Saturday, December 30, 2006 - Brainroom: Saddam Hussein's Atrocities - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Brainroom: Saddam Hussein's Atrocities

Chronicle of the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein:

Hussein's regime killed, tortured, raped and terrorized the Iraqi people and its neighbors for over two decades.

Hundreds of thousands of people died as a result of Saddam's actions.

Saddam had approximately 40 of his own relatives murdered.

1980-88: Iran-Iraq war left 150,000 to 340,000 Iraqis and 450,000 to 730,000 Iranians dead.

1983-1988: Documented chemical attacks by Iraqi regime caused some 30,000 Iraqi and Iranian deaths.

1988: Chemical attack on Kurdish village of Halabja killed approximately 5,000 people.

1987-1988: Iraqi regime used chemical agents in attacks against at least 40 Kurdish villages.

1990-91: 1,000 Kuwaitis were killed in Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

1991: Bloody suppression of Kurdish and Shi'a uprisings in northern and southern Iraq killed at least 30,000 to 60,000. At least 2,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed during the campaign of terror.

2001: Amnesty International report: "Victims of torture in Iraq are subjected to a wide range of forms of torture, including the gouging out of eyes, severe beatings and electric shocks... some victims have died as a result and many have been left with permanent physical and psychological damage."

Human Rights Watch: Saddam's 1987-1988 campaign of terror against the Kurds killed at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds.

Refugees International: "Oppressive government policies have led to the internal displacement of 900,000 Iraqis."

Iraq's 13 million Shiite Muslims, the majority of Iraq's population of approximately 22 million, faced severe restrictions on their religious practice.

FBI: Iraqi government was involved in a plot to assassinate former President George Bush during his April 14-16, 1993, visit to Kuwait.

The Iraqi regime has repeatedly refused visits by human rights monitors.

From 1992 until 2002, Saddam prevented the U.N. Special Rapporteur from visiting Iraq.

Friday, December 29, 2006

deus ex machina � I’m a Resident of Second Life WUT?

deus ex machina � I’m a Resident of Second Life WUT?

I’m a Resident of Second Life WUT?

I was recently directed to an article by Clay Shirky blasting Second Life for its inaccuracy in reporting number of users. Second Life throws around a number that is actually only the number of avatars created in the world, NOT the number of unique human users. Their latest numbers report 2.2 million “Residents” (avatars), 833,000 logged in the last 60 days, and roughly 14,000 people currently online at the time I write this post (peak concurrency has been reported as high as 18,000 users at once). That’s 0.64% of their so-called “Residents” online at a time! Why so low? Maybe because they are all the same people?

Compare this to WoW, where 7.5 million customers actively subscribe or play the game, with 660,000 concurrent users. 8.8% of the WoW player base is online together at a given time. Eve Online, which runs off of a single shard, has roughly 150,000 active subscribers and a peak user concurrency over 32,000.

Anyway, my purpose is not to bash Second Life on semantics and numbers. The reason I bring this up is to talk about a more fundamental matter - why I believe that users flock to Second Life with high hopes of being “in” on the coolest things of the future. These are the people who pay upwards of $80k to entrenched, in-world developers who can model exorbitantly detailed landscapes and buildings on private servers that cost US$1675.00 per region with monthly Maintenance fees of US$295.00. These misguided people are educators who want to teach in a style that they think younger generations would better understand. They are Fortune 500 companies that want to ride the wave of the future by placing a stake in a 3D world. They build cities and offices and elaborate amusement parks in hopes that magically, because work and play are now being done in a virtual world, users will somehow be better at what they do, learn faster, make more money, meet new people, or be happier.


I suspect that the majority of these people didn’t grow up with the Internet.

Look, it’s simple. Open ended virtual worlds like Second Life are best suited for the types of people who love to create content. Second Life is excellent at providing 3D modeling tools, allowing import of graphics and images, giving users a virtual environment with physical constraints, and allowing talented artists and programmers to write their own code within the bounds of that world. And here’s a secret…a lot of that content isn’t really that good. Even if the content is good, it might take half an hour to load onto your screen. The point is, if you are not inherently a creative person, or if you don’t have the time and patience to learn about modeling and animation tools, then you are going to log into Second Life, take a look around, scratch your head, shrug your shoulders, and log out again.

Monday, December 25, 2006 - Why We Have Sex: It's Cleansing - Why We Have Sex: It's Cleansing

Scientists have long wondered why organisms bother with sexual reproduction. It makes a whole lot more sense to just have a bunch of females that can clone themselves, which is how asexual reproduction works.

Turns out sex might have evolved as a way to concentrate lots of harmful mutations into individual organisms so they could be easily weeded out by natural selection, a new computer model suggests.

The classic explanation for the onset of whoopee, about 1 billion years ago, is that it provides a way for organisms to swap and shuffle genes and to create offspring with new gene combinations that might survive if the environment suddenly changes.

But some scientists think this isn't enough of a justification to outweigh the many costs of getting together to make little ones. Just ask any single person—sexual organisms have to spend valuable time and resources finding and attracting mates.

If all organisms were like starfishes and cacti, which just drop pieces of themselves when they want to multiply, reproduction would be a whole lot simpler. There would be no need for elaborate peacock feathers or bird songs; stags wouldn't need antlers; elephant bulls wouldn't have to produce stinky cologne and guys probably wouldn't spend so much money on dates.

Natural cleansing

The new work could help test a hypothesis first proposed nearly 20 years ago, stating that sex evolved as a way to purge harmful mutations from a population. According to this view, the random shuffling of genes through sex will sometimes have the effect of concentrating many harmful mutations into single individuals.

These individuals will be less healthy than their peers, and therefore more likely to be weeded out by natural selection, the thinking goes.

This hypothesis, called the "mutational deterministic hypothesis," is controversial though, because it assumes that single mutations by themselves are only slightly harmful, while a combination of many mutations together is much more damaging. Scientists call this phenomenon "negative epistasis."

If negative epistasis were true, it would provide a powerful explanation for why sex has managed to persist for so long despite its numerous costs. But the phenomenon has yet to be widely demonstrated in nature and scientists have yet to figure out how such a thing evolved in the first place.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Columbus Dispatch - Editorials

The Columbus Dispatch - Editorials:

"‘Dispatch’ editorial on terrorism simplistic
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I respond to the June 20 Dispatch editorial 'Out of the frying pan.'

What has happened in Somalia, for the majority of Somalis inside and those who are abroad, is a positive change. I truly suggest that we should not prejudge this change, or any change for that matter, based on the religious affiliation of those in power.

It seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to Muslims, Islam, Arabs and Palestinian issues. A view of the big picture seems to be missing.

The assertion in the editorial, 'President Bush is right to be concerned about these developments. Regions of strict Muslim control and haters of Western culture tend to breed terrorists,' is overly simplistic. The line they hate us and our way of life has really become old. This is a ridiculous and simplistic response to a complex problem of major magnitude."

This is a CAIR representative praising the jihadis of Somalia, who are now spreading their islamic warfare against neighboring Ethiopia.

U.S. Is Detaining Iranians Caught in Raids in Iraq - New York Times

U.S. Is Detaining Iranians Caught in Raids in Iraq - New York Times

U.S. Is Detaining Iranians Caught in Raids in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Dec. 24 — The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.

The Bush administration made no public announcement of the politically delicate seizure of the Iranians, though in response to specific questions the White House confirmed Sunday that the Iranians were in custody.

Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”

It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would not identify those being held. One official said that “a lot of material” was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.

Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.

Over the past four days, the Iraqis and Iranians have engaged in intense behind-the-scenes efforts to secure the release of the remaining detainees. One Iraqi government official said, “The Iranian ambassador has been running around from office to office.”

Iraqi leaders appealed to the American military, including to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American ground commander in Iraq, to release the Iranians, according to an Iraqi politician familiar with the efforts. The debate about what to do next has also engaged officials in the White House and the State Department. The national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, has been fully briefed, officials said, though they would not say what Mr. Bush has been told about the seizure or the identity of the detainees.

A senior Western official in Baghdad said the raids were conducted after American officials received information that the people detained had been involved in attacks on official security forces in Iraq. “We conduct operations against those who threaten Iraqi and coalition forces,” the official said. “This was based on information.”

A spokesman for Mr. Hakim, who heads a Shiite political party called Sciri, which began as an exile group in Iran that opposed Saddam Hussein, declined to comment. In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, had no comment about the case on Sunday other than to say it was under examination.

The action comes at a moment of extraordinary tension in the three-way relationship between the United States, Iran and Iraq. On Saturday, even as American officials were trying to determine the identity of some of the Iranians, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution imposing mild sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has rejected pressure to open talks with Iran about its actions in Iraq.

Much about the raids and the identities of the Iranians remained unclear on Sunday. American officials offered few details. They said that an investigation was under way and that they wanted to give the Iraqi government time to figure out its position. A Bush administration official said the Iranian military officials held in custody were suspected of being members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It has been involved in training members of Hezbollah and other groups that the Americans regard as terrorist organizations.

American and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of interfering in this country’s internal affairs, but have rarely produced evidence. The administration presented last week’s arrests as a potential confirmation of the link. Mr. Johndroe said, “We suspect this event validates our claims about Iranian meddling, but we want to finish our investigation of the detained Iranians before characterizing their activities.”

Ethiopia says forced into war with Somali

Ethiopia says forced into war with Somali Islamists---Top

"BAIDOA, Somalia (Reuters) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Sunday he was waging war against Somalia's Islamists to protect his country's sovereignty, intensifying a conflict that threatens to engulf the Horn of Africa.

It was Ethiopia's first public admission of military involvement in Somalia, where for the first time it sent warplanes on Sunday to pound the Islamist fighters now encircling the weak interim government.

Ethiopian officials have said the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), which now controls most of Somalia except for the government-held town of Baidoa, is a terrorist group backed by Ethiopia's enemy, Eritrea.

The top news, photos, and videos of 2006. Full Coverage

'Ethiopian defense forces were forced to enter into war to the protect the sovereignty of the nation and to blunt repeated attacks by Islamic courts terrorists and anti-Ethiopian elements they are supporting,' Meles said in a televised address."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Next little thing 2007 - An ATM for books - December 1, 2006

Next little thing 2007 - An ATM for books - December 1, 2006

(FSB Magazine) -- Buying a book could become as easy as buying a pack of gum. After several years in development, the Espresso - a $50,000 vending machine with a conceivably infinite library - is nearly consumer-ready and will debut in ten to 25 libraries and bookstores in 2007. The New York Public Library is scheduled to receive its machine in February.

The company behind the Espresso is called On Demand Books, founded by legendary book editor Jason Epstein, 78, and Dane Neller, 56, but the technology was developed six years ago by Jeff Marsh, who is a technology advisor for New York City-based ODB (

The machine can print, align, mill, glue and bind two books simultaneously in less than seven minutes, including full-color laminated covers. It prints in any language and will even accommodate right-to-left texts by putting the spine on the right. The upper page limit is 550 pages, though by tweaking the page thickness and type size, you could get a copy of War and Peace (albeit tough to read) if you wanted.
See the next little things for 2007

Neller says that future versions of the machine will accommodate longer works with fewer hassles. Prices for the finished product will vary depending on locations, but the production cost is about a penny per page.

Some 2.5 million books are now available - about one million in English and no longer under copyright protection. On Demand accesses the volumes through Google and the Open Content Alliance, among other sources. Neller predicts that within about five years On Demand Books will be able to reproduce every volume ever printed.

Stressed Out? Grab Hubby's Hand

Stressed Out? Grab Hubby's Hand
In happy marriages, hand-holding calms nerves, study finds

If you're a woman stressed out from work, holiday shopping, the kids or even too much traffic, grab your husband's hand for instant relief.

And if you're spouse-less? Holding any male's hand is better than none.

That's the conclusion of a study published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science.

"Hand-holding is second nature for kids" when they're under stress, said James A. Coan, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Virginia, who led the study. "This can also work for adults."

The happier the marriage, the greater the stress-reducing benefit, Coan found. But even a stranger's hand can help reduce stress, he said.

Stressed Out? Grab Hubby's Hand

Stressed Out? Grab Hubby's Hand
In happy marriages, hand-holding calms nerves, study finds

If you're a woman stressed out from work, holiday shopping, the kids or even too much traffic, grab your husband's hand for instant relief.

And if you're spouse-less? Holding any male's hand is better than none.

That's the conclusion of a study published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science.

"Hand-holding is second nature for kids" when they're under stress, said James A. Coan, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Virginia, who led the study. "This can also work for adults."

The happier the marriage, the greater the stress-reducing benefit, Coan found. But even a stranger's hand can help reduce stress, he said.nds-have-hidden-medicine/?">

Newsvine - Raul Castro Speaks About Cuba Food Woes

Newsvine - Raul Castro Speaks About Cuba Food Woes

HAVANA — Acting president Raul Castro complained to lawmakers about inefficiencies in the island's economy, telling them in comments made public Saturday that there is no excuse for the transportation and food production problems that anger many Cubans.

"In this Revolution we are tired of excuses," he said, giving the strongest sense yet of the frank and demanding leadership style he will likely adopt if his ailing older brother Fidel Castro does not return as president.

After almost five months in power, it has become clear that the 75-year-old Raul Castro will call officials to account for their actions and demand they produce real results, rather than offer mere political platitudes.

He also has shown a willingness to criticize aspects of the communist system that are not working.

"The Revolution cannot lie," he said in comments published by the Communist Party newspaper Granma. "This isn't saying that there have been comrades who have lied, but the imprecision, inexact data, consciously or unconsciously masked, can no longer continue."

Castro spoke Friday afternoon during a year-end meeting of the National Assembly. He did not address the two-hour session that international journalists were allowed to attend in the morning.

Excerpts of his comments aired later on state television showed him looking gruff and almost angry as spoke in a strong, controlled tone about problems affecting average Cubans.

It was unknown how long he spoke, but Castro tends toward short speeches with concrete messages on local matters — a sharp contrast to his older brother's extemporaneous discourses that often ran many hours while ranging over philosophical thoughts on world and Cuban affairs.

Lacking the charisma of his more famous brother, Castro will need to make changes that improve the lives of Cubans to gain the popular support necessary to govern over the long run.

Public transportation problems top the list of Cubans' many complaints about the system, a litany that includes crumbling housing, insufficient food for their families and government paychecks that don't cover basic expenses.

Castro's willingness to publicly criticize the system's failings is a switch from the past policy under his brother of extolling the virtues of the revolution while blaming a handful of corrupt individuals for problems.

But it is too early to know whether his frankness could evolve into a more generalized kind of Cuban glasnost, the policy of openness in public discussions that was promoted by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s.

Don Justo's Self Built Cathedral - Mejorada del Campo, Spain :

Don Justo's Self Built Cathedral - Mejorada del Campo, Spain :

Justo Gallego Martínez is building his very own Cathedral in Mejorada del Campo near Madrid, Spain

image 86

This is no "model" cathedral and he is neither a qualified architect, nor engineer, nor bricklayer -- he is a farmer. "The plans have only ever existed in my head" and have evolved over time in response to opportunity and inspiration. Nor does he have formal planning permission from the authorities of Mejorada del Campo -- the town in which it is located (20 km from Madrid under the flight-path to the Barajas airport).

image 90

Nor does he have the benediction or support of the Catholic Church. After eight years in a Trappist order -- and just prior to taking his vows -- he was obliged to leave, considerably weakened by tuberculosis and the monastic regime. His cathedral is dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Madre de Jesús. He explains: "It's an act of faith." The cathedral has been bequeathed by him to the Bishopric of nearby Alcalá de Henares.

image 82

image 83

The shell of the building is complete -- covering the 20x50 metre plot [photos]. Some 8,000m2 have been built -- or are underway. They include a complex ensemble of cloisters, offices, lodgings and a library. The cathedral already has a dome (modelled on St Peters) rising to some 40 metres, some 12 metres in diametre -- whose steel girders were raised with the aid of his six nephews using pulleys. He was unable to get the loan of a crane. In summer volunteers may lend a hand, but for the heavy work he hires a local assistant at his own expense. It is estimated that it may take another 15 to 20 years to complete -- although Don Justo does not know. He prefers not to speak about the future. How long he will still be physically able to continue working on it is uncertain.

Newsvine - Iraqi Insurgent Snipers Gaining Skill

Newsvine - Iraqi Insurgent Snipers Gaining Skill

A problem since the start of the war, soldiers and senior officers say the threat from snipers has intensified in recent months. Insurgent gunmen have honed their skills and acquired better equipment, notably night-vision rifle scopes to target U.S. troops after the sun goes down.

For Marines and soldiers targeted by the gunmen, the shots chip away at their morale, one crack of a rifle at a time.

"People are just tired of this. They're frustrated," said Sgt. Benjamin Iobst, who lives at Sword. "It's like trying to find a fly in a forest."

Iobst said the problem in Anbar Province has become so serious that military experts recently visited Sword to study snipers in the area, in hopes of developing ways to counter the threat.

Lt. Gerard Dow, the highest-ranking soldier at Sword, said Americans usually move through Ramadi at night to minimize the risk. But now some gunmen use night-vision scopes so they can strike anytime.

"We know the best ones have it," he said.

During a week of interviews, soldiers at Sword spoke repeatedly about the snipers outside their gates. Subsequent discussions with Marines and commanders across Anbar revealed that the threat is widespread.

Maj. Matthew Van Wagenen, executive officer of 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, said Saddam Hussein loyalists in exile in Syria and Jordan have funded training programs for snipers.

"You have simple gunmen getting paid to take shots, but you also have midlevel leadership who can drive all over Anbar, moving in and out of town whenever they want," Van Wagenen said.

The U.S. military leadership in Baghdad has played down the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq, but many soldiers and Marines in Anbar said they believe the best snipers from all over the Middle East travel to Iraq for the chance to drop an American with a single shot.

The art of conversation | Chattering classes |

The art of conversation | Chattering classes |

For those of more modest accomplishments, but attached to conversation as one of life's pleasures and necessary skills, there is a lively market in manuals and tip-sheets going back almost 500 years, and a legacy of wisdom with an even longer history. One striking thing about the advice is how consistent it remains over time, suggesting that there are real rights and wrongs in conversation, not just local conventions.

The principle that it is rude to interrupt another speaker goes back at least to Cicero, writing in 44BC, who said that good conversation required “alternation” among participants. In his essay “On Duties”, Cicero remarked that nobody, to his knowledge, had yet set down the rules for ordinary conversation, though many had done so for public speaking. He had a shot at it himself, and quickly arrived at the sort of list that self-help authors have been echoing ever since. The rules we learn from Cicero are these: speak clearly; speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn; do not interrupt; be courteous; deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones; never criticise people behind their backs; stick to subjects of general interest; do not talk about yourself; and, above all, never lose your temper.

Probably only two cardinal rules were lacking from Cicero's list: remember people's names, and be a good listener. Each of these pieces of advice also has a long pedigree. At a pinch you might trace the point about names back to Plato. Both found a persuasive modern advocate in Dale Carnegie, a teacher of public speaking who decided in 1936 that Americans needed educating more broadly in “the fine art of getting along”. His book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is still in print 70 years later and has sold 15m copies. To remember names, and to listen well, are two of Carnegie's “six ways to make people like you”. The others are to become genuinely interested in other people; smile; talk in terms of the other person's interests; and make the other person feel important.

Cicero's rules of conversation seem to have been fairly common across cultures as well as time, if varying in strictness. It might reasonably be said that Italians are more tolerant of interruption, Americans of contradiction and the English of formality, for example. These rules of conversation also intersect with those of politeness more generally, as formulated by two American linguists, Penelope Brown and Steven Levinson, the pioneers of “politeness theory”.
Courtesy counts

The Brown and Levinson model says, roughly speaking, that Person A probably does not want to be rude to Person B, but in the way of things, life may sometimes require Person A to contradict or intrude on Person B, and when that happens, Person A has a range of “politeness strategies” to draw on. There are four main possibilities, given in ascending order of politeness. The first is a “bald, on-record” approach: “I'm going to shut the window.” The second is positive politeness, or a show of respect: “I'm going to shut the window, is that OK?” The third is negative politeness, which presumes that the request will be an intrusion or an inconvenience: “I'm sorry to disturb you, but I want to shut the window.” The fourth is an indirect strategy which does not insist on a course of action at all: “Gosh, it's cold in here.”

The first three of those options are plain instrumental speech, and are the sort of approaches that the conversation manuals warn you against. The fourth one alone leads into the realm of conversation as such. Here the purpose of speaking is not so much to get a point across, more to find out what others think about it. This principle of co-operation is one of the things that sets conversation apart from other superficially similar activities such as lectures, debates, arguments and meetings. Other qualities which help to define conversation include the equal distribution of speaker rights; mutual respect among speakers; spontaneity and informality; and a non-businesslike ambience. The last of these was well caught by Johnson when he defined conversation as “talk beyond that which is necessary to the purposes of actual business”.

If conversation, and politeness, do have common features across time and culture, it is not all that surprising that newer manuals will find little to add in terms of fundamental principles. They can, however, offer specific tips which are useful in the right circumstances, and these, too, change little with the years. “Never recount your dreams in public,” wrote the anonymous author of “Maximes de la Bienséance en la Conversation”, one of the first manuals of conversation published in France, in 1618. Margaret Shepherd, author of “The Art of Civilized Conversation”, a manual published in America in 2006, offers the same prohibition. Among the ill-judged remarks that she calls “saboteurs of small talk”, she includes “self-absorbed comments like ‘I had the strangest dream. You were in it. Uh, let me try to remember it’.”

The more modern the manual of conversation, the more concrete its advice is likely to be. Ms Shepherd offers seven quick ways to tell if you are boring your listeners, which include: “Never speak uninterrupted for more than four minutes at a time” and “If you are the only person who still has a plate full of food, stop talking.” Her checklist of things best not said to the parent of a newborn baby should be memorised for future use. It comprises: “What's wrong with his nose?” “Should he be that colour?” “Isn't he awfully small?” “Shouldn't you be breast-feeding?” “Did you want a boy?” “Is he a good baby?” “He looks like Churchill!/She looks like ET!” “It's really cute!”

It is easy enough to see the usefulness of such tips, but they capture none of the joy which comes from the mastery of conversation. For enthusiasts conversation is an art, one of the great pleasures of life, even the basis of civilised society. Mme de Staël, a great talker and intellectual of the French ancien régime, called conversation “a means of reciprocally and rapidly giving one another pleasure; of speaking just as quickly as one thinks; of spontaneously enjoying one's self; of being applauded without working...[A] sort of electricity that causes sparks to fly, and that relieves some people of the burden of their excess vivacity and awakens others from a state of painful apathy”.

Shotgun sequencing finds nanoorganisms - Probe of acid mine drainage turns up unsuspected virus-sized Archaea | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference

Shotgun sequencing finds nanoorganisms - Probe of acid mine drainage turns up unsuspected virus-sized Archaea | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference

Berkeley -- For 11 years, Jill Banfield at the University of California, Berkeley, has collected and studied the microbes that slime the floors of mines and convert iron to acid, a common source of stream pollution around the world.

Imagine her surprise, then, when research scientist Brett Baker discovered three new microbes living amidst the bacteria she thought she knew well. All three were so small - the size of large viruses - as to be virtually invisible under a microscope, and belonged to a totally new phylum of Archaea, microorganisms that have been around for billions of years.

What made Baker's find possible was shotgun sequencing, a technique developed and made famous by Celera Corp., which used it to sequence the human genome in record time.

"It was amazing," said Banfield, a professor of earth and planetary science and of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley since 2001.

"These were totally new and very small organisms we didn't know how to culture with standard techniques. This shows the great promise of shotgun sequencing to profile a community of organisms without making any assumptions about what is there."

Nearly three years ago, Banfield employed shotgun sequencing to pick out the half-dozen bacteria and Archaea in the mine slime. It was the first successful example of community genomic analysis to profile the organisms in a drop of water - scummy water.

But Baker's discovery makes clear that shotgun sequencing can also pick out rare organisms too small to see easily, and too novel to be plucked out by other genetic techniques.

"We were essentially looking for new stuff, and we found it in all the samples studied, though at low abundance," said Baker, who is with the campus's Department of Earth and Planetary Science. "Shotgun sequencing is a better way to identify organisms than using other methods, like culturing or PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which can miss quite a lot of organisms."

NASA - NASA Names New Crew Exploration Vehicle Orion

NASA - NASA Names New Crew Exploration Vehicle Orion

NASA announced Tuesday that its new crew exploration vehicle will be named Orion.

Orion is the vehicle NASA’s Constellation Program is developing to carry a new generation of explorers back to the moon and later to Mars. Orion will succeed the space shuttle as NASA's primary vehicle for human space exploration.

JSC2006-E-21813 : Artist's rendering of concept of CEV and service moduleOrion's first flight with astronauts onboard is planned for no later than 2014 to the International Space Station. Its first flight to the moon is planned for no later than 2020.

Judge: Iran owes $254M in terror attack - Yahoo! News

Judge: Iran owes $254M in terror attack - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - The Iranian government financed a 1996 terrorist attack that killed 19 Americans in Saudi Arabia and must pay $254 million to the victims' families, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth allows families of the victims of the Khobar Towers bombing to seek their compensation from assets that have been seized from the conservative Islamic regime in Tehran.

On June 25, 1996, a truck bomb exploded in a military housing area known as the Khobar Towers dormitory near Dhahran. U.S. authorities have long alleged that the bombing was carried out by a Saudi wing of the militant group Hezbollah, which receives support from
Iran and

Though Lamberth has previously ruled that a survivor of the blast could seek payment from Iran, Friday's ruling was the first time Tehran has been blamed for the deaths of the Americans in the bombing.

"The defendants also provided money, training and travel documents to Saudi Hezbollah members in order to facilitate the attacks," Lamberth wrote. "Moreover, the sheer gravity and nature of the attack demonstrate the defendants' unlawful intent to inflict severe emotional distress upon the American servicemen as well as their close relatives."

Wow. The Khobar towers attack was done by Iran. And Saudi Arabia was not very cooperative in helping us find the bad guys. This was back during the Clinton years. He just kind of ignored it. I thought that the whole world loved the US, and there was no terrorism when Clinton was president. Guess that wasn't true. But without Bush as president, there would be no reason to hate the US, right? The whole world will love us again, and terrorism will stop. Or at least we'll just ignore it like Clinton did. I can't remember, how well did he do in his attempts to stop Korea from getting the bomb again?

Daily Kos: Democrats won thanks to Al Qaida

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

The third thing I wish to talk about is a message to the Democrats in America. I tell them: you must realize two facts.

The first is that you aren’t the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost: rather, the Mujahideen – the Muslim Ummah’s vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq – are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost.

The second fact is that the Mujahideen are still – by the grace of Allah – in the field, their weapons with which they fell the Democrats are still ready and aimed, and the Mujahideen won’t stop inflicting losses on you until you leave our lands, stop plundering our treasures, and stop backing the corrupt rulers in our countries.

And if you don’t refrain from the foolish American policy of backing Israel, occupying the lands of Islam, and stealing the treasures of the Muslims, then await the same fate.

You must realize that a new period of world history has begun. The period of the offspring of Abd al-Aziz Al-Sa’ud, the grandsons of the Sharif Husayn and Sadat, Mubarak and Arafat has passed, and the period of Khalid Islambouli, Abdullah Azzam, Abu Hafs the Commander, Khattab, Muhammad Atta, Muhammad Siddique Khan, and Shehzad Tanwir (Allah have mercy on them) has begun. And if you are unable to comprehend this transformation, then blame no one but yourselves.

Depart from our lands and stop supporting the corrupt rulers, and don’t prevent the Muslim Ummah from establishing its legitimate Shura state accountable to it.

And I tell both the Republicans and Democrats: you are attempting in panic to find a way out of the disasters which surround you in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you are still thinking with the same idiotic mentality. Thus you try to negotiate with certain parties to secure your departure, although these parties don’t have a way out for you, and your attempts will only succeed in further frustrating you, Allah willing, because you aren’t negotiating with the real powers in the Islamic world. And it appears that you shall embark on a painful journey of failed negotiations, after which you shall come back – Allah permitting – with no other choice but to negotiate with the real powers.

And I tell them: Bush reflects the level of thought of the American nation, despite all the research centers, specialists, thinkers and historians it has. A nation which chooses Bush as its president is a nation of negligible morals, ideology and intellect. And it suffices to take a look at his recent meeting with the beggar al-Maliki in Amman, and the differences and disputes which permeated it and blew up in public despite their strong need to project it as a successful meeting.

The fourth thing I wish to talk about is a message to the American people. I say to them: you only realized the failure of the administration and toppled the Republicans’ candidates after the Mujahideen slaughtered you, and you didn’t listen to the voice of morality, justice, principles and intellect. And the Mujahideen’s weapons continue to be raised and aimed, by the grace of Allah.
The formula for your safety is "You shall never dream of security until we truly experience it in Palestine and all lands of Islam," and not the fallacious formula with which Bush deceives you when he says, "We strike the terrorists in their countries so that they don’t strike us in ours." On the contrary: if we are struck in our countries, we shall never stop striking you in your countries, with Allah’s power and permission.

Death penalty: Saudi court spares Keralite - - News on Death penalty: Saudi court spares Keralite

Death penalty: Saudi court spares Keralite - - News on Death penalty: Saudi court spares Keralite

A Keralite, who was reportedly facing death sentence in Saudi Arabia, has been set free due to timely intervention of Indian authorities.

Jojo Joseph of Edathua in the district was on Monday ordered to be beheaded for entering the holy place of Medina despite a bar on non-Muslims.

According to Jojo’s family members in Edathua, the Saudi authorities later took a lenient view of the case after they were convinced that he did not deliberately commit the mistake.

Jojo, employed in an electronic shop in Jeddah, ran into trouble while rushing in a cab to a hospital where his wife had given birth to a child. The taxi driver took a wrong route and strayed into the prohibited area, his family members said.

The Indian was then spotted by religious volunteers, who handed him to police.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ex-cop's 'Never Get Busted Again' video - Crime & Punishment -

Ex-cop's 'Never Get Busted Again' video - Crime & Punishment -

TYLER, Texas - A one-time Texas drug agent described by his former boss as perhaps the best narcotics officer in the country plans to market a how-to video on concealing drugs and fooling police.

Barry Cooper, who has worked for small police departments in East Texas, plans to launch a Web site next week where he will sell his video, “Never Get Busted Again,” the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported in its online edition Thursday.

A promotional video says Cooper will show viewers how to “conceal their stash,” “avoid narcotics profiling” and “fool canines every time.”

Cooper, who said he favors the legalization of marijuana, made the video in part because he believes the nation’s fight against drugs is a waste of resources. Busting marijuana users fills up prisons with nonviolent offenders, he said.

“My main motivation in all of this is to teach Americans their civil liberties and what drives me in this is injustice and unfairness in our system,” Cooper told the newspaper.

Cooper said his Web site should be operating by Tuesday.

As a drug officer, Cooper said, he made more than 800 drug arrests and seized more than 50 vehicles and $500,000 in cash and assets.

“He was even better than he says he was,” said Tom Finley, Cooper’s former boss on a West Texas drug task force and now a private investigator in Midland. “He was probably the best narcotics officer in the state and maybe the country during his time with the task force.”

News of the video has angered authorities, including Richard Sanders, an agent with the Tyler Drug Enforcement Agency. Sanders said he plans to investigate whether the video violates any laws.

no surrender-ne pasaran: The Irish Jihadi Cells Exposed

no surrender-ne pasaran: The Irish Jihadi Cells Exposed:

"Prime Time estalished five central and troubling issues.
Firstly, there is a Jihadi propaganda operation active in Ireland.
Secondly, there is, within the Muslim community in Ireland, high-level sympathy for Jihad.
Thirdly, there is a small [15%-19%] element in this community, which supports such terror.
Fourthly, several active Jihadi terrorists have been identified with Irish links.
Fifthly, a significant Al-Qaida figure is based in Dublin for some 25 years, and has acquired Irish citizenship."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gut Microbes Give Us Clues To Obesity Cause And Treatment

Gut Microbes Give Us Clues To Obesity Cause And Treatment

Gut Microbes Give Us Clues To Obesity Cause And Treatment

US scientists have discovered that "gut microbes" - bacteria that live in our digestive tract - could be powerful clues to the cause and treatment of obesity.

This remarkable news was published in Nature this week and conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The clue lies in the relative abundance of two major families of intestinal bacteria: Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. These make up 90 per cent of the bacteria in the gut of humans, and, coincidentally, white mice.

Researchers in the first of two parallel studies found that as obese people lose weight, the balance between the Firmicutes and the Bacteroidetes changes - the latter increasing in abundance as an overweight person gets slimmer. (It would seem that the microbes ending in "cute" are perhaps not as lovable as their name implies!).

The second study was conducted in a neighbouring lab using white mice. Here, researchers discovered that the bacteria in the guts of obese white mice were more efficient at extracting calories from complex carbohydrates than the bacteria in the guts of slimmer mice.

Also, in an earlier study, they had shown that the guts of obese mice had the same depletion of Bacteroidetes as found in the guts of the obese humans.

This means that you could have two guys eating the same amount of food (i.e. consuming the same calories) each day, and doing the same amount of exercise (i.e. burning equal number of calories) but over the course of several years, one gradually gets fatter and the other stays the same. Why? Because the one who stays the same has more Bacteroidetes in his gut, extracting fewer calories from the same amount of food.

The poor guy who gets fatter has a more efficient calorie grabber in his gut, and the excess gets stored as fat - putting him at higher risk of eventually becoming obese.

Trillions of "friendly" gut bacteria digest the food we eat by breaking down complex molecules like polysaccharides (complex carbs found in fruit, vegetables and grains) into simple sugars for energy. The excess is converted to fat for longer term storage. However, these studies suggest that the simple equation (calorie value of food intake) - (energy we use) equals (the fat we store), is different for different people.

These studies form part of a growing body of research revealing fascinating new insights into what we are made of and what makes us tick.

We used to think that the human body was a collection of cells with the same DNA imprint - like a unique bar code for each person. However, within us, in our guts, lie communities of microbes that outnumber our cells by 10 to 1, and, according to the researchers behind these two studies, "they may contain 100 times more genes than our own human genome".

The researchers suggest that intestinal bacteria could become "biomarkers, mediators and potential therapeutic targets" in the fight against obesity.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Somalis 'at war' with Ethiopia

BBC NEWS | Africa | Somalis 'at war' with Ethiopia:

"The leader of the Union of Islamic Courts, which controls the capital and much of southern Somalia, says they are in a state of war with Ethiopia.

'All Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia,' Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said from Mogadishu.

Fresh heavy fighting is reported near the weak Somali government's Baidoa base, amid fears conflict could plunge the entire Horn of Africa into crisis.

Local residents say Ethiopian troops are clashing with Islamist militias.

Ethiopia denies its forces are battling the advancing Islamist militias.

The two countries have a long history of troubled relations, and Islamists have long called for a holy war against Ethiopian troops in Baidoa.

Both the Islamist and interim government agreed to a ceasefire and to unconditional talks on Wednesday after meetings with a visiting European Union envoy."

Muslims killing non muslims. Must be Bush's fault, somehow!

French film raises fresh fears over airport safety�|�Top News�|�

French film raises fresh fears over airport safety-|-Top News-|

PARIS (Reuters) - A French television reporter managed to smuggle explosive material and knives onto American and French passenger planes apparently revealing serious flaws in security at French airports.

Appearing in a documentary made for state television due to be aired on Friday, the reporter has raised fresh questions about French air safety after accusations last month that it was too easy to gain access to aircraft at Paris' main airport.

Reporter Laurent Richard, aided by security expert Christophe Naudin, used hidden cameras to show themselves carrying "de-activated" Semtex explosive and a detonator in their hand luggage aboard an Air France flight to Nice.

On another occasion, the pair carried two box cutters aboard a Delta airlines flight from Paris to New York, with security staff not looking at their screens as the weapons passed through the x-ray machines.

Box cutters were used by the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

The film also shows the duo packing a Semtex-like substance in their luggage, which was subsequently put into the hold of a domestic French flight despite x-ray checks on the suitcase.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Way News - Report Says Berger Hid Archive Documents

My Way News - Report Says Berger Hid Archive Documents:

"WASHINGTON (AP) - President Clinton's national security adviser removed classified documents from the National Archives, hid them under a construction trailer and later tried to find the trash collector to retrieve them, the agency's internal watchdog said Wednesday.

The report was issued more than a year after Sandy Berger pleaded guilty and received a criminal sentence for removing the documents.

Berger took the documents in the fall of 2003 while working to prepare himself and Clinton administration witnesses for testimony to the Sept. 11 commission. Berger was authorized as the Clinton administration's representative to make sure the commission got the correct classified materials.

Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, said in a statement that the contents of all the documents exist today and were made available to the commi"

FrontPage :: Jimmy Carter and the Arab Lobby by Jacob Laksin

FrontPage :: Jimmy Carter and the Arab Lobby by Jacob Laksin

Nothing demonstrates more clearly the defects of Jimmy Carter’s latest brief against Israel, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, than the ex-president’s reluctance to defend the book on its merits. Rather than take up that unenviable task, Carter has sought to shift the focus away from the criticism -- especially as it concerns the book’s serial distortions and outright falsehoods -- and onto the critics.

In particular, Carter claims that critics are compromised by their support for Israel, their ties to pro-Israel lobbying organizations, and -- a more pernicious charge -- their Jewish background. In interviews about his book, Carter has seldom missed an opportunity to invoke what he calls the “powerful influence of AIPAC,” with the subtext that it is the lobbying group, and not his slanderous charges about Israel, that is mainly responsible for mobilizing popular outrage over Palestine. In a related line of defense, Carter has singled out “representatives of Jewish organizations” in the media as the prime culprits behind his poor reviews and “university campuses with high Jewish enrollment” as the main obstacle to forthright debate about his book on American universities. (Ironically, when challenged last week by Alan Dershowitz to a debate about his book at Brandeis University, which has a large Jewish student body, Carter rejected the invitation.)

Bluster aside, Carter’s chief complaint seems to be that anyone who identifies with Israel, whether in the form of individual support or in a more organized capacity, is incapable of grappling honestly with the issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict. But Carter is poorly placed to make this claim. If such connections alone are sufficient to discredit his critics, then by his own logic Carter is undeserving of a hearing. After all, the Carter Center, the combination research and activist project he founded at Emory University in 1982, has for years prospered from the largesse of assorted Arab financiers.

Especially lucrative have been Carter’s ties to Saudi Arabia. Before his death in 2005, King Fahd was a longtime contributor to the Carter Center and on more than one occasion contributed million-dollar donations. In 1993 alone, the king presented Carter with a gift of $7.6 million. And the king was not the only Saudi royal to commit funds to Carter’s cause. As of 2005, the king’s high-living nephew, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, has donated at least $5 million to the Carter Center.

Meanwhile the Saudi Fund for Development, the kingdom’s leading loan organization, turns up repeatedly on the center’s list of supporters. Carter has also found moneyed allies in the Bin Laden family, and in 2000 he secured a promise from ten of Osama bin Laden's brothers for a $1 million contribution to his center. To be sure, there is no evidence that the Bin Ladens maintain any contact with their terrorist relation. But applying Carter’s own standard, his extensive contacts with the Saudi elite must make his views on the Middle East suspect.

Federal Subsidies Turn Farms Into Big Business -

Federal Subsidies Turn Farms Into Big Business -

The cornerstone of the multibillion-dollar system of federal farm subsidies is an iconic image of the struggling family farmer: small, powerless against Mother Nature, tied to the land by blood.

Without generous government help, farm-state politicians say, thousands of these hardworking families would fail, threatening the nation's abundant food supply.

Special Report
Harvesting Cash

Working a Farm Subsidy

As Congress prepares to debate a farm bill next year, The Washington Post is examining federal agriculture subsidies that grew to more than $25 billion last year, despite near-record farm revenue.

• Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don't Farm, July 2
• Growers Reap Benefits Even in Good Year, July 3
• No Drought Required For Federal Drought Aid, July 18
• Benefit for Ranchers Was Created to Help GOP Candidate, July 18
• When Feed Was Cheap, Catfish Farmers Got Help Buying It, July 18
• Aid to Ranchers Was Diverted For Big Profits, July 19
• Aid Is a Bumper Crop for Farmers, October 15
• 'Farming Your Insurance', October 15
• Too Big for Disaster Aid, Farmer Chooses to Divide and Conquer, October 15
• Most Farmers Skipping Subsidized Loans and Going for the Cash, October 15
• Crop Insurers Piling Up Record Profits, October 16

About the Series
As Congress prepares to debate a new farm bill next year, The Washington Post is examining federal agricultural subsidies that grew to more than $25 billion last year, despite near-record farm revenues. Today's article discusses how the very policies touted by Congress as a way to save small family...
A Big Farm, but Not So Big It Could Get By Without Subsidies
While some farmers and agricultural experts see a downside to farm subsidies, others say the payments are a fair way to help out farmers in need. "Some years, that's probably what I live on," Steve Loschen said. "Honest to goodness. It helps me stay current on equipment payments and helps pay for my...
Save & Share Article What's This?


"In today's fast-paced, interconnected world, there are few industries where sons and daughters can work side-by-side with moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas," Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said last year. "But we still find that today in agriculture. . . . It is a celebration of what too many in our country have forgotten, an endangered way of life that we must work each and every day to preserve."

This imagery secures billions annually in what one grower called "empathy payments" for farmers. But it is misleading.

Today, most of the nation's food is produced by modern family farms that are large operations using state-of-the-art computers, marketing consultants and technologies that cut labor, time and costs. The owners are frequently college graduates who are as comfortable with a spreadsheet as with a tractor. They cover more acres and produce more crops with fewer workers than ever before.

The very policies touted by Congress as a way to save small family farms are instead helping to accelerate their demise, economists, analysts and farmers say. That's because owners of large farms receive the largest share of government subsidies. They often use the money to acquire more land, pushing aside small and medium-size farms as well as young farmers starting out.

U.S. to Declassify Secrets at Age 25 - New York Times

U.S. to Declassify Secrets at Age 25 - New York Times

At midnight on Dec. 31, hundreds of millions of pages of secret documents will be instantly declassified, including many F.B.I. cold war files on investigations of people suspected of being Communist sympathizers. After years of extensions sought by federal agencies behaving like college students facing a term paper, the end of 2006 means the government’s first automatic declassification of records.

Secret documents 25 years old or older will lose their classified status without so much as the stroke of a pen, unless agencies have sought exemptions on the ground that the material remains secret.

Historians say the deadline, created in the Clinton administration but enforced, to the surprise of some scholars, by the secrecy-prone Bush administration, has had huge effects on public access, despite the large numbers of intelligence documents that have been exempted.

And every year from now on, millions of additional documents will be automatically declassified as they reach the 25-year limit, reversing the traditional practice of releasing just what scholars request.

Independent Online Edition > This Britain

Independent Online Edition > This Britain

The world's largest lizard has astonished biologists by being able to produce offspring by an "immaculate" conception without the help of a male.

Two captive female Komodo dragons have had virgin births by a process called parthenogenesis, when an unfertilised egg develops into a normal embryo without being fertilised by a sperm.

The eggs of one of the lizards - a female called Flora at Chester Zoo - are due to hatch early in the new year, said Kevin Buley, one of the zoo's curators.

"Although other lizard species are known to be able to self-fertilise, this is the first time this has ever been reported in Komodo dragons," Mr Buley said.

"Essentially what we have here is an immaculate conception ... and it is a possibility that the incubating eggs could hatch around Christmas time," he said.

"We will be on the look out for shepherds, wise men and an unusually bright star over Chester Zoo."

The other female, called Sungai, lived at London Zoo until she died earlier this year of natural causes. However, DNA fingerprinting has shown that some of her offspring born in 2005 were the result of parthenogenesis.

"The fact that it has happened in two separate Komodo dragons, at two zoos and under different conditions suggests that parthenogenesis in Komodos is a lot more common than we realised," said Richard Gibson, curator of herpetology at London Zoo.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Telegraph | News | Stewardess 'banned from taking bible on plane'

Telegraph | News | Stewardess 'banned from taking bible on plane'

An air stewardess is claiming religious discrimination against an airline which she says banned her from taking the Bible to Saudi Arabia.

The stewardess has been told by BMI that it is against the law of the insular Middle Eastern country to bring in religious books other than the Koran.

The woman, who is understood to be a committed Christian, takes her bible everywhere she goes and is now set to take the airline to an industrial tribunal claiming discrimination on religious grounds.

BMI, formerly British Midland Airways, said today it was merely following the Foreign Office advice that no non-Islamic materials or artefacts are allowed into the country.

A spokesman from the airline said: "We issue advice to all our staff and passengers that these are the guidelines.

Gee, aren't christians being singled out by the muslims (profiling) for special descrimination based on their religion? Is the media outraged by this? What if we didn't allow korans in the US- would that outrage the media? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Independent Online Edition > Africa

Independent Online Edition > Africa

France yesterday defended recent fighter jet raids on towns bordering Sudan's Darfur region by claiming the aggressive action was aimed at preventing regional chaos.

In the past two weeks, with minimal publicity, Mirage F1 jets have attacked and scattered a rebellion in north-eastern Central African Republic (CAR). But reports from the ground say the operation has had a devastating impact on civilians.

A French Defence Ministry spokesman said the action - which included regular Mirage sorties in neighbouring Chad where tens of thousands of refugees from Darfur are living - was in line with international calls to stabilise the region.

He claimed that without action there was a danger of a "Somalisation" of the region."We want to ensure that the Darfur crisis does not take on a further dimension. The region is crucial if we want to put a peace force in Darfur," he said.

After opposition from the Sudanese President Omar El Beshir, plans to send 20,000 United Nations peacekeepers to Darfur have been axed. Mr Beshir will only accept a beefed-up African Union force with UN logistical support.


According to the UFDR, the raids over several days at the start of December included an attack on Birao with six Mirage F1 fighters and four helicopter gunships. It claims the attack forced thousands of civilians to flee towards Darfur and southern Chad.

A French armed forces spokesman yesterday refused to give details of whether bombs, missiles or machinegun-fire had been used by the jets.


The rebellion, according to the CAR army, was finally crushed on Monday with the capture of Ouadda-Djalle. However, there are fears that the rebels, who have scattered, will relaunch their offensive.

Nganatouwa Goungaye Wanfiyo, president of the Central African Human Rights League, said France's intervention on the side of the CAR army had been out of all proportion and may have increased the risk of a Darfur-style ethnic conflict. "They have just delayed the problem and worsened it. The opposition wants dialogue with Bozizé, that's all."

I love how the French and UNILATERALLY and SECRETLY attack two countries, in a PREEMPTIVE attack, killing CIVILIANS, but get a total pass from the media. Oh, and they pulled their 200 troops out of Afghanistan. What a worthless garbage army.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

France to pull troops from Afghanistan - Yahoo! News

France to pull troops from Afghanistan - Yahoo! News:

"PARIS - France is to withdraw its 200-strong special forces from
Afghanistan, all of its ground troops engaged in the U.S anti-terror operation there, authorities announced Sunday.

The decision to pull the elite troops, based in the southeastern city of Jalalabad, comes as the Taliban militia are gaining strength despite the strong engagement — some 32,800 troops — in
NATO's International Security Assistance Force. France has balked at sending its 1,100-strong NATO contingent outside the relatively safe Afghan capital, Kabul.

'There is a general reorganization of our (troops),' Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said during a visit to Afghanistan. The minister's remarks were aired on France-Info radio."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Researchers reverse diabetes in mice - Yahoo! News

Researchers reverse diabetes in mice - Yahoo! News

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Nerve cells in the pancreas may be a cause of type-1 diabetes in mice -- a finding that could provide new ways to treat the disease in humans, Canadian and U.S. scientists said on Friday.

Defective nerve endings may attract immune system proteins that mistakenly attack the pancreas, destroying its ability to make insulin, the researchers said. This destruction is what causes diabetes.

Injecting a piece of protein, or peptide, to repair the defect cured diabetic mice "overnight," Dr. Hans Michael Dosch of the University of Toronto said in a telephone interview.

"It is very effective in reversing diabetes," said Dosch, principal investigator for the study.

Writing in the journal Cell, Dosch and colleagues said the faulty nerve endings did not secrete enough of the peptides to keep enough insulin flowing.

Type-1 diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes, affects two million Americans and 200,000 Canadians. There has been no known way of preventing it.

The team will soon begin clinical studies on people whose family history suggests they are at risk of developing type-1 diabetes to see if their sensory nerves work well.

If they do not, Dosch said, that would suggest the bad nerve endings were a cause of diabetes, not only an effect as has been widely assumed.

Trials could then begin injecting peptides into patients with diabetes or those at high risk. It could take a number of years, Dosch said.

He said the findings might also hold promise for type-2 diabetes -- which affects about 10 times as many people as type-1 -- though the results were not as strong.

The researchers found that the peptide injections lowered resistance to insulin, which is used to move blood glucose to the body's cells.

People with type-2 diabetes often are obese. By lowering insulin resistance, it might be possible to prevent further obesity and damage from diabetes.

"Whether we can reverse the process, I don't know. But I think we can certainly impact on the major physiological problem, and that's insulin sensitivity," Dosch said.

"So if these people then have normal insulin, then a little activity, then a little walking would actually help lose weight, and then you stop the vicious circle."

Iraqis Consider Ways to Reduce Power of Cleric - New York Times

Iraqis Consider Ways to Reduce Power of Cleric - New York Times

BAGHDAD, Dec. 11 — After discussions with the Bush administration, several of Iraq’s major political parties are in talks to form a coalition whose aim is to break the powerful influence of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr within the government, senior Iraqi officials say.

The talks are taking place among the two main Kurdish groups, the most influential Sunni Arab party and an Iranian-backed Shiite party that has long sought to lead the government. They have invited Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to join them. But Mr. Maliki, a conservative Shiite who has close ties to Mr. Sadr, has held back for fear that the parties might be seeking to oust him, a Shiite legislator close to Mr. Maliki said.

Officials involved in the talks say their aim is not to undermine Mr. Maliki, but to isolate Mr. Sadr as well as firebrand Sunni Arab politicians inside the government. Mr. Sadr controls a militia with an estimated 60,000 fighters that has rebelled twice against the American military and is accused of widening the sectarian war with reprisal killings of Sunni Arabs.

The Americans, frustrated with Mr. Maliki’s political dependence on Mr. Sadr, appear to be working hard to help build the new coalition. President Bush met last week in the White House with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Iranian-backed Shiite party, and is to meet on Tuesday with Tariq al-Hashemi, leader of the Sunni Arab party. In late November, Mr. Bush and his top aides met with leaders from Sunni countries in the Middle East to urge them to press moderate Sunni Arab Iraqis to support Mr. Maliki.

Iraq PM calls on Saddam officers to return to army�|�Top News�|�

Iraq PM calls on Saddam officers to return to army�|�Top News�|�

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's Shi'ite prime minister called on Saturday for the return of all officers of Saddam Hussein's disbanded army in a political overture to disaffected Sunni Arabs aimed at reducing sectarian violence.

Nuri al-Maliki made the call at a national reconciliation conference of Shi'ites, Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians meant to halt communal bloodshed that has raised the specter of civil war and was a major reason for U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to review his Iraq strategy.

A senior politician from the powerful Shi'ite Alliance said representatives of some Sunni Arab insurgent groups were in attendance, but delegates said participants' names would remain undisclosed.

The top news, photos, and videos of 2006. Full Coverage

"The new Iraqi army is opening the door to former Iraqi army officers. Those who do not come back will be given pensions," Maliki said, in remarks in which he also told leaders to embrace reconciliation as a "safety net from death and destruction".

Shortly after the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer dissolved the Iraqi army, a move experts said drove many Sunni Arab soldiers and officers into the mostly Sunni insurgency fighting the Shi'ite-led government.

The White House praised Maliki's speech but did not specifically cite the call for the return of officers.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wired News: Race to the Moon for Nuclear Fuel

Wired News: Race to the Moon for Nuclear Fuel

NASA's planned moon base announced last week could pave the way for deeper space exploration to Mars, but one of the biggest beneficiaries may be the terrestrial energy industry.

Nestled among the agency's 200-point mission goals is a proposal to mine the moon for fuel used in fusion reactors -- futuristic power plants that have been demonstrated in proof-of-concept but are likely decades away from commercial deployment.

Helium-3 is considered a safe, environmentally friendly fuel candidate for these generators, and while it is scarce on Earth it is plentiful on the moon.

As a result, scientists have begun to consider the practicality of mining lunar Helium-3 as a replacement for fossil fuels.

"After four-and-half-billion years, there should be large amounts of helium-3 on the moon," said Gerald Kulcinski, a professor who leads the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Last year NASA administrator Mike Griffin named Kulcinski to lead a number of committees reporting to NASA's influential NASA Advisory Council, its preeminent civilian leadership arm.

The Council is chaired by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt, a leading proponent of mining the moon for helium 3.

Schmitt, who holds the distance record for driving a NASA rover on the moon (22 miles through the Taurus-Littrow valley), is also a former U.S. senator (R-New Mexico).

The Council was restructured last year with a new mission: implementing President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration," which targets Mars as its ultimate destination. Other prominent members of the Council include ex-astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Schmitt and Kulcinski are longtime friends and academic partners, and are known as helium-3 fusion's biggest promoters.

At the Fusion Technology Institute, Kulcinski's team has produced small-scale helium-3 fusion reactions in the basketball-sized fusion device. The reactor produced one milliwatt of power on a continuous basis.

While still theoretical, nuclear fusion is touted as a safer, more sustainable way to generate nuclear energy: Fusion plants produce much less radioactive waste, especially if powered by helium-3. But experts say commercial-sized fusion reactors are at least 50 years away.

The isotope is extremely rare on Earth but abundant on the moon. Some experts estimate there a millions of tons in lunar soil -- and that a single Space-Shuttle load would power the entire United States for a year.

NASA plans to have a permanent moon base by 2024, but America is not the only nation with plans for a moon base. China, India, the European Space Agency, and at least one Russian corporation, Energia, have visions of building manned lunar bases post-2020.

Mining the moon for helium-3 has been discussed widely in space circles and international space conferences. Both China and Russia have stated their nations' interest in helium-3.

"We will provide the most reliable report on helium-3 to mankind," Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China's lunar program, told a Chinese newspaper. "Whoever first conquers the moon will benefit first."

ShoutWire - GOP is Losing Its Libertarian Voters

ShoutWire - GOP is Losing Its Libertarian Voters

Libertarian Party candidates may have cost Senators Jim Talent (R.-Mo.) and Conrad Burns (R.-Mont.) their seats, tipping the Senate to Democratic control.

In Montana, the Libertarian candidate got more than 10,000 votes, or 3%, while Democrat Jon Tester edged Burns by fewer than 3,000 votes. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill defeated Talent by 41,000 votes, a bit less than the 47,000 Libertarian votes.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have had to worry about losing votes to Libertarian Party candidates. Senators Harry Reid (Nev.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), and Tim Johnson (S.D.) all won races in which Libertarian candidates got more votes than their winning margin.

But a narrow focus on the Libertarian Party significantly underestimates the role libertarian voters played in 2006. Most voters who hold libertarian views don’t vote for the Libertarian Party. Libertarian voters likely cost Republicans the House and the Senate—also dealing blows to Republican candidates in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

In our study, “The Libertarian Vote,” we analyzed 16 years of polling data and found that libertarians constituted 13% of the electorate in 2004. Because libertarians are better educated and more likely to vote, they were 15% of actual voters.

Libertarians are broadly defined as people who favor less government in both economic and personal issues. They might be summed up as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” voters.

In the past, our research shows, most libertarians voted Republican—72% for George W. Bush in 2000, for instance, with only 20 percent for Al Gore, and 70% for Republican congressional candidates in 2002. But in 2004, presumably turned off by war, wiretapping, and welfare-state spending sprees, they shifted sharply toward the Democrats. John F. Kerry got 38% of the libertarian vote. That was a dramatic swing that Republican strategists should have noticed. But somehow the libertarian vote has remained hidden in plain sight.

This year we commissioned a nationwide post-election survey of 1013 voters from Zogby International. We again found that 15 percent of the voters held libertarian views. We also found a further swing of libertarians away from Republican candidates. In 2006, libertarians voted 59% to 36% for Republican congressional candidates—a 24-point swing from the 2002 mid-term election. To put this in perspective, front-page stories since the election have reported the dramatic 7-point shift of white conservative evangelicals away from the Republicans. The libertarian vote is about the same size as the religious right vote measured in exit polls, and it is subject to swings more than three times as large.

Based on the turnout in 2004, Bush’s margin over Kerry dropped by 4.8 million votes among libertarians. Had he held his libertarian supporters, he would have won a smashing reelection rather than squeaking by in Ohio.

President Bush and the congressional Republicans left no libertarian button unpushed in the past six years: soaring spending, expansion of entitlements, federalization of education, cracking down on state medical marijuana initiatives, Sarbanes-Oxley, gay marriage bans, stem cell research restrictions, wiretapping, incarcerating U.S. citizens without a lawyer, unprecedented executive powers, and of course an unnecessary and apparently futile war. The striking thing may be that after all that, Democrats still looked worse to a majority of libertarians.

Because libertarians tend to be younger and better educated than the average voter, they’re not going away. They’re an appealing target for Democrats, but they are essential to future Republican successes. Republicans can win the South without libertarians. But this was the year that New Hampshire and the Mountain West turned purple if not blue, and libertarians played a big role there. New Hampshire may be the most libertarian state in the country; this year both the state’s Republican congressmen lost.

Meanwhile, in the Goldwateresque, “leave us alone” Mountain West, Republicans not only lost the Montana Senate seat; they also lost the governorship of Colorado, two House seats in Arizona, and one in Colorado. They had close calls in the Arizona Senate race and House races in Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Dick Cheney’s Wyoming. In libertarian Nevada, the Republican candidate for governor won less than a majority against a Democrat who promised to keep the government out of guns, abortion, and gay marriage. Arizona also became the first state to vote down a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Presidential candidates might note that even in Iowa libertarians helped vote out a Republican congressman who championed the Internet gambling ban.

If Republicans can’t win New Hampshire and the Mountain West, they can’t win a national majority. And they can’t win those states without libertarian votes. They’re going to need to stop scaring libertarian, centrist, and independent voters with their social-conservative obsessions and become once again the party of fiscal responsibility. In a Newsweek poll just before the election, 47% of respondents said they trusted the Democrats more on “federal spending and the deficit,” compared to just 31% who trusted the Republicans. That’s not Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party.

One more bit from our post-election Zogby poll: We asked voters if they considered themselves “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” A whopping 59% said they did. When we added to the question “also known as libertarian,” 44% still claimed that description. That’s too many voters for any party to ignore.

Iraq needs a Pinochet - Los Angeles Times

Iraq needs a Pinochet - Los Angeles Times

I THINK ALL intelligent, patriotic and informed people can agree: It would be great if the U.S. could find an Iraqi Augusto Pinochet. In fact, an Iraqi Pinochet would be even better than an Iraqi Castro.

Both propositions strike me as so self-evident as to require no explanation. But as I have discovered in recent days, many otherwise rational people can't think straight when the names Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet come up.

Let's put aside, at least for a moment, the question of which man was (or is) "worse." Suffice it to say, both have more blood on their hands than a decent conscience should be able to bear. Still, if all you want to do is keep score, then Castro almost surely has many more bodies on his rap sheet. The Cuba Archive estimates that Castro is responsible for the deaths of at least 9,240 people, though the real number could be many times that, particularly if you include the estimate of nearly 77,000 men, women and children who have died trying to flee the "socialist paradise."

But there are measures besides body counts. Castro took Cuba, once among the most prosperous nations in Latin America and destined for First World status, and rendered it poorer than nearby Jamaica and heading Haiti-ward. The island is a prison, and trying to leave can be a capital crime.

Civil liberties are a sham, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are nonexistent, and dissidents are routinely thrown in prison. Civil society has become deeply politicized and, hence, corrupted. In the 1990s, Castro dabbled with liberalizing the economy after welfare from the Soviet Union dried up, but he soon realized that free markets bring other freedoms, so he cast the Cuban people back into poverty rather than risk any threat to his rule. Now Castro, rudely taking a long time to die, is transferring all power to his brother, Raul. Not exactly an open primary. On the plus side, we are told, Cuba has very impressive literacy, longevity and infant mortality rates — and lavish hotels for hard-currency-carrying Westerners.

Now consider Chile. Gen. Pinochet seized a country coming apart at the seams. He too clamped down on civil liberties and the press. He too dispatched souls. Chile's official commission investigating his dictatorship found that Pinochet had 3,197 bodies in his column; 87% of them died in the two-week mini-civil war that attended his coup. Many more were tortured or forced to flee the country.

But on the plus side, Pinochet's abuses helped create a civil society. Once the initial bloodshed subsided, Chile was no prison. Pinochet built up democratic institutions and infrastructure. And by implementing free-market reforms, he lifted the Chilean people out of poverty. In 1988, he held a referendum and stepped down when the people voted him out. Yes, he feathered his nest from the treasury and took measures to protect himself from his enemies. His list of sins — both venal and moral — is long. But today Chile is a thriving, healthy democracy. Its economy is the envy of Latin America, and its literacy and infant mortality rates are impressive.

I ask you: Which model do you think the average Iraqi would prefer? Which model, if implemented, would result in future generations calling Iraq a success? An Iraqi Pinochet would provide order and put the country on the path toward liberalism, democracy and the rule of law. (If only Ahmad Chalabi had been such a man.)

Now, you might say: "This is unfair. This is a choice between two bad options." OK, true enough. But that's all we face in Iraq: bad options. When presented with such a predicament, the wise man chooses the more moral, or less immoral, path. The conservative defense of Pinochet was that he was the least-bad option; better the path of Pinochet than the path toward Castroism, which is where Chile was heading before the general seized power. Better, that is, for the United States and for Chileans.

Diabetes breakthrough

Diabetes breakthrough:

"In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

'I couldn't believe it,' said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. 'Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more.'

The researchers caution they have yet to confirm their findings in people, but say they expect results from human studies within a year or so. Any treatment that may emerge to help at least some patients would likely be years away from hitting the market."

Obese should have health warnings on their clothes | the Daily Mail

Obese should have health warnings on their clothes | the Daily Mail

He and his colleagues say food manufacturers should also display energy content of all meals and snacks at retail and catering outlets.

The saturated fat content of all ready meals and snacks should also be clearly labelled.

New urban roads should only be built if they have safe cycle lanes and new housing complexes should be constructed only if they have sports facilities and green park areas, he says.

He also wants to see adviceline numbers attached to all clothes sold with waists above 102 cm for men, 94 cm for boys, 88 cm or size 16 for women and 80 cm for girls.

Such measures would affect comedian Dawn French who runs her own clothes shop Sixteen 47, catering for women up to a size 47.

Prof Sattar also wants ads for slimming services without independent evaluation banned, TV ads for sweets and snacks stopped before 9 pm, higher tax on high fat and high sugar foods and tax breaks for genuine corporate social responsibility.

In this week's British Medical Journal, Prof Sattar says education should be provided at all levels to change behaviour towards diet and physical activity, and obesity made a core part of all medical training.

"People clearly have some responsibility for their health, but society and government have a responsibility to make the preferred, easy choices healthier ones," he said.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

lgf: New UN Chief - Not a Progressive?

lgf: New UN Chief - Not a Progressive?

UNITED NATIONS - Incoming United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Iran on Thursday it was unacceptable to deny that the Holocaust took place or to call for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Ban was responding to a question asked at a news conference about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who since coming to power in August last year has caused an outcry by terming the Holocaust a “myth” and calling Israel a “tumor” in the Middle East.

Ahmadinejad just ended a two-day international conference on the Holocaust that was dominated by speakers who questioned the extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazis in World War Two.

“Denying historical facts especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust is just not acceptable,” Ban said.

“Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of states or people,” Ban said. “I would like to see this fundamental principle respected in both rhetoric and practice by all the members of the international community.” The Big Lie About the Middle East -- Dec. 18, 2006 -- Page 1 The Big Lie About the Middle East -- Dec. 18, 2006 -- Page 1

Yes, it was a great disturbance in the Arab world in the 1940s when a Jewish state was born through a U.N. vote and a war that made refugees of many Palestinians. Then the 1967 war left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and thus the Palestinians who lived there. But the pan-Arabism that once made the Palestinian cause the region’s cause is long dead, and the Arab countries have their own worries aplenty. In a decade of reporting in the region, I found it rarely took more than the arching of an eyebrow to get the most candid of Arab thinkers to acknowledge that the tears shed for the Palestinians today outside the West Bank and Gaza are of the crocodile variety. Palestinians know this best of all.

To promote the canard that the troubles of the Arab world are rooted in the Palestinians’ misfortune does great harm. It encourages the Arabs to continue to avoid addressing their colossal societal and political ills by hiding behind their Great Excuse: it’s all Israel’s fault. Certainly, Israel has at times been an obnoxious neighbor, but God help the Arab leaders, propagandists and apologists if a day ever comes when the Arab-Israeli mess is unraveled. One wonders how they would then explain why in Egypt 4 of every 10 people are illiterate; Saudi Arabian Shi’ites (not to mention women) are second-class citizens; 11% of Syrians live below subsistence level; and Jordan’s King can unilaterally dissolve Parliament, as he did in 2001. Or why no Middle Eastern government but Israel’s and to some extent Lebanon’s tolerates freedom of assembly or speech, or democratic institutions like a robust press or civic organizations with independence and clout—let alone unfettered competitive elections.

Security cameras raise rights worry in NY: report�|�US News�|�

Security cameras raise rights worry in NY: report|US News|

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The security cameras are watching, a New York rights group warned on Wednesday.

Security cameras have increased fivefold in parts of New York City and have become so pervasive that they threaten the rights of privacy, speech and association, the New York Civil Liberties Union, or NYCLU, said in a report.

Moreover, there was no evidence the cameras deterred crime, the group said.

In 2005 there were 4,176 cameras in three districts of southern Manhattan, up from 769 cameras in a 1998 survey, the report said.

"Unregulated video surveillance technology has already led to abuses in New York City, including the police department's creation of visual dossiers on people engaged in lawful street demonstrations and the voyeuristic videotaping of individuals' private and intimate conduct," the group said.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A 1998 study conducted by the NYCLU found 2,397 video surveillance cameras visible from street level in Manhattan. The report said that same number of cameras can be now found in the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and Soho alone.

The thing I find interesting is that cameras have not been shown to lower crime rates. So here we're trading our privacy and getting nothing in return.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Katherine Kersten: Suspicion about imams grows as terror links pile up

Katherine Kersten: Suspicion about imams grows as terror links pile up

The grounded imams incident at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has been a public relations coup for the imams, their supporters and their claims that the group's only suspicious activity was saying evening prayers.

US Airways continues to defend its crew's decision to pull the imams off a plane last month, saying they took the seating configuration used by 9/11 hijackers, requested seat-belt extensions that could be used as weapons and otherwise raised concerns.

Who are the parties involved here, who seem so interested in linking airport security with racial bigotry?

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the imams' legal representative, is an organization that "we know has ties to terrorism," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in 2003. And the Muslim American Society, which is also supporting the imams? It's the American arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Chicago Tribune, which called it "the world's most influential Islamic fundamentalist group."

How about Omar Shahin, the imams' spokesman and also president of the North American Imams Federation? He is a native of Jordan, who says he became a U.S. citizen in 2003. From 2000 to 2003, Shahin served as president of Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT), that city's largest mosque.

The ICT is well known. The mosque has "an extensive history of terror links," according to terrorism expert Steven Emerson, who testified about terrorist financing before the Senate Banking Committee in July 2005.

The Washington Post described these links in a 2002 article. "Tucson was one of the first points of contact in the United States for the jihadist group that evolved into al Qaeda," the Post reported. And the ICT? It held "basically the first cell of al Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started," said Rita Katz, a terrorism expert quoted by the Post.

ICT members have included high-profile terrorists. Wael Hamza Jelaidan, the mosque's leader in the mid-1980s, was identified by the U.S. government as a " 'co-founder' of al Qaeda and its logistics chief," the Post reported.

Another former member, Wadi Hage, served as Osama bin Laden's personal secretary after leaving Arizona, the Post said, attributing it to government sources. Hage established a bin Laden support network in Arizona and "this network is still in place," Emerson wrote in his book "Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S.," citing a 2002 Senate Intelligence Committee Report. In 2001, Hage was convicted of plotting the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Features : Radar Online

Features : Radar Online:

"Lifestyles of the Rich and Fascist
The decadent whims of the world's wackiest despots "

newswire: Stories of Jordan peacekeeper rape in Timor hushed

newswire: Stories of Jordan peacekeeper rape in Timor hushed:

Stories of Jordan peacekeeper rape in Timor hushed

By Mark Dodd

It caused outrage among East Timorese and Australian troops sent to protect them, raised tensions among UN peacekeepers to a deadly new level and caused senior UN staff to resign in disgust.

The deployment of Jordanian peacekeepers to East Timor was probably one of the most contentious UN decisions to follow the bloody independence ballot. It was eclipsed only by the cover-up and inaction that followed when the world body learned of their involvement in a series of horrific sex crimes involving children living in the war-battered Oecussi enclave.

Children were not the only victims - in early 2001, two Jordanians were evacuated home with injured penises after attempting sexual intercourse with goats. The UN mission in East Timor led by Sergio Vieira de Mello (who was later killed in Baghdad) did its best to keep the matter hushed up. The UN military command at the time was only too happy to oblige.

Today the cry for justice from the child victims continues to go unheard.

With the UN battered by a series of allegations embroiling its Nobel Prize-winning peacekeepers in a web of global sexual misconduct, new details have emerged of widespread sexual abuse against the civilian population by the Jordanian soldiers in Oecussi.

The findings are contained in a secret report by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, a copy of which has been obtained by Inquirer. It determines that Jordanian peacekeepers routinely sexually abused young East Timorese boys in return for money and food. Witnesses interviewed by UN investigators also claim Jordanian involvement in several alleged rapes of boys and women. The report contains witness testimony, much of it too graphic to repeat in this newspaper. And it concludes that, with the help of Indonesian soldiers, Jordanian blue berets routinely procured the services of prostitutes from across the border in West Timor.

AEGiS-LT: Congo Sex Scandal Prompts Efforts for Reform in U.N.

AEGiS-LT: Congo Sex Scandal Prompts Efforts for Reform in U.N.

Congo Sex Scandal Prompts Efforts for Reform in U.N.

Los Angeles Times - December 18, 2004
Maggie Farley, Times Staff Writer
-- Peacekeeping missions may be restructured after more than 150 reported cases of abuse.

BUKAVU, Congo - One evening four months ago, a soft-spoken 18-year-old named Aziza was selling bananas in the market here when some U.N. peacekeepers summoned her to their car. Aziza went over thinking they wanted to buy fruit, but was persuaded to engage in a different kind of transaction.

"They offered me love," she said, in the colloquial French spoken in this former Belgian colony. And they offered her money - just $5, but more than she would make in a month at the market. "It was done in the car, in the dark," she said. "I didn't have the strength to refuse."

Those words became a refrain in her story, one of many that now dog the U.N. mission here. The next time Aziza met with the peacekeepers, two of them insisted on having sex with her simultaneously. They beat her when she refused to do the things they showed her on pornographic videos. Her mother found out what had happened when Aziza had to go to the hospital with an infection and threw her out. Desperate, she went back to the foreigners several more times.

"I don't know whether they are normal or not," said Aziza, who did not want to use her full name out of shame. "I wonder whether all white people are like that."

Certainly some, even many, U.N. peacekeepers and civilian officers in this war-plagued region were. Aziza's story and at least 150 other reports of sexual abuse in Congo have come to light in recent months, shocking an institution that considers itself an agency of mercy.

The shock has inspired action on an overhaul of the U.N.'s 16 peacekeeping missions around the world. In Congo, home to the largest operation - with about 11,000 soldiers and 1,200 civilians - the allegations point to nearly all of the major peacekeeping contingents. But they also involve senior civilian officials, including a top security officer, a chief on the U.N. special envoy's staff and an internal oversight investigator.

The charges range from rape to exploitation - sex for a bottle of water or a military ration - to "relationships" or solicitations that are marked by a severe imbalance in power. One case, involving a French U.N. staffer who took digital pictures of underage girls, has caused concern that it could become "the U.N.'s Abu Ghraib" if the photos get out.

Charges of sexual abuse have haunted U.N. peacekeepers for years, most notably during operations in Cambodia, the Balkans and Liberia in the 1990s. The cases in Congo, however, may mark a tipping point.

Two years after the first charges were made, top U.N. officials have finally denounced the problem openly and vowed to punish those involved.

Last month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed the issue publicly for the first time.

"I am afraid there is clear evidence that acts of gross misconduct have taken place. This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say, and I am absolutely outraged by it," Annan said while attending a summit in neighboring Tanzania. He said that he had "zero tolerance" for sexual exploitation and abuse. "We cannot rest until we have rooted out all such practices à and we must make sure that those involved are held fully accountable."