Tuesday, January 31, 2006

US Realignment With Sunnis Is Far Advanced - by Gareth Porter

US Realignment With Sunnis Is Far Advanced - by Gareth Porter:

Two major revelations this past week show how far the George W. Bush administration has already shifted its policy toward realignment with Sunni forces to balance the influence of pro-Iranian Shi'ites in Iraq.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad revealed in an interview with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that he has put the future of military assistance to a Shi'ite-dominated government on the table in the high-stakes U.S. effort to force Shi'ite party leaders to give up control over key security ministries.

Khalilzad told Ignatius that, unless the 'security ministries' in the new Iraqi government are allocated to candidates who are 'not regarded as sectarian,' the United States would be forced to reevaluate its assistance to the government.

'We are saying, if you choose the wrong candidates, that will affect U.S. aid,' Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad had previously demanded that the Interior Ministry be given to a nonsectarian candidate, but he had not backed up those demands with the threat of withdrawal of assistance. He has also explicitly added the Defense Ministry to that demand for the first time.

Implied in Khalilzad's position is the threat to stop funding units that are identified as sectarian Shi'ite in their orientation. That could affect the bulk of the Iraqi army as well as the elite Shi'ite police commando units, which are highly regarded by the U.S. military command.

Khalilzad's decision to make the U.S. threat public was followed by the revelation by Newsweek in its Feb. 6 issue that talks between the United States and 'high level' Sunni insurgent leaders have already begun at a U.S. military base in Anbar province and in Jordan and Syria. Khalilzad told Newsweek, 'Now we have won over the Sunni political leadership. The next step is to win over the insurgents.'

As this sweeping definition of the U.S. political objective indicates, these talks are no longer aimed at splitting off groups that are less committed to the aim of U.S. withdrawal, as the Pentagon has favored since last summer. Instead, the administration now appears to be prepared to make some kind of deal with all the major insurgent groups.

U.S. military spokesman Rick Lynch declared, 'The local insurgents have become part of the solution.'"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Seed: Practical Joking/ the evolution of human laughter

Seed: Practical Joking:

"The authors begin their evolutionary tale of laughter well before humor came into the mix, arguing that laughter is a more basic function than even language. 'Not only does it precede language developmentally...it probably preceded language in terms of evolution,' Wilson said. 'So, there was a time in our history when we were laughing before we were talking.'

Laughter-like behavior started before we split from apes, the researchers say. As they tickle each other and horse around, apes give a pant-grunt, which Wilson said is a clear precursor to laughter. Wilson added that neural activity associated with laughter occurs in an ancient part of the brain, further demonstrating that laughter developed long ago. The Binghamton team estimates that laughter evolved into its modern form somewhere between two- and four-million years ago, after our transition to two-footed walking but before the beginning of human language.

Wilson and Gervais believe laughter allowed hominids living on the savanna to create a unified feeling of safety and comfort within a group. 'It only takes place in a safe context,' Wilson said. 'If you tickle a baby and it's a safe context, then the baby laughs. But if it becomes menacing, then the baby cries. And whenever things get serious—if you're really hungry, if you're really scared—you don't laugh.'

The stimuli that trigger laughter are reliable indications of safety, Gervais said. As laughter only occurs in these safe conditions, it communicates a sense of security to other members of a group, bringing everyone into an emotional state conducive to bonding. This may have given groups an evolutionary advantage. 'Laughter could have evolved—at least in part—via a process of group selection, whereby groups with more laughter and social play were able to out-compete groups with less laughter and social play,' Gervais said."

Political bias affects brain activity, study finds - LiveScience - MSNBC.com

Political bias affects brain activity, study finds - LiveScience - MSNBC.com

Democrats and Republicans alike are adept at making decisions without letting the facts get in the way, a new study shows.

And they get quite a rush from ignoring information that's contrary to their point of view.

Researchers asked staunch party members from both sides to evaluate information that threatened their preferred candidate prior to the 2004 Presidential election. The subjects' brains were monitored while they pondered.


The results were announced today.

"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."

Bias on both sides
The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say.

Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.

The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.

"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," Westen said. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."

Notably absent were any increases in activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning.

The tests involved pairs of statements by the candidates, President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, that clearly contradicted each other. The test subjects were asked to consider and rate the discrepancy. Then they were presented with another statement that might explain away the contradiction. The scenario was repeated several times for each candidate.

Saddam agents on Syria border helped move banned materials - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - August 16, 2004

Saddam agents on Syria border helped move banned materials - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - August 16, 2004

Washington Times - Saddam Hussein periodically removed guards on the Syrian border and replaced them with his own intelligence agents who supervised the movement of banned materials between the two countries, U.S. investigators have discovered.

The recent discovery by the Bush administration’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG) is fueling speculation, but is not proof, that the Iraqi dictator moved prohibited weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into Syria before the March 2003 invasion by a U.S.-led coalition.

Two defense sources told The Washington Times that the ISG has interviewed Iraqis who told of Saddam’s system of dispatching his trusted Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) to the border, where they would send border inspectors away.

The shift was followed by the movement of trucks in and out of Syria suspected of carrying materials banned by U.N. sanctions. Once the shipments were made, the agents would leave and the regular border guards would resume their posts.

Saddam's WMD Moved to Syria, An Israeli Says - December 15, 2005 - The New York Sun - NY Newspaper

Saddam's WMD Moved to Syria, An Israeli Says - December 15, 2005 - The New York Sun - NY Newspaper

New York Sun - Saddam Hussein moved his chemical weapons to Syria six weeks before the war started, Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom says.

The assertion comes as President Bush said yesterday that much of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was incorrect.

The Israeli officer, Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, asserted that Saddam spirited his chemical weapons out of the country on the eve of the war. “He transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria,” General Yaalon told The New York Sun over dinner in New York on Tuesday night. “No one went to Syria to find it.”

From July 2002 to June 2005, when he retired, General Yaalon was chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force, the top job in the Israeli military, analogous to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the American military. He is now a military fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He made similar, but more speculative, remarks in April 2004 that attracted little notice in America; at that time he was quoted as saying of the Iraqi weapons, “Perhaps they transferred them to another country, such as Syria.”

Iraqi General Claims WMD’s Went To Syria

Say Anything - North Dakota’s Most Popular Political Blog � Iraqi General Claims WMD’s Went To Syria:

"Iraqi General Claims WMD’s Went To Syria
By Rob on January 26, 2006 at 1:58 pm

An Iraqi General - George Sadas who was apparently “number 2″ in Iraq’s air force - is claiming that Saddam moved his WMD’s into Syria by loading them into stripped out civilian air craft and flying them across the border.

One thing that often gets overlooked when the case for war with Iraq is debated is that while it is clear that our intelligence on Saddam’s WMD’s was clearly wrong that fact does not necessarily imply that Saddam didn’t have any WMD’s. We know, for a fact, that at one time Saddam did have chemical and biological weapons. He used some of them, both on his own people and during wars with other middle eastern nations. Unfortunately, many political opportunists and media pundits have chosen to spin the fact that we haven’t found any WMD’s in Iraq into Saddam never having them. Which just isn’t true.
He had them. We know that. What we don’t know is where they went before we got into Iraq, or even how long they’d been gone by the time we arrived. There are a lot of theories, of course, as to where they went and how. Sadas’ claims sound about as reasonable as any of them."

Interpreting the Koran: Counter-Terrorism Operations

Counter-Terrorism Operations: "Interpreting the Koran

January 25, 2006: Many counter-terrorism operators are becoming expert in the complexities of Islamic theology. Partly, this is due to there being over fifty different sects in Islam. Only a few of these sects back Islamic terrorism. It’s well known that the Wahhabi sect, from Saudi Arabia, is one of the most conservative and intolerant forms of Islam. What is less well known is that there are several different versions of the Islamic scriptures, the Koran, in circulation. Some of them are more conducive to aggression and terrorism than others. The original version of the Koran, created in the early days of the Prophet Mohammed’s religious life, was a lot mellower than any subsequent version. Once Islam began to spread rapidly, often via the use of force, another version of the Koran appeared, one that was more agreeable to the use of violence in spreading Islam, and dealing with non-believers (infidels).

Things got worse in the 18th century, when the Wahhabis revised interpretations of the Koran to incorporate more inflammatory and violent examples of what Allah intended for the faithful to do while spreading the faith and dealing with infidels. The rhetoric got jacked up still more in the 1920s, when social critic, and Islamic radical, Sayyid Qutb tweaked the scripture once more. The Wahhabis admired Qutb’s work. Unfortunately for the Egyptian Qutb, his countrymen did not, and he was condemned to death in 1966. But by then, the Wahhabis were the beneficiaries of a growing flood of oil money. If was considered virtuous for wealthy Saudis to contribute to religious charities, nearly all of them run by Wahhabis. Much of the money was used to establish pro-Wahhabi mosques overseas, run by clerics who could be trusted to preach the Koran as followers of Wahhab and Qutb saw it. This went largely unnoticed in the West until the 1990s. The full import of this bloodthirsty version of Islam became apparent to even the slow learners on September 11, 2001.

While Wahhabi Islam may not be very tolerant, most other sects are. Counter-terrorism efforts are now directed towards convincing the majority of Moslems, those who don’t subscribe to Wahhabism, to openly condemn this pro-terrorist movement. This approach is having increasing success. Even many Saudis are having second thoughts about blindly following Wahhabi interpretations of the Koran. The true face of Islamic terrorism is losing whatever luster it ever had, and many Moslems are seeing the connection between the murderous violence, and the hate filled theology of Qutb and the Wahhabis."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Recreational drugs | Smoking out the truth | Economist.com

Recreational drugs | Smoking out the truth | Economist.com:

Smoking out the truth

Jan 26th 2006
From The Economist print edition
Why some people smoke more than others do

ANSWERING the question of why people smoke tobacco is reasonably easy. Tobacco plants have evolved a chemical called nicotine that locks into particular molecular receptors in the outer membranes of certain animal nerve cells. Once there, it stimulates those cells in ways that they were never intended to be stimulated. If the animal in question is an insect, the result is lethal—which, from the plant's point of view, is a good outcome. But in a big, bulky animal such as a human, a small amount of nicotine produces a pleasant sensation (though enough of the stuff can kill a human, too).

Nicotine has a second effect, though. It induces semi-permanent changes in the ways the nerves it stimulates talk to each other. The result is that those nerves are uncomfortable without it, and the owners of those nerves become addicted to smoking dried tobacco leaves.

"The enzyme in question is called, rather inelegantly, CYP2A6. It is part of a family of toxin-destroying enzymes known as the cytochrome P450s, and one of its jobs is to convert nicotine into a less harmful chemical called cotinine that can then be excreted. The gene that encodes CYP2A6, however, comes in three varieties, each resulting in a different form of the enzyme. On top of that, some people lack the gene altogether.

Dr Nakamura and his team looked at 200 regular smokers over the age of 50, to see if the particular varieties of CYP2A6 that those people had could be correlated with their smoking habits. They could. Those with two copies of the commonest form of the gene (one copy inherited from each parent) smoked most. Those individuals with rarer forms smoked less, and those completely without the enzyme smoked least.

That, paradoxically, is because the commonest form of the enzyme is also the most effective at detoxifying nicotine while, of course, an absence of CYP2A6 means that the drug must be detoxified by other, slower, routes. In people with effective enzymes, nicotine vanishes rapidly, so they need another cigarette soon. The less effective the enzyme, the fewer cigarettes you need to smoke to keep your drug levels up. So what natural selection has favoured as healthy may end up killing you faster. But then, there were not many tobacconists in the African savannah where humanity evolved."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Drinking and Smoking a Dangerous Duo - Forbes.com

Drinking and Smoking a Dangerous Duo - Forbes.com:

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment for alcoholism could change radically as researchers learn more about the interplay between smoking and drinking, and how the two addictions feed each other to devastating effect on the brain.

New evidence suggests that alcohol and nicotine work on the same inhibitory amino acids in the brain, which makes the inclination to do both doubly strong. However, experts think that could mean both addictions could be battled simultaneously, and not separately, in the future.

'While among non-drinkers smoking rates are 20 to 30 percent in the Western world, rates are up to 80 or 90 percent among alcoholic patients,' noted Dieter J. Meyerhoff, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco, and an organizer of a recent symposium on the phenomenon.

'There is research that suggests this is not by chance,' he said. "

Monday, January 23, 2006

Downtown Chicago Cigar-Friendly Bars

Downtown Chicago Cigar-Friendly Bars

Even though the smoking ban took effect on Monday, for the next two years there are still several places you can light up. Cigar smokers will lament that stogies (or smoking of any kind) are no longer allowed at the Drake or the Ritz, but The Four Seasons (with its excellent ventilation system), Sullivan's Steakhouse, and others welcome you. Click here for complete listing.

// posted by The Local Tourist @ 4:13 PM
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Triumph of the Redistributionist Left | csmonitor.com

Triumph of the Redistributionist Left | csmonitor.com

Triumph of the Redistributionist Left
Even with Republicans in control, trends are decidedly in favor of massive redistribution of wealth.
By Patrick Chisholm | csmonitor.com
The political left in America is emerging victorious.

No, this isn't about the damage that Jack Abramoff's mischief has done to the political right. Nor is it about President Bush's lousy poll numbers. And it doesn't refer to Democrats' recent win of two governorships.

It's about something much deeper; namely, that the era of big government is far from over. Trends are decidedly in favor of that quintessential leftist goal: massive redistribution of wealth.

Republicans' capture of both Congress and the White House was, understandably, a demoralizing blow to the left. But the latter can take solace that "Republican" is no longer synonymous with spending restraint, free markets, and other ideals of the political right.

While the left did not get its way on tax cuts, this may be only a temporary defeat: Freewheeling spending has made future tax cuts politically a lot harder.

During the first five years of President Bush's presidency, nondefense discretionary spending (i.e., spending decided on an annual basis) rose 27.9 percent, far more than the 1.9 percent growth during President Clinton's first five years, according to the libertarian Reason Foundation. And according to Citizens Against Government Waste, the number of congressional "pork barrel" projects under Republican leadership during fiscal 2005 was 13,997, more than 10 times that of 1994.

Discretionary spending is dwarfed by mandatory spending - spending that cannot be changed without changing the laws. Shifting demographics combined with an inability to change those laws virtually ensures that, through programs such as Social Security and Medicare, America's workers will be forced to redistribute a larger and larger portion of their income to other Americans in the coming decades.

The near impossibility of changing the system was evident in the recent effort to convert Social Security from a spending program to a savings program. It hardly stood a chance against the powerful senior citizens' lobby and other left-leaning groups, and their allies in Congress on both sides of the political aisle.

Time is on the side of the left. As politically difficult as it is now to reform of Social Security or Medicare, as the years pass it will get even more difficult. The swelling number of retirees will further strengthen the senior lobby. And as Social Security's surplus evaporates, there will be less money available with which to establish personal savings accounts.

The prescription drug benefit was another victory for the redistributionists. While it is true that the left wants even more spent on that program, Republican efforts have netted an additional $1.2 trillion being redistributed over the next 10 years.

Certain trends have been favoring the left for the past several decades. In the early 1960s, transfer payments (entitlements and welfare) constituted less than a third of the federal government's budget. Now they constitute almost 60 percent of the budget, or about $1.4 trillion per year. Measured according to this, the US government's main function now is redistribution: taking money from one segment of the population and giving it to another segment. In a few decades, transfer payments are expected to make up more than 75 percent of federal government spending.

Currently the federal government consumes about 20 percent of the GDP, which is another way of saying that about 20 percent of Americans' income, on average, is paid in taxes to the federal government. According to the Government Accountability Office, that is on course to rise to 30 percent by 2040. Most of that 30 percent would be redistributed as payments to other Americans, rather than spent on standard government services like law enforcement, transportation, defense, national parks, orspace exploration.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Australian: Pub smoking ban 'raises risk to children at home' [January 23, 2006]

The Australian: Pub smoking ban 'raises risk to children at home' [January 23, 2006]:
Brendan O'Keefe

BANS on smoking in hotels and restaurants have increased passive smoking among children because people now smoke more at home.

Academics Jerome Adda and Francesca Cornaglia, in a claimed world-first study, say that 'bans in recreational public places can perversely increase tobacco exposure of non-smokers'.

In a paper published by the Australian National University's Research School of Social Sciences, where Dr Adda and Dr Cornaglia were visiting scholars last year, the academics say bans 'displace smokers to private places where they contaminate non-smokers'.

'Children seem to be particularly affected,' they wrote. 'The level of cotinine (a nicotine by-product measurable in saliva) in children considerably increases as a result of bans in recreational public places.'

A total ban on smoking in public recreation places results in an increase of cotinine in non-smokers of 1.5 nanograms per millilitre. For some non-smokers, avoiding smokers may not be possible. Young people may have little choice but to stay with their parents or carer."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wired News: It's Caveat Vendor at EBay France

Wired News: It's Caveat Vendor at EBay France:

PARIS -- A French court hit an eBay auctioneer with thousands of euros in fines, highlighting legal uncertainties for millions of online vendors across the country.

Authorities say the defendant, who was charged and convicted this week of operating a business without a license, was a professional art dealer who failed to register as a commercial vendor, thus dodging numerous regulations and taxes. The defendant, through his lawyer, insists on his innocence, arguing that his sale of some 470 art objects through eBay did not trigger the registration requirement.

An eBay spokeswoman in France would not comment on the court case, but said concerned eBay users should consult with French fiscal authorities if they had questions. EBay also has published guidelines drafted by the French online consumer advocacy group Le Forum des droits sur l'Internet (Internet Rights Forum) on its French site.

This week's court ruling stemmed from the sale of statuettes, vases and other art objects the accused claims he had amassed for years from flea markets and his inheritance. His intentions were not to go into business, his lawyer says, but to appease his girlfriend who threatened to move out if he did not get rid of the clutter.

His activity first came under scrutiny by French police when one of his vases for sale on eBay turned out to be stolen. After the defendant, whose name was not made public, proved he had not stolen the vase, French prosecutors claimed he was a professional art dealer and was running his business illegally."

Government destroying the Free Market, and destroying wealth in the process. Who benefits? The man who can't sell now? The people who can't buy now? Just the government. France sucks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Techdirt:Stopping Crime By Getting Kids To Play More Video Games

Techdirt:Stopping Crime By Getting Kids To Play More Video Games

Stopping Crime By Getting Kids To Play More Video Games
Culture Contributed by Mike on Wednesday, January 18th, 2006 @ 04:23PM
from the gives-them-something-to-do dept.
We've discussed how little evidence there really is about video games leading to youth violence. While studies have been spun to show both sides, there's no actual link being shown. In some cases there are correlations, but it's usually easy to explain -- during a game, of course people are going to get excited and involved in the game play. However, for many it appears to be a way to let out aggression, not build up new aggression that gets let out on real people. This is clearly supported in the fact that youth violence has continued to drop significantly as video games have become ever more popular. Despite the efforts of some who want to blame video games for anything a child ever does wrong, it appears that some police officers are recognizing the good side of video games. Boing Boing points us to a story about police in Edinburgh who are organizing video game tournaments with troubled youths. The result? Youth crime in the area has dropped by half. Seems to take a lot of the sting out of the claims of those who like to blame the video games.

ABC News: U.S. Strike Killed al Qaeda Bomb Maker

ABC News: U.S. Strike Killed al Qaeda Bomb Maker

ABC News has learned that Pakistani officials now believe that al Qaeda's master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week's U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan.

Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of four known major al Qaeda leaders present at an apparent terror summit in the village of Damadola early last Friday morning.

The United States had posted a $5 million reward for Mursi's capture. He is described by authorities as the man who ran al Qaeda's infamous Derunta training camp in Afghanistan, where he used dogs and other animals as subjects for experiments with poison and chemicals. His explosives training manual is still regarded as the bible for al Qaeda terrorists around the world.

"He wants to cause mayhem, major death, and he puts his expertise on the line. So the fact that we took him out is significant," said former FBI agent Jack Cloonan, an ABC News consultant, who was the senior agent on the FBI's al Qaeda squad. "He's the man who trained the shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, as well as hundreds of others."

Pakistani officials also said that Khalid Habib, the al Qaeda operations chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Abdul Rehman al Magrabi, a senior operations commander for al Qaeda, were killed in the Damadola attack. Authorities tell ABC News that the terror summit was called to funnel new money into attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"Pakistani intelligence says this was a very important planning session involving the very top levels of al Qaeda as they get ready for a new spring offensive," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry and now an ABC News consultant

As for Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's No. 2 man, U.S. and Pakistani officials agree that it is still possible but increasingly unlikely that he was killed. If he is alive, he has lost many of those close to him, however.

"Zawahiri, if he slept three hours on a normal night, he's sleeping an hour and a half right now with his eyes wide open," Cloonan said. "He's looking around right now and wondering who handed him up. Not a nice feeling."

ABC News' Chris Isham and Jill Rackmill contributed to this report.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The sugar police - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

The sugar police-Editorials/Op-Ed-The Washington Times, America's Newspaperhe sugar police

December 19, 2005

In an appalling extension of the nanny state, New York is slated to become the first city to monitor diabetics' blood-sugar levels. It plans to register them like HIV or tuberculosis sufferers and nag them when their levels aren't healthy enough. Drop the cupcake; here come the sugar police.
Sensible people will laugh at this, but New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, an appointee of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is dead serious about the Big Apple's sweet tooth. He's the man behind New York's onerous smoking ban; he doesn't shy from alleging "epidemics." Since Mr. Frieden recently told the New York Sun that diabetes and obesity will be the signature issues of his second term, this begs a question: Will diabetes be the next big thing for public-health bureaucracies?
This much is for certain: For years, the public-health establishment has been comfortable making an "epidemic" out of conditions like diabetes and obesity, which -- though prevalent and debilitating -- are not communicable and can be combated with a few modifications to personal habits.
The American Diabetes Association is not standing athwart the gates, at least not yet. Last week it called Mr. Frieden's ideas valuable, which comes as no surprise given the ADA's occasional use of the "E" word in policy papers and official statements (and its obesity scaremongering as well.) It hedged, however, insisting that permission from sufferers would be necessary before entering people into a city diabetes database.
If the ADA holds fast on the permission issue, it will clash with Mr. Frieden and his cohorts: They are all too eager to coerce. Last week the health commissioner dismissed concerns about doctor-patient privilege. "We will ensure that the utmost care will be taken to keep people's information protected," he said.

We won't hold our breath, however. This is a classic case of permanent government inventing a new mandate in which the permanent interest groups all too often acquiesce. Having all but conquered germ-born diseases like tuberculosis and cholera, a city bureaucracy now needs another reason to exist. It will need to raid people's refrigerators and living rooms, but that is no matter, since the measure comes as a regulatory decision. At least for now, real voters have no say.
No one denies diabetes' ill effects on Americans: There are nearly 21 million sufferers nationwide on whom one of every 10 health-care dollars is thought to be spent. But who put city bureaucrats in charge of peoples' eating and exercise habits? The sugar police don't want to answer that question. In reality they are trying to install themselves as regulators of citizens' personal lives. The rest of us should oppose them.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The States Step In As Medicare Falters

The States Step In As Medicare Falters

The States Step In As Medicare Falters
Seniors Being Turned Away, Overcharged Under New Prescription Drug Program

By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 14, 2006; Page A01

Two weeks into the new Medicare prescription drug program, many of the nation's sickest and poorest elderly and disabled people are being turned away or overcharged at pharmacies, prompting more than a dozen states to declare health emergencies and pay for their life-saving medicines.

Computer glitches, overloaded telephone lines and poorly trained pharmacists are being blamed for mix-ups that have resulted in the worst of unintended consequences: As many as 6.4 million low-income seniors, who until Dec. 31 received their medications free, suddenly find themselves navigating an insurance maze of large deductibles, co-payments and outright denial of coverage.

Pharmacist Rich Harvie fills a prescription in Montpelier, Vt. Medicare's drug program has been beset by problems.
Pharmacist Rich Harvie fills a prescription in Montpelier, Vt. Medicare's drug program has been beset by problems. (By Toby Talbot -- Associated Press)
The best political photographs taken by Washington Post photographers in 2005.
Best of the Post: Politics
The best political photographs taken by Washington Post photographers in 2005.
Politics Trivia
Which of the following Senate Judiciary Committee members did not vote on the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork?

Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah)
Joseph R. Biden(D-Del.)
Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)
Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)

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Yesterday, Ohio and Wisconsin announced that they will cover the drug costs of low-income seniors who would otherwise go without, joining every state in New England as well as California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Jersey.

"This new prescription drug plan was supposed to be a voluntary program to help people who didn't have coverage," said Jeanne Finberg, a lawyer for the National Senior Citizens Law Center. "All this is doing is harming the people who had coverage -- America's most vulnerable citizens."

Hailed as President Bush's signature domestic achievement, the program, which began Jan. 1, offers drug coverage for the first time to 43 million elderly and disabled Americans eligible for Medicare. At the same time, 6.4 million low-income beneficiaries who were receiving their medications through state Medicaid plans were switched into Medicare for their drug benefits and told they would not be charged the standard $250 deductible or co-payments.

But interviews with two dozen people -- state officials, pharmacists, advocates for seniors, and Medicare clients -- revealed a host of problems. Many poor seniors were never enrolled or were enrolled in plans that do not cover their medications. Others received multiple insurance cards, creating confusion at the pharmacies. Some were charged the deductible and unaffordable co-payments. And some, such as Laurine League, left empty-handed.

"For years I've had no problems, going to the same pharmacy," said League, 49, a Queens, N.Y., woman with severe mental illness. "The pharmacist told me one drug was going to cost $198. I don't have that kind of money."

The states that have stepped in to help have already incurred several million dollars in unexpected drug bills, but Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said he did not have the authority to reimburse them. He urged states, pharmacists and providers to work with his agency to collect reimbursements from insurance companies administering the prescription program.

Acknowledging that some of the 6.4 million low-income beneficiaries known as "dual-eligibles" have been overcharged or denied medication, McClellan said: "That is simply not acceptable. We have been working around the clock and around the country to make sure those beneficiaries get the prescriptions they need."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), announcing his intention to spend as much as $70 million to provide two weeks' worth of medicine, said he expects a reimbursement. "While I am confident the federal government will resolve the problems with this transition, these people need our help now," he said, "and we're going to be there for them."

Politicians in both parties were quick to rise to the defense of a particularly vulnerable population. As a group, dual-eligibles have incomes below the poverty rate of $9,570 a year and take an average of 15 medications a day. More than half are women, 40 percent have cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer's and 20 percent do not speak English, according to Finberg.

"The dual-eligibles should have been the last group enrolled because they are the hardest to get going," said Thanh Lu, who focuses on Medicare issues at the Progress Center for Independent Living in Illinois. Clients who are in nursing homes, who have schizophrenia, or who are deaf or blind are ill equipped to tackle the complex new system. Medicare compounded the problem by sending out a handbook that incorrectly told low-income seniors they could enroll in any plan at virtually no cost, he said.

Government doesn't work. It is a farce. Let the Free Market run things. It's much better!

Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical

Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical

Restoration of Caliphate, Attacked by Bush, Resonates With Mainstream Muslims

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service

ISTANBUL -- The plan was to fly a hijacked plane into a national landmark on live television. The year was 1998, the country was Turkey, and the rented plane ended up grounded by weather. Court records show the Islamic extremist who planned to commandeer the cockpit did not actually know how to fly.

But if the audacious scheme prefigured Sept. 11, 2001, it also highlighted a cause that, seven years later, President Bush has used to define the war against terrorism. What the ill-prepared Turkish plotters told investigators they aimed to do was strike a dramatic blow toward reviving Islam's caliphate, the institution that had nominally governed the world's Muslims for nearly all of the almost 1,400 years since the death of the prophet Muhammad.

The goal of reuniting Muslims under a single flag stands at the heart of the radical Islamic ideology Bush has warned of repeatedly in recent major speeches on terrorism. In language evoking the Cold War, Bush has cast the conflict in Iraq as the pivotal battleground in a larger contest between advocates of freedom and those who seek to establish "a totalitarian Islamic empire reaching from Spain to Indonesia."

The enthusiasm of the extremists for that vision is not disputed. However unlikely its realization, the ambition may help explain terrorist acts that often appear beyond understanding. When Osama bin Laden called the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "a very small thing compared to this humiliation and contempt for more than 80 years," the reference was to the aftermath of World War I, when the last caliphate was suspended as European powers divided up the Middle East. Al Qaeda named its Internet newscast, which debuted in September, "The Voice of the Caliphate."

Yet the caliphate is also esteemed by many ordinary Muslims. For most, its revival is not an urgent concern. Public opinion polls show immediate issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and discrimination rank as more pressing. But Muslims regard themselves as members of the umma , or community of believers, that forms the heart of Islam. And as earthly head of that community, the caliph is cherished both as memory and ideal, interviews indicate.

The issue comes into sharp relief in Turkey, which is often held up as a democratic model for other Muslim nations but where empathy with fellow believers runs deep -- as Karen Hughes, a presidential adviser and undersecretary of state, was reminded in September when angry complaints about civilian casualties in Iraq dominated a public appearance in Ankara, the capital.

Here, the last caliph, an urbane scholar, Abdulmecid Efendi, was unseated in March 1924 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the charismatic military officer who conceived modern Turkey as an exemplar of the system that places sovereignty in the nation-state rather than faith. Importing from France the notion that religion had no place in public life, Ataturk decreed that Islamic religious law was second to "the rule of law" by the state.

Caliph, from the Arabic word khalifa , means successor to the prophet Muhammad. Competition for the title caused the schism between Shiite and Sunni lines of the faith, and the Shiites soon stopped selecting caliphs. But in the dominant Sunni tradition, the office embodied the ultimate religious and political authority, enabling Ottoman sultans to hold together an empire across three continents for more than 500 years. Ataturk appealed to Muslim solidarity in the battle to drive European powers off the Anatolian peninsula after World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Friday, January 13, 2006

lgf: Major Terror Plot Ignored (Again)

lgf: Major Terror Plot Ignored (Again)

From Little Green Footballs...

In December we had this story at LGF, from a South African site: Algerian Group Suspected of Planning US Attacks.

Rome - Three Algerians arrested in an anti-terrorist operation in southern Italy are suspected of being linked to a planned new series of attacks in the United States, interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu said Friday.

The attacks would have targeted ships, stadiums or railway stations in a bid to outdo the September 11 2001 strikes by al-Qaeda in New York and Washington which killed about 2,700 people, Pisanu said.

The Algerians, suspected of belonging to a cell established by an al-Qaeda-linked Algerian extremist organisation, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), were named as Achour Rabah, Tartaq Sami and Yasmine Bouhrama.

But as Cliff Kincaid and Brent Baker point out, the story was almost totally ignored by US media.

“U.S. terror attacks foiled,” read the headline in England’s Sunday Times. In France, a headline from Agence France Presse proclaimed, “Three Algerians arrested in Italy over plot targeting U.S.”

Curiously, what was deemed worthy of a worldwide media blitz abroad was virtually ignored by the U.S. media, and conservative media watchdog groups are saying that is no accident.

“My impression is that the major media want to use the NSA story to try and impeach the president,” says Cliff Kincaid, editor of the Accuracy in Media Report published by the grassroots Accuracy in Media organization.

“If you remind people that terrorists actually are planning to kill us, that tends to support the case made by President Bush. They will ignore any issue that shows that this kind of [wiretapping] tactic can work in the war on terror.”

“The mainstream media have framed the story as one of the nefarious President Bush ‘spying on U.S. citizens,’ where the average American is a victim not a beneficiary,” commented Brent Baker, vice president of the Media Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to encouraging balanced news coverage, “so journalists have little interest in any evidence that the program has helped save lives by uncovering terrorist plans.”

The Associated Press version of the story did not disclose that the men planned to target the U.S. Nor did it report that the evidence against the suspects was gathered via a wiretapping surveillance operation.

Furthermore, only one American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, is known to have published the story that the AP distributed. It ran on page A-6 under the headline “Italy Charges 3 Algerians.” The Inquirer report also made no mention of the plot to target the U.S. - although foreign publications included this information in the headlines and lead sentences of their stories. Nor did it advise readers that domestic wiretaps played a key role in nabbing the suspected terrorists.

One obvious question media critics are now raising: Did the American media intentionally ignore an important story because it didn’t fit into their agenda of attacking President George Bush for using wiretapping to spy on potential terrorists in the U.S.?

lgf: Major Terror Plot Ignored (Again)

lgf: Major Terror Plot Ignored (Again)

From Little Green Footballs...

In December we had this story at LGF, from a South African site: Algerian Group Suspected of Planning US Attacks.

Rome - Three Algerians arrested in an anti-terrorist operation in southern Italy are suspected of being linked to a planned new series of attacks in the United States, interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu said Friday.

The attacks would have targeted ships, stadiums or railway stations in a bid to outdo the September 11 2001 strikes by al-Qaeda in New York and Washington which killed about 2,700 people, Pisanu said.

The Algerians, suspected of belonging to a cell established by an al-Qaeda-linked Algerian extremist organisation, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), were named as Achour Rabah, Tartaq Sami and Yasmine Bouhrama.

But as Cliff Kincaid and Brent Baker point out, the story was almost totally ignored by US media.

“U.S. terror attacks foiled,” read the headline in England’s Sunday Times. In France, a headline from Agence France Presse proclaimed, “Three Algerians arrested in Italy over plot targeting U.S.”

Curiously, what was deemed worthy of a worldwide media blitz abroad was virtually ignored by the U.S. media, and conservative media watchdog groups are saying that is no accident.

“My impression is that the major media want to use the NSA story to try and impeach the president,” says Cliff Kincaid, editor of the Accuracy in Media Report published by the grassroots Accuracy in Media organization.

“If you remind people that terrorists actually are planning to kill us, that tends to support the case made by President Bush. They will ignore any issue that shows that this kind of [wiretapping] tactic can work in the war on terror.”

“The mainstream media have framed the story as one of the nefarious President Bush ‘spying on U.S. citizens,’ where the average American is a victim not a beneficiary,” commented Brent Baker, vice president of the Media Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to encouraging balanced news coverage, “so journalists have little interest in any evidence that the program has helped save lives by uncovering terrorist plans.”

The Associated Press version of the story did not disclose that the men planned to target the U.S. Nor did it report that the evidence against the suspects was gathered via a wiretapping surveillance operation.

Furthermore, only one American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, is known to have published the story that the AP distributed. It ran on page A-6 under the headline “Italy Charges 3 Algerians.” The Inquirer report also made no mention of the plot to target the U.S. - although foreign publications included this information in the headlines and lead sentences of their stories. Nor did it advise readers that domestic wiretaps played a key role in nabbing the suspected terrorists.

One obvious question media critics are now raising: Did the American media intentionally ignore an important story because it didn’t fit into their agenda of attacking President George Bush for using wiretapping to spy on potential terrorists in the U.S.?

Lincoln, Nebraska considers ‘red-tagging’ problem houses

City considers ‘red-tagging’ problem houses

BY DEENA WINTER / Lincoln Journal Star
It’s not a scarlet letter. But it is a bunch of letters on a red tag stuck to one’s house — if the occupants have gotten into trouble with the law for things like parties, noise or litter.

City leaders are floating the idea of slapping so-called “red tags” on houses to serve notice to inhabitants, neighbors and landlords that they’re in trouble with the law.

And they’d better not get into trouble again anytime soon.

The idea was suggested by Ed Caudill, a 21-year North Bottoms resident and neighborhood activist who hopes to reduce the parties, litter and noise in his neighborhood, where the many small, old rental houses are popular with University of Nebraska-Lincoln students.

Caudill got the idea from Tucson, Ariz., where police have the authority to stick red tags on disorderly houses — or properties where five or more people are gathered or where there’s excessive noise, traffic, obstruction of streets, littering, public drinking, fighting, disturbing the peace or minors drinking alcohol.

The warnings must stay posted for 120 days. If a tag is taken down, the tenants are fined. If there are any subsequent violations over the next 120 days, police will issue a citation and all tenants must pay a fine. Landlords or homeowners also are fined.

According to the Arizona Daily Wildcat, Tucson police red-tag about 20 parties every weekend in the mid-town area, most of them students’ homes.

New source of global warming gas found: plants - Yahoo! News

New source of global warming gas found: plants - Yahoo! News

LONDON (Reuters) - German scientists have discovered a new source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in its impact on climate change.

The culprits are plants.

They produce about 10 to 30 percent of the annual methane found in the atmosphere, according to researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany.

Local Insurgents Tell of Clashes With Al Qaeda's Forces in Iraq - New York Times

Local Insurgents Tell of Clashes With Al Qaeda's Forces in Iraq - New York Times:

"Local Insurgents Tell of Clashes With Al Qaeda's Forces in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 11 - The story told by the two Iraqi guerrillas cut to the heart of the war that Iraqi and American officials now believe is raging inside the Iraqi insurgency.

In October, the two insurgents said in interviews, a group of local fighters from the Islamic Army gathered for an open-air meeting on a street corner in Taji, a city north of Baghdad.

Across from the Iraqis stood the men from Al Qaeda, mostly Arabs from outside Iraq. Some of them wore suicide belts. The men from the Islamic Army accused the Qaeda fighters of murdering their comrades.

'Al Qaeda killed two people from our group,' said an Islamic Army fighter who uses the nom de guerre Abu Lil and who claimed that he attended the meeting. 'They repeatedly kill our people.'

The encounter ended angrily. A few days later, the insurgents said, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Islamic Army fought a bloody battle on the outskirts of town.

The battle, which the insurgents said was fought on Oct. 23, was one of several clashes between Al Qaeda and local Iraqi guerrilla groups that have broken out in recent months across the Sunni Triangle.

American and Iraqi officials believe that the conflicts present them with one of the biggest opportunities since the insurgency burst upon Iraq nearly three years ago. They have begun talking with local insurgents, hoping to enlist them to cooperate against Al Qaeda, said Western diplomats, Iraqi officials and an insurgent leader.

It is impossible to say just how far the split extends within the insurgency, which remains a lethal force with a shared goal of driving the Americans out of Iraq. Indeed, the best the Americans can hope for may be a grudging passivity from the Iraqi insurgents when the Americans zero in on Al Qaeda's forces.

But the split within the insurgency is coinciding with Sunni Arabs' new desire to participate in Iraq's political process, and a growing resentment of the militants. Iraqis are increasingly saying that they regard Al Qaeda as a foreign-led force, whose extreme religious goals and desires for sectarian war against Iraq's Shiite majority override Iraqi tribal and nationalist traditions.

While American and Iraqi officials have talked of a split for months, detailed accounts of clashes were provided by men claiming to be local insurgents."

Muslims Clash Over Oakland Liquor Stores

Muslims Clash Over Oakland Liquor Stores

Associated Press Writer


They weren't your ordinary thugs. Dressed in bow ties and dark suits, nearly a dozen men carrying metal pipes entered a corner store, shattered refrigerator cases and smashed bottles of liquor, wine and beer, terrifying the clerk but stealing nothing.

The just wanted to leave a message: Stop selling alcohol to fellow Muslims. In urban America, friction between poor residents and immigrant store owners is nothing new. Nor are complaints that inner- city neighborhoods are glutted with markets that sell alcohol and contribute to violent crime, vagrancy and other social ills.

But the recent attack at San Pablo Liquor _ and an identical vandalism spree at another West Oakland store later that evening, along with an arson fire there and the kidnapping of the owner a few days later _ have injected religion into the debate.

The two episodes highlighted tensions _ and different interpretations of the Quran _ between black Muslims in this struggling, crime-ridden city of 400,000 and Middle Eastern shop owners, many of them also Muslims.

Six men connected to a bakery founded by a prominent black Muslim family have been arrested in the Nov. 23 attacks, which were caught on store security cameras. In both instances, the vandals asked store clerks why they were selling alcohol when it was against the Muslim faith.

One of the men arrested on charges that included hate crimes and vandalism was 19-year-old Yusuf Bey IV. His father, Yusuf Bey, a black Muslim leader who died in 2003, founded Your Black Muslim Bakery, which sells Malcolm X books along with baked goods.

The elder Bey was accused of raping young women between 1976 and 1995. The accusations were later dropped. But his organization has been lauded for providing jobs and guidance to young black men from poor communities.

The younger Bey was arrested after police identified him as one of the men in the video. The younger Bey's attorney, Lorna Brown, suggested Bey was a victim of mistaken identity. But she also said the vandalism has prompted discussions throughout the black community.

"I think it's pretty clear that the number of these stores in low- income communities is not good for people," she said.

San Pablo market owner Abdul Saleh, who has kept his store open following the attacks, said his decision to sell alcohol is "between me and God."

"We're just coming here to make a living like anyone else," he said.

While black and Middle Eastern Muslims may pray at the same mosques on weekends, their worlds do not tend to overlap beyond that, said Hatem Bazian, professor of Near East and ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

The Middle Eastern store owners tend to live in the suburbs, the black Muslims in the cities, Bazian said. The immigrant shopkeepers also interpret Islam to allow the sale of alcohol.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

ThreatsWatch.Org: InBrief: Blowback from the Ramadi Attack

ThreatsWatch.Org: InBrief: Blowback from the Ramadi Attack

Blowback from the Ramadi Attack
Sunnis point fingers at al-Qaeda for deadly attack on police recruits
By Bill Roggio

The city of Ramadi is the last bastion of the insurgency and al-Qaeda in Anbar province. Yesterday’s deadly attack on prospective police recruits waiting outside the recruiting center may go a long way to erode that support.

The Washington Post reports “at least 80 Sunni Arabs were killed and 61 wounded” by the suicide bomber, and residents of Ramadi are furious. Tribal leaders, who are very influential in the Iraqi culture, were killed during the attacks.

The responsibility for the attack is being placed directly on al-Qaeda’s shoulders. “Neither the Americans nor the Shiites have any benefit in doing this. It is Zarqawi,” said the brother of one of the wounded. According to the Washington Post, “Another group of people beat a doctor in the hospital after he told an Iraqi journalist that U.S. forces were to blame for the attacks… Others said they hoped that sympathies in the city… would turn against Zarqawi’s faction.”

Tensions between the Sunnis in Ramadi and al-Qaeda have been simmering for some time. Over the summer of 2005, members of the Dulaimi tribe in Ramadi took up arms in defense of their Shiite neighbors to protect them from al-Qaeda threats, killed five terrorists, and caused them to flee.

al-Qaeda often oversteps its bounds in Iraq, and targets sheikhs and tribal leaders, or attempts to extort local criminal enterprises (such as smuggling). This alienates the al-Qaeda from their natural base of support among the Sunnis people. The mass murder of Sunnis waiting to volunteer for the police certainly will not help al-Qaeda’s cause in Ramadi.

While in Iraq, I accompanied a joint Marine-Iraq Army raid of farming community on the Euphrates River near Husaybah. A small cache of shells and mortars were uncovered in a run-down shed, and was brought to a field that was only several hundred yards from the Syrian border. The line of concertina wire that separate Iraq and Syria was in full view. The Iraqi troops, while proud of their find, looked angrily across the border.

I asked “Icy” the interpreter about this, and he agreed to help me question the Iraqi soldiers. They stated the weapons were coming across the Syrian border and were being brought by al Qaeda to kill the Iraqi people. Their desire was to cross the border and get to the heart of the problem. No doubt there are Sunnis in Ramadi that are having similar feelings today.

BBC NEWS | Americas | JFK assassination 'was Cuba plot'

BBC NEWS | Americas | JFK assassination 'was Cuba plot'

JFK assassination 'was Cuba plot'
Kennedy with his wife Jackie and daughter Caroline
Kennedy's assassination was a defining moment in US history
A new documentary exploring the death of John F Kennedy claims his assassin was directed and paid by Cuba.

Rendezvous with Death, based on new evidence from Cuban, Russian and US sources, took three years to research.

One source, ex-Cuban agent Oscar Marino, said Havana had exploited Lee Harvey Oswald, who was arrested but shot dead before he could be tried.

Conspiracy theories on the killing have variously accused Cuba, Russia and the US of acting alone or jointly.

According to Oscar Marino, the Cubans wanted Kennedy dead because he opposed the revolution and allegedly sought to have its leader Fidel Castro killed.

Mr Marino told film director Wilfried Huismann that he knew for certain the assassination was an operation run by the Cuban secret service G2, but he declined to say whether it had been ordered by Mr Castro.

I realised that I was used, I felt ashamed - we missed a moment in history.
Laurence Keenan
Former FBI agent

Cuban intelligence made contact with Oswald after being alerted by the Russian KGB in 1962 when he returned to the US after living in the Soviet Union for three years, Cuban and Russian sources say.

"He [Oswald] was so full of hate, he had the idea. We used him," Mr Marino said.

A possible Cuban connection was investigated by the US immediately after Kennedy's death.

But an FBI officer sent to follow the Oswald's trail during a visit to Mexico was recalled after only three days and the investigation called off.

Laurence Keenan, now 81, said it was "perhaps the worst investigation the FBI was ever involved in".

"I realised that I was used. I felt ashamed. We missed a moment in history," Mr Keenan said.

Lee Harvey Oswald
Oswald, an ex-marine, was a Communist sympathiser

Veteran US official Alexander Haig told the filmmaker that Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B Johnson, believed Cuba was to blame and feared a pronounced swing to the right if the truth were known that would keep the Democrats out of power for a long time.

Mr Haig - a US military adviser at the time and later a secretary of state - told the filmmakers Johnson said: "We must simply not allow the American people to believe Fidel Castro could have killed our president."

"He [Johnson] was convinced Castro killed Kennedy and he took it to his grave."

Communist sharpshooter

John F Kennedy, the 35th US president, was assassinated as his motorcade drove through Dallas in November 1963.

Lee Harvey Oswald, an ex-marine sharpshooter who worked in a book warehouse overlooking the assassination, was arrested but killed shortly afterwards.

He had a Russian wife, called himself a Communist and agitated on behalf of Castro's Cuba.

Americans Find Being Fat Not Unattractive - Yahoo! News

Americans Find Being Fat Not Unattractive - Yahoo! News

Americans Find Being Fat Not Unattractive

By CANDICE CHOI, Associated Press
Thin is still in, but apparently fat is nowhere near as out as it used to be.

A survey finds America's attitudes toward overweight people are shifting from rejection toward acceptance. Over a 20-year period, the percentage of Americans who said they find overweight people less attractive steadily dropped from 55 percent to 24 percent, the market research firm NPD Group found.

With about two-thirds of U.S. adults overweight, Americans seem more accepting of heavier body types, researchers say. The NPD survey of 1,900 people representative of the U.S. population also found other more relaxed attitudes about weight and diet.

While body image remains a constant obsession, the national preoccupation with being thin has waned since the late 1980s and early 1990s, said the NPD's Harry Balzer.

Those were the days when fast food chains rushed to install salad bars. In 1989, salads as a main course peaked at 10 percent of all restaurant meals. Today, those salad bars have all but vanished and salads account for just 5 1/2 percent of main dishes.

"It turns out health is a wonderful topic to talk about," Balzer said. "But to live that way is a real effort."

Fewer people said they're trying to "avoid snacking entirely" — just 26 percent in 2005, down from 45 percent in 1985 — while 75 percent said they had low-fat, no-fat or reduced fat products in the last two weeks, down from 86 percent in 1999, according to the survey.
The survey's findings aren't that surprising, as attitudes about weight constantly shift, said John Cawley, associate professor at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.

While heavy women were idealized at times — think "Rubenesque," a term born of 17th century painter Peter Paul Rubens' full-figured women — corseted women with tiny waists were preferred in other eras.

"I don't think we're going to go back to worshipping obese women, but it's interesting to see how attitudes change as more people become overweight," Cawley said.

Others argue that people are merely becoming more politically correct and that bias against fat people is actually growing sharper.

"These studies don't pick up on implicit, unconscious bias," said Kelly Brownell, head of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

"It's like if you asked people around the country if they had racial bias. There's a difference between what people say and what actually happens," Brownell said.

Researchers at Cornell also found that negative attitudes about obesity persist.

The NPD study results may simply be a sign of "resignation from overweight people," Brownell said, noting that it's likely a majority of survey respondents are overweight.

The survey, to be published in February in the journal Rationality and Society, also found obese boys and girls were half as likely to date as normal weight kids.

Marilyn Wann, board member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, said fat people are the target of a witch hunt in a fitness-obsessed nation.

"Everyone thinks it's OK to make fun of fatties," said Wann, who won't use the word "overweight" because she says it's judgmental.

Even if people say they are more accepting of overweight people, many still yearn to be thin. The NPD survey shows the number of people who said "I would like to lose 20 pounds" jumped from 54 percent in 1985 to 61 percent last year.

Telegraph | News | Syria 'tried to fuel holy war in Iraq against US and Britain'

Telegraph | News | Syria 'tried to fuel holy war in Iraq against US and Britain':

"Syria 'tried to fuel holy war in Iraq against US and Britain'
By Francis Harris in Washington
(Filed: 11/01/2006)

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria secretly incited Iraq's top Shia leader to declare holy war against US and British forces, according to Washington's former administrator in the country.

In his new book, My Year in Iraq, Paul Bremer said he heard the explosive intelligence in October 2003 as sectarian tensions soared across the country following the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Paul Bremer
News of Assad's actions ‘stunned’ the US administration in Iraq

The report came from an extremely senior source, the supreme leader of Iraq's majority Shia community, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

According to Mr Bremer, the news was passed to him by Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a senior Shia politician involved in negotiations with the ayatollah. The Syrian leader had apparently recalled the Shia-led uprising against the British in 1920 and urged the Shia to repeat history.

The news 'stunned' the US administration in Iraq. 'This was an act of extraordinary irresponsibility from Syria's president,' Mr Bremer writes. 'We had good intelligence showing that many insurgents and terrorists were coming into Iraq through Syria.'

But the allegation was far more serious, he says. 'This message from Assad essentially incited Shia rebellion. If he were to succeed, the coalition would face an extremely bloody two-front uprising, costing thousands of lives.'

The revelation that Syria's leader was trying to stoke unrest inside Iraq goes some way to explaining Washington's unrelenting hostility towards the Damascus regime ever since."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Globe and Mail: Chinese ban on Wikipedia prevents research, users say

The Globe and Mail: Chinese ban on Wikipedia prevents research, users say:

"Beijing — Chinese students and intellectuals are expressing outrage at Beijing's decision to prohibit access to Wikipedia, the fast-growing on-line encyclopedia that has become a basic resource for many in China.

Wikipedia, which offers more than 2.2 million articles in 100 languages, has emerged as an important source of scholarly knowledge in China and many other countries. But its stubborn neutrality and independence on political issues such as Tibet and Taiwan has repeatedly drawn the wrath of the Communist authorities.

The latest blocking of the website, the third shutdown of the site in China in the past two years, has now continued for more than 10 weeks without any explanation and without any indication whether the ban is temporary or permanent.

'What idiots these officials are!' said one message on a Chinese site. 'They are killing our culture with censorship.'"

Chicago Tribune | For some women, kicking coffee is not so easy

Chicago Tribune | For some women, kicking coffee is not so easy

For some women, kicking coffee is not so easy

By Jonathan Bor
Sun Reporter
Published December 9, 2005

Most pregnant women have little trouble kicking caffeine once their doctors warn them that the common stimulant found in coffee, tea, cola, chocolate and other foods could endanger their babies' health.

But researchers have found a group who does have trouble - women with a family history of alcohol abuse.

"It's not just an academic issue," said Dr. Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine whose earlier research established caffeine as an addictive substance. "These are people who want to quit, should quit and can't quit."

Griffith, whose study appears in this month's American Journal of Psychiatry, said the finding suggests that alcoholism and caffeine addiction share a common genetic factor. It also suggests that pregnant women may need extra help avoiding caffeine if they have a family history of alcohol abuse. For them, the standard warnings may not be enough.

In the study, researchers tracked 44 pregnant women seeking care at a suburban Baltimore obstetrics practice. While most of the women had little trouble kicking caffeine, seven of the women couldn't quit or significantly cut back - and all of those women had a family history of alcohol abuse.

No woman in the study was actually an alcoholic. A family history was defined as having at least one parent or sibling who was an alcoholic.

Women who consume caffeine while pregnant run a higher risk of miscarriage and stunted fetal growth. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its counterparts in Canada and Great Britain recommend avoiding caffeine during pregnancy.

The women who couldn't quit caffeine said they were thwarted by withdrawal symptoms, caffeine cravings and difficulty carrying out daily activities.

Dace S. Svikis, co-author of the study, said women who shared the two risk factors also reported higher rates of past cigarette smoking and problematic alcohol use.

"This suggests that caffeine dependence may be a useful marker for risk of dependence on other drugs of abuse," she said.

In the 1994 study that established caffeine as an addictive substance, Griffiths found that caffeine has the essential properties of an addictive drug.

Some who consume caffeine regularly suffer headaches, nausea and other symptoms when they try to cut back. They may also need increasing doses to achieve the same level of alertness, and may repeatedly fail in their attempts to quit.

International News Article | Reuters.com

International News Article | Reuters.com

W.House: Iran could face Security Council
Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:23 AM ET165
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If Iran continues on its current nuclear course, it will leave the international community no choice but to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible actions, the White House said on Tuesday.

The United States was reacting after Iran removed U.N. seals at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant and resumed nuclear fuel research on Tuesday.

"If the regime in Iran continues on the current course and fails to abide by its international obligations there is no other choice but to refer the matter to the Security Council," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

He also said that if Iran started nuclear enrichment and reprocessing it would be considered a "serious escalation."

Tehran denies wanting nuclear technology for anything but a civilian energy program aimed at satisfying the Islamic Republic's booming demand for electricity.

But the United States and the European Union doubt that Iran's atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful. If the U.N. Security Council takes up the matter, it could impose economic sanctions.

How do sanctions stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons? They'll endure them to get the bomb-it's worth it to them.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Iran Focus-News - Women - Iran to hang teenage girl attacked by rapists

Iran Focus-News - Women - Iran to hang teenage girl attacked by rapists

Tehran, Iran, Jan. 07 – An Iranian court has sentenced a teenage rape victim to death by hanging after she weepingly confessed that she had unintentionally killed a man who had tried to rape both her and her niece.

The state-run daily Etemaad reported on Saturday that 18-year-old Nazanin confessed to stabbing one of three men who had attacked the pair along with their boyfriends while they were spending some time in a park west of the Iranian capital in March 2005.

Nazanin, who was 17 years old at the time of the incident, said that after the three men started to throw stones at them, the two girls’ boyfriends quickly escaped on their motorbikes leaving the pair helpless.

She described how the three men pushed her and her 16-year-old niece Somayeh onto the ground and tried to rape them, and said that she took out a knife from her pocket and stabbed one of the men in the hand.

As the girls tried to escape, the men once again attacked them, and at this point, Nazanin said, she stabbed one of the men in the chest. The teenage girl, however, broke down in tears in court as she explained that she had no intention of killing the man but was merely defending herself and her younger niece from rape, the report said.

The court, however, issued on Tuesday a sentence for Nazanin to be hanged to death.

Last week, a court in the city of Rasht, northern Iran, sentenced Delara Darabi to death by hanging charged with murder when she was 17 years old. Darabi has denied the charges.

In August 2004, Iran’s Islamic penal system sentenced a 16-year-old girl, Atefeh Rajabi, to death after a sham trial, in which she was accused of committing “acts incompatible with chastity”.

The teenage victim had no access to a lawyer at any stage and efforts by her family to retain one were to no avail. Atefeh personally defended herself and told the religious judge that he should punish those who force women into adultery, not the victims. She was eventually hanged in public in the northern town of Neka.

FrontPage magazine.com :: Muslim Rape Wave in Sweden by Fjordman

FrontPage magazine.com :: Muslim Rape Wave in Sweden by Fjordman

Swedish girls Malin and Amanda were on their way to a party on New Year's Eve when they were assaulted, raped and beaten half to death by four Somali immigrants. Sweden's largest newspaper has presented the perpetrators as "two men from Sweden, one from Finland and one from Somalia", a testimony as to how bad the informal censorship is in stories related to immigration in Sweden. Similar incidents are reported with shocking frequency, to the point where some observers fear that law and order is completely breaking down in the country. The number of rape charges in Sweden has tripled in just above twenty years. Rape cases involving children under the age of 15 are six - 6 - times as common today as they were a generation ago. Most other kinds of violent crime have rapidly increased, too. Instability is spreading to most urban and suburban areas.

According to a new study from the Crime Prevention Council, Brå, it is four times more likely that a known rapist is born abroad, compared to persons born in Sweden. Resident aliens from Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia dominate the group of rape suspects. According to these statistics, almost half of all perpetrators are immigrants. In Norway and Denmark, we know that non-Western immigrants, which frequently means Muslims, are grossly overrepresented on rape statistics. In Oslo, Norway, immigrants were involved in two out of three rape charges in 2001. The numbers in Denmark were the same, and even higher in the city of Copenhagen with three out of four rape charges. Sweden has a larger immigrant, including Muslim, population than any other country in northern Europe. The numbers there are likely to be at least as bad as with its Scandinavian neighbors. The actual number is thus probably even higher than what the authorities are reporting now, as it doesn't include second generation immigrants. Lawyer Ann Christine Hjelm, who has investigated violent crimes in Svea high court, found that 85 per cent of the convicted rapists were born on foreign soil or by foreign parents.

A group of Swedish teenage girls has designed a belt that requires two hands to remove and which they hope will deter would-be rapists. "It's like a reverse chastity belt," one of the creators, 19-year-old Nadja Björk, told AFP, meaning that the wearer is in control, instead of being controlled. Björk and one of her partners now plan to start a business to mass produce the belts and are currently in negotiations with potential partners. "But I'm not doing this for the money," she said. "I'm really passionate about stopping rape. I think it's terrible."
We in America also think rape is terrible, but we have a different solution.
In an online readers' poll from the newspaper Aftonbladet, 82% of the women expressed fear to go outside after dark. There are reports of rapes happening in broad daylight. 30 guests in a Swedish public bath watched as 17 girl was raped recently, and nobody did anything. The girl was first approached by 16-year-old boy. He and his friends followed her as she walked away to the grotto, and inside the grotto he got her blocked in the corner, ripped off her bikini and raped her, while his friend held her firm.

There are even reports of Swedish girls being attacked and cut with knives on the dance floor. A 21-year-old man who came to Sweden a couple of years ago admits that he has a low opinion of Swedish females –or “whores” as he calls them. He is now prosecuted, suspecteded of cutting eight girls in several pubs. He is also charged with raping a girl at a private party, and with sexually harassing another girl in the apartment. Several witnesses claim that the 21 year old has said that he hates Swedish women.
Read the rest at the source link.



By Michelle Malkin January 07, 2006 06:05 AM

This. Is. Priceless.

As I noted in the post just below, Sgt. Mark Seavey confronted Democrat Reps. Jim Moran and John Murtha at a town hall meeting in Arlington, Va., earlier this week and left the moonbats momentarily speechless. Greyhawk transcribed Sgt. Seavey's comments. I have now isolated and captured the video clip from C-Span for educational purposes and for posterity:

Download the video (.wmv file).

Sgt. Mark Seavey to Murtha and Moran: 'I don't know who you two are talking to but the morale of the troops is very high.'

My favorite moments were the look on Rep. Jim 'Bad Boy' Moran's face when Sgt. Seavey challenged the Dems' 'demoralized troops' meme and noted that Moran didn't bother to send a single word of praise or attend a homecoming event when 200 of his Moran's constituents returned from duty in Afghanistan...


...and the look on Murtha's face as Moran scrambled to move on to a friendly moonbat questioner...


I received an e-mail from Sgt. Seavey late last night. He told me:

I was so upset, you wouldn't believe it. I speak to large audiences regularly, but never such a hostile one, and never when I am so upset, so I was really nervous about how I came off.

You done good, Sgt. Seavey. Sane Americans everywhere are grateful for your bravery and service on the battlefield overseas--and at home."

Saddam's Terror Training Camps

Saddam's Terror Training CampsSaddam's Terror Training Camps
What the documents captured from the former Iraqi regime reveal--and why they should all be made public.
by Stephen F. Hayes
01/16/2006, Volume 011, Issue 17

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.

The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.

The photographs and documents on Iraqi training camps come from a collection of some 2 million "exploitable items" captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. They include handwritten notes, typed documents, audiotapes, videotapes, compact discs, floppy discs, and computer hard drives. Taken together, this collection could give U.S.

intelligence officials and policymakers an inside look at the activities of the former Iraqi regime in the months and years before the Iraq war.

The discovery of the information on jihadist training camps in Iraq would seem to have two major consequences: It exposes the flawed assumptions of the experts and U.S. intelligence officials who told us for years that a secularist like Saddam Hussein would never work with Islamic radicals, any more than such jihadists would work with an infidel like the Iraqi dictator. It also reminds us that valuable information remains buried in the mountain of documents recovered in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past four years.

Nearly three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, only 50,000 of these 2 million "exploitable items" have been thoroughly examined. That's 2.5 percent. Despite the hard work of the individuals assigned to the "DOCEX" project, the process is not moving quickly enough, says Michael Tanji, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who helped lead the document exploitation effort for 18 months. "At this rate," he says, "if we continue to approach DOCEX in a linear fashion, our great-grandchildren will still be sorting through this stuff."

Most of the 50,000 translated documents relate directly to weapons of mass destruction programs and scientists, since David Kay and his Iraq Survey Group--who were among the first to analyze the finds--considered those items top priority. "At first, if it wasn't WMD, it wasn't translated. It wasn't exploited," says a former military intelligence officer who worked on the documents in Iraq.

"We had boxloads of Iraqi Intelligence records--their names, their jobs, all sorts of detailed information," says the former military intelligence officer. "In an insurgency, wouldn't that have been helpful?"

How many of those unexploited documents might help us better understand the role of Iraq in supporting transregional terrorists? How many of those documents might provide important intelligence on the very people--Baathists, former regime officials, Saddam Fedayeen, foreign fighters trained in Iraq--that U.S. soldiers are fighting in Iraq today? Is what we don't know literally killing us?

ON NOVEMBER 17, 2005, Michigan representative Pete Hoekstra wrote to John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence. Hoekstra is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He provided Negroponte a list of 40 documents recovered in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan and asked to see them. The documents were translated or summarized, given titles by intelligence analysts in the field, and entered into a government database known as HARMONY. Most of them are unclassified.

For several weeks, Hoekstra was promised a response. He finally got one on December 28, 2005, in a meeting with General Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence. Hayden handed Hoekstra a letter from Negroponte that promised a response after January 1, 2006. Hoekstra took the letter, read it, and scribbled his terse response. "John--Unacceptable." Hoekstra told Hayden that he would expect to hear something before the end of the year. He didn't.

"I can tell you that I'm reaching the point of extreme frustration," said Hoekstra, in a phone interview last Thursday. His exasperated tone made

the claim unnecessary. "It's just an indication that rather than having a nimble, quick intelligence community that can respond quickly, it's still a lumbering bureaucracy that can't give the chairman of the intelligence committee answers relatively quickly. Forget quickly, they can't even give me answers slowly."

On January 6, however, Hoekstra finally heard from Negroponte. The director of national intelligence told Hoekstra that he is committed to expediting the exploitation and release of the Iraqi documents. According to Hoekstra, Negroponte said: "I'm giving this as much attention as anything else on my plate to make this work."

Other members of Congress--including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Senators Rick Santorum and Pat Roberts--also demanded more information from the Bush administration on the status of the vast document collection. Santorum and Hoekstra have raised the issue personally with President Bush. This external pressure triggered an internal debate at the highest levels of the administration. Following several weeks of debate, a consensus has emerged: The vast majority of the 2 million captured documents should be released publicly as soon as possible.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has convened several meetings in recent weeks to discuss the Pentagon's role in expediting the release of this information. According to several sources familiar with his thinking, Rumsfeld is pushing aggressively for a massive dump of the captured documents. "He has a sense that public vetting of this information is likely to be as good an astringent as any other process we could develop," says Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita.

The main worry, says DiRita, is that the mainstream press might cherry-pick documents and mischaracterize their meaning. "There is always the concern that people would be chasing a lot of information good or bad, and when the Times or the Post splashes a headline about some sensational-sounding document that would seem to 'prove' that sanctions were working, or that Saddam was just a misunderstood patriot, or some other nonsense, we'd spend a lot of time chasing around after it."

This is a view many officials attributed to Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steve Cambone. (Cambone, through a spokesman, declined to be interviewed.) For months, Cambone has argued internally against expediting the release of the documents. "Cambone is the problem," says one former Bush administration official who wants the documents released. "He has blocked this every step of the way." In what is perhaps a sign of a changing dynamic within the administration, Cambone is now saying that he, like his boss, favors a broad document release.

Michael Ledeen on Osama bin Laden on National Review Online

Michael Ledeen on Osama bin Laden on National Review Online

The pope once remarked that there were times when dramatic change was impossible, and at such moments anyone who tried to achieve it was like the fool beating his head against a stone wall. But there were other times when the acts of a single individual could change the world. He knew he was living at such a time, and he saw his mission as inspiring individuals to take those actions, and change the world for the better. That was one reason why his famous call, "be not afraid," was so right for those times, and why a handful of brave individuals famously changed the world.

This historical moment is not easy to understand, since we are in transition from a relatively stable world, dominated by a handful of major powers, to something we cannot yet define, since it is up to us to shape it. It seems clear, however, that there is a greater rapidity of change, accompanied — inevitably — by the passing of the leaders of the old order. This is particularly clear in the Middle East, where seven key figures have been struck down in the past six years: King Hussein of Jordan in February, 1999. King Hassan of Morocco in July of the same year. Syrian dictator Hafez al Assad in June of 2000. Yasser Arafat of the PLO in April, 2004. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in May of last year. Ariel Sharon of Israel was incapacitated by a stroke in early January. And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Iranians who reported this note that this year's message in conjunction with the Muslim Haj came from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the first time.

This remarkable tempo of change is not likely to diminish, as old and/or sick men are in key positions in several countries: Israel's Shimon Peres is 82. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is 82 (and his designated successor, Prince Sultan, is 81, and was recently operated for stomach cancer). Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, although probably in his sixties, is said to have serious liver cancer, and is not expected to survive the next year.

And, of course, the patient activities of the Grim Reaper are not the only source of revolutionary change in the region. Saddam was a relatively young man (mid-sixties) when he was toppled by Coalition forces; the deposed Taliban leaders were relatively young as well (Mullah Omar is barely 50); and the likes of Bashar Assad, the Iranian mullahs (Khamenei is probably in his early sixties), and even the legions of the Saudi royal family have to contend with mounting animus from the West, and mounting cries for freedom from their own people.

Much of the demographic component of rapid change comes from the enormous disparity between leaders and people.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Telegraph | News | Son killed 'for not changing to Islam'

Telegraph | News | Son killed 'for not changing to Islam':
By Catriona Davies

A mother described yesterday hearing her son shot dead after he refused to convert to Islam.

Ruth Marriott told an inquest into her son's death that she heard gunshots on the day Adrian was shot five times in the head a few weeks before his 21st birthday.

Mr Marriott, an accountancy student and gang member, was killed in a park near his home in Brixton, south London, in June 2004.

Three members of a rival gang, known as the Muslim Boys, were cleared in September last year of conspiracy to murder Mr Marriott after the prosecution offered no evidence at the Old Bailey.

His mother told the inquest at Southwark Coroners' Court yesterday: 'We heard the shooting. We heard gun fire.

'The thought did strike me that Adrian could be involved, but it was a fleeting thought. Then we heard from police the following evening what had happened.

'Adrian was told on the Sunday prior to his death that he would be killed if he did not become a Muslim by the Wednesday, which was the day he died.'"

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Americans Said to Meet Rebels, Exploiting Rift - New York Times

Americans Said to Meet Rebels, Exploiting Rift - New York Times

Americans Said to Meet Rebels, Exploiting Rift


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 6 - American officials are talking with local Iraqi insurgent leaders to exploit a rift that has opened between homegrown insurgents and radical groups like Al Qaeda, and to draw the local leaders into the political process, according to a Western diplomat, an Iraqi political leader and an Iraqi insurgent leader.

Clashes between Iraqi groups and Al Qaeda have broken out in several cities across the Sunni Triangle, including Taji, Yusefiya, Qaim and Ramadi, and they appear to have intensified in recent months, according to interviews with insurgents and with American and Iraqi officials.

In an interview on Friday, a Western diplomat who supports the talks said that the Americans had opened face-to-face discussions with insurgents in the field, and that they were communicating with senior insurgent leaders through intermediaries.

The diplomat said the goal was to take advantage of rifts in the insurgency, particularly between local groups, whose main goal is to expel American forces, and the more radical groups, like Al Qaeda, which have alienated many Iraqis by the mass killing of Iraqi civilians.


The diplomat said the talks were aimed at taking advantage of a new willingness to take part in politics among Sunni Arabs, who went to the polls in large numbers for the first time. Their full participation is seen as an essential step in quelling the insurgency, which is led mostly by radical Sunni Arabs.


"According to Islamic doctrine, as well as democratic principles, there cannot be a legitimate resistance against a legitimate government," the diplomat said. "If we could reach an understanding with each other, meaning the resistance, as they call it, and the coalition, then they will in turn take care of Zarqawi and the terrorists."

The diplomat was referring to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which is believed to be responsible for most of the car and suicide bombings.


In interviews, Iraqi insurgents say there is widespread hatred for Al Qaeda among ordinary Iraqis. The insurgents blame Al Qaeda for the bloody car bombs and suicide attacks that have killed thousands of civilians. While Al Qaeda's rank and file includes mostly Iraqis, the leadership is believed to contain many foreigners.

"We are Iraqis, and Al Qaeda came from outside our borders," said Abu Omar, the nom de guerre of a member of the Islamic Army in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. "They defame the name of the noble resistance inside Iraq."

Beautiful Atrocities: I LOST MY HEAD OVER ISLAM


Dear Stupid British Homos,

I see you're having the PC vapors after the renegade Gay & Lesbian Humanist Assn said - are you ready? - Islam is homophobic. No. Shit. Sherlock. As a fellow homo, this seems gratuitous, but in PC England it's so over the top that GLHA execs resigned in disgrace & issued groveling apologies, gay luminaries voiced concern, & something sinister called London-wide Race Hate Crime Forum is pursuing prosecution.

Here's an excerpt of GLHA's vile filth, which actually suggested that medieval Muslim immigrants who don't send their daughters to school & think Jews perpetrated the WTC attacks don't share Western values:

'What is wrong with being fearful of Islam? (There is a lot to fear) ... What does a moderate Muslim do, other than excuse the real nutters by adhering to this barmy doctrine?'

Holy crap. An outraged gay Muslim group [sic] called the article outrageous. Excuse me, but what kind of stupid shit-eating gays apologize for a 7th Century religion whose 21st Century practice includes killing them? In this case, hatred is an appropriate response, & should be encouraged.

While you queens have been frauleining about gay marriage, homos under barmy Islam have been crushed, hung, stoned, & beheaded. I notice that 60% of British Muslims want Shariah law. Have you seen their birthrate compared to non-Muslim Brits? Maybe GLHA should start running more timely articles like Scaffold-Proof Hair Mousse & Fabulous Accessories from Neck to Toe!

rsjn6.jpgGeorge Bernard Shaw, that pacifist flaneur, said if the Nazis landed, he'd welcome them as tourists. New flash, sisters: the tourists are already in the house. Under Shariah, you'll really be giving head, & not in a good way. Then you'll be clicking your Giorgio Brutini heels together for asylum in Kansas, but we have enough problems without a bunch of grievance queens & speech monitors. Besides, you'd really hate our First Amendment; it doesn't go well with yellow.

Your friend,