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Showing posts from January, 2011

The ElBaradei lobby

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Image via WikipediaUSA Today:

Mohamed ElBaradei rising as possible new Egypt president
He would be a poor choice.  He has no experience as a chief executive and he botched his gig as a nuke inspector letting Iran off the hook.  The religious bigots are pleased to see him rising.

To me he has always looked and acted like he was the model for the potato head toy. 
Related articles'The Muslim Brotherhood is Much Stronger Than Mohamed ElBaradei' (littlegreenfootballs.com)Mohamed ElBaradei: The man who would be President (independent.co.uk)

UK Foreign Office told Libya how to game system to release mass murder

Telegraph:

A Foreign Office minister sent Libyan officials detailed legal advice on how to use Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s cancer diagnosis to ensure he was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.
The Duke of York is also said to have played a behind-the-scenes role in encouraging the terrorist’s release.
The Libyans closely followed the advice which led to the controversial release of Megrahi – who was convicted of the murder of 270 passengers on Pan Am Flight 103 – within months of the Foreign Office’s secret intervention.
The disclosure seriously undermines British Government claims that is was not complicit in the release of al-Megrahi, and that the decision to free the convicted terrorist was taken by the Scottish Executive alone.
...The British knack for understatement is on displace in the last quoted paragraph. The credibility of both the British and Scottish rational for such a irrational act has been in tatters for some ti…

The Putin-Medvedev life of luxury

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Image via WikipediaIndependent:

Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev share between them at least two dozen palaces, villas and mansions, according to a respected Russian magazine, in a report that is likely to reignite a debate about privileges enjoyed by the ruling duo.

The Russian liberal media and blogosphere have been alive with discussion about possible secret residences belonging to the two since a businessman in December accused Mr Putin, the Prime Minister, of building a £600m palace on the shores of the Black Sea for his own personal use.

The magazine Kommersant Dengi reported yesterday that given the Russian regime's opacity, it was impossible to tell how many residences the President and Prime Minister had access to, but noted that some estimates gave Mr Putin 26 separate places to live in. The magazine itself counted 24 residences that could be used by the pair, including six that are only rumoured to be for presidential use. The list contains castles, dachas, palaces, a …

Assange does not care if Taliban murder those who help US

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Image via WikipediaDaily Mail:

Julian Assange said U.S. informants named in secret cables 'deserved' to be killed and initially refused to redact their names, a new book has revealed.

WikiLeaks published thousands of names of Afghans in 77,000 classified war files put on the whistle-blowing website, attracting criticism from international charities and governments.

In later releases of secret U.S. embassy cables in November around 15 per cent of files were withheld to protect lives and every file was checked before release.

Amnesty International said in a letter to WikiLeaks last year that all names in Afghan war logs should be redacted.

'We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathizing with international forces,' it said.

Assange's apparent gung-ho attitude in an early meeting to naming to naming U.S. informants stunned his media collaborators, the new book claimed.

The title said he told internat…

Doctors in Cuba's killer health care system sentenced

BBC:

The director of a psychiatric hospital in Cuba where 26 patients died from hypothermia last year has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Twelve other staff at the hospital in the capital Havana also received sentences of between five and 14 years.

Critics of the government say the deaths exposed failings in Cuba's health system, which the communist authorities hail as a top achievement.

The tribunal said the accused were guilty of neglect.

The patients died of hypothermia and other ailments during a spell of unusually cold weather in January 2010.

...While these people may deserve punishment, where was the government oversight? I suspect there was none and the harsh sentences were a way of distracting the people from that fact.

Egyptian commerce at stand still

NY Times:

Egypt’s economy approached paralysis on Monday as foreign commerce, tourism and banking all but halted, placing acute pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to find a way out of the weeklong chaos and move toward an orderly transition.

International companies closed plants and sent workers home or out of the country; food staples went undelivered to stores; and banks remained closed during a week when many Egyptians, who are routinely paid monthly, would receive their paychecks.

A major ratings agency cut the country’s bond rating, while shortages led to rising prices. And poorer Egyptians told of cutting back to just two meals a day to cope.

The protests’ crippling effects could give Mr. Mubarak and his new cabinet perhaps only a few weeks to re-establish order before shortages, rising unemployment and a deep crisis set in, economists said.

...I suspect this lack of commerce puts more stress on the demonstrators who will be short of food and other essentials pretty soon. The…

Syria worried it maybe next

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Image via WikipediaWashington Times:

Syrian President Bashar Assad is talking publicly about government reform as his countrymen prepare for anti-regime protests in the wake of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“If you didn’t see the need of reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s too late to do any reform,” the Syrian leader said in a rare interview published Monday on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

He mentioned one planned law that would create municipal elections and another that would liberalize Syria‘s draconian restrictions on civil society groups, though he spoke mostly in generalities.

Mr. Assad said he does not fear an uprising, claiming that his government, which supports the Islamist militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, is “very closely linked to the beliefs of the people.”

Syria has been under emergency law since 1963, allowing it to suspend certain rights, including freedom of assembly. Most human rights activists consider it one of the mor…

Obamacare ruled unconstitutional

NY Times:

A second federal judge ruled on Monday that it was unconstitutional for Congress to enact a health care law that requires Americans to obtain commercial insurance, evening the score at two-to-two in the lower courts as conflicting opinions begin their path to the Supreme Court.

Like a Virginia judge in December, Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., said he would allow the law to remain in effect while the Obama administration appeals his ruling, a process that could take two years. But unlike his Virginia counterpart, Judge Vinson ruled that the entire health care act should fall if the appellate courts join him in invalidating the insurance requirement.

“The act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker,” Judge Vinson wrote.

In a 78-page opinion, Judge Vinson held that the insurance requirement exceeds the regulatory powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Consti…

Who knew?

Is there anything global warming can't do?

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Majority say GOP should take heed of Tea Party positions

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Image via WikipediaAndrew Malcolm:

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A new Gallup Poll out this morning finds that 71% of Americans, even many who do not think highly of the "tea party," say it's important that Republicans should take the its positions into account.

Gallup appears puzzled by its findings: While only 6% of Democrats call themselves "tea party" supporters and only 11% hold a favorable view of it, more than half of Democrats still....
... think it's important the GOP work the movement's views into Republican programs. Perhaps some hope the tea party will help weaken the GOP, despite increasing support for the tea party's fiscal conservatism as deficit fears mount. Among Republicans, not surprisingly, 88% say including the tea party is at least somewhat important, while a majority (53%) say it's very important.

Last week, you'll remember, the "tea party" even had its own short response to Obama's State of the Union speech, given by…

The problem with the Muslim Brotherhood

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Cover via AmazonAndrew McCarthy:

At the Daily Beast, Bruce Riedel has posted an essay called “Don’t fear Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” the classic, conventional-wisdom response to the crisis in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is just fine, he’d have you believe, no need to worry. After all, the Brothers have even renounced violence!

One might wonder how an organization can be thought to have renounced violence when it has inspired more jihadists than any other, and when its Palestinian branch, the Islamic Resistance Movement, is probably more familiar to you by the name Hamas — a terrorist organization committed by charter to the violent destruction of Israel. Indeed, in recent years, the Brotherhood (a.k.a., the Ikhwan) has enthusiastically praised jihad and even applauded — albeit in more muted tones — Osama bin Laden. None of that, though, is an obstacle for Mr. Riedel, a former CIA officer who is now a Brookings scholar and Obama administration national-security adviser. Following…

Texas should allow school districts to furlough teachers

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Image via WikipediaHouston Chronicle:

School districts should be allowed to give teachers unpaid furloughs and cut their salaries to help deal with a funding shortfall that one estimate says could cost 100,000 jobs, a leading state senator says. State Senate Education Committee Chairman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said the layoff projection could be whittled if school districts could take less drastic steps, an area she said loosening state restrictions could help temper the effects of a budget shortfall.

Under starting-point state budget proposals filed by legislative leaders, school districts would get $9.3 billion to $9.8 billion less through the next two years than under current funding formulas to cover enrollment increases and a projected drop in local revenue due to lower property values.

One expert has estimated the higher figure could cost up to 100,000 school district jobs in Texas through the next two years.

“One of those burdens that we have placed on our school districts is…

Israel not the problem in Middle East

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Image via WikipediaJohn Podhoretz:

The anti-Mubarak revolution won't only topple an authoritarian regime. It will also topple 40-plus years of wrong-headed thinking about the causes of Middle East instability among the world's foreign-policy cognoscenti.

In that view, the horrible relationship between Israel and the Arabs is the dominant issue for the Near East's 20-plus nations and its 250-million-plus people -- and the root cause of the region's tempestuousness.

But now that Tunisia's street revolt against a corrupt dictatorial regime has led to Egypt's similar revolt only in a matter of weeks, with God knows what to follow elsewhere, the plain truth can no longer be denied: Israel is a sideshow.

The idea that the rest of the world was somehow being held hostage by the Arab-Israeli conflict once had a minimal basis in reality. In the first 20 years of Israel's existence, every Arab country was in an active state of war with the Jewish state. But one of the…

Newt Gingrich sells soul to ethanol vote in Iowa

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Image by Getty Images via @daylifeOpinion Journal:

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The former Speaker blew through Des Moines last Tuesday for the Renewable Fuels Association summit, and his keynote speech to the ethanol lobby was as pious a tribute to the fuel made from corn and tax dollars as we've ever heard. Mr. Gingrich explained that "the big-city attacks" on ethanol subsidies are really attempts to deny prosperity to rural America, adding that "Obviously big urban newspapers want to kill it because it's working, and you wonder, 'What are their values?'"

Mr. Gingrich traced the roots of these supposed antipathies to the 1880s, an observation that he repeatedly tendered "as an historian." The Ph.D. and star pupil of futurist Alvin Toffler then singled out the Journal's long-held anti-ethanol views as "just plain flat intellectually wrong."

Mr. Gingrich is right that ethanol poses an intellectual problem, but it has nothing to do with a culture war b…

Yemen sees resistance to revolution

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Image via WikipediaWashington Post:

The pro-democracy protesters marched through the dusty streets of this Middle Eastern capital, voicing hope that the revolution unfolding in the Arab world would soon reach them.

"Yesterday, Tunisia. Today, Egypt. Tomorrow, Yemen," they shouted, trying to make their way to the Egyptian embassy.

But the small march on Saturday never reached its intended target. A line of police stopped the protesters; then a loud, unruly crowd of pro-government supporters emerged, and the two groups clashed. The protesters soon vanished, their voices muffled by pro-government chants.

...It appears the government in Yemen is still able to round up a rent a mob to chase those looking for "change." That could change too. Yemen is now the home of one of the most active if not effective terrorist groups associated with al Qaeda the Egyptian Brotherhood spinoff. I think the group will still try to stir organized resistance to the government.
R…

News you can use

From the Houston Chronicle:

Therapist: Sex is better if your team wins Super Bowl
The Super Bowl looks like a lose-lose proposition for me, since I do not have a team in it this year.  The Prairie Wife is a Packer fan, though.

Another anti energy propaganda film at the Oscars

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Image by ltmayers via FlickrMark Hemingway:

For anyone who cares about the environment and the economy over glamour and gossip, the biggest Oscar surprise of 2011 is that the film "Gasland" was nominated for best documentary.

While Hollywood is typically in the business of creating legends, one would expect films nominated for this particular Oscar to have some tangible relationship to the truth. You'd be very hard-pressed to say that about "Gasland."

The film explores the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." This is a process in which a solution that is 99 percent water and sand -- along with tiny amounts of chemicals -- is pumped into rock strata deep underground at very high pressure to help extract natural gas.

According to Gasland, fracking pollutes groundwater with terrible consequences. But there's no credible evidence that this is happening. None.

Oil and natural gas engineers have used this process more than a million times in …

California's 'green chemistry' movement, moving jobs to Texas

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Image via WikipediaHugh Hewitt:

"Green chemistry" isn't just a slogan. It is a full employment concept for government regulators and private-sector lawyers that will have the effect of costing American business billions even as it produces minimal benefits for consumers. Just like "global warming" and "clean energy," "green chemistry" is a phrase containing worlds within it, almost all of them dangerous or downright deadly to market-driven innovation and productivity.

We are entering the third decade of the "green chemistry" movement, and a handy guide to its history is in Katharine Sanderson's article in the Jan. 6 issue of Nature.

The would-be regulators of all chemistry have not had an easy time of it these past 20 years. Anderson quotes a proponent of the movement as telling her that "a mention of green chemistry in a gathering of chemists can still provoke sighs and eye-rolling."

Among government bureaucrats eager…

ElBaradei not the answer for Egypt

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Image via WikipediaClaudia Rosett:

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Beware. ElBaradei is no Aung San Suu Kyi. As head of the IAEA, ElBaradei often looked like a shill for Iran — repeatedly glossing over obvious signs of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, obfuscating the realities, and delaying action. In the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick gives a good rundown of how, in the U.S. effort to corral Iran’s nuclear program, ElBaradei was not part of the answer, but part of the problem. Glick also describes ElBaradei’s cozy relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood — progenitor of al-Qaeda and Hamas — quoting him as giving a recent interview to Der Spiegel in which he claimed the Muslim Brotherhood has “not committed any acts of violence in five decades.”

...The Muslim Brotherhood spawned the Hamas death cult and al Qaeda. They may be its proxies much like Hezballah is an Iranian proxy. If he can't see that or is just spouting their propaganda he is not qualified to lead any country.
Related articlesAnd…

Stage coach was faster than electric car between London and Edinburgh

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Image by roberthuffstutter via FlickrChristopher Booker:

In its obsessive desire to promote the virtues of electric cars, the BBC proudly showed us last week how its reporter Brian Milligan was able to drive an electric Mini from London to Edinburgh in a mere four days – with nine stops of up to 10 hours to recharge the batteries (with electricity from fossil fuels).

What the BBC omitted to tell us was that in the 1830s, a stagecoach was able to make the same journey in half the time, with two days and nights of continuous driving. This did require 50 stops to change horses, but each of these took only two minutes, giving a total stopping time of just over an hour and a half.

...That does not give much time for a restroom break. Both trips sound like something to be endured and not enjoyed. I would rather be in a car that does not need more than a five or 10 minute fuel break, which is plenty of time to visit the head wash up and buy a sandwich to eat on the way.
Related artic…

What the Muslim Brotherhood wants in Egypt

They are a cleverly deceitful group.

GOP to push Dems into vote on EPA rules

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Image via WikipediaThe Hill:

Republicans are banking on the looming 2012 election to provide a political boost for their efforts to undercut the Environmental Protection Agency's pending climate change rules this year.

While a bill blocking EPA’s climate authority is likely to pass the House, the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled Senate, as well as a potential veto from President Obama.

Still, Republicans are planning to push forward with the legislation, hoping that the threat of the 2012 elections will yield support from vulnerable Democrats in states that will be most affected by EPA rules. Even if the bill ultimately fails to become law, Republicans will attempt to force a vote on the issue in order to get Democrats on the record in anticipation of next year’s election.

“This is going to be a year to shape legislation in terms of the presidential race in 2012,” a Senate Republican aide involved with efforts to block EPA climate rules said, arguing th…

The Saudi Arabian flood plain

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Image via WikipediaSeveral Saudi cities have been hit with flooding in the last year including Jeddah in recent days.  The Saudis realize they need a plan for rainwater drainage.  The folks from the same city that made them rich have engineers who know how to deal with a flood plain and drainage scheme.  They should contact someone in Houston, Texas for a referral.

You don't ordinarily need to be concerned with flooding the the desert.  The Saudis have found out that you do need to worry about it.

Advice from the banker

A man visits his bank manager and says, "How do I start a small business?" The manager replies, "Start a large one and wait six months."

From the Guardian--Jokes about bankers.

Brit bomb hunters in Helmand

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Image via WikipediaTelegraph:

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It is around 8pm and the soldiers have finished their evening meal, a chicken curry followed by semi-frozen Black Forest gateau, all washed down with an orange-coloured, sickly sweet squash. Curry is an Army staple. The soldiers in Camp Bastion are offered it as a menu choice every day, but in Shawqat curry is a rarity and always a crowd-puller. It’s comfort food, it reminds the soldiers of home.

The bunker is lit by a series of low-hanging florescent lights emitting a dull-greenish hue. On one wall is an electric flycatcher, which periodically spits out a series of cracks every time a fly is zapped. The previous evening soldiers were betting on how many flies would be killed in one, five and 10 minutes.

A 50-inch flatscreen television fills a wall at one end of the building, where three young soldiers sit engrossed in The Hurt Locker. It’s one of the many oddities of life in Helmand that many soldiers appear to relax by watching war films or playing v…

Mubarak's choices

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Image via WikipediaStephen Hadley:

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At present, the two most probable outcomes of the current crisis are a lame-duck Mubarak administration or a Mubarak departure from power in favor of a transitional government backed by the Egyptian military.

Under the first outcome, President Mubarak rides out the current crisis. Presidential elections are expected in September of this year. It seems unlikely that either President Mubarak or his son Gamal will conclude that under current circumstances they can run and win. That will leave President Mubarak presiding over a lame-duck administration. The issue will be whether he seeks to transfer power to another authoritarian strongman backed by the army or dramatically changes course and uses the upcoming presidential election to create a democratic transition for his country.

The precedents for this latter outcome are few but not nonexistent. It is essentially the role that the Bush administration urged on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, w…

Taliban 'killing their own' in Sangin after losing control to Marines

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Image via WikipediaIndependent:

Taliban gunmen have begun assassinating their own rank and file in a desperate bid to stop a remote mountain valley sliding from their grasp, as well as bringing in new commanders to oversee their fightback in Sangin, Afghanistan's most violent district, The Independent can reveal.

They are also attacking tribal elders trying to broker a peace deal between disillusioned members of the insurgency – resentful of Taliban commanders from other tribes and districts ordering them about – and government officials eager for peace.

Speaking by phone, a tribal elder in the upper Sangin valley said Taliban gunmen ambushed an elder from the Alokozai tribe called Badar Agha as he left home for morning prayers earlier this month. Aware an attempt on his life was likely, the elder shot back with his Kalashnikov, apparently wounding an assailant before being taken to hospital for medical treatment.

Two local Taliban commanders known to be sympathetic to a détente we…

Egyptian army not turning its guns on people--yet

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Image via WikipediaWashington Post:

The Egyptian military moved on multiple fronts Sunday to display its strength and consolidate support as factions within the government and on the street vied for control of this strategically vital nation at the heart of the Arab world.

With pro-democracy demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak for a sixth day, the military sent conflicting signals about where its loyalties lie. On the streets, soldiers curried favor with demonstrators. But F-16 fighter jets streaked through the sky, and in images on state-run television, the nation's military brass appeared alongside the embattled president.

All across Egypt, troops in tanks fanned out to work with residents in chasing down marauding bands of knife-wielding thugs and to impose some semblance of order after the nearly complete disappearance of uniformed Egyptian police.

Egyptians of all political persuasions accused the much-maligned police of being behind a campaign …

US exports tear gas used by Egypt

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Image via WikipediaNY Daily News:

Tear gas being used by the country's police on protesters in Cairo was made in the U.S., according to multiple reports.

Several canisters were recovered from a downtown square in the country's capital with labels reading "Made in U.S.A." It also warned those who come near the gas to "seek assistance as soon as possible," ABC News reported.

...How is that for advertising exports. That is sure to win new customers. The good news is that most of the people picking up the canisters cannot read English.
Related articlesEgyptian Police Using U.S.-Made Tear Gas Against Demonstrators... (abcnews.go.com)Controversial tear gas canisters made in the USA (cnn.com)Egypt: Those tear-gas canisters say "Made in U.S.A." (blogs.berkeley.edu)

Islamic radical returns to Tunisia

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Image via WikipediaAFP:

Thousands turned out Sunday to welcome Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi after more than 20 years in exile, as he eyed a political future for his Ennahda movement after the fall of Tunisia's regime.

"God is great!" Ghannouchi cried out, raising his arms in triumph as he walked into the arrivals hall of Tunis airport, with thousands of cheering supporters crowding around him before driving off to visit his family.

The crowd intoned a religious song in honour of the Prophet Mohammed, as supporters held up olive branches, flowers and copies of the Koran.

"I am so happy to be bringing him back home. I never thought I would see my brother again alive in Tunisia," his sister, Jamila, told AFP.

There were also dozens of people protesting his arrival at the airport, holding up placards that warned against Islamic fundamentalism.

...This does not bode well for Tunisia. The military has so far stayed out of politics since the revolt against the go…