majority control of them to state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA
while leaving a minority stake with foreign owners including Exxon
Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA, ConocoPhillips, BP Plc and
Statoil ASA.
      ``We are in constant contact with Venezuelan authorities and
the word `nationalization' is not a word we've been confronted with
yet,'' said Peter Mellbye, Statoil's head of international
operations, in an interview today. Total spokesman Paul Floren and
BP spokesman David Nicholas declined to comment on Chavez's

                             No Autonomy

     Chavez also said he will seek to strip the central bank of
independence from the government. ``The central bank shouldn't be
autonomous,'' Chavez said. ``That is one of the biggest mistakes of
the constitution.''
      Speaking to reporters today in Caracas, outgoing central bank
Director Domingo Maza criticized Chavez' decision. Maza's term ends
this month.
      ``The central bank must be autonomous. Otherwise, the people
will lose confidence in the currency,'' Maza said in an interview
on Globovision television station.
      The currency, which the government sets at an exchange rate of
2,150 bolivars per dollar, was bought today around 4,000 per dollar
in unregulated trading, said Nelson Corrie, a trader with
Interacciones Casa de Bolsa CA in Caracas. The government, under
current restrictions, is the only allowed to buy and sell foreign
      The possible nationalization of Cantv may deprive Venezuelans
of a means to withdraw money from the country. Since 2003,
investors realized they could legally acquire dollars by buying the
company's local shares, converting them into ADRs and selling them

 --With reporting by Aaron Pan, James Isola, Steve Voss and Agnes
Lovasz in London, Bunny Nooryani in Oslo, Tom Cahill in Paris,
Daniel Helft in Buenos Aires and Alexander Ragir in New York.
Editor: Papadopoulos (sqk)

Story illustration: To chart CPI in Venezuela, see {VNVPINMO
<Index> GP <GO>}. For a breakdown of CPI data: {<ALLX VNVP

To contact the reporters on this story:
Guillermo Parra-Bernal in Caracas at +58-212-277-3737 or at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Andrew J. Barden at +55-11-3048-4641 or
28503  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: the titles of the teachers in the fillipino martial arts on: January 09, 2007, 10:03:04 PM
As Top Dog and I used to say "As the Stick Twirls"
28504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: January 09, 2007, 08:44:51 PM
I hope this humble civilian is not out of line relaying some enlisted humor:

The Meaning of Rank

A GENERAL: Leaps tall buildings with a single bound, is more powerful than locomotive, is faster than a speeding bullet, walks on water amid typhoons, gives policy to God.

A COLONEL: Leaps short buildings with a single bound, is more powerful than a switch engine, is just as fast as a speeding bullet, walks on water if sea is calm, talks to God.

A LT. COLONEL: Leaps short buildings with a running start and favorable winds, is almost as powerful as a switch engine, is faster than a speeding BB, walks on water in indoor swimming pool, talks to God if a DA-4187 request form is approved.

A MAJOR: Barely clears Quonset hut, loses tug-of-war with switch-engine, can fire a speeding bullet, swims well, is occasionally addressed by God.

A CAPTAIN: Makes high marks by trying to leap buildings, is run over by locomotive, can sometimes handle a gun without inflicting self injury, dog paddles, talks to animals.

A 1ST LIEUTENANT: Runs into buildings, recognizes locomotives two out of three times, is not issued ammunition, can stay afloat if properly instructed in the Mae-West, talks to walls.

A 2ND LIEUTENANT: Falls over doorstep when trying to enter buildings, says look at the Choo-Choo, wets himself, plays in mud puddles, mumbles to himself.

A SERGEANT MAJOR, FIRST SERGEANT OR A SERGEANT FIRST CLASS: Lifts tall buildings and walks under them, kicks locomotives off the tracks, catches speeding bullets in his teeth and eats them, freezes water with a single glance, HE IS GOD.
28505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: January 09, 2007, 08:26:50 PM
Fielding Subpoenas
Bush recruits an expert on Presidential power.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

For a President said to be irrelevant, George W. Bush has certainly managed to hire a big name to be his next chief White House counsel. In recruiting Fred Fielding, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has donned some necessary armor for the subpoena assault that is sure to come from Democrats in Congress.

Mr. Fielding replaces Harriet Miers, a Texan and personal friend of the President. Ms. Miers was an ill-fated nominee for the Supreme Court, but she served Mr. Bush well both on judicial selection and preserving Presidential powers. Both of those areas are likely to get fiercer as Democrats look to bloody the White House in the run-up to 2008.

It's hard to imagine a more experienced choice than Mr. Fielding on the subject of executive power. As deputy White House counsel from 1972 to 1974, he witnessed the modern low tide of Presidential authority as Richard Nixon was besieged by Watergate. And as Ronald Reagan's counsel from 1981 to 1986, he had to cope with a Democratic House that unleashed special prosecutors on the executive branch.

The "independent counsel" law has happily expired, but this Congress will be looking to assert itself in particular on war powers. Mr. Fielding understands the importance of fighting off such poaching--for the sake of Mr. Bush and the Office of the Presidency. This ought to mean recommending that Mr. Bush veto any weakening of last year's law on military tribunals, as well as resisting any further delegation of executive power to the judiciary for approving warrantless wiretaps of al Qaeda.

The question of responding to the avalanche of subpoenas will be more politically delicate. Congress has every right to conduct oversight of the executive branch, and the White House will be obliged to supply numerous documents. However, the principle of executive privilege is vital to Presidential decision-making, and preserving the privacy of that deliberative process will be one of Mr. Fielding's primary tasks.

Another duty will be offering Mr. Bush advice on judicial selection. The conventional Beltway wisdom is that Senate Democrats will block all but liberal nominees to the appellate courts, and that might be right. But the judges issue proved to be a good one for Republicans in both the 2002 and 2004 campaigns, and the White House shouldn't shrink from appointing capable members of the Federalist Society simply because they might not be confirmed.
This is an issue that deserves to be framed for 2008--all the more so if Mr. Bush gets another Supreme Court nomination. Democrats may want to block any Bush nominee, but they won't find it politically painless to do so if the President selects nominees as capable and conservative as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

Amid all the Washington talk of "bipartisanship," the reality of our current political division means inevitable conflict. It's good to see Mr. Bush recruiting some experienced generals for the battles ahead.

WSJ editorial
28506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why They Fight part two on: January 09, 2007, 08:15:27 PM

Contemporary Sunni Radicalism
Since the attacks of September 11, we have learned important things about al Qaeda and its allies. Their movement is fueled by hatred and deep resentments against the West, America, and the course of history.

In Islam's first few centuries of existence, it was a dominant and expanding force in the world, sweeping across lands in the modern-day Middle East, North Africa, Spain, and elsewhere. During its Golden Age--which spanned from the eighth to the 13th century--Islam was the philosophical, educational, and scientific center of the world. The Ottoman Empire reached the peak of its power in the 16th century. Islam then began to recede as a political force. In the 17th century, for example, advancing Muslims were defeated at the gates of Vienna, the last time an Islamic army threatened the heart of Europe. And for radicals like bin Laden, a milestone event and historic humiliation came when the Ottoman Empire crumbled at the end of World War I.

This is significant because for many Muslims, the proper order of life in this world is for them to rule and for the "infidels" to be ruled over. The end of the Ottoman Empire was deeply disorienting. Then, in 1923-24 came the establishment of modern, secular Turkey under Kemal Ataturk--and the abolishment of the caliphate.

Osama bin Laden and his militant Sunni followers seek to reverse all that. Bin Laden sees himself as the new caliph; he has referred to himself as the "commander of the faithful." He is seeking to unify all of Islam--and resume a jihad against the unbelievers.

According to Mary Habeck of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University:

"Jihadis thus neither recognize national boundaries within the Islamic lands nor do they believe that the coming Islamic state, when it is created, should have permanent borders with the unbelievers. The recognition of such boundaries would end the expansion of Islam and stop offensive jihad, both of which are transgressions against the laws of God that command jihad to last until Judgment Day or until the entire earth is under the rule of Islamic law."

Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies are waging their war on several continents. They have killed innocent people in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Far East, and the United States. They will try to overthrow governments and seize power where they can--and where they cannot, they will attempt to inflict fear and destruction by disrupting settled ways of life. They will employ every weapon they can: assassinations, car bombs, airplanes, and, if they can secure them, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.

The theocratic and totalitarian ideology that characterizes al Qaeda makes typical negotiations impossible. "Anyone who stands in the way of our struggle is our enemy and target of the swords," said Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the late leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Osama bin Laden put it this way: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

This struggle has an enormous ideological dimension. For example, both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two leader of al Qaeda and its ideological leader, were deeply influenced by Sayyid Qutb, whose writings (especially his manifesto "Milestones") gave rise and profoundly shaped the radical Islamist movement. Qutb, an Egyptian who was killed by Egyptian President Gamal Nasser in 1966, had a fierce hatred for America, the West, modernity, and Muslims who did not share his extremist views.

According to the author Lawrence Wright:

"Qutb divides the world into two camps, Islam and jahiliyya, the period of ignorance and barbarity that existed before the divine message of the Prophet Mohammed. Qutb uses the term to encompass all of modern life: manners, morals, art, literature, law, even much of what passed as Islamic culture. He was opposed not to modern technology but to the worship of science, which he believed had alienated humanity from natural harmony with creation. Only a complete rejection of rationalism and Western values offered the slim hope of the redemption of Islam. This was the choice: pure, primitive Islam or the doom of mankind."

Sunni jihadists, then, are committed to establishing a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. Ayman al-Zawahiri, for example, has spoken about a "jihad for the liberation of Palestine, all Palestine, as well as every land that was a home for Islam, from Andalusia to Iraq. The whole world is an open field for us."

Their version of political utopia is Afghanistan under the Taliban, a land of almost unfathomable cruelty. The Taliban sought to control every sphere of human life and crush individuality and human creativity. And Afghanistan became a safe haven and launching pad for terrorists.

The Islamic radicals we are fighting know they are far less wealthy and far less advanced in technology and weaponry than the United States. But they believe they will prevail in this war, as they did against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, by wearing us down and breaking our will. They believe America and the West are "the weak horse"--soft, irresolute, and decadent. "[Americans are] the most cowardly of God's creatures," al-Zarqawi once said.

Contemporary Shia Radicalism
President Bush has said the Shia strain of Islamic radicalism is "just as dangerous, and just as hostile to America, and just as determined to establish its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East." And Shia extremists have achieved something al Qaeda has not: in 1979, they took control of a major power, Iran.

The importance of the Iranian revolution is hard to overstate. In the words of the Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis (writing in Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005):

"Political Islam first became a major international factor with the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The word 'revolution' has been much misused in the Middle East and has served to designate and justify almost any violent transfer of power at the top. But what happened in Iran was a genuine revolution, a major change with a very significant ideological challenge, a shift in the basis of society that had an immense impact on the whole Islamic world, intellectually, morally, and politically. The process that began in Iran in 1979 was a revolution in the same sense as the French and the Russian revolutions were." (emphasis added)

The taking of American hostages in 1979 made it clear that "Islamism represented for the West an opponent of an entirely different nature than the Soviet Union: an opponent that not only did not accept the system of international relations founded after 1945 but combated it as a 'Christian-Jewish conspiracy,' " Mr. Kuntzel wrote in Policy Review recently.

Ayatollah Khomeini said in a radio address in November 1979 that the storming of the American embassy represented a "war between Muslims and pagans." He went on to say this:

"The Muslims must rise up in this struggle, which is more a struggle between unbelievers and Islam than one between Iran and America: between all unbelievers and Muslims. The Muslims must rise up and triumph in this struggle."

A year later, writes Mr. Kuntzel, in a speech in Qom, Khomeini indicated the type of mindset we are facing:

"We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

"Whether or not they share Teheran's Shiite orientation," Joshua Muravchik and Jeffrey Gedmin wrote in 1997 in Commentary magazine, "the various Islamist movements take inspiration (and in many cases material assistance) from the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Indeed. As Lawrence Wright points out in his book "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11":

"The fact that Khomeini came from the Shiite branch of Islam, rather than the Sunni, which predominates in the Muslim world outside of Iraq and Iran, made him a complicated figure among Sunni radicals. Nonetheless, Zawahiri's organization, al-Jihad, supported the Iranian revolution with leaflets and cassette tapes urging all Islamic groups in Egypt to follow the Iranian example."

Today Iran is the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world. For example, it funds and arms Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist organization which has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization except al Qaeda. Hezbollah was behind the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans and marked the advent of suicide bombing as a weapon of choice among Islamic radicals.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has said this: "Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute . . . Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America."

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has also declared his absolute hostility to America. Last October, he said, "whether a world without the United States and Zionism can be achieved . . . I say that this . . . goal is achievable." In 2006 he declared to America and other Western powers: "open your eyes and see the fate of pharaoh . . . if you do not abandon the path of falsehood . . . your doomed destiny will be annihilation." Later he warned, "The anger of Muslims may reach an explosion point soon. If such a day comes [America and the West] should know that the waves of the blast will not remain within the boundaries of our region."

He also said this: "If you would like to have good relations with the Iranian nation in the future . . . bow down before the greatness of the Iranian nation and surrender. If you don't accept [to do this], the Iranian nation will . . . force you to surrender and bow down."

In Tehran in December, President Ahmadinejad hosted a conference of Holocaust deniers, and he has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map. "More than any leading Iranian figure since Ayatollah Khomeini himself," Vali Nasr has written, "Ahmadinejad appears to take seriously the old revolutionary goal of positioning Iran as the leading country of the entire Muslim world--an ambition that requires focusing on themes (such as hostility to Israel and the West) that tend to bring together Arabs and Iranians, Sunni and Shia, rather than divide them . . . "

Concluding Thoughts
It is the fate of the West, and in particular the United States, to have to deal with the combined threat of Shia and Sunni extremists. And for all the differences that exist between them--and they are significant--they share some common features.

Their brand of radicalism is theocratic, totalitarian, illiberal, expansionist, violent, and deeply anti-Semitic and anti-American. As President Bush has said, both Shia and Sunni militants want to impose their dark vision on the Middle East. And as we have seen with Shia-dominated Iran's support of the Sunni terrorist group Hamas, they can find common ground when they confront what they believe is a common enemy.

The war against global jihadism will be long, and we will experience success and setbacks along the way. The temptation of the West will be to grow impatient and, in the face of this long struggle, to grow weary. Some will demand a quick victory and, absent that, they will want to withdraw from the battle. But this is a war from which we cannot withdraw. As we saw on September 11th, there are no safe harbors in which to hide. Our enemies have declared war on us, and their hatreds cannot be sated. We will either defeat them, or they will come after us with the unsheathed sword.

All of us would prefer years of repose to years of conflict. But history will not allow it. And so it once again rests with this remarkable republic to do what we have done in the past: our duty.

Peter Wehner is deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives.
28507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: January 09, 2007, 08:14:15 PM
Why They Fight
And what it means for us.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

President Bush has said that the war against global jihadism is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. We are still in the early years of the struggle. The civilized world will either rise to the challenge and prevail against this latest form of barbarism, or grief and death will visit us and other innocents on a massive scale.

Given the stakes involved in this war and how little is known, even now, about what is at the core of this conflict, it is worth reviewing in some detail the nature of our enemy--including disaggregating who they are (Shia and Sunni extremists), what they believe and why they believe it, and the implications of that for America and the West.

Islam in the World Today
The enemy we face is not Islam per se; rather, we face a global network of extremists who are driven by a twisted vision of Islam. These jihadists are certainly a minority within Islam--but they exist, they are dangerous and resolute, in some places they are ascendant, and they need to be confronted and defeated.

It's worth looking at Islam more broadly. It is the second-largest religion in the world, with around 1.3 billion adherents. Islam is the dominant religion throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia, which alone claims more than 170 million adherents. There are also more than 100 million Muslims living in India.

Less than a quarter of the world's Muslims are Arabs.

The Muslim world is, as William J. Bennett wrote in his in 2002 in his book "Why We Fight," "vast and varied and runs the gamut from the Iran of the ayatollahs to secular and largely westernized Turkey."

The overwhelming majority of Muslims are Sunnites, or "traditionalists"; they comprise 83 percent of the Muslim world, or 934 million people. It is the dominant faith in countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

Sunni Islam recognizes several major schools of thought, including Wahhabism, which is based on the teachings of the 18th century Islamic scholar Mohammed ibn Abd Wahhab. His movement was a reaction to European modernism and what he believed was the corruption of Muslim theology and an insufficient fidelity to Islamic law. He gave jihad, or "holy war," a prominent place in his teachings.

Wahhabism--a xenophobic, puritanical version of Sunni Islam--became the reigning theology in modern Saudi Arabia and is the strand of Sunni faith in which Osama bin Laden was raised and with which he associates himself.

Shiites, or "partisans" of Ali, represent around 16 percent of the Muslim world, or 180 million people. The Shiite faith is dominant in Iraq and Iran and is the single largest community in Lebanon. The largest sect within the Shia faith is known as "twelvers," referring to those who believe that the twelfth imam, who is now hidden, will appear to establish peace, justice, and Islamic rule on earth.

"Across the Middle East Shias and Sunnis have often rallied around the same political causes and even fought together in the same trenches," Professor Vali Nasr, author of "The Shia Revival," has written. But he also points out that "followers of each sect are divided by language, ethnicity, geography, and class. There are also disagreements within each group over politics, theology, and religious law . . ." Professor Nasr points out that "[a]nti-Shiism is embedded in the ideology of Sunni militancy that has risen to prominence across the region in the last decade."

It is worth noting as well that for most of its history, the Shia have been largely powerless, marginalized, and oppressed--often by Sunnis. "Shia history," the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami has written, "is about lamentations."

Shia and Sunni: Different Histories
The split between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam is rooted in the question of rightful succession after the death of Muhammad in 632.

The Shia believe that Muhammad designated Ali, his son-in-law and cousin, as his successor. To the Shia, it was impossible that God could have left open the question of leadership of the community. Only those who knew the prophet intimately would have the thorough knowledge of the true meaning of the Koran and the prophetic tradition. Further, for the new community to choose its own leader held the possibility that the wrong person would be chosen.

The majority view prevailing at an assembly following Muhammad's death, however, was that Muhammad had deliberately left succession an open question. These became the Sunnis, followers of the Sunnah, or Tradition of the Prophet. This is the root of the Sunni tradition. Sunnis have a belief in "the sanctity of the consensus of the community . . . 'My community will never agree in error': the Prophet is thus claimed by the Sunnis to have conferred on his community the very infallibility that the Shi`is ascribe to their Imams," Hamid Enayat, wrote in his book "Modern Islamic Political Thought."

The assembly elected as Muhammad's successor Abu Baker, a close companion of Muhammad, and gave Abu Baker the title Caliph, or successor, of God's messenger. Ali was the third successor to Abu Baker and, for the Shia, the first divinely sanctioned "imam," or male descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

The seminal event in Shia history is the martyrdom in 680 of Ali's son Hussein, who led an uprising against the "illegitimate" caliph (72 of Hussein's followers were killed as well). "For the Shia, Hussein came to symbolize resistance to tyranny," according to Masood Farivar. "His martyrdom is commemorated to this day as the central act of Shia piety."

The end of Muhammad's line came with Muhammad al-Mahdi, the "Twelfth Imam"--or Mahdi ("the one who guides")--who disappeared as a child at the funeral of his father Hassan al-Askari, the eleventh imam.

Shia and Sunni: Different Eschatologies
Shiites believe that the Twelfth Imam, al-Mahdi, is merely hidden from view and will one day return from his "occultation" to rid the world of evil. Legitimate Islamic rule can only be re-established with the Mahdi's return because, in the Shiite view, the imams possessed secret knowledge, passed by each to his successor, vital to guiding the community.

History is moving toward the inevitable return of the Twelfth Imam, according to Shia. Professor Hamid Enayat has written:

"The Shi`is agree with the Sunnis that Muslim history since the era of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs . . . has been for the most part a tale of woe. But whereas for the Sunnis the course of history since then has been a movement away from the ideal state, for the Shi`is it is a movement towards it."

It's worth noting that Shia have historically been politically quiescent, with "[the return of the Mahdi] remaining in practice merely a sanctifying tenet for the submissive acceptance of the status quo."

In more recent times, however--and in particular in Iran under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini--the martyrdom of Hussein at Karbala in 680 has been used to catalyze political action. Ayatollah Khomeini embraced a view that Hussein was compelled to resist an unpopular, unjust and impious government and that his martyrdom serves as a call to rebellion for all Muslims in building an Islamic state.

The end-time views of Ayatollah Khomeini have been explained this way:

"[Khomeini] vested the myth [of the return of the Twelfth Imam] with an entirely new sense: The Twelfth Imam will only emerge when the believers have vanquished evil. To speed up the Mahdi's return, Muslims had to shake off their torpor and fight," according to Matthias Kuntzel writing in the New Republic this past April.

As Mr. Kuntzel points out, Khomeini's activism is a break with Shia tradition and, in fact, tracks more closely with the militancy of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to reunite religion and politics, implement sharia (the body of Islamic laws derived from the Koran), and views the struggle for an Islamic state as a Muslim duty.

Professor Noah Feldman of New York University points out, "Recently, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, contributed to renewed focus on the mahdi, by saying publicly that the mission of the Islamic revolution in Iran is to pave the way for the mahdi's return . . ."

Sunni radicals hold a very different eschatological view. "For all his talk of the war between civilizations," Professor Feldman has written:

"bin Laden has never spoken of the end of days. For him, the battle between the Muslims and the infidels is part of earthly human life, and has indeed been with us since the days of the Prophet himself. The war intensifies and lessens with time, but it is not something that occurs out of time or with the expectation that time itself will stop. Bin Laden and his sympathizers want to re-establish the caliphate and rule the Muslim world, but unlike some earlier revivalist movements within Sunni Islam, they do not declare their leader as the mahdi, or guided one, whose appearance will usher in a golden age of justice and peace to be followed by the Day of Judgment. From this perspective, the utter destruction of civilization would be a mistake, not the fulfillment of a divine plan."

Many Sunnis, then, look toward the rise of a new caliphate; Shia, on the other hand, are looking for the rule of the returned imam--with the extremist strain within Shia believing they can hasten the return of the twelfth imam by cleansing the world of what they believe to be evil in their midst.

Other prominent Shia, like Iraq's Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, according to Professor Feldman, "take a more fatalist stance, and prefer to believe that the mahdi's coming cannot be hastened by human activity . . . ." Indeed, as Anthony Shadid pointed out in the Washington Post in 2004, Ayatollah Sistani was a disciple of Ayatollah Abul-Qassim Khoei in Najaf, who was from the "quietist school" in Shiite Islam and attempted to keep Khomeini from claiming the mantle of Shiite leadership.
28508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Muslims, Nazis, and far right hate groups echo anti-semitisim on: January 09, 2007, 07:46:28 PM
Our Friday item about Wesley Clark brought this response from Hershel Ginsburg, an Israeli reader:

I read your posting on Clark's comments to the Huffington Post (or Puffington Host) and the comments of the "progressive" and "enlightened" anti-Semites cheering on Clark's anti-Semitic diatribe and was blown away.

Set aside Clark's coming out of his bigotry closet (where are all those who jumped on Senator George Allen's comments?); set aside Huffington's publishing this stuff (would she also publish some other failed politician's diatribe calling all Muslims terrorists?); what blew me away was the statement by one of the "talkbackers" saying it was time for "Jewish mothers, instead of American mothers, to mourn the loss of their sons for a while."

I will give him the benefit of the doubt. This turkey must have been busy hiding his head from the Thanksgiving hatchet to be totally ignorant of the losses in both military and civilian lives (and many times as many injured) just during these past six years of the Oslo Accords war and the Lebanese War of this past summer--about 1,200 or so. If the U.S. had suffered proportionally similar losses, the total would be over 50,000 dead and several times that in injuries. So believe me, we Israelis have mourned more than our share of dead, and will continue to do so.

For the record, I write this as the father of a reserve combat medic in the Israel Defense Forces, who served three years in regular IDF service (as a draftee, not a volunteer) and saw some of his buddies killed including a fellow medic who literally died in my son's hands as he was struggling to save his life from a sniper bullet. My son also served in Lebanon this past summer as a reservist. And indeed all my kids had the distinct "pleasure" of burying someone they knew who was a victim of Palestinian terrorism during the Oslo war.

Furthermore, Israel always has and always preferred to deal with its own security problems on its own at the risk of its own soldiers' lives but gets condemned when others just can't see what we see. The best example was the 1981 bombing of the Iraqi reactor at Osirak. It took 10 years until others, including the U.S., (although I don't know if the lefties ever "got it") recognized the necessity of bombing Saddam Hussein's French-built reactor.

During the 1991 Gulf War, when Saddam was raining missiles on Tel Aviv, Israelis wanted to retaliate, but Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, in a very controversial (here in Israel) move, gave in to American entreaties not to fight back and let the coalition do the work. There are many here who still think that was a grave mistake.

Now Israel is faced with a worse situation with Iran and Mad Mahmoud, who explicitly states he wants to wipe Israel off of the map and is backed by the "moderate" Hashemi Rafsanjani, who muses about Iran absorbing a 50% loss of its population as the bearable price for wiping out Israel in a nuclear exchange. On the one hand we have been waiting for the all-powerful and all-wise "international community" to work its magic and impose meaningful sanctions on Iran. To date, that is still a joke. So now we are facing a threat against our existence on the one hand, and grave warnings on the other hand from the "progressive" types not to expect the U.S. to do the job but not to do it ourselves either lest it upset the Muslim street. In the end we will have to deal with Iran ourselves and bear the consequences because ain't no one else going to do it.

And so this turkey says that its time for Jewish mothers to mourn the loss of our sons? Man, we wrote the book on it.

On a personal note, we were vacationing in Israel when Hezbollah began the war last July, and as we passed through Tel Aviv before heading for home, we phoned a few of our older cousins to see if they wanted to get together. None of them felt up to going out, because all were worried about children or grandchildren who were in the military. Israel has always seemed to us to be a country very much like America, but here we were struck by the difference: In Israel, the threat of war is constant and nearby; and having loved ones in the military is the norm rather than the exception.

28509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe on: January 09, 2007, 06:40:10 PM
Europe: Feeling the Pinch from the Russo-Belarusian Dispute

Oil refineries in Europe reported Jan. 8 that interruptions in the shipment of Russian crude oil via Belarus were causing supply shortages. Though the supplies likely will be back to normal within a few days, this is not the first -- or the last -- disruption in Russian energy supplies to Europe. Whether due to commercial disputes with its former states and satellites or Moscow's use of energy as a political weapon, secure and string-free energy from Russia is a thing of the past.


Energy firms across Poland and Germany reported Jan. 8 that Russian oil supplies transported through Belarus were not arriving according to agreed-upon schedules. Refineries in Ukraine and Hungary appear to be on the cusp of similar problems. These disruptions have not and will not force shutdowns -- all the states and facilities have sufficient emergency supplies to operate for weeks without the Russian crude -- but they are a none-too-gentle reminder that the days of reliable energy supplies to Europe from the East are a thing of the past.

These are hardly the first interruptions in Russian energy supplies to Europe. Since they started three years ago, such disruptions have included disputes or shortages that limited oil, natural gas and/or electricity deliveries to nearly every European state.

Some of those interruptions -- like the one involving Belarus -- can be explained as commercial disputes.

In this case, Russia on Jan. 1 ended a deal that had formerly existed to reward Minsk for its loyalty, halting subsidies for crude oil to Belarus and imposing a $24.65 per barrel duty. Under the old terms, Russia sent Belarus more crude than it needed, so not only was the Belarusian economy subsidized with cheap energy, but Minsk could then ship the extra oil to Europe at market rates, pocketing the profit -- nearly $2 billion in 2006.

The end of the deal punched a mammoth hole in the budget of Belarus, a country in which the gross domestic product totals only about $30 billion. In retaliation, and to compensate for the shortfall, Minsk unilaterally increased transit tariffs on the 1.8 million barrels per day of crude that Russia ships across Belarus to Europe. The new rates were supposed to kick in Jan. 6. But a related price-and-supply dispute between the Russian government (which controls the oil transport network) and Minsk left Belarus' two refineries without assured supplies.

Russia reduced oil deliveries to Belarus by the amount normally used by Belarus' refiners, but the Belarusians kept tapping the pipelines and shortages manifested downstream in Poland, Germany, Ukraine and Hungary. Russia -- in order to punish Belarus -- then simply shut down the line completely.

The dispute is a reflection of a forming geopolitical fissure between Russia and what once was its only reliable ally. This issue likely will be sewn up quickly, if only because Russia is Belarus' sole energy supplier. But that hardly means the sniping -- and the disruptions -- will not resurface.

Though this -- like a near-disruption of natural gas supplies in December 2006 involving Belarus and one in January 2006 involving Ukraine -- can be called a commercial dispute, it is obvious to all but the propaganda experts that there is a core political aspect as well. Anytime a country in Russia's near abroad has a conflict of interest with Russia -- not exactly a rare occurrence -- the energy supplies of European states farther down the pipeline become threatened. In Moscow's unofficial rhetoric, this is one reason Europe should encourage Russia to keep a tight grip on its near abroad. But for most European states -- particularly those in Central Europe -- it is one more reason to find alternatives to Russian energy.

Since it cannot rely on Russian energy, Europe is looking for ways to mitigate the risk. However, it will not be easy to find substitute sources for all the kinds of energy Russia supplies to Europe.

The hardest to replace is natural gas. Since natural gas is, well, a gas, it is difficult to transport without a multibillion dollar pipeline infrastructure. Since one of those -- the world's most extensive -- already exists between Russia and Europe, Europeans would have to be quite put out with Moscow to invest in replacement options, which include building massive new connections to Algeria, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Egypt -- states that few put at the top of their list of reliable partners. Other possibilities are tankering the stuff in liquefied form, doing away with the industries that use natural gas (with the obvious adverse effects on the European economy) or substituting nuclear power for natural gas-fired electricity plants. All options are expensive, time-consuming and accompanied by their own problems -- yet most of the European states affected are moving forward on some or all of these options.

Oil is easier. Though there is an oil pipeline network, similar to the natural gas network, linking Russia to Europe, oil is a liquid and is more readily transportable via tanker. In fact, the Polish refineries affected by the recent Belarusian-Russian problems have already announced that they will simply switch to waterborne (probably Norwegian) supplies.

At the end of the day, it matters little to the European states whether Russian energy interruptions occur because the Russians are pressuring someone, because there is a commercial dispute or because the Russians – because of cold weather, creaking infrastructure or failing reserves -- are simply unable to deliver supplies. The bottom line is that the needed energy is not there, and the Europeans must plan accordingly.

As the European Commission said in a statement regarding the Jan. 8 interruptions, "There is no reason to be alarmed now, but we are going to take all necessary measures just in case."
28510  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Forrest Griifin's emotional reaction postfight on: January 09, 2007, 06:37:46 PM
I was afraid that was going to be IIRC Ricco Rodriguez giving Mark Kerr a kiss on the cheek when he won the UFC title tongue cheesy
28511  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: January 09, 2007, 06:27:39 PM
Steve Sailer's latest column at contains this fascinating tidbit:

From opposite directions, they simultaneously approached the policemen on the sidewalk in front of the Presidential residence and shot them point blank, with Torresola putting three slugs in White House Policeman Leslie Coffelt, mortally wounding him. Torresola, an expert shot, then wounded two more guards, while his less skilled compatriot Collazo blasted away at the Secret Service agents at the other end of the sidewalk, who remained unaware of Torresalo's existence. Meanwhile, the agent inside Blair House struggled to unlock the cabinet holding a Tommy gun.

Awoken from his nap by gunfire, President Truman walked to his second floor window and stood looking out at the gunfight in stunned amazement, only 30 feet from where Torresola was reloading his Luger.

In this crisis, Coffelt, the only American in position to stop Torresola, stood up despite the three 9-mm rounds in him, staggered to within 20 feet of the terrorist, and, in "what has to be considered the most important shot ever taken by an American police officer," fired one perfectly aimed bullet into his head, killing Torresola instantly.

Coffelt then sat down and died.
28512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: January 09, 2007, 06:11:55 PM
Reliability of source unknown:

t’s David and Goliath Time in Hazelton

by Dymphna

The town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania has decided enough is enough where illegal aliens are concerned. Hazleton’s social infrastructure is being systematically dismantled by the crime, health needs, housing demands, and language barriers of Hispanic illegal aliens who have descended on Hazleton in numbers large enough to put a strain on the commonweal of that community. Here's how the mayor puts it:

I believe the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. People who are in this country have an incredible amount of opportunities and blessings. But some people have taken advantage of America’s openness and tolerance. Some come to this country and refuse to learn English, creating a language barrier for city employees. Others enter the country illegally and use government services by not paying taxes or by committing crime on our streets, further draining resources here in Hazleton.

Recent crimes - such as a high-profile murder, the discharge of a gun at a crowded city playground, and drug busts - have involved illegal immigrants. Some of those allegedly involved in those crimes were detained by other law enforcement officials over the years, but were somehow allowed to remain in this country. They eventually migrated into Hazleton, where they helped create a sense of fear in the good, hardworking residents who are here legally.

Illegal aliens in our City create an economic burden that threatens our quality of life.

With a growing problem and a limited budget, I could not sit back any longer and allow this to happen.
Thus, the mayor decided to act. In July, he drafted the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, and in September, the City Council passed the measures. Essentially, his draft upholds current American law: it says that landlords may not rent to illegal aliens and businesses may not hire them. All constitutional and within the law.

But of course, there is the ACLU to contend with, not to mention the sympathetic judges who go along with its openly anti-American sentiments. We think we know what the ACLU has been, and what it is now, but we don’t really look beyond the surface of the clever name. Here’s an excerpt from a comprehensive look at the long-established philosophy of the Anti-American, Uncivil, Socialist Union:
- - - - - - - - - -
Today’s ACLU still espouses the ideals of socialism under the guise of liberalism. They still defend Communist propaganda [the founder was a Communist and they have a long history with that murderously mistaken idea — d.] One of the goals of the Communist agenda is to abolish all loyalty oaths. It is interesting that the ACLU celebrate the fact that they will not sign oaths promising not to support terrorism.

Whether today’s ACLU is a communist/socialist organization or not their goals most definitely align with the ideologies of socialism. Regardless of what one labels today’s ACLU there are many dangerous positions in practice that have never changed with them. Their unflinching support of abortion, euthanasia, their strange position on the Second Amendment and their open border policy are just a few examples. They consistently work to thwart the government’s efforts to protect its citizens, undermine America’s sovereignty, and defend America’s enemies. They have defended traitors funding Hamas, the PLO, and confessed Al-Qaeda operatives. All of these seem to support their founder’s goal of abolishing of the State itself.
The Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU is particularly annoyed that Senator Santorum allowed two of his staff to help Hazleton establish a web presence. Since the Senator’s main concern had been illegal immigration, their “concern” seems misplaced. Are we to infer some wrong-doing here? —

If you check out the Small Town Defenders website, you’ll be greeted by a smiling Mayor Barletta promoting his small town Illegal Immigration Relief Act. As you know, Sen. Santorum is also a supporter of anti-immigrant efforts, but who would suspect that two of his own staffers contributed to getting Mayor Barletta’s smiling display of bigotry up on our World Wide Web?
To those who support the ACLU, watching a town disintegrate is immaterial. First and foremost, all illegal aliens are welcome anywhere, any time. And if you dare go against that rule, the iron curtain of ACLU hired guns will line you up in their sights. Here’s what Hazleton is facing:

The defense fund was joined in the suit by several branches of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Community Justice Project, as well as the law firms of Cozen O’Connor, Philadelphia, George Barron and Barry Dyller, both of Wilkes-Barre, David Vaida, Allentown, and Peter Winebrake, Philadelphia.
But Hazleton is proving to be a tougher nut to crack than other municipalities who have been forced to knuckle under or face bankruptcy in the form of endless litigation. The mayor says is saying it is prepared to go to the Supreme Court if necessary.

As you well know, the ACLU — like CAIR — bullies its adversaries into submission by, among other things, bankrupting them. And as you can see from the list of attorneys above, they certainly have their fellow-travelers, just as CAIR does.

Hazleton is asking American citizens to donate to the cause. It will be a long, drawn-out battle, but the city’s life is at stake. There is a donation page, and there is also a petition page. For those who are not comfortable with donating online, there is also a snail mail address:

City of Hazleton Legal Defense Fund
c/o Mayor Lou Barletta, City Hall
40 N. Church St.
Hazleton, PA 18201
28513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: January 09, 2007, 06:08:02 PM
By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer
Sat Dec 23, 1:54 PM ET

Spc. Brent Everson was just a few steps from safety.

The 22-year-old from Florence, Mont., was climbing out of a tank, near the entrance to a U.S. outpost called Sword when a sniper's 7.62-millimeter bullet hit him just above his Kevlar vest, tearing into his shoulder and through his back. He fell back into the tank — wounded but alive.

On the roof of the outpost, Army gunners returned fire. But the sniper probably already was gone.

"This guy knew what he was doing," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gann, who like Everson is assigned to Company C of the Army's 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment. "You get some guys with rifles who wake up and just want to take shots at Americans. But they don't aim around body armor," he said, speculating that the sniper's gun had a telescopic sight.

Everson was taken by helicopter to a hospital north of Baghdad and survived. He was the fourth sniper victim since September among 40 soldiers assigned to Sword, a sandbagged mansion in south-central Ramadi. All were hit within a few yards of the outpost.

A problem since the start of the war, soldiers and senior officers say the threat from snipers has intensified in recent months. Insurgent gunmen have honed their skills and acquired better equipment, notably night-vision rifle scopes to target U.S. troops after the sun goes down.

For Marines and soldiers targeted by the gunmen, the shots chip away at their morale, one crack of a rifle at a time.

"People are just tired of this. They're frustrated," said Sgt. Benjamin Iobst, who lives at Sword. "It's like trying to find a fly in a forest."

Iobst said the problem in Anbar Province has become so serious that military experts recently visited Sword to study snipers in the area, in hopes of developing ways to counter the threat.

Lt. Gerard Dow, the highest-ranking soldier at Sword, said Americans usually move through Ramadi at night to minimize the risk. But now some gunmen use night-vision scopes so they can strike anytime.

"We know the best ones have it," he said.

During a week of interviews, soldiers at Sword spoke repeatedly about the snipers outside their gates. Subsequent discussions with Marines and commanders across Anbar revealed that the threat is widespread.

Maj. Matthew Van Wagenen, executive officer of 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, said Saddam Hussein loyalists in exile in Syria and Jordan have funded training programs for snipers.

"You have simple gunmen getting paid to take shots, but you also have midlevel leadership who can drive all over Anbar, moving in and out of town whenever they want," Van Wagenen said.

The U.S. military leadership in Baghdad has played down the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq, but many soldiers and Marines in Anbar said they believe the best snipers from all over the Middle East travel to Iraq for the chance to drop an American with a single shot.

"We don't even have snipers that good," Iobst said.

Some of the snipers learned their basic craft when they served in Saddam's army. But there's also open concern among Americans that the training of the current Iraqi army — at U.S.-operated camps — is spreading skills that are turned against U.S. forces.

"I don't like the way they fight, but I'd do the same thing if someone was occupying my country," said Cpl. Sean J. Egger, also part of the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment.

Egger was the gunner atop a Humvee near Ramadi's defunct train station in August. The bullet whizzed past him by inches but struck his machine gun, sending shrapnel into his face.

Safety glasses spared his vision, but Egger will need surgery after he leaves Iraq to remove a half dozen pieces of shrapnel still lodged in his face.

Troops try to make themselves tougher targets for snipers by zigzagging when they walk and never standing in one place for longer than a few seconds.

But the best snipers will wait for hours, often near natural obstacles where U.S. troops might be forced to pause.

They crouch in alleys, abandoned buildings, or force their way into many homes at gunpoint, firing from holes they punch in walls or windows. They also fire from holes in cars. One gang in Ramadi had vehicle with a bumper rigged so it could be lowered for the sniper inside to squeeze off a few rounds undetected.

They shoot once and vanish, picking up their "brass," or rifle casings, and covering the holes from which they fire.

Even when they fail to kill, wounding is enough to disrupt military operations for hours, while the casualty is evacuated.

And the subsequent search for the sniper is usually an exercise in frustration, sometimes impossible to contain.

Shortly before midnight after Everson was hit, 20 Americans and six Iraqi soldiers left Sword to sweep through homes just to the east, the possible origin shot.

Much of Ramadi is without power after dark and the few remaining residents near Sword were huddled by candlelight in their living rooms when the angry soldiers broke down their doors.

"Yes, yes," they breathed with terrified voices — it was all the English they knew.

In some homes, soldiers demanded information through an interpreter without doing much damage. In others, they broke windows, overturned couches and ripped pictures off the wall as they searched. Iraqi troops casually tossed lit cigarettes onto woven carpets.

"You know when somebody comes in and shoots at us! You know who the outsiders are!" bellowed Lt. Dow. "Tell us!"

"I am a taxi driver," stammered Wabeel Haqqay, who lives with his elderly father. "I am gone all day and know nothing."

As is often the case, no one offered any information on the sniper and insisted insurgents come from other parts of the city.

But on the roof of an abandoned house, soldiers discovered a hole, cut into a wall and concealed by cinderblocks. It yielded a perfect view of Sword and was just big enough for a rifle and scope.

A line of soldiers kicked the crumbling brick wall until it gave way.

"Feels good, doesn't it?" Dow grinned.
28514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: January 09, 2007, 11:50:10 AM
Last week Nancy Pelosi's House Democrats passed what Washington insiders call "pay-go" budget rules. Pay-go requires that any new entitlement programs or tax cuts must be "paid for" with other entitlement cuts -- which, of course, never happen in Washington -- or with tax increases.

The new rules passed pretty much as a straightline party vote, though some 40 Republicans voted with the Democrats for this tax hike mechanism. And a few liberal Democrats criticized the measure because they fear that even this flawed budget discipline might prevent them from increasing spending as fast they would like.

But no worries, say a number of liberal commentators, who are openly advertising the idea that canceling the Bush tax cuts offers the Democrats a big cash drawer to raid under pay-go. Berkeley economist and blogger Brad DeLong argues: "Restoring pay-as-you-go means that the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this decade...The embrace of pay-as-you-go orders up a $300 billion rise in taxes at the end of this decade. That's a significant amount of deficit reduction all by itself, and a very significant change from Bush administration idiocy."

Democrats are also eyeing bringing back the death tax to fund new spending programs. Reviving the death tax, which expires in 2010, would raise about $28 billion a year, according to the Brookings Institute.

Democrats believe that just by doing nothing and letting all the Bush investment tax cuts expire in 2010, Congress will have about $88 billion a year more money to play with. Of course, this really is just budgetary funny money -- because canceling the Bush tax cuts would likely do so much damage to the economy that federal revenues would actually shrink rather than grow, even with higher tax rates. Notice how federal revenues have soared since Mr. Bush's lower capital gains and dividend tax rates took effect.

"We're pretty certain the House Democrats see pay-go as not an instrument of fiscal discipline but as a tool to make raising taxes much easier," says GOP Rep. Mike Pence, who helped lead the opposition to the new pay-go rules. Now you know why pay-go is so popular in Washington.

Opinion Journal of the WSJ
28515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: January 09, 2007, 10:14:19 AM

I suppose I could have put this very important topic on the Political Forum,  but I have decided to put it here where I am hoping it will get the attention it deserves.


U.S. may check Web use
Privacy advocates challenge push to track sites visited
January 8, 2007

The federal government wants your Internet provider to keep track of every Web site you visit.
For more than a year, the Justice Department has been in discussions with Internet companies and privacy rights advocates, trying to come up with a plan that would make it easier for investigators to check records of Web traffic.

The idea is to help law enforcement officials track down child pornographers. But some see it as another step toward total surveillance of citizens -- joining warrantless wiretapping, secret scrutiny of library records and unfettered access to e-mail as another power that could be abused.
"I don't think it's realistic to think that we would create this enormous honeypot of information and then say to the FBI, 'You can only use it for this narrow purpose,' " said Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes free speech and privacy in communication.
"We have an environment in which we're collecting more and more information on the personal lives of Americans, and our laws are completely inadequate to protect us."
Need to safeguard children
So far, no concrete proposal has emerged, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has made it clear that he would like to see quick action.
In testimony before a Senate committee in September, Gonzales painted a disturbing picture of child pornography on the Web.
But federal agents and prosecutors are hampered in their investigations because Internet companies don't routinely keep records of their traffic, he told the committee.
Gonzales also pushed for Internet records tracking in a speech at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in April.
"Privacy rights must always be accommodated and protected as we conduct our investigations," he said.
But, he said, "the investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers.
"This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time."
Rationales differ
Internet service providers typically keep records of Web traffic for 30 to 90 days, as a way to trace technical glitches. Many ISPs and privacy advocates say it's already easy for government agents to get the information they need to investigate crimes.
The FBI, without a court order, can send a letter to any Internet provider ordering it to maintain records for an investigation, said Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that promotes free speech and privacy on the Web.
"If this passes, there would be a chilling effect on free speech if everyone knew that everything they did on the Internet could be tracked back to them," Bankston said.
The government has offered differing rationales for its data-retention plan, said Harris, the privacy advocate.
"I've been in discussions at the Department of Justice where someone would say, 'We want this for child protection.' And someone else would say 'national security,' and someone else would say, 'computer crimes,' " Harris said.
Types of records unclear
There are questions about what records would be kept, said David McClure, president of the U.S. Internet Industry Association, a Virginia-based group that represents about 800 ISPs.
Is it a log of every Web site a user visits? Is it the actual content of e-mails and other Internet communications? Nobody in the government has offered specifics, he said.
"When we go to them for specifics, they start shuffling and hemming and hawing, and the issue goes away until the attorney general gives another speech," he said.
"This is all being driven by a political need, not a law enforcement need."
Kathleen Blomquist, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, wouldn't comment on specific proposals for tracking.
28516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor on: January 09, 2007, 10:09:07 AM

Last night, my wife and I were sitting in the living room and I said to
her, "I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine
and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

So she got up, unplugged the TV and then threw out my beer.

She's Such A Bitch......
28517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: January 09, 2007, 09:37:55 AM
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 — House Democrats intend to fulfill a campaign promise this week by passing broad new antiterrorism legislation, but some Senate Democrats and the Bush administration object to security mandates in the plan, citing concerns about their cost and practicality.

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The House measure, the Sept. 11 Commission Bill, is intended to write into law recommendations by the group that investigated the 2001 terror attacks. They include initiatives intended to disrupt global black markets for nuclear weapons technology and to enhance cargo inspection.

“Today marks a giant leap forward toward a safer and more secure America,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, the new chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, as he unveiled the bill Friday.

But the proposed legislation, which could come to a vote as early as Tuesday, goes beyond what the Sept. 11 commission recommended, taking up measures previously favored by Democratic lawmakers but opposed by the Department of Homeland Security.

The bill requires that within three years, all cargo on passenger jets be inspected for explosives, as checked baggage is now. The House bill also requires that within five years all ship cargo containers headed to the United States be scanned overseas for components of a nuclear bomb.

Homeland Security Department officials say there is no proven technology for such comprehensive cargo screening, at least at a reasonable cost or without causing worldwide bottlenecks in trade. The screening for air cargo is estimated to cost $3.6 billion over the next decade, and ship inspections could cost even more. “Inspecting every container could cause ports to literally shut down,” said Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman.

Many Republicans and some Senate Democratic committee chairmen said that the goal of 100 percent inspections was worthy, but that they were not convinced that mandates should be included in the bill.

“Airplane passengers must be assured that any cargo on a passenger jet will not pose a terrorist threat,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, who now leads the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. “But we must achieve these goals in an efficient manner to allow for the free flow of commerce without placing undue economic burdens on importers or bringing air traffic to a standstill.”

The Sept. 11 commission said in its 2004 report that any proposed new security measures must be carefully considered, weighing the cost and benefit of any one step, like inspecting cargo, against others that could be taken, like protecting planes against shoulder-fired missiles.

The commission recommended, for example, that passenger planes be equipped with hardened, bomb-resistant containers for some cargo, instead of moving immediately to inspect every cargo shipment.

Homeland Security Department officials said they were researching ways to inspect more air and sea cargo. The agency has tests planned this year at three ports in Pakistan, Honduras and England, where all ship containers headed for the United States will be checked for radioactive substances or dense objects that might be hiding a bomb.

Until then, the department intends to follow its existing security procedures, which include mandatory inspections of the small fraction of cargo containers deemed suspicious because of the sender, the destination or the contents, among other factors.

Currently, about 30 percent of air cargo on passenger planes is inspected by dogs or screening devices, while about 5 percent of all incoming ship containers are sent through a device like an X-ray machine.

Mr. Lieberman and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, the new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, want the security department to complete its tests on new technology before mandating inspection of all cargo.

But Mr. Thompson, the chief author of the House bill, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the timetables were essential to push the department to move faster.

“We need firm deadlines to end the administration’s foot-dragging,” Mr. Schumer said Monday.

The push for 100 percent screening of all ship cargo containers first became a top priority for Democrats last year after the Bush administration proposed allowing a Dubai company to assume management of a half-dozen United States ship terminal operations. Democrats said then that they recognized the idea was compelling not only to increase security, but also as a political pitch as they tried to buttress their credentials as a party that takes domestic security seriously.

Part of the skepticism about the mandate for 100 percent screening is that even if the equipment is installed, it is not clear it would do much to prevent an attack, some security experts said.

The radiation detection equipment now in use, for example, probably would not pick up a crucial radioactive substance for a nuclear weapon if the material was shielded. And even if all cargo containers were checked, terrorists could find other ways to smuggle weapons into the United States, including on private boats or ships that carry cars, which would not be not covered by the inspection mandates.

“Tax dollars should not be spent on what makes for the best election-year bumper sticker, but on initiatives that offer the most security for the dollar spent,” said James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington, and a critic of the 100 percent inspection requirement.

Aside from the cargo inspection mandates, other security measures proposed by Democrats have a greater chance of becoming law.

The House bill calls for changes in the way some $2 billion a year in state and local domestic security grants are distributed, so that the money is more based on risk. A separate bill has been introduced in the Senate that would provide antiterrorism grants for Amtrak, freight railroads and other transit systems, a plan that previously passed the Senate but was opposed by House Republican leaders.

Mr. Thompson said that with the Democrats now in charge the party had a chance to push forward at least some of these measures, although he said he recognized compromise might be necessary before they were signed into law.

NY Times
28518  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: January 09, 2007, 09:31:07 AM
The US markets will be watching the situation in Venezuela today after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said late yesterday he plans to nationalize major utility and oil facilities and take complete control of the country by ruling through executive order. Venezuela is a big supplier of oil to the US. The Venezuelan government has several joint ventures with major oil companies that may be nationalized from partners such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Total SA, CononcoPhillips, BP and Statoil. Venezuela's currency yesterday plunged 17% and has now fallen by more than 50% in the past 6 months. Chavez said he plans to mold the Venezuelan system along socialist lines.
NY Times

CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 8 — President Hugo Chávez signaled a vigorous new effort to assert greater control over Venezuela’s economy on Monday by announcing plans to nationalize companies in the telecommunications and electricity industries.

Mr. Chávez, who will be sworn in Wednesday to another six-year term, announced his plans at the swearing-in of his new cabinet to a cheering crowd of supporters, sending a chilling message to foreign investors.

American corporations, including Verizon Communications, have large stakes in Venezuela’s largest telecommunications company, CANTV, and its biggest publicly traded electricity company, Electricidad de Caracas.

“Let it be nationalized,” Mr. Chávez said of CANTV. “All that was privatized, let it be nationalized.”

Financial markets appeared to be caught off-guard by Mr. Chávez’s announcement, as speculators reacted with a sell-off of assets that would be affected by the decision. Shares in CANTV plunged 14 percent in New York trading. Venezuela’s currency, the bolívar, fell as much as 20 percent in black market trading here on Monday, traders said.

The announcement was the latest in a series of bold steps Mr. Chávez has taken since his re-election in December to consolidate his power and move Venezuela toward what he calls a socialist revolution. Mr. Chávez said he would also seek a “revolutionary enabling law” from Congress that would allow him to approve bills by decree, as well as a measure stripping the central bank of its autonomy.

“While this is a break with the past, it is consistent with Chávez’s drive to concentrate ever greater power in his hands and the hands of his government,” said Robert Bottome, editor and publisher of Veneconomía, a business newsletter.

Last month, Mr. Chávez announced plans to meld the broad coalition of parties that support him into a single socialist party, raising concerns that he was following in the footsteps of Fidel Castro.

On Monday, in addition to the telecommunications and electricity nationalizations, Mr. Chávez also appeared to signal that he wanted control over four multibillion-dollar oil projects in the Orinoco River basin, which he said should become “state property.”

It was not clear what Mr. Chávez meant, however, since Venezuela’s government already has stakes in those ventures together with some of the world’s largest private oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhillips.

Venezuela, which has the largest conventional oil reserves outside the Middle East, has already increased its control over numerous oil production ventures in the past year. The largest consumer of Venezuelan oil, of course, remains the United States, despite efforts by Mr. Chávez to export larger quantities of oil to China and other Asian markets.

Details were vague as to how any of the nationalization plans would play out. For instance, Mr. Chávez omitted from his remarks whether Venezuela would compensate foreign investors for their holdings or expropriate them outright. He has already clashed with investors over small-scale takeovers of farms and even a tomato-processing plant owned by H. J. Heinz, but his government has negotiated settlements with owners in those cases.

The nationalizations would, at least for Venezuela, reverse a trend that got under way in Latin America in the 1990s, when governments throughout the region sold many of their assets, particularly state telephone companies, to private investors. Those deals, together with the auction of licenses to provide wireless phone services, led to a sharp increase in the usage of such services among poorer Venezuelans.

They would also be a significant shift of Mr. Chávez’s economic policies since he became president in 1999. Though Mr. Chávez steadily adopted more strident rhetoric, he let most of Venezuela’s private companies operate unfettered as long they did not actively engage in politics.

But with his re-election in December, Mr. Chávez seems determined to use the momentum — and margin — of his victory to solidify his power and deepen his socialist policies in ways that are increasingly unnerving his opponents.

Supporters of Mr. Chávez already control every institution in the federal government, including Congress and the Supreme Court, so it was unclear what hindrances Mr. Chávez was attempting to overcome by seeking expanded powers.

Mr. Chávez is also going forward with a plan to effectively take RCTV, a television station that persistently criticizes his government, off the air in May by not renewing its broadcast license. The move has drawn fierce criticism both here and abroad, with critics claiming it will restrict freedom of expression.

On Monday, Mr. Chávez described one of the most prominent critics of the decision, José Miguel Insulza, the general secretary of the Organization of American States, in a vulgar term that loosely translates as “idiot.” Mr. Chávez also called on Mr. Insulza to resign.

Flush with more than $50 billion in revenue from oil exports, Mr. Chávez is also retooling Venezuela’s economy to focus on what his economic theorists describe as “endogenous development” that prioritizes the domestic production of agricultural goods and industrial products from worker-owned cooperatives.

Venezuela has undergone a nationalization push before, when the populist government of Carlos Andrés Pérez took control of companies in various sectors, including the oil industry, in the 1970s. The economy, however, suffered from poor growth and inefficient services after oil prices crashed in the 1980s, leading subsequent administrations to privatize state companies and open the oil industry to foreign investment.

American companies reacted cautiously to Mr. Chávez’s comments on Monday. “Verizon has of course been carefully monitoring the news reports on President Chávez’s comments today,” said Eric Rabe, a spokesman for Verizon, which has had a large stake in CANTV since the early 1990s. “We are not aware of the details of the government’s plan and therefore cannot comment at this time.”

While Mr. Chávez referred specifically to the telephone company CANTV, his nationalization plans for the electricity sector remained unclear. The AES Corporation of Arlington, Va., controls Electricidad de Caracas, but did not acquire the company through a privatization auction. Robin Pence, a spokeswoman for AES, declined to comment.

CMS Energy of Jackson, Mich., controls an electricity utility that provides power to Margarita Island that it bought from the Venezuelan government in the 1990s. Jeffrey Holyfield, a spokesman for CMS, said the company had a “good relationship” with Mr. Chávez’s government but was awaiting more details about its plan before it could comment.

?Alguien tiene comentario sobre la situacion en Venezuela y la implaciones de ella?
28519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 09, 2007, 09:15:39 AM
Don't Play With Maps
Published: January 9, 2007
NY Times

I BECAME embroiled in a controversy with former President Jimmy Carter over the use of two maps in his recent book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.” While some criticized what appeared to be the misappropriation of maps I had commissioned for my book, “The Missing Peace,” my concern was always different.

I was concerned less with where the maps had originally come from — Mr. Carter has said that he used an atlas that was published after my book appeared — and more with how they were labeled. To my mind, Mr. Carter’s presentation badly misrepresents the Middle East proposals advanced by President Bill Clinton in 2000, and in so doing undermines, in a small but important way, efforts to bring peace to the region.

In his book, Mr. Carter juxtaposes two maps labeled the “Palestinian Interpretation of Clinton’s Proposal 2000” and “Israeli Interpretation of Clinton’s Proposal 2000.”

The problem is that the “Palestinian interpretation” is actually taken from an Israeli map presented during the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000, while the “Israeli interpretation” is an approximation of what President Clinton subsequently proposed in December of that year. Without knowing this, the reader is left to conclude that the Clinton proposals must have been so ambiguous and unfair that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was justified in rejecting them. But that is simply untrue.

In actuality, President Clinton offered two different proposals at two different times. In July, he offered a partial proposal on territory and control of Jerusalem. Five months later, at the request of Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, and Mr. Arafat, Mr. Clinton presented a comprehensive proposal on borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and security. The December proposals became known as the Clinton ideas or parameters.

Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Jerusalem’s status would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that Jewish Jerusalem — East and West — would be united, while Arab East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

The Palestinian state would have been “nonmilitarized,” with internal security forces but no army and an international military presence led by the United States to prevent terrorist infiltration and smuggling. Palestinian refugees would have had the right of return to their state, but not to Israel, and a fund of $30 billion would have been created to compensate those refugees who chose not to exercise their right of return to the Palestinian state.

When I decided to write the story of what had happened in the negotiations, I commissioned maps to illustrate what the proposals would have meant for a prospective Palestinian state. If the Clinton proposals in December 2000 had been Israeli or Palestinian ideas and I was interpreting them, others could certainly question my interpretation. But they were American ideas, created at the request of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I was the principal author of them. I know what they were and so do the parties.

It is certainly legitimate to debate whether President Clinton’s proposal could have settled the conflict. It is not legitimate, however, to rewrite history and misrepresent what the Clinton ideas were.

Indeed, since the talks fell apart, there has emerged a mythology that seeks to defend Mr. Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton ideas by suggesting they weren’t real or they were too vague or that Palestinians would have received far less than what had been advertised. Mr. Arafat himself tried to defend his rejection of the Clinton proposals by later saying he was not offered even 90 percent of the West Bank or any of East Jerusalem. But that was myth, not reality.

Why is it important to set the record straight? Nothing has done more to perpetuate the conflict between Arabs and Israelis than the mythologies on each side. The mythologies about who is responsible for the conflict (and about its core issues) have taken on a life of their own. They shape perception. They allow each side to blame the other while avoiding the need to face up to its own mistakes. So long as myths are perpetuated, no one will have to face reality.


And yet peace can never be built on these myths. Instead it can come only once the two sides accept and adjust to reality. Perpetuating a myth about what was offered to justify the Arafat rejection serves neither Palestinian interests nor the cause of peace.

I would go a step further. If, as I believe, the Clinton ideas embody the basic trade-offs that will be required in any peace deal, it is essential to understand them for what they were and not to misrepresent them. This is especially true now that the Bush administration, for the first time, seems to be contemplating a serious effort to deal with the core issues of the conflict.

Of course, one might ask if trying to address the core issues is appropriate at a moment when Palestinians are locked in an internal stalemate and the Israeli public lacks confidence in its government. Can politically weak leaders make compromises on the issues that go to the heart of the conflict? Can the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, compromise on the right of return and tell his public that refugees will not go back to Israel? Can Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, tell his public that demography and practicality mean that the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will have Palestinian and not Israeli sovereignty?

The basic trade-offs require meeting Israeli needs on security and refugees on the one hand and Palestinian needs on territory and a capital in Arab East Jerusalem on the other. But producing such trade-offs won’t simply come from calling for them. Instead, an environment must be created in which each side believes the other can act on peace and is willing to condition its public for the difficult compromises that will be necessary.

So long as mythologies can’t be cast aside, and so long as the trade-offs on the core issues can’t be embraced by Israelis or Palestinians, peace will remain forever on the horizon. If history tells us anything, it is that for peace-making to work, it must proceed on the basis of fact, not fiction.

« Previous Page1 2
Dennis Ross, envoy to the Middle East in the Clinton administration, is counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

28520  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA on: January 08, 2007, 11:44:57 PM
CroCop=Croatian Cop
28521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: January 08, 2007, 11:41:15 PM
Israeli plans for Iran attack


Spy agency Mossad’s plans for a surprise attack on six sites in Iran have gripped the Islamic republic’s media, as have details of Israel’s nuclear capabilities.

Newspapers in Tehran jumped at revelations reported by both the German and American press on Sunday.

The Yediot Aharonot, Maariv and Haaretz dailies all splashed on a Los Angeles Times report that modified US-made cruise missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads on submarines.

This would allow Israel to launch atomic weapons from land, air or sea.
Strike plans prepared

The 3 newspapers also carried reports in Monday's edition of the Germany Der Spiegel magazine that a special Mossad unit received orders 2 months ago to prepare plans for strikes.

Around half a dozen targets in Iran are suspected of being used to prepare nuclear weapons by Tel Aviv.
US-built F-16 fighter bombers could completely destroy the sites, according to Israeli security officials quoted in the German magazine.

Maariv published a map of Iran complete with aerial shots of the suspected nuclear sites.
Yediot even ran a photograph of an Israeli Dauphin submarine, using a graphic to explain how it could sneak up on the enemy and fire its nuclear warheads.
Not the first time

In 1981, Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear power station near Baghdad, smashing former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme, the 3 Israeli papers reminded their readers.

But a similar air attack against Iran would be far riskier.

Its nuclear sites are dotted across vast expanses and Iran's eastern border is 1300km from Israeli air bases, making bombing sorties vulnerable.
Official denial

However, Israeli political sources quoted by Yediot said there is no prospect of military action against Iran at this stage.
One senior official branded the weekend’s press reports “mere speculation. Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear arms to the Middle East, nor the first to use them."
Tel Aviv has neither confirmed nor denied having nuclear arms, but Washington has accepted it as a nuclear power since 1969 and analysts say it has up to 200 sophisticated nuclear weapons.
Honest peace broker

Arab countries have criticised the United States and the United Nations for pressuring Iran to accept even tougher inspections while ignoring the stockpile in Israel, which is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never been inspected.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has imposed a 31 October deadline on Iran to prove it is not secretly developing nuclear weapons and also urged it to suspend enriching uranium, which the United States claims could be used to make nuclear bombs.
In a 1991 documentary on Israeli television, then foreign minister Shimon Peres revealed for the first time that France had agreed to equip Israel with a nuclear capability in 1956.
28522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Philippines on: January 08, 2007, 06:43:11 PM
Philippines: Janjalani and the Future of Abu Sayyaf
The brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani said in an interview published Jan. 8 that Janjalani is alive, and that captured Abu Sayyaf members who revealed the location of Janjalani's purported burial site in December were only after the reward. Hector Janjalani also told ABS-CBN News he will not provide Philippine authorities with a DNA sample to check against that collected from the body. Janjalani is believed to have been mortally wounded in a Sept. 4, 2006, clash with Philippine troops on Jolo Island.

As one of the last remaining Abu Sayyaf leaders committed to the jihadist ideology, Janjalani is vital to the group's jihadist core, and his death would cause Abu Sayyaf to further devolve from a jihadist movement into a loosely knit criminal organization. Therefore, jihadists wanting to keep the remnants of the jihadist core united must continue to support the notion that Janjalani is alive.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced Dec. 27 that authorities, acting on a tip from captured Abu Sayyaf members, had recovered what they believed to be Janjalani's body from a burial site in a remote area about a mile and a half from the location of the Sept. 4 gunbattle. However, Hector Janjalani, who is in custody in New Bilibid Prison near Manila on a kidnapping charge, contends the Abu Sayyaf members provided the information in an effort to collect the $5 million reward. Hector also said a DNA test is unnecessary because his brother is alive. Indeed, Janjalani has been reported dead in the past, only to turn up alive later.

Since 2002, U.S. military aid has enabled the AFP to more aggressively pursue militants on Mindanao Island and the Sulu Archipelago, particularly Abu Sayyaf and elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Recent AFP efforts in the southern Philippines appear to have allowed troops to close in on both Janjalani and Jemaah Islamiyah bombmaker Dulmatin. The battle that could have resulted in Janjalani's death occurred during a major AFP offensive in the area. Intelligence gained from the capture of members of Dulmatin's family in the Sulu Archipelago by Philippine security forces in October 2006 could have led them closer to Janjalani.

As militant groups come under military pressure or lose their sources of funding, they often transform into groups more closely resembling criminal organizations. When a group is put under such pressure, some members who oppose any dialogue with the government often split into factions in order to carry on the fight or to continue supporting themselves through violent means. Such is the case with MILF since the group entered into a cease-fire with Manila in July 2003. Since then, factions of the group that have not adhered to the cease-fire have engaged Philippine troops in gunbattles and carried out small-scale attacks in Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf began to fracture after it became too large to control across Mindanao's rugged terrain, and groups using the Abu Sayyaf name began to embark on their own criminal enterprises.

Janjalani's death would likely mean the end of Abu Sayyaf as a militant jihadist organization -- though the threat in the southern Philippines would continue. Lacking a strong leader, the jihadists within the group could turn to criminal activity to sustain themselves, which could result in even more violence in the region.
28523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: January 08, 2007, 03:44:16 PM
"Word that Adm. William Fallon will move laterally from our Pacific Command to take charge of Central Command -- responsible for the Middle East -- while two ground wars rage in the region baffled the media. Why put a swabbie in charge of grunt operations? There's a one-word answer: Iran. Assigning a Navy aviator and combat veteran to oversee our military operations in the Persian Gulf makes perfect sense when seen as a preparatory step for striking Iran's nuclear-weapons facilities -- if that becomes necessary" -- former Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post.

, , , ,

IRAN: Iran could block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for imposition of international sanctions, Basij commander Gen. Majid Mir Ahmadi said. Ahmadi said the move would be specifically directed against U.S. allies in the region, adding that Iran's strategy for the Persian Gulf is "security for everyone or for nobody."
28524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 08, 2007, 07:53:08 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Surge and a Gamble

This will be the week that U.S. President George W. Bush announces a surge of troops into Iraq. The numbers appear to be locking down in the range of 15,000 to 20,000, but this is a bit misleading. In addition to more deployments into Iraq, there will probably be redeployments within the country as well, with the U.S. presence being reduced in some areas in order to bring a larger force into Baghdad. The Democratic leadership in Congress will oppose the surge, but likely to no avail. The mechanism the Democrats have for blocking the deployment is to cut off funding for the effort, and they are not going to do that. They will be on record as opposing the surge, and then let it play itself out.

The troops deploying to Baghdad will find themselves in a city with more than 5 million inhabitants -- and which, like any city, has uncharted alleys and basements. Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias are operating on their home turf there. They are surrounded by friends and family, by others who want nothing to do with the war, and by yet others who might hate the Iraqi militants but also fear them. The United States has failed to pacify Baghdad with existing forces, so what is to be expected now?

The target of all of this is the Shiite militias -- and Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Mehdi Army, in particular. Bush speaks publicly about Sunni insurgents, but at this point, the issue is the Shia -- and more than that, it is the Iranians who are encouraging al-Sadr and others to stand hard against the Sunnis and the Americans. Assuming that the violence in Baghdad as a whole cannot be pacified, it is possible that al-Sadr can be broken by this military surge. Possible, but far from certain or even likely.

However, neither al-Sadr nor the Iranians can be certain that it will fail. Like Bush, they are going to be gambling everything on an assumption -- in their case, that the offensive will fail. But if it succeeds, and al-Sadr's forces are decimated, an entirely new dynamic could emerge in Iraq: Shia factions that are less heavily influenced by Iran would emerge as the dominant force, the political process could be revived and the Iranians lose their historic opportunity to dominate Iraq. No one knows how a war will turn out, including the Iranians. They have in the past miscalculated on American cunning -- such as after the fall of the Shah, when the United States encouraged Iraq to attack Iran, locking down the revolution for a decade.

We suspect that what Bush is hoping for is less a military victory than a psychological one, creating a sense of profound uncertainty in Tehran and among Iraqi Shia that causes them to hedge their bets. It's not an accident, in our view, that at the same time the surge is being rolled out, the Israelis have carefully orchestrated a discussion of their options in the event that Iran approaches nuclear status. The analysis by an Israeli think-tank as to the uses of tactical nuclear weapons against Iran's nuclear facilities is the perfect counterpoint to the U.S. surge strategy. It creates two massive and vital uncertainties for the Iranians: First, their position in Iraq might not be as secure as they thought, and second, their nuclear program could suddenly evaporate. If both were to happen, Iran's position would be much worse than it has been in decades.

The United States is driving hard into the land of "if." Between Bush's announcement and the actual beginning of post-surge military operations, there will be a period of uncertainty on all sides. From the American point of view, uncertainty is a marked improvement from the sense of complete failure that had taken hold in November and December. From the position of the Iraqi Shia and the Iranians, the introduction of uncertainty marks a decline from the heady sense of near-victory during that same period.

So now the question is simply this: How confident are al-Sadr and the Iranians that the U.S. surge will fail and the Israelis won't strike? Exactly how strong are their nerves? Carefully generated perceptions of the Iranian leadership as complete fanatics masks the fact that they are shrewd and careful gamblers. Some in Tehran and Baghdad will be arguing that the U.S. surge is too little, too late and that the Israelis are bluffing. Others who have fought the Americans and know the Israelis will be more thoughtful.

Iran and al-Sadr could choose to try to close a political deal without increasing their risks. The Americans would probably deal. Or, they could go big, absorb the surge, break it and try to pick up all the chips. Plans for the U.S. surge will be set this week, but it will take weeks for forces to deploy. We are not confident in the success of this strategy, but then what we think is much less significant than what the Iranians and the Shia think. What is their appetite for risk? They may not, themselves, be sure at this moment.

But this much they know. They did not expect the United States to increase troops after the mid-term elections in November. On that they were wrong. Now they have to ask this question: Having guessed wrong once, are they feeling lucky now? We expect that forcing that question on the Iranians and Shia is the primary purpose of the surge.
28525  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Location for June '07 Gathering on: January 08, 2007, 07:51:58 AM
I'm thinking this may be a hard sell to some park rangers-- private property would be better is my guess.
28526  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Location for June '07 Gathering on: January 07, 2007, 09:10:13 PM
Original location is probably a no-go.

An ideal location would allow for camping the night before and after.
28527  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Location for June '07 Gathering on: January 07, 2007, 01:17:19 PM
Woof All:

Due to the conversations with Nat Geo and with Spike, we need to consider a different location for the June '07 Gathering.

It should be somewhere in the LA area.  Outdoors is an option-- maybe a clearing in the forest?

Lets brainstorm.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers.
28528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: January 07, 2007, 01:09:34 PM

  Posted January 06, 2007 04:17 PM

Inquiry and Analysis Series - No. 314
January 5, 2007 No.314

Lafif Lakhdar: A European Muslim Reformist
By: Menahem Milson

On December 10, 2006, at an international conference on Islam in Europe held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Menahem Milson presented the views of Arab reformist thinker Lafif Lakhdar on the issue of integration versus separate ethnic communal identity among Muslims in Europe.
The following is the transcript of the lecture.

Introduction: A Short Biography

Lafif Lakhdar is a Tunisian intellectual living in Paris. The name "Lafif Lakhdar" is the French transcription of his Arabic name, "Al-'Afif Al-Akhdar." He is one of the foremost reformist intellectuals in the Arab world today. His articles are published regularly on the liberal websites Elaph and Middle East Transparent, and afterwards are taken up by dozens of other reform-oriented sites. He is an outspoken and relentless critic of Islamism and Islamist terrorism.

On October 24, 2004, the liberal Arab websites and published a manifesto written by Arab liberals – among them Lafif Lakhdar – in which they petitioned the U.N. to establish an international tribunal for the prosecution of terrorists and people and institutions that incite to terrorism.

The special significance of this petition was that it not only spoke of terrorism and terrorists in general terms, but specifically mentions by name a number of leading Islamist clerics as promoters of terrorism who should be prosecuted at the tribunal – among them, the prominent and media-savvy Islamist Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, one of the leading authorities of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is not surprising then that the banned Tunisian Islamist movement Al-Nahdha, headed by Sheikh Rashed al-Ghannushi, has declared Lafif Lakhdar an apostate, which many Islamists understand as a call for his assassination.

Lafif Lakhdar was born in 1934 to a poor peasant family in northeastern Tunisia. Of the nine children in his family, seven died in infancy, with only him and one brother surviving. Because of the family's poverty, his only schooling was half a year in a French school and Koran studies in the village. When he grew up, he went to the Al-Zaytouna religious university, where not only were studies free of tuition, but which also offered room and enough "board" to get by. Afterwards he studied law, and practiced law for a number of years.

In 1958, he represented at trial a Tunisian oppositionist, who was convicted and put to death, following which Lafif Lakhdar's movement was restricted by the police. In 1961, he escaped Tunisia and fled to Paris, where he joined the circle of Algerian FLN leader Ahmad Ben Bella's supporters, and eventually, when Ben Bella was elected President of Algeria, Lakhdar became one of his closest advisors. When Ben Bella was deposed in 1965, Lakhdar fled Algeria, and spent several years wandering throughout Europe and the Middle East.

In the late 1960s, Lafif Lakhdar was in Jordan and was close to the PLO leadership. In 1970 he moved to Beirut, where he was a prominent figure in Marxist and left-wing circles. In his own words, hunger had made him into a socialist. However, the civil war in Lebanon brought about a rift between himself and his onetime left-wing associates, for he could not accept their support for the forces which undermined and threatened to destroy the only democracy in the Arab world. He then returned once more to Paris, where he lives to this day.

In 2005, a study of Lafif Lakhdar's thought was published in Beirut under the title The Devil's Advocate. The author, Jordanian-American political thinker Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi, explains that he took the title from one of Lafif Lakhdar's articles in which he describes himself as the devil's advocate, explaining that he is not only ready to defy common wisdom, but is also ready to constantly challenge his own views in search of the truth.

"Arab-Islamic Education Turns a Lover of Peace into an Aggressor, and an Aggressor into a Terrorist"

Lafif Lakhdar's views on Islam and Muslims in Europe stem from his views on the general question of the relationship between religion and state on the one hand, and his view on the need for reform in Islam on the other. A paper he sent to be read at the Congress on Modernity and Arab Modernization, which was held in Beirut during April 30-May 2, 2004, is an effective summary of his views on these issues. The article's main focus is on the need to transform education in the Arab world – education in general, and religious education in particular, at all levels of schooling. This emphasis on education is a central feature of Lakhdar's thought. In a paraphrase on Jean Piaget's quip that the French educational system turns the genius into the talented, and the talented into the mediocre, he said that Arab-Islamic education – with the exception of the Tunisian school system – turns a peace-lover into an aggressor, and an aggressor into a terrorist.

According to Lakhdar, the reason why Arab-Islamic elites, throughout the Arab world, opt for this kind of religious education is that the political elites in the Arab world, who lack democratic social legitimacy, compensate for this deficiency by promoting Islamist education, which is by its nature anti-modern and anti-rationalist.

For Lafif Lakhdar, secularism is the very basis of a healthy society. To be sure, it is not the only prerequisite, but it is certainly an indispensable one. He defines "secularism" as the separation of religion from politics. He distinguishes three categories of countries: theocracy, the secular state, and countries in a state of transition between the two. According to Lakhdar, theocracy was widespread during the Middle Ages, and while it is extant in the Christian world today only in the Vatican, in the Islamic world there are several theocracies: the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and, until 2002, the Taliban state in Afghanistan. Most Islamic countries, though, are in a state of transition from theocracy to a secular state.

Lakhdar says: "A state in transition from theocracy to secularism is one whose constitution determines that the shari'a [Islamic religious law] is the first source of legislation...

"Women and non-Muslims in this state of transition are second-class citizens, and sometimes even zero-class citizens. For example, a woman is forbidden to run for the presidency or even for a lesser office, because in many Islamic countries women are still considered as lacking the intelligence needed for governing, and lacking the religious standing needed to perform religious ritual. Non-Muslim citizens are still treated as dhimmis…"

Muslims Are Destined, Like the Rest of Humanity, to Adopt Modernity and Secularism

According to Lafif Lakhdar, Arab and Muslim countries cannot escape becoming secular. The direction of historical development is toward secularism, which is the hallmark of modernity. Muslims are destined, like the rest of humanity, to adopt modernity, and, as a result, secularism.

"The separation of the sacred and the mundane is a consequence of modernity. The farther back we go in history, the more we see that the separation of the two is the rare exception, while the rule is that they are tied together, particularly among primitive tribes.

"The Islamists' psychological slavery to their forefathers – that is, to the Prophet, his Companions, and their followers – paralyzes their minds no less than ancestor worship [paralyzes] the mind of primitive [tribes]. The divine logic brought by the forefathers is everything, while the human logic of our minds is nothing…"

"So far, secularism has failed in the attempt to make headway in the Arab world, because Islam has not yet undergone the necessary religious reform that Judaism and Christianity underwent in Europe. A religion that has undergone reform is a modern religion that recognizes the separation of religion and state, and agrees to restrict itself to the religious sphere, with the state being responsible for mundane matters.

"The second reason for the failure of secularism to make headway [in the Arab world] as a complete political system is the cowardice of the political leaders. Islam did not undergo reform in Turkey… yet despite this, thanks to the leadership of the Muslim Kemal Ataturk, the Ottoman theocracy – the Caliphate – came to an end, and on its ruins arose a secular state that is not ashamed of its secular identity."

Lakhdar highlights the role of the leader Kemal Ataturk in extricating his country from a medieval form of regime into a modern one. In other words, Lakhdar suggests that the Arab countries would be better off if their leaders had the courage to establish secular regimes as did Kemal Ataturk. Here we can see Lakhdar's dual role: on the one hand, he is a scholarly observer of social history who describes what he sees as the inevitable outcome of social development (namely, secularism); and on the other hand, he is a passionate reformist, who is anxious to have secularism now and castigates the Arab leaders for not choosing the way to progress.

Secularism Is Not Anti-Religious

Lafif Lakhdar rejects the argument that secularism is anti-religious. He says that those who make this claim are either ignorant, or else disingenuous – like some of the Islamist leaders. Secular France, for instance, does not prevent the construction of mosques in the country.

By the same token, he states that there is nothing to prevent the secular state from offering religious education – provided that it is a modern religious education that has undergone reform. For religious education to be modernized and reformed, he adds that "the pupil must study religion with the help of modern sciences – comparative history of religions, sociology of religions, psychology, religious anthropology, interpretation of sacred texts, and philosophy – in order to develop critical thought in the next generations.

"In Tunisia," he explains, "students at the religious Al-Zaitouna University learn Islamic and modern philosophy throughout all four years of study. Those studying the sciences, including medical students, learn modern philosophy throughout their studies. There is nothing like philosophy and the humanities to strengthen thought against the Islamists' religious-political propaganda. This kind of reformed, modern religious education is not merely desirable for the secular state in the Arab and Islamic region – it is a necessity." This, he believes, is the antidote to religious extremism.

Lafif Lakhdar emphasizes that secularism does not mean a rupture with Islam. He explains that it is a break with autocracy and theocracy in the Muslim world, but on the other hand is a renewal of other elements in Islam – such as the rationalist theology of the Mu'tazila, Muslim philosophical thought, which subjected holy texts to interpretation by the human mind, and Sufism, that is, Islamic mysticism.

Lakhdar, a self-declared secularist, does not deny a role for religion in modern life, so long as it is a personal, private – and, of course, voluntary – form of religion. He writes that he admires the mystical experience in general, and is particularly attracted to the writings of the great medieval Islamic mystic, Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-'Arabi. (In this respect, Lakhdar's attitude is reminiscent of that of the late Egyptian Nobel laureate, Naguib Mahfouz.)

European Muslims Must Integrate into European Societies and Adopt Modern Cultural Values

In a recent interview, Lafif Lakhdar summarized his views on the crucial issue facing Europe and Muslims in Europe – namely, integration vs. multiculturalism. "Within Islam in Europe, there are two conflicting trends. [The first is] the trend that insists on the Muslims' cultural independence and separation from European societies and preservation of all Islamic customs – including those which stand in contradiction with the universal human values prevalent in contemporary human societies, such as European ones. The other trend, to which I myself belong, says the opposite: It insists on the cultural integration of European Muslims into European societies, and the adoption of Europe's universal cultural values, in order to modernize their traditional values, most of which are not adapted to the needs of our time."

"This necessary integration does not mean that they give up their spiritual values, but only those customs that contradict the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other international conventions that derive from it..."

Lakhdar states that the first trend – which may be termed the communalist trend – is dominant. He also notes that they refuse to speak about "European Muslims," and insist on referring to "Muslims in Europe," so as to highlight the separation of cultural identity between Muslims and Europeans, whereas he himself purposefully speaks of "European Islam."

According to Lakhdar, the Islamists have attained their dominant position among Muslims in Europe through a virtual monopolization of the media – not just the Arabic media, but also of the French and European media, which gives preference to speakers who support the communalist view – like Tariq Ramadhan – and virtually ignores the many Arab intellectuals who are in favor of integration (such as Taher Ben Jaloun, Muhammad Arkoun, Malek Chebel, and Lafif Lakhdar himself).

The flow of petrodollars strengthens the enemies of integration, and allows them to establish their own printed media, publish translations of Islamist preachers into European languages, and dispatch preachers of Islamism to all the poor Muslim suburbs and communities.

There is another factor operating in favor of the Islamist-anti-integrationist trend, namely, the attitude of liberal western intellectuals. Here is how Lakhdar presents this issue: "Why do some of the European intellectuals and the English and American media support the anti-integration trend?"

The answer given by Lakhdar is as follows: "The first explanation is that it is the result of political demagoguery: when the right wing is in power and it makes a decision or assumes a certain position, the left wing, that is, the opposition, automatically opposes it – not because they are convinced that the decisions are wrong, but because they must assume a different position.

"Second, the guilt feeling [on account of European colonialism]… which affects many European intellectuals pushes them to support the [Islamist demands that Muslim girls wear] hijab in school or [the claim that it is all right for Muslims,] on the occasion of the Muslim feast of the sacrifice, to slaughter sheep in their bathrooms, or the right of Muslim families to circumcise their daughters."

Lafif Lakhdar angrily calls this guilt-ridden approach "pathological": "The third reason is cultural relativism, which is even more dangerous than the former two factors, because it derives from a philosophical conviction which has become prevalent in Europe, indeed in the entire Western world."

Lakhdar indignantly continues: "A sound mind recognizes that there are universal human values, such as human rights, and if one does not accept this, then every human society can become a Darwinian society, that is, a society of 'the survival of the fittest' and the whole world becomes a jungle ruled by the law of the jungle."

Lakhdar explains that the religious-ideological underpinning of the separatist, communalist approach is the Islamist doctrine of al-wala' w'al-bara'. This doctrine states that Muslims must ally themselves with and have allegiance to Muslims only, and that they should dissociate themselves from all non-Muslims. The Islamists' insistence on the hijab – a custom which Lakhdar rejects – is one of the expressions of this doctrine: Muslim women should have an appearance that differentiates them from their surrounding environment. He says that the hijab, both in Europe and in Muslim countries, is a clear expression of the subjugation and humiliation of women – an attitude that must be changed in order for Muslim societies to progress.

He rejects the criticism of the French government's ban on the hijab in schools, criticism that often employs the language of human rights and religious freedom. Lakhdar argues that those who criticize the French policy make it appear as though there is a ban on the hijab in general – which is, of course, not the case; the ban applies only to wearing the Islamic head covering at school, but not elsewhere at home or in public. According to Lafif, the hijab in the school is a form of religious propaganda, and therefore, should rightly be prohibited.


Lafif Lakhdar's views on Islam in Europe are rooted in what he holds to be universal values, and which he has made his own: humanism, liberalism, democracy – all of which naturally imply the equality of women and non-discrimination on religious or ethnic grounds. He makes it no secret that he believes modern European societies to be far more advanced in these respects than Arab Muslim countries, and it is his view that the Muslim world should adopt the Western norms of democracy and separation between church and state. Hence, he is strongly in favor of full integration of Muslims into European society. In a recent interview, he proposed an interesting source as a model for this integration: he recommended to Muslims that they adopt none other than the old Jewish principle of dina de-malchuta dina, or "the law of the land is binding," as the basis for European Islamic minority law – a daring choice indeed. Thus in form, as well as in content, Lafif Lakhdar is a courageous and original voice in contemporary Arab thought, a reformist without a hint of apologetics.

*Menahem Milson is Professor of Arabic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Chairman of MEMRI

28529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: January 07, 2007, 01:00:13 PM
Additional info here:

Below from:

China, Israel Get B-2 Secrets
A former Northrop Grumman B-2 engineer arrested in October 2005 for spying is now under indictment for passing secrets to as many as eight countries—including China and Israel.

According to the primary allegations revealed in an indictment unsealed in November, Noshir S. Gowadia, a US citizen and resident of Hawaii, regularly transmitted data and documents filled with classified information to foreigners. He also went overseas to teach courses on stealth technology such as that used to hide aircraft exhausts from infrared seekers.

Gowadia did it for money, not political reasons, according to the FBI.

Earlier last year, prosecutors indicated the charges would expand in another indictment against Gowadia that details his sharing of information with Chinese officials and business sources in Israel. The identities of the Israelis have not been disclosed, nor has it been revealed whether they were private individuals or representatives of companies.

The indictment reveals that Gowadia received approximately $2 million from China for his services.

Below from:

'Father' of the B-2
A just-released affidavit provides some insight into the mind of an admitted spy living on Maui

» 'Father' of the B-2
» Excerpt from the affidavit
» Maui man was up for DOD contract
» How to build B-2 is secret
» Rural Maui site of FBI search
By Mary Vorsino
As far back as 1999, when he moved to Maui from New Mexico, Noshir S. Gowadia was marketing himself to foreign countries as the "father" of the classified technology that helps protect B-2 stealth bombers from heat-seeking missiles, according to an affidavit unsealed yesterday.

"I wanted to help this (sic) countries to further their self aircraft protection systems. My personal gain would be business," Gowadia said in a statement given to the FBI on Oct. 14, in which he admitted to knowingly disclosing top-secret information. "At that time, I knew it was wrong and I did it for the money."
In all, the 61-year-old Haiku resident -- who helped design the stealth bomber as a defense contractor for Northrop Corp. for 18 years -- is accused of disclosing the stealth's infrared-suppression secrets to representatives from eight foreign governments.

He told the FBI that he shared classified information "both verbally and in papers, computer presentations, letters and other methods ... to establish the technological credibility with the potential customers for future business."

Gowadia was charged Wednesday with one count of willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it, which falls under federal espionage statutes. He is in federal custody in Honolulu and is set to make an appearance at a detention hearing today in federal court.

According to prosecutors, Gowadia faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Officials said he could face more charges in the future.

At a news conference yesterday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Goodwin read from a written statement and declined to answer questions on the investigation. "This is a very sensitive, ongoing investigation," he said.

Neither the affidavit nor Goodwin revealed which countries Gowadia allegedly sold secrets to, or whether they were allied or enemy nations. Goodwin did say that Gowadia was born in India and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Gowadia's wife, Cheryl, declined comment yesterday at the couple's home in Haiku.

The FBI searched Gowadia's home on Oct. 13, finding several classified documents from the engineer's days at Northrop and when he was a contract engineer in the 1990s at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

During the search, according to the affidavit, Gowadia denied having any classified material and "displayed a full understanding of his responsibilities with respect to the maintenance" of military secrets.

But a day later, when asked about the documents marked classified that were allegedly taken from his home, Gowadia submitted a written statement to the FBI in which he admitted to selling or disclosing classified information.

The FBI alleges that:

» On Oct. 23, 2002, Gowadia faxed a proposal to develop infrared-suppression technology on military aircraft to a representative in an unspecified foreign country. The information included in the document was classified at the "top secret" level and made specific mention of the classified defense system in the United States.

» In December 1999, Gowadia taught a course to foreigners in a second unspecified country, including information deemed "secret" that he had access to while working for Northrop and as a subcontractor for Los Alamos. Northrop representatives declined comment yesterday.

» On several other occasions, Gowadia provided "extensive amounts of classified information" to individuals in a third unspecified country while teaching a course on "low observable technology."

The affidavit did not say how classified information was allegedly disclosed to representatives from five other foreign countries. And it is unclear if Gowadia's course material for classes at U.S. universities was drawn from classified resources.

As recently as this spring, Gowadia co-taught a course at Purdue University as a visiting professor. He has also taught at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

The FBI said in the affidavit that it used documents and computers taken from Gowadia's home, along with electronic surveillance, to piece together the extent of the engineer's alleged criminal activity.

Gowadia "has marketed and disclosed United States military technology secrets related to the B-2 to foreign governments in order to 'assist' them in obtaining a higher level of military technology," wrote FBI Special Agent Thatcher Mohajerin in the affidavit.

The investigation "has also revealed that Gowadia has been rewarded financially for his efforts."

Gowadia's engineering contract business, N.S. Gowadia Inc., took in nearly $750,000 in gross receipts between 1999 and 2003. But prosecutors believe Gowadia's actual income was much higher. The investigation, according to the affidavit, showed Gowadia "likely" maintains several offshore bank accounts.

Defense analysts say the allegations against Gowadia are serious, but they cautioned against rushing to conclusions, given the government's problematic record in prosecuting these kinds of national security cases.

Philip Coyle, a senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information and a former assistant secretary of defense, cited the Wen Ho Lee case at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1999. Lee was accused of stealing military secrets from the lab and funneling them to China.

But the government ended up dropping 59 felony counts of espionage against Lee, who pleaded guilty to a single count of improperly handling restricted data.

"He (Wen Ho Lee) did a stupid thing," Coyle said, "but it turns out what he actually did was nowhere near what the government first asserted."

There is also the high-profile case of Katrina Leung.

The California woman was accused of spying for China, but a federal judge dropped all charges against her in December after prosecutors admitted to illegally blocking a primary defense witness.

For years, Leung had gathered intelligence on the Chinese government for the FBI.

Gowadia, meanwhile, appeared to be open about the technology he is accused of peddling. A 2004 article in Jane's International Defense Review identified Gowadia as developing a system that would make military and civilian aircraft "virtually invulnerable to attack" from infrared-guided air defense systems.

Publicity like that could have turned the government on to him, said John Pike, director of, a private defense policy group. But it also raises the question about why he was not caught sooner, he said.

Noshir Sheriarji Gowadia

Age: 61
Background: Gowadia helped develop the B-2 stealth bomber while he was an engineer at Northrop Corp., and was instrumental in the creation of a defense system for heat-seeking missiles. After 18 years at Northrop, he went on to become a contract engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Accusation: One count of "willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it," which falls under federal espionage statutes.


Title 18, United States Code, Section 793(c)

An excerpt from the affidavit released yesterday, quoting the federal law Noshir S. Gowadia is accused of breaking:
"(W)hoever, having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both."
28530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: January 07, 2007, 12:57:18 PM,2933,242265,00.html

MIAMI —  The Port of Miami on Sunday was in a heightened state of security after police discovered two men hiding in a cargo truck and a bomb squad was summoned to the scene, FOX News has learned.

The container truck was stopped near the cargo-area entrance to the port around 8 a.m. and the driver of the vehicle, who had valid port identification, was questioned by authorities.

"The driver of the 18-wheeler was apparently asked several questions — we're told routine questions — and at one point, he said he was alone," FOX News' Nancy Harmeyer said.

Police became suspicious and discovered two men hiding in the sleeper cab of the 18-wheeler. All three men are of Middle Eastern descent. The men were believed to be in the country legally.

"At this time we don't know why they were here, what they were planning to do, or quite honestly even if the driver knew that the two men were back there," Harmeyer said.

No searches of the truck had been conducted as of 1:30 p.m. EST, Harmeyer said, but two government vehicles with blacked-out windows were seen pulling up beside the vehicle and then driving away.
Two of the men reportedly are of Iraqi and Lebanese descent and authorities have a warrant out for one of the three, sources said.

The tractor-trailer has been cordoned off and investigators from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were on the scene.

Weekends at the port are busy, with heavy cruise ship traffic; on Sunday, six cruise ships were at the port.
28531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: January 07, 2007, 12:07:35 PM
Bush's Tax Legacy
A showdown looms in 2008.

Saturday, January 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

In his op-ed column on these pages this week, President Bush made some news by underscoring his opposition to raising taxes. We were certainly glad to hear it, and to publish it, because by our lights the tax cuts and economic growth that has followed are his most notable domestic achievements (give or take a Supreme Court Justice).

That growth was underscored again with yesterday's buoyant jobs and income report for December. Job growth exceeding expectations at 167,000 and the jobless rate held at a very low 4.5%, despite a slowdown in manufacturing and construction. Since the Bush tax cuts on dividends and capital gains passed in mid-2003, the economy has created 7.2 million new jobs according to the survey of business establishments, and an additional 1.2 million in the more variable household survey.

As for the inevitable political complaints that these new jobs are all lousy, average hourly non-supervisory wages have now climbed 4.2% over the past 12 months, or twice the official rate of inflation. With flat or falling energy prices, and a tight labor market, real wages are also starting to show impressive gains.

Meanwhile, tax revenues continue to roll into the Treasury and state coffers. Federal receipts rose by 14.6% in fiscal 2005, another 11.8% in 2006, and kept rising by 9% in this year's first two months despite slower GDP growth. The budget deficit, in turn, has fallen by $165 billion in two years, and including state surpluses is now down to about 1% of GDP, which as an economic matter is negligible. Tax revenues as a share of the economy are also back above 18.5%, which is their modern historical norm.

This record is so impressive that liberal critics have been forced to ignore it and focus on other alleged outrages, such as "inequality," or CEO pay, or some vague prediction of future doom. And, yes, the future is unpredictable. But in the field of economics there are few more definitive tests than the results from the tax cuts of 2003. Critics predicted disaster, supporters the opposite, and the supporters can point to more than three years of prosperity as vindication--despite $70 oil and $3 gasoline, and lately despite the worst housing slowdown in 15 years.
However, those lower tax rates are set to expire at the end of 2010, and the Democrats who now control Congress want them repealed. The "pay-as-you-go" rules that the House just passed would make their extension all but impossible. What this means is that if Congress merely fails to act, the tax cuts expire and the economy will be hit with one of the largest tax increases in history in 2010.

The dividend rate would snap back to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains rate to 20% from 15%, and the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6% from 35%. Marginal and average tax rates for the middle class would also increase, returning to the Clinton-era levies that had driven taxes as a share of GDP to a postwar high of 20.9%.

Now in the minority on Capitol Hill, Republicans can't do much about this. But it certainly poses a dilemma for Democrats--all the more so because they must also cope with the rising burden of the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT--created by Democrats in 1969 to capture a few millionaires--will engulf some 23 million taxpayers this year without a change in law.

This week, the new Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Montana's Max Baucus, called the AMT a "monster in the tax code" and introduced a bill to repeal it. The only catch: Under Congress's wacky "static revenue" analysis of calculating the impact of tax cuts, AMT repeal would "cost" the Treasury as much as $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Maybe they can find that much in Congressman William Jefferson's freezer.

Our guess is that Democrats will try to finesse all this in the near term. With President Bush now saying he'll oppose a tax increase, they'll be wary of voting for one that would be vetoed and provide Republicans with an issue in 2008. So perhaps they'll try a one- or two-year AMT fix to get them past 2008, while waiting for their Presidential nominee to advance a more detailed tax proposal. Most likely, that would involve a pledge to keep the lower Bush rates for the "middle class," while raising rates on "the rich."
Bill Clinton played that tune all the way to the Oval Office, only to raise taxes on everybody once he got there. It'll be fascinating to see if voters give his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the same leave if she's the Democratic nominee. In any event, what we seem headed for is a two-year national donnybrook over taxes and income that will be decided by the voters in November 2008.

28532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Book Reviews on: January 07, 2007, 11:28:45 AM
Well, not a book review, but a piece about one of my favorite writers:

Jokers to the Right
P.J. O'Rourke takes liberties with Adam Smith.

Saturday, January 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON--Who's funnier, on the whole, liberals or conservatives? It's an old question, but a terrible one. Even to inquire after it reduces the whole curve of human comedy to politics; and besides--sad to contemplate--perhaps the most accurate answer is that they're both humorless. On the liberal side of the register, you can hardly be funny if you're constantly feeling guilty about things; many conservatives meanwhile believe that everything is going to pieces, and there's nothing funny about that.

P.J. O'Rourke, the political satirist, neither hesitates nor hedges. "Conservatives generally tend to be funnier in their private lives," he explains, "because of the hypocrisy factor. I am of course a big fan of hypocrisy, because hypocrites at least know the difference between right and wrong--at any rate, know enough to lie about what they're doing. Liberals are not nearly as hypocritical as conservatives, because they don't know the difference between right and wrong. But anyways the personal lives of conservatives tend to be funnier: They've always got the embarrassing gay daughter, and so on."

In public policy, Mr. O'Rourke claims, "liberals are always much more hilarious. Liberals are always proposing perfectly insane ideas, laws that will make everybody happy, laws that will make everything right, make us live forever, and all be rich. Conservatives are never that stupid. Having conservatives in government is like having a stern talk with your dad in the den about what your allowance will be. . . . Of course, the Republicans always end up giving in: You know, giving you more money than you should have in your pocket, and the keys to the car, and then also a bottle of whiskey."

So--clowns to the left, jokers to the right: not an uninteresting answer to the "who's funnier?" question, mainly because it presupposes politics as the object of satire and not its wellspring. The circumstance, for Mr. O'Rourke, runs in the other direction: He is one of the foremost comic writers in the Anglophone world, and his mirth derives, as much as anything, from his politics. Over the last several decades Mr. O'Rourke has crowded his C.V. as the scourge of fashionable causes at home and also abroad, serving as foreign correspondent to "the absolute, flat-out, goddamn worst places in the world," as he puts it. His 150-proof journalism is savage, profane, relentlessly irreverent, throwing in various breaches of decorum and moral trespasses for good measure--and usually vertiginously, caustically hilarious. When I meet him, he looks well marinated, cured even, as though he'd be great company for steaks and stiff drinks, with several orders of first- and secondhand smoke on the side. In fact, he is.
Mr. O'Rourke divides his time between D.C., where I join him for lunch, and a country place in New Hampshire. His views are firmly of the live-free-or-die variety, though he is unsparing in his commentary on the last election, in which all but one of the New England Republicans were dispatched in favor of "some left-wing gals and other complete nonentities." "I think it was all about the war, and about George Bush," he says. "They just hate Bush in New England, even in New Hampshire, and I don't know why it is that they seem to loathe him more than everybody else. Is it because he's a traitor to the New England tradition of transcendento-liberalism? . . . Bush went to Groton, and then he goes to Yale, then Harvard, and at the very worst he should have emerged boring like his old man. Instead he comes out this Southern, borderline-evangelical, hard-right conservative."

Hold one beat. "Except as a hard-right conservative myself," he continues, "Bush has been a pretty miserable failure on that front. It's called failure. Bush and the Republicans are offering a Newer Deal, a Greater Society. Where the hell did this come from? And there's no other word for it but failure: failure to control spending, failure domestically and failure in Iraq."

Mr. O'Rourke is particularly cutting on the situation in the Persian Gulf, which he covered most recently during the war proper, and also in 1990 and intermittently thereafter. "I was very much in favor of the Iraq invasion," he says. "What were the questions? Is Saddam Hussein a bad man? Is he doing bad things? Does he have the oil money to do more bad things? Is he likely to do more bad things? If these were the questions, was the answer more cooperation with France?"

In the aftermath he expected "a great spontaneous return to order," much like, he says, what he saw after the Iraqis were expelled from "devastated" Kuwait. "After they got chased out of there the Kuwaitis totally took control, and it was as though somebody had been chased out of, I don't know, Dayton. Everything was working again within days. Civil society came to the fore--Hayekian social forces. It was amazing. We thought--I know I thought, knowing a fair number of sophisticated, intelligent Iraqis--that this would happen in Iraq. You remove the oppressor, and there would be these self-organizing forces. Well, nooo," he says, drawing out the word. "Instead what you got was Yugoslavia. Triple Yugoslavia. You might call it the really violent Bosnia.

"I have no idea if some societies, anthropologically speaking, aren't really suited for democracy. I don't think that's true. But there certainly are societies that just love to fight. Northern Ireland, for instance. You couldn't stop that problem because they were having fun--they were really, really enjoying themselves. It would still be going on full-force today if the sons of bitches hadn't accidentally gotten rich. What happened was, more and more people started getting cars, and television sets, and got some vacation time down in Spain, and it wasn't that they wanted to stop fighting and killing each other and being lunatics, but they got busy and forgot.

"So our job," he says, "is to make the Iraqis get busy and forget. 'You know, I meant to kill all those other people but, well, jeez, I had to get the kids off to school, the car was filthy and I had to take it down to the car wash, the dog got sick on the rug. Killing all those Shiites is still on my to-do list . . .' " Mr. O'Rourke argues we are well on our way to creating "Weimar Iraq"--a grave phrase--and concludes, mordantly, "I'm so glad the problem is above my pay-grade."

When Mr. O'Rourke set out into the world after a youthful Maoist phase (it was, after all, the '60s) there was an element of novelty to his insouciance, and his beliefs, like the larger movement of which he was a part, constituted their own kind of insurgency. Now, all that was fresh and scandalous then has become the stock-in-trade of every other pundit, blogger and radio-show bore, while the right has also made its own establishment--and correctness, of any kind, cripples humor. "Well, I'm almost 60," says Mr. O'Rourke. "It'd be a damn shame if I was the avant-garde." But, he allows, "I don't think there'd probably be a place any more for the kind of stuff I was writing," and says, "There is a power to seeing things for the first time, with fresh eyes, that you can't duplicate."
There does, in truth, seem to be a seriousness increasingly smuggled into Mr. O'Rourke's work--if still impertinently expressed. Humor, he argues, comes from "distance, not disengagement," and humor that "stands for nothing, means nothing."

Consider his latest book, "On 'The Wealth of Nations,' " a foray into Adam Smith's 1776 masterwork. Mr. O'Rourke argues we can't understand Smith as a "personality"--"In the 18th century, the neo-Ptolemaic view of the cosmos hadn't come into fashion: the self had not yet taken the earth's place"--but we can understand his ideas. "My book is defiantly middlebrow, the poor, neglected middlebrow," says Mr. O'Rourke. "You're never going to read 'The Wealth of Nations,' and you shouldn't really. It's 900 pages. . . . I wanted to (a) give people a sense of some of the things Smith was getting at, and (b) give normal people a kind of Michelin guide to what they might like to read. And I also hope (c) to send some people back to 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments,' which can actually be read through from left to right in its entirety."

"Moral Sentiments" was published 17 years before "Wealth of Nations," and Mr. O'Rourke sees it as central to Smith's thought, noting that Smith wasn't an economist but a moral philosopher, who argued for the fundamental morality of the unfettered market as a form of social organization and the lodestone for prosperity.

It's a bit odd to hear P.J. O'Rourke--who is always calling attention to the fraudulence of earnestness and its Siamese twin, sanctimony--talk about morality. But his is almost no morality at all, a non-morality, in that it demands nothing: The only basic human right, he says, is "the right to do as you damn well please" and take the consequences. He is not, however, a true libertarian. They're "too logical," he says. "It's a failed but admirable mission. They keep making these suicide attacks on principle, Kamikaze raids on the aircraft carrier of government. . . . Libertarians suffer the same problem that Smith runs into in the last book of 'Wealth of Nations,' which was a pretty considerable failure. He tries to make proscriptions for government that fit his rationalist philosophical and moral logic. Everything comes apart. He's self-evidently wrong, wrong by his own reasoning. The problem with politics is that philosophy and morality are never really options.

"The important thing," he continues, "is negative rights: freedom from. But politics is all about positive rights: What're you going to give me? In a democracy it's always vibrating back and forth. People want the government to do everything for them, then when they see that it sucks, they want the government to let them take charge, and when that doesn't work, they want the government to come back and fix all the problems that they themselves caused when they took charge." There's a kind of separation of church and state, Mr. O'Rourke contends: "You simply cannot put your ideas into action."

Mr. O'Rourke's cynicism is finely ground, but it's also the foundation for his humor: He revels in the untidiness and chaos of the world. Things are funny to Mr. O'Rourke precisely because they're already in pieces, and there's nothing that can be done. You may as well have a good laugh about it.

Mr. O'Rourke says he is adjusting well to middle age, or, he prefers, "very late youth": "I can't complain. Well, I can complain. It's a f---ing nightmare."
"I'm still getting out enough, as much as I like," he permits. "I spent about a month in China recently. I was over in Kyrgyzstan. But I can't do it like I used to. It's a matter of age-appropriate. Again, a lot of the fun of seeing the Third World is first impressions. I covered my first war in Lebanon about 22 years ago. Everybody just gets exasperated. Twenty years ago we were all very interested in what was making these people fight each other, and who was right and who was wrong, and after a while you say: Sit down and shut up. Go to hell."

Mr. Rago is an assistant editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal.
28533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Philosophy on: January 06, 2007, 09:32:52 AM
We kick off a new thread with this piece:

 January 2, 2007
  Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don’t   By DENNIS OVERBYE
    Correction Appended
  I was a free man until they brought the dessert menu around. There was one of
those molten chocolate cakes, and I was suddenly being dragged into a vortex,
swirling helplessly toward caloric doom, sucked toward the edge of a black
(chocolate) hole. Visions of my father’s heart attack danced before my glazed
eyes. My wife, Nancy, had a resigned look on her face.
  The outcome, endlessly replayed whenever we go out, is never in doubt, though I
often cover my tracks by offering to split my dessert with the table. O.K., I can
imagine what you’re thinking. There but for the grace of God.
  Having just lived through another New Year’s Eve, many of you have just resolved
to be better, wiser, stronger and richer in the coming months and years. After
all, we’re free humans, not slaves, robots or animals doomed to repeat the same
boring mistakes over and over again. As William James wrote in 1890, the whole
“sting and excitement” of life comes from “our sense that in it things are really
being decided from one moment to another, and that it is not the dull rattling off
of a chain that was forged innumerable ages ago.” Get over it, Dr. James. Go get
yourself fitted for a new chain-mail vest. A bevy of experiments in recent years
suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious
decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in
  As a result, physicists, neuroscientists and computer scientists have joined the
heirs of Plato and Aristotle in arguing about what free will is, whether we have
it, and if not, why we ever thought we did in the first place.
  “Is it an illusion? That’s the question,” said Michael Silberstein, a science
philosopher at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Another question, he added,
is whether talking about this in public will fan the culture wars.
  “If people freak at evolution, etc.,” he wrote in an e-mail message, “how much
more will they freak if scientists and philosophers tell them they are nothing
more than sophisticated meat machines, and is that conclusion now clearly
warranted or is it premature?”
  Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at Tufts University who
has written extensively about free will, said that “when we consider whether free
will is an illusion or reality, we are looking into an abyss. What seems to
confront us is a plunge into nihilism and despair.”
  Mark Hallett, a researcher with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke, said, “Free will does exist, but it’s a perception, not a power or a
driving force. People experience free will. They have the sense they are free.
  “The more you scrutinize it, the more you realize you don’t have it,” he said.
  That is hardly a new thought. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, as
Einstein paraphrased it, that “a human can very well do what he wants, but cannot
will what he wants.”
  Einstein, among others, found that a comforting idea. “This knowledge of the
non-freedom of the will protects me from losing my good humor and taking much too
seriously myself and my fellow humans as acting and judging individuals,” he said.
  How comforted or depressed this makes you might depend on what you mean by free
will. The traditional definition is called “libertarian” or “deep” free will. It
holds that humans are free moral agents whose actions are not predetermined. This
school of thought says in effect that the whole chain of cause and effect in the
history of the universe stops dead in its tracks as you ponder the dessert menu.
  At that point, anything is possible. Whatever choice you make is unforced and
could have been otherwise, but it is not random. You are responsible for any
damage to your pocketbook and your arteries.
  “That strikes many people as incoherent,” said Dr. Silberstein, who noted that
every physical system that has been investigated has turned out to be either
deterministic or random. “Both are bad news for free will,” he said. So if human
actions can’t be caused and aren’t random, he said, “It must be — what — some
weird magical power?”
  People who believe already that humans are magic will have no problem with that.
  But whatever that power is — call it soul or the spirit — those people have to
explain how it could stand independent of the physical universe and yet reach from
the immaterial world and meddle in our own, jiggling brain cells that lead us to
say the words “molten chocolate.”
  A vote in favor of free will comes from some physicists, who say it is a
prerequisite for inventing theories and planning experiments.
  That is especially true when it comes to quantum mechanics, the strange
paradoxical theory that ascribes a microscopic randomness to the foundation of
reality. Anton Zeilinger, a quantum physicist at the University of Vienna, said
recently that quantum randomness was “not a proof, just a hint, telling us we have
free will.”
  Is there any evidence beyond our own intuitions and introspections that humans
work that way?
  Two Tips of the Iceberg
  In the 1970s, Benjamin Libet, a physiologist at the University of California, San
Francisco, wired up the brains of volunteers to an electroencephalogram and told
the volunteers to make random motions, like pressing a button or flicking a
finger, while he noted the time on a clock.
  Dr. Libet found that brain signals associated with these actions occurred half a
second before the subject was conscious of deciding to make them.
  The order of brain activities seemed to be perception of motion, and then
decision, rather than the other way around.
  In short, the conscious brain was only playing catch-up to what the unconscious
brain was already doing. The decision to act was an illusion, the monkey making up
a story about what the tiger had already done.
  Dr. Libet’s results have been reproduced again and again over the years, along
with other experiments that suggest that people can be easily fooled when it comes
to assuming ownership of their actions. Patients with tics or certain diseases,
like chorea, cannot say whether their movements are voluntary or involuntary, Dr.
Hallett said.
  In some experiments, subjects have been tricked into believing they are responding
to stimuli they couldn’t have seen in time to respond to, or into taking credit or
blame for things they couldn’t have done. Take, for example, the “voodoo
experiment” by Dan Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard, and Emily Pronin of
Princeton. In the experiment, two people are invited to play witch doctor.
  One person, the subject, puts a curse on the other by sticking pins into a doll.
The second person, however, is in on the experiment, and by prior arrangement with
the doctors, acts either obnoxious, so that the pin-sticker dislikes him, or nice.
  After a while, the ostensible victim complains of a headache. In cases in which he
or she was unlikable, the subject tended to claim responsibility for causing the
headache, an example of the “magical thinking” that makes baseball fans put on
their rally caps.
  “We made it happen in a lab,” Dr. Wegner said.
  Is a similar sort of magical thinking responsible for the experience of free will?
  “We see two tips of the iceberg, the thought and the action,” Dr. Wegner said,
“and we draw a connection.”
  But most of the action is going on beneath the surface. Indeed, the conscious mind
is often a drag on many activities. Too much thinking can give a golfer the yips.
Drivers perform better on automatic pilot. Fiction writers report writing in a
kind of trance in which they simply take dictation from the voices and characters
in their head, a grace that is, alas, rarely if ever granted nonfiction writers.
  Naturally, almost everyone has a slant on such experiments and whether or not the
word “illusion” should be used in describing free will. Dr. Libet said his results
left room for a limited version of free will in the form of a veto power over what
we sense ourselves doing. In effect, the unconscious brain proposes and the mind
  In a 1999 essay, he wrote that although this might not seem like much, it was
enough to satisfy ethical standards. “Most of the Ten Commandments are ‘do not’
orders,” he wrote.
  But that might seem a pinched and diminished form of free will.
  Good Intentions
  Dr. Dennett, the Tufts professor, is one of many who have tried to redefine free
will in a way that involves no escape from the materialist world while still
offering enough autonomy for moral responsibility, which seems to be what everyone
cares about.
  The belief that the traditional intuitive notion of a free will divorced from
causality is inflated, metaphysical nonsense, Dr. Dennett says reflecting an
outdated dualistic view of the world.
  Rather, Dr. Dennett argues, it is precisely our immersion in causality and the
material world that frees us. Evolution, history and culture, he explains, have
endowed us with feedback systems that give us the unique ability to reflect and
think things over and to imagine the future. Free will and determinism can
  “All the varieties of free will worth having, we have,” Dr. Dennett said.
  “We have the power to veto our urges and then to veto our vetoes,” he said. “We
have the power of imagination, to see and imagine futures.”
  In this regard, causality is not our enemy but our friend, giving us the ability
to look ahead and plan. “That’s what makes us moral agents,” Dr. Dennett said.
“You don’t need a miracle to have responsibility.”
  Other philosophers disagree on the degree and nature of such “freedom.” Their
arguments partly turn on the extent to which collections of things, whether
electrons or people, can transcend their origins and produce novel phenomena.
  These so-called emergent phenomena, like brains and stock markets, or the idea of
democracy, grow naturally in accordance with the laws of physics, so the story
goes. But once they are here, they play by new rules, and can even act on their
constituents, as when an artist envisions a teapot and then sculpts it — a concept
sometimes known as “downward causation.” A knowledge of quarks is no help in
predicting hurricanes — it’s physics all the way down. But does the same apply to
the stock market or to the brain? Are the rules elusive just because we can’t
solve the equations or because something fundamentally new happens when we
increase numbers and levels of complexity?
  Opinions vary about whether it will ultimately prove to be physics all the way
down, total independence from physics, or some shade in between, and thus how free
we are. Dr. Silberstein, the Elizabethtown College professor, said, “There’s
nothing in fundamental physics by itself that tells us we can’t have such emergent
properties when we get to different levels of complexities.”
  He waxed poetically as he imagined how the universe would evolve, with more and
more complicated forms emerging from primordial quantum muck as from an elaborate
computer game, in accordance with a few simple rules: “If you understand, you
ought to be awestruck, you ought to be bowled over.”
  George R. F. Ellis, a cosmologist at the University of Cape Town, said that
freedom could emerge from this framework as well. “A nuclear bomb, for example,
proceeds to detonate according to the laws of nuclear physics,” he explained in an
e-mail message. “Whether it does indeed detonate is determined by political and
ethical considerations, which are of a completely different order.”
  I have to admit that I find these kind of ideas inspiring, if not liberating. But
I worry that I am being sold a sort of psychic perpetual motion machine. Free
wills, ideas, phenomena created by physics but not accountable to it. Do they
offer a release from the chains of determinism or just a prescription for a very
intricate weave of the links?And so I sought clarity from mathematicians and
computer scientists. According to deep mathematical principles, they say, even
machines can become too complicated to predict their own behavior and would labor
under the delusion of free will.
  If by free will we mean the ability to choose, even a simple laptop computer has
some kind of free will, said Seth Lloyd, an expert on quantum computing and
professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  Every time you click on an icon, he explained, the computer’s operating system
decides how to allocate memory space, based on some deterministic instructions.
But, Dr. Lloyd said, “If I ask how long will it take to boot up five minutes from
now, the operating system will say ‘I don’t know, wait and see, and I’ll make
decisions and let you know.’ ”
  Why can’t computers say what they’re going to do? In 1930, the Austrian
philosopher Kurt Gödel proved that in any formal system of logic, which includes
mathematics and a kind of idealized computer called a Turing machine, there are
statements that cannot be proven either true or false. Among them are
self-referential statements like the famous paradox stated by the Cretan
philosopher Epimenides, who said that all Cretans are liars: if he is telling the
truth, then, as a Cretan, he is lying.
  One implication is that no system can contain a complete representation of itself,
or as Janna Levin, a cosmologist at Barnard College of Columbia University and
author of the 2006 novel about Gödel, “A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines,” said:
“Gödel says you can’t program intelligence as complex as yourself. But you can let
it evolve. A complex machine would still suffer from the illusion of free will.”
  Another implication is there is no algorithm, or recipe for computation, to
determine when or if any given computer program will finish some calculation. The
only way to find out is to set it computing and see what happens. Any way to find
out would be tantamount to doing the calculation itself.
  “There are no shortcuts in computation,” Dr. Lloyd said.
  That means that the more reasonably you try to act, the more unpredictable you
are, at least to yourself, Dr. Lloyd said. Even if your wife knows you will order
the chile rellenos, you have to live your life to find out.
  To him that sounds like free will of a sort, for machines as well as for us. Our
actions are determined, but so what? We still don’t know what they will be until
the waiter brings the tray.
  That works for me, because I am comfortable with so-called physicalist reasoning,
and I’m always happy to leverage concepts of higher mathematics to cut through
philosophical knots.
  The Magician’s Spell
  So what about Hitler?
  The death of free will, or its exposure as a convenient illusion, some worry,
could wreak havoc on our sense of moral and legal responsibility. According to
those who believe that free will and determinism are incompatible, Dr. Silberstein
said in an e-mail message, it would mean that “people are no more responsible for
their actions than asteroids or planets.” Anything would go.
  Dr. Wegner of Harvard said: “We worry that explaining evil condones it. We have to
maintain our outrage at Hitler. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a theory of evil
in advance that could keep him from coming to power?”
  He added, “A system a bit more focused on helping people change rather than paying
them back for what they’ve done might be a good thing.”
  Dr. Wegner said he thought that exposing free will as an illusion would have
little effect on people’s lives or on their feelings of self-worth. Most of them
would remain in denial.
  “It’s an illusion, but it’s a very persistent illusion; it keeps coming back,” he
said, comparing it to a magician’s trick that has been seen again and again. “Even
though you know it’s a trick, you get fooled every time. The feelings just don’t
go away.”
  In an essay about free will in 1999, Dr. Libet wound up quoting the writer Isaac
Bashevis Singer, who once said in an interview with the Paris Review, “The
greatest gift which humanity has received is free choice. It is true that we are
limited in our use of free choice. But the little free choice we have is such a
great gift and is potentially worth so much that for this itself, life is
worthwhile living.”
  I could skip the chocolate cake, I really could, but why bother? Waiter!
  Correction: January 4, 2007
    An article in Science Times on Tuesday about the debate over free will misstated
the location of Elizabethtown College, where Michael Silberstein, who commented
on free will and popular culture, is a science philosopher. It is in
Pennsylvania, not Maryland.
28534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: January 06, 2007, 09:28:38 AM


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Geopolitical Diary: A Leadership Change In Tehran?

Rumors are circulating that Iran's 67-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is entering the final stage in his fight against cancer. Though there is an incentive among Western intelligence agencies and Iranian opposition groups to promulgate these rumors -- to give the impression that all is not well in the Islamic Republic -- there appears to be some truth to the reports. Sources inside Hezbollah indicate that the supreme leader's death is not imminent, but there is a real possibility that he could become incapacitated within the year. The online political blog Pajamas Media reported on Thursday that Khamenei already has died, though the reliability of this information remains uncertain at the time of this writing.

The possibility of Khamenei no longer running the show in Tehran seriously complicates the future of the Iranian regime, particularly as the country is navigating an extraordinarily critical passage in its history. Years of careful strategizing have placed the Iranians in a prime position, where the country is well on its way to establishing itself as the regional kingmaker. Not only is Iran within arm's reach of a full-fledged nuclear program, it has seized the opportunity to work toward bringing Iraq's government and oil assets under its domain and to use Iraq as a launchpad to augment Shiite influence in the region. Meanwhile, the United States is in a quandary over how to bring some sense of stability to Iraq. Its most attractive option, a surge of U.S. troops, is unlikely to be successful and will meet stiff opposition in U.S. defense and political circles.

Though the pieces have largely fallen into place for Iran, the coming year could bring some unpleasant developments that could end up destabilizing the mullahs' foreign policy agenda. Khamenei succeeded the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, when he died in 1989. Khamenei has since been highly revered across the Shiite world and has played a key role in moderating between hard-liners and pragmatists in the Iranian government. His death will have a shattering effect on the Iranian public, who idolize their leader and would largely view his loss as a catastrophe.

To make things even more interesting, sources in Beirut, Lebanon, report that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's days in power could also be numbered -- he could depart the political scene within the year. After his radical conservative faction suffered a bruising defeat in the December 2006 municipal and Assembly of Experts elections, the boisterous president's spotlight has waned. His original purpose, to exhibit a radical and unpredictable face for the Iranian regime, has largely been achieved in the 18 months he has been in office.

The man expected to restore order in Tehran, should these two monumental developments take place in 2007, is none other than former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who recently became the chairman of the 85-member Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani, known for his pragmatic leanings and his track record in corrupt business practices, was Ahmadinejad's main opponent in the June 2005 presidential election. It is unclear at this point whether Ahmadinejad or Khamenei would be the first to go, but the president's fate will likely be determined by the health of Khamenei. The removal of Ahmadinejad, which could take the form of a forced resignation, expulsion by the supreme leader or a deadly accident, is not expected to take place before June. Should Khamenei survive through the summer of 2007, it is quite possible that Rafsanjani would replace Ahmadinejad as president. It might be no coincidence that Rafsanjani, in a recent talk with journalists, described a new highway currently under construction in Tehran, as the "highway of Shahid (martyr) Ahmadinejad."

The restoration of Rafsanjani to the presidency would be welcomed by officials in Washington, who see the former Iranian leader as someone whom they can engage in serious negotiations. If Khamenei's time is running out, he will want to ensure that an able figure like Rafsanjani is well positioned to ease Iran out of any potential crisis while maintaining the core foreign policy objectives of consolidating Iranian influence in the region and crossing the nuclear finish line without suffering regime-threatening consequences.

With such changes up in the air, U.S. President George W. Bush will have to play his cards carefully in adjusting his Iraq policy. Iran is anxiously awaiting Bush's next move in Iraq, but the United States will likely hold off on any major moves toward negotiating with Iran until it gets a better idea of how the Iranian leadership will shape up in the coming year.
28535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 06, 2007, 09:20:38 AM
Woof All:

Buzwardo has emailed me to let me know he has had a big job promotion and likely will not be as posting as much for a while. 

Congrats on the promotion  cry cheesy

The Adventure continues!
28536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: American Politics on: January 06, 2007, 09:14:35 AM
Tanned, Rested, Ready

Senator Barack Obama has returned from his Hawaiian vacation and all signs are that
he plans to launch a presidential bid later this month. But many Democratic leaders
remain skeptical that he can topple frontrunner Hillary Clinton despite his
rapturous media coverage. Political handicapper Charlie Cook estimates that Hillary
"still has at least a 65% chance of taking the nomination." So why is Mr. Obama so
intent on a run, when at age 45 he could afford to wait and run another year? One
answer may be the vice presidency.

"If Obama does even decently in the primaries, he can put down a strong, legitimate
claim he should be the first person considered for the vice presidency," says
Democratic strategist and pollster Doug Schoen. "After all, John Edwards was able to
parlay his second-place showing against John Kerry in the 2004 primaries into
becoming the vice presidential nominee."

Left unspoken by many Democrats is another reason why Mr. Obama might run: he's
betting on the party's fear of offending any bloc of minority voters. The same
Democratic Party that has kowtowed to such charlatans as Jesse Jackson and Al
Sharpton when each ran for president would be unlikely to resist a chorus of media
calls that Mr. Obama join the Democratic ticket if he does well in the primaries.

Mr. Obama has probably decided he has a real shot at the presidency right now, and
the consolation prize would be the vice presidency, a natural launching pad for the
White House. Besides, the visibility, perks and prestige of the Veep's office sure
beat those of the Senate.

-- John Fund

Whom Does Obama Help?

Lost among all the hype over Barack Obama is the reality that his candidacy for
President, if it were to fully materialize, would only serve to reinforce Hillary
Clinton's grip on the Democratic nomination.

With Virginia Governor Mark Warner dropping out last October and Indiana Senator
Evan Bayh's withdrawal before Christmas, Ms. Clinton's vulnerability on her right
has all but disappeared. While the Obama boomlet certainly speaks to the desire
among the press and many in the Democratic Party for someone other than Senator
Clinton, what an Obama run would do is suck a tremendous amount of energy and
enthusiasm away from Hillary Clinton's No. 1 threat to the nomination -- John

There are five names that continually poll above five percent among Democratic
voters: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, John Edwards and John Kerry. Though
Mr. Kerry still enjoys a high level of name ID from the '04 campaign, whatever slim
hope he had of a repeat was destroyed by his pre-election gaffe on the troops in
Iraq. Assuming Mr. Gore is a "no go," that leaves the trio of Clinton, Obama and

While Mr. Edwards ranks between second and fourth place in national polls, he leads
in the most recent Iowa polls and is poised to do well in the early contests in
Nevada and South Carolina. His announcement from New Orleans and all his activities
since 2004 make it clear he intends to run a strongly progressive campaign aimed at
capturing support among the newly energized left of the Democratic Party. The
problem is this is exactly the same constituency an Obama run would invigorate.
Which means in the end Mr. Obama would simply split the progressive,
"anybody-but-Clinton" vote between him and Mr. Edwards, further strengthening Mrs.
Clinton's odds of capturing the nomination.

For Mrs. Clinton, this scenario would have the added benefit of allowing the
perception to form throughout the primary campaign that she was the "centrist" or
"moderate" choice of Democratic voters -- a perception that would serve her well as
she transitions to the general election campaign in the spring of '08.

It is ironic that some of the strongest promoters of an Obama candidacy are
motivated by a dislike of Senator Clinton, but are unwittingly helping her secure
control of the Democratic Party by pushing the young and untested Mr. Obama.

-- John McIntyre, managing editor of


Slaughter to the Lambs

Anne-Marie Slaughter is dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and
International affairs at Princeton. She is also of the view that "under George W.
Bush... law has become a prop for power," that the invasion of Iraq was both
"illegal and illegitimate," and that the President's "efforts to build democracy in
Iraq are underpinned by a misguided view of America's own democracy." Washington
Post columnist Jackson Diehl, who calls her a "likely candidate in a future
Democratic administration," quotes Ms. Slaughter as saying that the idea that the
U.S. is engaged in a war with Islamo-fascism is "absolutely wrong."

Oh, and while we're at it, as a young lawyer in the 1980s, Ms. Slaughter helped
represent the Sandinista dictatorship in Nicaragua in a suit it brought against the
United States in the International Court of Justice. Nicaragua won.

So, you ask, where is el problemo? For the Ivy League professor of today, knee-jerk
liberalism is pretty much the whole job description. The surprise, however, is that
Condoleezza Rice has named none other than Ms. Slaughter to chair the State
Department's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, which includes such worthies
as Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute
and Clifford May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

The committee, of course, is formally powerless. But prestige is its own form of
power, and so is a pedestal, and Ms. Slaughter has now been given both by the
Administration she so publicly detests. Considering that democracy promotion isn't
simply a phrase for this Administration, but the essence of its foreign policy,
that's no small thing to get. Says a senior administration official, "Someone should
be fired for this."

-- Bret Stephens


WSJ Opinion Journal

28537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Muslims, Nazis, and far right hate groups echo anti-semitisim on: January 06, 2007, 09:02:45 AM
Roger has had a conversation going with Buzwardo over the relevance of funding scientific research on the results of the research. 

In a related vein, it would appear former President (and a really bad one he was) Jimmy Carter now seems to be receiving Saudi money.   rolleyes angry

In hindsight, Carter book seen as part of an awkward pattern

By Neal Sher NEW YORK, Dec.  26 (JTA) --

It was the spring of 1987 and the Office of Special Investigations, the
Justice Department's Nazi prosecution unit, which I headed at the time, was
in the midst of one of our most productive and historic periods.

On April 27, as a result of an in-depth OSI investigation and despite
resistance at the State Department, Austrian President and former U.N.
Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, who had served as an officer in the Nazi
army, was barred from setting foot ever again on U.S.  soil.

One week earlier, after eight years of bruising litigation, we deported to
the Soviet Union one Karl Linnas, who had been chief of a Nazi concentration
camp in Estonia.  To do so, we had to outmaneuver concerted attempts to
block the deportation by Patrick Buchanan, the Reagan White House's
communications director, and my boss, U.S.
Attorney General Ed Meese.

A month later, OSI announced the loss of citizenship and removal from the
United States of a former Chicago resident.  Martin Bartesch admitted to our
office and the court that he had voluntarily joined the Waffen SS and had
served in the notorious SS Death's Head Division at the Mauthausen
concentration camp where, at the hands of Bartesch and his cohorts, many
thousands of prisoners were gassed, shot, starved and worked to death.  He
also confessed to having concealed his service at the infamous camp from
U.S.  immigration officials.

In Bartesch's case, OSI researchers uncovered iron-clad documentary evidence
of his direct, hands-on role in the Nazi genocide.  Among the SS documents
captured by American forces when they liberated Mauthausen was what we
described as the Unnatural Death Book, a register of prisoners killed, along
with the identity of the SS guard responsible for the murder.

So powerful was this evidence that, in postwar trials conducted by the U.S.
military, the book served as the basis for execution or long prison
sentences for many identified SS guards.

An entry on Oct.  20, 1943, registers the shooting death of Max Oschorn, a
French Jewish prisoner.  His murderer was also recorded: SS man Martin
Bartesch.  It was a most chilling document.

Bartesch's family and "supporters," seeking special relief, launched a
campaign to discredit OSI while trying to garner political support.  Indeed,
OSI received numerous inquiries from members of Congress who had been

After we explained the facts of the case, however, the matter inevitably was
dropped; no one urged that Bartesch or his family be accorded any special

Well, there was one exception -- Jimmy Carter.

In September 1987, after all of the gruesome details of the case had been
made public and widely reported in the media, I received a letter sent by
Bartesch's daughter to the former president.  Citing groups that had been
exposed for their anti-Semitism, it was an all-out assault against OSI as
unfair, "un-American" and interested only in "vengeance"
against innocent family members.

It's axiomatic that the families of every person prosecuted under the
criminal or immigration laws are affected and subjected to hardship.  It was
obvious, I thought to myself, that no reasonable person could genuinely
believe that the Bartesch case was worthy of special dispensation.

On the contrary, it would be a perversion of justice to accede to the
family's demands and grant Bartesch relief to which no one else would be
entitled.  Not even the staunchest and most sincere devotee to humanitarian
causes could legitimately claim that an SS murderer who deceived authorities
to obtain a visa and citizenship was somehow deserving of exceptional

That's why I was so taken aback by the personal, handwritten note Jimmy
Carter sent to me seeking "special consideration" for this Nazi SS murderer.
There on the upper-right corner of Bartesch's daughter's letter was a note
to me in the former president's handwriting, and with his signature, urging
that "in cases such as this, special consideration can be given to the
families for humanitarian reasons."

Unlike members of Congress who inquired about the facts, Carter blindly
accepted at face value the daughter's self-serving (and disingenuous)

As disturbing as I found Carter's plea, and although his attempted
intervention has always gnawed at me, I chalked it up at the time to a
certain naivete on the part of the former president.  But now, in light of
Carter's most recent writings and comments, I am left to wonder whether it
was I who was naive simply to dismiss his knee-jerk appeal as the
instinctive reaction of a well-meaning but misguided humanitarian.

His latest book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," and his subsequent defense
of it, leaves no doubt that Carter has a problem with Israel and its
American Jewish supporters.  His blame-Israel approach through the
distortion of easily verifiable facts; his whining about the influence of
the pro-Israel lobby; and even the whiff of plagiarism have been exposed and
are now spread upon the public record for all to see.

Kenneth Stein, who resigned his 23-year association with the Carter Center
at Emory University, described it this way: Carter's book "is not based on
unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials
not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented

Some believe that there's a venal element at work.  To be sure, Carter and
his publisher and editor knew that, if nothing else, the intentionally
provocative, misleading and insulting title would be good for sales.

Moreover, Carter and his center appear to care little about how they fill
their coffers.  After all, among the most generous contributors to the
Carter Center -- at least a million dollars each, according to the center's
published accountings -- are Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz,
best known for having offered $10 million to New York City after the Sept.
11 attacks, an offer that was rejected by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the
prince implied that the attacks may have been justified because of U.S.
support for Israel; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Saudi Fund for
Development; and, most interestingly, the Bin Laden Group.

Make no mistake, these are not simply benevolent donors looking for a good
cause; they expect something in return.  And Carter gave them exactly what
they paid for: an unequivocal stamp of approval from a former, if failed,
U.S.  president for their decades of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic ramblings.
It's a diplomatic and public-relations dividend that likely will far exceed
their investment.

The exposure of Carter's views on Israel and the Jewish lobby has shed a
clearer light on his attempt to influence me in the Bartesch case.  We know
from his own confession that he has had lust in his heart. Unfortunately, he
has given us ample reason to wonder what else is lurking there.

Neal Sher, a New York attorney, previously served as director of the Justice
Department's Office of Special Investigations and is a former executive
director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Shelley Faintuch Community Relations Director Jewish federation of Winnipeg
C300-123 Doncaster St.
Winnipeg, MB Canada R3N 2B2 Ph.  204.477-7423 Fax 204.477-7405

Live Generously.  It does a world of good.
28538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: January 06, 2007, 08:50:02 AM
NUKE CHIEF FIRED: Linton Brooks, the chief of the country's nuclear-weapons program,
was fired yesterday because of security breakdowns at the Los Alamos, N.M., laboratory and other facilities.

LBN news
28539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: January 06, 2007, 08:44:32 AM
If the Stratfor analysis of China is correct, it would seem that China's economy could be headed for a big fall at some point, probably with serious political disruption.

Also, there is the matter of China's declining population due to the one-child-per-family policy.  Does anyone have any data on this?


China: Using Political Tools to Fix the Economy

The Chinese government is trying (and failing) to rein in economically questionable activities that are driving up prices without producing healthy growth. Beijing is discovering that traditional economic and financial tools are not serving it well. Next come the more brutal measures.


For years, the Chinese economy's problem has been the irrational allocation of capital. In order to stimulate growth, the government has long artificially suppressed the real interest rates charged on loans from state banks -- often to the point that, once inflation is taken into account, those loans can be repaid for less than they are worth. That encourages growth and development, but not in a sustainable way. Many Chinese firms can only survive so long as that flow of artificially cheap credit is sustained.

Such a strategy has a number of downsides, but the main disadvantage is the rampant proliferation of firms that do not operate at a profit. These firms pile up mountains of bad debts which probably total about half of China's total gross domestic product. Yet, because profit does not matter and capital is easily attained, these firms can afford to expand operations endlessly. This expansion then creates sustained and growing demands from these firms for everything from concrete to electricity. The dramatic price hikes in most commodities on the global market these past four years can be laid at the feet of these noncompetitive Chinese firms and their demand. And of course, we all know how foreign governments feel about credit-subsidized Chinese firms dumping their products on international markets.

China's Politburo is well aware that the core dysfunction of its country's economic model is subsidized credit, and Beijing is trying to root out the problem. There are two ways to do this. The first and simplest is to increase interest rates, which makes firms less likely to take out new loans because they have to pay back more than they borrow.

The second strategy was attempted Jan. 5 when the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, increased the country's reserve requirement ratio by 0.5 percentage points to 9.5 percent. The reserve requirement ratio is the portion of a bank's assets it must hold in reserve, with the remainder (90.5 percent in this case) available for disbursing to customers as loans. If the ratio goes up, banks have to restrict lending. The theory behind the increase is that banks will only lend to firms with relatively sound business plans (which, therefore, would be able to repay their loans).

Neither step is working. Borrowers remain convinced that the government will bail them out (after all, most of the borrowers are government firms), and without a mindset shift among the borrowers, interest rates hikes have a negligible impact. Similarly, in a system where local government officials often control both the state-owned companies wanting the loans and the state-owned banks making them, adjusting the reserve ratio produces only marginal results. Indeed, rate hikes steadily accrued in 2006 to no result, and the Jan. 5 ratio increase was the fourth in seven months.

This should not come as a surprise to the government. After all, Beijing ordered the suspension of all lending activity for a few days in April 2004, but to no avail. Anywhere else in the world, this would have caused an instant recession (if not depression) -- but not in China. The Chinese economic juggernaut lumbers on, with the country's 33.4 trillion yuan ($4.28 trillion) in deposits providing the fuel for annual growth of more than 10 percent.

Traditional economic policy tools -- whether taxes or regulations -- have minimal impact on the Chinese system. And when economic tools do not work on economic problems, Beijing has no choice but to pull a different policy set out of the toolbox. Rates and ratios give way to purges and prosecutions.

This already has been seen in the intensified anti-corruption drive in which Beijing sacked Chen Liangyu, Shanghai's Communist Party secretary and a Politburo member, in September. Chen's dismissal was part of a larger purge in the booming coastal city, which rooted out not only local officials with questionable management skills but also cadres left over from the time of former President Jiang Zemin. The anti-corruption drive has been used elsewhere as well, reaching into Macao and, more recently, into the Shandong peninsula, one of the areas Beijing wants to develop economically in the future.

Ahead of the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of China later this year, Chinese President Hu Jintao is cleaning out political and party officials who oppose his economic (and social) policies, and laying the framework for a more loyal and responsive provincial and local leadership. Hu hopes this will lay the groundwork for an expansion of his "New Left" policies, through which he hopes to reshape the Chinese economic landscape, dictating where certain industries will be concentrated and which entrepreneurs can operate in which sectors.

While such close government-business cooperation allowed a country like South Korea to boom in the 1970s and '80s, China will be trying this on an unprecedented scale -- and will need full political control in order to restructure the freewheeling Chinese economy. In reality, such a strategy is more political than economic in nature, as it seeks not only to revamp the country's corporate environment but also to radically reshape the ways in which Chinese citizens and businessmen act and interact.

To call the process jarring would be an understatement of the grinding conflict to come. Years of attempting to change China's corporate culture using traditional economic tools resulted in the death or disappearance of thousands and a steadily deteriorating security environment. Hu now knows he needs to attack the problem at its source -- the Jiang cadre that created the culture in the first place -- and if he has been paying attention, he knows he cannot be soft.
28540  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spike TV, the Dog Brothers Gathering Webisodes; National Geographic on: January 04, 2007, 09:03:15 PM
Both these projects are in motion again. grin
28541  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: January 04, 2007, 08:50:24 PM

MEXICO: Former Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador resumed traveling around Mexico, beginning in the state of Yucatan. Lopez Obrador has said he intends to gather the opinions of people in the countryside and will likely seek support for his shadow government.
28542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: January 04, 2007, 08:42:37 PM
Table of Contents:

AFPA Fitness

The Health-Harming Confusion About Saturated
Too Much Exercise is Just as Bad as Not Enough
10 Steps to Being Happier and Healthier
More Evidence Ginkgo Biloba Works Just as Well
as Dementia Drugs
Do Not Drink Airplane Water
After-Dinner Snacks Can Aid in Weight Loss
Eating Artifical Sweeteners Triggers Appetite
Red Grapefruit Lowers LDL Cholesterol
Another Reason to Eat Your Vegetables: Lowering
the Risk of Diabetes


The Health-Harming Confusion About Saturated

DiabetesWhile studies have shown that consuming
saturated fat can slightly increase insulin levels,
which can be a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, the
studies did not reflect real-world diets, and did not
reflect the fatty acid profiles consumed in normal
diets. In addition, recommendations to avoid
saturated fats generally result in people consuming
more trans fats, which are definitely dangerous.
Trans fats have a detrimental effect on the
incidence and treatment of type-2 diabetes, while
saturated fats have been shown to have no effect
when appropriate comparisons are made.

Trans fats interfere with insulin receptors, while
saturated fats do not. Type-2 diabetes did not exist
100 years ago, when the human diet was very rich
in saturated fats; it appeared when trans fats came
into the diet.

As people eat more and more foods containing
trans fats, it has become an epidemic.

Green Clippings December 2, 2006

Too Much Exercise is Just as Bad as Not Enough

After a number of years in which almost no deaths
were caused by heart attacks during marathons, at
least six runners have died in 2006. Some
physicians, including Dr. Arthur Siegel, author of
numerous studies of Boston Marathon racers,
believe that the extended races put the heart at

A new study by Dr. Siegel and colleagues examined
60 Boston Marathon entrants. The runners showed
normal cardiac function before the marathon.
But 20 minutes after finishing, 60 percent of the
group had elevated levels of troponin (a protein that
shows up in the blood when the heart is
traumatized), and 40 percent had levels high
enough to indicate the destruction of heart muscle
cells. Many also showed noticeable changes in
heart rhythms.

Another study, from Germany, showed that as many
as one-third of middle-aged male marathoners may
have higher than expected calcium plaque deposits
in their arteries, putting them at a greater risk for
heart attack.

Just over 20 percent of a control group of non-
runners had comparable calcium plaque buildup.

Circulation November 28, 2006; 114(22): 2325-2333
New York Times December 7, 2006
The (Lakeland, FL) Ledger December 7, 2006

10 Steps to Being Happier and Healthier

Researchers at the National Institute on Aging have
determined that well-being is strongly influenced by
individual characteristics. Their 10-year study
showed people with a happy disposition in 1973
were still happy in 1983, even if their job, location, or
marital status had changed.

If you want to create positive emotions, but don't
know where to begin, the links below will bring
happiness into your life. Here's a sampling:

1. Stop trying to be perfect. Don’t expect perfection
from yourself or from anybody. You don’t need to
impress people around you and you don’t have to
get everything done perfectly.

2. Be happy and satisfied with what you have.
Stop comparing with others at every stage, this will
infact add to your misery. Be happy and content with
your life. Remove the feelings of jealousy
and enemity.

3. Schedule some time for yourself. Give yourself
one hour each day when you can truly relax and
enjoy yourself. Do some exercise, work on a
hobby, go for a walk, or read a book.
Pamper youself with some massages or
beauty therapies. Meditate or pray to God. This will
renew your energy and concentration.

4. If you are too stressed at work, take a break and
refresh your energy. Go for a holiday with your
family and friends. Explore new places. Taking
breaks helps your body recover the lost energy. You
may take short or long breaks, depending on your
work and stress levels. When you get back to work
after a break, your concentration and focus
improves a great deal and you are more motivated.
5. Don’t be alone all the time. Go out with
your friends and talk to them on the phone regularly.
Watch a movie, go shopping or do things that you
always loved but did not get the time because
of your busy schedules. Call your friends home and
watch a funny movie together.

6. If you are a working parent, take a break from
work and spend time with your kids. Or play with
your pets. Visit your relatives and throw
a party for them. Dance and sing with them.

7. Be grateful to people around you. Be thankful for
even small favours and blessings.

8. Help Others. It has been observed that helping
others gives you immense satisfaction and
happiness. Make someone’s life more beautiful by
contributing in your own small way.

9. Re-assess your priorties. Spend time with your
family and pray to God. Stay in the present. Do not
waste time regretting your past or worrying about
the future.

10. Laugh out loud atleast once in a day and keep
smiling. Focus on things that keep you happy
instead of those that keep you down. Forget your
worries and pains, everybody in this world, has
some problems. But it all depends on the way you
deal with it.

Alternative Therapies and Health News November
27, 2006 Psychology Today

More Evidence Ginkgo Biloba Works Just as Well
as Dementia Drugs

An Italian study has determined that ginkgo biloba
works just as well as Aricept (donepezil) in treating
mild or moderate Alzheimer's-related dementia.

For the study, 76 mild-to-moderate dementia
patients received either a placebo, ginkgo or Aricept
for six months, followed by a four-week course of a
placebo to exclude those reactions.

During the study period, more ginkgo patients
dropped out of the test, but not for the same
reasons as the four Aricept dropouts, who left due to
adverse drug reactions.

Based on test scores to determine the severity of
dementia afterward, scientists agreed both ginkgo
biloba and Aricept work just as effectively to slow
down the damage.

European Journal of Neurology September 2006;
13(9): 981-985

Do Not Drink Airplane Water

According the the Environmental Protection Agency
tap water on more than 17 percent of flights recently
tested contained disease-causing bacteria,
including E.coli. Bring your own bottled water.

After-Dinner Snacks Can Aid in Weight Loss

Recent research has found that a lower calorie,
higher fiber snack about 90 minutes after dinner
[such as an apple or pear] can reduce the cravings
for higher calorie late night snacks that lead to
weight gain in many over-weight individuals].

Eating Artifical Sweeteners Triggers Appetite

Researchers have found that eating artifical
sweeteners encourages your body to increase its
calorie intake. A better alternative to either artifical
sweeteners or sugar is Stevia, a natural zero-calorie
alternative that is sold as an herbal supplement.

Trulie Ankerberg-Nobis, RD, clinical research
coordinator and staff dietitian, Physicans Committee
for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC.

Red Grapefruit Lowers LDL Cholesterol

Recent research has found that even in individuals
who do not responde to statin drugs have a
favorable cholesterol lowering response to eating
red grapefruit. Eating one red grapefruit daily for
four weeks demonstrated a 20 percent reduction in
LDL cholesterol.

Gorinstein S, Caspi, et. al.Red Grapefruit Positively
Influences Serum Triglyceride Level in Patients
Suffering from Coronary Atherosclerosis:
Studies in Vitro and in Humans. J Agric Food Chem.
2006 Mar 8;54(5):1887-1892.

Another Reason to Eat Your Vegetables: Lowering
the Risk of Diabetes

Researchers continue to substantiate the need to
eat vegetables daily. The risk of developing diabetes
is 38 percent lower in those individuals who eat
vegetables daily. High blood levels of carotenoids;
powerful anti-oxidants found in yellow-orange
vegetables [carrots, sweet potatoes and squash, as
well as dark green leafy vegetables are sited as the
best sources.

Am J Epidemiol 2006;163:929-937
28543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sounds like a bad idea to me on: January 04, 2007, 08:37:22 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Merkel's TAFTA Agenda

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Washington on Thursday for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush. Up for discussion is everything from energy security cooperation to relations with Russia. All are important, all will be given their due, but one item on the agenda holds out the possibility of being truly revolutionary: trade.

In a Financial Times article published Jan. 2, Merkel waxed philosophic about her intent to convince the American president of the benefits of coordinating policy on things such as joint financial market regulations, stock exchange delisting rules, intellectual property rights, and mutual recognition of technical standards. We can almost see Bush's eyes glazing over.

But such talks are not just about the technical i-dotting and t-crossing that makes for an economic relationship. Merkel is much more ambitious than that. She wants to see the United States and European Union merge into a single trans-Atlantic common market that would include roughly 800 million people and a combined gross domestic product of half the world's economic output.

The obstacles to such a trade grouping are hardly minor. First, Merkel has to convince the Bush administration that her method -- deeply integrating the technical aspects of economic regulation -- is the way to go, rather than Washington's preferred method of simply brokering free trade agreements. After all, such relatively invasive techniques are similar to (if not flatly modeled on) the European Union's own internal regulatory structures rather than Washington's traditional sovereignty-protecting approaches.

But adopting such an approach may well prove critical to overcoming European opposition to the idea of a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement (TAFTA). Many European leaders fear that allowing unrestricted competition with the United States without inducing the Americans to merge at least some of their regulatory processes with Europe would give the Americans the ability to drive Europe out of legions of markets. TAFTA has, after all, been attempted before -- and while the idea was warmly received in the United States, it was ultimately derailed and defeated in Europe. And by "Europe," we mean "France."

Two things are different this time. First, pushing the regulatory approach should at least give Merkel the ability to ensure her fellow Europeans do not reject the idea out of hand. Second, France is changing. By the time of the EU-U.S. summit in May and the EU heads of government summit in June, France will have its first leader in a generation who does not subscribe to the reflexively anti-American geopolitics of Charles de Gaulle.

Which means that the greatest obstacle remaining for Merkel's TAFTA plan could well prove to be ... Merkel. Successful EU presidencies -- they are only six-month terms -- are generally characterized by agendas limited to one or two extremely focused items. Launching TAFTA talks (and remember that all 27 EU states have to agree unanimously for this to happen) is a hugely ambitious task, and it is only one of many that Merkel has set for herself. Also on her agenda is navigating a potential crisis in Serbia, figuring out what to do about Bosnia, helping relaunch Middle East peace talks, restarting negotiations with Russia on a partnership deal, solving that Africa hunger problem, and, oh yes, figuring out a way to salvage the twice-defeated European constitution -- all while Merkel's own coalition government is not exactly on the best of terms with itself. Such a towering list is a large order even for a German chancellor.

Still, a key theme of Stratfor's 2006 annual forecast was that Germany's return to being a "normal" country will reshape international geopolitical dynamics. If the good chancellor can achieve even a fraction of her agenda, we will have written an understatement.
28544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 04, 2007, 08:05:21 PM

And it was Locke, as well as Jefferson:

From Jefferson's Autobiography:

"[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was
finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its protection
of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble
declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy
author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting
the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from
the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The
insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they
meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew
and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and
infidel of every denomination." --Thomas Jefferson:
Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:67

From 1777 Draft of a Bill for 'Religious Freedom':

"that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right . . ."
28545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: January 04, 2007, 07:46:34 PM
Since the start of the Iraq war, tens of thousands of heavily-armed military contractors have been roaming the country -- without any law, or any court to control them. That may be about to change, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow P.W. Singer notes in a Defense Tech exclusive. Five words, slipped into a Pentagon budget bill, could make all the difference. With them, "contractors 'get out of jail free' cards may have been torn to shreds," he writes. They're now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the same set of laws that governs soldiers. But here's the catch: embedded reporters are now under those regulations, too.

Over the last few years, tales of private military contractors run amuck in Iraq -- from the CACI interrogators at Abu Ghraib to the Aegis company's Elvis-themed internet "trophy video" —- have continually popped up in the headlines. Unfortunately, when it came to actually doing something about these episodes of Outsourcing Gone Wild, Hollywood took more action than Washington. The TV series Law and Order punished fictional contractor crimes, while our courts ignored the actual ones. Leonardo Dicaprio acted in a movie featuring the private military industry, while our government enacted no actual policy on it. But those carefree days of military contractors romping across the hills and dales of the Iraqi countryside, without legal status or accountability, may be over. The Congress has struck back.

Amidst all the add-ins, pork spending, and excitement of the budget process, it has now come out that a tiny clause was slipped into the Pentagon's fiscal year 2007 budget legislation. The one sentence section (number 552 of a total 3510 sections) states that "Paragraph (10) of section 802(a) of title 10, United States Code (article 2(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), is amended by striking `war' and inserting `declared war or a contingency operation'." The measure passed without much notice or any debate. And then, as they might sing on School House Rock, that bill became a law (P.L.109-364).

The addition of five little words to a massive US legal code that fills entire shelves at law libraries wouldn't normally matter for much. But with this change, contractors' 'get out of jail free' card may have been torn to shreds. Previously, contractors would only fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, better known as the court martial system, if Congress declared war. This is something that has not happened in over 65 years and out of sorts with the most likely operations in the 21st century. The result is that whenever our military officers came across episodes of suspected contractor crimes in missions like Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, or Afghanistan, they had no tools to resolve them. As long as Congress had not formally declared war, civilians -- even those working for the US armed forces, carrying out military missions in a conflict zone -- fell outside their jurisdiction. The military's relationship with the contractor was, well, merely contractual. At most, the local officer in charge could request to the employing firm that the individual be demoted or fired. If he thought a felony occurred, the officer might be able to report them on to civilian authorities.

Getting tattled on to the boss is certainly fine for some incidents. But, clearly, it's not how one deals with suspected crimes. And it's nowhere near the proper response to the amazing, awful stories that have made the headlines (the most recent being the contractors who sprung a former Iraqi government minister, imprisoned on corruption charges, from a Green Zone jail).
And for every story that has been deemed newsworthy, there are dozens that never see the spotlight. One US army officer recently told me of an incident he witnessed, where a contractor shot a young Iraqi who got too close to his vehicle while in line at the Green Zone entrance. The boy was waiting there to apply for a job. Not merely a tragedy, but one more nail in the coffin for any US effort at winning hearts and minds.

But when such incidents happen, officers like him have had no recourse other than to file reports that are supposed to be sent on either to the local government or the US Department of Justice, neither of which had traditionally done much. The local government is often failed or too weak to act - the very reason we are still in Iraq. And our Department of Justice has treated contractor crimes in a more Shakespearean than Hollywood way, as in Much Ado About Nothing. Last month, DOJ reported to Congress that it has sat on over 20 investigations of suspected contractor crimes without action in the last year.

The problem is not merely one of a lack of political will on the part of the Administration to deal with such crimes. Contractors have also fallen through a gap in the law. The roles and numbers of military contractors are far greater than in the past, but the legal system hasn't caught up. Even in situations when US civilian law could potentially have been applied to contractor crimes (through the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act), it wasn't. Underlying the previous laws like MEJA was the assumption that civilian prosecutors back in the US would be able to make determinations of what is proper and improper behavior in conflicts, go gather evidence, carry out depositions in the middle of warzones, and then be willing and able to prosecute them to juries back home. The reality is that no US Attorney likes to waste limited budgets on such messy, complex cases 9,000 miles outside their district, even if they were fortunate enough to have the evidence at hand. The only time MEJA has been successfully applied was against the wife of a soldier, who stabbed him during a domestic dispute at a US base in Turkey. Not one contractor of the entire military industry in Iraq has been charged with any crime over the last 3 and a half years, let alone prosecuted or punished. Given the raw numbers of contractors, let alone the incidents we know about, it boggles the mind.

The situation perhaps hit its low-point this fall, when the Under Secretary of the Army testified to Congress that the Army had never authorized Halliburton or any of its subcontractors (essentially the entire industry) to carry weapons or guard convoys. He even denied the US had firms handling these jobs. Never mind the thousands of newspaper, magazine, and TV news stories about the industry. Never mind Google's 1,350,000 web mentions. Never mind the official report from U.S. Central Command that there were over 100,000 contractors in Iraq carrying out these and other military roles. In a sense, the Bush Administration was using a cop-out that all but the worst Hollywood script writers avoid. Just like the end of the TV series Dallas, Congress was somehow supposed to accept that the private military industry in Iraq and all that had happened with it was somehow 'just a dream.'

But Congress didn't bite, it now seems. With the addition of just five words in the law, contractors now can fall under the purview of the military justice system. This means that if contractors violate the rules of engagement in a warzone or commit crimes during a contingency operation like Iraq, they can now be court-martialed (as in, Corporate Warriors, meet A Few Good Men). On face value, this appears to be a step forward for realistic accountability. Military contractor conduct can now be checked by the military investigation and court system, which unlike civilian courts, is actually ready and able both to understand the peculiarities of life and work in a warzone and kick into action when things go wrong.

The amazing thing is that the change in the legal code is so succinct and easy to miss (one sentence in a 439-page bill, sandwiched between a discussion on timely notice of deployments and a section ordering that the next of kin of medal of honor winners get flags) that it has so far gone completely unnoticed in the few weeks since it became the law of the land. Not only has the media not yet reported on it. Neither have military officers or even the lobbyists paid by the military industry to stay on top of these things.

So what happens next? In all likelihood, many firms, who have so far thrived in the unregulated marketplace, will now lobby hard to try to strike down the change. We will perhaps even soon enjoy the sight of CEOs of military firms, preening about their loss of rights and how the new definition of warzone will keep them from rescuing kittens caught in trees.

But, ironically, the contractual nature of the military industry serves as an effective mechanism to prevent loss of rights. The legal change only applies to the section in the existing law dealing with those civilians "serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field," i.e. only those contractors on operations in conflict zones like Iraq or Afghanistan. It would apply not to the broader public in the US, not to local civilians, and not even to military contractors working in places where civilian law is stood up. Indeed, it even wouldn't apply to our foes, upholding recent rulings on the scope of military law and the detainees at Gitmo.

In many ways, the new law is the 21st century business version of the rights contract: If a private individual wants to travel to a warzone and do military jobs for profit, on behalf of the US government, then that individual agrees to fall under the same codes of law and consequence that American soldiers, in the same zones, doing the same sorts of jobs, have to live and work by. If a contractor doesn't agree to these regulations, that's fine, don't contract. Unlike soldiers, they are still civilians with no obligation to serve. The new regulation also seems to pass the fairness test. That is, a lance corporal or a specialist earns less than $20,000 a year for service in Iraq, while a contractor can earn upwards of $100,000-200,000 a year (tax free) for doing the same job and can quit whenever they want. It doesn't seem that unreasonable then to expect the contractor to abide by the same laws as their military counterpart while in the combat theatre.

Given that the vast majority of private military employees are upstanding men and women -- and mostly former soldiers, to boot -- living under the new system will not mean much change at all. All it does is now give military investigators a way finally to stop the bad apples from filling the headlines and getting away free.

The change in the law is long overdue. But in being so brief, it needs clarity on exactly how it will be realized. For example, how will it be applied to ongoing contracts and operations? Given that the firm executives and their lobbyists back in DC have completely dropped the ball, someone ought to tell the contractors in Iraq that they can now be court martialed.

Likewise, the scope of the new law could made more clear; it could be either too limited or too wide, depending on the interpretation. While it is apparent that any military contractor working directly or indirectly for the US military falls under the change, it is unclear whether those doing similar jobs for other US government agencies in the same warzone would fall under it as well (recalling that the contractors at Abu Ghraib were technically employed by the US Department of Interior, sublet out to DOD).

On the opposite side, what about civilians who have agreed to be embedded, but not contracted? The Iraq war is the first that journalists could formally embed in units, so there is not much experience with its legal side in contingency operations. The lack of any legal precedent, combined with the new law, could mean that an overly aggressive
interpretation might now also include journalists who have embedded.

Given that journalists are not armed, not contracted (so not paid directly or indirectly from public monies) and most important, not there to serve the mission objectives, this would probably be too extensive an interpretation. It would also likely mean less embeds. But given the current lack of satisfaction with the embed program in the media, any effect here may be a tempest in a tea pot. As of Fall 2006, there were only nine embedded reporters in all of Iraq. Of the nine, four were from military media (three from Stars and Stripes, one from Armed Forces Network), two not even with US units (one Polish radio reporter with Polish troops, one Italian reporter with Italian troops), and one was an American writing a book. Moreover, we should remember that embeds already make a rights tradeoff when they agree to the military's reporting rules. That is, they have already given up some of their 1st Amendment protections (something at the heart of their professional ethic) in exchange for access, so agreeing to potentially fall under UCMJ when deployed may not be a deal breaker.

The ultimate point is that the change gives the military and the civilians courts a new tool to use in better managing and overseeing contractors, but leaves it to the Pentagon and DOJ to decide when and where to use it. Given their recent track record on legal issues in the context of Iraq and the war on terror, many won't be that reassured.

Congress is to be applauded for finally taking action to reign in the industry and aid military officers in their duties, but the job is not done. While there may be an inclination to let such questions of scope and implementation be figured out through test cases in the courts, our elected public representatives should request DoD to answer the questions above in a report to Congress. Moreover, while the change may help close one accountability loophole, in no way should it be read as a panacea for the rest of the private military industry's ills. The new Congress still has much to deal with when it comes to the still unregulated industry, including getting enough eyes and ears to actually oversee and manage our contracts effectively, create reporting structures, and forcing the Pentagon to develop better fiscal controls and market sanctions, to actually save money than spend it out.

A change of a few words in a legislative bill certainly isn't the stuff of a blockbuster movie. So don't expect to see Angelina Jolie starring in "Paragraph (10) of Section 802(a)" in a theatre near you anytime soon. But the legal changes in it are a sign that Congress is finally catching up to Hollywood on the private military industry. And that is the stuff of good governance.

-- P.W. Singer is Senior Fellow and Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at The Brookings Institution. He is the author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Cornell University Press) and the upcoming book Wired for War (Houghton Mifflin).

January 3, 2007 05:37 PM
28546  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November Gathering 2006 on: January 03, 2007, 11:46:27 PM
They're in, but with the business pressures of the holiday season and the fact that this week we are on vacation means that they have not gone up yet.  Next week!
28547  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Forrest Griifin's emotional reaction postfight on: January 03, 2007, 10:51:56 AM
Woof All:

  Those of us who saw the most recent UFC saw FG's unusually emotional reaction.   Comments?

28548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor on: January 03, 2007, 09:52:39 AM

Remember it takes a college degree to fly a Commercial airplane but
only a High school diploma to fix one. Reassurance for those of us who fly
Routinely in our jobs.

After every flight, Quantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe

Which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics

Correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then

Review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said

Ground crews lack a sense of humor.

Here are some maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas' pilots

With a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance

Engineers. By the way, Quantas is the only major airline that has

Ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.

S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.

S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.

S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.

S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute

S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.

S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.

S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.

S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.

S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.

S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.

S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)

S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.

S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.

S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last..................

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget

On something with a hammer.

S: Took hammer away from midget
28549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two on: January 01, 2007, 09:44:51 AM
The sheer religiosity–and signs of devotion are said to be growing–of some Danish Muslims is itself a source of worry in Denmark. The Danes generally take a relaxed approach to their leading religion, Lutheranism. A mere 3 percent of Danes attend church at least weekly, the lowest such rate in a recent survey of 21 countries. Secularism is celebrated, and religion, in a typical Danish view, is a strictly personal affair that should be kept out of the public eye as much as possible. Some Danes are offended by demonstrative manifestations of Islam, including the veil. Concerns also arise from the growing number of Muslim parents who are opting to send their children to private, religiously oriented schools. The government's culture minister has publicly commented on the inferior status of a "medieval Muslim culture." Says Tim Jensen, a religious historian at the University of Southern Denmark, "There is a sense of threat by an antimodern, medieval force [Islam]." Pressures from immigration, globalization, and the European Union all "make Danes feel more insecure. We are constantly being asked what you are, constantly being confronted with people who behave differently."

Against this backdrop of clashing cultures came the Muhammad cartoons on Sept. 30, 2005, in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The impetus for publication, says the paper's cultural editor, Flemming Rose, was to stir a debate about self-censorship after he learned that illustrators refused to work on a children's book about Muhammad for fear of offending Muslims. Muslims regard any depiction of Muhammad as sacrilegious. Danish Muslims protested the publication, albeit peacefully, contending that the cartoons mocked their prophet. One cartoon showed a turban in the shape of a lit bomb.

Their complaints met with a stiff response from the paper, which saw the issue as a fundamental test of freedom of speech. The paper eventually expressed regret for any offense caused-but not for publishing the caricatures. Rose, who has received death threats and was working from Washington until recently, says that demands for observing such taboos amount to "asking for my submission." He adds, "You should not allow special treatment of religion."

"Smearing." Islamic activists also pressured the Danish government to rein in the paper. There, as well, they got nowhere. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he could do nothing that might erode freedom of speech. He also rejected a request to meet with Muslim-country ambassadors who complained about a "smearing campaign" against Islam and Muslims by Danish politicians and media.

Lacking clout in Denmark, some of the local imams decided to export the controversy. Two missions were dispatched to the Middle East to publicize the cartoons and the Danish government's uncompromising response. Some Arab ambassadors in Copenhagen also played up the controversy. Within weeks, violence flared on the streets of the Middle East, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Indonesia–some of it orchestrated by national governments and Islamists, according to both Danish and U.S. officials. "The Danes didn't know what hit them," says a senior U.S. official. The Bush administration at first reacted cautiously, hoping not to do anything that might align itself with religiously offensive drawings and further harm its own standing in the Islamic world. Then the shaken Danes complained to their American allies that they were not getting enough public support. They got it.

Though Denmark itself saw no violence, the images of deadly mobs burning Danish flags deepened the sense of threat from Islamists, wherever they may be. But the crisis did not lead to any rethinking of the government's strategy for integrating Muslims. "We have to agree on some fundamental values," says Rikke Hvilshoj, the integration minister. "Denmark is not just a piece of geography where we live side by side." In power since 2001, the current government has tightened the immigration rules that affect many Muslims, slicing arrivals in the categories of family reunification and asylum from more than 17,000 that year to fewer than 5,000 in 2005. A foreign spouse must now be at least 24 before legally coming to live in Denmark; benefits for newcomers were reduced, and collateral was required for their support. At the same time, overall immigration, especially from within Europe, is rising.

The government's moves, at the least, have sought to give Danes a breather from rapid immigration. After years of policy neglect, Hvilshoj says, "the number [was] too high. ... we needed to get control of immigration." The government is stepping up efforts to reduce immigrant unemployment and emphasizing success stories, sending "role models" into Muslim communities.

The governing coalition has a persuasive reason not to soften its stand on immigration: It needs the tacit backing of the right-wing Danish People's Party to stay in power. With 13 percent of the seats in parliament, it appears to wield more influence than any other such party in Europe. Critics accuse it of outright xenophobia, a charge it rejects. But Danes know where the group stands in the culture wars. Its party chairwoman has called Islamic leaders here the "Trojan horse in Denmark," and another lawmaker's website referred to Muslims as "cancer tumors." The party aims to keep Denmark the way it is. "We don't want to change our ways. They [immigrants] have to adapt their ways," says Soren Espersen, a prominent People's Party lawmaker. Espersen likens political Islamists to communists and Nazis and says they aim to limit Denmark's democracy. "There are people now who want to tell us what we can laugh at," he says. "I don't want to respect Islam. Why should I respect the prophet Muhammad?"

There is political combat within Denmark's Muslim communities as well. Ahmed Abu Laban, an imam who leads Copenhagen's Muslim Faith Society, tells U.S. News that he helped organize the foreign missions publicizing the Muhammad cartoons in order to counter "an anti-Islamic campaign." Says Laban, "We have been demonized for six, seven, eight years–then the cartoons." Laban adds, "The Danes don't like religion, and they don't like Islam. ... I see nothing bad in this country except the spirit itself." Many Danes now loathe Laban as a virtual traitor for having promoted the controversy overseas.

Bodyguards. Laban dismisses a recent political initiative by moderates to form the group Democratic Muslims, calling it a "fake approach." The leader of the new group, a secular Muslim lawmaker named Naser Khader, needs 24-hour-a-day bodyguards. His effort is popular with Danes, but hard-line Muslims like Laban call Khader a "shield" for the Danes and vilify him. The group makes it "very difficult to say, 'You Muslims,'" says Khader. "We are democratic without any reservations. ... We are Danes first and Muslims second." Naser says that the Islamists consider secular Muslims like himself as their principal enemy. "They are seen as more dangerous than Christians and Jews," he says. Still, only 14 percent of Danish Muslims back his group, according to a recent poll.

Meanwhile, Danes are edgy about growing Muslim radicalism–a development that is not quantified but is almost universally suspected. The primary threat to Denmark may be external: Its sturdy support for the Bush administration, including troop commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the cartoon case has raised its profile in the Muslim world–in a most unwelcome way. A poll of Egyptians rated Denmark as the second-most-hostile country after Israel. Officials have tallied some 200 threats against Denmark, including one from al Qaeda during the cartoon crisis.

Yet there are worries about what is happening inside Denmark as well. Two terrorism cases are headed for trial. One involves arrests in October 2005 of alleged militants in a Copenhagen suburb said to be connected to a Sarajevo-based plot against European forces in Bosnia or elsewhere. The other case emerged from police raids into an immigrant neighborhood near the city of Odense last September. Investigators uncovered supplies of ammonium nitrate, metal shavings, and the explosive TATP. Five of the nine arrested are still jailed for allegedly planning attacks that authorities say would have been "the most severe ever in Denmark."

Security agents enjoy wide latitude for spying on suspected extremists, and they employ that most Danish of practices: the "preventive visit." According to Hans Jorgen Bonnichsen, the former head of operations at the Danish Security Intelligence Service, the "knock on the door" sometimes leads to tense conversations, but more often they are "friendly." "It's a way to tell him, 'Be careful. We know what you're doing now,'" Bonnichsen says. The visits can serve to neutralize a suspect because his cohorts then cannot know whether he has turned informer. The Intelligence Service has more than doubled its size since 9/11, adding Arabic speakers and analysts.

Still, Danes talk as though it is only a matter of time before they are hit, and the alienation Muslims feel from unemployment, discrimination, and being portrayed as radicals may be feeding the danger. The government's philosophy is "always pushing these immigrants away," argues Fatih Alev, a moderate imam. "The government says it wants integration, but what it does is anti-integration." Adds Jensen, the religious historian, "They are constantly put under suspicion of being fifth-column people." He asks, "Are we contributing to the production of terrorists?" For the happy but wary Danes, it is a question as essential as it is grating.
28550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: January 01, 2007, 09:43:59 AM
 Hide Post

Culture Clash in Denmark
The close-knit Danes find their liberal ideals tested by a growing, alienated Muslim population
By Thomas Omestad

Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006

COPENHAGEN–This, a recent study concluded, is the happiest country on Earth. With Denmark's cradle-to-grave social welfare, highly regarded healthcare and education, prosperity, and small-country ethnic cohesion, the land that gave us Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales also excels at producing a good life in reality.

And yet, over the past year or so, the contented Danes have been forced to face both their greatest international crisis since World War II and the rise here of separate Muslim communities where many are unable or unwilling to enter the Danish mainstream. The international uproar over publication of 12 prophet Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper triggered violence that left at least 139 people dead, Danish diplomatic outposts torched in Lebanon and Syria, and Danish goods boycotted. Suddenly, Denmark felt dangerously exposed–a country of just 5.4 million people facing the wrath of an Islamic world exceeding a billion people.

The violence outside Denmark ultimately quieted down, though the country's security-threat level remains elevated. At home, the bitter disputes over the cartoons have highlighted an unhealed–and potentially hazardous–rift between the dominant Danes and the Muslim immigrants living in what are being called "parallel societies." Ask Danes and Muslim immigrants alike, and many will say there is something a bit rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark.

The legacy of the cartoon uproar is not all bad. Private efforts at building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslim Danes have accelerated. Secular Danish Muslims condemned the violence overseas and appealed for dialogue. That, say Danes, has encouraged a greater appreciation of the differences–political and otherwise-among Muslims here.

"Time bomb." Still, the cartoon crisis itself did not prompt any basic rethinking of how to integrate Muslims more deeply into Danish society. And the country is now preoccupied with things Muslim. Attention is riveted on any controversy linked to its Muslim residents–so-called honor killings of female relatives, street crime, terrorism probes, unemployment, forced marriages, use of veils, and so on. Denmark is pondering the specter of ever more young Muslims–unemployed and undereducated–finding their identities not as coolly secularized Danes but as fervent or even radical Muslims. "We are sitting on a time bomb," warns Eva Smith, a law professor and racism expert at the University of Copenhagen.

The ferment in Denmark is especially striking because of its progressive traditions, but it also reflects the broader tremors rattling western Europe, where tangled issues of national identity, culture, religion, and security arising from Muslim immigration have bolted to the fore. Old, ethnically grounded societies are being roiled by the presence of Muslim newcomers–or at least by the reaction to them. "There's kind of an unspoken assumption that they're not really Dutch, not really Danes, and so forth," reasons one senior U.S. official who follows the phenomenon. "Europeans are uncomfortable with Islam, and they see it as an alien body in their midst. ... Europe's got a huge problem, and they're just getting their minds around it now."

The cartoon controversy, along with frustration over the slow pace of Muslim integration, is leading some Danes to question their prized image as an open and tolerant nation. This, after all, is a people who under Nazi occupation spirited nearly all of their 7,000-some Jews to safety in Sweden. In the 1960s and 1970s, Denmark sought to offer one of Europe's most liberal immigration policies. Many came as guest workers and were later joined by family members and asylum seekers. Even so, Denmark remained remarkably mono-ethnic; only about 4 percent of the population is Muslim. Coming mostly from Arab states, Iran, and Pakistan, the immigrants have clustered in a few neighborhoods in Copenhagen and other cities.

Yet as the preoccupation with Muslims has deepened in recent years, Denmark has swung in the opposite direction, erecting perhaps Europe's most restrictive set of rules. A rightist, anti-immigration party sits not in government but at its side; the ruling coalition relies on its votes to govern. The mood toward immigrants has, with exceptions, soured. The share of Danes who view Islam as incompatible with democracy has shot up. And Muslims are often portrayed as troublemakers who sup at the table of Danish generosity–all the while rejecting what makes Denmark special. "They create ghettos. ... There are a lot of criminals," says Henrik Pedersen, a Dane who runs a Copenhagen trucking business. "Muslim people should be in a Muslim country."

More sophisticated immigration skeptics worry that "Danish values" are under threat by politicized Muslims who resist assimilation. These values include democracy, far-reaching personal freedoms, equality between the sexes, and the trust born of unusually strong social bonds. One government minister frankly called the Danes a "tribe" in describing their group identity. "The whole quality of Danish life stands or falls with this community of values," adds Ralf Pittelkow, a newspaper columnist and coauthor of a bestselling book on the Islamist challenge. "Danes need to feel reassured that the main features of Danish society remain unchanged. ... We are at a crunch point."

Some Danes argue that evading the impact of immigration is impossible. "Some people want to keep Denmark as a kind of museum," says Helle Stenum, the chairwoman of MixEurope, a pro-integration group. "We are a rich, safe society that is scared." Adds Copenhagen schoolteacher Maia Lisa Petersen as she rushes to a subway station, "These other cultures, other values force us to wake up. ... We can't hide anymore in this nice, perfect little Scandinavian world."

Nor can the Muslim immigrants easily hide in enclaves that insulate them from the culture that surrounds them. They say that the political and media atmosphere has turned against them–particularly since the cartoon crisis. "It totally changed my view of Danish society," says Mustafa Kucukyild, 26, who came from Turkey as a 1-year-old boy. "The spotlight is on Muslims. I'm much more cautious about what I say." As the kebab and pizza restaurant where he works fills up with blond-haired college students, he is talking about his estrangement from the Danes. Kucukyild is asked if, having spent nearly all his life here, he feels Danish. "Definitely, no," he replies. "No matter how much you want to be, you always have this black hair," he says, grabbing at a lock of his own. "I will always be a foreigner."

The alienation is pervasive, and it goes well beyond the discomfort some Muslims feel toward Denmark's permissive atmosphere. "Danish people are very hard people, very cold," claims Hassan, a middle-aged, Iraqi-born businessman in the Copenhagen district of Norrebro, where Danes often mix with immigrants. Hassan says that his children are adapting better than he is, though his 15-year-old daughter has faced problems in class–a teacher has chided her about her head scarf. Other immigrants report occasional hassles of other sorts: snide comments or being bumped on buses, being barred from nightclubs or followed by department store security officers–or the "what are you doing here?" stares in coffee shops. (Some Danes counter that Muslims are being overly sensitive, playing up an image of victimhood.)

A young doctor of Palestinian descent–fluent in Danish as well as Arabic and English and a fan of the country's famed pastries–describes tensions that have ensued from being overtly Muslim. A radiologist colleague turned to Suher Othman one day and announced, "I don't like scarves." One patient refused to be treated by her; another resisted until a fellow patient intervened. Othman, 27, says immigrants are routinely seen as "a burden." Still, she adds, "this is the only society I've ever known. They have to face that we're going to stay here."

Stay indeed, but many without jobs. In a country with an aging workforce, negligible unemployment overall–and even labor shortages–joblessness among non-European immigrants is shockingly high: Barely half work. Employers say that discrimination is not to blame but rather language barriers, scant job experience, and lack of motivation to work. Jobless benefits rival the wages of entry-level positions. Companies even cite immigrants' inability to understand the ironic Danish sense of humor.

The depth of alienation between ethnic Danes and the Muslim newcomers is, in one respect, surprising. Denmark has long been one of Europe's bastions of tolerance and openness. Part of the Danish mentality is an outsize will to do good in the world. The country ranks fifth in the share of income donated to overseas development aid. Especially in the past, newcomers to Denmark received generous benefits, including three years of free instruction in Danish–a perk that continues. It is an impressive record that might encourage some Danes to feel that nothing more is required of them–perhaps even create some blind spots. "We are so sure we are good," says Smith of the University of Copenhagen.

Close-knit. The closeness of the Danes, though, leads Muslims to conclude that the Danish club is a hard one to join. Othman has the education and language skills to fit in. Yet, she says, "it is very difficult to break into this culture." Other Muslims contend that too many Danes lack respect for them and their cultures. "They have a picture of the Muslim immigrant as a parasite," says Mahmoud Alsaadi, who runs a sweets shop in Norrebro and has worked as a carpenter. Alsaadi, 37, is a Palestinian from Lebanon who arrived here in 1990. "We appreciate a lot about Denmark, but we feel that they could also learn from us"–particularly about close-knit families, he says. "I don't want to impose my ways on them, and I don't want them to impose their ways on me."
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