Wednesday, May 31, 2006

AUSTIN BAY writes on the upsurge of extreme nationalism in Europe. Just to make sure how serious this problem one only has to hear what an allegedly moderate Basque nationalists (from the supposedly far-from-ETA nationalist PNV) said the other day during a speech (link in Spanish, my translation): "Whoever doesn't feel a nationalist nor loves his own, doesn't deserve to live" ("El que no se sienta nacionalista ni quiera a lo suyo no tiene derecho a vivir"). This has been ignored by the national media except for that local newspaper, which also pointed out that the speech was applauded by several prominent Socialist (Zapatero's party) politicians in attendance.

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I KNEW that sooner or later Christopher Hitchens would crush British MP and anti Iraq war 'hero' George Galloway over his allegation that the murder of Tony Blair would be morally justified as revenge for the Iraq war. Well, take a look:
[I]f you examine his statement, and the statements that he has made subsequently, you will have an idea of the complete mental chaos that has overtaken a whole section of the "left" who regard Galloway as an anti-war champion.

If the killing of Blair would be "morally equivalent" to the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, then obviously it would be equivalent to something of which Galloway presumably strongly disapproves. In other words, it could not be "morally justified" at all, except by an utter moral cretin. And this is to say nothing of the unmentioned question: How right can it be to remove a thrice-elected head of government by any means other than an election? Galloway is a member of Parliament by the grace of an electorate in the East End of London but is widely regarded as a corrupt scumbag, an egomaniac, an apologist for tyranny, and a supporter of jihad. How would he phrase his complaint if someone were now to propose overruling his voters and offing him as the insult to humanity that he has become? I think I can hear the squeals of self-pity already.

The fascinated GQ interviewer then asked Galloway what he would do if he actually came to know about such a plot against Blair. Once again, Galloway appeared to have an evasion ready to go along with his endorsement. Would he alert the forces of law and order? "Yes. Such an operation would be counter-productive because it would just generate a new wave of anti-Arab sentiment [and] … new draconian anti-terror laws." I have to say I admire his cool use of the term "operation," which is the word that he and his admired "insurgents" in Iraq have long used for their beheadings, car bombs, mosque detonations, and school burnings. And I further note the firm way in which he condemns the possible murder of an elected prime minister—lest it increase "anti-Arab sentiment." I thought Galloway objected to the association of Arabs with terrorism. Who said anything about an Arab doing this hypothetical deed?

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GOOD OL' Ted Nugent. I can almost see the face of the European lefty reporter.

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THIS IS HOW IRAN treats political dissidents, particularly when they are women:
A leading Iranian pro-democracy and women's activist, who was jailed on trumped-up charges last year, has revealed how the clerical regime cynically deploys systemic sexual violence against female dissidents in the name of Islam.

Roya Tolouee, 40, was beaten up by Iranian intelligence agents and subjected to a horrific sexual assault when she refused to sign forced confessions. It was only when they threatened to burn her two children to death in front of her that she agreed to put her name to the documents.

Perhaps just as shocking as the physical abuse were the chilling words of the man who led the attack. "When I asked how he could do this to me, he said that he believed in only two things - Islam and the rule of the clerics," Miss Tolouee told The Sunday Telegraph last week in an interview in Washington after she fled Iran.

"But I know of no religious morality that can justify what they did to me, or other women. For these people, religion is only a tool for dictatorship and abuse. It is a regime of prejudice against women, against other regimes, against other ethnic groups, against anybody who thinks differently from them."

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BILL ROGGIO arrived in Kabul the very day of the deadly protests after a US vehicle hit and killed some civilians. Guess what his impressions were.

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THAT SPECIAL Australian character, and that not so special (because it's so common) character of the media intent on sensationalizing everything and on catching everyone else but themselves in hiding the truth, all encapsulated in this telling anecdote:
He was pressed by Today host Jessica Rowe about whether Dili really was as safe as the Australian military claimed, given the presence of armed soldiers at his shoulder.

Pausing briefly, Brig Slater replied: "Jessica I feel quite safe, yes, but not because I've got these armed soldiers behind me that were put there by your stage manager here to make it look good.


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HEROINE ADDICION is little more than a romantic myth, and the perdurability of the myth has important social consequences, writes Theodore Dalrymple who, besides being a writer, is a physician.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Around a hundred youths clashed with police during the night after setting fire to cars and rubbish bins in a Paris suburb that was the scene of violent riots last November, a local official said on Tuesday.

Seven police officers were slightly injured and six youths were arrested in a neighbourhood of Seine-Saint-Denis in confrontations that started at about 2030 GMT on Monday evening, according to a security official from the suburb to the North of the French capital.

The youths began burning cars in reaction to a police operation in which a young man was arrested several hours earlier. Officials said they did not yet know how many cars had been burned.

There were also incidents in the neighboring area of Clichy-Sous-Bois, where last year's riots began after two youngsters died while they were apparently fleeing police.

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DON'T MISS this lengthy piece on Oriana Fallaci in the New Yorker.

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THE OZONE LAYER is repairing itself quicker than expected; at this pace, the hole might be a thing of the past towards 2050 (via Futurismic).

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Monday, May 29, 2006

THAT'S DEFINITELY the best summary of the feelings underlying in the commemoration of Memorial Day: sadness, absence, pride, appreciation of the sacrifice made. All is encapsuled in this Cox & Forkum cartoon that speaks a lot with no words.

Thank you.

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A PALESTINIAN SCHOOL FUNCTION. Very didactical. I'd even say heartwarming:

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

SPEAKING OF PAJAMAS MEDIA, the latest Week in Review podcast is up. This time with Jeff Goldstein, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, Eric Umansky and Austin Bay moderating; you can stream it there, download it or subscribe at iTunes.

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REUTERS HAS SUSPENDED an employee after Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs (full disclosure: also co-founder of Pajamas Media, where I'm in the staff as Western European editor) received a death threat. Read it all here.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

THERE ARE two articles that you must definitely read about the terribly irresponsible coverage of the Katrina crisis by the media: this one by Lou Dolinar and this one by Jonah Goldberg.

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FANTASTIC PICTURES by Michael Totten of Beirut and Lebanon, were Michael has been living in recent months.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

NOW IT SEEMS that for the AP, the fact that Iraqis laugh at their government is bad news.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I AM NOT an American citizen, as you know; still, I follow American politics very closely because I'm very interested (no matter how CW in Europe goes; Europe doesn't have one single thing to teach the US in terms of politics), and also because of my work in Pajamas Media. So I cannot vote in the elections, but if I could and was considering my vote this superb piece by The Anchoress would definitely close the issue.

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FORTY-FIVE million dollars is what several European governments have secretly paid as ransom for kidnapped citizens in Iraq. Very edifying, no doubt.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

AND THEY CALLED AZNAR an arrogant unilateralist who had turned his back to Europe:
Spain's industry minister has accused the European Commission of "impertinence" for seeking to discipline the country over a move to protect Spanish electricity company Endesa from takeover by German energy giant E.ON.

"Brussels' speed and impertinence in this matter surprise us, in view of its bureaucratic slowness and lack of initiative regarding other problems," Industry Minister Jose Montilla told the Barcelona daily El Periodico Sunday.

His comments referred to infringement proceedings being brought by the European Union against Spain for passing a law aimed at thwarting E.ON's takeover bid.

The commission, the EU's executive arm, should be "as sensitive to the dramas of immigration as it is to the pressures of E.ON," the newspaper quoted Montilla as saying.
Actually what the Spanish minister is much, much worse, because besides the previous sentences he also said (link in Spanish and requires registration): "Tanto derecho tiene la Comisión Europea a llevarnos a los tribunales como nosotros a no hacerle caso. No tenemos ningún complejo ante Bruselas." (my translation: The European Commission is as entitled to sue us [the Spanish government] as we are not to pay any attention. We have no inferiority complex at Brussels.")

Just imagine what would be the reaction if Bush said anything remotely arrogant in any policy issue affecting the Americas.

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OSAMA AND SADDAM: this cartoons are actually shown on TV in Abu Dhabi. Heartwarming, eh?

(via Drinking From Home)

UPDATE. I admit I wasn't aware -and I'm afraid there's quite a few people who aren't either- that this is a parody by Robert Smigel.

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REMEMBER THE "STORY" about Airbus planning to offer stand-up seats? Well, if it smelled like a false story it's because it was: the New York Times' ombudsman yesterday had to wipe off some egg from his colleagues faces.

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GOOD ONE in New Yorker:

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

"AFTER THE 'TRUCE': A Basque Story"; Trans-Atlantic Intelligencer points to an article in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quite skeptical on ETA's ceasfire. One bit:
In 1980, Baglietto was shot by a young ETA terrorist whose life he had saved as an infant. This did not prevent Cándido Aspiazu from dropping death-threats in Baglietto's mailbox, following him in an automobile and killing him on a country road…. As astonishing as the case itself, is its chilling aftermath. For last year, Aspiazu, having been released from prison after serving his sentence, opened a glassware store on the ground floor of the same building in which Baglietto's widow, María Pilar Elías, lives. Since then, the widow and the murderer undoubtedly cross paths in the front hall.
Read the rest.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

SO THE UN should take control of the mess in Iraq, then? You mean the same UN completely incapable of controlling Chad?

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PAJAMAS MEDIA'S latest podcast is up: Glenn Reynolds, Tammy Bruce, and Eric Umansky weigh in on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Net Neutrality and General Hayden’s CIA nomination. Austin Bay moderates. Ed Driscoll produces.

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BY NOW IT SEEMS that the story about the badge for non-Muslims in Iran was at least not sufficiently confirmed, and probably false. Hot Air does a great job following the developments. So a correction seems in order, or at least a caveat.

No I just wish that all those who jumped histerically at the false NSA eavesdropping allegations were as quick retracting.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

DON'T MISS this absolutely fascinating post by Michael Totten from Ramallah (West Bank), aka Hamas-central. And don't skip the postcript!

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FRANKLY, I DON'T CARE if it's a Muslim or a Nazi idea (tomato, tomahto); I just care that Kofi Annan, the UN, my country's prime minister and quite a few others think it's a good idea of creating an Alliance of Civilizations with people capable of this:
Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
Worse till, someone might get the idea in Spain, not for religions, but for political oponents, since illegal arrests obviously didn't come out well.

UPDATE. An important update of his post, here.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Partido Popular (PP) has said that it will be taking the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) [Socialist Party of Catalonia] to court over a pre-statute referendum campaign theme they are using - ‘El PP utilizará tu no contra Cataluña’ (the PP will use your no against Catalonia) - because they feel it is ‘converting the PP into an enemy of Catalonia.’
After hearing over and over that Bad Bush stiffles dissent by wrapping himself around the flag, accusing his critics of being unpatriotic yada yada, this is, well, fun.

Just to make things clear: this is not a mere attack ad like the ones often present in American campaigns: it's the main, and shall we say, single slogan. It goes much further than being one TV ad, and it's not paid by a 527-like organization: it's by the party itself. Funniest of all was hearing the campaign manager on the radio this morning say that in Spain we're shocked about attack ads, but it's normal outside the country; we only have to remember, he said, Bush ads attacking Kerry. So this means that for Catalan socialists Bush is their role model? Go figure.

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After expropriating and nationalizing property belonging to Spanish energy giant Repsol-YPF and sending an ultimatum to Spanish bank BBVA demanding that it turn over the shares in Bolivian pension funds that it manages, Bolivian president Evo Morales announced yesterday that he would revise the Sabsa corporation's contract to manage three Bolivian airports. Sabsa is owned by the Spanish companies Aena and Abertis. Foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and PSOE spokesman Diego Lopez Garrido continued to stress the "good relations" between Spain and Bolivia.

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CANARIES FLEEING the coal mine: TigerHawk comments on the many Europeans threatened by Islamic fanatics that are moving, or considering to move, to the US. I'd like to think there's no similarity to what happened around 70 years ago, but I can't help thinking on the similarities.

UPDATE. More or less thinking along the same line; and see Cox & Forkum too.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

IAN BURUMA writes on Western leftism supporting Chavez, as it has been supporting other leftist leaders; read it all.

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EVO MORALES strikes again:
Bolivian president Evo Morales said yesterday that his nationalization of Bolivian fossil fuel resources "does not expel or expropriate anyone," to the applause of the Euro-MPs. Meanwhile, the Bolivian government announced that Spanish bank BBVA must turn over the shares in Andina, Repsol's Bolivian subsidiary, that it manages through a pension fund, within three days.

"These pension funds will be closed down in three days if they do not obey the decree. That's it," said Bolivian vice president Alvaro García Linera, who signed a further decree allowing Bolivia to "take absolute control" over the fuels industry.
UPDATE. Heh (via Spanish blog Zapaterias Rimadas)

(on the left, Spanish foreign affairs minister Miguel Angel Moratinos)

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CYNTHIA MCKINNEY should take comfort from this:
A Convergència i Unió (CiU) councillor in Gràcia (Barcelona), Víctor Cullell, has made a formal complaint over the insults and light injuries he received from a security guard based in municipal offices located on Calle Francesc Giner.

The incident occurred at the entrance to the office last Friday when, 15 minutes before the offices were due to close, Cullell arrived to hand in a number of documents as he does ‘like any other Friday’ - only to find the doors locked and various members of the public remonstrating that ‘it’s still not time to close.’

The security guard - who worked for a private security firm - is said to have then opened the door and shouted to those assembled that the office was shut.

The councillor asked the guard for an explanation but was met with pushes, insults, jostles and said that he ‘was grabbed by the neck.’ Cullell was also told by the security guard to stick the card identifying him as a councillor ‘up his arse’.

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HEY, MAYBE this is a solution against NSA wiretapping:
If you are looking for Johnny "the Potato" or his wife, "Chinese" Luciana, the Spanish phone book may not be much help if none of their neighbors can recall their real names.

The habit of giving people nicknames leads to so much confusion in Spanish country towns and villages that the 600 inhabitants of Cedillo, in western Spain, have published their own phone book -- using nicknames instead of real names.

It means that Johnny the Potato can be found under P for Patata while Luciana is under C for Chinita.

From Pedro "the Whistle" to "Balls" Francisca, the Cedillo phone book is designed to give people the quickest and easiest way of finding their neighbors' phone numbers and addresses.

The new guide also helps distinguish between those who share real names with them now defined by their individual nicknames.

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I'M NOT SAYING that situations are identical, but this is what happens when you give a blanket amnesty to illegal immigration as Spain did last year:
A veritable flotilla carrying nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants from Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands over the weekend has set off alarms in Madrid, prompting fears of a further onslaught fuelled by traffickers and good weather.

The Spanish government reacted yesterday by announcing a series of emergency security and diplomatic measures to help stem the tide.

I'm all for legal immigration, in Spain, in the US or anywhere else, but there must be a process; we can argue how wide it is, but we shouldn't argue that once established it must be enforced.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

WELL, NOT QUITE: this report says that ETA terrorists appealed for dialogue in a "rare interview". Thing is, they did an Osama-like appeal: they'll be tolerant as long as the other side does exactly what they want:
The armed Basque group ETA has stated publicly for the first time since a ceasefire declaration in March that it still demands self-determination for the Basque Country.

"The final agreement ... must be negotiated in terms of self-determination and territoriality*, for these are the keys to overcoming the conflict," two leading ETA members told the Basque daily newspaper Gara in a rare interview, published Sunday.

"Without solving these problems, it is impossible to overcome the conflict and reach a democratic solution," the newspaper quoted them as saying, without naming the pair.

With the ceasefire, "ETA has already made its principle contribution to provising an impulse for the (peace) process," the two ETA members said, adding it was now for the politicians to "fulfil their commitments."
[*territoriality is the euphemism Basque nationalists use for the annexation of neighboring province of Navarra in Spain and three departments in France. Don't know about the chances on the former, depends on how appeaser feels Zapatero; but on the latter I'd say they're dreaming if they think France will agree]

Big question here is what commitments they're talking about: Zapatero's government has always denied that they had already made any concessions to ETA, but ETA seems to be asking these concessions to be done.

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GUESS THAT if this was in Baghdad instead of Brazil, people would say it confirms there's a civil war going on:
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Prison riots and attacks on police by a criminal gang extended into Monday, raising the reported death toll to 70 in four days of violence that has started to choke normal life in South America's largest city.

Brazilian media reported that the federal government was preparing to send troops to enforce control of Sao Paulo.

Officials said Sunday the death toll had reached at least 52 after at least 100 separate attacks since Friday, but the Globo TV network reported that additional overnight attacks had raised the toll to more than 70.

Most of those dead were reported to be police officers targeted by a powerful criminal gang protesting the prison transfer of some of its leaders. Officials said they had arrested at least 72 suspects.

Attacks on public buses prompted many companies to halt service, stranding thousands of people trying to reach work Monday.

Video on TV showed the buses engulfed in flames, while Folha Online news service said passengers were ordered out of the vehicles before bandits set them ablaze.

Officers in bulletproof vests set up checkpoints to search vehicles, and barriers were placed in front of many police stations.

Time for the Portuguese to go back home, there's too much violence in the place where they set foot; they obviously don't know how to pacify a country!

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Friday, May 12, 2006

IRAQPUNDIT on Brookings' Iraq Index (see yesterday's post for background):
Brookings is to be thanked for its attempt to present an in-depth picture of a complicated society undergoing dramatic transition, when the major Western press is content to present us with a portrait of a place beset by car-bombs, kidnappings, and retrograde clerics.

I'm not in any way shrugging off the security situation in Iraq; it's very serious, and has repeatedly been a threat to the safety and well-being of my own family. But there are a lot of things happening in Iraq, with numerous developments pointing in welcome and even heartening directions.

[...] To me, these are indications that Iraqis are using their freedom to improve their personal lives and, in the process, to build their country. One of the most infuriating aspects of the Western media's presentation of Iraq is that Iraqis themselves are reduced to being the bleeding, mourning victims of terror; they are bit players in a narrative that is about Bush wrecking the country. The material in the Brookings report not only credits Iraqis with initiative, it restores to them the dignity that the Western media's one-dimensional presentation denies them.

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BUSH IS REALLY an incompetent who cannot shoot straight; remember those tax cuts devised to enrich his cronies? Well, turns out that the only managed to make the American tax system more progressive than it was.

This man should give his MBA back, he's useless.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Spain's High Court released one of the 29 suspects charged in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings on Wednesday after authorities failed to apply for the power to hold him for longer.

Saed El Harrak was set free after completing the maximum two-year period for which suspects can be kept in prison without trial. Authorities can apply for the power to hold suspects for a further two years, something they failed to do.
Would be good to know if there's been some kind of threats against the court officers involved.

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THE LATEST Iraq Index by the Brookings Institute is certainly interesting. You can read it in full here (warning: pdf file), or you can read a summary of its main points:
1. Per Capita GDP (USD) for 2005 is forecast to increase from the previous year to $1,051. In 2002 it was $802.

2. Increases in GDP for the next five years: 16.8, 13.6, 12.5, 7.8, and 7.2.

3. Actionable tips from Iraqis have increased every month this year. In January, 4,025 tips were received; February, 4,235; and March, 4,578.

4. On an index of political freedom for countries in the Middle East, Iraq now ranks fourth, just below Israel, Lebanon, and Morocco.

5. Crude oil production reached 2.14 million barrels a day (MBD) in April of this year. It had dropped to 0.3 MBD in May of 2003.

6. Revenues from oil export have only slightly increased from pre-war levels of $0.2 billion, to $0.62 billion in April.

7. Electrical output is almost at the pre-war level of 3,958 megawatts. April's production was 3,600 megawatts. In May of 2003, production was only 500 megawatts. The goal is to reach 6,000 megawatts.

8. The unemployment rate in June of 2003 was 50-60%, and in April of this year it had dropped to 25-40%.

9. The number of U.S. military wounded has declined significantly from a high of 1,397 in November 2004 to 430 in April of this year.

10. Iraqi military casualties were 201 in April of 2006, after peaking at 304 in July of 2005.

11. As of December 2005, countries other than the U.S., plus the World Bank and IMF, have pledged almost $14 billion in reconstruction aid to Iraq.

12. Significant progress has also been made towards the rule of law. In May 2003 there were no trained judges, but as of October 2005 there were 351.

13. As of January 2006, 64% of Iraqis polled said that the country was headed in the right direction.

14. Also as of January 2006, 77% said that removing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do.

15. In May of 2003, Iraqi Security Forces were estimated at between 7,000-9,000. They numbered 250,500 in March of this year.

16. The breakdown of foreign terrorists by country of origin is interesting. The largest number come from Algeria, at 20%. The next two countries are Syria and Yemen, at 18% and 17%, respectively.

17. The number of foreign terrorists fighting in Iraq was estimated at between 300 and 500 in January 2004. That number increased in April of this year, to between 700 and 2,000.

18. From May 2003 and April 2006, between 1,000 and 3,000 anti-Iraqi forces have been killed each month.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

AS I WROTE when the incident took place, it's no wonder Zapatero is best buddy with Castro and Chavez, since they're doing similar things:
A Spanish court jailed three police officers for illegally detaining two opposition Popular Party supporters who barracked the former defence minister Jose Bono.

It is the first time police officers have been jailed on charges of this kind since democracy returned to Spain in 1975 with the death of the dictator Francisco Franco.

The court in Madrid imposed prison terms ranging from three to five years on a police chief and two inspectors on the false arrest charges.

The police chief and one of the inspectors also stand accused of falsifying public documents.

Of course, this report by government-owned press agency EFE duly sanitizes things, because they're worse:
A Madrid provincial court sentenced three police officers to a total of 13 years in prison for illegal arrest, forgery, and blackmail in the arrests of two PP members at the Association of Victims of Terrorism's demonstration in January 2005.

Ex-defense minister Jose Bono was shouted at and insulted, but claimed he had been physically attacked, leading to the arrests of the two PP members. Madrid prefect Constantino Mendez resigned yesterday afternoon after the decision was made public and calls for his resignation were made.

The PP members announced that they would donate the €24,000 in indemnities specified by the sentence to the AVT. The judge also ruled that Madrid provincial prefect Constantino Mendez committed perjury at the trial. The prosecutor's office asserted the police officers had not committed any crime, and called for the three to be acquitted and released. The three will be expelled from the police force. They may appeal their sentence to the Supreme Court.

The judge's ruling quoted Mendez as saying on January 24 that "there would soon be identifications and arrests because the police investigation provided sufficient evidence." According to the judge, "That did not correspond with reality. since the police investigation did not detect either aggression against the minister or any identifications in the incidents."
It's even worse than what this second report says: the Defense minister at that time falsely claimed that he had been hit; the pictures were published in the press nevertheless, and among them two PP members appeared relatively close to him which were identified by the Socialist-friendly press. Even worse, when orders from above called for arrests, some police detectives refused to go along and pick two people without any evidence that any crime had been committed (because merely shouting at a politician is not a crime, is it? if it was, how many people would be in prison in the US?). These police detectives were disciplined and removed from the case until the ones who would agree, and who would dare to falsify the witness reports, were found.

Just imagine if this had happened in Bu$hitler's US, or in Spain itself under Aznar, when several prominent politicians from his party were actually hit during the March 13 2004 demonstrations following the Madrid terrorist attacks, or in the run up to the war in Iraq when "pacifists" chanting No to war, no to violence often chased and hit PP politicians because they were supporting toppling Saddam Hussein.

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AARON HANSCOM writes about United 93 and courage, with other examples beyond the heroes of 9/11.

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CUBA, CHINA, and Saudi Arabia, the three proud new members of UN's Human Rights Council; Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit has the goods.

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AL QAEDA is losing. It's not my impression; they're saying it themselves.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006


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ESTIMATES of the growing pile of non-performing loans (NPLs) in China appear to have caught many by surprise, especially because Beijing's efforts to clean up its rickety state-owned banks were thought to have greatly reduced NPLs and the risk of a full-blown financial crisis.

According to Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, bad loans in the Chinese financial system have reached a staggering $US911 billion ($1.18 trillion), including $US225 billion in potential future NPLs in the four largest state-owned banks.

This equals 40 per cent of gross domestic product and China has already spent the equivalent of 25-30 per cent of GDP in previous bank bail-outs.

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THE GAS EMISSIONS from cars and factories in the Bronze Age sure were bad; so bad that women in Norway wore miniskirts!

You can see a reconstruction here.

Turns out that, as Thomas Gale Moore of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, the best thing that can happens to manking is the planet warming up:
History demonstrates that warmer is healthier. Since the end of the last Ice Age, the earth has enjoyed two periods that were warmer than the twentieth century. Archaeological evidence shows that people lived longer, enjoyed better nutrition, and multiplied more rapidly than during epochs of cold.

That Ice Age ended about 12,000 to 10,000 years ago when the glaciers covering much of North America, Scandinavia and northern Asia began to retreat to approximately their current positions. In North America the glacial covering lasted longer than in Eurasia because of topographical features that delayed the warming. Throughout history warming and cooling in different regions of the world have not correlated exactly because of the influence of such factors as oceans, mountains, and prevailing winds.

As the earth warmed with the waning of the Ice Age, the sea level rose as much as 300 feet; hunters in Europe roamed through modern Norway; agriculture developed in the Middle East, the Far East and the Americas. By 7,000 years ago and lasting for about four millenniums, the earth was more clement than today, perhaps by 4deg. Fahrenheit, about the average of the various predictions for global warming from a doubling of CO2. Although the climate cooled a bit after 3000 B.C., it stayed relatively warmer than the modern world until sometime after 1000 B.C., when chilly temperatures became more common. During the four thousand warmest years, Europe enjoyed mild winters and warm summers with a storm belt far to the north. Rainfall may have been 10 to 15 percent greater than now. Not only was the country less subject to severe storms, but the skies were less cloudy and the days, sunnier.

From around 800 A.D. to 1200 or 1300, the globe warmed again considerably and civilization prospered. This warm era displays, although less distinctly, many of the same characteristics as the earlier period of clement weather. Virtually all of northern Europe, the British Isles, Scandinavia, Greenland, and Iceland were considerably warmer than at present. The Mediterranean, the Near East, and North Africa, including the Sahara, received more rainfall than they do today. During this period of the High Middle Ages, most of North America also enjoyed better weather. In the early centuries of the epoch, China experienced higher temperatures and a more clement climate. From Western Europe to China, East Asia, India, and the Americas, mankind flourished as never before.

This prosperous period collapsed at the end of the thirteenth century with the advent of the "Mini Ice Age" which, at its most frigid, produced temperatures in central England for January about 4.5deg.F colder than today. Although the climate fluctuated, periods of cold damp weather lasted until the early part of the nineteenth century. During the chilliest decades, 5 to 15 percent less rain fell in Europe than does normally today; but, due to less evaporation because of the low temperatures, swampy conditions were more prevalent. As a result, in the fourteenth century the population explosion came to an abrupt halt; economic activity slowed; lives shortened as disease spread and diets deteriorated.

Although the influence of climate on human activities has declined with the growth in wealth and resources, climate still has a significant effect on disease and health. A cold wet climate can confine people to close quarters, abetting contagion. In the past, a shift towards a poorer climate has led to hunger and famine, making disease more virulent. Before the industrial revolution and improved technology, a series of bad years could be devastating. If transportation were costly and slow, as was typical until very recently, even a regionalized drought or an excess of rain might lead to disaster, even though crops might be plentiful a short distance away.
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BitTorrent, the creator of the file-sharing software that for some has become synonymous with piracy, has struck a landmark distribution deal with a Hollywood studio.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Group has agreed to use BitTorrent's peer-to-peer system to distribute films and television shows, including "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Babylon 5," beginning this summer, the companies are expected to announce Tuesday.

Warner Bros. is the first major entertainment company to embrace BitTorrent's distribution system, which has been widely used to illegally swap copies of copyrighted movies.
As Cory Doctorow writes, the key is whether there will be DRM on this; but still, it's a very important development.

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Young girls in Liberia are still being sexually exploited by aid workers and peacekeepers despite pledges to stamp out such abuse, Save the Children says.

Girls as young as eight are being forced to have sex in exchange for food by workers for local and international agencies, according to its report.

The agency says such abuse is continuing as people displaced by the civil war return to their villages.

The UN in Liberia said it would investigate specific allegations.

The United Nations promised to put safeguards in place after sexual abuse in the refugee camps of West Africa was first revealed four years ago.
How can anyone still think that the UN has to take care of some hotspot in the world?

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

A PLAN to kill PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas was foiled after the Israeli intelligence services tipped him about it.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

27 PROPOSALS for reforming Islam, by France-based Algerian intellectual Malek Chebel. A ray of hope? I certainly wish, though Robert Spencer sees if differently.

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FOR BETTER OR WORSE? Is the U.S. better off with the Middle East as it is now than as it was before 2001? Victor Davis Hanson explains.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

SEX SCANDALS in the UN are so bad that its staffers have to petition the US Supreme Court, writes Claudia Rosett:
Even the United Nations’ own employees don’t trust it to deliver justice. Just ask Cynthia Brzak, an American who has worked for the past 26 years at the U.N. refugee office in Geneva, Switzerland. Despairing of a U.N. system that operates immune to any normal jurisdiction of law, Brzak, who two years ago brought an in-house allegation of sexual harassment, is now going outside the institution to ask for a hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“You have to be able to go somewhere and ask for justice,” said Brzak, reached yesterday at her Geneva phone number, “I’ve tried as hard as I could within the system.”

Enroute to this unusual step, Brzak’s case has evolved from an initial allegation of an unwanted grope by a former boss, then the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, to a far broader condemnation of systemic problems bedeviling the entire U.N. The motion and complaint sent by her lawyer this week to the Supreme Court seeks to challenge the diplomatic immunity of the U.N. itself, and alleges that in the U.N.’s handling of her case, a number of U.N. officials, including Lubbers and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “engaged in a pattern of racketeering.” Queried yesterday for any comment, Annan’s office did not respond. Lubbers, who resigned from the U.N. last year, could not be reached.

It’s a long shot that the Supreme Court will do anything but dismiss this case out of hand, and perhaps that’s just as well. The legal argument raises questions about U.S. policy in dealing with the U.N., an arena in which quite possibly the only course worse than entrusting our fate to the diplomats would be to turn it over to the lawyers.

But even if this case never gets a hearing, there’s plenty in this lawyer’s discussion that the rest of the world might want to consider—especially the politicians now trying to reform the U.N., and the taxpayers being asked to fund it. Running to 180 pages, the pleadings highlight the fundamental problem that senior U.N. officials enjoy the privileges of sovereign immunity, but because the U.N. is not a sovereign state, they are spared the accountability that tends to come—at least in democracies—with running a national government. This is accompanied by page after page of sordid detail, much of it small-scale, but illuminating about the inner workings of the U.N.
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TALK ABOUT Bush's low approval ratings; some people would kill to have them.

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THE MEME that Saddam was a feminist, a champion of women's rights was, well, nothing more than a myth:
Some radical feminists and anti-war liberals have very short memories. It's just three years after Saddam Hussein's ouster and some would have us believe the tyrant was in fact a protector of women's rights in Iraq. That Iraq under Saddam actually had progressive, pro-women policies that are now being "rolled back" thanks to the Bush administration.

[...] it is worth setting the record straight on how women really fared under the rule of this allegedly "benign" dictatorship. Revisionist history-writing must not prevail.

Much of the anti-war propagandists' defense of Saddam as a champion of women's rights rests on his willingness to allow women to vote (for him), drive cars, own property, get an education and work. What they choose to ignore, however, is the systematic rapes, torture, beheadings, honor killings, forced fertility programs, and declining literacy rates that also characterized Saddam's regime. A few examples can only begin to illustrate the cruelty and suffering endured by thousands of Iraqi women.

One torture technique favored by Saddam's henchman and his sons involved raping a detainee's mother or sister in front of him until he talked. In Saddam's torture chambers women, when not tortured and raped, spent years in dark jails. If lucky, their suckling children were allowed to be with them. In most cases, however, these children were considered a nuisance to be disposed of; mass graves currently being uncovered contain many corpses of children buried alive with their mothers.

During Saddam's war with Iran, nearly an entire generation of Iraqi men were killed, injured or captured, leaving a dearth of men of military age in Iraqi society. As a result, Saddam launched "fertility campaigns" that forcibly administered fertility drugs to school girls as young as 10 in an effort to drive up the population rate.

After the Gulf War--particularly after crushing the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings of 1991--Saddam reverted to tribal and "Islamic" traditions as a means to consolidate power. Iraqi women paid the heaviest price for his new-found piety. Many women were removed from government jobs and were not allowed to travel without the permission of a male relative. Men were exempted from punishment for "honor" killings--killings carried out on female relatives who had supposedly "shamed" their family. An estimated 4,000 women died from honor killings in the ensuing years. By 2000, Iraqi women, once considered the most highly educated in the Middle East, had literacy levels of only 23%.

Under the pretext of fighting prostitution in 2000, Saddam's Fedayeen forces beheaded 200 women "dissidents" and dumped their head on their families doorsteps for public display. These women obviously lost whatever "rights" granted to them once they got in Saddam's way.
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SENSE OF HUMOR from PhD students? Of course; you only have to look at this video from the Columbia Business School mocking their dean, Glenn Hubbard, for his 'frustration' after it was Ben Bernanke and not him who was appointed by Bush as Fed chairman.

(via Steven Leavitt)

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

THE NEW Week in Review podcast is up at Pajamas Media: Glenn Reynolds, Tammy Bruce, Eric Umansky and Austin Bay as moderator go over last week's events. Don't miss it!

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"KOFI ANNAN'S $500,000 conflict of interest", writes Claudia Rosett:
Here’s one for the new ethics office at the United Nations: Not only do we now know that Secretary-General Kofi Annan accepted a $500,000 prize from the ruler of Dubai, courtesy of a judges’ panel rife with U.N. connections, one member of which Annan then appointed to a high U.N. job. Less well known is that Annan was advised to take the prize money by another senior U.N. official, Mark Malloch Brown—according to Malloch Brown himself in an interview this past February.

Since then, Annan has promoted Malloch Brown from U.N. chief of staff to the U.N.’s number-two post of deputy secretary-general. With role models like these in the executive suite, small wonder the U.N. remains gridlocked over reform.

Annan’s $500,000 purse was part of the Zayed International Prize for the Environment, given to a beaming Annan in February at a lavish ceremony in Dubai. Because the U.N. secretary-general is exempt from his own staff rules, no one is suggesting there was anything illegal in this; neither was it secret (although a press release from Annan’s office at the time noted the prize but neglected to mention the $500,000 purse). But there’s a case to be made that even if done in daylight, it is just plain wrong for the secretary-general of the U.N. to personally accept cash prizes, or any other form of gift, from anyone or anything connected with the U.N. in any way whatsoever.
Great ending:
More illuminating is a quip that has for some time been making the rounds among the more junior personnel at Turtle Bay. It runs thus: “What’s U.N. shorthand for conflict-of-interest?


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AFTER LAST WEEK'S DDoS attack, and the one against Typepad yesterday, now its seems that Aaron's CC, who apparently was the target last week, has just been defaced:

I'm not linking because I'd advice against visiting the site while hacked unless you really know what you're doing (using a safe browser, disabling Javascript); the bad guys might have put there some malicious code too.

So even though I agree with Glenn that trying to shut the blogosphere is like trying to silence a hornet's nest, they sure try, don't they.

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AN ONLINE INTEGRITY STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES: una buena idea, apartidista, a la que me he adherido como unos cuantos bloggers a todo lo ancho del espectro ideológico:
  • Private persons are entitled to respect for their privacy regardless of their activities online. This includes respect for the non-public nature of their personal contact information, the inviolability of their homes, and the safety of their families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted. The separateness of private persons’ professional lives should also be respected as much as is reasonable.
  • Public figures are entitled to respect for the non-public nature of their personal, non-professional contact information, and their privacy with regard to their homes and families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted.
  • Persons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable. Exceptions include cases of criminal, misleading, or intentionally disruptive behavior.
  • Violations of these principles should be met with a lack of positive publicity and traffic.
  • I signed up.

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    Like Hitler crazily declaring war on the United States after Pearl Harbor, bin Laden is adding to his slew of formidable enemies: China was the only major world power that was unconcerned about him. (And his reference to the United Nations as a "Zionist-Crusader tool" would surely surprise most Israelis.) Bin Laden also makes some plaintive appeals to Muslims to rise up and attack the "crusaders" in the west of Sudan. This shows desperation because there are no "crusaders" in Sudan. The troops there are African Union peacekeepers. But more interestingly, the victims in Darfur are Muslim. Bin Laden's real objective appears to be to support the government in Sudan-which once housed him-as it brutally exterminates tribes that oppose it. What does this have to do with Islam? Most revealingly, bin Laden makes a parochial appeal for foreign aid, to help those Qaeda supporters in Waziristan who have been rendered homeless by Pakistani Army attacks. That suggests he and his friends are having a rough time. Strip away the usual hot air, and bin Laden's audiotape is the sign of a seriously weakened man.

    [...]The danger from global Islamic terrorism is real. But it is the product of small and scattered groups, spewing hate. It has much less support in the Muslim world than people think. There is much to be distressed about in that world-oppressive regimes, reactionary social views, illiberal political parties, mindless and virulent anti-Americanism. But these trends are not the same as support for jihad or for a Taliban-like Islamic state. And it is the latter-terror and theocracy-that are Al Qaeda's basic goals. The evidence suggests that they are not gaining adherents.

    The West, and the United States in particular, has a long history of seeing the enemy as 10 feet tall-think of Soviet Russia and Saddam Hussein. But as we paint Al Qaeda in those lofty terms, let's please remember last week, when Osama bin Laden appealed on a crackling audiotape for a little money to build a few huts in Waziristan.
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    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    THE SHOCKING TRUTH about Osama bin Laden, writes Brendan O'Neill at Reason, is that he reads our blogs:
    Bin Laden’s parasitical relationship with Western debate really came into its own from 2004 onward. During this period he has sounded almost indistinguishable from various left-wing blogs. In April 2004 he ranted about “big media,” describing them as “agents of deception and exploitation.” He said the war in Iraq “is making billions of dollars for the big corporations, whether it be those who manufacture weapons or reconstruction firms like Halliburton and its offshoot sister companies.” (Halliburton is, of course, the bête noir of anti-war bloggers.)

    Bin Laden also said, “It is all too clear, then, who benefits most from stirring up this war and bloodshed: the merchants of war who direct world policy from behind the scenes.” This is also a popular idea in the blogosphere: that a wicked cabal led by Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney (both of whom have big business links) is leading America to war. In his latest statement bin Laden spells out who these “merchants of war” are, describing Iraq as “the ill-omened plan of the four—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.” He has also adopted the “war for oil” argument of various anti-war bloggers, arguing that the “black gold blinded” Bush.

    Bin Laden frequently drops the names of the anti-war blogosphere’s favorite authors and activists. In October 2004 he advised the White House to read “Robert Fisk, who is a fellow [Westerner] and a co-religionist of yours, but one whom I consider unbiased.” In the same statement bin Laden chastised Bush for leaving “50,000 of his citizens in the two towers” because he considered “a little girl’s story about a goat and its butting [to be] more important than dealing with airplanes and their butting into skyscrapers.” This reads like a reference to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, which opens with footage of Bush reading The Pet Goat to a classroom of children on the morning of 9/11. Did bin Laden watch a pirate DVD of Fahrenheit 9/11? Or did he read about the Pet Goat incident on the Web, where images of Bush’s uncomfortable classroom performance were widely available even before Moore’s film was released?

    Now he has suggested that Bush and company read William Blum’s Rogue State. Funny how this Islamist warrior never recommends that we read the Koran.

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    YOU DON'T SAY: "No trust equals loss of audience, poll finds"
    One-quarter of consumers abandoned a news source over the past year because they lost trust in its reporting, according to a new survey that also found the BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera the most trusted brands in their respective home regions.

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    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    IN JANUARY 2005, Britain's Prince Harry attended a birthday party dressed as a Nazi. When the London Sun published a picture of the prince in his German desert uniform and swastika armband, it triggered widespread outrage and disgust. In scathing editorials, Harry was condemned as an ignorant and insensitive clod; months later, he was still apologizing for his tasteless costume. ''It was a very stupid thing to do," he said in September. ''I've learnt my lesson."

    For a more recent example of totalitarian fashion, consider Tim Vincent, the New York correspondent for NBC's entertainment newsmagazine, ''Access Hollywood." Twice in the last few weeks, Vincent has introduced stories about upcoming movies while sporting an open jacket over a bright red T-shirt -- on which, clearly outlined in gold, was a large red star and a hammer-and-sickle: the international emblems of totalitarian communism.

    And what was the public reaction to seeing those icons of cruelty and death turned into the latest yuppie style? Was there a furor? Moral outrage? Blistering editorials?

    None of the above.
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    Monday, May 01, 2006

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, big guy.

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    THAT'S WHAT I CALL a faux pas (hat tip: John Sanchez)

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    (via Dean Esmay) True, it's one of the worst videos I've ever seen.

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    FASCINATING: Amy Alkon saw a man trying to take advantage of the needs of a homeless graphic artist at a Starbucks in Santa Monica. She decides to do something, writes about it on her blog and people jump in: now he has a website to sell his works, an agent, and has started receiving his first orders. Ain't that great? Read it all.

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    AL QAEDA is being defeated in Iraq, no matter what the Cassandras are saying:
    Despite the many brickbats of the media, al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq, and is now retreating to lick its wounds where it can. If it can. Just over four and a half years, al Qaeda has gone from being the dominant terrorist group in the world to a defeated shell of its former self. In trying to defeat the United States, al Qaeda made three big mistakes: They fought the last information war, they underestimated the American leadership, and they also managed to anger the Iraqi people.

    [...] These three mistakes resulted in the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, a defeat has left that group largely discredited. Osama bin Laden is now reduced to making audio tapes with grand pronouncements which have little or no likelihood of ever becoming reality, since al Qaeda has no safe havens where they can train new recruits, nor countries willing to support them. In less than five years, al Qaeda has gone from being feared by the world, to little more than a sideshow in the long war that the United States is now fighting.
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    MORE ON THE Clearstream affair, by Fausta.

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