Thursday, June 30, 2005

SPACE.com -- The Coming Age of Planets

SPACE.com -- The Coming Age of Planets:

"The first was discovered in 1995. It was enormous -- half the size of Jupiter -- yet orbiting the star at a distance eight times closer than Mercury. Scientists did not think it was possible, that such a thing could exist. It did not fit their models. Yet there it was, undeniable, circling and circling with the ageless precision of the cosmos.

Once again, the universe had popped a new surprise on humanity. And once again, humanity shook its collective head, took a deep breath, and saw the universe afresh.

They called it, eventually, Bellerophon, the first exoplanet.

We live in a new age of discovery, the first days of a new renaissance. It is the dawn of the age of planets.

The discovery of the first extra-solar planet -- 51 Pegasi B, later dubbed Bellerophon -- was the clarion call announcing this new age. It's an age which will come to revolutionize our relationship with the universe as much as Galileo's discovery of the four moons of Jupiter.

In the decade since Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz announced their discovery, new discoveries have followed hot and fast, and with quickening pace. The recent announcement by Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler of an 'Earth like' planet only seven times the size of ours was the latest advance, appropriately marking the age's first decade. As this is written, scientists have detected over 150 exoplanets.

Allow yourself to take that sentence in. 150 planets. 150 new worlds. Our sun has, at most, nine (depending on how you regard poor Pluto). In a single decade we have found fifteen times as many worlds as are resident in our solar system.

But it is the future that makes the mind stretch with anticipation. For 150 is only the earliest taste of what is to come."

Sunni announces a political group for Iraqi insurgents

Philadelphia Inquirer | 06/30/2005 | Sunni announces a political group for Iraqi insurgents:

It was another effort to draw the faction into the political process. U.S. officials had confirmed negotiating with rebels.

By Patrick Quinn

Associated Press

BAGHDAD - A Sunni Arab politician who brokered secret talks between American officials and insurgents said yesterday that he had formed a group to give political voice to Iraqi fighters, and demanded a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal.

The announcement by Ayham al-Samarie marked another effort to draw disenfranchised Sunnis into the political process. Samarie, a former cabinet member and a dual Iraq-U.S. citizen, is thought to have strong tribal links among Sunni Muslims, who are are thought to make up the backbone of an insurgency.

American officials including Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld had confirmed that the United States had negotiated with the insurgents.
[...]

On the political front, Samarie said at a news conference at his home in Baghdad that his new group would be called the National Council for Unity and Construction of Iraq. He said it would represent "resistance" fighters who have not carried out attacks against civilians.

Nearly all car bomb and suicide attacks carried out against Iraqis are thought to be the work of Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

At least one prominent Shiite legislator dismissed Samarie's effort.

"The general terrorist program is to attack electricity plants, water and oil pipelines, mosques, churches and to target the innocents, police and the army," Saad Jawad Qandil said. "These are terrorist acts, and cannot be represented as acts of resistance."

The insurgents represented by Samarie want U.S. troops to leave Iraq in one to three years and military campaigns against Iraqi cities and towns to end, Samarie said. They will not put down their arms unless all their goals are met, he added.

A British newspaper this week reported that Samarie brokered two recent meetings between U.S. officials and a group of rebels. Samarie confirmed the talks but would not give details. He was electricity minister in the interim government and comes from Samarra, an insurgent stronghold 60 miles north of Baghdad.

In military operations, meanwhile, more than 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops seeking to quash insurgents met little resistance as they swept through the city of Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, Marine Capt. Jeffrey Pool said.

The troops were moving through communities along the Euphrates River."

For 5 months 'I stayed in the box'-Editorials/Op-Ed-The Washington Times

For 5 months 'I stayed in the box'-Editorials/Op-Ed-The Washington Times, America's NewspaperFor 5 months 'I stayed in the box'

By James H. Warner
June 29, 2005

As a Marine Corps officer, I spent five years and five months in a prisoner of war camp in North Vietnam. I believe this gives me a benchmark against which to measure the treatment which Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, complained of at the Camp of Detention for Islamo-fascists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The senator's argument is silly. If he believes what he has said his judgment is so poor that his countrymen, assuming, of course, that he considers us his countrymen, have no reason not to dismiss him as a witless boob. On the other hand, if he does not believe what he said, the other members of the Senate may wish to consider censure.
Consider nutrition. I have severe peripheral neuropathy in both legs as a residual of beriberi. I am fortunate. Some of my comrades suffer partial blindness or ischemic heart disease as a result of beriberi, a degenerate disease of peripheral nerves caused by a lack of thiamin, vitamin B-1. It is easily treated but is extremely painful.
Did Mr. Durbin say that some of the Islamo-fascist prisoners are suffering from beriberi? Actually, the diet enjoyed by the prisoners seems to be healthy. I saw the menu that Rep. Duncan Hunter presented a few days ago. It looks as though the food given the detainees at Guantanamo is wholesome, nutritious and appealing. I would be curious to hear Mr. Durbin explain how orange glazed chicken and rice pilaf can be compared to moldy bread laced with rat droppings.
In May 1969, I was taken out for interrogation on suspicion of planning an escape. I was forced to remain awake for long periods of time -- three weeks on one occasion.
On the first of June, I was put in a cement box with a steel door, which sat out in the tropical summer sun. There, I was put in leg irons which were then wired to a small stool. In this position I could neither sit nor stand comfortably. Within 10 days, every muscle in my body was in pain (here began a shoulder injury which is now inoperable). The heat was almost beyond bearing. My feet had swollen, literally, to the size of footballs. I cannot describe the pain. When they took the leg irons off, they had to actually dig them out of the swollen flesh. It was five days before I could walk, because the weight of the leg irons on my Achilles tendons had paralyzed them and hamstrung me. I stayed in the box from June 1 until Nov. 10, 1969. While in the box, I lost at least 30 pounds. I would be curious to hear Mr. Durbin explain how this compares with having a female invade my private space, and whether a box in which the heat nearly killed me is the same as turning up the air conditioning.
The detainees at Guantanamo receive new Korans and prayer rugs, and the guards are instructed not to disturb the inmates' prayers. Compare this with my experience in February 1971, when I watched as armed men dragged from our cell, successively, four of my cell mates after having led us in the Lord's Prayer. Their prayers were in defiance of a January 1971 regulation in which the Communists forbade any religious observances in our cells. Does Mr. Durbin somehow argue that our behavior is the equivalent of the behavior of the Communists?
Actually, I was one of the lucky ones. At another camp, during the time I was being interrogated in the summer of 1969, one man was tortured to death and several were severely beaten. In fact, according to Headquarters Marine Corps, 20 percent of my fellow Marines failed to survive captivity. Have 20 percent of the Islamo-fascists failed to survive Guantanamo?
The argument that detainees at Guantanamo are being treated badly is specious and silly. In the eyes of normal Americans, Democrats believe this argument because, as Jeanne Kirkpatrick said 20 years ago, they "always blame America first." This contributes to the increasing suspicion, in red states, a problem that Democrats are aware of and are trying to counter, that Democrats cannot be trusted with our national security. Only the Democrats can change this perception, most recently articulated by White House adviser Karl Rove. The ball is in their court and I am certain there are steps that they can take to change this perception, but making silly arguments about imaginary bad treatment of enemy detainees is not a move in the right direction.

James H. Warner is corporate counsel practicing intellectual property law in Northern Virginia. He served as domestic policy adviser during the second Reagan administration.
Tony Blankey's column will appear tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Iran's new president, Ahmadinejad With American Hostage


AhmadinejadWithHostage
Originally uploaded by redtailstinger2.
Iran's new president was a key figure in the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran. Here's a picture of the bastard.

Andrew C. McCarthy on Iraq on National Review Online

Andrew C. McCarthy on Iraq on National Review Online

It was good to hear the commander-in-chief remind people that this is still the war against terror. Specifically, against Islamo-fascists who slaughtered 3000 Americans on September 11, 2001. Who spent the eight years before those atrocities murdering and promising to murder Americans — as their leader put it in 1998, all Americans, including civilians, anywhere in the world where they could be found.

It is not the war for democratization. It is not the war for stability. Democratization and stability are not unimportant. They are among a host of developments that could help defeat the enemy.

But they are not the primary goal of this war, which is to destroy the network of Islamic militants who declared war against the United States when they bombed the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, and finally jarred us into an appropriate response when they demolished that complex, struck the Pentagon, and killed 3000 of us on September 11, 2001.

That is why we are in Iraq.
[...]

If the president is guilty of anything, it's not that he's dwelling on 9/11 enough. It's that the administration has not done a good enough job of probing and underscoring the nexus between the Saddam regime and al Qaeda. It is absolutely appropriate, it is vital, for him to stress that connection. This is still the war on terror, and Iraq, where the terrorists are still arrayed against us, remains a big part of that equation.

And not just because every jihadist with an AK-47 and a prayer rug has made his way there since we invaded. No, it’s because Saddam made Iraq their cozy place to land long before that. They are fighting effectively there because they’ve been invited to dig in for years.

The president needs to be talking about Saddam and terror because that’s what will get their attention in Damascus and Teheran. It’s not about the great experiment in democratization — as helpful as it would be to establish a healthy political culture in that part of the world. It’s about making our enemies know we are coming for them if they abet and harbor and promote and plan with the people who are trying to kill us.

On that score, nobody should worry about anything the Times or David Gergen or Senator Reid has to say about all this until they have some straight answers on questions like these. What does the “nothing whatsoever” crowd have to say about:

*Ahmed Hikmat Shakir — the Iraqi Intelligence operative who facilitated a 9/11 hijacker into Malaysia and was in attendance at the Kuala Lampur meeting with two of the hijackers, and other conspirators, at what is roundly acknowledged to be the initial 9/11 planning session in January 2000? Who was arrested after the 9/11 attacks in possession of contact information for several known terrorists? Who managed to make his way out of Jordanian custody over our objections after the 9/11 attacks because of special pleading by Saddam’s regime?

*Saddam's intelligence agency's efforts to recruit jihadists to bomb Radio Free Europe in Prague in the late 1990's?

*Mohammed Atta's unexplained visits to Prague in 2000, and his alleged visit there in April 2001 which — notwithstanding the 9/11 Commission's dismissal of it (based on interviewing exactly zero relevant witnesses) — the Czechs have not retracted?

*The Clinton Justice Department's allegation in a 1998 indictment (two months before the embassy bombings) against bin Laden, to wit: In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

*Seized Iraq Intelligence Service records indicating that Saddam's henchmen regarded bin Laden as an asset as early as 1992?

*Saddam's hosting of al Qaeda No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri beginning in the early 1990’s, and reports of a large payment of money to Zawahiri in 1998?

*Saddam’s ten years of harboring of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Abdul Rahman Yasin?

*Iraqi Intelligence Service operatives being dispatched to meet with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998 (the year of bin Laden’s fatwa demanding the killing of all Americans, as well as the embassy bombings)?

*Saddam’s official press lionizing bin Laden as “an Arab and Islamic hero” following the 1998 embassy bombing attacks?

*The continued insistence of high-ranking Clinton administration officials to the 9/11 Commission that the 1998 retaliatory strikes (after the embassy bombings) against a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory were justified because the factory was a chemical weapons hub tied to Iraq and bin Laden?

*Top Clinton administration counterterrorism official Richard Clarke’s assertions, based on intelligence reports in 1999, that Saddam had offered bin Laden asylum after the embassy bombings, and Clarke’s memo to then-National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, advising him not to fly U-2 missions against bin Laden in Afghanistan because he might be tipped off by Pakistani Intelligence, and “[a]rmed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad”? (See 9/11 Commission Final Report, p. 134 & n.135.)

*Terror master Abu Musab Zarqawi's choice to boogie to Baghdad of all places when he needed surgery after fighting American forces in Afghanistan in 2001?

*Saddam's Intelligence Service running a training camp at Salman Pak, were terrorists were instructed in tactics for assassination, kidnapping and hijacking?

*Former CIA Director George Tenet’s October 7, 2002 letter to Congress, which asserted: Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.

*We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.

*Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.

*Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

*We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

*Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.

There's more. Stephen Hayes’s book, The Connection, remains required reading. But these are just the questions; the answers — if someone will just investigate the questions rather than pretending there’s “nothing whatsoever” there — will provide more still.

So Gergen, Reid, the Times, and the rest are “offended” at the president's reminding us of 9/11? The rest of us should be offended, too. Offended at the “nothing whatsoever” crowd’s inexplicable lack of curiosity about these ties, and about the answers to these questions.

Just tell us one thing: Do you have any good answer to what Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was doing with the 9/11 hijackers in Kuala Lampur? Can you explain it?

If not, why aren't you moving heaven and earth to find out the answer?

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Supreme Justice Souter says it's okay for government to take people's houses and build hotels. So let's take his house first!

Freestar Media, LLCBelow is our letter to begin the development process.
Read our letter starting the project here.
Press Release

For Release Monday, June 27 to New Hampshire media
For Release Tuesday, June 28 to all other media

Weare, New Hampshire (PRWEB) Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Herald Sun: How the Left gets loonier [24jun05]

Herald Sun: How the Left gets loonier [24jun05]: "How the Left gets loonier

FIRST they backed Saddam against his victims. Now our cultural elite backs terrorists against Douglas Wood, the Australian they kidnapped.

You say I exaggerate?

I reply: Andrew Jaspan.

Jaspan is editor-in-chief of The Age, Australia's most Left-wing daily newspaper, and on ABC radio on Wednesday said how 'boorish' and 'coarse' Wood was at his press conference this week when he called his captors 'a---holes'.

You might wonder whether Jaspan, the Englishman whose paper on that same day published a big picture on page one of naked girls from Big Brother, has the right to call anyone else 'coarse'.

But far more shocking was his apparent demand that Wood be more grateful to the men who'd snatched him, kicked him in the head, kept him blindfolded and bound for 47 days, shaved him bald, killed two of his colleagues, made him beg for his life, and -- says a fellow hostage from Sweden -- shot several other prisoners in front of him.

Let's run the tape.

Said Jaspan: 'I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood's use of the a---hole word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through and I think demeans the man and is one of the reasons why people are slightly sceptical of his motives and everything else.

'The issue really is largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.' The ingrate.

I haven't heard much lately more perverse. If what Wood went through is Jaspan's idea of being 'treated well', I finally understand why The Age seems so dismayed by the fall of nice Saddam Hussein, who similarly treated his victims so well that more than 300,000 have been found in mass graves. They must have been simply tickled to death to be there.

It would be wrong to think of all this as just one man's loose talk, rather than an example of the astonishing blindness of the Left, so enraged by anti-Americanism that it can barely distinguish morally between terrorists and their 'boorish' victims. Not when those terrorists hate America, too.

Consider Bob Ellis, who has written speeches and slogans for a collective of Left leaders such as Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, NSW Premier Bob Carr and Greens leader Bob Brown.

Ellis now praises Wood's kidnappers as 'honourable men (with) a well-treated captive'. Keysar Trad, spokesman for the Mufti, Sheik Taj el-Din el-Hilaly, also agreed Wood had been 'well looked after'.

But we know what Wood's real offence is, don't we?

Yes, he did not do as did SBS journalist and Left hero John Martinkus after his own brief captivity and declare his kidnappers were 'not savages', and say Iraq was 'on the road to s---'.

INSTEAD, he roared 'God bless America' and praised the US-trained Iraqi soldiers -- Iraq's real freedom fighters -- who saved him, saying he was 'proof positive that the current policies of the American and Australian governments is the right one'.

It seems that to a Leftist, this makes Wood the boorish inferior of the killers who beat him and held him captive. It is why journalist Tracee Hutchinson, in an Age column, calls him a 'blustering buffoon', moaning: 'It was enough that his words God bless America had been played over and over on his release.'

Let me ask younger readers still deciding on their brand of politics. Wouldn't you blush to join this Left?"

scientists create zombie dogs | Breaking News 24/7 - NEWS.com.au

scientists create zombie dogs | Breaking News 24/7 - NEWS.com.au :
Zombie dog
Eerie ... boffins have brought dead dogs back to life, in the name of science.

SCIENTISTS have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.
US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.

But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.

Plans to test the technique on humans should be realised within a year, according to the Safar Centre.

However rather than sending people to sleep for years, then bringing them back to life to benefit from medical advances, the boffins would be happy to keep people in this state for just a few hours,"

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

The progressivist party line sometimes even goes so far as to credit agriculture with the remarkable flowering of art that has taken place over the past few thousand years. Since crops can be stored, and since it takes less time to pick food from a garden than to find it in the wild, agriculture gave us free time that hunter-gatherers never had. Thus it was agriculture that enabled us to build the Parthenon and compose the B-minor Mass.

While the case for the progressivist view seems overwhelming, it’s hard to prove. How do you show that the lives of people 10,000 years ago got better when they abandoned hunting and gathering for farming? Until recently, archaeologists had to resort to indirect tests, whose results (surprisingly) failed to support the progressivist view. Here’s one example of an indirect test: Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers? Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn’t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"

While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a bettter balance of other nutrients. In one study, the Bushmen’s average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size. It’s almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s.

So the lives of at least the surviving hunter-gatherers aren’t nasty and brutish, even though farmes have pushed them into some of the world’s worst real estate. But modern hunter-gatherer societies that have rubbed shoulders with farming societies for thousands of years don’t tell us about conditions before the agricultural revolution. The progressivist view is really making a claim about the distant past: that the lives of primitive people improved when they switched from gathering to farming. Archaeologists can date that switch by distinguishing remains of wild plants and animals from those of domesticated ones in prehistoric garbage dumps.
[...]

There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health. First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early farmers obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops. The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition. (today just three high-carbohydrate plants–wheat, rice, and corn–provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.) Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease. (Some archaeologists think it was the crowding, rather than agriculture, that promoted disease, but this is a chicken-and-egg argument, because crowding encourages agriculture and vice versa.) Epidemics couldn’t take hold when populations were scattered in small bands that constantly shifted camp. Tuberculosis and diarrheal disease had to await the rise of farming, measles and bubonic plague the appearnce of large cities.

Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing élite set itself above the disease-ridden masses. Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. 1500 B. C. suggest that royals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were two or three inches taller and had better teeth (on the average, one instead of six cavities or missing teeth). Among Chilean mummies from c. A. D. 1000, the élite were distinguished not only by ornaments and gold hair clips but also by a fourfold lower rate of bone lesions caused by disease.

Similar contrasts in nutrition and health persist on a global scale today. To people in rich countries like the U. S., it sounds ridiculous to extol the virtues of hunting and gathering. But Americans are an élite, dependent on oil and minerals that must often be iimproted from countries with poorer health and nutrition. If one could choose between being a peasant farmer in Ethiopia or a bushman gatherer in the Kalahari, which do you think would be the better choice?

Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes, as well. Freed from the need to transport their babies during a nomadic existence, and under pressure to produce more hands to till the fields, farming women tended to have more frequent pregnancies than their hunter-gatherer counterparts–with consequent drains on their health. Among the Chilean mummies for example, more women than men had bone lesions from infectious disease.

Women in agricultural societies were sometimes made beasts of burden. In New Guinea farming communities today I often see women staggering under loads of vegetables and firewood while the men walk empty-handed. Once while on a field trip there studying birds, I offered to pay some villagers to carry supplies from an airstrip to my mountain camp. The heaviest item was a 110-pound bag of rice, which I lashed to a pole and assigned to a team of four men to shoulder together. When I eventually caught up with the villagers, the men were carrying light loads, while one small woman weighing less than the bag of rice was bent under it, supporting its weight by a cord across her temples.

As for the claim that agriculture encouraged the flowering of art by providing us with leisure time, modern hunter-gatherers have at least as much free time as do farmers. The whole emphasis on leisure time as a critical factor seems to me misguided. Gorillas have had ample free time to build their own Parthenon, had they wanted to. While post-agricultural technological advances did make new art forms possible and preservation of art easier, great paintings and sculptures were already being produced by hunter-gatherers 15,000 years ago, and were still being produced as recently as the last century by such hunter-gatherers as some Eskimos and the Indians of the Pacific Northwest.

Thus with the advent of agriculture and élite became better off, but most people became worse off. Instead of swallowing the progressivist party line that we chose agriculture because it was good for us, we must ask how we got trapped by it despite its pitfalls.

One answer boils down to the adage "Might makes right." Farming could support many more people than hunting, albeit with a poorer quality of life. (Population densities of hunter-gatherers are rarely over on eperson per ten square miles, while farmers average 100 times that.) Partly, this is because a field planted entirely in edible crops lets one feed far more mouths than a forest with scattered edible plants. Partly, too, it’s because nomadic hunter-gatherers have to keep their children spaced at four-year intervals by infanticide and other means, since a mother must carry her toddler until it’s old enough to keep up with the adults. Because farm women don’t have that burden, they can and often do bear a child every two years.

As population densities of hunter-gatherers slowly rose at the end of the ice ages, bands had to choose between feeding more mouths by taking the first steps toward agriculture, or else finding ways to limit growth. Some bands chose the former solution, unable to anticipate the evils of farming, and seduced by the transient abundance they enjoyed until population growth caught up with increased food production. Such bands outbred and then drove off or killed the bands that chose to remain hunter-gatherers, because a hundred malnourished farmers can still outfight one healthy hunter. It’s not that hunter-gatherers abandonded their life style, but that those sensible enough not to abandon it were forced out of all areas except the ones farmers didn’t want.

At this point it’s instructive to recall the common complaint that archaeology is a luxury, concerned with the remote past, and offering no lessons for the present. Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and logest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a 24-hour clock on which one hour represents 100,000 years of real past time. If the history of the human race began at midnight, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day, from midnight through dawn, noon, and sunset. Finally, at 11:54 p. m. we adopted agriculture. As our second midnight approaches, will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? Or will we somehow achieve those seductive blessings that we imagine behind agriculture’s glittering façade, and that have so far eluded us?

My Way News: NASA to blow up comet for the Fourth of July! Kickass!

My Way News: "Fireworks Likely When NASA Blows Up Comet


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Not all dazzling fireworks displays will be on Earth this Independence Day. NASA hopes to shoot off its own celestial sparks in an audacious mission that will blast a stadium-sized hole in a comet half the size of Manhattan. It would give astronomers their first peek at the inside of one of these heavenly bodies.

If all goes as planned, the Deep Impact spacecraft will release a wine barrel-sized probe on a suicide journey, hurtling toward the comet Tempel 1 - about 80 million miles away from Earth at the time of impact.

'It's a bullet trying to hit a second bullet with a third bullet in the right place at the right time,' said Rick Grammier, project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Scientists hope the July 4 collision will gouge a crater in the comet's surface large enough to reveal its pristine core and perhaps yield cosmic clues to the origin of the solar system.

NASA's fleet of space-based observatories - including the Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra telescopes - along with an army of ground-based telescopes around the world are expected to record the impact and resulting crater.

The big question is: What kind of fireworks can sky-gazers expect to see from Earth?

Scientists do not know yet. But if the probe hits the bull's-eye, the impact could temporarily light up the comet as much as 40 times brighter than normal, possibly making it visible to the naked eye in parts of the Western Hemisphere.

'We're getting closer by the minute,' Andrew Dantzler, the director of NASA's solar system division, said earlier this month. 'I'm looking forward to a great encounter on the Fourth of July.'"

ABC7Chicago.com: Chicago pairing surveillance cameras with gunshot recognition systems

ABC7Chicago.com: Chicago pairing surveillance cameras with gunshot recognition systems:

June 26, 2005 — The police are watching. And in Chicago, they're listening, too.

City officials are using new technology that recognizes the sound of a gunshot within a two-block radius, pinpoints the source, turns a surveillance camera toward the shooter and places a 911 call. Officials can then track the shooter and dispatch officers to the scene.

Welcome to crime-fighting in the 21st century.

'Instead of just having eyes, you have the advantage of both eyes and ears,' said Bryan Baker, chief executive officer of Safety Dynamics in Oak Brook, which makes the systems.

After a successful pilot program, Chicago officials have installed 30 of the devices alongside video surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods, with 12 more on the way, and dozens more to follow, Baker said.

The system's formal name is Smart Sensor Enabled Neural Threat Recognition and Identification -- or SENTRI. And the technology is not just gaining favor in Chicago.

In Los Angeles County, the sheriff's department plans to deploy 20 units in a pilot test, and officials in Tijuana, Mexico, recently bought 353 units, Baker said. Police in Philadelphia and San Francisco are close to launching test programs of their own, and New Orleans and Atlanta have also made inquiries.

Safety Dynamics also works with the U.S. Army and Navy, developing projects that could detect a range of sounds like diesel trucks slowing in an unexpected location or breaking glass, Baker said. On Tuesday, a military contractor in Iraq responsible for detecting explosive devices contacted the company about mounting systems on vehicles that carry U.S. military personnel.

'They want to put 20 of them on Humvees to be able to detect gunshots,' Baker said. 'The soldiers, they're getting shot at, but they don't know where the shots are coming from.'

In Chicago, police hope the gunshot detection systems will add momentum to a technology-fueled crackdown on guns and gang violence. The city in 2004 reduced its homicide rate to its lowest level since 1965 and police seized 10,000 guns -- successes that were in large part credited to a network of 'pods,' or remote-controlled cameras that can rotate 360 degrees and feed video directly to squad-car laptops. The SENTRI systems are an addition to that network."

Newsday.com: U.S. Reasserts Control in Afghanistan

Newsday.com: U.S. Reasserts Control in Afghanistan

KHAKERAN VALLEY, Afghanistan -- Skimming low over the desert in helicopters with guns at the ready, American troops advanced Sunday into southern Afghanistan, seeking to reassert control after a spate of attacks raised fears of an Iraqi-style insurgency here.

The troops hopped from village to village in Khakeran Valley, searching mud huts and wheat fields, meeting village elders and detaining at least two men.


Up to 300 insurgents are believed to be holed up in the valley, about 130 miles northeast of the main southern city of Kandahar, said Lt. Luke Langer, a platoon leader in the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.

"The enemy has been using the Khakeran Valley as a sanctuary," he said. "Without question, I know the Taliban are in the area and I'm sure we will make contact. From talking to local people, we know the enemy are very angry with us being here."

About 465 suspected insurgents have been reported killed since the start of a major upsurge in March, when snows melted on mountain tracks used by the militants. In the same period, 29 U.S. troops, 38 Afghan troops and 125 civilians have been killed.

Blistering U.S. assaults against nearby mountainous camps last week left 178 suspected militants dead.

Flying in a convoy of two CH-47 Chinook helicopters, a Black Hawk and two Apache attack choppers, about 50 American troops moved up the river valley from village to village, searching for militants.

At the first hamlet, soldiers rushed from the aircraft as a handful of mangy chickens scampered away in clouds of billowing dust. A few farmers stood around sharing nervous, but curious, looks as the troops searched the few mud huts and fields of wheat and tomatoes that made up their community. Nothing suspicious was found.

A report then came over the radio that a group of suspected militants were spotted milling around in the next village. The troops ran back to the helicopters and flew toward it, below the brows of the barren, sun-scorched hills that border the valley.

They landed out of sight of the village and a small scouting party sneaked off to get a closer view. The other troops waited, ready to attack if the presence of insurgents was confirmed. But then word came back: the group of people were not fighters, but guests at a local wedding.

Back on the helicopters the troops went, and they flew to Mangal Khan, the main village in the valley, which used to house a local police contingent before the Taliban attacked in March and the officers fled.

They landed on the outskirts of the village and walked in, searching houses as they went. Two men were led out of one of the homes with their hands tied. The troops declined to say why they were detained.

The soldiers walked into the remains of the local police station, its windows smashed, its walls partly burned and pocked with bullet holes. A meeting was called with the village elders. Sitting in the yard in the shade of a tree, next to a rusting anti-aircraft gun, the American commander announced that they weren't leaving.

"We are here to stay. We are going to rebuild this police station," Capt. Michael Kloepper told the villagers.

Then, speaking to The Associated Press, he outlined his approach to his job in Afghanistan.

"I came here to help the people, but I also came here to kill the Taliban," he said. "I like fighting the Taliban."

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Text of newly discovered 2600 year old poem by Sappho- only the fourth we still have! Times Literary Supplement

Weekly book reviews and literary criticism from the Times Literary SupplementSince classical times, Sappho has been a source of fascination and romantic construction. The ancients, who had nine books of her poems at their disposal, were unstinting in their admiration. Some called her a tenth Muse. Strabo, writing in the time of Augustus, calls her a wonder, “for in this whole span of recorded time we know of no woman to challenge her as a poet even in the slightest degree”. In modern times, with only fragments of her poetry remaining, she has remained one of the most famous and evocative names from antiquity, a figure viewed by some with narrowed, by others with widened eyes; a socio-historical enigma, a littérateurs’ Lorelei, a feminist icon, a scholars’ maypole.

It is difficult to judge her for ourselves when so little of her work remains. What we have
consists on the one hand of quotations and more general references in ancient authors, and on the other hand of torn scraps from ancient papyrus and parchment copies, mostly from the Roman period and, more often than not, so tattered that they yield only a few words or letters from any given line of verse. In modern editions the fragments are numbered up to 264. But many of these do not contain a single original word. Only sixty-three contain any complete lines; only twenty-one contain any complete stanzas; and only three – till now – gave us poems near enough complete to appreciate as literary structures.

A recent find enables us to raise this number to four. In 2004, Michael Gronewald and
Robert Daniel announced the identification of a papyrus in the University of Cologne as part of a roll containing poems of Sappho. This text, recovered from Egyptian mummy cartonnage, is the earliest manuscript of her work so far known. It was copied early in the third century bc, not much more than 300 years after she wrote.


Parts of three of her poems are represented. As usual, all are in a fragmentary state. But the second one, it turned out, had been partially known since 1922 from an Oxyrhynchus papyrus of the third century ad, and by combining the two texts we now obtain an almost complete poem.

When we had only the Oxyrhynchus portion, we had only line-ends, preceded and followed by line-ends of other poems, and it was not clear where one poem ended and the next began; the left-hand margin, where this would have been signalled, was missing. That question is now settled. We have a poem of twelve lines, made up of six two-line stanzas. The last eight lines are virtually complete. The first four are still lacking two or three words each at their beginnings. But we can make out the sentence structure and restore the sense of what is lost, if not the exact words.

Here is the poem in my own restoration and translation. The words in square brackets are supplied by conjecture.

"[You for] the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
[be zealous,] girls, [and the] clear melodious lyre:

[but my once tender] body old age now
[has seized;] my hair’s turned [white] instead of dark;

my heart’s grown heavy, my knees will not support me,
that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.

This state I oft bemoan; but what’s to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there’s no way.

Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn,
love-smitten, carried off to the world’s end,

handsome and young then, yet in time grey age
o’ertook him, husband of immortal wife."

We know of several poems in which Sappho spoke of herself as getting on in years. Here
she addresses a group of younger women or girls, whom she calls (to translate literally) “children”, contrasting their blithe singing and dancing with her own heaviness of heart and limb. It is clear from other evidence that she composed her poetry, or most of it, within an intimate circle of women whom she calls her “companions”. Her house is a house of moisopoloi, “servants of the Muses”. Later writers saw her as a chorus-leader or teacher, to whom people of class in several cities sent their daughters for a musical education. We cannot tell how accurate a construction this is, but it must have been based on the impression given by the poems, and it is consistent with what we know.

In the new poem, however, the focus is on Sappho herself. She recites the symptoms of her ageing, as in another famous poem she recites the physical symptoms of jealous love. Then comes philosophical reflection. In the love poem she tells herself that everything is endurable, because fortunes can be transformed at God’s pleasure. In the new poem she tells herself that growing old is part of the human condition and there is nothing to be done about it. This truth is illustrated, as typically in Greek lyric, by a mythical example. It is a tale that was popular at the time, the story of Tithonus, whom the Dawn-goddess took as her husband. At her request, Zeus granted him immortality, but she neglected to ask that he should also have eternal youth, so he just grew ever older and feebler. Finally she shut him up in his room, where he chatters away endlessly but barely has the strength to move.

Sappho is very economical with the myth, giving it just four lines and ending the poem with it. At first sight it might seem a lame ending. But the final phrase gives a poignant edge to the whole. Tithonus lived on, growing ever more grey and frail, while his consort remained young and beautiful – just as Sappho grows old before a cohort of protégées who, like undergraduates, are always young. The poem is a small masterpiece: simple, concise, perfectly formed, an honest, unpretentious expression of human feeling, dignified in its restraint. It moves both by what it says and by what it leaves unspoken. It gives us no ground for thinking that Sappho’s poetic reputation was undeserved.

The Fourth Rail: In Response to a Question

The Fourth Rail: In Response to a Question

The data cited (numbers of attacks, etc.) is important, in that it gives us a sense of enemy capability. It does appear that, in certain ways, enemy capability to cause mayhem is improving.

This is, however, normal in any sort of warfare, insurgency or otherwise. It is to be expected that enemies will become more deadly as time passes. This is so much a baseline feature of warfighting that Carl von Clausewitz, perhaps the greatest military scientist of them all, stated that escalation was one of the two universal features of war.

This is not an essay on Clausewitz (though I have written such a piece in the past, for the interested). For our purposes, it is enough to say that time permits the enemy to develop specialized techniques for fighting your particular kind of training; and that, as the enemy loses more men and material, he becomes more committed to winning rather than wasting what he has lost. Also, as you and he become more committed to winning, the stakes rise such that committing more, or even all, becomes a rational proposition. At the start, a battle may be something you can win or lose at little cost; but if you fight it long enough, it becomes a battle you must win in order to remain in the war. The battle becomes a decisive one.

As a result, the enemy tends to commit even more of what he has left to victory. It is almost always the case, in any conflict, that destructiveness tends to increase with time.

It is a mistake, however, to read from that the lesson that the trend will continue forever. Eventually escalation will have tapped all reasonably available resources on one side, and at that point, that side will begin to collapse. Escalation, in other words, is a natural feature of warfare: but, although it continues until it breaks, it does eventually break.

The United States has not chosen to continue with escalation. Our own resources are vaster by far than those available to our enemy, but we have chosen to manage the conflict rather than undergo the social stresses necessary for serious escalation. The enemy, however, continues to escalate its attacks against us. There is every reason to believe they will continue to do so until they have tapped out their resources, and begin to fall apart.

That is the answer to question one: it is only to be expected that escalation will occur. It should be expected to continue to occur until we win. The fact that escalation exists does not prove anything about the success or failure of the mission in Iraq; for that, we must look elsewhere.

Which brings us to question two: where shall we look?

In spite of their continued escalation, the rate of coalition casualties is not increasing, but has rather peaked and dropped. The insurgent capabilities are now more frequently brought to bear against softer targets: Iraqi government structures, and civilians. The danger represented by this will be discussed in a moment, but for now, it should be noticed that the escalation by the enemy has not recently increased our losses. They are becoming more dangerous, but our fighters are relatively safer in the period since Jan. 30, than in the six months previous to that. This article, pointing to the same increases in capability that Chris cites, notes the increased focus of enemy attacks on civilian rather than US military targets: "'Terrorists always look for the weakest point,' said Dick Bridges, spokesman for the Pentagon's IED task force. 'We are no longer the weakest point.'"

The attacks against civilians increase the number of casualties, but their primary motivation is to destabilize Iraqi society, and particularly the civil structure that is still forming in Iraq. The aim of the terrorists is no longer first and foremost to kill Marines and soldiers, but now to disrupt Iraqi society in order to fracture it so badly that it cannot be held together. If they can cause the society to splinter into chaos, they will have won.

This points to an insight arrived at some years ago by military scientists, which is that warfare is entering a new phase -- what is called "Fourth Generation" warfare. For those of you who wish to do so, you can read this excellent primer on generational warfare theory from 1989, in the Marine Corps Gazette. For those who are comfortable with the topic, we'll proceed.

Each generational change has been marked by greater dispersion on the battlefield. The fourth generation battlefield is likely to include the whole of the enemy's society.... [F]ourth generation warfare seems likely to be widely dispersed and largely undefined; the distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point. It will be nonlinear, possibly to the point of having no definable battlefields or fronts. The distinction between "civilian" and "military" may disappear.

To a very great degree that is what is happening not just in Iraq, but in the global war on terror. The entire society is the battlefield -- we are fighting in a battlespace that includes the whole of the Iraqi society. The enemy is engaging us there. On a macro scale, we are fighting in a battlespace that includes all of Muslim society, which we are trying to transform. Our enemy is engaging us there. There are promising signs throughout that society that freedom and democracy may be taking root. It is still in its birth pains, but there has been sign of success from Lebanon, from Malaysia, from Afghanistan, and yes -- from Iraq.

We are not fighting in a battlespace that includes our own society. The enemy has failed to engage us there effectively, since 9/11. The political sniping between Blue and Red, left and right, is not warfare. It is politics; and I think it is no nastier now than it was in the 1990s. As far as the GWOT goes, then, here is the important fact: we are fighting it entirely in the enemy's society. Our own society is not changed by the war; if anything, society is reverting to pre-9/11 mores. In the global war, then, I think we are winning -- and winning big.

Because we are fighting in the enemy's society, there are two possible outcomes: we lose the battle for that society, in which case we must try again at some other opportunity; or he loses, in which case he is destroyed. If we were fighting in our own society, the choices would be reversed. The campaign in Iraq must be seen as a battle in this wider war, and one that we have to fight and win for this reason: it keeps us fighting on the enemy's ground. The war can only be won when it is won at the level of a whole society. That means that, if we are to win, we must fight it in his society.

To return to Iraq proper, are we winning or losing there? Here again, it would be helpful to return to the piece I wrote on Clausewitz; "find" on "Culminating Point of Victory". It seems clear to me that the enemy's attacks on Iraq's civil society are more likely to turn Iraqi society against them than against us; that the "culminating point of victory" is one that our side could reach, but that is not available to them.

Victor Davis Hanson on the War on Terror on National Review Online

Victor Davis Hanson on the War on Terror on National Review Online

F or all the talk of imperial America, and our frequent "police actions," we are hardly militarists. Protected by two oceans, and founded on the principles of non-interference in Europe's bloody internecine wars, the United States has always been rightly circumspect about going to war abroad. The American people are highly individualistic, skeptical of war's utility, and traditionally distrustful of government — and wary of the need of their sacrifice for supposed global agendas.


So we go to war reluctantly. And being human, our support for war hinges on its being short and economical, and waged for professed idealistic principles. Wars that drag on past three years — from the Civil War to Vietnam — can often lead to demonstrations and popular disdain.

By the same token, some politics are more compatible with the American perception of the need to fight.

It was not only Lincoln's gifted rhetoric that got the Union through Cold Harbor and the Wilderness, but after the war's initial months of hard fighting, his reinvention of the North's very aims, from a utilitarian struggle to restore the United States to a moral crusade to end slavery and the power of the plantationists for good. In that effort, he was willing to suspend habeas corpus, sidestep the Congress, and govern large chunks of the border states through martial law.

Woodrow Wilson intervened liberally in Central America. He led us to war against right-wing Prussian militarism. His "too proud to fight" slogan in was no time scrapped for the Fourteen Points, a utopian blueprint for the nations of the world, handed down by a former professor from his high and moralistic Olympus.

Few worried that Franklin Delano Roosevelt not only waged a savage global struggle against Italian, German, and Japanese fascism, but in the process did some pretty unsavory and markedly illiberal things at home. It was no right-wing nut who locked up Japanese Americans without regard for habeas corpus or ordered German agents to be shot as terrorists.

To end the dictatorial and genocidal plans of Slobodan Milosevic, liberal Bill Clinton was willing to bomb downtown Belgrade, commit American forces to a major campaign without U.S. Senate approval, and bypass the United Nations altogether. Few accused him of fighting an illegal war, contravening U.N. protocols, or cowardly dropping bombs on civilians. In all these cases, public opposition was pretty much muted, despite the horrendous casualties involved in some of the conflicts.

Some general principles, then, can guide us in determining American reactions to war, and they transcend even the notion of comparative sacrifice and cost. Progressives such as Wilson and Clinton, who, we are assured, hate war, can intervene far more easily, and are more likely to receive a pass from a hypercritical elite media.

In the end, they always seem forced to fight by circumstances, since their very liberal natures are supposed to abhor optional conflicts. FDR's wartime criminal-justice apparatus trumped anything that John Ashcroft could imagine, but it has remained relatively unexamined even to this day: Liberals must have had very good reasons to put non-white people in camps, so contrary to their innate notions of social justice.

Second, the United States seems to be more united against right-wing fascism than left-wing totalitarianism, perhaps because our elites in academia, journalism, and politics feel authoritarian dictators from the right lack the veneer of egalitarian empathy for the poor. In any case, we are more prone even today to assume the 6-8 million Hitler slaughtered puts him in a category far worse than Stalin or Mao, despite the fact that the two combined did away with ten times Hitler's tally.

During World War II, here at home we experienced nothing like the Rosenbergs or Alger Hiss working for the Axis, even though Soviet-inspired global Communism would end up liquidating 80 million in Russia and China alone. Fighting North Korea or North Vietnam — or even waging the Cold War — was a far more difficult enterprise than opposing the Kaiser, Hitler, Mussolini, or Tojo. Our successes were often due to the efforts of strong anti-Communist democrats such as Harry Truman, who could assure our influential universities, media, politicians, writers, actors, and foundations of the real danger, and the fact that the president had little choice but to go to war.

In this context, many had some apprehensions about the present so-called war on terror. Ostensibly, the Islamists who had pulled off September 11 largely fit past definitions of fascism and so should have galvanized universal traditional American furor.

The tribal followers of bin Laden advocated a return to a mythical age of ideological purity uncorrupted by modernism, democracy, or pluralism. Islamism certainly held no tolerance for other religions, much less any who were not extreme Muslims. Sexism and racism — remember bin Laden's taunts about Africans, ongoing slavery in the Sudan, and the genocide in Darfur — were an integral part of radical Islamist doctrine. Al-Qaeda was not so much chauvinistic as misogynistic. Substitute bin Laden's evocation of "believer" for the old "Volk," and the crackpot rants about world domination, purity, and the anti-Semitic slurs of "apes and pigs" fall into the old fascist slots.

It is no accident that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf are still popular sellers among zealots in some capitals of the Arab world. Was our war on terror, then, going to be morally clear to even the most progressive utopian, since our enemies lacked liberal pretensions and the charisma of a Stalin, Ho, Che, or Fidel that so often duped the gullible?

Hardly.

MSNBC: Al-Qaida finds safe haven in Iran

A Daily Briefing on Iran:

"Somewhere north of Tehran, living perhaps in villas near the town of Chalous on the Caspian Sea coast, are between 20 and 25 of al-Qaida’s former leaders, along with two of Osama bin Laden’s sons.

Men such as Saif al-Adel, the former military commander of al-Qaida, and Suleiman Abu Ghaith, the bespectacled bin Laden spokesman, are not in hiding but rather in the care — or custody — of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

“They are under virtual house arrest,” not able to do much of anything, said one senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

How they got there and what will happen to them is one of the more intriguing stories of the war on terror, one that is filled with secret movements, stolen communications and a failed attempt at a prisoner exchange involving Iranian dissidents.

“We believe that they're holding members of al-Qaida's management council,” Fran Townsend, President Bush’s counterterrorism czar, said of Iran.

In an interview with Tom Brokaw two weeks ago, she added: “And we have encouraged and suggested that they ought to try them, they ought to admit freely that they're there — which they have not done — that they're holding them. Or they ought to return them to their countries of origin, which they've also been unwilling to do.”
[...]

As a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official told NBC News: “The U.S. government believed that the Saudis made a deal with the Iranians in 1996 after the Khobar Towers bombing. The deal was structured this way: The Saudis would not cooperate with the U.S. on the investigation, knowing that if they did cooperate, the U.S. would have the justification for bombing Iran.”

In return, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Iranians agreed not to support any terrorist attacks in the kingdom. (Ultimately, the United States charged Saudi Hezbollah members with the Khobar Towers attack and named as unindicted co-conspirators two officers of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.)

“Then, in 2003, we are told, the Saudis — with U.S. and British help — discovered that al-Qaida's management council in Iran was communicating with the al-Qaida cell in Saudi that had carried out the attacks on Western compounds in Riyadh," the official said.

House arrest
“The Saudis let the Iranians know and, citing the earlier agreement, demanded that the Iranians put a halt to the operations of the management council, leading to the Iranians putting the 20 to 25 al-Qaida officials in Iran under virtual house arrest,” the official said.

And that’s just what happened, say current U.S. officials. According to reports in the Arab media, they were rounded up and taken to two locations guarded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards: one in villas in the Namak Abrud region, near the town of Chalous on the Caspian coast, 60 miles north of Tehran, and the other in Lavizan, a region northwest of the capital that also houses a large military complex.

Publicly, all CIA Director Porter Goss will say is that Iran has “detained” al-Qaida elements.
[...]

In fact, he said, Iran first proposed the exchange of al-Qaida operatives for leaders of the group Mujahedeen E. Khalk who are under U.S. control in Iraq. The MEK has been on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations since 1998, when the Clinton administration was trying to open up lines of communications with Iran. The State Department blames the group for the killings of five Americans in the run-up to the Iranian revolution in 1979 and various murders and attacks on Iranian diplomats and civilians both inside and outside Iran.

In addition, Saddam Hussein had financed, trained and armed the MEK, even building the group a 5,000-man training facility in Fallujah (now being used by the U.S. Marines) and used them in the Iran-Iraq War and in cross-border attacks after the war.

“The exchange was never formally proposed, but several general offers were made through third parties, not all of them diplomatic,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“One reason nothing came of it was because we knew that there were parts of the U.S. government who didn't want to give them the MEK because they had other plans for them … like overthrowing the Iranian government.”
"

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Winds of Change.NET: Training Grounds, Magnets, and Hunters in Iraq

Winds of Change.NET: Training Grounds, Magnets, and Hunters in Iraq: "Training Grounds, Magnets, and Hunters in Iraq
by Bill Roggio

A CIA report leaked to the press indicates Iraqi is becoming a training ground for terrorists on par with or exceeding that of Afghanistan in the 1990s. This isn’t news, however, as the National Intelligence Council came to a similar conclusion in January of this year. The latest report indicates that terrorists are gaining “a broad range of skills, from car bombings and assassinations to coordinated conventional attacks on police and military targets” and are likely to take their skills with them to their home countries, and even infiltrate Western societies “once the insurgency ends.”

This fact is often used as a criticism of the invasion of Iraq, however it also provides credibility to the “Flypaper” or “Magnet” theories attributed to the invasion: bringing the war to the heart of the Middle East would issue a challenge to al Qaeda that cannot be ignored, forcing them to commit fighters and resources to the battle, where US forces can fix and kill them.

Michael McNeil from Impearls cites an unlikely source for confirmation of the Flypaper/Magnet theory: the BBC. Not only has Iraq become a magnet, but it has increased Europe’s security by redirecting fighters from their European soil.

A BBC interviewee, Jeremy Binnie of Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, put it thusly:

The war in Iraq has minimized the threat to Europe [emphasis added] because everyone who's Jihad-inclined wants to go fight over there. So even though some of these… the guys suspected of involvement in the train bombings have reportedly gone over to lodge themselves in Iraq. So there are these radicals sort of coming out of Europe and actually going to a different theater altogether.

The death of Abdullah Mohammed Rashid al-Roshoud in Qaim, number 24 out of 26 on Saudi Arabia’s list of most wanted terrorists provides backing to the Flypaper theory. So does the arrest in Spain of 11 al Qaeda fighters; the influx of terrorists from Africa; and Evan Kohlmann’s chart of known foreign fighters killed in Iraq (keep in mind this does not include captured foreign fighters, estimated at about 400).

The use of Iraq as a training ground for foreign terrorists has its pluses and minuses. No doubt those who survive the crucible will have a honed skill set. No doubt Iraq is being used as a recruiting campaign for aspiring jihadis. And Iraqi is “awash with weapons”, making it easy for the terrorists to access the materials used in their attacks, which are increasing in sophistication.

But the advantage does not favor al Qaeda alone. Iraq has given American intelligence an opportunity to study and penetrate al Qaeda’s operations. The CIA, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Operations Forces operating against al Qaeda in Iraq are learning the tactics of al Qaeda, and are developing their skills and familiarity with the Middle Eastern culture. These servicemen, once returning to civilian life, will retain their skills which can be used in civil defense and in the defense and intelligence community. Iraq is a hot zone, and it gives the military the ability to actively hunt al Qaeda, which is impossible in countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other nations hostile to direct US intervention.

And hunt them we are. The latest deployment to Iraq is the 4,000 man force of the 28th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, from the Pennsylvania National Guard. Their destination is the Anbar province, and they will join the 3,000 plus Marines currently there, essentially doubling the combat power in the region. And the Iraqi Army has yet to enter the battle in the province.

Good hunting and best of luck to my neighbors in the 2/28 BCT."

Friday, June 24, 2005

Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment by Thomas DiLorenzo

Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment by Thomas DiLorenzo

Rossum also quotes Hamilton as saying that the election of senators by state legislatures would be an "absolute safeguard" against federal tyranny. George Mason believed that the appointment of senators by state legislatures would give the citizens of the states "some means of defending themselves against encroachments of the National Government."

Fisher Ames thought of U.S. senators as "ambassadors of the states," whereas Madison, in Federalist #62, wrote that "The appointment of senators by state legislatures gives to state governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government, as must secure the authority of the former." Moreover, said Madison, the mere "enumeration of [federal] powers" in the Constitution would never be sufficient to restrain the tyrannical proclivities of the central state, and were mere "parchment barriers" to tyranny. Structural arrangements, such as the appointment of senators by state legislatures, were necessary.

State legislatures did not hesitate to instruct U.S. senators on how to vote. In fact, the very first instruction that was given to them was to meet in public! The Virginia and Kentucky Resolves of 1798 (see William Watkins, Reclaiming the American Revolution) were the work of state legislatures that instructed their senators to oppose the Sedition Act, which essentially made it illegal to criticize the federal government.

State legislatures were instrumental in Andrew Jackson’s famous battle with the Bank of the United States (BUS), which ended with the Bank being de-funded and replaced by the Independent Treasury System and the era of "free banking" (1842–1862). State legislatures throughout the U.S. instructed their senators to oppose the BUS in the senate. Senator Pelog Sprague of Maine was forced to resign in 1835 after ignoring his legislature’s instructions to vote against the Bank. The U.S. Senate voted to censure President Andrew Jackson for opposing the BUS, but the states responded by forcing seven other senators to resign for taking part in that vote. (It seems that it’s not only twenty-first century Republicans who run for office by calling Washington, D.C. a cesspool, and then thinking of it as more like a hot tub once they get there).

The founding fathers understood that it would never be in the Supreme Court’s self-interest to protect states’ rights. Rossum quotes the anti-federalist writer "Brutus" on this point:

It would never be in the self-interest of the Court to strike down federal laws trenching on the inviolable and residuary sovereignty of the states, because every extension of power of the general legislature, as well as of the judicial powers, will increase the powers of the courts.

"Brutus’ also pointed out that with increased powers of the courts would likely come increased compensation for federal judges.

The adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913 (along with the income tax and the Fed) was a result of the deification of "democracy" that began with the Union victory in the War to Prevent Southern Independence. The war was fought, said Lincoln at Gettysburg, so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people" should not perish from the earth. This of course was absurd nonsense, but Lincoln’s silver-tongued rhetoric was apparently persuasive enough to those residing north of the Mason-Dixon line.

The direct election of senators was said to be more democratic, and therefore would reduce, if not end, corruption. There was a good bit of corruption involved in the election of senators, but the source of the corruption was: democracy!

As Rossum recounts, in 1866 a new federal law was passed that mandated for the first time how the states were to appoint senators. First, a voice vote would be taken in each house. If there was no overwhelming choice, then a concurrent vote would be taken. This process revealed information about voting preferences to minority cliques within the legislatures, who then knew who they had to support or oppose. The end result was frequent gridlocks (71 from 1885 to 1912 alone). The deadlocks were inevitably ended by bribery. Thus "democracy, in the form of the 1866 law, led to the bribery, so that the natural "cure" for the problem was: More democracy!

The Seventeenth Amendment was one of the last nails to be pounded into the coffin of federalism in America. The citizens of the states, through their state legislators, could no longer place any roadblocks whatsoever in the way of federal power. The Sixteenth Amendment, which enacted the income tax in the same year, implicitly assumed that the federal government lays claim to all income, and that citizens would be allowed to keep whatever their rulers in Washington, D.C. decided they could keep by setting the tax rates. From that point on, the states were only mere appendages or franchises of the central government.

The federal government finally became a pure monopoly and citizen sovereignty became a dead letter. Further arming itself with the powers of legal counterfeiting (the Fed) in the same year, the federal government could ignore the wishes of great majority of the citizens with reckless and disastrous abandon, as it did with its entry into World War I just a few years later.

10News.com - Shelters Upset PETA Killed Animals Instead Of Adopting Out

10News.com - News - Shelters Upset PETA Killed Animals Instead Of Adopting Out: PETA guilty of cruelty to animals

NORFOLK, Va. -- Two North Carolina counties have stopped turning over shelter animals to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Officials said they were surprised to learn the group euthanized cats and dogs instead of trying to find them homes. They said they believed the animals were being taken for evaluation, and were being adopted out -- and that euthanasia would be only a last resort.

PETA said unfortunately, even some healthy animals may be euthanized if PETA cannot find them homes. Documents show PETA euthanized about 6,100 domestic animals from 2001-2003.

Two PETA employees have been charged with animal cruelty for dumping dead animals they collected in eastern North Carolina into a shopping center's garbage bins."

Local Insurgents: ‘Islamic Thinkers’ Menace Gay N.Y.

Local Insurgents: ‘Islamic Thinkers’ Menace Gay N.Y.

On the evening of July 11, 2004, Kristine Withers walked down 37th Avenue, a main drag in Jackson Heights, Queens, and passed what had become a familiar sight: a group of tables set up on the sidewalk by the Islamic Thinkers Society, a local group of militant Islamists. On the tables, copies of the Koran and books espousing the group’s strict religious beliefs shared space with tracts on Zionism, pamphlets on the dangers of homosexuality, and signs bearing messages like “Your Terrorists Are Our Heroes.”

Ms. Withers, who identifies herself as a lesbian and a political conservative, was offended by the group’s message. The Islamic Thinkers Society had become a regular feature at local gay-pride parades, where they’ve called for the castration and death of gay men, according to several witnesses who spoke to The Observer. But Ms. Withers said it was as much the anti-American messages as the anti-gay ones that riled her up.

“To me, it’s synonymous with the Nazis recruiting on 42nd Street during World War II,” she said of her antagonists.

So, in another installment of the then-yearlong series of hostile exchanges between her and the group, she decided to do something. At one point in the exchange, she told the dozen or so bearded young men who make up the group that the prophet Muhammad was a pedophile. They called her a “Christian bitch,” by her account. Then she knocked over a sign and stepped on it. Two young bearded men, members of the group, pulled the sign out from under her, sending her flying to the ground.

Soon, police arrived and took a statement from Mohamed Bahi, a student at Queens College who told The Observer that he is not a member of the group. Ms. Withers was charged with incitement to riot and four other counts. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown assigned the case to the unit of his office that handles bias crimes, though Ms. Withers argued that the Queens District Attorney was going after the wrong person for bias.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Belmont Club: Who's On First?

The Belmont Club: Who's On First?

Well, I know it's really bad form to post someone else's post in its entirety, but Wretchard of the Belmont Club is just the best, and his post today is just fantastic. He was having problems with his old blog, so you can find him now at http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com. I highly recommend you visit his blog!


"Glenn Reynolds links to Karl Zinmeister's article in American Enterprise Online, The War is Over, and We Won where Zinmeister claims that:

Your editor returned to Iraq in April and May of 2005 for another embedded period of reporting. I could immediately see improvements compared to my earlier extended tours during 2003 and 2004. ... With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over. Egregious acts of terror will continue -- in Iraq as in many other parts of the world. But there is now no chance whatever of the U.S. losing this critical guerilla war.


Gregory Scoblete thinks it is premature to declare victory in Iraq because "guerilla wars" take decades to conclude; and since this one is only entering its third year, declaring the outcome makes as much sense as calling the result of basketball game in the first quarter. He further argues that by declaring the proceedings settled, Zinmeister is setting up the public for a cruel disappointment when the next flare-up occurs.

Don't get me wrong, I think on the whole, the trends are indeed positive in Iraq and that they can be sustained assuming continued American involvement and savvy leadership on behalf of Iraq's political class. I hope Zinsmeister is correct, and I'm optimistic about the longer-term prospects for our success in Iraq. But I'm actually amazed that after "Mission Accomplished," "cake walk" et. al. conservatives aren't more reserved when declaring victory.

Indeed, Zinsmeister's proclamations are irresponsible. Guerilla wars are notoriously long, bloody affairs. Expectation setting is crucial. Fault the media all you want for painting an unduly grim picture in Iraq, but isn't flatly asserting that victory is at hand equally wrong-headed? Reading Zinsmeister, you'd be forgiven for thinking that (a) U.S. troops could begin coming home shortly, (b) that in a few more months things will be noticeably calmer, or (c) that no course corrections are necessary. When A and B don't materialize, and it's hard to think they will, people will rightly wonder whether they've been lied to or whether the people making such sweeping claims were spinning or ignorant of the facts. Then - and this is crucial - the public support needed for seeing the war through to a successful conclusion will erode even quicker.


What does it mean to win a war against guerilla insurgents? What does it mean for a guerilla insurgency to triumph? The one answer that is popularly advanced -- one that is implicit in Scoblete's argument -- is that guerillas win if they simply remain in existence. This site lists more than 383 armed guerilla groups extant in the world today. Clearly all of them exist and just clearly not all of them are triumphant. There are, for instance 27 armed guerilla groups in India, 9 in Britain (the most famous of which is the Irish Republican Army) and 11 in the United States. Yet no one asks whether it is premature to declare the Westminster Parliament in control of the Northern Ireland or wonder whether Los Matcheteros will take over the Washington DC. And the reason is simple: while the IRA and Los Matcheteros are still likely to exist in 2010, there is little or no chance that these organizations will seize state power in all or even part of Britain or the United States. Seizing state power over a definite territory is the explicit objective of nearly every guerilla armed force in the world today: if they can achieve that, they win. If they cannot achieve that and have no realistic prospect of ever achieving that, they are defeated, however long they may continue to exist.

Guerilla leaders themselves know this and invariably attempt to create a state-in-waiting in the course of their campaign based on an armed force, a united front of allies willing to support the guerilla's political objectives and a hard leadership core in firm control of both. They also attempt to create micro-states in the course of insurgency usually styled "base areas" or "liberated zones". Political influence, combat capability and territorial control are the real metrics of a successful guerilla campaign. The argument that mere existence or avoidance of defeat constitutes victory is hogwash: both the IRA and the Red Hand Commandos exist, but clearly the IRA is the more successful guerilla organization because it has a national united front, some combat capability and hard and diverse leadership core where the Red Hand Commandos do not. Even Al Qaeda, which some claim to be a creature of pure thought has sought to control territory in Afghanistan and spread its influence through Islamic "charities" while under the control of a central group of militants. It was, in other words, no different from any other classic guerilla organization.

While the Iraqi insurgents still retain the capability to kill significant numbers of people they are almost total losers by the traditional metric of guerilla warfare. First of all, by attacking civilians of every ethnic group and vowing to resubjugate the majority ethnic groups in the country they have at a stroke made creating a national united front against the United States a near impossibility. Second, there is a battle for supremacy among the insurgent leaders. The New York Times (hat tip: DL) reports:

Late Sunday night, American marines watching the skyline from their second-story perch in an abandoned house here saw a curious thing: in the distance, mortar and gunfire popped, but the volleys did not seem to be aimed at them. In the dark, one spoke in hushed code words on a radio, and after a minute found the answer. "Red on red," he said, using a military term for enemy-on-enemy fire. ... "There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."


In that context, the battlefield victories of the US Armed Forces and its coalition allies are not the empty triumphs the press sometimes represents them to be but expressions of the complete strategic bankruptcy of the insurgency. No national united front; no united hard core of leadership; no victorious armed force. This in addition to no territory and increasingly, no money and what is there left? Well there is the ability to kill civilians and to avoid being totally exterminated by the Coalition; but that is not insurgent victory nor even the prospect of victory.

When Austin Bay, upon returning to Baghdad after the absence of a year notes that "the Baghdad of June 2005 is not the Baghdad I left in September 2004" because:

It was the first time I saw independently deployed Iraqi forces. Now, I see senior Iraqi officers in the hallways of Al Faw Palace conducting operational liaison with U.S. and coalition forces. I hear reports of the Iraqi Army conducting independent street-clearing and neighborhood search operations. Brigadier Gen. Karl Horst of US Third Infantry Division told me about an Iraqi battalion's success on the perennially challenging Haifa Street.


it is not an irrelevant anecdotal fact. It is an observation that the new Iraqi government increasingly has a national united front; control of territory and an ever more potent army at its disposal. This condition has a name, although it may be irresponsible to use it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rare Gene Discourages Alcohol Dependence Among Jews

Rare Gene Discourages Alcohol Dependence Among Jews:

from Center for the Advancement of Health
Study: Jews Have Fewer Problems With Alcohol Dependence
A new study suggests that genes, not religion, may help explain why Jews generally have fewer problems with alcohol than Caucasians in general.

The study findings, which appear in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, also suggest that the protective effects of this gene may be undermined by a culture that encourages drinking.

The gene, ADH2*2 is a rare variation of ADH2, which produces a more active form of alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in alcohol metabolism. However, explains lead author Deborah Hasin, Ph.D., from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, 'the exact reason why ADH2*2 tends to discourage heavier drinking isn't known.'

'Recently, reports have shown a relatively high prevalence [approximately 20 percent] of ADH2*2 in Jewish samples ... suggesting that ADH2*2 is one of the factors explaining the low rates of alcoholism in this group,' Hasin notes. Earlier research has shown that differences in religious practice and level of religiosity cannot account for these low rates.

Indeed, recent investigations have demonstrated 'significant relationships between ADH2*2 and alcohol use ... in all Jewish groups studied,' Hasin reports. Those with the variant gene have been seen to drink less frequently, consume less alcohol overall or have more unpleasant reactions to alcohol. Until the present study, however, the relationship between ADH2*2 and level of dependence on alcohol was not explored.

Hasin and her colleagues recruited 75 Israeli Jews aged 22-65. Trained interviewers employed a widely used questionnaire to assess each participant's current, past and lifetime level of alcohol dependence. Sixty-eight of the participants provided genetic material to test for the presence of ADH2*2. "

Monday, June 20, 2005

No faking female orgasm in scientific research - Yahoo! News

No faking female orgasm in scientific research - Yahoo! News:

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Women may be able to fool their partners by faking an orgasm but a brain scanner will catch them out every time, a conference heard Monday.

Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have used scans to show that different areas of the brain are stimulated during an orgasm but are not activated when a woman fakes it.

'Women can imitate orgasm quite well,' Gert Holstege told a fertility meeting Monday. 'But there is nothing really happening in the brain.'

He and colleagues took brain scans of 13 women and 11 men, aged 19-49 who had volunteered for the study, while they were being sexually stimulated by their partner and during an orgasm and compared them to images of their brains at rest.

'We wanted to know what the brain was doing during orgasm,' Holstege said.

When women genuinely achieved an orgasm, areas of the brain involved in fear and emotion were deactivated. Those areas stayed alert however when women were faking it.

The researchers also found that the cortex, which is linked with consciousness, is active during a fake orgasm but not during the real thing.

'The deactivation of these very important parts of the brain might be the most important thing necessary to have an orgasm,' said Holstege.

'It means that if you are fearful or at a very high level of anxiety, then it is very difficult to have sex because you really have to let yourself go,' he added.

The brain scans for men during orgasm were less conclusive, according to Holstege.

But they did show that different parts of the male and female brain are activated and deactivated during sexual stimulation."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - Happiness helps people stay healthy

New Scientist Breaking News - Happiness helps people stay healthy:

People who are happier in their daily lives have healthier levels of key body chemicals than those who muster few positive feelings, a new study suggests. This means happier people may have healthier hearts and cardiovascular systems, possibly cutting their risk of diseases like diabetes.

Previous studies have shown that depression is associated with health problems compared to average emotional states. But few studies have looked at the effects of positive moods on health. Now, researchers at University College London, UK, have linked everyday happiness with healthier levels of important body chemicals, such as the stress hormone cortisol.

“This study showed that whether people are happy or less happy in their everyday lives appears to have important effects on the markers of biological function known to be associated with disease,” says clinical psychologist Jane Wardle, one of the research team. “Perhaps laughter is the best medicine,” she adds.

“This is the best data to date that associates positive emotional feelings with good effects on your health,” says Carol Shively, at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US. “We usually concentrate on things that are either bad or wrong, rather than good or right.”"

No American 'Gulag'

No American 'Gulag': By Pavel Litvinov

Several days ago I received a telephone call from an old friend who is a longtime Amnesty International staffer. He asked me whether I, as a former Soviet 'prisoner of conscience' adopted by Amnesty, would support the statement by Amnesty's executive director, Irene Khan, that the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is the 'gulag of our time.'

'Don't you think that there's an enormous difference?' I asked him.


'Sure,' he said, 'but after all, it attracts attention to the problem of Guantanamo detainees.'

The word 'gulag' was a bureaucratic acronym for the main prison administration in Stalin's Soviet Union. After publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's 'The Gulag Archipelago,' it became a symbol for the system of forced-labor camps that have been an integral feature of communist countries. Millions of prisoners confined in the gulag had not been involved in violence or committed any crime -- they were there because they belonged to a 'wrong' social, national or political group or expressed a 'wrong' opinion.

The cruelty and scale of the gulag system are described in numerous books, so there is no need to recount them here. By any standard, Guantanamo and similar American-run prisons elsewhere do not resemble, in their conditions of detention or their scale, the concentration camp system that was at the core of a totalitarian communist system."
[...]
For example, incidents of desecration of the Koran in Guantanamo by U.S. personnel have been widely reported. But those Korans were surely not brought to Guantanamo by the prisoners themselves from Afghanistan. They were supplied by the U.S. administration -- in spite of the obvious fact that most of the prisoners misguidedly found in the Koran the inspiration for their violent hatred of the United States.

By contrast, Russian author Andrei Sinyavsky, who was sentenced in 1966 to seven years' forced labor for his writing, was approached one evening soon after his arrival in a labor camp by a prisoner who quietly asked Sinyavsky whether he wanted to listen to a recital of the biblical account of the apocalypse. (Possession of a Bible was strictly prohibited in the gulag.) The man took Sinyavsky to the furnace room, where a group of people were squatting in the dark recesses. In the light of the furnace flame, one of the men got up and started to recite the biblical passages by heart. When he stopped, the stoker, an old man, said: "And now you, Fyodor, continue." Fyodor got up and recited from the next chapter. The whole text of the Bible was distributed among these prisoners, ordinary Russians who were spending 10 to 25 years in the gulag for their religious beliefs. They knew the texts by heart and met regularly to repeat them so that they would not forget. And this happened in 1967, when the gulag had become smaller and the Soviet regime milder than it had been under Stalin.

Amnesty International, with its fact-based, objective and balanced approach to the defense of human rights, has been a source of hope for dissidents everywhere. A central idea of Amnesty has been the concept of prisoner of conscience as a person who neither uses nor advocates political violence. Just to know that you have been adopted as a prisoner of conscience, that somewhere in the world there are people who know your name and are working for your release, gives a prisoner hope.

When I arrived in the United States after serving my term in Siberian exile, I met hundreds of dedicated Amnesty activists throughout the country who wrote letters to leaders of world governments demanding the release of prisoners of conscience. This activity created a special solidarity of human rights activists across national borders. Naturally, communist leaders denounced Amnesty as a CIA front, and right-wing dictators dismissed its members as communist plotters.

It was only natural that Amnesty flourished in the United States and in Western Europe, where human rights are taken seriously and their defense became an official part of U.S. foreign policy, largely due to the efforts of President Jimmy Carter. There were heroic attempts to create Amnesty groups in countries with dictatorial regimes, including the Soviet Union, but most of those attempts were crushed by arrests and forced emigration.

There is ample reason for Amnesty to be critical of certain U.S. actions. But by using hyperbole and muddling the difference between repressive regimes and the imperfections of democracy, Amnesty's spokesmen put its authority at risk. U.S. human rights violations seem almost trifling in comparison with those committed by Cuba, South Korea, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.