Tuesday, May 23, 2006

World Tribune.com -- U.S. Army weighs blimp fleet for Iraq

World Tribune.com -- U.S. Army weighs blimp fleet for Iraq

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is researching the prospect of deploying airships to Iraq, both for surveillance as well as for troop transport.

Officials said the army has been briefed on the use of airships equipped with sensors that could provide continuous surveillance over insurgency strongholds in Iraq. The airships would ensure real-time information on insurgency threats to army commands and ease the burden on the Army's unmanned aerial vehicle fleet..

"The capability of an airship would be much greater than that of a tactical UAV," an official said. "We could be provided with a comprehensive situational awareness picture before patrols and other missions."

The Defense Department has held a competition to provide a blimp for troop transport. The finalists were identified as Lockheed Martin and a tiny California firm, Worldwide Aeros.

Both companies have won a total of $3 million in awards to provide the Pentagon with preliminary design work for the air troop transport. Worldwide Aeros, with 40 employees, manufactures blimps for flying billboards.

In September 2006, the Pentagon would determine which one of the companies would win a $100 million contract. In the first stage of the project, the winner would build a 900-foot airship prototype. At a later stage, the U.S. military could order a fleet of the blimps in what could cost up to $11 billion.

Another company, Blackwater USA, has presented a concept for a 120-foot airship packed with infrared sensors, CCD cameras and meant to provide reconnaissance for up to four days at a time. Executives said the 120-foot airship would be ready by the end of 2006.

"If bad guys are setting up IEDs on the side of the road, we can see real-time what's going on," Blackwater USA vice president Chris Taylor said.

Monday, May 22, 2006

DRUDGE REPORT :: FBI Raid Angers Some on Hill

DRUDGE REPORT FLASH 2006:

"FBI Raid Angers Some on Hill
Mon May 22 2006 10:00:41 ET

Saturday night’s FBI raid on the office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) surprised and angered House officials, who were not told that the Rayburn House Office Building search was to take place until one hour beforehand, offering the latest sign that federal prosecutors are using increasingly aggressive tactics in their pursuit of allegedly corrupt lawmakers.

This is believed to be the first-ever FBI raid on a Congressional office, ROLL CALL reports.

Documents filed in support of the search show that the Justice Department is assembling a wide-ranging case against the veteran Democratic lawmaker.

At this time, Jefferson is being investigated for bribery, wire fraud, bribery of a foreign official and conspiracy to bribe foreign officials, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent in support of the search warrant.

But the Justice Department and FBI agents are also looking at “least seven other schemes in which Congressman Jefferson sought things of value” in return for official acts, the affidavit states.

That suggests that additional avenues for prosecuting Jefferson could be revealed soon. The FBI has two confidential witnesses who are offering testimony against Jefferson, as well as undercover audio and video tapes of him allegedly asking for and receiving bribes worth potentially millions of dollars in exchange for his help in putting together African telecommunications deals for U.S. firms, according to the affidavit.

On one videotape, the FBI filmed Jefferson allegedly receiving $100,000 in cash from one of their cooperating witnesses. Most of the money was later recovered in a raid of Jefferson's home, reports ROLL CALL's John Bresnahan."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Did early humans go ape for chimps?. 18/05/2006. ABC News Online

Did early humans go ape for chimps?. 18/05/2006. ABC News Online:

"Did early humans go ape for chimps?

Humans' ancestors interbred with chimpanzees after the two species drew apart millions of years ago, a paper suggests.

The provocative idea is sketched by US genome experts, who have discovered that hominids and chimps diverged far more recently - and over a much longer time scale - than anyone had thought.

During this time, the authors theorise, the two primates were rather more than kissing cousins: they had sex, swapping genes before making a final separation.

'The ... analysis revealed big surprises, with major implications for human evolution,' co-author Professor Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said.

Until now, the belief was that humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor but went their separate ways around 6.5 - 7.4 million years ago.

The basis for this is a carbon-dated fossil called Toumai, whose supporters say is the oldest known human.

Its critics, though, dismiss Toumai as an ape."

BBC NEWS |Telecoms thriving in lawless Somalia

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Telecoms thriving in lawless Somalia:

"By Joseph Winter
BBC News, Mogadishu

Rising from the ruins of the Mogadishu skyline are signs of one of Somalia's few success stories in the anarchy of recent years.

Mobile phone masts in Mogadishu
Mobile phone masts are among the few new structures in Mogadishu
A host of mobile phone masts testifies to the telecommunications revolution which has taken place despite the absence of any functioning national government since 1991.

Three phone companies are engaged in fierce competition for both mobile and landline customers, while new internet cafes are being set up across the city and the entire country.

It takes just three days for a landline to be installed - compared with waiting-lists of many years in neighbouring Kenya, where there is a stable, democratic government.

And once installed, local calls are free for a monthly fee of just $10.

International calls cost 50 US cents a minute, while surfing the web is charged at 50 US cents an hour - 'the cheapest rate in Africa' according to the manager of one internet cafe.

But how do you establish a phone company in a country where there is no government?

No monopoly

In some respects, it is actually easier.

There is no need to get a licence and there is no state-run monopoly which prevents new competitors being established.

Voices of Somali internet users

In pictures

And of course there is no-one to demand any taxes, which is one reason why prices are so low.

'The government post and telecoms company used to have a monopoly but after the regime was toppled, we were free to set up our own business,' says Abdullahi Mohammed Hussein, products and services manager of Telcom Somalia, which was set up in 1994 when Mogadishu was still a war-zone.

'We saw a huge gap in the market, as all previous services had been destroyed. There was a massive demand.'

The main airport and port were destroyed in the fighting but businessmen have built small airstrips and use natural harbours, so the phone companies are still able to import their equipment.

Despite the absence of law and order and a functional court system, bills are paid and contracts are enforced by relying on Somalia's traditional clan system, Mr Abdullahi says."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Trial a glimpse into Chicago political patronage

Trial a glimpse into Chicago political patronage:

"CHICAGO (Reuters) - Four Chicago officials went on trial on Monday, accused of rigging the city's hiring process to reward loyalists of Mayor Richard Daley, in a case prosecutors said shows a ban on political patronage is being ignored.

City employees Robert Sorich, Timothy McCarthy, Patrick Slattery and John Sullivan have been charged with fraud. Sullivan was also charged with lying to the FBI. If convicted, they could each spend several years in prison.

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In opening statements in U.S. District Court, prosecutor Patrick Collins said only people who had served in Daley's political organization by ringing doorbells and handing out leaflets for certain political candidates had a chance to get well-paid positions like sewer and building inspectors or foremen on city construction projects.

Employing imagery associated with the selection of popes and kings, Collins described the proverbial 'puff of smoke' that accompanied a list of preferred candidates for jobs issued by City Hall, and the 'kneeling at the feet' required of job-seekers and their overseers.

Collins said Sorich and the other defendants coordinated who was hired by the city, falsified job evaluations and manipulated job interviews for the favored applicants.

Daley is the son of legendary Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley, who was known for running a well-oiled Democratic machine based on patronage.

A 1983 court-ordered ban against patronage hiring, except for 1,000 top city positions, prompted the current mayor and his critics to agree machine-style politics was over. But Collins said the ban has been effectively ignored by the current administration."

ESR | May 8, 2006 | How quickly we forget

ESR | May 8, 2006 | How quickly we forget

Given their apparent operation in relatively isolated terror cells, it's unlikely the PATRIOT Act would have stopped 9/11. It has, however, quite handily given law enforcement agencies the tools to go after accused drug dealers in Florida, embezzlers in Las Vegas, and an Oregon lawyer whose fingerprints were mistakenly matched by the FBI to those who bombed commuter trains in Madrid, Spain (the lawyer was eventually released, but only after Spanish officials insisted the prints belonged to others). In its newest iteration, it's also prevented you and me from buying cold medicine over the counter (maybe somebody somewhere thinks terrorists won't fly if they have the sniffle s...)

Last year, Congress passed the REAL ID Act. The measure was passed ostensibly to prevent terrorists and illegal aliens from getting a foothold here by creating a national ID system that would — at least in theory — make it hard for those not legally entitled to driver's licenses to get one. By making those licenses, in turn, a requirement for a job, a bank account, travel, and more, those in the country for nefarious reasons would be stymied by an inability to do many of the things they'd likely need to do. We were told these steps were necessary in our ongoing War on Terror.

States are screaming about the costs involved in setting up a massive system geared to background checks, review of multiple forms of required identification and proof of citizenship, and the databases that will be needed to run it all (New Hampshire has gone further with legislation making its way through the state legislature that would prohibit compliance with REAL ID there). Civil libertarians are screaming even louder than the states about the privacy violations on a mass scale and the vast potential for misuse of database information.

REAL ID wouldn't have stopped 9/11. Most of those directly responsible for the attacks were in the country legally, and their presence at jobs or in the classroom wouldn't have been questioned. With proper identification for legal aliens in hand, their boarding of an aircraft wouldn't have been questioned, either. Instead, what REAL ID will do is provide a way for the government to keep tabs on its own citizens.

The Department of Homeland Security was created in the wake of 9/11. The President suggested that a single point of oversight would combine efforts and prove more efficient than the disparate jobs previously left un joined. Most Americans thought that was a pretty good idea, but I suspect their fresh grief didn't encourage them to think the matter through in entirety. Washington is filled with gigantic government programs, the vast majority of which began with good intentions but which have become inefficient, expensive, and corrupt beyond repair. Apparently, a broken system can only be fixed by breaking it some more with another behemoth bureaucracy.

The Transportation Security Administration, under the auspices of DHS, has created a variety of programs to make air transportation more secure. It instituted random passenger searches (perhaps United 93 would have been safer if a young woman, a middle-aged couple, and a family man had been searched — it's doubtful the four terrorists would have been culled from the line given the TSA's abhorrence for "racial profiling"). It set up a "no fly" list which ostensibly lists the names of those who might conceivably pose a danger and whose travel plans are therefore subject to added scrutiny (Senator Ted Kennedy and at least one infant are known to be, or have been, on the list, but no one knows what the criteria are or how the list can be corrected, nor can anyone say how it would protect any of us from those not known to have terrorist connections).

The TSA has also been touting a frequent flyer program that would allow us to travel with a bit more impunity — if, that is, we're willing to subject ourselves to an intrusive background check and provide our fingerprints or an iris scan to the powers that be (the program may be discontinued due to an unsurprising lack of interest). Aside from flying directly in the face of American jurisprudence and demanding we prove ourselves innocent without even an accusation of guilt, the system does little but collect data about obviously innocent Americans (who else, after all, would apply?) and eliminate a few extra minutes' wait at the airport.

What the TSA has not done is anything to facilitate a program that would permit those pilots who wish to carry firearms in the cockpit to do so. The TSA has, in fact, deliberately dragged its feet even after special orders from Congress demanded it cease the delays and get the program moving. Most pilots who are trained, ready, and willing to arm themselves are disinclined to go through the extraordinarily onerous hoops demanded by the TSA for them to do so — and they can't be blamed. Worse, even those who do go through the TSA's "training program" are hamstrung by regulations that so limit pilots' access to their firearms that gaping holes in security remain.

Of all of these measures involving the TSA, only one — the one the TSA is balking at — might have prevented 9/11 from happening.

Theoretically, the Department of Homeland Security is also in charge of border control. Keeping a handle on who comes into the country is essential if we wish to prevent more terror attacks. Though most of the 9/11 terrorists were in the country legally, a few were not. Of those who were, a number were here after their visas expired. With more stringent entry requirements and with prompt follow-ups, it's probable that many of them would have left or been forced to leave the country prior to September 11, 2001. It seems to me that that's more than enough justification for policing our borders!

Real Nightmare :: What’s Wrong With Real ID

Real Nightmare

What’s Wrong With Real ID

* It’s a national identity system. The standardized national driver’s licenses created by Real ID would become a key part of a system of identity papers, databases, status and identity checks and access control points – an “internal passport” that will increasingly be used to track and control individuals’ movements and activities.
* Will not be effective against terrorism. The fact is, identity-based security is not an effective way to stop terrorism. ID documents do not reveal anything about evil intent – and even if they did, determined terrorists will always be able to obtain fraudulent documents (either counterfeit or real documents bought from corrupt officials).
* Will be a nightmare for state governments. Real ID requires state governments to remake their driver’s licenses, restructure many of their computer databases and other systems, create an extensive new document-storage system, and – perhaps most difficult of all – verify the “issuance, validity and completeness” of every document presented at DMVs. See Real Burdens.
* Will mean higher fees, long lines, and bureaucratic nightmares for individuals. Because Congress ordered but did not pay for these mandates, which will cost states billions of dollars, fees on individuals applying for driver’s licenses will inevitably rise, perhaps steeply. Individuals are also likely to confront slower service, longer lines, and frequent bureaucratic snafus in obtaining these ID cards. Many unlucky individuals will find themselves caught in a bureaucratic nightmare as they run up against the complexities of this law.
* Increased security and ID-theft risks. The creation of a single interlinked database as well as the requirement that each DMV store copies of every birth certificate and other docments presented to it will create a one-stop shop for identity thieves.
* Will be exploited by the private sector to invade privacy. Real ID would make it easy for anybody in private industry to snap up the data on these IDs. Already, bars often swipe licenses to collect personal data on customers – but that will prove to be just the tip of the iceberg as every convenience store learns to grab that data and sell it to data companies for a dime.
* Will expand over time. The Real ID database will inevitably, over time, become the repository for more and more data on individuals, and will be drawn on for an ever-wider set of purposes. Its standardized machine-readable interface will drive its integration into an ever-growing network of identity checks and access control points – each of which will create new data trails that will in turn be linked to that central database or its private-sector shadow equivalent.

Nashuatelegraph.com: Real ID Act is more government snooping

Nashuatelegraph.com: Real ID Act is more government snooping

Real ID Act is more government snooping


Llalania Marble, Brookline

Published: Thursday, May. 11, 2006

Your papers, please! Just a line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It might not be if the Real ID Act takes effect in New Hampshire.

Piggybacked on a military spending bill last year, the Real ID Act will initiate a national ID card, which you will need to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service.

It will be an electronically readable version of your driver’s license carrying your personal information, such as name, address, Social Security number, driving record, birth date, sex, digital photo, biometric information, and other requirements Homeland Security can add as they see fit, such as fingerprints and a retinal scan.

This information will reside in a national database, the largest single repository for personal information ever created, which will be accessible to all other states, and if you think this database will be hacker-proof, think again.

So why does Washington want to implement the Real ID? For our safety and to make finding terrorists easier. How hasn’t really been explained all that well.

All the 9/11 hijackers had valid ID. So how would this really protect us? It wouldn’t, only allow the government as a whole more micromanaging powers to control our lives even more.

E-ZPass can be used by police to see when you pass through tolls. No one mentioned that when it was pitched to New Hampshire residents.

There is a great deal of discussion about putting an RFID chip in the licenses when Real ID takes effect. How easily can we be tracked then, if E-ZPass can already tell police where we are?

AP Wire | 05/14/2006 | AP Enterprise: State of Illinois a squatter with hundreds of expired leases

AP Wire | 05/14/2006 | AP Enterprise: State of Illinois a squatter with hundreds of expired leases:

"AP Enterprise: State of Illinois a squatter with hundreds of expired leases
JOHN O'CONNOR
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The state of Illinois kept Larry Isaacs hanging for four years.

Isaacs rented an office in Tuscola to the Department of Children and Family Services, but the lease expired in March 2002. Although he made about $3,000 worth of state-requested improvements, officials kept putting off a decision on whether to stay or pull out and leave Isaacs to scramble for a new tenant.

He finally got a new deal for up to 10 years, but many other landlords aren't so lucky.

More than half the 652 leases the state had as of December have expired. That's nearly five times the number of 'holdovers' that Gov. Rod Blagojevich faced when he took office in 2003, according to an Associated Press analysis of state documents.

That complicates life for the landlords but also makes Illinois a 'squatter' that could be hit with doubled rent payments or eviction with little or no notice, one regulatory official said.

A state audit, which pointed out that two landlords are suing the state, admonished the agency responsible for the problem - the Department of Central Management Services.

CMS says it's comprehensively reviewing state office needs and that takes time.

Meanwhile, landlords are left scratching their heads and checking their pocketbooks.

'It's always, 'There's people who have been on longer holdover than you, there's other people who have priority,'' said one landlord, whose last, five-year lease expired in 2001 and who spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing a new deal. 'It's been 10 years since I've had a raise.'

Another landlord who has two leases that expired nearly four years ago spoke of losses of $8,000 a month.

'You put money into the properties and you're really getting no return,' said that landlord, who also requested anonymity. 'You're not even covering your expenses: taxes, insurance, other associated costs such as trash collection.'

[...]

What's more, landlords who have gotten new pacts since January 2004 have a track record of supporting Democratic candidates.

Thirty landlords who have landed 70 new leases in that time have contributed $2.2 million to Democratic political campaign funds during the past 10 years and just $516,000 to Republicans, according to an AP review. Those donations include a total of $87,120 to Blagojevich.

Those who continue to wait for new leases - 231 landlords - have given $6.2 million to the GOP and $2.2 million to Democrats, including $202,570 to Blagojevich."

globeandmail.com : U.S. rewards Libya's Gadhafi by restoring full diplomatic ties

globeandmail.com : U.S. rewards Libya's Gadhafi by restoring full diplomatic ties:

"WASHINGTON -- The United States announced it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya yesterday, a reward President George W. Bush says is also on offer to other rogue states if they forsake nuclear weapons.

'Abandoning the pursuit of illegal weapons can lead to better relations with the United States,' Mr. Bush said in a statement released to mark the announcement about Libya -- and clearly aimed at those states he has repeatedly fingered: North Korea, Iran and Syria.

'Continuing to seek those weapons will not bring security or international prestige, but only political isolation, economic hardship, and other unwelcome consequences,' Mr. Bush warned, outlining the carrots-and-sticks approach to superpower diplomacy.

Those 'unwelcome consequences' include full-blown war, like that launched in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq after he defied a decade of UN-authorized sanctions.

In the aftermath of that war, Libya quietly dropped its anti-American stand, cut a secret deal to dismantle its nuclear- and chemical-weapons programs and paid $2.7-billion (U.S.) in compensation to the families of 270 people killed in the Lockerbie bombing.

'Just as 2003 marked a turning point for the Libyan people, so too could 2006 mark turning points for the peoples of Iran and North Korea,' U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice said yesterday in announcing the normalization of relations.

Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. It was blamed for a 1986 Berlin nightclub bombing that killed three people and injured more than 170, many of them U.S. servicemen, and the downing of a French airliner in 1989, killing 170 people.

Twenty years and one month to the day after U.S. warplanes screamed across Tripoli's night skies, bombing several targets in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the long, slow rapprochement between the repressive regime in North Africa and the world's sole remaining superpower now seems complete.

But it remains unclear if the mercurial Colonel Gadhafi, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1969 and has ruled Libya with unchallenged unpredictability ever since, has fully abandoned his confrontations with the West.

'Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe, without swords, without guns, without conquests,' he told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel last month. 'The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.

'Europe is in a predicament, and so is America. They should agree to become Islamic in the course of time, or else declare war on the Muslims.'"

Skype offers free PC-to-landline calls | TG Daily

Skype offers free PC-to-landline calls | TG Daily

Skype offers free PC-to-landline calls

Wolfgang Gruener

May 15, 2006 16:27



San Jose (CA) - Skype has begun offering free phone calls from a PC to any landline phone in North America. The company hopes that a free "SkypeOut" will increase the market penetration of Skype in the U.S. and Canada and will be available until the end of this year.

skype screenshotDropping the fees from SkypeOut is the Skype' most aggressive promotion activity so far and may trigger responses from other softphone and VoIP providers. The company continues to maintain its global dominance in the market and recently reported that it has crossed the 100 million registered subscriber mark on 1 May of this year.

"Millions of consumers around the world are flocking to Skype every month, and we believe free SkypeOut calling will rapidly accelerate Skype adoption in the US and Canada," said Henry Gomez, general manager of Skype North America. "We're very excited to be bringing Skype's convenience and voice quality to so many people for free."

At least for now, the promotion is limited to the United States and Canada and will also expire by the end of this year, Skype said. Targeted to attract more people to the SkypeOut voice calling feature, the company "anticipates that completely free calling in the US and Canada will expand Skype's increasing penetration in North America and solidify Skype's position as the Internet's voice communication tool of choice."

The company did not say whether it intends to introduce a time-limited free SkypeOut in additional geographic regions.

Last week, Skype released the download of a new beta version (v2.5.0.72) client that adds several new features such as SMS capability, Outlook contact integration, shared contact groups and slightly enhanced improved conference calling. We hear that the company is also getting close to releasing a service that would enable up to 100 users to participate in a phone conference.

I've been using Skype since I moved in to my new apartment, and it works well. The sound quality is good, but a little tinny sometimes. I think I will purchase one of their phones that you plug into your computer for that. It's so cool that it's free now! I got it because I was sick of paying 35 bucks a month for a phone I hardly used. I have the cell phone, and just need a cheap way to make calls at home where the cell won't work. Now I will use Skype as much as possible to save money on my pay as you go cellphone, when I purchase it.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

All Headline News - British Inventor Unveils 8000 MPG Car - May 13, 2006

All Headline News - British Inventor Unveils 8000 MPG Car - May 13, 2006:
Julie Farby - All Headline News Staff Writer

London, England (AHN)—A British inventor unveils the world's most fuel-efficient vehicle, a three-wheel “TeamGreen” car capable of doing 8,000 miles to the gallon.

The 45-year-old inventor, Andy Green, from the University of Bath, built his budget eco-motor for just �2,000, and will be the sole British contender for the title of the world's most fuel-economic car in a global competition being held later this month.

It has taken Mr. Green more than two years to design and build the car, which will be the fourth eco-vehicle he has built. He holds the British record for fuel-efficiency, with 6,603 miles to the gallon in a previous car.

According to the report, the new vehicle is powered by a single cylinder four-stroke engine with a capacity of just 35cc and runs with a special management system incorporating fuel injection."

First baby in Britain designed cancer-free - Britain - Times Online

First baby in Britain designed cancer-free - Britain - Times Online:

"First baby in Britain designed cancer-free
By Mark Henderson, Science Editor

A WOMAN is pregnant with Britain’s first designer baby selected to prevent an inherited cancer, The Times can reveal.

Her decision to use controversial genetic-screening technology will ensure that she does not pass on to her child the hereditary form of eye cancer from which she suffers.

Although they did not have fertility problems, the woman and her partner created embryos by IVF. This allowed doctors to remove a cell and test it for the cancer gene, so only unaffected embryos were transferred to her womb.

The couple are the first to take advantage of a relaxation in the rules governing embryo screening.

When the technique was developed in 1989 it was allowed only for genes that always cause disease, such as those for cystic fibrosis. However, it was approved last year for the eye cancer, which affects only 90 per cent of those who inherit a mutated gene.

The pregnancy will increase controversy over the procedure, which the Government’s fertility watchdog authorised on Wednesday for genes that confer an 80 per cent lifetime risk of breast and bowel cancer.

Critics argue that the action is unethical because it involves the destruction of some embryos that would never contract these illnesses if they were allowed to develop into children. Even those that would potentially become ill could expect many years of healthy life first, and some of the disorders involved are treatable or preventable."

Military Plans Tests in Search for an Alternative to Oil-Based Fuel - New York Times

Military Plans Tests in Search for an Alternative to Oil-Based Fuel - New York Times:

"WASHINGTON, May 13 — When an F-16 lights up its afterburners, it consumes nearly 28 gallons of fuel per minute. No wonder, then, that of all the fuel the United States government uses each year, the Air Force accounts for more than half. The Air Force may not be in any danger of suffering inconveniences from scarce or expensive fuel, but it has begun looking for a way to power its jets on something besides conventional fuel.

In a series of tests — first on engines mounted on blocks and then with B-52's in flight — the Air Force will try to prove that the American military can fly its aircraft by blending traditional crude oil-based jet fuel with a synthetic liquid made first from natural gas, and, eventually, from coal, which is plentiful and cheaper.

While the military has been a leader in adopting some technologies — light but strong metals, radar-evading stealth designs and fire-retardant flight suits, for example — any effort to hit a miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency rating has taken a back seat when the mission is to haul bombs farther and faster or push 70-ton tanks across a desert to topple an adversary. (The Abrams tank, for example, gets less than a mile per gallon under certain combat conditions.)

'Energy is a national security issue,' said Michael A. Aimone, the Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for logistics.

The United States is unlikely ever to become fully independent of foreign oil, he said, but the intent of the Air Force project is 'to develop enough independence to have assured domestic supplies for aviation purposes.'

[...]

either Mr. Holmes nor the Air Force would provide cost estimates for the experimental fuel deal in advance of signing a final contract, expected in coming days.

Air Force officials have acknowledged, however, that the cost per gallon of the test fuel will be expensive.

Syntroleum can produce 42 gallons of synthetic fuel from 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The raw materials cost about $70.

If the military moves ahead with using the synthetic fuels, the Syntroleum technology could be used by factories elsewhere to produce the same 42 gallons of fuel from just $10 worth of coal, Mr. Holmes said.

"The United States is essentially the Saudi Arabia of coal," Mr. Holmes said. "It can be mined relatively inexpensively. We really believe that one of the things we can do to help our country's energy needs is to use the abundance of coal reserves."

Mr. Aimone said the large plants needed to produce nonconventional fuels did not exist and would have to be designed and built by the industry.

But he added: "We believe there are economic incentives as we invest in this, and invest with the industry at large, because there are vast coal reserves in this country. The economic pressures of rising oil prices can be moderated by the price of coal.""

Friday, May 12, 2006

DEBKAfile - Bush Did the Job, Elbaradei Walked off with the Nobel Peace Prize

DEBKAfile - Bush Did the Job, Elbaradei Walked off with the Nobel Peace Prize:

"By means of delicate diplomacy during 2003 and 2004, the Bush administration persuaded Libya to relinquish its nuclear weapons industry. US military planes flew the centrifuges Pakistan supplied Libya for uranium enrichment and its yellow cake out of the country to the United States. Pakistan, prodded by Washington, “uncovered” a nuclear black market ring headed by Dr Qader Khan, the father of the Pakistan nuclear bomb, and Egypt confessed to possessing a supply of enriched uranium for military purposes.

While this was going on, Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA teams stood on the sidelines in a supportive role.

These episodes demonstrate that the prime mover in dismantling the most dangerous focii of nuclear weapons production was the Bush administration rather than the UN nuclear watchdog and its director. It was only after these episodes were successfully concluded that ElBaradei realized that Washington had drawn up new rules for the international nuclear game. He began cooperating in earnest with America’s effort to disarm North Korea."

Inside Bay Area - Voting glitch said to be 'dangerous'

Inside Bay Area - Voting glitch said to be 'dangerous'

Voting Glitch Said to Be 'Disastrous'
Inside Bay Area (CA) (05/10/06) Hoffman, Ian

A recently discovered vulnerability in Diebold's touch-screen voting machines has election officials scrambling to understand and contain the risk. A hacker with minimal specialized knowledge of Diebold's system and an off-the-shelf component could load software onto the machine to disable it or alter vote counts in a matter of minutes. "This one is worse than any of the others I've seen. It's more fundamental," said Douglas Jones, a University of Iowa computer scientist. "In the other ones, we've been arguing about the security of the locks on the front door," he said. "Now we find there's no back door. This is the kind of thing where if the states don't get out in front of the hackers, there's a real threat." Finnish computer expert Harri Hursti discovered the flaw while working with Black Box Voting in March, and quietly spread word of the glitch to several prominent computer scientists who advise states on voting machines. Pennsylvania, California, and Iowa have directed their election officials to seal the machines with tamper-proof tape until election day, though California advised its counties that intend to use only Diebold machines in their upcoming elections that the threat is low, and that tampering would be easily detected by voters from the paper read-out and by officials once they recount 1 percent of their precincts' paper ballots. California Assistant Secretary of State for elections Susan Lapsley downplayed the risk, arguing that "it assumes access and control for a lengthy period of time." Scientists disagree, noting that hackers could work out plans ahead of time, and that it only takes a minute to install the software, a hole that apparently originated from Diebold's efforts to make it as easy as possible to update the software inside its systems. ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee has released a report on Statewide Databases of Registered Voters. To review, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/VRD

Iran's spies watching us, says Israel

Telegraph | News | Iran's spies watching us, says Israel:

"Iran's spies watching us, says Israel
By Con Coughlin Defence and Security Editor, on Israel's northern border
(Filed: 04/04/2006)

Iran has set up a sophisticated intelligence gathering operation in southern Lebanon to identify targets in northern Israel in the event of a military confrontation over its controversial nuclear programme.

Senior Israeli military commanders say Iran has spent tens of millions of pounds helping its close ally, Hizbollah, the Shia Muslim militant group that controls southern Lebanon, to set up a network of control towers and monitoring stations along the entire length of Israel's border with south Lebanon.

Some of the new control towers, which are made of reinforced concrete and fitted with bullet-proof reflective glass, are less than 100 yards from Israeli army positions and are clearly visible for long stretches along Israel's border.

'This is now Iran's front line with Israel,' a senior Israeli military commander said. 'The Iranians are using Hizbollah to spy on us so that they can collect information for future attacks. And there is very little we can do about it.'

The Israeli military has reported a significant increase in Hizbollah activity in southern Lebanon since Syria came under intense international pressure to withdraw its forces from the area last year following the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Israeli military officers report that teams of Iran's Revolutionary Guards travel regularly to southern Lebanon to help train local Hizbollah fighters in terrorist tactics. Tensions between Iran and Israel have intensified dramatically since the election last summer of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's new leader. Israel has repeatedly threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and the new Iranian government has responded by calling for Israel's destruction."

The Most Realistic Virtual Reality Room in the World: Iowa State University

News Service: Iowa State University ::The Most Realistic Virtual Reality Room in the World

The Most Realistic Virtual Reality Room in the World
Iowa State University News Service (05/08/06) Krapfl, Mike

Iowa State University is spending more than $4 million upgrading C6, a hexagonal virtual reality room that will project 100 million pixels, twice the number of pixels illuminating any other virtual reality room in the world. Iowa State opened C6 in 2000 as the first six-sided room in the country that provides an immersive auditory and visual experience, though the equipment has not been updated since. The new equipment will feature a Hewlett-Packard computer with 96 graphics processing units, 24 Sony digital projectors, and an ultrasonic motion tracking application. Supported by a Defense Department appropriation through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the upgrade began this spring, and is expected to be unveiled in the fall, with a grand opening celebration planned for spring 2007. Iowa State architecture professor Chiu-Shui Chan has used C6 to generate 3D models of buildings and cities, and is exploring the effect that virtual reality could have on urban planning and workplace efficiency testing. The upgrade to the system will help Chan deliver more realistic and interactive models that convey a stronger sense of place than he can with the existing C6 technology. Other researchers are using C6 for visualizations of genes, cell biology, and engineering tools. James Oliver, a professor of mechanical engineering and the director of Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center, is leading a project to develop a virtual reality control room for unmanned aerial military vehicles. Under Oliver's system, a lone operator could control many vehicles by monitoring their surrounding airspace, the terrain over which they are flying, and information taken from instruments, cameras, and radar and weapons systems in the virtual environment. "The idea is to get the right information to the right person at the right time," he said. "We think this kind of large-scale, immersive interface is the only way to develop sophisticated controls."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Iran Declares War - May 11, 2006 - The New York Sun - NY News

Iran Declares War - May 11, 2006 - The New York Sun - NY News

President Ahmadinejad’s letter to President Bush, widely interpreted as a peaceful overture, is in fact a declaration of war. The key sentence in the letter is the closing salutation. In an eight-page text of the letter being circulated by the Council on Foreign Relations, it is left untranslated and rendered as “Vasalam Ala Man Ataba’al hoda.” What this means is “Peace only unto those who follow the true path.”

It is a phrase with historical significance in Islam, for, according to Islamic tradition, in year six of the Hejira - the late 620s - the prophet Mohammad sent letters to the Byzantine emperor and the Sassanid emperor telling them to convert to the true faith of Islam or be conquered. The letters included the same phrase that President Ahmadinejad used to conclude his letter to Mr. Bush. For Mohammad, the letters were a prelude to a Muslim offensive, a war launched for the purpose of imposing Islamic rule over infidels.

USATODAY.com - NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

USATODAY.com - NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls:

"The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

'It's the largest database ever assembled in the world,' said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is 'to create a database of every call ever made' within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

[...]

The NSA's domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA's efforts to create a national call database.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Nazis ‘shipped arms to Palestinians’ - News from Israel, Ynetnews

Nazis ‘shipped arms to Palestinians’ - News from Israel, Ynetnews

Nazis ‘shipped arms to Palestinians’



British National Archives unveil presence of Nazi S.S. agents in Mandatory Palestine, working closely with Palestinian leaders
Yaakov Lappin


Historical documents in Britain’s National Archives in London show that Nazi Germany attempted to ship arms to Palestinian forces in the 1930s.



A British Foreign Office report from 1939 reports of “news of a consignment of arms from Germany, sent via Turkey and addressed to Ibn Saud (king of Saudi Arabia), but really intended for the Palestine insurgents.” Britain’s chief military officer in Mandatory Palestine also noted reports “regarding import of German arms at intervals for some years now.”


British documents from the same period, and German records photographed by an American spy and sent to the British government, said that a number of Nazi agents were sent to Mandatory Palestine, in order to forge alliances with Palestinian leaders, and urge them to reject a partition of the land between the Jewish and Arab populations.


One Nazi agent, Adam Vollhardt, arrived in Palestine in July 1938, and was reported to have gained strong influence with Arab leaders, meeting with Palestinian leaders throughout 1938. Vollhardt held several meetings with leading Arab politicians and told them “that the Palestine question would be settled to the satisfaction of the Arabs within a few weeks,” adding that “it would be fatal to their (Palestinians’) cause if at this juncture they showed any signs of weakness or exhaustion.”


“Germany was interested in the settlement of the (Palestine) question on the basis of the Arabs obtaining their full demands,” Vollhardt was reported to say to Palestinian leaders, according to a report by the British War Office. Vollhardt also assured Arab leaders that “the Germans could continue to support the Palestinian Arab cause by means of propaganda.”


German documents photographed and sent to Whitehall by an American spy revealed that in 1937, German officials had calculated that “Palestine under Arab rule would… become one of the few countries where we could count on a strong sympathy for the new Germany.”


‘Arabs admire our Fuhrer’


“The Palestinian Arabs show on all levels a great sympathy for the new Germany and its Fuhrer, a sympathy whose value is particularly
high as it is based on a purely ideological foundation,” a Nazi official in Palestine wrote in a letter to Berlin in 1937. He added: “Most important for the sympathies which Arabs now feel towards Germany is their admiration for our Fuhrer, especially during the unrests, I often had an opportunity to see how far these sympathies extend. When faced with a dangerous behaviour of an Arab mass, when one said that one was German, this was already generally a free pass.”

Allah Takes Over Catholic Church | The Brussels Journal

Allah Takes Over Catholic Church | The Brussels Journal


Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Outrage of the Day

From Drudge Report: U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols.

While Minuteman civilian patrols are keeping an eye out for illegal border crossers, the U.S. Border Patrol is keeping an eye out for Minutemen — and telling the Mexican government where they are.

According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants — and if and when violence is used against border crossers.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants’ rights are being observed.

“It’s not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be,” Mario Martinez said Monday.

“This ... simply makes two basic statements — that we will not allow any lawlessness of any type, and that if an alien is encountered by a Minuteman or arrested by the Minuteman, then we will allow that government to interview the person.”

Minuteman members were not so sanguine about the arrangement, however, saying that reporting their location to Mexican officials nullifies their effectiveness along the border and could endanger their lives.

“Now we know why it seemed like Mexican officials knew where we were all the time,” said Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. “It’s unbelievable that our own government agency is sending intelligence to another country. They are sending intelligence to a nation where corruption runs rampant, and that could be getting into the hands of criminal cartels.”

“They just basically endangered the lives of American people.”

09:49 AM PDT | link: 329 comments | link only
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Harvard Today

In an event open to the public, Ayaan Hirsi Ali will be speaking from 2:30 to 4:00 PM at Weiner Auditorium, Taubman Building, just off Harvard Square. Details here: Center for Public Leadership :: John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. (Hat tip: NuclearTinkerbell.)

UPDATE at 5/9/06 9:26:54 am:

Allahpundit has found another interview with her: More audio: Ayaan Hirsi Ali on WNYC.
09:18 AM PDT | link: 50 comments | link only
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A Vacation with Al Qaeda

Visit beautiful Saudi Arabia, and experience the religious apartheid kingdom in all its glory! Witness beheadings in Riyadh’s picturesque Execution Square! Stroll down crime-free Jeddah’s fabulous Corniche! And ah! The nightlife! (Jews not allowed.)

FOR the first time, Saudi Arabia is looking to encourage non-Muslim tourists, touting a unique experience and even nightlife in a country where alcohol and the mixing of the sexes are banned.

“We promise you an experience that will hit your soul, mind and spirit ... (with) lots of nightlife,” Prince Sultan bin Salman, who heads the kingdom’s Supreme Commission for Tourism, told reporters in Dubai at the opening of a tourism promotion expo.

“We have nothing to hide, we will open up so the world can see,” he said, emphasising that the term ‘nightlife’ for Saudis tends to mean wholesome family activities - rather than what may be enjoyed after dark in the West.

Saudis are known for their love of night-time picnics during which they smoke water-pipes and consume large quantities of bitter coffee and tea.

And another twist that is also likely to keep Saudi Arabia from becoming the next hot destination, is the fact tourists will only be allowed to come in via licensed tour operators. Prince Sultan promised visas in 24 hours and even upon arrival for some nationals, which would be a far cry from the current cumbersome process that takes weeks if not months in some cases.

The kingdom, the birthplace of Islam and home to two of its holiest sites, has long been viewed by most Westerners simply as a forbidding and xenophobic place where a strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) reigns.

09:12 AM PDT | link: 90 comments | link only
last comment: Zombie_Killian 12:51:09 pm 5/9/06
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Quartet Talks Aid, Palestinians Smuggle Explosives

The so-called “Quartet” is meeting today, and there will be huge pressure from Russia, the UN, and Europe for the United States to stop worrying and learn to love giving money to Hamas: Middle East power brokers hammer out Hamas strategy.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Middle East peace brokers meet on Tuesday to hammer out how to deal with a Hamas government, with pressure growing to pay beleaguered Palestinian Authority workers and Washington trying to hold its tough line on direct aid.

Several proposals, including a French one to allow the World Bank to channel funds to pay salaries, are expected to be presented at the meeting in New York of the so-called quartet of powers handling the Middle East — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The Bush administration says it will listen to proposals over how to pay 160,000 unpaid government employees but is unlikely to stray from its strategy of isolating Hamas until the militant group renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to previous deals between Palestinians and Israelis.

“The principle for us remains the same. We want to address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, but we are not going to provide money to a terrorist organization,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Hamas claims to have no money to pay salaries and provide services, yet someone around there seems to have the pocket change necessary for a large smuggled shipment of high-grade explosives.

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel last week seized a large cargo of high-grade explosives which an Egyptian boat tried to transfer to two Palestinian boats from the Gaza Strip, the army told AFP.

According to a military source on Tuesday, an Israeli navy patrol off the Mediterranean coast of Sinai last Wednesday spotted “an Egyptian boat transferring a cargo to two Palestinian boats”. The suspicious cargo was dropped off by the Palestinian boats once their crews noticed the Israeli ship, the source told AFP.

“Navy divers later retrieved the cargo from the seabed and found it contained 550 kilograms (1,200 pounds) of full-grade TNT (trinitrotoluene) explosives,” he said. ...

The incident marks Israel’s largest seizure of arms heading to Palestinian territories since the foiled attempt to smuggle 50 tonnes of weapons aboard the Palestinian-captained ship Karine A in 2002.

08:31 AM PDT | link: 48 comments | link only
last comment: Dom 12:29:53 pm 5/9/06
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Al Qaeda in Gaza

Al Qaeda is officially in business in Gaza, under the auspices of Hamas: Al-Qaeda distributes first communique in Gaza.

Gaza - A hitherto unknown Palestinian militant group announced Tuesday it was an off-shoot of the terror network al-Qaeda.

In leaflets telefaxed to reporters and pasted on street corners in Gaza City, the ‘al-Quds (Jerusalem) Islamic Army’ said that, like its parent organization, it would target ‘the crusaders and every enemy of Islam and Muslims and their collaborators.’

‘We will blow up our bodies in their positions’ and ‘strike with an iron fist at all the crusader, American and Zionist campaigns,’ said the statement, adding the group adhered to the principles of al-Qaeda leaders Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri and Musab al-Zarqawi.

The authenticity of the statement was hard to verify, but it bore the signature of al-Qaeda. It was the first such leaflet signed by al-Qaeda in Gaza and openly announcing the formation of an al-Qaeda wing in the Palestinian territories. ...

Tuesday’s leaflet said the al-Qaeda Palestine off-shoot would soon release a video, showing Palestinian al-Qaeda members training.

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last comment: Sajoie DeVie 12:04:49 pm 5/9/06
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RoP Bomb Attack in Denmark

A Danish politician was the target of a firebomb attack last night, after threats signed “Al Qaeda” were received: Bomb attack targets local politicians. (Hat tip: Fjordman.)

And Danish sociologists know who to blame: Danish society.

Elected officials fear that a culture of political violence is emerging in Denmark after a firebomb was thrown at the home of a councillor in the city of Korsor in western Zealand on Monday night.

The bomb missed its target, and Fritz Neumann, a member of the Danish People’s Party, and his family escaped unharmed, but police say the attack is just the latest in a string of similar incidents.

Six other city council members in Korsor have received written and electronic threats signed ‘Allah is great’ and ‘Al Qaeda-network’ in the past three months. Police believe they were related and could have to do with a rejected application for asylum.

The latest bombing renewed concerns that Denmark’s relaxed politicial culture made politicians particularly vulnerable to attacks. Monday’s attempted arson brought back memories of a similar attack on the home of the minister of integration, Rikke Hvilshoj, last year. In two separate incidents, police also recently arrested young men who issued death threats to PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Social Liberal MP Naser Khader.

Political observers were unable to single out a motive for the attacks. Many of the incidents have targeted right-of-centre politicians, but they dismissed the idea that left-wing militants could be the source.

‘The crisis about the cartoons of Mohammed could have been a clear chance for more militant groups to make an impact, because there was such a clear polarisation. Nevertheless, you didn’t see those groups step forward,’ RenĂ© Karpantschof, a sociologist at Copenhagen University, told daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende.

Lack of respect was one likely cause, according to Niels Jorgen Cappelorn, the director of the Soren Kierkegaard Research Centre. ‘I don’t think this is an expression of a political rebellion. I think it’s a desperate yell by people who cannot figure out how to communicate in a society that’s racing ahead with the speed of a bullet train,’ said Cappelorn.

08:14 AM PDT | link: 66 comments | link only
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Monday, May 08, 2006
Palestinian Civil War Watch

Nine hurt in new Palestinian gunbattle: witnesses.

GAZA (Reuters) - Nine people were wounded in a gunbattle between Fatah and Hamas fighters in Gaza on Tuesday, a day after three gunmen were killed in clashes, witnesses said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, backed by Fatah, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, head of a Hamas-dominated government, failed to resolve security issues in weekend talks. Abbas and Haniyeh, whose militant Islamist group won parliamentary elections in January, are embroiled in a power struggle over control of security forces that has intensified Palestinian fears of a civil war.

The witnesses said Tuesday’s clash occurred when hundreds of gunmen roamed the streets of Gaza City’s Tuffah neighborhood. Four of the nine people wounded were Palestinian teenagers on their way to school, said medical staff. Three gunmen were also among the wounded.

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Monday Night Orbs

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The International Religious Court

It takes a lot to make my jaw drop these days, but here’s an op-ed in Baltimore’s Jewish Times that achieved this near-impossible feat: Preventing New Cartoon Crisis. (Hat tip: Soccer Dad.)

While the Danish cartoonists may have sought to show, through their cartoons, that some Muslims were citing the Koran, and Muhammad, to justify suicide bombings, the cartoons had a very negative impact in the Muslim world where Muhammad is revered.

Complicating the situation further was the reaction of many in the West to the violence perpetrated by the Muslims protesting the cartoons. The Muslims were accused of double standards, since anti-Semitic and anti-Christian cartoons are widespread in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and when complaints are made about them, the response is usually “we have a free press” — precisely the words used by the Danes to justify their cartoons. ...

To solve that problem, I propose the creation of an International Religious Court, composed of Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergymen with one clergyman representing each of the three religions. Anyone feeling that his or her religion was insulted could appeal to the International Religious Court for a ruling on the matter, and the court would then determine whether a penalty should be invoked. It would be the responsibility of the government on whose territory the action took place to impose the penalty. ...

Given the very severe costs of the Danish Cartoon Crisis, establishing both an international code of conduct to prevent negative media depictions of religion, and an International Religious Court to determine whether that code has been violated, are needed to defuse future crises such as the one over the Danish cartoons. I urge the international community to create the code of conduct and establish the International Religious Court as quickly as possible.

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last comment: BeckoningChasm 10:50:25 am 5/9/06
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Stupidest Lefty Meme of the Day

Markos Moulitsas “Screw Them” Zuniga is yelling “Bush lied! Fish died!” about a remark President Bush made to the German weekly Bild, but the only things dying around here are the embers of Kos’s Kredibility: Kos Goes Fishing.
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last comment: triticale 9:27:07 am 5/9/06
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Moussaoui Wants to Withdraw Guilty Plea

It took only a few days for Zacarias Moussaoui to begin trying to work the American legal system again: Moussaoui asks for new trial. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)

Less than a week after he was jailed for life over the September 11 attacks, Al-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui submitted a motion asking to withdraw his guilty plea so he can have a new trial.

“Moussaoui wishes to withdraw his guilty plea because when he entered the plea his ‘understanding of the American legal system was completely flawed’,” his lawyers said in the motion.

Moussaoui said in an affadavit “I now see that it is possible that I can receive a fair trial” in the United States.

In other words, he now sees what suckers we are. And he thinks we might be big enough suckers to give him another trial.

I wish I were completely confident that he’s wrong.

“Even with Americans as jurors,” he went on, “I can have the opportunity to prove that I did not have any knowledge of and was not a member of the plot to hijack planes and crash them into buildings on September 11, 2001.”

“I wish to withdraw my guilty plea and ask the court for a new trial to prove my innocence of the September 11 plot,” he said.

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last comment: zhorkon 8:11:09 am 5/9/06
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New Zarqawi Video

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Zarkie for short) just loves to ham it up for the cameras. Italy’s La Repubblica Online has posted a previously unseen video of Zarqawi giving his blessing to a suicide bomber, who then blows himself up in Ramadi in an attack purportedly against an American base. (Hat tip: hiddentruths.)

There’s a date stamp on the video: April 17, 2006.

(Click picture to play video. Requires Windows Media Player.)

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last comment: FrogMarch 5:52:55 am 5/9/06
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Frontline: Looking Inside Hamas

Tomorrow night on PBS Frontline at 9 pm Eastern, a special about Hamas that (judging from this review) seems like it may be accurate: Looking Inside Hamas: Search for Martyrdom, Hatred of Israel. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)

Reporter Kate Seelye begins in Gaza, “a 6-by-25-mile sandbox” that doubles as a powder keg. The streets are teeming with angry young warriors bearing automatic weapons and deep grudges, all strutting their stuff beneath posters of martyrs.

“I’ve come to find out if Hamas will lay down their arms and transform themselves now that they’re in power,” Seelye says.

This is high idealism, we soon learn.

Gaza is a beehive of discontent. Supporters of the deposed Fatah regime complain that the new government isn’t doling out the expected benefits. Israel has closed the border, creating food lines. No matter, grump Hamas officials, the people “can survive on salt and olives.”

When Seelye presses on the sorest subject — recognizing Israel’s right to exist — teeth bare. She asks Mahmoud Zahar, a founder of Hamas and foreign minister of the new government, if the group will change its charter and recognize Israel.

“Why?” he responds. “To satisfy you?”

Hamas’s victory in January has brought several changes to the region. “We are facing a lot of sanctions,” admits Zahar, “but believe me the Arab states are going to help us.” There also has been a flowering of Islamic fundamentalism, including a total ban on alcohol and a return to the veil for increasing numbers of women.

04:06 PM PDT | link: 93 comments | link only
last comment: Axiom 10:32:37 am 5/9/06
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Egypt Arrests Blogger

Reformist Egyptian blogger Alaa has been arrested by the Egyptian government, and fellow bloggers are urgently appealing for help. Rantings of a Sandmonkey has more details and contact information for you to make your voice heard.
01:46 PM PDT | link: 83 comments | link only
last comment: ratherdashing 8:18:41 pm 5/8/06
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Atwar Bahjat Beheading Video a Hoax

The gruesome video reported by the Sunday Times to show the beheading of Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat is a cruel hoax; the video does depict an Islamic torture killing, but the victim is not Atwar Bahjat.

Rusty has the details: The Jawa Report: Atwar Bahjat Beheading Video a Hoax. (Warning: graphic images at bottom of page.)

The video actually shows the murder of a Nepalese man by the Army of Ansar al-Sunna in Iraq from August of 2004. The man was one of 12 victims executed by the terrorist organization—the other 11 were shot.

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last comment: Geepers 6:40:14 pm 5/8/06
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Hate Speech at CSULB

Last week the Muslim Student Association at California State University, Long Beach sponsored a speech by Amir-Abdel Malik-Ali.

LGF featured video clips of Malik-Ali’s anti-American and antisemitic speech at UC Irvine in 2005.

In last week’s speech at CSULB he explicitly supported terrorism and suicide bombing—and clearly, by inviting this hate-spewing lunatic, so does the Muslim Student Association: Beach Hillel protests MSA speaker. (Hat tip: Terp Mole.)

Ali’s speech, titled “Resisting Occupation by Any Means Necessary,” hit the event’s purpose “right on the nose,” according to Naadiya Patel, events coordinator and MSA member. Ali, who is from the Masjid Al-Islam in Oakland, spoke to students outside the University Bookstore at the Speaker’s Platform about the Palestinian people’s plight, controlled media, foreign policy and American consciousness. ...

Ali contrasted the weapons available to Israel and Palestine and explained to students what he meant “by any means necessary.”

“By any means necessary? Yes, by any means necessary. We’ll do it peacefully if we have to; we’ll fight if we have to; we’ll strap bombs if we have to. We will. Why? Because we are fighting against occupation and we don’t have the weapons that they have.”

He said while detractors may call Thursday’s speaking, “hate speech,” he said it is not.

“We are teaching love, we’re not teaching hate,” Ali said, “The only hate we’re teaching is to hate the imperialism, hate oppression, hate racism. Hate any type of oppression that you see, no matter what color the oppressor is.” ...

“I don’t see the point of bringing a speaker to campus who is going to incite hate speech and promote terrorism and suicide bombing,” said Jordan Antonoft, a silent protester and member of Beach Hillel. “By any means necessary alludes to the idea of strapping bombs onto 15 year olds and sending them to kill innocent people, and this is what [Ali] is up there promoting on a college campus. I don’t see any benefit coming out of [Ali’s] speaking.”

11:34 AM PDT | link: 86 comments | link only
last comment: brickas 12:02:39 am 5/9/06
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The Legacy of Jihad

If you’re in the Washington DC area here’s an event you may want to attend, as Andrew Bostom and Laurent Murawiec give a talk entitled The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, at the Heritage Foundation’s Lehrman Auditorium.
10:18 AM PDT | link: 95 comments | link only
last comment: Senior Ferrari 11:24:41 am 5/9/06
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Harvard Bookstore

Courageous critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali will be at the Harvard Bookstore tomorrow at noon, in an event open to the public: Harvard Coop. (Hat tip: Andrew Bostom.)

Her talk later in the evening requires a Harvard ID: Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Harvard, May 9, 2006.
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last comment: BlitzWhite 6:55:37 pm 5/8/06
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Steyn: New Coalition of Willing Needed

Here’s Mark Steyn on the warmongering, interventionist, unilateral American left: New coalition of willing needed in Darfur.

The American Prospect’s Mark Leon Goldberg penned an almost comically agonised piece fretting about the circumstances in which he’d be prepared to support a Bush intervention in Darfur: Who needs the Janjaweed when you’re prepared to torture your own arguments the way Goldberg does? He gets to the penultimate paragraph and he’s still saying stuff such as: “The question, of course, is whether the US seeks Security Council support to legitimise such airstrikes.”

Well, no, that’s not the question. If you think the case for intervention in Darfur depends on whether or not the Chinese guy raises his hand, sorry, you’re not being serious. The good people of Darfur have been entrusted to the legitimacy of the UN for more than two years and it’s killing them. In 2004, after months of expressing deep concern, grave concern, deep concern over the graves and deep grave concern over whether the graves were deep enough, Kofi Annan took decisive action and appointed a UN committee to look into what’s going on. Eventually, they reported back that it’s not genocide.

Thank goodness for that. Because, as yet another Kofi-appointed UN committee boldly declared, “genocide anywhere is a threat to the security of all and should never be tolerated”. So fortunately what’s going on in the Sudan isn’t genocide. Instead, it’s just hundreds of thousands of corpses who happen to be from the same ethnic group, which means the UN can go on tolerating it until everyone’s dead, at which point the so-called “decent left” can support a “multinational” force under the auspices of the Arab League going in to ensure the corpses don’t pollute the water supply.

09:13 AM PDT | link: 125 comments | link only
last comment: mich-again 11:23:06 am 5/9/06
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Mash Note from the Mullahs

Ever have one of those Mondays when it feels like you’ve woken up in an alternate universe? Iran’s Leader Writes to President Bush. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran’s leader has written to President Bush proposing “new solutions” to their differences in the first letter from an Iranian head of state to an American president in 27 years, a government spokesman said Monday. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki delivered the letter to the Swiss ambassador on Monday, ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told The Associated Press. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran houses a U.S. interests section.

In the letter, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposes “new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world,” spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham told a news conference. Elham declined to reveal more, stressing “it is not an open letter.” Asked whether the letter could lead to direct U.S.-Iranian negotiations, he replied: “For the time being, it’s just a letter.” Elham did not mention the nuclear dispute — the main obstacle between Washington and Tehran. The United States is leading Western efforts to pass a U.N. Security Council motion censuring Iran for refusing to cease enrichment of uranium.

In Turkey, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said the letter “could lead to a new diplomatic opening,” but also warned that it did not reflect a softening in Tehran’s position.

Jihad Watch has an exclusive first look at Ahmadinejad’s mash note: ‘Dear unclean infidel dog...’

UPDATE at 5/8/06 8:56:20 am:

US: Iran letter may be timed for UN debate.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte said on Monday a letter Iran sent to the United States over its nuclear ambitions may have been timed to influence a UN Security Council debate on Iran.

Gee. Ya think?
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Sunday, May 07, 2006
Ayaan Hirsi Ali Interview, February 2006

Here’s a fascinating interview with Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on Norway’s NRK television in February 2006, talking about her film Submission, Theo Van Gogh, her views on Islam, the Danish cartoons, and her need for constant protection from Islamic threats of death. The clip starts with a short segment in Norwegian, then switches to English for the interview. (Hat tip: Sugiero.)

(Video player requires Flash Player 8.)

UPDATE at 5/7/06 9:41:22 pm:

And remember, she is speaking at Harvard on May 9.

UPDATE at 5/7/06 9:59:26 pm:

If you have trouble playing the video, make sure you have the latest version of the free Macromedia Flash Player.
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Sunday Night Road

This road climbs up out of a section of Palos Verdes we call “the ghetto.”

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Palestinian Civil War Watch

Three dead in Hamas-Fatah gunbattle in Gaza: medics.

GAZA (Reuters) - At least three Palestinians were killed on Monday during a gun battle between members of the rival Hamas and Fatah groups in the Gaza Strip, medics said.

It was the most serious internal Palestinian violence to erupt since Hamas, an Islamic militant group dedicated to Israel’s destruction, defeated the long-dominant Fatah faction in a January election and formed a government.

Medics said three gunmen, two from Fatah and one from Hamas, were killed in the fighting near the town of Khan Younis and several other participants in the battle were wounded.

The clash broke out after Hamas accused Fatah of having kidnapped three of its members, security officials said.

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Jimmy Carter Shills for Hamas

Good lord. I know Jimmy Carter is a lifetime honoree of the LGF Idiotarian Award, but this is really something else, as he argues in the International Herald Tribune that Hamas is dedicated to peace.

He acknowledges that Hamas has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but helpfully adds, “while their territory is being occupied,” even though Hamas themselves do not. (Maybe Jimmah was impressed by their nice new suits.)

He doesn’t seem to notice the little details, though. Like recent news reports that Hamas threatened to decapitate their opponents, and plotted to kill Fatah “president” Abu Mazen/Mahmoud Abbas.

Oh yeah. These are really peaceful folks. Just bursting with peace. Exploding with peace.

But in JimmahWorld, Israel is the obstructionist, by refusing to have “substantive peace talks” with people who openly preach genocidal murder. Punishing the innocent is a crime. (Hat tip: what if?)

One clear reason for the surprising Hamas victory for legislative seats was that the voters were in despair about prospects for peace. With American acquiescence, the Israelis had avoided any substantive peace talks for more than five years, regardless of who had been chosen to represent the Palestinian side as interlocutor. ...

With all their faults, Hamas leaders have continued to honor a temporary cease-fire, or hudna, during the past 18 months, and their spokesman told me that this “can be extended for two, 10 or even 50 years if the Israelis will reciprocate.” Although Hamas leaders have refused to recognize the state of Israel while their territory is being occupied, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has expressed approval for peace talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. He added that if these negotiations result in an agreement that can be accepted by Palestinians, then the Hamas position regarding Israel would be changed.

Regardless of these intricate and long-term political interrelationships, it is unconscionable for Israel, the United States and others under their influence to continue punishing the innocent and already persecuted people of Palestine.

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Britain Caves In to Hamas

I’m very sorry to report that the UK is caving in to Hamas: Britain backs Palestinian trust fund.

A PROPOSED trust fund for donors to pay overdue Palestinian salaries would undercut Hamas, not strengthen it, says a British document meant to increase pressure on the US to drop objections to the plan.

Britain circulated the memo on the proposal, aimed at averting a collapse of basic services provided by the Palestinian Authority, to major donors before tomorrow’s meeting of the Quartet of Middle East mediators.

The four-page document argues, in response to US efforts to block creation of such a fund, that it “will not undermine the diplomatic effort” to persuade Hamas to renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by interim peace accords.

The US is concerned that allowing the international community to pay Palestinians’ salaries would take pressure off Hamas, Western diplomats said.

But Britain argues that if Palestinians end up receiving crucial aid through channels other than Hamas, the Islamic militant group stands to lose “a big part of its street credibility and hence have an incentive to come closer to what the international community wants”.

This rationale for bailing out Hamas is a perfect summation of the socialist European left’s bizarre disconnect from reality. Wishful thinking as international policy.

From Friday’s post-mosque demonstrations in Gaza:

UPDATE at 5/7/06 4:47:06 pm:

As the Quartet prepares to meet this week, pro-Palestinian forces are starting the big push to legitimize Hamas; now it’s the World Bank’s turn: World Bank says underestimated Palestinian crisis.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The World Bank warned donors on Sunday that the financial crisis gripping the Palestinian Authority since Hamas won election was deeper than it first thought and could render the West Bank and Gaza ungovernable.

In a memo circulated among major donors and obtained by Reuters, the World Bank also said an existing aid program could be expanded to pay for the salaries of employees of the Hamas-led government.

In March, the World Bank projected that by the end of 2006 Palestinian poverty and unemployment levels would rise to 67 and 40 percent, and personal incomes would drop by 30 percent.

“We now consider these figures underestimates,” it said in the memo.

Western diplomats said the World Bank circulated the memo ahead of a meeting in New York on Tuesday of the Quartet of Middle East negotiators — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

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Belgian Churches Becoming Mosques

To pressure Belgian authorities into allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the country, Belgian Bishops have been inviting the immigrants—most of whom are Muslim—to take up residence in Brussels churches.

And the squatters are turning the churches into mosques, moving the altars out of the way, holding Islamic prayer services, hanging Islamic banners, building fires, and covering statues of the Virgin Mary

DailyBulletin.com - U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols

DailyBulletin.com - U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols

While Minuteman civilian patrols are keeping an eye out for illegal border crossers, the U.S. Border Patrol is keeping an eye out for Minutemen — and telling the Mexican government where they are.

According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants — and if and when violence is used against border crossers.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants’ rights are being observed.

“It’s not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be,” Mario Martinez said Monday.

“This ... simply makes two basic statements — that we will not allow any lawlessness of any type, and that if an alien is encountered by a Minuteman or arrested by the Minuteman, then we will allow that government to interview the person.”

Minuteman members were not so sanguine about the arrangement, however, saying that reporting their location to Mexican officials nullifies their effectiveness along the border and could endanger their lives.

“Now we know why it seemed like Mexican officials knew where we were all the time,” said Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. “It’s unbelievable that our own government agency is sending intelligence to another country. They are sending intelligence to a nation where corruption runs rampant, and that could be getting into the hands of criminal cartels.”

“They just basically endangered the lives of American people.”

BREITBART.COM - Flying robot attack "unstoppable": experts

BREITBART.COM - Flying robot attack "unstoppable": experts:

"It may sound like science fiction, but the prospect that suicide bombers and hijackers could be made redundant by flying robots is a real one, according to experts.

The technology for remote-controlled light aircraft is now highly advanced, widely available -- and, experts say, virtually unstoppable.

Models with a wingspan of five metres (16 feet), capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds), remain undetectable by radar.

And thanks to satellite positioning systems, they can now be programmed to hit targets some distance away with just a few metres (yards) short of pinpoint accuracy.

Security services the world over have been considering the problem for several years, but no one has yet come up with a solution.

'We are observing an increasing threat from such things as remote-controlled aircraft used as small flying bombs against soft targets,' the head of the Canadian secret services, Michel Gauthier, said at a conference in Calgary recently.

According to Gauthier, 'ultra-light aircraft, powered hang gliders or powered paragliders have also been purchased by terrorist groups to circumvent ground-based countermeasures.'

On May 1 the US website Defensetech published an article by military technology specialist David Hambling, entitled 'Terrorists' unmanned air force'.

'While billions have been spent on ballistic missile defense, little attention has been given to the more imminent threat posed by unmanned air vehicles in the hands of terrorists or rogue states,' writes Hambling.

Armed militant groups have already tried to use unmanned aircraft, according to a number of studies by institutions including the Center for Nonproliferation studies in Monterey, California, and the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow.

In August 2002, for example, the Colombian military reported finding nine small remote-controlled planes at a base it had taken from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)."

Monday, May 08, 2006

electronic "smog" causing cancers and allergies?

Independent Online Edition > Environment:

"Invisible 'smog', created by the electricity that powers our civilisation, is giving children cancer, causing miscarriages and suicides and making some people allergic to modern life, new scientific evidence reveals.

The evidence - which is being taken seriously by national and international bodies and authorities - suggests that almost everyone is being exposed to a new form of pollution with countless sources in daily use in every home.

Two official Department of Health reports on the smog are to be presented to ministers next month, and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has recently held the first meeting of an expert group charged with developing advice to the public on the threat.

The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) calls the electronic smog 'one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences' and stresses that it 'takes seriously' concerns about the health effects. It adds that 'everyone in the world' is exposed to it and that 'levels will continue to increase as technology advances'.

Wiring creates electrical fields, one component of the smog, even when nothing is turned on. And all electrical equipment - from TVs to toasters - give off another one, magnetic fields. The fields rapidly decrease with distance but appliances such as hair dryers and electric shavers, used close to the head, can give high exposures. Electric blankets and clock radios near to beds produce even higher doses because people are exposed to them for many hours while sleeping.

Radio frequency fields - yet another component - are emitted by microwave ovens, TV and radio transmitters, mobile phone masts and phones themselves, also used close to the head.

The WHO says that the smog could interfere with the tiny natural electrical currents that help to drive the human body. Nerves relay signals by transmitting electric impulses, for example, while the use of electrocardiograms testify to the electrical activity of the heart."

Watchdog Group NLPC Says Radical, Anti-Meat Groups Behind Florida Businessman's Calls for McDonald's Boycott

Watchdog Group NLPC Says Radical, Anti-Meat Groups Behind Florida Businessman's Calls for McDonald's Boycott:

"WASHINGTON, May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Legal and Policy Center today charged that recent allegations made by Jody Gorran, that McDonald's employs sex offenders at its restaurants, appear to be the result of a long history of collaboration between Gorran and radical anti-meat groups like PETA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. 'PETA has a well deserved reputation for using questionable tactics in how it conducts itself. Their orchestration of these attacks on an American restaurant is further proof of that when it comes to pursuing their radical, anti-meat agenda,' said Ken Boehm of NLPC. Among the findings released today by NLPC (see below for full details and documentation): * Gorran sued the Atkins diet company only two years ago for allegedly ruining his health. * Gorran's suit was aided by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). * In fact, PCRM's lead attorney represented Jody Gorran in his lawsuit against Atkins. * PCRM is a well known PETA front group and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from PETA. * PCRM founder Neil Barnard is affiliated with an extreme animal rights group named a 'Domestic Terror Threat' by the Department of Justice. 'It is no surprise that someone with such close ties to groups advocating a radical anti-meat agenda would be attacking McDonald's. The public has a right to know this man's background in assessing the credibility of his claims,' Boehm concluded. NLPC promotes ethics in public life and sponsors the Corporate Integrity Project. Based in Falls Church, Virginia, the NLPC promotes ethics, openness and accountability in government through research, education and legal action. NLPC distributes the Code of Ethics for Government. JODY GORRAN: A FRONT FOR PETA Jody Gorran, who recently called for a boycott of McDonald's, is no stranger to liberal activism. In 2004, he brought about a lawsuit against the Atkins Diet, aided by an affiliate of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Gorran's beef with McDonald's is clearly part of a radical anti-meat agenda."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

CNN.com - Study: It really does hurt to wait - May 4, 2006

CNN.com - Study: It really does hurt to wait - May 4, 2006:

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Anyone who's ever taken a preschooler to the doctor knows they often cry more before the shot than afterward.

Now researchers using brain scans to unravel the biology of dread have an explanation: For some people, anticipating pain is truly as bad as experiencing it.

How bad? Among people who volunteered to receive electric shocks, almost a third opted for a stronger zap if they could just get it over with, instead of having to wait.

More importantly, the research found that how much attention the brain pays to expected pain determines whether someone is an 'extreme dreader' -- suggesting that simple diversions could alleviate the misery.

The research, published in the journal Science, is part of a burgeoning new field called neuroeconomics that uses brain imaging to try to understand how people make choices. Until now, most of that work has focused on reward, the things people will do for positive outcomes.

'We were interested in the dark side of the equation,' explained Dr. Gregory Berns of Emory University, who led the new study.

'Dread often makes us make bad decisions.'

Standard economic theory says that people should postpone bad outcomes for as long as possible, because something might happen in the interim to improve the outlook.

In real life the 'just get it over with' reaction is more likely, said Berns, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He offers a personal example: He usually pays credit card bills as soon as they arrive instead of waiting until they're due, even though 'it doesn't make any sense economically.'"

CNN.com - EU: Popular sugar substitute safe - May 5, 2006

CNN.com - EU: Popular sugar substitute safe - May 5, 2006:

"ROME, Italy (AP) -- European food safety experts have good news for dieters with a sweet tooth, announcing Friday that the popular sugar substitute aspartame does not raise the risk of cancer.

An Italian study last year wrongly concluded that the sweetener led to higher rates of lymphoma and leukemia in rats, said an independent panel of scientists advising the European Food Safety Authority.

The new review found that the number of tumors did not increase in relation to the dosage of aspartame fed to the animals. Many of the rats in the study had suffered from chronic respiratory disease and that was the most likely cause of the tumors, the panel said.

The findings support a huge U.S. federal study released last month, which found no link to cancer in a study of aspartame use among more than half a million Americans.

The European panel said its assessment should put the lid on years of debate over the sweetener found in thousands of products, including diet sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even many medicines.

'There is no reason ... to undertake any further extensive review of the safety of aspartame,' said Iona Pratt, a toxicologist who headed the panel.

The food safety scientists were also satisfied with the current European level set for the safe daily consumption of aspartame -- a maximum of 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight -- saying that the limit is well above what people consume normally.

'If you pick up little packets of it, you would have to take 80 of those packets into your coffee in one day in order to exceed this level,' Pratt said at a presentation in Rome of the panel's findings."

In a Dentist Shortage, British (Ouch) Do It Themselves - New York Times

In a Dentist Shortage, British (Ouch) Do It Themselves - New York Times

Mr. Kelly's predicament is not just a result of cigarettes and possibly indifferent oral hygiene; he is careful to brush once a day, he said. Instead, it is due in large part to the deficiencies in Britain's state-financed dental service, which, stretched beyond its limit, no longer serves everyone and no longer even pretends to try.

Mr. Kelly, interviewed in a health clinic here as he waited for his son to see a doctor, last visited a dentist six years ago, in Sussex.

Since moving to Rochdale, a working-class suburb of Manchester, he has been unable to find a National Health Service dentist willing to take him on.

Every time he has tried to sign up, lining up with hundreds of others from the ranks of the desperate and the hurting — "I've seen people with bleeding gums where they've ripped their teeth out," he said grimly — he has arrived too late and missed the cutoff.

"You could argue that Britain has not seen lines like this since World War II," said Mark Pritchard, a member of Parliament who represents part of Shropshire, where the situation is just as grim. "Churchill once said that the British are great queuers, but I don't think he meant that in connection to dental care."

Britain has too few public dentists for too many people. At the beginning of the year, just 49 percent of the adults and 63 percent of the children in England and Wales were registered with public dentists.

And now, discouraged by what they say is the assembly-line nature of the job and by a new contract that pays them to perform a set number of "units of dental activity" per year, even more dentists are abandoning the health service and going into private practice — some 2,000 in April alone, the British Dental Association says.

How does this affect the teeth of the nation?

"People are not registered with dentists, they can't afford to go private and therefore their teeth are going rotten," said Paul Rowen, the member of Parliament for Rochdale. Rotting teeth and no one to treat them are among his constituents' biggest complaints, up there with gas prices and shrinking pensions. Just 33 percent of the Rochdale population is signed up with a state dentist, down from 58 percent in 1997.

Nor is the level of care what it might be. The system, critics say, encourages state dentists to see too many patients in too short a time and to cut corners by, for instance, extracting teeth rather than performing root canals.

Claire Dacey, a nurse for a private dentist, said that when she worked in the National Health Service one dentist in the practice performed cleanings in five minutes flat.

Moreover, she said, by the time patients got in to see a dentist, many were in terrible shape.

"I had a lady who was in so much pain and had to wait so long that she got herself drunk and had her friend take out her tooth with a pair of pliers," Ms. Dacey said.

Some people simply seek treatment abroad.

"I saw it on the Internet," said Josie Johnson, 42, of London, describing how she heard about a company called Vital Europe, which offers dental-and-vacation packages to Hungary. "It's a quite small country, and I thought, they specialize in dentistry — so that's what I might do."

Socialized medicine is a failure