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30151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Too little too late for Pakistan? on: December 09, 2008, 12:12:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Too Little, Too Late for Pakistan?
December 8, 2008
Amid growing pressure from both India and the United States, Pakistani security forces began raiding camps and offices belonging to Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in and around Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, on Sunday. The Pakistanis allegedly detained members of LeT and its front organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawah. Islamabad desperately needs a break from the pressure that has been building since the United States — the only potential restraint on Indian retaliation over the Mumbai attacks — issued sharp warnings about the need for the government to clamp down on Islamist radicals operating within its borders.

Pakistan is trying to demonstrate its commitment to cooperation with India. Yet its attempts to control what happens on Pakistani soil appear increasingly feeble.

India, for one, is unlikely to be satisfied by Sunday’s arrests. There is no reason at the moment to believe that the targeted sites hosted a significant number of militants, or that any of those who were apprehended are of any value in ensuring India’s security. It is even possible that the militants who once operated in these locations got out before the raids, rendering the strikes a purely symbolic action.

India anticipated, and to an extent designed, this outcome. New Delhi’s demands following the Mumbai attacks were that Pakistan hand over some 20 individuals whom Indian intelligence agencies had pinpointed as threats to national security. The Indians knew that the Pakistanis — unwilling to suffer the embarrassment and political cost of handing over such high-value targets under pressure — were unlikely to comply. Pakistan’s refusal to turn over the people on India’s most-wanted list gives India better justification in taking matters into its own hands.

In India, the pressure is building — within the government, the opposition and the public — to take decisive military action, commensurate with the threat non-state actors pose to national security. Potential military strategies available to New Delhi range from air strikes to a naval blockade of Pakistan’s most significant port, Karachi. Notably, Indian military officials have canceled events on their calendars — including a high-profile annual military parade to be held on Republic Day in late January, fueling speculation that the armed forces expect to be preoccupied somehow during that time.

Meanwhile, New Delhi is preparing to embark on a campaign of diplomacy that will last through the coming week, hoping to convince the world that the Mumbai attacks can be traced back to Pakistani nationals who received support from rogue elements within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. The Indians will attempt to establish a firm legal basis for retaliatory strikes against Pakistan, while presenting evidence to the U.N. Security Council and the broader international community.

Nevertheless, India would find it extremely difficult to eradicate the Islamists through military action. The more important question is whether New Delhi can force Pakistan to take care of its own militant problem. If Islamabad can be pushed into mowing down militant groups that thrive on Pakistan’s soil and rooting out the rogue elements of the ISI, then India will be safer and total war will have been averted. But this strategy hinges on whether Pakistan has sufficient control of its interior to stop the militant groups.

The United States depends on the stability of the Pakistani state for similar reasons. Pakistan’s chief playing card is its ability to rein in militants on its side of the border and, crucially, to act as a transport route for equipment and materials needed by U.S. and NATO troops for the campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. If these lines are cut off or disrupted, counterinsurgency operations are affected.

This brings to mind another news item from South Asia. A Taliban force numbering in the hundreds attacked a NATO facility near Peshawar, Pakistan, on Sunday and destroyed nearly 100 trucks, including Humvees, used to transport equipment for the war effort in Afghanistan. This kind of attack has happened before, and security precautions were said to have been taken, but this particular attack was conducted on a larger scale, and more brazenly, than anything seen so far. It was another telling example of how the situation in Pakistan’s northwest regions has spiraled out of Islamabad’s control, jeopardizing its commitments to Washington.

The security strategies of both India and the United States hinge on Islamabad’s ability to snuff out militant groups. The assumption behind recent U.S. and Indian moves is that, if they apply enough pressure, they can coerce Islamabad into braving the domestic political consequences it will face in cracking down on these groups. But this assumption breaks down if the Pakistani government is not capable of controlling its interior. In that case, New Delhi and Washington each have an entirely new set of complications to deal with.
30152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Restore the Uptick Rule on: December 09, 2008, 12:00:31 AM
The last time the stock market suffered from extreme volatility and risk of market manipulation as severe as we are experiencing today, our grandparents' generation stepped up to the plate and instituted the uptick rule. That was 1938. For nearly 70 years average investors benefited immensely from that one simple stabilizing act.

Unfortunately, in a shortsighted move, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) eliminated the rule in July 2007, just as we were about to need it most. Investors have now been whipsawed by what appears to be manipulative trading, what we used to call "bear raids," which drive stock prices down without warning and at breakneck speed. Average investors feel the deck is stacked against them and are losing confidence in the markets.

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, and to avoid a needless future repeat of a bad situation, it is time to restore the uptick rule.

The uptick rule may seem far from a kitchen-table issue, but it is critically important to ordinary investors. With more than half of all U.S. households invested in the stock market, either directly or through a retirement plan, it matters a great deal. The average 401(k) retirement account has lost 20%-30% of its value over the last 18 months -- more than $2 trillion in retirement savings has been wiped out. Behind those numbers are real people who planned and saved, and who are suddenly facing an uncertain retirement and the prospect of working longer.

In the wake of the Great Depression, the uptick rule was established to eliminate manipulation and boost investor confidence. The rule said that short sales could be made only after the price of a stock had moved up (an "uptick") over the prior sale. This slowed the short selling process making it more expensive and limiting the ability of short sellers to manipulate stocks lower by piling on, driving the share price quickly down and quickly profiting from the downdraft they created. In July 2007, however, the SEC repealed the uptick rule after a brief study. Manipulative short sellers couldn't believe their luck.

The SEC's study took place during a period of low volatility and overall rising stock prices in 2005 through part of 2007 and didn't anticipate the kind of market we are experiencing today. We live in an environment now where 200 point drops or more in the Dow Jones Industrial Average are increasingly common, where a stock losing 20%, 30% or even more of its value in a single day barely warrants a second glance at the ticker. Ironically, it was just this sort of volatility that inspired the regulators of the 1930s to implement the uptick rule in the first place. Without this vital control mechanism, short sellers have been having a field day, betting heavily on lower prices and triggering panicked investors to sell even more.

Don't get me wrong. Legitimate short selling where a trader has borrowed shares for future delivery and believes those shares will lose value over time plays an important and stabilizing role in our markets. It provides a check on overexuberant prices on the upside, and provides natural buyers on the downside. The uptick rule, however, prevents short selling from turning into manipulative activity. Reinstating it will help smooth out the markets and reduce the speed of price drops. It will limit the ability of a small number of professional investors to trigger fast dramatic price drops that create panic among investors.

In today's Opinion Journal


The Obama Health-Care ExpressFight Racism, U.N.-StyleLet Ford Save Ford


Main Street: Now for an Honest Debate on Gitmo
– William McGurnGlobal View: Obama's Team of Conformists
– Bret Stephens


Getting Out of the Credit Mess
– Harvey GolubRestore the Uptick Rule, Restore Confidence
– Charles R. SchwabHolding CEOs Accountable
– Jonathan MaceyThe SEC has an opportunity to make a real difference in helping to control future market stability and restore confidence in the fairness of our capital markets. But the SEC has been strangely silent as the crisis has worsened. It did step in earlier this fall to implement short stock borrowing restrictions and a temporary ban on short selling, first on 19 stocks in the financial services sector, and later in a broader swath of 900 stocks across several sectors. But these steps were a temporary half-measure and didn't fix the problem for the long term.

Clearly, the SEC will need to work on some of the mechanics of reinstating the uptick rule. Regulators should act quickly to establish a framework and solicit public comment, then reinstate the rule and remain flexible and willing to fine tune it if necessary.

Ordinary investors' expectations for investing are reasonable. They want a fair playing field. They want to be successful. They want to provide for their families, support their children's education, have a comfortable retirement, and maybe even leave a little bit for future generations. But they can't succeed when the markets are gripped by fear and manipulated by those who want to profit from that fear, at the expense of everyone else.

It may be too late for the restoration of the uptick rule to have much impact on where we are today. But there is no reason to wait and we need the protection in place for the future. It is time to restore it. It's what our grandparents did for us in 1938, and it worked for nearly 70 years. With that kind of track record, we should tip our hats to the regulators of yesteryear and acknowledge that they had it right all along.

Mr. Schwab is the founder and chairman of the financial services firm that bears his name.
30153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rational debate on Gitmo on: December 08, 2008, 11:59:00 PM
A funny thing happened on the road to Barack Obama's inaugural: America became open to rational debate on Guantanamo.

What should we do with people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Not all that long ago, Guantanamo was simply one more manifestation of the wickedness of George W. Bush. Back then, the operating assumption appeared to be that the only people being held at Guantanamo were innocent goat herders whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, the focus was on detainee abuse and their lack of rights, as witness an Associated Press headline from last December: "Lawyers complain iguanas at Guantanamo get more legal protection than detainees."

One year later, we now have Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 plotters at Gitmo saying they want to plead guilty. And the headlines have begun to concede that closing the detention center will not be as easy as the critics suggested. "Closing detainee camp a minefield of critical steps," notes the Miami Herald. "Closing it may be the easy part; With Guantanamo, the issue for Obama will be deciding what to do with the 250 prisoners, experts say" reports the L.A. Times. "Close Guantanamo prison? Sure. But that's the easy part," says USA Today.

What unites all these stories is the acknowledgment of the basic fact of Guantanamo: The problem is the people, not the place.

As evidence of this new openness, the New York Times recently ran a piece reporting that "even some liberals are arguing that to deal realistically with terrorism, the new administration should seek Congressional authority for preventive detention of terrorism suspects deemed too dangerous to release even if they cannot be successfully prosecuted."

Exactly. The real issue isn't even so much the idea of trying these men in federal courts, which has already been done with Zacarias Moussaoui. The real issues for the president-elect are as follows: Where in America would you put these men? Would you release them on American soil if they are found not guilty? What about those whose home countries will not take them back? And what do you do with the toughest cases: those for whom the evidence is insufficient for a trial, but sufficient to tell us they are far too dangerous to release?

During the campaign, of course, both John McCain and Barack Obama vowed to close Gitmo down. But a President Obama will likely find it easier to do the prudent thing. As a Republican hawk charged by his opponent with representing a third Bush term, Mr. McCain would have been under immense pressure to prove that he wasn't George W. Bush. And a hasty closing of Guantanamo would have been a high-profile way to do it.

Fortunately, Mr. Obama is under no such pressure. For one thing, his opposition to the war gives him better credentials to do the wise thing here. For another, at least during his "honeymoon" period, the press is likely to give him a pass for whatever he comes up with -- even if the substance of what he decides seems to echo his predecessor.

In today's Opinion Journal


The Obama Health-Care ExpressFight Racism, U.N.-StyleLet Ford Save Ford


Main Street: Now for an Honest Debate on Gitmo
– William McGurnGlobal View: Obama's Team of Conformists
– Bret Stephens


Getting Out of the Credit Mess
– Harvey GolubRestore the Uptick Rule, Restore Confidence
– Charles R. SchwabHolding CEOs Accountable
– Jonathan MaceyYes, it's a double standard. But it could turn out to be a good thing for the nation. What the American people need today is a sensible policy that recognizes three facts: that terrorists present a unique challenge to our rules of war; that capturing and holding terrorists is different from capturing and holding criminals or prisoners of war; and that the men and women who set up Guantanamo did so not because they were out to shred the Constitution but because, faced with some very imperfect choices, this was thought to be the best way to protect the American people.

It's true that Mr. Obama repeated his pledge to close Guantanamo during his recent "60 Minutes" interview. But he also declined to set a date. No doubt he is now realizing a hard truth. While senators can say what they please and go to sleep untroubled, presidents cannot escape the consequences of their decisions.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who served as assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, hopes we might finally be getting a real debate. Though he has criticized some of the legal reasoning behind the Bush administration's terror policies, he says the animus against President Bush has corrupted our public discourse by making the issue the character of the good men and women trying to protect us rather than the enemy they were trying to stop.

Mr. Goldsmith notes that Mr. Obama is in a position to end the acrimony and strike a prudent way forward. "The single best thing about the election of Obama," he says, "may be that we now have a chance to view the terror threat without the distorting lens of Bush hatred."

Write to
30154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The BO Health Care Express on: December 08, 2008, 11:52:13 PM
A charismatic Democratic President takes office promising to extend health insurance to all Americans. His party enjoys majorities in Congress, and the GOP is at sea. The press corps finds policy a bore and instead files stories that draw facile analogies to the heyday of FDR.

APYes, all that will be true next year -- but it was also true in January 1993. Fewer than two years later, the grand health-care ambitions of Bill and Hillary Clinton were reduced to tatters. No one is more attuned to this memory than today's Democrats, who aren't about to let history repeat itself. And since the lessons they learned from the HillaryCare fiasco are political, and not substantive, they are already moving full-speed ahead.

This mentality is nicely captured by Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader who Barack Obama has tapped to run Health and Human Services. "I think that ideological differences and disputes over policy weren't really to blame," he writes of 1994 in his book "Critical," published earlier this year. Despite "a general agreement on basic reform principles," the Clintons botched the political timing by focusing on the budget, trade and other priorities before HillaryCare.

President-elect Obama will not make the same mistake. Congressional Democrats are already deep into the legislative weeds, while Mr. Daschle is organizing the interest groups and a grassroots lobbying effort. Mr. Obama may be gesturing at a more centrist direction in economics and national security, but health care is where he seems bent on pleasing the political left.

According to Mr. Daschle, because of the Clintons' hesitation, "reform opponents succeeded in confusing and even frightening Americans about what change might mean," and this time the Democrats mean to define the debate. Consider the December 2 letter to us from Senator Max Baucus, who is upset that a recent editorial on his health-care plan did not use his favorite terms of art (his style being surrealism). "It will require affordability, but premiums will not be set," he writes. So the government will merely determine "affordability" -- which might as well be the same thing.

Much as Mrs. Clinton insisted that her health bureaucracies were "alliances," Mr. Baucus says his new entitlement "will not be 'managed by the government,' but by an independent council of Presidentially appointed health-care experts." The Senate Finance Chairman wants us to believe that a government commission to determine benefits and subsidies will somehow be above politics.

Shrewder moves are being made to co-opt should-be opponents. The Clintons decided to go to war with "proponents of the status quo," as Mrs. Clinton put it in a bare-knuckled speech in May 1993. This meant vilifying business, especially insurance companies guilty of "unconscionable profiteering" and even drug makers like Merck, which Mr. Clinton had courted during his campaign. This time, Democrats are trying to seduce business with subsidies and other bribes.

They may succeed, which is no surprise given that many corporations would be only too happy to dump their health liabilities on the government. The "Divided We Fail" coalition, which advocates "universal" coverage, includes not only usual suspects like unions and AARP but also the Business Roundtable and the National Federation of Independent Business, the small-business lobby that led the charge against HillaryCare.

America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, recently said its members would accept all comers regardless of health status or previous illness -- i.e., guaranteed issue -- but only if the government requires everyone to buy insurance. The individual mandate will expand their business in the short term, but it won't be long before Congress is also regulating premiums, cost-sharing and administrative expenses. Dr. Faustus, call your internist.

In today's Opinion Journal


The Obama Health-Care ExpressFight Racism, U.N.-StyleLet Ford Save Ford


Main Street: Now for an Honest Debate on Gitmo
– William McGurnGlobal View: Obama's Team of Conformists
– Bret Stephens


Getting Out of the Credit Mess
– Harvey GolubRestore the Uptick Rule, Restore Confidence
– Charles R. SchwabHolding CEOs Accountable
– Jonathan MaceyAnother opening for Democrats is the new director of the Congressional Budget Office, a post vacated when Peter Orszag joined the Obama Administration. CBO totes up the official cost of legislation and thus is one of those obscure Beltway outfits that frames the political argument. A "score" that is too costly make a bill harder to pass.

In the 1990s, CBO director Robert Reischauer knee-capped HillaryCare by pointing out its true costs and giving little credit to claims it would generate savings. With good reason: Putative cost "offsets" never seem to materialize when Congress tries to plan the insurance markets. Now Democrats will try to install a CBO director who can be more easily rolled.

Most disturbingly, Democrats are talking up "budget reconciliation" to pass a health overhaul. This process was created in 1974 and allows legislation dealing with government finances to be whisked through Congress on a simple majority after 20 hours of debate. In other words, it cuts out the minority by precluding a filibuster. Mr. Daschle writes that reform "is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol," and Mr. Baucus has said he's open to the option.

Any taxpayer commitment this large ought to require a social consensus reflected in large majorities, but Democrats are determined to plow ahead anyway. They know that a health-care entitlement for the middle class will never be removed once it is in place; and that government will then dominate American health-care choices for decades to come. That's all the more reason for the recumbent GOP to get its act together.
30155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 08, 2008, 11:42:30 PM
From a friend currently traning the Iraqi police:

"Almost every Iraqi I have met has said they fear that if the U.S. leaves, then the sectarian strife will be on like Donkeykong.  There was nothing less than wholesale Shia against Sunni neighborhood ethnic cleansing going on in mixed areas of Baghdad back on 2006.  Some of it directly attributable to Iraqi police and army.  Much of it occurring right in front of them because they were the problem.  Militia infested.  Militia connected.  Militia supporting.  Very simply put, Shia versus Sunni.  The bottom line here.  Time will tell."
30156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nordyke: 9th Circuit case on: December 08, 2008, 12:59:39 PM
Nordyke ( has been scheduled for oral arguments on 15 Jan 2009 before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in S.F., CA. Due to Heller, this case should incorporate the 2nd A to the states in the 9th circuit (incl CA and HI). This is a critically important case that, if it goes our way and many in the know believe it will, will be used to shoot down many anti-gun laws in CA and will be used to either loosen up our "May Issue" CCW system or force it to be replaced w/a "Shall Issue" CCW system. The next 5 years should be very exciting and good for CA gunnies!

Hopefully, pro-2nd A people in HI are also organizing to exploit this opportunity.

We expect the opinion to be published probably between April and Aug '09.

Be sure to regularly stop by:
for the latest info on CA gun laws/politics.


To give others (incl Gabe), who may think CA is a lost cause, some idea of what we'll be going after Nordyke incorporation, the below is copied from (bold-ing added):

Gene Hoffman is one of the alpha-dogs at and Calguns Foundation.


Lots of confusion in this thread.

1. California is pretty unique in that it does not have a right to keep and bear arms in the State constitution. As such, the only thing (other than politicians getting unelected) that keeps California from seizing firearms is the Federal Second Amendment.

2. Heller states that the keeping of all non NFA firearms are protected by the Federal 2A and that bearing arms means to carry them loaded for confrontation, but that States are still free to regulate CCW. Heller made no ruling on whether the Federal 2A applies to the states but hinted that all the rulings that would say it doesn't aren't valid anymore.

3. Nordyke will be a 3-0 or 2-1 victory for the Alameda Gun Show at the 9th Circuit court of appeals. It will establish that there is a right to possess firearms to be able to sell them at otherwise state regulated gun shows on public property that isn't one of the classic prohibited areas (courts, prisons, city hall.) It will also be the first case in the US to find that there is a right of undefined scope to participate in the lawful commerce of firearms under the 2A. However, most importantly, it will rule that all State and local laws will be reviewed by the Federal Courts as potentially violating the 2A at intermediate or strict scrutiny.

After Nordyke, all California laws will be challengeable. Some are quicker and easier to file a new suit against and beat back than others. Here is the list of things that we're going to be able to get overturned in the order I bet we'll choose to attack them:

1. [CCW Reform.] CA Sheriffs denying a clean applicant because their CCW good cause isn't good enough. The logic is that even though states can regulate CCW, they can't make CCW may issue while banning loaded open carry as the combination of laws violates the right of the people to bear arms.

2. Subsequent waiting periods. A 10 day wait to acquire a firearm after one can show that one already owns a firearm has no rational basis. If I'm mad, suicidal, or homicidal, what good does a cooling off period do when I can just use the gun I already own?

3. Not Unsafe Roster. This is a bit harder as we need to let the facts that the new requirements (LCI, Mag Disco) are a defacto ban on new handguns coming into the state.

4. SB-23 Feature Ban. This one is unconstitutional in so many ways but we need to play the politics on it well. The rest of the nation will care deeply about this one as a win here ends all future Federal AWB speculation. I may also have this ranked too low in priority order but some things that are afoot may make overturning this moot in the short term - hence my downgrade.

5. Large-capacity magazine import ban. There are potentially interesting commerce clause issues with "offer for sale" in the export context. However, it's not clear that the rationing ammo argument can survive intermediate scrutiny - especially as we start to push for the "patrol officer" equivalent analysis under 2A/14A. The basic premise is that if a "patrol officer" is issued something by the State, then its very hard for the State to argue that that something is "dangerous and uncommon."

Each one of those is a case or legislation or both to get it fixed. The major difference is that we'll win all of them.


If you don't get the "CAl-erts" from CalNRA, you'll want to.

Also, if you don't know about, you'll want to check them out. Most of them are based in OC and are VERY active in reigning in the new sheriff.

Expect defeat at the trial court level, then the case moving the appellate levels for decissions that actually matter.

This is the dog & poly show right now. The Court that matters is in D.C.

In October, shortly after we filed our Rule 16 motion (see Oct. 24 post below), the NRA filed similar motions in their companion case challenging Chicago’s handgun ban, as well as its case challenging Oak Park’s handgun ban. Although our cases do not perfectly overlap, the goal of all three Rule 16 motions in each case was the same: to seek an opinion from the Court that, as a matter of law, state and local governments are bound by the Second Amendment.
On Thursday, the District Court issued an opinion and order in the NRA cases, denying the motions. A similar opinion and order, adopting the Court’s rationale in the NRA cases, was entered in our case. The District Court ruled, essentially, that whatever the merits of our claims, it is bound by existing precedent holding that the Second Amendment does not apply to state and local governments. The order in our case denied not only our Rule 16 motion, but also our previously unresolved motion for summary judgment. A hearing is set in all three cases for December 9, to see where the matters now stand.
Although we would have preferred that the Court had ruled in our favor, we are not disappointed. From Day One, it was clear that this case would be decided conclusively on appeal. This development takes us one step closer toward the elimination of Chicago’s failed and unconstitutional gun ban, and for that, we are grateful.

30157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 08, 2008, 12:19:12 PM
Let Caroline Run

Is there a divine right for the Kennedy family to hold a U.S. Senate seat, as they have for 54 of the last 56 years? Nepotism on Capitol Hill has become an art form, and there is no better practitioner than Senator Ted Kennedy. Only hours after news of his cancerous brain tumor last spring, the New York Daily News reported that he was telling friends he wanted his wife Vicki to take his Massachusetts seat.

Now the New York Post is reporting that Mr. Kennedy "has been working back channels to promote niece Caroline as the replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate." New York Governor David Paterson has already spoken with Ms. Kennedy about her interest in the job, the paper says, and her uncle has helpfully sent word to the governor that if she were appointed "legislation affecting New York would receive prompt attention."

Two generations after anti-nepotism laws began to open up civil service positions to excluded groups like Jews and blacks, "the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way," says Adam Bellow, author of a book called "In Praise of Nepotism." The National Journal reports that 63 current members of Congress, including at least one-third of U.S. Senators, have relatives who have lobbied or consulted on government relations at the federal or state level in recent years. At least eight former legislators who are now registered as lobbyists were replaced by relatives in their former Congressional seats.

Yet I sense a backlash is brewing. A deep-seated American belief holds that those who gain public office through artificial privilege should be viewed with suspicion. That wariness can certainly be overcome, as the electoral success of political workhorses Senator Evan Bayh and former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida demonstrates, but some brighter lines are certainly in order. Back in 1960, a Scripps-Howard reporter shocked the country and won a Pulitzer Prize with the revelation that one in five members of Congress had relatives on the official payroll. There ought to be some decent restraint on official nepotism, and now is the time to show it. If Caroline Kennedy really wants to represent New York in the Senate, she has the visibility and the connections to raise money and run for the office in her own right.

-- John Fund

Who's Multicultural Now?

Louisiana isn't known as a leading indicator of political diversity even though it has always been a mixture of northern Baptists, New Orleans blacks and Bayou Cajuns. But the state sports a governor whose parents came from India, a Lebanese-American Congressman and now the nation's first Vietnamese-American congressman.

Anh "Joseph" Cao fled South Vietnam as a boy in 1975 when a Communist invasion threw the last remnants of U.S. influence out of the country. He quickly taught himself English and earned degrees in philosophy and physics. In 2000 he became a lawyer specializing in immigration work.

He, like many anti-Communist Vietnamese refugees, also became a Republican. While a half-dozen Democrats fought to challenge indicted Congressman Bill Jefferson in their party's primary, Mr. Cao held back and husbanded his resources. After Mr. Jefferson won a Democratic primary runoff against Hispanic former news anchor Helena Moreno by 57% to 43% last month, Mr. Cao began collecting endorsements from Democrats who were furious at the revelation that Mr. Jefferson had hidden $90,000 in alleged bribe money in his home freezer.

On Election Day, Mr. Cao's campaign flooded local voters with two automated "robo" calls from Ms. Moreno and from respected former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. Both urged voters to abandon Mr. Jefferson and vote for Mr. Cao, a former law professor who specialized in teaching ethics.

Mr. Cao was aided by low voter turnout on Saturday, but he also managed to win black votes that few Republicans have ever gotten before. "It's no longer an issue of black and white," he explained, noting that his Asian heritage meant he hadn't been part of the old racial rivalries in the city. "It now goes to the issue of who's going to better represent the 2nd District to bring about change, to bring about reform." After his victory, Mr. Cao exulted that "the American Dream is well and alive."

Indeed, the country's 1.5 million Vietnamese Americans are coming into their own politically. Mr. Cao was able to draw on the votes and support of more than 20,000 who live in the New Orleans area. In California's Orange County, Janet Nguyen serves on the Board of Supervisors and much of the area is represented in the State Assembly by Republican Van Tran. Last month, the city of Westminster in Orange County (pop. 90,000) elected its first city council in which a majority of members are Vietnamese-Americans.

Republicans now have Mr. Cao as a national spokesman to carry their message to Asian voters. Two-thirds of Vietnamese Americans indicated they were voting for John McCain over Barack Obama in this year's election, a clear break from the voting pattern of other Asian groups. Democrats acknowledge the historic nature of Mr. Cao's victory, but they also note that he will be hard pressed to keep his seat in a normal turnout election two years from now in a district that went overwhelmingly for Barack Obama.

-- John Fund

The Vietnamese Swing Vote

"The future is Cao." So wrote House Republican Leader John Boehner in a note to his GOP colleagues last night. "The Cao victory is a symbol of what can be achieved when we think big, present a positive alternative, and work aggressively to earn the trust of the American people."

Saturday's victory by Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao in the battle for a New Orleans House seat is also a big opportunity for the Republican Party to visibly reach out to an immigrant group that has traditionally supported the GOP but is in danger of slipping away. When he is sworn in next year, Mr. Cao will become the first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress in history. He will therefore become an ambassador to a community that is small in total numbers but heavily concentrated in a handful of states and capable of tipping the scales in close elections.

Though the largest Vietnamese community can be found in California's Orange County, Virginia is the state with the second largest. And one reason Barack Obama surprised many by carrying that traditional red state was his aggressive outreach to the Vietnamese community. Ironically, Vietnam veteran John McCain never bothered to court what should have been a well-disposed constituency. Two years earlier, another Vietnam vet, Democrat Jim Webb, made a strong play for their support in his Senate race. Mr. Webb, whose wife is Vietnamese American, ended up defeating incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen by a few thousand votes. Had Mr. Allen run more strongly among Vietnamese-American voters, he'd likely be in the Senate today.

After Mr. Cao's victory on Saturday, he was flanked by his wheelchair-bound father who had, as one press report put it, "spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison camp during that country's civil war." One reason Republicans could long count on Vietnamese-American support was that they didn't call the Vietnam War a "civil war" but a case of communist aggression against a free country. Mr. Cao's victory is now an opportunity for the GOP to reconnect with a Vietnamese community that's likely to grow in electoral importance in the future.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"I was embarrassed . . . ashamed at their treatment. They [the lawmakers] wanted to unload on [the Detroit executives in last week's bailout hearings]. They wanted to grandstand, smack them around. . . . I said to [GM Chief] Rick [Wagoner], 'You're a better man than me.' I would have told the committee, 'Kiss my butt,' and walked out" - mega-auto dealer and Nascar championship team owner Rick Hendrick, on last week's Congressional hearings with the Big Three auto makers.

Baby Al, It's Cold Outside

Al Gore is having a bad decade. So far, 2000-2008 has seen a very slight cooling. According to Climate Research News, "This year is set to be the coolest since 2000."

Even more amazing is that 2009 isn't expected to get any better for Democrats on Capitol Hill who will be pushing cap-and-trade legislation to slow down catastrophic global warming. The Farmer's Almanac predicts another colder than usual year in 2009 with the highest snowfall in years. We will see if the 200-year-old Farmer's Almanac is more reliable than the NASA multi-billion dollar climate forecasting models.

More bad news for the "heat is on" crowd: A new U.S. military report says that "scientific conclusions about the causes and potential effects of global warming are contradictory." The report, titled Joint Operating Environment 2008, states that global warming's impact on rising sea levels, hurricanes and other natural disasters is "controversial." Why? Because, as the report correctly notes, scientists themselves are in disagreement about what a warming planet would mean: "Some argue that there will be more and greater storms and natural disasters, others that there will be fewer."

Environmentalists are quick to respond that a few years of cooling prove nothing, and they are mostly right. But the important point is that the global climate computer models -- which Mr. Gore cites in his Oscar-winning docudrama "An Inconvenient Truth" and which are the sole basis for predictions of dangerous human-caused warming -- have a terrible track record when matched against actual climate experience. Many of the same alarmists who now downplay a year or two (or eight) of cooling once pointed to the seemingly hot years in 2004 and 2005 as proof positive of manmade global warming. Most readers will remember the screaming headlines about the "The Hottest Year Ever." But as we've learned since, the data were actually in error. The hottest years of the past century were in the 1930s, before 90% of the manmade carbon emissions even took place. Talk about inconvenient truths.

The latest cooling data give the alarmists something really to be alarmed about. Precisely because the science is so uncertain, anecdotes have tended to drive public and political perception of climate change. But the anecdotes today are of a planet that has stopped warming and may be cooling, and of climate lobbyists who repeatedly have been forced to back off their most alarming claims about recent temperature trends.

-- Stephen Moore

30158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: December 08, 2008, 11:00:13 AM
"There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises. To say that the United States should be answerable for twenty-five millions of dollars without knowing whether the ways and means can be provided, and without knowing whether those who are to succeed us will think with us on the subject, would be rash and unjustifiable. Sir, in my opinion, it would be hazarding the public faith in a manner contrary to every idea of prudence."

--James Madison, Speech in Congress, 22 April 1790
30159  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Islamo-fascismo en otros partes del mundo on: December 07, 2008, 09:13:32 PM

Lo que paso en Mumbai - Lo que sabemos hasta ahora 

En 2001 Estados Unidos sufrió un ataque terrorista en el World Trade Center. Se ha hecho costumbre llamarla "la tragedia del 11/9, como si hubiera sido un huracán o un terremoto, pero no lo fue. Fue hecho por hombres, hombres malvados. Unos pocos años después, España y el Reino Unido enfrentaron eventos similares. Y ahora La India. No estoy tan instruido en geopolítica como para tratar de trazar un significado estratégico aquí. Lo que si puedo hacer es trazar similitudes operacionales con la esperanza de entender mejor a mi enemigo y entonces ser capaz de derrotarlo. De igual manera, ser capaz de enseñarles a mis alumnos como derrotarlos.

Esto es lo que sabemos hasta ahora:

1- Los atacantes estaban organizados en pares de tiradores, permitiendo disparar a uno mientras el otro se movía y cosas así. El par de tiradores, o "equipo de dos hombres" es un desarrollo táctico de pequeñas unidades muy usado en operaciones SWAT. Para combate urbano muy cercano, donde las áreas tienden a ser compartimentadas, tiene sentido que cada habitación sea "tomada" por dos hombres. No es difícil adquirir las habilidades de un equipo de dos hombres. Por ejemplo, nosotros enseñamos un curso de tácticas en equipo y después de dos días de instrucción, los alumnos ya poseen las habilidades para trabajar en cualquier problema como un equipo bien aceitado. Es obvio que estos terroristas tuvieron una gran exposición a este material.

2- Aunque todavía no sabemos todo, parece que cada equipo de dos hombres opero de manera autónoma en Mumbai. Eso significa que aunque ellos tenían un objetivo general, como alcanzaba cada uno ese objetivo era elegido por cada equipo. Así es que vimos a equipos autónomos de dos hombres, bien entrenados, con practica, cada uno con sus propios objetivos, y aparentemente en contacto unos con otros. Si lo pensas un poco, esto fue un Columbine mas grande, mejor preparado, con múltiples tiradores y mucho mejor preparados.

3- Hasta que aparecieron los de "fuerzas especiales" mas tarde, no parecía que la "policía armada" haya hecho mucho por detenerlos en absoluto. Nunca estuve en La India, pero si el entrenamiento y la paga de su policía local es parecido a lo que vi en varias de las naciones del tercer mundo que he visitado, no creo que los terroristas hayan encontrado mucha resistencia de nadie a cargo. Después de todo, si te dan un viejo Enfield sin munición y 150 dólares por mes para vivir, realmente vas a querer meterte en la boca del león?

4- La india es muy restrictiva en lo concerniente a la posesión de armas por los civiles, y la posibilidad de encontrar a alguien que estuviera armado era mínima. Sin embargo, creo que esto otra vez es indicativo de como un civil armado podría haber parado al menos a uno de los dos hombres del equipo que atacaba. Aquellos que quieran argumentar este punto los hago leer lo que dijo el periodista ingles quien comentada que si hubiera tenido un arma podría haber matado a los dos terroristas que vio (porque nadie mas estaba ni siquiera intentándolo!)

5- Hay evidencia que muchas de las víctimas fueron torturadas y ejecutadas. Esto lo voy a dejar así para que lo absorban bien.

6- Aquí en Estados Unidos, o en cualquier lugar del mundo, si confias en las autoridades para tu protección y seguridad, sos un tonto. Ellos no pueden protegerte. Es verdad que a veces vos no podes protegerte a vos mismo tampoco, pero el punto es que entregando tu derecho (o las herramientas) para la defensa propia porque alguien te dice que te protegerá, es estúpido. Seguimos viendo los resultados de esta mentalidad. Solo vos podes protegerte a vos mismo.

7- Existe evidencia que los terroristas eran "fuertes y en buena forma", y que estaban usando esteroides y otras drogas para pelear mejor. Ahora, no vamos a sugerir aquí que drogarse sea algo bueno para aquellos que tuvieron que pelear contra esos tipos, pero si nos muestra que tu adversario no sera el tipo fácil de golpear que algunos piensan que será. Mira la foto de arriba. ves a un tipo joven, en buen estado con lo que parece ser un AK rumano. Tiene dos cargadores pegados con cinta, igual a como lo hacen los de fuerzas especiales rusas, y su dedo esta fuera del gatillo. Estos tipos eran serios, dedicados e hicieron su deberes.

Estoy seguro que escucharemos mas y mas acerca de los eventos de Mumbai en los meses siguientes. Hemos discutido esto extensivamente en la sección "Fighting Terrorism" de nuestro foro "Warrior talk". Cuando llegue mas info, la iremos pasando.

Gabe Suarez- Traducido por Pablo T.
30160  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / If each of us carried a gun, we could help combat terrorism on: December 07, 2008, 09:04:28 PM

From The Sunday Times

December 7, 2008

Think tank: If each of us carried a gun . . .

. . . we could help to combat terrorism

Richard Munday

div#related-article-links p a, div#related-article-links p a:visited {color:#06c;}The firearms massacres that have periodically caused shock and horror around the world have been dwarfed by the Mumbai shootings, in which a handful of gunmen left some 500 people killed or wounded.
For anybody who still believed in it, the Mumbai shootings exposed the myth of “gun control”. India had some of the strictest firearms laws in the world, going back to the Indian Arms Act of 1878, by which Britain had sought to prevent a recurrence of the Indian Mutiny.
The guns used in last week’s Bombay massacre were all “prohibited weapons” under Indian law, just as they are in Britain. In this country we have seen the irrelevance of such bans (handgun crime, for instance, doubled here within five years of the prohibition of legal pistol ownership), but the largely drug-related nature of most extreme violence here has left most of us with a sheltered awareness of the threat. We have not yet faced a determined and broad-based attack.
The Mumbai massacre also exposed the myth that arming the police force guarantees security. Sebastian D’Souza, a picture editor on the Mumbai Mirror who took some of the dramatic pictures of the assault on the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, was angered to find India’s armed police taking cover and apparently failing to engage the gunmen.
In Britain we might recall the prolonged failure of armed police to contain the Hungerford killer, whose rampage lasted more than four hours, and who in the end shot himself. In Dunblane, too, it was the killer who ended his own life: even at best, police response is almost always belated when gunmen are on the loose. One might think, too, of the McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro, California, in 1984, where the Swat team waited for their leader (who was held up in a traffic jam) while 21 unarmed diners were murdered.

Rhetoric about standing firm against terrorists aside, in Britain we have no more legal deterrent to prevent an armed assault than did the people of Mumbai, and individually we would be just as helpless as victims. The Mumbai massacre could happen in London tomorrow; but probably it could not have happened to Londoners 100 years ago.
In January 1909 two such anarchists, lately come from an attempt to blow up the president of France, tried to commit a robbery in north London, armed with automatic pistols. Edwardian Londoners, however, shot back – and the anarchists were pursued through the streets by a spontaneous hue-and-cry. The police, who could not find the key to their own gun cupboard, borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by, while other citizens armed with revolvers and shotguns preferred to use their weapons themselves to bring the assailants down.
Today we are probably more shocked at the idea of so many ordinary Londoners carrying guns in the street than we are at the idea of an armed robbery. But the world of Conan Doyle’s Dr Watson, pocketing his revolver before he walked the London streets, was real. The arming of the populace guaranteed rather than disturbed the peace.
That armed England existed within living memory; but it is now so alien to our expectations that it has become a foreign country. Our image of an armed society is conditioned instead by America: or by what we imagine we know about America. It is a skewed image, because (despite the Second Amendment) until recently in much of the US it has been illegal to bear arms outside the home or workplace; and therefore only people willing to defy the law have carried weapons.
In the past two decades the enactment of “right to carry” legislation in the majority of states, and the issue of permits for the carrying of concealed firearms to citizens of good repute, has brought a radical change. Opponents of the right to bear arms predicted that right to carry would cause blood to flow in the streets, but the reverse has been true: violent crime in America has plummeted.
There are exceptions: Virginia Tech, the site of the 2007 massacre of 32 people, was one local “gun-free zone” that forbade the bearing of arms even to those with a licence to carry.
In Britain we are not yet ready to recall the final liberty of the subject listed by William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England as underpinning all others: “The right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence.” We would still not be ready to do so were the Mumbai massacre to happen in London tomorrow.
“Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India,” Mahatma Gandhi said, “history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” The Mumbai massacre is a bitter postscript to Gandhi’s comment. D’Souza now laments his own helplessness in the face of the killers: “I only wish I had had a gun rather than a camera.”
Richard Munday is the co-author and editor of Guns & Violence: The Debate Before Lord Cullen
30161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Christian and other words removed from Children's dictionary in UK on: December 07, 2008, 04:23:13 PM
Words associated with Christianity and British history taken out of children's dictionary

Words associated with Christianity, the monarchy and British history have been dropped from a leading dictionary for children.

Julie Henry, Education Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:47PM GMT 07 Dec 2008

Oxford University Press has removed words like "aisle", "bishop", "chapel", "empire" and "monarch" from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog", "broadband" and "celebrity". Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.

The publisher claims the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society.

But academics and head teachers said that the changes to the 10,000 word Junior Dictionary could mean that children lose touch with Britain's heritage.

"We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable," said Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University. "The word selections are a very interesting reflection of the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us."

An analysis of the word choices made by the dictionary lexicographers has revealed that entries from "abbey" to "willow" have been axed. Instead, words such as "MP3 player", "voicemail" and "attachment" have taken their place.

Lisa Saunders, a worried mother who has painstakingly compared entries from the junior dictionaries, aimed at children aged seven or over, dating from 1978, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, said she was "horrified" by the vast number of words that have been removed, most since 2003.

"The Christian faith still has a strong following," she said. "To eradicate so many words associated with the Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it."

Ms Saunders realised words were being removed when she was helping her son with his homework and discovered that "moss" and "fern", which were in editions up until 2003, were no longer listed.

"I decide to take a closer look and compare the new version to the other editions," said the mother of four from Co Down, Northern Ireland. "I was completely horrified by the vast number of words which have been removed. We know that language moves on and we can't be fuddy-duddy about it but you don't cull hundreds of important words in order to get in a different set of ICT words."

Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, a leading private school in Berkshire, said: "I am stunned that words like "saint", "buttercup", "heather" and "sycamore" have all gone and I grieve it.

"I think as well as being descriptive, the Oxford Junior Dictionary, has to be prescriptive too, suggesting not just words that are used but words that should be used. It has a duty to keep these words within usage, not merely pander to an audience. We are looking at the loss of words of great beauty. I would rather have "marzipan" and "mistletoe" then "MP3 player."

Oxford University Press, which produces the junior edition, selects words with the aid of the Children's Corpus, a list of about 50 million words made up of general language, words from children's books and terms related to the school curriculum. Lexicographers consider word frequency when making additions and deletions.

Vineeta Gupta, the head of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: "We are limited by how big the dictionary can be – little hands must be able to handle it – but we produce 17 children's dictionaries with different selections and numbers of words.

"When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as "Pentecost" or "Whitsun" would have been in 20 years ago but not now."

She said children's dictionaries were trailed in schools and advice taken from teachers. Many words are added to reflect the age-related school curriculum.
Words taken out:

Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe

Dwarf, elf, goblin

Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar

Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

Words put in:

Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue

Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate,
EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro

Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph
30162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dogfighting in Texas on: December 07, 2008, 03:41:15 PM
Dogfighting Subculture Is Taking Hold in Texas


December 7, 2008

Dogfighting Subculture Is Taking Hold in Texas

HOUSTON — The two undercover agents were miles from any town, deep in the East Texas countryside, following a car carrying three dogfighting fanatics and a female pit bull known for ripping off the genitals of other dogs. A car trailed the officers with two burly armed guards, hired to protect the dog and a $40,000 wager.

When the owners of the opposing dog, a crew from Louisiana, got cold feet and took off, the men in the undercover agents’ party reacted with fury, offering to chase them down and kill them. The owner of the female pit bull, an American living in Mexico, was merciful. He decided to take the opposing dog and let the men live, the officers said.

Over 17 months, the agents from the Texas state police penetrated a murky and dangerous subculture in East Texas, a world where petty criminals, drug dealers and a few people with ordinary jobs shared a passion for watching pit bulls tear each other apart in a 12-foot-square pit.

Investigators found that dogfighting was on the rise in Texas and was much more widespread than they had expected. The ring broken up here had links to dogfighting organizations in other states and in Mexico, suggesting an extensive underground network of people devoted to the activity, investigators said.

Besides a cadre of older, well-established dogfighters, officials said, the sport has begun to attract a growing following among young people from hardscrabble neighborhoods in Texas, where gangs, drug dealing and hip-hop culture make up the backdrop.

The investigation here led to the indictments of 55 people and the seizing of 187 pit bulls, breaking up what officials described as one of the largest dogfighting rings in the country.

“It’s like the Saturday night poker game for hardened criminals,” said one of the undercover agents, Sgt. C. T. Manning, describing the tense atmosphere at the fights.

In between screaming obscenities at the animals locked in combat, Sergeant Manning said, the participants smoked marijuana, popped pills, made side deals about things like selling cocaine and fencing stolen property, and, always, talked about dogs.

Dogfighting drew national attention in 2007 when Michael Vick, the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was convicted of felony conspiracy after holding dogfights on his property in Smithfield, Va. On Monday, officials in Los Angeles announced the breakup of a dogfighting ring. It was the outcry among animal-welfare groups after Mr. Vick’s arrest that prompted the Texas Legislature to make dogfighting a felony in September 2007. Before that, the police in Texas had largely ignored the phenomenon because the offense was a misdemeanor.

In the Texas case, law enforcement officials described a secretive society of men who set up prize fights between their pit bulls and bet large sums on the outcome. Many of those indicted had long criminal records, but they also include a high school English teacher, a land purchaser for an oil company and a manager at a Jack in the Box restaurant.

The participants generally arranged the fight over the phone, matching dogs by weight and sex, and agreeing to a training period of six or eight weeks.

The training techniques were brutal. One man who was indicted trained a dog by forcing it to run for up to an hour at a time through a cemetery with a chain around its neck that weighed as much as it did. Then he forced dogs to swim for long periods before running on a treadmill. Every day the dogs would be given dog protein powders, vitamins and high-grade food to build muscle.

Then, as the fight date approached, the trainers would starve the dog, give it very little water and pump it full of an anti-inflammatory drug.

The fights were held in out-of-the-way places — an abandoned motel in the refinery town of Texas City, a horse corral in a slum on the Houston outskirts, behind a barn on a farm near Jasper and at a farmhouse in Matagorda County, south of Houston.

The two undercover agents, Sergeant Manning and his partner, S. A. Davis, posed as members of a motorcycle gang who stole automated teller machines for a living. They infiltrated the ring, allied themselves with a group of people who owned fighting dogs and rented a warehouse in Houston, where fights were eventually held.

People came to the contests from as far away as Tennessee, Michigan and the Czech Republic. Every weekend, fights were held throughout the area for purses that usually ran about $10,000. The agents documented at least 50 fights.

“The undercover cops were sometimes invited to three different dogfights in a night,” said Belinda Smith, the Harris County assistant district attorney prosecuting the cases, along with Stephen St. Martin.

The ring members called the fights “dog shows.” The two dogs would be suspended from a scale with a thin cord tied around their neck and torso. If one of the dogs did not make weight, the owner would forfeit his half of the prize money, or the odds would be adjusted. After the weigh-in, the owners washed each others’ dogs in water, baking soda, warm milk and vinegar to make sure their coats were not poisoned.

Then dogs were forced to face off in a portable plywood box two feet tall, usually with a beige carpet on the floor, to show the blood, officials said. At the command of “face your dogs,” the animals were turned toward each other. When the handlers released them, the dogs would collide with a thud in the center of the ring, tearing at each other’s mouths, jaws, necks, withers and genitals, officials said. A referee usually would let the dogs fight until one backed off, then the handlers would take them back to their corners and wash them for 30 seconds.

During the fight, the exhausted animals would sometimes overheat, lock onto each other and lie in the ring. The handlers would blow on them to cool them off and force them to fight.

The fight usually ended when a dog refused to cross a line in the center of the ring to confront the opponent, known as “standing the line.” Such dogs were usually drowned or bludgeoned to death the next day, officials said.

“These guys take it very personally,” Sergeant Manning said. “It’s a reflection on them.”

Most of the dogs seized were kept outside in muddy yards, chained to axles sunk in the ground, with only six feet of tether and no shelter, beyond, in some cases, a toppled plastic 40-gallon barrel. All suffered from multiple parasites, veterinarians said.

“These dogs were kept in more than cruel conditions — they were subjected to torturous conditions,” said Dr. Timothy Harkness, of the Houston Humane Society. “Death was more pleasant than what they had to exist for.”

Many of the surviving animals had battle wounds on their necks and mouths, Dr. Harkness said. Although some were not aggressive toward people, they were all bred to attack other dogs, and officials made the decision to euthanize them last week.

Dr. Dawn Blackmar, director of veterinary public health for Harris County, said that putting down more than 80 dogs in her care was heart-wrenching. “It was absolutely awful,” Dr. Blackmar said. “It’s not the dogs’ fault. It’s that people have taken and exploited this breed.”

The members of the dogfighting ring were careful about who attended a fight, often limiting each side to 10 guests and quizzing people about who they were, who they knew.

The principals would keep the location of the fight secret until the last minute and then go in a caravan of cars to the rendezvous point, making it difficult to collect evidence, law enforcement officials said. They were also secretive about where they kept their dogs, for fear of robbery.

“People would go to the fights and talk about their yards,” said Ms. Smith, the assistant district attorney. “But they were very secretive about where their yards are.”

Ms. Smith said dozens of people who attended fights had yet to be identified, despite photos, because they piled into cars that did not belong to them to go to the events and never used their real names.

“There are a lot of people doing this,” she said. “We could have gone on and on and on with this investigation.”
30163  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April 2009 US Gathering on: December 07, 2008, 07:41:05 AM
Scheduled to come from Europe:

Lonely Dog - Switzerland
Red Dog- Switzerland-Germany
C-Scotty Dog - Scotland
C-Giri Dog - Germany
C-Ghost Dog - Switzerland
Dog Tinu - Switzerland
Dog Matt - England
Simon Godsland - England
30164  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Argentina on: December 07, 2008, 07:37:22 AM
Un hombre acusado de ser "el "mayor proveedor de efedrina de los carteles mexicanos" desde la Argentina fue apresado hoy en el Aeroparque Metropolitano tras una investigación realizada por agentes de inteligencia, informó el ministro de Justicia y Seguridad, Aníbal Fernández.

El detenido fue identificado como Mario Roberto Segovia, quien en los últimos dos años, según dijo el funcionario, "trasladó" de Buenos Aires a Rosario 8.171 kilogramos de efedrina, lo que equivaldría 30 millones de dólares en el mercado mexicano de la droga.

En declaraciones al canal de cable Todo Noticias, Fernández expresó que agentes de la Secretaría de Inteligencia del Estado (SIDE) y de la Policía Federal detuvieron a Segovia cuando iba a abordar un vuelo hacia Iguazú, junto a su primo Sebastián.
El ministro evitó dar "el dato" acerca de que si el hombre apresado tiene vinculación con el triple homicidio de General Rodríguez, aunque destacó que la operación estaba siendo completada "en Rosario y sus alrededores" con otros "14 allanamientos".

Fernández afirmó que "sin dudas" las toneladas de efedrina que Segovia llevó hacia Rosario desde la Capital Federal "eran para colocarlas en el mercado mexicano", donde el valor de la sustancia se triplica o cuadriplica en comparación con la Argentina.

La investigación, señaló el funcionario, se inició en septiembre de 2006 cuando en una encomienda aérea se detectaron 500 gramos de "una sustancia tóxica por ingestión" que, inclusive, es utilizada "como agente de guerra biológica". El paquete estaba destinado para "Héctor Germán Benítez, con domicilio virtual en una oficina de Rosario", agregó.

Fernández comentó que, tras un seguimiento, se determinó que la persona a la que iba dirigida la encomienda estaba detenida desde 2003 en el penal de Sierra Chica, por lo que se trataba de un nombre falso.
El ministro destacó que al poco tiempo fueron hallados "entre tres y ocho miligramos" de otro compuesto químico "que produce la muerte en adultos" y está prohibido en el país para su utilización en medicamentos.

Una investigación "de orfebre", expresó Fernández, permitió dar con Segovia, quien habita "una mansión" del barrio rosarino de Fisherton, "es dueño de vehículos de gran valor" y lleva un estilo de vida de "opulencia". En la actualidad, agregó el funcionario, el detenido "estaba trabajando en la fabricación de CD y DVD truchos".
30165  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: CRISIS ECONOMICA MUNDIAL on: December 07, 2008, 07:35:34 AM
PD:  Alfonso, sigo esperando con ganas esas fotos , , ,
30166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 07, 2008, 06:40:48 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan — Most of the additional American troops arriving in Afghanistan early next year will be deployed near the capital, Kabul, American military commanders here say, in a measure of how precarious the war effort has become.

It will be the first time that American or coalition forces have been deployed in large numbers on the southern flank of the city, a decision that reflects the rising concerns among military officers, diplomats and government officials about the increasing vulnerability of the capital and the surrounding area.  It also underscores the difficult choices confronting American military commanders as they try to apportion a limited number of forces not only within Afghanistan, but also between Afghanistan and Iraq.

For the incoming Obama administration, a first priority will be to weigh which is the greater risk: drawing down American forces too quickly in Iraq, potentially jeopardizing the gains there; or not building up troops quickly enough in Afghanistan, where the war effort hangs in the balance as security worsens.

The new Army brigade, the Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan in January and will consist of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. The “vast majority” of them will be sent to Logar and Wardak Provinces, adjacent to Kabul, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for the American units in eastern Afghanistan. A battalion of at least several hundred soldiers from that brigade will go to the border region in the east, where American forces have been locked in some of the fiercest fighting this year.

In all, the Pentagon is planning to add more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in response to a request from Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan. Those troops are expected to be sent to violent areas in the south. But they are expected to be deployed over 12 to 18 months. Nearly all would be diverted from Iraq, officials say.

The plan for the incoming brigade, then, means that for the time being fewer reinforcements — or none at all — will be immediately available for the parts of Afghanistan where the insurgency is most intense.

It also means that most of the newly arriving troops will not be deployed with the main goal of curbing the cross-border flow of insurgents from their rear bases in Pakistan, something American commanders would like and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has recommended.  In recent months, amid a series of American military operations that caused civilian casualties, Mr. Karzai has repeatedly said that the fight against the insurgents should not be waged “in the villages” of Afghanistan but rather in the rugged borderlands to the east and south.

In an interview, the president’s spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, said there was no conflict between the January deployment and Mr. Karzai’s declarations. While Mr. Karzai had requested a focus on border areas, the spokesman said, additional reinforcements were also needed throughout the country, including in Wardak and Logar.

There are about 62,000 international troops currently in Afghanistan, including about 32,000 Americans, a military spokesman said, but they are spread thinly throughout the country, which is nearly the size of Texas.  American commanders say they desperately need more. Military officials say that if General McKiernan’s requests are met, deployments in the next year and a half or so will include four combat brigades, an aviation brigade equipped with attack and troop-carrying helicopters, reconnaissance units, support troops and trainers for the Afghan Army and the police, raising American force levels to about 58,000.

The United States and NATO forces are hoping to expand the Afghan Army to 134,000 from nearly 70,000 over the next four or five years. Col. Gregory S. Julian, a top military spokesman, said that for security reasons he could not say where exactly those troops would go, but NATO’s southern command in Afghanistan includes Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan and Zabul Provinces.

Of immediate concern, American and NATO commanders say, is the need to safeguard the capital, to hit new Taliban strongholds in Wardak and Logar, and to provide enough security in those provinces for development programs, which are essential to maintaining the support of Afghan villagers.

Unlike in previous winters, when there was a lull in fighting as many Taliban fighters returned to Pakistan, American commanders expect more Taliban fighters to remain in Afghanistan and continue the fight. If so, the change would seem to reflect an effort by the emboldened insurgency to maintain its momentum and hold newly gained territory.

Page 2 of 2)

Wardak and Logar had been relatively secure until late last year. But by most accounts, Taliban activity has soared in the two provinces in the past year, as the insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan and foreign forces, sometimes even controlling parts of major roads connecting Kabul to the east and south.

The number of attacks in Wardak by the Taliban and other insurgent groups has increased about 58 percent since last year, and in Logar about 41 percent, according to statistics collated by Sami Kovanen, a security analyst in Kabul.

Insurgents now have significant influence, if not control, in much of the two provinces, said Mr. Kovanen, who draws his information from a wide range of government, nongovernment and private sources.

The American military command said it had incomplete statistics for the level of violence in those provinces. “Frankly, in Wardak and Logar, we don’t know what we don’t know,” Colonel Nielson-Green said in an e-mail message. “There are few of our forces present in those areas, hence the reason for the incoming brigade there.”

“I suspect that violence will increase as we place this unit but will go down over time,” she added, “because we assess that there are considerable enemy support areas in both provinces and we will be going after them.”

In June, three American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed in an ambush when their vehicles were hit by mines and rocket-propelled grenades as they drove through Wardak Province.

In August, three Western women and an Afghan driver, all working for the International Rescue Committee, a relief group based in New York, were killed in Logar. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The next month, the governor of Logar Province and three of his guards were killed in the explosion of a mine buried in a road.

American and NATO military commanders eventually hope to turn over the country’s security to Afghan forces, but the Afghan police and military are nowhere near ready to assume that responsibility, officials say.

The Afghan government has already begun to work with local and provincial elected officials to extend the influence of the central government in the region, improve public services and gain the support of residents. But the government’s efforts have been continually hampered by criminal gangs and insurgent groups.

Sediqa Mubariz, a member of Parliament from Wardak, said in an interview that she would welcome any additional American troops in her province.

Ms. Mubariz said security had been so poor that since last year she had not been able to travel from Kabul to her home district in Wardak, only 50 miles away.

30167  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: December 06, 2008, 11:49:52 PM
So, who won?
30168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 06, 2008, 11:47:59 PM

"Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that the case is headed to the Supreme Court. The Justices will decide tomorrow whether to hear it".

I had this matter mentally filed under case closed, but when I saw that the Supreme Court was considering hearing it I thought it newsworthy.  That's all.
30169  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: December 06, 2008, 01:09:28 PM
Woof All:

The production company is busy at the moment launching another show, so with the holidays and all that I feel safe in saying that we have until late January for the Resume/Demo Reels.  What follows is a rewrite of the "invitation to application".  There are some important changes in it, so please read it carefully.  Please spread it around suitable locations on the internet and elsewhere.


Woof All:

My name is Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny.  Some of you may know me as "the Guiding Force" of "the Dog Brothers" and/or the Head Instructor of Dog Brothers Martial Arts. .  Today I speak as Dog Brothers Inc.

I have been asked by a well established Producer with a good track record in doing athletically-oriented television series for major networks to help develop a television show based upon stick and other weaponry fights, so I am looking for fighters.  For the right men, this could be a very special opportunity to build a career doing something you love-- or it may simply be an opportunity for an exciting chapter in your Life to be all that you can be.

I need to be vague on the vision for the show at the moment and how much money is involved.  That is the way it must be for now, but know that I have spoken clearly with the producers with regard to the fighters being properly taken care of both financially and in terms of the rules and believe that they have the correct mindset in this regard. 

Once we see who we have, "the story will tell itself"(tm) and we will know which of visions we have for the show will be the right one, and it is then that you will have a chance to decide if it is right for you.  In other words, by applying now you are not committing yourself if the final concept turns out later to be not right for you.

Although much of the fighting will be similar to our "Dog Brother Real Contact Stickfighting" (see the fight clips at to get an idea) know that the fighting here will be , , , well, it will be
something that has never been seen before.  This does NOT mean it will be more dangerous or more painful than Dog Brothers fighting.  I am quite conscious that the Dog Brothers code of "One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day" may not be reliable in this context and have ideas about how to go about things so that we do not unduly risk the fighters.  Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting is quite dangerous enough as it is!

As I write this in mid-December 2008, we are looking at a time frame of months before we begin shooting.

Those selected first will be part of the pilot and the rest will be brought on stream as things move forward.   IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE CONSIDERED FOR BECOMING A PART OF THIS, well, 90% of Life is showing up.  We need to see the following
from you:

1) a one page RESUME.  The resume should include the following:
    a) age, height, weight, citizenship, languages, website/mypage/etc. if any,
    b) martial arts background: systems, styles, teachers, fighting experience, competitive athletic background etc.
    c) contact info

2) Photos: 
   a) Head Shot
   b) Full Body shot, withor without shirt.  Not to worry if you are not body beautiful.

3) DEMO REEL:   This is your chance to show us what you can do.  Here are some suggestions:

a) Fight the camera with your weapon(s) of choice
b) Traditional martial arts movements/forms/etc
c) Demonstrate on an "opponent"
d) Fight footage if you have any.   We understand that you might not have access to your fight footage.  Please state briefly, clearly, and HONESTLY what your fight experience is-- no puffery please.  Remember, the BS that gets you in the door also gets you out of the door.  If you have fought at a Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack, please list which Gatherings in which you fought.  IT WILL BE VERY HELPFUL IS YOU CAN DESCRIBE WHAT YOU WORE SO WE CAN FIND YOUR FIGHTS MORE READILY. 

these are the possible areas of interest to us.

   a) Double stick
   b) Single stick
   c) Staff
   d) knife
   e) emptyhand skills: MMA or otherwise
   f) gun skills (pistol, rifle, or paintball)
   g) other (e.g. sword and shield, whip, nunchaku, fencing, etc)
   h) footage that indicates your athleticism, your strength and
conditioning level, etc..

Total running time of this material should be no more than FOUR MINUTES and for most people will be quite a bit less than that.

4) PERSONALITY SECTION.  This section is optional.  Maximum time: Two minutes.  Note that a good one minute is better than two minutes of chatter.  Please simply talk to the camera about why you do what you do, where you could picture something like this fitting in your life, and so forth.  JUST BE YOURSELF.  Conventional and off-beat are good, so too are funny and serious, and crude and cosmic!   JUST BE YOURSELF!

Please send your resume and Demo Reel/Disc to

Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
Attention: TV Project
703 Pier Ave #664
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

And of course, the submissions and the contents thereof become the property of Dog Brothers Inc.!

To stay abreast of things "the thread of record" is the one on our public forum at:

The Adventure begins!
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
Dog Brothers Inc.
30170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941 on: December 06, 2008, 09:54:42 AM
"December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. ... Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. ... With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbounded determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God." --Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat far removed from today's crop of defeatists
30171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 06, 2008, 09:43:30 AM
The law is the law and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

Obviously utter chaos would reign, but do we look the other way?

As to what would happen, my guess is that it would be thrown into the House of Representatives , , , the same as if no one had enough electoral votes.

30172  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: CRISIS ECONOMICA MUNDIAL on: December 06, 2008, 09:39:58 AM
Hola Alfonso:

El tema es uno de tremenda importancia, pero en mi opinion ese articulo "no ve el bosque por los arboles" (traduciendo del ingles "Can't see the forest for the trees").

Por supuesto hay especulacion!  Por supuesto hay mentiras y trampas!  Siempre las han sido y siempre las sera'n sin que hayamos tenido problemas como tenemos actualmente.  En mi opinion la pregunta planteada es la siguiente ?Que ha sucedido que ha permitido los acontecimientos recientes?

En mi opinion la causa fundamental ha sido una tremenda aumenta de circulante monetario en anos recientes y manipulaciones de condiciones de credito.  Hace 5 anos (mas o menos) oro costaba unso $250 EU y ahora esta' arriba de $900 EU.  Esa politica ha manejado las burbujas en petroleo y "commodities" (productos crudos? como se dice?).  El exceso de dinero ha manejado las tazas de interes an nivles negativos, osea inferior a la taza de inflacion-- especialmente cuando se calcula tambien los impuestos!  En un ambiente asi' inversionistas se sienten empujadas a tomar riesgos mas y mas grandes.

La explosion de la burbuja fue inevitable.

En el caso de los EU, nosotros hemos visto nuestro gobierno manipular credito para estimular hipotecas a gente no capaz de pagarlas, pero garantizada por el gobierno federal--!Que estupidez! (Me refiero an Fannie Mae y Freddie Mac).  No debe haber sido sorpresa que esa estupidez se fracasara.   Hace 3-4 anos Alan Greenspan adviertio que el problema que crecia amenezaba a todo el sistema financiera pero los idiotas en el Congreso no le hicieron caso por que grandes intereses (especialmente Fannie Mae y Freddie Mac) se las estaban pagando "contribuciones".  !Y ahora esto pend*jos esta'n echando la culpa al mercado libre!  rolleyes tongue

Y ahora son como bomberos echando gasolina a las problemas , , ,
30173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 06, 2008, 08:14:09 AM

Thank you for your words, words which warm my heart. 

When I first started this thread, the number of "reads-per-post" (which tells me of the interest in a thread) was rather desultory, but over time it has risen to a ratio of over 60 RPP.   This number includes the time when the RPP was lower, so current RPP is even higher than that.

We share a belief in the profound importance of our American creed and the value of doing our part to see that it lives and is transmitted to the current and following generations!

30174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Somerville: Aping their betters on: December 06, 2008, 08:09:35 AM
Margaret Somerville | Friday, 5 December 2008
Aping their betters
If animals co-operate to benefit their community, does it mean they are ethical beings?

Recently, I participated in a round-table discussion, “Apes or Angels: What is the Origin of Ethics?” at McGill University. It was billed as honouring the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection.

The issue on the table was whether the ethical system that underlies "our unique social and economic system ... that leads us to rely on the support and co-operation of other individuals, largely unknown to one another" is simply the result of evolution through natural selection and a more advanced form of the social co-operation we see in animals; or whether "our social behaviour and the ethics on which it is based [are] uniquely human and owe nothing to the processes that govern societies of ants or bacteria. Our bodies may have evolved, but our ethics requires another kind of explanation."

In short, are ethics and morality in humans just one more outcome of natural selection through evolution, or do they have some other origin?

My co-panelists included world-renowned evolutionary biologists; distinguished academics specializing in researching the relation of economics and evolutionary biology; an anthropologist with expertise on co-operative behaviour in apes and monkeys; and a global leader in the field of evolution education, whose expert witness testimony in the U.S. federal trial on biological evolution, education and the U.S. constitution, contributed to the court ruling that the teaching of intelligent design in high-school science classes was unconstitutional.

I was a loner as an ethicist and, possibly, the only person who thought that humans were not just an improved version of other animals in terms of ethical behaviour.

First, we discussed whether we could say animals had a sense of ethics. My co-panelists referred to research that shows primates perceive and become angry when they can see they are not being treated fairly -- for instance, when one gets a bigger reward for a certain response than another. They explained that animals form community and act to maximize benefit to the community, including through self-sacrifice. They proposed that these behaviours were early forms of ethical conduct and that it was relevant in tracing and understanding the evolution of ethics in humans to know when these behaviours first appeared, in which animals, and at what point on the evolutionary tree.

This approach reflects a range of crucial assumptions.

First, that ethics -- and one assumes morality, as ethics is based on morality -- is just a genetically determined characteristic not unique to humans. Genetic reductionism is a view that we are nothing more than "gene machines", including with respect to our most "human" characteristics, such as ethics.

We probably have genes that give us the capacity to seek ethics. (These genes might need to be activated by certain experiences or learning. We can imagine them as being like a TV set: we need it to see a telecast, but it doesn't determine what we see.) I propose, however, that ethics consists of more than just a genetically programmed response.

Ethics require moral judgment. That requires deciding between right and wrong. As far as we know, animals are not capable of doing that. There's a major difference between engaging in social conduct that benefits the community, as some animals do, and engaging in that same conduct because it would be ethically wrong not to do so, as humans do.

My colleagues believed ethics were not unique to humans. Definition is a problem here. If ethics are broadly defined to encompass certain animal behaviour, they are correct. But if ethics are the practical application of morality, then to say animals have ethics is to attribute a moral instinct to them.

My colleagues' approach postulates an ethics continuum on which humans are just more "ethically advanced" than animals -- that is, there is only a difference in degree, not a difference in kind, between humans and animals with respect to having a capacity to be ethical.

Whether animals and humans are just different-in-degree or different-in-kind ("special" and, therefore, deserve "special respect") is at the heart of many of the most important current ethical conflicts, including those about abortion, human embryonic stem cell research, new reproductive technologies, and euthanasia.

Princeton philosopher Peter Singer is an "only a difference in degree" adherent. He says we are all animals and, therefore, giving preferential treatment to humans is "speciesism" -- wrongful discrimination on the basis of species identity. Animals and humans deserve the same respect. What we wouldn't do to humans we shouldn't do to animals; and what we would do for animals -- for instance, euthanasia -- we should do for humans.

MIT artificial intelligence and robotics scientist, Rodney Brooks, argues the same on behalf of robots. He claims that those which are more intelligent than us will deserve greater respect than we do.

In contrast, I believe that humans are "special" (different-in-kind) as compared with other animals and, consequently, deserve "special respect".

Traditionally, we have used the idea that humans have a soul and animals don't to justify our differential treatment of humans and animals in terms of the respect they deserve. But soul is no longer a universally accepted concept.

Ethics can, however, be linked to a metaphysical base without needing to invoke religious or supernatural features or beliefs. E could speak of a secular "human spirit" nature or, as German philosopher Jurgen Habermas describes it, an "ethics of the human species". I propose that ethics necessarily involve some transcendent experience, one that humans can have and animals cannot.

And I want to make clear that we can believe in evolution and also believe in God. The dichotomy often made in the media between being "atheist-anti-religion/pro-evolution," on the one hand, and "believer-pro-religion/anti-evolution," on the other, does not reflect reality. Evolution and a belief in God are not, as Richard Dawkins argues, incompatible.

The argument that it's dangerous to abandon the ideas of human specialness and that a moral instinct and search for ethics is uniquely human, was greeted with great skepticism by my colleagues, who seemed to think that only religious people would hold such views.

To conclude: "Do ants have ethics?" -- that is, Does the behaviour, bonding and the formation of community in animals have a different base from that in humans? How we answer that question is of immense importance, because it will have a major impact on the ethics we hand on to future generations.

Margaret Somerville is director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University and author of The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit.

30175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Justice in Iraq on: December 06, 2008, 08:04:57 AM
Progress in Iraq is often measured in declining rates of terrorist violence, the number of provinces under Iraqi control, growing Iraqi troop strength, and the new U.S.-Iraq Security pact that received final Iraqi approval this week. But a pair of recent Iraqi court decisions also tells us something about the moral distance the country has traveled since the days of Saddam Hussein.

On Tuesday, an Iraqi court handed down a second death sentence to Ali Hassan al-Majeed, better known as "Chemical Ali." Mr. Majeed, a cousin and top lieutenant of Saddam, was first sentenced to die last year for using poison gas against thousands of Kurdish villagers in the late 1980s. This time, he stood trial for his role in suppressing the 1991 Shiite uprising in southern Iraq, in which an estimated 60,000 people were slaughtered.

In today's Opinion Journal


Bridge Loan to NowhereJustice in IraqOf Jobs and 'Stimulus'


Declarations: 'At Least Bush Kept Us Safe'
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: Obama's Environmental Test
– Kimberley A. Strassel


The Weekend Interview: Andy Stern
– Matthew KaminskiHow the Credit Crisis Will Change the Way America Does Business
– Henry KaufmanIndia Is a Key Ally in the War on Terror
– Douglas J. FeithCross Country: A Property Tax Cut Could Help Save Buffalo
– Steven H. Hanke and Stephen J.K. WaltersDivorce Lawyers Could Use Subsidies Too
– Raoul FelderThink what you will about the death sentence -- and Mr. Majeed was initially spared due to Iraqi President (and Kurdish leader) Jalal Talabani's opposition to it -- it's hard to name anyone who has inflicted more cruelty than Mr. Majeed, and his sentence is of a piece with the justice meted to the Nazis at Nuremberg.

Now take the case of Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi legislator who visited Israel in 2004 and paid for it when his two sons were murdered the following year. Undeterred, Mr. Alusi returned to Israel in September, only to be sanctioned by parliament on the grounds that he had violated Saddam-era statutes forbidding travel to the Jewish state. Fortunately, Iraq's constitutional court disagreed, noting that Saddam-era laws don't apply in the new Iraq. Mr. Alusi will now be returning to his parliamentary duties.

It's a shame that Iraq's young democracy isn't prepared to recognize Israel, as Egypt and Jordan have. Then again, any state which sentences a man like Mr. Majeed to die while defending the rights of Mr. Alusi has put itself on the right side of history, and deserves our continuing support.

30176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mercator: Lawsuit goes to Supremes? on: December 06, 2008, 08:03:39 AM
Before he’s sworn in
The Supreme Court of the United States is about to consider a lawsuit alleging that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. If that were true, he would not qualify to serve as president. Sounds like an outlandish hoax, doesn’t it?

That’s what I thought when I first saw a copy of a lawsuit back in October, one of several it turns out, charging that Obama’s birth records were falsified and he is not eligible to run for president in the US. Which is why it seemed natural that his campaign would ignore it altogether, which they did. So did the media, though the lawsuits circulated widely.

Former Ambassador Alan Keyes, who ran against Obama for the Senate seat from Illinois, joined the suit. Okay, the story had legs. Should be easy to put to rest, right? After all, the Obama campaign had been so good at shutting down rumors and smear tactics before the election. And this only required a mere show of his actual birth records.

So why are they locked in a vault in Hawaii? People are asking, they have been asking, and are about to go public with their concerted effort to get answers.

Mr. Obama is respectfully requested to direct the Hawaiian officials to provide access to his original birth certificate on December 5-7 by our team of forensic scientists, and to provide additional documentary evidence establishing his citizenship status prior to our Washington, D.C. press conference on December 8.
A First Amendment Petition to any official of the Government for Redress of a violation of the Constitution is substantially different from the garden-variety political petitions frequently received by government officials.  This Petition demands it be given the highest priority for an expedited review and official Response by Mr. Obama.
As a formal “Notice of a Constitutional Violation,” the Petition naturally includes the People’s inherent Right to an official Response.  As a time-sensitive, election related Petition involving the Office of the President, failure to Respond as requested would constitute an egregious breach of the public trust and confirm the certainty of a Constitutional crisis.

This is no joke, and it’s not a hoax.

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that the case is headed to the Supreme Court. The Justices will decide tomorrow whether to hear it, or dismiss the question of whether or not the newly elected president of the United States is actually…eligible to be.
30177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRO: Court Contradiction on: December 06, 2008, 08:00:45 AM

September 26, 2008 6:00 AM

Court Contradiction
Abortion on high.

By Sheila Liaugminas

For the first time in the 35 years, the Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether this statement is biological fact, or mere ideology: “Abortion terminates the life of a human being.”

Two U.S. courts disagree over what Roe v. Wade means for this issue, so there are now two Constitutions — one in New Jersey, the other in the Eighth Circuit’s six states. This kind of conflict increases the odds that the United States Supreme Court will step in, and a new case, Acuna v. Turkish, gives it the option to.

On September 29, the high Court will announce whether it plans to do so.

Acuna presents a compelling opportunity to address an issue that Roe sidestepped, and that now represents ground zero in the abortion culture. Roe considered only whether there was a state interest in protecting “the potentiality of human life” (yes, according to the court, but a very limited one that grows as the fetus ages) and whether the unborn were considered “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment (no).

The new case began just prior to Rosa Acuna’s abortion in April 1996. She asked Dr. Sheldon Turkish if her “baby is already there.” She wanted to know whether the abortion would terminate the life of a whole, living human being, or whether the procedure prevented a human being from coming into existence in the first place. What was it that the abortionist proposed to “evacuate” from her? To her, the difference was crucial.

According to Acuna, Turkish said, “Don’t be stupid; it’s only some blood.” According to Turkish, he said, “It’s just some tissue.” Based on that, she consented to an abortion.

A month later, she had a massive hemorrhage. Bleeding profusely, she was rushed to a hospital. Heading into the operating room on a gurney, she asked a nurse what was wrong with her. “They left part of your baby in you,” the nurse told her. She’d had an incomplete abortion.

Acuna was devastated. What the nurse said clashed with what Turkish had said. She decided to find out for herself at the local library. In medical and scientific books, Acuna realized that Turkish had lied. She became severely depressed, and it got worse over time. She sued the doctor, claiming he’d had the duty to tell her she was carrying an already-existing human being.

New Jersey trial judges denied Acuna’s claim. Her case bounced from trial to appellate court and back again. One ruling argued that since Roe had found that unborn children are not persons, Acuna’s claims had no merit.
In September 2007, the New Jersey supreme court — the last court that could hear the case, besides the U.S. Supreme Court — decided 5-0 that Acuna was not entitled to a more accurate answer from Turkish, because “there is no consensus in the medical community” that embryos are living human beings at six to eight weeks of age, as a matter of scientific fact.

However, Mrs. Acuna had put into the record scientific proof from internationally renowned biologists, embryologists, and geneticists that the embryo is an independent, living human being from the instant of fertilization. Turkish’s lawyers presented no evidence that contradicted this.
Court Contradiction

Meanwhile, in 2005, the South Dakota legislature passed the nation’s most thorough “informed-consent” law, requiring abortion clinics to tell women “that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” The law required doctors to disclose that abortion may cause women psychological harm, and that the mother’s relationship with the human being she carries is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Planned Parenthood asked for and received an immediate injunction in a U.S. District Court. The group convinced Judge Karen Schreier that the law infringes on the abortionist’s “right to free speech,” because the language of the informed consent was ideological and not biological.

An Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld Schreier’s ruling 2-1, citing Roe. The majority said “the factual underpinning” of Roe was the “finding that there was no medical, scientific, or moral consensus about when life begins, making the question of when a fetus or embryo becomes a human being one of individual conscience and belief.”

But then, all eleven judges of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case. They vacated the three-judge panel’s decision: In June 2008, a 7-4 majority decision threw out Schreier’s order, clearing the way for the informed-consent law to take effect. The court found that the state of South Dakota’s “evidence suggests that the biological sense in which the embryo or fetus is whole, separate, unique and living should be clear in context to a physician.”


While the State cannot compel an individual simply to speak the State’s ideological message, it can use its regulatory authority to require a physician to provide truthful, non-misleading information relevant to a patient’s decision to have an abortion, even if that information might also encourage the patient to choose childbirth over abortion. Therefore, Planned Parenthood cannot succeed on the merits of its claim that [the informed consent law] violates a physician’s right not to speak unless it can show that the disclosure is either untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion.

And Planned Parenthood, the court decided, could not show that.

We now have two major U.S. courts in direct conflict. The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld as biological fact the same statement that the New Jersey supreme court decided was simple ideology. This is a key constitutional question, which may soon be settled in Washington.
30178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Evil Obsession on: December 06, 2008, 07:36:55 AM
The UN's obsession with demonizing Israel
By Jeff Jacoby Globe Columnist / November 30, 2008
THE PRESIDENT of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, last week denounced the policies of a certain Middle Eastern nation. They are "so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era," he said, "that the world must unite against them, demanding an "end to this massive abuse of human rights" and isolating the offending nation as it once isolated South Africa: with a punishing "campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions."

Of which country was he speaking?
Was it Saudi Arabia, where public facilities are segregated by sex, and where a pervasive system of gender apartheid denies women the right to drive, to dress as they choose, to freely marry or divorce, to vote, to appear in public without a male "guardian," or to give testimony on an equal basis with men?

Was it Jordan, where the law explicitly bars Jews from citizenship and where the sale of land to a Jew was for decades not only illegal, but punishable by death?

Was it Iran, where homosexuality is a capital crime - at least 200 Iranian gays were executed last year - and whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asserted at Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in Iran?

Was it Sudan, where tens of thousands of black Africans in the country's southern region, most of them Christians or animists, have been abducted and sold into slavery by Arab militias backed by the Islamist regime in Khartoum?

It was none of these. The General Assembly president, a radical Maryknoll priest who served as Nicaragua's foreign minister during the Sandinista regime in the 1980s, was not referring to any of the Middle East's Muslim autocracies and dictatorships, virtually all of which discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities. He was speaking of the Jewish state of Israel, the region's lone democracy, and the only one that guarantees the legal equality of all its citizens - one-fifth of whom are Muslim and Christian Arabs.

D'Escoto's call for Israel to be shunned as a pariah and strangled economically came on the UN's Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an annual occasion devoted to lamenting the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the 20th century, denouncing the national liberation movement - Zionism - that made that rebirth possible, and championing the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. The event occurs on or about Nov. 29, the anniversary of the UN vote in 1947 to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. There are impassioned speeches, in which Israel's sins are enumerated and condemned, and the statelessness of the Palestinians is bewailed. Unmentioned is the fact that Palestine's Arabs would have had their state 60 years ago had they and the Arab League not rejected the UN's decision and chosen instead to declare war on the new Jewish state.

Like so much of what takes place at the UN, the obsession with demonizing Israel and extolling the Palestinians is grotesque and Orwellian. More than 1 million Israeli Arabs enjoy civil and political rights unmatched in the Arab world - yet Israel is accused of repression and human-rights abuse. Successive Israeli governments have endorsed a "two-state solution" - yet Israel is blasted as the obstacle to peace. The Palestinian Authority oversees the vilest culture of Jew-hatred since the Third Reich, and wants all Jews expelled from the land it claims for itself - yet Israel is labeled an "apartheid state" and singled out for condemnation and ostracism.

Make no mistake: In likening Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, the UN is engaged not in anti-racism but in anti-Semitism. In the 1930s, the world's foremost anti-Semites demanded a boycott of Jewish businesses. Today they demand a boycott of the Jewish state.

"No good German is still buying from a Jew," announced Hitler's Nazi Party in March 1933. "The boycott must be a universal one . . . and must hit Jewry where it is most vulnerable." Seventy-five years later, the president of the General Assembly urges the world to throttle Israel's 6 million Jews with "boycott, divestment, and sanctions." There is no significant difference between the two cases -- or the animus underlying them.

When the UN adopted its odious "Zionism is racism resolution" in 1975, US Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan minced no words. "The United States," he declared, "does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act." Where is such a voice of moral outrage today?

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at
30179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tell me why on: December 06, 2008, 07:33:27 AM
Author Barrett Tillman has come up with some excellent additions to the Liberty Poll (, aimed at those who would seek to take away our guns:

"Tell me why you think a woman should 'lie back and enjoy being raped' instead of shooting a rapist dead with the handgun in her handbag."

"Tell me why black Americans should submit to being lynched instead of shooting the lynch mob dead."

"Tell me why homophobes should be free to beat up homosexuals without the risk of being shot."

"Watch Schindler's List and tell me again why only the police and military should have guns."

"Tell me why you think police should be able to shoot an attacker to save their lives but I shouldn't."

 "Tell me why I shouldn't have the best means of defending myself -- a semiauto firearm with a standard capacity magazine."

"Tell me why a woman's right to choose should not include weapon, mag size and ammunition."

"Tell me why you think I shouldn't be able to defend my life or my freedom."

"More than that, tell me why you should not have that right!


"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have" -- Thomas Jefferson
30180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 05, 2008, 07:44:54 PM
Today is the 75th anniversary of that blessed day in 1933 when Utah became the 36th and deciding state to ratify the 21st amendment, thereby repealing the 18th amendment. This ended the nation's disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition.

Celebrating the end of alcohol prohibition, Dec. 5, 1933.
It's already shaping up as a day of celebration, with parties planned, bars prepping for recession-defying rounds of drinks, and newspapers set to publish cocktail recipes concocted especially for the day.

But let's hope it also serves as a day of reflection. We should consider why our forebears rejoiced at the relegalization of a powerful drug long associated with bountiful pleasure and pain, and consider too the lessons for our time.

The Americans who voted in 1933 to repeal prohibition differed greatly in their reasons for overturning the system. But almost all agreed that the evils of failed suppression far outweighed the evils of alcohol consumption.

The change from just 15 years earlier, when most Americans saw alcohol as the root of the problem and voted to ban it, was dramatic. Prohibition's failure to create an Alcohol Free Society sank in quickly. Booze flowed as readily as before, but now it was illicit, filling criminal coffers at taxpayer expense.

Some opponents of prohibition pointed to Al Capone and increasing crime, violence and corruption. Others were troubled by the labeling of tens of millions of Americans as criminals, overflowing prisons, and the consequent broadening of disrespect for the law. Americans were disquieted by dangerous expansions of federal police powers, encroachments on individual liberties, increasing government expenditure devoted to enforcing the prohibition laws, and the billions in forgone tax revenues. And still others were disturbed by the specter of so many citizens blinded, paralyzed and killed by poisonous moonshine and industrial alcohol.

Supporters of prohibition blamed the consumers, and some went so far as to argue that those who violated the laws deserved whatever ills befell them. But by 1933, most Americans blamed prohibition itself.

When repeal came, it was not just with the support of those with a taste for alcohol, but also those who disliked and even hated it but could no longer ignore the dreadful consequences of a failed prohibition. They saw what most Americans still fail to see today: That a failed drug prohibition can cause greater harm than the drug it was intended to banish.

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

And look abroad. At Afghanistan, where a third or more of the national economy is both beneficiary and victim of the failed global drug prohibition regime. At Mexico, which makes Chicago under Al Capone look like a day in the park. And elsewhere in Latin America, where prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption undermine civil authority and public safety, and mindless drug eradication campaigns wreak environmental havoc.

All this, and much more, are the consequences not of drugs per se but of prohibitionist policies that have failed for too long and that can never succeed in an open society, given the lessons of history. Perhaps a totalitarian American could do better, but at what cost to our most fundamental values?

Why did our forebears wise up so quickly while Americans today still struggle with sorting out the consequences of drug misuse from those of drug prohibition?

It's not because alcohol is any less dangerous than the drugs that are banned today. Marijuana, by comparison, is relatively harmless: little association with violent behavior, no chance of dying from an overdose, and not nearly as dangerous as alcohol if one misuses it or becomes addicted. Most of heroin's dangers are more a consequence of its prohibition than the drug's distinctive properties. That's why 70% of Swiss voters approved a referendum this past weekend endorsing the government's provision of pharmaceutical heroin to addicts who could not quit their addictions by other means. It is also why a growing number of other countries, including Canada, are doing likewise.

Yes, the speedy drugs -- cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit stimulants -- present more of a problem. But not to the extent that their prohibition is justifiable while alcohol's is not. The real difference is that alcohol is the devil we know, while these others are the devils we don't. Most Americans in 1933 could recall a time before prohibition, which tempered their fears. But few Americans now can recall the decades when the illicit drugs of today were sold and consumed legally. If they could, a post-prohibition future might prove less alarming.
But there's nothing like a depression, or maybe even a full-blown recession, to make taxpayers question the price of their prejudices. That's what ultimately hastened prohibition's repeal, and it's why we're sure to see a more vigorous debate than ever before about ending marijuana prohibition, rolling back other drug war excesses, and even contemplating far-reaching alternatives to drug prohibition.

Perhaps the greatest reassurance for those who quake at the prospect of repealing contemporary drug prohibitions can be found in the era of prohibition outside of America. Other nations, including Britain, Australia and the Netherlands, were equally concerned with the problems of drink and eager for solutions. However, most opted against prohibition and for strict controls that kept alcohol legal but restricted its availability, taxed it heavily, and otherwise discouraged its use. The results included ample revenues for government coffers, criminals frustrated by the lack of easy profits, and declines in the consumption and misuse of alcohol that compared favorably with trends in the United States.

Is President-elect Barack Obama going to commemorate Repeal Day today? I'm not holding my breath. Nor do I expect him to do much to reform the nation's drug laws apart from making good on a few of the commitments he made during the campaign: repealing the harshest drug sentences, removing federal bans on funding needle-exchange programs to reduce AIDS, giving medical marijuana a fair chance to prove itself, and supporting treatment alternatives for low-level drug offenders.

But there's one more thing he can do: Promote vigorous and informed debate in this domain as in all others. The worst prohibition, after all, is a prohibition on thinking.

Mr. Nadelmann is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
30181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Open Letter to Muslims, Liberals, Democrats, et al on: December 05, 2008, 06:06:10 PM
The point of the original post in this thread seeming to be well-imbedded in the culture of the forum, I think it time to take this thread off of sticky. 
30182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Terrorism is piracy on: December 05, 2008, 05:16:07 PM
Piracy Is Terrorism
Published: December 5, 2008

THE golden age of piracy has returned. Just as Henry Every and William Kidd once made their fortunes in the Red Sea, a new generation has emerged, armed with grenade launchers and assault rifles, to threaten trade and distract the world’s navies. With the recent capture of the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, a crime that once seemed remote and archaic has again claimed center stage.

And yet the world’s legal apparatus is woefully confused as to how to respond to piracy. Are the Somali pirates ordinary criminals, or a quasi-military force?

The question is not insignificant. It has virtually paralyzed the navies called to police the Gulf of Aden. The German Navy frigate Emden, on patrol this spring to intercept Qaeda vessels off the Somali coast, encountered pirate vessels attacking a Japanese tanker. But since it was allowed to intervene only if the pirates were defined as “terrorists,” the Emden had no choice but to let the pirates go. Currently, 13 vessels are held by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, while the navies of a dozen nations circle almost helplessly.

The legal confusion extends to what happens once pirates have been caught. In theory, any nation can shoulder the burden of prosecution. In fact, few are eager to do so.

Prosecuting pirates puts enormous strain on a country’s legal system. A state whose ship was not attacked, and whose only involvement with the incident was as rescuer, might balk at being asked to foot the bill for lengthy and costly proceedings. Yet it might find itself forced to do so, if neither the victim’s nor the pirates’ state is willing. As Somalia has not had a recognized government since the early 1990s, the situation is all the more precarious for would-be capturers. The result is that ship owners, knowing that no rescue is imminent, pay the ransom. This emboldens the pirates further, and the problem worsens.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this legal morass. Indeed, the law is very clear — we just seem to have forgotten about it.

The solution to piracy lies in the very nature of piracy itself. The Roman lawmaker Cicero defined piracy as a crime against civilization itself, which English jurist Edward Coke famously rephrased as “hostis humani generis” — enemies of the human race. As such, they were enemies not of one state but of all states, and correspondingly all states shared in the burden of capturing them.

From this precept came the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, meaning that pirates — unlike any other criminals — could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. This recognition of piracy’s unique threat was the cornerstone of international law for more than 2,000 years.

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the current situation, the law is surprisingly clear. The definition of pirates as enemies of the human race is reaffirmed in British and American trial law and in numerous treaties.

As a customary international law (albeit one that has fallen out of use since the decline of traditional piracy) it cuts through the Gordian knot of individual states’ engagement rules. Pirates are not ordinary criminals. They are not enemy combatants. They are a hybrid, recognized as such for thousands of years, and can be seized at will by anyone, at any time, anywhere they are found.

And what of the Emden’s problem? Are pirates a species of terrorist? In short, yes. The same definition of pirates as hostis humani generis could also be applied to international organized terrorism. Both crimes involve bands of brigands that divorce themselves from their nation-states and form extraterritorial enclaves; both aim at civilians; both involve acts of homicide and destruction, as the United Nations Convention on the High Seas stipulates, “for private ends.”

For this reason, it seems sensible that the United States and the international community adopt a new, shared legal definition that would recognize the link between piracy and terrorism. This could take the form of an act of Congress or, more broadly, a new jurisdiction for piracy and terrorism cases at the International Criminal Court.

There is ample precedent. In the 1970s, the hijacking of airliners was defined by the United Nations as “aerial piracy.” In 1985, when Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro and held its passengers hostage, President Ronald Reagan called the hijackers “pirates.” Recent evidence also indicates that the Somali pirates hand over a part of their millions in ransom money to Al Shabaab, the Somali rebel group that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

The similarities and overlaps between the two crimes have prompted some jurists to advocate abandoning the term piracy altogether in favor of “maritime terrorism.” By reasserting the traditional definition of pirates as hostis humani generis, and linking it to terrorism, the United States and other nations will not only gain a powerful tool in fighting the Somali pirates, but other incidents of terrorism around the world as well.

Recognizing piracy as an international crime will do something else: It will give individual states that don’t want to prosecute pirates an alternative — the international court. If pirates are recognized under their traditional international legal status — as neither ordinary criminals nor combatants, but enemies of the human race — states will have a much freer hand in capturing them. If piracy falls within the jurisdiction of the international court, states will not need to shoulder the burden of prosecution alone.

Today the world’s navies are hamstrung by conflicting laws and the absence of an international code. A comprehensive legal framework is the only way to break the stalemate off Somalia. In a trial before the Old Bailey in 1696, Dr. Henry Newton, the Admiralty advocate, declared, “Suffer pirates and the commerce of the world must cease.”

More than 300 years later, the world is suffering again. Fortunately, this time we have the answer.

Douglas R. Burgess Jr. is the author of “The Pirates’ Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History’s Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America.”

30183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting piece on: December 05, 2008, 03:10:30 PM
Interesting piece

Piracy Is Terrorism
Published: December 5, 2008

THE golden age of piracy has returned. Just as Henry Every and William Kidd once made their fortunes in the Red Sea, a new generation has emerged, armed with grenade launchers and assault rifles, to threaten trade and distract the world’s navies. With the recent capture of the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, a crime that once seemed remote and archaic has again claimed center stage.

And yet the world’s legal apparatus is woefully confused as to how to respond to piracy. Are the Somali pirates ordinary criminals, or a quasi-military force?

The question is not insignificant. It has virtually paralyzed the navies called to police the Gulf of Aden. The German Navy frigate Emden, on patrol this spring to intercept Qaeda vessels off the Somali coast, encountered pirate vessels attacking a Japanese tanker. But since it was allowed to intervene only if the pirates were defined as “terrorists,” the Emden had no choice but to let the pirates go. Currently, 13 vessels are held by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, while the navies of a dozen nations circle almost helplessly.

The legal confusion extends to what happens once pirates have been caught. In theory, any nation can shoulder the burden of prosecution. In fact, few are eager to do so.

Prosecuting pirates puts enormous strain on a country’s legal system. A state whose ship was not attacked, and whose only involvement with the incident was as rescuer, might balk at being asked to foot the bill for lengthy and costly proceedings. Yet it might find itself forced to do so, if neither the victim’s nor the pirates’ state is willing. As Somalia has not had a recognized government since the early 1990s, the situation is all the more precarious for would-be capturers. The result is that ship owners, knowing that no rescue is imminent, pay the ransom. This emboldens the pirates further, and the problem worsens.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this legal morass. Indeed, the law is very clear — we just seem to have forgotten about it.

The solution to piracy lies in the very nature of piracy itself. The Roman lawmaker Cicero defined piracy as a crime against civilization itself, which English jurist Edward Coke famously rephrased as “hostis humani generis” — enemies of the human race. As such, they were enemies not of one state but of all states, and correspondingly all states shared in the burden of capturing them.

From this precept came the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, meaning that pirates — unlike any other criminals — could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. This recognition of piracy’s unique threat was the cornerstone of international law for more than 2,000 years.

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the current situation, the law is surprisingly clear. The definition of pirates as enemies of the human race is reaffirmed in British and American trial law and in numerous treaties.

As a customary international law (albeit one that has fallen out of use since the decline of traditional piracy) it cuts through the Gordian knot of individual states’ engagement rules. Pirates are not ordinary criminals. They are not enemy combatants. They are a hybrid, recognized as such for thousands of years, and can be seized at will by anyone, at any time, anywhere they are found.

And what of the Emden’s problem? Are pirates a species of terrorist? In short, yes. The same definition of pirates as hostis humani generis could also be applied to international organized terrorism. Both crimes involve bands of brigands that divorce themselves from their nation-states and form extraterritorial enclaves; both aim at civilians; both involve acts of homicide and destruction, as the United Nations Convention on the High Seas stipulates, “for private ends.”

For this reason, it seems sensible that the United States and the international community adopt a new, shared legal definition that would recognize the link between piracy and terrorism. This could take the form of an act of Congress or, more broadly, a new jurisdiction for piracy and terrorism cases at the International Criminal Court.

There is ample precedent. In the 1970s, the hijacking of airliners was defined by the United Nations as “aerial piracy.” In 1985, when Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro and held its passengers hostage, President Ronald Reagan called the hijackers “pirates.” Recent evidence also indicates that the Somali pirates hand over a part of their millions in ransom money to Al Shabaab, the Somali rebel group that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

The similarities and overlaps between the two crimes have prompted some jurists to advocate abandoning the term piracy altogether in favor of “maritime terrorism.” By reasserting the traditional definition of pirates as hostis humani generis, and linking it to terrorism, the United States and other nations will not only gain a powerful tool in fighting the Somali pirates, but other incidents of terrorism around the world as well.

Recognizing piracy as an international crime will do something else: It will give individual states that don’t want to prosecute pirates an alternative — the international court. If pirates are recognized under their traditional international legal status — as neither ordinary criminals nor combatants, but enemies of the human race — states will have a much freer hand in capturing them. If piracy falls within the jurisdiction of the international court, states will not need to shoulder the burden of prosecution alone.

Today the world’s navies are hamstrung by conflicting laws and the absence of an international code. A comprehensive legal framework is the only way to break the stalemate off Somalia. In a trial before the Old Bailey in 1696, Dr. Henry Newton, the Admiralty advocate, declared, “Suffer pirates and the commerce of the world must cease.”

More than 300 years later, the world is suffering again. Fortunately, this time we have the answer.

Douglas R. Burgess Jr. is the author of “The Pirates’ Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History’s Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America.”
30184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: December 05, 2008, 12:22:39 PM
A Coup in Canada
No Way to Run a Country
Life and Times of Harvey Milk

A Confederacy of Hosers

Canada voted only seven weeks ago to bring back Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government for another term, but this week a cobbled-together party coalition of Liberals, left-wing New Democrats and Quebec separatists almost threw him out of office. What began as a revolution ended as farce yesterday as it became clear Mr. Harper would keep his job.

Mr. Harper clearly blundered last month when he proposed to end the government subsidies that go to all of Canada's political parties, a move that advantaged his incumbent administration's ability to collect private donations. The outraged three opposition parties promptly met and signed a coalition agreement in which they would vote "no confidence" in Mr. Harper's government and take over with a slim majority. The Liberals and New Democrats would govern with the Bloc Quebecois providing support in exchange for more concessions on financial aid and autonomy.

The problem is that Canadians had just voted, and having parties that recently lost an election take power without a new election struck many as profoundly undemocratic. A Globe and Mail poll found that some 60% of Canadians opposed the deal. The poll also found that, if a new election were held today, the Conservatives would win a commanding 45%, while the Liberals would get only 24% and the New Democrats a mere 14%. Just seven weeks ago, the Conservatives had won re-election with 37%.

When all was said and done, the movement opposing Mr. Harper quickly unraveled once he met with Canada's Governor-General, the country's head of state, and won her approval to shut down Parliament till January 26. With Parliament not in session, there was no way the "no confidence" vote could be held next week as planned.

David McGuinty, a Liberal member of Parliament from Ottawa, summed up developments by saying the Governor-General had effectively given a tongue lashing to all players in the drama and told them to go home and play nice. It certainly looks as if no one comes out of this episode with political stature enhanced.

-- John Fund

Uh-oh, Canada

Just as U.S. voters are heading left, Canada's seemed to be heading right. But then Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper blew up his coalition this week (see above). If he doesn't patch it back together by the time Parliament reconvenes in late January, his government could still fall and be replaced by a coalition of parties never chosen by voters.

Even sillier, the new prime minister would be the head of the defeated Liberal Party. Right now that honor belongs to Stephane Dion, who actually resigned as party head after the LP's terrible performance at the polls. His successor won't be named until May, so Mr. Dion would serve as the head of government until then. In other words, Canada would be led by the lame-duck chief of a party that was rejected at the polls two elections in a row. He would then be replaced by a member of Parliament who'd never been subjected to voter scrutiny as the government's possible leader.

-- Michael Philips

The Club for Breaking Even

Republican Tom McClintock finally won his race for a California House seat yesterday, after the district's counties turned in their final vote tallies to the secretary of state, giving Mr. McClintock a lead of nearly 1,800 votes over retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown. Mr. McClintock, the leading spokesman for Southern California conservatives, had been term-limited out of his state senate seat.

His victory is also a victory for the anti-tax Club for Growth, boosting its winning percentage in House and Senate races to .500. Mr. McClintock's Democratic opponent conceded the race rather than request a recount in the tight contest, giving the Club -- whose PAC spends money in support of candidates with anti-tax platforms -- eight wins and eight losses at the end of the 2008 general election season.

Of course, that decent-sounding record is somewhat dimmed by the fact that four of the Club's eight losses were incumbents. These include New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu and three House Republicans: Florida's Tom Feeney, Idaho's Bill Sali and Tim Walberg of Michigan. On the other hand, the Club can boast knocking off freshman Democrat Rep. Nick Lampson, who occupied Tom DeLay's old suburban Houston seat. He was beaten by the Club-supported former Pentagon aide Pete Olson.

But Mr. Walberg's loss in Michigan's 7th District is particularly significant. In 2006, he became the first Club-backed candidate to oust a fellow Republican in a primary. He defeated GOP moderate Rep. Joe Schwarz and then went on to win by just four points against an underfunded Democrat in that year's general election. This year, though, he lost to Democrat Mark Schauer by three points.

A similar outcome in Maryland gave the last laugh to another moderate Republican unseated with the Club's help -- Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a nine-term congressman in Maryland's 1st Congressional District. Mr. Gilchrest had faced primary challenges before, but he fell victim back in February to Andy Harris, for whom the Club offered substantial financial backing. Mr. Gilchrest went on to endorse Mr. Harris's Democratic opponent, Frank Kratovil, who won by fewer than 3,000 votes last month.

Club for Growth President Pat Toomey knew it was a difficult year for Republicans and made the best of his group's break-even performance. "As the Republican Party struggles to rebuild itself in the coming months and years, these conservative stalwarts will be major players in that crucial effort," he said.

-- Kyle Trygstad,

Got 'Milk'?

You can bet that "Milk," the new film starring Sean Penn as the first openly gay politician elected to office in a major city, will be an Oscar contender. Ballots for the Academy Awards will be cast early next year in the aftermath of California's passage of Proposition 8, a statewide ban on gay marriage. Already, the film has been caught up in politics as some are urging a nationwide boycott against Cinemark movie theaters after Cinemark CEO Alan Stock donated $10,000 to the "Yes on 8" campaign. "He should not profit from now showing 'Milk' in his theaters," says the boycott Web site.

Politics aside, "Milk" is a fascinating celebration of a man who was both a symbol of gay empowerment and a martyr to gay rights. The film premiered on the 30th anniversary of his death in 1978. Harvey Milk only served as a member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors for 11 months before he, along with Mayor George Moscone, was gunned down at age 48 by Dan White, a former Supervisor who nursed political grudges against both men. White was convicted only of manslaughter after putting up a preposterous defense that too much junk food had impaired his judgment -- a foretaste of even stranger legal arguments in later years as more and more people have sought to avoid responsibility for their actions.

Milk is celebrated in the film for his aggressive leadership on gay rights, especially for helping defeat the Briggs Initiative in 1978, which would have banned gays from teaching in public schools -- a measure also opposed by Ronald Reagan and many conservatives. But the story of Harvey Milk as a politician was more complicated than his sexual orientation. At the heart of all of his campaigns was the notion that government had to be responsive to the rights of individuals.

Although he espoused left-wing politics in his later years, Milk was a political conservative until he was almost 40. He had served as a Navy officer, worked on Wall Street and enthusiastically handed out flyers for Barry Goldwater at subway stops in Manhattan in 1964. It was the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon's invasion of Cambodia that most influenced his move to the left. In 1970, he settled in San Francisco and opened an independent camera store in the then-emerging gay neighborhood around Castro Street.

His interest in local politics began when, not long after opening his business, he was visited by a state bureaucrat who demanded a pre-payment of sales taxes on products he hadn't yet sold. Next, a local public school teacher asked if he could borrow a film projector because none of those at his school worked. Then a local business association tried to discourage city bureaucrats from issuing business licenses to gays. Milk promptly organized the still-popular Castro Street Fair to demonstrate the clout of the gay business community.

He ran for office several times, appealing for gay votes but also as an angry populist demanding government accountability. "Milk has something for everybody," was his slogan.

Despite some unfortunate political correctness, the film "Milk" is a powerful statement in favor of tolerance and the power of one individual to bring about change. Like Spike Lee's "Malcolm X," the film takes a controversial historical figure about whom many people have only a sketchy idea and makes him both human and accessible.

-- John Fund

30185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 05, 2008, 12:19:13 PM
ospitals Now a Theater in Mexico’s Drug War


December 5, 2008

Hospitals Now a Theater in Mexico’s Drug War


The sedated patient, his bullet wounds still fresh from a shootout the night before, was lying on a gurney in the intensive care unit of a prestigious private hospital here late last month with intravenous fluids dripping into his arm. Suddenly, steel-faced gunmen barged in and filled him with even more bullets. This time, he was dead for sure.

Hit men pursuing rivals into intensive care units and emergency rooms. Shootouts in lobbies and corridors. Doctors kidnapped and held for ransom, or threatened with death if a wounded gunman dies under their care. With alarming speed, Mexico’s violent drug war is finding its way into the seeming sanctuary of the nation’s hospitals, shaking the health care system and leaving workers fearing for their lives while trying to save the lives of others.

“Remember that hospital scene from ‘The Godfather?’ ” asked Dr. Héctor Rico, an otolaryngologist here, speaking about the part in which Michael Corleone saves his hospitalized father from a hit squad. “That’s how we live.”

An explosion of violence connected with Mexico’s powerful drug cartels has left more than 5,000 people dead so far this year, nearly twice the figure from the year before, according to unofficial tallies by Mexican newspapers. The border region of the United States and Mexico, critical to the cartels’ trafficking operation, has been the most violent turf of all, with 60 percent of all killings in the country last month occurring in the states of Chihuahua and Baja California, the government says. And it has raised fears that violence could spill across the border, because dozens of victims of drug violence have been treated at an El Paso hospital in the last year.

The federal government argues that the rising death toll reflects President Felipe Calderón’s aggressive stance toward the cartels, which has forced traffickers into a bitter war over the dwindling turf that remains.

In fact, most of the deaths do appear to be the result of infighting among traffickers. But plenty of innocent people are dying too, and the spate of horrifying killings — bodies are routinely decapitated or otherwise mutilated and left in public places with handwritten notes propped up nearby — has left people from all walks of life worried that they might be next.

“If a patient is in the E.R. bleeding, we should be focused on the wounds,” said Dr. Rico, who has led doctors in street demonstrations to protest the rising violence in and around Tijuana, where 170 bodies were discovered in November alone, the bloodiest month on record. “Now we have to watch our backs and worry about someone barging in with a gun.”

Doctors feel particularly vulnerable. When they leave their offices, they say they face the risk of being kidnapped and held for ransom, as about two dozen local physicians have been in the last few years. Doctors also complain about receiving blunt threats from patients or patients’ relatives. “Sálvame o te mato,” save me or I will kill you, is what one orthopedic surgeon said he was told by a patient, who evidently did not grasp the contradiction.

Adding to the anxiety, hospitals and health care workers have to notify the authorities when a patient comes in with a gunshot or knife wound, a legal requirement that the traffickers know well. That leads to further threats.

Then, there is the risk of shootouts.

Authorities suspect that the killers and the victim in the intensive care unit at the private hospital, Hospital del Prado, had links to the drug cartels that are wreaking so much havoc across Mexico. Nowhere to be found were the police, who received a call from the hospital authorities when the shooting victim, who was in his 20s, first arrived, as is required by law. The police did not show up until after the gunmen had come and gone and bullet casings littered the hospital floor.

Hospital General de Tijuana, the city’s main public hospital, has twice been ringed by police officers and soldiers in the past 20 months. The first time, in April 2007, gunmen stormed the building either to rescue a fellow cartel member who was being treated in the emergency room or to kill a rival, said the police, who were not certain which scenario it was. Two police officers were killed, and all but one of the gunmen got away.

A video taken by a hospital worker revealed a terrifying scene, with two state police officers firing inside the emergency room to protect patients while doctors, nurses and others cowered in closets, under gurneys and wherever else they could find cover.

An elderly woman in a wheelchair is seen hiding under a blanket, while a patient in a hospital gown is sprawled on the floor near his hospital bed.

Meanwhile, panicked patients were escorted out of the building, some with IVs in their arms, to a nearby sports field.

The second time was this past April, when soldiers in camouflage ringed Hospital General de Tijuana, shutting it down while doctors treated eight traffickers who were wounded in various shootouts in the city. The Mexican Army was apparently trying to prevent a repeat of the 2007 shootout. In a recent third episode, soldiers were sent to the hospital for a bomb scare.

“Fear has become part of our lives,” said one of the doctors at Hospital General de Tijuana, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from organized-crime figures. “There’s panic. We don’t know when the shooting is going to break out again.”

The violence is already affecting service, as hospitals armor themselves with more police officers and guards. To protest the spate of killings, some doctors closed their offices for a day in November. And Tijuana clinics are closing earlier on a regular basis, with more and more doctors shunning late-night medical care as too risky.

In Ciudad Juárez, which abuts El Paso, the local Red Cross hospital called a halt to 24-hour emergency service earlier in the year after gunmen killed four people who were being treated for gunshot wounds. Emergency service now ends at 10 p.m.

Paramedics in Ciudad Juárez temporarily stopped treating gunshot victims one day in August after receiving death threats over their emergency radios. They resumed ambulance service later the same day, but only after they were provided armed police escorts.

An episode that took place in the early morning hours of Oct. 5 in Tijuana shows the complicated new environment in which health care workers find themselves. After a major shootout, two wounded men were carried to Clínica Londres, a private health clinic that was closed for the night. There was a lone nurse inside the locked facility, tending to the patients there, and she initially did not open up to the small group of anxious people outside.

The nurse was not qualified to treat gunshot victims, and the clinic did not offer emergency care. But the crowd outside included two men dressed in law enforcement uniforms, who banged menacingly on the door.

Frightened of the men in uniform — criminals routinely wear police uniforms in Mexico — she eventually relented, she told authorities. What happened next is shrouded in confusion.

Tipped off, the army and the police arrived at the clinic and asked the nurse and two other employees who had since arrived if they were treating gunshot victims, and they were told no. Then, hearing a groan from another room, the authorities discovered the two wounded men — the men in uniform had already fled — and accused the health care workers and the group of people who arrived with the patients of having links to the drug traffickers.

The clinic workers, who have been detained for two months while authorities decide whether to charge them, deny that they did anything wrong. “It is not true that this is a narco-clinic,” said their lawyer, Rafael Flores Esquerro.

Another Tijuana doctor, Fernando Guzmán Cordero, has also found himself denying connections to traffickers. Dr. Guzmán, a prominent general surgeon, was kidnapped in April and suffered a bullet wound to his leg. But the kidnappers released him 36 hours later, even giving him cab fare home.

Then two weeks later, after another Tijuana shootout, a group of gunshot victims were taken to his clinic for treatment. In radio call-in shows and on Internet chat sites, local residents wondered whether the traffickers were now in cahoots with Dr. Guzmán, something he vehemently denied.

“People can say whatever they want,” he said. “They say I kidnapped myself or made a pact with them. They say a million things. I know who I am. Why would I get involved with criminals?”

The problem everyone in Tijuana faces, no matter their line of work, is that they might be associating with traffickers without even knowing it. Doctors say they now screen their patients carefully. Traffickers pay well and in cash, but they are not worth the trouble they bring, doctors say.

But hospitals do not have that luxury. “We’re not judges,” said Carolina Aubanel Riedel, whose family owns Hospital del Prado. “We treat those who arrive.”
30186  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: December 05, 2008, 12:15:42 PM
I strongly support self-defense laws and this article does not.  I post it because it reports on an important subject.

AP Enterprise: Deaths loom over self-defense laws

Friday, December 05, 2008
By SHELIA BYRD, Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. —
A convenience store clerk chased down a man and shot him dead over a case of beer this summer and was charged with murder. A week later, a clerk at another Jackson convenience store followed and fatally shot a man he said tried to rob him, and authorities let him go without charges.

Police say the robber in the second case was armed, while the man accused of stealing beer was not.

Just the same, the legal plights of the two clerks highlight the uncertain impact of National Rifle Association-backed laws sweeping the nation that make it easier to justify shooting in self-defense.

In 2006, Mississippi adopted its version of the so-called castle doctrine, which lifts requirements that individuals first try to flee before using deadly force to counter a threat in their homes, vehicles or, in Mississippi's case, at work.

Gun rights advocates who have helped pass the law in 23 states since 2003 say it removes an unfair legal penalty for people exercising a constitutional right in a life-or-death emergency, though some police and prosecutors are skeptical of self-defense claims under the law.
An Associated Press review found a growing number of cases but no clear trend yet in how the law is applied or how cases will be resolved in court.
All a defendant has to do is establish a threat, and usually the other witness is dead. That shifts the burden to prosecutors and police investigators, who have to gather evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that deadly force wasn't justified, according to a report released this summer by the National District Attorneys Association.

"It's very difficult to prove a negative," said Steven Jansen, president of the NDAA. "It might be a little too early to get the overall effect through the court process because we're just seeing the cases enter the court and finding out how the judges are going to rule."

Sarbrinder Pannu, the first clerk, alleged that James Hawthorne grabbed beer from a cooler and left without paying for it. Police Lt. Jeffery Scott said Pannu followed Hawthorne outside the store and shot him twice.
Surinder Singh, president of the Jackson Indian Storeowners Association and a spokesman for Pannu, said Mississippi's law gives you the right to protect your property.

"For them, it's a case of beer. For us, it's our property," Singh said. "That person didn't have respect for his life. He put his life against one case of beer."

Police and prosecutors disagreed and charged Pannu with murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Pannu has not entered a plea and has declined to be interviewed.

About a week after Hawthorne was killed, a clerk at another Jackson convenience store chased and fatally shot a clown mask-wearing robber outside the store after he stole cash from the register. The clerk wasn't charged.

Police didn't release the clerk's name because he wasn't charged. As with Hawthorne's shooting, the case will be presented to a grand jury, though police said the second clerk was justified because he felt a clear and present danger.

"The first thing about it is that you want to fairly apply the law," said Scott, who helped investigate both shootings and pointed out that the second robber was armed. "The problem is that there's an exception to every rule."

Castle doctrine laws drew national attention when Joe Horn of Pasadena, Texas, shot and killed two men in November 2007 after he saw them crawling out of the windows of a neighbor's house, carrying bags of the neighbor's possessions. Horn claimed the shooting was justified by Texas' law, and a grand jury declined to indict him.

Cases this year have included a man in San Antonio who shot and killed an intruder who climbed through his bedroom window and a Lexington, Ky., man who shot through his house's front door, killing a man who had been beating on it. No charges were filed in either case.

A woman in Missouri, which enacted its castle doctrine last year, could still face charges for shooting her former boyfriend after he came through the window of her home. A coroner's jury in Adair County ruled that Jackie Gleason committed a felony when she killed Rogelio Johnson in May.

Prosecutors said the jury might not have understood the law and have asked the state attorney general to review whether to file formal charges.
The law's rapid rollout across nearly half the nation is largely the result of lobbying by the NRA. Most of the state laws, including Mississippi's, are patterned after Florida's.

Michael Edmondson, who works in the state attorney's office in Palm Beach County, said castle-doctrine claims have increased since the law took effect three years ago.

"You would rarely see a case prior to the change of the statute here in Florida," Edmondson said. "I can recollect a half dozen cases in the last year or so. Some successful. Some not."

Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the NRA, dismissed concerns about the law being misused or misinterpreted, saying all cases are reviewed by law enforcement authorities.

The laws have become popular in a country that's grown increasingly anxious, said Mat Heck, prosecuting attorney for Montgomery County in Ohio, where a castle doctrine law went into effect in September.
"There really is a change in perception of public safety after 9/11," Heck said. "Citizens are just anxious. They fear attacks, not only from the terrorists abroad, but from residents here in our own country."
A lack of confidence in the justice system and the perception that defendants' rights overshadow victims' are other reasons cited in the NDAA report.

Heck said his state's law pertains to a person's home and car, and is only applied when someone has unlawfully entered.
"We tried to make it somewhat restrictive so it wasn't like the old wild, wild West," Heck said.

Pannu is free on $50,000 bond and has returned to work at the store, where jugs of candy clutter the cashier's counter and pictures of Pannu standing with $1,000 winners of scratch-off games are posted on the bulletproof barrier that separated him from Hawthorne on Aug. 17.
"The real debate is 'Can you kill a man for shoplifting?'" said Dennis Sweet, a Jackson attorney representing Hawthorne's family in a lawsuit against Pannu and A&H Food Mart.

"The guy was in his truck leaving," Sweet said. "He posed no danger."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
30187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 05, 2008, 12:07:59 PM
"There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises. To say that the United States should be answerable for twenty-five millions of dollars without knowing whether the ways and means can be provided, and without knowing whether those who are to succeed us will think with us on the subject, would be rash and unjustifiable. Sir, in my opinion, it would be hazarding the public faith in a manner contrary to every idea of prudence."

--James Madison, Speech in Congress, 22 April 1790


Friday Digest — Vol. 08 No. 49
5 December 2008

"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and virtue is preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders." --Samuel Adams

Stupid is as stupid does
By Mark Alexander

After the most recent presidential election, when, as you may recall, our once great nation exposed its collective flank -- unmitigated ignorance -- to the world, a reputable pollster, John Zogby, endeavored to determine how 66 million of us could be so profoundly stupid.

 We reported his findings in our "Non Compos Mentis" section two weeks ago, including, for example, that 56.1 percent of Obama supporters did not know his political career was launched by two former terrorists from the Weather Underground; that 57 percent did not know which political party controlled congress; that 72 percent did not know Joe Biden withdrew from a previous presidential campaign because of plagiarism in law school; and that 87 percent thought Sarah Palin said she could "see Russia from my house," even though that was "Saturday Night Live" comedian Tina Fey in a parody of Palin.

The Zogby polling was designed to determine how much influence the media had on shaping public opinion, and, thus, the outcome of the election. Of course, establishing that the political landscape would look very different if the media were neutral is filed under "keen sense of the obvious."

However, a report issued last week by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is more relevant to understanding why Barack Obama received so much support from those between 18 and 30 years of age -- support that put him over the top.

For the last two years, ISI has assessed the civil literacy of young people at American colleges and universities, testing both students and faculty. The civics test included a cross section of multiple-choice questions about our system of government, history and free enterprise -- questions to assess the knowledge that all Americans should possess in order to understand their civic responsibility and make informed decisions in matters such as elections.

More than 14,000 freshmen and seniors at 50 schools nationwide were given the 60-question exam. More than 50 percent of freshmen and 54 percent of seniors failed the test. (So they get dumber?)

This year, ISI went beyond the "institutions of higher learning" to assess civic literacy across demographic groups. The 2008 civics quiz asked similar questions to those asked to college and university students in previous years, but also included questions about civic participation and policy issues. The results were then subjected to multivariate regression analysis in order to determine if college and university graduates had a higher civic IQ than the rest of society.

As you might expect, 71 percent of Americans failed the test, with an average score of 49. Educators did not fare much better, scoring an average of 55 percent. As the researchers noted, "Fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government, a minimal requirement for understanding America's constitutional system."

College grads flunked, answering 57 percent of the questions correctly, compared to 44 percent for high school grads.

Less than 24 percent of those with college degrees knew that the First Amendment prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States. Further, only 54 percent can correctly identify the basic tenets of the free enterprise system.

Would you be shocked to know that elected officials have a lower civic IQ than the public they ostensibly serve? Indeed, these paragons of representative government answered just 44 percent of the questions correctly. Almost a third of elected officials could not identify "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as the inalienable rights in our Declaration of Independence.

Our Founders, those venerable Patriots who signed our Declaration of Independence and codified the liberty that is declared in our Constitution, understood that liberty could not long survive an epidemic of ignorance.

According to George Washington: "The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail."

John Adams wrote: "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers. ... Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties..."

Thomas Jefferson insisted: "Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. ... If a nation expects to be ignorant -- and free -- in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

James Madison agreed: "A people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. ... What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?"

Today, however, it would seem that ignorance is not only blissful but virtuous.
30188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 05, 2008, 11:54:20 AM
Much agreement with what Doug just said.

"the right saying government is for military, law and order and that's about it."

IF ONLY THIS WERE TRUE OF THE REPUBLICANS THESE PAST EIGHT YEARS!!  As Freki's post comments just now, the Republican Party is often the Patrician Party of the Pachyderms of Big Business.

There ARE people with the the Republican Party who can do this-- first and foremost IMHO is Newt Gingrich.  Unfortunately he allowed the Fred Thompson boomlet, which I suspect he was as appealing to the same constituencies as he would, to deter him from running.  Fred also can be an articulate advocate (see e.g. the URL of the clip of him I posted the other day on the Meltdown on , , , I think it was Political Rants) but by being a lazy fcuk during the campaign, he wasted the oportunity for Newt.

A busy day ahead of me.  This is all the comment I have time for at the moment.  I will close by commenting that if you want what I believe to be some rather good advocacy, then in this forum you have come to the right place  grin

Speaking of which, if we want to continue on this particular point, may I suggest that the Political Economics thread is where we do it?


30189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A poem on: December 05, 2008, 11:42:07 AM

 The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
 I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
 My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
 My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
 Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
 Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

 The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
 Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
 My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
 Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
 In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
 So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

 The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
 But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
 Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
 sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
 My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
 And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

 Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
 A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
 A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
 Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
 Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
 Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

 "What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
 "Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
 Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
 You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
 For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
 Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
 Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
 I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
 "It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
 That separates you from the darkest of times.

 No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
 I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
 My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
 Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
 My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
 And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

 I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
 But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
 Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
 The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
 I can live through the cold and the being alone,
 Away from my family, my house and my home.

 I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
 I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
 I can carry the weight of killing another,
 Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
 Who stand at the front against any and all,
 To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

 "  So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
 Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
 "But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
 "Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
 It seems all too little for all that you've done,
 For being away from your wife and your son."

 Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
 "Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
 To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
 To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
 For when we come home, either standing or dead,
 To know you remember we fought and we bled.
 Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
 That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

 PLEASE, would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many
 people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our
 U.S service men and women for our being able to celebrate these
 festivities. Let's try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people
 stop and think of our hero's, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.

  LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
 30th Naval Construction Regiment
 OIC, Logistics Cell One
 Al Taqqadum, Iraq
30190  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: December 05, 2008, 03:49:26 AM
Ese sitio de "" esta' tremendo!!!!!!!!!!!!

El original en ingles de lo siguiente viene abajo:

La Agenda geopolítica: El Estudiante de Venezuela Movimiento se Gira Su 4 de Motor diciembre, movimiento del estudiante de 2008 Venezuela devolvió en el engranaje el miércoles como líderes de estudiante anunciaron una sesión de dos días de la planificación. El jueves, los grupos de estudiante comenzarán resumiendo una campaña contra la tentativa de Presidente Hugo Chavez para eliminar límites presidenciales de término por un referéndum constitucional. Según el anuncio del miércoles, los estudiantes instigarán protestas significativas a través de Venezuela y lanzarán un esfuerzo nacional de la educación para dibujarle atención a lo que ellos ven como los peligros de la oferta de Chavez para la reelección indefinida.

La última vez el movimiento de estudiante encrespado a la parte delantera del panorama político de Venezuela estuvo en el período previo al diciembre 2007 referéndum constitucional, cuando este muy asunto — junto con docenas de otros — fue puesto a votantes. Los partidos de la oposición y organizaciones de estudiante dirigieron protestas masivas a través del país — y mucho a casi todos sorprenden, el referéndum falló, a pesar de popularidad alta de Chavez en aquel momento. Esto fue en parte un resultado de los esfuerzos de la oposición, pero de también quizás había estado debido a la complejidad del constitucional reescribe, que fue soltado para el examen público sólo días antes venezolanos votan.

Esta vez, el referéndum será más sencillo: Habrá sólo un asunto y un voto. Venezolanos han experimentado casi una década de la regla de Chavez, y ellos están bien enterados de lo que ellos podrían significar si ellos deciden abandonar límites de término.

Al mismo tiempo, las condiciones en Venezuela han cambiado mucho desde que el 2007 voto. El país está en el borde de crisis económica, como precios del crudo globales vacilan y los caminos difíciles del gobierno para cubrir sus gastos. Con su petición para una enmienda constitucional, que vino pronto después de noviembre. 23 estado y las elecciones municipales que debilitaron su asidero en regiones clave, Chavez probablemente espera asegurar el cambio en límites de término en los próximos pocos meses, antes los efectos de la crisis financiera comienzan sinceramente a picar. Y está en estos pocos meses que la oposición de estudiante tendrá que girar arriba una campaña nacional.

Tenemos duda pequeña que esto puede ser lograda. El movimiento del estudiante de Venezuela es organizado bastante y tiene lazos fuertes al Centro para Acción y Estrategias no Violentas Aplicadas (anteriormente el movimiento de estudiante Otpor, que fue instrumental en la expulsión de yugoslavo Presidente Slobodan Milosevic en 2000). Los estudiantes venezolanos son organizados por una web interconectada que mantiene la capacidad para la coordinación logística al evitar la necesidad para un centro vulnerable de líderes prominentes.

A pesar de choques violentos con autoridades venezolanas, los estudiantes han estado relativamente bajo en el último año, con acontecimientos de oposición limitó principalmente a campus. La mayoría del recientemente, el estudiante agrupa demostraciones preparadas para favorecer votar en el noviembre. 23 elecciones. En esencia, ellos han estado reservando su fuerza por un día cuando hay apoyo bastante potencial de montar un desafío verdadero a Chavez. El referéndum próximo presenta oportunidad justo tal.

El objetivo, por supuesto, será de recuperarse suficiente apoyo para derrotar el referéndum y presentar un desafío definitivo a Chavez. Esto pondrá los grupos de estudiante directamente en el sendero de un presidente cada vez más agitado, y del potencial para choques violentos entre fuerzas de gobierno y protestadores sería alto. Aún más peligroso es el potencial para choques armados entre líderes de estudiante y chavistas equipó con rifles automáticos.

Aunque el asunto en mano será decidido en el día del referéndum (que tiene mas ser planificado), el peligro verdadero asoma en los meses venideros, como cayéndose rentas esfuerzan la capacidad del gobierno para sostener el gasto social. Dada la serie ancha de servicios que el gobierno venezolano proporciona, gastando reducciones podrían ser sentían en maneras dolorosas por el público — como gasolina más cara o, en el guión de peor-caso, escaseces aumentadas de alimento.

Vigorizando sus esfuerzos públicos ahora, dificultades antes económicas son más sentía intensamente, los estudiantes han dado a sí mismo en esencia un comienzo corriente. Ellos tienen los medios de la organización necesarios para desafiar Chavez; ahora todo ellos necesitan es apoyo público. La combinación de la campaña de referéndum más problemas económicos inminentes podría dar movimiento del estudiante de Venezuela justo lo que busca.

Geopolitical Diary: Venezuela's Student Movement Revs Its Engine
December 4, 2008
Venezuela’s student movement kicked back into gear Wednesday as student leaders announced a two-day planning session. On Thursday, the student groups will start outlining a campaign against President Hugo Chavez’s attempt to eliminate presidential term limits through a constitutional referendum. According to Wednesday’s announcement, the students will instigate significant protests throughout Venezuela and launch a national education effort to draw attention to what they see as the dangers of Chavez’s bid for indefinite re-election.

The last time the student movement surged to the forefront of Venezuela’s political scene was in the lead-up to the December 2007 constitutional referendum, when this very issue — along with dozens of others — was put to voters. The opposition parties and student organizations led massive protests across the country — and much to nearly everyone’s surprise, the referendum failed, despite Chavez’s high popularity at the time. This was partly a result of the opposition’s efforts, but it also might have been due to the complexity of the constitutional rewrite, which was released for public perusal only days before Venezuelans cast their votes.

This time, the referendum will be simpler: There will be only one issue and one vote. Venezuelans have experienced nearly a decade of Chavez’s rule, and they are well aware of what they it could mean if they decide to scrap term limits.

At the same time, conditions in Venezuela have changed a great deal since the 2007 vote. The country is on the brink of economic crisis, as global oil prices falter and the government scrambles to cover its expenses. With his request for a constitutional amendment, which came soon after Nov. 23 state and municipal elections that weakened his hold in key regions, Chavez probably hopes to secure the change on term limits in the next few months, before the effects of the financial crisis truly begin to sting. And it is in these few months that the student opposition will have to spin up a national campaign.

We have little doubt that this can be accomplished. Venezuela’s student movement is quite organized and has strong links to the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (formerly the student movement Otpor, which was instrumental in Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s ouster in 2000). The Venezuelan students are organized through an interconnected web that maintains the capacity for logistical coordination while avoiding the need for a vulnerable core of high-profile leaders.

Despite violent clashes with Venezuelan authorities, the students have lain relatively low over the past year, with opposition events limited mainly to campuses. Most recently, the student groups staged demonstrations to encourage voting in the Nov. 23 elections. In essence, they have been reserving their strength for a day when there is enough potential support to mount a true challenge to Chavez. The upcoming referendum presents just such an opportunity.

The goal, of course, will be to rally enough support to defeat the referendum and present a definitive challenge to Chavez. This will put the student groups directly in the path of an increasingly agitated president, and the potential for violent clashes between government forces and protesters would be high. Even more dangerous is the potential for armed clashes between student leaders and chavistas equipped with automatic rifles.

Although the issue at hand will be decided on the day of the referendum (which has yet to be scheduled), the real danger looms in the coming months, as falling revenues strain the government’s ability to sustain social spending. Given the wide array of services the Venezuelan government provides, spending cutbacks could be felt in painful ways by the public — such as more expensive gasoline or, in the worst-case scenario, increased food shortages.

By reinvigorating their public efforts now, before economic hardships are more keenly felt, the students have given themselves essentially a running start. They have the organizational wherewithal necessary to challenge Chavez; now all they need is public support. The combination of the referendum campaign plus looming economic troubles could give Venezuela’s student movement just what it is looking for.
30191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 04, 2008, 08:13:31 PM
"I am really attracted to BO's analytic approach."

His temperament/disposition seem quite good.

"I personally like the idea of dealing with our country's problems by getting all the ideas on the table and finding the best course of action."

And this is exactly what worries me.  It is simply another variation of "the best and the brightest" approach that has been tried before and left disasters in its wake.  There ARE certain Facts of Life that governmental edict cannot fcuk with.  It cannot repeal the law of gravity and it cannot repeal the law of supply and demand (e.g. taxes and regulations on productivity) or repeal certain Darwinian realities.  Ultimately it is Hayek's "fatal conceit" that the best and the birghtest are better than the Invisible Hand of the Tao (a.k.a. "the Market")

"BO learns all points of view and then tries to find something that connects the dots."   

And this too concerns me.  I worry that the man's gift for glibness leaves him deluding himself as much as it does others into believing that all conflict can be finessed.   It is no accident that this thread's name includes the term "cognitive dissonance"  evil cheesy  I hope he is not our next Jimmy Carter.

30192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Too fat to fight on: December 04, 2008, 06:25:26 PM
German soldiers deemed 'too fat to fight'
Thomas Coghlan in Kabul
First they were accused of not wanting to fight. Then they were blamed for failing in their main mission to train the Afghan police.

Now Germany’s battered military reputation has received a further humiliating blow. According to official reports the 3,500 troops in northern Afghanistan drink too much and are too fat to fight.

A German parliamentary report has revealed that in 2007 German forces in Afghanistan consumed about 1.7 million pints of beer and 90,000 bottles of wine. During the first six months of this year 896,000 pints of beer were shipped to German forces in Afghanistan. British and US bases in the country enforce a strict ban on alcohol.

The physical condition of the soldiers was already in question after a German armed forces report found that 40 per cent of its soldiers aged 18-29 were overweight, compared to 35 per cent of the civilian population of the same age.

The report, published in March, concluded that the Bundeswehr lived on beer and sausages while shunning fruit and vegetables. It said that an overdeveloped bureaucracy was also contributing to a “passive lifestyle” on the part of the soldiers.

Reinhold Robbe, the parliamentary commissioner for the German armed forces, concluded: “Plainly put, the soldiers are too fat, exercise too little and take little care of their diet.”

“Yes, it is true, the German soldiers in Kunduz are allowed to drink two cans of beer per day,” Lieutenant-Colonel Rainer Zaude, a spokesman for the forces, confirmed.

Even more damning is the allegation from a senior officer that Germany is failing in its main mission to train the Afghan police. General Hans-Christoph Ammon, the commander of the special commando unit, the KSK, described the efforts as “a miserable failure”.

The Government is also reported to have banned any reference to Krieg (war), in press statements on Afghanistan. Caveats imposed by the German Government limit the forces to operations in the relatively passive north.

Twenty-eight German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, including two in a suicide bomb attack in Kunduz province last month.

The Germans in Afghanistan

German Tornado aircraft are limited to unarmed reconaissance.  German Medevac helicopters have to be back at base by dusk. 
German forces limited to the northern areas of the country where there is a lower level of fighting (though the level of fighting there is now beginning to change)

US forces have been very frustrated by the caution of German rules of engagement - German troops operating alongside US forces have refused to open fire on occasion for fear of causing civilian casualties.

A trial is currently underway in the German courts following an incident in which German soldiers opened fire on a car that approached a checkpoint believing it contained a suicide bomb - several civilians died in the incident.

AP: Officers outgunned and underfinanced compared with insurgents
The Associated Press
updated 4:06 p.m. MT, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2008

BADABER, Pakistan - Brothers Mushtaq and Ishaq Ali left the police force a month ago, terrified of dying as their colleagues had — beheaded by militants on a rutted village road before a shocked crowd.  They went straight to the local Urdu-language newspaper to announce their resignation. They were too poor to pay for a personal ad, so the editor of The Daily Moon, Rasheed Iqbal, published a news story instead. He has run dozens like it.

"They just want to get the word out to the Taliban that they are not with the police anymore so they won't kill them," said Iqbal. "They know that no one can protect them, and especially not their fellow policemen."

Outgunned and out-financed, police in volatile northwestern Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against insurgents, dozens of interviews by The Associated Press show. They are dying in large numbers, and many survivors are leaving the force.  The number of terrorist attacks against police has gone up from 113 in 2005 to 1,820 last year, according to National Police Bureau. The death toll for policemen in that time increased from nine to 575. In the northwestern area alone, 127 policemen have died so far this year in suicide bombings and assassinations, and another 260 have been wounded.

The crisis means the police cannot do the nuts-and-bolts work needed to stave off an insurgency fueled by the Taliban and al-Qaida. While the military can pound mountain hideouts, analysts and local officials say it is the police who should hunt down insurgents, win over the people and restore order.

"The only way to save Pakistan is to think of extremism and insurgency in North West Frontier Province as a law-enforcement issue," said Hassan Abbas, a South Asia expert at Harvard University's Belfer Center Project for Science. "Rather than buying more F-16s, Pakistan should invest in modernizing its police."

Bombings, beheadings commonplace

In the Swat Valley, militants have turned a once-idyllic mountain getaway into a nightmare of bombings and beheadings despite a six-month military operation to root them out. About 300 policemen have fled the force already. On a recent evening in Mardan, Akhtar Ali Shah had just slipped out of his deputy police inspector's uniform to head home. In an escort vehicle, a half-dozen of his guards had inched outside the giant white gates of the police station for a routine security check.

The bomb exploded minutes later. Through a cloud of dust and dirt, Shah saw five of his six guards lying dead near the blood-smeared gate. The head of the suicide bomber rested nearby.

"We are the ones who are getting killed by the terrorists that we are facing," Shah said later.

Al-Qaida-linked militants ferry truckloads of explosives from the tribal regions through Mardan to targets deep within Pakistan, often slipping past scores of police checkpoints. But Shah said his men lack the technical expertise, training or equipment to hunt down big-name terrorists or even identify would-be suicide bombers.  His voice laced with frustration, Shah held up his small black cell phone.

"These people are among us. Look here: Our technical capabilities are so weak that we don't even have the ability to listen or to trace these phone calls," he said. "How are we supposed to know who it is that is coming here to kill us and when?"

Surviving on $80 a month

Most of Pakistan's 383,000 police are poorly paid constables. Malik Naveed Khan, who heads the force of 55,000 in the North West Frontier Province, said he has one policeman for every 364 miles of some of the most dangerous terrain in the world.

"Insurgents can see when I go someplace and wait for me to return and kill me," he said. "It isn't my own death that I fear, but every time there is an attack, it demoralizes the whole police force."

Khan said his men fight with World War II-vintage, single-shot weapons against the rapid-fire Kalashnikov rifles carried by the militants. The police go out on patrol without bulletproof vests or helmets. And of Khan's 18 armored personnel carriers, six are 1960s-era Soviet models that break down so often he now sends a mechanic along with the police.

A Pakistani constable makes about $80 a month, compared with about $170 for a Taliban foot soldier, Khan said.  Even in death, militants do better than the Pakistani police. Militant groups pay more than $20,000 to the families of suicide bombers, compared with $6,000 given to a policeman's survivor, Khan said.

"Where is their money coming from?" he asked.

He said he believes a lot of it comes from the flourishing opium trade next door in Afghanistan, donations from devout Muslims and extortion of wealthy Muslims in the Middle East.

Lack of money, resources

Most police stations in Pakistan don't even have cameras to photograph the crime scene or criminals. There were two functioning forensic laboratories in Pakistan in 2001, and since then four more have been approved — a start, but far short of the 50 or so police say they need. Khan said Pakistani police also lack enough explosives-sniffing dogs to check the truckloads coming from the tribal region.  The Pakistani government recognizes the need to train, develop and equip local police, said Sherry Rahman, information minister. But she added that Pakistan has little money for such investment and needs help from the international community.

Most U.S. aid to Pakistan goes to the military, not the police. Washington gave $731 million for military spending last year and $862 million the year before, according to a September report issued by the Pakistan Policy Working Group, an independent, nonpartisan group. By contrast, the U.S. gave $4.9 million for law enforcement and the judicial system last year.  The crisis among the police is also hobbling the courts, said Imtiaz, a deputy jail superintendent who wanted to use only one name because he feared reprisals from militants and his bosses.  Interviewed at a central jail in northwest Pakistan, the jailer said he has been threatened repeatedly by militants who found his phone number. Late-night calls warn him to treat jailed insurgents with a kind hand.  He told of an insurgent caught by police and imprisoned for an attack on a girls' school. At the only anti-terrorist court in town, the judge — who had also been threatened — heard the case, listened to the militant's confession and then acquitted him, Imtiaz said.

"No one believes the police can protect them," Imtiaz said with a laugh. "I am part of the police, and I know they can't protect me."

Fighting back

The police are trying to fight back with citizen councils and the beginnings of an elite force of 7,500 men who will be given good salaries and trained in investigative skills, profiling and weaponry training, said Khan, the provincial police chief. The first 2,000 men are being trained.  About a half-dozen civilian forces, fashioned along the lines of Iraq's Awakening Councils, have also been enticed into taking up arms against the militants in return for more development. Some of the councils, which call themselves Peace Committees, number more than 300 villagers.

"The people of this area have learned as children how to fire a rifle, how to handle a gun," Khan said. "Everyone has a gun, whether licensed or unlicensed. They don't need to be shown how to use them."

In Badaber, a dusty village barely six miles from the provincial capital of Peshawar, a civilian force patrols the streets at night. Abdul Hafeez, who runs a gas station in Badaber, said even government or army trucks must now get permission from villagers blocking the road to pass at night.
The job of the patrols, he said, is to keep out the militants, the military — and the police.  Hafeez said he had told the police a day in advance about rumors that militants were planning to blow up an electrical tower in Badaber. The next day, they did. The police did nothing.

"No, no, no — no one will go to the police," he said. "The police can't do anything. They can't stop these Taliban even when they know they are going to attack."


30193  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 04, 2008, 05:59:55 PM
Citizen helps LEO during shooter situation
30194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: December 04, 2008, 03:26:28 PM

Please post WHY you are posting a URL.

Thank you,
30195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 04, 2008, 03:25:27 PM
Reposting SB Mig's post on the Books thread:

The Trouble With Thomas Jefferson
The eloquent Founder's original sin

Damon W. Root | January 2009 Print Edition

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 800 pages, $35

In 1775 the English essayist and lexicographer Samuel Johnson wrote a spirited political pamphlet titled Taxation No Tyranny. His subject was the loud and increasingly aggressive rhetoric coming from the American colonies, where criticism of British economic policy was giving way to calls for popular revolution. “How is it,” Johnson retorted, “that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

It’s still a good question. Perhaps no one illustrates the paradox better than Thomas Jefferson. The celebrated author of the Declaration of Independence, which famously declares that “all men are created equal” and are born with the inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Jefferson was also a slaveholder, a man whose livelihood was rooted in the subjugation of hundreds of human beings, including members of his wife’s family and his own.

At the center of Jefferson’s tangled, frequently horrifying web of blood and bondage were two women: Elizabeth Hemings and her daughter Sarah, better known as Sally. Elizabeth, the daughter of an African slave and an English sea captain, was the slave mistress of a Virginia slave owner and broker named John Wayles. Sally Hemings was the youngest of their six children. Wayles also had children from his three marriages, including a daughter named Martha. Sally Hemings, in other words, was Martha Wayles’ half-sister. At her father’s death in 1773, Martha inherited his human property, including Elizabeth and Sally Hemings. In 1772 Martha married Thomas Jefferson. Thus the Hemingses came to Monticello.

In 1782 Martha died from complications after giving birth to her sixth child with Jefferson. Among those with him at her deathbed were Elizabeth and Sally Hemings, who then was 9 years old. Edmund Bacon, one of Jefferson’s overseers at Monticello, reported that as Martha lay dying she asked her husband not to remarry. “Holding her hand, Mr. Jefferson promised her solemnly that he would never marry again,” Bacon recalled. “And he never did.”

That doesn’t mean Jefferson became celibate. In 1789, while serving as U.S. envoy in Paris, he almost certainly began a four-decade-long relationship with his late wife’s half-sister. (In addition to the oral testimony of numerous Hemings family members, the evidence for their relationship includes DNA tests conducted in 1998 establishing that a Jefferson family male fathered Sally Hemings’ son Eston.) At this point Sally Hemings was 16.

It was an affair the historian Edmund S. Morgan has called a “monogamous spousal relationship.” In her extraordinary new book The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history at Rutgers University and a professor of law at New York Law School, uses a more specific term: concubine, which Virginia law defined at the time as a woman living with a man who was not her husband. If Sally Hemings were white, we might describe her relationship with Jefferson as a common-law marriage. But as Gordon-Reed reminds us, “Any black woman who lived with a white man could only have been his concubine. It was legally impossible to be anything else.”

This relationship apparently lasted until Jefferson’s death in 1826, by which time Hemings had given birth to seven of his children, four of whom survived into adulthood. In his will, Jefferson formally emancipated two of them, James Madison Hemings and Thomas Eston Hemings. The other two, William Beverly Hemings and Harriet Hemings, simply left Monticello on their own in the early 1820s to live—“pass”—as white. (All three males, it’s worth noting, were named after men Jefferson knew or admired, a common practice among Virginia’s planter elites.) Eight years after Jefferson’s death, his daughter Martha Randolph quietly freed Sally Hemings, who was then 53 years old. Why didn’t Jefferson emancipate her too? “Formally freeing Hemings,” Gordon-Reed observes, “while also emancipating two people obviously young enough to be their children, would have told the story of his life over the past thirty-eight years quite well.”

Among the many achievements of Gordon-Reed’s compelling, if slightly repetitive, book is her vivid illumination of these previously hidden lives. She persuasively argues that Hemings exacted a promise from Jefferson that proved no less momentous than the one he had granted his dying wife. In essence, 16-year-old Hemings, who was pregnant with Jefferson’s child and working as his domestic “servant” in Paris, chose to return to America with him, rather than remain in France, where she could have formally received her freedom. (By law any slave that set foot on French soil was automatically free.) She did so because Jefferson promised to emancipate her children when they became adults—a promise he kept. In exchange, she lived as his concubine. “Like other enslaved people when the all too rare chance presented itself,” Gordon-Reed writes, “Hemings seized her moment and used the knowledge of her rights to make a decision based upon what she thought was best for her as a woman, family member, and a potential mother in her specific circumstances.”

Jefferson apparently cared for Sally Hemings and their children, and he clearly treated members of her family (some of who were also his deceased wife’s family) with much consideration. Elizabeth Hemings, for instance, became something of a revered matriarch. Her sons Robert and James (brothers to Sally Hemings and Martha Jefferson) received instruction in the skilled trades of barbering and cooking, respectively.

Both were permitted to work for private wages, and both enjoyed relative freedom of movement outside of Monticello—so long as they came running at their master’s command, of course. “Despite their status on the law books,” Gordon-Reed writes, “Jefferson treated them, to a degree, as if they were lower-class white males.” Eventually, Jefferson freed them both.

But let’s not draw too rosy a picture. As part of the marriage settlement for his sister Anna, Jefferson handed over the slave Nancy Hemings (another of Elizabeth Hemings’ offspring, though not by John Wayles) and her two children. When Anna’s husband decided to sell these three slaves, Nancy Hemings implored Jefferson to buy them back so they could remain together as a family. Jefferson bought Nancy, an expert weaver, and her young daughter, but refused to buy her son. The family was split apart. “No matter how ‘close’ the Hemingses were to Jefferson, no matter that he viewed some of them in a different light and did not subject them to certain hardships,” Gordon-Reed writes, “their family remained a commodity that could be sold or exchanged at his will.”

Which brings us back to Samuel Johnson and his quip about slaveholders yelping for liberty. Does the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves—probably including his own children—negate the wonderful things he wrote about inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence? To put it another way, why should anyone listen to what Master Jefferson (or other slaveholding Founders) had to say about liberty and equality?

It’s important to remember that the idea of inalienable rights didn’t start or stop in the year 1776. The historian Gordon S. Wood, in his superb 1991 book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, argues that “to focus, as we are apt to do, on what the Revolution did not accomplish—highlighting and lamenting its failure to abolish slavery and change fundamentally the lot of women—is to miss the great significance of what it did accomplish.” In Wood’s view, by destroying monarchical rule and replacing it with republicanism, the American revolutionaries “made possible the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements of the nineteenth century and in fact all our current egalitarian thinking.” They upended “their societies as well as their governments…only they did not know—they could scarcely have imagined—how much of their society they would change.”

As evidence, consider two very different figures whose lives intersected with slavery in the 19th century: the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the pro-slavery politician John C. Calhoun. An escaped slave and self-taught author and orator, Douglass understood better than most just how potent the Declaration’s promise of inalienable rights could be. “Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body?” Douglass would demand of his mostly white audiences. “There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.”

Calhoun, by contrast, believed the Declaration’s assertion that “all men are created equal” was “the most dangerous of all political error.” As he put it in an 1848 speech, “For a long time it lay dormant; but in the process of time it began to germinate, and produce its poisonous fruits.” This false notion of equality, Calhoun continued, “had strong hold on the mind of Mr. Jefferson…which caused him to take an utterly false view of the subordinate relation of the black to the white race in the South; and to hold, in consequence, that the former, though utterly unqualified to possess liberty, were as fully entitled to both liberty and equality as the latter.”

Think about what Calhoun is saying here. The idea that “all men are created equal” has slowly developed in the American consciousness, producing the “poisonous fruits” of the anti-slavery movement. Jefferson may or may not have intended such an outcome; he certainly did little actively to bring it about, though he did denounce slavery and its brutalizing impact on white society. But the libertarian ideas that inspired Jefferson, the ones coursing through the Declaration of Independence and later through the Constitution, nonetheless did bring it about. Douglass welcomed that result; Calhoun despised it.

That’s why Jefferson’s words matter. In spite of his despicable actions, he gave eloquent and resounding voice to the ideas that have been at the forefront of human liberty for hundreds of years. That members of the Hemings family may have heard such rhetoric while they lived in bondage further highlights the tragedy of their terrible situation. Thanks to Annette Gordon-Reed, these forgotten and silent individuals at least have the opportunity to register their own verdicts on this shameful period.

Damon W. Root is an associate editor of reason.
30196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From a friend in Iraq on: December 04, 2008, 12:17:04 PM
You know you are in Baghdad when the sign on the back of your hotel room door not only tells you what to do in event of a  fire, but also tells you what to do in event of:

·         Indirect fire attack

·         Small arms attack

·         VBIED attack

30197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 04, 2008, 11:54:35 AM
Laughing All the Way to the Senate

The Minnesota Senate recount is starting to resemble a "Saturday Night Live" skit that could have been part of Democratic candidate Al Franken's repertoire as a comedian.

This week, Ramsey County elections officials found an additional 171 ballots that hadn't been counted on election night. It turns out a broken voting machine had been replaced, but voters who used the first machine never had their ballots recounted. Mr. Franken picked up 37 votes from that error, but promptly lost 36 votes the next day after neighboring Hennepin County found that 133 votes in one precinct had been counted twice. Minneapolis elections director Cindy Reichert said she believes the error occurred when election judges at the precinct on election night mistakenly ran ballots with write-in candidates through a counting machine a second time. "There are human errors that are made on Election Day," she deadpanned.

Meanwhile, the recount in Minnesota's other 85 counties grinds on. With 93% of votes recounted, Mr. Franken's lawyers claimed yesterday they were now 22 votes ahead -- the first time their man has taken the lead from GOP incumbent Norm Coleman. The Coleman campaign promptly fired back with a press release puckishly claiming they were some 2,200 votes ahead. The Minneapolis Star Tribune's scoreboard right now has a Coleman lead of some 303 votes.

But the final outcome is likely to hinge on just how many of the 12,000 absentee ballots that were rejected for various reasons will ultimately be counted. In some cases, voters failed to follow instructions on the ballot. In some cases, they were submitted by people who had never registered to vote. The Franken campaign insists some 1,000 of the rejected ballots represent valid votes and vows to go to court to make sure the ballots are counted. The dispute may ultimately have to be resolved by the U.S. Senate itself, which has been known in the past to keep seats vacant while it conducts its own investigation.

"I have no doubt in my mind that Al Franken got more votes in this election than Norm Coleman," says Franken attorney Mark Elias. "I don't know what that margin's going to be. But the direction is all in one place, and we believe that's going to continue."

In other words, the Franken campaign is bound and determined to keep counting votes until their man is ahead -- and only then will it be time to stop counting lest the next batch of uncounted votes turn out to favor Mr. Coleman. It's an approach that certainly deserves a laugh, but hardly the way an important election should be resolved.

-- John Fund

The Rangel Time Bomb

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has two ethical time bombs on her hands. She'd be smart to defuse them quickly before they interfere with executing the Obama agenda.

One big headache for Ms. Pelosi is New York Democrat Charlie Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who faces multiple tax and regulatory scandals involving his many residential properties. Last week the New York Times also raised serious questions about Mr. Rangel's promotion of a tax loophole that benefited a major donor to a library to be named after him. Both the Washington Post and New York Times have editorialized for Mr. Rangel to step down, but Ms. Pelosi is apparently having none of it. "She told me I am her chairman of the Ways and Means Committee as long as I want to be," Mr. Rangel told reporters at a Harlem ribbon-cutting yesterday.

She may be sticking with Mr. Rangel because she has no stomach for the succession fight that would come. The next ranking Democrat on the important tax-writing committee is California Rep. Pete Stark, whose greatest hits include accusing GOP lawmakers of sending troops in Iraq to die "for the president's amusement." As an unnamed lobbyist told Congress Daily, the business community "would go nuclear" and Republicans would "have a field day" if the gaffe-prone left-winger Mr. Stark were to seek the chairmanship.

No less uncertain has been Mrs. Pelosi's trumpet on the Democrats' other nagging ethical liability, namely Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, who gained unwelcome notoriety when an FBI raid found $90,000 in cash in his home freezer. He was indicted last year on 16 criminal corruption charges and will soon face trial.

Two scandals might be unfortunate, but a third, if it crops up, could seriously undermine Ms. Pelosi's ambitious agenda. Recall how GOP House leadership passivity amid a succession of ethical lapses finally gobbled up the GOP's political capital in the eyes of voters. Lest the names be forgotten, the hall of ignominy includes Rep. Randy Duke's conviction on corruption charges, Rep. Bob Ney's criminal entanglement with lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Mark Foley's salacious emails with House pages.

Lesson: These things build slowly but tend to overwhelm party leaders who don't act soon enough. Ms. Pelosi has been warned.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day I

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway. In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol" -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in remarks yesterday welcoming the new, air-conditioned Capitol Visitors Center.

Quote of the Day II

"Republicans were happy to make [Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff] a referendum on Obama; [GOP Senator Saxby] Chambliss consistently warned Georgians of giving the president-elect a 'blank check' in Washington. But can [Democratic challenger Jim] Martin's loss really be seen as a repudiation of Obama, given that he'd already lost the state by 5 percentage points? And what about the 'short coattail' theory -- that without Obama at the top of the ticket in 2010, lots of Democrats are going to be vulnerable? In preparation for this line of attack, House Democratic strategists are already making sure to point out the significant number of House candidates who overperformed Obama's showing in their districts this November, arguing that his effect on downballot races has consistently been overstated. The theory: House Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 without Obama on the ticket and can do just fine on their own in 2010, thank you very much" -- Hotline editor Amy Walter.

The Obama-Gore Consensus

Barack Obama's great virtue is his ability to behave like a cynical politician without getting a reputation as a cynical politician.

The latest example is his left-pleasing promise during the campaign for a windfall oil tax, now quietly removed from his transition web site. Explained an aide, the tax was all along meant to apply only if oil prices are over $80 a barrel. "They are below that now and expected to stay below that."

Mr. Obama here makes a choice in favor of good economic policy. But there's something else going on. He's a student of the late radical thinker Saul Alinsky, who argued that you do or say what's necessary in a democracy to gain power, while keeping your true aims to yourself. Mr. Obama's novel contribution has been to turn this exploitation on his supporters on the left (who admittedly are so wedded to their hero that, so far, they don't seem to mind).

His next big challenge is an upcoming conference updating the Kyoto targets. Mr. Obama has not backed off his overwrought climate rhetoric, but listen carefully to Al Gore. Now that Democrats are on the verge of power, he's backing off cap-and-trade and carbon tax proposals (i.e. visible energy price hikes for consumers) in favor of a new approach, massive government subsidies for "green technology."

Two fans, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaustell, co-founders of the Breakthrough Institute, write approvingly of what they call Mr. Gore's highly "significant shift." "He knows that cap-and-trade, and most any new regulation, would raise energy prices -- a political nonstarter during a recession."

Uh huh. Mr. Gore, when he's close to power, always drops the politically unpopular medicine his climate views would seem to necessitate. When he ran for president, he tried to lower gasoline prices by opening up the petroleum reserve. There was no recession at the time.

But the former veep is perfectly in sync with Mr. Obama. Energy taxes popular with the left but unpopular with voters will soon be off the table to preserve his second term hopes. But that doesn't mean an end to "climate policy, " which can still be used to foster a network of trade groups willing to kick back some of their taxpayer subsidies to maintain Democrats in power. This will do nothing for climate change (and indeed nothing proposed or entertained in Washington would make a difference to climate). But it will help cement Democratic ascendancy over Washington's iron triangle of interest groups, politicians and the bureaucracy.

Indeed, Mr. Gore, as an investor and promoter of several green energy funds himself, is a walking conflict of interest here -- one whose bogus credibility Mr. Obama will happily make use of. Alinsky would be proud.
30198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: December 04, 2008, 11:13:36 AM
New Products Bring Side Effect: Nanophobia

Published: December 3, 2008
IT sounds like a plot straight out of a science-fiction novel by Michael Crichton. Toiletry companies formulate new cutting-edge creams and lotions that contain tiny components designed to work more effectively. But those minuscule building blocks have an unexpected drawback: the ability to penetrate the skin, swarm through the body and overwhelm organs like the liver.

Humans have long lived in dread of such nightmare scenarios in which swarms of creatures attack. Alfred Hitchcock envisioned menacing flocks in “The Birds.” In the 1990 film “Arachnophobia” a killer spider arrives in the United States, where it attacks and multiplies.

And now comes nanophobia, the fear that tiny components engineered on the nanoscale — that is, 100 nanometers or less — could run amok inside the body. A human hair, for example, is 50,000 to 100,000 nanometers in diameter. A nanoparticle of titanium dioxide in a sunscreen could be as small as 15 nanometers. (One nanometer equals a billionth of a meter.)

“The smaller a particle, the further it can travel through tissue, along airways or in blood vessels,” said Dr. Adnan Nasir, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Especially if the nanoparticles are indestructible and accumulate and are not metabolized, if you accumulate them in the organs, the organs could fail.”

Indeed, some doctors, scientists and consumer advocates are concerned that many industries are adopting nanotechnology ahead of studies that would establish whether regular ingestion, inhalation or dermal penetration of these particles constitute a health or environmental hazard. Personal care products are simply the lowest hanging fruit.

But people are already exposed to nanoparticles. Stoves and toaster ovens emit ultrafine particles of 2 to 30 nanometers, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology; the researchers reported last month that long-term contact with such appliances could constitute a large exposure to the smallest of nanoparticles.

Several products already use nano-engineered materials. There are “nano pants,” stain-resistant chinos and jeans whose fabric contain nano-sized whiskers that repel oil and dirt, and nanocycles made from carbon nanotubes that are stronger and lighter than standard steel bicycles. And in lotions and creams, the use of nanocomponents may create a more cosmetically elegant effect — like uniformity or spreadability.

Some ingredients may behave differently as nanoparticles than they do in larger forms. Nano-sized silver, for example, can act as an antibacterial agent on the skin. Larger particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide result in white pasty sunscreens; but as nanoparticles, they appear more transparent.

When it comes to beauty products, however, some consumer advocates are concerned that dynamic nanoparticles could pose risks to the skin or, if they penetrate the skin, to other parts of the body. Mineral sunscreens have attracted the most attention.

“Substances that are perfectly benign could be toxic at the nano scale,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, the company behind Consumer Reports. “Because they are so small, they could go places in the body that could not be done before.”

This month, the magazine published a study it had commissioned that found mineral nanoparticles in five sunscreens, even though four of the companies had denied using them. In October, Dr. Hansen sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, asking the agency to require cosmetics and sunscreen manufacturers to run safety tests on nano scale ingredients. In the letter, he cited a few studies published in scientific journals that reported that exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide caused damage to the organs of laboratory animals and human cell cultures.

But cosmetics industry representatives said there was no evidence that personal care products that contain nano-size components constitute a health hazard. Furthermore, no rigorous clinical trials have been published showing that cosmetics with nanocomponents caused health problems. A review of the potential risks of nanomaterials, carried out for the European Center for Toxicology in 2006, concluded that sunscreens with metal nanoparticles were unlikely to penetrate healthy skin, but it did raise the question of whether safety studies should examine if such materials may penetrate damaged skin.

“It’s very difficult to get anything through the skin,” said John Bailey, the executive vice president for science of the Personal Care Products Council, an industry trade group in Washington. “The skin is a very effective barrier.”

Indeed, some nanotechnology researchers said it was illogical to assume that a nano-size component inherently carries greater risk than a larger component. Furthermore, some say cosmetics may contain molecules like a silicone fluid called cyclopentasiloxane that are even smaller than nanomaterials.

New Products Bring Side Effect: Nanophobia
(Page 2 of 2)

“I think it’s a double standard because nanoparticles are less likely to go through the skin than solutions where you are using single molecules,” said Robert S. Langer, a chemical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He is developing nanoparticles for the targeted delivery of cancer medications, and is a founder of Living Proof, a cosmetics company that makes hair products. “The molecules in a cream are certainly going to be smaller than a nanoparticle.”

The Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to list the format of ingredients on labels. The agency does require cosmetics manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe for use; in 2006, the agency created its own task force to investigate the safety of engineered nanomaterials.

Ken Marenus, the senior vice president of regulatory affairs worldwide at the Estée Lauder companies, said nanomaterials had to undergo the same kind of assessment for exposure, risk and dosage levels as any other cosmetic component. “The same toxicological standards for every chemical will apply to nano,” he said.

Dr. Bailey of the Personal Care Products Council estimated that several thousand sunscreens and cosmetics currently use some kind of nanoscale component.

Cor soap, for example, uses 50-nanometer particles of silver combined with silica that are smaller than the size of a skin pore. The material is designed to enter the pores and kill bacteria.

“The silver suffocates the bacteria and then you rinse it off with water,” said Jennifer McKinley, the chief executive of Cor. Although a study has shown that nanosilver can permeate broken skin, Ms. McKinley said the soap was safe because it contains only a limited amount of nanosilver and the particles do not remain on the skin.

Indeed, using nanoderivatives of precious metals is becoming a trend. Last year, Chantecaille introduced Nano Gold Energizing Cream, a $420 face cream that contains 5-nanometer particles of 24-carat gold encapsulated in silk fibers. Sylvie Chantecaille, the chief executive of the company, said the capsules delivered the gold particles, which work as an antioxidant, into the surface layers of the skin. “It’s a very effective way to transport beneficial ingredients,” she said.

But many beauty companies are shying away from discussing minuscule particles in their cosmetics. And that kind of avoidance may itself stoke nanophobia. For example, when La Prairie introduced its Cellular Cream Platinum Rare earlier this year, the company sent out press materials promoting “nano-sized Hesperidin Smart Crystals to protect DNA” in the formula. But, in a phone interview, Sven Gohla, the company’s vice president for research and development, distanced the brand from nanotechnology. Just because the particles of hesperidin, a flavonoid, in the formula are small does not mean they are manufactured nanotechnology, he said.

Last month, a consumer group in London called Which? published a survey it had conducted of 67 cosmetics companies on the prevalence and safety testing of nanomaterials in personal care products. Only 17 companies responded, of which eight acknowledged using nanomaterials.

“When nanotechnology was hot, everybody wanted to talk about ‘nano this, nano that.’ Look at the iPod nano,” said Dr. Hansen of Consumers Union. “But now that the concerns have come out, people are not so sure the word nano is a good thing to be touted.”
30199  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: December 04, 2008, 11:07:39 AM
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30200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: December 04, 2008, 11:05:49 AM

Storm in a C-cup - 130,000 boobs lost at sea
December 2, 2008 - 9:34AM

More than 130,000 inflatable breasts have been lost at sea en route to Australia.  Men's magazine Ralph was planning to include the boobs as a free gift with its January issue.

The cargo is worth about $200,000, which is another blow for publisher ACP's parent company PBL, which is already in $4.3 billion of debt.  A spokeswoman for Ralph said the container left docks in Beijing two weeks ago but turned up empty in Sydney this week.  The magazine has put out an alert to shipping authorities to see if they have the container, but if they don't turn up in the next  48 hours it will be too late for the next issue, she said.  Ralph editor Santi Pintado urged anyone who has any information to contact the magazine.

``Unless Somali pirates have stolen them its difficult to explain where they are,'' Pintado said.
``If anyone finds any washed up on a beach, please let us know.''
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