Monday, May 30, 2005

Newsday.com: Syria Tries to Tackle Foreign Fighters

Newsday.com: Syria Tries to Tackle Foreign Fighters:

"Syria, in turn, has repeatedly said it is doing all it can to stop would-be insurgents from slipping across the 380-mile-long border -- most of it desert.

Washington and Baghdad intensified their criticism of Syria after insurgents stepped up their attacks, killing more than 700 people since the April 28 swearing-in of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Much of the criticism of Syria appears to be political. The foreign fighters issue has been a favorite Washington pressure point, even though U.S. military and intelligence officials in Iraq have long played down Syria's role. The insurgency, they have said, is overwhelmingly Iraqi. The foreign infiltrators have their choice of Iraq's six international borders, not just the frontier with Syria.

Military analysts say there are several U.S. incentives for blaming Syria. Depicting Iraq as a haven for foreign terrorists validates President Bush's claims that Iraq is the center of the global war on terrorism. And branding the insurgency as foreign-inspired hides the fact that many Iraqis actively oppose the U.S.-led invasion.

Even so, Syria appears to be trying to meet U.S. demands by publicizing its actions against would-be border-crossers. Syria said it detained hundreds of foreigners trying to infiltrate Iraq.

Syria's U.N. ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, said Thursday that more than 1,200 people were arrested in recent weeks for trying to cross into Iraq. Many were sent back to their home countries, including Saudi Arabia, because of suspicions they were trying to join the insurgency.

'Syria has never been friendly to such elements, who are declared enemies of Syria as well,' Mekdad said.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said Syria handed over more than 30 of its citizens who were trying to enter Iraqi to support the insurgency.

'The move underlines Syria's cooperation with the United States in controlling the borders with Iraq,' Syrian political analyst Ayman Abdul Nour said.

But it was unclear whether all the deported Saudis were intent on joining the insurgents.

'You can't take for granted that everyone arrested is connected to terrorism,' said Brig. Mansour al-Turki, Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry spokesman. 'Some of them are connected with other crimes or with outstanding court summonses.'

The circumstances of their arrests in Syria were not clear. Al-Turki did not have exact figures on how many Saudis were sent back.

'Handing over infiltrators to their countries of origin shows that Syria is very serious in controlling its borders with Iraq,' said Marwan Qabalan, a professor at Damascus' Center for Strategic Studies.

The head of Syria's state-run television on Monday urged the government to impose entry visa requirements to safeguard Syrian security.

Syria does not require entry visas for citizens of Arab countries, making it an attractive holiday destination and an easier route for Arab foreign fighters to get close to the Iraqi border. "

Sunday, May 29, 2005

US to widen focus against extremism - The Boston Globe

US to widen focus against extremism - The Boston Globe - Boston.com :

The Bush administration has launched a high-level review of its efforts to battle terrorism, aimed at moving away from a policy that has stressed efforts to capture and kill Al Qaeda leaders and toward what an official called a broader ''strategy against violent extremism."
[...]

"The review marks the first ambitious effort since the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks to take stock of the US war on terrorism.

''What we really want now is a strategic approach to defeat violent extremism,' said a senior administration official who described the review on the condition of anonymity because it is not finished.

In many ways, this is the culmination of a debate about how to target not only Al Qaeda but also broader support in the Muslim world for radical Islam. Administration officials refused to describe in detail what new policies are under consideration, and several sources familiar with the discussions said some issues remain sticking points, such as how central the war in Iraq is to the antiterrorist effort, and how to accommodate State Department desires to normalize a foreign policy that has stressed terrorism.

''There's been a perception, a sense of drift in overall terrorism policy. People have not figured out what we do next, so we just continue to pick 'em off one at a time,' said Roger Cressey, who served as a counterterrorism official at the National Security Council under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. ''We haven't gone to a new level to figure out how things have changed since 9/11.'

Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called ''the bleed out' of hundreds or thousands of people trained in Iraq back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. ''It's a new piece of a new equation,' a former Bush administration official said. ''If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?'

Another aspect is likely to be diplomacy efforts aimed at winning over Arab sentiment, and a State Department official, Paul Simons, said at a congressional hearing this month that the ''internal deliberative process' was conceived to encompass everything from further crackdowns on terrorist financing networks to policies aimed at curbing the teaching of holy war against the West and other ''tools with respect to the global war on terrorism.'

The policy review was initiated this spring by the NSC and is being"

Iraqi forces launch biggest mission since Saddam

Iraqi forces launch biggest mission since Saddam: "Iraqi forces launch biggest mission since Saddam

By Andrew Marshall
Reuters

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi forces launched their biggest security crackdown since the fall of Saddam Hussein with the start of Operation Lightning on Sunday, a sweep by 40,000 Iraqi troops who will seal off Baghdad and hunt for insurgents.

Backed by the 10,000 U.S. troops in the capital, Iraqi soldiers will block major routes into Baghdad and search the city district by district, looking for foreign Arab fighters and Iraqi guerrillas, Iraqi officials say.

But by Sunday evening, there were few signs of a heightened security presence in Baghdad, although checkpoints were set up in the north and south of the city and cars were searched. Officials said the operation would gather steam in coming days.

The launch of the crackdown comes after a sharp increase in suicide bombings and ambushes by insurgents who have killed around 700 people in the past month since a new Shi'ite Islamist-led government was announced.

At least 70 U.S. troops have been killed in the same period, the highest monthly American death toll since January when insurgents were trying to derail the Jan. 30 elections.

'The operation began today. The troops will block all entrances of Baghdad to prevent terrorists from conducting activities in the capital. It's a crackdown on the terrorism infrastructure,' a Defense Ministry official told Reuters.

The operation was announced on Thursday -- potentially giving insurgents the chance to flee Baghdad before it began."

Iraqi soldiers are beginning to take charge of their own security. The circle is almost complete.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Scientific American Mind: Natural-Born Liars

Scientific American Mind: Natural-Born Liars:

"In 1983 Byrne and Whiten began noticing deceptive tactics among the mountain baboons in Drakensberg, South Africa. Catarrhine primates, the group that includes the Old World monkeys, apes and ourselves, are all able to tactically dupe members of their own species. The deceptiveness is not built into their appearance, as with the mirror orchid, nor is it encapsulated in rigid behavioral routines like those of the hog-nosed snake. The primates' repertoires are calculated, flexible and exquisitely sensitive to shifting social contexts.

Byrne and Whiten catalogued many such observations, and these became the basis for their celebrated Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis, which states that the extraordinary explosion of intelligence in primate evolution was prompted by the need to master ever more sophisticated forms of social trickery and manipulation. Primates had to get smart to keep up with the snowballing development of social gamesmanship.

The Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis suggests that social complexity propelled our ancestors to become progressively more intelligent and increasingly adept at wheeling, dealing, bluffing and conniving. That means human beings are natural-born liars. And in line with other evolutionary trends, our talent for dissembling dwarfs that of our nearest relatives by several orders of magnitude.

The complex choreography of social gamesmanship remains central to our lives today. The best deceivers continue to reap advantages denied to their more honest or less competent peers. Lying helps us facilitate social interactions, manipulate others and make friends.

There is even a correlation between social popularity and deceptive skill. We falsify our resume to get jobs, plagiarize essays to boost grade-point averages and pull the wool over the eyes of potential sexual partners to lure them into bed. Research shows that liars are often better able to get jobs and attract members of the opposite sex into relationships. Several years later Feldman demonstrated that the adolescents who are most popular in their schools are also better at fooling their peers. Lying continues to work. Although it would be self-defeating to lie all the time (remember the fate of the boy who cried, 'Wolf!'), lying often and well remains a passport to social, professional and economic success."

New Scientist 11 steps to a better brain - Features

New Scientist 11 steps to a better brain - Features:

"It doesn't matter how brainy you are or how much education you've had - you can still improve and expand your mind. Boosting your mental faculties doesn't have to mean studying hard or becoming a reclusive book worm. There are lots of tricks, techniques and habits, as well as changes to your lifestyle, diet and behaviour that can help you flex your grey matter and get the best out of your brain cells. And here are 11 of them."

Winds of Change.NET: Enter Operation Thunder

Winds of Change.NET: Enter Operation Thunder: "

In the wake of American led offensives in Western Iraq and Haditha, the Iraqi government has stated it is prepared to commit a massive force to take the initiative away from the insurgency. Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi has announced Operation Thunder will commence shortly and will consist of over 40,000 Iraqi troops. The purpose is to secure Baghdad then fan out to other trouble spots, presumably in the restive Anbar province.

It will initially focus on Baghdad but will then expand to other parts of the country. [Defense Minister] Dulaimi did not say when the operation would begin. 'These operations will aim to turn the government's role from defensive to offensive.'… He said troops would be drawn from interior and defence ministry forces and would begin operating in the capital, with the city divided into sections, a unit responsible for each. 'We will also impose a stringent blockade around Baghdad, like a bracelet around an arm, God willing, and God be with us in our crackdown on the terrorists' infrastructure. No one will be able to penetrate this blockade.'

The ability to muster 40,000 Iraqi troops for a persistent offensive speaks volumes on the progress of the Iraqi security forces, as well as the security situation in other provinces in Iraq. Either the Iraqi government has accumulated a significant excess of available forces, or these forces are being pulled from other areas of Iraq deemed to be secure, or a combination of the two.

The announcement of Operation Thunder puts the recent offensives of Operation Matatdor and Operation New Market into perspective. The American led strikes appear to be designed to weaken the presence of the insurgency in selected hot spots while the Iraqi government prepares its forces to move into these regions and hold them permanently."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Foreign Policy: Arabs in Foreign Lands

Foreign Policy: Arabs in Foreign LandsArabs in Foreign Lands
By Moisés Naím

What the success of Arab Americans tells us about Europe, the Middle East, and the power of culture.

People of Arab descent living in the United States are doing far better than the average American. That is the surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and released last March. The census found that U.S. residents who report having Arab ancestors are better educated and wealthier than average Americans.

Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300—4.6 percent higher than other American families—and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s.

That immigrants do better than their compatriots back home is of course no surprise. What is far less common is for immigrants to perform that much better than the average population of their adopted home. This fact should prompt important debates that transcend how Arab immigrants are faring in the United States.

Consider, for example, the popular notion that cultural factors loom large behind the Middle East’s appalling poverty. Cultural explanations for why some succeed when others fail have a long history. In 1904, German sociologist Max Weber famously argued that the “Protestant ethic” was more compatible with capitalism than religions such as Confucianism and Taoism. Of course, the Asian economic miracle forced a revision of these assumptions. The same thing happened to “Asian values,” the idea that cultural factors explained the region’s phenomenal rates of economic growth. The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s gave that cultural theory an even shorter shelf life.

The Middle East’s poor economic and social performance today has also prompted explanations of some malignancy in the prevailing culture. The respected Harvard University historian David S. Landes wrote in his 1998 book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, that the ill that plagues these countries “lies with the culture, which (1) does not generate an informed and capable work force; (2) continues to mistrust or reject new techniques and ideas that come from the enemy West (Christendom) and (3) does not respect such knowledge as members do manage to achieve.”

Such views are common, given the inexcusably poor performance of Arab nations. In the last two decades, no region besides sub-Saharan Africa has seen income per person grow as slowly as in the Middle East. At the current rate, it will take the average Arab 140 years to double his or her income. Asians, Europeans, and North Americans are expected to double their incomes in the next 10 years. The total economic output—including oil—of all Arab countries is less than that of Spain, the Middle East’s unemployment rates are the highest in the developing world, and its literacy rates rank near the bottom.

But if cultural impediments are behind the Arab world’s disappointing performance, what explains Arab Americans’ incredible success? The answer, of course, is opportunities and institutions. Arabs in the United States have access to ample opportunities to prosper and can rely on powerful institutions to protect their civil, political, and economic rights to do so. Indeed, the census data show that Arab ancestry mixed with markets and meritocracy creates a potent fuel for success.

Of course, many will explain the success of Arab Americans by pointing out that people who emigrate tend to be younger, more motivated, ambitious, and entrepreneurial. The Arab immigrants who are doing so well in the United States, according to this view, would have made it anywhere.

Sadly, that isn’t true, either. Otherwise, how does one explain why Arab immigrants in Europe are worse off than those in the United States? Why are leaders of Arab communities in France warning that social and racial tensions are in danger of creating a “social and political atom bomb”? Sure, France may be an extreme case, but the situation of Arabs in the rest of Europe is hardly better. In general, Muslims living in Europe—of which Arabs constitute a significant proportion—are poorer, less educated, and in worse health than the rest of the population. In the Netherlands, the unemployment rate for ethnic Moroccans is 22 percent, roughly four times the rate for the country as a whole. In Britain, the Muslim population has the highest unemployment rate of all religious groups. The failure of Arabs in Europe is particularly worrisome given that 10 of the states or entities along Europe’s eastern and southern borders are home to nearly 250 million Muslims—most of them Arabs—with a birthrate more than double that of Europeans.

This census data should prompt soul-searching in many quarters. Cultural determinists may want to revise their theories of Arab backwardness. Arab leaders should be ashamed when they see their emigrants prospering in the United States while their own people are miserable. And Europe should wake up to the possibility that it may have less of an “Arab problem” than a “European problem.” Then again, maybe the cultural determinists have an explanation for why Europeans are so predisposed against Arab success.

Sorry to republish the entire article, but this is just so good!

Google Translator: The Universal Language

Google Translator: The Universal Language:

"today, English is much more universal. 30 countries have it as an official language, and in many other countries it is taught in school and understood fairly well. The internet can be suspected to further increase the adoption of English.

Still, many people can’t speak English. The collected, shared knowledge that makes up the web is therefore only partly accessible to them. The reverse, of course, is true as well. When you surf the web, you will sometimes come across languages and characters you don’t understand – like Chinese, Arabic, Korean, French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Japanese. Would you be able to fluently read these languages, those sites wouldn’t be a dead end for you. You would discover a wealth of knowledge, and more importantly, opinions. If you’re an US citizen, how many Arabic, German or French sources do you read to get a good understanding of how the world sees the US? How many blogs do you read in foreign languages? Probably not many, unless you’re fluent in those languages.

At the recent web cast of the Google Factory Tour, researcher Franz Och presented the current state of the Google Machine Translation Systems. He compared translations of the current Google translator, and the status quo of the Google Research Lab’s activities. The results were highly impressive. A sentence in Arabic which is now being translated to a nonsensical “Alpine white new presence tape registered for coffee confirms Laden” is now in the Research Labs being translated to “The White House Confirmed the Existence of a New Bin Laden Tape.”

How do they do that? It’s certainly complex to program such a system, but the underlying principle is easy – so easy in fact that the researchers working on this enabled the system to translate from Chinese to English without any researcher being able to speak Chinese. To the translation system, any language is treated the same, and there is no manually created rule-set of grammar, metaphors and such. Instead, the system is learning from existing human translations. Google relies on a large corpus of texts which are available in multiple languages.

This is the Rosetta Stone approach of translation. Let’s take a simple example: if a book is titled “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” in English, and the German title is “Also sprach Zarathustra”, the system can begin to understand that “thus spoke” can be translated with “also sprach”. (This approach would even work for metaphors – surely, Google researchers will take the longest available phrase which has high statistical matches across different works.) All it needs is someone to feed the system the two books and to teach it the two are translations from language A to language B, and the translator can create what Franz Och called a “language model.” I suspect it’s crucial that the body of text is immensely large, or else the system in its task of translating would stumble upon too many unlearned phrases. Google used the United Nations Documents to train their machine, and all in fed 200 billion words. This is brute force AI, if you want – it works on statistical learning theory only and has not much real “understanding” of anything but patterns.

One can suspect Google will release their new translation system soon (possibly, this or next year). The question is: what will they do with it – where will they integrate it – and what side-effects would it have? If via Google we get our universal language, would that resolve many global problems by fostering cross-cultural understanding, like Zamenhof was hoping for? Here is a speculative list of translation applications Google might implement; the key is auto-translation.
The Google Translation Service

This one is the most obvious: Google will still allow you to translate any document from their search results by the click of a link. What might be less obvious is that they might enable you to search foreign languages in your native language. All translating would be done behind-the-scenes, so that when you search for “thus spoke”, you might as well get results which only contain “also sprach.”
The Google Browser

If Google ever releases their own browser, they could seamlessly integrate translations of foreign languages; the user would just have to define what languages she reads fluently. It would be the Google Auto-translator (and surely it would be attacked using similar arguments than those brought forth against Google’s auto-linking.) And if it’s not a Google Browser, it would be a Google Toolbar feature.

Now imagine this: you specified you speak English only. What does the Google Browser do when it encounters a Japanese page? It will show you an English version of it. You wouldn’t even notice it’s Japanese, except for text contained within graphics or Flash, and a little icon Google might show that indicates Auto-translation has been triggered. After a while, you might even forget about the Auto-translation. To you, the web would just be all-English. Your surfing behavior could drastically change because you’re now reading many Japanese sources, as well as the ones in all other languages."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Leaving the left / I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity

Leaving the left / I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity:

"Eventually I joined the staff of U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio. In short, I became a card-carrying liberal, although I never actually got a card. (Bookkeeping has never been the left's strong suit.) All my commitments centered on belief in equal opportunity, due process, respect for the dignity of the individual and solidarity with people in trouble. To my mind, Americans who had joined the resistance to Franco's fascist dystopia captured the progressive spirit at its finest.

A turning point came at a dinner party on the day Ronald Reagan famously described the Soviet Union as the pre-eminent source of evil in the modern world. The general tenor of the evening was that Reagan's use of the word 'evil' had moved the world closer to annihilation. There was a palpable sense that we might not make it to dessert.

When I casually offered that the surviving relatives of the more than 20 million people murdered on orders of Joseph Stalin might not find 'evil'' too strong a word, the room took on a collective bemused smile of the sort you might expect if someone had casually mentioned taking up child molestation for sport.

My progressive companions had a point. It was rude to bring a word like 'gulag' to the dinner table.

I look back on that experience as the beginning of my departure from a left already well on its way to losing its bearings. Two decades later, I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their premise was straightforward, almost giddily so: When the number of civilian Afghani deaths surpassed the carnage of Sept. 11, the war would be unjust, irrespective of other considerations.

Stated simply: The force wielded by democracies in self-defense was declared morally equivalent to the nihilistic aggression perpetuated by Muslim fanatics.

Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the 'courage' of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of Sept. 11 comparable to 'automobile statistics.' The events of that day were likely premeditated by the White House, Gore Vidal insinuated. Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.

All of this came back to me as I watched the left's anemic, smirking response to Iraq's election in January. Didn't many of these same people stand up in the sixties for self-rule for oppressed people and against fascism in any guise? Yes, and to their lasting credit. But many had since made clear that they had also changed their minds about the virtues of King's call for equal of opportunity.

These days the postmodern left demands that government and private institutions guarantee equality of outcomes. Any racial or gender 'disparities' are to be considered evidence of culpable bias, regardless of factors such as personal motivation, training, and skill. This goal is neither liberal nor progressive; but it is what the left has chosen. In a very real sense it may be the last card held by a movement increasingly ensnared in resentful questing for group-specific rights and the subordination of citizenship to group identity. There's a word for this: pathetic.

I smile when friends tell me I've 'moved right.' I laugh out loud at what now passes for progressive on the main lines of the cultural left."

U.N. Forces Using Tougher Tactics to Secure Peace - New York Times

U.N. Forces Using Tougher Tactics to Secure Peace - New York Times

Pretty funny stuff! The NY Times is all in favor of aggressive UN peacekeeping, and condemns the rebels' barbaric behavior, in mirror image to their treatment of US involvement in Iraq! Won't these aggressive tactics just make them hate the UN even more, and bring more violence? ha! (hat tip lgf)

"As they root out the insurgents who prey on Ituri’s population, United Nations soldiers in the east have at their disposal tanks, armored personnel carriers, Mi-25 attack helicopters, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers - all of which are getting heavy use.

“It may look like war but it’s peacekeeping,” said Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye of Senegal, the force commander in Congo, of the largest and most robust of the 18 United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world.

At a militia camp in Kagaba recently, the peacekeepers backed up besieged Congolese troops and engaged in a running battle with ethnic Lendu fighters.

In March, after an ambush that killed nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers, the United Nations forces raided a crowded market near Loga to root out fighters preying on the local population. The peacekeepers also conduct what they call “cordon and search” operations, which are essentially hunts for weaponry in remote villages.

Their opponents are tribal fighters who ignored the United Nations deadline of April 1 for disarming. A last opportunity to comply is approaching; after that, the peacekeepers say they will get even tougher. As the United Nations has become more aggressive, many tribal warriors have disarmed. Of the 15,000 fighters that the United Nations estimates once operated in Ituri, nearly 14,000 have turned in their weapons. The holdouts are fierce, and show no signs of surrendering.

In February, militia fighters ambushed a group of Bangladeshi soldiers on a foot patrol around a camp of displaced people. Nine peacekeepers were killed, then mutilated."

lgf: Saddam paid bribes to Al Jazeera for Pro Saddam reporting: Western media ignores the story

lgf:Uday's Oil-for-News ProgramFrom LGF: "Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Eric Stakelbeck point out the financial links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Arab media, revealed earlier this year on US-sponsored Al Hurra television and almost completely ignored by Western media: Uday’s Oil-for-News program. (Hat tip: No Pasaran!)"

On January 6, 2005, the U.S.-funded Arabic satellite network Al Hurra broadcast an explosive exposé detailing the financial links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Arab press. Al Hurra’s documentary—so far overlooked in the West—aired previously unseen video footage, recorded by Saddam Hussein’s regime during its murderous heyday, of Saddam’s son Uday meeting with several Arab media figures and referring to the bribes they had received.

Recipients of this Baathist largesse appeared to include a former managing director of the influential Qatar-based, government-subsidized satellite network Al Jazeera, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali. The videotaped meeting between Uday and al-Ali occurred on March 13, 2000, when al-Ali still worked as Al Jazeera’s managing director. Their conversation makes clear that this was not their first meeting, but that they had met on prior occasions—and that Al Jazeera had put into effect the directives that Uday had proffered in those previous meetings.

Referring to how his advice had affected changes in Al Jazeera’s personnel, Uday states, “During your last visit here along with your colleagues we talked about a number of issues, and it does appear that you indeed were listening to what I was saying since changes took place and new faces came on board such as that lad, Mansour.”

This “lad” is Ahmed Mansour, an Al Jazeera journalist who has been criticized for his pro-insurgency reporting. In particular, Mansour came under fire in early 2004 for his coverage of the U.S. attack on Falluja, which pointedly emphasized civilian casualties.

Uday goes on in his videotaped conversation with al-Ali to mention that some people have relayed to him al-Ali’s comment that Al Jazeera is the station of Iraq’s Baathist regime “both literally and figuratively.” Thus, Uday says, “It is important that I share with you my observations about the station.”

In response, al-Ali never denies saying that Al Jazeera was Saddam’s station. Instead, his cloying remarks provide Uday every reason to believe that this is so. Al-Ali gives Uday his “unequivocal thanks for the precious trust that you put in me so that I was able to play a role at Al Jazeera; indeed I can even say that without your kind cooperation with us and your support my mission would have failed.” Al-Ali also tells Uday that, in his mission at Al Jazeera to serve Iraq, “the lion’s share of the credit goes to you personally sir, yet we would be remiss not to mention our colleagues here who constantly strive to implement your directive.”

Austria Lawmaker Wants to ID Dog Droppings

Austria Lawmaker Wants to ID Dog Droppings: "Austria Lawmaker Wants to ID Dog Droppings

A local Vienna politician wants to use DNA technology to chase down owners of dogs that leave their droppings on streets and sidewalks.

Manfred Juraczka, a councilor in a Vienna district, said Monday he wants the city to register all dogs' DNA so that droppings left where people walk can be tested and the owner of the guilty dog punished.

'This method offers a multitude of unbeatable advantages,' Juraczka said in a statement, adding that all who fail to pick up after their dogs 'must count on being caught.'

Vienna's sidewalks are littered by dog droppings, and campaigns trying to persuade owners to pick up after their pets have made little difference. The city is home to almost 50,000 registered dogs, but the true number is believed to be much higher as many owners ignore the registration requirement."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

StrategyPage.com: Islamic Biological Warfare

Islamic Biological Warfare: "Islamic Biological Warfare
by James Dunnigan


It turns out there are there are Islamic “Weapons of Mass Destruction” after all. In particular, biological weapons. But these mass killers have been developed within Islamic nations, and are doing most of their damage there. The war on terror has taken many American doctors to Islamic nations, and they have discovered a heretofore hidden AIDS epidemic. This is not the first time this has happened. AIDS quietly entered India, and South East Asian nations, but was finally discovered, and received attention. But in most Islamic nations, AIDS is not supposed to happen, and the governments, religious leaders and general population will not even admit the disease is there. But it is, and in large numbers. While promiscuity and prostitution are common in Islamic nations, talking openly about it is not. As a result, AIDS has spread for years through the Middle East and other Islamic nations without much, if any, official or media attention. This is nothing new. Same thing happened in Africa, even in nations with few, if any, Moslems. Cultural traits made it difficult for many African nations to admit AIDS, and its favorite methods of transmission (drugs, homosexuality, promiscuity) existed. Now some African nations have a third or more of their adult population infected. Billions has been donated by Western nations to provide medical assistance to African nations that now admit they have a problem, but infrastructure and corruption problems are preventing many of the infected from getting any care. Same pattern is developing in the Islamic world. No official statistics yet, but the medical underground hints at high, and rising, infection rate. And little, if any, local willingness to recognize a problem exists.

But it’s not just AIDS. In Nigeria, faith based paranoia on the part of Islamic clergy, and politicians, caused a polio epidemic, which is now spreading to other Islamic nations. The UN has been trying for years to wipe out polio (which has been eliminated in most Western nations). In the last few years, UN medical resources were massing to wipe polio out in one of the last places where it still thrives; northern Nigeria. But some local Islamic clergy got the idea that these foreigners and their medicine (polio vaccine) were actually out to poison young Moslem females and make them sterile. Yeah, it’s nuts, but it went over big in northern Nigeria and stopped the polio eradication program cold. The Islamic clerics finally relented (after the UN brought in Islamic medical experts, and jumped through a lot of hoops), but by then it was too late. The polio was moving to areas where it had earlier been eliminated. Since you can track where a polio strain came from, it is now known that the “Nigerian strain” is responsible for outbreaks as far away as Indonesia."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Reuters AlertNet - AFGHANISTAN: New radio soap promotes rural development

Reuters AlertNet - AFGHANISTAN: New radio soap promotes rural development:

KABUL, 11 May (IRIN) - On the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul, Daud Maqsoudi and several other men and women were sitting around, talking about village reconstruction.

'We should be united and rebuild Chamanistan [Afghanistan]. Lets consult with everyone and find out how to rebuild our land,' Haji Tawab, who was introduced as the community elder and head of the Shura [community council] was heard saying. Tawab's call was followed by a murmur of agreement from the group.

Maqsoudi and the others are not rural villagers but renowned Afghan actors recording the new 'Let Us Build Our Village,' radio soap opera that was aired for the first time on Wednesday. The new programme is only the second radio soap opera after the BBC's popular ten-year-old 'New Home New Life' programme.

Like the BBC's offering, 'Let us build our village' is also broadcast in Dari and Pashtu. It's the brainchild of the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), and designed to realistically portray both the joys and hardships of life in rural Afghanistan. The programme will focus on progress in construction and reconstruction of rural communities.

'Afghans are really fond of soap operas and the experience of New Home New Life proved that soap opera dramas can be one of the best means of bringing people together and raising awareness of rural areas,' Maqsoudi, the director and editor of the new drama, who also wrote for the BBC soap, said.

The new series will feature Afghanistan's ambitious National Solidarity Programme (NSP) – a rural reconstruction initiative aimed at assisting the poorest and most vulnerable. 'But the series is not just NSP-related but about culture, education, human rights and even comedy,' said Maqsoudi, as he ran through a scene from the soap with an actress.

To reach as many people as possible, the new soap opera is being aired by state-run Radio Kabul and provincial stations of Radio Afghanistan at 08:15 local time each morning except Fridays and public holidays."

US warlord policy in Afghanistan slammed - The New Zealand Herald

The New Zealand Herald: "US warlord policy in Afghanistan slammed

11.05.05 1.00pm

By Manuela Badawy

NEW YORK - The US policy of engaging Afghan warlords to hunt down al Qaeda members is undermining the recovery of the devastated country, said a prominent Afghan editor who helped draft the new constitution.

Shukria Barakzai, 33, in New York to receive the Worldpress.org's 2004 International Editor of the Year award at the United Nations, made clear her gratitude for the 2001 US-led invasion, which ended many limitations on women.

However, for all the progress since the fall of the fundamentalist Taleban leaders, Barakzai said the new liberties were threatened by the increasing use of warlords to hunt al Qaeda and Taleban insurgents in the south.

'We still live in the middle of a warlords' war that is becoming worse, and more women and children are becoming victims of different groups,' Barakzai said. "

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Kabul's must-see TV heats up culture war in Afghanistan | csmonitor.com

Kabul's must-see TV heats up culture war in Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – A bearded man from the bazaar is whisked into a barber shop, where he's given a shave and a slick haircut. After a facial, he visits fashion boutiques.

In a few tightly edited minutes of television, the humble bricklayer is transformed into an Afghan metrosexual, complete with jeans, sweater, suede jacket, and sunglasses.

It may sound like standard reality TV fare in the West, but it's edgy in Afghanistan. Tolo TV aired the show only once.

But in a pop culture as barren as the mountains here, Tolo's mix of MTV-style shows and hard-hitting news programs has turned the up-and-coming network into an entertainment oasis.

Today, it's a kind of must-see TV that has government officials leaving work early to catch their favorite show. But it's also a lightning rod for Afghan critics who see the station as a threat to the country's Islamic values.

"We have to be a little bit careful, because people will start saying that we are trying to change people's culture," says Saad Mohseni, one of three Afghan brothers who started the station.

Tolo has already drawn significant criticism for airing Indian music videos and Western films, as well as presenting shows with young hipsters who wear baseball caps sideways, talk and laugh freely with the opposite sex, and otherwise break the mold of stiff public propriety here.

In March, the country's ulema shura, or council of Islamic scholars, criticized Tolo and other stations for transmitting "programs opposed to Islam and national values." The controversy may deepen after Tolo's launch last week of satellite broadcasting, which expands its reach outside of Kabul to rural, more conservative regions.

At issue is the direction of Afghanistan's next generation, those age 22 and under who make up the majority of the country. Analysts say that the show's obvious popularity as well as the US presence here have kept the censors at bay.

HoustonChronicle.com - U.S. hunts rebels near Syrian border

HoustonChronicle.com - U.S. hunts rebels near Syrian border: "U.S. hunts rebels near Syrian border
100 insurgents reportedly killed in Iraq in largest assault in months
By HANNAH ALLAM
Knight Ridder Tribune News


BAGHDAD, IRAQ - U.S. Marines are fighting house-to-house through a town near Iraq's border with Syria in an effort to cleanse the area of foreign terrorists, the U.S. military announced Monday.

At least 100 suspected insurgents have been killed. Three Marines also were killed in the region, the U.S. military said.

'This is ground combat,' said Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a military spokesman in Baghdad. 'It's house-to-house operations.'

The fighting was taking place near the border town of Qaim, about 200 miles west of Baghdad. U.S. officials said the offensive had been a long time coming but was spurred by a fresh batch of intelligence gleaned from Iraqis who live in the area as well as interrogations of newly captured aides to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to the New York Times.

But the attack, which appears to be the largest combat offensive in Iraq since the Marines invaded Fallujah six months ago, comes as senior U.S. commanders have increasingly blamed the porous border with Syria for allowing a stream of armed jihadists to enter Iraq, the Times reported.

The operation, which involves more than 1,000 Marines supported by helicopter gunships, fighter jets, tanks and light armored vehicles, reflects the increasing concern that insurgents have had a free rein in the heavily Sunni area in and around Qaim, in the Al Jazirah Desert near where the Euphrates River crosses from Syria to Iraq."

HoustonChronicle.com - U.S. shifting focus to foreign fighters in Iraq

HoustonChronicle.com - U.S. shifting focus to foreign fighters in IraqRecent surge in suicide attacks spurs move to fortify borders
By BRADLEY GRAHAM
Washington Post

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - Senior U.S. commanders say their view of the Iraqi insurgency has begun to shift, with higher priority being given to combating foreign fighters and Iraqi jihadists.

This shift comes in response to the recent upsurge in suicide attacks and other developments that indicate a more prominent role in the insurgency by these radical groups, the commanders say.

Previously, U.S. authorities depicted the insurgency as dominated largely by what the Pentagon has dubbed "former regime elements" — a combination of one-time Baath Party loyalists and Iraqi military and security service officers intent on restoring Sunni rule.

Since the Jan. 30 elections, this segment of the insurgency has appeared to pull back from the fight, at least for a while, reassessing strategies and exploring a possible political deal with the new government, senior U.S. officers here say.

Acting on the assumption that foreign fighters and Iraqi extremists might now pose the greater and more immediate threat to security in Iraq, U.S. commanders have given orders in recent days to reposition some U.S. ground forces and intelligence assets in northwestern Iraq to further fortify Iraq's border with Syria and block suspected infiltration routes. They are also stepping up efforts to go after leading bomb-makers and key organizers of suicide attacks.

In interviews, several commanders and intelligence officers cautioned that their shift was still tentative and based more on fragmentary information than on solid, specific evidence. They said assessments differ among U.S. intelligence specialists.

Flow of funds to terrorists is ebbing : Hindustan Times.com

Flow of funds to terrorists is ebbing: US: South Asia : Hindustan Times.com

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart Levey, told two sub-committees of the US House of Representatives on May 4 that the terrorists were "feeling the pressure and hurting for money".

"We are seeing terrorist groups avoiding formal financing channels and instead resorting to riskier and more cumbersome conduits like bulk cash smuggling. And, most importantly, we have indications that terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Hamas are feeling the pressure and are hurting for money," a US State Department website quotes Levey as saying.

"We have made real inroads in combating terrorist financing in the Middle East," Levey said.

A key advantage that the investigators enjoy in the financial arena is that the targets have something to lose.

"In contrast with terrorist operatives, who may be willing to die for their hateful cause, terrorist financiers typically live public lives with all that entails: property, family, and social position. Being publicly identified as financier of terror threatens an end to all this, lending our actions a deterrent impact," Levey said.

"Our reporting confirms this, indicating that once-willing donors are now thinking twice or balking altogether at sending money to terrorist groups. We are tracking and disrupting the flow of funds to terror in every area of the globe."

Syria remains a problem

As far as the Middle East is concerned, many countries are taking action as per US requests, though there is a long way to go still. Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Kuwait have put some systems into place. Saudi Arabia too has worked with the US "to some extent" to address vulnerabilities in the charities sector.

But Syria remains a major problem as funds from there are still flowing into the coffers of Iraqi terror groups.

According Levey, Syria has released over US$ 600 million of assets belonging to the Iraqi government to third parties, and thus far, has refused to return over US$ 250 million of Iraqi assets frozen.

"We made it clear that Syria would either take steps to address our long list of concerns, or we would cut it off from our financial system," Levey said.

This seemed to be working as Syria was "desperately" trying to avoid the latter eventuality, the US official said.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Amidst doubts, CIA hangs on to control of Iraqi intelligence service - Yahoo! News

Amidst doubts, CIA hangs on to control of Iraqi intelligence service - Yahoo! News

The CIA has so far refused to hand over control of Iraq's intelligence service to the newly elected Iraqi government in a turf war that exposes serious doubts the Bush administration has over the ability of Iraqi leaders to fight the insurgency and worries about the new government's close ties to
Iran.

The director of Iraq's secret police, a general who took part in a failed coup attempt against
Saddam Hussein, was handpicked and funded by the U.S. government, and he still reports directly to the CIA, Iraqi politicians and intelligence officials in Baghdad said last week. Immediately after the elections in January, several Iraqi officials said, U.S. forces stashed the sensitive national intelligence archives of the past year inside American headquarters in Baghdad in order to keep them off-limits to the new government.

Iraqi leaders complain that the arrangement violates their sovereignty, freezes them out of the war on insurgents and could lead to the formation of a rival, Iraqi-led spy agency. American officials counter that the new leaders' connections to Iran have forced them to take measures that protect Iraq's secrets from the neighboring Tehran regime.

The dispute also highlights the failure of the Bush administration to establish a Western-leaning, secular government in Baghdad following the 2003 invasion.
[...]

The CIA declined to comment on the record about the Iraqi intelligence agency or its files.

While the CIA hasn't ruled out handing over the agency, an administration official involved in Iraq policy confirmed that the U.S. government has strong concerns about releasing the classified archives to the new government. The main worry is that Iran could score an intelligence coup by learning what the United States knows about Tehran's covert operations in Iraq. The official said the United States has evidence of aggressive Iranian attempts to penetrate Iraqi intelligence via the two strongest Shiite parties: SCIRI and Dawa, the party led by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Senior members of those parties, however, suspect the real reason behind U.S. reluctance to hand over the archives is that Americans don't want them to know the extent of U.S.-led spying on the Shiite politicians Iraqis risked their lives to vote into office.

Laith Kubba, Jaafari's adviser and spokesman, said the prime minister wants to take on a bigger role in anti-terrorism efforts, but he's impaired by the lack of a reliable, skilled Iraqi police force and military. Kubba said it would take time for al-Jaafari to decide what he wants to do with the national intelligence service, but it's evident he doesn't want it to remain in American hands.

"The prime minister is very clear in his philosophy on governmental sovereignty and the will of the Iraqi people," Kubba said. "He knows all these institutions must be brought under Iraqi law and the Iraqi parliament ... But he's a realist and he is also aware that Iraq today faces a huge challenge with these attacks ... In the interim period, he has to make do with whatever he has at his disposal."

Right after Saddam's ouster, the U.S.-led coalition took the top intelligence agents from each of the main opposition parties and trained them in how to turn raw intelligence into targets that could be used in operations, said an Iraqi intelligence expert who participated in the program. He consented to an hour-long interview about the inner workings of Iraqi intelligence on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from Iraqi and U.S. forces for discussing classified information.

The Iraqi official said the CIA recruited agents from SCIRI, Dawa, the two main Kurdish factions, and two secular Arab parties: the Iraqi National Congress led by Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Accord led by Ayad Allawi, who later became the interim prime minister. This group, the prototype for an Iraqi intelligence group that represented Iraq's diversity, became CMAD: the Collection, Management and Analysis Directorate.

When the U.S.-led occupation authority ceded power to the semi-sovereign interim government last June, the official said, CMAD was split, with roughly half the agents going to the new interior ministry and the rest to work on military intelligence in the defense ministry. Both ministries' intelligence departments are led by Kurds, the most consistently U.S.-friendly group in Iraq, and report to the Iraqi prime minister.

But an elite corps of CMAD operatives was recruited into the third and most important Iraqi intelligence agency, the secret police force known by its Arabic name: the Mukhabarat. Its Iraqi director is Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, a Sunni general whose three sons were executed by Saddam in retaliation for his involvement in a botched, CIA-backed coup attempt in the mid-1990s. Shahwani's top deputy in charge of daily operations is said to be a Kurd; Shiites are believed to comprise just 12 percent of the force.

Unlike the defense and interior ministries, there is no provision in the Iraqi government's budget for the secret police. The Mukhabarat's money comes straight from the CIA.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

IRAQ: Frustrated Terrorists Seek Tactics That Will Work

military news about Iraq

IRAQ: Frustrated Terrorists Seek Tactics That Will Work



May 6, 2005; The January 30 Parliament finally selected government ministers this week. Terrorist attacks have killed over 250 people, mostly civilians, in the last week. The terrorist campaign is remarkable for its persistence, and ineffectiveness. Actually, the terror campaign is beyond ineffective. It is the major reason why popular opinion in Iraq, and the Arab world, has turned against al Qaeda. When the terrorist bombings began to kill large numbers of civilians back in late 2003, many Iraqis believed the Americans were behind the attacks. Iraqis didn't believe al Qaeda and the Baath Party terrorists could be so stupid. Now, Iraqis consider al Qaeda and the Baath Party terrorists to be depraved, and rather clueless, butchers. Even the Sunni Arab international media is having a hard time selling the terrorists as brave warriors fighting the foreign invaders. The terror campaign in Iraq is becoming a growing embarrassment in the Arab world.

The al Qaeda and Baath Party strategy of trying to trigger a civil war between the main factions in the country (Sunni Arab, Shia Arab and Kurds) has been a failure. While a few Shia leaders have called to retribution against the Sunni Arab areas where the terrorists are known to hang out, the Shia Arab leadership, particularly the religious leaders, have called for restraint, and been obeyed. There has been a Shia response to the attacks, although it is largely unreported (because most reporters, fearing injury or kidnapping, report from inside U.S. bases or well guarded hotels). The Shia have increased security along roads and in Shia neighborhoods. Most of the new police and security troops raised in the last year have been to provide security for the Shia population. The Kurds have always been well protected, although a suicide bomber got past security last week (even though he was detected and was being chased), got into a crowd of men applying for police jobs, and killed some sixty people. The police applicants always come back after these attacks. Iraqis are hard to terrorize, but easy to piss off.

Iraqis can't help but notice that less than ten percent of the terrorist victims are Americans, and that the reason for this is that the Americans have better security. The continued terrorist attacks have provided an incentive for Iraqi police and troops to pay close attention when their American advisors and instructors explain to them how a high degree of security can be achieved. There's no magic or wondrous new technology involved. The main ingredient of effective security is people who are dedicated, persistent and disciplined. These qualities were never abundant in the Iraqi police and military, except for a few units that Saddam relied on to keep the country in line. Saddam's crack commandos and intelligence operatives are now the core of the terrorist organization. But the police and army has responded in kind, and have gotten results. It's been over six months since terrorists have been able to overrun a police station. The growing force of Iraqi SWAT teams and commandos have become such a threat that terrorists are targeting them, and their leaders.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Middle East Online: US warns Syria over militant financing

Middle East Online: US warns Syria over militant financing

Top US Treasury official demands Syria do more on curbing militant financing if it wants to retain access to hard currency.


Middle Eastern countries in particular are choking off extremists' sources of cash in response to pressure from Washington, said Under Secretary Stuart Levey of the Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

"We are seeing terrorist groups avoiding formal financing channels and instead resorting to riskier and more cumbersome conduits like bulk cash smuggling," he said in testimony to two congressional sub-committees.

"And, most importantly, we have indications that terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Hamas are feeling the pressure and are hurting for money," he said.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government targeted the financial networks used by extremist groups such as Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organisation as a central plank of its "war on terrorism".

Levey said countries in the Middle East and further afield had acceded to US demands for a clampdown on both regular banking channels as well as on informal networks for raising cash, such as Islamic charities.

He recalled a February visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories as being fruitful.

Israeli authorities reported a "substantial reduction" of funds flowing to the Palestinian group Hamas, particularly from the Gulf region, he said.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Finance Minister Salam Fayad showed a "serious commitment on their part to cutting off the flow of funds to terrorism", the US official said.

But a planned leg of the tour in Syria was called off after Levey failed to receive assurances sought from the Damascus authorities.

US steps intended to denote the Commercial Bank of Syria, the country's main conduit to US currency, a "primary money laundering concern" have had a "remarkable impact on an obstructionist regime", the official said.

"In other respects, though, we have been nowhere near satisfied," he added.

Levey cited Syria's failure to return over 250 million dollars of Iraqi assets to the new government in Baghdad, and "the flow of funds and other support across the Syrian border to the Iraqi insurgency".

"We made clear that Syria would either take effective steps to address our long list of concerns, or we would cut it off from our financial system."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

New Scientist The speedy way to capture a city - Technology

New Scientist The speedy way to capture a city - Technology

IMAGINE if the first soldiers to enter an enemy city could map it street by street, recording every window and doorway of the urban battlefield in an accurate 3D model that could instantly be relayed to their comrades at base.

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to do just that. What's more, their technique can also make maps for use by emergency services, urban planners and even tourists looking for the nearest Starbucks.

The concept is similar to building a virtual reality model, but the process is very different. To produce a VR model, a programmer manually combines distance measurements and 2D pictures to make a 3D model. The new technique, dubbed "virtualised reality" by creator Avideh Zakhor, is automated and much faster. "Right now, a detailed urban model can take many months to create," says Bruce Deal, vice-president of the Virginia engineering firm SET Associates, which is helping to adapt the technology for the US military. "With the new model, we're talking about an hour or so." Virtualised reality scans the urban landscape using lasers and digital cameras mounted on a truck or plane. A laser measures distances to objects such as lamp posts and building facades, while the digital camera takes 2D photos. Another laser calculates the movement of the truck and checks its position against data collected from the aerial laser aboard the plane.

These measurements and pictures are fed into a computer that combines them to create a photo-realistic virtual 3D model of the area. Zakhor and her team recently created a working model of downtown Berkeley (see above) in just 4½ hours - 26 minutes of driving plus 4 hours of data processing.
“Emergency workers could use the models to figure out the best way to respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks”

The first user will probably be the US army, which funded much of the research. "Speed makes the system very useful to urban war fighters," says Deal. Each patrol can record new information about its surroundings, updating the model recorded by the previous patrol. Soldiers can keep up with changes to the cityscape, such as new barricades or destroyed buildings. "It's a vast improvement over current military capability," he says. Zakhor has started a spin-off company funded by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop an even faster version that creates models in real time.

"The applications are endless," says Zakhor. Car-hire companies or cellphone providers could use similar technology to transmit up-to-date 3D maps to their customers to help them navigate through strange cities. Emergency workers could use the models to figure out the best way to respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Urban planners could even look at a series of models collected over time to see how the layout of their city has evolved.

The process of creating models could be speeded up even further by developments in unmanned aerial vehicles. The US navy is developing cheap (around $2000) robotic aircraft that can operate in "swarms" to perform reconnaissance of a wide area at speed. The aircraft use cooperative software that allows the swarm to cope with some of its members being shot down.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

ThisisLondon: Microphones to catch noisy neighbours

ThisisLondon

Microphones to catch noisy neighbours
By Mark Prigg, Science Correspondent, Evening Standard


Noisy neighbours have become a scourge of modern life, resulting in stress, sleepless nights and even violence.

Now Westminster Council hopes a new wireless microphone could help tackle the problem.

It plans to attach the device to lamp posts outside houses, allowing inspectors to monitor sound levels. If neighbours make too much noise, council officials will

“This could make a really big difference to cutting down on noise,” said Steve Harrison of Westminster Council.

“At the moment the problem is that by the time a noise protection officer arrives on the scene, the noise may have stopped.

“Using the new system, we can leave a monitor in an area for several days. The idea is that we can pre-empt people having to call us — if the monitor hears a disturbance it lets us know.” Mr Harrison added that the microphones were also going to be placed outside bars and clubs to monitor noise levels and any disturbances.

Iraqi media under attack from authorities in Iraq - Yahoo! News

Iraqi media under attack from authorities in Iraq - Yahoo! News

By Mohammed al Dulaimy, Knight Ridder Newspapers Mon May 2, 8:01 PM ET

BAGHDAD,
Iraq - A photographer for a Baghdad newspaper says Iraqi police beat and detained him for snapping pictures of long lines at gas stations. A reporter for another local paper received an invitation from Iraqi police to cover their graduation ceremony and ended up receiving death threats from the recruits. A local TV reporter says she's lost count of how many times Iraqi authorities have confiscated her cameras and smashed her tapes.

All these cases are under investigation by the Iraqi Association to Defend Journalists, a union that formed amid a chilling new trend of alleged arrests, beatings and intimidation of Iraqi reporters at the hands of Iraqi security forces. Reporters Without Borders, an international watchdog group for press freedom, tracked the arrests of five Iraqi journalists within a two-week period and issued a statement on April 26 asking authorities "to be more discerning and restrained and not carry out hasty and arbitrary arrests."

While Iraq's newly elected government says it will look into complaints of press intimidation, local reporters said they've seen little progress since reporting the incidents. Some have quit their jobs after receiving threats - not from insurgents, but from police. Most Iraqi reporters are reluctant to even identify themselves as press when stopped at police checkpoints. Others say they won't report on events that involve Iraqi security forces, which creates a big gap in their local news coverage.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Jerusalem Post: UN peacekeepers sexually abused Liberia women, girls

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

UN peacekeepers sexually abused and exploited local women and girls in Liberia and more accusations are expected, a UN spokesman said Friday.

Stephane Dujarric said a preliminary investigation by the UN mission in Liberia indicated that some allegations against its personnel could be substantiated, while others could not.

“The allegations range from the exchange of goods, money or services for sex to the sexual exploitation of minors. The peacekeeping department here in New York as well as the mission on the ground are taking appropriate follow-up action,” he said.

A UN official speaking on condition of anonymity said the number of allegations could eventually total 20.

The head of the mission in Liberia, Jacques Paul Klein, is to step down when his contract expires at the end of the month, a UN spokesman announced Thursday. His deputy Abou Moussa will temporarily take over.

The allegations of sex abuse in Liberia are just the latest to be leveled against UN peacekeepers who have been accused of exploiting the very people they were sent to protect in missions from Bosnia and Kosovo to Cambodia, East Timor and Congo.

Wow. Hope Bolton doesn't offend anyone at the United Nations with his hot temper! That would really be a shame because the United Nations is on the side of the good guys. not.

Genetic Mingling Mixes Human, Animal Cells on Yahoo! News

Print Story: Genetic Mingling Mixes Human, Animal Cells on Yahoo! News: Genetic Mingling Mixes Human, Animal Cells

By PAUL ELIAS, AP Biotechnology WriterFri Apr 29, 8:44 PM ET

On a farm about six miles outside this gambling town, Jason Chamberlain looks over a flock of about 50 smelly sheep, many of them possessing partially human livers, hearts, brains and other organs.

The University of Nevada-Reno researcher talks matter-of-factly about his plans to euthanize one of the pregnant sheep in a nearby lab. He can't wait to examine the effects of the human cells he had injected into the fetus' brain about two months ago.

"It's mice on a large scale," Chamberlain says with a shrug.

As strange as his work may sound, it falls firmly within the new ethics guidelines the influential National Academies issued this past week for stem cell research.

In fact, the Academies' report endorses research that co-mingles human and animal tissue as vital to ensuring that experimental drugs and new tissue replacement therapies are safe for people.

Doctors have transplanted pig valves into human hearts for years, and scientists have injected human cells into lab animals for even longer.

But the biological co-mingling of animal and human is now evolving into even more exotic and unsettling mixes of species, evoking the Greek myth of the monstrous chimera, which was part lion, part goat and part serpent.

In the past two years, scientists have created pigs with human blood, fused rabbit eggs with human DNA and injected human stem cells to make paralyzed mice walk.

Particularly worrisome to some scientists are the nightmare scenarios that could arise from the mixing of brain cells: What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep's head?

The "idea that human neuronal cells might participate in 'higher order' brain functions in a nonhuman animal, however unlikely that may be, raises concerns that need to be considered," the academies report warned.

In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells. Stem cell scientist Irving Weissman said his experiment could provide unparalleled insight into how the human brain develops and how degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson's progress.

Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity. Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.

The University of Nevada-Reno researcher talks matter-of-factly about his plans to euthanize one of the pregnant sheep in a nearby lab. He can't wait to examine the effects of the human cells he had injected into the fetus' brain about two months ago.

'It's mice on a large scale,' Chamberlain says with a shrug.

As strange as his work may sound, it falls firmly within the new ethics guidelines the influential National Academies issued this past week for stem cell research.

In fact, the Academies' report endorses research that co-mingles human and animal tissue as vital to ensuring that experimental drugs and new tissue replacement therapies are safe for people.

Doctors have transplanted pig valves into human hearts for years, and scientists have injected human cells into lab animals for even longer.

But the biological co-mingling of animal and human is now evolving into even more exotic and unsettling mixes of species, evoking the Greek myth of the monstrous chimera, which was part lion, part goat and part serpent.

In the past two years, scientists have created pigs with human blood, fused rabbit eggs with human DNA and injected human stem cells to make paralyzed mice walk.

Particularly worrisome to some scientists are the nightmare scenarios that could arise from the mixing of brain cells: What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep's head?

The 'idea that human neuronal cells might participate in 'higher order' brain functions in a nonhuman animal, however unlikely that may be, raises concerns that need to be considered,' the academies report warned.

In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells. Stem cell scientist Irving Weissman said his experiment could provide unparalleled insight into how the human brain develops and how degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson's progress.

Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity. Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior."