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28751  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Grandfathers Speak Vol. 2: Sonny Umpad on: March 14, 2007, 12:11:26 PM

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

28752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in Asia & Africa on: March 14, 2007, 11:14:36 AM
THAILAND: Muslim separatists ambushed a bus in Thailand's southern province of Yala, shooting dead nine people at point-blank range. Only the driver and one critically injured Buddhist passenger survived. The militants detonated a small bomb about 1,640 feet from the bus, reportedly to slow police trying to arrive at the scene.
28753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 14, 2007, 09:03:00 AM
Concerning the previous post, here's an example of some points missed by the NY Slimes:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is indicative of the “civil liberties work” conducted by CAIR-OH that is being supported with the funds raised in the event featuring Siraj Wahhaj. The organizers of the CAIR-OH event may have believed that the fourteen years that had passed since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing may have been sufficient for memories of Wahhaj’s personal involvement in that terrorist attack to fade, but the support and praise showered on Siraj Wahhaj over the years by CAIR officials only stains the $100,000 he helped CAIR-OH raise that evening with a deeper blood red.
28754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Animal farming practices on: March 14, 2007, 08:02:48 AM
I am sympathetic to the points this piece makes and draw attention to the point about anti-biotics.  Not only does this raise questions about developing drug resistant bacteria in order to maximize farmer profits, but it also doses our bodies when we eat these animals, thus reducing beneficial intestinal flora and fomenting bad flora.


Pig Out
Published: March 14, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicolette Hahn Niman, a lawyer and cattle rancher, is writing a book about the meat industry.
28755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Vinyl and latex gloves in food prep on: March 14, 2007, 07:56:03 AM
Today's NY Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Page 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the same story at a sushi restaurant in Midtown. “We’ve been doing it this way for 250 years,” one chef said. “People who make the regulations just don’t understand.”
28756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 14, 2007, 07:49:25 AM

Today's NY Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Page 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 14, 2007, 07:44:31 AM
Concerns about CAIR reach even the NY Times, which for reasons known only to it, thinks the ACLU is a worthy source of comment  rolleyes and-- surprise-- fails to interview/quote any of  "A small band of critics have made a determined but unsuccessful effort to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department, and have gone so far as calling the group an American front for the two."  Unsuccessful?  As determined by whom?!?  Oh well, its the NYT  rolleyes

Anyway, here it is:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight on: March 14, 2007, 06:44:01 AM
Former N.J. Gov. McGreevey Seeks Custody of 5-Year-Old Daughter, Child Support From Wife

Tuesday , March 13, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McGreevey and his wife have lived apart since McGreevey resigned.
28759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 14, 2007, 06:11:09 AM
Today's NY Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Page 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 300 on: March 14, 2007, 06:00:05 AM
A personal tangent:

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

I am looking forward to seeing this.

28761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Moore dishonest/a hypocrite? Say it ain't so! on: March 14, 2007, 05:57:32 AM

Sun Mar 11, 6:02 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We're a bit disappointed and disillusioned with Michael," Melnyk said, "but we are still very grateful to him for putting documentaries out there in a major way that people can go to a DVD store and they're right up there alongside dramatic features."
28762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 14, 2007, 05:48:15 AM
"No idea why earth science is political"?  Ha!

My personal breakdown of the issue is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?
28763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 13, 2007, 06:25:32 PM
ISRAEL: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert might be forced to resign, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing sources in Kadima. The report precedes findings from the Winograd Committee, which is investigating conduct during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, regarding Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.
28764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: March 13, 2007, 06:12:23 PM
My latest dispatch is published on the front page of Fox News.  I am both honored and that Fox has agreed to begin publishing my major dispatches on their front page.   I am also flattered that Fox has agreed to publish my work unedited.


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


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


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




Michael Yon
P O Box 416
Westport Pt MA 02791
28765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 13, 2007, 01:03:58 PM
London, March 13, 2007

Europe Must Decide

by Matthias Küntzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europe must cease to be the sleeping partners of terrorism. We must put a stop to the international competition to see who can make the dirtiest deal in Iran. We must break with an approach that is leading with businesslike efficiency towards catastrophe.
28766  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / So that's how Rocky did it , , , on: March 13, 2007, 01:01:43 PM
Sylvester Stallone has been charged with smuggling banned bodybuilding drugs into Australia. Customs officials said 48 vials of outlawed human-growth hormone were found in Stallone's luggage during a recent visit to Sydney to promote his "Rocky Balboa" movie.

28767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 13, 2007, 01:00:39 PM
ISRAEL AXES NAKED AMBASSADOR: Israel's ambassador was ordered home from El Salvador after he was found naked, bound and drunk in the garden of his official residence - with sado-masochistic sex toys nearby, officials said yesterday. The Foreign Ministry said U.S.-born Tsuriel Rafael - who couldn't identify himself to police until a red bondage ball was removed from his mouth - would be replaced as soon as possible.
28768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Welcome Home on: March 13, 2007, 12:36:22 PM

Some of us may need a tissue for this one.

28769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: European matters on: March 13, 2007, 12:31:58 PM
Second post of the day:

EU: A Plan for Energy Efficiency -- and Independence

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second task will be the politically tricky one. Remember that the agreement will not spread the changes evenly across the union. It is up to the European Commission to propose -- by September -- specifically how to divide up the burden. Massaging away that little spoiler will require something a lot more creative than Merkel's technical blurring.
28770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Man bites dog: Wash. Post editorial on: March 13, 2007, 11:44:40 AM
"The only constituency House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignored in her plan for amending President Bush's supplemental war funding bill are the people of the country that U.S. troops are fighting to stabilize. The Democratic proposal doesn't attempt to answer the question of why August 2008 is the right moment for the Iraqi government to lose all support from U.S. combat units... But aggressive oversight is quite different from mandating military steps according to an inflexible timetable conforming to the need to capture votes in Congress or at the 2008 polls. Ms. Pelosi's strategy leads not toward a responsible withdrawal from Iraq but to a constitutional power struggle with Mr. Bush, who has already said he will veto the legislation. Such a struggle would serve the interests of neither the Democrats nor the country" -- Washington Post editorial.
28771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kansas seeks market oriented approach on: March 13, 2007, 11:41:31 AM
From today's Opinion Journal of the WSJ:

Kansas: Heal Thyself

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

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

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

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

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

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

28772  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: March 13, 2007, 11:36:40 AM
The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a
non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free,
direct-delivery subscription, please visit and
click on the registration button. For reprint clearance, please e-mail:

In this issue:






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our thanks to Wayne Schmidt, executive director of Americans for Effective
Law Enforcement, for tipping us about the NPR series.
28773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Georgia, NATO on: March 13, 2007, 10:37:23 AM
The Russians probably are not pleased , , ,

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

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


Geopolitical Diary: The Other Side of EU Enlargement

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

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

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

As for the European Union itself ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small EU states have always had to suck it up and convince themselves that the benefits of union membership outweigh the drawbacks. Paris has never had to do that math. And if Paris has never had much of a problem biting its thumb at London or Washington, how will it react once Brussels makes a decision running counter to French interests -- and is able to make it stick?
28774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 13, 2007, 08:57:43 AM
Today's NY Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Afghan government is also slowly moving in the right direction, he said. The new Parliament has been a generally positive addition, and there have been some improvement in the situation with provincial governors, some of whom were warlords who were seen as more powerful than President Hamid Karzai.
28775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 13, 2007, 08:50:03 AM
Today's NY Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / What's so Funny? on: March 13, 2007, 08:46:12 AM
Today's NY Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28777  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: March 13, 2007, 08:31:45 AM
Geopolitical Diary: U.S.-Mexican Relations Changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though Mexico's close relationship with the United States is not likely to change in the near future -- trade, security issues and proximity will tie the nations together indefinitely -- the Mexican government is no longer interested in pushing the U.S. agenda in Latin America. Calderon is ready to be an independent leader, and Bush could find him to be less of an ally than expected.
28778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: March 12, 2007, 11:36:17 PM


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

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

NY Times
Published: March 12, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connections, a critic’s perspective on arts and ideas, appears every other Monday.
28779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: March 12, 2007, 11:02:57 PM
Report: Dirty bomb materials still available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration are committed to securing and removing vulnerable radiological sources around the world,” says Andrew Bieniawski, who heads up the DOE’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, run under the National Nuclear Security Administration.
As of January, the agency has spent approximately $120 million to secure vulnerable radiological sources, an expenditure that demonstrates a strong commitment to a program that has produced tangible results and reduced the risks of terrorists acquiring the materials to make a dirty bomb, Bieniawski said.
28780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 12, 2007, 10:37:19 PM
Iran, Russia: Nuclear Reactors and Geopolitics

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Under a siloviki government, therefore, Russia might actually give Iran what it needs to make Bushehr operational -- and perhaps even more -- but not until then.
28781  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: March 12, 2007, 02:40:27 PM
Court Papers Show How 'Iron River' of Guns Flows Into Mexico

Monday , March 12, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

One such crime was the shooting of Ramon Tacho Verdugo, the 49-year-old police chief of Agua Prieta, Sonora, who was gunned down as he left the police station Feb. 26.
28782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 12, 2007, 11:01:59 AM

U.S./SAUDI ARABIA: The United States will hold separate talks with Israel and Saudi Arabia before an Arab League summit in Riyadh in late March in order to come to a compromise on the so-called Saudi initiative for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
28783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 12, 2007, 10:59:29 AM
AFGHANISTAN: Swiss weekly newspaper SonntagsBlick reported that former Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, who was captured in February in Pakistan, was set free after only two days. While the report has not been confirmed by Pakistan, a SonntagsBlick reporter allegedly met with the former leader Feb. 28.

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

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

PAKISTAN: U.S. and Pakistani agents have arrested two suspected German terrorists in Pakistan, German magazine Der Spiegel reported. The men are accused of contacting terrorists and visiting an al Qaeda camp near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
28784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: March 12, 2007, 10:57:02 AM
This is the first I have seen explicitly linking Russia's Bushehr plant and Iran's enrichment program.

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

IRAN: Iran should make concessions to the international community regarding its nuclear program to avoid additional sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said in an interview with economic daily Sanaat va Tosee.
28785  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: March 12, 2007, 10:31:25 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patients and those needing treatment would be treated but could still later face fines or be subject to criminal action.
Last year St James Hospital in Leeds introduced police onto its wards to protect staff from physical and verbal abuse.
28786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: March 12, 2007, 04:55:53 AM
AFPA [American Fitness Professionals &
Associates] March 2007 Health & Fitness
Newsletter Online vol. 12 no. 3

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

Table of Contents:

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

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

Depression Promotes Heart Problems

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

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

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

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

Why Doctors Miss Colon Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

Why Exercising as You Age Becomes More
Important and Challenging

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

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

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

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

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

Fruits and Vegetables Improve Male Fertility

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

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

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

Also please note that AFPA has archived

As well as articles:

Site Search for Information:

Use Folic Acid to Cut Heart Disease, Say

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

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

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

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

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

BMJ Volume 333 pp 1114-7 Click here to view
Source: Diabetes In Control
28787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: March 11, 2007, 11:13:38 AM
Here's the URL:
28788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 11, 2007, 09:43:49 AM
Perhaps I'm stretching the term "related technology" but I didn't know where else to put this and it didn't deserve its own thread:

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

28789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dark Energy Part Two on: March 11, 2007, 09:28:05 AM
(Page 4 of 6)

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

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

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

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

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

But you could also imagine it taking forever.

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

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


(Page 5 of 6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Page 6 of 6)

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

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

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

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

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

“If the brilliant idea doesn’t come along,” Riess says, “then we will say dark energy has exactly these properties, it acts exactly like this. And then” — a shrug — “we will put it in a box.” And there it will remain, residing perhaps not far from the box labeled “Dark Matter,” and the two of them bookending the biggest box of them all, “Gravity,” to await a future Newton or Einstein to open — or not.
28790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Physics & Mathematics on: March 11, 2007, 09:27:20 AM
Dark Energy
NY Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not so. Not even close.

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

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


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

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

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

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

More energylike how, exactly?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

28791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Neuroscience: The Brain on the Stand: Part Three on: March 11, 2007, 09:20:18 AM
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Greely acknowledges that lie-detection and memory-retrieval technologies like this could pose a serious challenge to our freedom of thought, which is now defended largely by the First Amendment protections for freedom of expression. “Freedom of thought has always been buttressed by the reality that you could only tell what someone thought based on their behavior,” he told me. “This technology holds out the possibility of looking through the skull and seeing what’s really happening, seeing the thoughts themselves.” According to Greely, this may challenge the principle that we should be held accountable for what we do, not what we think. “It opens up for the first time the possibility of punishing people for their thoughts rather than their actions,” he says. “One reason thought has been free in the harshest dictatorships is that dictators haven’t been able to detect it.” He adds, “Now they may be able to, putting greater pressure on legal constraints against government interference with freedom of thought.”

In the future, neuroscience could also revolutionize the way jurors are selected. Steven Laken, the president of Cephos, says that jury consultants might seek to put prospective jurors in f.M.R.I.’s. “You could give videotapes of the lawyers and witnesses to people when they’re in the magnet and see what parts of their brains light up,” he says. A situation like this would raise vexing questions about jurors’ prejudices — and what makes for a fair trial. Recent experiments have suggested that people who believe themselves to be free of bias may harbor plenty of it all the same.

The experiments, conducted by Elizabeth Phelps, who teaches psychology at New York University, combine brain scans with a behavioral test known as the Implicit Association Test, or I.A.T., as well as physiological tests of the startle reflex. The I.A.T. flashes pictures of black and white faces at you and asks you to associate various adjectives with the faces. Repeated tests have shown that white subjects take longer to respond when they’re asked to associate black faces with positive adjectives and white faces with negative adjectives than vice versa, and this is said to be an implicit measure of unconscious racism. Phelps and her colleagues added neurological evidence to this insight by scanning the brains and testing the startle reflexes of white undergraduates at Yale before they took the I.A.T. She found that the subjects who showed the most unconscious bias on the I.A.T. also had the highest activation in their amygdalas — a center of threat perception — when unfamiliar black faces were flashed at them in the scanner. By contrast, when subjects were shown pictures of familiar black and white figures — like Denzel Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and Conan O’Brien — there was no jump in amygdala activity.

The legal implications of the new experiments involving bias and neuroscience are hotly disputed. Mahzarin R. Banaji, a psychology professor at Harvard who helped to pioneer the I.A.T., has argued that there may be a big gap between the concept of intentional bias embedded in law and the reality of unconscious racism revealed by science. When the gap is “substantial,” she and the U.C.L.A. law professor Jerry Kang have argued, “the law should be changed to comport with science” — relaxing, for example, the current focus on intentional discrimination and trying to root out unconscious bias in the workplace with “structural interventions,” which critics say may be tantamount to racial quotas. One legal scholar has cited Phelps’s work to argue for the elimination of peremptory challenges to prospective jurors — if most whites are unconsciously racist, the argument goes, then any decision to strike a black juror must be infected with racism. Much to her displeasure, Phelps’s work has been cited by a journalist to suggest that a white cop who accidentally shot a black teenager on a Brooklyn rooftop in 2004 must have been responding to a hard-wired fear of unfamiliar black faces — a version of the amygdala made me do it.

Phelps herself says it’s “crazy” to link her work to cops who shoot on the job and insists that it is too early to use her research in the courtroom. “Part of my discomfort is that we haven’t linked what we see in the amygdala or any other region of the brain with an activity outside the magnet that we would call racism,” she told me. “We have no evidence whatsoever that activity in the brain is more predictive of things we care about in the courtroom than the behaviors themselves that we correlate with brain function.” In other words, just because you have a biased reaction to a photograph doesn’t mean you’ll act on those biases in the workplace. Phelps is also concerned that jurors might be unduly influenced by attention-grabbing pictures of brain scans. “Frank Keil, a psychologist at Yale, has done research suggesting that when you have a picture of a mechanism, you have a tendency to overestimate how much you understand the mechanism,” she told me. Defense lawyers confirm this phenomenon. “Here was this nice color image we could enlarge, that the medical expert could point to,” Christopher Plourd, a San Diego criminal defense lawyer, told The Los Angeles Times in the early 1990s. “It documented that this guy had a rotten spot in his brain. The jury glommed onto that.”


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Other scholars are even sharper critics of efforts to use scientific experiments about unconscious bias to transform the law. “I regard that as an extraordinary claim that you could screen potential jurors or judges for bias; it’s mind-boggling,” I was told by Philip Tetlock, professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkley. Tetlock has argued that split-second associations between images of African-Americans and negative adjectives may reflect “simple awareness of the social reality” that “some groups are more disadvantaged than others.” He has also written that, according to psychologists, “there is virtually no published research showing a systematic link between racist attitudes, overt or subconscious, and real-world discrimination.” (A few studies show, Tetlock acknowledges, that openly biased white people sometimes sit closer to whites than blacks in experiments that simulate job hiring and promotion.) “A light bulb going off in your brain means nothing unless it’s correlated with a particular output, and the brain-scan stuff, heaven help us, we have barely linked that with anything,” agrees Tetlock’s co-author, Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “The claim that homeless people light up your amygdala more and your frontal cortex less and we can infer that you will systematically dehumanize homeless people — that’s piffle.”

V. Are You Responsible for What You Might Do? The attempt to link unconscious bias to actual acts of discrimination may be dubious. But are there other ways to look inside the brain and make predictions about an individual’s future behavior? And if so, should those discoveries be employed to make us safer? Efforts to use science to predict criminal behavior have a disreputable history. In the 19th century, the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso championed a theory of “biological criminality,” which held that criminals could be identified by physical characteristics, like large jaws or bushy eyebrows. Nevertheless, neuroscientists are trying to find the factors in the brain associated with violence. PET scans of convicted murderers were first studied in the late 1980s by Adrian Raine, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California; he found that their prefrontal cortexes, areas associated with inhibition, had reduced glucose metabolism and suggested that this might be responsible for their violent behavior. In a later study, Raine found that subjects who received a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, which correlates with violent behavior, had 11 percent less gray matter in their prefrontal cortexes than control groups of healthy subjects and substance abusers. His current research uses f.M.R.I.’s to study moral decision-making in psychopaths.

Neuroscience, it seems, points two ways: it can absolve individuals of responsibility for acts they’ve committed, but it can also place individuals in jeopardy for acts they haven’t committed — but might someday. “This opens up a Pandora’s box in civilized society that I’m willing to fight against,” says Helen S. Mayberg, a professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences and neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, who has testified against the admission of neuroscience evidence in criminal trials. “If you believe at the time of trial that the picture informs us about what they were like at the time of the crime, then the picture moves forward. You need to be prepared for: ‘This spot is a sign of future dangerousness,’ when someone is up for parole. They have a scan, the spot is there, so they don’t get out. It’s carved in your brain.”

Other scholars see little wrong with using brain scans to predict violent tendencies and sexual predilections — as long as the scans are used within limits. “It’s not necessarily the case that if predictions work, you would say take that guy off the street and throw away the key,” says Hank Greely, the Stanford law professor. “You could require counseling, surveillance, G.P.S. transmitters or warning the neighbors. None of these are necessarily benign, but they beat the heck out of preventative detention.” Greely has little doubt that predictive technologies will be enlisted in the war on terror — perhaps in radical ways. “Even with today’s knowledge, I think we can tell whether someone has a strong emotional reaction to seeing things, and I can certainly imagine a friend-versus-foe scanner. If you put everyone who reacts badly to an American flag in a concentration camp or Guantánamo, that would be bad, but in an occupation situation, to mark someone down for further surveillance, that might be appropriate.”

Paul Root Wolpe, who teaches social psychiatry and psychiatric ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says he anticipates that neuroscience predictions will move beyond the courtroom and will be used to make predictions about citizens in all walks of life.

“Will we use brain imaging to track kids in school because we’ve discovered that certain brain function or morphology suggests aptitude?” he asks. “I work for NASA, and imagine how helpful it might be for NASA if it could scan your brain to discover whether you have a good enough spatial sense to be a pilot.” Wolpe says that brain imaging might eventually be used to decide if someone is a worthy foster or adoptive parent — a history of major depression and cocaine abuse can leave telltale signs on the brain, for example, and future studies might find parts of the brain that correspond to nurturing and caring.


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The idea of holding people accountable for their predispositions rather than their actions poses a challenge to one of the central principles of Anglo-American jurisprudence: namely, that people are responsible for their behavior, not their proclivities — for what they do, not what they think. “We’re going to have to make a decision about the skull as a privacy domain,” Wolpe says. Indeed, Wolpe serves on the board of an organization called the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, a group of neuroscientists, legal scholars and privacy advocates “dedicated to protecting and advancing freedom of thought in the modern world of accelerating neurotechnologies.”

There may be similar “cognitive liberty” battles over efforts to repair or enhance broken brains. A remarkable technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, for example, has been used to stimulate or inhibit specific regions of the brain. It can temporarily alter how we think and feel. Using T.M.S., Ernst Fehr and Daria Knoch of the University of Zurich temporarily disrupted each side of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in test subjects. They asked their subjects to participate in an experiment that economists call the ultimatum game. One person is given $20 and told to divide it with a partner. If the partner rejects the proposed amount as too low, neither person gets any money. Subjects whose prefrontal cortexes were functioning properly tended to reject offers of $4 or less: they would rather get no money than accept an offer that struck them as insulting and unfair. But subjects whose right prefrontal cortexes were suppressed by T.M.S. tended to accept the $4 offer. Although the offer still struck them as insulting, they were able to suppress their indignation and to pursue the selfishly rational conclusion that a low offer is better than nothing.

Some neuroscientists believe that T.M.S. may be used in the future to enforce a vision of therapeutic justice, based on the idea that defective brains can be cured. “Maybe somewhere down the line, a badly damaged brain would be viewed as something that can heal, like a broken leg that needs to be repaired,” the neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky says, although he acknowledges that defining what counts as a normal brain is politically and scientifically fraught. Indeed, efforts to identify normal and abnormal brains have been responsible for some of the darkest movements in the history of science and technology, from phrenology to eugenics. “How far are we willing to go to use neurotechnology to change people’s brains we consider disordered?” Wolpe asks. “We might find a part of the brain that seems to be malfunctioning, like a discrete part of the brain operative in violent or sexually predatory behavior, and then turn off or inhibit that behavior using transcranial magnetic stimulation.” Even behaviors in the normal range might be fine-tuned by T.M.S.: jurors, for example, could be made more emotional or more deliberative with magnetic interventions. Mark George, an adviser to the Cephos company and also director of the Medical University of South Carolina Center for Advanced Imaging Research, has submitted a patent application for a T.M.S. procedure that supposedly suppresses the area of the brain involved in lying and makes a person less capable of not telling the truth.

As the new technologies proliferate, even the neurolaw experts themselves have only begun to think about the questions that lie ahead. Can the police get a search warrant for someone’s brain? Should the Fourth Amendment protect our minds in the same way that it protects our houses? Can courts order tests of suspects’ memories to determine whether they are gang members or police informers, or would this violate the Fifth Amendment’s ban on compulsory self-incrimination? Would punishing people for their thoughts rather than for their actions violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment? However astonishing our machines may become, they cannot tell us how to answer these perplexing questions. We must instead look to our own powers of reasoning and intuition, relatively primitive as they may be. As Stephen Morse puts it, neuroscience itself can never identify the mysterious point at which people should be excused from responsibility for their actions because they are not able, in some sense, to control themselves. That question, he suggests, is “moral and ultimately legal,” and it must be answered not in laboratories but in courtrooms and legislatures. In other words, we must answer it ourselves.
28792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Neuroscience: The Brain on the Stand Part Two on: March 11, 2007, 09:19:20 AM
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The leading neurolaw brief in the case, filed by the American Medical Association and other groups, argued that because “adolescent brains are not fully developed” in the prefrontal regions, adolescents are less able than adults to control their impulses and should not be held fully accountable “for the immaturity of their neural anatomy.” In his majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy declared that “as any parent knows and as the scientific and sociological studies” cited in the briefs “tend to confirm, ‘[a] lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults.’ ” Although Kennedy did not cite the neuroscience evidence specifically, his indirect reference to the scientific studies in the briefs led some supporters and critics to view the decision as the Brown v. Board of Education of neurolaw.

One important question raised by the Roper case was the question of where to draw the line in considering neuroscience evidence as a legal mitigation or excuse. Should courts be in the business of deciding when to mitigate someone’s criminal responsibility because his brain functions improperly, whether because of age, in-born defects or trauma? As we learn more about criminals’ brains, will we have to redefine our most basic ideas of justice?

Two of the most ardent supporters of the claim that neuroscience requires the redefinition of guilt and punishment are Joshua D. Greene, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard, and Jonathan D. Cohen, a professor of psychology who directs the neuroscience program at Princeton. Greene got Cohen interested in the legal implications of neuroscience, and together they conducted a series of experiments exploring how people’s brains react to moral dilemmas involving life and death. In particular, they wanted to test people’s responses in the f.M.R.I. scanner to variations of the famous trolley problem, which philosophers have been arguing about for decades.

The trolley problem goes something like this: Imagine a train heading toward five people who are going to die if you don’t do anything. If you hit a switch, the train veers onto a side track and kills another person. Most people confronted with this scenario say it’s O.K. to hit the switch. By contrast, imagine that you’re standing on a footbridge that spans the train tracks, and the only way you can save the five people is to push an obese man standing next to you off the footbridge so that his body stops the train. Under these circumstances, most people say it’s not O.K. to kill one person to save five.

“I wondered why people have such clear intuitions,” Greene told me, “and the core idea was to confront people with these two cases in the scanner and see if we got more of an emotional response in one case and reasoned response in the other.” As it turns out, that’s precisely what happened: Greene and Cohen found that the brain region associated with deliberate problem solving and self-control, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was especially active when subjects confronted the first trolley hypothetical, in which most of them made a utilitarian judgment about how to save the greatest number of lives. By contrast, emotional centers in the brain were more active when subjects confronted the second trolley hypothetical, in which they tended to recoil at the idea of personally harming an individual, even under such wrenching circumstances. “This suggests that moral judgment is not a single thing; it’s intuitive emotional responses and then cognitive responses that are duking it out,” Greene said.

“To a neuroscientist, you are your brain; nothing causes your behavior other than the operations of your brain,” Greene says. “If that’s right, it radically changes the way we think about the law. The official line in the law is all that matters is whether you’re rational, but you can have someone who is totally rational but whose strings are being pulled by something beyond his control.” In other words, even someone who has the illusion of making a free and rational choice between soup and salad may be deluding himself, since the choice of salad over soup is ultimately predestined by forces hard-wired in his brain. Greene insists that this insight means that the criminal-justice system should abandon the idea of retribution — the idea that bad people should be punished because they have freely chosen to act immorally — which has been the focus of American criminal law since the 1970s, when rehabilitation went out of fashion. Instead, Greene says, the law should focus on deterring future harms. In some cases, he supposes, this might mean lighter punishments. “If it’s really true that we don’t get any prevention bang from our punishment buck when we punish that person, then it’s not worth punishing that person,” he says. (On the other hand, Carter Snead, the Notre Dame scholar, maintains that capital defendants who are not considered fully blameworthy under current rules could be executed more readily under a system that focused on preventing future harms.)


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Others agree with Greene and Cohen that the legal system should be radically refocused on deterrence rather than on retribution. Since the celebrated M’Naughten case in 1843, involving a paranoid British assassin, English and American courts have recognized an insanity defense only for those who are unable to appreciate the difference between right and wrong. (This is consistent with the idea that only rational people can be held criminally responsible for their actions.) According to some neuroscientists, that rule makes no sense in light of recent brain-imaging studies. “You can have a horrendously damaged brain where someone knows the difference between right and wrong but nonetheless can’t control their behavior,” says Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist at Stanford. “At that point, you’re dealing with a broken machine, and concepts like punishment and evil and sin become utterly irrelevant. Does that mean the person should be dumped back on the street? Absolutely not. You have a car with the brakes not working, and it shouldn’t be allowed to be near anyone it can hurt.”

Even as these debates continue, some skeptics contend that both the hopes and fears attached to neurolaw are overblown. “There’s nothing new about the neuroscience ideas of responsibility; it’s just another material, causal explanation of human behavior,” says Stephen J. Morse, professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. “How is this different than the Chicago school of sociology,” which tried to explain human behavior in terms of environment and social structures? “How is it different from genetic explanations or psychological explanations? The only thing different about neuroscience is that we have prettier pictures and it appears more scientific.”

Morse insists that “brains do not commit crimes; people commit crimes” — a conclusion he suggests has been ignored by advocates who, “infected and inflamed by stunning advances in our understanding of the brain . . . all too often make moral and legal claims that the new neuroscience . . . cannot sustain.” He calls this “brain overclaim syndrome” and cites as an example the neuroscience briefs filed in the Supreme Court case Roper v. Simmons to question the juvenile death penalty. “What did the neuroscience add?” he asks. If adolescent brains caused all adolescent behavior, “we would expect the rates of homicide to be the same for 16- and 17-year-olds everywhere in the world — their brains are alike — but in fact, the homicide rates of Danish and Finnish youths are very different than American youths.” Morse agrees that our brains bring about our behavior — “I’m a thoroughgoing materialist, who believes that all mental and behavioral activity is the causal product of physical events in the brain” — but he disagrees that the law should excuse certain kinds of criminal conduct as a result. “It’s a total non sequitur,” he says. “So what if there’s biological causation? Causation can’t be an excuse for someone who believes that responsibility is possible. Since all behavior is caused, this would mean all behavior has to be excused.” Morse cites the case of Charles Whitman, a man who, in 1966, killed his wife and his mother, then climbed up a tower at the University of Texas and shot and killed 13 more people before being shot by police officers. Whitman was discovered after an autopsy to have a tumor that was putting pressure on his amygdala. “Even if his amygdala made him more angry and volatile, since when are anger and volatility excusing conditions?” Morse asks. “Some people are angry because they had bad mommies and daddies and others because their amygdalas are mucked up. The question is: When should anger be an excusing condition?”

Still, Morse concedes that there are circumstances under which new discoveries from neuroscience could challenge the legal system at its core. “Suppose neuroscience could reveal that reason actually plays no role in determining human behavior,” he suggests tantalizingly. “Suppose I could show you that your intentions and your reasons for your actions are post hoc rationalizations that somehow your brain generates to explain to you what your brain has already done” without your conscious participation. If neuroscience could reveal us to be automatons in this respect, Morse is prepared to agree with Greene and Cohen that criminal law would have to abandon its current ideas about responsibility and seek other ways of protecting society.

Some scientists are already pushing in this direction. In a series of famous experiments in the 1970s and ’80s, Benjamin Libet measured people’s brain activity while telling them to move their fingers whenever they felt like it. Libet detected brain activity suggesting a readiness to move the finger half a second before the actual movement and about 400 milliseconds before people became aware of their conscious intention to move their finger. Libet argued that this leaves 100 milliseconds for the conscious self to veto the brain’s unconscious decision, or to give way to it — suggesting, in the words of the neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, that we have not free will but “free won’t.”

Morse is not convinced that the Libet experiments reveal us to be helpless automatons. But he does think that the study of our decision-making powers could bear some fruit for the law. “I’m interested,” he says, “in people who suffer from drug addictions, psychopaths and people who have intermittent explosive disorder — that’s people who have no general rationality problem other than they just go off.” In other words, Morse wants to identify the neural triggers that make people go postal. “Suppose we could show that the higher deliberative centers in the brain seem to be disabled in these cases,” he says. “If these are people who cannot control episodes of gross irrationality, we’ve learned something that might be relevant to the legal ascription of responsibility.” That doesn’t mean they would be let off the hook, he emphasizes: “You could give people a prison sentence and an opportunity to get fixed.”


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IV. Putting the Unconscious on Trial If debates over criminal responsibility long predate the f.M.R.I., so do debates over the use of lie-detection technology. What’s new is the prospect that lie detectors in the courtroom will become much more accurate, and correspondingly more intrusive. There are, at the moment, two lie-detection technologies that rely on neuroimaging, although the value and accuracy of both are sharply contested. The first, developed by Lawrence Farwell in the 1980s, is known as “brain fingerprinting.” Subjects put on an electrode-filled helmet that measures a brain wave called p300, which, according to Farwell, changes its frequency when people recognize images, pictures, sights and smells. After showing a suspect pictures of familiar places and measuring his p300 activation patterns, government officials could, at least in theory, show a suspect pictures of places he may or may not have seen before — a Qaeda training camp, for example, or a crime scene — and compare the activation patterns. (By detecting not only lies but also honest cases of forgetfulness, the technology could expand our very idea of lie detection.)

The second lie-detection technology uses f.M.R.I. machines to compare the brain activity of liars and truth tellers. It is based on a test called Guilty Knowledge, developed by Daniel Langleben at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001. Langleben gave subjects a playing card before they entered the magnet and told them to answer no to a series of questions, including whether they had the card in question. Langleben and his colleagues found that certain areas of the brain lighted up when people lied.

Two companies, No Lie MRI and Cephos, are now competing to refine f.M.R.I. lie-detection technology so that it can be admitted in court and commercially marketed. I talked to Steven Laken, the president of Cephos, which plans to begin selling its products this year. “We have two to three people who call every single week,” he told me. “They’re in legal proceedings throughout the world, and they’re looking to bolster their credibility.” Laken said the technology could have “tremendous applications” in civil and criminal cases. On the government side, he said, the technology could replace highly inaccurate polygraphs in screening for security clearances, as well as in trying to identify suspected terrorists’ native languages and close associates. “In lab studies, we’ve been in the 80- to 90-percent-accuracy range,” Laken says. This is similar to the accuracy rate for polygraphs, which are not considered sufficiently reliable to be allowed in most legal cases. Laken says he hopes to reach the 90-percent- to 95-percent-accuracy range — which should be high enough to satisfy the Supreme Court’s standards for the admission of scientific evidence. Judy Illes, director of Neuroethics at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, says, “I would predict that within five years, we will have technology that is sufficiently reliable at getting at the binary question of whether someone is lying that it may be utilized in certain legal settings.”

If and when lie-detection f.M.R.I.’s are admitted in court, they will raise vexing questions of self-incrimination and privacy. Hank Greely, a law professor and head of the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences, notes that prosecution and defense witnesses might have their credibility questioned if they refused to take a lie-detection f.M.R.I., as might parties and witnesses in civil cases. Unless courts found the tests to be shocking invasions of privacy, like stomach pumps, witnesses could even be compelled to have their brains scanned. And equally vexing legal questions might arise as neuroimaging technologies move beyond telling whether or not someone is lying and begin to identify the actual content of memories. Michael Gazzaniga, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of “The Ethical Brain,” notes that within 10 years, neuroscientists may be able to show that there are neurological differences when people testify about their own previous acts and when they testify to something they saw. “If you kill someone, you have a procedural memory of that, whereas if I’m standing and watch you kill somebody, that’s an episodic memory that uses a different part of the brain,” he told me. Even if witnesses don’t have their brains scanned, neuroscience may lead judges and jurors to conclude that certain kinds of memories are more reliable than others because of the area of the brain in which they are processed. Further into the future, and closer to science fiction, lies the possibility of memory downloading. “One could even, just barely, imagine a technology that might be able to ‘read out’ the witness’s memories, intercepted as neuronal firings, and translate it directly into voice, text or the equivalent of a movie,” Hank Greely writes.

28793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Neuroscience: The Brain on the Stand on: March 11, 2007, 09:18:14 AM
I. Mr. Weinstein’s Cyst When historians of the future try to identify the moment that neuroscience began to transform the American legal system, they may point to a little-noticed case from the early 1990s. The case involved Herbert Weinstein, a 65-year-old ad executive who was charged with strangling his wife, Barbara, to death and then, in an effort to make the murder look like a suicide, throwing her body out the window of their 12th-floor apartment on East 72nd Street in Manhattan. Before the trial began, Weinstein’s lawyer suggested that his client should not be held responsible for his actions because of a mental defect — namely, an abnormal cyst nestled in his arachnoid membrane, which surrounds the brain like a spider web.

The implications of the claim were considerable. American law holds people criminally responsible unless they act under duress (with a gun pointed at the head, for example) or if they suffer from a serious defect in rationality — like not being able to tell right from wrong. But if you suffer from such a serious defect, the law generally doesn’t care why — whether it’s an unhappy childhood or an arachnoid cyst or both. To suggest that criminals could be excused because their brains made them do it seems to imply that anyone whose brain isn’t functioning properly could be absolved of responsibility. But should judges and juries really be in the business of defining the normal or properly working brain? And since all behavior is caused by our brains, wouldn’t this mean all behavior could potentially be excused?
The prosecution at first tried to argue that evidence of Weinstein’s arachnoid cyst shouldn’t be admitted in court. One of the government’s witnesses, a forensic psychologist named Daniel Martell, testified that brain-scanning technologies were new and untested, and their implications weren’t yet widely accepted by the scientific community. Ultimately, on Oct. 8, 1992, Judge Richard Carruthers issued a Solomonic ruling: Weinstein’s lawyers could tell the jury that brain scans had identified an arachnoid cyst, but they couldn’t tell jurors that arachnoid cysts were associated with violence. Even so, the prosecution team seemed to fear that simply exhibiting images of Weinstein’s brain in court would sway the jury. Eleven days later, on the morning of jury selection, they agreed to let Weinstein plead guilty in exchange for a reduced charge of manslaughter.

After the Weinstein case, Daniel Martell found himself in so much demand to testify as a expert witness that he started a consulting business called Forensic Neuroscience. Hired by defense teams and prosecutors alike, he has testified over the past 15 years in several hundred criminal and civil cases. In those cases, neuroscientific evidence has been admitted to show everything from head trauma to the tendency of violent video games to make children behave aggressively. But Martell told me that it’s in death-penalty litigation that neuroscience evidence is having its most revolutionary effect. “Some sort of organic brain defense has become de rigueur in any sort of capital defense,” he said. Lawyers routinely order scans of convicted defendants’ brains and argue that a neurological impairment prevented them from controlling themselves. The prosecution counters that the evidence shouldn’t be admitted, but under the relaxed standards for mitigating evidence during capital sentencing, it usually is. Indeed, a Florida court has held that the failure to admit neuroscience evidence during capital sentencing is grounds for a reversal. Martell remains skeptical about the worth of the brain scans, but he observes that they’ve “revolutionized the law.”

The extent of that revolution is hotly debated, but the influence of what some call neurolaw is clearly growing. Neuroscientific evidence has persuaded jurors to sentence defendants to life imprisonment rather than to death; courts have also admitted brain-imaging evidence during criminal trials to support claims that defendants like John W. Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Reagan, are insane. Carter Snead, a law professor at Notre Dame, drafted a staff working paper on the impact of neuroscientific evidence in criminal law for President Bush’s Council on Bioethics. The report concludes that neuroimaging evidence is of mixed reliability but “the large number of cases in which such evidence is presented is striking.” That number will no doubt increase substantially. Proponents of neurolaw say that neuroscientific evidence will have a large impact not only on questions of guilt and punishment but also on the detection of lies and hidden bias, and on the prediction of future criminal behavior. At the same time, skeptics fear that the use of brain-scanning technology as a kind of super mind-reading device will threaten our privacy and mental freedom, leading some to call for the legal system to respond with a new concept of “cognitive liberty.”


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One of the most enthusiastic proponents of neurolaw is Owen Jones, a professor of law and biology at Vanderbilt. Jones (who happens to have been one of my law-school classmates) has joined a group of prominent neuroscientists and law professors who have applied for a large MacArthur Foundation grant; they hope to study a wide range of neurolaw questions, like: Do sexual offenders and violent teenagers show unusual patterns of brain activity? Is it possible to capture brain images of chronic neck pain when someone claims to have suffered whiplash? In the meantime, Jones is turning Vanderbilt into a kind of Los Alamos for neurolaw. The university has just opened a $27 million neuroimaging center and has poached leading neuroscientists from around the world; soon, Jones hopes to enroll students in the nation’s first program in law and neuroscience. “It’s breathlessly exciting,” he says. “This is the new frontier in law and science — we’re peering into the black box to see how the brain is actually working, that hidden place in the dark quiet, where we have our private thoughts and private reactions — and the law will inevitably have to decide how to deal with this new technology.”

II. A Visit to Vanderbilt Owen Jones is a disciplined and quietly intense man, and his enthusiasm for the transformative power of neuroscience is infectious. With René Marois, a neuroscientist in the psychology department, Jones has begun a study of how the human brain reacts when asked to impose various punishments. Informally, they call the experiment Harm and Punishment — and they offered to make me one of their first subjects.

We met in Jones’s pristine office, which is decorated with a human skull and calipers, like those that phrenologists once used to measure the human head; his father is a dentist, and his grandfather was an electrical engineer who collected tools. We walked over to Vanderbilt’s Institute of Imaging Science, which, although still surrounded by scaffolding, was as impressive as Jones had promised. The basement contains one of the few 7-tesla magnetic-resonance-imaging scanners in the world. For Harm and Punishment, Jones and Marois use a less powerful 3 tesla, which is the typical research M.R.I.

We then made our way to the scanner. After removing all metal objects — including a belt and a stray dry-cleaning tag with a staple — I put on earphones and a helmet that was shaped like a birdcage to hold my head in place. The lab assistant turned off the lights and left the room; I lay down on the gurney and, clutching a panic button, was inserted into the magnet. All was dark except for a screen flashing hypothetical crime scenarios, like this one: “John, who lives at home with his father, decides to kill him for the insurance money. After convincing his father to help with some electrical work in the attic, John arranges for him to be electrocuted. His father survives the electrocution, but he is hospitalized for three days with injuries caused by the electrical shock.” I was told to press buttons indicating the appropriate level of punishment, from 0 to 9, as the magnet recorded my brain activity.

After I spent 45 minutes trying not to move an eyebrow while assigning punishments to dozens of sordid imaginary criminals, Marois told me through the intercom to try another experiment: namely, to think of familiar faces and places in sequence, without telling him whether I was starting with faces or places. I thought of my living room, my wife, my parents’ apartment and my twin sons, trying all the while to avoid improper thoughts for fear they would be discovered. Then the experiments were over, and I stumbled out of the magnet.

The next morning, Owen Jones and I reported to René Marois’s laboratory for the results. Marois’s graduate students, who had been up late analyzing my brain, were smiling broadly. Because I had moved so little in the machine, they explained, my brain activity was easy to read. “Your head movement was incredibly low, and you were the harshest punisher we’ve had,” Josh Buckholtz, one of the grad students, said with a happy laugh. “You were a researcher’s dream come true!” Buckholtz tapped the keyboard, and a high-resolution 3-D image of my brain appeared on the screen in vivid colors. Tiny dots flickered back and forth, showing my eyes moving as they read the lurid criminal scenarios. Although I was only the fifth subject to be put in the scanner, Marois emphasized that my punishment ratings were higher than average. In one case, I assigned a 7 where the average punishment was 4. “You were focusing on the intent, and the others focused on the harm,” Buckholtz said reassuringly.


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Marois explained that he and Jones wanted to study the interactions among the emotion-generating regions of the brain, like the amygdala, and the prefrontal regions responsible for reason. “It is also possible that the prefrontal cortex is critical for attributing punishment, making the essential decision about what kind of punishment to assign,” he suggested. Marois stressed that in order to study that possibility, more subjects would have to be put into the magnet. But if the prefrontal cortex does turn out to be critical for selecting among punishments, Jones added, it could be highly relevant for lawyers selecting a jury. For example, he suggested, lawyers might even select jurors for different cases based on their different brain-activity patterns. In a complex insider-trading case, for example, perhaps the defense would “like to have a juror making decisions on maximum deliberation and minimum emotion”; in a government entrapment case, emotional reactions might be more appropriate.

We then turned to the results of the second experiment, in which I had been asked to alternate between thinking of faces and places without disclosing the order. “We think we can guess what you were thinking about, even though you didn’t tell us the order you started with,” Marois said proudly. “We think you started with places and we will prove to you that it wasn’t just luck.” Marois showed me a picture of my parahippocampus, the area of the brain that responds strongly to places and the recognition of scenes. “It’s lighting up like Christmas on all cylinders,” Marois said. “It worked beautifully, even though we haven’t tried this before here.”

He then showed a picture of the fusiform area, which is responsible for facial recognition. It, too, lighted up every time I thought of a face. “This is a potentially very serious legal implication,” Jones broke in, since the technology allows us to tell what people are thinking about even if they deny it. He pointed to a series of practical applications. Because subconscious memories of faces and places may be more reliable than conscious memories, witness lineups could be transformed. A child who claimed to have been victimized by a stranger, moreover, could be shown pictures of the faces of suspects to see which one lighted up the face-recognition area in ways suggesting familiarity.

Jones and Marois talked excitedly about the implications of their experiments for the legal system. If they discovered a significant gap between people’s hard-wired sense of how severely certain crimes should be punished and the actual punishments assigned by law, federal sentencing guidelines might be revised, on the principle that the law shouldn’t diverge too far from deeply shared beliefs. Experiments might help to develop a deeper understanding of the criminal brain, or of the typical brain predisposed to criminal activity.

III. The End of Responsibility? Indeed, as the use of functional M.R.I. results becomes increasingly common in courtrooms, judges and juries may be asked to draw new and sometimes troubling lines between “normal” and “abnormal” brains. Ruben Gur, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, specializes in doing just that. Gur began his expert-witness career in the mid-1990s when a colleague asked him to help in the trial of a convicted serial killer in Florida named Bobby Joe Long. Known as the “classified-ad rapist,” because he would respond to classified ads placed by women offering to sell household items, then rape and kill them, Long was sentenced to death after he committed at least nine murders in Tampa. Gur was called as a national expert in positron-emission tomography, or PET scans, in which patients are injected with a solution containing radioactive markers that illuminate their brain activity. After examining Long’s PET scans, Gur testified that a motorcycle accident that had left Long in a coma had also severely damaged his amygdala. It was after emerging from the coma that Long committed his first rape.

“I didn’t have the sense that my testimony had a profound impact,” Gur told me recently — Long is still filing appeals — but he has testified at more than 20 capital cases since then. He wrote a widely circulated affidavit arguing that adolescents are not as capable of controlling their impulses as adults because the development of neurons in the prefrontal cortex isn’t complete until the early 20s. Based on that affidavit, Gur was asked to contribute to the preparation of one of the briefs filed by neuroscientists and others in Roper v. Simmons, the landmark case in which a divided Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for offenders who committed crimes when they were under the age of 18.

28794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Between Black & Immigrant Muslims Part Two on: March 11, 2007, 09:05:45 AM
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“Our kids would come home from school and say, ‘Where is my Christmas tree, my Hanukkah lights?’ ” recalled Dr. Khan, who lives in nearby Jericho. “We didn’t want them to grow up unsure of who they are.”

Since opening in 1993, the mosque has thrived, with assets now valued at more than $3 million. Hundreds of people pray there weekly, and thousands come on Muslim holidays.

The mosque has an unusually modern, democratic air. Men and women worship with no partition between them. A different scholar delivers the Friday sermon every week, in English.

Perhaps most striking, a majority of female worshipers do not cover their heads outside the mosque.

“I think it’s important to find the fine line between the religion and the age in which we live,” said Nasreen Wasti, 43, a contract analyst for Lufthansa. “I’m sure I will have to answer to God for not covering myself. But I’m also satisfied by many of the good deeds I am doing.”

She and other members use words like “progressive” to describe their congregation. But after Sept. 11, a different image took hold.

In October 2001, a Newsday article quoted a member of the mosque as asking “who really benefits from such a horrible tragedy that is blamed on Muslims and Arabs?” A co-president of the mosque was also quoted saying that Israel “would benefit from this tragedy.”

Conspiracy theories about Sept. 11 have long circulated among Muslims, and Dr. Khan had heard discussion among congregants. Such talk, he said, was the product of two forces: a deep mistrust of America’s motives in the Middle East and a refusal, among many Muslims, to engage in self-criticism.

“You blame the other guy for your own shortcomings,” said Dr. Khan.

He visited synagogues and churches after the article ran, reassuring audiences that the comments did not reflect the official position of the mosque, which condemned the attacks.

But to Congressman Peter T. King, whose district is near the mosque, that condemnation fell short. He began publicly criticizing Dr. Khan, asserting that he had failed to fully denounce the statements made by the men.

“He’s definitely a radical,” Mr. King said of Dr. Khan in an interview. “You cannot, in the context of Sept. 11, allow those statements to be made and not be a radical.”

When asked about Mr. King’s comments, Dr. Khan replied proudly, “I thought we had freedom of speech.”

It hardly seems possible that Mr. King and Dr. Khan were once friends.

Mr. King used to dine at Dr. Khan’s home. He attended the wedding of Dr. Khan’s son, Arif, in 1995. At the mosque’s opening, it was Mr. King who cut the ribbon.

After Sept. 11, the mosque experienced the sort of social backlash felt by Muslims around the country. Anonymous callers left threatening messages, and rocks were hurled at children from passing cars.

The attention waned over time. But Mr. King cast a new light on the mosque in 2004 with the release of his novel “Vale of Tears.”

In the novel, terrorists affiliated with a Long Island mosque demolish several buildings, killing hundreds of people. One of the central characters is a Pakistani heart surgeon whose friendship with a congressman has grown tense.

“By inference, it’s me,” Dr. Khan said of the Pakistani character. (Mr. King said it was a “composite character” based on several Muslims he knows.)

For Dr. Khan, his difficulties after Sept. 11 come as proof that Muslims cannot stay fragmented. “It’s a challenge for the whole Muslim community — not just for me,” he said. “United we stand, divided we fall.”

The Litmus Test

Imam Talib and his bodyguard set off to Westbury before dusk on Oct. 14. They passed a fork on the Long Island Expressway, and the imam peered out the window. None of the signs were familiar.

He checked his watch and saw that he was late, adding to his unease. He had visited the mosque a few times before, but never felt entirely at home.

“I’m conscious of being a guest,” he said. “They treat me kindly and nicely. But I know where I am.”

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At the Islamic Center of Long Island, Dr. Khan was also getting nervous. Hundreds of congregants had gathered after fasting all day for Ramadan. The scent of curry drifted mercilessly through the mosque.

Dr. Khan sprang to his feet and took the microphone. He improvised.

“All of us need to learn from and understand the contributions of the Muslim indigenous community,” he said. “Starting with Malcolm X.”

It had been six years since Imam Talib and Dr. Khan first encountered each other in Chicago. Back then, Imam Talib rarely visited immigrant mosques, and Dr. Khan had only a peripheral connection to African-American Muslims.

In the 1980s, the doctor had become aware of the high number of Muslim inmates while working as the chief of medicine for a hospital in Nassau County that oversaw health care at the county prison. His mosque began donating prayer rugs, Korans and skullcaps to prisoners around the country. But his interaction with black Muslim leaders was limited until Sept. 11.

After Dr. Khan read the book “Black Rage,” he and Imam Talib began serving together on the board of a new political task force. Finally, in 2005, Dr. Khan invited the imam to his mosque to give the Friday sermon.

That February, Imam Talib rose before the Long Island congregation. Blending verses in the Koran with passages from recent American history, he urged the audience to learn from the civil rights movement.

Dr. Khan listened raptly. Afterward, over sandwiches, he asked Imam Talib for advice. He wanted to thaw the relationship between his mosque and African-American mosques on Long Island. The conversation continued for hours.

“The real searching for an answer, searching for a solution, was coming from Dr. Khan,” said Imam Talib. “I could just feel it.”

Dr. Khan began inviting more African-American leaders to speak at his mosque, and welcomed Imam Talib there last October to give a fund-raising pitch for his organization, the Muslim Alliance in North America. The group had recently announced a “domestic agenda,” with programs to help ex-convicts find housing and jobs and to standardize premarital counseling for Muslims in America.

After the imam arrived that evening and spoke, he sat on the floor next to a blazer-clad Dr. Khan. As they feasted on kebabs, the doctor made a pitch of his own: The teenagers of his mosque could spend a day at Imam Talib’s mosque, as the start of a youth exchange program. The imam nodded slowly.

Minutes later, the mosque’s president, Habeeb Ahmed, hurried over. The congregants had so far pledged $10,000.

“Alhamdulillah,” the imam said. Praise be to God.

It was the most Imam Talib had raised for his group in one evening.

As the dinner drew to a close, the imam looked for his bodyguard. They had a long drive home and he did not want to lose his way again.

Dr. Khan asked Imam Talib how he had gotten lost.

“Inner city versus the suburbs,” the imam replied a bit testily.

Then he smiled.

“The only thing it proves,” he said, “is that I need to come by here more often.”

28795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Between Black & Immigrant Muslims on: March 11, 2007, 08:59:49 AM
Its the NY Times, so of course there are the shadings that one expects from the Times, but  the article addresses matters of interest, and so I post it here:


Dr. Faroque Khan, left, and Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid serve very different mosques, one on Long Island and one in Harlem.

Published: March 11, 2007
NY Times

Under the glistening dome of a mosque on Long Island, hundreds of men sat cross-legged on the floor. Many were doctors and engineers born in Pakistan and India. Dressed in khakis, polo shirts and the odd silk tunic, they fidgeted and whispered.

James Estrin/The New York Times
Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid at a rally against profiling.
One thing stood between them and dinner: A visitor from Harlem was coming to ask for money.

A towering black man with a gray-flecked beard finally swept into the room, his bodyguard trailing him. Wearing a long, embroidered robe and matching hat, he took the microphone and began talking about a different group of Muslims, the thousands of African-Americans who have found Islam in prison.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” said the visitor, known as Imam Talib.

The men stared. To some of them, it seemed, he was from another planet. As the imam returned their gaze, he had a similar sensation. “They live in another world,” he later said.

Only 28 miles separate Imam Talib’s mosque in Harlem from the Islamic Center of Long Island. The congregations they each serve — African-Americans at the city mosque and immigrants of South Asian and Arab descent in the suburbs — represent the largest Muslim populations in the United States. Yet a vast gulf divides them, one marked by race and class, culture and history.

For many African-American converts, Islam is an experience both spiritual and political, an expression of empowerment in a country they feel is dominated by a white elite. For many immigrant Muslims, Islam is an inherited identity, and America a place of assimilation and prosperity.

For decades, these two Muslim worlds remained largely separate. But last fall, Imam Talib hoped to cross that distance in a venture that has become increasingly common since Sept. 11. Black Muslims have begun advising immigrants on how to mount a civil rights campaign. Foreign-born Muslims are giving African-Americans roles of leadership in some of their largest organizations. The two groups have joined forces politically, forming coalitions and backing the same candidates.

It is a tentative and uneasy union, seen more typically among leaders at the pulpit than along the prayer line. But it is critical, a growing number of Muslims believe, to surviving a hostile new era.

“Muslims will not be successful in America until there is a marriage between the indigenous and immigrant communities,” said Siraj Wahhaj, an African-American imam in New York with a rare national following among immigrant Muslims. “There has to be a marriage.”

The divide between black and immigrant Muslims reflects a unique struggle facing Islam in America. Perhaps nowhere else in the world are Muslims from so many racial, cultural and theological backgrounds trying their hands at coexistence. Only in Mecca, during the obligatory hajj, or pilgrimage, does such diversity in the faith come to life, between black and white, rich and poor, Sunni and Shiite.

“This is a new experiment in the history of Islam,” said Ali S. Asani, a professor of Islamic studies at Harvard University.

That evening in October, Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid drove to Westbury, on Long Island, with a task he would have found unthinkable years ago.

He would ask for donations from the immigrant community he refers to, somewhat bitterly, as the “Muslim elite.”

But he needed funds, and the doors of immigrant mosques seemed to be opening. Imam Talib and other African-American leaders had formed a national “indigenous Muslim” organization, and he knew that during the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic Center of Long Island could raise thousands of dollars in an evening.

It is a place where BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes fill the parking lot, and Coach purses are perched along prayer lines.

In Harlem, many of Imam Talib’s congregants get to the mosque by bus or subway, and warm themselves with space heaters in a drafty, brick building.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Imam Talib had only a distant connection to the Islamic Center of Long Island. In passing, he had met Faroque Khan, an Indian-born doctor who helped found the mosque, but the two had little in common.

Imam Talib, 56, is a thundering prison chaplain whose mosque traces its roots to Malcolm X. He is a first-generation Muslim.

Dr. Khan, 64, is a mild-mannered pulmonologist who collects Chinese antiques and learned to ski on the slopes of Vermont. He is a first-generation American.

But in the turmoil that followed Sept. 11, the imam and the doctor found themselves unexpectedly allied.

“The more separate we stay, the more targeted we become,” Dr. Khan said.
(Page 2 of 6)

Each man recognizes what the other has to offer. African-Americans possess a cultural and historical fluency that immigrants lack, said Dr. Khan; they hold an unassailable place in America from which to defend their faith.

 For Imam Talib, immigrants provide a crucial link to the Muslim world and its tradition of scholarship, as well as the wisdom that comes with an “unshattered Islamic heritage.”

Both groups have their practical virtues, too. African-Americans know better how to mobilize in America, both men say, and immigrants tend to have deeper pockets.

Still, it is one thing to talk about unity, Imam Talib said, and another to give it life. Before his visit to Long Island last fall, he had never asked Dr. Khan and his mosque to match their rhetoric with money.

“You have to have a litmus test,” he said.

One Faith, Many Histories

Imam Talib and Dr. Khan did not warm to each other when they met in May 2000, at a gathering in Chicago of Muslim leaders.

The imam found the silver-haired doctor faintly smug and paternalistic. It was an attitude he had often whiffed from well-to-do immigrant Muslims. Dr. Khan found Imam Talib straightforward to the point of bluntness.

The uneasy introduction was, for both men, emblematic of the strained relationship between their communities.

Imam Talib and other black Muslims trace their American roots to the arrival of Muslims from West Africa as slaves in the South.

(Is this at all true?  I thought the point was that the Muslim Arab slave traders felt free to enslave the non-Muslim blacks?)

That historical link gave rise to Islam-inspired movements in the 20th century, the most significant of which was the Nation of Islam.

The man who founded the Nation in 1930, W. D. Fard, spread the message that American blacks belonged to a lost Muslim tribe and were superior to the “white, blue-eyed devils” in their midst. Under Mr. Fard’s successor, Elijah Muhammad, the Nation flourished in the 1960s amid the civil rights struggle and the emergence of a black-separatist movement.

Overseas, Islamic scholars found the group’s teachings on race antithetical to the faith. The schism narrowed after 1975, when Mr. Muhammad’s son Warith Deen Mohammed took over the Nation, bringing it in line with orthodox Sunni Islam. Louis Farrakhan parted ways with Mr. Mohammed — taking the Nation’s name and traditional teachings with him — but the majority of African-American adherents came to embrace the same Sunni practice that dominates the Muslim world.

Still, divisions between African-American and immigrant Muslims remained pronounced long after the first large waves of South Asians and Arabs arrived in the United States in the 1960s.

Today, of the estimated six million Muslims who live in the United States, (a number commonly claimed, which I have plausibly seen challenged) about 25 percent are African-American, 34 percent are South Asian and 26 percent are Arab, said John Zogby, a pollster who has studied the American Muslim population.

“Given the extreme from which we came, I would say that the immigrant Muslims have been brotherly toward us,” Warith Deen Mohammed, who has the largest following of African-American Muslims, said in an interview. “But I think they’re more skeptical than they admit they are. I think they feel more comfortable with their own than they feel with us.”

For many African-Americans, conversion to Islam has meant parting with mainstream culture, while Muslim immigrants have tended toward assimilation. Black converts often take Arabic names, only to find foreign-born Muslims introducing themselves as “Moe” instead of “Mohammed.”

The tensions are also economic. Like Dr. Khan, many Muslim immigrants came to the United States with advanced degrees and quickly prospered, settling in the suburbs. For decades, African-Americans watched with frustration as immigrants sent donations to causes overseas, largely ignoring the problems of poor Muslims in the United States.

Imam Talib found it impossible to generate interest at immigrant mosques in the 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo, who was Muslim. “What we’ve found is when domestic issues jump up, like police brutality, all the sudden we’re by ourselves,” he said.

Some foreign-born Muslims say they are put off by the racial politics of many black converts. They struggle to understand why African-American Muslims have been reluctant to meet with law enforcement officials in the wake of Sept. 11. For their part, black Muslim leaders complain that immigrants have failed to learn their history, which includes a pattern of F.B.I. surveillance dating back to the roots of the Nation of Islam.

The ironies are, at times, stinging.

“From the immigrant community, I hear that African-Americans have to learn how to work in the system,” said Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, adding that this was not his personal opinion.

At the heart of the conflict is a question of leadership. Much to the ire of African-Americans, many immigrants see themselves as the rightful leaders of the faith in America by virtue of their Islamic schooling and fluency in Arabic, the original language of the Koran.

“What does knowing Arabic have to do with the quality of your prayer, your fast, your relationship with God?” asked Ihsan Bagby, an associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “But African-Americans have to ask themselves why have they not learned more in these years.”


Every year in Chicago, the two largest Muslim conventions in the country — one sponsored by an immigrant organization and the other by Mr. Mohammed’s — take place on the same weekend, in separate parts of the city.

The long-simmering tension boiled over into a public rift with the 2000 presidential elections. That year, a powerful coalition of immigrant Muslims endorsed George W. Bush (because of a promise to stop the profiling of Arabs).

The nation’s most prominent African-American Muslims complained that they were never consulted. The following summer, when Imam Talib vented his frustration at a meeting with immigrant leaders in Washington, a South Asian man turned to him, he recalled, and said, “I don’t understand why all of you African-American Muslims are always so angry about everything.”

Imam Talib searched for an answer he thought the man could understand.

“African-Americans are like the Palestinians of this land,” he finally said. “We’re not just some angry black people. We’re legitimately outraged and angry.”

The room fell silent.

Soon after, black leaders announced the creation of the Muslim Alliance in North America, their first national “indigenous” organization.

But the fallout over the elections was soon eclipsed by Sept. 11, when Muslim immigrants found themselves under intense public scrutiny. They began complaining about “profiling” and “flying while brown,” appropriating language that had been largely the domain of African-Americans.

It was around this time that Dr. Khan became, as he put it, enlightened. A few weeks before the terrorist attacks, he read the book “Black Rage,” by William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs. The book, published in 1968, explores the psychological woes of African-Americans, and how the impact of racism is carried through generations.

“It helped me understand that even before you’re born, things that happened a hundred years ago can affect you,” Dr. Khan said. “That was a big change in my thinking.”

He sent an e-mail message to fellow Muslims, including Imam Talib, sharing what he had learned.

The Harlem imam was pleased, if not yet convinced.

“I just encouraged the brother to keep going,” Imam Talib said.

An Oasis in Harlem

One windswept night in Harlem, cars rolled past the corner of West 113th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. A police siren blared as men huddled by a neon-lit Laundromat.

Across the street stood a brown brick building, lifeless from the outside. But upstairs, in a cozy carpeted room, rows of men and women chanted.

“Ya Hakim. Ya Allah.” O wise one. O God.

Imam Talib led the chant, swathed in a black satin robe. It was Ramadan’s holiest evening, the Night of Power. As the voices died down, he spotted his bodyguard swaying.

“Take it easy there, Captain,” Imam Talib said. “As long as you don’t jump and shout it’s all right.”

Laughter trickled through the mosque, where a translucent curtain separated men in skullcaps from women in African-print gowns.

“We’re just trying to be ourselves, you know?” Imam Talib said. “Within the tradition.”

“That’s right,” said one woman.

The imam continued: “And we can’t let other people, from other cultures, come and try to make us clones of them. We came here as Muslims.”

He was feeling drained. He had just returned from the Manhattan Detention Complex, where he works as a chaplain. Some of the mosque’s men were back in jail.

“We need power,” he said quietly. “Without that, we’ll destroy ourselves.”

Since its birth in 1964, the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood has been a fortress of stubborn faith, persevering through the crack wars, welfare, AIDS, gangs, unemployment, diabetes, broken families and gentrification.

The mosque was founded in a Brooklyn apartment by Shaykh-‘Allama Al-Hajj K. Ahmad Tawfiq, a follower of Malcolm X. The Sunni congregation boomed in the 1970s, starting a newspaper and opening a school and a health food store.

With city loans, it bought its current building. Fourteen families moved in, creating a bold Muslim oasis in a landscape of storefront churches and liquor stores. The mosque claimed its corner by drenching the sidewalk in dark green paint, the color associated with Islam.

The paint has since faded. The school is closed. Many of the mosque’s members can no longer afford to live in a neighborhood where brownstones sell for millions of dollars.


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But an aura of dignity prevails. The women normally pray one floor below the men, in a scrubbed, tidy room scented with incense. Their bathroom is a shrine of gold curtains and lavender soaps. A basket of nylon roses hides a hole in the wall.

Most of the mosque’s 160 members belong to the working class, and up to a third of the men are former convicts.

Some congregants are entrepreneurs, professors, writers and musicians. Mos Def and Q-Tip have visited with Imam Talib, who carries the nickname “hip-hop imam.”

Mosque celebrations are a blend of Islam and Harlem. In October, at the end of Ramadan, families feasted on curried chicken and collard greens, grilled fish and candied yams.

Just before the afternoon prayer, a lean man in a black turtleneck rose to give the call. He was Yusef Salaam, whose conviction in the Central Park jogger case was later overturned.

Many of the mosque’s members embraced Islam in search of black empowerment, not black separatism. They describe racial equality as a central tenet of their faith. Yet for some, the promise of Islam has been at odds with the reality of Muslims.

One member, Aqilah Mu’Min, lives in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, a heavily Bangladeshi neighborhood. Whenever she passes women in head scarves, she offers the requisite Muslim greeting. Rarely is it returned. “We have a theory that says Islam is perfect, human beings are not,” said Ms. Mu’Min, a city fraud investigator.

It was the simplicity of Islam that drew Imam Talib.

Raised a Christian, he spent the first part of his youth in segregated North Carolina. As a teenager, he read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” twice. He began educating himself about the faith at age 19, when as an aspiring actor he was cast in a play about a man who had left the Nation of Islam.

But his conversion was more spiritual than political, he said.

“I’d like to think that even if I was a white man, I’d still be a Muslim because that’s the orientation of my soul,” the imam said.

He has learned some Arabic, and traveled once to the Middle East, for hajj. Yet he feels more comfortable with the Senegalese and Guinean Muslims who have settled in Harlem than with many Arabs and South Asians.

He is trying to reach out, but is often disappointed.

In November, he accepted a last-minute invitation to meet with hundreds of immigrants at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, an opulent mosque on East 96th Street.

The group, the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays, was trying to persuade the city to recognize two Muslim holidays on the school calendar. The effort, Imam Talib learned, had been nearly a year in the making, and no African-American leaders had been consulted.

He was stunned. After all, he had led a similar campaign in the 1980s, resulting in the suspension of alternate-side parking for the same holidays.

“They are unaware of the foundations upon which they are standing,” he said.

Backlash in the Suburbs

Brush Hollow Road winds through a quiet stretch of Long Island, past churches and diners and leafy cul-de-sacs. In this tranquil tableau, the Islamic Center of Long Island announces itself proudly, a Moorish structure of white concrete topped by a graceful dome.

Sleek sedans and S.U.V.’s circle the property as girls with Barbie backpacks hop out and scurry to the Islamic classes they call “Sunday school.”

It is a testament to America’s influence on the mosque that its liveliest time of the week is not Friday, Islam’s holy day, but Sunday.

Boys in hooded sweatshirts smack basketballs along the pavement by a sign that reads “No pray, no play.” Young mothers in Burberry coats exchange kisses and chatter.

For members of the mosque — many of whom work in Manhattan and cannot make the Friday prayer — Sunday is the day to reflect and connect.

The treasurer, Rizwan Qureshi, frantically greeted drivers one Sunday morning with a flier advertising a fund-raiser.

“We’re trying to get Barack Obama,” Mr. Qureshi, a banker born in Karachi, told a woman in a gold-hued BMW.

“We need some real money,” he called out to another driver.

The mosque began with a group of doctors, engineers and other professionals from Pakistan and India who settled in Nassau County in the early 1970s.
28796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: March 10, 2007, 10:25:32 PM
Wall Street Journal

D-Day in Little Rock
Eisenhower's civil rights showdown.

Thursday, March 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

In spring 1954, as the Supreme Court was deliberating on Brown v. Board of Education, President Dwight D. Eisenhower invited Chief Justice Earl Warren to a stag dinner at the White House. He seated Warren at the same table as John W. Davis, the lawyer who had argued against school desegregation before the court. Eisenhower proceeded to tell the chief justice what a "great man" Davis was.

As it happened, Eisenhower had authorized his Justice Department to file an amicus brief in the case opposing Davis and public-school segregation. And he specifically allowed his solicitor general, Lee Rankin, to tell the justices during oral argument that "separate but equal" schools were unconstitutional. Yet he sympathized with the segregated South. "These are not bad people," he told Warren at the dinner. "All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big, overgrown Negroes." Warren was appalled.

To put it kindly, Eisenhower was ambivalent on civil rights. "Conservative by nature, he hoped that the advance of the civil rights movement would be gradual, allowing time for the South to change," writes Kasey S. Pipes in "Ike's Final Battle." Most of all, Eisenhower didn't want to lead a civil-rights crusade from the White House. "The only crusade he had ever wanted to lead was liberating Europe in World War II," Mr. Pipes says.
But when necessary--or when steps toward desegregation were relatively painless--Eisenhower acted. He broke the color barrier in the military by deploying black soldiers alongside whites to win the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945. As president, he integrated the schools and movie theaters in Washington, D.C., and federal installations around the country. Most important, he sent U.S. Army troops to Little Rock, Ark., in September 1957 to escort nine black students into Central High School after days of violent protest. It was a defeat from which segregationist forces never recovered.

"Little Rock represented something else as well: the culmination of Eisenhower's own attitude toward racial justice," Mr. Pipes writes. "Ike had enjoyed the luxury of endorsing civil rights in broad terms, knowing full well that much of segregation law was a state and local matter. Little Rock ended that."

Two days after the Army troops arrived in Little Rock, Eisenhower decided to address the nation on prime-time television. This surprised his attorney general, Herbert Brownell, who had been prodding Eisenhower for years to act more boldly on civil rights. The president wrote most of the speech himself, including a passage, suggested by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, arguing that violent opposition to racial integration was weakening America's influence and prestige in the world.

In the speech, Eisenhower lauded the desegregation efforts of other Southern communities and their willingness to comply with federal law. This was a new tack for the president, who had refused to endorse Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court's decision declaring segregated public schools unconstitutional. Nor had he denounced the murder of Emmett Till by racist thugs in Mississippi in 1955, despite pleas by the teenage boy's mother.

"He feared that moralizing from the bully pulpit would raise not only awareness, but also the collective blood pressure of the South," Mr. Pipes writes. "He saw no point in riling an already angry population. . . . To put it bluntly, Eisenhower had little interest in trying to change the minds of millions of Southerners."

But he had learned a lesson from Little Rock. His view had been, as Mr. Pipes puts it, that "segregationists and civil rights advocates were cut from the same cloth." In his dealings with Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, he learned otherwise.

Faubus betrayed Eisenhower. In the midst of the Little Rock crisis--as Arkansas's National Guard was blocking the nine black students from Central High--Faubus had agreed to meet the president in Newport, R.I. At the end of their 20-minute talk, Faubus gave the president the clear impression that he would change the National Guard's orders, requiring it to protect the black students as they entered Central High. But Faubus didn't follow through. Eisenhower felt double-crossed and told Brownell: "You were right. Faubus broke his word." The president then took the next step, dispatching the 101st Airborne.

Mr. Pipes is not a professional historian. He is a public-relations consultant and speechwriter who worked in the Bush White House from 2002 to 2005. But he has written a highly readable and credible account of Eisenhower's struggle with race and civil rights. While sympathetic, he doesn't sugarcoat Eisenhower's qualms about desegregation or excuse his unwillingness to move decisively before Little Rock.
Eisenhower famously regretted his appointment of Earl Warren as chief justice. (Warren served in that role from 1953 to 1969.) Warren confronted Eisenhower about the president's feelings toward him when they flew together to Winston Churchill's funeral in 1965. Eisenhower explained that it was Warren's liberal rulings on national security that had upset him. He didn't mention Brown v. Board of Education, and understandably so: Years earlier Eisenhower had told an aide, privately, that he thought the Brown decision was wrong; by 1965, he had concluded that it was right.

Mr. Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard and co-host, with Morton Kondracke, of "The Beltway Boys" on Fox News Channel. You can purchase "Ike's Final Battle" at the OpinionJournal bookstore here.
28797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: March 10, 2007, 10:21:45 PM
Free Walter Reed
The wounded deserve more than political recrimination.
Wall Street Journal

Saturday, March 10, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The reports of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have set off a political firestorm. It remains to be seen whether the system that created the problem is capable of fixing it.

The Walter Reed facility is located inside the District of Columbia. While the press reports have been dramatic, it strains credulity to think these problems are suddenly news to Congress and all its staff, the executive branch, the Pentagon (across the Potomac), the rest of the Washington press divisions or servicemen and their families.

So now Congress is holding hearings, the White House is setting up an independent commission and Vice President Dick Cheney has pledged "there will be no excuses, only action." Arguably "only action" is a federal-government oxymoron. The action so far has consisted of firings and recrimination. If this continues, the incentive for anyone in government to think innovatively about Walter Reed will fail.

Not surprisingly, the story beneath the Walter Reed mess is a morass. It is government, in its inevitable sprawl, working at cross purposes with itself. For starters, Walter Reed is scheduled to shut down in 2011 as part of the base-closure commission process. No surprise that resources going into Walter Reed would not rise under this circumstance.

Meanwhile, President Bush has proposed spending $38.7 billion on military health care in the coming year--double what the military spent in 2001. Over the past six years the military has expanded health coverage for reservists and for military families and has added a more generous prescription drug benefit.

What has happened is that for more than a decade military health care has shifted away from long hospital stays in favor of increased outpatient care, mirroring the private-sector trend. The military and the entirely separate Department of Veterans Affairs--which itself spends tens of billions of dollars on health care--have shuttered large in-patient facilities and opened hundreds of outpatient clinics.
By and large this has been for the good. The military in fact is a pace-setter in medical procedures to treat the severely injured; it drives advances in prosthetic limbs, trauma care and reconstructive surgery. Approximately 98% of those wounded on the battlefield who reach a hospital survive. Consider the following comparison: The ratio of those wounded to killed today is seven to one; in Vietnam that ratio was closer to three to one. And the VA is excelling at outpatient care. The Rand Corporation recently found that on nearly every measure of quality of care--preventive services, follow-ups, chronic care--VA patients receive better care than most civilians.

But the problems are real and significant. The military provides health care to more than nine million people. The VA runs the largest unified health-care program in the country to cover an additional five million people. It's predictable that patients will get lost inside a government system this vast. In recent weeks veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars have stepped forward to tell their own stories of fighting the health-care bureaucracy.

More than three million people eligible for cheap prescription drugs through the VA are opting instead to pay a little extra for Medicare drug coverage. Why? Because, as a Manhattan Institute study recently found, only 22% of the most important drugs released in recent years are covered by the VA.

These manifest problems will now tread water while we await the president's commission, Congress's hearings and on into the darkness. We have some shorter-term ideas to get help where it's needed.

For starters, free the patients captive inside this system. Congress should give these wounded soldiers vouchers to pay for out-patient care anywhere in America they wish--near home and family, at innumerable state-of-the-art rehab facilities, at specialized care institutions. Army word-of-mouth would quickly transmit data on best care, location, cost and family support. The professionals and staff in these places would move heaven and earth to help the service men and women.

To make this work, give a primary role to nonprofit foundations. The Fisher House program of comfort homes for families is perhaps the most famous. There are others more than willing to help.

Certainly the government needs to right its own battered programs. But in the meantime, let the American people--the world's greatest reservoir of medical, financial and volunteer skills--at last get involved helping those who've been fighting on our behalf in Iraq and in the war on terror.
28798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: March 10, 2007, 10:06:06 PM
I have never heard of "Zee" so this must count as highly unconfirmed info-- but given AQ's recent boasts in this regard, it is worth noting:
Top Pakistan nuclear scientists in Taliban Custody: Zee News Exclusive

New Delhi, March 07: Two top nuclear scientists of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) are currently in Taliban custody. The two were working at PAEC’s facility in North West Frontier Province. Zee News investigations reveal that the two scientists were kidnapped about six months ago. To avoid international embarrassment Pakistan Government has kept this information under wraps.

According to information available with Zee News, nuclear scientists have been kidnapped by Taliban at the behest of Al-Qaeda. Further investigations reveal that Al-Qaeda may be using the expertise of the scientists to produce nuclear bombs. The two scientists are reportedly being held somewhere in Waziristan, near Afghanistan border.

In January this year Pakistan security agencies had foiled another attempt by Taliban militia to kidnap nuclear scientists. Earlier, incidents of Taliban militia stealing uranium in NWFP have already been reported. PAEC also has a uranium mining facility in NWFP.

With repeated Al Qaeda threats to the US, news of kidnapping of nuclear scientists will increase pressure on Pakistan to attack terrorist camps.

Bureau Report
28799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: March 10, 2007, 10:01:42 PM
Wall Street Journal

Free Radical
Ayaan Hirsi Ali infuriates Muslims and discomfits liberals.

Saturday, March 10, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

NEW YORK--Ayaan Hirsi Ali is untrammeled and unrepentant: "I am supposed to apologize for saying the prophet is a pervert and a tyrant," she declares. "But that is apologizing for the truth."

Statements such as these have brought Ms. Hirsi Ali to world-wide attention. Though she recently left her adopted country, Holland--where her friend and intellectual collaborator Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004--she is still accompanied by armed guards wherever she travels.

Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Mogadishu--into, as she puts it, "the Islamic civilization, as far as you can call it a civilization." In 1992, at age 22, her family gave her hand to a distant relative; had the marriage ensued, she says, it would have been "an arranged rape." But as she was shipped to the appointment via Europe, she fled, obtaining asylum in Holland. There, "through observation, through experience, through reading," she acquainted herself with a different world. "The culture that I came to and I live in now is not perfect," Ms. Hirsi Ali says. "But this culture, the West, the product of the Enlightenment, is the best humanity has ever achieved."

Unease over Muslim immigration had been rising in the Low Countries for some time. For instance, when the gay right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn--"I am in favor of a cold war with Islam," he said, and believed the borders should be closed to Muslims--was gunned down in 2002, it was widely assumed his killer was an Islamist. There was a strange sense of relief when he turned out to be a mere animal-rights activist. Ms. Hirsi Ali brought integration issues to further attention, exposing domestic abuse and even honor killings in the Dutch-Muslim "dish cities."

In 2003, she won a seat in the parliament as a member of the center-right VVD Party, for People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. The next year, she wrote the script for a short film called "Submission." It investigated passages from the Quran that Ms. Hirsi Ali contends authorize violence against women, and did so by projecting those passages onto naked female bodies. In retrospect, she deeply regrets the outcome: "I don't think the film was worth the human life."

The life in question was that of Van Gogh, a prominent controversialist and the film's director. At the end of 2004, an Islamist named Mohammed Buyeri shot him as he was bicycling to work in downtown Amsterdam, then almost decapitated him with a curved sword. He left a manifesto impaled to the body: "I know for sure that you, Oh Hirsi Ali, will go down," was its incantation. "I know for sure that you, Oh unbelieving fundamentalist, will go down."

The shock was palpable. Holland--which has the second largest per capita population of Muslims in the EU, after France--had always prided itself on its pluralism, in which all groups would be tolerated but not integrated. The killing made clear just how apart its groups were. "Immediately after the murder," Ms. Hirsi Ali says, "we learned Theo's killer had access to education, he had learned the language, he had taken welfare. He made it very clear he knew what democracy meant, he knew what liberalism was, and he consciously rejected it. . . . He said, 'I have an alternative framework. It's Islam. It's the Quran.' "

At his sentencing, Mohammed Buyeri said he would have killed his own brother, had he made "Submission" or otherwise insulted the One True Faith. "And why?" Ms. Hirsi Ali asks. "Because he said his god ordered him to do it. . . . We need to see," she continues, "that this isn't something that's caused by special offense, the right, Jews, poverty. It's religion."

Ms. Hirsi Ali was forced into living underground; a hard-line VVD minister named Rita Verdonk, cracking down on immigration, canceled her citizenship for misstatements made on her asylum application--which Ms. Hirsi Ali had admitted years before and justified as a means to win quicker admission at a time of great personal vulnerability. The resulting controversy led to the collapse of Holland's coalition government. Ms. Hirsi Ali has since decamped for America--in effect a political refugee from Western Europe--to take up a position with the American Enterprise Institute. But the crisis, she says, is "still simmering underneath and it might erupt--somewhere, anywhere."
That partly explains why Ms. Hirsi Ali's new autobiography, "Infidel," is already a best seller. It may also have something to do with the way she scrambles our expectations. In person, she is modest, graceful, enthralling. Intellectually, she is fierce, even predatory: "We know exactly what it is about but we don't have the guts to say it out loud," she says. "We are too weak to take up our role. The West is falling apart. The open society is coming undone."

Many liberals loathe her for disrupting an imagined "diversity" consensus: It is absurd, she argues, to pretend that cultures are all equal, or all equally desirable. But conservatives, and others, might be reasonably unnerved by her dim view of religion. She does not believe that Islam has been "hijacked" by fanatics, but that fanaticism is intrinsic in Islam itself: "Islam, even Islam in its nonviolent form, is dangerous."

The Muslim faith has many variations, but Ms. Hirsi Ali contends that the unities are of greater significance. "Islam has a very consistent doctrine," she says, "and I define Islam as I was taught to define it: submission to the will of Allah. His will is written in the Quran, and in the hadith and Sunna. What we are all taught is that when you want to make a distinction between right and wrong, you follow the prophet. Muhammad is the model guide for every Muslim through time, throughout history."

This supposition justifies, in her view, a withering critique of Islam's most holy human messenger. "You start by scrutinizing the morality of the prophet," and then ask: "Are you prepared to follow the morality of the prophet in a society such as this one?" She draws a connection between Mohammed's taking of child brides and modern sexual oppressions--what she calls "this imprisonment of women." She decries the murder of adulteresses and rape victims, the wearing of the veil, arranged marriages, domestic violence, genital mutilation and other contraventions of "the most basic freedoms."

These sufferings, she maintains, are traceable to theological imperatives. "People say it is a bad strategy," Ms. Hirsi Ali says forcefully. "I think it is the best strategy. . . . Muslims must choose to follow their rational capacities as humans and to follow reason instead of Quranic commands. At that point Islam will be reformed."

This worldview has led certain critics to dismiss Ms. Hirsi Ali as a secular extremist. "I have my ideas and my views," she says, "and I want to argue them. It is our obligation to look at things critically." As to the charges that she is an "Enlightenment fundamentalist," she points out, rightly, that people who live in democratic societies are not supposed to settle their disagreements by killing one another.

And yet contemporary democracies, she says, accommodate the incitement of such behavior: "The multiculturalism theology, like all theologies, is cruel, is wrongheaded, and is unarguable because it is an utter dogmatism. . . . Minorities are exempted from the obligations of the rest of society, so they don't improve. . . . With this theory you limit them, you freeze their culture, you keep them in place."

The most grievous failing of the West is self-congratulatory passivity: We face "an external enemy that to a degree has become an internal enemy, that has infiltrated the system and wants to destroy it." She believes a more drastic reaction is required: "It's easy," she says, "to weigh liberties against the damage that can be done to society and decide to deny liberties. As it should be. A free society should be prepared to recognize the patterns in front of it, and do something about them."

She says the West must begin to think long term about its relationship with Islam--because the Islamists are. Ms. Hirsi Ali notes Muslim birth rates are vastly outstripping those elsewhere (particularly in Western Europe) and believes this is a conscious attempt to extend the faith. Muslims, she says, treat women as "these baby-machines, these son-factories. . . . We need to compete with this," she goes on. "It is a totalitarian method. The Nazis tried it using women as incubators, literally to give birth to soldiers. Islam is now doing it. . . . It is a very effective and very frightening way of dealing with human beings."

All of this is profoundly politically incorrect. But for this remarkable woman, ideas are not abstractions. She forces us back to first principles, and she punctures complacencies. These ought to be seen as virtues, even by those who find some of Ms. Hirsi Ali's ideas disturbing or objectionable. Society, after all, sometimes needs to be roused from its slumbers by agitators who go too far so that others will go far enough.

Mr. Rago is an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal.
28800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: March 10, 2007, 09:06:38 PM
Man saws house in two in divorce split
German man chain saws house in two in divorce split, takes his half
Updated: 11:55 a.m. ET March 10, 2007

BERLIN - A 43-year-old German decided to settle his imminent divorce by chain sawing a family home in two and making off with his half in a forklift truck.

Police in the eastern town of Sonneberg said on Friday the trained mason measured the single-story summer house — which was some 8 meters (26 feet) long and 6 meters wide — before chain sawing through the wooden roof and walls.

"The man said he was just taking his due," said a police spokesman. "But I don't think his wife was too pleased."

After finishing the job, the man picked up his half with the forklift truck and drove to his brother's house, where he has since been staying.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.
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