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28701  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: March 15, 2007, 05:53:27 AM

Please consider contributing as much as you like on this thread:

Thank you,
28702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: March 14, 2007, 07:59:23 PM
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to that attack and a string of others during a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a transcript released Wednesday by the Pentagon.   
Mohammed claimed responsibility for planning, financing, and training others for bombings ranging from the 1993 attack at the World Trade Center to the attempt by would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes.   
In all, Mohammed said he was responsible for planning 29 individual attacks, including many that were never executed. The comments were included in a 26-page transcript released by the Pentagon, which also blacked out some of his remarks.
28703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Native Americans on: March 14, 2007, 07:57:12 PM

Decorated American Indian Veteran Dies
Associated Press  |  March 12, 2007

HARTFORD, Conn. - Billy Walkabout, a native Cherokee whose actions in Vietnam made him among most decorated Soldiers of the war, died March 7, his stepdaughter said Sunday. He was 57.

Walkabout received the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, five Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. He was believed to be the most decorated Native American Soldier of the Vietnam War, according to U.S. Department of Defense reports.

Walkabout, who lived in Montville, died of pneumonia and renal failure at a Norwich hospital, said his stepdaughter, Randi Johnson of Norwich.  He had experienced complications related to his exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam conflict, she said, and he had been on a kidney transplant waiting list and undergoing dialysis three times a week.

Walkabout, a Cherokee of the Blue Holley Clan, was an 18-year-old Army Ranger sergeant when he and 12 other Soldiers were sent on an assassination mission behind enemy lines on Nov. 20, 1968, in a region southwest of Hue.  However, they ended up in the enemy's battalion area and came under fire for hours, during which he was seriously wounded. Several of the other 12 men were killed at the scene, while the rest later died of their injuries.  Walkabout's citation for the Distinguished Service Cross said he simultaneously returned fire, helped his comrades and boarded other injured Soldiers onto evacuation helicopters. 

"Although stunned and wounded by the blast, Sgt. Walkabout rushed from man to man administering first aid, bandaging one Soldier's severe chest wound and reviving another Soldier by heart massage," the citation states. 

In a 1986 interview with The Associated Press, Walkabout said his 23 months in Vietnam left him with disabling injuries and memories that refused to fade.

"War is not hell," Walkabout said. "It's worse." 

He said he struggled with failed marriages, thoughts of suicide and years of self-isolation when he would spend six months at a time alone.  Over the years, however, he found solace in the Native American powwows where he often was an honored guest. 

At the time of his death, Walkabout and his wife, Juanita Medbury-Walkabout, lived in a portion of eastern Connecticut that is home to many American Indian tribal members.  His family is in the process of requesting a military burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Johnson said.
28704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: March 14, 2007, 07:36:21 PM
The Asghari Case: Defection and Damage Control
March 14, 2007 19 52  GMT

By Fred Burton

Ali Reza Asghari, a former Iranian deputy defense minister and Pasdaran commander, went missing from Istanbul several weeks ago. After his disappearance -- which Turkish authorities say could have been as long ago as December but was not reported to them by Iran until early February -- Arab newspapers began to insinuate that Mossad and the CIA were responsible for having had him abducted or killed. These claims were echoed by Iranian officials. Last week, however, the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat independent newspaper reported that Asghari had defected to the U.S. government while traveling in Turkey. This report was confirmed by the Washington Post, which quoted a senior U.S. intelligence official March 8 as saying Asghari was cooperating voluntarily -- and fully -- with Western intelligence agencies.

The United States and Iran have been locked in a covert "intelligence war" that has been raging for some time now. And, as in the Cold War, this war likely will involve the use of tactics ranging from assassinations and clandestine operations to propaganda, disinformation and the use of military proxies. Defectors and agents of influence also have been a feature of such wars in the past -- which brings us back to the Asghari case.

The significance of Asghari's disappearance stems entirely from his background. Not only did he serve as Iran's deputy defense minister under former President Mohammed Khatami, but he also is a retired general who was a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the 1980s and 1990s. Therefore, the Iranians clearly have worried that he might be providing Western intelligence agencies with a wealth of information on the capabilities of the Iranian armed forces, and possibly helping to improve their understanding of the relationship between the IRGC (or "Pasdaran," in Farsi) and Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iraqi Shiite groups such as the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigade. Given his background, he also would be in a position to shed light on the Pasdaran's clandestine abilities abroad and perhaps identify other Iranian intelligence officers. In other words, Asghari could prove an important (and timely) catch for U.S. intelligence, especially if he had been working with the United States as an "agent in place" for a long period.

In an intelligence war -- or just at routine levels of good old-fashioned espionage -- the defection of a figure like Asghari can prove useful in more ways than one. To understand this case and its potential twists and turns a bit better, let's take a look at the definitions and specific stages of the intelligence process surrounding defections: vetting, extraction and debriefings.


To begin at the beginning, a "defector" is a person who abandons allegiance to one country in order to serve another. Like other intelligence sources, there are two basic types of defectors: those who are sought, or recruited, and those who volunteer.

Sources who are recruited are approached by intelligence agencies because they are in a certain position in government or society and have access to what is deemed important information. They are people who can provide the information to satisfy key intelligence requirements. While some sources might leave their native countries soon after being recruited, there have been many cases when it was found, after defection, that the person had worked as either an agent in place or an "agent of influence" -- someone who can help to shape government policy, public opinion or even military decisions -- for the recruiting country. Such agents can stay in place for years before "coming in from the cold," or physically defecting, to the recruiting country.

Well-positioned agents in place provide unique insight into the thinking, mindset and planning of the leadership of the government on which they have been spying. They provide crucial insight that cannot be gathered through technical means. In other words, you can use technology to take a picture of a man or listen to his telephone conversations, but those things might not provide you with information or even very good clues about his thoughts and plans. That kind of information comes only from human sources with the right access.

The second type of defector, the one who volunteers, is called a "walk-in" -- because, frequently, they literally do walk into the embassy or consulate of a foreign country and volunteer their services. Walk-ins are problematic because they often appear when they are least expected; therefore, intelligence-gathering operations involving walk-ins are often hectic affairs that must be quickly conceived and implemented. Furthermore, if the person who walks in is not careful, their very presence at a foreign embassy can out them to the host country's counterintelligence forces (which can be expected to be monitoring the embassy). That makes it difficult to retain a walk-in as an agent in place, and adds to the challenges of getting him out of the country when needed for an in-depth debriefing. However, it can be done: CIA officer Aldrich Ames was a walk-in to the Soviet Embassy in Washington but the KGB (and its successor, the FSB) managed to work him as an agent in place for nearly 10 years before he was detected and arrested.

A highly placed source like Ames is a dream come true for an intelligence officer -- and the worst nightmare for a counterintelligence service.

Vetting the source -- to affirm whether he or she is genuine -- is an important part of all espionage recruitment operations, and defectors are not excepted from this rule. Many walk-ins turn out to be "fabricators," "dangles" (people sent into the embassy in an order to identify the nondeclared intelligence officers stationed there) or "double agents" (those who appear to be defectors but who actually are used to spread disinformation and to determine how the opponent's intelligence service functions). While there is not much danger of a source who is targeted for recruitment being a fabricator, there is a danger of that person being a dangle, or a double agent. Vetting of both the source and the information provided by the source is essentially a continuous process; the defector will be closely monitored (and subjected to polygraph exams) throughout his period of employment.


Once a spy has been identified, recruited and initially vetted -- and found to be of value -- the intelligence service must determine the best way to use that person. As noted, the source might be left in place to collect additional information, or whisked out of the country for a debriefing. Either way, the source must eventually be extracted from the country in a clandestine fashion. This extraction process is sometimes called an "exfiltration" -- the opposite of an infiltration.

While some extractions can be dramatic, not all of them are Hollywood productions involving submarines and special operations forces. Because such operations are not only dangerous but also costly, they are carried out only under extreme circumstances. Most extractions are intended to be far more low-key: Quite often, the sneakiest way to commit an operational act is to do it in a mundane fashion, in plain sight. Therefore, it is far more common for defectors to leave their home countries under the ruse of taking a vacation or, as with Asghari, for business reasons. (That said, people are still occasionally smuggled out of embassy parking garages in the trunks of a cars.)

Time is an important consideration in extractions: Generally, the more time one has to plan and execute an extraction, the smoother and more low-key it will be. Location is also critical. Getting a person out of an open society is much easier than getting them out of a repressive society with strict travel regulations.

Once a defector gets to a third country for "vacation" or to "attend a conference," they can be picked up and spirited away. But again, time is a critical factor: If a person is watched closely by his government and cannot stray far from a security officer, or "minder," those planning the extraction will have significantly less time to operate than they otherwise would. Once the defector is in custody, he can be furnished with false documentation and secreted away in much the same way a subject is in an extraordinary rendition. In fact, much of the U.S. government's expertise in handling renditions was derived from its operations to extract defectors.

It is even easier if the third country is friendly to the extracting country. For instance, in the Asghari case, Turkey is known to cooperate with U.S. intelligence and the presence of (heavily trafficked) U.S. air bases in the country would make it quite simple to get a defector from a third country out of Turkey without being detected.


Debriefing a defector can be a lengthy process that often involves specialists from a number of government agencies. In the case of Asghari, the team likely would include members from the Defense Intelligence Agency and Special Operations Command (given Asghari's military background), and the FBI and State Department, since he might have historical information regarding Iranian-sponsored attacks by Hezbollah and other proxies, and perhaps even information pertaining to future attacks.

During the course of a debriefing, the defector would be given a complete medical and psychological exam. The psychological team often can provide important guidance on the defector's psyche and on the best approaches to use in debriefing that person -- and, just as important, subjects to raise and pitfalls to avoid.

Vetting is as important during the debriefing as in other stages of the process. This not only helps to determine if the defector is a double agent, but also can be useful in determining when the defector has run out of useful information. (At this stage, many sources will begin to fabricate information in an effort to make themselves appear to be of lasting value.) The defector likely will endure several polygraph examinations during this phase. The host country's reaction to the defection also will be factored in to the vetting equation, and other sources will be tasked to determine whether he was a double agent.

Once the defector has been completely debriefed, he probably will be resettled and employed by the government as a consultant -- someone authorities can turn to in the future with questions about personalities and events relevant to his background. He also might lead training classes and seminars to teach U.S. and allied personnel about the organization and operations of his former agency.

Of course, given the value of an asset like Asghari, the intelligence services of numerous U.S. allies undoubtedly are clamoring for information from him, and even seeking access in order to conduct their own debriefings.


With the United States and Iran already engaged in an intelligence war, the defection of a figure like Asghari doubtless has provided Washington with a windfall of information regarding the Iranian defense establishment and Pasdaran. However, the Iranian reaction to the defection also could provide an opportunity to gather even more intelligence -- especially if Washington had the time to pre-position additional surveillance assets.

This, by the way, is very likely the reason Iranian authorities did not report Asghari's disappearance to the Turkish government for several weeks. Regardless of whether the defector was thought to be already in enemy hands, Tehran would have wanted to keep its reaction as low-key as possible and information about Asghari's disappearance away from a "hostile" (meaning U.S.-allied) intelligence service until Iranian officials had a handle on the situation.

From the U.S. perspective, the immediate follow-on questions and responses would have followed a set pattern. For instance, Washington would be monitoring Iranian diplomatic and intelligence traffic carefully. How was Asghari's disappearance reported internally? Who did the Iranians contact in Istanbul and Ankara? Were messages sent out to other Iranian missions in Europe or in New York? Have diplomats received any sudden recall orders?

Physically, the United States would use surveillance teams against the Iranian diplomats in Turkey to determine such things as: Who went looking for Asghari? Who in the Turkish government did the Iranians meet with? Did they mobilize any Iranian businessmen or students to assist their search? Such things could provide valuable insight into the Iranian intelligence network in Turkey.

In the wake of the defection, the United States and others doubtless have been watching for other sudden and unexpected departures of personnel from Iranian diplomatic missions worldwide. Such departures could indicate that an officer is with the Pasdaran or another intelligence agency that the leadership in Tehran believes might have been compromised by Asghari.

The Iranians will have to do a thorough damage-control investigation to determine every secret to which Asghari had access. They most assuredly will downplay the significance of Washington's intelligence score by making public claims that Asghari was of minimal importance and had no access to current information. However, in the end, the most crucial question Tehran will need to answer is, "How long has Asghari been working for the Americans?"

If the answer is "a long time," the damage to Iran's national security could be enormous.
28705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: March 14, 2007, 07:33:29 PM
Iraqi Energy: What Might Work

A newly announced Royal Dutch/Shell consortium is likely to launch Iraq's first post-Hussein energy project.


Energy supermajor Royal Dutch/Shell announced March 14 that it has formed a consortium with a number of Turkish energy firms to bid on natural gas projects in Iraq, with the intent of building a natural gas line from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. With Iraq's new oil law edging toward realization, this Shell consortium will likely be the first to launch a successful major energy project in post-Hussein Iraq.

Of the many obstacles to an Iraqi energy renaissance, the most significant are:

The ongoing insurgency that attacks petroleum infrastructure. In the north those attacks cluster around the Sunni Arab city of Baiji, through which all energy output for the Kurdish regions flows.

Turkish opposition to anything that grants the Kurds additional power. Turkey fears that an economically viable, politically coherent Iraqi Kurdistan could spark separatist tendencies among its own -- and far larger -- Kurdish population.

The unwillingness of the world's supermajors to jump into an insurgent-wracked, politically shattered Iraq, where investment would exist in a legal vacuum.

Because it avoids two of these problems, the new consortium will most likely prove to be the first big success project.

First, the project does not aim to tap existing infrastructure but instead export natural gas -- not oil -- north to Turkey. Though the new pipeline will parallel the often-bombed Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, it will only do so for the length that runs on Turkish territory. Shell and its partners will construct the line to avoid Baiji and take a more direct route to the Turkish border that runs exclusively through insurgent-free, and relatively well-patrolled, Iraqi Kurdistan. Incidentally, Saddam Hussein built the oil pipeline through Baiji specifically to frustrate any Kurdish efforts to attain autonomy.

Second, the Turks are involved from the get-go and at a state level. Turkey's energy minister himself has hinted that he has taken part in the negotiations and the most likely partners for Shell are two state companies: oil company Turkiye Petrolleri and pipeline firm Botas. This deal explicitly has involved Ankara directly in the decision making. Additionally, the natural gas will be flowing to Turkey directly, so not only will Turkey be economically benefiting from the deal, it will have legal, economic, political and geographic control over its success. Turkey might still consider grinding the Kurds into dust to be the best option, but barring that, full control over the Kurds' economic fortunes is a close second. Ironically, the deal paves the way for an awkward codependence between the Turks (who will use the natural gas) and the Kurds (who will sell it).

That just leaves the issue of supermajor tentativeness. With the first two issues addressed, Shell seems far more willing to take the plunge, and it certainly sports the technology, experience and capital to make the deal successful. Now the only obstacle remaining is for the Kurds and the rest of the Iraqis to hammer out a final oil law. Though that task is both gargantuan and complex and is not to be belittled, it does not diminish the likelihood that the Shell-led consortium will be Iraq's best bet for a successful and substantial energy project.
28706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 14, 2007, 07:04:44 PM

Good conversation.

What do you make of the global warming skeptics' assertion that Mars too is going through a warming phase?  In that Mars has no atmosphere at all, I gather that the inference is that solar variations are the source of the variance that Al Whose Ox is being Gore in a dither.

28707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 14, 2007, 06:46:46 PM
Second post of the day:

AFGHANISTAN/RUSSIA: Afghanistan is interested in cooperating with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and in purchasing arms from Russia, RIA Novosti reported, citing CSTO officials. After completing a three-day trip to Kabul, members of the CSTO -- comprised of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- said representatives from Afghanistan spoke unanimously on cooperation and joint initiatives to stem terrorism and drug trafficking in the region.

I have often wondered what would happen to our strategy if Musharef were to fall/be killed.  Do Pak's nukes/nuke tech fall into AQ/Taliban hands?  Things are looking grimmer for Gen M.  This piece from today's Financial Times of London looks at the situation more closely than the usual US enemedia.

This article from todays FT  is pertinent to your discussion.

Pakistanis fall out of love with Musharraf

By Jo Johnson andFarhan Bokhari

Published: March 14 2007 02:00 | Last updated: March 14 2007 02:00

In the boardrooms of Karachi, Pakistan's commercial hub, multinationals
are grimly reassessing the "key man risk" line of their business plans.

Throughout the country's history, no military ruler has left power

General Zia ul-Haq died in a mysterious aircraft crash in 1988. Field
Marshal Ayub Khan was drummed out of office in 1969 by protests that
paralysed the country, as was General Yahya Khan after Pakistan's
humiliating defeat in the 1971 war with India.

General Pervez Musharraf, the current president, looks unlikely to be an
exception to the rule. Seven years after he seized power in a bloodless
coup, diplomats say he needs a credible exit strategy of his own.

The honeymoon that followed the 1999 coup, based on relief at an end to
venal party politics, is coming to an end.

Yesterday saw intensified nationwide protests against Gen Musharraf's
decisionto suspend Pakistan's chief justice. The move was seen as a
flagrant attempt to pack the Supreme Court with pliable allies ahead of
expectedlegal challenges to his plans to have himself re-elected
president-in-uniform later this year.

At the same time, US lawmakers have weakened Gen Musharraf by demanding
that aid to Pakistan be made conditional on his doing more to crack down
on Taliban forces sheltering in lawless tribal areas along the Afghan
border, and by pushing for democratic reform.

Analysts said that for Gen Musharraf to push troops back into Taliban
strongholds in tribal areas, from which they were withdrawn in a
controversial agreement with local leaders last August, could lead to
such bloodshed that the military might impose full martial law on Pakistan.

While the Pakistani street may be awakening, big business, for the
moment at least, remains overwhelmingly supportive of Gen Musharraf,
whose seven years in power have seen some of the fastest growth in the
country's history.

"All governments in the past in Pakistan have spoken of privatisation,
but Musharraf has actually implemented it in a systematic way. It has
taken real political will," said H. Reza-ur-Rahim, JPMorgan's
Karachi-based head of investment banking in Pakistan.

"Investors want continuity and political stability. They do not want to
see too much change."

The head of a big international pharmaceutical group said: "The worst
outcome for Pakistan would be a situation where the political parties
exploit the situation and come out on to the street. The rhetoric from
the US in recent days has even alienated liberals in Pakistan.

"How can we have a longstanding relationship with the US based on them
threatening to take out a big stick? . . . No government can be seen as
weak externally and hope to command respect internally," he said.

Islamist politicians said much of their support was based on surging
anti-Americanism. The situation was made worse by Gen Musharraf's
"revelation" in his autobiography that Richard Armitage, the former US
deputy secretary of state, had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the
Stone Age" if Islamabad failed to help avenge the September 11 2001 attacks.

"Musharraf is associated with America. For ourpeople, US policies are
anchored against Muslims in many countries," said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a
leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of six Islamist parties.

Analysts said that the MMA, which has a share in power in two of
Pakistan's four provinces, would find it easier to harness
anti-Musharraf and anti-US opinion if Pakistan's ruling generals
continued to refuse to allow Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the
leaders of the two main opposition parties, to return from exile.

More destabilising for Gen Musharraf would be a decision by Washington
and its allies to take unilateral action against Taliban forces living
in Pakistani tribal areas.

Western diplomats said that such a scenario, which could trigger a
revolt against Gen Musharraf in the army, was "extremely unlikely".

"Slagging off Pakistan in public is not the best way to solve this
problem," said one western diplomat.

"The US needs Pakistanas a partner in fightingal-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Whatever they do, theywill be at great pains to doit with the support

Even though the temperature is rising in Islamabad, few expect Gen
Musharrafto leave the political scene soon. If he were to do so, the
line of succession, in the short term, seems clear.

General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, an officer with pro-western credentials who
has been the target of assassination attempts by militant groups, would
take over the military.

Mohammad Mian Soomro, chairman of the Senate, would become president.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
28708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 14, 2007, 12:35:33 PM




Second Amendment Showdown
March 14, 2007; Page A14

Last week's decision, striking down the District of Columbia's ban on guns as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, flowed directly from the text, history and original understanding of the Constitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's decision rejected the Ninth Circuit's "collective rights" theory and embraced instead the Fifth Circuit's holding that the Second Amendment protects individual rights. In so doing, the D.C. Circuit took a major step forward in protecting the rights of gun owners throughout the country.

In some ways, the decision should not be at all noteworthy or surprising. After all, the text of the Second Amendment explicitly protects "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms," and the D.C. gun ban amounted to a complete and total prohibition on citizens owning operational firearms in the District of Columbia. The challenged city ordinances prohibit the private possession of all handguns and also require that all long guns (i.e., rifles and shotguns) be disassembled or have trigger locks in place at all times. This latter requirement has no exceptions -- so that even if a violent crime is underway in your home, removing the trigger lock in self-defense or in defense of your family constitutes a crime.

No state in the union has a prohibition as draconian. Indeed, the constitutions of 44 states, like the federal Constitution, explicitly protect the individual right to keep and bear arms, and the legislatures of all 50 states are united in their rejection of bans on private handgun ownership. Forty-five states go even further, allowing private citizens to carry concealed handguns for self-defense.

So how is it that the District of Columbia could be so out of step with the rest of the nation and nonetheless arguably comply with the requirements of the Second Amendment? The answer that the federal district court seized upon -- like an earlier ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California -- is a theory popularized recently by several law professors and gun-control advocates: Because the Second Amendment refers to "a well regulated Militia," the Constitution protects only the "collective right" of the militia and not the individual right of any citizen.

This creative theory, useful for advancing the policy goals of its advocates, runs contrary to the text of the Constitution, to the debates and original understanding of the Framers, to Supreme Court precedent, and to the widespread understanding of state courts and legislatures for the first 150 years of our nation's history. At the time of the founding, the "militia" was understood to consist of all able-bodied males armed with their own weapons; indeed, the Militia Act of 1792 not only permitted individual gun ownership, it required every man to "provide himself with a good musket or firelock . . . or with a good rifle."

If the "collective rights" theory were to prevail, the result would be that no individual in the U.S. could ever claim any right under the Second Amendment, but rather that inchoate right would exist only collectively and amorphously for state militias. Such an outcome effectively reads out of the Constitution what respected law professor Sanford Levinson famously described as, from the perspective of anti-gun advocates, that "embarrassing Second Amendment."

Because the "collective rights" theory is unfaithful to the Constitution and undermines the individual rights of all Americans, Texas took the lead among the states in supporting the plaintiffs in the D.C. gun suit. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott assembled a collation of 13 states (Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah and Wyoming) who together supported the Second Amendment, and the amici states presented oral argument in the D.C. Circuit in the companion case to this one defending the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Notably, every state, including Texas, believes that some regulations on firearms are both permissible and advisable; for example, the states are united in supporting restrictions on violent felons owning guns. But all of the amici states are likewise united in the belief that the Second Amendment means what it says, that the individual right to keep and bear arms cannot be completely abrogated as under the D.C. gun ban.

The District of Columbia has pledged to appeal, and this case could well find its way before the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, Texas and the rest of the amici states stand ready once again to support the Second Amendment, and we are confident that the Court will in turn faithfully uphold the individual constitutional rights of all Americans.

Mr. Cruz is the solicitor general of Texas. He authored two briefs and presented oral argument for the amici states supporting the Second Amendment in the D.C. Circuit.
28709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: March 14, 2007, 12:33:30 PM

March 14, 2007 -- AN old joke runs that even paranoids have enemies. But what can we make of the quasi-dictator of a middleweight state who insists on making enemies of those who'd hoped to be his country's friends?
Russian President Vladimir Putin reminds me of the old Soviet Inturist organization: Instead of figuring out how to make a thousand bucks from happy tourists tomorrow, Inturist went to absurd extremes to squeeze an extra fiver out of disgruntled visitors immediately.

Putin just can't wait to restore Russia's great power status. Good luck. Great powers don't exist in isolation. Rather than building useful alliances, Putin has frightened his neighbors into closer relations with NATO and the West, alienated Europeans who longed to hug him - and made even the most gullible Americans wary.

Putin is a classic bully who aches to beat the pocket money out of the class wimp, who judges the entire world by the size of its biceps. He just can't get beyond his KGB past. To him, strategy is a zero-sum game and everybody secretly wants to harm Russia.

In fact, no country in recent history enjoyed as much foreign good will as Russia did after the Soviet Union dissolved. And no country has made more stupid decisions that appalled those who sincerely wanted to help.

If he sees enemies everywhere (and he does), Putin's also impatient and clumsy, though he thinks he's wonderfully clever. For all his icy exterior, he's a calculating, short-sighted peasant out of Gogol. His recent rant at a defense symposium in Germany only reminded the Europeans that the United States really isn't all that bad.

Instead of waiting to completely addict Europe to Russia's natural-gas supplies, he turned off the flow to Ukraine and then Georgia in fits of political pique - interrupting European supplies in the first instance. And leftist posturing is one thing, but no French café philosopher or German professor wants his heat turned off in mid-winter.

Oh, and Russia's selling arms to Iran's mullahs, Syria's Baathists and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Brilliant move, Vlad. You're really betting on the all-stars.

The Kremlin's also encouraging Serbia to take a hard line against formal independence for Kosovo. Belgrade's been there and done that, but Serbs, like Russian bureacrats, tend to be slow learners.

Thanks for getting the Balkans stirred up again, Vlad. Maybe Russian troops can replay the atrocity-riddled Chechnya war?

The only bright spot is that Russia has stopped supplying nuclear fuel for Iran's reactors. Officially, it's about Tehran's failure to make on-time payments, but it appears that somebody finally showed Vlad a map and pointed out that Russian territory lies within slingshot range of Iran. And Persians and Russians haven't always been pals.

Domestically, Putin has censored the media, staged purge trials of businessmen whose politics he didn't like, hounded out western investors, murdered journalists and dissidents (abroad, as well), done his best to turn the new Russia into a besotted, AIDS-ridden mockery of an Arab oil sheikhdom, moved to stifle academic freedom and generally made a joke of his country's fledgling democracy.

The latest phase in the Kremlin's campaign to restrict political freedom came in the build-up to last Sunday's regional elections. In an Orwellian move, Putin's henchmen built a tame opposition party, Fair Russia, that's allowed to politely criticize certain policies, but whose real purpose is to draw off votes from the old political left, especially the Communists, and to hasten the demise of the half-strangled liberal parties.

Putin does want a two-party system - with his cabal controlling both parties.

Conditioned to do what the czar desires, Russians went for it. Preliminary results show that Putin's United Russia garnered almost two-thirds of the vote, while Putin's Fair Russia finished about even with the Communists, undercutting their base.

Putin isn't a Communist - but, then, neither were any of his predecessors: Russia has always been ruled by autocrats, and one starts to suspect it always will be.

The dream of a free Russia is over. Vladimir Putin destroyed it as we watched, sucking our thumbs (to put it politely). The best for which we now can hope is that, once the Kremlin's done killing democracy, it won't start killing masses of human beings again.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."

28710  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: March 14, 2007, 12:13:00 PM
28711  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Grandfathers Speak Vol. 2: Sonny Umpad on: March 14, 2007, 12:11:26 PM

Please give Cindy some warm, gentle inquiries as to when this will be shipping, but don't tell her I said so evil

28712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in Asia & Africa on: March 14, 2007, 11:14:36 AM
THAILAND: Muslim separatists ambushed a bus in Thailand's southern province of Yala, shooting dead nine people at point-blank range. Only the driver and one critically injured Buddhist passenger survived. The militants detonated a small bomb about 1,640 feet from the bus, reportedly to slow police trying to arrive at the scene.
28713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 14, 2007, 09:03:00 AM
Concerning the previous post, here's an example of some points missed by the NY Slimes:


CAIR’s Blood Money
By Patrick Poole | March 13, 2007

At 12:17 pm on February 26, 1993, a 1,500lb urea-nitrate fuel-oil bomb hidden inside a rental van caused a massive explosion that ripped through the parking garage of the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring another 1,042 – the first large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil by Islamic extremists. The terrorists had intended to topple one of the buildings onto the other, potentially killing tens of thousands of innocent Americans. Sadly, the fourteenth anniversary of that event passed last week with very little discussion by major media outlets, even though that lethal attack by Islamic terrorists ominously foreshadowed the unspeakable horror of 9/11.
At 8:00 pm on June 6, 2006, the Ohio affiliate of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OH) honored one of the unindicted conspirators in that 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Siraj Wahhaj, a Brooklyn, NY imam that had also served as a defense witness at the trial of one of the men convicted for that terrorist attack, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman (a conviction that CAIR has labeled “a travesty of justice”). More than 400 CAIR-OH supporters gathered at this fundraising banquet.

Following the event, CAIR-OH issued a press release heralding the more than $100,000 that Siraj Wahhaj had helped raise that evening for the organization’s “civil liberties work”. CAIR-OH Director Adnan Mirza attributed the fundraiser’s success to the popularity of CAIR-OH’s agenda with Ohio Muslims. “Our community sent a very clear message that the work we do is vital to the well-being of the Ohio Muslim community and that CAIR-Ohio’s efforts are appreciated,” she said.

Of course, Siraj Wahhaj’s ties to the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist attack may not have been known to the hundreds of CAIR supporters who were in attendance that evening, but they were certainly known to CAIR. On repeated occasions, CAIR officials on the state and national level have not only risen to the defense of Wahhaj, but they have gone to great lengths to embrace the unindicted terror co-conspirator and involve him in the inner workings of the organization, such as having him serve on their Advisory Board. CAIR National spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, has gone so far as to call Wahhaj “one of the most respected Muslim leaders in America.” Curiously, that article by Hooper praising Wahhaj has disappeared from CAIR’s website.

Hooper was defending his terror-linked comrade after Dr. Daniel Pipes had noted the connections between CAIR and Wahhaj, yet without substantively dealing with criticism offered by many noting the inconsistency of an organization that loudly proclaims itself a “moderate” voice representing the American Muslim community and a self-proclaimed staunch opponent of terrorism would so consciously embrace and promote an individual that bore responsibility for one of the deadliest terror attacks in the US prior to Oklahoma City and 9/11.

In that same article by Hooper, he further attacks Pipes:

Pipes continues to promote a spurious distinction between "patriotic" Muslims and "chauvinists" who "want to impose Islamic law and other Middle Eastern ways on this country." Of course Pipes fails to mention even one instance in which CAIR called for the imposition of Islamic law in America.

This is an outright lie, as Pipes has posted on his website a July 1998 news article in which CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad is quoted speaking to a group of California Muslims expressing his hope of seeing an America under the domination of Islam. In that article, Ahmad is quoted as saying,

Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran ... should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.

It is hardly an extraordinary leap to conclude that Omar Ahmad, who again was one of Hooper’s organization’s co-founders, who is listed on CAIR National’s website as a member of the Board of Directors, and who was addressing the crowd in question in his capacity as a representative of CAIR, was in fact representing the views of CAIR when he called for the establishment of shari’a as the highest legal authority in America, which presumably would also mean higher than the US Constitution. Nonetheless, CAIR deliberately savages any commentator who dares to draw that conclusion.

Years after Ahmad was reported to have made that statement, CAIR began waging a media campaign to attack the journalist who recorded Ahmad’s statement, with Ahmad saying “she’s lying”. CAIR’s protests notwithstanding, the newspaper in question has stood by the journalist’s reporting.

With respect to the “civil rights work” that Siraj Wahhaj was helping CAIR-OH raise funds for, it might be that CAIR will soon start waging a campaign against the Columbus Dispatch to expunge from the public record its report in February of last year where former CAIR-OH president and current CAIR National Board Vice Chairman, Ahmad Al-Akhras, likened the publication of the Danish Mohammad cartoons to a physical assault against Muslims, thus a crime. The Dispatch, which identified Al-Akhras as “an advocate of free speech”, said that he was insulted by a Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the prophet. Most American newspapers, including The Dispatch, have refused to publish the cartoons. "Your fist should stop where my chin is," Al-Akhras said.

This was the same CAIR official who just weeks after the Wahhaj fundraiser had submitted a letter to the editor in the Dispatch saying that the jihad being waged by the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Courts Union against the UN-backed Somali government, and which was beginning to brutally impose shari’a law on the citizens of that country, was “a positive development”.

Ahmad “Free Speech” Al-Akhras, who lives in the Columbus, Ohio-area and is still active with the local CAIR-OH affiliate, was the subject of a FrontPage Magazine article last August (“CAIR, Assault, and Videotape”) for assaulting a local independent journalist who was taping his speech at a rally in support of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. But woe unto those who dare note the support given by CAIR officials to terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and HAMAS.

I also reported last year (“Kafir-phobia: Americans as Anti-Muslim Bigots”), about the public campaign led by CAIR-OH against non-Muslims in an Ohio community, implying that the community was seething with racial and religious hatred against Muslims in response to repeated acts of arson against a Muslim-owned business. CAIR-OH called on law enforcement authorities to investigate the arsons as hate crimes, even after it was discovered that the business owners themselves were responsible for the acts of arson. In that incident, CAIR-OH issued no apology for inciting hatred and displaying their bigotry against the non-Muslims in the community that they had falsely blamed for the fires.

This is indicative of the “civil liberties work” conducted by CAIR-OH that is being supported with the funds raised in the event featuring Siraj Wahhaj. The organizers of the CAIR-OH event may have believed that the fourteen years that had passed since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing may have been sufficient for memories of Wahhaj’s personal involvement in that terrorist attack to fade, but the support and praise showered on Siraj Wahhaj over the years by CAIR officials only stains the $100,000 he helped CAIR-OH raise that evening with a deeper blood red.
28714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Animal farming practices on: March 14, 2007, 08:02:48 AM
I am sympathetic to the points this piece makes and draw attention to the point about anti-biotics.  Not only does this raise questions about developing drug resistant bacteria in order to maximize farmer profits, but it also doses our bodies when we eat these animals, thus reducing beneficial intestinal flora and fomenting bad flora.


Pig Out
Published: March 14, 2007

Jonathon Rosen
WITH some fanfare, the world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, recently announced that it intended to phase out certain cages for its breeding females. Called gestation crates, the cages virtually immobilize pigs during their pregnancies in metal stalls so narrow they are unable to turn around.

Numerous studies have documented crated sows exhibiting behavior characteristic of humans with severe depression and mental illness. Getting rid of gestation crates (already on their way out in the European Union) is welcome and long overdue, but more action is needed to end inhumane conditions at America’s hog farms.

Of the 60 million pigs in the United States, over 95 percent are continuously confined in metal buildings, including the almost five million sows in crates. In such setups, feed is automatically delivered to animals who are forced to urinate and defecate where they eat and sleep. Their waste festers in large pits a few feet below their hooves. Intense ammonia and hydrogen sulfide fumes from these pits fill pigs’ lungs and sensitive nostrils. No straw is provided to the animals because that would gum up the works (as it would if you tossed straw into your toilet).

In my work as an environmental lawyer, I’ve toured a dozen hog confinement operations and seen hundreds from the outside. My task was to evaluate their polluting potential, which was considerable. But what haunted me was the miserable creatures inside.

They were crowded into pens and cages, never allowed outdoors, and never even provided a soft place to lie down. Their tails had been cut off without anesthetic. Regardless of how well the operations are managed, the pigs subsist in inherently hostile settings. (Disclosure: my husband founded a network of farms that raise pigs using traditional, non-confinement methods.)

The stress, crowding and contamination inside confinement buildings foster disease, especially respiratory illnesses. In addition to toxic fumes, bacteria, yeast and molds have been recorded in swine buildings at a level more than 1,000 times higher than in normal air. To prevent disease outbreaks (and to stimulate faster growth), the hog industry adds more than 10 million pounds of antibiotics to its feed, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates. This mountain of drugs — a staggering three times more than all antibiotics used to treat human illnesses — is a grim yardstick of the wretchedness of these facilities.

There are other reasons that merely phasing out gestation crates does not go nearly far enough. Keeping animals in such barren environments is a serious deprivation. Pigs in nature are active, curious creatures that typically spend 10 hours a day foraging, rooting and roaming.

Veterinarians consider pigs as smart as dogs. Imagine keeping a dog in a tight cage or crowded pen day after day with absolutely nothing to chew on, play with or otherwise occupy its mind. Americans would universally denounce that as inhumane. Extreme boredom is considered the main reason pigs in confinement are prone to biting one another’s tails and engaging in other aggressive behavior.

Finally, even if the gestation crate is abandoned, pork producers will still keep a sow in a narrow metal cage once she gives birth to her piglets. This slightly larger cage, called a farrowing crate, severely restricts a sow’s movements and makes normal interactions between mother and piglets impossible.

Because confinement buildings are far from cities and lack windows, all of this is shielded from public view. But such treatment of pigs contrasts sharply with what people say they want for farm animals. Surveys consistently find that Americans believe all animals, including those raised for food, deserve humane treatment. A 2004 survey by Ohio State University found that 81 percent of respondents felt that the well-being of livestock is as important as that of pets.

Such sentiment was behind the widely supported Humane Slaughter Act of 1958, which sought to improve treatment of cattle and hogs at slaughterhouses. But it’s clear that Americans expect more — they want animals to be humanely treated throughout their lives, not just at slaughter. To ensure this, Congress should ban gestation crates altogether and mandate that animal anti-cruelty laws be applied to farm animals.

As a cattle rancher, I am comfortable raising animals for human consumption, but they should not be made to suffer. Because we ask the ultimate sacrifice of these creatures, it is incumbent on us to ensure that they have decent lives. Let us view the elimination of gestation crates as just a small first step in the right direction.

Nicolette Hahn Niman, a lawyer and cattle rancher, is writing a book about the meat industry.
28715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Vinyl and latex gloves in food prep on: March 14, 2007, 07:56:03 AM
Today's NY Times

THE video was dark and grainy, the camera operator anonymous. But the clip, which appeared to show a customer at a popular downtown restaurant extracting a disposable glove from a plate of food, caused a small stir on Monday when a link to it was posted at, a blog that chronicles the New York dining scene.

IS THE SOLUTION A PROBLEM? Employees at a deli wear gloves as they handle ready-to-eat foods. But latex gloves can cause allergic reactions and vinyl gloves contain a chemical that has been called a carcinogen.
After a series of restaurant closings by the city’s health department, the amateur video raised new concerns about sanitation practices in restaurant kitchens. The very object that is supposed to keep diners safe from germs appeared to be a menace.

The unusual episode hinted at a larger problem. Twenty years after disposable gloves became common in restaurant kitchens, it is not clear that they prevent the transmission of illness. There are some who argue that the gloves themselves are dangerous to health.

“The typical hand contains millions of bacteria, including harmful ones like staph and strep,” said Elaine Larson, associate dean in the Columbia University School of Nursing and an expert on hand hygiene. “Gloves can prevent most of those bacteria from being transmitted to food.”

But only if the gloves are clean. “The problem is that a worker may never change the gloves or clean them, thinking that the gloves themselves are sufficient protection,” Dr. Larson said. “The trick is to make sure that workers are properly trained.”

That is easier said than done. Thousands of United States restaurant workers were surveyed for a study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health in 2005. More than a third said they did not always change their gloves between touching raw meat or poultry and ready-to-eat food.

Moreover, most gloves are made of latex, a component of natural rubber. Particles of latex can cause allergic reactions not only among people wearing the gloves but also among customers eating food prepared by them. As a result, three states have banned latex gloves in restaurants. In New York a bill has been introduced in the Legislature requiring warning signs in restaurants that use latex gloves.

Many restaurants have switched to gloves made of vinyl, but vinyl contains Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, a chemical that some scientists believe can cause testicular damage in infants and young men. It is also classified as a carcinogen in California. In 2001 Japan banned vinyl gloves from food establishments after large quantities of DEHP were found in food prepared by workers wearing them.

But in the United States, because of latex allergy concerns, vinyl gloves are becoming ever more popular.

Andy Igrejas, the environmental health campaign director at the National Environmental Trust, a nonprofit organization in Washington, characterized the switch as “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

But Michael Herndon, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, said the government is “not now planning any regulatory action.” In 2002 his agency cautioned that “developing males” should avoid exposure to the DEHP in vinyl used in medical devices.

When it comes to food preparation, Mr. Herndon wrote in an e-mail message, DEHP dissolves in oil, “but is not easily soluble in water,” so it should be used in gloves “that are intended to contact foods of high water content only.” He did not elaborate on how restaurants were to follow that advice.

Allen Blakey, a spokesman for the Vinyl Institute, a trade group based in Arlington, Va., said: “We have seen no evidence that vinyl gloves are unsafe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reviewed the safety of vinyl toys, and the F.D.A. has reviewed the safety of vinyl medical devices, and both agencies have found little to no concern with the vast majority of vinyl products they’ve reviewed. I think that probably says a lot about the safety of vinyl gloves.”

The practice of using gloves in restaurants was intended to cut down on food-borne illnesses, which sicken tens of millions of Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of those illnesses are transmitted by workers’ hands. Under New York State law, food workers must use gloves, utensils or paper when touching ready-to-eat foods. Most states have similar guidelines.

Rhode Island was the first state to ban latex gloves from restaurants, in 1999; Arizona followed in 2001, Oregon in 2003. The states acted as a result of increases in consumer complaints and in workers’ compensation claims stemming from latex-related allergies. About a dozen states are considering or have considered such legislation.

“I’d be thrilled to see fewer gloves, more washing,” said Sue Lockwood, the executive director of the American Latex Allergy Association in Slinger, Wis., who said latex allergies affect about one percent of Americans. Some sufferers try to avoid restaurants where latex is used, she said, but it is often difficult for them to get accurate information from restaurant employees. One way to be sure, she said, “is to ask to have a manager read the box” the gloves come in.


(Page 2 of 2)

Adam T. Bradley, who represents parts of Westchester in the New York State Assembly, introduced a bill in January that would require restaurants to post warning signs if they use latex gloves. Mr. Bradley said a constituent told him about his grandson, who has a severe latex allergy. “The first step is to warn people who may be in danger,” Mr. Bradley said.

Such regulations are opposed by the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers’ Association. (Malaysian companies make most of the gloves used in this country.) Its representatives in Washington say the anti-latex claims are exaggerated. In 2003 it began what it called a public relations offensive that included pointing out that allergic reactions to latex are rare and claiming that vinyl gloves posed other problems.

Bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food can be safe, said Dr. Donna M. Garren, the vice president for health and safety regulatory affairs for the National Restaurant Association, which represents restaurant owners and opposes mandatory glove rules. But it is safe only if employee hand-washing is carefully monitored. Some health experts agreed that regular washing would be more effective than glove use.

“The reason that workers wear gloves is that they don’t wash their hands as much as they should,” said Denise Korniewicz, a professor at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies who has studied the efficacy of rubber gloves for more than 20 years. “If you walk into any fast-food restaurant and observe people, they use the cash register, they wipe their nose and then they make your sandwich.”

Some restaurant owners are not sure the gloves make anybody safer.

“When your hands are bare you can tell if you get something on them, and you immediately wash,” said Debra Silva, who owns Clem & Ursie’s, a seafood restaurant in Provincetown, Mass. “But if you’re wearing gloves, you might have no idea that you’ve touched something dirty.”

Ms. Silva said she spends thousands of dollars a year on gloves. “I go through a case or two a week,” she said. Each case contains 100 gloves.

Many sushi chefs prepare raw fish with their bare fingers despite the rules requiring them to use gloves, tongs or paper. On a recent night the chefs at a Greenwich Village sushi bar scoffed at the idea of using gloves. One, who did not want to give his name for fear of getting the restaurant in trouble, said gloves would make it difficult to tell, by feel, if the fish was fresh. In that way, he said, gloves could make customers less safe. “You can’t make real sushi with gloves on,” he said.

It was the same story at a sushi restaurant in Midtown. “We’ve been doing it this way for 250 years,” one chef said. “People who make the regulations just don’t understand.”
28716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 14, 2007, 07:49:25 AM

Today's NY Times:

West Bank Sites on Private Land, Data Shows
Published: March 14, 2007
JERUSALEM, March 13 — An up-to-date Israeli government register shows that 32.4 percent of the property held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is private, according to the advocacy group that sued the government to obtain the data.

The group, Peace Now, prepared an earlier report in November, also provided to The New York Times, based on a 2004 version of the Israeli government database that had been provided by an official who wanted the information published. Those figures showed that 38.8 percent of the land on which Israeli settlements were built was listed as private Palestinian land.

The data shows a pattern of illegal seizure of private land that the Israeli government has been reluctant to acknowledge or to prosecute, according to the Peace Now report. Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and takes land there only legally or, for security reasons, temporarily. That large sections of those settlements are now confirmed by official data to be privately held land is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace.

The new data, updated to the end of 2006, was provided officially by the Israeli government’s Civil Administration, which governs civilian activities in the territories, in response to a lawsuit brought by Peace Now and the Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel in 2005. When the courts refused the request, the groups filed an appeal, and the earlier data was leaked to Peace Now. In January, the court ordered the Civil Administration to provide the data, in the form of digitized map information.

The information will be published Wednesday, and a copy was provided to The Times.

Some differences between the new data and the old data complicate the picture. The old data distinguished between private Jewish land, private Palestinian land, state land and so-called survey land, which is considered of unclear ownership.

The new data, provided by the government, makes a distinction only between private land and other land. But in the earlier data, the amount of private Jewish land was small, only 1.26 percent of the area of the settlements.

The second major difference involves the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, which looks like a suburb of Jerusalem, with a mall and a multiplex and an Ace Hardware store.

The Israeli government has said that it will never give up the three main settlement blocks— Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel — inside the West Bank and within the security barrier that Israel built. Information about them is thus extremely delicate, and that was one reason that the government refused earlier requests to provide the data.

The earlier data showed Maale Adumim containing 86 percent private Palestinian land, which seemed very high to its residents. According to the new data, however, only 0.54 percent of the settlement is listed as private land. The single case of Maale Adumim represents much of the difference in the total percentage of private land between the old and new data. Without the new Maale Adumim data, the difference between the old and new data is about one percentage point.

In settlements west of the separation barrier, which Israel intends to keep and which include Maale Adumim, the amount of private land is 24 percent, compared with 41.4 percent in the earlier data.

In settlements that Israel would presumably give up in any peace settlement, the percentage of private land is 40 percent, higher than the earlier data, which was 36.4 percent.

In the two other main settlement blocs that Israel intends to keep, Ariel is now listed as 31.4 percent private, compared with 35.1 percent before. Gush Etzion is listed now as 19 percent private, compared with 25.1 percent before.

In Givat Zeev, a settlement that Israel also intends to keep, the old data showed that the settlement contained 44.3 percent private land; the new data shows the figure to be 49.6 percent.

Dror Etkes of Peace Now, which put together the reports, said the group had asked the Civil Administration to explain the discrepancy on Maale Adumim, but had not gotten an answer.


(Page 2 of 2)

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Civil Administration, confirmed that his department had given the official data to Peace Now following the court order, but said he had not seen the report so he could not comment on its specifics.

But Mr. Dror emphasized that the settlements themselves make up less than 6 percent of the West Bank; that some of the private land belongs to Jews, some of whom bought the land many years ago or after 1967; and that the issue is complicated, given the various ways land was registered under the Ottomans, the British and the Jordanians.

Mr. Dror said the government has had a group, known as the “blue line team,” studying the data for two years trying to determine the actual limits of the settlements and the land claims around them, and that the new data reflects that work, though it is continuing. “It could take 10 more years for them to finish,” he said.

In a written statement issued late Tuesday night, Capt. Zidki Maman, also a spokesman for the Civil Administration, said, “We were disappointed to see that despite the clarifications made by the Civil Administration regarding the previous report and the database given to Peace Now, the most recent report is still inaccurate in many places, thus misrepresenting the reality concerning the status of the settlements.”

But Mr. Etkes of Peace Now noted that the government chose to provide no details, and refused to hand over data specifying what land was owned by Israelis.

Some of the land listed as private has been seized legally, though supposedly temporarily, by the Israeli military for security purposes. Many settlements were built on such land, even though it is supposed to be returned to its owners. The military simply signs a renewal of the seizure order every few years. But the military keeps secret how much land is under such temporary seizure orders.

In a 1979 court case, the Israeli Supreme Court declared that the seizure of private land for establishing settlements for security purposes is illegal. But the official data shows that 32 percent of the land in settlements established after 1979 is private land.

Peace Now will ask Israel’s attorney general “to open an investigation into the construction of settlements on private land,” Mr. Etkes said. “There’s no way the state prosecutor can be indifferent to lawbreaking on such a scale.”

28717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 14, 2007, 07:44:31 AM
Concerns about CAIR reach even the NY Times, which for reasons known only to it, thinks the ACLU is a worthy source of comment  rolleyes and-- surprise-- fails to interview/quote any of  "A small band of critics have made a determined but unsuccessful effort to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department, and have gone so far as calling the group an American front for the two."  Unsuccessful?  As determined by whom?!?  Oh well, its the NYT  rolleyes

Anyway, here it is:


Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S. Gets More Scrutiny
Published: March 14, 2007

With violence across the Middle East fixing Islam smack at the center of the American political debate, an organization partly financed by donors closely identified with wealthy Persian Gulf governments has emerged as the most vocal advocate for American Muslims — and an object of wide suspicion.

Basim Elkarra of the Council on American-Islamic Relations with Certificate of Appreciation from Senator Barbara Boxer that she revoked.

Chronology of a Souring Relationship The group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, defines its mission as spreading the understanding of Islam and protecting civil liberties. Its officers appear frequently on television and are often quoted in newspapers, and its director has met with President Bush. Some 500,000 people receive the group’s daily e-mail newsletter.

Yet a debate rages behind the scenes in Washington about the group, commonly known as CAIR, its financing and its motives. A small band of critics have made a determined but unsuccessful effort to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department, and have gone so far as calling the group an American front for the two.

In the latest confrontation yesterday, CAIR held a panel discussion on Islam and the West in a Capitol meeting room despite demands by House Republicans that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, not allow the event. The Republicans called its members “terrorist apologists.”

Caley Gray, a spokesman for Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who helped book the room, rejected that label in a phone interview and said CAIR held similar meetings when Congress was controlled by Republicans. Still, Mr. Gray called back to specify that Mr. Pascrell did not endorse all of the group’s positions.

Last fall, Senator Barbara Boxer of California issued a routine Certificate of Appreciation to the organization representative in Sacramento, but she quickly revoked it when critics assailed her on the Web under headlines like “Senators for Terror.”

“There are things there I don’t want to be associated with,” Ms. Boxer said later of the revocation, explaining that her California office had not vetted the group sufficiently.

CAIR and its supporters say its accusers are a small band of people who hate Muslims and deal in half-truths. Ms. Boxer’s decision to revoke the Sacramento commendation provoked an outcry from organizations that vouch for the group’s advocacy, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the California Council of Churches.

“They have been a leading organization that has advocated for civil rights and civil liberties in the face of fear and intolerance, in the face of religious and ethnic profiling,” said Maya Harris, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Northern California.

Government officials in Washington said they were not aware of any criminal investigation of the group. More than one described the standards used by critics to link CAIR to terrorism as akin to McCarthyism, essentially guilt by association.

“Of all the groups, there is probably more suspicion about CAIR, but when you ask people for cold hard facts, you get blank stares,” said Michael Rolince, a retired F.B.I. official who directed counterterrorism in the Washington field office from 2002 to 2005.

Outreach to all Muslims via groups they support is an important aspect of ensuring that extremists cannot get a foothold here as they have in Europe, Mr. Rolince said.

The cloud kicked up by the constant scrutiny is such that spokesmen at several federal agencies refused to comment about the group and some spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

After a brief interview, Ms. Boxer declined to answer additional questions about the commendation to the Sacramento representative, Basim Elkarra. A spokeswoman, Natalie Ravitz, said in an e-mail message that the senator had decided “to put this entire incident behind her.”

Joe Kaufman, who Ms. Boxer’s office said first drew her attention to CAIR’s reputation, is the founder of a Web site that tracks what he calls the group’s extremism, Other critics include the Investigative Project, a conservative group that tries to identify terrorist organizations, and the Middle East Forum, a conservative research center that says its goal is to promote American interests in the region.

“You can’t fight a war on terrorism directly when you are acting with a terror front,” said Mr. Kaufman, who advocates shutting down the organization.

Founded in 1994, CAIR had eight chapters at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the group, but has grown to some 30 chapters as American Muslims have felt unjustly scrutinized ever since.

Broadly summarized, critics accuse CAIR of pursuing an extreme Islamist political agenda and say at least five figures with ties to the group or its leadership have either been convicted or deported for links to terrorist groups. They include Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader deported in 1997 after the United States failed to produce any evidence directly linking him to any attacks.

There were no charges linked to CAIR in any of the cases involved, and law enforcement officials said that in the current climate, any hint of suspicious behavior would have resulted in a racketeering charge.
Page 2 of 2)

The group’s officials say the accusations are rooted in its refusal to endorse the American government’s blanket condemnations of Hezbollah and Hamas, although it has criticized Hamas for civilian deaths.

Chronology of a Souring Relationship Several federal officials said CAIR’s Washington office frequently issued controversial statements that made it hard for senior government figures to be associated with the group, particularly since some pro-Israeli lobbyists have created what one official called a “cottage industry” of attacking the group and anyone dealing with it.

Last summer, the group urged a halt to weapons shipments to Israel as civilian casualties in Lebanon swelled. In September, it held a dinner for former President Mohamed Khatami of Iran at a time when much of official Washington had ostracized that Islamic republic. In November, the group sponsored a panel discussion by two prominent academics who argue that the pro-Israeli lobby exercises detrimental influence on United States policy on the Middle East.

“Traditionally within the government there is only one point of view that is acceptable, which is the pro-Israel line,” said Nihad Awad, a founder of CAIR and its executive director. “Another enlightened perspective on the conflict is not there, and it causes some discomfort.”

When Mr. Bush visited a Washington mosque in 2001, Mr. Awad was among the Muslim leaders he met. But Dana M. Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said Mr. Awad had not been invited to any recent iftars, annual dinners to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. She offered no explanation.

This year, when Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales met with the leaders of half a dozen Muslim and Arab-American organizations in his office, no representative from CAIR was invited.

When Karen P. Hughes, the close adviser to Mr. Bush and under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, started interacting with the group, she was criticized as dealing with “Wahhabis,” shorthand for Saudi-inspired religious extremists, a State Department spokesman said.

CAIR has raised some suspicion by accepting large donations from individuals or foundations closely identified with Arab governments. It has an annual operating budget of around $3 million, and the group said it solicited major donations for special projects, like $500,000 from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia to help distribute the Koran and other books about Islam in the United States, some of which generated controversy.

The donations are a source of contention within CAIR itself. Several branch directors said they had avoided foreign financing and had criticized the national office for it.

Officials at other Arab-American and Muslim organizations said there was a decided split between how the national office operated and how the branches did. The branch offices, which raise their own money and operate largely as franchises, concentrate on local civil rights problems and hence develop close working relationships with law enforcement.

When the Southern California chapter threw itself a birthday party last November, nearly 2,000 people packed the Anaheim Hilton’s ballroom to hear guests of honor praise the organization, including J. Stephen Tidwell, the director of the F.B.I.’s Los Angeles office.

“I am very excited to be here,” Mr. Tidwell told a reporter covering the fund-raiser for an Arab-American television news channel, calling CAIR “an important bridge for the F.B.I. into the Muslim, Arab-American community.”

The Washington office, the officials at the other Arab-American and Muslim groups said, tends to fight more image battles because its main staff members have backgrounds in public relations. Still, they said, CAIR’s contrarian image helps with fund-raising both in the American Muslim community and among Arab governments because both believe that the federal government is biased against them.

Some Muslims, particularly the secular, find CAIR overly influenced by Saudi religious interpretations, criticizing it for stating in news releases, for example, that all Muslim women are required to veil their hair when the matter is openly debated.

But they still support its civil rights work and endorse the idea of anyone working to make American Islam a more integral part of society. One Arab-American advocate compared CAIR to “the tough cousin who curses at anyone who speaks badly about the family.”

Some activists and academics view the controversy surrounding the group as typical of why Washington fails so often in the Middle East, while extremism mushrooms.

“How far are we going to keep going in this endless circle: ‘You are a terrorist!’ ‘No, you are a terrorist!’? ” said Souleiman Ghali, one of the founders of a moderate San Francisco mosque. “People are paying a price for that.”

28718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight on: March 14, 2007, 06:44:01 AM
Former N.J. Gov. McGreevey Seeks Custody of 5-Year-Old Daughter, Child Support From Wife

Tuesday , March 13, 2007

Former Gov. James McGreevey, who resigned from office after revealing that he was gay and had an affair with a male staffer, is seeking custody of his 5-year-old daughter and child support from his estranged wife.

The revised divorce lawsuit by McGreevey, who resigned in November 2004, does not mention the "matrimonial settlement agreement" that McGreevey originally said had resolved all custody and support issues concerning his daughter, Jacqueline.

McGreevey's wife, Dina Matos, has 35 days to respond to the revised filing.

The papers filed last month in Union County Superior Court ask the judge to assign McGreevey custody, to award visitation to the noncustodial parent and to award him "suitable support and maintenance."

"Dina and I both seek the best interests of Jacqueline," McGreevey said Tuesday. "We're asking the court to determine what's the most appropriate balance in the child's interest."

He would not answer further questions about the exact custody arrangement he is seeking. Any payments to either party would be determined by a family court judge.

Matos and her lawyer, John Post, could not be reached Tuesday.
Matos said last month that the two "continue to have profound differences about what our daughter should be exposed to, and until they are resolved, there will be no agreement."

McGreevey and his wife have lived apart since McGreevey resigned.
28719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 14, 2007, 06:11:09 AM
Today's NY Times

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Along the Afghan border, not far from this northwestern city, Islamic militants have used a firm foothold over the past year to train and dispatch suicide bombers against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani tribal areas are home to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

But in recent weeks the suicide bombers have turned on Pakistan itself, carrying out six attacks and killing 35 people. Militant leaders have threatened to unleash scores more, in effect opening a new front in their war.

Diplomats and concerned residents see the bombings as proof of a spreading “Talibanization,” as Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, calls it, which has seeped into more settled districts of Pakistan from the tribal areas along the border, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have made a home.

In Peshawar and other parts of North-West Frontier Province, which abuts the tribal areas, residents say English-language schools have received threats, schoolgirls have been warned to veil themselves, music is being banned and men are told not to shave their beards.

Then there is the mounting toll of the suicide bombings. One of the most lethal killed 15 people in Peshawar, most of them police officers, including the popular police chief.

The police, on the front line of the violence, have suffered most in many of the suicide attacks, diplomats and officials say. They are increasingly demoralized and cowed, allowing the militancy to spread still further, they warn.

In Tank, a town close to the lawless tribal area of South Waziristan, where militants have their own Taliban ministate, the police have taken off their uniforms, essentially ceding control to the militants, who now use the town as a logistics supply base, according to one Western diplomat in Pakistan.

“It’s not good,” he said. “You have ungovernable space and the impact is expanding ungovernable space.”

Suicide bombings are not new in Pakistan. There have been several high-profile cases linked to Al Qaeda in which bombers have tried to kill General Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and singled out foreign targets, French engineers and the United States Consulate in Karachi.

But the indiscriminate terror, sown by lone bombers, with explosives strapped to their chests wandering into a crowd, is a new experience for Pakistanis, and it has shocked and angered many here.

“Are these attacks isolated incidents of fanatic wrath, or is it some widespread coordinated effort to intimidate the state itself?” asked The Nation, a daily newspaper, in an editorial after the latest bombing against an antiterrorist judge in Multan. “Coordinated or not, these are dangerous times to be seen as representatives of the state; the militants are driving home a point.”

The attacks all stem from the tribal area of Waziristan, according to a senior government official, who asked not to be identified because investigations are continuing. There, he said, groups supporting jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, sectarian groups and militant splinter cells have morphed into a kind of hydra.

“They are all there in South Waziristan’s Wana region,” the official said. “It’s no longer an Afghan-only problem. It has become as much a Pakistan problem too.”

Still, it remains unclear if there is a single strategy behind the suicide bombings. Some have been apparently sectarian in nature, part of a decades-old problem in Pakistan between extremist Shiite and Sunni groups.

But militants allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda appear to be behind four of the six most recent attacks, acting in retaliation for military strikes by Pakistani forces against their groups in the tribal regions.

Of those, at least three attacks can be traced back to Baitullah Mehsud, a militant commander based in South Waziristan, who is known to have sent suicide bombers from his mountain redoubt to Afghanistan, police officials said.

Mr. Mehsud, a former fighter with the Taliban, said his main desire was to fight United States-led coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He entered into a peace deal with the Pakistani government in 2005, agreeing not to attack Pakistani forces, as long as he could continue his jihad across the border.

But under increasing pressure from the United States, and acting on a tip from American intelligence, Pakistani authorities sent helicopters to strike at a presumed hide-out of his followers on Jan. 6, killing eight people.

Mr. Mehsud vowed revenge, and several of the recent suicide bombings are believed to be in retaliation.


Page 2 of 2)

A suicide bomb attack on a military convoy on Jan. 22 was carried out by Mr. Mehsud’s men. Another attack by a bomber on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Jan. 26, which killed a policeman, was attributed to Mr. Mehsud as well. So was an attack that killed a policeman in Dera Ismail Khan on Jan. 29, police officials say.

General Musharraf vowed at a Feb. 2 news conference to go after Mr. Mehsud. But the governor of North-West Frontier Province, Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, preferred to send a delegation of elders to talk to him. The militant commander later denied any involvement, but the bombings slowed.

Mr. Mehsud may also have orchestrated the suicide attack here, in the old city of Peshawar on Jan. 27, when a bomber approached police officers on foot and detonated himself as they were organizing security for the Shiite festival to mark Muharram.

Police investigators say the method, grenade lot numbers and other explosives used were identical to those in previous attacks. DNA tests also showed that all the bombers were 17 to 20 years old, they said.

But a security official said other leads pointed more to another militant group, Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi aimed at setting up Shariah, or Islamic law, which is active in the tribal areas north of Peshawar.

The movement closely supports the Taliban and is linked to Al Qaeda. It was almost certainly behind the suicide bombing that killed 44 military cadets in November in Dargai, in retaliation for an airstrike against a religious school run by one of its members in the tribal area of Bajaur.

The group had been training suicide bombers, Pakistan’s interior minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, said after the Bajaur strike.

The attack on the cadets was a major escalation on the militants’ part. It was apparently aimed at the army as an institution, rather than its top leaders, whom the militants blame for pro-American policies. The target, too, was an easy one — the cadets were unarmed, on an open playing field.

“They are attempting to make it clear to Pakistan’s security establishment that their strength has yet to be sapped,” a private policy group based in the United States, Strategic Forecasting Inc., wrote at the time.

The militant group remains active and may be behind some other attacks in the frontier region, a Western diplomat said. They and other militants are also trying, with increasing effect, to intimidate populations beyond the tribal areas.

A girls’ high school in Mardan was recently warned that the girls should veil themselves or stay home, a tactic typical of groups like Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi. Four English language schools closed for four days last month after the police learned of another possible threat.

“These are acts of terror to psychologically defeat the people to accept the force of the Taliban and the ways of the Taliban,” said Latif Afridi, an opposition politician and a member of the provincial bar association in Peshawar.

The creeping militancy has frustrated government agencies, who disagree over what to do about it, according to one intelligence official.

There is consensus that a large-scale military operation, like the kinds that have failed in recent years, is not the solution. But some diplomats say that the series of peace deals that the government struck with tribal leaders and militants in South and North Waziristan has not worked either.

For instance, according to another Western diplomat, General Musharraf knows the North Waziristan agreement is only 20 to 30 percent effective, but he continues to back it for lack of another plan.

The accord has brought some order to the area’s capital, Miram Shah, according to officials with knowledge of North Waziristan. It has also forced a split among the militants, with the more aggressive followers of Mr. Mehsud and their Qaeda allies congregating in the town of Mir Ali, they said.

Some officials are now arguing that the government should move against the militants in Mir Ali, while supporting the more reasonable ones.

One practical solution is to train local tribesmen to buttress the Frontier Corps, which polices the tribal areas and could be used as a buffer to protect the settled neighboring districts.

Hundreds of recruits from Waziristan are already training in border and customs control, among other things, under a program sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, according to an American diplomat. But it is not clear whether the program will succeed.

While local men would be more acceptable to the tribesmen, their sympathies may well lie with the militants, and the Frontier Corps has been accused of turning a blind eye to the militants’ cross-border activities.

Meanwhile, the problems continue to spread to other part of the tribal areas, and beyond.

“Taliban militants have emerged in Kurram, as well as Orakzai,” said Mr. Afridi, the opposition politician, referring to other tribal regions. “They are trying to emerge in Mohmand.”

“In my area the clouds of Taliban and civil war are in sight,” he added. “We are worried, we really are.”

28720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 300 on: March 14, 2007, 06:00:05 AM
A personal tangent:

I've heard that the fight choreographers were classmates from the Inosanto Academy Chad Stahelski and Damon Caro.

I am looking forward to seeing this.

28721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Moore dishonest/a hypocrite? Say it ain't so! on: March 14, 2007, 05:57:32 AM

Sun Mar 11, 6:02 PM ET

AUSTIN, Texas - As documentary filmmakers, Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine looked up to        Michael Moore.

Then they tried to do a documentary of their own about him — and ran into the same sort of resistance Moore himself famously faces in his own films.

The result is "Manufacturing Dissent," which turns the camera on the confrontational documentarian and examines some of his methods. Among their revelations in the movie, which had its world premiere Saturday night at the South by Southwest film festival: That Moore actually did speak with then-General Motors chairman Roger Smith, the evasive subject of his 1989 debut "Roger & Me," but chose to withhold that footage from the final cut.

The husband-and-wife directors spent over two years making the movie, which follows Moore on his college tour promoting 2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11." The film shows Melnyk repeatedly approaching Moore for an interview and being rejected; members of Moore's team also kick the couple out of the audience at one of his speeches, saying they weren't allowed to be shooting there.

At their own premiere Saturday night, the Toronto-based filmmakers expected pro-Moore plants in the audience heckling or trying to otherwise sabotage the screening, but it turned out to be a tame affair.

"It went really well," Melnyk said. "People really liked the film and laughed at the right spots and got the movie and we're really happy about it."

Moore hasn't commented publicly on "Manufacturing Dissent" and Melnyk thinks he never will. He also hasn't responded to several calls and e-mails from The Associated Press.

"There's no point for Michael to respond to the film because then it gives it publicity," she said.

"(President) Bush didn't respond to `Fahrenheit 9/11,' and there's a reason for that," Caine added.

The two were and still are fans of all his movies — including the polarizing "Fahrenheit 9/11," which grossed over $119 million and won the Palme d'Or at the        Cannes Film Festival — and initially wanted to do a biography on him. They traveled to his childhood home of Davison, Mich., visited his high school and traced his early days in politics and journalism.

"The fact that he made documentaries entertaining was extremely influential and got all kinds of people out to see them," said Melnyk, whose previous films with Caine include 1998's "Junket Whore." "Let's face it, he made documentaries popular and that is great for all documentary filmmakers."

"All of these films — `Super Size Me,' `An Inconvenient Truth' — we've all been riding in his wake," said Caine. "There's a nonfiction film revolution going on and we're all beneficiaries of that. For that point alone, he's worth celebrating."

But after four months of unsuccessfully trying to sit down with Moore for an on-camera interview, they realized they needed to approach the subject from a different angle. They began looking at the process Moore employs in his films, and the deeper they dug, the more they began to question him.

The fact that Moore spoke with Smith, including a lengthy question-and-answer exchange during a May 1987 GM shareholders meeting, first was reported in a Premiere magazine article three years later. Transcripts of the discussion had been leaked to the magazine, and a clip of the meeting appeared in "Manufacturing Dissent." Moore also reportedly interviewed Smith on camera in January 1988 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.

Since then, in the years since "Roger & Me" put Moore on the map, those details seem to have been suppressed and forgotten.

"It was shocking, because to me that was the whole premise of `Roger & Me,'" Melnyk said.

She and Caine also had trouble finding people to talk on camera about Moore, partly because potential interview subjects assumed they were creating a right-wing attack piece; as self-proclaimed left-wingers, they weren't.

Despite what they've learned, the directors still appreciate Moore.

"We're a bit disappointed and disillusioned with Michael," Melnyk said, "but we are still very grateful to him for putting documentaries out there in a major way that people can go to a DVD store and they're right up there alongside dramatic features."
28722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 14, 2007, 05:48:15 AM
"No idea why earth science is political"?  Ha!

My personal breakdown of the issue is this:

This is the fundalmental point:  Free market theory requires that the price paid in a transaction reflect all its costs.  Pollution is a violation of this requirement.  The question becomes what to do about it.

The Dem/socialist model tends towards commands.  "Thou shalt not do XYZ" or, to be more precise, "Thou shall do less of XYZ".  The Rep/corporatist model simply tends to resist this. "Thou hast lousy science and you are a weenie."  This model never really answers what to do about it.

Following a discussion I read years ago in a position paper by, of all people, Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) the Dem model tends towards prohibiting further sources of contaminant X or setting a given level thereof.  The net result of this is, as is usually the case with Dem solutions, the opposite of what is intended-- which of course leads to redoubled efforts  rolleyes  The effect is that older dirtier technologies tend to prohibit the entrance of newer, cleaner technologies (less units of Contaminant X per unit of production, mile travelled, etc). 

The Dem model often involves setting a standard.  Naturally this is a perceived as a matter of values for which only a fascist corporatist would resist.  This usually entails choosing a bunch of "their" experts to determine the permitted level -- sometimes with reference to what is technologically feasible and sometimes not.  Naturally the Reps seek to have "their" experts chosen.  Special interests enter into the political fray and political corruption ensues.

My thinking is to bring market economics to bear.   For example, rather than declaring an area in non-compliance for X (e.g. a form of air pollution) and prohibiting new sources of X, the idea should be to tax X because it is an external diseconomy-- a cost not born by buyer or seller, but rather by third parties.  Thus he who pollutes less per unit of production (per widget, miles per gallon, etc) will have a cost advantage over he who pollutes more and producers now have it in their own interest to focus on how evolve technologically instead of buying Congressmen and experts for the bureaucratic regulatory/legal wars-- and the Dems have less ways to expand government and make themselves important and powerful.

The more the tax bites, the more this is so.  Thus as we increase the tax, the market itself informs us as to the cost-benefit ratio.

What do you think?
28723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 13, 2007, 06:25:32 PM
ISRAEL: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert might be forced to resign, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing sources in Kadima. The report precedes findings from the Winograd Committee, which is investigating conduct during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, regarding Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.
28724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: March 13, 2007, 06:12:23 PM
My latest dispatch is published on the front page of Fox News.  I am both honored and that Fox has agreed to begin publishing my major dispatches on their front page.   I am also flattered that Fox has agreed to publish my work unedited.


Please click "Ernie is Dead" to read the latest.


This site remains independent and is 100% contingent on reader support.  Thank you for considering supporting my work in Iraq through the end of 2007.


Currently I am searching for a good unit in Baghdad to embed with. I need what Ernie needed: a secure place to live and reliable communications. If you are the commander of such a unit, please contact me.




Michael Yon
P O Box 416
Westport Pt MA 02791
28725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 13, 2007, 01:03:58 PM
London, March 13, 2007

Europe Must Decide

by Matthias Küntzel

We stand at a historic crossroads. Disregarding Security Council decisions, Iran's rulers are stepping up their nuclear programme. Will Europe continue soft-soaping the Mullahs or will it show some resolve? Will it accept the fact that, by seeking nuclear weapons, the Iranian dictatorship is escalating its holy war at the gates of Europe? Or will it summon up the will to raise the economic price Iran must pay to a point where the regime – which is facing mounting popular discontent – has to give way?

If any power is still able to get the regime in Tehran to back off without the use of military force, then that power is the European Union. The USA can't do it because it has no trade with Iran . China, Japan and Russia can't do it either, because Iran can get along without them. But Iran needs Europe. Iran gets 40% of its imports from the EU, which in turn takes in 25% of Iranian exports.

While Japan and China are interested in Iran essentially as a source of energy supplies, Germany , Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and France provide the Iranian economy with vital investments. Trading partner number one was and is Germany; as the former President of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran, Michael Tockuss, has explained, "some two thirds of Iranian industry relies on German engineering products. The Iranians are certainly dependent on German spare parts and suppliers."

Certainly dependent! The potential leverage of economic sanctions couldn't be clearer. Since then a study by the Iranian Parliament has stated the obvious: without European spare parts and industrial goods the Iranian economy would grind to a halt within a few months. If anyone is still in a position to use this lever before it is too late, then it is Germany and the EU.

Of course Europe should have done so back in 2003, when Tehran was forced to admit that it had been pursuing a secret nuclear programme for the past eighteen years. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the world's number one sponsor of terrorism? The public was alarmed. But what happened?

Instead of immediately cutting technology transfers to Iran , European exports to Iran rose 29 % to € 12.9 billion between 2003 and 2005.

Prior to 2003, government-backed export guarantees had fuelled the expansion in trade by countries such as Italy, France and Austria. After the exposure of Iran's secret nuclear programme, these export guarantees were not stopped by European governments but generously increased, as we can see here in the case of Germany and Britain .

In its 2004 annual report on export guarantees, Berlin's Economics Ministry dedicated a special section to Iran that captures its giddy exitement about business with Tehran: "Federal Government export credit guarantees played a crucial role for German exports to Iran; the volume of coverage of Iranian buyers rose by a factor of almost 3,5 to some € 2,3 billion compared the previous year," the report said. "The Federal Government thus insured something like 65% of total German exports to the country. Iran lies second in the league of countries with the highest coverage in 2004, hot on the heels of China."

British trade with Iran is relatively small in comparison to Germany. Between 2003 and 2005 Germany's export to Iran was about five times larger than exports from British firms. The governmental policies of both countries, however, are quite similar. In Britain , there is a separate government department, the "Export Credits Guarantee Department" or ECGD that reports to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and derives its powers from the "Export and Investment Guarantees Act 1991". According to the ECGD's annual list of guarantees the British export credit guarantees for business with Iran rose by a factor of 2,6  - from 30 Million pounds in 2003 to an amazingly 77 Million pounds in 2004.

Is this boosting of business with Iran compatible with the ECGD's declared goal "to ensure its activities with other Government objectives including those on sustainable development, human rights, good governance and trade"? Not at all.

Instead this policy was and is a stab in the back for Iranian human rights groups, since there can be no question here of "change through trade". On the contrary. Three quarters of all Iranian industrial firms are in state hands. The export deals are not being struck with the private sector, but with the regime's "Revolutionary Foundations" such as the "Martyrs Foundations" run by Islamist hardliners. These "little kings", as they are known in Iran, are personally appointed by the revolutionary leadership and Parliament has no control over them. Most are or have been involved in terrorism or weapons of mass destruction programmes.

European export support bolsters the Mullahs' nuclear ambitions in three ways. Firstly, a proportion of any money lent to the regime is spent on nuclear research. Secondly, every export deal strengthens the internal position of the hardliners, who are invariably hardliners on the nuclear issue too. Thirdly, the country is getting state-of-the-art technology of a sort that can be used in the nuclear sphere. For example, in August 2003 Siemens – a firm with expertise in the field of nuclear power station construction – signed a contract for the delivery of 24 power stations. To make this deal, Siemens had to commit itself to "technology transfer with regard to small and medium-sized power stations".

2005 marked a further watershed. Now, a hardliner had become President. Ahmadinejad's tirades about Israel, the Holocaust and the Twelfth Iman shed a harsh new light on the special threat presented by Iran's nuclear programme. This was not only a good opportunity, but also a truly compelling reason for a change of export policy towards Iran. Indeed, the OECD raised Iran's rating of the risk regarding possible export guarantees. Exports became more expensive and the mood among exporters worsened. Nevertheless, in 2006 German exports to Iran fell only by 6%. Last year German exports worth € 4.1 billion, made its way to Iran. Austria and Germany – despite the Holocaust denial and threats to annihilate Israel –continued to promote exports as if nothing had happened. In 2006, some 20% of all German export credit guarantees were still being devoted to business with Iran. In Britain , the last ECGD annual report of 2006 shows that here the third largest liability was decided in favour of business with Iran.

 The real pan-European support for Iran , however, including the UK, relates to the Nabucco project for a giant pipeline running directly from the Iranian gas fields to the city of  Baumgarten in Lower Austria . The final decision on this project is to be made at the end of this year. If this pipeline is built, the relationship between Europe and the Mullahs would change. In this case Iran 's Islamist regime would become Europe's new strategic partner.

It was precisely in February 2006, as the Iranian president's tirades reached their height, that the European Investment Bank decided to put a billion dollars into this project. However, this Bank is an EU body. It gets its capital from the EU member states including the UK. As the EU's financial instrument, it is obliged to pursue the EU's political goals. Propping up the economy of a regime that publicly hangs young women and men for their sexual relationships can hardly count as one of the EU's political goals. Was there ever a public debate or a parliamentary debate in this country about the Nabucco and its long-term effects?

Today, in 2007, Iran is on the verge of being able to produce enriched uranium on an industrial scale. But Europe continues to oppose the establishment of an effective sanctions regime by a "coalition of the willing" going beyond the limits of the Security Council resolutions. On the contrary, three weeks ago, the German government declared, that also today it grants new Hermes export credit guarantees for trade with Iran. The British governmental organisation "UK Trade & Investment", undauntedly beats the drum for more trade with Iran as well: "Iran is one of the most exciting countries in the region for business development … The main opportunity for UK business is in providing capital and equipment to Irans's priority sectors: Oil, gas and petrochemicals, Mining [and] Power."

What do the turning points of 2003, 2005 and 2007 show us? They show the stubbornness with which business and political leaders constantly follow the same paradigm: Iran's nuclear ambitions are treated as a negligible quantity, with "business as usual" taking priority. They act as if it is a matter of secondary importance from the point of view of European interests whether Iran has nuclear weapons or not and are taking their distance from those advocating sanctions. They seem to have fallen prey to the illusion that a nuclear Iran would have no impact on Europe. But there could be no bigger mistake. An Iran with nuclear weapons would be a nightmare not only for Israel, but also for Europe itself.

If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, the whole of the Middle East would go nuclear too – whether because the Iranian regime would fulfil its promise to pass the technology on to its friends or because the Arab regimes would seek their own nuclear capability in Iran's wake. The specific danger presented by the Iranian bomb, however, stems from the unique ideological atmosphere surrounding it - a mixture of death-wish and weapons-grade uranium, of Holocaust denial and High-Tec, of fantasies of world domination and missile research, of Shiite messianism and plutonium. There are other dictatorships in the world. But in Iran the fantasy-worlds of antisemitism and religious mission are linked with technological megalomania and the physics of mass destruction. For the first time we face a danger that first appeared on the horizon 70 years ago: a kind of "Adolf Hitler" with nuclear weapons.

Does anyone here really believe that Europe would be hardly affected by this? As Angela Merkel informed us recently, "We must take the Iranian President's rhetoric seriously". Quite right! Ahmadinejad is gleefully contemplating the end of liberal democracy as a whole: "Those with insights can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems", as he wrote in a letter to President Bush, reiterating the shared view of the entire theocratic elite. He sees himself and his country as being in the midst of a "historical war that has been underway for hundreds of years" and drums into the heads of his followers that "we must make ourselves aware of the baseness of our enemy, such that our holy hatred will spread ever further like a wave." In order to win this war, the Shahab 5 medium-range missile, which can carry nuclear warheads and strike almost any target in Europe, is being built. In order to win this war, thousands of suicide bombers have been recruited and Hezbollah cells established throughout Europe – cells whose members are under the direct command of the Iranian secret services.

Europe will at once find itself in a new situation if Iran gets the bomb. Whether or not Iran formally declares itself to be a nuclear power is secondary. In the same way as the death sentence on British author Salman Rushdie succeeded in striking fear into thousands of hearts, so will Iran's nuclear option serve to torpedo any prospect of peace in the Middle East and keep Europe in line.

Something has to happen to prevent this scenario from becoming a reality. Which brings me back to the final remaining non-military resort in the conflict with Iran: tough sanctions.

Of course, even outside America there are firms that are behaving responsibly, firms about which it could be said that, even if they perhaps don't always engage in "fair trade", they are at least committed to "terror-free trade", firms that have either totally ceased involvement in Iran or reduced their activities to a minimum. Among them are the Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse, British Petroleum and the Allianz. They no longer want to get their hands dirty.

But then there is the far longer list of firms that want to do business with the jihadists in Tehran, albeit in increasing secrecy, since they wish to keep their partnership with the Iranian regime out of the public eye. Among them are giants like BASF, Henkel, Continental, Bahlsen, Krupp, Linde, Lurgi, Siemens, ZF Freidrichshafen, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Scania, Volvo, MAN, Shell, Total, Hansa Chemie, Hoechst, OMV, Renault and SAS as well as smaller firms such as Stahlbau Schauenberg , Schernier and Wolf Thermo-Module. From now on we should call such firms what they are: silent partners in terrorism.

Tehran is purposely driving on towards nuclear weapons. Time is at a premium. The security environment for the twenty-first century is being decided right now. Tomorrow, will we already be living in the shadow of the Iranian bomb? Or can the international community still stop Ahmadinejad and his regime?

If respect for the victims of the Holocaust still counts for anything in Europe today, then any firm that does business with the antisemitic regime – a regime that promotes suicide terrorism, finances Hezbollah and has explicitly stated its goal of destroying Israel - must be exposed and denounced. If continental Europe's civil societies wish to make good on their claim that they have learned the lessons of history, then pressure must be exerted on their Governments until they do what has to be done to prevent the Iranian bomb. If Great Britain and the EU fail to put prompt and massive pressure on Iran and confront it with the alternative of either changing course or suffering devastating economic blows, all that will remain will be the choice between a bad solution – the military option – and a dreadful one – the Iranian bomb.

Europe must cease to be the sleeping partners of terrorism. We must put a stop to the international competition to see who can make the dirtiest deal in Iran. We must break with an approach that is leading with businesslike efficiency towards catastrophe.
28726  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / So that's how Rocky did it , , , on: March 13, 2007, 01:01:43 PM
Sylvester Stallone has been charged with smuggling banned bodybuilding drugs into Australia. Customs officials said 48 vials of outlawed human-growth hormone were found in Stallone's luggage during a recent visit to Sydney to promote his "Rocky Balboa" movie.

28727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 13, 2007, 01:00:39 PM
ISRAEL AXES NAKED AMBASSADOR: Israel's ambassador was ordered home from El Salvador after he was found naked, bound and drunk in the garden of his official residence - with sado-masochistic sex toys nearby, officials said yesterday. The Foreign Ministry said U.S.-born Tsuriel Rafael - who couldn't identify himself to police until a red bondage ball was removed from his mouth - would be replaced as soon as possible.
28728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Welcome Home on: March 13, 2007, 12:36:22 PM

Some of us may need a tissue for this one.

28729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: European matters on: March 13, 2007, 12:31:58 PM
Second post of the day:

EU: A Plan for Energy Efficiency -- and Independence

The EU leadership has agreed to a draft energy plan that aims to kill the whole proverbial flock of birds with one stone. In theory, the policy will increase the use of renewable energy, decrease carbon emissions, diversify the use of biofuels and help Europe reduce its reliance on Russia by 2020. It is creative and ambitious -- and only the first step in Europe's new energy policy.


Some detail-fudging by German President Angela Merkel, the current holder of the EU presidency and host of the ongoing EU heads-of-government summit, appears to have successfully paved the way to an EU-wide agreement on a bold new energy policy.

Under the terms of the deal, the European Union as a whole aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 20 percent, increase its use of renewable fuels to 20 percent of its total energy demand, use biofuels for 10 percent of transport demand, and most critically, reduce total EU energy demand by 20 percent. All of this is scheduled to take effect by 2020, and all is in addition to any progress that implementing Kyoto reductions has already achieved.

The reductions sound extremely sharp because they are, but Merkel has put forward a rather flexible method of attaining the goals. The binding targets will be achieved on an EU-wide basis rather than on a country-by-country basis, allowing richer states with more experience in renewable energy -- Denmark for example -- to shoulder more of the burden.

The biggest hang-up in the negotiations has been a desire by a few states -- led by France and Finland -- to classify nuclear power as an alternative fuel, a move staunchly opposed by non-nuclear states Ireland and Austria. Merkel's compromise was to blur in a new draft text between "alternative" and "low-emissions" technologies and insert fresh text that clearly makes a country's energy mix its own concern and not Brussels'. That move appears to have mitigated objections from both sides and paved the way to a formal agreement.

Other provisions would then be easily agreed upon, including one on pledging EU states to assist each other in maintaining security of supply, unity on negotiating with external energy suppliers and the development of an infrastructure to cushion Europe in the case of any supply shocks.

This document does far more than simply give Europe a green energy policy. The reduction of carbon emissions, the supply security, the increased alternative energy use and the overall reduction in energy demand clauses all serve a double purpose: political insurance. The Europeans, in particular the former Warsaw Pact states, fear the Russians are beginning to use energy exports to Europe as lever to gain influence over European policy. In essence, Russia is using its energy riches as a political tool. This essentially has led the Europeans to use the publicly attractive rhetoric of going green to achieve energy security.

Reducing total energy demand by a fifth -- and then mandating that at least a fifth of the remainder has to be from locally generated renewable sources as well as diversifying into low-carbon energy -- will take a huge bite out of European dependence on any particular petroleum supplier. Additionally, a network of infrastructure that can shuttle energy supplies back and forth across the union in case of disruption will be able to cope with disruptions resulting not just from acts of God, but also from acts of Moscow. Had such a system been in place in January 2006 or January 2007, Europe would not have felt the pinch of the Russian-Ukrainian natural gas tussle or the Russian-Belarusian oil spat.

The union can now get down to the nitty-gritty of two additional steps. The first is to diversify the sources of Europe's remaining petroleum imports. Austrian energy firm OMV is leading the charge at building a natural gas line from the Middle East, and France's Total is working to construct fresh facilities to import liquefied natural gas. This process will be costly and time-consuming, but for states like Poland that are a bit touchy about all things Russian, it will be a task eagerly attacked.

The second task will be the politically tricky one. Remember that the agreement will not spread the changes evenly across the union. It is up to the European Commission to propose -- by September -- specifically how to divide up the burden. Massaging away that little spoiler will require something a lot more creative than Merkel's technical blurring.
28730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Man bites dog: Wash. Post editorial on: March 13, 2007, 11:44:40 AM
"The only constituency House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignored in her plan for amending President Bush's supplemental war funding bill are the people of the country that U.S. troops are fighting to stabilize. The Democratic proposal doesn't attempt to answer the question of why August 2008 is the right moment for the Iraqi government to lose all support from U.S. combat units... But aggressive oversight is quite different from mandating military steps according to an inflexible timetable conforming to the need to capture votes in Congress or at the 2008 polls. Ms. Pelosi's strategy leads not toward a responsible withdrawal from Iraq but to a constitutional power struggle with Mr. Bush, who has already said he will veto the legislation. Such a struggle would serve the interests of neither the Democrats nor the country" -- Washington Post editorial.
28731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kansas seeks market oriented approach on: March 13, 2007, 11:41:31 AM
From today's Opinion Journal of the WSJ:

Kansas: Heal Thyself

TOPEKA, Kan. -- The eyes of the nation may soon turn to Kansas as conservatives in the state legislature try to cobble together a free-market health care bill to replace Medicaid. Kansas would be the first state in the nation to offer a market-based alternative to California's Arnold-Care and Massachusetts' Romney-Care. "We want the free market, not command-and-control government, to be the driver of this system," says state Rep. Jeff Colyer, the only practicing physician in the Kansas House.

Dr. Colyer says the Kansas health care system is "a wobbly legged stool" consisting of "a shrinking commercial market, government managed care that has grown to 30% [Medicaid], and the uninsured, 11% of the market."

The plan that Kansas will soon take up has several facets. First, it allows families to use pre-tax dollars to purchase health care. This saves families 15% right off the bat. Second, the plan reforms Medicaid by essentially providing a voucher to Medicaid patients and allowing them to purchase private insurance. "This expands, rather than contracts the private insurance market," Dr. Colyer says.

Third, the state would provide bridge insurance to Kansans who are temporarily uninsured, mainly those between jobs. For those who still don't have health insurance, the state would set up health clinics to provide basic care.

The group Kansas Americans for Prosperity believes the Colyer-backed plan could be a model for other states and held a conference this week in Topeka to promote it. Unfortunately, state legislators I talked to here believe that Governor Kathleen Sebelius favors a more conventional approach, with employer mandates and expansions of the antiquated Medicaid system. One proposal is to make Medicaid available to families with incomes three times the poverty rate, which is higher than the average income in the state. This would create a de facto government run health care system in Kansas.

It's pretty clear that the federal government isn't going to solve the health care crisis -- particularly the Medicaid cost explosion. States will have to take the lead and 11 have already received waivers from the feds to come up with their own cost-containment strategies. Kansas now has a plan to do just that but with tax cuts and markets, not what Dr. Colyer calls "the freakonomics of traditional Medicaid."

28732  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: March 13, 2007, 11:36:40 AM
The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a
non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free,
direct-delivery subscription, please visit and
click on the registration button. For reprint clearance, please e-mail:

In this issue:






Two perspectives on law enforcement's role in the violent human meltdown
known as excited delirium faced off on National Public Radio recently, in
broadcasts that have themselves become controversial.

On one side in the 2-program report were 2 police critics, a staff lawyer
with the ACLU and the director of a California "watchdog" group called
PoliceWatch. The lawyer denied that ED is a recognized condition and charged
that police are using the term "as a means of whitewashing" excessive force
and "inappropriate use of control techniques" during arrests. The watchdog
rep claimed that law enforcers want to blame "victims" who are
inappropriately "dying at the hands of officers." She said police have a
responsibility to "make sure" that anyone they take into custody "stays
alive, whatever the condition of the person's brain or body temperature or
their agitated state."

Voices on the other side included a neurology professor from the University
of Miami, the former chief medical examiner for San Antonio, and a senior
corporal from Dallas PD with first-hand experience in trying to control
raging ED subjects. The professor said the condition is "definitely
real...the result of a neurochemical imbalance in the brain." The ME said,
"[T]hese people are dying of an overdose of adrenaline" and insisted that
it's wrong to blame the police. And the cop said, "There's no one thing that
simply describes this. One minute a person is fighting and screaming, the
next minute he's dead."

By the time NPR finished its total of less than 13 minutes of air time on
the subject, emails were flying among followers of the ED issue. One
authority, Chris Lawrence, a Canadian police college instructor, a technical
advisor to the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State
University-Mankato, and a columnist for, perhaps sums up the
sentiment of many.

NPR's failure to spotlight this thorny topic in depth for its 26 million
listeners, he believes, served only to "stir the pot" of controversy without
illuminating its many perplexities. "No one in the media presents an
in-depth, knowledgeable discussion of this subject even for an hour,"
Lawrence told Force Science News. "A series of sound bites can't do it
justice. It's too complicated. People are left with the impression that no
one knows what's going on, and that's not to anyone's benefit."

If you missed the NPR programs, which aired on more than 800 stations on
2/26 and 2/27, you can read transcripts and listen to the broadcasts at Just conduct an in-site search for "excited delirium" and
you'll get to the appropriate links.

Meanwhile, FSN asked Lawrence, who was not involved in NPR's programming, to
address and expand on some of the more provocative highlights of what was

ASSERTION: In questioning ED as a legitimate phenomenon, rather than
something the police are just making up, the ACLU attorney, Eric Balaban,
said, "I know of no reputable medical organization-certainly not the
American Medical Association or the American Psychiatric Association-that
recognizes excited delirium as a medical or mental-health condition."

NPR's reporter Laura Sullivan added: "He's right. Excited delirium is not
recognized by professional medical associations, and you won't find it
listed in the chief psychiatric reference book. The International
Association of Chiefs of Police hasn't accepted it either, saying not enough
information is known."

RESPONSE: Descriptions of the symptoms that characterize ED have appeared in
medical literature under various names, including Bell's Mania and fatal
catatonia, for more than a century, Lawrence says. "Excited delirium" is
fairly recent terminology, "but it is not a problem that is new."

The literature search that was made when the Psychiatric Assn. compiled its
latest edition of the 980-page Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM-IV TR, "the chief psychiatric reference book" cited on NPR)
was cut off in 1996, Lawrence says--more than a decade ago.

"If you do an online search today at the website PubMed, provided by the
National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, you'll
find at least 20 articles on ED from professional medical journals," the
vast majority of which were published after the DSM cut-off.

"For the last 10 years, the National Association of Medical Examiners has
said ED is real and has recognized it as a problem. They've published a
position paper that repeatedly references it in the context of cocaine abuse
and, in some cases, the failure of mental patients to take prescribed
psychotropic drugs. This is not something we're making up. Saying it doesn't
exist doesn't contribute to solutions for dealing with it."

[For more details of ED in medical literature, see archives of Lawrence's
columns at The NAME position paper was authored by 4 MDs
and a PhD and appeared in The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and
Pathology, Mar. 2004.]

ASSERTION: By blaming ED, authorities in effect "want the victim to be
looked at as the cause of his or her own death," PoliceWatch director Dawn
Edwards charged on NPR. "The bottom line is that these people are dying at
the hands of, or in the custody of, police officers." In her view, it's a
police responsibility to assure that anyone taken into custody "stays alive."

RESPONSE: During one of the broadcasts, the former ME, Dr. Vincent Di Maio,
who has written a textbook on ED, challenged Edwards' position. Civil
liberties groups are wrong in blaming officers for ED deaths, he said. "They
buy into this mode that if somebody dies, somebody's got to be responsible.
And of course it can't be the person who's high on coke and meth," even
though drug abuse appears to be closely associated with many ED episodes.

Lawrence points out that deaths ascribed to ED have occurred even in
hospitals with the most sophisticated medical intervention immediately at
hand. To expect guaranteed life preservation from officers attempting to
deal with an out-of-control offender on the street is wholly unrealistic.

Professionals knowledgeable about ED agree that it needs to be viewed
ultimately as a medical problem, he says. "But this condition is a very
complicated event. It involves multiple body mechanisms. The breakdown of
any one of these by itself could result in death. Even the efforts of a
highly trained physician may not prevent the subject from dying.

"By the time police are called, the ED subject may be deep into mental and
physical distress, possibly at an irreversible intensity. We're dispatching
a first responder who generally has a first aid certificate. He may never
have seen ED before or even recognize what it is. And we're supposed to say,
'Now you handle this very complicated event, with your first-aid skills, and
by the way, we're going to hold you solely responsible if he dies'? How
realistic is that?"

By pointing out certain factors, such as drug usage and mental illness, that
seem commonly associated with ED episodes, Lawrence says, "we're not trying
to blame the 'victim.' We are trying to better understand the person
experiencing excited delirium and to identify things about him that may
assist everyone in helping him to survive."

ASSERTION: NPR's Sullivan stated during the second program that the debate
about ED "becomes more complicated" because TASERs are often involved when
officers try to control physically violent subjects who end up dying. "Civil
liberties groups fear that the diagnosis is being used" not only to "cover
up police abuse" but also to "protect companies like Taser International
from lawsuits," she said. "Taser may have financial reasons to support-and
even encourage-the use of the excited delirium diagnosis."

RESPONSE: In the view of Lawrence, a DT instructor, the deployment of TASERs
is not so diabolical. "Electronic control devices provide a modern, prompt,
humane method of restraint" in many ED situations, he says. "Physical force
and technology that depend on pain compliance tend not to work because these
subjects don't seem to feel pain. Mechanical leverage techniques that lock
up the joints can be difficult to apply because ED people are very, very
strong and they won't let you do it.

"With an ECD, you can cause them to lose control of the muscles that
maintain balance, and they fall down. This can provide a very brief window
of opportunity to quickly get them handcuffed and to secure their legs with
a strap device to minimize kicking and effectively establish some control.
You end up with fewer injuries both to the suspect and to the officers

The TASER is just the latest scapegoat blamed for causing ED deaths,
Lawrence says. He cites the recent testimony of Dr. Christine Hall, a
Canadian ER physician and ED researcher, at a coroner's inquest into the
death of a psychiatric patient who was TASERed while in a highly agitated

Hall testified that when people in this state died while being restrained by
the police in the 1970s, the blame was often placed on baton use. In the
1980s, it was multiple-officer restraint and "positional asphyxia." In the
1990s, it was pepper spray. Now it's the TASER.

"The blame shifts as tactics and technology change and police critics
continue to look for something other than the condition itself as the cause
of death," Lawrence says.

Whatever the mode, the goal of police intervention, he stresses, is to
control dangerous behavior, to get ED subjects "assessed by someone with
more medical training than a police officer has, and to get him transported
to a place of sophisticated medical treatment. You are not going to get any
medical assistance until control has been established. There's no way around
this point.

"Even if you could drive a doctor to the scene and say, 'You manage this,'
nothing could be done until the subject is stabilized, and stabilization
requires restraint. At some point someone has to take control of the
individual, unless he somehow gets back to reality on his own and says, 'I'm
going to let you help me,' and that's not a very likely development with
people who are dying in excited delirium."

ASSERTION: The ACLU's Balaban expressed concern that the messages police
receive about ED may actually exacerbate confrontations. If officers are
being told in training that ED subjects "have superhuman strength," he
speculated, officers may treat them "as if they are somehow not human,"
leading "officers to escalate situations."

RESPONSE: The fact is, Lawrence says, that the display of extremely abnormal
strength is one of the characteristics that makes a subject who's
experiencing ED so difficult to control.

Indeed, Sr. Cpl. Herb Cotner of Dallas PD, interviewed by NPR, told of ED
manifesting itself by "someone doing pushups with two 150-pound officers on
their back." He described one ED experience in which the subject smashed
through a plate-glass window, fell from a fence, broke his leg several
times--and still walked 2 blocks to fight with police. Another confrontation
involved a handicapped individual who "dragged us across a parking lot."

Lawrence observes: "That may not be the way the ACLU would like it to be,
but the truth is the truth. Officers must be trained for reality."

Next month [4/07] during a 2-day Force Science seminar in London, England,
Lawrence will present a briefing on ED for European police officials and
attorney Bill Everett, also an FSRC Board Member, will speak on managing the
media during high-profile, controversial incidents, such as a death by ED.

The interest abroad in this topic, "indicates that this is a problem that is
international in scope," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of FSRC.
For more information on this program and instructions on how to register for
it, go to:

[NOTE: Force Science News has transmitted 9 articles dealing with excited
delirium since this newsletter was founded in 2004. To review them for a
broader understanding of the subject, go to: and enter "excited
delirium" in our archival search engine.]

Our thanks to Wayne Schmidt, executive director of Americans for Effective
Law Enforcement, for tipping us about the NPR series.
28733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Georgia, NATO on: March 13, 2007, 10:37:23 AM
The Russians probably are not pleased , , ,

GEORGIA: The Georgian Parliament unanimously passed a declaration of the nation's desire to join NATO. During the vote, Parliament Speaker Nino Burdzhanadze said Georgia cannot be a neutral state. Georgian party leaders signed a declaration of national accord regarding NATO accession March 12.

And, as a housekeeping matter, I bring this post from another thread of the same name here so as to be able to delete that other thread:


Geopolitical Diary: The Other Side of EU Enlargement

The Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, voted Thursday on the EU accession treaty of Bulgaria and Romania, ratifying their members by a 529-12-10 vote. Though a few remaining procedures still must be completed, such as formal approval by the Danish parliament and the European Commission, German parliamentary approval was the last serious obstacle standing between the two states and full EU membership. Everything else is detail.

The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the European club will transform the fundamental character of the union -- more so than the addition of any other members to date -- and help to usher in its downfall as a political grouping.

EU accession, slated for Jan. 1, 2007, will be a highlight in the histories of both countries. Neither has lengthy institutional legacies: The two states emerged as powers only with the Ottoman defeats at the tail end of the 19th century, and then spent the bulk of the next 100 years enmeshed in wars or under Soviet domination. After the Cold War, they were the poorest members of the Warsaw Pact -- a distinction that will not change when they become Members No. 26 and 27 in the much more wealthy European Union. It would be a deliberate exercise in understatement to say that full access to EU markets, not to mention the inflow of structural development funds and agricultural subsidies, will radically transform them.

As for the European Union itself ?

First, the good news. With Bulgaria and Romania admitted, the Balkans will be permanently locked into Western structures -- no small feat, considering the 15 years of ethnic cleansing, war and chaos that wracked much of the region (and that Sofia and Bucharest wisely, and competently, avoided). With this accomplished, the union can digest the rest of that region at its leisure.

Also, despite the poverty of the incoming members, this round of expansion will not carry the sticker shock that the last one did. Bulgaria and Romania have less than 30 million people; the 2004 expansion took in 10 states with a total of nearly 90 million. There will be no collective gasp at the cost among the existing members -- they see this bill coming, and it is not nearly as large as the last one.

Finally, both Bulgaria and Romania border on the Black Sea, which previously was beyond the European Union's purview. Now European economic interests can do something they dearly love: They can seek out new markets -- Ukraine and the Caucasus come to mind -- for their goods.

But there also is a very dark side to this enlargement for the European Union as an institution. It is not that rule of law or judicial effectiveness are subpar in Bulgaria or Romania; it has nothing to do with the lack of integration for their large Roma populations; it is not connected to the states' reputations as smuggling havens. Nor does it involve declining relations with the Russians or the inevitability of the Turks wondering why they, too, cannot be admitted. Rather, it is the simple issue of voting weight.

Until recently, France and Germany were the center of gravity for the European Union -- imposing their collective will on the rest of the union and driving it forward from institutional growth spurt to growth spurt. With only six states in the union this was easy. With 15, it grew difficult, and at 25, it became downright thorny.

But in a union of 27, the fundamental math changes.

The European Union's decision-making mechanism is a system of qualified majority voting: Each state has a number of votes proportionate to its population. Or, to be more precise, a number that is roughly proportionate. As a sop to Europe's many small states, the larger states are given relatively fewer votes, while the smaller states have relatively more. In a union of 25, the French-German axis does not always have its way, but by voting together, Paris and Berlin carry sufficient weight to block any measures they truly oppose. But when relatively pro-U.S. and pro-free market Bulgaria and Romania are added to the mix, that calculus no longer holds. The broadly pro-U.S. and pro-free market states now will enjoy an absolute majority, and the other EU states combined will have the voting power to override a Franco-German veto.

That may sound rather innocuous, but it should always be remembered that France designed the European Union in order to further French political ambitions, and that Germany has always been the biggest economy in the mix and the anchor for Europe's common currency. Paris and Berlin are used to dominating policy of all types, not having it forced on them.

Small EU states have always had to suck it up and convince themselves that the benefits of union membership outweigh the drawbacks. Paris has never had to do that math. And if Paris has never had much of a problem biting its thumb at London or Washington, how will it react once Brussels makes a decision running counter to French interests -- and is able to make it stick?
28734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 13, 2007, 08:57:43 AM
Today's NY Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 12 — The departing American ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald E. Neumann, said Monday that he did not see the Taliban as the big threat it appeared to represent a year or two ago, and that he was leaving feeling “reasonably optimistic” about the state of the insurgency and the country’s progress.

“We spent a lot of last year worrying about this year,” he told a small group of journalists in the refurbished old embassy building, which reopened recently. “We will certainly face hard fighting in the south,” he said, “but I am going away feeling reasonably optimistic.”

More British and American troops had been supplied for the effort, he noted, providing the needed military support for the anti-insurgency effort, especially in the southern part of the country by fighters associated with the former Taliban rulers.

“We will see a hard fight,” Mr. Neumann said, but added, “We have the basics of what it takes.”

The Taliban, who were ousted in late 2001, mounted a strong comeback last year, leading to fierce fighting with American and NATO forces. The Taliban also appear to have joined forces with drug traffickers in Helmand Province in the south.

The NATO troops who took control of southern Afghanistan last year began a large offensive in the area early this month.

Mr. Neumann said he did not believe that time was on the Taliban’s side. “I don’t see where the Taliban are going to increase,” he said.

Comparing the violence to that of Iraq, where he served in 2004 and 2005, he said there were no battleground cities in Afghanistan like Falluja that would require large-scale military operations to secure. In Afghanistan, “We are talking of protecting a town with 50 police,” he said.

“This does not tell me this is a 10-foot-tall movement,” he said. “It’s tough. It’s resilient. It’s dangerous. I just don’t see it as being that strong. It is still a race, but inch by inch the government is getting a little better.”

The ambassador said that the Afghan Army, which initially had been envisioned as a light force reliant on American allies, was being strengthened, with a goal of building it to 70,000 troops, and that it was being supplied with armored vehicles, aircraft and body armor.

The program to develop a police entity was two years behind that of the army, he said, but current plans also call for more support for the police. He said he was confident that Congress would approve the extra money needed for those efforts.

Of Pakistan, which has come under persistent criticism over the past year for its failure to stem cross-border infiltration by insurgents, he said, “We are getting more cooperation, and I think we need more cooperation.”

He said the Pakistani government should impose more control on the tribal areas along the Afghan border. “It will have to be done one piece at a time, and we need to help them bring control in the tribal areas,” he said, adding that he would like to see Pakistan pursue more Taliban leaders believed to be on its side of the border.

Mr. Neumann said people in Afghanistan and abroad should understand that it would take considerable time to see results in the country. It had taken four years to set up a military justice system for the Afghan National Army — from drafting the law to training legal personnel — before the army could hold its first court-martial, he said. Plans to train a civilian judiciary are proceeding, but the effects will not be felt on the ground even in a year’s time, he said.

International commitment remained high, however, and there were no signs of donor fatigue for Afghanistan, he said. Even though nations have been slow to meet their commitments to provide soldiers for the NATO peacekeeping force, none of the countries were talking of pulling out. “Inch by inch we are seeing more commitment,” Mr. Neumann said.

The Afghan government is also slowly moving in the right direction, he said. The new Parliament has been a generally positive addition, and there have been some improvement in the situation with provincial governors, some of whom were warlords who were seen as more powerful than President Hamid Karzai.
28735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 13, 2007, 08:50:03 AM
Today's NY Times:

Published: March 13, 2007
Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.

But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.

“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”

Mr. Gore, in an e-mail exchange about the critics, said his work made “the most important and salient points” about climate change, if not “some nuances and distinctions” scientists might want. “The degree of scientific consensus on global warming has never been stronger,” he said, adding, “I am trying to communicate the essence of it in the lay language that I understand.”

Although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is why scientists are sensitive to its details and claims.

Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.

Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for “getting the message out,” Dr. Vranes questioned whether his presentations were “overselling our certainty about knowing the future.”

Typically, the concern is not over the existence of climate change, or the idea that the human production of heat-trapping gases is partly or largely to blame for the globe’s recent warming. The question is whether Mr. Gore has gone beyond the scientific evidence.

“He’s a very polarizing figure in the science community,” said Roger A. Pielke Jr., an environmental scientist who is a colleague of Dr. Vranes at the University of Colorado center. “Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr. Gore.”

“An Inconvenient Truth,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, was released last May and took in more than $46 million, making it one of the top-grossing documentaries ever. The companion book by Mr. Gore quickly became a best seller, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times list.

Mr. Gore depicted a future in which temperatures soar, ice sheets melt, seas rise, hurricanes batter the coasts and people die en masse. “Unless we act boldly,” he wrote, “our world will undergo a string of terrible catastrophes.”

He clearly has supporters among leading scientists, who commend his popularizations and call his science basically sound. In December, he spoke in San Francisco to the American Geophysical Union and got a reception fit for a rock star from thousands of attendees.

“He has credibility in this community,” said Tim Killeen, the group’s president and director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a top group studying climate change. “There’s no question he’s read a lot and is able to respond in a very effective way.”

Some backers concede minor inaccuracies but see them as reasonable for a politician. James E. Hansen, an environmental scientist, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top adviser to Mr. Gore, said, “Al does an exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for the trees,” adding that Mr. Gore often did so “better than scientists.”

Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice president’s work may hold “imperfections” and “technical flaws.” He pointed to hurricanes, an icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and cites research suggesting that global warming will cause both storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States.


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“We need to be more careful in describing the hurricane story than he is,” Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Gore. “On the other hand,” Dr. Hansen said, “he has the bottom line right: most storms, at least those driven by the latent heat of vaporization, will tend to be stronger, or have the potential to be stronger, in a warmer climate.”

In his e-mail message, Mr. Gore defended his work as fundamentally accurate. “Of course,” he said, “there will always be questions around the edges of the science, and we have to rely upon the scientific community to continue to ask and to challenge and to answer those questions.”

He said “not every single adviser” agreed with him on every point, “but we do agree on the fundamentals” — that warming is real and caused by humans.

Mr. Gore added that he perceived no general backlash among scientists against his work. “I have received a great deal of positive feedback,” he said. “I have also received comments about items that should be changed, and I have updated the book and slideshow to reflect these comments.” He gave no specifics on which points he had revised.

He said that after 30 years of trying to communicate the dangers of global warming, “I think that I’m finally getting a little better at it.”

While reviewers tended to praise the book and movie, vocal skeptics of global warming protested almost immediately. Richard S. Lindzen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who has long expressed skepticism about dire climate predictions, accused Mr. Gore in The Wall Street Journal of “shrill alarmism.”

Some of Mr. Gore’s centrist detractors point to a report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that studies global warming. The panel went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globe’s warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.

It estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches — down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.

Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and political scientist in Denmark long skeptical of catastrophic global warming, said in a syndicated article that the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, had refrained from scaremongering. “Climate change is a real and serious problem” that calls for careful analysis and sound policy, Dr. Lomborg said. “The cacophony of screaming,” he added, “does not help.”

So too, a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.

Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, said on a blog that Mr. Gore’s film did “indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios.” But the June report, he added, shows “that all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years.”

Other critics have zeroed in on Mr. Gore’s claim that the energy industry ran a “disinformation campaign” that produced false discord on global warming. The truth, he said, was that virtually all unbiased scientists agreed that humans were the main culprits. But Benny J. Peiser, a social anthropologist in Britain who runs the Cambridge-Conference Network, or CCNet, an Internet newsletter on climate change and natural disasters, challenged the claim of scientific consensus with examples of pointed disagreement.

“Hardly a week goes by,” Dr. Peiser said, “without a new research paper that questions part or even some basics of climate change theory,” including some reports that offer alternatives to human activity for global warming.

Geologists have documented age upon age of climate swings, and some charge Mr. Gore with ignoring such rhythms.

“Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet,” Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog. “Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”

In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points at the geological society meeting in Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore’s claim that “our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this” threatened change.

Nonsense, Dr. Easterbrook told the crowded session. He flashed a slide that showed temperature trends for the past 15,000 years. It highlighted 10 large swings, including the medieval warm period. These shifts, he said, were up to “20 times greater than the warming in the past century.”

Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore’s assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. “I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company,” Dr. Easterbrook told the group. “And I’m not a Republican.”

Biologists, too, have gotten into the act. In January, Paul Reiter, an active skeptic of global warming’s effects and director of the insects and infectious diseases unit of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, faulted Mr. Gore for his portrayal of global warming as spreading malaria.

“For 12 years, my colleagues and I have protested against the unsubstantiated claims,” Dr. Reiter wrote in The International Herald Tribune. “We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts.”

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton who advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria issue and other points that the critics had raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had distinguished himself for integrity.

“On balance, he did quite well — a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.”

28736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / What's so Funny? on: March 13, 2007, 08:46:12 AM
Today's NY Times:

So there are these two muffins baking in an oven. One of them yells, “Wow, it’s hot in here!”
And the other muffin replies: “Holy cow! A talking muffin!”

Did that alleged joke make you laugh? I would guess (and hope) not. But under different circumstances, you would be chuckling softly, maybe giggling, possibly guffawing. I know that’s hard to believe, but trust me. The results are just in on a laboratory test of the muffin joke.

Laughter, a topic that stymied philosophers for 2,000 years, is finally yielding to science. Researchers have scanned brains and tickled babies, chimpanzees and rats. They’ve traced the evolution of laughter back to what looks like the primal joke — or, to be precise, the first stand-up routine to kill with an audience of primates.

It wasn’t any funnier than the muffin joke, but that’s not surprising, at least not to the researchers. They’ve discovered something that eluded Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Freud and the many theorists who have tried to explain laughter based on the mistaken premise that they’re explaining humor.

Occasionally we’re surprised into laughing at something funny, but most laughter has little to do with humor. It’s an instinctual survival tool for social animals, not an intellectual response to wit. It’s not about getting the joke. It’s about getting along.

When Robert R. Provine tried applying his training in neuroscience to laughter 20 years ago, he naïvely began by dragging people into his laboratory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to watch episodes of “Saturday Night Live” and a George Carlin routine. They didn’t laugh much. It was what a stand-up comic would call a bad room.

So he went out into natural habitats — city sidewalks, suburban malls — and carefully observed thousands of “laugh episodes.” He found that 80 percent to 90 percent of them came after straight lines like “I know” or “I’ll see you guys later.” The witticisms that induced laughter rarely rose above the level of “You smell like you had a good workout.”

“Most prelaugh dialogue,” Professor Provine concluded in “Laughter,” his 2000 book, “is like that of an interminable television situation comedy scripted by an extremely ungifted writer.”

He found that most speakers, particularly women, did more laughing than their listeners, using the laughs as punctuation for their sentences. It’s a largely involuntary process. People can consciously suppress laughs, but few can make themselves laugh convincingly.

“Laughter is an honest social signal because it’s hard to fake,” Professor Provine says. “We’re dealing with something powerful, ancient and crude. It’s a kind of behavioral fossil showing the roots that all human beings, maybe all mammals, have in common.”

The human ha-ha evolved from the rhythmic sound — pant-pant — made by primates like chimpanzees when they tickle and chase one other while playing. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Washington State University, discovered that rats emit an ultrasonic chirp (inaudible to humans without special equipment) when they’re tickled, and they like the sensation so much they keep coming back for more tickling.

He and Professor Provine figure that the first primate joke — that is, the first action to produce a laugh without physical contact — was the feigned tickle, the same kind of coo-chi-coo move parents make when they thrust their wiggling fingers at a baby. Professor Panksepp thinks the brain has ancient wiring to produce laughter so that young animals learn to play with one another. The laughter stimulates euphoria circuits in the brain and also reassures the other animals that they’re playing, not fighting.

“Primal laughter evolved as a signaling device to highlight readiness for friendly interaction,” Professor Panksepp says. “Sophisticated social animals such as mammals need an emotionally positive mechanism to help create social brains and to weave organisms effectively into the social fabric.”

Humans are laughing by the age of four months and then progress from tickling to the Three Stooges to more sophisticated triggers for laughter (or, in some inexplicable cases, to Jim Carrey movies). Laughter can be used cruelly to reinforce a group’s solidarity and pride by mocking deviants and insulting outsiders, but mainly it’s a subtle social lubricant. It’s a way to make friends and also make clear who belongs where in the status hierarchy.

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Which brings us back to the muffin joke. It was inflicted by social psychologists at Florida State University on undergraduate women last year, during interviews for what was ostensibly a study of their spending habits. Some of the women were told the interviewer would be awarding a substantial cash prize to a few of the participants, like a boss deciding which underling deserved a bonus.

The women put in the underling position were a lot more likely to laugh at the muffin joke (and others almost as lame) than were women in the control group. But it wasn’t just because these underlings were trying to manipulate the boss, as was demonstrated in a follow-up experiment.

This time each of the women watched the muffin joke being told on videotape by a person who was ostensibly going to be working with her on a task. There was supposed to be a cash reward afterward to be allocated by a designated boss. In some cases the woman watching was designated the boss; in other cases she was the underling or a co-worker of the person on the videotape.

When the woman watching was the boss, she didn’t laugh much at the muffin joke. But when she was the underling or a co-worker, she laughed much more, even though the joke-teller wasn’t in the room to see her. When you’re low in the status hierarchy, you need all the allies you can find, so apparently you’re primed to chuckle at anything even if it doesn’t do you any immediate good.

“Laughter seems to be an automatic response to your situation rather than a conscious strategy,” says Tyler F. Stillman, who did the experiments along with Roy Baumeister and Nathan DeWall. “When I tell the muffin joke to my undergraduate classes, they laugh out loud.”

Mr. Stillman says he got so used to the laughs that he wasn’t quite prepared for the response at a conference in January, although he realizes he should have expected it.

“It was a small conference attended by some of the most senior researchers in the field,” he recalls. “When they heard me, a lowly graduate student, tell the muffin joke, there was a really uncomfortable silence. You could hear crickets.”

28737  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: March 13, 2007, 08:31:45 AM
Geopolitical Diary: U.S.-Mexican Relations Changing

U.S. President George W. Bush is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday in Mexico -- the last stop of Bush's Latin American tour. The agenda for the meeting is predictable; issues to be discussed include trade, security, counternarcotics programs and the polarizing immigration and border control debate.

Bush's trip has focused on political alliances, and his stop in Mexico is no different. Mexico has traditionally been an ally, but tensions have recently risen over border and immigration policies. Smoothing these tensions and reaffirming Mexico's long-term status as a U.S. ally is the driving motivation behind the U.S. president's visit.

However, though Bush is arriving in Mexico with a largely rhetorical agenda, his counterpart could meet him with a much stiffer proposition.

Since taking office in December 2006, Calderon has aggressively approached his presidency. His presidential campaign called for massive reforms, and he has wasted no time pursing them. He already has announced plans for a constitutional redraft and a controversial reform of Mexican state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and already has launched a massive multistate offensive to counter narcotics trafficking. Though the attack against drug cartels has not severely impacted their operations, it has won Calderon domestic support; with recent approval ratings ranging from 58 percent to 73 percent, it is clear that Mexicans approve of Calderon's boldness. And since the Mexican government depends on oil money, Calderon desperately needs this approval to push through the Pemex reform.

Bush might not be prepared to meet with a bold Mexican president; former Mexican President Vicente Fox rarely challenged Bush and reveled in a close friendship with his U.S. counterpart. And while Calderon has not disparaged U.S.-Mexican ties, he has made it clear that he is not interested in helping to repair U.S.-Latin American relations, noting that the United States has to "regain respect" in the region.

Mexico has long demanded increased attention -- and a solution -- to the immigration debate. But a visit between Bush and Calderon will have little, if any, impact on the immigration front. Bush's hands are all but tied -- he faces an opposition Congress and a populace deeply divided on the issue at home -- and he is not in a position to settle the immigration issue, much less to do so in a way that Mexico would desire.

Calderon knows this as well as Bush does, and is not expecting a sudden shift in U.S. immigration and border policies. A breakthrough on the immigration front at this point is not plausible, but with this visit Calderon can earn himself a few more approval points at home.

Though Mexico's close relationship with the United States is not likely to change in the near future -- trade, security issues and proximity will tie the nations together indefinitely -- the Mexican government is no longer interested in pushing the U.S. agenda in Latin America. Calderon is ready to be an independent leader, and Bush could find him to be less of an ally than expected.
28738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: March 12, 2007, 11:36:17 PM


Is It Live ... or Yamaha? Channeling Glenn Gould

A “reperformance” of Glenn Gould’s famous 1955 mono rendition of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations played at the Yamaha piano studios in New York on March 7.

NY Times
Published: March 12, 2007

Was that relief I felt as the piano was playing? A feeling that some worry had been alleviated or a fear quieted? Why then was it also mixed with disappointment, as if some deep yearning had been thwarted? Not yet, not yet, not yet: relief and frustration intertwined.

For months I had deliberately avoided listening. A technologically oriented, musically sophisticated company, Zenph Studios (, claimed that it could bring the voices of the musical dead back to life. It could achieve, that is, what technology has long dreamt of: It would make light of the material world and all its restrictions.

Zenph claimed it could take a 50-year-old mono recording and distill from its hiss-laden, squished sound all of the musical information that originally went into it. It wouldn’t “process” the recording to get rid of noise; it wouldn’t pretend to turn mono into stereo; it wouldn’t try to correct things that were sonically “wrong.” Instead the claim was that it would, using its proprietary software, learn from recorded sound precisely how an instrument — a piano, for starters — was played, with what force a key was struck, how far down the sustain pedal was pressed, when each finger moved, how each note was weighted in a complex chord and what sort of timbre was actually produced.

Then it would effectively recreate the instrument. A digital file encoded with this information would be read by Yamaha’s advanced Disklavier Pro — a computerized player piano — and transformed into music. A recorded piano becomes a played piano. This would be sonic teleportation, monochromatic forms reincarnated as three-dimensional sound — not colorization but re-creation.

Zenph also announced it had accomplished this feat of technological legerdemain with one of the most remarkable recordings of the last century: Glenn Gould’s 1955 mono rendition of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations. Gould, who retreated from performance into the private realm of the recording studio where he could splice and fiddle with sound and phrase, would be posthumously pulled back into the realm of public performance.

Gould believed technology liberated performer and listener. Here this pianist, who died in 1982, would be freed from the ultimate constraint.

And indeed, last September in Toronto, Zenph gave a public “reperformance” of Gould’s “Goldbergs” on a specially prepared Yamaha Disklavier. Zenph’s “Goldbergs” inspired a standing ovation from the audience members, many of whom knew Gould and some of whom had heard him play live. The press reports glowed.

Then one day last week Zenph — which took its name from “senf,” the German word for mustard — brought a press demonstration of its “Goldbergs” to Yamaha’s New York piano studios, playing portions of the work both on the Disklavier and from its recording, due to be released at the end of May on Sony BMG Masterworks.

Before the demonstration I returned to the 1955 recording, which I had not heard for several years. I was swept away again. This is not spiritual playing, plumbing the profundity of Bach’s meditations; it is ecstatic, uncanny in its intoxication. The recording is skittish, illuminating, thrilling and extraordinarily physical: the playing seeps into muscles as well as ears; every phrase exerts the pressure and play of dance.

John Q. Walker, Zenph’s president, knows this as well. He is a brilliant software engineer (who did important work in computer networking) and a musician who speaks of his enterprise with impassioned fervor. Last week, when he started the Yamaha instrument playing his encodings of Gould, something thrilling really did take place. The piano produced sounds that were indisputably human and unmistakably Gouldian. The playing could not have come from any other pianist.

But wait. ... Gould’s recorded piano sound is dry, as if each note were squeezed free of moisture. The phrases quiver; connections between notes are tensile, as if they were being held together by sinews. But at the demonstration the sound was often plump, rotund, even bell-like. That is partly the character of Yamaha pianos. And isn’t that a problem? Any great pianist will adjust a performance to the instrument, treating one with a “wet sound” differently from one with more sharply etched qualities, phrasing differently, even adjusting tempo. This difference in instruments limits Zenph’s claims; it also seemed to slacken the music’s sinews.

Presumably though the recording — done on another Yamaha that the piano technician, Marc Wienert, voiced to resemble Gould’s old Steinway — would have a better effect. Yet it leaves a similar impression. Is this some psychoacoustic phenomenon then, some disorientation caused by close familiarity with the old mono sound? When recordings were first becoming widely available at the turn of the 20th century, there were demonstrations in concert halls in which singers would begin a song, and a hidden gramophone with its amplifying horn would complete it. One London newspaper reported: “The most sensitive ear could not detect the slightest difference between the tone of the singer and the tone of the mechanical device.”

Bizarre. But am I experiencing something in reverse, treating sonic antiquity with reverence and not recognizing musical similarities? We all learn languages of listening, ways of interpreting reproductions, imagining full-size orchestras emerging from clock radios, ignoring hisses or distortions, compensating for flaws.

Does the new instrumentation seem less convincing because it disrupts the old familiar language of listening? I don’t think so. In Zenph’s recording, the music’s tensile line really is loosened. I admire what I hear and might not even realize what was missing without comparing, but I am not intoxicated with Gould’s exuberance or infected with his ecstatic amazement. The music is the same, yet not the same.

Of course one might say, “How could it be otherwise?” Think of the kinds of processing and analysis that had to be done: filtering out Gould’s hums or groans, isolating the sound of the piano with all its intricate overtones, taking into account the way sound was compressed or altered by every microphone, processor or wire it passed through.

Then there’s another step: “reverse engineering” the sound, as if reconstructing the instrument that created it. Then another: producing the music from yet another instrument, Yamaha’s Disklavier. And another: recording the music yet again.

The process is mind-bogglingly complex. And at every moment there are also human decisions — adjustments of the piano, musical alterations. Perhaps over time both human practice and technological possibilities will evolve further, leaving fewer distinctions. A recording by Art Tatum is due next from Zenph, along with other recordings from Sony BMG Masterworks’ rich archives.

But why all this effort? (Five man-months for a “reperformance,” as Mr. Walker explained.) Partly perhaps because contemporary sound is considered preferable and marketable. Partly because, as Zenph’s Web site points out, the great recordings of the past are passing into the public domain. The European Union allows just 50 years of protection — and this is a way of maintaining proprietary control.

But is the result really musically superior? It could only be that if there were absolutely nothing lost and every difference were an improvement; neither is the case. This is a disappointment then, though one that is exhilarating in its enterprise and promise.

The disappointment is also a relief. For had Zenph succeeded, there would have been a severe price. Had that really been Gould’s sound coming from the piano, it would have dealt a severe blow indeed to an ancient prejudice: that music, in all its complexity, is beyond the reach of the merely technical, and that it belongs, in creation and interpretation, to humanity’s ever-shrinking domain. Relief: no Gouldian robotics. Yet.

Connections, a critic’s perspective on arts and ideas, appears every other Monday.
28739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: March 12, 2007, 11:02:57 PM
Report: Dirty bomb materials still available

Government reports ‘limited progress’ securing nuclear material worldwidevar cssList = new Array();getCSS("3053751")

By Lisa Myers & the NBC News Investigative Unit
Updated: 44 minutes ago
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Lisa Myers
Senior investigative correspondent
• Profile

WASHINGTON - International inspectors working in the former Soviet republic of Georgia last summer tracked down dangerous radiological materials in an abandoned military complex.

It was an important mission. But a new report by U.S. government watchdogs says a parallel effort overseas by the U.S. Department of Energy has made only "limited progress securing many of the most dangerous sources" — waste disposal sites and abandoned generators across Russia, each with enough material for several devastating dirty bombs.
The new report by the Government Accountability Office says that DOE is doing an admirable job securing low-risk radiological sources — the proverbial low-hanging fruit — at the expense of more dangerous materials that remain vulnerable to terrorists.
“Many of the highest-risk and most dangerous sources still remain unsecured, particularly in Russia,” the GAO writes. “Specifically, 16 or 20 waste storage sites across Russia and Ukraine remain unsecured while more than 700 RTGs [radioisotope thermoelectric generators] remain operational or abandoned in Russia and are vulnerable to theft or potential misuse.”

RTGs can contain up to 250,000 curies of Strontium-90. Experts say an explosion with that amount of Strontium-90 could be dangerous.
"You would cause a significant contamination over a square mile — many, many city blocks, and with the right city blocks, Wall Street or the White House,” says Leonard S. Spector, deputy director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute. “The impact could be very devastating.”
A test explosion by U.S. scientists working at the Sandia National Labs near Albuquerque, N.M., showed how a dirty bomb works: Conventional explosives spread the radioactive material, which can contaminate large areas.

The new report says the DOE has focused most of its energies in the last three years on securing small sources of radioactive materials in Russia and abroad — largely found in medical equipment stored in doctors’ offices.
Meanwhile, the report says, major waste disposal sites sit protected by primitive fences. And more than 700 generators are vulnerable to terrorists.

"If you look at the past six months, we see, I think, an upsurge in criminal and terrorist activity using radioactive materials,” says Charles Ferguson, a science and technology fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Last year, according to the International Atomic Energy Association, there were 85 confirmed thefts or loss of nuclear or radioactive materials worldwide — mostly small amounts. Most of those have not been recovered.
Last fall, al-Qaida’s leader in Iraq called on militant scientists to create dirty bombs to be tested on U.S. bases in Iraq.

“I am disturbingly concerned about this because it can grow into a huge threat,” says Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who will chair a hearing Tuesday on the issue at a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. “These generators are sources that can be used for dirty bombs, and [they are] there for the taking. I feel that DOE is not meeting the priority of our nation in security.”
The report also criticizes the DOE for a “steady” decline in its budget for the International Radiological Threat Reduction program. It says, “[F]uture funding is uncertain because the agency places a higher priority on securing special nuclear material” than it does in protecting dirty-bomb material.

The DOE points out that the GAO report also applauds its efforts in many areas. The agency also says it has made progress, having upgraded security at 500 sites in more than 40 countries. DOE officials say they are now moving to secure more of those high-risk generators and waste sites in Russia, and that their budget request for next year represents a slight increase.

“DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration are committed to securing and removing vulnerable radiological sources around the world,” says Andrew Bieniawski, who heads up the DOE’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, run under the National Nuclear Security Administration.
As of January, the agency has spent approximately $120 million to secure vulnerable radiological sources, an expenditure that demonstrates a strong commitment to a program that has produced tangible results and reduced the risks of terrorists acquiring the materials to make a dirty bomb, Bieniawski said.
28740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 12, 2007, 10:37:19 PM
Iran, Russia: Nuclear Reactors and Geopolitics

Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 12 jumped into the dispute over Russia's construction of a nuclear reactor in Iran, explicitly telling state press that all work will be suspended until the Iranians resume their payments. The message between the lines is clear: Russia will not complete the Bushehr reactor -- or at least not while Putin remains president.


Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 12 personally ordered the suspension of any transfers of nuclear materials and technologies to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant project, ostensibly because of Iran's unwillingness to meet its payment schedule for the project. The idea that Iran, currently flush with petrodollars and facing down the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program, would choose this moment to stop paying its primary political backer, Russia, is an odd one.

The reality is that Putin has no intention of ever completing the Bushehr project.

The Bushehr project dates to 1995, when the Russians agreed to build it for Iran, and was supposed to be completed by 1999. In theory, aside from some simple -- if essential -- component installation, the facility has been ready since 2004. Now, pushing three years later, the project remains a white elephant, and the Russians are claiming the Iranians are not paying for their services.

The nuclear card has been among Iran's most reliable means of drawing Washington's attention and pushing the Americans to take Tehran's concerns over the future of Iraq seriously, so Putin's announcement has delivered the Iranians a strong blow. If a junior minister or representative of a state firm were to insist that a bogus payment problem existed, it easily could be written off as bureaucratic stubbornness or the payment getting lost in the mail. Not so when a president -- particularly one as sober, controlling and exacting as Putin -- puts his personal seal on the policy. Bushehr is not going to be finished.

This does not eliminate Iran's nuclear card. Tehran still has its uranium conversion program at Isfahan, its uranium enrichment program at Natanz, and a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak, but these facilities are not under regular international inspections, and moreover have direct uses in a nuclear weapons program. (Though uranium power reactors such as Bushehr can be used in a weapons program, they require extensive additional support infrastructure first.) It is far more difficult to convince the West -- and especially the Europeans, who are less inclined to view Iranian plans as nefarious -- that these facilities are all for the peaceful development of nuclear energy when one's power plant is not getting off the ground.

Ultimately, it is all political. Russia uses Bushehr as a means of injecting its influence into the Middle East, positioning itself as an impossible-to-ignore go-between for the West and Iran. So long as the facility is under construction, Moscow has maximized its leverage with all parties.

Should the facility ever come on line, however, Moscow will lose hugely. First, the West would be furious with Russia for giving Iran functional nuclear technology, severely damaging Russian relations with the West. Second, with Bushehr operational, neither the West nor Iran would need to keep talking to Russia about the Iranian nuclear power program. Third, Iran is not a natural Russian ally. The two have fought in a number of wars and actively compete for influence in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. A nuclear-armed Iran is actually more of a long-term threat to Russia than it is to the United States, which a strategist like Putin knows well.

Not even in the case of a breach in U.S.-Russian relations -- and those relations are not exactly in tip-top shape -- will Putin change this policy. There is only one conceivable policy evolution in Russia that would allow Iran access to Russian nuclear technology: regime change that saw the ejection of Putin and his inner circle of pragmatists in favor of Russia's siloviki.

The siloviki are a loosely aligned group of Russian nationalists and ultranationalists who dominate the country's military, intelligence and foreign policy apparatus and share the goal of resurrecting Russia as a great power. One of the siloviki's most glaring weaknesses is that they consider anything bad for the United States by definition good for Russia. Many siloviki have declared their support for proliferating nuclear technology far and wide in order to complicate U.S. efforts globally.

Under a siloviki government, therefore, Russia might actually give Iran what it needs to make Bushehr operational -- and perhaps even more -- but not until then.
28741  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: March 12, 2007, 02:40:27 PM
Court Papers Show How 'Iron River' of Guns Flows Into Mexico

Monday , March 12, 2007

MESA, Ariz. —
Human and drug-smuggling organizations in Mexico are getting their guns from the same places law-abiding U.S. citizens are getting theirs: licensed gun dealers and gun shows, according to court documents.

"There's an iron river of guns flowing to Mexico," said special agent Thomas Mangan, spokesman for the Phoenix office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Search warrant affidavits show smugglers are getting guns from "straw purchasers," people with clean records who buy guns for smugglers, who then sneak them across the border for a few hundred dollars.  Records show the weaponry is bought from legitimate dealers in U.S. cities from Tucson to Scottsdale and Apache Junction to Avondale.

On Jan. 21, agents with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Cedric Lloyd Manuel and Miguel Apodaca of Phoenix with nine assault rifles at the Arizona-Mexico border.  The guns had been bought the day before at gun stores in Apache Junction, Scottsdale and Phoenix. They were purchased by three brothers, Lucio, Rosendo and Marcos Aguilar.  Between November and the Jan. 21 arrests at the border, the Aguilars and others in the straw-purchasing crew bought 66 assault rifles, records show.

"Manuel (Aguilar) stated that he had taken probably about 20 loads of firearms into Mexico over the past couple of months," ATF special agent Heidi Peterson wrote in the affidavit.  The Aguilar family, Manuel Apodaca and the alleged ringleader, Blas Bustamante, have been charged in U.S. District Court with gun violations.  Mangan said the value of guns triples across the border.

He said Mexican crime organizations use the same infrastructure for smuggling humans and drugs north as they do to move the guns south.
He said the agency is working on a number of Arizona gun trafficking investigations while they also work with Mexican authorities to trace guns used in crimes across the border.

One such crime was the shooting of Ramon Tacho Verdugo, the 49-year-old police chief of Agua Prieta, Sonora, who was gunned down as he left the police station Feb. 26.
28742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 12, 2007, 11:01:59 AM

U.S./SAUDI ARABIA: The United States will hold separate talks with Israel and Saudi Arabia before an Arab League summit in Riyadh in late March in order to come to a compromise on the so-called Saudi initiative for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
28743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 12, 2007, 10:59:29 AM
AFGHANISTAN: Swiss weekly newspaper SonntagsBlick reported that former Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, who was captured in February in Pakistan, was set free after only two days. While the report has not been confirmed by Pakistan, a SonntagsBlick reporter allegedly met with the former leader Feb. 28.

PAKISTAN: More than 20 people were injured when riot police clashed with 3,000 lawyers in Pakistan. The lawyers were striking to protest the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The strike affected superior and lower courts all over the country.

AFGHANISTAN: The first joint meeting of the Pakistani-Afghan Jirga Commission began. The two-day talks are aimed at convening traditional jirga meetings on both sides of the border in an attempt to control violence in the tribal regions. These talks also will include a discussion of ways to stop illegal cross-border migration.

PAKISTAN: U.S. and Pakistani agents have arrested two suspected German terrorists in Pakistan, German magazine Der Spiegel reported. The men are accused of contacting terrorists and visiting an al Qaeda camp near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
28744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: March 12, 2007, 10:57:02 AM
This is the first I have seen explicitly linking Russia's Bushehr plant and Iran's enrichment program.

RUSSIA/IRAN: Russia and Iran have begun talks that could last several days to settle financial issues related to the construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, an Atomstroyexport spokesman said. The announcement came after Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to delay completion of the plant until Iran ends its uranium enrichment program.
RUSSIANS: IRAN NUKE PLANT TO BE DELAYED: The state-run Russian company building Iran's first nuclear power plant said Monday that the reactor's launch will be postponed because of Iranian payment delays. Russian media reports, meanwhile, indicated that the Kremlin was growing tired of Iran's nuclear defiance in the face of U.N. Security Council sanctions, with three agencies citing an unidentified official warning Iran to cooperate and stop playing "anti-American games."

IRAN: Iran should make concessions to the international community regarding its nuclear program to avoid additional sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said in an interview with economic daily Sanaat va Tosee.
28745  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: March 12, 2007, 10:31:25 AM

Hospital security staff are being equipped with stab-proof vests, shields and helmets to protect them against violent patients and relatives.
The protection is available to staff at hospitals in Cheshire in response to an unprecedented numbers of assualts against doctors and nurses.
Last year across the UK, there were 75,000 attacks on NHS staff - one every seven minutes.

It is estimated that the violence costs the NHS around £100,000 a year in security, time off for affected staff, and legal costs.
Nursing leaders say violence against staff is 'endemic' in the NHS, making them dangerous and 'traumatic' places to work.

Managers at North Cheshire NHS trust, which covers Halton and Warrington hospitals, decided to act after 73 assaults occured at the hospitals in 2005/06.
A spokesman said: "Security staff have been issued with stab-proof vests. Helmets and shields are available."
Security staff are called in by doctors and nurses when situations get out of hand.
Chris Todd, the trust's security management specialist, said: "Our main priority is safeguarding the well-being off out staff and patients.
"We meet with our local police and community support officers to discuss how we can address these issues at a local level.
"The trust will not tolerate abusive physical or verbal behaviour from patients or relatives towards any of our staff.

"We keep a thorough record of all incidents and will be tracking the progress of any of these matters through the criminal justice system."
All staff attend conflict resolution training sessions, to help them recognise and defuse potentially violent situations.
The number of incidents in 2006/07 is expected to be lower than the previous year.
Hospitals across the country are taking their own measures to deal with violence on NHS wards.
In Nottingham, plain-clothed police officers have been brought in to patrol wards and step in at the first sign of trouble.

Undercover officers began patrolling the accident and emergency department at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham at the weekend.
Inspector Andy Baguley of Nottinghamshire Police said violence in hospitals is a crime and should not be tolerated.
He said: "Doctors, nurses and other staff shouldn't have to put up with rowdy and abusive behaviour."
Last week the BBC's Panorama programme revealed that the vast majority of assaults never reached the courts.

Of 58,700 incidents in England in the year 2005/06, only 850 ended with a prosecution.
A survey by the Royal College of Nursing found that 80 per cent of accident and emergency nurses had suffered harrassment or assault over the past year, and a quarter claimed they had been physically assaulted.
The violence problem in England prompted the Department of Health last June to unveil a crackdown on violence and verbal abuse in England's hospitals.
They promised that anyone being threatening or abusive to NHS staff would be slapped with a £1,000 fine and bosses would have the power to remove them from the premisis.

Patients and those needing treatment would be treated but could still later face fines or be subject to criminal action.
Last year St James Hospital in Leeds introduced police onto its wards to protect staff from physical and verbal abuse.
28746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: March 12, 2007, 04:55:53 AM
AFPA [American Fitness Professionals &
Associates] March 2007 Health & Fitness
Newsletter Online vol. 12 no. 3

"There are no great people in this world, only
great challenges which ordinary people rise to
William "Bull" Halsey, Admiral 1882-1595

Table of Contents:

AFPA Fitness Conferences for Spring 2007
AFPA announces Pilates Fitness Instructor
Level II Certification
Depression Promotes Heart Problems
Why Doctors Miss Colon Cancer
Why Exercising as You Age Becomes More
Important and Challenging
Fruits and Vegetables Improve Male Fertility

Take advantage of AFPA's Resources
Use Folic Acid to Cut Heart Disease, Say

Depression Promotes Heart Problems

Depression appears to increase the
development of blood vessel plaques, known
as atherosclerosis, a condition that can lead to
heart attack, stroke, and a host of other
cardiovascular problems, according to a report
in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Patients' psychological status influence quality
of life, and may also have a "significant impact"
on their physical status, including cardiovascular
health, Dr. Jesse C. Stewart, from Indiana
University-Purdue University Indianapolis, told
Reuters Health.

Stewart and colleagues evaluated the contribution of
depression, anxiety, and anger to atherosclerosis
among 324 men and women between 50 and 70
years old.

Symptom scoring tests evaluated the presence
of depression, anxiety and anger, while the
extent of atherosclerosis was accessed using
an imaging test, which measured the thickness
of the walls of the carotid arteries, major blood
vessels in the neck that carry oxygen to the

Why Doctors Miss Colon Cancer

An interesting study underscored one more
reason, among a seemingly, never-ending
number of them, why patients may die from the
errors their doctors make: Your physician may be
missing signs of colon cancer right in front of

Among more than 12,000 colon cancer
patients, 430 patients had a new or missed
tumor that was diagnosed anywhere from six
months to three years after having a
colonoscopy. What's more, family physicians
and internists who did their own colonoscopies
were generally far more prone to miss colon
cancer, with women (85 percent) edging men
(77 percent).

The other troublesome variable, Canadian
researchers discovered, was where a
colonoscopy was performed. An office setting
tripled the risk of new or missed cancers
among men and doubled it among women.
Fortunately, there are many natural measures
you can take -- none of which have anything to
do with a drug, doctor or procedure -- to
prevent or fight colon cancer. A few to get you

Have your C-reactive protein levels checked
and reduce them, if necessary.
Get the right amount of exercise.
Rebalance the ratio of omega-3 fats you
consume by taking a high quality fish oil or krill
Eat plenty of vegetables, ideally based on your
body's unique metabolic type.

Gastroenterology, Vol. 132, No. 1, January
2007: 96-102
Yahoo News February 23, 2007

Why Exercising as You Age Becomes More
Important and Challenging

A biological process called AMP-activated
protein kinase (AMPK), which boosts muscles,
begins to fail with advancing age. This leads to
a need for increased effort to achieve the
same effects from exercise, and could help
explain the link between aging and type 2

AMPK stimulates the body to burn off fat by
producing mitochondria, the power sources of
cells. The skeletal muscles of athletes have
been found to contain a much higher number
of mitochondria, which is likely linked to AMPK

When scientists compared the skeletal muscle
of 3-month-old rats and 2-year-olds, they found
that AMPK was significantly slowed down in
older animals. In addition, the muscle of young
rats who did more exercise had double the
normal AMPK activity, but this effect was not
nearly as strong in older rats.

Older people have more fat in their muscles
and livers than younger people do. These fat
cells have been linked to insulin resistance and
type 2 diabetes.

Cell Metabolism February 7, 2007; 5(2): 151-
BBC News February 10, 2007
Science Daily February 7, 2007

Fruits and Vegetables Improve Male Fertility

A new study shows that eating fruits and
vegetables can improve fertility in men.
Researchers from the University of Rochester
compared the dietary intake of antioxidants of
10 fertile and 48 infertile men and correlated
the findings with sperm motility. Infertile men
were twice as likely to have a low intake of
fruits and vegetables (fewer than five servings
per day) compared with fertile men. Also, men
with the lowest overall intake of dietary
antioxidants had lower sperm motility than men
with higher intakes.

Lewis V, Kochman L, Herko R, Brewer K,
Andolina E, Song G. Dietary antioxidants and
sperm quality in infertile men.Paper presented
at: Annual Scientific Meeting of the American
Society for Reproductive Medicine; October
2006; New Orleans.

Please make sure you take advantage of our
monthly online newsletter at:

Also please note that AFPA has archived

As well as articles:

Site Search for Information:

Use Folic Acid to Cut Heart Disease, Say

The scientific evidence is strong enough to
justify using folic acid as a cheap and simple
way of reducing heart disease and strokes.

Debate continues over whether raised
homocysteine levels in the blood (an amino
acid implicated in the development of arterial
disease) causes heart disease and stroke, and
whether folic acid, which lowers homocysteine,
will help reduce the risk of these disorders.
So heart expert, Dr David Wald and colleagues
set out to clarify the issue. They examined all
the evidence from different studies to see
whether raised homocysteine is a cause of
cardiovascular disease.

Some studies looked at homocysteine and the
occurrence of heart attacks and strokes in
large numbers of people (cohort studies),
some focused on people with a common
genetic variant which increases homocysteine
levels to a small extent (genetic studies), while
others tested the effects of lowering
homocysteine levels (randomised controlled

The conclusion that homocysteine is a cause
of cardiovascular disease explains the
observations from all the different types of
study, even if the results from one type of
study are, on their own, insufficient to reach
that conclusion, say the authors.

Since folic acid reduces homocysteine
concentrations, it follows that increasing folic
acid consumption will reduce the risk of heart
attack and stroke.
They therefore take the view that the evidence
is now sufficient to justify action on lowering
homocysteine concentrations, although the
position should be reviewed as evidence from
ongoing clinical trials emerges.

BMJ Volume 333 pp 1114-7 Click here to view
Source: Diabetes In Control
28747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: March 11, 2007, 11:13:38 AM
Here's the URL:
28748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 11, 2007, 09:43:49 AM
Perhaps I'm stretching the term "related technology" but I didn't know where else to put this and it didn't deserve its own thread:

Tired of getting recorded messages?  This site gives 500 contact numbers and instructions as to how to get a live human for customer service.

28749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dark Energy Part Two on: March 11, 2007, 09:28:05 AM
(Page 4 of 6)

The challenge with dark energy, as opposed to dark matter, is even more difficult. Dark energy is whatever it is that’s making the expansion of the universe accelerate, but, for instance, does it change over time and space? If so, then cosmologists have a name for it: quintessence. Does it not change? In that case, they’ll call it the cosmological constant, a version of the mathematical fudge factor that Einstein originally inserted into the equations for relativity to explain why the universe had neither expanded nor contracted itself out of existence.

After the discovery of dark energy, Perlmutter concluded that the next generation of dark-energy telescopes would have to include a space-based observatory. But the search for financing for such an ambitious project can require as much forbearance as the search for dark energy itself. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much of Washington as I have in the last few years,” he says, sighing. Even if his Supernova Acceleration Probe didn’t now face competition from several other proposals for federal financing (including, perhaps inevitably, one involving his old rival Riess), delays have prevented it from being ready to launch until at least the middle of the next decade. “Ten years from now,” says Josh Frieman of the University of Chicago, “when we’re talking about spending on the order of a billion dollars to put something up in space — which I think we should do — you’re getting into that class where you’re spending real money.”

Even some cosmologists have begun to express reservations. At a conference at Durham University in England last summer, a “whither cosmology?” panel featuring some of the field’s most prominent names questioned the wisdom of concentrating so much money and manpower on one problem. They pointed to what happened when the government-sponsored Dark Energy Task Force solicited proposals for experiments a couple of years ago. The task force was expecting a dozen, according to one member. They got three dozen. Cosmology was choosing a “risky and not very cost-effective way of moving forward,” one Durham panelist told me later, summarizing the sentiment he heard there.

But even if somebody were to figure out whether or not dark energy changes across time and space, astronomers still wouldn’t know what dark energy itself is. “The term doesn’t mean anything,” said David Schlegel of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory this past fall. “It might not be dark. It might not be energy. The whole name is a placeholder. It’s a placeholder for the description that there’s something funny that was discovered eight years ago now that we don’t understand.” Not that theorists haven’t been trying. “It’s just nonstop,” Perlmutter told me. “There’s article after article after article.” He likes to begin public talks with a PowerPoint illustration: papers on dark energy piling up, one on top of the next, until the on-screen stack ascends into the dozens. All the more reason not to put all of cosmology’s eggs into one research basket, argued the Durham panelists. As one summarized the situation, “We don’t even have a hypothesis to test.”

Michael Turner won’t hear of it. “This is one of these godsend problems!” he says. “If you’re a scientist, you’d like to be around when there’s a great problem to work on and solve. The solution is not obvious, and you could imagine it being solved tomorrow, you could imagine it taking another 10 years or you could imagine it taking another 200 years.”

But you could also imagine it taking forever.

“Time to get serious.” The PowerPoint slide, teal letters popping off a black background, stared back at a hotel ballroom full of cosmologists. They gathered in Chicago last winter for a “New Views of the Universe” conference, and Sean Carroll, then at the University of Chicago, had taken it upon himself to give his theorist colleagues their marching orders.

“There was a heyday for talking out all sorts of crazy ideas,” Carroll, now at Caltech, recently explained. That heyday would have been the heady, post-1998 period when Michael Turner might stand up at a conference and turn to anyone voicing caution and say, “Can’t we be exuberant for a while?” But now has come the metaphorical morning after, and with it a sobering realization: Maybe the universe isn’t simple enough for dummies like us humans. Maybe it’s not just our powers of perception that aren’t up to the task but also our powers of conception. Extraordinary claims like the dawn of a new universe might require extraordinary evidence, but what if that evidence has to be literally beyond the ordinary? Astronomers now realize that dark matter probably involves matter that is nonbaryonic. And whatever it is that dark energy involves, we know it’s not “normal,” either. In that case, maybe this next round of evidence will have to be not only beyond anything we know but also beyond anything we know how to know.


(Page 5 of 6)

That possibility always gnaws at scientists — what Perlmutter calls “that sense of tentativeness, that we have gotten so far based on so little.” Cosmologists in particular have had to confront that possibility throughout the birth of their science. “At various times in the past 20 years it could have gotten to the point where there was no opportunity for advance,” Frieman says. What if, for instance, researchers couldn’t repeat the 1963 Bell Labs detection of the supposed echo from the big bang? Smoot and John C. Mather of NASA (who shared the Nobel in Physics with Smoot) designed the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite telescope to do just that. COBE looked for extremely subtle differences in temperature throughout all of space that carry the imprint of the universe when it was less than a second old. And in 1992, COBE found them: in effect, the quantum fluctuations that 13.7 billion years later would coalesce into a universe that is 22 percent dark matter, 74 percent dark energy and 4 percent the stuff of us.

And if the right ripples hadn’t shown up? As Frieman puts it: “You just would have thrown up your hands and said, ‘My God, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board!’ What’s remarkable to me is that so far that hasn’t happpened.”

Yet in a way it has. In the observation-and-theory, call-and-response system of investigating nature that scientists have refined over the past 400 years, the dark side of the universe represents a disruption. General relativity helped explain the observations of the expanding universe, which led to the idea of the big bang, which anticipated the observations of the cosmic-microwave background, which led to the revival of Einstein’s cosmological constant, which anticipated the observations of supernovae, which led to dark energy. And dark energy is ... ?

The difficulty in answering that question has led some cosmologists to ask an even deeper question: Does dark energy even exist? Or is it perhaps an inference too far? Cosmologists have another saying they like to cite: “You get to invoke the tooth fairy only once,” meaning dark matter, “but now we have to invoke the tooth fairy twice,” meaning dark energy.

One of the most compelling arguments that cosmologists have for the existence of dark energy (whatever it is) is that unlike earlier inferences that physicists eventually had to abandon — the ether that 19th-century physicists thought pervaded space, for instance — this inference makes mathematical sense. Take Perlmutter’s and Riess’s observations of supernovae, apply one cornerstone of 20th-century physics, general relativity, and you have a universe that does indeed consist of .26 matter, dark or otherwise, and .74 something that accelerates the expansion. Yet in another way, dark energy doesn’t add up. Take the observations of supernovae, apply the other cornerstone of 20th-century physics, quantum theory, and you get gibberish — you get an answer 120 orders of magnitude larger than .74.

Which doesn’t mean that dark energy is the ether of our age. But it does mean that its implications extend beyond cosmology to a problem Einstein spent the last 30 years of his life trying to reconcile: how to unify his new physics of the very large (general relativity) with the new physics of the very small (quantum mechanics). What makes the two incompatible — where the physics breaks down — is gravity.

In physics, gravity is the ur-inference. Even Newton admitted that he was making it up as he went along. That a force of attraction might exist between two distant objects, he once wrote in a letter, is “so great an Absurdity that I believe no Man who has in philosophical Matters a competent Faculty of thinking can ever fall into it.” Yet fall into it we all do on a daily basis, and physicists are no exception. “I don’t think we really understand what gravity is,” Vera Rubin says. “So in some sense we’re doing an awful lot on something we don’t know much about.”

It hasn’t escaped the notice of astronomers that both dark matter and dark energy involve gravity. Early this year 50 physicists gathered for a “Rethinking Gravity” conference at the University of Arizona to discuss variations on general relativity. “So far, Einstein is coming through with flying colors,” says Sean Carroll, who was one of the gravity-defying participants. “He’s always smarter than you think he was.”

But he’s not necessarily inviolate. “We’ve never tested gravity across the whole universe before,” Riess pointed out during a news conference last year. “It may be that there’s not really dark energy, that that’s a figment of our misperception about gravity, that gravity actually changes the way it operates on long ranges.”

The only way out, cosmologists and particle physicists agree, would be a “new physics” — a reconciliation of general relativity and quantum mechanics. “Understanding dark energy,” Riess says, “seems to really require understanding and using both of those theories at the same time.”


Page 6 of 6)

“It’s been so hard that we’re even willing to consider listening to string theorists,” Perlmutter says, referring to work that posits numerous dimensions beyond the traditional (one of time and three of space). “They’re at least providing a language in which you can talk about both things at the same time.”

According to quantum theory, particles can pop into and out of existence. In that case, maybe the universe itself was born in one such quantum pop. And if one universe can pop into existence, then why not many universes? String theorists say that number could be 10 raised to the power of 500. Those are 10-with-500-zeros universes, give or take. In which case, our universe would just happen to be the one with an energy density of .74, a condition suitable for the existence of creatures that can contemplate their hyper-Copernican existence.

And this is just one of a number of theories that have been popping into existence, quantum-particle-like, in the past few years: parallel universes, intersecting universes or, in the case of Stephen Hawking and Thomas Hertog just last summer, a superposition of universes. But what evidence — extraordinary or otherwise — can anyone offer for such claims? The challenge is to devise an experiment that would do for a new physics what COBE did for the big bang. Predictions in string theory, as in the 10-to-the-power-of-500-universes hypothesis, depend on the existence of extra dimensions, a stipulation that just might put the burden back on particle physics — specifically, the hope that evidence of extra dimensions will emerge in the Large Hadron Collider, or perhaps in its proposed successor, the International Linear Collider, which might come online sometime around 2020, or maybe in the supercollider after that, if the industrial nations of 2030 decide they can afford it.

“You want your mind to be boggled,” Perlmutter says. “That is a pleasure in and of itself. And it’s more a pleasure if it’s boggled by something that you can then demonstrate is really, really true.”

And if you can’t demonstrate that it’s really, really true?

“If the brilliant idea doesn’t come along,” Riess says, “then we will say dark energy has exactly these properties, it acts exactly like this. And then” — a shrug — “we will put it in a box.” And there it will remain, residing perhaps not far from the box labeled “Dark Matter,” and the two of them bookending the biggest box of them all, “Gravity,” to await a future Newton or Einstein to open — or not.
28750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Physics & Mathematics on: March 11, 2007, 09:27:20 AM
Dark Energy
NY Times

Three days after learning that he won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, George Smoot was talking about the universe. Sitting across from him in his office at the University of California, Berkeley, was Saul Perlmutter, a fellow cosmologist and a probable future Nobelist in Physics himself. Bearded, booming, eyes pinwheeling from adrenaline and lack of sleep, Smoot leaned back in his chair. Perlmutter, onetime acolyte, longtime colleague, now heir apparent, leaned forward in his.

“Time and time again,” Smoot shouted, “the universe has turned out to be really simple.”

Perlmutter nodded eagerly. “It’s like, why are we able to understand the universe at our level?”

“Right. Exactly. It’s a universe for beginners! ‘The Universe for Dummies’!”

But as Smoot and Perlmutter know, it is also inarguably a universe for Nobelists, and one that in the past decade has become exponentially more complicated. Since the invention of the telescope four centuries ago, astronomers have been able to figure out the workings of the universe simply by observing the heavens and applying some math, and vice versa. Take the discovery of moons, planets, stars and galaxies, apply Newton’s laws and you have a universe that runs like clockwork. Take Einstein’s modifications of Newton, apply the discovery of an expanding universe and you get the big bang. “It’s a ridiculously simple, intentionally cartoonish picture,” Perlmutter said. “We’re just incredibly lucky that that first try has matched so well.”

But is our luck about to run out? Smoot’s and Perlmutter’s work is part of a revolution that has forced their colleagues to confront a universe wholly unlike any they have ever known, one that is made of only 4 percent of the kind of matter we have always assumed it to be — the material that makes up you and me and this magazine and all the planets and stars in our galaxy and in all 125 billion galaxies beyond. The rest — 96 percent of the universe — is ... who knows?

“Dark,” cosmologists call it, in what could go down in history as the ultimate semantic surrender. This is not “dark” as in distant or invisible. This is “dark” as in unknown for now, and possibly forever.

If so, such a development would presumably not be without philosophical consequences of the civilization-altering variety. Cosmologists often refer to this possibility as “the ultimate Copernican revolution”: not only are we not at the center of anything; we’re not even made of the same stuff as most of the rest of everything. “We’re just a bit of pollution,” Lawrence M. Krauss, a theorist at Case Western Reserve, said not long ago at a public panel on cosmology in Chicago. “If you got rid of us, and all the stars and all the galaxies and all the planets and all the aliens and everybody, then the universe would be largely the same. We’re completely irrelevant.”

All well and good. Science is full of homo sapiens-humbling insights. But the trade-off for these lessons in insignificance has always been that at least now we would have a deeper — simpler — understanding of the universe. That the more we could observe, the more we would know. But what about the less we could observe? What happens to new knowledge then? It’s a question cosmologists have been asking themselves lately, and it might well be a question we’ll all be asking ourselves soon, because if they’re right, then the time has come to rethink a fundamental assumption: When we look up at the night sky, we’re seeing the universe.

Not so. Not even close.

In 1963, two scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey discovered a microwave signal that came from every direction of the heavens. Theorists at nearby Princeton University soon realized that this signal might be the echo from the beginning of the universe, as predicted by the big-bang hypothesis. Take the idea of a cosmos born in a primordial fireball and cooling down ever since, apply the discovery of a microwave signal with a temperature that corresponded precisely to the one that was predicted by theorists — 2.7 degrees above absolute zero — and you have the universe as we know it. Not Newton’s universe, with its stately, eternal procession of benign objects, but Einstein’s universe, violent, evolving, full of births and deaths, with the grandest birth and, maybe, death belonging to the cosmos itself.

But then, in the 1970s, astronomers began noticing something that didn’t seem to fit with the laws of physics. They found that spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way were spinning at such a rate that they should have long ago wobbled out of control, shredding apart, shedding stars in every direction. Yet clearly they had done no such thing. They were living fast but not dying young. This seeming paradox led theorists to wonder if a halo of a hypothetical something else might be cocooning each galaxy, dwarfing each flat spiral disk of stars and gas at just the right mass ratio to keep it gravitationally intact. Borrowing a term from the astronomer Fritz Zwicky, who detected the same problem with the motions of a whole cluster of galaxies back in the 1930s, decades before anyone else took the situation seriously, astronomers called this mystery mass “dark matter.”


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So there was more to the universe than meets the eye. But how much more? This was the question Saul Perlmutter’s team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory set out to answer in the late 1980s. Actually, they wanted to settle an issue that had been nagging astronomers ever since Edwin Hubble discovered in 1929 that the universe seems to be expanding. Gravity, astronomers figured, would be slowing the expansion, and the more matter the greater the gravitational effect. But was the amount of matter in the universe enough to slow the expansion until it eventually stopped, reversed course and collapsed in a backward big bang? Or was the amount of matter not quite enough to do this, in which case the universe would just go on expanding forever? Just how much was the expansion of the universe slowing down?

The tool the team would be using was a specific type of exploding star, or supernova, that reaches a roughly uniform brightness and so can serve as what astronomers call a standard candle. By comparing how bright supernovae appear and how much the expansion of the universe has shifted their light, cosmologists sought to determine the rate of the expansion. “I was trying to tell everybody that this is the measurement that everybody should be doing,” Perlmutter says. “I was trying to convince them that this is going to be the tool of the future.” Perlmutter talks like a microcassette on fast-forward, and he possesses the kind of psychological dexterity that allows him to walk into a room and instantly inhabit each person’s point of view. He can be as persuasive as any force of nature. “The next thing I know,” he says, “we’ve convinced people, and now they’re competing with us!”

By 1997, Perlmutter’s Supernova Cosmology Project and a rival team had amassed data from more than 50 supernovae between them — data that would reveal yet another oddity in the cosmos. Perlmutter noticed that the supernovae weren’t brighter than expected but dimmer. He wondered if he had made a mistake in his observations. A few months later, Adam Riess, a member of a rival international team, noticed the same general drift in his math and wondered the same thing. “I’m a postdoc,” he told himself. “I’m sure I’ve messed up in at least 10 different ways.” But Perlmutter double-checked for intergalactic dust that might have skewed his readings, and Riess cross-checked his math, calculation by calculation, with his team leader, Brian Schmidt. Early in 1998, the two teams announced that they had each independently reached the same conclusion, and it was the opposite of what either of them expected. The rate of the expansion of the universe was not slowing down. Instead, it seemed to be speeding up.

That same year, Michael Turner, the prominent University of Chicago theorist, delivered a paper in which he called this antigravitational force “dark energy.” The purpose of calling it “dark,” he explained recently, was to highlight the similarity to dark matter. The purpose of “energy” was to make a distinction. “It really is very different from dark matter,” Turner said. “It’s more energylike.”

More energylike how, exactly?

Turner raised his eyebrows. “I’m not embarrassed to say it’s the most profound mystery in all of science.”

Extraordinary claims,” Carl Sagan once said, “require extraordinary evidence.” Astronomers love that saying; they quote it all the time. In this case the claim could have hardly been more extraordinary: a new universe was dawning.

It wouldn’t be the first time. We once thought the night sky consisted of the several thousand objects we could see with the naked eye. But the invention of the telescope revealed that it didn’t, and that the farther we saw, the more we saw: planets, stars, galaxies. After that we thought the night sky consisted of only the objects the eye could see with the assistance of telescopes that reached all the way back to the first stars blinking to life. But the discovery of wavelengths beyond the optical revealed that it didn’t, and that the more we saw in the radio or infrared or X-ray parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, the more we discovered: evidence for black holes, the big bang and the distances of supernovae, for starters.


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The difference with “dark,” however, is that it lies not only outside the visible but also beyond the entire electromagnetic spectrum. By all indications, it consists of data that our five senses can’t detect other than indirectly. The motions of galaxies don’t make sense unless we infer the existence of dark matter. The brightness of supernovae doesn’t make sense unless we infer the existence of dark energy. It’s not that inference can’t be a powerful tool: an apple falls to the ground, and we infer gravity. But it can also be an incomplete tool: gravity is ... ?

Dark matter is ... ? In the three decades since most astronomers decisively, if reluctantly, accepted the existence of dark matter, observers have eliminated the obvious answer: that dark matter is made of normal matter that is so far away or so dim that it can’t be seen from earth. To account for the dark-matter deficit, this material would have to be so massive and so numerous that we couldn’t possibly miss it.

Which leaves abnormal matter, or what physicists call nonbaryonic matter, meaning that it doesn’t consist of the protons and neutrons of “normal” matter. What’s more (or, perhaps more accurately, less), it doesn’t interact at all with electricity or magnetism, which is why we wouldn’t be able to see it, and it can rarely interact even with protons and neutrons, which is why trillions of these particles might be passing through you every second without your knowing it. Theorists have narrowed the search for dark-matter particles to two hypothetical candidates: the axion and the neutralino. But so far efforts to create one of these ghostly particles in accelerators, which mimic the high levels of energy in the first fraction of a second after the birth of the universe, have come up empty. So have efforts to catch one in ultrasensitive detectors, which number in the dozens around the world.

For now, dark-matter physicists are hanging their hopes on the Large Hadron Collider, the latest-generation subatomic-particle accelerator, which goes online later this year at the European Center for Nuclear Research on the Franco-Swiss border. Many cosmologists think that the L.H.C. has made the creation of a dark-matter particle — as George Smoot said, holding up two fingers — “this close.” But one of the pioneer astronomers investigating dark matter in the 1970s, Vera Rubin, says that she has lived through plenty of this kind of optimism; she herself predicted in 1980 that dark matter would be identified within a decade. “I hope he’s right,” she says of Smoot’s assertion. “But I think it’s more a wish than a belief.” As one particle physicist commented at a “Dark Universe” symposium at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore a few years ago, “If we fail to see anything in the L.H.C., then I’m off to do something else,” adding, “Unfortunately, I’ll be off to do something else at the same time as hundreds of other physicists.”

Juan Collar might be among them. “I know I speak for a generation of people who have been looking for dark-matter particles since they were grad students,” he said one wintry afternoon in his University of Chicago office. “I doubt how many of us will remain in the field if the L.H.C. brings home bad news. I have been looking for dark-matter particles for more than 15 years. I’m 42. So most of my colleagues, my age, we are kind of going through a midlife crisis.” He laughed. “When we get together and we drink enough beer, we start howling at the moon.”

Although many scientists say that the existence of the axion will be proved or disproved within the next 10 years — as a result of work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — the detection of a neutralino one way or the other is much less certain. A negative result from an experiment might mean only that theorists haven’t thought hard enough or that observers haven’t looked deep enough. “It could very well be that Mother Nature has decided that the neutralino is way down there,” Collar said, pointing not to a graph that he taped up in his office but to a point below the sheet of paper itself, at the blank wall. “If that is the case,” he went on to say, “we should retreat and worship Mother Nature. These particles maybe exist, but we will not see them, our sons will not see them and their sons won’t see them.”

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