Dog Brothers Public Forum
Return To Homepage
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
April 27, 2015, 05:14:39 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
85812 Posts in 2269 Topics by 1068 Members
Latest Member: cdenny
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 590 591 [592] 593 594 ... 659
29551  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Colombia on: April 30, 2007, 02:26:16 PM

WSJ


One Righteous Gringo
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
April 30, 2007; Page A14

Al Gore may not have known that he was taking the side of a former terrorist and ally of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez when he waded into Colombian politics 10 days ago. But that's not much consolation to 45 million Colombians who watched their country's already fragile international image suffer another unjust blow, this time at the hands of a former U.S. vice president.

The event was a climate-change conference in Miami, where Mr. Gore and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe were set to share the stage. At the last minute, Mr. Gore notified the conference organizers that he refused to appear with Mr. Uribe because of "deeply troubling" allegations of human- rights violations swirling around the Colombian government.

 
It is not clear whether the ex-veep knows that making unsubstantiated claims of human-rights violations has been a key guerrilla weapon for more than a decade, along with the more traditional practices of murdering, maiming and kidnapping civilians. Nor is it clear whether Mr. Gore knew that the recycled charges that caught his attention are being hyped by Colombian Sen. Gustavo Petro, a close friend of Mr. Chávez and former member of the pro-Cuban M-19 terrorist group. What we do know is that Mr. Gore's line of reasoning -- that Colombia is not good enough to rub shoulders with the righteous gringos -- is also being peddled by some Democrats in Congress, the AFL-CIO and other forces of anti-globalization. The endgame is all about killing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

When Mr. Uribe got wind of Mr. Gore's decision to stand him up, he rightly interpreted its significance: Colombia is the victim of an international smear campaign that, if left unchecked, could undermine congressional support for the pending trade deal. Rather than let the whispering go on, Mr. Uribe elevated the matter, calling two press conferences over two days to refute the charges, which he says are damaging the country's interests. He also asked Mr. Gore to look "at Colombia closely" so he could see the progress that has been made.

The truth about Colombia's bloody struggle against criminal networks is not hard to discern. The tragedy originated more than five decades ago with ideological rebel warfare and was long supported by Fidel Castro. After Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993 and the Medellin and Cali drug cartels collapsed in the mid-1990s, the guerrillas moved into the narcotrafficking business and used this new source of financing to heighten the terror.

 
Mary Anastasia O'Grady discusses the implications of Al Gore's diplomatic "dis" of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
In a December 2001 monograph published by The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, Latin American insurgency and counterinsurgency expert David Spencer described the costs of the guerillas' "predatory business": "The federation of cattle ranchers reported that in 1997 they suffered losses of $750 million, largely to guerrilla theft and extortion. The consequences of resisting these extortive taxes is severe and includes kidnapping, death, and destruction of property." As Mr. Spencer explained, the urban rich avoided much of the terrorism; the vulnerable were the "small, independent farmers, ranchers, professionals, and merchants."

Lacking resources and a plan of action, the state did little to protect innocents. So the rural population organized self-defense units that became known as paramilitaries. Many of these groups later morphed into criminal enterprises.

Mr. Uribe, whose father was murdered by guerrillas, was elected governor of the state of Antioquia in 1995. He inherited a mess. "Guerrillas were all over the state," he told me in a 1997 interview in Medellin. "They were kidnapping, drug trafficking, keeping illegal plantations. Against them were the paramilitary. Wherever guerrillas arrived in one place, sooner or later paramilitary arrived there too, committing many similar crimes."

To confront the chaos, the governor made increasing the presence of the state a priority and launched the "convivirs." These legal civic organizations were citizens' intelligence networks designed to help the army and police identify and pursue guerrillas, paramilitary groups, narcotraffickers and common criminals in the countryside.

It was later learned that some of the convivirs had links to paramilitaries. This shouldn't be surprising since both groups shared a common enemy. But to the extent that such collusion existed, one can hardly blame it on Mr. Uribe. The concept of engaging the public in helping to strengthen the state's law-enforcement capabilities is a perfectly defensible strategy. Of course, the guerrillas didn't like it. They suffered major setbacks while Antioquian peasants, farmers, ranchers, banana workers and rural weekenders all enjoyed newfound security.

Mr. Uribe ran for president in 2002 on a promise to defeat organized crime. He has produced impressive results. According to national police statistics, homicides dropped to 17,277 in 2006 from 28,837 in 2002. Kidnappings fell to 687 from 2,883 over the same period and terrorist attacks were cut by more than two-thirds. Since 2002, some 42,000 illegally armed combatants have put down their weapons and 1,342 paramilitary have been killed.

As to charges against his former intelligence chief, based mainly on the testimony of one rather dubious witness, the justice system is working. It is in no need of Mr. Gore's condescending prejudice.

Though Colombia is not yet pacified, voters have confidence in Mr. Uribe. The economy has recovered and the government is working to protect the environment against the degradation caused by coca growers destroying forests and cocaine labs polluting rivers. There is also a special program to provide security for members of labor unions. Mr. Uribe was re-elected last year and today maintains an approval rating of better than 70%.

Mr. Uribe's popularity is a source of much frustration for his adversaries, especially as the FTA -- considered his baby -- gains momentum. Colombians widely favor the deal and it is now sailing through the legislature. Thus the export of the tired, old allegations of human-rights violations from Mr. Petro. How ironic that Colombia's anti-American hard-left, normally obsessed with trashing Uncle Sam, is now rushing to Washington to get help in defeating the will of its own people.

Mr. Uribe will be in Washington this week to meet with members of Congress and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to make his case for the FTA. In the end, it may turn out that Mr. Gore did him a favor by bringing this subject to the fore. Union activists who don't want any more U.S. free trade agreements have every right to lobby against them. But they should make their case on facts, not on politically motivated and unsubstantiated charges.

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com.
29552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Paul's girl (the Wolfowitz affair) on: April 30, 2007, 11:05:44 AM
The WSJ continues its coverage of this:

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Dutch Rub-Out
Wolfowitz and the World Bank's Euro-cabal.

Monday, April 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz faces an "ad hoc committee" investigating his alleged ethics violations today, but it seems the committee has reached its conclusions even before he has a chance to defend himself. This fits the pattern of what is ever more clearly a Euro-railroad job.

On Saturday, the Washington Post cited "three senior bank officials" as saying that the committee has "nearly completed a report" concluding that Mr. Wolfowitz "breached ethics rules when he engineered a pay raise for his girlfriend." The Post also reported that, "According to bank officials, the timing of the committee's report and its conclusions have been choreographed for maximum impact in what has become a full-blown campaign to persuade Wolfowitz to go." So there it is from the plotters themselves: Verdict first, trial later.

None of this is surprising when you consider that the "ad hoc committee" is dominated by Europeans who have been leading the campaign to oust Mr. Wolfowitz. Four of the committee's seven members are European, including its Dutch chairman, a Frenchman, Norwegian and Russian. The others hail from Ethiopia, Mexico and China, but the Europeans have the majority and are running this railroad.





The "ad hoc" chairman is Herman Wijffels, a Dutch politician who has his own blatant conflict of interest in the case. One of the main "witnesses" against Mr. Wolfowitz is Ad Melkert, another Dutch politician who had previously run the bank board's ethics committee that advised Mr. Wolfowitz to give the raise to his girlfriend that is now the basis for the accusations against him. Whom do you think Mr. Wijfells is going to side with: His fellow countryman, or an American reviled in Europe for wanting to depose Saddam Hussein?
Mr. Melkert has played an especially craven role by running from his own responsibility in the case. As head of the ethics committee in 2005, he refused to let Mr. Wolfowitz recuse himself from dealings with Shaha Riza, who had been long employed at the bank. Then Mr. Melkert advised him to ensure that Ms. Riza got a new job that included some kind of raise or promotion to compensate for the disruption to her career. Now, however, Mr. Melkert claims he was an innocent bystander who knew nothing about Ms. Riza's raise.

How very European. This is the same Ad Melkert, who on October 24, 2005, after Ms. Riza had been told of her new job and salary, wrote in a letter to Mr. Wolfowitz that "Because the outcome is consistent with the [Ethics] Committee's findings and advice above, the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed."

And it is the same Ad Melkert who absolved Mr. Wolfowitz after inspecting two whistleblower emails from an anonymous "John Smith" that circulated around the bank in early 2006 and charged malfeasance. A January 21 whistleblower email included a reference to Ms. Riza's "salary increase of around US$50,000" and was sent to the entire bank board.

On February 28, 2006, Mr. Melkert wrote to Mr. Wolfowitz, saying that he and the ethics committee had "reviewed two emails from 'John Smith'" as well as relevant "background documents." He went on to write that "On the basis of a careful review of the above-mentioned documents . . . the allegations relating to a matter which had been previously considered by the Committee did not contain new information warranting any further review by the Committee."

Either Mr. Melkert is lying now, or he was negligent when he wrote that letter. But there's no excuse for his current Sgt. Schultz routine from "Hogan's Heroes" that "I know nothing. Nothing!" Mr. Wijffels succeeded Mr. Melkert as the Dutch representative on the bank board, so he has a clear conflict of interest in judging his countryman's abdication. He also has a conflict because he's in a position to protect fellow board members who were also alerted to Ms. Riza's salary by the whistleblower email. Mr. Wijffels should resign from the ad hoc committee and be replaced by someone from outside the bank's Euro-cabal.





By the way, today's "ad hoc" bank meeting is designed to coincide with President Bush's summit with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose bank representative is among the anti-Wolfowitz ringleaders. The hope among the Euro-plotters is that Mr. Bush will bow to the European leaders on Mr. Wolfowitz in return for some other policy concession, and thus encourage him to resign. That would spare the Europeans a difficult bank vote. But it would only make Mr. Bush look even weaker than he already is if another of his appointees can be run out of town on a phony scandal.
Ms. Riza will also get her first hearing today in this kangaroo court, and she ought to blast them for the way the bank has violated its own rules in leaking details of her salary and damaged her career--all in the name of preventing a "conflict" that was no fault of her own. The real disgrace here isn't Mr. Wolfowitz or Ms. Riza but the bank itself and its self-protecting staff and European directors. Their only "ethic" is to oust an American reformer so they can get back to running the foreign aid status quo.

29553  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Die Less Often 2 trailer-- ruff edit on: April 29, 2007, 02:20:56 PM
Night Owl brought me the Fine Edit 1.3  wink yesterday and I will be mailing Gabe's copy to him tomorrow.

NO has done a fine job of editing this down to under two hours.

People have been asking us about the difference between DLO 1 and DLO 2.  I would say that DLO 1 offered an overview of the Interface Paradigm and introduced the Kali Fence and the Dog Catcher in the context of that paradigm.  In this context I did more of the teaching.  In DLO 2 the focus is more on the gun and Gabe does more of the teaching.  He takes Kali footwork intitiated frome the false lead of the Kali Fence and shows how to use it for CQ gunfighting.  He takes us through a drill progression designed to get people to understand during a knife attack when for their particular skill level they are in gun range and when they are in combatives range.  When it is combatives range I show additional understandings of applying the Dog Catcher with a focus on creating angle and distance to enable gun access.

29554  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Interest in a DBMA Class in Redondo Beach? on: April 29, 2007, 02:07:20 PM
This class is establishing itself very nicely cool
29555  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: April 29, 2007, 01:09:16 PM
Speaking only as a civilian Monday morning quarterback:

Respect for her courage in assaying the arrest herself.

Especially in view of the size and strenght disparity I thought that she did not do a good job of getting him spread on the car.  His feet should have been far enough from the car that his hands would be weight bearing and his feet should have been further spread.  Instead of standing behind him, she stands to his side.  There is even a moment at which she places both her hands behind her while he looks at her! 

As for gun retention technique, instinctive or not, I couldn't tell because of how the footage was edited.

The BG was succeeding in turning the gun on her when the unorganized militia man saved her.  Nice assist on the control for the cuffing from the large woman  grin
29556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: April 29, 2007, 09:30:44 AM
Outstanding performance from that man in Turkey shocked  Very impressive.

Here's a lady cop working alone and getting into deep trouble before being saved by a man-- with an assist on cuffing from a woman:

http://www.mentalfunk.com/movies/copsamaritans.html
29557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Part Two on: April 29, 2007, 08:57:18 AM
(Page 4 of 5)



The acceptance of democracy is itself a proxy for something else - the
repudiation of violence and terrorism. Here the brotherhood has a fair
amount of history to answer for. The organization was established in 1928 in
the wake of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's secularization of Turkey and his
abolition of the caliphate, the line of religious rulers that stretched back
to the Prophet Muhammad. Hassan al-Banna, the charismatic founder, aspired
to revitalize the spirit of Islam among the umma, the worldwide body of
believers, and ultimately to restore the caliphate and Shariah. But for all
al-Banna's emphasis on peaceful evangelizing, he also created a paramilitary
wing, like Mussolini's brown shirts, known as al-nizam al-khas - the Special
Apparatus. During the '40s, when Egyptians fought to free themselves from
British rule, brotherhood operatives engaged in a campaign of bombings and
assassinations. The organization was banned in 1948; soon afterward, a
member of the group assassinated Egypt's prime minister. Al-Banna denounced
the deed, but he was himself murdered by government security forces. And
when a brotherhood plot to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser miscarried, most
of the leading figures were jailed and tortured.

In 1964, the most prominent of the jailed leaders, Sayyid Qutb, produced a
tract, "Milestones," which magnified the militant side of the brotherhood
and rejected al-Banna's faith in the merits of instruction and moral
example. Islamic regimes that failed to establish Shariah were apostates, he
declared no better than the infidels themselves. Egypt was, of course, just
such a state. "Milestones" was read as a call to revolution. Qutb was
sentenced to death and hanged in 1966, making him a martyr throughout the
Middle East. Among his disciples were the radical Islamists who conspired to
murder Sadat in 1981 including Ayman al-Zawahiri, now Al Qaeda's second in
command. Osama bin Laden was deeply influenced by Qutb's works and regularly
attended lectures given by Qutb's younger brother, Muhammad. "Milestones" is
now considered the founding manifesto of jihadism.

Qutb remains a heroic figure for many Egyptians. But Ibrahim Hudaybi, the
young activist who sent me the text message about the arrest, pointed out to
me when we met the next day that his own grandfather, Hasan Hudaybi, who
replaced al-Banna as supreme guide and was jailed along with Qutb, wrote a
book from prison, "Preachers, Not Judges," designed to reassert the
brotherhood's commitment to peace and to open debate. Hudaybi was a
thoroughly modern figure; we met in a coffee shop near the American
University in Cairo, where he recently received his master's in political
science. He was now working as a business consultant. Hudaybi wanted to see
the brotherhood deal explicitly with the legacy of Qutb, even if doing so
might not play well in the hustings. Other, more senior figures I spoke to
insisted rather implausibly that Qutb had been misunderstood; but all swore
by the philosophy of tolerance and the program of gradual reform laid out in
"Preachers, Not Judges."

The brotherhood is an international organization. It has, however, no
Comintern, no central apparatus. In Sudan, brotherhood members have formed
an alliance with a deeply authoritarian ruling party. The brotherhood in
Jordan and Morocco is considered relatively moderate. But in the Palestinian
territories, the organization mutated into Hamas. Policy makers and
academics in the West tend to be more concerned with the brotherhood's views
of Hamas than with its understanding of Shariah. And here there is little
satisfaction to be had. When I asked Muhammad Habib about Hamas attacks on
Israeli civilians, he said, "With the continuous crackdown and ongoing war
launched by the Israeli Army, which does not distinguish between civilians
and noncivilians, you cannot speak about the Palestinians disregarding
Israeli citizens." Brotherhood figures do not, at bottom, accept Israel's
right to exist. Seif al-Islam, the son of Hassan al-Banna and a venerated
elder of the group, said to me, in his stylized version of English: "Not any
Palestine man or Egypt man feels that Jews who come from the outside have
the right to stay in Palestine. At the same time, the Palestinian people on
the outside cannot have a grave to bury in. This is not religion."

The more worldly among the brotherhood's legislators and thinkers understand
that Israel is a test just as Qutb is a test, and that the Western audience
matters even if it doesn't vote. Hazem Farouk Mansour, a dentist who is the
head of the foreign-policy committee of the parliamentary bloc, says of Camp
David, "We accept it as an agreement, whether we like it or not." Essam
el-Erian, a clinical pathologist who is head of the brotherhood's political
committee and perhaps its most sophisticated thinker, said to me: "Look,
this is a historical and ideological and religious crisis. It cannot be
solved in a few years. Every part in this conflict can be put forth for
dialogue." Like virtually all of his colleagues, el-Erian urged me not to
get too hung up on this or any other question of what the brotherhood might
do in some unimaginably remote future in which the regime had somehow
relinquished its grip on power. "We can solve the problem of our society,"
he said, "to have democratic reform respected by Europeans and Americans,
whatever happens to the Palestinians."

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



Page 5 of 5)



From what I could tell, in fact, the brotherhood in its public oratory
sticks to issues of political process, while voters worry about the kind of
mundane issues that preoccupy people everywhere. Magdy Ashour said that few
voters knew or cared anything about issues like constitutional reform. He
agreed to let me sit by his side one evening as he met with constituents.
None of the dozen or so petitioners who were ushered into the tiny, bare
cell of his office asked about the political situation, and none had any
complaints about cultural or moral issues. Rather, there were heart-rending
stories of abuse by the powerful, like the profoundly palsied young man
confined to a wheelchair who sold odds and ends from a kiosk under a bridge,
and who was ejected, along with his meager goods, when a road-improvement
project came through. (Ashour promised to go with him to the police station
the following morning.) Mostly, though, people wanted help getting a job.
One ancient gentleman with a white turban and walking stick wandered in as
if from the Old Testament. He was accompanied by his daughter and 3-year-old
granddaughter. His daughter's husband had abandoned her, and she needed a
job. Ashour explained that since the woman had a business degree, she might
find work in a private school.

The old man shook his head. "She must have a government job," he said. "She
has three girls. I am too old to take care of her. She needs security."
Ashour later explained to me that while a private job might pay $90 a month
and a public one only $35, the government job would carry a guaranteed $15
pension, which felt like insurance against destitution. Only a government
job was considered real; Ashour himself had worked as the superintendent for
lighting infrastructure for a portion of Cairo. Nasser caught the bug of
socialism half a century earlier, and the government continued to dominate
the economy and to sap the energies needed for private initiative. Egypt's
arthritic economy and its deeply corrupt public administration were much
more salient problems for Ashour than was, say, debauchery on TV.

___?___ arrived in Cairo in the middle of a heated national debate over
Mubarak's proposed reform of the constitution. During the presidential
campaign, Mubarak promised to reduce his own powers in favor of the
Legislature and the cabinet and to loosen restrictions on political parties.
Only trace elements of those vows remained; in fact, the reforms seemed
designed to consolidate, rather than dissipate, the regime's authority.
Article 88, which had stipulated that elections be held "under the
supervision of members of the judiciary authority," now granted that control
to "a higher commission marked by independence and impartiality." Since no
such bodies had been known to exist in Egypt, few figures outside the ruling
party were willing to take the proposal at face value. And a new
anti-terrorism provision allowed the state to set aside civil liberties
enumerated elsewhere in the constitution in the pursuit of suspected
terrorists. Mohamed Kamal described this measure to me as the equivalent of
the USA Patriot Act, but political activists are convinced that it will be
used to snuff out opposition. (The brotherhood may be the chief target,
since the regime regards it as a quasi-terrorist body.) Amnesty
International described the package as the gravest threat to human rights in
Egypt since Mubarak took power.

In mid-March, on the day the proposed amendments were presented to the
People's Assembly, the brotherhood legislators and the dozen or so members
of the secular opposition staged a joint protest. The entire group stood
silently inside the gates of Parliament wearing black sashes that read, "No
to the Constitutional Amendments," and carrying signs that read, "No to
Electoral Fraud," "No to Dawn Visitors" and so on. The muezzin's call led to
an interval of prayer, and then legislators squeezed one by one through the
gates, backing the scrum of reporters and photographers into a busy two-way
street. Drivers honked furiously while legislators struggled to be heard
over the din. I had the impression that the brotherhood hadn't yet gotten
the hang of press relations.

The entire opposition boycotted the debate; the regime, unimpressed, carried
the day with the near-unanimous support of the N.D.P. and then scheduled the
mandatory national referendum for the following week, presumably to prevent
the opposition from mobilizing. But the tactic failed; opposition
legislators urged supporters to boycott the ballot. All of the brotherhood
legislators I spoke to that day said that the polling places in their
constituency were literally empty. Civic groups canvassing Cairo and other
major cities came to the same conclusion. Estimates of turnout varied from 2
to 8 percent. When it was over, government officials pegged turnout at 27
percent - a figure so improbable that it scarcely seemed intended to be
believed. Perhaps the implicit message was that the regime didn't care if it
was believed or not.

In June 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a landmark
address at the American University in Cairo in which she bluntly declared,
"The day must come when the rule of law replaces emergency decrees and when
the independent judiciary replaces arbitrary justice." Egypt's democracy
activists were enthralled - though they were to become increasingly
disappointed, and then embittered, as the administration offered no public
response to Mubarak's crackdown. But Rice's call to the political barricades
was carefully modulated, perhaps in order to limit the offense to the
regime. Asked after the speech about the Muslim Brotherhood, Rice said
flatly, "We have not engaged the Muslim Brotherhood and . . . we won't." In
fact, American diplomats had been in regular contact with brotherhood
officials over the years; Rice was declaring - in fact, making - a new
policy. And that policy still largely obtains. Rice's spokesman, Sean
McCormack, told me, "We do not meet with the Muslim Brotherhood per se, as
we don't want to get entangled in complexities surrounding its legality as a
political party." He added, however, "Consistent with our practice
elsewhere, we will nonetheless meet with any duly elected member of the
parliamentary opposition." In fact, American officials in Cairo included
leading brotherhood parliamentarians in a group of legislators who met
recently with Representative Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader of
the House.

But why not engage the brotherhood openly? Is what is gained by mollifying
the Mubarak regime worth what is lost by forgoing contact with the
brotherhood? "Americans," Essam el-Erian said to me, "must have channels
with all the people, not only in politics, but in economics, in social, in
everything, if they want to change the image of America in the region." Of
course, that principle applies only up to a point. The administration has,
understandably, refused to recognize the democratic bona fides either of
Hamas or of Hezbollah in Lebanon. But the Muslim Brotherhood, for all its
rhetorical support of Hamas, could well be precisely the kind of moderate
Islamic body that the administration says it seeks. And as with Islamist
parties in Turkey and Morocco, the experience of practical politics has made
the brotherhood more pragmatic, less doctrinaire. Finally, foreign policy is
no longer a rarefied game of elites: public opinion shapes the world within
which policy makers operate, and the refusal to deal with Hamas or Hezbollah
has made publics in the Islamic world dismiss the whole idea of democracy
promotion. Even a wary acceptance of the brotherhood, by contrast, would
demonstrate that we take seriously the democratic preferences of Arab
voters.

In general, I found the brothers deeply suspicious of American designs in
the world but also curious about America itself. When I took my leave of
Magdy Ashour once the crowd of petitioners thinned out, he asked if he could
pose some questions of his own. "I've heard," he said, "that even George
Bush's mother thinks he's an idiot; is that true?" And, "Why did George Bush
say that America is going on a Christian crusade against the Muslim people?"
And finally, "Is it true that the Jews control and manipulate the U.S.
economy?" These are, alas, the kinds of questions - with the possible
exception of the first - that people all over the Middle East ask.

Then Ashour said that he was thinking about visiting America. I asked how he
could afford such an expensive journey, and he explained that the
brotherhood has offered each legislator one free trip anywhere in the
world - a remarkable program for an organization said to be bent on
returning Egypt to the Middle Ages. "I would," Ashour said, "like to see for
myself."
29558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood on: April 29, 2007, 08:56:09 AM
Like most things from the NY Times, caveat lector-- but a very interesting read nonetheless.
=======
At 2 in the morning, a few days after I arrived in Cairo last month, a text
message beeped into my cellphone: "Mahmoud Ghozlan, MB Guide Bureau, is
being arrested NOW." Ghozlan was only the latest prominent member of the
Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that commands deep loyalty in
Egypt, to be hauled off by the dawn visitors of President Hosni Mubarak's
security apparatus. In recent months, leaders of the organization,
businessmen thought to be financial backers and other members of the
brotherhood's Guidance Bureau have been arrested on a variety of charges.
Forty members of the group have been indicted under Egypt's emergency laws
and put under the jurisdiction of a military tribunal, which is likely to
give them long jail sentences.

Skip to next paragraph
Enlarge This Image

Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse
Nay Sayed Askar, a Muslim Brotherhood member of the Egyptian Parliament,
voices dissent.

The arrest and imprisonment of political opponents is nothing new in Egypt,
which has been ruled by a succession of authoritarian leaders since 1952;
secular democrats are in jail along with the Islamists. Egypt is generally
rated as one of the more repressive countries in the world's most repressive
region. But two years ago, responding in part to White House pressure, the
regime of President Hosni Mubarak allowed parliamentary elections to take
place under conditions of unprecedented political freedom - at least
initially. And the brotherhood, though a banned organization that had to run
candidates as independents, dominated the contest until the government
cracked down in later rounds of voting. The organization still took 88 of
the 454 seats in Egypt's lower house, the People's Assembly, becoming, in
effect, the first opposition party of Egypt's modern era.

But it is not simply numbers that make the brotherhood a threat from the
regime's point of view. While Mubarak and his allies regularly denounce the
brothers as fundamentalists bent on turning Egypt into a theocracy, the new
legislators have made common cause with judges, liberal intellectuals and
secular activists in calling for increased political freedom. They have
steered clear of cultural or religious issues. Abdel Monem Abou el-Fotouh,
one of Ghozlan's colleagues on the Guidance Bureau, said to me flatly, "We
are not a religious body." Only one of his 15 fellow guides, he said, is a
sheik, or religious authority - "and even he is political." While many
secular critics fear that the brotherhood harbors a hidden Islamist agenda,
so far the organization has posed a democratic political challenge to the
regime, not a theological one; and that makes it all the more dangerous.

In his 2005 Inaugural Address, President Bush traced out the logic of a new,
post-9/11 American foreign policy. "For as long as whole regions of the
world simmer in resentment and tyranny," he declared, violence "will gather
. . . and cross the most defended borders" - i.e., our own. Therefore, he
announced, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the
growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture,
with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Thus was born the
Freedom Agenda; and Egypt occupied the bull's-eye on this new target. Egypt
was an authoritarian state that had supplied much of the leadership of Al
Qaeda. It is also the largest nation in the Arab world and, historically,
the center of the region's political and cultural life. Progress in Egypt's
sclerotic political system would resonate all over the Islamic world. The
nearly $2 billion a year in military and economic aid that the U.S. had been
providing since the Camp David accords in 1979 offered real leverage. And
Egypt's early experience of democratic government (from 1922 to 1952),
mostly under British occupation, and its lively community of democratic and
human rights activists gave political reform a firmer foundation than it had
elsewhere in the Arab world.

As it happened, presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled for
2005. Not long after his inaugural address, President Bush called Mubarak to
urge him to allow independent monitors to oversee the elections and to loose
the asphyxiating controls on political activity and the press. For his part,
Mubarak needed to respond not only to Washington but also to a rising tide
of domestic dissent - and to the continued enfeeblement of his own National
Democratic Party, which performed badly in legislative elections five years
earlier. He agreed to hold Egypt's first contested presidential elections
and to permit unprecedented, if carefully circumscribed, political freedom.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, which in years past had
allowed the regime to control the hundreds of millions of dollars it spent
in Egypt, earmarked $50 million for democracy and governance; much of the
money went to the training of political party activists and election
monitors.

The Muslim Brotherhood was not at that time a major force in national
electoral politics. Since its founding in 1928, the brotherhood had sunk
deep roots in the country's urban working and middle classes, and especially
among the professions, establishing a powerful base in the "syndicates" that
represent doctors, lawyers, journalists and others. The organization began
dipping its toes in the water of parliamentary electioneering in the mid-'80s;
in 2000 it gained 17 seats. But the group responded to the new climate of
openness by fielding a much larger slate of candidates for the 2005
elections - 160 in all. Candidates from old-line Nasserist and left-wing
parties ran as well.

After decades of quiet organizing, the Islamists proved to be far more
popular, and more disciplined, than the isolated leaders of Mubarak's ruling
party expected. In the first of three rounds of voting, the brothers won so
many seats that the regime grew alarmed. In the second round, the police
restricted access to polling areas in brotherhood strongholds; the Islamists
still won most of the seats they sought. In the third round, the regime
pulled out all the stops: despite the presence of hundreds of
American-trained election monitors, security forces beat up and arrested
opposition activists and shut down voting booths. In the end, election
violence would claim 14 lives. Video footage showed old women in head
scarves and veils scaling ladders to reach polling places - this in a
country notorious for dismal turnout. The regime had feared a surge of
support for secular opposition forces like Ghad, a new party founded by
Ayman Nour, a charismatic figure who also opposed Mubarak in the
presidential race, or Tagammu, the traditional party of the left. These were
the groups that the Bush administration's democracy agenda was designed to
promote. But they proved to have relatively little national following; few
voters risked arrest to cast a ballot in their behalf.

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

(Page 2 of 5)



The brotherhood quickly proved that it was not only popular, but savvy. The
leaders understood that it was not in their interests to provoke a
confrontation with the regime and its hair-trigger security forces. They
fielded candidates in only a fraction of the districts they could have won.
According to Joshua Stacher, an American scholar of Egyptian politics who
lives in Cairo, a brotherhood politician who projected winning 17 seats in
his governorate was instructed by his superior to come back with a smaller
number. Only when he whittled the figure to seven was he told to go ahead.
The brotherhood won six of the seats. Stacher also notes that when the
brotherhood held a press conference (which he attended) four days after the
election to introduce their new legislators, a reporter asked Muhammad Akef,
the "supreme guide," if they would be prepared to talk to the Americans. And
Akef answered, "Yes, but they should forward the request to the Egyptian
Foreign Ministry." He was saying both that the brotherhood was open to
dialogue and that it had nothing to hide from the regime.

The brotherhood bloc took Parliament a great deal more seriously than the
ruling party did. The entire 88-person contingent moved into a hotel in
Cairo in order to be able to work and live together while the People's
Assembly was in session. Merely showing up changed the dynamic of this
torpid body, since N.D.P. lawmakers had to attend as well lest they be
outvoted. The brothers formed a "parliamentary kitchen" with committees on
various subjects; the committees, in turn, organized seminars to which
outside experts were regularly invited. The Islamists formed a coalition
with other opposition legislators, and with sympathetic members of the
N.D.P., to protest the extension of emergency rule. They stood in solidarity
with judges who were protesting growing infringements on their autonomy;
hundreds of protesters, including some of the brotherhood's major figures,
were arrested during several weeks of demonstrations in central Cairo. In an
article in the journal Middle East Report, Joshua Stacher and Samer Shehata,
a professor at Georgetown, concluded, "Brotherhood M.P.'s are attempting to
transform the Egyptian parliament into a real legislative body, as well as
an institution that represents citizens and a mechanism that keeps
government accountable."

Many members of Egypt's secular opposition remain deeply skeptical of the
brotherhood, which they see as the regime's silent ally in blocking their
hopes for an open, pluralist society. Egypt's ruling elite has, in turn,
traditionally worried far more about the secular opposition than about the
Islamists. Anwar el-Sadat, the president from 1970 to his assassination in
1981, made peace with religious forces by initiating a thoroughgoing
Islamization of Egyptian society. Sadat rewrote the educational curriculum
along religious lines and amended Article 2 of Egypt's extremely progressive
constitution to stipulate that Shariah - Islamic law - was the "main source"
of the nation's laws. Mubarak, who was Sadat's vice president, continued
this practice. Some secularists fear that the brotherhood, perhaps in
collaboration with the military, would establish an authoritarian theocracy.
"I have no doubt that they would implement Shariah if they ever came to
power," says Hisham Kassem, a leading publisher in the progressive media. "I
see them as a menace."

But opinions are shifting. After holding a symposium on free speech, Negad
al-Borai, a democracy activist and human rights lawyer, says that he
received an emissary from the supreme guide. "He came and said: 'We accept
everything in your initiative as a beginning to the democratic process. The
only thing we ask is that if issues arise where we wish to state our
opposition according to our own views, we can have our own voice.' "
Al-Borai readily agreed, and the brotherhood endorsed untrammeled free
speech. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian dissident most widely known in the
West, says that the performance of the brotherhood's parliamentary bloc over
the last year has allayed his own concerns. The regime, he says, is
brandishing the Islamist threat in order "to scare the foreigners and the
middle class and the Copts" Egypt's ancient Christian minority, who fear
being treated as "nonbelievers."

Indeed, since the 2005 election and the brotherhood's subsequent
performance, the regime has turned the full force of its repressive energies
on it. Last April and May, when brotherhood members demonstrated in
solidarity with Egypt's judges, who had been seeking greater autonomy,
security forces waded in, arresting hundreds of the brothers. The campaign
of arrests resumed earlier this year, aiming at leading figures like Mahmoud
Ghozlan, the Guidance Bureau member, as well as financiers; the government
has frozen assets of brotherhood supporters said to amount to $2 billion.
And there could be no mistaking the intent of the constitutional "reforms"
submitted last December. Article 5, which lays the basis for the regulation
of political parties, was rewritten to stipulate that "political activity or
political parties shall not be based on any religious background or
foundation." This prohibition seemed to directly contradict the language of
Article 2, which made Shariah the foundation of Egyptian law. How can a
self-professed religious state prohibit political activity with a "religious
background"? When I posed this question to Hossam Badrawi, a leading member
of a group of young politicians who profess to be reforming the N.D.P. from
within, he asked me in return, "If I go to Germany and I want to start a
Nazi Party, would I be allowed to do that?"

"Is that a fair analogy?"

"Yes, because they don't respect the constitution, which lays out a separate
role for politics and religion." Except that it doesn't or didn't, until
just now.

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



(Page 3 of 5)



This is the kind of language that, as Saad Eddin Ibrahim put it, is bound to
scare foreigners and the middle class. President Mubarak has called the
group a threat to national security. Mohamed Kamal, a political scientist
who is close to Gamal Mubarak, the president's son and heir apparent, and
who now serves as the N.D.P.'s semiofficial spokesman to the Western media,
says of the brotherhood: "They're fundamentalist in their ideology. I'm not
saying necessarily that they're terrorists; they want to establish a
religious state based on their interpretation of the Koran and the Shariah."
While some of their leaders "pay lip service to democracy, women's rights
and so on," Kamal says, the grass roots are deeply reactionary.

Is that so? One night I drove out to the far northeastern edge of Cairo - a
trip that took an hour and a half through the city's insane traffic - to
meet with Magdy Ashour, a member of the brotherhood's parliamentary bloc.
The caucus is heavy with lawyers, doctors and professors, but Ashour is an
electrician with a technical diploma. The neighborhood he represents,
al-Nozha, is a squalid quarter of shattered buildings and dusty lanes.
Ashour had established himself in what seemed to be the only substantial
structure in the area, a half-completed apartment building; I walked through
plaster dust and exposed wiring to reach his office. Ashour hurried in from
the evening prayer. He was a solemn, square-jawed 41-year-old with short
hair and unfashionable glasses, a brown suit and a brown tie. He grew up, he
said, in the neighborhood, and as a young man often gave the Friday sermon
at the local mosque. He joined the brotherhood when he was 23. Why? "From my
reading and my earliest meetings with brotherhood members," he said through
a translator, "I could see that they were moderate, that they don't impose
their religion on people, but at the same time they're not loose with their
religious principles."

I asked Ashour if the spate of arrests had him worried, and he said that he
indeed feared that the state might be seeking an "open confrontation" with
the brotherhood. Might not that provoke the group's supporters to violence?
Ashour answered by citing an aphorism he attributed to the brotherhood's
founder, Hassan al-Banna: "Be like trees among the people: They strike you
with stones, and you shower them with blessings." Ashour then embarked on a
brief oration: "We would like to change the idea people have of us in the
West," he said, "because when people hear the name Muslim Brotherhood, they
think of terrorism and suicide bombings. We want to establish the perception
of an Islamic group cooperating with other groups, concerned about human
rights. We do not want a country like Iran, which thinks that it is ruling
with a divine mandate. We want a government based on civil law with an
Islamic source of lawmaking." If Magdy Ashour was a theocrat - or a
terrorist - he was a very crafty one.

As it has fully entered the political arena, the brotherhood has been forced
to come up with clear answers on issues about which it has been notably
ambiguous in the past. Some are easy enough: There seems to be little
appetite among them for stoning adulterers or lopping off the hands of
thieves; and all deprecate the jizya, or tax on nonbelievers, as a relic of
an era when only Muslims served in the military. Some are not so easy. I
asked Magdy Ashour about the drinking of alcohol, which is prohibited in
Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Islamic states. He was quite unfazed. "There is
a concept in Shariah that if you commit the sin in private it's different
from committing it in public," he explained. You can drink in a hotel, but
not in the street. This was flexibility verging on pragmatism. I wondered if
Ashour, and the other brotherhood candidates, had offered such nuanced
judgments on the stump; a number of detractors insist that the group's
campaign rhetoric was much more unabashedly Islamist.

There are, of course, more fundamental questions. In the course of a
three-hour conversation in the brotherhood's extremely modest office in an
apartment building in one of Cairo's residential neighborhoods, I asked
Muhammad Habib, the deputy supreme guide, how the brotherhood would react if
the Legislature passed a law that violated Shariah. "The People's Assembly
has the absolute right in that situation," he said, "as long as it is
elected in a free and fair election which manifests the people's will. The
Parliament could go to religious scholars and hear their opinion" - as it
could seek the advice of economists on economic matters - "but it is not
obliged to listen to these opinions." Some consider grave moral issues, like
homosexual marriage, beyond the pale of majoritarianism; others make no such
exception. Hassan al-Banna famously wrote that people are the source of
authority. This can be understood, if you wish to, as the Islamic version of
the democratic credo.
29559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: April 29, 2007, 08:52:45 AM

Top general: U.S. needs a bigger Army faster


SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (AP) -- The Army's new chief of staff said he wants to accelerate by two years a plan to increase the nation's active-duty soldiers by 65,000.

The Army has set 2012 as its target date for a force expansion to 547,000 troops, but Gen. George Casey said he told his staff to have the soldiers ready earlier.

"I said that's too long. Go back and tell me what it would take to get it done faster," he said in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press during a stop in Hawaii.

Casey became the Army chief of staff April 12 after serving as the top U.S. commander in Iraq for more than two years. He visited Hawaii for a few days in a Pacific region tour to talk with soldiers and their families. He next heads to Japan, South Korea and Alaska.

Casey said his staff has submitted a proposal for the accelerated timeline but that he has yet to approve the plan. He said the Army was stretched and would remain that way until the additional troops were trained and equipped.

Casey told a group of soldiers' spouses that one of his tasks is to try to limit the impact of the strain on soldiers and their families.
"We live in a difficult period for the Army because the demand for our forces exceeds the supply," he said.

A woman in the group asked Casey if her husband's deployments would stop getting longer. She said they used to last for six months in the 1990s but then started lasting nine months and 12 months. Two weeks ago, she heard the Army's announcement that deployments would be extended as long as 15 months.

"Do you honestly foresee this spiral, in effect, stopping?" she asked.
Casey said the Army wants to keep deployments to 15 months, but "I cannot look at you in the eye and guarantee that it would not go beyond."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January said he was recommending to the president that the Army boost its active-duty soldiers by 65,000 to 547,000. Casey said about 35,000 of those additional soldiers are already in place.

Gates also recommended that the Marine Corps increase its active-duty force by 27,000 to 202,000.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
29560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 29, 2007, 07:57:17 AM
Second post of the morning, also from the NYTimes:

===========

RAMADI, Iraq — Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

Eros Hoagland for The New York Times

ON THE JOB TOGETHER Iraqi policemen and American troops patrol near Ramadi in Anbar. Ramadi’s police force has sharply increased in the past year.
“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan.

Yet for all the indications of a heartening turnaround in Anbar, the situation, as it appeared during more than a week spent with American troops in Ramadi and Falluja in early April, is at best uneasy and fragile.

Municipal services remain a wreck; local governments, while reviving, are still barely functioning; and years of fighting have damaged much of Ramadi.

The insurgency in Anbar — a mix of Islamic militants, former Baathists and recalcitrant tribesmen — still thrives among the province’s overwhelmingly Sunni population, killing American and Iraqi security forces and civilians alike. [This was underscored by three suicide car-bomb attacks in Ramadi on Monday and Tuesday, in which at least 15 people were killed and 47 were wounded, American officials said. Eight American service members — five marines and three soldiers — were killed in two attacks on Thursday and Friday in Anbar, the American military said.]

Furthermore, some American officials readily acknowledge that they have entered an uncertain marriage of convenience with the tribes, some of whom were themselves involved in the insurgency, to one extent or another. American officials are also negotiating with elements of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a leading insurgent group in Anbar, to join their fight against Al Qaeda.

These sudden changes have raised questions about the ultimate loyalties of the United States’ new allies. “One day they’re laying I.E.D.’s, the next they’re police collecting a pay check,” said Lt. Thomas R. Mackesy, an adviser to an Iraqi Army unit in Juwayba, east of Ramadi, referring to improvised explosive devices.

And it remains unclear whether any of the gains in Anbar will transfer to other troubled areas of Iraq — like Baghdad, Diyala Province, Mosul and Kirkuk, where violence rages and the ethnic and sectarian landscape is far more complicated.

Still, the progress has inspired an optimism in the American command that, among some officials, borders on giddiness. It comes after years of fruitless efforts to drive a wedge between moderate resistance fighters and those, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who seem beyond compromise.

“There are some people who would say we’ve won the war out here,” said Col. John. A. Koenig, a planning officer for the Marines who oversees governing and economic development issues in Anbar. “I’m cautiously optimistic as we’re going forward.”

A New Calm

For most of the past few years, the Government Center in downtown Ramadi, the seat of the provincial government, was under near-continual siege by insurgents, who reduced it to little more than a bullet-ridden bunker of broken concrete, sandbags and trapped marines. Entering meant sprinting from an armored vehicle to the front door of the building to evade snipers’ bullets.

Now, however, the compound and nearby buildings are being renovated to create offices for the provincial administration, council and governor. Hotels are being built next door for the waves of visitors the government expects once it is back in business.

========
Page 2 of 4)

On the roof of the main building, Capt. Jason Arthaud, commander of Company B, First Battalion, Sixth Marines, said the building had taken no sniper fire since November. “Just hours of peace and quiet,” he deadpanned. “And boredom.”

Marriage of Convenience With the encouragement of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar Province, many local residents have joined the police force in cities like Ramadi. American and Iraqi forces also work with auxiliary police forces, above, mainly local tribesmen, who often wear scarves or balaclavas to conceal their identities.


 
Eros Hoagland for The New York Times
A NEW DYNAMIC American officers with leaders from Anbar, including Sheik Tahir Sabbar Badawie, second from right.
Violence has fallen swiftly throughout Ramadi and its sprawling rural environs, residents and American and Iraqi officials said. Last summer, the American military recorded as many as 25 violent acts a day in the Ramadi region, ranging from shootings and kidnappings to roadside bombs and suicide attacks. In the past several weeks, the average has dropped to four acts of violence a day, American military officials said.

On a recent morning, American and Iraqi troops, accompanied by several police officers, went on a foot patrol through a market in the Malaab neighborhood of Ramadi. Only a couple of months ago, American and Iraqi forces would enter the area only in armored vehicles. People stopped and stared. The sight of police and military forces in the area, particularly on foot, was still novel.

The new calm is eerie and unsettling, particularly for anyone who knew the city even several months ago.

“The complete change from night to day gives me pause,” said Capt. Brice Cooper, 26, executive officer of Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, First Infantry Division, which has been stationed in the city and its outskirts since last summer. “A month and a half ago we were getting shot up. Now we’re doing civil affairs work.”

A Moderate Front

The turnabout began last September, when a federation of tribes in the Ramadi area came together as the Anbar Salvation Council to oppose the fundamentalist militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

Among the council’s founders were members of the Abu Ali Jassem tribe, based in a rural area of northern Ramadi. The tribe’s leader, Sheik Tahir Sabbar Badawie, said in a recent interview that members of his tribe had fought in the insurgency that kept the Americans pinned down on their bases in Anbar for most of the last four years.

“If your country was occupied by Iraq, would you fight?” he asked. “Enough said.”

But while the anti-American sheiks in Anbar and Al Qaeda both opposed the Americans, their goals were different. The sheiks were part of a relatively moderate front that sought to drive the Americans out of Iraq; some were also fighting to restore Sunni Arab power. But Al Qaeda wanted to go even further and impose a fundamentalist Islamic state in Anbar, a plan that many of the sheiks did not share.

Al Qaeda’s fighters began to use killing, intimidation and financial coercion to divide the tribes and win support for their agenda. They killed about 210 people in the Abu Ali Jassem tribe alone and kidnapped others, demanding ransoms as high as $65,000 per person, Sheik Badawie said.

For all the sheiks’ hostility toward the Americans, they realized that they had a bigger enemy, or at least one that needed to be fought first, as a matter of survival.

The council sought financial and military support from the Iraqi and American governments. In return the sheiks volunteered hundreds of tribesmen for duty as police officers and agreed to allow the construction of joint American-Iraqi police and military outposts throughout their tribal territories.

A similar dynamic is playing out elsewhere in Anbar, a desert region the size of New York State that stretches west of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Tribal cooperation with the American and Iraqi commands has led to expanded police forces in the cities of Husayba, Hit, Rutba, Baghdadi and Falluja, officials say.

With the help of the Anbar sheiks, the military equation immediately became simpler for the Americans in Ramadi. The number of enemies they faced suddenly diminished, American and Iraqi officials said. They were able to move more freely through large areas. With the addition of the tribal recruits, the Americans had enough troops to build and operate garrisons in areas they cleared, many of which had never seen any government security presence before.

And the Americans were now fighting alongside people with a deep knowledge of the local population and terrain, and with a sense of duty, vengeance and righteousness.
=============

Page 3 of 4)



“We know this area, we know the best way to talk to the people and get information from them,” said Capt. Hussein Abd Nusaif, a police commander in a neighborhood in western Ramadi, who carries a Kalashnikov with an Al Capone-style “snail drum” magazine. “We are not afraid of Al Qaeda. We will fight them anywhere and anytime.”

Ramadi Beginning last summer and continuing through March, the American-led joint forces pressed into the city, block by block, and swept the farmlands on its outskirts. In many places the troops met fierce resistance. Scores of American and Iraqi security troops were killed or wounded.

The Ramadi region is essentially a police state now, with some 6,000 American troops, 4,000 Iraqi soldiers and 4,500 Iraqi police officers, including an auxiliary police force of about 2,000, all local tribesmen, known as the Provincial Security Force. The security forces are garrisoned in more than 65 police stations, military bases and joint American-Iraqi combat outposts, up from no more than 10 a year ago. The population of the city is officially about 400,000, though the current number appears to be much lower.

To help control the flow of traffic and forestall attacks, the American military has installed an elaborate system of barricades and checkpoints. In some of the enclaves created by this system, which American commanders frequently call “gated communities,” no vehicles except bicycles and pushcarts are allowed for fear of car bombs.

American commanders see the progress in Anbar as a bellwether for the rest of country. “One of the things I worry about in Baghdad is we won’t have the time to do the same kind of thing,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of day-to-day war operations in Iraq, said in an interview here.

Yet the fact that Anbar is almost entirely Sunni and not riven by the same sectarian feuds as other violent places, like Baghdad and Diyala Province, has helped to establish order. Elsewhere, security forces are largely Shiite and are perceived by many Sunnis as part of the problem. In Anbar, however, the new police force reflects the homogeneous face of the province and appears to enjoy the support of the people.

A Growing Police Force

Military commanders say they cannot completely account for the whereabouts of the insurgency. They say they believe that many guerrillas have been killed, while others have gone underground, laid down their arms or migrated to other parts of Anbar, particularly the corridor between Ramadi and Falluja, the town of Karma north of Falluja and the sprawling rural zones around Falluja, including Zaidon and Amariyat al-Falluja on the banks of the Euphrates River. American forces come under attack in these areas every day.

Still other guerrillas, the commanders acknowledge, have joined the police force, sneaking through a vetting procedure that is set up to catch only known suspects. Many insurgents “are fighting for a different side now,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus, commander of ground forces in Anbar. “I think that’s where the majority have gone.”

But American commanders say they are not particularly worried about infiltrators among the new recruits. Many of the former insurgents now in the police, they say, were probably low-level operatives who were mainly in it for the money and did relatively menial tasks, like planting roadside bombs.

The speed of the buildup has led to other problems. Hiring has outpaced the building of police academies, meaning that many new officers have been deployed with little or no training. Without enough uniforms, many new officers patrol in civilian clothes, some with their heads wrapped in scarves or covered in balaclavas to conceal their identities. They look no different than the insurgents shown in mujahedeen videos.

Commanders seem to regard these issues as a necessary cost of quickly building a police force in a political environment that is, in the words of Colonel Koenig, “sort of like looking through smoke.” The police force, they say, has been the most critical component of the new security plan in Anbar.
=========
Page 4 of 4)


Yet, oversight of the police forces by American forces and the central Iraqi government is weak, leaving open the possibility that some local leaders are using newly armed tribal members as their personal death squads to settle old scores.

Ramadi Several American officers who work with the Iraqi police said a lot of police work was conducted out of their view, particularly at night. “It’s like the Mafia,” one American soldier in Juwayba said.

General Odierno said, “We have to watch them very closely to make sure we’re not forming militias.”

But there is a new sense of commitment by the police, American and Iraqi officials say, in part because they are patrolling their own neighborhoods. Many were motivated to join after they or their communities were attacked by Al Qaeda, and their successes have made them an even greater target of insurgent car bombs and suicide attacks.

Abd Muhammad Khalaf, 28, a policeman in the Jazeera district on Ramadi’s northern edge, is typical. He joined the police after Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia killed two of his brothers, he said. “I will die when God wills it,” he said. “But before I die, I will support my friends and kill some terrorists.”

The Tasks Ahead

Some tribal leaders now working with the Americans say they harbor deep resentment toward the Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, accusing it of pursuing a sectarian agenda. Yet they also say they are invested in the democratic process now.

After boycotting the national elections in 2005, many are now planning to participate in the next round of provincial elections, which have yet to be scheduled, as a way to build on the political and military gains they have made in recent months.

“Since I was a little boy, I have seen nothing but warfare — against the Kurds, Iranians, Kuwait, the Americans,” Sheik Badawie said. “We are tired of war. We are going to fight through the ballot box.”

Already, tribal leaders are participating in local councils that have been formed recently throughout the Ramadi area under the guidance of the American military.

Iraqi and American officials say the sheiks’ embrace of representative government reflects the new realities of power in Anbar. “Out here it’s been, ‘Who can defend his people?’ ” said Brig. Gen. John R. Allen, deputy commanding general of coalition forces in Anbar. “After the war it’s, ‘Who was able to reconstruct?’ ”

Indeed, American and Iraqi officials say that to hold on to the security gains and the public’s support, they must provide services to residents in areas they have tamed.

But successful development, they argue, will depend on closing the divide between the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, which has long ignored the province, and the local leadership in Anbar, which has long tried to remain independent from the capital. If that fails, they say, the Iraqi and American governments may have helped to organize and arm a potent enemy.



29561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 29, 2007, 07:46:53 AM


NYTimes
By JAMES GLANZ
Published: April 29, 2007

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.

Officials at the oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said they had made an effort to sample different regions and various types of projects, but that they were constrained from taking a true random sample in part because many projects were in areas too unsafe to visit. So, they said, the initial set of eight projects — which cost a total of about $150 million — cannot be seen as a true statistical measure of the thousands of projects in the roughly $30 billion American rebuilding program.

But the officials said the initial findings raised serious new concerns about the effort.

The reconstruction effort was originally designed as nearly equal to the military push to stabilize Iraq, allow the government to function and business to flourish, and promote good will toward the United States.

“These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid,” Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the office of the special inspector general, said in an interview on Friday.

The conclusions will be summarized in the latest quarterly report by Mr. Bowen’s office on Monday. Individual reports on each of the projects were released on Thursday and Friday.

Mr. Bowen said that because he suspected that completed projects were not being maintained, he had ordered his inspectors to undertake a wider program of returning to examine projects that had been completed for at least six months, a phase known as sustainment.

Exactly who is to blame for the poor record on sustainment for the first sample of eight projects was not laid out in the report, but the American reconstruction program has been repeatedly criticized for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for spare parts, training, stronger construction and other elements that would enable projects continue to function once they have been built.

The new reports provide some support for that position: a sophisticated system for distributing oxygen throughout the Erbil hospital had been ignored by medical staff members, who told inspectors that they distrusted the new equipment and had gone back to using tried-and-true oxygen tanks — which were stored unsafely throughout the building.

The Iraqis themselves appear to share responsibility for the latest problems, which cropped up after the United States turned the projects over to the Iraqi government. Still, the new findings show that the enormous American investment in the reconstruction program is at risk, Mr. Bowen said.
-----------

Page 2 of 2)



Besides the airport, hospital and special forces barracks, places where inspectors found serious problems included two projects at a military base near Nasiriya and one at a military recruiting center in Hilla — both cities in the south — and a police station in Mosul, a northern city. A second police station in Mosul was found to be in good condition.

Skip to next paragraph
Reach of War
Go to Complete Coverage » The dates when the projects were completed and deemed successful ranged from six months to almost a year and a half before the latest inspections. But those inspections found numerous instances of power generators that no longer operated; sewage systems that had clogged and overflowed, damaging sections of buildings; electrical systems that had been jury-rigged or stripped of components; floors that had buckled; concrete that had crumbled; and expensive equipment that was simply not in use.

Curiously, most of the problems seemed unrelated to sabotage stemming from Iraq’s parlous security situation, but instead were the product of poor initial construction, petty looting, a lack of any maintenance and simple neglect.

A case in point was the $5.2 million project undertaken by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build the special forces barracks in Baghdad. The project was completed in September 2005, but by the time inspectors visited last month, there were numerous problems caused by faulty plumbing throughout the buildings, and four large electrical generators, each costing $50,000, were no longer operating.

The problems with the generators were seemingly minor: missing batteries, a failure to maintain adequate oil levels in the engines, fuel lines that had been pilfered or broken. That kind of neglect is typical of rebuilding programs in developing countries when local nationals are not closely involved in planning efforts, said Rick Barton, co-director of the postconflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization in Washington.

“What ultimately makes any project sustainable is local ownership from the beginning in designing the project, establishing the priorities,” Mr. Barton said. “If you don’t have those elements it’s an extension of colonialism and generally it’s resented.”

Mr. Barton, who has closely monitored reconstruction efforts in Iraq and other countries, said the American rebuilding program had too often created that resentment by imposing projects on Iraqis or relying solely on the advice of a local tribal chief or some “self-appointed representative” of local Iraqis.

The new findings come after years of insistence by American officials in Baghdad that too much attention has been paid to the failures in Iraq and not enough to the successes.

Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Army Corps, told a news conference in Baghdad late last month that with so much coverage of violence in Iraq “what you don’t see are the successes in the reconstruction program, how reconstruction is making a difference in the lives of everyday Iraqi people.”

And those declared successes are heavily promoted by the United States government. A 2006 news release by the Army Corps, titled “Erbil Maternity and Pediatric Hospital — not just bricks and mortar!” praises both the new water purification system and the incinerator. The incinerator, the release said, would “keep medical waste from entering into the solid waste and water systems.”

But when Mr. Bowen’s office presented the Army Corps with the finding that neither system was working at the struggling hospital and recommended a training program so that Iraqis could properly operate the equipment, General Walsh tersely disagreed with the recommendation in a letter appended to the report, which also noted that the building had suffered damage because workers used excess amounts of water to clean the floors.

The bureau within the United States Embassy in Baghdad that oversees reconstruction in Iraq was even more dismissive, disagreeing with all four of the inspector general’s recommendations, including those suggesting that the United States should lend advice on disposing of the waste and maintaining the floors.

“Recommendations such as how much water to use in cleaning floors or disposal of medical waste could be deemed as an intrusion on, or attempt to micromanage operations of an Iraqi entity that we have no controlling interest over,” wrote William Lynch, acting director of the embassy bureau, called the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.


29562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: April 29, 2007, 07:41:45 AM
Not sure in which thread to put this article from today's NYTimes, so I put it here:
===============

WASHINGTON, April 28 — No foreign diplomat has been closer or had more access to President Bush, his family and his administration than the magnetic and fabulously wealthy Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia.

Prince Bandar has mentored Mr. Bush and his father through three wars and the broader campaign against terrorism, reliably delivering — sometimes in the Oval Office — his nation’s support for crucial Middle East initiatives dependent on the regional legitimacy the Saudis could bring, as well as timely warnings of Saudi regional priorities that might put it into apparent conflict with the United States. Even after his 22-year term as Saudi ambassador ended in 2005, he still seemed the insider’s insider. But now, current and former Bush administration officials are wondering if the longtime reliance on him has begun to outlive its usefulness.

Bush administration officials have been scratching their heads over steps taken by Prince Bandar’s uncle, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that have surprised them by going against the American playbook, after receiving assurances to the contrary from Prince Bandar during secret trips he made to Washington.

For instance, in February, King Abdullah effectively torpedoed plans by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a high-profile peace summit meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, by brokering a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas that did not require Hamas to recognize Israel or forswear violence. The Americans had believed, after discussions with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis were on board with the strategy of isolating Hamas.

American officials also believed, again after speaking with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis might agree to direct engagement with Israel as part of a broad American plan to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. King Abdullah countermanded that plan.

Most bitingly, during a speech before Arab heads of state in Riyadh three weeks ago, the king condemned the American invasion of Iraq as “an illegal foreign occupation.” The Bush administration, caught off guard, was infuriated, and administration officials have found Prince Bandar hard to reach since.

Since the Iraq war and the attendant plummeting of America’s image in the Muslim world, King Abdullah has been striving to set a more independent and less pro-American course, American and Arab officials said. And that has steered America’s relationship with its staunchest Arab ally into uncharted waters. Prince Bandar, they say, may no longer be able to serve as an unerring beacon of Saudi intent.

“The problem is that Bandar has been pursuing a policy that was music to the ears of the Bush administration, but was not what King Abdullah had in mind at all,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel who is now head of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Of course it is ultimately the king — and not the prince — who makes the final call on policy. More than a dozen associates of Prince Bandar, including personal friends and Saudi officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that if his counsel has led to the recent misunderstandings, it is due to his longtime penchant for leaving room in his dispatches for friends to hear what they want to hear. That approach, they said, is catching up to the prince as new tensions emerge between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Bandar, son of one of the powerful seven sons born to the favorite wife of Saudi Arabia’s founding king, “needs to personally regroup and figure out how to put Humpty Dumpty together again,” one associate said.

Robert Jordan, a former Bush administration ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said the Saudis’ mixed signals have come at a time when King Abdullah — who has ruled the country since 1995 but became king only in 2005 after the death of his brother, Fahd — has said he does not want to go down in history as Mr. Bush’s Arab Tony Blair. “I think he feels the need as a kind of emerging leader of the Arab world right now to maintain a distance,” he said.

Mr. Jordan said that although the United States and Saudi Arabia “have different views on how to get there,” the countries still share the same long-term goals for the region and remain at heart strong allies.

An administration spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said none of the current issues threatened the relationship. “We may have differences on issues now and then,” he said, “but we remain close allies.”

Or, as Saleh al-Kallab, a former minister of information in Jordan, put it, “The relationship between the United States and the Arab regimes is like a Catholic marriage where you can have no divorce.”

But there can be separation. And several associates of Prince Bandar acknowledge that he feels caught between the opposing pressure of the king and that of his close friends in the Bush administration. It is a relationship that Prince Bandar has fostered with great care and attention to detail over the years, making himself practically indispensable to Mr. Bush, his family and his aides.
----------

Page 2 of 2)



A few nights after he resigned his post as secretary of state two years ago, Colin L. Powell answered a ring at his front door. Standing outside was Prince Bandar, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, with a 1995 Jaguar. Mr. Powell’s wife, Alma, had once mentioned that she missed their 1995 Jaguar, which she and her husband had traded in. Prince Bandar had filed that information away, and presented the Powells that night with an identical, 10-year-old model. The Powells kept the car — a gift that the State Department said was legal — but recently traded it away.

The move was classic Bandar, who has been referred to as Bandar Bush, attending birthday celebrations, sending notes in times of personal crisis and entertaining the Bushes or top administration officials at sumptuous dinner parties at Prince Bandar’s opulent homes in McLean, Va., and Aspen, Colo.

He has invited top officials to pizza and movies out at a mall in suburban Virginia — and then rented out the movie theater (candy served chair-side, in a wagon) and the local Pizza Hut so he and his guests could enjoy themselves in solitude. He is said to feel a strong sense of loyalty toward Mr. Bush’s father dating to the Persian Gulf war, which transferred to the son, whom he counseled about international diplomacy during Mr. Bush’s first campaign for president.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, as the United States learned that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi and focused on the strict Wahhabi school of Islam that informed them and their leader and fellow Saudi, Osama bin Laden, Prince Bandar took a public role in assuring the Americans that his nation would cooperate in investigating and combating anti-American terrorism. He also helped arrange for more than a hundred members of the bin Laden family to be flown out of the United States.

Even since he left the Saudi ambassador’s post in Washington and returned to Saudi Arabia two years ago, Prince Bandar has continued his long courtship, over decades, of the Bush family and Vice President Dick Cheney, flying into Washington for unofficial meetings at the White House. He cruises in without consulting the Saudi Embassy in Washington, where miffed officials have sometimes said they had no idea that he was in town — a perceived slight that contributed to the resignation of his cousin Prince Turki al-Faisal as ambassador to the United States last year. He has been succeeded by Adel al-Jubeir, who is said to have strong support from the king.

Prince Turki was never able to match the role of Prince Bandar, whom the president, vice president and other officials regularly consult on every major Middle East initiative — from the approach to Iran to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to Iraq. Prince Bandar played a crucial role in securing the use of the Prince Sultan Air Base at Al Kharj, roughly 70 miles outside Riyadh, in the attacks led by the United States against Afghanistan and Iraq, despite chafing within his government.

He helped in the negotiations that led to Libya giving up its weapons programs, a victory for Mr. Bush. He pledged to protect the world economy from oil shocks after the invasion, the White House said in 2004, but he denied a report, by the author Bob Woodward, that he had promised to stabilize oil prices in time for Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign.

The cause of the latest friction in the American-Saudi relationship began in 2003, before the invasion of Iraq. The Saudis agreed with the Bush view of Saddam Hussein as a threat, but voiced concern about post-invasion contingencies and the fate of the Sunni minority. When it became clear that the administration was committed to invading Iraq, Prince Bandar took a lead role in negotiations between the Bush administration and Saudi officials over securing bases and staging grounds.

But Saudi frustration has mounted over the past four years, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated. King Abdullah was angry that the Bush administration ignored his advice against de-Baathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi military. He became more frustrated as America’s image in the Muslim world deteriorated, because Saudi Arabia is viewed as a close American ally.

Tensions between King Abdullah and top Bush officials escalated further when Mr. Bush announced a new energy initiative to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil during his 2006 State of the Union address, and announced new initiatives in that direction this year.

Both American and Saudi officials say that King Abdullah clearly values — and uses — Prince Bandar’s close relationship with the White House. And that, associates said, will dictate what Prince Bandar can do.

“Don’t expect the man, because he happens to have an American background, not to play the game for his home team,” said William Simpson, Prince Bandar’s biographer, and a former classmate at the Royal Air Force College in England. “The home team is Saudi Arabia.”

29563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Solar battery charger on: April 28, 2007, 11:24:08 AM

http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?productId=48072264&storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&&ext_cat=REI_RELATED_ITEMS_PRODUCT_PAGE&vcat=REI_SEARCH

Seems like a cool idea, anyone have some less expensive options?
29564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: db in australia ? on: April 28, 2007, 11:17:51 AM
Trent et al:

Lets think in terms of a short trip.  Perhaps a 2-3 day seminar with a day or two for privates?

How does December 2007 or January 2008 look?

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
29565  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: April 28, 2007, 09:18:17 AM
We now have over 30 fighters registered. We have never had so many registered so far in advance. In addition to the US, we have fighters from Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, UK, Canada, Australia and Tahiti.
29566  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spike TV, the Dog Brothers Gathering Webisodes; National Geographic on: April 28, 2007, 09:15:42 AM
Things continue to move forward well with OP.
29567  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: April 28, 2007, 09:14:04 AM
Woof Greg

Its always gratifying to a teach to hear such things.  I look forward to your arrival in LA.

The Adventure continues!
Guro C.

PS:  Remember to upgrade your handle here on the Forum to "C-Cyborg Dog"
29568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Water on: April 28, 2007, 08:55:46 AM
David Gordon http://eutrapelia.blogspot.com/ has brought to my attention the simple but important observation that water scarcity increasingly is going to be a real problem around the world.  Here's an article on point which he just sent me from The Economist



================
Australia's water shortage

The big dry

Apr 26th 2007 | MURRAY MOUTH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
From The Economist print edition


Australia is struggling to cope with the consequences of a devastating drought. As the world warms up, other countries should pay heed

THE mouth of the Murray-Darling river sets an idyllic scene. Anglers in wide-brimmed sunhats wade waist-deep into the azure water. Pleasure boats cruise languidly around the sandbanks that dot the narrow channel leading to the Southern Ocean. Pensioners stroll along the beach. But over the cries of the seagulls and the rush of the waves, there is another sound: the mechanical drone from a dredging vessel. It never stops and must run around the clock to prevent the river mouth from silting up. Although the Murray-Darling is Australia's longest river system, draining a basin the size of France and Spain combined, it no longer carries enough water to carve its own path to the sea.

John Howard, Australia's prime minister, arrived here in February and urged the four states through which the Murray-Darling flows to hand their authority over the river to the federal government. After seven years of drought, and many more years of over-exploitation and pollution, he argued that the only hope of restoring the river to health lies in a complete overhaul of how it is managed. As the states weigh the merits of Mr Howard's scheme, the river is degenerating further. Every month hydrologists announce that its flow has fallen to a new record low (see chart). In April Mr Howard warned that farmers would not be allowed to irrigate their crops at all next year without unexpectedly heavy rain in the next few months. A region that accounts for 40% of Australia's agriculture, and 85% of its irrigation, is on the verge of ruin.


 
 
 

 
The drought knocked one percentage point off Australia's growth rate last year, by the government's reckoning. It is paying out A$2m ($1.7m) a day in drought-relief to farmers. If mature vines and fruit trees die in the coming months through the lack of water, the economic fallout will be more serious and lasting. Most alarming of all, the Murray-Darling's troubles are likely to worsen. As Australia's population continues to grow so does demand for water in the cities and for the crops that grow in the river basin. Meanwhile, global warming appears to be heating the basin up and drying it out. Although few scientists are confident that they can ascribe any individual event—including today's drought—to global warming, most agree that droughts like the present one will become more common.

Many of the world's rivers, including the Colorado in America, China's Yellow river and the Tagus, which flows through Spain and Portugal, are suffering a similar plight. As the world warms up, hundreds of millions of people will face the same ecological crisis as the residents of the Murray-Darling basin. As water levels dwindle, rows about how supplies should be used are turning farmers against city-dwellers and pitching environmentalists against politicians. Australia has a strong economy, a well-funded bureaucracy and robust political institutions. If it is struggling to respond to this crisis, imagine how drought will tear apart other, less prepared parts of the world.

Droughts have long plagued the Murray-Darling. The region is afflicted by a periodic weather pattern known as El Niño. At irregular intervals of two to seven years, the waters of the central Pacific warm up, heralding inclement weather throughout the southern hemisphere. Torrential rains flood the coast of Peru, while south-eastern Australia wilts in drought. The duration of these episodes is as unpredictable as their arrival. They can range from a few months to several years. As a result, the flow of the Darling, the longest tributary of the Murray, varies wildly, from as little as 0.04% of the long-term average to as much as 911%. Although the most recent El Niño ended earlier this year, it has left the soils in the basin so dry and the groundwater so depleted that the Murray-Darling's flow continues to fall, despite normal levels of rainfall over the past few months.

Protracted droughts are a part of Australian folklore. Schoolchildren learn a hackneyed Victorian poem in praise of "a sunburnt country...of droughts and flooding rains". Dorothea Mackellar wrote those lines just after the "Federation drought" of the late 1890s and early 1900s. The recession that accompanied it was so severe that it helped nudge Australia's six states, at the time separate British colonies, into uniting as a federation, or commonwealth, as Australians tend to call it.



Water politics
Negotiations over the federal constitution almost foundered on the subject of the Murray-Darling. South Australia, at the mouth of the river, wanted it kept open for navigation to the hinterland, allowing the state to become a trading hub. Its capital, Adelaide, also depended on water piped from the Murray to keep its taps running—as it still does. Further upstream, Victoria and New South Wales wanted to build dams to encourage agriculture. Queensland played little part in the row, since its stretch of the Darling was sparsely populated at the time. In the end, Victoria and New South Wales agreed to ensure a minimum flow to South Australia and to divide the remaining water equally between themselves. Like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, Australian engineers gaily pockmarked the basin with dams, weirs and locks, with little thought for what that would do downstream.

By the 1990s the drawbacks were evident. For one thing, states were allowing irrigators to use too much water. By 1994 human activity was consuming 77% of the river's average annual flow, even though the actual flow falls far below the average in dry years. The mouth of the river was beginning to silt up—a powerful symbol of over-exploitation. Thanks to a combination of reduced flow and increased run-off from saline soils churned up by agriculture, the water was becoming unhealthily salty, especially in its lower reaches. The tap water in Adelaide, which draws 40% of its municipal supplies from the river and up to 90% when other reserves dry up, was beginning to taste saline. The number of indigenous fish was falling, since the floods that induce them to spawn were becoming rarer. Toxic algae flourished in the warmer, more sluggish waters. In 1991 a hideous bloom choked a 1,000km (625 mile) stretch of the Darling.

Such horrors stirred indignation among urban Australians. The bad publicity put tourists off river cruises, fishing trips and visits to the basin's various lakes and wetlands. Many small businesses got hurt in the process. The citizens of Adelaide, which contains several marginal parliamentary seats, began to worry that the taps would run dry. Farmers were also starting to fear for the security and quality of their water supplies.

 
 
 

 


So Australia embarked on a series of reforms that in many ways serve as a model for the management of big, heavily exploited rivers. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia agreed to cap the amount of water they took from the river and to keep clear, public records of water-use rights. They also made plans to reduce salinity and increase "environmental flows". The commonwealth agreed to encourage this by allocating buckets of cash to compliant states. All these initiatives were to be managed by a body, called the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, in which the commonwealth and the various riparian states, including Queensland and the tiny Australian Capital Territory (ACT), had equal representation and where decisions were taken by consensus.

Moreover, Australia's politicians also agreed to a set of principles by which water should be managed throughout the country. There should be no more subsidies for irrigation. Farmers should pay for the maintenance of channels and dams. For each river and tributary, scientists would calculate the maximum sustainable allocations of water and states would make sure that extractions did not exceed that figure. To ensure that such a scarce resource was used as efficiently as possible, water should be tradable, both within and between states. And the minimum environmental flows necessary to keep the river in good health should be accorded just as high a status as water put to commercial uses.

Guided by these principles, the states and the commonwealth have made much progress. By 1999 the average salinity of the river in South Australia had fallen by over 20%. In the late 1990s salinity levels were falling within the prescribed limit over 90% of the time, compared with roughly 60% in the 1970s and 1980s. The construction of fish ladders around dams and weirs, and the release of extra water into important breeding grounds, has spawned a recovery in native species. The commission is spending A$650m to boost environmental flows, mainly by stemming losses from irrigation, and hence leaving more water in the river.

The trade in water has taken off. There are two basic sorts of transaction: sales of part of a farmer's water allocation for the year or a permanent transfer. Temporary exchanges between farmers in the same state topped 1,000 gigalitres (220 billion gallons) in 2003, or around a tenth of all water used for agriculture. That roughly matches the cumulative amount of water that has changed hands permanently within the same state.

Meanwhile, the commission has codified rules for trading water between users in different states. The volumes are much smaller, but the system is working as economists had hoped. In general, water is flowing from regions with salty soil to more fertile ones; from farms that are profligate with water to ones that are more efficient; and from low-value crops to more profitable ones. In particular, struggling dairy and rice farmers in New South Wales and Victoria have sold water to the booming orchards and vineyards of South Australia. A government assessment of a pilot scheme for interstate trade determined that such shifts prompted A$767m of extra investment in irrigation and food-processing between 1997 and 2001. Another study found that water trading helped to reduce the damage wrought by droughts.

But there are lots of problems. For one thing, the reforms concern only water that has already reached the river. Farmers in certain states can still drill wells to suck up groundwater, and tree plantations absorb a lot of rainwater that would otherwise find its way into the river. Little dams on farms, which block small streams or trap run-off from rain or flooding, are an even bigger worry. Little is known about how many there are or how fast their numbers are growing. In theory, most states are trying to regulate them, but the rules are full of loopholes and enforcement is difficult. Hydrologists fear that the severity of the drought has encouraged farmers to build more dams.

Some states are keener on the reforms than others. In 1995, when New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria agreed to cap the amount of water they took from the river, Queensland refused to join them on the grounds that it uses only a tiny share of the basin's water. The state government felt it had a right to promote irrigation along its stretch of the Darling to bring Queensland to the same level of agricultural development as the other states. It has since agreed to negotiate a cap. But earlier this year, despite the ongoing drought, it awarded new water-use rights to farmers on the Warrego, one of the tributaries of the Darling.

New South Wales, meanwhile, frequently exceeds its cap. Its farmers plant mainly annual crops, such as rice and wheat, instead of perennials like fruit trees or grape vines. If there is not enough water to go round, its farmers may suffer for a season, but their earnings are not permanently diminished. So the state tends to be less cautious in its allocation of water than Victoria or South Australia. However, the commission has no power to ensure that states stick to their caps. It can only denounce offenders publicly, in the forlorn hope that the shame will induce them to behave better.

Climate change is likely to exacerbate all these disputes. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), a government agency, estimates that it could reduce the Murray's flow by as much as 5% in 20 years and 15% in 50 years. But other projections are much more cataclysmic. CSIRO cites a worst case of 20% less water in 20 years and 50% in 50 years. Peter Cullen, an academic and member of the government's National Water Commission, points out that inflows to the Murray have fallen to less than half of their long-term average over the past six years. He thinks it would be prudent to manage water on the assumption that low flows are here to stay.

Mr Howard argues that the Murray-Darling Basin Commission moves too slowly to cope with all the upheaval. He wants the states to surrender their powers over the basin to the commonwealth. That will allow his government, he says, to work out exactly how much water is being siphoned off through wells and dams, and to use that information to set a new, sustainable cap on water use.

The government would also help farmers meet the new restrictions by investing in more efficient irrigation or by buying up their water rights—all without any of the typical bickering and foot-dragging that have held up collective action in the past. To entice the states to agree, he is offering to spend A$10 billion of the commonwealth's money on the various schemes. But the advantage of adopting policies by consensus, presumably, is that they may prove more durable than anything imposed from Canberra. National governments, even in Australia, are not immune to inefficiency and bias. They are often at loggerheads with the states.

Moreover, not all Australians want to move as quickly as Mr Howard does. He faces an election later this year in which his environmental record—and particularly his lack of action on global warming—will be a big issue. Nor does the federal government have any experience of managing rivers. In a recent book, "Water Politics in the Murray-Darling Basin", Daniel Connell argues that any institutional arrangement that fails to give enough weight to regional concerns will not last.



Running a river
Several state governments have their doubts about Mr Howard's plan. South Australia wants the administration of the river put in the hands of a panel of independent experts. Victoria, the only state to reject the prime minister's scheme outright, says that he could achieve the same goals without any extra powers by simply withholding money from recalcitrant states. Its government has also complained that the scheme would reward the most wasteful irrigators for their inefficiency, by helping to pay for improvements to their infrastructure and then allowing them to use much of the water saved. So the extravagant irrigators of New South Wales will end up with extra water, while their parsimonious counterparts in Victoria will benefit less.

Moreover, many Australians are uncomfortable with the idea of water trading, says Blair Nancarrow, the head of the Australian Research Centre for Water in Society, a division of CSIRO. People living in less fertile areas fear that local farmers will gradually sell all their water rights, eroding employment and commerce and killing off the area's towns. Concerned politicians have insisted on limits to the amount of water that can be traded out of regions and states each year and have refused to allow the commission to buy water directly from farmers for environmental flows. The National Party, the junior partner in Australia's coalition government, draws much of its support from the countryside and is particularly reluctant to give free rein to the water market.

In the eyes of Mr Cullen, however, many of the changes Australians fear are inevitable. As it is, he notes, the amount of money farms make for every million litres of water they use varies dramatically between states, from roughly A$300 in New South Wales to A$600 in Victoria and A$1,000 in South Australia. He believes that investment and water will continue to gravitate towards the bigger, more professionally managed farms. In the long run, the irrigation of pasture for livestock, which currently consumes about half of the basin's agricultural water, will not make sense. The number of small, family-owned farms will shrink.

Ian Zadow owns just such a farm, near Murray Bridge in South Australia, which has been in the family since 1905. He is also head of the local irrigators' association. His son used to work on the farm with him. But farming cannot support two families, so the younger man has taken a job tending graveyards instead. "If you can pay all your bills and get three meals on the table," says Mr Zadow, "that's about as good as it is going to get."

At the moment however, things are nowhere near that good. Last year, he saw his allocation of water slashed first by 20%, then by 30% and finally by 40%. Next season, unless much more rain falls, he stands to get no allocation at all. He feels that city-dwellers should do their bit to help farmers by conserving more water. When push comes to shove, he says, politicians will always give priority to the cities over the countryside, since they are home to more voters. He also thinks irrigators in New South Wales and Victoria should be trying harder to save water. Before too long Mr Zadow's complaints may be echoed by millions of farmers around the world.

If the Australian drought continues, the thousands who depend on irrigation water for a living will be in deep trouble. Many are already in debt and struggling to make ends meet. When asked what will happen if there is no water for them this year, Mr Zadow hesitates for a moment before replying, "Christ knows."
29569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Miss Black America on: April 28, 2007, 08:03:28 AM
>Subject: Miss Black America Contest
>Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 22:20:19 -0500
>
>
Since Don Imus started this, and also in keeping with the spirit of Political correctness, I present the
following to you....
>
There will only be 49 contestants in the Miss Black America Contest this year because no one wants
to wear the BANNER that says!!


           IDAHO
29570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: April 28, 2007, 07:04:46 AM
C.I.A. Held Qaeda Leader in Secret Jail for Months
by MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID S. CLOUD
Published: April 28, 2007
NY Times

WASHINGTON, April 27 — The Central Intelligence Agency held a captured Qaeda leader in a secret prison since last fall and transferred him last week to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Friday.

» Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an Iraqi Kurd who is said to have joined Al Qaeda in the late 1990s and ascended to become a top aide to Osama bin Laden, is the first terrorism suspect known to have been held in secret C.I.A. jails since President Bush announced the transfer of 14 captives to Guantánamo Bay last September.

The Pentagon announced the transfer, giving few details about his arrest or confinement.

Mr. Iraqi’s case suggests that the C.I.A. may have adopted a new model for handling prisoners held secretly — a practice that Mr. Bush said could resume and that Congress permitted when it passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Unlike past C.I.A. detainees, including the Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was held by the agency for several years after being seized in Pakistan in 2003, Mr. Iraqi was turned over to the Pentagon after a few months of interrogation. He appears to have been taken into C.I.A. custody just weeks after Mr. Bush declared C.I.A. jails empty.

Last fall, Mr. Bush declared the agency’s interrogations “one of the most successful intelligence efforts in American history.” But its secret detention of terrorism suspects has been widely criticized by human rights organizations and foreign governments as a violation of international law that relied on interrogation methods verging on torture.

Intelligence officials said that under questioning Mr. Iraqi had provided valuable intelligence about Qaeda hierarchy and operations. It appears he gave up this information after being subjected to standard interrogation methods approved for the Defense Department — not harsher methods that the C.I.A. is awaiting approval to use.

A debate in the administration has delayed approval of the proposed C.I.A. methods.

Military and intelligence officials said the prisoner was captured last fall on his way to Iraq, where he may have been sent by top Qaeda leaders in Pakistan to take a senior position in Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. That group has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq, including the bombing last year of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

In a message to agency employees on Friday, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, called the capture “a significant victory.” He said C.I.A. operatives had played “a key role in efforts to locate” Mr. Iraqi. Though American officials would not say where or when he had been captured, they said it was not in Pakistan or Iran, countries where he was known to have operated in recent years.

Human rights advocates expressed anger that the United States continued a program of secret detention, and some wondered why the C.I.A. claimed it needed harsh interrogation methods to extract information from detainees when it appeared that Mr. Iraqi had given up information using Pentagon interrogation practices.

“The C.I.A. can’t seem to get its story straight, said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch. “If they can get good intelligence without using abusive techniques, why do they so desperately need to use the abusive techniques?” But he said that there was no way to know whether Mr. Iraqi had been mistreated, because “no independent monitors have been able to see him since his arrest.”

In his message on Friday, General Hayden said that the agency always operated “in keeping with American laws and values.”

American officials have long been worried about efforts by Qaeda leadership in Pakistan to exert control over its Iraqi offshoot, known as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and the dispatch of Mr. Iraqi to help run the Iraqi affiliate has raised concern among American military officials that the links between the groups are growing.

“We do definitely see links to the greater Al Qaeda network,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

But the relationship between Qaeda fighters in Iraq and the top leadership has appeared to wax and wane over the years, often over tactical disagreements.

In 2005, Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s second in command, wrote a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then the top Al Qaeda operative in Iraq, urging him to refrain from killing Shiites. But since then, terrorist experts have said that they see Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as largely independent of the organization hub in Pakistan.
29571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight on: April 27, 2007, 09:00:02 PM
The videos hosted by this site present certain deep questions very clearly:

http://www.massresistance.org/media/video/brainwashing.html
29572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: April 27, 2007, 08:58:14 PM
There's several worthy reads from Stratfor on Mexico on the Spanish (and English  embarassed ) Language Forum, but I've decided to start posting them here from hereonin.

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

Mexico: Grenade Attacks In Durango
April 27, 2007 21 37  GMT



Three Mexican army-issue grenades were detonated in the city of Gomez Palacio in the state of Durango on April 27, killing one police officer and injuring four others. One explosion occurred outside the municipal Public Security Office and two happened outside the Attorney General's office. Unidentified men on motorcycles and in light trucks threw the grenades at the offices and also fired machine guns at the Attorney General's office. Police have questioned two unidentified individuals in relation to the bombings as part of an ongoing investigation.
29573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: April 27, 2007, 07:45:38 PM
Seven dollar myths
By Axel Merk

Without shying away from controversy, we do away with a number of myths of why the US dollar ought to move up or down.

Myth I: The dollar is safe because the
US has ample assets
Some say the US current-account deficit that requires foreigners to arrange for more than $3 billion of capital inflows every business day just to keep the dollar from falling does not matter. These pundits say a deficit of 6.5% of gross domestic product



(GDP) is sustainable because the deficit is only about 1% of all private assets held in the United States; as a result, deficits could be carried a long, long time.

This argument is one about the dollar going to zero, an extreme case of the dollar losing relative to other currencies. However, the current-account deficit and its affect on the dollar are about cash flow: putting it in the context of GDP is reasonable, as GDP is a cash-flow measure of production. Comparing it to private savings is mixing apples with oranges.

Myth II: The dollar is doomed because
of the large US budget deficit
Just as dollar optimists are wrong to say the dollar is safe because of the United States' tremendous wealth, dollar pessimists are mistaken by putting too much emphasis on the budget deficit. By issuing debt, the direct impact of the budget deficit can be mitigated to the burden of interest payments. Of course, as interest payments become excessively large, they will weigh on the dollar eventually. However, the linkage to the dollar is indirect. While it is correct that large budget deficits structurally weaken the US in the long run, it is not appropriate to link short-term dollar movements to the budget deficit.

Myth III: A lower dollar will cure the trade deficit
All too often we hear how much more competitive the US would be if it only allowed the dollar to fall. While a weaker dollar may be a short-term boost to earnings and make exports a tad more competitive, it will not bring back industries that have been outsourced. It is most unlikely that the US will thrive on exporting shoes to China, no matter how low the dollar will fall.

What a weaker dollar may do is provide temporary relief. But unless the US turns into a society of savers and investors, a weaker dollar will only be a pause to an even weaker dollar as imbalances are built up yet again.

Myth IV: A lower trade deficit will save the dollar
Odds are that the current-account deficit may be close to its peak. However, that does not mean the dollar is out of the woods: if an abatement in the rate at which the current-account deficit deepens were due to a sustained improvement in savings and investments, it might have long-term positive implications for the dollar.

But it looks as if the driver behind any "improvement" (if one can talk of such as the deficit continues to widen) will be due to a drop in domestic consumption due to a slowing economy. Rather than being good news for the dollar, this discourages foreign investors to invest in the US. American chief executive officers focus their investments abroad, so why should foreigners invest in the US?

As the US economy slows and consumers can no longer extract equity from their homes, the savings rate ought to go up. Famous for having dipped into negative territory, consumers have to pare back their spending as access to easy money dries up.

Myth V: A weak economy causes a currency to falter
We agree that the US economy is heavily dependent on growth to keep the dollar stable. But it is a US-specific problem: in the current environment, it may not apply to the European Union. The key difference is that, in recent years, the EU has focused on structural reform rather than growth; as a result, it does not have the severe current-account deficit the US has. Should the world economy slow down, many markets may suffer, but the euro might still do comparatively well. Europe has plenty of issues, but as far as the euro is concerned, the region is in a very strong position.

In contrast, a reduction of foreign-money inflows into the US is the single biggest threat to the greenback. As a result, the dollar has been reacting negatively to any news signaling a slowdown of US consumer spending. And as consumer spending is closely linked to the fate of the housing market, negative data on housing may reflect negatively on the dollar. As the housing market is not very liquid, any adjustment process is likely to be long and grinding.

Myth VI: China is the problem
In our assessment, China is the most responsible player in Asia. We believe other Asian countries, including Japan, are willing to risk a destruction of their currencies to continue to export to American consumers. The Chinese are taking their imbalances very seriously and are working hard at addressing many issues facing a nation governing 1.4 billion people. Having invited Western investment banks to invest billions in their local banks has provided an encouragement for reform from within.

If there is one thing that spooks the currency markets more than a slowdown in US real estate, it is the flaring-up of a protectionist-talking US Congress. When presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently expressed concern about the Chinese buying up the majority of US debt, the dollar fell sharply. If protectionist measures increase, foreigners will have fewer incentives to purchase dollar-denominated assets, providing pressure on both the dollar and interest rates.

Interestingly, nobody seems to focus on the fact that there is an unconventional solution to foreigners holding too much of America's debt: live within your means and do not issue debt. Such an old-fashioned concept would indeed strengthen the dollar. Unfortunately, none of the presidential candidates at either side of the aisle seem to have heard of this notion.

Myth VII: Higher interest rates help the dollar
It seems that ever since academics developed a theory of how interest-rate differentials move currencies, the theory has not worked. Yet just about every textbook continues to teach it. Aside from the fact that expectations on future interest rates and inflation are more relevant than actual interest rates, there are simply too many factors influencing currencies to be able to focus on interest rates. Why do some low-yielding currencies, such as the Swiss franc, perform reasonably well, whereas many developing countries have weak currencies despite high interest rates?

A good year ago, the US joined the ranks of developing nations in paying more in interest to overseas creditors than it receives in interest from its own investments. As a result, higher US interest rates mean higher payments abroad, further weakening the foundations of the US dollar.

There are many more myths about the dollar, but the selection above may provide some food for thought.

Axel Merk is the portfolio manager of the Merk Hard Currency Fund.
29574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: April 27, 2007, 07:41:40 PM
Saudi Arabia: Al Qaeda's Widening Focus
April 27, 2007 21 42  GMT



Summary

Saudi security forces announced April 27 that they have rounded up 172 militants plotting to attack oil facilities and military bases in the kingdom. Al Qaeda's core leadership appears to be working to give a boost to the network's regional nodes, from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. Conditions in Iraq have led to this widening of al Qaeda's focus, though the capabilities of the regional nodes remain dubious.

Analysis

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced April 27 that it had arrested 172 militants, including non-Saudis, plotting attacks against Saudi Arabia's oil refineries, public figures and military bases. Saudi police also seized more than $32.4 million in cash from seven armed cells in the kingdom. The suspects, according to a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman, had been "influenced by the deviant ideology" (a common Saudi reference for al Qaeda.) Prior to this roundup, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz told reporters that the interior ministry will soon announce a new list of most-wanted militant suspects in the kingdom.

The possible revival of al Qaeda's Saudi node came to light in February with the reappearance of the group's online magazine, Sawt Al Jihad, which called for attacks against energy-related targets on the Arabian Peninsula. The regular publication of Sawt Al Jihad was, previously, closely linked with a higher degree of operational strength for the Saudi node. Since the February online edition, however, the Saudi node has not kept up with its historic biweekly publication schedule, calling the group's publishing capabilities -- and operational ability -- into question.

The February edition of Sawt Al Jihad claimed that several of the militants who participated in the February 2006 attack against the oil facility in Abqaiq are "still alive and still fighting," and even included an interview with one of the survivors of that attack. The attempt on Abqaiq marked al Qaeda's first notable attempt to target Saudi Arabia's energy infrastructure and revealed that the group's target selection was shifting beyond Western operations and personnel. The planners behind the Abqaiq operation have had more than a year to learn from their mistakes, and judging from the rhetoric in Sawt Al Jihad, they likely have been gearing up for a larger attack against key Saudi oil installations.

Saudi officials said some of the suspects rounded up in this latest raid had received aviation training in other countries, implying a 9/11-style plot to fly aircraft into a target, such as an oil facility. Al Qaeda's core leadership has a known penchant for using aircraft in large-scale operations, though Saudi Arabia has ample empty space to re-route flight paths and set up no-fly zones over major energy installations. Although the Royal Saudi Air Force possesses the most advanced air-defense system in the region outside of Israel, it is doubtful that Saudi operators could identify the emerging threat or that Saudi commanders could react to it in time to prevent an airborne suicide attack from being at least partially successful.

Even if the Saudi node attacked a major oil target in Saudi Arabia -- whether by plane, boat, car or foot -- it would only damage a portion of any facility, considering the sheer size of and security surrounding energy installations (the Abqaiq facility, for example, occupies more than a square mile of territory.) That said, even a failed attempt on a vital energy target, such as the Ras Tanura oil port, would send massive psychological shockwaves through the energy market -- a fact al Qaeda acknowledged in the Sawt Al Jihad publication, saying the price of oil would have spiked even more had the Saudi government not lied about the extent of the damage.






Riyadh's series of counterterrorism strikes since June 2004 have significantly degraded the Saudi al Qaeda node's operational capabilities. The damage from the recent roundup will end up taking even more wind out of the node's sails, forcing the militants to regroup, re-evaluate their pending operations and tighten operational security to avoid further run-ins with the police. Though the Saudi node is unlikely to return to its glory days of the summer of 2004, when al Qaeda activity was most intense in the kingdom, the group continues to come up with ambitious plots and shows no sign of getting wiped out in the near future.

In addition to the Saudi node, al Qaeda appears to be giving a boost to other regional branches, revealing a surge of activity by al Qaeda franchises across the board. Over the past month, North Africa has witnessed a significant uptick in jihadist activity by al Qaeda's node in the Maghreb. Suicide bombings are also on the rise in the Horn of Africa as Somalian Islamists appear to be enhancing their cooperation with jihadists. In Afghanistan, Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah has aligned himself more closely with al Qaeda by giving credit for the February Bagram Air Base attack to Osama Bin Laden, even though the Afghan Taliban command is more than capable of pulling off such an attack itself.

The most active al Qaeda node is in Iraq, where the country's continued downward spiral has created an ideally chaotic environment for the group to maintain a strong presence. Though al Qaeda's Iraq node is in a relatively comfortable position, it has been facing increasing flack from the Sunni nationalist insurgents who have been turning against their former jihadist allies in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province. As the environment in some of Iraq's Sunni areas has turned increasingly inhospitable to the jihadists, some of these militants could be driven to return home and wage attacks in their home countries using the tactics they have picked up in Iraq. This already appears to have taken effect, as illustrated by the Algerian node's adoption of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

A surge of al Qaeda activity does not necessarily imply improved capability. As the latest raid in Saudi Arabia illustrated, Saudi security forces are extremely active in rooting out al Qaeda cells, and the North African police states are quite capable of containing the jihadist presence in their countries. The best chance of success for al Qaeda remains in its usual hotspots of Iraq and Afghanistan. That said, the level of training these two theaters of operation provide allows al Qaeda to ensure its continuity, as lessons learned there regarding operational security and tradecraft spread to al Qaeda's local affiliates.

stratfor.com
29575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: April 27, 2007, 07:38:55 PM
Estonia: Baiting the Bear
Summary

The Estonian government arrested some 300 protesters April 27 during the removal of a Soviet monument commemorating the end of World War II. For the most vulnerable member of the NATO alliance, the action is not so much waving the flag as it is testing the winds.

Analysis

A Soviet-era monument called the Bronze Soldier, located in downtown Tallinn, Estonia, was dismantled the night of April 26-27, despite the protests by some 500 ethnic Russians. The Russian Duma and Foreign Ministry immediately responded, calling the action "blasphemy" and "disgusting." The Duma recommended Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately sever all economic and diplomatic contact with Estonia. The Estonian government plans to exhume and remove the remains of Soviet soldiers interred under the monument as well for reburial in a cemetery.

Estonia sees the monument, constructed during what Estonians call the "Soviet occupation," as a lingering sign of Russia's overbearance. Yet, of the three Baltic states, Estonia is the one that tends to have the best relationship with Moscow and prefers to keep the lowest profile. This raises a question: Why dismantle the Bronze Solider now?

Controversy over the statue is nothing new; it has been simmering ever since Estonia achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia's biggest holiday -- the celebration of the anniversary of victory in World War II, a conflict in which at least 20 million Russians died -- is just around the corner on May 9. After 15 years of relatively harmless sniping, it seems the Estonians have chosen this precise moment to step on the Kremlin's most sensitive nerve.

That might be precisely the case.

On April 26, Putin gave his state of the union address, in which he essentially lambasted everything the United States stands for. For Estonia, such a speech is the equivalent of an air raid siren. Aside from Luxembourg, Estonia is the smallest NATO member, and none is more strategically exposed. If Russia is about to go on a strategic tear, no one faces the prospect of more suffering -- and more quickly -- than does Estonia.



But rather than cowering in silence, the Estonians might have struck upon a rather interesting strategy: Test the waters to see just how real this Russian change of tune is. After all, if it is real, it is best to know soon. And if it is just rhetoric for public consumption, it is best to continue with business as usual without developing an ulcer.

By this logic, no matter how much Estonia's actions annoyed the Russians, those actions are not of a magnitude to make Moscow rapidly shift its entire military strategic and foreign doctrines. But dismantling the monument will force the Russians to show at least some of their cards.

Whether or not the Estonian strategy is truly to tell the Russians to "Put up or shut up," the world will know the Russian mind very soon. Estonia provoked the Duma and the Russian Foreign Ministry into their expected responses and, in doing so, placed the issue squarely on Putin's desk. His response will be Russia's policy.

It is a response Putin will weigh very carefully. While the Kremlin thinks of Estonia as an ungrateful, malcontented speck on its western border, it is an ungrateful, malcontented speck that also happens to be a full member of the NATO alliance and the European Union. The former grants Estonia the nuclear umbrella, and the latter means any economic sanctions against Estonia would immediately draw retaliation from all of Europe. If Putin is going to call Estonia's bluff, it will not be a simple overreaction -- it will be a calculated move that will have repercussions far beyond a mere stump of broken rock in a Tallinn traffic circle.
29576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: April 27, 2007, 04:58:01 PM
Second post of the day:

WSJ

Certified Madness
By BRUCE BERKOWITZ
April 27, 2007; Page A17

One of the more interesting sections of the war funding bill Congress will soon send President Bush is its provision for "readiness." The bill prohibits spending funds "to deploy any unit of the Armed Forces to Iraq unless the chief of the military department concerned has certified in writing . . . that the unit is fully mission capable."

John Murtha (D., Pa.), chairman of the House subcommittee on defense appropriations, is mainly responsible for the clause. Mr. Murtha is a Marine Vietnam combat veteran and he's concerned that U.S. forces don't have all the resources they need to complete their missions.

U.S. Navy Ensign George Gay would have been bemused.

Ensign Gay became famous in World War II as the sole survivor of Torpedo Eight, a squadron flying off of the USS Hornet in the pivotal Battle of Midway. If ever there was a unit of the armed forces that wasn't "mission capable," it was Torpedo Eight.

In June 1942, the Navy's new torpedo bomber, the Grumman TBF Avenger, wasn't ready. So Ensign Gay and the other Americans had to fly old Douglas TBD Devastators, an aircraft that was inadequate for the task of taking on Japanese fighters.

A Devastator's top speed was about 200 mph. The Japanese interceptors -- Zeros -- could do around 350 mph. That's correct, the Japanese pilots had an advantage of about 150 miles per hour.

But Ensign Gay's bigger problem was training. "When we finally got up to the Battle of Midway it was the first time I had ever carried a torpedo on an aircraft," he later told a Navy interviewer, "and was the first time I had ever taken a torpedo off of a ship, had never even seen it done. None of the other ensigns in the squadron had either."

Ensign Gay and the others got the attack plan in "chalk talks" and then rehearsed the attack by walking through the steps on the flight deck.

Not a single TBD flying that day from the Hornet made it back. Ensign Gay was the only one of the 30 men in his squadron who survived the attack and he had to be fished from the sea a day after the battle. The TBDs from the other two American carriers suffered similar losses.

But by drawing the Zeros to themselves, the slow, low-flying Devastators gave U.S. dive bombers a clear shot to strike from above. The dive bombers sank three of the four Japanese carriers, a loss that decided the outcome of a battle that proved to be turning point in the war in the Pacific.

Which gets us back to Mr. Murtha's readiness provision.

Lieutenant Gay (he was promoted) later briefed the events to a Navy interviewer. He described the situation, succinctly, as "a difficult problem."

"We had old planes and we were new," the pilot recalled. "We had a dual job of not only training a squadron of boot Ensigns," he said, "we also had to fight the war at the same time."

In fact, training and fighting became one and the same. Ensign Gay's squadron leader told him and the others to follow him to the target, and then they figured out a way to get through the flack when they got there.

Ensign Gay and the other pilots knew they were ill-equipped and under-trained. But they flew the mission anyway because they also knew that something larger was at stake -- like losing the war if they waited until someone was willing to "certify in writing" that they met official readiness standards.

It's unfortunate, and often tragic, but that's what happens in war, or at least one that you are serious about. And that's the issue. Are we serious about the war? Can anyone imagine Congress in 1942 passing a provision like the one in the current bill? Would they constrain Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower the way they propose to constrain Gen. David H. Petraeus?

Mr. Murtha has good intentions, but he's got it exactly wrong. If U.S. forces lack the equipment or training they need, it's his job, as the chairman of the one subcommittee specifically responsible for originating defense appropriations, to make sure they get it.

If legislators really don't believe we should continue in Iraq, they need to come clean, shut down the war -- and accept the risks, and take responsibility for the consequences. Otherwise, they need to provide U.S. forces the means to carry out their missions.

Mr. Berkowitz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
29577  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 27, 2007, 02:33:02 PM
"Kali Tudo" available at www.dogbrothers.com grin
29578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: April 27, 2007, 11:47:27 AM
WSJ- Opinion Journal

Little Big Brother

Howard Dean, head of the Democratic National Committee, once again is proving he has unusual views on the media. He says groups that want to hear candidates talk openly should bar the media. "If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press," is how he bluntly put it.

On one level, that's not so controversial an idea. Today's "gotcha" journalism certainly makes candidates cautious and fearful that any stray remark will be blown out of proportion by someone in search of a headline.

But Mr. Dean's reasoning for why the media should be shut out of political meetings was revealing. He says the Golden Age of media coverage by Olympian figures such as Walter Cronkite is long gone. "The media has been reduced to info-tainment," he told the Mortgage Bankers Association. "Info-tainment sells. The problem is they reach the lowest common denominator instead of forcing a little education down our throats, which we are probably in need of from time to time." By "education," I take it Mr. Dean is referring to views of the enlightened "progressive" kind.

The Democratic Party's chairman has long expressed a position that federal regulation of the media -- in the form of a new Fairness Doctrine or the breakup of entities such as Fox News -- wouldn't be a bad idea. In 2003, while a presidential candidate, he railed, "Media corporations have too much power... The media has clearly abused their privilege, and it is hurting our democracy."

Of course, some would say having political figures such as Mr. Dean who are overtly hostile to the media holding politicians like themselves to account may also not be good for democracy. Like many liberals, Mr. Dean just hasn't gotten used to a media universe where there are players beyond the Big Three networks and the traditional newspapers whose newsrooms were stuffed almost exclusively with Democrats.

-- John Fund
29579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: April 27, 2007, 11:27:59 AM
WSJ
Missile Defense Mischief
April 27, 2007; Page A16

One of the Bush Administration's quiet successes has been missile defense -- from the negotiated demise of the Cold War ABM Treaty to initial ground-based deployments. But that progress is suddenly in jeopardy from opposition in Russia and Congress, and just when we might really begin to need it against the likes of Iran.

The immediate dispute concerns the U.S. offer to extend missile defenses to Europe. The Czech Republic has expressed interest in providing a site for a tracking radar, while Poland is considering whether to host the interceptors that would destroy incoming missiles.

Linked to upgraded radars in Britain and Greenland and a command-and-control system in Colorado, the Polish and Czech sites could protect Europe from long-range missiles launched from Iran. It would also provide an additional layer of defense for America's East Coast. Tehran is expected to have long-range missiles by 2015 or sooner, and since the world can't seem to muster the resolve to halt its nuclear program, missile defense would seem a logical -- and urgent -- priority.

If only. After Warsaw and Prague announced negotiations with the U.S., some Europeans, notably the French and the Germans, accused the U.S. of acting unilaterally. Moscow has called it "destabilizing," and Democrats in Congress have vowed to kill it. Representative Ellen Tauscher, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, is opposing the Pentagon's $310 million request to begin construction next year.

The arguments against the "third site," as the Polish-Czech contribution is known, are updated versions of the anti-Star Wars rhetoric of the Reagan years. Ms. Tauscher claims the missile defense system isn't "fully tested," but the initial system the Bush Administration has fielded in Alaska and California and now wants to extend to Europe isn't the final architecture. The idea is to follow the models provided by the JSTAR military surveillance plane and Predator spy plane. Both were still in the experimental phase when they were called into service in the Gulf War and Afghanistan, respectively. The missile defense system is constantly being tested and upgraded.

Critics also argue that the third site wouldn't protect all of Europe from Iranian missiles because the Southern flank would remain exposed. But the site is designed to defend against missiles with ranges of more than 1,500 kilometers, which means Greece, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria aren't at risk from this specific threat. The Iranian threat against Southern Europe is from medium- and short-range missiles, which require different kinds of defenses, and the U.S. is prepared to work with individual countries as well as NATO to install Patriots or other systems against those missiles.

Moscow's objection is that the third site is somehow intended for use against Russian missiles. This is untrue -- as the Russians well know because U.S. officials have briefed them repeatedly on how the system would operate and have even offered to bring Russia under the missile-defense umbrella, an offer Moscow has so far rejected.

No one believes 10 interceptors based in Poland could deter the thousands of missiles in Russia's arsenal, and it's unclear what game Moscow is playing here. Perhaps it hopes to forestall U.S. missile defenses for Georgia or other former Soviet republics, or maybe it sees an opportunity to drive a wedge between Washington and Warsaw, where the government is already facing heat over Poland's role in Iraq.

Democrats claim that the third site creates "divisions" among our European allies and should therefore be subject to NATO's multilateral seal of approval -- and a consensus process that would mean the kiss of death. But why should bilateral agreements between the U.S. and the sovereign nations of Poland and the Czech Republic be subject to NATO approval any more than U.S. agreements with Denmark and Britain over the radars located in their territories? Or agreements with Germany, the Netherlands or Italy on other kinds of missile defenses? In any case, NATO may acquire theater missile defenses, which could be deployed to protect against medium- and short-range missiles.

Iran's not the only potential missile threat. More than 20 nations, including North Korea and Syria, have ballistic missiles and their proliferation is sure to continue. The third site is part of the Bush Administration's vision of missile defense with a global reach. Since the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, nations have been lining up to get under the new missile defense umbrella. The U.S. and its allies are safer for it.
29580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Paul's girl on: April 27, 2007, 11:23:13 AM
WSJ:

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Africans for Wolfowitz
Third World reformers resist a coup by rich Europeans.

Friday, April 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

One of the most revealing subplots in the European coup attempt against World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is who is coming to the American's defense. The rich European donor countries want him to resign, while the Africans who are the bank's major clients are encouraging him to stay.

You wouldn't know this from the press coverage, which continues to report selective leaks from the bank staff and European sources who started this political putsch. The latest "news" is that the European Parliament has asked Mr. Wolfowitz to resign, thus sustaining that body's reputation for irrelevant but politically correct gestures. If Mr. Wolfowitz leaves, no doubt some of the europols will angle for the job.

The more telling story is the support for the bank president from reform-minded Africans. At a press conference during this month's World Bank-IMF meetings in Washington, four of the more progressive African finance ministers were asked about the Wolfowitz flap. Here's how Antoinette Sayeh, Liberia's finance minister, responded:

"I would say that Wolfowitz's performance over the last several years and his leadership on African issues should certainly feature prominently in the discussions . . . . In the Liberian case and the case of many forgotten post-conflict fragile countries, he has been a visionary. He has been absolutely supportive, responsive, there for us . . . . We think that he has done a lot to bring Africa in general . . . into the limelight and has certainly championed our cause over the last two years of his leadership, and we look forward to it continuing."





The deputy prime minister for Mauritius, Rama Krishna Sithanen, then piped in that "he has been supportive of reforms in our country . . . . We think that he has done a good job. More specifically, he has apologized for what has happened."
Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's poorest region, and Mr. Wolfowitz has appropriately made it his top priority. On his first day on the job, he met with a large group of African ambassadors and advocates. His first trip as bank president was a swing through Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa. He also recruited two African-born women vice presidents, a rarity at the bank.

If you're surprised by that last fact, then you don't appreciate that the World Bank has always been a sinecure for developed-world politicians. They get handsome salaries, tax free, and their performance is measured not by how much poverty they cure but by how much money they disperse.

Mr. Wolfowitz has upset this sweetheart status quo by focusing more on results, and especially on the corruption that undermines development and squanders foreign aid. Yet many of the poor countries themselves welcome such intervention. At the same April 14 press conference, Zambian Finance Minister N'Gandu Peter Magande endorsed the anticorruption agenda:

"We should keep positive that whatever happens to the president, if, for example, he was to leave, I think whoever comes, we insist that he continues where we have been left, in particular on this issue of anticorruption. That is a cancer that has seen quite a lot of our countries lose development and has seen the poverty continuing in our countries. And therefore . . . we want to live up to what [Wolfowitz] made us believe" that "it is important for ourselves to keep to those high standards."





The real World Bank scandal is that Mr. Wolfowitz's enemies don't care much about Africa. The French and Brits who want him ousted have never entirely shaken the paternalism they developed during the colonial era. Their real priority is controlling the bank purse-strings and perquisites.
As for the coup attempt, Mr. Wolfowitz's fate now rests with the 24-member bank board. Europeans dominate, while we saw only two Africans listed on the bank's Web site. These profiles in buck-passing have asked Mr. Wolfowitz to meet with them on Monday; his lawyer can join him but won't be allowed to speak.

The noisy leaking and staff protests are aimed at getting Mr. Wolfowitz to make their life easy by resigning. But that would only validate their campaign to oust him for giving his girlfriend a raise that the bank's own ethics committee advised him to deliver after he had tried to recuse himself. Since our editorial reported on all of these "ethics" details two weeks ago, no one has even tried to dispute our facts. The critics have shifted to a new line that, because his "credibility" has been damaged by these selective smears, Mr. Wolfowitz must now resign "for the good of the bank."

Let's hope the White House doesn't fall for this rot, and, by the way, it's about time Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson spent some of his political capital and defended Mr. Wolfowitz. He'd be in good company among Africa's progressive leaders.

Mr. Berkowitz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

29581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 27, 2007, 08:44:25 AM
Second post of the morning:
========================

Scotland: A Model for the Rest of Us

by Rob Blackstock

After the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech, it is time that we turned to an older, more civilized country as a role-model. I speak, of course, of Scotland. Scotland has long since evolved beyond such displays of violence as we saw in Blacksburg this past week.

A United Nations report has labeledScotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America. England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.

The reason why is obvious: on March 13, 1996, a lone gunman entered the Dunblane, Scotland school gym and killed 16 children and their teacher. Within the next year handguns were made illegal in Britain bringing an end to gun violence in that ancient land.

The ban has had no discernible effect on gun crime, which has continued a steady rise dating back more than 25 years and which accounted for some 4,000 injuries in the UK last year [2006]. Immediately after the ban, the number of shootings actually went up and has stayed up, though the homicide rate, which is relatively low, has been almost unaffected. In Scotland, for instance, the rate of about eight killings a year by guns has remained the same despite the Dunblane ban.

Bravo for the Brits! Without guns, people are now safe to walk the streets.

[Dr. Ian] Holland and his colleagues operate on someone in Glasgow an average of every six hours, every day of the year. They try to fix the damage done by knives, razors, bats, fists, kicks and, very occasionally, innocent accidents. More than a thousand patients are sent to maxillofacial surgery every year as a result of violence in Glasgow alone – and the figure is rising. Only a fraction is reported to the police.

When will we Americans realize that the only way to make law-abiding people safe is to take away everyone’s guns?

Early indications, in the west [of Scotland] at least, suggest [crime statistics] will be up again in 2006-07, at least for murder – the easiest violent crime to count. There were 60 murders in Strathclyde between April and December 2006, 19 more than in the last nine months of 2005. Officially, reported attempted murders were up too – to nearly 300.

Without the guns, criminals are no longer able to hurt the innocent. Gang violence will come to an end.

[In Scotland, a] crackdown on the sale of swords has been launched as part of a campaign to tackle knife crime and violence….

The measures are the latest steps from the Scottish Executive to curb the problem of knife crime….

[Justice Minister Cathy] Jamieson said: "Knife-carrying is all too prevalent in some communities, particularly in the west of Scotland, and has cut short and scarred too many young lives.

"In these areas police, doctors and law-abiding citizens have seen the damaging effects of swords, including samurai swords, being wielded on the streets. "It is simply far too easy at present for these weapons to be bought and sold."

Other parts of the plan brought in under the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act doubled the maximum penalty for carrying a knife to four years, gave police the unconditional power to search someone they suspect of carrying a weapon and increased the minimum age for buying a knife from 16 to 18.

[Detective Chief Superintendent] John Carnochan, head of the police's violence reduction unit, hailed the measures as "another major step forward in the fight against knife crime and violence". More than half the murders in Scotland each year are carried out with knives or other sharp weapons.

True, law-abiding people including women and the elderly will no longer have the means to defend themselves from the young, violent criminal once all guns are confiscated, but those people will no longer have a need for self-defense. Without the guns, there will be no violence from which to be protected.

3 per cent of Scots had been victims of assault compared with 1.2 per cent in America and just 0.1 per cent in Japan, 0.2 per cent in Italy and 0.8 per cent in Austria. In England and Wales the figure was 2.8 per cent.

Scotland has shown us all, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that removing guns solves the underlying problem. Today, Scotland is once more a picturesque land where you and your mates can gather for a peaceful pint at the local pub.

Glasses and bottles face being banned from Edinburgh's pubs and clubs under plans to tackle the soaring number of violent attacks fuelled by drink….

The move comes after the number of glass and bottle attacks in the city soared by 40 per cent last year….

A similar ban is about to be rolled out across Glasgow….

So allow me to raise a glass to my ancestral people, the Scots, and to say thank you. Thank you for showing us the result of outlawing guns. Peace, serenity and culture.

The machetes are worst. As heavy as they are sharp, they cleave cheeks and split jaws – mash faces. Victims never look the same again, their twisted smiles revealing the true scale of Scotland's toll of violent crime.

April 27, 2007

Rob Blackstock [send him mail] teaches economics at Louisiana Tech University and is the Senior Economist for American Economic Services.

Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com
29582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 27, 2007, 08:30:24 AM

I posted this on the Race thread in the SCH forum, but frankly SCH has lower readership than R&P here and the closing line of this piece which I find funny in the extreme I think merits it being posted on this thread as well.

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

EEOC Is Moving On; Fast Food and a Dicey Neighborhood Await


By Al Kamen
Friday, April 27, 2007; A21

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in an uproar over a decision by Chair Naomi C. Earp to move its 500-employee headquarters from fine offices in downtown to a "developing" -- but not quite arrived -- area in desolate Northeast near the old Woodie's warehouse on New York Avenue.

At a hostile meeting yesterday to quell a growing rebellion, Earp told several hundred employees -- and others viewing on closed-circuit television -- that "the determining factor is price" in her decision and that employees "should not overreact to concerns about safety."
The agency has been at 18th and L streets NW since then-Chairman Clarence Thomas blocked Reagan administration efforts in 1989 to ship it to the suburbs. The downtown location also houses the Washington field office, which is where people go to file discrimination complaints.
But the current landlord didn't renew the lease, and Earp said she did not want to "pick a fight with" the General Services Administration over the location. So the employees -- mostly civil rights lawyers -- are out by July 2008.

Some employees surveyed the new neighborhood. They found, according to an e-mail Monday about their field trip, that across from the proposed headquarters there's a seven-acre empty lot with "lots of garbage, empty wine and liquor bottles, broken glass, and condoms ringing the perimeter of the (chain link) fence." The nearest business is a "dilapidated liquor store two blocks away."

There are also warehouses in the area and self-storage buildings and, across from the employee parking lot, another big vacant lot. There are a few small dilapidated buildings and a building under construction, the surveyors reported.

For lunch, instead of Luigi's, the Palm or several excellent Asian bistros near the current headquarters, there'll be only a McDonald's 3 1/2 blocks away and a Wendy's a block beyond that. For a change of pace, there's the upscale Chez Roi, also known as Roy Rogers, just four blocks away.
Some employees are disabled, opponents of the move note, and on dark winter evenings they would be especially vulnerable to criminals. The McDonald's parking lot, next door to the city's largest methadone clinic, was named in 2002 "as being one of the largest open-air drug markets in the region." "It is unclear whether this has improved," the employees said.
Still, the area is clearly changing. And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters is nearby, and those employees don't seem to be worried about crime.

"Give me a handgun and a bulletproof vest and an ATF windbreaker, and I wouldn't worry either," an unhappy EEOC official told us.
29583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: April 27, 2007, 08:27:45 AM

This is priceless.  ROTFLMAO-- Marc

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

EEOC Is Moving On; Fast Food and a Dicey Neighborhood Await


By Al Kamen
Friday, April 27, 2007; A21

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in an uproar over a decision by Chair Naomi C. Earp to move its 500-employee headquarters from fine offices in downtown to a "developing" -- but not quite arrived -- area in desolate Northeast near the old Woodie's warehouse on New York Avenue.

At a hostile meeting yesterday to quell a growing rebellion, Earp told several hundred employees -- and others viewing on closed-circuit television -- that "the determining factor is price" in her decision and that employees "should not overreact to concerns about safety."
The agency has been at 18th and L streets NW since then-Chairman Clarence Thomas blocked Reagan administration efforts in 1989 to ship it to the suburbs. The downtown location also houses the Washington field office, which is where people go to file discrimination complaints.
But the current landlord didn't renew the lease, and Earp said she did not want to "pick a fight with" the General Services Administration over the location. So the employees -- mostly civil rights lawyers -- are out by July 2008.

Some employees surveyed the new neighborhood. They found, according to an e-mail Monday about their field trip, that across from the proposed headquarters there's a seven-acre empty lot with "lots of garbage, empty wine and liquor bottles, broken glass, and condoms ringing the perimeter of the (chain link) fence." The nearest business is a "dilapidated liquor store two blocks away."

There are also warehouses in the area and self-storage buildings and, across from the employee parking lot, another big vacant lot. There are a few small dilapidated buildings and a building under construction, the surveyors reported.

For lunch, instead of Luigi's, the Palm or several excellent Asian bistros near the current headquarters, there'll be only a McDonald's 3 1/2 blocks away and a Wendy's a block beyond that. For a change of pace, there's the upscale Chez Roi, also known as Roy Rogers, just four blocks away.
Some employees are disabled, opponents of the move note, and on dark winter evenings they would be especially vulnerable to criminals. The McDonald's parking lot, next door to the city's largest methadone clinic, was named in 2002 "as being one of the largest open-air drug markets in the region." "It is unclear whether this has improved," the employees said.
Still, the area is clearly changing. And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters is nearby, and those employees don't seem to be worried about crime.

"Give me a handgun and a bulletproof vest and an ATF windbreaker, and I wouldn't worry either," an unhappy EEOC official told us.
29584  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 27, 2007, 08:25:22 AM
Andy's a buddy via his being a Machado BB and via our having trained together at RAW/R1, so I am bummed for him.  This was a big opportunity for him to get what he came for in MMA  cry

The guy was four inches taller than him (given Andy's stocky build, this can't be a rare experience for him) and Andy is a Machado BB, so BJ's advice to take it to the ground seems to as obvious as it was sound.  Also to my eye it looked like no one ever showed Andy the footwork fundamentals of fighting unmatched leads.  Combine that with the opponent's reach advantage and the result was what it was.
29585  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What would you have done? on: April 26, 2007, 11:33:47 PM
Erik:

That is quite excellent.  I will be adding the underlying concept to my tool kit.  Thank you.

Dog Corey:

Nice find!

TAC,
Crafty Dog
29586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Message from Loyalonehk on: April 26, 2007, 10:26:26 PM
I've moved Loyalonehk's post from another thread to here-- Marc
============================================


The video is about 10 mins long but worth the time.
My old Chief sent this link to me today...   

http://www.youtube.com/p.swf?video_id=m9Yc3wYJOtI&eurl=&iurl=http%3A//sjc-static12.sjc.youtube.com/vi/m9Yc3wYJOtI/2.jpg&t=OEgsToPDskIMQ2KCcdCGg6OZXz1bwQwi
 

 
29587  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 26, 2007, 04:56:04 PM
From the Underground forum:

 Ricco'sHugeGut 
Date: 04/26/07 02:48 PM
 Member Since: 11/17/2006
1733 Total Posts  Ignore User 
 

Report: UFC Opts for No Drug Testing at UFC 69 or UFC 70
Posted by UFC Junkie on April 26, 2007 at 9:15 am ET

Fighters from neither Houston's UFC 69 event nor last weekend's UFC 70 event in England underwent drug testing following their bouts, according to Steve Sievert of the Houston Chronicle.

According to Sievert, officials from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation stated that the drug testing was the responsibility of the "sanctioning body" of UFC 69, which in this case, was none other than the UFC.

The UFC simply chose not to test anyone.

Sievert has some feedback from Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs, regarding the matter. Unfortunately, he doesn't offer much in the way of an explanation, other than saying the UFC would have had no authority to discipline the fighters even if they did test positive for performance-enhancing or recreational drugs. (Really?)

Add this latest fiasco to growing list of grievances regarding the TDLR and its first-ever UFC event in the state of Texas. Earlier this month, UFCjunkie.com contacted the commission to get a list of salaries from the fighters at the April 7 event. This information is readily available from other state commissions and considered a matter of public record.

However, with the Texas commission, our numerous phone calls and email messages were ignored. No explanation was given, and no information was sent. I later learned that other media outlets were told that the commission wouldn't release the information until the state's attorney general decided whether or not the figures could stay private. Of course, UFCjunkie.com never got an answer either way.

Sievert also asked Ratner about testing for UFC 70, which took place in Manchester, England. Ratner said they simply had no legal means to do it.

However, just a few days before the UFC 70 event, UFC president Dana White said that the organization would administer the drug tests -- and that Ratner, the former head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, would be in charge of the process. White made the comments during a conference call to reporters a few days before the event.

Said White:

[Each drug test] will be a random drug test, and actually, what we are doing for this is Marc Ratner will be overseeing and has flown over a lot of inspectors, judges and referees. As far as safety goes, we always go overboard. Ratner is overseeing the whole thing.

The tests, of course, never happened.

In fact, England was apparently so ill-prepared for the event that the UFC reportedly had to fly over two U.S. inspectors, three judges and a doctor who consulted with local officials on the night of the event.

England's Boxing Board of Control, after all, does not regulate MMA.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
29588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fire Jackson and Sharpton on: April 26, 2007, 04:16:28 PM

Updated:2007-04-13 16:07:16
http://sports.aol.com/whitlock/_a/time-for-jackson-sharpton-to-step-down/20070411111509990001
 
Time for Jackson, Sharpton to Step Down
Pair See Potential for Profit, Attention in Imus Incident
By JASON WHITLOCK
AOL
 
Sports Commentary

I’m calling for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the president and vice president of Black America, to step down.

Their leadership is stale. Their ideas are outdated. And they don’t give a damn about us.

We need to take a cue from White America and re-elect our leadership every four years. White folks realize that power corrupts. That’s why they placed term limits on the presidency. They know if you leave a man in power too long he quits looking out for the interest of his constituency and starts looking out for his own best interest.

We’ve turned Jesse and Al into Supreme Court justices. They get to speak for us for a lifetime.

Why?

If judged by the results they’ve produced the last 20 years, you’d have to regard their administration as a total failure. Seriously, compared to Martin and Malcolm and the freedoms and progress their leadership produced, Jesse and Al are an embarrassment.

Their job the last two decades was to show black people how to take advantage of the opportunities Martin and Malcolm won.

Have we at the level we should have? No.

Rather than inspire us to seize hard-earned opportunities, Jesse and Al have specialized in blackmailing white folks for profit and attention. They were at it again last week, helping to turn radio shock jock Don Imus’ stupidity into a world-wide crisis that reached its crescendo Tuesday afternoon when Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer led a massive pity party/recruiting rally.

Hey, what Imus said, calling the Rutgers players "nappy-headed hos," was ignorant, insensitive and offensive. But so are many of the words that come out of the mouths of radio shock jocks/comedians.

Imus’ words did no real damage. Let me tell you what damaged us this week: the sports cover of Tuesday’s USA Today. This country’s newspaper of record published a story about the NFL and crime and ran a picture of 41 NFL players who were arrested in 2006. By my count, 39 of those players were black.

You want to talk about a damaging, powerful image, an image that went out across the globe?

We’re holding news conferences about Imus when the behavior of NFL players is painting us as lawless and immoral. Come on. We can do better than that. Jesse and Al are smarter than that.

Had Imus’ predictably poor attempt at humor not been turned into an international incident by the deluge of media coverage, 97 percent of America would’ve never known what Imus said. His platform isn’t that large and it has zero penetration into the sports world.

Imus certainly doesn’t resonate in the world frequented by college women. The insistence by these young women that they have been emotionally scarred by an old white man with no currency in their world is laughably dishonest.


The Rutgers players are nothing more than pawns in a game being played by Jackson, Sharpton and Stringer.

Jesse and Al are flexing their muscle and setting up their next sting. Bringing down Imus, despite his sincere attempts at apologizing, would serve notice to their next potential victim that it is far better to pay up than stand up to Jesse and Al James.

Stringer just wanted her 15 minutes to make the case that she’s every bit as important as Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma. By the time Stringer’s rambling, rapping and rhyming 30-minute speech was over, you’d forgotten that Tennessee won the national championship and just assumed a racist plot had been hatched to deny the Scarlet Knights credit for winning it all.

Maybe that’s the real crime. Imus’ ignorance has taken attention away from Candace Parker’s and Summitt’s incredible accomplishment. Or maybe it was Sharpton’s, Stringer’s and Jackson’s grandstanding that moved the spotlight from Tennessee to New Jersey?

None of this over-the-top grandstanding does Black America any good.

We can’t win the war over verbal disrespect and racism when we have so obviously and blatantly surrendered the moral high ground on the issue. Jesse and Al might win the battle with Imus and get him fired or severely neutered. But the war? We don’t stand a chance in the war. Not when everybody knows “nappy-headed ho’s” is a compliment compared to what we allow black rap artists to say about black women on a daily basis.

We look foolish and cruel for kicking a man who went on Sharpton’s radio show and apologized. Imus didn’t pull a Michael Richards and schedule an interview on Letterman. Imus went to the Black vice president’s house, acknowledged his mistake and asked for forgiveness.

Let it go and let God.

We have more important issues to deal with than Imus. If we are unwilling to clean up the filth and disrespect we heap on each other, nothing will change with our condition. You can fire every Don Imus in the country, and our incarceration rate, fatherless-child rate, illiteracy rate and murder rate will still continue to skyrocket.

A man who doesn’t respect himself wastes his breath demanding that others respect him.

We don’t respect ourselves right now. If we did, we wouldn’t call each other the N-word. If we did, we wouldn’t let people with prison values define who we are in music and videos. If we did, we wouldn’t call black women bitches and hos and abandon them when they have our babies.

If we had the proper level of self-respect, we wouldn’t act like it’s only a crime when a white man disrespects us. We hold Imus to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That’s a (freaking) shame.

We need leadership that is interested in fixing the culture we’ve adopted. We need leadership that makes all of us take tremendous pride in educating ourselves. We need leadership that can reach professional athletes and entertainers and get them to understand that they’re ambassadors and play an important role in defining who we are and what values our culture will embrace.

It’s time for Jesse and Al to step down. They’ve had 25 years to lead us. Other than their accountants, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who has benefited from their administration.



29589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 26, 2007, 11:04:25 AM
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais published today that Afghan and NATO forces are losing the war against Taliban militants. Musharraf also said claims that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence is aiding Taliban fighters are false and were invented by Afghan and NATO officials attempting to "hide their shame because they are losing."

stratfor.com
29590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: April 26, 2007, 10:45:19 AM
Greetings,

NBC anchor Brian Williams -- whose reports from Iraq earlier this year were spot-on -- has kindly introduced my latest dispatch about American soldiers at war on his blog on the MSNBC news website.  Please click here for Part I of "Desires of the Human Heart."

I will publish the second part soon.

I am still with our British friends in Basra.  These excellent soldiers have been fighting harder than I realized. Just some hours ago, I was present when British soldiers honored three of their fallen. We were briefly attacked during the memorial ceremony, when the coffins were carefully carried onto the airplane, but the Brits did not miss a step in bestowing honors on their brethren.  Please click here to read British Forces at War.

At least three more installments are coming about the Brits, possibly four, depending on communications.  I'm able to get more work done with the Brits due to the hefty support they offer. It’s made a tremendous difference and is another reason I will regret leaving the Brits later this week, although I have requested a return later this year.

The sad news about leaving the Brits is lightened by some very good news. I've asked our Marines fighting in Anbar province for permission to accompany them and I'll be embedding with our Marines in roughly one week.

On a final note, this site is funded by readers and your support is essential. The recent action in Basra and surrounding areas has left me with destroyed photo gear—including a lens I had just managed to replace--and a dying laptop. I appreciate the support more than I can ever adequately express.

V/R,
Michael
Basra, Iraq
29591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's current conciliatory mood swing on: April 26, 2007, 10:32:58 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Current Conciliatory Mood Swing

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani arrived in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday to resume talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana over Tehran's nuclear program. Negotiations came to an abrupt halt in December 2006 when the United Nations imposed long-awaited sanctions on the Islamic Republic. A few days before Larijani's meeting with Solana, the European Union approved a second phase of U.N. sanctions, which includes a ban on Iranian arms exports and an asset freeze targeting 28 individuals, one-third of whom are members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Despite the new sanctions, Iran has continued to play nice and has issued a series of conciliatory statements expressing its desire to create a rational atmosphere for negotiations. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said April 22 that the United States is showing signs of "softening" its stance toward Iran, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he is ready to hold talks with U.S. President George W. Bush. Even Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dialed back the pressure, telling Israel Radio on April 23 that there is still time for the international community to peacefully prevent Iran from going nuclear.

The Iranian nuclear playbook revolves around consolidating that country's power in Iraq. During the ebb and flow of negotiations between Washington and Tehran, the Iranians have developed a number of bargaining chips -- including their nuclear program -- to strengthen their hand against the United States in discussions about a post-Saddam Hussein power structure in Baghdad. Throughout this process, Iran has undergone a number of calculated mood swings in order to shape the discussions in its favor. We now are witnessing one such swing. Iran is taking a conciliatory approach ahead of a key meeting May 3-4 at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, at which Iran and the United States are expected to participate in a multilateral discussion about how to bring security to Iraq.

Thus far, Iran is playing hard to get, making it appear as though Washington -- not Tehran -- is begging for talks on Iraq. Iran played the same game ahead of earlier meetings attended by both U.S. and Iranian representatives, including a March meeting in Baghdad and the February security conference in Munich, Germany. Iran's apparent hesitation this time around has been attributed to the "venue and agenda" of the meeting. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari traveled to Tehran on Wednesday with a mission sent by Washington to convince the Iranians to participate in the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, which was originally set to take place in Ankara, but was moved to Egypt, likely due to the protestations of Iraq's Kurdish bloc. (Iran and Turkey are both outside the Arab fold and are on the same page in terms of ensuring that Iraqi Kurds do not carve out a separate region for themselves while Baghdad burns -- making Ankara an ideal meeting place in Iran's eyes.)

One thing Tehran does not want is for the Arab powers and the United States to turn the Egypt conference into a Tehran-bashing event, in which all the blame for Iraq's security problems would fall on its eastern neighbor. Iran wants to go into the talks on relatively equal footing with the United States, and will attempt to extract concessions from Washington ahead of the meeting, including the release of the five Iranian officials who were seized by U.S. forces in January from an Iranian diplomatic office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil. This explains Iran's recent public statements that it has received positive signs regarding the five Iranians being held in Iraq. By bringing the private negotiations into the public sphere, Iran is trying to hold the United States to any behind-the-scenes assurances it might have given about freeing the diplomats.

Iran has not yet announced whether its representatives will attend the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting. While the Iranians likely will make the trip, do not expect them to take any big leaps during the negotiations. Iran is still watching to see how the U.S. congressional debate over Iraq war funding shapes up, and can clearly see the Bush administration battling popular opinion by refusing to set a date for withdrawing from Iraq. If Iran could be assured that the upcoming U.S. presidential race would produce a leader who would attempt to get U.S. forces out of Iraq quickly, the clerical regime could risk dragging out the negotiations. But this is by no means guaranteed, and Bush is doing all he can to convince Iran that U.S. troops are in the Gulf for the long haul -- and that it is in Iran's best interest to deal now before the tide turns against it. Moreover, the Iranians are not at all confident about the state of Iraq's Shiite bloc, which is rife with fissures.

With all of these uncertainties, Iran likely will continue to stall, and to manipulate the nuclear negotiations as much as possible until it can better manage the Iraqi Shia.
stratfor.com
29592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: April 26, 2007, 10:30:54 AM
HillaryCare Installment Plan
The Schip strategy for government-run health care.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Any doubt that "universal" health care has returned as a dominant political issue vanished with last month's forum for Democratic Presidential candidates in Nevada. "We need a movement," Hillary Clinton declared. "We need people to make this the No. 1 voting issue in the '08 election."

She and her friends in Congress are already working on it, notably by proposing to greatly expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. "Schip" was enacted in 1997 as Bill Clinton's health-care consolation prize after the implosion of HillaryCare. It expires in September without reauthorization, and Democrats are using the opening to turn it into another giant middle-class health-care entitlement. Call it HillaryCare on the installment plan.





Schip was conceived--or at least sold--as a way to insure children from low-income families that aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Included as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Schip began as a federal block grant of about $40 billion over 10 years. States receive an annual fixed federal contribution. Then they match the funds and design their own programs, by expanding Medicaid, creating a separate Schip program or some combination. States determine eligibility and benefits; some have premiums or co-pays, usually at negligible rates.
The Bush Administration wants to add $4.8 billion to the Schip budget, bringing it to $30 billion over the next five years. Democrats want to see that and raise by $50 billion to $60 billion. They pronounce Schip "underfunded"--and sure enough, 2007 funding already falls short of covering enrollees in 18 states by about $900 million.

But this "crisis" arose because some states have grossly exceeded Schip's mandate. They are using the program to expand government-subsidized coverage well beyond poor kids--to children from wealthier families and even to adults. And they're doing so even as some 8.3 million poor children continue to go uninsured.

The Schip legislation defines potential recipients as children in families making twice the federal poverty line, or $41,300 a year for a family of four. But states are encouraged to apply for waivers to allow for more flexibility. Now 15 states have eligibility thresholds above 200% of poverty, and nine of those are at or over 300%. In New Jersey, the figure is 350%. New York recently passed a budget raising eligibility to the highest in the nation at 400%--or $82,600 for a family of four. That's an income close to what Democrats usually define as "rich" when they're trying to raise taxes.

Some states are using Schip to create universal child health programs, regardless of need. Governor Rod Blagojevich recently expanded the Illinois Schip program to insure all children, with premiums and co-pays based on parental income. Pennsylvania's "Cover All Kids" and Tennessee's "Cover Kids" programs do the same.

As of February 2007, the Government Accountability Office found that 14 states were using Schip to cover adults: pregnant women, parents of Medicaid or Schip kids--and even childless adults. Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin cover more adults than children. In 2005 Minnesota spent 92% of its grant insuring adults, and Arizona spent two-thirds the same way.

And no wonder: The Schip funding structure provides incentives for running over budget. In three-year periods, all unspent Schip allocations across the 50 states are tallied up and redistributed. A state that exceeds its allotment gets more money from a state that didn't. In the 14 states that went over budget in 2005, 55% of Schip recipients were adults.





We're all for federalism, and if states want to raise taxes to pay for government-run health care, they have every right. The problem is when they exploit federal policy loopholes to do so and thus stick taxpayers in more responsible states with a larger tab. In 2005, 28 states received an extra grant, either through redistribution or the feds picking up the check for overruns. Thus the federal government pays about 70% of total Schip outlays, despite the premise of "matching" state grants.
A bill introduced by Senator Clinton and Representative John Dingell would make all of this worse. It would index government Schip outlays to national health spending and growth in states' child population. Without "quantifiable" progress--i.e., expanded rolls--funding drops. The legislation would also create incentives for states to expand Schip to the New York level of 400% of poverty. If this keeps up, a family will soon be eligible for Schip and subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

In other words, what began as a hard-cap grant to cover the working poor is evolving into an open-ended entitlement to cover whatever promises states make. And all under the political cover of helping "children." Instead of debating government-run health care on its merits, Democrats are building it step by step on the sly. Or as Mrs. Clinton put it in Nevada, "Make no mistake. This will be a series of steps."

There's a lesson here for Republicans, who agreed to create Schip in a trade for Mr. Clinton's signature on their "balanced budget." Balanced budgets vanish in the blink of an election, while entitlements like Schip live on and expand as an ever-larger claim on taxpayers. Mark this down as another case in which Bill Clinton outfoxed Newt Gingrich. The least Republicans can do now is work to return Schip to its original, more modest purposes.

29593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun Confiscation after Katrina on: April 26, 2007, 08:56:24 AM
Gun Confiscation after Katrina

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-taU9d26wT4
29594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / New Prostate Cancer Test on: April 26, 2007, 08:30:00 AM
New Prostate Cancer Test May Detect More Tumors


By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2007; A03

An experimental blood test for prostate cancer may help eliminate tens of thousands of unnecessary biopsies at the same time that it detects many tumors that are now missed by the test commonly used, its developers said yesterday.

PSA, the current test, measures a protein normally produced by the prostate, while the experimental one, called EPCA-2, detects a chemical made principally in cancerous tissue.

Prostate cancer, the most common malignancy in men, is one of the more perplexing areas of medicine. Physicians are unsure how to find it and when to treat it.

Today, about 80 percent of prostate biopsies find no tumor -- a percentage that is rising as physicians become more aggressive in searching for the disease.

"We hope this will minimize the number of unnecessary biopsies," said Robert H. Getzenberg, a molecular biologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital who developed the new test, which is still under study and not yet commercially available. A description of it appears today in the journal Urology.

"It's an exciting new marker," said Martin G. Sanda, a urologist at Harvard Medical School. "There certainly is a need for a better test than PSA. Everyone accepts that." His view was echoed by Gerald L. Andriole Jr., chief of urologic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, who said that "if the data hold up, this marker will be a substantial improvement over PSA."

The PSA test casts a net that is too big and too full of holes. Finding a replacement that catches fewer healthy men, but more of those who do have cancer, would help settle at least one of the clinical conundrums concerning prostate cancer.

The new test is being developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Onconome Inc., a Seattle-based biomedical company. It could become commercially available in 2008.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 230,000 American men each year, and about 30,000 die of it. The death rate is 2.5 times higher among blacks than among whites.

At the moment, men are screened for the disease in two ways -- by a rectal exam and by the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test. If a lump is detected or if the PSA is above 2.5 (nanograms per milliliter of plasma), most physicians will suggest a biopsy.

EPCA-2 is a protein that is part of the "nuclear matrix," the scaffolding inside a cell's nucleus that helps it copy its genes. The Hopkins researchers measured it in different groups of men whose cancer status was known.

They tried the new test on 30 men with PSA readings above 2.5 and in whom biopsies found no cancer. All had normal EPCA-2 readings (below 30 ng per ml.). This suggested that the test may eliminate many of the "false-positive" PSA results -- readings that are abnormal but apparently do not denote cancer.

On the other hand, the EPCA-2 test appears able to detect cancer even when the tumor is small. It identified 36 out of 40 men who had cancer confined to the prostate gland, and 39 out of 40 men in whom the tumor had spread. It also identified many men -- 14 out of 18 -- who had cancer but whose PSAs were normal.

This last group is especially worrisome to physicians. A study published three years ago found that about 12 percent of men with normal PSA readings have cancer.

The new test is not perfect, though. Getzenberg and his colleagues tried it on 35 men with severe "benign prostatic hypertrophy" -- enlargement of the prostate that sometimes makes the PSA go up but is not cancer. In eight of them, the EPCA-2 was high, suggesting that the EPCA-2 test would flag some men who turn out not to have cancer -- although probably not as many as the PSA test does.

The new test will not help solve the other major clinical uncertainty in prostate cancer. It is unclear who will clearly benefit from aggressive treatment and who are likely to be able to live a normal life if the tumors are simply followed and removed only if they begin to cause symptoms.
29595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: April 25, 2007, 12:33:17 PM
Harry's War
Democrats are taking ownership of a defeat in Iraq.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT


We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.
--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, April 12.

Gen. David Petraeus is in Washington this week, where on Monday he briefed President Bush on the progress of the new military strategy in Iraq. Today he will give similar briefings on Capitol Hill, but maybe he should save his breath. As fellow four-star Harry Reid recently informed America, the war Gen. Petraeus is fighting and trying to win is already "lost."

Mr. Reid has since tried to "clarify" that remark, and in a speech Monday he laid out his own strategy for Iraq. But perhaps we ought to be grateful for his earlier candor in laying out the strategic judgment--and nakedly political rationale--that underlies the latest Congressional bid to force a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq starting this fall. By doing so, he and the Democrats are taking ownership of whatever ugly outcome follows a U.S. defeat in Iraq.





This isn't to say that the Administration hasn't made its share of major blunders in this war. But at least Mr. Bush and his commanders are now trying to make up for these mistakes with a strategy to put Prime Minister Maliki's government on a stronger footing, secure Baghdad and the Sunni provinces against al Qaeda and allow for an eventual, honorable, U.S. withdrawal. That's more than can be said for Mr. Reid and the Democratic left, who are making the job for our troops more difficult by undermining U.S. morale and Iraqi confidence in American support.
In his speech Monday, Mr. Reid claimed that "nothing has changed" since the surge began taking effect in February. It's true that the car bombings and U.S. casualties continue, and may increase. But such an enemy counterattack was to be expected, aimed as it is directly at the Democrats in Washington. The real test of the surge is whether it can secure enough of the population to win their cooperation and gradually create fewer safe havens for the terrorists.

So far, the surge is meeting that test, even before the additional troops Mr. Bush ordered have been fully deployed. Between February and March sectarian violence declined by 26%, according to Gen. William Caldwell. Security in Baghdad has improved sufficiently to allow the government to shorten its nightly curfew. Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has been politically marginalized, which explains his apparent departure from Iraq and the resignation of his minions from Mr. Maliki's parliamentary coalition--a sign that moderate Shiites are gaining strength at his expense.

More significantly, most Sunni tribal sheikhs are now turning against al Qaeda and cooperating with coalition and Iraqi forces. What has turned these sheikhs isn't some grand "political solution," which Mr. Reid claims is essential for Iraq's salvation. They've turned because they have tired of being fodder for al Qaeda's strategy of fomenting a civil war with a goal of creating a Taliban regime in Baghdad, or at least in Anbar province. The sheikhs realize that they will probably lose such a civil war now that the Shiites are as well-armed as the insurgents and prepared to be just as ruthless. Their best chance for survival now lies with a democratic government in Baghdad. The political solution becomes easier the stronger Mr. Maliki and Iraqi government forces are, and strengthening both is a major goal of the surge.

By contrast, Mr. Reid's strategy of withdrawal will only serve to enlarge the security vacuum in which Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents have thrived. That's also true of what an American withdrawal will mean for the broader Middle East. Mr. Reid says that by withdrawing from Iraq we will be better able to take on al Qaeda and a nuclear Iran. But the reality (to use Mr. Reid's new favorite word) is that we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, and if we lose there we will only make it harder to prevail in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Countries do not usually win wars by losing their biggest battles.





As for Iran, Mr. Reid's strategy of defeat would guarantee that the radical mullahs of Tehran have more influence in Baghdad than the moderate Shiites of Najaf. It would also make the mullahs even more confident that they can build a bomb with impunity and no fear of any Western response.
The stakes in Iraq are about the future of the entire Middle East--and of our inevitable involvement in it. In calling for withdrawal, Mr. Reid and his allies, just as with Vietnam, may think they are merely following polls that show the public is unhappy with the war. Yet Americans will come to dislike a humiliation and its aftermath even more, especially as they realize that a withdrawal from Iraq now will only make it harder to stabilize the region and defeat Islamist radicals. And they will like it even less should we be required to re-enter the country someday under far worse circumstances.

This is the outcome toward which the "lost" Democrats and Harry Reid are heading, and for which they will be responsible if it occurs. The alternative is to fight for a stable Iraqi government that can control the country and keep it together in a federal, democratic system. As long as such an outcome is within reach, it is our responsibility to achieve it.

WSJ
29596  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Condtioning for the stick on: April 25, 2007, 11:27:59 AM
Woof All:

We are in conversation with Torqueblades (Mike) about how to get the price down so that we can carry these here in our catalog. 

yip!
CD
29597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: April 25, 2007, 10:49:34 AM
Ballistic Missile Submarines: The Only Way to Go
Summary

Russia and China are both in the process of fielding a new class of ballistic missile submarines. These submarines, longtime prudent investments for states with nuclear weapons, are becoming an essential -- and ultimately, the only -- option for a survivable nuclear deterrent.

Analysis

For the better part of a decade, four nations have maintained a regularly patrolling strategic deterrent at sea: the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Israel (whose use of nuclear warheads mounted on cruise missiles aboard its three Dolphin-class submarines is an open secret). However, that decade also has seen China and Russia complete nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programs. This is particularly important because diving beneath the ocean's surface is quickly becoming the only way to hide.

Russia

At its peak, the Soviet navy operated more than 60 SSBNs. The fleet is now one-quarter that size, and most of the boats are in poor condition. In 2002, the Russian navy did not conduct a single strategic deterrence patrol. The current fleet of aging SSBNs can barely hold the line. Not only is Russia investing in the future of its SSBN program, but it also is essentially starting from scratch.

The Yuri Dolgoruky, the lead boat of Russia's newest Borei-class SSBN, has a troubled past. Laid down in 1996, the Yuri Dolgoruky was neglected and construction was held up because of economic troubles after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The parallel development of the SS-NX-28 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) failed, and the design had to be adjusted during construction to accommodate a different missile, the SS-NX-30 Bulava.




Although the Bulava has had several successful launches, three failures in the fourth quarter of 2006 demonstrated the missile was far from ready. Nevertheless, the Yuri Dolgoruky was launched April 15. (It will spend at least a year being fitted out.) Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Alexei Moskovsky has promised seven more by 2017.

Of course, Moskovsky's statements are nothing if not ambitious. A series of successful Bulava tests will be necessary. But the ultimate success of the Borei class is essential for Russia's ability to maintain its nuclear deterrent. It is perhaps the top defense priority, along with the continued fielding of the land-based Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). And it is something Russia can afford.

In recent years, Russia has politically and economically consolidated and has been fiscally conservative enough to keep a balanced budget. Russian President Vladimir Putin's policies, and a hefty windfall from high energy prices, have turned Russia's $160 billion debt in 2000 into $400 billion in currency reserves and surplus funds. In March, the Kremlin shed its fiscal conservatism with a new budget for 2007-2010 that dramatically increases spending in many sectors, including defense. The budget and economic conditions are reminiscent of the Soviet budgets of the 1970s, during which Moscow launched its last dramatic increase in defense spending.

China

For the Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN), nuclear-powered submarines have been a challenge. At times, the PLAN was an understudy of a less-than-perfect master: the Russian navy. Though the PLAN has made incremental improvements, its nuclear submarines reportedly have yet to attain modern standards of performance.

The PLAN's older Xia-class SSBN, though able to launch missiles, never made an official deterrence patrol. However, the new Jin-class SSBN (Type 094) reportedly is undergoing sea trials. It spent some five years under construction and sources indicate it was launched in mid-2004. It reportedly is not up to modern SSBN standards, and there are rumors of nuclear propulsion problems. However, the shift to sea trials suggests it will ultimately deploy. The JL-2 SLBM with which it is to be fitted appears to have had several successful trial launches. If the Jin class is deployable, the bulk of the continental United States -- now only vulnerable to a small arsenal of China's longest-range land-based missiles -- would be within reach of the JL-2 SLBM.

Though dozens of funding priorities compete for the money, China's military spending has continued to rise. China has a small nuclear deterrent, so it must ensure that the deterrent it has is mobile and survivable; thus, while Beijing's pocketbook is not bottomless, the SSBN program should continue receiving the funding it needs.

Implications

Both the Russian Borei and the Chinese Jin are still at least a year from operational capability, and their sister boats -- still under construction -- will need to be completed in the next few years in order to build to a constantly patrolling rotation. But in five to 10 years, Russia and China both intend to have such a rotation in place.

While the significance of a new SSBN is greater for China, which has yet to field a functioning sea-based deterrent, the decay of Russia's SSBN fleet is such that the Borei marks a new beginning there.

India could be working toward a missile submarine as well, but that development is 10-20 years away. Countries like Pakistan could one day follow the Israeli example -- diesel submarines armed with cruise missiles. Diesel boats lack the endurance of their nuclear-powered brethren, but can run even quieter for short periods. The cruise missiles have a shorter range than SLBMs, but are technically easier to launch and require no major modifications to a standard hull, since they can be launched horizontally like torpedoes.

While none of these developments fundamentally alters the strategic balance of a unipolar world, advances in Russia and China's SSBN programs mark the first time in a decade that nations other than traditional U.S. allies are building sea-based deterrents.

The Increasing Importance of the Sea-based Deterrent

Early in the Cold War, ICBMs were almost prohibitively large and expensive. The submarine was a way to move shorter-range missiles closer to one's adversary. But as missile accuracy improved (the dramatically increasing potential yield of strategic warheads did not hurt, either), the prospect of a successful "first strike" began to alter the role of the SSBN. It became a valuable "first strike" platform because it could move close to an adversary's coast, giving the enemy less time to react to a missile launch.

But its greatest value as the most survivable leg of a nuclear triad is its capacity for a "second," or retaliatory, strike. Much harder to keep track of than platforms in fixed positions, an SSBN lurking at sea is the ultimate wild card. Land-mobile missile systems (as opposed to fixed, silo-based missiles) are another way of accomplishing this, but technological advances will make them increasingly vulnerable.

A joint U.S. program between the defense and intelligence communities is working to test space-based radar. Destined to succeed in one form or another, space-based radar will one day be able to track objects across the face of the Earth -- objects such as land-mobile launch vehicles -- and keep close enough tabs on them that their locations can be effectively targeted by strategic warheads.

In a unipolar world -- in which the United States will have the best intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and weapons of increasing speed and accuracy -- the nuclear weapon is the only true guarantor of national independence. Even a minimal deterrent allows nations to focus on and confront regional disputes, as well as protect their interests abroad. An SSBN fleet is, of course, not absolutely necessary -- whether mounted on a land-based missile or a submarine, a nuclear weapon is a substantial bargaining chip -- but it is becoming increasingly difficult to hide anything from the United States. The U.S. military has a technological edge beneath the waves as well, but even a modestly well-built submarine traveling below 5 knots is hard to track, and it certainly has a better chance than a fixed concrete silo. Consequently, the sea-based leg of a nation's nuclear triad is evolving from a prudent choice for survivability to the most essential element of a meaningful nuclear deterrent.

stratfor.com
29598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 25, 2007, 10:46:09 AM
1108 GMT -- IRAQ -- The body of Mohammad al-Issawi, a top al Qaeda leader in Iraq, has been identified by Multinational Forces (MNF) officials, the MNF said in an April 25 statement. Al-Issawi, who was known to have supplied weapons to insurgents and support an Iraqi car bombing network, was killed in a raid against insurgents April 20.

stratfor.com
29599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: April 25, 2007, 10:44:58 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Hamas' Political Struggle

The armed wing of Palestinian Hamas movement, Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for launching 40 rockets and 70 mortar shells on parts of Israel bordering the Gaza Strip. The move brings to an end the five-month truce with the Jewish state. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has reportedly opted for a "limited military response" to the rocket attacks, which occurred after a daylong IDF offensive this past weekend that killed nine Palestinians, including five militants. The rocket fire, according to IDF officials, was a diversionary tactic to provide cover for a militant infiltration to nab IDF soldiers to up the stakes in the pending prisoner swap between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The cease-fire between the Hamas-led government and Israel is not exactly foolproof. Hamas is notorious for using various militant front organizations to periodically carry out attacks and remind Israel of its militant campaign's strength. But since Hamas swept parliamentary elections more than a year ago, the Hamas leadership has had to balance between proving itself as a legitimate political entity worthy of foreign aid and interaction, and as the leading Palestinian militant organization whose skilled use of explosive devices makes it capable of pressuring Israel into making concessions.

After five months of Hamas silence, however, the group made a point to take direct responsibility for the rocket attack that marked Israel's 59th Independence Day. This shift in stance comes more than two months after Hamas and Fatah leaders signed an agreement in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to reshuffle the government in an attempt to halt endless street clashes between the rival groups and ease the economic blockade on the Palestinian territories. Though Hamas and Fatah made some progress in creating a national unity government, security issues persist, the economic embargo is still largely intact and the government itself has yet to function. It is no surprise that Hamas' organizational strength has slowly begun to wither away, with increasingly more of the party's members growing disillusioned with a political agenda that has left them paralyzed and doubting whether a political future is really what is good for the Hamas movement.

This difference of opinion is becoming increasingly visible in the top rung of the Hamas command, where the group's external leadership led by exiled politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and internal leadership led by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh are battling for dominance over the movement. While exiled in Damascus, Syria, Meshaal and his colleagues do not wish to see Haniyeh compromise on Hamas' principles by making the appropriate concessions that would give the movement a moderate make-over and end up further sidelining the group's exiled leaders. Meshaal exerts a great degree of control over Hamas' militant wing, and he uses that control to prevent Hamas from making any significant political headway, as illustrated with Tuesdays's rocket barrage and subsequent claim of responsibility by the group's armed wing. Haniyeh, on the other hand, understands the need for Hamas to empower itself politically and avoid a major confrontation with Israel that would signal the (physical and political) end of Hamas' Gaza leadership.

These internal divisions are only exacerbated by the impasse on the pending prisoner exchange between the Israeli and Palestinian governments and an intense rivalry between Hamas and Fatah over control of the security forces. Five weeks into his job, Palestinian Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi tried to resign. Al-Qawasmi was chosen as an independent candidate to help quell the controversy over having a Hamas-ruled government in control of a security apparatus dominated by Fatah loyalists. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attempted to appease his Fatah followers by appointing Muhammad Dahlan, a senior Fatah figure and former interior minister, as national security adviser to restructure the security forces and thus undermine al-Qawasmi's authority. Dahlan's experience in cracking down on Hamas militants in the 1990s has made him a mortal enemy in the eyes of Hamas leaders, providing yet another point of contention between the two factions.

As we anticipated, the lawlessness in the territories has provided jihadist elements with fertile ground to take root in the Palestinian theater. The growing jihadist presence in the area has come to light with recent attacks against Western targets, including the American International School in Gaza, Western-style boutiques, music and cosmetics stores, as well as the recent kidnapping and killing of British Broadcasting Corp. journalist Alan Johnston, whose death was claimed by a previously unknown jihadist-oriented group called the Brigades of Tawhid and Jihad. Though Israel benefits from keeping the Palestinians in disarray, the attrition of Hamas' organizational control and the worsening security conditions in the Gaza Strip are creating the conditions for Israel to face a future in which it will be battling the jihadist menace along its own border.

stratfor.com
29600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: April 25, 2007, 08:28:16 AM

By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: April 25, 2007
NY Times
ISTANBUL, April 24 — Turkey’s ruling party on Tuesday chose a presidential candidate with an Islamic background, a move that will extend the reach of the party — and the emerging class of devout Muslims it represents — into the heart of Turkey’s secular establishment for the first time.

The selection has focused the worries of secular Turks who fear that sexual equality, as well as drinking alcohol and wearing miniskirts, could eventually be in danger.
Abdullah Gul, 56, the foreign minister, whose wife wears a Muslim head scarf and who is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closest political ally, is expected to be confirmed as president by Parliament in several rounds of voting that begin Friday. That will boost Turkey’s new political class — modernizers from a religious background.

“These are the new forces, the new social powers,” said Ali Bulac, a columnist for a conservative newspaper, Zaman, in Istanbul. “They are very devout. They don’t drink. They don’t gamble. They don’t take holidays. They are loaded with a huge energy. This energy has been blocked by the state.”

Turkey is a Muslim country, but its state, founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is strictly secular, and the presidency is its most important office. The current president is Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a secularist with a judicial background whose term is expiring.

Mr. Gul, an affable English speaker who has long been his party’s public face abroad, nodded to secular concerns in a news conference in Ankara after his nomination, saying, “Our differences are our richness.” His candidacy was a concession: the choice most distasteful to the secular establishment was Mr. Erdogan himself, who deftly bowed out.

Still, if Mr. Gul is confirmed, his party would occupy the posts of president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker, a lineup that the opposition party leader, Deniz Baykal, called “unfavorable.” His party later announced that it would boycott the vote.

In the Middle East, where mixing religion with government has been seen as poisonous for modernity, Turkey’s very light blend stands out as unusual, even unique.

“This party has done more for the modernization of Turkey than all the secular parties in the previous years,” said Joost Lagendijk, a member of the European Parliament who heads a committee on Turkish issues. “They were willing to open up the system, to challenge the elite.”

The party that Mr. Gul helped found, known by its Turkish initials, AK, sprang from the Islamic political movements of the 1990s. But the AK became significantly more moderate after taking power on a national scale in 2002. Since then, it has applied pragmatic policies that helped create an economic boom and opened up the state in ways that the rigid secular elite, which relied heavily on state control, had never imagined, in part to qualify for membership in the European Union.

Although the party is publicly adamant about keeping religion separate from policy, bristling at shorthand descriptions of it as pro-Islamic, it draws much of its support from Turkey’s religiously conservative heartland. Once on the periphery, these traditional Turks are now emerging as a powerful middle class that has driven Turkey’s boom. The economy has nearly doubled in the four years that the AK has been in power, largely because it has stuck to an economic program prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Gul’s candidacy goes to the heart of the secular-religious debate, because the presidency is such a revered symbol with real powers — he is commander in chief and has a veto. Turkish military leaders in the past have remarked that they would refuse to visit the presidential palace if a woman in a head scarf were living in it.

“How can she now become the host of a palace that represents the very same principles?” said Necmi Yuzbasioglu, a professor of constitutional law at Istanbul University.

Mehmet A. Kislali, a columnist with the newspaper Radikal, who has contacts with the military, said: “The military should not be underestimated. Thousands of officers are watching the developments.”

But the party’s only real application of Islam has been its grass-roots approach. In practices that would be familiar to Shiite Muslims in Lebanon or to Palestinians in Gaza, women’s groups go door to door offering aid, community centers offer women’s literacy classes and sports centers give free physical therapy to handicapped children.

The question of religion aside, economic progress under the AK has been extraordinary, with a steady rise in entrepreneurship. In Istanbul, fuel-efficient taxis zip down tulip-lined streets. New parks have sprung up. The air is less polluted.

Mustafa Karaduman, a textile designer and fashion house owner, is among the new entrepreneurs. He is from Anatolia, a capital of middle-class production, and the homeland of Mr. Gul. His fashion house has turned into an empire, supplying Islamic clothing for women in Europe and the Middle East. He is 50, has seven children, and is an outspoken opponent of the miniskirt.

“My mission,” he says, “is to cover all women around the world.”

=========



In Turkey, a Sign of a Rising Islamic Middle Class

(Page 2 of 2)


The country’s wealth has drawn more observant Turks into public life. Some religious schools now teach English, unheard of a decade ago, improving the chances of students from religious backgrounds on university entrance exams.

At the Kartal Anadolu Imam Hatip High School in a conservative middle-class neighborhood, 16-year-old girls in head scarves and sweatshirts played basketball last week in brightly patterned Converse sneakers. (Skulls were a popular choice.) Last year, 94 students were admitted to universities, up from almost none a decade ago, said Hadir Kalkan, the school’s principal, pointing to students’ career choices in marketing, broadcasting, psychology and finance. Just 14 chose to continue religious training.

The city pool and gym in the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Okmeydani is a testament to the ascendancy of the pious middle class. Few observant women attended in 1996, when the pool opened, an attendant said. Now they fill treadmills and lap lanes.

“I always wanted to but there were no places to go,” said Dondu Koc, a 46-year-old in yellow sweat pants as she pedaled an exercise bike in a room full of women on Wednesday. Before Mr. Erdogan’s stewardship as mayor of the city, there was only one public pool. Now there are three, and five are under construction.

The complex is separated by sex, an arrangement Ms. Koc likes because it lets her and other covered women pedal, jog and swim without their head scarves. But the division irritates secular Turks.

“There shouldn’t be a split like this,” said Tamis Demirel, 47, a homemaker whose hair was still wet from her swim. “We sit next to each other; we should swim next to each other, too.”

The remark seemed to answer the question of Elif Demir, a 19-year-old office clerk at a youth rally for Mr. Erdogan on Sunday. “We have no problem with women wearing miniskirts,” she said, “but why are they so bothered with our head scarves?”

That frustration took the form of a public scolding at a meeting on the far edge of Istanbul on Friday night, where a man who supports Mr. Erdogan’s party complained about what he said was weak party support for religious schools.

“What about Koran courses?” he asked a party representative. “We are looking for generations that have morality.”

The apartment where the meeting took place bore the traces of upper-middle-class life: a running machine, a washing machine and a dryer. Brightly colored scarves covered the hair of the hostesses.

The representative, Kenan Danisman, paused as the evening prayer began. He then offered some pragmatic advice. “If you transfer this prayer into practical support, in three to five years, the problems that hurt peoples’ consciences will be resolved.”

It is precisely the open question of religion’s role in society that makes secular Turks so uncomfortable. Mr. Erdogan may be explicit in his opposition to Islam’s entering policy, but what about the rank and file who are filling jobs in public administration — what is their view of sexual equality? Secular Turks worry that their conservative worldview will lead to a reinterpretation of the rules and lower tolerance for a secular lifestyle.

“People like me are not calculating the economy or what sort of policies they are making,” said Basak Caglayan, 35, a financial consultant who will be married next month. “The life we expect, we want, for our children, is changing. I worry about that.”
Pages: 1 ... 590 591 [592] 593 594 ... 659
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!