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29551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: June 08, 2007, 11:41:59 AM
The Road to Reformation
By Fareed Zakaria

For those in the west asking when Islam will have its Reformation, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the process appears to have begun. The bad news is it's been marked by calumny, hatred and bloody violence. In this way it mirrors the Reformation itself, which we now remember in a highly sanitized way. During that era, Christians of differing sects massacred each other as they fought to own the true interpretation of their religion. No analogy is exact, but something similar seems to be happening within Islam. Here the divide is between the Sunnis, who make up 85 percent of the Muslim world, and the Shiites, who represent most of the other 15 percent.

The dominant new reality in the Middle East today is the growing schism between these two groups. Look at the daily sectarian killings in Iraq, listen to the dark warnings of Saudi and Jordanian leaders about a "Shia crescent," watch the power struggles in Lebanon. Islam's quiet cleavage has come out into the open. At a recent demonstration in the Palestinian territories, opponents of Hamas taunted the Sunni Islamists as "Shiites" because of their links to Iranian-backed Hizbullah.

We in the United States have spent much time asking what all this means for Iraq, for U.S. troops in the midst of this free-for-all and for America more generally. But think, for a moment, about what the trend means for Al Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, both Sunnis, created Al Qaeda to be a Pan-Islamic organization, uniting all Muslims as it battled the West, Israel and Western-allied regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Neither Zawahiri nor bin Laden was animated by hatred of Shiites. In its original fatwas and other statements, Al Qaeda makes no mention of them, condemning only the "Crusaders" and "Jews." But all ideologies change as they encounter reality. When bin Laden moved to Peshawar in the 1980s to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, he allied with radical Sunnis who had a long history of oppressing Afghanistan's Shiite minority, the Hazaras. (The novel "The Kite Runner" is about a young Hazara boy.) Even then, bin Laden didn't sanction anti-Shiite violence, nor did he add anti-Shiite accusations to his messages. But after the Sunni Taliban took power, Arab fighters under his command did support his hosts' anti-Shiite pogroms.

Iraq was the real turning point. The self-appointed leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, had a poisonous attitude toward Shiites. In a letter to bin Laden, written in February 2004, he described Iraq's Shiite majority as "the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy ... The danger from the Shia ... is greater ... than the Americans ... I come back and again say that the only solution is for us to strike the religious, military, and other cadres among the Shia with blow after blow until they bend to the Sunnis." Zarqawi was drawing on Wahhabi Islam-and its offshoot Deobandism in South Asia-in which there is a deep and oppressive strain of anti-Shiite ideology.

Bin Laden and Zawahiri were clearly uncomfortable with this new line, and the latter reproached Zarqawi directly. Bin Laden remained largely silent on the matter, but by the end of 2004, both had decided that Al Qaeda in Iraq was too strong to rebuke. And, rousing anti-Shiite feelings seemed the only way to mobilize Iraq's Sunni minority. It also, crucially, made them see Al Qaeda as an ally. The trouble for Al Qaeda is that as a practical matter, loathing Shiites works in only a few places: principally Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some parts of the gulf. Most of the rest of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are turned off by attacks on their co-religionists.

So, an organization that had hoped to rally the entire Muslim world to jihad against the West has been dragged instead into a dirty internal war within Islam. Bin Laden began his struggle hoping to topple the Saudi regime. He is now aligned with the Saudi monarchy as it organizes against Shiite domination. This necessarily limits Al Qaeda's broader appeal and complicates its basic anti-Western strategy.

These emerging divisions weaken Al Qaeda, but they will help most Muslims only if this story ends as the Reformation did. What is currently a war of sects must become a war of ideas. First, Islam must make space for differing views about what makes a good Muslim. Then it will be able to take the next step and accept the diversity among religions, each true in its own way.

The United States should avoid taking sides in this sectarian struggle and aim instead to move the debate to this broader plain. We should encourage the diversity within Islam, which has the potential to divide our enemies. But more important, we should encourage the emerging debate within it. In the end it was not murder but Martin Luther that made the Reformation matter.
29552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: June 08, 2007, 10:42:00 AM
Good research skills to find such an on-point piece GM.

Not to interrupt the flow between you and Brian, but a moment's tangent on Lyndon LaRouche:

A child of the political turmoil of the late 60s, I remember LaRouche, described in the article in your post as "a right wing extremist", as being part of the Trostky-ite Progressive Labor Party.  (I'm much less certain of my memory when I say I also remember him/his organization being in serious criminal legal trouble for fund-raising that basically came down to stealing from widows and orphans e.g. getting credit card information from old people, then running up their cards with donations to LaR and his movement).

From time to time one sees a table of his people hawking his writings and EIR-- which is a weird publication indeed.  To call it "Right Wing" slanders those of us who believe in free minds and free markets-- "fascism off its medications"  I think would be closer.

I've never, ever run across anyone who supports LaR.  The people manning these tables are some real drones.  Very disciplined, very relentless, and very angry-- especially when they run into someone well enough informed to call them on lies stated as facts.    This is something I do with good manners and good cheer, yet more than once I have felt an effort on their part to intimidate me.

Who are these people?  How do they make their money?  Where does LaR get his money?
29553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: June 08, 2007, 09:33:17 AM

Geopolitical Diary: Understanding Putin's Missile-Defense Offer

Russia and the United States have had some tense exchanges this week regarding a U.S. plan to create a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system based in Central Europe -- with Russian President Vladimir Putin at one point even threatening to point missiles at Europe if such a system were built. But on Thursday, Putin offered U.S. President George W. Bush what, on the surface, would appear to be a mutually beneficial alternative: Moscow and Washington could cooperate on the project, but base it in Azerbaijan instead.

The U.S. plan -- to construct BMD facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic in order to defend against a potential Iranian missile strike -- has run into many complications. Within NATO there are concerns that the system will not protect all of Europe, and that it unnecessarily provokes the Russians. Moscow, meanwhile, certainly does not want any system in Europe that at all impedes delivery of its own nuclear deterrent, even obliquely.

At first glance, a system based in Azerbaijan would appear to remove all of these problems. Its location on Iran's northern border would enable earlier warning of launches, and would provide a bigger arc of protection that could shield all of Europe and most of Russia. And, since Azerbaijan is not located between Russia and the West, such a system would not threaten the Russian deterrent.

Sounds like a great deal, right?

That's what we thought until we took a closer look at U.S. BMD technology.

The U.S. missile-defense system uses specially equipped ground-based radar stations to identify a missile launch, track it and coordinate an intercept. Getting an interceptor to the target takes time, so the sooner a BMD radar can pick up the missile and start tracking it, the more time the system as a whole has to spin up and engage it. In practice, this means that any Polish/Czech system would really be intended to guard the mainland United States and maybe the United Kingdom, but certainly not mainland Europe.

It's true that pushing the system closer to the Middle East would give interceptor sites in Europe more time to react -- but Azerbaijan is actually too close to Iran to be a base for interceptors. It is much easier to predict where a missile will go once it establishes its ballistic path -- that is, after its final booster cuts out. If Iran could launch from its northwest, the missile would already be ahead of the Azerbaijan site before Azerbaijan-based interceptors could engage it or even plot its course. Even for the most advanced interceptors, it would be a tail-chase from the start, which would require essentially near-instantaneous response time to the initial launch for any chance of success at all.

Think of a BMD system like a baseball field. In essence, the Polish/Czech facility would serve as an outfielder trying to "catch" a missile after watching to see where it is going. The Russians want the outfielder to stand in Azerbaijan, which would be essentially right next to home plate. Catching anything at such short range is difficult -- and, while the United States does have systems in development to operate at such distances, even when they are deployed they would only work as one component of a larger system. That means a functional BMD system would have to be based in Central Europe, where it could engage any missiles in mid-flight, not in Azerbaijan where it would have to target the missile's boost phase. It also means that Tehran can rest easy -- there is no U.S. military facility coming to Iran's northern border.

Thus, Putin's offer is really about shifting the European BMD system's coverage toward central Asia and into irrelevance. It is a political offer that -- though it will play well in international media as a show of friendliness -- has little real value. An Azerbaijani-hosted BMD radar would certainly have its uses, but only as a complement to a larger BMD system in Europe. It cannot function alone.

Besides all this, Putin's offer will come with strings attached that will make this deal a non-starter for the United States:

Moscow's specific offer is for the United States to use Russia's own radar base at Qabala, Azerbaijan. The problem here is that Russia knows a thing or two about espionage. Closely guarded American technological developments will be at risk, as will communication signals with any larger BMD system.

These communications and the site itself will remain exceptionally vulnerable to Russian interference -- anything from toying with locally obtained supplies to physically destroying key facilities. And a BMD system is just the sort of thing that must be at its best at the height of a crisis.

While Iran's military capabilities are a pale shadow compared to those of a first-world power, even Tehran could probably jam signals in and out of southern Azerbaijan -- making the whole exercise useless.

Washington certainly realizes all this. So why would Putin make the offer if he knows it will be practically useless to the United States?

The real goal is to turn Washington's BMD plan into a wedge issue for NATO. Many European states are concerned about BMD for myriad reasons, but the one commonality is a fear that the plan will unnecessarily provoke Moscow into being more aggressive with Europe. By being "reasonable" and "offering" to "cooperate" with BMD, Moscow can snarl Washington's European policy in a way that has not been done since the Cold War.

We do not make that comparison lightly. In the Cold War days, the Soviets regularly made offers that seemed quite reasonable at first glance, but would have gutted Western defense capabilities in practice. For example, while working fervently to develop nuclear weapons, Josef Stalin proposed putting all nuclear weapons -- which at the time meant Washington's -- under U.N. control. It sounded nice in a speech, but in reality would have opened up Europe to the Soviet Union's overwhelmingly superior conventional military capabilities.

Such Soviet positioning was regularly effective at hurling intra-Western relations into the thresher -- and that was back when there were only a dozen NATO members.

Now there are 26.
29554  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Cierre RCTV on: June 08, 2007, 07:39:20 AM
Gracias por mantenernos informados sobre los acontecimientos en Venezuela!
29555  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New to the Dog Brothers Forum on: June 08, 2007, 07:32:46 AM
Capoeira is amazing.  Maestre Boneco taught at the Inosanto Academy for a time.  When he was in the room, all women's eyes and thoughts were on him  angry cheesy
29556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Biologists make skin cells work like stem cells on: June 07, 2007, 08:28:55 AM

Published: June 7, 2007
In a surprising advance that could sidestep the ethical debates surrounding stem cell biology, researchers have come much closer to a major goal of regenerative medicine, the conversion of a patient’s cells into specialized tissues that might replace those lost to disease.

Skip to next paragraph
From Skin Cells to Stem Cells
A Long, Uncertain Path for New Cell Technique (June 7, 2007)
Times Topics: Stem CellsThe advance is an easy-to-use technique for reprogramming a skin cell of a mouse back to the embryonic state. Embryonic cells can be induced in the laboratory to develop into many of the body’s major tissues.

If the technique can be adapted to human cells, researchers could use a patient’s skin cells to generate new heart, liver or kidney cells that might be transplantable and would not be rejected by the patient’s immune system. But scientists say they cannot predict when they can overcome the considerable problems in adapting the method to human cells.

Previously, the only way to convert adult cells to embryonic form has been by nuclear transfer, the insertion of an adult cell’s nucleus into an egg whose own nucleus has been removed. The egg somehow reprograms the nucleus back to an embryonic state. That procedure is known as therapeutic cloning when applied to people, but no one has yet succeeded in doing it.

The new technique, developed by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, depends on inserting just four genes into a skin cell. These accomplish the same reprogramming task as the egg does, or at least one that seems very similar.

The technique, if adaptable to human cells, is much easier to apply than nuclear transfer, would not involve the expensive and controversial use of human eggs, and should avoid all or almost all of the ethical criticism directed at the use of embryonic stem cells.

“From the point of view of moving biomedicine and regenerative medicine faster, this is about as big a deal as you could imagine,” said Irving Weissman, a leading stem cell biologist at Stanford University, who was not involved in the new research.

David Scadden, a stem cell biologist at the Harvard Medical School, said the finding that cells could be reprogrammed with simple biochemical techniques “is truly extraordinary and frankly something most assumed would take a decade to work out.”

The technique seems likely to be welcomed by many who have opposed human embryonic stem cell research. It “raises no serious moral problem, because it creates embryoniclike stem cells without creating, harming or destroying human lives at any stage,” said Richard Doerflinger, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spokesman on stem cell issues. In themselves, embryonic stem cells “have no moral status,” and the bishops’ objections to embryonic stem cell research rest solely on the fact that human embryos must be harmed or destroyed to obtain them, Mr. Doerflinger said.

Ronald Green, an ethicist at Dartmouth College, said it would be “very hard for people to say that what is created here is a nascent form of human life that should be protected.” The new technique, if adaptable to human cells, “will be one way this debate could end,” Mr. Green said.

Biologists learned how to generate human embryonic stem cells in 1998 from the few-day-old embryos discarded by fertility clinics, a procedure the embryos did not survive. This source proved controversial, and biologists supported by federal financing were unable to explore the new opportunity until August 2001 when President Bush, in a political compromise, decreed that research on human embryonic stem cells could begin, but only with cell lines already in existence by that date.

The restrictions have caused considerable frustration among biologists and other supporters of research on embryonic stem cells. Indeed, the House is expected to vote today to increase federal funds for such research. If approved, the bill, similar to one approved by the Senate, would go to the president. The White House has already said that the president will veto it.

The new technique, when adaptable to human cells, should sidestep all these problems. James Battey, vice chairman of the National Institutes of Health stem cell task force, said he saw “no impediment at all” to federal support of researchers using the new technique on human cells.

Ever since the creation of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal, scientists have sought to lay hands on the mysterious chemicals with which an egg will reprogram a mature cell nucleus injected into it and set the cell on the same path of embryonic development as when egg and sperm combine.

Years of patient research have identified many of the genes that are active in the embryonic cell and maintain its pluripotency, or ability to morph into many different tissues. Last year, Dr. Yamanaka and his colleague Kazutoshi Takahashi, both at Kyoto University, published a remarkable report relating how they had guessed at 24 genes responsible for maintaining pluripotency in mouse embryonic stem cells.


When they inserted all 24 genes into mouse skin cells, some of the cells showed signs of pluripotency. The Kyoto team then subtracted genes one by one until they had a set of four genes that were essential. The genes are inserted into viruses that infect the cell and become active as the virus replicates. The skin cell’s own copies of these genes are repressed since they would interfere with its function. “We were very surprised” that just four genes are sufficient to reprogram the skin cells, Dr. Yamanaka said.

 Stem CellsDr. Yamanaka’s report riveted the attention of biologists elsewhere. Two teams set out to repeat and extend his findings, one led by Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute and the other by Kathrin Plath of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Konrad Hochedlinger of Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Yamanaka, too, set about refining his work.

In articles published today in Nature and a new journal, Cell-Stem Cell, the three teams show that injection of the four genes identified by Dr. Yamanaka can make mouse cells revert to cells indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. Dr. Yamanaka’s report of last year showed that only some properties of embryonic stem cells were attained.

This clear confirmation of Dr. Yamanaka’s recipe is exciting to researchers because it throws open to study the key process of multicellular organisms, that of committing cells to a variety of different roles, even though all carry the same genetic information.

Recent studies have shown that the chromatin, the complex protein material that clads the DNA in chromosomes, is not passive packaging material but highly dynamic. It contains systems of switches that close down large suites of genes but allow others to be active, depending on the role each cell is assigned to perform.

Dr. Yamanaka’s four genes evidently reset the switch settings appropriate for a skin cell to ones that specify an embryonic stem cell. The technique is easy to use and “should revolutionize the field since every small lab can work on reprogramming,” said Alexander Meissner, a co-author of Dr. Jaenisch’s report.

An immediate issue is whether the technique can be reinvented for human cells. One problem is that the mice have to be interbred, which cannot be done with people. Another is that the cells must be infected with the gene-carrying virus, which is not ideal for cells to be used in therapy. A third issue is that two of the genes in the recipe can cause cancer. Indeed 20 percent of Dr. Yamanaka’s mice died of the disease. Nonetheless, several biologists expressed confidence that all these difficulties would be sidestepped somehow.

“The technical problems seem approachable — I don’t see anyone running into a brick wall,” said Owen Witte, a stem cell biologist at U.C.L.A. Dr. Jaenisch, in a Webcast about the research, predicted that the problems of adapting the technique to human cells would be solvable but he did not know when.

If a human version of Dr. Yamanaka’s recipe is developed, one important research use, Dr. Weissman said, will be to reprogram diseased cells from patients so as to study the molecular basis of how their disease develops.

Beyond that is the hope of generating cells for therapy. Researchers have learned how to make embryonic cells in the laboratory develop into neurons, heart muscle cells and other tissues. In principle, these might be injected into a patient to replace or supplement the cells of the diseased tissue, without fear of immune rejection.

No one really knows if the new cells would succumb to the same disease process, or if they would be well behaved, given that they developed in a laboratory dish without recapitulating the exact succession of environments they would have experienced in the embryo.

Still, repairing the body with its own cells should in principle be a superior to the surgeon’s knife and the oncologists’ poisons. Cloning Bill Defeated in House

WASHINGTON, June 6 (AP) — House Republicans united Wednesday to reject a bill supported by Democrats that would make it illegal to use cloning technology to initiate a pregnancy and create a cloned human being. The parties accused each other of using the legislation to score political points before the House votes Thursday on a stem cell bill that President Bush says he will veto.

29557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: June 07, 2007, 08:14:40 AM
Defeat’s Killing Fields

Published: June 7, 2007
SOME opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.

Skip to next paragraph
Alain Pilon
We beg to differ. Many years ago, the two of us clashed sharply over the wisdom and morality of American policy in Indochina, especially in Cambodia. One of us (Mr. Shawcross) published a book, “Sideshow,” that bitterly criticized Nixon administration policy. The other (Mr. Rodman), a longtime associate of Henry Kissinger, issued a rebuttal in The American Spectator, defending American policy. Decades later, we have not changed our views. But we agreed even then that the outcome in Indochina was indeed disastrous, both in human and geopolitical terms, for the United States and the region. Today we agree equally strongly that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be even more serious and lasting.

The 1975 Communist victory in Indochina led to horrors that engulfed the region. The victorious Khmer Rouge killed one to two million of their fellow Cambodians in a genocidal, ideological rampage. In Vietnam and Laos, cruel gulags and “re-education” camps enforced repression. Millions of people fled, mostly by boat, with thousands dying in the attempt.

The defeat had a lasting and significant strategic impact. Leonid Brezhnev trumpeted that the global “correlation of forces” had shifted in favor of “socialism,” and the Soviets went on a geopolitical offensive in the third world for a decade. Their invasion of Afghanistan was one result. Demoralized European leaders publicly lamented Soviet aggressiveness and American paralysis.

True, the consequences of defeat were mitigated by various factors. The Nixon-Kissinger breakthrough with China contributed to China’s role as a counterweight to Moscow’s and Hanoi’s new power in Southeast Asia. (Although China, a Khmer Rouge ally, was less scrupulous than the United States about who its partners were.)

And despite the defeat in 1975, America’s 10 years in Indochina had positive effects. Lee Kuan Yew, then prime minister of Singapore, has well articulated how the consequences would have been worse if the United States had not made the effort in Indochina. “Had there been no U.S. intervention,” he argues, the will of non-communist countries to resist communist revolution in the 1960s “would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely have gone communist.” The domino theory would have proved correct.

Today, in Iraq, there should be no illusion that defeat would come at an acceptable price. George Orwell wrote that the quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. But anyone who thinks an American defeat in Iraq will bring a merciful end to this conflict is deluded. Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.

As in Indochina more than 30 years ago, millions of Iraqis today see the United States helping them defeat their murderous opponents as the only hope for their country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have committed themselves to working with us and with their democratically elected government to enable their country to rejoin the world as a peaceful, moderate state that is a partner to its neighbors instead of a threat. If we accept defeat, these Iraqis will be at terrible risk. Thousands upon thousands of them will flee, as so many Vietnamese did after 1975.

The new strategy of the coalition and the Iraqis, ably directed by Gen. David Petraeus, offers the best prospect of reversing the direction of events — provided that we show staying power. Osama bin Laden said, a few months after 9/11, that “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” The United States, in his mind, is the weak horse. American defeat in Iraq would embolden the extremists in the Muslim world, demoralize and perhaps destabilize many moderate friendly governments, and accelerate the radicalization of every conflict in the Middle East.

Our conduct in Iraq is a crucial test of our credibility, especially with regard to the looming threat from revolutionary Iran. Our Arab and Israeli friends view Iraq in that wider context. They worry about our domestic debate, which had such a devastating impact on the outcome of the Vietnam War, and they want reassurance.

When government officials argued that American credibility was at stake in Indochina, critics ridiculed the notion. But when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, he and his colleagues invoked Vietnam as a reason not to take American warnings seriously. The United States cannot be strong against Iran — or anywhere — if we accept defeat in Iraq.

Peter W. Rodman, an assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2001 to March, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. William Shawcross is the author of “Allies: Why the West Had to Remove Saddam.”
29558  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 07, 2007, 06:59:51 AM
I stand corrected on "tatami"  embarassed cheesy

Good point on the shoes.  Yes.  Attention Fighters!  Please wear wrestling or other mat type shoes!
29559  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New to the Dog Brothers Forum on: June 07, 2007, 12:10:45 AM
Welcome aboard Eric!
29560  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 06, 2007, 11:12:02 AM
Salty Dog is confirmed  afro

Concerning the fight surface:  Subject to confirmation, it looks like our fight surface will be judo tatami mats.
29561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: June 06, 2007, 11:10:02 AM
There's a major front page piece in today's LA Times by a woman reporter on her experiences in Saudi Arabia.  I'm on my way out the door for a very full day of teaching.  Would someone be so kind as to cut and paste it here?

29562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: June 06, 2007, 08:53:18 AM
Be Careful What You Sue For
June 6, 2007; Page A19

Pursuing a libel or slander suit has long been a dangerous enterprise. Oscar Wilde sued the father of his young lover Alfred Douglas for having referred to him as a "posing Somdomite" and wound up not only dropping his case but being tried, convicted and jailed for violating England's repressive laws banning homosexual conduct. Alger Hiss sued Wittaker Chambers for slander for accusing Hiss of being a member of the Communist Party with Chambers, and of illegally passing secret government documents to him for transmission to the Soviet Union. In the end, Hiss was jailed for perjury for having denied Chambers' claims before a grand jury.

More recently, British historian David Irving sued American scholar Deborah Lipstadt in England for having characterized him as a Holocaust denier and was ultimately so discredited in court that an English judge not only determined that he was indeed a Holocaust denier but an "antisemite" and "racist" as well.

On May 29 of this year, the potential vulnerability of a plaintiff that misuses the courts to sue for libel once again surfaced when the Islamic Society of Boston abandoned a libel action it had commenced against a number of Boston residents, a Boston newspaper and television station, and Steven Emerson, a recognized expert on terrorism and, in particular, extremist Islamic groups. In all, 17 defendants were named.

Those accused had publicly raised questions about a real estate transaction entered into between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Islamic Society, which transferred to the latter a plot of land in Boston, at a price well below market value, for the construction of a mosque and other facilities. The critics urged the Boston authorities to reconsider their decision to provide the land on such favorable terms (which included promised contributions to the community by the Islamic Society, such as holding lectures and offering other teaching about Islam) to an organization whose present or former leaders had close connections with or who had otherwise supported terrorist organizations.

On the face of it, the Islamic Society was a surprising entry into the legal arena. Its founder, Abdurahman Alamoudi, had been indicted in 2003 for his role in a terrorism financing scheme, pled guilty and had been sentenced to a 23-year prison term. Another individual, Yusef Al-Qaradawi, who had been repeatedly identified by the Islamic Society as a member of its board of Trustees, had been described by a U.S. Treasury Department official as a senior Muslim Brotherhood member and had endorsed the killing of Americans in Iraq and Jews everywhere. One director of the Islamic Society, Walid Fitaihi, had written that the Jews would be "scourged" because of their "oppression, murder and rape of the worshipers of Allah," and that they had "perpetrated the worst of evils and brought the worst corruption to the earth."

The Islamic Society nonetheless sued, claiming both libel and civil-rights violations. Motions to dismiss the case were denied, and the litigants began to compel third parties to turn over documents bearing on the case. In short order, one after another of the allegations made by the Islamic Society collapsed.

Their complaint asserted that the defendants had falsely stated that monies had been sent to the Islamic Society from "Saudi/Middle Eastern sources," and that such statements and others had devastated its fund-raising efforts. But documents obtained in discovery demonstrated without ambiguity that fund-raising was (as one representative of the Islamic Society had put it) "robust," with at least $7.2 million having been wired to the Islamic Society from Middle Eastern sources, mostly from Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic Society claimed it had been libeled by a variety of expressions of concern by the defendants that it, the Society, had provided support for extremist organizations. But bank records obtained by the defendants showed that the Islamic Society had served as funder both of the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas-controlled organization that the U.S. Treasury Department had said "exists to raise money in the United States to promote terror," and of the Benevolence International Foundation, which was identified by the 9/11 Commission as an al Qaeda fund-raising arm.

The complaint maintained that any reference to recent connections between the Islamic Society and the now-imprisoned Abdurahman Alamoudi was false since it "had had no connection with him for years." But an Islamic Society check written in November 2000, two months after Alamoudi publicly proclaimed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, was uncovered in discovery which directed money to pay for Alamoudi's travel expenses.

To top it all off, documents obtained from the Boston Redevelopment Authority itself revealed serious, almost incomprehensible, conflicts of interest in the real-estate deal. It turned out that the city agency employee in charge of negotiating the deal with the Islamic Society was at the same time a member of that group and secretly advising it about how to obtain the land at the cheapest possible price.

So the case was dropped. No money was paid by the defendants, no apologies offered, and no limits on their future speech imposed. But it is not at all as if nothing happened. The case offers two enduring lessons. The first is that those who think about suing for libel should think again before doing so. And then again once more. While all the ultimate consequences to the Islamic Society for bringing the lawsuit remain uncertain, any adverse consequences could have been avoided by not suing in the first place.

The second lesson is that in one way (and perhaps no other) we should learn from the English system and award counsel fees to the winning side in cases like this, which are brought to inhibit speech on matters of serious public import. Because all the defendants in this case were steadfast and refused to settle, they were eventually vindicated. But the real way to avoid meritless cases such as this is to have a body of law that makes clear that plaintiffs who bring them will be held financially responsible for doing so.

Mr. Abrams, a partner in the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, represented Steven Emerson in the case discussed in this op-ed.
29563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: June 06, 2007, 08:47:49 AM
Well, lets forget about my effort at a particular example  embarassed and stay with the big picture.

Here's this from today's WSJ-- I don't agree with all its points, but think it makes one worth considering well with regard to guest workers:


The 'Guest Worker' Folly
June 6, 2007; Page A19

After years of inconclusive posturing and negotiation, Congress is finally getting serious about a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration policy. The Senate proposal under consideration, to its credit, deals with all three crucial elements of the immigration policy challenge: what to do about the illegal immigrants already here (whom no one honestly believes we would ever deport); how we might secure the border and stem future illegal entry; and whom we should admit in the future.

The bill is a decidedly mixed bag, however, with elements that are good, very good and downright ugly. Unfortunately, the ugly element may fatally outweigh the rest.

First, the good: The proposed legislation's convoluted path to legal status for the country's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants is probably the best compromise to be achieved between the adamant proponents and opponents of "amnesty." It is essential that all immigrants who are permitted to stay actually become members of American society. The legalization provisions, however imperfect, are better than the status quo. More good: On border security, the proposed bill would focus primarily on an electronically supported implementation of employer sanctions. This makes real sense, because employer sanctions have always been a far more effective means of stopping illegal immigration in its tracks than border guards or fences. Those who claim that employer sanctions haven't worked are unaware that they have never been seriously tried. If we mean it this time, employer sanctions will work.

Turkish guest workers in Germany.
Second, the very good: The most commendable aspect of the bill is its retreat from family sponsorship -- indeed any form of sponsorship -- as the only basis for admitting immigrants, in favor of a merit-based point system. The point system is predicated on self-sponsorship, with bonus points for criteria well within the ability of most potential immigrants to meet: English language proficiency, modest levels of education and a set of specific skills. Of all aspects of the current proposal, this is the most far-reaching and creative, because the current family and employer sponsorship system is seriously flawed, at war with our immigration heritage and a major contributor to illegal entry.

Because it sets aside "family reunification," this provision is being vehemently attacked by supposed immigration "liberals" as being cruel and unfair. They have it backward; it is the current system that is cruel and unfair, and it was designed to be that way. It was instituted in the 1920s for only one deplorable purpose -- to keep out the growing number of immigrants from "undesirable" countries, then meaning those from southern and eastern Europe. The family sponsorship criteria that immigration advocates so cherish were designed not out of concern for family values at all, but to skew the immigrant mix toward nationalities already here.

As it happens, by the time the U.S. expanded its quotas after 1965, Europeans were less interested in coming, and Mexicans and other Latin Americans had secured enough of a demographic foothold to give the family sponsorship feature a decided Latino tilt. But family sponsorship is also profoundly unfair, and a major spur to illegal entry, because most potential immigrants -- even from Mexico -- do not have close American relatives.

In any case, the immigration reform bill's deleterious impact on families would be minimal, because it sets aside enough slots to finally clear the entire backlog of current family-sponsored applicants, and would allow point-based admittees to bring their close relatives with them.

Now the ugly: The most ill-conceived element of the Senate bill is its provision for admitting hundreds of thousands of temporary, or "guest," workers. As many critics have already noted, since it is unlikely that all, or even a majority, of temporary workers would actually return to their native countries when their visas expired, the guest-worker mechanism means that we can readily anticipate the next wave of illegal residents -- and is unlikely that we will ever again entertain any kind of post hoc residency legitimation.

But even if all temporary workers went back home after their allotted stay ended, the notion of inviting millions of new immigrants to live in American communities with no possibility of their ever becoming Americans is an affront to our civic and immigration heritage. (The current legislation is quite clear that neither extended stays nor citizenship will be options for temporary workers.) Can our civil society -- so grounded in the notions of assimilation and civic participation by all Americans -- tolerate an army of permanent aliens in our midst? I believe not.

Western Europe's experiment with foreign labor recruitment in the 1960s and 1970s, under various guest-worker rubrics, should give us pause. While the individual nations' policies varied widely, they all shared with the Senate proposal two expectations: that imported laborers would not stay very long, and that they would not assimilate into the national social fabric.

True enough, the guest workers in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia did not assimilate; but the majority have stayed, legally and illegally, residing in alienated economic and cultural enclaves, resentful of and resented by their unwelcoming host citizenry. If we are determined to replicate Western Europe's four decade old guest-worker experiment, we may soon reap the same civil discord it is experiencing today.

The temporary-worker provision has been included in the reform package supposedly at the behest of employers, especially those needing unskilled workers in agriculture and services. But if employers across America really need a larger labor force, this result could easily be achieved under the new point-based quota system. The quota could be enlarged by precisely the number of visas that the bill allots to temporary workers, and under the bill's Labor Department certification provisions, its criteria could be broadened to encompass the kinds of low-skill occupations that temporary workers would presumably fill. But the bedrock principle that must be sustained is that all who come to America must have the potential to become Americans.

As with all compromise legislation, no interest group, policy wonk (like myself), or partisan position gets everything it wants. There is now such a hunger for immigration reform across the policy spectrum that, regardless of our specific misgivings, we are all being asked to take the ugly along with the good and very good. But at this point I feel so strongly that the "guest worker" provision would be catastrophic that I would rather wait for a better bill without it.

Mr. Salins, a professor of political science at Stony Brook University, is the author of "Assimilation, American Style" (Basic Books, 1997).

29564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 06, 2007, 08:40:45 AM
Second post of the morning:

My Sweet Press Lord
We'll take the Washington Post, please.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Here's my dream, and it's a not good one. The day comes when a controversialist like Rupert Murdoch bids to buy The Wall Street Journal--and no one cares. That's one of the considerations swirling in a mess that, from any party's perspectives except Mr. Murdoch's, makes the decision faced by the Bancroft family (which controls Dow Jones, our parent company) so vexing. The future of the paper is at risk if we do the deal; it's also at risk if we don't.

Our owners, in the way of other businesses, have not made themselves richer by growing their capital in the Journal. Nonetheless, in their stewardship of the paper, they've let us do what we do without interference, which is something we all cherish. Even those of us who don't find Mr. Murdoch an ogre naturally would treat as dubious any change of circumstance that might portend a change in this, our own very satisfying situation.

Mr. Murdoch's dealings in China have been a concern. This column, tongue in cheek, once assailed him for his "offenses against freedom and democracy," such as dropping the BBC from his Star TV lineup to appease Beijing. But we also let the reader in on a secret: "Mr. Murdoch's judgment about when to trim may not be perfect, but most sensible people want Star TV in China."

In any case, his trimmings in China have been far less egregious than those of Yahoo. With any owner, you take a chance--and the risks include not just errors of commission (inappropriate interference) but errors of omission (letting the business run itself when it really needs a strong hand to alter course and correct its follies).

Much is heard about editorial independence, some of it fusty, some of it exactly to the point. What makes the New York Post such a delight is partly the entertaining suspicion (most of the time probably unwarranted) that hidden agendas and childish rivalries are behind the decision to bash this muckety-muck and spare that. Not for nothing is the Post the favorite read of New York's catty media, social and business elite, and nobody mistakes it for a paper of record. Mr. Murdoch clearly knows what he's doing, fitting a newspaper to its market opportunity. One has a reasonable suspicion that he also understands the very different market position and opportunity of the Journal. (Indeed, we'd like to think he'd end up more hostage to the Journal--its visibility, credibility and power to embarrass--than the paper would ever be to his business and personal interests.)

The flipside is that great newspapers aren't great because nobody is running them. In his wonderful memoir, the journalist and eminent business adviser Peter Drucker wrote: "Every first-rate editor I have ever heard of reads, edits and rewrites every word that goes into his publication. . . . Good editors are not 'permissive'; they do not let their colleagues do 'their thing'; they make sure that everybody does the 'paper's thing.' A good, let alone a great editor is an obsessive autocrat with a whim of iron, who rewrites and rewrites, cuts and slashes, until every piece is exactly the way he thinks it should have been done."

His qualities as a newshound and shrewd businessman mean, in all likelihood, that Mr. Murdoch would prove a responsible proprietor for the Journal, despite hyperventilation at the prospect by some readers and employees. He's certainly equipped by experience to make the necessary judgments to protect the paper's stature while expanding its reach (and has the resources to do so). Though strictly from the perspective of someone who works here, I'd still prefer to be owned by a company exclusively in the news business, one that lives and dies by the reputation of its newsgathering.

Here I confess to a personal bias, related to nothing more than reading the Washington Post over the years, which is that it's an exceptionally brainy newspaper.
Intelligence as a quality is hit or miss in most newspaper writing and editing. At the Post, they seem to have institutionalized it. You rarely find the collapses of critical judgment that seem to be routine at other papers when, say, a trial lawyer appears claiming evidence of racism in the auto dealership industry or at an oil company.

Absent too are the excesses of billboard journalism--the habit of editors casually intruding a noisy paragraph that oversells and distorts the story below, leaving an unsatisfying jumble of facts that don't live up to the assertions at the top.

We don't love everything in the Post or all its reporters, and it has certainly benefited from conservative competition from the Washington Times. It also lacks the leverageable assets that Mr. Murdoch would presumably use to build the Journal's brand and distribution opportunities. But the Post's editorial page has become remarkably more sensible in recent years (although its Web site remains awful and the Style section has gone down the tubes). The company itself is principally in the news business; Warren Buffett sits on the board, guarding against investment misadventure.

A few readers have harrumphed that Mr. Murdoch reputedly would try to shorten the Journal's articles. He's not the only one. Washington Post Executive Editor Len Downie has instructed his crew to write shorter too--and the Post already strikes me as a very well-edited paper: News stories are rounded, complete but not overwritten. They also have a semblance of being written by somebody with a living mind, not just re-executing the media's general template on a given news event (for an everyday example, see the Post's recent contributions on the Chinese pet food scare).

More than that, if you read a lot of newspapers, what sneaks up on you are the outward manifestations of a quiet, non-braggy excellence that should be attractive to anyone looking to ensure the Journal's long-term future. Mr. Murdoch is the only one who has put money on the table. He's not the only one some of us wish would.

Mr. Jenkins is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal on Wednesdays.
29565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 06, 2007, 08:32:55 AM
As many of you may know, Robert Murdoch is trying to buy the WSJ.  Here is the WSJ's editorial today:

An Independent Newspaper
The Bancrofts and a century of "free people and free markets."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

"Don't believe the man who tells you there are two sides to every question. There is only one side to the truth."

So wrote William Peter Hamilton, one of the first men to hold the job of editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, in the early decades of the last century. For editorial writers worth their pay, those are words to live by, and we hope to be living by them for a long time to come.

That's a point worth stressing amid the news that the Bancroft family may soon sell the Journal's parent company to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. or some other bidder. The Bancrofts have been exceptional stewards of this newspaper for more than a century. But capitalism is dynamic, and those of us who extol the virtues of Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction" for others can't complain when it sweeps through our own industry. That's what is happening as the Internet breaks up long-time media business models, and Dow Jones is hardly immune. The Bancrofts have every right as owners to sell or not based on their own dictates, and what we say won't matter in any event.

Where we do have a say, however, is on the question of journalistic "independence." There's been a lot of debate lately about what that means. We thought our readers might like to know what it has meant at the Journal, and specifically for these columns, over the decades.
For starters, the Bancrofts are unique in their hands-off ownership. They are often compared as family newspaper proprietors to the Grahams at the Washington Post or the Sulzbergers at the New York Times. But members of those families run those newspapers, exerting influence over the news and opinion operations. In that sense, those newspapers are hardly "independent" of those families.

Everyone knows that the influence of Times Publisher and CEO Arthur Sulzberger Jr. extends to selecting not merely the editorial page editor but columnists, political endorsements and, as far as we can tell, even news coverage priorities. We don't see how this differs from most of what Mr. Murdoch is accused of doing with his newspapers. The same lack of independence also applies to most non-family media companies such as Gannett, a newspaper owner whose make-no-waves corporate ethic turns nearly all of its editorial pages into mush.

By contrast, the Bancrofts have allowed journalists to run the news and editorial shops. That family ethic became a guiding principle under Jessie Bancroft Cox, step-granddaughter of Clarence Barron, and the business leadership of the great Barney Kilgore.

At the editorial page, this has meant that for a century we have been able to adhere to a worldview we now distill to the phrase "free people and free markets." This began, more or less, with the classical liberalism of William Hamilton, who as a Scotsman before emigrating had dabbled in British Liberal Party politics. It has continued through a series of editors who have adhered to those principles despite shifting political fashions and partisan winds.

Over the years this independence has also meant the freedom to challenge prevailing media conventions and political power. Following Hamilton as editor in the 1930s, Thomas Woodlock battled Keynesian economics and the New Deal. The Journal was skeptical of FDR's dalliances with prewar Britain--until the day war began and our short editorial was headlined, "We Have a Duty." The editorial hangs in our office today.

As he campaigned for re-election in 1948, Harry Truman denounced the Journal as the "Republicans' Bible," a line that earned him a rebuke from Editor (of the editorial page) William Grimes because "our loyalties are to the economic and governmental principles in which we believe and not to any political party." In one of his visits to the White House, Editor Vermont Royster was thanked by John F. Kennedy for supporting his free-trade agenda. "Young man," said Royster, "the Wall Street Journal was supporting free trade before you were born." The Journal hasn't endorsed a Presidential candidate since Herbert Hoover, preferring instead to praise or assail the candidates' ideas.

On occasion this has meant the Journal has come under outside pressure, both commercial and political, but the Bancrofts and our publishers have always stood firm. In the 1950s, these columns defended Journal reporters against General Motors for disclosing the car company's tactics against independent auto dealers only weeks after we had defended GM against the government's trustbusters. GM pulled its advertising for a time, only to back down later, and the episode helped the Journal build credibility as independent of advertising interests.

Our former Editor Robert Bartley once told us of being called on the carpet by Henry Kissinger, then the Secretary of State, for opposing détente and arms control with the Soviet Union. Journal Publisher and CEO Warren Phillips accompanied Bartley to the meeting, and started things off by asking Mr. Kissinger what all of his Spengler-pessimism talk vis-à-vis the Russians was about. The anti-détente editorials kept coming, and Bartley and Mr. Kissinger later became friends.

The 1990s were especially controversial with the Journal's reporting about Whitewater and Bill Clinton's ethics, and more than one liberal thought he could mute Bartley's campaign in the wake of the Vincent Foster suicide. But the Bancrofts and Publisher Peter Kann stood up to the pressure.

Perhaps the sternest commercial test has come as we have expanded abroad, especially in Asia. The Journal has been banned or had its circulation restricted in many countries, and a reporter for another Dow Jones publication went to jail in Malaysia. In Singapore, a big market for the Journal, the government made the editorial page the first target of its campaign to curtail Western coverage of its domestic politics in the mid-1980s. While other companies--notably Bloomberg--have surrendered pre-emptively, the Journal has been nearly alone in fighting back. Freedom of the press has improved in Asia as democracy has expanded, and we're proud to continue fighting for freedom and human rights today in China.

We could tell other stories, but the essential point is that our owners have allowed us to speak our mind on behalf of a consistent set of principles. Readers may like, or loathe, those beliefs and our way of defending them. But we like to think this brand of independence is one reason the Journal has attracted such an influential readership. To borrow a phrase from modern business lingo, we hope it is part of our value proposition.

At a dinner honoring their century of Journal ownership in 2002, Bob Bartley expressed his gratitude to the Bancrofts for their support, noting that some of his editorials over 30 years must not have sat well with everyone in the ideologically diverse clan. But Bartley added that his proudest boast was that he ran the only editorial page "that sells newspapers." We can't say what any future owner would do, but we doubt one would be foolish enough to undermine this market appeal.

On January 2, 1951, William Grimes wrote a memorable editorial, "A Newspaper's Philosophy," that summed up our worldview this way:
"On our editorial page we make no pretense of walking down the middle of the road. Our comments and interpretations are made from a definite point of view. We believe in the individual, in his wisdom and his decency. We oppose all infringements on individual rights, whether they stem from attempts at private monopoly, labor union monopoly or from an overgrowing government. People will say we are conservative or even reactionary. We are not much interested in labels but if we were to choose one, we would say we are radical."

Even 56 years later, that still sounds good to us. Whether the Bancroft family sells or not, and no matter who is the buyer, we plan to stand for those beliefs for as long into the future as we are able.
29566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Khuzestan wants to separate on: June 05, 2007, 07:07:48 PM

IRAN: Iranian Arabs in the southwestern province of Khuzestan have expressed a desire to separate from Iran, Al Jazeera reported. National Liberation Movement of Ahwaz head Tahir Aal Sayyed Nima said a lack of schools in villages and a ban on Arabic in schools and government institutions is an attempt "to assassinate our Arab identity" and has led to separatist goals.
29567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 05, 2007, 10:00:38 AM
MY covers the Brits in action.  As awalys from MY, great stuff.
29568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Immigration on: June 05, 2007, 07:52:45 AM
The author for me has a suspect background in MALDEF and related organizations, but as part of search for truth, I post her piece here:


The Great Assimilation Machine
June 5, 2007; Page A23

For more than 200 years the United States has been the great assimilation machine, churning Germans, Swedes, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Russians, Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis and myriad others into Americans. There are many Americans today who believe, or worry, that the largest group of recent immigrants -- the nearly 20 million Hispanics who have come here in the last several decades -- are unwilling or unable to do the same.

In his 2004 book, "Who Are We? The Challenges to National Identity," Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington warned that "Mexican immigration is leading toward the demographic reconquista of areas Americans took from Mexico by force in the 1830s and 1840s," a sentiment I hear echoed frequently in the debate over immigration reform. Others warn that the country is playing host to a burgeoning new underclass of poorly educated, welfare-dependent Hispanics who will overwhelm us with social pathologies. Still others marshal statistics that appear to support their view that Hispanics are indeed failing to assimilate as have previous ethnic groups.

The real story of Hispanic assimilation, however, is a lot less gloomy -- although a bit more complicated -- than the critics charge. Part of the problem is the interpretation of statistics: As we are in the midst of a huge influx of new immigrants, legal and illegal, including seven million Mexicans who have arrived since 1990, any statistical snapshot that includes these newcomers (who make up about half the adult Hispanic population) will distort the overall moving picture.

Take Hispanic dropout rates. A snapshot looks bad: 42% of Hispanics, according to the Current Population Survey, had not finished high school in 2005. But nearly half of the people counted aren't dropouts in the usual sense; they've never dropped in to an American school. They are immigrants who completed their schooling, such as it was, before coming here in their late teens or 20s. Granted, low education levels will make their climb up the economic ladder slower -- 60% of Mexican-born adults have not completed high school. But the earnings of Hispanic immigrants will improve as they gain work skills and experience, and the evidence is strong that they will do so. Mexican-born men, for example, had higher labor force participation rates than native-born male workers, 88% compared with 83%, and lower unemployment rates than native workers, 4.4% compared with 5.1% in 2006. Labor force participation rates of illegal aliens are higher yet, a whopping 94%.

More importantly, the children of Hispanic immigrants are graduating from high school. The high school completion rate for young, U.S.-born Hispanics is 86%, only slightly lower than the 92% of non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic immigrant children who do enroll in school after they come here are as likely as American-born Hispanics to earn a high school diploma (although half of Mexican immigrants 15-17 years-old do not enroll in school).

Hispanics are more likely than either whites or blacks to continue their education at two-year institutions; in 2000 they represented 14% of all students enrolled in two-year institutions. Only 12% of U.S.-born Hispanics earn four-year degrees compared with 26% of non-Hispanic whites. Nonetheless, the economic returns on education are substantial for Hispanics. As a 2006 study on Hispanics by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported, "We consistently find that, after adjusting for the levels of human capital (e.g., schooling and English language proficiency), Hispanics do almost as well as whites with respect to both employment and labor market earnings," which the authors note is not the case for blacks, who still lag behind whites even after adjusting for observable measures of human capital.

English proficiency is, of course, essential if Hispanics are to fully assimilate into the mainstream, and one issue many Americans have expressed great concern over. But despite anxiety that Hispanics aren't learning English and will soon insist that the U.S. become bilingual, the evidence suggests otherwise. True enough, most Hispanic immigrants have poor English skills: The 2000 Census reported that 26 million people spoke Spanish at home, and of these, 14 million were unable to speak English well. But there is nothing unusual about this; historically most immigrant groups have taken a generation or more to produce fluent English speakers. In 1900, nearly 50 years after the peak period of German immigration, 600,000 students attended German bilingual schools in the U.S.

But if Hispanic immigrants have been slow to learn English, their American-born progeny have quickly adapted. English is the preferred language of virtually all U.S.-born Hispanics; according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, indeed, 78% of third-generation Hispanics cannot speak Spanish at all. Even in Southern California, an area with the largest population of Spanish speakers in the nation, 96% of third-generation Mexican Americans prefer to speak English at home, according to a recent study by sociologists Ruben Rumbaut, Douglas Massey and Frank Bean.

The fear that Hispanics are or will become an isolated, economically alienated group within the larger American society also does not jibe with a variety of other measures. A 2006 Commerce Department study reported that Hispanics are opening businesses at a rate three times faster than the national average. In 2002, the last year for which detailed data are available, there were 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses generating $222 billion in revenue. Most of these businesses are family affairs, with few employees, but some 1,500 Hispanic businesses employed 100 or more people, generating $42 billion in gross receipts.

Half of all Hispanics own homes. This is substantially below the 76% of non-Hispanic whites that are homeowners. A Department of Housing and Urban Development analysis of Hispanic home ownership trends suggests that the gap can be explained by a number of factors, including age. Home ownership increases with age, but nearly twice as many Hispanics as non-Hispanic whites are under 35, while only 10% of Hispanics, but nearly one quarter of whites, are over 65.

One genuinely disturbing trend is the increase in out-of-wedlock births among Hispanics, which has risen to 46% in 2004 from 24% in 1980, compared with 24.5% for non-Hispanic whites and 69% for blacks. (Mexican immigrants have a somewhat lower rate of unmarried childbearing, 35%.) This is not good, but it is not clear that these unmarried mothers remain so for long or that their children grow up in fatherless homes. Marriage rates for Hispanics are virtually the same as for non-Hispanic whites, suggesting many unwed mothers make it to the altar eventually, and they are no more likely to divorce than whites. The most comprehensive study of marriage and cohabitation, produced by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2002, shows that 77% of Hispanic women will marry by age 30, compared with 81% of non-Hispanic whites but only 52% of blacks. Moreover, 67% of Mexican origin children live in two parent families, compared with about 77% of whites, but only 37% of blacks.

Finally, consider that ultimate indicator of assimilation, intermarriage. One in four Hispanics marries a non-Hispanic white spouse, but nearly one-third of all U.S.-born Hispanics who are married have non-Hispanic spouses; and the percentage is slightly higher among college-educated Hispanic women (35%). There is a curious, and provocative fact buried in all this. The Population Reference Bureau notes in its 2005 study of intermarriage that, because most children of intermarriages are reported as Hispanic on Census data, "Hispanic intermarriage may have been a factor in the phenomenal growth of the U.S. Hispanic population in recent years, and it has important implications for future growth and characteristics of the Hispanic population." In other words, the widely cited prediction that by mid-century Hispanics will represent fully one third of the U.S. population fails to take into account that increasing numbers of these so-called Hispanics will have only one grandparent or great-grandparent of Hispanic heritage. At which point Hispanic ethnicity will mean little more than German, Italian or Irish ethnicity does today.

Ms. Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and the author of a number of books, including "Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation" (Basic Books, 1991).
29569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: June 05, 2007, 07:48:37 AM

Our Soviet Health System
June 5, 2007; Page A22

When my Labrador retriever became acutely lame, we were able to locate a veterinary orthopedic expert in Atlanta within 48 hours who was able to repair a ruptured tendon within one week. But my prospects of identifying an endocrinologist who can care for my daughter's diabetes when she turns 18 are much less promising.

The limited number of endocrine specialists is a not a consequence of limited demand -- everyone is aware of the epidemic of diabetes we are facing. There are also shortages of generalists and other specialists, and the reason is the absence of market signals -- i.e., market-based prices -- for influencing the supply of physicians in various specialties.

The roots of this problem lay in the use of administrative pricing structures in medicine. The way prices are set in health care already distorts the appropriate allocation of efforts and resources in health care today. Unfortunately, many of the suggested reforms of our health care system -- including the various plans for universal care, or universal insurance, or a single-payer system, that various policy makers and Democratic presidential candidates espouse -- rest on the same unsound foundations, and will produce more of the same.

The essential problem is this. The pricing of medical care in this country is either directly or indirectly dictated by Medicare; and Medicare uses an administrative formula which calculates "appropriate" prices based upon imperfect estimates and fudge factors. Rather than independently calculate prices, private insurers in this country almost universally use Medicare prices as a framework to negotiate payments, generally setting payments for services as a percentage of the Medicare fee structure.

Many if not most administratively determined prices fail to take into consideration supply and demand. Unlike prices set on the market, errors are not self-correcting. That is why, despite an expanding cohort of patients with diabetes, thyroid disease and other endocrine disorders, the number of people entering this field is actually dropping. Young physicians are accurately reading inappropriate price signals.

In their book, "The Turning Point," Soviet economists Nikolai Shmelev and Vladimir Popov focused on key factors which undermined the economy during the communist era. They concluded that Goskomtsen, the agency responsible for setting prices, was simply incapable of setting and tracking prices on the myriad of goods and services under its purview.

The failures they describe sound disturbingly similar to challenges to Medicare described by Paul Ginsburg in "When the Price Isn't Right: How inadvertent payment incentives drive medical care" (Health Affairs, August 2005). Assessments as to the accuracy of pricing is always difficult, time consuming, costly, and more often than not, methodologically flawed. No matter which formulas and variables are used at any given moment, the information derived will generally be inaccurate; it will either be wrong to start or will be applied in the wrong context, or become dated so rapidly it is of little use.

Many prices will be too high or too low, and political forces tend to keep inappropriate prices in place -- specialists in fields with excessive payments will resist cuts, and there will not be enough specialists in low-paid fields to become an effective counterlobby. New physicians will react to existing prices, and so the misallocation of human resources will be self-perpetuating.

Nevertheless, those who control public policy, and public policy debates, treat pricing as something trivial -- the concern of bourgeois shop keepers peddling trinkets. Yet the dilemma of administrative pricing causes problems for the allocation of resources today that would only be amplified if the U.S. moves toward even more government intervention in health care than already exists. Where do prices come from, how do we know when they are right? If the prices set are mistaken -- result in a mismatch of supply and demand -- how are they to be corrected if pricing decisions are made in a political (bureaucratic) arena, and by the market (supply and demand)? These questions cannot be wished away.

One important lesson of the 20th century is that, while markets are far from perfect, more choices are available when people are able to use free markets to interact with each other. Markets may not get the prices exactly correct all the time, but they are capable of self-correction, a capacity that has yet to be demonstrated by administrative pricing.

It tells you something when the supply of and demand for specialist veterinary care is so easily matched when the prices of these services are established on the market -- while shortages and oversupplies are common for human medical care when the prices of these services are set by administrators in the public sector. Will health-care reformers -- and American citizens -- get the message?

Dr. Swerlick is associate professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine.

29570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 05, 2007, 07:40:34 AM
No Pyrrhic Victory
Most of the conventional wisdom about the Six Day War is wrong.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

On the morning of June 5, 1967, a fleet of low-flying Israeli jets surprised the Egyptian air force on the ground and destroyed it. This act of military pre-emption helped save Israel from what Iraq's then-President Abdul Rahman Aref had called, only several days earlier, "our opportunity . . . to wipe Israel off the map." Yet 40 years later Israel's victory is widely seen as a Pyrrhic one--"a calamity for the Jewish state no less than for its neighbors," according to a recent editorial in The Economist.

And the alternative was?

The Six Day War is supposed to be the great pivot on which the modern history of the Middle East hinges, the moment the Palestinian question came into focus and Israel went from being the David to the Goliath of the conflict. It's a reading of history that has the convenience of offering a political prescription: Rewind to the status quo ante June 5, arrange a peace deal, and the problems that have arisen since more or less go away. Or so the thinking goes.

Yet the striking fact is that all of Israel's peace agreements--with Egypt in 1979, with the Palestinians in 1993, with Jordan and Morocco in 1994--were achieved in the wake of the war. The Jewish state had gained territory; the Arab states wanted it back. Whatever else might be said for the land-for-peace formula, it's odd that the people who are its strongest advocates are usually the same ones who bemoan the apparent completeness of Israel's victory in 1967.

Great events have a way not only of reshaping the outlook for the future but also our understanding of the past, usually in the service of clarity. "Why England Slept" was an apt question to ask of Britain in the mid-1930s, but it made sense only after Sept. 1, 1939. By contrast, the Six Day War laid a thick fog over what came before. Today, the pre-1967 period is remembered (not least by many Israelis) as a time when the country's conscience was clear and respectable world opinion admired "plucky little Israel." Yet these were the same years when Israel lived within what Abba Eban, its dovish foreign minister, called "Auschwitz borders," with only nine miles separating the westernmost part of the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea.
It is also often said today that the Six Day War humiliated the Arabs and propelled the region into future rounds of fighting. Yet President Aref of Iraq had prefaced his call to destroy Israel by describing the war as the Arabs' chance "to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948." It is said that the war inaugurated the era of modern terrorism, as the Arab world switched from a strategy of conventional confrontation with Israel to one of "unconventional" attacks. Yet hundreds of Israelis had already been killed in fedayeen raids in Israel's first 19 years of existence.

It is said that the Palestinian movement was born from Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Yet the Palestine Liberation Organization was already in its third year of operations when the war began. It is said that Israel enjoyed international legitimacy so long as it lived behind recognized frontiers. Yet those frontiers were no less provisional before 1967 than they were after. Only after the Six Day War did the Green Line come to be seen as the "real" border.

Fog also surrounds memories of the immediate aftermath of the war. To read some recent accounts, a more sagacious Israel could have followed up its historic victory with peace overtures that would have spared everyone the bloody entanglements of its occupation of the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Or, failing that, it could have resisted the lure of building settlements in the territories in order not to complicate a land-for-peace transaction.

In fact, the Israeli cabinet agreed on June 19 to offer the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace deals. In Khartoum that September, the Arab League declared "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." As for Jewish settlements, hardly any were built for years after the war: In 1972, for instance, only about 800 settlers had moved to the West Bank.

It's true that the war caused Israel to lose friends abroad. "Le peuple juif, sûr de lui meme et dominateur" ("the Jewish people, sure of themselves and domineering") was Charles de Gaulle's memorable line in announcing, in November 1967, that France would no longer supply Israel militarily. Such were the Jewish state's former friends.

On the other hand, Israel gained new friends. The U.S., whose declared policy during the war was to be "neutral in thought, word and deed," would never again pretend such indifference, something that made all the difference to Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Tens of thousands of American and European Jews immigrated to Israel after 1967, sensing it was a country not on the brink of extinction. Christian evangelicals also became Israel's firm friends, expanding the political base of American support beyond its traditionally narrow, Jewish-Democratic core.

None of this is to say that the Six Day War was an unalloyed (or unironic) blessing for Israel. By gaining control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel swapped its old territorial insecurities for new demographic ones. As Palestinian numbers grew, Israel's efforts to find a new strategic equilibrium--first through negotiations with the PLO, later through unilateral withdrawals--became increasingly frenetic. Who knows whether they will succeed.
Then again, when the sun rose on June 5, 1967, Israel was a poor, desperately vulnerable country, which threw the dice on its own survival in the most audacious military strike of the 20th century. It is infinitely richer and more powerful today, sure in its alliance with the U.S. and capable of making concessions inconceivable 40 years ago. If these are the fruits of Israel's "Pyrrhic victory," it needs more such of them.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
29571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 05, 2007, 07:28:42 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Meltdown of the Musharraf State

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Monday amended laws governing the country's electronic media, GEO television reported. Musharraf empowered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to block transmissions, suspend licenses, confiscate equipment and seal the buildings of electronic media organizations deemed in violation of PEMRA regulations. This, combined with the ongoing political crisis, has increased the number of protests in Pakistan. The same day Musharraf also chaired a special meeting of the National Security Council, during which he discussed ways and means of dealing with the increasingly deteriorating crisis of governance.

Thus far all the steps taken by the Musharraf government to fix the growing political instability have backfired, and even have made matters worse. For the most part, this outcome is the result of serious miscalculations. This is not altogether surprising because Musharraf is now relying on a small circle of bureaucratic advisers, and is no longer listening to his political allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML).

However, not heeding the PML's advice might not have major consequences, since it is the party that is dependent on Musharraf for its position of power. But Musharraf is critically dependent on the military's support to ensure his regime's continuity. This is why Musharraf on June 1 called an emergency meeting of the corps commanders and army's agency heads, during which the top generals reportedly expressed complete support for the president.

During this meeting Musharraf made use of the increasingly loud criticisms of the military's domination of the state. He was able to convince the generals that the government's opponents are not just out to force the country's military chief from power, but also want the military establishment to lose control of the political system.

In this regard, Musharraf also exploited the recent release of the new book "Military, Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy," authored by Ayesha Siddiqa, a top Pakistani political and military analyst. Siddiqa's book, which provides a detailed account of the military's hold over Pakistan's economic system, has further fueled the public ire against the military's domination of the country. As a result the government scrambled to torpedo the launching ceremony of the book and has accused the author of spreading lies and of being an enemy of the state. There are reports that Siddiqa is being intimidated by intelligence officials.

Taking all of this into account, the generals are currently rallying around Musharraf and are saying they will support his efforts to do all that is necessary to remedy the faltering situation. But they, more than anyone else, know that the need to hold such a special meeting indicates a weakness in Musharraf's position.

Therefore, the generals will be watching the situation more closely than ever and will be considering contingency plans as the political temperature rises in the coming weeks. Then, if needed, they can intervene and force Musharraf to step down in order to avoid risking an ugly confrontation on the streets.

For now, the generals figure the anti-Musharraf movement, though growing in size, lacks direction, organization and critical mass because the main opposition parties remain divided. Put differently, they believe their interests can still be secured through a compromise involving the reinstatement of the chief justice, and perhaps even with Musharraf assuming the role of a civilian president. But Musharraf does not believe he can both compromise and sustain power, which is why he has decided to tough it out in an effort to get past the re-election in September.

The generals would prefer a situation in which they are not forced to move against Musharraf because they know such a situation does not necessarily help them salvage the position of the institution. Having Musharraf step down could land them in a situation in which the new military leadership would be forced to negotiate a new civil-military power-sharing mechanism with the political forces, and from a position of relative weakness. Part of this has to do with the fact that Musharraf has been reshuffling the military deck so much that most of the top generals have not had much experience in dealing with national politics.

But when the generals know things have reached a point of no return, they will act; this could happen before the end of summer depending on how fast events progress. The prevention of news broadcasts and political talk shows deemed critical of the government on private television channels could prove to be one key step in that direction. Because of the immense popularity of these private channels, the anti-Musharraf movement is likely to gain greater momentum -- and rapidly.

The growing public unrest will only get worse because the government is determined to deal with the situation by cracking down. Unless Musharraf reverses course and opts for the path of accommodation with his opponents -- both among the political parties and with civil society -- it is quite feasible that the unrest, which is expected to peak around the time of the presidential vote in September, could surge earlier. Even his key civilian partner, the PML, is starting to show signs of hemorrhaging, indicating that it might not be possible for Musharraf to secure a second term.
29572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 05, 2007, 07:27:09 AM

Realists on Iraq
Democratic presidential candidates should listen to the "experts" they so often cite.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

During Sunday night's Democratic presidential debate, the candidates cited an oft-repeated source of the mess in Iraq: The White House's refusal to heed knowledgeable advice.

Indeed, it has often been said that the president got into Iraq because he disregarded advice from the true regional experts: foreign-policy "realists" who put together the Gulf War I coalition and counseled President George H.W. Bush against regime change; "moderate" Sunni Arab Governments; and the U.S. intelligence community.

But what if today these groups were actually advising against an American withdrawal?

Consider Brent Scowcroft, dean of the Realist School, who openly opposed the war from the outset and was a lead skeptic of the president's democracy-building agenda. In a recent Financial Times interview, he succinctly summed up the implication of withdrawal: "The costs of staying are visible; the costs of getting out are almost never discussed. If we get out before Iraq is stable, the entire Middle East region might start to resemble Iraq today. Getting out is not a solution."
And here is retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Centcom Commander and a vociferous critic of the what he sees as the administration's naive and one-sided policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East: "When we are in Iraq we are in many ways containing the violence. If we back off we give it more room to breathe, and it may metastasize in some way and become a regional problem. We don't have to be there at the same force level, but it is a five- to seven-year process to get any reasonable stability in Iraq."

A number of Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors also opposed the war as well as the U.S. push for liberalizing the region's authoritarian governments. Yet they now backchannel the same two priorities to Washington: Do not let Iran acquire nukes, and do not withdraw from Iraq.

A senior Gulf Cooperation Council official told me that "If America leaves Iraq, America will have to return. Soon. It will not be a clean break. It will not be a permanent goodbye. And by the time America returns, we will have all been drawn in. America will have to stabilize more than just Iraq. The warfare will have spread to other countries, governments will be overthrown. America's military is barely holding on in Iraq today. How will it stabilize 'Iraq Plus'?" (Iraq Plus is the term that some leaders in Arab capitals use to describe the region following a U.S. withdrawal.)

I heard similar warnings made repeatedly on a recent trip to almost every capital in the Persian Gulf--to some of America's closest allies and hosts of our military.

Likewise, withdrawal proponents cite career U.S. intelligence professionals as war skeptics, and not without basis. Yet here is what the U.S. intelligence community predicted in its National Intelligence Estimate early this year: "Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq. . . .

"If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the Iraqi Security Forces would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution: neighboring countries--invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally--might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; al Qaida in Iraq would attempt to use parts of the country--particularly al-Anbar province--to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion."

If the presidential candidates go on a listening tour, it's important to consider one additional group: A number of Western reporters who have spent the past few years in Iraq.

The White House has actually been inviting Baghdad bureau reporters to the Oval Office--however belatedly--so the president can hear their observations. One of them is John Burns of the New York Times. He won Pulitzers for his coverage in Bosnia and Afghanistan before throwing himself full-bore into Iraq. This is how he described the stakes of withdrawal on "The Charlie Rose Show" recently:

"Friends of mine who are Iraqis--Shiite, Sunni, Kurd--all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we're seeing now. It's really difficult to imagine that that would happen . . . without Iran becoming involved from the east, without the Saudis, who have already said in that situation that they would move in to help protect the Sunni minority in Iraq.

"It's difficult to see how this could go anywhere but into a much wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world's flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there's complete chaos in the region? . . . It just seems to me that the consequences are endless, endless."

Earlier on the same program, Mr. Burns laid out his own version of Iraq Plus. "If you pull out now, and catastrophe ensues, then it is very likely that the United States would have to come back in circumstances which, of course, would be even less favorable, one might imagine, than the ones that now confront American troops here."

It would be one thing if only the architects of the Bush policy and their die-hard supporters opposed withdrawal. But four separate groups of knowledgeable critics--three of whom opposed going into Iraq--now describe the possible costs of withdrawal as very high.
If the Realists, neighboring Arab regimes, our intelligence community and some of the most knowledgeable reporters all say such a course could be disastrous, on what basis are the withdrawal advocates taking their position?

The American people are understandably frustrated with Iraq. But this does not mean they will be satisfied with politicians who support a path that could make matters much worse.

Mr. Senor, a former foreign policy advisor to the Bush administration, was based in Baghdad from April 2003 through June 2004. He is a founding partner of Rosemont Capital.
29573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Melting Pot on: June 05, 2007, 07:08:18 AM
IMHO, this piece glosses over the significance of the danger of the disconcerting large minority who believe in terrorism, jihad, etc., but it does make valid points as well.

Muslim Melting Pot
Once again, America beats Europe on assimilation.

Monday, June 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Against the backdrop of civil war, Abraham Lincoln stirred Americans by appealing to their "better angels." Now some of those angels appear in an unprecedented study about Muslims in the United States--and they may show us how to prevent civil war in Europe.

"Muslim Americans," released by the Pew Research Center, contains moments of bad news. For example, one in four respondents under the age of 30 accepts suicide bombing. As a reformed-minded Muslim, I say that honoring any religion of peace through violence is like preserving virginity through pre-marital sex. Think about it.

But the Pew report offers a lot more good news. Political Islam has not caught on in America as it has in Europe because most Muslims in the U.S. are--dare it be said--treated with dignity.

The vast majority of those surveyed like their communities and describe their lives as "pretty happy" or "very happy." Which means lobbyists do not speak for Muslim Americans when they cry that the U.S. hates Islam.

In Berlin recently, an audience buzzed nervously when I suggested that Europe can learn from America about integrating Muslims. Afterwards, several people confided to me that they know the U.S. is getting something right. What is that something? As I engage with young Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic, I see three factors: economics, diversity and faith.
• For plenty of Muslims in the United States, ambition and initiative pay off. The Pew survey reinforces this lesson, telling us that 71% of Muslim Americans believe most people in the U.S. "can make it if they are willing to work hard."

Meanwhile, in Europe, young Muslims face blatant discrimination in employment, educational and social opportunities, even when they are citizens. Many subsist on welfare, which only gives them time to stew and surf the Web for preachers who spew a rigid identity. This is the path that led Mohammed Bouyeri to murder Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

• In much of America, diversity is a reason to intermingle. The Pew study reveals that most Muslims are close friends with non-Muslims.

In much of Europe, diversity has become an excuse to self-segregate. Many of Europe's mosques, and the Muslims who attend them, refuse to communicate in the language of their new surroundings. As a result, young Muslim men drift away from moderate religious authorities and fall for online opportunists. That is how Mohammad Sidique Khan, mastermind of the London transit bombers, fell under the sway of "Sheikh Google," the collective nickname for Islamist Web sites.

• To Americans, it is not the fact of having faith that invites scrutiny, but what one is perceived to be doing with that faith. Western Europeans, still steeped in a backlash against the Catholic Church, often show suspicion or outright contempt to people of faith. Such "secular fundamentalism" leads some Muslims to believe that they will never be accepted by their adopted countries. So why integrate?

Small wonder that young Muslims in Western Europe whisper to me, "I wish I lived in the United States." The honesty doesn't end there. Muslim men, in their twenties, have complained to me that in an effort to appear sensitive, Europeans downplay shared values. This confuses many Muslim youth and creates a vacuum that radical clerics can exploit.

Translation: A common aspiration such as the American Dream is crucial to giving Muslims a sense of belonging to something larger and more dynamic than cultural enclaves.

But what about the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay? The answer always comes back that these are unfortunate and unjust exceptions. In America, they say, you can be more than a Muslim. You are a member of the wider public.

Naïve? Not according to the Pew study. More than half of Muslims in the U.S. identify themselves as Americans first, easily eclipsing patriotism among Muslims in Germany, Spain or Britain. Clearly, the U.S. has retained its genius as a nation of immigrants.

To be sure, there is a long way to go in giving non-immigrant Muslims, especially African-Americans, a sense of belonging. Most are not among the better educated, wealthier and politically influential Americans that so many South Asian, Iranian and Arab Muslims are.
However, that gap is the product of America's persistent racial battle. It has almost nothing to do with a fear of Islam.

For the all the slogans, accusations and fulminations of the Islam industry's lobbyists, fear is not what mainstream Americans feel about Muslims. Just ask the 73% of Muslims who told Pew that they have never been discriminated against in the U.S.

Europe, take notes. America, take a break from self-flagellation. Reformist Muslims, take your cue. In the U.S., you have the possibility of a voice. Islam's better angels depend on it.

Ms. Manji, a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, is author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" (St. Martin's, 2005).
29574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIR unindicted co-conspirator on: June 05, 2007, 07:01:35 AM
Islamic Groups Named in Hamas Funding Case

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
June 4, 2007

Federal prosecutors have named three prominent Islamic organizations in America as participants in an alleged criminal conspiracy to support a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, Hamas.

Prosecutors applied the label of "unindicted co-conspirator" to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the North American Islamic Trust in connection with a trial planned in Texas next month for five officials of a defunct charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

While the foundation was charged in the case, which was filed in 2004, none of the other groups was. However, the co-conspirator designation could be a blow to the credibility of the national Islamic organizations, which often work hand-in-hand with government officials engaged in outreach to the Muslim community.

A court filing by the government last week listed the three prominent groups among about 300 individuals or entities named as co-conspirators. The document gave scant details, but prosecutors described CAIR as a present or past member of "the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee and/or its organizations." The government listed the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust as "entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood."

The secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, Muneer Fareed, said his group was surprised to be named in the Texas case. "I can tell you categorically that the current administration of ISNA, as well as its stakeholders, they have no connection to my knowledge with any Holy Land foundations," he said.

Mr. Fareed denied his group has any ties to Hamas, though he said it is difficult to police all 300 mosques under his umbrella. "We might have a kid whose dad was president of Hamas for all I know," he said. "How do you verify these things?"

The Islamic official expressed frustration at the lack of detail in the prosecution's filing. "Perhaps there's some evidence. I just don't really know what it is," he said.

Spokesmen for CAIR did not respond to messages seeking comment yesterday. Efforts to contact the North American Islamic Trust were unsuccessful.

The identification of the alleged co-conspirators could aid prosecutors when the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officials, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulraham Odeh, go to trial on July 16 in Dallas. Statements by and about co-conspirators are exempt from rules barring hearsay.

Judge A. Joe Fish will have to decide whether to accept the government's description of the alleged conspiracy.

The practice of publicly naming unindicted co-conspirators is frowned on by some in the legal community, chiefly because there is no trial or other mechanism for those named to challenge their designation. Justice Department guidelines discourage the public identification of unindicted co-conspirators by the government.

"In all public filings and proceedings, federal prosecutors should remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of uncharged third-parties," the Justice Department's manual for prosecutors says. When co-conspirator lists have to be filed in court, prosecutors should seek to file them under seal, the guidelines say.

In practice, the lists are often made public. A list of co-conspirators was released in connection with the federal trial in 2005 of a former college professor, Sami Al-Arian, on terrorism support charges. However, when Enron executives went on trial last year, the list of alleged co-conspirators was kept under seal. Prosecutors on the Holy Land Foundation case could not be reached yesterday and did not respond to an e-mail.

The inclusion of the Islamic groups on the list of alleged conspirators could give ammunition to critics of the organizations. CAIR, in particular, has faced persistent claims that it is soft on terrorism. Critics note that several former CAIR officials have been convicted or deported after being charged with fraud, embargo violations, or aiding terrorist training. Spokesmen for the group have also raised eyebrows for offering generic denunciations of terrorism but refusing to condemn by name specific Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah.

In addition, one of the Holy Land Foundation defendants, Ghassan Elashi, founded CAIR's Texas chapter. CAIR's Washington office was also set up in 1994 with $5,000 in seed money from the foundation, according to congressional testimony by a researcher into Islamic extremism, Steven Emerson.

Last year, Senator Boxer of California, a Democrat, withdrew an award she gave to an official at a local CAIR chapter. She said she had concerns about statements by some CAIR officials and about claims of financial links to terrorism. Many FBI officials meet regularly with CAIR representatives and clerics from the Islamic Society of North America.

A New York Times article published in March said unidentified government officials believed that the criticism of CAIR was unwarranted. A former FBI official, Michael Rolince, said yesterday that the co-conspirator designation might prompt CAIR to be more direct in denouncing terrorism but was no reason to cut off all contact with the group.

"People could say the same thing about the FBI. They're not all choirboys," he said. "We don't go into this with blinders on."

Separately, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, Steve McGonigle, is fighting the prosecution's efforts to call him as a witness at the Holy Land Foundation trial.

In filing to quash the subpoena last week, Mr. McGonigle said prosecutors want to question him about an interview that he conducted in 1999 with the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004, denied any connection between Holy Land Foundation and Hamas.

However, Mr. McGonigle reported that records showed that the foundation sometimes singled out the families of Hamas "martyrs" for assistance.

Mr. McGonigle's lawyer said his client could be targeted by terrorists if he forced to testify. "A journalist who is perceived to have acted as an agent for the U.S. Government will almost inevitably be placed at a substantially greater risk when on assignment in the Middle East," the attorney, Paul Watler, wrote.
29575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gay Conjugal Visits in CA Prisons on: June 05, 2007, 06:08:27 AM
NY Times

Gay Inmates to Be Granted Conjugal Visits in California

Published: June 3, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, June 1 — Gay and lesbian prisoners in California will be allowed overnight visits with their partners under a new prison policy, believed to be the first time a state has allowed same-sex conjugal stays.

The policy comes more than two years after a 2003 California law provided equal rights for registered domestic partners in California, including those of the same sex and non-married heterosexuals. Gay and civil rights groups had threatened to sue to permit the conjugal visits in prisons, which they say have been slow to enact changes promised by the law.

“It’s a little troubling that a state agency had to be threatened with legal action to obey state law,” said Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay rights organization. “There was no justifiable excuse for not complying.”

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the slow pace of change was due, in part, to considerations of whether allowing the visits would expose gay inmates to danger inside the prison, where they are sometimes singled out for attack. “We had to thoroughly evaluate all the security concerns,” Ms. Thornton said.

The policy change was spurred by a letter warning of legal action from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Vernon Foeller, 40, a gay man who had been serving a 20-month sentence for attempted burglary at the state prison in Vacaville, Calif. Alex Cleghorn, an AC.L.U. lawyer, said that Mr. Foeller was eligible for a conjugal visit except that the prison system “didn’t recognize his partner as a family member.”

“They have pages and pages of regulations that must be met to permit these visits,” Mr. Cleghorn said, “and Vernon met all of these requirements.”

Mr. Foeller was released in April.

Overnight visits, which can be up to 72 hours long, have been allowed in California since the 1970s, Ms. Thornton said, and are conducted in units inside prison grounds, often trailers. While suggestive of sexual activity, the visits sometimes include several family members, including children.

“It’s not exclusive to conjugal activities,” Ms. Thornton said.

Gay and lesbian inmates were not allowed visits from their partners because only spouses were recognized as “immediate family.”

Several categories of inmate are not allowed the visits, including those on death row, sex offenders, those serving sentences of life without parole, and those who have been violent with minors or family members. Prisoners also must have been on good behavior, with no violations.

The new policy will allow only those currently registered as domestic partners to ask for the visits, and affirms that no prisoners will be allowed overnight visits with other prisoners, regardless of status.

Only a handful of states — including New York — allow conjugal visits, which some prison officials say can help reduce the stress of prison life and maintain prisoners’ connections to their families. Critics, however, have cited a variety of reasons to oppose the visits, including the potential for spreading sexually transmitted diseases and the additional cost of maintaining separate conjugal prison quarters.

Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, called the policy change a “great leap forward” but said gay and lesbian inmates were often still the target of discrimination and violence.

“There are certain social arenas that have been insulated from social changes going on in broader society, and jails and prisons is one of those areas,” Mr. Minter said.

California has a ban on same-sex marriage, although that law has been the subject of legal battles. The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing the law’s constitutionality as part of a suit brought by the City of San Francisco and a group of gay and lesbian couples.

The policy change must be approved by the state’s Office of Administrative Law before taking effect, most likely later this year.

29576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 04, 2007, 08:39:17 PM
Towards a 21st Century Governing Majority

I am giving a speech at the American Enterprise Institute this Friday that is so central to where America needs to go if we're going to win the future for our children and grandchildren that I wanted to preview it for you today. I also want to urge you to find out more at the AEI website and to watch it at American Solutions, where you can sign up to get an e-mail reminder here.

We are still more than 500 days from the 2008 elections, but one thing is clear: There will be a future governing majority, and its three key principles can already be defined. What is not clear, however, is whether this next governing majority will be led by Republicans or Democrats.

First, New Deal Democrats, Then Reagan/Contract With America Republicans

From 1932 to 1980, the Democrats clearly led the governing coalition. Republican Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford all operated within the world created by the New Deal and FDR.

Then in 1980, President Reagan broke with that pattern and launched a substantial shift in the core principles of American public policy. Under Reagan, defeating the Soviet Union replaced containing it, cutting taxes replaced government redistribution, and pride in American civilization replaced the left's hostility toward American values.

The 1994 Contract with America deepened and extended the Reagan initiative. The Contract expanded the Republican governing majority through welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, a balanced budget for four consecutive years, paying off $405 billion in debt and enacting term limits for committee chairmen. Republicans controlled the House for more than two years for the first time since 1928, and Republican control of governorships and state legislatures was deepened.

And Then Came Six Years of Republicans' Failing to Perform

The last six years, however, have been a different story. They have been too often punctuated with examples of performance failures that have effectively ended the current attempt at forging a Republican governing majority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff encapsulated this inability to get the job done when he recently said that the disastrous new immigration bill "bows to reality." In other words: It's too hard, so why not concede defeat and give up securing the border and enforcing the law.

But we hire leaders to change reality to fit our values, not to change our values to fit their failures.

I don't know what "reality" Secretary Chertoff lives in, but the reality of the vast majority of the American people is one of growing distrust of their leaders and growing disgust with the ways things are being done in Washington.

We value limited, effective government, but the reality we get is the failed response to Hurricane Katrina.

We value lower taxes and living within our means, but the reality we get is out-of-control spending on congressional pet projects.

We value enforcing our laws, but our reality is a Senate-sanctioned order to keep local police in the dark about the legal status of those they arrest.

We value protecting our homeland, but our reality is a federal bureaucracy that allows a man with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis to enter the country -- after a U.S. border guard ignored a warning that he was so dangerous he had to be approached wearing bio-protective gear. And our reality is the discovery of three terrorists in New Jersey who had been in the U.S. illegally for 23 years and charged 75 times by the police without being identified as having no legal right to be in the United States in the first place.

The Principles of a New Governing Majority

It is quite clear that the next governing majority -- a 21st Century governing majority -- will be required to have the following three major characteristics to be a successful and lasting majority.

Represent the Values of the People: It will represent the vast majority of the American people in their key values and beliefs (see below for some examples);

Be Accountable to the Standards of the People: It will insist on a government that is metrics-based, constantly measuring results and changing strategies, policies, bureaucracies and personnel until it actually succeeds in meeting the values, expectations and demands of the American people. A 21st Century government will join the best of the private sector in offering more choices of higher quality at lower cost and with greater convenience; and

Protect the Lives of the People: It will insist on protecting America and her allies from the threat of the irreconcilable wing of Islam as well as resurgent Russian aggressiveness and the challenge of Chinese economic and scientific development.

Which Party Will It Be?

While either party could become the next governing majority, each has some major hurdles to becoming that majority.

The Democrats are in a better tactical position, because they are the opposition party at a time of public disenchantment with the performance of the Republicans in government.

But the values of the Left, the interest groups of government and the grip of the 20th Century systems of bureaucracy make it nearly impossible for the Democrats to propose effective solutions to how we govern ourselves. It is a better-than-even possibility that Democrats can win the presidency in 2008 but a very limited possibility that they could propose the kind of change that would be necessary to form a governing majority.

Republicans Are in a Bad Tactical Spot, But a Good Strategic One

The Republicans have a bad tactical situation, but they are strategically in an easier place than Democrats. Once Republicans get out from under the current performance problems, they could more easily adopt the favored policies of the vast majority of Americans and advocate the transformation of government and the protection of the United States from a broad set of dangers.

It is unlikely that any new Republican attempts to create a natural governing majority could evolve rapidly enough to be offered as a compelling choice to the American people in the 2008 election. But the election of Sarkozy in France shows that it is possible to produce a decisive national decision in favoring of moving toward more conservative reform -- in spite of the performance failures of the incumbent from the same party -- when combined with an ideological failure on the left and an offering of bold solutions and bold leadership from a newly defined right.

'That Government of the People, by the People, and for the People Shall Not Perish From the Earth'

My speech Friday at the American Enterprise Institute will address this battle to create America's next governing majority in the context of President Lincoln's charge at Gettysburg:

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The speech will examine:

How government of the people is in danger of being replaced by an iron triangle of tax-funded incumbents, interest group lobbyists and powerful bureaucracies;

How government of the people and by the people is being threatened by the anti-free speech law of McCain-Feingold and other anti-citizen efforts to strangle public dissent; and

How government for the people is being replaced by government for the bureaucracies, government for the public-employee unions and government for the trial lawyers.

Restoring 'Government of the People': Making English the Official Language of the United States

The opposition in Congress to making English the official language of the United States is a near perfect example of the failure of the current leadership in Washington to adopt a deeply held value of the American people. Eighty-five percent of Americans want the federal government to join with 30 states in making English the official language of the United States, and yet our elites consider the adoption of this value as a distraction or worse.

Consider last night's Democratic presidential debate. When asked for a show of hands, former Alaskan Sen. Mike Gravel was the only candidate to express support for English. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said that the question "is designed precisely to divide us" and that "when we get distracted by those kinds of questions, I think we do a disservice to the American people." If 85% of Americans support English as the official language of government, the only division is between Sen. Obama and the American people.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton responded that she supported English as the "national" language but not the "official" language of the United States, since making English the official language would prevent the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.

It seems that only liberals can possibly see 85% support for a deeply held American value as divisive and only liberals think it is acceptable to express support for English as long as it does not actually have any meaning, such as ending the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.

Only a Mass Movement Can Break the Power of the Entrenched Special Interests

The power of the entrenched special interests in Washington, in many state capitals, and in city and county government is such that only a mass movement comparable to the Jeffersonians, the Jacksonians, and the Lincoln Republicans and Progressives could break the hold of the entrenched power structure.

Three are three reasons to believe this mass movement is growing:

First, the gap between the values of the elite on the left and the values of the vast majority of Americans is growing wider. Ninety-one percent of all Americans favor the right to say "One Nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Eighty-nine percent believe American workers should have the right to a secret ballot election before being forced to join a union. Ninety-three percent believe Americans should know the price and quality of healthcare before making a decision about it. Eighty-five percent believe English should be the official language of government. The list goes on and on. Certainly, any 21st Century governing majority will be center-right in its values and policies.

Second, the gap between the world that works (largely but not entirely private sector) and the world that fails (largely but not entirely government bureaucracy) is growing wider and wider. In the 21st Century private sector, we routinely expect MORE choices of LOWER cost with HIGHER quality and GREATER convenience. But in government we continue to be told about higher taxes, slower implementation, greater error rates and "hard choices." A 21st Century governing majority will be allied with the American people in insisting on the delivery standard of the world that works being applied to the government systems that currently fail.

Third, as the world visibly grows more dangerous, the natural desire of the American people to be protected will reassert itself. The implementation failures in Iraq combined with the Bush Administration's inarticulateness have led to a temporary resurgence of the "Peace at Any Price" Left. But this will rapidly disintegrate as the problems of the modern world persist. Cyber attacks on Estonia, Chinese activities in space, Russian assertiveness against Lithuania and Poland, Iranian seizure of American hostages, the six terrorists in New Jersey and the four terrorists who were planning to blow up the jet fuel at JFK airport in New York are early indicators that any future governing majority will have a very strong national and homeland security component.

I will explore all these ideas in my speech at AEI on Friday, June 8. I hope you'll join me. And then, all these concepts will be expanded into practical, workable solutions in the American Solutions "Solutions Day" workshops on September 27 and 29. It's going to be the start of a great and meaningful adventure. I hope you'll choose to be a part of it.


29577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: June 04, 2007, 08:34:30 PM
The JFK Airport Plot and the Caribbean Connection
U.S. and Guyanese authorities were still searching June 4 for a fourth suspect wanted in connection with an alleged plot to blow up jet fuel pipelines and storage tanks at New York's John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport. Although a serious flaw in the plot made the threat far smaller than the suspects apparently planned, the case does highlight the link between jihadism and the Caribbean islands -- and the effectiveness of jihadist propaganda.

Federal investigators charged four Muslims and arrested three -- two in New York and one in Trinidad and Tobago -- on June 2 in connection with the plot. One of the suspects in custody in New York, Guyana-born U.S. citizen Russell Defreitas, was employed at the airport until 1995 as a cargo handler, a position that would have allowed him to gain knowledge of the security and fuel-transfer systems. Another suspect arrested in New York, Kareem Ibrahim, is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, while a third suspect, Abdul Kadir, a former member of Guyana's parliament, is in custody in Trinidad and Tobago. The fourth alleged member of the cell, Abdel Nur, is believed to be at large in Guyana. The U.S. Justice Department described cell members as Islamists who, although they reached out to Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM), an Islamist group in Trinidad and Tobago, have no known ties to al Qaeda.

Although the arrests occurred after more than a year of surveillance, the plot reportedly was still early in the planning stage, and the cell still had not obtained explosives. Therefore, although the plotters were serious -- the plan apparently called for massive explosions at the airport -- they did not present an immediate threat. According to investigators, authorities acted against the cell because Kadir was about to leave for Iran, where keeping tabs on him would have been impossible.

The arrests, however, highlight the Caribbean islands' connections to jihadists. Some significant links between the region and jihadists already have been demonstrated, the most notable being Adnan El Shukrijumah, an alleged al Qaeda militant who was born in Saudi Arabia, lived in Guyana and has strong ties to Trinidad. Also, Germaine Lindsay, one of the suicide bombers involved in the July 2005 attack against London's mass transit system, was born in Jamaica. Authorities in Trinidad say Kadir and Nur are associated with JAM, which was involved in a 1990 coup attempt in that country that resulted in 24 deaths.

The Caribbean shares some similar characteristics with some other regions where jihadism has taken root, including much of the Middle East, Indonesia and East Africa. Although many Caribbean countries are wealthy (Trinidad and Tobago is a major oil producer), their often-corrupt governments siphon off much of the wealth and fail to provide adequate social services, leaving much of their populations poor and living in substandard conditions. Moreover, although the islands' Muslim populations are not large -- Trinidad and Tobago is about 6 percent Muslim, for example -- these communities are active.

Because it is a popular tourist destination, the Caribbean has well-developed transportation links to and from the United States. Someone making frequent trips to and from the resorts, therefore, would not arouse as much suspicion from intelligence and law enforcement agencies as, say, someone making frequent trips to Pakistan. This access, along with the Caribbean's confidential banking systems, allows for the easy transfer of funds, as well as for money laundering.

However, unlike places like Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia, where militant groups have been able to operate freely in remote, sparsely populated areas, the Caribbean islands are small and populous. The almost small-town-like environment makes it difficult for large, complex militant organizations to operate undetected. Furthermore, most Caribbean governments are not hostile to Washington, which wields significant political and financial influence in the region. This influence, then, makes it easy for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement to operate on the islands.

The JFK plot does highlight the effectiveness of al Qaeda's propaganda, which is inspiring autonomous grassroots cells to act with little or no contact with anyone even close to the core of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and other militant groups have posted a steady stream of videos and messages on the Internet calling for Muslims to act on their own against the West. This has been effective in inspiring impromptu militant cells in Europe and the United States, most recently involving Fort Dix, N.J..

Even if the alleged plotters had succeeded in carrying out the attack, though, it likely would not have been as destructive as they had hoped. In the United States, most turbine-powered civilian aircraft use a fuel called Jet A, which is harder to set ablaze in the open air than AvGas, which is commonly used in piston-powered general-aviation aircraft. Although Jet A was a poor choice for the plotters' purposes, their tactic was sound. Had they chosen a location where AvGas could be used to cause explosions, the potential destruction would have been greater. Experienced militants who had done better research and target selection would have known better than to target Jet A tanks and pipelines.

While the Caribbean is an unlikely place for militant training camps and bases, it can produce recruits and be a transit point for the global jihadist movement.
29578  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: June 04, 2007, 08:10:51 PM

Venezuela: Chavez Fans the Political Flames
June 04, 2007 22 06  GMT


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said June 3 that the student protests following his refusal to renew Radio Caracas Television's (RCTV) contract were instigated by the United States -- and that it is clear the 1999 constitution is too permissive and should be revised. Chavez also suggested that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) should form a federation of republics. Though the president is influential enough to get his way on almost any domestic issue, his response to the protests could turn the group of pro-RCTV demonstrators into a more serious opposition movement. Meanwhile, the ALBA proposal is likely to be a nonstarter with Bolivia, and could estrange Ecuador.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said during his weekly radio address June 3 that the student protests that followed his refusal to renew the contract of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) were instigated by the United States -- and that it is clear the 1999 constitution is too permissive of foreign influence on public dissent and should be revised. In the same address, Chavez also suggested that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which is made up of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, should form a federation of republics.

Though Chavez is strong enough to get his way on almost any domestic issue, his response to the student protests could turn the group of pro-RCTV demonstrators, which originally dealt only with the issue of RCTV, into a more serious opposition movement. Meanwhile, the ALBA proposal is likely to be a nonstarter with Bolivia, and could estrange Ecuador, which is not a member of ALBA but has been considering joining.

As expected, Chavez halted RCTV's public broadcasts May 27 despite large protests. In Stratfor's first discussion of the issue it was suggested that, having failed to save RCTV, opposition groups would drop their campaign, at least for awhile. However, we did not anticipate that Chavez would fan the flames by claiming the students are being funded by the United States' Albert Einstein Institution as part of a U.S. attempt to destabilize the country, much as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) did during Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

Student protesters are notorious for their ideological immaturity, rowdiness and copious amounts of free time, and they rarely are taken seriously as a political movement. The RCTV protesters are no more powerful than most; however, they likely will resent the accusation that they are acting on behalf of a foreign influence -- particularly the United States. Instead of simply ignoring the students, Chavez has poured salt on a wound that was likely to go away on its own. This could sustain the protesters' anger and turn them into a more serious opposition group. Though the students are unlikely to pose an immediate threat to Chavez, the movement could strengthen opposition to the president's proposed constitutional reforms.

Chavez's comments that the current constitution is too "permissive" carry dire implications for the funding, personnel and activities of NGOs in Venezuela, particularly those with U.S. ties. Chavez's reference to the Orange Revolution, which was spurred by several of the country's NGOs, could indicate a coming crackdown on such organizations in Venezuela.

The president did not provide many details on how he wants ALBA, a regional Chavez fan club that was formed in response to the United States' proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, to become a federation of republics. The organization will hold a ministerial meeting June 6, so it is possible Chavez will elaborate on his proposal then. The idea is unlikely to please Venezuelans, who already are complaining that Chavez devotes too much attention to international events and not enough to problems at home. It also is unlikely to please residents of other ALBA countries, many of whom are concerned that Chavez has too much influence over their leaders.

Taken together, Chavez's recent announcements could even compel Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to further distance themselves from the Venezuelan president. Both Bolivia and Ecuador are in the midst of instituting their own constitutional reforms -- partially inspired by the Venezuelan effort that resulted in the 1999 constitution. Morales is seeking to overcome lowland opposition to his reforms, and Correa is trying to push forward his agenda while reassuring businesses that Ecuador will continue to be a relatively stable environment in which they can turn a profit. The last thing they need is for their respective oppositions to accuse them of following a leader who clamps down on civil liberties and attempts to subjugate their sovereignty for his regional vision.

Though Chavez's moves likely will backfire in the short term, they might not be a total miscalculation. It is possible Chavez is attempting to regain symbolic control of the domestic and regional agenda by acting aggressively. At home, the student protests have made headlines, and he likely felt the need to cast doubt on the idea that this is a homegrown movement. Abroad, Brazil has successfully reached out to the region via its ethanol diplomacy; stymied the Banco del Sur; criticized the RCTV closure; and is preventing Venezuela from co-opting Mercosur as a forum for Chavez's regional ambitions. These events likely convinced Chavez that he cannot rely on Brazil or Mercosur to be the seed for his vision of an integrated Latin America, and he needs to focus on further developing ALBA.

As such, Chavez is turning back to his tried-and-true method of using the United States as a scapegoat, and he is looking to his longtime allies to further his vision for Latin American integration. But he might be unpleasantly surprised to find that such actions are increasingly seen by his supporters
29579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: June 04, 2007, 09:47:20 AM
In my humble opinion, one of the most fundamental and difficult questions of modern life is what to do with the sexual energy prior to its biological purpose of reproduction.  Not only has the length of time between sexual maturity and reproduction reached extraordinary lengths (often decades!) but the sexual act itself can be separated from reproductive consequences.

Here is one approach:


Iranian Minister Calls for Temporary Marriages to Fulfill Sexual Desires

Sunday, June 03, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's hard-line interior minister is encouraging temporary marriages as a way to avoid extramarital sex, a stance many in this conservative country fear would instead encourage prostitution.

A temporary marriage, or "sigheh," refers to a Shiite Muslim tradition under which a man and a woman sign a contract that allows them to be "married" for any length of time, even a few hours. An exchange of money, as a sort of dowry, is often involved.

Although the practice exists, it's not very common in Iran, a Shiite majority nation where many consider it a license for prostitution. Others, however, have advocated institutionalizing the tradition, saying it would help fight "illicit" sex in a country where sexual relations outside marriage are banned under Islamic law.
"Temporary marriage is God's rule. We must aggressively encourage that," state-run television quoted Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi as saying.

The minister, who made his comments Thursday, was the first Iranian official to support the disputed practice in more than a decade. Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani raised the issue in the early 1990s but was opposed by the country's hard-line clerics.
"We have to find a solution to meet the sexual desire of the youth who have no possibility of marriage," Pourmohammadi was quoted as saying by local newspapers.

Half of Iran's population of 70 million is under 30. Taxi driver Reza Sarabi, 23, expressed the frustration of many young Iranian men who can't afford to buy a house and get married.
"I have no money to set up a matrimonial life. I don't want prostitutes. What should I do with my sexual needs?" he said.

The "sigheh" is banned in Sunni Islam, but similar practices can be found in Sunni countries. One such practice is the "urfi" marriage, an unofficial arrangement that is often kept secret. Although an urfi marriage involves signing a document in front of witnesses, the marriage can be broken by destroying the paper.

In Iran, temporary marriage has been reported as a way some widows and poor women help support themselves. But critics of the practice believe such arrangements only exacerbate the country's prostitution problem and undermine Iran's values.
"It will damage the foundation of the family," said lawyer Nemat Ahmadi, who argues it gives wealthy men religious cover to have affairs. "This will only promote prostitution."

Prostitution was banned in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution but has increased in recent years. There are no official statistics available in Iran on the number of prostitutes, but unofficial figures published by some media outlets put the number at several hundred thousand.
29580  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Politica on: June 04, 2007, 01:13:59 AM
Este URL se me lo mando' un amigo Venezolano sobre la situacion actual alli':
29581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 03, 2007, 04:14:10 PM

"PS:  We are getting a bit afield from the subject of this thread.  If we want to continue this conversation please continue on the Immigration thread."

This is in the interest of thread coherency.  This thread is about "The 2008 Presidential Race".  So would you please repost your response on the Immigration thread and I will delete it here.

Thank you.
29582  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Canis Bostonus..... on: June 03, 2007, 03:18:39 AM
C-Cyborg Dog is from Boston, but is out here in LA to train with me for the next several months.
29583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 07:14:17 PM
If we want to keep a fcukin' genius like Simon Cao (formerly of Avanex) here in the US and not running off to set up a cheaper operation in China where he can find a ton of people who a fcukin' brilliant workaholics for pennies a day, it behooves us to have it not too hard to bring them here.

PS:  We are getting a bit afield from the subject of this thread.  If we want to continue this conversation please continue on the Immigration thread.
29584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 01:15:31 PM
Woof Milt:

In a very unprofitable period of my life,  cry I followed surfed the peak of the NAZ boom and crashed and burned along with it.  During this time I followed the Gilder Technology Report and related readings.  My impressions on this issue were formed during that time.  As can be seen from some of the threads on the SCH forum here, I retain an interest.


29585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 02, 2007, 01:11:09 PM

Well, I sure don't see anything objectionable to what Newt said or any reason to think him less presidential timber , , ,
29586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 09:16:16 AM
IMHO, that is a separate question-- and if we wait for its answer, we will become a nation of hamburger flippers in the meantime.

Perhaps worth noting in the case of the Chinese is that they are allowed to have only one child.  Therefore that child receives the undivided attention of both parents.

Whatever the reason, our high tech sector desparately needs these people and our country desparately needs a strong high tech sector.
29587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 02, 2007, 09:12:29 AM
As the Presidential race 2008 thread bears witness,  smiley I'm favor Newt at present.

What did he say about Rove?
29588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: June 02, 2007, 08:56:38 AM
Another fine call by David Gordon on JCG, which jumped over 10% yesterday.  Thanks to his table pounding I expanded my position just in time.
29589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: June 02, 2007, 08:54:44 AM
Published: June 2, 2007
San Francisco
NY Times

IF it turns out that none of his fellow passengers were actually infected with the dangerous form of tuberculosis he carries, then Andrew Speaker, the young honeymooner who recently eluded government efforts to keep him off commercial flights, may actually have done a favor to public health. His case has brought to light the neglected but growing problem of super drug-resistant tuberculosis, and the ease with which this deadly airborne disease can travel around the world.

Federal health officials have recently warned state and city TB treatment programs to expect budget cuts of as much as 25 percent over the next five years. But Mr. Speaker is not the first world traveler to carry the most drug-resistant TB, and he will surely not be the last. Instead of cutting back on TB research and treatment, we should be intensifying our efforts to fight the disease.

We urgently need tests capable of diagnosing drug resistance overnight, so that we can know which patients present the most danger to the public. We need new drugs to outwit the disease. And we need to support a worldwide effort to prevent TB bacteria from developing further drug-resistance.

Tuberculosis is an illness that was once thought to be under control. A century ago, it was responsible for one in five deaths in the United States. But then antibiotics came along, and a national effort to develop new drugs and diagnostic tools and to institute TB-control public health programs drove down the rates of tuberculosis in the United States to the point where people assumed it was eradicated.

Twenty years ago, complacency about TB control combined with the H.I.V. epidemic and a growing immigrant population to bring about a resurgence. As a result, in the early 1990s, TB programs in the United States were rebuilt to provide better patient care and case investigation and to improve adherence to treatment.

These programs have become models for TB treatment around the world. But unfortunately, in many countries, public health standards still fall short. Patients infected with tuberculosis are given inadequate courses of antibiotics, or they fail to adhere to the course of treatment they are given. In such cases, the most drug-resistant strains of the bacteria are allowed to multiply.

It’s easy to see how drug resistance in any one country grows into a global problem. One-third of the world’s population carries the TB bacillus in their bodies, and in the stream of people traveling around the world the bacteria are constantly on the move.

The World Health Organization estimates that each person with TB infects 10 to 15 other people, usually by coughing the germs into the air. And once the bacteria reach a new host, they can either progress to disease, keeping the cycle going, or be carried around for years or decades, only to cause illness later on in a chosen few. A robust immune system is needed to contain the infection, but even in healthy people, 5 percent to 10 percent of those exposed go on to develop TB.

The most extremely resistant form of the illness — the kind that Mr. Speaker has, known as XDR-TB, which is impervious to even our most powerful antibiotics — is now found all over the world. It is thought to be rare, though the exact numbers are unknown. But we know that the numbers are rising, because strains of TB that are resistant to multiple drugs — the precursors to XDR-TB — are proliferating. In 2004, almost half a million of the more than 8 million cases of tuberculosis worldwide were resistant to the most potent TB drugs. And drug resistance feeds further drug resistance.

Adding to the problem is the long time, often a period of months, that it takes to detect drug resistance. Doctors are forced to treat in the dark, not knowing whether their drugs are actually working.

What is needed are tests capable of diagnosing drug resistance within 24 hours — tests that do not require letting the bacteria grow in culture for days but rather identify gene mutations that confer drug resistance.

Such genetic tests to detect resistance to first-line TB drugs already exist, though they are in limited use, mainly in New York and California. We need to put in the effort to develop them for the second-line antibiotics, and make the investment to ensure that the quick tests are put into widespread use.

Perhaps if Mr. Speaker’s doctors had known before he left for Paris that his tuberculosis was the drug-resistant kind, they might have taken even stronger action to keep him from flying to Europe in the first place. State and federal laws give public health officials the authority they need to keep contagious patients away from the public, but in exercising that authority, it helps to know the danger that a patient poses.

In addition, we need more drugs to treat TB. No new drug class has been approved for TB since the antibiotic rifampin, 35 years ago. Without effective drugs to treat the new superbugs, patients often suffer longer periods of contagion, and that makes their treatment extremely costly (from about $90,000 to more than $700,000 per patient).

Last fall, the World Health Organization proclaimed XDR-TB to be a public health emergency and called on governments to provide $95 million in 2007 to deal with the problem. Three bills now before Congress would increase domestic and international spending for TB treatment and research.

As global travel continues to increase and the rate of drug-resistant TB rises, the number of cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis inevitably will grow. It is essential that we redouble our efforts to halt the epidemic of drug resistance and the global spread of all forms of TB.

L. Masae Kawamura is the director of the tuberculosis control section of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

29590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: June 02, 2007, 08:51:50 AM
NY Times Editorial
A Cyberblockade in Estonia
Published: June 2, 2007
The small but technologically adept nation of Estonia has raised an alarm that should be heard around the wired world. Last month it weathered what some describe as the first real war in cyberspace when its government and much of its commerce nearly shut down for days because of an orchestrated Internet assault.

The assault on Estonia’s virtual society began in April after authorities moved a real bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from a central park in Tallinn to a military graveyard farther from the center of the city. For many Estonians, the statue was another reminder of Soviet invaders who took over their homes at Stalin’s orders. But Russians and Estonians of Russian descent immediately took to the streets to protest. The statue’s move was, for them, a sign of disrespect for Soviets who battled the Nazis in World War II.

The rioting and looting in Tallinn turned out to be nothing compared to what began happening to Estonia’s computers. Waves of unwanted data quickly clogged the Web sites of the government, businesses and several newspapers, shutting down one branch of their computer network after another. One minister described it as a kind of electronic blockade, like having the nation’s ports all shut to the sea. Estonian authorities charged that the data flood came on orders from the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin’s government has denied any involvement.

In recent years, governments, businesses and individuals have focused on ways to keep hackers or destructive viruses from stealing or destroying sensitive information. But Estonia should put the computer-dependent world on full notice that there can be many offensive forms of information warfare and figuring out how to stop it — and ultimately who is behind it — is essential to all of our security.
29591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: June 02, 2007, 07:25:24 AM
HillaryCare Blooms
All the Democratic health plans spurn market-based reforms.

Saturday, June 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The HillaryCare experiment ended badly in 1994, but Democrats are back in the universal health-care laboratory. All the party's major Presidential candidates have or will introduce plans, and last week Hillary Clinton presented the first part of hers. The former First Lady joked that she's "tangled with this issue before" and has "the scars to show for it." But the lesson she seems to have learned is political, not substantive--that is, make any plans for government control gauzy and incremental, not grandiose.

Mrs. Clinton will unroll her universal plan later this year; last week's speech focused on lowering health-care costs, which stand at $1.9 trillion for 2005. She says she can trim that by "at least" $120 billion. A big lump of that figure comes from digitizing and integrating medical records. Not a bad idea, probably: A 2005 RAND study suggests it could produce $77 billion in net savings a year with 90% adoption. Computerized record-keeping is so unobjectionable that it's also a pet issue of Newt Gingrich, among other Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton also nodded at medical malpractice reform. She neglected, however, to support the proposals that would actually reduce costs, such as punitive damage caps and specialized medical courts. These, not incidentally, are also the programs most vigorously opposed by the tort bar.

Her main thrust addressed prevention to reduce the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Mrs. Clinton would do so by mandating that insurers re-orient their policies to cover prevention, at least when dealing with the federal government--no doubt with other mandates to follow.

This was only the first of Mrs. Clinton's promises to crack down on the "marketing and schemes" of the insurance industry. She decried companies, for instance, that "discriminate" against those with pre-existing conditions, and would require that "anyone" be allowed to join a plan, whenever. This is called "guaranteed issue"; it allows people to wait until they're sick before seeking insurance, making it less affordable for everyone else.

Guaranteed issue is precisely one of the mandates that makes insurance so expensive in states like Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. Policies might be more affordable if the insurance market were deregulated; now, the market is balkanized by 50 separate sets of state regulations, inhibiting innovation and economies of scale. But for the Senator from New York, it's easier to blame nefarious business.

Mrs. Clinton also took some predictable swipes against the pharmaceutical companies for the cost of prescription drugs. She would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices and allow for reimportation from foreign countries. These drugs, of course, are cheaper because foreign governments impose price controls on pharmaceuticals that mostly originated in the U.S.

The Senator also discussed at length her proposal to create a regulatory pathway for the approval of generic copies of biotechnology medicines. Not only is such a program shot through with serious scientific and intellectual-property concerns, but the best research indicates that the savings range for follow-on biologics falls between 5% and 13% over the original drugs. The U.S. spent $52.7 billion on biologics in 2005, so the potential savings are small while what Mrs. Clinton suggests could hamstring the most innovative medical sector.

Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama offered his own full-dress plan, which promises to "provide coverage for all." The Presidential hopeful latched on to many of the same worn-out policy ideas as Mrs. Clinton--guaranteed issue, drug reimportation and more severe insurance regulation. As it turns out, though, Mr. Obama's program isn't necessarily universal. He would retain the private insurance system while creating a parallel public health plan based on the one currently available for federal employees; a sliding subsidy would be provided to those with lower incomes. The campaign says this will cost the federal government between $50 billion and $65 billion per year, and will be paid for by repealing the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.
The Obama plan has been roughed up on the left because it doesn't mandate 100% coverage outright, aiming instead to cut down the number of uninsured. The John Edwards camp calls the program "simply inadequate." For his part, Mr. Edwards has offered a universal plan that would require businesses to cover their employees or else pay into a government fund to provide coverage; and he'd create a new, expanded federal entitlement program modeled after Medicare. Mr. Edwards estimates it will cost between $90 billion and $120 billion a year--and some experts say the price will be higher than that--which he proposes to fund by raising taxes. At least Mr. Edwards is somewhat honest about cost, as opposed to the free-lunchism of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. Put simply, a universal health-care system can't be financed with savings from computerized medical records.

What's most striking is that all these Democratic proposals spurn market reforms and the tax code, which is biased toward health spending. Because third-party businesses--but not individuals--can deduct health expenditures, the tax code insulates those with private insurance from the real costs of their treatment decisions and then prices uninsured Americans out of the market. Instead of aggrandizing more power to the government, changing this arrangement would devolve more control to patients and their doctors, and reduce overall spending as part of the bargain.

In any event, it will be interesting to see in the coming months how Mrs. Clinton negotiates what she calls "the moral imperative" to extend universal coverage to all Americans. Given that most of her proposals so far would raise, not lower, the cost of health care, she might want to go back to the drawing board.

29592  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: June 02, 2007, 06:48:40 AM
From: "Martial Arts Tournaments" <>
Subject: [Eskrima] Pro fight league is a hit

Pro fight league is a hit
John Boyle
Herald, Everett, Wash

Aaron Stark will step into the ring at the Everett Events Center
tonight with his mind set on knocking his opponent unconscious or
beating him into submission.

The Oregon native is 205 pounds of tough, a fighter in the
International Fight League, the world's first team-based professional
mixed martial arts league, which is making its first stop in
Washington tonight.

And Stark's long-term dream: To make world-class pinot noir.


When he's not busy fighting or training, Stark is the vineyard manager
for Colene Clemens Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The
family-owned vineyard, named for Stark's grandmother, planted pinot
noir vines - three different Dijon clones, Stark says with pride - two
years ago, and Stark said they hope to produce their first wines next

Oh yeah, the former college wrestler is also a member of Mensa
International, an organization of people with high IQs.

While mixed martial arts competitions, best known from the Ultimate
Fighting Championships that draw huge crowds and pay-per-view ratings,
continue their rapid growth in this country and abroad (see last
week's cover of Sports Illustrated as evidence), they also fight
constant misconceptions.

Gone are the early days of the sport when there were no weight classes
and few rules. Despite the violence of the sport - and there's no
arguing that it is violent - fighters say the sport is much safer than
the casual observer might believe.

These are athletes, and well-rounded ones at that, not brawlers.

"I do think that's something we're always dealing with," Stark said.
"I won't tell you that there aren't any savages in the business, but
most of the guys tend to be fairly well-rounded guys outside of the
ring. They're guys with families, guys who went to college. I don't
have any hatred for my opponents. It's a sport."

The IFL's visit tonight gives local fight fans a chance to see the
sport up close. The IFL, which started last year and is in its first
full season, differs from Ultimate Fighting by being a team sport.
Tonight's card features fighters from four of the teams in the 12-team
league: Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; and Tokyo. Each team has
fighters in five weight classes, and teams win by winning three or
more of the five matches.

Competitions take place in a round-robin format from January to June,
with the top two teams competing for the IFL Championship in

While the IFL may not have the name recognition of Ultimate Fighting,
it is certainly doing well in its first full season. Matches are held
in smaller venues, similar in size to the 8,300-seat Everett Events
Center, and usually draw between 5,000 and 8,000 fans. The league also
has TV contracts with FSN, which airs a weekly show Friday nights, and
with MyNetworkTV, which has a two-hour show on Mondays that is part
fight action and part a behind-the-scenes look at the league.

In the early to mid-1990s, the early days of mixed martial arts in the
U.S., fighters could get away with almost anything. The sport was
referred to as "human cockfighting" by Republican Sen. John McCain of
Arizona and was banned in many states before changes were made.

Now the sport is regulated. It has weight classes and rules.

The IFL's Web site lists 27 actions constituting fouls, including
butting with the head, eye gouging, biting, hair pulling, fish
hooking, groin attacks of any kind, elbows to the face or head, and -
get ready to cringe - intentionally placing a finger in any opponent's

The sport's top athletes are just that: athletes, not barroom brawlers
stepping into the ring. Most come into the sport with a background in
one fighting discipline and then learn others such as boxing,
kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, karate, Muay Thai or tae kwon do.

Unlike boxing, mixed martial arts has not had a death in a sanctioned event.

"It's definitely not as bad as what people think," said Ryan Schultz,
a member of the Portland Wolfpack and one of the league's stars.
"We're not just brutes up there beating the crap out of each other.
We're all friends. It's totally a sport. Most of us, we're pretty
easygoing guys."

The IFL is also unique in that is provides a steady fight schedule and
steady pay. While the top fighters on pay-per-view fights are making
good money, other fighters can struggle to find fights at all, let
alone fights that pay well. IFL fighters, on the other hand, have
contracts with the league that provide a steady paycheck and health

"I've fought all over the place, in Japan, Hawaii, Canada, just
looking for fights," said Schultz, who wrestled at the University of
Nebraska. "With this league it's great. With IFL, you can plan your
life a little bit better. You know when you're fighting. They take
care of us."

That financial security is something some fighters never thought
they'd get from fighting.

"My first five fights were for free," said Brad Blackburn, an Olympia
native who fights for the Seattle Tiger Sharks. "Now I'm getting paid
enough to pay my bills. I was hoping one day it would pay, but I never
really thought it would. I'm getting paid to go out and do something I

Controversial or not, the sport on display tonight in Everett seems
here to stay.

"This sport is definitely blowing up," Schultz said. "It's fun to be
on that train. It's exciting; you can definitely see the change in how
popular it's becoming. I think it's here to stay and I see it doing
big, big things."

More about the sport

Fighting styles used: Boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu,
karate, Muay Thai and tae kwon do are the most prominent - also judo,
aikido and others.

How a fight is won: Matches are won by knockout, technical knockout
(referee or corner stoppage), submission or tap out (when an athlete
resigns the match because he is in a compromised hold or choke), or a
judge's decision. The team that wins the best three of five matches
wins the team competition.

Common terms

Armbar: A type of armlock in which the arm is hyper-extended at the
elbow in order to get an opponent to submit or tap out.

Ground-and-pound: A technique in which an athlete gains an advantage
through a takedown, assumes a top position and strikes down on the

Heelhook: A submission hold applied on the heel and then fully
accomplished by twisting the knee at the joint.

Submission hold: A choke or joint manipulation that is meant to cause
an opponent to submit or tap out.

Tap/tap out: An act of submission or giving up in which an opponent,
hopelessly captured in a submission hold or being pummeled by strikes,
taps the mat or his opponent in lieu of blacking out or risking bodily

Takedown: The act of putting your opponent to the floor with a tackle,
sweep, Greco-throw or other technique, typically involving the legs.

IFL timeline

Jan. 6, 2006: Real estate developer and martial arts aficionado Kurt
Otto and Gareb Shamus, founder of Wizard Entertainment, announce the
creation of the International Fight League. The IFL will field four
teams (Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Moline, Ill.) and play host
to two national tournaments in 2006 before formally launching a full
season in 2007.

April 29, 2006: The IFL makes its debut at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic
City, N.J. The Quad Cities Silverbacks post a 4-1 win over the Los
Angeles Anacondas, and the Seattle Tiger Sharks edge the New York
Pitbulls 3-2.

June 2-Nov. 20, 2006: The league expands to 12 teams for the 2007
season, adding franchises in Portland, Ore.; Tokyo; Toronto; San Jose,
Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Orange County, Calif.; Chicago; and in Nevada.

Nov. 29, 2006: The IFL begins trading as a public company under the
OTC Bulletin Board ticker symbol (IFLI: OTC.BB).

Jan. 19, 2007: The IFL holds its inaugural regular-season event at The
Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., where the Toronto Lions defeat the
San Jose Razorclaws and the Southern California Condors beat the
Seattle Tiger Sharks.

Today: The IFL comes to the Everett Events Center.

Source: The IFL
29593  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 02, 2007, 06:42:25 AM
Woof All:

Maija left a phone message last night that she has mailed in her fighter's registration  cool

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
29594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: June 02, 2007, 06:40:28 AM

Syria's Useful Idiots
June 1, 2007; Page A13

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council voted to set up a tribunal that will try suspects in the February 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Syria is the leading suspect in the case, so the establishment of the tribunal serves as a step toward creating a stable Lebanon. It also poses a clarifying question to the United States: What will engaging Syria mean for building a liberal future for Lebanon?

At the moment, it is clear that Syria hasn't stopped meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs. The Security Council only created its tribunal after efforts to establish a similar tribunal within Lebanon were stymied by Syrian allies. Indeed, to understand what is at stake in the Lebanese crisis today, flip through the report released last April by the U.N. commission investigating the Hariri assassination.

The commission, led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, now assumes that Hariri's assassination was tied to his political activities, particularly his preparations for the summer 2005 legislative elections. This sets up a key passage in the report: "[A] working hypothesis is that the initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement got underway and most likely before early January 2005. This leads to a possible situation in the last weeks before his murder in which two tracks, not necessarily linked, were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway."

Lebanese citizens celebrate Wednesday's establishment of a U.N. tribunal for the Rafiq Hariri murder.
For anyone who followed Lebanese politics at the time, this deceptively anodyne passage says a lot. Hariri was hoping to score a victory against Syria and its Lebanese allies during the elections, after Syria had extended the mandate of his bitter rival, President Emile Lahoud. The Syrians felt that such a victory would jeopardize their position in Lebanon and, although there was mediation to patch up Hariri's differences with the Syrians, the plot to eliminate him continued. It is plain from Mr. Brammertz's phrasing that those who were planning the former prime minister's elimination are the same ones with whom the intermediaries were trying to reconcile him.

Mr. Brammertz is building a case that, from the information provided to date, can only point the finger at Syria and its Lebanese supplicants. The Hariri tribunal, now that it has been formally established, poses an existential threat to the Syrian regime, and it is in Lebanon that the Syrians have and will continue to hit back to save themselves.

The outbreak of violence in northern Lebanon between the Lebanese army and a group calling itself Fatah al-Islam is the latest stage in such an endeavor. In a BBC interview last week, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora openly linked Fatah al-Islam to Syrian intelligence. The group has claimed to be an al Qaeda affiliate, but observers in Lebanon, including Palestinian sources usually critical of the Siniora government, qualify this, saying that Fatah al-Islam is acting on Syria's behalf. The daily Al-Hayat has reported that the group's weapons come from caches belonging to Palestinian organizations under Syrian control, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada, from which Fatah al-Islam allegedly broke off.

Meanwhile, a more subtle battle is taking place over interpretation of what is happening in Lebanon. This is especially important because there are those in Washington who still insist that something can be gained from dealing with Syria. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thought so in April when she visited Damascus, did the Gertrude Bell tour of the Hamadiyyeh souq, and capped it all with a visit to President Bashar Assad, all for precisely nothing in return.

The Iraq Study Group also thought Syria could be a useful partner in Iraq, even as all the signs suggest that Damascus has little real influence there and is sowing dissension to compensate. That's why understanding what is going on in Lebanon is vital for a sense of what can be gained from Syria elsewhere. Yet something is amiss when the most obvious truths are those the pundits won't consider.

For example, what did the former CIA agent Robert Baer mean in Time magazine, when he wrote that the Lebanese government should "know better" than to believe that Fatah al-Islam is a Syrian creation, because "at the end of the day Fatah Islam is the Syrian regime's mortal enemy"? Mr. Baer's point was that a Lebanese civil war might undermine Syrian stability, but also that Sunni Islamists oppose the minority Alawite Syrian regime. He reminded us that "the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood used northern Lebanon as a rear base to seize the Syrian city of Hama in 1982."

It is Mr. Baer who should know better. Syria has fueled a sectarian war in neighboring Iraq by funneling Sunni al Qaeda fighters into the country, without worrying about what this might mean for its own stability. Syria's vulnerabilities have not prevented it from hosting Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. And Syria's anxieties notwithstanding, throughout its years in Lebanon it developed ties with many Sunni Islamist groups and recently welcomed to Damascus a prominent Lebanese Islamist it has co-opted, Fathi Yakan.

The point is that Syria will have no qualms about provoking sectarian discord in Lebanon to ward away the menace of the Hariri tribunal.

And what are we to make of the journalist Seymour Hersh, now considered an authority on Lebanese Sunni Islamist groups on the basis of a flawed article he wrote for the New Yorker last March? In that article, and in a recent CNN interview, he indirectly suggested that Fatah al-Islam had received weapons not from Syria but from the Siniora government.

The only source Mr. Hersh cited in his article for the Fatah al-Islam story was Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 agent who co-directs Conflicts Forum, an institution advocating dialogue with Islamist movements. Mr. Crooke did not have direct knowledge of what he was claiming, as he "was told" that weapons and money were offered to the group, "presumably to take on Hezbollah."

Mr. Hersh is wading into very muddy waters with very simple ideas. The relationship of the Lebanese government and the Hariri camp with Sunni Islamists is byzantine, but there is no evidence to date that the government or the Hariris had any strategy to use al Qaeda against Hezbollah. In fact most Lebanese Sunni Islamists are not linked to al Qaeda. And Mr. Hersh has provided no proof that Fatah al-Islam received government assistance. Still, the Syrian regime's media has repeatedly used Mr. Hersh's charges to discredit the Lebanese government.

Then there are those with little patience for Lebanese independence. Arguing that Syria is worth more to the U.S. than Lebanon, they advocate Washington's ceding Lebanon to Syria as a price for constructive dialogue. For example, Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staffer now at the New America Foundation, recently told National Public Radio, where he appears regularly, that the Bush administration had "romanticized" the 2005 "Cedar Revolution." This was his way of implying that the latter was worth discarding. For Mr. Leverett and others, a Lebanon free of Syria is inherently unstable, even as they disregard Syrian responsibility for that instability.

In a March 2005 op-ed in the New York Times, as Lebanese took to the streets demanding a Syrian pullout, Mr. Leverett urged the U.S. to abandon efforts to establish a "pro-Western government" in Beirut. Instead, he proposed that "the most promising (if gradual) course for promoting reform in Syria is to engage and empower [President] Assad, not to isolate and overthrow him."

This makes for restorative reading today, as Mr. Assad's regime pursues its destabilization of Lebanon, Iraq and Palestinian areas, ignores domestic reform and continues to detain thousands of political opponents in its prisons.

There is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind on Syria. However, an "open mind" can be shorthand for blindness or bad faith. Given the evidence, it makes no sense to dismiss Syrian involvement in the Lebanese crisis, or to blame the crisis on an al Qaeda affiliate allegedly financed by the Lebanese government. Nor does it make sense to assume that Lebanon is a burden that the U.S. should jettison in favor of a stabilizing Syria, considering the fact that al Qaeda materialized from across the Syrian border. We're asked to believe that a group, said to be financed by the Siniora government, picked a fight with that very government, and somehow innocently did so just as the U.N. prepared to establish a tribunal the Syrians fear.

When Syria is systematically exporting instability throughout the region, you have to wonder whether its regime can be a credible partner to the U.S.

Mr. Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.


Justice for Lebanon
June 1, 2007; Page A12
Russia and China refused to endorse Wednesday's Security Council vote to establish an international tribunal for the February 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister. The tribunal, they argued, was an illegitimate form of outside interference in the country's domestic affairs. As for Syria's role in Mr. Hariri's murder -- the very reason the tribunal was needed in the first place -- that's a form of meddling our friends in Moscow and Beijing apparently prefer not to notice.

The good news is that these two veto-wielding powers abstained from the vote, which means the tribunal will be established by international fiat by June 10 if the Lebanese parliament fails to do it before then. In Beirut, this brought dancing in the streets; Mr. Hariri's son Saad called the resolution a "victory the world has given to oppressed Lebanon and a victory for an oppressed Lebanon in the world."

By contrast, Syria denounced the U.N. vote as a "degradation of Lebanon's sovereignty," which -- considering the source -- is almost amusing. Iranian-proxy Hezbollah was equally dismayed: It has spent the last six months attempting to block the tribunal by calling mass demonstrations and trying to bring down the democratic government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. For Hezbollah especially, the resolution marks a major political defeat, and therefore a strategic victory for anyone who cares about Lebanon's future as a sovereign democracy.

Nobody should be under any illusions that the road forward for the tribunal will be easy. The Syrians have consistently tried to derail the U.N. investigation leading to the tribunal. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who recently met with Condoleezza Rice in Egypt, was secretly taped threatening Rafik Hariri just weeks before his death. He then lied about it to U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis -- a useful reminder of the value of trying to negotiate anything with the regime of Bashar Assad.

Damascus almost certainly had a hand in the assassinations of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians Gibran Tueni in 2005 and Pierre Gemayal in 2006. More recently, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat has reported that the leadership of Fatah al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Lebanon, consists entirely of Syrian officers. The Lebanese army has been fighting a pitched battle with the group for the past two weeks in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared -- this despite the fact that the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh reported that the Lebanese government, with the connivance of Saudi Arabia and the Bush Administration, was actually behind the group. (See Michael Young's dispatch nearby.)

As in Iraq, the Syrian game in Lebanon is to foment chaos and then offer itself as the solution. The gambit has plainly impressed at least some people: Wang Guangya, the Chinese ambassador to the U.N., argued that the tribunal would "add to the uncertainties embodied in the already turbulent political and security situation in Lebanon." Comments like that will surely embolden the Syrians to sow more chaos in Lebanon to show that the price of justice in the service of a fallen leader will be prohibitively high.

But whatever happens next, passage of the resolution has shown the Syrians and their Lebanese friends that they cannot assassinate political enemies without paying a price of their own. As U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad put it Wednesday to the Security Council, "there can be no peace . . . without justice." We've heard that slogan before; in the case of Lebanon, at least, it happens to be true.

29595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 01, 2007, 04:20:38 PM

Dog Brothers Inc. is proud to support Michael Yon in his mission to report the truth from the frontlines.
29596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Asia on: June 01, 2007, 12:14:18 PM

Show of Bad Faith
June 1, 2007

As Islamist protestors' shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" echoed through Putrajaya's Palace of Justice, the Malaysian Federal Court Wednesday reaffirmed that religion is determined by court orders and not personal conscience. The two-to-one landmark decision by the country's highest court marks a monumental setback to religious freedom and human rights in Malaysia, a secular country increasingly influenced by Islamism.

Lina Joy, about whom I wrote on this page last September, is an ethnic Malay born into an Islamic family who converted to Christianity in 1998 at the age of 36. Desiring to live as a Christian, she sought to have "Islam" removed from her national identification card so that she could marry her Roman Catholic fiancé. However, the National Registration Department refused her request without an official order from the Islamic Sharia court declaring her an apostate. Because Ms. Joy was not a Muslim, she argued that the Sharia court -- which constitutionally has jurisdiction only in limited, enumerated matters relating to family law "over persons professing the religion of Islam" -- had no jurisdiction over her decision.

Once a Muslim, forever a Muslim in Malaysia.
On principle, Ms. Joy never applied to the Sharia court because she rightly reasoned that the state could not tell her what she believes in her heart. Further, no Sharia court has ever recognized an application for apostasy made by an ethnic Malay. Instead, a common judgment has been years-long sentences to religious "rehabilitation" camps for re-education in Islam.

Ms. Joy courageously filed suit in civil court, optimistic that the federal Constitution's provisions for equal protection and freedom of religion for all Malaysians would strengthen her case. The trial court dismissed her application, arguing that ethnic Malays are constitutionally defined as Muslim, thereby making conversion from Islam illegal. The judge also reasoned that allowing this exemption would encourage future converts. The Court of Appeals subsequently wrote that allowing Ms. Joy's conversion would "consequently be inviting the censure of the Muslim community."

Any hope that Ms. Joy might find protection from the federal Constitution was crushed by the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the doctrine that if you are born a Muslim, you will stay a Muslim until the community decides otherwise. Ignoring Lina Joy's years of Catholic study, church attendance, and the baptism certificate she presented as proof of her sincerity, Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in his decision, "You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another."

Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim among the three judges, dissented, arguing that because the National Registration Department had required a special approval only for Muslims, it violated the equal treatment provision in Article Eight of the federal Constitution. In its perverse way, Wednesday's ruling was discriminatory only against those born into Islam.

Even beyond Ms. Joy's plight, this and similar rulings set dangerous precedents for related cases regarding the application of Sharia law. Consider Subashini Rajasingam, whose husband embraced Islam in 2006 and then converted their eldest son. He then filed an application before the Kuala Lumpur Sharia Court to dissolve their civil marriage and obtain custody of the children. Ms. Subashini lost her case in both lower courts, and the Federal Court granted leave to appeal on May 17.

Malaysia's religious and ethnic diversity, growing economy, and regional leadership make these rulings all the more troubling. Indicators such as Ms. Joy's case, in which judges unabashedly set aside constitutional protections in favor of the sensibilities of Muslim believers, suggest that there is growing support for Islamization.

Just as Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists mingle in Kuala Lumpur's Central Market, so too have Sharia and civil law existed side by side since Malaysia's Constitution came into force in 1957. Now, the prospects of Sharia and civil law peacefully coexisting have grown dim. Malaysia's ability to protect fundamental human rights while navigating its parallel legal system among rising religious and ethnic tensions is an indication of whether it's possible anywhere.

In Malaysia, where Islam as the state religion was historically merely a symbolic statement, and where the Constitution reflects religious freedom for people of all faiths, the issue is not whether Sharia can accommodate human rights. It's whether human rights can accommodate Sharia.

Ms. Joy remains in hiding, trapped in a legal quagmire designed by a state judging her religion according to her ethnicity and not what she professes. Meanwhile her country -- whose motto is "Unity is Strength" -- is at a cultural and legal crossroads. Wednesday's ruling is a step toward an Islamic state in which group religious sentiment trumps the most fundamental human right, the right without which other rights are meaningless -- the right to follow one's conscience. Let us hope Malaysia can turn back in time.

Ms. Wu is the International Director of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C
29597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: June 01, 2007, 12:08:36 PM
A Back Door for Terrorists

Published: June 1, 2007
AMID all of the xenophobia and nativism surrounding the immigration debate, there is a real security concern. In the language of the bureaucracy, the problem is referred to as the “O.T.M.’s,” or Other Than Mexicans.

Thousands of non-Mexicans are caught crossing the United States border every year. They cannot be sent back to Mexico, but must be deported to their home country. Until recently, most were given a deportation hearing date and then simply released. Not surprisingly, few showed up for their scheduled appearances. Beginning last year, however, most who are caught are put into detention. They are then put through a procedure called expedited removal, under which many are flown back home within a few weeks.

Many of these non-Mexicans come from Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and other areas of concern to counterterrorism officials. What we don’t know is how many others are evading the Border Patrol every year and what happens to them when they leave the border area. It’s not too hard to imagine that these illegal immigrants, who have clearly spent a lot of money getting to Mexico and then into the United States, are able to buy themselves an identity and corroborating papers once in an American city.

Since 9/11, it has been far more difficult to get a visa to enter the United States if you are a citizen of a country considered a terrorism concern. But it is not difficult for a Pakistani, for example, to enter Mexico or another Central American country from which he can get to our border relatively easily, cross it and blend in.

The Real ID Act of 2005, which among other things established standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards, has now been put off until at least 2009. And many states are in open revolt against its tough requirements for issuing driver’s licenses.

The result is that potential terrorists here illegally can easily use phony licenses or, in many states, get real ones issued to them, along with credit cards and all of the other papers needed to blend into our society. (The only places in this country that seem to check the validity of drivers’ licenses are bars in college neighborhoods.) Indeed, those arrested for allegedly planning to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey included illegal immigrants who apparently had little difficulty getting along in this country.

In his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy last month, President Bush was right to express concern that Al Qaeda is trying to bring terrorists into the United States. He was wrong, however, to claim that fighting in Iraq somehow helps stop such attempts. In the absence of a secure border and verifiable biometric identification systems, preventing terrorists from getting in to this country and setting up sleeper cells here is almost impossible. Maybe we will get serious after the next attack.

Richard A. Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, is the author of “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.”

29598  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 01, 2007, 11:43:19 AM
For our purposes shooting any video at all is verboten. angry  In addition to the obvious business reasons, there is also the very important matter of fighters knowing that they can come to play secure in the knowledge that they will not be unfairly portrayed. 

For example several years back we had someone sneak a video of a fight and spread it all over the internet at "Our Style beats Style XYZ".     This made for some very bad feelings on the part of Style XYZ (a knife oriented system) and for a while there was talk of settling things on the sidelines at the next Gathering.   Fortunately I was able to steer things in a different direction.

Folks, what we have built is something very special.  If we do it right, it looks easy.  That does not mean it is easy. 

I repeat, shooting any video at all is verboten.
29599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Huber: Germs and the City on: June 01, 2007, 11:36:15 AM

Friday Feature / Peter Huber: Germs and the City

Two centuries of success against infectious disease have left us complacent—and vulnerable.


There have been at work among us three great social agencies: the London City Mission; the novels of Mr. Dickens; the cholera.” Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb quotes this reductionist observation at the end of her chapter on Charles Dickens in The Moral Imagination; her debt is to an English nonconformist minister, addressing his flock in 1853. It comes as no surprise to find the author of Hard Times and Oliver Twist discussed alongside Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill in a book on moral history. Nor is it puzzling to see Dickens honored in his own day alongside the City Mission, a movement founded to engage churches in aiding the poor. But what’s V. cholerae doing up there on the dais beside the Inimitable Boz? It’s being commended for the tens of millions of lives it’s going to save. The nastiness of this vile little bacterium has just transformed ancient sanitary rituals and taboos into a new science of epidemiology. And that science is about to launch a massive—and ultimately successful—public effort to rid the city of infectious disease.


The year 1853, when a Victorian doctor worked out that cholera spread through London’s water supply, was the turning point. Ordinary people would spend the next century crowding into the cities, bearing many children, and thus incubating and spreading infectious disease. Public authorities would do all they could to wipe it out. For the rest of the nineteenth century, they lost more ground than they gained, and microbes thrived as never before. Then the germ killers caught up—and pulled ahead. When Jonas Salk announced his polio vaccine to the press in April 1955, the war seemed all but over. “The time has come to close the book on infectious disease,” declared William Stewart, the U.S. surgeon general, a few years later. “We have basically wiped out infection in the United States.”


By then, however, infectious diseases had completed their social mission. Public authorities had taken over the germ-killing side of medicine completely. The focus shifted from germs to money—from social disease to social economics. As germs grew less dangerous, people gradually lost interest in them, and ended up fearing germ-killing medicines more than the germs themselves.


Government policies expressed that fear, putting the development, composition, performance, manufacture, price, and marketing of antibiotics and vaccines under closer scrutiny and control than any public utility’s operations and services. The manufacturers of these drugs, which took up the germ-killing mission where the sewer commission left off, must today operate like big defense contractors, mirror images of the insurers, regulatory agencies, and tort-litigation machines that they answer to. Most drug companies aren’t developing any vaccines or antibiotics any more. The industry’s critics discern no good reason for this at all: as they tell it, the big drug companies just can’t be bothered.


These problems capture our attention only now and again; they hardly figure in the much louder debate about how much we spend on doctors and drugs, and who should pay the bills. “Public health” (in the literal sense) now seems to be one thing, and—occasional lurid headlines notwithstanding—not a particularly important one, while “health care” is quite another.


We will bitterly regret this shift, and probably sooner rather than later. As another Victorian might have predicted—he published a book on the subject in 1859—germs have evolved to exploit our new weakness. Public authorities are ponderous and slow; the new germs are nimble and fast. Drug regulators are paralyzed by the knowledge that error is politically lethal; the new germs make genetic error—constant mutation—the key to their survival. The new germs don’t have to be smarter than our scientists, just faster than our lawyers. The demise of cholera, one could say, has been one of the great antisocial developments of modern times.


By withdrawing from the battlefield just long enough to let us drift into this state of indifference, the germs have set the stage for their own spectacular revival. Germs are never in fact defeated completely. If they retire for a while, it’s only to search, in their ingeniously stupid and methodically random way, for a bold new strategy. They’ve also contrived, of late, to get human sociopaths to add thought and order to the search. The germs will return. We won’t be ready.


Read Peter Huber’s Complete Article in the City Journal:
29600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Growing Demand for the rare American Iman on: June 01, 2007, 11:11:43 AM
Today's NY Times-- Often on topical subjects, but always a suspect source:

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. — Sheik Yassir Fazaga regularly uses a standard American calendar to provide inspiration for his weekly Friday sermon.

Sheik Yassir Fazaga greeting worshipers after a prayer service. He went to high school in Orange County, Calif., and now leads a mosque there.
Around Valentine’s Day this year, he talked about how the Koran endorses romantic love within certain ethical parameters. (As opposed to say, clerics in Saudi Arabia, who denounce the banned saint’s day as a Satanic ritual.)

On World AIDS Day, he criticized Muslims for making moral judgments about the disease rather than helping the afflicted, and on International Women’s Day he focused on domestic abuse.

“My main objective is to make Islam relevant,” said Sheik Fazaga, 34, who went to high school in Orange County, which includes Mission Viejo, and brings a certain American flair to his role as imam in the mosque here.

Prayer leaders, or imams, in the United States have long arrived from overseas, forced to negotiate a foreign culture along with their congregation. Older immigrants usually overlook the fact that it is an uneasy fit, particularly since imported sheiks rarely speak English. They welcome a flavor of home.

But as the first generation of American-born Muslims begins graduating from college in significant numbers, with a swelling tide behind them, some congregations are beginning to seek native imams who can talk about religious and social issues that seem relevant to young people, like dating and drugs. On an even more practical level, they want an imam who can advise them on day-to-day American matters like how to set up a 401(k) plan to funnel the charitable donations known as zakat, which Islam mandates.

“The problem is that you have a young generation whose own experience has nothing to do with where its parents came from,” said Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Near Eastern studies department at the University of California, Berkeley, who surveys Muslim communities.

But the underlying quandary is that American imams are hard to find, though there are a few nascent training programs. These days, many of the men leading prayers across the United States on any given Friday are volunteers, doctors or engineers who know a bit more about the Koran than everyone else. Scholars point out that one of the great strengths of Islam, particularly the Sunni version, is that there is no official hierarchy.

But this situation is fueling a debate about just how thoroughly an imam has to be schooled in Islamic jurisprudence and other religious matters before running a mosque.

The downside for Islam in America, some critics argue, is that those interpreting Islamic law often lack a command of the full scope of the traditions carried in the Koran and the hadith, the sayings of the prophet Muhammad considered sacred.

“I call it ‘hadith slinging,’ ” said Prof. Khaled Abou el Fadl, a specialist in Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles. “I throw a couple of hadiths at you, and you throw a couple of hadiths at me, and that is the way we do Islamic law,” he added. “It’s like any moron can do that.”

Experts say the problem is exacerbated because few immigrant parents want their children to become imams.

“Immigrant parents want their children to become doctors, engineers, computer scientists,” Dr. Bazian said. “If you suggested that they might want their kid to study to become an imam, they would hold a funeral procession.” Ultimately, in the absence of trained sheiks, good religion in many American mosques has come to be defined through rigid adherence to rituals, Professor Abou el Fadl said, adding, “It’s ritual that defines piety.”

The few imams born or at least raised in the United States who win over their congregations tend to be younger men who can play pickup basketball with the teenagers, but also have enough training in classical Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence that the older members accept their religious credentials.

Imam Ronald Smith Jr., 29, who runs the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach, Fla., converted to Islam at 14 to escape the violence in his African-American community in Atlantic City. As part of his training, he spent six years studying at the Islamic University in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

“Foreign imams, because of the culture in their countries, kind of stick to the mosque and the duties of the mosque without involving themselves much in the general community,” Imam Smith said. “The hip-hop culture is difficult to understand if you have never lived it.”


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The foreign imams’ idea of mosque outreach, Imam Smith said, is sponsoring an evening lecture series where everyone sits around for an hour and listens to a speech about being devout or maybe world politics, which teenagers find less than compelling.

Mosque leaders say the risk is that younger Muslims, already feeling under assault in the United States because of the faith’s checkered reputation, might choose one of two extremes. They either drift away from the faith entirely if they cannot find answers, or leave the mosque for a more radical fringe.

Here in Mission Viejo, Sheik Fazaga wears street clothes much of the time, but dons traditional robes to deliver the Friday sermon at the mosque, a building distinguishable from the surrounding strip malls and low-slung office buildings mostly by its airy exterior dome of metal filigree painted sea green. It was a practice he started 10 years ago when he first returned home and kind of fell into the imam’s job around age 24, because some members considered him too young for the position.

Born in the East African nation of Eritrea, he moved to the Arab world before coming to Mission Viejo at age 15. Drawn toward Islam by college students, he enrolled in the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, a Virginia campus of al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The United States government expelled much of the faculty in 2004 as part of the crackdown on extremist Islamic rhetoric.

The school was accused of being an American outpost of the puritanical Wahhabi sect, a label Sheik Fazaga rejects. But that might be one reason he has been stopped for questioning some 20 times — every time he returns home from abroad.

“ ‘How come you don’t dress like an imam?’— that’s their favorite question,” he said with a wry grin.

Younger Muslims seek him out for guidance, he said, and the fact that he is studying for a master’s degree in psychological therapy helps. Teenagers have requested advice about being addicted to Internet pornography, he said, and about sexual orientation. He counsels adolescents — gay and straight — that sexual attraction is natural, but to act on it is wrong and that any addiction should be treated.

Previous imams would simply admonish the youths that something was a forbidden abomination, subject closed.

Gihan Zahran, 43, an Egyptian immigrant, remembers a previous Arab imam who even told a much perplexed teenager that wearing Nike shoes was “haram,” or forbidden in Arabic, without explaining why. Some Muslims consider this aloofness particularly ineffective in America, given that they are a minority faced by majority practices like drinking alcohol that clash with their faith and that teenagers confront daily.

Ms. Zahran’s sister Nermeen Zahran, 42, recently went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. She is a real estate agent, and has not veiled her hair at least partly because it might affect her livelihood in a conservative place like Orange County.

When she went on the hajj, as it is called in Arabic, a fellow pilgrim asked the Egyptian imam who accompanied them from Southern California his opinion of her not wearing the scarf afterward.

“He was so mad, so offended and said he couldn’t believe it could happen,” Nermeen Zahran recalled over a glass of orange juice in the neat condominium she shares with her sister. His basic reaction, she said, was that there was no point in seeking forgiveness for previous sins if one did not take the veil afterward.

Ms. Zahran has also consulted religious figures about periodic bouts of depression, but the usual response was that her faith lacked vigor.

Now she talks to Sheik Fazaga about it, she said. “He tries to solve the problems and doesn’t tell you that you have to accept that this is your life, this is what Allah gave you, and if you don’t then you are not a good Muslim.”

She wonders, in the end, whether a purer form of Islam will develop in the United States, with prayer leaders focused on the concerns of the community, rather than not treading on the toes of the government that supports them, as in much of the Arab world.

Mosques will probably continue to address the wishes of the immigrant population for another decade, but after that the tide will shift away from them, experts suggest.

“Islam in America is trying to create a new cultural matrix that can survive in the broader context of America,” said Prof. Sherman Jackson, who teaches Arabic and Islamic law at the University of Michigan. “It has to change for the religion to survive.”
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