Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Washington Finally Gets It on Radical Islam - article by Daniel Pipes

Washington Finally Gets It on Radical Islam - article by Daniel Pipes

Does the Bush administration really believe, as its leadership has kept repeating since right after 9/11, that Islam is a "religion of peace" not connected to the problem of terrorism? Plenty of indications suggested that it knew better, but year after year the official line remained the same. From the outside, it seemed that officialdom was engaged in active self-delusion.

In fact, things were better than they seemed, as David E. Kaplan establishes in an important investigation in U.S. News & World Report, based on over 100 interviews and the review of a dozen internal documents. Earlier arguments over the nature of the enemy – terrorism vs. radical Islam – have been resolved: America's highest officials widely agree that the country's "greatest ideological foe is a highly politicized form of radical Islam and that Washington and its allies cannot afford to stand by" as it gains in strength. To fight this ideology, the U.S. government now promotes a non-radical interpretation of Islam.

In "Hearts, Minds, and Dollars: In an Unseen Front in the War on Terrorism, America is Spending Millions to Change the Very Face of Islam," dated today, Kaplan explains that Washington recognizes it has a security interest not just within the Muslim world but within Islam. Therefore, it must engage in shaping the very religion of Islam. Washington has focused on the root causes of terrorism – not poverty or U.S. foreign policy, but a compelling political ideology.

A key document in reaching this conclusion was the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, issued by the White House in February 2003, which served as the basis for the bolder, more detailed, Muslim World Outreach, completed in mid-2004 and now the authoritative guide. (A government discussion of this topic, dating from August 2004, is available online.) The U.S. government, being a secular and predominantly non-Muslim institution, faces many limitations in what is at base a religious dispute, so it turns to Muslim organizations that share its goals, including governments, foundations, and nonprofit groups.

The tactics for fighting radical Islam and promoting moderate Islam vary from one government department to another: it's covert operations at the CIA, psyops at the Pentagon, and public diplomacy at the State Department. Whatever the name and approach, the common element is to encourage the benign evolution of Islam. Toward this end, the U.S. government, Kaplan writes, "has embarked on a campaign of political warfare unmatched since the height of the Cold War." The goal is:

to influence not only Muslim societies but Islam itself…Although U.S. officials say they are wary of being drawn into a theological battle, many have concluded that America can no longer sit on the sidelines as radicals and moderates fight over the future of a politicized religion with over a billion followers. The result has been an extraordinary—and growing—effort to influence what officials describe as an Islamic reformation.

In at least two dozen countries, Kaplan writes:

Washington has quietly funded Islamic radio and TV shows, coursework in Muslim schools, Muslim think tanks, political workshops, or other programs that promote moderate Islam. Federal aid is going to restore mosques, save ancient Korans, even build Islamic schools…individual CIA stations overseas are making some gutsy and innovative moves. Among them: pouring money into neutralizing militant, anti-U.S. preachers and recruiters. "If you found out that Mullah Omar is on one street corner doing this, you set up Mullah Bradley on the other street corner to counter it," explains one recently retired official. In more-serious cases, he says, recruiters would be captured and "interrogated." Intelligence operatives have set up bogus jihad websites and targeted the Arab news media.

In all, various agencies of the U.S. government are active in this Islamic activity in at least 24 countries. Projects include:

the restoration of historic mosques in Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. In Kirgizstan, embassy funding helped restore a major Sufi shrine. In Uzbekistan, money has gone to preserve antique Islamic manuscripts, including 20 Korans, some dating to the 11th century. In Bangladesh, USAID is training mosque leaders on development issues. In Madagascar, the embassy even sponsored an intermosque sports tournament. Also being funded: Islamic media of all sorts, from book translations to radio and TV in at least a half-dozen nations.

Madrassahs, or Islamic schools, are a particular concern, for these train the next generation of jihadis and terrorists. Washington deploys several tactics to counter their influence:

*

In Pakistan, U.S. funds go discreetly to third parties to train madrassah teachers to add practical subjects (math, science, and health) to their curriculum, as well as civics classes. A "model madrassah" program that may eventually include more than a thousand schools is also now underway.
*

In the Horn of Africa (defined by the Pentagon as Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen), the U.S. military finds out where Islamists plan to start a madrassah, then builds a public school in direct competition with it.
*

In Uganda, the U.S. embassy has signed three grant awards to fund the construction of three elementary-level madrassahs.

Kaplan quotes one American terrorism analyst saying, "We're in the madrassah business." But not all aid has an explicit Islamic theme. American money is partially funding a satellite version of the Sesame Street in Arabic stressing the need for religious tolerance.

ABC News: Official: Zarqawi Eludes Capture; Computer Discovered

ABC News: Official: Zarqawi Eludes Capture; Computer Discovered (hat tip: LGF)

Official: Zarqawi Eludes Capture; Computer Discovered
Iraq's Most Wanted Fugitive on the Run After Leaving Behind Valuable Information

Apr. 26, 2005 - Jordanian rebel Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- Iraq's most wanted fugitive -- recently eluded capture by American troops, but left behind a treasure trove of information, a senior military official told ABC News.

On Feb. 20, the alleged terror mastermind was heading to a secret meeting in Ramadi, just west of Fallujah, where he used to base his operations, the official said.

Task Force 626 -- the covert American military unit charged with finding Zarqawi -- had troops in place to grab the fugitive, and mobile vehicle checkpoints had been established around the city's perimeter. Another U.S. official said predator drones were also in flight, tracking movements in and around the city.

A source who had been inside the Zarqawi network alerted the task force to the meeting. Officials deem the source "extremely credible."

The senior military official said that just before the meeting was scheduled, a car was pulled over as it approached a checkpoint.

"Zarqawi always has someone check the waters," said the official.

A pickup truck about a half-mile behind the car then quickly turned around and headed in the opposite direction. Officials now believe Zarqawi was in the fleeing truck. U.S. teams began a chase, but when the truck was pulled over several miles later, Zarqawi was not inside.

Zarqawi's Computer Discovered

What the task force did find in the vehicle confirmed suspicions that Zarqawi had just escaped. The official said Zarqawi's computer and 80,000 euros (about $104,000 U.S.) were discovered in the truck.

Finding the computer, said the official, "was a seminal event." It had "a very big hard drive," the official said, and recent pictures of Zarqawi. The official said Zarqawi's driver and a bodyguard were taken into custody.

The senior military official said that they have since learned Zarqawi jumped out of the vehicle when it passed beneath an overpass, presumably to avoid detection from the air, and hid there before running to a safe house in Ramadi.

Lt. Gen. John Vines -- the commander responsible for daily military operations in Iraq -- would not provide any detail about the apparent escape in a recent interview in Baghdad, but he did say the Zarqawi network has been damaged.

"We believe he is resilient," Vines said. "He is incredibly evil and we can't forget that. So he is dangerous still, but he is on the run."

For White House, Bolton debate about state of U.N. - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - April 26, 2005

For White House, Bolton debate about state of U.N.

The White House is shifting debate away from John R. Bolton, President Bush's embattled nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and toward the scandal-plagued U.N. itself.
"We are going to make the case from here on out that this is about reform -- or more of the same -- at the U.N.," a senior administration official told The Washington Times.
"Senators are realizing this is about the U.N.," added the official, who discussed Mr. Bolton on the condition of anonymity. "And they know the president is firmly behind him."
To underscore the point, the White House wants Mr. Bolton to meet with Sen. George V. Voinovich to assuage the Ohio Republican's concerns about the nominee's temperament, which some consider abrasive.
The official said Mr. Bush thinks Mr. Voinovich, who last week put the Bolton nomination on hold until May 12, "will support him once questions are addressed."
Voinovich spokeswoman Marcie Ridgway would not answer questions about a White House-brokered meeting with the nominee, saying only that the senator "is still reviewing Bolton's record."
Enlisting the support of Mr. Voinovich would allow the administration to focus more on the United Nations, which has been rocked by scandals ranging from the oil-for-food program in Iraq to sexual abuse by peacekeepers in Africa.

Monday, April 25, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - Risk-taking boys do not get the girls

New Scientist Breaking News - Risk-taking boys do not get the girls

WHETHER it's driving too fast, bungee-jumping or reckless skateboarding, young men will try almost anything to be noticed by the opposite sex. But a study of attitudes to risk suggests that the only people impressed by their stunts are other men.

Futile risk-taking might seem to have little going for it in Darwinian terms. So why were our rash ancestors not replaced by more cautious contemporaries?

One idea is that risk-takers are advertising their fitness to potential mates by showing off their strength and bravery. This fits with the fact that men in their prime reproductive years take more risks. To test this idea, William Farthing of the University of Maine in Orono surveyed 48 young men and 52 young women on their attitudes to risky scenarios. Men thought women would be impressed by pointless gambles, but women in fact preferred cautious men (Evolution and Human Behaviour, vol 26, p 171).
“Men thought women would be impressed by pointless gambles, but women in fact preferred cautious men”

Reckless thrill-seekers might be trying a more subtle route to women's affections. Men say they prefer their same-sex friends to be risk-takers, and women prefer high-status males. "So if he has higher status among other men, women might like him for his status, even though they don't like the risk-taking in itself," Farthing says.

New Scientist Breaking News - Risk-taking boys do not get the girls

New Scientist Breaking News - Risk-taking boys do not get the girls

WHETHER it's driving too fast, bungee-jumping or reckless skateboarding, young men will try almost anything to be noticed by the opposite sex. But a study of attitudes to risk suggests that the only people impressed by their stunts are other men.

Futile risk-taking might seem to have little going for it in Darwinian terms. So why were our rash ancestors not replaced by more cautious contemporaries?

One idea is that risk-takers are advertising their fitness to potential mates by showing off their strength and bravery. This fits with the fact that men in their prime reproductive years take more risks. To test this idea, William Farthing of the University of Maine in Orono surveyed 48 young men and 52 young women on their attitudes to risky scenarios. Men thought women would be impressed by pointless gambles, but women in fact preferred cautious men (Evolution and Human Behaviour, vol 26, p 171).
“Men thought women would be impressed by pointless gambles, but women in fact preferred cautious men”

Reckless thrill-seekers might be trying a more subtle route to women's affections. Men say they prefer their same-sex friends to be risk-takers, and women prefer high-status males. "So if he has higher status among other men, women might like him for his status, even though they don't like the risk-taking in itself," Farthing says.

New Scientist Breaking News - Risk-taking boys do not get the girls

New Scientist Breaking News - Risk-taking boys do not get the girls

WHETHER it's driving too fast, bungee-jumping or reckless skateboarding, young men will try almost anything to be noticed by the opposite sex. But a study of attitudes to risk suggests that the only people impressed by their stunts are other men.

Futile risk-taking might seem to have little going for it in Darwinian terms. So why were our rash ancestors not replaced by more cautious contemporaries?

One idea is that risk-takers are advertising their fitness to potential mates by showing off their strength and bravery. This fits with the fact that men in their prime reproductive years take more risks. To test this idea, William Farthing of the University of Maine in Orono surveyed 48 young men and 52 young women on their attitudes to risky scenarios. Men thought women would be impressed by pointless gambles, but women in fact preferred cautious men (Evolution and Human Behaviour, vol 26, p 171).
“Men thought women would be impressed by pointless gambles, but women in fact preferred cautious men”

Reckless thrill-seekers might be trying a more subtle route to women's affections. Men say they prefer their same-sex friends to be risk-takers, and women prefer high-status males. "So if he has higher status among other men, women might like him for his status, even though they don't like the risk-taking in itself," Farthing says.

CNN.com - High-tech solution to highway congestion -

CNN.com - High-tech solution to highway congestion - Apr 25, 2005

TROY, New York (AP) -- Picking up doughnuts on the way to work recently, George List slid back into the driver's seat and heard a voice from the cup holder suggest an alternate route.

The car wasn't talking, exactly. The voice came from a handheld computer nestled in the holder that links his car to 200 other vehicles in the area. Data from all the vehicles -- where they are, how quickly they move -- is being used to create snapshots of area traffic patterns.

The system had detected a bottleneck ahead and quickly calculated a faster route.

"I said, 'Oh, that's interesting, it changed its mind when I was doing something else,"' he said.

List obeyed the machine.

He later saw the traffic jam -- at a distance, from another road.

List, director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Center for Infrastructure and Transportation Studies, co-heads a federally funded project examining a potential high-tech solution to highway congestion.

Traffic is tracked through global positioning system (GPS) devices in cars that are connected wirelessly. Drivers participating in the pilot project essentially act as highway probes, receiving continual feedback from in-car computers intoning commands like "Just ahead, turn right."

"They're benefiting from each other being eyes and ears in the network," List said.

The project is one of many "smart highway" initiatives, which rely on information from technology such as traffic sensors and roadside cameras. This experimental system, with its automatic updates, would be a bit smarter.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Scotsman - It's not clever to send too many texts and e-mails

The Scotsman - Top Stories - It's not clever to send too many texts and e-mails:
Key points
• Texting makes you less intelligent, it is revealed
• Brains suffer from information overload, apparently
• Solution is: switch off!

Key quote
'The impairment only lasts for as long as the distraction. But you have to ask whether our current obsession with constant communication is causing long-term damage to concentration and mental ability.' - Dr Glenn Wilson, psychologist at the University of London

Story in full
CONSTANT text messaging and e-mailing causes a reduction in mental capability equivalent to the loss of ten IQ points, according to research.

Tapping away on a mobile phone or computer keypad or checking messages on a handheld gadget temporarily reduces the performance of the brain, according to the study into the effects of 'infomania'.

The psychologist behind the research has concluded that obsessive use of phones and e-mail devices could impair mental capability even more than smoking cannabis - and suggested the modern culture of information could cause a permanent drop in intelligence.

'It is obvious that full concentration is impossible when we have one eye on e-mails or text messages,' said Dr Glenn Wilson, a psychologist at the University of London who conducted the study of 1,000 adults. 'But we found that mental performance, the capability of the brain, was also reduced. Workers cannot think as well when they are worrying about e-mail or voicemails. It effectively reduces their IQ.

'The impairment only lasts for as long as the distraction. But you have to ask whether our current obsession with constant communication is causing long-term damage to concentration and mental ability.'

The surfeit of information is believed to cost firms millions of pounds a year in lost productivity. Millionaire telecoms mogul John Caudwell banned his staff from e-mailing last year, dubbing the practice the 'cancer of modern business'.

The owner of the Phones 4U chain told more than 2,500 employees to ditch cyberspace for face-to-face or phone communication - and claimed the ban had an 'instant, dramatic and positive effect'.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is believed to receive up to four million e-mails a day, almost all of them spam, and has a dedicated department looking after the contents of his inbox.

Dr Wilson said the brain finds it hard to cope with juggling lots of tasks at once, reducing its effectiveness.

'It is similar to the effect on the mind of losing a night’s sleep, for instance, and more than twice the effect of the four-point drop in IQ caused by smoking cannabis.'"

Caucasians preceded East Asians in Xinjiang basin - The Washington Times:

Caucasians preceded East Asians in basin - The Washington Times: World - April 20, 2005: "Caucasians preceded East Asians in basin


By Robert J. Saiget
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

URUMQI, China -- After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proved that Caucasians roamed China's Tarim Basin 1,000 years before East Asian people arrived.
The research finding -- which the Beijing government apparently delayed releasing, fearing it could fuel Uighur Muslim separatism in China's western-most Xinjiang region -- is based on a cache of ancient dried-out corpses that have been found around the Tarim Basin in recent decades.
Click to learn more...
The discoveries in the 1980s of the undisturbed 4,000-year-old 'Beauty of Loulan' and the 3,000-year-old body of the 'Charchan Man' are legendary in international archaeological circles for the fine state of their preservation and for the wealth of knowledge they bring to modern research.
In historic and scientific circles, the discoveries along the ancient Silk Road were on a par with finding the Egyptian mummies.
But the separatists in Xinjiang have embraced the Caucasoid mummies as evidence that the Uighurs do not belong in China, forcing Beijing to slow the research.
'It is unfortunate that the issue has been so politicized, because it has created a lot of difficulties,' said Victor Mair, a specialist in the ancient corpses and co-author of 'The Tarim Mummies.' "
[...]

Mr. Mair, a University of Pennsylvania professor who played a pivotal role in bringing the discoveries to Western scholars in the 1990s, has struggled to take samples out of China for genetic testing. One recent expedition was allowed to take five samples out.
"From the evidence available, we have found that during the first 1,000 years after the Loulan Beauty, the only settlers in the Tarim Basin were Caucasoid," Mr. Mair said.
East Asian peoples began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin only about 3,000 years ago, he said, while the Uighurs arrived after the collapse of the Orkhon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern-day Mongolia, about the year 842.
A study last year by Jilin University also found that the mummies' DNA had Europoid genes.
Meanwhile, Yingpan Man, a nearly perfectly preserved 2,000-year-old Caucasoid mummy, was allowed this month to leave China for the first time, and is being displayed at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
The Yingpan Man, discovered in 1995 in the region that bears his name, has a gold foil death mask -- a Greek tradition -- covering his blond bearded face, and wears elaborate golden embroidered red and maroon garments with seemingly Western European designs.
His nearly 6-foot-6 body is the tallest of all the mummies found, and the clothes and artifacts discovered in the surrounding tombs suggest the highest level of Caucasoid civilization in the ancient Tarim Basin region.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

My Way News: Pope My Way News: Pope Benedict Showed 2 Sides After Pope's Death

My Way News:

"Perhaps no member of the conclave evoked such potent opinions - and has stirred more arguments - as the 78-year-old Ratzinger and the role he's held since 1981: head of the powerful Vatican office that oversees doctrine and takes action against dissent.

'We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires,' he said Monday in a pre-conclave Mass in memory of John Paul. The church, he insisted, must defend itself against threats such as 'radical individualism' and 'vague religious mysticism.'

As prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he was the Vatican's iron hand.

His interventions are a roll call of flashpoints for the church: the 1987 order stripping American theologian the Rev. Charles Curran of the right to teach because he encouraged dissent; crippling Latin Americans supporting the popular 'liberation theology' movement for alleged Marxist leanings; coming down hard on efforts to rewrite Scriptures in gender inclusive language.

He also shows no flexibility on the church's views on priestly celibacy, contraception and the ban on ordinations for women.

In 1986, he denounced rock music as the 'vehicle of anti-religion.' In 1988, he dismissed anyone who tried to find 'feminist' meanings in the Bible. Last year, he told American bishops that it was allowable to deny Communion to those who support such 'manifest grave sin' as abortion and euthanasia.

He earned unflattering nicknames such as Panzercardinal, God's rottweiler, and the Grand Inquisitor. Cartoonists emphasized his deep-set eyes and Italians lampooned his pronounced German accent.

'Indeed, it would be hard to find a Catholic controversy in the past 20 years that did not somehow involve Joseph Ratzinger,' John Allen, a Vatican reporter for the National Catholic Register, wrote six years ago.

But among conservatives, he rose in stature. An online fan club sings his praises and offers souvenirs with the slogan: 'Putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981.'

Even John Paul apparently needed him close by. Several times Ratzinger said he tendered his resignation because of his age, but each time it was rejected by the pope.

In recent years, he took on issues outside church doctrine. He once called Buddhism a religion for the self-indulgent. In an interview with the French magazine Le Figaro last year, he suggested Turkey's bid to join the Europe Union conflicted with Europe's Christian roots - a view that could unsettle Vatican attempts to improve relations with Muslims.

'Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe,' he was quoted as saying.

In a book released last week, 'Values in a Time of Upheavals,' Ratzinger also called demands for European 'multiculturalism' as a 'fleeing from what is one's own.'

'If he continues as pope the way he was as a cardinal, I think we will see a polarized church,' said David Gibson, a former Vatican Radio journalist and author of a book on trends in the church. 'He has said himself that he wanted a smaller, but purer, church.'

Critics complain Ratzinger embodies all the conservative instincts of the last papacy, but without John Paul's charisma and pastoral genius.

'I think this is the closest the church can come to human cloning,' quipped Gibson.

It's a joke not too far off the mark.

Both John Paul II and his successor were forged by the horrors of World War II and advanced in the church in the shadow of the Iron Curtain. They also shared a deep drive to try to use Christianity as a grand unifier for the continent following the collapse of the Berlin Wall."

HoustonChronicle.com - CDC: Dangers of being overweight overstated

HoustonChronicle.com - CDC: Dangers of being overweight overstated

CHICAGO — Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation's leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated today that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths.

The new analysis found that obesity — being extremely overweight — is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.

Biostatistician Mary Grace Kovar, a consultant for the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center in Washington, said "normal" may be set too low for today's population. Also, Americans classified as overweight are eating better, exercising more and managing their blood pressure better than they used to, she said.
[...]

Last year, the CDC issued a study that said being overweight causes 400,000 deaths a year and would soon overtake tobacco as the top U.S. killer. After scientists inside and outside the agency questioned the figure, the CDC admitted making a calculation error and lowered its estimate three months ago to 365,000.

CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said because of the uncertainty in calculating the health effects of being overweight, the CDC is not going to use the brand-new figure of 25,814 in its public awareness campaigns and is not going to scale back its fight against obesity."

BBC NEWS | Health | Happy moments 'protect the heart'

BBC NEWS | Health | Happy moments 'protect the heart':

Happiness was more commonly linked to leisure, rather than work
Every moment of happiness counts when it comes to protecting your heart, researchers have said.

A team from University College London said happiness leads to lower levels of stress-inducing chemicals.

They found that even when happier people experienced stress, they had low levels of a chemical which increases the risk of heart disease.

The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


This shows that people who are happy and unstressed are likely to have less potentially dangerous stress chemicals in their bodies
Professor Peter Weissberg, British Heart Foundation

It showed that those who were happy less often had higher levels of a bloodstream chemical called plasma fibrinogen, which shows if there is inflammation present."

Monday, April 18, 2005

Economist.com | Demography and the West

Economist.com | Demography and the West: "Half a billion Americans?
Aug 22nd 2002 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition



Demographic forces are pulling America and Europe apart. If the trend goes on, it will fundamentally alter America's position in the world

FORGET transatlantic rifts about trade, Iraq, Kyoto, or the International Criminal Court. These have been thoroughly ventilated. One area of difference has not got the attention it deserves: demography. It may prove the most important of all.

For 50 years, America and the nations of Western Europe have been lumped together as rich countries, sharing the same basic demographic features: stable populations, low and declining fertility, increasing numbers of old people. For much of that period, this was true. But in the 1980s, the two sides began to diverge. The effect was muted at first, because demographic change is slow. But it is also remorseless, and is now beginning to show up.

America's census in 2000 contained a shock. The population turned out to be rising faster than anyone had expected when the 1990 census was taken. There are disputes about exactly why this was (more on that shortly). What is not in doubt is that a gap is beginning to open with Europe. America's fertility rate is rising. Europe's is falling. America's immigration outstrips Europe's and its immigrant population is reproducing faster than native-born Americans. America's population will soon be getting younger. Europe's is ageing.


By 2040, perhaps earlier, America will overtake Europe in population

Unless things change substantially, these trends will accelerate over coming decades, driving the two sides of the Atlantic farther apart. By 2040, and possibly earlier, America will overtake Europe in population and will come to look remarkably (and, in many ways, worryingly) different from the Old World."

All 10 million Europeans: demographic collapse.

All 10 million Europeans: demographic collapse.

ALL 10 MILLION EUROPEANS

The last two generations grew up with the idea of the "population explosion". For a century the world has lived with constant upward revision of population forecasts: the only question was if the growth would be fast, or very fast. And the last generation faced the question: how many billions can this planet support? So it is a culture shock, when new projections of global population include scenarios of dramatic population decline - without any meteorite impacts, new epidemics, or famines. Or when a UN report suggests that Europe needs 700 million immigrants to maintain its age structure... Is the future population nightmare not rural Bangladesh, but rural Estonia? Updated March 2005.

The myth of population growth was strong until recently. A few years ago, the website of the Latvian centre for demography research included this image of the population boom, a 1997 painting by A. Bauskenieks called Demographic Explosion.
[...]

Fear of growing population was a cultural norm in the west until the 1990's, but the popular images of an inevitably crowded future have largely disappeared. Studies of future population, such as the IIASA World Population Program, familiarised scenarios of global population decline. Their 1996 "low-fertility high-mortality scenario" gave a projected world population in 2100, of just 3937 millions - one-third less than at present. The latest (2004) projections by the UN ESA Population Division include a scenario with just 2300 million in the year 2300. Of course there are uncertainties in population forecasts. In the World Population Prospects 2004 Revision, there is a difference of 4 billion between the low-fertility scenario and the constant-fertility scenario. In the ESA scenarios, there is a gap of no less than 34 billion people, between the lowest and the highest scenarios for 2300. The further into the future, the greater the uncertainties and margins - and demographers continue to warn of the huge population growth in the next 50 years: see World Population: Major Trends

However, there is a reason to believe that long-term decline is the realistic scenario. You may remember (from school geography) the four phases of the demographic transition. For most of history, birth rates and death rates were high, at around 40 per 1000. Global population grew, but slowly and erratically: the first phase. In the last three centuries, beginning in Europe, death rates fell sharply. At first, birth rates remained high, and population grew: the second phase. With increasing welfare, birth rates also began to fall, and population growth slowed down: the third phase. Finally, in the usual theory, birth and death rates would stabilise at around 10 per 1000. The process took about 250 to 300 years in Europe, but some regions in Africa and Asia entered the second phase only a generation ago.

But is this the end of the story? What happens if birth rates fall permanently below death rates? It seems that eastern European countries entered a fifth phase of the demographic transition - and there is no evidence that this will ever be reversed. This declining phase is now included in some versions of demographic transition theory. For the EU countries, the Eurostat study projected a fertility rate stable at 1,95. The fertility rate is, approximately, the number of children per woman: a rate of 2.1 is necessary for a stable population. An EU fertility rate of 1.95 is permanently under replacement level - and that is the high-fertility scenario.

Most countries have not entered a fifth phase yet. However the Eurostat projections show a pattern, where rich countries, one after the other, go into population decline. And low fertility is no longer specifically European, and no longer limited to rich industrial countries. According to World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, 43 developed and 23 developing countries have below-replacement fertility rates, and they contains 44% of the world's population. Sub-replacement fertility now affects countries such as Armenia, Cyprus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

It is no longer possible to say simply, that the end of the demographic transition is a stable population. Perhaps a shrinking population is "normal" - as growth was once considered to be "normal". Perhaps a shrinking population is characteristic of any planets with an advanced technology. If so, then Latvia and Estonia have also answered a theoretical question of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). The famous question, used by those who do not believe in extra-terrestrials: if there are billions of advanced civilisations, why are they not here to visit us? Look at the table of Latvian population, project it 10, 000 years into the future, and you have an answer: there are not enough aliens to build a spacecraft. All those huge galactic federations in science-fiction films, with billions of billions of alien inhabitants, may simply reflect mistaken demographic theory.

My Way News: Ted Nugent to Fellow NRAers: Get Hardcore

My Way News: "Ted Nugent to Fellow NRAers: Get Hardcore


With an assault weapon in each hand, rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent urged National Rifle Association members to be "hardcore, radical extremists demanding the right to self defense."

Speaking at the NRA's annual convention Saturday, Nugent said each NRA member should try to enroll 10 new members over the next year and associate only with other members.

"Let's next year sit here and say, 'Holy smokes, the NRA has 40 million members now,'" he said. "No one is allowed at our barbecues unless they are an NRA member. Do that in your life."

ThisisLondon- Order sperm online

ThisisLondonWomen's lives 'put at risk' by net firms

A row broke out today over sperm donations as internet companies are accused of putting women's lives at risk by dealing in untested samples.

Firms are sending out fresh sperm by courier to women for home insemination within two hours. One of the companies, SpermDirect.co.uk, based in Reading, claims that by providing fresh sperm it gets around new regulations which say donors can no longer have anonymity. The new rule only applies to frozen sperm. However, doctors

said today such businesses were putting women and their children at risk as the sperm samples did not undergo testing.

Eureka! Extraordinary discovery unlocks secrets of the ancients: Now able to unlock secrets of ancient manuscripts

News: "Eureka! Extraordinary discovery unlocks secrets of the ancients


Thousands of previously illegible manuscripts containing work by some of the greats of classical literature are being read for the first time using technology which experts believe will unlock the secrets of the ancient world.

Among treasures already discovered by a team from Oxford University are previously unseen writings by classical giants including Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod. Invisible under ordinary light, the faded ink comes clearly into view when placed under infra-red light, using techniques developed from satellite imaging.

The Oxford documents form part of the great papyrus hoard salvaged from an ancient rubbish dump in the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus more than a century ago. The thousands of remaining documents, which will be analysed over the next decade, are expected to include works by Ovid and Aeschylus, plus a series of Christian gospels which have been lost for up to 2,000 years."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Roundup Nabs More Than 10,000 Fugitives - My Way News

My Way NewsRoundup Nabs More Than 10,000 Fugitives

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 10,000 fugitives, many wanted for violent crimes, were rounded up over the past week in a coordinated nationwide effort led by U.S. marshals.

Officers from 960 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies took part in the concentrated search, which coincided with Crime Victims Rights Week, officials said. The dragnet caught 10,340 people, some of whom had two or more outstanding arrest warrants, Justice Department officials said.

More than 150 who were arrested were wanted for murder, another 550 were sought on rape or sexual assault charges, and more than 600 had outstanding arrest warrants for armed robbery, officials said. Among those captured were 150 gang members and 100 unregistered sex offenders, they said.
[...]
Among those arrested were escaped prisoners and criminal suspects who did not turn up for court proceedings.

Congress gave the Marshals Service more money and authority to go after fugitives when it refocused the FBI's mission toward stopping terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Turner said. The Marshals Service now has five permanent regional task forces to search for fugitives, he added.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The living legacy of jihad slavery -The American Thinker

The American Thinker

The fixed linkage between jihad - a permanent, uniquely Islamic institution - and enslavement, provides a very tenable explanation for the unparalleled scale and persistence of slavery in Muslim dominions, and societies. This general observation applies as well to “specialized” forms of slavery, including the (procurement and) employment of eunuchs, slave soldiering (especially of adolescents), other forms of child slavery, and harem slavery. Jihad slavery, in its myriad manifestations, became a powerful instrument for both expansive Islamization, and the maintenance of Muslim societies.

BBC NEWS : Rumsfeld warning to Iraq leaders

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Rumsfeld warning to Iraq leaders

Progress praised

Mr Rumsfeld urged the new Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, and the new President, Jalal Talabani, to avoid delays in setting up the new administration.

"It's important that the new government be attentive to the competence of the people in the ministries and that they avoid unnecessary turbulence," Mr Rumsfeld told journalists on his pre-dawn flight into Baghdad.

He said it was important for the security forces to continue building their strength because US forces were not going to be there for ever.

The defence secretary also praised progress made in forming a leadership that spanned Iraq's diverse groups.

Mr Jaafari acknowledged there would be problems ahead but expressed optimism that the new government could meet those challenges.

BBC NEWS: US legal legacy for Iraqi economy - Free Markets!

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | US legal legacy for Iraqi economy: "But it is the new rules governing Iraq's economy which have pitched observers into opposing ideological camps.

The rules have been welcomed by some observers - including London's Economist magazine, which hailed them as a 'capitalist's dream' - but others have dubbed them a 'corporate invasion'.


This is hyperliberal policy, but it's very good policy
Yahia Said
Economist, LSE
Orders 37 and 49 slash top tax rates from 45% to 15% - one of the lowest rates in the world. Order 54 abolishes all duties on imports to Iraq, apart from a 5% reconstruction levy. Order 39 allows 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi companies except in the oil, gas and banking sectors.

Put together, such laws have remodelled the Iraqi economy, making it one of the most open in the world.

Yahia Said, an Iraqi expert in transitional economies and post-conflict Iraq at the London School of Economics, is a supporter.

He agrees that these are all 'ideological laws' meant to have an irreversible effect.

'This is part of this whole neoconservative ideology... [designed to] create a beacon of free-market and liberal democracy in the Middle East,' he says.

'Living standards improved'

But he insists that many of Mr Bremer's decrees have had a very positive impact on the Iraqi economy.

Paul Bremer, right, receives the US's highest civil honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President George Bush in December 2004
Paul Bremer, right, enacted most of Iraq's current legal code
'For example, when he completely abolished all import duties, apart from the 5% reconstruction levy. In a country that has been starved under sanctions and embargoes, that improved living standards in Iraq,' Mr Said told the BBC News website, arguing that it gave Iraqis access to cheaper imports.

'Iraq [now] has absolutely no customs duties - as opposed to most other countries in the region where governments live off import duties and where import duties are a huge opportunity for corruption.

'Without them, you remove corruption, friction and bureaucracy, and you improve living standards.'


Free trade has really meant free imports and the removal of any kind of protection from Iraq's industry
Dr Kamil Mahdi
Economist, Exeter University
Mr Said says Iraq's ultra-low rates of income tax are also beneficial, creating an incentive for Iraqis to pay taxes, unlike in Russia, he says, where high tax rates after the Soviet collapse simply encouraged tax evasion on a huge scale.

But this view is challenged by Dr Kamil Mahdi, an Iraqi lecturer in Middle Eastern economics at Exeter University.

He charges the occupying powers in Iraq with failing to create conditions in which domestic industry - public and private - can regenerate."

CNN.com - Clever clock stops you sleeping late - Apr 4, 2005

CNN.com - Clever clock stops you sleeping late - Apr 4, 2005

(CNN) -- If you are not a morning person and find it difficult to get out of bed, then "Clocky" might be the thing to improve the start of your day.

A scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has invented the clever device, which will defy even the most determined alarm clock "snoozers."

Research associate Gauri Nanda's two-wheeled "Clocky" automatically rolls off the bedside table when the alarm goes off and the snooze button is pressed.

It travels around the room and its carpet-covered surface bumps into objects that come into its path, until it finds a resting place.

"Minutes later, when the alarm sounds again, the sleeper must get up out of bed and search for Clocky," says the 25-year-old scientist.

"This ensures that the person is fully awake before turning it off."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Scientists Create Remote-Controlled Flies

Scientists Create Remote-Controlled Flies:

Yale University researchers say their study that used lasers to create remote-controlled fruit flies could lead to a better understanding of overeating and violence in humans.

Using the lasers to stimulate specific brain cells, researchers say they were able to make the flies jump, walk, flap their wings and fly.

Even headless flies took flight when researchers stimulated the correct neurons, according to the study, published in the April 7 issue of the journal Cell.

Scientists say the study could ultimately help identify the cells associated with psychiatric disorders, overeating and aggressiveness.

Biologists have long known that an electrical stimulus can trigger muscle response, but this approach used focused beams of light to stimulate neurons that would have been impossible to study using electrodes.

Gero Miesenbock, associate professor of cell biology at Yale, said if the process could be duplicated on mice, researchers might be able to better understand the cellular activity that leads to certain behavior.
ADVERTISEMENT

'Ultimately, that could be important to understanding human psychiatric disorders,' Miesenbock said. 'That's really futuristic stuff.'"

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Guardian | Scientist calls for world DNA database

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Scientist calls for world DNA database:

Alok Jha, science correspondent
Monday April 11, 2005
The Guardian

Everyone in the world should have their genetic profile stored on a database, but the information should be held independently of the authorities, according to the pioneer of DNA fingerprinting.

Current practice means that only the DNA of criminals is stored in most countries and the information is held by government agencies.

At a lecture on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the discovery of DNA fingerprinting, Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, of Leicester University, said a global DNA database would have been invaluable in attempting to identify victims of the recent tsunami. Instead, investigators faced endless searches through incomplete records, or having to cause further distress to relatives of the victims.

Prof Jeffreys criticised the current version of the UK criminal DNA database and expressed concern about new laws that allow the authorities to add people who have not been convicted of any crime."
[...]

Now, "if you are taken to a police station in the context of a police investigation, the police have a right to demand a DNA test from you, and that profile will go on the database and stay there. That is a potentially serious infringement of civil liberties."

"Another area the police are interested in is rummaging around in DNA variation that tells you about the physical appearance of a person - ethnic origin, hair colour, eye colour, stature, facial appearance," he said. "I regard that as a massive infringement of genetic privacy."

On a more positive note, he described how making DNA fingerprints would become easier and cheaper. "There's a great deal of talk about a lab on a chip," he said. "People are now looking at ... miniaturising the whole process."

Speeding up DNA fingerprinting would lead to many new applications, not least in security. Instead of typing in a credit card pin number at the supermarket, people might just give a DNA sample. Spitting on a DNA testing chip at the checkout, he joked, might be the way people pay for their groceries in future.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Explosions in Space May Have Initiated Ancient Extinction on Earth | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference

Explosions in Space May Have Initiated Ancient Extinction on Earth | SpaceRef - Your Space ReferenceExplosions in Space May Have Initiated Ancient Extinction on Earth


Scientists at NASA and the University of Kansas say that a mass extinction on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago could have been triggered by a star explosion called a gamma-ray burst. The scientists do not have direct evidence that such a burst activated the ancient extinction. The strength of their work is their atmospheric modeling -- essentially a "what if" scenario.

The scientists calculated that gamma-ray radiation from a relatively nearby star explosion, hitting the Earth for only ten seconds, could deplete up to half of the atmosphere's protective ozone layer. Recovery could take at least five years. With the ozone layer damaged, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun could kill much of the life on land and near the surface of oceans and lakes, and disrupt the food chain.

Gamma-ray bursts in our Milky Way galaxy are indeed rare, but the scientists estimate that at least one nearby likely hit the Earth in the past billion years. Life on Earth is thought to have appeared at least 3.5 billion years ago. This research, supported by a NASA astrobiology grant, represents a thorough analysis of the "mass extinction" hypothesis first announced by members of this science team in September 2003.

"A gamma-ray burst originating within 6,000 light years from Earth would have a devastating effect on life," said Dr. Adrian Melott of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. "We don't know exactly when one came, but we're rather sure it did come -- and left its mark. What's most surprising is that just a 10-second burst can cause years of devastating ozone damage," Melott added.
[...]

Computer models show that up to half the ozone layer is destroyed within weeks. Five years on, at least 10 percent is still destroyed.

Next,researchers calculated the effect of ultraviolet radiation on life. Deep-sea creatures living several feet below water would be protected. Surface-dwelling plankton and other life near the surface, however, would not survive. Plankton is the foundation of the marine food chain.

Dr. Bruce Lieberman, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas, originated the idea that a gamma-ray burst specifically could have caused the great Ordovician extinction, 200 million years before the dinosaurs. An ice age is thought to have caused this extinction. However, gamma-ray burst could have caused a fast die-out early on and also could have triggered the significant drop in surface temperature on Earth.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Labs selling DNA assessments - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.com

Labs selling DNA assessments - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.comLabs selling DNA assessments
Costly tests offer predictions of future illnesses
By Ariana Eunjung Cha


SEATTLE - The boxes arrive in the mail by the dozens each day and are stacked in neat rows in the laboratory. Inside are swabs of the inside cheek, drops of blood, material that the senders hope will give them a peek at the life they have been dealt by their genes.

Over the next few weeks, Genelex Corp. technician Dascena Vincent and her colleagues here will conduct what they call a nutritional genetic assessment, analyzing the DNA samples for certain deficiencies. Problems in the genes that handle dietary fats? That could put you at risk for heart disease. Trouble with those that help rid your body of toxins like smoke? Cancer could be an issue later in life. And how about those associated with metabolizing vitamin D? Be watchful for signs of deteriorating bone strength.

Based on the findings, the company provides recommendations on diet, lifestyle changes and categories of medications that might work best for an individual. Depending on how many tests the customer has ordered, the bill -- which typically isn't covered by insurance -- could be $400 or more.


• More health coverage
Companies such as Genelex are pushing medical science into territory that was once the realm of gods and horoscope writers. They are making predictions about what someone's health might be in five, 10, 20 or more years. Other testing facilities around the country offer genetic assessments of what they claim is people's future propensity towards diabetes, liver disease, blood clots, dementia -- even alcoholism and gambling.

There are now tests for more than 1,100 ailments, double what was on the market five years ago, according to GeneTests, a public education service based at the University of Washington and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Labs selling DNA assessments - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.com

Labs selling DNA assessments - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.comLabs selling DNA assessments
Costly tests offer predictions of future illnesses
By Ariana Eunjung Cha


SEATTLE - The boxes arrive in the mail by the dozens each day and are stacked in neat rows in the laboratory. Inside are swabs of the inside cheek, drops of blood, material that the senders hope will give them a peek at the life they have been dealt by their genes.

Over the next few weeks, Genelex Corp. technician Dascena Vincent and her colleagues here will conduct what they call a nutritional genetic assessment, analyzing the DNA samples for certain deficiencies. Problems in the genes that handle dietary fats? That could put you at risk for heart disease. Trouble with those that help rid your body of toxins like smoke? Cancer could be an issue later in life. And how about those associated with metabolizing vitamin D? Be watchful for signs of deteriorating bone strength.

Based on the findings, the company provides recommendations on diet, lifestyle changes and categories of medications that might work best for an individual. Depending on how many tests the customer has ordered, the bill -- which typically isn't covered by insurance -- could be $400 or more.


• More health coverage
Companies such as Genelex are pushing medical science into territory that was once the realm of gods and horoscope writers. They are making predictions about what someone's health might be in five, 10, 20 or more years. Other testing facilities around the country offer genetic assessments of what they claim is people's future propensity towards diabetes, liver disease, blood clots, dementia -- even alcoholism and gambling.

There are now tests for more than 1,100 ailments, double what was on the market five years ago, according to GeneTests, a public education service based at the University of Washington and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Ukrainian President Appeals to Congress for Aid, Improved Ties (washingtonpost.com)

Ukrainian President Appeals to Congress for Aid, Improved Ties (washingtonpost.com)Ukrainian President Appeals to Congress for Aid, Improved Ties

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A21

With a triumphant flourish, as American lawmakers waved orange scarves in support, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko capped his first U.S. tour since taking office by beseeching a joint meeting of Congress yesterday to help anchor his troubled nation firmly in the West.

Summoning the spirits of Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, the leader of the "Orange Revolution" that toppled a discredited government in Kiev called for "a new era in U.S.-Ukrainian relations" that would make his country a model democracy fully integrated in such Euro-Atlantic institutions as NATO.

Congress gave him a hero's welcome. Only a few foreign leaders are accorded the honor of addressing a joint meeting. The assembled senators and representatives greeted Yushchenko by chanting his name as he entered the House chamber and waving orange scarves and hats in recognition of the campaign color that became a symbol of the peaceful street revolt he led last December, overturning a fraudulent election. Vice President Cheney, wearing an orange tie, attended, as did most of President Bush's Cabinet.

The address was a powerful climax to a three-day trip in which he also lunched with the president at the White House, received the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award in Boston and visited his wife's home town of Chicago. His wife, Kateryna Chumachenko Yushchenko, an American-born Ukrainian, also appealed for American help at a luncheon yesterday in Washington.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wired News: Cousteau Sub Mimics Great White

Wired News: Cousteau Sub Mimics Great White:

The grandson of famous oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau believes the best way to learn about sharks is to become one.

Fabien Cousteau, inspired as a child by the comic book Red Rackham's Treasure, where the main character, Tintin, adventures underwater in a shark-shaped submarine, decided as an adult to build his own.

'It's the same thought process as Jane Goodall or Diane Fossey. You don't want to separate yourself from the animal. You want to be part of the animal's realm,' Cousteau said.

Cousteau enlisted the services of renowned Hollywood design engineer and animatronics expert Eddie Paul to build a great white submarine.

'It's extremely innovative' said Cousteau. 'It's a 1,200-pound tool that looks, feels and moves like a great white shark.'"

Mugged by la Realite: Thousands of Arabs and Blacks attack white students in massive race riot in France

Mugged by la Realite:

"FREDERIC ENCEL, PROFESSOR OF international relations at the prestigious Ecole Nationale d'Administration in Paris and a man not known for crying wolf, recently stated that France is becoming a new Lebanon. The implication, far-fetched though it may seem, was that civil upheaval might be no more than a few years off, sparked by growing ethnic and religious polarization. In recent weeks, a series of events has underlined this ominous trend.

On March 8, tens of thousands of high school students marched through central Paris to protest education reforms announced by the government. Repeatedly, peaceful demonstrators were attacked by bands of black and Arab youths--about 1,000 in all, according to police estimates. The eyewitness accounts of victims, teachers, and most interestingly the attackers themselves gathered by the left-wing daily Le Monde confirm the motivation: racism.

Some of the attackers openly expressed their hatred of 'little French people.' One 18-year-old named Heikel, a dual citizen of France and Tunisia, was proud of his actions. He explained that he had joined in just to 'beat people up,' especially 'little Frenchmen who look like victims.' He added with a satisfied smile that he had 'a pleasant memory' of repeatedly kicking a student, already defenseless on the ground.

Another attacker explained the violence by saying that 'little whites' don't know how to fight and 'are afraid because they are cowards.' Rachid, an Arab attacker, added that even an Arab can be considered a 'little white' if he 'has a French mindset.' The general sentiment was a desire
to 'take revenge on whites.'"
[...]


Julliard, writing in the Nouvel Observateur, expressed dismay at the lack of public outcry over this display of racial hatred. He added that the left had already made the mistake of not denouncing violence in schools or soaring crime rates. And he sharply rejected the view endorsed by most left-wing organizations and individuals that the violence was an expression of class struggle, a clash between rich and poor. "Anyone should be ashamed," Julliard wrote, "after all we went through in the 20th century, to offer such a coarse explanation. . . . There is no good and bad racism."

Interestingly enough, Serge Romano, a leading representative of the black community who did not sign the public statement, readily admitted, "The young people came to beat up whites." He called the event "a catastrophe," but added, "we unfortunately expected it." One of the major anti-racist organizations, LICRA (Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme), pointed out that the same people and organizations who failed to recognize the wave of anti-Semitism in France beginning in 2000-2001 are today unwilling to face up to an outbreak of racial violence.

By coincidence, last week the French government's human rights commission delivered to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin its 2004 report on racism and anti-Semitism in France. The report underscores a worrisome pattern of retreat into separate ethnic communities. And the evidence of hostility is sobering: The number of violent acts and threats nearly doubled, from 833 in 2003 to a record 1,565 in 2004. Of these, 62 percent were
directed against Jews, who make up just 1 percent of France's population.

These figures, of course, capture only incidents sufficiently severe to come to the attention of the authorities. Beneath the radar are other incidents, seemingly petty, yet telling, such as one I happened to witness in a Paris department store a few months back. A woman was pushing her baby in a stroller down an aisle. Behind her was a well-dressed, prosperous-looking Arab woman in a hurry. Suddenly the Arab woman pushed the mother, saying, "Move, dirty Frenchwoman" ("Dégage, sale française"). The familiar epithet "dirty Jew" is apparently being extended for more general use.

Another remarkable verbal innovation is the use of the word "Gaulois"--an inhabitant of Gaul, the part of the Roman Empire that became France--to identify the non-Jewish, non-Muslim, non-black French. Today, the term is used mostly by Muslims and blacks, but, amazingly enough, French whites are starting to pick it up as the rift between ethnic communities grows wider. Journalist Stéphanie Marteau, in an online interview about her new book on Muslim France, for example, speaks of "the Gaulois vote."

Nowhere are the new tensions more obvious than in schools, as documented in a report on the Islamization of French schools delivered to the minister of education in late 2004 by the inspector general of national education, Jean-Pierre Obin. Not publicly released at the time, it has since been leaked and posted on the website Proche-Orient.info.

Obin discusses the attitudes of Muslim students, some as young as first graders. He reports, for instance, that Muslim students, asked their nationality, answer, "Muslim." When they are told that this is not a nationality and they are French, some insist that they can't be French since they are Muslim. This should come as no surprise. The presidential commission that examined the issue of secularism in 2003 reported that "extremist groups are working to test the Republic's strength and push some young people to reject France and her values."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Primitive brain is 'smarter' than we think, MIT study shows

Primitive brain is 'smarter' than we think, MIT study shows - MIT News Office

Primitive structures deep within the brain may have a far greater role in our high-level everyday thinking processes than previously believed, report researchers at the MIT Picower Center for Learning and Memory in the Feb. 24 issue of Nature.

The results of this study led by Earl K. Miller, associate director of the Picower Center at MIT, have implications about how we learn. The new knowledge also may lead to better understanding and treatment for autism and schizophrenia, which could result from an imbalance between primitive and more advanced brain systems.

Our brains have evolved a fast, reliable way to learn rules such as 'stop at red' and 'go at green.' Dogma has it that the 'big boss' lobes of the cerebral cortex, responsible for daily and long-term decision-making, learn the rules first and then transfer the knowledge to the more primitive, large forebrain region known as the basal ganglia, buried under the cortex."

Research Shows Sex Satisfies as Much as Money - The Hilltop

Research Shows Sex Satisfies as Much as Money - The Hilltop - Life & Style

Each person seeks happiness, whether their happiness stems from money, cars, family, education, a mansion on the hill or sex. But who knew that sex could provide happiness for longer than an hour?

The latest news is that if you increase your sexual activity from once a month to once a week, your happiness will be equal to someone who receives a $50,000 annual pay raise.

"Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study" is a recent study by David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald. Compare two people, for instance, with the same job qualifications and characteristics and one of them was happily married. The person who is single would have to make an extra $100,000 a year in order to be as happy as the married one. It seems that the most happiness stems from the idea of having just one partner.

Herald.com | 04/03/2005 | Syria is fulcrum of `axis of evil'

Herald.com | 04/03/2005 | Syria is fulcrum of `axis of evil':

"Today the immediate objective of this Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas-Islamic Jihad axis is to destabilize Syria's neighbors (Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Authority) and sabotage any Arab-Israeli peace. Its strategic aim is to quash the Arab Spring, which if not stopped would isolate, surround and seriously imperil these remaining centers of terror and radicalism.

How then to defeat it? Iran is too large, oil-rich and entrenched to be confronted directly. The terror groups are too shadowy. But Syria is different. Being a state, it has an address. The identity and location of its leadership, military installations and other fixed assets are known. Unlike Iran, however, it has no oil of any significance. It is poor and the regime is weak, despised not only for its corruption and incompetence, but also because of its extremely narrow ethnic base. Assad and his gang are almost exclusively from the Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot considered heretical by many Muslims and representing about 10 percent of the Syrian population.

Syria is the prize. It is vulnerable and critical, the geographic center of the axis, the transshipment point for weapons, and the territorial haven for Iranian and regional terrorists.

If Syria can be flipped, the axis is broken. Iran will not be able to communicate directly with the local terrorists. They will be further weakened by the loss of their Syrian sponsor and protector. Prospects both for true Lebanese independence and Arab-Israeli peace would improve dramatically.

As Iraq, in fits and starts, begins finding its way to self-rule, the center of gravity of the Bush Doctrine and the American democratization project shifts to Lebanon/Syria. The rapid evacuation and collapse of the Syrian position in Lebanon is crucial not just because of what it will do for Lebanon, but because of the weakening effect it will have on the Assad dictatorship.

We need therefore to be relentless in insisting on a full (and as humiliating as possible) evacuation of Syria from Lebanon, followed by a campaign of economic, political and military pressure on the Assad regime. We must push now -- and hard."

Monday, April 04, 2005

TCS: Tech Central Station - The Future of Life in America... and Around the World - Robots!

TCS: Tech Central Station - The Future of Life in America... and Around the World

Asimo

Where is it written that "life" has to be carbon-based? Why can't it be silicon-based, or metal-based?



That's the thinking in Japan, where two huge forces -- the low birth rate and the reluctance to admit immigrants -- have caused a civilization-level crisis in that island nation. American consumers might be casually familiar with what the Japanese are up to; Sony's Aibo "dog" has gained attention as a novelty, and Honda has even advertised its Asimo robot in Entertainment Weekly.



But most Americans have no idea that the Japanese aren't building robots as pets or toys; they are building robots to replace… the Japanese, as they grow old and die, leaving behind few if any children. The Tokyo government calls 2005 the "year of the robot"; indeed, 'bots are the star of the show at the World Expo in Nagoya, which opened on March 25.



Are the robots humanoid, or anything close? Not yet. But soon, they will be. As a March 11 report in The Washington Post explained,



"Though perhaps years away in the United States, this long-awaited, as-seen-on-TV world -- think 'The Jetsons' or 'Blade Runner' -- is already unfolding in Japan, with robots now used as receptionists, night watchmen, hospital workers, guides, pets and more."



The Japanese government predicts that every household in Japan will own at least one robot by 2015. Indeed, even today, American Molly Wood, of CNET, visiting the Expo, writes, "I can pretty easily imagine having one around if I were, say, working at home with a young child to entertain."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

TCS: Tech Central Station - Robotic Death from Above

TCS: Tech Central Station - Robotic Death from Above




The handwriting was on the wall -- or in the sky as it were -- when an unmanned Predator aircraft destroyed a Taliban target in late 2001 with a Hellfire missile. We're now ushering in an era of fighter-bombers that will strike targets with deadly efficiency while putting no American pilots in harm's way.



Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV) will make today's piloted planes seem like flying bricks by comparison, with advantages too long to list here. For starters though, no pilot means a lighter, smaller, and cheaper aircraft. Large canopies, pilot displays, and environmental control systems will disappear.


"The UCAV offers new design freedoms that can be exploited to produce a smaller, simpler aircraft, about half the size of a conventional fighter aircraft," according to the Federation of American Scientists. It would weigh only about one-third to one-fourth as much as a manned plane. Costs will also be slashed. Boeing's X-45 UCAV will probably be a third the price of the forthcoming manned F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to the defense policy website GlobalSecurity.org.



Moreover, typically 80 percent of the useful life of today's combat aircraft is devoted to pilot training and proficiency flying. Therefore a UCAV would require a fraction of the maintenance time and spare parts of a manned vehicle.



You can forget about pilot fatigue since controls can easily be handed off to somebody else. Pilot error will be greatly reduced since the controller will never be worrying about losing his own skin.

Iraqis Tap Sunni for Parliament Speaker: Newsday.com

Newsday.com: Iraqis Tap Sunni for Parliament Speaker:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Lawmakers broke days of rancorous stalemate Sunday and reached out to Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority for their parliament speaker, cutting through ethnic and sectarian barriers that have held up selection of a new government for more than two months since the country's first free elections in 50 years.

Deputies still face, however, difficult choices for Cabinet posts and failed again to name a new president -- broadly expected to be Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. That choice and those of two vice presidents were put off until a Wednesday session that could mark a major milestone as Iraq tries to build a democratic government and civil society.


Once the president and his deputies are selected, they have 14 days to choose a prime minister, the most powerful position in Iraq's envisioned government hierarchy. That job was widely believed reserved for Ibrahim al-Jaafari, of the Shiite Muslim majority.

Pressure is building on parliamentarians, with some growing frustrated with the slow pace of forming a government, because they have an Aug. 15 deadline to write a permanent constitution -- a task that cannot be undertaken until a government is in place.

Sunday's selection as speaker -- Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani, one of only 17 Sunni Arabs in parliament -- could signal progress in the political tussle over selecting politicians for key Cabinet posts, a process that has been snarled by disagreement over how to reach out to the Sunnis. "

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Junk food 'helps pupils pass exams': UK Telegraph

Telegraph | News | Junk food 'helps pupils pass exams': "

Children do better in exams if they are given junk food for lunch, new research has found.

The findings seem to contradict the approach taken by the chef Jamie Oliver, who has run a campaign for healthier school meals.

Jamie Oliver
The findings contradict Jamie Oliver's approach

Researchers found that struggling schools were manipulating their lunch menus to give pupils a lift before vital exams.

The menus were loaded with pizzas, hot dogs, chocolate drinks and biscuits and improved test results immediately afterwards.

The research, conducted in America and published in the British Journal of Public Economics, found that many American schools used computers to monitor the nutritional content of their meals."

IRAQ: Sunni Arab Clerics Giving Up On Al Qaeda: StrategyPage.com

military news about Iraq

IRAQ: Sunni Arab Clerics Giving Up On Al Qaeda



April 1, 2005: Another major Shia religious festival, which lasted from 29-31 March, ended without incident. The government made a major effort to provide security for the large gatherings of Shia Arabs attending religious ceremonies and moving around in southern Iraq. Sunni Arab terrorists, especially al Qaeda, consider these ceremonies a major insult to Sunni religious beliefs. The government deployed a security effort on the same level as the one rolled out for the January elections. Coalition troops deployed mostly as back up and quick reaction forces. Al Qaeda tried to use suicide car bombers, but none of them got through to large assemblies of Shia Arabs. In one incident, a car bomb went off and killed five people, which was the most any of the attacks were able to do.

Another reason the attacks were not successful was that, in the days before March 29th, police arrested hundreds of Sunni Arabs and foreigners suspected of being terrorists. Many were, and this is because an increasing number of Sunni Arab religious leaders have changed their minds about armed resistance to democracy, and coalition forces. This has made it easier for Sunni Arabs to pass on information to the police. The Sunni religious leaders have done the math and concluded that they were backing the losing side. Some have made deals with the government, to provide information, or pro-government sermons, in return for favorable treatment (money, access to jobs for their followers, reconstruction projects). But most have simply stopped preaching violence, or cut back on the intensity of their calls for violence against Kurds, Sunni Arabs and infidels (non-Moslems). Many Sunni Arab clerics have also noted that most of their followers are not in favor of terror attacks that kill Iraqis, no matter what their religion or ethnicity. The terrorists have largely given up attacking American troops. The level of such attacks is about half what it was a year ago. The reason is that the attackers are much more likely to fail, and get killed, when they attack American troops. It's much easier, and safer, to attack Iraqi civilians, or even Iraqi police and troops. But the Iraqi government forces are becoming more lethal as well, and Iraqi government forces usually have American troops backing them up.

The impact of all this has been striking. The overall level of terrorist violence has fallen by about half in the last month. Terrorist attacks that target Iraqis has been very unpopular in Iraq, and caused even many Sunni Arabs to turn against al Qaeda and Sunni Arab terrorist organizations. But at the street level, most Iraqis are more concerned with criminal gangs (who commit far more violence against Iraqis than terrorists) and corruption (which is encountered daily, while you might go weeks without even hearing about a terror attack in your neighborhood.)

Sunnis urged to join Iraqi police: BBC NEWS

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Sunnis urged to join Iraqi police


Sunnis form the bulk of the anti-US insurgency, which frequently attacks the police and army.

A Iraqi government spokesman said the call on Sunnis to participate in the security forces was a welcome change.
[...]

Political balance

Until recently, many Sunni clerics had branded the security forces as US collaborators.

The army and police are largely dominated by Shias and Kurds.

Map of Iraq showing location of Khan Bani Saad

Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai of the Association of Muslim Scholars said Sunni membership was necessary to prevent the forces falling into "the hands of those who have caused chaos, destruction and violated the sanctities".

However, the group consisting of 64 clerics and scholars also told Sunnis not to help foreign troops against their own countrymen.

The change of heart appears to have been prompted by January's elections when millions of Iraqis defied the insurgents to cast their ballots, says the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad.

Sunnis mostly boycotted the vote but have since been rethinking their role in Iraq's political future.

MSNBC - GM rolls out world's first fuel-cell truck

MSNBC - GM rolls out world's first fuel-cell truck

The modified Chevrolet Silverado crew-cab truck will be leased to the Defense Department for noncombat uses at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., and tested in various climates and terrain around the country until July 2006.

Its electric engine emits a high-pitched whine, but a key feature in future fuel-cell models developed with the military will be stealth — along with better fuel consumption and zero tailpipe emissions.

“Noise on the battlefield is not a good thing when you don't want to be found,” Nadeau said.

Instead of gasoline, the fuel cells run on energy produced when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed, and the only byproduct is water vapor.

The truck is powered by two hydrogen fuel cell stacks and can travel 125 miles. It can carry up to 1,600 pounds, accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 19 seconds and has a top speed of 93 mph.

Since 2003, President Bush has pushed a five-year, $1.7 billion research program to develop hydrogen as an energy source. Most major automakers are developing hydrogen fuel cells, but cost and a lack of fueling stations make the vehicles unmarketable for now.

CNN.com - An unholy alliance between white racists and Muslim Jihadis - Mar 29, 2005

CNN.com - An unholy alliance - Mar 29, 2005

Florida (CNN) -- A couple of hours up the road from where some September 11 hijackers learned to fly, the new head of Aryan Nation is praising them -- and trying to create an unholy alliance between his white supremacist group and al Qaeda.

"You say they're terrorists, I say they're freedom fighters. And I want to instill the same jihadic feeling in our peoples' heart, in the Aryan race, that they have for their father, who they call Allah."

With his long beard and potbelly, August Kreis looks more like a washed up member of ZZ Top than an aspiring revolutionary.

Don't let appearances fool you: his résumé includes stops at some of America's nastiest extremist groups -- Posse Comitatus, the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation.

"I don't believe that they were the ones that attacked us," Kreis said. "And even if they did, even if you say they did, I don't care!"

Kreis wants to make common cause with al Qaeda because, he says, they share the same enemies: Jews and the American government.
[...]

Supremacist, Islamist connections

The idea of a Nazi-Islamic alliance dates back to World War II, when Adolf Hitler played host to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, that city's Muslim leader. Some Nazis, moreover, found refuge in places like Egypt and Syria after the war.

Three years ago, I met a Swiss Islamic convert named Ahmed Huber, who began his life as a devotee of Adolf Hitler and moved on to praising former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who led that nation's Islamic revolution and vigorously opposed U.S. policies.

Huber wanted to forge a fresh alliance between Islamic radicals and neo-Nazis in Europe and the United States. And he cannot be simply dismissed as a crackpot: Huber served on the board of directors of a Swiss bank and holding company that President Bush accused of helping fund al Qaeda.

Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that while some U.S. extremists applauded the September 11 attacks, there is no indication of such an alliance -- at least not yet, and not on a large scale. If it exists anywhere, he said, it is in the mind (and the Internet postings) of August Kreis.

For its part, the FBI says it hasn't seen any links between American white supremacists and groups like al Qaeda.

"The notion of radical Islamists from abroad actually getting together with American neo-Nazis I think is an absolutely frightening one," said Potok. "It's just that so far we really have no evidence at all to suggest this is any kind of real collaboration."

Wow! Looks like the Nazis and the extremist Muslims have a lot in common! I love how liberals call Bush another Hitler, when actually Hitler was in favor of suicide bombers and militant Muslims and hated Jews just like the Jihadis do. There was actually an SS unit made up of Bosnian Muslims started by the Grand Mufti. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem actually visited concentration camps and urged the SS butchers to work faster and kill more Jews! And did I mention the Mufti was Arafat's uncle? Liberals, who claim to hate racism, are actually supporting insanely violent Muslim neo-nazis, essentially. Kind of makes your head spin!

Iraqi troops increase role in Sunni Triangle-Middle East Newsline -

Middle East Newsline -IRAQI TROOPS INCREASE ROLE IN SUNNI TRIANGLE

BAGHDAD [MENL] -- Iraq has quietly expanded its security responsibility to the worst areas of the Sunni Triangle.

Iraqi officials said army and police forces have been given a larger role in operations in the Anbar province near the Syrian border. Al Anbar has been deemed the largest stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.

'Hopefully, within 18 months at the most we will be capable of securing Iraq,' Iraqi Interior Minister Falah Naqib said on Monday. 'We hope that next summer, there will be a huge reduction in the numbers of multinational patrols. In some cities, there will be no foreign troops at all.'

Over the last week, Iraqi and U.S. forces have captured two Sunni insurgency bases around Baghdad. More than 85 insurgents were killed and about 100 others were captured."