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28701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: January 14, 2007, 08:24:03 PM


Rome, 10 Jan. (AKI) - Italian conservative MP Daniela Santanche has received death threats over her opposition to the Muslim veil, Italy's leading paper Corriere della Sera reported in a front-page article on Wednesday. Santanche reportedly received a letter in Arabic and English at her lower house office Tuesday night with pictures of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, murdered in 2004 by an Islamist fundamentalist for his movie Submission, which denounced violence on women in Muslim countries, and Dutch MP Hirsi Ali, the film's author, who has also received death threats.

"This is the hour of my liberation...your time has come," the note said. The message also carried a paragraph from the BBC World website on 23 October, describing Santanche as an MP who "has said the veil is not required by the Koran" and has been described as "an infidel by an imam."

Santanche, a leading member of the right-wing National Alliance Party in Italy's opposition, has been under police escort since late October last year, when her criticism of the Muslim veil led to threats which were considered serious by security officials, including those of Muslim cleric Aby Shwaima, the imam of the mosque of Segrate in Milan and one of the founders of Italy's largest Muslim group UCOII, who slammed her as an "infidel" during a television show on Sky Italia on 20 October.

Shwaima's outrage was sparked by two television interviews given by Santanche in which she had said that the Muslim veil "is not a religious symbol and it is not required by the Koran" and that "it is not a symbol of freedom."
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Politics&loid=8.0.374 993235&par
28702  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: January 14, 2007, 08:10:31 PM


Iranian, Nicaraguan leaders meet, vow to work together

POSTED: 2352 GMT (0752 HKT), January 14, 2007


var clickExpire = "02/13/2007";Story Highlights

• Iran's president met with Nicaragua's president Sunday in Managua
• Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Venezuela's president Saturday
• Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad join for projects to combat U.S. influence
• Ahmadinejad said Latin American nations will work together against America
Adjust font size:



MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Iran's hardline president expanded his courtship of allies in his standoff with Washington on Sunday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged deeper ties with Nicaragua's leftist leader through the opening of new embassies in each other's capitals.

Ahmadinejad was in Managua as part of a whirlwind series of meetings with Latin America's newly inaugurated leftist leaders.
He visited fellow OPEC member Venezuela on Saturday, vowing with President Hugo Chavez to spend billions of dollars financing projects in other countries to combat the global influence of their common enemy, the United States.
Ahmadinejad's tour comes as he faces rising criticism at home for his handling of the international debate over his country's nuclear program and its alleged meddling in Iraq.

Conservatives and reformists alike have blamed his provocative remarks for increasingly isolating Iran, which now faces sanctions for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.

President of a fundamentalist Shiite theocracy deeply hostile to Washington, Ahmadinejad met with Nicaragua's newly inaugurated leftist President Daniel Ortega.

Ortega's first government faced a U.S.-backed guerrilla insurgency during the 1980s.

The leaders announced they would open embassies in each other's capitals, strengthening ties between two countries that have had little interaction yet share long and troubled histories with the U.S.

Their paths crossed in the 1980s during the Iran-Contra affair during which the U.S. secretly sold arms to Iran to free American hostages. The U.S. then used some of the proceeds to back Contra rebels who fought Ortega's first, Soviet-backed government.
"Our two counties have common interests, enemies and goals," Ahmadinejad said. "We may be far apart, but we are close in heart."

Ortega, however, did not match Ahmadinejad's confrontational rhetoric in his remarks Sunday. The Nicaraguan president instead focused on how Iran and Nicaragua should work to help the developing world.

He spoke of "constructive agreements to combat hunger, unemployment and poverty."

While pledging close ties with Ahmadinejad, Ortega has tried to start his new government on a cordial note with the U.S. government.  His measured remarks also contrasted those of Chavez, who railed against America during Ahmadinejad's visit to Venezuela on Saturday. (Full story)  Later in his visit to Nicaragua, Ahmadinejad toured a poor, trash-strewn neighborhood in Managua, where barefoot children on their parents' shoulders waved flags from Ortega's Sandinista party.

"The imperialists don't like us to help you progress and develop. They don't like us to get rid of poverty and unite people," he said. "Iran, Nicaragua and Venezuela and other revolutionary countries are together and we will resist together."

Ortega and Ahmadinejad are expected to sign a cooperation agreement.  On Monday, the Iranian leader will attend the inauguration of Ecuador's new president, Rafael Correa, and meet with Bolivian President Evo Morales. Both are both outspoken critics of the Bush administration's policies in Latin America.  Venezuela and Iran, both oil-rich nations, had previously announced plans for a joint $2 billion fund to finance investments in their own countries.  But Chavez and Ahmadinejad said Saturday the money would also be used for projects in other countries. Chavez is a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro whom Washington sees as a destabilizing influence. He has pledged billions of dollars to the region in foreign aid, bond buyouts and preferentially financed oil deals.

Iran, meanwhile, is accused of bankrolling militant groups in the Middle East like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, as well as insurgents in Iraq.  On Saturday, the U.S. military said five Iranians arrested in northern Iraq last week were connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents in Iraq.  Ahmadinejad did not respond to those allegations while in Managua.

Iran's Foreign Ministry on Sunday denied reports that nuclear activities had stalled at one of its uranium enrichment plants and reiterated it would press ahead with its nuclear program.

The West fears that Iran could be using uranium to make atomic weapons.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
28703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: January 14, 2007, 06:12:17 AM
Publication:The New York Sun; Date:Jun 30, 2004; Section:Front page; Page:1

IRANIAN ENVOYS ARE CAUGHT CASING NEW YORK

TWO GUARDS AT U.N., SUSPECTED OF SPYING, RETURNED TO TEHRAN

By BENNY AVNI Special to the Sun



UNITED NATIONS — In the wake of growing rhetorical Iranian threats against America and recent disclosures of ties between Iran and Al Qaeda,Washington expelled two guards at the Iranian mission to the United Nations, it was disclosed yesterday.

The American U.N. envoy, Stuart Holliday, told reporters the Iranians were “asked to leave the country” after being caught casing New York sites. They left on Saturday.

The demand by Washington, the third such case involving suspicions against Iranians affiliated with the U.N. mission, came as tensions over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program has led Tehran hard-liners to directly threaten the use of terrorism against America.

“We will map 29 sensitive sites in the United States, and give the information to all international terror organizations,” the head of an Iranian body known as Security Without Borders, Hassan Abassi, said two weeks ago.

Speaking in Tehran, he added, “We know where America’s Achilles’ heel is.”

Israel Radio’s Farsi service director, Menashe Amir, who closely monitors the Iranian press, told The New York Sun that Mr.Abassi is the top ideologue of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is often being used as a mouthpiece for the hard-liners in Tehran. “The heads of the Revolutionary Guards have increased their anti-American rhetoric in the last few weeks,” he said.

Since the two spying suspects returned to Iran, Mr. Amir added, the Iranian press was divided among hardliners, who presented them as heroes, and the moderates, who criticized the circumstances that led to their return.

At the U.N.,Mr.Holliday said the two men, described as “security officials” but not identified by name, were seen “moving around New York City and essentially surveilling and taking photographs of a variety of New York landmarks and infrastructure and the rest. Obviously, this isn’t something that’s a part of protecting their mission here in New York.”

In a statement faxed to the Sun, a spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission, Morteza Ramandi, said that the two security guards “curtailed their temporary assignments and left the United States,” stressing that they had done nothing wrong.

The men, who had no diplomatic immunity, left after Washington “invoked the shooting of a videotape and picture” in May, Mr. Ramandi said. He insisted they did not violate any law, and were merely taking pictures of “obvious popular tourist attractions in New York City.”

“We categorically deny that they ever took any photos of anything of security or sensitive nature,” he said.

American sources point to two previous incidents, in June 2002 and last November, when Iranians assigned to the U.N. mission were caught suspiciously photographing landmarks, infrastructure, and transportation sites and were asked to leave.

The latest one, involving videotaping by Iranians of a Woodside, Queens, subway station, was described by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in an interview with Fox News last December. “They were clearly focused on the train tracks for an inordinate period of time,” Mr. Kelly said. The pattern of Iranians, who temporarily come to New York on security assignments and then are either expelled or simply return to Iran and replaced by others, does not fit the normal flow of diplomatic activities, U.N. officials said.

“I understand that obviously the threshold is different for people that are assigned, in a sense, to activities here at the United Nations,” Mr. Holliday said. Countering Mr. Ramandi’s contention that the two were innocent tourists, he added,“We have great confidence in the ability of federal law enforcement to determine what actions and behavior is typical and what is atypical.”

In a little noticed detail of the interim staff report — of the congressional commission investigating the September 11 attacks, intelligence was cited, showing “far greater potential for collaboration between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda than many had previously thought.”

In particular, the report contended that Osama bin Laden played a role in the 1996 bombing of the Saudi Khobar Towers complex, which previously was thought to be solely conducted by Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy.

Tehran has long been suspected of using Hezbollah, particularly through its founder, Imad Moughniyeh, for overseas operations like the attacks on the Jewish Community Center and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the mid-1990s.

Recently, as America increased its pressure for tougher action by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, the ayatollahs have flexed muscles, threatening to use known terrorist ties and perhaps physically preparing for such an eventuality as well, terrorism experts say.

Iran also toughened its public nuclear stance. Over the weekend, it announced it would resume building centrifuges for its nuclear program, pledging to temporarily not use the devices to enrich uranium.

It also said that in addition to its midrange Shihab 3 missiles, which can reach 750 miles, it would resume building the Shihab 4, with a range of 1,500 miles,and the Shihab 5,which can reach as far as 3,000 miles and threaten major European and American targets.
(Marc:  Note that these ranges put Europe within the reach of Iranian nukes when they have them.)
“The Iranians are very thorough,” Israeli intelligence expert and journalist Yossi Melman told the Sun. “They are preparing themselves for the next battle with America.” One weapon in that battle, he added, might well be the collection of possible New York sites for a future “target bank.”
28704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: January 14, 2007, 06:04:39 AM
http://www.filecabi.net/video/mwifebeatings.html
28705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / In a similar vein, but more ominously on: January 13, 2007, 07:09:52 PM
 





*TERROR TOOL: Terrorists attacking British bases in Basra are using aerial footage displayed by the Google Earth internet tool to pinpoint their attacks, say Army intelligence sources. Documents seized during raids on the homes of insurgents last week uncovered print-outs from photographs taken from Google.
28706  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Cuba on: January 13, 2007, 09:00:58 AM
Lo siguiente es del WSJ Online de hoy 
 
Reach Out To Cuba's People
By MARIO LOYOLA
January 13, 2007; Page A13

With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting Venezuela today, it might be a good time to consider another "change in course" for U.S. policy. The isolation of Cuba, a legacy of the Cold War, is pushing that country closer to America's most dangerous enemies.

In a recent open letter to President Bush, several major Cuban dissident groups called for an end to U.S. restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. Now joining their call is the Miami-based Cuban Consensus, a coalition of 20 pro-democracy groups including the "hard-line" Cuban-American National Foundation. The advocates for the current policy -- chiefly three intransigent Cuban-American representatives in Congress -- are increasingly alone.

If we don't lift the travel and remittance restrictions now, it is not just the Cuban people who stand to suffer. Allowing Cuba to slip further under the influence of Venezuela's newly reelected Hugo Chávez, the proud new ally of Iran, would be terrible for the U.S.

These restrictions are regulatory, which means that the president could eliminate them tomorrow. But the Helms-Burton law freezes the larger economic embargo in place until the communist regime dismantles its security apparatus and calls for free elections -- and until both Raúl and Fidel Castro are gone. With the changing of the guard in Havana, there will be opportunities for incremental reform. The new Congress must amend Helms-Burton to give the president the flexibility he will need to seize them.

Any major opening -- such as diplomatic talks or relaxation of the embargo -- should be conditioned on Cuba's release of political prisoners, economic reforms, freedom of speech and a dismantling of the neighborhood spy system that has driven Cuban society into such a heartbreaking state of paranoia. But Helms-Burton's rigid, all-or-nothing approach creates no incentive for Cuba's communists to undertake even the most minor reform.

For many supporters of the current policy, isolating Cuba has become almost an end in itself. Nothing could be more perverse. If Cuban culture is exposed to globalization, it will fuel yearning for the freedoms of modernity. If we expand diplomatic contact, we will begin to discover allies within the regime. Allowing Cuba to join the international trade and finance system (which U.S. law largely prevents) will multiply the incentives to liberalize. By isolating Cuba and driving it into the arms of Hugo Chávez, the only real beneficiaries are communist hard-liners -- and their patrons.

Cuba's communist regime has two conflicting needs -- isolation and money. Ending isolation will rebuild the bridges between Cubans and their most natural allies -- the American people. It would also likely expose Cubans to the political and commercial culture of one of the most spectacularly successful immigrant communities in the U.S. -- that of their exiled family members in Miami.

Relaxing the flow of funds from the U.S. would also turn a communist need to our advantage. The more Cuba depends financially on the U.S., the more leverage we will gain in pushing for economic and political reform. Cutting the regime off from sources of financing may have made sense after the fall of the Soviet Union, when Cuba had nowhere else to turn. But now it has Venezuela.

With Fidel Castro's removal from power and imminent demise, the key obstacle to reform within the regime has disappeared. A new generation of bureaucrats now has a chance to gain influence. Many of today's younger "communists" are less interested in the Revolution than in maintaining stability -- and much less interested in Venezuela's patronage than in normalizing relations with the U.S. For Cuba's proud armed forces, the prospect of becoming servants to Mr. Chávez is not attractive. Unfortunately, U.S. stubbornness leaves them little choice.

Cuba's increasing dependence on Mr. Chávez is dangerous for the U.S. Venezuela uses oil money to fuel a global campaign against America. Venezuelan intelligence services set up shop wherever they can in Latin America to eradicate government officials educated in the U.S. or suspected of pro-American sympathies. Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua are falling firmly into Venezuela's orbit. And throughout the Non-Aligned Movement, Mr. Chávez trades oil money for diplomatic support against the U.S. in a new kind of Cold War. Worse, after his recent election victory, Mr. Chávez seems to be claiming a mandate for an even more stridently Castroist and anti-American position -- all of which will influence the direction of the Cuban regime.

Looming on the horizon is an even greater threat. Iran's intelligence services -- perhaps the most prolific and sophisticated terrorist organization in the world -- use diplomatic channels to build their network. And there are clear indications of a renewed Hezbollah effort in South America. Thus Venezuela's new alliance with Iran represents a grave danger to the whole hemisphere. Venezuela is already putting enormous pressure on Cuba to expand its ties with Iran; an Iranian foothold just 90 miles from our own shores would be a catastrophic setback in the war on terror.

Relaxing Cuba's isolation would help diminish a gathering threat to national security, and bring hope to Cubans everywhere that the long tragedy of communism and exile may finally be coming to an end.

Mr. Loyola is a Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

 
28707  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dempsey in action on: January 13, 2007, 08:36:53 AM

vs Willard 1919:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_2pvIMalLM&mode=related&search=

vs Carpentier 1921:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WySmNbLO3nk&mode=related&search=

vs Firpo 1923:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i8CGEOssUI&mode=related&search=

vs Sharkey 1927:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuP0F0dXvQE&mode=related&search=

28708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: January 12, 2007, 05:30:34 PM
Big move by KVHI today-- apparently the market liked what it heard this morning:
=========

KVH Industries' CEO & CFO to Speak at 9th Annual Needham & Company Growth Conference
7:30 AM EST January 11, 2007
KVH Industries' (Nasdaq: KVHI) president and chief executive officer, Martin Kits van Heyningen, and chief financial officer, Patrick Spratt, will be speaking at the Ninth Annual Needham & Company Growth Conference in New York City on Friday, January 12, 2007. The presentation, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., will be simulcast on the Internet and can be accessed via KVH Industries' investor website, http://investors.kvh.com. An audio archive of the presentation will also be available for replay later in the day at the same website address.

About KVH Industries, Inc.

KVH Industries, Inc., is a premier manufacturer of systems to provide access to live mobile media ranging from satellite TV to telephone and high-speed Internet for vehicles and vessels as well as a leading source of navigation, pointing, and guidance solutions for maritime, defense, and commercial applications. The company's products are based on its proprietary mobile satellite antenna and fiber optic technologies. An ISO 9001-certified company, KVH is based in Middletown, Rhode Island.

SOURCE: KVH Industries

 Chris Watson KVH Industries 401-845-8138 cwatson@kvh.com 
28709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: January 12, 2007, 11:57:59 AM
The hated alternative minimum tax will hit about 19 million taxpayers this year, up from 1.3 million who got socked by Uncle Sam's shadow tax system in 2000. We've noted many times that voters in Democratic states in the Northeast and California tend to be the most heavily impacted by the AMT and that if Congressional Democrats don't change this system, their own voters will soon be walloped with the biggest middle-income tax hike in American history. That's why we call the AMT the "Blue State" tax.

Now a new study by the Tax Foundation reveals the 20 Congressional districts with the highest percentage of voters who are impacted by the AMT. Guess what? This is also the "Blue District" tax as well. The study finds that nearly half of the top 20 districts are in New York -- which just happens to be Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel's home state. New Jersey and California are next in line in terms of having the highest percentage of AMT victims. Thirteen of the top 20 congressional districts with the highest percentage of AMT voters have a Democratic congressman -- including the top four. The award-winning district with the most AMT filers is that of Rep. Nita Lowey. In her suburban New York district, some 14% of all filers pay an AMT penalty averaging $5,885 a year.

One reason that so many New York, California and New Jersey taxpayers get kicked in the rear is that these are high-income (and high cost-of-living) states, with high state and local taxes. Under the AMT, these tax filers lose their write-off for their hefty state and local tax payments. What's more, because the AMT threshold wasn't indexed for inflation and wasn't adjusted for the Bush cuts in regular income tax rates, the AMT is set to clamp its fangs on a much larger section of the taxpaying public soon, reaching 20% of all filers by 2010. That means if Washington doesn't do anything to alleviate the coming avalanche, governors like Elliot Spitzer of New York and Jon Corzine of New Jersey will be under strong pressure to cut their own tax rates to cushion the blow or else risk a wholesale flight of their highest earners and most prosperous industries to other states.

-- Stephen Moore
Opinion Journal, WSJ

28710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: January 12, 2007, 09:57:41 AM
I rode out MVIS's pullback from the 3.25 area and now it pulls back from 3.90 area (3.80 is a double for me in 10 weeks).

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

FWIW, here's a teaser on MVIS from the Gilder Report:

The Week / A New Vision for Microvision

Gilder Technology Report’s Charlie Burger: By combining its proprietary silicon micromirror with modulated light sources, Microvision (MVIS) enables higher-intensity, finer-grained imagers and displays using a fraction of the size and power of rival systems. Though it possesses the single most potent display technology in the industry, Microvision has for years been foundering in uncharted waters, steered by a Magellan management pursuing too many difficult applications too early.

 

Now, new management fresh out of General Electric (GE) appears to be steadying the ship. After a decade filling key marketing, operations, and product development roles at GE, Alexander Tokman jumped to Microvision a year ago July as operations chief. Quickly gaining the CEO spot last January, he brought in marketing and sales chief, Ian Brown, and R&D head, Sid Madhaven, with a combined 26 years of experience at GE.

Finally, Microvision becomes as focused as its photons

The key goal of the new team is development of an integrated photonics module (IPM) or microprojector to be used as a common display engine in its new products. Small enough to integrate into a cellphone or iPod, the microprojector will include the silicon micromirror (about a square millimeter in size) and light sources, electronics to wiggle the mirror and modulate the light, a controller, and memory.

 

Three separate beams of red, blue, and green light from either LEDs (light emitting diodes) or semiconductor lasers shine on the mirror. Gimballing on two axes, it flickers to project 30 million pixels a second onto a surface such as a wall. Even though the mirror reflects one pixel at time in raster fashion, it does it so quickly that our brains “see” a static image or continuous movie. To produce different colors during the scan, the light sources are modulated to emit beams at varying combinations of intensities.

 

In addition to functioning as a projector, Microvision’s display technology can be turned into a scanner or near-field camera that works well over distances that are about the same as those for a barcode reader. In this case, the light sources that bounce off the moving mirror are used to illuminate an object. A detector receives the scattered light energy and converts it to electrical signals stored in the appropriate memory locations based on the corresponding pixel position, thereby reproducing the object. Because the time the beam remains on any given spot is a very short 20 nanoseconds, there’s virtually no motion blur.

 

Tokman is focusing on three specific product areas: (1) miniprojectors, including embedded projectors inside cellphones and standalone models that will work with portable devices; (2) head-up displays (HUDs), now making their way into luxury cars, that shine an image directly in front of the driver, just above the steering wheel, displaying information about the engine, weather, navigation, and traffic; (3) eyewear that creates immersive experiences for gamers and movie buffs, giving them a virtual screen equivalent to an 80- to 100-inch display.

 

Management is focusing on potent markets. By 2008, some 80–90 percent of all cellphones—some 800 million shipped that year—are expected to have mega-pixel cameras and/or be capable of receiving broadband video. Nokia (NOK) is already looking at technologies to integrate projectors into mobile devices, and several large consumer electronics companies are reportedly developing microprojectors based on very small display technologies. And head-up displays are becoming popular in cars for safety, for convenience, and as a differentiator for luxury models. Automakers installed several hundred thousand units last year and could increase that to 4 million units a year by 2010.

 

But when the consumers and manufacturers arrive, will Tokman be there to meet them? …

Learn more, by reading Charlie Burger’s complete Microvision analysis. Logon with your GTR subscriber ID at http://www.gildertech.com/ now.

-- RELATED NEWS --

Hands-on With Microvision's Itty Bitty Projector
http://www.engadget.com/2007/01/08/hands-on-with-microvisions-itty-bitty-projector/

CES 2007: Microvision to Debut Miniature Projector
http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/ces-2007-microvision-to-debut-miniature-projector-226157.php
28711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Law Enforcement on: January 12, 2007, 08:53:00 AM
We kick this thread off with a very ugly one:


Prison Talk Leads to Lawman's Arrest
By MIKE ROBINSON
Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- Reputed mob boss Michael Marcello apparently didn't watch crime shows on television - otherwise he might have known the FBI could listen in on his conversations in the visitors room at the federal penitentiary in Milan, Mich.
The unsuspecting Marcello dropped broad hints about his source inside the U.S. Marshals Service during conversations with his incarcerated brother in 2003. FBI agents heard every word about the man Marcello called "the babysitter."
Deputy marshal John Thomas Ambrose surrendered Thursday to FBI agents who say he was the source who spilled to Marcello secrets about a federally protected witness to organized crime.
"This defendant's conduct in revealing closely guarded and highly sensitive information ... constitutes an egregious breach of his law enforcement duties," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary S. Shapiro said.
Ambrose is accused in court papers of leaking information regarding the whereabouts of reputed mobster Nicholas Calabrese, a key witness in the government's Operation Family Secrets murder conspiracy case. Fourteen reputed mobsters and their associates are charged in the indictment alleging a conspiracy to commit at least 18 murders.
Ambrose appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason, who released him on a $50,000 unsecured bond and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Jan. 30. He declined to comment as he left the courtroom, but defense attorney Francis C. Lipuma told reporters that his client denies the accusations.
"John Ambrose is not connected to the mob at all," Lipuma said.
Prosecutors said that between January and June 2003 they intercepted 11 conversations that took place when Michael Marcello visited his brother, James, at the Michigan prison. Both Marcello brothers are charged in the Operation Family Secrets indictment.
Prosecutors said the conversations showed that Michael Marcello had an inside source of information concerning Nicholas Calabrese. They said the conversations also indicated that the source was a federal lawman with access to the files of the Marshals Service witness program.
Michael Marcello might have given federal officials their best clue when he said that the source was the son of a defendant in the so-called "Marquette 10" police corruption case. Ambrose's father, Thomas Ambrose, died in prison while serving his bribery sentence stemming from the Marquette 10 case, prosecutors said.
Additionally, John Thomas Ambrose was a member of the Marshals Service's so-called Calabrese detail and would have had access to the information, prosecutors said. They said Ambrose's fingerprints were found on Calabrese documents.
Ambrose has been on leave since September. He is charged with theft of government property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
28712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 12, 2007, 08:44:43 AM
stratfor.com

Geopolitical Diary: Iran's View of the Surge

U.S. forces raided an Iranian consular office on Thursday in the Iraqi city of Arbil and captured several people. This is the second operation of this kind in a month against Iranians in Iraq, but this one took place shortly after the end of U.S. President George W. Bush's speech announcing a new "surge" of troops into the country. The Iranians, obviously, objected strenuously to the raid, which they argued was carried out without the approval of the Iraqi government -- diplomatically important since it was an office of the Iranian Consulate. The United States did not comment directly, but clearly couldn't care less.

We have been talking about the psychological and political dimension of Washington's new strategy. Obviously, the increase in troops, rather than the drawdown expected after the Democratic victory and the Iraq Study Group report, was a surprise to the Iranians. It seems that the Bush administration is now trying to increase the pressure. The Israeli discussion of using nuclear weapons against Iraq, the report that the CIA has been authorized to act against Hezbollah (which is Iran's asset in Lebanon), attacks on Iranian offices in Iraq, and statements by various Bush administration officials warning Tehran, taken together, point to a concerted effort to intimidate Iran.

The question, of course, is whether Iran finds itself intimidated. Certainly, the world has changed since November 2006, when the Iranians reasonably felt they were on the verge of the strategic triumph of dominating Iraq. Washington has now taken the game to extra innings. But extra innings do not mean victory. From the Iranian point of view, it would seem, the fundamentals have not changed much. The United States is still in the game with too little, and too late; Israeli nuclear strikes would create an interesting political dynamic for Iran, even more interesting than having nukes; Hezbollah can take care of itself against the CIA; and the U.S. raids in Iraq are pinpricks.

At the same time, the Iranians are also aware of American resiliency and American deviousness. They recall how the Iraqi invasion of Iran bogged down the revolution for a decade and how the United States quietly manipulated the situation. They watched the Soviet Union collapse after the United States seemed to be a declining power in the 1970s. There are leaders in Iran who remember that the Americans have enormous reserves of power and resources and a very unpredictable political process.

Things always look better on the other side of the hill. From the Iranian point of view -- as opposed to the gloomy American view -- the United States is resourceful and treacherous. As events diverge from the expected path, the Iranians, at least some of them, have to be wondering whether they have made another major miscalculation. So, just as the Americans are gloomily trying one last gambit, the Iranians are wondering if their strategic hopes are going to fade.

There are interesting developments in Iranian politics that have been discussed here before. With Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei apparently ill, and impeachment moves in the works against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one wonders how much of this apparent instability is due to unease over the possibility that the Iranians are more vulnerable than they might appear. Iranian politics are opaque, and it is not clear whether any of this is serious; but still, it is there and has arisen at the same time that the United States has shifted policy and defied expectations.

Obviously, this is Bush's hope. He hopes that he can force Iran to re-evaluate its position in light of his unexpected moves. That might seem unlikely from an American point of view, but we have to wonder whether the Iranians see things as Americans do. Pessimism and exaggerated fears could well be endemic in this situation.
28713  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: WHERE IS THE FOOTWORK!?! on: January 11, 2007, 08:12:23 PM
IMHO many boxers have outstanding footwork for their sport, but that does not necessarily make boxing footwork the ideal for MMA.  I thought Hugh Jardine demonstrated some outstanding footwork in his fight with Forrest Griffin-- indeed in my opinion it explained everything.  I will expound further on the DBMA Association forum.
28714  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Forrest Griifin's emotional reaction postfight on: January 11, 2007, 07:55:19 PM
Woof All:

I got the idea for this thread from one of extraordinary immaturity on this topic on "The Underground" at mma.tv.  I was really struck by the juvenile tenor of many of the posts impugning FG's manhood despite the fact that he has been a fighter of remarkable courage, composure, and class.  So what happened this time that was different?  It is hard to think of so much emotion publicly shown in the world of boxing.

As I intuit my way on this subject, one thing that occurs to me is that unlike the business of boxing, full as it is of people from lives with little or no other options, MMA consists mostly of people who do it for reasons other than money.  I remember in the early days of the UFC when it was talking with us about fighting for them a conversation I had with Art Davie.  I suggested he pay the fighters more money.  "Why?" he asked, "They'd fight for free."

So what is the motive here?  And what are the consequences of losing to this motivation?

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog

28715  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: SEMINAR Die Less Often: Interface of Gun, Knife and Emtpy Hand on: January 11, 2007, 07:35:09 PM
Only three spaces left!
28716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Bomb stuff on: January 11, 2007, 07:34:17 PM
North Korea: Rumors of a Second Test
Summary

Reported activity at a suspected North Korean nuclear test site has triggered another round of speculation about whether Pyongyang intends to carry out a follow-up to its October 2006 nuclear test. While South Korea, Japan and the United States are stepping up surveillance of North Korea, it is unlikely there will be another test anytime soon. By carrying out intentionally suspicious activity in full view of foreign satellites and reconnaissance aircraft, Pyongyang is sending a message to Washington ahead of the upcoming talks over the sanctions against the hermit kingdom: Lift financial restrictions or risk another North Korean nuclear test.

Analysis

Rumors and speculation surrounding a possible second North Korean nuclear test have been circulating for a week after reports indicated vehicle movements and other suspicious activities have been taking place around suspected North Korean nuclear test sites. The reports have triggered an increase in surveillance by the United States, Japan and South Korea, and prompted a series of statements from these and other states urging North Korea to refrain from another test and warning of consequences.

These warnings are exactly what Pyongyang wants to hear. North Korea is well aware that its nuclear sites are under near-constant surveillance by foreign satellites and reconnaissance aircraft, and it frequently has shuffled equipment to create a stir. This activity also creates a crying-wolf situation, in which warnings of imminent missile or nuclear tests become so frequent that when a test does occur, it comes almost as a surprise.

North Korea is looking to resume talks over U.S. action against foreign banks dealing with North Korean accounts. North Korea has cited these "sanctions," as Pyongyang calls them, as its justification for pulling out of the six-party talks and for testing its nuclear device. Pyongyang has said several times that it considered the sanctions a hostile act, and the nuclear test was its response.

North Korea's intense focus on the banking restrictions demonstrates just how significantly the country was impacted by the U.S. action, which cut money sources for the regime's elite. While the North Korean government could tolerate economic strictures on the nation and its people, it was not willing to accept similar action against the elite's own bank accounts and alternative financing methods.

The success of these U.S. financial actions makes it less likely that Washington will back down, as the United States has long sought a lever to shape North Korean actions and options. At the same time, the personal nature of the banking restrictions means the North Korean leadership cannot back down, since this would risk a fracturing of the elite -- triggering instability within the top ranks of the leadership.

By moving around trucks for the satellites to see, North Korea is sending a message to Washington. Pyongyang believes the United States does not want another North Korean nuclear test, but is currently unable to prevent one militarily. Thus, Pyongyang is warning that unless economic restrictions are loosened, North Korea will again embarrass the United States by conducting a test. Washington's failure to respond beyond new sanctions on wine and iPods will simply prove that the American emperor has no clothes. And this apparent impotence will affect U.S. efforts to block Iran's nuclear development.

For now, Washington is not backing down. If an agreement is not reached between Washington and Pyongyang, or if China decides not to rein in North Korea, a second test is likely -- but not for several months. Until then, North Korea will posture and exploit satellite imagery, seeking to shape the political dialogue but also to create a sense of alert fatigue, giving some room for surprise when a test finally is conducted.
28717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: January 11, 2007, 07:25:54 PM
http://counterterrorismblog.org/2007/01/print/hs_future...orism_task_force.php

Counterterrorism Blog

HS Future Terrorism Task Force findings: "Salafi Jihadism is the main threat"

By Walid Phares

The Task Force on Future Terrorism formed by the Homeland Security's Advisory Council (HSAC) released its findings today in Washington DC, in the presence of Secretary Chertoff, other US leaders and the media. In his remarks, Task Force chairman Lee Hamilton said the group expect al Qaeda and other Islamic radicals to continue to attempt to attack the US. He said motivations behind these potential attacks are "complex" and include extremist ideologies. He added that while it is impossible to predict with precisions, three elements are to be taken into consideration: Terrorists leadership, political and economic reform in the Muslim world and safe havens (as in Pakistan). Frank Cilluffo, the vice chairman of the Task Force said "home and prison radicalization is very important" in the growth of the threat. He mentioned that a "lexicon" has to be established to engage in the "battle of ideas."

The findings, as announced today, include a variety of assessments and recommendations. It is important that the community of counter terrorism experts review the findings and evaluate it, as they are now a basis for a policy discussion at the level of Government. Two CTB members were consulted during the research sessions: Steve Emerson and myself. Among the points raised by HSAC are the following issues related to the War of Ideas, along with my comments :

1) "There is every indication that the number and magnitude of attacks on the U.S., its interests and its allies will likely increase.".
Comment: It would be important for the CT community to begin working on the parameters of this projection: the almost certainty that the magnitude of attacks will increase.

2) The most significant terrorist threat to the homeland and to U.S. interests abroad today is a growing radical, extremist movement underpinned by a jihadist/Salafist ideology.
Comment: As projected by the majority of Terrorism experts, and against the views of the majority of academics in the field of Middle East Studies, the confirmation of the Jihadi-Salafi ideology as the root of "the most significant terrorist threat to the US" is a major statement. Experts and analysts should expand on this finding and establish the various programs to show the links between the ideology and Terror. Also, I advice those members in Congress who are now involved in national security, defense and homeland security to act in light of this important finding and expand legislative work to investigate this threat and respond to it.

3.) "The Internet enhances the full range of terrorist activities (training, target selection, planning, execution and other tradecraft), and is an especially powerful tool for spreading their message and recruiting and enlisting into the jihadists’ ranks."
Comment: Such a finding should be noted, especially by US courts dealing with Terrorism. Terrorism cases have crumbled in the past few years because of the incapacity of the judicial system in absorbing the real threat of Jihadism online.

4. American Muslims noted the report are, less alienated than Muslims living in Western Europe, where the "homegrown" threat is significant and rising.
Comment: This finding should be expanded and analysis should be directed to understand the tactics used by the Jihadists to exploit "alienation" in Europe and compare with the tactics used by radicals in this country to "create" alienation, so that it could be exploited inthe future.

5. "Countering "home-grown" radicalization must be one of the Department's top priorities by using the Department's Radicalization and Engagement Working Group (REWG) to better understand the process - from sympathizer to activist to terrorist.
Comment: In other words, the US Department of Homeland Security must develop a strategy to counter the process of formation of a terrorist from supporter of Jihadism to actual followers, and eventually become an executer of Jihadism terror. I would recommend a new area of research which I have initiated in my book Future Jihad in chapter "Mutant Jihad." In short: Establish a system that would intercept the Jihadist process at its early stages instead of meeting it at its last stages.

6. "The Department should work with subject matter experts to ensure that the lexicon used within public statements is clear, precise and does not play into the hands of the extremists."
Comment: This recommendation is the most delicate among all others. The Europeans have failed dramatically in producing an anti-Jihadi lexicon because they relied on the advice of academics and researchers who advocated the "innocence" of Jihadism and proposed a different linguistic direction for the lexicon. Results: Further radicalization in Europe. The US Homeland Security projection has been successful in projecting that "language" is an issue. The next step is to ensure that the "lexicon" will be in line with the general strategic findings of the report: that is to reject the Jihadi logic with the help of a democratic, secular and constitutional discourse, not by increasing the reference to religious concepts in response to religious Jihadism. We will develop soon a platform in this sense.

Find below the full text of the findings:

Homeland Security Advisory Council

Future of Terrorism Task Force

January 11, 2007

In June 2006, the Secretary directed the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) to create a Future of Terrorism Task Force (FOTTF) to accomplish the following:

- Assess future threats to the United States and U.S. interests abroad over the next five years

- Strategically fine-tune departmental structures and processes to meet those threats

- Recommend how to better engage and prepare the American public for present and future challenges

Findings

•There is every indication that the number and magnitude of attacks on the U.S., its interests and its allies will likely increase

•Globalization has changed the means and opportunities available to those who wish to "know-how" us harm, (increasingly mobile populations, technologies and know-how readily available)

•Terrorism is a tactic for any adversary, whether or not state sponsored, who chooses not to attack us peer-to-peer

•The most significant terrorist threat to the homeland and to U.S. interests abroad today is a growing radical, extremist movement underpinned by a jihadist/Salafist ideology

Findings

• Al-Qaeda, although diminished, is resilient and resurgent and remains a threat to the US

•Al-Qaeda has franchised itself across the globe and inspired groups that act locally and largely independently (increasingly leaderless and marked by self-enlistment)

•Although the war in Afghanistan was successful in destroying Al Qaeda s base of operations, our adversaries continue to feed on weak states and have witnessed the spread of safe havens globally, including northwest Pakistan, Iraq, and the Internet

•It is anticipated state-sponsored terrorism will continue

Findings

• In recent years, Muslims have born a substantial burden of terrorist attacks

•Our adversaries base their actions (targets and modus operandi) in part on our actions

•Factors that will influence the future of terrorism include: leadership of the terrorists, US counterterrorism efforts status of political reform in Muslim nations and the elimination of safe havens

•The Internet enhances the full range of terrorist activities (training, target selection, planning, execution and other tradecraft), and is an especially powerful tool for spreading their message and recruiting and enlisting into the jihadists’ ranks

Findings

• The evolving complexity of the enemy increases the requirement that protection of the homeland be done with seamless coordination between and among federal, state and local authorities and the private sector

•International partners provide valuable input and lessons learned

•Muslims living in the US are more integrated, more prosperous and therefore less alienated than Muslims living in Western Europe, where the "homegrown" threat is significant and rising

•Muslim culture and the Islamic faith are not widely understood within the Western world

•Our adversaries use terror tactics to target both the physical and psychological well-being of our populace

Recommendations

• The Secretary should establish an Office of Net Assessment to provide the Secretary with comprehensive analysis of future threats and US capabilities to meet those threats

•The Secretary should conduct a comprehensive, systematic, and regular examination - a Quadrennial Security Review - of all homeland security threats, assets, plans and strategies with a view toward long-term planning and modernization

•The Secretary should undertake, in conjunction with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), a comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate to address threats to the homeland

- A permanent Deputy National Intelligence Officer (DNIO) should be assigned to the National Intelligence Council; the DNIO position should rotate between the Department and the FBI.

- State and local input must drive the domestic component of the assessment, and must be continually updated

Recommendations

• Countering "home-grown" radicalization must be one of the Department's top priorities by using the Department's Radicalization and Engagement Working Group (REWG) to better understand the process - from sympathizer to activist to terrorist

•The Department must place a renewed emphasis on recruiting professionals of all types with diverse perspectives, worldviews, skills, languages, and cultural backgrounds and expertise

•The Department should work with subject matter experts to ensure that the lexicon used within public statements is clear, precise and does not play into the hands of the extremists

Recommendations

• Broader avenues of dialogue with the Muslim community should be identified and pursued by the Department to foster mutual respect and understanding, and ultimately trust

•Local communities should take the lead on developing and implementing Muslim outreach programs. DHS should encourage such outreach efforts and facilitate the sharing of best practices

•The Secretary should work directly with state, local, and community leaders to educate them on the threat of radicalization, the necessity of taking preventative action at the local level, and to facilitate the sharing of other nation's and communities' best practices

Recommendations

• The Department should move immediately to implement the recommendations contained in earlier HSAC reports on information sharing, including:

- resolving issues such as classification of information; and

- ensuring that appropriate resources and standards are in place to ensure consistency and adequacy in analytical training and capabilities in fusion centers around the country

•The Department should develop and immediate implement, in concert with the Department of Justice and state and local corrections officials, a program to address prisoner radicalization and post-sentence reintegration

Recommendations

• The Department must use all avenues of international cooperation and instruments of statecraft to boost existing and form new partnerships to foster and maintain a global network that permits among other things, robust intelligence and info permits, information sharing

•The Department should partner with the media and educational institutions to engage the public in prevention and response efforts -developing consistent, accurate, realistic, persuasive and actionable messages as well as evidence-based strategies for communicating the same

•Consider naming the Secretary of Homeland Security to the National Security Council in order to fully integrate national security with homeland security

Task Force Members

• Lee Hamilton, Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Task Force Chair)
•Frank Cilluffo, Associate Vice President for Homeland Security, GWU (Task Force Vice-Chair)
•Kathleen Bader, Textron Inc., Board Member
•Elliott Broidy, Chairman and CEO, Broidy Capital Management
•Dr. Roxy Cohen-Silver, Professor of Psychology, UC Irvine
•Dr. Ruth David, President and CEO, ANSER
•James Dunlap, President, Dunlap Consulting (Former OK State Senator)
•Thomas Foley, Partner, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, Feld LLP
•Steve Gross, President, BiNational Logistics LLC
•Glenda Hood, Chairman Glenda Hood Consulting (Former Secretary of State, State of Florida)
• Don Knabe, LA County Board of Supervisors
•John Magaw, Former under Secretary for Security, US DOT
•Patrick McCrory, Mayor, Charlotte, North Carolina
•Bill Parrish, Associate Professor, Homeland Security and Emergency Planning, VCU
•Mitt Romney, Former Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
•Jack Skolds, President, Exelon Energy Delivery and Exelon Generation
•Dr. Lydia Thomas, President and CEO, Mitretek Systems Inc.
•Houston Williams, Chairman and CEO, Pacific Network Supply Inc.
•Allan Zenowitz, Former Executive Officer, FEMA
•Judge William Webster, Partner, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP (HSAC Chair)
•James Schlesin er Chairman, Board of Trustees, The MITRE Corporation (HSgAd Vice-Chair)

Subject Matter Experts

• Javed Ali, Senior Intelligence Officer, DHS
•Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles County, California
•Randy Beardsworth, Assistant Secretary for Strategic Plans
•Gina Bennett, Deputy National Intelligence Officer, Transnational Threats, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
•Chief William Bratton, Los Angeles Police Department
•Frank Buckley, Co-Anchor, KTLA Prime News, Los Angeles, California
•Sharon Cardash, Associate Director for Research and Education, Homeland Security Policy Institute, The George Washington University
•Sheriff Michael Carona, Orange County, California
•Joel Cohen Intelligence Liaison Officer, California, Department of Homeland Security
•Ambassador Henry Crumpton, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Department of State
•Derek Dokter, Counselor, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Royal Embassy of the Netherlands
• Steven Emerson, Executive Director, The Investigative Project on Terrorism
•Eric Fagerholm, Acting Assistant Secretary for Strategic Plans, DHS
•Richard Gerding Counselor for Police and Judicial Affairs, Royal Embassy of the Netherlands
•Jim Guirard, TrueSpeak Institute
•Chris Hamilton, Senior Fellow Counterterrorism Studies, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
•Chief Jack Harris, Phoenix Policy Department
•Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisory to the President, Rand Corporation
•Brigadier General Yosef Kuperwasser, CST International
•Dr. Harvey Kushner, Chairman, Department of Criminal Justice, Long Island University
•Jan Lane, Deputy Director, Homeland Security Policy Institute, The George Washington University
•Tony Lord, First Secretary, Justice and Home Affairs, British Embassy
• David Low, National Intelligence Officer, Transnational Threats, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
•Simon Mustard, Counter Terrorism and Strategic Threats, Foreign and Security Policy Group, British Embassy
•Dr. Walid Phares, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
•Dennis Pluchinsky, George Mason University
•Peter Probst, Consultant
•Mark Randol, Director of Counterterrorism Plans, DHS
•Ambassador Dennis Richardson, Australian Embassy
•Dr. Joshua Sinai, Program Manager, The Analysis Corporation
•Robert Spencer, Director - Jihad Watch
•Dan Sutherland, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, DHS
•Major General Israel Ziv, CST International

By Walid Phares on January 11, 2007 5:13 PM
28718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: January 11, 2007, 05:21:40 PM
From correspondents in Johannesburg
January 09, 2007 10:29am
Article from: Agence France-PresseFont size: + -
Send this article: Print Email
A TRADITIONAL circumcision ceremony in South Africa went awry over the weekend when a policeman had his nose bitten off.

The policeman had tried to put paid to an argument between a man and his family during the ceremony in the Eastern Cape province, when the man attacked him, biting off his nose.

The aggrieved policeman then shot the 30-year-old man in the chest, the SAPA news agency reported.

Both are now recovering in hospital.

Circumcision is a rite of passage for some South African boys who go through a lengthy initiation before undergoing the procedure.

 
28719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: January 11, 2007, 05:12:35 PM
Sorry to throw two completely unrelated posts on this thread in short order, but both seem quite interesting:
===========

The Michael Nifong Scandal
The Duke rape hoax is redolent of past decades' phony child-abuse cases.

Thursday, January 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

No one could have imagined, when the story began last March, how soon and completely that bit of shorthand--"the Duke University scandal"--would be transformed.

Scarcely 10 months after, the term is now almost universally understood as a reference to the operations of Michael Nifong, the Durham County district attorney (pictured nearby), whose abandonment of all semblance of concern about the merits of the rape and assault accusations against three Duke University students was obvious from the first. So was his abundant confidence while broadcasting comments on the guilt of the accused. He seemed a man immune to concerns for appearances as he raced about expounding on the case against the accused lacrosse players and calling them hooligans. He would hear nothing by way of concern from Duke administrators (seven months into this affair, the university president did find an opportunity to mention the accused students' right to a presumption of innocence)--and certainly none from the politically progressive quarters of the Duke faculty who lent their names to an impassioned ad thanking everyone who had come out to march in protest against the rape and assault of the exotic dancer; 88 faculty members signed it, among them such Duke luminaries as Alice Kaplan, author and student of fascism, and Frank Lentricchia, literary critic.

Unable to take part in the ad signing, Duke's administrators nonetheless found ways to identify with its spirit. Soon after news broke of the Duke athletes' alleged brutish sex crimes against a black woman, the administration undertook a well-publicized campaign targeting the entire lacrosse team for offensive behavior. President Richard Brodhead was, it seems, barely able to recover from the shock of his discovery that a party thrown by male jocks could occasion heavy drinking. And related loutish behavior. Not to mention a stripper. Lacrosse was suspended for the season, and the team coach, Mike Pressler, was shortly after forced to resign. Mr. Brodhead in due course reinstated the team, but on probation, and with conditions, i.e., no underage drinking and disorderly conduct, and no harassment. The members of other Duke organizations, sports teams included, which had sponsored parties where alcohol flowed freely and which had featured strippers--an informal count reveals at least 20 known to have done so--no doubt understood that they faced no similar disciplinary action. The reason for the moral-cleansing program devised for the lacrosse team could scarcely have been missed.

Mr. Nifong's confidence that he had nothing to fear from establishment opinion or from the leaders of the great university as he bounded about making hash of the rules of justice--prime among them the accused's right to a presumption of innocence--proved justified. And might have remained so longer but for the catastrophic effects of the accuser's unraveling stories.

Mr. Nifong is no anomaly--merely a product of the political times, a prosecutor who has absorbed all the clues about the sanctified status now accorded charges involving rape, child sex-abuse and accusations of racism. Which has in turn ensured their transformation into weapons of unequalled power. Like others before him, the DA quickly grasped the career possibilities open to him with such a case and proceeded accordingly--denouncing racism, and the rape and assault of a helpless black woman, and the Duke athletes guilty of these crimes in every media interview available to him (and they were many).





For all the public shock and fury over his behavior, there is little that is new or strange about Mr. Nifong. We have seen the likes of this district attorney, uninterested in proofs of innocence, willing to suppress any he found, many times in the busy army of prosecutors claiming to have found evidence of rampant child abuse in nursery schools and other child-care centers around the country in the 1980s and throughout most of the '90s. They built case after headline-making case charging the mass molestation of small children, and managed to convict scores of innocent Americans on the basis of testimony no rational mind could credit. Law officers who regularly violated requirements of due process in their effort to obtain a conviction, they grasped the special advantage that was theirs: that for a prosecutor dealing with molestation, and wearing the mantle of avenger, there was no such thing as excess, no limits to what could be said of the accused. In court, rules could be bent, any charges presented, and nonexistent medical evidence proclaimed as proof positive of the accusation.
In his role of avenger of a young black woman alleged to have been brutalized by white males, Mr. Nifong proceeded with similar assurance. His was a crusade. Who but enemies of the good would object? Confronted with hard questions about his evidence, whether from the defense or the press, Mr. Nifong answered that these challenges were all designed to intimidate the rape victim. More than once the DA suggested, as criticisms of his case multiplied, that he was himself a victim of the press. He could have had little complaint, last summer, about the New York Times, which provided its own reports on the Duke story. It maintained that that the DA's case had been distorted by the defense and that there was, in fact, a body of evidence that supported the decision to take the case to a jury. A close study of this work's wondrous logic, and of its body of evidence, should provide rich material for students of the press for years to come.

The jury to which Mr. Nifong played--the black population of Durham--duly helped re-elect him. This could not prevent his case of rape and abuse against the three Duke students from coming undone, thanks in part to his own heedless behavior but mainly to the accusing dancer herself, whose shifting stories and checkered past could not be hidden.

Mr. Nifong had, of course, nothing like the advantages of nursery school prosecutors: endearing 4- and 5-year-old witnesses clutching teddy bears, who came to court to recite lies they had been cajoled into inventing, about how the accused had raped and stabbed them, cut off the legs of animals--the kinds of charges mounted, against elderly Violet Amirault of Massachusetts and her adult children Cheryl and Gerald, proprietors of the respected Fells Acres Day School. Many like them were caught up in the era's whirlwind of accusation and sensational trials invariably leading to conviction, on which ambitious prosecutors built careers. Almost all those cases would ultimately be thrown out by appeals courts, most of the time not before those convicted had served long years and paid with the ruin of their lives.

Mr. Nifong's case has come undone long before any trial, fortunately for the three Duke students charged. They have had, nevertheless, a powerful taste of what it means to have been named and despised as perpetrators of abhorrent sexual crimes. I could go to prison for 30 years, Reade Seligmann, one of the accused, told the late Ed Bradley during a "60 Minutes" interview last October--and "for something that never happened"

Neither Mr. Seligman nor the other accused Duke students will ever have to contend with a punishment like the one meted out to Gerald Amirault, who was sentenced to a 30- to 40-year term for something that never happened--atrocious sex crimes that never took place, of which there was no physical evidence, or anything resembling a credible allegation. What did it matter that the child's testimony that resulted in Gerald's conviction had claimed rape with a large butcher's knife--one that had magically left not the slightest injury? The jury's most important duty was, the prosecutors informed them, to believe the children and show that they honored their testimony. The same young witness also testified that Gerald was accompanied by a green, silver and yellow robot, R2-D2, from "Star Wars."

What did it matter, either, that special judicial hearings about the Amiraults' prosecution had concluded that it was a travesty, that a tough panel of former prosecutors, the Governor's Board of Pardons, had virtually declared Gerald Amirault innocent and voted for commutation of his sentence--or that he was finally granted parole nearly three years ago, after nearly 18 years' imprisonment? He was almost immediately classified by Massachusetts's Sex Offenders Registry Board as a Level 3 offender. The kind, that is, deemed the most dangerous and most likely to re-offend. This bizarre classification, the board made clear, had to do with the number of counts of sex abuse charged to him--and the fact, too, that he continued to deny guilt. He now has to wear a large tracking device around his ankle, and obey a curfew confining him to the house from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. He has, not surprisingly, been unable to find a job. He is sustained, as ever, by the unstinting devotion of his family, and he grieves now mainly for the loss of the chance he had dreamed of in prison--of earning a salary and finally lightening the burden his wife had carried, uncomplaining and alone, during his years in prison. (He has recently been advised of pending legislation that will require him to pay $10 a day for the global positioning tag on his leg, that tracks him.)



28720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Legal issues on: January 11, 2007, 04:59:14 PM
Let There Be 'Blight'
Welcome to the post-Kelo world.

BY WILLIAM R. MAURER
Thursday, January 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

SEATTLE--The city of Burien, Wash., recently decided that a piece of property owned by the seven Strobel sisters that had long housed a popular diner-style restaurant was not upscale enough for the city's ambitious "Town Square" development, which will feature condos, shops, restaurants and offices. Rather than condemn the property for a private developer and risk a lawsuit, Burien came up with a plan--it would put a road through the property, and the city manager told his staff to "make damn sure" it did. When a subsequent survey revealed that the road would not affect the building itself, but only sideswipe a small corner of the property, the staff developed yet another site plan that put the road directly through the building. A trial court concluded that the city's actions might be "oppressive" and "an abuse of power"--but allowed the condemnation anyway. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Washington Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Welcome to the post-Kelo world. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 decision made clear that the federal courts would not stop local governments across the country from condemning private property for economic development. While the court noted that states were free to provide greater protections for homes and small businesses if they chose, Washington state stands as evidence that a strong state constitution means little if the courts do not enforce it and local governments disregard it.

When Kelo came out, local governments and their lobbyists eagerly explained that ours was not a "Kelo state," and that the legislative efforts to restrict eminent-domain abuse in other states were unnecessary here. The Washington Constitution explicitly provides that "private property shall not be taken for private use" (except in very limited circumstances). "It can't happen here" became the oft-repeated message used to placate home and small business owners seeking legislative protections for their property.





When it comes to governmental abuse, "it can't happen here" really means "it is happening right now." Local governments are busily using mechanisms in state law to threaten neighborhoods and abuse property owners, and the state Supreme Court has repeatedly let them get away with it.
Shortly after Kelo, the Washington Supreme Court allowed the Seattle Monorail to permanently condemn a piece of property it needed only temporarily for a construction staging area. Once the monorail had completed that legitimate public use, it intended to sell the property at a premium to raise revenue. In this way, Washington courts now allow local governments to condemn more land than is necessary, for longer than is necessary, in the hopes that the government can play real-estate speculator with whatever is left.

The court also ruled that the meetings at which a local government determines which property to condemn could take place essentially in secret, with the only notice for property owners being a posting on an obscure government Web site. The court ignored the fact that computer usage among minorities, the elderly and the poor is significantly lower than in other segments of the population, and that it is these communities that traditionally have been the target of eminent-domain abuse.

Washington courts now defer to even the most extreme examples of governmental exploitation, exemplified by Burien's treatment of the Strobel sisters. So long as the government can manufacture a fig leaf of public use or possible public use for constitutional cover, local governments can take private property to transfer to other private entities or deliberately target properties not upscale enough for the bureaucrats' "vision."

The tools available for trampling constitutional rights are already there. Since the Kelo decision, municipalities have rediscovered Washington's Community Renewal Act, the local incarnation of statutes used to destroy working-class (and often minority) neighborhoods across the country in the 1950s and '60s. The government, under the act, can condemn an entire neighborhood and transfer the property to a private developer so long as the government finds that at least some property in the neighborhood is "blighted." Unfortunately, this statute is so broadly worded that practically every neighborhood in Washington meets the definition of "blight"--things like "obsolete platting" and "diversity of ownership" constitute "blight." The statute provides all the devices a mildly clever planner needs to pull off a Kelo-style taking.

Working-class neighborhoods are already feeling the pressure. Auburn recently declared much of its beautiful downtown "blighted," and adopted a Community Renewal Plan. One city manager explained that blight "means anything that impairs or arrests sound growth"--a hugely elastic definition. Similarly, Seattle is considering using the Community Renewal Act in the city's Rainier Valley, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the nation.





Regardless of strong constitutional protections for private property, governments and courts now view eminent domain as an area where few if any restrictions exist. And not just in Washington. In probably the most appalling example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit let stand a condemnation in which a developer in the Port Chester, N.Y., demanded that Bart Didden give him either $800,000 or a 50% share in Mr. Didden's property, which was slated to be a CVS pharmacy--or the developer would have the village condemn it. Mr. Didden refused; the next day, the village condemned his property to hand it over to the developer to construct a Walgreens. Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to take the case.
Meanwhile, state and federal courts are turning redevelopment areas into Constitution-free zones, where the government can do what it wants with few or no restrictions. It doesn't have to be this way. Courts could force the government to comply with the state and federal constitutions. Local governments could limit their takings only to legitimate public uses. But until all three branches of government begin taking their constitutional obligations seriously, property owners across the country face the continued threat of eminent-domain abuse, regardless of what the state or federal constitution says.

Ask the Strobel sisters, who are now fighting for just compensation for a property that was never for sale in the first place.

Mr. Maurer is executive director of the Institute for Justice, Washington chapter, and the author of "A False Sense of Security: The Potential for Eminent-Domain Abuse in Washington," recently published by the Washington Policy Center. The Institute litigated the Kelo case and represents Bart Didden in his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

28721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: January 11, 2007, 01:16:38 PM
Fox News   
Pentagon Warns Contractors About 'Canadian' Spy Coins
Thursday, January 11, 2007


This photo released by the Central Intelligence Agency shows a hollow container, fashioned to look like an Eisenhower silver dollar.
WASHINGTON  —  Money talks, but can it also follow your movements?

In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

Intelligence and technology experts said such transmitters, if they exist, could be used to surreptitiously track the movements of people carrying the spy coins.

The U.S. report doesn't suggest who might be tracking American defense contractors or why. It also doesn't describe how the Pentagon discovered the ruse, how the transmitters might function or even which Canadian currency contained them.

Further details were secret, according to the U.S. Defense Security Service, which issued the warning to the Pentagon's classified contractors. The government insists the incidents happened, and the risk was genuine.

(Story continues below)


"What's in the report is true," said Martha Deutscher, a spokeswoman for the security service. "This is indeed a sanitized version, which leaves a lot of questions."

Top suspects, according to outside experts: China, Russia or even France — all said to actively run espionage operations inside Canada with enough sophistication to produce such technology.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said it knew nothing about the coins.

"This issue has just come to our attention," CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said. "At this point, we don't know of any basis for these claims."

She said Canada's intelligence service works closely with its U.S. counterparts and will seek more information if necessary.

Experts were astonished about the disclosure and the novel tracking technique, but they rejected suggestions Canada's government might be spying on American contractors. The intelligence services of the two countries are extraordinarily close and routinely share sensitive secrets.

"It would seem unthinkable," said David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. "I wouldn't expect to see any offensive operation against the Americans."

Harris said likely candidates include foreign spies who targeted Americans abroad or businesses engaged in corporate espionage.

"There are certainly a lot of mysterious aspects to this," Harris said.

Experts said such tiny transmitters would almost certainly have limited range to communicate with sensors no more than a few feet away, such as ones hidden inside a doorway. The metal in the coins also could interfere with any signals emitted.

"I'm not aware of any [transmitter] that would fit inside a coin and broadcast for kilometers," said Katherine Albrecht, an activist who believes such technology — known as radio-frequency identification, and in common usage as "no-swipe" credit cards and gas-station key fobs — carries serious privacy risks. "Whoever did this obviously has access to some pretty advanced technology."

Experts said hiding tracking technology inside coins is fraught with risks because the spy's target might inadvertently give away the coin or spend it buying coffee or a newspaper. They agreed, however, that a coin with a hidden tracking device might not arouse suspicion if it were discovered in a pocket or briefcase.

"It wouldn't seem to be the best place to put something like that; you'd want to put it in something that wouldn't be left behind or spent," said Jeff Richelson, a researcher and author of books about the CIA and its gadgets. "It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense."

Canada's largest coins include its $2 "Toonie," which is more than 1 inch across and thick enough to hide a tiny transmitter. The CIA has acknowledged its own spies have used hollow, U.S. silver-dollar coins to hide messages and film.

The government's 29-page report was filled with other espionage warnings. It described unrelated hacker attacks, eavesdropping with miniature pen recorders and the case of a female foreign spy who seduced her American boyfriend to steal his computer passwords.

In another case, a film processing company called the FBI after it developed pictures for a contractor that contained classified images of U.S. satellites and their blueprints. The photo was taken from an adjoining office window.


28722  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Bolivia on: January 11, 2007, 07:46:09 AM
http://martialpedia.blogspot.com/index.html
28723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 11, 2007, 07:38:44 AM
1244 GMT -- AFGHANISTAN -- NATO-led ground troops backed by air support killed about 150 Taliban militants in a late Jan. 10 battle in Afghanistan's Paktika province, close to the Pakistani border, NATO said in a statement Jan. 10. NATO had observed the two large groups of insurgents infiltrating the province from Pakistan, according to the statement.

stratfor.com
28724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 11, 2007, 07:37:04 AM
We live in interesting times , , ,

Geopolitical Diary: Iraq After al-Maliki

On Wednesday, the same day U.S. President George W. Bush unveiled his new plan to deal with the situation in Iraq, rumors circulated that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could resign in as little as four months. The leading contender to replace him is Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, who was al-Maliki's main rival for the position when he was elected in April 2006.

Should he leave office, al-Maliki would be the second elected Shiite prime minister in two years to have met with failure. Both al-Maliki and his predecessor, interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, are members of Hizb al-Dawah (HD). They were able to take power when the other main Shiite factions -- the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the al-Sadrite Bloc -- agreed to give HD the prime ministership, each to prevent the other from gaining power.

Al-Maliki's potential resignation is an indication that the problem is not a question of performance (or lack thereof) for any individual prime minister, but rather has to do with intra-Shiite politics. If Abdel Mahdi, the No. 2 man in SCIRI, were to become prime minister, it would upset the internal balance of power within the Shiite community and, more important, exacerbate intra-Shiite tensions, thus leading to further violence and instability within the country.

Should al-Maliki resign and Abdel Mahdi take his place, the Shia would have to agree on someone to assume the position of vice president, and the other factions would have to compensate HD in some way for the loss. This also would likely deepen tensions between the Iraqi government and the Mehdi Army, the militia loyal to radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, since SCIRI is al-Sadr's main rival.

Should SCIRI take the top post, it would mean the prime ministership would be controlled by the most pro-Iranian Shiite group. This would further undermine Washington's influence in Baghdad, given that the Bush administration does not want to negotiate with Tehran over Iraq -- at least not from its current, weakened position.

Al-Maliki's resignation also could bring about the collapse of the Shiite coalition, which is currently hanging by only a thread, with deep internal differences between its members. The Shia cannot afford for their collective position to be further weakened.

Thus far, the Shia have chosen to sacrifice effective governance for the sake of unity. They will continue to do so. Therefore, it is unlikely that any new prime minister, particularly one from SCIRI, will be able to govern the country effectively.
---------------

1236 GMT -- UNITED STATES, IRAN -- U.S. troops raided an Iranian consular office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Jan. 11, detaining five employees and seizing documents and computers, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported.

1230 GMT -- IRAQ -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Jan. 11 threatened Shiite militiamen with an all-out assault if they do not surrender their weapons. The announcement came hours after U.S. President George W. Bush pledged to control violence in Iraq with 21,500 additional troops and a more agressive Iraqi army. Al-Maliki had previously resisted such a move because the fighters are loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, his powerful political ally.


stratfor.com
28725  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Did Filipino Martial Arts Revolutionize Boxing? on: January 11, 2007, 05:09:41 AM
Guro Inosanto offers some thoughts related to this thread

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3WsXSMc2f0&mode=related&search=
28726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Horn of Africa (Somali, Ehtiopia and) on: January 11, 2007, 04:33:23 AM
TERRORIZING TERRORISTS
By RALPH PETERS

January 10, 2007 -- WE'LL get you. No matter how long it takes, we'll get you. That's the message our special-operations forces just sent to al Qaeda fugitives in Somalia - and everywhere else.

With AC-130 gunships pounding terrorist hide-outs and training sites in the badlands near the Kenyan border, we may have nailed senior al Qaeda figures involved in bombing our embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam. At the very least, we killed some really bad hombres.

As always, terrorist propagandists will claim that only innocent civilians suffered, and media sympathizers will echo their nonsense. Fortunately, though, most pro-terrorist journalists and "human-rights advocates" are preoccupied just now with the awful mistreatment of poor, misunderstood Saddam Hussein.

And the devastation left behind by our gunships is only part of a very big U.S. win:

* Thanks to resolute military action by Ethiopia's government (quietly backed by Washington), the terror regime in Mogadishu crumbled overnight - collapsing the lie that extremist Islam is on the march to an inevitable victory.

* The speed of the Ethiopian advance cornered hundreds of hardcore Islamist fighters in a forlorn backwater, where they can be killed out of sight of their media defenders. And be killed they will.

* Islamist outrages and subversion inspired unprecedented cooperation between moderate Somalis, Ethiopians, Kenyans and Americans.

For its part, the Kenyan government grew sick of Somalia exporting hatred, weapons and terror. Now Kenyan troops have sealed their border so al Qaeda's agents can't escape.

* Far from being a growing threat - as America-haters insist - al Qaeda's on the run. Confident that they had a new refuge in Somalia, international terrorists instead find themselves scrambling to escape justice.

* Our special-ops forces are getting their revenge: After Army Rangers and Delta Force troops won a hands-down victory in the streets of Mogadishu back in 1993, President Bill Clinton sold them out (as the Pelosi-Reid Democrats threaten to do to our soldiers in Iraq on a greater scale). Now they're killing al Qaeda fanatics and their local allies with the full support of a new Somali government.

Much remains unresolved in Somalia - it won't turn into a quiet garden spot any year soon. But no amount of rationalizations by anti-American voices can disguise the fact that this has been a huge defeat for radical Islam and its terrorist vanguard: They're homeless again.

Fanatical dreams of re-establishing - and extending - the Muslim caliphate on the African continent are suddenly in shambles (although our enemies, from al Qaeda to the Saudi royal family, won't give up just yet). Far from impressing the world with its strength, extremist Islam just revealed its inherent weakness again: Average Muslims don't like it and won't defend it.

Yes, there's plenty of anti-Ethiopian emotion in the streets of Mogadishu today - but that's not the same as pro-Islamist sentiment.

As for al Qaeda's media pals, they'll try to play down the scope of this defeat, lying that only a few foreign terrorists were in Somalia. But even apart from the number of fanatics now lying dead in mango swamps, snake-ridden forests and scrubland, the psychological blow to al Qaeda has been huge: Mired in Iraq and hunkered down in remote rat-holes in Pakistan, Terror International, Inc. has been robbed of its biggest success story since 9/11.

The Islamists lost their vital beach-head in the Horn of Africa. Even Sudan, for all its villainy, is wary of associating with al Qaeda today (Khartoum has enough problems).

Of course, not all in the region is exactly as it seems on the surface. The do-it-in-the-dark boys - our military special-operations forces and CIA personnel - have been deeply involved in getting this one right. Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, the American regional headquarters in Djibouti, has been a consistently effective player, too, punching well above its weight. JTF-HOA is an economy-of-force operation that returns a huge strategic dividend on the taxpayer's investment.

We owe all of our engaged military and intelligence personnel - overt, covert and clandestine - a debt of thanks.

But the thanks won't be public. As always, our special operators will fade back into the strategic mist. Some may have been on the ground in Somalia throughout this operation, helping out with intelligence and targeting, nudging key actions along and hunting specific terrorists. The use of AC-130 gunships - incredibly effective weapons - against massed terrorists may have been cued by cell-phone intercepts, but I wouldn't discount brave Americans on the ground directing those airstrikes.

That's speculation, of course. But I can guarantee two things to Post readers: First, Somalia and the world are better off with the Islamists on the run and living in terror themselves, and, second, our special operations forces - from all of the services - are greater heroes than the history books or Hollywood films will ever be able to capture.

Whack 'em again, guys.

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of "Never Quit The Fight."


28727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe on: January 10, 2007, 08:32:30 PM
The Adventure continues!

Stratfor.com

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

The Belarusian Crisis: An Opportunity for Germany
By Peter Zeihan

Picture this scenario: After months of acrimonious negotiations over energy prices, Russian leaders put their foot down and inform the government of a former Soviet republic that the gravy train has screeched to a halt -- no more subsidized energy supplies. At the dawn of a new year, Moscow ratchets up prices by orders of magnitude, the former vassal state begins siphoning off Russian exports destined for customers in Europe and the Europeans complain vociferously about interruptions to their supplies.

If this sounds familiar, it's because just such a sequence of events occurred in early January 2006, in a spat between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas supplies.

Almost exactly a year later, the scenario has repeated itself, though this time it concerns oil, rather than natural gas, and Belarus, rather than Ukraine. But from a geopolitical standpoint, there are some important differences between the two energy crises. In 2006, Russia used the crisis with Ukraine -- a state crucial to its own national security and territorial integrity -- to drive home a political point to European powers. The point, essentially, was that the ability of everyday Poles, French or Germans to keep warm during the northern European winters was directly tied to their governments' support for Russia on wider geopolitical issues. Recent events involving Belarus, however, might lead to a very different outcome: a foundation for unity among European states and at least a limited assertion of European power.

The Russian Sphere

To understand this, it's important to consider the former Soviet region from Moscow's perspective.

The natural gas cutoffs to Europe last year were all about Russia bringing a post-Orange Revolution Ukraine to heel, and enlisting wider support in its attempts to do so. By ratcheting the price dispute with Kiev into an energy crisis for Europe in the dead of winter, Moscow demonstrated that having a pro-Russian government in Ukraine would mean stable energy supplies for Europe, while the consequences of an anti-Russian government in Ukraine would be economic instability for Europe. Having made that point, Russia spent much of 2006 raking back its influence in Kiev -- a process that culminated in the selection of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich as prime minister.

For Russia, such events -- like Moscow's defeat in the Orange Revolution before them -- were core considerations. Without Ukraine in its orbit, Russia's economic and strategic coherence frays, making it impossible for Russia to function as a global power.

The Russian calculus concerning Belarus, however, is quite different. Ukraine's geographic location and infrastructure make the state critical to Russia's ability to control the Caucasus, feed its population, field a navy, interact with Europe and defend its heartland. While Belarus is more economically developed than Ukraine, it has less than half the land mass and only a quarter of the population. In fact, Belarus likely would be only a footnote in Moscow's strategic planning, but for the fact that some of Russia's natural gas and oil exports pass through it en route to Europe. The Belarusians are well aware of their position.

The leader of Belarus since shortly after the Soviet breakup has been President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Once a Soviet bureaucrat assigned to the USSR's agricultural cooperatives, Lukashenko cut a deal with the Russians upon attaining power: Support me with Soviet-era subsidies and I will sing your praises -- and curse your rivals -- loudly, reflexively and for all time.

The deal served both parties fine. Russia kept an unflinching ally and Lukashenko maintained his popularity through cheap energy supplies -- which fueled the local economy (both literally and figuratively, as Minsk was able to re-export Russian oil and oil products to the West at market rates). Putting a precise monetary value on the benefits to Belarus is difficult, given the murkiness of Russian accounting, but it certainly comes to much more than the Soviet Union spent annually on Cuba during the Cold War. In 2006, for example, the energy subsidies alone amounted to $5 billion.

There were some ancillary benefits for Lukashenko as well. As the years rolled on, his anti-Western rhetoric was so steadily vitriolic that many of Russia's nationalists privately wished he were one of their own. Some of the more, shall we say, colorful of these nationalists took to leaking "poll results" encouraging him to run for the Russian presidency; talks soon ensued about ways to merge the two states into a new union reminiscent of the USSR. For Lukashenko, this was quite attractive: In such an arrangement, he would undoubtedly become the vice president, and -- considering that then-President Boris Yeltsin was known to have the blood alcohol level of a dry martini -- Lukashenko was certain it would be only a matter of time before a failed quadruple bypass made him the revered premier of a revived Soviet empire.

But things changed sharply in 2000, when (the teetotal and healthy) Vladimir Putin became president of Russia. It did not take long for Putin to decide he cared little for Lukashenko, personally, professionally and politically, and relations between Moscow and Minsk steadily cooled. By the end of 2005, Putin had succeeded in reducing the influence of those Russian officials who enjoyed Lukashenko's sharp-edged rhetoric, replacing them with a new cadre of pragmatic strategists who had little desire to keep a significant "Lukashenko" line item on the accounts payable portion of the Russian budget. The Russians steadily cut back on subsidies: As of Jan. 1, natural gas prices were forcibly doubled (with more price increases in the works), and Belarus was stripped of its rights to cut-rate oil.

Moscow's threats to Minsk gave way to unilateral Belarusian tariff increases on Russian exports, and from thence to siphoning of oil exports and a Russian cutoff, announced Jan. 8. With that, Lukashenko's career as the world's best-paid cheerleader came to an unceremonious end.

From the standpoint of the West, however, Lukashenko is no Ukraine: No one is all that concerned about his fate. Make no mistake, Russia's decision to end energy subsidies for Belarus means that the loyalties of this decently developed state perched on the edge of Europe are indeed in play. In fact, should there be a political opening in Minsk, Belarus would be a slam-dunk destination for foreign investment and could even squeeze itself onto the short list of candidates for EU membership. However, 12 years of Lukashenko haranguing the West has taken a toll. If the Belarusian leader now wishes to plot a course away from Russia, he will be starting at square one.

Crisis Averted?

As to the current imbroglio, the Russians have used their many levers of influence to badger Lukashenko into backing away from a trade war. The Belarusian transit tariff that led the Russians to halt their oil exports to Europe was cancelled Jan. 10, with the Russians recommencing exports within a few hours. But, with the political loyalties of Belarus in play, there is certainly no guarantee that disruptions will not recur -- and that is of no small consequence.

The Soviet-era oil pipeline that carries Russian crude to Europe is the Druzhba (which, ironically in the context of Belarus, translates as "friendship"). At full capacity, the line carries 2.0 million barrels per day to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Germany and, of course, Belarus.




Shutting down that pipeline, even for a short time, presents the Russians with an atypical problem. Russia produces about 9.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and gas condensates -- a number that has not changed appreciably in the past four years because the state has not invested in additional export routes. Overflow production -- what the pipes cannot handle under normal conditions -- typically is shipped by more expensive rail and river barge networks; but, as this is winter, Russia's rivers are frozen over and the river barge option is temporarily off the table.

Though Russian refineries might be able to take some of the surplus, most of that oil -- at least 1.0 million bpd -- has literally nowhere to go so long as the Druzhba pipeline is suspended. On Jan. 9, Putin directed the government to consult with Russia's oil magnates (some of whom were in the room with him at the time, due to Russia's ongoing efforts to nationalize its energy industry) and explore the possibility of a production cut.

That would be problematic anywhere, but even more so in Russia, where energy reserves are located in regions of extreme cold. When production is halted, starting Russian oil wells back up is neither cheap nor easy; many of the wells will actually freeze solid and will have to be redrilled before production resumes. Under these circumstances, it could take the Russians as long as a year to bring output back to pre-crisis levels.

At this point, an output reduction appears unlikely, since Belarus is in the process of caving to Russian demands -- but there is a larger political question to be considered. Lukashenko has been humiliated and now must do some political math. His options are to kowtow meekly to Moscow, bereft of those once-generous subsidies, and mark time until he loses power -- or attempt to use what energy leverage he has over Russia to make a friend in Brussels and/or Washington. For Lukashenko -- who has demonstrated that his loyalty is for sale -- the options are wide and the consequences are unpredictable.

An Agenda Downstream

With oil deliveries to five European states already having been suspended for three days, the Belarus-Russian spat obviously has implications far beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union.

As could be expected, the mood in Europe has been one of angered panic. Though oil -- which enjoys a robust spot market and can be shipped easily by tanker -- is easier to scrape together in a pinch than natural gas, it is hardly a snap to replace the Druzhba supplies. European leaders have been outspoken, issuing sound bites peppered with phrases like "destroyed trust," "unreliable," "urgent need to diversify" and "unnecessarily vulnerable." The Europeans were particularly put out that the Russians did not send so much as a notification memo that roughly 2 million bpd of crude deliveries were about to be halted.

In sum, political leaders throughout Europe were soundly in agreement on the issue.

This does not happen often.

Throughout its history, continental Europe has been driven by ideological, religious, cultural, geographic and economic divisions. After the Cold War ended, the Europeans attempted to put those differences aside and work toward not just an economic union but also a political one. But the fiction that these diverse states could act in concert on much beyond trade issues largely was ended by their differences over the Iraq war -- including the decision of many to support the U.S. invasion -- and the failure of the EU constitution. This fracture has sapped much of the enthusiasm for the European Union as a concept and is a contributing factor in deepening "enlargement fatigue."

The Belarus issue, however, provides the Europeans with a stellar opportunity. Energy -- Russian energy, in particular -- is a hot-button issue on which the EU states already share similar views. All that remains now is for some enterprising leader to turn those views into a set of policies that can bind Europe together.

The question, of course, is: who?

Considering the domestic situation for most of the traditional European powers (Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has been reduced to attaching confidence votes to legislation simply to force his unwieldy coalition to vote for his policies, and the French and British heads of state are both slated to leave office in a matter of months), there is really only one political heavyweight available: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Throw in the fact that Germany holds the EU presidency until July 1 and the G-8 chairmanship until the year's end, and it is a foregone conclusion that she is the only leader who can make a serious attempt at forging a new sense of unity.

It has been a long time since the Germans were a serious political player in Europe. The European mantra after World War II was not much more complicated than, "Use the French-led EU to keep the Germans boxed up economically and the American-led NATO to keep them down militarily." During his tenure, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder managed to open a crack in these long-held convictions, but ultimately he did not challenge the idea that European interests would automatically equate to German interests.

Merkel, however, does. For the first time since the Third Reich, Germany has a leader who wants -- and who even, in some ways, is expected by European neighbors -- to stake out a leadership position for the entire continent. And now the Belarus-Russian spat has handed her an issue she can use to make that stick.

The longer-term implications of this are critical. While the Bush administration is a huge fan of "Angie," the United States historically has been wary of German power. The core tenet of U.S. strategic doctrine is to block the rise of any state that potentially could exert control over an entire continent. For all practical purposes, the United States is the only major power that falls into that category, and so long as a rival does not emerge, its hegemonic position is secure.

This is one of the reasons U.S. relations with the European Union as a whole have never been more than lukewarm -- and those with Russia, in truth, have never been more than coolly polite. Both entities retain the potential to become such a continent-spanning rival. And as European history illustrates, whenever the Germans have ended up on top in Europe, the Americans have marched to war.

To be sure, Merkel has plenty of obstacles to overcome if she intends to prove she is the woman to lead Europe as something more than a figurehead:


Germans might like the idea of being back in the game, but that does not mean Merkel enjoys full support at home for the details of what she will need to do. Any EU-wide energy program doubtless will involve at least a re-examination of nuclear power -- which is a point of contention within Merkel's own governing coalition. If she is not able to muscle the center-left Social Democrats into line, new elections likely will result. And even if Merkel were to come out ahead in those polls, her ability to act as a coherent arbiter of European issues would stall during the foregoing campaign.


There is an issue of balance in energy supplies. Most of the roughly 6 million bpd of oil and oil products exported by Russia end up in Europe, and nearly half of Europe's natural gas imports come from Russia as well. Reducing those dependencies will necessitate a wrenching political and economic shift among European states. Tens of billions of dollars in new pipeline infrastructure to places such as Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Nigeria would be needed -- not exactly a Who's Who of desirable partners in politically correct Europe.


Merkel's existing plans also could hamper her ability to capitalize on the opportunity afforded by Belarus. Before the Russian oil cutoff, she outlined a dozen major issues she planned to address during her EU presidency -- all of them time-consuming and controversial. The sheer size of her agenda, and pledges of attention to the failed EU constitution, have placed her at risk of squandering her leadership opportunity by biting off more than she can chew.

That said, there is now an issue that poses a clear and immediate danger to the union, involving a matter on which member states already share common views. All that remains is for Merkel, as EU president, to set aside her existing to-do list and translate those agreements into a common policy. And this seems to be the direction she is leaning.

As she stated on Jan. 9 as the Belarusian crisis deepened, "For us, energy is what coal and steel used to be." This direct reference to the European Coal and Steel Community -- which provided the early glue for the forebears of today's European Union -- is an excellent signal of just how ambitious the chancellor is.
28728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Philippines on: January 10, 2007, 07:05:05 PM
Second post of day:

Philippines: Regional Summit and Coincidental Bombings
Summary

Three bombings within hours of each other occurred in the southern Philippines on Jan. 10, on the eve of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on the central Philippine island of Cebu. Instead of being timed to disrupt the summit, the attacks were more likely related to the ongoing fight between the Philippine military and militants in the southern part of the country.

Analysis

On the eve of the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, hosted by the Philippines on Jan. 10-15 in Cebu City, three bombings occurred on the island of Mindanao, south of the conference site. Although several countries, including Canada, Australia and the United States, have warned against traveling to the Philippines during the summit, high security in Cebu City and increased military pressure on militants in the Philippines make an attack against the summit unlikely.

A bomb in a marketplace in General Santos City killed three people; then, less than three hours later, a second bomb detonated near a police outpost near Kidapawan City, about 65 miles north of General Santos City, after officers left to go on patrol. The third bomb detonated in a dumpsite along a major street in Cotabato City, approximately 70 miles west of Kidapawan.





Bombings are not unheard of in General Santos City, which is in a predominantly Muslim area of Mindanao. However, the General Santos bomb also could be related to a business dispute involving the operator of a lottery kiosk not paying up. Kidapawan and Cotabato often are hit by bombings carried out by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) or Moro Islamic Liberation Front factions.

All three bombings occurred on Mindanao, which has a long history of militant activity. The ASEAN summit is being held on Cebu, an island to the north. Instead of being timed to disrupt the summit, the attacks were more likely coincidental. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other security forces have been very active against ASG and associated groups in the south in recent months, and the bombings could be an attempt by militants to retaliate or mark the beginning of a counteroffensive. Hours before the first bombing, Binang Sali, one of ASG's spiritual advisers and unit commanders, was killed in an encounter with Philippine troops near the town of Patikul, on Jolo Island.

The bombings also could be related to local politics. Rival political groups in the area -- Christian vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Christian, Muslim vs. Muslim -- have been known to use bombs and conduct drive-by shootings to settle issues.

Even if militants attempt to attack the ASEAN summit, it is unlikely such an attack would be very large, or close to the actual summit venue in Cebu City. Security will be tight around the main venues for the summit -- the new $11.2 million Cebu International Convention Center and the Shangri-la resort on nearby Mactan Island. Because the resort, where high-level meetings are set to take place, is on an island, access to that venue is carefully controlled. A total of 12,000 Philippine soldiers and police are guarding the summit, and the airspace above it has been declared a no-fly zone, although it is unclear whether the Philippine air force would be able to identify or intercept hostile aircraft.

With the AFP ratcheting up the pressure on militants on Mindanao, especially the ASG, militant groups are less able to organize and carry out an attack against the summit. Encounters between militants and AFP troops occur nearly every day in the region, and several militants have been captured or killed in recent weeks. Though the ASEAN summit might be an attractive target to militant groups operating in the Philippines, such groups are unlikely to disrupt it with a significant attack.

stratfor.com
28729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: January 10, 2007, 04:52:16 PM
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Two Alliances
BY EDWARD N. LUTTWAK
January 10, 2007; Page A17

It was the hugely ambitious project of the Bush administration to transform the entire Middle East by remaking Iraq into an irresistible model of prosperous democracy. Having failed in that worthy purpose, another, more prosaic result has inadvertently been achieved: divide and rule, the classic formula for imperial power on the cheap. The ancient antipathy between Sunni and Shiite has become a dynamic conflict, not just within Iraq but across the Middle East, and key protagonists on each side seek the support of American power. Once the Bush administration realizes what it has wrought, it will cease to scramble for more troops that can be sent to Iraq, because it has become pointless to patrol and outpost a civil war, while a mere quarter or less of the troops already there are quite enough to control the outcome. And that is just the start of what can now be achieved across the region with very little force, and some competent diplomacy.

 
President Bush and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim: 'Hardly a natural partner.'
On Dec. 4, 2006, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of Iraq's largest political party, went to the White House to plead his case with President Bush. The son of an ayatollah, and himself a lifelong militant cleric, Mr. Hakim is hardly a natural partner for the U.S. -- while living in Iran for 23 years he must have declaimed "death to America" on many an occasion. But as the chief leader of Iraq's Arab Shiite population, he has no choice. Each day brings deadly Sunni attacks, and just as the Sunnis are strengthened by volunteers and money from outside Iraq, the Shiites, too, need all the help they can get, especially American military training for the Shiite-dominated army and police. For President Bush, the visiting Mr. Hakim brought welcome promises of cooperation against his aggressive Shiite rival Moqtada al-Sadr as well as the Sunni insurgents. It no longer even seems strange that the best ally of the U.S. in Iraq is Mr. Hakim's party, the Sciri: the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose very title evokes the Iranian model of radically anti-Western theocracy.

Just as the Sunni threat to majority rule in Iraq is forcing Sciri to cooperate with the U.S., the prospect of a Shiite-dominated Iraq is forcing Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan, to seek American help against the rising power of the Shiites. Some Sunnis viewed Iran with suspicion even when it was still under the conservative rule of the shah, in part because its very existence as the only Shiite state could inspire unrest among the oppressed Shiite populations of Arabia. More recently, the nearby Sunni Arab states have been increasingly worried by the military alliance between Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah of Lebanon. But now that a Shiite-ruled Iraq could add territorial contiguity to the alliance, forming a "Shiite crescent" extending all the way from Pakistan to the Mediterranean, it is not only the Sunnis of nearby Arabia that feel very seriously threatened. The entire order of Muslim orthodoxy is challenged by the expansion of heterodox Shiite rule.

Although it was the U.S. that was responsible for ending Sunni supremacy in Iraq along with Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, it remains the only possible patron for the Sunni Arab states resisting the Shiite alliance. Americans have no interest in the secular-sectarian quarrel, but there is a very real convergence of interests with the Sunni Arab states because Iran is the main enemy for both.

At this moment, it is in Lebanon that the new Sunni-U.S. alliance has become active. With continuing mass demonstrations and threatening speeches, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is trying to force the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to give way to a new coalition which he can dominate. Syria and Iran are supporting Mr. Nasrallah, while the U.S. is backing Mr. Siniora. He has the support of the Druze and of most Christians as well, but it is also very much as a Sunni leader that Mr. Siniora is firmly resisting so far. That has gained him the financial backing of Saudi Arabia, which is funding Sunni counterdemonstrations and has even tried to co-opt Hezbollah, among other things. It was in their Arab identity that Hezbollah claimed heroic status because they were not routed by the Israelis in the recent fighting, but evidently many Sunni Arabs in and out of Lebanon view them instead as Shiite sectarians, far too obedient to non-Arab Iran. That suits the U.S., for Iran and Hezbollah are its enemies, too.

The Sunni-U.S. alignment in Lebanon, which interestingly coexists with the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq, may yet achieve results of strategic importance if Syria is successfully detached from its alliance with Iran. Originally it was a necessary alliance for both countries because Saddam's Iraq was waging war on Iran, and periodically tried to overthrow the Assad regime of Syria. Now that Iraq is no longer a threat to either country, Iran still needs Syria as a bridge to Hezbollah, but for Syria the alliance is strategically obsolete, as well as inconsistent with the country's Arab identity. True, Syria is ruled primarily by members of the Alawite sect that is usually classified as a Shiite offshoot. But that extremely heterodox faith (it has Christmas and the transmigration of souls) is far different from the Shiism of Iraq, Lebanon or Iran -- where it would be persecuted; and besides, at least 70% of Syrians are Sunnis. That may explain why the Syrian regime has not used its full influence to overthrow Mr. Siniora: His stand against the Shiite Hezbollah resonates with his fellow Sunnis of Syria. But another reason may be the promise of substantial aid and investment from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates for Syria's needy economy, if the regime diminishes its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, or better, ends it altogether. The U.S., for its part, is no longer actively driving Syria into the arms of the Iranians by threatening a march on Damascus, while even the unofficial suggestions of negotiations by the Iraq Study Group made an impression, judging by some conciliatory Syrian statements.

The U.S.-Sunni alliance, which is a plain fact in Lebanon, is still only tentative over Syria; but it would be greatly energized if Iran were successfully deprived of its only Arab ally. At the same time, the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq has been strengthened in the wake of Mr. Hakim's visit. The Sunni insurgency is undiminished, but at least other Shiite groups are jointly weakening the only actively anti-American Shiite faction headed by Mr. Sadr.

When the Bush administration came into office, only Egypt and Jordan were functioning allies of the U.S. Iran and Iraq were already declared enemies, Syria was hostile, and even its supposed friends in the Arabian peninsula were so disinclined to help that none did anything to oppose al Qaeda. Some actively helped it, while others knowingly allowed private funds to reach the terrorists whose declared aim was to kill Americans.

The Iraq war has indeed brought into existence a New Middle East, in which Arab Sunnis can no longer gleefully disregard American interests because they need help against the looming threat of Shiite supremacy, while in Iraq at the core of the Arab world, the Shia are allied with the U.S. What past imperial statesmen strove to achieve with much cunning and cynicism, the Bush administration has brought about accidentally. But the result is exactly the same.

Mr. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" (Belknap, 2002).
 
28730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Philippines on: January 10, 2007, 04:29:27 PM
PHILIPPINES: Three bombings within hours of each other occurred in the southern Philippines ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which begins Jan. 11. A bomb in a marketplace in the city of General Santos killed three people. About two and a half hours later, a second bomb detonated near a police outpost just after officers on duty left to patrol near Kidapawan, about 65 miles north of General Santos. The third bomb detonated in a dumping ground along a major street in Cotabato City, approximately 70 miles west of Kidapawan.

stratfor.com
28731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 10, 2007, 04:23:34 PM
You may be right or may be not-- Sistani is of the quietist school of Shia and seems sincere about democracy and Ahmadinejad (sp?) et al are from the school that says that they must cleanse the world to prepare for the 12th Iman.

See my recent post on the Islam the Religion thread by a senior Bush advisor and also see my post today on the Big Picture WW3 thread by Luttwak.
28732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: January 10, 2007, 04:19:33 PM
Terminatorcare
Gov. Schwarzenegger writes a prescription for disaster.

BY DAVID R. HENDERSON
Wednesday, January 10, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
WSJ

MONTEREY, Calif.--On Monday, Arnold Schwarzenegger presented his proposal for reducing the number of Californians who lack health insurance. His proposal is almost indistinguishable--except in details--from that of the Democrats who dominate the California Assembly and Senate.

The Democrats tend to favor solutions involving regulations, government spending and taxes, and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata's proposal--the main contending Democrat plan--hits the trifecta. It would require employers to provide health insurance; give them the option of paying a tax instead of providing health insurance; and increase spending by expanding both the Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs, which provide care to low-income children--including children of illegal immigrants and the disabled.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's solution hits the trifecta also. He would require employers with 10 or more workers to provide health insurance or pay a 4% tax on all wages covered by Social Security: Look for employers with 10 to 12 employees to get creative about outsourcing. And look as well, as Harvard economist Jonathan Gruber has documented, for wages to fall in firms that offer health insurance because of the mandate. Gov. Schwarzenegger would throw in a 2% tax on doctors and a 4% tax on hospitals to help fund Medi-Cal, California's name for Medicaid. And he would expand Medi-Cal to adults earning as much as 100% above the poverty line and to children, even those here illegally, in poor and middle-income families. He hopes, by doing this, to shift $5 billion of Medi-Cal's annual cost to the federal government.

There are two problems with such solutions. First, they infringe on economic freedom, preventing, in Robert Nozick's phrase, "capitalist acts between consenting adults." Second, government solutions rarely work.





Why doesn't increased government power tend to solve the problem of the uninsured? There are two main reasons. First, when government provides health insurance, many people who take advantage of it drop their own privately provided health insurance. In a 1996 article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Harvard economists David M. Cutler and Jonathan Gruber found a 50% "crowding-out effect." As the federal Medicaid program expanded, for every two people who gained insurance through Medicaid, one dropped private health insurance. Although this is a net addition of one, the costs to taxpayers are much higher than expected because now half of the newly covered, instead of paying their own way as they previously did, become wards of the state.
Second, of the 46 million or so people without health insurance at any given time, about 45% will have health insurance within four months. This is one of the main findings of a 2003 study by the Congressional Budget Office, "How Many People Lack Health Insurance and for How Long?" That shouldn't be surprising in a country where most private health insurance is employer-provided and most unemployment spells last 11 weeks or less. Solutions that involve government mandates on employers or employees will, therefore, miss connecting with about half of the people who are uninsured at a given point in time.

But what if the governor could solve some of the problem by making health insurance cheaper? He can--not by regulating more, but by deregulating.

Let me explain. In the last few decades, state governments, the main regulators of health insurance in the individual and small-group markets, have mandated coverages for many kinds of health care. According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), a pro-market association of insurance carriers, there were 1,843 state mandates in 2006. Among the most common, and most expensive, mandates are chiropractic care, treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse, and mental health benefits. California's government mandates coverage for all of the above, as well as for many other benefits, including, for example, infertility treatment--a very expensive benefit.

Abolishing these mandates would allow people who don't want to be covered for these things to buy cheaper insurance, while still allowing those who want them to buy and pay for them. Would such an approach work? That's like asking whether, if the government currently required new cars to have CD players, eliminating that requirement would lower the price of a car. Of course it would work.

It is important, though, not to overstate its benefits. The gain to Californians from abolishing these mandates would not be huge. CAHI compiled data from America's Health Insurance plan and eHealthInsurance for the individual market and from the federal government for the small-group market and found that in 2003, although California had more mandated coverages than all but six other states, it had among the lowest insurance rates for individual health insurance policies ($1,885 versus a top rate of $6,048 for New Jersey.)

The reason, explains CAHI, is that in other ways California is much less regulatory than many other states. It does not, for example, require guaranteed issue on individual policies--which drives up premiums by forcing insurance companies to supply policies to all comers, regardless of health status. Yet the governor's proposal would reverse this somewhat and prevent insurance companies from saying no because of age and health.





California should not, contra Gov. Schwarzenegger, do new regulatory harm; rather it should repeal existing regulations that cause harm--so as to make health insurance even more affordable.
There is one other way to deregulate: The California government could allow any Californian to buy health insurance from any willing insurer in any state and be subject to the regulations of that state. That way, people could shop for the degree of paternalism they want. If they want insurance from a state that requires many coverages, they could do so and pay the high premiums that result. If they want bare-bones coverage, they could do so also. The result would surely be that some of the current uninsured would buy insurance. Were I in the market for individual insurance and given the choice, I would not bother paying for coverage for alcohol or drug abuse.

If a version of Gov. Schwarzenegger's plan passes, the only thing certain is that there will be more regulation, more government spending and more taxes. A better path would be to deregulate, and thus achieve some increase in the number of insured--without new spending or taxes or regulation.

Mr. Henderson, a research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, was the senior economist for health policy with President Reagan's Council of Economics Advisers (1982-84). He is co-author of "Making Great Decisions in Business and Life" (Chicago Park Press, 2006).

 
28733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 10, 2007, 10:06:39 AM
Speaking of the devil , , ,

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5c128f4eac&p=1
28734  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: January 10, 2007, 01:21:31 AM
Lo siguiente me lo mando' mi amigo Venezolano:

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

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

                       Political Ceremony

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

                             `Strategic'

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

                            `Find an Exit'

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

                             No Autonomy

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

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

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

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Andrew J. Barden at +55-11-3048-4641 or barden@bloomberg.net.
28735  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: the titles of the teachers in the fillipino martial arts on: January 09, 2007, 10:03:04 PM
As Top Dog and I used to say "As the Stick Twirls"

http://sunkete.blogspot.com:80/index.html
28736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: January 09, 2007, 08:44:51 PM
I hope this humble civilian is not out of line relaying some enlisted humor:

The Meaning of Rank



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A SERGEANT MAJOR, FIRST SERGEANT OR A SERGEANT FIRST CLASS: Lifts tall buildings and walks under them, kicks locomotives off the tracks, catches speeding bullets in his teeth and eats them, freezes water with a single glance, HE IS GOD.
28737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: January 09, 2007, 08:26:50 PM
Fielding Subpoenas
Bush recruits an expert on Presidential power.

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

WSJ editorial
28738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why They Fight part two on: January 09, 2007, 08:15:27 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the author Lawrence Wright:

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

Peter Wehner is deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives.
28739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: January 09, 2007, 08:14:15 PM
Why They Fight
And what it means for us.

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other prominent Shia, like Iraq's Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, according to Professor Feldman, "take a more fatalist stance, and prefer to believe that the mahdi's coming cannot be hastened by human activity . . . ." Indeed, as Anthony Shadid pointed out in the Washington Post in 2004, Ayatollah Sistani was a disciple of Ayatollah Abul-Qassim Khoei in Najaf, who was from the "quietist school" in Shiite Islam and attempted to keep Khomeini from claiming the mantle of Shiite leadership.
28740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Muslims, Nazis, and far right hate groups echo anti-semitisim on: January 09, 2007, 07:46:28 PM
Our Friday item about Wesley Clark brought this response from Hershel Ginsburg, an Israeli reader:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe on: January 09, 2007, 06:40:10 PM
Europe: Feeling the Pinch from the Russo-Belarusian Dispute
Summary

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the European Commission said in a statement regarding the Jan. 8 interruptions, "There is no reason to be alarmed now, but we are going to take all necessary measures just in case."
28742  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Forrest Griifin's emotional reaction postfight on: January 09, 2007, 06:37:46 PM
I was afraid that was going to be IIRC Ricco Rodriguez giving Mark Kerr a kiss on the cheek when he won the UFC title tongue cheesy
28743  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: January 09, 2007, 06:27:39 PM
Steve Sailer's latest column at http://www.vdare.com/sailer/060108_gunfight.htm contains this fascinating tidbit:

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

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


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

Coffelt then sat down and died.
28744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: January 09, 2007, 06:11:55 PM
Reliability of source unknown:
==========================

t’s David and Goliath Time in Hazelton


by Dymphna


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City of Hazleton Legal Defense Fund
c/o Mayor Lou Barletta, City Hall
40 N. Church St.
Hazleton, PA 18201
28745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: January 09, 2007, 06:08:02 PM
By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer
Sat Dec 23, 1:54 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Feels good, doesn't it?" Dow grinned. 

http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f...25-2444494.php
28746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: January 09, 2007, 11:50:10 AM
Last week Nancy Pelosi's House Democrats passed what Washington insiders call "pay-go" budget rules. Pay-go requires that any new entitlement programs or tax cuts must be "paid for" with other entitlement cuts -- which, of course, never happen in Washington -- or with tax increases.

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion Journal of the WSJ
28747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: January 09, 2007, 10:14:19 AM
All:

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

Marc
=====================

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/a...=2007701080415

Quote:
U.S. may check Web use
Privacy advocates challenge push to track sites visited
January 8, 2007
BY JOHN REINAN
MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

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

The idea is to help law enforcement officials track down child pornographers. But some see it as another step toward total surveillance of citizens -- joining warrantless wiretapping, secret scrutiny of library records and unfettered access to e-mail as another power that could be abused.
"I don't think it's realistic to think that we would create this enormous honeypot of information and then say to the FBI, 'You can only use it for this narrow purpose,' " said Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes free speech and privacy in communication.
"We have an environment in which we're collecting more and more information on the personal lives of Americans, and our laws are completely inadequate to protect us."
Need to safeguard children
So far, no concrete proposal has emerged, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has made it clear that he would like to see quick action.
In testimony before a Senate committee in September, Gonzales painted a disturbing picture of child pornography on the Web.
But federal agents and prosecutors are hampered in their investigations because Internet companies don't routinely keep records of their traffic, he told the committee.
Gonzales also pushed for Internet records tracking in a speech at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in April.
"Privacy rights must always be accommodated and protected as we conduct our investigations," he said.
But, he said, "the investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers.
"This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time."
Rationales differ
Internet service providers typically keep records of Web traffic for 30 to 90 days, as a way to trace technical glitches. Many ISPs and privacy advocates say it's already easy for government agents to get the information they need to investigate crimes.
The FBI, without a court order, can send a letter to any Internet provider ordering it to maintain records for an investigation, said Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that promotes free speech and privacy on the Web.
"If this passes, there would be a chilling effect on free speech if everyone knew that everything they did on the Internet could be tracked back to them," Bankston said.
The government has offered differing rationales for its data-retention plan, said Harris, the privacy advocate.
"I've been in discussions at the Department of Justice where someone would say, 'We want this for child protection.' And someone else would say 'national security,' and someone else would say, 'computer crimes,' " Harris said.
Types of records unclear
There are questions about what records would be kept, said David McClure, president of the U.S. Internet Industry Association, a Virginia-based group that represents about 800 ISPs.
Is it a log of every Web site a user visits? Is it the actual content of e-mails and other Internet communications? Nobody in the government has offered specifics, he said.
"When we go to them for specifics, they start shuffling and hemming and hawing, and the issue goes away until the attorney general gives another speech," he said.
"This is all being driven by a political need, not a law enforcement need."
Kathleen Blomquist, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, wouldn't comment on specific proposals for tracking.
28748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor on: January 09, 2007, 10:09:07 AM
LIVING WILL

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

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

She's Such A Bitch......
28749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: January 09, 2007, 09:37:55 AM
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 — House Democrats intend to fulfill a campaign promise this week by passing broad new antiterrorism legislation, but some Senate Democrats and the Bush administration object to security mandates in the plan, citing concerns about their cost and practicality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NY Times
28750  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: January 09, 2007, 09:31:07 AM
The US markets will be watching the situation in Venezuela today after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said late yesterday he plans to nationalize major utility and oil facilities and take complete control of the country by ruling through executive order. Venezuela is a big supplier of oil to the US. The Venezuelan government has several joint ventures with major oil companies that may be nationalized from partners such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Total SA, CononcoPhillips, BP and Statoil. Venezuela's currency yesterday plunged 17% and has now fallen by more than 50% in the past 6 months. Chavez said he plans to mold the Venezuelan system along socialist lines.
=============
NY Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




===========
?Alguien tiene comentario sobre la situacion en Venezuela y la implaciones de ella?
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