I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy — but that could change.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Is Obama getting moody?

It has been widely reported that presidential hopeful Barack Hussein Obama has quit smoking. Good for him!

Checked what the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are? Let me enlighten the non-smoking voters:

  • Feelings of being an infant: temper tantrums, intense needs, feelings of dependency, a state of near paralysis.
  • Insomnia
  • Mental confusion
  • Vagueness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
Right. Just the man we want to have with the finger on the red button!

(Yes it’s fair to call Obi by his full name. Anyone who objects, please, complain to the media for constantly referring to the other Democratic presidential hopeful, the one with some experience, as Hillary Rodham Clinton.)

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Gaza without electricity. My foot!

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What do Arabs want?

The sixty years anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence is upon us. The Middle East quagmire continues to puzzle analysts, politicians and the media. After millions of tons of newsprint, hundreds of tons of ink, a dozen wars, billions in military expenditures and tens of thousands of dead on both sides, the world is still struggling with the eternal question: What do Arabs want?

As luck would have it, Al Jazeera’s political analyst Hassan Ibrahim explains it better than others. Amongst the almost universal and vitriolic hatred towards Jews routinely expressed by Arab news media, this is a very calm, composed and well thought out article. Because it comes from a source that is considered to be Arab mainstream, it is also very revealing.

What it demonstrates is a complete and utter rejection of the Jewish narrative, Jewish history and Jewish rights in Israel that flies in the face of any Arab peaceful initiatives or proposals.

It is a painful repetition of the plight of native Americans we ignorantly refer to as 'red Indians'. [I am weak in American history, so help me out here: did Spaniards and Europeans have a five thousand years history living on American soil, building great cities, fighting great wars?]

The Israelis, who have become the new masters of the land, are Jewish immigrants that began populating Palestine in the early years of the last century. [Note that the Jews lived on the land for three thousand years before the very word Palestine was first used by the Romans to refer to Israel and Judea.]

The Jews born in Palestine are called Sabra, while the rest migrated in successive waves under the British mandate which lasted from 1918 to 1948. [The Jews must have just landed from the moon. Just as they teach the Arabs in their schools, Mosques and Madrassas.]

And no country has had greater influence with the US electorate than Israel. The Jewish lobby in the US has influenced Americans with political aspirations to formulate the solid belief that their political successes are directly linked to winning the "fidelity to Israel" seal-of-approval from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. [Nothing like a healthy dose of good old fashioned anti-Semitism to make a point here. It is very instructive that the Arab mind cannot conceive that there maybe another reason for American sympathies for Israel apart from a wicked Jewish plot. Is that too much for an Arab to even consider that democracy, freedom, separation of powers, free elections, free press and open society may have something to do with the commonality between Israel and America?]

Even with Arab countries producing more than 40 per cent of the global supply of petroleum, the US has never treated the Arab countries en par with the way it treats Israel. [To an Arab, it must be incomprehensible that even as America depends on Arab oil and trade, the America would have the audacity to still defend Israel’s right to exist. After all, the Europeans have long seen the light and in unison with the Arab world is wishing Israel away… ]

Despite many attempts by so-called moderate Arab governments with ties to Tel Aviv to gently introduce Israel to their masses, Arabs overwhelmingly hate the Jewish state. [Not to mention the Jews. And I suppose that six hundred years of anti-Semitic preaching has nothing to do with it whatsoever.]

It is simply an existential rejection of the Zionist entity as a whole. [One has to admire the straight talk. So, we might as well take all the Arab peace initiatives and shove them where the sun does not shine. The author will clearly fight to the last Palestinian to throw the Jews into the sea. ]

It has become tradition to consider rejection of Israel as an integral part of what it means to be an Arab. That rejection of Israel is equalled by a "fidelity to Palestine" - not a part of Palestine or a fraction of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip interspersed by the wall built by Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, but the whole of Palestine.

And that’s what the clueless Israeli, American and European leaders simply cannot grasp. This absolute and utter rejection of Israel and the Jews even by the most “reasonable” Arab voices. This is why there are only two people who understood how the Middle East conflict will unfold: Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Natan Sharansky.

Until most of the twenty-two Arab countries can be dragged kicking and screaming into the present from the fourteenth century they presently inhabit, there will be no peace. Roadmap is a convenient pretext to be seen doing something for some and a vehicle for dismantling Israel piecemeal for others. Like it or not. Anyone who tells you otherwise living a dream.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Peacemaker, Speaks Again (in Arabic)


Mahmoud Abbas, the “Peace Partner” better known for his jihad terror activities, Holocaust denial (the subject of his pseudo-Ph.D), and espousal of Koranic Antisemitism, drops all pretenses in an interview with the Jordanian daily al-Dustur.

Repeatedly invoking the common synonym for jihad, i.e., “resistance,” and making other even more frank admissions, Abbas admitted,

…that he does not rule out returning to the path of armed “resistance” against Israel and took pride in the fact that he had been the first to fire on Israel and that his organization had trained Hizbullah…

Abbas said that he was opposed to an armed struggle against Israel - for the time being. “At this present juncture, I am opposed to the armed struggle because we can’t succeed in it, but maybe in the future things will be different”

The PA president also expressed pride both in himself and his organization, Fatah, for trailblazing the path of resistance.

“I had the honor of firing the first shot in 1965 and of being the one who taught resistance to many in the region and around the world; what it’s like; when it is effective and when it isn’t effective; its uses, and what serious, authentic and influential resistance is”

“It is common knowledge when and how resistance is detrimental and when it is well timed…We (Fatah) had the honor of leading the resistance and we taught resistance to everyone, including Hizbullah, who trained in our military camps.”
Also today AFP reports:

"US President George W. Bush on Thursday cleared the way for 150 million dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority to "avert a serious and immediate financial crisis," a US official said."
Mysterious ways indeed...

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Mother of All Fauxtography trial

Famed France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin was embarrassed today in the Paris trial regarding the controversial Mohammed al Dura videotape shown on the French network. Roger L. Simon spoke with Richard Landes during and after today’s hearing.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Insatiable extremism


Roni Yihye, 47, a father of four, was murdered on Wednesday in the latest rocket assault from the Gaza Strip.

His death came a day after the 80th birthday of Ariel Sharon, the general and politician who ended a long career of outmaneuvering hostile Arab forces by withdrawing completely from the Gaza Strip. And it followed the latest anti-Israel broadside from the UN's Human Rights Council, whose rapporteur John Dugard wrote earlier this week that "a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation... As long as there is occupation, there will be terrorism."

The combination of Yihye's murder, Sharon's birthday and Dugard's misguided report brings the current untenable reality apropos Gaza into sharp focus.

Led by Sharon, more than two years ago, Israel wrenched its settlers and withdrew its soldiers from the Gaza Strip. It left behind an unprecedented opportunity for Palestinian state-building and an international commitment to create a Singapore in the impoverished Strip, not to mention millions of dollars in farming equipment, including a world-famous complex of greenhouses. All these were wasted.

No other national liberation movement has ever garnered so much support and so much hard cash, nor been offered the opportunity to take major steps toward full independence by the unilateral withdrawal of the loathed "occupier" from a sizable proportion of its claimed territory. No other national liberation movement has ever spurned such opportunity with so determined an insistence on the terrorizing of neighboring civilians.

Israel is gone from Gaza. Yet Hamas has intensified its attacks on Israel. Palestinian refugees remain in their blighted camps. The notion of progress toward viable institutions of democratic governance is a bad joke.

The ruthless rocket attacks from civilian areas in Israel-free Gaza that have traumatized southern Israel and that claimed the life yesterday of Roni Yihye cannot be honestly construed as "acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation." It is long past time for the learned diplomats of the UN, and all too many other international statespeople, to stop excusing the Islamist supremacists and ignoring their avowed and insatiable ambitions.

This newspaper recognizes that for Israel to remain at once Jewish in character and democratic, it must relinquish territory to which it claims a biblical and historic right and separate from the Palestinians. It looks forward to the day when the Palestinians will live peacefully, and independently, alongside Israel.

But Sharon's "disengagement" did not advance that day. And the failure is that of the Palestinians. A mindset that loathes Israel more than it seeks its own freedom will not be remade by Israeli withdrawal or endless international funding and sympathy. A leadership inciting against Israel in its media, mosques and school system will not be rejected by the Palestinian public so long as much of that population is mired in a bigotry that inculcates permanent victimhood, refuses to recognize any shred of justice to Israel's sovereign claims and extols the virtues of violence and death.

Perceived legitimization for such violence, furthermore, can only exacerbate the tendency. What the international community must do is show its abhorrence of the rocket attacks and other violence and incitement, eschew the Palestinian leadership that encourages them, and energetically support the faint voices of moderation and educational programs that offer the prospect of a changed Palestinian mindset.

The Islamists' strategy, updating enemy efforts to destroy this state, has been to so dishearten and bleed us that we dismantle the country and the instruments of our self-reliance, and go quietly into a Hamas or Hizbullah caliphate, or (as the Iranian version has it) get on a boat for Poland.

But Israelis are not packing their bags. Under Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and now Ehud Olmert, we have sought somehow to separate from the Palestinians. What the Hamas-inspired murderous rocket fire across the Gaza border should long since have made plain to all, however, is that even territory cleared of every last vestige of Israeli presence does not sate the appetite of the Islamists - who, terribly, happen to constitute the parliamentary leadership freely elected by the Palestinian public, and the murderous sole rulers of Gaza.

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Ubuntu Landscape systems management tool set to launch


After a six-month beta, Canonical is ready to launch Landscape, a server and desktop package manager, as part of its paid support and service package.

Early next month, Canonical will officially release the Landscape suite, enabling IT managers to install, monitor, upgrade and manage servers and/or desktops with a single click. Adding users, fixing security problems and monitoring system performance are a few of the tasks that administrators can now perform centrally instead of on individual machines. Additional functions include auditing, inventory and organization.

Gerry Carr, Canonical's marketing manager, said Landscape is expected to make it much easier to integrate Ubuntu machines into organizations. "It's not good enough to have technology," Carr said. "Businesses need services to manage and run [machines]."

Following a brief trial in which the Landscape was offered for free, the new service will be incorporated into Canonical's support package. Landscape will compete with Red Hat Network and Novell Zenworks Suite.
It's not good enough to have technology. Businesses need services to manage and run [machines].
Gerry Carr,
Marketing manager, Canonical Ltd.

Although Ubuntu is more widely used on desktops than on servers, Canonical expects the latter to equal its desktop community within four or five years, until Canonical is "at least a peer player" in that market, Carr said. The Landscape package manager creates an incentive for business users -- who can download the software for free -- to convert into paying support customers, he added.

Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at Red Monk, said that Landscape is a solid "lightweight, out-of-the-box" offering but not as fully functioning or complex as products from Red Hat, Novell and other larger vendors.

"It's not trying to be all things to all people," he said. "But it makes it easy to aggregate metrics of individual machines, uptime, processes and temperatures … and gives management the ability to use the data to make decisions."

Annual pricing for Landscape is $750 per server for support between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and $2,570 per server for 24/7support. For desktops, support is $250 per machine between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and $900 for 24/7 support.

In other news, the Ubuntu developer community expects to release version 8.04 in late April. The new version represents the fourth operating system for the server and the eighth for the desktop, Carr said.

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Temperature Monitors Report Massive Global Cooling

DailyTech reports:

Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on.

No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.

A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to wipe out nearly all the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all four sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn't itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

Let's hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans -- and most of the crops and animals we depend on -- prefer a temperature closer to 70.

Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's the Middle East, Stupid

By Michael B. Oren
Sunday, March 2, 2008; B02

It begins with a single Qassam rocket, one of the thousands of homemade projectiles fired in recent years by the Islamic radicals of Hamas from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. The rockets have made life nightmarish for many Israelis but have largely missed their targets. But this one gets "lucky": It smashes into an elementary school, wounding 40 children and killing 15.

The Israeli government, which had heretofore responded to the Qassams with airstrikes and small ground raids, cannot resist the nationwide demand for action. Within hours, tens of thousands of Israeli troops and hundreds of tanks are rushing into Gaza, battling house-to-house in teeming refugee camps. Just as swiftly, Palestinian officials accuse Israel of perpetrating a massacre and invite the foreign press to photograph the corpse-strewn rubble. The images flash around the Middle East on al-Jazeera TV and trigger violent demonstrations in Arab capitals.

Hezbollah, the radical Lebanese Shiite militia, then gets into the act, raining Katyusha rockets on northern Israel. But when Israeli warplanes bomb the Katyusha batteries, Syria leaps in, sending its commandos to retaliate by capturing key Israeli bunkers atop the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel's counterattack succeeds only in precipitating a hailstorm of Syrian Scud-D missiles, some armed with chemical warheads, into Israeli cities. Then, just as Israeli planes are incinerating the main electrical plant in Damascus, the first of hundreds of Shehab-3 rockets, pre-targeted at Tel Aviv, lift off from Tehran.

Sound fantastical or too horrific to ponder? Not to Israeli intelligence analysts it doesn't. The Israeli military recently conducted a round of large-scale war games based precisely on this scenario. In some rounds, Israel managed to humble Hamas and Hezbollah while shooting down most of the Iranian and Syrian rockets with its own Arrow and Patriot antimissile systems. But other forecasts went far less well: Israel survives but barely, with its cities devastated and countless civilians killed.

This is the mess that will soon land in the lap of President Clinton, President Obama or President McCain. Despite the shadows of 9/11 and Iraq, the U.S. primary season thus far has been dominated by the economy. But it's a mistake to assume that the next presidency will be. Instead of a honeymoon, the new president could inherit a brush fire raging out of control in a volatile region where U.S. involvement has never been deeper. Would he or she merely convene the U.N. Security Council, or rush to Israel's defense? And how, in the event of a general Middle East war, would the president safeguard the woefully exposed U.S. forces in Iraq?

The Middle East will continue to be the source the gravest threats to U.S. security, whether in the long-term form of a nuclear-armed Iran or the short-term one of an unforeseen multistate war. So the candidates must be pressed about how they would handle a chain reaction in which events in Gaza suddenly engulf the entire region. To borrow an old slogan: It's the Middle East, stupid.

The possibility that a border scrap between Israelis and Palestinians could ignite a regional conflagration should not be too surprising. A very similar concatenation of events led to the most volcanic eruption in the region's modern history, irreparably convulsing the Middle East and carving many of the furrows that still destabilize it.

That conflict, too, began with Palestinian attacks into Israel, a series of Israeli reprisals and a mass clamoring for revenge. The countdown began just over 44 years ago, on New Year's Eve, 1964, when Palestinian guerrillas belonging to the Fatah faction crossed the Lebanese border to attack Israel. Though the infiltrators were intercepted, Fatah's leader, Yasser Arafat, declared the raid a heroic victory and dared Arab rulers to match his audacity.

Few could. The Arab world at the time was split between two warring camps: the socialist, pro-Soviet dictators in Egypt, Syria and Iraq and the conservative, pro-Western monarchs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and elsewhere. Egypt's fiery leader, Gamal Abdul Nasser, gleefully branded King Hussein of Jordan a Zionist "whore," ratcheting up the tension by hinting that the kings were American lackeys. Despite the rhetoric, Arab rulers did not really want war with Israel. But Arafat's challenge left them little choice.

Nasser responded by ordering the Palestine Liberation Organization, originally established as an Egyptian propaganda tool, to launch its own cross-border attacks. The Israelis lashed back, blowing up Fatah's West Bank headquarters. Jordan accused Nasser of "hiding behind the skirts" of the U.N. peacekeepers deployed in the Sinai to separate Egypt and Israel. Mortified, Nasser ousted the U.N. forces on May 15, 1967, and closed a strategic Red Sea shipping route to Israeli vessels. Suddenly, Nasser was the champion of the Arab "street," hailed by huge demonstrations that demanded Israel's destruction. The Arab world closed ranks behind him. Shorn of international allies, Israelis were convinced they faced annihilation.

But then Israel struck first. On the morning of June 5, Israeli warplanes obliterated almost the entire Egyptian air force, and Israeli tanks rumbled through Gaza and Sinai. At the end of six days of fighting, Israel had nearly quadrupled the territories under its control, among them the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Gaza. A new era -- and new sources of Middle East bloodshed -- had emerged.

Much has since changed in the Middle East. The Cold War is largely forgotten, as is the 1960s enmity among most Arab regimes. Israel remains a powerhouse, with more high-tech companies than Western Europe, an ironclad alliance with the United States and (it's widely assumed) a nuclear arsenal. Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, now rules the West Bank as the head of a Palestinian Authority publicly committed to coexistence with the Jewish state.

But for all these transformations, the Middle East remains the same explosive context of conflict it was in the 1960s. The region is still bitterly divided -- not between Arab nationalism and conservatism but between religious moderation and the surge of Islamist extremism spurred, in part, by the Six-Day War. Backed by Syria and Iran, a phalanx of terrorist groups threatens Israeli and Arab societies alike. Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and is engaged again in peace talks with the Palestinians, but it is still an object of abomination for the overwhelming majority of Middle Easterners. And violence in Gaza -- now run by a democratically elected Hamas government -- can still spark turbulent demonstrations throughout the region's streets.

If anything, the Middle East is even more flammable today than in the 1960s because of the countless thousands of short- and long-range missiles in its armies' arsenals. These weapons vastly amplify the potential destruction of any military confrontation while slashing the amount of decision-making time that might be needed to avert all-out war. And modern weapons, including unconventional ones, make everything scarier. A conflict between Israel and Iran might not last six days but six hours, unleashing shock waves even more seismic than those of 1967.

Contemporary Middle Eastern leaders cannot afford to ignore these lessons. Neither can decision-makers -- and would-be ones -- in the United States. Though the waning Bush administration is focused on trying to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty, shore up Iraq and flex its muscles at Iran, it should not downplay the danger that a seemingly limited border skirmish could rapidly escalate into a regional catastrophe.

Nor should Bush's heir. The next commander in chief may have to proceed directly from the inauguration to the Situation Room to try to defuse a Middle Eastern crisis of monumental dimensions. That moment could be a single Qassam away.


Michael B. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of "Six Days of War" and "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present."

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Putin’s Iron Grip on Russia Suffocates His Opponents

Kremlin Rules

Putin’s Iron Grip on Russia Suffocates His Opponents

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — Shortly before parliamentary elections in December, foremen fanned out across the sprawling GAZ vehicle factory here, pulling aside assembly-line workers and giving them an order: vote for President Vladimir V. Putin’s party or else. They were instructed to phone in after they left their polling places. Names would be tallied, defiance punished.

The city’s children, too, were pressed into service. At schools, teachers gave them pamphlets promoting “Putin’s Plan” and told them to lobby their parents. Some were threatened with bad grades if they failed to attend “Children’s Referendums” at polling places, a ploy to ensure that their parents would show up and vote for the ruling party.

Around the same time, volunteers for an opposition party here, the Union of Right Forces, received hundreds of calls at all hours, warning them to stop working for their candidates. Otherwise, you will be hurt, the callers said, along with the rest of your family.

Over the past eight years, in the name of reviving Russia after the tumult of the 1990s, Mr. Putin has waged an unforgiving campaign to clamp down on democracy and extend control over the government and large swaths of the economy. He has suppressed the independent news media, nationalized important industries, smothered the political opposition and readily deployed the security services to carry out the Kremlin’s wishes.

While those tactics have been widely recognized, they have been especially heavy-handed at the local level, in far-flung places like Nizhny Novgorod, 250 miles east of Moscow. On the eve of a presidential election in Russia that was all but fixed in December, when Mr. Putin selected his close aide, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor, Nizhny Novgorod stands as a stark example of how Mr. Putin and his followers have established what is essentially a one-party state.

Mr. Putin’s Russia is not the Soviet Union. For most Russians, life is freer now than it was in the old days. Criticism of the Kremlin is tolerated, as long as it is not done in any broadly organized way, and access to the Internet is unfettered. The economy, with its abundance of consumer goods and heady rate of growth, bears little resemblance to the one under Communism.

Still, as was made plain in dozens of interviews with political leaders, officials and residents of Nizhny Novgorod over several weeks, a new autocracy now governs Russia. Behind a facade of democracy lies a centralized authority that has deployed a nationwide cadre of loyalists that is not reluctant to swat down those who challenge the ruling party. Fearing such retribution, many of the people interviewed for this article asked not to be identified.

The government has closed newspapers in St. Petersburg and raided political party offices in Siberia. It was hardly unusual when in Samara, in the nation’s center, organized crime officers charged an opposition campaign official with financial crimes shortly before the December parliamentary elections and froze the party’s bank accounts.

Here in this historic region on the Volga River, Mr. Putin’s allies now control nearly all the offices, and elections have become a formality. And that is just as it should be, they said.

“In my opinion, at a certain stage, like now, it is not only useful, it is even necessary — we are tired of democratic twists and turns,” said the leader of Mr. Putin’s party in Nizhny Novgorod, Sergei G. Nekrasov. “It may sound sacrilegious, but I would propose to suspend all this election business for the time being, at least for managerial positions.”

Mr. Putin, who intends to remain in power by becoming prime minister under Mr. Medvedev, has in recent days declared that Russia has a healthy democracy, a renewed sense of national pride and a prominent role on the world stage. His supporters in Nizhny Novgorod point to his high approval ratings as evidence that his policies work.

A refrain often heard here and across Russia is that the distressing years right after Communism’s collapse left people craving stability and a sturdy economy far more than Western-style democracy. These days, they care little if elections are basically uncontested as long as a strong leader is in charge.

“There is some hope for us now,” said Nina Aksyonova, 68, a Nizhny Novgorod resident, explaining Mr. Putin’s popularity.

Propaganda Onslaught

Nizhny Novgorod, an industrial center with 1.3 million residents, was known as Gorky during the Communist era, when it was closed to foreigners and was home to the dissident physicist Andrei D. Sakharov, who was sent into internal exile here. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, it became a hotbed of liberalism, earning international recognition after officials sought to jettison the old sclerotic economic structure and embrace what were considered far-sighted political reforms.

Today, authority flows from the Kremlin to a regional governor appointed by Mr. Putin, who abolished the election of governors in Russia in 2004. The governor, Valery P. Shantsev, was brought in from Moscow and is charged with running the region and ensuring that Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, wins elections. The lines between the government and party have become so blurred that on election day in December, regional election commission members wore large United Russia badges.

Boris Y. Nemtsov became a political star in Russia and the West as governor of Nizhny Novgorod and deputy prime minister in the 1990s, but in recent months he and his opposition party have taken a battering here. Regional and national television stations, controlled by the Kremlin and its surrogates, have repeatedly attacked him — calling him everything from a corrupt bureaucrat to a traitor.

“His career has been accompanied by scandals,” went a typical report on the popular Channel One right before the December elections. “It was the elderly who were the first to feel the results of the work of Nemtsov’s government on their purses. Pensions dropped to the lowest level in all Russia’s history. Boris Nemtsov used to gather the press just to say that he did not care who the pensioners, deprived of money, would vote for. According to the plans of young reformers, only the strongest were supposed to live until the next century.”

Meanwhile, a different kind of propaganda war was being waged on the streets. Russia has relatively conservative attitudes toward homosexuality, and all autumn long Nizhny Novgorod was blanketed with tens of thousands of leaflets saying that Mr. Nemtsov’s liberal, pro-Western opposition party, the Union of Right Forces, ardently favored gay rights and employed canvassers with AIDS. Neither was true.

The leaflets often included the name and phone number of a leader of the party’s regional candidate slate, Andrei Osipenko. Some had condoms attached and announced offers to send supporters to a gay-pride event in Amsterdam.

Intimidation and violence came next. Businesses cut off donations after receiving threats from government officials, said Sergei Veltishchev, an organizer for the Union of Right Forces. Someone obtained the confidential list of party members — the party officials say they suspect that it was the security services — and hundreds of menacing phone calls were made to volunteers, saying they or their families would be hurt if they helped the party.

The party was refused advertising space on everything from billboards to newspapers to television. When Mr. Nemtsov tried to campaign in Nizhny Novgorod in the fall, no one would rent him a hall. In November, the party headquarters were ransacked and spray-painted with profanities and graffiti that called it the “Party of Gays.”

A few weeks before the elections, Mr. Osipenko gave up, renouncing his party at a news conference that was heavily covered on state-controlled television and had the feel of the Stalinist-era public confessions that followed show trials. Other party officials did the same.

The party’s remaining candidates in the region were too fearful to campaign.

“You begin to think: you have a family, you have a business, and you may value this significantly more than a political career,” said Artur Nazarenko, an official with the Union of Right Forces. The party, once a regional power, received only 1 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections, both in the Nizhny Novgorod region and nationally.

Other opposition figures in Nizhny Novgorod have been treated just as harshly over the past year. Leaders of a loose coalition called Other Russia have been repeatedly arrested, with some charged with inciting terrorism. When the group held a demonstration here last March, local television stations tried to scare away the public, labeling the event a gathering of either racist skinheads or gay rights advocates.

“Now about the so-called opposition, though there is a big doubt that it exists at all in the country,” an announcer asserted on the Seti NN channel. “They have been acting in violation of the law.”

The mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, Vadim Bulavinov, a United Russia leader, said the opposition had failed because it was poorly organized.

“If an organization is weak because people do not want to work for it or to help it, why should United Russia be blamed for that?” the mayor said. “I think that if the opposition parties want to find out who is guilty, they need to look in the mirror.”

Attacks on the Press

With the opposition suppressed in the months before the December elections, anti-Kremlin activism coalesced around independent newspapers and nonprofit groups, making them another target of the security forces.

In August, police officers broke down the door to the local offices of Novaya Gazeta, an opposition paper that had criticized Governor Shantsev and Mayor Bulavinov. Investigators accused the paper of using unlicensed software and hauled away its computers, shutting down the paper until after the elections.

Prosecutors also closed or prevented the distribution of two other regional newspapers, Leninskaya Smena and Trud, and conducted aggressive inquiries into the finances of several others. “It is a demonstration of force: ‘If you behave wrong, we will punish you,’ ” said Zakhar Prilepin, Novaya Gazeta’s editor in Nizhny Novgorod.

The regional prosecutor, Valery Maksimenko, did not respond to several requests for comment.

On the day of the Novaya Gazeta raid, the police removed computers from the offices of the Foundation to Support Tolerance, a nonprofit group that has been harassed for four years after criticizing the Kremlin and the war in Chechnya.

The authorities seem especially distrustful of the foundation because it receives money from the National Endowment for Democracy, an American nonprofit group financed by the United States government. The Kremlin has blamed Western pro-democracy groups for fomenting popular uprisings in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere in recent years, and vowed that that sort of thing would never happen in Russia.

The Federal Security Service, known by its initials in Russian, F.S.B., has interrogated the tolerance foundation’s workers, family members and friends. Its leaders, Stanislav Dmitriyevsky and Oksana Chelysheva, have received death threats. And as part of a smear campaign, the Volga regional television station showed Russian soldiers being beheaded in Chechnya and said the group had justified such killings.

In October, when the foundation held a memorial for Anna Politkovskaya, an opposition journalist killed in 2006, several foreign human rights advocates were arrested in Nizhny Novgorod. The police again raided the foundation’s offices, and the authorities froze its bank accounts, saying it supported terrorism.

“The ruling elite nowadays has no ideology,” Ms. Chelysheva said. “Their only aim is to obtain as much power as possible, to keep this power, by whatever means, and to profiteer off this power. In this respect, these people, who are so cynical, are much more dangerous than was the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R.”

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Two-faced Facebook

Me and Facebook's 65 million other users are publicizing our personal lives voluntarily.Consumers, plain and simple, are too unsophisticated to realize what can be done with their data.

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The Arabs and Obama

by Lee Smith

(Editor's note: While I'm filling in for Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, Lee Smith offered to write an article for us here. Lee is a friend I know from Beirut. He is the former editor-in-chief of The Village Voice Literary Supplement, and his work regularly appears in The Weekly Standard and Slate. He is writing a book on Arab culture for Doubleday. -MJT)

Last week Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Tamara Coffman Wittes reported from a conference in Qatar that Barack Obama's candidacy is all the rage in the Arab Gulf states.
A friend from the Gulf tells me her young relative was so excited about the Democratic candidate that he tried to donate money over the Internet, as he'd heard so many young Americans were doing. Then he found out he had to be a U.S. citizen to do so. Another young woman, visiting from next-door Saudi Arabia, said that all her friends in Riyadh are “for Obama.” The symbolism of a major American presidential candidate with the middle name of Hussein, who went to elementary school in Indonesia, certainly speaks to Muslims abroad.
That's an interesting way to make a point lost on most American commentators: Barack Obama's father was Muslim and therefore, according to Islamic law, so is the candidate. In spite of the Quranic verses explaining that there is no compulsion in religion, a Muslim child takes the religion of his or her father.

The point of course is not that Obama is really a Muslim, because in America he is whatever he says he is. American ideas about such things as choice, religion, freedom of expression – including the freedom to choose your own faith – are different from the rest of much of the world. For us, a man is whatever religion he wants to practice, or not practice. But for Muslims around the world, non-American Muslims at any rate, they can only ever see Barack Hussein Obama as a Muslim.

It's useful keeping in mind that difference between how Americans see our lives and our actions and how others see us, given that one of the chief conceits of the Obama campaign is that a president of his biological identity will redeem our reputation around the world after George Bush enflamed the better part of humanity by invading two Muslim countries.

Or, as Fareed Zakaria put it:

We're moving into a very new world… For America to thrive, we will have to develop a much deeper, richer, more intuitive understanding of them and their peoples. There are many ways to attain this, but certainly being able to feel it in your bones is one powerful way.

Perhaps this is the only obvious strategy available to a presidential candidate whose Washington experience to date has afforded him little time to grasp the niceties of policy-making. And indeed there's already evidence that some Middle Easterners, or the people in whose part of the world the United States has expended vast human and material resources over the last six years, are not impressed with Obama.

Over at From Beirut to the Beltway, Abu Kais gives low scores to a recent Obama recent speech about Lebanon.

From Now Lebanon:

“Washington must rectify the wrong policy of President George Bush in Lebanon and resort to an efficient and permanent diplomacy, rather than empty slogans,” [Obama] added. He also said that the US must cooperate with its European and Arab allies to sponsor an inter-Lebanese consensus on a stable and democratic Lebanon.

To which Abu Kais replies:

What kind of diplomacy that has not been tried before by the “Europeans and Arab allies” will help Lebanon? I am not going to defend the Bush administration's policy in Lebanon. It may reek of “empty slogans” at times, but how does talking to criminals create solutions? And pray explain how supporting the Hariri tribunal, as Obama said he does, can be reconciled with chatting up the ones who killed him?

Lebanese journalist Michael Young and Iraqi blogger Iraqpundit have expressed their reservations about one of Obama's foreign policy advisers, Samantha Power. The self-described “Genocide Chick” seems to them insufficiently concerned that an American withdrawal from Iraq will lead to genocide. Her solution? Move people from one area to another and give money to Iraq's neighbors to stabilize the country. You can't blame her for basically parroting the egregiously cynical recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, but in reality this means that US forces should be complicit in the sectarian cleansing of Iraq and pay off countries like Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia that have themselves funded and supported death squads targeting Iraqi Shias, Kurds and Sunnis as well as US troops.

It's true that the Lebanese and Iraqis have benefited, and suffered, more than anyone from the Bush White House's regional transformation program, so you can't hold it against them if they're more interested in a man's ideas than in the faith he professes or the color of his skin.

Other Arabs apparently think that the color of man's skin should matter, but are not sure it will, like Hezbollah friendly-analyst Amal Saad-Ghorayeb.

“There's always the sense that African-Americans would be more sympathetic (to Arabs), because they're oppressed too,” Saad-Ghorayeb said. “But,” she added, “that wasn't really the case with Colin Powell or Condi Rice, was it?”

In fact, Secretary Rice really does believe that African-Americans and Arabs have something in common, which is why she has likened, for better or worse, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to Martin Luther King, Jr. and thrown all her weight behind a Palestinian state that only she seems to believe in at this point. She hasn't gotten much credit for her efforts, or her race for that matter. When she was named Secretary of State, the Saudi press outdid themselves in lampooning the first black woman to serve as America's top diplomat.

“They exaggerated her features and were amazingly crude and disrespectful in showing her body,” Peter Theroux told me. Theroux was asked to serve under Rice as Persian Gulf director from 2003-2005 when she was the National Security Adviser. “One cartoon from the daily Al-Watan showed her as a boxer with boxing gloves, hitting a punching bag shaped like an Arab; with her wearing some form-fitting thing that showed the shape of her breasts. You never, ever see Saudi newspaper cartoons show any woman that way, let alone a senior official in an allied government. But with Rice being black, and a woman, an infidel, and wielding power - I think that just pushed them over the edge.”

I was in Beirut when she first traveled there as Secretary in the summer of 2005 to show her support for an Arab society that had just come out of fifteen years of Syrian occupation. The pro-Syrian opposition protested her visit, including Hezbollah supporters who marched with placards that would have made a Klansman proud – “N——r,” read one sign with a picture of Ms. Rice's face, “go home.”

Sure, there are numerous instances of dark-skinned people who won respect in the Muslim world, like Bilal ibn Ribah, the first muezzin, a slave of East African origins whose allegedly sonorous voice won him the admiration of the prophet of Islam and earned him the right to call the early Muslim community to prayer.

And then there was the revolt of the Zanj, the East African slaves whose uprising in Basra against the Abbasids from 869 to 883 AD is a key historical episode for Arab, especially Iraqi, communists.

But generally, it should come as no surprise to anyone save the most cloistered third-world fantasists, that a society which discriminates against sex, religion, ethnicity, language, nation, tribe, and family is not likely to have very progressive attitudes about race. Arab society, like many others, has a race problem. For instance, abd, or slave, is a word commonly used to refer to blacks, regardless of a man's stature, or his faith.

لا تشتري العبد إلا والعصا معه ….. إن العبيد لأأنجاس مناكيدو

“Don't buy a slave unless you get a stick, too,” wrote Al-Mutanabi, the incomparable tenth-century Baghdad poet. “For slaves are vile and vexing.”

The poet directed the line at the black Muslim commander he had once served. I found it posted recently on a Syrian Web site as a comment on Obama's mild rebuke of the Damascus regime.

So, if we're concerned about how we look to the rest of the world, we should at least recognize how much of the world looks at things. Laugh as some may about the Bush Administration's idea to export democracy to the Middle East, they had the basic principle right. The world needs our help more than we need to petition its approval. We are a people who choose our own faith, and, after a civil war and a civil rights movement, a nation where the dignity of each individual human being is accorded respect, and men and women are equal regardless of race, sex, religion or creed.

The Middle East is not like that and George W. Bush thought it wise, for the sake of Arabs and Americans, to try to do something about it, an initiative that inspired some Arabs while it enraged others. (So now guess who the good guys are in the Middle East and who are the bad ones?) What made them like or dislike Bush wasn't the color of the president's skin or his religious faith, but his ideas. It's not clear to me why Americans seem now to be trying to export a very un-American idea - that a man's color and his faith matter.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Column One: Kosovo's stark warning

Kosovo's US-backed declaration of independence is deeply troubling. By setting a precedent of legitimizing the secession of disaffected minorities, it weakens the long-term viability of multi-ethnic states. In so doing, it destabilizes the already stressed state-based international system.

States as diverse as Canada, Morocco, Spain, Georgia, Russia and China currently suffer problems with politicized minorities. They are deeply concerned by the Kosovo precedent. Even the US has latent sovereignty issues with its increasingly politicized Hispanic minority along its border with Mexico. It may one day experience a domestic backlash from its support for Kosovar independence from Serbia.

Setting aside the global implications, it is hard to see how Kosovo constitutes a viable state. Its 40 percent unemployment is a function of the absence of proper economic and governing infrastructures.

In November, a European Commission report detailed the Kosovo Liberation Army's failure to build functioning governing apparatuses. The report noted that "due to a lack of clear political will to fight corruption, and to insufficient legislative and implementing measures, corruption is still widespread... Civil servants are still vulnerable to political interference, corrupt practices and nepotism." Moreover, "Kosovo's public administration remains weak and inefficient."

The report continued, "The composition of the government anti-corruption council does not sufficiently guarantee its impartiality," and "little progress can be reported in the area of organized crime and combating of trafficking in human beings."

Additionally, the prosecution of Albanian war criminals is "hampered by the unwillingness of the local population to testify" against them. This is in part due to the fact that "there is still no specific legislation on witness protection in place."

The fledgling failed-state of Kosovo is a great boon for the global jihad. It is true that Kosovar Muslims by and large do not subscribe to radical Islam. But it is also true that they have allowed their territory to be used as bases for al-Qaida operations; that members of the ruling Kosovo Liberation Army have direct links to al-Qaida; and that the Islamic world as a whole perceived Kosovo's fight for independence from Serbia as a jihad for Islamic domination of the disputed province.

According to a 2002 Wall Street Journal report, al-Qaida began operating actively in Kosovo, and in the rest of the Balkans, in 1992. Osama bin Laden visited Albania in 1996 and 1997. He received a Bosnian passport from the Bosnian Embassy in Austria in 1993. Acting on bin Laden's orders, in 1994 his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri set up training bases throughout the Balkans including one in Mitrovica, Kosovo. The Taliban and al-Qaida set up drug trafficking operations in Kosovo to finance their operations in Afghanistan and beyond.

In 2006, John Gizzi reported in Human Events that the German intelligence service BND had confirmed that the 2005 terrorist bombings in Britain and the 2004 bombings in Spain were organized in Kosovo. Furthermore, "The man at the center of the provision of the explosives in both instances was an Albanian, operating mostly out of Kosovo... who is the second ranking leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Niam Behzloulzi."

Then, too, at its 1998 meeting in Pakistan, the Organization of the Islamic Conference declared that the Albanian separatists in Kosovo were fighting a jihad. The OIC called on the Muslim world to help "this fight for freedom on the occupied Muslim territories."

Supporters of Kosovo claim that as victims of "genocide," Kosovar Muslims deserve independence. But if the Muslims in Kosovo have been targeted for annihilation by the Serbs, then how is it that they have increased from 48% of the population in 1948 to 92% today? Indeed, Muslims comprised only 78% of the population in 1991, the year before Yugoslavia broke apart.

In recent years particularly, it is Kosovo's Serbian Christians, not its Albanian Muslims, who are targeted for ethnic cleansing. Since 1999, two-thirds of Kosovo's Serbs - some 250,000 people - have fled the area.

The emergence of a potentially destabilizing state in Kosovo is clearly an instance of political interests trumping law. Under international law, Kosovo has no right to be considered a sovereign state. Even UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 1999, which the KLA claims provides the legal basis for Kosovar sovereignty, explicitly recognizes Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo.

For Israel, Kosovo's US-backed declaration of independence should be a source of alarm great enough to require a rethinking of foreign policy. Unfortunately, rather than understand and implement the lessons of Kosovo, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government is working actively to ensure that they are reenacted in the international community's treatment of Israel and the Palestinians. Today, Israel is enabling the Palestinians to set the political and legal conditions for the establishment of an internationally recognized state of Palestine that will be at war with Israel.

By accepting the "Road Map Plan to a Two-State Solution" in 2004, Israel empowered the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, who comprise the international Quartet, to serve as judges of Palestinian and Israeli actions toward one another. In November 2007, at the Annapolis conference, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government explicitly empowered the US to "monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map."

That these moves have made Israel dependent on the kindness of strangers was made clear this week when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni instructed Israel's ambassadors to launch a campaign to convince the international community that Israel and the Palestinians are making great strides in their negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. Livni's move was precipitated by growing European and US dissatisfaction with the pace of those negotiations and by reports from the meeting of Quartet members in Berlin on February 11. There all members voiced anger at the slow pace of negotiations and opposition to Israel's military actions in Gaza, which are aimed at protecting the western Negev from rocket and mortar attacks.

The US representative at the Quartet's meeting, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, reportedly told his colleagues, "First, we must not allow the suicide bombing in Dimona and the shooting on Sderot to affect the negotiations."

Welch reportedly added, "It is also important to us that neither the Palestinians in Gaza nor the Israelis in Sderot are hurt. Also, we must continue to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayad."

Moreover, Ran Koriel, Israel's ambassador to the EU, reportedly warned Livni that the Russians are pushing for the re-establishment of a Fatah-Hamas government. Several EU states, including France, are reconsidering their refusal to recognize Hamas.

If Israel had not empowered the Quartet generally and the US specifically to determine whether the PA and Israel are behaving properly, a European or Russian decision to recognize Hamas would have little impact. But given their role as arbiters, Quartet members can take punitive action against Israel if it fails to comply with their wishes. The Quartet can replace international law in determining who can assert sovereignty over Gaza, Judea and Samaria and how Israel can exercise its own sovereignty. And so, Livni is reduced to begging them not to recognize Hamas.

Once the US decided in 1999 to commit its own forces to NATO's bombing of Serbia and subsequent occupation of Kosovo, the jig was up for Serbian sovereignty over the area. The fact is, NATO forces in Kosovo were deployed for the express purpose of blocking Serbia from exercising its sovereignty over Kosovo, not to prevent violence between the Kosovars and the Serbs or among the Muslims and Christians in Kosovo. That is, NATO deployed in Kosovo to enable it to gain independence.

And if US or NATO forces are deployed to Gaza or Judea and Samaria, they will not be there to protect Israelis from Palestinian terror or to prevent the areas from acting as global terror bases. They will be there to establish a Palestinian state.

Failing to understand the meaning of Kosovo, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government refuses to understand this point. Indeed, the government is actively lobbying NATO to deploy forces in Gaza. Just as it wrongly hoped that UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon would fight Hizbullah for it, so today, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government insists that NATO forces in Gaza will fight Hamas for it.

If applying the lessons of UNIFIL to Gaza is too abstract for the Olmert-Livni-Barak government, Israel has experience with EU monitors in Gaza itself to learn from. Wrongly assuming that the Europeans shared Israel's interest in preventing terrorists and weapons from entering Gaza, Israel requested that EU monitors set up shop at the Rafah terminal linking Gaza to Egypt after Israel withdrew from the border in 2005. Yet whenever confronted by Fatah and Hamas terrorists, rather than fight the EU monitors flee to Israel for protection. And its monitors' experience with Palestinian terrorists taking over the border has never caused the EU to question its support for Palestinian statehood.

Then, too, since the US, EU, UN and Russia all consider Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to be one territorial unit, it is not surprising that Israel's request for NATO forces in Gaza has been greeted by a US plan to deploy NATO forces in Judea and Samaria. If NATO forces in Gaza would do nothing to secure the border with Egypt or to fight terrorists and would scuttle Israeli operations in the area, NATO forces in Judea and Samaria would not simply prevent Israel from protecting its citizens who live there. They would also prevent Israel from taking action to prevent the Palestinians from attacking central Israel and asserting control over the border with Jordan. And yet, as The Jerusalem Post reported this week, Israel is conducting talks with the US regarding just such a NATO deployment.

What the Serbs made NATO fight its way in to achieve, Israel is offering NATO on a silver platter.

Not surprisingly, Abbas's adviser and PA propaganda chief Yasser Abd Rabbo reacted to Kosovo's declaration of independence by recommending that the Palestinians follow the example. Abd Rabbo said, "Kosovo is not better than us. We deserve independence even before Kosovo, and we ask for the backing of the United States and the European Union for our independence."

For its part, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government has responded to Kosovo's declaration of independence with customary confusion. But the lessons of Kosovo are clear. Not only should Israel join Russia, Canada, China, Spain, Romania and many others in refusing to recognize Kosovo. It should also state that as a consequence of Kosovo's independence, Israel rejects the deployment of any international forces to Gaza or Judea and Samaria, and refuses to cede its legal right to sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem to international arbitration.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Next Ubuntu 8.10 - Intrepid Ibex?

"A particular focus for us will be pervasive internet access, the ability to tap into bandwidth whenever and wherever you happen to be," Shuttleworth wrote in an e-mail. "No longer will you need to be a tethered, domesticated animal - you'll be able to roam (and goats do roam!)

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Monday, February 18, 2008

An Incredibly Amazing Headline

Cream to prevent HIV safe, but not effective: study

Another Amazing Headline, followed by an unbelievable article. Where does Reuters get its journalists??

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A cream designed to protect women from the AIDS virus did not prevent infection, but it was safe.
I see, a definite breakthrough - must be reported at once!
After three years 134 women using Carraguard became infected and 151 women given the placebo did. This difference was not statistically significant.
There are a dozen product in your kitchen ranging from honey to peanut butter that would achieve the same result.
The two other microbicides to finish testing have in fact made women more likely to become infected -- a spermicide called nonoxynol-9 and a product called Ushercell, made by Toronto, Canada-based Polydex Pharmaceuticals.
Oh my, I would have done better with raspberry yogurt. Maybe the story should be about wasted millions if dollars and no progress whatsoever! I am in the wrong business. If I pained lipstick on a pig like that where I work I would have lasted about a week. Apparently not so at som pharmas and Reuters...

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Winter wonderland

Expert winter driving in Russia. Looking to improve your snow driving skills? Look no further that this video.

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Is Barack Obama the Messiah?

A website devoted to tracking Barack Obama as the second coming of the messiah. Lots of photos and quotes as testimony to the great faith of his flock of followers.

In the words of another leftist leader, that would make Obama "opium for the people".

Given his veiled references to his youthful indiscretions with a variety of drugs, it makes sense on more than one level!

My thinking is: If Obama is the Messiah, that would make Ted Kennedy and George Soros Peter and Paul respectively. So, the question is this: Which one of the Clintons, Hillary or Bill is Judas Iscariot?

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Warning light on Kosovo

Recognition of Kosovo's independence without Serbia's consent would set a precedent with far-reaching and unpredictable consequences for many other regions of the world.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

The only winner in Beijing will be tyranny

Pick any dictatorship at random and chances are you'll find China lurking in the background

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Israel kills terror chief with headrest bomb

At the time of his assassination, allegedly carried out by the Mossad, arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh was cooperating with the Syrians in planning an attack against Israeli targets to avenge an Israel Air Force strike on a Syrian site in September 2007, according to "informed Israeli sources" quoted by the British Sunday Times on Sunday.According to "Israeli intelligence sources" quoted by the paper, Mossad agents replaced the headrest of the driver's seat in Mughiyeh's SUV with another headrest containing a small cache of explosives.Israel, according to the Times report, believes that Mughniyeh was also charged with rehabilitating Hizbullah's arsenal after the blows it suffered during the Second Lebanon War. Mughniyeh allegedly rearmed the group with Iranian Fateh 110 rockets, which can reach Tel Aviv and, according to the report may also be capable of delivering a chemical payload.According to a source quoted by the report, on the day after the assassination Mossad Chief Meir Dagan was summoned by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Jerusalem, where he was "complimented by his boss" on a job well done and told that his contract at the helm of the intelligence agency would be extended through the end of 2009.

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BBC apologizes for paralleling Mughniyeh and Hariri

BBC has apologized for equating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh as "great national leaders."The BBC took the unusual step after Don Mell, The AP's former photographer in Beirut, lambasted the parallel, drawn by BBC correspondent in a BBC World report last Thursday, as "an outrage".

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Has Britain become soft on terror?

The "Risk, Threat and Security" report, published through the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, declared Britain’s security to be at risk and its vulnerability to be down to a “loss of confidence in our own identity, values, constitution and institutions”.

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Krazy Kubuntu Annoyances

The nice stuff is nearly-current releases of fast-moving applications like KDE, Digikam, Krita, KWord, and other apps that I use a lot, easy-on-the-eyes graphics, a good set of default applications, and nicely-organized menus. The irritating stuff is they still don't pay enough attention to delivering reliable basic functionality in core functions.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Audacity of Selling Hope

By Charles Krauthammer

Friday, February 15, 2008; A21

There's no better path to success than getting people to buy a free commodity. Like the genius who figured out how to get people to pay for water: bottle it (Aquafina was revealed to be nothing more than reprocessed tap water) and charge more than they pay for gasoline. Or consider how Google found a way to sell dictionary nouns-- boat, shoe, clock -- by charging advertisers zillions to be listed whenever the word is searched.

And now, in the most amazing trick of all, a silver-tongued freshman senator has found a way to sell hope. To get it, you need only give him your vote. Barack Obama is getting millions.

This kind of sale is hardly new. Organized religion has been offering a similar commodity -- salvation -- for millennia. Which is why the Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a "salvational fervor" and "idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria."

"We are the hope of the future," sayeth Obama. We can "remake this world as it should be." Believe in me and I shall redeem not just you but your country -- nay, we can become "a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest."

And believe they do. After eight straight victories -- and two more (Hawaii and Wisconsin) almost certain to follow -- Obama is near to rendering moot all the post-Super Tuesday fretting about a deadlocked convention with unelected superdelegates deciding the nominee. Unless Hillary Clinton can somehow do in Ohio and Texas on March 4 what Rudy Giuliani proved is almost impossible to do -- maintain a big-state firewall after an unrelenting string of smaller defeats -- the superdelegates will flock to Obama. Hope will have carried the day.

Interestingly, Obama has been able to win these electoral victories and dazzle crowds in one new jurisdiction after another, even as his mesmeric power has begun to arouse skepticism and misgivings among the mainstream media.

ABC's Jake Tapper notes the "Helter-Skelter cult-ish qualities" of "Obama worshipers," what Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times calls "the Cult of Obama." Obama's Super Tuesday victory speech was a classic of the genre. Its effect was electric, eliciting a rhythmic fervor in the audience -- to such rhetorical nonsense as "We are the ones we've been waiting for. (Cheers, applause.) We are the change that we seek."

That was too much for Time's Joe Klein. "There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism," he wrote. "The message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is."

You might dismiss as hyperbole the complaint by the New York Times's Paul Krugman that "the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality." Until you hear Chris Matthews, who no longer has the excuse of youth, react to Obama's Potomac primary victory speech with "My, I felt this thrill going up my leg." When his MSNBC co-hosts tried to bail him out, he refused to recant. Not surprising for an acolyte who said that Obama "comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament."

I've seen only one similar national swoon. As a teenager growing up in Canada, I witnessed a charismatic law professor go from obscurity to justice minister to prime minister, carried on a wave of what was called Trudeaumania.

But even there the object of his countrymen's unrestrained affections was no blank slate. Pierre Trudeau was already a serious intellectual who had written and thought and lectured long about the nature and future of his country.

Obama has an astonishingly empty paper trail. He's going around issuing promissory notes on the future that he can't possibly redeem. Promises to heal the world with negotiations with the likes of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Promises to transcend the conundrums of entitlement reform that require real and painful trade-offs and that have eluded solution for a generation. Promises to fund his other promises by a rapid withdrawal from an unpopular war -- with the hope, I suppose, that the (presumed) resulting increase in American prestige would compensate for the chaos to follow.

Democrats are worried that the Obama spell will break between the time of his nomination and the time of the election, and deny them the White House. My guess is that he can maintain the spell just past Inauguration Day. After which will come the awakening. It will be rude.

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Egyptian police arrest men suspected of being HIV positive.

Egyptian police have arrested four men suspected of being HIV positive, bringing the total detained in a recent crackdown to 12, rights groups say."HIV-positive Egyptian men had been chained to hospital beds and forced to undergo tests for the virus."I imagine the likes of CAIR are springing into action. And Code Pink, always on the front line of injustice, are about to demonstrate in Berkley. Not yet? It's always amazing to me how our Lunatic Liberal Left and every shade of Muslim apologist manage to ignore that, they will not survive in the Sharia culture they so readily defend.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Freedom in America

Does Freedom mean anything to New York Times, Washington Post or any other major American newspaper?

17 Danish newspapers have the courage to publish the infamous Mohamed cartoons. Again.

But the readers of ALL mainstream publications in America have to guess as to what this world-wide controversy is all about.

Why pretend? Why continue the charade, pretending to be independent and, oh, so hugely concerned with Truth and Independence?

American publishers might as well bring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to sit on their editorial board and have him pronounce stories halal for publication or not or sharia laws.

Times, Newsweek, New Yorker.... anybody??...

Also, please note the lack of rioting this time around. Somebody figured out that inciting bloody riots to convince the West that Islam is a peaceful religion is a bit counterproductive.

Papers Reprint Muhammad Cartoon

At least 17 Danish newspapers published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban, a day after the arrest of three men accused of plotting to kill the man who drew the cartoon. The drawing, by Kurt Westergaard, left, was one of 12 depicting the prophet that enraged Muslims when they appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 and later in a range of Western newspapers. At the start of 2006, Danish embassies around the world were attacked and dozens died in rioting. The newspapers said they had republished the cartoon to show their commitment to freedom of speech. “With this drawing I wanted to show how fanatical Islamists or terrorists use religion as a kind of spiritual weapon, Mr. Westergaard said. “Naturally I never imagined these kinds of reactions.”

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

U.S. State Department to side with Terrorist in Suits

Victims, who will meet with top State and Justice Department officials tomorrow, said that a U.S. intervention with the courts would make a mockery of the administration's fight against terrorism.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Users face Net ban in crackdown on pirates

People who illegally download films and music will be cut off from the internet under new legislative proposals to be unveiled next week.Internet service providers (ISPs) will be legally required to take action against users who access pirated material, The Times has learnt.Users suspected of wrongly downloading films or music will receive a warning e-mail for the first offence, a suspension for the second infringement and the termination of their internet contract if caught a third time, under the most likely option to emerge from discussions about the new law.Broadband companies who fail to enforce the “three-strikes” regime would be prosecuted and suspected customers’ details could be made available to the courts. The Government has yet to decide if information on offenders should be shared between ISPs.

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Red Hat, Ubuntu top vendor's usage study

Ubuntu and Red Hat are the most used Linux distributions among the 35,000 members of content-management vendor Alfresco's community, the company found in its second survey of trends in enterprise open-source software usage.The surveys help inform Alfresco's technology strategy, according to Ian Howells, Alfresco's chief marketing officer. "It's important for us to know which platforms to test against first," he said, adding, "It's in users' interest to give us good data."Among Linux operating systems, usage of Ubuntu and Red Hat stood at 35 percent and 23 percent, respectively, according to the survey. Suse, OpenSuse and Suse Enterprise collectively garnered 13 percent; Debian, 15 percent; and "other" distributions usage of 14 percent.Users also reported using a variety of proprietary enterprise software.Among Windows users, Vista adoption was just 2 percent, compared to 63 percent for Windows XP and 28 percent for Windows Server 2003.Microsoft's Office suite remained strong, however, with 66 percent usage. Twenty-four percent of the respondents reported they used OpenOffice. However, German and French users were twice as likely to use the latter compared to those in the U.S. or U.K., Alfresco said.Tomcat held a dominant position in the application server category, logging 72 percent. JBoss' entry stood at 18 percent. Entries from Sun, BEA and IBM rounded out the field.In the virtualization category, VMware perhaps predictably ranked highest, at 61 percent. Microsoft's Virtual Server took 16 percent, followed by Xen, Parallels, Virtual Iron and "other" offerings, according to the study.MySQL took home the database prize, with a 60 percent tally, followed by Oracle with 14 percent and Microsoft SQL Server with 13 percent."It kind of validates that people want to have a mixed stack," Howells said of the overall results.Alfresco collected data between July and December of last year, with survey participants coming from 260 countries, according to the company. Fifty percent were from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, while 24 percent were in the U.S., and 26 percent from other nations, Alfresco said.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

In West Bank, Fatah Loses Favor

Poll Suggests Discontent Over Abbas's Government; Hamas's Popularity Gains

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Hamas confiscates aid trucks to Gaza

At least 10 trucks with humanitarian aid sent to the Gaza Strip by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society were confiscated by Hamas police shortly after the lorries entered the territory on Thursday evening.http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3504227,00.html

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Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?

The head of the Church of England believes that officially sanctioning Sharia will improve community relations and aid integration. http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2008/02/has-the-archbis.htmlhttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3328024.ecehttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/daniel_finkelstein/article3315165.ece

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Palestinian bestiality

Palestinians distribute sweets and flowers to people in the southern Gaza Strip after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in southern Israel February 4, 2008.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Britain beginning to resemble Pakistan in more ways than one

Take it from someone who knows: Bishop Nazir-Ali a Pakistani born Catholic.

Telegraph: Islamic extremists have created "no-go" areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, one of the Church of England's most senior bishops warns today.

Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, gives warning that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran.

In an attack on the Government's response to immigration and the influx of "people of other faiths to these shores", he blames its "novel philosophy of multiculturalism" for allowing society to become deeply divided, and accuses ministers of lacking a "moral and spiritual vision".

And punishment was not long in coming - Islamic style:
Timesonline: The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, is under police protection after he and his family received death threats over his claim that parts of Britain had become “no-go areas” for non-Muslims.

Dr Nazir-Ali was in India when staff at his home in Rochester took a number of phone calls threatening his family and warning him that he would not “live long” if he continued to criticise Islam. He has been given an emergency number at Kent Police, along with other undisclosed protection measures, and said that the threats were being taken “seriously”.

Speaking to The Times, Dr Nazir-Ali, who is on the conservative evangelical wing of the Church and is Britain’s only Asian bishop, said: “The irony is that I had similar threats when I was a bishop in Pakistan, but I never thought I would have them here. My point in saying what I did was that Britain had lost its Christian vision, which would have provided the resources to offer hospitality to others.”

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A small victory for Israel in UNSC

"The ugly face of Palestinian terrorism - the relentless, vicious, and horrifying acts of violence directed at Israelis, simply because they are Israelis - is the greatest humanitarian crisis and the greatest threat to human rights and to peace and stability in our region," Gillerman told the council.

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I am a cantankerous man living and working in the Silicon Valley where reading books is an abomination that is virtually unheard of, frowned upon and may be detrimental to one's career. I avoid censure by never conceding that I ever read or owned a book in my life. If anyone accidentally glimpses my scant proficiency in any subject matter, I immediately accredit it to having glanced at DrudgeReport that day.

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