Sunday, April 30, 2006


One of the last few good men in the European intelligentsia has left us. Rest in peace, master.

(I had to link to French mag Le Nouvel Observateur because I haven't found a single mention yet in the English-speaking press)

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HUMOR BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: a fascinating article in the British magazine Prospect. Cracking a joke in the communist paradise was no trivial matter: soviet files show that Stalin jailed 200,000 people for telling an anekdot.

(via Arts & Letters Daily)

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KEEP THIS WORD in your mind: Clearstream. It's gonna shake French politics and maybe end Dominique "Girlie sig" de Villepin and quite likely of Chirac too. Read this post at L'Ombre de l'Olivier and the links from there.

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WISE WORDS from James Hudnall: "Common sense dictates that when someone tells you the world’s going to end unless you do what they say, it’s a good idea to do some research and see if they’re lying." The comment is about Al Gore's scare documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

THE NEW Week in Review podcast by Pajamas Media is up.

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THAT'S A NEAT PRODUCT: a turntable for old vinyl records that plugs directly to your PC via USB. If you have an old record colection and want to convert it to MP3, this might come handy --of course depending on how much it costs...

UPDATE. Looked at Froogle, and it's a reasonable price: around $130.

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WHAT A great ad:

(via Dean Esmay)

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Friday, April 28, 2006

GREAT MINDS think alike, as you know. So, it shouldn't be surprising that Spanish Socialists and famed social scientist Pamela Anderson think alike:
Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, with at least 95% of the same DNA. We're closer to them than they are to gorillas, so when I see chimpanzees being used as on-screen comedians, dressed up in silly costumes to sell credit cards, I think, Is this any way to treat a relative?

This issue has been on my mind a lot lately.

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A SUBSTANTIAL PORTION of the blogosphere is down, since Hosting Matters is right now experiencing a Denial of Service attack; many well known bloggers are unaccessible. They're trying to block the attack, but it's still unknown how long will it take.

If anyone affected wants me to publish an announcement on their behalf, or if he/she needs a place to lay down their keyboard while it lasts, drop me a line clicking the link below and I'll be happy to help.

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ROBERT FISK is definitely off his rails.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

ANOTHER UN SCANDAL, this time about the sale of its invaluable stamp collection -no joke, see the catalog in this pdf file-; Claudia Rosett has all the details.

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IS ZAPATERO a scriptwriter of The Simpsons? Well, take a look at this screencap reader Tate Rorabach just sent me from season 16:

Makes you think, eh?

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WHEN LINKING to Fjordman's posts at Gates of Vienna the other day, I wrote that Scandinavia has a problem. Here's some manifestation that Fjordman was on to something: " Sweden Pulls Out of Military Exercises Because of Israel." Did I hear Eurabia?

(via LGF)

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I QUITE AGREE with Jonah Goldberg: a referendum in Iraq on whether they want the foreign troops to stay is a good idea. If it's won -most likely-, well, it's obvious why it would be positive. And if it's lost there won't be a most honorable reason to withdraw.

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59 THINGS A Man Should Never Do Past 30: funny. I'd add the "hang loose", I hate it.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

THE NEW YORK TIMES has done it again: the information that Airbus was planning to offer "stand up" flights is not true.

UPDATE. Fausta doesn't believe the Airbus' denial, and she may be right.

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PARALOGIA and climate change: a good post by James Hudnall.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

MORE ON BANNING PATRIOTISM, in the US and abroad, by Aaron Hanscom.

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YOU CAN'T MAKE this stuff up: Zapatero's Socialists will actually introduce a declaration in Parliament calling to grant "human rights" (sic) to apes. It's not some academics stuff, it's intended to pass in Parliament:
The Spanish Socialist Party will introduce a bill in the Congress of Deputies calling for "the immediate inclusion of (simians) in the category of persons, and that they be given the moral and legal protection that currently are only enjoyed by human beings." The PSOE's justification is that humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans.

The party will announce its Great Ape Project at a press conference tomorrow. An organization with the same name is seeking a UN declaration on simian rights which would defend ape interests "the same as those of minors and the mentally handicapped of our species."
Maybe their plan is to give them voting rights, so they're reaching to their base...

"PSOE, your party"
"together for a better society"
"more and more people are joining us"

To be fair, Environment minister said that this was not mean to actually give monkeys actual human rights, though the deputies sponsoring this, during the presentation in Parliament (link in Spanish), said that they pursued the concept of person to be expanded to big apes in danger of extintion (gorillas, chimpanzees) in order to protect them.

Maybe leftists will cut Bush the Chimp some slack...
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SCANDINAVIA has a problem; read Fjordman at Gates of Vienna.

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ORWELLIAN INDEED: AP is labeling Osama bin Laden as "Saudi dissident".

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DENOUNCING THINGS LIKE this one is also Islamophobia?
Malaysian authorities have demolished a century-old Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, bulldozing the building as devotees cried and begged them to stop, Hindu groups said today. The Malaimel Sri Selva Kaliamman Temple was reduced to rubble after Kuala Lumpur's city hall sent in bulldozers, they said.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

TV NEWS CHANNELS are reporting a big terrorist attack in Dahab, in the Sinai peninsula (Egypt); nothing yet on the internet beyond this on Fox News. According to initial informations, about 100 people may have been killed.

UPDATE. The latest reports are saying that the three car bombs in the popular resort have killed approximately 50 people and wounded more than 150; the situation is still fluid and the numbers may change.

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IF THE MEDIA and pundits ever decide to take a break from telling us there's a civil war in Iraq -there isn't-, they could from time to time talk about a place where there is one already: Palestine.

[Note: Blogspot has been down all day, so I'm just publishing this post I had written several hours ago and couldn't upload]

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MUGABE's got a new toy, while his people are literally starving to death. Don't expect any condemnation from tranzis, of course.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

A BIG RALLY in commemoration of the 70,000 dead in Venezuela because of the increasing violent climate in the country under Chavez. Daniel Duquenal was there.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

THE SECRET -one of them, at least- behind China's economic boom; it's a report from UK's Sky News, and something to think about now that Hu Jintao has just been in the US:

(via Catalan blog Nihil Obstat)

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AFTER GOOGLE, YAHOO OR CISCO now it's Skype who is apparently censoring in China.

If you're angry at them for that, you must know there are alternatives. Skype is a good idea, and technically it works fine (sound quality is great), and a big advantage is that it doesn't require hardly any configuration. But personally I favor the SIP standard which is completely transparent with POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). I have several providers and not only I can have numbers in the US and in Spain (like Skype), but I can use it flexibly, both on my PCs and in a phone handset. In my studio I use a 4-line desk phone with 3 different VoIP providers, and on the road I use the X-PRO softphone in my laptop. All transparent, with the possibility of interconnection and completely integrated in the regular phone network wherever I happen to be. And no, I'm not a techie, not at all; I simply don't mind spending some time figuring how these things work, but I admit a lot of people simply prefer using something that doesn't require a tricky configuration. Still, it's good to know there are alternatives.

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THIS IS EXACTLY what I would have written on the generals' revolt again Rumsfeld if I had Charles Krauthammer talent. Make sure you don't miss it.

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SO YOU SAY you still havent's listened to Pajamas Media's podcast? It's the Blog Week in Review, with Glenn Reynolds, Tammy Bruce and Eric Umansky, moderated by Austin Bay and produced by Ed Driscoll. You don't know what you're missing; go to this link to listen the streaming version or to several downloading alternatives.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

SORRY FOR THE LACK OF POSTS; been busy. As a compensation, I'll leave you with this video on how people drive in India. Personally, I have never been so worried about personal safety from traffic as in the streets of Taipei, but perhaps it's child's play compared to this:

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A TRAGEDY IN THE FAMILY of Omar and Mohammed: their brother in law was murdered last week. Keep them in your thoughts. I already had the chance to express my condolencies privately, but I want to also make them public on behalf of all Barcepundit readers.

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EUROPE, THY NAME is hypocrisy:
Four and a half years after the Sept. 11 attacks, and after deadly bombings in Madrid and London since then, the troubled debate within Western democracies over how to weigh security against basic freedoms has only grown and spread, as the legal tools for dealing with terrorism suspects multiply.

The clashing of priorities has been clear in the United States, in the domestic debates preceding the renewal of the Patriot Act, and in the international uproar over prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

But many European governments, including some that had criticized the United States for its antiterrorism measures, have been extending their own surveillance and prosecution powers. Officials, lawyers and human rights experts say that Europe, too, is experiencing a slow erosion of civil liberties as governments increasingly put the prevention of possible terrorist actions ahead of concerns to protect the rights of people suspected, but not convicted, of a crime.

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YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, here we come!:
Bloggers and internet pundits are exerting a "disproportionately large influence" on society, according to a report by a technology research company. Its study suggests that although "active" web users make up only a small proportion of Europe's online population, they are increasingly dominating public conversations and creating business trends.

More than half of the internet users on the continent are passive and do not contribute to the web at all, while a further 23% only respond when prompted. But the remainder who do engage with the net - through messageboards, websites and blogs - are helping change the national conversation, say researchers.

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NEWSWEEK (HEART) ZAPATERO [a guest post by Fausta Wertz]:

Newsweek (heart) Zapatero, and thinks His Way Works. The article paints a glowing picture of the Spanish economy, which has been riding a boom that started with the Aznar administration's economic policies. As it is, just yesterday the Bank of Spain warns of economic slowdown.

The Newsweek article ignores Zapatero's protectionist policies towards his socialist party friends. Newsweek finally got around to mentioning (emphasis added),
Ironically, the remainder of Zapatero's term may be judged by neither his social reforms nor his economic management. Last month, after behind-the-scenes talks with the government, the Basque separatist group ETA declared a "permanent ceasefire," ostensibly ending 38 years of struggle. Terror put Zapatero in office. If the ceasefire holds—and the prospects are encouraging—it may now cement his standing.
The elephant in Newsweek's room: March 11, 2004:
If you go by the article, you'd think an ETA attack is what put Zapatero in office, but ETA is just one of Zapatero's worries. As The Economist explained last year, Fear of Islamist terror casts shadows on the country that expelled the Moors (emphasis added):
Spain's relationship with Muslims remains loaded with historical baggage. The vision of the country as a bulwark against barbarism, the expulsion of the Moors and the persecution of Muslim Spanish converts by the Inquisition are all cherished by both the right and the Catholic church. Their views were bolstered by the call from al-Qaeda, both before and after the Madrid bombs, for a holy war to "liberate al-Andalus".
Bin Laden himself talked of Al-Andalus after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and he wasn't joking. On January 4 this year Hamas demanded the return of Seville in internet children's magazine, so they too were listening to Bin Laden.

The March 11 attack threw the elections, and provoked Spain's pullout from Iraq. By caving in to terrorism, Spain gave a very loud signal to Islamic terrorists; however,
According to Zapatero, Spain's unilateral troop withdrawal from Iraq does not mean that "Spain had to pay a price," but rather that "Spain has gained a lot," because it is now in alignment with the majority of the nations in the world.
At the same time, Ceuta and Melilla are overwhelmed with illegal aliens, after Zapatero's government granted amnesty to 700,000 illegal immigrants. By doing so, he certainly went against the "majority of nations" in the EU (emphasis added)
Spain was royally rapped on the knuckles for its unilateral action at a recent meeting of the interior ministers of the G5 - Europe's five wealthiest nations
But back to Newsweek: El Mundo had announced that Zapatero had made it to the cover of Newsweek
"Zapatero, en 'Newsweek'
El semanario estadounidense 'Newsweek Internacional' dedica su portada al presidente del Gobierno español. Sobre un sonriente Zapatero aparece impresa la frase 'Haciendo que el socialismo funcione'"

(my translation)
Zapatero in Newsweek
American weekly "Newsweek International" will feature the Spanish president on its cover. Over the smiling Zapatero the headline will read "Making Socialism Work"

Newsweek's International Edition cover features Hu and Bush. The American edition's cover story is Why Women Can't Sleep instead.

One thing that would keep me awake is the fact that most of the 29 suspects of the March 11 bombings in Madrid were police informants.

You won't see that on any Newsweek covers.

[a big thanks to Fausta for her post -- Barcepundit]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

PROTESTS IN NEPAL spread to government:
The Nepalese police arrested 25 civil servants who were demonstrating against King Gyanendra's rule inside the Home Ministry compound Tuesday, officials said.

The employees had left their offices and stood outside in the courtyard chanting anti-king slogans when the police rounded them up and took them to a detention center, an official said.

The ministry is the most important government office; it controls the administration and the police force being used against protesters in major cities and towns across Nepal.

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I KEEP READING IN AGREEMENT what people like Christopher Hitchens, and today John Leo write about the Wilson / Plame / uranium / Niger kerfuffle. It's true that the Butler report in the UK corroborated that the suspicion that Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake from Niger was not a wild speculation, even less a lie.

But, doesn't anybody remember what was in page 122 of the mentioned Butler report?
494. There was further and separate intelligence that in 1999 the Iraqi regime had also made inquiries about the purchase of uranium ore in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this case, there was some evidence that by 2002 an agreement for a sale had been reached.
Reached. It's not that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger. It's that they had closed a deal with Congo; presumably not shipped, but what does it matter for the case against Saddam? Why isn't Blair, and the Bush administration, not shouting this from the rooftops?

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IT'S NOT APRIL 1st, but I had to check my calendar when I saw that Iran (!) has been elected (!) to the UN's (!) Disarmament Commission (!). I'm sure they know a lot.

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AS I HAVE WRITTEN BEFORE, it may as well be true that there is a civil war in Iraq; only that it's not the civil war the MSM is trying to sell to us, but between Iraqis and terrorists from al-Qaeda:
He looks every inch the face of the Iraqi resistance: a tribal leader from the Sunni badlands west of Baghdad, who once served in Saddam Hussein's feared intelligence network.

But Sheikh Osama Jadaan's dislike of foreign occupation is nothing compared to his contempt for Iraq's other intruders - the foreign jihadists who have indiscriminately killed thousands of his countrymen. Now, in what coalition commanders hope will mark a turning of the tide against al-Qaeda in Iraq, he has become the first of the Sunni tribal leaders to declare war on the terrorists to whom, until now, they have given safe haven.

He is well-placed to do so - his al-Karabla tribe lives around the desert city of Al Qaim, near the Syrian border in Anbar province, the Sunni insurgents' stronghold.

Sheikh Jadaan's armed followers claim to have arrested and killed 300 would-be jihadis entering from Syria, many bound for service as suicide bombers with Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"I am doing this job because the foreign terrorists kill the civilians," said Sheikh Jadaan, 52, at his heavily guarded villa. "None of them ever attack the Americans except occasionally, they just attack the innocents. This is to restore the reputation of jihad."

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THE FRIGHTENING TRUTH of why Iran wants a bomb, by Amir Taheri:
Last Monday, just before he announced that Iran had gatecrashed "the nuclear club", President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad disappeared for several hours. He was having a khalvat (tête-à-tête) with the Hidden Imam, the 12th and last of the imams of Shiism who went into "grand occultation" in 941.

According to Shia lore, the Imam is a messianic figure who, although in hiding, remains the true Sovereign of the World. In every generation, the Imam chooses 36 men, (and, for obvious reasons, no women) naming them the owtad or "nails", whose presence, hammered into mankind's existence, prevents the universe from "falling off". Although the "nails" are not known to common mortals, it is, at times, possible to identify one thanks to his deeds. It is on that basis that some of Ahmad-inejad's more passionate admirers insist that he is a "nail", a claim he has not discouraged. For example, he has claimed that last September, as he addressed the United Nations' General Assembly in New York, the "Hidden Imam drenched the place in a sweet light".

Last year, it was after another khalvat that Ahmadinejad announced his intention to stand for president. Now, he boasts that the Imam gave him the presidency for a single task: provoking a "clash of civilisations" in which the Muslim world, led by Iran, takes on the "infidel" West, led by the United States, and defeats it in a slow but prolonged contest that, in military jargon, sounds like a low intensity, asymmetrical war.

In Ahmadinejad's analysis, the rising Islamic "superpower" has decisive advantages over the infidel. Islam has four times as many young men of fighting age as the West, with its ageing populations. Hundreds of millions of Muslim "ghazis" (holy raiders) are keen to become martyrs while the infidel youths, loving life and fearing death, hate to fight. Islam also has four-fifths of the world's oil reserves, and so controls the lifeblood of the infidel. More importantly, the US, the only infidel power still capable of fighting, is hated by most other nations.

According to this analysis, spelled out in commentaries by Ahmadinejad's strategic guru, Hassan Abassi, known as the "Dr Kissinger of Islam", President George W Bush is an aberration, an exception to a rule under which all American presidents since Truman, when faced with serious setbacks abroad, have "run away". Iran's current strategy, therefore, is to wait Bush out. And that, by "divine coincidence", corresponds to the time Iran needs to develop its nuclear arsenal, thus matching the only advantage that the infidel enjoys.

Moments after Ahmadinejad announced "the atomic miracle", the head of the Iranian nuclear project, Ghulamreza Aghazadeh, unveiled plans for manufacturing 54,000 centrifuges, to enrich enough uranium for hundreds of nuclear warheads. "We are going into mass production," he boasted.

The Iranian plan is simple: playing the diplomatic game for another two years until Bush becomes a "lame-duck", unable to take military action against the mullahs, while continuing to develop nuclear weapons.

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I AGREE with Jonathan Rauch (via Instapundit); the term shouldn't be "war on terror" but "war on Jihadism:
Jihadism is not a tactic, like terrorism, or a temperament, like radicalism or extremism. It is not a political pathology like Stalinism, a mental pathology like paranoia, or a social pathology like poverty. Rather, it is a religious ideology, and the religion it is associated with is Islam.

But it is by no means synonymous with Islam, which is much larger and contains many competing elements. Islam can be, and usually is, moderate; Jihadism, with a capital J, is inherently radical. If the Western and secular world's nearer-term war aim is to stymie the jihadists, its long-term aim must be to discredit Jihadism in the Muslim world.

No single definition prevails, but here is a good one: Jihadism engages in or supports the use of force to expand the rule of Islamic law. In other words, it is violent Islamic imperialism. It stands, as one scholar put it 90 years ago, for "the extension by force of arms of the authority of the Muslim state."

[...] Jihadists [...] are not merely angry about U.S. policies. They believe that America is the biggest obstacle to the global rule of an Islamic superstate. Ultimately, in the Jihadist view, "Islam must expand to fill the entire world or else falsehood in its many guises will do so." Violence is by no means mandated, but it is assuredly authorized.

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FORTY-FIVE YEARS of the "invasion that could have saved America", as Val Prieto of Babalú Blog calls it. Don't miss it.

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HITCHENS rips the last bits of credibility Joe Wilson still had, if any; oh, and his wife, Valerie Plame definitely was not a covert operative.

UPDATE. More from Tom Maguire.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

ANOTHER MOHAMMED CARTOON CONTROVERSY, this time in Italy. The magazine Studi Cattolici, close to the Opus Dei, published this cartoon:

As you can see, Mohammed is not even depicted, but nevertheless the Islamic community in Italy complained; both the magazine and the Opus Dei have caved in and apologized.

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ANOTHER TRANSLATION from the Saddam files in the Docex database: a memorandum by the IIS with instructions for moving "special ammunition" from Najaf to Baghdad. From previously translated documents it's already known that "special ammunition" is the term that the Baathist regime used to designate the ammo loaded with chemical agents.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

THERE'S AN ANALOGY with Muslim students in Europe, I think.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

After this week's extremely close election in Italy, there is a strong sense in Europe that, because of weak governments and divided publics, the Continent's big three countries are unable to make the economic changes that most political leaders agree are essential for restoring growth.

"Everybody in Europe agrees that things can't go on the way they are going," said Wolfgang Nowak, a German economist who is in charge of the Deutsche Bank's International Forum. He was speaking about the near-zero-growth economies with high deficits, rigid labor markets and intractable levels of unemployment and social welfare budgets that are increasingly difficult to afford.

"Everybody wants change," Mr. Nowak continued. "At the same time, everybody does everything so that things don't change."

At stake, in the view of many European experts, is the ability of countries like the big three — Germany, France and Italy — to adapt to a globalized world in which Europe's high labor costs and low population growth could portend a long-term decline, not just of economic power but of political influence as well.

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TWO INTERESTING NOTES in StrategyPage on Iraq, of the kind you wouldn't probably find in the MSM. The first, on the alleged civil war:
The rising threat of a sectarian civil war appears to be helping to avert one. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and some other nations bordering Iraq are increasing measures to curb extremist support in Iraq, and are curbing assistance to groups responsible for actions that are feeding sectarian tensions. Apparently leaders in these countries have decided that an Iraqi civil war along sectarian lines will inevitably spill over onto their soil, as large numbers of refugees flee the fighting, while their own citizens become radicalized in support of co-religionists in Iraq, both events possibly fueling internal disorders. There are a lot of Shia Arabs in places like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Kuwait. Most of these Shia Arabs live near the Saudi and Kuwaiti oil fields. It has always been, at least since the oil was discovered, the policy of both nations, to keep their Shia happy, or at least quiet.
The second on the economy, that alleged "disaster" according to the prophets of doom:
Iraq is also serving as an experiment on how to create an Arab economy that will flourish. Since World War II, the Arab world has lagged the rest of the planet in economic growth. For example, 300 million Arabs, and all that oil, generate less economic activity than Spain, and its population of 40 million. The main problem has been bad government. Too many dictators, and too much government restrictions on the economy. Too much corruption and waste. Even higher oil prices don't help, as it simply provides more money to be wasted on consumption, rather than business investment.

One of the things that has been changed in Iraq is the way the economy is regulated. Since Saddam was tossed out in 2003, the economy has been governed by Western rules. As a result, GDP per capita doubled by the end of 2005, and the GDP is expected to grow another 49 percent by 2008. All this despite continued attacks by Sunni Arab rebels on oil facilities and other economic targets. It's much easier to start a business in Iraq now, even though there's still a lot of corruption. The big change is that now the corruption is illegal, and there is even progress in prosecuting the government officials who take bribes or try to shake down businessmen.
(emphasis mine)

UPDATE. Michael Ledeen emails: "Well, I worry a lot about 'experts on strategy' who tell us that Saudi Arabia has always tried to keep the Shi'ites happy. Not so. They have oppressed the Shi'ites, made their lives miserable. Which is one of the reasons the Royal Family worries about Iran so much..."

Well, maybe the key is the phrase "at least quiet", considering you can keep someone quite not only by pleasing him, but putting a gag in his mouth...

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Friday, April 14, 2006

THE TOP 100 LIES OF NOAM CHOMSKY, neatly compiled by Paul Bogdanor in a helpful pdf file. He's got all covered: Cold War, Holocaust, Latin America, genocide, etc.

UPDATE. Reader David Ward sends me an email he just sent to Paul Bogdanor:
Dear Sir:

I applaud you for placing Chomsky’s lies in context. Chomsky is the worst kind of apologist. He uses the freedoms and privaleges of an open society to attack the very society that protects his freedoms.

I do however take issue with your comments regarding the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. I was in Darwin, Australia, when the Indonesians attacked and, because the Portuguese left a vacuum, I supported their move. Over the years that followed I watched the Indonesians adopt a policy of colonization by Indonesians and subjugation of the indigenous population. Their tenure was nothing more than a brutal suppression of the population.

I do not quibble with your characterization as to the difference in numbers. The deaths in East Timor however were, over time, more a result of using Viet Cong style tactics.

I know enough of Chomsky’s lies to offset the Indonesian issue. I do however worry that this alone might be enough for an Australian to question every other aspect of your rebuttal.


Dave Ward,

Washington, DC

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52 DAYS AFTER BEING ARRESTED, Chinese blogger Hao Wu still has not been charged or given access to a lawyer. His family and friends still don't know where he is.

Rebecca MacKinnon is all over the case.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

ANOTHER, MUCH BETTER picture of Queen Sofia during last week's state visit to Saudi Arabia (I first mentioned this yesterday). Not that I want to make this an all Sofia, all the time blog, but I thought I'd share this one because not only you can see her much better. You can also see a painful contrast (background left) which makes the Queen's gesture much more meaningful.

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JOHN HUGHES in the Christian Science Monitor:
Among the allegations leveled at President Bush by his critics, probably the most serious is that he took the United States to war in Iraq on false pretenses. He told the American people that Saddam Hussein had a collection of dangerous weapons of mass destruction when Mr. Hussein did not.

In retrospect it is clear that the weapons did not exist, although they had in the past, and Hussein had used them against his enemies. But what is also clear from captured documents now coming to light is that Mr. Bush had every reason to believe they still existed at the time he launched the military campaign in Iraq. Not only did US and allied intelligence agencies assert that the weapons were there, but Hussein himself played a dangerous game of convincing enemies such as Iran, and even his own generals, that he had such weapons, while protesting to United Nations inspectors that he did not.

While Bush may have been badly misled by his own intelligence and other sources, he did not lie. He believed, and had good reason to believe, that the weapons existed.
Read the rest.

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IF THE REST of this article on Europe's protectionism is as accurate as the section of Spain, well, don't waste your time with it:
Like France, Spain has a tendency towards protectionism and has tried to create “national champions” in the past. The reason is simple: few big companies make their home in the country, so the government is keen for those to remain in Spanish hands.

That’s why the Spanish government is not happy about the intentions of E.ON, a Germany energy giant, to take over its Spanish rival Endesa. To avert the deal it has already boosted the powers of the national energy watchdog. The controversial measure, however, might still be stopped by the EU.

Secretly, the Spanish government is hoping that another Spanish energy group, Natural Gas, succeeds in taking over Endesa. The 22.4 billion Euro deal, already proposed by Natural Gas in September 2005, would create a “national champion” big enough to avert any foreign bid.

Whatever the outcome of this particular crisis, the Spanish government seems unlikely to change its stance when it comes to protectionist state intervention.
This is absolutely backwards: first came the bid by Gas Natural (not Natural Gas, by the way), which we must note is closer to the Socialist party tha Halliburton has ever been to Cheney. After the bid was don, E.ON presented their own bid, which prompted a very quick change of legislation to boost the powers of the energy watchdog. That's precisely why the EU might stop it, because it was a post hoc change by the government designed only to protect its buddies from the evil German capitalists. One of these thinks that make the rule of law a joke in Spain.

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APPARENTLY WE SPANIARDS are not the only ones with issues like this one.

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THE POLITICS BEHIND global warming alarmism, and how dissenting scientists are sistematically silenced.

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THE PURPORTED "OFFENSIVE" by insurgents in Ramadi that had the MSM salivating over was another propaganda ploy.

UPDATE. Much more on the stringers.

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MELANIE PHILLIPS interviews Georges Sada, former no.2 of Iraq's Air Force under Saddam who keeps saying that the WMDs were airlifted to Syria right before the war (background here).

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'M NOT REALLY a monarchist, but bravo for Queen Sofia! During her trip to Saudi Arabia last week, she made a gesture. A relatively simple gesture which spoke volumes: while many Western women immediately don the veil when visiting the area, look at how she dressed, defiantly:

No headscarf, a bright red dress with -though you can't see it in this picture- a skirt at half her royal calves. A message of solidarity with the oppresed Arabic women.

I wonder if she asked for a glass of wine with her meals... that'd have been cool.

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A FANTASTIC MULTIMEDIA ESSAY (I'm speaking of formal aspects; I only had time for a quick read diagonally so I can't really judge on the content yet, but I thought I'd alert about it asap because it's quite long and it's Easter, so many of you will have a bit more free time): Mark Bowden at The Atlantic goes through Desert One, the horribly failed rescue of the hostages in the embassy in Tehran.

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IF ONLY there were more voices like this kuwaiti professor's:
Dr. Ahmad Al-Baghdadi, a reformist Kuwaiti intellectual and political science lecturer at Kuwait University, argues that the Muslims themselves - not bin Laden - are responsible for the rising hatred against them around the world. He says that Muslims living in the West have failed to repay the kindness of the countries that accepted them, and instead have followed the lead of the Muslim clerics and threatened to attack these countries from within. He adds that Muslims in the West must declare that they accept Western values and sever their ties with Muslims in the East, and with the religious clerics.
Among other things he says:
Osama bin Laden is a terrorist, criminal, murderer and villain, and every other inhuman description applies to him as well. However, he is definitely not responsible for the rising [level] of hatred towards Muslims in the West.

[...] What is truly saddening is that Islam is being associated with terrorism due to the terrorists' frequent use of Koranic verses and hadiths to justify their terrorist actions...

Statements made by preachers in the mosques, in articles and on various media channels accusing non-Muslims of heresy, the [preachers'] curses, and their characterization of Jews as the descendents of apes and pigs - [all these] cause Westerners to perceive Islam as an intolerant religion that rejects religious pluralism.

The Muslims, therefore, are responsible for the distorted image of Islam prevalent in the modern West, and they are the ones who failed to present a positive image of Islam. Thus, they are responsible for the problems experienced by the Muslims today...

[...] Osama bin Laden didn't force anyone to go to Iraq, murder its people and destroy its institutions. He didn't force anyone to murder innocent people in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, America and Europe. Bin-Laden did not tell the Muslims in the West: 'Hate the country that gave you shelter when you fled [from your homelands], made you rich when you were poor, fed you when you were hungry, gave you freedom after the bondage you suffered in your Muslim countries, and educated you when you were ignorant.'

You caused all these catastrophes out of your own choice and your own free will... and failed to repay the kindness [shown to you]. So what do you expect the West [to do] when it sees its citizens being murdered in the name of religion, when it [experiences] hatred in the name of religion and suffers the damages of terrorism [perpetrated] in the name of religion? It is only natural that the West should hate you and tighten the rope around your necks, so you do not 'invade it from within' as you declare in your announcements and sermons...
UPDATE. Just compare.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"BUSINESS BITES the blogging bullet" (BBC)

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IT WAS IN TAL AFAR, in the epicenter of the sunni triangle, and citizens asked US troops to clean it of insurgents/terrorists. It was reported by CBS, and you can watch the video here (.wmv file). Of course, this will be never be known in Spain (if it wasn't for Barcepundit!), where the media are hiding positive stories even more than in the US, where you get some things like this from time to time. Not here.

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CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: "Sorry everyone, but Iraq did go uranium shopping in Niger"
In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency—Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effect—was a man named Wissam al-Zahawie. After the Kuwait war in 1991, when Rolf Ekeus arrived in Baghdad to begin the inspection and disarmament work of UNSCOM, he was greeted by Zahawie, who told him in a bitter manner that "now that you have come to take away our assets," the two men could no longer be friends. (They had known each other in earlier incarnations at the United Nations in New York.)

At a later 1995 U.N. special session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Zahawie was the Iraqi delegate and spoke heatedly about the urgent need to counterbalance Israel's nuclear capacity. At the time, most democratic countries did not have full diplomatic relations with Saddam's regime, and there were few fully accredited Iraqi ambassadors overseas, Iraq's interests often being represented by the genocidal Islamist government of Sudan (incidentally, yet another example of collusion between "secular" Baathists and the fundamentalists who were sheltering Osama Bin Laden). There was one exception—an Iraqi "window" into the world of open diplomacy—namely the mutual recognition between the Baathist regime and the Vatican. To this very important and sensitive post in Rome, Zahawie was appointed in 1997, holding the job of Saddam's ambassador to the Holy See until 2000. Those who knew him at that time remember a man much given to anti-Jewish tirades, with a standing ticket for Wagner performances at Bayreuth. (Actually, as a fan of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung in particular, I find I can live with this. Hitler secretly preferred sickly kitsch like Franz Lehar.)

In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious. Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003.

If the above was all that was known, it would surely be universally agreed that no responsible American administration could have overlooked such an amazingly sinister pattern. Given the past Iraqi record of surreptitious dealing, cheating of inspectors, concealment of sites and caches, and declared ambition to equip the technicians referred to openly in the Baathist press as "nuclear mujahideen," one could scarcely operate on the presumption of innocence.

However, the waters have since become muddied, to say the least. For a start, someone produced a fake document, dated July 6, 2000, which purports to show Zahawie's signature and diplomatic seal on an actual agreement for an Iraqi uranium transaction with Niger. Almost everything was wrong with this crude forgery—it had important dates scrambled, and it misstated the offices of Niger politicians. In consequence, IAEA Chairman Mohammed ElBaradei later reported to the U.N. Security Council that the papers alleging an Iraq-Niger uranium connection had been demonstrated to be fraudulent.

But this doesn't alter the plain set of established facts in my first three paragraphs above. The European intelligence services, and the Bush administration, only ever asserted that the Iraqi regime had apparently tried to open (or rather, reopen) a yellowcake trade "in Africa." It has never been claimed that an agreement was actually reached. What motive could there be for a forgery that could be instantly detected upon cursory examination?
Keep on reading; among other things, Hitch points to an article in London's The Times naming the forgery culprits, inside Niger's embasy in Rome. Apparently they profited from the real information about the real attempt by Saddam to buy uranium in Niger -which they sent to London and Washington, and which Bush used in his famous sixteen words in his State of The Union address- so they pushed their luck a bit too far selling a faked document. It was this document which has been used by war critics to discredit the real information that Iraq was seeking uranium.

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RAFSANJANI has confirmed that Iran has enriched uranium.

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THE INDICTMENTS TO 29 suspects of March 11 bombings in Madrid have been issued by the judge. Nine of them are Spaniards, accused of trafficking with the explosives; as you know if you've been reading this blog (and I know you have!) most if not all were police informants, which raises very disturbing issues. Of blatant incompetence at the very best, but it's not the only possibility.

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IF YOU'RE A FIREFOX USER, are as tired as I am of its dreaded "memory leak", and can't wait till the new version is released -which apparently will solve the issue-, there's good news: a workaround that reasonably solves the issue. I'd have killed to know the trick only 4 months ago when I was using my previous laptop with measly 256 Mb of RAM; my current Dell has 1 Gb of RAM barely notices the difference. But I thought many of you might enjoy it, so here it is.

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ANOTHER IRAQI DOCUMENT proved that Saddam was actively recruiting suicide terrorists to strike American interests; Captain's Quarters has independently confirmed that the translation is accurate.

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WELL, FINALLY it's been a tie in Italy: while Prodi's Unione has very narrowly won the lower chamber, Berlusconi's Casa delle Libertà has won the Senate with an also small lead. Since both houses have the same weight in the legislative process, this can become a nightmare unless new elections are called, which is certainly a possibility. Or not: I'm hearing lots of people seeing the "shadow of Florida" with endless recounts and lawsuits, but this could well be like Germany after the elections last September ("grande coalizione", anyone?). I don't put too much hope in that, because seeing Prodi's "victory speech" last night, I don't think he's going to accept, like Schroeder did, to cede the prime minister chair to the leader of the most voted party, Berlusconi. So the most likely scenario seems to be that Italians will be heading to the polls again soon.

UPDATE. I made a mistake: Berlusconi's Forza Italia wasn't the most voted party in the lower chamber; it was L'Ulivo, in the center-left coalition led by Prodi. My mistake. Meanwhile, absentee ballots are being counted and the Senate race is red-hot: as of now, Prodi seems to be leading in popular vote but not in seats (just like in US with the electoral college, this can happen in Italy too according to their election laws). Anyway I won't update this until the results are 100% final; it makes no sense to follow it as if it was the final laps of a NASCAR race, or anything...

UPDATE II. Votes from Italians abroad have been counted; they have handed victory to Prodi's L'Unione. So he's finally won in both chambers, albeit with a very narrow margin:
unione 341
CdL 277

SENATO (in attesa di conferma ufficiale)
unione 158
CdL 156
Let the vote contests begin...

UPDATE III. The Italian government has made Prodi's victory official. The margin is so small that, well, let the vote contest begins (didn't I said that before?)

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Monday, April 10, 2006

PRODI WINS the Italian elections, if the first exit polls are confirmed.

UPDATE. Don't kill Berlusconi just yet: Stefania Lapenna, reporting on the election for Pajamas Media, says that the first official results put him almost in a tie, and even ahead of Prodi in certain key provinces (Lombardy); in Puglia too, but since it's a sparsely populated province it weighs less in the overall results. I guess many Italians are biting their nails right now. I have on righ now the first channel of the RAI -the public broadcaster- where you'd expect more information, but amazingly they only have inane daytime TV, with gossip and quiz shows; the last election flash was almost two hours ago, if I'm not wrong.

UPDATE II. According to the latest results, the Casa delle Libertà (Berlusconi) has taken the lead over the Unione (Prodi). Amazing.

UPDATE III. RAI has the official count as it becomes available.

UPDATE IV (April 11): new updates in a new post, since it's another day.

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JUDGING FROM a small but certainly vocal overnight reaction to the previous post, turns out that some critics of the Mohammed cartoons were right: we do have a double standard. We defend free speech and the possibility of making fun of everything, but then we complain when we put that possibility to use, depending who we aim to.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006


Heh (via Spanish blog El Mundo Está Loco)

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KYOTO IS ABSURD, 60 leading scientists say:
Canada's new Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been urged by more than 60 leading international climate change experts to review the global warming policies he inherited from his centre-Left predecessor.

In an open letter that includes five British scientists among the signatories, the experts praise his recent commitment to review the controversial Kyoto protocol on reducing emissions harmful to the environment.

"Much of the billions of dollars earmarked for implementation of the protocol in Canada will be squandered without a proper assessment of recent developments in climate science," they wrote in the Canadian Financial Post last week.

They emphasised that the study of global climate change is, in Mr Harper's own words, an "emerging science" and added: "If, back in the mid 1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary." Despite claims to the contrary, there is no consensus among climate scientists on the relative importance of the various causes of global climate change, they wrote.

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SELF-HATING AMERICANS: "My experience shows that almost all anti-American prejudice in Europe is based on stereotypes that the Europeans get from leftist American political and media sources,", John Aust writes. He translates an interview with Lynn Margolis in a Barcelona newspaper; don't miss his comments. He ends: "And, Ms. Margolis, let me give you a hint: The Europeans believe that BOTH red-state conservatives like me and blue-state leftists like you are EQUALLY ignorant, backward, and mentally primitive. You're not impressing them."

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CAROLINE GLICK writes on the possibility that Ukrainian missiles might have been sent to Iran; I merely mentioned it a couple of days ago, but she assesses what it all means.

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THREE YEARS since the statue fell, and many more things went down with it.

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GUANTANAMO, the dark hole of human rights; this is from The Guardian, no less:
Asadullah strives to make his point, switching to English lest there be any mistaking him. "I am lucky I went there, and now I miss it. Cuba was great," said the 14-year-old, knotting his brow in the effort to make sure he is understood.

Not that Asadullah saw much of the Caribbean island. During his 14-month stay, he went to the beach only a couple of times - a shame, as he loved to snorkel. And though he learned a few words of Spanish, Asadullah had zero contact with the locals.

He spent a typical day watching movies, going to class and playing football. He was fascinated to learn about the solar system, and now enjoys reciting the names of the planets, starting with Earth. Less diverting were the twice-monthly interrogations about his knowledge of al-Qaida and the Taliban. But, as Asadullah's answer was always the same - "I don't know anything about these people" - these sessions were merely a bore: an inevitably tedious consequence, Asadullah suggests with a shrug, of being held captive in Guantanamo Bay.

On January 29, Asadullah and two other juvenile prisoners were returned home to Afghanistan. The three boys are not sure of their ages. But, according to the estimate of the Red Cross, Asadullah is the youngest, aged 12 at the time of his arrest. The second youngest, Naqibullah, was arrested with him, aged perhaps 13, while the third boy, Mohammed Ismail, was a child at the time of his separate arrest, but probably isn't now.

Tracked down to his remote village in south-eastern Afghanistan, Naqibullah has memories of Guantanamo that are almost identical to Asadullah's. Prison life was good, he said shyly, nervous to be receiving a foreigner to his family's mud-fortress home.

The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."

Asadullah is even more sure of this. "Americans are great people, better than anyone else," he said, when found at his elder brother's tiny fruit and nut shop in a muddy backstreet of Kabul. "Americans are polite and friendly when you speak to them. They are not rude like Afghans. If I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer _ or an American soldier."

Naqibullah's first 10 days in Guantanamo were the worst of his life, he said. He was put in a tiny cell with a single slit-window as his interrogation continued. Then everything changed. "I was taken to an American general who said, 'We will educate you and soon you will go home'. And my situation improved."

Naqibullah, Asadullah and Mohammed Ismail were moved into one large room, which was never locked. They were taught Pashto (their own language), English, Arabic, maths, science, art and, for two months, Islam. "The American soldiers ate pork but they said we must never do that because we were Muslim," said Naqibullah. "They were very strict about Islam."

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Friday, April 07, 2006

On April 3 the Russian journal Novaia Gazeta reported that 250 nuclear warheads with a total yield of 20 megatons were not returned by Ukraine to Russia.

Novaia Gazeta suggested the warheads could have been sold to a third country, possibly Iran.

The 200-kiloton warheads were due to be returned to Russia in 1992 after Ukraine declared itself a nuclear-free zone following a payment by Moscow to Kiev of approximately $500 million. The missing warheads were inventoried on papers Ukraine submitted to Moscow that were officially accepted by Russia.

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THE MASSACRE IN THE BURATHA MOSQUE in Baghdad today and its implications viewed by Omar.

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THIS IS VIDEO especially dedicated to 9/11 conspirazoids: it's what happens to a F4 Phantom jet crashing into a concrete wall at 500 miles per hour. Barely a scratch for the wall, but the plane literally vaporizes (via James Hudnall).

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United States churches are secretly run by Jews who converted to Christianity with the intention of controlling religious Americans including President Bush, a top Hamas member claims.

"Even the churches where the Americans pray are led by Jews who were converted to Christianity, but they were converted to keep controlling the Americans," Mohammad Abu Tir, the number two Hamas terrorist in the newly formed Palestinian Authority government said during an exclusive interview from his home yesterday with top radio host Rusty Humphries and WND Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006


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FIRST IT WAS the underwater missile, and not it's... the flying boat! Next, the killing medicine and the healthy poison!

UPDATE. In case it's not clear what's that.

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IF YOU PUT ASIDE pure rhetoric and go for hard data (as hard as it is for so many people out there), turns out that the axiom that "Iraq's violence is worse by the day" is simply false:
81, 76, 50, 49, 43, 25

What are these numbers? This week’s Powerball winners? A safe deposit combo? New numbers to torment those poor b*stards stranded on the island in Lost?

No, they’re the number of troops that have died in hostile actions in Iraq for each of the past six months. That last number represents the lowest level of troop deaths in a year, and second-lowest in two years.

But it must be that the insurgency is turning their assault on Iraqi military and police, who are increasingly taking up the slack, right?

215, 176, 193, 189, 158, 193 (and the three months before that were 304, 282, 233)

Okay, okay, so insurgents aren’t engaging us; they’re turning increasingly to car bombs then, right?

70, 70, 70, 68, 30, 30

Civilians then. They’re just garroting poor civilians.

527, 826, 532, 732, 950, 446 (upper bound, two months before that were 2489 and 1129).

My point here is not that everything is peachy in Iraq. It isn’t. My point isn’t that the insurgency is in its last throes. It isn’t. My point here isn’t even to argue that we’re winning. I’m at best cautiously-pessimistic-to-neutral about how things are going there.

My only point is that, at the very least, people who complain that good news coming out of Iraq gets shuttered by the press aren’t crazy.
Read on.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

NO! REALLY?: "For Future Readers, Papers Should Look Online". You could knock me off with a feather...

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NO LESS SUPERB is Thomas Sowell in this article on people impermeable to data. If you only read one thing today, read this:
People who urge us to rely on the United Nations, instead of acting "unilaterally," or who urge us to follow other countries in creating a government-run medical care system, often show not the slightest interest in getting facts about the actual track record of either the UN or government-run medical systems.

Those who believe in affirmative action likewise usually see no reason to find out what actually happens under such policies, as distinguished from what they wish, hope, or imagine happens.

The crusade for "a living wage" that will enable a worker to support a family proceeds without the slightest interest in finding out whether most people who are making low wages actually have any family to support -- much less seeking out the facts about what actually happens after the government sets wages.

People who have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts are a danger to the whole society. Since the votes of such people count just as much as the votes of people who know what they are talking about, politicians have every incentive to pass laws and create policies that pander to ignorant notions, if those notions are widespread.

Even institutions that are set up to pass on facts -- the media, schools, academia -- too often treat facts as expendable and use their strategic positions to filter out facts which go against their own preconceptions.
Don't skip the rest.

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There is a certain feeling that is evoked when you say to people you are going to Washington DC. There is a certain feeling that is evoked when you are here. Am I an "almost citizen" on my way to visit the imperial capital of the world? To pay tribute to our rulers who defend us from the barbarian hordes at the gates? Or am I travelling into the citadel of the enemy of humanity, the evil empire that launches wars and invades countries because it cannot accept the existence of the different. Or am I going home: going to the state which was built from the revolutionary principles of Tom Paine and the country that twice in the 20th century came to the rescue of European democracy. The state that now seeks to spread democracy and the values of liberalism across the globe - by force if necessary? The country in which I now sit, enjoying the most amazing cherry blossoms I have ever seen, is more misunderstood and misrepresented than any other country on earth.

The anti-American left and right in Europe needs the US to be the Antichrist. We have reached the point at which there are no objective conditions, demonstration of facts or even sustained actions that would shake the conviction that everything the US does is cynical and everything it says double-faced. And yet, as everyone who has ever met an American or travelled in America knows, there is no one America. America is pluralism as a system of life and government. And I do not mean consumerism or lifestyle choice, though you will find more tolerated diversity in the big cities of the US than in those of Europe - for all our condescending European sophistication. Nor do I mean manners. The Americans have better manners, more day to day kindness and civic respect that any European country I know, except perhaps Denmark.
Don't miss the rest.

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SUPERB DAN SIMMONS. There's no permalink, so hurry up and read it; just in case, it's the April 2006 message.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

ARE YOU STILL STRUGGLING to get ketchup out of the bottle? Relax, people: those times are over with this tutorial.

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DAN DONALDSON, the Sinn Fein leader who had been expelled from the party after it was revealed he had been spying as a double agent, has been shot to death. The IRA denies any involvement, which of course doesn't close the case. In any case, this is probably going to affect the ceasefire, that's for sure.

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WHY I LOVE THE INTERNET, part MMLDXVII: you can track airflights and -and that's a big and- by installing a plugin for Google Earth, you can view that information in 3D and real time. Ain't that amazing?

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IF YOU USUALLY WATCH "House M.D." (in Spain it's on every Tuesday night, that it, tonight), you'll enjoy this spoof:

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NO, NO MEDIA BIAS in the coverage of the war in Iraq...

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UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown recently gave a compassionate speech about the tragedy of extreme poverty afflicting billions of people, with millions of children dying from easily preventable diseases. He called for a doubling of foreign aid, a Marshall Plan for the world’s poor. He offered hope by pointing out how easy it is to do good. Medicine that would prevent half of malaria deaths costs only 12 cents a dose. A bed net to prevent a child from getting malaria costs only $4. Preventing 5 million child deaths over the next 10 years would cost just $3 for each new mother. A program to get Amaretch into school would cost little.

However, Gordon Brown was silent about the other tragedy of the world’s poor. This is the tragedy in which the West already spent $2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last 5 decades and still had not managed to get 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $4 bed nets to poor families. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $3 to each new mother to prevent 5 million child deaths. The West spent $2.3 trillion and Amaretch is still carrying firewood. It’s a tragedy that so much well-meaning compassion did not bring these results for needy people.

The West’s efforts to aid the Rest have been even less successful at goals such as promoting rapid economic growth, changes in government economic policy to facilitate markets, or promotion of honest and democratic government. The evidence is stark: $568 billion spent on aid to Africa, and yet the typical African country no richer today than 40 years ago. Dozens of “structural adjustment” loans (aid loans conditional on policy reforms) made to Africa, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America, only to see the failure of both policy reform and economic growth. The evidence suggests that aid results in less democratic and honest government, not more. Yet, unchastened by this experience, we still have such absurdities as the grandiose plans by Jeffrey Sachs and the United Nations to do 449 separate interventions to reach 54 separate goals by the year 2015 (the Millennium Development Goals), accompanied by urgent pleas to double aid money.

Economic development happens, not through aid, but through the homegrown efforts of entrepreneurs and social and political reformers. While the West was agonizing over a few tens of billion dollars in aid, the citizens of India and China raised their own incomes by $715 billion by their own efforts in free markets. Once aid agencies realize that aid CANNOT achieve general economic and political development, they could start concentrating on fixing the system that fails to get 12-cent medicines to malaria victims.
Read the rest; Easterly writes on what he thinks needs to be done to get results, instead what is being actually done now.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

The former commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, Leon LaPorte, says North Korea already has between three and six nuclear weapons. The retired general claimed the weapons had been made before the 1994 Geneva Agreement, in which the North pledged to freeze its nuclear activities, and added the number must have grown by now.

He made the remarks in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper. Noting that North Korea has a 1.2 million-strong military and the capability to fire a missile over Japan, the general said he did not agree with the assessment that the North no longer poses a threat. He emphasized that the South Korea-U.S. Alliance is crucial as a deterrent against the North.
(emphasis mine) Does anyone has any idea on how reliable is this? Just learned about this coming from Spanish news agency EFE (link in Spanish) I haven't found anything in the US or UK media, only in South Korean, Japanese and Russian newspapers.

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Am I the only one who thinks France is nuttier than frangipane?

Here is how I understand last week's wave of marches, riots and blockades in the land of loitering existentially in smoky cafés while making meaningful hand gestures:

Lots of over-educated youths with too much black in their wardrobes are desperate to dress up in balaclavas and bandannas and torch things because (now let me word this correctly) they are disillusioned that their government wants to help them get jobs, because when you get a job there is a big danger you might one day lose it, especially if you are crap at it.

I could have sworn that not long ago French youths were rioting because, thanks to workplace-protection laws so rigid you could dry your pantalons on them, no one under the age of 65 can break into the job market (unless their grand-père is head of the Union of Permanently Picketing Fonctionnaires, in which case there is always room for one more shop steward).
Read the rest.

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HOW CORRUPT IS THE UN? Claudia Rosett, who knows a thing or two about the United Ambitions Organization, examines the issue at length in her article for the latest Commentary magazine (pdf version available here, if you prefer). Don't miss it.

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WHAT IS IT WITH soft power proponents and girlie signatures? John Rosenthal points to French PM Dominique de Villepin's signature, and below you can find Zapatero's. Not as unbelievably tacky, but close:

(click to enlarge)

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