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28551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: August 31, 2007, 06:55:36 PM
That UN piece is "shocking, absolutely shocking".

Changing subjects, here's this:

China: Central Asian Rumbles
August 31, 2007 18 05  GMT



Summary

China is making a bid for Central Asia's energy resources -- a move that will ultimately expand into a bid for geopolitical control of the entire region. Russia is waking up to the threat and starting to take countermeasures, setting the stage for a broad Sino-Russian conflict in Central Asia.

Analysis

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov on Aug. 31 inaugurated the construction of a new natural gas project that will ship Turkmen natural gas currently destined for Russia to China instead. The event marks the formal beginning of a conflict between Russia and China for control of the entire Central Asian region.

The Chinese Gambit

China's desire for strong connections with Central Asia is neither new nor secret. Ever since China opened up to the world in 1979, it has been apparent that the country needs access to ample markets and resources, and that in turn has made China utterly dependent on maritime trade. Until China commands a sizable blue-water navy capable of reliably projecting power at least as far as the Persian Gulf -- which is to say, until it has a navy that can, without backup from its own land-based aircraft, pose a threat to the U.S. Navy -- China will remain at the mercy of U.S. foreign policy for its industrial, energy and trade policy. Since China desperately wants to avoid a confrontation with Washington so it can focus on its internal problems, the only way for China to square the circle is to develop a wholly land-based energy supply system that is out of the reach of U.S. fleets. Simply put, China's strategic imperatives dictate dealing with Central Asia.





A series of deals signed with Central Asian leaders Aug. 19 is actually the finishing touch on a project that has long been in the works. Since the mid-1990s, China has been engaging in energy projects, getting its foot in the door across Central Asia, particularly in Kazakhstan. This started with small oil fields in northwest Kazakhstan and gradually built into networks of fields, along with a few larger projects. In time, Chinese state firms built a pipeline to connect their projects to other infrastructure just north of the Caspian Sea.

Over the last few years, China has started linking up pieces of old Soviet-era pipes, with the goal of ultimately Frankensteining together a line reaching all the way from the Caspian across Kazakhstan to Western China. Parts of it already are operational, shipping roughly 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) from central Kazakhstan to China. One of the Aug. 19 deals provides the money for the last stitch in Central-Western Kazakhstan. Once it is complete, China's very first line -- the one near the Caspian -- will be reversed and linked in, and the entire project should be pumping approximately 400,000 bpd of Kazakh crude to China by 2009. Later stages will aim to increase the pipe's capacity to 1 million bpd.

Pipeline projects, of course, have political aspects, since they solidify relationships between producers and consumers (and cut out everyone else), but Russia has not shown much concern over this Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline. Russia understands energy politics better than most, and it knows that, ultimately, natural gas is truly the tie that binds -- far more so than oil.

Oil is a liquid, and liquids can be shipped not only via pipeline but also via rail, truck, barge and tanker. Oil also is used in such a range of products that there are many substitutes for many of its uses. So, while an oil pipeline certainly creates a relationship, it does not necessarily create a two-way dependency between the producer and consumer.

Natural gas does create that dependency. Natural gas is, well, a gas and therefore is very difficult to ship by any means other than pipeline. (It can be liquefied and shipped via ocean-borne tanker, but oceans are hard to come by on the landlocked steppes of Central Asia.) Unlike oil, natural gas is used primarily for energy generation in specialized facilities, which means -- among other things -- that there are no easy substitutes. Once a state is hooked into a natural gas network, breaking away is very hard to do. Russia has used this not only to bind the states of the former Soviet Union to its will but also to consistently affect the politics of states in Europe dependent on Russian supplies.

The other Chinese-Central Asian energy deal signed Aug. 19 involves just such a natural gas project linking Turkmenistan to China. Like the oil pipeline farther north, the natural gas line will consist of pieces of stitched-together Soviet infrastructure in a route that will take it through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The proposed pipe would take 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen natural gas -- roughly half of Turkmenistan's export capacity -- and ship it to China.

For China, these are all business deals. China has the interest, the need, the market and the money, so it is building the pipelines. The Central Asians are suitably impressed by the idea of cold cash backing up new infrastructure, particularly after 17 years of Russia building little new infrastructure and allowing the old to rust on the steppes. But in running a pipe from Turkmenistan, China is in effect drawing a knife across the map of Central Asia, slicing off the southern four "stans" from their traditional overlord: Russia.

The Russian Interest

Russia has financial and geopolitical reasons for opposing China's move.

First is the money issue. China plans to take natural gas for its line that is currently supposed to be sent north to Russia. True, China's plans do involve developing greenfield projects in Turkmenistan -- on Aug. 30, China National Petroleum Corp. received Turkmenistan's first post-Soviet license to develop onshore natural gas projects in the country's Mary and Amu Darya regions -- but these deals will be insufficient. Not only will it be years before they begin producing appreciable amounts of natural gas, but 17 years of mismanagement also has made Turkmen output unstable. So, at least for the next five years, whatever natural gas is shipped to China must come from production that would normally be shipped to Russia. At European retail prices, that alone will cost Gazprom $9 billion annually in sales.

But this is about more than "just" money. Gazprom is responsible for supplying Europe with approximately one-quarter of the natural gas it uses, approximately 150 bcm per year. But Gazprom lacks the skills and capital to both fill its European export commitments and supply the Russian market. To bridge the gap, Russia maintains a stranglehold on Central Asian natural gas exports via Soviet-era infrastructure, buying up nearly every molecule of the stuff exported from Turkmenistan (45 bcm), Uzbekistan (10 bcm) and Kazakhstan (10 bcm).

If Russia did not have those Central Asian supplies, Moscow would either have to let Russians freeze or give up a goodly portion of its energy leverage over Europe. (Technically, most Turkmen natural gas is purchased by Ukraine, but since it must pass through Gazprom's pipeline network en route to Ukraine, for all intents and purposes, Turkmen natural gas is fully integrated into the Russian system, with all the political connotations that suggests.) With the Red Army only a fraction of its former size and the Russian nuclear deterrent weakening, the energy hammer is one of Russia's few easily usable, reliable policies. China's Central Asian gambit would brand Russia an unreliable supplier and remove that very useful hammer from the Kremlin's geopolitical toolbox.

It also is extremely unlikely that China's encroachment into Central Asia will halt with just a Turkmen natural gas deal. If the region's primary energy infrastructure flows east to China -- and through both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan -- then it is eminently likely that Uzbek exports, too, will soon flow east rather than north. With the supplier states realigned, the consumer states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would have little choice but to look to China to ensure their energy supply security. The web of relationships that holds Central Asia close to Russia would be respun with China at the center, drastically revamping the region's balance of power to China's benefit.

For years, China's slow energy-spearheaded movement into Central Asia went unchallenged by the Kremlin; after all, it was limited for the most part to a disaggregated collection. But with the sudden surge in Chinese natural gas plans, Russia can no longer afford to do nothing while its erstwhile "ally" casually takes over Russia's southern flank.

The question in Russia, of course, is what to do about it.

Culturally, Russia has a blind spot as far as China is concerned dating back to the time of Josef Stalin. Russians traditionally (which is not to say accurately) see China as the little brother who would -- of course -- never do anything without Russia's permission.

So, in the Russian mind, rhetorically China is a Russian ally that is theoretically committed to building a multipolar world to hedge in U.S. power. As Russia is discovering, however, the key words in that sentence are "rhetorically" and "theoretically"; China looks out for China's interests, and it is in China's interests to have a strong economic relationship with Washington and ever-closer economic and political ties with Central Asia.

Russia's realization that its world view needs an update has been long in coming, but sources indicate Russian President Vladimir Putin has -- angrily -- come around. Realization will lead to retaliation, since Russia cannot hope to resurge its influence if its southern flank is not secure.

The first stage of the Russian pushback will be to hold quiet talks with Central Asia's leaders and remind them of their "priorities." Putin himself, who is of the mind-set that the Central Asian leaders are cheating on him, plans to deliver this message at an as-yet-unscheduled meeting with the Kazakh, Turkmen and - likely -- Uzbek heads of government. Should that fail, the next step would be a reminder to these same leaders that Russia retains a very long arm. The Kremlin tends to get personal in delivering such reminders, and it is likely there will be some reports of people close to Central Asian leaders committing suicide with five bullets to the head from a sniper rifle from across the street.

The bottom line is that the geopolitical imperatives of Russia and China -- always uneasily tolerating each other -- are now grating against one another in what is truly a zero-sum game. Only one of them can have Central Asian natural gas, and whoever controls that gas ultimately controls the region.

stratfor.com
28552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: August 31, 2007, 06:36:36 PM
That is fascinating!
28553  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: August 30, 2007, 03:07:10 PM
Global Market Brief: Mexico Sees a Decline in Remittances
Numerous factors are contributing to a stagnation or slowdown in the growth rate of remittances Mexican migrant workers send back to Mexico from the United States. These remittances will not suddenly evaporate, but the Mexican government cannot count on the continuation of what has until now been a substantial source of income for the Mexican people. The government will therefore need to look inward and consider domestic reforms to begin preparing for the decline in funds from migrants in the United States. Because remittances provide a safety net for many of Mexico's poor communities, the poor states and communities in central and southern Mexico will be much more affected by any decline in remittances than will the wealthier states in the North.

Whether Mexico implements reforms that will begin to reduce the need for massive migrations to the United States depends largely on the will of the Mexican government. However, the current dip in remittances is on the government's radar and could give Mexican President Felipe Calderon ammunition as he takes his case for further economic reforms to the public. The expected decline in remittances could serve as an impetus to make fundamental changes to Mexico's economy that might set all parts of the country on an economic trajectory of job growth.

In 2006, a record-setting $26.1 billion in remittances -- up 20 percent from $18 billion in 2005 -- represented 2.7 percent of Mexico's gross domestic product and was the country's third-largest source of foreign exchange after oil revenues and industrial exports. However, a recent study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank found that during the first half of 2007, remittances remained relatively flat, at $11.5 billion, compared to $11.4 billion during the same period in 2006; this does not even exceed a 1 percent increase.




The study also found that in the first half of 2007, 64 percent of Mexicans residing in the United States regularly made remittances -- down from 71 percent in 2006. If these trends continue, Mexico could have a serious problem on its hands.

Why are the remittance payments stagnating and the number of remittance payers decreasing? In the short term, there are several reasons. There is the sluggish growth in the U.S. housing sector, which employs roughly 40 percent of all Mexican migrant workers. Then, there are the U.S. government's attempts to clamp down on businesses hiring illegal immigrants, the economic uncertainty surrounding the subprime meltdown and other factors contributing to a general sense of financial insecurity among the migrant population in the United States. This uncertainty is leading to an increased savings rate and fewer remittances sent back home.

One trend that is both independent of short-term fluctuations in economic growth and most telling of the situation to come is the changing demographic of Mexican migrants staying in the United States. Mexican migrants are staying in the United States longer, and as the number of families reuniting on U.S. soil increases, the need to send money back home decreases. As more migrants give birth to children in the United States, they devote more money to domestic needs, such as education for their children and investments in housing. Furthermore, it seems that fewer Mexican workers are entering the United States, likely daunted by the declining job prospects brought about by strengthened immigration laws and increasing border security. U.S. authorities apprehended 24 percent fewer migrants crossing the border in early 2007 than in the same period in 2006, despite increased monitoring -- a fact that suggests a decrease in border crossings.

For Mexico, all of these factors add up to the potential for a continuing decline in remittances. This does not spell economic disaster for Mexico, but it is a warning to the government that it needs to implement economic reforms to compensate for the expected remittance decline in order to avoid uprisings in regions that depend heavily on the payments.

The reduction in remittances will be felt more regionally than nationally and is particularly relevant for Mexico's central and southern states, which receive the majority of remittances. Economic growth in Mexico's North has averaged between 4 percent and 5 percent since 1995, compared to growth of between 1 percent and 2 percent in southern states. This trend is continuing and is largely due to the northern regions' industrial economies that are based on maquiladora exports to the United States. In contrast, the central-southern state of Michoacan, one of Mexico's least-developed, receives more than 10 percent of Mexico's remittances -- about $615 per person, with approximately one out of 10 households receiving payments.

Remittances keep many families in Mexico's less-developed regions afloat. If Calderon does not create jobs for these communities, slowing migration and fewer remittances will tighten family budgets while increasing the number of unemployed, mostly younger males who would otherwise have migrated to the United States. While tightened budgets and rising unemployment might not spur a large social uprising, they could lead to increases in crime and general discontent, not only in poorer states but also in larger cities that might experience population increases if migration to the United States slows.

Calderon recently proposed a sweeping investment and tax reform policy that, if passed, should make some progress toward boosting economic growth and job creation in Mexico. However, to set Mexico on a path toward long-term economic growth, Calderon must encourage economic growth in his country's poorer regions. Simply increasing tax revenues and investments in pre-existing firms, such as Mexican state oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, and then subsidizing poorer areas will not translate into long-term structural changes; it will just help to replace losses in remittances in the short term. Outstanding structural problems in the southern areas include onerous legal and business transaction structures (especially for land sales and purchases) and the lack of a developed financial services sector. For the southern regions to grow in the long term, these issues will need to be addressed.

This short-term dip in remittances and prospects of a likely long-term decline are gaining Mexico City's attention and will help spur reforms. However, the strength of Calderon's ambitions to build up the South -- and, therefore, Mexico overall -- remains to be seen.

28554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 30, 2007, 02:34:11 PM
PAKISTAN, SWEDEN: The Pakistani Foreign Ministry condemned a cartoon sketch of the Prophet Mohammed published by the Swedish daily Nerikes Allehanda in the past week, describing it as offensive and blasphemous. The deputy head of the Swedish mission to Tehran was summoned to the ministry and a strong protest was lodged with her, the ministry said. Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in Danish newspapers in early 2006 sparked deadly protests across the Muslim world.

stratfor.com
28555  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: August 30, 2007, 12:52:55 PM
Well, at at the more superficial end of the spectrum, keeping the hips aligned is very good for both knees and shoulders.  WRT shoulders, some basic rotator cuff maitainence (e.g. "The 7 Minute Rotator Cuff Solution: J. Robinson) is a very good idea.  As for weight, my problem is maitaining it.  At my fighting peak I was 197, now I am 185.
28556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: August 30, 2007, 12:16:55 PM
Colorado Springs School Bans Tag on Playground, Citing Conflicts

Thursday , August 30, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. —
An elementary school has banned tag on its playground after some children complained they were harassed or chased against their will.
"It causes a lot of conflict on the playground," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus school.

Running games are still allowed as long as students don't chase each other, she said.

Fesgen said two parents complained to her about the ban but most parents and children didn't object.

In 2005, two elementary schools in the nearby Falcon School District did away with tag and similar games in favor of alternatives with less physical contact. School officials said the move encouraged more students to play games and helped reduce playground squabbles.
28557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 30, 2007, 11:44:28 AM
Political Journal WSJ

Crime Without Punishment

The Federal Election Commission has just found that Americans Coming Together, a top union group active in the 2004 presidential election, spent $100 million illegally on federal election activity that year. The agency imposed a fine of just $775,000 -- and not one dime will go back to the union workers who financed ACT's illegal activities with their forced payment of dues.

This is a textbook example of what's wrong with federal election laws. The FEC takes years to catch up with those who break the law, then administers a slap on the wrist on the grounds that ACT disbanded after the 2004 election and won't be engaging in further election activity.

In reality, such groups may disband but their supporters and personnel have every intention of remaining active in politics under another brand name. That perfectly describes the ACT shell game.

Its largest donor was the Service Employees International Union, one of the most politically active labor unions. Its largest non-union donor was billionaire George Soros. And who was the group's president? None other than Harold Ickes, a long-time functionary of the Clinton machine who served as Bill Clinton's deputy White House chief of staff. Mr. Ickes is now a major player in the huge fundraising apparatus of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who unsurprisingly has run into her own campaign finance scandal this week. One of her top donors, Norman Hsu, was revealed to be a fugitive from justice and may have illegally laundered campaign contributions to the Clinton campaign through "straw" or fake donors.

It's clear the FEC can't be relied upon to report on the law-skirting by major political players before voters render their judgment at the polls in 2008. Nor are its sanctions much of a deterrent to those playing for big stakes on the presidential stage. Mrs. Clinton's latest scandal appears to be a near-replica of the 1996 Clinton fundraising scandals, in which 120 people either fled the country to avoid questioning, took the Fifth Amendment or otherwise failed to cooperate with investigators.

The FEC enforcement action against ACT came after a complaint three years ago by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Meanwhile, the news media resolutely ignored the story, insisting that looking into the modus operandi of the Clinton machine represented "old news." Here's hoping the press wakes up and realizes the time for vigilant reporting on the 2008 election excesses of all parties is before Americans vote, not years afterward.

28558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 30, 2007, 11:11:50 AM
By Kevin Mooney
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
August 30, 2007

(CNSNews.com) - A conflict of interest involving the radical Nation of Islam and the Washington, D.C., affiliate of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is an example of unethical journalism that benefits extremist Muslims, according to a national security expert and a Hollywood filmmaker.

Martyn Burke, director of documentary films at ABG Films, and Frank Gaffney, president of the conservative Center for Security Policy, produced a documentary for a PBS series - "America at a Crossroads" - that focused on Muslims in America, Europe, and Canada who speak out against Islamist extremists.

Their documentary, "Islam versus Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," was, after a protracted battle, rejected in April by WETA, the PBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.

The film is going to air on an Oregon PBS affiliate this month, and some other affiliates may run it as well. However, one of the more controversial aspects over the film is that PBS chose to have the documentary reviewed by the radical Nation of Islam prior to its decision to cancel the film.

The Nation of Islam (NOI) and its long-time leader Rev. Louis Farrakhan have a history of espousing racism and anti-Semitism. Farrakhan stepped down as NOI's leader in 2006 for health reasons.

PBS's decision to pass the film to NOI for review was a serious "breach of journalistic ethics," said Burke.

"Is there anyone who understands that no functioning journalist - or network, or publication can ever allow this kind of outrageous action?" Burke wrote in an e-mail to PBS officials.

"This utterly undermines any journalistic independence. ... It virtually hands the story to the subject and allows them to become an active party in shaping it. That is advertising, not journalism. Is that not obvious?" he added.

Burke noted that PBS hired Aminah McCloud as an adviser for the "Crossroads" series. McCloud, director of Islamic World Studies at DePaul University, is a "radical professor," according to Burke, and it was she who gave a "rough cut" of the documentary to the Nation of Islam.

Burke, in an interview with Cybercast News Service, further said that the PBS producers and advisers involved in the "America at a Crossroads" series were favorably disposed to the Islamist perspective and this was detrimental to the filmmaking. PBS officials claimed the "Muslim Center" film, a part of the series, was overly subjective and one-sided. They thus decided against airing it as part of the series. (See Related Story)

In addition, Jeff Bieber, WETA's executive producer, demanded that Gaffney and his CSP colleague Alex Alexiev - a national security expert who specializes in Islamic extremism - be fired from the filmmaking because they are conservatives, said Burke.

But "I'm not going to fire anyone from the right or the left unless their politics start skewing the truth as we understand it," Burke said. "So, when WETA asked me 'don't you check into the politics of the people you work with?' I said I can't believe I'm hearing this in America."

When PBS officials failed to blacklist conservatives associated with the project, they shifted strategy and began to attack the film directly, Gaffney told Cybercast News Service in an interview. Leo Eaton, the "Crossroads" producer for WETA, and other PBS officials pushed for editorial changes that would dilute the over-arching theme and central message of the film, said Gaffney.

The criticisms Eaton presented on behalf of PBS-WETA in a series of notes called for significant modifications to the content - changes that would portray Islamic extremists in a favorable manner, detached from reality, according to Burke and his CSP partners.

"What began as a struggle to prevent people like me from playing in the left's sandbox at PBS mutated into a concerted effort to ensure that a film that told the story of anti-Islamist Muslims never made it on the air," said Gaffney.

"I am personally committed to preventing PBS from doing business the way it has been doing it up until now. There's no doubt that part of what was going on at PBS with our film was a naked antipathy toward conservatives," he added.

A letter from Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, to Gaffney was dismissive of the concerns the filmmakers expressed over the hiring of McCloud and her subsequent activities.

With regard to McCloud's decision to exhibit a portion of the film to the Nation of Islam, Rockefeller wrote: "I am informed that while she regrets causing you and WETA any concern, she thought it was her duty as an advisor to check out the accuracy of information she believed to be incorrect, both for the benefit of WETA and the show producers."

The "Crossroads" series was conceived and financed through the liberal Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with $20 million in federal funds. The Burke and Gaffney film, "Islam versus Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," cost $675,000.

Allegations directed against public television officials that touch on questions of journalistic ethics have caught the attention of key congressional figures who are now seeking an investigation.

In a letter to Kenneth Konz, the inspector general for CPB, three Republican senators and two Republican representatives expressed concern over apparent conflicts of interest that may have affected PBS's decision to not run the "Muslim Center" in the series.

When the "Crossroads" project was initially launched, top officials within CPB, including former Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, expressed a strong desire to bring in a mix of views, including conservative voices, not traditionally heard on public television.

Tomlinson resigned in 2005 after an inspector general's report raised issues about some of his political activities.

Concerning this mix of views, it "was an initiative that came from CPB that did not necessarily have the concurrence of PBS," said Steve Bass, president and CEO of the Oregon Public Broadcasting System, which is now airing the "Muslim Center" film.

"The fact that you are broadening the pool of people involved in the film series and casting a wider net is almost by definition going to cause some problems," he said.

The creative and political differences that typically beset film projects were further exacerbated in the case "Islam vs. Islamists," Bass surmised, because public money was involved.

"We were attacked for having a point of view, which is astonishing since my understanding is that by definition documentaries have a point of view," said Burke.

"We set out to answer a simple question: Where are the moderate Muslims? What we found is they are speaking out, but they are speaking out in a vacuum and often at great peril and always with great difficultly," Burke added.

In his written correspondence with the filmmakers, Eaton described the film as a "one-sided narrative" that featured the conflict between so-called moderates and extremists in "very subjective and very claustrophobic terms."

For his part, Burke told Cybercast News Service that "wherever possible" anyone in the film advocated radical behavior was permitted to say so at length.

Although he found the film to be "quite compelling" and worthy of airtime, Bass said he felt some of the proposed changes the filmmakers were asked to make could have improved the overall product.

"If I found any fault with it, there were parts of the story that to me needed a little bit more information," he said.

"The film assumed a level of understanding on the part of the viewer that may not be there universally. That's why we decided to add the panel discussion. We think it poses the film in a greater base of understanding with more information," Bass added.

A panel discussion featuring Zuhdi Jasser, co-founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AISD), Rafia Zakaria, an associate executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, and Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of CAIR in Chicago has been produced to run alongside the film.

But individual stations are free to decide whether or not to include the panel, Bass explained.

Although Burke and Gaffney think the film's treatment at WETA warrants further investigation, they agree "Islam vs. the Islamists" has the potential to reach an even larger audience than it otherwise would have if aired as was originally intended on the "Crossroads Series."

Cybercast News Service attempted to contact Eaton and Bieber via e-mail, but did not receive a response. 

http://www.cnsnews.com:80/ViewCultur...20070830a.html
28559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: August 30, 2007, 08:13:24 AM

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/018175.php


Tomorrow Bensman will be the keynote speaker presenting his findings at a conference of some 120 Assistant United States Attorneys whose jurisdiction covers the Texas/Mexico border. Bensman has kindly summarized his findings for us:
-- More than 5,700 illegal migrants from 43 Islamic countries, including State Sponsors of Terror, have been caught while traveling over the Canadian and Mexican borders along well-established underground smuggling routes since 9-11, a traffic that continues daily. People caught coming from these countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa are labeled by our federal law enforcement agencies as "Special Interest Aliens."
-- I have estimated that between 20,000 and 60,000 have gotten through without getting caught since 9/11. Most are probably economic or politically persecuted migrants but all of those who evaded border patrol also did not undergo terror watch list screening and are walking around the country anonymous. This evasion constitutes the primary national security vulnerability of our unguarded borders.
-- These migrants, though relatively small in total numbers, are high risk because they hail from countries where American troops are actively battling Islamic insurgents such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and the Philippines. They come from nations where radical Islamic organizations have bombed U.S. interests or murdered
Americans, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Lebanon. And they come from State Sponsors of Terrorism such as Syria, Iran and Sudan. And lastly, they come from Saudi Arabia.
-- Unguarded U.S. borders are most certainly in terrorist playbooks as a means of entering the country. Since the late 1990s, at least a dozen confirmed terrorists have sneaked over U.S. borders, including operatives from Hezbollah, Hamas, the Tamil Tigers and one Al Qaida terrorist once No. 27 on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list.
-- The general flow of routes across the world almost always head toward South America and Central America first because it puts them within easy striking distance of the Mexican border. Corrupt customs and government officials, as well as Arab settler populations in those countries help keep this this traffic moving northward, providing safe haven, jobs and smuggling connections.
-- Latin American consulates based in the Middle East are selling tourist visas outright for bribes or simply issuing them to local travelers in places like Damascus, Beirut and Amman Jordan without regard to U.S. security interests.
-- Large numbers eventually pass through Guatemala, which issues visas regularly from its foreign consulate offices in places like Jordan and Egypt, making illegal border crossings through Texas possible.
-- Since 9/11, Mexico has fielded a surprisingly robust effort to interdict Special Interest Migrants. Mexican intelligence officers interrogate and often deport special interest aliens in partnership with American FBI and CIA agents. Often, the Mexicans allow American agents inside their detention facilities. But severe shortages of manpower and interpreters result in the release of many onto the streets of Mexico -- without thorough threat assessements -- to continue on toward the U.S. border.
-- On the U.S. side of the border, the FBI is supposed to interrogate and conduct a threat assessment and interrogations on every captured special interest alien. But the process is severely flawed and open to error. Often, the FBI signs off on captured SIAs (allowing them access to the political asylum process) without conclusively knowing whether they are or are not terrorists.
-- Furthermore, border patrol agents are simply using a process called "expedited removal" to kick SIAs back into Mexico, where they will certainly try to cross again, with no investigation or FBI referral whatsoever.
28560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 30, 2007, 07:37:03 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Attempt to Redefine Regional Relationships

Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov said Aug. 27 that Russia might consider basing nuclear weapons in Belarus if the United States deployed its missile defense system in Poland. A day later, Surikov backed away from the statement and Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said Surikov's comment was purely "theoretical." He went on to say that, from a legal standpoint, there is nothing to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons in any country that agrees to have them.

Russia is engaged in a systematic campaign to both reassert its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and take advantage of U.S. preoccupation in the Middle East in order to redefine regional relationships. The Russians have objected to the U.S. anti-missile shield and are demonstrating that they have options in response to the missiles. These statements were designed to rattle Washington's nerves without actually committing Russia to any course.

As a practical matter, the Russians don't really care about the anti-missile system the United States is building; Moscow retains more than enough nuclear-armed missiles to saturate the missile shield. Nor is the transfer of nuclear weapons to Belarus a particularly frightening idea to Washington; whether these missiles are in Russia proper or in Belarus really makes very little difference. This conversation is not about missile defense or nuclear missiles.

It is, rather, about the status of Poland and the Baltic countries -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- which are all part of NATO. The Russians see the extension of NATO to within 80 miles of St. Petersburg as a direct threat to their national interest and security. They see the placement of an anti-missile system in Poland as important because it is a military commitment by Washington to Poland that goes beyond mere formal membership in NATO. If there is a missile defense system there, it must be defended. The more confident Poland is about Washington's commitment to its security against the Russians, the more confident the Baltic countries will be. Russia does not see a confident Poland as in its national interest.

The threat to place missiles in Belarus is of little consequence. However, if missiles are placed there, then other military force can be based there as well. Where missiles go, so do troops. It is the same principle as is at work in Poland. The return of Russian troops to Belarus and the integration of the Belarusian military with that of Russia in some alliance framework is of very great importance. Belarus is a buffer between Russian forces and NATO. If Belarus were prepared to accept Russian troops, then the balance of power in northern Europe would shift a bit. Poland doesn't have to worry about the Russian army right now, and Poland is fairly assertive about its interests. With Russian troops on the Belarusian-Polish border and all along the Baltic frontiers, the real and psychological dynamics would start to shift.

There is little doubt that Belarus would accept the troops. In spite of recent friction over trade and other issues, Belarus is the least reformed country in the former Soviet Union, and it is probably most in favor of recreating some sort of alliance system -- or even something closer. If Russia wanted to position troops there, Belarus would allow it.

In our view, Russia intends to do precisely that. Given President Vladimir Putin's unfolding strategy, the forward deployment of the Russian army in western Belarus makes a great deal of sense. But the Russians want to be very careful about how those forces are deployed. By warning the United States and Poland that there will be consequences for constructing a missile defense system, the Russians can portray their re-entry into Belarus as a response to Polish recklessness.

The Russians are not planning to invade anyone. But they want to make the region very nervous and aware that Russian power is near, while American power is far away and busy with other things. By configuring this move as a response to missile defense systems, they want to create movements in Poland and in the Baltic states that will constrain some of the more self-confident and assertive leaders in the region. In other words, they want to scare the dickens out of the Poles and the Balts, hoping they will become much less confident in the United States and less likely to give Washington a meaningful foothold -- and undermine the national leaders who got these countries into such a mess.

The strategy makes sense, and it might even work. In any event, all this talk about nuclear weapons and missile defenses has much more conventional geopolitical meanings.
28561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 30, 2007, 07:09:18 AM
Sadr's surprising move of yesterday is explained in this NY Times piece:
==============


BAGHDAD, Aug. 29 — The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said Wednesday that he was suspending for six months his Mahdi Army militia’s operations, including attacks on American troops, only hours after his fighters waged running street battles with Iraqi government forces for control of Karbala, one of Iraq’s holiest cities.

The surprise declaration was widely taken as a tacit acknowledgment of the damage done to his movement’s reputation by two days of Shiite-on-Shiite in-fighting, which killed 52 people, wounded 279 and forced thousands of pilgrims to flee birthday celebrations for the Mahdi, one of Shiite Islam’s most revered medieval saints.

Mr. Sadr’s aides declared an unequivocal end to all militia operations. Ahmed al-Shaibani, the chief of Mr. Sadr’s media office in Najaf, confirmed that this “includes suspending the taking up of arms against occupiers,” a reference to American-led coalition troops.

But Mr. Shaibani, who was one of the major commanders in the Mahdi Army’s August 2004 battle with American troops in Najaf, another Shiite holy city, left open the possibility that militiamen would react if provoked, saying only, “We will deal with it when it happens.”

It is also unclear whether the widely feared group will continue to exert its powerful hold over the black market distribution of everyday necessities in Iraq, including gas, diesel, cooking fuel and other utilities.

Mr. Sadr’s officials claimed that the freeze was intended to isolate and eliminate “rogue” elements of the Mahdi Army that no longer responded to Mr. Sadr’s orders.

American and British commanders have frequently made accusations in recent months that some Mahdi Army fighters have slipped out of Mr. Sadr’s control, operating as criminal gangs or receiving financing and training from Iran to carry out attacks on American and Iraqi security forces. One possible impact of the freeze would be to enlist the help of American forces to weed out rogue elements for Mr. Sadr’s group. In effect, Mr. Sadr was saying, anyone who attacks Americans is by definition violating the freeze and laying himself open to retaliatory attacks.

A statement signed by Mr. Sadr said the six-month suspension of the militia’s activities was intended to “rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image.”

“This decision will have great advantage,” Mr. Shaibani said. “It will distinguish and isolate those who claim to be working for JAM and who are actually not part of it.” He was using the acronym for the Mahdi Army’s Arabic name, Jaish al-Mahdi.

“JAM is a huge and active body in Iraq, but there are some intruders who want to create rifts. We don’t have masked men working with us.”

Many Iraqis said the announcement had more to do with the national backlash created by the television images of thousands of pilgrims who were celebrating the birth of the Mahdi, a revered ninth-century imam, on Tuesday being forced to flee machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenade exchanges between Mahdi Army fighters and the security forces of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government.

The government forces are dominated by the Sadrists’ main political rivals, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and its armed Badr movement. Many fear the Karbala clashes were simply the most public sign of Shiite rivalries between the powerful Sadr and Badr movements, who are vying for power in Shiite southern Iraq.

Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said he welcomed the suspension order but, like many, said it remained to be seen if it would be carried out on the ground. “If it happens it will reduce the violence in the country by a great deal,” he told CNN.

Politicians and analysts said that Mr. Sadr’s action on Wednesday showed that he realized he had overplayed his hand by taking on the security forces and exposing internal Shiite rivalries and that he was now reining in the more extreme elements in his movement.

“This announcement has been triggered by what happened in Karbala,” said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish lawmaker. “Everybody is blaming JAM. Karbala was the signal that enough is enough and that they have to purge the people who are not really true JAM.”

But while he said that the discomfiture of Mr. Sadr, one of Mr. Maliki’s harshest critics, could strengthen the prime minister, there was little sign that Mr. Sadr was making overtures to rejoin the government. Sadrist ministers resigned from the cabinet earlier this year because Mr. Maliki refused to set a deadline for the withdrawal of American troops.

“We have to wait and see how they proceed and what they actually do,” Mr. Othman cautioned.

Mariam Reyes, an adviser to Mr. Maliki, said it was a “step in the right direction” and would stabilize the security situation. “It will unveil the components that have penetrated JAM and carry out military activities against the police and army,” she said. Visiting Karbala on Wednesday, Mr. Maliki contended that a curfew had restored order to the streets and blamed “outlawed armed criminal gangs from the remnants of the buried Saddam regime” for the violence of the previous two days. He also removed from command the army general in charge of the Karbala command center.

Mr. Shaibani accused the security forces of causing the trouble by opening fire on pilgrims and Sadrists.

But many in Karbala blame the Mahdi Army for the street battles. Abu Ahmad, a 58-year-old Karbala businessman, said: “We have a proverb which says, if there are a lot of captains on board a ship, it will sink. This is what happened in Iraq. The illegal possession of weapons by the Mahdi Army and Badr, in addition to ignorance, led to the destruction of the city.

“The Mahdi’s birthday is a cheerful event, but it turned into a tragedy,” he continued. He said that Sadr supporters on the City Council had encouraged the conflict and that a weak provincial governor had been unable to deal with the problem.

One Iraqi Army captain in the town, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said: “The crisis started with a fight between Mahdi people carrying weapons and the guards of the shrine. All of a sudden we saw JAM snipers on rooftops of the nearby hotels, and weapons in the hands of pilgrims. It seemed as if they deliberately started the fight to attack the security forces.”

Ali Adeeb contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Karbala, Najaf and Hilla.
28562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Much to the NY Times' disappointment on: August 30, 2007, 07:06:01 AM
Marines’ Trials in Iraq Killings Are Withering
By PAUL von ZIELBAUER
Published: August 30, 2007

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Aug. 29 — Last December, when the Marine Corps charged four infantrymen with killing Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, the allegation was as dark as it was devastating: after a roadside bomb had killed their buddy, a group of marines rampaged through nearby homes, massacring 24 innocent people.

Status of the Cases In Iraq and in the United States, the killings were viewed as cold-blooded vengeance. After a perfunctory military investigation, Haditha was brushed aside, but once the details were disclosed, the killings became an ugly symbol of a difficult, demoralizing war. After a fuller investigation, the Marines promised to punish the guilty.

But now, the prosecutions have faltered. Since May, charges against two infantrymen and a Marine officer have been dismissed, and dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman. Prosecutors were not able to prove even that the killings violated the American military code of justice.

Now their final attempt to get a murder conviction is set to begin, with a military court hearing on Thursday for Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the last marine still facing that charge. He is accused of killing 18 Iraqis, including several women and children, after the attack on his convoy.

If the legal problems that have thwarted the prosecutors in other cases are repeated this time, there is a possibility that no marine will be convicted for what happened in Haditha.

Nor is it yet clear whether officers higher up the chain of command than Sergeant Wuterich will be held responsible for the inadequate initial investigation.

At least one of the four Marine officers charged last December for failing to investigate the civilian deaths appears to be headed to court-martial. That officer, Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of Third Battalion, First Marines, “did not take personal action to fully investigate the actions leading to civilian deaths,” concluded Col. Christopher C. Conlin, the officer who examined the evidence.

But the case against Capt. Randy W. Stone, the battalion lawyer charged with failing to find out why so many civilians had been killed, was thrown out by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, whose decisions in the Haditha prosecutions are final. Charges against First Lt. Andrew A. Grayson, an intelligence officer, are in limbo because of his argument that the Marine Corps has discharged him.

In a wide range of cases involving abuses by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, prosecutions have tended to focus on enlisted men and noncommissioned officers — those accused of having personally committed the acts — not on officers who commanded the units. And while there have been numerous convictions, there have also been many cases in which plea arrangements allowed for lesser punishments, or in which charges were dropped or found not to be warranted.

The sole officer to face criminal charges in the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, was convicted Tuesday on only one minor charge and will be reprimanded, Reuters reported, quoting an Army announcement. The officer, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, faced five years in prison and dismissal from the Army, but a court-martial decided on the milder penalty, the Army said.

The court-martial acquitted him of the charge of being responsible for cruel treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Experts on military law said the difficulty in prosecuting the marines for murder is understandable, given that action taken in combat is often given immunity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“One could view this as a case crumbling around the prosecutor’s feet, or one could see this as the unique U.C.M.J. system of justice in operation,” said Gary D. Solis, a former Marine judge who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University Law Center and at West Point.

Prosecuting the Haditha case was especially difficult because the killings were not thoroughly investigated when they first occurred. Months later, when the details came to light, there were no bodies to examine, no Iraqi witnesses to testify, no damning forensic evidence.

On the other hand, some scholars said the spate of dismissals has left them wondering what to think of the young enlisted marines who, illegally or not, clearly killed unarmed people in a combat zone.

“It certainly erodes that sense that what they did was wrong,” Elizabeth L. Hillman, a legal historian who teaches military law at Rutgers University School of Law at Camden, said of the outcomes so far. “When the story broke, it seemed like we understood what happened; there didn’t seem to be much doubt. But we didn’t know.”
=======
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Walter B. Huffman, a former Army judge advocate general, said it was not uncommon in military criminal proceedings to see charges against troops involved in a single episode to fall away under closer examination of evidence, winnowing culpability to just one or two defendants.

Status of the Cases When Sergeant Wuterich, the soft-spoken squad leader who faces the most extensive murder charges in the Haditha matter, walks into court here on Thursday, “all the prosecutorial attention is now going to center on him,” Mr. Solis said.

Sergeant Wuterich’s lawyers have an uphill legal fight. First, unlike the other marines who faced murder charges, Sergeant Wuterich is charged with the close-range killing of five unarmed men who were ordered out of a vehicle that rolled up near the scene.

Also, as a noncommissioned officer and the ranking member of the squad, Sergeant Wuterich may be used by prosecutors to argue that he had a greater responsibility to discern proper targets and avoid civilian casualties. He also led the attack against or was present in every house where civilians were killed.

But the earlier cases show that the defense has some opportunities, too.

The presiding officer, Lt. Col. Paul J. Ware, is the same Marine lawyer who conducted hearings for Justin L. Sharratt and Stephen B. Tatum, two other lance corporals accused of killing a total of five Iraqis in three homes in Haditha.

Colonel Ware later recommended dismissing the charges against those two men, and he has said the killings should be viewed in the context of combat against an enemy that ruthlessly employs civilians as cover. He warned that murder charges against marines could harm the morale of troops still in Iraq.

General Mattis’s statements expressing sympathy for the plight of other enlisted marines whom he cleared of wrongdoing in Haditha may indicate his willingness to see Sergeant Wuterich’s case in a similar light.

Regardless of what happened to charges against the other defendants, there is still great public pressure on the Marine Corps to investigate and punish any wrongdoing in a case in which so many civilians died.

“We can’t say those guys didn’t commit a crime,” said Michael F. Noone Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer and law professor at Catholic University of America. “We can only say that after an investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.”
28563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes: No problem here, keep moving along on: August 30, 2007, 06:55:16 AM
linton Donor Under a Cloud in Fraud Case
by MIKE McINTIRE and LESLIE EATON
Published: August 30, 2007

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said yesterday that it would give to charity $23,000 it had received from a prominent Democratic donor, and review thousands of dollars more that he had raised, after learning that the authorities in California had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1991 fraud case.

The donor, Norman Hsu, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates since 2003, and was slated to be co-host next month for a Clinton gala featuring the entertainer Quincy Jones.

The event would not have been unusual for Mr. Hsu, a businessman from Hong Kong who moves in circles of power and influence, serving on the board of a university in New York and helping to bankroll Democratic campaigns.

But what was not widely known was that Mr. Hsu, who is in the apparel business in New York, has been considered a fugitive since he failed to show up in a San Mateo County courtroom about 15 years ago to be sentenced for his role in a scheme to defraud investors, according to the California attorney general’s office.

Mr. Hsu had pleaded no contest to one count of grand theft and was facing up to three years in prison.

The travails of Mr. Hsu have proved an embarrassment for the Clinton campaign, which has strived to project an image of rectitude in its fund-raising and to dispel any lingering shadows of past episodes of tainted contributions.

Already, Mrs. Clinton’s opponents were busy trying to rekindle remembrances of the 1996 Democratic fund-raising scandals, in which Asian moneymen were accused of funneling suspect donations into Democratic coffers as President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were running for re-election.

Some Clinton donors said yesterday that they did not expect the Hsu matter to hurt Mrs. Clinton unless a pattern of problematic fund-raising or compromised donors emerged, which would raise questions about the campaign’s vetting of donors. Mr. Hsu’s legal problems were first reported yesterday by The Los Angeles Times; The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday about his bundling of questionable contributions.

“Everyone is trying to make the implications that it’s Chinese money, that it’s the Al Gore thing all over again, but I haven’t seen any proof of that,” said John A. Catsimatidis, a leading donor and fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton in New York.

Some donations connected to Mr. Hsu raise questions about his bundling activities, although there is no evidence he did anything improper. The Wall Street Journal reported that contributors he solicited included members of an extended family in Daly City, Calif., who had given $213,000 to candidates since 2004, even though some of them did not appear to have much money.

A lawyer for Mr. Hsu, E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., has said that Mr. Hsu was not the source of any of the money he raised from other people, which would be a violation of federal election laws.

On his own, Mr. Hsu wrote checks totaling $255,970 to a variety of Democratic candidates and committees since 2004. Even though he was a bundler for Mrs. Clinton, his largess was spread across the Democratic Party and included $5,000 to the political action committee of Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois.

Last month, Mr. Hsu was among the honored guests at a fund-raiser for Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island, given by Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group at the New York Yacht Club.

Al Franken, a Democratic Senate candidate in Minnesota, said he would divest his campaign of Mr. Hsu’s donations, as did Representatives Michael M. Honda and Doris O. Matsui of California and Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, all Democrats.

Mr. Hsu’s success on the political circuit was not always matched by success in business.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Mr. Hsu came to the United States when he was 18 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, as a computer science major. He later received an M.B.A. at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, according to a brief biography that appeared in apparel industry trade publications in 1986.

With a group of partners from Hong Kong, Mr. Hsu started a sportswear company in 1982 called Laveno that went bankrupt two years later, not long after he left the company. From that, he cycled through several other enterprises, mostly men’s sportswear, under the Wear This, Base and Foreign Exchange labels.

Mr. Hsu’s career hit a low in 1989, when he began raising $1 million from investors as part of a plan to buy and resell latex gloves.

Ronald Smetana, a lawyer with the California attorney general’s office, said Mr. Hsu was charged with stealing the investors’ money after it turned out he never bought any gloves and had no contract to resell them.

When Mr. Hsu was to attend a sentencing hearing, he faxed a letter to his lawyer saying he had to leave town for an emergency and asking that the court date be rescheduled, Mr. Smetana said.

He failed to show up for the rescheduled appearance, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. That was the last that prosecutors saw of Mr. Hsu.

“We assumed he would go back to Hong Kong, where he could recede into anonymity,” Mr. Smetana said.

The California attorney general’s office declined to comment on how it intends to pursue Mr. Hsu.

Mr. Hsu issued a statement yesterday, saying he was “surprised to learn that there appears to be an outstanding warrant” and insisting that he had “not sought to evade any of my obligations and certainly not the law.”

“I would not consciously subject any of the candidates and causes in which I believe to any harm through my actions,” he said.

At some point, Mr. Hsu resurfaced in New York, where he was connected to several clothing-related businesses, according to campaign finance records, which list his occupation variously as an apparel consultant, clothing designer, retailer or company president. He also began to donate to the Democratic Party, and arranged for friends to do the same.

He has been referred to in news accounts of campaign fund-raising events as an “apparel magnate” and his quick rise in the New York political and social scene — as well as his open checkbook — catapulted him into the big leagues.

He became a trustee at the New School and was elected to the Board of Governors of Eugene Lang College there. He endowed a scholarship in his name at the college and was co-chairman of a benefit awards dinner in 2006 that featured Mrs. Clinton, who had secured a $950,000 earmark for a mentoring program at the college for disadvantaged city youths.

Asked yesterday about Mr. Hsu, Brian Krapf, a spokesman for the New School, said in a statement that “it is inappropriate to talk about a matter involving one of our trustees, particularly while we are still gathering all the facts.”

Patrick Healy contributed reporting.
28564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: August 29, 2007, 10:54:33 PM
Intelligence Guidance: Aug. 29, 2007
August 29, 2007 19 00  GMT



1. The United States is preparing itself for the no-holds-barred fight over the future of both the Iraq war and the Bush administration that Gen. David Petraeus' upcoming report will trigger. We need to scrupulously follow something that we rarely do because it rarely matters: Congress -- specifically, networking among key national security legislators on both sides of the aisle. The Republican senators, of course, are the ones to watch most closely (doubly so if they are up for re-election), but also watch Hillary Clinton. As the Democratic front-runner, she has a vested interest in finding a solution before the November 2008 election. If enough shifts occur to allow for the override of vetoes, Congress could legislate away the president's options. This happened to Gerald Ford in 1975 and to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938.

2. The Iranians have noticed that the United States is paralyzed, and they understand that it will remain so until the country internally figures out first who will be making policy and then what that policy will be. Iran will be making a grab for Iraq in some form -- that is clear. What is not clear is when, how or what competition it will face. Watch the regional players who have an interest in all things Iraqi or Iranian; there are ample opportunities and dangers for each of them. Everyone will be waiting for the United States to tip its very confused hand, but it would be truly surprising if at least one party did not jump the gun.

3. Ukraine's parliamentary elections will be held Sept. 30. Those elections are Russia's best chance to reassert control over its wayward former province and resurge its power along its Western periphery. However, polls indicate the race is on the edge of a knife. If Russia fails to arrange for an allied Ukraine, its broader effort to re-establish itself as a major player will fail before it begins. Therefore, Russia cannot risk the election following Ukraine's internal logic. It must intervene. How? When? Via whom?

4. Turkey has selected its new president, Abdullah Gul of the ruling "Islamic lite" Justice and Development (AK) Party. Turkey's secular tradition (and the military, the guardian of that tradition) demands that Gul also be secular, and while Gul says he will comply, there is no shortage of doubts -- within both the military and the AK Party -- that Gul will be looking out for his party's interests. What are the military's redlines for the new president? Considering a rising Russia and Iran, where will Gul's first major challenge come from?

5. We are still more than six months away from the official crowning of Russia's next president, but it now seems that First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is the shoo-in. With that decided, Russian politics can now get on with the next order of business: figuring out who gets which jobs. In any country, the competition would be complicated and fierce; in Russia, it will be more complicated, fiercer and bloody. Who is on the rise? Who is falling? Of the people on those lists, who truly matters? And most of all, is Ivanov the real deal or merely a figurehead?

6. China has laid out a clear, crisp energy policy that, if completed, would largely redirect all of Central Asia's resources to Beijing and completely excise Russian economic influence from the region. Russia's response, so far, has been silence. Either Russia's Asian blind spot has reasserted itself with a vengeance, or China and Russia have struck a broader agreement that moves well beyond the isolation of Central Asia.

stratfor.com
28565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: August 29, 2007, 10:46:00 PM
Iraq: Al-Sadr's Six-Month Freeze
August 29, 2007 14 33  GMT



Radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered a six-month freeze on activities by his Mehdi Army militia to "rehabilitate" the organization, according to al-Sadr aide Sheikh Hazim al-Araji, who spoke on Iraqi state television Aug. 29. Al-Araji said that the suspension of Mehdi Army activities means the militia will not launch attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, and that the suspension will last for a maximum of six months.

Upon al-Sadr's return to Iraq in May after spending months in hiding in Iran, Stratfor discussed how the radical Shiite leader had put plans in motion to purge his militia of renegades. Al-Sadr had lost a great degree control over his commanders, who were largely operating on their own, threatening the Iranian government's ability to demonstrate it had enough sway to rein in Iraq's Shiite militias.

Al-Sadr is a highly unpredictable figure in Iraq's Shiite community, and is as much of a problem for the Iranians as he is for the Americans. His movement directly threatens Iran's closest Iraqi ally: the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim. A spate of assassination attempts has targeted SIIC governors in southern Iraq, apparently as part of a larger struggle between al-Sadr's Mehdi Army and al-Hakim's Badr Brigades for control of the Shiite-dominated, and oil-rich, southern region of Iraq.

A Shiite pilgrimage in the southern shrine city of Karbala on Aug. 28 turned into a bloodbath between the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigades, killing 52 people and prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to order a curfew in the city. The riots reportedly erupted near the sacred shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, with al-Sadr's followers clashing with shrine guards and local policeman affiliated with al-Hakim's movement.

With or without a political agreement with the United States, the only way Iran can consolidate its gains in Iraq is through its dependence on the extremely fractious Iraqi Shiite community. With talk of a U.S. withdrawal gaining steam, Iran might have given al-Sadr an ultimatum to get his militia under control, or else face liquidation. Al-Sadr's movement already is facing attacks from U.S. and coalition troops in the south, and by announcing a cease-fire against U.S. and coalition troops, he could be trying to get himself out of a tight corner.

Sectarian tensions are running extremely high in Iraq, and Iran needs to make its own preparations for what looks to be an inevitable U.S. withdrawal -- beginning with getting the Mehdi Army's act together.
stratfor.com
28566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 29, 2007, 10:39:49 PM
While I certainly did not care for Gonzales and I think Ann Coulter often is wide of the mark and sometimes infantile,  this piece does make some fair points:

Reno 911
by Ann Coulter

Posted: 08/29/2007 Print This
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This week, congressional Democrats vowed to investigate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' firing of himself. Gonzales has said he was not involved in the discussions about his firing and that it was "performance-based," but he couldn't recall the specifics.

Right-wingers like me never trusted Gonzales. But watching Hillary Rodham Clinton literally applaud the announcement of Gonzales' resignation on Monday was more than any human being should have to bear. Liberals' hysteria about Gonzales was surpassed only by their hysteria about his predecessor, John Ashcroft. (Also their hysteria about Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Libby, Rice, Barney and so on. They're very excitable, these Democrats.)

Liberals want to return the office to the glory years of Attorney General Janet Reno!



There is reason to believe Reno is precisely the sort of attorney general that Hillary would nominate, since Reno was widely assumed to be Hillary's pick at the time. As ABC News' Chris Bury reported the day Reno was confirmed: "The search for an attorney general exemplifies Hillary Clinton's circle of influence and its clout. ... The attorney general-designate, Janet Reno, came to the president's attention through Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham."

Let's compare attorneys general:

 -- Civilians killed by Ashcroft: 0

 -- Civilians killed by Gonzales: 0

 -- Civilians killed by Reno: 80

Reno's military attack on a religious sect in Waco, Texas, led to the greatest number of civilians ever killed by the government in the history of the United States. More Americans were killed at Waco than were killed at any of the various markers on the left's via dolorosa -- more than Kent State (4 killed), more than the Haymarket Square rebellion (4 killed), more than Three Mile Island (0 killed).

-- Innocent people put in prison by Ashcroft: 0

-- Innocent people put in prison by Gonzales: 0

-- Innocent people put in prison by Reno: at least 1 that I know of

As Dade County (Fla.) state attorney, Janet Reno made a name for herself as one of the leading witch-hunters in the notorious "child molestation" cases from the '80s, when convictions of innocent Americans were won on the basis of heavily coached testimony from small children.

Charged by Reno's office in 1984 with child molestation, Grant Snowden was convicted on the manufactured testimony of one such child, who was 4 years old when the abuse allegedly occurred.

Snowden, the most decorated police officer in the history of the South Miami Police Department, was sentenced to five life terms -- and was imprisoned with people he had put there. Snowden served 11 years before his conviction was finally overturned by a federal court in an opinion that ridiculed the evidence against him and called his trial "fundamentally unfair."

In a massive criminal justice system, mistakes will be made from time to time. But Janet Reno put people like Snowden in prison not only for crimes that they didn't commit -- but also for crimes that never happened. Such was the soccer-mom-induced hysteria of the '80s, when innocent people were prosecuted for fantastical crimes concocted in therapists' offices.

-- Number of obvious civil rights violations ignored by Ashcroft: 0

-- Number of obvious civil rights violations ignored by Gonzales: 0

-- Number of obvious civil rights violations ignored by Reno: at least 1

On Aug. 19, 1991, rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed to death in Crown Heights by a black racist mob shouting "Kill the Jew!" as retaliation for another Hasidic man killing a black child in a car accident hours earlier.

In a far clearer case of jury nullification than the first Rodney King verdict, a jury composed of nine blacks and three Puerto Ricans acquitted Lemrick Nelson Jr. of the murder -- despite the fact that the police found the bloody murder weapon in his pocket and Rosenbaum's blood on his clothes, and that Rosenbaum, as he lay dying, had identified Nelson as his assailant.

The Hasidic community immediately appealed to the attorney general for a federal civil rights prosecution of Nelson. Reno responded with utter mystification at the idea that anyone's civil rights had been violated.

Civil rights? Where do you get that?

Because they were chanting "Kill the Jew," Rosenbaum is a Jew, and they killed him.

Huh. That's a weird interpretation of "civil rights." It sounds a little harebrained to me, but I guess I could have someone look into it.

It took two years from Nelson's acquittal to get Reno to bring a civil rights case against him.

-- Number of innocent civilians accused of committing heinous crimes by Ashcroft: 0

-- Number of innocent civilians accused of committing heinous crimes by Gonzales: 0

-- Number of innocent civilians accused of committing heinous crimes by Reno: at least 1

Janet Reno presided over the leak of Richard Jewell's name to the media, implicating him in the Atlanta Olympic park bombing in 1996, for which she later apologized.

I believe Reno also falsely accused the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez of violating the law, which I am not including in her record of false accusations, but reminds me of another comparison.

Number of 6-year-old boys deported to totalitarian dictatorships by Ashcroft: 0

Number of 6-year-old boys deported to totalitarian dictatorships by Gonzales: 0

Number of 6-year-old boys deported to totalitarian dictatorships by Reno: 1

Not until Bush became president was the media interested in discussing the shortcomings of the attorney general. Whatever flaws Alberto Gonzales has (John Ashcroft has none), we don't have to go back to the Harding administration to find a worse attorney general.

From the phony child abuse cases of the '80s to the military assault on Americans at Waco, Janet Reno presided over the most egregious attacks on Americans' basic liberties since the Salem witch trials. These outrageous deprivations of life and liberty were not the work of fanatical right-wing prosecutors, but liberals like Janet Reno.

Reno is the sort of wild-eyed zealot trampling on real civil rights that Hillary views as an ideal attorney general, unlike that brute Alberto Gonzales. At least Reno didn't fire any U.S. attorneys!

Oh wait --

Number of U.S. attorneys fired by Ashcroft: 0

Number of U.S. attorneys fired by Gonzales: 8

Number of U.S. attorneys fired by Reno: 93
28567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 29, 2007, 09:52:53 PM
Was/is the Lippo Group related to the Riadys of Indonesia, the same Riady's who gave $700,000 to Webster Hubbell for a consulting contract for which he did nothing after he got out of jail for taking the rap for the billing fraud at Hillery's law firm in Arkansas-- the same fraud for which the billing records were found in her office in the White House a couple of years after they were subpoenaed?
28568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Katrina Boondoggle on: August 29, 2007, 05:03:35 PM
Part 2

Advocates pressing for federal action on climate change took this argument one step further and said the country's reliance on oil also was partly to blame for climate change, which most implied was also the cause of Hurricane Katrina. Former Vice President Al Gore and others made the argument explicitly and said that oil was not only leading to economic uncertainty and embroiling the United States in unstable foreign lands, it also was leading to hurricanes and other disasters that had direct economic and social repercussions. Though the links between energy security and climate change are tenuous, they have held in the public mind, and climate change has been linked with energy policy discussions as a priority in the new Democratic Congress.

Other issues that seemed likely to change in the wake of Katrina included the federal government's role and the politics relating to race. The debate over whether the federal government should have an active role in society or in local and state affairs has not changed. The attitude that the federal government should keep out of state and local politics -- a trend that came in with President Ronald Reagan in 1981 -- remains in place. Katrina did not lead to a rethinking of government or its role.

The civil rights community, meanwhile, failed to use Katrina to convince Americans that a significant and unjust racial divide persists in the United States and is actively maintained in parts of the country. The majority of the visual images of Katrina's aftermath focused on minorities, primarily black Americans. Due to a lack of insurance and savings minorities were generally less equipped to deal with the flooding. Despite all of this, American views on race were almost completely unchanged by Katrina.

That the core political discussion remains unchanged since Katrina is confirmed by the position taken by the presidential candidates -- Democratic and Republican -- who have been descending on New Orleans since the media stirred up the issue. Only populist liberal candidate John Edwards has focused exclusively on the symbolism of Katrina. The other Democratic candidates have roundly criticized the Bush administration's handling of the disaster, though, unlike Edwards, they have focused on offering pragmatic solutions to various troubles that still affect the city. These proposals include re-examination of government's role in society to various degrees, but they do not explicitly call for such a re-examination or a national referendum on the issue. If Katrina had fundamentally changed the Democratic Party, all Democratic candidates would be sounding like Edwards.

Katrina's Lasting Impact

Beyond softening the ground for a Democratic landslide, the disaster in New Orleans has not changed American politics. The final question is whether it will; in other words, whether Edwards is simply this year's lone progressive candidate -- the Howard Dean of 2008 -- or a harbinger of a new Democratic Party centered on issues relating to race, environment, labor and class.

We remain convinced that the major issues raised as a result of Katrina -- energy and climate, race and the role of government -- will emerge at the center of American politics in the coming years.

The impediment to the revival of a strong liberal wing of the Democratic Party is the popular view that liberal issues have no place in American politics -- or at least that liberal Democrats are overly idealistic and therefore cannot get things done in Washington. The concern over this is evident in that fact that even the Democratic presidential candidates are not emphasizing core progressive concepts during their anniversary speeches and tours in New Orleans. Rather, taking their cue from Bill Clinton -- the only Democratic candidate to be elected president in the past 28 years -- most candidates are attempting to exude confidence, competence and pragmatism -- not political idealism. Though their solutions to the country's problems imply a larger role for government, it is not central to their messages.

A new "progressive movement" is developing -- or at least that is what we call it since it has not yet been named and has no central leadership. This movement, however, clearly exists and it aims to reverse the negative view of liberal issues and leaders by framing its issues -- the same ones that mattered to the progressives of the past -- in pragmatic terms. In other words, by making the issues seem like mainstream concerns. To do this, the movement is relying on the proven technique of blurring the line between a fringe concept and a mainstream one. The climate change issue gained national prominence in this way. Environmentalists found a way to turn climate change into a foreign policy issue, vehicle fuel efficiency partly into a labor issue, and chemical regulation partly into a health issue and partly into a racial issue. Labor has used human rights and women's groups as spokespeople for its campaign against Wal-Mart. As these new ways of conceiving of traditional "progressive" issues become prevalent, traditional Democrats will find them easy to grasp -- and ultimately will support them.

As civil rights, civil liberties and social justice organizations learn to reframe their concerns in pragmatic terms, they too will gain momentum -- just as climate change has done. The only question is: How much longer will Katrina's impact last in the public mind? The 9/11 attacks lasted for almost four years as an active political tool. The Katrina issue is two years old, so if it has the same cultural permanence, 2008 is the last election in which it will matter.
stratfor.com
28569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Katrina Boondoggle on: August 29, 2007, 05:01:50 PM
The Political Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
 The two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29 has sparked new media interest in the disaster and on the federal response to it. The media interest, in turn, is causing politicians -- and of course the 2008 presidential candidates -- to perk up on the issue. After Katrina hit, it was clear to us that U.S. President George W. Bush was headed for political disaster. We also thought the Democratic Party's long-forgotten liberal side would be revived as a result of the images of New Orleans in Katrina's aftermath.

We were correct about Bush. The war in Iraq has been his political Achilles' heel, but his popularity began to fall seriously after Katrina -- and it has never recovered. The Democratic Party rode the president's war-driven unpopularity to victory in the off-year congressional elections, and it has emerged as the majority party nationwide. The question, then, is whether the remnants of the old "progressive movement" -- which comprises those whose priority issues are labor, the environment and civil rights, and whose politics are at the left edge of the American political spectrum -- have actually seen a revival, or whether the Democratic Party's victories are primarily victories of its moderate wing.

The accounting on that score is more complicated, as some liberal movements have seen significant awakenings, while others have remained dormant. Progressive national political candidates are rare, and the Democratic Party remains focused on showing its pragmatic side rather than its idealistic side. Though we still think a progressive revival is happening, it is coming very slowly and in unanticipated ways.

In the final analysis, the successes and failures on the political left since Katrina show the relative strength of the various special interests that make up that side of the Democratic Party. The environmental and anti-war movements have seen the biggest successes since Katrina, while the civil rights community has been unable to translate the racial aspects of Katrina and its aftermath into a stronger position.

Politics Since Katrina

Before Katrina, Congress and 28 of the 50 governorships were in Republican hands. Now there is a Democratic-controlled Congress and 28 governorships are held by Democrats. Katrina did not cost the Republican Party the 2006 election. Iraq did. Katrina just helped soften the ground for a referendum on the war. Looking back, Katrina may not emerge as the prevailing political issue of the day, but the 2006 election could not have been a landslide without Katrina.

Before February 2002, Bush's approval stood generally above 60 percent. Then, leading up to Katrina, his rating fell into the 45 percent to 52 percent range. Only for two weeks in late 2005 and early 2006 did Bush's public approval rating hit higher than it was the day Hurricane Katrina hit. The slide from re-elected president to political liability for GOP candidates began before Katrina, but most polling data suggests that Katrina's aftermath cemented Bush's approval ratings below 45 percent. Polling suggests that the federal government's handling of the Katrina disaster epitomized voters' long-standing misgivings about Bush, which translated to disapproval for the first time.

Bush approval numbers and the 2006 election aside, however, the political discourse at the national level is mostly unchanged. The Republican Party's 2008 primary candidates include one clear moderate, a libertarian and an array representing the various stations of the political right. The Democratic primary candidates are for the most part from the party's center, each with some policies that are centrist and some that are more liberal.

In other words, the primary candidates look exactly as they have since 1992.

Liberal and Progressive Issues Since Katrina

The war remains the primary political issue in the United States, with energy and the economy following. The promotion of energy to a top national priority is a direct result of Katrina. Hurricane Katrina and then Hurricane Rita reduced U.S. oil production by more than 1 million barrels per day. Today, 200,000 barrels remain offline. The price of oil after Rita "spiked" in the high $70s per barrel, retreat briefly, and has not been lower than $65 per barrel for more than two weeks since.

Concern about energy prices paved the way for a larger debate about oil in the United States. Katrina and Iraq became bound together politically by the argument that U.S. reliance on oil was unhealthy for its economy and security. Energy independence activists said the economic impacts of the post-Katrina price spike showed that the country would benefit from having greater control over its energy sources -- control that dependence on weather (Katrina) or geopolitics (the war) counteracted. Oil independence advocates called for investment in new forms of energy, and for increased domestic energy production.

28570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Katrina Boondoggle on: August 29, 2007, 04:22:13 PM


The Big Easy’s Billion Dollar Boondoggle
August 29, 2007
Lawrence Kudlow (203) 228-5050



So, the president and Mrs. Bush went down to New Orleans to commemorate the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Who knows? Maybe over a latté with leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards they discussed spending even more money down there. After all, everyone seems to be saying New Orleans needs more cash.

Here’s a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart?

I’ll give you the answer because you’ll never guess it. The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief).
That’s right: a monstrous $127 billion. Of course, not a single media story has highlighted this gargantuan government-spending figure. But that number came straight from the White House in a fact sheet subtitled, “The Federal Government Is Fulfilling Its Commitment to Help the People of the Gulf Coast Rebuild.”

Huh?
This is an outrage. The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is only $141 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. So the cash spent there nearly matches the entire state gross GDP. That’s simply unbelievable. And to make matters worse, by all accounts New Orleans ain’t even fixed!

You might be asking, Where in the hell did all this money go? Well, the White House fact sheet says $24 billion has been used to build houses and schools, repair damaged infrastructure, and provide victims with a place to live. But isn’t everyone complaining about the lack of housing?

Perhaps all this money should’ve been directly deposited in the bank accounts of the 300,000 people living in New Orleans. All divvied up, that $127 billion would come to $425,000 per person! After thanking Uncle Sam for their sudden windfall, residents could head to Southern California and buy homes that are now on sale thanks to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and bid up the sagging house prices in the state.

The fact sheet goes on to say that $7.1 billion went to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the levees; that the U.S. Department of Education spent $2 billion on local schools; and that the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries has awarded more than $2.5 million (the pikers). The administration also provided $16.7 billion as part of the largest housing-recovery program in U.S. history.

So the billion-dollar question becomes: Where did the rest of that money go?
Meanwhile, according to an article by Nicole Gelinas at the Manhattan Institute, New Orleans has earned the distinct honor of becoming the murder capital of the world. The murder rate is 40 percent higher than before Katrina, and twice as high as other dangerous cities like Detroit, Newark, and Washington, D.C.

Think of this: The idea of using federal money to rebuild cities is the quintessential liberal vision. And given the dreadful results in New Orleans, we can say that the government’s $127 billion check represents the quintessential failure of that liberal vision. Hillary Clinton calls this sort of reckless spending “government investment.”

And that’s just what’s in store for America if she wins the White House next year.
Remember President Reagan’s line during the 1980 campaign about how LBJ fought a big-government spending war against poverty, and poverty won? Well think of all this Katrina spending as the Great Society Redux. And it failed. I suppose the current Bush administration would like to label this “compassionate conservatism.” But guess what? That failed, too.

Right from the start, New Orleans should have been turned into a tax-free enterprise zone. No income taxes, no corporate taxes, no capital-gains taxes. The only tax would have been a sales tax paid on direct transactions. A tax-free New Orleans would have attracted tens of billions of dollars in business and real-estate investment. This in turn would have helped rebuild the cities, schools, and hospitals. Private-sector entrepreneurs would have succeeded where big-government bureaucrats and regulators have so abysmally failed.

This is the real New Orleans Katrina story. It’s a pity that the mainstream media isn’t writing about it. Call it one of the greatest stories never told.
28571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: August 29, 2007, 02:54:08 PM
Move and Countermove: Ahmadinejad and Bush Duel
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Aug. 28 that U.S. power in Iraq is rapidly being destroyed. Then he said that Iran, with the help of regional friends and the Iraqi nation, is ready to fill the vacuum. Ahmadinejad specifically reached out to Saudi Arabia, saying the Saudis and Iranians could collaborate in managing Iraq. Later in the day, U.S. President George W. Bush responded, saying, "I want our fellow citizens to consider what would happen if these forces of radicalism and extremism are allowed to drive us out of the Middle East. The region would be dramatically transformed in a way that could imperil the civilized world." He specifically mentioned Iran and its threat of nuclear weapons.

On Aug. 27, we argued that, given the United States' limited ability to secure Iraq, the strategic goal must now shift from controlling Iraq to defending the Arabian Peninsula against any potential Iranian ambitions in that direction. "Whatever mistakes might have been made in the past, the current reality is that any withdrawal from Iraq would create a vacuum, which would rapidly be filled by Iran," we wrote.

Ahmadinejad's statements, made at a two-hour press conference, had nothing to do with what we wrote, nor did Bush's response. What these statements do show, though, is how rapidly the thinking in Tehran is evolving in response to Iranian perceptions of a pending U.S. withdrawal and a power vacuum in Iraq -- and how the Bush administration is shifting its focus from the Sunni threat to both the Sunni and Shiite threats.

The most important thing Ahmadinejad discussed at his press conference was not the power vacuum, but Saudi Arabia. He reached out to the Saudis, saying Iran and Saudi Arabia together could fill the vacuum in Iraq and stabilize the country. The subtext was that not only does Iran not pose a threat to Saudi Arabia, it would be prepared to enhance Saudi power by giving it a substantial role in a post-U.S. Iraq.

Iran is saying that Saudi Arabia does not need to defend itself against Iran, and it certainly does not need the United States to redeploy its forces along the Saudi-Iraqi border in order to defend itself. While dangling the carrot of participation in a post-war Iraq, Iran also is wielding a subtle stick. One of the reasons for al Qaeda's formation was the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. Radical Islamists in Saudi Arabia regarded the U.S. presence as sacrilege and the willingness of the Saudi regime to permit American troops to be there as blasphemous. After 9/11, the Saudis asked the United States to withdraw its forces, and following the Iraq invasion they fought a fairly intense battle against al Qaeda inside the kingdom. Having U.S. troops defend Saudi Arabia once again -- even if they were stationed outside its borders -- would inflame passions inside the kingdom, and potentially destabilize the regime.

The Saudis are in a difficult position. Since the Iranian Revolution, the Saudi relationship with Iran has ranged from extremely hostile to uneasy. It is not simply a Sunni and Shiite matter. Iran is more than just a theocracy. It arose from a very broad popular uprising against the shah. It linked the idea of a republic to Islam, combining a Western revolutionary tradition with Shiite political philosophy. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is a monarchy that draws its authority from traditional clan and tribal structures and Wahhabi Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudis felt trapped between the pro-Soviet radicalism of the Iraqis and Syrians, and of the various factions of the Palestinian movement on the one side -- and the Islamic Republic in Iran on the other. Isolated, it had only the United States to depend on, and that dependency blew up in its face during the 1990-91 war in Kuwait.

But there also is a fundamental geopolitical problem. Saudi Arabia suffers from a usually fatal disease. It is extraordinarily rich and militarily weak. It has managed to survive and prosper by having foreign states such as the United Kingdom and the United States have a stake in its independence -- and guarantee that independence with their power. If it isn't going to rely on an outside power to protect it, and it has limited military resources of its own, then how will it protect itself against the Iranians? Iran, a country with a large military -- whose senior officers and noncoms were blooded in the Iran-Iraq war -- does not have a great military, merely a much larger and experienced one than the Saudis.

The Saudis have Iran's offer. The problem is that the offer cannot be guaranteed by Saudi power, but depends on Iran's willingness to honor it. Absent the United States, any collaboration with Iran would depend on Iran's will. And the Iranians are profoundly different from the Saudis and, more important, much poorer. Whatever their intentions might be today -- and who can tell what the Iranians intend? -- those intentions might change. If they did, it would leave Saudi Arabia at risk to Iranian power.

Saudi Arabia is caught between a rock and a hard place and it knows it. But there might be the beginnings of a solution in Turkey. Ahmadinejad's offer of collaboration was directed toward regional powers other than Iran. That includes Turkey. Turkey stayed clear of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, refusing to let U.S. troops invade Iraq from there. However, Turkey has some important interests in how the war in Iraq ends. First, it does not want to see any sort of Kurdish state, fearing Kurdish secessionism in Turkey as well. Second, it has an interest in oil in northern Iraq. Both interests could be served by a Turkish occupation of northern Iraq, under the guise of stabilizing Iraq along with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

When we say that Iran is now the dominant regional power, we also should say that is true unless we add Turkey to the mix. Turkey is certainly a military match for Iran, and more than an economic one. Turkey's economy is the 18th largest in the world -- larger than Saudi Arabia's -- and it is growing rapidly. In many ways, Iran needs a good relationship with Turkey, given its power and economy. If Turkey were to take an interest in Iraq, that could curb Iran's appetite. While Turkey could not defend Saudi Arabia, it certainly could threaten Iran's rear if it chose to move south. And with the threat of Turkish intervention, Iran would have to be very careful indeed.

But Turkey has been cautious in its regional involvements. It is not clear whether it will involve itself in Iraq beyond making certain that Kurdish independence does not go too far. Even if it were to move deeper into Iraq, it is not clear whether it would be prepared to fight Iran over Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Turkey does not want to deal with a powerful Iran -- and if the Iranians did take the Saudi oil fields, they would be more than a match for Turkey. Turkey's regime is very different from those in Saudi Arabia and Iran, but geopolitics make strange bedfellows. Iran could not resist a Turkish intervention in northern Iraq, nor could it be sure what Turkey would do if Iran turned south. That uncertainty might restrain Iran.

And that is the thin reed on which Saudi national security would rest if it rejected an American presence to its north. The United States could impose itself anyway, but being sandwiched between a hostile Iran and hostile Saudi Arabia would not be prudent, to say the least. Therefore, the Saudis could scuttle a U.S. blocking force if they wished. If the Saudis did this and joined the Iranian-led stabilization program in Iraq, they would then be forced to rely on a Turkish presence in northern Iraq to constrain any future Iranian designs on Arabia. That is not necessarily a safe bet as it assumes that the Turks would be interested in balancing Iran at a time when Russian power is returning to the Caucasus, Greek power is growing in the Balkans, and the Turkish economy is requiring ever more attention from Ankara. Put simply, Turkey has a lot of brands in the fire, and the Saudis betting on the Iranian brand having priority is a long shot.

The Iranian position is becoming more complex as Tehran tries to forge a post-war coalition to manage Iraq -- and to assure the coalition that Iran doesn't plan to swallow some of its members. The United States, in the meantime, appears to be trying to simplify its position, by once again focusing on the question of nuclear weapons.

Bush's speech followed this logic. First, according to Bush, the Iranians are now to be seen as a threat equal to the jihadists. In other words, the Iranian clerical regime and al Qaeda are equal threats. That is the reason the administration is signaling that the Iranian Republican Guards are to be named a terrorist group. A withdrawal from Iraq, therefore, would be turning Iraq over to Iran, and that, in turn, would transform the region. But rather than discussing the geopolitical questions we have been grappling with, Bush has focused on Iran's nuclear capability.

Iran is developing nuclear weapons, though we have consistently argued that Tehran does not expect to actually achieve a deliverable nuclear device. In the first place, that is because the process of building a device small enough and rugged enough to be useful is quite complex. There is quite a leap between testing a device and having a workable weapon. Also, and far more important, Iran fully expects the United States or Israel to destroy its nuclear facilities before a weapon is complete. The Iranians are using their nuclear program as a bargaining chip.

The problem is that the negotiations have ended. The prospect of Iran trading its nuclear program for U.S. concessions in Iraq has disappeared along with the negotiations. Bush, therefore, has emphasized that there is no reason for the United States to be restrained about the Iranian nuclear program. Iran might not be close to having a deliverable device, but the risk is too great to let it continue developing one. Therefore, the heart of Bush's speech was that withdrawing would vastly increase Iran's power, and an Iranian nuclear weapon would be catastrophic.

From this, one would think the United States is considering attacking Iran. Indeed, the French warning against such an attack indicates that Paris might have picked something up as well. Certainly, Washington is signaling that, given the situation in Iraq and Iran's assertion that it will be filling the vacuum, the United States is being forced to face the possibility of an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.

There are two problems here. The first is the technical question of whether a conventional strike could take out all of Iran's nuclear facilities. We don't know the answer, but we do know that Iran has been aware of the probability of such an attack and is likely to have taken precautions, from creating uncertainty as to the location of sites to hardening them. The second problem is the more serious one.

Assume that the United States attacked and destroyed Iran's nuclear facilities. The essential geopolitical problem would not change. The U.S. position in Iraq would remain extremely difficult, the three options we discussed Aug. 27 would remain in place, and in due course Iran would fill the vacuum left by the United States. The destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities would not address any of those problems.

Therefore, implicit in Bush's speech is the possibility of broader measures against Iran. These could include a broad air campaign against Iranian infrastructure -- military and economic -- and a blockade of its ports. The measures could not include ground troops because there are no substantial forces available and redeploying all the troops in Iraq to surge into Iran, logistical issues aside, would put 150,000 troops in a very large country.

The United States can certainly conduct an air campaign against Iran, but we are reminded of the oldest lesson of air power -- one learned by the Israeli air force against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006: Air power is enormously successful in concert with a combined arms operation, but has severe limitations when applied on its own. The idea that nations will capitulate because of the pain of an air campaign has little historical basis. It doesn't usually happen. Unlike Hezbollah, however, Iran is a real state with real infrastructure, economic interests, military assets and critical port facilities -- all with known locations that can be pummeled with air power. The United States might not be able to impose its will on the ground, but it can certainly impose a great deal of pain. Of course, an all-out air war would cripple Iran in a way that would send global oil prices through the roof -- since Iran remains the world's fourth-largest oil exporter.

A blockade, however, also would be problematic. It is easy to prevent Iranian ships from moving in and out of port -- and, unlike Iraq, Iran has no simple options to divert its maritime energy trade to land routes -- but what would the United States do if a Russian, Chinese or French vessel sailed in? Would it seize it? Sink it? Obviously either is possible. But just how broad an array of enemies does the United States want to deal with at one time? And remember that, with ports sealed, Iran's land neighbors would have to participate in blocking the movement of goods. We doubt they would be that cooperative.

Finally, and most important, Iran has the ability to counter any U.S. moves. It has assets in Iraq that could surge U.S. casualties dramatically if ordered to do so. Iran also has terrorism capabilities that are not trivial. We would say that Iran's capabilities are substantially greater than al Qaeda's. Under a sustained air campaign, they would use them.

Bush's threat to strike nuclear weapons makes sense only in the context of a broader air and naval campaign against Iran. Leaving aside the domestic political ramifications and the international diplomatic blowback, the fundamental problem is that Iran is a very large country where a lot of targets would have to be hit. That would take many months to achieve, and during that time Iran would likely strike back in Iraq and perhaps in the United States as well. An air campaign would not bring Iran to its knees quickly, unless it was nuclear -- and we simply do not think the United States will break the nuclear taboo first.

The United States is also in a tough place. While it makes sense to make threats in response to Iranian threats -- to keep Tehran off balance -- the real task for the United States is to convince Saudi Arabia to stick to its belief that collaboration with Iran is too dangerous, and convince Turkey to follow its instincts in northern Iraq without collaborating with the Iranians. The Turks are not fools and will not simply play the American game, but the more active Turkey is, the more cautious Iran must be.

The latest statement from Ahmadinejad convinces us that Iran sees its opening. However, the United States, even if it is not bluffing about an attack against Iran, would find such an attack less effective than it might hope. In the end, even after an extended air campaign, it will come down to that. In the end, no matter how many moves are made, the United States is going to have to define a post-Iraq strategy and that strategy must focus on preventing Iran from threatening the Arabian Peninsula. Even after an extended air campaign, it will come down to that. In case of war, the only "safe" location for a U.S. land force to hedge against an Iranian move against the Arabian Peninsula would be Kuwait, a country lacking the strategic depth to serve as an effective counter.

Ahmadinejad has made his rhetorical move. Bush has responded. Now the regional diplomacy intensifies as the report from the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is prepared for presentation to Congress on Sept. 15.

stratfor.com
28572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 29, 2007, 02:44:01 PM
stratfor.com

GEORGIA: The Georgian Defense Ministry's budget is being increased, continuing reforms meant to bring the armed forces to NATO standards, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said. Media reports vary about the actual amount of the increase, but most say the current defense budget of around $193 million will increase to between $600 million and $783 million. With the increase, Georgia's defense spending is expected to reach between 4 percent and 4.5 percent of gross domestic product. Nogaideli said he expects parliament to approve the budget increase in defense as well as other sectors by late September.
28573  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: August 29, 2007, 01:08:00 PM
P:

Why is that the right thing to do?
28574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: August 29, 2007, 12:12:06 PM
Yet another post this AM on Turkey:

WSJ

Well Connected,
A Saudi Mogul
Skirts Sanctions
By GLENN R. SIMPSON
August 29, 2007; Page A1

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Yassin Qadi is a well-known multimillionaire, founder of a large supermarket chain here and a close friend of the Turkish premier. "I trust him the same way I trust my father," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on national television last year.

But the Saudi businessman also is a major financier of Islamic terrorism with close business associates who are members of al Qaeda, according to the U.S. Treasury and the United Nations Security Council. At Washington's request, the Security Council ordered Mr. Qadi's assets frozen a few weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.

 
The asset freeze has largely crippled Mr. Qadi's international business empire. But previously undisclosed records show he has managed to free up millions of dollars of holdings in Turkey, in apparent violation of the Security Council sanctions -- and without incurring punishment by Turkish authorities.

The case of Mr. Qadi shows the challenges Washington faces in separating friend from foe in the Islamic world. The records detailing his business activities also suggest how easy it can be to skirt sanctions designed to restrict funding of terrorism -- especially for well-connected figures.

Mr. Qadi's friendship with the prime minister also plays into the growing debate in Turkey over the role of Islam in a secular society. Turkey's Parliament for the first time yesterday elected a politician with an Islamist background, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, to the presidency. Immediately after being sworn in, Mr. Gul pledged impartiality, saying, "Secularism -- one of the main principles of our republic -- is a precondition for social peace." But the development nonetheless has heightened concern about the direction this pivotal nation, poised between East and West, is taking.

Within Turkey, a Muslim nation of 70 million with a constitutionally mandated secular government, the role of Islam has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, as rising religious sentiment clashes in some quarters with the country's longstanding commitment to secularism. Mr. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party are broadly popular, but their Islamist roots draw criticism and provoke controversy, especially among critics in the military.

Amid this debate, Mr. Erdogan has been blasted for his ties to Mr. Qadi by political opponents in Turkey and some conservatives in Washington, who say the Turkish government has a hidden Islamist agenda. Mr. Qadi -- who lives near the Red Sea city of Jidda, the Saudi business capital -- denies all links to terrorism and says his U.N. blacklisting is unjust. Officials of Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party and aides to the prime minister didn't respond to requests for comment.

Pro-Western Rule

Since coming to power in 2002, the Justice and Development Party has run one of the most pro-Western governments to rule Turkey. It has encouraged a Western-style market economy and made painful overhauls in a bid to join the European Union. The party just won an overwhelming new mandate in parliamentary elections.

But tensions are likely to persist. U.S. diplomats lodged strong objections last year when the Erdogan government intervened in Turkish courts to try to lift the freeze on Mr. Qadi's Turkish assets, according to U.S. officials. The Turkish government reversed course.

"That Erdogan personally vouches for this man...raises the possibility that the prime minister of Turkey is far less interested in combating terrorism than he says," said former Defense Department aide Michael Rubin, a conservative critic of the Turkish government who has close ties to top officials in the Bush administration.

The cosmopolitan Mr. Qadi is an architect by profession who trained with the Chicago-based firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the 1970s. He speaks fluent English and has a son who is an American citizen. Mr. Qadi, whose own father belonged to Jidda's business elite, inherited several million dollars in 1988. He also married into money by wedding a member of the Jamjoom family, one of Saudi Arabia's leading business clans, and is now an influential business figure whom the Saudi media and other Saudi businessmen often defend against U.S. and U.N. terrorism allegations.

The sanctions prohibit international travel by Mr. Qadi, a longtime globe-trotter. It is unclear whether his assets are frozen in Saudi Arabia, which some U.S. officials and private-sector experts claim has failed to take action against powerful business figures suspected of supporting terrorism. In an effort to reclaim his reputation, Mr. Qadi has filed civil suits in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Turkey and other countries. He has also submitted voluminous briefs to the U.S. Treasury in Washington. All of these efforts have been unsuccessful to date.

Mr. Erdogan has defended his friendship with Mr. Qadi, saying the Security Council's terrorist blacklist doesn't prove someone is a terrorist.

Guy Martin, a London-based lawyer for Mr. Qadi, called his terrorist designation "a gross and ongoing miscarriage of justice."

Mr. Qadi, whose business empire is based mostly in Saudi Arabia, is a longtime partner of Turkish businessman Cüneyd Zapsu, as well as other key Justice and Development Party figures. Over the past year, Turkish media and opposition leaders have disclosed that Turkey's financial police investigated the activities of Mr. Qadi and alleged al Qaeda supporters in Turkey. That led them to delve into the relationships of Mr. Qadi and other Saudis with senior Justice and Development figures, including Mr. Erdogan.

Among Mr. Qadi's largest Turkish investments is the discount-supermarket chain BIM, one of Turkey's biggest companies, with more than 1,500 outlets and annual sales of about $1.5 billion. BIM, which trades on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, is a discounter modeled in part on Wal-Mart and other low-price chains. Mr. Zapsu also was among BIM's founding partners.

Mr. Zapsu, who in 2001 helped Mr. Erdogan found the Justice and Development Party, also supported an Islamic charity Mr. Qadi founded that is at the center of the U.S. and Security Council decision to freeze the Saudi businessman's assets. A Turkish financial-police report seen by The Wall Street Journal found that in the 1990s, Mr. Zapsu and his mother gave $300,000 to Mr. Qadi's Muwafaq charity, which U.S. officials labeled a front for al Qaeda shortly after 9/11.

Central Intelligence Agency reports say Muwafaq, now defunct, specialized in purchasing and smuggling arms for Islamic radicals. The U.S. government's special commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and law-enforcement agencies have cited Saudi-backed Islamic charities as a primary source of funding for al Qaeda.

Mr. Zapsu also has business ties to two Islamic banks funded with Saudi capital -- Dallah Al Baraka and Dar Al Mal Al Islam -- that were accused of supporting al Qaeda in civil suits filed by families of Sept. 11 victims in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Both defendants adamantly deny the allegations, and the court dismissed claims against Al Baraka.

Mr. Zapsu said in an email that his business and personal relationships with Mr. Qadi were investigated by Turkish police. He said prosecutors decided last year "that there was no reason for a court case and no wrongdoing." Mr. Zapsu said he sold his interest in BIM in 2003 and no longer is involved with the company.

Finance Probes

Two reports by Turkey's financial police allege potential money-laundering and other possible crimes by Mr. Qadi and unnamed associates. But Turkish prosecutors declined to bring criminal cases in both 2004 and 2006, citing a lack of evidence. Mr. Erdogan's political opponents say the probes were quashed by the Finance Ministry. The top officer on the case was recently fired. According to the government, he abused his authority to investigate top politicians.

Mr. Qadi arrived in Turkey in 1996, within a month of alleged al Qaeda logistics coordinator Wael Julaidan. The two men are longtime business partners and engaged in large transactions with a Turkish firm controlled by two of al Qaeda's top leaders, according to business records and U.S. intelligence files. Lawyers for Mr. Julaidan say he denies supporting al Qaeda.

A lengthy paper trail involving an offshore company in the Isle of Man shows how millions of dollars of assets in Turkey once controlled by Mr. Qadi have been shifted in recent years to his associates, in potential violation of the U.N.'s asset freeze. Corporate records show a 26.4% stake in BIM that was originally controlled by Mr. Qadi passed to two of his business partners, through a company called Worldwide Ltd. in the Isle of Man, a tax haven in the U.K.

Worldwide originally was controlled by several people who use the same Jidda business address as Mr. Qadi. In 2004, two Jidda businessmen who are longtime associates of Mr. Qadi took control of Worldwide, Isle of Man filings state. The following year, when BIM released a new financial report, Worldwide disappeared from its list of major shareholders and the two businessmen appeared on the list for the first time. Together with another Isle of Man company, they control precisely 26.4% of BIM shares.

One of the men, Abdul Ghani Al Khereiji, is a longtime business partner of Mr. Qadi who co-founded the Muwafaq charity, records show. He didn't respond to requests for comment. The other new BIM shareholder, architect Zuhair Fayez, also is a longtime associate of Mr. Qadi. Mr. Fayez said in an email that his shares in Worldwide "were not purchased from Mr. Qadi," but he didn't elaborate.

Transferred Stake

In a statement, BIM said Worldwide transferred its stake to the two men in March 2005. "Our information...is that the assignment procedures were made in accordance with the law," BIM said. The company said it "has no knowledge of the share structure of Worldwide." If Mr. Qadi benefited from the sale of Worldwide shares, that would breach the U.N. sanctions against him.

Some of Mr. Qadi's dealings in Turkey are recounted in a 2006 book, "Charitable Terrorist," by Nedim Sener. Mr. Qadi has filed a defamation suit in an Istanbul court against Mr. Sener, who in the Turkish daily Milliyet also wrote of a real-estate deal involving Mr. Qadi that may also violate the Security Council sanctions. The sanctions, legally binding on U.N. member states, ban any large financial transactions or international travel by the roughly 350 individuals designated as terrorists or their sponsors.

Christophe Payot, a spokesman for the U.N.'s sanctions committee, declined to discuss any possible violations by Turkey or Mr. Qadi. The panel's chairman announced in May it would examine "possible instances of noncompliance" with the al Qaeda sanctions.

The U.N. sanctions aren't always effective, according to experts on the subject. Many countries either don't write or police laws to enforce them, or aren't equipped to track designees who use offshore companies and complex corporate structures. In the case of Mr. Qadi's Turkish assets, the problem is that "there are so many ways of structuring and layering things, they are not clearly his assets," said Victor Comras, an attorney and former U.N. terror-finance expert.

Write to Glenn R. Simpson at glenn.simpson@wsj.com
28575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: August 29, 2007, 11:45:50 AM
And here's the WSJ's take on this:

President Gül
August 29, 2007
Turkey's political process reached its expected conclusion yesterday, when the parliament elected Abdullah Gül of the neo-Islamist AK Party as the country's new president. Despite continued grumbling from a wary military, Ankara may finally be able to resume politics as usual.

Yesterday's election, in which Mr. Gül won 339 votes from the 550-member legislature, caps a turbulent four months. The AKP first nominated its co-founder back in April. The result was an electoral boycott by the main opposition party, a threatened coup by the army and a seemingly extralegal annulment of the balloting up to that point by the nation's highest court. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also of the AKP, called early elections to secure a new mandate. Last month his party won a solid victory.

The military tried scare tactics again Monday, writing on its Web site that "centers of evil" were trying to "corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic." Yet a word to the wary of all kinds: Mr. Gül promised during the recent parliamentary campaign to uphold secularism and Turkey's constitution, and the electorate displayed its confidence in him.

Given the military's record of four coups since 1960, its threats can't be taken lightly. Even so, Turkey's generals are traditionally very sensitive to the desires of the country's silent majority, which right now wants stability above all else.

Fortunately, that's what the AKP most likely wants right now, too. It will try to avoid rocking the boat so that it can stay in government. It's been in power for five years now, and parties typically become less, not more, radical the longer they rule. Should the AKP drift from its program of reforms designed to propel Turkey toward European Union membership, its supporters will become agitated.

The Turkish president's authority is fairly limited in any case, though Mr. Gül will wield important veto powers. Under his secularist predecessor, that was seen as a check on any ambitions the AKP might have of foisting Islamism on the country.

So far, there is no indication that Mr. Gül has any hidden agenda for marked change in Turkey. "Secularism -- one of the main principles of our republic -- is a precondition for social peace as much as it is a liberating model for different lifestyles," he said after yesterday's parliamentary vote. "As long as I am in office, I will embrace all our citizens without any bias." Until Mr. Gül gives us cause to believe otherwise, we'll take him at his word.
28576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 29, 2007, 11:34:12 AM
yet more , , ,

WSJ

-- John Fund
In Case You Forgot Who John Huang Was...

Hillary Clinton suddenly has her own version of John Huang, the mysterious fund-raiser and former Clinton political appointee who was at the heart of her husband's 1996 campaign scandals. He's Norman Hsu, a wealthy New Yorker and Democratic fundraiser whose questionable political giving was the subject of an investigative report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Mr. Hsu also happens to be an official high-dollar "HillRaiser" for the Clinton campaign -- and, it turns out, a fugitive from justice since 1992, when he reportedly pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft, agreed to serve three years in prison and then vanished.

How very reminiscent of the strange cast of characters who swirled around the 1996 Clinton campaign. At the center of the controversy over improper contributions and alleged links between the contributors and the Chinese government was James Riady, scion of the shadowy Hong Kong-based Lippo Group, who returned to Asia and never cooperated with investigators. Pauline Kanchanalak, whose $253,000 in contributions had to be returned by the DNC, decamped to her native Thailand. Little Rock restaurateur Charlie Trie, a major-league fund-raiser and recipient of wire transfers from the Bank of China in Hong Kong, took up residence in Beijing to avoid questioning.

Mr. Hsu appears to be following in the footsteps of Mr. Huang, a genius at finding contributors of apparent modest means to donate lavishly to the Clinton campaign. The Journal reported this week that among his prize catches was the family of William Paw, a mail carrier in Daly City, Calif. None of the Paws ever donated to any candidate before 2004, but seven adults in the Paw family have donated $213,000 to Democratic candidates in the last three years, including $55,000 to Mrs. Clinton. In Mr. Huang's day, an Indonesian gardener and his wife, despite being foreign nationals, donated $450,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 1996 and then suddenly had to leave for Jakarta.

E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., the Washington lawyer who represents Mr. Hsu, says his client had nothing to do with the 1996 fundraising scandal and is simply a big fan of the Clintons and Democrats in general. As for that pesky grand theft charge, Mr. Barcella says his client doesn't recall pleading guilty to any criminal charge or having an obligation to serve jail time.

Hmm. Similar memory failures were rampant in the 1996 scandal. Witnesses called before the Senate investigative committee chaired by then-Senator Fred Thompson suffered collective amnesia on just about any subject much beyond their names, titles and Social Security numbers.

To its credit, the Clinton campaign does remember Mr. Hsu and is bravely defending him -- for now. "Norman Hsu is a longtime and generous supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates, including Sen. Clinton," said Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman, on Tuesday. Of course, that was before the latest revelations about Mr. Hsu's criminal record. No doubt he will now be placed in the same memory hole as Mr. Huang and all the other fundraisers for the Clinton political machine whose tactics proved embarrassing.

28577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 29, 2007, 11:28:04 AM
Big Source of Clinton's Cash
Is an Unlikely Address
Family's Donations
Closely Track Those
Of Top Fund-Raiser
By BRODY MULLINS
August 28, 2007; Page A3

DALY CITY, Calif. -- One of the biggest sources of political donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tiny, lime-green bungalow that lies under the flight path from San Francisco International Airport.

Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee. In all, the six Paws have donated a total of $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005, election records show.

 CAMPAIGN 2008

 
• The Money Race: Compare fund-raising by Clinton, Giuliani, McCain, Obama and other major candidates. Second-quarter data
• Old vs. New Money: Fundraising is heavier than ever. Compare this race with past races.
• Complete coverageThat total ranks the house with residences in Greenwich, Conn., and Manhattan's Upper East Side among the top addresses to donate to the Democratic presidential front-runner over the past two years, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of donations listed with the Federal Election Commission.

It isn't obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. Records show they own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw, the 64-year-old head of the household, is a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service who earns about $49,000 a year, according to a union representative. Alice Paw, also 64, is a homemaker. The couple's grown children have jobs ranging from account manager at a software company to "attendance liaison" at a local public high school. One is listed on campaign records as an executive at a mutual fund.

The Paws' political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign. He has hosted or co-hosted some of her most prominent money-raising events.

 
People who answered the phone and the door at the Paws' residence declined requests for comment last week. In an email last night, one of the Paws' sons, Winkle, said he had sometimes been asked by Mr. Hsu to make contributions, and sometimes he himself had asked family members to donate. But he added: "I have been fortunate in my investments and all of my contributions have been my money."

Mr. Hsu, in an email last night wrote: "I have NEVER asked a single favor from any politician or any charity group. If I am NOT asking favors, why do I have to cheat...I've asked friends and colleagues of mine to give money out of their own pockets and sometimes they have agreed."

DONATION DATA

 
See details on political donations from the Paw family, Norman Hsu and a handful of Mr. Hsu's business associates in New YorkLawrence Barcella, a Washington attorney representing Mr. Hsu, said in a separate email: "You are barking up the wrong tree. There is no factual support for this story and if Mr. Hsu's name was Smith or Jones, I don't believe it would be a story." He didn't elaborate.

A Clinton campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said in an email: "Norman Hsu is a longtime and generous supporter of the Democratic party and its candidates, including Senator Clinton. During Mr. Hsu's many years of active participation in the political process, there has been no question about his integrity or his commitment to playing by the rules, and we have absolutely no reason to call his contributions into question."

Kent Cooper, a former disclosure official with the Federal Election Commission, said the two-year pattern of donations justifies a probe of possible violations of campaign-finance law, which forbid one person from reimbursing another to make contributions.

"There are red lights all over this one," Mr. Cooper said.

There is no public record or indication Mr. Hsu reimbursed the Paw family for their political contributions.

For the 2008 election, individuals can donate a maximum of $4,600 per candidate -- $2,300 for a primary election and $2,300 for a general election -- and a total of $108,200 per election to all federal candidates and national political parties.

 
Six members of the Paw family list this house in Daly City, Calif., as their address.
In the wake of a 2002 law that set those limits, federal and state regulators and law-enforcement officials said they have seen a spike recently in the number of cases of individuals and companies illegally reimbursing others for campaign donations. Those cases don't necessarily implicate the candidates, who sometimes don't even appear to be aware of such payments executed on their behalf.

The 2002 law also raised penalties for infractions and included the prospect of prison sentences for offenders for the first time. That increased incentives for the FEC and federal prosecutors to investigate and prosecute infractions. Since the law was enacted, the FEC has collected millions of dollars in fines for illegal donations, including its largest-ever penalty, a $3.8 million levy against Freddie Mac last year.

According to public documents, Mr. Hsu once listed his address at the Paw home in Daly City, though it isn't clear if he ever lived there. He now lives in New York, according to campaign-finance records, on which he also lists a half-dozen apparel companies as his employer. In the campaign-finance forms, Mr. Hsu lists his companies as Next Components, Dilini Management, Because Men's Clothes and others.

He is on the board of directors of the New School in New York. News stories in the mid-1980s said he criticized trade policies that made it harder to import goods from China.

Mr. Hsu is also a major fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats. When Democrats won control of Congress in November, he threw a party at New York City hot spot Buddakan with many prominent party leaders. Press reports said that toward the end of the night, he grabbed the microphone from the deejay and shouted: "If you are supporters of Hillary for President 2008, you can stay. Otherwise, get out."

Mr. Hsu has pledged to raise $100,000 or more for Mrs. Clinton, earning the title of "HillRaiser" along with a few hundred other top financial backers of her campaign. Earlier this year, he co-hosted a fund-raiser that raised $1 million for Mrs. Clinton at the Beverly Hills, Calif., home of billionaire Ron Burkle. He is listed as a co-host for another Clinton fund-raiser next month in northern California.

The Paw family is just one set of donors whose political donations are similar to Mr. Hsu's. Several business associates of Mr. Hsu in New York have made donations to the same candidates, on the same dates for similar amounts as Mr. Hsu.

On four separate dates this year, the Paw family, Mr. Hsu and five of his associates gave Mrs. Clinton a total of $47,500. In all, the family, Mr. Hsu and his associates have given Mrs. Clinton $133,000 since 2005 and a total of nearly $720,000 to all Democratic candidates.

 
The Paw's Daly City home is a one-story house in a working-class suburb of San Francisco. On a recent day, a coiled garden hose rested next to a dilapidated garden with a half-dozen dried out plants. The din of traffic from a nearby freeway was occasionally drowned out by jumbo jets departing San Francisco International Airport.

William and Alice Paw are of Chinese descent. The entire family got their Social Security cards in California in 1982, according to state records. All but one of the Paws registered to vote as "nonpartisan." A San Mateo County elections official said that members of the Paw family vote "sporadically."

No one in the Paw family had ever given a campaign contribution before the 2004 presidential election, according to campaign-finance reports. Then, in July 2004, five members of the family contributed a total of $3,600 to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat. Five of the checks were dated July 27, 2004. About the same time, Mr. Hsu made his first donations to a political candidate, contributing the maximum amount allowed by law to Mr. Kerry in two separate checks, on July 21, 2004, and on Aug. 6.

From then on, the correlation of campaign donations between Mr. Hsu and the Paw family has continued. The first donations to Mrs. Clinton came Dec. 23, 2004, when Mr. Hsu and one Paw family member donated the then-maximum $4,000 to her Senate campaign in two $2,000 checks, campaign-finance records show. In March 2005, the individuals gave a total of $17,500 to Mrs. Clinton.

Since then, Mr. Hsu, his New York associates and the Paw family have continued to donate to Democratic candidates. This year, Alice Paw and four of the Paw children have donated the maximum $4,600 to Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign.

Write to Brody Mullins at brody.mullins@wsj.com

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28578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: August 29, 2007, 11:25:05 AM
 
 
   
     
   
 
 

 
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Not So Hot
August 29, 2007; Page A14
The latest twist in the global warming saga is the revision in data at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, indicating that the warmest year on record for the U.S. was not 1998, but rather 1934 (by 0.02 of a degree Celsius).

Canadian and amateur climate researcher Stephen McIntyre discovered that NASA made a technical error in standardizing the weather air temperature data post-2000. These temperature mistakes were only for the U.S.; their net effect was to lower the average temperature reading from 2000-2006 by 0.15C.

The new data undermine another frightful talking point from environmentalists, which is that six of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1990. Wrong. NASA now says six of the 10 warmest years were in the 1930s and 1940s, and that was before the bulk of industrial CO2 emissions were released into the atmosphere.

Those are the new facts. What's hard to know is how much, if any, significance to read into them. NASA officials say the revisions are insignificant and should not be "used by [global warming] critics to muddy the debate." NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt notes that, despite the revisions, the period 2002-2006 is still warmer for the U.S. than 1930-1934, and both periods are slightly cooler than 1998-2002.

Still, environmentalists have been making great hay by claiming that recent years, such as 1998, then 2006, were the "warmest" on record. It's also not clear that the 0.15 degree temperature revision is as trivial as NASA insists. Total U.S. warming since 1920 has been about 0.21 degrees Celsius. This means that a 0.15 error for recent years is more than two-thirds the observed temperature increase for the period of warming. NASA counters that most of the measured planetary warming in recent decades has occurred outside the U.S. and that the agency's recent error would have a tiny impact (1/1000th of a degree) on global warming.

If nothing else, the snafu calls into question how much faith to put in climate change models. In the 1990s, virtually all climate models predicted warming from 2000-2010, but the new data confirm that so far there has been no warming trend in this decade for the U.S. Whoops. These simulation models are the basis for many of the forecasts of catastrophic warming by the end of the century that Al Gore and the media repeat time and again. We may soon be basing multi-trillion dollar policy decisions on computer models whose accuracy we already know to be less than stellar.

What's more disturbing is what this incident tells us about the scientific double standard in the global warming debate. If this kind of error were made by climatologists who dare to challenge climate-change orthodoxy, the media and environmentalists would accuse them of manipulating data to distort scientific truth. NASA's blunder only became a news story after Internet bloggers played whistleblower by circulating the new data across the Web.

So far this year NASA has issued at least five press releases that could be described as alarming on the pace of climate change. But the correction of its overestimate of global warming was merely posted on the agency's Web site. James Hansen, NASA's ubiquitous climate scientist and a man who has charged that the Bush Administration is censoring him on global warming, has been unapologetic about NASA's screw up. He claims that global warming skeptics -- "court jesters," he calls them -- are exploiting this incident to "confuse the public about the status of knowledge of global climate change, thus delaying effective action to mitigate climate change."

So let's get this straight: Mr. Hansen's agency makes a mistake in a way that exaggerates the extent of warming, and this is all part of a conspiracy by "skeptics"? It's a wonder there aren't more of them.
 
WSJ
28579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: August 29, 2007, 11:20:55 AM
I wasn't quite sure where to post this one , , ,

Sarko Steps Up
The French President's Un-Chirac foreign policy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Nicolas Sarkozy made headlines this week by telling his diplomatic corps that "an Iran with nuclear weapons is for me unacceptable." But the French President did more in his speech than name the gravest current threat to global security, itself a feat of clear thinking. He also signaled that France means to be something more on the international scene than an anti-American nuisance player.

That's worth applauding at a time when the conventional wisdom says the next U.S. President will have to burnish America's supposedly tarnished reputation by making various policy amends. In Germany, under the conservative leadership of Angela Merkel, foreign policy views have been moving closer to the Bush Administration's, not further away, while new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made clear he will not depart significantly from the pro-American course set by Tony Blair.

But it is Mr. Sarkozy who, true to his reputation, has been the boldest in stepping up to his global responsibilities. On Afghanistan, he told the assembled diplomats, "the duty of the Atlantic Alliance as well as that of France," is to "increase efforts." He then announced he would be sending additional trainers to assist the Afghan Army. On Israel, he said he "would never budge" on its security. He warned about Russia, which "imposes its return on the world scene by playing its assets with a certain brutality," and he cautioned against China, which pursues "its insatiable search for raw materials as a strategy of control, particularly in Africa."





It's hard to imagine Jacques Chirac, Mr. Sarkozy's predecessor, speaking this way. (Mr. Sarkozy has also reportedly described French diplomats as "cowards" and proposed "[getting] rid of the Quai d'Orsay." Imagine the media uproar if President Bush mused about doing the same to Foggy Bottom?) No less a departure from past practices at the Élysée Palace is his stance on Iran. In January, Mr. Chirac had mused that an Iranian bomb would "not be very dangerous." Mr. Sarkozy, by contrast, has previously insisted on the need to "leave all options open" when dealing with Iran's nuclear programs.
In his speech this week to the diplomats, Mr. Sarkozy warned of the need for tough diplomacy, including "growing sanctions," to avoid the "catastrophic alternative: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran." That doesn't sound far from Senator John McCain's useful formulation that "There's only one thing worse than the United States exercising the military option; that is a nuclear-armed Iran." The important point is that Mr. Sarkozy has put on record that he won't let Iran develop a bomb under cover of feckless Western diplomacy.

One test of his resolve will be how much France assists the Bush Administration as it seeks to round up votes in the U.N. Security Council for a third round of sanctions on Iran next month. The Administration has had a hard time moving the diplomacy beyond symbolism in part because of the economic ties that other permanent members of the Council, including France, have with the Islamic Republic. The French say they've already pulled out some of their investments in the country, and in recent months France, Germany and other European countries have in fact cut back their export credits to Iran.

Mr. Sarkozy could now demonstrate real seriousness by forcing French energy giant Total from its $2 billion investment in the huge South Pars natural gas project. A corruption probe into the decade-old project could give him the leverage to do so, as could rising pressure in the U.S. Congress to start enforcing sanctions against companies that do business with rogue regimes.





Whatever Mr. Sarkozy does, however, he has plainly set a new tone for French foreign policy. That's not to say we agree with him on every point: He reiterated France's opposition to the war in Iraq and called for a "horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Yet even that puts him well to the right of every U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate. And he warned against the "risks of an antagonistic multipolar world," the very world Mr. Chirac seemed to strive for by opposing the U.S. at every turn.
In a speech last year in New York, Mr. Sarkozy noted that "I've always favored modest effectiveness over sterile grandiloquence. And I don't want to see an arrogant France with a diminished presence." With his remarks Monday, Mr. Sarkozy has given the best evidence to date that his presidency will attempt to enhance French influence not by opposing the U.S. but by working with it.


28580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / When pigs fly on: August 29, 2007, 11:13:02 AM
opinion journal

The Upside of Hamas
The Associated Press reports some surprisingly good news from the erstwhile terror haven of Jenin:

Palestinian police rescued an Israeli soldier Monday after he mistakenly drove into this West Bank town and was surrounded by a mob that later burned his car. Israel praised the rescue as a sign of the growing strength of Palestinian moderates.

Three policemen spotted the Israeli military officer inside the car and escorted him through the mob before taking him to their headquarters, police said. The soldier suffered no injuries and was handed over to Israeli troops. . . .

The rescue was a sharp contrast to seven years ago when two Israeli army reservists strayed into the West Bank city of Ramallah. They were captured by Palestinian police, who took them to a police station. A mob stormed the station and killed the two, throwing one body from a second story window as news photographers took pictures.

That incident, known to shocked Israelis as "the lynching," set the tone for violence and suspicion that has continued ever since.

This latest incident is only an anecdote, not yet a trend; but it may signify that the rise of Hamas is actually forcing "moderate" Palestinians to behave moderately, because accommodating Israel is their only hope for survival.

Lemon Soufflé
28581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 29, 2007, 10:26:33 AM
I have imprecise memory of the early days of the war when we chickened out of arresting him on some murder warrants.

Anyway, today's report is most interesting-- could this indicate some shift in the correlation of forces? huh
28582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: August 29, 2007, 08:52:55 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Envisioning Turkey under the AK Presidency

The Turkish parliament on Tuesday elected a former Islamist as the staunchly secularist republic's 11th president. After close to four months marred by controversy and contention, Abdullah Gul, the No. 2 man in Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, made it into the president's chair after the 3rd round of voting. He secured 339 votes in the 550-seat legislature, but he only needed a simple majority of 276.

Gul's election brings to an end the latest chapter of a long struggle between religiously inclined political forces and Turkey's ultra-secularist military establishment -- with this round going to the Islamists. By no means does this mean that the men in uniform have thrown in the towel. Far from it: the generals will be closely watching the AK, and especially the behavior of the 56-year-old Gul. This much was spelled out by military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit on Monday in an Internet statement that said "our nation has been watching the behavior of centers of evil who systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic," and warned that "the military will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey."

Modern Turkey was founded by Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk" in 1923 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, an essentially Islamic polity. Kemal, who himself was a military commander, implemented radical changes whereby the Turkish republic was established as a secular entity along the lines of European states. Since then the military has served as the praetorian guards responsible for preserving the Kemalist character of the constitution and the secular fabric of the republic.

To this end, the military has intervened on four separate occasions (three of them being coups) -- in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997 -- and has banned four of the AK's predecessor groups because their Islamist ideology was seen as a threat to the secular order. Therefore, the military establishment is all too aware of what happened Tuesday. The Turkish political system has entered an unprecedented phase in its evolution, where a single party not only has been able to form two consecutive governments on its own, but also now controls the presidency -- which by extension means it controls the judiciary, because the president appoints key judges.

As far as civil-military relations are concerned, the military clearly has lost the current (and what appears to be a decisive) battle -- but the ideological struggle and the contention over secularism is far from over. More importantly, for the first time since the founding of the Turkish republic more than 80 years ago, a political force rooted in Islamism essentially controls all of the key civilian institutions of the state.

There is a lot of trepidation both within and outside Turkey that this will lead to a major Islamist-secular struggle in the country -- which could lead to a period of domestic instability, despite the fact that the AK took 47 percent of the vote and controls a lion's share of seats in Parliament. This is certainly a possibility. It will not be long before Gul will be caught between his national duties as the head of an ultra-secularist state and his commitment to his party's conservative ideology. One cannot expect him simply to behave as a neutral president.

But the AK did not fight hard to win the presidency just for the sake of winning. The party will gradually want to use the position to further consolidate its hold over the state, trying to redefine the secular character of the state -- moving away from the French style, which expressly renounces religious activity, toward the American model, which provides for more tolerance. Undoubtedly, this will lead to a new wave of struggle between the ruling party and the military.

Two factors are tying the military's hands at the moment. First, of course, is the AK's parliamentary majority. Second is the fear that any direct intervention by the military into politics could have serious repercussions, not just for stability and security in Turkey, but also for the economy. A coup would adversely affect foreign investment in the country, taking it back to the financial crisis that hit prior to the AK's rise to power in 2002. This would explain the uneasy accommodation reached in the past five years between the AK government and the generals.

For its part, the AK might have won the presidency, but it will still continue to tread carefully as far as the domestic policies are concerned, and will avoid tampering with the secular order of things. Over time, however, the party will become emboldened, because of the lack of any serious moves by the military to undercut its power. This is when there will be a behavioral change in Turkey, as the AK government begins to feel confident in engaging in policies that it currently might not want to risk.

Such a change will be most apparent and immediate in the foreign-policy arena, given the changes under way in the region. Iran has for the most part moved away from negotiating with the United States over Iraq and is now trying to take advantage of the expected U.S. drawdown of forces from the country. We have already discussed at length Turkish interests in Iraq with regard to Kurdish separatism. This issue undoubtedly will be of a primary concern to the Turks, especially now that a settlement on Iraq appears highly unlikely. Of even greater significance will be future Turkish behavior toward the larger emerging conflict surrounding Iraq: Iran and the Shia versus the Arab states and the Sunnis.

Here is where an AK regime will be forced to balance pan-Islamic issues with Turkish nationalist objectives. On one hand, Turkey will focus on making sure that the ethno-sectarian conflict does not enable Iraqi Kurds (and by extension Turkish Kurds) to further their separatist agenda. On the other hand, Ankara will have to decide whether to side with the Arab states -- who are fellow Sunnis -- against Iran, or align with Iran, or chart a more neutral course.

This would not have been a complicated matter under a purely secular Turkish government, which would have viewed the issue solely from the point of view of Turkish national interest. But because the AK has pan-Islamic ties to various actors in the Arab/Muslim world, the matter becomes complex. The Saudis and the Iranians subscribe to competing notions of Islam -- not just in the sectarian sense but in ideological terms. That will put an AK-ruled Turkey in a difficult spot.
stratfor.com
28583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: August 29, 2007, 08:31:40 AM
Woof All:

The mission of this forum is to search for Truth.  Thus, it seems right to include this URL here:

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php

I first stumbled on this site via a URL of its article about how the author was NOT offended by the Opus cartoon and have briefly skimmed it.  The site seems worth taking a further look and I will be doing so.

TAC,
Marc
28584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 29, 2007, 08:01:54 AM
Wonder what is behind this?

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

Sadr set to 'rebuild' Mehdi Army 
 
The Mehdi Army is believed to have some 60,000 fighters
The radical Iraqi Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, has announced the "rebuilding" of his Mehdi Army militia over a maximum period of six months.
He called on all its offices to co-operate with the security forces and exercise "self-control", in a statement issued by his office in Najaf.

The order was read out at a conference in Karbala, where fierce fighting on Tuesday killed more than 50 people.

Police blamed the Mehdi Army for the violence, but it denied involvement.

The militia is strongly opposed to the US presence in Iraq and took part in two uprisings against US-led forces in 2004.

It has also been linked to many sectarian attacks on Iraq's Sunni Arabs and on UK forces in the south of the country.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...st/6968720.stm


 
28585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: SPP: "Security and Prosperity Partnership"/United Nations on: August 29, 2007, 07:57:36 AM
U.S. under U.N. law in health emergency
Bush's SPP power grab sets stage for military to manage flu threats


Posted: August 28, 2007
11:15 p.m. Eastern




By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America summit in Canada released a plan that established U.N. law along with regulations by the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization as supreme over U.S. law and set the stage for militarizing the management of continental health emergencies.

The "North American Plan for Avian & Pandemic Influenza" was finalized at the SPP summit last week in Montebello, Quebec.
At the same time, the U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, has created a webpage dedicated to avian flu and has been running exercises in preparation for the possible use of U.S. military forces in a continental domestic emergency involving avian flu or pandemic influenza.
With virtually no media attention, in 2005 President Bush shifted U.S. policy on avian flu and pandemic influenza, placing the country under international guidelines not specifically determined by domestic agencies.
The policy shift was formalized Sept. 14, 2005, when Bush announced a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza to a High-Level Plenary Meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, in New York.

The new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza was designed to supersede an earlier November 2005 Homeland Security report that called for a U.S. national strategy that would be coordinated by the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Agriculture.
The 2005 plan, operative until Bush announced the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, directed the State Department to work with the WHO and U.N., but it does not mention that international health controls are to be considered controlling over relevant U.S. statutes or authorities.
Under the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, Bush agreed the U.S. would work through the U.N. system influenza coordinator to develop a continental emergency response plan operating through authorities under the WTO, North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
WND could find no evidence the Bush administration presented the Influenza Partnership plan to Congress for oversight or approval.
The SPP plan for avian and pandemic influenza announced at the Canadian summit last week embraces the international control principles Bush first announced to the U.N. in his 2005 International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza declaration.
The SPP plan gives primacy for avian and pandemic influenza management to plans developed by the WHO, WTO, U.N. and NAFTA directives – not decisions made by U.S. agencies.
The U.N.-WHO-WTO-NAFTA plan advanced by SPP features a prominent role for the U.N. system influenza coordinator as a central international director in the case of a North American avian flu or pandemic influenza outbreak.
In Sept. 2005, Dr. David Nabarro was appointed the first U.N. system influenza coordinator, a position which also places him as a senior policy adviser to the U.N. director-general.
Nabarro joined the WHO in 1999 and was appointed WHO executive director of sustainable development and health environments in July 2002.
In a Sept. 29, 2005, press conference at the U.N., Nabarro made clear that his job was to prepare for the H5N1 virus, known as the avian flu.
Nabarro fueled the global fear that an epidemic was virtually inevitable.
In response to a question about the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that killed approximately 40 million people worldwide, Nabarro commented, "I am certain there will be another pandemic sometime."
Nabarro stressed at the press conference that he saw as inevitable a worldwide pandemic influenza coming soon that would kill millions.
He quantified the deaths he expected as follows: "I'm not, at the moment at liberty to give you a prediction on numbers, but I just want to stress, that, let's say, the range of deaths could be anything from 5 to 150 million."
In a March 8, 2006, U.N. press conference that was reported on a State Department website, Nabarro predicted an outbreak of the H5N1 virus would "reach the Americas within the next six to 12 months."
On Feb. 1, 2006, NORTHCOM hosted representatives of more than 40 international, federal and state agencies for "an exercise designed to provoke discussion and determine what governmental actions, including military support, would be necessary in the event of an influenza pandemic in the United States."
NORTHCOM and other governmental websites document the growing role the Bush administration plans for the U.S. military to be involved in continental domestic emergencies involving health, including avian flu and pandemic influenza.
NORTHCOM participated in a nationwide Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed exercise – code-named Exercise Ardent Sentry 06 – to rehearse cooperation between Department of Defense and local, state and federal agencies, as well as the Canadian government.
A pandemic influenza crisis was one of the four scenarios gamed in Exercise Ardent Sentry 06, involving a scenario of a plague in Mexico reaching across the border into Arizona and New Mexico.
As has been customary in SPP documents and declarations, the Montebello, Canada, announcement of the North American Plan for Avian & Pandemic Influenza acknowledges in passing the sovereignty of the three nations.
The announcement says, "The Plan is not intended to replace existing arrangements or agreements. As such, each country's laws are to be respected and this Plan is to be subordinate and complementary to domestic response plans, existing arrangements and bilateral or multilateral agreements."
Still, the SPP plan argues the risk from avian and pandemic influenza was so great to North America that the leaders of the three nations were compelled "to work collectively and with all levels of government, the private sector and among-non-governmental organizations to combat avian and pandemic influenza."
Moreover, the SPP plan openly acknowledges, "The WHO's international guidance formed much of the basis for the three countries' planning for North American preparedness and response."
WND previously reported NORTHCOM has been established with a command center at Peterson Air Force Base, tasked with using the U.S. military in continental domestic emergency situations.
WND also has reported President Bush signed in May two documents, National Security Presidential Directive-51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive-20, which give the office of the president extraordinary powers to declare national emergencies and to assume near-dictatorial powers. Following the Montebello summit last week, the SPP North American Plan for Avian & Pandemic Influenza was published on a made-over SPP homepage redesigned to feature agreements newly reached by trilateral bureaucratic working groups.

28586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 28, 2007, 11:09:39 PM
In Defense of the Constitution

News & Analysis
015/07  August 28, 2007


CAIR: Media Cowers in Face of Islamist Threat
   

On August 24th, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), issued a "News Release" trumpeting the role CAIR played in getting the Christian TV program "Live Prayer with Bill Keller" off the air in Tampa, Florida. 

http://www.cair.com/default.asp?Page=articleView&id=2929&theType=NR

While this is not a free speech issue, (TV stations are free to carry programs as they wish), it is troubling that a national broadcaster would terminate a program based on the demands of an Islamist hate group.especially an Islamic hate group that was not only founded by Islamic terrorists, but now stands as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terrorism case.

http://www.nysun.com/article/55778

In view of the fact that CAIR was founded by Islamist terrorists, is here to overthrow constitutional government, actively works to impose Sharia (Islamic law), and other odious aspects of CAIR's perverted brand of "Islam", and one can't help but wonder, "What was CBS thinking?"  CBS is in the business to make money; the Bill Keller program paid for its air time; in normal times, this would be considered good business.except for the antics of the unindicted co-conspirator, CAIR.

But these are not normal times.

Islam have become the latest "victim" in the American public arena, thanks to groups like CAIR; groups that purport to support "equal rights", but in reality demand "Special Rights".for Muslims only.

Rights not available to non-Muslims.

That's right.  If you are not a Muslim in America , you can be insulted; your faith (or lack of faith) can be made fun of, the way you dress, your voice, your choice of living arrangements.are all fair game.

The odious activities of CAIR have even influenced decisions regarding publication of cartoons.and we don't mean the Danish Cartoons.  The popular "Opus" cartoon strip has been pulled from the August 26th and September 2nd editions of many North American newspapers.  Why?  Could it possibly be the subject matter?  Readers may view the August 26th strip and reach their own conclusion:

http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2007/08/26/opus/index.html
http://www.berkeleybreathed.com/pages/index.asp

This is an alarming trend.  While there is no evidence that CAIR had anything to do with the Opus cartoon strip being pulled, it would seem to fit well with CAIR's agenda to define Islam in America .to define what can be said.or not said.
 
Censorship.

By a group that tarnishes the meaning of the words "Islamic civil rights group".

It should be noted that when Anti-CAIR attorney Reed Rubinstein asked a reporter from a renowned Washington DC newspaper why they won't report on the obvious connections CAIR has to terrorism, he was told that the newspaper would never print or follow up on information uncovered in the CAIR v Anti-CAIR Lawsuit "because Muslims are an oppressed minority in this country."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utJs2WoDlYI

This is extremely dangerous, especially since America has a long tradition of inquiry; no subject has been taboo, no course of inquiry subject to censorship in search of the truth on important matters of public interest. This is as it should be.   

Until now. 

Whenever there is an article that questions Islam, a commentary that correctly points out problems with Islam in North America, or even dares to raise the issue of Islamic terrorism, CAIR is in the forefront demanding that Islam be described in only the most innocent of terms. 

CAIR, once again, is clearly demonstrating what is in store for North America should CAIR's perverted brand of Islam become dominant.

CAIR has, since its founding, told us exactly what is in store for us should its dream of imposing Wahabbi Islam on North America come to fruition.  Our "mainstream press" has refused to even make inquiry into any aspect of CAIR's activities on behalf of radical Islam; is it any wonder that most North Americans are woefully ignorant of the threat?

The mainstream press has abdicated its role in society.  Is it any wonder that many people now turn to alternative sources for their news?

Come what may, North Americans will never be able to claim we weren't warned.



Andrew Whitehead
Director
Anti-CAIR
ajwhitehead@anti-cair-net.org
www.anti-cair-net.org
28587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: August 28, 2007, 08:05:43 PM
http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001506.html
28588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 28, 2007, 07:45:24 PM
Iraq: Iran Versus Saudi Arabia, Minus the United States?
Summary

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Aug. 28 warned that a power vacuum is imminent in Iraq and said Iran is ready to help fill the gap. This statement represents the shift Stratfor was expecting in Iranian behavior toward Iraq, wherein Tehran is no longer interested in negotiating with the United States because it expects Washington to withdraw from the country. This does not mean the road to Baghdad is clear for the Iranians, which explains why they have said they would work with regional Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Analysis

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Aug. 28 that his country is ready to fill the power vacuum in Iraq. Addressing a press conference in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said, "The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly. Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."

The Iranians are reacting to the emerging situation in Washington, which is leading the United States to effect a military drawdown of sorts in Iraq. As we have said, this leaves the Iranians with no incentive to negotiate with Washington over the future of Iraq. Instead, Iran is moving to take advantage of the expected security vacuum in Iraq and consolidate itself as the major power broker there.

But the Iranians are well aware that such a move will not be easy to pull off and will require Saudi cooperation. The Iranians intend to secure the Arab states' acknowledgement of Tehran's dominant role in Iraq -- a goal that will not come easily, to say the very least. Moreover, the United States is not about to allow Iran the space it needs to secure its interests in Iraq, as evidenced in the Bush administration's evolving Iraq policy, which we see shifting to a military strategy that will leave a residual force focused primarily on countering Iranian expansion in Iraq. Ahmadinejad's message to the Saudis is essentially stating that the inevitable U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will leave the Iranians in a prime position to dominate the country, and that their historical Arab/Sunni rivals in Riyadh will have no choice but to sue for peace -- on Tehran's terms.

Essentially, we are looking at the beginning of a full-scale and direct geopolitical struggle between Tehran and Riyadh over Baghdad as the United States redefines its mission in Iraq.
28589  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 2007 Euro Gathering on: August 28, 2007, 07:02:00 PM
Woof Maxx:

Mostly these days I do PTPs (Personal Training Programs) with people who come to me, but my seminars can be found at

http://dogbrothers.com/article_info.php?articles_id=1

Our webmaster is catching up as I type.  Not yet posted is the one I will be doing for Dino & Ashley (my second for them) in Manassas VA on Oct 20-21.

yip!
CD
28590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women on: August 28, 2007, 06:27:36 PM
Virginia's New Putative Father Registry Violates Fathers' Right to Raise Their Own Children

By Mike McCormick and Glenn Sacks

Virginia's controversial new Putative Father Registry law asks any man who has had heterosexual non-marital sex in Virginia to register with the State. Supporters say the law will help connect fathers with their children before the children are put up for adoption. Critics see it as another example of the erosion of citizens' privacy. Both sides miss the real point of the Registry--to remove a father's right to prevent his child's mother from giving their child up for adoption without his consent.

Incredibly, under the new law, putative fathers who fail to register waive their right to be notified that their parental rights are being terminated. They also forfeit the right to be notified of the adoption proceedings and to consent to the adoption. Rather than being required to make a legitimate effort to find and notify the father, the state can now simply check the Registry and, if the man has not registered, give his child away.
 
Such violations of fathers' rights are common. For example, in the widely-reported Huddleston adoption case, Mark Huddleston's baby boy was adopted out when he was three days old, but Huddleston didn't know the baby existed until two months after his birth. As a New Mexico court later found, the private adoption agency did not notify Huddleston of the pending adoption, thus denying him the chance to raise his son.

In an adoption case, the burden of identifying the father should be on the mother. It is the mother, not the father, who is certain to be aware of the child's birth, and it is the mother who knows (or should know) the baby's parentage. However, when states have tried to craft measures requiring a mother who seeks to put her baby up for adoption to find and notify the baby's father, there has been opposition from the National Organization for Women and other women's groups.

Defenders of the Registry justify disregarding fathers with numerous unfair assumptions about men and their intentions. For example, Kerry Dougherty, a prominent Virginia newspaper columnist, asserts:

"I think we're being too kind to these men. Guys who don't stick around long enough to find out whether they've caused a pregnancy have terminated their paternal rights. If they know a baby's on the way and then disappear, they aren't fathers...the General Assembly ought to look for ways to strip these irresponsible Romeos of their rights, not invite them to record their random copulations."

One wonders if Dougherty knows anyone who has dated within the last 40 years. It is absurd to think that in modern relationships, when there's an out-of-wedlock birth it must be because the father ran off. In reality, most unwed biological fathers do care about their children, but often do not know of their existence or are unsure that the children really are biologically theirs. There have been countless adoption cases where these fathers have struggled desperately for the right to raise their own children. One also wonders why a woman who wants to avoid the responsibility of raising a child (and of paying child support) is viewed sympathetically, while a man in exactly the same position is a villain.

There are numerous other problems with the Registry. A registrant must provide his social security number, driver's license number, home address, and employer, as well as details about the sexual affair and his sexual partner. This sensitive, personal information will be available to the baby's mother, the lawyers involved in the adoption, court employees, and anyone able to hack in to the computer system.

The law should instead require that an honest, exhaustive search for the father be conducted before an adoption can proceed. This search should include use of the Federal Parent Locator Service, which contains a vast array of information, including the National Directory of New Hires. The FPLS is used to enforce child support, find children involved in parental kidnappings, and to enforce child custody and visitation. State systems are tied into the FPLS, and they are often remarkably effective at finding parents.

Fathers have the right to raise their own children. Virginia's Registry is a shameful attempt to circumvent that right.

 
28591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: August 28, 2007, 01:23:47 PM
http://michaelyon-online.com/wp/the-ghosts-of-anbar-part-ii-of-iv.htm
28592  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 2007 Euro Gathering on: August 28, 2007, 01:09:27 PM
Woof Lonely:

May I suggest:

1) Posting the actual date, location, time etc?

2) URL for the Fighter Registration form?

3) Working in a plug for my seminar?

 cheesy
Guro Crafty
28593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: August 28, 2007, 12:20:42 PM
Muslim Patrol Quiets Crime in Shaw
By Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2007; B03



On a sidewalk in Shaw, a dozen Muslim men wearing red T-shirts gather an hour before sundown.

Half line up quietly behind an imam. Facing southeast toward Mecca, they bow their heads and read aloud verses from the Koran. The other half spread themselves out and look up and down the street. After a few minutes, they switch places.

The men have come not just to pray but to assume control over a crime-prone block.

They are part of a Muslim neighborhood watch that lately has focused its efforts on Seventh Street NW between P and Q streets, site of the long-troubled Kelsey Gardens apartment complex. Just a few weeks ago, the location was beset by drug dealers, armed assaults and random shootings.
The group is composed of Muslims who practice a more orthodox form of Islam than such groups as the Nation of Islam, says founder Leroy Thorpe.
It is a spinoff of the Citizens Organized Patrol Efforts, or COPE, a neighborhood watch established in 1988 in Shaw. Both groups dress in ample red T-shirts and red baseball hats with "COPE Patrol" written on them.

About two months ago, owners of the 35-unit Kelsey Gardens complex asked Thorpe to arrange security for the residents and crack down on drug dealers who gravitated to a parking lot in the complex, Thorpe said. The complex is slated to be razed next month and a new structure will take its place. Thorpe said that the owners want to encourage more investment in the area.

"Nobody is going to invest in a drug-infested area," said Thorpe, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who also goes by the Muslim name Mahdi.

D.C. police, who say they know of no other religion-based citizens patrol operating in the District, credit the Muslims with rousting the drug dealers and restoring a measure of public safety to the neighborhood. "There was an overwhelming difference," said Officer Earl Brown of the 3rd Police District.

Patrol members carry no weapons, and several of the men said they had no training in self-defense. But their presence seems to be effective.
"You have eyes and ears in the neighborhood," said Cmdr. Larry McCoy, who heads the Third Police District. "Most people don't like to commit crimes in front of people who are going to tell the police about them."
Driven by the power of faith, the patrol has a secondary aim: to "call people to worship Allah," said Khalil Davis, the imam for the Salafi Society of D.C. mosque.

A long salt-and-pepper beard framing his thin face and dressed in a white dishdasha, the traditional Muslim men's calf-length garment, Davis handed out literature to passersby describing Islam as a religion of peace.

One leaflet contained two pictures, one of waterfalls and natural greenery, the other of a huge, smoky fireball. "You decide," it said. The group called the leaflets "Islam's anti-terror message."

"It is a therapeutic ambience to the community," Davis said of the religion.

"This creates a community that is pure and free of crimes."

But it is a message that can be difficult to spread. Davis tried to distribute the leaflets to pedestrians, but most refused to take them.

The Muslim patrol works 12-hour shifts, three nights a week: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which Thorpe said are peak nights for drug dealing.
On a patrol one recent weeknight, the men walked around the complex in pairs. They were scouting for "suspicious activity" and "undesirable people," Thorpe said.

They peered behind large trash cans in alleys, looking for drug addicts who might be hiding. They went into a parking lot between two buildings and walked between the rows of cars, hoping their presence would chase off anyone who might be lurking.

"They see us, they are going to flee," said Thorpe, who carries a cellphone to call police if he needs help.

This night was uneventful. The walkie-talkies remained mute. Residents walking out of their apartment building waved to the Muslim patrol members, who waved back.

Residents seem to recognizes the Muslim patrol by now, and the Muslims have come to recognize most of the people who live on the block. "Assalamu Alaikum," they say in greeting -- Arabic for "peace be upon you. "

The Muslim patrol group is the only one of its kind in the District, according to the police department, but several patrol members said they hope to duplicate it in other neighborhoods.

"I would love to do it in my neighborhood," said Brian Christopher, 40, who lives with his wife and two children in a neighborhood in Northeast Washington that has no citizens patrol. "But it has to start somewhere."
Several residents and local business people said they were pleased it started in Shaw.

"They are really helping out," said Tony Dolford, 38, a Kelsey Gardens resident who has lived in the neighborhood since 1993.

Everett Lucas, 66, owns the Variety Market across the street from the apartment complex. The market has been open for 34 years.
"One thing you don't see now [in the neighborhood] is drug activity," Lucas said.

"Knock on wood," McCoy said. "It's made a difference. Those planning to do wrong in the neighborhood know they are out there, and it stops them."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...082701527.html
28594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 28, 2007, 12:12:10 PM
I've met our Buz, and the myspace Buz most certainly is not him cheesy
28595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: August 28, 2007, 12:00:20 PM
An interesting history of PC:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8630135369495797236&hl=en
28596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Convert or Die on: August 28, 2007, 10:10:21 AM
From a website that IMHO hyperventilates on occasion, but here it is:

'Convert or die,' Christians told
Muslims flood neighborhoods with threats


Posted: August 23, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern



© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

Christian residents of several neighborhoods in northern Pakistan have been sent letters "inviting" them to abandon Christianity and join Islam – or be killed, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs, the ministry to persecuted Christians around the world.
"There have been numerous threats sent to Peshawar's Kohati area," sources for VOM reported this week. "The letters say if we don't become Muslim we will be killed."
The unsigned threats began several weeks ago, when residents of Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, reported receiving the letters threatening suicide bombings if they did not convert.
(Story continues below)
The letters went to Christian residents of the Tailgodom, Sandagodom and Goalgodom neighborhoods, according to a report from Assist News Service.
"These letters sent a wave of fear and uncertainty among the Christian residents of these … areas," Kamran George, a Peshawar government member, told the news service.
Each of the districts houses an estimated 2,000 Christians.
"Through this open letter you are openly invited to convert to Islam and quit Christianity, the religion of infidels," the letter said. Readers could "ensure your place in heaven" by adopting Islam.
"We will wipe out your slum on next Friday, August, 10th, 2007. And you, yourself would be responsible for the destruction of your men and material. Get ready! This is not a mere threat, our suicide bombers are ready to wipe out your name and signs from the face of earth. Consider it be the Knock of Death," it said.
Although that deadline has passed, Christians still fear the threat, a government official told Assist. He noted that a man dressed in Pakistan's national dress managed to get inside a recent meeting at St. John Catholic Church in Peshawar, but fled immediately when he saw police.
George said the threats were prompted by the suggestion from U.S. presidential candidate Tom Tancredo that the U.S. threaten to bomb Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina in retaliation if there would be a terrorist nuclear attack on the United States.
"We would be pleased to send those to Hell who dared casting malicious eye on Khana Kaba (Mecca, Saudi Arabia) and Prophet's Mosque (Medina, Saudi Arabia). There is death here (in Pakistan) for the agents and followers of the religion of Americans (Christians)," said the letter, written in Urdu, Pakiston's national language, Assist reported.
"We would wipe out the Churches from the face of the earth because our mosques, seminaries and children are being martyred on the directions of United States. We would write a new history with the blood of Infidels. Our suicide bombers, lovers of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) are ready to strike churches, to protect the sanctity of Mecca and Medina, and pride of Islam.
"These suicide bombers would strike at any time or day. It is our first and foremost Jihad (Islamic Holy war) to assassinate and eradicate the infidels from the face of earth," the letter said.
Additional police have been assigned in the region, the same area where a surge of violence followed the recent occupation and storming of the nation's Red Mosque. There, as WND reported, radical leaders faced off against Pakistani forces and said the 1,800 children in the compound had taken oaths on the Quran to fight to the death.


Followers of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, leader of the pro-Taliban mosque, staged the standoff after a crackdown was launched on the mosque for a months-long campaign to expand Islamic religious law.
A minority member of Pakistan's parliament, Pervaiz Masih, even raised the issue of the threats in the legislature's National Assembly, reading the letter to lawmakers and calling on the government to note the insecurity it had created.
The Voice of the Martyrs cited a list of other attacks on Christians in Pakistan in recent weeks that also have raised concerns.
For example, the organization reported that Muslims had confessed and apologized for attacking a church in the Punjab region, but have to this point offered no compensation for injuring Christians and damaging their building.
Reports confirmed seven Christians were hurt and Christian literature was destroyed at a Salvation Army church north of Faisalabad in the attack, and attackers admitted they had planned to burn a page of the Quran – which can bring a life prison sentence in Pakistan – and then blame the Christians of the community.
The attack happened just as Christians were assembling for a worship meeting, and several victims were hit with axes. Bibles and hymn books also were destroyed.
Just weeks earlier, a formal court session in Lahore also sentenced a Pakistani Christian to death for blasphemy. Authorities said Younis Masih, a Christian from Chungi Amar Sadu in Lahore, was accused of blasphemy of the Prophet Muhammad.
Although no one has yet been executed by the state for blasphemy, several have been murdered by extremists.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide says Pakistan's blasphemy laws are regularly misused as a means of settling scores or targeting religious minorities.
The blasphemy laws require only an accusation by one man against another for a case to be filed. In almost all cases the charges are entirely fabricated. Masih was outspoken against incidents of rape committed against Christian girls, and is a Christian himself. It is believed these were the reasons he was accused of blasphemy, according to reports.
VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body. The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, "Tortured for Christ," was released.
28597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: August 28, 2007, 08:18:25 AM
WSJ

Will You Answer the Call?
By BOB OKUN
August 28, 2007; Page A13

Stop what you're doing and simply listen for a moment so you may hear a conversation that is going on across America. It is not about who will be the next president, but about why average citizens aren't more fully engaged in the war on terror.

Why haven't we all been asked by our leaders to give more of ourselves as in previous wars? And most importantly, what can and should we all do about the national disconnect between citizen and soldier?

In part, most of us have gone on with our lives with minimal interruption because we are fighting an intensive, protracted two-front war with an all-volunteer force. Only a relatively small slice of American society, myself included, has any real connection to the brave men and women in uniform protecting our freedoms every day. Fewer still have any idea what their families are going through as they wait for their service members to come home.

We as citizens have seemed content that we've contributed to a care package or applauded someone in uniform. But with so little asked of us in terms of personal commitment, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to rally around those whose loved ones sacrifice their time, their safety and even their lives for our country.

Two years ago, my daughters opened my eyes to this national disconnect between average citizens and soldiers, and to how we may repay the burden military families assumed on our behalf. They had sent care packages to the troops overseas through church and Girl Scouts, but they wanted to do more. Then a classmate's father returned from Iraq with severe injuries. The girls wanted a way to show support for their classmate's family, and for all military families.

What started as a kitchen-table idea evolved into ThanksUSA, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing post-secondary school scholarships to the children and spouses of those serving on active duty, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 1,000 military family members in all 50 states and D.C. have already received vocational and college scholarships, and another round will be awarded this year. Hundreds of thousands of other military families need and deserve a variety of support from community members, civic leaders, corporate leaders and all Americans as they set out to reclaim and reassemble their lives in the coming years.

Since the war began, there have been some shining examples, "best practices" in corporate-speak, of businesses supporting the troops and their families.

Home Depot, CVS and Dell have reached out to hire military spouses. Freddie Mac, purchaser of residential mortgages, has helped injured soldiers and their families to manage their finances upon re-entry to civilian life. Entrepreneurs such as Dan Caulfield (a veteran) recently created Hire a Hero, using the Internet to help returning service members connect with eager businesses seeking skilled workers.

Other service organizations are involved, including Fisher House, which provides housing near hospitals for families of wounded veterans, and information clearinghouses for military families such as America Supports You, as well as the modern USO, all doing their part daily to help military personnel.

Our family just completed a 7,000-mile cross country road trip in an overcrowded SUV this month, visiting military bases and military families and touring historical sites that define America's greatness. We can anecdotally report that more and more people recognize the national disconnect between average citizen and soldier, and are beginning to take action, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community to help military families whose loved ones are abroad.

Those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 answered their country's call to duty with no questions or hesitation. When they and their families need your support in the coming years, will you answer the call?

Mr. Okun is president and CEO of ThanksUSA.
28598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 28, 2007, 08:14:36 AM
OTOH perhaps the NIE assessment which affects Stratfor's thinking so much is wide of the mark-- it certainly wouldn't be for the first time our intel has been slow to realize changes on the ground:

This Isn't Civil War
By CARTER ANDRESS
August 28, 2007; Page A13

Baghdad

We are winning this war. I write those words from my desk in the Red Zone in downtown Baghdad as hundreds of Iraqis working with my company -- Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd -- execute security, construction and logistics missions throughout the capital and Sunni Triangle. We have been here now over three years.

American-Iraqi Solutions Group, which I helped co-found in March 2004, has been intimately involved with creating the new Iraqi security services. Our principal business as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor is to build bases for the Iraqi army and police and then supply them with water, food, fuel and maintenance services. We are on the cutting edge of the exit strategy for the U.S. military: Stand up an effective Iraqi security structure and then we can bring our troops home.

We are not out of the Iraqi desert yet. But the primary problems we now face on the ground are controllable, given a strong American military presence through 2008. These problems include the involvement of Iran in fueling Shia militancy, the British failure to uphold their security obligations in the south and the tumultuous nature of a new democracy.

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker recently said the one word he would choose to describe the feelings of the Iraqi people was "fear." A bad choice, from my observation.

That's not the prevailing state of mind, except maybe for those sheltered souls in the Green Zone who are getting hit on a regular basis for the first time in more than a year by primarily Iranian-supplied rockets and mortars. What I see on the faces of the thousands of Iraqis working with us, including our subcontractors and suppliers as well as on the faces of the Iraqi army and police, patrolling and manning the checkpoints and assisting U.S. soldiers in searching for the insurgents is grim determination to get the job done.

I also see exhaustion -- exhaustion with the insurgency, whether it be al Qaeda, neo-Saddamist, or Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), or the Shia militia of Moqtada al-Sadr. The exhaustion is real, and the evidence of the falling support among the Iraqi people for the insurgency in its various guises is inescapable -- unless you are deliberately looking the other way.

A large proportion of our thousand-man work force -- of which 90% are Iraqi citizens -- comes from Sadr City, the Shia slum in east Baghdad. Many carry weapons. These Shia warriors have emphasized in the past several months that they and their neighbors are tired of conflict and only want to feed their families.

You only have to note the lack of U.S. casualties in the ongoing surge to clear JAM out of the highly dangerous urban terrain of Sadr City to realize that the people there do not want to fight us. They are sick of fighting.

As for Sunni resistance, I recently visited the boot camp we operate for the Iraqi army at Habbaniyah in Al Anbar, former heartland of the insurgency. For the first time we are seeing entire Sunni Arab recruiting cohorts at the camp, where before we only saw Shia from outside the province.

The Sunnis of Al Anbar -- finally tired of al Qaeda assassinating their sheikhs when they disagreed with the terrorists -- have committed their children to the security services of a government dominated by the majority Shias, and paid for and run by the Americans. With such a development, you have real progress in integrating the diverse elements in Iraq.

Slowly but surely, Iraqi security services are building up. You only have to travel outside the Green Zone to see them undertaking heroic risks as they work to control the streets in growing numbers and with growing professionalism. In the past couple of months, the Ministry of the Interior established an operations center for all of Baghdad that effectively coordinates nonmilitary logistics movements throughout the capital -- a function previously only undertaken by a coalition contractor. From chaos has come order and in turn, step by step, the Iraqi military is becoming a truly national, not sectarian, force.

I see no civil war between the Shias and Sunnis as I travel practically every day on the roads of Iraq with my Arab and Kurdish security team. The potential for renewed internecine warfare faded earlier this year, when al Qaeda failed to reignite the waning sectarian struggle the second time around with another attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

The perfect storm at the beginning of 2007 created the necessity of reconciliation. The Sunni Arabs who had used al Qaeda as leverage in the political struggle to re-establish their minority rule faced genocide in Baghdad from the Shia death squads. With pressure from the new Democratic majority in Congress, the Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki realized that time was running out for a dominant American presence in Iraq and finally allowed the U.S. military to clean up Sadr City, thus alleviating the death-squad activities.

Both the Sunni and Shia Arab sides of the Iraqi political equation (the Kurds have sided with us from the beginning) now see that there is no alternative to American protection. As a result, Sadr's people and the Sunnis have both returned to parliament. As always, democracy is messy, but it is working. We have to be patient, particularly because this nascent reconciliation has left al Qaeda as the odd man out.

Just as the rockets landing in the Green Zone are from a foreign source -- Iran -- the jihadis who destroy themselves in explosions aimed primarily at mass killings of Shia civilians are almost all foreigners. This is al Qaeda, not Iraq.

Even more to the point: The Iraqis basically ignore the al Qaeda car bombs, mourn the dead and then go to work, to school, join and continue to serve in the military and police -- and life goes on. There is no terror if no one is terrorized.

Let us, the American people, not be terrorized into retreating before our enemy -- al Qaeda -- just when they have begun to stand alone, stripped of allies, in a country beginning to enjoy the fruits of a democracy we have sacrificed much blood to help create.

Mr. Andress, CEO and principal owner of American-Iraqi Solutions Group, is author of "Contractor Combatants: Tales of an Imbedded Capitalist" (Thomas Nelson, 2007).
===============
Stratfor.com
IRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country is ready to fill the power vacuum in Iraq. Addressing a press conference in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said the United States' power there is collapsing and that Iran will fill the resulting vacuum "with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."
28599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: August 28, 2007, 07:56:23 AM
A good discussion of human evolutionary biology/pychology of aggression:

http://www.gresham.ac.uk/event.asp?PageId=108&EventId=291
28600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 28, 2007, 07:48:38 AM
I don't like this piece, but it comes from Stratfor and I search for Truth:
-------------------

Endgame: American Options in Iraq
The latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) summarizing the U.S. intelligence community's view of Iraq contains two critical findings: First, the Iraqi government is not jelling into an effective entity. Iraq's leaders, according to the NIE, neither can nor want to create an effective coalition government. Second, U.S. military operations under the surge have improved security in some areas, but on the whole have failed to change the underlying strategic situation. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias remain armed, motivated and operational.

Since the Iraq insurgency began in 2003, the United States has had a clear strategic goal: to create a pro-American coalition government in Baghdad. The means for achieving this was the creation of a degree of security through the use of U.S. troops. In this more secure environment, then, a government would form, create its own security and military forces, with the aid of the United States, and prosecute the war with diminishing American support. This government would complete the defeat of the insurgents and would then govern Iraq democratically.

What the NIE is saying is that, more than four years after the war began, the strategic goal has not been achieved -- and there is little evidence that it will be achieved. Security has not increased significantly in Iraq, despite some localized improvement. In other words, the NIE is saying that the United States has failed and there is no strong evidence that it will succeed in the future.

We must be careful with pronouncements from the U.S. intelligence community, but in this case it appears to be stating the obvious. Moreover, given past accusations of skewed intelligence to suit the administration, it is hard to imagine many in the intelligence community risking their reputations and careers to distort findings in favor of an administration with 18 months to go. We think the NIE is reasonable. Therefore, the question is: What is to be done?

For a long time, we have seen U.S.-Iranian negotiations on Iraq as a viable and even likely endgame. We no longer believe that to be the case. For these negotiations to have been successful, each side needed to fear a certain outcome. The Americans had to fear that an ongoing war would drain U.S. resources indefinitely. The Iranians had to fear that the United States would be able to create a viable coalition government in Baghdad or impose a U.S.-backed regime dominated by their historical Sunni rivals.

Following the Republican defeat in Congress in November, U.S. President George W. Bush surprised Iran by increasing U.S. forces in Iraq rather than beginning withdrawals. This created a window of a few months during which Tehran, weighing the risks and rewards, was sufficiently uncertain that it might have opted for an agreement thrusting the Shiites behind a coalition government. That moment has passed. As the NIE points out, the probability of forming any viable government in Baghdad is extremely low. Iran no longer is facing its worst-case scenario. It has no motivation to bail the United States out.

What, then, is the United States to do? In general, three options are available. The first is to maintain the current strategy. This is the administration's point of view. The second is to start a phased withdrawal, beginning sometime in the next few months and concluding when circumstances allow. This is the consensus among most centrist Democrats and a growing number of Republicans. The third is a rapid withdrawal of forces, a position held by a fairly small group mostly but not exclusively on the left. All three conventional options, however, suffer from fatal defects.

Bush's plan to stay the course would appear to make relatively little sense. Having pursued a strategic goal with relatively fixed means for more than four years, it is unclear what would be achieved in years five or six. As the old saw goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different outcome. Unless Bush seriously disagrees with the NIE, it is difficult to make a case for continuing the current course.

Looking at it differently, however, there are these arguments to be made for maintaining the current strategy: Whatever mistakes might have been made in the past, the current reality is that any withdrawal from Iraq would create a vacuum, which would rapidly be filled by Iran. Alternatively, Iraq could become a jihadist haven, focusing attention not only on Iraq but also on targets outside Iraq. After all, a jihadist safe-haven with abundant resources in the heart of the Arab world outweighs the strategic locale of Afghanistan. Therefore, continuing the U.S. presence in Iraq, at the cost of 1,000-2,000 American lives a year, prevents both outcomes, even if Washington no longer has any hope of achieving the original goal.

In other words, the argument is that the operation should continue indefinitely in order to prevent a more dangerous outcome. The problem with this reasoning, as we have said, is that it consumes available ground forces, leaving the United States at risk in other parts of the world. The cost of this decision would be a massive increase of the U.S. Army and Marines, by several divisions at least. This would take several years to achieve and might not be attainable without a draft. In addition, it assumes the insurgents and militias will not themselves grow in size and sophistication, imposing greater and greater casualties on the Americans. The weakness of this argument is that it assumes the United States already is facing the worst its enemies can dish out. The cost could rapidly grow to more than a couple of thousand dead a year.

The second strategy is a phased withdrawal. That appears to be one of the most reasonable, moderate proposals. But consider this: If the mission remains the same -- fight the jihadists and militias in order to increase security -- then a phased withdrawal puts U.S. forces in the position of carrying out the same mission with fewer troops. If the withdrawal is phased over a year or more, as most proposals suggest, it creates a situation in which U.S. forces are fighting an undiminished enemy with a diminished force, without any hope of achieving the strategic goal.

The staged withdrawal would appear to be the worst of all worlds. It continues the war while reducing the already slim chance of success and subjects U.S. forces to increasingly unfavorable correlations of forces. Phased withdrawal would make sense in the context of increasingly effective Iraqi forces under a functional Iraqi government, but that assumes either of these things exists. It assumes the NIE is wrong.

The only context in which phased withdrawal makes sense is with a redefined strategic goal. If the United States begins withdrawing forces, it must accept that the goal of a pro-American government is not going to be reached. Therefore, the troops must have a mission. And the weakness of the phased withdrawal proposals is that they each extend the period of time of the withdrawal without clearly defining the mission of the remaining forces. Without a redefinition, troop levels are reduced over time, but the fighters who remain still are targets -- and still take casualties. The moderate case, then, is the least defensible.

The third option is an immediate withdrawal. Immediate withdrawal is a relative concept, of course, since it is impossible to withdraw 150,000 troops at once. Still, what this would consist of is an immediate cessation of offensive operations and the rapid withdrawal of personnel and equipment. Theoretically, it would be possible to pull out the troops but leave the equipment behind. In practical terms, the process would take about three to six months from the date the order was given.

If withdrawal is the plan, this scenario is more attractive than the phased process. It might increase the level of chaos in Iraq, but that is not certain, nor is it clear whether that is any longer an issue involving the U.S. national interest. Its virtue is that it leads to the same end as phased withdrawal without the continued loss of American lives.

The weakness of this strategy is that it opens the door for Iran to dominate Iraq. Unless the Turks wanted to fight the Iranians, there is no regional force that could stop Iran from moving in, whether covertly, through the infiltration of forces, or overtly. Remember that Iran and Iraq fought a long, vicious war -- in which Iran suffered about a million casualties. This, then, simply would be the culmination of that war in some ways. Certainly the Iranians would face bitter resistance from the Sunnis and Kurds, and even from some Shia. But the Iranians have much higher stakes in this game than the Americans, and they are far less casualty-averse, as the Iran-Iraq war demonstrated. Their pain threshold is set much higher than the Americans' and their willingness to brutally suppress their enemies also is greater.

The fate of Iraq would not be the most important issue. Rather, it would be the future of the Arabian Peninsula. If Iran were to dominate Iraq, its forces could deploy along the Saudi border. With the United States withdrawn from the region -- and only a residual U.S. force remaining in Kuwait -- the United States would have few ways to protect the Saudis, and a limited appetite for more war. Also, the Saudis themselves would not want to come under U.S. protection. Most important, all of the forces in the Arabian Peninsula could not match the Iranian force.

The Iranians would be facing an extraordinary opportunity. At the very least, they could dominate their historical enemy, Iraq. At the next level, they could force the Saudis into a political relationship in which the Saudis had to follow the Iranian lead -- in a way, become a junior partner to Iran. At the next level, the Iranians could seize the Saudi oil fields. And at the most extreme level, the Iranians could conquer Mecca and Medina for the Shia. If the United States has simply withdrawn from the region, these are not farfetched ideas. Who is to stop the Iranians if not the United States? Certainly no native power could do so. And if the United States were to intervene in Saudi Arabia, then what was the point of withdrawal in the first place?

All three conventional options, therefore, contain serious flaws. Continuing the current strategy pursues an unattainable goal. Staged withdrawal exposes fewer U.S. troops to more aggressive enemy action. Rapid withdrawal quickly opens the door for possible Iranian hegemony -- and lays a large part of the world's oil reserves at Iran's feet.

The solution is to be found in redefining the mission, the strategic goal. If the goal of creating a stable, pro-American Iraq no longer is possible, then what is the U.S. national interest? That national interest is to limit the expansion of Iranian power, particularly the Iranian threat to the Arabian Peninsula. This war was not about oil, as some have claimed, although a war in Saudi Arabia certainly would be about oil. At the extreme, the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula by Iran would give Iran control of a huge portion of global energy reserves. That would be a much more potent threat than Iranian nuclear weapons ever could be.

The new U.S. mission, therefore, must be to block Iran in the aftermath of the Iraq war. The United States cannot impose a government on Iraq; the fate of Iraq's heavily populated regions cannot be controlled by the United States. But the United States remains an outstanding military force, particularly against conventional forces. It is not very good at counterinsurgency and never has been. The threat to the Arabian Peninsula from Iran would be primarily a conventional threat -- supplemented possibly by instability among Shia on the peninsula.

The mission would be to position forces in such a way that Iran could not think of moving south into Saudi Arabia. There are a number of ways to achieve this. The United States could base a major force in Kuwait, threatening the flanks of any Iranian force moving south. Alternatively, it could create a series of bases in Iraq, in the largely uninhabited regions south and west of the Euphrates. With air power and cruise missiles, coupled with a force about the size of the U.S. force in South Korea, the United States could pose a devastating threat to any Iranian adventure to the south. Iran would be the dominant power in Baghdad, but the Arabian Peninsula would be protected.

This goal could be achieved through a phased withdrawal from Iraq, along with a rapid withdrawal from the populated areas and an immediate cessation of aggressive operations against jihadists and militia. It would concede what the NIE says is unattainable without conceding to Iran the role of regional hegemon. It would reduce forces in Iraq rapidly, while giving the remaining forces a mission they were designed to fight -- conventional war. And it would rapidly reduce the number of casualties. Most important, it would allow the United States to rebuild its reserves of strategic forces in the event of threats elsewhere in the world.

This is not meant as a policy prescription. Rather, we see it as the likely evolution of U.S. strategic thinking on Iraq. Since negotiation is unlikely, and the three conventional options are each defective in their own way, we see this redeployment as a reasonable alternative that meets the basic requirements. It ends the war in Iraq in terms of casualties, it reduces the force, it contains Iran and it frees most of the force for other missions. Whether Bush or his successor is the decision-maker, we think this is where it must wind up.
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