Thursday, November 30, 2006

LiveScience.com - Scientists Say Everyone Can Read Minds

LiveScience.com - Scientists Say Everyone Can Read Minds:

Empathy allows us to feel the emotions of others, to identify and understand their feelings and motives and see things from their perspective. How we generate empathy remains a subject of intense debate in cognitive science.

Some scientists now believe they may have finally discovered its root. We're all essentially mind readers, they say.

The idea has been slow to gain acceptance, but evidence is mounting.

Mirror neurons

In 1996, three neuroscientists were probing the brain of a macaque monkey when they stumbled across a curious cluster of cells in the premotor cortex, an area of the brain responsible for planning movements. The cluster of cells fired not only when the monkey performed an action, but likewise when the monkey saw the same action performed by someone else. The cells responded the same way whether the monkey reached out to grasp a peanut, or merely watched in envy as another monkey or a human did.

Because the cells reflected the actions that the monkey observed in others, the neuroscientists named them 'mirror neurons.'

Later experiments confirmed the existence of mirror neurons in humans and revealed another surprise. In addition to mirroring actions, the cells reflected sensations and emotions.

'Mirror neurons suggest that we pretend to be in another person's mental shoes,' says Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. 'In fact, with mirror neurons we do not have to pretend, we practically are in another person's mind.'

Since their discovery, mirror neurons have been implicated in a broad range of phenomena, including certain mental disorders. Mirror neurons may help cognitive scientists explain how children develop a theory of mind (ToM), which is a child's understanding that others have minds similar to their own. Doing so may help shed light on autism, in which this type of understanding is often missing."

LiveScience.com - Depressed? Take a Hike

LiveScience.com - Depressed? Take a Hike:

"AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Just 30 minutes of brisk walking can immediately boost the mood of depressed patients, giving them the same quick pick-me-up they may be seeking from cigarettes, caffeine or binge eating, a small study found.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that people suffering from depression who walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes reported feeling more vigorous and had a greater sense of psychological well-being for up to an hour after completing the workout."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Article Saudis threaten to use the oil weapon if the US leaves Iraq

Article

One hopes he won't make the same mistake again by ignoring the counsel of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who said in a speech last month that "since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited." If it does, one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.

Over the past year, a chorus of voices has called for Saudi Arabia to protect the Sunni community in Iraq and thwart Iranian influence there. Senior Iraqi tribal and religious figures, along with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and other Arab and Muslim countries, have petitioned the Saudi leadership to provide Iraqi Sunnis with weapons and financial support. Moreover, domestic pressure to intervene is intense. Major Saudi tribal confederations, which have extremely close historical and communal ties with their counterparts in Iraq, are demanding action. They are supported by a new generation of Saudi royals in strategic government positions who are eager to see the kingdom play a more muscular role in the region.

Because King Abdullah has been working to minimize sectarian tensions in Iraq and reconcile Sunni and Shiite communities, because he gave President Bush his word that he wouldn't meddle in Iraq (and because it would be impossible to ensure that Saudi-funded militias wouldn't attack U.S. troops), these requests have all been refused. They will, however, be heeded if American troops begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq. As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community (which comprises 85 percent of all Muslims), Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene.

Just a few months ago it was unthinkable that President Bush would prematurely withdraw a significant number of American troops from Iraq. But it seems possible today, and therefore the Saudi leadership is preparing to substantially revise its Iraq policy. Options now include providing Sunni military leaders (primarily ex-Baathist members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency) with the same types of assistance -- funding, arms and logistical support -- that Iran has been giving to Shiite armed groups for years.

Another possibility includes the establishment of new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias. Finally, Abdullah may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices. The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.

Both the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite death squads are to blame for the current bloodshed in Iraq. But while both sides share responsibility, Iraqi Shiites don't run the risk of being exterminated in a civil war, which the Sunnis clearly do. Since approximately 65 percent of Iraq's population is Shiite, the Sunni Arabs, who make up a mere 15 to 20 percent, would have a hard time surviving any full-blown ethnic cleansing campaign.

Westhawk: What if Mr. al-Maliki abandons Mr. Bush?

Westhawk: What if Mr. al-Maliki abandons Mr. Bush?

What if Mr. al-Maliki abandons Mr. Bush?
In spite of denials from White House staffers, it appears as if Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki snubbed U.S. President Bush today, cancelling a planned meeting in Amman, Jordan. According to Mr. Bush’s spokesman, the two leaders are to meet instead tomorrow.

A bit of kabuki theater may be occurring here. Moqtada al-Sadr, a seemingly reluctant parliamentary supporter of Mr. al-Maliki, threatened to withdraw his political support of the prime minister if Mr. al-Maliki met with the U.S. president. Today, al-Sadr carried out his threat, sort of. He and his parliamentary bloc are boycotting parliament, but only temporarily. In return for retaining al-Sadr’s support after this temporary display has ended, perhaps Mr. al-Maliki arranged to show some sign of independence and defiance of the U.S. government by snubbing Mr. Bush for a day.

Such theatrics aside, the serious policy discussion in Washington concerns how much longer America will sustain its venture in Iraq. In spite of Mr. Bush’s assurance that the U.S. commitment remains steadfast, the current conversations among Congressional leaders, anonymous murmurs from the Iraq Study Group, and jottings of Washington pundits center around diplomatic gambits, shifting military forces, redoubling advisor teams, establishing timetables, and other such tinkering. These discussions and ideas are merely euphemisms for how the U.S. can disengage from its commitment in Iraq.

Many observers have suggested that Mr. Bush should issue Mr. al-Maliki an ultimatum: crack down on the Shi’ite militias and respect the Sunni minority’s rights or the U.S. will leave the stage (Ambassador Dennis Ross proposed such a course, which we analyzed in this post).

But what if at their meeting tomorrow the Iraqi prime minister issued an ultimatum to the U.S. president? What if Mr. al-Maliki told Mr. Bush that America’s advice and assistance were no longer welcome? A few days ago, we described the unpleasant vise Mr. al-Maliki finds himself in:

Mr. al-Maliki is caught in a political vise. On the one side, he is under extreme pressure from his remaining Shi’ite supporters to order the Shi’ite-dominated security forces to take the drastic and brutal actions necessary to end the Sunni Arab violence and terrorism. These actions, which would amount to the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from the greater Baghdad area, would appear to much of the world to be a war crime. The other side of the vise is the Americans, who are insisting that Mr. al-Maliki both compromise with the Sunnis and, as a corollary, crack down on al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, the main instigator of sectarian violence.



The Iraqi prime minister has delayed as long as he could the tightening of this vise. But now, the pinching may really hurt. There are strong reasons for Mr. al-Maliki to jettison the Americans. First, the American demands are impossible to meet. There is no compromising with the Sunni Arabs – their alienation from the Shi’ites and Kurds is complete. Second, he cannot order the security forces to attack the Shi’ites. That would be the same as ordering the security forces to attack themselves. Even if most of the Shi’ites in the army and police are not members of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, they are certainly sympathetic with that militia’s goals. They wish to protect their families and neighborhoods from Al Qaeda and the Baathists. And they don’t mind watching the Sunni holdouts, their former tormentors, get some payback. Third, unless he plans on exiling himself, Mr. al-Maliki, his ministers, associates, and officers must sleep in beds in Shi’ite neighborhoods. How comfortable can such sleep be if they spent that day blasting away at the people in those same neighborhoods?

What would Mr. al-Maliki lose by walking away from the U.S.? Would President Bush organize a coup in Baghdad and replace Mr. al-Maliki? Not likely – Iraqi sovereignty and democracy have been the whole purpose of the American project. And who would Mr. Bush put in Mr. al-Maliki’s place to implement the American program?

The U.S. could end its military mission in Iraq, withdrawing its combat formations and advisor teams. This would be great news, from Mr. al-Maliki’s perspective. From the Shi’ites’ point of view, it is the Americans that are preventing them from forcibly resettling the Sunni population out of greater Baghdad and thus ending the civil war. The Shi’ite militias, the Baghdad police, and Shi’ite-loyal soldiers already have all of the weapons, ammunition, and military training they need to accomplish their mission. For the Shi’ites, the sooner the Americans disengage the better.

Would Mr. Bush order the U.S. military to stand between the Iraqi government/Shi’ite forces and the Sunni Arab neighborhoods to prevent their ethnic cleansing? The Sunni Arabs have been responsible for the vast majority of American deaths in Iraq – how would Mr. Bush explain this policy to his countrymen? And how could he explain attacking the Iraqi security forces the U.S. has spent so much trying to build up?

Bush administration officials would not be wise to simply assume that Mr. al-Maliki and his associates have no choice but to continue to accept American aid and support. The conditions the Americans are putting on that aid and support may soon become unbearable for the Iraqi government. Mr. al-Maliki doesn’t like the vise he is caught in. It may make more sense for him to reject Mr. Bush than to reject his Shi’ite brothers.

And how might Mr. Bush receive this rejection, should it occur? Might he have to suppress a smile?

I found this blog called Westhawk recently, and it's really good stuff! The above is his most recent post.

Iran's Ahmadinejad: America's New Pen Pal

Iran's Ahmadinejad: America's New Pen Pal

Media commentators in the U.S. are likely to pick up on the “public relations” side of the letter. Ahmadinejad calls on the U.S. to bring the troops home from Iraq, to cut off support for Israel, and to stop “kidnapping presumed opponents from across the globe” and holding them in secret prisons.

He even has some advice for the new Democrat majority in Congress: Bend to the Muslim agenda, or you will be tossed out of power.

Ahmadinejad repeatedly tries to appeal to Americans as people of faith, who share Islamic values. “We, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people,” he drones. “Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine.”

And he trots out his old anti-Semitic saw, claiming that “the Zionists” control America “because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural, and media sectors.”

But to focus on these parts of his letter, however silly and objectionable they may be, would be to miss the main point. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the Hugo Chavez of the Persian Gulf. He knows that soon he will have his finger on the nuclear trigger.

Citing from the Quran at the close of his letter, he says that if Americans “repent” of their “injustice,” they will be blessed with many gifts. “We should all heed the divine Word of the Holy Qur’an,” he says.

The context of this particular verse (28:67-28, Sura “Al-Qasas,” or The Narration), is very clear. It follows a graphic description of destruction and devastation that will befall those who fail to repent of their injustice.

It also sets out the terms of the tradition Muslim warning to the enemies of Allah. “And never will your Lord destroy the towns until He sends to their mother town a Messenger reciting to them Our Verses.” This is is precisely what Ahmadinejad is doing in his letter.

Dump Bush, allow the Muslims to destroy Israel, and adopt Islam — or else you will be destroyed. This is Ahmadinejad’s message.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Transatlantic Intelligencer :: Are 500,000 Keys to Paradise Enough?: Germany "Confronts" Ahmadinejad

Transatlantic Intelligencer :: Are 500,000 Keys to Paradise Enough?: Germany "Confronts" Ahmadinejad

Is the Iranian population being thus prepared for the announced nuclear war against Israel? Three years ago, the then Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that a single atom bomb used against Israel “would leave nothing on the ground”, whereas the damage done by a possible retaliatory strike would be limited (source: MEMRI Special Dispatch, 3 January 2002). Even with a million dead, the Islamic world would survive, whereas Israel would be destroyed. Thus the logic of Rafsanjani’s argument. It is this murderous calculation – the sort of calculation that lies at the base of every suicide attack – that distinguishes the atomic ambitions of Iran from the interests of all existing nuclear powers.

If there is a western nation today that has the means to confront such madness with effective sanctions, it is Germany. For the last 25 years, the German government has offered its good offices to the anti-Semitic Mullahs in Tehran with a shamelessness unrivalled by any other western government. In 1984, Hans-Dietrich Genscher was the first western Foreign Minister to pay his respects to the Mullah regime. Ten years later, Germany’s federal intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), trained Iranian intelligence agents in Munich. (See Arthur Heinrich, “Zur Kritik des ‘kritischen Dialogs’”, Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, May 1996.) And whereas since 1995 American firms are prohibited from trading with Iran, Germany will, in the words of Werner Schoeltzke of the German Near and Middle East Association, , “remain the preferred technology partner of Iran also in the years to come” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 5 December 2003).



Germany is today by far the most important supplier of goods to Iran and its exports are increasing at a steady 20% per year. In 2004, German exports to Iran were worth some €3.6 billion. At the same time, Germany is the most important purchaser of Iranian goods apart from oil and Iran’s most important creditor.



Since, however, Ahmadinejad provided the world with such a stark reminder of the ideological foundations of the Mullah-dictatorship – Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, and the destruction of Israel – Berlin is in a tight spot. On the one hand, Berlin would not like to put in danger Germany’s special relationship with Tehran. On the other hand, it does not look particularly good when the country from which came the Holocaust practitioners now collaborates with the regime of the Holocaust deniers. On 11 December, Germany’s new deputy Chancellor, Franz Müntefering of the SPD, indicated the way out of this dilemma: “Berlin Demands a ‘Reaction’ to Ahmadinejad” ran the headline in the following day’s edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (12 December 2005). This sounded surprisingly forceful. But whoever read the small type quickly understood the actual meaning of the headline: “ Berlin demands a ‘reaction’ to Ahmadinejad from everyone else”. The deputy Chancellor was cited as follows: “We cannot do it alone. Rather this has to be frankly discussed in the framework of the European Community and it must in the clearest possible terms be discussed in the framework of the United Nations”.



Excuse me? Germany can do nothing on its own? Only the German government can abrogate the 2002 investment agreement between German and Iran. Only Berlin can terminate the “Hermes” export credit guarantees that offer Iran advantages beyond almost any other country. As a consequence of the “Hermes” guarantees, the German state takes over all the specific risks connected with exports to Iran. Already in 1992, exports to Iran enjoyed the second highest level of Hermes guarantees after only Russia, and since then their scope has been continually increased. To bring an end to the privileges that the Mullah-dictatorship thus enjoys is entirely possible, though evidently politically unwanted. Müntefering’s uncompromising rhetoric is just the musical accompaniment to “business as usual”. Thus whereas the German government speaks impressively at the EU summit of sending “a clear signal of the sharpest possible disapproval”, in the Bundestag it speaks sheepishly “of avoiding the isolation [of Iran]”.



And what of Germany’s “Left” opposition? Should we not assume that privileging the most elementary human rights over the interests of the big corporations would be a special concern of the “Greens” or the “the Left” alliance? Far from it. Apart from some few exceptions, the “Left” has not been prepared to allow the Holocaust denier from Tehran to deprive it of its conspiracy theories and rage against “BuSharon”. “If the Iranian President Ahmadinejad did not exist,” writes, for example, the Berlin-based “Green” daily Die Tageszeitung (taz), “the USA and Israel would have had to invent him” (15 December 2005). Ahmadinejad’s words are only to be taken seriously inasmuch as they “provide a welcome pretext for the USA and Israel.”

BREITBART.COM - US military trains 'air force' of bomb-sniffing bees

BREITBART.COM - US military trains 'air force' of bomb-sniffing bees:

US military defense scientists have found a way to train the common honey bee to smell explosives used in bombs, a skill they say could help protect American troops abroad.

Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico said in an online statement published Monday they had developed a method to harness the bee's exceptional olfactory sense.

'The new techniques could become a leading tool in the fight against the use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which present a critical vulnerability for American military troops abroad and is an emerging danger for civilians worldwide,' the research laboratory said."

How the imams terrorized an airliner-Nation/Politics�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

How the imams terrorized an airliner-Nation/Politics-The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

lgf: don't indiscriminately go wild!:

"Muslim religious leaders removed from a Minneapolis flight last week exhibited behavior associated with a security probe by terrorists and were not merely engaged in prayers, according to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials.

Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted “Allah” when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix.

“I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud,” the gate agent told the Minneapolis Police Department.

Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks — two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin.

“That would alarm me,” said a federal air marshal who asked to remain anonymous. “They now control all of the entry and exit routes to the plane.”

A pilot from another airline said: “That behavior has been identified as a terrorist probe in the airline industry.”

But the imams who were escorted off the flight in handcuffs say they were merely praying before the 6:30 p.m. flight on Nov. 20, and yesterday led a protest by prayer with other religious leaders at the airline’s ticket counter at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Mahdi Bray (lgf: search), executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation (lgf: search), called removing the imams an act of Islamophobia and compared it to racism against blacks. “It’s a shame that as an African-American and a Muslim I have the double whammy of having to worry about driving while black and flying while Muslim,” Mr. Bray said.

The protesters also called on Congress to pass legislation to outlaw passenger profiling. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, said the September 11 terrorist attacks “cannot be permitted to be used to justify racial profiling, harassment and discrimination of Muslim and Arab Americans.”

“Understandably, the imams felt profiled, humiliated, and discriminated against by their treatment,” she said.

According to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials, the imams displayed other suspicious behavior. Three of the men asked for seat-belt extenders, although two flight attendants told police the men were not oversized. One flight attendant told police she “found this unsettling, as crew knew about the six [passengers] on board and where they were sitting.” Rather than attach the extensions, the men placed the straps and buckles on the cabin floor, the flight attendant said.

The imams said they were not discussing politics and only spoke in English, but witnesses told law enforcement that the men spoke in Arabic and English, criticizing the war in Iraq and President Bush, and talking about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

The imams who claimed two first-class seats said their tickets were upgraded. The gate agent told police that when the imams asked to be upgraded, they were told no such seats were available. Nevertheless, the two men were seated in first class when removed. A flight attendant said one of the men made two trips to the rear of the plane to talk to the imam during boarding, and again when the flight was delayed because of their behavior. Aviation officials, including air marshals and pilots, said these actions alone would not warrant a second look, but the combination is suspicious. ...

One of the passengers, Omar Shahin, told Newsweek the group did everything it could to avoid suspicion by wearing Western clothes, speaking English and booking seats so they were not together. He said they conducted prayers quietly and separately to avoid attention. The imams had attended a conference sponsored by the North American Imam Federation in Minneapolis and were returning to Phoenix. Mr. Shahin, who is president of the federation, said on his Web site that none of the passengers made pro-Saddam or anti-American statements."

The 751 Muslim Run No-Go Zones of France [Weblog] - Daniel Pipes

The 751 No-Go Zones of France [Weblog] - Daniel Pipes

The 751 No-Go Zones of France

November 14, 2006

They go by the euphemistic term Zones Urbaines Sensibles, or Sensitive Urban Zones, with the even more antiseptic acronym ZUS, and there are 751 of them as of last count. They are convienently listed on one long webpage, complete with street demarcations and map delineations.

What are they? Those places in France that the French state does not control. They range from two zones in the medieval town of Carcassone to twelve in the heavily Muslim town of Marseilles, with hardly a town in France lacking in its ZUS. The ZUS came into existence in late 1996 and according to a 2004 estimate, nearly 5 million people live in them.

Comment: A more precise name for these zones would be Dar al-Islam, the place where Muslims rule. (November 14, 2006)

French police the target in urban guerrilla war - Yahoo! News

French police the target in urban guerrilla war - Yahoo! News

PARIS (Reuters) - Stoned, beaten and insulted, their vehicles torched by crowds of hostile youths, French police say they face an urban guerrilla war when they enter the run-down neighborhoods that ring the major cities.

“Our role is to guarantee the safety of people and property but the great difficulty today is that police are having problems ensuring their own safety,” said Jerome Hanarte of the Alliance-Police Nationale union.

Bedside television interviews with officers hospitalized after beatings in “les banlieues,” or suburbs, support statistics showing a 6.7 percent jump in violent crime in the 12 months to August. Fourteen officers are hurt every day in the line of duty, unions estimate, and law and order is sure to feature prominently in next year’s presidential election.

The head of the French crime statistics body told Reuters the rise in attacks on police was partly due to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2002 decision to order police back into tough areas, to disrupt the black economy that fuels crime.

Some residents complain the move spawned constant police harassment which has only exacerbated tensions with local youths, many of whom come from ethnic minorities.

“You can see discrimination in ID controls,” complained Kader Latreche, 36, an Algerian with his own photo equipment repair shop in the La Courneuve suburb. “Why is it always people from the Maghreb or black people who are being stopped and checked? If it happens over and over again, it gets to you. People are frustrated, that’s obvious.”

Women talk three times as much as men, says study | the Daily Mail

Women talk three times as much as men, says study | the Daily Mail:

"It is something one half of the population has long suspected - and the other half always vocally denied. Women really do talk more than men.

In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day - 13,000 more than the average man.

Women also speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat - and actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a new book suggests.

The book - written by a female psychiatrist - says that inherent differences between the male and female brain explain why women are naturally more talkative than men.

In The Female Mind, Dr Luan Brizendine says women devote more brain cells to talking than men.

And, if that wasn't enough, the simple act of talking triggers a flood of brain chemicals which give women a rush similar to that felt by heroin addicts when they get a high.

Dr Brizendine, a self-proclaimed feminist, says the differences can be traced back to the womb, where the sex hormone testosterone moulds the developing male brain.

The areas responsible for communication, emotion and memory are all pared back the unborn baby boy.

The result is that boys - and men - chat less than their female counterparts and struggle to express their emotions to the same extent.

'Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road,' said Dr Brizendine, who runs a female 'mood and hormone' clinic in San Francisco.

There are, however, advantages to being the strong, silent type. Dr Brizendine explains that testosterone also reduces the size of the section of the brain involved in hearing - allowing men to become 'deaf' to the most logical of arguments put forward by their wives and girlfriends."

[...]

Dr Brizendine, whose book is based on her own clinical work and analyses of more than 1,000 scientific studies, added: "There is no unisex brain.

"Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they're born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values and their very reality.

"I know it is not politically correct to say this but I've been torn for years between my politics and what science is telling us.

"I believe women actually perceive the world differently from men.

"If women attend to those differences they can make better decisions about how to manage their lives."

Other scientists, however, are sceptical about the effects of testosterone on the brain and say many of the differences between the male and female personality can be explained by social conditioning, with a child's upbringing greatly influencing their character.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Teacher slayings by Muslims shut Thai schools - CNN.com

Teacher slayings shut Thai schools - CNN.com:

"BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Hundreds of schools in Thailand's restive south will shut their doors in response to increasingly vicious attacks by suspected Muslim insurgents against teachers and schools, an official said Saturday.

The closure, which begins Monday, affects all 336 primary and secondary schools in the province of Pattani, where two teachers were fatally shot by suspected insurgents in the past two days.

In one of the killings, attackers shot a school principal Friday, and then set his body on fire. The principal became the 59th teacher or school official killed in three years of violence, said Bunsom Thongsriprai, president of the Teachers' Association in Pattani.

'Teachers can't bear what has happened,' Bunsom said. 'They are paranoid, worried and afraid.' He said the province's schools, which teach about 100,000 students, will reopen when teachers feel safe.

More than 1,800 people have died from violence in Thailand's three southernmost, Muslim-majority provinces -- Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat -- since an Islamic insurgency flared in January 2004.

Teachers have always been occasional targets, seen by insurgents as representatives of the government and easy targets. But recently, teachers and schools have been attacked on an almost daily basis."

The muslims are angry about Western colonialism and support for Israel and Bush and .... oh wait, Thailand is a peaceful buddhist nation not involved in any of that stuff. Buttom line, they kill anyone who isn't muslim, because that's what their religion teaches them to do. Why can't people grasp this simple fact?

What the Islamists Have Learned

What the Islamists Have Learned

What we have discovered in Iraq is the weakest link in the ability of the United States to sustain military operations overseas. That link is the U.S. media. They are Islamists’ best friends.

Experience shows that the mainstream press of the United States is alienated from the U.S. military. In addition, the American press is extremely vulnerable to anti-U.S. propaganda. Thus, the American public will be fed nearly everything that foreign adversaries—our band of brothers—wish to feed it about the war. Therefore, I write:

Maxim # 1: To defeat America, impose upon the imagination of its media your own storyline.

Even if you can muster only 10,000 soldiers over the entire countryside of Iraq, paint the narrative like this: The Americans are irresistible occupiers, and yet they cannot prevent small (even individual) acts of destruction. Daily, unrelenting acts of destruction demonstrate that chaos rules. The American strategy, and the American storyline of the war, are invalidated by continuing chaos, highly visible, every single day, on worldwide television. The new dominating story is that the Americans cannot win.

Even though our own forces (for nearly two whole years now) can no longer afford to fight in a single operation lasting longer than a few hours, our martyr-brothers cannot be prevented from committing daily acts of destruction—the more stomach-turning the better—which demonstrate a ferocious will and a determination to destroy.

In such wars, my brothers, whichever party maintains the stronger will, along the most durable storyline, always wins.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

High Court to Weigh Climate Change Case

High Court to Weigh Climate Change Case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court hears arguments this week in a case that could determine whether the Bush administration must change course in how it deals with the threat of global warming.

A dozen states as well as environmental groups and large cities are trying to convince the court that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate, as a matter of public health, the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from vehicles.

[....]
: "The Bush administration intends to argue before the court on Wednesday that the EPA lacks the power under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The agency contends that even if it did have such authority, it would have discretion under the law on how to address the problem without imposing emissions controls.

The states, led by Massachusetts, and more than a dozen environmental groups insist the 1970 law makes clear that carbon dioxide is a pollutant - much like lead and smog-causing chemicals - that is subject to regulation because its poses a threat to public health.

A sharply divided federal appeals court ruled in favor of the government in 2005. But last June, the Supreme Court decided to take up the case, plunging for the first time into the politically charged debate over global warming. The ruling next year is expected to be one of the court's most important ever involving the environment.

'Global warming is the most pressing environmental issue of our time and the decision by the court on this case will make a deep and lasting impact for generations to come,' says Massachusetts' attorney general, Thomas Reilly."

Word on the street ... they’re listening - Sunday Times - Times Online

Word on the street ... they’re listening - Sunday Times - Times Online:

"POLICE and councils are considering monitoring conversations in the street using high-powered microphones attached to CCTV cameras, write Steven Swinford and Nicola Smith.

The microphones can detect conversations 100 yards away and record aggressive exchanges before they become violent.

The devices are used at 300 sites in Holland and police, councils and transport officials in London have shown an interest in installing them before the 2012 Olympics.

The interest in the equipment comes amid growing concern that Britain is becoming a “surveillance society”. It was recently highlighted that there are more than 4.2m CCTV cameras, with the average person being filmed more than 300 times a day. The addition of microphones would take surveillance into uncharted territory.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has warned that a full public debate over the microphones’ impact on privacy will be needed before they can be introduced.

The equipment can pick up aggressive tones on the basis of 12 factors, including decibel level, pitch and the speed at which words are spoken. Background noise is filtered out, enabling the camera to focus on specific conversations in public places."

Friday, November 24, 2006

lgf: France Spoiling for a Fight

lgf: France Spoiling for a Fight:

"cbinflux 11/22/2006 07:54PM PST

OT
Not sure that I follow the math, but the point is easily made:

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of the U.S. involvement in Iraq,
here's a sobering statistic.

There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths.

That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 Persons for the same period.

That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. Capital than you are in Iraq.

Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington"

Found this comment on a post at littlegreenfootballs.com

BREITBART.COM - Russian rocket deliveries to Iran started

BREITBART.COM - Russian rocket deliveries to Iran started:

"Russia has begun deliveries of the Tor-M1 air defence rocket system to Iran, Russian news agencies quoted military industry sources as saying, in the latest sign of a Russian-US rift over Iran.

'Deliveries of the Tor-M1 have begun. The first systems have already been delivered to Tehran,' ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed, high-ranking source as saying Friday.

The United States has pressed Russia to halt military sales to Iran, which Washington accuses of harbouring secret plans to build a nuclear weapon.

Moscow has consistently defended its weapons trade with Iran. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the contract for 29 rocket systems, signed in December last year, was legitimate because the Tor-M1 has a purely defensive role.

ITAR-TASS reported that the rockets were to be deployed around Iran's nuclear sites, including the still incomplete, Russian-built atomic power station at Bushehr."

Shiites burn Sunnis alive, torch buildings near Iraqi army post - USATODAY.com

Shiites burn Sunnis alive, torch buildings near Iraqi army post - USATODAY.com:

"BAGHDAD (AP) — Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and seven Sunni mosques came under attack as Shiites took revenge for the slaughter of 215 people in the Sadr City slum.

ON DEADLINE: The latest on Iraq's worst sectarian violence

With the government trying to avert a civil war, two simultaneous bombings in Tal Afar, in northern Iraq, killed at least 23 people. On Thursday, Sunni-Arab insurgents unleashed bombings and mortar attacks in Sadr City, the deadliest assault since the U.S.-led invasion.

Members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques and several homes while killing 12 other Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood until American forces arrived, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein. Gunmen loyal to radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began taking over the neighborhood this summer and a majority of its Sunni residents already had fled."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Independent Online Edition > Science & Technology

Independent Online Edition > Science & Technology:

"Scientists have discovered a dramatic variation in the genetic make-up of humans that could lead to a fundamental reappraisal of what causes incurable diseases and could provide a greater understanding of mankind.

The discovery has astonished scientists studying the human genome - the genetic recipe of man. Until now it was believed the variation between people was due largely to differences in the sequences of the individual ' letters' of the genome.

It now appears much of the variation is explained instead by people having multiple copies of some key genes that make up the human genome.

Until now it was assumed that the human genome, or 'book of life', is largely the same for everyone, save for a few spelling differences in some of the words. Instead, the findings suggest that the book contains entire sentences, paragraphs or even whole pages that are repeated any number of times.

The findings mean that instead of humanity being 99.9 per cent identical, as previously believed, we are at least 10 times more different between one another than once thought - which could explain why some people are prone to serious diseases."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BREITBART.COM - Bush warns Syria, Iran after Lebanon killing

BREITBART.COM - Bush warns Syria, Iran after Lebanon killing:

"Bush did not apportion direct blame but called for an investigation into 'those people and those forces' behind the killing of the anti-Syrian Christian leader.

'We support the Siniora government and its democracy and we support the Lebanese people's desire to live in peace and we support their efforts to defend their democracy against attempts by Syria, Iran and allies to foment instability and violence in that important country,' said Bush.

The killing came against a backdrop of global calls, so far resisted by the United States, for a dialogue with Syria and Iran over chaos in Iraq.

But Bush's tone, further bolstered in a written statement on the killing, appeared to cast further doubt on already slim chances of such a diplomatic opening.

'Syria's refusal to cease and desist from its continuing efforts to destabilize Lebanon's democratically elected government' was a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, Bush said.

'We also demand that Syria treat Lebanon as a genuinely sovereign neighbor, establishing full diplomatic relations with Lebanon,' he said.

The president said the assassination made it even more important for the United Nations Security Council to seek justice in the killing of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri last year.

Late Tuesday the Security Council endorsed a blueprint for a tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder, French ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said.

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns earlier branded the killing of Gemayel, gunned down in a Beirut suburb, as an 'act of terrorism' aimed at Syria's opponents in the country.

Rice called the Lebanese prime minister to express condolences and to reiterate the support of the United States for 'Lebanese democracy and for the Siniora government,' the State Department said.

America's ambassador to the UN John Bolton pointed the finger at Syria, noting the string of assassinations of anti-Damascus politicians in Lebanon.

'One can follow the logic there, I think,' Bolton told CNN.

Syria issued its most complete denial of involvement in the killing through its embassy here."

Rage against Syria fuelled by minister's assassination - World - Times Online

Rage against Syria fuelled by minister's assassination - World - Times Online

Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s Industry Minister and son of a former President, was shot dead yesterday in his car in a Beirut suburb. It was the first assassination of a leading anti-Syrian figure in almost a year.

The murder of the 34-year-old minister is certain to increase political tensions in Lebanon, where the militant Shia Hezbollah party is leading a drive to overturn the Western-backed Government.

[...]

Hundreds of angry and weeping supporters of the Gemayel family converged on the St Youssef hospital in the Doura suburb of Beirut, where a stream of leading anti-Syrian figures paid condolences.

The Gemayels are one of Lebanon’s leading political dynasties. Mr Gemayel’s grandfather, also Pierre, founded the Phalange party, at one time the leading Christian political body. His uncle, Bashir, was assassinated in a bomb blast in September 1982, days before being sworn in as President. Speaking to reporters outside the hospital, an ashen-faced Amine Gemayel, Pierre’s father and former Lebanese President, called on supporters not to react with violence. “I would like to ask those who loved Pierre to preserve the cause. We don’t want to do anything instinctively,” he said. “He was serving the cause and he died for Lebanon, for freedom and humanity and we should not tarnish his memory by any irresponsible acts.”

But in Zahle, a Christian town in the Bekaa Valley, protesters chanted anti-Hezbollah slogans and blocked off streets.

The shooting came a week after six pro-Syrian ministers resigned from the 24-seat Government, plunging the country into turmoil. The resignations came after a deadlock over Hezbollah’s demand that it and its allies be given a greater stake in the Cabinet. Hezbollah says that unless the Government changes its mind the pro-Syrian opposition will begin pushing for early parliamentary elections.

[...]

Mr Gemayel, who was elected to parliament last year, is the fifth prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese to be killed since Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister, was murdered in February last year. The killings have been widely blamed on Syria, although the country has denied involvement.

# The UN Security Council “unequivocally condemned” Mr Gemayel’s killing last night and approved the creation of an international court to try political assassins in Lebanon (James Bone writes from New York).

The “special tribunal” will try those responsible for the car bombing that killed Mr Hariri, and other related attacks against critics of Syrian influence in Lebanon.

The proposal could allow the court to claim jurisdiction over Mr Gemayel’s assassination if investigators determine that it is linked to Mr Hariri’s killing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Syrian link to murder threatens Blair's push for peace - World - Times Online

Syrian link to murder threatens Blair's push for peace - World - Times Online:

"Tony Blair’s policy of engagement with Syria came under immediate threat last night as the assassination of a Lebanese government minister was blamed on Damascus.

Lebanon was plunged into a political crisis after Pierre Gemayel, a prominent anti-Syrian politician and the Industry Minister in the beleaguered Government, was shot dead in a Christian suburb.

Amid nervousness in Whitehall, Mr Blair’s spokesman said that the death should be investigated before conclusions were reached. But he accepted that, “without jumping to conclusions”, part of the Government’s judgment of Syria would be how it behaved in Lebanon.

President Bush accused Syria and Iran of trying to foment instability in Lebanon. John Bolton, the US Ambassador to the UN, raised the possibility of Syrian involvement in the shooting. Referring to an investigation into the assassination last year of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who also tried to limit Syrian influence in his country, Mr Bolton said: “I think people can draw their own conclusions.”"

BU group offers white scholarship - News

BU group offers white scholarship - News:

"Looking to draw attention to what they call the 'worst form of bigotry confronting America today,' Boston University's College Republicans are circulating an application for a 'Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship' that requires applicants be at least 25 percent Caucasian.

'Did we do this to give a scholarship to white kids? Of course not,' the scholarship reads. 'Did we do it to trigger a discussion on what we believe to be the morally wrong practice of basing decisions in our schools and our jobs on racial preferences rather than merit? Absolutely.'

The scholarship, which is privately funded by the BUCR without the support of the university, is meant to raise awareness, group members say. BUCR member argue that racial preferences are a form of 'bigotry.' The group has a similar view on affirmative action.

The application for the $250 scholarship, due Nov. 30, requires applicants be full-time BU undergraduate students and one-fourth Caucasian and maintain at least a 3.2 cumulative GPA. Applicants must submit two essays, one describing the applicant's ancestry and one describing 'what it means to you to be a Caucasian-American today.'

BUCR President Joe Mroszczyk said he spoke to Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore before publicly releasing the scholarship to make sure it would be legal. Mroszczyk said BUCR members also talked to others beforehand, some of whom were initially 'agitated or upset' but understood the point after members explained themselves, he said.

'If you give out a white scholarship, it's racist, and if you give out a Hispanic scholarship, it is OK,' the College of Arts and Sciences senior said. 'It is the main point. We are not doing this scholarship as a white-supremacy scholarship.'"

Monday, November 20, 2006

Report: Israeli spies active in Iran | Jerusalem Post

Report: Israeli spies active in Iran | Jerusalem Post:

"Iran has developed and tested a trigger device for a nuclear bomb, Israeli agents stationed there have told the White House, according to a report published in The New Yorker Monday morning.

# 35 nations meet on denying Iran technical help for building plutonium-producing reactor

According to the report, written by Seymour M. Hersh, the White House received the information but did not pass it on to the CIA.

The report also stated that in the past six months, Israel and the United States had been working together to support a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan.

The group had been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, as 'part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran,' Hersh said he was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership. The government consultant reportedly said Israel was supplying the Kurdish group with 'equipment and training.' The group had also been given 'a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the US.' An Israeli government spokesman denied that Israel was involved.

The Israeli intelligence presented a stark contrast to recent CIA estimates on Iran's nuclear program, which claimed that Teheran was far from attaining a nuclear bomb.

The New Yorker article seemed to suggest that there was a difference of opinion between the CIA, the White House and the Pentagon regarding the progress of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
The CIA's opinion was based on technical information gathered from satellites and other hi-tech devices that suggested high levels of radiation had not been detected.

However, the White House and the Pentagon dispute the CIA's findings. "

The New Yorker: PRINTABLES

The New Yorker: PRINTABLES:

"And so, that January of 2001, when Donald Rumsfeld was officially welcomed back to the Pentagon, “There was just great relief in the military,” recalled Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan arms-control official, who was among the invited guests that day. “There was the feeling that now somebody was going to be on their side.”

Bush had inherited a pressing problem. The American military continued through the nineteen-nineties to train, plan, and equip itself to fight an enemy—the Soviet Union—that no longer existed. It was hardly a secret that the military was badly in need of reform; everyone in uniform knew it, and those analysts and scholars who populated the think tanks of Washington had been fixated on the subject for most of a decade.

As a pro-defense Republican, Bush would have the political capital to bring about genuine, even historic, change. During the campaign, he had vowed to give his Secretary of Defense “a broad mandate to challenge the status quo and envision a new architecture of American defense for decades to come,” and he had chosen Rumsfeld because he believed that he would be more willing and better able than the other candidates to pursue his agenda. The contents and scope of that agenda were not yet known, but Rumsfeld made it clear that his approach to the military was very much hands-on.

Among those gathered at the River Parade Field for the Rumsfeld ceremony was an elderly man with a pleasant, grandfatherly aspect, who, amid the political celebrities and military brass, might have been taken for someone who had strayed from a Pentagon tour group. But within the national-security priesthood Andrew Marshall was something of a legend. He headed a unit called the Office of Net Assessment (he was its first and only director), which had evolved over the years into a sort of in-house Pentagon think tank. That made him the resident deep thinker, and what Marshall, who was in his late seventies, had been thinking about"

The Cure For Diabetes

The Cure For Diabetes:

"What if the American Heart Association endorsed the trans-fat diet? Problem, right? Look at what the American Diabetes Association is spoon-feeding people with diabetes: sugar. Not to worry: We've got the solution right here

By: Adam Campbell

It's a wonder no one has tried to have Mary Vernon's medical license revoked.

Since 1999, the 52-year-old family doctor has been treating diabetic patients in Lawrence, Kansas, with an approach that was abandoned by most physicians in the 1930s. Worse, this Depression-era remedy is the opposite of the current guidelines established by the American Diabetes Association, a nonprofit organization that spent nearly $51 million on research in 2005, and so should know a thing or two about how to handle diabetes.

There's no question that Dr. Vernon is trouble -- but for whom? Not her patients, that's for certain. They just won't stay sick. People walk into her office afflicted with type-2 diabetes and, by every objective medical measurement, walk out cured. There's $51 million that says that isn't supposed to happen, not in a clinic in Kansas, and definitely not as a result of cleaning out the refrigerator.

'My first line of treatment is to have patients remove carbohydrates from their diets,' explains Dr. Vernon, a petite, energetic mother of two who also serves as the president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. 'This is often all it takes to reverse their symptoms, so that they no longer require medication.'

That's it?

That's it -- a simple strategy, but one that's controversial. If Dr. Vernon and a growing cadre of researchers are correct about carbohydrates, we may be looking at an epic case of ignorance on the part of the medical community. That, however, pales next to the implications for the American Diabetes Association, namely that the very organization dedicated to conquering diabetes is rejecting what could be the closest thing we have to a cure."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lizards Pushed Into Evolutionary Fast Lane

Lizards Pushed Into Evolutionary Fast Lane:

"Evolutionary change is generally considered to be a pedestrian affair, with changes occurring over millennia. But evolutionary biologists from Harvard have shown that natural selection can occur within months, as a population's needs change. Their study, appearing in the journal Science, was based on populations of the lizard Anolis sagrei that inhabits cays (small islands) in the Bahamas, and what happened when a new predator was introduced. The scientists found that natural selection dramatically reversed direction over a very short period, first favoring longer, and then shorter, hind legs.

Experiments where researchers are able to witness evolution in action have been something of a rarity. 'Recent work has shown, however, that evolutionary biology can be studied on short time scales and that predictions about it can be tested experimentally. We predicted, and then demonstrated, a reversal in the direction of natural selection acting on limb length in a population of lizards,' explained Harvard's Jonathan B. Losos."

Friday, November 17, 2006

ScienceDaily: Study Of Obese Diabetics Explains Why Low-carb Diets Produce Fast Results

ScienceDaily: Study Of Obese Diabetics Explains Why Low-carb Diets Produce Fast Results:

"Philadelphia - A new study by Temple University School of Medicine researchers has shown why the pounds melt so quickly on low-carbohydrate diets, and it's not related to water, metabolism or boredom. The research was conducted in a group of obese patients with type 2 diabetes who followed the Atkins diet.

According to lead researcher, Guenther Boden, M.D., 'When carbohydrates were restricted, study subjects spontaneously reduced their caloric intake to a level appropriate for their height, did not compensate by eating more protein or fat, and lost weight. We concluded that excessive overeating had been fueled by carbohydrates.'

Almost 80 percent of diabetics are overweight or obese, compounding health risks such as heart disease and stroke. Boden wanted to examine how low-carbohydrate diets, which have been shown to produce rapid weight loss, affected weight, appetite and blood sugar in obese diabetics.

He discovered that study subjects did not eat less because they were bored with the food selection, and their weight loss was not attributable to water loss, two common speculations about low-carb diets. Further, weight loss could not be explained by a change in metabolism, another popular misconception."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ScienceDaily: Space Sunshade Might Be Feasible In Global Warming Emergency

ScienceDaily: Space Sunshade Might Be Feasible In Global Warming Emergency: "The possibility that global warming will trigger abrupt climate change is something people might not want to think about.

The graphic shows the 2 foot-diameter flyers at L1. They are transparent, but blur out transmitted light into a donut, as shown for the background stars. The transmitted sunlight is also spread out, so it misses the Earth. This way of removing the light avoids radiation pressure, which would otherwise degrade the L1 orbit. (Illustration: Courtesy of UA Steward Observatory)

But University of Arizona astronomer Roger Angel thinks about it.

Angel, a University of Arizona Regents' Professor and one of the world's foremost minds in modern optics, directs the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory and the Center for Astronomical Adaptive Optics. He has won top honors for his many extraordinary conceptual ideas that have become practical engineering solutions for astronomy.

For the past year, Angel has been looking at ways to cool the Earth in an emergency. He's been studying the practicality of deploying a space sunshade in a global warming crisis, a crisis where it becomes clear that Earth is unmistakably headed for disastrous climate change within a decade or two."

[...]

The spacecraft would form a long, cylindrical cloud with a diameter about half that of Earth, and about 10 times longer. About 10 percent of the sunlight passing through the 60,000-mile length of the cloud, pointing lengthwise between the Earth and the sun, would be diverted away from our planet. The effect would be to uniformly reduce sunlight by about 2 percent over the entire planet, enough to balance the heating of a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere.

Researchers have proposed various alternatives for cooling the planet, including aerosol scatterers in the Earth's atmosphere. The idea for a space shade at L1 to deflect sunlight from Earth was first proposed by James Early of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1989.

"The earlier ideas were for bigger, heavier structures that would have needed manufacture and launch from the moon, which is pretty futuristic," Angel said. "I wanted to make the sunshade from small 'flyers,' small, light and extremely thin spacecraft that could be completely assembled and launched from Earth, in stacks of a million at a time. When they reached L1, they would be dealt off the stack into a cloud. There's nothing to assemble in space."

The lightweight flyers designed by Angel would be made of a transparent film pierced with small holes. Each flyer would be two feet in diameter, 1/5000 of an inch thick and weigh about a gram, the same as a large butterfly. It would use "MEMS" technology mirrors as tiny sails that tilt to hold the flyers position in the orbiting constellation. The flyer's transparency and steering mechanism prevent it from being blown away by radiation pressure. Radiation pressure is the pressure from the sun's light itself.

Problem solved!

U.N. says Somalia arms embargo violated - Yahoo! News

U.N. says Somalia arms embargo violated - Yahoo! News

NAIROBI, Kenya - Ten nations and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have been supplying weapons to an Islamic militia that controls much of Somalia, violating an international arms embargo, according to a U.N. commission report obtained Wednesday.

But experts and diplomats expressed deep skepticism about an allegation in the report that 720 Somali mercenaries fought alongside Hezbollah in its battle with Israel in July. There were also doubts about the U.N. panel’s findings that Iran shipped arms to the Islamic militants in return for access to uranium mines in the hometown of the top Islamic leader.

The Iranian government, in a letter to the U.N., also strenuously denied shipping weapons to Somalia.

The U.N. panel, charged with monitoring the arms embargo on Somalia, said Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Uganda had all supported armed groups inside Somalia.

“At the time of the writing of the present report, there were two Iranians in Dhusa Mareb engaged in matters linked to uranium in exchange for arms,” said the report, which has not been released to the public. Iran also supplied an aircraft to fly 40 Somalis wounded in Lebanon back to Somalia, it added.

San Mateo Daily Journal :: first U.S. city to ban all smoking

San Mateo Daily Journal:

"Belmont to be first U.S. city to ban all smoking
By Dana Yates, Daily Journal Staff

Belmont is set to make history by becoming the first city in the nation to ban smoking on its streets and almost everywhere else.

The Belmont City Council voted unanimously last night to pursue a strict law that will prohibit smoking anywhere in the city except for single-family detached residences. Smoking on the street, in a park and even in one’s car will become illegal and police would have the option of handing out tickets if they catch someone.

The actual language of the law still needs to be drafted and will likely come back to the council either in December or early next year.

“We have a tremendous opportunity here. We need to pass as stringent a law as we can, I would like to make it illegal,” said Councilman Dave Warden. “What if every city did this, image how many lives would be saved? If we can do one little thing here at this level it will matter.”"

US plans last big push in Iraq | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

US plans last big push in Iraq | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited:

"Strategy document calls for extra 20,000 troops, aid for Iraqi army and regional summit

Simon Tisdall
Thursday November 16, 2006
The Guardian

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make 'a last big push' to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point 'victory strategy' developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

Point one of the strategy calls for an increase rather than a decrease in overall US force levels inside Iraq, possibly by as many as 20,000 soldiers. This figure is far fewer than that called for by the Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain. But by raising troop levels, Mr Bush will draw a line in the sand and defy Democratic pressure for a swift drawdown."

BREITBART.COM - Maine Activist Cited for Bin Laden Stunt

BREITBART.COM - Maine Activist Cited for Bin Laden Stunt:

"A Democratic activist who was arrested after he was spotted on a highway overpass dressed as Osama bin Laden on Halloween faces additional charges for the stunt.

Tom Connolly was charged Wednesday with terrorizing and reckless conduct, in addition to the original charge of criminal threatening, prosecutor Stephanie Anderson said. All three charges are misdemeanors.

'Halloween or not, in this day and age you do not get to dress as an international terrorist and wave what appears to be an AK-47 at rush hour traffic,' Anderson said.

Police responded to calls from motorists on Interstate 295 about a man on an overpass wearing a white robe and carrying a fake assault rifle. The costume included a rubber mask, plastic dynamite and grenades, in addition to the toy assault rifle. Before he was arrested, Connolly walked toward officers as plastic grenades tumbled onto the ground, an officer said.

Anderson said Connolly created an 'incredibly dangerous' situation for motorists, for police _ and for himself. 'He's lucky he didn't get shot,' she said.

Anderson said Connolly created an 'incredibly dangerous' situation for motorists, for police _ and for himself. 'He's lucky he didn't get shot,' she said.

Connolly's lawyer, Daniel Knight, said Wednesday there was no mistaking Connolly for a terrorist on Halloween.

'His protest involved a plastic squirt gun that was not used in any menacing manner whatsoever while Tom was in a costume on Halloween,' Knight said."

BREITBART.COM - Maine Activist Cited for Bin Laden Stunt

BREITBART.COM - Maine Activist Cited for Bin Laden Stunt:

"A Democratic activist who was arrested after he was spotted on a highway overpass dressed as Osama bin Laden on Halloween faces additional charges for the stunt.

Tom Connolly was charged Wednesday with terrorizing and reckless conduct, in addition to the original charge of criminal threatening, prosecutor Stephanie Anderson said. All three charges are misdemeanors.

'Halloween or not, in this day and age you do not get to dress as an international terrorist and wave what appears to be an AK-47 at rush hour traffic,' Anderson said.

Police responded to calls from motorists on Interstate 295 about a man on an overpass wearing a white robe and carrying a fake assault rifle. The costume included a rubber mask, plastic dynamite and grenades, in addition to the toy assault rifle. Before he was arrested, Connolly walked toward officers as plastic grenades tumbled onto the ground, an officer said.

Anderson said Connolly created an 'incredibly dangerous' situation for motorists, for police _ and for himself. 'He's lucky he didn't get shot,' she said.

Anderson said Connolly created an 'incredibly dangerous' situation for motorists, for police _ and for himself. 'He's lucky he didn't get shot,' she said.

Connolly's lawyer, Daniel Knight, said Wednesday there was no mistaking Connolly for a terrorist on Halloween.

'His protest involved a plastic squirt gun that was not used in any menacing manner whatsoever while Tom was in a costume on Halloween,' Knight said."

Iranian paper: Great war to wipe out Israel coming - News from Israel, Ynetnews

Iranian paper: Great war to wipe out Israel coming - News from Israel, Ynetnews:

"Iranian newspapers Kehyan and and Resalat have urged Muslims around the world to prepare for a 'great war' to destroy the State of Israel.

The newspapers published the editorials, translated from Persian by MEMRI , the Middle East translation service, to mark 'Quds' day on October 20, an Iranian 'holiday' calling for the 'liberation' of Jerusalem and war against Israel.

'Hizbullah destroyed at least half of Israel in the Lebanon war... Now only half the path (to its destruction) remains,' an editorial in the conservative Keyhan newspaper declared.

'It was proven that, by means of an offensive operation that need not be equal to Israel's moves, it is possible to neutralize the Zionist navy,' the article said triumphantly.

'Great war not far off'

It continued: 'Just as in one 33-day war more than 50 percent of Israel was destroyed, and the hope of its supporters for the continued life of this regime was broken, it is likely that in the next battle, the second half will also collapse.'"

McClatchy Washington Bureau | Historian says peak oil production is still a quarter-century away

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 11/14/2006 | Historian says peak oil production is still a quarter-century away:

"WASHINGTON - Far from being a nearly exhausted resource, the world's oil reserves are three times bigger than what some popular estimates state, and peak global oil production is still about a quarter-century away, according to a new study by Pulitzer Prize-winning oil historian Daniel Yergin.

The remaining oil resource base is about 3.74 trillion barrels, according to a report released Tuesday by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, which Yergin runs. That's more than three times the 1.2 trillion barrels that 'peak-oil' theorists suggest.

CERA's report, titled 'Why the Peak Oil Theory Falls Down,' challenges an increasingly popular view that the world is about to run out of oil. On the contrary, CERA argues that the world is likely to begin running out of oil between 2030 and the middle of the century. Even so, CERA says, efforts are needed now to push that date back, such as new oil field discoveries, new technologies, energy conservation and alternative energy sources.

Peak-oil theorists warn that the world is on the cusp of a disastrous and rapid decline in oil production. A leading proponent of the theory is oil banker Matthew Simmons, who in the popular book 'Twilight in the Desert' suggested that the world's top producer, Saudi Arabia, has entered an oil-production decline and will take the world down with it. Last month, Simmons told a forum that the world might have reached peak oil production last December.

The peak-oil theory has gained supporters since late 2004, when surging global demand for oil began tightening up available supplies and driving up world oil prices. The price hit $78.40 a barrel in July, but has fallen to less than $60 a barrel in recent months.

The CERA study debunks the so-called Hubbert Peak Oil Theory, first espoused in 1956 by geologist M. King Hubbert. Working at the time for Shell Oil Co., he predicted that world oil production would follow a bell-shaped curve in which production grows steadily until it peaks, followed by a rapid decline."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How to be a genius

How to be a genius

About the time I had my epiphany, a growing field of scholarship was more rigorously reaching the same conclusion. It seems the ability we're so fond of calling talent or even genius arises not from innate gifts but from an interplay of fair (but not extraordinary) natural ability, quality instruction, and a mountain of work. This new discipline - a mix of psychology and cognitive science - has now produced its first large collection of expert reviews, the massive Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 052184097X).

The book essentially tells us to forget the notion that "genius", "talent" or any other innate qualities create the greats we call geniuses. Instead, as the American inventor Thomas Edison said, genius is 99 per cent perspiration - or, to be truer to the data, perhaps 1 per cent inspiration, 29 per cent good instruction and encouragement, and 70 per cent perspiration. Examine closely even the most extreme examples - Mozart, Newton, Einstein, Stravinsky - and you find more hard-won mastery than gift. Geniuses are made, not born.

Extraordinary efforts

"It's complicated explaining how genius or expertise is created and why it's so rare," says Anders Ericsson, the professor of psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee who edited the handbook. "But it isn't magic, and it isn't born. It happens because some critical things line up so that a person of good intelligence can put in the sustained, focused effort it takes to achieve extraordinary mastery. These people don't necessarily have an especially high IQ, but they almost always have very supportive environments, and they almost always have important mentors. And the one thing they always have is this incredible investment of effort."

This is mixed news, says Ericsson. "It's funny, really. On one hand it's encouraging: it makes me think that even the most ordinary among us should be careful about saying we can't do great things, because people have proven again and again that most people can do something extraordinary if they're willing to put in the exercise. On the other hand, it's a bit overwhelming to look at what these people have to do. They generally invest about five times as much time and effort to become great as an accomplished amateur does to become competent. It's not something everyone's up for."

Studies of extraordinary performance run a wide gamut, employing memory tests, IQ comparisons, brain scans, retrospective interviews of high achievers and longitudinal studies of people who were identified in their youth as highly gifted. None bears out the myth of inherent genius.

Take intelligence. No accepted measure of innate or basic intelligence, whether IQ or other metrics, reliably predicts that a person will develop extraordinary ability. In other words, the IQs of the great would not predict their level of accomplishments, nor would their accomplishments predict their IQs. Studies of chess masters and highly successful artists, scientists and musicians usually find their IQs to be above average, typically in the 115 to 130 range, where some 14 per cent of the population reside - impressive enough, but hardly as rarefied as their achievements and abilities.

The converse - that high IQ does not ensure greatness - holds as well. This was shown in a study of adult graduates of New York City's Hunter College Elementary School, where an admission criterion was an IQ of at least 130 (achieved by a little over 1 per cent of the general population) and the mean IQ was 157 - "genius" territory by any scaling of IQ scores, and a level reached by perhaps 1 in 5000 people. Though the Hunter graduates were successful and reasonably content with their lives, they had not reached the heights of accomplishment, either individually or as a group, that their IQs might have suggested.

Iran plotting to groom bin Laden's successor :: UK Telegraph

Iran plotting to groom bin Laden's successor

Iran is trying to form an unholy alliance with al-Qa'eda by grooming a new generation of leaders to take over from Osama bin Laden, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

Western intelligence officials say the Iranians are determined to take advantage of bin Laden's declining health to promote senior officials who are known to be friendly to Teheran.

Tony Blair addressing the Lord Mayor's banquet last night

The revelation will deal a major blow to Tony Blair's hopes of establishing a "new partnership" with Teheran.

Addressing the Lord Mayor's banquet in London last night — an occasion traditionally used by the Prime Minister to set out the Government's foreign policy — Mr Blair said he wanted to launch a diplomatic initiative to secure peace in Iraq by establishing dialogue with Iran and ending threats of military force against the regime.

He confirmed that a major rethink of strategy was under way on both sides of the Atlantic as he offered Iran a partnership rather than isolation if it stopped supporting terrorism in Lebanon or Iraq and halted attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

With the British and American governments looking for an exit strategy from Iraq, the Prime Minister admitted that they needed Iran's co-operation to prevent the country descending into civil war and to secure an overall Middle East peace settlement.
advertisement

But the revelation that Iran is working hard to establish a closer relationship with bin Laden's fanatics, who provoked the war against terrorism with the attacks on September 11 2001, is likely to undermine severely Downing Street's attempts to effect a rapprochement. Iran is also suspected of arming insurgent groups in southern Iraq – many of which have links to al-Qa'eda – that have been responsible for many of the roadside bomb attacks against British troops.

But intelligence officials have been most alarmed by reports from Iran that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying to persuade al-Qa'eda to promote a pro-Iranian activist to a senior position within its leadership.

The Iranians want Saif al-Adel, a 46-year-old former colonel in Egypt's special forces, to be the organisation's number three.

Al-Adel was formerly bin Laden's head of security, and was named on the FBI's 22 most wanted list after September 11 for his alleged involvement in terror attacks against US targets in Somalia and Africa in the 1990s. He has been living in a Revolutionary Guard guest house in Teheran since fleeing from Afghanistan in late 2001.

Alarm over al-Qa'eda deepened yesterday with a Foreign Office warning that the group was determined to acquire the technology to carry out a nuclear attack on the West.

A senior Foreign Office official said that the terrorists were trawling the world for the materials and know-how to mount an attack using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The official said: "We know that the aspiration is there, we know attempts to gather materials are there, we know that attempts to gather technologies are there."

Teheran 'providing refuge for al-Qaeda terrorists

Telegraph | News | Teheran 'providing refuge for al-Qaeda terrorists':

"About 25 al-Qaeda leaders, including three of Osama bin Laden's sons, are running terrorist operations from their refuge in Iran rather than languishing under house arrest as the Teheran regime claims, intelligence officials have said.

The disclosure comes as Maj-Gen James Dutton, the commander of British forces in south-eastern Iraq, reiterated on Friday that the technology for lethal new rebel bombs was crossing into the country from Iran.

A 'top-ranking Western secret service agent' has told Cicero magazine that the senior al-Qaeda operatives, who fled across the border from Afghanistan into Iran after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, have been provided with a secure hiding place, logistical support and equipment by the Revolutionary Guards.
advertisement

Cicero is a German investigative publication known for its strong intelligence contacts.

Iran claimed that it put the al-Qaeda leaders under house arrest after they crossed the border, saying it would put them on trial. But there has been no legal action and Teheran has also ignored requests from Saudi Arabia and the West for access to the wanted men.

United States intelligence sources have told the Sunday Telegraph that the group was living in compounds in eastern Iran guarded by al-Qaeda bodyguards. There have also been persistent but unconfirmed reports that bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, might be in hiding near the Afghan-Iranian border rather than Afghanistan's frontier with Pakistan.

The 25 members of the Iran-backed al-Qaeda hierarchy are said to include bin Laden's oldest son Saad, often mentioned as an heir to his father, and his siblings Mohammed and Othman; the senior commander Saif al-Adel, who is the number three in the network's military structure; and a spokesman Sulaiman abu Ghaith.

In an indication of the men's continued involvement in acts of terrorism, Saudi intelligence recorded a telephone call from al-Adel in Iran in May 2003 giving orders for the Riyadh bombings that claimed more than 30 lives, including eight Americans, Cicero said.

The publication's offices in Potsdam were raided in September by the German authorities seeking leaked intelligence documents after an article that exposed Teheran's funding for the Iraqi terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and even gave his Iranian telephone numbers.

In his new book, Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran, Ken Timmerman, a US expert on Iran, has also exposed the 'rat run' across Iran used by al-Qaeda operatives before and since the fall of the Taliban regime."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ahmadinejad: Israel’s destruction near - News from Israel, Ynetnews

Ahmadinejad: Israel’s destruction near - News from Israel, Ynetnews:

"According to the Iranian media Monday, Iranian President Mahoud Ahmadinejad declared that Israel was destined to ‘disappearance and destruction’ at a council meeting with Iranian ministers.


“The western powers created the Zionist regime in order to expand their control of the area. This regime massacres Palestinians everyday, but since this regime is against nature, we will soon witness its disappearance and destruction,” Ahmadinejad said. (AFP)

"

BREITBART.COM - Israel will 'not tolerate' a nuclear Iran: Olmert

BREITBART.COM - Israel will 'not tolerate' a nuclear Iran: Olmert:

"'We will not tolerate the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran,' Olmert told NBC television's 'Today Show' program, ahead of talks with President George W. Bush on Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Asked whether his country was considering a preemptive strike targeting Tehran's nuclear facilities, Olmert answered: 'I hope we don't have to reach that stage.'

But the Israel leader said his first choice is a negotiated resolution.

'Every compromise that will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, which will be acceptable to President Bush, would be acceptable to me.'

Olmert added that he was not seeking Washington's protection from Tehran.

'I am not coming to the United States to ask America to save Israel,' he said, saying his country had drawn the lessons of the Holocaust and World War II.

'In the 20th century someone said, 'I will liquidate a nation of people.' And somehow the whole world heard it, may have understood it, but didn't do much to prevent it.'

'Now we have the president of Iran speaking on every international platform that the purpose of his efforts is to ultimately wipe Israel off the map,' Olmert said."

Friday, November 10, 2006

8 Bomb Blasts in Thailand Injures 9 - washingtonpost.com

8 Bomb Blasts in Thailand Injures 9 - washingtonpost.com:

"BANGKOK, Thailand -- Eight bombs exploded almost simultaneously at car and motorcycle showrooms in restive southern Thailand on Thursday, wounding nine people, police said.

The blasts were believed to have been carried out by Muslim insurgents, police said.

PHOTOS

The week's events from around the world, captured in pictures.

� VIEW THIS WEEK'S PHOTOS
Save & Share Article What's This?
Digg
Google

del.icio.us
Yahoo!

Reddit
Facebook

Attackers posing as customers planted explosives inside cars or near motorcycles at Honda, Nissan, Chevrolet, Mazda, Ford and Isuzu dealerships and at two motorcycle showrooms, Yala police Lt. Col. Sakkarin Bamphensamai said.

He said without elaborating that the blasts bore the trademarks of Muslim separatists.

Police Col. Phumphet Phiphatpetchphoom said that initial reports showed that nine people were wounded.

The attacks came one day after the second visit in a week to the insurgency-wracked region by Thailand's new interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.

Violence has continued despite pledges from Surayud's interim government to make peace in the south a priority and to end the iron-fisted approach of his predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by a military coup in September.

Surayud said that Muslims in southern Thailand should be allowed to practice Islamic law _ a major shift from previous governments that had been unwilling to make concessions to Islamic culture."

ScienceDaily: Exercise Helps Keep Your Psyche Fit

ScienceDaily: Exercise Helps Keep Your Psyche Fit:

"Washington - A new review of psychological research shows that exercise is an effective but underused treatment for mild to moderate depression. The review, published in the June issue of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, a journal published by the American Psychological Association, also shows there is some evidence that regular exercise may help in the treatment of schizophrenia, alcohol dependence and as a singular treatment for some anxiety disorders and for people suffering from body image problems.

The authors reviewed studies since 1981 in which exercise was used as an intervention in treating individuals with the following clinically diagnosed psychiatric disorders: depression, anxiety, developmental disabilities, schizophrenia, psychosomatic disorders and substance abuse.

The review of research concludes that regular exercise is a viable, cost-effective treatment for mild to moderate depression and may be useful in the comprehensive treatment of more severe episodes of the disorder. Nonaerobic forms of exercise such as strength training are as effective as aerobic exercise in treating depression. The researchers also found that less strenuous forms of regular exercise, such as walking, may be sufficient to demonstrate significant treatment effects, however they note more research is needed to confirm this initial finding.

Other findings from the review include the following: Evidence that exercise is an effective short-term treatment for the reduction of disruptive behavior and for increasing work performance in some people with developmental disabilities"

Foreign policy realists to replace idealists as Bush advisors

Just like old times: realists from the first Bush era return to power - World - Times Online:

"Two years ago they were the pariahs of neoconservative Washington, a group of soft-spined old timers who refused to see that the only way to defeat America’s enemies was with the lethal might of the US military.

But within hours of Donald Rumsfeld’s enforced resignation on Wednesday, and in the clearest of signs that President Bush has turned to his father to dig him out of a mess in Iraq, the foreign policy “realists” who dominated US diplomacy in the early 1990s have been suddenly restored to the helm.

In choosing Robert Gates, the former CIA Director, to replace Mr Rumsfeld as Defence Secretary, Mr Bush completed an extraordinary recall to duty for the White House foreign policy team that advised his father, while ending the influence of the neoconservatives who had disparaged them after Mr Bush took office in 2000.

Mr Gates comes from a circle of national security aides who counselled the first President Bush from 1989 to 1992. They loathe the neoconservative world view and their swift re-emergence signals a profound change in how Mr Bush will deal with Iraq, Iran and the Middle East during the last two years of his presidency.

Along with Mr Gates, Mr Bush has also turned to James Baker, the first President Bush’s Secretary of State, to guide his foreign policy. He and Mr Gates sit on the Iraq Study Group — Mr Baker heads it — which is due to report shortly on how to proceed in Iraq.

They are expected to advocate direct negotiations with Iran and Syria to help the US in Iraq — anathema to hardliners such as Dick Cheney and neoconservatives — and to abandon the goal of making Iraq a stable democracy. Mr Gates also co-authored a report in 2004 with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Adviser, in which they advocated offering incentives to Iran, including the ending of sanctions, to persuade Tehran to stop short of building nuclear weapons.

Mr Gates, who expressed grave doubts about the invasion of Iraq, also told the Bush Administration just two years ago that hopes of regime change in Iran were totally unrealistic and that the refusal of the Administration to talk directly to Tehran “was harming US interests”. He also said that efforts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict should be at the heart of US foreign policy.

Mr Gates is a disciple of the grand old man of US foreign policy realists, Brent Scowcroft, who was the first President Bush’s National Security Adviser. Mr Scowcroft, an old friend of the Bush family, has been totally shunned by the current Administration and adamantly opposed the invasion of Iraq. He has been an outspoken critic of the neoconservative vision of transforming the world through the use of American force. Now, he is again back in the ascendency.

David Frum, a co-author of Mr Bush’s 2002 “Axis of Evil” speech, told The Times that Mr Baker was now “Secretary of State in all but name”, and that the appointment of Mr Gates signalled a new phase of foreign policy where negotiation, and carrots rather than sticks, would dominate."

Terrorists find Democrats "reasonable"- but will still attack us and plan to blow up white house - Times Online

World news from The Times and the Sunday Times - Times Online

Al Qaida vows to bomb White House
Al Qaida's leader in Iraq has vowed his fighters will never rest until they have blown up the White House and reached Jerusalem. In an audio tape made available on militant websites, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir claimed to be winning the war in Iraq and said the US President was "stupid". He praised the Republican defeat in the US midterm elections as "reasonable", and claimed the al Qaida army has 12,000 fighters in Iraq, ready to die for their cause.

Wait, doesn't he know the peace loving dems are now in charge? I thought they only hated us because of Bush?

Troops fear Rumfeld's exit will end their Iraq mission - World - Times Online

Troops fear Rumfeld's exit will end their Iraq mission - World - Times Online:

"Half of America and the upper echelons of the US military may be cheering Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation from the post of Defence Secretary, but there was no rejoicing yesterday among those most directly affected by his decisions: the frontline soldiers in Iraq.

Troops expressed little pleasure at the departure of the man responsible for their protracted deployment to a hostile country where 2,839 of their comrades have died.

Indeed, some members of the 101st Airborne Division and other troops approached by The Times as they prepared to fly home from Baghdad airport yesterday expressed concern that Robert Gates, Mr Rumsfeld’s successor, and the Democrat-controlled Congress, might seek to wind down their mission before it was finished.

Mr Rumsfeld “made decisions, he stuck with them and he did what he thought was right, whether people agreed with it, liked it, or not”, Staff Sergeant Frank Notaro said. He insisted that Iraq was better off now than before the war.

Staff Sergeant Michael Howard said: “It’s a blow to the military. He was a good Secretary of Defence. He kept us focused. He kept the leaders focused. It’s going to be hard to fill his shoes.”"

ScienceDaily: Regular Exercise Plays A Consistent And Significant Role In Reducing Fatigue

ScienceDaily: Regular Exercise Plays A Consistent And Significant Role In Reducing Fatigue:

"“A lot of times when people are fatigued the last thing they want to do is exercise,” said professor Patrick O’Connor, co-director of the UGA exercise psychology laboratory. “But if you’re physically inactive and fatigued, being just a bit more active will help.”

Health professionals encourage regular exercise to prevent or improve symptoms of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, but the scientific evidence on whether exercise increases or reduces fatigue had never been reviewed quantitatively. O’Connor, kinesiology professor Rod Dishman and lead author Tim Puetz, who recently completed his doctoral work at UGA, analyzed 70 randomized, controlled trials that enrolled a total of 6,807 subjects. They found strong support for the role of exercise in reducing fatigue.

“More than 90 percent of the studies showed the same thing: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise” O’Connor said. “It’s a very consistent effect.”

The study, published in the November issue of the journal Psychological Bulletin, quantified the magnitude of the effect of exercise and found that it was stronger than the treatment of fatigued people with drugs such as the narcolepsy drug modafinil. Specifically, the researchers found that exercise increased energy and reduced fatigue by 0.37 standard deviations when compared to control groups, whereas participants in a previous study taking modafinil had an improvement of 0.23 standard deviations.

Puetz notes that their analysis found that nearly every group studied – from healthy adults to cancer patients to those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease – benefited from exercise. He acknowledges that it may seem counterintuitive that expending energy through exercise would increase feelings of energy and reduce fatigue, but he points out that previous studies have shown marked increases in the levels of energy-promoting and mood-enhancing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the brains of animals that are placed in regular exercise conditions."

Reason Magazine - Why Poor Countries Are Poor

Reason Magazine - Why Poor Countries Are Poor:

"Evidently not. Mancur Olson showed that kleptocracy at the top stunts the growth of poor countries. Having a thief for president doesn't necessarily spell doom; the president might prefer to boost the economy and then take a slice of a bigger pie. But in general, looting will be widespread either because the dictator is not confident of his tenure or because he needs to allow others to steal in order to keep their support.

The rot starts with government, but it afflicts the entire society. There's no point investing in a business because the government will not protect you against thieves. (So you might as well become a thief yourself.) There's no point in paying your phone bill because no court can make you pay. (So there's no point being a phone company.) There's no point setting up an import business because the customs officers will be the ones to benefit. (So the customs office is underfunded and looks even harder for bribes.) There's no point getting an education because jobs are not handed out on merit. (And in any case, you can't borrow money for school fees because the bank can't collect on the loan.)

It is not news that corruption and perverse incentives matter. But perhaps it is news that the problem of twisted rules and institutions explains not just a little bit of the gap between Cameroon and rich countries but almost all of the gap. Countries like Cameroon fall far below their potential even considering their poor infrastructure, low investment, and minimal education. Worse, the web of corruption foils every effort to improve the infrastructure, attract investment, and raise educational standards.

We still don't have a good word to describe what is missing in Cameroon and in poor countries across the world. But we are starting to understand what it is. Some people call it 'social capital,' or maybe 'trust.' Others call it 'the rule of law,' or 'institutions.' But these are just labels. The problem is that Cameroon, like other poor countries, is a topsy-turvy place where it's in most people's interest to take actions that directly or indirectly damage everyone else. The incentives to create wealth are turned on their heads like the roof of the school library."