DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Thrust with a staff/ lack there of
on: November 13, 2006, 12:32:01 PM
Thrusting certainly plays an important role in FMA staff in general and in DBMA staff in particular.
I agree that one fight, or even a couple of fights, is not a sufficient data base from which to draw a conclusion. That said, in our fights where one or both men have a staff, there has not been much thrusting. Generally, what seems to happen to thrusts is that the staff gets hit during the thurst, which knocks it badly off-course and momentarily out of control. Indeed, in my first staff fight when my opponent tried thrusting me, my simultaneous counterstrike disarmed him completely.? (A very cool moment for me-- Just seconds before, a friend in the crowd had just called out "C'mon Marc Denny-- This is your house!" and then bam!)
I began staff fighting towards the end of my fighting days, but my sense of things is that with a bit more time I would have figured out to apply
thrusts on second or third motions of an exchange in fighting just as we do in DBMA training.? Right now I suspect the problem is that people trying for Single Direct Attacks with thrusts.
Staff fights are scary things because the staff is scary powerful and scary deceptive. I am working on preparing DBMA fighters who will apply further the understandings that I started with. It can be tough finding opponents.
The WMA thing is very interesting. Some of our Euro members have good background in this and I look forward to the contributions that they will bring to all of this.
PS: The thrusts in our aforementioned DBMA Staff DVD are shown more as part of a fighting self-defense structure "Keep the neighborhood Tank Abbot off of you" i.e. a big mean angry fcuk vs. ordinary citizen with a small light staff.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Book Reviews- political and religious
on: November 12, 2006, 10:18:24 AM
Sense of Ummah
These books are essential to understanding Islam.
BY KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSE
Saturday, November 11, 2006 12:00 a.m. EST
1. "Islam" by Vartan Gregorian (Brookings, 2003).
Because the world is locked in a prolonged struggle with terrorists brandishing the banner of Islam, it behooves us all to know much more about the Islamic religion, with its 1.2 billion adherents, only 15% of whom are Arab. Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Foundation, has produced the perfect primer. At 135 pages, it is simple but not simplistic. Subtitled "A Mosaic, Not a Monolith," the book traces Islam's origins, when the Prophet Muhammad received the religion's tenets from Allah, the only God, and its long evolution since. As both spiritual leader and temporal warrior, Muhammad forced Arabia's polytheists to worship Allah instead. Over the next seven centuries, the religion spread rapidly, from the Middle East and North Africa to Spain and Russia. Islam's more recent history has been marked by deep divisions between modernists and traditionalists--rifts that are likely to remain, Mr. Gregorian argues, unless Muslims are prompted to unite by the West's misguided insistence on lumping them all together as "the enemy."
2. "Muhammad" by Karen Armstrong (HarperCollins, 1992).
To understand Islam, one needs to understand the central role played by the Prophet Muhammad in the religion's creation and propagation. Orphaned at a young age, he was a successful trader when the divine revelations began. In Karen Armstrong's sympathetic and sometimes academic profile, she argues that, unlike Jesus, who could be a pacifist because he lived during Pax Romana, Muhammad faced warring tribes across Arabia. She paints a portrait of a very human prophet who is expedient and clever, who loves women and--despite having multiple wives--even mends his own clothes. But at his death, divisions over succession lead to the murder of three of the first four caliphs, or leaders, who followed--setting in motion the Sunni/Shia struggles that continue today.
3. "What Went Wrong? by Bernard Lewis (Oxford, 2002).
How did a civilization, one that for centuries led the world in science, medicine and the arts, fall so low that it now lags in these areas while devoting its energies to fratricide, terrorism and despotism? In this slim volume Bernard Lewis, our foremost scholar of Islam, provides historical insight and nuanced answers. In sum, he says, the problem is that Islam mixes church and state, to the detriment of both. What is more, Islam has found itself--after its conquests were stopped in the 17th century--unable to live with and learn from those it cannot conquer. Instead of examining the religion itself for answers, all too many Muslim leaders blame outsiders, especially the West.
4. "The Koran Interpreted" translated by A.J. Arberry (Macmillan, 1955).
This translation is recommended by Bernard Lewis. Reared reading the Bible, I found much in the Koran that was familiar: Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (as a messenger of God, not his son). Like the Bible, the Koran urges believers to do good or "fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for unbelievers." But the Koran is repetitive, often contradictory and, most frustrating to those outside the faith, insufficient to an understanding of Islam. One must also study the sunna (a collection of Muhammad's words and deeds) and the hadith (thousands of examples of his teachings). Given all this, it becomes clear that--for good or ill--one can pretty much interpret Islam as one wishes.
5. "Wahhabi Islam" by Natana J. Delong-Bas (Oxford, 2004).
Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the l8th-century jurist, preached a back-to-basics form of Islam: Live daily according to the precepts of the Koran and hadith or be damned to hell. This book is an excellent introduction for the serious reader to Wahhabi fundamentalism, which is flourishing in Saudi Arabia today. Natana J. Delong-Bas explains the Wahhabi views of women, marriage and jihad. Regarding jihad, she argues that Osama bin Laden has radically distorted the founder's teachings. One is left wondering why Wahhabis don't speak out against bin Laden and his barbaric brand of Islam.
Ms. House, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Middle East.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA
on: November 12, 2006, 08:22:36 AM
Couture?s ?Fighter, a documentary? moves on to the New York Independent Film and Video Festival
After taking ?Best Documentary? at the Foundation for the Advancement of Independent Film International Film Festival in Hollywood, CA. ?FIGHTER, a documentary? has been officially selected to New York International Independent Film and Video Festival (NYIIFVF).
The NYIIFVF is the largest film festival in the world and has been recognized by the film and entertainment industry as one of the leading film events on the independent festival circuit. The festival hosts film, music and art events in the two entertainment capitals of the United States: New York and Los Angeles. The NYIIFVF is known as 'the voice for independent film' and receives extensive media coverage. As indie guru Abel Ferrara famously quoted in an interview with Movie Maker, "This festival is the real deal; everybody else just talks about doing it and these guys just do it."
?FIGHTER, a documentary? has been quietly changing people?s perceptions about mixed martial arts fighting, its athletes and their motivation. Set in the late ?90 the film captures a slice of sports history as UFC Hall of Famer, Randy "The Natural" Couture transitions from US National team wrestler to MMA fighting legend. Shot by award winning filmmaker Pericles Lewnes, ?FIGHTER a documentary? provides a riveting myriad of perspectives from analysis by World Cup gold medalist turned MMA guru Rico Chiapparelli to a young mothers first experience inside the octagon , the film deftly captures the skill, dedication, rivalry, camaraderie, and tremendous mutual respect among these ?ultimate athletes?.
?Fighter, a documentary? is scheduled to screen Monday, November 13, 2006 at the Village East Cinema at 181 2nd Ave (& 12th St.) in NYC at 8pm. For free movie clips and more info on fighter please go to www.mmaclassics.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Crazy Horse
on: November 11, 2006, 06:55:44 PM
A goodly number of books on my shelf have to do with Native Americans. Here's something I ran across on Crazy Horse.
(1842 ? 1877)
?Hoka Hey! It is a good time to die!
Chief Crazy Horse is known as the greatest warrior ever of the Oglala Sioux (Teton Lakota). He was born on Rapid Creek, Dakota Territory, about 1842. He died September 5, 1877 at Fort Robinson, Nebraska after being stabbed with a bayonet while struggling to keep from being placed inside a guard house when he thought he was going to a meeting with white leaders to correct a misunderstanding resulting from a deliberate misrepresentation of his words by an interpreter during an earlier conference. He was highly regarded by his people, jealously envied by some rival chiefs and would be leaders of the Lakota people and greatly feared by the soldiers. This combination of jealousy and fear led to his death.
There are no authenticated photographs of Crazy Horse and he was known to resist having his photograph taken. Several years after his death, two or three images have been presented as being photographs of him. One that is documented by Carroll Friswold as having been taken at Fort Robinson at the urging of a friend (Little Bat) seems to me to be the most likely to be an actual photograph of Crazy Horse. His appearance is described as: light skinned, long curly brown hair, not tall (about 5?8?), having sharp features, being more rounded of face with less pronounced cheek bones, with a scar on his left jaw near his mouth and nose from a bullet wound where No Water shot him for being with Black Buffalo Woman who had married No Water. He is said to have worn his hair long to his waist and while not in battle braided with beaver pelt covering and having two eagle feathers hanging down on the left of his face.
In battle, he wore his hair loose with a single red-tailed hawk feather, a stone behind his ear, his face painted with a lightening bolt and hail stones, no shirt only a breech cloth and leggings. He tied a single red-tailed hawk feather to his horse?s tail, dusted his horse?s mane and tail and himself with dirt from a mole hill, wore a battle necklace with a special mixture of the brain and heart of an eagle mixed with dried wild aster seed in a small deerskin bag and blew an eagle bone whistle just before going into battle.
These actions were taken and items worn as a result of his vision as a young boy.
The vision of Crazy Horse as a boy would direct his every action for the rest of his life. After witnessing the first of many battles between the Lakota and the soldiers where Chief Conquering Bear and several soldiers were killed, he went off to himself for three days where he sought to understand what had happened and what place he would fill in the coming years. On the third day he saw a horse and rider emerge from a body of water and float in the air. The horseman was dressed in breechcloth with leggings only and one feather in his hair. His hair was unbraided. He wore no war paint. A voice spoke to Crazy Horse saying, ?You are to help the people with what ever need they have. You are not to take anything for yourself. If you go to war, bullets and arrows will not harm you as long as you dress in plain clothes, wear your hear unbraided with only one feather on your head and carry a small stone behind your ear. Before you mount your horse you are to throw dust over yourself and your horse.? A crowd of people now appeared in the vision; they tried to hold the horseman back by grabbing onto his arms. He rode through the people and kept going. A thunderstorm appeared with hail and lightning all around, the horseman kept on riding. The storm faded, showing the horseman with hail spots on his body and a zigzag streak of lightning on his cheek. In the quiet after the storm, a red tail hawk appeared overhead, his scream echoing as he flew over the horseman. Now the people appeared again grabbing at the horseman?s arms, but he pulled away from them and rode off. (The above account of Crazy Horse?s vision is taken from Freedman, The Life and Death of Crazy Horse, pg 31-34 and repeated in Ehanamani, Crazy Horse, pg 7-8).
He did not seek notoriety, rather avoided recognition and did not brag of his exploits. His first thoughts continually were to provide for the welfare of his people. Even as a young boy he gave away game he killed to others and just before his death his decision to bring in his people as the soldiers demanded likely was caused by the failure of the buffalo food supply rather than any fear of fighting. He never lost a battle, was never injured by a bullet (only an arrow when he once took two scalps and from that point on never again took scalps) and was forever the first person to charge the enemy, often running his horse close to the enemy line over and over again. His chosen weapon was a battle club.
Crazy Horse was known as Curly when very young because of his long curly hair. He was given the name of his father (Crazy Horse) after having demonstrated his prowess in battle at an early age. He was fearless in battle, quiet and reserved in camp, kind to his people, always helping the needy and was chosen as a young man to be a shirt-wearer and chief. This event truly humbled Crazy Horse and he never ceased to think of the needs of his people but once and that one lapse caused the other rival chiefs to remove the shirt from him. They were looking for any opportunity to discredit him as he was so popular with the people. After No Water shot him in the face for being with his wife, Black Buffalo Woman, Crazy Horse?s ceremonial shirt was taken from him. Nevertheless he continued to be held in the highest regard by his followers, thus making the rival chiefs even more envious and jealous.
He was forever seeking to fulfill his vision and help his people through hunting for food, leading in battle and was never boastful or proud. He was often quiet and removed from tribal activities and ceremonies. He frequently meditated and sought spiritual guidance. During one such search for wisdom, a far-reaching vision was provided to him whereby he saw the end of his people?s traditional ways, the weakness caused by alcohol and the resulting destruction of his people?s strength and character. He further saw the time when all people would come together again and seek the light of understanding. Between these two images however, he saw great trouble and much hardship for his people. So Crazy Horse had foreknowledge of the manner in which his people would come to depend too heavily on the white man?s handouts and loose their way even as he fought to preserve the old ways. This knowledge that his people could not win in the long run and the loss of the buffalo may well have contributed to his eventual decision to bring his people in when he did.
Crazy Horse led the struggle against the overwhelming odds of the white soldiers. He continued to gain the respect of the people he led through courageous fighting and cunning leadership in battle. He changed the manner of fighting to take advantage of surprise attacks on the enemy?s flank and focused on killing the enemy rather than just counting coup as had been the way of battles with Indian foes. Crazy Horse fought many battles did not get shot even though he routinely was in the thickest of the fight and always rode ahead of his warriors nearest to the enemy where the firing was the heaviest. His most famous battle was that of the Little Big Horn where Crazy Horse along with Sitting Bull and other chiefs were able to outflank Custer?s soldiers and kill them. On the day of the battle, as he often said when going into battle, Crazy Horse encouraged his warriors by shouting ?Hoka Hey! It is a good time to die!? Yet, on this most furiously fought battle, he again did not receive a wound.
But even so great a victory could not turn the tide of the ever-increasing number of soldiers being brought to fight Crazy Horse. While others surrendered, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse continued to fight. Crazy Horse is said to have stated his strong ties to his people and the land he loved by the quote: ?My lands are where my dead lie buried.? The battles were running skirmishes with the hard winter weather of as low as ?30 degrees also hampering Crazy Horse and his followers as they could not make permanent camp. Although Crazy Horse did not likely know of it, the very land he was fighting to retain was actually signed away by Red Cloud and others even while he continued to fight for it.
Ultimately Crazy Horse was forced to allow his followers to come in to Red Cloud Agency as food was unavailable and conditions were becoming unbearable for the women and children. He was promised much by the white soldiers that they never intended to deliver. The other chiefs became jealous of Crazy Horse?s standing and were afraid that the white government would make Crazy Horse chief of all the Sioux because of their fear of him. The soldiers were trying to convince Crazy Horse to go to Washington to see the President, but in fact were intending to send him to a prison off the cost of Florida.
Crazy Horse was convinced to come to Fort Robinson to explain to Colonel Bradley that he did not intend to fight anymore. When he arrived, however, Bradley would not see him. Rather the soldiers attempted to lock him in a stockade cell. When Crazy Horse realized what was happening he attempted to get away from those restraining him. His friend, Little Big Man, had a hold on his arms and just as Crazy Horse?s vision had shown him some twenty-three years earlier while he was being held by one of his own people his life was taken from him. A soldier plunged a bayonet into his side puncturing both kidneys. Crazy Horse realized immediately that death was inevitable. Touch-the-Clouds and Crazy Horse?s father, Worm - who had also been named Crazy Horse, stayed with him until he died just before midnight. The death of Crazy Horse marked the end of the struggle to retain the old ways and led to a resignation to reservation life that meant the end of a proud and noble people?s way of life.
Quotes attributed to Crazy Horse on the day of his death. ?Let me go my friends. You have got me hurt enough.? ?Father, I am bad hurt. Tell the people it is no use to depend on me any more.?
The man who was Crazy Horse and who followed his vision in battle and who saw the future of his people died an untimely death. He is remembered by his spirit and kindness to his people. A mountain in the Black Hills is being transformed into an image of his likeness. The spirit of Crazy Horse is even today a strong and abiding presence in all who know his history. He is larger than life and his influence is still felt by all who believe in the ultimate strength and goodness of the human race?regardless of the color of one?s skin. In addition to seeing the fall of his people in their struggle with the white invaders of their land, Crazy Horse also saw in his second vision a time when ultimately all people were one and were living together in peace. So the spirit of Crazy Horse who fought to hold on to the ways his people knew and understood also is a spirit that realized the inevitable conclusion of the struggle between peoples. He was a victim of his time, yet he saw beyond the limits of his physical life.
David Ray Smith
March 31, 2003
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dems to AQ
on: November 11, 2006, 06:45:01 PM
Dear Al Qaeda:
We the Democrats of the United States have won a major victory. The voice of the people has knocked the arrogant George Bush and his Republican Party, led by religious Christian fanatics on the Right Wing, to a historic defeat.
With this defeat, the imperialistic NeoCons?who are tools of Israel? have also been defeated. You probably have read how they have turned on President Bush and are retreating from their earlier aggressive ways. This is good, and we will welcome them back into the wide tent of the Democrat Party; where they once flourished.
You probably have also read how 87% of American Jews voted for change; change in our Iraq policy; change in our domestic policy; and change in the way we work with Islamic countries around the world. They understand the bias that concerns you. And they voted for change.
You see. It is not the Democrats in America who are against you. In fact, it is not even the Jews in America who are against you. We like you and can work with you. We accept that fact that America is evil. We are a wicked country who abuse the poor, give tax breaks to the rich and don?t speak French. We want to become more like Europe and it wasn?t our fault that you were forced to not like us.
But now the American people have issued us a mandate. The Christian Right will return to the closet and never come out again. And when the fanatic Christians among us get out of the political sphere...and there is no place for private religious beliefs in our system of government; we can finally become the progressive country we should be.
Therefore we beg you to stop your Jihad and let us all get along.
Please stop killing us?.and we know you are not doing it on purpose. Please forgive us our weaknesses. And please have patience with us. We will get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as we can. We will stop our illegal wiretaps of your fund raising efforts. We will make sure to not check Muslims at our airports. And we will release and reward all of our illegal detainees at Guantanamo. We will even turn Abu Grab into a modern Madras where you can teach the wisdom of the Prophet.
And most importantly; because we have the support of 87% of American Jews; and as most Jews in the world are a bit embarrassed by Israel; we will drop our support of Israel and insist that they restore the rights of all Palestinians. There is no need for a State of Israel because all Jews are safe within Europe and America. The holocaust is a thing of the past and we agree with you that Israel; or as our French colleague once said: ?that sh**ty little country? should be no more.
We hope that with all the above, that you will want to live in peace with us. And we wish you peace.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: A Post From Our Piazza member
on: November 11, 2006, 05:17:17 PM
Just got this from Doug:
Crafty, I am forwarding from my cellphone this very cooperative reply I
received from Eric. I won't be in computer contact for awhile. I was
intending to post this to the forum, since there are personal numbers
included it might be better to send a copy direct to those who expressed
an interest, especially Mark and Gene.
He makes a mention of chipping in on cost. If the amounts are
reasonable and we can split it 3, 4 or more ways I will certainly pay a
, , ,
--- begin forwarded text
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 20:18:01 -0800
From: Eric Mack
Subject: Re: Our Piazza
Sorry for the delay in getting back with you. Lots going on around here.
I'm glad that I was able to keep OP going as long as I did. I realize
that I've been involved supporting the site one way or another since June of
2000. Six years. Wow!
The last post I saw on archiving (early October) was that someone (You?)
were going to screen scrape the site into something else. A tedious job
to be sure. There are over 70,000 posts and the file is a few gigs (less
if you purge the index). I then saw the posts that DogBrothers had set up a
new forum and that folks had moved. I kept the site up through 10/31
just in case there were any stragglers. Given the lack of activity at OP, I'm
pretty sure that those who wanted to go to the new site are already
there. I would imagine that the new site is better, too. The existing site
software was outdated and getting expensive to maintain. One of the
features I always wanted to ad to OP was RSS feeds. Hopefully, the new
DB site has that.
With regard to PDF creation, I offered to look into generating PDFs.
Apparently the new version of Acrobat 8 ($449) has a new "archive from
Lotus Notes:" feature that will generate searchable PDF documents. I
have no experience with this product as I do not have it. I did go to the web
site and the process seems straightforward. I wonder if Adobe's ever
archived a single file this large. In any case, I would be willing to
look into this again, if there is interest and if folks are willing to chip
in. Meanwhile, when I have time to drive down to the NOC to pick up the
server, I'll archive the databases to DVD for safe keeping. I will not be able
to deal with this for a few weeks, probably not until early December.
Doug, I don't know what my plans are for the domain, however, I do not
plan to sell it at this time. I had prepaid the registration for many years
in anticipation of building up an on-line community. As we know, that never
materialized and I was unwilling to sell ad space to keep OP going. As
it is, I paid for the past 21 months of dedicated server hosting. At this
point, I cannot explore this further, though I may do something in the
I'll try to stop by the new Dog Brothers forum though, practically
speaking, I probably won't do that either until December.
OP has been a fun "experiment," as someone once called it. I've met some
interesting people and it was a privilege to sit as a flay on the wall
and read some of the discussions.
I wish everyone the best.
PS. I tried to send an email update to Roger and Gene, however, the
email addresses I have no longer work ( deleted for the forum).
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pro Submission League
on: November 11, 2006, 12:16:31 PM
My friend Rico Chiapparelli of R1 Gym heads this up. Here's the info we have so far:
The PSL presents X-MISSION, Friday, November 17, 2006, 7PM (PST) Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 4117 Overland Ave., Culver City, Calif.
RANDY COUTURE vs RONALDO "JACARE" SOUZA
JAKE SHIELDS vs MARCELO GARCIA
VLADIMIR MATYUSHENKO vs VINICIUS MAGAHLAES
ALBERTO CRANE vs RANI YAHYRA
BILL COOPER vs KRON GRACIE
RAFAEL LOVATO JR vs ROBERT CAMARGO
JEFF GLOVER vs SHANE RICE
ANDY WANG vs ALLEN ZVBOROSKY
The National Anthem to be performed by Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters guitarist)
Webcast PPV and free audiocast - Todd Baer and Josh "The Baby Faced Assasin" Barnett will provide the PBP and analysis
go to www.prosubleague.com
for all of the details
draco - it ranges from $30 to $200. Go to this page to look and/or buy seats: http://www.tix.com/Schedule.asp?OrganizationNumber=1022
Buy the Webcast PPV at $9.99 if you can't come to the show.
Listen to it for free on internet audiocast if you can't come up with a ticket or $$ for the PPV. www.prosubleague.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: November 10, 2006, 08:22:35 PM
Politicians are at their best when acknowledging defeat.
Friday, November 10, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
In a way they never tell the truth until the concession speech. That's when nothing they say can hurt them anymore. They're worn to the bone and they've been in a struggle and it's over, and suddenly some basic, rock-solid, dumb knowledge of what they've been involved in--a great nation's life--comes loose and declares itself.
Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee, who lost his Senate race, said he'd wanted to be in government since he was 4 years old, that people had taken a risk on him, that he was grateful. "I love my country," he said. "Don't lose faith in this great thing called America."
Sen. Lincoln Chafee up in Rhode Island said America is divided; "common ground is becoming scarce." He'd miss those in the Senate "who take their responsibility to govern more seriously than their personal ambitions."
From Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a demonstration of patriotic civility. He praised his opponent as a human being--"a fine man, he'll do a fine job for the state."
Sen. George Allen, gentleman of Virginia, said, "We are placed here on earth to do something well." He vowed to do all he could to help Jim Webb come in and serve in the U.S. Capitol.
Oh, that the new ones would carry in what the old ones have finally learned, or finally meant, or said.
It was the first real post-9/11 election, in that it was shaped not by the trauma itself but by public response to decisions taken after the trauma. Turnout was high. America is awake, alive, bristles. In the races for Senate, 25 million said "stay with the Republicans," while 31 million said "no, move on."
We have divided government. Good, and for many reasons. One: It confuses our enemies. "Who do we hate now?" they ask in their caves, "the evil woman from San Francisco or the old infidel from Texas? Which do we hate more? And if we hate them both does that...unite them?"
We are in a 30-year war. It is no good for it to be led by, identified with, one party. It is no good for half the nation to feel estranged from its government's decisions. It's no good for us to be broken up more than a nation normally would be. And straight down the middle is a bad break, the kind that snaps.
We all have things we would say to the new Congress if we could. We are a country that makes as many speeches in the shower as it sings songs. I would say this: Focus on the age you live in. Know what it is. Know what's coming. The old way is over; the old days are over; the old facts and habits of mind do not pertain, or no longer fully pertain.
This is the age we live in: One day in the future either New York or Washington or both will be hit again, hard. It will be more deadly than 9/11. And on that day, those who experience it, who see the flash or hear the alarms, will try to help each other. They'll be good to each other. An elderly conservative congresswoman will be unable to make it down those big old Capitol steps, and a young liberal congressman will come by and pick her up in his arms and carry her. (I witnessed a moment somewhat like this during a Capitol alarm two years ago, when we were told to run for our lives.) I would say: Keep that picture in mind. Cut to the chase, be good to each other now.
Make believe it's already happened. That's the only attitude that will help us get through it when it does. I do not mean think like Rodney King. We can't all get along, not on this earth. But we can know what time it is. We can be serious, and humane. We can realize that we're all in this together and owe each other an assumption of good faith.
There are rogue states and rogue actors, there are forces and nations aligned against us, and they have nukes and other weapons of mass destruction, and some of them are mad. Know this. Walk to work each day knowing it, not in a pointlessly fearful way but in a spirit of "What can I do to make it better?"
What can you do in two years? The common wisdom says not much. But here's a governing attitude: First things first.
Do all you can to keep America as safe as possible as long as possible. Make sure she's able to take a bad blow, a bad series of them. Much flows from this first thing, many subsets. Here is only one: Strengthen and modernize our electrical grid. When the bad thing comes we will need to be able to make contact with each other to survive together. Congress has ignored this for years.
Make America in the world as safe as possible by tending to and building our friendships in the world, by causing no unnecessary friction, by adding whatever possible and necessary emollients. In your approach to foreign affairs, rewrite Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly, walk softly, and carry a big stick.
Much flows from this, including Iraq. This involves a huge and so far unanswered question: How to leave and not make it all infinitely worse. America will never accept a long war whose successful end even its most passionate proponents cannot convincingly envision or articulate. And America will never allow a repeat of the pictures of 1975, with desperate people who'd thrown their lot with us clinging to the skids of helicopters fleeing the U.S. Embassy. We will never get over Vietnam. And it's to our credit that we won't.
Those to me are the two big things. Much follows them, and flows from them. But to make some progress on these two things in the next two years would be breathtaking.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Colombia
on: November 10, 2006, 04:26:32 PM
Por favor los que tengan algo para contrubuir en espanol, haganlo:
Colombia's Multifaceted Security Problem
Colombia's Supreme Court issued arrest warrants Nov. 9 for three high-ranking lawmakers suspected of conspiring with right-wing paramilitary forces in the country. The suspects, Sens. Jairo Merlano and Alvaro Garcia, and Rep. Erik Morris, are believed to have logistically and financially assisted paramilitaries in Sucre province beginning as far back as 1997. The move comes close on the heels of the suspension of peace talks between the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the leftist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Those events, along with recent attacks against military targets, are indicative not only of the ongoing unrest in Colombia, but also of the wide range of actors whose actions will prevent Colombia's violence-weary citizens from finding a measure of peace any time soon.
Peace talks between FARC and the Uribe government had been progressing smoothly in October. Then, a car bomb detonated outside the Nueva Granada military university in Bogota on Oct. 19, injuring 23 people. Another car bomb targeted the base of the Colombian army's 7th brigade Oct. 29, killing two people and wounding four. The Colombian government quickly blamed FARC for both the attacks -- a charge the group denies -- and suspended the peace talks. FARC then claimed responsibility for a Nov. 1 attack against a police station in Cordoba. In that attack, some 150 gunmen opened fire on police, killing 17 officers and two civilians.
It seems unlikely, given the optimistic outlook of both sides regarding the talks, that FARC would have conducted the two bombings, which took place while its demands were being negotiated. However, the list of other potential suspects is long. For example, rival drug cartels in direct competition with FARC could have felt threatened by the progress of the talks and sought to induce a government crackdown on the group by using car bombs against military targets -- a method of operation used by FARC many times in the past.
Dissident factions of the Colombian military might also have been responsible for the attacks. The military has been fighting this war for decades and has sustained heavy losses; there are sure to be some hard-liners who adamantly oppose any settlement and want to continue the fight. Military units upset with the progress being made in the negotiations with FARC could have perpetrated the attacks as a way to justify crackdowns on the group.
In the case of the military college bombing, the vehicle carrying the device managed to pass through security checkpoints without raising suspicions. Surveillance cameras showed a man in a naval uniform exiting the car and leaving it parked in the lot for several hours before it exploded. This suggests a large degree of military involvement in the attack.
Corrupt military officials also might have been a factor in the bombings. Similar to the drug cartels in Mexico, Colombian cartels have long had high-ranking military personnel on their payrolls, and military units have conducted operations on behalf of the cartels. In May, 10 narcotics police were ambushed and killed in Jamundi by elements of a Colombian army platoon. An investigation into the incident, which originally was considered a case of friendly fire, concluded that the platoon's commanding colonel and more than a dozen soldiers had ambushed the police unit on behalf of local drug traffickers. Not wanting their cartel kickbacks to run dry, corrupt military officers and corrupt government officials will likely interfere with any moves by FARC to shift the power balance in the country.
The lawmakers' arrests, meanwhile, put the spotlight on other actors who contribute to Colombia's ongoing turmoil. The paramilitaries are right-wing militant groups created and financed by wealthy landowners and drug cartels to counter attacks by the populist forces. Although not official forces of the state, their interests often converge and the paramilitaries are effective in enforcing state policies, particularly those that target leftist movements.
The arrests of the lawmakers, as well as the Jamundi incident, illustrate how the Colombian government can be influenced by forces such as drug cartels, paramilitary organizations and dissenting military factions. The problem for Colombians fed up with violence is that these forces have reasons to oppose any compromise with FARC that would result in a peaceful settlement.
There had been glimmer of hope in October that FARC and the Uribe government would reach some accord after decades of violence. Instead, following the attack against the police station, Uribe pledged to defeat the FARC and other guerrillas, and urged neighboring governments to aid Colombia in the fight. With that battle back on, and the ongoing actions of the paramilitaries, there seems little chance of a break in the violence.
Send questions or comments on this
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: November 10, 2006, 02:01:02 PM
MEXICO: Mexican Deputy Interior Secretary Arturo Chavez said federal police forces that have been occupying Oaxaca City will shift from a containment strategy to public safety tactics. Chavez said the change is part of an effort to prevent opportunistic groups from taking advantage of unrest to commit crimes and harm citizens. www.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: November 10, 2006, 01:55:07 PM
Terrorist threat to UK - MI5 chief's full speech
Following is the full text of a speech delivered on November 9, 2006 by Eliza Manningham-Buller, Director-General of MI5, on the terrorist threat facing the UK:
The International Terrorist Threat to the UK
I have been Director General of the Security Service/M15 since 2002. Before that I was Deputy Director General for five years. During that time, and before, I have witnessed a steady increase in the terrorist threat to the UK. It has been the subject of much comment and controversy. I rarely speak in public. I prefer to avoid the limelight and get on with my job. But today, I want to set out my views on:
the realities of the terrorist threat facing the UK in 2006;
what motivates those who pose that threat
and what my Service is doing, with others, to counter it.
I speak not as a politician, nor as a pundit, but as someone who has been an intelligence professional for 32 years.
2. Five years on from 9/11, where are we? Speaking in August, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, the head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police, described the threat to the UK from Al-Qaida-related terrorism as ?real, here, deadly and enduring?. Only last week the Home Secretary said the threat will be ?enduring ? the struggle will be long and wide and deep.? Let me describe more fully why I think they said that. We now know that the first Al-Qaida-related plot against the UK was the one we discovered and disrupted in November 2000 in Birmingham. A British citizen is currently serving a long prison sentence for plotting to detonate a large bomb in the UK. Let there be no doubt about this: the international terrorist threat to this country is not new. It began before Iraq, before Afghanistan, and before 9/11.
3. In the years after 9/11, with atrocities taking place in Madrid, Casablanca, Bali, Istanbul and elsewhere, terrorists plotted to mount a string of attacks in the UK, but were disrupted. This run of domestic success was interrupted tragically in London in July 2005. Since then, the combined efforts of my Service, the police, SIS and GCHQ have thwarted a further five major conspiracies in the UK, saving many hundreds (possibly even thousands) of lives. Last month the Lord Chancellor said that there were a total of 99 defendants awaiting trial in 34 cases. Of course the presumption of innocence applies and the law dictates that nothing must be said or done which might prejudice the right of a defendant to receive a fair trial. You will understand therefore that I can say no more on these matters.
4. What I can say is that today, my officers and the police are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1600 identified individuals (and there will be many we don?t know) who are actively engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas. The extremists are motivated by a sense of grievance and injustice driven by their interpretation of the history between the West and the Muslim world. This view is shared, in some degree, by a far wider constituency. If the opinion polls conducted in the UK since July 2005 are only broadly accurate, over 100,000 of our citizens consider that the July 2005 attacks in London were justified. What we see at the extreme end of the spectrum are resilient networks, some directed from Al-Qaida in Pakistan, some more loosely inspired by it, planning attacks including mass casualty suicide attacks in the UK. Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices; tomorrow?s threat may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology. More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, by images on television, through chat rooms and websites on the Internet.
5. The propaganda machine is sophisticated and Al-Qaida itself says that 50% of its war is conducted through the media. In Iraq, attacks are regularly videoed and the footage downloaded onto the internet within 30 minutes. Virtual media teams then edit the result, translate it into English and many other languages, and package it for a worldwide audience. And, chillingly, we see the results here. Young teenagers are being groomed to be suicide bombers. We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and to damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer??. thirty that we know of. These plots often have links back to Al-Qaida in Pakistan and through those links Al-Qaida gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale. And it is not just the UK of course. Other countries also face a new terrorist threat: from Spain to France to Canada and Germany.
6. A word on proportionality. My Service and the police have occasionally been accused of hype and lack of perspective or worse, of deliberately stirring up fear. It is difficult to argue that there are not worse problems facing us, for example climate change... and of course far more people are killed each year on the roads than die through terrorism. It is understandable that people are reluctant to accept assertions that do not always appear to be substantiated. It is right to be sceptical about intelligence. I shall say more about that later. But just consider this. A terrorist spectacular would cost potentially thousands of lives and do major damage to the world economy. Imagine if a plot to bring down several passenger aircraft succeeded. Thousands dead, major economic damage, disruption across the globe. And Al-Qaida is an organisation without restraint.
7. There has been much speculation about what motivates young men and women to carry out acts of terrorism in the UK. My Service needs to understand the motivations behind terrorism to succeed in countering it, as far as that is possible. Al-Qaida has developed an ideology which claims that Islam is under attack, and needs to be defended. This is a powerful narrative that weaves together conflicts from across the globe, presenting the West?s response to varied and complex issues, from long-standing disputes such as Israel/Palestine and Kashmir to more recent events as evidence of an across-the-board determination to undermine and humiliate Islam worldwide. Afghanistan, the Balkans, Chechnya, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kashmir and Lebanon are regularly cited by those who advocate terrorist violence as illustrating what they allege is Western hostility to Islam.
8. The video wills of British suicide bombers make it clear that they are motivated by:
perceived worldwide and long-standing injustices against Muslims;
an extreme and minority interpretation of Islam promoted by some preachers and people of influence;
their interpretation as anti-Muslim of UK foreign policy, in particular the UK?s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Killing oneself and others in response is an attractive option for some citizens of this country and others around the world.
What Intelligence can do
9. As I said earlier, I have been an intelligence officer for some 32 years. And I want again to describe what intelligence is and is not. I wish life were like ?Spooks?, where everything is (a) knowable, and (b) soluble by six people. But those whose plans we wish to detect in advance are determined to conceal from us what they intend to do. And every day they learn. From the mistakes of others. From what they discover of our capabilities from evidence presented in court, and from leaks to the media. Moreover intelligence is usually bitty and needs piecing together, assessing, judging. It takes objectivity, integrity and a sceptical eye to make good use of intelligence: even the best of it never tells the whole story. On the basis of such incomplete information, my Service and the police make decisions on when and how to take action, to protect public safety. Wherever possible we seek to collect evidence sufficient to secure prosecutions, but it is not always possible to do so: admissible evidence is not always available and the courts, rightly, look for a high standard of certainty. Often to protect public safety the police need to disrupt plots on the basis of intelligence but before evidence sufficient to bring criminal charges has been collected. Moreover we are faced by acute and very difficult choices of prioritisation. We cannot focus on everything so we have to decide on a daily basis with the police and others where to focus our energies, whom to follow, whose telephone lines need listening to, which seized media needs to go to the top of the analytic pile. Because of the sheer scale of what we face (80% increase in casework since January), the task is daunting. We won?t always make the right choices. And we recognise we shall have scarce sympathy if we are unable to prevent one of our targets committing an atrocity.
And the Service?
10. As I speak my staff, roughly 2,800 of them, (an increase of almost 50% since 9/11, 25% under 30, over 6% from ethnic minorities, with 52 languages, with links to well over 100 services worldwide), are working very hard, at some cost to their private lives and in some cases their safety, to do their utmost to collect the intelligence we need. The first challenge is to find those who would cause us harm, among the 60 million or so people who live here and the hundreds of thousands who visit each year. That is no easy task, particularly given the scale and speed of radicalisation and the age of some being radicalised. The next stage is to decide what action to take in response to that intelligence. Who are merely talking big, and who have real ambitions? Who have genuine aspirations to commit terrorism, but lack the know-how or materials? Who are the skilled and trained ones, who the amateurs? Where should we and the police focus our finite resources? It?s a hard grind but my staff are highly motivated: conscious of the risks they carry individually; and aware that they may not be able to do enough to stop the next attack. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude and I thank them. On July 8 last year I spoke to all my staff. I said that what we feared would happen had finally happened. I reminded them that we had warned that it was a matter of when, not if, and that they were trained to respond ? indeed many had been up all night, from the intelligence staff to the catering staff. I told them that we had received many messages of support from around the world, and that we, along with our colleagues in the police and emergency services, were in the privileged position of being able to make a difference. And we did. And we have done so since.
11. My Service is growing very rapidly. By 2008 it will be twice the size it was at 9/11. We know much more than we did then. We have developed new techniques, new sources, new relationships. We understand much better the scale and nature of what we are tackling but much is still obscure and radicalisation continues. Moreover, even with such rapid growth, we shall not be able to investigate nearly enough of the problem, so the prioritisation I mentioned earlier will remain essential but risky. And new intelligence officers need to be trained. That takes time as does the acquisition of experience, the experience that helps one with those difficult choices and tough judgements.
What else can others do?
12. That brings me on to my final point. None of this can be tackled by my Service alone. Others have to address the causes, counter the radicalisation, assist in the rehabilitation of those affected, and work to protect our way of life. We have key partners, the police being the main ones and I?d like today to applaud those police officers working alongside us on this huge challenge, those who collect intelligence beside us, help convert it into evidence for court, and face the dangers of arresting individuals who have no concern for their own lives or the lives of others. The scale and seriousness of the threat means that others play vital roles, SIS and GCHQ collecting key intelligence overseas, other services internationally who recognise the global nature of the problem, government departments, business and the public.
13. Safety for us all means working together to protect those we care about, being alert to the danger without over-reacting, and reporting concerns. We need to be alert to attempts to radicalise and indoctrinate our youth and to seek to counter it. Radicalising elements within communities are trying to exploit grievances for terrorist purposes; it is the youth who are being actively targeted, groomed, radicalised and set on a path that frighteningly quickly could end in their involvement in mass murder of their fellow UK citizens, or their early death in a suicide attack or on a foreign battlefield.
14. We also need to understand some of the differences between non-Western and Western life-styles; and not treat people with suspicion because of their religion, or indeed to confuse fundamentalism with terrorism. We must realise that there are significant differences between faiths and communities within our society, and most people, from whatever origin, condemn all acts of terror in the UK. And we must focus on those values that we all share in this country regardless of our background: Equality, Freedom, Justice and Tolerance. Many people are working for and with us to address the threat precisely for those reasons. Because: All of us, whatever our ethnicity and faith, are the targets of the terrorists.
15. I have spoken as an intelligence professional, describing the reality of terrorism and counter-terrorism in the UK in 2006. My messages are sober ones. I do not speak in this way to alarm (nor as the cynics might claim to enhance the reputation of my organisation) but to give the most frank account I can of the Al-Qaida threat to the UK. That threat is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with ? us for a generation. It is a sustained campaign, not a series of isolated incidents, It aims to wear down our will to resist.
16. My Service is dedicated to tackling the deadly manifestations of terrorism. Tackling its roots is the work of us all.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politically (In)correct
on: November 10, 2006, 01:08:33 PM
There's a thread of the same name in the other forum, but at the moment I'm too durn lazy to bring it over. That said, the following makes the need for this thread quite clear.
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Student leaders at a California college have touched off a furor by banning the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings, saying they see no reason to publicly swear loyalty to God and the U.S. government.
The move by Orange Coast College student trustees, the latest clash over patriotism and religion in American schools, has infuriated some of their classmates -- prompting one young woman to loudly recite the pledge in front of the board on Wednesday night in defiance of the rule.
"America is the one thing I'm passionate about and I can't let them take that away from me," 18-year-old political science major Christine Zoldos told Reuters.
"The fact that they have enough power to ban one of the most valued traditions in America is just horrible," Zoldos said, adding she would attend every board meeting to salute the flag.
The move was lead by three recently elected student trustees, who ran for office wearing revolutionary-style berets and said they do not believe in publicly swearing an oath to the American flag and government at their school. One student trustee voted against the measure, which does not apply to other student groups or campus meetings.
The ban follows a 2002 ruling by a federal appeals court in San Francisco that said forcing school children to recite the pledge was unconstitutional because of the phrase "under God." The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ruling on procedural grounds but left the door open for another challenge.
"That ('under God') part is sort of offensive to me," student trustee Jason Bell, who proposed the ban, told Reuters. "I am an atheist and a socialist, and if you know your history, you know that 'under God' was inserted during the McCarthy era and was directly designed to destroy my ideology."
Bell said the ban largely came about because the trustees didn't want to publicly vow loyalty to the American government before their meetings. "Loyalty ought to be something the government earns through performance, not through reciting a pledge," he said.
Martha Parham, a spokeswoman for the Coast Community College District, said her office had no standing on the student board and took no position on the flag salute ban.
"If their personal belief is that they don't want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, the district certainly isn't going to dictate what they do," she said.
More than 28,000 students attend the community college, located in conservative Orange County, California, south of Los Angeles.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: November 10, 2006, 12:59:03 PM
Congress Gets Muslim
The first Muslim elected to the United States Congress is a Democrat from Minneapolis with ties to an Islamic group that supports terrorism and a radical cult whose leader says God will destroy the entire white race and establish a paradise nation ruled by blacks.
Minnesota?s new Representative in the House, Keith Ellison, was endorsed and partly financed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a massive U.S.-based organization that avidly defends Osama bin Laden and other militant Islamic terrorists and considers U.S. action against terrorists anti-Islamic. In fact, the group demanded the removal of a Los Angeles billboard describing bin Laden as ?the sworn enemy? because it was ?offensive to Muslims.?
Ellison, who converted to Islam as a 19-year-old college student, also has strong ties to the Nation of Islam, the black cult led by renowned anti-Christian and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. The group?s doctrine states that black people created white people in a genetic experiment 6,000 years ago and that ?Judgment Day? means that the Gods will destroy the entire white race (devils) and establish a paradise nation ruled forever by blacks.
As if this weren?t enough to question the choice of Minnesota voters, as a state legislator Ellison supported and defended a convicted cop-killer and leader of a violent gang. Ellison used thug-like language to attack law enforcement officials as racists saying ?we don?t get no justice, you don?t get no peace.?. Ellison also supports and demands freedom for another convicted cop-killer named Assata Shakur, who lives in Cuba and remains on the FBI?s most wanted list.
Perhaps having Ellison in the House, represents a victory for violent criminals worldwide. Little Green Footballs says they?ll be celebrating in Gaza tomorrow.
Tuesday night Keith Ellison celbrated his victory in Minnesota's Fifth District congressional race before a crowd that chanted "Allahu Akbar." Watch a video clip of it here. Next week Ellison celebrates with CAIR and a few other of its Democratic friends at CAIR's annual banquet. Here is CAIR's press release:
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FIRST MUSLIM IN CONGRESS TO SPEAK AT CAIR EVENT IN VA
Keith Ellison will join other elected officials at annual banquet
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/9/06) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced today that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress, will join other elected officials as a keynote speaker November 18th at the Washington-based civil rights group's 12th Annual Banquet in Arlington, Va.
CAIR's dinner, which in past years had sold-out crowds of more than 1,000, will feature addresses by Representative-elect Ellison (D-MN) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Albert Wynn (D-MD).
Other speakers at the event include a representative of the FBI and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. Attendees will include many Muslim and interfaith leaders, diplomats from Muslim nations and American Muslim community activists.
To learn more about CAIR's dinner, or to register online, go to:https://www.cair.com/2006banquet/
Ellison won Tuesday's election in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District by a more than two-to-one margin. He will be the first American Muslim to hold elected office at the national level.
"We are honored to have the first American Muslim elected to Congress offer his first major address during our annual banquet," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
For the full story that neither the local nor the national press bothered to dig up about Ellison, check out "Keith Ellison for dummies" and "Louis Farrakhan's first congressman."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Die Less Often: Interface of Gun, Knife and Emtpy Hand
on: November 10, 2006, 12:52:55 PM
The diversity of people who come to what we do never ceases to amaze me.
The following is, of course, with permission.
(That) you actually replied to me ... sort of amazed me because to me you are a bit of a "star" and I really didn't expect to get any personal attention.
I got the "Die Less Often" DVDs. I am taking my time going over them. I think this is very high quality stuff- both in terms of quality of production and the information. Seeing talented people struggle to learn and then do better at what is being taught is something extraordinary and incredibly useful. Your efforts to bring reality to everything you teach is much appreciated and I've never seen it duplicated. OK...you can see that I'm a fan.
I will look forward to the "palm stick" and "short impact weapons". I think these may be the type of thing I'm looking for. The staff DVD is great and fits into what I want.
Basically, I'm a guy who has studied martial arts for several years (more than 10- 2nd degree BB in Tae Kwon Do plus some years in other styles) but who is 1) aging (53); and 2) busy with a career that doesn't leave a lot of time for training. Therefore, I'm looking to concentrate my efforts on the most realistic, most useful self-defense training (that I can do solo). Of course, I also like to have fun.
, , ,
Again, I really enjoy and appreciate the Dog Brothers.
Craig D. Logsdon, Ph.D.
Lockton Distinguished Professor for Pancreatic Cancer Research
Departments of Cancer Biology and Medical Oncology
UT MD Anderson Cancer Center
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: November 10, 2006, 12:29:39 PM
From the weekly Gilder Tech letter:
The Week / Human Health in the Telecosm
Dr. Arthur Robinson, Founder, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, speaking at Gilder/Forbes Telecosm 2006 last month in Lake Tahoe (transcribed excerpt):
Something needs to be done in medicine and the entrepreneurs and technologists of the telecosm are the exact people to do it. It involves moving diagnostic medicine into the hands of the consumers?taking the diagnostic and technological tools of medicine and making computer peripherals out of them, as well as making on-person monitors and turning the Internet into an interpretive tool, so that the consumers of medicine can evaluate the product that they receive and medicine itself could be turned into a therapeutic industry competing on the basis of quality and price.
My youngest son Matthew has a dog named Rusty. When Matthew takes Rusty to the veterinarian, the vet can take a blood sample from Rusty, put it in a computer peripheral beside his PC, which costs $1,000, get the analysis in a few minutes, diagnose Rusty, and go on about his business. It measures the same couple of dozen things that would be measured if you went to a physician. Some veterinarians, in fact, send their samples to the local hospital and put them through the same medical devices used for humans.
In any case, the veterinarian can do this for Rusty, but he can?t do this for Matthew. If he measured Matthew?s sample, that would be unlawful. And, if a physician had this device in his office, he also couldn?t use it. That also would be unlawful. The only people allowed to use these devices are working in approved commercial clinical laboratories, and most of those laboratories would not measure a sample if Matthew asked them to do it. But, there is an out. Matthew can measure his own sample. If he does it himself, it is lawful.
Medicine is an odd industry. It is a monopoly that controls not only the product it produces but also the evaluation of its own product. This is a historical result. Initially medicine had very little technology. What was known about medicine resided in the minds of the physicians.
As technology developed for medicine, especially diagnostic technology, this technology involved very expensive machinery and evolved in a time when computers were very expensive. It was just not possible for the people being helped by medicine to handle their own diagnostic work. The industry grew up measuring samples commercially. (It is now about a $100 billion industry.) But, as the monopoly matured, these commercial laboratories disappeared behind the gatekeepers of medicine, so that the individual cannot use high technology or evaluate the product that he is using. Moreover, the technology advances at a slow rate?
The thing that holds back medicine is the quantitative measurement of health. It is necessary to be able to measure quantitatively to make an advance. And yet it is very difficult to do.
Why would you want to do this?
Suppose you could measure the percentage of life remaining to you or at least your physiological age, quantitatively. Things would change. Someone may tell you you?ll live longer if you eat more Vitamin E or exercise or eat your veggies. You can do those things and have the opportunity to go back and re-measure to see if these life style changes have changed your rate of aging either positively or negatively.
The second reason for measuring health quantitatively is the probability of illness. And the third is, if you do get sick, you need to be able to measure your sickness quantitatively.
If you develop cancer and your physician suggests three or four options. What do you do? You pick the one that looks the best and close your eyes and see if you die. It shouldn?t be that way. You should be able to pick a method, watch the rate of growth of the cancer as a function of time, see if it?s improved or made worse by what you are doing, and then modulate and adjust your method of battling the illness?
The greatest amount of information is held in the metabolites, the small molecules found in urine, blood, and saliva that are produced and consumed in the normal course of metabolism. They are where the action is and they are all interlocked in different bio-chemical pathways. You don?t have to measure any specific one. There may be 5,000 of them in there, but if you take a sample of 200, those 200 are carrying information about the other 4,800. For example, 30 percent of the substances in your urine are correlated with your physiological age.
You can obtain tremendous amounts of information by profiling these molecules it is not being done?
Find out how human suffering could be decreased and the human lifespan increased using the technologies of the telecosm. Listen to Dr. Robinson?s complete Telecosm 2006 talk by downloading the MP3 audio file available on: http://www.gildertech.com/public/Telecosm2006/Agenda.htm#health
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Savate
on: November 10, 2006, 12:27:42 PM
Ever since0 my days with Paul Vunak some 20 years ago, I have had high regard for Savate. Indeed, Savate is one of the minor influences on DBMA.
I just saw a post on another forum that FitTV is going to be having a serious documentary on Nov. 22 which may also play on the History Channel.
Does anyone have more specific information?
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: November 10, 2006, 10:21:22 AM
MEXICO: Members of Mexico's Oaxaca teachers union said they will return to classes Nov. 16 regardless of the ongoing conflict in the southern Mexican city. The teachers originally intended to return to classes Oct. 31 but were prevented from doing so by conflict between the Mexican federal police and the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca.
MEXICO: Members of the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca plan to march in Mexico City at 4 p.m. local time. The march will begin at the Independence Column and end at the office of the interior secretary.www.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: November 10, 2006, 09:14:31 AM
I hadn't realized that the "axis of evil" speech came after Iran helped us in Afg.
Iran the key in US change on Iraq
By Trita Parsi
WASHINGTON - With the Democrats taking control of the US Congress and Donald Rumsfeld being replaced as defense secretary by Robert Gates, Washington has new avenues to resolve its many problems with Iran.
The key to the elections - and to Iran - is Iraq. In light of the soon-to-be published Iraq Study Group (ISG) report, it is increasingly clear that headway can be made neither on Iraq nor on the
nuclear standoff with Iran unless the two are linked.
The victory of the Democrats by taking both the House of Representatives and the Senate and the firing of Rumsfeld have shifted the balance between the pragmatists and the neo-conservatives in the administration of President George W Bush. Rumsfeld was closely allied with Vice President Dick Cheney in opposing every effort to open up diplomatic channels to Tehran.
According to Lawrence Wilkerson, former secretary of state Colin Powell's chief of staff, it was Cheney and Rumsfeld who made sure that Washington dismissed Iran's May 2003 offer to open up its nuclear program, rein in Hezbollah and cooperate against al-Qaeda. Rumsfeld was also a driving force behind using the Mujahideen-e Khalq, an Iranian terrorist organization opposed to the ruling clerics, to weaken Tehran.
Gates, however, belongs to a different school of Republican foreign-policy thinking. Gates' entrance and the Republican leadership's exit have created a precious opportunity to change the course on Iraq - and on Iran. For years, the Bush administration has pursued a maximalist policy based on rejecting any links between the Iranian nuclear program and the many other areas where the US and Iran clash. By refusing any linkages, the Bush White House has aimed to gain maximum concessions from Iran in all areas without ever having to reciprocate or offer any concessions in return.
This was clearly seen in Afghanistan, where Bush's envoy opened up talks with Iran to coordinate efforts to dispose the Taliban regime. Bush's intentions were purely tactical - accept Iranian help in Afghanistan without permitting the cooperation to lead to a shift in attitude toward Iran. The Iranians, on the other hand, were hoping that their assistance in Afghanistan would have strategic implications with an entire new relationship between Tehran and Washington as the ultimate outcome.
Once Iran's help in Afghanistan was no longer deemed necessary, Washington's approach to Tehran cooled significantly, much thanks to the influence of Rumsfeld. Only weeks after the Bonn Conference in December 2001 where Tehran's assistance was crucial in finding a compromise among Afghanistan's many warlords, Bush put Iran into the "axis of evil", along with Iraq and North Korea. Tehran's goodwill gestures were for naught.
"Iran made a mistake not to link its assistance in Afghanistan to American help in other areas and by just hoping that the US would reciprocate," said Javad Zarif, Iran's United Nations ambassador who was in charge of negotiations with Washington over Afghanistan.
The Bush administration's insistence on rejecting all forms of linkages has made a bad situation worse. On the one hand, the lesson of Afghanistan for Tehran has been to run a very hard bargain with the US where no help is offered for free. As a result, Washington has been left to deal with the deteriorating situation in Iraq by itself.
On the other hand, Washington's efforts to put a halt to Iran's nuclear program have run into a dead end. Washington has reduced US-Iran relations to a zero-sum game about enrichment. Either Iran has enrichment, or it doesn't. The Bush administration has not permitted any middle ground to exist in hopes that it could completely deprive Iran of all nuclear know-how.
But in this game of winner takes all, Iran has so far been winning. Washington has not even been able to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution imposing travel restrictions on Iranian officials involved in Tehran's nuclear program.
Much indicates that the only way out of this dead end is to do what Bush and Rumsfeld have refused to do all along: link Iranian cooperation in Iraq to Washington's willingness to find a compromise on the nuclear issue, where enrichment will be seen as a continuous rather than a binary variable. The White House refused such linkages in the past, since it sought complete victories. Now, creating linkages is necessary to avoid complete defeats in both Iraq and in Iran.
James Baker's ISG has already paved the way for dealing with Iran over Iraq, though Bush is yet to sign off on the idea of linkage. Last month, Baker met with Javad Zarif at the Iranian ambassador's residence in New York. The meeting lasted three hours and was deemed very helpful by both sides. Baker was told that Iran would consider helping the US in Iraq if "Washington first changed its attitude towards Iran", a euphemism for the Bush administration's unwillingness to deal with Iran in a strategic manner.
While the political earthquakes in Washington have raised hope that a shift in both Iraq and Iran may be forthcoming, Bush is still the final decision-maker. Neither a Democratic Congress nor a pragmatist in charge of the Pentagon is likely to change the course on Iraq and Iran unless the president recognizes the reality on the ground - without Iran, the US cannot win in Iraq, and without linking Iraq to the nuclear issue, Tehran's services are not available.
Dr Trita Parsi is the author of Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: November 09, 2006, 02:31:24 PM
Fellowship of Fighters With Tales of Sacrifice
Bill Crandall for The New York Times
Marine Museum A new center near Quantico, Va., devoted to the Marine Corps opens on Friday.
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
Published: November 9, 2006
TRIANGLE, Va., Nov. 6 ? I may not be alone in my reaction to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, which is opening on Friday adjacent to the Marine base in Quantico, outside Washington. In making my way through its 118,000 square feet of exhibitions, timelines, sound-and-light shows, historical videos, battle accounts and fighting machines, I felt a little like an alien visitor getting to know another culture. I am not among those for whom these packaged experiences (executed with great skill in the current museum mode) evoke reminiscences and platoon allegiances. I know this world only from news reports, movies and histories.
But many who will visit this impressive complex ? which will grow by another 80,000 square feet of exhibition, classroom and theater space in coming years ? will be intimately familiar with its account of Marine culture, beginning with basic training so intense it is intended to strip the recruit of any hint of the individualism so deeply cherished on the outside.
That experience is evoked here by a model of a bus bearing hopeful young men to a Marine training camp. ?Get off my bus,? the voice of a drill instructor would roar. ?Stand on the yellow footprints on the pavement. Now!?
Those footprints are here, at the bus?s side. Nearby are two soundproof booths into which the museumgoer ? having just begun this engaging, serpentine journey through recent Marine Corps history ? seals himself to hear the disorienting shouts of the drill sergeant.
Some visitors, who have memories of such shouts, may have flown, during World War II, an F4U Corsair much like the airplane suspended from the ceiling in the Leatherneck Gallery here. They may know that marines are called leathernecks because of a strap that protected their necks from sword slashes in the 18th century. They may gaze upward, toward the angled sweep of that gallery?s ceiling, which encloses a space that is at once atrium, lobby and arena for display of the land, sea and air equipment used in crucial battles, and recognize allusions to ship?s decks and portholes and even to the sea itself, from which the marines have traditionally emerged, their weapons raised.
While many such visitors would not know immediately that the thrusting bayonetlike rod that extends out of the skewed glass roof is part of an abstract representation of the famed flag-raising at Iwo Jima, the iconography, once identified, will have more associations for them than just the new Clint Eastwood movie. A reproduction of the sculpture of that scene is at the entrance of the nearby Marine base, and the two American flags raised that day are on display here. Amid the quotations praising marines inscribed in stone in this circular gallery is one that also has the potency of legend and the poignancy of truth, as if addressing those whose profession it is to fight our wars. It was cried out by First Sergeant Dan Daly as he led his men against German positions during the late days of World War I: ?Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever??
One of the doctrines of this elite fighting fellowship, and one of the themes of this museum, is that the Marine affiliation does not break with the end of active service, let alone death: a sense of identification extends over centuries. Symbols ? like the Marine insignia of the eagle, globe and anchor ? take on a persistent significance, since every living marine who fought during wartime is also a surviving marine who has seen others fall. In that way too this museum, with all its symbols, is a place of pride and remembrance, a spirit emphasized in the atrium?s central space. (The building is designed by Fentress Bradburn Architects.)
It is also an attempt to remind others of the role marines have played. The museum evolved out of a partnership of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which raised $57 million in private money for construction, and the corps itself, which raised $30 million for the exhibitions, many designed by Christopher Chadbourne & Associates, a firm also involved in designing the new George Washington exhibitions at nearby Mount Vernon. (One gallery, devoted to combat art, is sponsored by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the chairman emeritus of the New York Times Company.) The museum is part of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, which features a memorial park and is eventually to include parade grounds, a chapel, a conference center and a hotel.
That project will require additional fund-raising. The museum itself, according to its director, Lin Ezell, plans to begin its Phase 2 in 2008. Now this historical survey of the corps, which was founded on Nov. 10, 1775 (the opening on Friday, which is reservation only, is a birthday celebration), is necessarily incomplete. The 18th- and 19th-century galleries have yet to be built. Recent history is represented by a single gallery of photographs from Iraq and Afghanistan that will eventually be replaced by a full-scale history of the Marines since the Vietnam War.
But what is being unveiled now is the heart of the story, at least for contemporary sensibilities: detailed accounts of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. These wars ? still in the realm of living memory ? are not only chronicled with photographs and wall panels, but also re-enacted in tableaus with life-size figures molded from the features of 75 active-duty marines. These figures are frozen in motion in tanks or jeeps, or appear in the midst of battles atmospherically evoked in what the museum is calling immersion galleries. The floors? molded sand and mud bear the footprints of the era?s boots, the lights and sounds imitate weather and weaponry, and history is turned into theater.
Such immersion of course is aimed less at veterans than at visitors who have not lived through the trauma, onlookers for whom the chill air of the gallery devoted to the battle at Toktong Pass during the Korean War or the humid haze of a siege on Hill 881 South in Vietnam (into which visitors descend from the thumping ramp of a real CH-46 helicopter fuselage) is a curious experience.
But there is so much information in the midst of the sensation that the result becomes thoroughly absorbing. I walked through these winding galleries ? where scenes, equipment and wall panels intermingle, and video screens can even appear on the undersides of planes ? feeling like an innocent abroad, astonished at the historical panorama.
For the most part these exhibitions do not give a whitewashed account. The display about boot camp even mentions the 1956 tragedy in which an overzealous drill instructor took his platoon on an unauthorized march through a swamp one night, leading to the deaths of six recruits. There is much defeat here; the heroism at the Toktong battle, for example, is the valor that leads to survival in the midst of retreat. The early Pacific battles of World War II in Guam and the Philippines were pageants of blood.
But the account of World War II, which focuses extensively on the Pacific because of the centrality of the Marines? involvement, is also a story of strategic lessons learned, in which air, land and water forces became tautly coordinated in fighting difficult battles against entrenched Japanese soldiers. The lessons are less clear in the accounts of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Here the marines occasionally chafe at the role given them or celebrate their relationships with South Vietnamese villages, but an effort to make sense of the whole, with all its scars, is missing.
Given the unsatisfactory, painful winding down of both wars, there are hints of discontent here, signs of the ancient tension between the political and military authorities. Attention is drawn, for example, to the government?s disinclination to take risks after initial triumphs in Korea or to its confusion about strategy and ambition in Vietnam. An unstated lesson is that lack of clarity, determination and flexibility in either the political or the military realm can lead to calamity.
But here is the museum?s persistent point: The same sacrifice is demanded whatever mistakes are made. Whether in crucial battles ? in 36 days of fighting, 6,000 marines were killed at Iwo Jima ? or in more controversial extended wars, that sacrifice is subject to no second guesses. It presumes an allegiance that transcends individual judgment.
This is humbling for a civilian who has been drilled in just the opposite perspective. Yet in the best of such cases, it is through the sacrifices made by the military that we have the luxury of maintaining our proud individualism. The museum makes it possible to understand just what is demanded of those we have asked to fight for us, and how much more is so often given.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: November 09, 2006, 12:49:26 PM
MEXICO: Mexico's People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) said that in order to return to a dialogue, the state must cease all violent action against the group, re-establish the signal to the university radio station, liberate 60 political prisoners and find 30 missing individuals. In the meantime, APPO members have been offered asylum within the Roman Catholic Church.www.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: November 09, 2006, 08:14:19 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Rumsfeld's Legacy
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigned on Wednesday after the Democrats succeeded in securing a majority hold on the U.S. House of Representatives in midterm elections.
Rumsfeld is perhaps among the most visionary defense secretaries who have served in the U.S. government, but that hardly has made him an effective one -- and it certainly has not stopped him from being a political liability.
Rumsfeld's primary goal, and the reason that U.S. President George W. Bush brought him into the government in the first place, was to bring about a seminal shift in the shape of the U.S. military. He sought to skip over an entire generation of military hardware -- such as the F-22, which is only now entering the military's toolkit -- and instead focus on the development of fundamentally new technologies, so that 20 years from now the United States would be fielding technology two generations ahead of any potential foes.
Part and parcel of this change would be a massive reduction in the size of the military, with the army suffering the largest cuts in manpower and resources. There would be a corresponding emphasis on light, highly mobile forces with high-tech capabilities such as long-range hypersonic cruise missiles, smart drones and the ability to insert small forces anywhere in the world at a moment's notice.
Rumsfeld's biggest failing was not his plan, or even his execution of it. It was that reality intervened, in the form of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war, and he refused to shift course in midstream. Rumsfeld was designing a military that could defeat state power by the precise applications of force while minimizing the exposure of U.S. forces; but the U.S.-jihadist war brought to the table a foe that thrived in chaotic regions where state control was weak or nonexistent. Rumsfeld's plan could overturn the Taliban or Saddam Hussein's government, but it could not muster the manpower necessary to impose order on the resulting chaos. Without sufficient "boots on the ground," the United States has proven unable to deny militants the environment in which they thrive.
The nature of the war the United States found itself fighting changed, and Rumsfeld demonstrated over and over that he lacked the ability to change with it.
His replacement, former CIA director Robert Gates, is in theory being brought in specifically to implement the very changes that Rumsfeld for the longest time refused to admit were necessary. Gates is part of the Iraq Study Group, a cadre of senior statesmen who have been out of government for over a decade -- he left government in 1993 -- recently tasked to come up with alternatives to the current Iraq strategy.
Their recommendations will be interesting to read, and Gates' efforts to implement them will be fascinating to watch. Congressional confirmation for Gates should come very easily and quickly -- he has no great political ambitions and is on the team that is supposed to come up with non-ideological recommendations for the way forward.
But what he will not be doing is prepping the United States for the next threat. Gates is a placeholder -- a competent placeholder for sure, but a placeholder nonetheless. Facing a hostile Congress, the Bush administration has sharp limitations on its actions and we will be seeing no revolutionary proposals from a defense secretary who will be in his job a maximum of two years.
The irony is that, instead of leaping ahead by a generation, U.S. forces have now been saddled with the worst of both worlds: an exhausted military that will take years to repair, and limited progress in the modernization that they will likely need a generation from now.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: November 08, 2006, 09:52:10 PM
Pakistan: Attacks and Retaliation in the NWFP
A suicide bombing killed more than 42 soldiers at a Pakistani army training base Nov. 8 in the town of Dargai, in the country's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). This followed a Nov. 7 attack in which tribal militants fired rockets during NWFP Gov. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai's visit to the town of Wana, in the tribal belt. These attacks are retaliation for the Pakistani military's Oct. 30 strike against a religious school in the Bajaur area, which the army asserted was being used as a militant training facility. The Pakistani military will almost certainly respond aggressively to such a blatant provocation, especially considering the army's precedent for responding to militant attacks. Such a response will further destabilize the country's restive northwest.
More than 42 Pakistani soldiers died in a Nov. 8 suicide bombing attack at an army training base in Dargai, a town in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). On the previous day, during NWFP Gov. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai's visit to the town of Wana -- the capital of South Waziristan, in the country's northwestern tribal areas -- tribal militants fired two rockets during the assembly and three more after the delegation had left the area. Security forces responded by firing mortar shells at the hills southeast of Wana.
It is hard to conclude that these attacks were anything other than retaliation for the Pakistani army's Oct. 30 strike against a madrassa in the Bajaur area. The army base targeted Nov. 8 is located about 30 miles southeast of the site of the Oct. 30 military strike. The town of Dargai is a stronghold of the banned pro-Taliban movement Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-Mohammadi, and sentiment ran strongly against Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf there even before the madrassa attack. Furthermore, Dargai is located in the Malakand tribal region, a possible hideout for al Qaeda's top leaders.
Tribesmen had publicly promised to retaliate against the madrassa attack, so the Nov. 8 suicide bombing attack was hardly a surprise, even if the scale and audacity of the attack were substantial. The Pakistani military had shown a willingness to talk with the militants and strike a deal, but the deadly attack against the military base destroyed any chances for diplomacy between the two parties by practically guaranteeing a bloody retaliation.
Militant jihadists, who are very much in league with tribal pro-Taliban forces in Pakistan's restive northwest, are attempting to make it clear to Pakistan's security establishment that their strength has yet to be sapped. This is a major escalation on the militants' part, in that they now are striking at the country's top institution -- the military, whose leaders they see as agents of the United States. The use of suicide bombers draws comparisons with militant tactics in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. Furthermore, the al Qaeda-linked jihadists sense that Musharraf's domestic standing -- especially within the military -- has deteriorated and they are exploiting that deterioration as a window of opportunity, narrow though it is.
However, the Pakistani army will not allow the Nov. 8 attack to go unpunished. The army thinks of itself as the steward of the nation and cannot accept an attack that demonstrates its vulnerability. The military has never been shy about hitting back when it is threatened or under attack; for example, the upswing in military operations in Balochistan in January followed the December 2005 attack against the helicopter of the army's Frontier Corps inspector-general, Maj. Gen. Shujaat Zamir Dar. The military also has conducted largely retributive operations in the wake of assassination attempts against Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Musharraf's military deputy, Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat.
Furthermore, considering that the United States was likely heavily involved in the Oct. 30 strike, it is highly possible that militants will seek to attack U.S. interests in Pakistan. Vulnerable targets include U.S. diplomats' residences, consulates in Lahore or Peshawar (as opposed to the more heavily guarded Karachi consulate) and five-star hotels frequented by Western nationals.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: November 08, 2006, 08:02:19 PM
Back to Iraq
By George Friedman
The midterm congressional elections have given the Democrats control of the U.S. House of Representatives. It is possible -- as of this writing, on Wednesday afternoon -- that the Senate could also go to the Democrats, depending on the outcome of one extremely close race in Virginia. However it finally turns out, it is quite certain that this midterm was a national election, in the sense that the dominant issue was not a matter of the local concerns in congressional districts, but the question of U.S. policy in Iraq. What is clear is that the U.S. electorate has shifted away from supporting the Bush administration's conduct of the war. What is not clear at all is what they have shifted toward. It is impossible to discern any consensus in the country as to what ought to be done.
Far more startling than the election outcome was the sudden resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld had become the lightning rod for critics of the war, including many people who had supported the war but opposed the way it was executed. Extraordinarily, President George W. Bush had said last week that Rumsfeld would stay on as secretary of defense until the end of his presidential term. It is possible that Rumsfeld surprised Bush by resigning in the immediate wake of the election -- but if that were the case, Bush would not have had a replacement already lined up by the afternoon of Nov. 8. The appointment of Robert Gates as secretary of defense means two things: One is that Rumsfeld's resignation was in the works for at least a while (which makes Bush's statement last week puzzling, to say the least); the other is that a shift is under way in White House policy on the war.
Gates is close to the foreign policy team that surrounded former President George H. W. Bush. Many of those people have been critical of, or at least uneasy with, the current president's Iraq policy. Moving a man like Gates into the secretary of defense position indicates that Bush is shifting away from his administration's original team and back toward an older cadre that was not always held in high esteem by this White House.
The appointment of Gates is of particular significance because he was a member of the Iraq Study Group (ISG). The ISG has been led by another member of the Bush 41 team, former Secretary of State James Baker. The current president created the ISG as a bipartisan group whose job was to come up with new Iraq policy options for the White House. The panel consisted of people who have deep experience in foreign policy and no pressing personal political ambitions. The members included former House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, who co-chairs the group with Baker; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican; former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan; Leon Panetta, who served as White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration; former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry; former Sen. Chuck Robb, a Democrat; Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming; and Edwin Meese, who served as attorney general under the Reagan administration.
Before Rumsfeld's resignation, it had not been entirely clear what significance the ISG report would have. For the Democrats -- controlling at least one chamber of Congress, and lacking any consensus themselves as to what to do about Iraq -- it had been expected that the ISG report would provide at least some platform from which to work, particularly if Bush did not embrace the panel's recommendations. And there had, in fact, been some indications from Bush that he would listen to the group's recommendations, but not necessarily implement them. Given the results of the Nov. 7 elections, it also could be surmised that the commission's report would become an internal issue for the Republican Party as well, as it looked ahead to the 2008 presidential campaign. With consensus that something must change, and no consensus as to what must change, the ISG report would be treated as a life raft for both Democrats and Republicans seeking a new strategy in the war. The resulting pressure would be difficult to resist, even for Bush. If he simply ignored the recommendations, he could lose a large part of his Republican base in Congress.
At this point, however, the question mark as to the president's response seems to have been erased, and the forthcoming ISG report soars in significance. For the administration, it would be politically unworkable to appoint a member of the panel as secretary of defense and then ignore the policies recommended.
It is, of course, not yet clear precisely what policy the administration will be adopting in Iraq. But to envision what sort of recommendations the ISG might deliver, we must first consider the current strategy.
Essentially, U.S. strategy in Iraq is to create an effective coalition government, consisting of all the major ethnic and sectarian groups. In order to do that, the United States has to create a security environment in which the government can function. Once this has been achieved, the Iraqi government would take over responsibility for security. The problem, however, is twofold. First, U.S. forces have not been able to create a sufficiently secure environment for the government to function. Second, there are significant elements within the coalition that the United States is trying to create who either do not want such a government to work -- and are allied with insurgents to bring about its failure -- or who want to improve their position within the coalition, using the insurgency as leverage. In other words, U.S. forces are trying to create a secure environment for a coalition whose members are actively working to undermine the effort.
The core issue is that no consensus exists among Iraqi factions as to what kind of country they want. This is not only a disagreement among Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, but also deep disagreements within these separate groups as to what a national government (or even a regional government, should Iraq be divided) should look like. It is not that the Iraqi government in Baghdad is not doing a good job, or that it is corrupt, or that it is not motivated. The problem is that there is no Iraqi government as we normally define the term: The "government" is an arena for political maneuvering by mutually incompatible groups.
Until the summer of 2006, the U.S. strategy had been to try to forge some sort of understanding among the Iraqi groups, using American military power as a goad and guarantor of any understandings. But the decision by the Shia, propelled by Iran, to intensify operations against the Sunnis represented a deliberate decision to abandon the political process. More precisely, in our view, the Iranians decided that the political weakness of George W. Bush, the military weakness of U.S. forces in Iraq, and the general international environment gave them room to reopen the question of the nature of the coalition, the type of regime that would be created and the role that Iran could play in Iraq. In other words, the balanced coalition government that the United States wanted was no longer attractive to the Iranians and Iraqi Shia. They wanted more.
The political foundation for U.S. military strategy dissolved. The possibility of creating an environment sufficiently stable for an Iraqi government to operate -- when elements of the Iraqi government were combined with Iranian influence to raise the level of instability -- obviously didn't work. The United States might have had enough force in place to support a coalition government that was actively seeking and engaged in stabilization. It did not have enough force to impose its will on multiple insurgencies that were supported by factions of the government the United States was trying to stabilize.
By the summer of 2006, the core strategy had ceased to function.
It is in this context that the ISG will issue its report. There have been hints as to what the group might recommend, but the broad options boil down to these:
1. Recommend that the United States continue with the current strategy: military operations designed to create a security environment in which an Iraqi government can function.
2. Recommend the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces and allow the Iraqis to sort out their political problems.
3. Recommend a redeployment of forces in Iraq, based around a redefinition of the mission.
4. Recommend a redefinition of the political mission in Iraq.
We are confident that the ISG will not recommend a continuation of the first policy. James Baker has already hinted at the need for change, since it is self-evident at this point that the existing strategy isn't working. It is possible that the strategy could work eventually, but there is no logical reason to believe that this will happen anytime soon, particularly as the president has now been politically weakened. The Shia and Iranians, at this point, are even less likely to be concerned about Washington's military capability in Iraq than they were before the election. And at any rate, Baker and Hamilton didn't travel personally to Iraq only to come back and recommend the status quo.
Nor will they recommend an immediate withdrawal of troops. Apart from the personalities involved, the ISG participants are painfully aware that a unilateral withdrawal at this point, without a prior political settlement, would leave Iran as the dominant power in the region -- potentially capable of projecting military force throughout the Persian Gulf, as well as exerting political pressure through Shiite communities in Gulf states. Only the United States has enough force to limit the Iranians at this point, and an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would leave a huge power vacuum.
We do believe that the ISG will recommend a fundamental shift in the way U.S. forces are used. The troops currently are absorbing casualties without moving closer to their goal, and it is not clear that they can attain it. If U.S. forces remain in Iraq -- which will be recommended -- there will be a shift in their primary mission. Rather than trying to create a secure environment for the Iraqi government, their mission will shift to guaranteeing that Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, do not gain further power and influence in Iraq. Nothing can be done about the influence they wield among Iraqi Shia, but the United States will oppose anything that would allow them to move from a covert to an overt presence in Iraq. U.S. forces will remain in-country but shift their focus to deterring overt foreign intrusion. That means a redeployment and a change in day-to-day responsibility. U.S. forces will be present in Iraq but not conducting continual security operations.
Two things follow from this. First, the Iraqis will be forced to reach a political accommodation with each other or engage in civil war. The United States will concede that it does not have the power to force them to agree or to prevent them from fighting. Second, the issue of Iran -- its enormous influence in Iraq -- will have to be faced directly, or else U.S. troops will be tied up there indefinitely.
It has been hinted that the ISG is thinking of recommending that Washington engage in negotiations with Iran over the future of Iraq. Tehran offered such negotiations last weekend, and this has been the Iranian position for a while. There have been numerous back-channel discussions, and some open conversations, between Washington and Tehran. The stumbling block has been that the United States has linked the possibility of these talks to discussions of Iran's nuclear policy; Iran has rejected that, always seeking talks on Iraq without linkages. If the rumors are true, and logic says they are, the ISG will suggest that Washington should delink the nuclear issue and hold talks with Iran about a political settlement over Iraq.
This is going to be the hard part for Bush. The last thing he wants is to enhance Iranian power. But the fact is that Iranian power already has been enhanced by the ability of Iraqi Shia to act with indifference to U.S. wishes. By complying with this recommendation, Washington would not be conceding much. It would be acknowledging reality. Of course, publicly acknowledging what has happened is difficult, but the alternative is a continuation of the current strategy -- also difficult. Bush has few painless choices.
What a settlement with Iran would look like is, of course, a major question. We have discussed that elsewhere. For the moment, the key issue is not what a settlement would look like but whether there can be a settlement at all with Iran -- or even direct discussions. In a sense, that is a more difficult problem than the final shape of an agreement.
We expect the ISG, therefore, to make a military and political recommendation. Militarily, the panel will argue for a halt in aggressive U.S. security operations and a redeployment of forces in Iraq, away from areas of unrest. Security will have to be worked out by the Iraqis -- or not. Politically, the ISG will argue that Washington will have to talk directly to the other major stakeholder, and power broker, in Iraq: Tehran.
In short, the group will recommend a radical change in the U.S. approach not only to Iraq, but to the Muslim world in general.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA
on: November 08, 2006, 12:35:37 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mario Serrano
Publicist 408-607-5756MMAPublicist@aol.com www.Prosubleague.com
Los Angeles, CA may be the entertainment capitol of the world but the event that is on everyone's lips is the historic match-up between MMA fighting legend Randy Couture and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) superstar Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza at the Professional Submission League's (PSL) 'X-Mission' on Friday, November 17, 2006. This classic battle, unprecedented in modern times, has brought Randy out of retirement and Jacare into the spotlight as two of the world's finest Mixed Martial Artists collide on the PSL tatame.
?Jacare', the alligator from Manaus, Amazon, Brazil has been causing quite a stir since he arrived in the States. The BJJ Absolute Mundial & ADCC World Submission Champion has been spotted at the Pride Fighting Championships, in Las Vegas and training in dojos all around the Los Angeles area with none other than Mr. Wallid Ismail, the Amazon's first MMA hero.
The PSL crew caught up with the dynamic duo from the great Amazon State as they headed out to the set of Spike TV's Pros vs. Joes in Los Angeles, CA to meet the only man to win UFC titles in two different weight categories, Randy Couture. At this exclusive on-set meeting the two 'X Mission' main eventers sealed the deal for their highly anticipated match up.
Since retiring from the UFC "The Natural" has been busy as ever with several business projects, a slew of personal appearances, and of course television & film roles. His latest role is in Pros vs. Joes, Spike TV's action-packed sports series that pits a team of average everyday Joes vs. a team of the world's greatest Pros. UFC Hall of Famer Couture was on the set filming the season premiere along with his fellow Pros Michael Irvin (five time NFL Pro Bowler & three time Super Bowl Champion), Glen Rice (three time NBA All Star) and Jose Canseco (six time MLB All Star).
The set came to life as Jacare arrived with his consignor, Mr. Ismail, to meet "The Natural" and face off before the big day. Much respect was exchanged between the two combatants along with the usual pre-match posturing as 'Jacare' informed us that "Randy is a big man and has accomplished many great things but now is my time and he will feel the bite of the alligator."
Jacare seemed to revel in his first visit to a Hollywood set as Randy, the consummate professional, was unfazed by it all and he revealed to us that "I may have retired from fighting but I have not retired from competition. There are many new challenges ahead for me and this is one of them."
Indeed, both men will need to be at their best during the PSL's X-Mission event on Friday, November 17, 2006 at the Culver City Veterans' Memorial.
PSL brings the sport and its athletes into the spotlight where they can be appreciated in a tasteful and upscale environment. ?X-MISSION? is PSL?s latest event showcasing an international line-up of ?who?s who? and world champion athletes from around the world including Brazil, Japan, Canada, Russia and the United States. To schedule interviews, obtain press credentials and receive more information, call Mario Serrano at (408) 607-5756.
# # #
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: God and Sex
on: November 08, 2006, 07:23:32 AM
Staying with the God & Sex theme of the thread, it seems to me that one of the fundamental areas of social discord in the world today comes from the disconnect between sex and reproduction. The history of our evolutionary biology and the social codes that arose from it, until quite recently were based upon the idea that sex had reproductive consuquences. Now, with the pill and other birth control technologies and with abortion it is possible for heterosexuals to have sex without having babies. Now, with the increasing social acceptance of homosexuality there is another non-reproductive outlet for sexual urges.
Combine this with ever earlier arrival of puberty and the ever later age of life in which marriage and children take place, and we have some people going for many years of sexual maturity without having children. If, for example puberty hits at 14 (and apparantly there are many cases where it now hits earlier) and parenting hits at 30, that person is going for 16 years.
The "Just say no to pre-marital sex" solution of many religions can be a really hard sell when the reality is for 16 years. And if we look at the massive pedophiliac and homosexual issues within the Catholic Church, it seems like even serious spiritual people have a real hard time with "just say no".
On the other hand, is recreational sex emotionally and spiritually sound?
What is to guide us through the interregnum between puberty and parenthood?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA
on: November 08, 2006, 06:55:23 AM
MMAWeekly has learned that Kevin Randleman has been charged by the Nevada State Athletic Commission with providing a fake urine sample for the drug test that he took after his fight on the Pride card in Las Vegas on October 21st.
If he is found to be guilty of these charges, Randleman could face severe disciplinary measures from the athletic commission, which could include a significant fine, a lengthy suspension, or perhaps even permanent revocation of his fighters' license.
All NSAC-sanctioned organizations, including Pride, are required to honor NSAC suspensions for all of their shows throughout the world if they want to continue to be licensed to run events in Nevada.
In the recent history of unarmed combat drug testing in Nevada, one fighter was previously alleged to have provided a fake urine sample, and that fighter's license was flat-out revoked (as opposed to suspended). That fighter was Sean McCully, who tested positive for marijuana and the anabolic steroid nandrolone in September 2004, and then allegedly provided a fake urine sample when he was re-tested in September 2005.
Keith Kizer, the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, tells MMAWeekly, "I just spoke with Dr. Hyatt, who said [Randleman's urine] specimen 'flat-lined' for hormones. This allegedly means that the urine was fake, similar to Sean McCully?s case from several months ago."
If it does indeed turn out that the urine sample provided by Randleman did not contain any human hormones, that would mean that it was urine from a dead human or urine from a non-human.
Randleman, who lost to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua by submission on the Pride card in question, will have 20 days to respond to the NSAC's complaint, and then at some point there will be a disciplinary hearing at which Randleman's status will be determined.
Providing fake urine or otherwise trying to defraud the drug testing system is regarded as being just as much of a violation as actually failing a drug test, if not more of a violation.
Randleman now becomes the fourth MMA fighter to fail to pass a drug test in a period of less than two months in the state of Nevada. Stephan Bonnar tested positive for Boldenone, an anabolic steroid used to rehabilitate injured horses, after his fight at UFC 62. At Bonnar's disciplinary hearing last Friday, he admitted that he knowingly took a banned substance, and he was suspended for nine months.
Competing on the same Pride card as Randleman on October 21st, Vitor Belfort and Pawel Nastula also failed their respective drug tests. Belfort tested positive for the anabolic steroid 4-hydroxytestosterone, while Nastula tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone and the banned stimulants phenylpropanolamine, pseudoephedrine, and ephedrine (ironically, the same exact combination of banned substances for which Kimo Leopoldo tested positive after a UFC fight in 2004). The cases of Belfort and Nastula are still pending before the NSAC.
Randleman, Belfort, and Nastula were three of the ten fighters who were drug tested on Pride's October 21st card. Four other fighters on the card were not drug tested. In Bonnar's case, he was one of just four fighters who were drug tested at UFC 62, as there were fourteen fighters on the card who were not drug tested.
According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the total cost of drug testing one fighter for all banned steroids, stimulants, and recreational drugs is $278.40. With ticket sales for these events in the millions and with more and more fighters failing to pass their drug tests, a growing number of MMA fans have begun to question the fact that there isn't mandatory drug testing for every single fighter on every single card.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics, Investing, & Technology
on: November 08, 2006, 06:29:58 AM
The Dot-Com Bubble
Is Reconsidered --
And Maybe Relived
November 8, 2006; Page B1
The traditional history of the dot-com bubble has been told many times: Too many companies rushed into the market in defiance of all known business fundamentals, and when the crash came, all but a tiny fraction of them just as quickly imploded and went away.
That received wisdom, though, is now getting a going-over by economists, business historians and others, some of whom are coming to new conclusions about what precisely went wrong during the bubble years, normally dated from the Netscape IPO in August 1995 to March 2000, when Nasdaq peaked at above 5100.
A recent paper suggests that rather than having too many entrants, the period of the Web bubble may have had to few; at least, too few of the right kind. And while most people recall the colossal flops of the period (Webvan, pets.com, etoys and the rest) the survival rates of the era's companies turns out to be on a par, if not slightly higher, than those in several other major industries in their formative years.
The paper is being published in a coming issue of the Journal of Financial Economics. As noteworthy as the findings are, even more interesting is the process that led to them. The work is an outgrowth of the Business Plan Archive at the University of Maryland. Its goal is to become a kind of Smithsonian Institution of the Internet bubble, saving for posterity every business plan, PowerPoint presentation and venture-capital term sheet -- the more frothy and half-baked, the better -- that it can get its hands on.
David A. Kirsch, a professor of management at the university's business school and one of the authors of the study, said it relied on a thorough examination of one particular treasure trove at the archive: every business plan, roughly 1,100 in all, submitted during the period to an East Coast venture firm.
The VC office later closed and donated the papers to the archive on the condition it remain anonymous. Prof. Kirsch said that while the office would be considered second tier when compared with the famous names in Silicon Valley's Sand Hill Road, the 1,100 firms he studied were representative of all of the companies started during the period.
Looking through those business plans, and contemporary press accounts, the study identifies a defining business strategy of the bubble era: Get Big Fast. A business was supposed to grow as quickly as possible because the first successful entrant in a category could keep out challengers. If a company was able to successfully get big, it could use that position to later finesse other questions, such as how it might one day actually make money.
Belief in this "first mover advantage" is today tempered by a new awareness of the risks of being the first out of the chute. Back then, though, VCs used Get Big Fast as their basic investing strategy, despite the absence of any evidence that it worked. By the spring of 2000, however, the world was beginning to wake up to the fact that it didn't work. The crash followed soon thereafter.
The study suggests, though, that the dimensions of that crash might be misunderstood. Nearly half of the companies they studied were still in business in 2004. Prof. Kirsch says that most people believe just a few percent made it through.
The study found that the attrition rate for dot-com companies was roughly 20% a year, which is no different from what occurred during many other industries, such as automobiles, during their early boom periods.
Most of these survivors, though, aren't the titans like Amazon or eBay, but much smaller efforts such as wrestlinggear.com, which sells equipment to high-school and college wrestlers, what Prof. Kirsch called precisely the sort of demanding niche market for which Web shopping was invented.
The fact that so many dot-com companies survived suggests that even more could have started. But that didn't happen, says the study. Investors following conventional wisdom of the day were interested only in companies that could dominate an entire industry. In looking for these, they ignored smaller niche opportunities that had the potential to become modest but profitable enterprises.
"It turns out there were lots of nooks and crannies for entrepreneurial action," says Prof. Kirsch. "But those nooks and crannies might have been $5 million or $10 million businesses -- well worth doing, though not necessarily for VCs."
The paper's other authors were Brent Goldfarb, a University of Maryland economist, and David A. Miller, of UC San Diego.
While they didn't deal with the current Internet bubble involving "Web 2.0" companies, it's clear that a variation on Get Big Fast is alive and well today, just a few years later.
Companies like Interactive, eBay and Google are spending hundred of millions, often billions, on start-ups such as MySpace, Skype and YouTube, which have developed a commanding market presence but without actually making money. Some of the explanations for these purchases have a certain logic; others seem like dot-com d?j? vu.
It will take awhile to know whether things will turn out differently this time. But bubbles always have happy endings, don't they?
Write to Lee Gomes at email@example.com
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: November 08, 2006, 06:13:14 AM
Mexico: Jumping on the Oaxaca Bandwagon
An umbrella group composed of five armed revolutionary organizations claimed responsibility for the Nov. 6 bombings in Mexico City. In a Nov. 7 Internet statement, the coalition said it will continue to detonate bombs and expand attacks to target 40 national and multinational corporations throughout Mexico as long as Ulises Ruiz remains governor of Oaxaca state. And as the government cracks down on protests, as it recently did in Oaxaca, the movement probably will only grow stronger -- and extend its attacks beyond Mexico City.
An umbrella group composed of five armed revolutionary organizations claimed responsibility Nov. 7 for Mexico City's Nov. 6 bombings outside the headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a Scotiabank branch and the Federal Electoral Tribunal. The group added that it will carry out more attacks and expand its list of targets as long as Oaxacan Gov. Ulises Ruiz remains in power and the government continues to repress dissent. It also said it would target 40 main national and transnational organizations, as well as Mexican political and government institutions.
Mexico's left-wing groups traditionally rally behind prominent issues to harness attention for their causes. It is thus unsurprising that this group emerged amid the row over Mexico's 2006 presidential election and the ongoing crisis in Oaxaca to capitalize on the volatile political environment and win protesters' support. And as the government cracks down on protests -- as it recently did in Oaxaca, the coalition probably will only grow stronger -- and extend its attacks beyond Mexico City.
The coalition is made up of the Lucio Cabanas Barrientos Revolutionary Movement (MR-LCB), Democratic Revolutionary Tendency-People's Army (TDR-EP), Insurgent Organization-May 1, Dec. 2 Execution Brigade and Popular Liberation Brigades. Of these groups, the MR-LCB and TDR-EP are the most well-established. Both are more than five years old, and are offshoots of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), a left-wing guerrilla group that operates throughout Mexico.
The MR-LCB and TDR-EP recently took up the cause of the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) by echoing the APPO's call for the federal police to withdraw from Oaxaca and for Ruiz to step down. So long as these demands go unmet, the threat to national and transnational companies and government institutions in all parts of Mexico will remain high. But the two groups probably will not drop their threats even if their Oaxaca demands are met. Statements from both reveal that their cause is fundamentally anti-government, and so the Oaxaca crisis merely represents a convenient platform to attract attention. The decision to target multinational corporations is therefore rooted in the group's fundamental ideology.
The new umbrella group said multinational corporations that support the government are responsible for rampant poverty and the marginalization of most Mexicans, and have assisted the "cynical dictatorship" of Ruiz and "governmental repression" on the state and federal level.
This language is reminiscent of defeated presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, though there are no overt links between the umbrella group and Lopez Obrador's movement. Two of the targets of the Nov. 6 bombings -- the PRI headquarters and the Federal Electoral Tribunal building -- did play a role in the Lopez Obrador election row, however. Though PRI ideology is closer to Lopez Obrador and his Democratic Revolutionary Party's views than it is to President-elect Felipe Calderon's National Action Party, the PRI allied itself with Calderon after the election. The Federal Electoral Tribunal attack is more clearly linked to the Lopez Obrador affair, since that body rejected his claims of vote fraud and pronounced Calderon the winner of the July 2 election.
In response to the threats against government and enterprise, police stepped up security in Mexico City, focusing on transportation and state-owned companies, such as the capital's airport and subway system, PRI offices, Petroleos Mexicanos facilities, the Federal Electrical Commission and the Power and Light Co. But violence and unrest have surged beyond Mexico City.
In Oaxaca, a Burger King near a protester-occupied university was vandalized; the words "murderous multinationals" were scrawled on the building, though the restaurant is a franchise owned by local Oaxacans. And late Nov. 6, two small devices thrown at representatives of the Mexican attorney general's office in Ixtapa, a beach resort town in Guerrero state, exploded hours before a scheduled visit by Calderon. No one was injured, and Calderon's trip proceeded undisturbed. While no group has claimed responsibility for the incidents, the targets of the attacks -- a multinational corporation and government agents -- are consistent with the ideology of the coalition responsible for the Mexico City bombings.
The coalition behind the Mexico City attacks also took special care to avoid capture and cause no injuries. If it plans to continue along these lines, Mexico City's increased police presence means the groups will probably conduct future attacks elsewhere.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The importance of good cholesterol
on: November 08, 2006, 06:01:20 AM
A better number?
We obsess over bad cholesterol levels, but when it comes to heart disease risk, good cholesterol may be more important. Next up: New treatments.
By Shari Roan
Times Staff Writer
November 6, 2006
FOR the last two decades, a fear of bad cholesterol has gripped Americans. We've measured it, compared it, worried about it and doused it with statins, now among the bestselling drugs of all time.
But hovering on the sidelines has been another type of cholesterol ? HDL, the good kind, also known as high-density lipoprotein. HDL cholesterol doesn't get anywhere near the attention of its bad LDL twin (low-density lipoprotein). But now it may be poised to receive the respect it deserves.
Recent research suggests that HDL may actually be the more important player of the two in raising or lowering heart disease risk. And as the 20th anniversary of the first cholesterol-lowering statin draws close, a new heart disease deterrent is ready to leap onto the stage: the first drug to substantially raise good cholesterol.
If approved, it could usher in a radically new era in the battle against the No. 1 killer of Americans, responsible for 37% of adult deaths in the United States every year.
In fact, by simultaneously tinkering with good and bad ? giving medications in tandem to alter both HDL and LDL ? doctors may finally have the potent one-two punch against heart disease they have long been searching for.
"We've taken LDL management as far as we can go," says Dr. Prediman K. Shah, director of the division of cardiology and the Atherosclerosis Research Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "Everyone is on the bandwagon that HDL is the next frontier for atherosclerosis management."
Interest in raising HDL cholesterol has been growing in recent years for several reasons. Chiefly, researchers have discovered that HDL prevents or reduces the build-up of plaque in artery walls and appears to be a significant cardiovascular risk factor independent of whether LDL is high or low.
But doctors have long known that LDL cannot be the whole story. Statins, for example, lower LDL cholesterol 30% to 40% and reduce heart attack and stroke rates by about the same amount ? but most doctors can remember patients who dutifully lowered their LDL and still suffered heart attacks or strokes.
"Even with 30% to 40% reduction, we have not eliminated cardiovascular disease," says Dr. William Averill, a cardiologist and past president of the Los Angeles division of the American Heart Assn.
Doctors also know people who have too-high LDL but never succumb to cardiac trouble ? perhaps, in some cases, because their high HDL is protecting them.
The interest in HDL cholesterol is also, to some extent, market-driven. Many drug companies have blockbuster statin drugs with patents that are expiring, and they're searching for ways to reignite the market for treating cardiovascular disease.
In this case, however, market forces and the quest for better heart health may happily align.
When arteries clog
Cholesterol is a type of fat known as a lipid that helps many types of body cells function. The liver manufactures most of what the body needs; the rest is obtained through diet.
The lipid uses a two-way street to travel through the bloodstream: LDL particles are carried from the liver to body cells; HDL particles move in reverse, returning extra cholesterol to the liver for disposal.
When too much LDL is in the blood, it can accumulate along the artery walls, forming the hard plaque deposits that lead to heart attacks. Statins help fight this traffic pileup.
Until the last decade or so, the role of HDL cholesterol in this process was largely overlooked.
"We've had a blind spot about HDL," says Dr. William Tierney, Chancellor's Professor of Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and author of a recent study highlighting the importance of HDL levels. "I think that's because we're used to focusing on the bad risk factors. As physicians we think, what can we fix? We fix something that is broken."
But evidence for HDL's benefits has been accumulating in recent years and can no longer be ignored. Animal studies and lab research on cells show that HDL has properties that reduce tissue inflammation and blood clotting and improve blood vessel function.
Additional research has found that the risk of heart disease is lower in people with higher levels of HDL and that tinkering with HDL may give patients more bang for their buck. Studies suggest that reducing LDL by 1 milligram per deciliter cuts cardiovascular risk by 1% ? but raising HDL by 1 mg/dl reduces risk by 2% to 3%.
Tierney's study, published in March in the American Heart Journal, examined 7,000 individuals who had two or more cholesterol measurements between 1985 and 1997. The scientists found that for every 10 mg/dl increase in the HDL level, there was an 11% decrease in heart attacks and other so-called acute coronary events.
In contrast, changes in the subjects' blood LDL levels, or in levels of lipids known as triglycerides (also heart disease risk factors) did not decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke.
"If you believe our research, HDL turns out to be the more important of the two," Tierney says.
Based on the science so far, the National Cholesterol Education Program (a federally funded group that issues guidelines) categorizes people as being at high risk for heart disease if their HDL is less than 40 mg/dl in men and less than 50 mg/dl in women. A level of 60 or higher is considered protective.
About 30% of American adults who have heart disease have sub-optimal HDL as their "dominant abnormality," says Shah ? in other words, low HDL is their most glaring risk factor for heart trouble.
Low HDL is more common in non-hispanic white and Mexican American men than in women or other ethnic groups. But as obesity rates and the incidence of diabetes have risen, HDL levels appear to be declining throughout the population.
Renewed interest in niacin
There are a number of measures that people or doctors can take to ramp up HDL levels. Lifestyle changes, such as a healthful diet and exercise, can boost HDL slightly ? and even small changes can lower heart disease risk (see sidebar). So can statins and drugs called fibrates.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, can raise HDL substantially. But there has been a significant problem with this remedy: It can cause intense itching and facial and upper-body flushing.
"Niacin is the most effective HDL drug available. But the problem is that only about 70% of people can take it because of the major side effects," Shah says.
Now, however, Merck & Co. is in the late stages of testing a pill that combines extended-release niacin with a drug called a prostaglandin D2 blocker that prevents flushing. Early studies suggest the drug may raise HDL 20% to 30%, says Dr. Yale Mitchel, executive director for clinical research at Merck.
The company plans to seek permission from the Food and Drug Administration to market the pill, called MK-0524A, next year, Mitchel says.
"I think if [Merck's] strategy proves to be true and effective that would revive interest in niacin," Shah says.
The company is also testing the niacin and prostaglandin D2 blocker in combination with a statin. And it is conducting an international study of 20,000 people to see if MK-0524A reduces cardiovascular events in high-risk people who have already lowered their LDL cholesterol with a statin. This study may be the first to show if raising HDL can truly reduce heart attacks, strokes and deaths even after LDL has been controlled.
"We think this study is critical," Mitchel says. That's because so far, the belief that raising HDL can slash heart disease risk is based on observational studies, ones in which populations of people have simply been observed.
To truly test the idea, a clinical trial is needed in which HDL is raised with drugs (after LDL has already been lowered) and the effect on heart disease is carefully monitored.
That gold-standard clinical trial hasn't been possible before now, Mitchel says, for one principal reason. "We haven't had drugs to raise HDL and test the hypothesis."
Other researchers are focusing on new drugs to improve levels of HDL. One approach evolved after a discovery about 15 years ago of a group of people in Japan who have a genetic mutation that causes high levels of HDL. The people, who have a low incidence of heart disease, lack an enzyme called CETP (cholesteryl ester transfer protein) that is responsible for transferring cholesterol from HDL particles to LDL particles.
Several drug companies are working on oral drugs that block CETP and would thus raise HDL in patients. Torcetrapib, under development at Pfizer Inc., is furthest along. In a small 2004 study of 19 patients with low HDL, torcetrapib raised HDL levels by 46%. It boosted them higher, by 61%, in people receiving torcetrapib plus the statin atorvastatin (Lipitor).
Questions remain about the drug. It may, for one thing, increase blood pressure, Shah says, undermining its benefit to the heart. And even if it raises HDL, that doesn't necessarily mean it will reduce heart disease for certain.
"It may lead to a form of HDL that is dysfunctional. You may get a lot of HDL but it doesn't do anything. That is a concern that has been raised," Shah says.
Heart disease experts are anticipating the results of the company's Phase 3 clinical trials, expected early next year. These will gauge the medicine's effects on heart disease, measuring whether atherosclerotic plaque is reduced.
If the findings are promising, Pfizer could seek approval to sell torcetrapib in combination with Lipitor, its bestselling statin drug, next year or in 2008.
The company recently bowed to public pressure and announced it would also sell torcetrapib alone so that people who don't need a statin (or use statins other than Pfizer's) could benefit from the medication.
Another novel approach to raise HDL ? this one advanced by Shah's studies in animals ? uses high doses of a synthetic type of HDL to diminish plaque buildup. Again, the research stems from observing unusual human beings.
In the 1980s, doctors discovered a small group of people in a picturesque Italian village near Milan who had extraordinarily low levels of HDL but no heart disease. The scientists determined that these people carried a genetic mutation, named ApoA-1 Milano, that gave them a kind of super-charged HDL that is more protective than regular HDL. The gene variant prevents the accumulation of plaque in spite of low HDL levels.
Shah showed that this special HDL could shrink plaque in the arteries of lab animals. That finding was followed by a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. in 2003 that found that five weekly infusions of synthetic ApoA-1 Milano produced a 4.2% decrease in atherosclerotic plaque in people with heart disease.
Several drug companies are working on products based on ApoA-1 Milano. But because it has to be infused into the blood, such a treatment would probably be reserved for people with acute heart disease. "It's not ideally suited for repeat therapy over many years," Shah says.
The discovery of ApoA-1 Milano raises an intriguing question about HDL cholesterol, however. It could be that the quality of HDL is just as important as the quantity, affected by genes or environmental factors that subtly alter its structure and properties. It could be that scientists have just begun to explore the complexities of the good fat that flows through our bloodstreams.
"There is a lot of work going on," Shah says ? work that may uncover new exceptions to any simple test that just measures HDL levels. But for most of us for now, Shah adds, one thing about HDL seems clear: "The more you have, the better off you are."
BOOST YOUR LEVELS
It's more difficult to raise HDL cholesterol than it is to lower LDL. After all, statin drugs alone routinely lower LDL by 30% to 40%. But there are still ways to improve your HDL.
Exercise: Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes several times a week can raise HDL by 3% to 9% in sedentary, healthy people. But you'll have to get your heart rate up. There is little evidence that walking increases HDL.
Quitting smoking: Average increase of 4 milligrams per deciliter.
Weight control: Every 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight lost raises HDL by average of 0.35 mg/dl.
Alcohol consumption: Mild to moderate drinking (one to two drinks a day) can raise HDL by an average of 4 mg/dl.
Diet: A diet low in trans fatty acids and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids can raise HDL. Choose oils such as olive, flaxseed and canola; nuts; cold-water fish; and shellfish. Limit high glycemic load foods such as pasta and bread made with refined flour, which can lower HDL.
Niacin therapy: Increases of 20% to 35%.
Fibrate therapy: Increases of 10% to 25%.
Statins: Increases of 2% to 15%.
? Shari Roan
Sources: American Heart Assn.; Dr. William Averill; New England Journal of Medicine
WHO HAS TOO-LOW HDL?
Here are the numbers, as described by the American Heart Assn. (Defined as less than 40 milligrams per deciliter.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: November 07, 2006, 12:42:15 PM
Why Iraq war seems almost devoid of heroes
By E.A. Torriero, a Tribune reporter who has covered conflicts in the
Americas, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq
November 5, 2006
War breeds heroes. Etched in the history books are tales from the combat
trenches of a special kind of valor--gritty and gutsy deeds that have
inspired a nation since its earliest days and its first wars.
In our current war, such heroism seems elusive. That style of hero--one
that Americans have long come to expect--seems to be missing.
The reasons are varied: The military is often slow to publicize valor and
award medals. The national media rarely write about it. As the political
debate over the war rages, the term hero has taken on assorted meanings.
The fighting in this war is different from that in any other American
conflict. There is no traditional battlefield on which to make a hero's
mark. The enemy is not a nation's army but insurgents who often do not
show their faces and who strike with bombs and snipers' bullets.
"The enemy has a lot to do with how this war is being fought and the
perception it has," said Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. "That
makes it difficult to produce a Custer's Last Stand style of hero."
Although the Pentagon says heroic acts occur almost daily, they are
usually known only to the military and to families.
When a GI is killed in Iraq, the military bureaucracy usually says little
about the circumstances, citing family privacy, classified intelligence or
a need for operational secrecy. The military's medal process is methodical
and often takes so many years that the heroism becomes a distant memory by the
time it is publicly known.
The U.S. military is stringent in its definition of a hero, drawing sharp
distinctions in awarding medals and bestowing the Medal of Honor -- its
highest award--only to a GI who "distinguishes himself conspicuously by
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the
call of duty."
When such calm deliberation is abandoned, the result can backfire. Several
highly publicized attempts to quickly advertise incidents worked out badly
for the Pentagon.
The alleged heroism of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch at the start of the Iraq
war proved hollow. The valor of former football star Pat Tillman in
Afghanistan was undermined by military lies and the eventual disclosure that he was
killed by friendly fire.
Guarded about recognition
Since then, the military has been guarded when it comes to hero stories.
"Heroes are being overlooked," said Roger Lee Crossland, a Navy reserve
captain and attorney from Connecticut who served in Afghanistan.
In the U.S. Naval Institute's magazine Proceedings, Crossland wrote an
article titled "Why Are Victims Our Only War Heroes?" that is widely
circulated on the Internet. He argued that acts of American bravery are
being masked by media coverage of troops under attack and military
personnel being blown up by street bombs.
"There needs to be another story told, that of bravery in battle,"
Crossland said in an interview. "Those are heroes, the ones we need to hear about."
In the Iraq war, stories of heroic actions in battle get little exposure
in the media. Even when they do, as in the case of the late Sgt. 1st Class
Paul Ray Smith, the stories have a remarkably short staying power.
Smith is the only Iraq war soldier to win the country's highest award for
military valor, the Medal of Honor. His valor came in 2003, in the early
days of the war, when the battles were fought in more traditional combat.
According to the military, Smith's unit was building a jail holding pen at
the Baghdad airport when it came under attack from an Iraqi Republican
Guard unit. After a mortar struck one of the American armored vehicles, leaving
three of Smith's men injured, the unit was pinned down. Smith jumped to
the gunnery and grabbed a machine gun from his injured comrades.
Before being killed by enemy fire, Smith shot 20 to 50 Iraqi soldiers and
saved as many as 100 of his comrades, according to the Pentagon.
It took the Pentagon two years to honor Smith. In 2005, he became the
first GI since the Somalia conflict in 1993 to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Honoring victims instead
Maybe the media fear glorifying violence, Crossland said.
"We have substituted being a victim for being a hero," he said. "That's
far from the meaning of a war hero."
From early mythology, war has produced heroes, soldiers who sacrificed
themselves in extraordinary ways to save others.
In recent years, though, the public definition of a hero has become much
broader and, some argue, overused. On a wider cultural level, Americans
refer to all sorts of people as heroes, no matter the depth of their
"The whole hero phrase has been cheapened," said John Mueller, a political
science professor at Ohio State University who has studied war and the
The Vietnam War signaled a major transformation in the nation's perception
of heroism, according to several experts on American military history.
In an unpopular war, Hollywood painted the bleak picture of combat
soldiers returning from Vietnam not as heroes but as outcasts. POWs, however, found
a hero's welcome for sacrificing years of their lives as captives and
surviving mental and physical torture.
"It's not for what they did on the battlefield," Mueller said of the POWs.
"It's for what they endured."
In the Iraq war, families and those honoring American dead often cast them
in a heroic light no matter how they died--even if it was sitting in a
Humvee that was felled by a roadside bomb.
"Of course they are heroes," said Tony Cutrano, leader of a Chicago-area
group of motorcyclists who have erected a memorial wall in central
Illinois naming the U.S. dead in Iraq. "They went over there and gave their lives
for our freedom. What can be more heroic?"
`This is a brave generation'
Hundreds of other personnel also have performed brave acts, according to
the military. "There are a ton of heroes out there," said Marine spokesman
Brig. Gen. Robert Milstead, who returned recently from a second tour of duty in
Iraq. "They make my eyes water. This is a brave generation."
While military spokesmen offered contradictory views of how well the
Pentagon is publicizing its heroes, they agreed that many Americans would
rather ignore the war--even the hero stories.
"Americans don't believe we are at war," Milstead said. "Given that
mind-set, it's difficult to give fidelity to heroes."
Among support-the-troops groups, a following has developed in cyberspace
for American military exploits.
Chicagoan and former military intelligence officer Matthew Currier Burden
started such a Web site and also has compiled stories from military
personnel in a book titled "The Blog of War." In it, frontline dispatches
provide unfiltered details of bravery, he said.
Burden also does a weekly talk show on a Boston radio station with a
segment called "Someone You Should Know" that tells stories of war.
"I could tell a story a night and never run out of material," Burden said.
"Unfortunately, many of these don't turn out with happy endings, and I
think that can be a turnoff for the American public. It doesn't make
them any less inspiring though."http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0611050021nov05,1,634721,prin
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Elephants-part three
on: November 06, 2006, 04:20:07 PM
They have no future without us. The question we are now forced to grapple
with is whether we would mind a future without them, among the more mindful
creatures on this earth and, in many ways, the most devoted. Indeed, the
manner of the elephants' continued keeping, their restoration and
conservation, both in civil confines and what's left of wild ones, is now
drawing the attention of everyone from naturalists to neuroscientists. Too
much about elephants, in the end - their desires and devotions, their
vulnerability and tremendous resilience - reminds us of ourselves to dismiss
out of hand this revolt they're currently staging against their own
dismissal. And while our concern may ultimately be rooted in that most human
of impulses - the preservation of our own self-image - the great paradox
about this particular moment in our history with elephants is that saving
them will require finally getting past ourselves; it will demand the
ultimate act of deep, interspecies empathy.
On a more immediate, practical level, as Gay Bradshaw sees it, this involves
taking what has been learned about elephant society, psychology and emotion
and inculcating that knowledge into the conservation schemes of researchers
and park rangers. This includes doing things like expanding elephant habitat
to what it used to be historically and avoiding the use of culling and
translocations as conservation tools. "If we want elephants around,"
Bradshaw told me, "then what we need to do is simple: learn how to live with
elephants. In other words, in addition to conservation, we need to educate
people how to live with wild animals like humans used to do, and to create
conditions whereby people can live on their land and live with elephants
without it being this life-and-death situation."
The other part of our newly emerging compact with elephants, however, is far
more difficult to codify. It requires nothing less than a fundamental shift
in the way we look at animals and, by extension, ourselves. It requires what
Bradshaw somewhat whimsically refers to as a new "trans-species psyche," a
commitment to move beyond an anthropocentric frame of reference and, in
effect, be elephants. Two years ago, Bradshaw wrote a paper for the journal
Society and Animals, focusing on the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife
Trust in Kenya, a sanctuary for orphaned and traumatized wild elephants -
more or less the wilderness-based complement to Carol Buckley's trauma
therapy at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The trust's human caregivers
essentially serve as surrogate mothers to young orphan elephants, gradually
restoring their psychological and emotional well being to the point at which
they can be reintroduced into existing wild herds. The human "allomothers"
stay by their adopted young orphans' sides, even sleeping with them at night
in stables. The caregivers make sure, however, to rotate from one elephant
to the next so that the orphans grow fond of all the keepers. Otherwise an
elephant would form such a strong bond with one keeper that whenever he or
she was absent, that elephant would grieve as if over the loss of another
family member, often becoming physically ill itself.
To date, the Sheldrick Trust has successfully rehabilitated more than 60
elephants and reintroduced them into wild herds. A number of them have
periodically returned to the sanctuary with their own wild-born calves in
order to reunite with their human allomothers and to introduce their
offspring to what - out on this uncharted frontier of the new "trans-species
psyche" - is now being recognized, at least by the elephants, it seems, as a
whole new subspecies: the human allograndmother. "Traditionally, nature has
served as a source of healing for humans," Bradshaw told me. "Now humans can
participate actively in the healing of both themselves and nonhuman animals.
The trust and the sanctuary are the beginnings of a mutually benefiting
On my way back to New York via London, I contacted Felicity de Zulueta, a
psychiatrist at Maudsley Hospital in London who treats victims of extreme
trauma, among them former child soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army. De
Zulueta, an acquaintance of Eve Abe's, grew up in Uganda in the early 1960's
on the outskirts of Queen Elizabeth National Park, near where her father, a
malaria doctor, had set up camp as part of a malaria-eradication program.
For a time she had her own elephant, orphaned by poaching, that local
villagers had given to her father, who brought it home to the family garage,
where it immediately bonded with an orphan antelope and dog already residing
"He was doing fine," de Zulueta told me of the pet elephant. "My mother was
loving it and feeding it, and then my parents realized, How can we keep this
elephant that is going to grow bigger than the garage? So they gave it to
who they thought were the experts. They sent him to the Entebbe Zoo, and
although they gave him all the right food and everything, he was a lonely
little elephant, and he died. He had no attachment."
For de Zulueta, the parallel that Abe draws between the plight of war
orphans, human and elephant, is painfully apt, yet also provides some cause
for hope, given the often startling capacity of both animals for recovery.
She told me that one Ugandan war orphan she is currently treating lost all
the members of his family except for two older brothers. Remarkably, one of
those brothers, while serving in the Ugandan Army, rescued the younger
sibling from the Lord's Resistance Army; the older brother's unit had
captured the rebel battalion in which his younger brother had been forced to
The two brothers eventually made their way to London, and for the past two
years, the younger brother has been going through a gradual process of
recovery in the care of Maudsley Hospital. Much of the rehabilitation,
according to de Zulueta, especially in the early stages, relies on the basic
human trauma therapy principles now being applied to elephants: providing
decent living quarters, establishing a sense of safety and of attachment to
a larger community and allowing freedom of choice. After that have come the
more complex treatments tailored to the human brain's particular cognitive
capacities: things like reliving the original traumatic experience and being
taught to modulate feelings through early detection of hyperarousal and
through breathing techniques. And the healing of trauma, as de Zulueta
describes it, turns out to have physical correlatives in the brain just as
its wounding does.
"What I say is, we find bypass," she explained. "We bypass the wounded areas
using various techniques. Some of the wounds are not healable. Their scars
remain. But there is hope because the brain is an enormous computer, and you
can learn to bypass its wounds by finding different methods of approaching
life. Of course there may be moments when something happens and the old
wound becomes unbearable. Still, people do recover. The boy I've been
telling you about is 18 now, and he has survived very well in terms of his
emotional health and capacities. He's a lovely, lovely man. And he's a poet.
He writes beautiful poetry."
On the afternoon in July that I left the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee,
Carol Buckley and Scott Blais seemed in particularly good spirits. Misty was
only weeks away from the end of her quarantine, and she would soon be able
to socialize with some of her old cohorts from the Hawthorn Corporation:
eight female Asians that had been given over to the sanctuary. I would meet
the lot of them that day, driving from one to the next on the back of
Buckley's four-wheeler across the sanctuary's savanna-like stretches.
Buckley and Blais refer to them collectively as the Divas.
Buckley and Blais told me that they got word not long ago of a significant
breakthrough in a campaign of theirs to get elephants out of entertainment
and zoos: the Bronx Zoo, one of the oldest and most formidable zoos in the
country, had announced that upon the death of the zoo's three current
elephant inhabitants, Patty, Maxine and Happy, it would phase out its
elephant exhibit on social-behavioral grounds - an acknowledgment of a new
awareness of the elephant's very particular sensibility and needs. "They're
really taking the lead," Buckley told me. "Zoos don't want to concede the
inappropriateness of keeping elephants in such confines. But if we as a
society determine that an animal like this suffers in captivity, if the
information shows us that they do, hey, we are the stewards. You'd think we'd
want to do the right thing."
Four days later, I received an e-mail message from Gay Bradshaw, who
consults with Buckley and Blais on their various stress-therapy strategies.
She wrote that one of the sanctuary's elephants, an Asian named Winkie, had
just killed a 36-year-old female assistant caretaker and critically injured
the male caretaker who'd tried to save her.
People who work with animals on a daily basis can tell you all kinds of
stories about their distinct personalities and natures. I'd gotten, in fact,
an elaborate breakdown from Buckley and Blais on the various elephants at
the sanctuary and their sociopolitical maneuverings within the sanctuary's
distinct elephant culture, and I went to my notebook to get a fix again on
Winkie. A 40-year-old, 7,600-pound female from Burma, she came to the
sanctuary in 2000 from the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisc., where she had
a reputation for lashing out at keepers. When Winkie first arrived at the
sanctuary, Buckley told me, she used to jump merely upon being touched and
then would wait for a confrontation. But when it never came, she slowly
calmed down. "Has never lashed out at primary keepers," my last note on
Winkie reads, "but has at secondary ones."
Bradshaw's e-mail message concludes: "A stunning illustration of trauma in
elephants. The indelible etching."
I thought back to a moment in Queen Elizabeth National Park this past June.
As Nelson Okello and I sat waiting for the matriarch and her calf to pass,
he mentioned to me an odd little detail about the killing two months earlier
of the man from the village of Katwe, something that, the more I thought
about it, seemed to capture this particularly fraught moment we've arrived
at with the elephants. Okello said that after the man's killing, the
elephant herd buried him as it would one of its own, carefully covering the
body with earth and brush and then standing vigil over it.
Even as we're forcing them out, it seems, the elephants are going out of
their way to put us, the keepers, in an ever more discomfiting place,
challenging us to preserve someplace for them, the ones who in many ways
seem to regard the matter of life and death more devoutly than we. In fact,
elephant culture could be considered the precursor of our own, the first
permanent human settlements having sprung up around the desire of wandering
tribes to stay by the graves of their dead. "The city of the dead," as Lewis
Mumford once wrote, "antedates the city of the living."
When a group of villagers from Katwe went out to reclaim the man's body for
his family's funeral rites, the elephants refused to budge. Human remains, a
number of researchers have observed, are the only other ones that elephants
will treat as they do their own. In the end, the villagers resorted to a
tactic that has long been etched in the elephant's collective memory, firing
volleys of gunfire into the air at close range, finally scaring the mourning
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Elephants-part two
on: November 06, 2006, 04:18:51 PM
(Page 4 of
For Bradshaw, these continuities between human and elephant brains resonate
far outside the field of neuroscience. "Elephants are suffering and behaving
in the same ways that we recognize in ourselves as a result of violence,"
she told me. "Elephant behavior is entirely congruent with what we know
about humans and other mammals. Except perhaps for a few specific features,
brain organization and early development of elephants and humans are
extremely similar. That's not news. What is news is when you start asking,
What does this mean beyond the science? How do we respond to the fact that
we are causing other species like elephants to psychologically break down?
In a way, it's not so much a cognitive or imaginative leap anymore as it is
a political one."
Eve Abe says that in her mind, she made that leap before she ever left her
mother's womb. An animal ethologist and wildlife-management consultant now
based in London, Abe (pronounced AH-bay) grew up in northern Uganda. After
several years of studying elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park, where
decades of poaching had drastically reduced the herds, Abe received her
doctorate at Cambridge University in 1994 for work detailing the parallels
she saw between the plight of Uganda's orphaned male elephants and the young
male orphans of her own people, the Acholi, whose families and villages have
been decimated by years of civil war. It's work she proudly proclaims to be
not only "the ultimate act of anthropomorphism" but also what she was
destined to do.
"My very first encounter with an elephant was a fetal one," Abe told me in
June in London as the two of us sipped tea at a cafe in Paddington Station.
I was given Abe's contact numbers earlier in the spring by Bradshaw, who is
currently working with Abe to build a community center in Uganda to help
both elephants and humans in their recovery from violence. For more than a
month before my departure from New York, I had been trying without luck to
arrange with the British Home Office for Abe, who is still waiting for
permanent residence status in England, to travel with me to Uganda as my
guide through Queen Elizabeth National Park without fear of her being denied
re-entry to England. She was to accompany me that day right up to the
departure gate at Heathrow, the two of us hoping (in vain, as it turned out)
for a last-minute call that would have given her leave to use the ticket I
was holding for her in my bag.
"My dad was a conservationist and a teacher," explained Abe, a tall, elegant
woman with a trilling, nearly girlish voice. "He was always out in the
parks. One of my aunts tells this story about us passing through Murchison
park one day. My dad was driving. My uncle was in the front seat. In the
back were my aunt and my mom, who was very pregnant with me. They suddenly
came upon this huge herd of elephants on the road, and the elephants just
stopped. So my dad stopped. He knew about animals. The elephants just stood
there, then they started walking around the car, and looking into the car.
Finally, they walked off. But my father didn't start the car then. He waited
there. After an hour or more, a huge female came back out onto the road,
right in front of the car. It reared up and trumpeted so loudly, then
followed the rest of the herd back into the bush. A few days later, when my
mom got home, I was born."
Abe began her studies in Queen Elizabeth National Park in 1982, as an
undergraduate at Makerere University in Kampala, shortly after she and her
family, who'd been living for years as refugees in Kenya to escape the
brutal violence in Uganda under the dictatorship of Idi Amin, returned home
in the wake of Amin's ouster in 1979. Abe told me that when she first
arrived at the park, there were fewer than 150 elephants remaining from an
original population of nearly 4,000. The bulk of the decimation occurred
during the war with Tanzania that led to Amin's overthrow: soldiers from
both armies grabbed all the ivory they could get their hands on - and did so
with such cravenness that the word "poaching" seems woefully inadequate.
"Normally when you say 'poaching,' " Abe said, "you think of people shooting
one or two and going off. But this was war. They'd just throw hand grenades
at the elephants, bring whole families down and cut out the ivory. I call
that mass destruction."
The last elephant survivors of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Abe said,
never left one another's side. They kept in a tight bunch, moving as one.
Only one elderly female remained; Abe estimated her to be at least 62. It
was this matriarch who first gathered the survivors together from their
various hideouts on the park's forested fringes and then led them back out
as one group into open savanna. Until her death in the early 90's, the old
female held the group together, the population all the while slowly
beginning to rebound. In her yet-to-be-completed memoir, "My Elephants and
My People," Abe writes of the prominence of the matriarch in Acholi society;
she named the park's matriarchal elephant savior Lady Irene, after her own
mother. "It took that core group of survivors in the park about five or six
years," Abe told me, "before I started seeing whole new family units emerge
and begin to split off and go their own way."
In 1986, Abe's family was forced to flee the country again. Violence against
Uganda's people and elephants never completely abated after Amin's regime
collapsed, and it drastically worsened in the course of the full-fledged war
that developed between government forces and the rebel Lord's Resistance
Army. For years, that army's leader, Joseph Kony, routinely "recruited" from
Acholi villages, killing the parents of young males before their eyes, or
sometimes having them do the killings themselves, before pressing them into
service as child soldiers. The Lord's Resistance Army has by now been
largely defeated, but Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal
Court for numerous crimes against humanity, has hidden with what remains of
his army in the mountains of Murchison Falls National Park, and more
recently in Garamba National Park in northern Congo, where poaching by the
Lord's Resistance Army has continued to orphan more elephants.
"I started looking again at what has happened among the Acholi and the
elephants," Abe told me. "I saw that it is an absolute coincidence between
the two. You know we used to have villages. We still don't have villages.
There are over 200 displaced people's camps in present-day northern Uganda.
Everybody lives now within these camps, and there are no more elders. The
elders were systematically eliminated. The first batch of elimination was
during Amin's time, and that set the stage for the later destruction of
northern Uganda. We are among the lucky few, because my mom and dad managed
to escape. But the families there are just broken. I know many of them.
Displaced people are living in our home now. My mother said let them have
it. All these kids who have grown up with their parents killed - no fathers,
no mothers, only children looking after them. They don't go to schools. They
have no schools, no hospitals. No infrastructure. They form these roaming,
violent, destructive bands. It's the same thing that happens with the
elephants. Just like the male war orphans, they are wild, completely lost."
Page 5 of
On the ride from Paddington that afternoon out to Heathrow, where I would
catch a flight to Uganda, Abe told me that the parallel between the plight
of Ugandans and their elephants was in many ways too close for her to see at
first. It was only after she moved to London that she had what was, in a
sense, her first full, adult recognition of the entwinement between human
and elephant that she says she long ago felt in her mother's womb.
"I remember when I first was working on my doctorate," she said. "I
mentioned that I was doing this parallel once to a prominent scientist in
Kenya. He looked amazed. He said, 'How come nobody has made this connection
before?' I told him because it hadn't happened this way to anyone else's
tribe before. To me it's something I see so clearly. Most people are scared
of showing that kind of anthropomorphism. But coming from me it doesn't
sound like I'm inventing something. It's there. People know it's there. Some
might think that the way I describe the elephant attacks makes the animals
look like people. But people are animals."
Shortly after my return from Uganda, I went to visit the Elephant Sanctuary
in Tennessee, a 2,700-acre rehabilitation center and retirement facility
situated in the state's verdant, low-rolling southern hill country. The
sanctuary is a kind of asylum for some of the more emotionally and
psychologically disturbed former zoo and circus elephants in the United
States - cases so bad that the people who profited from them were eager to
let them go. Given that elephants in the wild are now exhibiting aberrant
behaviors that were long observed in captive elephants, it perhaps follows
that a positive working model for how to ameliorate the effects of elephant
breakdown can be found in captivity.
Of the 19 current residents of the sanctuary, perhaps the biggest hard-luck
story was that of a 40-year-old, five-ton Asian elephant named Misty.
Originally captured as a calf in India in 1966, Misty spent her first decade
in captivity with a number of American circuses and finally ended up in the
early 80's at a wild-animal attraction known as Lion Country Safari in
Irvine, Calif. It was there, on the afternoon of July 25, 1983, that Misty,
one of four performing elephants at Lion Country Safari that summer, somehow
managed to break free of her chains and began madly dashing about the park,
looking to make an escape. When one of the park's zoologists tried to corner
and contain her, Misty killed him with one swipe of her trunk.
There are, in the long, checkered history of human-elephant relations,
countless stories of lethal elephantine assaults, and almost invariably of
some gruesomely outsize, animalistic form of retribution exacted by us. It
was in the very state of Tennessee, back in September 1916, that another
five-ton Asian circus elephant, Mary, was impounded by a local sheriff for
the killing of a young hotel janitor who'd been hired to mind Mary during a
stopover in the northeast Tennessee town of Kingsport. The janitor had
apparently taken Mary for a swim at a local pond, where, according to
witnesses, he poked her behind the left ear with a metal hook just as she
was reaching for a piece of floating watermelon rind. Enraged, Mary turned,
swiftly snatched him up with her trunk, dashed him against a refreshment
stand and then smashed his head with her foot.
With cries from the townspeople to "Kill the elephant!" and threats from
nearby town leaders to bar the circus if "Murderous Mary," as newspapers
quickly dubbed her, remained a part of the show, the circus's owner, Charlie
Sparks, knew he had to do something to appease the public's blood lust and
save his business. Among the penalties he is said to have contemplated was
electrocution, a ghastly precedent for which had been set 13 years earlier,
on the grounds of the nearly completed Luna Park in Coney Island. A longtime
circus elephant named Topsy, who'd killed three trainers in as many years -
the last one after he tried to feed her a lighted cigarette - would become
the largest and most prominent victim of Thomas Edison, the father of
direct-current electricity, who had publicly electrocuted a number of
animals at that time using his rival George Westinghouse's alternating
current, in hopes of discrediting it as being too dangerous.
Sparks ultimately decided to have Mary hanged and shipped her by train to
the nearby town of Erwin, Tenn., where more than 2,500 people gathered at
the local rail yard for her execution. Dozens of children are said to have
run off screaming in terror when the chain that was suspended from a huge
industrial crane snapped, leaving Mary writhing on the ground with a broken
hip. A local rail worker promptly clambered up Mary's bulk and secured a
heavier chain for a second, successful hoisting.
Page 6 of
Misty's fate in the early 80's, by contrast, seems a triumph of modern
humanism. Banished, after the Lion Safari killing, to the Hawthorn
Corporation, a company in Illinois that trains and leases elephants and
tigers to circuses, she would continue to lash out at a number of her
trainers over the years. But when Hawthorn was convicted of numerous
violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2003, the company agreed to
relinquish custody of Misty to the Elephant Sanctuary. She was loaded onto a
trailer transport on the morning of Nov. 17, 2004, and even then managed to
get away with one final shot at the last in her long line of captors.
"The details are kind of sketchy," Carol Buckley, a founder of the Elephant
Sanctuary, said to me one afternoon in July, the two of us pulling up on her
all-terrain four-wheeler to a large grassy enclosure where an extremely
docile and contented-looking Misty, trunk high, ears flapping, waited to
greet us. "Hawthorn's owner was trying to get her to stretch out so he could
remove her leg chains before loading her on the trailer. At one point he
prodded her with a bull hook, and she just knocked him down with a swipe of
her trunk. But we've seen none of that since she's been here. She's as sweet
as can be. You'd never know that this elephant killed anybody."
In the course of her nearly two years at the Elephant Sanctuary - much of it
spent in quarantine while undergoing daily treatment for tuberculosis -
Misty has also been in therapy, as in psychotherapy. Wild-caught elephants
often witness as young calves the slaughter of their parents, just about the
only way, shy of a far more costly tranquilization procedure, to wrest a
calf from elephant parents, especially the mothers. The young captives are
then dispatched to a foreign environment to work either as performers or
laborers, all the while being kept in relative confinement and isolation, a
kind of living death for an animal as socially developed and dependent as we
now know elephants to be.
And yet just as we now understand that elephants hurt like us, we're
learning that they can heal like us as well. Indeed, Misty has become a
testament to the Elephant Sanctuary's signature "passive control" system, a
therapy tailored in many ways along the lines of those used to treat human
sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder. Passive control, as a sanctuary
newsletter describes it, depends upon "knowledge of how elephants process
information and respond to stress" as well as specific knowledge of each
elephant's past response to stress. Under this so-called nondominance
system, there is no discipline, retaliation or withholding of food, water
and treats, which are all common tactics of elephant trainers. Great pains
are taken, meanwhile, to afford the elephants both a sense of safety and
freedom of choice - two mainstays of human trauma therapy - as well as
continual social interaction.
Upon her arrival at the Elephant Sanctuary, Misty seemed to sense straight
off the different vibe of her new home. When Scott Blais of the sanctuary
went to free Misty's still-chained leg a mere day after she'd arrived, she
stood peaceably by, practically offering her leg up to him. Over her many
months of quarantine, meanwhile, with only humans acting as a kind of
surrogate elephant family, she has consistently gone through the daily
rigors of her tuberculosis treatments - involving two caregivers, a team of
veterinarians and the use of a restraining chute in which harnesses are
secured about her chest and tail - without any coaxing or pressure. "We'll
shower her with praise in the barn afterwards," Buckley told me as Misty
stood by, chomping on a mouthful of hay, "and she actually purrs with
pleasure. The whole barn vibrates."
Of course, Misty's road to recovery - when viewed in light of her history
and that of all the other captive elephants, past and present - is as
harrowing as it is heartening. She and the others have suffered, we now
understand, not simply because of us, but because they are, by and large,
us. If as recently as the end of the Vietnam War people were still balking
at the idea that a soldier, for example, could be physically disabled by a
psychological harm - the idea, in other words, that the mind is not an
entity apart from the body and therefore just as woundable as any limb - we
now find ourselves having to make an equally profound and, for many, even
more difficult leap: that a fellow creature as ostensibly unlike us in every
way as an elephant is as precisely and intricately woundable as we are. And
while such knowledge naturally places an added burden upon us, the keepers,
that burden is now being greatly compounded by the fact that sudden violent
outbursts like Misty's can no longer be dismissed as the inevitable isolated
revolts of a restless few against the constraints and abuses of captivity.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Elephants
on: November 06, 2006, 04:17:09 PM
An Elephant Crackup?
By CHARLES SIEBERT
Published: October 8, 2006
'We're not going anywhere," my driver, Nelson Okello, whispered to me one
morning this past June, the two of us sitting in the front seat of a jeep
just after dawn in Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda. We'd
originally stopped to observe what appeared to be a lone bull elephant
grazing in a patch of tall savanna grasses off to our left. More than one
"rogue" crossed our path that morning - a young male elephant that has made
an overly strong power play against the dominant male of his herd and been
banished, sometimes permanently. This elephant, however, soon proved to be
not a rogue but part of a cast of at least 30. The ground vibrations
registered just before the emergence of the herd from the surrounding trees
and brush. We sat there watching the elephants cross the road before us,
seeming, for all their heft, so light on their feet, soundlessly plying the
wind-swept savanna grasses like land whales adrift above the floor of an
ancient, waterless sea.
Andres Serrano for The New York Times
Andres Serrano for The New York Times
Then, from behind a thicket of acacia trees directly off our front left
bumper, a huge female emerged - "the matriarch," Okello said softly. There
was a small calf beneath her, freely foraging and knocking about within the
secure cribbing of four massive legs. Acacia leaves are an elephant's
favorite food, and as the calf set to work on some low branches, the
matriarch stood guard, her vast back flank blocking the road, the rest of
the herd milling about in the brush a short distance away.
After 15 minutes or so, Okello started inching the jeep forward, revving the
engine, trying to make us sound as beastly as possible. The matriarch,
however, was having none of it, holding her ground, the fierce white of her
eyes as bright as that of her tusks. Although I pretty much knew the answer,
I asked Okello if he was considering trying to drive around. "No," he said,
raising an index finger for emphasis. "She'll charge. We should stay right
I'd have considered it a wise policy even at a more peaceable juncture in
the course of human-elephant relations. In recent years, however, those
relations have become markedly more bellicose. Just two days before I
arrived, a woman was killed by an elephant in Kazinga, a fishing village
nearby. Two months earlier, a man was fatally gored by a young male elephant
at the northern edge of the park, near the village of Katwe. African
elephants use their long tusks to forage through dense jungle brush. They've
also been known to wield them, however, with the ceremonious flash and
precision of gladiators, pinning down a victim with one knee in order to
deliver the decisive thrust. Okello told me that a young Indian tourist was
killed in this fashion two years ago in Murchison Falls National Park, just
north of where we were.
These were not isolated incidents. All across Africa, India and parts of
Southeast Asia, from within and around whatever patches and corridors of
their natural habitat remain, elephants have been striking out, destroying
villages and crops, attacking and killing human beings. In fact, these
attacks have become so commonplace that a whole new statistical category,
known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant
researchers in the mid-1990's to monitor the problem. In the Indian state
Jharkhand near the western border of Bangladesh, 300 people were killed by
elephants between 2000 and 2004. In the past 12 years, elephants have killed
605 people in Assam, a state in northeastern India, 239 of them since 2001;
265 elephants have died in that same period, the majority of them as a
result of retaliation by angry villagers, who have used everything from
poison-tipped arrows to laced food to exact their revenge. In Africa,
reports of human-elephant conflicts appear almost daily, from Zambia to
Tanzania, from Uganda to Sierra Leone, where 300 villagers evacuated their
homes last year because of unprovoked elephant attacks.
Still, it is not only the increasing number of these incidents that is
causing alarm but also the singular perversity - for want of a less
anthropocentric term - of recent elephant aggression. Since the early 1990's,
for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing
rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the
journal Pachyderm, has been reported in "a number of reserves" in the
region. In July of last year, officials in Pilanesberg shot three young male
elephants who were responsible for the killings of 63 rhinos, as well as
attacks on people in safari vehicles. In Addo Elephant National Park, also
in South Africa, up to 90 percent of male elephant deaths are now
attributable to other male elephants, compared with a rate of 6 percent in
more stable elephant communities.
In a coming book on this phenomenon, Gay Bradshaw, a psychologist at the
environmental-sciences program at Oregon State University, notes that in
India, where the elephant has long been regarded as a deity, a recent
headline in a leading newspaper warned, "To Avoid Confrontation, Don't
Worship Elephants." "Everybody pretty much agrees that the relationship
between elephants and people has dramatically changed," Bradshaw told me
recently. "What we are seeing today is extraordinary. Where for centuries
humans and elephants lived in relative peaceful coexistence, there is now
hostility and violence. Now, I use the term 'violence' because of the
intentionality associated with it, both in the aggression of humans and, at
times, the recently observed behavior of elephants."
For a number of biologists and ethologists who have spent their careers
studying elephant behavior, the attacks have become so abnormal in both
number and kind that they can no longer be attributed entirely to the
customary factors. Typically, elephant researchers have cited, as a cause of
aggression, the high levels of testosterone in newly matured male elephants
or the competition for land and resources between elephants and humans. But
in "Elephant Breakdown," a 2005 essay in the journal Nature, Bradshaw and
several colleagues argued that today's elephant populations are suffering
from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of
poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the
intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants
have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established
elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less
than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.
It has long been apparent that every large, land-based animal on this planet
is ultimately fighting a losing battle with humankind. And yet entirely
befitting of an animal with such a highly developed sensibility, a
deep-rooted sense of family and, yes, such a good long-term memory, the
elephant is not going out quietly. It is not leaving without making some
kind of statement, one to which scientists from a variety of disciplines,
including human psychology, are now beginning to pay close attention.
Once the matriarch and her calf were a comfortable distance from us that
morning, Okello and I made the 20-minute drive to Kyambura, a village at the
far southeastern edge of the park. Back in 2003, Kyambura was reportedly the
site of the very sort of sudden, unprovoked elephant attack I'd been hearing
about. According to an account of the event in the magazine New Scientist, a
number of huts and fields were trampled, and the townspeople were afraid to
venture out to surrounding villages, either by foot or on their bikes,
because elephants were regularly blocking the road and charging out at those
who tried to pass.
Page 2 of
Park officials from the Uganda Wildlife Authority with whom I tried to
discuss the incident were reluctant to talk about it or any of the recent
killings by elephants in the area. Eco-tourism is one of Uganda's major
sources of income, and the elephant and other wildlife stocks of Queen
Elizabeth National Park are only just now beginning to recover from years of
virtually unchecked poaching and habitat destruction. Tom Okello, the chief
game warden at the park (and no relation to my driver), and Margaret
Driciru, Queen Elizabeth's chief veterinarian, each told me that they weren't
aware of the attack in Kyambura. When I mentioned it to the executive
director of the wildlife authority, Moses Mapesa, upon my initial arrival in
the capital city, Kampala, he eventually admitted that it did happen, but he
claimed that it was not nearly as recent as reported. "That was 14 years
ago," he said. "We have seen aggressive behavior from elephants, but that's
a story of the past."
Kyambura did look, upon our arrival, much like every other small Ugandan
farming community I'd passed through on my visit. Lush fields of banana
trees, millet and maize framed a small town center of pastel-colored
single-story cement buildings with corrugated-tin roofs. People sat on
stoops out front in the available shade. Bicyclers bore preposterously
outsize loads of bananas, firewood and five-gallon water jugs on their
fenders and handlebars. Contrary to what I had read, the bicycle traffic
along the road in and out of Kyambura didn't seem impaired in the slightest.
But when Okello and I asked a shopkeeper named Ibrah Byamukama about
elephant attacks, he immediately nodded and pointed to a patch of maize and
millet fields just up the road, along the edges of the surrounding
Maramagambo Forest. He confirmed that a small group of elephants charged out
one morning two years earlier, trampled the fields and nearby gardens,
knocked down a few huts and then left. He then pointed to a long orange gash
in the earth between the planted fields and the forest: a 15-foot-deep,
25-foot-wide trench that had been dug by the wildlife authority around the
perimeter of Kyambura in an attempt to keep the elephants at bay. On the way
out of town, Okello and I took a closer look at the trench. It was filled
with stacks of thorny shrubs for good measure.
"The people are still worried," Byamukama said, shaking his head. "The
elephants are just becoming more destructive. I don't know why."
Three years ago, Gay Bradshaw, then working on her graduate degree in
psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute outside Santa Barbara, Calif.,
began wondering much the same thing: was the extraordinary behavior of
elephants in Africa and Asia signaling a breaking point? With the assistance
of several established African-elephant researchers, including Daphne
Sheldrick and Cynthia Moss, and with the help of Allan Schore, an expert on
human trauma disorders at the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral
sciences at U.C.L.A., Bradshaw sought to combine traditional research into
elephant behavior with insights about trauma drawn from human neuroscience.
Using the few remaining relatively stable elephant herds in places like
Amboseli National Park in Kenya, as control groups, Bradshaw and her
colleagues analyzed the far more fractious populations found in places like
Pilanesberg in South Africa and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
What emerged was a portrait of pervasive pachyderm dysfunction.
Elephants, when left to their own devices, are profoundly social creatures.
A herd of them is, in essence, one incomprehensibly massive elephant: a
somewhat loosely bound and yet intricately interconnected, tensile organism.
Young elephants are raised within an extended, multitiered network of doting
female caregivers that includes the birth mother, grandmothers, aunts and
friends. These relations are maintained over a life span as long as 70
years. Studies of established herds have shown that young elephants stay
within 15 feet of their mothers for nearly all of their first eight years of
life, after which young females are socialized into the matriarchal network,
while young males go off for a time into an all-male social group before
coming back into the fold as mature adults.
When an elephant dies, its family members engage in intense mourning and
burial rituals, conducting weeklong vigils over the body, carefully covering
it with earth and brush, revisiting the bones for years afterward, caressing
the bones with their trunks, often taking turns rubbing their trunks along
the teeth of a skull's lower jaw, the way living elephants do in greeting.
If harm comes to a member of an elephant group, all the other elephants are
aware of it. This sense of cohesion is further enforced by the elaborate
communication system that elephants use. In close proximity they employ a
range of vocalizations, from low-frequency rumbles to higher-pitched screams
and trumpets, along with a variety of visual signals, from the waving of
their trunks to subtle anglings of the head, body, feet and tail. When
communicating over long distances - in order to pass along, for example,
news about imminent threats, a sudden change of plans or, of the utmost
importance to elephants, the death of a community member - they use patterns
of subsonic vibrations that are felt as far as several miles away by
exquisitely tuned sensors in the padding of their feet.
Page 3 of
This fabric of elephant society, Bradshaw and her colleagues concluded, had
effectively been frayed by years of habitat loss and poaching, along with
systematic culling by government agencies to control elephant numbers and
translocations of herds to different habitats. The number of older
matriarchs and female caregivers (or "allomothers") had drastically fallen,
as had the number of elder bulls, who play a significant role in keeping
younger males in line. In parts of Zambia and Tanzania, a number of the
elephant groups studied contained no adult females whatsoever. In Uganda,
herds were often found to be "semipermanent aggregations," as a paper
written by Bradshaw describes them, with many females between the ages of 15
and 25 having no familial associations.
As a result of such social upheaval, calves are now being born to and raised
by ever younger and inexperienced mothers. Young orphaned elephants,
meanwhile, that have witnessed the death of a parent at the hands of
poachers are coming of age in the absence of the support system that defines
traditional elephant life. "The loss of elephants elders," Bradshaw told me,
"and the traumatic experience of witnessing the massacres of their family,
impairs normal brain and behavior development in young elephants."
What Bradshaw and her colleagues describe would seem to be an extreme form
of anthropocentric conjecture if the evidence that they've compiled from
various elephant resesarchers, even on the strictly observational level,
wasn't so compelling. The elephants of decimated herds, especially orphans
who've watched the death of their parents and elders from poaching and
culling, exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress
disorder and other trauma-related disorders in humans: abnormal startle
response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and
hyperaggression. Studies of the various assaults on the rhinos in South
Africa, meanwhile, have determined that the perpetrators were in all cases
adolescent males that had witnessed their families being shot down in
cullings. It was common for these elephants to have been tethered to the
bodies of their dead and dying relatives until they could be rounded up for
translocation to, as Bradshaw and Schore describe them, "locales lacking
traditional social hierarchy of older bulls and intact natal family
In fact, even the relatively few attempts that park officials have made to
restore parts of the social fabric of elephant society have lent substance
to the elephant-breakdown theory. When South African park rangers recently
introduced a number of older bull elephants into several destabilized
elephant herds in Pilanesburg and Addo, the wayward behavior - including
unusually premature hormonal changes among the adolescent elephants -
But according to Bradshaw and her colleagues, the various pieces of the
elephant-trauma puzzle really come together at the level of neuroscience, or
what might be called the physiology of psychology, by which scientists can
now map the marred neuronal fields, snapped synaptic bridges and crooked
chemical streams of an embattled psyche. Though most scientific knowledge of
trauma is still understood through research on human subjects, neural
studies of elephants are now under way. (The first functional M.R.I. scan of
an elephant brain, taken this year, revealed, perhaps not surprisingly, a
huge hippocampus, a seat of memory in the mammalian brain, as well as a
prominent structure in the limbic system, which processes emotions.) Allan
Schore, the U.C.L.A. psychologist and neuroscientist who for the past 15
years has focused his research on early human brain development and the
negative impact of trauma on it, recently wrote two articles with Bradshaw
on the stress-related neurobiological underpinnings of current abnormal
"We know that these mechanisms cut across species," Schore told me. "In the
first years of humans as well as elephants, development of the emotional
brain is impacted by these attachment mechanisms, by the interaction that
the infant has with the primary caregiver, especially the mother. When these
early experiences go in a positive way, it leads to greater resilience in
things like affect regulation, stress regulation, social communication and
empathy. But when these early experiences go awry in cases of abuse and
neglect, there is a literal thinning down of the essential circuits in the
brain, especially in the emotion-processing areas."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Ted Kennedy
on: November 06, 2006, 04:12:41 PM
This raises my hackles quite a bit.
KGB Letter Outlines Sen. Kennedy's Overtures to Soviets, Prof Says
By Kevin Mooney
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
October 20, 2006
(CNSNews.com) - The antipathy that congressional Democrats have today toward
President George W. Bush is reminiscent of their distrust of President
Ronald Reagan during the Cold War, a political science professor says.
"We see some of the same sentiments today, in that some Democrats see the
Republican president as being a threat and the true obstacle to peace,
instead of seeing our enemies as the true danger," said Paul Kengor, a
political science professor at Grove City College and the author of new
book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.
In his book, which came out this week, Kengor focuses on a KGB letter
written at the height of the Cold War that shows that Sen. Edward Kennedy
(D-Mass.) offered to assist Soviet leaders in formulating a public relations
strategy to counter President Reagan's foreign policy and to complicate his
The letter, dated May 14, 1983, was sent from the head of the KGB to Yuri
Andropov, who was then General Secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist
In his letter, KGB head Viktor Chebrikov offered Andropov his interpretation
of Kennedy's offer. Former U.S. Sen. John Tunney (D-Calif.) had traveled to
Moscow on behalf of Kennedy to seek out a partnership with Andropov and
other Soviet officials, Kengor claims in his book.
At one point after President Reagan left office, Tunney acknowledged that he
had played the role of intermediary, not only for Kennedy but for other U.S.
senators, Kengor said. Moreover, Tunney told the London Times that he had
made 15 separate trips to Moscow.
"There's a lot more to be found here," Kengor told Cybercast News Service.
"This was a shocking revelation."
It is not evident with whom Tunney actually met in Moscow. But the letter
does say that Sen. Kennedy directed Tunney to reach out to "confidential
contacts" so Andropov could be alerted to the senator's proposals.
Specifically, Kennedy proposed that Andropov make a direct appeal to the
American people in a series of television interviews that would be organized
in August and September of 1983, according to the letter.
"Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline
in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan," Kengor said. "But Kennedy attributed
this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking
parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and
other Soviet leaders."
In Kennedy's view, the main reason for the antagonism between the United
States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s was Reagan's unwillingness to yield
on plans to deploy middle-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe, the KGB
chief wrote in his letter.
"Kennedy was afraid that Reagan was leading the world into a nuclear war,"
Kengor said. "He hoped to counter Reagan's polices, and by extension hurt
his re-election prospects."
As a prelude to the public relations strategy Kennedy hoped to facilitate on
behalf of the Soviets, Kengor said, the Massachusetts senator had also
proposed meeting with Andropov in Moscow -- to discuss the challenges
associated with disarmament.
In his appeal, Kennedy indicated he would like to have Sen. Mark Hatfield
(R-Ore.) accompany him on such a trip. The two senators had worked together
on nuclear freeze proposals.
But Kennedy's attempt to partner with high-level Soviet officials never
materialized. Andropov died after a brief time in office and was succeeded
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
In his attempt to reach out the Soviets, Kennedy settled on a flawed
receptacle for peace, Kengor said. Andropov was a much more belligerent and
confrontational leader than the man who followed him, in Kengor's
"If Andropov had lived and Gorbachev never came to power, I can't imagine
the Cold War ending peacefully like it did," Kengor told Cybercast News
Service. "Things could have gotten ugly."
In the long run of history, Kengor believes it is evident that Reagan's
policies were vindicated while Kennedy was proven wrong. In fact, as he
points out in his book, Kennedy himself made a "gracious concession" after
Reagan died, crediting the 40th president with winning the Cold War.http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewNation.asp?Page=/Nation/arch...10/NAT20061020b.html
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico City Bombings
on: November 06, 2006, 02:39:57 PM
Mexico City Bombings: An Escalation in Tensions
Just after midnight Nov. 6, emergency officials in Mexico City received two telephone calls from an unknown source warning that bombs were about to detonate. A few minutes later, bombs exploded outside of the headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a Scotiabank branch and the Federal Electoral Tribunal building. Two more improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were defused later outside of another Scotiabank branch and another PRI building. No serious injuries have been reported.
Although those responsible for the bombings have not been identified, Mexico is facing political and social unrest from two separate camps -- suggesting one of the two, or perhaps a sympathetic outside group, is upping the ante.
Most of the bombs contained approximately 11 pounds of the commercial blasting compound hydrogel, making them fairly large devices (the IED defused outside the PRI building contained just about 1 pound of explosives). Moreover, Mexican security officials said the IEDs were more sophisticated than the kinds of devices seen in previous attacks in the capital, although these were the first bombings in Mexico City since November 2005. At that time, an anti-globalization group calling itself the Barbarous Mexico Revolutionary Workers' Commando detonated two similarly sized bombs outside of two banks, one U.S.-owned and one Spanish-owned.
The tactics employed in the Nov. 6 bombings are similar to those used in the past by leftist groups such as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and its various splinters. Although the bombs were larger than those normally used, they were operated on battery-powered timers that were set to detonate at night, when fewer people would be in the area. The defused bombs even had warning signs affixed to them that read "Danger -- Bomb."
The bombings could very well be related to the unrest in Oaxaca state, where an annual teacher's protest has spiraled into a full-blown insurrection that has seen leftists and other opposition groups demand the removal of state Gov. Ulises Ruiz of the PRI.
The People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO), the main group in the poorly organized and loosely affiliated movement in Oaxaca, denied later Nov. 6 that it had any part in the bombings. The involvement of militants from the region or groups sympathetic to the APPO cause, however, cannot be ruled out. Even if the APPO leadership did not order the bombings, some of the group's fringe members -- those who believe the group's leadership is unwilling to take the necessary measures -- might have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Just last month, the crisis in Oaxaca took a more violent turn when previously unknown leftist group Revolutionary Armed Organization of the People of Oaxaca (ORAPO), detonated three small IEDs at banks in the troubled state. The ORAPO, however, claimed responsibility for that attack in a letter left at one of the sites. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the Mexico City attacks.
The bombings also could be related to this summer's controversial presidential election. Supporters of failed candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have been increasingly vocal about the strife in Oaxaca -- and could be planning to co-opt it into their agenda. The Federal Electoral Tribunal, which issued the ruling on the contested election that denied Lopez Obrador a victory, could have been targeted by his supporters.
If the bombings are directly connected to Oaxaca, it indicates the unrest that spread from rural Mexico to the capital is escalating. If the bombings are related to the elections, it suggests the opposition is raising the ante while the government tries to deal with the situation in Oaxaca. With both issues unsettled, the remnants of the EPR, its splinters or groups acting on behalf of the Oaxacans would have no shortage of motivations to carry out similar attacks.
Regardless of the motive, these bombings have serious implications for future stability and security in Mexico. President-elect Felipe Calderon, who had hoped to avoid having to deal with the Lopez Obrador or Oaxaca situations when he takes office Dec. 1, will likely find that both issues continue to fester -- and probably escalate. As long as the situation in Oaxaca is unresolved, the risk of similar attacks in the capital will remain.
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