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29551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 17, 2007, 07:15:03 AM
Al Qaeda No. 2 blasts 'traitors'

(CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant warned in a video statement released Sunday that Iraqi tribal leaders who side with U.S. troops against al Qaeda fighters would face reprisals when Americans leave Iraq.
 An image of al-Zawahiri taken from an earlier videotape.

"I warn those individuals from among the armed factions who have been involved in cooperation against the Mujahedeen that history is recording everything, and that they will lose both their religion and life," Ayman al-Zawahiri said.

"The Americans will soon be departing, God permitting, and won't keep defending them forever. And let them look at the fate of America's agents in Vietnam and the fate of the Shah of Iran. Intelligent is he who learns from other's mistakes," he added.

Al Qaeda's No. 2 called such Iraqi leaders "traitors" and "scum."


So what happened to the mighty Iraqi army standing on its own?

Iraq sees need for foreign troops for 10 years
1 hour, 28 minutes ago

Iraq will need foreign troops to help defend it for another 10 years, but will not accept U.S. bases indefinitely, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq," Dabbagh told the state-run al-Iraqiya television in an interview broadcast late on Sunday.
"I do not think that there is a threat of an invasion of Iraq, or getting involved in a war. (But) to protect Iraqi sovereignty there must be an army to defend Iraq for the next 10 years," he said.

"But on the other hand, does Iraq accept the permanent existence of U.S. bases, for instance? Absolutely no. There is no Iraqi who would accept the existence of a foreign army in this country," he said. "America is America and Iraq is Iraq."

The United States now has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, formally operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate enacted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate for what it says will be a final year to the end of 2008, and conditions for U.S. troops to stay on beyond that date are to be negotiated in the next few months.
Violence has subsided after the United States dispatched 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year, and Washington now says it will bring about 20,000 home by mid-2008. Troop levels for the second half of the year are to be decided in March.

(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
29552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: December 17, 2007, 07:08:08 AM
0640 GMT -- SINGAPORE, UNITED STATES -- Under the new Secure Freight Initiative signed by Singaporean and U.S. officials, cargo leaving Singapore for the United States will be scanned for nuclear and radiological materials, the U.S. Embassy and Singapore's Ministry of Transport said in a joint statement Dec. 17, Channel News Asia reported. The scans will be conducted during a six-month trial of the new system. Singapore is one of seven global ports participating in the trial, the report said.
29553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: December 17, 2007, 07:03:27 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Reading Turkey's Airstrike in Iraq

Turkey announced on Sunday that it had bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq in a predawn raid. According to Turkish media, the attacks involved more than 50 planes, began at 1 a.m. local time on Sunday, continued for three hours and were followed by artillery attacks. They reportedly focused on the areas of Zap, Avasin and Hakurk, but went as deep as Qandil, where senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the targeted group, reportedly were based. This is a much more substantial strike than the last notable one, which occurred in mid-November.

Notably, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said that the United States cleared the attack, opening Iraqi airspace and also providing intelligence. According to Reuters, a U.S. Embassy official in Ankara said in response, "We have not approved any decision. It is not for us to approve. However, we were informed before the event." We interpret this statement to mean that the United States did in fact approve the attacks, since "it is not for us to approve" is not Washington's position on foreign powers launching airstrikes on Iraq.

Most interesting is the Turkish claim that the United States provided intelligence to the Turks for the airstrikes. This makes sense. The Americans definitely do not want a major Turkish invasion into Iraq at this time. Washington is trying to stabilize the country, and a Turkish invasion is the last thing the United States needs. At the same time, the Turkish government is under intense domestic political pressure to do something about PKK actions inside Turkey. It is politically impossible for Ankara to remain passive.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with U.S. President George W. Bush earlier in the month, and the two sides undoubtedly laid out their concerns: The United States didn't want an invasion, but Turkey had to do something effective. Non-PKK Kurds were loath to provide intelligence on PKK facilities and personnel that would benefit the Turks, regardless of intra-Kurdish political differences. The solution was for the United States to provide intelligence to the Turks, and for Turkey to warn the Americans so that the airspace would be clear and no U.S. personnel would be in the strike zone.

That was the price the United States had to pay to avoid a Turkish ground invasion. The decision might strain U.S.-Kurdish relations, but that is the price Iraqi Kurds have to pay to keep Turkey out. For the Turks, it was the most effective measure they could take without having a confrontation with the United States. All the players are looking for the lowest cost possible. But it's not clear that they bought the outcome they were hoping for.

It is difficult to strike a guerrilla group from the air and be successful. Airstrikes alone are unlikely to stop the PKK -- the militants would have to be engaged on the ground in order to be defeated. Therefore, if all that took place Sunday morning was an airstrike, the PKK will be back striking Turkish targets in no time. If, on the other hand, the airstrikes were cover for covert ground action against the PKK -- either by Turkish special forces or by those of another country -- then it might be that the PKK was in fact hurt badly enough to interrupt, if not end, the cycle of violence. In that case, the crisis might subside.

Over the next few weeks we will get a better sense of what happened before dawn on Sunday, based on whether the PKK hits back.

Situation Reports

0922 GMT -- IRAQ, TURKEY -- The Iraqi government has demanded that Turkey stop conducting airstrikes in northern Iraq, saying the Dec. 16 strikes destroyed hospitals, schools and bridges, Press TV reported Dec. 17, citing the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. "We demand that Turkish authorities stop such actions against innocent people," the statement said. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan denied the strikes hit civilian areas. To protest the strikes, Baghdad has summoned Turkey's ambassador to Iraq.

29554  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 16, 2007, 11:54:54 PM
Where did the system come from?
29555  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 16, 2007, 11:42:30 AM
Any URLs?
29556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: December 16, 2007, 09:42:25 AM
The LA Times reaches Orwellian levels of PC cowardice by refusing to identify the religion/ideology of the guilty here:

Try to Find "Islam" or "Muslim" in this Article on Terror Guilty Pleas


Plot posed a real, immediate threat, experts say

The case illustrates how quickly authorities must be prepared to move once they learn of terrorists' plans.

By Greg Krikorian, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 15, 2007

It was not the most spectacular domestic terrorism plot since the Sept. 11 attacks, and certainly not the best-known.

But no other case posed such a real and immediate threat as the audacious scheme to attack more than a dozen military centers, synagogues and other sites in Southern California, experts said Thursday.

"If you look at the roster of defendants in terrorism cases, it often seems like a casting call. They all have aspirations, but most lack real talent and helpful connections," said Brian Levin, an attorney and director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

"But here you actually had a case where defendants had a radicalized ideology, a list of targets and they had already gone from planning to operations," Levin said. "This was beyond merely a threat. In this instance, they were operational."

The guilty pleas announced Friday in what is known as the JIS case represented an important win for the Justice Department, after a string of high-profile courtroom defeats in terrorism-related prosecutions. Just Thursday, a jury in Miami acquitted one man charged with plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and deadlocked on charges against his six alleged accomplices.

The courtroom ending mirrored a mistrial declared earlier this year in a Dallas prosecution against five Islamic men accused in the largest terrorism-financing case brought by the U.S. government.

"The bottom line is that when you look at a lot of these prosecutions, many people are accused of lying to investigators or [other crimes] rather than terrorist acts or threats to national security," Levin said. "And that is why you have seen a bit of prosecutorial fatigue set in with the public. . . . There is a lot of talk about what could have happened in a case" rather than evidence of a pressing threat.

By contrast, the JIS plot was within 60 days of launching, according to sources close to the investigation.

The case illustrated how quickly authorities must be prepared to move in the event of an actual terrorist threat, they said. In a matter of weeks, the FBI, Los Angeles and Torrance police departments and two dozen other agencies conducted 19 searches, seized two dozen computer hard drives and examined about 53,000 documents, all without the normal luxury of moving at their own pace with undercover informants, surveillance and wiretaps.

The plotters "were flying dangerously below the radar," said the FBI's John Miller, who was the LAPD's counter-terrorism head at the time the case broke. He added that the defendants had robbed gas stations for the money to buy rifles, had picked their targets and had set a date.

"The clock was ticking. All they needed to do was to start killing," he said.

The prison-hatched scheme raised another fear in U.S. counter-terrorism circles, particularly within California, which has the nation's largest inmate population: Were there other members of the conspiracy, spawned in cellblocks and prison libraries, preparing to carry on the plan?

"We were confident that we could make a case against the people we had in custody," said Randy Parsons, the retired former head of counter-terrorism for the FBI in Los Angeles. "Our greatest concern was: Did we miss somebody? Is there somebody who has been released from prison or radicalized on the street that we might have missed who might be about to go operational?"

More than 350 federal agents, state investigators and local police worked five weeks, around the clock, to determine if others had escaped their dragnet. In the end, they did not find additional accomplices, but their investigation led to new intelligence coordination between prison officials and outside law enforcement.

For all its urgency, however, the case never drew the attention of lesser threats. One reason was that news of the JIS investigation trickled out over the course of weeks.

In addition, the federal indictment of the four defendants, though announced by top Justice Department officials in Los Angeles and Washington, was unsealed as the nation's attention was riveted on Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.

Too, the men charged with terrorism did not fit the stereotype of the foreign-born menace that had been drilled into the American psyche after Sept. 11.

For professor Levin, that may be the long-term lesson of the case.

"I think this case shows you cannot racially or religiously profile an ideology. It is fanaticism, not faith, that drives this extremism," Levin said. "And disenfranchised people will craft their hatred into an ideology of their choice. That is why religious converts are so good for this radicalization . . . because those who have been raised in a faith know better."
29557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malaysia on: December 15, 2007, 10:29:38 PM
This piece is from the once venerable name of Reuters, now often a source that is less than honest in its shadings:


Indonesia cleric warns of big disaster if bombers executed
Sat Dec 15, 2007 12:42am EST

CILACAP, Indonesia, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A controversial Indonesian Muslim cleric warned on Saturday that the country would suffer a big disaster if three Bali bombers on death row were executed.

Abu Bakar Bashir, accused by some foreign governments of once heading the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, spoke before visiting the three Islamic militants awaiting execution for their role in the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island.

"I'm worried if they were executed there would be a big disaster," Bashir told reporters on the way to Nusakambangan, an island prison complex off the southern coast of Java where the three are being held. Bashir said he wanted to advise the convicts -- Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas -- to be patient and to seek God's forgiveness for their wrongdoing.

"It is true they were defending Muslims but their methods were wrong. That is why they are now fasting to pay for the loss of innocent lives," Bashir said. He did not say if the innocent lives included those of foreign holidaymakers, the majority of 202 people who died in the attack.

In an interview with Reuters in October, the three militants said they had no regrets, except for the fact that some Muslims had died in the blasts.

No date for the execution of the three Bali bombers has been set although the Supreme Court has rejected their final appeal.

The Bali bombings and several other deadly attacks have been blamed on militants from Jemaah Islamiah, of which Bashir was alleged to have been the spiritual leader and co-founder. Bashir was jailed for 30 months for conspiracy over the Bali bombings but was later cleared.

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, with about 85 percent of its more than 220 million population following Islam.

While the vast majority of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate, the country has seen the emergence of an increasingly vocal militant minority.

Although there has been no major bomb attack since 2005, police say Indonesia still faces a considerable threat from Islamic militants. (Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; editing by Roger Crabb)
29558  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Ryan Gracie dead! on: December 15, 2007, 01:35:25 PM
According to news carried by Globo TV, the black belt Ryan Gracie was found dead in the cell where he was being held at a police station in Sao Paulo after having been accused of car theft yesterday in the city of Sao Paulo. According to the Sao Paulo State Secretariat of Public Security, Ryan was alone in the cell."

More info in the article:
29559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: December 15, 2007, 01:17:04 PM
Israel: US report on Iran may spark war

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 27 minutes ago

JERUSALEM - Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state.

In his remarks — Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report — Avi Dichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence in general, including information about Palestinian security forces' crackdown on militant groups. The Palestinian action is required as part of a U.S.-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.

Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.

He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the Yom Kippur Jewish holy day on which it began.

"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."

Dichter didn't elaborate on the potential scenario but seemed to imply that a world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable to attack by the Islamic regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had disputed the U.S. intelligence assessment this month, saying that Iran continues its efforts to obtain components necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran still poses a major threat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.

Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and backed the United States in its international efforts to exert pressure on Iran to stop the program. Israel considers Iran a significant threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program and repeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the disappearance of Israel.

Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.

"A misconception by the world's leading superpower is not just an internal American occurrence," Dichter said.

Any future faulty U.S. intelligence on the actions of Palestinian security forces could damage peace efforts, Dichter said.

"Those same (intelligence) arms in the U.S. are apt to make a mistake and declare that the Palestinians have fulfilled their commitments, which would carry with it very serious consequences from Israel's vantage point," Dichter said.
29560  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 15, 2007, 09:32:51 AM
A moment on the lighter side of things:
29561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain at the WSJ on: December 15, 2007, 09:24:30 AM
Of Pork and Patriotism
John McCain doesn't mince words when it comes to Iraq, the State Department and spending.

Saturday, December 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

John McCain sits across the table from the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, fielding questions on everything from taxes to torture to terror. He's asked what surprised him the most about the behavior House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with regard to Iraq. His answer--"their lack of patriotism"--is of the characteristically impolitic kind that often defines his personality. Over the course of a 75-minute conversation, it's on display time and again.

For a candidate who was mostly written off by the media only six months ago, the senior senator from Arizona seems remarkably confident of his primary chances.

Mr. McCain is 71. But the tired, sluggish, former front-runner you may have read about was nowhere in evidence when the senator came to the Journal's offices yesterday. In his place was a combative and--yes--straight-talking candidate with no qualms about rising to a challenge or speaking his mind. In short, he looks once again like the spry 63-year-old who nearly knocked off front-runner George W. Bush eight years ago.

When asked whether he would tag Hillary Clinton as well with a "lack of patriotism," Mr. McCain does dial it down a notch. "Maybe 'lack of patriotism' is too harsh," he allows. "'Putting political ambitions ahead of the national interest' may be a more subtle way" of putting it. He then adds, with a chuckle, "And we all know how subtle I am."
Just how subtle comes across in expanding on Mrs. Clinton's stance on the war and on the surge. "She had that very clever line--I don't know who wrote it for her--that you'd have to suspend disbelief in order to believe that the surge is working. Well, you'd have to suspend disbelief that it's not now." And then, as if confronting her in a presidential debate, he addresses the absent senator from New York directly: "Do you still stand by that statement, Senator Clinton? Do you still believe you'd have to suspend disbelief to believe that this surge is working?"

Mr. McCain is almost as scathing about his own party's behavior in power as he is about Congress's current leaders. Of the Republican congressional majority that was voted out in 2006, he says: "We let spending get out of control. . . . And we would have won the 2006 elections if we had restrained spending. Our base didn't desert us because of the war in Iraq. Our base deserted us because of the Bridge to Nowhere. I'll take you to a town hall tomorrow and I'll say 'Bridge to Nowhere' and everyone in that room will know what I'm talking about. That bridge is more famous than the Brooklyn Bridge."

That version of the events of November 2006 is not universally shared, even within the GOP, but it does serve Mr. McCain's interests pretty well. He has been one of the most prominent and unapologetic supporters of the war in Iraq, even though he at times disagreed with the administration about tactics and strategy.

And he voted against the Bush tax cuts--even though he admits that they helped the economy in the midst of a recession. "We all know that [they helped]. Without a doubt. Without the slightest doubt. Absolutely."

Even so, he defends his opposition to them on the grounds, he told us, that Congress couldn't get spending under control. "I opposed the tax cuts because there was no spending restraint. . . . If we'd enacted spending restraints, we'd be talking about more tax cuts today. And to the everlasting shame and embarrassment of the Republican Party and this administration, we went on a spending spree and we didn't pay for it. . . . And every time I called over to the White House and said, look, you've got to veto these bills, the answer was, 'We'll lose the majority, we'll lose this election, we'll lose the speaker.' Well, you know what happened."

The words "I told you so" don't quite pass his lips, but his sense of vindication is plain enough.

As for the tax cuts themselves, he now pledges that he would fight to make them permanent. "I will not agree to any tax increase," he says. And then once more for emphasis: "I will not agree to any tax increase."

His combativeness is on display again when the subject of interrogation techniques is raised. It's a subject on which the Journal's editorial board has been critical of Mr. McCain in the past. Does he assert, he is asked, that techniques such as waterboarding never produce reliable information?
He turns it back on the questioner: "I do assert that America's moral image in the world is badly damaged when it comes out that we torture people. . . . I do assert that we're going to win this battle against al Qaeda on ideological grounds."

Then he adds: "So my assertion is that it's fascinating, it's fascinating, that those who have served in the military--particularly in positions of responsibility--almost all of them say, 'Don't do it.' Those who have never served, those who have never heard a shot fired in anger and never will, say, 'Let's torture the hell out of them. Let's take them to the rack. Let's do what the Spanish Inquisition invented.' "

That last is a caricature, and given the jab at "those who have never served," it might even come across as a mean-spirited one, but Mr. McCain manages to put it across without any evident derision in his demeanor or voice. On the contrary, it is said almost amiably.

Likewise, when he's asked what he thinks about the State Department, he delivers the jab with a smile: "Sometimes you have a little personal bias when you find out that they nearly rebelled when the secretary of state said all of them had to go serve in Iraq. I mean, please. Please." He continues: "I think we ought to have a State Department that understands that service to the country is what they're all about. And if that means going into countries where there may be some danger in serving, then by God that's the place they should want to go first." It helps to have volunteered for service in Vietnam if one wants to say that kind of thing.

He doesn't pull any punches with the CIA, either, asking whether it has become a "rogue agency" when queried about the intelligence community's handling of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. On the NIE, he adds: "I want to know why in the world we should have any relaxation with regards to Iran just because they have had a pause in the quickest part of the program to build a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile the enrichment goes on. And they're still exporting the explosive devices. They're still supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. They're still dedicated to the extinction of Israel. What's the change?"

As for direct talks between President Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. McCain is once again scathing: "That is the most overrated thing in the world. We know who's going to profit from that. . . . Who gains in stature from face-to-face meetings? That is the ultimate question. . . . If they want to negotiate"--an open question, it would seem, in Mr. McCain's eyes--"we can find lots of ways to negotiate. But say we have to have face-to-face? Come on. Come on. That's just foolishness. And I would not do one thing that would enhance the prestige of the president of Iran."

In Iraq, meantime, Mr. McCain sees events at long last moving in the right direction. "I think this is a seminal moment in American history. I really do. Because we've got a long way to go. Al Qaeda is on the run but they're not defeated, OK?

"And we've got really a long way to go. But I'm telling you, if we could keep going like this for another nine months to a year or so, and get the Maliki government to start functioning effectively--and a lot of things are happening by the way that are not at the highest level--I think you're going to see things happen in the rest of the Middle East.

"The Syrians sent someone to Annapolis [for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks]. That's good news. The Iranians may be cutting back on the explosive devices. Pakistan: Musharraf is acting as we wanted him to."

In his view, these are all connected, and all related in turn to the reversal of fortunes in Iraq since the surge began. "And I'm convinced that if we can continue this success, you're going to see a change in the Middle East. Plus, some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. If we fail, we're not going to be in the neighborhood and it's every nation and every group for themselves."

Of course, Mr. McCain will have to resign himself to being right but ignored unless he can actually win. And while he may once have been seen as what he calls "the designated successor" to the Republican nomination, he's now a distinct underdog. So he places a lot of emphasis on what he calls the "volatility" of the current race.
"We all know that if I sat here two weeks ago and I said, 'By the way, Huckabee is ahead in Iowa and South Carolina,' you'd just have said, 'Yeah, right.' " He goes on: "I think you're going to see a lot of ups and downs. Sixty percent, 70%, 80% say they're undecided."

He also sees hope, ironically, in the despondency of the GOP faithful. "Our base is dispirited. I'm telling you, our base is dispirited. We're going to have to rev up our base. We're going to have to promise them we're going to stop this spending. We're going to have to promise them that we'll get trust and confidence back with them."

The senator says he doesn't worry too much about the electoral tactics, but he does know what lies ahead. "We've got to win New Hampshire," he says, or at least exceed expectations there. "And then I think we can do well in South Carolina. In South Carolina we've got the base this time. The Attorney General, the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Graham, most of the base."

Whether that's true or not, Mr. McCain still trails by 15 points on average in South Carolina. But assuming he can do well there, "then I think we're obviously very much in the game. What happens to Huckabee, what happens to Rudy, what happens to Romney--all this stuff is in such flux now that it's very difficult to predict and so we're not paying a lot of attention, obviously." Still, he's paying some attention, apparently.

Overall, the impression Mr. McCain gives is that he is enjoying this campaign tremendously. Asked whether he thinks he's running a better campaign since his financing fell off a cliff along with his poll ratings, he shoots back with a laugh, "Do you think I could have run a worse campaign before my finances went south?"

He blames his fall from front-runner status on his leadership on immigration reform, and says, "If I lose this election, it will be on the immigration issue. There's no question in my mind." But as with the other issues he discussed in our meeting, he doesn't give the impression that he regrets his stand for one minute.

Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
29562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: December 15, 2007, 12:50:08 AM
What I was trying to ask, apparently too laconically, is that why does one need drugs to lose weight?

Anyway, what do you think of this?

The Dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup
By John Mericle M.D.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
Before we get to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), we will take a look at two other frequently used sweeteners, dextrose and maltodextrin.

Dextrose is more or less an industry term for glucose. Glucose isthe most prevalent sugar in the human and the only molecule that the brain can metabolize. Dextrose is refined from corn starch. It has a very high glycemic index (no surprise since it is glucose) and while it contains no fructose, it is still a simple sugar that is very readily absorbed. It is not as dangerous as sucrose but it still is a highly processed product that should be avoided.

Maltodextrin is also a refined product usually made from either corn or potatoes. It is multiple glucose units somewhat loosely hooked together (a polymer). Because the bonds between the glucose units are very weak, it is also very readily absorbed and has a very high glycemic index. Like dextrose it should be avoided as much as possible. It has been called a "sugar substitute"but that is based on a rather strict definition of sugar as "sucrose." It is a very common additive and I have found it in many packaged foods, including potato chips.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup is made by treating corn (which is usually genetically modified corn) with a variety of enzymes, some of which are also genetically modified, to first extract the sugar glucose and then convert some of it into fructose, since fructose tastes sweeter than glucose. The end result is a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose, that is called "high fructose corn syrup." Improvements in production occurred in the 1980's making it cheaper than most other sweeteners. I remember in the 1980's when the price of Pepsi dropped from about $3 for a sixpack to about $1.50. In 1966 refined sugar such as sucrose was the was the leading sweetener / additive. In 2001 corn sweeteners accounted for 55% of the sweetener market. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup went from zero in 1966 to 62.6 pounds per person in 2001. A 12 ounce soda can contain as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
Once again, the dangerous combination: fructose and glucose.
When high fructose corn syrup breaks down in the intestine, we once again find near equal amounts of glucose and fructose entering the bloodstream. As covered in recent newsletters, the fructose short-circuits the glycolytic pathway for glucose. This leads to all the problems associated with sucrose. In addition, HFCS seems to be generating a few of its own problems, epidemic obesity being one of them. Fructose does not stimulate insulin production and also fails to increase "leptin" production, a hormone produced by the body's fat cells. Both of these act to turn off the appetite and control body weight. Also, fructose does not suppress ghrelin, a hormone that works to increase hunger. This interesting work is being done by Peter Havel at UC Davis.

Some of the problems associated with high fructose corn syrup:
Increased LDL's (the bad lipoprotein) leading to increased risk of heart disease.
Altered Magnesium balance leading to increased osteoporosis.
Increased risk of Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus.
Fructose has no enzymes or vitamins thus robbing the body of precious micro-nutrients.
Fructose interacts with birth control pills and can elevate insulin levels in women on the pill.
Accelerated aging.
Fructose inhibits copper metabolism leading to a deficiency of copper, which can cause increased bone fragility, anemia, ischemic heart disease and defective connective tissue formation among others.

The list below is from The San Francisco Chronicle February 18, 2004

"How much is too much?

The list below shows how much sugar, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is in each of these single servings.

Sunkist soda: 10 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
Berkeley Farms low-fat yogurt with fruit: 10 teaspoons of sugar
Mott's applesauce: 5 teaspoons of sugar
Slim-Fast chocolate cookie dough meal bar: 5 teaspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup: 1 teaspoon of sugar
Hansen's Super Vita orange-carrot Smoothie: 10 teaspoons of sugar"

Today's health tip:

Cut down or stop any food or drink with high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn treated with genetically modified enzymes.

Stop or limit all foods with either dextrose or maltodextrin.

Once again, read all your food labels carefully.

Consumption of the limited amounts of fructose that occur in fresh whole organic fruit is not a problem.

Stryer Biochemistry Fourth Edition
"Sugar coated We're drowning in high fructose corn syrup. Do the risks go beyond our waistline?"
Kim Severson, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Kick the "sugar habit" with the only diet that is 100% Sugar-Free, the MericleDiet. Make the transition away from dangerous sugar additives to healty "organic" complex carbhydrates easy. To visit the MericleDiet follow the link below:
Thanks for your attention.
Copyright © John Mericle M.D. 2005 All Rights Reserved
29563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 14, 2007, 08:22:08 PM
So much for that modesty campaign , , ,
29564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: December 14, 2007, 06:13:02 PM
In response to the preceding post elsewhere, someone responded with this piece:


Gregory Cochran

There is a good chance that an odd cluster of hereditary neurological diseases among the Ashkenazi Jews is a side-effect of strong selection for increased intelligence. The idea is not really new, but the evidence has gotten stronger with time, and I have recently found some intriguing supporting data.. Four of these syndromes - Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher's, and mucolipidosis type IV - are recessive lysosomal storage diseases. The first three of these are caused by deficient variants of enzymes that break down sphingolipids, which play a role in neuron membrane structure and also as signaling molecules. Homozygotes, who have no working copy of the breakdown enzymes, become ill. Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick cause retardation and death in childhood, but Gaucher's disease is milder and more variable. The form common in Ashkenazi Jews does not cause brain damage, although there can be other problems with the spleen and bones. . Mucolipidosis type IV probably involves a defect in endocytosis. It causes retardation and death in early life.

Canavan disease is caused by mutations in the aspartoacylase gene. It is the only known genetic disorder caused by a defect in the metabolism of a small metabolite, N-acetyl-L-aspartic acid, synthesized exclusively in the brain in a cell-specific manner. It too is fatal in early life.

Familial dysautonomia is a recessive disease that results in abnormalities of the sensory and autonomic nervous systems. It does not cause retardation, but greatly shortens life.

Torsion dystonia is caused by a dominant gene with low penetrance.. The symptoms involve inappropriate contractions of muscles. In a mild case, that might mean a tendency to writer's cramp: in a severe case, it means uncontrollable contractions that leave your limbs twisted and useless. About 30% of the individuals with this gene have some noticeable symptoms, about 10% have very serious symptoms that can leave them in a wheel chair. The problem is not in the muscles, but in areas of the brain that control muscles. Torsion dystonia does not cause retardation... not hardly.

Each of these hereditary neurological diseases is more common among the Ashkenazi than in any other group, and in several of these syndromes, the great majority of all cases are found among the Ashkenazi, who make up less than 0.2% of the human race. ~4% of the Ashkenazi are carriers for Tay-Sachs, about 1% are carriers for Niemann-Pick, ~5% carry a Gaucher mutation, ~1% carry a mutation for mucolipidosis type IV, ~2% carry a Canavan mutation, ~3% carry the familial dysautonomia gene, and about 0.03% have the dominant torsion dystonia mutation. Altogether about 16% of Ashkenazi Jews carry one of these mutations.

Rare genetic diseases can become common in a group by chance, especially if that group does not mix much with others and if it has recently expanded from a small founding population.. Both of those conditions existed among the Ashkenazi, but that explanation probably does not work in this case, because for most of these diseases, more than one mutation of the same gene has become common in this population. That is the case for Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher's disease, mucolipidosis type IV, and Canavan disease. Only torsion dystonia and familial dysautonomia are caused by lone mutations. It would be incredibly unlikely for chance to greatly elevate the frequency of two or more mutations of the same gene. It would be even less likely to do this repeatedly in genes involved in closely related metabolic pathways. So somehow, natural selection, rather than chance, must have favored these mutations. If mutations that affect a particular organ or function give a reproductive edge in some environment, they can become common, even if they cause disease in double dose. The most famous example of this is the sickle cell mutation, which gives heterozygotes good protection against falciparum malaria and causes very serious problems in homozygotes. We know of a number of other malaria-protective mutations besides sickle-cell affecting red cells; Hemoglobin C, Hemoglobin E, G6PD deficiency, alpha- and beta- thalassemia, and Melanesian ovalocytosis. The malaria resistance mutations involve multiple common mutations of the same gene, and multiple mutations of closely related genes that affect the same physiological system - in this case the red cell. Among the Ashkenazi we find the same pattern, only the system affected is the central nervous system. Jared Diamond and others have suggested that these Ashkenazi hereditary neurological diseases might have given protection against tuberculosis, but this seems unlikely. These mutations are not common in other adjacent ethnic groups, and they modify molecules whose primary function is in the central nervous system. In some cases, such as Canavan disease, they are only found in the brain.

So a change in brain function, as the source of the fitness advantage in heterozygotes carrying these mutations, is the way to bet. That notion is not just based on this genetic and biochemical evidence: we start out already knowing that Ashkenazi Jews have a higher average IQ than any other group, something like 110-115. What, other than natural selection, could cause this? We also know that for a long time they lived under very unusual conditions, conditions very favorable to this kind of evolutionary change. They had a very different job mix from their neighbors: none of them were farmers ('Scribe, banker, jeweler, shopkeeper'), and they almost never intermarried.

Some new evidence - new to me, anyhow - strengthens the case. It turns out that GM2-ganglioside, which accumulates in Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick patients, is a signal for dendrite growth. In homozygotes it causes inappropriate dendrite growth neurons. In heterozygotes, GM2-ganglioside levels would only be slightly elevated and might favor moderately increased dendrite growth - which might increase IQ. The build-up product in Gaucher's disease seems to caused increased axonal growth.

The story in torsion dystonia is more obvious Unlike most genetic diseases, it is dominant. You only need one copy of the mutant gene to have problems. That also means that any benefit must be large. When a recessive mutation is rare, there are many more carriers than homozygotes, and even a small advantage among heterozygotes can balance serious bad effects in the rare homozygtes. A dominant has to give a hefty advantage, even more so if it has any costs, which the torsion dystonia gene surely does. So if torsion dystonia is part of this Ashkenazi pattern of hereditary neurological disease and pays off in IQ, it must make a big difference, and that difference will probably show up in patients. ( Note that in diseases like Tay-Sachs, nobody even studies carriers. Doctors are not geneticists.) Apparently it does. I found several reports of materially increased IQ among Ashkenazi torsion dystonia patients. . The difference is apparently so striking that it is mentioned in the very first scientific article on the disease, by Flatau back in 1911. Many other physicians made the same observation. And if you think that plenty that being crippled makes you smarter, think again: nobody every said that about polio victims. Roswell Eldridge, in a small group of patients, found that the average IQ was 122, 10 points higher than their controls matched for age, sex, ethnic background, and school. . The same mutation has been seen elsewhere, but is very rare. In this group the payoff outweighed the trouble, while in every other human group it did not. We have found the gene (in 1997), which codes for an ATP-binding protein, but as yet I don't believe that we know exactly how it causes trouble or what it does normally. But I'll hazard a guess: the change accelerates some brain system tied to cognitive functioning - nearly redlines it, leaves it vulnerable to common insults in a way that can cause spectacular trouble. You might compare to overclocking a chip. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't.

More generally, if this is what I think it is, all these Ashkenazi neurological diseases are hints of ways in which one could supercharge intelligence. One, by increasing dendrite growth: two, by fooling with myelin: three, something else, whatever is happening in torsion dystonia. In some cases the difference is probably an aspect of development, not something you can turn on and off. In other cases, the effect might exist when the chemical influence is acting and disappear when the influence does. In either case, it seems likely that we could - if we wanted to - developed pharmaceutical agents that had similar effects. The first kind, those affecting development, would be something that might have to be administered early in life, maybe before birth. while the second kind would be 'smart pills' that one could pop as desired or as needed. Of course, we have to hope that we can find ways of improving safety. Would you take a pill that increased your IQ by 10 or 15 points that also had a 10% chance of putting you in a wheel chair?

Gregory Cochran
29565  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 4 Elements query to Marc Denny on: December 14, 2007, 01:10:38 PM

For those who missed it at

here is the piece upon which Skinny Devil's question is based:


The Days Before A Fight by Guro Crafty
The days before the fight are always a powerful crucible. I have a non-martial art teacher who when someone seeks to leave a situation that makes them uncomfortable says, "Whatever you do, keep on being here in this moment." I may not have the quote exactly right, but I hope I have the gist of it.

Scientist Konrad Lorenz's book "Behind the Mirror" addresses the evolutionary biology of consciousness. There is a passage in the book wherein he describes how a cat at play will seamlessly string together unrelated behaviors/movements from stalking prey, fighting a rival, bluffing a predator, courtship, killing prey etc. He then points out that the instant that the cat is stressed (e.g. the appearance of a rival) this ability disappears.

Many martial arts discuss how there are different mindsets/qualities with which one can defend/fight. Often the names are a bit poetic; Fire, Water, Wind, Rock, Earth, etc. but the point is made that the more realized the fighter is, the better his ability to fluidly shift between them. In the intense adrenal state of a fight, this can be a very good trick to actually do, yet as Lorenz's point about the cat makes clear, the state of Play is the state where this happens best. ("What Is Play?" in evolutionary biological terms is an interesting question in its own right.) Thus, the best fight is where the fight is play. Thus in Dog Brothers Martial Arts we say

"Do not have a Way as you Play. Fight the Way you Play. Let your Fight be Play" (c)

The Learning that takes place in the adrenal state is some of the deepest and highest that there is. (The adrenal state of course can be triggered by many things, not only immediate physical danger; criticism by loved ones, humiliation, etc etc.) The greater the adrenal state, the profounder the Learning. The greater the state of Play, the better the result. The more that one can move in both directions simultaneously, the better. "The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation. Higher consciousness through harder contact." (c)

Guro Crafty
29566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Global Money Machine on: December 14, 2007, 11:51:53 AM
The Global Money Machine
December 14, 2007; Page A21

Robert Graves defined hell as "words repeated endlessly until they all but lose their meaning." "Liquidity" is one such word from the financial lexicon. Yet, properly defined, it is the clue to the potentially disastrous outlook for the global economy and financial markets.

It is a no-brainer to say that the credit crunch is making liquidity scarce. It is less clear why central banks are powerless to do anything to stop it contracting, and why this shrinkage will sabotage economic growth as economies fall prey to the credit drought in places as far-flung as the Baltic states to China, as well in the OECD countries.

But to back up for a minute, what is liquidity? Two years ago, when confronted with financial-sector balance sheets and asset prices that were growing at a multiple of GDP and money supply that wasn't, we at Independent Strategy found our answer. At the time, there was precious little correlation between money and financial-asset prices. That seemed strange. Unless return on assets, measured by corporate return on capital, was rising exponentially, there was no justification for asset prices to be doing so.

Further research indicated that what was driving asset prices was the supply of copious and cheap credit with which to buy them. This type of asset money or credit was not counted in the traditional definition of liquidity, which is simply broad money, made up of central-bank money and bank lending.

The reason for the exponential growth in credit, but not in broad money, was simply that banks didn't keep their loans on their books any more -- and only loans on bank balance sheets get counted as money. Now, as soon as banks made a loan, they "securitized" it and moved it off their balance sheet.

There were two ways of doing this. One was to sell the securitized loan as a bond. The other was "synthetic" securitization: for example, using derivatives to get rid of the default risk (with credit default swaps) and lock in the interest rate due on the loan (with interest-rate swaps). Both forms of securitization meant that the lending bank was free to make new loans without using up any of its lending capacity once its existing loans had been "securitized."

So, to redefine liquidity under what I call New Monetarism, one must add, to the traditional definition of broad money, all the credit being created and moved off banks' balance sheets and onto the balance sheets of nonbank financial intermediaries. This new form of liquidity changed the very nature of the credit beast. What now determined credit growth was risk appetite: the readiness of companies and individuals to run their businesses with higher levels of debt.

No longer could central banks determine how much debt was created. They used to do that by limiting the amount of central-bank money they supplied, which formed the base of all loans, and then obliging commercial banks to make reserves for every loan. This made lending capacity finite. Now that the loans didn't stay on banks' balance sheets, this control mechanism was ineffective. Lending capacity became almost infinite -- for a while. Indeed, central banks didn't even control the price of money very well any more; again; risk appetite set how risk was priced and central-bank rates held very little sway over the outcome. Yield curves, which were inverting at the time, had the effect that when central banks raised rates, long-term credit markets reduced them.

The credit tide is now ebbing. Since August, the credit system has been frozen solid. Debt issuance for all sectors of the economy has plummeted. Banks don't trust each other's balance sheets (and they alone know how bad their assets are). The rates at which they lend to each other show the same levels of risk premium as at the outbreak of the crisis, despite central banks' efforts to inject liquidity into markets.

For these reasons the Federal Reserve this week announced joint actions with central banks around the world to ease liquidity conditions. The Fed said it will initiate a series of auctions under the Term Auction Facility (TAF) that will inject funds to a broader range of participant depositary institutions against a broader range of collateral. The minimum rate of interest charged will be the expected fed-funds rate over the term of the loan. The auctions start on Dec. 17 for an amount of $20 billion to be lent for 20 days. Other auctions are planned for Dec. 20, Jan. 14 and Jan. 28. At the same time, the Fed set up bilateral swap agreements with the Swiss National Bank and the European Central Bank, so that these central banks could also borrow U.S. currency to fund dollar liquidity needs among their own banks.

These measures are an extension of what central banks were doing anyway: substituting central-bank money for funds normally lent and borrowed between banks in the interbank market. The funds themselves are not a "net" addition to liquidity, because they are paid back when the loan becomes due. The Fed's additional TAF auctions will help fulfill the responsibility of the central bank to ensure the proper functioning of financial markets by providing temporary liquidity. But they are not an additional easing of monetary policy or a bailout of banks' bad assets.

Therein lies the problem: The auctions address a liquidity shortage -- caused by the banks' refusal to lend and borrow from each other due to mistrust of each other's balance sheets -- but cannot address the solvency problem inherent in the balance sheets themselves.

Moreover, much of the leverage that fuels the economy is downstream from the banks, and on the balance sheets of nonbank financial intermediaries (such as brokers, hedge funds and investment banks) in the form of securitized debt and derivatives. Neither these entities nor many of the assets they own are eligible for central bank loans.

It was excessively optimistic risk appetite and consequent mispricing of risk that created this leverage problem. The reversal of risk appetite is now driving the deleveraging process. Just as the central banks were powerless to control the expansion of liquidity in the expansionary phase, it is unlikely that they can control its contraction and its economic consequences.

The deleveraging process will be ugly. First, the junk assets that the banks moved off balance sheet will have to be financed by the banks, and a lot of them will have to be moved back onto banks' balance sheets. As this happens, bank lending capacity gets used up. Second, re-intermediated junk assets will have to be written down. This destroys bank capital and further reduces lending capacity.

Finally, future bank lending practice is going to be changed. Much more lending will be kept on banks' balance sheets. When loans are securitized, banks will remain responsible for the quality of the credit and have to make prudent reserves against it. All this means lower liquidity expansion, particularly of asset money, and lower economic growth.

In a globalized system, no one is immune. The big shock of 2008 will be that the China bubble pops. After all, where would China be without excessive global liquidity flooding into its domestic markets over a quasi-fixed exchange rate and excessive household borrowing stoking U.S. consumer demand for China's goods? We are about to find out.

Mr. Roche, president of Independent Strategy, a global investment consultancy based in London, is the author of "New Monetarism" (Independent Strategy, 2007).

29567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 14, 2007, 11:48:10 AM
U.S.: Targeted Officer Killings Crossing the Border?
Police in Arizona were still searching Dec. 14 for two suspects involved in a recent home invasion targeting a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Tucson. The agent told police that he woke early Dec. 9 as four armed men forcibly entered his home. At least one suspect fired at the agent, at which point he retrieved his service weapon and returned fire as the suspects retreated in a sport utility vehicle (SUV). His shots apparently struck at least one of the suspects, who was found shot to death several hours later in a rural area. Another suspect was later detained after police discovered the SUV in flames, apparently set ablaze by the attackers in order to destroy evidence.

Home invasions can have a variety of motives. In this case, the incident very likely involved a failed assassination attempt -- an idea that raises concerns about new forms of violence associated with Mexican organized crime crossing the border.

There are several reasons to believe this home invasion was not a random occurrence but rather an intentional attempt to kill the agent. First, the agent reportedly drove a Border Patrol vehicle that he parked at home every night -- and criminals looking for an easy burglary target are unlikely to pick the home of an armed law enforcement officer. Second, though police have officially said that no motive has been determined, one blog reporting on this incident has described police sources as saying it involved an assassination attempt gone wrong.

This attack, then, was almost certainly associated with some element of Mexican organized crime. Drug trafficking organizations and smuggling groups certainly would have had an interest in targeting the agent, and Mexico's drug cartels are notorious for violent killings targeting police officers and army personnel across Mexico, carried out by highly trained and heavily armed former military members employed by the cartels. For instance, at least seven Mexican police officers were killed and five wounded last week alone in incidents involving grenades, assault rifles, assassinations, and one kidnapping and fatal beating.

Though cartels' hit men have ample resources and there is evidence they have operated cells inside the United States, the suspects in the Tucson case more likely belonged to a U.S.-based gang working on behalf of a Mexican criminal organization.
The fact that the two suspects who have been identified are 19 and 20 years old suggests that they are not the experienced military-trained operatives employed by Mexico's drug cartels. Also, experienced and trained operatives would not have retreated after being fired at by one person -- and, frankly, an attack by more seasoned operatives most likely would not have failed. Even if the attackers had experience targeting poorly-trained police officers in Mexico, it is much more difficult to successfully attack a well-trained U.S. federal law enforcement officer.

Though there is currently no evidence that the agent in this case was involved in illegal activity, it is important to note that many police and government officials targeted for assassination in Mexico have been paid off by a rival criminal organization. Corruption has not been limited to the Mexican side of the border; many low-paid agents in the United States have found themselves facing the dilemma of "plata o plomo" -- "silver or lead" -- which means take a bribe or take a bullet.

Police also are often targeted simply for doing their job. For example, after Mexican police in the border city of Tecate shut down a smuggling tunnel running under the border last week, a group of gunmen entered the home of a Tecate police commander -- who had been on the job less than a week -- and shot him more than 50 times while he lay in bed. His family was unharmed, though this was not the case when a former police officer in Mexico's Sinaloa state was shot to death, along with his wife and three young daughters, at his home several weeks ago.

While targeted killings of police are common in Mexico, they have yet to reach similar levels in the United States. Over the last few years, though, there has been an increasing trend of criminal activity commonplace in Mexico spreading north across the border, including kidnapping, threats against journalists and extortion. This latest incident raises concerns that targeted killings of police officers could be the next form of violence exported across the border.

29568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anatomy of a hit job: The Wolfowitz Affair (formerly Paul's Girl) on: December 14, 2007, 11:33:00 AM

Epitaph to a Smear
December 14, 2007; Page A20
Given the campaign of vilification endured earlier this year by the World Bank's Shaha Riza, we thought readers might like to know the results of an investigation into a concocted scandal about her. Don't expect to read about this in the media that was once so eager to trash her.

Ms. Riza is the bank employee whose personal relationship with then-bank President Paul Wolfowitz created the bogus conflict of interest that ultimately led to his resignation in June. The principal charge concerned the details of her allegedly excessive pay raise, which brought her salary in line with roughly 1,400 other employees of the bank. But a subplot about a trip she took to Iraq in the spring of 2003 was conveniently trotted out at the height of the controversy to help force Mr. Wolfowitz out.

Here are the facts. In early 2003, Ms. Riza was invited by the State Department to go to Iraq and advise on ways to set up a democratic government, with a particular focus on civil society and women's issues. The trip got the enthusiastic go-ahead from then-bank President James Wolfensohn.

To comply with bank rules concerning outside work, Ms. Riza agreed to take a month-long unpaid leave from her job, amounting to a loss in salary of about $10,000. To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, she also declined any pay (except travel and other expenses) from the Science Applications International Corp., the Pentagon contractor that organized the trip.

Thus did matters stand until the phony Wolfowitz scandal blew up this spring. On April 18, the Washington Post ran a story under the headline, "Defense Eyes Wolfowitz Friend's Contract." The same day, National Public Radio followed up with "Wolfowitz Faces New Allegations of Favoritism," quoting Ms. Riza's former supervisor, Jean-Louis Sarbib, saying the trip was "unusual and not terribly above board." Graeme Wheeler, a bank managing director, also included the trip among the reasons for his widely publicized demand at the time that Mr. Wolfowitz resign.

The very next day, however, Reuters reported that in 2005 the Pentagon's Inspector General had looked into Ms. Riza's trip and found there was "insufficient basis to warrant further investigation." The IG noted that Ms. Riza, who has long experience working with Arab reformers and is fluent in Arabic and Turkish, among other languages, was uniquely well qualified for the position. The New York Times confirmed the substance of the Reuters story on April 20, adding that the IG had found that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz had "not exerted improper influence in Ms. Riza's hiring." Oddly, the Times chose to run this news under the misleading headline "Wolfowitz Backed Friend for Iraq Contract in '03."

Despite this finding, in late June of this year Xavier Coll, then the bank's vice president for human resources, hired Canadian law firm Goodmans LLP to investigate Ms. Riza's trip, supposedly because of questions related to the approval process for the trip. Mr. Coll is known to readers of this page for the dishonest account he gave of his role in authorizing Ms. Riza's raise.

Fast forward six months. Following a call from us, a bank spokesman says the investigation has been completed, and that the report finds "no basis to conclude misconduct occurred." The tab for this fishing expedition? The bank won't say, and Goodmans didn't return our calls. But a source estimates the cost to the bank runs north of $500,000.

That figure may be pocket change at the bank, though it is hardly so for the poor people whom the bank ostensibly exists to serve. But the episode is also a revealing example of the lengths to which the bank's bureaucrats were prepared to go to destroy the career of one of their own colleagues, for no greater sin than her connection to Mr. Wolfowitz. And it says something about the media, which in its efforts to "get Wolfowitz" didn't scruple to trash her reputation. In a better world, Ms. Riza's accusers, in the bank and the media, would publicly acknowledge her vindication.

29569  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 14, 2007, 11:14:21 AM
On an airplane, citizens restrain man shouting "Allah Akbar" and "Shoot me!"
29570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Gospel of Ron Paul on: December 14, 2007, 11:03:47 AM
The Gospel of Paul
He has some kooky ideas, but he also has lessons for the GOP contenders.

Friday, December 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Ron Paul is no compassionate conservative. His supporters love him for it.

If there's been a phenomenon in this Republican presidential race, it's been the strength of a fiery doctor from Texas and his message of limited government. As the GOP front-runners address crowds of dispirited primary voters, Mr. Paul has been tearing across the country, leaving a trail of passionate devotees in his wake.

Paul rallies heave with voters waving placards and shouting "Liberty! Liberty!" Money is pouring in from tens of thousands of individual donors--so much cash that the 10-term congressman recently admitted he wasn't sure he could spend it all. A fund-raising event on Guy Fawkes Day (in tribute to Mr. Paul's rebel persona) netted his campaign $4 million, the biggest one-day haul of any GOP candidate, ever. He continues to inch up in the early primary polls, and even bests Fred Thompson in New Hampshire.

Mr. Paul isn't going to be president. He trails in national polls, in no small part because his lack of a proactive foreign policy makes him an unserious candidate in today's terror world. But his success still holds lessons for the leading Republican candidates, as well as those pundits falling for the argument that the future of the GOP rests in a "heroic conservatism" that embraces big government. Mr. Paul shows that the way to many Republican voters' hearts is still through a spirited belief in lower taxes and smaller government, with more state and individual rights.

It helps, too, if voters know you mean it. In nearly 20 years in the House, Mr. Paul can boast he never voted for a tax hike. Nicknamed "Dr. No," he spent much of the time Republicans held a majority voting against his own party, on the grounds that the legislation his colleagues were trying to pass--Sarbanes-Oxley, new auto mileage standards, a ban on Internet gambling--wasn't expressly authorized by the Constitution. He returns a portion of his annual congressional budget to the U.S. Treasury--on principle.

On the stump, Mr. Paul whips up crowds with his libertarian talk of "less taxation, less regulation, a better economic system." While Mitt Romney explains his support of No Child Left Behind, Mr. Paul gets standing ovations by promising to eliminate the Department of Education. Rudy Giuliani toys with reducing marginal rates; Mr. Paul gets whoops with his dream to ax the income tax (and by extension the IRS). Mike Huckabee lectures on the need for more government-subsidized clean energy; Mr. Paul brings cheers with his motto that environmental problems are best solved with stronger property rights. His rhetoric is based on first principles--carefully connecting his policies to the goals of liberty and freedom--and it fires up the base.
Yes, the Paul campaign--with its call to bring the troops home--is also profiting as the one landing pad in the GOP race for those Republicans and independents unhappy with the Iraq war. Mr. Paul's insistence that he isn't an "isolationist" so much as a "non-interventionist" who rejects nation-building has also won him voters who might otherwise have been wary of his passive foreign policy.

Still, it's Mr. Paul's small-government message that has defined him over the years, winning him election after election in Texas--well before Iraq was a question. His appeal has only grown, too, over seven years of a Bush presidency that has moved the party away from its limited-government roots.

"Compassionate conservatism" was a smart move on George W. Bush's part, maybe even necessary to win. The GOP was dogged by a reputation as the heartless party, amplified by the 1995 government shutdown and the clunky Dole campaign. And it had learned from the success of welfare reform that message matters. Many Republican voters believed Mr. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was just that: a way of selling conservative reforms. Tax cuts would help the working poor. Vouchers would help minority kids. Charities would fare better getting people off drugs than government bureaucrats.

Mr. Bush got his tax cuts, but voters found out too late that he was no small-government believer. School vouchers were traded away for more education dollars. A new Medicare drug entitlement has added trillions to the burden on future taxpayers. Government-directed energy policy is larded with handouts to political patrons in the corn and ethanol lobbies. A lack of budget discipline encouraged a Republican Congress to go spend-crazy, stuffing bills with porky earmarks. Much of this was simply a Republican majority that had lost its way. But at least some of it was promoted by Bush advisers who specifically argued that "compassionate conservatism" was in fact a license to embrace government--so long as government was promoting Republican ideals.

That idea has become even more vogue, with a wing of the party now arguing that the small-government libertarianism that has defined the Republican Party since Goldwater is not only immoral, but an election-loser. Former Bush speechwriter Michael's Gerson's new book, "Heroic Conservatism," calls on Republicans to give in to big government and co-opt the tools of state for their own purposes. "If Republicans run in future elections with a simplistic, anti-government message, ignoring the poor, the addicted, and children at risk, they will lose, and they will deserve to lose," he writes. Then again, Republicans have already been losing, and losing big, in no small part because they've taken Mr. Gerson's advice.

The men vying to lead the Republican Party might instead make a study of Mr. Paul. One shame of this race is that for all the enthusiasm the Texan has generated among voters, he hasn't managed to pressure the front-runners toward his positions. His more kooky views (say, his belief in a conspiracy to create a "North American Union") and his violent antiwar talk have allowed the other aspirants to dismiss him.
They shouldn't dismiss the passion he's tapped. If Mr. Paul has shown anything, it's that many conservative voters continue to doubt there's anything "heroic" or "compassionate" in a ballooning government that sucks up their dollars to aid a dysfunctional state. When Mr. Paul gracefully exits this race, his followers will be looking for an alternative to take up that cause. Any takers?

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.
29571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 14, 2007, 10:58:28 AM
The Pulpit and the Potemkin Village
Would Reagan survive in today's GOP? And is Mrs. Clinton in for a fall this winter?

Friday, December 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

What is happening in Iowa is no longer boring but big, and may prove huge.

The Republican race looks--at the moment--to be determined primarily by one thing, the question of religious faith. In my lifetime faith has been a significant issue in presidential politics, but not the sole determinative one. Is that changing? If it is, it is not progress.

Mike Huckabee is in the lead due, it appears, to voter approval of the depth and sincerity of his religious beliefs as lived out in his ministry as an ordained Southern Baptist. He flashes "Christian leader" over his picture in commercials; he asserts his faith is "mainstream"; his surrogates speak of Mormonism as "strange" and "definitely a factor." Mr. Huckabee said this summer that a candidate's faith is "subject to question," "part of the game."

He tells the New York Times that he doesn't know a lot about Mitt Romney's faith, but isn't it the one in which Jesus and the devil are brothers? This made me miss the old days of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man," in which a candidate started a whispering campaign that his opponent's wife was a thespian.

Mr. Huckabee has of course announced that he apologizes to Mr. Romney, which allowed him to elaborate on his graciousness and keep the story alive. He should have looked abashed. Instead he betrayed the purring pleasure of "a Christian with four aces," in Mark Twain's words.

Christian conservatives have been rising, most recently, for 30 years in national politics, since they helped elect Jimmy Carter. They care about the religious faith of their leaders, and their interest is legitimate. Faith is a shaping force. Lincoln got grilled on it. But there is a sense in Iowa now that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary.

But they are not, and cannot be. They are central. Things seem to be getting out of kilter, with the emphasis shifting too far.

The great question: Does it make Mr. Huckabee, does it seal his rise, that he has acted in such a manner? Or does it damage him? Republicans on the ground in Iowa and elsewhere will decide that. And in the deciding they may be deciding more than one man's future. They may be deciding if Republicans are becoming a different kind of party.

I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I'm just not sure he'd be pure enough to make it in this party. I'm not sure he'd be considered good enough.

This thought occurs that Hillary Clinton's entire campaign is, and always was, a Potemkin village, a giant head fake, a haughty facade hollow at the core. That she is disorganized on the ground in Iowa, taken aback by a challenge to her invincibility, that she doesn't actually have an A team, that her advisers have always been chosen more for proven loyalty than talent, that her supporters don't feel deep affection for her. That she's scrambling chaotically to catch up, with surrogates saying scuzzy things about Barack Obama and drug use, and her following up with apologies that will, as always, keep the story alive. That her guru-pollster, the almost universally disliked Mark Penn, has, according to Newsday, become the focus of charges that he has "mistakenly run Clinton as a de facto incumbent" and that the top officials on the campaign have never had a real understanding of Iowa.
This is true of Mrs. Clinton and her Iowa campaign: They thought it was a queenly procession, not a brawl. Now they're reduced to spinning the idea that expectations are on Mr. Obama, that he'd better win big or it's a loss. They've been reduced too to worrying about the weather. If there's a blizzard on caucus day, her supporters, who skew old, may not turn out. The defining picture of the caucuses may be a 78-year-old woman being dragged from her home by young volunteers in a tinted-window SUV.

This is, still, an amazing thing to see. It is a delight of democracy that now and then assumptions are confounded, that all the conventional wisdom of the past year is compressed and about to blow. It takes a Potemkin village.

A thought on the presence of Bill Clinton. He is showing up all over in Iowa and New Hampshire, speaking, shaking hands, drawing crowds. But when he speaks, he has a tendency to speak about himself. It's all, always, me-me-me in his gigantic bullying neediness. Still, he's there, and he's a draw, and the plan was that his presence would boost his wife's fortunes. The way it was supposed to work, the logic, was this: People miss Bill. They miss the '90s. They miss the pre-9/11 world. So they'll love seeing him back in the White House. So they'll vote for Hillary. Because she'll bring him. "Two for the price of one."

It appears not to be working. Might it be that they don't miss Bill as much as everyone thought? That they don't actually want Bill back in the White House?

Maybe. But maybe it's this. Maybe they'd love to have him back in the White House. Maybe they just don't want him to bring her. Maybe they miss the Cuckoo's Nest and they'd love having Jack Nicholson's McMurphy running through the halls. Maybe they just don't miss Nurse Ratched. Does she have to come?

It is clear in Iowa that immigration is the great issue that won't go away. Members of the American elite, including U.S. senators, continue to do damage to the public debate on immigration. They do not view it as a crucial question of America's continuance. They view it as an onerous issue that might upset their personal plans, an issue dominated by pro-immigration groups and power centers on the one hand, and the pesky American people, with their limited and quasi-racist concerns, on the other.
Because politicians see immigration as just another issue in "the game," they feel compelled to speak of it not with honest indifference but with hot words and images. With a lack of sympathy. This is in contrast to normal Americans, who do not use hot words, and just want the problem handled and the rule of law returned to the borders.

Politicians, that is, distort the debate, not because they care so much but because they care so little.

Hillary Clinton is not up at night worrying about the national-security implications of open borders in the age of terror. She's up at night worrying about whether to use Mr. Obama's position on driver's licenses for illegals against him in ads or push polls.

A real and felt concern among the candidates about immigration is a rare thing. And people can tell. They can tell with both parties. This is the real source of bitterness in this debate. It's not regnant racism. It's knowing the political class is incapable of caring, and so repairing.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on
29572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Rights of Man; Washington's last words on: December 14, 2007, 10:20:26 AM
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” —Alexander Hamilton

"Tis well."

-- George Washington (Last Words, 14 December 1799)

Reference: The First of Men, Ferling (507)


“To secure these rights...”
By Mark Alexander

Saturday, 15 December, is the 216th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to our Constitution, as ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke’s 1689 thesis, Two Treatises of Government, regarding the protection of “property” (in the Latin context, proprius, or one’s own “life, liberty and estate”); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state’s Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.

James Madison proposed the Bill of Rights as amendments to our Constitution in 1789, but many of our Founders objected to listing the Bill of Rights at all, much less as “amendments.” Their rationale was that such rights might then be construed as malleable rather than unalienable, as amendable rather than “endowed by our Creator” as noted in the Constitution’s supreme guidance, the Declaration of Independence.

Alexander Hamilton argued this point in The Federalist Papers, the most comprehensive explication of our Constitution: “I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous... For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?” (Federalist No. 84)

George Mason was one of 55 who authored the U.S. Constitution, but one of 16 who refused to sign it because it did not adequately address limitations on what the central government had “no power to do.” He worked with Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams against the Constitution’s ratification for that reason.

As a result of Mason’s insistence, ten limitations were put on the Federal Government by the first session of Congress, for the reasons outlined by the Bill of Rights Preamble: “The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution...”

Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate individual rights (as noted by Thomas Jefferson: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time...”), and a clear delineation on constraints upon the central government.

However, as Jefferson warned repeatedly, the greatest threat to such limitations on the central government was an unbridled judiciary: “Over the Judiciary department, the Constitution [has] deprived [the people] of their control... The original error [was in] establishing a judiciary independent of the nation, and which, from the citadel of the law, can turn its guns on those they were meant to defend, and control and fashion their proceedings to its own will... It is a misnomer to call a government republican in which a branch of the supreme power [the judiciary] is independent of the nation... The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”

In Federalist No. 81 Alexander Hamilton wrote, “[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State.”

That admonition notwithstanding, the federal judiciary has become “a despotic branch.”

Indeed, since the middle of the last century, judicial despots have grossly devitalized the Bill of Rights, asserting errantly that our Founders created a “Living Constitution” amendable by judicial diktat.

For example, the Leftjudiciary has “interpreted” the First Amendment as placing all manner of constraint upon the exercise of religion by way of the so-called “establishment clause” and based on the phony “Wall of Separation” argument. At the same time, the courts have asserted that all manner of expression constitutes “speech.”

The judiciary and legislatures have undermined the strength of the Second Amendment, a right of which James Madison’s appointee, Justice Joseph Story, referred to as “...the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers...”

Equally derelict is the manner in which the Tenth Amendment has been eroded by judicial interpretation.

In Federalist No. 45, Madison outlines the clear limits on central government power established in the Constitution: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Alexander Hamilton added in Federalist No. 81 “...the plan of the [Constitutional] convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, exclusively delegated to the United States.”

There was a very bloody War Between the States fought over offense to the Constitution’s assurance of States’ Rights.

All is not lost, however.

Sunday, 16 December, is the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party (1773). The “radicals” from Marlborough, Massachusetts, who threw 342 chests of tea from a British East India Company ship into the Boston Harbor in protest of tyrannical rule, did so noting, “Death is more eligible than slavery. A free-born people are not required by the religion of Christ to submit to tyranny, but may make use of such power as God has given them to recover and support their... liberties.”

Three years later, this rebellion had grown to such extent that our Founders were willing to give up their fortunes and lives, attaching their signatures to a document that declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Judicial and political despots, take note.
29573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: December 13, 2007, 10:11:54 PM

Iran: Toward a Regional Realignment
December 13, 2007 17 40  GMT


Iran's president will soon perform the Hajj at Saudi Arabia's invitation. Meanwhile, Iran and Egypt have made reciprocal high-level diplomatic visits for the first time since 1979. The moves are part of a major geopolitical realignment in the region, one that serves both U.S. and Iranian interests.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to perform the Hajj in Saudi Arabia on invitation from King Abdullah, Ahmadinejad's senior adviser Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, said Dec. 13. Meanwhile, high-level Egyptian and Iranian diplomats have made visits to each other’s countries for the first time since the Iranian Revolution.

These moves are part of a wider geopolitical realignment. They also are occurring with U.S. approval as Washington and Tehran pursue their respective interests.

Ali Akbar Javanfekr, media adviser of the Iranian president, Dec. 12 described Ahmadinejad's trip to Saudi Arabia as an important event in the relations between the two countries because it marks the first time a Saudi monarch has invited an Iranian head of state to perform the Hajj. The Dec. 18 visit will be Ahmadinejad's third to the kingdom since taking office in 2005.

Given the ethnic, sectarian and geopolitical tensions between the two nations, a Saudi monarch inviting an Iranian head of state to make the Hajj is a major development. The current context of the Iraq conflict, in which moves toward an international settlement are being made, increases the invitation's significance. Since the Saudis are conferring an honor upon the Iranians that would not have happened unless the two sides had reached -- or are close to reaching -- a modus vivendi on Iraq and other issues, Ahmadinejad's trip represents a sort of political Hajj.

Elsewhere in the region, the Egyptians are warming up to the Iranians. Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs Hussein Derar visited Iran in the first such trip since diplomatic ties between Egypt and Iran were severed in 1979. Iranian Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel also will be going to Cairo, in late January 2008. In an unprecedented development earlier in December, Ahmadinejad attended the Gulf Cooperation Council summit meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha.

Neither the Saudis nor the Egyptians can engage in such diplomacy with the Iranians without taking the United States into confidence. The Arab states have wanted to reach a diplomatic arrangement with the Iranians, but have not wanted to do so without U.S. involvement, which they see as a security guarantee. For its part, the United States is engaged in gestures to Iran, the most obvious example of which is the release of the National Intelligence Estimate stating that the Iranians halted their pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003. Progress on the U.S.-Iranian track has allowed the Arabs to conduct their own negotiations with the Iranians.

A major geopolitical realignment is in the works, under which Iran is being integrated into the regional security system. This is because leaving Iran out of any such arrangement in post-Baathist Iraq is dangerous for the security of the Arab states and damaging to U.S. interests. Realignment with Iran is the only way Washington can balance its need to deal with Iran on the Iraq question while preventing Tehran from threatening the Arabs. By working with the Arab states to have them seek closer relations with Iran, the United States has found a way to get around criticism from its Arab allies that Washington has not involved them in the Iraq talks.

The Iranians have two strategic aims in all this: First, they want to emerge from their status as a pariah state without having to follow the route of the Libyans. Second, Iran seeks to become a regional powerhouse.

The Saudi and Egyptian overtures facilitate Tehran's first goal, since Iran can be reintegrated into the international arena without appearing to have completely caved in to international pressure. As to the second objective, the Iranians know that without an acknowledgment from the Arabs and the United States, any Iranian attempt to behave as a regional player will be seen as a hostile act that could lead to war. By gaining space in the regional power configuration, Tehran has made progress toward international player status.

U.S.-Iranian dealings on Iraq have facilitated Arab-Iranian diplomatic engagement. Whether this process will lead toward normalization of U.S.-Iranian bilateral relations remains to be seen.
29574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: December 13, 2007, 09:37:04 PM
RESPECT to the Muslim who stepped forward!!!

NEW YORK -- Ten subway riders, including two with prior bias crime busts, were charged with assaulting a group of four Jews wishing each other "Happy Hannukah" aboard a Q train in Brooklyn last week.

Authorities say the victims, two men and two women, were on a southbound Q train at Canal Street in Lower Manhattan when they were approached by the gang of 10 at around 11:15 p.m. Friday.

They were allegedly beaten up by the group in an attack now being investigated as a bias crime, because one is accused of shouting, "Hanukkah is when the Jews killed Jesus."

Two of the victims, Maria Parsheva and Walter Adler spoke to Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett.

"At first, I got hit, but I wasn't bleeding," Adler said. "It was one of those sucker punch, shock punches. But by the second time, there were like people stomping me."

But it was what the attackers said that will stay with Adler longer than the bruises.

"'You killed him, you killed Jesus, you killed him on Hanukkah, you dirty Jew, you [expletive] Jew,' Adler said the attackers said.

Adler said the incident was sparked by him wishing his friends a Happy Hannukah to his friends.

"And almost immediately, you see the look in this guy's face, like I've called his mother something," Adler said. "And I see the way this guy looks, and I see the way that this guy wants to fight me, and I look, and I see another guy right in front of me, another guy. And I see the crowd moving in."

"Attacking someone because they yell 'Happy Hanukkah' is obviously reason to believe this is an anti-Semitic," Parsheva said.

When Hassan Askari, another passenger on the train, tried to help, he was beaten up too.

"I don't understand," Askari said. "They just said 'Happy Hannukah.' That was it. There was nothing else."

Although hate crimes charges have not yet been brought, it is being investigated as a bias incident.

Police say the victims were treated for bruising and swelling to the head and face, but none required hospital treatment.

The 10 suspects, ages 19 and 20, were arrested at the DeKalb Avenue station in Brooklyn. They were charged with assault and unlawful assembly.

"No one else helped up, except Hassan," Parsheva said. "No one else on the train."

"A Muslim-American saved us, when our own people were on the train and didn't do anything," Adler said. "Someone who in the media often gets painted as the enemy of Israel and the Jews, this is a...Sunni Muslim, this is someone that jumped in, he knew we were Jews, to help us."

During the investigation, one of four victims revealed the comment made by one of the attackers, prompting the hate crimes task force investigation.

Two of the 10 suspects charged have prior hate crimes arrests.

Authorities say 19-year-old Joseph Jirovec was one of six charged in a June 2006 attack on four black youths in Brooklyn's mostly white Gerritsen Beach neighborhood.

Jirovec, the son of a firefighter serving in Iraq as an Army staff sergeant, claimed at the time that the motivation for the attack was his membership in a violent street gang, and not bias.

He said his street name was "Bloody Fitted" and that he held the rank of two-star general in the Bloods street gang.

Another of those arrested, 19-year-old Zachary Rogalski of Brooklyn, was charged in a May 2005 attack on several black youths in Marine Park, Brooklyn.

He was part of a group of nine white youths who beat up a group of three blacks looking for a $70 cigarette lighter they lost during a previous fight, according to police.
(Copyright ©2007 WABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Source Drudge
29575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: December 13, 2007, 04:50:18 PM

Democrats who supported a House resolution to honor Ramadan voted against a similar resolution to honor Christmas and Christianity last night.

18 Democrats voted “nay” or “present” on a resolution to “recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.” An eagle-eyed Republican House staffer points out that those same members, with one exception, voted to “recognize the commencement of Ramadan,” a Muslim religious observance in October.

Nine Democrats voted against the Christmas resolution. They are: Rep. Gary Ackerman (N.Y.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Rep. Diane DeGette (Colo.), Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.), Rep. Robert Scott (Va.), Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.).

Another nine Democrats chose to vote "present." They are: Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), Rep. Rush Holt (N.J.), Rep. Donald Payne (N.J.), Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.).

Each of them supported the Ramadan resolution except for Rep. Lee, who did not vote
29576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: December 13, 2007, 04:47:10 PM
American Intelligence
December 13, 2007

The citizens of the free world have nothing to worry any more -- America's spy masters have recovered their missing crystal ball. No fewer than 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have just told us that the Iranian nuclear program really is not so dangerous. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, Tehran has, for reasons yet to be explained, supposedly stopped the military plank of its atomic research.

Before rolling out the peace banners, though, it's worth looking at the agencies' track record in getting these sorts of "estimates" right. As a matter of fact, U.S. intelligence services have so far failed to predict the nuclearization of a single foreign nation. They failed to do so with regard to the Soviet Union in 1949, China in 1964, India and Pakistan in 1998, and North Korea in 2002. They also got Saddam's weapons program wrong -- twice. First by underestimating it in the 1980s and then by overplaying its progress before the 2003 invasion. But on the possible nuclearization of a regime that sounds fanatic enough to use this doomsday weapon, the NIE, contradicting everything we have heard so far about the issue, including from a previous NIE report, is suddenly to be trusted?

It's not just on the nuclear front where American intelligence services have failed their country. They foresaw neither the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 nor the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. In Afghanistan, during the 1980s, while other friendly services, among them the French, urged the CIA to support more "moderate" tribal chiefs in the fight against the Red Army, the agency relied on the enlightened advice of its Saudi friends and supported the most extreme Islamists. U.S. troops are fighting and dying today for that blunder.

More recently, the CIA conducted those "extraordinary renditions" of terrorist suspects in such an amateurish manner that several American intelligence officers were exposed and are now being tried in absentia in Italy. Allied services in other countries were also compromised, souring future cooperation between the agencies.

I do not rehash this history with any kind of schadenfreude but to urge policy makers in the U.S. and here in Europe to read this report with more than just a grain of salt. Many Democrats in Washington and the international media welcomed the agencies' "independence" from the political leadership. But one must wonder whether, in a democracy, intelligence services are supposed to cultivate their "independence" to the point of opposing the elected political leadership.

And make no mistake, the NIE has little in common with intelligence as it is understood by professionals. Instead, Langley & Co. seem to have decided to carry out their own foreign policy. The report's most controversial conclusion -- that Iran ceased its covert nuclear program -- is based on the absurd distinction between military and civilian. Iran itself admits -- no, boasts -- that it continues enriching uranium as part of its "civilian" program. But such enrichment can have only a military purpose.

With this sleight of hand, though, the intelligence services effectively sabotaged the Bush administration's efforts to steer its allies toward a tougher position on Iran. Paris in particular won't be amused about what appears almost like a betrayal. President Nicolas Sarkozy took a great political risk when he turned around French foreign policy and became Europe's leading opponent of a nuclear Iran. He even warned of a possible armed conflict with Iran -- not the most popular thing to do in France.

The agencies say in the report that they don't "know" whether Tehran is considering equipping itself with nuclear arms. These super-spies in the suburbs of Washington do not seem to be the least embarrassed by this admission of incompetence. With their multibillion-dollar budget, one might certainly expect the agencies to "know" these sorts of things.

This admission also betrays a rather naive view of the nature of the Iranian regime. Are the mullahs' intentions really so hard to discern? What everybody "knows" -- and not only those in the intelligence community -- is that Tehran has made it pretty clear that it wants nuclear arms and that it has very concrete plans for their deployment: to erase Israel from the map. Everybody also "knows" that nuclear arms would make the Islamic Republic almost untouchable, turning it into a regional superpower that could dictate its will on the Gulf states -- the world's suppliers of oil and gas. And everybody "knows" that this is an unacceptable prospect for the Gulf countries, practically forcing them to get the bomb as well. Over time the Middle East, not a very stable region, would become completely nuclearized.

The CIA and its covert colleagues could have thought about these realities a bit longer before publishing a document that can only add confusion to an already complex crisis. But to do so would have meant concentrating on intelligence analysis rather than politics. This whole affair would be almost laughable if it weren't so disturbing and dangerous.

Mr. Moniquet, a former field operative for the French foreign intelligence service, heads the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center.
29577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Step on: December 13, 2007, 04:01:06 PM
Forgive my glibness, and please educate me if I miss the point, but what about:

1) hormones and anti-biotics in the food supply?
2) high fructose corn syrup and its brethren?
3) eating less?

29578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: December 13, 2007, 02:51:39 PM
Harvard for Free
Higher education is about to change as elite universities decide what to do with their huge endowments.

Thursday, December 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

On Monday Harvard said that next year it will substantially increase its financial aid to middle-class students, bringing its actual tuition costs down to or even below that of some state universities. This is possible because of Harvard's--and other universities'--growing financial success, and it is a signal of far-reaching changes that will ripple throughout higher education.

Superb investment returns have been generated by managers of the endowments of some of the elite private universities, including Harvard, Yale, and even of small liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Williams. The endowments of these four institutions range from $1.7 billion at Amherst to $35 billion at Harvard, and the investment managers are getting annual returns well in excess of 20%. This is more than the alumni of any of those institutions could possibly contribute, and by an enormous margin.

In 1970, when I became a trustee of Williams, the endowment stood at about $35 million. Even using constant dollars, the growth in the endowment since then has been astonishing. At June 30, 2007 it had reached approximately $1.9 billion.

Much (but not all) of this growth is due to the major diversification in the investment mixture adopted by trustees of these schools, who realized some 30 years ago that sticking with the ancient formulae of stocks and bonds was no longer prudent. The change came about because the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, persuaded Grinnell College in 1976 to invest some $13 million in a local TV station that he had identified as a golden opportunity.

Before then, boards at such places worried that nontraditional investments might raise legal issues, or subject them to criticism from alumni. But when the Buffett suggestion turned into a significant windfall of some $36 million for Grinnell in about five years, the rest of the endowment world got the point. I once asked Warren if he had planned to cause such a major switch in strategy. He assured me he had not. "I just saw it as a good buy," he said.

Now, however, these enormous endowments are beginning to raise some fascinating issues for all of higher education. The most obvious issue is whether these schools can seriously claim to have any further need for donations from alumni and friends.
And if, as seems likely, there is much less need for additional giving, does that not mean the administrations of these institutions can operate without the traditional checks and balances of informed alumni? The boards and administrations of the well-endowed schools can safely and proudly proclaim their independence.

In the past, it would have been impossible to ignore alumni. Perhaps an early indication of what I am raising is the recent tussle at Dartmouth over the number of trustees the alumni will be permitted to elect. There the administration has instituted a by-law change that will result in an increase in the number of trustees to be elected by the board, thereby decreasing the power of the alumni.

In the present circumstances, the administration and boards of these schools now control the money because the endowment is managed by internally controlled entities. Accordingly, the most important voice at Yale would have to be the estimable and much-respected David Swenson, who has managed the Yale endowment to astonishing annual returns of over 20% for 10 years. Yale's endowment is about $22.5 billion. What does this mean for the future of governance at Yale? I wonder.

Similarly, these powerful investment returns will change tuition pricing and financial aid--and not just at Harvard. A scholar who follows these matters closely recently told me that he anticipates that the elite private colleges and universities will, in the not-too-distant future, stop charging tuition to any student whose annual family income is below the top 5% of all American families--currently around $200,000.

We already have seen a competition among these schools as of late, with "Free to $30,000" replaced by "Free to $40,000" and now "Free to $60,000." In fact, a recent announcement at Phillips Exeter Academy, that they are offering a free boarding school education to admitted students whose families earn $75,000 or less, raised the stakes for higher education.

If a "Free to $200,000" policy were to be enacted at my alma mater, Williams College, it would cost them only something like $15 million in net tuition revenue out of an operating budget of $200 million. At Harvard, the percentage contribution would be even less. Given the endowment performance at places like Williams and Harvard, they could easily adjust to the loss in tuition revenue. But what about all the lesser-endowed schools that are much more heavily dependant on tuition to maintain their financial stability? How can Fairfield University--where I have served as a trustee--possibly forego tuition to that extent?

What this means is that the cost of the educational Mercedes will be less than the educational Ford. And when Harvard is cheaper than Fairfield, how can Fairfield increase tuition each year, when it will no longer have the umbrella of similar tuition increases being announced by places like Williams and Yale?

I suspect many of us have viewed a four-year college education as a commodity that is priced within a reasonably narrow range. In the past, the Fairfield cost was close to that at Williams. If, as is likely, the big guys drop tuition for all but the richest students, all this will change.

There is another aspect of the financial aid universe that will be affected by these changes in pricing. Currently, there are universities and colleges granting what are known as "merit scholarships." These are financial grants to students who have no demonstrated need.

The Ivies, and many well-endowed institutions, profess only to grant aid based on need. But in the present circumstances, merit grants are being used to tempt talented students away from the Ivies. Some students accept these grants, and decline admission offers at the very elite schools in order to save money for graduate school costs. Thus, Harvard and Williams may be losing attractive students for largely financial reasons. In those cases, the merit offers make money a solid reason to go to a school down the food chain.

If, as is likely, the big guys drop tuition, all this will change, too. And who can blame the elites for using what they have the most of--money and huge endowments.
Because there are so few of these super-rich schools, the effects of their changes in policies will be felt slowly. But like the change in investment strategy Warren Buffett innocently suggested some 30 years ago, the size and growth of their endowments will have significant and not easily anticipated consequences. The ripples of moves made in Cambridge and New Haven will be widely felt.

Mr. Vincent, a former commissioner of Major League Baseball, is the author of "The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved" (Simon & Schuster, 2006), the first in a multivolume oral-history project.

29579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: December 13, 2007, 10:42:40 AM

Fenerbahce To Ask Uefa For Three Points From Inter Match

A Turkish lawyer has filed a complaint to Uefa after Inter wore a shirt with an offensive symbol, at least to Islamic culture, in their recent match against Fenerbahce.

A Turkish lawyer who's an expert on European law, Baris Kaska, is asking Uefa to cancel the three points Inter earned in their win against Fenerbahce in the recent Champions League match.

The Nerazzurri had beaten the Turkish champions 3-0 at home to qualify for the next round of the Champions League.

The reason for the appeal is unusual: the celebratory shirt for Inter's centenary worn by the team that night, and on several other occasions this season, offended many people in Turkey.

The shirt's scheme saw a big red cross on a white background, a symbol of the city of Milan, and reminded many of an emblem of the order of the Templars, which is considered offensive in Islamic culture.

Inter consciously did not wear their 'centenary shirt' in their first match against Fenerbahce in Istanbul, but at home, they did not think it was necessary to do the same.

However, the very sensitive Turkish media reacted bitterly and that led to the official appeal filed by Kaska, who announced this decision during an interview to Barcelona daily La Vanguardia.
29580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Wilson on: December 13, 2007, 10:28:17 AM
"In observations on this subject, we hear the legislature
mentioned as the people's representatives.  The distinction,
intimated by concealed implication, through probably, not avowed
upon reflection, is, that the executive and judicial powers are not
connected with the people by a relation so strong or near or dear.
But is high time that we should chastise our prejudices; and that
we should look upon the different parts of government with a just
and impartial eye."

-- James Wilson (Lectures on Law, 1791)

Reference: The Works of James Wilson, McCloskey, ed., vol. 1
(292-293); original Lectures on Law, Wilson,
29581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / None of the Above Part Two on: December 12, 2007, 11:42:42 PM

That is an extraordinary number. The diagnosis of mental disability is one of the most stigmatizing of all educational and occupational classifications—and yet, apparently, the chances of being burdened with that label are in no small degree a function of the point, in the life cycle of the WISC, at which a child happens to sit for his evaluation. “As far as I can determine, no clinical or school psychologists using the WISC over the relevant 25 years noticed that its criterion of mental retardation became more lenient over time,” Flynn wrote, in a 2000 paper. “Yet no one drew the obvious moral about psychologists in the field: They simply were not making any systematic assessment of the I.Q. criterion for mental retardation.”
Flynn brings a similar precision to the question of whether Asians have a genetic advantage in I.Q., a possibility that has led to great excitement among I.Q. fundamentalists in recent years. Data showing that the Japanese had higher I.Q.s than people of European descent, for example, prompted the British psychometrician and eugenicist Richard Lynn to concoct an elaborate evolutionary explanation involving the Himalayas, really cold weather, premodern hunting practices, brain size, and specialized vowel sounds. The fact that the I.Q.s of Chinese-Americans also seemed to be elevated has led I.Q. fundamentalists to posit the existence of an international I.Q. pyramid, with Asians at the top, European whites next, and Hispanics and blacks at the bottom.
Here was a question tailor-made for James Flynn’s accounting skills. He looked first at Lynn’s data, and realized that the comparison was skewed. Lynn was comparing American I.Q. estimates based on a representative sample of schoolchildren with Japanese estimates based on an upper-income, heavily urban sample. Recalculated, the Japanese average came in not at 106.6 but at 99.2. Then Flynn turned his attention to the Chinese-American estimates. They turned out to be based on a 1975 study in San Francisco’s Chinatown using something called the Lorge-Thorndike Intelligence Test. But the Lorge-Thorndike test was normed in the nineteen-fifties. For children in the nineteen-seventies, it would have been a piece of cake. When the Chinese-American scores were reassessed using up-to-date intelligence metrics, Flynn found, they came in at 97 verbal and 100 nonverbal. Chinese-Americans had slightly lower I.Q.s than white Americans.
The Asian-American success story had suddenly been turned on its head. The numbers now suggested, Flynn said, that they had succeeded not because of their higher I.Q.s. but despite their lower I.Q.s. Asians were overachievers. In a nifty piece of statistical analysis, Flynn then worked out just how great that overachievement was. Among whites, virtually everyone who joins the ranks of the managerial, professional, and technical occupations has an I.Q. of 97 or above. Among Chinese-Americans, that threshold is 90. A Chinese-American with an I.Q. of 90, it would appear, does as much with it as a white American with an I.Q. of 97.
There should be no great mystery about Asian achievement. It has to do with hard work and dedication to higher education, and belonging to a culture that stresses professional success. But Flynn makes one more observation. The children of that first successful wave of Asian-Americans really did have I.Q.s that were higher than everyone else’s—coming in somewhere around 103. Having worked their way into the upper reaches of the occupational scale, and taken note of how much the professions value abstract thinking, Asian-American parents have evidently made sure that their own children wore scientific spectacles. “Chinese Americans are an ethnic group for whom high achievement preceded high I.Q. rather than the reverse,” Flynn concludes, reminding us that in our discussions of the relationship between I.Q. and success we often confuse causes and effects. “It is not easy to view the history of their achievements without emotion,” he writes. That is exactly right. To ascribe Asian success to some abstract number is to trivialize it.

Two weeks ago, Flynn came to Manhattan to debate Charles Murray at a forum sponsored by the Manhattan Institute. Their subject was the black-white I.Q. gap in America. During the twenty-five years after the Second World War, that gap closed considerably. The I.Q.s of white Americans rose, as part of the general worldwide Flynn effect, but the I.Q.s of black Americans rose faster. Then, for about a period of twenty-five years, that trend stalled—and the question was why.

Murray showed a series of PowerPoint slides, each representing different statistical formulations of the I.Q. gap. He appeared to be pessimistic that the racial difference would narrow in the future. “By the nineteen-seventies, you had gotten most of the juice out of the environment that you were going to get,” he said. That gap, he seemed to think, reflected some inherent difference between the races. “Starting in the nineteen-seventies, to put it very crudely, you had a higher proportion of black kids being born to really dumb mothers,” he said. When the debate’s moderator, Jane Waldfogel, informed him that the most recent data showed that the race gap had begun to close again, Murray seemed unimpressed, as if the possibility that blacks could ever make further progress was inconceivable.
Flynn took a different approach. The black-white gap, he pointed out, differs dramatically by age. He noted that the tests we have for measuring the cognitive functioning of infants, though admittedly crude, show the races to be almost the same. By age four, the average black I.Q. is 95.4—only four and a half points behind the average white I.Q. Then the real gap emerges: from age four through twenty-four, blacks lose six-tenths of a point a year, until their scores settle at 83.4.
That steady decline, Flynn said, did not resemble the usual pattern of genetic influence. Instead, it was exactly what you would expect, given the disparate cognitive environments that whites and blacks encounter as they grow older. Black children are more likely to be raised in single-parent homes than are white children—and single-parent homes are less cognitively complex than two-parent homes. The average I.Q. of first-grade students in schools that blacks attend is 95, which means that “kids who want to be above average don’t have to aim as high.” There were possibly adverse differences between black teen-age culture and white teen-age culture, and an enormous number of young black men are in jail—which is hardly the kind of environment in which someone would learn to put on scientific spectacles.
Flynn then talked about what we’ve learned from studies of adoption and mixed-race children—and that evidence didn’t fit a genetic model, either. If I.Q. is innate, it shouldn’t make a difference whether it’s a mixed-race child’s mother or father who is black. But it does: children with a white mother and a black father have an eight-point I.Q. advantage over those with a black mother and a white father. And it shouldn’t make much of a difference where a mixed-race child is born. But, again, it does: the children fathered by black American G.I.s in postwar Germany and brought up by their German mothers have the same I.Q.s as the children of white American G.I.s and German mothers. The difference, in that case, was not the fact of the children’s blackness, as a fundamentalist would say. It was the fact of their Germanness—of their being brought up in a different culture, under different circumstances. “The mind is much more like a muscle than we’ve ever realized,” Flynn said. “It needs to get cognitive exercise. It’s not some piece of clay on which you put an indelible mark.” The lesson to be drawn from black and white differences was the same as the lesson from the Netherlands years ago: I.Q. measures not just the quality of a person’s mind but the quality of the world that person lives in. ♦
CORRECTION: In his December 17th piece, “None of the Above,” Malcolm Gladwell states that Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in their 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” proposed that Americans with low I.Q.s be “sequestered in a ‘high-tech’ version of an Indian reservation.” In fact, Herrnstein and Murray deplored the prospect of such “custodialism” and recommended that steps be taken to avert it. We regret the error.
29582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: December 12, 2007, 11:39:56 PM

None of the Above
What I.Q. doesn’t tell you about race.
by Malcolm Gladwell December 17, 2007

If what I.Q. tests measure is immutable and innate, what explains the Flynn effect—the steady rise in scores across generations?

One Saturday in November of 1984, James Flynn, a social scientist at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, received a large package in the mail. It was from a colleague in Utrecht, and it contained the results of I.Q. tests given to two generations of Dutch eighteen-year-olds. When Flynn looked through the data, he found something puzzling. The Dutch eighteen-year-olds from the nineteen-eighties scored better than those who took the same tests in the nineteen-fifties—and not just slightly better, much better.Curious, Flynn sent out some letters. He collected intelligence-test results from Europe, from North America, from Asia, and from the developing world, until he had data for almost thirty countries. In every case, the story was pretty much the same. I.Q.s around the world appeared to be rising by 0.3 points per year, or three points per decade, for as far back as the tests had been administered. For some reason, human beings seemed to be getting smarter.
Flynn has been writing about the implications of his findings—now known as the Flynn effect—for almost twenty-five years. His books consist of a series of plainly stated statistical observations, in support of deceptively modest conclusions, and the evidence in support of his original observation is now so overwhelming that the Flynn effect has moved from theory to fact. What remains uncertain is how to make sense of the Flynn effect. If an American born in the nineteen-thirties has an I.Q. of 100, the Flynn effect says that his children will have I.Q.s of 108, and his grandchildren I.Q.s of close to 120—more than a standard deviation higher. If we work in the opposite direction, the typical teen-ager of today, with an I.Q. of 100, would have had grandparents with average I.Q.s of 82—seemingly below the threshold necessary to graduate from high school. And, if we go back even farther, the Flynn effect puts the average I.Q.s of the schoolchildren of 1900 at around 70, which is to suggest, bizarrely, that a century ago the United States was populated largely by people who today would be considered mentally retarded.

For almost as long as there have been I.Q. tests, there have been I.Q. fundamentalists. H. H. Goddard, in the early years of the past century, established the idea that intelligence could be measured along a single, linear scale. One of his particular contributions was to coin the word “moron.” “The people who are doing the drudgery are, as a rule, in their proper places,” he wrote. Goddard was followed by Lewis Terman, in the nineteen-twenties, who rounded up the California children with the highest I.Q.s, and confidently predicted that they would sit at the top of every profession. In 1969, the psychometrician Arthur Jensen argued that programs like Head Start, which tried to boost the academic performance of minority children, were doomed to failure, because I.Q. was so heavily genetic; and in 1994 Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in “The Bell Curve,” notoriously proposed that Americans with the lowest I.Q.s be sequestered in a “high-tech” version of an Indian reservation, “while the rest of America tries to go about its business.” To the I.Q. fundamentalist, two things are beyond dispute: first, that I.Q. tests measure some hard and identifiable trait that predicts the quality of our thinking; and, second, that this trait is stable—that is, it is determined by our genes and largely impervious to environmental influences.

This is what James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, meant when he told an English newspaper recently that he was “inherently gloomy” about the prospects for Africa. From the perspective of an I.Q. fundamentalist, the fact that Africans score lower than Europeans on I.Q. tests suggests an ineradicable cognitive disability. In the controversy that followed, Watson was defended by the journalist William Saletan, in a three-part series for the online magazine Slate. Drawing heavily on the work of J. Philippe Rushton—a psychologist who specializes in comparing the circumference of what he calls the Negroid brain with the length of the Negroid penis—Saletan took the fundamentalist position to its logical conclusion. To erase the difference between blacks and whites, Saletan wrote, would probably require vigorous interbreeding between the races, or some kind of corrective genetic engineering aimed at upgrading African stock. “Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern,” Saletan declared, claiming to have been “soaking [his] head in each side’s computations and arguments.” One argument that Saletan never soaked his head in, however, was Flynn’s, because what Flynn discovered in his mailbox upsets the certainties upon which I.Q. fundamentalism rests. If whatever the thing is that I.Q. tests measure can jump so much in a generation, it can’t be all that immutable and it doesn’t look all that innate.
The very fact that average I.Q.s shift over time ought to create a “crisis of confidence,” Flynn writes in “What Is Intelligence?” (Cambridge; $22), his latest attempt to puzzle through the implications of his discovery. “How could such huge gains be intelligence gains? Either the children of today were far brighter than their parents or, at least in some circumstances, I.Q. tests were not good measures of intelligence.”

The best way to understand why I.Q.s rise, Flynn argues, is to look at one of the most widely used I.Q. tests, the so-called WISC (for Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children). The WISC is composed of ten subtests, each of which measures a different aspect of I.Q. Flynn points out that scores in some of the categories—those measuring general knowledge, say, or vocabulary or the ability to do basic arithmetic—have risen only modestly over time. The big gains on the WISC are largely in the category known as “similarities,” where you get questions such as “In what way are ‘dogs’ and ‘rabbits’ alike?” Today, we tend to give what, for the purposes of I.Q. tests, is the right answer: dogs and rabbits are both mammals. A nineteenth-century American would have said that “you use dogs to hunt rabbits.”

“If the everyday world is your cognitive home, it is not natural to detach abstractions and logic and the hypothetical from their concrete referents,” Flynn writes. Our great-grandparents may have been perfectly intelligent. But they would have done poorly on I.Q. tests because they did not participate in the twentieth century’s great cognitive revolution, in which we learned to sort experience according to a new set of abstract categories. In Flynn’s phrase, we have now had to put on “scientific spectacles,” which enable us to make sense of the WISC questions about similarities. To say that Dutch I.Q. scores rose substantially between 1952 and 1982 was another way of saying that the Netherlands in 1982 was, in at least certain respects, much more cognitively demanding than the Netherlands in 1952. An I.Q., in other words, measures not so much how smart we are as how modern we are.
This is a critical distinction. When the children of Southern Italian immigrants were given I.Q. tests in the early part of the past century, for example, they recorded median scores in the high seventies and low eighties, a full standard deviation below their American and Western European counterparts. Southern Italians did as poorly on I.Q. tests as Hispanics and blacks did. As you can imagine, there was much concerned talk at the time about the genetic inferiority of Italian stock, of the inadvisability of letting so many second-class immigrants into the United States, and of the squalor that seemed endemic to Italian urban neighborhoods. Sound familiar? These days, when talk turns to the supposed genetic differences in the intelligence of certain races, Southern Italians have disappeared from the discussion. “Did their genes begin to mutate somewhere in the 1930s?” the psychologists Seymour Sarason and John Doris ask, in their account of the Italian experience. “Or is it possible that somewhere in the 1920s, if not earlier, the sociocultural history of Italo-Americans took a turn from the blacks and the Spanish Americans which permitted their assimilation into the general undifferentiated mass of Americans?”
The psychologist Michael Cole and some colleagues once gave members of the Kpelle tribe, in Liberia, a version of the WISC similarities test: they took a basket of food, tools, containers, and clothing and asked the tribesmen to sort them into appropriate categories. To the frustration of the researchers, the Kpelle chose functional pairings. They put a potato and a knife together because a knife is used to cut a potato. “A wise man could only do such-and-such,” they explained. Finally, the researchers asked, “How would a fool do it?” The tribesmen immediately re-sorted the items into the “right” categories. It can be argued that taxonomical categories are a developmental improvement—that is, that the Kpelle would be more likely to advance, technologically and scientifically, if they started to see the world that way. But to label them less intelligent than Westerners, on the basis of their performance on that test, is merely to state that they have different cognitive preferences and habits. And if I.Q. varies with habits of mind, which can be adopted or discarded in a generation, what, exactly, is all the fuss about?
When I was growing up, my family would sometimes play Twenty Questions on long car trips. My father was one of those people who insist that the standard categories of animal, vegetable, and mineral be supplemented with a fourth category: “abstract.” Abstract could mean something like “whatever it was that was going through my mind when we drove past the water tower fifty miles back.” That abstract category sounds absurdly difficult, but it wasn’t: it merely required that we ask a slightly different set of questions and grasp a slightly different set of conventions, and, after two or three rounds of practice, guessing the contents of someone’s mind fifty miles ago becomes as easy as guessing Winston Churchill. (There is one exception. That was the trip on which my old roommate Tom Connell chose, as an abstraction, “the Unknown Soldier”—which allowed him legitimately and gleefully to answer “I have no idea” to almost every question. There were four of us playing. We gave up after an hour.) Flynn would say that my father was teaching his three sons how to put on scientific spectacles, and that extra practice probably bumped up all of our I.Q.s a few notches. But let’s be clear about what this means. There’s a world of difference between an I.Q. advantage that’s genetic and one that depends on extended car time with Graham Gladwell.

Flynn is a cautious and careful writer. Unlike many others in the I.Q. debates, he resists grand philosophizing. He comes back again and again to the fact that I.Q. scores are generated by paper-and-pencil tests—and making sense of those scores, he tells us, is a messy and complicated business that requires something closer to the skills of an accountant than to those of a philosopher.

For instance, Flynn shows what happens when we recognize that I.Q. is not a freestanding number but a value attached to a specific time and a specific test. When an I.Q. test is created, he reminds us, it is calibrated or “normed” so that the test-takers in the fiftieth percentile—those exactly at the median—are assigned a score of 100. But since I.Q.s are always rising, the only way to keep that hundred-point benchmark is periodically to make the tests more difficult—to “renorm” them. The original WISC was normed in the late nineteen-forties. It was then renormed in the early nineteen-seventies, as the WISC-R; renormed a third time in the late eighties, as the WISC III; and renormed again a few years ago, as the WISC IV—with each version just a little harder than its predecessor. The notion that anyone “has” an I.Q. of a certain number, then, is meaningless unless you know which WISC he took, and when he took it, since there’s a substantial difference between getting a 130 on the WISC IV and getting a 130 on the much easier WISC.
This is not a trivial issue. I.Q. tests are used to diagnose people as mentally retarded, with a score of 70 generally taken to be the cutoff. You can imagine how the Flynn effect plays havoc with that system. In the nineteen-seventies and eighties, most states used the WISC-R to make their mental-retardation diagnoses. But since kids—even kids with disabilities—score a little higher every year, the number of children whose scores fell below 70 declined steadily through the end of the eighties. Then, in 1991, the WISC III was introduced, and suddenly the percentage of kids labelled retarded went up. The psychologists Tomoe Kanaya, Matthew Scullin, and Stephen Ceci estimated that, if every state had switched to the WISC III right away, the number of Americans labelled mentally retarded should have doubled.
29583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: December 12, 2007, 11:09:03 AM
Woof C-Bad Dog:

Allow me to clarify-- I too think it worthy of notice and find it good news that Medvedev likes these bands.

Trivia:  I saw LZ at at the Anderson theater ( a block south of what was later to be the Fillmore East) in 1966 or '67.  I had snuck out of the house and got down to the East Village around 0200.  The guy at the door simply let me walk in because the show had already been on for quite a while and he dug that I was out and about at 14 years of age, and I walked right down the aisle and kneeled in front of the stage.  There, about 6 feet away from me, was Jimmy Page playing his guitar with a violin bow and making sounds like I had never heard.

Trivia2:  I saw DP around 1971 with a 9 man band that I was in at the time (piano and rhythm guitar).  I was the only white guy in the band, but they were all heavily into it.  We did interpretations of the Funkadelics (George Clinton), Santana, Jimi Hendrix and original tunes (I contributed two to the band's repertoire.)

So yes it will be interesting to see what kind of man Medvedev is and what kind of actions he takes.
29584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Greenspan speaks on: December 12, 2007, 10:57:53 AM
The Roots of the Mortgage Crisis
Bubbles cannot be safely defused by monetary policy before the speculative fever breaks on its own.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

On Aug. 9, 2007, and the days immediately following, financial markets in much of the world seized up. Virtually overnight the seemingly insatiable desire for financial risk came to an abrupt halt as the price of risk unexpectedly surged. Interest rates on a wide range of asset classes, especially interbank lending, asset-backed commercial paper and junk bonds, rose sharply relative to riskless U.S. Treasury securities. Over the past five years, risk had become increasingly underpriced as market euphoria, fostered by an unprecedented global growth rate, gained cumulative traction.

The crisis was thus an accident waiting to happen. If it had not been triggered by the mispricing of securitized subprime mortgages, it would have been produced by eruptions in some other market. As I have noted elsewhere, history has not dealt kindly with protracted periods of low risk premiums.

The root of the current crisis, as I see it, lies back in the aftermath of the Cold War, when the economic ruin of the Soviet Bloc was exposed with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Following these world-shaking events, market capitalism quietly, but rapidly, displaced much of the discredited central planning that was so prevalent in the Third World.
A large segment of the erstwhile Third World, especially China, replicated the successful economic export-oriented model of the so-called Asian Tigers: Fairly well educated, low-cost workforces were joined with developed-world technology and protected by an increasing rule of law, to unleash explosive economic growth. Since 2000, the real GDP growth of the developing world has been more than double that of the developed world.

The surge in competitive, low-priced exports from developing countries, especially those to Europe and the U.S., flattened labor compensation in developed countries, and reduced the rate of inflation expectations throughout the world, including those inflation expectations embedded in global long-term interest rates.

In addition, there has been a pronounced fall in global real interest rates since the early 1990s, which, of necessity, indicated that global saving intentions chronically had exceeded intentions to invest. In the developing world, consumption evidently could not keep up with the surge of income and, as a consequence, the savings rate of the developed world soared from 24% of nominal GDP in 1999 to 33% in 2006, far outstripping its investment rate.

Yet the actual global saving rate in 2006, overall, was only modestly higher than in 1999, suggesting that the uptrend in developing-economy saving intentions overlapped with, and largely tempered, declining investment intentions in the developed world. In the U.S., for example, the surge of innovation and productivity growth apparently started taking a breather in 2004. That weakened global investment has been the major determinant in the decline of global real long-term interest rates is also the conclusion of a recent (March 2007) Bank of Canada study.

Equity premiums and real-estate capitalization rates were inevitably arbitraged lower by the fall in global long-term interest rates. Asset prices accordingly moved dramatically higher. Not only did global share prices recover from the dot-com crash, they moved ever upward.

The value of equities traded on the world's major stock exchanges has risen to more than $50 trillion, double what it was in 2002. Sharply rising home prices erupted into major housing bubbles world-wide, Japan and Germany (for differing reasons) being the only principal exceptions. The Economist's surveys document the remarkable convergence of more than 20 individual nations' house price rises during the past decade. U.S. price gains, at their peak, were no more than average.

After more than a half-century observing numerous price bubbles evolve and deflate, I have reluctantly concluded that bubbles cannot be safely defused by monetary policy or other policy initiatives before the speculative fever breaks on its own. There was clearly little the world's central banks could do to temper this most recent surge in human euphoria, in some ways reminiscent of the Dutch Tulip craze of the 17th century and South Sea Bubble of the 18th century.
I do not doubt that a low U.S. federal-funds rate in response to the dot-com crash, and especially the 1% rate set in mid-2003 to counter potential deflation, lowered interest rates on adjustable-rate mortgages and may have contributed to the rise in U.S. home prices. In my judgment, however, the impact on demand for homes financed with ARMs was not major.

Demand in those days was driven by the expectation of rising prices--the dynamic that fuels most asset-price bubbles. If low adjustable-rate financing had not been available, most of the demand would have been financed with fixed rate, long-term mortgages. In fact, home prices continued to rise for two years subsequent to the peak of ARM originations (seasonally adjusted).

I and my colleagues at the Fed believed that the potential threat of corrosive deflation in 2003 was real, even though deflation was not thought to be the most likely projection. We will never know whether the temporary 1% federal-funds rate fended off a deflationary crisis, potentially much more daunting than the current one. But I did fret that maintaining rates too low for too long was problematic. The failure of either the growth of the monetary base, or of M2, to exceed 5% while the fed-funds rate was 1% assuaged my concern that we had added inflationary tinder to the economy.

In mid-2004, as the economy firmed, the Federal Reserve started to reverse the easy monetary policy. I had expected, as a bonus, a consequent increase in long-term interest rates, which might have helped to dampen the then mounting U.S. housing price surge. It did not happen. We had presumed long-term rates, including mortgage rates, would rise, as had been the case at the beginnings of five previous monetary policy tightening episodes, dating back to 1980. But after an initial surge in the spring of 2004, long-term rates fell back and, despite progressive Federal Reserve tightening through 2005, long-term rates barely moved.

In retrospect, global economic forces, which have been building for decades, appear to have gained effective control of the pricing of longer debt maturities. Simple correlations between short- and long-term interest rates in the U.S. remain significant, but have been declining for over a half-century. Asset prices more generally are gradually being decoupled from short-term interest rates.

Arbitragable assets--equities, bonds and real estate, and the financial assets engendered by their intermediation--now swamp the resources of central banks. The market value of global long-term securities is approaching $100 trillion. Carry trade and foreign exchange markets have become huge.

The depth of these markets became readily apparent in March 2004, when Japanese monetary authorities abruptly ceased intervention in support of the U.S. dollar after accumulating more than $150 billion of foreign exchange in the preceding three months. Beyond a few days of gyrations following the halt in purchases, nothing of lasting significance appears to have happened. Even the then seemingly massive Japanese purchases of foreign exchange barely budged the prices of the vast global pool of tradable securities.

In theory, central banks can expand their balance sheets without limit. In practice, they are constrained by the potential inflationary impact of their actions. The ability of central banks and their governments to join with the International Monetary Fund in broad-based currency stabilization is arguably long since gone. More generally, global forces, combined with lower international trade barriers, have diminished the scope of national governments to affect the paths of their economies.

Although central banks appear to have lost control of longer term interest rates, they continue to be dominant in the markets for assets with shorter maturities, where money and near monies are created. Thus central banks retain their ability to contain pressures on the prices of goods and services, that is, on the conventional measures of inflation.
The current credit crisis will come to an end when the overhang of inventories of newly built homes is largely liquidated, and home price deflation comes to an end. That will stabilize the now-uncertain value of the home equity that acts as a buffer for all home mortgages, but most importantly for those held as collateral for residential mortgage-backed securities. Very large losses will, no doubt, be taken as a consequence of the crisis. But after a period of protracted adjustment, the U.S. economy, and the world economy more generally, will be able to get back to business.

Mr. Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, is president of Greenspan Associates LLC and author of "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World" (Penguin, 2007).
29585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Any Wounded Soldier" on: December 12, 2007, 09:16:17 AM
U.S. refuses `Any Wounded Soldier' mail By JAY REEVES, Associated Press Writer

Hundreds of thousands of holiday cards and letters thanking wounded American troops for their sacrifice and wishing them well never reach their destination. They are returned to sender or thrown away unopened.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax scare, the Pentagon and the Postal Service have refused to deliver mail addressed simply to "Any Wounded Soldier" for fear terrorists or opponents of the war might send toxic substances or demoralizing messages.

Mail must be addressed to a specific member of the armed forces — a rule that pains some well-meaning Americans this Christmas season.

"Are we going to forget our soldiers because we are running in fear?" Fena D'Ottavio asked. The suburban Chicago woman was using her blog to encourage friends to send mail to unspecified soldiers until she learned of the ban, which she called a sad commentary on society.

Last season, despite the rule, officials say as many as 450,000 pieces of mail not addressed to anyone in particular managed to reach Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. But they were returned or, if they had no return address, were thrown out altogether, because the hospital lacked the manpower to open and screen all the mail, spokesman Terry Goodman said.

"A lot of this is because of security concerns because it's unsolicited mail that someone is going to have to go through," Goodman said. "Also, being a democratic society, there could be inappropriate mail from someone who, say, doesn't support the war, and then you've got a wounded soldier getting it."

Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, a spokesman with the Army Human Resources Command, said no one tracks the amount of unnamed-soldier mail being returned, so it is impossible to judge the size of the problem.

The busiest part of the holiday season has yet to arrive, but officials said they are receiving far less mail this year addressed simply to "A Recovering American Soldier" or "Any Wounded Soldier."

Candy Roquemore of Austin, Texas, was also promoting the idea of sending cards to wounded soldiers until she found out about the rule. She suggested the ban is an overreaction.

"I think there are some wackos who might do something, so I can understand that. But I think with a Christmas postcard it would be pretty easy to see it doesn't have anthrax in it," Roquemore said.

She added: "I just wanted to say, `Thank you, sorry you're hurt, and happy holidays.'"

USO spokesman John Hanson said that like the military, the nonprofit service organization does not deliver unopened mail to unspecified recipients. He said the USO worries about security as well as hateful messages from war critics.

"We just want to make sure it's not, `Die, baby killer,'" he said. "There are people out there who act irrationally, and we don't want anyone to get a message that would be discouraging."

The USO is one of the organizations the military is encouraging people to support with donations as an alternative to sending cards to unspecified soldiers. The military is also referring people to the American Red Cross and a Defense Department Web site where supporters have posted thousands of messages to troops.

Some groups are offering to forward mail to the troops. Aides to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., are offering to accept letters, screen them through the U.S. Capitol mail operation, and get them to members of the armed forces.

"We've had about a dozen complaints from constituents about returned mail that they sent to troops," said Steven Boyd, a Sessions spokesman.

29586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney does not compute on: December 12, 2007, 09:12:00 AM
That Does Not Compute
Mitt Romney has a passion for data. A great president needs a passion for principle.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Mitt Romney loves data and lusts after process.

In a recent cover profile in The Weekly Standard by the magazine's Fred Barnes, Mr. Romney is portrayed as the man who would be the CEO of America. Says Mr. Barnes, quoting Mr. Romney, a Harvard M.B.A.: "His idea of the perfect deal is not when one side wins but when 'you find a new alternative that everybody agrees is the right way to go. That doesn't always happen.' "


Mr. Barnes says Mr. Romney's "approach to government is not ideological." A Romney adviser is quoted as saying of his candidate: "He's super-pragmatic. He's an eclectic conservative." And Mr. Romney himself says flatly that as president he would "insist on gathering data . . . and analyze the data looking for trends."


Make no mistake. If the leading candidates in the GOP presidential race are to be litmus-tested as conservatives, all would cause conservatives sleepless nights. If the Reagan coalition was of economic and social conservatives combined with national security hawks, each group has something to be disturbed about with this batch of front-runners. Rudy Giuliani famously has his issues with social issues, John McCain his prickly insistence on First Amendment censorship and an addiction to sounding like Al Gore on global warming and Hillary Clinton on immigration. Mike Huckabee amazingly sounds like Ted Kennedy in his attack on supporters of economic growth as greedy, while Fred Thompson was not only assisting the pro-choice movement as a lawyer, but has an apparent bent for trial lawyers.

Yet the Romney approach as described not only by Mr. Barnes but more importantly by Mr. Romney himself is an approach that goes far beyond any particular issue. It is, as Mr. Romney himself freely admits, all about process. Whatever the issue--economic, social or national security--Mr. Romney would gather the data, look for a trend and thus "you make better decisions."

This should cause conservatives to break out in cold sweats.


Let's take Mr. Romney back to two of the most important Republican presidencies in the history of America. Let's make him a ghostly observer as the presidents in question deal with "the data" being presented to them by their advisers.
Mr. Romney's first visit would be to the Lincoln White House in 1864. There was no Oval Office in 1864, so Mr. Romney finds Old Abe in his office upstairs on the second floor of the residence. Lincoln has just been handed a memo by his secretary of war, and the data look pretty grim

Lincoln is staring at a sheet filled with numbers. The numbers are of Union casualties in the 10 most casualty-filled battles of the Civil War thus far. The banality of ink-on-paper belies the horrific human impact behind the figures. Over 13,000 Union casualties at the battle of Shiloh, 16,000 at Second Manassas, 12,000 at Antietam and yet again at Stone River, 17,000 at Chancellorsville, 23,000 at Gettysburg. And so on in one battle after another stretching over the past three years.

So as our ghostly Mr. Romney studies these "data"--now what? The conservative fear, of course, is that the "superpragmatic" Mr. Romney who places such faith in the process of data and trends would say to Lincoln exactly what the Democratic nominee of 1864, a battlefield general of the war, was saying in his campaign against Lincoln. The war is a "failure," said George McClellan. Stop it--right now. The numbers, the kind of data so prized by a possibly future President Romney, are unmistakably ghastly. Union kids and Confederate kids--Americans all--are being slaughtered on a scale that dwarfs the imagination.

But what of principle here? What of the passion for the principle--and passion plays no small role in Lincoln's adherence to principle--that no man, woman or child should be a slave in America? What about the fundamental principle of human freedom? What about keeping the Union together? The startling thought occurs that Mr. Romney would be whispering to Lincoln that the data speak for themselves. Passion should yield to process. And that would be that, if Mr. Romney carried the day as Lincoln's adviser.


Move Mr. Romney back to the future, or at least the relatively recent past. This time his ghost is hovering over Ronald Reagan's shoulder. President Reagan is one happy guy. His tax and budget cuts have passed, and he signed them into law. The Reagan revolution has begun. But it's now 1985, and there's a problem. David Stockman, Reagan's director of the Office of Management and Budget, a former congressman from Mr. Romney's native Michigan, the state where Romney's father was a star of the Republican liberal movement, is staring at reams of data. The results, as Mr. Stockman would write shortly after his angry departure from the Reagan White House, were--from Mr. Stockman's view--"frightening." The very idea that Reagan would stick with his tax cuts was a sign the president was in "dreamland." He was campaigning for re-election in 1984 on "false promises." Mr. Stockman--both in real time and in his bitter memoirs published in 1986--was nothing if not a fountain of data. And the data's conclusion, insisted Mr. Stockman, was that the Reagan revolution was a "failure." Reagan should abandon his passion for the principle of low taxes and cutting federal spending while restoring the military. Presumably, the Romney ghost sitting in the room with Reagan and Mr. Stockman would have agreed with . . . Mr. Stockman.
If decisions were all about data, then the McClellan/Stockman view of the world--a worldview that is apparently Mr. Romney's as well--would be the triumphs most celebrated in American history. Lincoln and Reagan would be rated not at the top of the presidential greatness scale but somewhere well down towards the bottom.

They are, of course, not viewed that way at all. The principles of Lincoln and Reagan carried the day precisely because each man was able to stare at the "data"--however gruesome or frightening they might be--and not blink. They are seen as great presidents and great leaders today because they understood at a visceral level that they should hold fast, refuse to yield to overwhelming demands from critics that they follow the data or that they adhere to a process that used something other than casualties or deficit projections as a measuring stick. Lincoln would not cave in on the principles of holding the Union together and the most basic principle of America--freedom. Reagan would not yield on the central conservative principle that tax cuts and less government spending were in fact the keys to America's future economic vitality.

In other words, in a battle between data and principle, both men rated recently in a poll as the top two greatest presidents in American history (Lincoln first, Reagan second) chose principle. They have not only been vindicated but are held out as treasured exemplars of what a president is supposed to be. Mr. Romney, already struggling with charges he has changed his principles on abortion and gay rights and indeed on when he decided it was OK to admit he was an enthusiastic Reaganite, is basing his entire campaign on the very notion that process is everything.



One of the subtle images of Mr. Romney's recent speech on religion is perhaps not understood by Mr. Romney's advisers. Where did Mr. Romney go to deliver his talk on principle? And who introduced him? The site was the presidential library of former president George H.W. Bush--the former president himself in his always gracious fashion introducing Romney.
Yet Mr. Romney did not need a visit to the Bush Library to understand why the Library does not contain the papers of a two-term president. The reason, of course, is that then-Vice President George H.W. Bush campaigned for the presidency in 1988 on the principle he phrased as "read my lips--no new taxes." He won. Yet in the name of precisely the process Mr. Romney lovingly describes--gathering data and looking for trends--the first President Bush was persuaded by Romneyesque advisers like then-Treasury aide Richard Darman to surrender bedrock conservative principle and raise taxes. The senior Mr. Bush was advised to choose data and process over principle. He did--and in short order had lots of time on his hands to decide the process for building a library about a one-term president while Bill and Hillary Clinton took charge.

Not to be left out of this point is the Democrat who successfully campaigned for president based on fixing the process in Washington--Jimmy Carter. As a nuclear engineer, naval officer, successful businessman, Mr. Carter's central point in the 1976 election was about his devotion to process. Then there was that Romney predecessor as governor of Massachusetts, Democrat Michael Dukakis, who earnestly campaigned in 1988 against Bush I on a process issue, competence in government.

Would Mitt Romney make a better president than anyone on the other side? With no disrespect for Oprah, of course.

But if conservatives have learned anything since 1964 it is this: principles count. A principle presidency always trumps a process presidency. Lincoln did better than Hoover, Reagan did better than Bush I or Carter. Better heading in the right direction with a faulty process than zipping along in the wrong direction simply because the process and the data are telling you things are wonderfully efficient. A train making exceptional time to Boston is useless if in fact you wanted to go to Miami.


Mitt Romney is clearly one decent guy, one very, very accomplished human being. He has announced where he stands on the issues of the day, putting himself head and shoulders above a Clinton, Obama or Edwards. But as conservatives head into caucus and primary season, they should not be hesitant to question what appears to be his addiction to process for the sake of process.
Go back to Fred Barnes's Romney quote, the one in which Mr. Romney says he looks for a "new alternative that everybody agrees is the right way to go." What Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan shared was a core belief that in fact it was a better thing for some principles to triumph over others. "Everybody" did not agree with Lincoln that freedom was better than slavery, that keeping the Union together was better than not, or with Reagan that the free market and tax cuts philosophy was a better philosophy than one of big government and tax increases. But they went ahead anyway.

Is there a place for data? Is there value in process? Sure.

But base an entire presidency on the importance of data and process over principle? Is this what Mitt Romney would do? Is this where a Romney presidency would lead? If so, conservatives have been here before.

It is not a good place to be.

Mr. Lord is creator, co-founder and CEO of QubeTV, a conservative, user-generated video site. A former Reagan White House political director and an author, he writes from Pennsylvania.

29587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 12, 2007, 08:36:15 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran Responds to the NIE

Iran's Fars news agency on Tuesday reported comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in response to the Dec. 3 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. The statements were, to say the least, interesting. Ahmadinejad called the document "a positive step forward." He went on to say, "If one or two other steps are taken, the conditions will be ripe and will lose their complexities, and the way will be open for interactions between the two sides."

One of the things he wants is for the United States to acknowledge that Iran never had a nuclear program. However, it is clear from the context that he doesn't expect or actually care about this. He said, "We do not say that in the report there is no problem and there is no imprecision or error. We welcomed the report as a whole and as a step forward. A part of the report approved the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities. There was, of course, another part which made some references to the past, and if the U.S. intelligence body conducts a more precise study, it will confirm the views of Iran."

His second point was more fundamental. "One of the steps that need to be taken is a major change in [the U.S.] regional position. They need to respect the rights of the countries in the region. Regional nations have rights and want to fully use their rights. Respecting these rights is a serious change in strategy. This is the next step. If this happens, you will be able to see the results."

It seems to us that he was talking about Iraq, saying that this is the next set of changes Iran wants to see. But Ahmadinejad's summation was this: "The main body of the problem has been resolved. There are no ambiguities, and the ground has been set for cooperation on different issues."

Most interesting of all was Ahmadinejad's claim that Iran has been approached by the U.S. government for permission to send emissaries to Iran. He said, "Many requests reach us from American officials for dialogue and travel to Iran, and we are studying these requests." This is an interesting assertion, and there has been enough time for the White House or the State Department to deny it. Neither one has. It is altogether possible that these were simply requests from U.S. scholars or minor government employees for visas to travel to Iran, and that Ahmadinejad is trying to make them into something more. Or it might well be that the Bush administration is seeking more contacts with Iran, in addition to the two upcoming meetings that have been agreed upon by both sides.

Ahmadinejad is going to make everything he can of this. If diplomacy goes forward, he will want it to appear that the United States unilaterally initiated it -- hence the claim that the United States is asking to send officials. When asked what else the United States should do, Ahmadinejad said, "Let us not get into a hurry. Let [the Americans] follow and stabilize the step they have taken. Our addressee understands our words."

Obviously, Ahmadinejad is trying hard to spin this into a triumph. But the interesting parts of the Fars interview are that Ahmadinejad, for all his posturing, regards the shift in U.S. policy as significant; that he is considering further contacts with the Americans; and that there is something he wants Washington to do above all else, which we assume is remove sanctions. There is implied here an Iranian openness to something.

In any case, Iran has issued a response, and two meetings will be held. Certainly, this weird honeymoon could collapse overnight, but for the moment, there is clearly a diplomatic probing going on that has to be watched carefully.

29588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Jay: The country and its people on: December 12, 2007, 08:27:56 AM

"This country and this people seem to have been made for each
other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that
an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren,
united to each other by the strongest of ties, should never be
split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties."

-- John Jay (Federalist No. 2)

Reference: Jay, Federalist No. 2 (38)
29589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China busts a move in Kazakhstan on: December 11, 2007, 11:37:43 PM
China, Kazakhstan: Pipelines and the Balance of Power

China has broken ground on the final portion of a pipeline linking the massive energy reserves of the Caspian Sea directly to China. That realization will be the culmination of 15 years of strategic planning, and will change the balance of power between China, Russia and the United States.


Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov hosted a ceremony Dec. 11 in which he broke ground on an oil pipeline to connect the Kazakh cities of Kenkiyak and Kumkol. The project will complete a transport network linking the huge oil fields of the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea basin directly to western China.

Overall, China's strategic position is unfortunate. Most of its population lies in the coastal areas of eastern and southern China. And most of the country's deep interior can only support a small population, while jungles and mountains to the south and the Russian nuclear arsenal to the north block expansion. Finally, China cannot supply its own energy needs, forcing it to rely upon U.S. command of the seas for its economic well-being.

Central Asia -- and Kazakhstan specifically -- provides China with a means of breaking out of this situation. Lightly populated Kazakhstan has loads of room, loads of energy, and -- thanks to the Soviet collapse -- offers loads of opportunities for geopolitical expansion. All that it requires is constructing infrastructure to knit the two nations together.

The Kenkiyak-Kumkol line is the second phase of that plan. The first -- completed in December 2005 -- linked Atasu with China (existing Soviet-era infrastructure allowed this segment to connect as far west as Kenkiyak). Once Kenkiyak-Komkol is completed and a few pumping stations on other pieces of (Chinese-constructed) infrastructure are reversed, China will be linked into three separate Kazakh petroleum basins with the biggest one -- the Caspian -- sitting right at the end of the Frankensteined line. China's goal is by 2011 to have the line shipping 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) with eventual upgrades taking that number north of 1 million bpd. And this too is really only the beginning. Plans are in place for building additional oil and natural gas pipelines to capture not just Kazakh energy but Uzbek and Turkmen energy as well. Ground has already been broken on some of the most ambitious of these projects.

The projects will expand China's geopolitical box, giving it its first large-scale access to non-waterborne imported oil. Until now, U.S. naval superiority has ensured Washington could shut down the Chinese economy without so much as firing a shot. Now, that ability will be blunted somewhat. While this will not translate into instant conflict with the United States -- China will still be importing at least another 3 million bpd via oceanborne tankers -- it will provide Beijing its first serious strategic wiggle room and make military conflict with the United States at least theoretically possible.

The implications for Russia are far more dramatic. Moscow has always thought of Central Asia as its exclusive stomping ground. This pipeline network undermines that in every way possible. Russian influence is strongest in Kazakhstan; should Kazakhstan find a firmer economic partner to the east, the rest of the "Stans" -- none of which borders Russia -- are almost certain to follow. For Russia this pipeline means not only the loss of a sphere of influence and the expansion of a potential rival onto its southern flank, but also a weakening of the Russian position vis-à-vis Europe. Russia lacks the natural gas production capacity to supply both its home market and its European customers without a monopoly on Central Asian natural gas. China intends not only to end that monopoly, but also to harvest all of the region's natural gas for itself.

The Russians have few tools for competing with the growing surge in Chinese power. Economically, the Central Asians would vastly prefer selling their energy to China over Russia -- China pays more and connections come with fewer strings attached. There is also the issue of lingering resentment over Soviet imperialism. So unless the Russians are willing to embrace (and pay for) new export options for the Central Asians, the only remaining option is making the Central Asian leadership too scared of Russian retribution to cooperate with China. This is something with which Moscow has a good deal of experience. But until a few members of Central Asia's inner circles begin meeting untimely demises, Chinese infrastructure will continue inching its way across the border, bringing the entire region ever closer to Beijing's orbit.

29590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What did Congress know and when did it know it? on: December 11, 2007, 01:39:57 PM
Waterboarding: Congress Knew
December 11, 2007; Page A26
After three days of screaming headlines about the CIA destroying videotapes in 2005 of the "harsh" interrogation of two terrorists, it now comes to light that in 2002 key members of Congress were fully briefed by the CIA about those interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. One member of that Congressional delegation was the future House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

The Washington Post on Sunday reported these series of briefings. While it is not our habit to promote the competition, readers should visit the Post's Web site and absorb this astonishing detail for themselves as reported by Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen in "Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002: In meetings, spy panels' chiefs did not protest, officials say."

Porter Goss, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee who later served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006 is explicit about what happened in these meetings: "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing. And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

In all, the CIA provided Congress with some 30 briefings on waterboarding before it became a public issue.

Why would the CIA want to tell the most senior members of Congress about anything so sensitive? No doubt in part because senior officials at the CIA, not to mention the interrogators themselves, assuredly did not want to begin any such policy absent closing the political and legal loop on it.

The Congressional briefings touched the political base, and a Justice Department memo at that time deemed the interrogation methods legal. Most crucially, bear in mind that when pressed about all this at his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey pointedly said he would not make a post-facto condemnation of the techniques, thereby putting the "freedom" of the interrogators at risk, "simply because I want to be congenial."

At the time, we wrote that this was a sign of Judge Mukasey's character. That word would not spring to mind in describing what the Post's account says about Congress.

One certainly may hold as abhorrent the idea of aggressively interrogating any terrorists ever, either for fear of what they might do to our people, as John McCain does, or because one thinks this violates our values. What one may not do -- at least not if one wants the system to function -- is assent to such a policy in 2002 and then, when the policy is made public, put up the pretense that one is "shocked" and appalled to learn of it.

This is bad faith. Worse, it risks setting in motion the ruin or eventual criminal prosecution of CIA employees who in 2002 did what the Bush Administration, Congress and indeed the nation wanted them to do to protect the American people from another September 11.

It has been widely reported by now that waterboarding was used on only three individuals -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon; Abu Zebaydah, an Osama bin Laden confidante captured in Pakistan 2002 and described as a director of al-Qaeda operations; and a third unidentified person. If Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues want the handling of such terrorists conformed to what they call "our values," then she should define that and put it in an explicit piece of legislation. Then let the Members vote yea or nay, in public, on the record.

But don't sign off on such a sensitive policy at a moment when the nation's "values" support it, then later feign revulsion when you can't take the heat from the loudest in your political constituency. There was a time when politics at least assumed more backbone than that.

29591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ on the Dark Web on: December 11, 2007, 01:35:47 PM
Second post of the AM

U.S.: The Role and Limitations of the 'Dark Web' In Jihadist Training

Security experts have warned in recent weeks that Western governments have yielded control of the Internet to jihadists by failing to understand the efficacy of pro-al Qaeda Web sites to recruit and train new operatives. Although the Internet has been a great enabler for grassroots cells to spread their ideology and recruit new acolytes, some things are incredibly difficult to accomplish online -- namely, absorbing the technical information and tradecraft of terrorism and applying it to a real-world situation, particularly in a hostile environment.


Security experts have warned in recent weeks that Western governments have ceded control of the Internet to jihadists, the World Tribune reported Dec. 10. In a conference on Internet security at Germany's Federal Police Office headquarters Nov. 21, Western experts argued that the United States and a number of EU countries have failed to understand the efficacy of pro-al Qaeda Web sites -- or the "Dark Web" -- to recruit and train new operatives, and have written off such Web sites as propaganda.

According to these Western experts, al Qaeda has been so successful in its exploitation of the Internet that it has closed training camps in Afghanistan, though this somewhat understates the role of the U.S. military in closing the camps. Gabriel Weimann, a professor in Israel and Germany, told the conference that al Qaeda has made a shift and is now able to indoctrinate, train and mobilize new recruits and turn them into jihadist militants via practical Web sites that illustrate how to handle weapons, carry out kidnappings and make bombs. The Internet -- specifically Google Earth -- has also reduced jihadists' need for target reconnaissance. Although the Internet has been a boon for grassroots cells in spreading their ideology and recruiting new acolytes, the Web has some serious limitations as a terrorism enabler. Some things are very difficult to accomplish online -- namely, absorbing technical information and the tradecraft of terrorism and applying it to a real-world situation, particularly in a dangerous environment.

Since 9/11, blogs, chat rooms and Web sites have experienced an increase in popularity among jihadists. Often, these jihadist "cyberwarriors" -- usually in their late teens or early 20s -- join or form grassroots cells and become "al Qaeda 3.0 or 4.0" operatives.

However, the application of technical skills (bomb-making, targeting, and deployment) often requires subtle and complex abilities that one cannot perfect simply by reading about them. It is quite difficult to follow written instructions and build a perfectly functioning improvised explosive device from scratch; as with any scientific endeavor, trial and error and testing in the real world usually are required. Bomb-making is a talent best learned from an experienced teacher (and many potential teachers have blown themselves up in pursuit of expert-level skills). Without such a teacher and hands-on experience, there is a steep learning curve, and much trial and error is required.

Additionally, tradecraft -- those intuitive skills needed to sustain secrecy and operations in a hostile environment -- are essential to both the individual jihadist and his network. History has shown repeatedly that -- even when preoperational planning and other activities have begun in cyberspace -- as a matter of routine, jihadists conduct target surveillance in the physical world and carry out dry runs when possible. While Google Earth might be an efficient tool for mapping and coordinating an attack, it does not negate the need for preoperational surveillance. Jihadists recognize, as do law enforcement agents, that however detailed a picture of a target might appear on a Web site, it is an incomplete snapshot of reality that has been frozen in time. Successful attacks depend on knowledge of large swathes of terrain, security routines and other details that cannot be obtained from videos or photographs.

Although these Web sites are not going to produce super-jihadists, the challenge remains for law enforcement agencies to identify and remove dangerous sites quickly and to develop Web monitoring programs in an attempt to track those using them as part of counterterrorism efforts. As these sites proliferate, so does the attention devoted to them. It is important to note that visiting such Web sites is an operational security hazard that can allow counterterrorism forces to identify potential militants and close in on them, as they did in Canada in the summer of 2006 and in Atlanta before that.

29592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: December 11, 2007, 11:28:45 AM

The NIE Fantasy
The intelligence community failed to anticipate the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

"The USSR could derive considerable military advantage from the establishment of Soviet medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, or from the establishment of a submarine base there. . . . Either development, however, would be incompatible with Soviet practice to date and with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it."

--Special National Intelligence Estimate 85-3-62, Sept. 19, 1962
Twenty-five days after this NIE was published, a U-2 spy plane photographed a Soviet ballistic missile site in Cuba, and the Cuban Missile Crisis began. It's possible the latest NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program will not prove as misjudged or as damaging as the 1962 estimate. But don't bet on it.

At the heart of last week's NIE is the "high confidence" judgment that Tehran "halted its nuclear weapons program" in the fall of 2003, "primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work." Prior to that, however, the NIE states, also with "high confidence," that "Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons." Left to a footnote is the explanation that "by 'nuclear weapons program' we mean Iran's nuclear weapon design and weaponization work. . . . we do not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment."

Let's unpack this.

In August 2002, an Iranian opposition group revealed that Iran had an undeclared uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and an undeclared heavy water facility at Arak--both previously unknown to the pros of the U.S. intelligence community. Since then, the administration has labored to persuade the international community that all these facilities have no conceivable purpose other than a military one. Those efforts paid off in three successive U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding Iran suspend enrichment because it was "concerned by the proliferation risks" it posed.

Along comes the NIE to instantly undo four years of diplomacy, using a semantic sleight-of-hand to suggest some kind of distinction can be drawn between Iran's bid to master the nuclear fuel cycle and its efforts to build nuclear weapons. How credible is this distinction?

In "Avoiding Nuclear Anarchy" (1996), MIT's Owen Cote notes that "The recipe [for designing a weapon] is very simple. . . . Nor are the ingredients, other than plutonium or HEU [highly enriched uranium], hard to obtain. For a gun weapon, the gun barrel could be ordered from any machine shop, as could a tungsten tamper machined to any specifications the customer desired. The high-explosive charge for firing the bullet could also be fashioned by anyone with access to and some experience handling TNT, or other conventional, chemical explosives" (my emphasis).
In other words, Iran didn't abandon its nuclear weapons program. On the contrary, it went public with it. It's certainly plausible Tehran may have suspended one aspect of the program--the aspect that is the least technically challenging and that, if exposed, would offer smoking-gun proof of ill intent. Then again, why does the NIE have next to nothing to say about Iran's efforts to produce plutonium at the Arak facility, which is of the same weapons-producing type as Israel's Dimona and North Korea's Yongbyon reactors? And why the silence on Iran's ongoing and acknowledged testing of ballistic missiles of ever-longer range, the development of which only makes sense as a vehicle to deliver a weapon of mass destruction?

Equally disingenuous is the NIE's assessment that Iran's purported decision to halt its weapons program is an indication that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach"--an interesting statement, given that Iran's quest for "peaceful" nuclear energy makes no economic sense. But the NIE's real purpose becomes clear in the next sentence, when it states that Iran's behavior "suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige and goals for regional influence in other ways, might--if perceived by Iran's leaders as credible--prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program."

This is a policy prescription, not an intelligence assessment. Nonetheless, it is worth recalling that if Iran did have an active weaponization program prior to 2003, as the NIE claims, it means that former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was lying when he said that "weapons of mass destruction have never been our objective." Mr. Khatami is just the kind of "moderate" that advocates of engagement with Iran see as a credible negotiating partner. If he's not to be trusted, is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Then again, when it comes to the issue of trust, it isn't just Mr. Ahmadinejad we need to worry about. It has been widely pointed out that the conclusions of this NIE flatly contradict those of a 2005 NIE on the same subject, calling the entire process into question. Less discussed is why the administration chose to release a shoddy document that does maximum political damage to it and to key U.S. allies, particularly France, the U.K. and Israel.

The likely answer is that the administration calculated that any effort by them to suppress or tweak the NIE would surely leak, leading to accusations of "politicizing intelligence." But that only means that we now have an "intelligence community" that acts as an authority unto itself, and cannot be trusted to obey its political masters, much less keep a secret. The administration's tacit acquiescence in this state of affairs may prove even more damaging than its wishful thinking on Iran.
For years it has been a staple of fever swamp politics to believe the U.S. government is in the grip of shadowy powers using "intelligence" as a tool of control. With the publication of this NIE, that is no longer a fantasy.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

29593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Heavy Metal Fanatic To Succeed PUTIN As Russian Leader on: December 11, 2007, 11:07:44 AM
I just noticed that this is NOT the Russia thread embarassed 

I have locked this thread and posted its contents on the Russia thread.
29594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Virtue & Happiness on: December 11, 2007, 11:05:41 AM
"There exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble
union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage;
between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy,
and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we
ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven
can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal
rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

-- George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 1789)

Reference: Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the U.S.
29595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: December 11, 2007, 09:39:24 AM
Post by C-Bad Dog moved from another thread:

Heavy Metal Fanatic To Succeed PUTIN As Russian Leader

Russia's RIA Novosti reports: The man backed by Vladimir Putin for next year's presidential election is a heavy-metal-loving 42-year-old whose surname comes from the Russian word for 'bear'.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was nominated by the ruling United Russia party and three other smaller pro-Kremlin parties on Monday afternoon. President Putin later said on national television: "I have known Dmitry Medvedev well for over 17 years, and I completely and fully support his candidature."

The man who may well become leader of the largest nation on Earth said he had spent much of his youth compiling cassettes of popular Western groups, "Endlessly making copies of BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN and DEEP PURPLE."

All these groups were on state-issued blacklists during Medvedev's Soviet-era schooldays.

"The quality was awful, but my interest colossal," he said.

Medvedev went on to boast of his collection of DEEP PURPLE LPs, saying that he had searched for the albums for many years.

"Not reissues, but the original albums," he added, concluding that, "If you set yourself a goal you can achieve it."

Read more RIA Novosti. 
Woof Russ:

That is some fascinating personal data on the new man, who may not be his own man.

Geopolitical Diary: The Course of Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ended the mystery by formally endorsing First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev as his successor. Given Putin's genuine popularity with a majority of the population, along with his hammerlock to the levers of power, his endorsement is tantamount to Medvedev's election. Now the speculation has turned to precisely whether Putin will continue to pull the strings, and if so how he will do it.

We suspect that Putin will continue to pull the strings and that he is smart enough to figure out how he will do it. These are interesting but ultimately not important questions. The reason is that the process Putin initiated when he replaced Boris Yeltsin was inevitable. If Putin had not done it, someone else would have. And given the dynamics of Russia during that period, the only place that person would have come from was the intelligence community. To take control of the catastrophic reality of Russia, you had to be closely linked to at least some of the oligarchs, have control of the only institution that was really functioning in Russia at the time -- the security and intelligence apparatus -- and have the proper mix of ruthlessness and patience that it took to consolidate power within the state and then use state power to bring the rest of Russia under control.

The Soviet Union was a disaster. The only thing worse was Russia in the 1990s. The situation in Russia was untenable. Workers were not being paid, social services had collapsed, poverty was endemic. The countryside was in shambles. By the end of the 1990s Russia was either going to disintegrate or the state would reassert itself. The functional heart of the Soviet system, the KGB, now called the FSB, did reassert itself, not in a straight line. Much of the FSB was deeply involved in the criminality and corruption that was Russia in the 1990s. But just as the KGB had recognized first that the Soviet system was in danger of collapse, so the heirs of the KGB had recognized that Russia itself was in danger of collapse. Putin acted and succeeded. But it was the system reacting to chaos, not simply one man.

Which means that while the personal fate of Putin is an interesting question, it is not an important one. The course has been set and Medvedev, with or without Putin, will not change it. First, the state is again in the hands of the apparatus. Second, the state is in control of Russia. Third, Russia is seeking to regain control of its sphere of influence. Medvedev, or any Russian leader who could emerge, is not going to change this, because it has become institutionalized; it became institutionalized because there was no alternative course for Russia, the fantasies of the 1990s notwithstanding.

It is important to remember one of the major factors that propelled Putin to power -- the Kosovo war. The United States went to war with Serbia against Russian wishes. Russia was ignored. Then at the end, the Russians helped negotiate the Serb capitulation. Under the agreement the occupation of Kosovo was not supposed to take place only under NATO aegis. The Serbs had agreed to withdraw from Kosovo under the understanding that the Russians would participate in the occupation. From the beginning that did not happen. Yeltsin's credibility, already in tatters, was shattered by the contemptuous attitude toward Russia shown by NATO members.

It is interesting to note that on the same day Putin picked Medvedev, the situation in Kosovo is again heating up. NATO is trying to create an independent Kosovo with the agreement of Serbia. The Serbs are not agreeing and neither is their Russian ally. Putin, who still holds power, is not going to compromise on this issue. For him, Kosovo is a minor matter, except that it is a test of whether Russia will be treated as a great power.

Whether Putin is there, Medvedev is there, or it is a player to be named later, the Russians are not kidding on Kosovo. They do not plan to be rolled over as they were in 1999. Nor are they kidding about a sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. They are certainly not kidding about state domination of the economy or of the need for a strong leader to control the state.

The point is that the situation in Russia, down to a detail like Kosovo, is very much part of a single, coherent fabric that goes well beyond personalities. The response that Russia made to its near-death experience was pretty much its only option, and having chosen that option, the rest unfolds regardless of personalities. Putin has played his role well. He could continue to play it. But the focus should be on Russia as a great power seeking to resume its role, and not on the personalities, not even one as powerful as Putin, and certainly not Medvedev. 
Looks like the new boss is , , , the old boss.  This just in from the NY Times:

Russia's Dmitri Medvedev Says Putin Should Become Prime Minister

MOSCOW, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Dmitri A. Medvedev, named by
President Vladimir V. Putin as his preferred successor, said
on Tuesday that he would propose that Mr. Putin become prime
minister in a future government.

Mr. Medvedev also made clear in a brief televised statement
that his nomination was linked to the need for continuity of
Putin's policies.

Read More:
29596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Heavy Metal Fanatic To Succeed PUTIN As Russian Leader on: December 11, 2007, 09:31:31 AM
Woof Russ:

That is some fascinating personal data on the new man.

Here's Strat on the big picture as they see it:


Geopolitical Diary: The Course of Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ended the mystery by formally endorsing First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev as his successor. Given Putin's genuine popularity with a majority of the population, along with his hammerlock to the levers of power, his endorsement is tantamount to Medvedev's election. Now the speculation has turned to precisely whether Putin will continue to pull the strings, and if so how he will do it.

We suspect that Putin will continue to pull the strings and that he is smart enough to figure out how he will do it. These are interesting but ultimately not important questions. The reason is that the process Putin initiated when he replaced Boris Yeltsin was inevitable. If Putin had not done it, someone else would have. And given the dynamics of Russia during that period, the only place that person would have come from was the intelligence community. To take control of the catastrophic reality of Russia, you had to be closely linked to at least some of the oligarchs, have control of the only institution that was really functioning in Russia at the time -- the security and intelligence apparatus -- and have the proper mix of ruthlessness and patience that it took to consolidate power within the state and then use state power to bring the rest of Russia under control.

The Soviet Union was a disaster. The only thing worse was Russia in the 1990s. The situation in Russia was untenable. Workers were not being paid, social services had collapsed, poverty was endemic. The countryside was in shambles. By the end of the 1990s Russia was either going to disintegrate or the state would reassert itself. The functional heart of the Soviet system, the KGB, now called the FSB, did reassert itself, not in a straight line. Much of the FSB was deeply involved in the criminality and corruption that was Russia in the 1990s. But just as the KGB had recognized first that the Soviet system was in danger of collapse, so the heirs of the KGB had recognized that Russia itself was in danger of collapse. Putin acted and succeeded. But it was the system reacting to chaos, not simply one man.

Which means that while the personal fate of Putin is an interesting question, it is not an important one. The course has been set and Medvedev, with or without Putin, will not change it. First, the state is again in the hands of the apparatus. Second, the state is in control of Russia. Third, Russia is seeking to regain control of its sphere of influence. Medvedev, or any Russian leader who could emerge, is not going to change this, because it has become institutionalized; it became institutionalized because there was no alternative course for Russia, the fantasies of the 1990s notwithstanding.

It is important to remember one of the major factors that propelled Putin to power -- the Kosovo war. The United States went to war with Serbia against Russian wishes. Russia was ignored. Then at the end, the Russians helped negotiate the Serb capitulation. Under the agreement the occupation of Kosovo was not supposed to take place only under NATO aegis. The Serbs had agreed to withdraw from Kosovo under the understanding that the Russians would participate in the occupation. From the beginning that did not happen. Yeltsin's credibility, already in tatters, was shattered by the contemptuous attitude toward Russia shown by NATO members.

It is interesting to note that on the same day Putin picked Medvedev, the situation in Kosovo is again heating up. NATO is trying to create an independent Kosovo with the agreement of Serbia. The Serbs are not agreeing and neither is their Russian ally. Putin, who still holds power, is not going to compromise on this issue. For him, Kosovo is a minor matter, except that it is a test of whether Russia will be treated as a great power.

Whether Putin is there, Medvedev is there, or it is a player to be named later, the Russians are not kidding on Kosovo. They do not plan to be rolled over as they were in 1999. Nor are they kidding about a sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. They are certainly not kidding about state domination of the economy or of the need for a strong leader to control the state.

The point is that the situation in Russia, down to a detail like Kosovo, is very much part of a single, coherent fabric that goes well beyond personalities. The response that Russia made to its near-death experience was pretty much its only option, and having chosen that option, the rest unfolds regardless of personalities. Putin has played his role well. He could continue to play it. But the focus should be on Russia as a great power seeking to resume its role, and not on the personalities, not even one as powerful as Putin, and certainly not Medvedev.
29597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 11, 2007, 03:09:51 AM
Speculation:  Was there a motive here on the part of a certain faction of the CIA to pre-empt/prevent any risk that President Bush would pre-empt Iran?

I'm reading that not only the Israelis, but also the Brits are doubting the NIE's current conclusion , , ,
29598  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 4 Elements query to Marc Denny on: December 11, 2007, 03:07:15 AM
Sorry I'm taking time getting to this , , , embarassed
29599  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Enviado 2 on: December 10, 2007, 04:37:20 PM
Y uno mas:

Heinz Dieterich is chief Chavez strategist:

1. Posible fin de los gobiernos en Bolivia, Venezuela y Cuba, entre 
2008 y 2010

El Presidente Chávez ha sufrido una derrota estratégica en el 
referendo constitucional, que junto con la derrota estratégica del 
gobierno de Evo en Bolivia y la cada vez más precaria situación en 
Cuba, constituyen un panorama extremadamente grave para las fuerzas 
progresistas de América Latina. Es posible que los gobiernos de Hugo 
Chávez y de Evo Morales no sobrevivan los embates de la reacción en 
el año 2008 y que el modelo cubano se agote en el 2009-2010, si no se 
toman medidas realistas de inmediato.

AN desatiende el resultado del referéndum y apoya al Gobierno en 

La AN ha aprobado un Acuerdo sobre el referéndum y, en uno de sus 
puntos, afirma lo siguiente: “acompañar al Ejecutivo en su 
disposición de mantener la propuesta”, lo cual ha generado un dura 
crítica de Ismael García y Pastora Medina. El acuerdo ha sido votado 
y aprobado. Iris Varela ha pedido a Chávez que aplique la reforma 
derrotada por Decreto hasta que “por iniciativa popular aprueben una 

Why Venezuelans Turned on Chavez


Until recently, Venezuela's opposition was so weak and fragmented it 
seemed unable to even fathom an electoral victory. But, in the early 
morning hours on Monday, it sealed a surprising triumph over the 
constitutional reform proposal of a president who, in nine years, had 
never lost an election. Scrambling to explain this aberration in a 
land where Hugo Chavez dominates the political landscape, many 
political observers point to the thousands of university students, 
who, dormant until this year, clogged the streets to protest the 
reform in the weeks leading up to the vote. Raul Baduel, the former 
defense minister and longtime ally of the president, also injected 
life into the opposition when he, along with the former pro-Chavez 
party Podemos (Spanish for "We Can"), called for people to vote "No." 
But the results raise another, perhaps more important, question: how 
much help did the opposition actually receive from the poor, Chavez's 
main support base?

Three part video analyzing the dangers posed by Chavez


Chavez calling the opposition victory shit, shit, shit, shit.
29600  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Enviado por un amigo un Venezuela on: December 10, 2007, 04:35:55 PM
Perú: subcomisión de Congreso denuncia "penetración ideológica" del 

Una subcomisión del Congreso peruano aseguró que hay "penetración 
ideológica" del gobierno venezolano a través de la creación de las 
casas de la amistad bolivarianas, anunció este miércoles la agencia 
estatal Andina.

El crecimiento de los organismos peruanos ligados al presidente Hugo 
Chávez ha sido "vertiginoso": pasaron de 1 a 88 desde febrero de 2006 
a la fecha, señaló Andina, que cita el informe final de la subcomisión.

La subcomisión concluyó que existía "penetración ideológica" tras 
investigar la labor de las denominadas "casas del ALBA", que impulsan 
los simpatizantes peruanos del gobierno venezolano con el objetivo de 
promover las políticas de atención humanitaria a pobres que financia 
Caracas en la región.

El presidente de la subcomisión, Rolando Sousa, pedirá al Congreso 
conformar una comisión con facultades coercitivas para obligar a 
comparecer ante ella al embajador de Caracas en Lima y al embajador 
de Bolivia en Perú, para indagar sobre el grado de cooperación 
oficial de sus gobiernos en el proyecto.

Según el organismo parlamentario peruano, la multiplicación de estas 
"casas" demuestra una fuerte capacidad financiera para brindar ayuda 
social y abrir sucursales en diversas zonas de Perú, lo que justifica 
ser investigado por ser un gobierno extranjero el que está involucrado.

Un sondeo difundido a fines de noviembre indicó que un 62% de los 
limeños considera que Hugo Chávez busca tener injerencia en los 
asuntos internos de Perú a través de las "casas del ALBA".

Las "casas" cumplen una función humanitaria al tratar a pacientes con 
problemas oculares y han tomado el nombre de la Alternativa 
Bolivariana para los Pueblos de América (ALBA) que Venezuela impulsa 
en América Latina.

La embajada de Venezuela en Lima ha negado su participación directa o 
estar interviniendo en asuntos internos peruanos, señalando que las 
casas cumplen sólo un papel facilitador como, por ejemplo, enviar 
pacientes a operar de cataratas a Caracas o a Copacabana, en Bolivia, 
donde funciona la misión médica cubano-venezolana Milagro.
Lecciones del día 2
Paulina Gamus

Miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2007

Los resultados del referéndum convocado para aprobar o improbar el 
proyecto de nueva constitución presentado por el presidente Chávez, 
merecen muchos análisis y reflexiones. A la euforia de los opositores 
y a la frustración de los seguidores del proyecto chavista, han 
seguido una calma y un clima de normalidad que lo primero que enseñan 
es que a la población de este país le horroriza llevar la política al 
campo de batalla. La violencia que encuentra caldo de cultivo en las 
zonas de mayor marginalidad y que cobra decenas de vida cada día, es 
la que ha impuesto la delincuencia común exacerbada por el consumo de 
alcohol y de drogas y sin freno alguno por parte de los cuerpos 
policiales. Para nuestra desgracia, muchos de sus integrantes forman 
parte de ese sub mundo criminal. Pero la gran mayoría de los 
venezolanos, independientemente de las posiciones políticas que éstos 
hayan asumido en el pasado y que asumen ahora, prefiere no llevar sus 
diferencias más allá del intercambio verbal y de algunos pescozones, 
eso que Gonzalo Barrios llamaba las “trompadas estatutarias”.

La violencia queda reducida a una minoría de la cual forman parte 
personeros del régimen que -como cosa curiosa- son civiles. Cabe 
destacar en esta categoría a una diputada quien no conoce otra manera 
de hacer política que no sea el insulto, el abuso y la fuerza bruta. 
Quizá por rechazo a esos métodos, en su estado natal -Táchira- que 
ella representa en la Asamblea Nacional, la opción del NO obtuvo un 
triunfo rotundo. Aquí no habrá guerra civil a pesar de todos los 
vaticinios tanto de serios analistas como de astrólogos, videntes y 
otros especímenes. El empeño por infundir terror en los opositores 
mediante bandas de motorizados y demás antisociales que portan armas 
de fuego y están al servicio de algunos alcaldes conocidos por 
ignorar el respeto a la vida humana; es inútil. Cuando estos 
maleantes deben enfrentarse a multitudes no dispuestas a dejarse 
amedrentar, desisten y huyen. La primera lección es entonces la 
pérdida del miedo a las fuerzas paramilitares del régimen. Ni 
reservistas ni milicianos ni Círculos Bolivarianos ni Tupamaros 
pudieron mover un dedo para impedir que la voluntad popular se 
expresara libremente y para que se la respetara.

La segunda lección deriva de esa primera y es el derrumbe de un mito 
construido y solidificado a lo largo de nueve años: la invencibilidad 
de Chávez. Todo lo que se dijo sobre su carisma, endiosamiento, 
populismo, compra de voluntades con recursos inmensos para regalar, 
etcétera, etcétera, sumado a los fraudes de los que se suponía fuimos 
víctimas recurrentes; se derrumbó por el peso de una oposición que se 
organizó para cuidar los votos en las mesas de todos los centros de 
votación, que tuvo el cuidado de tener todas las actas en sus manos, 
que permaneció despierta y vigilante hasta la madrugada del día 
siguiente a la elección y que se mostró decidida a no dejarse 
atropellar. No eran aún las ocho de la noche cuando la palabra firme 
y seria de Gerardo Blyde, dirigente de Un Nuevo Tiempo, la sonrisa 
fresca y triunfal de Jon Goycochea, líder del movimiento 
universitario y la alocución escueta, clara y firme del general Raúl 
Isaías Baduel, ex ministro de la Defensa; fueron suficientes para 
saber que algo trascendental había cambiado para la oposición y en 
general para el país. El carómetro funcionó como nunca: en la rueda 
de prensa que ofrecieron el vicepresidente Jorge Rodríguez y el 
ministro Jesse Chacón, acompañados de otros dos miembros del comando 
electoral chavista; la sonrisa forzada del primero y la expresión 
fúnebre del segundo fueron más elocuentes que todas las palabras.

Cuando ya en la madrugada del día siguiente, la presidenta del 
Consejo Nacional Electoral dio los resultados que marcaban la derrota 
del empeño presidencial por liquidar la esencia democrática de la 
sociedad venezolana, supimos que Chávez era derrotable electoralmente 
y que ése debía ser el camino ahora y siempre, sin atajos de golpes 
militares, caracazos o cualquier otra fórmula contraria a la democracia.

Después vino el discurso de Chávez que, como suele suceder, empezó 
dando muestras de algún sentido de grandeza para terminar en la misma 
miasma (estado dinámico en que se encuentra la fuerza vital de cada 
individuo y que lo predispone para enfermar de ciertas patologías) La 
lección que sacamos es que esa cabra siempre tirará al monte y que no 
aceptará como corresponde, la derrota sufrida. Él si buscará atajos 
para imponernos muchos de los cambios que la mayoría de los electores 
venezolanos rechazó el 2 de diciembre de 2007.

¿Desistirá de sus propósitos de cercenar el derecho a la propiedad 
privada, de cubanizar la educación de nuestros niños, de restarle 
poder a la fuerza armada regular para instaurar una milicia paralela, 
de intervenir las universidades públicas y eliminar su autonomía, de 
clausurar los pocos medios de comunicación audiovisual que no están 
bajo la bota chavista, de transformar a Venezuela en una república 
confederada con la Cuba fidelista, etcétera, etcétera? La lección que 
nos ofrece el triunfo electoral del domingo 2 de diciembre es que si 
bien Chávez dista mucho de ser un demócrata y continúa teniendo el 
absoluto control sobre todas las instituciones del Estado, no existe 
fuerza que pueda derrotar a una sociedad movilizada en defensa de sus 
derechos. La batalla, para usar las palabras del presidente 
guerrerista, pero en nuestro caso por la democracia, apenas comienza.
Citó a la escritora italiana Oriana Fallaci y su libro "Entrevista 
con la Historia" donde hace referencia al luchador griego Alekos 
Panagullis señalando: "Cuando te acerques a esos grandes escudos de 
armas, donde está la historia reflejada, en torno a los cuales hay 
leyendas y glorias de los hombres de la historia pasada, tu te podrás 
acercar a esos escudos de armas,  el tiempo convirtió cosas en 
herrumbres y eso tiene dos componentes sangre y mierda, como seres 
humanos pues".

Y continuó: "Toma nota Lugo Galicia. Porque lo tuyo es lo último que 
he dicho, fue mierda. Aquí lo que hay es dignidad. Dejen quieto al 
que está quieto. Sepan administrar su victoria, porque ya la están 
llenando de mierda. Es una victoria de mierda y la nuestra llámenla 
derrota, llámenla, pero es de coraje, de valor de dignidad", dijo el 


Presidente Chavez desmiente haber sido presionado por alto mando 
militar y reitera que insistirá en su proyecto

El presidente Chávez desmintió que el alto mando militar haya 
influido en el reconocimiento de su derrota en el referendo 
constitucional del domingo y consideró como "literatura" versiones 
publicadas por diarios de esta capital, retomadas por CNN, señalando 
que no era presionable.

Chávez se presentó en medio de una rueda de prensa del alto mando 
militar para desmentir las versiones periodísticas según las cuales, 
enfurecido con los resultados adversos del referendo, se negaba a 
reconocer la derrota y tuvo que ser convencido por los jefes de la 
Fuerza Armada.

"Ojala que ese poder creativo que tiene el periodista, refiriendose a 
Hernán Lugo Galicía, lo usara para escribir cuentos o novelas. A lo 
mejor nos sale un premio Nobel de literatura", dijo Chávez en 
referencia al artículo de prensa.

El presidente se mostró particularmente molesto porque esa versión 
fue retomada por la cadena televisiva internacional CNN, a la que 
acusó de desarrollar una campaña conspirativa en su contra.

"Anoche, a la 1 o las 2 de la mañana, me llamó el general Rangel 
indignado por la manipulación que se está haciendo, incluso a nivel 
mundial, con CNN otra vez", dijo Chávez.

"CNN, How are you? Sigan, no van a poder sacarnos de aquí", agregó y 
reiteró que está preparando una demanda contra el canal estadounidense.

Chávez califica de nuevo la victoria de la oposición

El mandatario venezolano al reiterar a los opositores que 
administraran bien su victoria advirtió: "Nosotros vamos de nuevo a 
la ofensiva. Yo lo vuelvo a repetir. Lanzamos la primera ofensiva 
para la gran reforma constitucional, pero no crean que es que se 
acabó. Preparense. Porque vendrá una segunda ofensiva rumbo a la 
reforma constitucional", dijo.

Citó a la escritora italiana Oriana Fallaci y su libro "Entrevista 
con la Historia" donde hace referencia al luchador griego Alekos 
Panagullis señalando: "Cuando te acerques a esos grandes escudos de 
armas, donde está la historia reflejada, en torno a los cuales hay 
leyendas y glorias de los hombres de la historia pasada, tu te podrás 
acercar a esos escudos de armas,  el tiempo convirtió cosas en 
herrumbres y eso tiene dos componentes sangre y mierda, como seres 
humanos pues".

Y continuó: "Toma nota Lugo Galicia. Porque lo tuyo es lo último que 
he dicho, fue mierda. Aquí lo que hay es dignidad. Dejen quieto al 
que está quieto. Sepan administrar su victoria, porque ya la están 
llenando de mierda. Es una victoria de mierda y la nuestra llámenla 
derrota, llámenla, pero es de coraje, de valor de dignidad", dijo el 

"Buena señal de España"

El presidente de la República Hugo Chávez recibió como una buena 
señal la felicitación del gobierno de España, luego que el Canciller 
Miguel Angel Moratinos ponderara el desempeño del gobierno y de la 
población venezolana en el proceso refrendario del domingo.

El mandatario reveló que le había llegado una carta del embajador de 
Venezuela en España, Toro Hardy en el que le expresaba que el 
canciller Miguel Angel Moratinos “que el rey de España mandaba una 
felicitación, al pueblo y al presidente Chavez por la demostración”.

Eso lo recibimos como una buena señal. “nos han pedido que en Buenos 
Aires en la toma de posesión de Cristina Kirschner que yo reciba al 
príncipe de Asturias que me trae un mensaje personal del rey, voy a 
recibirlo. Soy un caballero y yo le tengo mucho afecto al príncipe 
Felipe de Asturias”, dijo el mandatario.

Acciones legales por Rosinés

Además, anunció que tomará acciones legales por su hija más pequeña, 
Rosinés, de 9 años, luego de que su ex esposa María Isabel Rodríguez 
llamara públicamente a votar 'No' en el referendo sobre la reforma 

"A mi niña Rosinés la colocan de nuevo en el centro de un huracán. 
Eso me duele mucho, son esos dolores que uno lleva", dijo Chávez este 
miércoles al presentarse en una rueda de prensa que ofrecía el alto 
mando militar.

"Voy a tener que recurrir al Derecho, como padre que la ama", resaltó. .

El domingo, cuando fue a votar en Barquisimeto, acompañada por su 
hija Rosinés, la ex esposa de Chávez fue insultada a gritos por un 
grupo de personas que se encontraba en los alrededores.

Chávez "se siente bien feliz del odio que está generando, está 
logrando desunirnos. Si cree con amenazas e insultos que nos quitará 
nuestros deseo e amar al país está equivocado", expresó la ex esposa 
de Chávez al votar.

NOTA: El lenguaje en el 11°y 12° párrafos puede resultar ofensivo 
para algunos lectores.

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