Wednesday, 29 February 2012
All Five-Year-Old Boys Will Be Very Happy

T. rex bite was world's strongest

Computer model of T. rex skull (c) Karl Bates
The researchers mapped the jaw muscles (red) and pressure sensors (blue) onto their digital T. rex skull

Tyrannosaurus rex had the most powerful bite of any creature that has ever walked the Earth, say scientists.

Previous estimates of the prehistoric predator's bite suggested it was much more modest - comparable to modern predators such as alligators.

This measurement, based on a laser scan of a T. rex skull, showed that its bite was equivalent to three tonnes - about the weight of an elephant.

The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

Dr Karl Bates from the biomechanics laboratory at the University of Liverpool led the research.

He and his colleague, Peter Falkingham from the University of Manchester, used the life-sized copy of a T. rex skeleton exhibited at Manchester Museum as a model for their study. "We digitised the skull with a laser scanner, so we had a 3-D model of the skull on our computer," Dr Bates explained.

Dr Karl Bates explains how he recreated the snapping jaws of T. rex

"Then we could map the muscles onto that skull."

The scientists then reproduced the full force of a bite by activating the muscles to contract fully - snapping the digital jaws shut.

"Those [simulated] muscles closed the jaw as they would in life and... we measured the force when the teeth hit each other," Dr Bates explained to BBC Nature.

"The maximum forces we found - up at the [back] teeth - were between 30,000 and 60,000 Newtons," he said.

"That's equivalent to a medium-sized elephant sitting on you."

Previous studies had estimated that T. rex's bite had a force of 8,000-13,000 Newtons.

Baby bite

The researchers discovered how T. rex's bite force changed as it grew.

'Ultimate' dinosaur predators:

  • The massive skull of the Tyrannosaurus rex or "tyrant lizard king" measured 1.5m in length and was balanced by its long, heavy tail. These mighty carnivores may have eaten each other as well as other dinosaurs, research has suggested.
  • At 17m long and weighing up to 20 tonnes, Spinosaurus may have been the largest carnivore ever to walk the earth. It lived on a diet of fish, and hunted both in water and on land.
  • Predator X is the most powerful marine reptile ever discovered. At 15m long and weighing about 45 tonnes, it was twice as big as most Jurassic ocean predators.
  • The gigantic flying vertebrate Hatzegopteryx was a meat-eater that stood as tall as a giraffe and had a wingspan of at least 10m. This predator could walk and hunt on the ground as well as fly.

"Obviously, as its head got a lot bigger, there's an expected increase in bite force associated with that," Dr Bates explained.

But for T. rex, the power behind its bite increased disproportionately - much more than would be expected from a "straightforward linear increase", he said.

This suggests that the predator's diet changed as it matured, and that perhaps only adult T. rex could have punctured the tough hide of another dinosaur.

Dr Bill Sellers, who studies the physical capabilities of living and extinct animals at the University of Manchester, told BBC Nature: "I think everyone expected T. rex to have a strong bite force, but it's even stronger than we expected.

"And it gets stronger as it gets bigger, which is surprising."

He explained that studying dinosaurs shed light on the limits that living things were capable of.

"These animals are extremes - one of the biggest carnivores that ever lived," he said. "So it tells you a lot about the limitations of biology.

"We want to know how organisms work, but living organisms [today] are much smaller. And in terms of mechanics, size is really important."

Posted on 02/29/2012 9:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
The Big Mess In Libya

From AllAfrica:

Libya: What the Analysts Are Saying

Dubai — One year after a popular uprising toppled its former dictator, Libya's new transitional government has failed to provide coherent state leadership and control, analysts say.

A continuing power struggle with hundreds of militias threatens Libya's transition towards a secure and democratic state. In the absence of national institutions, rebels instrumental in overthrowing former leader Muammar Gaddafi now run everything from detention centres to hospitals, but have also engaged in fatal clashes and stand accused of human rights abuses.

Recent weeks have seen a rise in inter-militia violence; the killing of a member of the former regime; and fatal tribal clashes in the south. Revenge attacks against the entire community of Tawergha have allegedly been repeated against others accused of fighting alongside Gaddafi during the war.

If the transitional government does not succeed in stabilizing state institutions in the coming months, observers fear national elections, scheduled for June 2012, could lead to a further escalation in conflict.

Here is a round-up of recent publications by think-tanks, analysts and human rights organizations:

A 16 February report by Amnesty International accused the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) of lacking both the authority and the political will to rein in militias, which it described as being "out of control". The report said militias were committing widespread human rights abuses, including torturing detainees, sometimes to death, during interrogations. Detainees told Amnesty they confessed to rapes and murders they had not committed just to stop the torture. Amnesty said the militias enjoyed "blanket immunity" and that the authorities had done "nothing" to investigate and prosecute war crimes.

Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) suspended its medical operations in the coastal city of Misrata in late January, saying it was repeatedly treating patients who suffered injuries as a result of torture during interrogation sessions. Militia requests for MSF to care for detainees to make them fit for further interrogation and torture were "unacceptable", MSF said.

In late November, the UN Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on the UN Support Mission in Libya cited discrimination against third country nationals and cases of individuals being targeted for the colour of their skin. [including the entire black population of Tawergha, now a ghost town] It said militias had reportedly detained children alongside adults; held women under male supervision; and taken members of the Tawergha ethnic minority, many of whom fought alongside Gaddafi during the war, from their homes by force, abusing or executing them in detention.

Militias have become entrenched; they are well organized and have their own procedures for registration of members and weapons, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in December, in its latest report on Libya, but they are bound together by a quest for power and territorial security rather than a political agenda.

"Militias mimic the organization of a regular military... they issue warrants; arrest and detain suspects... sometimes at substantial cost to communities subject to discrimination and collective punishment." Geographical inequality, power plays and fragmented chains of command have led to armed clashes between them, affecting the country's ability to develop, but militias should not be forced to disarm until their interests and security fears have been addressed, the ICG said. "Rebuilding Libya requires addressing their fate, yet haste would be as perilous as apathy."

Pushing the militias to disarm too hard or too fast could backfire by provoking resistance, the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), agreed in November 2011. "Some are predicting that a new conflict may be nearing a 50 percent chance of occurring." To avoid this, INEGMA research associate Ash Rossiter said the NTC should focus on increasing its own legitimacy and gradually building up national security forces.

But left unchecked, militia violence could bring the country back into civil war, the head of the NTC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, warned in January.

The defence and interior ministries will require significant capacity-building in order to transform disparate groups into national military and police forces, Bob Perito, director of the US Institute of Peace's Security Sector Governance Center of Innovation, wrote in early February, after meeting police, military and government officials in Libya.

Alina Menocal, a research fellow with the Politics and Governance Programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), said the transition to a new Libya would require more than the simple abolition of the militias, but rather a dialogue on how to sustain a political consensus that would make them secure enough to give up their arms and power. "A basic political settlement is missing," she wrote in a 2 February ODI blog post.

According to Joost Hiltermann, deputy programme director for the Middle East and North Africa at ICG, who participated in a public discussion on Libya hosted by ODI in late January, it is a bit of a vicious circle: A lack of security slows efforts towards greater rule of law, because without security, people turn to militias and warlords; and yet "until an elected, legitimate government is in place, regional militias will remain across the country and there will be no possibility of demobilization."

Elections in Libya will be "difficult to pull off" in the tight timeline, according to Sean Delly, deputy director of the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit (PRDU) at the University of York and former senior recovery adviser to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who also participated in the event.

Ibrahim Sharqieh, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, warned in December 2011 that victory should not be confused with legitimacy in post-revolutionary Libya. An expert on conflict resolution in the Arab world, Sharqieh stressed that violence will only come to an end when rebels learn to work together towards national goals in the absence of the war-time unifier: Gaddafi's regime. Ownership, legitimacy, inclusion, reconciliation, capitalizing on tribalism and leveraging the skills of the rebels are imperatives moving forward, he said. "The reconstruction of Libya will benefit from the diversity of experiences the rebels have, as the process itself is multifaceted."

Because militias have tribal leanings, any moves to ensure stability should also take into account Libya's tribal political culture, according to Thomas Husken of the University of Bayreuth in Germany. Militias have empowered tribal leaders and led to a heavy tribal influence over the NTC and the current order, he wrote in an article published by the Libyan Centre for Studies and Research in January. The tribal structure is not compatible with Western models of democracy and its relationship with youth and urban civil society is "highly problematic", he said. "In the last months tribal politicians did not hesitate to push liberal groups, the educated urban youth and particularly women out of the political arena in order to gain power." This tension is likely to continue playing out during the transitional period.

The divisions between militias and the government and between the tribal structure and elements of society are two of many. While Libyans share an ownership of the revolution, complexities within that ownership could overrun the sense of unity that the revolution fostered, the United States Institute of Peace said in a January 2012 special report. Divisions between the youth movement and the NTC; between Libyans who stayed and those from the Diaspora; between secular and religious groups; between tribes and ethnic groups; and of course, between militia groups, have increased tension and could intensify conflict to a point of no return if not addressed. The "swinging nature of rebel groups' allegiances" will further complicate attempts to re-establish normalcy," the report said.

In a February 2012 two-part series, the Jamestown Foundation said the instability in Libya has transcended borders, leading to security problems in North and West Africa. The availability of looted Libyan arms has emboldened a Tuareg rebellion in Mali and could facilitate the creation of new armed groups in West Africa, the think-tank said. "The West's poorly considered support of a spontaneous Libyan rebellion lacking common aims, ideology or even basic organization has secured the present reality."

Jamestown also noted calls on social media for the NTC to be overthrown because of a perception that it is working for the "return of the Gaddafi dictatorship". Its leaders have been subject to verbal abuse and violent attacks by armed militia groups or protesters. "The ability of Libya's [NTC] to either project or promote conciliation seems to be diminishing rather than increasing," it said.

For more, see an older but comprehensive round-up of analyses entitled Stability in post-Gaddafi Libya by NATO's Civil-Military Fusion Centre.

Posted on 02/29/2012 8:59 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: Do-Do-Do (Helen Morgan)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/29/2012 8:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
In Pakistan, Sunnis Attacked Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis, And Now TheShi'a

From The Times Of India:

Feb. 29, 2012

Pakistan’s mortal enemy within; it is now the turn of Shia community

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Day before yesterday, there were heart-rending scenes in Kohistan district of Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Gunmen stopped a convoy of buses, ordered selected passengers to get off and then killed 16 of them. The victims were from the minority Shia community .

Days earlier, there was another sectarian attack , in Kurram agency of Fata , that killed 26 Shias. Days before that, there was another . In fact, hardly a month passes in Pakistan without sectarian massacres. Sane people in Pakistan say the real threat to the country's social fabric does not come from India, Afghanistan, the US or the army's grip over the country's affairs.

It comes from the ideology of hate propagated freely by religious extremists. After successfully banishing Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis from mainstream society, it is now the turn of the Shias. Sectarian clashes have killed thousands of Pakistanis since 1979, as the theological differences between Shias and Sunnis have been transformed into a full-blown war.

In the 1980s, the Pakistani state had essentially allowed Wahabbi Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran to fight a proxy war on its territory. But from 1990, the tide turned against the Shias as Sunni radical thugs got tacit state support to expand their reach and resources.

The first organised sectarian agitation that engulfed the country was the movement against the Ahmadi community in 1953 led by the Jamaat-e-Islami and Majlis Khatm-e-Nabuwwat , a Sunni vigilante group. The Ahmadi issue remained dormant until 1974, when the 'progressive-minded socialist' Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government declared the Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority.

Bhutto's appeasement of the religious right was a dud in political terms. The same religious forces rallied against Bhutto's 'anti-Islamic' rule in 1977 amidst cries of 'Nizam-e-Mustafa' . Enter Gen Zia ul Haq's military dictatorship, and the country fell into a benighted era of an ideological warrior state.

Some say Gen Zia, the selfproclaimed 'Soldier of Islam' , even encouraged the bloodshed by allowing the proliferation of madrasas, which preach a narrow and violent strand of Islam, with little government oversight. Two events that shook the world in 1979 - the Islamic revolution in Iran and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - had profound implications for Pakistan .

The clergy coup in Iran catalysed Shia activism in Pakistan, thanks to Ayatollah Khomeini's enthusiasm to export the revolution. Pakistan's support, as a frontline ally of the US, of the mujahideen and foreign Wahhabi elements fighting the Red Army strengthened the Sunni extremist demand for declaring Shias non-Muslims .

Sectarian strife is the price Pakistan had to pay for its strategic follies of attempting to proxyrule Afghanistan and bleeding India in Kashmir. In the 1980s, the Shia-Sunni violence became endemic in tribal areas

In Parachinar and Hangu, areas bordering Afghanistan, sectarian strife assumed the form of a virtual tribal civil war over time, with "free use of missiles, mortars and rocket launchers" (according a report in Newsline, August 2001).

The assassination of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) founder Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi in 1990 (which avenged the murder of Allama Arif Hussain Al Hussaini, founding leader of Shia sectarian group Tehrik-e-Nifaz Fiqh Jafaria in 1986) was the turning point.

From that point, all of Pakistan was game. The Parachinar paradigm of sectarian violence - use of heavy weapons and indiscriminate killings - became the norm. With the coming to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996, and the post-9 /11 cataclysm in Pakistan, sectarian strife became a one-sided affair .

Sunni sectarian groups like the SSP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi plugged their lot with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the jihadi groups fighting in Kashmir. Now, many of these sectarians and their sympathisers morphed into voluntary foot soldiers of al Qaeda and its splinter groups, which are legion in Pakistan.

In the last 15 years or so, it has looked as if a religious cleansing in slow motion - of ridding the country of Shias - is in progress. But then, hate ideology has been pretty obvious in Pakistan's history, and inventing 'enemies of the faith' was no accident waiting to happen.

Posted on 02/29/2012 8:32 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Xinjiang/ Sinkiang: Muslims With Knives Run Amok in Market, Kill Ten; 2 Attackers Get Shot By Police

From Australia's ABC, their China correspondent Stephen McDonell, and AFP.

'12 Killed in Unrest in Western China'.

'Unrest'.   Funny how majority-Muslim countries, regions, districts and suburbs seem to be characterised by 'unrest', often involving the use of knives, guns, or explosives against civilians. - CM

'Officials in China say 12 people have been killed in an outbreak of ethnic violence in the country's west.

'Ethnic violence'.  We should, however, bear in mind that the Han are not Muslim, and the Uighur are.  This means that even if the Uighur Muslims of this region were granted independence as yet another Central Asian '-stan', jihad across the border into non-Muslim China would undoubtedly take place the moment the Muslims thought they could get away with it.  It also means that even if the Han Chinese were not the high-handed and harsh imperialists, and colonisers that they are, but treated the Uighur under their rule with the scrupulous decency and restraint with which the Jews of Israel treat the Arab Muslims within Israel and in Judea and Samaria, Muslim animosity and aggression toward the Han Chinese would not be one whit the less...indeed, it would probably be even greater than it is.  - CM

'Officials say knife-wielding ethnic Uighurs killed ten people, presumably Han Chinese, at a market in Yechenge, near Kashgar.

That is: knife-wielding Uighur Muslims killed ten people, most likely Han Chinese Infidels, at a market in Yechenge... Now, this is the official Chinese version, so one must be cautious.  However: I find nothing intrinsically unbelievable about a report of a group of Muslims with knives running amok in a market, stabbing and killing random non-Muslims.  Arab Muslims do this sort of thing quite frequently in Israel; there are more that are stopped in the nick of time.  There was also the case of Sebastian Selam, in France, a Jewish disk jockey whose Muslim colleague lured him into a deserted place and stabbed him to death.  I am aware of two recent cases in Australia of Muslim males accosting and stabbing Australian non--Muslim teenage boys; one in a park in broad daylight, one in a street in heavily-Islamised Lakemba. -  CM

'Several of the attackers were also reportedly shot dead by police.

Good. - CM

'According to official figures, in 2009 violent conflict between local Uighurs and China's dominant Han Chinese left 197 dead, mostly Han.

'Many Uighurs remain angry over the arrests or alleged disappearances of people rounded up across the region in the aftermath of the 2009 violence.

The problem for the Uighur Muslims is that those who have come to understand Islam's modus operandi grow to be sceptical of any and all Muslim claims of victimhood.  And such people also know, from an examination of the past and present practice of majority-Muslim states, that were the situations reversed - were the Muslims the imperial rulers and colonists, and the Han the colonised - Muslim rule over the Han would be even more harsh, cruel and exploitative than secular Han rule over Muslims. - CM

'In December, seven people were killed in Pishan county in what the government described as a hostage rescue operation after "terrorists" kidnapped two people.

'Exiles, however, said the incident was a conflict between regular Uighurs and policemen,

Who to believe? The Muslims or the Han Chinese regime, neither of which have much historic regard for the truth? Again, one can only extrapolate from the observable fact that wherever they are, in any situation where they are under Infidel rule, Muslims always claim to be the persecuted ones, the innocent victims acting in self-defence, yet a close scrutiny of many of the conflicts in which they are embroiled tends to reveal that they have in fact started the fight; they are masters of passive as well as active aggression.   - CM

'prompted by mounting discontent over a crackdown and religious repression in the area.

Let us bear in mind that Muslims, unless they are undisputed Top Dogs with everyone else under their boot, are always discontented.  Chinese persecution of the peaceful, harmless and entirely loyal Christian population in China is one thing.  Chinese surveillance of mosques and of Muslims, and the keeping of a tight rein on same, is quite another thing, and fully comprehensible to any person who is aware of the enormous disruption and physical and social harm that aggressive and expanding and cravenly appeased Mohammedan colonists are causing all over the Western world and beyond it in places like Christian Africa.  - CM

'The region was also hit by three deadly attacks last July that left dozens dead.

'The Chinese government blames much of the violence in the resource-rich region on what it calls the three "evil forces" of extremism, separatism, and terrorism.

I wouldn't have expected the Chinese, of all people, to dodge the real issue like that.  Why is it so hard for Infidels to spit out the words 'Muslim', 'Islam' and 'Jihad'?  It is not until the final paragraph that we get the the usual ritual disclaimer.

'But some experts (which experts? - can we have some names, please, AFP, Mr McDonell? - CM) doubt terror cells operate in Xinjiang, where Turkic-speaking Uighurs practise a moderate form of Islam".

I suspect that the putative absence of (or, more probably, low profile currently being deployed by) 'terror cells' (that is, of out and out jihad gangs) is most likely due primarily to the close scrutiny and harsh security measures employed by the Chinese non-Muslim state, rather than to any special degree of 'moderation' in the Uighur practice of Islam.  If the Uighur recite and study the Quran they will know the Verse of the Sword, and all the other verses that inculcate hatred of the Infidel and exhort the Believers to engage in Jihad.  But they will also know about taqiyya; about those verses that advise the keeping of a low profile, and the permissibility of pretending 'friendship' - smiling whilst harbouring hatred in the heart - in situations where the surrounding Infidels are as yet too strong and too wary to be subdued by open assault. - CM

Posted on 02/29/2012 6:31 PM by Christina McIntosh
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Hitch Reconsidered

by Richard Kostelanetz (March 2012)

Saddened to read of the passing of Christopher Hitchens, I think of him as less of a truth-teller in the tradition of George Orwell, a hero we share, than a controversialist who espoused audacious opinions in a fluent style. Since he didn’t seek to persuade as much as show off his highly literate, moderately contrarian sensibility, the magazines publishing him exploited this flair. As a result, readers liked him when they found his strong opinions agreeable; disliked him when disagreeable. To put it differently, different people were enthusiastic about him, as well as disappointed in him, at different times. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:51 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
A Bishop and Three Pawns

by G. Murphy Donovan (March 2012)

"Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you." 
- Langston Hughes

The American presidential debates this year have often resembled circular firing squads, aided and abetted by a generous Republican establishment. John McCain and Elliot Abrams have redefined bipartisanship; both seem to be doing opposition research for the Democratic National Committee. Each has provided some swell one-liners for an Obama Gatling gun should any Republicans survive. Yes, the entire elephant herd may be gone by the time the general election rolls around. So in the interests of common sense and economy, the 2012 election should be cancelled so America can get on with the quest for some pot in every pan. Do the math! more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:45 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Which Is The Ross We Have To Bear?

A  former drug dealer, one Rick Ross,  sues a rapper, another Rick Ross, for exploiting his good name:

'Freeway' Rick Ross Trial Date Set, Calls Rapper Rick Ross a 'Complete Idiot' 

by Theo Bark

Feb. 29,.2912

Former Los Angeles drug kingpin "Freeway" Rick Ross continues to seek justice in his case against rapper Rick Ross, whom he claims is unlawfully profiting from his name and reputation.

After the lawsuit was initially thrown out in 2010, the case was reopened in California and Ross now has a trial date set for early May in Los Angeles. The infamous drug dealer-turned-community advocate sat down with The BoomBox to discuss the trial, calling his rapper namesake a "clown" and a "complete idiot," and revealing that, while he once had "a little respect" for Rick Ross, upon reading his deposition, he has "zero respect for him now."

What's the news with the trial?

We've been doing depositions everyday for the last month, just about. I heard some really interesting testimony, probably the most interesting was the rapper, he showed me how big a clown he is. I had a little respect for him, but after I saw his deposition, I have zero respect for him now. I think he's a complete idiot. It's a disgrace for me to have someone like this with my name. He doesn't know what the name stands for, or how I got my name. He thinks that this name belongs to some big mafia guy who don't care about nothing but himself and really, he's just a pig.

If you have an opportunity to set him straight, what would you say?

That's he's totally lost. The way he's going now, he's going to destroy it all for himself and find his career in the dump and not know why. A lot of people don't really understand how I've been able to stay relevant for 30 years. It's because I love people, and when you love people, they love you back. You can't go around spitting in people's faces, thinking that no one is going to pull your card.

Does it surprise you that so many rappers still associate with him?

Well, most of them are just like he is. That's why they can go and cut up a $400,000 car and we got kids in the streets that's hungry. I couldn't live like that. I sold drugs because I thought that was my only option. I know what it's like not to have food in the refrigerator. These guys come from good backgrounds, they're lying that they were illiterate. You can go check my school record, I was illiterate. I'm not bragging about that though, but that's what it really is. To have somebody who went to college and whose moms had a good job then turn around and claim poverty and illiteracy, it's totally ludicrous.

Yeah, that's what rap is now, a generation of kids trying to act like they're more hard up than they are -- from the rappers to the fans.

Exactly. All the stuff that they rap about is like, "I'm going to take your girl." Can you imagine, a guy coming up to me and telling me he's going to take my girl? And then, if my girl went with him, how would I feel about her? These guys rap like that and people still support them. They're not rapping about "What's going on, brother?" "Keep on pushing." Their message and my message are totally different. When I sold drugs, even when I sold drugs, I told people not to use them. I knew that when I sold drugs I was taking a life and death chance.

So what's next then, now that you have a trial date?

We're still going to be doing depositions for the next couple weeks. The judge ruled that she's going to make this a public trial. As soon as she makes the final ruling, I'll be releasing William Roberts' [aka Rick Ross] deposition publicly. I can't wait, so everyone can see what a clown he is. The way he clowned me. He shook all the white people's hand in the room and totally disrespected me in the room. When they get to see some of the things he says on camera ... I couldn't believe some of the things he said on camera. Let the world see it.
Posted on 02/29/2012 2:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
A Vindication of Natural Society

by David Hamilton (March 2012)

We are not merely natural but we are natural in the sense that our lives are held together by emotional relationships rather than ideologies and the numinous things in life like art and religion and a need for countryside as well as beautiful landscapes. We are natural in the sense that we form emotional relationships, families and communities and need our countryside as solace or relief. A varied and open countryside is beneficial to the physical and mental health of the population. We have a duty to pass on the environment we have inherited to our children, as they, in turn, will have a duty to pass it on to their children. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:37 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
In A Promised Land

by Geoffrey Clarfield (March 2012)

When I was twenty six years old I went to Jerusalem to learn Hebrew. I arrived at Ben Gurion airport on the humid coastal plain, where a taxi from the Jewish Agency had been designated to collect me and a number of other potential immigrants to the Jewish State. An elderly volunteer of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) greeted us. He checked the list of arrivals and then made sure we were all in the cab for the trip up to the capital city. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:32 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Debts & Democracy: Hungary Builds an EU Autocracy

by Thomas Ország-Land (March 2012)

Heavily indebted Hungary is heading for the rocks, endangering the fragile economies of fellow EU member countries. Bankruptcy may still be averted by an emergency injection of billions of Euros. But that could ensure the indefinite rule of a populist, authoritarian Hungarian leader who has already laid the legal infrastructure to  turn his nascent, post-Soviet democracy into a repressive state reminiscent of the Communist and Fascist models.

VIKTOR Orbán, the ultra-Conservative, populist Hungarian prime minister, astonished the world financial markets on assuming power in April 2010 by declaring that his post-Communist predecessors had cooked the books and brought the national economy to the edge of collapse. His claim was quickly exposed as an inept negotiating ploy to obtain easy cash from lending institutions eager to contain the mounting debt crisis of the European Union (EU) of which Hungary is a member. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:26 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: The Lone Ranger (Theme Song)
Watch, and listen, here.
Posted on 02/29/2012 2:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Israel and the US Face the Realities of the Arab Spring and Nuclear Iran

by Jerry Gordon and Mike Bates (March 2012)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu meets President Obama in Washington on March 5th for discussions. There is yet another emerging impasse on which option to pursue with a truculent nuclear Iran and concerns about the rise of an Islamist alliance in Syria should the brutal Assad regime be toppled. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:19 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Swedish Conditions, Or, Something is Rotten in the State of Sweden

(with apologies to William Shakespeare who got it wrong in Hamlet; Act I Scene 4)

by Lars Hedegaard, translated by Norman Berdichevsky (March 2012)

A preface by the translator, Dr. Norman Berdichevsky, author of An Introduction to Danish Culture.

Americans generally have an idyllic picture of the Scandinavian countries especially with regard to democratic institutions, human rights and civil liberties. Nevertheless, the debilitating effects of massive Muslim immigration and political correctness in Sweden have become increasingly apparent and raised considerable unease in nearby Denmark. An important consideration to bear in mind is that while Denmark is a member of NATO, Sweden has a long tradition of neutrality (that included close economic cooperation with Nazi Germany during the first few years of World War II). Sweden has distanced itself not only from the sentiments of Scandinavian cooperation, Western civilization, Judeo-Christian tradition respect for women and the fundamental rights of free speech and expression but is openly pandering to Islamist isolationist resistance to integration within Swedish society. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:12 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Woodstock and the Invention of the Human

by David P. Gontar (March 2012)

There is in the British Museum an old and sere manuscript, long abandoned, just now coming to the attention of scholars. (Alexander) It may hold the key to the formation of the modern self. A mere sheaf of paper bearing no title, it is one of a group of anonymous Tudor plays classified impersonally as "Egerton 1994." (Jimenez) It is, in fact, an English renaissance drama set in the era immediately preceding the events depicted in Shakespeare's King Richard II. Scholars dub it either "Thomas of Woodstock" or "Richard II, Part One." We will refer to it simply as "Woodstock." more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:02 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
American Drones In The Philippines
 Southeast Asia
     Feb 29, 2012

US drones circle over the Philippines
By Jacob Zenn

A United States-supported airstrike that destroyed with causalities an Abu Sayyaf hideout on the remote island of Jolo in the southern Philippines represented the first known use of the unmanned aerial assault craft in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) counter-insurgency operations against terrorism-linked rebel groups.

The drone attack early this month reportedly killed 15 Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah operatives, including three most-wanted terrorist leaders - Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan), Gumbahali Jumdail (alias Doc Abu), and Mumanda Ali (alias Muawayah) - and raised the level of US-Philippine military cooperation.

Marwan was the most wanted foreign terrorist in the Philippines, with the US State Department offering a US$5 million reward for information leading to his capture. A Malaysian national, he was


formerly a member of the Indonesia-based JI's central command, known as the markaziyah, and a founder of the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia, an organization comprised mostly of former Soviet-era Afghan mujahideen who advocated for the overthrow of then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed's government and the creation of an Islamic State.

In 2002, Marwan fled from Malaysia to Indonesia, where he reportedly conspired in the October 12, 2002, bombings on the resort island of Bali with the help of his older brother, Rahmat, who reportedly provided him with radios and cash used in carrying out the attack.

In August 2003, Marwan fled to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where he received the protection of Abu Sayyaf and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Since then, he was based in southern Mindanao training Abu Sayyaf members in explosives, according to news reports.

Muawayah was a Singaporean military officer of Indian descent who also allegedly participated in the 2002 Bali bombing and had a $50,000 reward for his arrest offered by the US. Like Umar Patek, the JI operative who was captured in Pakistan half a year before Osama Bin Laden's assassination, Marwan and Muawayah are known to have maintained contacts with Al Qaeda cells operating in Asia and the Middle East while they trained local fighters in the jungles of southern Mindanao.

Doc Abu, a member of Mindanao's Tausug ethnic group, was one of Abu Sayyaf's most senior figures and had outstanding warrants for his arrest for 21 counts of kidnapping, including in Sipadan, Malaysia in 2000 and at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, Philippines in 2001. His alias, Doc Abu, was derived from the time he spent as a medic for the rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) until it signed a 1996 peace pact with the government. After 1996, he joined Abu Sayyaf and emerged as one of its commanders.

The trio's precise location was uncovered when local villagers reported their presence to the Philippine military. The villagers may have been part of a known AFP program in Mindanao where locals are hired to work undercover to track down Abu Sayyaf and JI militants. Aware that Jumdail has previously portrayed himself as a doctor when hiding out in local villages, they traveled to the village where Doc Abu was staying and pretended to seek medical treatment. The villagers then left a sensor at his hideout that was used to pinpoint the coordinates for the aerial attack.

Tracking Doc Abu, Marwan, and Muawayah was also made possible by months of AFP intelligence gathering, which in a separate air strike on October 2011 killed Marwan's aide, Madarang Sali, and three other Abu Sayyaf fighters. Marwan and Muawayah managed to escape the earlier assault, which is believed to have been launched by a Filipino manned assault craft.
Help from above
The aerial strike was significant not only because it killed three top JI and Abu Sayyaf leaders but also because it underscored the effectiveness of the AFP's adoption of drones in its battle against Mindanao-based terror groups. The AFP has traditionally relied on ground operations against terror groups, exercises that retired Lt Gen Benjamin Dolorfino recently referred to as "counter-productive" because they "cause locals to have negative perceptions of the military".

As history has shown, ground operations carry the risk of ambush and massive displacement of civilian populations. Most recently, on October 18, 2011, 100 MILF fighters reinforced Abu Sayyaf operatives in a battle where 13 AFP special force troops were killed. In contrast to previous years, where the AFP's counter-insurgency operations have often alienated local villagers, advocates of the drone strike on Doc Abu, Marwan, and Muawayah note that it was facilitated through the assistance and cooperation of local villagers.

The airstrike, which was reported to have been US-led and launched by a drone that tracked the sensor planted at the Abu Sayyaf hideout, has however raised political hackles in Manila. One Philippine representative, Luz Ilagan, has called for the abrogation of the US Visiting Forces Agreement and an end to US military intervention in national affairs in the wake the attack. That agreement bans the US, the Philippines' former colonial ruler, from establishing permanent military bases in the country.

Ilagan has since called for a probe into what she referred to as the "extensive and intensive intrusion of the US military in AFP operations". She also said, "If these reports are true, then US troops are participating in and conducting operations beyond what is allowed in the Visiting Forces Agreement and directly transgressing our sovereignty. More importantly, their participation in these operations is a potential magnet for the Philippines' participation in a brewing US-instigated regional conflict."

Underscoring the still strong nationalist sentiment against US troops being stationed on Philippine soil, Ilagan's opposition to US involvement in the fight against Abu Sayyaf comes despite the fact that she is a former victim of the group's terror tactics. She was wounded in the November 2007 bombing of the National Assembly in Quezon City, which killed one of Ilagan's staff members, her driver and a fellow congressional representative.

The Philippines National Police claimed that Abu Sayyaf was responsible for the bombing, though that interpretation has since been contested.

Certain congressional representatives believe that the country's security forces exploit the Abu Sayyaf for their own purposes - in this case to boost military ties with the US in a wider bid to counterbalance China - at the expense of national sovereignty. Despite Ilagan's and other nationalist group protests, the US has already announced plans to increase its fleet of unmanned drones by 30% in the Philippines.

As in Somalia and other conflict zones, drones will reportedly be deployed to help the US and AFP locate kidnapping victims, such as Warren Rodwell, an Australian national who has been held by Abu Sayyaf since December 2011, thus extending the unmanned vehicle's use beyond targeted assassinations towards search and rescue-type missions.

Posted on 02/29/2012 2:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
The Age of the Grand Hotel

In History and Culture

by Sam Bluefarb
(March 2012)

Many years ago, on our way home from Israel, my wife and I decided to return to California by way of a week’s stopover in Spain. After a few days in Madrid, we flew north to San Sebastian, Basque country, not far from the Pamplona of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926) and Death in the Afternoon (1932). more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 1:54 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Philippe Karsenty, The Cours De Cassation, And The Al-Dura Mise-En-Scene

Contrary to the recommendation of the advocate general, advising the court to reject the appeal filed by Charles Enderlin and France 2, the Court of Cassation [France’s highest court] nullified the acquittal pronounced by the Appellate Court of Paris on May 21, 2008.

The nullification, which is disciplinary and based on a legal technicality, does not prejudge the outcome: the Court of Cassation deems that the Appellate Court of Paris could not order France 2 to show the raw footage containing images that were not broadcast by France 2. However, the legal criteria of my good faith – quality of the investigation, absence of personal animosity, legitimacy of aim and purpose, prudent and measured expression – were not challenged.

Charles Enderlin, France 2, and I will find ourselves in court again at an undetermined date to plead our cases in the al-Dura affair. The case will be heard again in the Appellate Court of Paris, by a different panel of judges convened to reexamine the facts.

I serenely anticipate the hearing that will allow me to present once more to the court and concerned media the demonstration that France 2 broadcast a staged scene as news on September 30, 2000.

In more than eleven years of controversy, we have brought dozens of pieces of evidence and scientific expertise showing that the scene was staged, whereas France 2, Charles Enderlin, and their cameraman have never been able to prove the veracity of their reportage. Further, it has been revealed through a succession of court cases  that France 2, Charles Enderlin, his cameraman, and the father of young Mohammed have lied on several occasions to cover their media fraud.

I have presented the al-Dura affair in many journalism schools and festivals, in prestigious European and American universities, before the Senate and the House of Lords; no one has ever succeeded in refuting the evidence of a staged scene.

I call upon open-minded people to pursue the search for the truth. This is a combat for the honor of the journalistic profession, for justice, for democracy and against disinformation; a combat against the murderous anti-Semitism conveyed by this reportage. I ask those who in good faith believed the narration imposed by this reportage to simply examine the facts without prejudgment.

It is the uncompromising establishment of the truth that will contribute to the sorely needed peace, tolerance, and friendship among people and nations.

Philippe Karsenty, February 29, 2012.

Posted on 02/29/2012 1:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
A Most Glorious Attic

by Janet Tassel (March 2012)

Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
By Adina Hoffman & Peter Cole
Jewish Encounters/Schocken, 284 pp.

In the days of Queen Victoria, there roamed the earth a certain type of Englishwoman: Intrepid, adventurous, utterly undaunted, these ladies bustled fearlessly and eagerly to the most uncomfortable and often dangerous corners of the world, took and developed their own photographs, spoke a multitude of languages, rode camels, climbed mountains, and then came home to write books about their exploits. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 1:49 PM by NER
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
The Attack Within by Elwyn Jones - the parallels with Hitler and Islam, and 1939 and 2012

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (March 2012)

It is frequently mentioned that Adolf Hitler admired Islam. The remark usually produced in evidence is from the book of his ‘table talk’, when over dinner his acolytes in the inner party hung on his every word.  That evening he said something to the effect that Charles Martel’s victory at Tours in 732 which stopped Islam’s advance into Western Europe was a tragedy. In his opinion had the Teutonic races received Islam with its war ethos at the very beginning they would have been the Masters of the Universe long since. more>>>

Posted on 02/29/2012 1:44 PM by NER
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