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28601  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: November 01, 2006, 10:32:15 AM
Please use thread of same name on Science Culture Humanities forum.
28602  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: November 01, 2006, 10:29:23 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Return to Six-Party Talks

During a meeting in Beijing on Tuesday, representatives from China, North Korea and the United States agreed to restart six-party nuclear talks in the near future. Afterward, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Washington's chief negotiator, was upbeat, telling the press that the next round of talks, though still requiring a lot of preparation, likely will lead to "substantial progress" in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Hill also gave most of the credit to the Chinese.

These were exactly the words Beijing was hoping to hear. Despite its protestations prior to and following North Korea's October nuclear test, China has demonstrated the ability to benefit politically from North Korea's actions. Whether this was through shrewd Chinese maneuvering following the test or prior knowledge that the test would take place is less significant than the fact that, either way, China once again has come out on top.

China has used North Korea's missile program and nuclear threats to demonstrate its value to the United States as the only path through which Washington can control the actions of the "rogue" North Korean regime. North Korea's early October nuclear test has threatened to add another blot to the Bush administration's record as the Nov. 7 congressional elections approach, and the test has been characterized by opponents of the administration as a clear failure of U.S. policies on North Korea and proof that U.S. President George W. Bush had the wrong focus with the war in Iraq.

China has pulled that brand out of the fire, giving the U.S. administration a moral victory days before the election. Hill, White House spokesman Tony Snow, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush were quick to tout the win, saying Pyongyang's agreement to return to the talks was proof that the administration's tough policy toward North Korea, and its cooperation with China, were the proper tools to rein in North Korea's behavior.

In return for the political pre-election assist, the United States is giving China full credit for the resumption of talks, and Beijing will certainly ask for other favors in the future. To bring North Korea back to the table, Beijing used a combination of carrots and sticks. On one hand, China restricted some trade and increased its troop presence along the North Korean border, and Hong Kong impounded North Korean ships for "safety violations." On the other hand, Beijing assured Pyongyang of Chinese support and offered to soften the U.S. approach to North Korea.

South Korea and Russia have welcomed the news that the talks are back on, even though a date has not yet been set, but Japan has remained somewhat reticent, reminding Washington, Seoul and Tokyo of their earlier agreement that six-party talks would not resume unless North Korea gave up its nuclear ambitions beforehand. Japan does not want to see a temporary U.S. policy, based on political expediency, derail what Tokyo sees as progress toward regime change in North Korea. It also does not want to lose the convenience of having North Korea as a foil to shape domestic dialogue on Japan's military and constitutional reforms.

For North Korea, the resumption of talks has always been possible -- so long as it could lead to Pyongyang's broader goals of a nonaggression pact or peace accord with the United States and, more immediately, the removal of the economic sanctions against the regime (such as the frozen accounts in Macao). And if China offers certain guarantees, Pyongyang will respond -- even if the North Korean leadership continues to look for ways to become more independent of its former sponsor.

But as Hill correctly pointed out, the news that the nuclear talks will resume is no cause to break out the champagne and cigars. North Korea and China will continue playing their own political games once talks resume, and the United States is no more willing to allow North Korea to continue developing its nuclear program now than it was before the test. Add in Japan's intransigence, and the talks could again be destined for failure -- or another temporary solution that fails to finally resolve the situation (something that seems possible only after a fundamental regime shift in Pyongyang, or at least a shift in the North Korean worldview).

Rather, the only ones really celebrating are the Chinese -- who once again have transformed a perceived regional crisis into a diplomatic coup -- and their North Korean counterparts, who have tested a nuke (though it was a fizzle of a test) and been rewarded with a resumption of dialogue. This is a political gain for China -- one Washington is willing to grant in order to gain at least a week of positive airtime about Bush's foreign policy success. And Beijing sits back smugly in the knowledge that Washington has called in another favor -- one Beijing will expect to be paid in kind at a future date.
28603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Muslims, Nazis, and far right hate groups echo anti-semitisim on: November 01, 2006, 08:49:41 AM
The new anti-Semitism

By Victor Davis Hanson

 | Hating Jews, on racial as well as religious grounds, is as old as the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Later in Europe, pogroms and the Holocaust were the natural devolution of that elemental venom.

Anti-Semitism, after World War II, often avoided the burning crosses and Nazi ranting. It often appeared as a more subtle animosity, fueled by envy of successful Jews in the West. "The good people, the nice people" often were the culprits, according to a character in the 1947 film "Gentleman's Agreement," which dealt with the American aristocracy's social shunning of Jews.

A recent third type of anti-Jewish odium is something different. It is a strange mixture of violent hatred by radical Islamists and the more or less indifference to it by Westerners.

Those who randomly shoot Jews for being Jews ? whether at a Jewish center in Seattle or at synagogues in Istanbul ? are for the large part Muslim zealots. Most in the West explain away the violence. They chalk it up to anger over the endless tit-for-tat in the Middle East. Yet privately they know that we do not see violent Jews shooting Muslims in the United States or Europe.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promises to wipe Israel "off the map." He seems eager for the requisite nuclear weapons to finish off what an Iranian mullah has called a "one-bomb state" ? meaning Israel's destruction would only require one nuclear weapon. Iran's theocracy intends to turn the idea of a Jewish state on its head. Instead of Israel being a safe haven for Jews in their historical birthplace, the Iranians apparently find that concentration only too convenient for their own final nuclear solution.

In response, here at home the Council on Foreign Relations rewards the Iranian president with an invitation to speak to its membership. At the podium of that hallowed chamber, Ahmadinejad, who questions whether the Holocaust ever took place, basically dismissed a firsthand witness of Dachau by asking whether he really could be that old.

The state-run, and thus government-authorized, newspapers of the Middle East, slander Jews in barbaric fashion. "Mein Kampf" (translated, of course, as "Jihadi") sells briskly in the region. Hamas and Hezbollah militias on parade emulate the style of brownshirts. In response, much of the Western public snoozes. They are far more worried over whether a Danish cartoonist has caricatured Islam, or if the pope has been rude to Muslims when quoting an obscure 600-year-old Byzantine dialogue.

In the last two decades, radical Islamic terrorists have bombed and murdered thousands inside Europe and the United States. Their state supporters in the Middle East have raked in billions in petro-windfall profits from energy-hungry Western economies. For many in Europe and the United States, supporting Israel ? the Middle East's only stable democracy ? or even its allies in the West has become viewed as both dangerous and costly.

In addition, Israel is no longer weak but proud and ready to defend itself. So when its terrorist enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas brilliantly married their own fascist creed with popular leftwing multiculturalism in the West, there was an eerie union: yet another supposed third-world victim of a Western oppressor thinking it could earn a pass for its murderous agenda.

We're accustomed to associating hatred of Jews with the ridiculed Neanderthal Right of those in sheets and jackboots. But this new venom, at least in its Western form, is mostly a leftwing, and often an academic, enterprise. It's also far more insidious, given the left's moral pretensions and its influence in the prestigious media and universities. We see the unfortunate results in frequent anti-Israeli demonstrations on campuses that conflate Israel with Nazis, while the media have published fraudulent pictures and slanted events in southern Lebanon.

The renewed hatred of Jews in the Middle East ? and the indifference to it in the West ? is a sort of "post anti-Semitism." Islamic zealots supply the old venomous hatred, while affluent and timid Westerners provide the new necessary indifference ? if punctuated by the occasional off-the-cuff Amen in the manner of a Louis Farrakhan or Mel Gibson outburst.

The dangers of this post anti-Semitism is not just that Jews are shot in Europe and the United States ? or that a drunken celebrity or demagogue mouths off. Instead, ever so insidiously, radical Islam's hatred of Jews is becoming normalized.

The result is that the world's politicians and media are talking seriously with those who not merely want back the West Bank, but rather want an end to Israel altogether and everyone inside it.
28604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Evolutionary biology/psychology on: November 01, 2006, 07:41:09 AM
An Evolutionary Theory of Right and Wrong
NY Times
Published: October 31, 2006
Who doesn?t know the difference between right and wrong? Yet that essential knowledge, generally assumed to come from parental teaching or religious or legal instruction, could turn out to have a quite different origin.

Primatologists like Frans de Waal have long argued that the roots of human morality are evident in social animals like apes and monkeys. The animals? feelings of empathy and expectations of reciprocity are essential behaviors for mammalian group living and can be regarded as a counterpart of human morality.

Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has built on this idea to propose that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, ?Moral Minds? (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind.

People are generally unaware of this process because the mind is adept at coming up with plausible rationalizations for why it arrived at a decision generated subconsciously.

Dr. Hauser presents his argument as a hypothesis to be proved, not as an established fact. But it is an idea that he roots in solid ground, including his own and others? work with primates and in empirical results derived by moral philosophers.

The proposal, if true, would have far-reaching consequences. It implies that parents and teachers are not teaching children the rules of correct behavior from scratch but are, at best, giving shape to an innate behavior. And it suggests that religions are not the source of moral codes but, rather, social enforcers of instinctive moral behavior.

Both atheists and people belonging to a wide range of faiths make the same moral judgments, Dr. Hauser writes, implying ?that the system that unconsciously generates moral judgments is immune to religious doctrine.? Dr. Hauser argues that the moral grammar operates in much the same way as the universal grammar proposed by the linguist Noam Chomsky as the innate neural machinery for language. The universal grammar is a system of rules for generating syntax and vocabulary but does not specify any particular language. That is supplied by the culture in which a child grows up.

The moral grammar too, in Dr. Hauser?s view, is a system for generating moral behavior and not a list of specific rules. It constrains human behavior so tightly that many rules are in fact the same or very similar in every society ? do as you would be done by; care for children and the weak; don?t kill; avoid adultery and incest; don?t cheat, steal or lie.

But it also allows for variations, since cultures can assign different weights to the elements of the grammar?s calculations. Thus one society may ban abortion, another may see infanticide as a moral duty in certain circumstances. Or as Kipling observed, ?The wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Katmandu, and the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.?

Matters of right and wrong have long been the province of moral philosophers and ethicists. Dr. Hauser?s proposal is an attempt to claim the subject for science, in particular for evolutionary biology. The moral grammar evolved, he believes, because restraints on behavior are required for social living and have been favored by natural selection because of their survival value.

Much of the present evidence for the moral grammar is indirect. Some of it comes from psychological tests of children, showing that they have an innate sense of fairness that starts to unfold at age 4. Some comes from ingenious dilemmas devised to show a subconscious moral judgment generator at work. These are known by the moral philosophers who developed them as ?trolley problems.?

Suppose you are standing by a railroad track. Ahead, in a deep cutting from which no escape is possible, five people are walking on the track. You hear a train approaching. Beside you is a lever with which you can switch the train to a sidetrack. One person is walking on the sidetrack. Is it O.K. to pull the lever and save the five people, though one will die?

Most people say it is.

Assume now you are on a bridge overlooking the track. Ahead, five people on the track are at risk. You can save them by throwing down a heavy object into the path of the approaching train. One is available beside you, in the form of a fat man. Is it O.K. to push him to save the five?

Most people say no, although lives saved and lost are the same as in the first problem.

Why does the moral grammar generate such different judgments in apparently similar situations? It makes a distinction, Dr. Hauser writes, between a foreseen harm (the train killing the person on the track) and an intended harm (throwing the person in front of the train), despite the fact that the consequences are the same in either case. It also rates killing an animal as more acceptable than killing a person.

Many people cannot articulate the foreseen/intended distinction, Dr. Hauser says, a sign that it is being made at inaccessible levels of the mind. This inability challenges the general belief that moral behavior is learned. For if people cannot articulate the foreseen/intended distinction, how can they teach it?

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Web Link
Moral Minds Excerpt: Chapter One
Readers? Opinions
Forum: Book News and Reviews
Dr. Hauser began his research career in animal communication, working with vervet monkeys in Kenya and with birds. He is the author of a standard textbook on the subject, ?The Evolution of Communication.? He began to take an interest in the human animal in 1992 after psychologists devised experiments that allowed one to infer what babies are thinking. He found he could repeat many of these experiments in cotton-top tamarins, allowing the cognitive capacities of infants to be set in an evolutionary framework.

His proposal of a moral grammar emerges from a collaboration with Dr. Chomsky, who had taken an interest in Dr. Hauser?s ideas about animal communication. In 2002 they wrote, with Dr. Tecumseh Fitch, an unusual article arguing that the faculty of language must have developed as an adaptation of some neural system possessed by animals, perhaps one used in navigation. From this interaction Dr. Hauser developed the idea that moral behavior, like language behavior, is acquired with the help of an innate set of rules that unfolds early in a child?s development.

Social animals, he believes, possess the rudiments of a moral system in that they can recognize cheating or deviations from expected behavior. But they generally lack the psychological mechanisms on which the pervasive reciprocity of human society is based, like the ability to remember bad behavior, quantify its costs, recall prior interactions with an individual and punish offenders. ?Lions cooperate on the hunt, but there is no punishment for laggards,? Dr. Hauser said.

The moral grammar now universal among people presumably evolved to its final shape during the hunter-gatherer phase of the human past, before the dispersal from the ancestral homeland in northeast Africa some 50,000 years ago. This may be why events before our eyes carry far greater moral weight than happenings far away, Dr. Hauser believes, since in those days one never had to care about people remote from one?s environment.

Dr. Hauser believes that the moral grammar may have evolved through the evolutionary mechanism known as group selection. A group bound by altruism toward its members and rigorous discouragement of cheaters would be more likely to prevail over a less cohesive society, so genes for moral grammar would become more common.

Many evolutionary biologists frown on the idea of group selection, noting that genes cannot become more frequent unless they benefit the individual who carries them, and a person who contributes altruistically to people not related to him will reduce his own fitness and leave fewer offspring.

But though group selection has not been proved to occur in animals, Dr. Hauser believes that it may have operated in people because of their greater social conformity and willingness to punish or ostracize those who disobey moral codes.

?That permits strong group cohesion you don?t see in other animals, which may make for group selection,? he said.

His proposal for an innate moral grammar, if people pay attention to it, could ruffle many feathers. His fellow biologists may raise eyebrows at proposing such a big idea when much of the supporting evidence has yet to be acquired. Moral philosophers may not welcome a biologist?s bid to annex their turf, despite Dr. Hauser?s expressed desire to collaborate with them.

Nevertheless, researchers? idea of a good hypothesis is one that generates interesting and testable predictions. By this criterion, the proposal of an innate moral grammar seems unlikely to disappoint.

28605  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: November 01, 2006, 07:37:18 AM
How depressing, how utterly unjust, to be the one in your social circle who is aging least gracefully.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Mike Linksvayer, 36, on a low-calorie diet for six years, is 6 feet and 135 pounds, and his blood pressure is 112 over 63.
In a laboratory at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, Matthias is learning about time?s caprice the hard way. At 28, getting on for a rhesus monkey, Matthias is losing his hair, lugging a paunch and getting a face full of wrinkles.

Yet in the cage next to his, gleefully hooting at strangers, one of Matthias?s lab mates, Rudy, is the picture of monkey vitality, although he is slightly older. Thin and feisty, Rudy stops grooming his smooth coat just long enough to pirouette toward a proffered piece of fruit.

Tempted with the same treat, Matthias rises wearily and extends a frail hand. ?You can really see the difference,? said Dr. Ricki Colman, an associate scientist at the center who cares for the animals.

What a visitor cannot see may be even more interesting. As a result of a simple lifestyle intervention, Rudy and primates like him seem poised to live very long, very vital lives.

This approach, called calorie restriction, involves eating about 30 percent fewer calories than normal while still getting adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Aside from direct genetic manipulation, calorie restriction is the only strategy known to extend life consistently in a variety of animal species.

How this drastic diet affects the body has been the subject of intense research. Recently, the effort has begun to bear fruit, producing a steady stream of studies indicating that the rate of aging is plastic, not fixed, and that it can be manipulated.

In the last year, calorie-restricted diets have been shown in various animals to affect molecular pathways likely to be involved in the progression of Alzheimer?s disease, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson?s disease and cancer. Earlier this year, researchers studying dietary effects on humans went so far as to claim that calorie restriction may be more effective than exercise at preventing age-related diseases.

Monkeys like Rudy seem to be proving the thesis. Recent tests show that the animals on restricted diets, including Canto and Eeyore, two other rhesus monkeys at the primate research center, are in indisputably better health as they near old age than Matthias and other normally fed lab mates like Owen and Johann. The average lifespan for laboratory monkeys is 27.

The findings cast doubt on long-held scientific and cultural beliefs regarding the inevitability of the body?s decline. They also suggest that other interventions, which include new drugs, may retard aging even if the diet itself should prove ineffective in humans. One leading candidate, a newly synthesized form of resveratrol ? an antioxidant present in large amounts in red wine ? is already being tested in patients. It may eventually be the first of a new class of anti-aging drugs. Extrapolating from recent animal findings, Dr. Richard A. Miller, a pathologist at the University of Michigan, estimated that a pill mimicking the effects of calorie restriction might increase human life span to about 112 healthy years, with the occasional senior living until 140, though some experts view that projection as overly optimistic.

According to a report by the Rand Corporation, such a drug would be among the most cost-effective breakthroughs possible in medicine, providing Americans more healthy years at less expense (an estimated $8,800 a year) than new cancer vaccines or stroke treatments.

?The effects are global, so calorie restriction has the potential to help us identify anti-aging mechanisms throughout the body,? said Richard Weindruch, a gerontologist at the University of Wisconsin who directs research on the monkeys.

Many scientists regard the study of life extension, once just a reliable plotline in science fiction, as a national priority. The number of Americans 65 and older will double in the next 25 years to about 72 million, according to government census data. By then, seniors will account for nearly 20 percent of the population, up from just 12 percent in 2003.

Earlier this year, four prominent gerontologists, among them Dr. Miller, published a paper calling for the government to spend $3 billion annually in pursuit of a modest goal: delaying the onset of age-related diseases by seven years.

Doing so, the authors asserted, would lay the foundation for a healthier and wealthier country, a so-called longevity dividend.

?The demographic wave entering their 60s is enormous, and that is likely to greatly increase the prevalence of diseases like diabetes and heart disease,? said Dr. S. Jay Olshansky, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and one of the paper?s authors. ?The simplest way to positively affect them all is to slow down aging.?

Science, of course, is still a long way from doing anything of the sort. Aging is a complicated phenomenon, the intersection of an array of biological processes set in motion by genetics, lifestyle, even evolution itself.

Still, in laboratories around the world, scientists are becoming adept at breeding animal Methuselahs, extraordinarily long lived and healthy worms, fish, mice and flies.

In 1935, Dr. Clive McCay, a nutritionist at Cornell University, discovered that mice that were fed 30 percent fewer calories lived about 40 percent longer than their free-grazing laboratory mates. The dieting mice were also more physically active and far less prone to the diseases of advanced age.

Dr. McCay?s experiment has been successfully duplicated in a variety of species. In almost every instance, the subjects on low-calorie diets have proven to be not just longer lived, but also more resistant to age-related ailments.

?In mice, calorie restriction doesn?t just extend life span,? said Leonard P. Guarente, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ?It mitigates many diseases of aging: cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease. The gain is just enormous.?

Page 2 of 3)

For years, scientists financed by the National Institute on Aging have closely monitored rhesus monkeys on restricted and normal-calorie diets. At the University of Wisconsin, where 50 animals survive from the original group of 76, the differences are just now becoming apparent in the older animals.

Those on normal diets, like Matthias, are beginning to show signs of advancing age similar to those seen in humans. Three of them, for instance, have developed diabetes, and a fourth has died of the disease. Five have died of cancer.

But Rudy and his colleagues on low-calorie meal plans are faring better. None have diabetes, and only three have died of cancer. It is too early to know if they will outlive their lab mates, but the dieters here and at the other labs also have lower blood pressure and lower blood levels of certain dangerous fats, glucose and insulin.

?The preliminary indicators are that we?re looking at a robust life extension in the restricted animals,? Dr. Weindruch said.

Despite widespread scientific enthusiasm, the evidence that calorie restriction works in humans is indirect at best. The practice was popularized in diet books by Dr. Roy Walford, a legendary pathologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who spent much of the last 30 years of his life following a calorie-restricted regimen. He died of Lou Gehrig?s disease in 2004 at 79.

Largely as a result of his advocacy, several thousand people are now on calorie-restricted diets in the United States, says Brian M. Delaney, president of the Calorie Restriction Society.

Mike Linksvayer, a 36-year-old chief technology officer at a San Francisco nonprofit group, embarked on just such a diet six years ago. On an average day, he eats an apple or some cereal for breakfast, followed by a small vegan dish at lunch. Dinner is whatever his wife has cooked, excluding bread, rice, sugar and whatever else Mr. Linksvayer deems unhealthy (this often includes the entr?e). On weekends, he occasionally fasts.

Mr. Linksvayer, 6 feet tall and 135 pounds, estimated that he gets by on about 2,000 to 2,100 calories a day, a low number for men of his age and activity level, and his blood pressure is a remarkably low 112 over 63. He said he has never been in better health.

?I don?t really get sick,? he said. ?Mostly I do the diet to be healthier, but if it helps me live longer, hey, I?ll take that, too.?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have been tracking the health of small groups of calorie-restricted dieters. Earlier this year, they reported that the dieters had better-functioning hearts and fewer signs of inflammation, which is a precursor to clogged arteries, than similar subjects on regular diets.

In previous studies, people in calorie-restricted groups were shown to have lower levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. They also showed higher levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, virtually no arterial blockage and, like Mr. Linksvayer, remarkably low blood pressure.

?Calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging,? said Dr. John O. Holloszy, a Washington University professor of medicine. ?We don?t know how long each individual will end up living, but they certainly have a longer life expectancy than average.?

Researchers at Louisiana State University reported in April in The Journal of the American Medical Association that patients on an experimental low-calorie diet had lower insulin levels and body temperatures, both possible markers of longevity, and fewer signs of the chromosomal damage typically associated with aging.

These studies and others have led many scientists to believe they have stumbled onto a central determinant of natural life span. Animals on restricted diets seem particularly resistant to environmental stresses like oxidation and heat, perhaps even radiation. ?It is a very deep, very important function,? Dr. Miller said. Experts theorize that limited access to energy alarms the body, so to speak, activating a cascade of biochemical signals that tell each cell to direct energy away from reproductive functions, toward repair and maintenance. The calorie-restricted organism is stronger, according to this hypothesis, because individual cells are more efficiently repairing mutations, using energy, defending themselves and mopping up harmful byproducts like free radicals.

?The stressed cell is really pulling out all the stops? to preserve itself, said Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. ?This system could have evolved as a way of letting animals take a timeout from reproduction when times are harsh.?

But many experts are unsettled by the prospect, however unlikely, of Americans adopting a draconian diet in hopes of living longer. Even the current epidemiological data, they note, do not consistently show that those who are thinnest live longest. After analyzing decades of national mortality statistics, federal researchers reported last year that exceptional thinness, a logical consequence of calorie restriction, was associated with an increased risk of death. This controversial study did not attempt to assess the number of calories the subjects had been consuming, or the quality of their diets, which may have had an effect on mortality rates.

Page 2 of 3)

For years, scientists financed by the National Institute on Aging have closely monitored rhesus monkeys on restricted and normal-calorie diets. At the University of Wisconsin, where 50 animals survive from the original group of 76, the differences are just now becoming apparent in the older animals.

Skip to next paragraph
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
In a longevity study at Southern Illinois University the top mouse was fed a calorie-restricted diet, and the one below a normal diet. Both are 28 months old.

Calorie Restriction vs. Normal Diet
Readers? Opinions
Forum: Fitness and Nutrition
Those on normal diets, like Matthias, are beginning to show signs of advancing age similar to those seen in humans. Three of them, for instance, have developed diabetes, and a fourth has died of the disease. Five have died of cancer.

But Rudy and his colleagues on low-calorie meal plans are faring better. None have diabetes, and only three have died of cancer. It is too early to know if they will outlive their lab mates, but the dieters here and at the other labs also have lower blood pressure and lower blood levels of certain dangerous fats, glucose and insulin.

?The preliminary indicators are that we?re looking at a robust life extension in the restricted animals,? Dr. Weindruch said.

Despite widespread scientific enthusiasm, the evidence that calorie restriction works in humans is indirect at best. The practice was popularized in diet books by Dr. Roy Walford, a legendary pathologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who spent much of the last 30 years of his life following a calorie-restricted regimen. He died of Lou Gehrig?s disease in 2004 at 79.

Largely as a result of his advocacy, several thousand people are now on calorie-restricted diets in the United States, says Brian M. Delaney, president of the Calorie Restriction Society.

Mike Linksvayer, a 36-year-old chief technology officer at a San Francisco nonprofit group, embarked on just such a diet six years ago. On an average day, he eats an apple or some cereal for breakfast, followed by a small vegan dish at lunch. Dinner is whatever his wife has cooked, excluding bread, rice, sugar and whatever else Mr. Linksvayer deems unhealthy (this often includes the entr?e). On weekends, he occasionally fasts.

Mr. Linksvayer, 6 feet tall and 135 pounds, estimated that he gets by on about 2,000 to 2,100 calories a day, a low number for men of his age and activity level, and his blood pressure is a remarkably low 112 over 63. He said he has never been in better health.

?I don?t really get sick,? he said. ?Mostly I do the diet to be healthier, but if it helps me live longer, hey, I?ll take that, too.?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have been tracking the health of small groups of calorie-restricted dieters. Earlier this year, they reported that the dieters had better-functioning hearts and fewer signs of inflammation, which is a precursor to clogged arteries, than similar subjects on regular diets.

In previous studies, people in calorie-restricted groups were shown to have lower levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. They also showed higher levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, virtually no arterial blockage and, like Mr. Linksvayer, remarkably low blood pressure.

?Calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging,? said Dr. John O. Holloszy, a Washington University professor of medicine. ?We don?t know how long each individual will end up living, but they certainly have a longer life expectancy than average.?

Researchers at Louisiana State University reported in April in The Journal of the American Medical Association that patients on an experimental low-calorie diet had lower insulin levels and body temperatures, both possible markers of longevity, and fewer signs of the chromosomal damage typically associated with aging.

These studies and others have led many scientists to believe they have stumbled onto a central determinant of natural life span. Animals on restricted diets seem particularly resistant to environmental stresses like oxidation and heat, perhaps even radiation. ?It is a very deep, very important function,? Dr. Miller said. Experts theorize that limited access to energy alarms the body, so to speak, activating a cascade of biochemical signals that tell each cell to direct energy away from reproductive functions, toward repair and maintenance. The calorie-restricted organism is stronger, according to this hypothesis, because individual cells are more efficiently repairing mutations, using energy, defending themselves and mopping up harmful byproducts like free radicals.

?The stressed cell is really pulling out all the stops? to preserve itself, said Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. ?This system could have evolved as a way of letting animals take a timeout from reproduction when times are harsh.?

But many experts are unsettled by the prospect, however unlikely, of Americans adopting a draconian diet in hopes of living longer. Even the current epidemiological data, they note, do not consistently show that those who are thinnest live longest. After analyzing decades of national mortality statistics, federal researchers reported last year that exceptional thinness, a logical consequence of calorie restriction, was associated with an increased risk of death. This controversial study did not attempt to assess the number of calories the subjects had been consuming, or the quality of their diets, which may have had an effect on mortality rates.

28606  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Living la vida na levo in Tehran on: November 01, 2006, 07:17:01 AM

Living la vida na levo in Tehran
OP-ED: "Iranian Moolah," by Farouz Farzami, Wall Street Journal, 26 October
2006, p. A18.

Sorry, but had to zone out a bit after China. Caught up to my reading last
night, thanks to the extra hour (God, I wish that were every weekend!).

This description reminds me so much of the summer I lived in Leningrad in
1985 (the summer of the great crackdown on vodka, which never bugged me,
because I liked chatting up Russians while standing in line) and spent every
night I could with the blackmarketer "Big Al" and his constant stream of
customers. My big impression from all those nights: the populace had so
effectively opted out of political life and simply made their own
"house-arrest" style economic life na levo ("on the side," or literally, "on
the left" in Russian) that it was like they lived in their own little
universe of close friends, treasured objects, and media content from the
West (everyone in Leningrad seemed to live on American VHS tapes dubbed by a
screaming Finnish guy who did every voice the same--it was mesmerizingly
bad!). Of course, the most treasured objects were forbidden books, which I
brought in numbers with fake dust jackets.

The author of this piece is--natch!--a journalist who is "forbidden to
publish in Iran" (Sound familiar? Everyone I knew in the Russian ex-pat
community in the 1980s was a forbidden author. It was a modest
accomplishment, which is what made it so sad.).

Great story. He talks of coming upon a special stand of imported American
books (authorized by the mullahs, no doubt) in Tehran and notices one about
cocktails. Then he launches in:

I live in a country where alcohol is officially banned, but where the art of
home-made spirits has reached new heights. Sharing my astonishment about the
cocktail book with some friends with better connections to the Islamist
regime, they explained the government had a silent pact with the educated
and affluent in Iran's big cities, who render politics unto Caesar, provided
that Caesar keeps his nose out of their liquor cabinets.

In other words, the well-to-do Iranian drinks and reads and watches what he
wishes. He does as he pleases behind the walls of his private mansions and
villas. In return for his private comforts, the affluent Iranian is happy to
sacrifice freedom of speech, most of his civil rights, and his freedom of
association. The upper-middle class has been bought off by this pact, which
makes a virtue of hypocrisy.

The accommodation runs both ways. A friend who had made a small fortune in
the pharmaceutical business told me that recently the enforcers of Islamist
law appeared on the roof of his condominium in the northwest Tehran suburb
of Sharak-e-Qarb to seize all the satellite dishes. Every household received
an order to attend a hearing of the revolutionary court, where the
magistrate--typically a mullah--will levy fines. The fines help feed the
friends of the courts, while for my wealthy pharmacist friend, erecting
another satellite dish is as easy as refueling his car--and even the
inconvenience of replacing the dish will not be necessary for long.
Technology is more than up to the challenge posed by the morals police. "I
have heard there is a state-of-the-art dish made of invisible fiberglass
that I can install on the window pane of my apartment," my friend told me.
"I'm going for it."

Many Iranians believe the occasional crackdowns are being organized by
corrupt officials who secretly own interests in the new generation of
satellite dishes. The confiscations just create markets for new products.

Sound unbelievable? It isn't. It's exactly what you found in Moscow and
Leningrad back in the 1980s: a huge social network of hypocritical enforcers
and two-faced citizens, and everybody exchanged money in the process. It's
just that no wealth is truly generated, and the people get stupider and more
ambivalent and lazy and disconnected from the future. It's all so sad and
pathetic. I remember crying myself to sleep one night from thinking about
how everyone in the USSR felt like they will just living in some weird
prison and all they could claim for themselves was whatever they could beg,
borrow or steal. It was supremely depressing to see all that talent wasted,
and their profound sense of injustice.

This guy describes the workarounds, but that's not a life, and no one
trapped in that existence pretends it is.

But, of course, this rich guy is trapped by nothing. It's only the lower
classes who really are disconnected from their desires. This rich pharmacist
vacations 2-3 months abroad each year, putting him more in the category of
the KGB general (who, frankly, never had it THAT good).

The saddest part here is that the rich guy expects the revolution will come
only when the masses are disillusioned enough to take matters into their own

Sounds to me like Iran's rich are about as cynical as the mullahs.

Still, the larger point is this: this is not robust authoritarianism. It's
weak. It's flabby. It hypocritical to a fault. It's not going anywhere. It's
not accomplishing anything.

In short, it's ripe.
28607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 01, 2006, 07:12:31 AM
The Election and Investigatory Powers of Congress
By George Friedman

There is now only a week to go before midterm congressional elections in the United States. The legislative outcome is already fairly clear. President George W. Bush lost the ability to drive legislation through Congress when he had to back away from his Social Security proposals. That situation will continue: The president will not be able to generate legislation without building coalitions. On the other hand, Congress will not be able to override his vetoes. That means that, regardless of whether the Democrats take the House of Representatives (as appears likely) or the Senate (which appears less likely but still possible), the basic architecture of the American legislative process will remain intact. Democrats will not gain much power to legislate; Republicans will not lose much.

If the Democrats take control of the House from the Republicans, the most important change will not be that Nancy Pelosi becomes House Speaker, but that the leadership of House committees will shift -- and even more significant, that there will be upheaval of committee staffs. Republicans will shift to minority staff positions -- and have to let go of a lot of staffers -- while the Democrats will get to hire a lot of new ones. These staffers serve two functions. The first is preparing legislation, the second is managing investigations. Given the likelihood of political gridlock, there will be precious little opportunity for legislation to be signed into law during the next two years -- but there likely will be ample opportunity and motivation for congressional investigations.

Should the Democrats use this power to their advantage, there will be long-term implications for both the next presidential election and foreign policy options in the interim.

One of the most important things that the Republicans achieved, with their control of both the House and Senate, was to establish control over the type and scope of investigations that were permitted. Now, even if control of only the House should change hands, the Democrats will be making those decisions. And, where the GOP's goal was to shut down congressional investigations, the Democrat Party's goal will be to open them up and use them to shape the political landscape ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

It is important to define what we mean by "investigation." On the surface, congressional investigations are opportunities for staffers from the majority party to wield subpoena power in efforts to embarrass their bosses' opponents. The investigations also provide opportunities for members of Congress and senators to make extensive speeches that witnesses have to sit and listen to when they are called to testify -- a very weird process, if you have ever seen it. Congressional investigations are not about coming to the truth of a matter in order for the laws of the republic to be improved for the common good. They are designed to extract political benefit and put opponents in the wrong. (Republicans and Democrats alike use the congressional investigative function to that end, so neither has the right to be indignant.)

For years, however, Democrats have been in no position to unilaterally call hearings and turn their staffs and subpoena powers loose on a topic -- which means they have been precluded from controlling the news cycle. The media focus intensely on major congressional hearings. For television networks, they provide vivid moments of confrontation; and the reams of testimony, leaked or official, give the print media an enormous opportunity to look for embarrassing moments that appear to reveal something newsworthy. In the course of these hearings, there might even be opportunities for witnesses to fall into acts of perjury -- or truth-telling -- that can lead to indictments and trials.

To reverse their position, the Democrats need not capture both the House and Senate next week. In fact, from the party's standpoint, that might not even be desirable. The Senate and House historically have gotten in each other's way in the hearing process. Moreover, there are a lot of Democratic senators considering a run for the presidency, but not many members of Congress with those ambitions. Senators who get caught up in congressional hearings can wind up being embarrassed themselves -- and with the competing goals of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and some of the other candidates, things could wind up a mess. But if the House alone goes to Democrats, Pelosi would be positioned to orchestrate a series of hearings from multiple committees and effectively control the news cycles. Within three months of the new House being sworn in, the political landscape could be dominated by hearings -- each week bringing new images of witnesses being skewered or news of embarrassing files being released. Against this backdrop, a new generation of Democratic congressmen would be making their debuts on the news networks, both while sitting on panels, and on the news channels afterward.

Politically, this would have two implications. First, the ability of the White House to control and direct public attention would decline dramatically. Not only would the White House not be able to shut down unwanted debate, but it would lack the ability even to take part in setting the agenda. Each week's subject would be chosen by the House Democratic leadership. Second, there will be a presidential election in two years that the Democrats want to win. Therefore, they would use congressional hearings to shape public opinion along the lines their party wants. The goal would be not only to embarrass the administration, but also to showcase Democratic strengths.

The Senate can decide to hold its own hearings, of course, and likely would if left in Republican hands. The problem is that, at the end of the day, the most interesting investigations would involve the Bush administration and corporations that can be linked to it. A GOP-controlled Senate could call useful hearings, but they would be overwhelmed by the Democratic fireworks. They just would not matter as much.

So let's consider, from a foreign policy standpoint, what would be likely matters for investigation:

What did the Bush administration really know about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Did Bush dismiss advice from the CIA on Iraq?

Did the administration ignore warnings about al Qaeda attacks prior to 9/11?

These, of course, would be the mothers of all investigations. Everything would be dragged out and pored over. The fact that there have been bipartisan examinations by the 9/11 commission would not matter: The new hearings would be framed as an inquiry into whether the 9/11 commission's recommendations were implemented -- and that would open the door to re-examine all the other issues.

Following close on these would be investigations into:

Whether the Department of Homeland Security is effective.

Whether the new structure of the intelligence community works.

Whether Halliburton received contracts unfairly -- a line of inquiry that could touch Vice President Dick Cheney.

Whether private contractors like Blackwater are doing appropriate jobs in Iraq.

Whether the Geneva Conventions should apply in cases of terrorist detentions.

Whether China is violating international trade agreement.

And so on. Every scab would be opened -- as is the right of Congress, the tendency of the nation in unpopular wars, and likely an inevitable consequence of these midterm elections.

We can expect the charges raised at these hearings to be serious, and to come from two groups. The first will be Democratic critics of the administration. These will be unimportant: Such critics, along with people like former White House security adviser Richard Clarke, already have said everything they have to say. But the second group will include another class -- former members of the administration, the military and the CIA who have, since the invasion of Iraq, broken with the administration. They have occasionally raised their voices -- as, for instance, in Bob Woodward's recent book -- but the new congressional hearings would provide a platform for systematic criticism of the administration. And many of these critics seem bruised and bitter enough to avail themselves of it.

This intersects with internal Republican politics. At this point, the Republicans are divided into two camps. There are those who align with the Bush position: that the war in Iraq made sense and that, despite mistakes, it has been prosecuted fairly well on the whole. And there are those, coalesced around Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Warner, who argue that, though the rationale for the war very well might have made sense, its prosecution by Donald Rumsfeld has led to disaster. The lines might be evenly drawn, but for the strong suspicion that Sen. John McCain is in the latter camp.

McCain clearly intends to run for president and, though he publicly shows support for Bush, there is every evidence that McCain has never forgiven him for the treatment he received in the primaries of 2000. McCain is not going to attack the president, nor does he really oppose the war in Iraq, but he has shown signs that he feels that the war has not been well prosecuted. This view, shared publicly by recently retired military commanders who served in Iraq, holds out Rumsfeld as the villain. It is not something that McCain is going to lead the charge on, but in taking down Rumsfeld, McCain would be positioned to say that he supported the war and the president -- but not his secretary of defense, who was responsible for overseeing the prosecution of the war.

From McCain's point of view, little would be more perfect than an investigation into the war by a Democrat-controlled House during which former military and Defense Department officials pounded the daylights out of Rumsfeld. This would put whole-hearted Republican supporters of the president in a tough position and give McCain -- who, as a senator, would not have to participate in the hearings -- space to defend Bush's decision but not his tactics. The hearings also would allow him to challenge Democratic front-runners (Clinton and Obama) on their credentials for waging a war. They could be maneuvered into either going too far and taking a pure anti-war stance, or into trying to craft a defense policy at which McCain could strike. To put it another way, aggressively investigating an issue like the war could wind up blowing up in the Democrats' faces, but that is so distant and subtle a possibility that we won't worry about it happening -- nor will they.

What does seem certain, however, is this: The American interest in foreign policy is about to take an investigatory turn, as in the waning days of the Vietnam War. Various congressional hearings, like those of the Church Committee, so riveted the United States in the 1970s and so tied down the policymaking bureaucracy that crafting foreign policy became almost impossible.

George W. Bush is a lame duck in the worst sense of the term. Not only are there no more elections he can influence, but he is heading into his last two years in office with terrible poll ratings. And he is likely to lose control of the House of Representatives -- a loss that will generate endless hearings and investigations on foreign policy, placing Bush and his staff on the defensive for two years. Making foreign policy in this environment will be impossible.

Following the elections, five or six months will elapse before the House Democrats get organized and have staff in place. After that, the avalanche will fall in on Bush, and 2008 presidential politics will converge with congressional investigations to overwhelm his ability to manage foreign policy. That means the president has less than half a year to get his house in order if he hopes to control the situation, or at least to manage his response.

Meanwhile, the international window of opportunity for U.S. enemies will open wider and wider.
28608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: November 01, 2006, 07:02:40 AM

Any thoughts on our strategy at this point for Iraq?

Here Ralph Peters weighs in:



October 26, 2006 -- IT WAS wrenching to listen to President Bush's news conference yesterday. He's struggling to do the right thing. But he's getting terrible advice.

He's still counting on a political solution in Iraq. Ain't going to happen. And you can take that to the blood bank.

Our famously loyal president has one grave flaw: He's a poor judge of character. He trusts the wrong people. Then he sticks by them.

Bush met Russia's Vladimir Putin, "looked into his soul" - and failed to recognize that the guy is an unreformed secret policeman. He stubbornly defends Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon's architect of failure. Now he's standing up for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - a man who has decided to back our enemies.

I lost faith in our engagement in Iraq last week. I can pinpoint the moment. It came when I heard that Maliki had demanded - successfully - that our military release a just-captured deputy of Muqtada al-Sadr who was running death squads.

As a former intelligence officer, that told me two things: First, Iraq's prime minister is betting on Muqtada to prevail, not us. Second, Muqtada, not the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is now the most powerful man in Iraq.

At his news conference, Bush was asked about another statement made by Maliki just hours before. Our troops had conducted a raid in Sadr City, Muqtada's Baghdad stronghold. The Iraqi PM quickly declared that "this will not happen again." He was signaling his allegiance to Muqtada. Publicly.

Oh, Maliki realizes his government wouldn't last a week if our troops withdrew. He doesn't want us to leave yet. But he's looking ahead.

For now, Maliki and his pals are using our troops to buy time while they pocket our money, amass power and build up arms. But they've written us off for the long term.

Does that mean we should leave?

Not yet. Iraq deserves one last chance. But to make that chance even remotely viable, we'll have to take desperate measures. We need to fight. And accept the consequences.

The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.

We should've killed him in 2003, when he first embarked upon his murder campaign. But our leaders were afraid of provoking riots.

Back then, the tumult might've lasted a week. Now we'll face a serious uprising. So be it. When you put off paying war's price, you pay compound interest in blood.

We must kill - not capture - Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.

Our policy of all-carrots-no-sticks has failed miserably. We delivered Iraq to zealots, gangsters and terrorists. Now our only hope is to prove that we mean business - that the era of peace, love and wasting American lives is over.

And after we've killed Muqtada and destroyed his Mahdi Army, we need to go after the Sunni insurgents. If we can't leave a democracy behind, we should at least leave the corpses of our enemies.

The holier-than-thou response to this proposal is predictable: "We can't kill our way out of this situation!" Well, boo-hoo. Friendly persuasion and billions of dollars haven't done the job. Give therapeutic violence a chance.

Our soldiers and Marines are dying to protect a government whose members are scrambling to ally themselves with sectarian militias and insurgent factions. President Bush needs to face reality. The Maliki government is a failure.

There's still a chance, if a slight one, that we can achieve a few of our goals in Iraq - if we let our troops make war, not love. But if our own leaders are unwilling to fight, it's time to leave and let Iraqis fight each other.

Our president owes Iraq's treacherous prime minister nothing. Get tough, or get out.


Here's this from Stratfor:

U.S./IRAQ: U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved a proposal to increase the number of troops in Iraq and accelerate their training.


28609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road on: November 01, 2006, 06:48:09 AM
Cool If there is something you wish to bring to our attention about the website, please contact us at   All such emails reach both Cindy and me.
28610  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: November 01, 2006, 06:41:08 AM
Peter Huber, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Reasearch, speaking at the Gilder/Forbes Telecosm 2006 Conference earlier this month in Lake Tahoe (excerpt):

When a deliberate nuclear release occurs in the United States, as I think it inevitably will, we will almost certainly find that the material originated somewhere mundane?a hospital, a factory, an industrial setting. There is a whole lot of nuclear material out there all over the place. It has many useful applications. People who want it will find it.


The London subway bombers used Triaceatone Triperoxide (TATP). They brewed it in the bathtub using acetone, drain cleaner, and bleach. The Japanese subway attackers home-brewed their Sarin gas. The Oklahoma City bombers mixed liquid fertilizer and diesel fuel.


It is easy to forget about things like this if they haven?t happened in very recent memory. One would prefer to think that they?re not possible. But, the simple fact is?and people in the know really do know this?we still face today an absolutely horrifying disconnect between u-weapons (these very toxic materials) and our own ability to see them before they are released or detonated in a subway or a stadium.

Scientists can of course see anything in a lab. They can see a single atom of Cobalt-60 or a molecule of TATP or a strand of anthrax DNA. Just bring your sample to the right building and a well-trained technician will fire-up a room-sized or larger mainframe unit and in due course the instrument will tell you exactly what it is you brought in. It happens after every attack. They can always tell you what hit you, after you?ve been hit.

The challenge is to see these things before they detonate, before they?re dispersed, before they get into the air ducts, and to see them not roughly or approximately, but so precisely that you can see exactly what they are and react to them appropriately, in real time, in all of the places where they could inflict damage.

How do you even begin to do that?

Just across Manhattan on any given day are some 4 million letters, 3 million people, at least half a million motor vehicles, half a million parcels, any of which could be carrying a tiny amount of something that could cause enormous harm.

Some time ago, the officers who patrol the mall in Washington D.C. were given portable radiation detectors. They soon removed the batteries. The units registered so many false alarms, they were worse than useless.

Radiation is easy to detect. It?s easy to detect badly. You can?t evacuate Yankee Stadium twice during every game to respond to false alarms.

Again, inferior technologies are worse than useless. A significant fraction of money spent in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 on technology was wasted. Yet, with that said, there is absolutely no other alternative. You cannot fight unstable atomic nuclei or nerve agents or DNA with guns and guards and gates. Guns and guards and gates are too expensive and completely ineffectual. They can?t see the stuff and, if they can see it, they can?t intercept it. You need the accuracy of a lab in something the size of a pager. You need to push out the boundaries, so you can screen huge numbers of packages and containers and so on at points of origin overseas and screen again at ports of entry and at key switching points like mail centers and transportation transits points and buildings and hospitals, where the first responders are treated, and on and on and on.

What are the essential technologies that will make this possible? What are the core enablers?

I will not suggest that there is a short list, but one can begin to zero in on a few of them. That is certainly what I and some fellow investors started doing before 9-11 and have continued doing since?

Download the audio of Peter Huber?s complete Telecosm 2006 keynote address:

(NOTE: This is a large 69MB MP3 file, which includes George Gilder?s opening Telecosm 2006 remarks. It may take a few minutes to download.)


The Increased Vigilance of Radioactive Materials
Western security agencies made more than 300 seizures of material that could be used in radioactive "dirty bombs" between 2002 and 2005, according to a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report goes on to say that annual seizures rose dramatically over the latter two years of the study. Although the rise appears significant, it likely represents the increase in efforts to confiscate radioactive material rather than an actual increase in trafficking.

A U.N. press release citing the report says the number of cases involving illicit smuggling of radioactive material occurred mostly in Europe, though it fails to specify the precise nature of the radioactive materials seized. Instead it breaks them down into broad categories such as "nuclear material" and "radioactive material."

Black market sales of military-grade radioactive materials spiked following the collapse of the Soviet Union as criminal elements descended on abandoned Russian nuclear and research facilities. The Russian government, in conjunction with various international agencies and the U.S. government, has since clamped down on the sale of Soviet-era radioactive materials. U.S. aid to Russia in the form of so-called nonproliferation assistance -- money paid to destroy or adequately secure such nuclear and radiological material -- increased from roughly $760 million a year before 9/11 to about $810 million in 2002 and $957 million in 2003.

What the IAEA's broad categories fail to show is the wide variety of materials that could be usable for dirty bombs. The term "radioactive material" used by the IAEA covers a broad spectrum of items ranging from spent plutonium and uranium used in nuclear reactors to items used for industrial purposes. Equipment used in the dental and medical professions for X-rays and certain cancer treatments contains a substantial amount of radioactive materials. Radioactive cobalt is used in the steelmaking process to further refine the quality of the metal. Even common household items such as smoke detectors and the mantles used in camping lanterns contain a certain amount of radioactive materials that could be harvested.

The wide-scale use radioactive materials in the commercial sector means that materials needed for a dirty bomb are everywhere. Militants who might seek to create such a device do not necessarily need to smuggle in radioactive waste in shipments when they can gradually and relatively safely gather significant quantities from products used commercially without major risk of detection from security organizations. On the other hand, the more often they smuggle materials, the more likely they are to get caught.

Since 2002, the number of agencies and personnel monitoring the smuggling of radioactive materials has increased. Therefore, a rise in the number of materials found does not necessarily mean an increase in the amount of materials being smuggled. Moreover, the threshold for what is considered an actual threat is lower now than it was before 9/11.

As a result, false threats can inadvertently materialize out of a monitoring agencies' zeal to find a legitimate threat. This was the case with the red mercury hoaxes of the late 1980s to mid-1990s, when intelligence agencies worldwide reported on a substance that supposedly could be used in the production of a nuclear device. Ultimately, most of the red mercury was discovered to be nothing more than harmless dyes and powders being promoted by criminals and scam artists as valuable nuclear material. The scares, however, did highlight the proclivity of monitoring agencies to overreact to nonexistent threats.

Though increased vigilance could lead to more false alarms, it also makes it harder for a person or group that is actually trying to make a dirty bomb to assemble the required materials.
28611  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA in Canada on: November 01, 2006, 06:21:15 AM
Woof All:

The seed has been planted for a Canadian DBMA site!

The Adventure continues,
28612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Deipnosophist on: October 31, 2006, 11:17:04 PM

David Gordon's blog.  Highly recommended.
28613  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November Gathering 2006 on: October 31, 2006, 01:19:02 PM
A Howl of Greeting:

The rhythm of the seasons is with us and its time for the "Fall Dog Brothers
Gathering of the Pack".   On behalf of the Council of Elders of the Dog
Brothers, Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts hereby cordially invites you to its
"Dog Brothers Fall Gathering of the Pack" at 11:00 AM on Sunday, November
19, 2006 at the RAW Gym in El Segundo to conclude when the fighters are

Many of you may remember our Gatherings held in the park in Hermosa Beach,
which, although they were hosted at considerable expense, were always free
to you our friends, our guests. However with a private facility involved we
now need to charge admission of $15. We ask that you still consider
yourselves to be our friends and our guests. In this context we ask that you
respect our wishes in the matter of Video.

It is very simple:

NO VIDEO CAMERAS, NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS (i.e. with both still photo and
video capabilities). THIS MATTER IS OF IMPORTANCE TO US! And, if you see
someone videoing, please don't let them abuse our hospitality-please let us

As always, you may take photographs for personal, non-commercial use
PROVIDED you give us a complete set of the ones you take. Thanks to the
increasing numbers of you who actually remember and bother to do this! It is
very much appreciated!

The Magic Words:

The MAGIC WORDS: "No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be
friends at the end of the day. This means our goal is that no one spends the
night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with
which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way!
Real Contact Stickfighting is Dangerous and only you are responsible for
you. Protect yourself at all times. All copyright belongs to Dog Brothers
Inc. CA law applies."

This matter of accepting the risk applies to those of you in the crowd too.
For example, sticks, and fights for that matter, may go flying into the
crowd. Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child
is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the
event. For example, sitting on the heavy bags ringing the fighting area is a
really risky idea for a child (or adult for that matter). If a stick or a
fight comes careening your way-get out of the way!

This matter of copyright is of particular importance with this Gathering.
It is 97% certain that Spike TV will be recording the day as part of having
5 "webisodes" of approximately 5 minutes each which will appear on their
website.  Spike will be at the door with some sort of legal release giving
it permission to have you (fighters & audience members) appear in the
webisodes, not sue them, etc.    Spike also will be looking to interview
some of the fighters that they will feature in the webisodes.

At this Gathering, we will continue starting the knife fights with a
handshake and the knives undrawn.   Again we encourage you to fight knife
versus stick-- the stick versus electric knife fight last time was a great
success and the electric knife will again be available. Stick vs. knife has
been one of perennial questions of the FMA, so let's continue the research!
In a similar vein, we have word that there will be a couple of cattle prods
available either for "cattle prod versus stick" or "cattle prod versus
cattle prod".

Remember that you may fight with weapons other than a stick if you can find
someone willing to go against you. Please consider staff, double stick, and
anything else. In order to more deeply explore certain variables, fighters
may agree to "no grappling" rules. In staff fights, the fighters may wear
wrestling type ear guards under the fencing masks.

There is no charge for fighters but FIGHTERS MUST PRE-REGISTER, even if they
have fought before. The Fighter's Registration form can be found on the
website. If you are a member of the Dog Brothers tribe an email or phone
call will suffice. For all Fighter Registration matters, please contact
Cindy at 310-540-6853. You are not
pre-registered until your name appears on the list of registered fighters on
the website!!!

If you have fought before and show up without having pre-registered there
will be a $20 fee. We REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't like having to deal with
this on such a busy day so please do both you and us a favor and
pre-register. If you haven't fought before and you show up without having
pre-registered, you will not be allowed to fight. This will be ruthlessly

"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact"

Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
DB Inc.

28614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics and Stock Market on: October 31, 2006, 12:28:32 PM
Please note that this subject is now on the other sub-forum.
28615  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Intel Matters on: October 31, 2006, 12:27:26 PM

Terrorists Strain for a New Audience With an English-Language Study of U.S. Intelligence
By Jeff Stein, CQ National Security Editor

The holy warriors? intelligence shop may need a shake-up, by the looks of a new analysis of White House responses to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, circulating among password-protected jihad Web sites.

?Myth of Delusion: Exposing the U.S. Intelligence? (sic), authored by a rising star in the al Qaeda hierarchy, relies on openly available materials ? congressional and other official investigations of intelligence failures related to the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq, along with media exposes and scholarly studies ? for its wide-ranging book-length report on the operations of American spy agencies.

But when it comes to analyzing the Bush administration?s emergency responses to the al Qaeda hijackings on 9/11, it reads like an Oliver Stone script.

In the analysis of Mohammed al-Hakaymah, an obscure Egyptian radical until he won plaudits from al Qaeda for leading a revolt against the main Islamic movement there last August, President Bush was forced to scurry about the country on Air Force One for fear of assassination by a hazy cabal of Texas oil interests and renegade U.S. military leaders.

If that weren?t enough conspiracy theory, Hakaymah also portrays the president as a captive of ? pay attention now ? right-wing activists and think tanks, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon?s Washington Times newspaper and the South Korean intelligence service.

All of which, along with factual errors on the history and operations of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI and the reorganization of U.S. intelligence as a result of the 9/11 attacks, has prompted some observers to dismiss Hakaymah?s study as ?drivel,? as former CIA officer Robert Baer put it in an e-mail to me last week (although he volunteered he had only read ?parts of it?).

But other experts on al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism say the English-language study marks a breakthrough in the jihadists? efforts to understand the missions and operations of the sprawling U.S. intelligence community.

?I would suggest that those behind this are working directly to influence English speakers [and] present themselves to a broader audience of potential terrorism actors,? says Marvin Hutchens, a former marine who runs the blog that circulated the study here.

?I think it?s a pretty big deal,? says John Rollins, a former counterterrorism operative who was Tom Ridge?s chief of staff for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security.

?It shows an intense focus on the capabilities and tactics of the U.S. intelligence community,? says Rollins, now a terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service. ?[It?s] a concerted effort to understand what our capabilities are.?

?There is no question about the authenticity of the book and the author,? says Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, an authoritative source on terrorist developments.

And if there was ever a holy warrior who wanted to be an al Qaeda goodfella, it?s Hakaymah. But until he?s a made man, says Evan Kohlmann, a scholar on Islam and consultant to U.S. agencies, analysts should ?be careful? about attributing the book to al Qaeda.

?This document,? agrees Rollins, ?is not reflective of corporate al Qaeda and what they know about the U.S. intelligence community. . .I wouldn?t take this as a bible of their assessment of U.S. intelligence.? But ?it shows a desire and intention to understand the U.S. intelligence community.?

Katz says the study has immense value as ?propaganda . . . because he is explaining that al Qaeda was able to conduct 9/11 in spite of the tightened security and the enormous intelligence budget the U.S. has.?

The message, she says: ?Jihadists should not be intimidated by the American/British security measures,? particularly restive Muslim youth who might be sitting on the fence about joining the ranks of suicide bombers.

They are the prized assets in al Qaeda?s new field of battle. And judging by the swelling ranks of holy warriors from London to Iraq, the bad guys are a lot better at getting out their message, as nasty as it is, than we are.

Where?s Karl Rove when we need him?

Training Manual
Some intelligence veterans are particularly disturbed by the book?s matter-of-fact explanations of how the CIA operates abroad, such as its use of State Department cover in U.S. embassies and the methods it employs to spot potential spies among foreign officials and groups ? including disaffected jihadists.

With a level of detail that could have been copied from a CIA training manual, the book explains the common techniques the agency uses to recruit and manage spies by manipulating their emotions and weaknesses. It also offers an overview of the CIA?s espionage curriculum.

It wrongly places the CIA?s training facility in West Virginia in one passage, but gets it right in another ? demonstrating not that Hakaymah lacks a grasp of his topic, but rather that he could use a good copy editor.

Hekaymah also covers the FBI?s dramatic expansion abroad since 9/11 and its alliances with local security services, particularly in Egypt, which he explores in fine detail.

The origins and operations of the NSA come in for scrutiny, too, based on published sources in the United States and Europe. It locates some of the NSA?s ground stations and its array of techniques for eavesdropping on the world?s telephone lines, computers and cell phones, but it does not discuss The New York Times? revelations of the NSA?s warrantless wiretapping program, a sign that the book was written more than a year ago.

Its discussion of cell phone chip technology, gained from open sources here, amounts to instructions on how to minimize the chance of being tracked.

Hakaymah also lays out details on the efforts of the CIA to undermine the regime in Iran.

All of which raises a dilemma for Congress, not to mention the media: Can it meet its constitutional obligation to ride herd on the government, including U.S. intelligence, without giving material support to the enemy?

Bush administration officials have already delivered their verdict, coming close to calling the media (and putative congressional leakers) traitors.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Rich Reynolds, who spent most of his career in Middle East intelligence assignments, calls the previously published information recycled by Hakaymah ?useful to terrorists.?

?Anything that helps them identify intelligence personnel and those that they recruit is detrimental to the intelligence collection effort. We have very few [spies] assets in contact with terrorists and it is not useful to have people trying to figure them out and eliminate them.

?The same goes with [NSA] communications [intercepts],? Reynolds said. ?As the press and others publish our efforts to monitor terror communications in all their forms, we see the bad guys moving away from the most easily exploited forms.?

It ?would certainly bolster the administration?s position that there should be less public information about intelligence community efforts,? says Rollins.

?However, at the most senior levels of government one walks a very fine line between suppressing intelligence for the sake of national security and concealing information from the Congress and the general public for purposes of political expediency.?

One solution, of course, is to kill the messenger ? literally.

No, not U.S. reporters or leaky members of Congress. But Hakatmah is fair game.

His book ?was published on the Web site, which is run by Hani el-Sebai, an Islamist living in London,? explains Laura Mansfield, who has worked for U.S. government agencies in the Middle East and translated several jihad tomes.

While el-Sebai ?has not made a public declaration of alignment with Al Qaeda,? she told me, ?the U.S. Treasury, the United Nations and Interpol have recognized his connections to Al Qaeda.?

Hakaymah, the experts say, also wrote last summer?s jihad literary hit, ?How to Fight Alone,? an instructional guide for the single holy warrior.

So let?s give him a chance at it, since he wants to be a star: Our intelligence against his.

Jeff Stein can be reached via
28616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Economics on: October 31, 2006, 12:07:32 PM
Woof All:

As it says, this thread is for Economics.

28617  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pelosi on windfall profits tax on: October 31, 2006, 12:05:55 PM

Pelosi Democrats: Yes to Taxes, No to Profits

In case you missed it, Speaker of the House wannabe Nancy Pelosi was interviewed on
CNBC by our buddy Larry Kudlow last week on the economy and stock market. Allow us
to excerpt the fascinating and amusing exchange, because it tells us a lot about
where the Democrats may be heading on energy and tax policy:

KUDLOW: [Are you for] a windfall profits tax on oil companies?
Rep. PELOSI: Oh, well...I'm not -- you won't find me friendly to that.
KUDLOW: All right. You are against the windfall profits tax?
Rep. PELOSI: Yes, I am.
KUDLOW: Oh, OK. I'm not sure a lot of people know that. Thank you for that....
Rep. PELOSI: Oh, not the tax. I'm against the windfall profit.
KUDLOW: You're opposed to the so-called windfall profits on oil.
Rep. PELOSI: Opposed to the windfall profits.
KUDLOW: So you would favor a tax?
Rep. PELOSI: Yes, I would favor something that was shaped in a way that did what it
needed to do. And that is, we've got to -- we have to have energy independence in
our country. We don't have to have excessive profits for the oil industry.

Now we know why the Democrats' best strategy in the next week is to stay button
lipped. Never mind the illogic of raising taxes on the U.S. domestic oil companies
in order to "have energy independence in our country." The last time we had a
windfall profits tax, under Jimmy Carter, oil imports surged and the higher-taxed
domestic production tumbled.

What's more to the point is that in the same interview Ms. Pelosi assured listeners
that "fiscally conservative" Democrats would be a favorable force for the financial
markets. But just in case America's potential next Speaker of the House is confused
on this point, most Americans, particularly the 52% who own stock, are in favor of
profits and opposed to higher taxes, which they know would tend to undermine growth,
jobs and the value of their nest eggs.

-- Stephen Moore
28618  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: October 31, 2006, 10:35:21 AM
MEXICO: Both houses of the Mexican Congress asked Oaxacan Gov. Ulises Ruiz to step down in order to end the months-old crisis in his state, which recently saw federal riot police removing protesters from the Oaxaca city center. Before the request, Ruiz had repeatedly ruled out resigning.
28619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 31, 2006, 10:32:03 AM

Analyses Country Profiles - Archive Forecasts Geopolitical Diary Global Market Brief - Archive Intelligence Guidance Net Assessment Situation Reports Special Reports Strategic Markets - Archive Stratfor Weekly Terrorism Brief Terrorism Intelligence Report Travel Security - Archive US - IRAQ War Coverage

Geopolitical Diary: Claiming a Strike in Pakistan

A Pakistani seminary in Chingai, near the border with Afghanistan, was struck by missiles on Monday -- an attack that leveled the building and killed at least 80 people. A Pakistani source told ABC News that al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri was the target of the strike, but thus far only one known militant -- a local leader thought to have provided shelter to al-Zawahiri -- has been confirmed dead; most of those killed are thought to have been teachers and students from the madrassa.

There have been conflicting reports as to who carried out the airstrike: Authorities have barred journalists from entering the area, in Bajaur agency, of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but eyewitnesses and residents have said the hit was carried out by U.S. forces using an unmanned Predator drone. Other reports suggest the strike came amid a joint operation by U.S. and Pakistani forces. And still other reports, the most curious of all, cited Pakistani officials who said the strike came from their own military forces.

It certainly is interesting that the seminary targeted in Monday's attack was just over a mile from the village of Damadola, the site of a U.S. airstrike that killed four senior al Qaeda operatives in January. (Al-Zawahiri was the chief target, but was not present when that attack occurred.) But that this second attempt on his life should come in such close proximity to the first, and within a matter of months, should not be surprising. Al-Zawahiri reportedly is married to a woman from the Mohmand tribe who lives with her father in the border area between Bajaur and Mohmand agencies, toward the northern end of the tribal badlands. Bajaur also borders the Dir and Malakand districts of the North-West Frontier Province -- which we long have believed to be the likely hiding place of al Qaeda leaders.

The notion that Pakistani forces would themselves have carried out the strike, however, does raise an eyebrow.

For one thing, Pakistani forces have not attempted targeted strikes against militants in this area in the past. Second, it would be highly unusual for Pakistani forces to carry out such an attack while the government is engaging in high-profile negotiations with leaders in the tribal badlands -- hoping they will prevent the area from being used by Islamist militants as a safe haven and launch-point for attacks, especially in Afghanistan. And of course, there are the eyewitness reports saying that three missiles were fired by a U.S. Predator, reportedly seen flying over the same area the previous night.

Though CIA-operated Predators have launched precision strikes using Hellfire missiles on at least two occasions, the actions of Pakistani forces against militant strongholds (which are widely dispersed through the region) have been limited to standard military assaults, lasting several days. Moreover, Stratfor has learned that Pakistani forces in the past have been reluctant to take part in attacks against their fellow countrymen, especially if there is a possibility of civilian casualties.

This, in fact, is one of the reasons the government opted to pursue negotiations with tribal leaders, hoping to minimize the need for a military option. Therefore, it is unlikely that Pakistani forces would even attack a seminary -- knowing it would house a number of teenaged religious students, in addition to any potential militants -- let alone level the place.

Moreover, statements by both U.S. President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in September made it clear that Musharraf's government has been under intense pressure to permit U.S. forces to operate on Pakistani soil.

Musharraf assigned the governor of the North-West Frontier Province, retired Lt. Gen. Ali Jan Muhammad Orakzai, the task of forging agreements with tribal maliks, seeking to counter the rise of Pashtun and other transnational jihadists. The deal made with the tribal leaders in North Waziristan has been advanced by Islamabad as a model to be replicated not only in other parts of FATA, but in Afghanistan as well. Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, also have agreed for each country to host loya jirgas, hoping to undermine support for the jihadist cause.

Though Washington publicly has expressed support for these initiatives, the administration remains unsatisfied. In fact, Central Command chief Gen. Johan Abizaid, who meets often with Pakistani military leaders, has been skeptical of the tribal deal. The Washington Times quoted him on Oct. 27 as saying, "I did talk to President Musharraf about it. I told him I was concerned about it ... The long run is, you've got to go forward in the tribal areas with economic, political and military solutions that the tribes cooperate with. But I'm very, very skeptical about this notion that people that have been harbored in the tribal areas are no longer going to be harbored. I'll believe that when I see it."

From all appearances, Monday's airstrike was either a U.S. operation or one that involved Pakistani forces at a minimal level. The curious question is why Pakistan would claim -- as some reports had it -- that the operation was carried out by its own military forces instead.

To answer that, it must be recalled that -- in addition to pursuing political deals in hopes of quashing support for transnational militants -- Musharraf also has agreed that U.S. forces can carry out their own operations, as intelligence dictates. And that means allowing the Americans to act without regard for Islamabad's timetable. Should Pakistani citizens be killed in those operations, claims of responsibility by the government at least help to counter perceptions that Islamabad no longer has any say in the matter.

From Musharraf's standpoint, the notion that Pakistani forces carried out a strike against their fellow citizens is somewhat less damaging than the perception that he has permitted infringements of national sovereignty. The problem, of course, is that the public already harbors both views, to varying degrees -- and the strongest card Musharraf has to play in this matter represents only the lesser of two evils.
28620  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: October 30, 2006, 06:41:04 PM
Supuestamente este foro esta' en espanol-- pero para que sea asi, necesitamos mas apoyo de los quienes de nosotros tengan mas fuentes en espanol.  tongue  Pues, he aqui lo presente sobre la situacion en Oaxaca.


Geopolitical Diary: A Mexican Standoff Worsens

Mexican federal police advanced into the center of Oaxaca City on Sunday, firing tear gas and water cannons at protesters who have been camping there for months. The demonstrators, from the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO), are calling -- among other things -- for the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, and their protest, which started out in May as an annual teachers' strike, has grown increasingly violent and widespread of late. By late Sunday, police were advancing on a group in the central plaza who were slowing their advance by burning tires and trash and, occasionally, throwing rocks.

The political action is intensifying at a key moment -- for both talks aimed at ending the standoff and the upcoming presidential transition.

On one level, the growing tensions point to the division between the teachers groups that initially took up demonstrations and the separate radical groups that attached themselves to the teachers' cause, uniting as APPO, in June. Both groups have favored calls for Ruiz's resignation, but beyond that they had little in common: The teachers demanded education reforms, while APPO's cause is, at its root, anti-government. With so little to bind them, then, it is hardly surprising that they splintered after entering into negotiations with the federal government. On Oct. 27, the teachers agreed to a deal that would allow classes to resume Oct. 30 -- and made no mention of Ruiz's resignation, a point to which APPO is holding firm.

In recent days, the protests have taken on a more serious tone. At least four people, including an American journalist, were killed when shots were fired in Oaxaca during the weekend, and demonstrations have been taken up in Mexico City as well. In fact, APPO members in the capital on Sunday surrounded a hotel where Ruiz allegedly was staying, demanding to see the guest list -- to prove he was not there -- before dispersing.

Given the rising violence and the break between APPO and the teachers' groups, it appears that President Vicente Fox has had enough. Fox has been notoriously hesitant to use federal security forces in the Oaxaca situation, though the option has been on the table for weeks. The military began conducting flyovers of Oaxaca City on Oct. 1 -- a show of force that temporarily quieted the unrest -- while soldiers assembled in a nearby city. But with supporters outside Oaxaca state taking up APPO's political cause and the clock ticking down toward President-elect Felipe Calderon's swearing-in ceremony, the government cannot afford to let the situation fester any longer.

A negotiated truce between the APPO and police is unlikely: The protest movement has been a rag-tag coalition since its inception, and the poorly organized leadership at this point is having trouble getting supporters to comply even with requests to stop throwing rocks. The stage seems set for more violence. That said, given historical aversions to using federal police to resolve domestic matters, it seems unlikely that government troops will resort to lethal force to quell the unrest.

Fox is attempting to make good on his promise to resolve the crisis before his term ends, but the operation likely has only just begun.
28621  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Guro Crafty en el DF, Mexico on: October 30, 2006, 06:38:12 PM
Cindy necesita ir a comprar nuevo software para hacer los certificados.  Desde que yo escribi' aqui', yo fui a Suiza por una semana (osea ella estaba solo con nuestros hijos y no pudo ir a comprarlo) y se enfermo con una infeccion de pulmon muy fuerte.  El primero anti-biotico que tomaba por una semana funcionaba muy poco y ahora despues de un X-ray, el doctor dice que esta' con "walking pneumonia" y esta' tomando otro anti-biotico mas fuerte.

Su viaje a la tienda especial para comprar el software especial tendra' que esperar hasta que se cure. 

Lamento mucho la tremenda tardanza en este asunto, pero asi' es.
28622  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road on: October 30, 2006, 06:02:58 PM
Rule #7)? When your post is a "cut and paste" please introduce it with a couple of sentences of your own as to why you are sharing it here.  Also, it would be nice if you took a moment to put the title of your post in the Subject header as well, so as to facilitate someone searching for it down the road.

This matter of facilitating searches is why we look for thread coherency around here.  There's a lot of quality posts and we aspire for this forum to become a bit of a research resource. 

28623  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Telecosm Audio Downloads on: October 30, 2006, 12:36:52 AM
Thanks for getting this going Gene.
28624  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar: Albuquerque, NM Oct 28-29 on: October 30, 2006, 12:32:26 AM

Thanks to Chester Brown for a fine time this weekend.  Chester is a Navajo and I flew in on Thursday evening so he could take me to the Navajo Reservation on Friday.  His dad is a medicine man  cool and it was a fine day.  The seminar was good fun-- a nice fun group.  We held it at Guro Ray Yee's school and were graced by Salty Dog's presence on Saturday afternoon.  Salty got fired up and came in and taught the first hour of the day this morning which was enthusiastically received by all present. 

Again my thanks for a fine time to Chester.

Crafty Dog
28625  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: A Post From Our Piazza member on: October 29, 2006, 12:04:16 AM
Hi Gene:

Looking forward to having you share the Adventure here with us.

28626  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Grandfathers Speak Vol. 2: Sonny Umpad on: October 28, 2006, 12:43:05 AM
We doing some quibbling about the text for the back of the box.  My time has been taken up by negotiations with Spike and by my wife having a serious chest infection which necessitates my contributing more time than usual with our children.  At the moment I am in Albuquerque, NM for a seminar (awesome day today on the Navajo Reservation with my host who is Navajo).  In short, I look to get to this this coming week.  Then, once the box cover is finished we send the master and the box cover work-up to the duplication house.
28627  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 27, 2006, 09:09:05 AM
 October 27, 2006
10:01am EDT

MIKE HENDRICKS COMMENTARY - COMMENTARY: Hey, put that syllable back!
The Kansas City Star | Aug 28, 2006

In open split with Bush, top US conservative calls for independent movement
AFP | May 21, 2006

Minority report: the frustration of some black and Latino operatives raises the question: how much longer can democrats count on historic loyalties?
The American Prospect | Jul 1, 2005

Quills Highlights Librarians
Library Journal | Nov 1, 2006

The Last Word: James Carville
Newsweek | Oct 30, 2006

No Problem With the Veil
Newsweek | Oct 30, 2006

Harvard Political Review says, "The Patriot is leading a surprisingly well-organized charge into the world of Internet politics."
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Is There Progress Through Loss?
A national election, a national decision.

Friday, October 27, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

A year ago I wrote a column called "A Separate Peace," in which I said America's leaders in all areas--government, business, journalism--were in some deep way checking out. They saw bad things coming in the world and for our country, didn't think they could do anything about it, and were instead building a new pool or buying good memories for their kids. Soon after I was invited to address a group of Capitol Hill staffers to talk about the piece. When the meeting was over a woman walked up to me. She spoke of what was going wrong in Washington--the preoccupation with money, a lack of focus on the essentials, and the relentless dynamic of politics: first thing you do when you get power is move to keep power. And after a while you don't have any move but that move.

I said I thought the Republicans would take it on the chin in 2006, and that would force the beginning of wisdom. She surprised me. She was after all a significant staffer giving all her energy to helping advance conservative ideas within the Congress. "Yes," she said, in a quiet, deadly way. As in: I can't wait. As in: We'll get progress only through loss.

That's a year ago, from the Hill.

This is two weeks ago, from a Bush appointee: "I hope they lose the House." And one week ago, from a veteran of two GOP White Houses: "I hope they lose Congress." Republicans this year don't say "we" so much.

What is behind this? A lot of things, but here's a central one: They want to fire Congress because they can't fire President Bush.

Republican political veterans go easy on ideology, but they're tough on incompetence. They see Mr. Bush through the eyes of experience and maturity. They hate a lack of care. They see Mr. Bush as careless, and on more than Iraq--careless with old alliances, disrespectful of the opinion of mankind. "He never listens," an elected official who is a Bush supporter said with a shrug some months ago. Along the way the president's men and women confused the necessary and legitimate disciplining of a coalition with weird and excessive attempts to silence Republican critics. They have lived in a closed system. They now want to open it but don't know how. Listening is a habit; theirs has long been to suppress.
In the Republican base, that huge and amorphous thing, judgments are less tough, more forgiving. But there too things have changed.

There remains a broad, reflexive, and very Republican kind of loyalty to George Bush. He is a war president with troops in the field. You can see his heart. He led us in a very human way through 9/11, from the early missteps to the later surefootedness. He was literally surefooted on the rubble that day he threw his arm around the retired fireman and said the people who did this will hear from all of us soon.

Images like that fix themselves in the heart. They're why Mr. Bush's popularity is at 38%. Without them it wouldn't be so high.

But there's unease in the base too, again for many reasons. One is that it's clear now to everyone in the Republican Party that Mr. Bush has changed the modern governing definition of "conservative."

He did this without asking. He did it even without explaining. He didn't go to the people whose loyalty and support raised him high and say, "This is what I'm doing, this is why I'm changing things, here's my thinking, here are the implications." The cynics around him likely thought this a good thing. To explain is to make things clearer, or at least to try, and they probably didn't want it clear. They had the best of both worlds, a conservative reputation and a liberal reality.

And Republicans, most of whom are conservative in at least general ways, and who endure the disadvantages of being conservative because they actually believe in ideas, in philosophy, in an understanding of the relation of man and the state, are still somewhat concussed. The conservative tradition on foreign affairs is prudent realism; the conservative position on borders is that they must be governed; the conservative position on high spending is that it is obnoxious and generationally irresponsible. Etc.

This is not how Mr. Bush has governed. And so in the base today personal loyalty, and affection, bumps up against intellectual unease.

The administration tries to get around this, to quiet the unease, with things like the Republican National Committee ad in which Islamic terrorists plot to kill America.

They do want to kill America, and all the grownups know it. But this is a nation of sophisticates, and every Republican sipping a Bud at a bar in Chilicothe, Ill., who looks up and sees that ad thinks: They're trying to scare the base to increase turnout. Turnout's the key.

Here's a thing about American politics. Nobody sees himself as the base. They see themselves as individuals. And they're not dumb. They get it all. They know when you're trying to manipulate. They'll even tell you, with a lovely detachment, if you're doing a good job. (An unreported story this year is the lack of imagination, seriousness and respect in the work of political consultants on both sides. They have got to catch up with American brightness.)

The Republican establishment, the Republican elite, is quietly supporting those candidates and ideas they think should be encouraged. They are thinking about whom they will back in '08. But they're not thinking of this, most of them, with the old excitement. Because they sense, in their tough little guts, that the heroic age of the American presidency is, for now, over. No president is going to come along and save us, and Congress isn't going to save us. Events will cause a reckoning, and then we'll save ourselves. And in this we will refind our greatness.
The base probably thinks pretty much the same. They go through the motions, as patriots are sometimes called to do. As for the election, it reminds me not of 1994 but 1992. That year, at a bipartisan gathering, I was pressed for a prediction. I said it was a contest between depression (if Republicans win) and anxiety (if Democrats win). I said Americans will take anxiety over depression any day, because it's the more awake state.

Al Gore was later told of this, and used it on the campaign trail. Only he changed "anxiety" to "hope." Politicians kill me.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on
28628  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 26, 2006, 10:57:15 AM
The West is Running Out of Time in Afghanistan

10/17/2006 - By Michael Scheuer (from Terrorism Focus, October 17) - From all observables, the Taliban insurgency is spreading from its deeply rooted base in southern and southeastern Afghanistan to provinces in the west and east. In addition, several Islamist insurgent organizations active during the 1979-89 jihad against the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan?the "old mujahideen"?have allied themselves with the Taliban. Among the more important and militarily powerful of these long-established groups are Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami and the forces of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, which belong to the Hezb-e-Islami-Khalis organization. Historically, both groups have been able to deploy substantial forces in the strategically vital corridors from the Khyber Pass through Jalalabad to Kabul, and along the only major highway running from Kabul to the southern provinces. Prior to the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, the first of these organizations was hostile to the Taliban, while the second was at best neutral toward it (Asia Times, October 5).

Also noticeable in 2006 has been the strongly Afghan-centric nature of the insurgency. As in the jihad against the Red Army, the most important insurgent forces are made up of the Afghans themselves. Since Western leaders and the media focus so much attention on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the Afghans' dominant role in the war is often lost sight of. While al-Qaeda fighters and other so-called foreign fighters are active in Afghanistan?London's al-Hayat reports that more and more Saudi men are going to fight there since the Taliban assumed the military initiative this year?they are important but secondary contributors to the war effort (al-Hayat, October 3). As in the 1980s, the Afghans publicly and correctly point out that the U.S.-led coalition is increasingly facing a "nation in arms." On this question, for example, Taliban spokesman Abdul-Hai Mutamen highlighted the always intense nationalism and xenophobia of his countrymen when he said that while Afghans and foreign fighters "have spiritual sympathy with each other...Our resistance is a pure Afghan resistance" (Pakistan Observer, October Cool.

Another aspect of the Taliban's current agenda that is identical to the mujahideen's political tack in the 1980s is its definitive position that it will not participate in, or even negotiate with, President Karzai's government. In words familiar to those knowledgeable about the absolute intransigence of the Soviet-era mujahideen leaders, Taliban spokesman Mutamen recently explained that there would be no peace talks with Kabul because: "There is no independent government in Afghanistan now. The foreigners have established the current government. The occupying forces should first leave Afghanistan. We can then think of future peace talks...Our resistance, which has now spread throughout the country, is not for the sake of power or government. This is a very silly thought. We want to regain independence so our people can live under the system which they desire which is, of course, and Islamic government" (Afghan Islamic Press, October 7).

As much as the Taliban's improved military performance is an ill omen for Karzai's government and the U.S.-led coalition, three other factors greatly augment the progress that the Taliban is making on the battlefield:

Law-and-order: Western media reporting, newspapers published in Kabul, Herat and Kandahar, and statements by the Taliban show that crime rates are high in urban areas and that much of rural Afghanistan is plagued by bandits, warlords and narcotics traffickers. In other words, the law-and-order situation in most of the country is uncannily similar to the neatly anarchic environment that helped facilitate the Taliban's ascendancy in 1996. The failure of the Karzai government and its Western allies to deploy enough military forces to establish a reliable, country-wide law-and-order regime is the Taliban's most valuable non-military ally. Afghans invariably put the security of their families, businesses and farms above the implementation of elections and parliaments.

Pakistan and Waziristan: The Afghan government and some Western officials have condemned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's peace deal with the Pashtun tribes in the country's Waziristan region as being intended to strengthen the Taliban. The reality, however, seems to be that Musharraf made the deal because his army's presence in the tribal lands had become unsustainable politically. In addition to suffering heavy casualties in fighting Pashtun tribes, the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Waziristan?heavier casualties than those sustained by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan?the Pakistani army's "invasion" of the province smashed Islamabad's 50-year-old modus vivendi with the tribes to live-and-let-live and brought the area to the verge of civil war. In making peace, Musharraf did what he had to do by choosing to protect Pakistan's political stability and geographic integrity over continuing an armed intervention that threatened both and which would ultimately be feckless because of the U.S.-led coalition's failure to defeat the Taliban and control the Afghan countryside. There is no question that the Taliban is stronger because of the deal?if for no other reason than the safe haven it provided?but so is Pakistan's political stability, which was being undermined by the radicalizing impact that the army's incursion had on the country's powerful pro-Taliban and pro-al-Qaeda religious parties (Daily Times, October 3).

Time: The old adage that familiarity breeds contempt is no place on earth truer than in Afghanistan, and there it additionally always breeds armed resistance. In the Afghans' view, the U.S.-led coalition has occupied Afghanistan for five-plus years, has failed to deliver a more prosperous and safer society, has killed a large number of Afghan civilians and shows no sign of planning a near-term departure. Always short of patience in regard to foreigners running their affairs, most Afghans probably would concur with Taliban spokesman Mutamen's statement that "the people of Afghanistan...never accept foreign dominance...America has attacked Afghanistan without any reasonable plan or suggestions. The Americans, therefore, get nothing but the death of their soldiers in Afghanistan. We want NATO and other foreign troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible" (Afghan Islamic Press, October 7). Ominously, another Taliban leader, Mullah Mehmood Allah Haq Yar, claims that not only has the Pashtun-dominated Taliban's patience run out, but that the forces of the late Ahmed Shah Masood?heretofore backing Karzai?are beginning to decide that they did not defeat and evict Moscow only to be ruled by the West. In late spring 2005, Yar claims to have talked with Northern Alliance representatives who "condemned the foreign presence in the country, but insisted that the Taliban take the lead [in attacking it] and then they would follow suit." Yar claims that the Taliban's contacts with the Alliance commanders are continuing (Asia Times, October 5).

Overall, the increasing pace of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan suggests it is only a matter of time until the commanders of the U.S.-led coalition are faced with telling their political leaders that a decision must be made to either heavily reinforce coalition forces?it appears that more than the 120,000 men Moscow deployed to Afghanistan in the 1980s would be necessary?or begin preparations to withdraw from the country. If taken now, such a decision would be made in the context of polls showing popular opinion in Canada and Britain turning decidedly against continued participation in the Afghan war and media reports that France may begin to withdraw its special forces from Afghanistan next spring (Associated Press, October 15).

Michael Scheuer served as the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He is now a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation.
28629  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar: Albuquerque, NM Oct 28-29 on: October 26, 2006, 08:40:52 AM
Our heartfelt thanks for what you do! 

We will be here when you get back!
28630  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: October 26, 2006, 08:28:53 AM
Uno mas con el mismo tema.  Es del NY Times hoy.


URUAPAN, Mexico ? Norte?o music was blaring at the Sol y Sombra bar on Sept. 6 when several men in military garb broke up the late night party. Waving high-powered machine guns, they screamed at the crowd to stay put and then dumped the contents of a heavy plastic bag on the dance floor. Five human heads rolled to a bloody stop.

?This is not something you see every day,? said a bartender, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his own head. ?Very ugly.?

An underworld war between drug gangs is raging in Mexico, medieval in its barbarity, its foot soldiers operating with little fear of interference from the police, its scope and brutality unprecedented, even in a country accustomed to high levels of drug violence.

In recent months the violence has included a total of two dozen beheadings, a raid on a local police station by men with grenades and a bazooka, and daytime kidnappings of top law enforcement officials. At least 123 law enforcement officials, among them 2 judges and 3 prosecutors, have been gunned down or tortured to death. Five police officers were among those beheaded.

In all, the violence has claimed more than 1,700 civilian lives this year, and federal officials say the killings are on course to top the estimated 1,800 underworld killings last year. Those death tolls compare with 1,304 in 2004 and 1,080 in 2001, these officials say.

Mexico?s law enforcement officials maintain that the violence is a sign that they have made progress dismantling the major organized crime families in the country. The arrests of several drug cartel leaders and their top lieutenants have set off a violent struggle among second-rank mobsters for trade routes, federal prosecutors say. The old order has been fractured, and the remaining drug dealers are killing one another or making new alliances.

?These alliances are happening because none of the organizations can control, on its own, the territory it used to control, and that speaks to the crisis that they are in,? said Jos? Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, the top federal prosecutor for organized crime.

Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said a steadily rising tide of drug addiction within Mexico had spurred some of the murders, as dealers fought for local markets. At the same time, more and more honest police officers are trying to enforce the law rather than turn a blind eye to drug traffickers, often paying with their lives, prosecutors say.

But those assessments, other authorities say, are overly rosy and may explain only part of the picture. Some experts say the Mexican police forces, weakened by corruption and cowed by assassinations, are simply not up to the task of countering the underworld feuds unleashed by the arrests of cartel leaders over the last six years.

Many of the dead made their living in the drug trade and perished in a larger struggle for territory between a federation of cartels based in Sinaloa, on the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf Cartel from the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, federal prosecutors say.

The five men beheaded in Uruapan, in Michoac?n, were street-level methamphetamine dealers, addicted themselves to the synthetic drug. They were linked loosely to the Valencia family, which once controlled most of the drug trade in the state and is a part of the Sinaloa group, the police say. The killers came from a gang called The Family, believed to be allied with the Gulf Cartel.

A day before, the killers had kidnapped the five men from a mechanic?s shop they had been using as a front for selling ?ice,? as crystal methamphetamine is called on the street. They sawed their victims? heads off with a bowie knife while they were still alive shortly before going to the bar, law enforcement officials said.

?You don?t do something like that unless you want to send a big message,? said one United States law enforcement official here, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The beheadings, in fact, have become a signature form of intimidation aimed at both criminal rivals and federal and local authorities. In the tourist town of Acapulco, killers from one drug gang decapitated the commander of a special strike force, Mario N??ez Maga?a, in April, along with one of his agents, Jes?s Alberto Ibarra Vel?zquez.

They jammed the heads in a fence in front of the municipal police station. ?So you will learn to respect,? said a red note next to them.

Page 2 of 2)

?This year has been one to forget, a black year,? said Jorge Valdez, a spokesman for the Acapulco police. ?It?s the most violent year in the last 50 years, and the acts are barbaric, bloody, with no trace of humanity.?

The dumping of five men?s heads last month at Sol y Sombra, a club in Uruapan, was just another grisly turn in the drug wars raging in Mexico.
The violence is by no means limited to Acapulco. In mid-July, about 15 gunmen attacked a small-town police station in Tabasco State at dawn with grenades, a bazooka and machine guns in an attempt to liberate two of their gang members, who were arrested after a bar fight the night before.

Two police officers died in the assault. The authorities said the attackers were dressed in the commando outfits of federal agents and belonged to the Zetas, former soldiers who work for the Gulf Cartel.

One reason for the wave of law enforcement killings is that the Mexican police do a poor job of protecting their own. Arrests have been made in only a handful of the assassinations of police officers this year. The overwhelming majority remain unsolved because witnesses fear testifying against drug traffickers. Even seasoned investigators are afraid to dig too deep into the murders.

?There is an atmosphere that affects us, of distrust, of terror inside the police force,? said Jes?s Alem?n del Carmen, the head of the state police in Guerrero, where 22 law enforcement officials have been brutally assassinated this year.

One of the officers killed was Gonzalo Dom?nguez D?az, the state police commander in P?tzcuaro, Michoac?n. In February, he received a death threat from a local businessman who law enforcement officials say has links to the Valencia crime family.

The threat came just minutes after Commander Dom?nguez arrested two men on weapons possession charges. He arrived home that night pale and shaken, said his widow, Fanny Carranza Dom?nguez. His anxiety grew over time, after prosecutors released the men he had arrested, for a lack of evidence, his wife said.

In early May, he told his wife that he had heard on the street that gunmen were looking for him. ?He said, ?I know that if I arrest them I am risking my life,? ? she recalled. ? ?I bring them to the capital, and they let them go.? ?

On May 8, a car cut off Commander Dom?nguez?s police car as he was driving home alone about 6:30 p.m. Within minutes, he was shot point blank in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun and twice in the chest with an AK-47. He never unholstered his sidearm. So far, prosecutors have made no progress in solving his murder. He was 47, the father of three.

?I think the commanders that haven?t been killed are in the game, and the ones that have been killed, it is because they attacked crime,? Mrs. Carranza Dom?nguez said.

?The prosecutor seems asleep here,? she added. ?He doesn?t do anything but collect his salary and go home.?

Commander Dom?nguez was one of 16 state and federal police commanders assassinated this year across Mexico, along with 2 judges handling drug cases and 2 federal prosecutors. Local police chiefs have also been targets. Eight have been murdered, most of them in Michoac?n.

Most were ambushed in their cars or outside their homes by men with machine guns. A few were kidnapped by men posing as federal agents. In these cases, the bodies were found later, shot full of holes, often showing signs of torture.

Commander C?ndido Vargas, 40, the second in command of the state police in Uruapan, died that way in August. Prosecutors say he was walking to his car when he was surrounded by about 15 heavily armed men dressed in black commando outfits like those used by federal agents. It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and he was just 100 yards from the police headquarters.

The men hustled him into one of their vehicles and sped off. He was found the next day on a nearby ranch, shot 25 times. A sign next to his body read: ?For playing with two bands.?

No one from the police department visited his wife and three children, who live in another town, to tell them of his death. ?We found out through the newspaper,? said Paula Vargas, his wife of 23 years. ?It was as if the whole world fell down on me.?

The state prosecutor in Uruapan, Ram?n Ponce, says he has found no evidence of Commander Vargas?s being corrupt. Neither does he have any leads, he said. ?The atmosphere is very tense,? Mr. Ponce said. ?It?s very difficult.?

While attacks on the police have risen, they have been far outpaced by grisly gangland killings. In Michoac?n, The Family is believed to be responsible for the beheadings of a dozen people besides the ones they delivered to the Sol y Sombra bar. The heads have often been accompanied by cryptic messages declaring the killings divine justice, accusing the victims of crimes, or daring their rivals to send more henchmen.

Nearly every day, new victims are found in states along the major drug shipment routes, especially Quintana Roo, Michoac?n, Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Baja California. Most are bound, gagged and shot to death, their bodies dumped on lonely roads.

In the towns hardest hit by the gangland warfare, the fear is palpable. For two years now, Nuevo Laredo has been the main battleground for a fight between gunmen loyal to Joaqu?n (Chapo) Guzm?n of Sinaloa and the remnants of the Gulf Cartel, whose leader, Osiel C?rdenas, is in prison awaiting trial.

?I wouldn?t be human if I said I wasn?t afraid,? acknowledged Elizabeth Hern?ndez Arredone, a state prosecutor in Nuevo Laredo who has taped to her door a photograph of a female judge who recently disappeared.

The effects are everywhere. Many local journalists have stopped covering drug violence for fear they may become targets themselves. Tourists used to spill across the border from Laredo, Tex., to swig tequila, buy trinkets and run wild. Not anymore.

Church attendance is down, said the Rev. Alberto Monteras Monjar?s of Santo Ni?o Church, because even a Sunday morning can be dangerous.

?People used to sleep outside on the porch if it got too hot,? he said. ?Not anymore. You stay inside, and you put three or four locks on the door.?
28631  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lung Cancer on: October 26, 2006, 08:22:47 AM
Second post of the morning

Study Says Better Scans May Discover Lung Cancer Sooner
Published: October 26, 2006
NY Times
Researchers in New York report that millions of lives could be saved by detecting lung cancer early with annual CT scans and treating it immediately, when it can still be cured.

Survival of Patients with Stage I Lung Cancer Detected on CT Screening (NEJM)The stakes are high: while death rates for other cancers have fallen, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in this country, killing more than 160,000 people a year.

For years, doctors have thought there was little they could do for lung cancer, but now with more sensitive scans, many are rethinking that view.

?You could prevent 80 percent of deaths,? said the study?s lead author, Dr. Claudia Henschke, a professor of radiology and cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.

But the report is controversial. Some medical experts and a patient advocacy group say that because this study is so much bigger than previous studies and so carefully done, it should change the testing landscape, while others say that it did not include comparison groups to demonstrate clearly that there is any benefit from annual CT exams.

The study, by researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital and published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved more than 31,000 people in seven countries. The participants included smokers and former smokers, but also included people in Japan who had never smoked but had the scans as part of annual physical exams.

The scans found 484 lung cancers, 412 of which were at a very early stage. Then the researchers tracked those cancer patients for an average of about three years after the cancer was detected. After three years, most patients were still alive. The researchers projected that more than 80 percent of those with early-stage cancer would live at least 10 years after their cancer was diagnosed.

Supporters of the findings include Dr. James Mulshine, a professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The study design may not have been perfect, he said, and there is more to be learned from other studies that are now under way, but he said the data from this one was convincing.

?This is a profoundly important report,? Dr. Mulshine said. ?It is a remarkable result.?

Members of an advocacy group for lung cancer patients, the Lung Cancer Alliance, agreed. ?This is the most important breakthrough for the lung cancer community,? Laurie Fenton, the group?s president, said in a news release.

And, says Dr. Henschke?s colleague Dr. David Yankelevitz, it makes sense that early detection can save lives. Lung cancer screening is analogous to screening for breast cancer, Dr. Yankelevitz said. In both situations, he added, ?treatment is easier and the outcomes are better when the tumor is small.?

But mammograms are endorsed by many national groups, whereas lung cancer screening is not. And while praising the new study?s careful accumulation of data, representatives of groups like the American Cancer Society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, say the study is unlikely to persuade them to recommend screening as a public policy.

One reason is that everyone in Dr. Henschke?s study had CT scans. And so, researchers say, with no comparison group of people who did not have scans, they are left wondering: Does screening, in the end, save lives?

?Intuitively, it makes sense,? said Dr. Stephen Swensen, a professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic who conducted a study that was similar to Dr. Henschke?s but smaller.

Dr. Swensen added, ?It makes sense that if you find a cancer earlier you will save lives.?

But ?the science hasn?t backed that up yet,? he said.

Cancer specialists have long known that there are cancers of all types ? and lung cancers are no exception ? that stop growing on their own, or that grow so slowly that they never cause problems. So, some ask, how many of the people said to be cured were never in danger? And how often will people have operations that can involve removing part of a lung, which is risky in itself, when their cancer was not lethal?

The problem, as with other cancer scans, is that science cannot always tell the difference between cancers that will stop and those that will not.

The researchers also ask another question: How often did the scans find cancers early but without affecting the person?s life expectancy?

?Everyone knows we can pick up things better with screening,? said Dr. Elliott Fishman, a professor of radiology and oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. ?But is picking up the same thing as curing? If I pick up a tumor that is one centimeter today and you live five years or I pick it up four years later and you live one year, it?s the same thing.?

Even evaluating patients with suspicious CT results can be risky, more dangerous, say, than evaluating women with suspicious lumps on a mammogram, said Dr. David Johnson, deputy director of the cancer center at Vanderbilt University and a past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

In Dr. Henschke?s study, doctors investigated more than 4,000 nodules in patients, finding about 400 early-stage cancers.

?This is not sticking a needle in a breast,? Dr. Johnson said. ?It is sticking a needle in the chest, where it can collapse a lung.? In some cases, that is followed by surgery to further evaluate a lump. ?How many people do we subject to needless evaluations?? Dr. Johnson asked.

Page 2 of 2)

It is not even clear, some researchers said, whether the patients in Dr. Henschke?s study really would survive 10 years on average. The investigators used a statistical model to estimate how long patients would be expected to live after most had survived about three years.

Survival of Patients with Stage I Lung Cancer Detected on CT Screening (NEJM)?Ten years should be 10 years,? Dr. Fishman said. ?It?s being guesstimated out. Let?s look in 10 years and see what happens.?

More definitive answers about the value of CT testing may come in a few years when another study, by the National Cancer Institute, is over. It randomly assigned its nearly 55,000 participants, smokers or former smokers, to have annual CT scans or, for comparison, chest X-rays. Based on previous studies, many researchers consider chest X-rays largely ineffective for early diagnosis of the cancer, so it can serve as a placebo control in this study.

Another institute study is assessing chest X-rays by randomly assigning participants to have an annual X-rays or to have no screening.

In the meantime, cancer specialists say doctors and their patients must decide, on an individual basis, what to do. They could wait for the clinical trials to be completed, or they could decide to have scans now, while the data may not be ideal.

And the scans can be expensive. Dr. Howard Forman, a professor of diagnostic radiology at Yale, says that Yale charges $802.39 for the scan and the doctor?s interpretation.

And while many insurers do not pay for CT lung cancer screening tests, that may change, Dr. Forman said. He said he did not find this study to be convincing ? like others, he said he needed to see control group data. But Dr. Forman, who is on the Medical Policy and Technology Assessment Committee for Wellpoint, an insurance company, said it would be hard to deny paying for the test now that the data were in The New England Journal of Medicine.

?The New England Journal of Medicine is a de facto Good Housekeeping seal of approval,? Dr. Forman said.

?It is not proof that screening saves lives,? he said. But, he added, ?proof for a lot of medicine is not there.?

For now, said Dr. Robert Smith, director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society, it may make sense for smokers or former smokers to have scans for early lung cancer detection.

Patients, Dr. Smith added, should discuss the test with their doctors first, going over potential benefits and potential dangers. And they should be careful to go to a center that has the expertise and experience to do the scans and any follow-up medical procedures properly.

But, he said, the new study adds to the information that CT scans might save lives.

?There is a lot of promise here,? he said. And so, he said, ?it is not at all unreasonable for individuals at high risk of lung cancer to seek testing on their own.?

Others, like Dr. Ned Patz, a professor of radiology, pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center, say they suspect that patients? desire for the tests may cool once they know of the risks.

?A lot of patients ask about it,? Dr. Patz said. ?We counsel them and tell them what the data are. Then they are not interested.?

28632  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hilot on: October 26, 2006, 08:16:37 AM

I have experienced some outstanding results from hilot.
28633  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: October 26, 2006, 07:56:18 AM
28634  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: October 25, 2006, 10:40:41 PM
Although the website from which this piece comes is sometimes guilty IMHO of hyper-ventilating, here's this:

Georgetown gets $20 million from prince promoting Islam
Just months later, university ejects evangelical Christians from campus
Posted: October 25, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Bob Unruh
? 2006

The Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University has been renamed after Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated $20 million to its projects. And while that may be just the tail, the dog appears to be moving away from its historic Catholic and Jesuit teaching philosophy too.
The Center's leaders say it now will be used to put on workshops regarding Islam, fostering exchanges with the Muslim world, addressing U.S. policy towards the Muslim world, working on the relationship of Islam and Arab culture, addressing Muslim citizenship and civil liberties, and developing exchange programs for students from the Muslim world.
The "Christian" part of the center's projects at the university that has a history of 200 years of higher education following its Christian founding, is conspicuous by its absence in its website plans for its 10-year future.
But that won't be a surprise to leaders of a number of Christian evangelical groups whose leaders recently were told to leave the campus and not list Georgetown University as a site for operations in the future.

That story, reported by WND earlier, still has folks wondering what happened to cause Georgetown officials to ban InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and others. InterVarsity spokesman Gordon Govier said the organization still doesn't know why the move was announced by university officials, who did not return WND messages left inquiring about the situation.
"We still are a little bit confused about what happened," he told WND. "We haven't been able to identify clearly what happened."
He said Christians in the InterVarsity organization still are meeting at Georgetown, but they have no official sanction and are meeting without recognition, much as many Christian churches in nations where religion is regulated meet.
He said there is a committee meeting that is supposed to hear concerns from Christians, and InterVarsity is hopeful there will be a positive outcome, but there's no time frame set.
But the time frame for other interests that have become relevant to Georgetown are a little more apparent. The school's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding confirmed several months ago that the $20 million donation was made by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and a short time later the Center was given the added moniker as Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
The organization now features a number of pro-Muslim statements and articles, with little reference to any Christian statements or understandings. It even has co-sponsored events with CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a "front group" for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terrorism-related charges.
The center's chief, John L. Esposito, summarizes the goals of the organization clearly: "The Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding is concerned with Islam and the West and Islam in the West. The Center, since its creation in 1993, has built bridges of understanding between the Muslim world and the West, addressing stereotypes of Islam and Muslims and issues and questions such as the clash of civilizations, and the compatibility of Islam and modern life ? from democratization and pluralism to the status of women, minorities and human rights ? and American foreign policy in the Muslim world."
The Center says it recognizes the increasing demands because of the world's "critical turning point in the history of Muslim-Christian relations" so it will expand its expertise base and operations, "as well as strengthen the website as a source of critical information about Islam and the Muslim world."
The Center's assistant director, Huma Malik, told WND that the $20 million came from the prince because the center is working on projects that interest him, but she could not comment on the influence of the donation or why the evangelical Christians were barred from campus.
The center was founded in 1993 in cooperation with the Fondation pour L'Entante entre Chretians at Musulmans in Geneva "to build strong bridge of understanding between the Muslim world and the West as well as between Islam and Christianity."
The message of acting as an information source for Islam was reinforced in the fact that while the Center's website includes a link for Islamic Resources, there is none for Christian resources.
It also takes a distinct policy stance, with Esposito noting in a recent posting that "despite 'HAMAS' victory in free and democratic elections, the United States and Europe failed to give the party full recognition and support," he wrote.
That type of behavior, he said, provides reasons for "many Muslim autocratic rulers' to retreat from democratization, and he cited a Gallup World Study that says it is the policies of the U.S. that generate hurt in the Muslim world.
"One billion Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia ? tell us that U.S. policies, not values, are behind the ire of the Arab/ Muslim world," he wrote.
Those voices, he wrote, say that while America and the United Kingdom are disliked, other Western nations such as France and Germany are not. He also wrote that the U.S. is suspected because of its relationship to Israel.
"The United States failed to support UN mediation in the face of clear violations of international law, refused to heed calls for a ceasefire and UN intervention, and continued to provide military assistance to Israel," he said of the recent conflict, triggered by a military attack on Israeli soldiers.
"America?s unconditional support of Israel cast it in the eyes of many as a partner, not simply in military action against HAMAS or Hizbollah militants, but in a war against the democratically elected Palestinian government in Gaza and the government of Lebanon, a long-time US ally," he said.
"The primary victims in Gaza and Lebanon were hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, not terrorists. In Lebanon, more than 500 were killed, 2,000 wounded, and 800,000 displaced. Israeli?s military destroyed the civilian infrastructures of both Gaza and Lebanon."
He said "HAMAS and Hizbollah" both are elected political parties, even though the U.S. and others have labeled them "terrorist organizations."
The Center, on a daily news clip posting, highlighted stories quoting a Mecca Imam saying non-Muslims are attacking Muslims out of fear of being over-run by Muslims and the London mayor noting that Muslims in Britain are being "demonized," comparing their recent treatment in London to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Faculty members also are being interviewed by al-Jazeera, a network with sources in many terrorist camps.
The prince, who controls tens of billions of dollars in investments in Morgan Stanley, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Deutsche Bank, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, The Walt Disney company and ebay, works through the Kingdom Holdings company.
He also had given a similar $20 million gift to Harvard, which sponsors a Harvard Law School Islamic Legal Studies Program, and the Islamic Finance Project, which looks at the legal and sharia points of view of situations, officials said.
The Alliance Defense Fund earlier wrote a letter to Georgetown asking for reconsideration of its ban on several Christian groups. Officials said no response was received.
Those in a position to know have reported that the Christian groups were booted from campus for being too evangelical, because student clubs promoting Muslim and Jewish beliefs were allowed to continue existing with the formal campus structure.
The Christian groups' brush-off letter from the university starts: "Blessings and may God's peace be upon you!" but deteriorates shortly later to: "Protestant Ministry has decided to move in another direction."
As a result, Georgetown said, "Your ministries will no longer be allowed to hold any activity or presence (i.e. bible (sic) studies, retreats with Georgetown students, Mid-week (sic) worship services, fellowship events, move-in assistance, SAC Fair, etc.) on campus."
Further, the school told the ministry organizations, "All websites linking your ministries to a presence at Georgetown University will need to be modified to reflect the terminated relationship. Your ministries are not to publicize in any literature, media, advertisement, etc. that Georgetown University is or will be an active ministry site for your ministry/church/denomination."
Kevin Offer, who worked with the InterVarsity program at Georgetown, said something had been developing, because the university also recently had started requiring student ministry leaders to meet for formal meetings with the school. "School officials asked questions about what they 'tell students behind closed doors,'" he said.

28635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: October 25, 2006, 10:30:22 PM
A Monument to Correctness

A controversial memorial to the victims of 9/11 has become a campaign issue in next month's elections in Arizona. When the memorial was unveiled on Phoenix's Capitol Mall on the fifth anniversary of the attacks, its "moral equivalence" message sparked immediate protests.

Members of the committee that approved the memorial insist it honors those who died on 9/11 in an "even-handed" way. But critics say it's inappropriate that among the memorial's 54 inscriptions are such statements as "You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles." Other messages feature a discussion of an "erroneous U.S. air strike" and the "fear of foreigners" that is prevalent in America. Perhaps most controversial of all was the fact that the signature phrase uttered by passengers on United Flight 93 as they charged the pilots' cabin on 9/11 -- "Let's roll" -- was rejected as a possible inscription.

"As an American, I am disgusted by this memorial," says Mike Broomhead, whose brother was killed in a checkpoint shooting in Iraq. Tom Smith, a former state senator who chairs the Capitol Mall Commission, is calling for the memorial to be covered up until the committee that designed it can meet again to reconsider revising the most controversial inscriptions. Unfortunately, committee members, with the support of Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano, are refusing to reconvene or make any decision about the monument until after the November elections. Meanwhile, state legislators are being put on the spot by questions about where they stand on the memorial, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil says he will tear down the monument if elected.

Some legislators privately admit the memorial's inscriptions are needlessly polemical. The northern Arizona town of Winslow had a better idea. Its 9/11 memorial is a twisted 20-foot steel beam that was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center. It contains no inscriptions.

"That's how a 9/11 memorial should be," said Michael Herald, a Phoenix resident, whose brother was killed in the World Trade Center attack. "All we wanted was a stone in the ground."
WSJ's Opinion Journal Political Diary

28636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Welcome Our Piazza folk! on: October 25, 2006, 10:23:02 PM
Outstanding to have you here gentlemen.  At the moment the tenor of the place is heavily on WW3.   Please feel free to help balance things out with the merry range of topics which gave so much value to OP!
28637  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 25, 2006, 10:21:19 PM

One of FBI's 'Most Wanted Terrorists' confirmed dead
From Henry Schuster

(CNN) -- An al Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings was killed in April in Pakistan, American officials have confirmed.
Pakistani officials had said that Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah was killed in North Waziristan during an airstrike by Pakistani forces near the border with Afghanistan.
DNA testing confirmed the Pakistani government's claim, U.S. officials said, and Atwah's name was removed from the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists.
Atwah, 42, was born in Egypt. He was indicted in connection with al Qaeda's suicide bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
There was a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Atwah, who also went by the alias Abdel Rahman al-Muhajer, had been a member of al Qaeda since at least 1990 and provided explosives training in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, according to his indictment.
The indictment also charged that Atwah had been part of an al Qaeda cell operating in Somalia in the early 1990s that provided training to Somali tribesmen who attacked U.S. forces in that country.
28638  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: October 25, 2006, 08:36:16 PM
Mexico's Cartel Wars: The Threat Beyond the U.S. Border
October 25, 2006 20 52  GMT

By Fred Burton

The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security subcommittee recently issued a report on the increasing security risks along the U.S.-Mexican border. The report, which focuses on the Mexican drug cartels and the threat they pose to citizens and law enforcement on the U.S. side of the border, cites the cartels' use of military weapons and mercenaries with advanced military training, as well as their affinity for brutality and gratuitous violence.

Violence stemming from the drug cartels has existed for decades in many parts of Mexico. What is new is the fact that cartel violence is now spilling over onto the U.S. side of the border. However, although the House report -- by the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations -- focuses on the current risks in the border area, the threat posed by the cartels already is making its way farther north. If left unchecked, the fighting can eventually be expected to erupt more widely in nonborder areas, affecting unprepared law enforcement agencies and even civilians.

Much of the violence is a result of the ongoing struggle between the three main drug cartels -- Gulf, Tijuana and Sinaloa -- for control of lucrative narcotics- and human-smuggling routes stretching from Mexico into the United States. Although the Mexican government has made efforts to stem the bloodshed, two main factors have impeded any major progress in this area. First is internal police corruption. Beyond the police commanders and officers who gladly accept money in exchange for providing the cartels with protection are those who face the choice between "plata o plomo," -- "silver or lead" -- meaning take a bribe or take a bullet. Second is the fact that federal and local security services are way outgunned -- both in terms of the types of weapons used and the training level of the people using them.

President-elect Felipe Calderon has vowed to end corruption in Mexico, but his administration will face the same issues as did its predecessors, and there is no indication it will have any more success at stemming the escalating violence. Indeed, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City issued a statement Sept. 15 warning U.S. citizens of the rising level of "brutal violence in areas of Mexico," specifically the persistent violence along the U.S. border in Nuevo Laredo.

Escalating Violence

In one recent and particularly gruesome incident that illustrates the current level of violence in Mexico, a group of masked gunmen entered the Light and Shadow nightclub in Uruapan, Michoacan state, on Sept. 6, fired weapons into the air and then tossed five severed human heads onto the dance floor. Beheadings had already reached the U.S. border in June, when Mexican authorities recovered four beheaded bodies from a vacant lot in Tijuana, and then pulled the heads from the nearby Tijuana River. The victims were three local police officials and a civilian.

Mexican drug gangs, who used the beheadings tactic for the first time in April, are sending a clear message that they are willing to go to any lengths to get what they want -- and that anyone who gets in their way is doomed. This same message also has been delivered via a number of attacks using grenades and assault rifles in other parts of Mexico, including the U.S. border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Tijuana and Juarez.

Another example of the escalation in violence is the Sept. 22 firefight in an upscale neighborhood of Nuevo Laredo between enforcers for the Gulf cartel and the security forces of an assassination target (presumably from the Sinaloa cartel). The engagement, which raged on for some 40 minutes and involved anti-tank weapons, hand grenades and automatic weapons fire, reportedly resulted in the deaths of five Gulf cartel enforcers and five other people.

The Mexican government has tried various tactics throughout the years to stem the violence and corruption associated with cartels, including dispatching military troops to Nuevo Laredo and other border cities. In June 2005, a string of events in Nuevo Laredo -- including the killing of two police chiefs in the city, the second of which occurred only a few hours after he was sworn into office -- prompted the Mexican government to dispatch army troops and federal agents to the town. The army and federal agents detained all 700 officers of the Nuevo Laredo police force and temporarily assumed their duties until some semblance of order could be restored. Following interviews and drug tests, only 150 of the police officers retained their jobs; the rest were terminated or arrested. More recently, in March, the Mexican government assigned an additional 600 members of the Federal Preventative Police to Nuevo Laredo as part of another program to fight increased violence related to the drug trade. Such solutions, however, have failed to stem the corruption and violence. As evidenced by the major firefight Sept. 22, Nuevo Laredo remains a hotbed of cartel activity.

The Ongoing Cartel Wars

Because of its geographical position beneath the United States, Mexico long has been used as a staging and transshipment point for narcotics, illegal aliens and other contraband destined for U.S. markets from Mexico, South America and elsewhere. Turf battles have flared up as various criminal organizations have moved to take control of smuggling routes, or "plazas," that lead into the United States. Over time, the balance of power between the various cartels has shifted as new cartels emerge or older organizations weaken, shrink or collapse -- creating temporary power vacuums that competitors rush to fill. Vacuums sometimes are created by law enforcement successes against a particular cartel; indeed, cartels will often attempt to use law enforcement against each other, either by bribing Mexican officials to take action against a rival or by leaking intelligence about a rival's operations to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

These kinds of tensions and frictions often can lead to inter-cartel warfare. The February 2002 death of Tijuana cartel leader and chief enforcer Ramon Arellano Felix, who was killed in a shootout with police in Mazatlan, and the March 14, 2003, capture of Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen in Matamoros sparked the current period of particularly brutal warfare among the three cartels, which aim to take territory from one another. This war is being waged not only for control of Mexico's incoming drug shipments, in cities such as Acapulco and Cancun, but also for control of the outgoing network, where border towns have been focal points for violence.

The New Enforcers

The likely reason for the most dramatic changes between the drug wars of the past and the current intra-cartel violence is the makeup of the enforcing teams and the weapons they use. Though the cartels historically did their own dirty work, they now have started subcontracting out the violence to enforcers who apparently know no boundaries when it comes to who, how or where they strike.

This escalation has an obvious root cause: Some cartel leaders (notably from the Tijuana cartel) use active or retired police against their enemies, which has forced the targeted cartels to find enforcers capable of countering this strength. As a result, the Gulf cartel hired Los Zetas, a group of elite anti-drug paratroopers and intelligence operatives who deserted their federal Special Air Mobile Force Group in 1991. The Sinaloa cartel, meanwhile, formed a similar armed force called Los Pelones, literally meaning "the baldies" but typically understood to mean "new soldiers" for the shaved heads normally sported by military recruits. Because of attrition, the cartels have recently begun to reach out to bring in fresh muscle to the fight. Los Zetas has expanded to include former police and even motivated civilians. The group also has formed relationships with former members of the Guatemalan special forces known as Kaibiles and with members of the brutal Mara Salvatrucha street gang.

Though cartel enforcers have almost always had ready access to military weapons such as assault rifles, Los Zetas, Los Pelones and the Kaibiles are comprised of highly trained special forces soldiers who are able to use these weapons with deadly effectiveness. Assault rifles in the hands of untrained thugs are dangerous, but if those same rifles are placed in the hands of highly trained special forces soldiers who can operate as a fire team, they can be overwhelmingly powerful -- not only to enemies and other intended targets but also to law enforcement officers who attempt to interfere with their operations.

In addition to powerful handguns and assault rifles (which are frequently smuggled into Mexico from the United States), Los Zetas and Los Pelones are also known to possess and employ rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and improvised explosive devices, and have used them in attacks in several parts of Mexico. Such weapons are not confined to the Mexican side of the border, though. On Feb. 3, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that government agents operating in Laredo seized a large cache of weapons that included dynamite, grenades and materials for making improvised explosive devices. These weapons were associated with the drug cartels.

The various enforcer groups have targeted Mexican government officials protecting rival cartels, the leadership of the rival cartels and members of those cartels' enforcement arms. Some extremely brutal executions of members of Los Zetas and Los Pelones by their contemporaries have occurred, including not only beheading but also a tactic called "necklacing," in which a tire is placed around a victim's neck and set ablaze. (The tactic was made famous by the African National Congress in South Africa).

The drug cartels also conduct intimidation campaigns and reprisal attacks against noncriminal groups such as police, government security forces and journalists -- anyone who is seen as a threat to their business. Such attacks are quite significant, and gruesome executions are often the norm. That said, the crime gangs are not always precise in their targeting. At times, they have mowed down police on the streets with assault rifles or attacked police stations with grenades and other heavy weapons, causing considerable collateral damage.

The Future

In addition to their network of tactical operators, Los Zetas and Los Pelones also have provided the cartels with an advanced intelligence and surveillance capability. This network operates on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border and has been used to protect drug shipments from law enforcement interdiction and the forces of competing cartels. They also are accomplished at countersurveillance operations and at avoiding the countersurveillance activities of their rivals.

Law enforcement officers along the U.S. border have reported many encounters with armed smugglers who do not hesitate to shoot. In one encounter last summer, two deputy sheriffs in Hidalgo County, Texas, were attacked as they patrolled the north bank of the Rio Grande. They reported that their assailants fired 300 to 400 rounds from automatic weapons at them before withdrawing.

To date, the violence associated with this intra-cartel warfare has been much more severe in Mexico than on the U.S. side of the border. Although this trend will continue, violence can be expected to increase on the U.S. side as targeted criminals and others search for safe hiding places. Perhaps as a sign of problems to come, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 23 that cartel-related corruption has been "rising dramatically" on the U.S. side of the border. With corruption spreading north, it is only a matter of time before more violence follows -- particularly because the cartels are especially adept at parlaying their power to corrupt into opportunities to commit violence.

Traditionally, when violence has spiked, cartel figures have used U.S. cities such as Laredo and San Diego as rest and recreation spots, calculating that the umbrella of U.S. law enforcement would protect them from being targeted for assassination by their enemies. This is beginning to change, however, as the bolder Mexican cartel hit men carry out assassinations on the U.S. side of the border in places such as Laredo, Rio Bravo and even Dallas, where law enforcement contacts indicate Los Zetas members are believed to have assassinated at least three people.

This change will likely cause high-value cartel targets to move even deeper into the United States to avoid attack, though their enemies' brazen and sophisticated assassins will likely follow. Judging from their history in Mexico and along the border, these assassins will have no qualms about engaging law enforcement personnel who get in their way, or about causing collateral damage. Their intelligence network will be bolstered by their alliances with street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18, which have affiliates in many large cities throughout the United States. These allies can either provide them with intelligence or, in some cases, be contracted to conduct assassinations.

Though the House report warns of the dangers to law enforcement and civilians on the border, the spread of this cartel violence beyond the border region could catch many law enforcement officers by surprise. Patrol officers conducting a traffic stop on a group of Los Zetas members who are preparing to conduct an assassination in, say, Los Angeles, Chicago or northern Virginia could quickly find themselves heavily outgunned and under fire. Additionally, because of their low regard for human life and disdain for innocent bystanders, any assassination attempts cartel members do manage to launch might be very messy and could result in collateral deaths of innocent people and responding law enforcement officers.

U.S. law enforcement officers along the border are aware of the problem of Mexican cartel violence and have made efforts to mitigate it, though they have found they cannot completely prevent it or root it out. This same reality will apply to the violence that will soon be seen farther inside the United States. The roots of this problem lie in Mexico, and the solution will also need to be found there.
28639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 25, 2006, 08:21:57 PM
Iraq: A Sunni Shift Against the Jihad

Sunni nationalists in Iraq who recently expressed an interest in negotiating a settlement with the United States want Washington to eject transnational Islamist militants from their midst. Though mainstream Sunni elements have been exploiting jihadist activity for years, they now face a threat from the jihadists, who could try to fill a leadership vacuum as crucial negotiations with the Shia and the Kurds approach and as pressure intensifies for the Bush administration to pull troops out of Iraq. The Sunni shift against the jihadists might seem like a positive development, but given the sectarian and political complexities in the country, such a move will only lead to more violence and instability.


Iraq's largest Sunni nationalist insurgent group, the Islamic Army of Iraq, as well as Baathists, tribal leaders and other mainstream Sunnis have recently expressed an interest in negotiating a settlement with the United States. One of their key conditions is that U.S. forces must rid central Iraq of transnational jihadists.

Stratfor recently discussed how al Qaeda's ability to penetrate Sunni areas of Iraq by forging alliances with like-minded Iraqi militant groups and tribal elders would elicit a strong reaction from mainstream Sunnis. That the Sunnis now want the United States to annihilate the jihadists shows that the anti-jihadist trend is gaining momentum. Not only do the Sunnis now feel threatened by the jihadists, but they also realize that the Bush administration is under intense pressure on the home front to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, and that negotiations with the Shia and Kurds are reaching a key impasse.

The jihadists, already marginally useful to the Sunnis, are quickly becoming even less useful -- the latter simply does not want to share power with the former. But desiring something is one thing and actually attaining it is another. The Sunnis allowed the jihadists to operate within their midst for more than three years, which has allowed jihadists to make significant inroads in the Sunni community. Not wanting the blood of fellow Sunnis -- albeit foreigners and extremists -- on their hands, Sunni nationalists now demand that U.S. forces take the jihadists out.

Washington, the Shia and the Kurds have long waited for such a turnover, but they will not agree to the deal without exacting a price from the Sunnis -- in the form of political concessions on other issues such as federalism and the sharing of oil revenues. In return for their cooperation, the Sunnis expect security guarantees from the Shia, and these do not seem likely any time soon considering the complications involving U.S.-Iran dealings and the intra-Shiite struggle over the issue of disbanding the militias.

Regardless of how things work out in terms of a jihadist purge, one thing is clear: The country is on the cusp of yet another violent struggle.
28640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 24, 2006, 05:53:27 PM
AFGHANISTAN: Taliban fighters are planning attacks on civilians in Europe in retaliation for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, Taliban commander Mullah Amin said Oct. 23 on Sky television, Pakistani newspaper The News reported. Amin added that ordinary people in Europe are acceptable targets because they voted for their governments. He also said tactics used by Iraqi insurgents, such as suicide bombers, land mines and remote-detonated bombs, inspired the Taliban.
28641  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Open Letter to Muslims, Liberals, Democrats, et al on: October 24, 2006, 12:30:47 PM

I want to make it clear that this forum is open to a very wide range of views.  At the moment, the posts are overwhelmingly of a certain tendency, but please do not be discouraged.  We seek Truth, not to have a bunch of echoes.   So please read the Rules of the Road thread and come to play.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
28642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslim for Democracy; American Muslim soldiers give all on: October 24, 2006, 12:26:42 PM
New Muslim leader wants Mideast democracy indowadBy Jon Wells
The Hamilton Spectator

(May 1, 2006) The new president of the Muslim Association of Hamilton is showing that he's not afraid to wade in on controversial topics.

In an interview with The Spectator yesterday, Ejaz Butt indicated he supports replacing dictatorships with democratic regimes in the Middle East.

"If (U.S. President George W. Bush) really went into Iraq to bring democracy, I would like him to go into other countries, too, if that is the real intention," he said. "Dictators are in most of our countries, and democracy should be brought to every Muslim country, and as a matter of fact the whole world."

When asked for his views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Butt supports Israel's right to exist as a sovereign country.

"I have a lot of respect for the Israelis, and they have a right to defend their own country. But I also want to have an independent state of Palestine -- a democratic one."

Butt was acclaimed yesterday by the association as its new president. The challenges are considerable for the association in the post 9/11 world.

"I'm an ex-military man, I can face any challenge," said Butt with a chuckle.
"I'm ready for it."

Prior to coming to Canada in 1987, Butt was a soldier in the Pakistani army for 12 years. There, as a major, he worked for a time with a lieutenant named Pervez Musharraf -- now president of Pakistan.

Javid Mirza recently stepped down as association president. Butt plans to carry on Mirza's legacy of trying to build better relations and understanding between religious faiths in the community.
He is also determined to have the first traditionally designed mosque built in the city. The mosque where he was to be acclaimed was once a racquet club.

Butt, 53, is married and has two sons -- Atis is a soldier in the Canadian army and Asim is a Hamilton police officer. He said if Atis is called on to serve with Canadian troops in Afghanistan, he will support it.

"That's why you put the uniform on, you do not disobey orders when the crucial time comes. But Afghanistan is a very dangerous place, it's a very difficult mission ... When I hear of a Canadian soldier's death, they are like my own children, it brings tears."

(This Muslim American did not harbor any mental reservations about defending America and its Constitution from all enemies, domestic and foreign)

Army Pfc. Angelo Zawaydeh, 19, San Bruno; Killed in Iraq

From the Associated Press
April 23, 2006

When Angelo Zawaydeh of San Bruno, Calif., first told his parents that he wanted to join the military, they refused.

Not only were they worried about the dangers of their teenage son going to war, but they also had concerns about Zawaydeh, whose father is Jordanian, participating in a Middle Eastern war.

When Zawaydeh first brought up the idea to his parents when he was 16, the answer was simple, said his mother, April Bradreau. But two years later, he made his own decision. When he joined the Army, she said, "we asked, 'Why didn't you go to college?' And he said, 'I can't sit in the classroom anymore. I need to get up and do something.' "

Zawaydeh, 19, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Ky., and sent to Iraq in September.

On March 15, the private first class was manning a machine gun atop a tank at a Baghdad traffic control point when he was killed by a mortar shell that struck him in the neck.

Kevin Campos said his best friend, a graduate of Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, Calif., and others had vowed to enlist after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "We decided that America was worth fighting for," Campos said. "We thought if we're going to live in this country and raise our families here, we had to do something before we started our lives."

But Bradreau, who with her husband, Akram Zawaydeh, received the news of their son's death on the eve of their 21st wedding anniversary, said her son had grown disillusioned with the war over time. "He thought we could let them [the Iraqis] fight their own battles from now on over there," she said.

Bradreau remembered her son as a respectful young man who always was willing to lend a helping hand.

"He died like he lived," she said. "He gave his life for others."


(Another Muslim American who harbored no mental reservations)


Serving Was Soldier's Mission
Sudan Native Killed in Iraq Did 'Good Deeds'

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 4, 2006; A13

Ayman Taha, a Berkeley graduate who was described as athletic, a speaker of many languages, and a friend to all who met him, had only to write his dissertation to earn his PhD, his father said.
But three years ago, Taha, a budding economist and the son of a Northern Virginia couple, Abdel-Rahman and Amal Taha, joined the Army to serve in the Special Forces. About a year ago, he was sent to Iraq.
On Friday, as Staff Sgt. Ayman Taha, 31, was preparing a cache of munitions for demolition in the town of Balad, the explosives detonated and he was killed, the Pentagon said yesterday.
It is "a very terrible thing," Abdel-Rahman Taha said. "He was a son, and a very special son."
The father added: "If you believe in God and you realize that this is God's will . . . it makes it a lot easier."
There is also consolation, the father said, in feeling that "this is something Ayman wanted to do."
A family friend, Nada Eissa, agreed. "No, he didn't have to do it," she said. "This is something he wanted to do."
Ayman Taha was born in Sudan, into an academically accomplished international family. Both parents hold doctorates. When his father worked for the World Bank, Ayman attended elementary school in McLean. He went to secondary school in England, then received a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's in economics from the University of Massachusetts, where he was working toward a PhD.
"He lived in many cultures," his father said, and spoke English, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese. More important, his father said, were his personality and character.
"If he has a five-minute conversation with you, that would be the beginning of a lifetime relationship," the father said. "I never heard anybody who ever complained that Ayman did something wrong to him.
"He was just that type of character," the father said.
About three years ago, Ayman Taha told his father, "Dad, I have been going to school since I was 5 years old. I want to take a break."
The father said he suggested that his son "try something in the World Bank . . . or Merrill Lynch." But one day, "out of the blue," his son told him that he had signed the papers that would take him into the Special Forces.
He said his son was "definitely" patriotic and believed "in the mission."
"He strongly agreed that what they were doing is good and that they were helping people in the Middle East to get out of the . . . historic bottleneck" that had confined them.
Since boyhood, those who knew him recalled, Ayman Taha had taken an interest in military matters, which showed itself in the books he read and the toys he played with.
Joining the Special Forces was "something he felt compelled to do," said a friend, Hisham Eissa, who lives in Los Angeles and is Nada Eissa's brother.
In economics, Taha's interest was in development. "He felt very strongly about making a difference," and "I think he felt that people like him" were needed for it, Eissa said.
"Everyone whose life he touched loved this guy," Hisham Eissa said. "There isn't a single person who knew him who isn't torn up about this."
The Pentagon said Taha was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
His wife, Geraldine, and child Sommer live near the base. One sister, Rabah, is a special education teacher in Fairfax County, and another, Lubna, attends Marymount University.
His father said Taha was a devout Muslim who believed that "the message of Islam is very simple . . . to believe in God and do good deeds."
"He believed that what he was doing were the good deeds Islam is asking for."


28643  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: October 24, 2006, 12:21:41 PM

Cancer in its midst'
By M. Zuhdi Jasser
March 30, 2006

During the dark days of our Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, "That these are the times, that try men's souls." As an American Muslim, I feel the sentiment of these words like a red-hot brand on my brain.
 ? ?I have watched horrified as assassins have read out the words from my Holy Koran before slitting the throats of some poor innocent souls. To my non-comprehending eyes, I have seen mothers proudly support their sons' accomplishment of blowing up innocent people as they eat or travel. It shatters some part of me, to see my faith as an instrument for butchery.
 ? ?It makes me hope and pray for some counter-movement within my faith which will push back all this darkness. And I know that it must start with what is most basic -- the common truth that binds all religions: "Do unto others, as you would have them do onto you." The Golden Rule.
 ? ?But that is not what I am seeing taught in a great deal of the Muslim world today, and, unfortunately, in America it's just not much better.
 ? ?Night after night, I see Muslim national organizations like the Council for American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, cry out over and over about anecdotal victimization while saying and doing absolutely nothing about the most vile hate-speak and actions toward Jews and Christians in the Muslim world. It is the most self-serving of outrage.
 ? ?The question I ask myself in the darkness of my own night is, "How did my beautiful faith become so linked with such ugliness." To me, the answer is both deep and simple. A spiritual path must be only about the spiritual while a worldly path must be about this world. When the two get mixed together, it brings out the very worst in both.
 ? ?Much of what passes today for religious thought and action is actually political. When I hear a sermon in a mosque about the horrors of Israeli occupation, I know that the political arena has taken over the spiritual one. When I see the actions of suicide bombers praised or excused by religious leaders, I know that this politicization is complete. But the current Muslim leadership in groups like CAIR and others want only to talk of victimization. So, it is now high time for a new movement by Muslims in America and the West.
 ? ?We in the Muslim community need to develop a new paradigm for our organizations and think tanks which holds Muslims publicly accountable for the separation of the political from the spiritual. Gone should be the day where individuals and their organizations can hide behind the cloak of victimization as a smoke screen for what they really believe.
 ? ?I do believe that religions have cycles that they go through. Christianity was once a highly intolerant faith. Jews were labeled as "Christ killers" and the colored peoples of the Third World were people whose native faith was like ragged clothes to be torn off their bodies.
 ? ?Thank God those days are over. Now my faith community must do the same. It should be the true test of a Muslim, not so much how he treats a fellow Muslim but how he treats someone of another faith.
 ? ?Time is not on our side and the volatile radical minority of Muslims could strike again at any time. But, while true change among Muslims may take generations, our history teaches us that once we start the ideological battle, nothing can counter the power of freedom, pluralism and the desire for human rights.
 ? ?There are some small signs that my community is finally beginning to wake up to the cancer in its midst. We are learning something that was the central lesson of World War II -- that once aroused, evil never stays self-contained.
 ? ?For many in my faith, it was all right to blow up innocent Israelis as they sat in their cafes and pizza parlors. Through some tortured act of logic, these suicide bombings were seen as some sort of legitimate religion-sanctioned acts. (All the while, notice how few Muslim organizations like CAIR will denounce Hamas by name). But, as evil always does, it migrates, and soon radical Muslims were blowing up little children in Russia, commuters in Spain and worshippers in one of Iraq's holiest mosques.
 ? ?Maybe our first true wake-up call was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's homicide attack on the wedding party in Jordan. Because now, the evil unleashed on the occupying Jews had landed on the doorstep of Muslims as they partook in a joyous wedding day.
 ? ?That is the lesson that we in the Muslim community are now learning. Do evil to anyone and eventually it will boomerang on you. Perhaps, that's a good place to start. Let the barometer of our faith be how we treat our Jewish friends, because in the end, that is how we will eventually treat ourselves.
 ? ?
 ? ?M. Zuhdi Jasser is chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. A former Navy lieutenant commander, he currently is an internist in private practice in Phoenix.
AIFD Commentary
28644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: October 24, 2006, 12:17:41 PM
I think the following piece from the highly respected British magazine ?The Economist? gets the big picture right.

May 29, 2005

'No god but God': The War Within Islam

THESE are rough times for Islam. It is not simply that frictions have intensified lately between Muslims and followers of other faiths. There is trouble, and perhaps even greater trouble, brewing inside the Abode of Peace itself, the notional Islamic ummah or nation that comprises a fifth of humanity.

News reports reveal glimpses of such trouble -- for instance, in the form of flaring strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in places like Iraq and Pakistan. Yet the greater tensions, while similarly rooted in the distant past, are less visible to the wider world. The rapid expansion of literacy among Muslims in the past half-century, and of access to new means of communication in the last decade, have created a tremendous momentum for change. Furious debates rage on the Internet, for example, about issues like the true meaning of jihad, or how to interpret and apply Islamic law, or how Muslim minorities should engage with the societies they live in.

What is unfolding, Reza Aslan argues in his wise and passionate book, ''No god but God,'' is nothing less than a struggle over who will ultimately define the sweeping ''Islamic Reformation'' that he believes is already well under way across much of the Muslim world. The West, he says, is ''merely a bystander -- an unwary yet complicit casualty of a rivalry that is raging in Islam over who will write the next chapter in its story.''

Amid the surge of Western interest in Islam since 9/11, other quiet voices have argued similarly that the historical process we are witnessing is less a clash of civilizations than a working out of suppressed internal conflicts. Aslan's contribution to this line of thought is threefold. He traces the dogmatic splits in Islam to their historical origins. He provides a speculative but well-reasoned look at how Muslim beliefs are likely to evolve. And he does all this beautifully, in a book that manages to be both an incisive, scholarly primer in Muslim history and an engaging personal exploration.

Aslan does not shy from controversy. Conservative Muslims will certainly challenge some of his bold assertions -- among them, that there is scant support in authentic Islamic tradition for the veiling of women; that laws are created by people, not God; and that, as he puts it, ''the notion that historical context should play no role in the interpretation of the Koran -- that what applied to Muhammad's community applies to all Muslim communities for all time -- is simply an untenable position in every sense.''

Yet even the most hidebound traditionalists would find it hard to refute the main thrust of his argument, which is that the original message of Islam, egalitarian, inclusive, progressive and liberating, has been twisted and diminished over time. Aslan is at his best in trying to explain and recapture what was initially inspiring about Islam and what remains powerful -- things that can be hard for outsiders to see these days because of what some do in the name of their faith.

By carefully drawing in the social and political setting from which Islam emerged, Aslan presents a persuasive case for viewing the religion as very much a product of its age. He notes the appearance in the region of Mecca, during the prophet's youth, of religious fashions like iconoclasm and the fusing of faiths into one embracing doctrine, ideas that were to become central to Muhammad's message. Not just outsiders but Muslims themselves need reminding that during Islam's first centuries, the Torah was often read alongside the Koran. Both Muslims and their detractors also often forget that the Koran calls specifically on Jews, Christians and Muslims to ''come to an agreement on the things we hold in common.''

Aslan's wish to emphasize the tolerant, merciful side of Islam can lead to pitfalls. It is not particularly comforting to learn that when the prophet triumphantly returned to Mecca, the city of his birth that had rejected him, there were no forced conversions and ''only'' six men and four women were put to the sword. The killing and enslavement of Jewish tribes at Medina receives a similarly light gloss, although Aslan may be right to point out that their ''Jewishness'' may have been rather vaguely defined.

Whatever the case, he is clearly correct in stating that the more damaging influences on the faith were yet to come. Over the 14 centuries that followed Muhammad's 22 years of revelation, Muslim kings and scholars distorted its tenets to serve their own narrow interests, and then cast these accretions in stone. Not only were the words of the Koran reinterpreted, but so were the hundreds of thousands of traditions and sayings collected by the prophet's contemporaries. As one example, Muhammad's comment that the ''feebleminded'' should not inherit was taken by some to mean that women should be excluded from inheritance, despite the clear Koranic injunction to grant women half the portion of male inheritors.

Immediately after Islam's glorious early years of expansion, a great intellectual clash pitted rigid literalists against more rationalist interpreters. That the rationalists essentially lost is a subject of lament for Muslim modernists, particularly Western-educated intellectuals like Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar of comparative religion. His arguments for reintroducing rationalism, for accepting the utility of secularization and for contextualizing the historical understanding of the faith all put him in distinguished company among contemporary Muslims.

The Syrian reformist Muhammad Shahrour, for instance, proposes an elegant solution to the question of how to apply the controversial corporal punishments specified by most understandings of Islamic law, or Shariah. Instead of taking what some see as God's rules literally, he suggests that things like hand-chopping should be viewed as the maximum possible penalty. Anything more severe would contravene Islam, but it would be up to a secular, elected legislature to determine what lesser level of severity to apply.

Sadly, the dominant voices in Islam are still those that see the faith not simply as a path of moral guidance but as a rigidly prescriptive and exclusive rule book. Ferment is certainly in the air. If the Osama bin Ladens of the world have achieved one thing, it is to force Muslims to confront some of their demons. Even archconservative Saudi Arabia is slowly evolving. In April, its top religious authority declared that forcing a woman to marry against her will was an imprisonable offense. A full-blown ''reformation'' in the heartlands of Islam, however, is still a long way off.

Max Rodenbeck is the Middle East correspondent for The Economist.

28645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran on: October 24, 2006, 07:54:25 AM
U.N. Official Says Iran Is Testing New Enrichment Device
Published: October 24, 2006
NY Times
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 ? The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that Iran had begun testing new uranium enrichment equipment that could double the capacity of its small research-and-development facilities.

The action appears to be a signal to the United Nations Security Council that Iran would respond to sanctions by speeding ahead with its nuclear program.

Since February, when Iran publicly celebrated its first production of enriched uranium, progress at its main nuclear complex at Natanz has reportedly been slow. Iran has sporadically operated a single ?cascade? of 164 centrifuges, the devices that spin at high speed and turn ordinary uranium into a fuel usable for nuclear power plants ? or, at higher enrichment levels, nuclear weapons.

Those reports had prompted speculation that Iranian engineers had run into considerable technical difficulties.

But in an interview on Monday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A., said that ?based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.? He said that no uranium had yet been entered into the new system, but could be as early as next week.

Even with two cascades running, it would take Iran years to enrich enough uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon.

The United States director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, has said repeatedly that he believes Tehran is 4 to 10 years away from developing a weapon, even though its technology base is far more advanced than that of North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test 15 days ago.

Unlike North Korea, Iran has insisted that it does not intend to build a weapon. Nonetheless, Iran ignored an Aug. 31 deadline, set by the Security Council, to stop enriching uranium.

Since then, European nations, China, Russia and the United States have been debating what sanctions, if any, should be imposed. China and Russia have resisted, and in a speech on Monday at Georgetown University?s School of Foreign Service, Dr. ElBaradei made clear that he believes sanctions are unlikely to work.

?Penalizing them is not a solution,? he said. ?At the end of the day, we have to bite the bullet and talk to North Korea and Iran.?

Unlike American officials, he says that he remains unpersuaded that Iran?s ultimate goal is to build a weapon, though I.A.E.A. officials say they believe that Iran wants to have all of the major components of a weapon in hand so that it is clear that it could build one in weeks or months.

?The jury is still out on whether they are developing a nuclear weapon,? Dr. ElBaradei said at Georgetown, after meeting earlier in the day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

After the meeting, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said there was now ?widespread agreement, although not total agreement,? on elements of an initial sanctions package. He did not speculate about when the sanctions might come to a vote; at the end of the summer, administration officials insisted that the Security Council would act in September.

Mr. McCormack said the Iranians seemed to be moving ahead ?inexorably at this point,? so that at some point ?you will have industrial-scale production.?

?You don?t want that,? he said.

Some European diplomats have expressed concern that, should the Security Council act, the moderates in the Iranian government who have been involved in negotiations over the nuclear program could be shoved aside, and that some combination of military leaders and hard-line mullahs would push the country to speed its nuclear production.
28646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: October 24, 2006, 07:46:44 AM
CAIR is often a go-to "moderate Muslim" group for MSM pieces, but there are substantial questions about the sincerity of the group or whether it is a taqiya (sp?) front for nefarious groups.  Here is a piece from a group which strongly believes CAIR to be a front for nefarious elements:

In Defense of the Constitution

News & Analysis
042/06  October 23, 2006

CAIR'S Bedier:  Doing The "Transparency" Bob And Weave

Replying to a recent viewer comment in the YouTube comments section of a video post on the Pope from Ahmed Bedier, CAIR's Florida communications director, Mr. Bedier stated that CAIR is  "as transparent as you get, my friend".
Well, not really.  It seems to us that whenever a CAIR officer is confronted with a direct question about CAIR, the officer will go out of his (or her) way to dodge the question, or throw it back on the questioner.
(This is anything but "transparent", Mr. Bedier.)
For example, CAIR sued Anti-CAIR's director, Andrew Whitehead, for defamation.  But when it came time for CAIR to be "transparent," it cut and ran.  The CAIR vs Anti-CAIR court documents show CAIR was afraid to answer questions regarding:
- CAIR's financial ties to the terrorist-financing groups Holy Land Foundation, Global Relief Foundation, and Hamas.  (Fearful of admitting in court CAIR's support for these terror groups, they refused to be "transparent" regarding these relationships).
- CAIR's relationship to the Islamic Association of Palestine [former employers of Awad, Ahmad, and Hooper].  The IAP was found civilly liable for murder.  Also refused were questions of CAIR's relationship with InfoCom, which was run by convicted CAIR board member Ghassan Elashi.
- CAIR's connections to individuals associated with Saudi Arabia. [Now what could CAIR possibly have to hide here?  Mr. Bedier, care to answer?]
- CAIR's connections to terrorist Musa Marzook of Hamas.  [We'd love to hear CAIR's explanation on this one.but, once again, only silence from the CAIR troika.]
- CAIR's financial relationship with an identified Saudi prince known for financing Islamic Fundamentalism and supporting terror.
- CAIR's financial relationship with a known Saudi Islamic fundamentalist group that was formed and operating for the purpose of converting non-believers, by whatever means necessary, and who agreed to underwrite CAIR's activities in the United States.
- CAIR's  "key personnel" who were identified by FBI surveillance in a meeting with Hamas leadership right here in the USA.  [Now why would CAIR officials want to meet with Hamas?]
- CAIR's position regarding Israel's right to exist as a nation.
- CAIR's position regarding the Hamas Charter, [of which CAIR's officers translated into English while working for the Islamic Association for Palestine, a terror front group].
CAIR would not even admit that Hamas was responsible for the murder of innocent civilians.

If CAIR's is so transparent, as Mr. Bedier insists, then why all the bobbing and weaving with discovery requests regarding CAIR'Ss history, ideology, and financial ties? 

It is because CAIR is quite transparent, as Anti-CAIR'S has always insisted:
"Let there be no doubt that the Council on American-Islamic Relations is a terrorist supporting front organization that is partially funded by terrorists, and that CAIR wishes nothing more than the implementation of Sharia law in America."
Care to put up, or would you prefer to shut up, Mr. Bedier?
Below is a comment exchange from Ahmed Bediers' YouTube space:

bassizzzt42 (1 day ago)
Islam is NOT a religion. It is a political ideology based on lies, intolerance, and hate. Look at how Muslim women are treated - like sub-humans. Islamofascism is alive and well and living in America. Do you know that several CAIR employees have been arrested for terrorism and are doing time in prison? Do not trust Bedier nor CAIR; they are professional liars. CAIR's goal is the eradication of the Constitution of the United States and they wish to establish an Islamic theocracy.
bedier (1 day ago)
Oh yeah, and you want us to trust a screen name bassizzzt42 real reliable source there. We're as transparent as you get my friend, but people like you only hide behind screen names.

(Note:  Bedier deleted the above exchange, and several others, on 10/19/06 around 7:30 pm EST - Anti-CAIR wonders why?  Could it be that he realized what a fool he was making of himself and his masters at CAIR?)

Andrew Whitehead

Subscribers are warned that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) may contact your employer if CAIR believes you are using a work address to receive any material that CAIR believes may be offensive.  CAIR has been known to shame employers into firing employees CAIR finds disagreeable. For that reason, we strongly suggest that corporate e-mail users NOT use a corporate e-mail account/address when communicating with ACAIR or CAIR.  We make every reasonable effort to protect our mailing list, but we cannot guarantee confidentiality. ACAIR does not share, loan, sell, rent or otherwise publicize our mailing list.  We respect your privacy!

All persons are invited to submit tips and leads.  ACAIR will acknowledge receipt of all tips/leads, but we will NOT acknowledge the source of ANY tip or lead in our News & Analysis or on our web site. Exceptions are made for leading media personalities at the discretion of ACAIR and only on request of the person(s) submitting the tip or lead.
28647  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA on: October 23, 2006, 08:16:05 PM
Any comments on Pride?

I have not seen it yet, but Hot Dog tells me Erik Paulsen was in Josh Barnett's corner and that Rigan Machado was in Vitor Belfort's corner.
28648  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spike TV, the Dog Brothers Gathering Webisodes; National Geographic on: October 22, 2006, 06:04:36 PM
Assuming all goes well with Spike, they will shoot through the Fall Gathering, do some post Gathering interviews, then edit.  The webisodes should appear on their website around January.
28649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: October 22, 2006, 01:24:28 PM
A very nice piece , , ,


The selfless and the dead
An Iraqi burial society pays its respects to unclaimed war victims.
By Raheem Salman and Doug Smith, LA Times Staff Writers
October 22, 2006

Twice a week, the large delivery truck from Baghdad rolls into the vast cemetery in this holy Shiite Muslim city. A bus follows, bearing wooden caskets on its roof. Half a mile beyond the cemetery gates, at the edge of the desert, the passengers get out of the bus and set to work unloading the truck's grim cargo. On an average trip, there will be 70 to 100 bodies, victims of the sectarian bloodletting that has gripped Iraq.

 The men belong to a word-of-mouth burial society for the unclaimed dead, formed during the 1980s war with Iran, starting small and growing with the need. Today, about 500 men ? laborers, professionals, clerics and tribal leaders ? are members of the legation of the dead in this country where deep piety and terrible brutality have repeatedly intertwined.

The society has no name and no officers. It adheres to no religious sect or political agenda. Thirty to 60 men make each trip. Some go every time; those who have to take time off from work may go only once every few weeks. They pay their own expenses and have rejected government compensation.

"We told them that if there will be money for this work we withdraw, as an act cannot be evaluated with money," said taxi driver Hashim Saadi, 53. "We want the blessing of God only."

Many who belong were drawn to it by their own experiences.

"When I look at them, I feel deeply sad," Saadi said. "Each one of them I see as my son, who was kidnapped five months ago. He was in his last year in the college of economy and administration at Baghdad University. I expect to see his body any time with any group we are bringing."

Mohammed Sabbar, an official with the Iraq Board of Tourism, said he joined the society after his brother disappeared about a year ago and later turned up in the morgue. The family suffered for weeks not knowing his fate.

"I did not go to my work today, preferring to join this act, which is filled with human feelings," Sabbar said. "We feel sad for them. Sometimes I weep. Repeatedly doing this has elicited a sort of acceptance of the sight, but feelings of sadness are still there."

The depth of his commitment is astonishing.

Each two-day trip begins at 4 a.m. after morning prayers. Sabbar walks three-quarters of a mile from the Ur neighborhood of Baghdad to a mosque in Sadr City, where several of the men converge. At the mosque, they pick up two or three caskets, which they tie to the roof of the bus. The bus drives to the Baghdad morgue, an impersonal building of yellow brick, where other men arrive in their cars.  They load the truck with bodies that have been unclaimed for two weeks ? at that point, the morgue has to clear them out to make room new ones. Leaving Baghdad at 7 a.m., they must traverse Latifiya, an insurgent stronghold and one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. Kidnappings, shootings and roadside bomb attacks occur there almost daily.

The caskets on the bus could be a liability in the Sunni Arab city, giving the impression that the men are Shiites on the road to Najaf. But they also ensure speedier passage through the many checkpoints on the 110-mile highway. Mourning parties are less likely to be stopped for identity checks.

About noon, the bus arrives at the cemetery. The men say their midday prayers before they unload the bodies on stretchers into the desert heat, loudly chanting, "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God." They remove the bodies from black nylon sacks. To each they attach a tag bearing all that is known about the deceased.

Some are headless, some bloated and purple. If the body is too decomposed to wash, the men perform what is called the tayamum, rubbing the face and hands with clean sand, in accordance with Islamic tradition.

They return the body to a sack sprinkled with camphor and pungent leaves. Then they wrap the body with a white cloth. They lower bodies into double graves according to their morgue numbers, odd on one side, even on the other. The graves are marked with flat stones that say "Unclaimed."

"When I look at any one of these victims, we feel that he is my brother or father," said Abu Muntadhar, 44, who receives a government salary to drive one of the delivery trucks but has volunteered for this job. "We cry as if they are our relatives. I imagine how their wives will behave if they see them, or their children."

Caring for the unclaimed began as a charity supported by wealthy residents of Baghdad to provide proper burials for the indigent, said Sheik Mehdi Abdul Zahara, one of about 100 burial brokers who work out of tiny offices at the cemetery. Paid by families of the dead, they acquire plots, hire gravediggers and maintain monuments.

The numbers of dead have grown with each traumatic turn in Iraq's course.

During Saddam Hussein's brutal repression after the failed 1991 Shiite uprising, 30 to 40 bodies arrived each month. After the overthrow of Hussein, the number jumped to 30 a week and kept climbing. Now a truck carrying 70 to 100 bodies comes twice a week, and a separate truck carries as many to Karbala, another holy city. Traditionally, charitable donations paid for burials of the unclaimed. With the increasing numbers, the Health Ministry recently took over. Zahara and his gravediggers do the work for reduced pay.  Bodies go unclaimed mostly because the morgue can't identify them. Relatives may check with police and hospitals or wait for a ransom note, hoping for any information that their loved one is alive. Even when family members go to the morgue, the deteriorated condition of some bodies may give them reason to delay positive identification in the hope that it is someone else.

Zahara does a little detective work of his own, hoping to relieve families of the pain of not knowing. Once, he received a beheaded man and found an address book in his shoe. He telephoned someone who turned out to be a brother.

"He was afraid, thinking that I was a terrorist or a kidnapper," Zahara said.

The brother called back several times before deciding to trust Zahara. The sibling came at night, accompanied by three carloads of family and friends, who were there to provide support, but also protection in the event of a trap.

"They were too sad for the killing of their son, but at least this put an end to their suffering and searching," Zahara said.

The unofficial leader of the group, Sheik Jamal Soodani, has been going on the burial trips since their outset. He is responsible for the roster of volunteers and attends every journey.  Although he has been accused of having political or sectarian motives, he and other members of the group have no aim but getting closer to God, Soodani said.

"We bury the Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Muslim and non-Iraqi," he said. "We deal with the human being as a human being, regardless of considerations like color and religion."

At the end of each day's work, the men are tired and it is too late to return to Baghdad. They retire instead to a rented two-room house at the edge of the cemetery.  They sleep on mattresses spread across the floor like gravestones. Others sleep on the porch outside ? they prefer the fresh air.

28650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: October 22, 2006, 07:22:53 AM
Exactly so! 

The Adventure continues!
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