Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive

New Scientist Breaking News - Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive:

"A parasitic worm that makes the grasshopper it invades jump into water and commit suicide does so by chemically influencing its brain, a study of the insects’ proteins reveal.

The parasitic Nematomorph hairworm (Spinochordodes tellinii) develops inside land-dwelling grasshoppers and crickets until the time comes for the worm to transform into an aquatic adult. Somehow mature hairworms brainwash their hosts into behaving in way they never usually would – causing them to seek out and plunge into water.

Once in the water the mature hairworms – which are three to four times longer that their hosts when extended – emerge and swim away to find a mate, leaving their host dead or dying in the water. David Biron, one of the study team at IRD in Montpellier, France, notes that other parasites can also manipulate their hosts’ behaviour: “’Enslaver’ fungi make their insect hosts die perched in a position that favours the dispersal of spores by the wind, for example.”

But the “mechanisms underlying this intriguing parasitic strategy remain poorly understood, generally”, he says.

Now Biron and his colleagues have shown that the worm brainwashes the grasshopper by producing proteins which directly and indirectly affect the grasshopper’s central nervous system."

New Scientist Breaking News - Most scientific papers are probably wrong

Most scientific papers are probably wrong


Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true.

John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.

"We should accept that most research findings will be refuted. Some will be replicated and validated. The replication process is more important than the first discovery," Ioannidis says.

In the paper, Ioannidis does not show that any particular findings are false. Instead, he shows statistically how the many obstacles to getting research findings right combine to make most published research wrong.
Massaged conclusions

Traditionally a study is said to be "statistically significant" if the odds are only 1 in 20 that the result could be pure chance. But in a complicated field where there are many potential hypotheses to sift through - such as whether a particular gene influences a particular disease - it is easy to reach false conclusions using this standard. If you test 20 false hypotheses, one of them is likely to show up as true, on average.

Odds get even worse for studies that are too small, studies that find small effects (for example, a drug that works for only 10% of patients), or studies where the protocol and endpoints are poorly defined, allowing researchers to massage their conclusions after the fact.

Surprisingly, Ioannidis says another predictor of false findings is if a field is "hot", with many teams feeling pressure to beat the others to statistically significant findings.

But Solomon Snyder, senior editor at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, US, says most working scientists understand the limitations of published research.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A War to Be Proud Of

A War to Be Proud Of:

The only speech by any statesman that can bear reprinting from that low, dishonest decade came from Tony Blair when he spoke in Chicago in 1999. Welcoming the defeat and overthrow of Milosevic after the Kosovo intervention, he warned against any self-satisfaction and drew attention to an inescapable confrontation that was coming with Saddam Hussein. So far from being an American "poodle," as his taunting and ignorant foes like to sneer, Blair had in fact leaned on Clinton over Kosovo and was insisting on the importance of Iraq while George Bush was still an isolationist governor of

Texas.

Notwithstanding this prescience and principle on his part, one still cannot read the journals of the 2000/2001 millennium without the feeling that one is revisiting a hopelessly somnambulist relative in a neglected home. I am one of those who believe, uncynically, that Osama bin Laden did us all a service (and holy war a great disservice) by his mad decision to assault the American homeland four years ago. Had he not made this world-historical mistake, we would have been able to add a Talibanized and nuclear-armed Pakistan to our list of the threats we failed to recognize in time. (This threat still exists, but it is no longer so casually overlooked.)

The subsequent liberation of Pakistan's theocratic colony in Afghanistan, and the so-far decisive eviction and defeat of its bin Ladenist guests, was only a reprisal. It took care of the last attack. But what about the next one? For anyone with eyes to see, there was only one other state that combined the latent and the blatant definitions of both "rogue" and "failed." This state--Saddam's ruined and tortured and collapsing Iraq--had also met all the conditions under which a country may be deemed to have sacrificed its own legal sovereignty. To recapitulate: It had invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers, and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United Nations, in this crisis, faced with regular insult to its own resolutions and its own character, had managed to set up a system of sanctions-based mutual corruption. In May 2003, had things gone on as they had been going, Saddam Hussein would have been due to fill Iraq's slot as chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Meanwhile, every species of gangster from the hero of the Achille Lauro hijacking to Abu Musab al Zarqawi was finding hospitality under Saddam's crumbling roof.

One might have thought, therefore, that Bush and Blair's decision to put an end at last to this intolerable state of affairs would be hailed, not just as a belated vindication of long-ignored U.N. resolutions but as some corrective to the decade of shame and inaction that had just passed in Bosnia and Rwanda. But such is not the case. An apparent consensus exists, among millions of people in Europe and America, that the whole operation for the demilitarization of Iraq, and the salvage of its traumatized society, was at best a false pretense and at worst an unprovoked aggression. How can this possibly be?
[...]

"The second bit of luck is a certain fiber displayed by a huge number of anonymous Americans. Faced with a constant drizzle of bad news and purposely demoralizing commentary, millions of people stick out their jaws and hang tight. I am no fan of populism, but I surmise that these citizens are clear on the main point: It is out of the question--plainly and absolutely out of the question--that we should surrender the keystone state of the Middle East to a rotten, murderous alliance between Baathists and bin Ladenists. When they hear the fatuous insinuation that this alliance has only been created by the resistance to it, voters know in their intestines that those who say so are soft on crime and soft on fascism. The more temperate anti-warriors, such as Mark Danner and Harold Meyerson, like to employ the term 'a war of choice.' One should have no problem in accepting this concept. As they cannot and do not deny, there was going to be another round with Saddam Hussein no matter what. To whom, then, should the 'choice' of time and place have fallen? The clear implication of the antichoice faction--if I may so dub them--is that this decision should have been left up to Saddam Hussein. As so often before . . .

DOES THE PRESIDENT deserve the benefit of the reserve of fortitude that I just mentioned? Only just, if at all. We need not argue about the failures and the mistakes and even the crimes, because these in some ways argue themselves. But a positive accounting could be offered without braggartry, and would include:

(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi's Libya in point of weapons of mass destruction--a capitulation that was offered not to Kofi Annan or the E.U. but to Blair and Bush.

(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan network for the illicit transfer of nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.

(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue, and the unmasking of a quasi-criminal network within its elite.

(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schr�der, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism. (One had already suspected as much in the Iraqi case.)

(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat.

(7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states.

(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy.

(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number.

(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

It would be admirable if the president could manage to make such a presentation. It would also be welcome if he and his deputies adopted a clear attitude toward the war within the war: in other words, stated plainly, that the secular and pluralist forces within Afghan and Iraqi society, while they are not our clients, can in no circumstance be allowed to wonder which outcome we favor.

The great point about Blair's 1999 speech was that it asserted the obvious. Coexistence with aggressive regimes or expansionist, theocratic, and totalitarian ideologies is not in fact possible. One should welcome this conclusion for the additional reason that such coexistence is not desirable, either. If the great effort to remake Iraq as a demilitarized federal and secular democracy should fail or be defeated, I shall lose sleep for the rest of my life in reproaching myself for doing too little. But at least I shall have the comfort of not having offered, so far as I can recall, any word or deed that contributed to a defeat."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Iran: Analysts Say Democratic Changes In Iraq May Inspire Similar Trends In Its Neighbor - RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY

RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY:

"Iran: Analysts Say Democratic Changes In Iraq May Inspire Similar Trends In Its Neighbor
By Golnaz Esfandiari

Iraq held its first multiparty elections in 50 years on 30 January. The elections are considered a first step toward the establishment of a democratic government in the country after decades of rule by Saddam Hussein. While observers agree that many hurdles remain before Iraq's transition toward democracy can be considered a success, some say even the small changes so far may inspire the beginning of similar trends in neighboring Iran.

Prague, 11 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003 sparked many concerns about neighboring Iran -- in particular about Iranian interference in Iraqi internal affairs.

But some Iranians pushing for more freedom and openness in their country hope that democratic changes in Iraq will gradually flow across the border.

Mohsen Sazgara is an Iranian activist and researcher who in August 2003 received a three-month jail sentence for criticizing the regime. Speaking from London, where he is currently receiving medical treatment, he told RFE/RL that he is watching events in Iraq carefully.

'I personally hope that Iraq's [transition to democracy] will be completed successfully so that it can also help our nation,' he says. 'For sure, neighbors with democratic governments are much better for us than dictators such as Saddam Hussein or backward groups such as the Taliban.'

Sazgara -- who faces an additional year in jail when he returns home -- says the recent events in Iraq have the power to encourage many young Iranians to push even harder for democratic change in their country.

'Our young generation in particular has shown -- especially over the past eight years and during the reform movement -- that it has a strong desire for democracy, human rights and civil society, and a strong desire to join the international [community],' Sazgara says. 'And when democratic changes take place in our neighboring and brother country Iraq, with its many ties to us, it encourages our youth, and emboldens our young people to ask for change in our current constitution.'
'If the Iraqis have a good government with an Islamic democracy, without any special rights for clerics, the Iranian government will not be able to justify its situation to Iranian citizens.' -- Mohsen Kadivar, Iranian cleric


Sazgara says the establishment of an elected government in Iraq will raise critical questions about Iran's current system of government, where a senior cleric is given near-absolute power over all matters related to the Islamic Republic.

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a prominent journalist and editor in chief of several dailies in Tehran that have been banned by the authorities, also believes Iran cannot remain immune to the changes in Iraq.

'The Shi'as in Iraq have accepted the notion of having a secular government, and they are slowly moving toward the democratization of their country -- free elections, democratic institutions, a free press,' Shamsolvaezin says. 'All of this in and of itself will have an impact on the situation in Iran.' "

Britain's elite get pills to survive bird flu - Sunday Times - Times Online

Britain's elite get pills to survive bird flu - Sunday Times - Times Online:


Britain's elite get pills to survive bird flu
Sarah-Kate Templeton and Jonathan Calvert
MEMBERS of Britain’s elite have been selected as priority cases to receive scarce pills and vaccinations at the taxpayers’ expense if the country is hit by a deadly bird flu outbreak.

Workers at the BBC and prominent politicians — such as cabinet ministers — would be offered protection from the virus.

Ken Livingstone, the London mayor, has already spent �1m to make sure his personal office and employees have their own emergency supplies of 100,000 antiviral tablets.

If there is an avian flu pandemic in the coming months there would be enough drugs to protect less than 2% of the British population for a week.

The Department of Health has drawn up a priority list of those who would be first to receive lifesaving drugs. Top of the list are health workers followed by those in key public sector jobs.

Although senior government ministers would be among the high-priority cases, the department said this weekend that it had not decided whether to include opposition politicians.

BBC employees would be protected because the corporation is required to broadcast vital information during a national disaster.

Politicians and the media have been placed before sick patients, heavily pregnant women and elderly people by government planners.

Yesterday, leading BBC presenters were surprised to learn that they would be given preferential treatment. Jeff Randall, the BBC’s business editor, said: “Are you really telling me that I am on a priority list for bird flu jabs? Marvellous. I always knew there would be an advantage from working at the BBC.”"

Equity Is Altering Spending Habits and View of Debt - Los Angeles Times

Equity Is Altering Spending Habits and View of Debt
Mortgages used to be something people strove to pay off. Now they've become income tools, but risky ones, some financial analysts say.
By David Streitfeld, Times Staff Writer


As they happily watch their houses swell in value, Americans are changing their attitudes toward mortgage debt. Increasingly, a home is no longer a nest egg whose equity should never be touched, but a seemingly magical ATM enabling the owner to live it up or just live.

Homeowners took $59 billion in cash out of their houses in the second quarter, double the amount in the 2004 quarter and 16 times the average rate of the mid-1990s, according to data released this month by mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

People are cashing out so quickly that the term "homeowner" may soon be inaccurate. Fifty years ago, Americans owned, on average, three-quarters of their house and the lender owned the rest. These days, it's approaching an even split.

This spend-now-rather-than-save-for-later phenomenon has produced undeniable benefits. Experts attribute much of the nation's economic growth to cash-out refinancings, home equity loans and other methods of tapping rising home values. And additional real estate investments financed by home equity have contributed to the rising home prices that bring owners such pleasure.

But the spending spree has a price. With the savings rate at zero, consumers' eagerness to tap home equity is only worsening their retirement outlook, financial advisors say.

If mortgage rates rise sharply or home prices fall, many homeowners could be in financial turmoil. They may be unable to service their loans, or could even find that their homes are worth less than their mortgages.

Such a prospect seems unimaginably distant to Doug Levy, a university administrator in San Francisco.

When his two-bedroom condominium rose in value by 10% — which took nine months in the hot Bay Area real estate market — Levy refinanced. That increased the size of his mortgage but gave him $25,000 to pay bills and take a modest skiing vacation in British Columbia. He's considering tapping his equity again if his condo continues to appreciate.

"It's like I'm sleeping in my piggy bank," said Levy, 44. "In this market, real estate is a liquid asset."

Bill and Barbara Brockmann have a different view of their house. The retired Huntington Beach couple is sitting on half a million dollars of equity, but they're ignoring it. They aren't drawing on it to buy a new car or invest in a condo in Miami.

"I don't like debt," said Bill Brockmann, 79. "I don't buy anything I can't pay for."

Such thriftiness has gone out of fashion. What was once considered undesirable — taking on large debt — is now seen as smart. And what used to be smart — becoming debt-free — is described as imprudent.

"If you paid your mortgage off, it means you probably did not manage your funds efficiently over the years," said David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors and author of "Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom?" "It's as if you had 500,000 dollar bills stuffed in your mattress."

He called it "very unsophisticated."

Anthony Hsieh, chief executive of LendingTree Loans, an Internet-based mortgage company, used a more disparaging term. "If you own your own home free and clear, people will often refer to you as a fool. All that money sitting there, doing nothing."

The financial services industry is doing all it can to avoid letting consumers be foolish. Ditech.com touts home loans as a way to pay off credit cards, and Morgan Stanley says they're a good way to fund education expenses. Wells Fargo suggests taking a chunk out of your house to finance "a dream wedding."

One obvious reason for the 69% rise in mortgage debt over the last five years is the exploding cost of homes, which has far outstripped wage growth. That's led many buyers to interest-only loans and skimpy down payments, both of which minimize their equity.

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Carbon strips could build elevator to space

Guardian Unlimited : "Carbon strips could build elevator to space

David Adam, science correspondent

The Guardian

Scientists have created the ultimate ribbon. A thousand times thinner than a human hair and a few centimetres wide, the carbon sheet is stronger than steel for its weight, and could open the door to everything from artificial muscles to a space elevator capable of sending astronauts and tourists into orbit.

The team of nanotechnology experts from the University of Texas at Dallas and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia have developed a way to assemble a form of carbon called 'nanotubes' into flat sheets.

Article continues
The cylindrical version of carbon, which combines lightweight flexibility and incredible strength with the ability to conduct both heat and electricity, has had engineers salivating since it was discovered in 1991."

TCS: Tech Central Station - Space Program: Looking Up

TCS: Tech Central Station - Space Program: Looking Up - By Glenn Harlan Reynolds:


I've written here in the past about NASA's work on space elevators, and on the new leaner, meaner, prize-oriented approach favored by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. Now there are some signs of real progress on a number of fronts.

As I noted earlier, NASA was offering prizes for space elevator research. That's still going on, but there are some new studies suggesting that space elevators may be closer to practicality than previously thought. A cover story in the IEE Spectrum reports:

'A space elevator would be amazingly expensive or absurdly cheap -- depending on how you look at it. It would cost about $6 billion in today's dollars just to complete the structure itself, according to my study. Costs associated with legal, regulatory, and political aspects could easily add another $4 billion, but these expenses are much harder to estimate. Building such an enormous structure would probably require treaty-level negotiations with the international community, for example. A $10 billion price tag, however, isn't really extraordinary in the economics of space exploration. NASA's budget is about $15 billion a year, and a single shuttle launch costs about half a billion dollars.

'The construction schedule could conceivably be as short as 10 years, but 15 years is a more realistic estimate when technology development, budget cycles, competitive selection, and other factors are accounted for.'

The first one is the hardest to build, which has an important strategic implication:

'The second elevator would be much easier and cheaper to build than the first, not only because it could make use of the first elevator but because all the R&D and much of the supporting infrastructure would already be complete. With these savings, I estimate that a second elevator would cost a fraction of the first one-as little as $3 billion dollars for parts and construction.

'In my studies, I have found that the schedule for more elevators, after the first, could be compressed to as little as six months. The first country or consortium to finish an elevator would therefore gain an almost unbeatable head start over any competitors.'

This seems like a reason to push this as hard as possible, consistent with the technology. And it's worth noting that the technology underlying space elevators -- superstrong carbon nanotubes -- is in a phase of rapid progress.

I don't think that we're ready to start construction, but I think we may be there sooner than we imagine.

NASA's also thinking smarter in other ways, looking to smaller, startup companies like Transformational Space and Scaled Composites for new spacecraft technologies, as Wired News reports:

'In the last year, with $6 million in NASA funding, Transformational Space, or tSpace, surged ahead with a design for an orbital spaceship called the Crew Transfer Vehicle, or CXV. The company built a full-scale mockup of its four-seat space capsule, successfully demonstrated a novel method for launching spaceships from airplanes, and, this month, dropped another full-scale capsule from a helicopter off the California coast to test parachute deployment and capsule recovery.

"

New York Daily News - Home - Hunt perv caught in a flash

Hunt perv caught in a flash

Fone gives cops pic of subway suspect

Image from cell phone camera belonging to subway rider Thao Nguyen captures shot of man (below) she says leered at her and exposed himself aboard R train last week.
When a pervert exposed himself on a Manhattan subway last week, Thao Nguyen reached for her secret weapon - her camera phone.

The quick-thinking 22-year-old snapped a shot of the smirking sicko, took it to cops and then posted it on the Internet.

Word of her campaign to nail the flasher raced through cyberspace, and more than 45,000 people had viewed the photographic evidence by last night.

'I just hope they catch him,' Nguyen told the Daily News.

'Maybe someone will recognize him. Maybe it will stop other people from doing it,' she said. 'Maybe other women will use their camera phones to stop crime.'"

Saturday, August 27, 2005

People with friends or relatives serving in Iraq are more likely than others to have a positive view of a generally unpopular war

BREITBART.COM - Just The News

People with friends or relatives serving in Iraq are more likely than others to have a positive view of a generally unpopular war, an AP- Ipsos poll found.

Some of those surveyed said their relationships with troops helped them learn more about what’s going on in Iraq beyond the violence. Others said their opinions of the war were shaped by a sense of loyalty to those in harm’s way.

A solid majority of those who did not know anyone in Iraq said they thought the war was a mistake, 61 percent, compared to 36 percent who thought it was the right decision. Those who had a relative or friend there were almost evenly split, 49 percent right decision, 47 percent mistake.

After Ted Chittum of Bourbon, Ind., had a chance to talk at length with his cousin who served in Iraq, he said he got a different picture of what was going on in the country.

“He talked about all the good things that are going on,” said Chittum, a school superintendent and a political independent who supports the war effort. “Schools are opening up. The people are friendly, wanting our help. You get a whole different spin from what you get on television.”

Those who know someone serving in Iraq were more likely to approve of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war _ 44 percent, compared to 37 percent overall.

“From most of the information I get, the people over there fighting basically are proud to be there and feel they’re doing something good,” said Sally Dowling, a bank employee from Mesa, Ariz., who said her boss’s son is serving in Iraq. “That brings it home more than if I didn’t know anybody.”

Don't worry about Taliban, India's here: PM to Afghanistan - Newindpress.com

Don't worry about Taliban, India's here: PM to Afghanistan

NEW DELHI: Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kabul on Sunday, India on Friday offered full support to Afghanistan, including strengthening its security capabilities, to effectively deal with the ‘newly-emerging threat’ from Taliban operating from Pakistan.

It would also undertake developmental projects worth 50 million dollars in the war-ravaged country. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said that New Delhi was also keen to develop trade and expand reconstruction work in the country but these efforts were being hampered by denial of transit facility by Pakistan.

“We want Afghanistan to emerge as a democratic, independent, sovereign country, in full mastery of its own destiny. It is in our interest to ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become a kind of a centre of extremism or terrorism. Anything that threatens Afghanistan’s stability is a matter of concern for us,” he said.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Terror in Europe: Syrian Had Inside Knowledge of 9/11 and London Bombings - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Terror in Europe: Syrian Had Inside Knowledge of 9/11 and London Bombings - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News: "Syrian Had Inside Knowledge of 9/11 and London Bombings

By Holger Stark

Two weeks ago, Turkish police arrested an Islamist with ties to many upper tier al-Qaida members. The man not only tried to get asylum in Germany, but claims to have known about the London bombings beforehand and to have helped the 9/11 pilots.

Luai Sakra likes wine, whiskey and explosives. He also says he helped the 9/11 pilots.

The Turkish interrogators in Istanbul's high-security prison wanted to be polite; they wanted to show respect for Islam. They offered their prisoner, an Islamist named Luai Sakra, 31, a chance to pray during a pause in questioning.

They'd done the same thing with earlier suspects. The move was supposed to establish trust.

But this prisoner reacted a bit differently. 'I don't pray,' Sakra answered politely, 'and I like alcohol.' When the baffled officials didn't want to believe him, he elaborated: 'Especially whiskey and wine.'

It wasn't the only surprise the Syrian-born suspect presented to investigators. Turkish anti-terror officials held the suspected al-Qaida member for four days. Just after his arrest two weeks ago, Sakra admitted to planning strikes against Israeli cruise ships; he hoarded 750 kilograms of explosives for the purpose. When some of those explosives went up in flames in his Antalya apartment, he fled.

What Sakra told officials during his interrogation suggests a deep jihadist career. The Syrian, who knows weapons as well as he knows his whiskey and wine, has obviously played a far more important role in the terrorist underground than officials first suspected. According to his own testimony, he knew about the London bombings before they happened, and supported the pilots on 9/11.


'I was one of the people who knew the 9/11 perpetrators,' Sakra reportedly said in passing during the interrogation, 'and I knew the plans and times beforehand.' He claims to have provided the pilots with passports and money.

These details, if true, close some gaps in the narrative of the worst terrorist assaults in history -- and they raise a question which German investigators have wrestled with in past week: Did Sakra -- who lived from September 2000 to July 2001 with his wife and two small children as an asylum-seeker in the southern town of Schramberg -- work with anyone else in Germany? Are there any unknown contacts still out there who know what he knows?

Western investigators accept Sakra's claims, by and large, since they coincide with known facts. On September 10, 2001, he tipped off the Syrian secret service -- which had chased him since 1999 for his role in a revolt in a Lebanon refugee camp -- that terrorist attacks were about to occur in the United States. The evidently well-informed al-Qaida insider even named buildings as targets, and airplanes as weapons. The Syrians passed on this information to the CIA -- but only after the attacks. Sakra owes his rise in al Qaida to the Palestinian Abu Subeida, a bin Laden confidant now in custody, who ran a sort of recruiting office for new mujahideen in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. From Abu Subeida's testimony, the CIA knows that he and the young Syrian soon came to trust each other."

Neo-Nazis to join Cindy Sheehan in protest, as they are also anti-semites.

lgf: do not mention comment #17: "Neo-Nazis Dig Mother Sheehan

From one of the internet’s darkest holes: neo-Nazis are coming to Crawford, Texas, to show their appreciation and support for Cindy Sheehan: Stormfronters Rally In Crawford, TX On Sat. & Sun. Aug. 27-28. (Hat tip: Morgan.)

I’m driving out to Crawford, Texas tomorrow, Friday August 26th to help put up a White Nationalist voice in the protest against Bush’s War for Israel that was started by Cindy Sheehan.

We’ll be uploading digital photos, and maybe video, from Crawford so that Stormfront’s 58,000 Members (achieved today) and hundreds of thousands of Guests can follow the events in Crawford from a White patriot perspective.

If you live anywhere within a driving distance that won’t put you out too much, would you please join us on Saturday and Sunday? That’s August 27th and 28th.

The facilities at the Crawford Ranch Camp Casey are excellent: good food, shade, tents, water, toilets, parking, and all basic necessities are there in ample supply. Most supplies are free. All you need to bring is yourself, a good shade hat, and a long-sleeved shirt.

I’ll put up maps to Crawford and sign-making ideas in this thread. Please add your ideas.

Our purpose in journeying to the Crawford protest against Bush’s Neocon War for Israel is to:

Let The World Know That White Patriots
Were First & Loudest To Protest This War For Israel

We don’t want leftist Johnny-come-latelys who are misleadingly protesting this war as if the war is about oil (not true), or as if it’s right-wing patriots who launched this war (not true) to hijack the issue from us.

We want to challenge these leftists with the fact that their leftist leaders, like Hillary Clinton, are on the same War for Israel team as the cowardly Republicans who have been bought and paid for in the Senate, House, White House, and Media by the Jewish Neocon political machine.

Please PM me if you can come on Saturday or Sunday. Please phone me too: Jamie Kelso at 985 809-0424. I’ll be answering the phone around the clock, so call at any hour."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Telegraph | News | Sunnis set out to sabotage draft plan for Iraq

Telegraph | News | Sunnis set out to sabotage draft plan for Iraq

Sunnis set out to sabotage draft plan for Iraq
By Oliver Poole in Baghdad


Iraq's Sunnis displayed a new found enthusiasm for politics yesterday as thousands who boycotted January's election queued to register to vote.

Rather than democracy in action, this was a backlash against it, for the Sunnis were attempting to sabotage the draft constitution submitted to parliament on Monday night. Their religious, political and tribal leaders have already railed against the document, warning of the risk that it will "break up" the country.

Like their bombing of Shiite mosques and killing innocent women and children isn't the biggest threat to "break up" the country? Or their historic persecution of their peaceful neighbors?

With Shia and Kurdish delegates threatening to force the draft through parliament over Sunni protests, taking part in this October's constitutional referendum is now the Sunnis' best hope of killing the document.

Under voting rules, if two thirds of ballots cast in any three provinces oppose the constitution, it will fail. Sunnis have such a potential majority in four of Iraq's 18 provinces.

In Samarra, an insurgent centre 60 miles north of Baghdad, lines stretched down the road as local Sunnis appeared to accept that their refusal to vote in January had led to them being marginalised in parliament. "We came here to register our names as we should not commit a mistake as we did before," Hameed Hassan said as he waited to add his name to the list.
[...]

Many were following the instruction of the clerics at their mosque who had instructed them to cast a vote against the constitution and "tell 10 other people to do so".

At least they're telling people to vote, and trying to change society with ballots rather than bombs

The proposed constitution would transform Iraq from the highly centralised state ruled by Saddam Hussein into a loose federation of Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs.

The Sunnis, who under Saddam dominated the country, fear the new Iraq will deprive them of a fair share of wealth from its oil, little of which is located where they are, and leave them powerless.

And a civil war would also leave them powerless, and oil-less, and bloody as the other 80% of the country, which has all the oil, and now is building bridges to the outside world, turns their economic and military firepower on them in retaliation for the years of terrorism and the years of Saddam's rule the Sunnis imposed on their neighbors. I think they're better off with a federation.

Theoretically, there is still time for their concerns to be heeded in continuing negotiations on the constitution's wording.

Despite receiving a draft on Monday, the national assembly's speaker delayed a vote to approve it for three days to see if Sunni fears could be addressed.

But a brief sitting yesterday illustrated the unlikelihood of a consensus. One Sunni negotiator, Saleh al-Mutlak, said irreconcilable divisions remained, and predicted "an uprising on the streets".

He said: "We will campaign to reject the constitution which has elements in it that will lead to civil war."

Uh, haven't they been TRYING to start a civil war for years now?

Shia and Kurd leaders appear increasingly fatalistic and indicated that tomorrow the constitution will be pushed through parliament and its future left for voters to decide. It was largely drawn up by their delegates and reflects their priorities, primarily the desire for semi-autonomy in the Kurdish north and Shia south as well as Shia demands for Iraq to become largely an Islamic state.

Laith Kubba, the government's official spokesman, said: "After a long discussion, this is the best we could get. The Iraqi people can accept or reject this new constitution."

One potent threat now facing the growing Sunni campaign to defeat the document at the ballot box comes from Abu Musab Zarqawi, the fundamentalist Sunni terrorist responsible for many of the worst outrages committed in Iraq in the past two years.

He and other leading groups have repeatedly threatened to kill any Sunnis participating in the political process and promised to bomb polling booths.

Last week three Sunnis putting up posters in Mosul calling on people to register were kidnapped, their bullet-riddled bodies later found dumped outside a mosque.

Ha ha! So by keeping Sunnis from the polls, Zarqawi may help the constituion to pass! Loser!

Alcoholics More Likely to Have Personality Disorders

Alcoholics More Likely to Have Personality Disorders
Even More Prevalent in Drug Addicts



The prevalence of personality disorders among patients with alcohol and drug use disorders is significant in the United States population, according to an article in the April 2004 issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Very little information is available on the co-occurrence of different personality disorders (PDs) and alcohol and drug use disorders in the U.S. population, according to background information in the article. Therefore, Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Md., and colleagues investigated this issue.

The researchers used data collected during interviews conducted as part of the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions . Respondents to the survey were 18 years and older, and lived in the United States.

The prevalence rates of any alcohol or drug use disorder for the previous year were 8.5 percent, and 2.0 percent, respectively. The researchers found that among individuals with a current alcohol use disorder, 28.6 percent had at least 1 personality disorder, and 47.7 percent of those with a current drug use disorder had at least 1 personality disorder. personality disorders and alcohol and drug use disorders were significantly associated, the researchers write.

Individuals with alcohol use disorders were almost five times as likely to have antisocial personality disorder or histrionic personality disorder, and were three times as likely to have a dependent personality disorder. Individuals with drug use disorders were 11 times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder and dependent personality disorder, and eight times as likely to have histrionic personality disorder.

The researchers also found that associations between obsessive-compulsive, histrionic, schizoid, and antisocial personality disorders and specific alcohol and drug use disorders were significantly stronger among women than men, whereas the association between dependent personality disorder and drug dependence were significantly greater among men than women.">Alcoholics More Likely to Have Personality Disorders: "Alcoholics More Likely to Have Personality Disorders

from JAMA News Release
Even More Prevalent in Drug Addicts
The prevalence of personality disorders among patients with alcohol and drug use disorders is significant in the United States population, according to an article in the April 2004 issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Very little information is available on the co-occurrence of different personality disorders (PDs) and alcohol and drug use disorders in the U.S. population, according to background information in the article. Therefore, Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Md., and colleagues investigated this issue.

The researchers used data collected during interviews conducted as part of the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions . Respondents to the survey were 18 years and older, and lived in the United States.

The prevalence rates of any alcohol or drug use disorder for the previous year were 8.5 percent, and 2.0 percent, respectively. The researchers found that among individuals with a current alcohol use disorder, 28.6 percent had at least 1 personality disorder, and 47.7 percent of those with a current drug use disorder had at least 1 personality disorder. personality disorders and alcohol and drug use disorders were significantly associated, the researchers write.

Individuals with alcohol use disorders were almost five times as likely to have antisocial personality disorder or histrionic personality disorder, and were three times as likely to have a dependent personality disorder. Individuals with drug use disorders were 11 times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder and dependent personality disorder, and eight times as likely to have histrionic personality disorder.

The researchers also found that associations between obsessive-compulsive, histrionic, schizoid, and antisocial personality disorders and specific alcohol and drug use disorders were significantly stronger among women than men, whereas the association between dependent personality disorder and drug dependence were significantly greater among men than women."

Michael Yon visits the mysterious Yezidis!

I recently ran across this blog, and Mr. Yon is a good writer with lots to say about Iraq. Here he blogs his visit to a Yezidi village in Iraq. The Yezidis have a fascinating religion, which combines their own ancient beliefs, with a mix of all the other religions that passed by over the years. Some have accused them of devil worship because they worship a fallen angel figuren named Melek Taus. I also include the link of the Wikipedia entry on the Yezidis.

Wikipedia article

Lost in Translation
Yezdinar Village, Iraq
Michael Yon


Dohuk is a welcoming place. After walking or taking taxis inside and around the city for two days, I covered enough ground and talked with enough people to see that while the welcome is clear for American, British, and other visitors, troublemakers can expect an entirely different greeting. People in Dohuk say they have no intentions of going back, or of carrying useless boulders from the past as they move forward.

After being in a war zone for nearly half a year, a few days in Dohuk becomes a chance to reconnect with civilized society, bustling with a people in hurried pursuit of progress. Seeing a little girl tucked away in a corner of her family's stall in the marketplace, absorbed in a book she’s reading about the solar system, it's easy to peek over her shoulder and peer into her imagination, and see it take her into space as Iraq's first astronaut. In her young life, never having known the fiery cage of war, the possibilities are still limitless.



Two Kids: One Bright Future

I had been hearing about the Yezidi people who live in villages near Dohuk. Followers of an ancient religion, whose proponents claim it is the oldest in the world, there are thought to be about a half million Yezidis, living mostly in the area of Mosul, with smaller bands in forgotten villages scattered across Northern Iraq, Syria, Turkey and other lands. Saddam had labeled the Yezidis "Devil Worshippers," a claim I'd heard other Iraqis make, but no source offered substantiation. I wanted to know more.

Nearly everything I heard pronounced as fact about Yezidis was certain in only one narrow sense: before long, someone equally confident of their information would provide a different set of facts. The only way to find the truth would be to talk with Yezidis in situ, so I asked an interpreter in Dohuk to take me to a Yezidi village.

This wasn't my first foray in search of mythic danger. I'd learned some things from when I tracked down cannibals in the jungles of northern India. A current anthropological rap sheet is of paramount necessity before venturing alone into the wild. Safety first is my motto.

"Will they kill me?" I asked.

"Of course not!" he answered immediately, incredulous at the very idea. "They are Yezidi! They are good people."

"Just asking." I said, thinking safety first.


The road from Dohuk

The village of Yezdinar is about twenty miles outside of Dohuk, and on the way I reflected on what I knew of the religion.

Some believe Yezidism is over 5,000 years old, while others claim thousands of years older. Nobody seems to know. The Yezidis have their own fuzziness on dates, and for the Yezidis it seems enough to say that theirs is the oldest religion in the world. The Hindus of India make the same claim about their religion, while others in Nepal and Tibet make calendar claims of their own. One might intuit such proclamations as offering evidence of the essential truth of a religion—having withstood the test of time, it must be the order of things. Some see age as the proof of the rightness of one path over others, implying that precedence is precedence, like when a Muslim man in Kashmir once said to me, as if it would explain everything, "Ahhhh, the Sikhs, they are just a young religion."

Some tenets of Yezidism are readily understandable to westerners: Yezidis worship one God but no prophets. They recognize and respect both Jesus and Mohammed, but as men of faith, not prophets. Where the doctrine starts to become hazy is when the angels appear.

An older Yezidi man with whom I speak on occasion says there are seven angels: Izrafael, Jibrael, Michael, Nordael, Dardael, Shamnael, and Azazael. All were gathered at a heavenly meeting when God told them they should bow to none other than Him. This arrangement worked for a span of forty thousand years, until God created Adam by mixing the "elements": earth, air, water and fire. When God told the seven angels to bow before Adam, six complied. A seventh angel, citing God's order that the angels bow only to God, refused. Although this angel was God's favorite, his disobedience cast him from grace.

There is some dispute among Yezidis about the identity of the seventh angel; some believe it was Jibrael, while others believe it was Izrafael. Much seems lost to time. But whatever his former name, when this seventh Angel, most beloved of God, fell from grace, he was the most powerful angel in Heaven and on Earth. He rose as the Archangel Malak Ta'us. (Although this, too, is the subject of some debate; some Yezidis call him Ta’us Malak.) His herald is the peacock, for it is "by far the most beautiful bird in the world," and the name, Malak Ta'us, literally means, "King of Peacocks."

Most Yezidis equate Malak Ta'us with Satan, a mainstay in many religions but otherwise not mentioned in Yezidism. Some Yezidis claim that Malak Ta'us is like a god himself, at least in terms of his power--particularly over the fortunes of the descendents of Adam. In this religion, God created Adam, but no Eve, and therefore all men came from Adam alone. The Yezidis were first born among all men, and consider themselves to be "the chosen people."

Malak Ta'us descended from Heaven to Earth on a Wednesday to tell man that he is the Archangel, making this a day for religious observation. The Yezidis mark the day by not bathing on Wednesday evenings. They believe their dead must wash, and for this they need water; the dead wash on the holy day of Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Syria grants first real estate investment license :: MENAFN - Middle East North Africa . Financial Network

MENAFN - Middle East North Africa . Financial Network: "Syria grants first real estate investment license


In the first such move, the Syrian government granted United Arab Emirates investors a real estate investment license to construct an international trade center in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The center is to be a 50-story tower that also has a restaurant, terraces, and a Damascus-style miniature village. This is in addition to other annexed towers for offices, apartments, furnished lots and more.

The overall cost of the project is around USD 120 million and the plans include establishment and construction of a data center, a shopping mall, theaters and movie theaters. It is expected to provide 3600 jobs.

Syria Investment Office Director Mustafa Al-Kafri stressed the magnitude and importance of this step as it would encourage Arab, foreign and Syrian investors abroad to enter and seek such ventures.

A delegation of UAE businessmen and Syrians residing in the UAE had met Syrian Prime Minsiter Naji Al-Utri and discussed this and other such projects in the fields of industry and tourism.

The license was granted days before the First Damascus Real Estate Investment Conference due August 28th that is aimed at promoting investment in Syria and in real estate in particular."

Publius Pundit - PERSPECTIVE ON ISLAM IN IRAQ’S CONSTITUTION

Publius Pundit - Blogging the democratic revolution:

From the Publius Pundit blog:

I’m going to make this short and sweet. Bill Roggio posts the latest excerpt from the Iraq constitution and believes that the threat of Islam being a main source of legislation, thus creating an Islamic state like Iran, is overstated by the media. Here is the excerpt:

The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

* a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

* b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

* c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

Bill Roggio is absolutely correct in saying that this is being hyped. But why is that happening? I don’t know. Maybe because Iraq is the “wrong war” and Afghanistan isn’t. Oh! Speaking of Afghanistan! Why didn’t the media bitch endlessly about Afghanistan’s constitution when it was drafted (and, by the way, almost failed excepting last minute negotiations)? Here is what the constitution of Afghanistan says, which goes even further beyond Iraq’s:

Article 1 [Islamic Republic]
Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.

Article 2 [Religions]
(1) The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of IslamState_Religion.
(2) Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.

Article 3 [Law and Religion]
In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.

Article 7 [International Law]
(1) The state shall abide by the UN charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan has signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
(2) The state prevents all types of terrorist activities, production and consumption of intoxicants (muskirat), production and smuggling of narcotics.

As far as I know, the term “Islamic Republic” doesn’t an Iran make. Neither the Taliban or anyone else are exerting state-sponsored religious oppresson, the rights of women are better than ever and steadily improving, and all groups are involving themselves in the democratic progress.

Yet I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear about this back in January 2004 when the Afghanis were drafting their constitution.

UPDATE: One of the more interesting phrases I’m hearing on all the talk shows is how the two principles of not being able to legislate against Islamic standards and not being able to legislate against democratic standards are inherently contradictory. That’s an interesting word for it, and a view that is definitely false.

Think of the restrictions on lawmaking as overlapping rather than contradictory, like a boolean graph. Only those laws that comply with both can be made, so don’t expect women to be strung up and hung execution style. Because also note that the constitution, most importantly, says that no law may contradict the rights and freedoms guaranteed in it. All of that stuff — and there’s a lot of it — is off limits to legislation. That doesn’t give Islamists much room to move."

THE REAL IRAQ NEWS: Ralph Peters New York Post Online Edition: postopinion

THE REAL IRAQ NEWS

WHAT was the big "Iraq" story in August? Which vital issue got the most air-time and ink? The camp-out of a sad, tormented woman who had lost her son, her marriage and her judgment.

The media pounced on poor Cindy Sheehan in an anti-Bush, anti-war frenzy. The disappointment was obvious when she decided to go home.

What should have made headlines? It would've been nice to see more attention devoted to the complexity and importance of drafting a new constitution for Iraq. But my nomination for the "Greatest Story Never Told" is a quieter one: Locked in a difficult war, the U.S. Army is exceeding its re-enlistment and first-time enlistment goals. Has anybody mentioned that to you?

Remember last spring, when the Army's recruitment efforts fell short for a few months? The media's glee would have made you confuse the New York Times and Air America.

When the Army attempted to explain that enlistments are cyclical and numbers dip at certain times of the year, the media ignored it. All that mattered was the wonderful news that the Army couldn't find enough soldiers. We were warned, in oh-so-solemn tones, that our military was headed for a train wreck.

Now, as the fiscal year nears an end, the Army's numbers look great. Especially in combat units and Iraq, soldiers are re-enlisting at record levels. And you don't hear a whisper about it from the "mainstream media."

Let's look at the numbers, which offer a different picture of patriotism than the editorial pages do.

* Every one of the Army's 10 divisions — its key combat organizations — has exceeded its re-enlistment goal for the year to date. Those with the most intense experience in Iraq have the best rates. The 1st Cavalry Division is at 136 percent of its target, the 3rd Infantry Division at 117 percent.

Among separate combat brigades, the figures are even more startling, with the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at 178 percent of its goal and the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Mech right behind at 174 percent of its re-enlistment target.

This is unprecedented in wartime. Even in World War II, we needed the draft. Where are the headlines?

* What about first-time enlistment rates, since that was the issue last spring? The Army is running at 108 percent of its needs. Guess not every young American despises his or her country and our president.

* The Army Reserve is a tougher sell, given that it takes men and women away from their families and careers on short notice. Well, Reserve recruitment stands at 102 percent of requirements.

* And then there's the Army National Guard. We've been told for two years that the Guard was in free-fall. Really? Guard recruitment and retention comes out to 106 percent of its requirements as of June 30. (I've even heard a rumor that Al Franken and Tim Robbins signed up — but let's wait for confirmation on that.)

Of course, we'll hear stammering about an "army of mercenaries"— naive, uneducated kids lured by the promise of big retention bonuses. That's another lie told by the elite to excuse themselves from serving our country in uniform.

The young men and women who have been through the crucible of combat — often on repeated deployments — are hardly naive. Their education levels exceed the American average. [...]


Guess we have to face it: Patriotism is alive and well. Soldiers believe in the Army, and they believe in their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. They love their comrades, too. And yes, the word is "love." They would die for the man or woman serving beside them. They're risking their lives to save a broken state, to give tens of millions of human beings a chance at decent lives, to do the grim work that no one else in the world is willing to do.

Their reward? The Cindy Sheehan Extravaganza. Predictions of disaster. The depiction of Michael Moore as a hero and our soldiers as dupes. And a ceaseless attempt to convince the American people that there's no hope in Iraq.

The ugly truth is that much of the media only cares about our soldiers when they're dead or crippled. That's a story.

As you read this, 500,000 soldiers are on active duty because they chose to serve their country. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Reservists and Guard members have been called into uniform. And they're all behaving as true soldiers do: Running toward the sound of the guns, not away from them.

We should be humbled by their choices, honored by their sacrifices, and proud of what they're fighting to achieve. Instead of the jerk's refrain "Support our troops, bring them home," the line should run "Support our troops, make their home worthy of them."

Our young men and women in uniform — in every service — deserve far better than we've given them.

Herald.com | Taliban shake Afghan stability with new tactics

Herald.com | 08/21/2005 | Taliban shake Afghan stability with new tactics:

"''Al Qaeda is channeling money and equipment,'' said Lt. George Hughbanks, a U.S. Army intelligence officer in Zabul province, one of the worst hit by the Taliban insurgency.

The Taliban are now a disparate assemblage of radical groups estimated to number several thousand, far fewer than when they were in power before November 2001. The fighters operate in small cells that occasionally come together for specific missions. They are unable to hold territory or defeat coalition troops.

They are linked by a loose command structure and an aim of driving out U.S.-led coalition and NATO troops, toppling U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, and reimposing hard-line Islamic rule on Afghanistan, according to Afghan and Western officials and experts.

The Taliban insurgents have adopted some of the terrorist tactics that their Iraqi counterparts have used to stoke popular anger at the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. They have stalled reconstruction and fomented sectarian tensions in a country that remains mired in poverty and corruption, illegal drugs and ethnic and political hatred.

BOMBINGS, BEHEADINGS

Their tactics include attacks with homemade explosives, and beheadings, assassinations and kidnappings targeting public officials and others who cooperate in international democracy-building efforts and reconstruction.

The violence continued last week. A homemade bomb planted by the Taliban killed two U.S. soldiers Thursday near the southern city of Kandahar. And Friday, a U.S. Marine was killed in the eastern province of Kunar, bringing to at least 45 the number killed in hostile actions in the past six months.

The new American ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald E. Neumann, said Thursday that the Taliban had ''absolutely no chance'' of derailing the Sept. 18 parliamentary and provincial council voting because security would be too tight.

`A SECOND FRONT'

The Taliban's new tactics, however, suggest to some experts that the surge in violence that began five months ago is more than an effort to impede the elections. These experts fear that the Taliban's resurgence may be part of an al Qaeda strategy aimed at keeping the U.S. military stressed and bleeding not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan.

''I think they are opening a second front,'' said Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Department intelligence analyst who is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington. ``I don't think the elections are really the focus.''

''These are people who see this in broader terms,'' Weinbaum said."

Herald.com | 08/21/2005 | Taliban shake Afghan stability with new tactics

Herald.com | 08/21/2005 | Taliban shake Afghan stability with new tactics:

"''Al Qaeda is channeling money and equipment,'' said Lt. George Hughbanks, a U.S. Army intelligence officer in Zabul province, one of the worst hit by the Taliban insurgency.

The Taliban are now a disparate assemblage of radical groups estimated to number several thousand, far fewer than when they were in power before November 2001. The fighters operate in small cells that occasionally come together for specific missions. They are unable to hold territory or defeat coalition troops.

They are linked by a loose command structure and an aim of driving out U.S.-led coalition and NATO troops, toppling U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, and reimposing hard-line Islamic rule on Afghanistan, according to Afghan and Western officials and experts.

The Taliban insurgents have adopted some of the terrorist tactics that their Iraqi counterparts have used to stoke popular anger at the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. They have stalled reconstruction and fomented sectarian tensions in a country that remains mired in poverty and corruption, illegal drugs and ethnic and political hatred.

BOMBINGS, BEHEADINGS

Their tactics include attacks with homemade explosives, and beheadings, assassinations and kidnappings targeting public officials and others who cooperate in international democracy-building efforts and reconstruction.

The violence continued last week. A homemade bomb planted by the Taliban killed two U.S. soldiers Thursday near the southern city of Kandahar. And Friday, a U.S. Marine was killed in the eastern province of Kunar, bringing to at least 45 the number killed in hostile actions in the past six months.

The new American ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald E. Neumann, said Thursday that the Taliban had ''absolutely no chance'' of derailing the Sept. 18 parliamentary and provincial council voting because security would be too tight.

`A SECOND FRONT'

The Taliban's new tactics, however, suggest to some experts that the surge in violence that began five months ago is more than an effort to impede the elections. These experts fear that the Taliban's resurgence may be part of an al Qaeda strategy aimed at keeping the U.S. military stressed and bleeding not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan.

''I think they are opening a second front,'' said Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Department intelligence analyst who is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington. ``I don't think the elections are really the focus.''

''These are people who see this in broader terms,'' Weinbaum said."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Arab TVs fend off Israeli propaganda claims in Gaza coverage - Yahoo! News

Arab TVs fend off Israeli propaganda claims in Gaza coverage - Yahoo! News

DUBAI (AFP) - Arab satellite news channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have been forced to fend off accusations they served up Israeli propaganda with their coverage of the historic evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements.

“We understand when the international media fall into the trap of the Jewish settlers and run live coverage of the evacuation,” said Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper Al-Qods Al-Arabi.

“But we do not understand that Arab channels should fall into the same trap and serve (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon’s objectives,” said Atwan, dubbing the evacuation “a grotesque media circus.”

“Arab public opinion cannot be fooled by the crocodile tears shed by the settlers on houses built on stolen Palestinian territory in Gaza,” he said.

The criticism stemmed mainly from footage of the Jewish settlers crying over their lost homes, scenes which were seen as depicting the Israelis as victims, explained Atwan.

And the images of Israeli forces evacuating angry settlers without violence were seen as portraying the army as a powerful and disciplined institution.

Atwan's remarks echoed similar criticism by a number of Arab intellectuals and viewers who called in during talk shows on the evacuation, but such claims have been flatly denied by both channels.

Pentagon says it has found no evidence Atta identified before 2001 attacks

Pentagon says it has found no evidence Atta identified before 2001 attacks: "Pentagon says it has found no evidence Atta identified before 2001 attacks

A Pentagon review has so far found no evidence that a secret intelligence operation identified Mohammad Atta as a member of a US-based Al-Qaeda cell before the September 11, 2001 attacks, a spokesman said.

Representative Curt Weldon and Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer have charged that Atta and three other September 11 hijackers were identified as early as mid-2000 through a data-mining program codenamed 'Able Danger.'

But Lawrence DiRita, a Pentagon spokesman, said a review of materials related to Able Danger has so far turned up no evidence that it identified Atta, the reputed leader of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Twaddle from the Axis of Neville - On Point Commentary by Austin Bay

Twaddle from the Axis of Neville - On Point Commentary by Austin Bay StrategyPage.com: "


This month is the 20th anniversary of the Great Euromissile Crisis. Oh, the accusations! Reagan was stupid. Reagan was dangerous, a warmonger seeking the nuclear destruction of the USSR. Reagan was -- good heavens -- a unilateralist. Today, the mayor of London calls Bush 'the greatest threat to life on the planet.'

Twaddle. The current crop of Axis of Neville (Chamberlain) leftish pundits and leaders are thus exposed, recycling 20-year-old insults.

Here's the background: In the late 1970s, the Soviets began deploying SS-20 theater ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe. In response, NATO pursued a 'dual track' strategy, NATO would negotiate to remove the SS-20s but would deploy its own missiles if the Soviets refused.

Germany's Socialist Chancellor Helmut Schmidt saw dual-track's flaws, the most dangerous being loss of will to follow through with deployment. Schmidt was livid with Jimmy Carter, who insisted on 'dual track.' Schmidt favored an approach that said: 'You deploy, we deploy. If you want to talk, we'll listen.'

Dual-track delighted the Soviets. They could jiggle the American nuclear umbrella protecting the West and perhaps deal NATO a fatal political blow. The American media were wallowing in the defeatist 'Vietnam Syndrome' and, if one trusted European polls, neutralist sentiment, evident in Holland, Belgium and Denmark, had spread to West Germany.

The Soviets knew the negotiating track of NATO's 'dual strategy' was doomed. Moscow had no intention of withdrawing the SS-20s. With the SS-20s as the rattling sword, the Soviets began a political and propaganda campaign designed to portray the NATO missile (SET ITAL) response (END ITAL) as an aggressive act.

By 1983, NATO realized dual-track had failed. Cruise missiles and Pershing 2 ballistic missiles would have to be deployed to militarily and politically counter the 200-plus Soviet SS-20s. So the Soviets launched the 'Euro-missile crisis' to frustrate NATO's deployment. Communist sympathizers, Western 'peace' organizations, Western pacifists and other political elements in the West participated in demonstrations throughout Western Europe and the United States.

Despite the heady boost from left-wing elements in the West, Moscow's strategy experienced setbacks. In 1983, the Dutch elected their most conservative government (Lubbers government) since World War II. Italy issued statements welcoming deployment. Fear, it seemed, wasn't selling. Common sense and the common need to defend democracy against tyrannical bullies held sway.

Though in some brash sectors hysteria reigned (a review of the videotapes of television news programs and talk shows will illustrate hysteria's near-domination in the American mass media), thanks to U.S. leadership NATO made the cool chess move of counter-deployment.

With a theatrical huff, the Soviets withdrew from negotiations. Nothing, however, went 'poof,' except perhaps the protestors' adrenalin high. Within 18 months, the Gorbachev regime would assume power in Moscow. The Soviets would return to the bargaining table and accept the Reagan administration's 'zero-zero' offer -- no SS-20s, no NATO missiles. And we're all better off.

History never really repeats itself. However, themes from 1983 remain relevant in 2003, a key one being the absolute necessity that democratic leaders demonstrate to tyrants and thugs that the consequences of testing a free people's will to defend themselves are deadly sure and certain. It's a sad fact of human existence: There will always be another tyrant who'll need convincing.

Another theme isn't so important, but it's worth noting. The leftish teeth-gnashers will never get it. The figment utopias they tout can't be challenged by difficult facts. The green-cheese moons they detect orbit their own weightless imaginations, and the gravity of down-to-Earth decision, particularly when it comes to defending liberty, exerts little pull. Hence, the rhetorical hokum they spew that Bush is 'more dangerous than bin Laden.'

Ironically, the Euromissile Crisis proved to be the last big political battle of the Cold War. In 1989, the Berlin Wall cracked, and the communists' workers' paradise was exposed for the Red Fascist hell it always was."

MEMRI:Iraqi Confession TV Series Captured Iraqi Terrorist Ramzi Hashem Abed: Zarqawi Participated in the Plot to Assassinate Baqer Al-Hakim.

MEMRI:Iraqi Confession TV Series Captured Iraqi Terrorist Ramzi Hashem Abed: Zarqawi Participated in the Plot to Assassinate Baqer Al-Hakim.:

"Abed: 'I want to say one thing. Before the operation they would give us pills.'

Interrogator: 'Capsules?'

Abed: 'Not capsules. They would give us something like hashish and opium, and tell us we would not feel the operation we were carrying out.'

Interrogator: 'Drugs?'

Abed: 'Yes.' "

This interview with a terrorist captured in Iraq is interesting- read the whole thing. The last line especially interested me, however. I've heard before about Jihadis being high on drugs during their crimes, and here's confirmation of this.

Saudi ruler Abdullah sees elected leaders within 15 years - The Washington Times

Democracy coming to Saudi Arabia?

Saudi King Abdullah promised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a series of reforms that could give the desert kingdom an elected government within 10 to 15 years, says a senior U.S. official who was present when the two met in June.
“He professed to transform his country and talked about having a representative government within a decade or a decade and a half,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
The 82-year-old king made the pledge during a June 20 visit by Miss Rice to the capital, Riyadh, when he was still crown prince and the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
It is thought to be the first time a Saudi ruler has attached a timeline to moving toward a democratic process.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to attempts to verify the U.S. official’s account.
King Abdullah took over one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies after his brother, King Fahd, who suffered a debilitating stroke a decade ago, died on Aug. 1.
When Miss Rice visited Riyadh, she and the future king agreed to maintain a “strategic dialogue” in four main areas: regional security; counterterrorism; the economy, including energy; and bilateral issues, including political reforms.
Pressing the Saudis on democracy, as well as the overall U.S. relationship with the oil-rich kingdom, has been one of the biggest challenges for the Bush administration since the September 11 terrorist attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.
The administration often has argued that freedom and democracy in the Middle East will result in fewer people turning to extremism to achieve their political goals. …

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?: "One of the most provocative ideas about business in this decade so far surfaced in a most unlikely place. The forum wasn't the Harvard Business School or one of those $4,000-a-head conferences where Silicon Valley's venture capitalists search for the next big thing. It was a convention of Canadian cops in the far-flung province of Newfoundland. The speaker, a 71-year-old professor emeritus from the University of British Columbia, remains virtually unknown in the business realm. But he's renowned in his own field: criminal psychology. Robert Hare is the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist. The 20-item personality evaluation has exerted enormous influence in its quarter-century history. It's the standard tool for making clinical diagnoses of psychopaths -- the 1% of the general population that isn't burdened by conscience. Psychopaths have a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life 'games' they can win -- and take pleasure from their power over other people.

On that August day in 2002, Hare gave a talk on psychopathy to about 150 police and law-enforcement officials. He was a legendary figure to that crowd. The FBI and the British justice system have long relied on his advice. He created the P-Scan, a test widely used by police departments to screen new recruits for psychopathy, and his ideas have inspired the testing of firefighters, teachers, and operators of nuclear power plants.

According to the Canadian Press and Toronto Sun reporters who rescued the moment from obscurity, Hare began by talking about Mafia hit men and sex offenders, whose photos were projected on a large screen behind him. But then those images were replaced by pictures of top executives from WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which imploded only months earlier. The securities frauds would eventually lead to long prison sentences for WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and Enron CFO Andrew Fastow.

'These are callous, cold-blooded individuals,' Hare said.

'They don't care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse.' He talked about the pain and suffering the corporate rogues had inflicted on thousands of people who had lost their jobs, or their life's savings. Some of those victims would succumb to heart attacks or commit suicide, he said.

Then Hare came out with a startling proposal. He said that the recent corporate scandals could have been prevented if CEOs were screened for psychopathic behavior. 'Why wouldn't we want to screen them?' he asked. 'We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?'"
[...]

But wait, you say: Don't bona fide psychopaths become serial killers or other kinds of violent criminals, rather than the guys in the next cubicle or the corner office? That was the conventional wisdom. Indeed, Hare began his work by studying men in prison. Granted, that's still an unusually good place to look for the conscience-impaired. The average Psychopathy Checklist score for incarcerated male offenders in North America is 23.3, out of a possible 40. A score of around 20 qualifies as "moderately psychopathic." Only 1% of the general population would score 30 or above, which is "highly psychopathic," the range for the most violent offenders. Hare has said that the typical citizen would score a 3 or 4, while anything below that is "sliding into sainthood."

On the broad continuum between the ethical everyman and the predatory killer, there's plenty of room for people who are ruthless but not violent. This is where you're likely to find such people as Ebbers, Fastow, ImClone CEO Sam Waksal, and hotelier Leona Helmsley. We put several big-name CEOs through the checklist, and they scored as "moderately psychopathic"; our quiz on page 48 lets you try a similar exercise with your favorite boss. And this summer, together with New York industrial psychologist Paul Babiak, Hare begins marketing the B-Scan, a personality test that companies can use to spot job candidates who may have an MBA but lack a conscience. "I always said that if I wasn't studying psychopaths in prison, I'd do it at the stock exchange," Hare told Fast Company. "There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You'll find them in any organization where, by the nature of one's position, you have power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something."

There's evidence that the business climate has become even more hospitable to psychopaths in recent years. In pioneering long-term studies of psychopaths in the workplace, Babiak focused on a half-dozen unnamed companies: One was a fast-growing high-tech firm, and the others were large multinationals undergoing dramatic organizational changes -- severe downsizing, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures. That's just the sort of corporate tumult that has increasingly characterized the U.S. business landscape in the last couple of decades. And just as wars can produce exciting opportunities for murderous psychopaths to shine (think of Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic), Babiak found that these organizational shake-ups created a welcoming environment for the corporate killer. "The psychopath has no difficulty dealing with the consequences of rapid change; in fact, he or she thrives on it," Babiak claims. "Organizational chaos provides both the necessary stimulation for psychopathic thrill seeking and sufficient cover for psychopathic manipulation and abusive behavior."
[...]

ow can we recognize psychopathic types? Hare has revised his Psychopathy Checklist (known as the PCL-R, or simply "the Hare") to make it easier to identify so-called subcriminal or corporate psychopaths. He has broken down the 20 personality characteristics into two subsets, or "factors." Corporate psychopaths score high on Factor 1, the "selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others" category. It includes eight traits: glibness and superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning and manipulativeness; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect (i.e., a coldness covered up by dramatic emotional displays that are actually playacting); callousness and lack of empathy; and the failure to accept responsibility for one's own actions. Sound like anyone you know? (Corporate psychopaths score only low to moderate on Factor 2, which pinpoints "chronically unstable, antisocial, and socially deviant lifestyle," the hallmarks of people who wind up in jail for rougher crimes than creative accounting.)

This view is supported by research by psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, who interviewed and gave personality tests to 39 high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminals and psychiatric patients. The executives were even more likely to be superficially charming, egocentric, insincere, and manipulative, and just as likely to be grandiose, exploitative, and lacking in empathy. Board and Fritzon concluded that the businesspeople they studied might be called "successful psychopaths." In contrast, the criminals -- the "unsuccessful psychopaths" -- were more impulsive and physically aggressive.

The Factor 1 psychopathic traits seem like the playbook of many corporate power brokers through the decades. Manipulative? Louis B. Mayer was said to be a better actor than any of the stars he employed at MGM, able to turn on the tears at will to evoke sympathy during salary negotiations with his actors. Callous? Henry Ford hired thugs to crush union organizers, deployed machine guns at his plants, and stockpiled tear gas. He cheated on his wife with his teenage personal assistant and then had the younger woman marry his chauffeur as a cover. Lacking empathy? Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley shouted profanities at and summarily fired hundreds of employees allegedly for trivialities, like a maid missing a piece of lint. Remorseless? Soon after Martin Davis ascended to the top position at Gulf & Western, a visitor asked why half the offices were empty on the top floor of the company's Manhattan skyscraper. "Those were my enemies," Davis said. "I got rid of them." Deceitful? Oil baron Armand Hammer laundered money to pay for Soviet espionage. Grandiosity? Thy name is Trump.
[...]

Most criminals -- whether psychopathic or not -- are shaped by poverty and often childhood abuse as well. In contrast, corporate psychopaths typically grew up in stable, loving families that were middle class or affluent. But because they're pathological liars, they tell romanticized tales of rising from tough, impoverished backgrounds. Dunlap pretended that he grew up as the son of a laid-off dockworker; in truth, his father worked steadily and raised his family in suburban comfort. The corporate psychopaths whom Babiak studied all went to college, and a couple even had PhDs. Their ruthless pursuit of self-interest was more easily accomplished in the white-collar realm, which their backgrounds had groomed them for, rather than the criminal one, which comes with much lousier odds.

Psychopaths succeed in conventional society in large measure because few of us grasp that they are fundamentally different from ourselves. We assume that they, too, care about other people's feelings. This makes it easier for them to "play" us. Although they lack empathy, they develop an actor's expertise in evoking ours. While they don't care about us, "they have an element of emotional intelligence, of being able to see our emotions very clearly and manipulate them," says Michael Maccoby, a psychotherapist who has consulted for major corporations.

Psychopaths are typically very likable. They make us believe that they reciprocate our loyalty and friendship. When we realize that they were conning us all along, we feel betrayed and foolish. "People see sociopathy in their personal lives, and they don't have a clue that it has a label or that others have encountered it," says Martha Stout, a psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and the author of the recent best-seller The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us (Broadway Books, 2005). "It makes them feel crazy or alone. It goes against our intuition that a small percentage of people can be so different from the rest of us -- and so evil. Good people don't want to believe it."

Of course, cynics might say that it can be an advantage to lack a conscience. That's probably why major investors installed Dunlap as the CEO of Sunbeam: He had no qualms about decimating the workforce to impress Wall Street. One reason outside executives get brought into troubled companies is that they lack the emotional stake in either the enterprise or its people. It's easier for them to act callously and remorselessly, which is exactly what their backers want. The obvious danger of the new B-Scan test for psychopathic tendencies is that companies will hire or promote people with high scores rather than screen them out. Even Babiak, the test's codeveloper, says that while "a high score is a red flag, sometimes middle scores are okay. Perhaps you don't want the most honest and upfront salesman."

Indeed, not every aberrant boss is necessarily a corporate psychopath. There's another personality that's often found in the executive suite: the narcissist. While many psychologists would call narcissism a disorder, this trait can be quite beneficial for top bosses, and it's certainly less pathological than psychopathy. Maccoby's book The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Perils of Visionary Leadership (Broadway Books, 2003) portrays the narcissistic CEO as a grandiose egotist who is on a mission to help humanity in the abstract even though he's often insensitive to the real people around him. Maccoby counts Apple's Steve Jobs, General Electric's Jack Welch, Intel's Andy Grove, Microsoft's Bill Gates, and Southwest Airlines' Herb Kelleher as "productive narcissists," or PNs. Narcissists are visionaries who attract hordes of followers, which can make them excel as innovators, but they're poor listeners and they can be awfully touchy about criticism. "These people don't have much empathy," Maccoby says. "When Bill Gates tells someone, 'That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard,' or Steve Jobs calls someone a bozo, they're not concerned about people's feelings. They see other people as a means toward their ends. But they do have a sense of changing the world -- in their eyes, improving the world. They build their own view of what the world should be and get others recruited to their vision. Psychopaths, in contrast, are only interested in self."

Maccoby concedes that productive narcissists can become "drunk with power" and turn destructive. The trick, he thinks, is to pair a productive narcissist with a "productive obsessive," or conscientious, control-minded manager. Think of Grove when he was matched with chief operating officer Craig Barrett, Gates with president Steve Ballmer, Kelleher with COO Colleen Barrett, and Oracle's Larry Ellison with COO Ray Lane and CFO Jeff Henley. In his remarkably successful second tour of duty at Apple, Jobs has been balanced by steady, competent behind-the-scenes players such as Timothy Cook, his executive vice president for sales and operations.

But our culture's embrace of narcissism as the hallmark of admired business leaders is dangerous, Babiak maintains, since "individuals who are really psychopaths are often mistaken for narcissists and chosen by the organization for leadership positions." How does he distinguish the difference between the two types? "In the case of a narcissist, everything is me, me, me," Babiak explains. "With a psychopath, it's 'Is it thrilling, is it a game I can win, and does it hurt others?' My belief is a psychopath enjoys hurting others."

Nanotube sheets come of age - Clear, conductive sheets produced at high speed.

news @ nature.com-Nanotube sheets come of age Clear, conductive sheets produced at high speed.:

They're soft, strong, and very, very long.

Large, transparent sheets of carbon nanotubes can now be produced at lightning speed. The new technique should allow the nanotubes to be used in commercial devices from heated car windows to flexible television screens.

'Rarely is a processing advance so elegantly simple that rapid commercialization seems possible,' says Ray Baughman, a chemist from the University of Texas at Dallas, whose team unveils the ribbon in this week's Science1.

Nanotubes are tiny cylinders of carbon atoms measuring just billionths of a metre across. They are light, strong, and conductive. But for years their promise has outweighed their utility, because the complicated processes involved in making devices from nanotubes were too slow and expensive to be used in large-scale manufacturing.

But now, nanotubes have gone into warp drive. Baughman's team can churn out up to ten metres of nanoribbon every minute, as easily as pulling a strip of sticky tape from a reel (see video ). This ribbon can be up to five centimetres wide, and after a simple wash in ethanol compacts to just 50 nanometres thick, making it 2,000 times thinner than a piece of paper.

The ribbons are transparent, flexible, and conduct electricity. Weight for weight, they are stronger than steel sheets, yet a square kilometre of the material would weigh only 30 kilograms. 'This is basically a new material,' says Baughman."

One big step closer to the space elevator

Islamic cleric says Ireland is a 'legitimate target - Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph: "Islamic cleric says Ireland is a 'legitimate target'


A notorious British-based Islamic extremist has said Ireland is a 'legitimate' target for al-Qa'ida terror attacks.

Anjem Choudary, who has close links to the infamous hate preacher, Omar Bakri Mohammed, said the use of Shannon Airport as a stop-off for US warplanes justifies Ireland being attacked.

The solicitor (38) said: 'If your government wants to support the atrocities in Afghanistan they can expect some repercussions,' and added that Ireland had 'opened itself' to attacks from radical Muslims linked to al-Qa'ida.

Choudary even said that terrorists have the right to kill indiscriminately since American bombers did not pick and choose military targets in Iraq."

Al-Qaeda group to terrorise US

Al-Qaeda to wage media war on U.S. morale

Dubai - An al-Qaeda linked-group has launched what it calls a media jihad, or holy war, to 'terrorise' United States-led forces in Iraq and their families by bombarding them with e-mails and by posting gruesome photos online.

The group, calling itself the 'Brigade of Media Jihad', called on its militants to 'post terrifying pictures on the internet in order to terrorise the enemy', said a statement on an Islamist website whose authenticity could not be verified.

'Our objective is to undermine the morale of our enemies, dash their hopes and dreams and reveal the truth of what is happening in Iraq. The media war is an integral part of the war on the ground,' said the statement.

Breaking soldiers morale

The group said it has launched its media offensive in several languages 'on hundreds of internet forums and through horrific e-mails sent to enemy soldiers and their families in order to terrorise them and break their morale'.

'We have succeeded in attacking 1 600 forums and electronic addresses through which our messages have reached 60 000 people,' it said.

The relatives of US soldiers are being shown 'the reality that their sons are living' in Iraq, the group boasted.

The statement accused 'Crusaders' of controlling the mainstream media 'and so we decided to use an important outlet, the Internet, that they cannot control'.

Islamist groups, including those linked to al-Qaeda, have posted hundreds of statements on the Internet over the past two years to claim attacks on US-led forces in Iraq and Iraqis and others who work for them."

Michael Ledeen on Iran on National Review Online

Michael Ledeen on Iran on National Review Online

Iranian President Ahmadi Nezhad has been busy putting together a cabinet for the Islamic republic, and while all real power remains firmly in the clammy hands of Supreme Leader Khamenei, it's worth taking a look at some of the new ministers, if only because it tells us two important things: (1) The face the regime wishes to show to the world at large, and (2) the policies the regime intends to unleash on the long-suffering Iranian people.




Who's Who
Let's start with the interior minister, Hojatoll-Islam Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi. He was formerly the number-two man in the ministry of intelligence and security — where he was directly in charge of the foreign section (and thus the sorts of foreign operations now running full bore in Iraq and Afghanistan) — and, even more significantly, the man in charge of those matters in the office of the supreme leader.

Pour-Mohammadi comes from a sartorially celebrated family; his father and brother are tailors for leading clergy. Indeed, they prepared the raiments for both bin Laden and Zawahiri in their recent videos, in which their clothing was distinctively Iranian.

The minister for intelligence and security is Hojjatol-Islam Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ezhei, from Isfahan, where he acquired a reputation as a particularly vicious and barbaric head of the Islamic tribunals which regularly issued brutal sentences. He has been special prosecutor in the intelligence ministry, where he was also in charge of key personnel decisions, and at present he is judge and prosecutor for the special tribunal of the clergy.[...]

The foreign minister is Manoucher Mottaki, whose long diplomatic career (he has been ambassador to both Japan and Turkey, and deputy foreign minister) has included the sensitive role as liaison between the foreign ministry and the revolutionary guards. While he was ambassador to Ankara, numerous Iranian dissidents were murdered and others kidnapped.

And then there is the defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, another brigadier general in the revolutionary Guards, where he has been since its official formation in 1979. As several commentators have pointed out, he was the commander of the RG forces in Lebanon in 1983, when the Marine barracks were blown up by the Guards and Hezbollah. So we owe him one.

The mullahs have torn off their conciliatory mask in order to bare their fangs to us, the Europeans, and the Iranian people. If we had an Iran strategy worthy of the name, our confused leaders would have pointed out the remarkable interview with the chief nuclear affairs negotiator, Hossein Musavian. It was broadcast on Iranian television August 4th, and made it quite clear that the Iranians deliberately tricked the Europeans into giving the mullahs an extra year to complete a vital part of their nuclear program in Isfahan.