Showing posts from October, 2007

Blackwater defense overlooks the obvious

NY Times: Blackwater Worldwide, its reputation in tatters and its lucrative government contracts in jeopardy, is mounting an aggressive legal, political and public relations counterstrike. It has hired a bipartisan stable of big-name Washington lawyers, lobbyists and press advisers, including the public relations powerhouse Burson-Marsteller, which was brought in briefly, but at a critical moment, to help Blackwater’s chairman, Erik D. Prince, prepare for his first Congressional hearing. Blackwater for a time retained Kenneth D. Starr, the former Whitewater independent counsel, and Fred F. Fielding, who is now the White House counsel, to help handle suits filed by the families of slain Blackwater employees. Another outside public relations specialist, Mark Corallo, former chief spokesman for Attorney General John Ashcroft , quit working for Blackwater late last year because he said he was uncomfortable with what he termed some executives’ cowboy mentality. Blackwater is pursuing a bol

Decrease in Iraq violence gets some attention

NY Times: Back in September , General David Petraeus reported a slide in violence that had some impressed and others saying that it might be a fluke. About two months later, many more are acknowledging progress, and Osama bin Laden sounds like one of them. Adding to the optimism are news stories anticipating the lowest American death toll since early 2006 . If the toll remains at 23 — and that won’t be a sure thing until several days after the month is over and the military finishes its October announcements — that would be a drop of 97 U.S. deaths from the month of May. Even an alarming Pentagon estimate on a quadrupling of sniper attacks turned out to be very wrong . Indeed, sniper attacks have dropped. Exactly two months after its pessimistic report to Congress , the Government Accountability Office began a new report on a positive note. “Since G.A.O. last reported in September 2007,” the report said, “the number of enemy attacks in Iraq has declined.”... ... They even have a ch

Brits lose another lawfare case to the terrorist rights crowd

Telegraph: The Government's terror strategy was dealt a blow this morning when law lords ruled that the controversial control order regime must be watered down. Britain's most senior judges ruled that the most draconian power - an 18-hour home curfew - was in breach of the human right to liberty. They held that a 12-hour curfew was acceptable. The human rights group Liberty, which was a party in the crucial case, said it was a "significant blow" to the controversial measures. Indefinite control orders, imposed on foreign terror suspects by the Home Secretary, are one of the Government's key anti-terror measures. Control orders impose restrictions currently including curfews and bans on internet access and unauthorised visitors. The orders were introduced two years ago after the House of Lords held that the previous system for dealing with foreign suspects - keeping them detained in prison until deportation - breached their human rights. The cases considered by t

Another lawfare fiasco in Spain

BBC: Angry victims of the 2004 Madrid train bombings have vowed to appeal over what they see as the trial court's lenient treatment of some of the accused. One victim's relative said there had been too few guilty verdicts for such a horrible crime. The court sentenced three men to thousands of years in jail for their part in the attacks, but acquitted seven including the alleged mastermind. Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said justice had been done. ... Clearly the victims do not agree with the PM. I suspect they will remember this statement at the next election. In the meantime the security forces of several countries need to keep a close on the the people who were released. We will probably be seeing them in action again. It is too bad they were not sent to Gitmo. They may still get their chance.

Marine dad gets $11 million award against church kooks

AP /Fox News: The father of a fallen Marine was awarded nearly $11 million Wednesday in damages by a jury that found leaders of a fundamentalist church had invaded the family's privacy and inflicted emotional distress when they picketed the Marine's funeral. The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress to the Marine's father, Albert Snyder of York, Pa. Snyder sued the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified monetary damages after members staged a demonstration at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. The defense said it planned to appeal and one of the church's leaders, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said the members would continue their pickets of military funerals. Church members bel

Iran, the neo quagmirest

Reuters: Iran warned the United States on Wednesday it would find itself in a "quagmire deeper than Iraq" if it attacked the Islamic state, and Russia stepped up efforts for a diplomatic solution to Tehran's nuclear row with the West. The warning by the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, a target of new U.S. sanctions announced last week, added to angry rhetoric between the two old foes that has prompted speculation of possible U.S. military action. ... "If the enemies show inexperience and want to invade Islamic Iran, they will receive a strong slap from Iran," Jafari said in comments carried by the semi-official Fars News Agency . "The enemy knows that if it attacks Iran it, will be trapped in a quagmire deeper than Iraq and Afghanistan, and they will have to withdraw with defeat," he told a parade in north-central Iran, without mentioning the United States by name. ... This is why it is important to win the war in Iraq and defeat th

US giving Turks intelligence on Kurdish group

CNN: American U2 reconnaissance planes have been flying over the Turkey-Iraq border to observe military movements, said three U.S. military sources Wednesday. Word of the flights comes a day before top-level meetings between U.S. and Turkish government officials and prior to a regional conference aimed at easing tensions between Ankara and Kurdish rebels across Turkey's border with Iraq. Turkey -- which shares its Incirlik air base with U.S. forces -- is a key member of NATO and acts as a vital conduit for U.S. military supplies. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell confirmed Wednesday that U.S. military and intelligence communities are sharing information with Turkey to help them fight members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who have made cross-border attacks. See location of key U.S.-Turkish air base » "We are assisting by supplying them, the Turks, with intelligence, lots of intelligence," said Morrell. "There has been an increased level" of int

Black victimhood

Thomas Sowell: Twice within the past few years, I have been pulled over by the police for driving at night without my headlights on. My car is supposed to turn on the headlights automatically when the light outside is below a certain level, but sometimes I accidentally brush against the controls and inadvertently switch them to manual. Both times I thanked the policeman because he may well have saved my life. Neither time did I get a ticket or even a warning. In each case, the policeman was white. Recently a well-known black journalist told me of a very different experience. He happened to be riding along in a police car driven by a white policeman. Ahead of them was a car driving at night with no headlights on and, in the dark, it was impossible to see who was driving it. When the policeman pulled the car over, a black driver got out and, when the policeman told him that he was driving without his lights on, the driver said, "You only pulled me over because I am black!"

Muslim male abuse?

AP /Fox News: Malaysia's Muslim men are suffering sleepless nights and cannot pray properly because their thoughts are distracted by a growing number of women who wear sexy clothes in public, a prominent cleric said. Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the spiritual leader of the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, said he wanted to speak about the "emotional abuse" that men face because it is seldom discussed, the party reported on its Web site Wednesday. "We always [hear about] the abuse of children and wives in households, which is easily perceived by the eye, but the emotional abuse of men cannot be seen," Nik Abdul Aziz said. "Our prayers become unfocused and our sleep is often disturbed." Nik Abdul Aziz has made controversial comments about women in the past, including that women should stop wearing lipstick and perfume to lower the risk of being raped. Women's groups have slammed his statements, saying Is

The culture of poverty keeps people poor

Robert Samuelson: It's nature versus nurture. One of the big debates of our times involves the causes of economic growth. Why is North America richer than South America? Why is Africa poor and Europe wealthy? Is it possible to eliminate global poverty? The World Bank estimates that 2.5 billion people still live on $2 a day or less. On one side are economists who argue that societies can nurture economic growth by adopting sound policies. Not so, say other scholars such as Lawrence Harrison of Tufts University. Culture (aka "nature") predisposes some societies to rapid growth and others to poverty or meager growth. Comes now Gregory Clark, an economist who interestingly takes the side of culture. In an important new book, "A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Clark suggests that much of the world's remaining poverty is semi-permanent. Modern technology and management are widely available, but many societies can't take advantage b

Framing the SCHIP debate

Fred Barnes: President Bush and congressional Republicans shouldn't worry about political fallout from blocking the Democratic legislation to expand the children's health insurance program known as S-chip. They have a good argument against it that most Americans will buy and a credible alternative. So there's no reason to be anxious. Supporters of S-chip expansion point to polls that show widespread public backing, including among Republicans. But once a single piece of information is added to a poll question on S-chip, the public's attitude changes. That information: the bill would allow kids in families making up to $61,800 a year to get free, taxpayer-paid health insurance. Gallup asked this question of adults two weeks ago: "Based on what you have heard or read about this bill, who do you have more confidence in to handle this issue - George W. Bush or the Democrats in Congress?" Bush got 32 percent, Democrats 54 percent. Bush, of course, opposed and t

Dirty diplomats?

Austin Bay: Quoted material removed. You may read the original at the link above. He goes on to discuss the State Department announcement that some people in the diplomatic corps may have to take a job in Baghdad whether they want the job or not. What this highlights is that many of the civil servants in the State Department in the words of the civil rights movement are not "down with the struggle" when it comes to winning the war in Iraq. In fact these people have been AWOL in the war effort in many cases. Hey, State Department, if you need a lawyer over there, I'm willing. I think people who want the job do it better. Our volunteer military is much better than the draftee army of old. Perhaps the State Department should look at some military retirees for these jobs, since many officers have had to do the job of diplomats already.

"Treatment" for Blue Hen Fever

The University of Delaware mascot is the Blue Hen. They are not likely to be sanctioned by the NCAA for cultural insensitivity because of their mascot, but the culture they are trying to instill in their students is worthy of condemnation and Mike Adams is up to the job. The University of Delaware has just become one of the most Orwellian campuses in America. Students in its residence halls are now being subjected to a re-education program that is actually dubbed - in the university’s own tax-payer funded materials - as “treatment” for students who have incorrect attitudes and beliefs. Delaware now requires nearly 7,000 students in its residence halls to adopt specific public university-approved (read: government-approved) views on issues ranging from race, to sexuality, to philosophy. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (see is calling for the total dismantling of the program. Readers of this column should call (302-831-2111) or write president@udel.e

Pakistan problems

Washington Post: Five years ago, elite Pakistani troops stationed near the border with Afghanistan began receiving hundreds of pairs of U.S.-made night-vision goggles that would enable them to see and fight al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the dark. The sophisticated goggles, supplied by the Bush administration at a cost of up to $9,000 a pair, came with an implicit message: Step up the attacks. But every three months, the troops had to turn in their goggles for two weeks to be inventoried, because the U.S. military wanted to make sure none were stolen or given away, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. Militants perceived a pattern and scurried into the open without fear during the two-week counts. "They knew exactly when we didn't have the goggles, and they took full advantage," said a senior Pakistani government official who closely tracks military operations on the border. The goggles are but a fragment of the huge military aid Washington sends to Pakistan ,

Where the candidates are placing their bets

Wall Street Journal: In a topsy-turvy presidential campaign, with hundreds of millions of dollars already raised and a January jam-packed with key events as never before, candidates are challenging some traditional notions about the best path to the White House. In races past, candidates typically spent most heavily in the early going on the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, then had time to shift resources to larger, later states if the nomination hadn't been sewed up yet. This campaign season is shaping up differently, especially for Republicans, where two major candidates -- Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson -- are spending their budgets most heavily on Florida. That state's Jan. 29 primary has made it for the first time a potential kingmaker along with Iowa and New Hampshire. Among Republicans, Mitt Romney is also a big spender in Florida. For Democrats, the growing dominance of Hillary Rodham Clinton, challenged by a struggling but well-financed Barack Obama, has le

Fear of Rudy on the right?

James Abtlle III: Some influential social conservatives seem to be warming up to the presidential candidacy of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was reasonably well-received at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes called it “unquestionably a net plus for his presidential bid.” Christian right leader Gary Bauer said Giuliani’s remarks were “a step forward.” Perhaps most importantly, Giuliani elicited laughter and applause rather than boos and jeers from an audience of 2,000 evangelical activists. Last week, Giuliani sat down with a vanquished rival for the Republican nomination, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, and talked about social issues. Afterward, Brownback, one of the party’s leading anti-abortion voices, announced he was “much more comfortable” with Giuliani’s abortion position. Some observers even wondered if a Brownback endorsement of Giuliani might be in the offing, though none has materialized yet. A few more example

Sub Prime thinking

Thomas Sowell: IT'S remarkable how many political "solutions" today are dealing with problems created by previous political "solutions." Three examples that come to mind immediately are the housing-market crisis, the wildfires in southern California and the water shortages in the west. Congress and the Bush administration are vying with each other to come up with a solution to the housing crisis, brought on by widespread defaults on home-mortgage loans - especially defaults by those who took out risky "subprime" loans. Why were borrowers taking out risky loans in the first place? And why were lenders willing to lend to risky borrowers? In both cases, the government was a prime factor in "subprime" loans. Many people took out risky mortgage loans because housing prices were so high that this was the only way they could own a home. Where housing prices were highest, the most people took out risky loans. In the San Francisco Bay area, where

Economy remains unsluggish

AP /NY Times: The economy picked up speed in the summer, growing at a brisk 3.9 percent pace, the fastest in 1 1/2 years and an impressive performance even as a credit crunch plunged the housing market deeper into turmoil. The latest snapshot of the country's economic health, released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, suggested that the economy is demonstrating much resilience and thus far holding up well to the strains in the housing and credit markets, which had intensified during the third quarter and rocked Wall Street. Individuals ratcheted up their spending. U.S. businesses sold more goods abroad and boosted some investment at home. Those were some of the main factors helping to push up overall economic activity in the July-to-September quarter. The third quarter's growth rate was up slightly from a 3.8 percent pace logged in the second quarter. It marked the strongest showing since the first quarter of last year. The increase in third quarter gross domestic produc

The war zone next door

Terrence Jeffrey: The terrorists swept into Cananea in a convoy of 15 vehicles. They were on a brazen, murderous mission. They kidnapped seven policemen and two civilians. Outside town, they shot and killed four of the policemen and dumped their bodies in a park. Local police who had not been kidnapped deserted their posts to a man. "When the state police arrived, there was not a single municipal police officer," the local governor later told The Associated Press. "We had to take over the command. There wasn't anyone there. They had all left." Government forces tracked the terrorists into the nearby mountains. A pitched battle ensued. Fifteen terrorists were reported killed. Others got away, melting into the local population or deeper into the hills. So went another sad episode in a region of the world where anarchy reigns. Assessing the day's carnage, the mayor of the targeted village spoke with bitter candor. "Our municipality has become the vic

Everyone is sick of anti war pukes

Brent Bozell: If the "peace" movement holds a protest and no one in the press covers it, does it still exist? If Americans are sick of the war, they're also sick of the "antiwar." Even the media have grown antiwar-weary. Rallies on Oct. 27 drew only perfunctory news mentions. The peaceniks have become a bipartisan political problem, now that the Democrats who control Congress haven't dared to placate the radicals by cutting off money for the troops. Cindy Sheehan is threatening to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But suddenly -- surprise, surprise -- the media aren't interested in Sheehan's new crusade. Crusades only have a point when it's an anti-Republican point. Camping out against Bush during his Texas vacation was news, fun news, important news. But running against Pelosi is not news. It's a sign your 15 minutes of fame are all used up. So they're getting desperate. The radical group named "Code Pink" drew some ink

Surveillance and sanity

Benjamin Civiletti, Dick Thornberg, and William Webster: Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to target al Qaeda communications into and out of the country. Mr. Bush concluded that this was essential for protecting the country, that using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would not permit the necessary speed and agility, and that he had the constitutional power to authorize such surveillance without court orders to defend the country. Since the program became public in 2006, Congress has been asserting appropriate oversight. Few of those who learned the details of the program have criticized its necessity. Instead, critics argued that if the president found FISA inadequate, he should have gone to Congress and gotten the changes necessary to allow the program to proceed under court orders. That process is now underway. The administration has brought the program under FISA, and the Senate Intelligence Committee

Drive-By political ambushes

Ruth Marcus: The glossy fliers turned up in mailboxes in Massachusetts 's 5th Congressional District the weekend before the election. "No one should be signing blank checks to President Bush !" announced one, urging recipients to "Call Jim Ogonowski and tell him you don't agree with his spending priorities!" Another showed a young girl blowing on a dandelion. "President Bush feels she doesn't deserve healthcare," it said. "Under the Niki Tsongas Plan, kids get the healthcare they need!" That might seem like standard campaign fare in the closer-than-expected race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Martin Meehan . But these mailings had a disturbing twist: They were not sent by the Tsongas campaign, the Democratic Party or even any of the usual Democratic suspects ( Emily's List , the Service Employees International Union ) that poured thousands into the Oct. 16 special election, which Tsongas won. Instead, they were produc

Burma army recruits 10 year olds

Guardian: Burma's military, facing a gathering manpower crisis, is forcibly recruiting children as young as 10 into its ranks, according to a report today by Human Rights Watch. Civilian brokers and recruiters for Burma's 400,000-strong armed forces receive cash payments for each child they sign up, according to the international pressure group. Battalion commanders under pressure to keep numbers up and facing high rates of desertion often turn a blind eye when the recruits evidently violate the minimum age requirement of 18. Military recruiters target underage recruits at bus and train stations, threatening arrest if they refuse to join. Some children are beaten into making them "volunteer". The number of child soldiers is estimated to run to thousands. Recruiters often falsify enlistment papers to register the children as 18, according to the study, Sold to be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma. "The brutality of Burma's military g

UK test invisible tank tech

Telegraph: When James Bond appeared in Die Another Day with an invisible Aston Martin, many cinema-goers thought the producers had gone a little too far. But the Ministry of Defence has just revealed it is testing prototype technology that can make tanks and troops disappear. It is developing special cameras that film the surrounding scenery and project it on to the men or their vehicles clad in reflective materials. As a result enemies look straight "through" them. Recent trials have had some success, according to the MoD, and use of the technology on the battlefield could be just a few years away. Should it work, the technology could help cut down battlefield losses in future conflicts. Military chiefs are also interested in a far more advanced technique that uses nano-technology to create Harry Potter style "invisibility cloaks" . Far-fetched as it sounds, invisibility expert Prof Sir John Pendry from Imperial College London said early experiments were encouragin

New Orleans DA resigns

AP: District Attorney Eddie Jordan on Tuesday disclosed plans to resign amid a $3.7 million discrimination verdict against his office and a rising murder rate since Hurricane Katrina . Jordan's spokesman, Dalton Savwoir, said the district attorney told his staff he would resign on Wednesday. Jordan lost the discrimination lawsuit against dozens of his former employees in 2005. The white former employees said they were fired by Jordan, who is black, because of their race. Jordan has consistently lost the appeals in that case and earlier this week, a federal judge refused to delay payment of the judgment. That opened the door to possible seizure of district attorney's office assets to meet the debt, and led to renewed calls for Jordan's ouster. Mayor Ray Nagin on Tuesday reiterated that the city would not pay the judgment, saying it could not afford it and that it would set a bad precedent. Jordan also has been among city officials criticized for the city's growing vi

Violence in significant decline in Iraq

CNN: The number of U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths has dropped dramatically, according to recent reports, although American military officials said it is too soon to declare a turning point in the conflict. Thirty-seven Americans have died in October, the lowest monthly figure since March 2006 when 31 perished, according to the U.S. military. Three soldiers died Tuesday southeast of Baghdad when a roadside bomb struck a U.S. military patrol. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in September was 844, down from 1,990 in January, according to Iraqi governmental figures provided to CNN. Slain bodies found dumped in Baghdad dropped from 428 in August to 301 in September and 151 so far in October, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. The numbers mark a decline in fatalities since the war began in March 2003 and point to a decrease in violence after a year of pitched battles and sectarian strife. Still, cautious U.S. and Iraqi military officials aren't ready to proclaim a decis

The terror finance wars

Christian Science Monitor: For years the three Saudi men had worked as a loosely organized team, according to US intelligence. They'd funneled thousands of dollars in cash – and non-monetary help such as Al Qaeda training manuals – to Islamist militants in the Philippines . At one point they'd even paid $18,000 for an operation to blow up the US or Australian embassies in Manila , allege US officials. But Philippine authorities disrupted the plot before it could be realized. So this fall the US government took action against the trio: Abdul Rahim al-Talhi, Muhammad Abdallah Salih Sughayr, and Fahd Muhammad Abd al-Aziz al-Khashiban. On Oct. 10, the Treasury Department designated them as terrorist financiers – freezing their assets and forbidding American citizens from doing business with them. The move did not draw much notice at the time. But small actions such as this are a crucial part of what may be one of the most successful parts of the struggle against terrorism: the e

A big report about required reports in Texas

AP /Houston Chronicle: The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is declaring there are too many state reports. It says so in a 668-page report. The project took 18 months and included the commission's small team canvassing more than 170 agencies, and public colleges and universities, checking on all the reports they are assigned to do. In the past, the state regularly compiled a list of about 400 reports that agencies were required by the Legislature to produce. But the commission found more than 1,600, and state records administrator Michael Heskett is pretty sure his team hasn't found them all. Heskett's initial findings indicate more than 400 report requirements are obsolete, duplicative or not needed as frequently as currently required. "At first, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of reporting requirements," Heskett said. "We haven't begun our evaluation yet. But I think we can reach our goal of eliminating the deadwood without compro

The latest Johnstown, PA flood--Federal cash

Wall Street Journal: If John Murtha were a businessman, he'd be the biggest employer in this town. The powerful U.S. congressman has used his clout on Capitol Hill to create thousands of jobs and steer billions of dollars in federal spending to help his hometown in western Pennsylvania recover from devastating floods and the flight of its steelmakers. More is on the way. In the massive 2008 military-spending bill now before Congress -- which could go to a House-Senate conference as soon as Thursday -- Mr. Murtha has steered more taxpayer funds to his congressional district than any other member. The Democratic lawmaker is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which will oversee more than $459 billion in military spending this year. Johnstown's good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else. Defense contractors have found that if they open an office here and hire the right lobbyist, they can get lucrative, no-bid contracts. Over the pa

Drilling for Big Oil's money

Bret Stephens: Ecuador has a huge environmental problem courtesy of Big Oil. Since 1990, there have been at least 800 recorded oil spills in the country, including 117 in the first nine months of 2006 alone. Their cumulative volume easily exceeds three million gallons. Scores of spills have never been cleaned up, posing severe health risks for the local population. Rainfall in the area is said to smell like car exhaust. Small wonder, then, that when actress Daryl Hannah ventured into the Ecuadorean Amazon in June to have herself photographed dipping her hand into a lake of black sludge, she characterized the situation as "potentially the biggest environmental case ever." Only one problem: The supposed villain in the plot, Texaco--now merged with Chevron--ceased operations in Ecuador in 1990. Yet such details are rarely allowed to get in the way of a noble cause--or a multibillion dollar class-action. The source of many, if not all, of the spills mentioned above is state-owne

Torturing the children in North Korea

Washington Times: He says he was tortured as a teenager. He watched as his mother and brother were executed, and until he was 20 years old, North Korean Shin Dong-hyuk had heard of neither Kim Il-sung nor Kim Jong-il. In a testimony to stunned journalists yesterday, Mr. Shin, the first North Korean defector to the South who was born in the North's notorious gulag, revealed a nightmarish world in which inmates and their children suffer lifetime incarceration, are kept ignorant of outside society and undergo forms of torture that are medieval in their barbarism. "In my heart, I thought: 'Parents committed crimes, but why were innocent children punished?' " he said at a press conference introducing his autobiography "Escape to the Outside World." "I want to tell the world of this." Slight, and with a humble manner, he shook as he showed cameramen his extensive scars. His story has shocked even analysts who monitor Pyongyang's human rights abus

Bad day for pirates of Somalia

Fox News: A pair of American warships battled pirates Tuesday who had seized a tanker off the coast of Somalia, reportedly sinking two pirate vessels and pursuing a hijacked skiff carrying some of the fleeing hijhackers. The crew of the tanker Golden Mori, which was hijacked Monday night, reportedly fought back and overpowered their attackers, regaining control of the vessel, maritime officials said. On Sunday, the destroyer USS Porter responded to a distress call from the Golden Mori that it was under attack from two pirate skiffs in international waters off the coast of Somalia near the Socotra islands in the Indian Ocean. The destroyer, on loan to an international task force aimed at stopping piracy and terror in the region, responded with deadly force, sinking both vessels, officials said. The Porter's sister ship, the USS Arleigh Burke, reportedly was pursuing the escaping hijackers and providing an escort for the Japanese-owned tan

Debating Jewish intelligence

Dana Milbank: The forum at the usually sober American Enterprise Institute yesterday started off with a bit of Borscht Belt humor. AEI adjunct fellow Jon Entine displayed a cartoon of a tablet-carrying Moses looking incredulously toward the heavens. "Now, let me get this straight," the bearded figure says. "The Arabs get the oil, and we have to cut off the ends of our what?" Don't get it? Must be your goyishe kop. For two hours yesterday, two AEI scholars and a visiting bioethicist kibbitzed about a pressing cause: Why Jews are so doggone smart. Entine, author of the new book "Abraham's Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People," argued that genetic mutations gave Jews very high IQs. "If you had one of these mutations" -- such as those that cause Tay-Sachs disease -- "it probably could cause high intelligence," he asserted. Fellow AEI fellow Charles Murray suggested that the rigors of Talmudic study drove

Would you like some hot sauce with that injury?

AP / NY Times: Devil's Revenge. Spontaneous Combustion. Hot sauces have names like that for a reason. Now scientists are testing if the stuff that makes the sauces so savage can tame the pain of surgery. Doctors are dripping the chemical that gives chili peppers their fire directly into open wounds during knee replacement and a few other highly painful operations. Don't try this at home: These experiments use an ultra-purified version of capsaicin to avoid infection -- and the volunteers are under anesthesia so they don't scream at the initial burn. How could something searing possibly soothe? Bite a hot pepper, and after the burn your tongue goes numb. The hope is that bathing surgically exposed nerves in a high enough dose will numb them for weeks, so that patients suffer less pain and require fewer narcotic painkillers as they heal. ''We wanted to exploit this numbness,'' is how Dr. Eske Aasvang, a pain specialist in Denmark who is testing the substanc